Leaving the Golden Zone

Our trip to Puerto Vallarta is less than a month away and we still have not dialed in how we are getting there. Our two options are to fly or take a bus.  Anytime we make a decision on traveling to our next destination, we look at time and cost and then ask ourselves how much is our time worth. To fly it would take seven hours and cost $600.00.  Or we could take a bus for nine hours for $75.00. Needless to say, the next day we planned to head to the bus station.  

We have been to Mazatlan four times but never ventured outside the Golden Zone, mainly because when you only have a week on the beach you are going to soak up as much beach and sun as you can. We walked about a half a mile down the street waiting for an Uber to become available. Yes, there were plenty of pulmonias, but an Uber is half the cost. After several more unsuccessful attempts, we continued walking and hit the Malecon. We walked the uneventful Malecon for the next two miles in the direct sunlight. I thought there would be places to grab a beer, vendors or something, but nothing. It seemed more residential with condos and an occasional Oxxo. As we walked the hot, long Malecon, with no shade, sweat dripping from us, with nothing to drink I had two thoughts; the first, why was I worried about venturing out, it was completely safe. And the second, I never asked Jim how far and where the bus station was. Oh NO! 

Over three miles later, we crossed the street, turned left leaving the new sidewalks, the police and other tourists. I started looking around and thought maybe this is why earlier Jim agreed so easily with me about getting an Uber to the bus station. The streets were piled with garbage, sidewalks became ankle breakers, bars on windows and I asked Jim how much longer to the station, his reply...a few more blocks. My heart started to pound as I played hop-scotch with the dog poop and hoped my recently broken flip-flop didn’t completely fall apart. A few more blocks and up ahead Jim spotted the Mazatlan bus station and right across the street the Tap ticket agency and I spotted a sign for birrias, our favorite food. We had a quick conversation with the owner at Maria Bonita and told him we would return after we purchased our bus tickets.

The Tap ticket agency was a small office with A/C…….Ahh!  We were easily able to communicate in Spanish that we wanted two tickets to Puerto Vallarta, thank you Duolingo and Rosetta Stone. Once we showed our DL’s, we picked our seats and chose the time. Jim stuck his card in to pay, the system crashed, the whole computer system.  We stood there for another 15-20 minutes for the system to reboot.  As a line formed behind us, we went through the whole process again and this time the agent doesn’t let Jim push the card in, but politely takes it from him. I think she thought him shoving his card in caused her computer to crash. She slowly put the card in and carefully pulled it out and for some reason it did not work. Jim handed her another card and it worked. After it was approved he realized it charges international fees….rookie move Jimbo!

We left the station and headed back up the street half a block to Maria Bonita’s for a birria and consomé and a nice cold beer. As we entered the side door because the main garage door was now closed, I reminded myself from past experiences where the dingiest, smallest places served some of the best food and NO beer. 

We placed our order and NO beer. Actually, a liter of water sounded great. I am not sure if I heard the crack you are supposed to hear when opening a water that has never been opened before. I tell Jim this and he takes a drink and says it's good and cold. What the hell, I am thirsty. 

As I waited, being careful not to put my hands on the plastic tablecloth that had the appearance of not being cleaned for some time and which I am sure felt sticky, I noticed a cockroach scurry under me. I look at Jim, he purposefully avoids eye contact with me and doesn't say a word. When Jim stepped on the second cockroach I said, "I don't think I'll be able to do this!" Jim’s famous saying when we encounter cockroaches, "you must not be from Texas."  I hate it because it makes no sense to me, but I do know it means he's not leaving. 

Just as our food is served the owner stepped on the third cockroach and kicked it into the kitchen. At that moment I was faced with an internal dilemma; do I wait outside for Jim or sit with my hands in my pockets and wait while cockroaches start to take over.  I went to take a picture of the food, because that's what I do, and it looked and smelled fantastic. Fuck it! I closed my eyes and took a bite, careful not to touch ANYTHING!  After that first bite I stopped counting the cockroaches that were roaming the floor and I just kept my feet up eating one of the most delicious birria and consomé I’ve had and for only $1.75. 

Later that night while watching the sunset with my feet up and unable to move;  I can't help but to be thankful for experiences like today that push me to widen my comfort zone.


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