In our five months of camping every night, I can certainly say we've had our share of amazing campsites. Mountains, lakes, and sunsets, all present and accounted for.
What I never imagined were the characteristics shared by our most frequented sites. Blaring truck horns, idling motors groaning into the night, random late-night drunken voices, and a sea of concrete bathed in artificial light. Yes, these are the qualities of our beloved YPF, Argentina's answer to the gas-station convenience store.
Not that we're ungrateful. In the bigger towns we've seen, YPF has offered as much as the five-star hotel. Clean bathrooms, hot showers, a place to wash clothes, and a mouth-watering assortment of forgotten goodies in the cafe. Most importantly, always a royal and hassle-free welcome.
I'll never forget the YPF just outside Mendoza. Raucous Janet Jackson greets on our entry. We stand frozen like deer in headlights. All around blaze fluorescence and shining aluminum. Five women swarm with rags, cleaning the already sparkling modern microwaves and ovens. Our senses drown in the sea of products fighting for our attention. Foot-long hot dogs and pastries sit on the warming racks. Coolers overflow with sodas, milks, wines, and cold beer. We hold on to one another tight, and look at all the products we've not seen since we left North America.
I felt the need to either run or buy one of everything in sight. With the urban center of Mendoza and its 600,000 inhabitants just over the next ridge, this was our unavoidable return to civilization. Welcome back to 1997.