#19 Road Trip Delays…the Ugly, the Bad and the Good

In early December my friend, Amy, and I planned a trip to Tucson to do a little shopping before the border wait times skyrocketed in the weeks leading up to Christmas.  The day of I zipped to her house before the sun rose with my giant tumbler of coffee, a mess of a hairdo and a long list of stores to hit. With one day to shop we planned to make the most of it.  We arrived in the border town of Nogales, Mexico where we slowed to a snail’s pace for an hour and a half as we literally inched closer toward the “wall”. During this wait I noted the oxymoron of the barbed wire wrapped sign declaring, “Welcome to the United States”. 

Friendly entry into the USA

Once we arrived at the guard shack the conscientious border agent checked our passports, questioned the purpose of our visit, examined the car’s interior and thumped the quarter panels as we waited to cross over onto US asphalt. Hmmmmm, are we actually welcome?  We finally made it through the gauntlet and were rolling only to be shut down a few miles north at an additional check point.  There were more border agents standing around than working the long line of vehicles which got me thinking about government expenditures.  In a land where a haircut can go for $600 perhaps this is reasonable. The agent who sidled up to our car asked one question, “Are you US citizens?”  My “Ugly American” brain had a fleeting thought to answer with a snarky comment. What difference could that make now? Travelers on this road had just had every orifice of their cars checked a few miles back? Had some unwelcome person managed to slither into the backseat without my knowledge?  Nonetheless, I decided my mental comments if verbalized would surely result in delaying the shopping trip even further. So I kept my judgements to myself with a simple, “Yes.”

Things one misses about the USA. Family, Friends, Target & Amazon Prime

We made it to Tucson.  First stop…Target. While living in Texas a quick trip to Target often turned into a cartload of things I “needed”.  The feeling strolling into this recognizable business was almost overwhelming. Shopping in a small, Mexican town where there is a never ending need to translate while making purchases made the prospective ease of this stop a real treat.  An hour and a full cart later I lugged my items to the front of the store where I found myself in line behind a “crazed couponer”. Great! I almost asked if she also held a job at the border as the line elongated while she double-couponed herself into tremendous savings.  I held in my internal eye roll. This was not a bad delay. It would not dampen my shopping spirit.

The hours ticked past as we maneuvered through crowded lots, entered stores, made purchases, slid bags into tiny spaces packing and repacking the car at each stop.  White elephant gifts, check! Reece’s Chocolate/Peanut Butter Christmas Trees, check! Binoculars, nope. Dog treats, check! Books, check! Trader Joe’s gift card, check! Ingredients for cookies, check!  External hard drive, check! Wine, check! Dining room chairs, check! Brussel sprouts, check, check! Stopping only for a late lunch we managed to check almost every item off our combined lists. That night we literally crawled into the hotel where we were given a key and map to our room.  With another road trip looming the next day we called it a night.

I had to give up my daily dose of iced coffee

We hit the road early arriving back in the US version of Nogales to make our way to Walmart.  “Wally World” is a standard stop when heading into Mexico. There is always a need for common articles including Wheat Thin crackers, toilet paper and Dawn detergent.  The day will come when the Mexican versions of these products seem perfect but the princess in me is not quite there five months into the move to San Carlos. One last stop, Starbucks, because we can.  Then it’s back across the border to what I like to call the fun side of the wall.

We roll into the Mexican border patrol area where we get the “green light” into Mexico. No one checks our passports or bothers to search what is inside the bursting Jeep Grand Cherokee.  But, it’s pretty early in the morning and the agents are not yet up to unloading a vehicle. Off we sped through the crisp, sunny morning taking in the beauty of the hillside homes to our east.  Only four more hours and we should be back in sunny, warm San Carlos where I’m looking forward to unloading the car and wrapping Christmas gifts. But alas, we spotted a truck along the roadside from which a man was selling giant poinsettia plants.  We pull off and I purchased two bush size pots. Amy and I once again rearrange to slide them into position. As we continue down the road we discuss the possibility of stopping at a tiny roadside market we saw on the way north where enormous red chili pepper clusters are for sale. Perfect for Feliz Navidad door decorations!  There’s surely enough space for two of those.  

Green Angels to the Rescue

Just then a warning chime dinged.  The right front tire was showing low pressure.  The cool weather could cause that. However the PSI continued to drop every few miles proving there’s a bigger problem.  We are in the middle of nowhere, in an over packed SUV and need to change the tire. Years ago my dad taught me to change a tire so I actually can do it but the mere thought of unloading this car on the side of the highway in Mexico made me shudder.  I envision something between a Rube Goldberg comic and an Ethel and Lucy skit finding its way to someone’s FaceBook as I reduce my speed. One thing to know is that in Mexico there are government paid, bilingual crews known as Green Angels. These crews patrol the roads with the sole purpose to help motorists in distress.  They will even fix or tow a vehicle for free. It’s Mexico’s version of AAA without the annual fee. So…where are they when I need them? Not on highway 15.

Market of the Chili Pepper Man

We limp into the northern part of the village of Imirus where we pull off at the market belonging to the chili pepper man.  While my Spanish expertise is equivalent to that of a two year old, Amy’s is perfect. She explains to the business owner our situation.  Without another thought he pulls out his cell phone and tells us his amigo is on the way. What happened next was a true surprise and windfall of luck.

Up pulls an old truck with the words ANTERA MOVIL lettered on the side in red.  Now, llantera móvil means mobile tire in English I can only guess that somewhere along the way this guy lost his L’s.  In the back of the truck there is something that resembles a small Discount Tire garage.

Out of the truck pops a kind gentleman who quickly assessed the situation.  He jacked up the car, removed the tire and found the giant spike that had punctured its way into the road trip.

He determined the tire would need to be patched from the inside so this llantera expert used what looked like a combo wedge and giant ax to remove the tire from the rim.  I watched with wide eyed anticipation from the sidelines while Amy bounced across the street to buy the hardworking man a bottle of water. The tire was dismounted, the spike removed and the gentleman proceeded to patch the tire from the inside with glue, heat and a tiny drill like tool. 

He then remounted the tire and checked for leaks with soapy water just like my dad would have done. There were none. The tire was reinstalled on the car, air was added and the pressure checked and double checked.

A NASCAR change it wasn’t but 30 minutes later I was ready to pay.  The price, $300 pesos or about $16 USD. Seriously, mobile service for $16? I gave the man a nice tip and Amy told him we needed a little saint statue that looked like him to put on the dashboard of the car. We were all very thankful.  

The Market With Everything…Sugar Cane, Dried Fruits, Grapefruits, Cheeses, Garlic, Candied Pecans, Chili Peppers, Oranges and a Nice Guy with a Cell Phone!

Amy and I made a few purchases from the market of the man who contacted tire angel.  It was the least we could do. While this delay was unplanned as were several of the others on this little road trip, it was clearly the one that showed the true goodness in people.  While I hope not to need ANTERA MOVIL in the near future, I’m certainly glad to know he’s out there just in case.

“A bad attitude is like a flat tire.  You can’t go anywhere until you change it.”

– unknown

January 20, 2020

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