Mérida or Bust — Day Six: Junction, TX, to Laredo, TX

Total Kilometres to Drive: 5,400

Kilometres Driven Today: 350

Total Kilometres Driven: 2,855

Kilometres Left: 2,545

Amount of Trip Completed: 52.87%

What would have been a great night in Junction was ruined by the obnoxious family in the next room that let their kids run wild screaming and slamming doors till well past 11:30. I had no empathy for the child who woke me up twice in the middle of the night while he was having night terrors. I can be petty as the rest of them and I was slamming my own doors and blaring the TV when I got up at 7:00 and straight through till I left at 10:30 after completing a small job.

Texas is the northern Ontario of the US, about 90 billion kilometres long and today’s stretch was just as open and frustrating to drive because, despite the high speed limit, folks were apparently out on Sunday drives. There was a long stretch of cornfields that would have once upon a time reminded me of Iowa, but this time reminded me of Serbia. I stopped in Leakey to take on fuel, regretting not doing so in Junction since I paid a whopping $2.50 per gallon, the same price as in Montana!

As the day turned into afternoon, I bitterly regretted not wearing lighter clothes, even if it had been chilly in Junction. By the time I saw a Dairy Queen in Carrizo Springs around two I was ready to strip down anywhere I could stop and to have an ice cream for lunch! I pulled into the parking lot, rummaged around my suitcases, and came up with sandals and a skirt. I pulled the latter on over my jeans and then took off my jeans, disappointing the sleazy trucker who was expecting a show. Back in a tee, flowy skirt, and sandals, I immediately felt like myself again… and once again debated the wisdom of driving 2,500KM into the tropics in a truck with no AC…

It was just a quick stop and then I drove straight through to Laredo, although it was pretty unsteady going all the way down. My GPS had the wrong address for the hotel, so it took me a bit to find it, which was very frustrating since traffic was heavy. I finally found it and then promptly went back out to find a Walmart, a Bank of America, and a “casa de cambio” to buy pesos.

Laredo is very unpleasant to drive around in because the interstate goes right through it, so you have to drive miles out of your way to get to something across the street from you. I had to do the bank first and so had to drive by the Walmart and casa de cambio, then go all the way back around to hit those two before returning to the hotel.

Walmart was a zoo and I’m so glad I had most of my shopping done already. As I was pulling out, I saw the Office Depot and kicked myself for having left the computer at the hotel since I had something to print out.

As for the the casa de cambio, I just went to one that I had spotted on the way to the bank. At the “official” exchange rate online, I should have gotten 3,500MXN for my 190USD and I got 3,300MXN, which seems fine to me since you never get the “official” rate. It wasn’t worth the hassle to shop around.

I got back to the hotel, grabbed my computer, and went to ask the front desk clerk if there was somewhere closer that I could print my documentation for the Mexico truck insurance. He offered to print it for me and didn’t charge me!

I went back out to the Whataburger around the corner to get a quick supper since I was curious about this Texas establishment, even if the last thing I wanted for dinner was a burger. The burger might have been good had it been hot, but the onion rings and coffee milkshake hit the spot.

Now, I need to spend about an hour and a half doing a small job before trying to hit the sack early. The border at Colombia doesn’t open until eight, so I don’t plan to head out till about 7:15. I’ll have about a six-hour drive to my destination, so as long as I clear the border by ten, I’ll have plenty of time to reach Matehuala before dark.

So I’m just barely halfway to Mérida. My budget has thus far been frightfully on track. It’s been a very long time since I’ve been so tight and I really don’t like it. In some ways, I wish I had hung out in Amarillo and worked until some of my May money started coming in, but I’d calculated that I had enough to get there with what I had in the bank when I left Haven and I still do. But I’ll definitely need to tighten the purse strings when I arrive and work my butt off for the second half of May and all of June before I can even start to think of having any real fun. And even then, I have to start saving for renting and furnishing a house in November. It never ends! 🙂

I have been doing this trip on the cheap when it comes to fuel, but hotels and fuel aren’t easy to save on. I’m back to super pricy fuel tomorrow, have an unimaginable amount of tolls facing me, and Mexican hotel prices are comparable to north of the border. I’ll definitely be happy to land on Friday and stop the financial bleed. But…

This adventure is so worth it. I don’t think I’ll ever want to do this drive again, at least not alone and/or at this pace, but I’m so grateful that I was able to choose to go to Mérida this way.

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!