Driving in Mexico
Red Tape
The Perfect RV

Colima Police

by Bobi & Scott Wilson

Dear Carl & Lorena,

We've loved our first 6 months in Mexico and are now in Texas only as long as it takes to get some mail, then we're heading back south. Hope your trip went (is going?) well.

Our adventures and story collections are growing. Thought I'd send along one of our latest


bobi & scott wilson

April 24 we wave good-bye to the Pacific and head inland. Arrive in Colima about 4 pm, hungry, hot and clueless as to where to park for the night. None of our books list any RV or camping facilities in Colima, but hey, we figure something's sure to turn up. We drive through town with everyone alert and watching out the windows... "you've got at least 6 inches on this side!"

We find the tourist office closed so head back to the outskirts, hoping we'll find a parking spot at one of the big grocery stores. These look unappealing but we do pass an archeological site. Our first ruins! We have to stop. This is very cool. We climb everything we can, see bones of people and bones of a once vital and intriguing society. Boy, what I'd give to see what it was like at its prime. By 6:00 we're ravenous so we head back into town to check again on the tourist office and grab some food and watch the scenes from the town plaza.

"Screeeeech!" An endless sound of crunching metal, a *pop*, and another sound, something unidentifiable, something we can't see.

We'd just that morning been congratulating ourselves on our comfort and skill maneuvering narrow streets just as cleverly as the Mexican bus drivers and now it sounded as if we were taking out a car, a lamp post, and probably a storefront on one of those same narrow streets.

Scott pulls beyond the scraping but won't come to a complete stop, so I hop out while the car is still moving. "Get back in!" he hollers and instantly I remember the "rules" of the road touted by books, fellow travelers and even the police, which is basically "Run!" whenever there's an accident. It's expected and simplifies things for everyone even though it goes against all of our upbringing. So I hop back in but not before catching sight of a hunk of concrete about 18 inches in diameter busted from the sidewalk and blocking the taxi behind us. And the six cars behind him.

We zip on like Bonnie & Clyde, half believing we'd stop if only there were enough room, when we hear the quick "wheerp" of a siren. Hearts pounding we turn a corner, double park on a wide avenue and hop out of the car. I see the rear tire is flat, torn sidewalls, and am exceedingly grateful for dual tires. Then the four of us, Scott and I and the two cops meet at the back of the RV. One is maybe 30, the other in his early twenties. They're both dressed in black. The younger swaggers a tad and adjusts the automatic rifle slung over his shoulder.

We stammer in slaughtered spanish and pantomime our way through something like... "Where are you going?" -- "Looking for a place to park for the night." "Where are you staying?" -- "We don't know, we're looking for a place." "Where do you live?" -- "Ah, right here. This is our casa." (Yes, we're thinking, we're vagrants. We're dead meat.) "Do you know you hit a car and knocked out the sidewalk?" --- "Oh geez!"

"But," the older one says, "I didn't actually see it. And I don't want to write a ticket."

And Scott, well I'll let him tell you ["My impulsive reaction is to clasp the cop's arm and with my forehead pressed into his shoulder mutter "gracias, gracias, gracias!" Muy suerte (very suave), eh?" ]

I thought it endearing. It's apparent they are willing to overlook this whole mess perhaps for a wee mordida (bribe), but they don't just come out and say that -- or if they did we didn't understand. And we're too flustered to remember how to say, "Is there some way we can settle this here?", and instead simply sputter and blubber our gratitude.

Next thing we know, they are motioning us through stop signs as we follow them to a quieter street where both they and Scott get dirty taking turns and trying yet another tactic for getting that stubborn nut off the spare tire. We have pictures of the whole affair. The nut won't come off so after some discussion they escort us through traffic once again. This time to a buddy's tire shop. While we wait we chat with Officer J (Jose) Reyes Diaz Zamoras, (the older fellow, the younger hangs out by the car with the rifle looking aggravated with his partner). We tell of our visit to the ruins outside of town, how much we like the central plaza here, and, by the way, would he like to come to dinner with us? He can't. Has to work.

While we're waiting we also learn from daughter Cara, our interpreter through much of this, what she overheard from the cops private conversation while Scott was first struggling with the spare tire. Apparently, the younger cop asked... "How much are we going to charge them for this?" The other, Officer Reyes Diaz Zamoras, replied... "I'm not." "What?!" the younger gasped. And now we know why he hung by the car looking miffed.

Soon the tire is changed, cost $4, and Officer Reyes has found us a place to stay. "Muy tranquilo y mucha seguridad," he assures us. It's a wide street by a lovely park and right across the street from another buddy's house. A semi is parked here too so we don't feel totally out of place. There's even a food vendor not 5 car lengths away. By this time the initial panic has left and hunger is taking over. We stammer our thanks. He says, "no need," and reminds us he'll be by at 9 AM to help us fetch our new spare and then we'll all go out for breakfast.

They even "wheeerp!" and flash their lights 2-3 times during the night as they patrol past.

The rattle of huge trucks wakes us early. Eventually we peek out the windows to see a stream of people walking past with empty bags and carts. It's market day! Cara and I head to this delightful open market bursting with people, dried goods, meat, fish, fresh produce, fresh bread, even the straw brooms are green and fresh. One vendor is holding up packages of white socks, another barks, "Come and get it quick or I'm going to leave!" Very fun.

By the time we get back Officer Reyes is already at the RV with his jacket and gun belt off (no gun though) and has shown Kirk his bullets. He and Scott take a taxi out for the tire (Scott's mind flashing to how vulnerable he is, yet has to trust this guy), but it's not ready so they return. Then Reyes sends Scott out for beer, motioning at Teagan with his thumb pressed and twisting into his other palm, indicating what will happen to him if he gets caught buying beer while in uniform. He hikes his shirt up over his nipples in this goofy, macho way some guys here do when they're hot and tells us of his wife, three kids, his buddy who got killed last December and his ten years on the force. And he handcuffs Kirk's Beanie Babies together, a tiger and a puppy, dangling by their armpits like reluctant circus performers. And, get this, handcuffs in Spanish are called... esposas! "Wives"! It takes him a moment to recognize why we find this so hilarious.

It's apparent he's not interested in going out to eat so I fix some grub. By 1 o'clock, after eating, after nearly a six pack of beer and after just coming off a 24 hour shift, he's getting pretty droopy-eyed and ready to go home. Scott and I had discussed through the night what we'd like to do as a thank you for all his help, so before he left we handed him what we felt was a generous amount of cash, grateful and well aware of how different and nasty this whole wiping out of a car and sidewalk scene might have been. He looked shocked and tried to return the money saying "I'm not that kind of cop! This isn't why I did this!" It took some talking and Cara's better language skills to convince him to take it. Even then he looked at the amount and asked, "Are you sure you still have enough to get your tire?"

It may be this outcome was what he'd hoped for, but I'm certain that had he walked away with just our thanks he would have still been content. He'd had a good time, a few beers and made some new amigos. So we said good-bye to our good friend Officer J. Reyes Diaz Zamoras, fetched our repaired tire (if patching a sidewall will actually work as a viable repair -- we'll see) and headed out of town.

©1972-2001 by Carl Franz & Lorena Havens