This is primarily a travel blog in which I write about traveling in our motorhome. Our travels have

Nacogdoches, TX, United States
I began this blog as a vehicle for reporting on a 47-day trip made by my wife and me in our motorhome down to the Yucatan Peninsula and back. I continued writing about our post-Yucatan travels and gradually began including non-travel related topics. I often rant about things that piss me off, such as gun violence, fracking, healthcare, education, and anything else that pushes my button. I have a photography gallery on my Smugmug site (

Saturday, March 10, 2012

My Bitching Must Have Worked!

Tropic Winds RV Resort
Harlingen, TX
March 10, 2012

If you have been reading this blog, then you know that I blasted ABA Seguros (Mexican insurance company) on Wednesday because they were going to make me wait an additional 72 hours after my wire transfer (for the deductible) showed up in their account.  Well, yesterday morning around 9:30 AM I received word that ABA had changed their mind and released the car. 

I contacted the transport company and offered a $100 bonus if they could still get the car to me by Sunday.  Not long after that I received an email from the transport company telling me that their truck would be picking the car up right away!  However, the delivery would now be Matamoros as originally planned instead of the relatively safer border crossing at Nuevo Progresso.  I understood that the delivery would be made in the parking lot of the Federal Police Station near the Mexican customs building just across the Veteran’s International Bridge from Brownsville. 

Let me back up a moment. You already know that I speak no Spanish. Well, nobody at the transport company spoke English. So all of our communication has been by email using Google to translate everything. That doesn't alway work as somethings don't seem to translate very well.

The transport company’s owner said that he knew one of the policemen at the police station, which would facilitate the delivery.  OK, then.  At least I wouldn’t have to drive through Matamoros.  Carol Ann could wait in the rental car on the Brownsville side while I either walked crossed the bridge or got a cab, went through customs, and then walked over to the police station’s parking lot.  There I would hand over the money and drive the car back across the border, meet Carol Ann, and we would drive the 30 miles back to the RV Park in Harlingen.   That should be safe enough as I would never be out of sight of the border crossing.  Of course, it would probably look like a drug deal going down in the police parking lot.  Other than that, a piece of cake. I didn't know how long of a walk that would require.

Then this morning Butch (the RV caravan’s wagon master) called me and said, “How would you like to get your car at 1:30 this afternoon!”  “Of course I would!” says I.  We would still be able to start home Sunday.  Only Butch called back a short time later (it did sound too good to be true, didn’t it?) so I knew there had to be a glitch.  It turned out not to be a biggie, only that the truck driver had revised his ETA from 1:30 to 3:30 PM.  We could still start home on Sunday.

Carol Ann and I got ready by counting and recounting our stack of money and making sure we had all of the proper paperwork ready.  I was a little nervous as Matamoros can be dangerous and I would be carrying almost $2,000 US in cash.   Last Monday there was a shoot-out and car chase on the Mexican side of the bridge that I would be crossing.

We left the RV a little before 2:00 PM just to make sure we were not late.  You never know how long it may take to cross the border. We reached the Brownsville side of the bridge a little after 2:30 PM but there was no parking lot where Carol Ann could wait for me.  I saw an administrative office next to the tollbooths, pulled over, and got out to ask where Carol Ann could park.  The agent informed me that it was almost 2 miles across to the Mexican customs station.  I didn’t see any taxis anywhere so Carol Ann and I both ended up driving across the bridge in our RENTAL car, which I don’t think we were supposed to do.

When we arrived at Mexican customs there were no cars ahead of us or in line and all of the signs were in Spanish (Surprise!) so I wasn’t sure which lane we should be in.  I decided to go through the far left lane because it appeared to be connected to a small parking lot where I thought Carol Ann might wait while I walked over to the Federal Police station.  You know, it never seems to matter where I may be.  Whether it’s a supermarket, bank, or service station.  I always seem to get in the wrong line.  And this time was no exception.  I was waved to a stop and motioned to back up but I couldn’t because someone else had pulled up behind me.  Finally, the gate in front of me was opened and I was directed to pull through while the cars behind me were sent around me to the other gates.

A customs agent came over to the car and asked me what I was doing.  Or I think that must be what he said (it was in Spanish).  It turned out that he spoke a LITTLE (as in almost none) English so I started telling him the story of our car and that we were supposed to pick up our car in the parking lot of the Federal Police.  Apparently when you say “Federal Police” they become very interested in what you are saying.  A female agent came over (probably out of curiosity) and I had to start all over again while they tried to figure out what I was talking about.  Then they asked for “documents” and I was ready for them.  Before we left the RV I had written out a few statements and questions, which I then ran through Google’s translator to produce the Spanish equivalents of “Where is the Federal Police Station, please?” “I have a 3:30 meeting in their parking lot”, “I am here to get my car”, etc.

An hour and several phone calls later by the customs agents to the transport truck driver (I had his phone number with me) and Butch (he helped explain to the agents what I was doing) I was told that the truck had been delayed due to heavy rains and it would be 5 to 7 hours late but that the driver wanted to make the delivery tonight so that he could turn right around and head back to the Yucatan. That would mean us having to be in Matamoros around midnight!

Finally, with the help of more phone calls, we got them to understand that Carol Ann and I had no intention of waiting any time at all in Matamoros after dark.  We would have to set another meeting time and come back tomorrow.  We were finally directed to follow one of their border patrol trucks and were led through no-man’s land and put in one of the lanes returning to the US.  They never even looked at our passports!

Ah, home free!  Not exactly.  After we paid the toll to go back over the bridge we were waiting in a long line to enter the US.  One and a half hours later we were showing our passports to a US Customs agent and explaining why we went to Mexico.  After the dog finished sniffing our rental car we were directed over to what they call a “secondary” inspection area.  That’s were you have to get out of the car while they search it.  Completely random I was told.  I don’t think so.  I believe that after my explanation of why we had been in Mexico that the agent thought we weren’t “right” and needed to take a closer look.  We drove our car up a ramp onto a platform and were made to get out of the car and go to the other end of the building where we were directed (more like ordered) to sit on a bench.  They parked 2 more cars behind ours and then some kind of X-Ray machine moved slowly down a track that was bolted to the concrete floor next to the raised platform.  After the machine had moved the length of the three cars the agent came out of what appeared to be his lead-lined booth (we were not offered such protection) and returned our passports.  I guess they were satisfied that we were not smuggling weapons, drugs, or human beings.  Where there could possibly have been any room for such in the tiny KIA Rio I have no idea. 

We finally got back to the RV park at 5:00 PM.  We had been gone over 4 hours and the driving time to and from the US border was only about 1 hour of that time.  Now we have to go back tomorrow and do it all over again!  Looks like we won’t be heading home on Sunday after all. This is beyond ridiculous now.


Croft said...

Don't forget you have to cancel the TIP (Temporary Importation Permit) on the car before you leave Mexico with it.

Robert & Carol Ann Martin said...

Thanks, Croft. We turned it in this morning.