05: The Mexican Experiment Part 1 – The Road to La Paz – Day 2 Continued
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The Mexican Experiment Part 1 – The Road to La Paz Day 2 Cont.
We had just driven through the worst part of the road for over an hour and ended up in the exact same place we started.
“What the fuck?” I said aloud this time. Damn, I’m eloquent when I’m completely freaking out. “How is that even possible? I don’t remember seeing even one part of that road that looked the same?”
Paddy turned on the compass which is part of the GPS in the Land Rover system as he slowed the car down and we were pointing directly North, but we were supposed to be heading South. He calmly turned the car around and headed back the other direction.
My mind was completely unable to accept what had happened. “Baby are you sure? Let’s drive to a gas station and ask someone where we are and get a map. We’re totally lost.”
I felt like I’d been dropped into a scary and creepy episode of the Twilight Zone as we headed back to face The Tire Slayer again. It was also now 10:30.
“I feel like crying,” I said.
“Go ahead,” Paddy replied.
So, I did. I softly cried for a few minutes and felt better. I thought it was rude of Paddy to say ‘go ahead’ but I didn’t say anything. I knew he was also at his wits ends and could probably use a good cry too. I also knew he wasn’t going to cry.
It was rinse and repeat – I put on happy music which seemed to help lighten the atmosphere in the car but I had a hard time not going on about how creepy and weird the whole thing was. Also, this time I watched the GPS attentively for our general direction and to make sure our little blue dot was still heading toward ‘The One.’
Once we reached ‘The One,’ although the road was paved, it was strewn with giant potholes. There were lots of cars and semis and zero shoulder on either side of the road – just drop-offs directly into the desert sand. Of course, Paddy, knowing we are behind schedule is driving like a madman in my opinion. He’s swerving our giant – loaded – top-heavy (maybe it isn’t really but when he swerves at 80-100km/hr it feels like we could roll) around some potholes, hitting other ones head-on with noise like a gunshot and a jolt like a bucking bronco. He was passing the semis on a road that didn’t seem wide enough for two regular cars to be on it at the same time side-by-side and we had no cell service.
I started imagining what would happen if we got into a car accident on this road. There were a few villages, but they didn’t even have gas stations. There were sometimes guys on the side of the road selling gas out of the backs of their trucks – but I hadn’t seen anything resembling a medical facility for hundreds of kilometers. As I got more nervous it seemed like Paddy got more anxious too even though we weren’t saying much.
I finally said to Paddy I felt like there was a lot of tension in the car that didn’t need to be there between us.
“I can just hear you thinking – you didn’t even want to come to Mexico and I was forcing this whole thing on you and we should have flown down!”
I replied, “Well, I’m excited to be spending the winter in Mexico – sure as hell beats spending it in the shitty air of Salt Lake. But I will tell you I hate this drive and I don’t think I would like to do it again.” He said he would try to find someone else to fly down and drive home with him, but I told him I would drive home with him, just might not do this trip in the car again.
The conversation lightened the tension a little and when I told him how much this road was scaring me he said he could see why and said if he had been the passenger, he would have needed to distract himself somehow. He suggested I watch a movie. I declined for the moment, but I did like the idea.
We drove and drove and drove. Several stops with the Federales – children with machine guns who don’t speak English but they all went fine. We never stopped to eat. We just drove and drove and drove and ate potato chips and beef jerky and I drank beer to calm my nerves. I tried to convince Paddy to stop and stay in another town, so we wouldn’t be driving at night, but he wouldn’t do it. He finally told me the reason people tell you not to drive at night is primarily because of the cows. This didn’t make any sense to me – how could cows be dangerous? We have deer and they jump out in the road all the time. Once it got dark, it made sense the first time we saw one in the road.
When deer cross the road, they lift their heads and look into the light – deer in the headlights. Those little eyes are just reflective enough (at least in my experience) to bob and weave in order to avoid a collision. Of course, some collisions happen none-the-less. But cows? They couldn’t give a shit about the cars or the lights. They don’t look up at the car. They just stand there – the first one we saw was a black cow – not moving and we didn’t even see it until we were almost about to hit it. I couldn’t help but yell out! And in the darkness, I couldn’t seem to control my voice as well. I would think very clearly to myself, don’t make a peep but then I would hear my voice crying out about the cows or any other thing that caught my eye which all scared Paddy half to death.
