My original idea for Spring Break was to rent an RV, visit Yosemite, and then drive that giant motherf*cker straight through San Francisco. Alex, upon hearing my plan, said in a panicked high-pitched voice, "You want to drive an RV through San Francisco and call it a vacation?" He evidently did not find it a relaxing idea.
My family didn't take "relaxing" vacations growing up. We didn't "enjoy"vacations; we "experienced" them. Our vacations involved things like camping illegally at the bottom of the Grand Canyon where we had to conceal our odd tubelike one-person tents under shrubbery alongside the Colorado River. Those tents led my sister to remark, as my father and I chatted from inside our side-by-side respective tubes, "you guys look like talking bags."
We also hiked the slot canyons of the Southwest but hightailed it out fast, canteens thumping against our butts, when clouds rolled in because slot canyons tend to flood in heavy rain. There was also a memorable horseback ride through the Sangre de Cristo mountains. Our horses took off running after our young Native American guide decided, for reasons still unknown to us, we knew enough about horses to go full throttle. I dropped my reins so grabbed fistfuls of my horse's mane as he jumped sagebrush and dry creek beds. I pretty much screamed the entire time.
I loved those vacations, perhaps more so in retrospect than in the actual moment because in the actual moment I was very afraid. But I also understood Alex's need to do nothing on our Spring Break. His job is stressful and our kids are young and that's a tiring combo. So all that backstory to explain why we nixed my idea and ended up in Cabo San Lucas, Mexico at an all-inclusive resort for eight virtually motion-free days.
Brace yourself when you disembark from a plane in a Mexican resort town because you are going to be confronted by many men, all of whom claim to be your ride. They have official looking badges and are carrying clipboards and gesturing enthusiastically -- gosh, they are so excited to see you! -- and pulling you away and it's all quite chaotic and confusing. "How can we possibly have twenty rides to the resort?" you'll wonder, and you'll be right.
I plowed through the fakers searching for the man matching the description the resort had given us -- blue flowered shirt holding a sign with Al's name on it -- and dragging Alex behind me who was, unfortunately, feeling chatty. He realized all the men in the vicinity were lying to us but Alex enjoys speaking Spanish very much and will forgive just about anything to do so.
The first night at the resort made me wish I was blocking a major San Francisco intersection with a 39-foot Winnebago. The resort's dinner buffet theme upon our arrival was "AMERICA!!!" We stepped out onto the patio to dozens of American flags and a buffet consisting of hamburgers, hot dogs, and mac and cheese. The loudspeakers blared Whitney Houston's "Didn't We Almost Have it All" at intense volume and the after dinner entertainment involved country line dancing and The Village People.
We've made a terrible mistake
I was not pleased. I didn't like being in Mexico without the "Mexico" part. I didn't want to sit under dozens of American flags, eat ambrosia salad and watch an Elvis impersonator, especially one that was quite possibly a portly middle-aged Mexican woman. Alex sensed my discontent and deflected my silent stinkeye by nervously talking up the lovely decorations and avoiding eye contact.
But a lot also went right in Mexico because Mexico is a beautiful and friendly place. Once you accept the realities of an all-inclusive resort and embrace its tacky yet exuberant qualities, it's easy to be happy there. Because there's sand, waves, hot sun and cold beer at the bar they just hand to you without asking for money.
The waves at our resort's beach were ferociously strong. The vendors who walk the beach hawking pottery or jewelry or whatever often stopped to watch unattended kids in the waves, then make a point of finding their parents to tell them it wasn't safe to have them out there alone. It wasn't an overreaction -- after being knocked down by a few biggies, Lucien sputtered, "I'm going to write a book called I Survived Mexico if I make it out of these waves."
Oh God, kid, run
The waves would sweep you off your feet as they came ashore, then drag you out to sea just in time for the next wave to smack you in the face and push you back up the beach. Some people got badly disoriented and stuck in the hopeless cycle as friends and family members rushed to help them to their feet. It's brutal if you get caught unaware, or don't have your wave legs under you yet. Or God forbid wearing glasses because they are so gone, man.
