Well – not a long day, but extremely hot and monotonous! Immediately after leaving Artesia, New Mexico, this morning, we hit pancake-flat desert lands with sagebrush to the far horizons. A completely featureless landscape if you discount the hundreds (or thousands) of nodding donkeys (aka well heads), oil derricks – some flaming others not, oil tankers every other vehicle in both directions, monster trucks… and a pervasive odour of crude oil. Ironically, Caesar must have passed this way with his Roman theodolite as the road for nearly 300 kms was virtually straight!

The same landscape continued into Texas, of course, until we arrived at a town called Sanderson (okay, this one was a boil on a horse’s ass!). Refilled with fuel, walked the dogs, then started on a strange road – also mostly flat as far as the eye could see, but punctuated by impressive gates every few miles announcing ‘so-and-so’ cattle ranch. However, we never saw a ranch or one head of cattle in 200 kms. The explanation might be that we saw a ‘for sale’ sign for an 11,248-acre ranch (only slightly smaller than the whole of Gabriola Island) – so I’m guessing ranchers like their privacy and build their homes far from the road and away from prying eyes. We did see one landing strip, so I imagine flying is their preferred mode of transport, given that they’d use half a tank of fuel driving to the nearest gas station!

After the delight of our hotel ’suite’ at the Best Western in Artesia – breakfast was a non event, quite literally. Arrived in the lounge at 6:05 a.m. for a complimentary breakfast that wasn’t the usual grab-and-go! It was nearly 10 minutes before the waitress took our order then, at 6:45, we saw her leave the dining room with her bag! Another member of the kitchen staff came out and asked who’d ordered cereal. Guess what, “Me!”… “Oh – we don’t have any milk so she’s gone to the store to get some.” Whaaaaaat! A hotel dining room that runs out of milk for breakfast! As we were already well behind our usual departure schedule, we told them, politely, what they could do with their breakfast, and an email of complaint will be sent to Best Western as this is not representative of their normally very good service.

Coincidentally, as the majority of the other eight guests, obviously oil workers, were drinking coke with their breakfasts, perhaps milk is too passé. It also accounted for the prevalent obesity considering a 16 oz coke contains around 12 teaspoons of sugar…!!!!! Yuck – for breakfast?!!! Luckily, for some reason we have yet to unravel, most gas stations seem to stock fresh bananas for 20¢ each, so a healthy breakfast for us after all, although we poured away the $1 coffee and didn’t pass one Starbucks all day! Not that I’m a fan of prices for boutique coffee, but it is comforting to know you’ll get good quality wherever you stop.

Almost forgot… Yesterday we stopped at the first rest area that posted a sign saying “Watch for snakes”. As it happened, there was a guy cutting the grass so we walked the dogs behind him on the basis that anything in his way had already been turned into a local delicacy: chopped copperhead, or minced rattlesnake.

So, having arrived safely in Laredo – our last night in the U.S. and at a hotel barely a kilometre from the Mexican border, the temperature gauge has climbed to a stifling 40 degrees C – but feels like 50! Thank goodness for air-co, in both the car and the hotel room.

Paddington cooling off

Paddington Bear was definitely rather warm in his traditional duffel coat and wellies, so we let him soak his feet in the hotel’s ice bucket, that we’d filled with cold water for the dogs. (See attached photo.) For anyone who doesn’t yet know the story of Paddington Bear – he first appeared in children’s literature in 1958. Originally from deepest, darkest Peru, he was found by the Brown family sitting on his suitcase in Paddington railway station in London with a note attached to his coat that read “Please look after this Bear. Thank you.” He arrived as a stowaway, sent by his Aunt Lucy who had gone to live in a home for retired bears in Lima, Peru. Paddington claimed that he sailed all the way in a lifeboat, surviving by eating marmalade – his favourite food. Paddington appears in more than 20 books written by Michael Bond, if you feel like visiting the children’s section of a local library and acquainting yourself with his many adventures.

So, a relaxing evening girding our loins for our usual 5:30 alarm call tomorrow morning, and navigating the border bureaucracy with our newly minted visas. Fingers crossed it’ll be plain sailing and we’ll be on our way to Matehuala – exactly half way between Nuevo Laredo and Lake Chapala for our first night in Mexico.

Hasta mañana amigos


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