Category Archives: Travel

Mud Angel

Here’s an unedited video of this dude appearing out of nowhere to show me how to get out of the muddy road I mentioned in an earlier post. I turned on the camera moments before he showed up.

And a time-lapse of the entire 7000 mile drive through Mexico:

Extra time-lapses:

Some Differences (Part 1)

As annoying as it can be, it’s almost impossible for me not to compare a place I’m in to a place I’ve been. Mexico was no exception. I couldn’t believe how culture shocked I was just driving across the border! No lanes, a man approaching my car offering insurance, big buses emerging out of little alleys, tons of shops with tiny parking spots, barely off the road. Mexico is not the United States, and it wasted no time in showing off.

I’d like to shine light on some of the more interesting differences I noted during my short trip through the country.

Employment and Service

It seemed, and I’ve since vindicated my theory, that the unemployment rate is lower in Mexico than in the US. All the gas stations were full service, and there was usually at least one attendant per pump! At all restaurants, especially the fancy ones, the service was unbelievably good. This was due mainly, in my observation, to the volume of waiters at each establishment. Also, it was impossible to drive for more than a minute or two before being approached by someone either selling food or performing an act for tips. A sort of year round trick-or-treating.

There was the standard window washing. Then there were the more interesting: juggling, a 6-year-old magic show, a fire dancer, and lucha libre wrestlers fighting. Just a reminder to give you the full picture, these all took place next to cars at red lights!

Anyways, lots of people outside working. Maybe this seemed more significant than it was. American employees are typically inside air-conditioned buildings, off the main road. Mexicans…possibly less so.

Sitting down at El Cardinal in downtown Mexico City was an experience. And I mean literally just sitting down. Someone pulled out my chair and placed a napkin in my lap while another did the same for my friend. A third immediately squirted hand sanitizer in our hands. Menus came. And somebody was probably pouring water too. I don’t know, I blacked out. This is one of many examples of the timely and abundant service I experienced. Waiters actually waited on you, and not the other way around. The second I even thought of something I wanted it seemed to appear almost instantly. A new ashtray with every extinguished cigarette, drink and meal orders, quickly prepared food, and a REFILL! Magic.


It’s not surprising that Mexico recently surpassed the United States as the most obese nation. The food is delicious and extremely fattening. Yum. My friend kept saying “You’re having pastor AGAIN?!”

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Chile en Nogada

The picture above is from El Cardinal. The fanciest restaurant I dined at.

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Quesadillas and Cafe de Olla

We found a little restaurant at the base of the volcano near Mexico City. First of all, the quesadillas above were the bomb. Much more important than the quesadillas…the coffee. Cafe de Olla. Incredible. Fairly common in Mexico. And the secret is that it’s sweetened with cinnamon and piloncillo. Piloncillo is this dense sugar that makes the coffee taste ridiculously good.

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I don’t recommend smoking, but if you do smoke, do it in Mexico. They have Lucky Strike filters! It brought back a number of memories of severe light headedness, nausea, and male bonding.

If you like smoking and eating, you can usually do that too. And the ashtray maintenance program they have is of the highest quality. Like I said, the second you put a cigarette out, a new ashtray is placed on the table for you. Amazing.

Also, cheap. About 3 dollars for a pack of Reds. I recently paid $9.50 for a pack of 27’s in Washington State, yeesh!

To be continued…

2000 Miles in 2 1/2 Days

With my late start, I felt I had to make up for lost time. So I drove to Tuscon the first day – 900 miles. Then south of Culiacán the second, and Puerto Vallarta midway through the third.

3 days

I was stressed with the road conditions, making up for lost time, and being in a new country! I could at least fool myself before I got there that I knew the language, but when it was time to have a conversation I mumbled phrases like “donde esta el baño” and “lo siento”. “No entiendo” was also a favorite. I didn’t realize how much I relied on language for communication.

So at the end of the second night, I wished for the comforts of home. Wished not to feel so out of my comfort zone. And wished to have a conversation beyond “Hello, do you have tacos?” Still, I was happy to be on the road. A new, challenging adventure.

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El tiene tacos

This was especially clear when I arrived to Puerto Vallarta. Gorgeous, yes. But I couldn’t help but feel let down. Everyone was white or whiteish and spoke English. I sort of enjoyed being the pelirojo outsider, struggling through basic conversations, and being way too far from home. “Pelirojo” by the way, is the Spanish slur for “ginger”.

So. Puerto Vallarta stunk of America, reminding me a bit too much of home. I’ll be happy to be home on my time thank you very much.


