After leaving Utah, we stayed a night with Morgan and her hubby Derek (old BYU Theatre friends) in Las Vegas. She made the most excellent homemade tortillas that I am dying to immitate. I would be able to do this if only I could find SHORTENING in Mexico. Apparently, finding shortening here is like asking for a miracle! Not to mention other things...such as yeast, or good salsa, etc...
We drove over the Hoover Dam on our way out, and it was quite impressive! The traffic was absurd (what is everyone doing on a Sunday afternoon, driving on the Hoover Dam?), and they were doing some major construction. They're building a GIGANTIC bridge OVER the canyon. It looks like all the traffic may be potentially redirected there (or maybe it will just be the "faster" route?). Perhaps you should take the opportunity to actually drive over the dam, while you still can!
DRIVING INTO MEXICO
My apologies up front for the huge amount of information my readers are about to get. The truth is, we chose our driving routes based on information we found in blogs of complete strangers. They were such a big help! I am posting way too much information for the average reader, hoping that we may someday be of assistance to other readers who are making the trip south!
We spent our last night in the US in an Arizona border town, Ajo. The next morning, we woke up and drove across the border in Lukeville, AZ. It couldn't have been easier! The "inspection" consisted of an official looking at us through the window, and waving us through. The line leaving Mexico was very long (Apparently the Americans love to cross the border over the weekend and drive to the coastal resorts just southwest of Sanoyta).
The waiting cars had many people trying to sell all sorts of crafts to them. It was pretty low-key compared to my memories of crossing the Tijuana border in 2000...you were pretty bombarded there.
The buildings immediately changed to a more typical Mexican build, and the streets stayed quite nice.
We drove about 30 minutes south to San Emeterio where they have the "migracion" and "banjercito" offices. We were literally the only visitors there, and they had us run between three offices next door to each other to get our paperwork done. Every worker there seemed to only speak Spanish. At the banjercito we received an auto permit to take our van into Mexico for up to 6 months ($408.38 Pesos/approx $40.83 USD) . At the migracion office we purchased tourist Visa's for our family. We expected to pay for all 4 of us, since we were told you need to purchase a tourist Visa for EVERY member of the family. However, they would only issue us 2, one for each adult ($474 Pesos/approx $47 USD total). The gentleman in the office winked when he said he would only charge us for the 2 (how's that for making you feel safe?!! Hahaa...). We even asked another guy in the office next door (where we had to pay for the VISAS), and he also said we only needed 2 (I now wonder...did he even understand our question? Who knows...?). With a huge language barrier, it is awfully hard to get down to the root of things. We KNEW we needed 4 visas, but instead they had us write our children's name on the back of one of the VISA's, and then they stamped it with their official stamp. Oh well...let's hope we don't get into any trouble down the road when we're leaving the country!
After completing our paperwork, we got in our car and drove through the pull-through, where we were ushered to a parking spot for inspection. The Mexican inspection agent asked us if we spoke Spanish. We said no. He asked if we spoke just a little Spanish, we smiled and said "No." He then said, "How do you say...'You have a nice smile'?" We smiled, said "Thank you," and he let us pull away without even opening a door or suitcase! Easy enough!
We hit the road again, which was generally very well-kept. Every once in awhile we would hit sections of the road that were blocked off for construction, and there would be a big sign pointing us to a roadside detour. We hit quite a few of these, and they became pretty comical. These construction areas would be in the middle of nowhere, but when you reached the end of the dirt roadside detour, there might be a couple of guys standing there trying to sell bottles of refreshments. Very random. One thing that shocked us on our 5-day drive south was that we would see roadside employees everywhere, cutting back weeds, collecting trash, or painting the concrete bridges white, etc. The funny thing was...you would almost never see a vehicle for these workers! These men were hours from the nearest town, just walking by themselves, doing their work. It made us wonder if they were just dropped off in the morning, and retrieved before dark...?
Who knows? Either way, they seemed very concerned with keeping the roadsides clean.
As we headed south, we probably passed 2 or 3 "inspections" where we were waved through without question each time. We saw perhaps 3 or 4 major military inspections over the 5 day trip, but these inspections were generally only for northbound traffic. It looked like they would physically inspect each and every truck both physically (walking through the back) and with some type of hand held electronic equipment. At one particular military inspection, the auto lineup was over 70 vehicles long. We were glad we weren't headed north!
These military inspections didn't look overly friendly. The militia men walked around with their very large guns in their hands, or strapped to their backs. We would also pass caravans of military vehicles with soldiers standing in back (armed, of course). We have heard that Mexico is trying very hard to stop the major drug trade from South America that passes through Mexico and across the border into the US. If this is true, it seemed to us that they were doing a pretty darn good job. They looked scary enough to us...we wouldn't want to be doing anything wrong!
The first night, we stayed in a nice hotel in Hermosillo, Hotel San Martin. According to our Lonely Planet Mexico guidebook (LOVE Lonely Planet, now!), the hotel had room renovations done in 2007, and it was just beautiful! We paid $480 Pesos for the hotel, which came out as $35.90 on our credit card. We typically assume the Pesos/USD exchange rate is 10% of the Pesos amount ($480 Pesos would be $48 USD), but it is even better than that, at the moment! Sweet! (This was certainly the nicest $35 hotel we've ever stayed in! In fact, we've paid $100+ for junk holes in Canada.)
We ate dinner at the adjoining restaurant, simply for the ease of not having to drive around the busy city. The buffet dinner was very expensive, and came out to $22.44 on our CC bill...nearly as much as the hotel room! Since the water in Mexico is not drinkable, every hotel we stayed at provided us with a bottle or two of water in our room. Ice is very rare to come across, but the restaurant was kind enough to fill up our Nalgene bottle with ice in the morning. (By the way...the Mexican people LOVE to touch Ella and Maiya. While we were packing up the van, a random hotel employee came up and picked up Maiya, and I had her pose for a photo. We began our trip by counting the times that women would touch Ella's hair, or pinch Maiya's cheeks...but the numbers became too overwhelming. Let's just say Ella's hair, and Ella and Maiya's pale skin is a hot commodity in Mexico!)