Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Mazatlan Mayhem

We went to Mazatlan last week and decided that renting a car would be a terrific way to scoot around.  We even lugged Grady's car-seat throne with us.  When I saw our rental, freshly washed, waiting for our arrival, the scratched bumper and smashed fender should have been an omen.  I should have read it as a glowing beacon screaming, "Don't drive, gringo.  Don't drive."  But, my Spanish sucks and I thought it said, "Cool, you look local," and burned off toward the city.

The first thing wrong was the map.  It was the standard freebie from the rental agency, and was drawn with all the accuracy and proportion of Columbus's map of the new world, if that map were drawn by a seven-year old.  I expected to find only an arrow pointing north from the airport with the warning, "There Be Dragons."  Our friendly agent penned in our route and drew in helpful landmarks that we'd pass along our way to the resort.  His stoplights, bridges, cemetery crosses, statues, and supermarkets all looked exactly alike.  "Do we go through three stoplights and turn left, or do we pass two cemeteries and loop around the third statue?" I asked my navigator.  We were also turned around by road construction, so we winged it, and amazingly, found our way.  The tally so far: one quick drive on a wrong way street ("Why is that car driving at me?" I think I asked just before Regina screamed), two drivers cut off (sorry, amigo), and one near side-swipe.  My motto was: when lost, drive fast.  It made no sense, but it got us there safely.

The next driving tour wasn't as fun.  Last week was semana santa (which, in Spanish, means, "All citizens of Mexico, please go to Mazatlan now).  We passed pickups with entire families --including first and second cousins -- crammed in the back.  We passed 4-wheelers carrying a dozen teenagers.  I passed one guy who was drinking a beer AND texting while he drove.  So why I got pulled over, I cannot say.  I was over my nervous speed-driving from the day before, and was obeying every law I understood.  The cop wasn't as intimidating as the roving assault-trucks full of shotgun and machine-gun toting, black mask wearing, federales, but still, any Mexican cop is intimidating.  He spoke to me so rapidly that halfway through his scolding, I stopped trying to concentrate on what he was saying and started thinking that he must be trying to show off on how awesome he is at really fast talking.  I shrugged and looked at Regina.  She got most of what he said and told him, sort-of politely, that we were going the speed limit.  I "played" dumb, and pretty soon, after this went back and forth a few times, he gave up, told us to watch our speed, and sent us on our way.  No bribe necessary.

I returned the car that day.  Goodbye blanco caballo.  The rest of our vacation was perfect (Except for the food poisoning I got.  That was perfect chaos.).  We did all the things we wanted to do ... walks on the beach (Dylan's officially terrified of crabs and Grady gets mesmerized by waves), yummy seafood (best shrimp taco ever at "El Fish Market."  Bad name, great food), mornings at the pool, and evenings listening to the crashing waves.  We took a taxi to the airport, thinking we'd shaken off our car demons.  "I guess we should have taken the bus," came to mind as we watched our luggage sail off the taxi's roof rack and crash onto a straight stretch of Mexico hard top.  We came home just in time for Dylan's birthday, and Easter, but that's another blog.  Regina's a little tanner, Dylan's a little crazier, Grady's a little chubbier (beans, mmmm), and my confidence is finally back and I'm ready to get behind the wheel again.