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The Long, Last Chapter of the Big Adventure

Posted by on August 18, 2016

We met with the importer on Monday morning, June the 6th.  The first step of the process was to drive the motorhome to U.S. Customs to have the vehicle “exported” from the USA.  That was quick and easy.  So now we had a motorhome with no country.  We went back and unloaded all of our personal belongs from the motorhome to be driven to Mexican Customs for the importation process on Tuesday June the 7th.  Well things went downhill fast.  It did not happen Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Thursday, or Friday, for some reason unknown to me, but supposedly because it was a “classic” vehicle, and there were problems establishing the “value” of it for the import duty.

So Friday afternoon, the import broker said we better just go home.  We had our dog, lots of clothes, coolers, bags, etc. in the motel room, so a bus and/or a plane were out of the question.  We decided to rent a car to drive one way to Guadalajara.  We booked it on Expedia, through Budget Rent a Car.  But we had to rent the car in Mexico, at the Nuevo Laredo Airport.  The Import Broker had one of his drivers take us to the airport on the Mexican side of the border, early Saturday morning.  Right before we left, he said, “You better hurry, the airport closes at 8 a.m.”  I guess when there are no flights scheduled in or out, they just close?  When we got there, no one was at the Budget Rent a Car kiosk.  There was a phone number to call.  We called and he said he would be there in 15 minutes.  15 Mexican minutes is about an hour.  He shows up in a Renault Scala, with over 120,000 KM on it.  Not a single part of the car does not have dings or scratches on it.  The floor of the trunk has oil stains all over it.  When you open the gas filler door, it falls off, and you have to figure out how to get it back on.  Over 60 mph it shook like crazy.  And it cost over $700 for the two day, one-way drive to Guadalajara.  When I went to turn it in, the woman did not believe that it was one of their cars.  She also did not believe the amount of damage.  She called the agent in Nuevo Laredo, and he confirmed that it was in that shape when I picked it up.  But at least we were back home, Sunday afternoon, June 12th.

The last discussion we had with the import broker, he assured us that upon our return, the motorhome would be in his parking lot, ready to load back up and return.

On Saturday, July 16th, we receive a copy of the paperwork that we needed to complete the process of importation.  We told the broker that we would not return until we had a copy in our hands, to insure no more delays.  We left Sunday, July 17th, and drove to Saltillo, Mexico and spent the night at the “less than lovely” Hotel La Fuente.  It was clean and comfortable, but a little shop worn around the edges, so to speak.  Ready for a re-do.  Early Monday, we left for Laredo, and after waiting in line for two hours to get across the bridge and through U.S. Customs, we call the broker while waiting in line, and he tells us that there was no driver to take the motorhome through Mexican customs that morning, so that it would be Tuesday, now.  Remember, it was to be ready and waiting in his parking lot.

Tuesday morning we are at the office at 9 a.m., waiting for the driver, who was again, a no show.  We left to do some shopping, and sometime around noon the driver shows up that takes the motorhome to Mexican Customs.

By about 4 o’clock it is through Mexican Customs, but the ever changing rules now require us to pick up the motorhome in Mexico, not in his parking lot in Laredo, Texas.  He drives us to his office in Mexico, and we check out the line waiting to cross the bridge, and it is several miles long, four lanes wide, at the least a three hour wait.

So we decide to drive several miles through the narrow streets of Nuevo Laredo, out west of town to another border crossing.  His warehouse closes at 5:45, so we have no time to spare.  We get to the other border crossing, and there is also a long line, but not terribly long.  As we approach the U.S. Border Entry point, an officer comes out and tells us that we have to get in the line with the commercial trucks.  Seems that the week before a motorhome got stuck in the line that the cars and light trucks use.  Steve had to get out of the motorhome and walk across the border, because there could only be the driver in the commercial truck lane.  Another thirty minutes in this line.

