Sunday, December 30, 2012

Crossing Borders

The night before we crossed the US-Mexico border, we stayed at Rancho Surdo Mudo, a campground built for the volunteers of the Deaf-Mute Ranch, a school for deaf kids. This is a cute little campground off of Highway 3 with orange trees. According to our guide book, there is no fee, but donations are taken. We had planned on giving the rest of our pesos to them for the donation, but nobody ever came by to collect (nor was there a donation box). It worked out, however, as we decided to top off our gas as we went through Tecate. At this point, I had forgotten that I didn’t have many pesos left, though. Fortunately, I had just enough remaining pesos to cover the cost of the gas and the customary small tip for the attendant.

We managed to navigate to the US crossing, which despite being right next door to the Mexico crossing, is accessed halfway across town. The line was already ridiculously long despite being only mid-morning, but we were able to turn off our vehicle and roll down the hill most of the wait. Unfortunately, when we finally reached customs, they sent us off to a secondary inspection area. We spent another five minutes letting them go through our van, during which time they confiscated our potatoes that we would have used in our chicken soup we had planned to make that night. Other than that, everything was fine.

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Now, our guidebook told us that we needed to turn in our tourist cards when we left the country, but they didn’t say where we should turn them in at. We assumed that there would be someone collecting them on the US crossing. However, when we asked about it, they said that we should have turned them in at the place we got them in Mexico. So, we had to find a place to park on the US side and then walk across the border, which is super easy going into Mexico, you just walk through a rotating pedestrian gate. Then we entered the Immigration office and made sure that we got our stamp on our tourists cards and submitted them. No troubles there.

We did have troubles trying to find the US pedestrian crossing. I thought it might be near where the vehicles crossed, but it wasn’t. We ended up going back to the Mexico crossing area and then we spotted the small, nondescript sign for pedestrians way up the road toward the US where the cars cross into Mexico. The pedestrian crossing was less crowded and more easily passed, however the customs lady and I had issues hearing each other.  And, I answered questions like I had for the vehicle crossing, which probably didn’t make any sense since I didn’t have any luggage with me when walking across. She and Jonathan had a better go at it, he says it was because he said he was with me, but I think it was because she liked him. ;)

So, after crossing the border twice in one day, we started heading off in the direction of Las Vegas. But, as we started the engine and gave Chuck some power, we noticed the van was acting up a bit more. Jonathan decided to pull off on the side of the road and scope it out. He didn’t find anything besides a loose cable, which only slightly helped. By now it was lunchtime (or later), and we were hungry. I convinced Jonathan to eat at IHOP for lunch and I got some delicious sweet potato pancakes. I hadn’t had pancakes in forever, and I had missed them. Sadly, the waiter ignored us and didn’t bring any butter or warm syrup to go with the pancakes. I didn’t leave him a good tip.

Finding a cheap place for that night proved surprisingly difficult. Eventually, we did find an OHV land that allowed overnight camping. Next day, we left California. We thought we had left military checkpoints behind we left Mexico. As we crossed the border, however, there was a border patrol checkpoint. We eased through the questions and process, though, as we had plenty of practice in Mexico.

Before we met my family in Las Vegas on Sunday, we decided we needed showers. So, we decided to stay at an RV park in Parker, AZ.

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