A Drive to Remember

I left just after dawn. Headed for Kino! But it took me almost all day to get there.
It was an easy crossing. The US customs agent asked where I was headed and when I told him he said to have a good time and be careful. I got a green light, a pase, at the Mexican aduana, or customs, so I sailed on into Naco.
Then, more good luck! The army checkpoint at the highway was gone. I’d expected to be held up there awhile, but no. I cut west toward Cananea.
My plan was to turn south just east of Cananea and drive the Rio Sonora route. The road over the mountains to Imuris is steep, twisty, and can be miserably slow if there is a line of trucks. On top of that, with the recent rains in the lowlands, I was pretty sure the passes would be covered in snow.
But as I got to the turnoff, I looked south to the Rio Sonora. Angry dark clouds hung over the entire valley. I recalled the four rivers I’d have to drive through, and I began to wonder if I’d make it. If it were raining in the valley and the mountains, surely the rivers would be swollen and uncrossable. I looked ahead and there were white clouds over the mountains, but I could see no snow.
I scrapped the valley and headed across the mountains.
Cars ahead of me zipped up the road as if the drivers knew the roads were clear. There were few trucks. As I left town, I noticed a beautiful new Oldsmobile, a pale blush color. I admired it as I passed by and a bit later noticed in my rear view mirror that it, too, had pulled onto the highway.
We all made good time. No trucks to pass, so I zipped over the first set of mountains and down into the valley. When I saw the “hassle free zone” sign followed by the “aduana” sign, I knew I’d made it halfway. Up ahead, trucks were stopped in the road, awaiting inspection. I pulled off the highway onto a dirt side road, just as I always do, and followed the car ahead of me. I expected to move quickly to the lane for automobiles.
Crap. As soon as I dropped off the highway, I saw the traffic nightmare. At least thirty cars were in the dirt road, except with all the rain, it was a mud road. There were also two busses. I glanced in the rear view mirror, thinking about turning around and getting back on the highway, but saw another thirty to forty vehicles had already clambered into the line. And many were trucks, and trucks took forever to get through the inspection. So I plodded on.
As I moved closer, I noticed that the busses were at the front of the mess of a line, both awaiting a space to get back onto the highway. Some cars were in line behind them, but most drivers were attempting to cut up the slope and get back onto the highway. Conditions didn’t permit an easy return.
Folks stuck on the highway were understandably unwilling to let vehicles cut back in front of them. After all, who knows how long they’d already been in that line?
Some who tried to reenter the highway drove up the slope and slowly slide back down through the mud. At least one vehicle was stuck. It was an almighty mess.
I sat in a line to climb the slope to the highway and this big car cut in front of me. I was furious! It was the Olds.
I realized I could be stuck there for an hour or more. And I wasn’t happy. And I had to pee.
Why this huge number of people early on a Sunday morning? It’s never like this. And then I remembered the storm in the Rio Sonora valley. Of course! Surely the rivers were full, so everyone north of Arizpe had to drive way north and across the mountain to get to Hermosillo rather than take the beautiful Rio drive.
I texted my friend Tere in Hermosillo to let her know of the mess. I was beginning to doubt I’d make it there in time to have lunch with her. She’d promised fish tacos, and as I told her, I’d kill for a fish taco. Not really, but if you’ve ever had a good fish taco, you understand what I mean.
Suddenly – suddenly about half an hour later – the first bus moved out of the mud and onto the pavement. I shot out of my place in line to climb the muddy slope and zipped into the line behind the second bus.
I moved so fast that I got a good position, and I was actually moving forward. It was a gentle slope, not like the one I’d have had to deal with if I’d stayed in my previous line. I was instantly grateful to the Olds for cutting me off. He was stuck on the slope and I wasn’t.
Finally I was up to the pavement. No one would let me in. I am not an aggressive driver, but I kept trying to edge my way into the line with no success. And then, there he was. The guy driving the Olds. I lowered my window, hung out, and gestured a request to get in front of him. And he nodded and waved me in.
I made it through the aduana in record time. And then I even got a green light, a pase and didn’t have to have an inspection.
The anti-aduana gods were clearly with me. If I’d faced a thorough inspection, they would certainly wonder why one person needed as much stuff as I had with me. And the baby clothes? Just how was I going to wear them?
You need to know that when I go to Kino, I often stop in Hermosillo and drop off things for Tere. I pick up her mail and her packages in the US and deliver things when I head south. I also take baby gifts and all kinds of requests from full-time Kino residents, US and Mexicans citizens alike.
So my car was full, and avoiding the aduana was a major plus.
Across the valley and into the second mountain range. In my mirror, a car was rapidly approaching. It shot into the other lane and passed a whole line of cars. It was the Olds. The guy waved as he soared on past.
Off on a big pullout to deal with my bladder. Past the Virgin of Guadalupe painted on the mountainside. That’s when I knew I was under twenty minutes from Imuris!
Ah-h-h. Imuris. Four lane highway. Seventy miles per hour. Beautiful. But no. There was roadwork, and the twenty or so miles to Magdalena went slower than usual.
I paid the first cuota, or toll, and pulled over to buy some burritos. Four small burritos for only twenty pesos, or about $1.60. Tossed them into my cooler for tomorrow’s breakfast. And by the way, travelers, this rest stop just south of the Magdalena cuota has some of the best roadside bathrooms in all of Mexico.
On down the highway. Past Rancho del Peňasco. Past Santa Ana. Zipping along until I hit a federal checkpoint. These guys don’t mess around. Lot of men carrying big rifles and wearing bullet-proof vests. But they weren’t looking for a 60+ year-old gringa and waved me right through.
Soon I was in Hermosillo, glad to see Tere, her husband, and her kids. We all went out for fish tacos and another friend and her son joined us. Tere explained that I’d said I’d kill for a fish taco, so she wanted to hurry me to the restaurant to avoid being an accessory to a violent crime.
And by evening, I’d made it to Kino. Ah-h-h.


Published by Emilie

I'm a retired instructor from a community college where I taught Developmental English and Reading as well as English as a Second Language. I'm also now a published author of a bilingual children's book entitled. Luisa the Green Sea Turtle - Luisa la Tortuga Verde del Mar. It's available from me, through Amazon, and is in a few (more and more each day!) bookstores.

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