During my first night in Mexico, I was driving through a dirty little town on the west coast. A friendly, English-speaking cop stopped me. Now I know, too friendly. He informed me that I was speeding. Which. I. Was. Not. He said to follow him to the police station to pay the fine and we promptly headed down and parked in a dark alley. I was pretty nervous, mainly about getting my license back and getting out of town. He said that, unfortunately, the police station was closed. The rest should be clear. We agreed he could steal 200 pesos ($16) from me. And so I left. I felt pretty good for getting out of there alive and with no loose ends, but that only lasted for about 30 minutes when I realized that he STOLE FROM ME. Anyways I probably could’ve worked it out that he stole less, but whatever. I’m the tourist with the wrong plates, so he won.

From Portland, the place that young people go to retire, good night.

Off The Road

I’m starting a travel blog. Hopefully some interesting and entertaining stories for you.

So my car was completely packed and ready to go and it wouldn’t start. My dad and I tried everything we could find from some Google searches. Nothing worked. Finally, we called AAA and they took it to a shop I found on yelp. They had a full 5 stars and specialized in Toyotas. I figured if somebody was going to give me the bad news, it may as well be them. And the bad news came. First it was going to take a couple hours to check a few things. Then it was a new battery. Then it was a $500 part that was going to take another 24+ hours to repair, totaling $900. The money is one thing, but their lack of confidence of it even fixing my car sucked.


I started considering other options. Like driving to Mexico in the Prius my parents offered me. I also considered if it was even worth putting any money into a car that had no value to anyone besides myself. Clearly the Prius was the safer option. I also felt pretty silly throwing a ton of money into a car that was still likely to break down. Maybe it was time to let my car go. However, my mom made a good point: People say that things are just things. Meaningless objects that we shouldn’t have any attachment to. Clearly that’s not true. Objects can be very special to people, and that car is special to you. Besides, you’ve given up a lot to travel and that car is your ticket.


While waiting to hear my car’s death sentence my friend told me not to worry, that my car would get fixed. She told me to have faith in God, because God is good. This statement’s absurdity was the first thing in hours to cheer me up. If God was so good, he wouldn’t have broken my car in the first place! I find it interesting that God only gets credit for events happening in one’s favor, and everything else is at best random, or at worst bad karma. As if you have done something in this or a past life to deserve suffering. If God exists, I strongly doubt he’s micromanaging the maintenance of my old Celica, acting only in my favor, or breaking my car to be praised for fixing it two days later. I digress.

After almost 48 hours I got a call: she’s running! Turns out it didn’t need the $500 ignitor, so the total cost with labor, and a new sensor and battery came to just over $500. If you have a Celica, Scion or Lexus do yourself a huge favor and take your car to C & T Automotive in San Mateo, CA. They rock! Chris, the manager, told me to call him from the road for advice if I break down again to make sure I don’t get screwed over in some small town repair shop.

I got my car and got out of town in 30 minutes. Freedom!

Aaaand almost lost it 2 days later.

So Mexico has the worst roads ever. Half the time they’re filled with potholes, speed bumps, rocks, dogs, rivers, and people! And when they actually happen to be paved, there aren’t any lanes! It seems as if like there was a guy, maybe 50 years ago who gave a shit about painting lanes. Then he died, and everybody else was just like: fuck it.

Also, there are fairly well kept toll roads (cuotas). And less well kept free ones (libres). I prefer things the hard and cheap way so you can guess which roads I’ve taken. Some libres are marked, and some are unofficial, Google-inspired routes. After a few mildy interested and stressful detours around the toll, I was ready for more. This one particular road Google said was passable turned out to be a dirt road…at first. Then some bigger rocks. Then little ponds to drive around. Then big ponds to drive THROUGH. I should have turned around, but I got the feeling that every pond was the last one, and that there was no way I could go BACK through it after being so close to getting stuck in 2 to 3 feet of mud. So I finally made it to the end of the road and my car did not sound or feel good at all. AND, as it turned out, the place where the road was supposed to spit back out onto the highway had been closed off. I had no option but to turn around. My heart sank as I saw my car’s and my trip’s inevitable end. So I turned on the video camera on. And this truck driver came out of nowhere and showed me the way out, which as I discovered was right through the MIDDLE of the ponds. Deeper yes, but more rocks for traction at the bottom. I had been going around the sides where all the mud was.


Video to come!

After a few hours the mud and water seemed to come loose from my car, and she seems to be doing okay.

Happily back on the road,