Onwards to Mexico!
Mexico is where the adventure seems real. I had stopped travelling with friends and I was alone. But I found that I was stalling again. The stories told to me of Mexico being unsafe started to play in my head. People saying ‘just make sure you cross the border in the morning and ride straight through. Get as far away from the north as possible’. My visa for the USA was expiring and I no longer felt the option of bombing back to Seattle to Marcin. I arrived at the border town of Douglas Arizona, late and in the rain. My bike had just had a major service at Ironhorse BMW, Tucson after limping in over 500miles from the north rim of the Grand Canyon through the mountains with an electrical issue that had knocked out my break lights, indicators, speedo, and odometer. The back tire was getting thin, and the bike was well due for some love. I hoped that this would be almost the last of my bike problems (we can all dream).
I pulled into my first hotel alone for the trip. I was cold and feeling a little vulnerable. I was not sure on my route through Mexico and was changing my plans hourly. Packing up my gear for an early morning get out, I checked my passport and visa. Almost choking I discovered that I had to leave the USA, not on the 9th September, three months after my entry to Alaska, but instead 9/7/12, 90 days after my last entry. I looked up the penalty for overstaying a day on the US visa. My visa waiver rights revoked, and having to return to my home country before ever getting a US visa again, then interviews and ongoing visa hassles. Panic boiled up and started to overflow. I told myself there was no way I could cross to Mexico at 11.30pm at night in the rain. I struggle riding at night at the best of times. And into a Mexican border town where stories of drug wars and murders were rampant. All of my nonchalance about Mexico faded. All of the hype and the fear that others had cast my way- seeped into the cracks and I felt I was going to hyperventilate. My last Skype with Marcin as I packed my bike up, was in tears. I needed to enter the US again. I wanted nothing to jeopardize my entry back into the country to see the man I love. But to risk death?!! Ok, maybe I was totally over the top. But at that point, I couldn’t think straight. He sent me directions for a hotel in Agua Prieta. The ride to the border was one of the worst in my life. As I hit the gates I searched for a US guard. I pulled to the side in tears and begged them to not make me have to cross. After a few minutes choking on my words the guards took my passport and came back stating I should be ok to go back to my hotel, and cross in the morning. That ‘one day over was not a big deal’. I turned around and went back to the hotel. I felt like I had been through an emotional industrial washing machine, my body tired, beaten and wrung out. I fell into bed exhausted.
The next morning I was once again slow off the mark. I double checked my paperwork. I double checked border crossing details. This was nothing like I had done before. Walking over borders is easy, but importing a vehicle. On my previous trip to Morocco, I had minded the bike, and had no clue about the import paperwork. This time it was all up to me.
I had been warned to bring pesos into Mexico and not to get money on the Mexican side of border from an ATM, as I might open myself up to being taken out 5km down the road. But after an hour and a half of following leads that led nowhere, I decided to cross without Pesos. I could get them further down the road.
I followed the road to the border again stopping to speak to the US guards, reiterating in more fluent English, my predicament of the night before. They nodded in sympathy and took my green expired visa for processing and told me not to worry about it. I moved onto the Mexican side. My poor Spanish skills resulted in a 30 day transit visa. On discovery of this I went back and managed after much cajoling to talk my way into a 6 month visa for both me and the bike. The whole process was relatively painless, though taking over two hours.
Leaving the border the craziness of the roads hit me. My mind was overloaded with info. Looking down at the potholes. Looking up at the signs and the cars coming from every direction. Cursing my broken Ram mount and my iphone gps stuck inside my tank bag. The streets seemed to be one way, though I must have missed the signs. Cars took up all the lanes and turned haphazardly. I joined in the confusion. Looking for highway 17, one of the smaller road south, I pulled people over to ask directions. I went round in circles. I hit dead ends, and roads that faded into goat tracks. So much for bombing straight through the border town to get out of here! After an hour, and more than 4 stilted but lovely conversations with locals I finally found road 17 to head out of town. My fear of this town from the night before seemed to dissipate.
Then I started to smile. The compounded tension of the last 24 hours started to release itself, and excitement set in. I was no longer on a backyard trip in a western country. I was in Mexico! The trip that I had dreamed of had actually begun.