Tropic Winds RV Resort
March 11, 2012
Last night I sent an email to the owner of the auto transport company telling him that we would meet the truck at 7:00 AM this morning. The meeting place location was still a little fuzzy. If you remember from last night’s post, neither we nor the Mexican border agents knew anything about a Federal Police station parking lot anywhere near the bridge. In an effort to nail down a meeting place I attached a Google satellite view of the border facilities on the Mexican side of the bridge to the email. I had circled a parking lot that would be easy to find and should be convenient to both parties and asked that he phone his driver and have him meet us in that parking lot.
We got up at 5:30 AM this morning and checked email. There was no response to last night’s email so we decided that we would be in the circled parking lot by 7:00 AM anyway. If the truck failed to show, then we would start making calls.
We left the RV park a little before 6:30 AM, drove to the Veterans’ International Bridge in Brownsville, and went through the tollbooth at 7:03 AM (I remember looking at the car’s clock). This time, instead of stopping and asking questions on the Mexican side, we acted like we knew what we were doing and got in the “Nothing to Declare” lane and were waved right through. Easy as pie. Then, instead of turning towards Matamoros we turned back towards the US border and found the parking lot that I had circled. It was next to the Mexican customs building, about a hundred yards short of the tollbooth for returning to the US.
It wasn’t quite daylight and only one other car was in the parking lot. As we were pulling into it a man in a private security uniform was walking toward the car. He stopped and in quite good English asked if he could help us. Once more I recited the story of our car and why we were alone in a dark parking lot. The location of the Federal Police parking lot stumped him also. He pointed to a very small parking not very far from where we were and asked me to follow him. In the building next to the small lot were several other security guards to whom he explained my problem. None of them had a clue where I should be meeting the truck either so I asked the man trying to help us if he would speak to the truck driver on the phone (I had the cell number). He agreed so I dialed and they spoke together. Then he told me his name was Casto (I believe) and that he would guide me to the truck as it might be difficult for me to find by myself. He explained that he had just gotten off work and was on his way to a bus stop so it was no big deal.
Casto got in the back seat and directed us to the main north-south drag through Matamoros. While we drove, Casto told us that he had just finished his second day on the job. He told us he had lived in Corpus Christi until recently when he “made a mistake,” was deported, and was now on “probation until 2015.” For all I know the man is a serial killer and is sitting right behind us in a rental car in Mexico before sunup. He said his family is still in Corpus and can visit him in Matamoros but he cannot go visit them. He also told us that he made $10 US a day at his job. We drove several miles (more than 2, less than 5) and he directed us to turn left onto another major avenue. After about half a dozen blocks he pointed to the left and there was the Federal Police station. However, there was no transport truck in the small parking lot in front of the station. I don’t know what I would have done had I not glanced over to the right-hand side of the avenue. There, sitting in a Pemex station across the street from the police station was the truck with our car sitting on the back of it! It was a simple translation error.
We drove down to the next block, made a U-turn and drove back to the Pemex station. He unloaded the car and I handed over the cash in an envelope. He took it and got back in the truck where he counted it. That’s when I discovered that the truck driver spoke excellent English! I had been told that he spoke no English and therefore had never attempted to speak with him on the phone. Man, did I feel stupid!
We shook hands and he told me I probably should put some gas in it while we were at the station. I got in and checked the gauge. The last time we saw the car there was over half a tank of gas in it. Now the needle was below empty! We filled the car with gas and Carol Ann drove it while Casto and I took the KIA Rio and drove about a block to an H-E-B supermarket where he said he could catch a bus home (and Carol Ann could use the restroom). I thanked him profusely and tipped him 2 days’ pay. He grabbed me in a bear hug and for a moment I was afraid he was going to kiss me.
All we now had to do was stop at the Mexican border and return our car’s temporary permit (or forfeit the $400 US deposit we had been required to make). As we neared the border we didn’t see a sign showing where to return the permit. Several soldiers were standing around so I asked them. After some sign language and talking like a 4-year old we were directed by the soldiers to another parking lot.
Carol Ann waited outside with both cars while I went inside and waited in line for almost an hour while the clerk processed the paper work for 4 people ahead of me. He spent a significant amount of time with each individual and then stamped all of the paperwork multiple times. When finished stamping, he would go outside to the person’s car and either apply (or remove) the holographic decal from the car’s windshield. When my turn came he asked where my car was. I told him that it was in a parking lot on the other side of the building. Of course it was the wrong parking lot. I had to run back to the lot where Carol Ann and the cars were parked. The same soldiers saw me come back and seemed concerned that I had not been successful in returning my permit (they saw it in my hand). They led me around a corner of the building and showed me where we should take the cars. Then they walked ahead of us to make sure we didn’t get lost. We ended up at the exact same place we had been for almost an hour the day before. Finally the clerk came back outside, removed the decal, took the permit, and gave us a receipt so that we can get our $400 deposit refunded.
After the permit had been returned we had to drive back around to the other side of the building in order to enter one of the “back to the US” lanes instead of going back into Matamoros. I drove the KIA and Carol Ann followed in our Saturn. We paid another toll and drove across the bridge to the US border. Unlike yesterday there was almost no line at all. The agent asked for my passport and asked, “Why were you in Mexico?” On, no, not again. Again I repeated the story, knowing that I would probably end up back in “secondary” absorbing more x-rays. Instead he gave me the go ahead and once Carol Ann was waived through we bee-lined it back to the RV park in Harlingen arriving a little before noon. This time we had been gone for almost 6 hours but it was worth it. Now all we have to do is get the motorhome and the car back to Nacogdoches. Without the tow bar we will have to drive them both. We’ll start home tomorrow and hope to be there by mid-day on Tuesday if all goes well.
Oh, yes. The Eurotech repair center (the shop in Mexico) guarantees its work for 2 years. If the front end falls off we can just take it back to Merida, MX and have it repaired at no cost. It’s only about a 1,700 mile drive from Nacogdoches!