The alarm went off at 5:00 am on Friday, July 9th and we groaned. This was the much anticipated day we were to leave for the Yucatan on our vacation. We were traveling with our good friend, Juan and his family. They consist of wife Maria, son Carlos, 17, daughters Lupita (Lupe), 13, and Elizabeth (Lizzie), 6. The 19 year old son, Miguel, had to stay behind to work.
We had just spent the night sleeping on a mattress on the living room floor and had not gotten much rest. The house was torn apart and all of our bedroom furniture was piled in the living room. New tile had just been put down in the bedroom the day before. I rolled off the mattress onto the floor and somehow managed to stand erect and make my way to the coffee pot. After a quick trip to the bathroom and feeding the cat, I started my daily routine of cajoling B to get out of bed. We still had lots to do and had to catch the 6:30 am ferry. One of the big drawbacks to living on an island is having to coordinate your life with a ferry schedule when you want to go to the mainland. I headed to the shower and yelled at B one last time to get moving. He was understandably tired from staying up late the night before taking care of last minute details.
All clean and spruced up, I headed out to finalize Jeep preparations while B finished the packing and making sure we were well prepared for the journey. It was already in the 80's and we were both covered with sweat as we attached the carryall hitch to the Jeep. Of course, it would not fit into the receiver hitch without a struggle and we were almost at each other’s throats by the time we got it fastened. Back into the house to grab all of our stuff and throw it into the Jeep. It was 6:20 am as we pulled away from the house and drove a breakneck speed of 25 mph to the ferry. We just barely made it and were the last ones loaded on. I left B sitting in the Jeep, next to the garbage truck, to catch his breath and composure while I headed to the bow to look for Juan and family.
I found Juan and Carlos sitting in his car, motor running and air conditioning going full blast. His youngest daughter, Lizzie, was asleep on the back seat. No Maria or Lupe. After feeding me a song and dance that Maria was not going because they had had a big fight, he finally broke down and admitted that she had not been ready in time to catch the ferry and would be taking the “people” ferry later and we would meet her on the mainland. We had to get gas right by the ferry anyway so it was no big deal.
We off loaded from the ferry and headed down the coast the short distance to the people ferry and gas station. Thirty minutes after gassing up, Juan sent Carlos across the street to find his mother and sister. They were running just a little late. They finally appeared, strolling across the parking lot with the typical (in my opinion!) Mexican what’s-the-rush attitude. This was to be the first of many cultural differences we encountered close up during the trip. We were our typical American selves, anxious to get underway; they were their typical Mexican selves, in no hurry at all.
After a quick feast of peanut butter kiss cookies that I had made special the day before, Maria, Lupe and Lizzie piled into the back seat of the Jeep and we were off. We had put the top down because the girls wanted it that way. They had no idea of how hot it could get with the sun beating down on you, but they would quickly learn that lesson!
We headed out of Cancun and I quickly lost Juan in the busy morning traffic of Cancun. I wasn’t worried though. The first part of the route I was familiar with. We were planning on stopping in Leona Vacario for breakfast. This is a small village on M180 on the way to Merida. We had been through here many times before on our way to buy cheap plants and cactus for our garden. About 5 miles out of Cancun, I spotted him dodging in and out of traffic ahead. Downshifting and making B very nervous, I drove like a Mexican myself and passed trucks, buses and cars on the narrow road and finally caught up. We entered the small village of Leona Vacario and had our first encounter with scraping on the speed bumps. (topes - toe pays) We were quite loaded down and the carry all was riding dangerously close to the topes. If I did not cross them at an angle, we scraped every time. Juan pulled over in front of a small restaurant, I parked behind and we all piled out for our first meal together on the journey.