We woke up at 7 am today and we scrambled like mad people. Strip the bed, change the sheets, put new duvet on, last minute clean up, haul our luggages, mail letters. The condo looked so immaculate, I didn’t want to leave. My housesitter would be so happy when he sees the place.
We met our friend Bill at Ikea in Richmond and loaded more stuff in his cargo trailer. It is so packed I am getting worried if he’s going to make it to Mexico. I did my morning exercise by running 3 blocks to MacDonald’s and got our breakfast. It’s cold this morning. I could see my breath between my strides. We ate our sausage mcmuffin in ten minutes and we were on the road. The border line up at Peace Arch held us up about one hour but no problem. They just waved us with our pack to the roof vehicles. It reminded me of a Chevy Chase movie. We had everything in the trailer and our in our car to furnished a small condo and a small music studio. I feel like a hippie in the wrong year. We were ahead while Bill is behind us. After about 2 hours of driving, we think we lost Bill in Seattle. We tried calling and texting him but no answer. We were worried but we just kept going until we got tired and decided to spend the night in Eugene, Oregon. After dinner, we finally heard from Bill. He has actually driven all the way to Roseburg about one hour ahead of us. Thank God! We will rendezvous first thing in the morning in Roseburg and carry on to Reno. The day was a great start of our trip. I am already excited for the next leg.
November 24, 2008-Day 2
It is cold and foggy this morning in Eugene, Oregon. We headed down to Roseburg to rendezvous with Bill then had breakfast and drove to Mt. Shasta. It’s a beautiful mountain with a park with the same name. We took this road all the way to McCloud and stop for gas and stretched our legs. Tango, Bill’s dog needs his walk every couple of hours, otherwise, he seems to be enjoying the beautiful scenery. We are driving through thick forests of pine trees and winding highway. We arrived at Reno at 8:30 pm which is not good as it was hard finding a hotel in the dark. We left Roseburg quite late this morning, almost noon. We found a hotel and decided to have dinner at the Silver Legacy Hotel. The whole town is deserted. I don’t know if it’s the bad economy or because it’s a Monday night. We were so tired so we decided to head back to our hotel which is across the street after we ate. We were about to settle down, when Bill knocked on our door. He was so shaken because he couldn’t find his briefcase in the backseat of his car. We helped him looked for it but to no avail. All his money and important documents are there. We all had restless night which was confirmed the following morning.
November 25, 2008-Day 3
Bill was up early and was already puttering around his car. We went to see him and upon careful inspection of his car’s doors looking for a sign of forced entry, John noticed something on the soft cover of his car. The soft convertible top of his Mustang was slashed and that’s how the thief got his loot. It must have happened while we were having supper last night. My heart sank and felt a thud in my stomach. He paid $1700 for that top. Bill and John went to the police station to report the crime. John managed to tape up the convertible soft top with duck tape. Just leave it to John to be prepared with all the tools and gadgets. At least now we know how the bag disappeared from his car. We left Reno around noon and we decided to stop in Tonopah, about 2 hours north of Las Vegas. The drive from Reno was all straight on Hwy 95 breezing through a desert around 5,000 ft above sea level. The scenery has its own beauty punctuated by lakes, one of them was Walter Lake. It is huge and has some kind of salt around the edge. It was 4 pm and we all need rest and an early night. Tonopah is an old mining town lined with old buildings and a few hotels and shops. It’s even got a McDonald’s. We decided to check in at a local Ramada hotel. We are looking forward to our dinner as we have not had a decent meal all day.
November 26, 2008-Day 4
It is snowing and cold in Tonopah,Nevada. We are in Station Post Ramada in the middle of a silver mine relic. There are lots of old buildings and general stores. It’s like being in a set of an old western movie. This is the town where they discovered the silver mother lode “Mizpah”.
We plan to leave early so we could overnight in Phoenix or Tucson. But we got delayed again for some reason. We have experienced different weather patterns driving through the desert of Nevada. I just realized that we are in the Death Valley National Park. There was a different kind of vegetation, such as sage brush, tumble weed and weird looking cacti ( look like a dwarf palm trees to me). Then we passed by a prison and judging by its location, it must be maximum security. There was a sign on the road “Do not Pick Up Hitchhikers” I wonder why…..
We decided that we are not stopping for lunch anymore as we were losing day light driving time. So we would stop for gas and just pick up a burger or cold sandwiches. I should be about 20 pounds overweight when I arrive in Bucerias. We arrived at a town called Needles and pick up Highway 10 east to get to Phoenix. It turned out to be a nice drive through Lake Havasu City. It is a beautiful lake and the surrounding area although it was almost dark when drove through. We drove for about 3 hours on long stretch of highway 95. We finally found a hotel (Days Inn) on Hwy 10 in a town called Buckeye, about one hour west of Phoenix. We were so tired and settled there for the evening after having a bad dinner at Burger King. I am really craving for homemade soup or grilled rib eye steak.
