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Return to plaza nation

Written on: Tuesday March 25th, 2008

A journal entry from: Camping Mexico


 * We write this at 6am in Denny?s in Flagstaff, AZ. We both lay awake in the tent since 4am this morning because it was so cold?the condensation on the inside of our tent was FROZEN. No kidding. So, Colin suggested we head somewhere warm; hence, Denny?s at 6 am :)

 The last two weeks have found Colin and I retracing our steps along Michoacan?s utterly stunning Pacific Coast, crossing the Mexico/USA boarder, and exploring the seemingly endless desert in Arizona?s many State Parks. In early March we left the El Rosario Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary sans a working camera and headed for the beckoning Pacific Coast. We went right back to our favorite campsites at Rio Nexpa and Playa La Ticla, where Colin surfed intimidating waves several times a day. We then found a beautiful campsite just outside of Barra De Navidad, and it was there that we discovered (thank god!) Cocada De Leche, a to-die-for coconut candy. Truly. If you?re really lucky we may share some with you upon our return?maybe.

 To be honest, I had been dreading crossing the boarder into the USA for a while prior to the big day. When that day finally arrived, we spent our last couple of hours south of the boarder in Nogales where we drank Coke out of a glass bottle and ate at a small taco stand. Crossing the boarder was really tough for me. I actually cried as we drove away and the Mexican shacks and clothing lines on the hillside slowly disappeared from my view. Crossing into Tijuana last November was exhilarating and somewhat shocking; however, crossing into Nogales, USA, was saddening and all but depressing. The streets in Nogales, Mexico are bustling with activity and all of the ?Mexican? things we have become so accustom to. On the other side of that guarded big black wall the streets are generic, sterile and pretty damn bland. I immediately missed everything Mexican, including all of the things that create the slightly frenzied feeling maintained by many Mexican city streets.  

 As Mexico eventually faded from our view into the horizon, we were immediately surrounded by a never ending sea of strip malls and plazas conveniently named after the vast expanses of wilderness that were sacrificed so they could be built.  These plazas are so excruciatingly boring, full of the same stores over and over again like Home Depot and Bed Bath and Beyond. Oh how I longed to come across a Mini-Super marcado or roadside fruit stand. Nonetheless the desert scenery is beautiful, and there is a definite lack of garbage on the side of the highway. We also didn?t have to worry about running down any donkeys, cows, goats, horses, dogs, roosters, or bulls.


 During our last week in Mexico we spent 5 days in Sayulita followed by a night in Mazatlan and a night in San Carlos.  We covered over 2000 km in those three days of driving and now that we are back we realize that there was no rush to get the miles behind us.  However, having spent the past few days within a small geographic area I feel that we will have no problem occupying ourselves here in the USA while maintaining our budget.

 Welcome to plaza nation (is what the sign should read), where the mom and pop stores are extinct and the generic big box superstores run for miles. Downtowns are empty while 6 lane roads criss-cross through the suburbs in order to make room for the SUVs heading to the Walmart around the corner.  To date Mexico has managed to avoid this type of development and maintains an energetic community environment on virtually every street in the country.  Yes, big box superstores do exist in Mexico (Soriana, Ley, Bodega, Gigante) however these institutions have for the most part been banished to the outskirts of town due to the lack of available real estate in town.  Since many Mexican families do not own cars the super store culture has not been able to overtake the charming city streets.  This was my grandest observation during our first few days back in the USA.  I must admit however that we probably drove into the worst area for plaza development in the world?.Tucson and Phoenix Arizona. 

 Despite the generic culture of modern day America this area does offer some incredible scenery and parks.  Camping is easily located as many state parks have campsites and RV resorts line the freeways.  Accessing what we want has become much easier since moving north of the boarder because there is actually infrastructure to support this type of travel.  Tourist information (in English), free wireless internet (everywhere), detailed maps and brochures make the journey much easier.

 We have enjoyed our trip thoroughly and now that it has almost come to an end we are wishing we spent a few more days in several of our favorite locations.  Sayluita, Puerto Escondito, Tulum, and the Michoacan coast all deserved at least another week.  Our expansive travel created a desire to return and explore more areas which we were not able to explore, next time I will have a zodiac in tow.  Many people bring down accessories with their ?Big Rigs? including Suburbans, Harley Davidsons, scooters, dirt bikes, quads (which would be extremely useful) however I think for us a boat would be most desirable.

 Anyways, we will be at the Grand Canyon this afternoon and tomorrow, Lake Mead, and then Vegas.  After that we are unsure what will be on the agenda before hitting the Oregon coastline.  


From Judy Alston on Mar 25th, 2008

It was interesting to read of your feelings as you crossed the border as I, too, cried. Can't explain the feeling...we met so many wonderful Mexican people and left so much unexplored. We lived in Page for six years (Joe was supt. there as well as at Grand Canyon). Sorry, there are no good places to eat in Page, unless things have changed. We are back in CA...on to the next adventure...buying a house!