Part 2 | Two guys and a car named Yasmin

With an almost 12 gallon (45 litre) fuel tank and the promise of a 51 MPG (21 KM/L) efficiency, Reece’s Toyota Prius was our ride across the country of Mexico last June. Read Part 1 of this series.

Affectionately named Yasmin, this tough girl turns out to be a fairly decent ride for over 2,400 miles with one torn bumper under guard and two obliterated hubcaps as battle wounds.

Toyota Prius
(R) The day we thought we could cross the border as we took pictures with the International Bridge at Eagle Pass Texas behind us. The crossing was delayed for three days… details towards the end of post.

Not meaning to sound like a car commercial (and Toyota did not sponsor this trip), our 14-day journey towards Guatemala wouldn’t have been possible without Yasmin. Two guys armed with a “why-not” adventurous spirit helps too… and now, some highlights from our road trip starting on the U.S. side.

Goodbyes & Hellos

(R) Reece and his good friend Jared the day we left Aurora, Illinois. (L) At my brother Darrell’s house after crashing a night on Day #2.

Moving to another country means leaving family, friends, and all things familiar. Reece, who is moving to Guatemala got to say his “goodbyes” months leading to this trip. And as we made a pit stop in Oklahoma City, I took the opportunity to reunite with some dear friends I also call family.

Having not seen the Steeles for almost a year because of my travels between Singapore and Illinois, it was a bittersweet and very short overnight visit before we hit the road again. A quick detour to a local Trader Joe’s for smoked herring, bread, and trail mix provided a brief distraction.

This is our life now…

The sun has set when we arrived at Quemado Texas on day #2, which marked the first time we had to figure out where to spend a night. We stopped at a Hispanic church and Reece, who spoke Spanish started talking to a lady outside the building.

We helped clean up the dormitories before we settled in for the night with some celebratory beverage.

Within an hour or so, we were graciously provided bed and shower in an air-conditioned dormitory of Quemado First Baptist Church! For budget travelers out there, we were told that almost all First Baptist Churches in the U.S.A. and Mexico have some form of lodging.

Yasmin and her need for bling (aka tag)

Since Reece was planning to get a local vehicle tag in Guatemala, he has opted for a temporary paper permit for Yasmin. While the U.S. customs officer recognized the permit and let us through, we got turned back at the Mexico border.

After speaking to a handful of people (shout-out to the helpful staff at BBO Custom Brokerage and the UPS Store), we realized that we had to get a proper U.S. vehicle tag for our girl. It was Friday afternoon by the time we were able to get an Illinois tag in the mail (kuddos to Reece’s friend Beth), which will only arrive Monday.

Finding refuge

The unexpected turn of event led us on a search for lodging in Eagle Pass as we knocked on the doors of two First Baptist Churches and the local Fire Station. It was the firefighters who directed us to a Roman Catholic Church where we met Father Jim of Our Lady of Refuge at 9:30 p.m. on day #3.

After hearing our story, he swiftly led us to a huge hall with classrooms, baths, and a kitchen. He started handing us towels, shower gel & shampoo, mattresses, and blankets as we remained mostly speechless while taking in the kindness.

So what did we do in Eagle Pass for three days? Find out in the next post.

If you are driving a foreign vehicle into Mexico, make sure you have documentations (ie. a physical tag on the car, title, insurance, and a pre-authorization for a Vehicle Importation Permit). We also found it easier to walk across the second bridge from Eagle Pass to the Banjercito office (see marker above) on the Mexican side to obtain the Vehicle Importation Permit (VIP) and also the tourist VISA (another office within the same building) first. Driving across the border with the VIP affixed on the vehicle should make the crossing a lot smoother.

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