#43 continued – #EpicAdventure: Parte dos
This post, like this one recounting the drive from Canada to Mexico, will have the recent day at the top. This means that you’ll want to start at the bottom and read up, if you want a chronological account. Except for Day 1 and 2; they’re in the proper order, as they were written and posted at the same time. Confused yet? Not to worry, it will all make sense once you get the hang of it.
Day 10 (Moses Lake, WA to Victoria, BC): Finally. The last day. It was dreary in Washington, but our spirits were high as we got on the road early to hit the border! It’s always kind of stressful, the waiting to get there. This time when we arrived to the Canadian border crossing, the #MomentOfTheDay was when the officer asked us “What is the value of the goods you have with you that you did not take down to Mexico?” and we said “not sure.” He countered with “Okay. Hypothetically, if I had a gun to your head and asked you for a number, how much?” Then he chuckled and added “keeping in mind that I do have a gun here on my hip.” Haha. In Canada though that’s actually funny, not the uncomfortable, make-believe funny that it is when the guy in Mexico does it. He asked about our scotch collection (which we brought home) and then waved us on. Smooooth sailing. We then headed to the ferry where there was about a 40 minute wait until the next one. A relaxing ferry ride, a cup of coffee, and before we knew it we were safe and sound in our rented condo in Victoria.
This is what Day 10 looked like:
Day 9 (Sheridan, WY to Moses Lake, WA): pretty spectacularly uneventful day. A lot of driving. A really lot. No stops, just Montana (Billings, Bozeman, Butte), Idaho and into Washington. We wanted to get past Spokane, but soon discovered that after Spokane, there’s a whole lot of nothing. There is a town called Ritzville (not ritzy at all) and one called George, Washington which I suppose is kind of clever. But that’s about it. We settled on Moses Lake as a stopping point, as it would give us a short day to get home. Nice hotel (another Best Western) with a good dinner and a Washington pinot noir.
This is what Day 9 looked like:
Day 8 (Colby, KS to Sheridan, WY): Today is another day of new states for me. We headed north out of Colby, and soon were out of Kansas. Kansas not only has a town where you can see Dorothy’s house, it is also the home of the world’s largest hand dug well, and the world’s largest prairie dog. We left all that behind, and headed to Nebraska.
It’s a lot like Kansas. We passed Lake Swanson, where we saw a huge flock of American White Pelicans – beautiful birds, and apparently among the largest in North America. We passed a huge, stinky feedlot, and miles and miles and miles of more farmland. As in Kansas, there is a lot of center-pivot irrigation, which I’ve seen before but not in such vastness. Lots and lots of cattle; this is clearly Angus country. I only saw one lonely herd of Herefords the entire day. We headed west then north where we went through a brief hilly spot, then more ranch country.
South Dakota started much like Nebraska had ended: cattle and rolling pasture. Before too long we entered the Black Hills National Forest and then our first destination: Mount Rushmore. Four faces, carved right into the side of a big rocky hill; pretty cool! We also discovered that Thomas Jefferson, in addition to his work on ted Declaration of Independence, is credited with authoring the first ice cream recipe. So we had some. The fellow strongly suggested we have the Thomas Jefferson… Matthew said “Can you really taste the Jefferson?” “Yes sir, you can.” “What does it taste like?” “It tastes like Freedom, sir” “What does freedom taste like?” “Well sir, it tastes like vanilla.” #MomentOfTheDay Turns out he was right, the ice cream was awesome, and Scott liked a taste also.
From there we drove through Deadwood, just in case Kevin Costner was there and wanted to say hello. he was not, so we didn’t stop. It’s a quaint little town, capitalizing on its position in history quite well. If you’re a fan of either the TV show or cowboy movies, it would be worth a drive through.
From there we headed into Wyoming, where we stopped very briefly to see Devils Tower, which you may remember from the movie Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I don’t; I saw that movie when I was 11, with my gramma. Might be time to give it another look!
