More aptly titled Colombia, Nuevo Leon.
Nuevo Leon only touches Texas on a little finger of land at the Colombia Solidarity International Bridge. That bridge is part of a greater system of bridges that moves pedestrians, vehicles, and commercial and industrial traffic between Mexico and the United States. There’s one little catch, though… There’s only one bridge meant for pedestrian use and this ain’t it. Why does any of this matter? Because A) I didn’t know any of that myself and B) I didn’t want to drive across the bridge. The cache was only about half a mile in on the other side so I wanted to walk it.
When I got there, I spoke to someone on the bridge staff (and, by that I mean someone with no authority). When I mentioned that I wanted to park and go across, their concern was more about whether I’d be there all day, in which case I’d have to pay a fee, or if I would just be a few hours, in which case, I could just park over there and go on over. So I parked over there, grabbed my bag and my hat, and went on over. On the other side I was stopped by some Spanish speaking ground crew and the guy who spoke the best English searched my bag and waved me on. Getting into Mexico is easy.
About a thousand feet in to Mexico, I pulled out my phone to double check my distance to the cache. As I was looking I saw a droplet of water appear on my phone. And then another. It was sprinkling. And then it got harder. Wait. What? Rain. Rain?!? Are you kidding me? The entire state of Texas is in the middle of a drought and it starts raining on me a thousand feet into Mexico while I’m on foot? Really? And, of course, my old friend is back in the car because, while I carry it as a trackable in case of such situations, who the heck was expecting rain on today of all days?
By the time I reached the cache, I was drenched. It was magnetic and attached to that big ol’ piece of iron. So I have to look for something magnetic on an old piece of industrial equipment in the rain? Could this get any worse? This is the point at which the narrator, voiced by Ron Howard, would say to the audience “It would get worse.” Luckily, the cache was easily found. After doing a quick walk around, I took a step back and let my geosenses lead me to it. I signed and returned it, now having my third of four Mexican States bordering Texas.
The rain stopped on my trek back to the bridge. The sun showed back up and did its thing. Just enough moisture to make everything muddy, steamy, and uncomfortable all the way back. Here at the bridge, there’s actually two roads: one going into Mexico, one coming out. I took the one going in to get in so I took the one going out to get out. Of course, getting back into the US is harder. I noticed a truck parked with three Mexican guys sitting around and talking, obviously having fun chatting it up. I got closer and saw the truck was marked with the obvious Spanish equivalent of “to serve and protect.” At this time, they spotted me and just watched me walk up the road. They seemed a little dumbfounded. This obviously doesn’t happen often. Or probably ever. But I kept on walking. My path would take me right by them anyway so they didn’t need to waste any energy coming to me. And when I was close enough, one of them waved me over and I got a really good look at them. The two in brown shirts were obviously state troopers. The guy in the black body armor was obviously a federale. The federale spoke a little bit of English so he asked me where I was coming from and for my papers. Still drenched, I handed him my passport (I don’t go within 50 miles of the border without my passport and I knew I’d be crossing over) and just started talking. Explaining geocaching wasn’t going to work in this case because he didn’t speak much English. I said that I knew I was going to be nearby and that I had been to Chihuahua and Coahuila and decided to pop over in Nuevo Leon because I was here and later I’d do the same in Tamaulipas (SPOILERS!) and that they let me walk across the bridge and I was just walking back. He seemed a little confused as to what to do so he told me to come with him. We were about to set off when one of the others reminded him to do something. He nodded, and then strapped on his assault rifle and told me to follow him. I’m pretty sure at this point I could be considered detained by Mexican federal authorities. We walked over toward the gate leading to the bridge and he motioned for me to wait. He spent about five minutes talking with two other men, one running the toll booth and the other being a freight handler. The freight handler, notably, was carrying and petting some kind of half dog/half squirrel creature. The three men talked about me and, though I did not understand a word of what they said because I don’t speak Spanish, I’ve worked in enough places with bureaucracy that I totally understood everything they were saying. Ultimately, their judgment was “let the Americans handle him.” So they let me back on the bridge.
My reception on the other side was a little different. As soon as I got off the bridge, a couple of border officers were already approaching me. Of course, they wanted to know what I was doing crossing the bridge, so I told the same thing about being in the area and wanting to cross over. This is the first time I learned that this bridge is for vehicular traffic only. And then they wanted to know Why. They might understand. “You ever heard of geocaching?,” I asked. “Oh, yeah!,” one of them replied. I told her that there was a cache half a mile over the border and I had gone to get it and didn’t want to drive over. That seemed to be good enough. They escorted me back to the office and another officer scanned my passport while the first two explained geocaching to their supervisor, probably to keep me from being detained. Eventually, satisfied that I wasn’t the tip of the spear of a Mexican invasion, they pointed me back to my car and let me know that the only pedestrian bridge was the one in Laredo. That was fine. I didn’t plan on coming back here. The rain started again as I walked over to the car. I quickly started it up and turned up the heat so I might counter the chill caused by my wet clothes. I pulled out of the parking lot and slowly went down the slick road. Well, for a mile anyway. Because once I got a mile or so away, not only did the rain stop, I could tell that it had never rained here. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, I had had my own localized Nuevo Leonian rain burst. I turned off the heat and rolled down the windows, letting in the dry, 90-something degree air, which felt lovely coupled with the breeze generated by driving. Drying out and warming up, I got on down the road, arriving in short order in nearby…