Mérida or Bust — Day Five: Amarillo, TX, to Junction, TX

Total Kilometres to Drive: 5,400

Kilometres Driven Today: 635

Total Kilometres Driven: 2,495

Kilometres Left: 2,905

Amount of Trip Completed: 46.2%

So here is the ridiculous hotel where I spent the last couple of nights, the Camelot Suites:

Not my picture; it was too gross out to take one! My room was at the far left corner under the tower and Moya was parked where you see the silver car.

This is a one-star hotel. The top part is closed, the west wing is, according to friendly Brenda at the front desk a “seniors’ home” with long-term residents, and the first floor of the east wing has room for nightly guests. My expectations were low for 47CAD a night, but I was very pleasantly surprised. It’s obvious that they haven’t spent any money they absolutely didn’t have to spend in my room, but everything that needed updating and to keep the room from feeling grotty was updated, including the carpet, mattress and soft furnishes, and most of the bathroom except the tub (which was fine). The room was really big, it had a mini fridge, and the heat, which I needed, worked well. I was grateful to have a couch to work from since the table and chairs weren’t a suitable work station. Add in the superb morning coffee and I don’t have a thing to nitpick about. I could have easily spent a week in that room without getting sick of it. There was an Overlook Hotel feel to the long corridor leading to the immaculate lobby, though…

The room was MUCH nicer than this hallway might lead you believe!

I had a job to finish for tonight and was delighted that I slept through the night (the first time I did that in weeks) and was up early enough to finish the job with time to spare before checkout, even with taking the time to enjoy my delicious coffee! I was in no hurry to leave since it was snowing pretty hard. This is what cemented my decision to leave — the weather was getting worse, not better, and I didn’t want to face construction and traffic on a Monday morning.

The wind was blowing hard and nasty when I left around eleven. I had a longer driving day ahead of me than I was keen on, but the pickings between Amarillo and Laredo had been slim. I want a short day into Laredo tomorrow, so Junction with a very well reviewed inexpensive motel made the most sense.

My first stop of the day was for more coffee and a bathroom at the McDonald’s in Plainview. By that point, I was regretting wishing for blue sky because while I finally had sun, it was blowing hard. It was so bad that I couldn’t even dig through the passenger side of the car to get my shoes so I could take off my rain boots — everything kept blowing out of the truck!

The drive to my next stop, Post, for fuel was very unpleasant and I saw a caravan’s worth of smart RVers pull over and seek shelter from the wind. The scenery was not particularly memorable, much more like the plains than desertic Arizona at the same latitude, but there were a kazillion windmills dotting the landscape. I was happy to see them.

I decided to detour slightly to the Walmart in Sweetwater to shop for a few items on my list to save me time in Laredo tomorrow. I was thrilled to find both of my favourite pairs of Earth Spirit sandals available in my size. Some people might find me stupid to buy a pair of them a year, but I go through my shoes quickly no matter what price I pay for them. These are super comfy, high quality, suitable to the Mexican climate, and cheap enough for it not to hurt to replace them regularly. I also got a few tee shirts and some toiletries, including sunscreen, which I’ll need starting tomorrow as I’ll finally be moving to tee shirts! I have to remember to pick up truck oil in Laredo tomorrow. I was tired today and didn’t feel like cutting back all the way across the store to get it. 🙂

After Sweetwater, I just drove. My GPS took a different route than what Google suggested and took me through San Angelo and then had me turn south at Eden. Despite doing less mileage than Google said I did and having super high speed limits the whole way, the trip, not counting detours, still took a whole hour more than Google estimated. It’s rare that Google is that far off! Even in Mexico, it is very good at estimating realistic driving times.

I checked in and asked for a recommendation for a restaurant open on a Sunday that I could walk to. I was directed to La Familia, a short distance away. It’s a Tex-Mex joint and exactly what I wanted since I couldn’t leave Texas without having fajitas.

I ordered this pretty thing to sip on while I perused the menu (even though I knew what I wanted) and munched on totopos and very spicy red sauce:

Can you see what’s “wrong” with this picture?

I declare fajitas my favourite American food. YUM!

