Deming, NM, to Nogales, AZ

I had a decent stay in Deming. My hotel room at the Grand Motor Inn was really good and a bargain at $48. It was freshly renovated and the bed was super comfy. I got my best night’s sleep in a long while there. But I did not appreciate that they vacuumed from 8PM until well past when I finally fell asleep past 10PM. It didn’t stop me from going to bed, but it did make it hard to listen to the show I was trying to watch and it felt almost impossible to relax. So points off for that, but after such a good night’s sleep, I can forgive a lot!

The only real restaurant within walking distance was the one attached to the hotel and it was well rated, so I ate there. First time reviews have lead me completely astray. All but one thing in my meal were appallingly abysmal — the watery salad, the super cheap instant potato flakes covered in canned gravy, and the overheated frozen veg. But the steak was absolutely perfect by my standards, a sharp contrast to the rest of the meal. They at least got the important part right! Thanks, Ed and Linda, for commenting so late with restaurant suggestions. 😉 😉 😉

After dinner, I walked to the Walmart just for the leg stretch to see if they had what I wanted clothing-wise. Nope, it was all plus size cold weather gear, not a tee-shirt or a pair of sandals in sight. So that confirmed that I needed to stop in Benson today.

I had thought to do a lazy morning at the hotel, but was ready to go around 7:30. Or, rather, I wanted to hang out with a huge pot of coffee and a book. I didn’t even trust the coffee at the hotel restaurant (even though it smelled good) and didn’t feel like making my own, so I decided to drive to the IHOP down the street because I knew I could get a giant carafe of good coffee for just $2. After sitting for a bit, I decided to try their food for the first time and ordered two pancakes with bacon, which wound up being surprisingly good. Glad to know that a pancake house knows how to make pancakes! 😀

I left Deming just shy of 9:00 and headed for the Walmart in Benson, directly on my way to Nogales. I discovered it on the way to Nogales last year from Tombstone and like it a lot better than the one in Nogales. I got there around 10:30 local time, so 11:30 by my body clock.

Unfortunately, they also didn’t have any warm weather clothes. I guess Walmart stocks its stores the same regardless of the climate. 🙁 I did get one thing on my list, some comfy cheap capris to wear around the house. There were two identical size medium pairs in black, so I snagged both. At $3 a pair, I would have been silly not to! But I struck out on tee-shirts. They had lots of camis and tank tops, though. I also got all the things on my friends’ shopping list.

I then made a stop for lunch before pointing the truck towards Nogales. I like this drive a lot, off the interstate and through some windy and scenic backroads.

My first stop in Nogales was the post office, where there was a package waiting for me. I was amused that my driver’s license signed Rae was not good enough to prove that I’m Rae versus my legal name (it’s been good enough for banks and other post offices), but my business card was satisfactory!

The hotel was just a half mile from the post office and if it hadn’t been so dang HOT, I would have parked there and walked. It would have definitely been easier than driving. Nogales isn’t an easy to city to drive in.

Even though my reservation said check-in was at 3PM and it was only about 1:45PM, there was no problem with letting me have the room right away. I’d booked through Priceline.com and had followed up with a request for a quiet room preferably upstairs because I would have to work. The hotel is undergoing major renovations, so they put me up in a block at the back that is not in service yet, in a HUGE newly renovated room, and told me to make sure I ask if I need anything because they might forget I’m there! 😀 They also put in a proper desk and computer chair for me! Wow, talk about service! I also get a full cooked breakfast every morning, all for just $65 per night including the tax! I figure I can take advantage of breakfast by monitoring emails on my phone as I walk to the restaurant and bring my laptop there to do any assignments that come in.

I just wanted to crash by this point and not have to go out again for a bit, so I went right back to my truck and drove to Mariposa Road to run a few more errands. First stop was Don Smith Insurance, where they still had me on file. I got a liability only policy with legal coverage for $127, roughly the same price as last year in USD. I was in and out in probably two minutes!

Next stop was Safeway, literally next door, to get some lunchy and snacky stuff to make simple meals in my room. I also got a six-pack of Bud Light and have four nights to get through six beers… 🙂 Final stop was Panda Express for dinner.

I’m ready to drop; it’s been such a long weekend! But I’m so pleased I made it here without incident! I start work in 12 hours (5AM), so I’ll be turning in very, very, very soon.

