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Hurricanes and Cartels - Exploring Mexico

Updated: Dec 5, 2021

Ever had a hurricane sneak up on you? How about highway bandits? Ever been convinced you'll never see your car again? I went through all of that and more in the wildest solo trip to Mexico.


It started with a broken tooth.


I had broken my tooth a month ago, and I was getting tired of eating with half my mouth while I waited for Costa Rica or India to open up so I could see either of my dentists. This led me to start researching our friendly neighbors to the south- Mexico.

After a lot of research, I found a dentist in the teeny tiny town of Nuevo Progreso in Mexico.

I'm talking really small- this city is 3 square miles, that's it.

1200 miles one way, 18 hours. Easy!

I got all the permissions I needed to take my car into Mexico and I headed out on the 18 hour drive.

I stayed the night in Louisiana, where my best friend conveniently resides and where it's also just about halfway to Mexico.


The next day, I waltzed into Mexico. Literally.

At this border crossing, Mexico couldn't care less who came in to their country. I drove right into the country and no one stopped me to check anything! Not a document, not papers for my car, nothing!


Mind-blown and excited, I headed to my first city- Reynosa!

A steady 60 seconds into my drive, I got a harsh reminder that I wasn't in the USA anymore, in the form of a huge pothole that made me feel like I drove into a brick wall and sent everything in my car flying.

I made my way to my hotel and called it a night.


The next day is when the adventure began.


I was waiting in the waiting room for my dentist, when a lady asked me if I knew 'how it looked' across the border, in terms of weather. I offered to look it up on my phone and boy am I glad I did. Looking right back at me on my radar was good ol' Hurricane Hanna.

I had NO IDEA there was a hurricane coming. It wasn't a day away or 100 miles away. It was HERE.


I laughed my backside off in disbelief that I had been sneak attacked by a hurricane!

I spent the next 7 hours in the dentists chair, and by the end of it- I needed some food.

It was pouring and the streets were starting to flood but I. Was. HUNGRY.

I made the not-so-smart decision to head into the city and grab food real quick. I knew a spot for the most delicious gringas and I couldn't go without them after starving all day.

I drove there in the pouring rain and got my food then started back.


Here's where it got interesting.


It was truly pouring cats and dogs, my visibility was next to nothing and I was happily making my way back to my hotel, convinced I might get swept away or wreck my car in one of the million potholes that creep up on you.

I was maybe 2km away from my hotel when.. it happened.


Mexico uses these very annoying metal blobs on the road in place of actual stone curbs to separate lanes sometimes, and I didn't see these blobs from afar. By the time I saw them, it was too late and I rumbled right over them, my car rattling to it's very core.

When I got past them, I looked down at my dash, hoping I wouldn't see my tire light come on.

No luck. I had blown a tire.


I pulled over in a small hospital's porch, where there was a small shelter, and said I'd quickly change this tire in 20min and my food would still be hot by the time I got to my room.

No luck there either.

I couldn't even get my car on the jack before the area I was in started flooding- and quick.

I was in a hurricane, with a flat tire. Under a shelter that was rapidly flooding.

I threw the donut and the jack in my trunk and hopped in my car and bailed. I drove all the way to my hotel at 20kph, completely destroying my tire. But hey, my food was still warm when I got back!


When the next day started I had no idea what I was in for.

I woke up in my hotel in Reynosa- knowing that I had a flat tire that I had to fix.

I woke up at 6 a.m and started planning on how I was going to make this happen. I had already spent two hours looking for tire shops the night before. Nonetheless, I started looking for a new place to change my tire. I had to first swap my flat tire for my Donut, then I had to find a place that had the right size tire for my car and would put it on the rim too.

I spent another hour calling and googling every tire shop on both sides of the Border and eventually found a Walmart in McAllen, Texas that currently had the tire I needed in stock.

I used the shelter in front of the hotel to change my tire. My mama taught me well about the essentials in life.



After putting the donut on my car I headed out towards the Border.

