Banámichi and North

When I left Kino it was 76 degrees and drippingly humid. One hour inland it was 97 and bone dry. It was still dry when I got to Banámichi, but at least it was cooler.
I’d driven up the southern end of the Ruta Rio Sonora. With such a fine name, you’d think the road would be good, but you’d be wrong. Parts of Sonora 118 have been repaved in the

Sonora 118, La Ruta Sonora

last few years, but others seem to have been ignored for a decade. 118 is narrow and twisty, but there are many places to pull over. Beautiful views of the river valley and of redrock cliffs.

I pulled into Banámichi around 4:30, hoping Hotel Los Arcos would have a room available, and it did. Costly. A splurge. But it was lovely and as a bonus, there was wi fi.

Entrance to Hotel Los Arcos

My spacious room held a comfy bed. The bathroom had plenty of hot water and plenty of water pressure – both rare in less expensive places. The bathroom vanity was made of a 2″ slab of mesquite and held a talavera sink.
The ten rooms at Los Arcos surround a courtyard full of potted plants, cozy sitting areas, and small ponds. The perfect place for a book and a cold beer at the end of a hot day.
I took my things to my room, spoke briefly to owners Lynn and Tom, formerly of Colorado, and went for a walk. Evening was falling, so shadows were long and late sunlight intensified colors.

Doorway of an empty building

I found Banámichi to be a mix of buildings that have been maintained, beautifully restored, or abandoned. I strolled about twelve blocks, taking in the sights and sounds of supper time in small town Sonora.

Back at Arco Iris, I settled into a chair in the courtyard with my Tecate. Two Canadian miners nodded at me as they left their rooms and headed out for the night shift drilling core samples in a quest for gold and silver. Word has it the Santa Elena mine is pulling out plenty of both, netting a nice profit for SilverCrest Mines, Inc. The miners went to work and I sat outside until long after dark.

The night was stunningly quiet. An occasional car rumbled up the street. That was it. Even the cars stopped by eleven or so. And then silence. Delicious silence.

Breakfast the next morning in the courtyard. Leisurely.

Courtyard at Hotel Los Arcos

Then it was time to head north. Past small towns, slowing for the topes on both ends of each pueblo. Through dips, some deep. Some had warning signs reading Vado Pelegroso, dangerous dip. Take that sign seriously if it’s rainy season. The vados on Sonora 118 are often tributaries to the Rio Sonora and can run fast and deep.
One other thing about this highway: the only bridges are foot bridges. You won’t drive over the river; you’ll drive through it. The road is simply not passable during rainy season.

As I headed north, I stopped a few times to take in views and made one longer stop just north of the village of Arizpe to wade the river. I saw an egret searching his breakfast and tried to sneak up on him with my camera. Through the river, down an embankment and up to a barbed wire fence. Then I walked the fenceline until I was in the perfect position. And he stepped into the bushes. Deciding he was camera shy, I went back to my car.

Three hours after leaving Banámichi I was in line at the border. Familiar faces greeted me, noted the luggage and cooler in my car, and asked where I’d been this time.

Well, Kino, of course!

Of course, they responded. Of course.

