Day one shouldn’t have been a long one, but because of a certain fail in my usually mad research skills…it was. But it wasn’t a disaster….just long.
(It could have been a disaster…for sure!)
The first part was easy: Fly from Alabama to Houston to Cancun. It was a Monday. The Spring Breakers must fly on the weekend because at one point the flight attendant commented, “Y’all sure are quieter than the group yesterday.”
Surprisingly, the second part was easy, too. I had been advised that flying into Merida might be a better choice than Cancun simply because of the wait at immigration, but that proved not to be the case. Ten minutes, tops, including customs.
The rental car wasn’t bad either. I’d arranged it before hand, the price quoted and insurance coverage quoted (a sticky point in Mexico) was as arranged, and Joseph watched the man who preceded us in line take photos of the dents in his car before driving away just as I had told his skeptical self I was going to do.
And then…we were off.
Now, there are two ways to get from Cancun to Chichen Itza and beyond. There’s the slower, free way, and then there’s the faster toll road. All I read about the latter was that it was “boring.” The most boring road in the world, perhaps. Bosh, I thought. Even if it’s boring, I decided, I needed expediency. After flying down, I just wanted to get us to where we were going. The picturesque could come tomorrow and the whole next week.
So I found the concept of a toll road no problem.
Oh, I should add that my car came to me with a little more than a quarter tank of gas. (Duly marked on the sheet). I thought, “Ah, I’ll stop in a minute. Let me figure this car and this road out. Then we’ll stop. Get water. Get Coca-Cola Light,because we’re in that land again. Get gas.”
So I drove. And drove. I had purchased a very detailed map of the area, which included notation of gas stations. Hmmm. I told Joseph to look for the next gas station. He pointed. “It’s on the free road.” “Well, I’ll just get off,” I assured him. He ventured doubtfully, “I…don’t…think…you can….”
And do you know what? You can’t. I couldn’t.
I watched that fuel gauge creep slowly toward E – and it was so slow, I had some hope. It seemed to barely budge after fifty kilometers. But as it dawned on me that no, there really was no gas until Vallidadod, over 100 kilometers down the road, I started to wonder…what in the hell am I going to do? What is wrong with these people? What if there was a real emergency???
I’ve gotten close to E before, but always knowing that a gas station was a mile down the road…but here…there just wasn’t.
Well. This is a nice start, isn’t it? Stranded by the side of a Mexican toll road on a Monday evening?
Well, there’s a toll booth! A toll booth with some refreshments and a sign indicating one could get help for…something. No gasoline symbol, though. Well, I would ask anyway. So I asked the toll booth attendant about gasoline..He shrugged and waved. Nope. Not until Vallodidod.
“You need gasoline?
He motioned to his left, on the other side of the road. “Go there. You will get gasoline.”
I obeyed – what else was I going to do ? I had an eighth of a tank left to drive about sixty kilometers. I might have been able to do it, but it was really too risky. I swung around and pulled up to a shabby building with a Cruz Rosa truck in front of it.
The fellow – Nelson, his name was – and I understood each other enough for him to tell me that gas would be gotten for me, and it would take about 30 minutes and 200 pesos. I really didn’t care. Again…what else was I going to do?
So he sent his assistant off, and he hung out, and we attempted to chat. He told me, as I mentioned, that his name is Nelson. I asked him about pronunciation of certain words, especially those with an “X” – in Maya, it’s got an “sh” sound to it, specifically what depending on its placement in front of a vowel or consonant, I guess. We stretched that out for a while. I bought the boys water. Nelson talked to me about Chichen Itza. We watched tour bus after tour bus thunder past, away from the ruins and towards Cancun. We waited.
Eventually, the older guy appeared with two rather large containers of gasoline. What I suspect is that they usually have a store on hand – Nelson said that the lack of gas stations on the road was a continual problem – and since it was late in the day, they had run out.
And we were off. Doing what I hadn’t wanted to do – drive in the dark – but it was that blasted, toll road, with plenty of lights, not some windy country road.
Finally – I crawled through the town of Piste, lively with bikes, business tricycles, shops and food stops open to the street – I would not have minded stopping, but we needed to get to our hotel…..MAYALAND…
And someone….was in heaven.