By Roberta Rich
Driving three thousand kilometers from Vancouver to Colima, Mexico with Maggie is an unalloyed pleasure- except for one thing. She is seven years old now, placid, sedate, the doggy equivalent of late middle age, kind of like us. She has her bed in the back of the station wagon and as my husband is fond of saying, a little too often for my liking, she never criticizes his driving and she never whines for a pee break.
We are well acquainted with the U.S. chain motels throughout Washington State, Oregon, and California in all of their splendidly cheap, convenient, and dog-friendly guises. Their lurid signs beckon from the I-5 and at the end of a long day, we and Maggie gratefully snuggle into the charmless but antiseptic arms of a Motel 6, Motel 8, or Travelodge. If you don’t believe me, I have dozens of purse size plastic bottles of body lotion, shampoo, doll-size bars of bath soap, and hair conditioner to prove it.
Our gruelling schedule of ‘gas/pee –drive- drive- eat/pee- sleep- get up- eat’ and do the same thing all over for six days and nights serves us well until we cross the border. Then the problem starts. There are two breeds of dog in Mexico: the purse dog, also known as a ‘d.w.p.’ (dirty white poodle), and the ‘roof dog’ a snarling, teeth-baring creature designed to terrify and intimidate all who come within a block of the roof in question. Maggie fits into neither category. Being a German Shepherd, she has the look of a wolf but the disposition of a purse dog. ‘No perros (dogs)’ is the rule, which makes finding a motel room a challenge in a country of carefully tended, vigilantly guarded Mom and Pop hotels.
However, this was the year of our big break through. We discovered the concept of ‘the hot sheets motel’ (sometimes called ‘love motel’) numerous throughout Mexico. Our personal favourite was the Dix Motel in Culiacan, Sinaloa. (Warning: Culiacan has been in the news as the battlefield for warring narcotraficos. This may deter you.)
The typical Mexican house is small and lacking in privacy, and the neighbors are as nosey as neighbors anywhere, so the pay by the hour motel is a popular institution. (Attention President Marcon! Countries concerned about declining national birth rates may want to encourage this discrete, low rise, anonymous institutions.)
You enter through a curved high walled entrance, drive up to the reception building of smoked one way glass. An electronic arm extends to receive your two hundred pesos (about $20.00); the arm extends again to give you a key. Then you and your car disappear into the maze of 70’s style motel units with attached garages. Think Mexico meets Edward Sissorshands.
Each room comes equipped with an adjacent parking space complete with a heavy green plastic curtain on rings to conceal your car (or an elephant) as you unload selves, luggage, and dog. Inside is a comfortable king size bed and a menu from which you can order by phone everything from burritos and enchiladas to Viagra and a cream called ‘Analease’. The delivery of these purchases is effected through a revolving turnstile similar to the one Hannibal Lector received his meals through in Silence of the Lambs. You place your pesos on the shelf, spin, and presto, your piping hot burrito, or Viagra, appears as if by magic, on the return spin.
You will see not a soul from the moment you pull into the entrance until you pull out in the morning, cheerful and relaxed after a blissful sleep and a good romp. Dog lovers rejoice.
Roberta Rich lives during the winter in Colima, Mexico and the rest of the year in Vancouver, Canada. She is the author of three historical novels: The Midwife of Venice, The Harem Midwife and The Trial in Venice, all published by Doubleday, Penguin Random House.