The Other Side of the Wall

We spent a night in Laredo at a lakeside state park, before waking early and hitting the border just a few miles down the road.

Nada que declarar—but that didn’t matter, they wanted to see us anyway.

Fortunately, our check didn’t look like this. We opened up one cabinet door, answered a couple questions, and were on our way. We picked up our immigration visas ($60 USD), our truck papers good for six months, and our Airstream papers good for ten years ($264 USD for both TIPs), and were headed south in about two hours. They had to fill out our truck paperwork entirely by hand because their computer system wouldn’t accept our short VIN. This is always an issue for the DMV back home as well. Our Porsche has a six-digit VIN!

As we were climbing some steep mountain roads the truck began to buck and hesitate. I limped us along, and we got where we were going, but not without a lot of stress as we faced each mountain. That night it finally occurred to me—vapor lock. When gas in the lines gets too hot, it boils, and creates vapor in the lines, shutting the engine down. The pieces fell into place. A few days back I noticed that the exhaust was leaking in the engine compartment and tracked it down to a crumbling gasket. I bought a replacement gasket, but hadn’t put it in yet. Well, the exhaust leak was just a few inches from the passenger side metal gas line, and the fuel filter and pump.

So the next morning I got out the wrenches, replaced the gasket, and eliminated the leak. Just for good measure I wrapped the fuel line in tin foil as well. And that day, despite the 7,000′ passes and ninety degree heat, not a single problem.

I love it when a lady selling burritos sets up shop on the sidewalk right outside the door of the OXXO (convenience store).

And twenty feet away from another burrito stand.

Just checking things out during a break.

Sure, we had just stopped at a gas station fifteen minutes earlier, but he didn’t have to go then.

At the end of the day we camped at a balneario (water park). We were the only campers there, and the place closed an hour after we arrived, but for our $17 we were still welcome to roam freely about the park and use the pools. Can anyone even entertain the idea of something like that happening in the States? They basically just locked us inside the park and said, “Have fun. See you in the morning.” Our kids got to go down water slides 8,442 times.

With big mountains ahead we got an early start for Mazatlan.

To go, or not to go, that’s always the question. There are usually two different answers inside of our truck.

Bus stop in the middle of absolutely nowhere.

If you lose your brakes, just follow the red line for a few terrifying miles to the runaway ramp.

Or, do what this guy did and just run it into the ditch on the mountain side of the road.

Crossing the Baluarte Bridge along the 40D. Unfortunately, one thing Mexico rarely does anywhere is provide scenic overlooks. This entire drive was without a pullout. The idea of breaking down anywhere along here was pretty scary.

The drive from Durango to Mazatlan is a doozy, which is what makes it fun. I love taking our 50 year-old vehicles and totally putting them through their paces. In three days we climbed from sea level, to 9,000 feet, and back down again to the beach. No overheating, no struggling to pull a few extra thousand pounds of trailer, nothing. The truck is a beast. Once I fixed that exhaust leak the other day, it was smooth sailing through the mountains.

Back down to the flats, Ouest took my triumphant photo.

Back in Mazatlan, camped right on the beach. It may be the last time, as the sale of this land looks like it may finally happen, and I’m pretty sure the buyers aren’t looking to own an RV Park.

The other day me and Lowe were running around and stopped at Taco Bell to have a taco. While we were waiting for our food a homeless guy ordered something off the dollar menu, and was a couple pennies short. They gave it to him anyway. Lowe and I ate, and when we were finishing up I asked the guy if he was still hungry and offered to buy him a meal.

After we left, Lowe asked me, “How did you know he was hungry?” I explained that I heard him tell the lady he didn’t have any more money, that he was homeless, and that I saw him put some of his stuff in the bushes outside.

Lowe asked, “How old is that man?”

“Probably about 60. Older than me.”

“How old was he when he ran away?”

That’s when I realized how important it is to talk about this stuff with kids. Everything around them is new, and they use what little they do know to construct their world. In this case, the only explanation for a person to be without a home is for them to have run away from theirs. A perfectly reasonable assumption for a five year-old to make. How do they know that not everyone has an easy life, if they never see it, or are never told about it. I love having these conversations with the kids. It’s when I feel most like I am doing my job as a father.

Today we were at a gas station, Ali and Ouest were inside while Lowe and I stood around out by the truck. A guy came up and asked if he could wash the windshield. We talked for a couple minutes, inevitably about how he had worked for a couple years in California before being picked up and deported. I have these conversations pretty much daily in Mexico. Twice today, in fact.

Lowe stood nearby listening, and after the guy had left he asked me, “How much money did you give him?”

“I didn’t give him the money, he did a job for us.”

“Can you pay him as much money as you want?”

“Yeah, pretty much. I paid him twenty pesos.”

“Is twenty pesos a lot of money?”

“No, not a lot for us.”

[note: I’m in no way looking to be congratulated for my “generosity.” The money we give out is but a tiny fraction of what we could. I have yet to meet a person who gives everything they could. Though, it’s possible I have met that person, but don’t know because they don’t talk about it. Point being, us giving people down on their luck a few bucks is not something I intend in any way as a humblebrag. I hesitate to even share these stories, but I find the kids’ reactions to be thoughtful and interesting, and a good reminder to myself to do more and give more.]

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