In the days leading up to this leg of my trip, I received no less than four documents from ESPN instructing me on safety precautions. Apparently, it is next to impossible to spend two days in Mexico City without being robbed, raped or kidnapped, becoming the victim of a scam or disappearing entirely. Almost every conversation I had over the past week involved the question, “You’re not going alone, are you?” Followed by, “Do you think that’s smart?” So, although there is no bigger fan of Central and South America and Latino culture than yours truly, I can’t say I was entirely looking forward to this trip.
And then I was pleasantly surprised. I hearted Mexico City. Mind you, I was only there for 36 hours—long enough to pique my interest, but not long enough to acclimate to the altitude (7,000 feet) or truly enjoy the city’s offerings. But long enough to know I can’t wait to return.
From San Diego, travel time was about 11 hours with the two-hour time difference, so after departing SD at 8 a.m., I arrived at my hotel at 7 Saturday night. Talk about incongruous—the Hotel Camino Real is more Vegas strip than DF. It engulfs 355,000 square feet including its gardens, pools and fountains and has 10 in-house restaurants and bars (China Grill, Le Cirque, Bice Bistro). Both a prom and a wedding were being held in its two ballrooms on the evening I arrived. Not exactly what I expected.
Since I arrived too late to make it to the event, which was taking place at the Palacio de los Deportes 45 minutes away, I roamed the hotel hoping to bump into someone I knew. (That was less unlikely than you may think, since the Camino Real was ground zero for the U.S. contingent in town for the X Games Mexico City. After a couple hours of lobby grazing, I headed back to my room. And on the way, bumped into my friend Francisco, who works for ESPN and is from Mexico City, and two of his colleagues from Chile. Perfecto!
The three of us jumped in the rental car and Francisco gave us the local’s express tour, which included dinner at Mama Rosas in the Zócalo, a stop at a couple cool bars and a 2 a.m. drive through the city. On Sunday, we checked out the outdoor markets, had brunch and then headed to the Palacio for Day 2 of the X Games.
The event itself was, let’s say, a good start. The crowd was great—a welcome departure from the been-there-have-better-things-to-do spoiled Los Angeles crowd. But the contest format was confusing, the competition was sub-par and the event ran way too long, especially for a Sunday (school) night. There were a couple sparks, though: Brazilian rider Diego Menezes, a first-timer on the skateboard vert podium, was fun to watch; a good FMX Best Trick contest, won by Todd Potter (I think he’ll make this a habit in the next few years) and a strong debut by Argentinean rider Milton Martinez, who took a silver medal in skateboard street, the only event at the Games with a truly South American roster.