A LatinGringa on the road: A crosscountry journey from San Francisco to Ft Lauderdale

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The day finally came. The day to move. After 10 years in Northern California, we got a unique chance to move and work in Ft. Lauderdale. My husband and I always fantasized with life in Southern Florida: so latin, so sexy, so much fun and so hot! We did not hesitate. As I say ” a rolling stone gathers no moss”

My dog Fidel is 95 lb and can barely fit in a crate. Not to mention he gets seizures when under stress. That is why I decided that we would drive cross-country, with no kids and no husband, just him and me. After all, Fidel is my first baby.

We left at around 10 am on Saturday morning. The hardest part was to say goodbye to my 4 and 5 year old boys. I kept” forgetting” things in the house just to have one more hug, one more kiss, one more smell of their golden hair.

My first stop was only 3 miles away from home, at a local park, to get my car blessed by my dear friend Melinda or “Mamadiosa” ( she is an amazing healer, spiritual guide, mother, teacher and friend)
I could not hit the road without getting my car blessed! She also gave me a beautiful angel statue to take with me. I realized we have so much of this in our latin blood! We need our angels and blessings for everything we do. Our life is so spiritual and passionate!
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After a short but moving “ceremony” I finally started my drive. I was now ready.
Today I drove 650 miles, from San Francisco to Blythe, only stopping twice for bathroom breaks and gas. Highway 5 was so hard! So boring and monotonous.. The only thing that kept me going was my collection of Argentine Rock: Javier Calamaro, Los Rodriguez, Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, Fito Paez and also some Bossa Nova and MPB (musica popular brasileira) Each song would bring memories of fun times, friends, summer nights and life in Argentina. I love songs that take you back in time! I realized I am a different person now, with 10 Years of “gringa” life, I am a more complex and balanced human being.

Being a mother of two boys who are 1 year apart, and the wife to a latin husband who is also so demanding of my attention and care, I finally had 4 days ahead of me for being alone! Now I remember when I got my dog Fidel as a puppy and I thought he was so much work… How naive.

Day 1 was a day of reflecting about who I am, and where I came from. I realized it is so important to keep my latin blood alive. To be real and not scared of showing my true colors. Not to pretend to be something else just to ” fit in”. I realized that the people who really love and admire me, do so because they enjoy my gringa- argentina persona!

After driving 8 hs almost non stop I finally crossed the dessert and arrived at a small town called Blythe. I got my pet friendly hotel room. Once inside, A big cloud of sadness invaded my whole body. I realized I missed my boys so much that it hurt my heart. But I also realized this was a unique opportunity for recharging energy and take some time to meditate and think clearly with no interruptions. I guess I cannot help being a latin mama, with her babies always under her wing.
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Tomorrow, I have to make it all the way to Texas. I have a long way to go.

I woke up in Blythe with a warm orange sun in my hotel window. After getting a quick coffee and telling the baristas with pride that I had driven all the way from California (little did I know that I still had 4 days ahead of me of 10 hours drive or more a day…) I got Fidel in the car and headed East. The California landscape got more and more blended into a desert postcard, and after about 40 minutes of a lot more to come on Highway 10, I crossed the Arizona border. I have to say the Arizona desert is very very nice. You can see beautiful rock formations and miles and miles of endless open space. I stopped at the first rest area and took some pictures of Fidel. This was our first rest stop of about 30 we did in total. I figured the best place to walk the dog is a rest area: they usually offer doggie runs and beautiful shaded areas to take a walk, get some junk food from vending machines, and nice clean bathrooms. I also found out that many truckers were also on highway 10 crossing eastbound, so Fidel and I became very popular among truck drivers! Being alone, it felt nice to be part of a “group”

After crossing Arizona, I got to my favorite part of the road trip: New Mexico. What a gorgeous landscape! What amazing nature! What fascinating history! And of course tons of latin influence, both from its Spanish history, and its Mexican closeness. New Mexico also has this magic to it. I think maybe it comes from all of its ancestry and native people. I lived in New Mexico back in 2001 when I first came to the US, and stayed at a friend’s house for a month. I remember I was fascinated by its history, energy and natural wonders. The food there is also to die for. It is definitely “the best of both worlds”.