These were a little light on the peppers (which were sweet, by the way), but super heavy on the onions, which I like even better. 🙂 The chicken had a wonderful flavour and the guacamole was almost as good as mine. There was a bit too much for one meal, but not enough for leftovers after I’d eaten so lightly all day and was famished. So I just took my time and got through it all. 🙂

Coming home, I spotted this sign that could be placed in front of C&C’s house. Just replace “Junction” with the name of our hamlet!

Now, I need to sort out a bunch of stuff to arrive organised in Laredo tomorrow. Most importantly, I have to buy my Mexican truck insurance and find a place to print the documents (it might actually be easier to get the printer out of the truck…). I also have to find a hotel that won’t have me drive all the way across Laredo tomorrow only to have to drive all the way back on Tuesday morning since I’m crossing a little ways to the northwest of the city at a quieter crossing. Finally, I need to research that crossing and make sure I know exactly where it is. By the way, I refuse to get myself worked up over the crossing or to procrastinate on getting it over with. I have no reason to stay in Laredo more than a night and I firmly plan to be in Matehuala on Tuesday night!

Mérida or Bust — Day Four: It’s Sleetailowing in Amarillo, TX

I picked the perfect rest/work day. The weather has been some of the worst I’ve experienced in my life! It’s been sleeting/snowing/hailing/howling since last night. I would not have wanted to be on the road in this mess. Work is progressing steadily, but I’m actually considering staying a third night or at least requesting a late checkout tomorrow so I don’t have to work insanely late.

The hotel here was a really good choice. Despite being right by the interstate, it was dead quiet last night. I have good blackout curtains and while the bed is harder than I’d like, the mattress is good and not lumpy. So all that to say, I slept well. There was really good coffee waiting for me in the lobby when I got up and danishes so fresh and delicious I couldn’t resist! There’s really nowhere nearby to walk to get coffee and my coffee maker is buried somewhere in the truck, so I was very grateful this morning that I didn’t have to expend any effort to get a delicious brew.

I did go out at lunch to pick up a pizza at the Domino’s next door (almost blowing into Oklahoma as I raced across the parking lot) and then I screwed my courage to the sticking-place and drove less than 2KM roundtrip to pick up something quick for dinner. Yes, I drove that teeny distance. If that’s not proof of how vile the weather is, I don’t know what is!

Mérida’s insanely hot and humid forecast is looking so good right now. But, of course, I’m expecting to land when the temps are going to drop and rain is going to start. Seriously. I’m trying to figure out what Mother Nature is trying to tell me!

Mérida or Bust — Day Three: Castle Rock, CO, to Amarillo, TX

Total Kilometres to Drive: 5,400

Kilometres Driven Today: 630

Total Kilometres Driven: 1,860

Kilometres Left: 3,540

Amount of Trip Completed: 34.44%

It can be freaky how much people know about me because of what I write on the blog, but it also means hosts can make me a lovely dinner to my taste and serve me delicious things like this toasted coconut beer:

I may have fallen in love last night. 😀

I went to bed pretty early and was out the door by about 6:35. My host and some friends meet at Panera’s at 7:30, so I went there to get coffee and do internet stuff before she arrived so she could make some introductions. I forgot how expensive Panera is, but their coffee is good (I had a huge plain coffee, then a refill of hazelnut!) and they owed me a free birthday brownie. 🙂

I had to take a picture of this really odd coloured sky:

Pike’s Peak in the distance

My host showed up around 7:30 with goodies for the road — homemade cinnamon buns — with raisins! It wasn’t until I dug into them this afternoon that I realised there was chocolate in the bag too. 😀

By the time I left Panera’s it was about nine, much later than I’d planned to leave since I knew there was bad weather incoming and I was going to lose an hour. But I also had the wonderfully fast US interstate speeds working in my favour and only a six-hour drive to Amarillo. So I didn’t stress the late departure.

Of course, I didn’t make it far before the coffee had its revenge. I needed fuel anyway, so I picked an exit at random in Colorado Springs.

As it turned out, it was the exit with the Walmart on Razorback Road. So I popped in there to use the bathroom and get a gallon of drinking water, a Chap Stick, and a 98-cent pair of flip-flops. I love it when I can maximise a stop like that. I then went to a conveniently located gas station to get fuel. Fuel prices have been great, by the way, $2.50/gallon to start in Montana and I’m now at $2.19/gallon in Texas.