Nogales, AZ, to Silver City, NM

I got my work done this morning, then went to Walmart to get a SIM card for my phone. That did not work out and that’s all I’m going to say beyond the fact that I haven’t missed shopping at Walmart. 😀

Fuel was $2.39/gallon and I took on 12.5 gallons ($30), which was almost three quarters of a tank and plenty to get me to today’s destination. It was weird to pump my own! I had to go in an pre-pay and did that in Spanish, too, adding yet another new linguistic accomplishment. 😉

I pulled out of Nogales around noon local time and headed for Silver City, New Mexico. I knew that there is a huge Walmart in Benson not too far from I-10 right on my route, so that was my first destination.

Coming up to Benson, there was a customs check point…

The two cars ahead of me slowed down and were waved through without stopping.

I was not waved through, so I stopped and quickly removed my sunglasses. I was asked how I was doing, given a once over, and told to go on. Much more pleasant than my inland customs encounter in Texas that I never blogged about.

Walmart in Benson had the Go Phone SIM cards, but no refills. I figured I could just buy the refill online with a credit card…

While there, I had a look at shoes because I wanted to replace the pretty walking sandals I wore right through this winter. The pair I bought in Mexico are good for short trips, but not long walks, and so a good pair of walking sandals I can wear with dresses and skirts was on the budget for this trip. Walmart has the exclusive North American distributorship for the very high quality, yet inexpensive, ‘Earth Spirit’ brand and I had a look at what they had in Benson. I found the exact model I just wore through in a different colour (neutral beige) and they had one pair left in my size for just $19! That was a no brainer of a purchase!

From Benson, I continued on to Willcox to use the internet at McDonald’s to set up the phone.

That didn’t work out too well seeing as you can’t buy time online with a Canadian credit card. So my phone is a brick until I can get a refill card. Thankfully, there’s a Walmart here in Silver City, so I’ll check there in the morning.

The landscape driving east along I-10 was much like my beloved rolling hills of southern SK, but the hills were a tad higher. Lots of olive green and bright blue sky.

Texas Canyon was amazing!

These rock formations are amazing!

These rock formations are amazing!

IMGP1174

Not even the most impressive!

Not even the most impressive!

Before I knew it, I only had five states left to visit…

Five states left!

Five states left!

!!!

!!!

I stopped at the New Mexico welcome centre, but it was, of course, too late in the day and it was closed.

It was spitting rain by the time I got to Silver Springs and cold. I had to pull out closed shoes, socks, and my heavy coat!!!!!!

Needless to say, I was not going to sleep in my truck. So I took a room at the cheapest place in town, which was NOT cheap, more than 50USD, the Motel 6. But it’s a rather nice room, with hardwood floors rather than carpet and there’s a fridge and microwave. I have a budget for this trip and if I run out before the four weeks is up, I run out and I rush home, that’s all there is to it.

So I got, in logged into my email, and found a HUGE out of the blue rush project waiting for me. Huge as in I have to type all day Weds, Thurs, and Fri if I want to get it done by the deadline. Needless to say, I’m getting a motel in Truth or Consequences tomorrow for up to a week, depending on the rate!

Pizza sounded good for dinner since I could have cold leftovers with coffee for breakfast. I was happy that there’s a Little Caesar’s here as that meant supper and breakfast for under 6USD and, as I’ve said in the past, I think their pizza is very decent.

Tomorrow, I am going to the Gila Cliff Dwelling National Monument. It is the only thing in New Mexico that I have to see. Not quite a bucket list item, but it’s something I’ve wanted to visit for a long time. I’ll then move on to Truth or Consequences. Lovely readers are expecting me after that in Albuquerque, then Santa Fe (thank you!), so my route is taking on a life of its own.

Even with hills and wind today, my gas mileage was at normal levels. I can’t believe the improvement!

Comfortable

I think I might have mentioned it once or twice of the winter that the Isla casa didn’t have a comfortable spot for relaxation since both the bed and sofa were hard.

As some of you may have noticed, I have a somewhat leaner profile than when I first started blogging. It might have also been quite obvious that I am an apple shape, with all my weight concentrated in the abdomen area. To get a semblance of a waist, I had to lose weight everywhere else first. The end result was knobby knees, hips, shoulders, and buttocks that desperately need not just padding, but also springiness.

Working this winter was pretty much agonizing. Even after adding a cushion to the computer chair I bought, it wasn’t enough. It felt like I was sitting on daggers, hence why I had such a hard time focusing for long stretches of time. The gals on my weight loss support forum told me to look for a doughnut cushion so that the bones would not press on anything, but I couldn’t find one in Maz.

