The Road to Fun

Okay this is what I signed up for!  No we didn’t spend the day by a fancy pool in a gated community sipping pina coladas which is what I THOUGHT I was signing up for.  Today we went for a spin around the neighborhood in our finally finished ‘restored’ golf cart.  Over dirt piles, into potholes, around roosters and horses and dogs.   We picked up children along the way and stopped for a lunch in a tiny new restaurant – less than $10 for 2 giant meals including soup, drink and dessert!


This golf cart has been my husband’s project over the past few weeks – Grant cannot be at peace unless he is fixing something.  And this REALLY needed fixing.  It had been donated to the orphanage and the children had used it as an experiment to figure out how things work.  Wires were pulled off, tires were shredded, the oil tank was full of water and the gas tank was full of toys.  We even pulled an MP3 player out of some random crevice yesterday.  Before going to Canada we had ordered all the needed parts to get this thing back on the road – we picked up some in Montana, had more shipped from Arizona.  We drove into Vallarta to get vinyl for the seats and had a local guy sew them up.  So today we set out exploring some of the back roads between our house and the orphanage.  We waved at old grandpas wearing sombreros and sitting on broken chairs outside their homes.  We were chased halfheartedly by the neighbor dogs and laughed at by toddlers in diapers.  It was just fun and it reminded me why we are doing this – to see life through a childlike lens of joy and simplicity.  Today I felt like a kid – and it was fun!

Check out the progression….

What on earth have they done to this thing???


We’re on the road but it looks like we’re heading to war

Some paint…. some upholstery….. a top….


Ready to pick up some passengers and hit the road! 

A bit nervous about what his next project will be….

We’re In – And so is our Stuff

Today was a surprisingly good day – and by ‘good’ I mean our ridiculously large trailer full of ridiculous items were allowed to join us here in Mexico.  This was a day I have longed for and worried about for a long time.  Although I don’t believe your identity is in your belongings – I believe the total opposite – there is no doubt that after 35 years of marriage we have gathered many things that we love and that make us feel at home, especially when everything else around us feels so unfamiliar.

As we packed, we really did purge an awful lot.  We sold lots, donated lots, pitched lots.  But we also packed lots and our reasons changed throughout the process.  After living here in Mexico for most of the last 18 months, I have realized the value of many of the things I wanted to get rid of.  I see so many needs and realize that some of these things just might be exactly what someone else needs.  For instance, I absolutely do not want to sew any more – but what if a young mom could use that old sewing machine to earn some income for her family?  What if someone living up in the surrounding mountains,  where winters are cold could really use some of the blankets I will never need?  And the kid’s games and Wii stuff – how fun for our Manos de Amor children who sometimes come to visit.  So we packed more than we intended to and spent these last few days pulling the monster trailer through USA, knowing that the border crossing might be difficult and scary.  We had done it with the tools in September and were not excited to do it all again.

But today went much better.  After getting the permit and approval from the consulate on Friday, we arrived at the Custom Broker’s office at 9:00 this morning.  It took about 1 ½ hours to get a bunch more papers filled out and signed – for a country of very loosy goosy rules, Mexico sure does love its paperwork.  We then headed to the Border, a few miles down the road.  There we were sent through a giant x-ray and then told to back up to a loading bay.  Unfortunately, they asked told us to start unloading the trailer.   They wanted to see all the way up the middle of the trailer and along the right side.  Apparently, there were recently two cases where people smuggled in video games and medication, hidden in mattresses, so security was tight.   We had packed that trailer – twice – like an enormous Jenga puzzle.  Everything JUST fit and there was not an inch to spare.  So to unload it and put it all back was terribly frustrating for us.  The good news is there were 2 guys to help – the bad news is they had obviously never played Jenga.   After the inspection, we did get it all back in but I expect it to explode like a spring loaded jack-in-the-box when we open that back door.  Altogether, the whole process took about 4 hours and then we were back on the road.


We now have 2 more long days of driving.  It’s not over yet.  But we are in.  Our stuff is in.  We have everything we need to make a comfortable home -and hopefully share some of our stuff with some new friends who need a hand.  Mainly, we are just really ready to be at home.

It Hasn’t Been an Easy Week… BUT…

The rubber has finally hit the road (actually the rubber literally hit the road) on our journey to relocate our belongings south of the border.   Truly, this whole move has been one of the most difficult – and confusing – things I have ever done.  I am used to making a plan, putting it on a spreadsheet, and getting it done.  But this thing has had more twists and turns than you can imagine and I have reluctantly surrendered to the uncertainty of it all.  We are taking it step by step and the spreadsheet is in the shredder.   It is probably good for me to be ‘out of control’ but dang that is tough.  I know Grant feels exactly the same way.  We are living on pure faith and have seen so many mini miracles that remind us that this journey is not our own.

I won’t go into a lot of details but want to share some of the highlights – and lowlights.IMG_20170319_134847  After a difficult week in cold Regina emptying our giant trailer and repacking it to make sure the weight was distributed better, we hit the road on Sunday morning.  We were pleased at how well the trailer pulled and our first stop was to visit some friends in Montana – college friends we had made 40 years ago but lost touch with until a chance encounter in Wyoming last year.  It was a good visit and Charlie prayed a sweet prayer over us as we set out.

