Driving Baja

Whose brilliant idea was this, anyway?

We decided to cross the border in Mexicali to save time and money. After being delayed due to a late Amazon package and a bad wheel bearing (not mine), we left Arizona much later than we expected. As a result, the crossing we intended to use was closed for the weekend so we used the busier one on the west side of town.

Being in two vehicles can be a challenge, especially when the leader gets pulled over for an inspection and is extorted to the tune of 3,000 pesos. We sat for a couple hours while they decided what to do with us and the psychotic hound had a panic attack requiring a dose of trazodone. Great start to a nerve wracking drive.

Highway 5 from Mexicali could have been in the US. There was a ton of traffic in San Felipe and the road quickly deteriorated after we left heading south. Little side detours for construction were unpaved and extremely rocky in spots. Some of them included very steep climbs and descents and I thought I would need 4WD a couple times. A large unpaved section that continued for a few miles was a little sketchy, especially considering we were running out of daylight. Views of the mountains and Sea of Cortez were absolutely breathtaking but it was impossible for me to divert my attention to taking photos while driving due to the road conditions. I learned my dogs are not fans of off-roading. My Jeep was absolutely made for those conditions and it would have been fun, had I not been carrying cargo with feelings. I feel like I should get a cheesy t-shirt that says something like “I survived driving Highway 5” but I’m content to settle for bragging rights.

We made it to Highway 1 right before dusk and had no choice but to continue after dark. There were no shoulders and terrible (mostly nonexistent) road markings in most spots. Mountain curves were terrifying after dark. It was impossible to see. We had been up since 4 am and semi-trucks were driving way too fast for the road conditions. We finally made it to a hotel just outside Guerrero Negro at about 10 pm. Lulu wasn’t even talking to me by then.

The lead vehicle lost its fuel pump as we were leaving the next morning so we sat until after lunch and only made it to San Ignacio where we stopped for the night. The rest of the drive was pretty uneventful aside from being utterly confused by Mexican towns and whatever rules drivers seem to haphazardly follow. We finally made it to Todos Santos at about 8 pm the next night and my dogs and I were toast. They weren’t listening to anything I was trying to tell them and I was beyond exhausted. We got the keys to our house and completely crashed.

The drive was better and worse than I expected. It is my sincere hope that I never have to do that again.

Untethered

Last Friday was my last day at work. I cannot clearly articulate the relief I felt upon exiting the building. A neighbor caught me while the cargo box was being installed on my Jeep and asked me 20 questions. Among other things, she wanted to know if I’m retiring. I really didn’t have an answer for that, so I told her I am for the time being. I plan to mentally detox from that godforsaken environment until at least the first of the year and then see how I feel.

My house has been officially sold and I have received the proceeds. My departure from Tucson has been delayed by a tardy Amazon package, of all things. I’m fine with an extra night in a hotel but my psychotic hound wants to go home. There currently is no such place. Good luck explaining that to a dog.

All of the stress of preparing for this move and stirring up a ton of dust has wreaked havoc on my skin. I didn’t need a reminder of what being a teenager looked like. I’m also covered in bruises from carrying items in excess of my weight limit. My dogs seem determined to dislocate both shoulders by zigging when they should be zagging. It’s all 100 percent worth it.

My stress level is shrinking along with my to-do list. I feel pretty good about the fact that my biggest problem is Sherman’s continued refusal to do potties while on the leash. My temporary solution is to take them to a dog park a while after their meals so they can have their privacy. That won’t be a viable plan for much longer so I really need Sherman to get on my wavelength.

Speaking of waves, storms are still forming in the Pacific and I really hope we can dodge them on the way down through Baja. I’ve been told I should learn to surf in Scorpion Bay due to the little baby waves, which are the ocean equivalent of a bunny slope. I would love to stop there on the way to my final destination but the weather will decide.

For now, I’m waiting for an Amazon notification and my dogs to finish their afternoon naps. This is easy.

Trapped in a Box

If only the headline were a metaphor.

I may have mentioned the only things I’m taking to Mexico are shoes, clothes, purses, skin care products, and dogs. That doesn’t seem like much but I have quite the stockpile and I drive a Jeep rather than a Suburban. I decided to buy a cargo box for the roof to carry the lighter items so the puppers have more room to stretch out during our trek down to Baja. The box I chose is cavernous and one of the reviews actually showed a grown-ass man fully inside of it for scale.

