If you are friends with me on Facebook, you’re very well aware that our family had the privilege of spending just over a week in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. It was wonderful. I had no idea it would be so beautiful, so exciting, so scenic, and so entertaining for all of us. We got to stay in the childhood summer home of our dear friend, got the inside scoop on all the happenings around town by his local mother, took our kids on all kinds of adventures around town, and even had the benefit of three date nights, thanks to a wonderful sitter in the neighborhood. It truly was a fabulous experience, one none of us will ever forget.
But as with all trips, we had to get there.
Since we were booked for Europe in June, six plane tickets to Mexico City weren’t really an option. So we worked out a plan to take some nice buses to San Miguel. Just purchasing the tickets could be a whole other blog in itself, but in the end, we had a plan to drive our cars to Laredo, leave them parked at a hotel at which we had booked a room for the night, take the hotel shuttle to the border, walk everyone and our stuff across to Nuevo Laredo, take cabs to the bus station, ride the bus from Nuevo Laredo to Queretaro, where a driver in a 15-passenger van would pick us up and take us to our door in San Miguel. What could possibly go wrong?
It actually went quite well, all things considered. Obtaining our visas at the border was a lot like that scene in Zootopia where they are at the DMV where only sloths work. At one point, we watched as one man painstakingly stapled papers together, sometimes twice, for each member of our party, only to take them one door over to another man who painstakingly detached every stapled document. The bureaucracy is mind-boggling.
After a cab ride in two sketchy cabs in which Dally tried with all her might to climb from my lap and out the window (all my car seat friends are freaking out right now!) we made it to the bus station about twelve minutes before it departed. We loaded and left, and thus began our battle to get Dally to stop screaming and go to sleep.
It only took two doses of Melatonin and a very messy administration of Children’s Benadryl, but finally, around midnight, we got her to throw in the towel and fall asleep.
She only woke up, screaming out, every twenty minutes or so thereafter, but I’m sure no one else on the bus minded. Aside from the complete lack of sleep, the fact that the temperature of the bus resembled a warm tortilla, and the roads in Mexico + the shocks on the bus = a ride so bumpy your teeth rattled, it was a pretty uneventful bus ride.
We finally arrived at Grandma Sharon’s condo at 7:00 AM, starving and exhausted, made a quick breakfast, and passed out for a few hours before starting our adventures in San Miguel.
We had a great time, it’s very beautiful there, yada yada yada, I ate twenty million Gorditas.
Nobody wants to hear about our time in the beautiful city. You really want to hear about our journey back. Seriously. You do.
It began eight days later at 7:30 PM when our passenger van showed up to take us back to Queretero. We arrived at the bus station with just enough time to buy tortas for everyone, and get hassled by a very drunk man before boarding the bus. The bus ride started out fairly smoothly, and half of the kids fell asleep within an hour or two of our departure, including Dally. (Cheers to finding the right cocktail for baby sleep earlier this time!) Gabe, Rosanna, Scott, and I all settled in with our bus time dessert of rum and Coke and Oreos, and I even fell asleep for a little bit.
This bus ride seemed to have a lot more stops that our trip down. Every time we stopped, all the lights came on, and someone either got off or got on, we all woke up, and then headed down the road again. This happened several times, and then at 3:00 AM, I awoke to a uniformed guy standing over us asking for passports and visas. I presume we were at some sort of check point, but nonetheless, it’s an interesting way to wake up on a bus. Again, the lights all came on, and Dally woke up, but despite being awake so much through the night, she seemed in good spirits and kept the screaming to a very low minimum.
Just after the officer got off the bus, we were informed by the driver that the AC wasn’t cycling off (fine by me!) which the bus couldn’t handle while driving in the mountains, and we were at risk of overheating. As a result, he would be shutting off the AC until we got to our next stop, at which point we would be switching buses. In four hours.
It got hotter and hotter until we finally reached Monterrey at 6:45 AM, unloaded every person, all their things, and our luggage from below, and boarded a new bus. Now all the kids were awake, and they were pissed off and hungry. But there was no McDonald’s on the bus. They passed around a box of dry cereal like it was crack, Dally screamed bloody murder, and three short hours later, we arrived an hour late to a different bus stop in Nuevo Laredo.
We got off the bus, ready to hail three cabs to take us across the border, as our group was returning with an additional two Rubbermaid totes and two bags big enough to hold adult bodies in them full of newly purchased wares. But as we got off the bus, a man began explaining to Gabe that he could take us all across in his Greyhound bus, we could stay together, and the luggage wouldn’t be a problem. It would only cost us $100. No wait, $60. Yes, $60 got our attention, and so that’s what the price was. We decided this sounded less sketchy than having two cabs with only one adult witness in them, and so we pooled pesos and American dollars to come up with $60. We boarded the new bus, which was decidedly different from our ETN bus, but told ourselves this would just be a short trip across the border. This was at 9:45 AM.
At 10:20, the bus finally began to move. We all got excited for this final leg of our trip home… until we stopped at a different bus station across the street, only to wait a little longer for more people to board.
I hadn’t anticipated being on this bus for very long, and hadn’t gone to the bathroom before getting off our nice bus. Scott took one look at the bathroom on the Greyhound, which I will hereafter refer to as the Tetanus bus, and without any elaboration, he looked at me and said, “NO.”
We continued to wait on the Tetanus bus, and then finally got going toward the border. Scott’s seat broke every time he shifted his weight. The smell was, um, special. Every surface cried out for Lysol. Worse, since none of us had eaten, Luke hadn’t had his medicine yet, and was literally climbing on everything. He was on the floor. The nasty, sticky, disgusting floor. The kids’ pillows were being used as dust rags on everything. The seats’ upholstery was a cornucopia of colors, telling a story of all the various fluids that had been absorbed there over the last two decades. It was heavenly.
