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Getting off the beaten path in Mexico
By Andrew Thiel

"It's a good thing we rented a Jeep instead of that sedan," Pam yelled, as we motored through the not-so-shallow creek that ran across the dirt road we were bumping along. My wife and I were about five kilometers inland from Mexico's rugged Pacific Coast, heading north on the rustic back roads of Jalisco, toward Puerto Vallarta—"PV" to the initiated.

A look in the rearview mirror showed a red dust cloud. Ahead, the lush greens of the rainforest-blanketed mountain range filled the windshield. Row after row of maize fields and pasture lands, along with the occasional field hand on horseback, completed the picturesque scene. This was a far cry from resort heavyweights like Cabo and Cancun, colonial mansions in San Miguel de Allende, or diving havens like Cozumel. This was a Mexican's Mexico.

I might not have been so swept away by the scenery had I been aware of the nail lodged in our Jeep's back tire. The tire problem was discovered during an unexpected turn of events—a military checkpoint. The checkpoint itself wasn't a surprise; we'd encountered a few on our way south. What was unusual was that the guards detained us, even after they'd searched our bags. After a stilted exchange in "Spanglish" and sign language, they finally drew our attention to the deflating tire.

Spring/Summer 1999

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