There are those who claim San Miguel de Allende is magical.
Well, the trip from here from Melaque certainly was. I felt as if I had passed through Ireland, Germany, and Arizona.
Even though I know the way to Babs’s house in San Miguel, I decided to use my handy Garmin GPS. So, late on Monday night therein lies a Christiesque clue), I programmed her address into my navigation brain. I checked the screen to ensure the destination map showed her house on the hill.
For years I have been told that the best way to get to the highlands is to avoid Guadalajara’s main streets by taking the southern ring road to the airport. In the past, I have missed the turnoff.
On Tuesday, I was prepared. At the beginning, it appeared to be a wise choice. Until I ran into a number of towns with multiple topes and then at least three extremely congested areas. All the time listening to the snooty English voice on my GPS tell me I was not on its preferred route.
I got to see some new territory. And now I know the way to Lake Chapala -- if I ever get around to visiting. But I doubt I will take the “short cut” again. If I saved any time, I did not notice.
As soon as I left Guadalajara, I was on one of Mexico’s greatest assets -- the autopista. Mexico’s autobahn. For the equivalent of $60 (US), I had access to a smooth four lane toll way with a legal speed limit of 65 mph.
But the speed is, in practice, merely a suggestion. I drove between 70 and 80 -- and was passed by every vehicle on the road, with the exception of trucks climbing grades. The trucks would then pass me on the down grade. The cost of almost every Mexican-plated car I encountered easily exceeded the cost of my Escape.
At three tollbooths I encountered a new experience. I am accustomed to Army checkpoints around Melaque. In four years, I have never received anything but the most cursory of questions.
My lucky streak is now broken. The roadblocks west of Guadalajara were manned by Federal Police -- the good-looking, tough-natured guys who look as if they could play cops on television I suspect they were looking for narco traffic.
But they may have been looking for something else, as well.
On the first stop, I was waved through. My usual experience.
At the second stop, the police officer asked where I was going, where I had come from, and how long I was staying in San Miguel de Allende -- carefully using the full name of the town.
At the third stop, I discovered how people feel when the police stop them for no apparent reason. He asked the same “where from, where to” questions – in very good English. He then wanted to see my driver’s license and the “papers for the car.”
When I showed him my Oregon registration, he said what he wanted were the tax papers. Fortunately, I had a copy of the tax form I received when I brought the car into Mexico.
He then wanted my passport and my visa. I never carry the originals of either, but I do carry color copies. He was not interested in copies -- informing me that the law requires me to carry both with me at all times.
I thought the lecture was over until he told me I needed to call someone to bring the originals before I could proceed. When I told him there was no one I could call, he shrugged.
There may be some of you who think you know where this is going -- cooling my heels while he waited for me to offer him pesos.
That thought never entered my head. And I doubt it entered his. He certainly gave no objective indication that was his intent.
But I was convinced I was going to spend the rest of my trip beside the road -- or in the local hoosegow. He talked with another officer and came back over to me, saying: “You can go.”
Just like that.
However, when I travel up this way again, I am going to ensure my papers are in order.
Off I went. The route seemed a bit different. I am accustomed to encountering scenery of multiple shades of brown. But not on that Tuesday. Everything was green as a result of this summer’s rains.
Take a look at that photograph at the top of the post. It could be County Kerry.
And then the scenery changed to lakes. Lakes that I recognized. Lakes that are just north of Morelia. I had been on that road before. When I returned from Pátzcuaro last year.
I knew that could not be correct. My GPS had taken me too far south and finally terminated my trip in Tarandacuao -- a quaint enough Mexican village. But it was two hours away from San Miguel.
So, I re-programmed the GPS (you have probably already guessed that the destination was operartor error -- mine) and drove through Acambaro and Celaya to eventually get where I wanted to be. Two hours late.
Fortunately, I did not inconvenience Babs and I saw a bit of Mexico I had not yet explored. (I could give Celaya a miss.) In fact, I saw some interesting farms around Panindguaro worthy of a return visit. Some crop is in pastel bloom -- worthy of a Cézanne landscape.
But I am now ensconced in Babs’s guest house. And ready for my two weeks in San Miguel – including the last weekend of the Chamber Music Festival.