September 14, 2014
We expected to leave Texas on September 11th but, after one final delay, ended up heading for the border crossing at 4 am the next day. That was the start of a very harrowing day for Gary, me and the dogs. We first had to cross the American side. We didn’t get out of there until 3 pm! They didn’t open until 9 am and we waited for hours to have our turn getting our vehicle inspected. First they x-rayed the truck and trailer with a drive-by type van. We had to take the dogs and stand outside while they did that. Thank goodness it was an overcast day.
We were waiting for 11 hours on the American side. At one point I had to stand in line and await my turn to have my paperwork checked by the Federal Agent. He asked if my passport was new and he seemed to think that was suspicious. I guess he thought I might have ordered a new passport to avoid showing my previous travel history. Then he noticed Gary had traveled back and forth from Costa Rica to Panama so perhaps they thought that Gary could be a drug trafficker or something. Anyway, it seemed that he didn’t trust the real reason that Gary and I were driving such an unusual vehicle down to Panama. He questioned Gary and I separately so he could see if our stories were consistent. After questioning Gary, the Federal Agent was angry and said that Gary was being uncooperative (I know exactly how he felt!). I don’t want to go into details about the interrogation but the CBP Agent decided that my vehicle needed to be ex-rayed again. He made threats and attempted to get us to admit to non-existent felonies and said that everything I owned could be confiscated. He was overly officious and decidedly paranoid. But not as paranoid as Gary is crazy like a fox. I am being ambiguous for a reason. We will fill you in face-to-face if you come to visit us in Panama. How’s that for a reason for you to come for a visit???
We were able to breath again once we reached the Mexican side. It was like stepping out of prison into a block party. The Mexicans were much easier going and pleasant to deal with. They did 10 times more paperwork in an hour than the American side was able to do in 11 hours. The whole experience made me realize how much of a police state America has become. It is worse than you think folks. And as aggravating as Gary can be, I must admit that he thrives in a third world reality. His ability to speak and joke with the Latins in their own language is an invaluable help in this endeavor. And he does it constantly!
We are in a small town north of Veracruz, Mexico. The towns here look like they have had more prosperous days. The bathroom sink leaks and the windows have long cracks in them. The light hanging from the ceiling is an un-shaded bulb. The hotel last night didn’t have a seat on the toilet. Gary says it is because the Latins steal them for their out-houses at home. Some of the hotels have signs advertising rooms to rent by the hour (Gary says they usually only need 5 minutes! ;-).
I think I understand now why the Mexicans swim the river to cross the border. The clothes dry quicker than it takes to do the paperwork on the American side ;-).
Gary drove nine hours today…so he will blog later.