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?! 😀