We finally made it to the border, and as we looked out the window in front, the line of cars didn’t seem too bad. But then the bus turned off behind some other buses, and we realized we would go through a special bus lane. Gabe suggested we might have an officer come on board to check everyone out, or have some drug dogs sniff through our luggage, but it shouldn’t take too long.
The bus stopped, and we were informed to get everyone and everything off the bus. Everything. All ten of us struggled to drag pillows, backpacks, car seats, totes, and luggage to a line that looked like something at Mexican Sea World. It was all outside, and it was long. We would drag all our people and bags through this line, show passports, and then drag it all back to the bus, which would now be parked in a parking lot far, far away. It was defeating, to say the least.
We made it through, and as we all came out on the other side, I noticed a large set of portable buildings with bathrooms. After all this waiting on the Tetanus bus and through customs, I needed to go, and apparently so did Lilah, Luke, and Colt. We headed over to the portables, not knowing the last of our innocence was about to be lost.
I peeked into the first available bathroom and immediately stepped back out. It looked as if someone had turned on a fire hose in there, but not one that spewed water. The next one wasn’t much better. Door #3 appeared to be the best option, and so we stepped inside, quickly realizing that for our own safety and welfare, we would be doing all this with the door more than slightly ajar.
Y’all, I have used port a potties at Fiesta events, but nothing could have prepared me for this.
Colt went first, and I held Lilah’s hands in mine, lest they accidentally brush against something awful. It was during this time that I looked down to see an overflowing trash can with thirty-seven shades of other people’s poo on all the wadded up balls of toilet paper. I have no words to describe this moment in my life. I closed my eyes, did NOT take a deep breath, and hurried Colt out the door with his pants still unzipped. Lilah was next, and as the toilet seat was covered with fluids we weren’t going to touch, I squatted precariously over the toilet, cradling her sideways in my arms, praying she was aimed south enough not to pee all over my arm.
I waited for the pee. And waited.
“Lilah, are you pooping?!”
This child can poop anywhere, I swear. And that apparently includes the world’s most disgusting hot box of a bathroom on the Mexican border, suspended in the air by her poor Mommy.
It was at this time that I hung my head in exasperation, looked down, and saw that about an inch away from my squatting ankle was a full on man turd, stuck to the wall. I just don’t even want to know how that happened.
I figured Lilah could only get dirtier by wiping herself with anything in that bathroom, and so she was sent out the door, with a poopy butt and her pants down. Luke went next, and I stood, gagging, rushing him along, fearing this place might be the death of me. I finally got to go, and believe you me, I hovered as high above that toilet seat as physics would allow. I shook, flung the door the rest of the way open, and stepped out, pants unzipped, eyes watering, with a look on my face that made Scott and I both avoid eye contact with each other for an hour afterward. I think this must be what people feel like after doing hard time in prison.
We loaded everyone and everything back onto the Tetanus bus, and took inventory of the cash we had left. We had $22. Would this be enough to bribe the bus driver to bypass the Greyhound station and take our group to the hotel where our cars were (hopefully still) parked? At this point, it was nearly noon. Our children were out of Fruit Loops, nobody had had coffee, let alone brushed their teeth. We were sweating, cranky, unmedicated, and so very, very done.
The bus got going before we had a chance to present him with the offer, and so we decided that once we arrived at the bus station, Scott and Gabe would run to grab the closest cab to the hotel, and return quickly with our cars. Rosanna and I would just hang out with our six, super happy kids and our thirty-seven bags of crap.
The guys found a cart on which to load all our luggage, but soon found out it came with a price. There was a man from the Greyhound station who wouldn’t let us take the cart anywhere to wait for the guys, and he insisted on calling the guys a cab which would take ten minutes to arrive (while there were cabs we could see across the street, ready and waiting.) We watched as the cab driver tipped the Greyhound guy, and sat inside yet another super-sanitary bus station, looking out at the man who had commandeered all our worldly possessions on the cart. This was all adding to our wait time, but the good news was he had told the guys to just drive right up here, and we could load and go without having to move everything again.
Something worth noting… right after switching to bus two of three in Monterrey, Lilah had puked in Dally’s car seat. After seeing Dally wander around in a 16-hour old diaper and shorts soaked in her sister’s vomit, we’d ditched her pants. So poor Dally did bus #3, outdoor customs hell, and the Greyhound station in Laredo in a diaper and sandals. I resolved to research how to safely bleach your children as soon as I got in the car.
After a half hour or so of watching Luke lick things that were attached to the metal chairs in the bus station, and trying to semi-bathe kids in the bathroom sink, the guys finally returned with our cars. They pulled up, and immediately three men came running at them, saying they couldn’t park here.
We were on hour 17 of this hellacious adventure and we were all fresh out of fucks to give. These Greyhound guys weren’t going to make us move anything anywhere. We literally threw children and bags into either car as fast as we could, and squealed out of that bus station like it was on fire. We were so hell bent on getting as far away from Laredo as possible that we didn’t even stop for food until Cotulla, about an hour and a half away.
On the way home, I planned out the most efficient way to scrub down six people the moment we walked in the door, and made a mental note of what pillows and blankets would be burned without further discussion. I feel like we should maybe get Tetanus shots and some kind of immunity booster this week, and I’m not even a germaphobe kind of person.
Thank goodness our time in San Miguel was amazing, or all of this may not have been worth it. We learned and lot, and will likely plan a few things a little differently the next time the Sheltons are stupid enough to let the Dows follow them to Mexico.