We made terrific time in the US, driving 1600 miles in 2.5 days. It's amazing what you can do with good roads and high speed limits. The secret, we discovered, is switching drivers every hour or hour and a half, before the driver gets tired. If you wait to change until you're tired, it's almost impossible to catch up. Just like what the doctors tell you about taking pain pills to stay ahead of the pain.
Yesterday we reached Tucson and took half a day off. We went to the movies and had sashimi bento boxes at the best Japanese restaurant in town. The technology available to me now just blows me away. So many times I've traveled to unfamiliar towns, had some time, but was unable to figure out just where the interesting places were and so usually stayed in my hotel. Now, with my iPhone and the Internet on my laptop, I can easily find out the best Japanese restaurant in town, where it is, and how to get there! Simply astonishing.
This morning we left Tucson and reached the border at Nogales, south of Tucson, at lunchtime more or less. Mexicans love paperwork. And multiple procedures. First go to the immigration desk and fill out a complex form. Then go to another office -- mind you, it's a hundred degrees out there -- and present that form and many others. Then go to another office and get copies made of various forms and documents. Then go to the second office where the clerk enters interminable information from the various forms and documents into the computer. Then go to the first office where we get stamps on documents and a sticker to put on the car's windshield. It only took an hour and a half.
But during this time I had a huge fright. About to pay for the visas and the car permit (or whatever the hell all that was) the clerk told me my debit card came up unapproved: insufficient funds. We have our savings in that account! The last time I used the card was this morning in Nogales AZ: it's already been compromised? Our bank account has been cleaned out? We have no money??? So the hell with AT&T's $1/minute charge for the iPhone: I must have run up many minutes of charges before my wonderful banker, Tara at Coastal Community Bank, told me all was okay and that it was due to an international lock on the account. All resolved. It took me a good hour to calm down.
So crossing the border was a piece of cake. We didn't see any officers, cops, banditos, or anyone else. Nogales is vastly safer as a crossing than other places we read about, such as El Paso and Tijuana, and honestly I for one didn't even think of danger: there was absolutely nothing to suggest danger. Of course, would banditos want to be out in the sun in over 100 degrees? Picture lots of bare earth, scrubby plants with no leaves to get burned by the sun but rather stick-like branches, cactuses, medium-sized mountains covered with this same stuff, no shade anywhere, and dry, dry, dry. Then picture driving for miles and miles on the highway with not a house in sight, no exits from the highway. You wouldn't like to run out of gas 30 miles from the nearest cactus.
So then, on the road south from the border, the car stalls when I start it up on my driving shift. Hmm. Then it feels sort of lurchy. Before too long we're speculating: clogged fuel line? Idle needs re-adjusting? Dirty spark plugs? It becomes painfully clear that this is not something that can be put off. And maybe it's not too surprising, since we've been driving up to 10 hours a day in horrendous heat, bless the air conditioning. In late afternoon we stopped for the day at a town called Guaymas, actually the only one on the whole trip south that actually connects with water (the Gulf of California, across from Baja California), and by now we have to put the car in neutral every time we stop for a red light or it will stall. Then, would you believe, Rick sees a Dodge dealership! If we believed in God ... So now we have an appointment for first thing tomorrow morning to get the car fixed up to continue our trip, and in the meantime we're ensconced in a comfortable hotel. With a pool.
It looks like we'll reach San Miguel Thursday or likelier, Friday. I'll write another exciting episode from there, assuming the house, as promised, will have wireless Internet.
AND BY THE WAY: please do NOT call on the cell phone and leave a voicemail message. I've figured out that to get your message I have to pay AT&T's exorbitant rates. Instead, please send us email messages, or leave a public message/comment here at the blog. When we get to San Miguel and set up the Magic Jack gadget, you should in theory be able to leave us voicemail messages on that phone. ALL CONTACT INFORMATION IS IN THE FIRST BLOG ENTRY. I may just not use my iPhone much or at all during this trip, but I'll keep you informed.
Our love to you all,