Monday, March 22, 2010

The Ultimate Road Trip

One of my classmates in A-100 is a former FS Specialist.  Before joining A-100, he was working in Belmopan. He has been a wealth of knowledge about Belmopan.  He gave me the names of several people who I will be working with.  He made sure that I realized how small the town is - there is no movie theater and no dry cleaner in town.  He suggested the type of car I should get (small SUV), clued me into the Embassy dress code (no suits, slacks and short-sleeve shirts), described all the great SCUBA and deep-sea fishing available, and informed me that there is a difference between rice & beans and beans & rice.  He also met his wife (another FSO) there, so that makes me feel better about the dating scene.

But, the biggest, most amazing thing he told me, "You know you can drive to Belize, right?"  No, I didn't know that.  But, I love the idea.  First, let me explain a few of the practical reasons for driving to Belize:  (1) I will not be limited to airline restrictions on what I can bring with me initially.  UAB can take several weeks to get there and HHE several months.  Having more than two suitcases worth of stuff would be nice.  (2) I would have my car right away.  It can take several months for my car to arrive if I ship it from DC.  While I am sure I can get around Belmopan without a car for a few weeks or months, it is not something I look forward to.  (3)  I won't have to ship Bailey in a plane to Belize.  He will have to do this eventually, but if I can put it off for two years, that is great.  Plus, given the time of year (late May/early June), there may be airline restrictions on shipping him.

So, those are all the rational reasons for thinking about doing this.  Then, I have the true reason - a State Department sponsored road trip across half the United States and Mexico just sounds AWESOME.  By State Department regs, I have to travel around 300 or 400 miles per day (I don't remember the exact number).  Based on Bing Maps, the trip would be around 3200 miles or 8 days.  The Department will pay for most/all of the gas and they will put me up in a hotel and pay for my food.

I would not do this trip by myself - that would just be foolish.  Rather, I asked my friend Sam to go along.  Sam is one of the best road trip companions ever.  We can have conversations for days (which would be necessary).  He doesn't complain about anything.  He would do his fair share of driving.  He speaks Spanish (for the Mexico portion of the trip).  The only problem is that he is officiating a wedding around the date that I wanted to be on the road.  I may have to delay the trip a day or two (if possible) to accommodate his schedule.

There are some practical considerations that detract from the trip.  First, safety is an issue in Mexico.  While I tend to downplay the issue, it is there and I need to consider it.  Second, the time to get to post is also considerable.  I believe my predecessor is leaving at the beginning of May and I want to get to work quickly without too much of a gap.  Third, while driving for 3200 miles can be fun, it can also be a long hard drive.

In all honesty, the decision whether or not to road trip will probably come down to what my Post says.  If other people have done it recently and they don't mind the time spent driving, then I am all for this.  If they balk for safety or time reasons, then I will probably do the boring thing and take the six hour flight down there.

So, what do you think?  Is this an awesome idea?  Is this a crazy idea?  Or is it a crazy AWESOME idea?


  1. Wow. I don't know.

    I don't know if it's an awesome idea or not, but I sure do admire your spunk and your spirit!

    And I can totally understand your reasons for wanting to give driving there a go! I mean, who wouldn't want more of their stuff to go with them or to have a car immediately?

    Just don't know...

  2. Taking a lot of your stuff with you might seem appealing, but keep in mind that this may add to the safety issue. You don't want to have to unload the car every night when you check into a hotel.

  3. It really does sound adventurous, but 8 days in a car seems a little long. I don't know what routes can be taken through Mexico to make the trip safer, but I can imagine that it would be a fun drive. Either way, I think it could be a blast. Please let me know.

  4. Even FSOs going to posts in Mexico are being discouraged from driving. A friend of mine is posted to Monterrey and post told him they wanted him to fly and they would ship his car from Brownsville....not trying to burst your bubble, but Mexico is too dangerous to travel through right now. Traveling with pets is hard...but they are our family right?! Good luck!

  5. It's Friday, and that means that the Sixth Weekly State Department Blog Roundup is up - and you're on it!

    Here is the link:

    (If I quoted your text or used your photo(s) and you would rather I had not, please let me know. Please also be sure to check the link(s) that I put up to you, in order to verify that they work properly. If you would rather that I had not referenced you, and/or do not want me to reference you in the future, please also contact me.)


  6. With every Mexican border post on Authorized Departure, your trip may need the permission of either someone in M and/or the post whose district you're going to transit, just keep that in mind.

  7. hey Al, my brother is a PCV in Belize and he is planning to drive home through Mexico this fall when he COS's. I think he's done a lot of research on it although I am worried about the security aspect and you probably have more info than he does. If you'd like to touch base w him, let me know. Bridget

  8. Seems like a total waste of tax payer money. You get paid for eight days, while giving nothing in return. Just fly there and get to work!

  9. You'll be serving our country in a Hardship post... disregard the earlier comment by anonymous, probably a failed OA candidate.