Monday, March 31, 2008

Shifting gears

We are at the Wal-Mart in Douglas, Arizona (map), just a stone's throw from the Mexican border and Agua Prieta.

Friday afternoon our friends came back for another visit on their motorcycles, and we headed out on their two bikes to Tombstone for lunch. It was a great ride, and it felt really good to be out on the open road on a real motorcycle again. Tombstone itself is quaint, if a bit over-the-top on the whole tourist thing, what with half the town wandering around in "period" regalia and all (although everyone seemed to have a slightly different idea of just what period was being modeled).

After they dropped us back at the Elks lodge we bid them a fond farewell, and supposed that we would be leaving town Saturday morning.

As it happens, though, we've been waffling a bit about the "schedule" and the "plan," which words I have put in quotes because, really, we don't have either. We'd been casually aiming towards heading back into Mexico, down through Sonora and along the west coast of the mainland, with the intent, among other things, to possibly catch up with some friends who are staying down near Puerto Vallarta.

All of that supposed, though, that we'd be heading that way more or less at the very beginning of March, and here it is, instead, the very end. Many things conspired to get us to this point, including Opal's medical issues, the mail showing up over a week late, and the fact that, even after it arrived, we still don't have all the paperwork we need to file our taxes.

In any event, Saturday morning we took stock of our situation anew, and decided that we've really missed the window for Mexico's Pacific coast this season. For one thing, we are coming up on the hotter months, and so any time we spend that far south will likely be fairly short, For another, our friends are scheduled to leave in a few days anyway, headed back north after spending the whole season there. And, lastly, there are those pesky tax forms -- we can't really venture that far from the border this close to filing date without having everything in the bag.

That decision left us somewhat at loose ends, and, with no real target in mind, we decided to just spend another night at the Sierra Vista Elks while we thought things over some more. That did give me a chance to get some projects done that have been languishing, including fixing one of the air conditioning vents in the cockpit that had self-destructed, important now that temps are rising and we're using the AC on the road, and repairing one of our two awning remote controls, which had been out of commission for the better part of a year (the second one working fine meant little motivation).

By the end of the day, we had more or less decided to head east into Texas and revisit Big Bend, a place that we fell in love with on our first visit three years ago, in the early months of our adventure, and which we did not have time to properly explore.

To get to Big Bend from here, there are three main routes of nearly equal distance. The most direct is to drop down across the border and take Mexico 2 all the way to Juarez, cross back into the states at El Paso, then take I-10 to US90 and down through Marfa. The most direct route entirely within the US involves continuing east from here on Arizona 80, across southern New Mexico on state route 9, and again into El Paso and I-10. And the third route involves taking Mexico 2 to Janos, turning south for Chihuahua on Mexico 10, and then into Presidio, Texas by way of Mexico 16.

We decided on this third option, because we've already done the I-10/US90 route in both directions, and everything from here to El Paso on our first pass through Big Bend. Plus, diesel is still just over $2 per gallon in Mexico, and it's twice that here in Arizona.

Having thus made the decision to head across the border and pick up Mexico 2, we set our sights on Naco, a sleepy town about 40 miles west of here, where we presumed the lines would be shorter and our paperwork quicker to process. A quick check on the internet revealed this to be true -- right up until January of '07, when the Mexicans closed the Banjercito branch in Naco, moving it to Cananea, quite a ways west on 2 -- not the direction we're heading. We could still get our tourist visas in Naco, but we could not get the necessary temporary importation permit for Odyssey there -- only the Banjercito can issue these.

We briefly contemplated crossing in Naco anyway, then driving up to the Banjercito in Aqua Prieta, just a couple miles north of our route, to get the permit. That seemed silly -- if the point of crossing in Naco was to avoid the traffic at the busier Aqua Prieta crossing, we'd lose that advantage and then some by having to drive right up to that same crossing anyway from the Mexico side to get our permit. Plus, overnight opportunities on the US side in Naco were slim pickings, and we knew this Wal-Mart was here in Douglas.

Tonight we hoofed it over to the historic turn-of-the-century Gadsden Hotel for dinner. The food was perfectly acceptable and reasonably priced, and the hotel lobby is a real gem. A bit run down and definitely showing its age, but a model of opulence in its day, especially considering the mining-frontier location. We were somewhat surprised at how vibrant the downtown of this old city really is. Just as with the brand new Wal-Mart, the downtown is thriving on thousands of Mexicans who cross the border daily to shop here. When we parked this afternoon, Sonora plates outnumbered Arizona ones in the parking lot.

On our way back from dinner, we stocked up at the Safeway across the street. Tomorrow we will finish our shopping right here at Wal-Mart, where Monday morning is always a better bet than Sunday afternoon. I expect to cross the border around mid day.

1 comment:

  1. Another thing you can do is spend the summer in the highlands. May is our hottest month and June and July bring cooling rains and the highlands ensure that nighttime is cool for sleep. Zacatecas has an International Folkloric Festival in July that we ADORE and two RV parks. Guanajuato has the Cervantes festival in October and an RV park outside town. Mexico is full of festivals and I'm sure you can find a town in the highlands with many wonderful celebrations to enjoy.

    And the cost of diesel doesn't hurt. That is the major reason we probably won't go further north than Texas this summer.


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