22 October 2007

2007: The Road Trip to Oaxaca

Our amazing journey from Zacatecas to Oaxaca was about 750 miles and we took a day and a half to do it. We arrived safe and sound at the race start this afternoon. This morning in Puebla when I opened my hotel curtains my mouth dropped open to see the huge volcano Popocatepetl staring back at me with snow on its upper flanks.
The 17,802 foot volcano "Popocatepetl" - the view from my hotel room in Puebla at 7,100 feet

In the valley of Puebla you can see the 3 tallest mountains/volcanos in Mexico, all of which are snowy and glacier-clad:

Pico de Orizaba (18,490 ft): Tallest mountain in Mexico and 3rd tallest in North America.

Popocapetl (17,802 ft): An active volcano that is the 2nd tallest in Mexico and means "Smoking Mountain."
IxtaccĂ­huatl (17,158 ft): Another volcano and the 3rd highest mountain in Mexico, this mountain depicts the head, chest, knees and feet of a sleeping female figure.
My Geezer and I leaving the nicest Holiday Inn Express in the world, Puebla
El Jefe's got new eyes this year (and a new windshield)

Our journey from Aguascalientes where my plane landed, north to my dad's house in Zacatecas to spend the night, and a day and a half road trip south to Oaxaca, a total of 750 miles
From Puebla to Oaxaca we drove through some beautiful and lush country, then through some rugged mountain terrain and up the longest pass I've ever driven in Mexico. I have never seen so many different mountains ranges in one trip. Everywhere you look in every direction there is another mountain range. Overall the climate is dry, but there are sections where the crops are lush and include an amazing palate of colors.

Black Indian pottery, local to Oaxaca

I’m seeing Mexico in a different light this year because we're at half speed and until we arrive in Oaxaca I won’t have a real job to do. I came down early this year for that purpose. Last year Stewie and I flew directly to the race start in Veracruz, had one frantic day to get ourselves adjusted, and started to race. Today I spent 5 hours alternating between singing and car dancing and being totally zoned out in the back seat of the Excursion staring at the passing landscape. The smells, ah the smells. There are certain smells I catch a whiff of anywhere in the world and I am magically transported in my mind to Mexico and I am enamored all over again. Mesquite, carnitas, diesel fumes, burning trash, burning corn stalks, mmmm.

I love this road trip, being with my dad and Rene and everything about it. I am checking out, dropping down real low, leaving my other world behind, most of the stuff I never really needed anyway. There are mountains everywhere I look to feed my soul - mountains that I have never seen before, mountains I want to capture in my memory, touch with my feet, mountains I want to climb. It's Sunday and there are soccer games in each village we pass through. Families are picnicking on the side of the road – things you rarely see folks doing in the US anymore. People are together. It's a bit of sensory overload – the truck is filled with cigarette smoke and loud mariachi music and hard laughing and my brain welcomes all of it.

There are people walking and lots of people standing in doorways. I am entranced by the people in their doorways.....content.....watching the world go by. There is a family in the back of a tiny wagon being pulled down a dirt road by a burro. Life is at half speed. I see a man standing next to a truck and his horse in the framed skeleton of a new house. Dias de los Muertos is coming up (The Day of the Dead celebration). I look and there are children sitting in a circle in the dirt road playing a game. So many people taking their time, socializing, enjoying each other. A horse pulling a flatbed wagon of hay down a dirt track, the farmer about 30 feet behind. Standing in doorways. Did I say I love it when people stand in doorways?

Jolting me out of my trance Rene let out a holler and in the left lane of the interstate a blue Suburban with handicapped plates from Mexico absolutely blows the doors off us going about 95mph and it is full of NUNS! They were in full habit, maybe 10 of them and we only got a glimpse and we were all laughing hysterically and Geezer yelled out, “FLYING NUNS!!!!!!”

I told Rene to catch them so I could catch a video clip but we were climbing a healthy mountain pass near Mexico City and there was no way to catch them while dragging our heavy trailer and 4,000 pound race car. They were already gone.....with Jesus as their copiloto, I guess.

It felt fantastic today to just sit. To listen to music. To laugh with my family. After all the traveling for work and running around I’ve been doing, staring blankly out the window at Mexico going by at 60mph was fantastic and exactly what I needed.

Finally we arrived in Oaxaca. According to the U.S. Race Coordinator, Gerie Bledsoe, Oaxaca is the poorest state in Mexico with the highest population of Indians. There are some of the best ruins in Mexico here, dating to 500 B.C. and the town has been an important trading outpost since 500 A.D. It is known in part for its local cuisine of iguana and grasshopper. Last year the race start was moved from here to Veracruz due to political unrest and rioting, but this year things are quieter. Tonight from our perch in the beautiful Victoria hotel overlooking the city we could hear mariachis playing and fireworks going off for hours.

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