Monday, October 09, 2006

The Crossing

Ah Mexico!

This year makes 13 that I’ve been making the long haul down MX15 to our little place in the sun. In the early days, I used to mark the trip with stomach aches. Stomach aches driven by the various judicial challenges to my forward progress. My Lovely Wife used to tell me that those challenges were opportunities to practice my 4 years of high school Spanish, and to in turn make Mr. (or should I say Señor) Thorsen proud. After all, Señor Thorsen had to endure me drawing pictures of turkeys in my Spanish book with little arrows pointing at him as he moved around the classroom.

The first stomach ache used to come when we crossed the border at Nogales and headed into the dark unknown. This was the point where the visions of bonfires in the road manned by banditos armed with pitch forks first started to dance in my head. The second stomach ache came with passing through the hulking tile covered Customs House and the place where you had to stop for either a red or green light, the former presenting an “opportunity” to habla with the bored Federales, the latter a chance to dodge remedial Spanish and keep on moving.

Next came the Aduana and the stop for visas and car stickers (holograficos.) Here in the early days we bought the 6 month sticker with no intention of turning it back in on the way out. This despite the stories of poor Canadians in VW minibuses getting nailed with thousand dollar fines for not turning in their sticker. We were brave, muy macho and we thumbed our noses at convention, knowing full well that somewhere in some dank warehouse was a carbon-copy record of our indiscretion. How many times did our car enter, never to exit, the puzzled clerk was wondering. Again a game of chance with the red and green lights, again freedom or Spanish study hall. Our worst experience here being the good cop/bad cop routine many Christmases ago when the bad officer told us to unload the car while the good officer sat in the back seat asking us how much all of our stuff was worth. He was looking for a $20 “donation”, we played dumb and he departed, shaking his head.

The worst and final stomach ache generally came with the Federale check just north of Hermosillo. In this case it was originally a husky officiale sitting in a lawn chair with an attached umbrella. Just what was he thinking behind those Ray Ban aviators as we pulled up and waited for him to say “pase.” I’m sure he was wondering why the blond gringa was driving while her companion huddled shaking beneath a blue polar fleece blanket. The flip side of this stop on the northbound journey was manned by peach-fuzzed soldiers, redolent of marijuana packing HK Armalite rifles. The trick here was to pull your car over the grease pit enabling someone to inspect your exhaust system.

But these days, all of this is just a fuzzy, water-colored memory (you know the song.) Now I drive, laughing in the face of adversity. No more holograficos, now a visa suffices. No more red lights, our karma has shifted. Now the biggest problem with the trip is whether or not some kid tries to wash our windshield at the stop light as you enter Hermosillo.

Our trip started with a cross over the border around noon. Clear sailing down to the customs stop, a visa taking 5 minutes and then onward. Absolutely nothing of interest happened on the trip. Thankfully.

First night into town with thoughts of Carne Machaca having dominated our consciousness since our previous visit (October 2005) and we discover that our favorite restaurant is closed. Back-up plan – shrimp and fish al mojo de ajo and two bathtub sized Margaritas to wash away the road grime. A visit to our favorite store, La Fruitaria for Jumex, bolillos and limes. Back to the place and a well-deserved, tequila-enhanced night’s rest. Our once per year visit with the God of Agave.

Dawn brought a painful realization – it’s Columbus Day weekend. Several years ago we made the mistake of being here during this time and swore we’d never do it again. Too many people and too much noise. Oh, how those oaths get washed away by commitments and time. Last week I was in Arizona, next week, she’s getting ready for Worlds. So this was the week, and we were going. But, I wonder if our resolve might’ve been girded had we been warned with visions of large, sunburned Americans drinking beers and smoking cigars on the sea-wall at 9 o’clock in the morning. If that hadn’t done it, the wall to wall tents and sit-upon kayaks certainly would have put us over the top. Alas, here we were and our resolve morphed into a steely desire to just put up with it. Besides, this was people watching at its best and we’d have plenty to talk about.

Our attempt at breakfast at Rosa’s was stifled by the line of tourists out the door. Another sign that this week was cursed. So back to the condo for eggs and bolillos and Jumex and a nice long nap.

Following a little afternoon bob in the ocean, we went back on the Machaca hunt and headed into town for dinner. This time, no line, no tourists and two big plates of that special Comida de Sonora that keeps drawing us down here. Hot tortillas, tasty beef and a cold Negro Modelo. Life can be so good at its simplest. Not much else to say about the dinner or the day, but I do have to mention the 20-something young many who sat opposite us spreading butter on tortillas followed by a liberal dumping of sugar from the shaker on the table. He seemed to really be enjoying them. I don’t know why.

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