Monday, November 29, 2010

The Village of Ajijic

The town we are most near is Ajijic. As we leave our street and turn left on the Carrretera (main road around the lake), after we pass the Walmart, the "Boulevard" begins. Adjacent to both sides of the regular road are lush, huge trees lining each side and then a smaller cobblestone street that runs in front of the residences. We often walk there on our evening walks and there IS an ice cream shop that lures Roland that way too.

Once you come to the end of the "Boulevard" you are spit out right into the bustle of downtown Ajijic. There is a large church, of course, in the Centro where there's a large square with a gazebo. On every Wednesday, there is a large market partially along the "Boulevard". As you wonder the tiny side streets, every corner opens to a colorful new block and there's fascinating architecture at every turn. There's even tropic forest-like nursery's sprinkled in hidden places. I mean, look at the size of this stagehorn fern!!

We've even grown feeling safe enough to check out celebrations at night in Ajijic. Recently there was a celebration for St. Andrews, the patron saint of fishermen, alcoholics and Ajijic! Just my kind of people! So we decided to wander down ... the evening was lovely. What we found was that the entire town Centro was blocked off, setting up carnival rides for the wee ones and eating, art and gift vendors for the adults. We discovered a "Cultural Center" where we went in to view the art. T'was a variety of media ... some I was impressed with and also saw one oil from a local artist I'd met already (Efren Gonzales, who is more mentioned later in this post). The lovely interior mural which goes high up the wall are the walls to the bathrooms. Imagine "the bathrooms"!!!!Art seems to just pop up everywhere!! Which reeeeeeeeaally makes my lil heart sing! We took a seat at our favorite coffee shop across from the Centro church where Mass was taking place and then, watched the locals go fill the streets with celebration. One fellow on a horse just trotted up the street past us!

We'd heard this festive occassion was just a prelude to the upcoming 9 days commerating the Revolution and Independence. Since we aren't real partiers, we did hear that celebration from our home spot about a mile away from downtown. From before 6am and late into the night music, firecrackers, churchbells and, oh yes, the roosters were cheering on and on and on. Anyway, I digress ...

One of the first days we were in Ajijic, we parked and found we were right in front of Efran Gonzales Gallery and Studio. Of course, I went in. There he was working on a oil piece in the middle of the studio. Luckily, he spoke English well and we talked for some time. Not only were his oil, acrylic, pastel and watercolor pieces amazing - - but he'd just recently tried ceramic work too! On the middle of the floor was a maybe, 8 x 10 foot mural, that was to be installed into one of the Ajijic City buildings soon. What most impressed me with this gentleman, was that he said daily children came in and he instructs them. He talked about how his son had talent but didn't want to be an artist. Efran had told him he still needs to honor "his gift" and educate himself in the arts as he may need it. What a beautiful way to view our talents and how we need respect them. When I asked for a card, he wrote me out one on a scrap of matt board, saying "my wife does all the publicity stuff". As I walked the streets, I saw more and more work of Efran's everywhere. I'm showing you two of his public pieces. Pretty strong, eh?

The town of Ajijic feels most stimulating to me. Lots of art, great markets (did I tell you we found both an organic as well as regular?), amiable locals, and I've discovered one women's group that just feels like I've arrived "home". Next Monday, I'm testing out the local art club to see how that feels. So, I'm voting for Ajijic as my favorite part of this area - - so far. Now Roland, he seems to be attracted to the city of Chapala. But . . . that will have to be another blogpost.

More from this seekers vantage point soon . . . stay tuned!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Giving Thanks . . .

From where do I start? I guess the beginning of this special day would be appropriate, eh? A week previous, Ro and I'd met California friends here, a "La Nueva Posada" in Ajijic, for lunch, and we noticed the fliers for their Thanksgiving Dinner. They were serving an all traditional menu and we'd made our 2pm reservations that day.

So our morning was relaxed and quiet. I'd gotten an email from a fellow artist, one who is suffering with Stage 4 cancer and still sent out a lovely image of hands offering up food, with an attached note thanking those around her for their support and love. It brought me to tears to see her humility and gratitude in the midst of what she was so graciously dealing with.We decided to write out a list of things for which we are grateful and spend some of our quiet time doing that. Then, around 1:30pm we headed to downtown Ajijic.

