The blind singer and the wailing woman (Drive Day 26 minus 14 years)

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Oaxaca, Mexico: photo by Gary Geboy

The tin can says he takes requests. “Conoce La Llorona?” I ask if he knows the ballad of the wailing woman, doomed to eternal tears for drowning her two children. Which, most versions of the Mexican legend point out, she did to get back at a cheating man.

The famous blind singer of Oaxaca smiles, touches my arm to make sure I mean it, then begins the haunting ballad that still sends chills down my husband’s spine. Gary was visited by La Llorona once, at night next to a body of water, and to this day believes it was only my intervention that saved him from freezing to death.

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom my teresabrucebooks.com website landing page or here or here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

Off book again and blissfully ignorant (Drive Day 25 minus 14 days)

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Somewhere south of Highway 190D, Mexico: photo by Gary Geboy

Why is it that not knowing the name of this little locked-up chapel makes me so happy? I can’t find any reference to it in guidebooks or my mother’s journal. It feels dropped from the sky, a reward for taking the time to stop and admire it. Gary even forgives the prickly pear cactus he sits on while capturing this photograph. We’re back on un-schedule.

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom my teresabrucebooks.com website landing page or here or here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

 

Cholula – no not the hot sauce (Drive Day 24 minus 14 days)

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Wipeout is uninterested in climbing to the top of the largest preindustrial building ever erected on earth, as the impressive ruins atop ruins at Cholula are described in our guidebook. So we set up the awning for shade and she guards what is probably Cholula’s largest postindustrial house on wheels.

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Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom my teresabrucebooks.com website landing page or here or here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

Welcome to Mexico, have a tope (Day 23 minus 14 years)

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North America calls them speed bumps, but Mexican topes are more like organ-bruising fractures in up-thrust asphalt. They greet drivers entering every town along every road that doesn’t charge a toll. Even slowing to first gear and gingerly summiting these torturous peaks isn’t gentle enough for a vintage camper; the Avion harrumphs and clatters with indignation. The jagged crack in our slowly disintegrating plastic water tank portends recycled water drums in our future. Eight hours and we barely make Cuernevaca by nightfall. We’re trying to get to Oaxaca before the campground there fills with tourists for its famous yearly festival. But this sticking-to-a- schedule thing deflates the joy of wandering.

 

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I know Gary is feeling it too. He’s starting to peel the bugs and butterflies from the truck’s grille and sketch them in his journal. Tonight’s victim? An orange-barreled Sulphur butterfly, preserved for eternity in colored pencil. Oh and it’s 73 degrees and 6,798 feet in elevation.

 

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom my teresabrucebooks.com website landing page or here or here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

Mock your elders (Drive day 22 minus 14 years)

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Normally I’d chuckle at the antics of little boys pantomiming the aches and pains of their elders in an elaborate folk dance. But I’m rapidly becoming gimpy myself. I’m blaming it on hoisting an 80-pound dog in and out of a camper, the back-jarring road to Patzcuaro and hips stiff from folding into a bench seat hours at a time. Couldn’t possibly have anything to do with spontaneously dancing barefoot on tile yesterday…

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Patzcuaro, Mexico: photo by Gary Geboy

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom my teresabrucebooks.com website landing page or here or here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

Joining in (Drive Day 21 minus 14 years)

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I am dancing on a tile floor covered with pigeon shit, some fresh. I didn’t expect to stumble upon an indigenous Nahua dance circle in the town of Tonala. The leader is calling out the steps in something far from Spanish. But the language of hand drum and pan flute is universal to modern dancers and I kick off my shoes and let my feet follow the patterns.

 

Gary has started keeping a journal. Like my mom did, he notes the conditions and details of each stopping place – temperature and altitude. Unlike my mom, he also describes what he sees. Like how my dancing reminds him of Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

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Tonala, Mexico: photo by Gary Geboy

But he joins in too. Not the dance class but a first communion. Back home I doubt even the proudest parents would spot a stranger with a camera and spontaneously pose their children for his lens. We must exude passing through-ness, the anonymity of travel.

Or as Gary’s notes describe it “Wipeout got sick and life goes on.”

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom my teresabrucebooks.com website landing page or here or here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.

Don’t be a licker (Drive Day 20 minus 14 years)

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Campgrounds are getting lonelier by the day. In the cool hills above Guadalajara, Mexico’s third-largest city, we have one all to ourselves. Even the pool is empty; weeds peek through the cement cracks. But there’s a convenient bus route from here into the city and twenty minutes later we’re inside the Governor’s Palace.

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ose Clemente Orozco’s Father Hidalgo: photo by Gary Geboy

The father of Mexican independence thunders down from the walls. A tour guide explains Hidalgo was the priest who inspired the Mexican people to rise up against their Spanish conquerors. “Never be a licker,” he tells us. The boot part is understood.

Follow this bonus-material blog and ride along on a one-year road trip that inspired the memoir The Drive: Searching for Lost Memories on the Pan American Highway. On sale now. Get yours through the buy-the-book links at the bottom my teresabrucebooks.com website landing page or here or here. Like The Drive’s Facebook page and tweet back at me @writerteresa.