Here’s what Day 8 looked like:
Day 7 (Granbury, TX to Colby, KS): Today was a day to put on some miles and see some states I’ve never visited before. A short drive north to get us out of Texas (thanks, Texas – you were good to us!) and then we were on our way to Oklahoma City. Two things I know about this place: when I was a kid it was the home of the National Finals Rodeo (which I watched every year) and it’s the only “insert state name here City” in the US that is actually the capital of its state. As we were driving through I also learned that Moore, OK (a suburb of Oklahoma City) is the home of Toby Keith, which stirred up a lot of memories about the “old Toby” whom I once met backstage at a show – before I married the musician (I have always been good at meeting the band), and the “now Toby” who regales us with such tunes as Red Solo Cup. Sigh. Oklahoma has more cattle and horses than we saw in Texas, a casino every few miles, and some beautiful pink flowering bushes (maybe Jacaranda?). Other than that, a lot of road, and countryside much like most roads in Alberta or Saskatchewan.
Kansas next; we headed north to Wichita (home of the Mid-Continental Airport) and then west to Dodge City. I mean, it’s right there. Kansas is cold, and there is still snow on the ground here. Our flip flops are no longer suitable. It’s also windy here, and there are fields and fields and fields. Corn, it looks like, and grain probably. Small towns, hay bales in the fields, and lots of cattle. As Matthew noted, it turns out Dodge City, Kansas is as disappointing as Winslow, Arizona. From there we headed north again, then west again, past a huge field of windmills. and are ending our night in Colby, Kansas.
Brief scare on this day, when I thought #ScottTheCat had expired. She was facedown in her carrier, and when I poked her and pulled on her ear, she just flopped limply. I thought she was dead. Turns out she is just a very sound sleeper. #MomentOfTheDay.
This is what Day 7 looked like:
Day 6 (Harlingen, TX to Granbury, TX): It was a relief to finally have a day with a destination, but no pressure. We got up at a leisurely hour, had lots of coffee, poked around on the computer for a while, and left Harlingen a little after 10 a.m. It was great to sleep in. We were headed generally north through Texas; home of the longhorn cattle, blue bonnet flowers, pick up trucks (complete with mulleted drivers), and gun shops. Yee haw pew pew!! This part of Texas, a little more toward the center of the state, was a lot less barren than the route we took heading down. On that first trip, we had entered the state much farther to the west, and drove much of the way along the US/Mexico border next to the Rio Grande. Barren bare land there, lots of scrub brush and miles and miles with no other traffic. This drive was much more scenic; we passed countless ranches and small highway towns, and a couple of roadkill armadillos.
Our route today took us through San Antonio, Austin and north through a town called Hico. Hico is the home of “Brushy Bill” Roberts: a guy who says he was Billy the Kid. Seems he had a compelling enough story that historians do not all agree on the validity of his claim; that is, he really might be. I love these little tidbits!
Our destination this day was Granbury, Texas, just southwest of Fort Worth. My aunt and uncle live there, next to what used to be a nice lake (at the moment, it’s dry due to several years of drought, and a water supply that is owned by a corporate entity that sells the area water). Aside from some family time, our reason for heading here was for the missing drivers license. We were very fortunate that the boyfriend of a friend of our friends Joey and Maria was leaving Mexico the day after we discovered it missing, and heading to Dallas. Talk about relying on the kindness of strangers! Peter arrived in Dallas on Wednesday license in hand, and my aunt Leslee went to meet him at his office to pick it up. When we arrived at their house, it was safe and sound in an envelope taped to the wall by the front door where we couldn’t miss it. Yay!
Mike had spent the previous day smoking a brisket in his awesome barbeque, and we enjoyed a homemade feast (#MomentOfTheDay) of said brisket, some spicy sausages, potato salad (mmmmm), cucumber salad, beans and crispy pickles. For some reason the pickles in Mexico are soft. These were not. Some wine, a nice visit and another really good sleep were part of the Granbury package.
This is what Day 6 looked like:
Day 5 (Tuxpan to Harlingen, TX): Wowza. My rear end is so flat after today. I trust none of you will mention that – “hey, what’s with your flat butt?” because at this point, that would be mean. Today was a driving day. Driving, driving, driving, and I have to say I WAS AWESOME. No crying, no whining, just driving. We were on the road at 6:20 a.m., but started with a wrong turn (damned GPS!) and lost 35 minutes right at the start. When we did get on the right road, it was the crappiest piece of road ever – and I was seriously wondering “Is this going to be it? Will it be like this the entire way?”
