Laredo

Night fall slowly upon Laredo. It’s still hot, but a strong breeze cools things down. The wind is harsh and blows  all kinds of garbage onto the courtyard of our hotel. I double and triple check the ratchets. Both, the roof rack and the bikes are holding firm. We’ve dropped some stuff at a local Goodwill store, so there is now more space inside. And after leaving Alex’s bike, the van is also much lighter. Still heavier that I would have wished for, but every ounce left behind helps get us farther.

Plastic bags dance in the wind. There is nervousness in the air. Large, black birds – hundreds of them – gather on a nearby trees and make alarming noises. The storm  seems near. Except there is none in the forecast…

I look up and see an orange dot glowing on the walkway above my head. In the darkness brightened only by a dim light of the parking lot lamp, I can barely recognize a large Mexican watching me from above. Laredo might be considered an American city, but that’s entirely misleading. Everyone here speaks Spanish. Whenever you go you’ll be greeted by a friendly “Buenos Tardes” or “Hola!”. Every restaurant has tortillas with “Salsa Verde” on their menus. You can even buy them along with Mexican car insurance, on every gas stations. The streets are busy. Loud Mexican folk music is booming from every store, service garage, street vendor stand and every other passing car. All the signs are in Spanish, sometimes bi-lingual. There is no doubt, Laredo is a pure Mexican city on American soil.

The night before departure from Corpus Christi we’ve met Ryan. He’s from British Columbia and it took him four months to get there. He’d been pedaling through the mountains and some of the most beautiful places on this planet to arrive in plain, dusty, a little boring, but enormous Texas. We’ve shared Ten Ren’s King’s 913 Oolong tea and a few stories from our travels. Obviously we look at World from different perspectives, watching it’s beauty comfortably through a TV-like car window or experiencing nature and the elements first hand on a narrow, hard bike seat. Despite differences, I think we found that we do have a lot in common, share similar views on life. We spoke about Mexico and after a while, we got a little depressed as discussion kept coming back to travel safety. When we split up for the night, I started looking for news about road conditions south of Brownsville and accidentally stumbled upon a site dedicated to road safety in Mexico. It looks a bit dated, but the information is fresh. I contacted it’s owners, who responded very quickly and proposed an alternative, apparently much safer route. This is how we ended up in Laredo, instead of Brownssville.

Tomorrow morning, we’ll head out very early, probably before sunrise. After crossing the border we’ll circle around Nuevo Laredo, head towards Monterrey, but stay away from the city, then through Saltillo arrive in Matehuala, where we plan to stay for the night. This will be a long day, as this 350 miles stretch is supposed to take some seven hours. Hopefully, there will be no crowds on the border.

On Saturday, we’ll move on to San Luis Potosi and finally to San Miguel de Allende, where we plan to stay until Thanksgiving. I will give an update on Sunday, once we recover form the trip.

Agnieszka turned off the noisy air conditioning and it’s now hot and humid in the room. It’s late and the kids sleep sound. It’s time for us to retire too. Tomorrow will be a long day.

And I’ve heard that it’s snowing in Rochester…

Texas

In the last few days we’ve been traveling fast. It was Friday, when we left New Orleans and tonight I’m writing this short update from Corpus Christi, Texas. There was a cold front passing through the Gulf’s north shore and temperatures at night fell down below 40’s forcing Agnieszka to upgrade her sleeping bag. Despite relative luxuries of the park in Louisiana, we decided that we deserved a hot bath and comfy beds at a decent hotel. Half way to Houston is Lake Charles, where we settled for the night. The next morning, refreshed and invigorated we’ve entered Texas.

Originally, we planned to stay in Houston for about a week. I wanted to look at lighter bicycles. Mine is rather heavy and after a week of riding on a beach, the gears started to skip. I also wanted to browse Craigslist and see if there are any replacements for my broken Kindle. I must have dropped something heavy on it and the screen cracked. I have to admit, that this loss bothers me a lot. Not that I have so much spare time to kill, but not having a good read at night is depressing. We decided to stay in Brazos Bend State Park, but arriving on Saturday night, we were lucky to get a spot on the overflow site. The park wasn’t very exciting, except for the alligators and a first class observatory – we had a chance to take part in a night sky viewing event. And for the mosquitoes that turned up in such numbers that we decided to evacuate the next morning. This is how we ended up in Corpus Christi a week or so ahead of time. And the park we found a spot on isn’t necessary the most exciting either. It’s nothing more but twenty sites nested between the ocean and a busy highway, which gets really loud, especially early in the mornings. Between that and the red tide, we decided, it’s time to head South.

If everything goes well towards the end of the week we’ll enter Mexico. We are headed to San Miguel de Allende, where we found a large apartment for the next three weeks.