As is often the case, assembly was a bit tricky. The hinges for this box are at the front so marrying the top and bottom was awkward, given that this thing is 57 inches long. I’m only 61 inches long, ya know? I was able to maneuver the pieces so the hinges lined up but there was a clip that needed to go into a hole right there at the very front to keep the hinges from separating. So that meant I had to climb inside the black plastic box, hold the back of the box up so I could see what I was doing, and also attach this clip with my very sweaty fingers…and a 61-inch wingspan.

Unfortunately, my t-shirt got caught on the lock at the back of the box and I was stuck. I’m not severely claustrophobic but being physically trapped in a black plastic box was a bit alarming. The lock caught my shirt near my left shoulder so I had very little mobility and nearly dislocated my shoulder getting unstuck. I also hyper-extended my dumb thumb. As I was struggling with all of this I was just thinking to myself, “Suffocated in a plastic cargo box…what a fucking way to go.”

Anyway, the goddamned thing is together and ready to mount to the roof rack. I’m just waiting for my surfboard to deliver and I’ll be all set.

I will get through this. *insert ALL of the eyerolls here*

Flipping the Script

For as far back as I can remember, my parents drilled into my tiny little head that it’s rude to make people wait. This has condemned me to a lifetime of being the person who arrives ten minutes early and waits impatiently for everyone else. I was told to stay out of people’s way. This has condemned me to a lifetime of irritation with those who seem to think they’re the only people on Earth and can therefore take up as much space as they like for as long as they like.

Be quiet. Don’t touch anything. Don’t make a mess. I could go on for days.

In less than two weeks, I will no longer be on a schedule. German time does not exist in Mexico so why be in a hurry? I will not worry about my dogs barking. Everyone’s dogs bark. THAT’S THEIR JOB. I will not worry about breaking something that is absolutely replaceable. I will accept beach dust mixing with dog hair and coating every possible surface. I have to release myself from the subdivision mentality. These are the things I keep telling myself.

My current reality is quite different. I’m worried about the things I may have forgotten to worry about. No detail is too small! I’m basically walking around in a perpetually nauseated state at this point. I’m worried about whether or not I’ll be able to turn it all off when I finally arrive at my destination. Because I’m really telling myself that I have to change my entire personality in order to fucking relax.

No problem…it’s on the list.

Countdown to an Aneurysm

My calendar is killing me right now. I am not a fan of dealing with things or people and that is literally all I am doing for the next three weeks. Who knew moving to a foreign country could be so involved?

I recently received a federal grand jury summons for December. Hate to break it to you folks but I’m not going to be around for that. Thank you in advance for your understanding.

Analysis paralysis is setting in hardcore. Big decisions are easy; the small ones not so much. I trashed all of my yearbooks and various items I’ve been dragging around with me for the past two decades. I definitely did not need to keep the stuffed koala bear my grandmother brought to the hospital when I was born. Or the stuffed shark headband I wore to a Jimmy Buffett concert circa 2003.

Anxiety and OCD. Rigid punctuality. Routine. Proper prior planning. Checklists. Chest pains. Nausea. Insomnia.

At this point, anyone who adds to my stress level is going overboard. I am not entertaining any nonsensical bullshit. I just have to get through this and if you’re not part of the solution, I can’t even with you.

Here’s one thing I do know: A month from today, I will run with my dogs on the beach. I will cultivate some motherfucking Zen if it’s the last thing I do.

I do love a challenge!

I listed my house last Friday and received a full-price offer two days later. My dogs were at work with me half of yesterday due to the buyer’s inspection. Assuming nothing goes horribly awry, we’re looking at closing on October 15. I need a drink.

Packing should be super simple because I’m only taking the absolute essentials that will fit in my Jeep. Family heirlooms and photo albums are going in storage. My realtor will facilitate the sale of everything else. Should be pretty easy, right? It’s *so* easy I have chest pains every time I walk into the bedroom I use as an office. That’s where the paper lives. ALL. OF. THE. PAPER. I didn’t go through the Great Depression so why am I like this?

My dogs and I are getting every single appointment imaginable out of the way before we leave for Mexico. Annual physical exam, dental cleaning, fall veterinary checkup, labs, eye exam, mammogram, Jeep checkup…OMG. Mexican auto insurance. Bet you didn’t think about that one! My Sling account has to be cancelled because I can’t use it outside the US without using a VPN and I don’t care enough to worry about that. Anyone know if you can just convert your Amazon Prime account to the Mexican version? I’ll be looking into the best option for that as well. What mail forwarding service should I use? I have to switch dog food because my dogs’ bougie brand is unavailable south of the border. What will I do without Chewy???