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After some hours of driving, I crossed the Texas border. Texas was very hard to cross. So huge and so contrasting. When I drove by El Paso, I was shocked. When you drive on Highway 10, to the right you can see Mexico. You can see very poor towns, poor buildings, old cars, garbage, lots of people. To the left: The US. Strip Malls, cars for sale, colorful buildings, consumption. What a contrast. I will never forget the feeling I had when driving by El Paso. It felt like I belonged to both sides. I also went through a border patrol checkpoint. They had dogs smelling the cars and a million cameras pointing at you. Scary.

That night I spent the night at a small desert town called Van Horn. I was exhausted. I had driven another 700 miles.

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On the next morning I woke up knowing that Day 3 was the hardest: Texas. My goal was to make it to my friend’s house in Houston. Wil is an old friend who moved from San Francisco to Houston a couple of years ago. We had a Restaurant in San Francisco together, and having lived in Argentina for a long time, he is definitely a “LatinGringo”. I was actually looking forward to spending the night at a house and not a road motel.

All I can say about Texas is that it is huge, and the houses in Houston are huge too. The rest stops look like the Four Seasons hotel, so Fidel and I stopped at almost all of them. At this point Fidel and I were pretty famous among the truckers on Highway 10. After 626 miles, I made it to Wil’s and went out to an amazing Sushi Restaurant with him and his wife Cecilia. Thank you Wil!! I really needed a nice dinner. I had been eating gas station tuna sandwiches for the last 3 days…

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Day 4 was great. So many things to see. I crossed the Louisiana border and felt like I was entering a different country. Road signs were written in French! I stopped at the first rest stop, it was beautiful. I entered the southern brick building, and two grandmotherly old ladies offered me coffee and local maps. The building was old but the service was friendly and warm. Very different from the 4 Seasons Rest stops in Texas! Fidel jumped in the lake and I noticed a sign that said “Alligators: do not swim”. I freaked out but at this point Fidel was out in the middle of the lake. Oh well, I guess If we are going to live in Florida he’d better get used to alligators…

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We kept driving and went by Baton Rouge & New Orleans. I recognized a lot of the locations and landmarks from the Katrina documentary I had seen on HBO. Very interesting.

We then crossed Mississippi and Alabama. I would love to spend some time here. We crossed some of the largest swamps I had ever seen, and lots of Wildlife management areas. In the afternoon I was starting to get very very tired. I stopped for some coffee and chocolate to wake me up. After long hours of driving I finally crossed the Florida state line. I felt I was going to die. I finally made it to Florida!! I stopped at the Welcome to the Sunshine State sign to take some pictures. At this point Fidel had become the new “Travelocity gnome”. I had pictures of him in every state. We kept driving and after another 565 miles, arrived in Crestview, Florida. We spent the night there and had some delivery Domino’s pizza for dinner which felt like Gourmet Cuisine. I was so tired (and I could tell Fidel too) but I still had one more day to go. My neck hurt so bad, and my back was sore. All that driving was killing me. BUT I WAS ALMOST THERE.

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Day 5 was all about getting there. I did not stop a lot, and every mile meant I was closer to my children who I had missed more that I would have ever imagined. I had my last 615 miles to go. I did enjoy northern Florida a lot. It was also my favorite part of the trip, together with New Mexico. It is gorgeous nature and landscapes, rolling hills, big old trees and the best highways I had ever seen in the US. I kept driving like a maniac. All I wanted was to get there. Day 5 was very exhausting. Only stopped for gas and one more (and hopefully the last) gas station tuna sandwich.

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After about 8 hours of driving, I finally arrived in Weston, FL. When I drove into our driveway, my kids were waiting outside. I was ecstatic to see them!! Fidel was in heaven, he could finally get out of the car once and for all. I hugged my kids and the first thing they noticed was the million bugs stuck to the front of the car. I had not noticed but my car definitely looked out of a “MadMax” movie. I wonder if I looked like a dirty road warrior, I probably did.

My kids and I looked at all the pictures from the trip, and they were fascinated by the story of when Mama crossed the desert. My 4 year old kept telling everyone that Mama crossed the desert and got bugs all over the car and saw dinosaurs.

I have to say I loved doing this road trip, but it was very very very hard. I am not sure I could do this again. But all the images, feelings, smells, will stay with me forever. And I am grateful for that.

4 responses »

  1. Pingback: 5 Moving Tips That You Need to Know | The Citizen Culture

  2. Pingback: Moving? Follow my Advice for a Smooth Transition! | LatinGringas

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