After so much pain during the day, work was finally done and my only options for relaxing were the sofa, which didn’t have a single soft spot, or the bed, which was barely better. I was okay leaning back on pillows, but not sitting up, and I had to learn to sleep on my back since there was too much pressure on my knees, hips, and shoulders on my side and I would wake up with bruises.

So I spent most of the evening last night at the desk on the computer doing emails and answering blog comments until my behind had firmly enough of all the abuse (the truck seat is no longer comfortable either) and I was tired anyway. So I went to bed and…

OH.

It was like sinking into heaven. The mattress was thick and had lots of give. I could roll over without all my knobby bits hitting a hard surface. For the first time in months, I was comfortable and not hurting. It’s amazing the things that the human body can get used to, isn’t it? Pain just became my new normal and I used walking to get out as many kinks as possible.

The room was quite dark and quiet and I fell asleep very fast. I woke up around 4:00 absolutely frozen, though, so I turned on the heat and went back to my comfy nest. I’m going to have to pull the flannel pajamas out of the truck and repack my overnight bag since I didn’t think to take into consideration cold nights when I was sorting my clothes.

It’s also quite cool this morning, so I threw a cardi on over my sundress to schlep down to the office for coffee (still very decent). I’m finishing up my breakfast, I need to get started on my work. I don’t plan to get far tonight and it will likely be a sleep in the truck night. After much deliberation, I have decided to skip Las Cruces and am heading for Truth or Consequences, as accommodation there is cheaper. Bu until I hear about work, there are no motels in my future, so I’m in no hurry to get there.

One Thing to Be Said About Nogales…

Nogales is a very good transition point for coming into and out of Mexico. American stores and prices, Spanish language. I checked into the motel, bought lunch, and did my grocery shopping all in Spanish. I was greeted in Spanish in all three locales and my accent was not sufficient to get a switch to English. I know people who would have been quite put upon by this, but I’m not ready to go back to English, so this suited me just fine. It’s nice to know that even over here, my Spanish is good enough.

The grocery store was a bit of a shock in terms of the price of some things, especially dairy. I thought the baked goods were expensive, but 0.59USD for a croissant is about 9MXN, what I’d pay at Panamá’s. The produce was lackluster, like I found it to be at the supermarkets in Mexico, but there was more variety.  I spent about 8USD and didn’t find that it went that far, one bagel, one banana, one apple, and three protein packs (cubed cheese and ham with nuts), even though I would have been pleased with the haul back in November.

It’s 8PM Maz time right now and I’m fading fast, so I’m going to get to have a snack and get to bed so I can get up at a decent hour tomorrow and get some work done. I still don’t know where I’m going, but I’m too tired to do any research, so hopefully I’ll have an hour to do that in the morning.

Just one last note, IT’S BLOODY COLD OUT THERE TONIGHT.

Adios, Mexico — or San Carlos to Nogales, AZ

I left the motel just past nine this morning and decided to drive into San Carlos for fuel since I was running on fumes and wasn’t certain when I’d encounter a Pemex on 15. I only had 800 pesos left and wasn’t sure what I was looking at for tolls, so I decided to take on just 500 pesos and then top up with the credit card if needed. It was 9:30 when I hit the open road and I hoped to be in Nogales by 4:00, 3:00 local time

I saw this weird truck (RV?) as I was getting on the road. From the front and side, it looks like a UPS-type truck.

I saw this weird truck (RV?) as I was getting on the road. From the front and side, it looks like a UPS-type truck.

The first part of the day went by fast. By the time I was just shy of Hermosillo, my coffee had caught up with me and I really needed a bathroom. I pulled into the first Oxxo I saw, grabbed a coffee, paid for with my last 13 pesos of change, and only then learned that they didn’t have a bathroom. I was told to try the Pemex at the next corner.

So I did. The bathroom was inside an Extra convenience store and the cost was five pesos. I used it and then went to the cash to let them know that I was going to have to pay the five pesos with a 100 peso note. The lady looked at me funny and said, “Didn’t you just fill up with fuel?” I answered in the affirmative and she said no charge. Before y’all judge me, not only did the bathroom not have paper, soap, running water at the taps, or seats, IT DIDN’T HAVE A DOOR. I think I get a pass on this one!

Hermosillo was still under construction, but the detour wasn’t too bad, except for the nearly Quebec-sized potholes along one short stretch.

