This post has been rolling around in my head for 30 hours now, so it’s about time I put fingers to keys and get it all written down before leaving town again. (30 hours because that is how long I spent in Sofi’s car in the past three days, and by leaving town again I mean, don’t worry I’m not going back to Chihuahua (yet) – we are going to Greeley this weekend because FAMILY and also FRIENDS.)
First things first, the good news is, I made it. Alive and in one piece and still in good spirits. The bad news: I have contracted some sort of illness. The type that makes my throat hurt and my nose sniffle and requires me to eat nothing but smoothies and juice. Good thing I broke my juicer on Christmas and still haven’t bought that blender I’ve been wanting since we got married.
Now onto the real story…
Before we even left her apartment complex, Sofi told me that there’s a skunk that lives under her car, along with a rabbit. I joked that this situation could result in some interesting offspring (which is true), but the more important thing here is that apparently skunks smell like marijuana. And your car smelling like marijuana is definitely cause for worry when you are going to/from Mexico.
Our trip started with lots of fog, the “Peanut Butter” song on repeat, a lovely sunrise, and only one pit stop to use the bathroom – and that was just the first hour. Oh, and I smelled the skunk for the first time. We stopped at Burger King in Las Vegas, New Mexico for breakfast, however, the play place turned out to be much more interesting than the food. At one point, Sofi went to get gas while I stayed with the kids at Burger King, and Ian tried to convince me to come into the tunnels of the play place. I told him I was too big, and it seems that even at age 4 he knew that was a lie. As I went in farther, I kept saying, “I’m too big! I’m too big for this!” when what I was really saying inside was, “It’s too dirty! Please don’t make me touch one more inch of this germ pit.” And then I looked outside and couldn’t see Sofi’s car at the gas station anymore and wondered if she had left me in the tunnels of Burger King with her children…obviously she didn’t, but that was a real fear of mine.
Once we were back on the road after ‘breakfast,’ we made our first wrong turn. This was when I first started wondering if the GPS was on our side or not.
And in case you’re wondering what driving through New Mexico is like, I’ll show you:
Yes. The ultimate in scenic drives.
Every so often, we would smell a skunk, and see something alongside the road, and put two and two together since I thought there was no way the skunk smell could travel hundreds of miles from Sofi’s apartment complex.
Around 2:30pm we were going to change drivers (after taking another wrong turn and going in the wrong direction for an hour) and took a bathroom break at a gas station in Tularosa, New Mexico. The bathrooms were just awful and I decided to ‘hold it’ for a while longer until Sofi asked if I wanted to eat lunch at the gas station. I wasn’t so sure about that, but agreed, and bought a package of dried apricots and wondered if I brought enough Clif bars. Ian did tell me some knock knock jokes, which lifted my mood, and I even wrote down one of the jokes as soon as we got back in the car so I could share it with y’all…
Ian: “Knock knock.”
Me: “Who’s there?”
Me: “Lollipop who?”
Only a couple of jokes, 22 apricots, and 99 miles later, we made it the border. One more stop for a restroom since I simply couldn’t ‘hold it’ anymore, and I called Danny for a final good-bye. I also asked if he would be opposed to me staying in the Hampton Inn across the street until Monday at which point Sofi could pick me up and we could drive back to Colorado together. Meaning I wouldn’t even enter Mexico. What can I say? 13ish hours in the car with two children under 5, combined with waking up at 4am, and all the incredibly scary stories Sofi had told me about Mexico about being abducted/shot made me feel very, very desperate. And very, very interested in the Hampton Inn and lying in bed for 36 hours straight.
Instead I pulled out my teddy bear, Bearemy, let him pose with Jimena for a picture, and then held him in my lap the rest of the way to Chihuahua.
^^ Jimena and Bearemy. Plus Ian doing his best to not be in the picture at all. ^^
Crossing the border into Mexico might have been one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. “Where are you going?” the fellow asked (in Spanish, mind you, but there is no way I can remember how that went.) Sofi told him Chihuahua and we were on our way.
Right after our tires touched Mexican soil, and I could see the metaphorical light at the end of the tunnel, a sign said, “Chihuahua 362.” I could only assume this meant 362 miles, so I looked at Sofi and said, “Did you see that sign? We are SIX hours away I think.” Prior to seeing that sign, I was under the impression we had three left. I cannot even tell you how grateful I was when Sofi told me we were now talking kilometers and not miles.
One of the first things I noticed on the road was the large amount of tires. Chunks of tires, strips of tires, bits and pieces of tires. Apparently people use their tires until they literally cannot run anymore, and then they just blow up, leaving tire shrapnel everywhere. As far as how people continue on their journey after a tire explosion is unknown, but I didn’t see any cars on the side of the road, so…I don’t know? Cars can run with three tires instead of four in Mexico?