This romantic and historical hotel drips with the old Spanish architecture and feeling. The outside echos rock and ivy work while the inside, embraces you with elegant yet strong appointments, sweeping grand areas and nature brought to life. We were lead outside to our table underneath the biggest rubber tree I've ever seen in my life. You can see how tiny I appear under the mammoth tree.

Not only did we prefer the patio, with a view that looks out over the lake, is surrounded by rich tile work and furnishes sculpture embellished with colorful landscape - but this way - Cody could sit with us too. The serving pace was slow, appetizers (veggies w/dip), a roasted red pepper soup, then, the best turkey (I'm not embellishing) I've ever had served from a restaurant!!

And, then we needed a walk down to the lake, and back, before we could consider the pumpkin pie 'n coffee. At the lakes edge, there are plentiful heron and other smaller species that I can't name (Floy, where are you?) and I loved catching the local fisherman out for their usual days work.

On the grounds is a giant bird cage with a pair of beautiful Macaws. We wondered why they had the cage nearly covered with a wrap as well as an umbrella overhead. Seems like these birds would be ok in the winter sun, but, not being a birder, perhaps some of you can enlighten us, please?

Midstream our meal, we can see a couple just a few yards from us talking to Cody. Just as I stand to take him over to meet them, they both stand up to come visit him. Animal-lovers unit any and everwhere! They'd not brought their dog as they weren't certain it was acceptable, but had become enamored with Cody. Come to find out they relocated here around 9 years ago and do mediating work here. She, has taken and supports the arts, avidly. So that when I told her I was an artist she filled my lil postem up with names to watch for and look up. I'm intrigued by these "serendipitious" meetings that seem to be occuring . . . I'm listening to the Universe. I AM remaining open. Anyway, another course interrupted our conversation and back to our respective tables.

Following our feast, a walk was required!! Down the end of the block is the lake so we meander that direction. There is never a lack of art or creative expression in any direction we turn and this stroll isn't lacking. Just look at the private display of gorgeous tile work coupled with the well behaved bamboo.

But the "icing on the cake" for the day, we wandered farther and come upon this gorgeous indigenous woman. Just the position in which she's sitting (probably ALL day) makes my back hurt, but she's contentedly at work. Above her are brilliant colored rugs and blankets draped from the white bellies of the sycamore trees create a painting just as she sits! Of course, she speaks only spanish and we with our meager conversational skills are unable to get across that, "we like this particular wall hanging, could she possibly weave us a longer version by mid-January?"

We solicit a nearby waiter hanging out in front of his restaurant and he comes to translate for us. Oh my, even he has a prolonged dialogue with her. We find out that the wall hanging we like is made by someone else and that the materials man would be in town Sunday. She could find out the cost of the materials and then we could talk further. Whew!! We were exhausted by the end of the meeting and told her we'd come by once again. I just loved standing there watching her dancing big brown eyes explain things and her sweet face move with kind authenticity. She was so down to earth and real, I just wanted to hug her. But, don't worry, I kept my respectful space.

Once home, we each read one another's gratitude lists with some of these items: for making it here safely, for our health, for love and support of our spouse, for the will and courage to make this trip, for inner peace/divinity, for my talents & gifts, for sensitive hearts, for music (including rooster's crows & firecrackers), for different cultures, and for my friends and family. And we have just scratched the surface.

Hope our Thanksgivings helped us all realize the bounty we have to share. Blessing to you all.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

The Nesting of an RV

We rose early, anxious to move into our final destination. We couldn't seem to locate Connie, our hostess' phone number (it was online, but without internet connection ...) so Roland walked over to the location and spoke with her in person. She thought that by 1pm she could get the 2 other renters to move their vehicles so we could back in.

Around 1:30pm we follow her instructions so that we can back into the RV pad and begin to go all the way around the block. Now, that may sound like a simple set of instructions but, as you can see the width of the streets we need to navigate, it didn't turn out so easy. We are successful going down one block, turning left and down the next street and then turn onto our street. As we continue we get wedged between a concrete electrical pole and a car from South Dakota. Remember that we can't back up, so while Roland begins un-hitching the PT Cruiser, I go ring the bell on adjacent doors. By now we have begun to provide entertainment for the neighborhood and people are poking their heads out of doors, one fellow encouraging Roland to just "keep going". By the time the car was off the hitch and pushed off to the side in a parking position, the owners of the South Dakota car had come out and managed to move their threatened vehicle.

