Innocents in Mexico, Chapter 5: Zacatecas, Aguascalientes and Finally, San Miguel!!!!!

Street Scene, Guanajuato

Find Chapter 1 HERE  Chapter 2 HERE   Chapter 3 HERE  Chapter 4 HERE

Innocents in Mexico

Chapter 5: Zacatecas, Aguascalientes and Finally, San Miguel!!!!

            The next morning, a few more hours of driving through the desert brought us to Zacatecas.  There everything began to look more prosperous, with trees in evidence and large trucks bringing more to plant, their roots balled in white canvas.  Square adobe houses rose up in diagonal terraces, some painted bright basic colors.  Here, as in other towns we’d passed, bright and huge modern sculptures sprouted out of cement plazas with lights installed at the base for night viewing.  Hundreds of black plastic water reservoirs on the tops of houses appeared to be some new Christo installation.  New buildings in all stages of completion were everywhere.  There was a sense of style here, but no imitation of any North American, Italian, Spanish or any other style.  It was a style all their own––clean, adventurous, purely modern Mexico.  We were in too much of a hurry to stop to see who was responsible for any of the large sculptures.  Perhaps on our next trip.
            Between Zacatecas and Aguascalientes, the desert gave way to grasslands and crops.  Long white irrigation tubes paralleled the highway.  We made out corn, grapes, some white-flowered crops–– onions, garlic, or perhaps just flowers.  We passed a truck fluffy with kale.
            In Aguascalientes, we seemed to drive in circles following the “Mexico” signs.  When they gave out, we drove on in what seemed to be a logical direction.  A taxi driver told us to turn left and we again seemed to be going in a circle before finding the signs.  They again deserted us, but after a half hour or so of driving hopefully toward Leon, we again found the signs and made our way out of Aguascalientes past yet another colossal orange geometric sculpture.
            The country once more turned to sand, this time interspersed with low trees and some crops.  In the distance, a colossal black bull stood silhouetted against the clouds.  Billboard or sculpture?  To our left, the fields were verdant green, to our right, pale tan, as though it were a different season on each side of the road.  We passed the bull.  It was a billboard advertising Magno Osborne in vivid orange and white letters.  We passed a Green Angel truck––about the fifth one we’d seen since entering Mexico.  A sort of governmental AAA, they patrolled the roads to help vehicles in distress.  You paid for the gas, tires or parts, but not the repairs.  A sign told us we were 445 miles from Mexico City––a place we had no plans to ever drive to.
            Nearing Leon, everything became more prosperous.  Guardrails and trees lined the toll road.  Corrugated metal sheds replaced the adobe corrals, and cement fenceposts stretched for miles along the road, strung together by three neatly spaced strands of barbed wire.  Red and white antennas rose like stelae high into the sky.  High line wires, like modern installation sculpture, passed electricity along fourteen thick cables strung high up in the sky on the most modern of poles.  More large factories appeared, as did numerous monstrous billboards.  A man and two small girls in bright handwoven skirts waited in the median to cross the southbound two lanes which were solid with cars.  Green fields stood out against the fall colors predominant on the landscape, though it was only May.
            On the road through Silao, we somehow got diverted through the town.  Streets became narrower and narrower, signs vanished, and we went in circles, trying to avoid dead ends.  Finally, I resorted to asking directions from the window of our car.
            “Donde Esta Guanajuato?” I asked, then failed to understand any of the directions given by men on street corners.  Finally, a patient man with his family in the car motioned for us to follow him and led us out of town onto the Guanajuato road. “Muchas Gracias!” I repeated twice as we pulled up beside him in the double lane.  What was lacking in road sign efficiency was made up for by the extreme courtesy of the citizens of Mexico.
            We passed a huge GM plant surrounded by acres of cars and trucks ready to head north.  The plant was the size of a shopping mall––vivid yellow and blue.  We passed jacaranda trees, palms, cypress and willow.  For the first time, I noticed eucalyptus.  There was a lushness here not experienced farther north, where vegetation was of the desert variety.  We passed a large metal sculpture––the facial outlines of a man who resembled Groucho Marx, with leaves for eyebrows.
            Reluctantly, we drove through Guanajuato without stopping.  Bright blue and orange houses climbed the hills.  By the roadside, vendors sold coconuts with holes chopped in their tops and a lime plugging the opening. The country was more interesting, with mesas and small jagged mountains jutting up against the skyline.  Stone, brick and adobe casas sprinkled the landscape.  They were larger than the houses farther north, with distance between them.  There were pigs in the road, then cattle.  Horses were tethered very close to the road, eating the grass growing out of the side of the blacktop.  We passed a donkey lying dead, half on the road, half off.  Her colt stood by her, trying to nudge her over to nurse.
            Our van climbed up the road to San Miguel de Allende, bringing us  to our final destination in plenty of time to hit the oficina de turismo , which our guide book assured us stayed open until seven.  With only the vague and limited map in our Berkeley Budget Travel Guide, however, we got hopelessly lost in the winding, hilly, cobblestone streets.  Time and time again we wound into areas that had become too narrow, steep or circuitous for our Dodge Van.  Bob got frustrated and said he was glad we hadn’t rented out our house in Boulder Creek yet.  He was already sick of San Miguel.
            We finally parked on a narrow street on a very high hill and walked down to what we hoped was the Plaza Principal.  The tourist office did not seem to be where they had said it would be on the map, and we wandered aimlessly, guide book in hand.  By the time we finally found it, it was closed.  Seasoned residents observed us kindly, but with some humor, I think.  Finally, we found a travel agent and threw ourselves on her mercy.  She suggested a motel which was, she said, moderate in price, where we could park our car––an oddity in this city of narrow, winding cobblestone alleys.  An hour later, having circled the whole town twice, small street by small street, I again threw myself on the mercy of a man behind the counter of a small shop, and he and his wife drew me a map.  “Estoy perdida,” (I am lost) I explained, to their complete delight.  Our Spanish tapes had finally paid off.
            With a good deal of more unnecessary winding, we found the hotel, which turned out to cost $98 a night.  Since we considered this amount to be more than moderate, we started checking out hotels at random.  The next, which appeared modest to us, was $109 a night.
            When I asked his advice, the manager of the $109 hotel got on the phone and located a motel with parking space for $38 a night.  An hour or so later, after much searching, we found it more or less where he had promised it would be.  It was lovely, with fireplace, tiled bath, TV, bottled water––all the amenities.  We unloaded our luggage and installed Bearcat under yet another strange bed.
            Finding the Plaza Principal again proved to be another hair-raising experience, as we wound higher and higher on smaller and smaller roads––finally ending up at a castle-like casa with barely enough room to turn around in a space bounded by the castle walls on one side, a sheer drop-off on the other.  We finally found the plaza, and an Italian restaurant with Peruvian music.  Bob was happy.  When we returned to our room, Bear was eventually coerced out from under the bed with tinned salmon and was happy once we’d turned out the lights and flipped on the tube.  “The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-In-The-Moon Marigolds” was on in English with Spanish subtitles––a movie I’d been wanting to see again complete with Spanish lessons.  Now I was happy, too.


