from Deadwood, Oregon....
Dear Carl & Lorena
I'm starting to have anxiety attacks around driving to Mexico alone, the pressure of getting ready.This is just such a HUGE thing to be doing. I can't believe I'm doing it, and I don't know what else to do.
The truth is, there's really nothing I want to do. I exist in this haze, a vague soup, unmotivated. I'm very fortunate to have this leeway- these months where I don't have to make an income- because, frankly, I'm incapable of it. I feel exhausted and unmotivated. Oh, I'm busy all the time, I work at things all day, can't possible keep up, of course, and there are only miniscule steps in getting ahead of the chaos all around.
ES (Endangered Species) is ship shape -- to the tune of $1,000, tho I still don't have an emergency brake or a horn!
So, that's where I'm at.
Is there much going on in Ajijic for "Dia de los Muertos"? Are you having an altar?
We have had a very lively weekend of parades, fireworks barrages, mariachi bands and floods of over-excited children chanting "queremos ha-lo-wee!" outside our door. The Days of the Dead are hardly that....
Lorena went into Guadalajara yesterday to shop for our altar. She got a tiny plate of enchiladas for Steve, with a "side" of frijoles refritos; a chocolate coffin for my Dad, another funny little coffin for her brother Teddy -- you pull a string and the difunto's head pops up out of the coffin. She also found some wonderful "papel de china" cutouts of various muertos, dancing, smoking cigars, drinking. We now have these on our walls, which were previously very bare and very white.
The altar is in Pancho Villa's famous mirrored gun case -- our big photo album, open to Steve's pictures, candles, marigolds, various Dead candies, a large skull mask....
Reading your last email reminded me (all too vividly) of just how difficult it is to disconnect from a soggy northwoods cabin and actually leave for Mexico. I also remember what it was like to drive to Mexico the first time without Steve at the helm. In fact, I still experience a certain apprehension whenever I approach the border, and a big sense of relief once I'm across it.
Since I'm not a mechanic and hate breakdowns, I've also developed some strategies that I follow pretty religiously, especially in Mexico.
First off, get the strongest tires you can find. The peace of mind this will give you when you slam into an unexpected chuckhole will be worth the price. Also, there is nothing more annoying than waking up in the morning to find you've got a flat (or two), and Steve isn't there to take care of it. Such as... the trip Lorena and I made in the "Whale", where we had 21 flats! If you haven't done so already, I'd go to Les Schwab and tell them you want really strong, nothing-fancy tires.
Next, keep reminding yourself just how easy it has become to drive in Mexico, especially on the principal routes. Have you read our account of our drive from Nogales on the PG website? If not, please do. I especially recommend this route for you -- there is only one 3-4 hour stretch of two-lane, just south of Mazatlan.
Take the tollways and consider them a necessary expense; it is worth it for safety and comfort, as well as wear and tear on the vehicle.
Once you're inside Mexico, don't try to do more than 300 miles a day. Do your best to be off the road a good hour or more before dark. The most stressful time is that last hour of driving, especially if you have a flat or other problem. It is better to get up before dawn and quit by 4 p.m. For one driver, 300 miles a day in Mexico is plenty. By the third day you'll be deep into the country and feeling a lot more confident, without being wiped out.
Since this is the first time you've done this on your own, I'd also try not to follow a schedule -- when Lorena and I came down early this year, we suddenly decided to lay over for 3 days in a wonderful RV park south of San Blas. She was sick with the flu and I was suddenly coming down from all the pre-trip stress. For me at least, these were the best days of the entire drive.
If you can keep yourself from doing more than 2-300 miles a day, and wake up feeling good in the morning, I think you'll be amazed at how easy it is to get from the border to San Miguel de Allende. (There is now a very quick tollway from San Miguel to Guadalajara, and from there to Colima.)
As for the ever-worrisome roadside breakdown: the bottom line is to simply wait for the Green Angels to appear. It may take hours, but these guys really are helpful.
A couple of other thoughts: carry a quart of alcohol to dump into the gas tank, in the event that you get watery gas along the coast. If the truck starts running rough, add the alcohol to half a tank or more of gasoline. When in doubt, use it -- it can't hurt. Also, avoid running the gas tank to the bottom, where there might be junk and water from the past.
When I park at night, I always try to position the vehicle so that the battery is reachable if we have to use jumper cables in the morning. Backing-in usually does the trick.
Check the oil and water religiously, before you start in the morning. I also walk around the vehicle, eyeball the tires, and look under it. At the very least, this quick inspection will reassure you that nothing is obviously wrong.
After reading how many highway accidents are caused by dirty windshields, I'm also very fussy about cleaning it frequently. Coming down in September, there were a lot of insects in the air, and I must have washed the windshield several times a day. Improves the view, too.
If nothing else, these highway rites & rituals will gradually strengthen your self confidence and allow you to rest when you need it.
Dear Carl & Lorena,
I've come to the conclusion that any woman who hitch-hiked alone thru Mexico in her 20's can drive thru Mexico alone in her 50's!
....Continued with On The Road Again