Reactions to Our Temporary Return to the United States
My wife and I have been living in Ajijic Mexico for over 2 years. Until the COVID-19 pandemic struck early in 2020 we were returning to Austin Texas about every 6 months. Our 2015 Subaru Outback is registered in Texas. The state of Texas requires vehicle needs to be inspected and new registration paid for every year. Our car was due in April of 2020 and we were not able to return at that time due to the lockdown.
I have been closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation in Austin to pick the right time to return. We needed to take care of the following items:
- Car inspection
- Expired registration renewed which required an appointment at the county tax collectors office
- My wife’s hearing aids needed to be checked and likely serviced
- A visit to my periodontist to get my gums checked
- A year’s worth of mail picked up
- A year’s worth of nutritional products picked up
- Inspection of our rental property in Austin
- My wife will visit her parents in East Texas on the return trip
- Shopping for products that are difficult to obtain in Mexico
This trip will be very quick with a total of 10 days in the US. We will get in and get out.
I will be producing a podcast episode with a day by day account with a lot of detail after our return.
We normally take 3 days to drive from Ajijic to Austin. This time we decided to do this in 2 days to avoid the Mexican cartel activity in the city of Nuevo Laredo. The drug cartels have had their supply chains disrupted both from their ability to get ingredients for making fentanyl from China and their ability to get drugs across into the US. The shutdown of the border to all non-essential travel has greatly reduced their ability to get drugs across. Therefore, the cartels have taken to hijacking US-registered cars as they enter Nuevo Laredo.
On the first day, we drove to Monterey Mexico which is a much longer first-day drive than we usually undertake. This would give us a 3-hour drive to the border and allow us to safely cross at the Columbia Solidarity Bridge west of Nuevo Laredo. This is the safest place to cross the border as this is where the vast majority of truck traffic enters the US. (The image above is a picture that was taken from the webcam on the Mexican side of the border.)
The amount of truck traffic that crosses the border on a daily basis is mind-boggling. This is everything from finished products to industrial/automotive parts to agricultural products. We crossed the bridge around 2 PM on September 24th after over an hour wait.
You can check the wait times for all of the US border crossings at the US Customs and Borders Protection website. Click here to view the wait times for the Columbia Solidarity Bridge.
We then completed the drive to Austin and arrived around 7 PM.
My wife drove the stretch from the border to Austin which is a straight shot up Interstate 35. The volume and speed of the traffic were surprising to me. Where we live in Mexico, we drive very little. We choose to walk everywhere which has improved our health significantly.
In general, Mexicans are not in a hurry and drive very courteously. As we drove through San Antonio I watched as cars darted in and out of traffic during rush hour. I know this is normal but why are they in such a hurry?
We arrived in Austin and made our way to Whole Foods. The only way to pay is by credit or debit card. We pay almost everything in Mexico with cash. The only exception is when we go to Costco in Guadalajara we use a debit card. I even pay my rent in cash.
Other than requiring masks there were virtually no other sanitation controls. I wrote several months ago about the differences between the Mexican state of Jalisco and Texas.
I hate to say this but the state of Jalisco has much better processes to protect against the spread of the virus.
Getting COVID-19 Tested
Both my wife and I immediately went to be tested for COVID-19 infections at Tarrytown Pharmacy. This gave us same day results which were negative and cost US$130. We can get tested back in Mexico and the cost is fairly comparable. The difference is that that cost is out of range for most Mexicans.
I wanted to get tested so I did not compromise anyone’s health and one of my medical providers said they would not allow me to enter their office without a negative report.
On Friday night we had dinner at our favorite restaurant in Austin, Numero 28. We know the owners and many of the employees and it was great to see everyone again. We ate outside but did and did not surprise me was the large crowds of young people.
Austin is a moderately young city but the fastest-growing demographic in the city is 65+. Most of my friends in Austin who are 50+ do not go out to dinner.
Like much of Texas, the hospital’s ICU wards were nearly full with COVID-19 patients just a few months ago. Now with the return of the University of Texas students to Austin from all over the country cases are ticking back up. This population is less likely to end up in the hospital but they are really good at spreading the virus.
I worry about what it will be like in a couple of months. Texas is now #3 in the number of COVID-19 fatalities in the US and could have the #2 rank by next week.
We have a lot to get done before we return to our home in Mexico. Being in Austin has gotten me to really appreciate the slower pace of life we have, the lack of need for a car, and our ability to obtain fresh foods and vegetables easily and affordably.
Eating healthy is so much easier where we live and it has improved our health. I am at the same weight that I was when I graduated from college when I was 22 years old.
We do not watch television in Mexico and I will not do that while we are in Austin. At this point in time, I only obtain my news by reading it either in a physical or electronic form.
Listen to my podcast episode about this trip which I will produce when we return to Mexico.
Hasta Proxima Vez Mi Amigos!Marc Miller