Hassle Free Zone

We had a lot on our minds when we left Sacramento on Weds, Feb 10. Our most immediate concern was whether our car’s transmission would fail; the fluid had contained metal shards which apparently is not ideal. Plus, we were carrying a ton of stuff- mostly clothes, books, and the like, but also bottom paint and a new electric windlass, and we hoped not to be searched by customs. In the back of our minds we worried about the condition of our boat and her batteries. And to top it all off, this year Sequoia has decided to take up “rock star cruising” (she’ll let her crew move the boat to desirable locales, and just fly in here and there for a week of fun). Knowing we wouldn’t see her until April made us so sad!

Despite a certain snobby tenant of ours (Omar) scoffing at our road trip itinerary, we were excited to stop in Bakersfield and Tucson on the way down. Our friend Adam has a huge, cool apartment in an older Bakersfield neighborhood close to downtown. It was great to walk to the new Padre Hotel for a drink and dinner, and catch up with Adam’s fascinating work and romantic life!

Though it’s about 600 miles from Bakersfield to Tucson, the drive was uneventful and there are definitely worse ways to spend a day than blasting through the desert at 75 mph. There was no room at our usual B&B, but luckily we found a great little cottage on craigslist, and the two-night minimum suited us fine. That way, we had a day for relaxing and last minute shopping, and two opportunities to indulge in what really draws us to Tucson: Magpie’s Pizza!

Whenever we go through Tucson, we’ve either just been deprived of pizza and good beer for an extended period, or just about to be. The microbrews and specialty pizzas (on whole wheat crust!) at Magpie’s are the answer to our cravings. We like to order extra so we can have it for breakfast on the drive the next day.

So, when we ordered a pitcher and a jumbo pie, our waitress paused and, with a tilt of her head, inquired, “A jumbo, just for the two of you? Did you see our sizes when you came in?” Todd was all smiles as he graciously explained that we hoped for left-overs. As soon as the waitress was out of earshot, the gloves came off. “Is she hassling us in a hassle-free zone?” he sneered. “Yeah, we understand pizza sizing, so why don’t you just shut your pie-hole and bring us our JUMBO!”

The next day we got an early start, and were a bit anxious about being searched. On the way to San Carlos you have to pass through 2 customs stations. At each one there is a light that randomly flashes either green or red as you drive through. A green light is a pass; a red light means you get searched. The first station we came to seemed deserted, with nary a person in sight, and we zipped through with a green light. It was the second one we were worried about, as we’d gotten a red light there last year.

We pulled off to get our tourist visas and then got back in the car to go through the customs lane. As we approached the gate, a pickup, piled full and covered in tarps, cut over from the main road and signaled to join the line. We let them cut in front of us. At the head of the line, they got a red light and were signaled over for a search; we scooted through right behind them with a green! “They just got our red light!” I exclaimed. “That’s awesome!” shouted a relieved and elated Toro. “You want to cut in? Please, be our guest! Suckers!” Luckily, there was enough traffic noise from the adjoining freeway to drown out our hooting and hollering… though in retrospect I’m surprised our high-fiving and fist pumping didn’t attract the attention of the customs agents.

Mexico actually has made all sorts of accommodations to make it easy for Americans to travel and do business here. Sonora follows Arizona’s wacky time schedule (no daylight savings), and a good part of Sonora is a ‘Hassle Free Zone’ for American motor vehicles- meaning you don’t have to get an import permit. Of course, we like to joke that the ‘Hassle Free Zone’ signs posted along the freeway apply to hassles of any kind- as if Sonora were a magical realm where everything always goes your way.

So I was surprised, after a pit-stop in Hermosillo to get gas and buy Todd’s favorite beef jerky, when Todd signaled and pulled over to the shoulder of the road. “What’s wrong?” I asked, fearing that the transmission had finally given out. “I’m getting pulled over,” he replied.

A local policeman approached our car. “Buenas tardes,” he said, and then paused, as if he’d forgotten why he’d stopped us. “Um, papers?” “Which papers do you need?” I asked. Again he paused. “Importation?” he asked. “We don’t have importation papers,” I said, “because we’re only going to San Carlos.” He considered this, and asked us to wait a moment while he returned to his car. Not ten seconds later he returned and wished us a good trip.

“That was the weirdest police encounter I’ve ever had,” said Todd as we got back on the road. “-Papers? -We don’t have any. -Ok, have a nice day!”

As we drove in to San Carlos, there was a fire truck parked at the side of the road, with ‘Bomberos‘ (‘Firemen’) emblazened on the front. “Bomberos just sounds so bad-ass,” said Todd admiringly. He tried it on for size, proclaiming “Soy Toro el Bombero!” Then he asked, “Would I say ‘Soy un bombero‘?” I explained that gramatically, ‘Soy bombero‘ would be correct, but that he would not say this, as, in fact, he is not a fireman. Capn Selective Hearing ignored me, and I wondered… just when is he planning to use this line?

We were relieved to find that, other than a fair amount of dirt both above and below decks, the boat was in good shape and her batteries were only half-depleted. It seems the little solar panel did its job and kept the batteries alive!

Now we’re in an all-out sprint to get the boat ready to launch on next Monday, March 1. We’re getting help to put in a new cutlass bearing, and we’re installing the windlass, and stripping all the cetol varnish and hope to get 6 coats down. If we miss the March 1st launch date, we won’t get another chance to get in the water until the 13th, because of the tides. So… it may be a while before the next blog post!

2 Responses to “Hassle Free Zone”

  1. Hannah McGhee says:

    So great to hear from the Cortez Coasters once again! Happy sailing!


  2. Sharon Flynn says:

    Trish, Larry Jef and I were speculating about the impact of the tsunami warnings on your March 1 launch date. What is the impact expected to be at the upper end of the Sea of Cortez? Thinking about you both!