We packed the car, checked out, and headed for the border. With directions and advice from the front desk, we headed south to "the last USA exit," and parked the car. Right where we parked, there was a lady selling tickets for $3.00 for a round-trip ride to the heart of Tijuana. We paid our fare and got on. Steve chatted with some folks on the bus (big surprise), and I referred to him as a "she" at one point.
We arrived in the heart of "Revolucion" street, downtown Tijuana. We were right next to a huge arch we'd seen from the border, and way up the main street was the Mexican flag, which we had also seen from the parking lot back on the U.S. side.
We took a couple of pictures in that area, and I called Robert. I had called him earlier, but had to get off the phone because he was busy at work (UNC). I'd told him I'd call back in 15 minutes. It was about 45 minutes later now. The connection was excellent.
When I was finished, Steve called home. Mamma wasn't there, so he tried Sylvia's cell phone, where he found both of them. When he was finished, I called my parents.
We strolled up and down the streets, entering a couple of shops. I bought a serape, a refrigerator magnet, and some post cards. We walked around a little more and came upon these two men "selling" pictures in front of their donkey. We weren't going to do it at first, but it was two bucks to take a picture of both of us, and we wanted one. We told him we wanted it of both of us, and one picture with each of our cameras. "Three dollars." Whatever. We put on these ridiculous hats, some brightly colored Mexican scarves, and sat in a seat being "pulled" by a donkey that looked like a zebra. Maybe it really was a zebra. I hope they didn't paint a donkey or pony. Those pictures should be funny. Steve's sombrero had written, under the flipped up brim, "The Boss."
UPDATE (11/21/02): LOL. Steve got his pics back:
We walked around a little more, and then stopped into Hard Rock Cafe Tijuana for an appetizer. We had planned to eat lunch at Nappa Valley Grill in San Diego when we returned to the States. We got a big platter of nachos (beans on the side), and I had two cervezas.
Steve started up a conversation with a nice couple at the bar. They were from Orange City, Orange County, California. They both worked for Verizon, and I think she had 23 years with them, and he, 25 -- something like that. They were with the Verizon landline side, not the cellular. She worked up in the Long Beach area. Steve told her that he had spent the day, Thursday, up there, and she said, "Oh yeah, what'd you do up there?" I was behind Steve, where she couldn't see me and as he was telling what he did, I was whispering all the "gay" things he'd done up there that he wasn't saying. It was pretty hysterical. We got a couple of pictures of us here in the Hard Rock -- one by one of the bartenders, and the other by the lady of this couple we were chatting with.
We left there in time to catch the 3:00 bus back. When we got there, at around 2:35, the guy said, "10-12 minutes for next bus." His English wasn't that great. We said, okay, and walked just a little ways up the street then came back. We were gone about 5 minutes. As soon as he sees us, he starts waving his hand, "Come. Come. You going back now?" He led us over to what looked like a "city bus." There were mostly Mexicans on the bus, and it was not the same bus we rode over in. Steve tried to confirm, several times, pointing at our tickets (from where we parked), and said, "Is this bus going back to that parking place?"
The man got a little testy, and said, "Would I put you on this bus if it weren't?" We got on and found only one other American couple on the bus. The rest were definitely locals. This bus was in serious need of some shocks, and after about 5 minutes, I was in serious need of some bladder relief from the cervezas. We ended up winding all through town, on cobblestone streets. This was definitely not the same route we'd taken in.
Steve started up a conversation (notice a pattern here?) with the other Americans on the bus. They were a couple who had to come to California (from Las Vegas) to use (or lose) one of their timeshares in Carlsbad, California. I was starting to get very uncomfortable, and finally said to Steve, who was sitting across from me, and one seat in front of that couple, "If we don't get off this bus soon, I'm going to need a catheter."
About a half hour later, we reached the border crossing. Oh my God. What a nightmare. People were lined up to walk back across the border. (We were going to walk across, but saw that bus deal right near where we parked, so took it. Thank God.) They must have had at least a 60 minute wait. I know I could not have made that.
Our bus drove slowly by these folks, inching its way up. It was definitely not moving fast enough for me, though. By this time, it was getting pretty bad. The van in front of us completely stopped (before the search point), and opened all its doors -- front passenger, sliding side door, and both rear doors. They obviously had been through this before.
