Driving Home


What is 'home? We drove 'home' to Mexico this week, but we also spent time in our Boise 'home' and our Gig Harbor 'home' over the past two months. When the quarantine hit, we decided to leave Noeta and head to the U.S. after reports that the airlines were cancelling flights and the border was closing. We stayed in a hotel for two months in Boise and feel very fortunate that we were able to do that. Without a galley, I bought an Instant Pot to cook with, but without a pantry and normal fridge, our cooking options were still limited. We mostly got delivery, went on walks, and hung out in our new hotel 'home'. The silver lining was being able to spend time with family.

Boise is beautiful in the Spring-but it was strange to see it so empty.

Got some gardening in for Grandma


Gilligan got used to being a land lubber really quickly - He loved being at my mom's house.


The lobby at the Grove Hotel, empty for much of the time we were there, except for airline crew.

Pat continued to work throughout lockdown, coming 'home' with stories from around the country of how each state was handling things differently. He got into the habit, upon landing, of asking "what are the rules here?" Initially, he was flying just a handful of people, but that has now grown to flights being as full as they can be with distancing rules in effect. He has seen some extensive protective measures, but, whatever it takes to make people comfortable...

Hmmm...


A little blurry...but yes, that's a mask and snorkel!


Like everyone else during quarantine, we missed birthdays, graduations and other scheduled events. But we also missed our Mexico home very much. It's hard to live out of a suitcase for months, but even harder to not be able to be 'home'. 

So, as states began to open up, we began planning our trip home. The land border was still open only to 'essential travel' and we are not yet residents of Mexico (but working on it). So we gathered a binder of paperwork to explain why we are essential. We had a letter from our Mexico marina with a copy of our contract, stating that we were residents at the marina. We had scheduled a doctor's appointment and got a letter from the doctor, explaining that we needed to be in Mexico for it. We had our TIP (a permit for our boat to be in Mexico) and I was prepared to beg. 

THE DRIVE SOUTH

Jack and I drove from Boise to Las Vegas, with a car loaded to the roof. We explored and had dinner on the mostly empty Vegas Strip. 

Stuff is on the back seat too :/

Not many people in Vegas yet. Some major hotels were still closed.


I made him stop for an obligatory photo op - He isn't thrilled :) 

The next day we drove to Phoenix where we picked up Pat. He had driven a rental car to Phoenix because flying would have taken him all day. Then we stayed the night in Tucson. 

I've never seen a cat so comfortable with car rides.


He found his space in hotels too!

The next morning, we woke up early to get to the Nogales Mariposa border. We knew it opened either at 6:00 or 8:00 because government websites were clear as mud. We showed up at 7:30 in time to get in line for what turned out to be an 8:00 opening. Right at 8:00, cars started moving. I was super nervous that they might turn us back. Once we crossed onto Mexican soil it was a few miles before we actually arrived at customs. A nice agent asked where we bought the car and where it was made (Mexican made and bought). He had me open the back of the car as he looked at the car's registration card. He glanced in the back and said "Welcome to Mexico" and sent us on our way. That was it!?! I put the binder away.

We made it!!


At the 21 KM mile marker is where tourists stop to get what is called an FMM, basically a 180 day visa. Then away we drove! As gringos it's important to drive during the day time (mostly because of livestock and wildlife on the roads) and stay to the toll roads (they are the best maintained and will keep you from getting lost). 

Because we stay on the toll roads, there are plenty of stops. Here's what our trip looked like:
  • At the border: 46 peso toll at a tollbooth run by officials
  • Magdalena: 19 peso toll given to locals who had taken over the booth (with officials standing by). This is a common practice at many tollbooths. There isn't any violence, and the officials at the tollbooth seem to have no problem with the locals holding out a bucket and asking for a toll, rather than collecting it themselves. 
  • N. Hermosillo: 22 peso toll to locals
  • S Hermosillo: 113 peso toll run by officials
  • South of Hermosillo we were stopped at a federal checkpoint and asked where the car was from and who it belonged to (me). They asked to see the registration card and then sent us on our way.
  • Guaymas: 18 peso toll to locals
  • South of Guaymas we were stopped again by federal police and asked where the car was from, who it belonged to and to see the registration card. I asked the officer why they were checking (since he was the third person that day to check). He said Americans were buying Mexican license plates illegally online, putting them on US cars and bringing them into Mexico - all to avoid paying for the TIP (vehicle import permit). Fortunately we were all legal, so he sent us on our way.
  • N. Obregon bypass: 15 peso toll to locals
  • Some tiny town: 50 peso toll to locals, we got a flyer from them where they explained they were protesting the government forcing so many tolls on the small communities. I would agree after having to pay every 30 miles or so. There was an official in the tollbooth, but the locals were accepting the tolls.
  • S. Obregon bypass: 171 peso toll to officials
  • S. Obregon bypass (another one): 18 peso toll to locals
  • Here we stopped for the night at a Best Western in Navajoa. Everyone in masks, lots of hand sanitizer and only a few people allowed in the pool at a time. I won't share the story of me asking for a plunger because I had forgotten about the 'no toilet paper down the toilet' rule.

