So, we started out from Lo de Marcos, near Puerto Vallarta with a song in our heart. We were leaving the RV behind and planned on visiting Tlaquepaque (don’t even try to pronounce it), Morelia, Oaxaca and Taxco by car.

“This will be an adventure!”

I was a tad apprehensive for various reasons:

  1. Gas had not been available in Mexico since Christmas, the week before.
  2. Our RV neighbors related stories of normally three hour trips to Guadalajara turning into a seven hour nightmares, due primarily to protests and gasoline shortage.
  3. Gary had been noticing an “odd” sound emanating from our tires.
  4. I had recently read of a couple whose car had broken down between Puerto Vallarta and Guadalajara. Three men picked them up, notified their families of the ransom, and alas, don’t know if the ransom was paid but didn’t matter as the couple were never seen again. Lovely.

But…we were leaving, come hell or high water. And fortunately, it rains very little in Mexico in the winter.

I will tell you I had reservations about bringing Dude, our 80 pound labradoodle to Mexico. Last year when we were here, we missed him terribly. So, this year we brought him. Hmmmm. Mixed blessings to say the least. We had to choose places that were “pet friendly”. And I always made sure to inform them that we did have a “mascota”. They never asked what size he was and I didn’t offer the information. Several times when first eyeing him, they would say with surprise, “Muy Grande!”. Yes. He is muy grande.

Our first stop was Tlaquepaque at Casa Tlaquepaque, a charming, quaint family owned hotel in great location.  All was beautiful until the morning we were leaving. As we were ushering Dude out of their house he paused to make one stop. He peed on their Christmas tree. Lord.

We leave Tlaquepaque and head for Morelia. I have made reservations there in a delightful hotel, Cantera Diez. It is not only delightful, it is muy expensive. Muy. We are shown to a room that overlooks the Cathedral. All is well, however there must be some sort of celebration going on, as evidenced by the street in front of the hotel being blocked off, oh, and yes, as evidenced by the 2 hours we spent, once inside the centro de Morelia of finding the hotel.

I ask one of the hotel personnel why all the crowds?  He tells me, “Reyes Magos.” Reyes Magos? I knew “reyes”, kings, but not “mago”. I consult my trusty translation book. Magician! “Oh”, I say excitedly, “They are having a magic show!” The waiter looks at me as one would look at a stupid child. He soon returns with the correct translation. Wisemen. I felt, shall we say, like a stupid child.

The January 6, Epiphany celebration was incredible. Probably a hundred tables set up with Rosca de Reyes, the King’s bread. Thousands of people gathered below our room each hoping to get a piece of bread containing the baby Jesus. Balloons galore, all sent heavenward with notes informing the Three Kings of how good they had been this year and the rewards they were expecting.

The next morning we left the hotel to see the Monarch butterflies at La Rosario Reserve. .  Antonio, our mainly English speaking contact at the hotel saw us off with trepidation. Neither he nor we were sure exactly how to get to the reserve. We found the reserve and also found Abemael, our guide at the reserve. He spoke no English and we spoke extremely broken Spanish but we managed swimmingly, thanks to newly acquired sign language and facial expressions. We rode horses, actually, not rode, but were led up the mountain, “up” being the operative word. We dismounted and walked up another half mile, up, again the operative word. And lo and behold, the millions of butterflies swarmed. As we were walking down, I had to watch where I stepped. I am sure there is some kind of fine for eliminating one of millions.

We left the next morning headed for Puebla. We had consulted with Mexico Mike, our Mexico expert,  about our trip and he assured us there were numerous motels in Puebla where we could stay for the night. What he did not say is that Puebla, the third largest city in Mexico, now has a highway that literally takes you over the entire city with no exits, none, zip, nada. We longingly gazed at the many motels as we flew over them.

Again, I consult my Lonely Planet. Orizaba! “Wonderful little town on the river”. It’s early, around two and Orizaba is only 35 miles from Puebla. We will be going 70 miles out of our way but, hey, “wonderful river” right through town. And I am envisioning Dude, who up until this time has suffered through untold humiliation, peeing and pooping in front of the masses on sidewalks, swimming in this so called river.

Once we have started up the mountain towards Orizaba, I read what Mexico Mike, our Mexico expert, has to say. And it is too late. Fog. Horrible fog. Whiteout fog. And we encounter it. Now I can take wind and rain and snow and sleet. But gimme’ fog and I crater. I cratered.

We finally make it over the 10K mountain (tallest in Mexico) and all I want is a strong Scotch. We arrive at our “charming hotel right on the river”, thank you Lonely Planet. It is not anything near charming but it is on the river. Right on the river. But it is also pouring down rain.  And the amenities are somewhat lacking; third floor, no heat, no air, obviously no elevator. But, thankfully two thin blankets. However, we, being inveterate optimists, are now averaging out our hotel stay rates.

We leave early the next morning as soon as it’s light. “Hey, if we have to do this fog again, let’s do it with less traffic.” We are so smart. We get about two miles out of Orizaba and stop. Literally, stop. The traffic has come to a complete standstill. And we are thinking, okay, maybe 15 minutes, 30 at the most. Seven hours later, we start moving. SEVEN hours! The good news is that we had made many new chums; the “doble” semi Oval Oil tanker in front, the El Toro semi to the side, including his family of four, and the hundreds of people walking past us, to where? Once we start moving again we passed an Oxxo (read 7-11) just up the road. Who knew? Certainly would have helped quench our thirst, not to mention our bladders. It is now 2:00 pm.  We left the hotel at 7:00am.

We check our GPS, only 27 miles until we make our first turn over this mountain. Whew! But the fog returns, in spades.  It was literally bumper-to-bumper, stop, go, stop. We reached the top of the mountain and the traffic started moving down faster.  Then it was Gary saying, “Do you see that truck ahead of us?” And me saying, “No, do you?” as I am leaning forward and shading my eyes. (Just FYI, shading your eyes does not help one bit in fog.) Then suddenly, we SEE the truck ahead of us and brake. However, minor problem, a HUGE yellow semi coming up fast behind us and I do see that. And I tell my Daddy, who passed away twenty years ago, “Okay Pops, I am on my way.” I brace. Fortunately, my ex-bus driver husband allows enough time and space to not be totally overrun by the big yellow behemoth. Oh, to be back to bumper to bumper.

We did eventually arrive in Oaxaca. To a lovely hotel.  And who hopped out of the car without a care in the world? Dude.