Ultimately it doesn’t matter whether you go forwards or backwards: you need to live your life as well as you can./em>Eric Roth
The day had arrived. Well, not really. It was the day before the day was to arrive. Our trip down to San Miguel de Allende was moved up a day due to high winds coming into the Chicago area. rw2, the ever conscientious pilot, decided that an early departure would be the safest thing to do. Well, who am I to argue? We loaded up the plane with what is probably the lightest load we’ve ever taken anywhere for an extended period of time: 125 lbs. for two of us for a year and a half. Now, we’ve all been on an airplane in the recent past and know what it means to play ‘suitcase tetris’ to get as much into it without packing unnecessarily so that you don’t hit that 50 lb. mark and have to pay for the extra weight. Well, that’s how we have to pack the plane. Literally weighing and measuring every thing we pack, we have to get down to only the essentials. I often feel a bit like Charles Lindberg who used to trim the margins of his flight charts to save on weight. Hey, it worked didn’t it?
Our goal was to make it from Chi-town to Austin, Texas. A fairly smooth flight into the cold midwest brought us to Harrison, Arkansas for our first fuel stop. After a phone call to Austin to see if we can extend the room we have for fri/sat to tonight, thursday, we discover there is literally no room at the inn- or any inn in Austin. Everything is booked for a conference and we quickly begin to feel the affects of not adhering to my flying philosophy of ‘check it once, check it twice and check it again because you’ve only checked it twice’. Not even thinking that we may be stuck sleeping on the state capitol lawn in the heart of Texas, we didn’t plan ahead and we were out of luck. Upon chatting with the really nice guy that runs the fbo, we find that Harrison has a Hampton Inn and he’d be happy to drive us there. Cool.
We were relieved to find a bowling alley across the street (never thought you’d hear me say that, eh?) that serves ‘cold beer’ and we ambled on over. It was very clear very quickly that two of these things were not like the others. We asked if they had beer and I was seriously waiting for her to say the famous line from the Blues Brothers: ‘We’ve got both kinds: Bud *and* Bud Light’. We settled with one of each and sat back to watch the entertainment. A few leagues were rolling as well as a couple of young guys who seemed to bowl about as well as I do. Badly. Kids were running, people were laughing and folks were having fun. And then it hit me. ‘I wonder how many people here have a gun in their belt and I wonder how many voted for Obama’. My guess is most and none. Sad.
We woke early on friday morning and headed for the airport with yet another ride from the nice fbo dude. We were soon on our way to Austin and had an uneventfulflight over the well defined landscape of Arkansas and northeastern Texas. A mid afternoon arrival at Austin-Bergstrom airport had us going way out of the pattern so they could stack up and wave in the big boys. The tower was more than appreciative that we helped them out and made us feel as if we had ‘United’ painted on our side. Nice.
Now, as most of you know, Austin is one of our favorite cities and one of the reasons is because it is home to one of our favorites, Bob Schneider. While sipping a mexican margarita at the Cedar Door, we discover that Bob was playing in town at one of our favorite venues later in the evening. With a few clicks of the Antone’s app, we had two tickets to the show. With two opening bands that kicked some serious *ss, we again had a knock down drag out evening with Bob and the Scabs. They played so long and well that the venue had to turn the lights on so they’d stop playing and people would leave. Stumbling back to our hotel at 2 am with a music-induced haze had us continuing our love affair with Bob and Austin. Heaven.
We spent the balance of the weekend flight planning and looking ahead to Mexico. With a mid-morning departure from Austin, we headed for the sunny mountains of Mexico for our first stop in Saltillo for fuel and customs/immigration. Quite an experience. We hopped out of the plane to two teenage (looking) boys in fatigues and carrying rifles. The ramp was on a slope so I hollered to rw2 to stick one of my shoes under the wheel. Worked like a charm and it got a smile from one of the ‘federales’ that revealed the braces on his teeth. Oh boy.
Now for the official stuff. The customs/immigration officer came out smiling and speaking some English. We gave him our passports and he went in to fill everything out *for* us. Huh? Ok! Then on to the Comandante’s office to play ‘Guess what documents he’s asking for’ as he spoke no English and my bar/restaurant Spanish wasn’t going to help when asking for federal documents. The nice immigration officer was kind enough to help as much as he could and after much pointing and such, we seemed to have it all squared away. After what should have taken 20 minutes (it took an hour and half) we had to file our flight plans at the flight office. We walked in and were greeted by a very nice, helpful and pregnant lady who spoke fluent English. Really? *sigh*
Let’s put it this way: for anyone who bitches and complains about the workings of the US process of *anything*, head on down south of the border and give it a try. True, we had a minor language barrier, but the immigration officer spoke English fairly well and the lady in the flight office spoke fluently, so, where the heck were they when we were stuck in the Comandante’s office pulling out any and all of my limited Spanish words (paper, official, plane) that would help? Everyone was very nice, don’t get me wrong, but what should have taken 20 minutes took almost 2 hours. Oh yes. It’s part of the adventure. I must remember that.
Our last leg to Querétaro was beautiful as we flew over the mountains of central Mexico. With the airport in sight we made a hasty landing as the winds had picked up but rw2 stuck it nicely and we were in our new home for the next year and a half. After a mix up with the rental car, we left for San Miguel de Allende (without a map or gps. I almost died!) and arrived about an hour later. After a very long couple of days, we headed into el centro for a meal at one of our favorite places in town and relaxed with a well-earned cerveza. We toasted our new life and began to settle in. If the trip down is any indication of our time here in San Miguel de Allende, we’re in for quite a roller coaster ride. But, you know, that’s quite alright with us.