Thursday, March 13, 2014

Journey Proud

The whales in the bay are packing up to head back north, and in less than a month we’ll be doing the same thing.

We told ourselves as we drove here last October that we were through with road tripping between Ruidoso and Puerto Vallarta, but apparently we lied. Notwithstanding the tedium, exhaustion and anxiety involved, we’re doing it again.

There are a couple of reasons. The first is that we’re not going straight back to New Mexico. Pam wants to drop in on her cousins in Del Rio, Texas, on the border, and then we’d like to see friends in San Antonio and Dallas.

So our usual route up the west coast to Nogales, Arizona, would take us in the wrong direction. We used it last year because it seemed like the safest way by far, but there have been dramatic developments on the highway map.

Mexico has opened a new toll road through the jagged peaks of the Sierra Occidental between Mazatlan on the coast and Durango to the northeast. The route has long been known as El Espinazo del Diablo, the Devil’s Backbone, and we’d have never dreamed of taking it before now.

But the new highway cuts nearly six hours from what used to be a difficult and famously risky eight-hour trip. A chain of more than 30 bridges and 60 tunnels carry four lanes of traffic soaring across forbidding terrain that used to be a barrier but now has been converted to breathtaking scenery.

Most breathtaking of all will be the main attraction of the ride, the Baluarte Bridge pictured above, a modern marvel that spans a gorge said to be deep enough to accommodate the Eiffel Tower, with headroom.

Wikipedia says it’s the highest cable-stayed bridge in the world and the second highest overall. It’s a remarkable accomplishment for a country that sometimes can’t even seem to fill a pothole. Mexican officials proudly note that the project is puro Mexicano, from design to engineering to construction.

If we leave early enough we might get to Durango the first night of the trip. From there we can head northeast to Monterrey and cross the border at Laredo. 

I hope we like the Baluarte link. We could use it in future migrations to position ourselves for a direct northward shot from Durango to Ciudad Juarez and El Paso. From there it’s just two hours through the Tularosa basin and up the mountain to Ruidoso. 

That would mean no more sidetracking to Nogales, which suits us fine. Arizona has been so annoying lately, it would be satisfying to pretend we’re boycotting it.

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