Nacho rests serenely at the mirador above the Valley of the Moon, the shadows from the jagged cliffs spilling like water into the dry valley as the sun begins its slow slide below the horizon. Inside, Brad and Sheena sit on the couch; Shakira is on the stereo. They both gyrate their hips to the music. It’s not a tasteful gyration either; it borders on crass. They each hold their t-shirts up to reveal their skinny bellies moving in and out like the pulsating chest of a dying fish to the snappy Latin-pop music. Brad has always been the better Shakira gyrator, and Sheena knows it. His hips don’t lie. Sheena pours Brad another glass of pisco, and he drinks it. Suddenly, she slams his head into the plastic shoe bin. Blindsided. Sheena flashes the lights on and off like a strobe light, making scary faces at Brad. All at once they both stop, look at each other, and one of them says it: “What would people think if they actually saw this?”
It’s hard to believe, I know. Shakira? You guys listen to Shakira? To understand this, we need to go way back.
In 2002 I found myself in the back seat of my friend Scott’s pickup truck, headed South. A mountain bike racing team from Mexico had scored some cash from the Mexican government, and had used it to bring some American riders down to compete in their racing scene. The local media was informed, and in true Mexico fashion they created a fictitious rivalry between one of our guys and their National Champion, Ziranda Madrigal. Interviews were held, and the radio blared promos about the clash between their national hero and the invader from the North as if it were some kind of lucha libre match. The stage was set – all we had to do was get there. And to do so, we did what any self respecting adventure seekers would do: we loaded a bunch of sweaty, totally macho dudes into a couple of pickup trucks and headed for the border.
Before we reached the border, the mood inside the truck was calm. We were composed. Conversations were had, speculations were made, and stories were told.
After we crossed the border, Scott did something risky. While surrounded by a bunch of sweaty, totally macho dudes, he slid a Shakira CD into the CD player. I waited for the side punch to land on Scott’s cheekbone, but it never came. Instead of filling our hearts with pain and our heads with feelings of killing Scott – the pansy – something else happened. Actually, it kind of worked. Shakira’s spicy accent narrated our journey Southward, forever linking her voice to the barren landscapes, dry arroyos, cinder block towns, and highway taco stands in our subconscious minds. Her voice sneaked through our open windows and into the passing desert like a nimble cat. And only dios knows how much I like cats.
That’s right, I’m a cat man, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. And I’m also a Shakira man.
The Atacama desert in Northern Chile is a vast and expansive place. We drove for three days across lands where, throughout the entire expanse of recorded history, rain has never fallen; the only substances in all directions for as far as the eye could see were sand, pebbles, and heat waves. With nothing to do except watch the hours turn into days and stare at the skinny dotted line from steering wheel to horizon, we had to find a way to pass the time. And what better way than to wriggle our hips to the sweet meowing voice of Shakira.
Need a good start to a soundtrack for your next road trip South of the border? Here are three songs that, for me, capture the very essence of Mexico and fill my nose with the sweet smell of nostalgia for my first experiences with southward travel:
Bet you two were gyrating like a load of Dirty Laundry!!! Yeah, baby. Me and the Shak go way back. Sheena, girl, you’ve got yourself the real deal there, the entire package. I thought Brad was being facetious with that snide quip about cats until the confession, and a public one at that, came out!!! You know she’s from Colombia, right?
Comment by sherrie on January 18, 2013 at 6:00 am
I personally love Shakira. Also, when I was in India, our driver loved Shakira and said his favorite non-Hindi song was “Hips Don’t Lie”. One day, he had us listen to it 13 times.
Comment by Katie Piehl on January 18, 2013 at 7:43 am
Comment by steve on January 18, 2013 at 8:41 am
Yes, Sherrie, I know she’s from Colombia. That’s how I know that she must be super nice!
Comment by Brad on January 18, 2013 at 10:09 am
Shakira is good, and of course Refreshments Mexico is also a great choice. But my favorite desert driving songs all come from the new version of the Refreshments – anything from Roger Clyne and the Peacemakers just fits with the rhythm of the desert. Of course it probably helps that Roger is a local Phoenix boy just like me…
Still, I can’t recall if I commented before, but if not, I love the blog. Just wish I could find my own Vanagon already… No luck so far, but I will keep hunting and you keep up the great stories!
Comment by Dylan on January 18, 2013 at 11:27 am
Love it…and the pics. What a wild and wonderful place. Can’t wait to experience it for ourselves.
Comment by Rhonda on January 18, 2013 at 2:24 pm
I was about to comment and ask if you all ever worried about running out of gas while in the vast expanse of nothingness out there. And sure enough, the last pic answered my question. How many of those gas tanks do you carry around?
Comment by Kenneth on February 4, 2013 at 9:04 am
Sorry for the very late reply, Kenneth. We have two jerry cans on our back bumper, each containing 20 liters of fuel. We also have 2 jerry cans for carrying spare water, though we don’t usually keep them filled up unless we’re going off the grid for a while. Typically we keep one jerry can full unless we’re crossing a border into a place with really expensive gas.
Comment by Brad on June 7, 2013 at 4:57 pm
[…] One morning I was left alone with Nancy for an hour or so, during which time we discovered that we’re both Shakira fans. For much of the hour we listened to Shakira and she read me stories she’d written about a […]
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