Road Trip: Ontario, Canada – Monterrey, Mexico

Before leaving for our new home, we decided that instead of flying we would buy a car and make the long haul from Kingston, Ontario to Monterrey, Mexico. Almost everyone we talked to thought we were insane (I’m starting to think they might have been right). But… we made it, safe and sound, with more cities checked off our ‘To Travel To’ list.

Since Mexico has such strange laws about importing vehicles, our options were limited when buying a car. Mid-July we finally bought a 2003 Toyota Matrix which is: made in North America [check], older than 2007 [check], has enough cargo space to fit everything we need for 2 + years [this was a bit of a gamble, but surprisingly, check]! Our parents are to thank for help playing Matrix Tetras, I still can’t believe everything fit with room to spare.

Day 1: Kingston, Ontario – Harrisonburg, Virginia

It took a little while to get used to using our CAA Trip Tick Maps instead of a phone or GPS, but we were successful!

Day 2 – 3: Harrisonburg, Virginia – Nashville, Tennessee

Nashville was my dream city, with country music beats rolling out of every restaurant, pub and souvenir shop all day and all night. It was socially acceptable to wear cowboy boots with any outfit (the best place for me). We went to the Country Music Hall of Fame and wandered up and down Broadway Street over and over and over again. I managed to resist buying a pair of boots because the labels inside said “Made in Mexico” – I was so tempted but figured it would be best to wait.

Day 4: Nashville, Tennessee – Greenville, Texas

From Nashville we drove to Greenville, Texas, which is where we started to run into a few problems. Our car was making a really annoying, loud rattling sound from underneath. It turns out that the heat shield above the exhaust had rusted around the bolts. Fortunately, while we spent the morning playing games at the Cracker Barrel, the mechanic was able to temporarily fix the problem with an oversized washer. Unfortunately, in the process he accidentally backed Little Car into a pickup truck. Smooth. So, we went into the repair shop with a broken heat shield and came out with a half broken heat shield and a hole in our bumper. Lovely.

Day 5: Greenville, Texas – Austin, Texas

By the time we got to Austin we were exhausted… instead of exploring downtown we opted out for a date at Applebee’s and an early bed time.

Day 6: Austin, Texas – McAllen, Texas

At this point, we were getting increasingly anxious to get to McAllen and decided not to spend the day in Austin (which was a drag, so we know we’ll have to make a trip back). Before reaching San Antonio, we stopped at an outlet mall (which reminded me of Marcia… I know how much she would have loved it!). I couldn’t believe how big the outlet was (we figured 2 miles long) and how many people there were. Consumerism to the maximum. It wasn’t until we were walking from store to store that we realized how HOT it was. Our car thermometer was reading 39 degrees. Welcome to the south! After passing San Antonio, the terrain was starting to look more and more Mexican with gated ranches, real cowboys, big trucks and cacti!

Day 7-8: McAllen, Texas

We were so relieved when we made it to McAllen, knowing that we were only 3 hours away from our new home in Mexico. We did some last minute shopping (WalMart and Target of course), got Matt’s visa (I would suggest avoiding border town embassies because it was SO busy) and relaxed at the hotel pool.

On our third night in McAllen we finally got to meet all the new teachers and the ELEM and MS principals. We were both so nervous and excited; looking back now, it’s hard to believe that the moment we had waiting for has already come and gone!

Day 9: McAllen, Texas to Monterrey, Mexico

Driving into Mexico was admittedly quite intimidating. We drove with a caravan of 14 cars, led by the head of security from our school, with an administrator in the middle and administrator at the end. First we crossed a bridge on the US side (3$) leading into Mexico. At the first Mexican stop we were given either a red or green light to signal if we could pass or if we had to stop. Fortunately, everyone in our group was given a green light and we were able to go into the Immigration Office all together. We were at the office for about 2 and half hours while each of us registered our vehicles for a Mexican drivers permit and had our passports checked. After that point, we drove for about 30 kms through a sketchy border town until we hit the next stop where we showed our vehicle permits to the guards and were allowed to move on. Stressful!

We followed toll highways all the way into Monterrey, where we drove into some crazy city traffic. The driving was insane, hectic and wild… I felt like I was in Thailand again.  I was so thankful that Matt was driving and that we had two of us to keep an eye on the road.  Along the way we witnessed another teacher get in an accident, got lost from the caravan and then squeezed three of us (myself, Matt and Lucy – the head of Human Resources at our school) into the front seat of our car to drive back to school.

Needless to say, we had one heck of an adventure. We did and saw so many cool things, but I don’t think I’ll be driving from Canada to Mexico again any time soon!

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