Monday, January 13, 2014

Planes, Trains & Automobiles!!: My Cross Country Vacation- Day 7

Day 7

Waking up in a different state you never been to was great…waking up and knowing it was going to hit a high of 85° was just awesome. That’s just how I felt when I woke up in Phoenix and the sun was shining bright and for the first time I saw palm trees out my window, (honestly, I didn't think there were palm trees in the southwest, just cactus).

Like the usual past couple of days, we packed up, checked out and stopped in for our free continental breakfast, (some of our days, this was the best meal of the day, so we always ate more than we could handle- live and learn for next time). By 9:30am we were out for our next and final stop(s); Nogales & Rio Rico, Arizona, the whole reason for the trip.

On the way down to the southern part of Arizona, we stopped in Tucson to grab a bite to eat at Zona 78 for some lunch. We picked this place since it was near a Kohl’s & Men’s Warehouse.  The food was delicious, but either the waiter couldn't hear our Boston accents or he was getting some incentive to give as many people loyalty cards as possible because he kept asking if we wanted one and we could use every time we came in…(we don’t live here, we don’t even live in the same time zone, get over it)!

After a quick stop at the local Men’s Warehouse and Kohl’s to look for a few  specific items, it was back on the road, (once again, almost for the last time), to Nogales. As we’re driving down I-19 towards Nogales, I kept my eye on the ‘little blue dot’ on my iPhone to make sure we were going in the right direction; I started notice signs for the International Border to Mexico (cool!). It was really cool, until we saw a sign for ‘last exit before International Border’…‘little blue dot’ wanted us to keep going… I guess we were typical first timers in the area, because we panicked and got right off the exit only to be face to face with U.S./Mexican Border.

Top: Mexico!
Bottom: U.S/Mexican Border
I've seen the show “Border Wars”, and seen pictures of this ‘border’ being a huge, long brick like border…here we saw a giant fence- plenty of space in between to send over some “special Mexican products” and vice versa. We ended up in a little neighborhood right at the border and here we were taking pictures of the border, (when in Rome…). Although it seemed a little odd, both Pete and I were fascinated to actually be able to see another country right in front of us. We finally got back in our SUV and continued to follow the ‘little blue dot’ to hotels in the area.

Really, really, long train!! 
We once again chose a Holiday Inn Express, since that pretty much was our only option that seemed decent in the area. We settled in our room, (which there were plenty available), and relaxed a bit before we decided on plans for the evening.

*why we are actually here*

I mentioned in Day 1 of my ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’ Vacation that we were here for a specific reason. Well, here is the reason. I received an invitation back in August for a wedding, not just anyone’s wedding, my Dad was getting remarried. I’m sure many people might think “oh, that’s nice’ or ‘okay…what’s the big deal’? Well, it’s kinda a big deal to me since I haven’t seen him in almost 12 years. The last time I saw him, I was 17 (do the math), and we haven’t been in touch since. Thanks to Facebook and email, we started reconciling and talking back and forth. He did mention to me he was living with someone who I’ve never met in Rio Rico, Arizona, (I had to Google Map it a few times to actually see where it was), but I didn't know how serious it was until I received a wedding invitation in the mail for that upcoming October.

I had two options, throw the invite and forget about it or know that life’s too short and there are some invitations in life you can’t say ‘no’ to. So with that, I wrote back that we were going to the wedding and from there, Pete and I decided to make a real vacation out of it and go see what the South West of the United States has to offer, (‘cause again, you only live once).

When we started planning out the itinerary of how we were getting out there, the original idea was to road trip from Boston to Nogales and fly home, but with too many options of where to stop, exactly how long it would take us and having to be Nogales no later than Saturday, (although, I was hoping to get there earlier in the event I felt I couldn't go to the wedding), we thought of alternatives. There was the idea of flying to Phoenix and exploring Arizona, flying to Texas or Denver and driving to Nogales…and then there was the road very much less taken nowadays…train.

I’m not exactly how the idea of taking the train came to my mind, but after some research and checking out finances how we could afford to do this, we settle on Planes, Trains & Automobiles. Amtrak Boston to Chicago to Denver, drive (and wing most of the trip) from Denver to Nogales and fly home from Phoenix back to Boston. Between all the components, the train cost more than the rental and plane tickets, but sometimes you need to live life and just go for it.

So far, it had been one hell of an amazing trip, one I’ll never forget…and it would only get better with a few days remaining.

Now, back to the story.

Since my Dad and I only had emails connecting us for this entire trip as to where we were and when we might get to Rio Rico, I emailed him to see what his plans were for the night before the wedding and what the actual plans were for the next day. He mentioned to me that a bunch of people would be at his house and that we could stop by anytime to grab dinner and see the place. I was rather surprised I didn’t feel anxious or nervous about seeing him, maybe because I had Pete with me or maybe because we had a SUV that we could leave if need be, but I decided to go up and see how I felt.

We made our way up to his house in Rio Rico, about a 15 minute drive from our hotel room, and just like everywhere else on this trip…no street lights. The house was pretty easy to get to, except that we were going up a mountain of sorts and there was one road in and one road out, (the same road went both ways). As we made it up the windy road, we noticed a house with all sorts of lights and decorations outside the house and we assumed this was it. Sure enough, I saw my Dad’s trucks and other vehicle toys including a Dune Buggy, something we had to try out.

As soon as we pulled up to the driveway, a few of the guests came out to see who the strange people in the SUV were, (awkward), that’s when my Dad popped out and said, “I think that’s my daughter…it is my daughter!” He had a big smile on his face and I admit, so did I…but I think mine was more of an anxious smile than anything else. I told Pete, “here goes nothing”, and we parked the SUV and we made our way into the backyard to me be greeted by everyone.

I met more people and names that night than I've ever met before, all sorts of friends and family on the soon to be bride’s side and I even saw family member on my side I haven’t seen in years. It was a great feeling seeing everyone and meeting everyone for the first time, yet I did have a weird ‘pit in your stomach’ sort of feeling; I guess you could just call it an awkward emotion.

I could tell my Dad was nervous by the way he kept rambling on and on about nonsense talk, I could tell I was nervous by the lack of talking I was doing. We sat outside in his backyard with a fire pit keeping us warm, (although it was a nice 50°+ night), drank beers from Mexico, (FYI, Corona actually tastes a lot better when it comes closer to Mexico), and my Dad told us how he actually found out about Rio Rico and what led him to pick up and move out here. He also told us how he met Diane, (it was a rather cute story), and he also told me I had a soon to be ‘step-brother’ Steven, (who apparently was sitting right next to me…oops). It was great relaxing, having an abundance of food and drinks and catching up what’s been going on in the past few years.

During our conversations, my Dad told us about the different stores we had to try out in Nogales and that we had to visit Patagonia when we were out here. At one point I asked him what would be appropriate to wear to the wedding tomorrow for Pete, since he didn’t have a suit in tow, (we figured we’d just buy nice pants and a dress shirt when we got out here), but he assured us that nice jeans and a ‘plaid cowboy shirt’ was just fine. “Hey, it’s Nogales!” he kept saying, “Everyone wears jeans and cowboy hats and boots in Nogales!” So that was settled, we planned to try out some of these stores tomorrow and see what we could find for Pete to look like a ‘cowboy’.

We were one of the last of the guests to leave, so we said our ‘good-nights’ and ‘we’ll see you tomorrows’ and headed back for Nogales. This time I really needed some sleep because it was going to be a lot for me tomorrow.

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