By Natalie Taylor
The lock-down finally got to us and we decided to get in the car and head north across the border. Mine was a more prosaic motive—shopping for clothing, pharmacy and food items I cannot find in SMA. Above all, it was a desire to feel the freedom of going someplace, a small sense of redemption after months of compliance with pandemic regulations.
We chose to go to McAllen because my husband (an avid birder) wanted to visit the Santa Ana Nature Preserve. The route took us through stunning mountainous terrain bordered by the Sierra Madre Oriental and the Sierra Tamaulipas. Our first stop, Victoria City, lies in a valley between them. A good-sized city, it offers plenty of good accommodations and restaurants. I had lined up all the hotels, making sure they were compliant with strict sanitation protocols and had balconies. In addition, I asked for rooms unoccupied for 24 hrs. I’ve read that unless a building has proper AC filters, the Coronavirus might not be filtered out; an open window to a balcony provides better ventilation. One added precaution was having food delivered or eating outdoors with good distance from other diners. We never had a problem with this as we found restaurants, both here and in the US, quite empty. Often, we were the only diners.
We reached the border at Reyonosa to an interminable line of cars crammed into one lane (out of six). It took 3 hours to reach customs. Fortunately, we had brought lunch and had used the bathroom. We saw puddles on route and understood them when a vehicle ahead stopped; the man in the passenger seat got out and responded to Nature’s call.
In the morning we drove to the nature preserve and found it closed “till further notice.” Then my supposed shopping spree never ‘spreed.’ Stores had slim pickings and many items I wanted—including some requested by friends—were nowhere to be found. After living in San Miguel for three years, the “old country” was disappointing. The modern, sterile-looking cities looked severe and lifeless; the people seemed bent on rushing through life. We missed the slow pace and friendliness we’ve become accustomed to. I noticed the stark contrast even more when eating out. Instead of the leisurely meals we enjoy in Mexico, with servers politely stepping back after they bring your meal; we had the intrusion of “how are you enjoying your meal?” (sorry, my mouth is full) or “are you still working on that?” (am I a dog gnawing on a bone?) and, worst of all, “no rush, but here’s the check,” (hurry up and leave). We were happy to return to our San Miguel home!
On the way back we crossed the Reynosa border once again. We followed a couple of cars, preparing for customs. But there was no check point; we simply drove from the USA to Mexico with nobody stopping us or bothering to see our papers.
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