After Mexico 14, 30th October 2004
We made another lateish start the next day and pottered down towards Del Rio, stopping on the way to refresh my memories of Justice Roy Bean at Langtry. I pulled into a National park campsite just north of the town, and had an enjoyable chat with Larry, the camp site host.
I'd decided to have another go at renewing my visa, to go into Mexico and return later, and had noted the border crossing here was free, usually you cross the Rio Grande with a toll bridge. I subsequently paid tolls several times, varying amounts up to $7. So free is good.
I had no problem crossing, except US immigration there could not let me return my green card, they were only a small crossing they explained, I would have to see the people at the main crossing in Del Rio. I continued on into Mexico intending to drive down through the Mexican side but almost immediately took a wrong turn. So I decided to take the advice of the US border people and drive down the US side. When I returned to the US border, they laughed and said, wouldn't they let you in? The joke is, for those who don't know, that for a short visit to Mexico, near the border, you need almost no papers, a US driving licence is enough if you are American. You don't even need a passport. It's almost impossible not to be allowed into Mexico.
I drove down to the main Del Rio crossing, handed in my green card, and continued on. At the Mexican check point some 50 miles down the road I did the paperwork for a longer foray, asked if it was OK to stay in their car park for the night. It was, so I stayed. At the next town down the road I checked emails and also checked my dirty washing into a laundry. This costs about the same as putting your washing through a laundromat in the US but with the big advantage, they do it all for you and it comes back all neatly folded.
Little Cat had become not so little, it became visually obvious at Albuquerque that he had reached puberty. He had also become a nuisance, every morning he would try to screw my arm. Which apart from being unpleasant did not help my driving. When I pushed him away he made the most horrid yowlings. So I booked him in a vets to be fixed with an appointment next morning. I had tried to do this at Albuquerque but they told me I had to bring him in at 7 am which was impossible, that's when we were setting off flying.
I parked on the plaza for the night, opposite the town hall, took Little Cat in to the vet, then collected him early afternoon when he was still totally asleep. We headed back towards the border and parked up in another small town plaza.
I intended to return to the US via Eagle Pass. On the way I took a wrong turn, headed up a one way street the wrong way and got stopped by a traffic cop. He was obviously new to the world of traffic cop bribery and it took me 200 pesos before he offered to guide me to the bank I was looking for. In retrospect I think I played it too generously, it didn't dawn on me at the time but he was already smiling by the time I had counted out 100 pesos ($9) into his hand.
I returned to the US, obtained my new green card, then had to return to clear my Mexican visas. To do that meant a 53 km drive back to where I obtained them. I elected to return via Del Rio 80 km to the north. That was a error. Not because of the Mexican papers, they were returned no problem, but because of a US immigration witch. She had a student and decided to show him just how you could investigate someone arriving in the US. And my goodness, what a lot of information they have stored on US visitors. They had the date of every entry I had made into the US and the date of every exit. They even had information that a few years ago I had made an entry into the US by private aircraft (that was the Costa Rico trip with Simon) and that the aircraft had been searched! All the time the witch kept telling her student, all this means nothing, he entered the US and he exited, all within the time period allowed, and the search entry just means a search was made, not that anything was found.
Having thus far found nothing to incriminate me, aforesaid witch decided to look further afield in her computer. You have a Texas driving licence she said. Yes I said. What documents did you produce for that she asked? This was 18 months ago. I don't know I said, passport, UK driving licence? She pounced. I must go and look into this she said.
After at least half an hour she returned very contrite and said we must get you out of here as soon as possible. She typed in some information her student had obtained from checking out my van, and asked if I minded if she stapled my green card into my passport.
I think she had been told, in no uncertain terms, that you do not need to be a US citizen to obtain a US drivers licence, but from the time it took she could have been complaining about this to the president himself. Of course she could just have been full of herself because she had been right, maybe later I will get a letter saying I have to return my Texas driving licence. The two countries I know about, UK and France, you do not need to be a permanent resident to obtain a drivers licence. You just take the test, and need a local address.
When I started these chronicles I did not envisage my travels as being an adventure. I am not into adventures. But it does seem that with my experiences of entries into the US, this one and the entry from Canada 24th August 2003, that my stories class as adventures. It does seem as though that being allowed into the US to spend foreign earned tourist dollars is a special privilege granted to the few. There are no problems though, after you have passed these high prison walls.
Little cat by the way has made good recovery, he hurtles round the van at high speed, when we are driving he generally sits on my lap or relaxing in his new place.
Fortunately one of his least attractive traits has now disappeared, I can now drive without my arm being attacked, and the yowlings have totally gone.
The first photo above give a hint why there are few photos in this account. It's raining. It's either been raining or been cloudy most of the last few days. That's apart from the fact that in this part of Northern Mexico there's not a lot worth photographing.
I shopped in Wal-Mart, bumped into Larry the camp host from a few days back, and parked up in the car park for the night. There was a total eclipse of the moon which I managed to capture on camera. There was thin cloud cover which unfortunately covered up all the stars, although you could see the moon before the eclipse, so the photo is not as interesting as it might have been.
Next day I took some pretty roads through Texas Hill Country , found a small picnic area next to the Medina River near Bandera. About 9 pm a pickup hurtled into a corner of the parking area, about 10 minutes later with engine screaming made a high speed reverse turn and shot back the way it had come. I wonder (!!) what was so urgent to do in the car park for that 10 minutes to cause them to rush in and out so fast.
I'd decided to visit Natural bridge Caverns the next day but after exploring Bandera in the morning and then taking a leisurely lunch by the river in Boerne realised I did not have enough time to get there. So I went to Cave Without a Name which was close by.
I found another picnic area for the night but unfortunately the road was busier than I expected and since I forgot to close the windows there was more noise during the night than I would have ideally liked.
Thanks to those who gave suggestions about the check motor light. I'll get back to that later. It still comes on from time to time and I still have no idea what causes either this or the slight associated power loss. Meanwhile I had forgotten one thing. This problem first arose in Puerto Vallarta on 16th July, I took the van into a garage, the guys there could not get their computer to work so the two of them dived in on the engine. After 2 hours they pronounced it fixed. And it was, for about a month. I wish now that I'd asked them what exactly it was that they fixed.
Continue to After Mexico 15
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