And… for FOWC prompt of destination!!!

17 thoughts on “Innocents in Mexico, Chapter 5: Zacatecas, Aguascalientes and Finally, San Miguel!!!!!

    1. lifelessons Post author

      Derrick, I have thought of that so many times since then. That we should have stopped and helped but I don’t know how. Our van had a platform in back and was loaded full of stuff..He wouldn’t have fit in my lap. There were no dwellings or towns nearby… But still I feel such guilt for leaving him. Tears in my eyes as I type this..

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Pingback: Innocents in Mexico, Chapter 4: On the Road to Rio Grande | lifelessons – a blog by Judy Dykstra-Brown

  2. Perry Reeve

    Thanks for sharing your trip south. I’ve always been curious about what it would be like! What irked me about my husband is he didn’t like to listen to the music on the radio. I also am curious about how you learned pay along the way. A enjoyable read! Gracias!


    1. lifelessons Post author

      We had two Dan Bern albums we listened to all the way down and all the way back!!! Plus books on tape and Spanish language tapes we’d been listening to for the past year whenver we were on the road… I went through the entire series and that is really the only Spanish I ever studied. That and experience.


    1. lifelessons Post author

      It only happens once and then you learn to take the periferico, which rings the town instead of going through it. Also, do not follow the signs for the next town.. always follow the signs for “Mexico” which means Mexico City. They take you the most direct route, avoiding the town traffic. It took us a trip down to realize that.

      Liked by 1 person


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