Road Trip: North Carolina to Austin, TX to Oaxaca, Mexico

Destination Austin, Texas.  I’m packing up La Tuga (short for La Tortuga or turtle in Spanish), the 2004 Honda Element EX manual transmission I just bought that will be the car I drive in Mexico.  Well, I’m not exactly packing yet. I’m thinking about it.  In three days, on December 12, 2013, I will set out to begin the 1,306 mile, almost 22-hour road trip from North Carolina’s Piedmont to south-central Texas, about half-way across the country.  Mapquest tells me I will spend a little over $700 in gasoline and at least $49 a night in lodging.  Food doesn’t calculate, I guess.

Do you have any suggestions for the route?  I’m planning I-85 South past Atlanta, then connecting to I-20 West, through Vicksburg and Shreveport, to Waco, then dropping down to north Austin, where I’ll be staying for a few nights with my cousin Norm, who left his hometown of Chicago years ago, but is loyal still to the Cubs.  Then, flying off to Oaxaca.

I’m making a list of what I need to take that I can’t fit in a suitcase.

Anyone have an older model, small bowl Cuisinart food processor in good working condition you’d like to sell and get to me be Wednesday this week?  This might come in handy in Oaxaca, I think, for making salsa and chopping lots of onions!  Or, if I decide to make a fresh fruit tart and need to whip up a crust, I have a proven Cuisinart crust recipe.

The list also includes:

  • wood chopping block
  • printer and printer cartridges
  • sheets and towels (100% cotton)
  • candied ginger
  • 6 lbs. undyed merino wool roving for felting
  • knitting supplies, especially wood needles
  • good used clothing and shoes to distribute
  • spackle to repair wall holes where I’ve drilled by mistake
  • a few more good books

I can’t think of anything else, can you?

I’m living more simply there.  No television!  No CD player!  I do have a basic kitchen with a good set of knives, blender, plates, utensils, Master Chef cookware, cloth napkins and dishtowels from Camino de los Altos, and Studio Xaquixe recycled drinking glasses!  Never mind that the kitchen sink water drains into a large paint bucket that I carry outside each time it fills up so I don’t waste water and have enough to give to thirsty trees and flowers.  Jajajajaja.

In Austin, I turn the car over to my agent, Justo, who will drive it the rest of the way to Teotitlan del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico.  But, first, we will buy Mexican insurance in Austin, then he will legalize the car for Mexico.  In fact, that process has already begun.

Admittedly, making this road trip on my own is both exciting and somewhat daunting — a new experience for me — although I fly everywhere independently.  I’m open to sharing the driver’s seat with the right person, if anyone dares go with me.  I would need to know you or have a great recommendation.

Stay tuned for the next installment.  Of course, I won’t have commentary on the Austin to Oaxaca leg.  I’ll be at the other end waiting for delivery.



25 responses to “Road Trip: North Carolina to Austin, TX to Oaxaca, Mexico

  1. With that long road trip, glad Justo is with you all the way to Mexico … no TV is okay with me but internet connection is a must ..

  2. Norma, what a fun trip with your new vehicle! I love highway driving anytime, remember that I have driven to Oaxaca from Mexico City occasionally (even alone) and enjoyed it greatly. My son and I will be in Oaxaca over New Year’s (Dec 27th to 04 Jan), my Xmas gift to him as he misses Oaxaca so much after doing field research there for 3+ years. Hope I can invite you for one of your wonderful “mezcalini’s” to kick off the new year in style! Have a great trip. Big “abrazo”! Elena

    • Elena, that’s wonderful news. We can celebrate my birthday (New Years Eve) together. I’ll look forward to meeting your son and that mezcalini with you!

      • Norma, you share a birthday with my mother. She will be 94 this year and we are already planning for her big 95th bash next year. She finally gave up driving a few weeks ago and sold her car. Very active lady, which she claims as her main key to longevity. Roger

        • Sweet! And I’m honored to share the day with her. My own mother will be 98 this Valentine’s Day. Aren’t we lucky? For her age, my mom is in good spirits, is ambulatory, and most importantly still reads poetry and can have a cogent Political discussion. I hope to emulate her!