So I am driving a motorhome with Arkansas plates, and a Mexican Title, and paperwork.  Remember that it is completely empty, except for me and a few pieces of paper. When I reach the border crossing booth, remember this is the U.S. Border, the officer makes a few phone calls, and tells me that I will have to get in line with the commercial trucks to go through the X-Ray booth.  This is another hour wait, so now it is almost 8 p.m.  Steve and I have been in contact by cellphone for these hours, and he has called the broker, and the broker graciously agrees to go out to dinner with his family, and return to the warehouse and open it up for us, and help us load our “stuff” back into the motorhome.  There are no instructions at the X-Ray station.  I watch what the others are doing, and try to figure out the system.  Pull up, get out, take a pink piece of paper to a foil covered booth, and stand outside while a R2-D2 device with a flashing light on top runs down a track and X-Rays the whole motorhome.

So I drive up, how far?, and get out and there is this UPS van that has pulled in behind me.  The driver is motioning to me and speaking something in Spanish.  I hear a loudspeaker, but I cannot understand anything.  “Pull Forward so the UPS truck can get X-Rayed at the same time”.  Oh, I get it, there is room for both me and the UPS Van in the same space it takes to process a long commercial truck.  Get back in the motorhome, pull up, get back out and take my pink piece of paper to the booth, where a window slides open, and a gloved hand reaches out to take my paper.

I pass, and get waved on.  The poor UPS Van has to drive up onto a ramp for some sort of further scanning.  I do not hang around to see what happens,  I want out of there.

The  broker comes to his warehouse not long after we get there, and helps us get things “thrown” into the motorhome.  We drive back to the motel, and spend the next three hours unpacking the boxes, filling the cabinets, making the beds, you get the idea.

We finish somewhere around midnight, and get up bright and early to head home.  We cross the bridge into Mexico.  I am waved over to be inspected, no vehicle permit on the windshield.  They want to see my papers.  Same situation, Arkansas License Plates, Mexican Paperwork.  He checks with his supervisor, and gives me permission to proceed.  Elapsed time, no more than 10 minutes, maybe less.  I was nervous and shaking like a leaf.  I am sure I did not look innocent, even though I was.

So 10 minutes to get into Mexico.  Three hours to get into the USA.

Steve is driving the car, and I am driving the motorhome.  Not long after we get away from the border, I get stopped at a police routine checkpoint.  Here we go again, I think.  The officer looks at my papers, chooses one piece of paper to put on the dashboard, and assures me that I will have no more problems.  I did not!  His companion officer toured the motorhome and had nothing but nice things to say about it.  You know what it is like driving a nice old Travco.

We spent the night in Matehuala, at the beautiful Las Palmas Hotel.  We just got a room, we needed a nice quiet evening and a good meal.

We made it back to Ajijic the next day, no problems, other than traffic, and a few bad roads.

The next step, which luckily we could just pay for, thank goodness, was to get the Jalisco License Plates.  A lawyer drove our motorhome to Guadalajara.  He left at 4 a.m. so that he could get in line.  It took all day, he got back around 6 p.m. with all of the proper plates, stickers, and papers.  I just cannot imagine having to do that myself.

So here we are, home safe and sound, legal, plated, and ready for more adventures.  Maybe not quite as adventurous as this previous one.


3 Responses to The Long, Last Chapter of the Big Adventure

  1. paul tessier

    My wife and I have a traveco. currently in getting work done so that we don’t break down…nothing like wishing for the best. I read your post with interest and can just imagine the trials of crossing borders and effort required. We have offices across mexico and further down and we hope to see you one day on our longest journey of our lives. Not sure when it will happen but until then we enjoy your travels and writing. Thank you for the time and effort in sharing.

    • George

      I may have not made it clear, that we were permanently importing our Travco.
      We were “nationalizing” it to become a Mexican Vehicle.
      Unless things have changed recently, the Temporary Importation Permit process is much easier, and good for 10 years.
      We became “Permanent Residents” of Mexico, but still U.S. Citizens two years ago.
      We ran into problems with insurance.
      That is what precipitated this whole thing.
      Hopefully you will not have any problems at the border, at least headed south.
      Hope that our paths may cross one day.

  2. jaime

    Thanks for sharing. You are now experienced and can help others that may want to do the same thing. Another good reason why I don’t have a car! Welcome back!

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