Onward to Guaymas

Betsy McNair

Betsy McNair

· 11 min read

Today's post will take the gentle reader from my laughingly easy border crossing onward to the port city of Guaymas on the west coast of Mexico's mainland.

We begin in the afternoon of April 11, Day #5 of the Road Trip of My Dreams.


The road from the border to the main north-south highway that would lead me to Hermosillo and on to Guaymas was for the most part in great condition and a breeze to drive. There were several sections under construction where we were detoured onto dirt roads running parallel to the parts being repaved and that slowed things down a bit, but the surroundings were so different from what I am used to that I found it all just wonderfully interesting and beautiful. Rolling hills lined with great rock formations, lots of cactus and scrub, and every once in a while a small town with something interesting to look at. My heart was full and my mind was pretty much empty - a good combination for me.

Ruby was in fine form. So fine, in fact, that I looked down to see the speedometer reading 80mph. I backed off and slowed down to a more sane 65mph just as I rounded the hill and saw the blinking lights ahead. Damn. I pulled over, looked sheepishly at the officer, and said, "Demasiado velocidad, ¿verdad?" (A little too fast, eh?) He nodded in agreement and suggested that I relax and enjoy my trip in order to arrive safely in Guanajuato. All good advice and I agreed wholeheartedly. With that he waved me on. I gave thanks to to Our Lady of Kind Policemen.

I came to my first toll booth of the trip about 15 miles outside of Santa Ana, a fairly good sized town where I would pick up the main highway. There I had yet another only-in-Mexico moment. I greeted the lady toll collector, handed her my pesos and she my receipt, and as I was putting my change away she said something that sounded like "Could you give my coworker a ride to Santa Ana?" Obviously I had misunderstood, so I asked her to repeat herself. I was right the first time, she pointed to a lovely young gal at the next booth over and asked again if I would be so kind as to give her a ride to Santa Ana where she lived, since she needed a ride and I was headed that way.

Would I ever even consider this in the US? No. Would anyone ever ask me this in the US? Not where I've lived...at least, not someone I would be willing to roll my window down and talk to. Would my friends and family shake their heads that I would even consider this? Yes. Would I of course say yes? Absolutely.


Karina moved my maps and papers to the backseat and got in beside me. We chatted. She was lovely, 26 years old with a 5 year old son waiting at home for her. No husband. She lives with her parents, her mom helps care for her son so that she can work. They have transportation for the many toll collectors who live in Santa Ana, but her shift ended early and she didn't want to wait another hour for the bus to take her home if she could find a ride. How kind of me to say yes. And how odd that I found the countryside and Santa Ana so interesting, she found it boring. I told her I was going to Guanajuato, which she knew of but had never been to. She only knew Santa Ana. And Hermosillo, she had been there a couple of times too. We arrived a little too soon for my liking, I was enjoying the interchange. I dropped her off my on the main road a few blocks from her house. I hope she and her son get to visit Guanajuato one day.

The rest of the day was all about a big road heading directly south, two lanes in either direction, some traffic but not much. As I reached Hermosillo it got crowded and smelly, but the thing that struck me was that on every single telephone pole, and I really do mean every single pole, there was a plastic banner advertising one of the two candidates for governor of the state of Sonora. Sometimes there was one for each of them on the same pole. On bridges there where ten for each of them. There must have been 2,000 that I saw, and I was on only one road for only about twenty minutes as I passed through town. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm all for a two (or more) party system, but I lived in Mexico long enough to know that gazillions of these plastic banners go up for every election and every event and are never taken down. They fly in the wind until they shake loose and eventually end up littering the roadsides and spending the next million years waiting to break down. It makes me crazy. I decided that if I was a Sonorense I would vote for the guy who promised to take all his banners down, no matter what his other policies were.


Alonso Elias will take Sonora to the next level! Guillermo Padres promises a new Sonora! But will either of them recycle their five gazillion plastic banners? I doubt it. But at least they're smiling. It wasn't long ago that formal portraits in Mexico looked like mug shots and all candidates looked like criminals. Hmm, maybe there was something to that, now that I think about it...

I made it to Guaymas about 5:30pm, plenty of time, I thought, to find a sweet little hotel on the beach. Now if only I could find the beach, much less the sweet hotel. I swear, in Guaymas the mountains tumble right down to the water in a most dramatic way, but I'll be darned if I could get out of those mountains and to the water. I passed the same freakin' McDonald's about fifteen times as I followed the signs, followed the map, finally gave up and followed my nose (more about that later...) which got me a glimpse of ocean (with the sun quickly setting upon it, so much for my cold beer and ukelele sunset) but not much more.

