One of the biggest differences between my old, long-time home in the Colorado High Country and my new home in New Mexico’s Gila Country centers upon how my various compadres view “vacations.” In the heart of the Rockies, the notion of “adventure vacations” reigns supreme, while down here in the southwestern-most reaches of the Land of Enchantment, folks seem to be perfectly satisfied with the notion of adventure-less vacations, gaining satisfactory amounts of pleasure from trips decidedly lacking in adrenaline output, unless, of course, that output comes out of the blue, unplanned, which, now that I think about it, is pretty much the definition of “adventure” — like, fairly recently, when one of my Silver City buddies was driving to San Diego for some aggressive beach-hanging and found himself instead facing a judge in a dedicated federal drug court in Phoenix. Now that’s adventure!
High Country folks tend to transfer the things they ordinarily do in the Rockies — backpacking, skiing, mountain biking, paddling, whatever — to their vacation venues. Plenty are the mountain dwellers who, after a long ski season, just as the snow’s finally melting and the flowers are starting to poke their heads through the still-cold earth, pack up their downhill equipment and head to New Zealand for some, yes, skiing. More commonly, you’ll have veritable convoys of green license plates heading west toward Moab, not to sit in the sun and read, but to interface intensely with 200 miles of gnarly singletrack. For those people, if you arrive back home with anything less that 40 stitches and limbs filled with abrasions, then you did not get your money’s worth.
Like many Baby Boomers, on those rare occasions that my family took vacations, there was a decide lack of abrasion-seeking. The plan was always to rent a house on the beach for two weeks and basically hang out and chill. Sure, there was always some fishing and a whole lot of frolicking in the surf, but that was about it on the action front. My parents were of the opinion that a bit of relaxation went a long way. And thus it was with most of America in those days.
When I was old enough to plan and execute my own vacations, they, like most of my Mountain-Time-Zone-dwelling ilk, took the form of multi-month bike-touring or backpacking trips, or journeys to Third-World cesspools to seek out wildlife and wild spots, or long, willy-nilly road trips to points generally unknown, which often included tense crossings of international borders.
Last fall, my wife and I bought round-trip tickets to, of all places, Cabo San Lucas, a place that, even in the context of Mexico these days, is so civilized as to scarcely rate mention in a blog. We rented a car (the smallest/cheapest available, literally a Chevy “Chevy,” which I guess added a smidgen of potential adventure) and proceeded to drive, basically, from one remarkably coiffed place to another, where, while in those civilized places, we basically didn’t do shit. The most adventuresome thing on our agenda was not making hotel reservations in advance. We just winged that. Woo-hoo! Ain’t we wild!
Upon our return, my buddies recoiled in expectation of the numerous stories I would bore them to death with. Ergo: They were naturally hesitant to ask about the trip, for legitimate fear of getting assaulted with a veritable tsunami of verbiage. When they finally, mostly trying to be mannerly, asked how the trip went, Gay and I looked at each other and responded that it was fine, that nothing much happened — which, of course, made many of my chums feel that something of monstrous proportions must have befallen us and that we were practicing understatement because the enormity of the event(s) had not yet sunk in to the degree that we could relate them properly.
Ixnay. We drove around southern Baja, spent a lot of time playing the surf, had some decent meals, drank a fair number of beers, went to bed generally early and came home refreshed and relaxed. It was indeed a very weird experience for a couple that, literally on its first trip together, found itself in the middle of the war zone in El Salvador in 1984, something that made my soon-to-be father-in-law real happy.
Trying to come up with something in the way of story-telling material, I remembered the incident with the cow with the trashcan on its head. We were sitting in an outdoor bar in Barrilles and, while we drank, a cow with vary long, sharp horns ambled by down the main drag, something that caught the attention of the patrons for about seven seconds, like, “Hey, we don’t see that back in L.A.” Then it was back to the NFL game, which was being broadcast on a new big-screen TV.
On our 10-minute walk back to the hotel room, which, truth be told, was a bit on the wobbly side, we looked ahead and saw that same cow standing in the street. But something was sorely amiss. There were several local curs barking at it and nipping at its ankles. And there was something on its head that, in the dim light, and in our cups, we would not identify until we got close enough to see that the damned cow had its head stuck in a trashcan. It must have stuck its nose in the can looking for who knows what and, because of its horns, the can got stuck on its head. The poor bovine was extremely agitated, swinging its trashcan-covered noggin around violently.
By the time we got close to it, several local residents had come forth to see what was causing all the commotion. “We’ve got to help the poor thing,” the love of my life slurred. “What do you mean ‘we’?” I responded, knowing exactly who “we” was. So, like a moron, and against the fervent advice of the locals there gathered, I slowly made my way up to the bow of the cow. Though it was blinded by the trashcan, it obviously sensed me, because my approach made it swing its head even more violently. “Don’t do it!” one man yelled. But I proceeded anyhow. I timed my grab between the head swings, those massive, sharp horns zipping right in front of my face, and latched onto one of the trashcan handles and with one mighty pull, removed the can from the poor creature’s head.
Which was good and all, but there I was holding the can that seconds before had been on this cow’s head, and the cow, slowly regaining its orientation, looked at the can in my hand, looked at me, looked back at the can, and obviously made the decision — cows being such geniuses and all — that somehow I had something to do with placing the can on the cow’s head in the first place, and, if it did not dispatch me with haste, I might very well opt to re-place that trashcan back on its head. I tried to explain in a drunken example of failed inter-species telepathy, that, no, it was me who removed the can from the cow’s head. But this form of communication did not seem to be working (maybe I should have tried drunken telepathic Español).
The cow snorted, pawed the dirt road, shook its sharp-horn-adorned head a few times just to make certain I had a firm grasp on my immediate fate, and then started toward me. I was thinking now would be a perfect time, of all the times in my life, actually, for the only time in my entire life, to have a bullfighting cape. Maybe even a matador buddy standing right there. The only thing I had standing right there was my wife and numerous locals who, judging by their expressions, were thinking how lucky they were to have such a wonderful form of entertainment pretty much fall out of the sky on an otherwise normal night.
Then the aforementioned curs started barking again and nipping at the cow’s ankles and the cow responded by running up a side street, trying mightily to skewer a canine. And, just like that, it was over. The locals returned to their homes, and Gay and I continued our zigzag stroll back to the hotel. The only thing that was different was that my wife thought right then that her husband was pretty much the coolest guy in all of Barrilles for risking life and limb helping that poor cow out.
Besides that, about the only other notable thing that happened during our two weeks in Baja was getting kept awake while staying at the famed Hotel California in Todos Santos by the loudest all-night town party in Mexican history (which, believe me, is saying a mouthful), which was celebrating the feast day of Saint Cecelia, the patron saint of musicians, especially loud musicians playing really bad music. And, oh yeah, another night, we ate an order of the hottest jalepeño poppers ever served up EVER.
And that was it. A true adventure-less trip. I felt a little guilty and a little lame, like maybe my age is catching up to me more than I thought. But it was OK. Next time, though, I’m going to a place where the plumbing does not work, where there are snakes and guerrillas and 19 types of poisonous biting bugs and guaranteed sweat and bruises and contusions and a populous that speaks some language called Zzjjyibi.
Last thing I want to do is actually enjoy my vacation time.