Day 7/8 — border, fog, frustration, arrival

Day 7/8 — Border, fog, frustration, arrival

Day 7, we went to our storage unit in Laredo, packed up the car and headed to the border.  The customs guys pulled us over and rummaged around in our car to discover our four cases of wine.  Two cases over the duty-free limit that a person is allowed to bring in.  We knew this was a risk and we had to pay a 90% duty on the value of the wine. The customs’ office credit card machine was broken but luckily my husband had enough pesos stashed to pay the import fees.  We finished there around 11 and were on target to get to our hotel early. We were looking forward to free beer coupons at the Fairfield Inn, Saltillo, and thought we might even have time to run on the treadmill.  Weather was a drizzly wet one, with some fog.

We started getting stuck in traffic South of Monterrey.  A young Mexican guy in a car next to us motioned for me to roll down our window.  When I did, he said, “So you like the Cubs on purpose?”  He had seen our Cubs sticker and evidently was also from Chicago.  We exchanged the usual, “Next year!” comments.  The traffic stopped and we were foiled by a wreck from entering the toll road (cuota) and shuttled by the police onto the free road (libre), which was pretty much at a standstill.  Our navigation told us we would arrive around 5 p.m.  After not moving and breathing diesel fumes for some hours, we drove across the median and headed back to Monterrey, where we followed directions to the cuota, hooray.  By then it was already about 5 p.m., and the fog was getting thick.  By the time we got to the toll plaza, the road was closed and workers told us it would be closed at least until tomorrow, due to fog, and to return to Monterrey.  En route, I called to make a hotel reservation (“marca uno para ingles,” thank goodness) while my husband navigated the insane traffic.

So we landed at the Wyndham Garden hotel in a giant suite, where we gratefully collapsed after a dinner in the hotel’s little restaurant.

Day 8, we left early, with plenty of time to make it to Ajijic before dark. The weather had cleared and we encountered only a tiny bit of the prior night’s fog. Of course, we then came to a traffic standstill, probably due to construction (hard to tell what causes these things). Everyone was getting out of their trucks (mostly semi-trucks; only a few of us passenger vehicles) and using the the highway to relieve themselves (no comment of whether we did or not). This delayed us at least an hour and after that, we were racing darkness to get to our destination.

More traffic stoppages, some rain, and potholed roads extended our driving time. We rolled into Ajijic well after dark. We unloaded our car into our AirBnB and rushed over to Casa Domench for dinner — we missed the music but luckily the owner and kitchen staff had not gone home yet. We were fed, we drank wine and we were happy to be back.


Day 5/6 – deep in the heart of Texas

Day 5/6 (I think); El Paso to Junction to Laredo

Yep, we have spent more than an entire day driving through Texas. One big place.

In El Paso, we had dinner at Twin Peaks, the local version of Hooters. Twin Peaks, get it? Young female servers in midriff-baring, low-cut, tight plaid sports jerseys and shorts. I got to try the Beyond Meat veggie burger, which was pretty good.

The stars at night are so big and bright….deep in the heart of Texas. T or F? True!

Junction, TX: Big Hungry Cafe, Scene 1:

Me: I’m not a meat eater. Do you have any sandwiches or anything without meat?

Server: Um. I don’t think so. (Pause). We have a salad bar.

Texas Hill Country. I’ve never seen more road-kill deer anywhere. Maybe because people feed them with special feeders full of corn and then “hunt” them? Maybe.

We unloaded our trailer at a storage unit in Laredo, returned the trailer to a general store out of town. We had a late lunch at a sushi restaurant, where I felt right at home when the waiter asked me, “Algo de tomar?” Then we retuned to the storage unit and staged for the trip to Mexico: what goes in the car and what waits here until our house is completed?

Bonus: our friends at Fairfield Inn provided us with some “included” beer for happy hour while our clothes were spinning in the guest laundry.

So far, so good.

Half way point; Ramones; dust storm safety

Past the halfway point; Day 3/4; what to do in a dust storm; Ramones

Day three took us from Barstow, CA to Tempe, AZ. Phoenix is approximately HALF WAY from Eugene to Ajijic. Hills. Desert. Bouse, AZ with its VFW, American Legion, and Family Dollar Store. And when we run out of radio, we have our road trip CDs, one of which is the Ramones’ greatest hits. Those guys were genius, way ahead of their time. The KKK Took My Baby Away? 9 to 5 World? Genius. So glad I got to see them in the ‘80s, twice (Aragon Ballroom and University of Chicago).

Watch them here, please:

Highlight of the day: Phoenix friends picking us up and taking us to dinner in Tempe at House of Tricks. Gnocchi with roasted veggies, rare seared ahi, wine, excellent conversation with friends. We were happy campers.

Day four started with someone boxing us in at the hotel (no worries; my guy drives like a boss). The day then took us from Tempe AZ, through New Mexico, and to El Paso, TX. Easy navigating: get on I-10 in Tempe and get off in El Paso. And if you don’t know what to do in a dust storm, there are some signs to tell you: got of the road, turn off lights and food off brake, and stay buckled in.

The trip so far…..

29 Nov. Day 1. Eugene OR to Williams CA

With trailer. Slow going, rainy. Many signs of fire. The trip took longer than we had planned, and of course, this time of year, it gets dark at 4:30. Thus it was already dark when our friend Waze told us that the highway would be closed ahead due to a wreck and suggested we detour before the pile-up and mandated detour. Good call, but narrow roads in the dark at the end of a long day.

When you stay at the Motel 6 in Williams, you might see line crews from Oregon who are helping with the restoration of power after the catastrophic wildfires. Or you might see an older lady with a Rottweiler puppy named Charlie who is getting ready to go to “military school,” whatever that is.

