me wrong. I like being pampered as
much as the next guy when I go on vacation and stay at a hotel. There's nothing wrong with room
service; a great restaurant; a spa; fluffy robes and a (Okay...I admit it)...a
mint on my pillow and cookies!
I've stayed in some of the best in Baja...Hotel Cabo San Lucas, The Finesterra,
Palmas de Cortez, Spa Buenavista among so many great resort properties and
enjoyed them all tremendously.
not usually how I roll. I WISH we
could do that all the time, but that's just not very economical.
especially in pre-internet days 15
or 20 years ago... In the days
before all those sites like Trip Advisor and Yelp and other websites arose to dissect every aspect of every resort
from the size of the pool to the softness of the toilet paper and the fragrance
of the shampoo; there weren't many resources to finding a place to lay your
always the dog-eared dusty copy of dad's
Auto Club guide in the glove box or under the seat and that was about it if you
were road-tripping down the Baja.
In those early days when I would routinely
drive up and down the often-lonely-always-bumpy Baja several times a year, some
of those were the best stays I ever had.
three kinds of nights.
the car or truck on the side of the road curled up under the steering wheel.
in the dark. Camp on the side of
the road or beach. Never quite sure where you pitched your tent until you woke
up the next day.
Really "splurge" and find some road
sign as the sun goes down. Take a
chance that "Clean rooms. Cheap Rooms. Hot Showers. Comida Rica" (good food) really meant what it said.
sometimes meant "economical." Sometimes, it meant exactly what it said...CHEAP! Single light bulb hanging from the
ceiling with a pull-chain.
Threadbare towels the size of a dishtowel. Worn mattress on top of a
concrete slab and a TV with rabbit ears made of a clothes hangar.
were the exception. More often than not, off the road and to the left meant
finding a little Baja gem. They
still exist. The scenario didn't
low. Too many hours driving in the
shimmering dessert heat with the Jimmy Buffet cassette tape getting pretty old.
Junk food wrappers on the floor.
Reading the road signs for miles. Rusty, sun-baked, poorly-lettered or
hand-lettered attempts to look attractive nailed onto any fence post, tree, or
any vertical piece of wood.
Palapa and Campground 5 km.
Beach Hotel 3 km.
Hernan Cortez 1.5 km.
grammatically correct but lots of credit for effort.
Chowers and Gude Fud"
eventually be forced to make a choice prompted by tired eyes and diminishing
light. Down the road and to the
left. Often down a dirt or gravel
washboard. Sometimes parting a herd
of goats or rousting the lazy dog.
trees would open and there it would be.
the beach. Often only one or two other cars and a well-used hotel pick up truck
in the parking lot and lit by yellow bug lights illuminating concrete walls,
terra cotta tiles, and a palapa
tangled bouganvillia vines
climbing the old columns and up the terraces. Maybe an old fountain in the
brick courtyard. Maybe not. But the savory smell of grilling corn tortillas and searing meat
coming from somewhere. The faint sound of an old mariachi tune off an 8-track
or the sound of a TV playing a soccer team carries over the early evening air.
owned and happy to see you with big smiles. As you check in, family pictures on the walls. A cheap Baja calendar over the check-in
desk. Mama happily checks you
Senor! No credit cards, but rooms
are $15 U.S. Will that be okay?
deal. Papa comes in
"Bienvenidos, Amigo! (Welcome!) and helps with your luggage to a clean
little room. Daughter brings fresh towels again with a shy welcoming smile. This will do. There's a fuschia-colored
flower in a glass on the nightstand. Nice touch.
that wonderful aroma that caught me as I came in. Down to the little three-table cafe on the concrete slab
overlooking the beach. Pacifico Beer poster on the wall next to a faded picture
of a bullfight.
In the soft yellow bug lights, there's a dry-yellowed dorado taxidermied
on the wall and some shark jaws dangling from a decorative old fishing net
tacked nearby. The soccer game
flickers from an old black and white TV.
Corona Beer tables match, but the silverware and plates don't. Grandma in the back frying something
good. She sees you and smiles.
menus. Grandson comes out and
tells you what they are serving that night. And treats you like you're a guest in their home. Which you
salad (from their own garden)
rice and beans
corn tortillas and green tomatillo salsa
lobster tail (proudly caught by their cousin that morning on the reef who
doubles as the gardener)
oky, he asks awkwardly as if he regrets charging a house guest. "Es bueno?"
(Of course) I smile back.
brightens and eagerly heads to the kitchen.
feast. And, of course, ice cold
beer. Heaven. Smiling grandson brings the
I lean back
in the chair kick off my flip-flops and let my feet rest on the cool concrete.
Beer so cold the icy liquid burns the road dust at the back of my throat. Sigh.
Slow exhale. Inhale the salty
beach air. Ahhhhh... And watch the
sun go down on the Sea of Cortez.
Five Star as any person ever needs.