Happily, the road improved after a while, and we were on our way, headed toward Tampico. A slight miscalculation on the map had us on the road through town, rather than around it, and sure enough, as we exited one road onto another, we were waved in by a state policeman. After explaining to the first guy in Spanish that “Nuestra placas estan detras de la camioneta, no en frente”, we successfully convinced his partner that we didn’t understand Spanish enough that he finally gave up on asking for his bribe. It’s disheartening, the constant threat of “shakedown.” If you want to give me a ticket, give me a ticket. I have no problem with that. But explaining to me that I’m going to have to wait right here until Monday when I can pay it, or just give you cash on the side of the highway, sucks. Also, no Mexican traffic fine ever has been $100 USD. AND no one ever gets a traffic ticket. If the young man on the motorcycle didn’t receive a ticket for crashing into the side of my truck, why on earth would I believe I am going to get one for entering this roadway without stopping? The best part about this incident is that even though I was driving, and had committed the imaginary infraction, the cop went around to Matthew’s window to talk to him. This “hombre a hombre” culture is maddening sometimes! (not this time)
Sure enough, just down the road, there’s another. We interpreted his waving as “keep on going” and didn’t stop. (That’s very difficult for a Canadian!) The #MomentOfTheDay came as he was blowing his whistle, and it just kept getting quieter and quieter as we drove off. Of course we spent a few minutes watching in the mirrors to see if he was going to follow us, but as expected, he had abandoned our fleeing vehicle in favour of a better chance at his mordita.
Several more hours, a couple of stops for gas, sandwiches, and general leg stretching, and we are at the border crossing. The highway was much, much improved over our drive down here in 2011. We hit one long patch of construction, but overall, not a terrible driving experience at all. I was glad to not have any residual driving stress after the accident – you just have to get back on the horse. And driving for 12 hours on this day is what my team needed from me, and if that’s what my team needs, I’m going to do my best to give it!
Leaving Mexico was anticlimactic from an immigration perspective. I had been lead to believe I needed a permiso (the letter allowing me to leave and then return legally), and also that there would be an issue with the truck, as the TIP (temporary importation permit) had expired. Not so, at Matamoros. There is no INM stop at all – there IS an office, but by the time you see it, you’re committed to the line to cross the bridge to the US side. So, while I did make two trips to Cancun to apply for then pick up the permiso, it sits, unused and now useless as it has no exit stamp, in my wallet. And the truck left Mexico unseen by the authorities, so no issues with the TIP. At the US border, predictably they wanted to look in the back of the truck; so we opened it, and two officers stood peering in, not touching anything, and in the end decided that we were not the droids they’re looking for. Closed it up, untouched. We did have to pay some tax on a box of scotch, small price to pay.
This day ends with us in another Best Western, this time in Harlingen, TX. I’ve never been so happy to see Texas! Some dinner, some wine, and a nice sleep await. There are no photos as I was driving all freaking day, but here’s #ScottTheCat:
This is what Day 5 looked like:
Day 4 (Veracruz to Tuxpan): Not sure what the day would bring, we had hunkered down in a nice hotel for a good sleep at the very least. We awoke just before 11 a.m. with The Fellow making his promised call to advise us of the status of the truck. He asked us to come to the HDI office at 1 p.m., to wait. So we got up, had a brief wander around the town square, a bite of breakfast, and went to wait.
Not sure we could have hoped for anything better. They were just finishing up as we arrived. Then they asked for 30 more to wash the truck. Right around 3 p.m., we were on our way. We headed north, not sure of our destination…
These are our people at HDI Seguros. They did everything they could to help us, and in the end, we leave with nothing but positive memories of what could have been a freaking disaster.
