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Relumbra Blanco, My Travels in Mexico

Mark Heckey is a retired city planner with a passion for writing.

Editor's note: This is the first of a series of Mark Heckey's memoirs.

The year 1974 was a watershed time in my life. That year, I turned twenty-two, graduated from college, and broke up with my girlfriend. I also lived the life of a vagabundo in Mexico.

Other noteworthy events rose on historical tides. In 1974, Richard Nixon resigned as the President of the United States. An OPEC embargo caused rising gas prices, rationing and long lines at gas stations. The Federal Reserve instituted an austerity program of high interest rates that lead to a major recession. The World Trade Center opened for business. These events mirrored life today.

As jobs were not in abundance, my best friend, Doug, and I began to talk of traveling. We had hitch-hiked California's Pacific Coast Highway earlier in the summer. Now, we set our sights higher, a major trip to a foreign country. The Viet Nam war wound down under the thundering voice of protestors. We had escaped the draft with lower numbers in the 1973 lottery. No jobs and no draft meant travel. Travel, excitement, and adventure lay ahead of us. Where to go? How about Mexico?

"Hey Norsk, what's up?" Doug strode up to me as I washed my white 1962 Dodge Lancer.

"Not much, man. Just cleaning up the White Flash. Do you still want to do the trip?" I still wondered if we would really do it, cut out with our savings, and hit the road to Mexico. I pulled my shoulder length blonde hair into a ponytail, tying it with a rubber band.

"You bet. It will be great. We head south on the Baja, down to Rosarita. We can visit my ex-in-laws. From there we go south, the Baja Highway is seven hundred miles long. We can explore the Sea of Cortez. It's supposed to be absolutely beautiful." Doug pushed the shock of black hair from his forehead. Dark sideburns framed his clean-shaven face The corners of his eyes scrunched with his catching smile.

"Sounds great. Do you think we can make it the whole way? Gas should be cheaper in Mexico. If we crash on the beach a few times, we can save our bread for food and beer." I finished wiping down the windows of the Lancer. The Lancer had a wedge-like hood and the side panels had horizontal scoops that were carved into the body over the wheels. I admired the tapered lines of my blocky road rocket.


"You tell me. Can the White Flash hold up? Things are coming apart in the interior—the stuffing is coming out of the upholstery. Your window handle is on the floor. Kinda banged up." Doug liked to give me crap about my car.

"She has some cosmetic problems but her slant six is holding together. Uses little oil. The Dodge Lancer is one of the most reliable cars out there." I had been driving the car for three years without any major break downs.

"I got something for you. Here, this will help that raggedy front seat." Doug unfurled a colorful blanket with bold geometric patterns, a Mexican weave with a white tassel fringe.

We stretched the blanket around the front bench seat. We used small bungee cords to secure it across the back of the seat. The blanket transformed the interior.

"Thanks Doug. The Flash is lookin' good. Are you ready to head out in a couple of days?"

"All set. Let's leave right after Labor Day." Doug looked confident. He didn't seem worried about the trip. "Oh, another thing, I am changing the car's name."

"Yeah, what's wrong with White Flash?" I didn't like this.

"I'm changing it to Spanish. From now on its Relumbra Blanco!" Doug's eyes narrowed again with his infectious laugh.

~ Mark Heckey




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