Wednesday, October 30, 2013


We did not know what to expect - traffic, long lines, agents rummaging through all the cabinets and drawers in our stuffed-to-over-capacity van, or worse, being told that we did not have all the necessary documents or that we couldn't cross with two dogs and a cat. I had learned through a popular RV forum that the Columbia Bridge crossing (the third of three bridges at Laredo) was best for motor homes. Some on the forum agreed and others said they did not like that particular crossing. We decided that we would go with Columbia, and after a forgettable night in Laredo, approached the border at 8:30 AM on a gray Monday. Surprisingly, there was only one other vehicle headed our way and a young lady waved us to the stopping point. Alan leashed the dogs and took them outside while she entered the van for a brief look, not bothering to check for any suspicious items we might be trying to sneak in. She then asked for the papers from the veterinarian certifying that all were properly vaccinated, gave them a cursory glance and then motioned that we could proceed. I got back in the van, looked at Alan as if to say "is that it?"and then realized that we still needed the temporary import sticker for the van.

Inside the building were windows for Migración, Aduana and Banjercito. There were no instructions for where to begin, and after glancing around as if lost, someone pointed to the Migración entrance. The agent asked for my passport and handed me two forms to complete. I completed the forms, which were suspiciously like the tourist forms you fill out when flying, and handed them to him. He studied them for a minute, then said we must return in 180 days. Oh, no, no. I took my passport and opened it to the 30-day Residente Temporal Visa, showed it to him, and then had to fill out another form. I swear it was the same form I had just given him. Now he tells me I have 30 days in which to get to Migración for the permanent visa card. Relieved, I motioned for Alan to come to the counter to complete his forms.

We then headed to Banjercito to  obtain the 10- year Temporary Vehicle Permit, which is a special permit for motor homes. It allows unlimited crossings for 10 years. After four years, however, we must obtain the Residente Permanente cards and will no longer be able to have a foreign vehicle in Mexico.
We will cross that bridge when we get there.

Immensely relieved, we climbed in the van and headed south toward Monterrey and Nuevo Laredo, that city famous for shootouts and other ghastly cartel shenanigans.

Next...Saltillo, Coahuila

Monday, October 28, 2013

No Goodbyes, Only Hasta Luegos...

Kenya, John, BeeJay, Alan, David, Dolly
The mountains of Georgia, the wire grass of Alabama, the bayous of Louisiana, and the Lone Star State of Texas were all stops along the way as we spent time with family and friends before entering Mexico for the trip to our home. Saying goodbyes to family is always an emotional moment and especially when, at our age, or any age for that matter, we never know how many farewells we have remaining. We insisted that all should make plans to visit us soon (we'll see) and promised to travel safely and to report our experiences each day. The weather was beautiful in Georgia. We enjoyed our visit with my sister and brother-in-law, and with my niece and her family. Then we headed down to Alabama for a couple of days to spend time with my brother and sister-in-law. It was good spending some quality time with my little brother (he's actually a head taller than me). He assured me that we could expect a visit soon.

From Alabama we drove through the northern tip of Florida, the Mississippi Gulf Coast, and into New Orleans for a brief visit with our friends Robert and Muriel Sullivan. Robert is a French and Latin teacher who we met when he had a teaching position in Norfolk. His wife was in New Orleans when Katrina devastated the Crescent City. She came to Norfolk and spent 10 days in our home while we were traveling. We get a thank you card every year at Christmas, thanking us for our hospitality. Their home was spared and they are still in NOLA, praying that it never happens again.

From New Orleans, we traveled to Houston for a few days with Alan's brother and sister-in-law. We had planned to visit the Mexican Consulate there to obtain our Temporary Vehicle Import sticker for the van, but after 2 days of trying to reach someone we were told that it could only be granted at the border.

By now the animals were beginning to accept this puzzling nomad life. They travelled extremely well and were happy to sleep in such close quarters. Maneuvering through the 20 foot van required a certain degree of organization and cooperation. The organization part was fairly easy - the teamwork part occasionally broke down with the accompanying bitchiness.  Tempers can flare in such close quarters and we were no exception, but knowing each other so well after 34 years, the flares died quickly and it was back to driver and navigator mode.

Next...crossing the border at Laredo, Texas.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Journey Begins...

Plugged-in at brother-in-law's home in
After a rather lengthy blogging sabbatical, I figured the least I could do would be to write about our adventures along the way as we make our way from Norfolk, Virginia to Mérida. The last few months have been busy with deciding what we would take with us and what to leave behind, with packing and multiple trips to Goodwill. There were also countless large black garbage bags lining the street in front of our house, filled with things that would likely fail the "one man's junk, another man's treasure" cliché. Because this is a new beginning, we chose to leave most of our accumulated belongings for others to enjoy. Other than a few cherished paintings, our favorite cookware, some kitchen gadgets, and clothes, we are coming to Mexico with our two dogs and cat in a 20 foot motor home.

We began our trip on Wednesday, October 9, in a heavy rain. It seemed that we would never get the last item loaded. We had planned on leaving around 9:00 AM. We drove away at noon. There was a tremendous feeling of relief, that even though our home is still unsold, no longer will we have to rush to clean the house and make it presentable for a showing. It was difficult and tiring to keep the house clean with two large, active dogs around. Our realtor is baffled as to why our home has not sold, and he recently had an open house for 30 area Realtors. The feedback was all positive, including affirmation that the price is where it should be. We have a great home in a desirable neighborhood, so it will sell eventually.

Our two dogs have never been on a car trip lasting more than half an hour. We had no idea what difficulties traveling together for such an extended time would bring. To our amazement, the dogs settled in between our seats, competing for the fully reclined position or the cramped one, and slept quietly for the entire day. Occasionally, a rough road or series of bumps would bring them to their feet, but then they settled down once again. We stopped frequently that first day, for water and bathroom .

Mr. Jules, our little orange Manx, cried for the first few miles, but he then also settled in, burrowing under a quilt on the bed or sitting on a hammock of sorts we fashioned from the collapsible nylon and mesh crate suspended between the two twin beds in back. He could see out the side and back windows and seemed content seeing more of the world in one day than in his entire 6 years.

We spent that first night parked in a huge parking lot in a beautiful North Carolina rest area, illegally, but no one ran us off. There were a few other cars parked nearby and the parking area was well lit.
A great night's sleep, with cool breezes which turned a bit chilly toward morning, rested all of us for the drive to Atlanta.