Section 14: Laredo to McAllen
As per usual we were hiding in the shade of a culvert during our 10 o’clock break. Our spot abutted a Border Patrol road and as we lounged in the dirt an agent showed up. He was shocked by the impromptu meeting.
Is it so unusual to find people hanging out in the ditch?
Once he got a grip on what we were doing he was so kind as to offer us sunblock. Thanks!
Damn it was a hot one. We barely looked up all morning in hopes that by not noticing anything the miles would pass quicker. We hit the Roma High School first, a massive and recently built complex of football fields and parking lots and classrooms with the mascot - the Gladiator - prominently displayed. As we were staring a car stopped in the middle of the highway. A women opened her car door into the oncoming traffic, a signal that maybe she had stopped for us.
Yes and she wanted to know if we needed help. She yelled across the road, “have you eaten anything?”
Oy vey we look homeless. When our protests fell on deaf ears we thanked her and took the carryout box of tacos she shoved into our hands. Being homeless tasted good today.
We felt absolutely blasted by the sun. When we approached the turnoff for the Roma International Bridge we impulsively decided to cross, needing a break from the crushing heat and monotony of the day. Tenny was worried that US Customs might throw away her food coming back in so we furtively stashed it in the gap between a bathroom wall and a soda machine. Now in addition to looking homeless we also looked like drug pedlers!
We have never crossed the river at a port of entry before and were surprised that it costs money. The US and Mexico governments maintain the high-traffic bridge spanning the Rio and everyone pays a toll to use it. $1 going into Mexico and 25¢ coming back into the US.
Why the difference in cost?
We walked slowly across the pedestrian bridge, trying to take in all the changes to our once-familiar Rio. It has grown so much since the Lower Canyons when we spent half of our days in it.
We didn’t have time or energy to explore so when we reached Mexico we immediately crossed the road and headed back. We had entered from the US with no pedestrians but had more company walking back from Mexico. The cars were slower than us in places but a handful honked and shouted out to us, one guy in particular. He seemed friendly enough but we didn’t linger. Back through US Customs and back to our soda machine hideout. And then back to walking.
The excitement wasn't over yet. The same guy who had shouted to us on the bridge was now through Customs and driving down Main Street. His car was loud and we heard him coming before he reached us. Two golden retrievers chased his pickup truck, weaving in and out of traffic while he yelled at them out of the window. He swerved off the road to a halt in front of us. Alarmed we shrunk away, but he only lowered his tailgate so the pups could hop in. Funny guy, eager to tell us everything he could about whatever popped into his mind. Most importantly, we should know his dog’s names. And he wanted to know if we needed ice.
We were done. It was too hot. Roma didn’t have any hotels so we figured we would go into Rio Grande City about 9 miles further.
How to get there? We embarked on the worst hitching experience of the trip.
We stood in the sun for over an hour at a busy intersection watching car after car go by, the passengers craning their necks to inspect us as they passed. It was even worse when the cars were stopped at the traffic light and had nothing to do but just stare at us, all 50+ of them. Rejection after rejection after rejection. It didn’t feel remotely friendly or safe. Yuck.
Our guardian angel appeared out of nowhere driving a small county bus. She stopped and opened the doors, beckoning us inside. She was heading to Rio Grande City and this week the bus was free! Thank you Dolores! She dropped us off at the college and called her friend at the bus dispatch to explain where we needed to go next. Armed with directions we thanked Dolores and waited for the next bus. Jacinto, the next driver, was equally friendly and kindly offered to drop us off right in front of our hotel. Thanks Jacinto! Man do we have good things to say about the Rio Grande City bus system.