I took a farewell tour to see as many friends and family as time would allow. This took me all over Texas, North, Southwest, and East. I was able to say a lot of Good byes.
One part in particular seemed appropriate to write about before leaving. Yep, that’s right, tomorrow afternoon I leave for Germany. I’ll get on a jet plane and head east across the Atlantic Ocean. I can hardly believe it’s happing; time went so quickly since I got back from the trip this summer.
So, I was at Sharon’s and preparing to leave for home. Currently she lives about 3 miles from the Mexican border, 1 as the crow flies. I had only recently received my passport and got the idea that I could use it before actually leaving the country. So after packing my things I built myself up to crossing the border.
Normally that wouldn’t be a big deal. I’ve been in Mexico many times, over quite a bit of the country in fact. This time was different though. Lately there have been many gang fights and innocent people getting hurt. More importantly I wanted to drive. That’s something I’d never done, and was frightened. Not only that, but I had my bike.
This all set me up for being scared. I actually got nervous and almost backed out. I thought maybe I’d walk over instead and get my passport stamped. No need to ride. But that was the easy way out. My bike and I had never been to Mexico together, and this would be the last chance for a long time, much more than a year. Plus in just one week more I would be leaving the country. Fear can be a powerful thing. It overtook me for a while. I wanted to face it though. I still hadn’t left. And to make things worse I wore my leather vest. Might as well make it as scare as possible huh?
I wasn’t worried about what would happen across the border; I was just nervous. Maybe that played into what was soon to happen: a microcosm of my impending trip. If I could just make it to Mexico and back then things would work out. I could overcome my bigger fears of being gone for a year. It was me and me only that crossed that border that day. Given the chance for adventure I took it.
My heart was racing as I started the bike. If everything went right I’d be in Mexico in just a few minutes. I’d run across, have my passport stamped, and run right back – on the bike of course. If I felt safe enough, I’d stop at a market I knew and buy a Coca-Cola they’re famous for – the ones that still have real sugar and not corn syrup for sweetener. Those are delicious. But that’s it, I’d come right back, no dillydallying. Safety first.
I hopped on the bike and headed south to the main road. Turning west I was only one mile from the border station. This is it, no turning back now. Cross the overpass over the RR tracks and there it is; Mexico, Ciudad Acuna to be exact. Stop to pay the toll, and on the bridge. 4 lane bridge, 2 each way. Crossing the Rio Grande river, don’t forget to take pictures. There are trucks broken down on the bridge. Finally in another country.
The first person I found there was a border security man that was accustomed to commercial trucks pulling into his lane. He searched them and helped with declarations of their cargo. A motorcycle had never pulled up to him. Few in fact ever cross the border there. What kind of bike is that he thought? I pulled off my helmet and asked where I could have my passport stamped. He wasn’t sure but pointed into the building saying something about immigration.
After parking my bike I walked inside. It wasn’t like buildings you expect in the US. Low ceilinged, narrow, there were about 8 windows. All of which were empty except one. That must be where. I knocked on the glass and a sleepy mustacheod man slid it over. I asked, “Can I have my passport stamped here”. He nodded and found the stamp.
Oops, almost stamped the wrong date. I was the first person that day who wanted it – maybe the first person in several days. He asked me how long I was to be in Mexico. Just a few minutes I said, only wanted my passport stamped. Not understanding my intent he proceeded. He was careful to make it fit in the boxes and write the time and my purpose – visiting. After letting me know that I was not permitted to leave the city he said goodbye.
Ok, goal accomplished. That wasn’t too bad, what next? Go home? Stay for a while? I had things to do before leaving Del Rio, and I had to see Sharon again. But I went into the city.
Ciudad Acuna is not a city like we’re used to. The streets are very narrow and mostly “one-way”. The curbs are very tall and make one feel trapped. I found the place I was thinking of, but there was no parking on the street so I passed it. Several blocks later I turned off the main road. That doesn’t sound like much, but think on this. This is the one street in the city where you can speak English. The vendors there are used to curious tourists and shoppers looking for a deal. Turn off of that street and they aren’t looking for Americans. It’s like a regular city with one street different. They speak Spanish and do the things Mexicans do. Any white person is probably lost.
So I made a couple lefts and headed back. There were scooters parked on the sidewalks, maybe I could do that. Where to park? Oh, there’s a coca-cola sign. I found a spot between to parallel parked cars and got off. Earlier, thinking the worst, I pulled off my saddle bags and tool bag. The bike was “stock”. I noticed as I walked away. Being afraid I made sure to look at the bike every few seconds, someone might steal it. Anyway, I paid with one USD and got 55 cents change on a 600ml coke, roughly 20oz. It was the cheapest coke I’d ever drank. Not only that, but it tastes so much better with real sugar for sweetener. MMMmmmmMMMM.
Oh, there was “banco” across the street. That’s not too far away from the street, I can keep my eye on the bike. So I went in and changed a dollar for pesos. $10.80 (pesos) was the current rate. I could buy 2 beers with that or breakfast. This was my first chance to speak Spanish. It was a quick transaction. Just down from the bank, and still within sight of the bike was a small restaurant. They advertised breakfast gorditas for $5, pesos again.
A tougher challenge for me. I was successful. They knew I couldn’t talk too much and didn’t ask many questions, but the restaurant talk worked out.
I went back to the bike to eat the gordita and drink my soda. It wasn’t so bad in Mexico after all. One passerby wanted to talk. He was from Monterey and liked motorcycles even though he didn’t have one. The conversation was short, and I didn’t understand everything he said, but it was pleasant to talk to someone. Breakfast all done I headed back. Across the same bridge, Rio Grande, toll booths. I did stop to have my passport stamped at the US border station. He did the wrong date. DOH. Guess they don’t have many requests either.
And that’s that. See the pictures from this adventure here