Turns out it was an uneventful (THANKFULLY) day. Driving, driving and more driving, and we ended up in Tuxpan, Veracruz about 30 minutes before nightfall. I’d never heard of this place, but wow. Nice spot! A touristy section along a lovely river, complete with a Best Western Hotel. Say what you will, but this chain does a decent hotel in whatever location, and Tuxpan was no exception. A nice recommendation from the desk person, and we found ourselves at Mar y Tierra restaurant, with some ribs, filet and wine on the way. Ah… zzzzzz
This is what Day 4 looked like:
Day 3 (Jose Cardel to Veracruz): Little physical progress made today, in fact a bit of a backtrack. We started our morning heading to the scene of the accident, as that’s where we were to meet the young man, his uncle and their friend, and we’d then go to the repair shop with them. We did all that, and met the body man. Body man? We only wanted the fuel pump repaired. We’d been clear about that, as we just wanted to get functional and get out. Turns out they were no help. Disappointed but not surprised (and honestly, not that disappointed), we got a cup of coffee, some internet access and called the insurance company back. HDI Seguros. If you need insurance in Mexico, I’d give them my bucks again. They gave us the name of their repair place in Veracruz and off we went. Arrived to the biggest, cleanest shop I have ever been in. Uniformed mechanics who look like they know what they’re doing. A few minutes after we arrived, the truck was taken in, looked at, verified that yes we have a fuel pump problem, and told they’re going to replace it. A bit of cyphering later and we figure out that the pump is inside the fuel tank (who DOES that?). Well, we had filled up late yesterday, so they needed to drain all the gas. Due to I don’t know what, maybe the kink in the tubo that took literally all day. Mid-afternoon, one of the HDI employees took Matthew for a drive so he could get us some food. Yay food. We missed dinner last night, so we were on fumes ourselves after having eaten nothing yesterday except for a tiny ham and cheese road sandwich.
We spent the entire afternoon sitting in this office, with Scott quietly in her carrier. She’s a trooper today! And she peed, twice, inside her litter box. Also yay. We did internet, wrote this post, tried to be patient. I had many moments where I was just overwhelmed with gratitude that yesterday turned out the way it did, instead of with a dead motorcyclist next to my truck. Regardless of who’s at fault, that would never, ever leave a person. Also can’t shake the idea that if he had struck the door instead of the box, things would have been different for me, too. Slow down, people.
Anyway, back to today. Around 6 they came to tell us they were having a problem draining the last bit of gas… but a short time later, voila. The part is out! Another yay! And finally, a point for the Atkinses. The same fellow who had driven Matthew for lunch drove him all over Veracruz looking for the part. They returned around 8:30, moderately successful. It’s not the exact part, but they think it’s close enough, and will install and test it in the morning. And when they returned, that same fellow asked us if we could wait a few minutes while he finished his work, so that he could drive us to our hotel. HE is the #MomentOfTheDay – three times. As one of my friends remarked on facebook, “It always amazes me how the kindness of someone can make a very hellish day turn into one you will remember with fondness, (after it’s over of course).”
We’re now in Hotel Veracruz, which is a very nice looking, modern hotel in the historic centre of town. Some food, some wine, and a good sleep await. At 11 a.m., The Fellow is going to call and let us know the progress, so for now, zzzzzzzzzz.
#ScottTheCat had a good day, sleeping quietly for the most part in her carrier on the floor in the office. Everyone loved her, and greeted her by name, scratched her, and commented on how much she slept.
This is what Day 3 looked like:
Well. I can’t believe I have not posted since the epic adventure. Just living the dream, I suppose.
It’s time to return to Canuckistan for a while, and so we are embarking on Epic Adventure: Parte dos. A journey I’ll title “Two people, one cat, sixty-six hundred kilometers, and one driver’s license.”
Day 1 (Cozumel to Escárcega): Began with a very early wake up call: 4:20 a.m. so that we could be on the ferry off of Cozumel bright and early at 6. We arrived, thermos of coffee in hand, at the ferry departure at 5:02 only to be told that the ferry had departed. Hmmm… Viva Mexico! Next departure 9 a.m. So we waited. At about 8:10, they came to tell us (and the other suckers waiting in line) that the ferry would actually depart at 11 a.m. Mexico 1: Atkinses 0.
We thought it would be a good idea to give #ScottTheCat a chance to pee, as she’d been penned up for three hours at this point, and let’s face it: she’s 19, and her bladder isn’t what it used to be. Matthew emptied the litter into the box we had brought, and YAY! At the sight of the litter she peed immediately. If only she had actually been IN the box. (This is the #MomentOfTheDay). Nicely done, Scott. We cleaned up, and with another two hours to wait before anything happened, we embraced Mexico and ordered breakfast from Rock ‘n’ Java, to be delivered to our line. Finally: a point for the Atkinses.