Ok, we're all positioned and get the RV backed into our cozy lil nest. Ro begins hooking up all the various systems and I'm inside getting things out of boxes and into accessable spots. We realize we can't find the instructions for setting up the canopy for our porch and bumble along, both of us dancing with the akward, heavy poles until we make it work (later we found the instructions). I'm lovin' the scene out our dining room window view that is plush with flowers and a mountains too! Our patio opens onto the green lawn where three small casitas are also available for rent. We have a nice semi-privacy screen formed by just enough palms to allow sunshine to flood in.

Roland decides to take Cody for a walk around the neighborhood. In his travels, he runs across a small neighborhood store and decides to buy his first Mexican beer to enjoy on our patio. When he gets back and is all settled into his chair he realizes the Corona he purchase had the advertisement for Super Bowl 14. This would possibly make the beer (are you ready?) thirty years old. Oh well, so much for product dating at the small family stores!! He drank it anyway and seems no worse for the ware. He did go out and get the makings for Margaritas later in the week tho!

Later in the evening we take the full evening walk. Connie has given us directions to a "Super Lake" market that carries nearly anything we could want (and its true, the fellow drives daily to the US and brings back all the lil delights us ex-pats like). We also meet several of our neighbors. We DO have some furry ones. Roland immediately fell in love with the horses that reside in one of the fields near the street. There is just a mom and her sweet baby but, we given them all our carrots and lettuce cores. You might notice how "lean" mom is, as you can see her hip bones sticking out. :( In the other field we have cows and several horses. Sometimes we see the cowboy just trot down the streets ... it's such a wonderfully different world here.

So now that we are all nested in, we are ready for adventures. We've made a pact to not drive anywhere far for at least one full week. But I'm betting my "bullet" husband can't hold to that. All the trauma of where we will be sleeping and how safe is it, is over and I can feel myself calming, settling. I might even get some journal painting done soon! The weather is lovely, cool evenings for sleeping and clear, blue skied 80s for the days.

Another neighbor we have meet seems not to have been to "Rooster School" where they are taught to crow only at sunrise. But we are guests here in this warm, friendly country and I know we'll adapt. I came upon this trip to stretch my "envelope" and I'm so far, feeling I'm learning more about myself already.

I can't wait to see whats next . . . and I love having you all traveling along with me. Lets get going . . .

Sunday, November 21, 2010

And You Thought Tequila is ONLY a Drink?

Continuing on to Lake Chapala, we weave along the back Highway 15. I affords me taking plenty of photos and coaching Roland on passing attempts.

As the shadows get longer, I begin to see dots of pale blue fields among the other yellow-green crops. Knowing the fame of the Blue Agave plant for two-fold reasons: 1 the sugar substitute, Agave and, of course, 2 tequila, I recognize them. Plus I had the clue of knowing that one of the fun places here to tour is the town of Tequila, where the drink is manufactured. And possibly the sugar substitute too, but it's less promoted.

Eventually we curve into the small town of Tequila. From one end of the village to the other there was ever present the theme of the small blue plant. Down the center division of the road were lil' concrete renditions and on the buildings were logos of the plant. When we pulled into the Pemex on a bustling corner, we were adjacent to the town sculpture was of, guess what, YES, you are correct, the blue agave plant!! Actually, it was quite a tasteful piece.

Sitting in wait for the tank to be filled, I pulled my camera and caught a bunch of town characters. One of my favorite was the cowboy's truck parked across from us. The children traveling in the bed of the sunfaded turquoise pickup truck were spirited. The lil' boy eyed me suspiciously and his sister was more coy. Others were pushing carts of edibles, leaning up against the trees just leanin' and others anxiously on their way home.

Finally, we pull out of the gas station and travel thru the long shadows out of town. I catch some final shots of sunlit buildings and passing agave fields. As we make it into Guadalajara, it is dark. The large, turbulent city is five miles across and as things would have it, the main highway was under construction. So we bumble along the rush hour city streets, changing lanes at the wime of our lady on our GPS. She thinks we must be driving a compact with a spirited horsepower. I often wanted to yell at her reminding her, "We're in a thick billboard, bobbing on wheels and we are 45 feet long ~ ~ AND ~ ~ we have NO brake lights!!!" I want you to know one person did honk to catch our attention to let us know we had no brake lights, we just smiled and nodded. So I just trust. And we make onto the re-opened Highway 15 and get out of town.

Once with less traffic in outskirts, we pass the International Airport in Guadalajara and approach the turn off to Chapala. But . . . with less vehicles on this road, we notice how very dim are our head lights are. GRIEF!! Roland tries the brights and I had to laugh, even tho it wasn't funny. How were we going to see the road if we didn't have a car in front of us or coming at us? In a last ditch effort to find more light, we turn on the fog lights. God, will I be glad when we get to Lake Chapala.

Farther down the four lane, two-way highway, we were to turn off onto a smaller road leading into the town of Ajijic where we'd actually be staying. Darn, I just didn't notice it early enough to tell Ro to turn (or was my subconscious just making us travel the safer route?). Reaching the hoppin' town of Chapala, we found the streets well-lit with trees lining the streets and people everywhere. It was like watching a movie - but I was there. Guess I was too tired by then to participate.

But we'd made it. And we did it in such record time, that we were a day before our reservations for the RV pad were available. I didn't care . . . I was never so happy to pull into a Walmart parking lot in my life.

Roland asks if I want to walk over to see if we can find the place we will be staying. Oh my, I'm numb and he's excited. What a combo. But I hop onboard and fumble over the cobblestone streets to see the gate, gailey trimmed in warm yellow with vines dangling with orange trumpet clusters welcoming us. Ahhhhhhhhhhhh, we have finally arrived.

Even with the main "Carretera" arterial just 40 feet from us . . . sleep came easy and gratefully . . .

Friday, November 19, 2010

Where the Heck IS Teacapan?

Once again we are trotting along Highway 15 and optimistic, although not feeling our very best after last night. I'm poking thru the "Mexican Camping" book and notice a site that is along the ocean offering several RV campsites to choose from. I mention it to Ro, who got nearly no sleep and we both decide it would be nice to stop early and recover by the beach for a day (or, I'm envisioning two). The map in the book looks very simple, right?

We take the exit to Escuinapa (GIANT trees en route) and once there find, following the "main" drag isn't that easy. We cross this bridge taking us up a hill then, into tiny village streets. Ro is concerned we can't make the turn and what if there is no turn-around space once we get there. Half way up the hill he tries to back up . . . I'm outside and see the wheels in the PT Cruiser freeze up (remember the braking system we have on it can only go forward). Ro stops.

We get directions from a young man for Teacapan and continue ~ thru the tiny streets. We can peer into dirt-floored homes from out our high vantage point and wide eyes stare out at us. Probably not the most frequent site on their street. In a few blocks, we watch a family with four children carrying home the wood, probably for their evening fire. But this road is confusing and once on it, stop at the Federal Police's Office for better directions.

Both the police man and the office secretary draw us a map, but they seem to be guessing at the count of streets, "was it five or six?" Ok, we follow the map and end up at a narrowing dirt road going past a school house. Luckily, there is a turn around circle in front of the school ~ we're turnin' around. A gentleman, nicely dressed, has watched our antics and walks over, asking where we are trying to go. He offers to drive us "there to the correct road" in English. Once he goes back, we approach a paved highway, one direction goes back towards Escinapa, the other God only knows. We're not wanting another adventure, so we turn back to town and follow the GPS (who evidently does NOT know what streets are one way) back to Highway 15. Where is Teacapan? We really can't tell you . . .

On we go towards Tepic. Its a big industrial feeling city and we're pleased to get thru it. At this point, I'm aware we are going all the way to Lake Chapala tonight and need relief from the "caffine-withdrawl" headache I'm experiencing! Ro pulls off the highway (and this part I LOVE about being in an RV), I put water on to boil and make myself a freshly brewed cup of my favorite coffee!!! Whew.

Here's the route we look forward to, going into the mountains above Guadalajara. I have to say, for me, this was the most alluring
part of the country so far. Most of you know I'm a mountain lady at heart, so even vast beach spances don't touch me the way mountains do. The scenery just got better and better! I'm so excited I'm taking photos at every turn! I'm imagining us Plein Air painters actually savoring putting paint on our paper and depicting the feelings of this area!! We also finally see the "Green Angels" mentioned online. These are Mexican helpers in white and green trucks that stop to assist anyone in need on the highway ~ it's the first time we've seen them since we crossed into Mexico.

