Smashing Head-On
At Sixty Miles-per-Hour
Into a Fully Loaded
Mexican Gasoline Truck

Remember that trip where we stayed at the Motel Buganvilla, just outside Culiacán, highly rated by the AAA possibly because it was located next to the intersection of the main highway between Mátzalan, Guadalajara, Puerto Vallarta and, possibly, Los Angeles and Houston?

The truck dispatchers, knowing we have retired for the night, send out the word, and starting at ten or so, the biggest sixteen-wheelers, no mufflers, journey by our motel. They climb painfully on the upgrade, get detoured, apparently, directly through our sitting room, then turn around and make the same run again, until about 6 AM, at which time, as far as we can tell, they are allowed to go home and go to sleep.

On this particular trip we dragged ourselves from our beds to find the battery in our pick-up had gone on vacation. The 5th-wheel trailer we had bought at such a beguiling price in Fresno started inventing a series of disasters that went on for days. There was the short which destroyed our battery. There was the tire that went out near Tepic. There was another blow-out near Ajijic.

Outside of Aguas Caliente, the joint or overhang or doo-dad or whatever it's called that hitches car to trailer began to creak and move in such a way that we stopped to investigate to find that the only thing that kept our 7500 pound trailer from poking its nose in our back window was one screw (one!) which had been chewed practically in half by the jolting of our long journey.

Oh those nightmare travel memories. How about the Mexican Drug Police, paid for by the kindness of the DEA, who stop us just outside of Durango, at one or so in the afternoon, in a place when the Ozone layer had gone on strike. The jefe, with a Weller screw driver and too much authority, decided that ancient me (complete with wrinkles and dewlaps) looked like an operative of the Coimbra Drug Cartel.

He instructed his minions to dismantle my beloved (if somewhat ancient) truck, paying particular attention to the gas tanks, where, they say, the drug lords like me most often carry opium, heroin, and cocaine. That pit-stop got me four hours in the sun, and when they patched the truck back together, it was leaking gas all over the place. It never ever worked the same ever again. Our tax dollars at work. And they never said thanks and sorry.

How about the fog that descended on the palm fields a hundred or so miles north of Acapulco? We decided to soldier on, anyway, even though all the travel books tell you not to go at night in Mexico --- not because of terrorists or roadside bandits, lord knows --- but because of the cows and horses and pigs who think they own the highway. We weren't able to see any sign of life anyhow, least of all in the potholes on this well-potted road.

For survival's sakes, we elected to follow an ancient, lopsided DINA truck overloaded with sugar cane, moving at eight mph or so, a sturdy, anonymous leader who never feared the fog, never stopped --- who lead us through dark and fog, through thick and thin, into Acapulco.

We arrived there about midnight or so, and it turned out there was a convention of telemarketers or brain surgeons had taken over everything, even the seedy sex motels, forcing us to spend another three hours to find a room, finally, in the Hotel de Los Bichos, inhabited by a band of merry rats, who sang and drank and danced overhead all the long night.

I ask you: Why, given all this nonsense, do we do it, every year: make the journey, the long journey into other countries? If it is such a bother, why in hell don't we just hook up an Airstream and head to South Florida, drive along wonderful made-in-USA freeways with never a care in sight, where there are no potholes, no drug police, no pigs and cows on the highway?

You know the answer, right? If you had the choice of expiring of old age and boredom at the Happy Acres Nursing Home & Vacation Village --- or wasted in a stunning wreck, on Mexico Highway 200, just outside of Playa Azul, head-on with a fully loaded Pemex truck, departing this life in a blaze worthy of Bin Laden --- which would you choose?

--- Carlos Amantea

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