The Journey – Part 2

Sierra de la Gavia, Mexico

sierraGImagine you get up one morning very early, say 5:30 and it is a Monday. You are putting the finishing touches on the last things for storage, the things to fill the backseat of your car and the final cleaning of your small junior one bedroom apartment. Getting the picture? Say in five or six hours time, that is accomplish and you put yourself into your car, grip the steering wheel and proceed to drive for SEVEN DAYS!!

Surely you are saying “Insanity”! Well sitting here and writing, the week of driving seems dreamlike, but day after day I pushed my body, mind and spirit to do just that, drive and drive and drive!!

From Albuquerque, New Mexico I drove only to Carlsbad, New Mexico. WOW, that was a bad choice, but I lived to push on! There was a travel discount hotel guide in my car and I thought oh, good, it had a hotel or two for Carlsbad. When I arrived there it was discovered the discount was for last year and they were not budging on price. So I looked for another, not mentioning any name but a motel that, advertises itself as “Luxury for reasonable prices”. WHERE the luxury was I could not detect. The toilet did not flush , there was no top sheet and the bottom sheet was about see through cheap! To top it off, going down the stairs , a man was walking up with an Uzi! I slept lightly and left before dawn!

On to Eagle Pass, Texas, the border crossing that I had calculated safety issues and prayed about. This was my first time to Eagle Pass and actually for a border town it was fairly “nice”, all things being relative. After the horror of Carlsbad lodging, I contacted a friend in the hotel industry and she arranged for me to have a VERY decent hotel in the border town, it was just months open and a welcome contrast to the night before.

In Eagle Pass, I had to change money, 500 dollars to pesos to get me through Mexico, get the now required by law insurance and an oil change. All those things went smoothly and took only about 2 hours. Amazing!! Weeks before I’d driven down to a small border crossing in New Mexico to get Mexican visa and car importation papers, so my Ford Focus dubbed, “Transport” , was already sporting the required sticker prominently on the front windshield.

After only a few hours sleep, hey, I AM confident in My Protector, but anxiety is natural for the task ahead, I drove across the border into Piedras Negras and it was before 7. There were no other cars, just one border official and one military person. He queried me about where I was going, I quickly said, “San Miguel”. This town was on the way and many foreigners live there amidst its colonial charm. He simply wave his hand and I was in, no opening of doors or trunk. This normally bustling pueblo was deserted that early in the morning and ever so easily I was through it and on to the open road heading south. There was one more MAJOR hurdle to pass and that is the inspection 25 miles in from any border crossing. When I rolled up upon it, to my shock and amazement there was NO ONE manning the location !! On the other side there was a massive line with military, I saw no one, so I just quickly drove on through one of the open gates and sailed on. This was major!! In the past I have been several hours as they have opened boxes, gone through stuff, questioned me. Can you just feel the relief and the favor of God NOT to have this but to proceed? Loudly and frequently I gave thanks to The Way Maker!!

The road was good, the scenery in some places really was spectacular. I’d never been in the state of Coahuila before and the mountain range Sierra de la Gavia is unique in the entire world. I had to stop and take some pictures, the magnificence of this creation lives in my memory. That first day I was wired but tired and just had to stop in Matehuala about 3, my next option was San Luis Potosi, where I had been years before, but it would have been dark when I hit this city of a tremendous size and Matehuala was manageable, I’d had a hotel picked. When I got there they had just rent last room. UGH! The desk clerk sent me to an upscale place where the elevator was not working and parking was far from room. So I chose a dive! It is funny, sometimes dives can be much better than a higher dollar place. The car was right next to the room, one of my favorite grocery stores, Soriana, was just down the street. THERE was internet! WOW, I had a decent signal and I paid only about 10 dollars for the room. I even made friends with some other people staying there. Always better to approach and talk to people than act like a stuck up gringa! LOL They checked with me later to see if they could get anything for me. Praise God for His Wisdom, care and mercy.

Okay now DAY FOUR, this was a long one and I was rested, had my snacks and was ready to go at the crack of dawn. Mexico City was looming ahead and now finally there is a fabulous bypass called the Arco Norte that cuts off about 40 miles from this massive capital and veers to the west, dropping you far west of the city. BUT as you get closer to the Mexico City, the traffic just explodes on the highway, mostly transports taking goods in. At one point as I waited to pay my toll for a portion of road I was literally sandwiched and surrounded by semi-trailers on an uphill incline. SCARY!! Honestly 100 miles north of the City it was 8 lanes divided going fast. The Arco Norte was refreshing! They had cut this road through unspoiled countryside, rolling hills, fields, mountains at a distance, just a glory to behold. Unfortunately timingwise I hit the road at Puebla at “rush hour” AND they were doing road work. So that was slow going, my goal was to spent the night in Orizaba and I actually had a reservation at a downtown hotel where you could pull your car right in. Before I could reach that goal, about 6 in the evening with the sun going down, I hit the worst fog ever!! I could not see even a car ahead and still Mexicans do not see a need or purpose to turn their lights on at a time like this. I was crying out to God to get me through this mess! After 30 minutes of intensity it lifted and I could enter Orizaba, the first entrance was too soon and people directed me back to the main highway, the second exit was slightly better, but I was not going on the highway again that day! I made it to the heart of the city and pulled into a PEMEX, this is the national gas station and they really are on the highways oases (proper plural of oasis, new to me).

