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All Good Things – Mexico pt V

February 3, 2012

Tuesday 24 January


Picture: Blood red sun setting behind the house.

Last full day in Mexico. It is really a packing up day and sorting things out for the trip back up to the US. We will travel up to Tucson tomorrow and stay overnight before heading into Phoenix on Thursday morning. It is quite an operation as besides my organising and trying to get things together before leaving my father and Miros are making lists of the things that they need. They don’t make the trip often so there are appointments to make and shopping lists to put together.

I am again very tired this morning. I hope this is the side effect of one of the drugs and not something else. When I get in to see my Doctor on my return I will ask if there is anything else I can have. I need a medical report from the doctor who treated me at the hospital in order to make a claim on my travel insurance. We don’t have a lot of time to turn it round so I hope he responds and we can pick up the report on the way through.

It is Obama’s third State of the Union address tonight so that will be interesting. The GOP candidates have been beating each other up in Florida and Newt seems to be riding the wave following his win in South Carolina. He is very calm and righteous ant the moment but you can’t help feeling that he is always just one step away from putting his foot in his mouth.

I try and lie down and get some reading done. I have started a new book – Knut Hamsun’s Hunger. I manage at least two pages before falling asleep.

Earlier I the week I read an article in Newsweek by Andrew Sullivan. It is all about Obama’s long game strategy and how we will start to see more of the work of his first term come to fruition. It’s a fantastic article and the speech turns out to echo a lot of what Sullivan highlights. It is a very smart address with a clever opening that uses the military as an example of teamwork and collaboration as a metaphor highlighting the failure of Congress to get anything done. He returns to the theme in an extremely powerful closing. Although he doesn’t mention Romney by name there are more than a few bombs thrown in his direction.

Watch a bit of the post speech analysis and then go to bed.


Wednesday 25 January


Track: Hotel California, The Eagles


I have packed and repacked and think I am finally ready to go. I think my bag is on the limit but it should be ok.

Derek has gone to school. We pick him up at 1.15pm and will then drive up to Tucson. All is well and we are on time.

My last meal in Mexico – mushroom omelette. Thank god eggs are still on the list of things I can eat.

Pick Derek up from school and hit the road. He has got a load of homework as he is not in school for the next couple of days. He is not massively happy about this (the homework).

About half way to the border there is a new checkpoint. It was installed only a few months ago. It there primarily it seems to x-ray trucks. The line of trucks stretche for miles before the checkpoint. It has to imagine how long it will take for them to get through. When you hit the back of the line you cant yet see the checkpoint. The inside lane is much quicker and is for cars (and I think buses). We get to the barrier quite quickly and wait to be processed through. They have never been stopped here before.

We get stopped.

We join a group of a dozen cars and told to exit the car and wait at the side of the road. After a 10 minute pause a police x-ray van processes down one side, lines up again and then does the other side of the line. We can then get back in the car.

We are picked out for a secondary inspection.

This does not look good as one of the other cars that had earlier been pulled out is now parked up and in pieces as the soldiers/ police go through it.

We have to unload all the baggage and take them through an airport scanner like x-ray device in an office building whilst they check out the car.

All is fine but it has delayed us a good 50 minutes. Making the border by sunset now could be difficult. The quality (or lack of) is why the timeline is so crucial. There is a habit of putting major speed bumps in the middle of the road, which at the best of times, can be hard to see but when you are travelling at 50mph on a dual carriage way and you come across one of these it can be lethal, as well as the general condition of the surface, pot holes and craters abound. Much of the road doesn’t have a hard shoulder either so if you do veer off to one side you will be off the edge of the road – in a ditch or over the side.

We get to the border as dusk falls. Last time they came through, a couple of days before they picked me up from the airport, it took them three hours to get through such was the length of the queue. Fortunately there is no logjam this time and we are at the checkpoint in twenty minutes. The immigration is slightly officious but is ok. He asks to see my ESTA (the visa that they now have in place) but I don’t have the paper copy. He asks why? I say I was told I didn’t need a paper copy. I had filled it out online and it says there you do not need a paper copy as it is all held online.

There is a moment’s pause whilst he thinks about this and we all hold our breath.

I am correct, it is all held on the computer system, but he could delay us if he feels it necessary. Personally I don’t understand the purpose of having a system in place if the instructions to use that system are not correct or comprehensive in their instructions. I choose not to raise this at this point.

He accepts that my entry stamp into the US is good enough proof that my ESTA is in place and lets us go through.

To my utter disbelief there is another checkpoint to pass through – some thirty odd miles into the US. A checkpoint this far in would seem to defeat the purpose.

The new immigration officer (I think state rather than federal) scans Miros and Derek’s passports, glances at my father’s, doesn’t even look at mine.

