Monday, April 29, 2013

Driving On

When we hit Acapulco, we were HOT. A dip in the pool, parking under the shade, and a cool breeze helped a lot with that, though. Although Acapulco is the oldest of México’s resort towns, I didn’t feel much like exploring it. Jonathan and I just aren’t that much interested in “resort towns.” Give us some nice scenery, a park, a lake, yeah, we would go exploring, but the wonders of a town, not so much.

The next morning, when we plugged in the coordinates of our next stop, we discovered that it was 6 hours away (according to the GPS). We have had an issue with the GPS wanting to take us in a round-about loop before (like when we were in San Patricio-Melaque, the GPS wanted to take us on a 210 km [130 mi] detour up towards Guadalajara before letting us continue down the coast—fortunately we caught that one early and only went a km or 2 that direction), so I scoped out the route it wanted—it was legit. Faced with severe heat and 6 hours of driving, we decided to stay an extra day in Acapulco and head out early the next morning.

That gave us plenty of time to get a few things done and even call a few people via Skype. Found out that my cousin is finally engaged (been waiting on that one for years)! Such good news. We tried to get laundry done, but the one place we went turned out be a place that washes, dries, and folds everything for you and wanted 12 pesos per kilo. That was going to be pretty expensive, so we gave up. During the stop, Jonathan worked on a few things, like adjusting the heater control valve so that no heat would be leaking into the supposed-to-be fresh/cool air. The other day when we were driving, I had noticed that air coming through my vent was ridiculously warm. Turns out that the heater lines often leak coolant through them and thus can still heat the air when the heater is turned completely off. The heater lines up front (they run in the footwell of the passenger seat) were almost hot enough to burn me that day. I ended up having to turn off the air flow on my side as it wasn’t actually helping anything. Jonathan (mostly) fixed that in Acapulco. There is still a little coolant flow, but not near as bad and I can use the vent.

Jonathan also managed to put a bracket or something on the exhaust to keep it from coming off again. I guess an initial poor design (previous owners hack job), 30 years of age, and México’s topes and bumpy roads just don’t allow the exhaust system to stay intact. However, my irrational side wants to blame Jonathan (Jonathan here, apparently the universe and women at large have decided that everything is  my fault… now back to your regularly scheduled blogging). There is just something about this man and having vehicles with terrible exhaust systems. The van has had issues from the start, which he has patiently dealt with as they occur. Ever since I have known him, his Toyota has had issues (Jonathan here again, Big Red has had 15 years of Iowa winters, currently on its third muffler.). In fact, in the last year or two, his Toyota’s muffler has gotten worse. Have I ever told you about the Grumble Rumble? When the Toyota is in a low rpm range, it has an intense rumble that is enough to make me angry and tries give me a headache (and I don’t get headaches, I can’t count the ones I have had on my two hands). So God forbid if when we were driving home from work in that thing and Jonathan tried to talk to me or make me make a decision when it went into the Grumble Rumble, especially when it got hot. Let’s just say that I am thankful that Chuck’s current exhaust only produces a loud clicking sound that is only heard outside of the van (you can hear us coming for a mile—no wonder we turn heads).


Next morning we got our earliest start yet: we were on the road by 8:15. It took an hour to bypass Acapulco. Now, driving 6 hours in the Midwest is easy; I mean, it maybe hard to stay awake, but it is nothing. You put on your cruise control, you drive for miles and hours in a nice straight line, maybe a lazy curve or two, and you might have to slow down for a few towns. Driving 6 hours in Mexico’s Pacific coast is torture, especially in Chuck. Jonathan has already briefed you on the horrors of trying to get Chuck up a mountain. Add to that the ridiculously winding, often potholed, roads that seem to come quite often to small towns with 7 topes in them, and you have quite the day. Plus, Chuck has no cruise control. With cruise control in the States, no problem, you could drive all day with no issues. In Chuck in México it is exhausting. You must keep your foot on the accelerator and account for the grade, the gear, the wind… You can imagine why we like to keep our driving down to 3 hours a day.