Also, until we got on the toll road, it felt like we were on a dirt road, even though we weren’t. It seems that in Mexico you have to pay to drive on a road that feels semi-safe/paved, albeit very narrow and created for anorexic cars. Keep in mind that there will still be tire pieces on the road though, no matter if it’s a toll road or a free road.
I tried not to look at the road as much as possible (Sofi was driving, don’t worry) in an attempt to keep my stress levels as low as possible, and saw this:
If I remember correctly, Sofi called it the Chapel of the Sand Dunes, although a Google search I did today yielded no applicable results. However, there are indeed sand dunes nearby. The Samalayuca Dune Fields, to be exact.
Three hours turned into four, and we made it to Chihuahua (city) with only two showings of “The Jungle Book” and one bathroom stop. After meeting Simon, Sofi’s husband, and her in-laws, I went straight to bed. I forgot my pajamas at home so I figured the dress I wore all day could double as a nightgown, and called it a (very long) day.
I woke up at 6am confused as I smelled something I could not put my finger on and was in a room darker than my bedroom at home gets even in the middle of the night (praise you, black out curtains). Turns out I was smelling menudo, or as Sofi explained to me, cow guts soup. She had warned me this might be served, at which point I convinced her that cereal is really my favorite breakfast food ever. Turns out Sofi’s mother-in-law is very accommodating to my vegan ways, and made me some bean burritos, which were made of possibly the best beans ever.
After breakfast I went outside to see if the jeans and sweatshirt I had packed would be suitable for the weather but got a little distracted…
That Volkswagen beetle was made in Germany in the 1970’s, and still runs great. So great, in fact, that it’s Sofi’s in-laws’ only car! Oh, and the weather was beautiful too.
We went to Chihuahua’s biggest and only mall for a showing of The Lego Movie. In Spanish, of course. I have no idea what the movie is about, but I did find myself feeling sad when the buildings or vehicles or various other objects made of Legos would get smashed, because can you even imagine how long it took to make all those buildings and vehicles and so on and so forth? At least four lifetimes.
Afterwards we went to Sofi’s grandma’s house and met so many people I figured they must be all of her living relatives, but when you have 98 cousins, as I found out Sofi does – and that’s just on your mom’s side of the family – seeing 15 people together at once is what you might call a small gathering. Sofi’s great-grandmother has 98 great-grandchildren and 4 great-great-grandchildren, and she’s only 89 years old. I can barely wrap my head around that, let alone think about remembering all their names and birthdays, which she does.
We wrapped up the afternoon with a trip to downtown Chihuahua. The cathedral looked like it had been uprooted from some old European city and set down in the middle of Mexico just because, but no. It was built there by the Spanish in 1725 and seems to be in excellent condition for being close to 300 years old. (Correction: building began in 1725, but it wasn’t completed until 1826.)
We also walked through the streets of downtown and toured the Government Palace.
From 4:30 – 7:30pm I sat at the kitchen table and it may have been my favorite part of our trip. There is no doubt that the kitchen is the hub of the home and I loved being at the center of the action, all while eating tasty food at the same time. While I hung around the table, Sofi’s father-in-law invited Danny and I to come visit anytime and stay with him and his wife for free and see the sites of Chihuahua and the surrounding area. I encountered Aunt Martha, who speaks excellent English and told me about her world travels and experiences teaching college students. I watched food be made from real, whole, fresh ingredients and then eaten slowly and with great enjoyment.
I went to bed early and read until I couldn’t keep my eyes open any longer, which happened to be around 8:50pm, but hey, lots of time in the car and a new country can do that to you. I woke up earlier than I wanted to but felt rested nonetheless (that happens when you go to bed before nine), had some bean burritos for breakfast, and we got on the road. We made it to the border in closer to three hours than four, but spent all the time we saved driving waiting for someone to look at our passports, check for drugs, and let us through. Thankfully the skunk smell was not very strong at that time.
^^ Two of the three fences separating the U.S. from Mexico.^^
The rest of our drive home was quick and uneventful, as we left the children with Simon and his parents in Chihuahua for a couple of weeks. The most interesting things I saw on the way home was one sign that said “Orozco Bombing Range” and about five miles later another that said, “Valley of Fires Recreation Area.” I think it’s fair to say that residents of (or visitors to) New Mexico like to live on the wild side.
I did, however, continue to smell the skunk at the most unusual of times, which prompted me to suggest to Sofi that perhaps there is a secret passageway into her trunk, and the skunk from her apartment complex traveled with us to Chihuahua and back…which after spending 30 hours in the car seems like a very real possibility.