Highway to Hell

Yesterday I got new cartridges for my printer, and the color cartridge didn’t work right. Through HP’s support chat I got the problem figured out and learned more about the printer I’ve had since 2019, a machine I call “Darth Printer” because it’s black and has an antipathetic personality. It’s not evil, but it’s definitely “my way or the highway, Sweet Cheeks.” Turned out the color cartridge was defective — something you can’t see from its cheery pink exoskeleton — and so a new one is on its way to me from — of all places — Calexico, CA.

It made me wonder what happened to THAT town since I last saw it a LOOOOOONNNNNGGGG time ago. I mean a REALLY long time ago — 1987. (“Is this a windup for a story, Martha? Should I get some coffee?” “Well, yeah, if you want to.”)

The Good X and I had bought our crack house in the barrio and were remodeling the bathroom. I wanted to do the counter in Talavera tile which, I knew, were less expensive in Mexico than in San Diego, so, on the 4th of July (???) we drove to Tecate. Tecate was (is?) a beautiful Mexican town in the old style with the central square. Soon after we crossed (on foot, parking on the US side) we got some adobado tacos and asked where we might find a place to buy tile. At the time there was nothing “touristy” about Tecate. The adobado seller pointed us to a plumbing store. We wandered over, enjoying the quiet vibe of this small desert town on a hot day. The beer, what, factory? was emitting steam as per usual. I like Mexico. I like speaking Spanish. I was happy.

The plumbing store was awesome and we got our tile there and sat down with the owner and his wife for some cold Jamaica (hibiscus tea). Then, with our box of tile, we headed back to the car.

The tile we bought is the one just above the bird on the branch. We picked it because it was the only one the store had enough of. 🙂 I love when I don’t have to make decisions.

What we didn’t expect was that we could not get back onto Interstate 8 for thirty minutes or so. I don’t remember why, maybe clearing an accident. “Fine,” I said to the Good X. “We can go to TJ on the Mexican highway.” It was no big deal to get to our house from Tijuana.

So, we drove across the border. Our first thought was to go west and north from there, but the highway to Tijuana was closed. Looking at Google maps today, I see that it’s got a couple of detours.

We turned onto the highway heading east into the mountains. The idea was drive to Mexicali if we had to and, if we could, take a left straight up to the California desert before then. Right…

The highway was very narrow — sometimes one lane and seriously terrifying. At the time, we were driving a Peugeot 505 STI named (appropriately) Beauty which was good. She had wonderful suspension and was not super big. The Mexican trucks, though? Big and top heavy. The “highway” wound its way through the mountains, sometimes paved, sometimes not. No guardrails or signs. More than once we backed down so a truck could get by.

After four harrowing hours we reached Mexicali, cursing ourselves for not being able to wait 30 minutes for I-8 to clear. A left turn took us to Mexicali’s sister city, Calexico (see what they did there?) and another 3 hours took us home.

I spent more time in Tecate over the years but never drove that highway again. The featured photo shows the VAST improvements on the highway since 1987.

18 thoughts on “Highway to Hell

  1. Yikes — the road and scenery look like the road to Borrego Springs — I wouldn’t want to drive that road with a lot of Mexican trucks, particularly before the improvements you mentioned. These days there are many warnings about violence along the border, too!!

    • Indirectly. The crack house financed the house in Descanso. One big regret I have is ever moving out of the crack house. It would have been paid for and I’d be in California.

      • well, there’s that, too. I recall traveling with a group of friends in med school. We’d saved a few bucks flying on prinair. We were late, one of our party had coffee spilled on him by the flight attendant who then yelled at him, the seats were terrible, etc, etc. Our refrain for the rest of the trip became “we should have flown american” Strange choices that seemed a good idea at the time.

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