Goodbye ocean/coast, hello desert!

Goodbye ocean/coast, hello desert!

Before I knew it, The Big Military Checkpoint just before Santa Ana was upon me. 18-wheelers were backed up several kilometres, but there was almost no lineup for cars. The guy ahead of me had Arizona plates, was asked what appeared to be about dozen questions, and was instructed to pull over.

I pulled up and was greeted in clear Spanish. We had the following exchange:

-“Where are you coming from?”
-“San Carlos.”
-“San Carlos! And where are you going?”
-“Nogales.”
-“Nogales!” Then something I didn’t catch.
-“Could you please repeat that?”
-This time I sort of got one word, “trae,” which I vaguely thought means carry. It actually means bring, so he was saying, “What are you bringing with you?”
-“You want to know what I have with me?”
-“Yes.”
-“Clothes and household things.”
-“Okay. Go ahead.”

So I did. Meanwhile, the guy who was ahead of me was being held at gunpoint while his vehicle was being searched!!!

I hit the E mark on the fuel tank just after the checkpoint, shocked that I’d made it that far. I can go quite some time on E without the you need gas now light coming on and having done nearly 300KM on a half tank already, I wasn’t stressed about running out of gas since the gas gods were obviously at work today. Can’t complain about my gas mileage so far!

I pulled into a rest area that had a Pemex and asked if they could take my credit card. The attendant asked me to show it to him and he said not a problem, but he’d have to run it through before pumping so I had to be sure about much I was putting in. Not a problem; this is just like pre-paying in Canada or the US. I then used the bathroom since I had a feeling it would be my last obvious opportunity before the border.

Driving through Santa Ana, I debated whether or not to stop for lunch and decided I wasn’t hungry. What a difference from when I came down, though, in that a) I wasn’t afraid to stop, and b) I saw tons of places I would have eaten at if I was hungry. When I came down, I didn’t know yet that the little roadside taco stands and such are okay to eat at.

Before leaving Mexico, you have to turn in your temporary vehicle import permit. Until this morning, I thought that meant having to go back into the immigration office/Banjercito and wait for ages to be served. But I got several comments that mentioned a booth and sure enough, there it was, well marked in advance for foreign-plated cars to get into the far right lane to turn in their permits. It was at most a five-minute wait to be served.

The attendant took my paperwork and then took photos of my license plate and a sticker on the inside of my door jamb that has the VIN number on it. She then scrapped the hologram off the windshield (leaving a nice mess), and that was that! Easy peasy. We’ll see how long it takes for the money to be returned to my credit card.

I’d checked the map before leaving this morning, so I knew to keep left when I hit Nogales. There was no signage for Nogales cuota or Mariposa Road or anything obvious to let you know the bypass was that way, just a sign in the other lane for Nogales downtown being that way.

I had to roll through the Mexican customs (nothing to do), then pay my last toll. Tolls today were 65 + 25 + 57 = 147 pesos, or about 12CAD.

Then, the border, and OMG. It was CHAOS. No lane markers, dozens of aggressive vendors, and tons of people weaving in and out trying to find the quickest path to the front of the line. I don’t think I could have handled it in an RV since signage for the RV lane was so slow to appear and I would have likely missed my turn for it. I arrived at 2:55 San Carlos time and just stayed in one spot, moving forward as I could. I got to the front of my imaginary line much more quickly than expected.

The customs official asked me for my plate type, which meant state because he didn’t realise he was holding a Canadian passport… He asked if I had any plants or produce and I said no. He said that they would have to check and to follow him to an inspection booth.

There, a very kind official promptly came over, asked me where I was coming from and where I was going, then informed me that I was being subject to an agricultural inspection. I made my declaration and then he said he had to go through all my stuff.

He had me open up the back, where I discovered that my tailgate isn’t opening again!!! WHAT?! He said that was okay, but I had to empty out everything and it was up to me to figure out how to do it without them needing to get a crowbar. I quickly replied that I never put the tailgate down while traveling and everything was packed to fit through the top (absolute truth). I began to pull out my bags and suitcases and crawled in to get the tote way at the back. I did not have to pull out the cot.

Let me pause here to say that I do NOT believe that emptying out the truck was an unreasonable request. Quite the contrary and I even packed for that eventuality making sure everything was containerized by category and that there were as few loose items as possible.