I gave in and pulled up next to a parked cab. I asked if I could hire him to take me to a hotel on the beach and from the passenger side his wife answered, "Of course!" We talked about something mid-priced, on the water...she knew just the spot. We took off (and passed the g.d. McDonald's again) and ended up at a hotel on the water. Hooray. Except for two things: they had no rooms and when did a U-turn to exit I dinged the right front tire on an invisible cement thing. Not good. Daylight was quickly disappearing, I was tired, I had no hotel room, and now I had popped the hubcab off dear Ruby and wasn't exactly sure what other damage I might have done. Ayyy.

Carmen and Manuel, waiting in the taxi outside the gate, suggested another place...not on the beach, but I cared little about that at this point, I just wanted a room. First hotel was full. Second hotel was full. It began to dawn on me that it was Semana Santa (Easter Week, but read: Spring Break!) and I was in a beach town, even if I couldn't find the darned beach. But my guardian angel Carmen was not about to give up, and her tenacity paid off. The next place, Hotel Santa Rita, had one room...maybe. The guys who had just checked in had a problem and might need to leave...we waited expectantly at the front desk until they appeared and said that yes, they would need to leave. I had a room! Carmen and I hugged.

The next step is so only-in-Mexico and I just love it. The cost was $600 pesos (about $45 USD, kinda steep but I was fine with it, I just wanted a room!) I pulled out my credit card to pay but Ernesto at the front desk said, "They already paid for the room so you need to pay them, not me. This will be the easiest, okay?" I cracked up and handed the $600 pesos to the departing guests, me in my faulty Spanish saying, "I'm sorry for you but this is good for me!" and they, in their equally faulty English saying, "Here are the keys, everything is so easy in Mexico, no?"

I walked Carmen back to the taxi, thanked her and Manuel for all their help, and asked how much I owed them for their time (it had been at least an hour by then). "No, no, we just wanted to help and be sure that you were safe and had a place to stay, you don't need to pay us." Carmen told me. I wasn't taking no for an answer, so I folded up a $100 peso note and put it in Manuel's hand before I hugged Carmen and waved goodbye to my guardian angels of Guaymas.

A room, at last! It was now about 8pm, I was toast. Since this morning I had crossed the border, driven Karina the toll taker to Santa Ana, made it though stinky Hermosillo all the way to Guaymas on the it's-there-somewhere coast, dinged my car, found my angels, and at last, had a place to stay. No time for ukelele, no feet in the sand, and no cold beer, but I had a room. And oh, what a room!!


Where do I start? The white tiled walls? "Tiled walls," you say, "that that sounds pretty." Well, we're not talking Moorish tiles here, folks, we're talking wash-em-down-with-a-hose institutional tiles. The black and gold "embroidered" bedspreads? OMG, they were so bad they were good. The dusty pink plastic window shades that didn't quite close? Let's just say that I don't mean "Dusty Pink" as a color tone, I mean that were as dusty as they were pink. The air conditioner had two speeds: Noise or Freezing, so I opted for Noise...at least it masked the street sounds. The shower had a shower head...which sat on the windowsill about eight inches away from the shower. But I think my favorite thing about this room was the sign in the bathroom warning me that I would be charged for anything that I stole. For the life of me I couldn't think of a single thing to steal. The towels were see-through, the chair was plastic, heck, even the ashtray was from another hotel. But, I thought, bless them for their pride.
And you know what? I was content. Very content. Happy even. I had made it across the border and all the way to the Guaymas on my first day in Mexico. The ding on the tire rim didn't seem too serious. I had internet connection if I sat just outside my room. Ernesto at the front desk was darling. Juan, the night guard, promised to watch my vehicle like a hawk and I believed him. I finally found a cold beer and a "burro" to go with it, my first Mexican food experience since I arrived, and it was tasty. With the AC on Noise and the bathroom window open, the sounds and smells that initially assaulted me mellowed out to nothing, and hey, I like a hard bed.

Ahhhh, my first night in Mexico.

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Betsy McNair

About Betsy McNair

MY MEXICO TOURS began in the fall of 2003. Since then I've introduced hundreds and hundreds of intrepid travelers to the folk and fine art of Michoacán, Oaxaca, and Chiapas; the elegant colonial cities of Puebla, Guanajuato, and Morelia; the fabulous cuisines of Oaxaca, Michoacán, and Yucatán. We’ve enjoyed regional culinary experiences in humble huts, palatial homes, and cooking schools throughout the country; walked amongst the crumbling ruins yet seen the thriving preHispanic cultures in Michoacán, Oaxaca, Chiapas and the Yucatán.

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