The terrain changes continually. First, lovely wide valleys with meadows either dotted with cows grazing or verigated with a colorful patchwork of agricultural fields. Coming down one slope we spot an old caldera, obviously denoting volcanic activity here in these mountains sometime in the history. One of the curves has a warning sign about possible fog in the area. None today, just clear blue skies!!

We seem to be heading down one of the final downslopes and we're nearing a quaint town, nearly all of rich, red brick named Magadalena. There's 'sposed to be a Pemex gas station in town so we pull off our beloved Highway 15D (toll road) and cross the overpass. When we get to town, the Pemex station is closed/out of business - argh. And after further investigation, we realize there is no entrance ramp back onto 15D. Double ARGH!

We're off on another adventure, meandering the 2-lane curvey backroads Highway 15 nearing sunset. The countryside remains lush, rolling and I begin to see fields of beautiful blue agave interspersed with the yellow greens of the fields. This is the road that will lead us into Guadalajara and beyond, to Lake Chapala.

Here goes . . . trusting . . . breathing . . .

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Drama in Mazatlan

Approaching 6am, we're driving down Mexico's 15D towards Mazatlan. But we've told our "caravan" friends that we'd prefer to take a slower pace and not drive the grueling 500 miles all the way to the city of Mazatlan. We have a couple of camping sites en route and plan to stop at one of those for a more leisurely wander down the peninsula. Our instructions to the caravan was, "if they don't see us in their rear view mirrors, not to worry".

I'm enjoying the travel. We stop for gas at one of the Pemex stations and walking Cody, talk to this ole' Mexican cowboy. WHAT a face!! I ask his name and immediatly forget it (I was lucky to remember how to ask his name in Spanish!). The landscape now becomes agricultural and the mix of greenery and earthy irrigated fields presents interesting graphics. I'm seeing a multitude of these large dark birds perched upon high wires, I'm certain, looking for early breakfast. Any of you birders, can you recognize what these are? They seemed to have small heads, maybe red? I'm havin' trouble trying to catch a photo of them ... but it entertains me.

We leave the highway all the way down at Culiacan to locate a camping place. But we can't find it. I'm beginning to get weary and Ro asks if I want to stop at this hotel. Nope, I reply, let's go further. But the simple agenda of turning around turned into a drama. Because we are SO long we end up in a afternoon traffic jam at an intersection where five roads come together and we can hardly maneuver. Ro takes all these daring moves and spins around a gas station, getting us back headed towards the highway. Tension is building.

Further down the highway we have the computer printout of Villa Celeste Campgrounds north of Mazatlan. So we feel hopeful. The directions seem very exact, instructing us to exit the highway at 79KM (there are kilometer markers originating from each big city). We have another printout map Roland from the "Pacific Coast Road Log" which he paid $12 or $19 (memory fails, but we'd NOT recommend it) which indicated that 79KM was after a bridge. So ok, we are approaching 79KM, watching the bridge approach. Just starting to slow down, in front of the bridge is a handmade sign vaguely saying turn here down a narrow dirt road for camping . . . and we gaze at it . . . as we pass it, unable to stop. Now we realize THAT was our campsite!!! We just missed our last resort campsite before Mazatlan :( Cody is the calm one, sleeping in the sun, Roland is looking stern, determined.

Ok, on we go to Mazatlan . . . not feeling to chipper. But we have a Mexico Camping book, 2 years old, with several Mazatlan sites. Ro programs into the GPS thecoordinates (some campsite don't have addresses that the GPS will take) and on we go. The city of Mazatlan is nuts. Its dark as we pull into the noise and crunch of the traffic. Following GPS directions and when we approach the exact coordinates, there is NO RV park. Aimless we weave around and Ro sees a giant store with a equally giant parking lot. CRUNCH ~ as we attempt to drive in the parking lot, they have these metal poles at the corners of the turn. Grief, what did we hit?!? I go into the "Mega" store with smaller shops downstairs, and one huge "Kmart-like" store upstairs. An English speaking employee gives me simple directions from the map I have in the camping book and I convince Ro to drive there. Its right on the "hotel row" of the beach with crazy partying people in the streets of bumper to bumper cars. Right next to the Hilton Hotel, we f-i-n-d the RV park . . . only it's emergency gate is locked and we can't find the main entrance. Ro temporarily stops at a side street intersection and I trot over to see if I can find the entrance or ask at the Hilton desk. To no avail . . . and Roland is way stressed out by being in the RV with honking cars all around and me being off in the dark by myself. He's no happier when I tell him we have to go back to the "Mega" store parking lot to sleep.