While I was getting my exercise, he was going through my bags and totes in the front and his partner was pulling off the lid off my tote from the back and just peering in before closing it.

I was then called over and the guy was holding up my chia seeds. My first thought, pardon the French, was “FUCK.” I declared them on the way down and was told that they were okay to bring across, so the thought of declaring them this way (not the same ones, I got more in Mexico) completely slipped my mind. I had declared no to seeds and was caught red handed. I told the guy all this and he said, “It’s okay, sweetie, but you got lucky that these are perfectly fine to bring across.” Yes, he called me ‘sweetie’!’

He then told me I could pack up and go. I just threw everything into the truck and took off. It was 3:24 when I was clear of customs, so the whole thing from arriving in line to being clear was just 29 minutes. Dang did it feel longer than that! But it was yet another very nice American border official (although his partner was rather Canadian in her business only, I don’t know how to smile attitude).

From the border, it was just a few minutes to the Motel 6, where I arrived just shy of four San Carlos time, or three local time!

Contessa wondered why I’m staying Nogales, and her question makes absolute sense to anyone who has been to Nogales. The answer is that any other options are too far away today and I really don’t feel like driving any further. It’s not like being in an RV and being able to pull over outside the city. Moreover, I have work to do in the morning and I knew that the rooms here would be clean, well suited to work with a proper desk, and with good wifi.

The rate was lower than in November, $42 with the taxes, so with the exchange rate about $50, same in CDN as in November. I asked for a room in the back, thinking it would be quieter, and got free wifi in exchange for giving them my email address. I am getting TelCel service, so I’m using up my Banda Ancha and Saldo Regalo, then will use the wifi.

After checking in with everyone, I went off in search of US cash and food. 100USD was 120CAD, OUCH. Because of the exchange rate being as bad as it is and my planning to be on the road for a full month, I am being mercilessly tight with my budget and am on a very strict spending schedule. I do have reserves for true emergencies, but otherwise, I have exactly as much as I anticipate gas and lodging will be, with about 10USD per day for food, however I want to spend that, and a little bit for incidentals and outings not covered by my Interagency pass.

I really don’t want to get home flat broke and am not on vacation the way I was in October. I am just trying to avoid getting home while it’s still cold and want you all to be prepared for the very likely eventuality that if the roads are passable through the mountains, I am going to decide to just get home already and start shooting north very fast. Vicki, I am still coming to visit if I choose to do this!

The good news is that I am a quarter of the way home already and even with the exchange rate, I’m now on inexpensive gas AND my gas mileage is greatly improved. I budgeted 1,000CAD for fuel. I knew that that was outrageous and that it shouldn’t be much more than 600 or 700CAD, but with the way I was burning through fuel on the way down, I wanted to be prepared. I spent 171CAD on the first quarter of my trip home at about 1.20CAD per litre. Arizona is at about 0.80CAD per litre right now, so I know that my fuel costs will be quite a bit less than 700CAD and nowhere nearly 1,000! I’ll have a better grasp on the number after I do another 1,000KM and I’ll be able to then release some funds back into the general budget for the end of the trip.

For food, I went to a restaurant I went to when I was here in November, ‘Panda Express’, which I think is a national chain. It’s American-Chinese food. I remembered being impressed by the crispy veggies and lean chicken, making for a decent and not too expensive takeaway option. I asked for one main course (grilled teriyaki chicken) and one side (steamed veggies), then accepted their offer to do half veggies, half chow mein (noodles) for the same price. The cost was about 6USD, which I thought was quite a good deal and the food was tasty and not too heavy. I really liked how tender crisp and generous the portion of broccoli, zucchini, celery, and carrots were and that it didn’t have that slimy coating veggies normally have at Chinese restaurants.

I’ll go down to Safeway in a bit and get a snack for tonight and something for breakfast. My only complaint about the rooms here is the lack of fridges and microwaves. I hope their coffee tomorrow will be as decent as it was in November so I don’t have to traipse all the way down to McDonald’s.

Checkout is noon tomorrow and then I will head east. I told clients I’ll be back at work Tuesday, so I’m hoping to get somewhere tomorrow where I’ll be able to get a decent weekly rate or that has super good nightly rates. I’m also considering not taking a motel and just working out of a library or something, but sleeping in my truck for a month is going to get old fast, so I wouldn’t mind starting the trip with one week at a motel and then roughing it for a bit. We shall see. Nothing is written in stone for the next four weeks, other than my visit to the South Dakota Black Hills!