Mornings in Baja start with roosters crowing, pickups and cars with bad mufflers farting down the street, dogs fighting or serenading, and music.
The cars and trucks sport dented fenders, cracked windshields, bumpers missing in action and a shroud of dust.
And often, bright and proud ornamentation usually of religious or local pride flavor.
The radios play sad or jolly accordian/guitar ballads in waltz time at volume eleven.
The streets are one-way, narrow, unpaved or dusty. Speed limits are posted but ignored and unenforced.
Practical limits are set more by aggressive speed bumps (sleeping policemen) called topes; and by the curving, hilly, potholed nature of the roads and streets.
And the almost instant decrepit nature of suspensions and brakes of all vehicles due to road and street conditions.
Car and truck proud, Mexicans wash them often but to little avail, the first passing car quickly vailing them with a new dust coat.
Exceptions are the big tourist busses, large, tall, wide, smooth riding (if roads allow), modern and clean.
Transporting more locals and Mexican tourists than us foreigners, prices are reasonable and often they’re on time.
With AC, toilet, curtains and teevee, they’re comfortable for most.
For elderly arthritics like me with a fake hip joint, good for about a half hour before the confinement torture begins.
When you reach your destination bus station (parada de autobus) there is usually a cab waiting to drive you to your hotel for a good price.
I’m as cheap as they come and I use them often because of my nearly disabling lack of any sense of direction.
Let me rephrase that: Soy perdido (I’m lost). Yes, I have evil Google’s map program, I don’t dare leave the hotel room without it.
But in Mexico signage is poor to nonexistent in towns and cities, though street names are often marked by tiny plaques on building corners.
So when the evil Google maps lady (I know it’s only software but that’s how I think of that voice I need so much) says
‘turn left in 100 meters at Calle Obregon del Sonora de Los Angeles Milago’ I’m just confused.
OK, about a hundred yards, length of a football field, what’s this street name? Unmarked. OK, wander on lost. What’s this street name? No sign.
But I try not to panic, sometimes successfully. Deep breath, bit of calming physical therapy, say to myself ‘Memo, what’s the worst that can happen?’
And the answer is always, of course, death. But I’ll be 69 next month and I have not died yet. So by that logic I will never die.
So I hail a cab and, summoning my best poor pronunciation and slim vocabulary, tell the usually kind and helpful driver my hotel name.
I try to imagine hordes of rich, fat, impatient foreigners roaming Roseville, California, and asking me in their own language or in fractured English where they can find…whatever.
So, in conclusion, I am not a natural traveler. But here I am in a vacation that is, in reality, an attempted self-rehab for booze and pot.
If you can make it there you’ll make it anywhere, Baja, Baja. Makes perfect sense.
Two weeks of being sober in-country and I’m still a mental midget and a physical wreck, as Sargent Rose, my drill sargent, would say in 1969.
But I’m getting a little better every day. Yes, soy perdido, but aren’t we all?
Unless otherwise noted, all text and images by todgermanica.com.