You would think, from reading my travel ramblings, that we only visit Europe. Actually, our family has a long travel history in Mexico and Central America. Great vacations have been enjoyed in Costa Rica, Guatemala, Belize and many adventures in Mexico.
It all started with those month long leaves in the Army. We took off for a road trip around Mexico in the year of the 1968 Olympics. Were we crazy or what? Maybe just young and fearless! We drove down the west coast of Mexico through Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, and Guadalajara to Mexico City and back up through the mountains to Victoria and Monterrey and back into Texas. We survived the car break-in, the torrential flood in a backwater named San Blas (allegedly soon to be an undiscovered destination resort – hah!) where you cross rickety wood bridges over roaring rain filled rivers, and lots of highways that were still awaiting pavement. This was our first out of country trip testing the foreign language skills or lack thereof and overcoming the fear of the unknown. As you can tell from “Time Off The Bench”, we really got hooked. We had actually taken a Spanish course at the University of Texas-El Paso so it didn’t go too badly. I can still, decades later, clearly say “mas cerveza porfavor” – more beer please! We loved the food (yum-shrimp wrapped in bacon and cheese), the culture, the people and the excitement of a different life style.
Mexico for many Americans is all about beaches and sun. Mary Ann and I are not really beach people, but we do seem to end up at beach resorts frequently. Thus while we do visit the beaches, we have learned to love a couple of interior Mexican destinations. We would recommend to you the two towns of Guanajuato and San Miguel de Allende, both located near each other in the colonial district of central Mexico. They can be reached by flying to Guadalajara, San Luis Potosi, or Leon, and then driving to these towns. Guanajuato is built in a canyon and is located in a historic mining district. It has a university popular with Americans. San Miguel de Allende is an art colony with a lot of U.S. ex patriates. Both are exciting and great fun. They are the kinds of places that you think about retiring to or at least to rent a villa for a few months in the winter. Check out these websites: www.mexconnect.com/MEX/mxc/tour.index.html and www.internetsanmiguel.com.
Our favorite large city in Mexico is Guadalajara. Guadalajara, and the state of Jalisco, both have interesting shopping neighborhoods, crafts, year round good weather, and lots of big city cultural events. It does not have the crime, smog, nor overwhelming size (it is Mexico’s second largest) that you experience in Mexico City. While there be sure and visit the suburb of Tlaquepaque. The whole city gives you the experience of the Mexican culture and vibrancy, which you do not get when you spend time in the beach cities where there are so many foreign tourists. To look at the opportunities in any of the Mexican cities or resorts, the Mexican government has an excellent website at www.visitmexico.com.
To get out of the rain and snow of the Pacific Northwest we have spent a number of weeks in the winter at the Mexican west coast resorts. For us these have included Mazatlan, Puerto Vallarta, and Los Cabos. Some of our most memorable family experiences have come from those vacations. There is nothing like being in the airport in Mazatlan when your oldest daughter dislocates her shoulder. Having seen the hospital, her mother then grabs the shoulder, pushes it back in the socket and commands Katy to get on the plane. Maybe this is how Mary Ann obtained the reputation of being a tender and caring mother, and her children now follow her theory of “buck up and quit whining!” How about flying back from Puerto Vallarta when our youngest daughter Amanda who is sitting next to me (Mary Ann must have had a premonition), leans over in my lap, as we were landing in Seattle, and vomits all over me. You have never seen flight attendants exit a plane so fast while completely ignoring two passengers. Or how about the time when having an excursion out of Cabo San Lucas to the “Hotel California” village of Todos Santos, when the “Gringo Judge” gets busted by the policia for running the hidden red light (the only red light). Go figure! It was close to lunch time and I think the police needed lunch money. I was hauled up to the police station by five policemen, and three police cars. Fortunately, our good traveling friends were carrying enough pesos, as no visa cards were accepted. Afterwards I asked if Mary Ann saw the court while she was killing time waiting for us. She said, “No, but I did find several really awful jail cells.” I left my business card to be given to the judge advising him I would have to forfeit my bail!
We have some good friends who have a time share at the Westin Club Regina (www.loscabosguide.com/clubregina/) in the corridor between Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo. We have enjoyed the ambiance, weather, whales of this resort and the two cities at the foot of Baja California Sur. Los Cabos is growing like crazy and you should plan to visit there before it gets completely out of control. If you are a golfer it is a must. With all of the gringos being catered to, it is also becoming very expensive. Last year we also spent a week in Mazatlan. We were not really looking forward to it, as the last time (about 20 years ago) it was really going to seed. To our delight it is now a very exciting resort, very busy, cleaned up, lots of fun and easy to get around with the open air pulmonia taxis. We had a great time and can heartily recommend the experience. For a lot of information take a look at www.mazatlan.com.mx.
Where ever you go in Mexico, if you enjoy other cultures, you will have a good time. We heartily encourage some time off the bench in Mexico.
(Published in the Spring 2003 ABA Judicial Record)