A Mind Twisting Day

I left Kino around noon with two main goals: visit the Home Depot in Hermosillo to price some materials, and to then cut east and return via the Rio Sonora without getting stopped by the cops.
Home Depot seemed easy. The Rio Sonora route, not so much. Technically, US cars need a Mexican permiso to drive this route, and I don’t have one. They cost about $40 and require a $300 deposit that isn’t returned until you turn the permiso back in, on time. Not turned in? You can never get another one. Late? Well, you can get another one some day, but you forfeit the $300. So, big goal. No cops.
But then life happened. 
A friend had told me the Home Depot (henceforth the HD) was right across from the Wal-Mart (WM). I cruised up and down, round and round. I almost pulled right out in front of a car but his angry car horn stopped me dead. I circled and searched. Finally, I pulled into the WM parking lot (I SWEAR I didn’t go in!!!) to try to find someone who could tell me where the HD was.
My luck! Along came a taxi cab. I flagged down the driver and he told me it was across from the other Wal-Mart a few miles south. Turns out I had driven within a block of it before turning around and heading back north for miles.
I zipped down to the HD, parked, and went into the store. Such convenience! It was laid out just like the ones in the states, so it was easy to find my way around and check the prices.
As I wandered the aisles, Stevie Wonder crooned through the store speakers telling me he’d just called to say he loved me. I was touched. In honor of a friend who loves to dance, I did a a little jig down the plywood aisle. A few people backed away.
Got my prices, wrote them down without fainting, then back to the car to head back north to make my way around to the highway that runs from the north along the east side of the city. Then it struck me: I would just have to go way north and then east and then back south. Why not just cut through the city and get to the highway? Heck, I had a MAP! I was fearless.
Well, not quite fearless. I remembered the last time I’d tried to find my way through Hermosillo. I left a friend’s house around 2:00, and an hour later, I found myself circling back past her neighborhood. I’d gotten myself caught in one of the city’s many loops. 
I called her on my Mexican cell phone, got good instructions, and headed back out. An hour later, after wandering downtown,driving twice the wrong way on one-way streets, and circling awhile in a new suburb, I finally emerged onto the highway back to Kino. 
The one hour and fifteen minute drive took me only three hours.
But this time, I had a MAP!
I pulled over and laid out my route. Easy. Follow Johnson to Rodriguez to Kino to the highway. A snap. Fifteen minutes max.
I couldn’t get to Johnson directly and got lost in a neighborhood. I finally made it but almost missed it because it was labeled as Encinas, the whole name being Bolevard Luis Encinas Johnson. I never found Rodriguez (Alberado L Rodriguez. Had it just been called “L”?)
An hour later I was almost out of gas and had made likely the most circuitous route possible to the highway. But I made it. I snarled when I drove past my friend’s old neighborhood and didn’t dare call her to tell her I’d done it once again, but with a MAP.
Got gas, found the highway east and headed toward the Ruta Rio Sonora. Wow! 
Four miles down the road I landed in the wrong lane, missed a road entrance and had to circle under a bridge, drive back west a mile or so and try again. Success.
Now. Why had I planned to take this route? It is longer and it is much slower than my usual over-the-mountain trek.
Well, my tires are old and warn. I didn’t want to take that white-knuckle mountain road. Knew that it could be more dangerous than it usually is to drive it with old tires. 
So. I cruised east on Sonora route 14. A lovely drive past ranches and small villages. Men on horseback rode along the side the road. Many little towns had signs pointing the way to the molinero, the wheat grinding facility. It was rural and rustic, a Mexican blue highway.
And then it changed. It began to slowly climb uphill. Then it began to twist through the hills.  Oh, NO! Exactly the situation I had wanted to avoid!
But it wasn’t nearly so bad as the old white knuckler. This road was a bit wider, and it wasn’t anywhere as steep as the other. Also, there were several wide spots where it would be easy to pull off if necessary, and on the road I’d been avoiding, those spots are few and far between. Plus, there were no mind-numbing sheer cliff drop offs with little roadside crosses planted every few feet. And another bonus, no big trucks.
So, though I initially feared for my life when I saw the rise in elevation complete with twisty road, it was fine. 
In about 70 miles and closer to two hours than one, I found the road north, the actual Ruta Sonora.
I drove lazily, letting my eyes wander over green fields and beyond to the string of cottonwoods that gave away the river’s location. I thought about stopping a few times but figured with my luck a kindly cop would stop to see if I was okay. And then he’d become a little less kindly once he noticed I was without a permiso. So I plodded on.
And then it happened. In the first big town, Baviacora, a kindly cop watched me drive by. He was sitting at a stop sign on a cross street. And he then zipped in behind me.
First concern was there was no posted speed limit, so I was sort of winging it by cruising at about 22. Second concern, of course, was that he’d noticed the lack of permiso on my car windshield.
He clung to my back bumper. I kept driving an even 22. He stayed on my bumper. About a mile later, he turned off. Success! First kindly cop either ignored or missed my lawbreaking. 
On to Banamihci!


    According to William Powers, in his book “12 By 12,” kids today can identify around a thousand corporate logos, but most can’t identify ten native plants and animals in their area.
    The number seems high to me. A thousand corporate logos? My initial reaction was, “But there aren’t that many!” 
    But of course there are. And many more.
    I wonder how many I could identify. Too many, most likely. But thankfully I can identify many, many native plants and animals. 
    Of course most kids cant identify native plants and animals. Today, kids spend way too much of their time inside. Sleeping, eating, TV. Computers and video games. School. Church if they do that. 
    Long ago, I don’t even remember when, I realized that the desert was my church. When I need to get close to whatever Spirit  it is that I connect with, I go outside. I can find it inside, too, but I believe Spirit lives outside.
    One if the earliest deeply spiritual moments in my life was in about 1977 or 1978. I was standing at the rim of Canyon de Chelley in northern Arizona, and suddenly I was filled with, well, whatever it is.  
    It  wasn’t that I hadn’t ever been to church. I had been raised attending church, celebrating Christmas and Easter. I’d attended summer church events and church camp. But what I liked most about church camp and summer events was being out of doors. That is where I found peace, where I found myself, and where I found the earliest stirrings of Spirit.
    Then, that summer at Canyon de Chelley, I can’t even express what happened. I just felt deeply that there was a living Spirit In me. It emanated from the Earth and had nothing to do with the God I’d heard of my whole life. It stirred something in me, and that stirring has never gone away.
    More recently, I had the experience of leaning out of a little boat, a panga, on     a lagoon in central Baja California to stroke the back of a gray whale. Spirit was there again.
    In fact, I felt it as soon as I saw my first whale breaching. I knew it was pure goodness, pure Godliness, pure Spirit. Touching that whale, looking into her huge eye, moved me in a way nothing else ever has.
    I met Spirit in Guatemala on a boat while crossing Lago Atitlan, and met Her again when hang gliding, jumping off a 7000 foot cliff in southern 
    Arizona to circle with hawks.
    Of course, it doesn’t take a whale or a hang glide to experience Spirit. She was there today as I sat on a sand bar and looked at the sea. In December, Spirit glimmered in the face of a dead sea turtle. The other day She was in a saguaro blossom.
    All of my encounters with Spirit have been outside. It’s not that She won’t come inside. Of course She will. But Her home is in nature.
    So. What are we letting happen to our children? When we confine them all day in classrooms, cut funds for field trips, and cut back recess time so kids can do better on mandatory testing, what are we doing to their psyches? How are we interfering with their spiritual development?
    I believe in the separation of church and state. But Spirit is not church. She just IS. And She is earth, sea, and sky. She is nature. She is not in a corporate logo.
    This is not something I can prove. I have no evidence. I have only the edge of a canyon, a dead sea turtle, and the eye of a whale to tell me it is true.