May 13, 2010

Drivin’ Into Brownsville, USA

Tuesday we crossed the Rio Grande into a parallel but different world, Brownsville, Texas. We’re back, three days short of our six-month maximum allowed Mexico visit.

The trip was easy, a familiar route mainly on country roads. Chuck had the big chore, driving the often bumpy, patched road. Worst was the unfinished new highway from Lagos de Moreno to the lovely new road circling dramatic mountains and meeting Hwy 57 east of San Luis Potosi. It looks just as it did last year…smooth concrete parallel to the old road, but empty, blocked off with dirt, no workers! The old road continues to deteriorate. Rough roads just shake up the trailer! I played the IPod,took pictures, annoyed the cat, read Jeannette Walls’ The Glass Castle, an amazing memoir.

Rumors abound about the possibility of thieves near the border targeting tourists, so we did what we could to be prepared, mainly by carrying computer backups on small drives, telephone with emergency numbers, contact lists, extra cash and credit cards in hidden pockets. We traveled with rig unwashed, so we wouldn’t look too grand! All unnecessary, but it got us organized and made us feel we’d done what we could. Though the road was lightly traveled at times, here were so many military caravans and checkpoints that it’s hard to imagine how anything could happen! No close-ups of these masked, flak-jacketed guys with big weapons!

We spent two nights in large all-night Pemex gas stations with big truck lots. The first, La Estación, north of San Luis Potosi, has a restricted access lot with sign-in security! Quiet. Lovely. The next, at the Reynosa/Matamoros 97/101 split, has a hotel and shops. But: noisy trucks came and went all night, parking just a couple of feet from us! Earplugs. Pillow over head. Never park in the middle. Pemex attendants are extremely amiable. Though it’s not necessary, we always ask if we can stay. A smile, friendly word and a funny remark about the road makes us all feel good!

At one point where the road made a sandy jog, we decided that we must be near the beach, there’d been seagulls last night! Then a very friendly guy pulled his dusty old grey car alongside to assure us we could keep going, there was a good place to stop for the night ahead. Until he showed up with encouragement and directions, we’d no clue we’d slipped off the main route!

The third morning’s jaunt through rolling green hills with old stucco cottages and fields of corn brought us to the Matamoros Port of Entry. This sign points the way to the International Bridge ahead … and…huh?


Border officials at both Matamoros and Brownsville had some new, fancy procedures. When the Mexico Customs guy came to get our truck permit, he also photographed the truck ID number on the door post, scanned the ID sticker number before removing it from the window, and printed a receipt for us with the same classy new compact device.

  The long vehicle line moved slowly across the Rio Grande. When we met the US Customs inspector, he shuttled us to the side for inspection. As unusual, we ignored the questions about liquor and plants to chat about food…our beef, pork, eggs and fruit. To no avail, they had their own priorities. Sad to say, Kathi, they took the Christmas cactus you gave us – the one that survived several chow-downs by the cat, and finally had a really good bloom fling this December. We also lost our painstakingly acquired air plant collection that just last week Chuck installed in a newly made  hanging display! All were no doubt immediately incinerated. I stepped aside for the BIG dog inspection, he was a strong silent type. 

After the inspection, it was on to a big X-ray machine! While we waited outside with cat, a tall metal column moved slowly past the rig. Nothing was revealed; we were free to go. Through all this, no one’s ever picked up the bunk to look under it. Maybe that’s where the plants should have been.

All we’ve see in Brownsville are MILES of slick, new shopping centers, strip malls and big box stores! Natural peanut butter!! And Chuck got a new laptop that dwarfs mine, darnit!

Here at Winter Haven 55+ Campground, a 25-40 knot wind has swept the park site for two days. There’s nary a soul around, I think they all went back up north. The ferocious wind’s been hard on small birds. This poor squirt, blown from the nest, looked for his folks for two days, doomed to fall from his perch and be pecked by grackles. Nature is tough, but birds generally build a new nest and start over when a brood has been lost. A mocking bird with two long grass stalks streaming from its bill struggled through a weaving lift-off. And nothing stops the doves from courting!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi guys! Just checked your location and looks like you're in LA. Where are you headed when???