Some time later, stopped at a rest area in Colorado City, just after Pueblo:

(How are y’all liking the few photos I’ve taken so far on this trip? That’s my “new” iPhone 6 hard at work. I think I’m going to retire my beloved Pentax except for when I’m hiking or in a context where there is a possibility of breakage. I can’t believe the picture quality difference compared to my iPhone 5C!)

The sky was starting to look ominous. I didn’t dilly-dally and instead drove determinedly to and over the Raton Pass (7834 feet or 2388 meters elevation) into Raton, New Mexico. There, I stopped for a very quick bite since it started to snow! This was the real start of my adventure since I was heading east towards Texas instead of going southwest towards Albuquerque and Santa Fe.

The snow didn’t follow me, but very hard rain did. The sky cleared a tad as I crossed the Texas state line, but that didn’t last. I got a break long enough to not drown as I got fuel in Dalhart, but I came into Amarillo in pouring rain that is going to last all weekend. I think I’m travelling with a dark cloud over my head or something…

It had been a super easy day of driving to that point and the time had flown by. But Amarillo was a nightmare not dissimilar to Montreal, with tons of construction and piss-poor signage. My GPS somehow managed to find my hilarious looking hotel (I’ll share a pic after I checked out). My room was a ridiculous 47CAD for the night (booking.com “genius member” perk), so I had very low expectations. Therefore, I was delighted to find a very clean and recently updated room with a fresh bathroom, good WiFi, a mini fridge, and the ability to back up right to my door. Soon as I confirmed that I had enough work to fill tomorrow, I paid for a second night!

I was famished by this time and there was no way I was getting back into my truck, what with the mess of construction outside, even if it was pouring rain. So I pulled on my rain gear and schlepped across the street, under the overpass, and a ways left to the Cracker Barrel (less than 1KM distance). Every time I decide on Cracker Barrel for dinner, I think, “Rae, you’re smarter than that,” and every time, I come out delighted and with no regrets. You just have to order smartly. Tonight, I had a pork chop (honey mustard on the side), with mac & cheese and their brand new Brussels sprout and kale salad! OMG, that was so delicious. 🙂 I’ve been insatiably parched for days and two of their not-too-sweet and made with real lemons lemonade helped immensely with that. I got a third to go to enjoy tomorrow (no extra charge!). 🙂

So I’m in Amarillo through to Sunday morning. Laredo is a much too long hop from here, so I’ll stop somewhere partway that will let me get to Laredo not too late on Monday and have time to do any final preborder things I need to do (like get truck insurance and pesos). That would put me crossing the border on Tuesday, May 2nd, and, as long as things continue to go so smoothly, I’ll be in Mérida by this time next week!

I just hope this weather stops. Pardon the French in this, but isn’t Siri a great personal assistant?! 😀

Mérida or Bust — Day Two: Douglas, WY, to Castle Rock, CO

Total Kilometres to Drive: 5,400

Kilometres Driven Today: 400

Total Kilometres Driven: 1,230

Kilometres Left: 4,170

Amount of Trip Completed: 22.78%

I had a super slow morning in Douglas, just enjoying the supremely comfy bed. A fairly meagre breakfast was provided, but there were make-your-own waffles, which I have to confess I rather enjoy! 🙂 I shut down the computer at about 10:00, but that failed because I needed to save a document. That turned out to be a good thing since I caught an email asking me to take a rush job! I had just enough time to do the job and still checkout on time (11:00).

The weather was quite nice as I pointed Moya south towards Wheatland, where I planned to get fuel. I stopped just before at the Dwyer Junction rest area, which was smartly set up to be accessible from either direction of I-25.

After Wheatland, I drove into a storm. Rain turned to slush and my windshield wipers became useless. I considered getting off at the next exit because I could barely see, but I was in the middle of nowhere and there was no traffic. It made more sense to limp into Cheyenne at about 40KPH with the four-way flashers on. This way, if the weather got worse, I’d be in a position to hunker down. But by the time I was done with lunch, the weather was clearing and I was rewarded with bright blue sky when I crossed the Colorado border.

