The six members of the Adventure Squad were roaming the streets of Puerto Vallarta in search of real Mexican food and drink. Nathan suggested we try a restaurant called Pipi’s. It received high ratings on Trip Advisor, but the gentleman hailing our cab at the resort wasn’t impressed with it. We waffled until he told us about their “big margaritas” followed up by a hand gesture suggesting we’d be drinking from five-gallon buckets. This sealed the deal for us.
Our resort was a 10-minute cab ride from downtown. Ross sat in the front seat and chatted easily in Spanish with the driver, while the rest of us sat mutely, in awe of his spot-on accent. Working at a jail for the better part of a decade, he’s managed to become pretty good with key phrases such as, “put your hands against the wall.” Ross was our best (only) resource for scoring fair taxi rates, directions and restaurant recommendations from locals.
The nightly Feast of Guadalupe processions were in full swing, so our driver opted to drop us off a few blocks away from the restaurant, rather than ram through the crowd. We walked down a dark, narrow street toward a beacon of light. Music and singing spilled from Pipi’s open windows and door. We were seated at a large table and presented with even larger margaritas. The gentleman at the resort was right: holding the glass required two hands and considerable arm strength. Platters of food were placed before us, while a roaming mariachi band sang Neil Diamond songs in perfect English. Throughout the meal, our servers went around the table pouring shots of Jose Cuervo directly down our throats. The more you resisted, the longer your pour.
After drinking our dinners, we wandered over to the town square hoping to find a culturally relevant experience, but we wound up in another tequila bar on El Malecon Boardwalk. After greeting the other patrons in the bar (Americans), I mounted the horse saddle barstool, proudly donned the accompanying giant foam cowboy hat and ordered a Paloma in perfectly slurred Spanish.
Meanwhile, Lindsey was all business. She carefully studied the drink menu, asked thoughtful questions regarding local spirits and managed to completely charm the bartender into giving her his undivided attention. This is nothing new – bartenders gravitate to her. Aside from her smashing good looks, Lindsey has an encyclopedic knowledge of alcoholic beverages. She loves craft beer so much she joined an enthusiasts group called “Barley’s Angels.”
While Lindsey was busy chatting up the bartender and I was busy trying to keep the shiny side up on the horse saddle barstool, Nathan and Ashlee managed to slip out of the bar to get some air. We found them sitting on a curb across the street. Nearby, some people were standing along the edge of the boardwalk, staring down at the beach. I walked over and saw a policeman next to a dark, indistinguishable mass. Someone turned on a cellphone flashlight and illuminated a beautiful sea turtle laying her eggs in the sand. When she was finished, she turned and began making her way toward the ocean. With the lap of a gentle wave, she was back in her watery home. Everyone clapped joyously for the turtle and her successful completion of the circle of life.
The warm, fuzzy glow of the moment was abruptly invaded by the very distinct sound of liquid cascading onto the sand below. Someone next to me asked, “Is that guy puking?” Sure enough, I turned to see a hunched, hooded figure emitting blasts of liquid from his shrouded face. It took me a moment to realize the creep was one of my own: Nathan was the masked madman vomiting tequila and tacos onto endangered sea turtle habitat.
After verifying that Nathan was okay, the police officer was not going to arrest him, and no sea turtles were harmed, the situation quickly became the funniest thing I’ve ever witnessed in my entire life. Every once in a while, life hands you a golden nugget formed from a seemingly random series of events. In this case, open-ended plans, friends with a sense of adventure and too much tequila combined forces to create the best memory from my trip to Puerto Vallarta. That sounds wrong considering the entire purpose of the trip was to attend a good friend’s wedding. But each time I think about Nathan “calling the dinosaurs” onto baby sea turtles, I laugh so hard my entire body shakes and tears stream down my cheeks.
It’s no wonder traveling makes us good storytellers. You can’t make this stuff up.