Finally, we got to the search point, and all the Mexicans got up and got off the bus. We still weren't quite sure what we were supposed to do. Steve had, just by chance, read this curling up poster on the bus wall that indicated we were supposed to get out, go inside, go through customs, and meet the bus on the other side. We four Americans let everyone else get off first. They all knew exactly what they were doing. The only thing I knew about what I was doing was that I was going to pee somewhere between getting off this bus, and getting back on it. It hurt to stand up at this point.
While we were in line waiting to get off, the man (a local) in front of me had heard me say how bad I had to go to the bathroom, and he said (pointing), "The bathroom is right over there, just before you go out those doors. Don't go out the doors whatever you do, or you won't be able to come back in, and you'll be stuck. You don't want that to happen."
By this time I was so consumed with having to go to the bathroom that I could hardly think straight. I was immediately concerned with how outrageously long the customs line inside was, and then it was pointed out to me that we weren't getting in that long line. That was the line that all the walkers were waiting to go through. We had a separate line for those driving through.
There was a policeman or guard right where we got off the bus and into the customs line, so I mentioned the bathroom situation to him as we got into the customs line we were going to go through. He started telling me what to do as the line was moving, so I was inching up, trying to listen to him, and trying to calculate just how fast this line was moving. He's going on about making sure I don't go out those doors, pointing over toward them. I had already heard that, and wasn't paying attention to him, and all of a sudden he put his face in mine and says very sternly to me, "Look at my hand! You see those doors over there? The bathroom is right inside them. Don't go outside the doors."
Well that was just the funniest damn thing. Steve started laughing, as did I. Like talking to an A.D.D. five year old, "Look at my hand!" Too funny. Couldn't laugh too much, though, or I'd a peed my pants.
We finally made it up to the customs official, and things were pretty desperate by now; I can hardly walk. I had gone through great pains, back in San Diego at the hotel, to make sure I could get back into the country with only my driver's license. I put my bags on the x-ray conveyor belt, stepped up to the customs official, and handed him my driver's license.
He said, "Your citizenship?" I immediately went off, "They said that's all I needed to get back in. I have no other proof of citizenship with me." I was wild-eyed and panicky and had to piss. He said, "What is your citizenship?" I still didn't understand what he was asking. Steve said, "Tell him where you're from, the United States." Lord. I really had to go.
He let me pass, and I took off to the bathroom. I had to pee so bad it hurt to start. I hate that.
I got back on the bus to the wild cheers of Steve, and that other American couple. Whew. We made it back to the parking lot without incident, all our stuff was still in the trunk, we paid our $7.00 parking fee, and took off back up to San Diego.
We took I-5 North up to Old Town, San Diego. This section of the city has been restored to how the town looked in 1860. There was a beautiful church on the corner entering into the city. It was a catholic church, and it looked like a wedding had just taken place in it, as we saw a bridal party while walking around later on in the old city.
We stopped in a shop and bought two small pieces of fudge. Steve got "orange cream," I think it was called. Whatever it was called, it tasted like one of those orange sherbert ice cream pop-ups. I got pumpkin.
There was an old schoolhouse in the town. We took a couple of pictures in behind, and in front of, it. We also took one inside with Steve sitting at one of those old desks that have the seats attached right to them. I bought (or tried to buy) Steve a "scroll set," one with a count of the number of lashes you'd get for breaking various rules, and the other with "duties of the teacher," which included sweeping out the chiminey. I only had a $20 bill to pay for it, but they didn't have enough change in their little school cash box. So, Steve gave her a ten. Bless the little old lady's heart, she didn't have quite enough change, tried to make up the difference from her own wallet, got all confused about what she had already given Steve. Then Steve got confused about the piles of money on the counter, and he picked up six ones, which we thought was his change (that he actually had already taken), but was really the money left in her cash box. He said, "I need two more dollars to make my eight." I was actually paying attention and told him that that was her cash box remains. Just a mess all around, and the poor woman was pretty ferklempt. They defintely need a computer cash register in that little place, or probably more realistically, someone who's not so easily confused doing the monetary transactions. She was sweet, though; bless her heart.