I’m getting super stressed about the drive through Baja. Depending on which route I take, it could easily be more than a 26-hour drive. That’s stressful by itself. Then factor in the foreign country/language component and the stress level increases just a smidge. Then remember I’ll be doing this with two large dogs and the stress level increases more than a smidge. There’s a very real possibility that I will be juggling all of this alone.

*RED ALERT*

In the three plus years I have had Sherman, he has never done his good boy potties while on the leash. The last time I drove to Kansas (14 hours one way), Sherman refused to take care of business until I sat down on my mom’s patio and he could finally relax. He did the same on the drive back to Arizona. He doesn’t care about the beauty of the park, the softness of the grass, or the shade from the trees; He’s holding it until he feels comfortable. I lack confidence in my ability to chill out enough for him to work with me. Lulu, however, will potty anywhere other than Hatch, New Mexico.

The timing of all of this is critical. I have to be out of the house prior to closing but may need to be in the area for a couple days around that time to take care of housekeeping items. My dogs do not understand the concept of couch surfing. If my employer refuses to allow me to work remotely but is slow to recruit my replacement, I will need to process payroll the day before closing from somewhere. All I need is WiFi but people have feelings about things. Ugh…feelings.

Have I mentioned my therapist is still out of the country?!?

Mexico or Bust

This is not a drill. Initiating panic attack sequence in 3…2…1…

I signed paperwork to list my house yesterday. It is being photographed in less than an hour and the listing will go live tomorrow. My realtor told me if a home in my zip code and price range stays on the market longer than 10 days, there’s something wrong with the property. Way to keep a girl away from the ledge!

Moving is always stressful but I’ve done it a million times. I have never moved to a foreign country, however. I have certainly never moved two large dogs to a foreign country. My anxiety this morning is at about a 7 for the first time in several months and my therapist is out of the country until the end of September.

Last night, I moved some items which must be kept forever into a storage unit and that is what I think made it really real. I’m not entirely certain why I still have my grandmother’s roller skates in the original box but I do. They should probably go to a cousin with children but I’m the only one who grew up actually using them. I doubt anyone else in the family would want them or even understand why I have been dragging them around from state to state for the past 20 years.

I’m excited about unloading the majority of my belongings. It feels like they have begun to own me and it’s time to let all of that go. My problem is with my great-great-grandmother’s china. An engraved pewter mug that belonged to a great-great-uncle who died as a toddler. Items which had been displayed in the family museum. For whatever reason, my grandmother thought it was a good idea for me to have these things and I still agree with her after all these years. But as God is my witness, my antique knife rest collection is not going to Mexico.

There are a million decisions which will have to be made in a relatively short time frame and I’m really feeling that right now. What am I doing with the proceeds once my house sells? Will my employer allow me to work remotely? If not, where do I move my 401(k) funds? Do I fully embrace the digital nomad lifestyle? How much money do I really need to live comfortably in Baja? My dogs’ food is unavailable in Mexico so what will I feed them? Do I keep my cell phone plan? Why is Babylon Berlin unavailable on Netflix when I log in from Mexico and how do I get around that if/when a new season is released? These are pressing issues.

My strategy for today is to focus on the next item on the list. I’m breathing. I’m doing yoga. I’m acknowledging it’s normal to feel anxious about this whole process while also feeling like I want to load my dogs up into a scene from The Grapes of Wrath this very instant. Mexico or bust.

When People Think I’m Joking

I love it when I tell people exactly what I’m going to do and they don’t believe me.

It’s been several years since I’ve done something crazy…like load up my dogs and move 1,000+ miles away for shits and gigs. I’ve done this a few times with varying degrees of success and happiness but always with stories to tell. People who have lived in the same place all of their lives simply cannot relate.

Imagine if you knew someone who lived on a beach in Mexico and they told you in all seriousness that you should move there because it’s cheap, uncrowded, and incredibly easy. If you had family obligations or a busy social life, you might take a pass and simply vacation there periodically. Now imagine you’re me. I have no family within 1,000 miles of my current location. I’ve been miserable in my job for more than a year and a half. My only debt is my mortgage. I can work from any location with Wi-fi. What would you do?

