Mountains and Matehuala

by Cat Calhoun
Matehuala, San Luis Potosi, México

After the sadness of the coyote and the horses we settled into a kind of sad numbness that comes with flat terrain, scrubby brush, and a harsh climate that is constantly breaking down anything built by human hands. Time and time again we saw horses and cows tethered in the median between north and southbound lanes of Autopista 85D. Occasionally we would see a flock of goats or sheep with a shepherd in the median. At first it’s a little shocking to fly down a toll road at 110 km/h (roughly 65mph) and pass livestock less than a meter (roughly 3 feet) away, but even this begins to seem normal after a while and the boredom of flat terrain takes over again.

When the outline of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountain range appeared on the horizon north of Monterrey, they were a welcome sight and supplied consistent beauty filled with craggy peaks and huge rolling green foothills. Caracaras, ravens, and the occasional golden eagle roamed the skies above the mountains and my spirits lifted.

Mexico No Filters - Sierra Madre range north of Monterrey

I don’t like driving at night and I’ve been told it’s not wise to travel the roads in Mexico after sunset, so I was grateful to arrive at our overnight stop, Matehuala, just at sunset. We checked into Las Palmas, a nice place that looks like it was transported right off of Route 66 and right out of the 1950s. It was clean and comfortable and the management was happy to accommodate both us and our cats. The cats settled in quickly and were chowing dinner when we decided to follow suit.

Mexico No Filters - Las Palmas in Matehuala, San Luis Potosi, México

We went to the restaurant where a very professional gentleman by the name of Lorenzo completely took care of us. We feasted on guacamole, beans, a delicious rice dish with poblano peppers, vegetables, and amazing salsa. We chased it all with two drinks each then we wandered happily back to our room and fell into a restful deep sleep, hoping for a short drive to finish the trip in the morning.

Mexico No Filters - Las Palmas Restaurant in Matehuala, San Luis Potosi, México

While we are sleeping please take a moment to enjoy some of the cool things we passed on our way today.

Mexico No Filters - So many trucks
It’s intimidating to be a relatively tiny passenger vehicle among giants! But this is a major shipping route from the United States to Mexico City, so it was truck city in many places.
Mexico No Filters - Organpipe cactus fence
We saw many livestock fences made from mammoth stands of prickly pear, joshua trees, and organpipe cactus (like this one).
Mexico No Filters - Roadside shrine
There are many roadside shrines in Mexico. This one is my favorite so far. It’s so geologically interesting I would have done likewise.
Mexico No Filters - Bienvenidos a San Luis Potosi
San Luis Potosi is one of the states in Mexico and is where Matehuala is located.

Goodnight everyone.

Onward: Mexico, Google Maps, and Sadness

by Cat Calhoun
Matehuala, San Luis Potosi, México

If you’ve never crossed the US/Mexico border, you may not know this, but the moment you cross the international line your cell phone service (unless you’ve made other arrangements) will cease to function. I’ve got a T-Mobile plan that does cover both countries but since T-Mobile doesn’t have a direct presence south of the border, that means I’m using services from Mexico with slower data speeds, but speeds that are roughly adequate for groovy things like Google Maps.

Mexico No Filters - Bienvenidos a México

This is a Very Good Thing, because driving in Mexico can be challenging. Exits aren’t clearly marked or may not be marked at all. You can stop and ask directions if your Spanish skills are up to speed, but the answer (should you understand it), may or may not be accurate. If you really think ahead, you can get something called a Guia Roji, the Mother of All Mexico Maps. You can get these at most south of the border Walmarts and in some Pemex stations, but the wondrous Columbia crossing had none of these things anywhere nearby. If you’ve been reading along, you’ll know there’s no way in hell I was about to drive back to Nuevo Laredo to find a Walmart and score a Guia Roja, so Google Maps was the solution of choice. Without it I would still be driving around the northern Mexico desert, probably bumping over cactus and rapidly dying of thirst.

Carr. Fed. Núm. 2, as it is listed on Google Maps, goes through a weird no-man’s-border land. I might be projecting, but the whole area seems tired and wary, like it’s barely hanging on, just struggling to get from one day to the next. At some point down the nearly unmarked and frequently patched roads that skirt Nuevo Laredo, I saw something in the road that I thought was a dead dog. It wasn’t. It was a huge coyote. It was alive, but clearly suffering and dying as it lay in the left lane, facing oncoming traffic. As I approached it, it lifted its head and made eye contact with me. And my heart broke.

Mexico No Filters - Coyote MedicineCoyotes have been traipsing through my life as long as I’ve been alive. I’ve always loved them. I used to sit on my screened in porch in Floresville, Texas on warm nights when I couldn’t sleep and listen to them sing and yip in the moonlight. When I lived in Dripping Springs I would wake early in the morning and through the big picture window in the living room I would see them (or maybe the same one over and over) loping or trotting down the trail near the creek behind my house. More than once I saw one stop, turn directly toward me, and not continue onward until I waved. On a particularly memorable kayak trip a coyote walked beside me as I floated down a river. Additionally, Coyote has appeared in many card readings, dreams, and in many shamanic journeys. But I could not think shamanic or spiritual thoughts in the face of this coyote, nor could I stop to render aid to a wild animal. I could only cry and drive. I wept for miles. I doubt the sight will ever leave me.

Not even 20 miles later I saw two horses running down the middle of the highway in the northbound lane as semi-trucks barreled past them. It feels like, in light of our journey to a new life, all of this means something. But I cannot yet even ponder what it might be.

The Streets of Laredo

by Cat Calhoun
Laredo, Texas, USA

When I was a little kid my dad loved a singer by the name of Marty Robbins. Marty sang a song called Streets of Laredo, a lament about a cowboy who was shot and lay dying after committing un-recounted wrongs during a card game. The song played in my head all day as we began the first leg of our journey, the drive from Austin to Laredo, Texas.

After much purging, packing, re-packing, and a weekend of copious help from our friends Colleen and Julie (without whom this honestly would not have been possible), we finally rolled out of Austin about 4:00 in the afternoon. During the pre-driving process I envied that damned dying cowboy quite a lot. Sure, he might have been shot in the chest, but he no longer gave any craps at all about his stuff.

Mexico No Filters - two cats and two women in a Subaru
We look all smiley. That’s just insanity kicking in. The real mood is captured by Pie – shell shocked and numb. And I swear DeLora isn’t choking her, despite appearances. Merry Margaret is meowing her butt off and barely visible behind me.

That dead cowboy also didn’t have two cats with him who had no comprehension about why they were being transported in a small, moving space. They were very vocal about their questions and displeasure from Austin to Lytle, Texas, a distance that would have been 103 miles except for a construction jerkiness in San Antonio that totally closed the highway and forced us to detour. So add another 45 minutes of cat yelling on top of the usual hour and 43 minutes it takes to do the drive. That’s a lot of vocalization for two stressed out soon-to-be expats.

Mexico No Filters - Pie on the "kitty deck"
Pie on the “kitty deck” of the USS Hermione, our packed-to-the-rafters Subaru.

They finally did chill out in the space we made for them behind our seats and by the time we got to our hotel for the night they were pretty nonchalant. I was grateful for the silence, but still would have preferred a 2 hour stretch of Marty Robbins at the beginning of the trip instead of a Wagnerian kitty opera.

Mexico No Filters - Cats hanging out nonchalantly
This is almost unprecedented, as they are not what could be called ‘friends.’ Must be a trauma bond. They are chilling out together in the hotel like “no big deal, do it all the time.”

And now, just in case you want to know what that Marty Robbins earworm was here it is. I’m giving you a little bonus Johnny Cash too. How’s that for value?