How exactly does memory work when it comes to planning? Do you have a mental checklist that’s refined over time? Or do items jog your memory, demanding to be included? When it comes to travel, I’ve always found it to be both ways – there are things I know I need to do and things I see when I am doing the former that are included in the preparations. This time around, my system failed me.
We’ve been coming down here in December for more than 20 years. In that time our preparations have ebbed and flowed and been refined to the point that it’s pretty much a rote process with the only variation of how I put things in the car. What we need always makes it, and what we need to do beforehand always gets done. So, imagine my surprise when back from the immigration hut, 21 km into this foreign country, I recall that we don’t have Mexican car insurance.
For years, I bought an annual policy, renewed by mail, purchased, shoved in the glove box and forgot about it. That approach was the most efficient when we came 3 times a year, but lately we’ve been down to twice, and the price difference is significant. So, I’ve changed to buying a 90-day policy that gets us through February when we’ve been making a second trip. This year though it never occurred to me to do it at all and only when I stepped out of the vehicle and saw the “Seguros” sign did the little brass gears start to turn. I even said “no thank you” as I walked pass the salesman, and only after enduring a lecture from the Mexican immigration officer about our responsibility to get our visa canceled in 7 days (yea, right) did the gears start to form an actual thought. Leaving the office, I knew it – we had no insurance – which left us with the option of trying to buy it on-line via my phone while sitting in the car, or availing ourselves of the helpful insurance-touter trying to shuffle us into his office.
The process turned out to be one more funny little foreign country official duty experience and $34.50 later we were once again on the road, secure in the knowledge that for the next 24 hours we were covered. I later bought a policy once I had wi-fi, securing us until the beginning of next March.
This being a Sunday, we’d hoped for a reasonably peaceful drive but it turned out to be the opposite. A lot of traffic, most of the cars speeding, and many, many miles spent white-knuckling it through construction zones. They are not merely re-surfacing the 89 miles from Hermosillo to Guaymas, but replacing all the bridges and most of the roadway with enormous concrete sections, cast and set in place by these huge gantries on wheels. It wasn’t much fun driving in single file at 60MPH on whichever side of the road they wanted to send us, but soon enough the mountains above Guaymas came into hazy view and before we knew it, we were making the sweeping bend onto the road into San Carlos.
The second reminder that my memory wasn’t working fully came when I was unpacking and pulled my spotting scope out of my camera bag. Tripod? No, my tripod is back in the US leaning up against the table where it normally resides. Now we’ve been counting birds down here for all these years, and a tripod has always made it into the car. I even saw it as I was scurrying through the house on Saturday morning, even made the mental note to grab it. But no, this being that second kind of memory, the one where seeing something includes it in your forward process, failed to sink in far enough. Instead, I’ll be trying to scan the distant mudflats trying to use my scope like a spyglass. A 21st century pirate.
Memory glitches aside, it’s easy to sink into the regular routine here. A bowl of tortilla soup, a plate of machaca, a walk on the beach and a couple of sunsets. Everything to put one straight into vacation mode.
Our second night here we went to see the venerable JJ, purveyor of the finest tacos in Sonora. He always remembers us and points out the honorable placement of the Corrales license plate we brought him a couple of years ago, His place is one of our favorites, plastic chairs and tin tables under an enormous palapa. Deep-fried fish and al pastor are our favorites, served with cayenne scented popcorn and cold beers. Each plate wrapped in plastic bags, to avoid having to wash them I suppose. The best possible evening.
Last night we went to listen to the local blues band at a bar in town. An interesting crowd, many who clearly found themselves at the end of the road from somewhere and just stopped, no intention to go forward or back. A completely gray-haired bunch drinking beers and listening to the band. MLW requested “Route 66” and that brought a few of them out on the dancefloor. But mostly everyone is content to just sit and perhaps ponder whatever had brought them here. Or why they stay.
We though, know exactly why we’re here.