Sometimes I have to learn lessons the hard way.
Like the lesson that other people really aren’t my responsibility.
Case in point: The friend hosting the week in Mexico (at a timeshare owned by her parents) revealed to me that she was going to drive to Acapulco from Guadalajara (and back) by herself, about five or six hours each way.
Now I’ve driven through Mexico before, and let me summarize the experience by saying that when we got back across the border in Nogales, Arizona, I literally knelt down and kissed the ground.
America never looked so fine.
Nonetheless, some sympathetic motherly part of me was concerned for her safety and volunteered to come along. Two is safer than one and all that.
(Otherwise known as: “You’re putting yourself in harm’s way!? Well, let me do that too!”)
More than anything, my concerns centered around the current drug cartel activity (a.k.a. random killings) and Federales stops. In my previous experience, the Federales would stop us, separate us, interrogate us, and search the VW van end to end, followed up what looked like a oil check, but wasn’t. They’d have us drive over a big hole in the ground – exactly like you’d see at Jiffy Lube – and someone would inspect or do god knows what underneath the car.
In hindsight, the VW van was the equivalent of wearing forehead tattoos that said “we’re drug smugglers” (although we weren’t), and something of a magnet for trouble.
Thanks to the fact the rental car was some kind of tiny Chevy, we at least had that going for us.
In any case, we set out from Morelia around 10am, and within two hours were in the middle of freaking nowhere.
Now, nowhere is one thing, but Nowhere, Mexico is quite another thing.
Nonetheless, not wanting to add stress to the situation, I held my tongue and didn’t ask to double-check the directions or scrutinize the map. However, when my friend inquired if I thought we’d pass a town with a gas station soon (as we were nearly out), I broke down and spoke the three fatal words: “Where ARE we?”
She informed me that we were somewhere on Highway 14 or 14D, and when I asked if I could take a peek at the directions, she handed me a notebook in which she’d scrawled “14D to 37 to 200.”
Feeling my stomach sink to the floor, I realized we didn’t have a map. Or Google directions. Or even (sometimes terribly inaccurate) MapQuest directions.
We didn’t have distances or landmarks or, well, anything.
And barring the generic answer of “Mexico,” we didn’t know where the hell we were.
Truth be told, although I admired her devil may care/just ask for directions from the locals approach, all could imagine was my dad’s reaction when he learned I’d be murdered somewhere in the middle of rural Mexico and we didn’t even have a friggin’ map in the car.
That stated, when we finally came upon a gas station, I went inside and acquired a Mapa Carreteras immediatemente. Thank god for the thing, too, because we weren’t just off track then…there were several other ‘where the hell are we?” and “which city do we head toward?” moments to be had before it was over.
Three cheers for the mapa!
Meanwhile, apparently the male Mexican sense of time/distance is different from that which I like to call reality.
You see, it doesn’t take three hours to go from Guadalajara to Morelia, it takes four or five (depending upon traffic). And it doesn’t take five hours to go to Acapulco from Morelia…it takes TWELVE.
That’s right, we rolled up to the resort, sore-butted, bleary eyed, and road weary just around 10pm.
Needless to say, I have wizened up, and I will not be returning to Guadalajara via motor vehicle. Nope. Tim has wonderfully, graciously, kindly booked me a flight, and my friend has a Mexican friend accompanying her back to Morelia, if not Guadalajara, so I’m not abandoning her to the elements.
Moreover, I’ve learned a valuable lesson about trusting your gut and cutting corners to save a few bucks.
Never again will I go against my own instincts in the interest of ‘going along to get along’ or being a good friend, so if you’re planning a big road trip through the Middle East later this year, you can count me out.
I’ll be in my own house, knitting a ‘home sweet home’ pillow, with an American flag in one hand and my life insurance policy in the other. And grateful for every minute of it.