Approaching a guy who I thought was working there, with my direction for the hotel, I was taken to the “boss” in the cab of truck. He said wait and just follow us we are going that way. By this time it was dark, drizzling and I’d been on the road over 12 hours, so his offer was welcome. The hotel was great, down the street from another Soriana’s! YEAH! Checked in, got my snacks and then had some of the hotel restaurant’s fabulous consommé de pollo. In Mexico, this is broth with lots of chicken and they bring a plate of freshly chopped onions, cilantro, green peppers, avocados to dump in. YUM!! All was right with the world and I could rest easy and prep for another day. It really was so nice and inexpensive there, my body and mind wanted to just stay and rest another day , BUT I pressed on.

This FIFTH day would get me into Chiapas, my favorite state of Mexico, it has beyond spectacular countryside, lakes, mountains, the capital Tuxtla-Gutierrez and the charming colonial town of San Cristobal de las Casas, my goal for the night. Still there was much territory to cover before I arrived that evening. The first four hours went quickly, good road, good weather. Driving into rain slowed the journey down a bit, but when I hit the turn-off road to cross out of Tabasco and into Chiapas time travel came to a near stop!! This was a new road about 8 years ago and fabulous, but has not been maintained well, so between road crews working in the rain and portions of the road not existing, the 100 miles took about 4 hours. Entering the capital at the start of “rush” hour was really not good timing, there is not another way to get through, you end up right in the heart of central Tuxtla-Gutierrez with motorist creating 4 lanes OR 5 where there should be a tight 3. I needed a boost, the bathroom, to stop ever so briefly just to catch my breath after hours of not stopping at all because the weather was so bad and road a mess. Well I saw the Starbucks sign right in the midst of midtown Tuxtla. I thought, NO I AM DREAMING! It was on the right side and I was in the far left lane with 3 car lanes to the side of me. IF I could not make it, I would have to go on, because getting around and circling back was not a good option. Oh , did I mention there was also construction to my right AND at the entrance on this strip mall where Starbucks was parked? The light changed to green as I had debated back and forth what to do, then miraculously all three lanes on my side did NOT ADVANCE and I quickly cut over to enter! As I parked, and entered what a relief, I was soooo happy! I knew a GOOD bathroom and a jolt of caffeine would make the last hour on the road more than bearable!! Of course I shared my enthusiasm with the order taker and told him I had driven from Orizaba! He was astounded and laughed at my enthusiasm.

Pressing on, I finally arrived in San Cristobal just 20 minutes or so before the sun was gone for the day. This colonial town has bumper to bumper traffic on its cobbled stone one way one lane streets and I found MY hotel where I have stayed so many times before. Because of the holiday, El Dia de Los Muertos, many were in town and it was a Friday night, so besides tourists, locals were crowding the streets. The hotel had one room left. Thank you JESUS!! AND since I was a loyal client and would pay in cash, a discount was given. There my car can pull right into a small parking lot. Quickly I hit the streets and headed to the craft market which surrounds a large catholic cathedral. Had hoped to find a vender I’d purchased from before. She’d already packed up, so off for more of the chicken consommé. The place I ate had delicious soup and I ask if I could have just a bit more! They gave it to me with no extra charge. Now for some much needed rest as the plan was to enter Guatemala by about noon. BUT the next day was not following that scheme!

Leaving early but with good light, an hour or so into the drive, my front windshield was broken, probably a loose pebble or rock and there was one last town of any size in Mexico before the border. I stopped in Comitan and called the insurance agency! Fortunately there were two shops they worked with them in Comitan AND I had pulled over JUST ACROSS FROM ONE! They were so kind, but would not have my size for a week. They called the other shop and I had to wait to see while they looked in the inventory. After about 10 minutes they called and said no. Once again I called the insurance company and I could go to a dealership for Ford, there was one in Comitan, but it would be more complicate. We tried to contact them, but could not. I was just getting into my car to drive down there and the second shop called saying, they had found one and come over so they could check on size.

This glass shop was clear on the other side of town, but fortunately off the same main road. I found them or they found me and IT FIT!! Because they were officially a glass place for the insurance agency, then it was so much simpler for paperwork, photos and the installation. You know I was praising God!! With the agency and having it done in Mexico, I would pay 20% of the total. IF I would have gone on and had it done in Guatemala, it could have easily been 300 dollars. I paid 20 dollars!!! Also they had wifi and I could check for a hotel as driving on was not feasible, by the time I was completely finished it was 2 in the afternoon. Normally on Saturdays the shop closed at 1, but the office girls and the two installers so kindly stayed.

There was a nice, clean, quiet hotel just down the street, reasonable with parking lot secured. So I found food, supplies at the new huge Walmart and then settled in for some rest with wifi and I could catch up on some shows! YEAH! Not planned, but a great place to spend my last few hours in Mexico.

Pushing off the next morning Sunday, I arrived at the border to have my papers cancelled for the car early and the office was not even open. I found out IF I had pressed on Saturday I would have arrived to a closed office AND not had a place to even spend the night!!

By 9:15, my importation was cancelled and the deposit in the works for a credit to my card, immigration was taken care of and on I drove into GUATEMALA!! The SAME officer for immigration was there that I had seen so many times before. They were glad to see me again and getting the paperwork and temporarily importing my car went VERY smoothly. From this small village to the second largest city in Guatemala, Quetzaltenango the drive was about 4 or 5 hours. THEN you hit a great smooth highway with 4 lanes, that sails toward the capital. I actually arrived at the door of Acsa’s house, my very best Guatemalan friend at 3 in the afternoon. ALL that time on the road, NO one, let me repeat, NO ONE, opened my doors of the car to do an inspection, or harassed me for any reason. I felt the extreme protection of The Lord Most High and all the prayers that went up for the car, the things inside including me were answered. Still it was a journey, seven days from start to finish, safely accomplished with so much time to sing and pray and think, which to me IS enjoyable to just have that luxury. All Glory to God!!

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