Baja Mexico: The Journey of Almost No Return – Chapter 17: Cheltdown #1

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He looked kinda like this.
I’m pretty sure this is that same dog.

Day 05

La Paz, BCS

Tuesday, August 30th:

I wake up around 9 AM to the sound of a suitcase being packed with violence.

Ah. So it is as I feared.

I make my awakeness known, yet still go ignored for a minute or so. Meanwhile, clothes, toiletries, and other sundries are thrashed about before me, as one by one they are emphatically shoved into the suitcase. Finally I ratchet up the boldness by actually pulling down the covers, swinging my legs off the bed, and standing up. I insist on knowing what Chalk’s deal is.

Without pausing , or even making eye contact with me, he informs me that he’s leaving.

Leaving? What does that even mean in this context?

It means he’s done, he’s out of here. He’s had it with the bullshit.

Exactly what bullshit he’s referring to I cannot precisely say. I mean, usually if you’ve had it with something, then presumably it has annoyed you at least more than once. Yet the only thing on this trip thus far that could possibly be filed under “interpersonal discord” of any kind was this silliness last night wherein I spent hours driving around the barrio with Mexican strangers searching for drugs, a scenario which ended with me inadvertently leaving Chalk waiting at a bar for an hour and 45 minutes longer than I’d said I would. An admittedly grave miscalculation on my part, to be sure; but come on- it’s still only the first straw.

So again– leaving?

Giddy-Up!! Anybody heading to America? (photo by Frank Thomason)
Anybody heading to America?
(photo by Frank Thomason)

Spanish Hassle Tragic

Apparently, Chalk is leaving the city of La Paz by himself, and driving solo all the way back to Boston. That’s 5,300 miles, a third of which- over 1,700 miles- is in Mexico. That’s a lot of angry driving through a foreign, and potentially very hostile, land for somebody with no Spanish in his repertoire, and a fuse shorter than a pubic hair.

I’m not sure he’s really thought this through. And I feel ridiculous about the fact that we now have to actually fully act out the predictable drama wherein I convince him not to just flush the whole trip down the toilet and leave me stranded in southern Baja.

But I must tread lightly here. It’s in everybody’s best interest for me to bring Chalk around calmly and rationally. That said, there is an urgency to be considered. After all, I cannot be left alone here in La Paz to find my way back as I will. That just will not do.


For one thing, the two of us ran out of liquid cash just last night. I spent my last twenty bucks on a bag of coke so tiny that I couldn’t even get the tip of my pinky into it to scrape out the inner walls. So for the moment, I have no money, and no way to get any. I dumbly lost my bank card last week in San Francisco before we left for Mexico; and so Bank of America issued me a temporary ATM card to use until my new proper bank card arrived by mail. So we waited a few days for that to come in the mail; but of course we got impatient to hit the road and left San Francisco before the new card arrived. The next day I hit a BofA branch in San Diego and took out $700, not knowing if the temporary ATM card would be of any use once we dropped south of the border.

So now all I have is this stupid little Mickey Mouse starter bank card that, as it happens, only works in America. Who knew? No matter, though- the plan all along has been to stop at the BofA in Cabo San Lucas to re-up on effectivo– that’s what they call cash down here. And I couldn’t agree more about the appropriateness of the term.

No tengo alguno dinero.
No tengo alguno dinero.

Chalk it Up to Poor Planning

But until we get to Cabo, I have no money. No credit card. No working phone card. No cell phone that works in this god-forsaken land. Our gentlemen’s agreement had been that, if the money were to run out before we got to Cabo, we could subsist off of Chalk’s credit card until we got to the actual bank in Cabo, where I would withdraw more money for us to exist on until we got back stateside. So I kinda need Chalk to not take off on me.

Playing the one shitty little card in my deck, I tell Chalk that if he leaves, I will have no choice but to hang onto my rare and hard-to-find Mexican road atlas, without which- well, good luck getting home, amigo. Cold…I know, but what else am I supposed to do? I don’t even think they sell this thing in Mexico; and even if they do, in order to find one you’d have to at least know how to ask somebody where there’s a fuckin’ Barnes y Noble.

Actually, after what I went through to acquire this atlas in the months leading up to our trip, I know for a fact that it is only available online; but to order one and get it sent to you, you’d need some kind of address. And Chalk ain’t got no kinda address in goddamn Mexico.

So I know that Chalk will never make it back to the states without me and my atlas. There is just no chance. If he sets out on his own, he will simply never be heard from again. But does he understand this?

Work hard, play hard. (image by
Work hard, play hard, mang.

I can’t believe how stubbornly committed to this ill-conceived flight from Baja Chalk is. I suggest that we at least discuss it over breakfast before he leaves- a suggestion born partly of my need to eat some food before being left to survive, penniless, on my own wit, but mostly because I am confident that, given the chance, I can put this fire out and get this party train back on the tracks.

We’re Gonna Break Out the Hats and Hooters

We sit down for breakfast at some sidewalk hotel cafe along the main drag of La Paz. A few feet away, there’s this folding sign on the sidewalk advertising some lunch special the restaurant is offering on enchiladas. The sign boasts a picture of a chihuahua wearing a pointy birthday party hat, with one of those unrolling party horn things in its mouth, and a world of endless streamers flying all around in the background. We speculate for a few minutes on whether or not the dog actually ever wore the hat or held that stupid party horn in its mouth, or if the hat and the hooter were just airbrushed into an otherwise innocuous photo of a chihuahua.


Nothing a Chihuahua in a Party Hat Can’t Fix

The conversation about the chihuahua gets us laughing together, and therewith Chalk starts to come around. All I have to do now is just gently guide this ship back onto the highway and towards Cabo San Lucas, the southernmost point of our journey- now only two and a half hours away. After a few quick words, punctuated by assurances that there won’t be any more shenanigans like the ones I pulled last night, the trip is back on. We get on the road and make for Cabo.

Oh and, our final assessment: The dog never wore the fucking hat.


Previous: Chapter 16: Twice Upon a Time in Mexico: Lost in the Barrio

Next: Chapter 18: This Must Be Just Like Living in Paradise