Continuing our walk around the town, we came upon the wedding party. We saw a bride, and two bridesmaids. There were four Marines in their dress blues. We assumed one of them was the groom. Hot. I took a picture of the four of them standing with, presumably, the groom's mother, but to be honest, we didn't really care who she was. Steve also wanted a picture of the group, but was afraid he'd be too obvious taking one after me. I'll sell him a copy of mine -- at a premium. :-)
We stopped by the church on the way out, and looked in the doors. Then, before leaving, we stopped in a little gift shop. I bought some post cards, including one for Michael -- it has a small rock in it, presumably part of the Pacific Coast Highway. I also bought one of those hanging signs for your car, with the little suction cup on it, for mom for a stocking stuffer. It says, "Out Of My Way -- I'm Going to Bingo!" Perfect.
We hopped on I-5 and got on our way to West Hollywood. Steve took a little nap on the way. We hit some pretty bad traffic as we got into L.A., even though it was a Saturday. We thought we were sassy slipping into the H.O.V. lane. Most of the time it was an advantage, but there were spots where it was moving just as slow as the other lanes. As we got closer into L.A., and the "spaghetti lanes and ramps" took over, at one point we didn't know if we were in an H.O.V. lane or an exit lane. We zipped right on off the interstate at one point. So much for saving time. A quick right and left put us right back on track.
We arrived on North West Knoll Street, and at the Le Parc Suites with no problem. You got to love Mapquest. We were just off Melrose Place and Beverly Blvd. The hotel was beautiful. Though the room only had one King Size bed, it was a suite indeed. It had a curtain you could draw between the living room and the bedroom and bathroom. The living room had a sofa that opened into what looked like a queen-size bed, and one chair. There was a complete kitchen, and a little kitchen table in front of the sliding glass doors leading out to the little porch, which had a couple of chairs on it, and Charlotte sitting right smack in the middle of a nice big web. There were two televisions in the room, a CD player, a VCR player, and, I think, a DVD player. There was a heated pool on the roof, as well as a jacuzzi, tent covered tables under which to dine, and a tennis court. It was all quite nice. And all for $139 a night, of which IBM will pay $109.
We unpacked, and ventured out to dinner. We ended up eating at The Daily Grill at the Beverly Blvd shopping center / mall. I had filet mignon, a twice stuffed baked potato (with melted cheese on top), and broccoli. I cant' remember what Steve had. I took home half of the potato, and half of the filet.
We rode out to a bar called "Rawhide," which was supposed to be a C&W bar. As it turned out, on Friday and Saturday nights, they turn the place into "Ole, Ole!" (instead of Rawhide), and it's a Latino bar. They had a troupe of strippers coming in for the night, but we decided not to go in. The cover charge was $7.00.
We went, instead, to "The Faultline." This bar was a levi and leather bar and was full of very butch, macho, and most often hairy, men. Steve struck up a conversation right away with two guys there. I went my own separate way.
There was one guy tied to some contraption on the wall whose entire body was encased in leather wears, including a black leather mask that totally covered his head, exposing only his eyes, nostrils, and lips. At one point, he was "released" from the wall contraption, and lead around the bar.
I stayed in a hallway between the two sections of the bar, and just watched people come and go. I also had a view of the entrance door from here as well, and got to see all the "fresh meat" coming in. In this little hallway, there was also a bank of candy machines (gum, peanuts, etc.), a computer games kiosk (Concentration, Poker, etc.), and a pinball machine. At one point this real butch military looking guy got on the pinball machine. Some serious testosterone problems emerged as he got into the game. It was one of those pinball games where at some points several balls are in play at one time. I cannot believe that machine never tilted from the way he was slamming it around. He also actually yelled at the machine several times, exclaiming, "Fuck!" and banging the shit out of the machine at some points. It was all quite disturbing. I was thinking, "He must be a nightmare in a relationship, or even in bed."
One man, an older, not attractive guy, approached me during the evening. He asked me if I was policing the place, or some such dribble as that. I gave very terse, "No," "Ha," type answers, and he moved on.
I can't remember what time we left there, but it wasn't too late. We wanted to get a decent night's sleep, as we had to check out by noon, and be down in Hollywood at 12:30 to check-in for our tours.