Mexican Road Trip
California to Acapulco and Back
In 1962, myself and 4 other guys decided to drive from Los Angeles (well actually Rialto, CA) to Acapulco, Mexico and back. It took two weeks and we didn't return with a car. Yes, it began with five guys and an old 1948 Plymouth station wagon that belonged to the oldest in the group. There were a couple of wild cards in this hand - 1: the Plymouth had loose steering and 2: one member of the group had a personal problem, but more on that later.....
The Road Trip Plan.....
We were to begin at the far upper left of the map in Rialto, California (which is 60 miles east of Los Angeles, where I lived). The plan was to take turns driving and drive straight through to Mexico City and then on to Acapulco which was our ultimate goal.
The five of us met at my cousin Roger's house in Rialto and began our trip from there. We immediately noticed that the steering on the old Plymouth wagon was very loose and unresponsive, causing some minor weaving. Each of us brought enough money to last for 2 weeks. We drove to Phoenix, AZ, then to Tuscon, and then on to the border town of Nogales. Before crossing the Mexican border we were warned not to stop for any dead cows in the road as it could be an ambush or hold-up or ?. That was an exciting thing to hear. From Nogales, we drove south to Guaymas, Obregon, Los Moches, Culiacan and eventually arrived in the resort of Mazatlan.
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Mazatlan in the early '60s looked very different than it does today. When we pulled off the highway all we could see was miles of empty white sandy beaches, with maybe a hotel or two off in the distance. We all left the car and ran towards the water. The sand was hot and none of us had swim trunks so we decided to go in wearing our underwear. The water and the air were the same temperature so it was an amazingly pleasant sensation.
After awhile we noticed that there were a couple officers walking around our car and looking at the suitcases that we had tied to the roof. One of our group, who was also the oldest, spoke fluent Spanish so he was able to communicate. They said that we had too many suitcases outside of the vehicle, but that it was no problem if we just paid them $5 American. We paid and they added that it would be nice if we put our pants back on.
$5 dollars came in handy at various points along our trip. It seemed to be the magic number.
The thing that I remember most about Guadalajara was that it was hilly and made our car's steering even more interesting. The shopping districts were colorful, the people were friendly and we had our CocaColas and Cervezas (being very careful not to drink the water).
We Arrive in Mexico City
It was late in the afternoon when we reached Mexico City and since we were on a shoestring budget we looked for a hotel room (s). We found a very reasonable one and when we checked it out we found out why. We opened the shower curtain and there were a couple hundred big black cockroaches all over the white tile walls. The management took care of the problem, but we didn't sleep well that night.
Our elder traveler that spoke the language arranged for us to meet with a native friend and he took us on a tour of one of the better museums and then on to see the University of Mexico and the incredible mosaic murals there.
The Sights and Sounds of The City
I remember driving the streets of Mexico city and the streets seemed to go all over the place (multi-directional). We were, of course, ogling the girls and noticed that most of them were wearing stylish dresses and high heels, especially in the downtown business districts. It seemed like other drivers were pretty relaxed about traffic lights and everyone seemed to be in a hurry. I remember hearing a lot of horns. Little did I know that forty years later I would be driving in downtown Paris, and it would be a whole lot worse.
We took a little trip outside of Mexico City to see some pyramids that we'd heard about. We climbed to the top and were huffing and puffing when we got to the top. It was worth the climb and we were rewarded with a spectacular view. At the base of the pyramid were some vendors that were selling little pre-colombian hand made statues and I bought a couple of them to take back to the States.
On to Acapulco
We took off from Mexico City for our ultimate destination (Acapulco Beach) which was about a 250 mile trip. There were some windy roads that took us through some tropical jungle that was amazingly beautiful. There were exotic birds with long trailing tail feathers, lots of parrots and gorgeous plant life.
We were still on a budget, so when we pulled into Acapulco we decided that we would camp out on the beach. There were lots of hammocks so we utilized them and then went up to one of the resort hotels for breakfast the next morning. I remember watching those famous Acapulco cliff divers from the hotel. That was pretty amazing for me since diving was my high school sport of choice.
Back To Mexico City and or How We Lost Our Car
I mentioned early on that one of our guys had a personal problem. Well his problem was drinking and he had too much cerveza and it was his turn to drive. He wasn't paying attention to the temperature gauge and he let the engine overheat to the point where the engine melted solid. So we were about one third of our way back to Mexico City and we had to leave the car on the side of the highway and stick our thumbs out for a ride.
Much to our surprise a big black Cadillac limousine pulled up and the driver said that if we would give him our spare tire he would take us to Mexico City. This sounded great to us and we agreed to his offer. I think we even gave him the pink slip to the car. However, the car would be stripped clean by the time he returned to get it.
We're Back To Mexico City!
And now we had to decide how to get back to the USA - so we unanimously decided to return by bus. For me personally it was "The Bus Trip Nightmare"!
The Bus Trip Nightmare!
The bus trip started out all right. Our driver was a bit heavy on the gas peddle and we were doing very fast speeds around the tight, curvy mountain roads outside of Mexico City. There was a padre standing in the front of the bus next to the driver and he was saying prayers and doing something with the beads. My nightmare began about a quarter of the way into our trip back - I had somehow gotten Montezuma's Revenge. I might add that there was no restroom on the bus. When the driver made stops I had to run to find a facility. The rest of the trip was kind of a blur to me but I finally felt better when we crossed the border in Tiajuana.....
We Literally Kissed The Ground
When we crossed the border into San Diego we literally kissed the ground. We were so happy to be back to civilization as we remembered it. The overall trip to Mexico experience was good I actually returned several times after that, trips to Ensenada, Cancun, Puerto Vallarta, Tijuana etc.