All was going well until Denver, where there was a huge accident. I’m pretty sure I could have crossed the city faster on foot… Like last year, I was really grateful for my GPS. That delayed me enough that I gave up on my idea of going to the Apple store to see if they might be able to fix my keyboard and just drove straight to my destination. I’m staying with one of you lovely readers tonight.

There is more bad weather incoming, so I’m hoping to be on the road to Texas early tomorrow. I’m really liking the forecast in Amarillo!

Mérida or Bust — Day One: Haven to Douglas, WY

Total Kilometres to Drive: 5,400

Kilometres Driven Today: 830

Total Kilometres Driven: 830

Kilometres Left: 4,570

Amount of Trip Completed: 15.37%

Google says I did 871KM, but my odometre says 830KM.

Okay, I know I have A LOT to catch up on. What I’ve concluded from the last week is that it is no longer possible for me to be “semi-online.” My 10 months in Europe have made me accustomed to living in the 21st century and I’m lost without access to Siri and the ability to be able to do what needs doing online when I need to do it. It has nothing to do with not being able to unplug, which I absolutely can do, just not in the context of trying to plan an international move! I was so discombobulated and disorganised this past week. 🙁

I am going to try do proper backdated posts about the myriads of things I had to do to prepare to leave this morning, but here’s the short of it:

-I returned to Haven late last Tuesday night, thanks to my neighbours C&C picking me up in Regina;

-I stayed with C&C so that I could more easily pack up (never mind that Haven had no power, water, or Internet). They have tons of room and a similar routine to me so this worked out super well;

-Caroline kept me well fuelled with one delicious meal after another. Here’s the brunch she made for the two of us on Sunday, what she calls an “apple pancake,” but which I find is more like an apple upside down cake even if the apples end up floating to the top:

-I had some work done on Moya to ready her for her final epic voyage. Among the things I tasked my mechanic to resolve is why my overhead light stays on, requiring me to pull the fuse when I park lest I drain the battery. That wound up being harder to diagnose than expected, so he told me to keep pulling the fuse like I’ve been doing and gave me this to make it easier:

car fuse puller

I was suitably amused by his solution, especially since he didn’t charge me for poking around;

-I was able to renew my driver’s license, but it didn’t come before I left so now I have to figure out how to get it to Mexico (my host in Chelem suggested I have it sent to her in Ontario for her bring it down in the fall rather than have it couriered to Mexico);

-I got my property tax assessment and went to town ready to pick a fight because I thought that the amount was a mistake at best or a cash grab at worst. Turned out that the number was real and reflects the current market. So Haven is now valued at 5.35 times what it was valued the last couple of years and I’ve been assured I will only get a token property tax increase. Looks like the expected real estate boom has started!!!

-The traitorous weather was not conducive to packing:

It was freezing in Miranda and I was not able to give her a cleaning before taking off again. By the way, I had some serious mouse damage (my scarf drawer was decimated), so that’s another reason I couldn’t have stayed in Miranda since she needed serious disinfecting.;

-All the Tetris I played as a kid paid off. There isn’t an ounce of space left in the truck:

Here’s how I loaded the cab, filling it with boxes…

And then stuffing soft items into the gaps:

I got about 95% of my most prized possessions into the truck! I’m not that disappointed since I’m headed into a humid climate and so it doesn’t make sense to bring all my journals, photo albums, and the rest of the books into that climate until I fully commit to it. I am going to have to fully unpack when I get to Chelem otherwise I risk packed items moulding over the summer.

So today was departure day. I’d hoped to leave yesterday, but that was a moving target and I was fine with leaving as late as Friday. For one thing, I desperately wanted one day before departure where I could just stop to sit for a moment and think about anything I might have forgotten. I managed to get the afternoon and evening off.

Caroline made her amazing homemade pizza (with homemade venison salami!) for dinner so I could have leftovers for my drive today! After dinner, she and I sat down at her computer so I could show her a few things. She has moved to a Mac and has had basically no learning curve. I’m so proud of her and happy that she now has a computer that works well so we can keep in touch better. It’ll also be so much easier to help her troubleshoot issues, although based on an email she sent me today, I think she’ll be able to handle many of her own issues. We then played cards, visited a bit with my immediate neighbours K&T, and I ended up going to bed way, way, way, way too late, well past midnight.

