It was bright and beautiful at my sister-in-law Toni’s parent’s house, where we had camped out the previous night. We always like staying there as Toni’s parents Ken and Diane, are so warm and gracious – and their house is this perfectly crafted hacienda with the best kitchen I think I’ve ever seen in my life.
Our timing sucked this time though – Ken was in the middle of heavy duty preparations for Diane’s surprise birthday party – we didn’t even get to see Diane. But we did see my brother Dana and Toni for one last goodbye. Then we set the Garmin on course for the Border –
Mexico Border Crossing!
– with just quick stops at the grocery store and O’Reilly’s auto for engine oil.
Right before we got on to the highway, our truck Myrtle started rattling something fierce and just died.
Mikey tried and tried but he just couldn’t figure out what was going on – he had put on new practically every thing over the past few months: new fuel relays, belts, manifolds and tons more that I can’t spell or wrap my head around.
He popped the hood, waited a while, then tried again.
Then we started driving and the same thing happened. Rattle, rattle, STOP.
He popped the hood again, waited, then once more, she started!
So he figured that it had to be overheating of some kind. He got her going on the road, on the freeway and away from the constant stop/start of the side roads and she was just fine. Rolling away, she felt and evidently sounded normal, so much so that we stuck with our intention of crossing the border that day. The problem wasn’t likely to fix itself, but the problem would be fixable in Mexico – and cheaper at that. Plus, we could stay in a motel more easily, budget-wise, in Mexico, if we needed to than we could in San Diego.
On we went to the border.
Sailing through those wide lanes,
sailing through the green lights,
sailing through… OH NO – WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAT???
We somehow sailed through EVERYTHING, passports unchecked?
WHAT * THE * HELL??
It totally reminded me of that time in Sweden when I was crossing the border to Finland and I went clear across the border before I realized I’d crossed. I got all nervous about stamps and things and walked all the way back to an eye-rolling, deeply sighing passport control officer who was just annoyed with me. Stupid American.
This was worse though. Because we were sailing through TIJUANA in a TRUCK, with our THREE LITTLE KIDS – I mean, how on earth were we going to turn around and go back? We’d already gone right through!
Mikey went up, up, over and through the highway that the border empties into, turning around as soon as he could. Which was…. a mile? Two? Turning around, he found the only road leading back was the road to CROSS THE BORDER BACK TO SAN DIEGO.
Oh God. No. Say it ain’t so.
Oh fuck. LOOK AT THAT LINE. Noooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo……and of course. Myrtle started overheating almost immediately. Mikey turned off the engine, popped the hood and pushed her forward, inch by inch.
Meanwhile, I sat there wondering what SIGN FROM GOD this was, really, because you know, you can’t grow up as religious as I did without every fucking thing pointing to a SIGN FROM GOD.
Hmm. The truck broke on the way to the border? – SIGN FROM GOD?
We sailed clear through without passport inspections? – SIGN FROM GOD?
We are stuck going back to San Diego – GOD, WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO TELL ME?
So I was sitting there mulling over the SIGNS FROM GOD while praying and just basically begging every angel I could think of to NOT MAKE THIS A BAD SIGN. Mac-Q started screaming (of course) and Moxie had the biggest blowout of the year – holy cow – and all the sudden it just struck me funny and I couldn’t stop laughing because, yeah, this was a sign from God all right:
WELCOME BACK TO TRAVELLING
This is what it’s about, man: it’s about the shit, it’s about the mistakes and the dumb moves and missed calls and right lanes and the people over there smiling at you. It’s about the adventure and the excitement of something you can’t see the end to. It’s about that very moment, enjoying that very moment, despite – or because of? – it’s so laden with ambiguity, like a fruit that can drop ripe or rotten and you don’t know which because you’ve never the seen that particular fruit before. So you just have to sink your teeth in and hope it’s gonna be good.
After laughing and cleaning up Moxie, nursing Mac (why not? The line was moving about an inch and hour!), I started really enjoying myself and relaxing into border madness, relishing the sounds of incomprehensible Spanish and the delightful spirit of enterprising Mexicans. I started making a list of everything that I saw being sold to the people waiting in cars to cross the border:
- car clearning (- like, wash and wax your car while you were in it, in line)
- blind/limbless/wheelchair using beggars (- yeah, so much for disability empowerment, huh)
- tosti locos
- shave ice
- ice cream
- fresh tortillas
- crucifixes (- I’m talking those HUGE kind, half the size of a grown man with a pinned and bleeding jesus nailed upon them)
- baby Jesus dolls
- reindeer hats
- statues of grottos
- soccer jackets, jerseys
- car windshield covers
- plaster turtles
- trash pickup (!! good one!!)
- cell phone accessories
- medical brochures (? or were they medical insurance plans?)
- bird statues
- vase/cup sets
- bulldog piggy banks
- hello kitty statues
- Virgin of Guadalupe framed pictures
- fancy fur pens
- Huge, ornate ceramic vases
- straw baskets
- Jesus hands
- peanut butter candy
- kids wood chairs
- straw hand bags
- woven back packs
- superhero figurines
- bobblehead dogs
- cotton candy
Does that seem like a long list? Yeah, I guess it kind of is! But I know I was just skimming the surface.
Then all of the sudden, we were at the green light and HELLOOOOO San Diego! Nice to see you again.
Only this time we made damn sure we pulled over, got out and figured out where to get our passports stamped.
Bienvenidos a Mexico!