Sunday, March 22, 2009
3/18/09 Houston to Reynosa,MX 380 miles
Sitting at a little taco spot in the center of Reynosa, just across the border from McAllen, TX. Although just a few miles from the border, the sights, sounds and smells are definitely far from home. It feels good, like the 1st night Im really away. Ahhh, food just arrived, Ill get back later... Ok, back in the motel room watching Kalifornia with Spanish subtitles. I left Houston at 9:30am from bill and Mina's house (good friends of mine) and rode 380 miles through southern Texas, through Victoria and flat, sparse wasteland. Seven hours later Im outside of McAllen/Reynosa at the Mexican border. There is only 2.5 hours of daylight left and Im trying to get a ways into Mexico before dark, as border towns aren't the nicest places to be at night. First though, I insist on finding a Bank of America to withdraw some cash to convert into pesos. Im trying to have a budget-minded travel ethic and Im starting now by riding a half-hour in traffic to save $3.00 on transaction fees. I get there and of course the ATM isn't working. That's what I get for being such a cheap bitch I guess! So I go get gas and I ask an attractive Spanish woman how to get to the border. She answers in Spanish and I barely figure it out but I get it. Then she starts asking what I am doing, where I am going, etc. I answer way too quickly and speed off. Wait, was she throwing me me a vibe with the questions and the smiles? Man, if I had a nickel for every time I did shit like this I would have like...35 or 40 cents probably. Anyway, i get to the border and get some cash from another ATM ($3.00 transaction fee :-( change the cash over to pesos at a Casa de Cambio (13.70 pesos to the dollar, a really great rate). The Mexican economy is doing even worse than ours it seems. Cross the International Bridge (normally $2.25, $1 for bikes, nice) and immediately get lost in Reynosa, even with the Mexico maps I downloaded into my GPS. In Houston I got a Vehicle Import Permit for the bike but I still need a tourist card for myself. Finally find the Immigration Office, get the paperwork done, and then wait in line to pay for it at the Banjercito (Bank of Mexico). One number before mine is called and the copy machine breaks. The only one in the building. Welcome to Mexico. An hour later Im out of there and headed through Reynosa. I wind my way through the Zona Centro (center of town), and drive through the side streets passing through a live and kicking evening scene. Pedestrian-only streets, food stalls, live music and pretty, smiling women all over. OK, Im staying here tonight then, its getting pretty dark. Im directed to a hotel by a bunch of bikers and settle for a room for 250 pesos which is more than I want to pay but is still a really good deal compared to the U.S. At the current exchange rate it's about $18 and includes secure motorcycle parking. I should be able to find rooms for 6 or 7 bucks further into Mexico and even cheaper in Guatemala. Settle in, clean up and head out for a bite to eat. Its only 8:30pm, because the time is an hour behind the U.S. but things are starting to close up. I manage to grab a large cup of fresh pineapple and mango and a bottle of water (about 2 bucks), tacos and a drink for about 4 bucks, and a pastry and ice cream for a couple of bucks. I walk around a bit and enjoy the perfect night weather and head back to my room. i usually really enjoy the solitude of long-distance travelling but I have to say that after being so down for a few months it will be great to meet some folks. It's unlike me to conciously want to meet new people, but for a lot of reasons I do now. Gonna look at some maps and figure out where Im gonna go next. I want to maximize my time in Guatemala but I still want to hit a few key spots in Mexico I haven't seen, especially in and around Oaxaca and the Pacific coast. Ill leave three weeks towards the end of the trip after Spanish school in Guatemala to explore Belize and the rest of Mexico more thouroughly. I think I'll save the rest of Central America for the next trip but we'll see. I'm pretty sure I'll still see the Mayan ruins at Copan. Honduras though. Ok, enough for now, this is getting pretty long!