We woke at 6 a.m. and loaded up the car in the dark, waved goodbye to the wild ponies and burros, and that was it. Heading north on HWY 200, as the sun crept up over the Sierra Madres, we watched Mexico going about the business of waking up. Dogs lolled in the middle of empty streets, isolated lights turned on in otherwise dark houses, workers and kids in school uniforms waited at remote bus stops, tiendas rolled up metal doors, as the light grew brighter, cars and busses flooded the streets and we rode in on rush hour traffic through the smoky port city of Lazaro Cardenas. I read to Nic about pozole Thursday in Zhuijatinajo, just a couple days too late to try it. Without the looming tropical tempest and dark clouds of our arrival, a week earlier, sun-drenched Michoacan countryside takes on a whole new feel. Even the creepy town we’d ran from, now looks quaint and charming. Not at all The Shining set we’d experienced earlier.
At some point, in between trundling over gi-normous speedbumps (topes!) that slow traffic through towns and near-death (depending on who you ask: passenger or driver ;) passing experiences, we go a little car-crazy -- we get reception for a bad American 90’s station (ie. I bust out in with bad Rod Stewart lyrics) otherwise we hungrily search for any Mexican music available. Thanks to countless hours on the road, Nic’s mastered the impromptu, heart-wrenching Mexican ballad thanks to a tutorial on the elements of a classic song, which include: mi amour, mi corazon, mi alma, llorar, tengo nada, me dije…
We arrive in Puerto Vallarta in just over 10 hours of straight driving with only one voluntary stop for coca-cola and gas. The only other stops were military checkpoints, which we’ve gotten used to, as much as you can get used to kids with guns respectfully (always, very respectfully) requesting permission to search your car. The methods of searching are still a mystery – they range opening bags and checking under seats to looking at bags and opening doors, to (the most interesting) a small black box with an old-school antennae that one soldier carries while walking from the front of car to the back of the car, repeat, and send you on your way. It was pretty uneventful.
We arrive in Vallarta, determined to book (for our last night) the most ostentatious hotel we could find on the Nuevo strip. Not to be disappointed, we found the audacious Fiesta Americana, complete with big-ass palapa lobby (this is at least 4 stories high) with stream running through, potable agua, and American and Canadian flags flying with the Mexican flag. Despite being surrounded by these "comforts" of home before heading out, it still took some adjustment to get used to talking in English, roads without topes, and "50 degrees and cloudy." :)