DSC02926 They had these little guys for taxis in several towns. Often they were very fun colors.

So, gracious moi decided to give Jonathan a break from driving after our early lunch break. He worked on his sandal tan while I worked on shifting. See, I can drive a stick. But what I mean by that is that I can drive a manual in the Midwest. I am not comfortable with hills or stoplights. With hills you have to worry about downshifting, or worse, if you are stopped going up a hill, you have to worry about not sliding backwards into the car behind you. With stoplights, especially if you are the first person in line, you have to worry about getting going without killing it in a timely fashion. Add those stresses to trying to move both feet and hands in a different, specific way and you get failure, at least for me. Not to say that I can’t do it (I drove across half the country one fall break in a manual car and navigated through the narrow, chaotic, and hilly streets of a Spanish town when my traveling companion broke her arm), it just is difficult and stressful for me. But, wonderful wife that I am, I let Jonathan ride shotgun and coach me through the shifting on mountain grades and over topes. I can proudly say that I never stalled the engine, and I only ground the gears 3 times. I guess Chuck is pretty lenient on his shifting, especially when trying to get started. (Jonathan here once more; Chuck has a 20lb diesel flywheel, one can start out in 3rd gear with no throttle whatsoever.)

DSC02922 I thought I was smiling in these pics… Guess I was too stressed to smile clearly or Jonathan got me at the wrong time (his counting was a lie!)

There were only a few exciting things that drive, and of course, they all occurred during my half. We came around a bend and there was a man waving a red shirt. I slowed some, but it wasn’t certain what he wanted me to do. Next thing I know, there is a semi coming around the next turn into my lane, so I slammed on the brakes. Fortunately, we and the 3 cars behind me all stopped in time. As we drove past, we were uncertain what happened, but maybe there had just been an accident or a near miss and the semi had to get in the other lane to pass the other vehicles?  The next thing was much tamer. They were doing construction on the power lines and had a bunch of workers on the road. As they saw me coming, they got really excited and started making call-me signs. I guess they never see a young female driver?

 DSC02930 Puerto Escondido

We made it safely to Puerto Escondido (the drive took 8+ hours) and then the next day to Bahías de Huatulco. We had been trying to find a Laundromat (lavandería) since Acapulco, but with no success. Not that we were just driving around up and down the streets looking for one either. By the time we hit Bahías de Huatulco, I was down to my last spare set of underwear, so it was now or never. I asked a native at the trailer park we were at, but he just told me to drive back into town and I would find one (at least that is what I got out of his Spanish). So helpful (not). So Jonathan and I just got in the car and decided we would try out one in the GPS. Well, as usual in México, the GPS was completely wrong (on both ones we tried). I just had Jonathan drive through some of the streets to see if we could find one. We found one right away, but it was closed. So Jonathan circled around some more streets then decided to get back on the main thoroughfare. As he started towards the main boulevard, we spotted a sign and then sure enough found an open Laundromat. We stopped and walked over to find out prices. Long story short, desperate as we were, we dropped off our laundry to get washed, dried, and folded for 10 pesos/kilo, and we had 14 kilos of laundry (including our sheets). It ended up being about what we pay in the States to do our laundry ourselves, plus it was folded for us. We had to go back at 9pm to pick it up. I find it odd, though, that they don’t believe in self-service Laundromats here. I have only seen one, and it was in a major city.

Interestingly, while we were at Bahías de Huatulco, there must have been some celebration or party going on. There was a concert on the beach that lasted all night long and just before we finished our workout at about 10pm, there were fireworks. I wonder if they do the tamayas as they do in Spain?

Now with clean clothes, we are heading up through the isthmus of México to the Gulf of Mexico side. We will soon be exploring the wonders of the Pre-Columbian civilizations. I am excited. I love pyramids and ancient civilizations.

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