Continuing his story from yesterday’s post, my dad Hal is sharing his story of traveling through Central America on the Pan American Highway, 1963. Enjoy the seventh episode in his journey:
I kept driving on the one highway I had been told to stay on, not taking any side roads. It usually had a sign with the number 57 visible somewhere, but sometimes not for a long distance. Highway 57 took me right into the middle of Mexico City, a city of a million people at that time. I had to go into the city anyway to buy car insurance. It seemed to me there was a stop light at every block. Sometimes the lights were green, and I was managing pretty well, pulling my trailer. When I got to what looked to me like the very center of the city, I came to a huge traffic circle about a block or two across, so I just followed the car in front of me and went around and around and around that circle. Wondering where it would finally turn straight, I finally hollered at one of the policemen to ask what to do. He acted very angry, and said to get over to right and get off of the glorieta, which I hastened to do.
Sure enough, the place I needed to go was not far from there. I pulled into the parking lot of a hotel and was relieved to find the attendant spoke some English. He told me how much it would cost per week to park there. I told him I just wanted to stay one night, and he said, “Okay, give me the keys.” I didn’t want to—I had never given anyone my keys. He assured me the car would be safe, but he had to have the keys. I got Nick by a leash, but the man stopped me. He said the hotel wouldn’t let me take him in. He said he would keep him, that he would personally be responsible for the safety of car, the trailer, and my dog. In fact, he said, the dog could stay in the ticket booth with him. I had no choice, so I got my suitcase and went into the hotel. There were people there who spoke English, and everyone was very friendly. I ate in the hotel restaurant and then read Sanborn’s log in my room.
In morning I asked where the insurance company office was. I was told it was close by but didn’t open until 10:00. I was beginning to think the trip was going to take more than the six days I had been told it would take. I was at the office at 10:00 and by 4:00 in the afternoon I finally had my insurance. Now I had to decide whether to stay all night again at the hotel, but actually I had no choice, so I paid for another night. My car was still in the hotel parking lot, but far from where I left it. And I was happy to find the man still had my bird dog pup with him. He told me, “We are friends.”
I got up early the next morning to get out of the city before the worst of the traffic started. When I asked the manager of the hotel what was the best way to get out of city, he said it would be better for me to pay a taxi to lead me out. They hired a taxi for me, and within about an hour I was leaving the city of Mexico.
To be continued…