Continuing south on Mexico 200, I pass acre after acre of lush sugar cane growing tall like thick green grass. Trucks stacked high with dried cane rumble past taking their cargo north. Small fires burn to clear harvested fields. Their smoke washes on the wind across the road.
Soon I reach Puerto Vallarta. My earliest memory of this resort town was as a kid when someone guessed the correct price of the Grand Showcase and Bob Barker awarded them with “an all-expense paid trip for two to sunny and beautiful Puerto Vallarta!”
It was immediately clear that I had left Mexico. Giant hotels and condominiums surrounded by golf course lagoons stand shoulder to shoulder on the very last edge of developable land – a glass and concrete phalanx blocking Vallarta’s famous beaches. Pasty white Americans and Canadians amble down narrow streets lined with T-shirt and knick-knack kiosks. U.S. dollars are accepted as readily as pesos and English is spoken as commonly as Spanish.
My clothes had not been laundered in days and some unmentionables had been called into service more than once. I purchased a T-shirt for the equivalent of $7 after haggling with a young man who’d promised to, “give a special deal to you my friend.” He did. I returned to my room where I exchanged my filthy blue-jeans and dusty riding boots for khaki knee-length cargo shorts and Keen sandals. I peeled off a musky Triumph shirt and replaced it with a fresh cool Corona T-shirt. With this change of clothes I felt for the first time in two weeks, absolutely invisible.
I stepped out onto the small street fronting my hotel and was immediately indistinguishable from nearly everyone else – just another gringo on a two-week furlough from the suburbs in the North. Most of the restaurants, with names like “Nacho Daddy,” had the first triple-digit menu prices I’d seen in nearly two thousand miles. I walked out of one and happily found the nearest taco stand where I was able to order entirely, albeit crudely, in Spanish. Apparently the dust I’d picked up in Baja wouldn’t wash off with just a shower. The next morning I was rolling south again on Mexico 200, and soon back in Mexico.