I was excited to use my Global Entry card to go through the Sentri lane for expedited entry, but nooooo- The world had other plans.


I got to the border and went through the Sentri lane bypassing a 30min line on the regular lane side. I laughed in my head at the normal folk, stuck waiting for ages while I zoomed through.

I reached the booth where the CBP agent took my Global Entry card and scanned it. He came back and asked if I'd ever used the lane before to which I said no.

He then said, "Your Sentri isn't active in the system so you're in violation of using the Sentri lane. By law, we have to confiscate your vehicle."

I looked at him wide eyed, telling him I had no idea I had to activate it and it was my first time through the lane, and then apologising.

He said to pull into the secondary inspection point and his supervisor would make a decision.

I pulled into the inspection area, thinking I'm about to lose my car and already coming up with plans on Ubering to the nearest airport and just flying back home!

They checked my car quite thoroughly and I spoke to the supervisor and he agreed to let it slide this time but warned me not to let it happen again.

Phew.


I left the check-point and headed straight Walmart.

Upon arriving, I saw that Walmart was closed due to the hurricane! I sat in their parking lot for 45 minutes looking for another tire shop but there wasn't a single one that picked up my call. Finally, Firestone picked up my call and said they didn't have my tire in stock but told me of another Firestone 40min away that might have it, but she didn't even know if they were open. I couldn't get a hold of them so I decided to make the drive there and risk it!


Driving through McAllen was no easy task either. Having the hurricane just come through, everything was completely flooded. Every time I took a turn, it was either a road with debris or a completely flooded road and I had to re-route.

I saw cars stuck in 4 feet water allllll over the place. Heck, I saw a mustang floating away!

I couldn't even find a place to eat because they were all flooded or were now islands! Watch that here:



I think I finally understand why Texans have so many pick-up trucks.


Nonetheless, I reached the store and they actually had the tire I needed!

I got it put on and headed back across the border into Mexico.


Here's where the adventure kicked into the highest gear.


I got back into Mexico and started my drive 3 hours south to the city of Monterrey.

It wasn't easy trying to get to the Mexican highway because of all the bridges across the Rio grande being run over by the flood:


Finally Navigating my way across the river, I jumped on to the highway where I was the only car on the road in either direction. For a solid 30min I hadn't seen another car and all was good.. until I saw them.


As I drove, I saw an older Chevy truck parked on the side of the road. Three men sat/stood in the back and two in the cab. All dressed quite raggity, and all of them... holding Machine guns.

No, these weren't the police. The police make it very clear that they're the police. They have insignia all over the place and they're dressed the part for sure.

These weren't police. These were highway Bandits, and I had just locked eyes with one of them.

As soon as I passed them, they hopped on the road behind me.

I hit the gas.

My mind was racing, thinking of how I could get away, what I could do if I was caught, which direction the nearest town was, so I could head there on foot since I have a compass in my watch, and many many more plans ran through my head. Not paying them enough attention, they caught up a little bit and I could see them, clear as day with their guns, determined to get me.

Thankfully, I was on probably one of the best roads in Mexico, so I hit the gas and took it up to 100mph (160kph) in an attempt to shake them.

They were 5 people in an older truck, I was one person in a coupe. That definitely was my saving grace!

I was super glad that I chose to get a new tire before making the drive and didn't try to make it with the donut. It would've ended very differently, had I done that.


They were after me for probably 45min or so, until I reached the next town. I could see them in the distance coming over the hill as I went over the next.

I raced through the next town, knowing they'd either back off or slow their roll dramatically while in city limits. Soon enough, they were gone. I managed to lose them, what a rush!


Adrenaline pumping, I sped into Monterrey, laughing at how crazy the drive there had been and ready to relax a little.

Naturally, Monterrey had other plans yet again!

You'll have to keep an eye out for part 2 to read about how I drove into the hurricane, almost lost my car multiple times, got trapped indoors and then got into trouble at the border yet again!

Make sure you're on the mailing list so you don't miss out on part 2! :)


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