  3. Buon viaggio e buona fortuna, Norma! Wish I could ride with you for the trip. I arrive in Oaxaca by plane though, on New Year’s Eve. I’ll be in Chiapas with a friend from Jan. 6th – 18th, then back at the Casa. I’ll try to pack some books for you . Look forward to seeing you soon. xoxo, Suzanne

  4. Buen viaje Norma – you begin the journey on the feast of the Virgén de Guadelupe – surely a good sign.

  5. Norma: Bon Voyage! I’m glad you’re not driving all the way. I’m flying down to Chiapas in January, so if you get over that way, give me a buzz.

  6. Buen viaje,

    Hasta pronto,
    Jo Ann and Tom

  7. According to my map, I-20 doesn’t go to Waco. I suggest taking I-20 to I-35E at Dallas and from there drop down to Austin. And as a person who is very familiar with the traffic jams in Atlanta, I strongly suggest you time your trip to hit Atlanta around 10:00AM if possible. 1:30PM could also work but it will be heavier. The rush hours in Atlanta are very vicious, the drivers are outright confrontational and it will wear you out if you hit that traffic at the wrong time, I guarantee.

    Also, even without any side trips or extra running around, the route from Raleigh to Austin to Oaxaca is a little over 2,500 miles. I recommend having the oil changes before you start and also not too long after the car arrives in Oaxaca.

    Hope you enjoy your Element as much as Jill and I enjoy ours! It has been a real workhorse and I just realized it has 270,000 miles on it now! No sign of any problems! Had to have A/C compressor and condenser replaced once — other than that it has been only maintenance items.


    • Hi Roger. LaTuga has clocked 109,934 as of this moment. I look forward to driving her many more miles. Great advice about Atlanta traffic. I would be inclined to shoot for arring there at 1:30 since it takes 6 hours to get there from here. Yes. I will look at the map to get to Austin more closely. I tend to make those decisions as I go along. I’ve also checked google and mapquest and both say 1,310 mes distance more or less. I sure hope my Element is as reliable as yours. Maybe I will meet you both this spring when it get back to NC.

  8. Hi Norma –
    Your timing looks good, missing the awful ice and snow of this last week.
    Question. Won’t your Honda Element get at least 25 mpg on the highway?
    1306 miles divided by 25 would be about 52 gallons of gas. Gas is about $3.25 now(??) so that would be $169. How did Mapquest come up with $700?
    Even if gas is $4 per gallon, they are saying you need 175 gallons for 1300 miles. That would be 7.4 mpg. I think your Honda does better than that.
    I think they need to recalculate.
    How did you find Justo? That sounds like a valuable service he provides. And once there, the car will stay in Mexico, correct?

    How about paper coffee filters? I couldn’t find a store that sold them when I was in Oaxaca last year. Had to borrow from neighbors.
    I envy you all the fresh fruit and veggies that you will be eating.
    Have a good and safe trip.

    • Oh, Elaine, I’m so glad I have virtual friends like you who pay attention to the math. I didn’t even think of recalculating Mapquest’s mileage quote, taking their figure at face value! Silly me. You are right, and that $170-200 figure for cost of gas sounds much more pleasant and palatable. Justo is the brother-in-law of a Teotiteca friend. He was born and raised in Teotitlan, so knows the territory. He does this each year either for people he knows or he will buy a car, legalize it, and bring it to Oaxaca to sell at a profit. As for paper coffee filters, I use the French Press coffee pot in the casita, so no need for filters! In my mind, it tastes better, too. It’s pouring rain here in NC today. Hope this weather passes and I have clear driving days ahead. Abrazos, Norma

    • Elaine S : I’ve consistently purchased paper coffee filters in the Piticó on Reforma (the little mall with the Zumba studio, the Mr. Klyn laundry, etc.); they also have them in the Piticó on Independencia on the north side of the street between Calles Macedonia Alcalá y Reforma. Good luck, Mary

  9. Que le vaya bien!

  10. Dear Norma
    Que aventura! Wish I could ride with you–going to Oaxaca later this spring though.Que tengas un buen viaje!

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