Road Trip to Jerez: Mr. & Mrs. Magoo Abroad

Our children would probably tell you the prospect of Donna and I taking a road trip is terrifying. It’s like they think we are two bumbling Magoos, or something. I am truly happy they didn’t witness the Magoo moments on our road trip from Grenada to Jerez and back again.

The way we measure things the trip landed somewhere between uneventful and “Are you kidding me?”  The GPS system had two basic modes…Spanish and Off. Finding reverse was a mystery, and the Peugeot’s owner’s manual was the Spanish only version.  Parking on an incline with the wheels turned towards a nonexistent curb caused the steering wheel and ignition lock up.

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Fortunately, Spanish road signs are extremely clear, and Donna really liked the Spanish GPS. The Spanish lady kept giving me reminders to slow down. This meant Donna could attempt to sync the Spanish GPS and Google Maps without providing any directives of her own. Well, other than, “Mark! She’s telling you to slow down!!!”

As for the reverse gear mystery? My limited Spanish language skills allowed me to determine that, “Le ante el anillo situado bajo el pomo…”  means, “There is a f-ing button under the gear shift knob!”  Situado” and “bajo” leapt out at me. The rest was contextual guesswork. The illustrations in the owner’s manual didn’t correspond to anything in the car, but all I needed was some sort of clue.

The Spanish GPS and Google maps did really well on the freeway.   They were so closely synced it was like a rolling Spanish lesson. Once we got to the fifth roundabout in Jerez they both decided we needed walking directions. This meant insistent commands to drive into the crowds on Calle Larga. It’s a pedestrian promenade. They also dared me to try the road blocked off for construction.

We found public parking and walked to the hotel. Later we moved our car into the parking lot provided by Hotel Palacio Garvey. This mistake required a mid-siesta dash to find a parking space that couldn’t be blocked by other vehicles. A gentleman who was waving his arms around and giving staccato commands to his wife, who was expertly parking an SUV in a space designed for a Fiat 500, objected to my maneuvers. His wife was ignoring him, and I followed her lead. By morning getting their SUV out of its parking space would require rounding up five other drivers.

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 We left Jerez early enough to avoid traffic and witnesses. We dodged barriers and drove through plazas and around randomly placed trees. We made several complete circles and squeezed past a truck that was hosing off the streets. Donna got out and directed that narrow passage with a contrite shrug. There were maybe two inches to spare. Once we made our escape our double navigation system started counting driveways and bike paths as exits from the roundabouts. This is a Google Maps special feature that’s gone international.

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The path to Alhama de Grenada took us on a one way road that featured two way traffic. Both navigation systems happily chirped that we were on the right road. We later learned there is a beautiful two lane highway into town.

I breathed a sigh of relief when I finally parked the Peugeot. “I am not getting in that thing until we leave Alhama!” was part of the sighing process. Alhama is small enough that two six mile hikes took us everywhere we wanted to go, and lots of places we didn’t. Finding a tiny sheep farm in the heart of town was a welcome diversion after wandering around in the dark. The Tyrolean Sheepdog didn’t seem to agree.

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Ah, but Alhama is beautiful and we hated to leave before dawn broke over its canyons. Of course we didn’t. The steering wheel and ignition were stubbornly locked. Donna read through the Spanish language owner’s manual with a flashlight in one hand and her translator app in the other. The Peugeot has features we never imagined. It does not have a magic button to lock and unlock the steering wheel and ignition.

My experience driving vehicles others have deemed not road worthy came in handy. I applied brute force to the steering wheel until I felt a little pop. The steering wheel broke free and the ignition worked. I learned the brute force trick on the worst pieces of crap I’ve driven. So much for a 2015 Peugeot with 22,000 miles on it!

We arrived back in Grenada in one piece. The clerk checked over the Peugeot and beamed, “Everything is Ok!”  At that moment she was absolutely correct.

And for our next road trip? We’ll take a bus, a ferry, and a train!

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