It’s winter in Montana which means the temperature is well below freezing, the snow is deep and the wind is howling.  It means that I’ve grown weary of hats, mittens, scarves, boots and cold cars.  I’ve lost my patience with dark, cloudy days and darker nights.  I’ve tried lots of strategies for winter survival in the past but at the end of the day there is really only one solution.  Head south and seek the sun.

In years past we have ventured to Puerto Vallarta, Cancun and Maui.  Maui is my all time favorite but given the fact that I have to operate within my means both time wise and money wise, Mexico got the nod again this year.  Searching time efficient flights led us to the tip of the Baja peninsula in San Jose del Cabo.

We left Montana in the midst of a winter storm.  The temperature the morning we got on the airplane was -11 degrees.  We flew to Seattle for our one and only layover where there were 6 inches of snow on the ground.  Those of you who know Seattle know that they just don’t do snow there.  It literally paralyzes the city.  The majority of flights in and out of Seattle that morning were canceled.  By some beautiful twist of fate, our flights were two of the very few that got in and out that day.  (Our flight to Cabo was delayed by 2 hours but given the alternatives it was just fine).

Upon arrival at the Cabo airport we were greeted by the usual gauntlet of Mexican men attempting to sell us something.  A ride, a time share, a whale watching trip, a cab, a dog, some chocolate.  I don’t know.  It’s one of the few things I legitimately hate about Mexico. I hate being pressured, in a foreign country, to buy, see, watch, look at, and consider hundreds of services and goods that I absolutely don’t need.  I hate that they won’t stop until I very firmly, and almost impolitely, say “NOOOOOO!”.  Seriously.

But we got through the airport and out the front doors and to our car rental shuttle bus.  We arrived at Payless rentals only to find that our reservation was for the downtown location and not the airport location.  No worries.  We are tired, hungry and cranky.  We can totally wait for you to make 4 phone calls to try and straighten this out.

Now, if you followed our journeys through France a few years ago, you might recall that I feel very brave about renting and driving cars in foreign countries.  I did it in the Loire Valley to great success.  So I thought I would try it in Mexico, too.

I have to admit that in some ways I underestimated this trip.  I’m quite busy planning our summer travels right now and really didn’t devote the usual time and energy to Mexico planning.  While this is generally okay, it did bite me in the rear end in the car rental arena.  I booked through Expedia and was quoted a price of around $100 for the 8 day rental.  Bargain!  Upon arrival at the car rental counter, I discovered that the basic, mandatory, third party liability insurance would jack the price up to $325.00 for the 8 days.  Not a bargain.  If I wanted to add full coverage, the cost would be around $450.00.  Lord.  What’s a girl to do????

I took the “basic” option and drove away.  First stop, a toll booth.  I pushed the button to take a ticket, got ready to pay (much digging in the purse ensued), and stopped at the booth to pay my money.  No one was there to take my money.  Hmmmm.  A guard walked across the road and gestured that I should just take the ticket from the machine and drive on down the road.  Okay.  I tried to drive my car but the damn thing had shut off.  I took out the keys in an attempt to restart it and the alarm started going off.  Yep, that’s me.  In the toll booth, in Mexico, with my car dead and the alarm going off.  Fun.

By this time my husband and I are losing our cool with each other, the kids look a bit shell shocked and I’m wondering what the hell I was thinking.

After much effort, and a few ulcers, we finally got the alarm off and the car restarted and proceeded down the road.  After approximate a mile, I heard sirens and saw lights in my rear view mirror.  Great.  5 minutes in Mexico and the policia are coming for me and my rented car.  I pulled to the side of the road and watched the ambulance whiz past me.  Relief.

Driving again, we finally approached the end of the toll road which is apparently where you pay.  I gave them the ticket, dug in my purse (again) and paid the two dollar toll.  I could not wait to get to the resort!  I navigated a few roundabouts (why are the rules about those different in every country?) and wrong turns and finally ended up at the resort where we were spending our first night.  Sweet relief.

I overpaid at the restaurant for some nachos and rose wine, thanked my lucky stars to be in the tropical weather, laid my head down and went to sleep.

Tomorrow, onward and upward.

Side note: I returned that rental car 2 days later.  Turns out that I’m just not cut out for can rental in Mexico.  I find the driving to be chaotic, I didn’t do my research to understand the traffic laws, and I was constantly worried about what would happen if the car got damaged.  Would I go to Mexican prison?  Would I have to pay tens of thousands of dollars in fees and damages?  It also turns out that Uber works really well in San Jose del Cabo and in Los Cabos.  And it turns out that we were in a really walkable and lovely neighborhood with a Payless car rental shop just one block from our resort.  It was fate.  I was able to return the car early and even got a $225 refund for my trouble.  Totally worth it.