I did finally put on a movie since my copiloting was likely more dangerous than the road and the cows and all the other hazards and dangers. We were both much happier after I was watching the movie.
We finally got to Loreto just before 9:00 PM – we chowed at the hotel and continued feasting in an Uruguayan restaurant before crashing hard. After one of the longest days of my life, we went to sleep in a beautiful wood bed on marble floors with a patio overlooking the sea. Heaven after hell.
She keeps telling the whole story before I get to write anything! It’s not that I don’t have a lot to say about what we went through, I just don’t want to bore you with hearing the same shit twice. So I will spare you and keep the he said short… For now. First, let’s start with what she got right from my perspective. Flashed her tits to an 81-year-old man? Check! Counted blown out tires for over 90 minutes before I snapped? Check! Cried? Check! Was as much navigational help as Google? (Which sucks in Mexico by the way, Do Not trust it) Check!
The one thing I most proud of Sam for on this day was her composure and ability to not go off the deep end.
Let me explain.
I am not a guy that stresses easily when I drive and while I would not say Sam is either, she is a complete nervous, nagging wreck in the passenger seat. It has been the center of many arguments over the years. In a nutshell, she can’t help herself from telling me how to drive, what to watch out for and spiking my adrenaline with Ahhh! or Watch Out!! Usually, the warnings barked from the passenger seat are totally unfounded as they are either not a threat or I noticed them already and was covering the brake, slowing down or paying attention to what might be. BUT, every now and then, she is right. No matter how hard I protest that I know what I am doing, the 3-5% of the time her warnings help are enough to keep her firing away. So, I have been working on not letting it bother me as me as much, not protesting and just thanking her for trying to help keep us alive. If we are grading on a scale of A to F, I feel like I am earning a solid D in my efforts thus far. But that’s still progress!
So back to my pride for that wonderful lady at my side…(hey O.. Call me a rapper I just made a rhyme!!)
My stress level during day 2 was at an all-time high for me behind the wheel. And since Sam can get worked up driving around the block to 7 eleven, she had to have been as close to the edge of a nervous breakdown as she has ever been for the better part of the trip. Fortunately, there was just enough peaceful driving between the 4 hours there and back 25-mile stretch, the 100 KM of tire shredding potholes and the final 75 KM of winding 2 lane pitch black highway dotted with invisible cows, that she had time breath and take in the beautiful country we were passing through. Those brief respites enabled her cortisol to level back down to almost relaxation, but not quite. Regardless, for this being easily the most stressful driving day of our 22 years together, she largely kept her shit together and tried her ass off to not micromanage me from the passenger seat.
Loreto Mexico was as welcome of a sight as any place I can think of to this point in my life. (It will be second by the end of our trip.) I knew my night driving on windy Mexican highways was over, I was also very encouraged by the road conditions of Baja California Sur, Norte? Fuck no.
If you are planning on driving Baja Mexico, here are some pointers. Have an accessible full-size spare tire and a jack that will work in the sand (support boards or whatever you need to make it work). We were iffy on that and would have had to unload 90% of our car to get to the spare, which added Mucho Stress for me. The road from the border to where the construction begins on the 25-mile unfinished stretch is decent, it is worst about 20 miles before Puertocitos and 20 miles after but the rest is nice. You can make a good time with the exception of that 40-mile stretch.
While you don’t need 4wd to navigate the unfinished road, you should have 6” of clearance, although we saw many cars make it that did not.
You can only drive 80-100 KMH most of the time which is like 65. If you fill up your tank at Puertocitios or the gas station on the highway by Alphonsinas you will be fine till Guerrero Negro. Sam stresses about gas but we had plenty even though we were only averaging 16 mpg. If you pay attention to your MPG and your gas levels, you really don’t need a spare gas can.
We will be better prepared next time. That alone will cut our stress levels in half and help us enjoy the amazing Baja Countryside even more. I might even get Sam to relax enough to pay her road head debt.
Yep, you guessed it. Roadhead Count still = Zero.