An uneventful ferry ride and 548 kilometres later (approx 7 hour drive) found us safe and sound in Escárcega, Campeche. And almost unscathed. At a routine stop by the police just outside of town, Matthew discovered he didn’t have his drivers license. And that comes with a fine, señor, 600 pesos. And you can pay it at la oficina, but that is muy lejos. An hour away. Or you can just pay it here at the side of the road. Chinga! We’ll need to revise the plan for tomorrow. So this night was spent about 3 hours short of our original destination, in a tiny hotel room with a bottle of wine and a pizza with a cardboard crust. “It’s good to be somewhere. We’re somewhere, safe and sound after our first day of travels. And what a first day. Good thing I’m so “roll with the punches” and “go with the flow” and all about being happy with change.”
This is what the Day 1 travels looked like:
Day 2 (Escárcega to Cardel): This day began well. We were on the road before 7 with our thermos of coffee and #ScottTheCat resting comfortably on Matthew’s lap. She’s never been a lap cat, but after a box in the back fell on her twice, she decided that was her best option. We drove and drove and drove, stopping for coffee and gas, and eventually finding ourselves in Cardel, just past Veracruz (just over 800 km from today’s starting point). A quick stop at Chedraui for some sandwich making supplies and some wine, and we headed toward the beach to find a hotel. No luck there, so we headed back into town as we had seen a couple of auto hotels that would work if the beach was not to be… and that’s where the adventure turned Seriously Epic. (note, next time I’m going to call this “Most Boring Trip Ever” and see how that turns out.)
As I was turning left into the hotel drive, I was hit from behind by a motorcycle. I’m going to leave out the gory details, other than to say everyone is okay (thankfully). Jose Manuel is one lucky guy to have walked away from this unscathed. When the signs all say “NO REBASE CON RAYA CONTINUA” please listen to them. And don’t be in such a hurry. As the other signs say, “MANEJAR CON CUIDADO. TU FAMILIA TE ESPERA.” And maybe I mentioned this already, but slow the fuck down.
We were encouraged (by the young man on the bike) to leave the scene, as we surely would be blamed for the entire thing, and would be terribly inconvenienced. We declined. The police came, and after a load of photo taking and conflicting stories, we all headed to the police station. Luciano from HDI (our insurer) met us there and then began the wrangling. He said, she said. Keys taken, medical exam (where it was noted my blood pressure was a bit high – no kidding!) and various stories told, all in Spanish. Finally, after much looking in his “book of laws” the policeman called us all into an office and drew a map of the scene. He asked me to tell him what happened, and I did. He then asked the young man to tell his account, and he did. And of course, they were not exactly the same, but my whole body heaved a serious sigh of relief as the policeman explained that despite all he had said, the young man was in the wrong, and was fully responsible for the accident. As I had been having visions of living out my days in a Mexican prison, this was welcome news.
Too bad it doesn’t end there. In Mexico, there is this strange rule where when there’s an accident, and one party is at fault, both vehicles are confiscated and kept until the responsible party has fully paid for the repairs. Or, you can sign a piece of paper that is basically an agreement that you’ll part ways, each responsible for the damage to your own vehicle. Nice choices, hey? Drive away, pay for our own truck, or hand over the truck RIGHT NOW to the Mexican police and have them keep it for the foreseeable future. We’d wait for 72 hours for the case to go before a judge, and then wait more time for his decision, and then assuming the judge decided the same way the policeman did, wait for the young man to come up with the money to pay for the repairs.
While we were sorting through the options, I went to use the bathroom. When I returned to the truck, I stood talking to some people for a few minutes until a woman came over and let me know “su falda es en su ropa interior.” My skirt was tucked into the back of my underpants. Nice. After having walked out of the bathroom, across the street, past police, the insurance guys, the young man and his hoard of friends. #MomentOfTheDay, right there.
In the end, we chose to walk away. We just couldn’t bring ourselves to hand our truck over with all our stuff in it, for who knows how long, who knows where. The young man accepted responsibility for the accident, but we signed the report that says we’re each responsible for our own repairs. His uncle has a mechanic shop, and we’re to meet him there tomorrow morning, where he’s agreed to replace the fuel pump and get us on our way. Dent be damned. We can have that fixed when we get home.
It’s terribly unsatisfying. But as the old song says “You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em. Know when to walk away, and know when to run.”
This is what the Day 2 travels looked like: