It was hot and windy as we drove to the border crossing at Santa Theresa, about 25 kms to the west of Ciudad Juarez. On advice from other travellers, we avoided the main crossing ‘The Bridge of the Americas’ at Ciudad Juarez as apparently the wait time was shocking. Our crossing was uneventful and after a 90 minute wait in a slow moving line both us and the car were stamped out of Mexico and into the USA.
Some confusion over whether a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) for the USA was required or not had us driving back to the Bridge of the Americas border crossing in downtown El Paso (remember – the one we tried to avoid!), where it was confirmed that we did not require a TIP. So, after a visit to a supermarket for some supplies we headed north on the I25 for Albuquerque.
Our first impressions after 7 months in South America are still strong – the roads (the Interstate we were on at least) are 3 lanes wide and in fantastic condition, there is much less traffic and it travels much faster than we are used to. A speed limit of 75 mph on the Interstate translates to 120 kph which isn’t particularly fast on a smooth wide road, but nowhere in South America had we travelled at anywhere near this speed. The condition of the roads in South America was generally not conducive to this speed, there was often a lot more traffic and only some of the roads (mostly the toll roads in Chile and Mexico) were multi lane. So the troopy was out of it’s comfort zone, as was its’ driver as we cruised north. Semi trailers, 40 ft RV’s towing small cars, buses and everything else whizzed passed us. The signage on the side of the road was almost exhausting! Advertising of every type of fast food, petrol stations, convenience stores, resorts, insurance companies, you name it and a billboard would soon be telling you about it! Of course what was great was the signage also told us where we were going – it is exceptional and all of a sudden, the GPS was not the essential tool we have relied on since beginning the trip!
Driving into our first RV Park late that afternoon was also an eye opener. Ailsa and I travelled around the US in 1988 on our trusty BMW 1000 and back then in campgrounds you would be amazed by the odd big RV. Now, these parks are made specifically for them with hard, gravel surfaces, mostly ‘pull through’ sites catering for RV’s up to 60 ft, with water and sewerage hook ups, dump stations and a choice of power outlets (20, 30 or 50 amp). There are too many additional amenities available in some parks to mention here, but it appears that on the edge of most larger towns there will be a number of choices for those travelling around towing what is essentially a well equipped house behind them! The troopy looked a wee bit out of place amongst these behemoths. However the people in the parks are as we expected – very friendly and chatty and amazed that we can ‘live’ in such a small space. The RV parks are also very expensive so we will use these as a last resort as we head to Canada. In some cases we have viewed prices upwards of US$65 a night – but found somewhere cheaper! In a couple of weeks we’ll do a post on camping in the ‘States’ as the options are many and varied.
From Albequerque we tracked north To Sante Fe for a quick visit.
Driving north from Santa Fe through the mountains and forests we visited Taos Pueblo just outside Taos. Taos Pueblo is World Heritage Listed and believed to have its origins over 1,000 years ago. It experienced the Spanish Conquistadors along with many other intrusions. There are a dozen or so Pueblos in New Mexico that are open to the public and provide an insight into American Indian history, which is an intriguing story of Spanish and European interaction. The Indian culture is still very strong and although there are still huge challenges for them, there are some very positive signs in their beautiful art and craft and the strength they are demonstrating as a nation.
From Taos we headed west across the top of New Mexico, gaining altitude and surprisingly encountering snow still lying on the ground whilst the temperature outside was a very pleasant 25 degrees or so at an altitude of 3,000 metres. The whole region has had a very wet and long winter, with above average snowfalls late in the season. The road was smooth and winding, the scenery spectacular and there was little traffic to worry about as we got to Farmington, still in New Mexico but the gateway to SW Colorado and the start of the Rockies.
We spent the next day on a route through the San Juan mountain range passing through the beautiful towns of Durango, Silverton and Ouray to Montrose. We had travelled this road 31 years ago and were keen to do it again. The sun was shining and there wasn’t a cloud to be seen as we climbed to the snow line and thoroughly enjoyed (again) the snow capped peaks, the spectacular mountain roads and the touristy, but still small and quaint towns along that way. It was a Sunday and it seemed everyone with a vehicle was out for a drive. The number of motorcycles on the road was truly amazing. The great majority of them were Harley Davidsons, demonstrating that the great American tradition of riding with the wind in your face (no helmets required in Colorado!) is alive and well on a fine day and a good road. The camera got a good work out and there were plenty of stops along the way to the Black Canyon National Park on the Gunnison River where we camped the night.
The Black Canyon of the Gunnison is a gorge cut through granite by the Gunnison River. The steep canyon sides and spectacular views make this a great camping location. We had also visited this canyon 31 years ago and were just as impressed the second time around.
The evening ranger talk was about Turkey Vultures and we learnt lots about these amazing birds. We’ll look at them in a different light next time we come across them. We found many people in this campground fascinated with our ‘rig’ and wanting to stop and chat about our travels and our car. It seems that this interest might continue.
It has been an interesting few days interacting with others in English and we have quickly adapted to ‘having everyone understand us’ after 7 months of miming and Google Translate along with what we call our ‘very bad Spanish’. The USA & Canada will no doubt bring new and different cultural experiences. More to come!