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Howdy, USA! Our big Texan Welcome

“Do not stop, do not buy gas, do not stop for water, don’t even stop for the bathroom! Just go, go, go!” Our hosts saw us out of Monterrey with these strict instructions. Apparently this was based on prior experience driving to Texas for a shopping trip when the car full of party and happiness stopped to get some cold drinks on the road from Monterrey to Laredo.  Mid festivities, a man came to the window and calmly asked for all their pesos, discreetly showing a gun, the party atmosphere now subdued, he politely asked for the dollars too. All cash was duly handed over and the robber counted off a few peso notes and handed them back to the driver.

“For the toll booth” he said, “drive safe!”

So if you stop on the road to Nuevo Laredo, you’re likely to be politely robbed. We decided not to take the risk as our strategy of carrying minimal cash would have disappointed any criminal.  With this in mind, we filled up on petrol whilst still in Monterrey. We did our usual routine of stopping at the Pemex, asking if they accept card payments and waited for the usual “Mexican cards only” answer and after the third station, just on the exit for the highway, the chap (who spoke perfect English) said that of course they accepted cards. Without hesitation we filled up Freja (Alex’s bike) so as not to have to stop on the road to Laredo. When it came to pay, of course our cards were all rejected! We used the last of our pesos to cover the petrol and made ourselves completely unattractive to prospective thieves.

We reached the highway and drove at top speed to the Colombia bridge in order to avoid the town of Nuevo Laredo which we’d been told was worth bypassing. It meant not being stopped in traffic and also not having to use the popular pedestrian crossing in town. This was the day after the US elections and we thought the crossing might have unusual activity.

The crossing was uneventful other than the fact the Mexican exit border is unfathomably difficult to find. It isn’t signposted and we found ourselves sailing right out and into the US border only to be told we hadn’t yet left Mexico! We drove back along the wrong way of the one way road and were directed to the tiniest imaginable cabin on the highway- a little 2m square white shack with  a green tin roof which was apparently where one declares the motorbikes as exiting the country. This meant going through one last toll booth and of course, we had no cash left other than a couple of pesos change from our fuel purchase. The man kindly let us pass when he recognised us as the dolts going the wrong way down a one way system from the entry point on the US border. Clearly he understood we were already having a bad morning. After the rigmarole of border exits was finally complete, we entered US territory and walked into a building clearly designed to sort through hordes of tourists and travelers but today it was deserted. No queues, no guards and certainly no border police waiting with stamps. We stalked the empty halls searching for someone to stamp our visas but they were all apparently at lunch. Eventually, we were seen by a guard and processed although he refused to acknowledge the import of the bikes and said they’d be understood to be in transit. After double and triple checking that we didn’t need any extra importation papers for the motorbikes we set off, fully expecting a nightmare on the future border crossing to Canada when we have no record of entry into the USA.

So here we were, in Laredo, Texas! All the vehicles on the road were ten times the size of all the cars we’d gotten used to seeing and after parking for only two minutes in the local petrol station, we’d already made friends with three separate people over our journey and the motorbikes. We drove onwards to Austin through the wide and well organised highways, which cleave through cities and weave a ribbon of tarmac carrying traffic efficiently through town.

The First photograph at University of Texas.


We stayed in Austin a few days – time to compose our thoughts, catch up with friends and give Simon a chance to see the world’s first photograph: Niecephore Niepce’s View from the window at Le Gras which he enjoyed with a quasi-religious depth of emotion.


Too soon, it was time to move on and we rode up to Dallas to see Simon’s old professor from MICA, Jack Wilgus. He and his wife showed us around their impressive collections of photography, camera related artifacts and other unusual collectibles.



Dallas was an otherwise curious town. Alex was chatted up by a man sporting facial tattoos in the darkness of a petrol station, Simon was treated to lunch by a lovely couple who picked up our tab when we stopped for a burger.

We left Denton, Dallas for Amarillo where we would join Route 66 westwards. This provided many opportunities for us to ask ourselves if this was indeed the way to Amarillo! We stopped in a rest stop where RVs and trucks were allowed to stop overnight amid the grassy verges and make the most of the showers on site. Simon, wearing full motorbiking gear, asked a leviathan proportioned woman behind the counter if we could camp there overnight. “Sure, you can sleep in your trailer like everyone else.” He explained that we had no trailer but a tent as we were clearly on motorbikes. This appeared to enrage the woman who hauled herself out of her chair and threw her impressive mass towards the telephone “Oh no! You can’t camp here, if you camp here, I’ll call the PO-LICE!” Simon backed off, she picked up the phone and screeched “THAT’S IT! I’M CALLING THE POOO-LICE!”  A little miffed at her aggressive response, we continued on through the rapidly encroaching dusk.

Camping in Texas

Thanks to the iOverlander app, we found an inexpensive RV park which allowed tents to pitch for a mere $12 a night. This was decadent camping, hot showers, fast wifi and unlimited electricity. We were just congratulating ourselves on our find whilst eating our campfire stew under a super moon, when an enormous 18 wheeler rolled into the tiny site.  It rumbled past our tent, taking down some of the branches of a tree we’d pitched next to and parked up beside us. We realised it wasn’t a truck but an RV, a moveable house.

This thing was ginormous and having parked its 12m length obnoxiously beside us, it gave a self satisfied fart of hydraulic air and pushed out bay windows bigger than most flats in central london. It sat there, looming over us smugly when the side door opened and whirr of electrics pushed out neat little steps. A man stepped down with a fluffy toy dog on a pink leash and strode confidently past us without a word. Our attempts at a friendly greeting was met frostily as the pet peed dangerously close to our site. He then disappeared back to his palace to hook up the sewage and water lines and clearly our brief acquaintance was at an end already.

The next morning, we packed up and left for Amarillo and historic Route 66 which would take us west, through New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and finally, California where we would join Highway 1 and Big Sur. The road was perfect, its single track winding through desert with a cool sun and many opportunities to stop at a kitsch diner for a coke float or pie. The road runs alongside the old railroad and as we watched these mile long trains carrying doubled-up containers rumble past at a slow jog, we’d wave and the driver would sound the horn and wave back.  Often we’d run past the train a few times in one day as it caught us up after a rest break, both making our way west albeit for entirely different purposes. We decided we liked Texas with its bigger is better approach and its wide plains and friendly strangers. Route 66 was a road full of promise and we were eager for a new adventure.

We found the way to Amarillo! It’s pretty easy.




  1. Francine on 18/12/2016 at 7:52 am

    Interesting development but not altogether surprising after the Mexican anarchy. No wonder Mexicans want to leave their country!

  2. David on 27/12/2016 at 10:35 am

    I recall this part in the book “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed where she was also met with much hostility when she tried to camp out at a trailer park. Apparently hikers and RVers are from two different warring tribes in America.

    • alex on 31/12/2016 at 4:57 am

      Interesting!! That would make sense as they’re definitely not impressed with tents!

  3. Ron Hawkins on 20/01/2017 at 12:21 am

    Hello! It’s Ron and Adrienne (the couple who picked up your lunch tab in Denton)! We’re finally getting around to checking out your wonderfully written and humorous blog. We are enjoying reading through your adventures and will continue to follow you! Best wishes! Ron and Adrienne Hawkins

    • alex on 20/01/2017 at 2:12 pm

      Hi Ron and Adrienne!! Thanks so much again- it was such a pleasant surprise and really appreciated. Let us know if you make it to Europe and we’ll pay back the favour one day 🙂

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