In the book “Eat, Pray, Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert, Liz talks about finding a single word to represent or describe her. She takes the entire length of the story to figure it out, and chooses a beautiful Italian word I hadn’t heard until then: attraversiamo (meaning – let’s cross over). That word pops into my head today as we ride toward the border and hopefully into Old Mexico. A sign on the road calls the nation that, not me. I suppose it helps the gringos not confuse it with New Mexico which is in the opposite direction.
My nerves have been on edge for the past two days. Nearly everyone I’ve told where I’m going has responded with some sort of warning: about which border to avoid, about watching my belongings, about horror stories they’ve heard. And while I have traveled a lot of places and usually get a healthy level of alertness and anxiousness going on, crossing into Mexico will be completely different for me. I’m taking my motorcycle, which adds another level of concern and preparation. I can feel a case of Montezuma’s revenge brewing and I’m not even there yet…
After waking in Yuma, I load the bike and prepare to head south. There are 3 of us riding into Mexico this morning and I think to myself how glad I am not to be alone. We head south and west to San Luis. There are miles and miles of farmland between Yuma and the border, and I watch workers picking broccoli and cabbages along the way.
There’s a long line of cars in San Luis, all waiting to cross over. So after a quick fuel up, we go squeeze our way into a more forward part of the line. Not much to it really. Wait your turn for a green light and then ride under the gate and over a ridgeline of chrome domes and two speed bumps. As I do it, I’m nervous, but it seems pretty simple. Then I see Allan is taking a 180 degree turn to the right and pulling into a small gated area at the Douana where I can get my immigration card and vehicle import permit. So as I have just bumped the throttle a bit to get over all the obstacles, I grab a bit of brake, turna sharp right and promptly drop my bike as I catch the rear wheel in a bit of a pothole. I didn’t have enough speed to get out of it while trying to make the 180 degree turn. As Brian said a few minutes later…”Welcome to Mexico”.
My adrenaline kicks in and I step off the bike as I know I can’t hold it up. The bike gently drops over onto the right box. Thank goodness for my Jesse Luggage acting as rear crash bars. Two men rush out from the crowds loitering on either side of the street at the border gate. They are very kind and ask in English if I am ok. I say I am and after being on the ground all of 2 seconds, they help me pick the bike up and hold her steady while I walk around to the left side and get back on. I thank them repeatedly. I had shut it off and now start it right back up again. I pull ahead the remaining 20 feet into the Immigration area and park. After an hour or more of going back and forth between the Immigration office and the Banjarcito to pay and obtain permits, I am officially in Mexico. Now off to my first 150 miles of Baja roads, a tollway, and a couple of military checkpoints.
As I get over some of my nerves and finish putting away all my important papers, I get back on the bike and inch my way out of the lot toward the street. The guys pull out. I’m waiting for a car to move and then it’s my turn to merge into traffic. A man whistles to my right on the sidewalk. I look over and he is an elderly Mexicano with white hair and a white mustache that contrast with his golden brown skin. He was whistling at me. He points his index finger at the bike and then at me. and I wonder what he means. Then he gives me a thumbs up and winks and nods. Now I’m all better…that was my real “welcome to Mexico”.