Ever saw The Texas Chainsaw Massacre? I gotta get the heck out of Texas!
The stars aligned perfectly for the last eight months. From the beginning of my trip in Las Vegas, to the end in Mexico City, this unplanned plan could not have gone any smoother. Teaching English in Nepal and Guatemala has exceeded my expectations, along with the volunteers, travelers, and locals I met there. No one tried to mess with me and nothing was stolen. All 17 of my flights went without any bumps or delays. I even earned a voucher for a free flight in the future from volunteering to board a later flight while I was on a layover in Los Angeles. The money I budgeted was just about perfect. I was only sick once but with a common cold that lasted about a week. The major factor that played into my excellent journey were all of the friends that took care of me in their respective countries. I saved a boatload of money just from their generous hospitality alone. They all took care of me well! I stayed with friends in The Netherlands, Ireland, United Kingdom, Germany, Austria, Costa Rica, and Mexico. I account most of my globetrotting ease to them.
I left Sam and Katie in Mexico City to Reynosa, a town bordering Texas. Getting there wasn’t bad, I was just concerned about my sand and wine getting across the border. All my life I’ve heard horror stories about the Texas/Mexico border and how seedy and strict the patrol could be. This would be my first time attempting to cross it. Once I make it there then its smooth sailing back to Michigan! At least that was what I hoped for.
When my bus dropped me off into Reynosa, I caught a cab to the border where immigration began. It was a three-minute cab ride. I could have walked but my bag felt like it was filled with bricks and I’ve heard the towns near the border were sketchy. I walked for a few minutes to the US immigration where I stood in a long line of what appeared to be all Mexicans. Was I really the only America trying to get across? Judging by all the passports I saw, I think I was. Once I moved closer, I was finally called up to the patrol officer. I gave him my passport as he asked me questions about where I lived and what I was doing in Mexico.
“I was backpacking through Central America and visiting some friends”, I told the him.
“You have any food, fruits, meats, animals, tobacco, or drugs?” he asked in an almost robotic fashion.
“I only have a couple of bottles of wine” I said. He never said anything about soil, so I didn’t mention the seven bottles of sand I had in my bag.
The officer was actually kind and not a dick like everyone said the officers here were. Maybe I was just lucky. He gave me a green slip and told me to just pay the tax on the wine further ahead. I proceeded to baggage check where I put my bags through a conveyor belt. If there was anytime someone would question me about my sand, now would be the time. My bags went right through where I picked them up on the other side. No one said anything. Maybe, it’s not illegal to bring sand? At least not in this country.
I went over to another desk where I gave a patrol woman my green slip. She asked me to take out the wine so she could label them. I took out all three bottles and paid a total of $9.75 in taxes for them. Not too bad. Then, I continued on expecting another office or gate I had to check through. I walked on and didn’t see anything. I couldn’t tell if I was still in Mexico or the United States. There were no more offices or anything else I had to go through in site. Everyone around me was fat and complaining. Yup, I’m back in the United States of America! That was way too easy. Much easier than all of the other borders I went through in Central America by a landslide!
Now that I was here, I needed to get the heck out of Texas. You ever seen Texas Chainsaw Massacre? Mcallen, Texas was my gate to San Antonio. There I would take a series of scheduled Greyhound buses back to Michigan. Mcallen is only about ten minutes drive away; too far to walk with my bags. A nearby taxi wanted $25 to take me there. That was anothersure-fire sign that I was definitely back in the States. Taxis are stupid expensive compared to everywhere else I’ve been. I opted for a cheap shuttle that went from the border to Mcallen that charged only $3. Perfect! However I didn’t have that on me. Just about $50 worth of foreign currency. I needed an ATM. I found one across the major street and took out $40. I paid the shuttle guy and off I went to Mcallen!
So my whole trip has been one smooth roller coaster until now once I was in Texas, specifically the Greyhound bus station. I never took a Greyhound in my life. Thinking it was pretty convenient and cheap, I opted for the buses. I missed my initial bus from San Antonio to Dallas because the lady who was announcing had a horrible accent that no one could understand. Then I was stuck in the Dallas station for two days with a bunch of weirdos because of a snowstorm called Thor. I never ever expected a snowstorm in Dallas! Whatever bad karma I accumulated on my trip was now coming back tenfold here. The Greyhound station in Dallas is the weirdest place I’ve ever been to in my life. And I’ve been to some really, really weird places.
It was like a freak show. About seven people asked me for money, asking me to “help a brotha out”. More people beg here than they did in any country I was in. Everyone smelled funny, looked weird, was loud, obnoxious, and nonstop complaining about buses being cancelled. Whatever happens, happens and there was nothing we could do about it but wait it out. I had to spend the night on the bus station floor with my bags close by. Thank God I had my sleeping bag and travel pillow with me. I’ve slept in jungles and rocks before so the floor was doable.
I was careful not to tell anyone where I came from. If anyone found out the trip I was just on, they would ask me a whole lot of stupid questions and then ask me for some more money. Why the heck was everyone asking me for money? It’s like all the bums gravitated towards me. Even after eight months of traveling and wearing the same clothes over and over, I was still dressed with some dignity and class. I saw a guy pull out a knife on security there and a crazy woman, with saggy pants below her underwear shouting at everyone that they were being disrespectful towards her. She made me nervous. I’ve never felt more like an outsider. I needed to get the heck out of there! But there was really nothing I could do. The weather didn’t permit.
More weird things happened while I patiently waited for my bus to come. Some bum named Slim followed me around and convinced me to give him some money for a local bus to another town. I found a woman from the north laying all over my big bag, and I ended up giving a guy my soap and unused spare toothbrush because he really needed it. My bus to Memphis, Tennessee came the next night. The nightmare was finally over!
No it wasn’t.
Since I was held up for nearly three days, I was given a bump in passenger seating. Meaning that I didn’t have to wait in any lines for seats, I would get a sure seat almost immediately. Some of the Memphis passengers didn’t like this and were very vocal about it to everybody in the station. I kept my mouth shut as I willfully strolled to the front of the line. She was cursing up a storm! The cops had were called on her. I found my seat in the bus that didn’t move until a half hour later because the people in my bus were rowdy and threatening to fight each other. I don’t need to say it, the crowd on my bus were ghetto. Like really ghetto. There was a screaming child upfront and the bus driver asked if anyone could volunteer to switch seats so the child wouldn’t disrupt the driver. No one budged, so then I volunteered and found myself sitting next to a rather large, very odorous woman who non-stopped complained about her delayed buses and her swollen ankles. When I told her I’ve been on buses since Costa Rica to get her to shut-up about her comparably tiny journey, all it did was motivate her to tell me about her three ex-husbands, her heavy luggage, and more about her swollen ankles. Her life sounded miserable and I was stuck with her stories all the way to Chicago.
The ride from Chicago to Ann Arbor, Michigan was nowhere near as bad as the others. The bus was filled with a few college age University of Michigan students who were occupied on their apple products. This was much better. I finally arrived in Michigan close to midnight in the windly cold where a good friend of mine picked me up to save me. I remained calm during the whole endeavor from Texas to Michigan. That was a rough journey, but I just came off one of my most incredible trips ever. That outweighed everything else that happened, bar none.
I was finally home.
One more post!