The best adventures in Mexico are inadvertent -- even when they look like a bag of cultural clichés.
This morning a Mexican friend asked if I could drive him to a small village outside La Huerta -- about an hour drive from my house. He had left his telephone in his friend's SUV.
Why not? The drive involves a beautiful, twist road through the coastal range that rings our little villages against the sea.
I have always enjoyed that journey. It would also be a good time to get some new photographs for an essay. After all, there only so many bugs to write about.
So, off we went on a beautiful Mexican morning. Amazingly, there was very little summer vacation traffic on the road. Just a few trucks that were easily overtaken.
When we arrived in La Huerta, we started digging deeply in the cultural cliché cache. My friend had been to the destination ranch just outside of town several times. And he was certain where we should turn. So we did.
Until it was obvious to me that nothing looked familiar to him. I have run into this syndrome several times. I call it the "I-know-exactly-where-we-should-go-but-I have-no-idea-where-I-am-now" phenomenon.
And my diagnosis was correct. He decided to start asking strangers on the street for directions. Two young girls (unsurprisingly) had no idea what he was talking about. Neither did a squadron of marines. But an agua fresca vendor was full of information.
We were in the wrong part of town, he said. We needed to go back to the highway, drive four blocks, and turn right. I didn't bother asking if four Mexican blocks are determined in the same manner as the number of days. We just drove.
But you know where this is going. Following the vendor's directions, we ended up in a virtual cul-de-sac. More requests for information. A man and a woman -- undoubtedly married to each other -- gave contradictory advice.
We followed the woman's advice and ended up on a road that looked like a dried-up stream bed. More advice. We were going the correct direction, but there was a better road.
We found it and took it. As luck would have it, the guy, whose house we were trying to reach, came speeding by in the opposite direction.
So, we followed him. No, that does not do justice to what we did. We initiated a high speed pursuit. He almost lost us on several rough patches of road on the outskirts of La Huerta. But we caught up with him on the highway.
My friend suggested honking the horn and flashing my lights while both of us waved our arms out the windows. We looked like a Barnum and Bailey act -- and I do not mean the trapeze artists.
Well, that procedure was bad advice. The guy we were trying to stop took off faster than American Pharoah at Belmont.
I have not had so much driving fun in a long time. While he was trying to escape, my Escape raced through its paces. I discovered is a great mountain road SUV -- with the handling capabilities of a 240Z. Almost. I already knew it had great passing power.
When we finally got him to stop at the beach, he was relieved that it was us. He was convinced that he was about to be kidnapped.
The mission was to retrieve a mobile telephone. In the process, we ended up exercising at least three cultural stereotypes:
- An almost mystical belief that not knowing how to get somewhere will somehow ensure you will get there.
- Asking for directions from people on the street is a great idea -- especially, since time is an asset not to be prized.
- Anyone following a person trying to get attention cannot possibly be anyone other than a kidnapper.
- I was neurotic because we had no objective idea of our ultimate destination.
- I was disdainful of directions obtained on the street (even though we seem to have finally been on the correct road when we spotted our quarry).
- And I rolled my eyes at the kidnapping scenario (when some people here have a valid basis to be watchful).
The next time I am asked to run a mundane errand, I will need to do a hormone possibility check.
And those photographs? They never happened. I never stepped from behind the wheel after we left Barra de Navidad until we got back to the coast.
Instead, you get a shot of my worthy, but dusty steed.