There was no time for Plant Stops as we had to drive 487 miles (784 km) over not the fastest roads in the world and deal with the time consuming bureaucratic nightmare that is crossing international borders.
! have yet to be convinced of the benefits of such activities, other than keeping huge numbers of people from contributing to the unemployment statistics. Once upon a time they used to affect travel between countries that now make up the European Community. Where once cars queued for miles or kilometers, they now flash by the man made boundary lines at the maximum speed permitted on the local motorways and none of the countries seem to have collapsed as a result of the change in attitudes. Of course it took many years to get to this and I understand that the process was not without difficulties, but worth it none the less.
Once again, we had to report to the Mexican customs office to obtain a refund of the US$400 deposit that we had to pay on entering Mexico. The lady examined the pile of documents that we presented and returned a couple of them and, with a smile said that we had to go and get more photocopies of these. There was a photocopier one step behind her. ‘Only for office use’ she explained. Not for copies of customer documents. Aargghh! I would gladly have paid what ever commercial cost there might be for the copies to be taken there and then, but again we had to walk in the burning heat some 300 m. to the little Cambio kiosk where we had these exact documents copied before, on entry. There was no point in arguing the logic and inefficiencies of the process, the staff involved are on the whole not motivated to improve the customer service that they are paid to provide – they just do as they are told and seem to enjoy the power that this gives them.
On to the US entry point. After 30 minutes in a slow moving queue it was our turn. My non US passport was the first note on the yellow card and Eunice’s black mark of having received unsolicited plant material from a plant friend in Thailand nearly a year ago was the second, so on to the inspection area. We were marched into the admin hall while a team of officers decended on Ruby. ‘Sit down’ was the instruction, as we took our place in a hall full of rows of chairs, with about 50 Mexicans waiting their turn. After about five minutes I had worked out that on entering the hall you were supposed to get a number, not unlike the system in use in UK post offices, where there are lots of notes to tell you what was expected. Not here. Some Mexicans who had entered after us were therefore now ahead of us in the queue. This was spotted by one of the officers who called me over and put me to the front of the queue. I was not about to complain. I had a valid entry stamp and permission to stay for 3 months from entering on 3 February, so what was the problem? Best not to ask as there are lots of ways in which life could suddenly become a lot more difficult.
Back to the car that had now been searched from top to bottom and declared as clean as we knew it would be. There is nothing anti-American or anti-Mexican intended in this little rant, just frustration at the inefficiencies experienced at yet another international border crossing anywhere in the world.
On the positive side, the whole drama, crossing from Ciudad Acuna took just over an hour, which probably makes it one of the fastest during this winter’s crossings.
We arrived in Tucson as dusk fell, still in the mood for a steak at the Silver Saddle where, on a Saturday night, Eunice had reserved a table by phone, in advance, so that we sailed by the queues waiting outside.
If only we could reserve border crossings this way!