Crossing the Border

6:30 AM July 28, 2011

Packed the “fanny pack” again.

Out the door at 7:00 to eat breakfast.

In spite of the sign on the door of the Kettle Pancake House

saying “open from 6A-10P” the door is locked, the lights are on and no one is home.

So, off down the road to find a McDonald’s.

Finally with breakfast in our tummies, we’re on our way to find Mines Rd. That was an adventure in and of itself.

Feeling Safe Now

Finally we get to the Columbia Port of Entry about 8:15 AM, but wait….the “adventure” is just beginning.

There won’t be any more pictures from today because:

1.    Cannot take pictures at the Port of Entry and after we finally got through that,

2.    Kay drove most of the rest of the day,

3.    Mike doesn’t “do” photographs very well.

Keep in mind, we are now dealing with very “official” people. There are soon to be very large automatic weapons at every border crossing we encounter. On the US side, the customs and border agents wear green and carry very large weapons. On the Mexico side the customs and immigration agents wear dark grey an carry very large weapons. We try to smile and look pleasant.

 I guess we got some “misinformation” because we couldn’t cross at the Columbia Port of Entry, even though we crossed there with our church youth group on mission to Monterrey before. We drove 25 miles west of Laredo, and after about 20 minutes of phone calls, discussions, conferences with each other and additional border agents, they told us, even with the paid manifest, we’d need to see the customs agent and pay a fee to take our household goods across at that crossing. Another very nice and trying-to-be-helpful border agent told us to go to the Nuevo Laredo Bridge 2 at Bob Bullock Boulevard.

So, we go back toward Laredo about 20 miles to Bob Bullock Boulevard, Nuevo Laredo Bridge II crossing. This border agent very nicely tells us, we cannot cross there, this is only where semi-trucks with cargo cross. Go to the Nuevo Laredo Bridge I crossing … which is the one we were trying to avoid. Did NOT want to drive through Nuevo Laredo.

Nope, nope, nope.

Oh, well. Away we go.

Back to I-35 southbound, Stop at the US side of the border. Several US agents chat and laugh with us about our move to Lake Chapala, ask questions about the Lake Chapala area. We’re a bit more cheered up now. They were very friendly. They could probably see the frustration on our faces … and were thinking, “should have come through here in the first place.”

Winding through Nuevo Laredo trying to follow the confusing “Vehicle Permit Office” signs to the Port of Entry (we need to get our car “imported”), we finally find the Port of Entry where everyone gets their visas, import their cars and what-not. (Does anyone really know what a “what-not” is?)

 It is 106 degrees. The Port of Entry is not air conditioned. Thankfully there are fans at the Caja 4 area … Only.

We go to Caja 4 for importing cars. We wait in line. Finally our turn. We don’t have all the papers we need. We are told we must go to Caja 1 and start there to get a visa form, going to each successive Caja 2, 3 and then 4 … in spite of already having our FM3 visas.  OK, off to Caja 1.

At Caja 1

Wait in line. Beads of sweat roll down our backs. They have us fill out the visa form, indicating that we are FM3. Fill out the forms and wait in line again. The agent stamps both sides, keeps smaller “half” and hands back the bigger “half.” We go to …

Caja 2

to “make copies.” Wait in line … but find we already have copies of our drivers’ licenses so we don’t have to use that one. Don’t need …

Caja 3

… couldn’t figure out what it was for anyway.

Now we’re back at Caja 4

(a fan!)

Wait in line. Back to the window, different agent. This isn’t the form they want. They send us back to …

Caja 1.

Wait in line. Tell agent, they want a different form … “Lo siento”, he gave us the wrong “half”.

Back to Caja 4.

Wait in line. Kay runs to el bano. Back to the window, 3rd agent. Sigh. Yay! We now have the right form.

But, wait,

she’s putting the car only in Kay’s name so only Kay can drive it.

1.    “NO,” Mike tells her, “we want both names on the import tag.”

2.    “Is she your esposa?”

3.    ”Yes — er —Si.”

4.    “OK, but we must see a marriage license or we can only put it in one name.”

5.    Oh, it’s in the OTHER binder … in THE CAR! Out in the 106+ degree heat!

Mike runs off to get it. Kay waits to the side while agent #3 waits on other people. Finally Mike returns with the other binder. Back up to agent #3. She smiles, we smile and hand her a certified copy of our marriage license, paperwork begins to be processed. Now, we pay our “fee”. On the internet we are told that the fee for importing the car is $48.00.

Surprise, surprise 

…we also have to pay a $400 deposit on the car, which we get back when we move back to the US. We are talking US dollars, not Mexican Pesos. So, with our bank account $448 lighter —

YAAAAAY, we have the import tag!!!

We now have been at this for 4 hours and through 3 Ports of Entry … it is now after noon and we are HUNGRY. While Mike heads to el bano, Kay heads to the “cafeteria” to get some food. It’s going to be “eat on the road” to make up time. Mike worries that, with the 20-mile customs checkpoint, we may not get to our destination until after dark. With tacos to go, beans and rice and 2 Coca Lite, we head to the car.


we can’t figure out how to get the import sticker off the paper and onto the window. (Can you say, “my brain is mush”?) We drive up to another agent outside and she simply pulls it off (from the other side) and hands it over. With the sticker affixed, we head out.

Mike and Kay’s retirement …

to be continued …


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