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Huntington Beach, CA > San Diego, CA > Rosarito Beach, BC
Saturday, August 27th:
Chalk and I leave my sister’s place in Huntington Beach. As we are leaving, she offers me a pocket-size Spanish-English dictionary, and I decline with a brazen, off-the-cuff “Pshaw, I won’t need that. I’m sure everyone knows English down there.”
Allow me to interject right here to fully own and admit just what an idiotic and obliviously white-Amero-centric view that is to take. The whole world must speak English, because that’s how it is where I’ve always lived!
Luckily my sister is not giving up that easily. “Just take it”, she insists, firmly pushing the invaluable, weightless, 6x4x1-inch book into my limp, reluctant, ungrasping hand. “What possible reason could you have not to take it?”
And so, not yet fully immune to the persuasive power of simple, well-articulated good sense advice, I relent, and take the little dictionary from her.
If I hadn’t, we would have never been heard from again.
First Circle of Purgatory: San Diego
We stop at the last exit before the border to acquire a temporary Mexican auto insurance policy. Anybody who has ever made it back safely from a road trip down to Mexico owes their safe return to the fact that they didn’t go down there without some kind of valid auto insurance.
Most, if not all, U.S. auto insurance policies do not extend their coverage across the Mexican border; so it is imperative that you get your ass covered before you head down there. And anyway, you have no excuse, since a) it costs essentially nothing to get a temporary Mexican policy, and b) the northern sides of U.S./Mexico border crossings are as thick with businesses sporting “Get your Mexican auto insurance policy here!” signs as are the street-corners opposite big city jailhouses with bail bonds services.
The insurance policy costs like $24, covers us for pretty much anything that’s even remotely likely to happen to us down there (*ahem* – as long as we are not actively looking for trouble, that is), and is good for six months. Oh, and it comes with a single “Get-out-of-jail-free” card, though the insurance dude makes sure that we understand that this can only be used if you get arrested in Mexico but haven’t actually committed a crime. If you actually do something to get your ass thrown in jail down there, you’re on your own. But if you get arrested on some nonsensical, bullshit pretense, which apparently is common enough in Mexico that it makes business sense for insurers to offer this perk in the first place, then you just make your phone call to the insurance people in San Diego, and they get you released more or less right away.
Insurance policy in hand, our next stop is the bank, to get cash before crossing the border.
¿Qué Necessita Effectivo?
We had intended to leave San Francisco a few days earlier than we had; but we’d been forced to wait around for my new ATM card to arrive in the mail, seeing as how an ATM card is an absolutely critical item which cannot be gone without in Mexico– for reasons that hardly need articulating.
Nevertheless, by Friday (yesterday) morning we had grown too impatient to wait any longer, and so we just said fuck it and headed south without the bank card (which, incidentally, arrived in the mail about 45 minutes after we left my place).
So here we are in San Diego, trying to figure out how much money to take out for the trip. Not wanting to travel with an unnecessarily large amount of money, I brilliantly decide that I only need $600 to get me through the next several days, as “‘I’ll just go to the Bank of America in Cabo (San Lucas, at the southern tip of the Baja Peninsula, more than 1,000 miles away) to get out more money once we get down there (that’s foreshadowing, by the way, in case you can’t tell).”
We make one last stop, at the end of some random dead-end street behind a mini-mall, to stash our weed, and get the car in order before subjecting ourselves to the thorough scrutiny of an international border crossing. We stuff the bag in an empty cigarette box, throw it under a bush, and are then finally ready to roll across the border, to whatever fate or adventure awaits us. We get back on I-5 south to drive the last remaining third of a mile of U.S. soil separating us from the great unknown.
The Tijuana Shuffle
Up ahead, on the left side of the median, we can see the northbound lanes of traffic, queuing up for entry into the U.S. through the world’s busiest international border crossing.
I have been across the Mexican border a few times in the past, but never via this particular port of entry, never for more than just a few hours, and never with the intent of going any further into the country than the strip of cheesy Americanized bars that sits, each in its own individual fashion, within a stone’s throw of some or another U.S. border crossing station. But this time we will be crossing the border at Tijuana, bound for a destination (Cabo San Lucas) over a thousand miles deep into the country, and staying for an unknown duration of time- a week or two, perhaps (we very loosely suppose, based on nothing).
I Believe I’ll Ride it Down to Mexico…
We are fully expecting to momentarily come upon some kind of toll booth/checkpoint-type thing where we will have to briefly explain to some dude- who doesn’t get paid enough to give a shit one way or the other- why we are going to Mexico, where we’re going in Mexico, and how long we intend to stay in Mexico.
But for some reason the Mexican authorities just don’t seem to be all that concerned about policing the incoming U.S. tourists, and whatever corruptive influence they might be having on their nation. And to tell you the truth, I can’t see how this “anti-policy” has resulted in too many problematic breaches of national security sufficiently grave as to force a review of current protocols.
Holy Moses, Have We Been Removed?
We never even slow down. I remember seeing some cop standing next to his motorcycle on the shoulder of the highway, motionless, arms crossed, sternly regarding the freeway through impenetrable sunglasses, but doing nothing.
We whizz right by him, at speed, and before you can even say “¿Qué chingados?“, we are in downtown Tijuana, whizzing by decrepit parking lots, empty office buildings, and vibrant marketplaces, never having even so much as head-faked as if we might stop and attempt to justify this international sojourn to anybody. Our passing goes as utterly unremarked as would that of a 22-year-old brah in a white baseball cap crossing a beer line at a Dave Matthews Band concert.
And just like that, we are in Mexico.
I think about the cigarette box full of weed, stashed needlessly under that bush back in the U.S.A.- a million miles away. We continue straight on through Tijuana and out the other side towards the coastline. We’ll get our chance to dig in to some Mexican cities a little later in the trip; but for now, we’re trying to get somewhere.
Looka Like a Storm Brewin’
The signal slowly turns to static as we pass southward out of the reach of the San Diego radio stations. The last thing we hear is yet another newsflash about this big hurricane that’s been bearing down on the Gulf Coast for the past few days. Everybody’s been talking about it. I guess it’s supposed to be one for the ages.
(to be continued)
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