And finally we are in.

We still have a 45min – 1hr drive to the hotel in Tucson and it is dark when we arrive.

We go to eat at the next door restaurant, a Cracker Barrel. I was worried that the menu would be restrictive but it was actually pretty good, they even have a low carb section of the menu. Although listed as one of the low carb options is the Cracker Barrel Cheeseburger. I do not have faith in this menu. But I think every restaurant menu in the US has steak on it and Cracker Barrel is no exception. I order a rib eye and salad. It barely touches the sides. I am starving.


Thursday 26 January


Track: He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother, The Hollies


Last day.

Flight takes off at 21:10 so don’t have to check in until 7pm, so we have a day of shopping; I don’t need anything now but my father and Miros have a few things to pick up. We make a pit stop at Walmart and then get back on the road for the trip to Phoenix which will take about two hours. I get in the back and promptly fall asleep.

We arrive in Phoenix at 11am

We start at Home Depot, which is like B&Q on steroids. I don’t like B&Q. I really don’t like Home Depot. I find the garden furniture and sit myself down and let them go off and look at dimmer switches for the living room lights.

After Home Depot we stop for lunch at Red Lobster. I am slightly disappointed with the food. It is years since I have been in one but I remember the food being much better. The meal we had was nice but it felt very much like food from a large chain, which it is, but I remember just being of a higher quality.

Check into their hotel so they can dump their bags before heading back out to go to a local mall. Miros and I can do a bit of shopping and my father has an appointment at the optician.

Miros wants to take me to Dillard’s as it is cheap and she is sure I will find things to take home. Dillard’s is like a TK Max on steroids. I sometimes find TK Max overwhelming; I can even begin to face the acreage that is the men’s department of Dillard’s. Rows and rows of cloths rails. My brain can’t cope. I can’t face going through a whole rail of jumpers to find the one that I might like to only find that it doesn’t fit properly and then have to resume the search. They also don’t sell coats, the only thing that I might go through the process for.

It is cheap though. Very cheap. Miros comes out with two large carrier bags of clothes for my father and herself. It came to a grand total of $15 (£10).

We go to the optician to meet my father but there is a delay and when he does come out he needs to check something over that has been written on the prescription with the optician again, so there is a further wait. I have spied a Macy’s as we come in and ask Miros if they do men’s clothes? They do but they are “very expensive”. So I wander off and go and check it out.

It’s fantastic. Macy’s is like House of Fraser. Not on steroids. It is just the right size.

The classic brands are here, Ralf Lauren, Hillfiger, Calvin Klein. This is much better. It might be expensive when compared to Dillard’s (I think most anything would be) but compared to the UK it is fantastically cheap. I pick out a Ralf Lauren jumper which would retail in the UK at easily £100 if not more. It is on sale at $40 (£25). I buy two. Unfortunately space in my bag and time in the store are limited. It is 5pm and we have to make our way to the airport. I don’t have to check in for a bit, but they have to be off and I am happy wandering around the terminal and looking at the duty free.

We say our goodbyes. They head off and I go and check in. I am more sad than I thought I would be.

Phoenix Sky Harbour Departures is in desperate need of some renovation. The security gate bit is really quite nice and there are plenty of shops. Not wanting to get caught out I ask at information if there are shops on the other side of security or whether this is it? I am confidently told that “yes” there are indeed shops on the other side. To be fair she was telling the truth, there are places where you can exchange money for goods. To call them shops might have been an overstatement. Aside from a couple of restaurants and a large newsagent, the “shops” consist of shelving units with a cash desk lining a couple of parts of the corridor immediately after you pass through security. I am quietly cursing (or so I thought, although I get a few looks from passers-by, although that could just be the odd shape of my face as I try and conceal the frustration. It’s not a good look) that I didn’t spend longer in the nice book shop that was outside.

They are however showing the Florida debate on TVs in the departure gates. A ray of sunlight in what otherwise would have been a very dull experience.

The diet is taking a backseat. I have just bought some chocolate coated pretzels and am settling in for the viewing experience.

It is hard to follow what is going on at times as the sound is not great, but Gingrich is looking very subdued compared to earlier debates. Romney easily bats away the fire that comes his way and looks far more robust (not that was hard given his previous performances). I really, really don’t like Rick Santorum, or rather I can’t stand the political principles he stands for but he is having a very good night and is a very compelling performer. He could hang round in this contest for a while. 

And that’s it. It’s time to get on the plane home.

It has been an extraordinary trip in many ways and like all holidays, they are long time coming and so quickly over. But I am going to be back over in the not too distant future and that is something to look forward to.

I have some healing to do when I get home.      

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