Scaling the Texas Mexico Border in 2 Weeks to Swap Routers

It’s hard to scale the whole Texas-Mexico border in a week and getting all the planned work done. If you try to do it in one shot, you’ll end up spending the weekend in El Paso and then continuing the work the following week. The other solution is to divide up the work and go from Brownsville to Laredo in the first week and then El Paso the following week.

For this trip, that was what was planned, until they decided to throw some more work and have me start the PC refresh project in El Paso. I was originally just going to swap the port of entry routers from a non-wifi 819 to a wifi 819 to simplify their setup. This ultimately led to me doing the Brownsville to Laredo in the first week and then the second week on Monday I went to El Paso and stayed out there until Sunday before I came back to Austin.

On the first day, it ended up being rainy, and I was met with some strong storms when I drove through San Antonio on my way to Brownsville.

I ended up having to go to the bathroom and stopped at a rest stop south of San Antonio. Judging by the clouds, I saw a lot of the storm was behind me. Judging by the radar, I’d have to move quick before another line of storms hit me.

In some ways, it seems like things cleared up a bit and I did avoid some strong storms.

I stopped at a Stripes gas station and got some of the biggest chicken legs I’ve ever seen. By then, the rain turned into hot weather.

After I got to Brownsville, I got to work swapping routers. The one cool thing about working at the port of entries is you see cool bottles that come across. In this case, the bottles looked like guns.

After doing some work, I checked into the Brownsville La Quinta that was just down the road from the POEs. I then met up with my friend Alejandro at Taqueria El Taco Loco and we had supper together.

The next morning, it was very humid.

There was a cool sunrise, but the day was already starting off hot.

Now everyone thinks IT work is this white collar sort of work that you don’t get your hands dirty. At least for my job, this is furthest from the truth. As part of the router swap, I unmounted a bunch of equipment, including a metal box that I am working with our maintenance shop to fabricate to hold the wifi 819 router (it had previously held an access point). Pretty much anything I have to deal with is most likely insanely dirty from sitting around collecting dust over the years.

At least the all-in-one 819 router was clean.

Later that day, I went to McAllen. The temperatures soared as high as 109F!

I checked into the La Quinta there and decided against really venturing out. This is actually one of my favorite hotels to stay at and they had happy hour, which I was able to just eat the food they had for supper.

The next morning, it was off to an even hotter start.

I made it a point to constantly hydrate. Most of our POEs have a water cooler, so I always topped off my water bottle with cold water.

Later that night, I decided to check out Taburrito. It was definitely a good choice. The next day, I was off to doing more work. Our tool set is less than optimal and sometimes dismounting the boxes required some special “engineering.” In this case I found out a flathead screw driver fits in a 1/4 drive socket and I can get more leverage with an adjustable wrench. This is less than ideal, but obviously our tool kit doesn’t reflect the work we’re expected to do.

At that booth, the clouds started looking threatening again. I literally made it back in the vehicle a minute or two before it started pouring.

On my drive to Laredo, my GPS took me down these backroads in the middle of nowhere. It definitely got interesting when it started to rain. By the time I got to Laredo, it wasn’t raining much, but it was dry and dusty. The wind kicked up tons of dust.

I checked into the Laredo La Quinta (also one of my favorites). I had supper at their happy hour and saw the weather forecast was still going to be hot.

The next morning, I did my work at the ports and then headed back to Austin. I had to go to the bathroom, so I stopped at the Texas Welcome Center. This one was super fancy and I also saw a Doritos vending machine (first time I’ve ever seen one exclusively for Doritos).

I made it back to Austin in time for the weekend. The next week, I started the week by bringing the vehicle in for service.

After that, it was off to El Paso. I also had to make some paper deliveries to the port of entries, so the back of the Explorer was pretty packed.

By the time I got to El Paso, it was hot. I checked into the Holiday Inn Express across the street from work and then headed to Whole Foods to get some food for the week. I did stumble across one of my favorite hot sauces from Colorado.

That night, it had rained hard. There was a decent amount of flooding on the roads.

Some mornings had awesome sunrises and other mornings were cloudy. Throughout the week, I replaced routers as planned.

Later in the week, they asked me to stay longer and extend my trip to start the PC refresh project. My hotel reservation was extended and I then deployed computers into Saturday. On Sunday, I headed back to Austin. The drive itself went from rainy to sunny. I made a quick pitstop at a gas station to top off and found some chicken on a stick. It was really good!

I made it back to Austin and then put my local products on the table and took a picture. The Yellowbird is from Austin and we were just running low, so I stocked up since I was at Whole Foods. The hot sauce was from Colorado and I decided to get some more because I can’t find it in Austin. The salsa was local to El Paso and did really pack a kick!

The first week of the trip when I was doing routers wasn’t bad. It stayed around a 40 hour week. The second week of the trip where I was effectively 7 days on the road in a row was brutal. I worked nearly 70 hours to accommodate for the extra work I was given (it would have been around 40 if I just did my router refresh project). I ended up working another 5 days in a row to make it 12 days in a row. I was definitely happy for the upcoming weekend after this trip and proud that I was able to deploy 19 routers at 17 different port of entries along the Texas-Mexico border in this short timeframe.

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