The 20+ Hour Drive...Friday should have been a very chaotic day, but it really wasn't. I am a pro at last minute packing! The only trouble we had was trying to fit the car top carrier on our new luggage racks. Travis finally got it secured and loaded, and we took off east to meet the rest of the group. About a mile down the road the straps that secured the carrier began flapping against the car creating a most annoying sound. After about 30 minutes of the irritating noise, we decide to pull over to "strap down the straps." A friend that lives in that area happened to turn onto the road behind us and stopped to help us and get the kids all rowdy! (Stop #1)
Albert, an FMC missionary from Poland, rode with us and kept the kids entertained with his sound effects and his funny accent. After things settled down a little, we decided to say our evening rosary and offer it up for our trip. Just before we began, Albert received a call that his friend's aunt had died. We offered it up for her soul and her family as well as our trip. Shortly after we finished praying, just as Albert and the kids had fallen asleep, we stopped for a bathroom break (#6).
Albert found Moon Pies at the gas station which according to him is the perfect food and the number one reason he loves Louisiana. We returned to the car and listened to him describe how "heavenly" they tasted. The kids and Albert fell back asleep. We stopped a few more times for bathroom breaks, gas, and to change drivers during the night (7-10??? I lost count.). Our last stop before the border and morning was in San Antonio to pick up another young man that was going to join our group.
Around 7:00 am, we reached Laredo, TX where we were going to cross the border. We stopped for breakfast and then had a "border crossing briefing"in the McDonald's playland. Our group of 42 then prayed together in the playland for a safe border crossing. As we piled back into the cars, we lost Albert but gained a Spanish speaking young missionary to help with any translating we would need on the rest of our trip. She instantly became loved by all of our family!
We had been asked to pray for "all green lights". I had no idea what that meant, but I prayed for them anyway. As we approached the border, I realized that we literally wanted all green lights. As we kept closer to the border, I watched the stop lights as each car approached. Cars that had green lights drove across the border with ease. Cars that received the red lights had to pull over and be searched. Not a big deal for us except that it would add to our already long trip. I quickly repeated a prayer for "all green lights" a million times as we slowly inched our way up to the stop lights. The first two vehicles in our caravan received red lights. Then it was our turn. Yep, red light.
The first two vehicles were sent to one line to be searched and were quickly sent on their way. We were motioned to a different line. The line that had the "thorough searcher". The car in front of us was packed just as much if not more than we were, and the guard was taking everything out. We realized that we were going to be here forever! I started to pray more fervently as the others in our group were all driving away. At that moment, the guard in the other lane (the fast one) saw that we were still waiting, so he came over to search our vehicle. As he opened the back of the car, things began to fall out. Actually, several bags of toilet paper fell out! He quickly shoved the stuff back in, closed the door, and sent us on the way.
We later found out that 4 of the 5 vehicles had received red lights, but that the one that received the green light followed us all into the search line because he didn't know where to go! Praise God that all of us had been searched and waved through very quickly. The next stop was the Visa building. We parked and entered and saw very long lines. According to the missionaries, it was more crowded then usual. We then remembered it was Memorial Weekend. We got in the long line expecting to be there for hours, but the long lines turned out to be very beneficial for us. Due to the number of people, the officials were working very quickly. The lined moved fairly fast. They scanned our passports and issued our Visas very quickly without questioning all the minors that had traveled with us without their parents. We didn't have to try to explain anything to them.
This was the first time any of us (our family) had seen mountains, so we oo'ed and ah'ed for awhile. Poor Alyse, our missionary translator, was probably so tired of hearing, "Wow, look at that mountain!" over and over. After awhile, our kids did too and went back to napping and watching movies. Travis and I continued to watch as the landscape changed from dry dessert to dry desserts with gorgeous mountains. It was so beautiful. The small "villages" around the base of the mountains made it more beautiful. I fell in love with the scenery. Little did I know, by the end of the week, I would love more than just the view.
Click here to read about Day 2.