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The Mexican Coast Guard

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At first glance we doubted that the four of us and our vacation cache could ever fit into a Volkswagen beetle; the freebooting, hanging-on-a-rail days of wild youth were too far behind us. But with sweat bunching up our imported socks we loaded it tight, popped the clutch, and waved so long to the attendant with the Raiders hat on. As we set off down Quintana Roo’s only paved coastal road, tires humming a welcoming chant on the knobby macadam, we were all slightly giddy. We have tried, mainly unsuccessfully, to explain to my oldest son the size and shape of the cultural wave that arose in the sixties and carried our generation to a thousand different stations of adulthood. He doesn’t need to hear it. At 15, he has a keener eye for his own horizon. But here was a quintessential element of those times, the lure of the open road, perfectly expressed. It felt as if we had arrived at a common source point, where what we saw and heard and touched and felt would become the delicate property of the family soul. A toucan flew across the road and disappeared through a small slit in the scrub jungle. We chased the sun into the glowing dusk beyond Akumal Bay, the sea surrendering its aqua tint for a layer of warm black. Our elbows brushed in the car’s jiggling closeness as we passed a soda that tasted better than beer. In the back seat our two-year-old rejoiced in the air blast of a passing truck on this thinner-than-possible road. As we righted our course and chugged on he wore the same remote, secure smile as the hero in a Renaissance painting, an old soul cornered happily in red-cheeked youth.

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