Where in the world…?

So if you are an expat, occasionally you will have the opportunity to “return home” to the US of A.  For us, that involved a drive from Ajijic to the border, which we just accomplished. While “all’s well that ends well” is certainly the case, the trip was not uneventful.

The drive from Ajijic to the border at Laredo is about 11 hours, so you might end up driving at night (or at least dusk) in Mexico if you try to do it all in one day.  Nighttime driving is a big no-no south of the border, just because livestock graze along the highways, and nothing says “stop” like coming across a cow looking for better grass in the middle of the cuota (toll road)!

So we drove to Monterrey and staged there for the next day’s assault on the wall, err, I mean the border. Tip for Lakesiders: the City Express Hotel Norte next to the airport in Monterrey is a great choice: under $50 US, clean, next to the main road north to Laredo, with a few adjacent restaurants. Our first day’s drive was uneventful, with the exception of a severe rainstorm we eventually outran.

Our second day went differently. We made it to Laredo by 10:00, but there was a 90 minute back up at the border.  Even our Waze app (highly recommended) abandoned us, as it tried to take us across a closed bridge. Judy was driving the first vehicle in our convoy, and of course she got the border patrol officer who wanted to do a full car search, uncovering her “stash” of contraband, which you and I would call bottles of Limoncello made by Benedictine nuns. Fortunately, she just had to pay import duty, and we went on our way.

We made it to US highway 59 outside Laredo.  If you like driving, you owe yourself a trip to Texas just to drive on this take-off/landing strip which pretends to be a highway.  Several hundred miles of two-lane pavement (with ample shoulders) with regular passing lanes.  Flat and straight as an arrow. 75 miles-per-hour, and the only people in uniform you will see are US Border Patrol. Oh, and this part of Texas has plenty of nowhere, as in you might not see anything beside the road beside scrub brush.

Things were going well but running late as we approached Houston. Texas had not properly welcomed us yet, so it chose this time to do so.  We saw some ominous clouds, and then as we were just an hour outside Houston, we met a literal wall of water: a true Texas-style storm.  It was like driving through a waterfall, or driving inside a carwash.  This caused the native Texans to slow to almost 60 mph, and yours truly played along.  I always say seeing is overrated when it comes to driving!

Judy kept up in the chase car, although all she could see at times was my emergency blinkers disappearing in the mist. We eventually made it to the CarMax in Houston. They processed my Toyota FJ in about ninety minutes. Car-selling tip: check out CarMax even if you are not trading in, but take along an “instant offer” which you can get online from Kelly’s Blue Book. This ensures you get a fair price.  Since my car is sought after, they made me an offer AND did their own double check on Kelly’s, then said they would match the Kelly’s price, which was greater than their offer or my original Kelly’s estimate.

Adios, Amigo!

An hour of Houston rush hour traffic later, we made it to our hotel in Baytown (east of Houston on I-10).  We were one car lighter, had some US change in our pocket, and were safely across the border. Now I just have to stop saying “Buenos Dias” to everyone.

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