November 27, 2008-Day 5
It’s cold again this morning. It feels like it will never get warm even when we are driving south. I didn’t sleep very well last night. I think I had motion sickness from all the driving so I took some Gravol. I woke up really tired, pack my stuff and headed to the breakfast counter in the lobby. I grabbed everything I could get- coffee, bagel, cereals, toast. I brought them all to the car because we are on the road again. We are aiming for Hermosillo in Mexico today. It was a smooth drive through Phoenix and Tucson. Arizona is mostly desert with dots of mounds of earth as high as a 20 storey condo. We arrived at the Nogales border around noon. We are crossing our fingers that it will be an easy crossing. The town of Nogales reminds me of a place in Manila called Quiapo. It is full of hustle and bustle of people peddling their wares. There are lots of pawnshops, money changers and stalls. It was quite a feat to navigate the traffic. My Filipino driving instinct kicked in gear. Forget about Canadian rules of the road. It was a sudden change from the manicured town of Nogales, Arizona. Once we hit the customs and immigration about 22 km after the border, we got off our vehicles and went to the immigration office to get our visa, car permit, car insurance etc. Everything went smoothly except that they ran out of Immigration forms so we had to wait about 2 hours for the forms to arrive. Then another “incident” happened with Bill’s papers. I had to help him sort it out with my broken Spanish (thank God, I was studying while I was in the car). I begged and followed the officer around for about 2 hours until he relented and stamped the documents. We were all relieved that it is over. I can’t even imagine what would happen otherwise. We both got the green light so they never question us or search our vehicles. Highway 15 is a good 4 lane road and becomes a toll highway. It was wide, well lit and smooth. We paid $2 for our car. We are not going to make it to Hermosillo as it is getting dark. It was 8 pm when we reached Santa Ana, Sonora and checked in the first motel we saw (San Francisco). Dinner was fillet of fish with tortillas, rice and salad at Elba Restaurant. Yummy!
November 28 2008-Day 6
We woke up to sunshine and blue skies. It’s amazing how the weather changed as soon as you get to Mexico. We are currently in the middle of the Sonora Desert and the temperature has just got warmer. We were on the road just before 9 am and drove through various kinds of vegetation and scenery. Every morning as soon as we enter the highway, I start practicing my Spanish reading it aloud so John can learn too. The first sentence I taught him was “Por favor, lleneme el tanque con Magna”. It means “Please fill up my tank with Magna”. Magna is regular unleaded in Mexico. There are a lot of checkpoints with uniformed men checking mostly trucks and local vehicles for guns or drugs maybe? As soon as they see our foreign plates and decals, they just wave us through. We used mostly the toll roads which ranged from $4 to $5 for a car or SUV. It is called “Cuota” versus the normal road called “Libre”. These smooth toll roads are 4 lanes with a wide divider between each direction. The gas stations (Pemex is the only gas station in Mexico) are well spaced every 200 km or so and have fairly clean restrooms (bring your own toilet paper just to be sure) and a convenience store where you can buy water, pop, snacks, sandwiches. Since we are using the toll roads, we bypassed all the little towns which would have slowed down our journey. Every time you enter a small town or community or approaching a toll booth, you have to watch out for speed bumps (topes) or a succession of smaller speedbumps (vibradores). Go figure it out,,,,We left the state of Sonora and entered the state of Sinaloa and decided to spend the night at a town called Los Mochis. It is quite a big city but I have no idea about this place. It is now 6 pm and we checked in at the Hotel Posada Real. It is a Mexican style motel with a nice courtyard where you can park your car just outside your room. We have no clue where we are. We have no maps and rely solely on the road signs to get to our destination. There was no restaurant in the hotel so we walked a couple of blocks to find a restaurant (Candiles). The food was okay. I can’t wait to cook my own meals. I don’t know what street we’re on but it is lined with car dealerships, Chrysler, Ford, Honda etc. It will be an early evening tonight as we drove almost 9 hours today. By the way, the duck tape on Bill’s convertible top is holding good so far, in spite of the various precipitations that we have gone through (snow, rain, sun).
November 29,2008-Day 7
We decided to wake up at 6 am today to be on the road at 7 am so we could be in Bucerias by evening tonight. I don’t want to spend another night in a motel. We went to the nearest Pemex gas station, filled up and got our coffee, muffins, bananas and sandwiches. I told myself that I am not eating another ham and cheese sandwich for a very long time. We headed south on the toll road to Culiacan which is about 360 km and hope that the bypass would take us to Mazatlan. Then we saw a sign to Mazatlan halfway to Culiacan on the freeway. We paid another toll fee which up to this point is approaching to $100 since we started using the toll highways past Hermosillo. We reached the city limits of Mazatlan at around 2 pm and we estimated that we would be in Tepic at around 5 pm. We are so determined to reach Tepic that we decided not to stop for lunch and just eat sandwiches from the gas station all the way. The toll highway to Mazatlan is great but it was almost 3 hours until we see another gas station. Same as from Mazatlan to Tepic. We were always worried about Bill because he is driving a Mustang towing a cargo trailer. He burns twice as much gas as our economical Hyundai Tucson. When we finally reached Tepic, I was elated because I know that we are 2 hours away from Bucerias, Nayarit. But it took us over 3 hours because of the winding highway down the coast and we were following a big truck which backed up the traffic for kilometers behind. The highway is one lane each direction so passing is almost a death wish. But a few people did it. I told John to stay put because I didn’t drive this far for 7 days without seeing Casa Artiste. We arrived in Bucerias at 9 pm after almost 13 hours of driving. I was numbed and so tired that I don’t know what to feel. When we entered the gate, I saw the pool and all the Christmas lights and blown up Santa and Snowman on the grassy grounds. It was like Disneyland. And there behind the pool is Casa Artiste, just like in the picture with its cupola shining from the moonlight. I thanked God that we arrived safely and ran inside the house just like a kid. I raced through downstairs, all the rooms, patio, upstairs, more rooms, toilets, kitchens, balconies. I’m home!
PS. There was no food at the house and we are so famished so I walked to the 7 Eleven (OXXO) to get bread, ham, eggs, milk and can of soup. I refused to eat the ham and bread. I had boiled egg and soup.