Boy it’s been a long time since we’ve gone anywhere. Aside from a quick trip up the road to meet our delightful granddaughter Lydia a couple of weeks ago, the last 6 months have been a blur of horse show management, remodeling, gardening and other assorted hot weather tasks that pretty much keep both or at least one of us around the house. But now it’s the last month of the year and time to take that southbound highway until the road runs out on the sunny shores of the Sea of Cortez.
This trip in always done in two parts, 6 ½ hours to Tucson, a night’s rest and then another 5 hours into Mexico.  When it works, we have a night out at Falora, our favorite pizza place with Barbara, our favorite cousin. On our last trip in February, we got to know Ari, the owner and he was glad to see us again (once he realized that it was us. It’s always nice to be known at a place off your beaten path.
Phase Two commenced with a great breakfast and a walk along the new park that borders the Santa Cruz River, across the street from Barbara’s place. While the desert scenery in this part of Tucson is not spectacular, the city has done a nice job of reclaiming what was previously a half-century’s worth of dumping and destruction. And now in spite of the power poles and the horrendous din of the cars on I10, you have a decent place for a hike or a bike ride. Winter birds flick in and out of the bushes, and bundled up seniors cruise by on mountain bikes.
We rolled out around 10:30 and made it to our grocery stop in Green Valley about an hour later. Then it was on to the last best gas station in Nogales and from there to the border. The US has done a very interesting job of making the crossing procedure impossible to understand. I guess that prevents Narcos in Suburbans from shooting their way in and out of the country. On one trip, we had to park the car in an x-ray machine. On another, we were made to stop at a tent and present our smiling faces to some serious looking Border Patrol agents. Little by little, the structures have become more permanent and the entry road more circuitous. A year or so ago they added a couple of lanes with toll booth structures, but they’ve never been manned – you just drive right through. This time though I found myself behind a Timid Traveler who decided to obey the signals. There was a stop sign in front of an empty booth, and he stopped. And sat, and sat and sat. I waited patiently (hard for me) and hoped that the official, standing in the other empty lane, a civil servant from I’m not sure which country, would wave the Timid Traveler through. But he didn’t he just stood there impassively observing our waiting until finally the timid traveler understood that nothing was going to happen and drove on. I managed to get around him once we got onto the recinto fiscal, the import/export zone road that whose controlled isolation from the Mexican side of Nogales is belied by the gaping holes in the security fence along its entire 5-mile length. The road becomes two lanes at a posted speed of 24 MPH and Timid Traveler decided to obey the speed limit. I blew by and headed off to the customs stop 2-miles up the road.
The number of inspections a traveler faces has changed over the years. It used to be only one, at the immigration stop, 12 kilometers into the country. Then one appeared just after the toll both on the fiscal road. This one is a crap shoot, I get pulled over about a third of the time, and the inspection is cursory. The process of being chosen is the same as ever, you pull up and wait to see if you get a read or a green light. Today, I got neither so I inched ahead and still nothing. More inching, more nothing. And then an alarm and a flashing red lights and the wave of the arm from the customs guy directing me into the inspection bay. This used to scare the hell out of me, but now I see it was a fun challenge. I parked, turned off the car and got out, saying “Buenos dias” as an icebreaker. The agent asked if I spoke Spanish and I replied “un poco” and he switched to Spanglish. The regular questions then ensured – “Where are you going?” and “What have you got?” I replied “Ropa, comidas, dos barcas, una bicicleta, cosas de vacaciones” and he waved me on. It’s always a fun thing to claim a limited knowledge of a language and then answer questions skillfully. I remember asking my friend Ben for a better way of saying “so-so” in Chinese because I didn’t like the simple word I had learned. He gave me a choice with a warning, saying that I could use the word but when I did, the person I was speaking to would know I was sandbagging. At the time I thought that was a pretty good option, disarming even, and so I always claim to be ignorant when in fact I am actually only half-so.
We saw the Timid Traveler again at the immigration stop, he was arriving as we were leaving after securing our paperwork in about 4 minutes. This process used to be very 3rd World with slowly turning fans, flies buzzing in the screens of a little shack, inscrutable uniformed officials and lots of carbon paper. Now it’s a simple process and a chance to discuss the dates that Arizona schools close for Christmas. We pulled out and point the car south and were on our way. Just 4 hours of Sonoran desert landscape, broken up only by the occasional construction zone. To break up the monotony, I implored MLW to write down the names of the bridges which she reluctantly agreed to do (once she had finished her sandwich.) Some are obvious, others are probably local place or family names, but they are colorful and I thought they’d make a nice language project for me. So she did, and here they are:

Puente Oasis
Oasis Bridge
Puente Victoria
Victory Bridge
Puente Tres Cerros
Three Hills Bridge
Puente Pitahara
Who knows?
Puente La Salada
Salt Pan Bridge
Puente El Chony
Who knows?
Puente Pitayaro
Fruit of a Local Cactus Bridge
Puente La Chicura
Who knows?
Puente Ocelote
Ocelot Bridge
Puente Iguana
Iguana Bridge
Puente Arrieros
Muleteers Bridge
Puente Areneros
Sandbox Bridge
Puente El Tigre
Tiger Bridge
I had so much fun with that, I hope I can convince her to do it again on the way back home!
Once past Hermosillo, it’s only another hour until our turn off to San Carlos. Jagged mountains start to appear to the west as we get closer to the coast, and we diligently watch for the first appearance of Mt. Guaymas (what we call it) in the south east, signaling that we are getting close to our destination. There are a lot of big antennas on top of it, and we’re often fooled by False Mt. Guaymas, a microwave station atop a mountain at the 2/3 point of the trip. But eventually we’re passed that one and our beacon begins to shine, first dimly in the distance and then brighter and brighter until we’re finally at its feet and we make that sweeping turn to the west and down to the sea.

Once the car was unloaded and we had a chance to look around, we saw the Timid Traveler again, turns out he’s staying in the condo across the sidewalk from us. Small world, right? We said our “hellos” to the regulars and made our way to Rosa’s for our traditional first night meal – sopa de tortilla y dos cervezas.