After breakfast, I set off and took Mexico 57 south towards San Luis Potosi. After an hour or so I look ahead and see a man tending a herd of 50 goats in the grassy highway median. A few miles more and there’s another just beyond the right shoulder. Then cows, horses, and even a mule tossed in for good measure. Some animals are untended but tethered to stakes in the ground. This must be a common occurrence as the animals were absolutely unphased by the expressway traffic screaming past.
My destination is San Luis Potosi, which happens to be the state capital. With a large central historic district, it’s the largest city in the state of the same name. Beautiful city parks, pedestrian walkways along brick avenues, fabulous cathedrals, museums, and beautifully restored colonial architecture along narrow streets sets San Luis apart from most all other Mexican cities.
Monitoring my GPS, my target is the city center. Once within the city limits, highway 57 is designed such that through traffic bears left in a type of express lanes and passes over numerous bridges while local traffic exists or enters to the right. About one mile before my indicated exit, a cop appears on the right with the intent of merging into the express traffic. He sees me and waves me past. What a nice considerate gesture! Wrong. Once in back of me he immediately flashes his lights, then pulls along side me motioning to pull over. I had to drive a mile or so to get to an exit and then stopped. The sole occupant of the car got out and asked if I spoke any Spanish… “A little.” What followed next just cannot be made up – he produces one of those walkie talkie type push-to-talk cell phones and has a man on the other end that speaks English. I’m told I broke the law by riding my motorcycle over the bridges and that they are not allowed there. The fine would be about $350 dollars. I say I’ll take the ticket and that I want to go to the police station. But the guy on the phone says if I accept the ticket, they will then impound the bike. OK. I still want to go to the station. Then they’ll keep my licence for three days. BUT if I pay a fine on the spot, all these problems would simply go away. “How much?” “How much do you have?” Can you believe this? I say I only have 700 pesos, about $53 dollars. “Can you make it 1,000?” Can you believe the nerve of this scum bag? He’s an extortionist and he’s negotiating his price. Uncivilized. Barbaric. I inform him 700 is all I have – take it or leave it. They decide to take the 700. I hand the phone back to the cop, whose been totally mute and mostly in his car the whole time. A few minutes go by and the cop comes back and hands me the phone again. Accomplice asks if I’ve given the money to the cop. I said he didn’t ask for it. “Just give it to him.” So I approach the crooked cop, whose already back in his car, and drop the phone and 700 pesos in his lap.Then this piece of shit has the audacity to offer his hand. Looking at his badge and gun, I complied.
Ten minutes passed during this horror story. The corrupt cop never asked to see my passport, vehicle import permit, tourist card, or driver’s license. In fact, he was careful to not touch anything that belonged to me. He also made a special point to keep somewhat hidden by sitting in his car for the majority of the time. Spineless coward. Of course, I knew this was a scam the moment he came up with my laughable “offense”. But what to do? I could have insisted on going to the station and he’d probably eventually give up and let me go. But you’re dealing with a piece of trash with no ethics or morals. The very person sworn to protect you in their country is the very same person stealing from you. So let’s say I go to the station. I don’t know where it is. This guy could lead me anywhere. Or, we get to the station and he changes his story to speeding, running a stop sign, resisting arrest or whatever. Then it’s his word against mine. I know it was wrong to cave but when standing on the side of the road with the only person you should be able to trust threatening you, it’s most comfortable to give them a few bucks and be done with it. Of course this just further emboldens them and perpetuates the practice.
And so, the silver lining out of all this is that I now have my first ever recipient of the Wandering Nomad Bunghole Badge. To the low-life San Luis Potosi Municipal Police Officer driving car number 2720 on February 26, 2014 at 1:20 PM, may your despicable acts be discovered. May your title, badge and gun be stripped and may you be tossed into a cell that you and your partner so rightfully deserve. Good riddance.
Once back on my way, I navigated to the city center and checked into the Hotel Progreso, an old building with high ceilings, stone pastel walls and brownish orange tile work. Parking was on the narrow one-way street in front of the hotel. I asked about secure parking and they offered to have me park the bike in the hotel! Problem was I had to negotiate both a curb and then the hotel threshold. I suggested a few planks of wood. A few minutes later the makeshift ramps were in place and I motored my way into the hotel lobby. Talk about making an entrance!
I was still feeling angry and down from the dirty cop, so I just wandered around the city for an hour or so. And what a beautiful city: it rivals any I have seen in Europe, with the exception of Prague. The numerous towering cathedrals are a sight to behold from the outside, but once inside, they are true works of art. Stunning stained glass, murals, and statues place one in a state of awe. Green space abounds with landscaped parks. In one park, I noticed my boots were getting a bit dusty so I sat down for a shine. Ten minutes and $1.25 lighter I had mirrors on my feet.
Later in the evening I walked a few hundred yards to La Cebada, an eclectic cafe / bar serving some interesting food. Reminding me of bars in Amsterdam, I walked to the upper level, where a rooftop section offered open air dining under floodlit cathedrals. The perfect place to take your honey for a romantic dinner. Back on the first level, I sat at a narrow table anchored to an outside wall, a window providing an outside view to the street. Surrounded by dark wood in all three dimensions, I scanned several black chalkboards listing the menu and beer selections. What’s this?! Locally brewed ales?! Holy cow. I chose a plate of grilled octopus with corn dressed in spicy mayonnaise and a pint of Pale Ale. The dish was fantastic. Any notion that Mexican food is overly spiced can be dismissed right now. I have yet to have a single morsel here that would be considered spicy or “hot”. The ale was OK, lacking hop bitterness to be a true pale.