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As we drove out of Tucson, we noticed a ‘Service Warning’ message lit up on the dashboard. After a bit of trial & error we managed to navigate down the menu structure to learn that an oil change was due. Disappointing, as we had only just taken out the car for a three week and had advised our intention to travel in Mexico, when I had made the booking in January.

Eunice phoned their roadside assistance number who apologised, confirmed that an oil change was due in about 500 km and suggested that we’d return to Dollar at Tucson Airport or drive on to El Paso, where they’d swap cars. Swapping cars was not our ideal solution, as we had all the Mexico papers for the car that we were currently driving. It would be quite a time consuming hassle for us to change all that. So we agreed to call Dollar at El Paso, about an hour before we were likely to arrive, and they would do the oil change.

Around 11 a.m. we needed to stretch our legs, so pulled off I8 at the exit for Dragoon and stopped at the first pull off after the exit (S1774). Not a bad random stop, with Cylindropuntia prolifera, Opuntia sp, Ferocactus wislizeni and Agave sp. The Coryphantha was keen to show off its variability on a clump where each head could have been described as a different species!

S1775 was on the corner of Titanic & Dyer in El Paso, Texas, where a particularly atracive crested Ferocactus wislozeni had been planted out next to a fire hydrant. I doubt that it will be there for many year.

Dollar had given us permission to get the necessary oil change at any Walmart or Express-Lube. The first one along our route was in El Paso, but told us that there was a 2 hour wait minimum as they only had two staff on duty. The second address was in error, we could not find any Walmart or their look a-likes. Fortunately, El Paso has three Walmarts (at least) and we were next in line. The lady in charge (and the only employee on duty in the garage section would page us when the car could be picked up.   We killed the time with some shopping and had a cheese burger at the McDonalds, before checking on progress. It appeared that we had missed the pager announcement, made soon after we had started our shopping, because they did not have the right filter in stock! Argghh!

32 miles from Van Horn there was another Border Patrol check point. All along the US / Mexico border area, well into the USA, these check points aim to control the movement of people, drugs and weapons. So far, we have always just been waved on. This time, the dog used to smell out criminals, reacted. That meant that that they were obliged to search us in detail. That meant all of us out of the car, then the dog let loose. One of Eunice’s bag seemed to justify more attention. It contained her supply of freshly ground coffee, a substance often used to put dogs off the smell of illegal drugs. The bulges in my jacket raised suspicion too, so we were marched into the office where I was hand searched. The officer could not believe how many cameras, batteries etc I carried with me. Ultimately we were given a clean bill and were allowed to leave. Never a dull moment.

We later learned that three US consular officials had been murdered just across the border in Mexico, so it was understandable that they were on high alert.

The Motel 6 at Van Horn had been booked by Eunice on her mobile phone. Free wifi was guaranteed. But on arrival it did not reach as far as the rooms that we had been allocated.

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