I wanted to be up at 6:30, but was, of course, awake at 5:00. I got up around 6:15 and was delighted to find Charles up and the coffee already perking. The border didn’t open till 8:00 and I had less than an hour drive there, so I sat for a bit before dressing and putting the last of my bags in the truck, as well as mug of coffee for the road.

Goodbyes are always difficult, but we all three vowed to see one another again in two years in Mexico!!!

Standing by the truck, looking east. Goodbye, Canada, it’s been good knowing you, but I’m heading somewhere new…

I made a pit stop in Coronach and got to the border at 8:30. Based on my experience recently at airports, I made the decision to cross while wearing a wig rather than a headscarf. The atmosphere at the crossing was very different than it was under the Obama years, much more no nonsense than conversational and friendly. For example, I was greeted with “Passport?” rather than, “Hi! How are you today?” I was asked the usual questions about where I was going, where I live, did I have any ATF, etc. All seemed to be going well, but soon as the officer opened the rear of the truck, he asked me to step outside and go into the waiting room. There, he had me fill out a customs form. As I did so, I overheard him say to someone, “This one is going to take a while.”

Well, at least they weren’t making me unpack the truck, but, dang, I’d forgotten my coffee! When the officer came back after just a few minutes to get my declaration, I asked if I could get the coffee and he said, “We’ll be done in a few minutes.”


Sure enough, he had me back in the truck a minute later, at most 12 minutes from the time I’d started the interview! The last thing he said to me was, “You wrote a book?” which tells me that they have Rae as an alias on file for me, that he Googled me, and that whatever he found told him that I likely was not carrying contraband or otherwise a threat (by the way, I had provided him an inventory of what I have in the truck).

One of the questions I was asked was how I plan to support myself in Mexico and he didn’t seem happy with my answer that I was going to work there for myself and that Mexico was satisfied with that. My answer should have been, “That’s what made it possible to get my residency visa.” He also asked me if I’m keeping a Canadian bank account and it was obvious that he liked my answer that I am not cutting ties with Canada at this time.

So it was another absolutely uneventful and easy, it not particularly welcoming, entry into the US. I pointed Moya south, fuelled up in Scobey, then continued south towards Circle, where I made another pit stop, before pulling into a Wendy’s in Miles City at 12:30 to get some lunch (most of the pizza had been breakfast, with a bit left for an afternoon snack!), use their WiFi, and find a room for the night. The greeting there was so friendly and a reminder of why I’ve so enjoyed my travels to the US in the past.

After a bit of research, I decided to push on to Douglas, Wyoming, where I would land around 6:00. That was a much longer day than I wanted to do, but there aren’t a lot of cities in that part of Wyoming so I would either stop too late or too early. I’m staying with one of you lovely readers just south of Denver tomorrow and will have a relatively short (400KM) day from Douglas, so I can get a late start.

I just love this corner of the US, just rolling hills not unlike home. It was a very isolated drive, of course. I stopped in Broadus for fuel and coffee and then drove straight to Douglas, with only one pit stop at a rest area about 45 minutes from my destination. After weeks of GREY, it was amazing to get blue sky the deeper I got into Wyoming. There was a brief thundershower right before Douglas, but it cleared quickly.

The hotel rate I was quoted was 79USD. I asked if they had an “Exhausted Canadian driving to Mexico” rate and… got a 14USD discount. WOW! That covered some takeout and a beer for dinner. The liquor store is right next to the hotel and the lady there was super helpful and friendly in showing me what they had for single beers. Interestingly, I no longer get carded when I buy booze in the US so I must be starting to look my age at last… 🙂

I’m sure there should be more to this already novel-length post, but I’m ready to drop. Hopefully, I’m back to a more regular posting schedule. April really has been sheer madness. But I’m on my way!

I learned about this song just before heading down to Mexico for the first time. It no longer applies to me, but I love the tune. So here’s an earworm for you. 🙂