Giant dancing deer Yaqui statue in Sonora state


Our first stop for the night - We had to stay in Sonora state since hotels in Sinaloa were still closed.


Turns out he's comfortable in Mexican hotels too!


The next morning, we were up at 5:00 am for a long 12 hour drive to the boat.
  • S. Navajoa: 12 peso toll to locals
  • N of Los Mochis: 80 peso toll to officials
  • N of Culiac├ín: 12 peso toll to locals
  • S of Los Mochis: 75 peso toll to locals
  • N of Mazatlan: 12 peso toll to locals
  • This is when a federal police car pulled out of the median with his lights on to pull Pat over. While we were on cruise control, we were going just above the 110 km/hr speed limit. Pat is pretty sure he was going 120 km/hr, the officer said 155 - maybe our speedometer is off! After we chatted with the officer for a few minutes, he informed us it will be a $6000 (US$300) peso ticket and that we can pay online. He told Pat to get out of the car in order to complete and sign the ticket, which he did. At no time did the officer attempt to collect a bribe of any kind and even had a change of heart, jokingly telling Pat he would make a mark on our speedometer for him, so he knew where 110 was.  And away we went again.
Pat chatting with his new friend

Gilligan watching the action from his perch.

  • N. Mazatlan Bypass: 131 pesos to officials
  • S Mazatlan Bypass: 49 pesos to officials
  • S Mazatlan Bypass (another one): 100 pesos to locals
  • S Mazatlan Bypass (another one): 100 pesos to locals
  • In a small town in Nayarit we were stopped at a health checkpoint. We donned our masks and opened the window. A woman with a thermometer asked where we had come from (Navajoa) and where we were heading (Nuevo Vallarta). They asked us to pull over to give them more information. They wrote down our travel information and license plate number. I didn't get the chance to ask, but they may have been doing it for Covid tracking information.
  • Tepic: 100 peso toll to locals
  • Nayarit-Tepic tollbooth: 50 pesos to locals
  • San Blas: 50 pesos to locals

All together, over the two days of Mexico driving, we paid MX$1243 which comes to about $56.00 US. The drive north, 2 months earlier, cost MX$1196 - a difference of MX$47 (just over $2.00 US). So while it seems like a ton of stops and tolls, we probably would have paid the same in tolls driving around California or Washington for a few days.

HEALTH PRECAUTIONS

The health practices have been a little different everywhere we stopped. But here in Nayarit state where many hotels and beaches opened on Monday, people wear masks inside and out. Going into stores masks are mandatory. On our dock they are mandatory. They are a necessity in the resorts. You wear them into a restaurant and can take them off as you sit. On the beach you wear them until you sit. When we arrived at the marina, the first thing the guard did was take our temperature. At many stores they take our temperature upon entering. Stores have a person stationed out front to give you hand sanitizer as you enter (the kind they use is really sticky - I've put some in my purse that I'm hoping they let me use as I enter). Tables are blocked off and seats are spread out to enforce distancing. They even have wet disinfectant shoe washing mats that you do a little dance on, then onto the drying pad, then you can enter.  Pat says he remembers seeing these in Mexico during a Swine Flu epidemic, but we haven't seen them anywhere else in our travels. What I have noticed, is that Mexico is taking preventative measures seriously and we haven't heard anyone complain about them. They are doing what they need to do to open up.
Foot washing mats at most entries to stores, restaurants & hotels


Vocab lesson for the day 'cubreboca' - 'mouth cover'

Things are on the Metric system here (and everywhere else in the world), 
so we maintain a 1.5 meter distance.


It feels great to be back in our Mexican 'home'. We have already met up with friends for estuary dinghy cruises and have planned the weekly potlucks. I'll be teaching Spanish to cruisers a few times a week, working with the La Cruz Food Pantry and swimming. Jack is finishing up his Sophomore year classes, starting some Junior year classes and staying connected with friends online. Hailey stayed in Boise to work and enjoy some much needed freedom. We will fly up to take her to college in the Fall. Pat has a zillion boat projects that will keep him busy most of the summer and will probably enjoy a cocktail or two. 


Evening dinghy cruise our first night home.


Home Sweet Home


We hope that you are healthy and happy in these strange times. Drop us a note and let us know how you're doing!

Alexa, Pat, Jack, Hailey and Gilligan The Fat Boat Cat (Gilligan's book is coming soon to Amazon! He's on Instagram too - #gilliganthefatboatcat)

Read more about our adventures on www.mvnoeta.com

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