And you might eat at Louis Cairo’s. A lot of linemen-looking guys eating there too, perhaps because it was tri-tip special night. Note to self: not many vegetarian choice at Louis Cairo’s.

30 Nov. Day 2: Williams to Barstow, CA. Started the day at McDonalds. Can’t think of the last time I ate at one, but when you need a quick breakfast within a quick walk of the Motel 6, well, there you go. Old guys drinking coffee. Everyone else eating McMuffins and their friends. Me? The “Big Breakfast,” of scrambled eggs, hash brown, English muffin, and sausage (sausage went to my husband, of course).

More traffic today but much less up/down/curving. Farmland. Pistachio and almond trees, citrus, grapes, more. The drive down to Barstow was lovely. We made only two stops for gas and bathroom and arrived at our destination in eight hours.

A motel tonight with a decent king-sized bed, shampoo, and a hair dryer. Dinner at Di’Napoli’s Firehouse — an old-school Italian-American place with a lot of fire fighter gear decor.

Count down until our arrival in Ajijic.

Back to Mexico, Day 1

Our worldly good are packed into a 5×8 UHaul and we left Eugene this morning. We drove through a drizzly day, up and down the mountain passes, with our trailer. Slow going, and I-5 was detoured due to a wreck near our stopping point, Williams, CA.

My husband, the driver, found our way to the Motel 6. Day 1, finished.

Where we are

It’s been well over a month since we left Ajijic for our travels in the Pacific Northwest. As I noted last time, we sold our house and many of our belongings. The remaining things are in a storage unit in Eugene, waiting for our move South. We think all of our belongings will now fit in a 5×8 trailer that we can tow behind our car. Progress.

I have scanned a ton of old photos using a Doxie scanner (highly recommend). I’ve shredded the journals I wrote between the ages of 11 and 20. While there may have been some good stories in there, the proportion of angst about mean girls, boys who didn’t call, smoking weed, and feeling fat or ugly made them impossible for me to read without heartache. Thus, they were shredded. Adios!!

Living out of suitcases, plastic bins, and grocery bags for over a month has become tiring and has made me quite anxious. I don’t know where anything is — where are the vitamins, my warm socks, my hair elastics? I know I have a skirt somewhere that I can wear with these tights — is it in my suitcase, or a bin in the storage unit, or in the dirty clothes bag or did I donate it to St. Vinnie’s??

We are currently in Steilacoom, Washington, a small town on the Puget Sound, outside of Tacoma. We are blessed to stay with lovely friends who have a fabulous view. Task-wise, we have managed to license our car here in Washington and to obtain Washington driver’s licenses (2018 will be our last year paying Oregon income tax, hooray).

We spent Halloween with our grandson and his family. This Halloween was his third birthday and according to him, it was a “Happy Hallow-birthday!” He learned the basics of trick-or-treating and was the most adorable little train conductor ever.

We have enjoyed our friends and family — and will have more visits when we go back through Oregon around Thanksgiving. But I am more than ready to return to Mexico, our home, to unpack, go to Zumba class on the malecon, to visit the site of our house construction. I want to be done waking up in the middle of the night with anxiety dreams of yard sales and looking for lost items.

Grateful in Eugene

We closed on our house the day after we arrived in Eugene. It was bittersweet. The sale could not have been easier: we sold it to the tenants who have lived there for the past year. 

The hard part? We put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into that house, remodeling almost the entire place and adding a bathroom. We did a lot of the work ourselves (quote from my husband: “I never want to see a tile saw again.”). We had things the way we wanted them — bright colors, quirky and extremely functional. We loved our kitchen with our stainless steel countertops, giant sink, and big pantry. I canned many a batch of salsa there, and jam. And made a lot of beer which we served up from 5-gallon corny kegs kept in a refrigerator in our shed.

We planted hundreds of bulbs which put on a big show in the Spring. We grew a ton (or more!) of food —- figs, blueberries, raspberries, Marionberries, grapes, apples, pears, cherries, artichokes, asparagus, kale (lots!), tomatoes, herbs, beans, peas, broccoli, cauliflower, collards, peppers, tomatillos. We grew weed (legally). We ate fresh eggs from our chickens. We fostered about 25 dogs (no, not all at once). We hosted friends for dinners, drinks, parties and holidays. I baked cookies, all of my mom’s recipes. We decorated Christmas trees (Oregon firs, some of which we cut ourselves). We (well, my husband) built a pizza oven and we also cooked out on our grill, under a canopy of festive fairy lights. We knew and loved our neighbors and our neighborhood. Did I mention we hosted FRIENDS in our small house or our big yard, cooking and opening bottles of Oregon Pinot Noir? Did I mention the cozy feeling, the feeling of belonging and of community?

But when you decide to move to Mexico and don’t want to be a long-distance landlord anymore, the house has to go. After the closing we shared a bottle of wine with the new owners in our former dining room, eating lovely cheeses that they served on our former dining room table. And it was good. I had closure. We made the right choice. Our house is in the hands of two young professional classical musicians and they will make it their own.

What’s followed has been a whirlwind of sorting through everything in our storage unit, things we wanted to return to when we moved back into our Eugene house, and then selling most of those things on Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace (note: the people on FB Marketplace DON’T SHOW UP) and prepping for a three-day garage sale.

During this vortex of chaos, we have been embraced by our friends here, who we will sorely miss. They: hugged us; fed us home cooked meals; let us pet their dogs; lent us a truck; let us stay in their homes; poured us drinks; lent a garage to sell things on Craigslist; let us share a garage sale; bought our stuff and even bought me cake at Sweet Life. We are blessed and our community of friends will be what I miss most about Oregon. We are fortunate people indeed, and I am grateful