The Journey to Casa Madera – Hey, Who washed my car?

December 1, 2010 – We had guests last Friday night, Ray & Jan from Sherwood Park, Alberta.  They are friends of friends of ours.  They were staying the night on their way to Barra de Navidad for a week with their friends who were due to arrive on Saturday.

Lagoon Beach at Barra de Navidad


We have been using our Jeep for many things like picking up cement, sand and other building materials while we renovate our house.  Generally this occurs about 5 minutes after I have had the car washed, much like the one cloud in the sky that immediately rains on the car when you are not looking.

Shops in Barra de Navidad


The problem with transporting these items in the back of the Jeep is that sand bags leak so sand gets all over the back of the car.  We were picking Ray & Jan up at the airport, so a complete wash of the car inside and out was required. So off to the Eco Car Wash I go.  For $75 pesos they do the complete wash, vacuum and dry.  As they do a very thorough job it takes them about 45 minutes so I normally take my book and retire to the tables with the umbrellas and have a cerveza.

Sunset from the Condo in Barra where our friends spend their vacation at Playa Grande


This day I was having a difficult time getting into my book and was distracted.  I was remembering my first Mexican Car Wash in Ciudad Obregon a couple of years previous.

November 15, 2008 – 7:14 am  16 degrees Celsius warming up! – We had a relaxing evening in a nice hotel with comfy beds.  We slept well but we are both early risers and were awake at 6:00.  We strolled out of the room and started packing the car for the day’s drive to Mazatlan, Sinaloa.

As I was standing by the car making space for Heather’s Mac I noticed that my windshield wipers were folded out.  Hmm that’s odd I thought.  It was then I noticed that I was standing in water.  That was even odder as it did not rain during the night, there were no sprinklers on and there was no other evidence of water on the ground except by our car.  What the heck?

It was then I noticed a small Mexican man coming towards me with a bucket.  It appears he was in the middle of washing our car and went to get more water.  He was talking to me in Spanish so I was lost after he said Buenos Dias.  However I soon realized he was bound and determined to finish the job he started but could not get to the roof so he had gone to get another bucket to stand on.  He proceeded to finish the wash.

I was lost.  What the hell do I do?  Do you pay him? Is he paid by the Hotel?  Do you tip him?  What?  I noticed at that time that quite a few cars in the parking lot had their wipers up and realized that it was the sign to wash the car.  So either someone had done it for us or he saw the Alberta license plates and did it himself.

He did a great job.  The outside of the car was spotless.  He rinsed, washed with soap, rinsed and hand dried.  Neither Heather or I knew what to do so I handed him $20 pesos as I tip.  He smiled and said gracias so we figured it must have been ok.  I have been to a few car washes in Edmonton who could learn a lot from this old Mexican on how to actually wash a car.

We checked out of the hotel and decided to forego the hotel breakfast and hit either McDonald’s or Carls Jr. on our way out-of-town.  This was a tactical error.  It was Saturday and we were used to places like this being open at 6:00 or at least 7:00 am.  Not so in Ciudad Obregon.  The signs said they would open at 9:00.  Now what do we do?  Luckily we had a cookie left over from the day before so we decided to just grab a cup of coffee somewhere and hit the highway and catch some chow in Navojoa, Sonora.

Out of the city we came up to the toll booth.  We had decided to stick to the toll roads or Autopistas as they call them here.  They are straight, in great condition and generally divided with two lanes.  And did I mention straight.  There are a few sections that make the QE2 between Edmonton and Calgary look too twisty.

We got to Navojoa and found nothing that was close to what we wanted for breakfast but we did find a Soriana.  Soriana is your standard supermarket like Safeway.  We wandered in and looked around.  We picked up some Yogurt drinks, some mandarin oranges and starting looking for something that would fill the gaps.

They had a large hot food section at the back of the store but we had never bought anything like that before in Mexico so we really did not know what to do.  It was 9:00 am so the store was still deserted.  We were hoping we could just hang back and watch to see what the other shoppers did but there were none!  We finally just got over it and went up to the counter.  We still could not figure out what to do but a woman came over and realized that she was dealing with two twits from Canada and served us.

Apparently you ask for a container, grab the tongs, take out what you want and hand it to her for labelling.  Well now we know!  We purchased 4 pieces of Fried Chicken.  Yep, Fried Chicken.  We did not recognize anything else in the case so we went with what we knew!

Off to the checkout we went.  46 pesos later we grabbed our chicken, yogurt drinks and mandarins and headed out to the car where under the watchful and curious eye of the security guard we ate breakfast.  Now I realize we were hungry but that Fried Chicken was phenomenal.  The chicken had flavour, it was delightful. The security guard looked relieved when we started the car and drove out of the parking lot.

Back on the highway.  Another toll road.  Nice.  Speed limit 110.  Locked the cruise in at 110, lord knows we don’t want to be stopped.  We were the only car going 110.  The average speed was running between 130 and 140, even the buses!  Worse the buses would drive down the center of the road, only moving over to pass another vehicle.  It was a little nerve-racking but I had driven the old 79 Dodge Motorhome on the QE2 I was kind of used to being passed.

Note the total lack of anything that might resemble a shoulder!
Note the total lack of anything that might resemble a shoulder!


As we moved through Sonora into Sinaloa the terrain began to change.  Sonora was high desert for the most part but we never really noticed the downhill as we started to level out from ranch style land to farm land.

Corn processor


Sinaloa is a farming state.  There were greenhouses everywhere made of plastic.  Tomato’s are their major crop, so much so that they have a tomato in the middle of their license plate.  It appears that most are grown hydroponically hence the green houses but there are also many areas where the plants were in the ground.

One thing that startled us was the fact that people just came out of nowhere.  We were clipping along at 110 kph and all of a sudden a man would appear out of the grass in the ditch.  Never locked up the brakes but it certainly gives the heart a stop!

Aside from the odd person wandering out of the ditch it was an uneventful day and we rolled into Mazatlan at 4:00 pm.  Found a City Express hotel with a nice room with a pool and breakfast for $67.00 Can.  It was 4 months old and very close to the tourist zone in Mazatlan so we cleaned up and headed out to see the town.



We were not ready for dinner yet and just wandered.   After wandering for a couple of hours and looking at hundreds of menus we decided to go eat at the next restaurant we stopped at.  The menu looked good and it was coming off of a wood grill.

We sat down and I ordered a beer.  “We are not licensed so we do not serve it” I was told.  “You can go to the store and buy some if you like and bring it in”.  Say what?  I bring my own???  That was new one to me.  I could not shake that Canadian feeling that there was just something wrong with that so I ordered a Coke.  Ahh, Coke in an ice-cold glass bottle.  I had forgotten about that.  There is no better Coke than one that comes out of an ice-cold glass bottle so I did not miss the beer!

It was then we spied another group of tourists in the place who were uncorking the bottle of wine they brought.  They obviously knew the drill and had been here before so the food must be good.

And it was.  Oh it was tasty.  It was the best dinner we had on our travels over the previous 3 weeks.  Nothing even came close.  It was pretty amazing for a restaurant that only had walls around the kitchen and whose roof was vinyl Coca Cola awning.

We retired back to the hotel looking forward to the last day of our journey to Puerto Vallarta and the day our lives would totally change.