Wednesday, 16 April 2003

We were up before dawn doing all the mad rushing around that we always do before we leave for a trip. We'd hired a car instead of choosing to garage the Forester while we were gone, and while it's not cheap, it's nice being able to nap through the drive to SFO in relative comfort.

Fuzzy kept talking to me, he said, to distract me from the driver's reckless driving. I was trying to sleep, and was completely oblivious, so the talking wasn't appreciated.

The airport was painless. Yes, they made announcements (in English only, how arrogant is that?) that we were on Homeland Security Threat Level Orange, but really, with the exception of the announcements there was no noticable difference in the way anything happened.

We boarded early, and took off early. Yay for Alaska Airlines. The plane was mostly full, but we were in the back, so had three seats for the two of us. A nice bonus. What I love most about flying Alaska to Cabo is that the flight is just long enough to keep you busy from takeoff to landing: first drinks, then lunch (pasta salad and corn chips and scary Carlos V bars, from the Mexican Nestle plant. This chocolate is so bad, I won't even taste it.), then everyone does their immigration cards and customs forms together. “Don't worry about the boxes for your name. There aren't enough boxes. Just write your whole name, just like it is on your passport. You know how the drivers in Mexico never stay in their lanes? Well, we don't stay in the lines,” was the flight attendant's instruction. On the surface it seems racist, but if you've ever driven in Mexico, you know it's /true/.

Then you land. We were early, which annoyed people, so we sat until our projected arrival time until they brought stairs to the plane. Immigration was as painless as ever – sometimes I think they don't even look at your forms, they just like to stamp stuff – and we got lucky at customs and got GREEN lights this time. (If you've never been to Mexico, customs searches entering the country are random – there's a traffic light at the gate, and you press a button. If you get a green light, you pass, if you get a red light, they search your stuff. The last time we were there I had a washing-machine box full of chocolate and tea and pillows and quilts for my parents, and I got the red light, but it was Christmas, so they asked me what was in the box, and believed me when I told them, “Pillows.”)

The taxi driver at the other end of the customs gate tried hard to get us to ride with him, but my parents, and Abigail Maria Sanchez (their neurotic blonde chihuahua) were already there, waiting. We loaded the car, and within minutes were on Highway One driving West from San Jose del Cabo through Cabo San Lucas, and then North on the Pacific road to Rancho Nuevo.

The drive, by the way, is amazing. You're driving on a road that winds over mountains, through gardens of cardon cactus, century plants, and agave, knowing absolutely that this is the living desert, but off to the west is the ocean, right at the edge of the cactus groves, and off to the east, as yet unseen, is the Gulf of California (formerly known as the Sea of Cortez).

* * *

Rancho Nuevo is a development on the Pacific (ocean) side of Baja Sur, and my parents had originally owned a lot there, and planned to build. My mother realized very quickly, however, that she does not have the necessary personality for someone building a house without a place to live, which is how they ended up in El Comitan, but that's another story.

Their friends, Melanie and Gunther, live right on the beach in Rancho Nuevo, in a three story house where all the power is solar. (Because of this, they have a propane-powered refrigerator, well, actually, three of them, because they're tiny), and they greeted us with Pacifico Claro beer (con limon) and guacamole, and then we ate grilled hot dogs and pasta salad with shrimp under their palapa while the sun set over the water. I've exchanged email with Melanie over the years that my parents have lived in Baja, and it was wonderful finally meeting this woman. Gunther and I got along from the start, teasing each other like mad, and it was a wonderful way to begin a vacation.

The drive home over the mountain road through Todos Santos was fine until full dark, and then Chris and I, to spare my mother's sanity, took to 'helping' my stepfather. “No, Ira, there are six cars in the oncoming lane, don't pass.” “Oh, Ira, if it says TOPE: 500m that means there really is a tope coming up.” “Hey, stop for cows!” (For the uninitiated, topes are speed bumps, but they're really tall and triangular. In some places, in an attempt to make it clearer for English speakers they're also labelled “Bumpo”).

We finally made it home, though, and had tea and a snack and went to bed in the casita, after a brief tour. I hadn't seen my parents house /finished/ and it was – is – lovely. But I still think the bed in the casita is too hard. :) (More to come)