As we have travelled, we have encountered problems and challenges – lots of them – BUT we have also been given solutions in amazing ways.

  • Our very first night we looked out of our second-floor window at our 115-year-old hotel and saw that one of the tires on our trailer was missing. Not just the rubber but the entire tire – gone. Brand new tire.  What is with us and Montana and tires?  BUT – there was a tire shop directly across the street in this TINY town of 605 people and the owner agreed to work as late as necessary to repair all the damage that had been done.
  • The next day I forgot my purse – with our passports and Mexican immigration cards, etc – in a Mexican restaurant in Billings and didn’t realize it for 15 or 20 miles down the road BUT some kind soul turned it in without looting the contents.
  • We came across a snowstorm in Wyoming, BUT because of our delay in Montana we only caught the very end of it.
  • IMG_20170325_103806We had to unload our entire truck in order to go across the border to get our needed vehicle permits BUT the room we had booked at Holiday Inn was the largest room I have ever seen and the elevator was right next to our room so we had lots of space to store our 4 dining room chairs and millions of boxes after making 6 trips up with the luggage cart.
  • The super bumpy roads caused tire and brake problems with such a heavy load, BUT the tire guy in Pueblo, Colorado, the trailer hitch guy in Albuquerque, New Mexico, the trailer brake guy in Nogales, Arizona – they all dropped what they were doing to fix whatever needed fixing to keep us on the road.

Seeing the country – Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona

This 115 year old hotel – Kempton Hotel in Terry, Montana – has never been closed.  Over 42,000 days in operation

So now we are at the border and that is where it all comes together – or doesn’t.  Although we have followed all the rules –  the 10-page list of every item, translated into Spanish, with Make, Model and Serial No – I know there are many things that can go wrong.  Mexican rules are fluid, and sometimes that works for you and sometimes that works against you.

Friday we arrived in Nogales – at least 1 day behind schedule.  We needed to get our list of belongings, known as the Menaje de Casa, approved at the Mexican consulate and a permit issued.  Everything I read said if you dropped the paperwork off today, the permit would be ready tomorrow.  But that doesn’t include weekends so the earliest we could expect to get it would be Monday afternoon.  We arrived at the Consulate on Friday at 2:00, with lists and photocopies of passports and immigration cards and letters of request in hand.  The lone man at the desk said we could have an appointment at 3:30 and the permit would probably be ready Monday.  And then I remembered my word for the year: BE BOLD.  So I said, “Senor, we have a difficult week and we are behind schedule and I really want to get home – is there any chance we could get it today?”.  Well let me see…… and he started going over the list.  Item by item.  All 383 of them.  He reminded us that the consulate has the authority to say NO to any one of those items if it seems like we’re bringing too much.  Which you know we are.  Finally, he looked up and said, “Your list is very good.  Come back at 2 minutes to 5:00 and I might have it done”.  And he did.  First thing done.  (I knew my spreadsheet skills would come in handy!)

The next thing was our car permit.  We had received our first 6 month permit on September 25th.  The truck must be back at the border before that permit expires – and yesterday was March 24th.  We had only a few hours left.  But we weren’t sure exactly how it would work.  Last time they almost didn’t let the truck in because it is so big.  I have read that they have relaxed that a bit, but I couldn’t find anything official saying large trucks are now allowed.  And the trailer.  Apparently you can only bring in trailers up to 16 feet long – and ours is 32 feet.  So we really didn’t know if our trip would end here or if they would give us a new permit to match our new residency status.


We had to drive 35 miles into Mexico to the Banjercito office where vehicle permits are given.  We weren’t ready to take all our belongings through customs, so that meant we had to empty our truck before heading across the border.  Finally, at about 9:00 pm we set off – first to the office where they cancelled our old permit, refunded our deposit and scraped the sticker off the windshield.  Grant then pulled a U-turn in the middle of the highway to get to the office on the other side to apply for the new permit.  And it was uneventful.  We got a new permit for truck and trailer, applied the new windshield sticker and paid a new deposit.  The vehicles are legal.

By the time we got back to our hotel it was 12:30 am.  I was more exhausted than I remember being in a long time.  The many hours in the truck, the crappy fast food meals, the worry about lists and permits and tires and brakes – it all landed on my heart and I knew Grant felt the same.  We made a decision to take a couple of days off before tackling Mexico.   At 7:00 on Monday morning we will meet with the Customs Broker who must give us the final paperwork to get our stuff through Customs.  And then we will head out.  If we get the green light, we will be on our way.  If we get a red light, there is a potential the border guards will make us unload the trailer.  Either way we will be fine.  We will tackle each step as it comes because we know we are following the footsteps that have gone ahead to prepare our journey.

And today?  We are definitely tired.  BUT….we’re going shopping. We’re going to be tourists. We’re going to find a nice steak dinner.  Through it all, we’re having a blast together.  We’re living the dream – just not quite how we pictured it!

I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. BUT take heart! I have overcome”  John 16:33