One side effect of the strong waves was the cash. The waves knocked over so many unsuspecting people walking along the beach, they were full of stray dollar bills washed out of khaki pockets. We decided Finders Keepers applied in this situation. Don't look at me like that, there was seriously no way to track down the previous owner.
I hope the previous owner of this twenty is living a very happy life
Lucien and I spent hours in the waves together. We'd stand at the breaking point of the wave and body surf in until it deposited us on the sand. It looks like you dropped a load in your pants after you do this because there is now more sand in your bathing suit than there is body. You've gotta run back into the water and do the dip-n-jiggle to shake the large volume of sand out of your suit. But you'll never get it all out because Mexican sand is forever.
It was worth every speck. There's nothing better than coasting in on a wave and glancing to your side to see your son grinning and laughing his most joyful laugh right back at you. That kid's ecstatic giggle is fit to break my heart most days.
I wish we could have stayed out there forever
I learned to love the resort. I learned to love the hokey resort games played every night before the evening show. Just as you're finishing your dessert, the resort entertainment team comes onstage and starts pulling "volunteers" (are they really volunteers if they're badgered mercilessly to stop being lame and get up on the stage?) to participate in various games. Coco volunteered for every kid game and won most of them. It reached the point where the air would fill with kid groans -- "Oh man, Coco's gonna win AGAIN" -- when her little hand shot into the air and then her little feet stomped up to the stage.
taking care of that b*tch pinata
Passing that ball like a boss
One adult game was called "Mexican Macho Man." Embarrassed men were pulled away from their tables and loved ones, given a shot of tequila and made to dance around a sombrero on the ground. But first they had to scream like a "macho man" which, for most of them, sounded like a cross between a Native American war cry and a barking chihuahua. One poor red-faced guy was from Utah. A forced shot of tequila later, he probably wasn't allowed to go home again.
One highlight of our vacation was certainly the Yellow Submarine Tour. We listened to the Beatles song on repeat while onboard and now I never want to hear that song again.
It was beautiful down below --
-- and surreal up top. A person inexplicably costumed as a hammerhead shark was standing on deck when we re-emerged from the belly of the boat. He turned on some music and began gyrating all by himself. I mean, he was really going for it.
I pretended to take pictures of my daughter to capture the glory of the gyrating hammerhead
Nobody else on the boat paid him much attention. Nobody else found it funny as I did. What was wrong with them? It was perfect proof, right there in front of us, of the absolute absurdity of life!
Yes indeed, I grew used to our cheesy resort. I grew used to the water volleyball game played every afternoon in the main pool. I liked to get up close, sit on the edge of the pool for the end of the match -- the losing team was forced to climb out of the pool and belly flop back in. I dig watching losers in pain.
All I wanted was a normal picture with my two kids but he just. can't. do. it.
I eventually embraced the evening entertainment. One night they did Mamma Mia but without much of the dialogue. They just jumped from song to song with only a minimal explanation of what was happening in between. From that performance, we learned Mamma Mia is a surreal and incomprehensible mess if people don't talk.
I even grew used to the full-length mirror directly across from our bathroom's toilet and Lucien's loudly whispered, "Watch yourself peeeeeeee" from the other side of the bathroom door. I began to enjoy the various surprises the resort offered, like when I ordered my coffee at the pool bar early in the AM and the bartender asked, "Do you want me to put Baileys in it?" and I replied, "Well I do now!"
Coco getting the obligatory beach braids
Lucien surviving the waves
Daddy and daughter digging Mamma Mia even though it didn't make any sense
By the time the AMERICA! theme rolled around again our second to last night, I enjoyed it thoroughly with a sense of already-nostalgia. "Remember when I hated this place?" I asked Alex and oh how we chuckled from the memories.
Hi there again, Native American guy from The Village People. I'm actually going to miss you.
Next vacation -- hiking the hot desert without water or clothes. Time to get back to my roots.