On Monday, I’m calling a realtor to discuss listing my house. I’m flying back to Mexico right before Labor Day to confirm this is really what I want to do. Lulu and Sherman will be thrilled because the sitter is staying with them for another full FIVE DAYS! While I’m there, I will ask my full list of questions. If my questions are answered to my satisfaction, I’ll list my house as soon as I get back to Arizona. Real estate is still going crazy in my area and prices have risen to borderline ridiculousness again. When it sells, the dogs and I are gone.

“But what will you do about _________?” I have contingency plans A through E for every possible scenario. That’s what I do every day with everything. So the answer is that I’ll figure it out just like I always do. It may suck and I may be back in six months crashing on a friend’s couch. Or it may not suck and I may find that Mexico is a gateway drug that sends me all over the world. Either way, I would rather experience life than find myself sitting in a nursing home in 40 years telling a story about how I was given the opportunity of a lifetime and I was too chickenshit to take it.

In some ways, I feel like a schizophrenic who finally gets stabilized on their meds and then believes they don’t need the meds anymore. A cautious person would tell me that I’ve worked too hard to get to this place to just throw it away and start over. But that cautious person doesn’t understand what it feels like to never want to leave your house. For the first time in a long time, I don’t just want to leave my house; I want to go everywhere and see everything. I intend to take advantage of that while it lasts.

Post-Vacation Depression

In June, I went to DC. In July, I went to Mexico. In August, I am going insane. And I’m kind of not even kidding. This post-vacation funk is not my idea of a good time.

I’m extremely goal driven. At the beginning of each year, I create my financial budget and my time off budget to ensure I have milestones to which I can look forward. This keeps me focused and more importantly, balanced. For whatever reason, that new dishwasher purchase I have planned on Black Friday just isn’t doing it for me right now.

Not exactly a great beach for swimming but God, I love it.

My trip to Mexico was incredible. Like, 1,000 times better than I expected. I 100% did not want to leave. I was ready to have someone load up my dogs and bring them to me. I can find a remote job and just housesit in some amazing place near the beach and not even have to deal with real life…right? Turns out not so much.

Absolute perfection

I came home to no goals. I have turned in my Mayflower application and the turnaround is 4-5 months. I may (or may not) return to Mexico in October but I have no dates. While we love the monsoon in Tucson, there have been many cloudy days and I need my sunshine. I literally do not know what to do with myself. So over the weekend, I didn’t do a damn thing.

The screeching geckos couldn’t ruin the mood.

It’s been years since I’ve felt this way, to the point where I had actually forgotten it was a possibility. Imagine my surprise.

The Dogsitter’s Dilemma

My flight leaves for DC at 0600 tomorrow. The dogsitter’s nightmare begins shortly thereafter. Hopefully, I’m exaggerating.

This is the first time I’ve taken a vacation without my dogs in more than seven years. Lulu has panic attacks when she hears noises and Sherman won’t potty in a strange place. He literally held it 14 hours on our drive to Kansas and then another 14 hours on the way back to Arizona. I like to think I didn’t make them this way but all evidence points to the contrary.

I have left two pages (single-spaced, natch) of information/instructions for the dogsitter, who will be staying with them for the next week. If I had opted for her to check in twice a day for food and water, I would worry the entire time that something terrible had happened to them between visits. So it’s 100% worth it for her to sleep in Sherman’s bedroom for a week to calm my anxiety.

Speaking of anxiety, sweet fancy Moses. I tried on all of the dresses (again) Saturday while taking a break from cleaning to make sure I pack the correct bra for each. So I nearly dislocated my shoulders multiple times zipping and unzipping over and over. Yesterday, I de-Sherman-ed Sherman’s bedroom. He’s a big, furry beast and he was not pleased to be locked out of his room. So I basically spent my entire weekend ensuring my dogs and their sitter have a clean house to enjoy while I’m gone.

Most of the packing was completed last night. Even with it being summer, I won’t be far from a heavy tag situation. I may have to reevaluate my shoe choices. My travel outfit has been identified and is hanging on the appropriate door. @RadioFreeTom will not be travel shaming me on Twitter because I am not flying Arizona casual. You filthy savages putting your bare feet up in the cabin in front of your fellow passengers are being outed every day on the Twittersphere.  If you don’t know, now you know.

My alarm is set for 0300. I’m taking my severe, chronic anxiety to our nation’s capital where I will be interacting with ALL OF THE PEOPLE nonstop for a week. My therapist has been preparing me for this for nearly a year. I’ve got this.

I’m going to Mexico in July and am already worried the sitter won’t be back. *sigh*

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