Once back to the parking lot, we haven't even started the drama yet. We want to roll up the car's windows while we sleep and find the battery (yes, the brand new one from Sears) is dead. After disconnecting the car, we jump it with the RV. Nothing . . . and we realize that the jump has blown out the brake lights on ALL vehicles.

Now we attempt to contact the "Good Sam" vehicle road service that we joined just for this kind of situation. Finally getting one of our cell phones to connect, they call us back in an hour to tell us they have no roving mechanics and they will send a tow truck in the mornin'. Oh, swell. Ro tells me he plans to drive on without the lights and get to Chapala. I know that when I'm upset, my chemistry changes and I'm confused, indecisive and insecure. It took all my focus, spiritual attention and literally "letting go" of everything . . . to finally fall asleep.

I awoke at 6am, when Ro was moving around. I'd lived thru the night and after a quick breakfast, we're on the road (with lots of prayers for those driving behind us). The sun is shining and although uncomfortable, I'm feeling hopeful and strong, guided and protected.

Whew . . . we were off again . . . on the road . . . and todays gotta be a better day!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Ahhhhhhhhh, The Sea of Cortez

We drive a long and hard nine hours from our border encounter. Well, save one of the RVs who "needed" to stop for breakfast in Santa Ana, Sonora at Elba Restaurant. It was populated by many Mexicans and families ... a good sign and a decent breakfast.

Finally our fearless leader takes an exit and we follow along the nicely paved road. Within 6 or 7 miles we see palm trees and off to the left - YES - the pure azule of the Sea of Cortez. The Totonaka RV Park was a pleasure especially compared to the Nogales site! The area was extremely clean, most everything was painted white, and a variety of swaying lush green trees offered cool shade on the sites.

Our peer caravaners, who have done this trek 35 years pull into their favorite sites close to the exit (for the 6am exit) and are set up talking to people around and sipping cocktails. But us novices - we were probably entertainment for their "happy hour". First, Ro tades off and gets "stuck" where he can't turn around (because we can't back up with the particular kind of braking system we have on the PT Cruiser we are towing) and so we have to unhitch the entire car. Next, we try to find a slot along the roadway like one of our buds did. The RV lot owner comes running out to tell us we can't park going that direction. Ok, we wander around the farther away, more private vacant spots and we locate one with a lovely wide tree offering a nice pool of shade for us. Ro begins connecting all the lines - AND - yep, out runs this woman towards us telling us she just signed up and paid for that site. Roland probably could have killed her, but he rapidly re-packed the lines and we swong around to another site. Are you laughing yet? But we couldn't hook up the car in this particular site (and you don't want to be hooking up the vehicle you are towing at 5:30am). So I point him to another site and he vehemently parks it and says he's NOT moving again. I gently navigate the lil' red PT into a position that affords us space to hook up the hitch and heave a giant SIGH. Finally, we have a location!

Off come the clothes in trade for beach wear and - ZOOM - we three are headed to the beach!!! We stop for a photo op at these gorgeous giant cacti puncuated by sun-bleached cow skulls (Georgia O'Keefe anyone?) and you can see how jublant Roland looks before we get to the sea (just a little sarcasm)? On the beach the sun is still warm and the caressing comfortable breeze, refreshing. Ro heads straight into the water and Cody spins and chases the waves. I'm smilin' and cracking up at my two boys antics!! Me, I'm scouring the beach for fascinating shells and actually, find the rocks and tiny pebbles more intrigueing. There is a huge diversity in rock types. Now I'm no geologist, but there are volcanic, granite-like, conglomerate types. Yes, I did bring a collection
back with me. My favorite shell was a cone-like shell who's bottom part had been warn partially off, and in the lil' caverns revealed by the opening inside were tiny, perfectly sized rocks 'squinched' into the caverns. And they would NOT come out, believe me I tried!

I waded and chased Cody some and then Ro 'n I just collapsed onto the beach, poking the pebbles for the most unusual "find". Cody, exhausted, had flopped half in the sand and the other half on my green pack, covering it with wet sand and a wet puppy. Who knows how long we stayed ... but it revived us. And we returned for dinner, another walk along the beach after dark for Cody - then early to bed.
While getting our breakfast down and final packing done before the 6am take off, we have a knock on our door. One of our peer caravaneers tells us they are leaving at 5:50am. Ok. Faster I go. We're there, ready and reporting for "duty" on time. And out we pull into the dark morn once again. Back onto the main highway south along Mexico's west coast, 15, even the stars are still out and visible (yes, the little white squiggle in the blue sky is a star when Elaine can't hold the camera still).

Let me forwarn you, this next 30 hours ahead hold the biggest adventure day of the drive down.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Approaching Mexico ~ The Border Crossing

We're on the road now ... I won't bore you with our first several stops in the US. From our last night arrivals and early morning wakings, we did see many of these such sunrises (this one from the Dessert Springs Walmart parking lot) and lots of cacti. Our first night was just past Los Banos, California, next was Dessert Springs, California and then, Tuscon, Arizona. When we finally reached Nogales, Arizona, we knew we were in a different place.

We found the RV camping park which turned out to be a very "modest" trailer park north of downtown. To scope out the neighborhood in daylight, for later walks (remember we have Cody, our Golden Retreiver with us) we begin past the trailers and are charged by two ferious pit bulls. We held our breath, WHEW, saved when the dogs spun around reaching their chains end. Ok, we'll walk towards the highway and with only permanent trailers here, our hopes of finding a group of RVs to caravan into Mexico fades.

Part of what I'm realizing about myself is, that I travel like a snail, my husband travels like a bullet. So this whole trip is affecting each of us differently. Me, I'm feeling so scattered I need to have some time to catch up with myself. I talk Roland into staying an extra day here (it wasn't easy).

So we have a leisurely morn, and take a drive into downtown Nogales. The small passenger vehicle and pedestrian border crossing is right there in town. There are a plethera of military visuals all over town, border police, police on horses, on bicycles, vehicles of camouflage and ATV vehicles from the desert creating a less than warm fuzzy atmosphere.

Two buildings were of interest, this court house, now a university had beautiful stone work. We'd hoped to find an internet cafe but laughed at our nieve-ness (I have to tell you that as I'm typing this I'm in Mexico and my spell check is only in SPANISH, so you'll have to forgive spelling errors). But back at the trailer park a small RV has pulled into the slot next to us and - YES - they are meeting another RV and driving across the border in the morning. THANK GOD we waited an extra (do I hear a faint "I'm being taken care of" echo in the wind?) We have found our "caravan".

These people take off at 6am, so I'm up at 4am to do my yoga and meditation
(can't let this slip away, I need it now more than ever). And in the dark of the unlit morn, we follow two RV lights towards the Mexico border.

You first cross over the border very unannounced. Then in a mile or so, we came across the first marked stop. But not alot occured, just waived us thru. After about 17 miles we come across the major crossing. All three of us RVs park in their ample lot and walk into the bowels of Mexican bureaucracy, hoping we remembered all the necessary papers. We need registration to both vehicles, passports, drivers licenses, Mexican insurance, and papers from our vet stating Cody had had all appropriate shots and been de-wormed.

There are three different stages. First, where you fill out the personal info and intention of the visit which is inside and nicely heated. Next stop is outside at a glass window where copies are made of all papers. By now I'm getting pretty cold, remember it's 6am in the high desert. By the time we reach the third window, also outside, where we are to have permits created for both vehicles, make payments for that process and are given receipts (we were lucky to have both vehicles with both our names on the registration, as they allow only ONE person to have one vehicle on each Mexican permit). At this stage there is probably around a dozen of us waiting in these lines, all speaking English and shivering, making jokes to ease the tension and chill. I'm counting my blessings that we had our "caravan" buddies coaching us along thru these stages, telling us what the Official wanted and what to do. We return to the first desk (inside again, hurrah) and they verify our receipts etc. Finished!!

Successfully getting all border crossing papers, we trek back to our vehicles. One of our peers reads his thermometer, telling us its freezing!!! No wonder we are shivering!!! Cody greets exhuberantly, we don't know if its because he's happy or needs a walk but who cares.

Anyway, from here we are off into the mysterious, exciting and unknown world in Mexico.