Monday, April 1, 2013

Columbia Crossing (Again)

We chickened out on trying Laredo Bridge #2 to cross into the USA. We went over the instructions for getting to Mexican Migration which involved going under the bridge and then making a u-turn to get back onto the bridge. Norma re-read the Church's book on Laredo Crossings and they recommend against bridge #2 for larger rigs. Too cramped, they said. We decided to bite the bullet and go the Columbia route.

It was OK. We know where everything is on the Mexico side and we turned in our FMM's (personal six month visas) and the permit on the Honda. Everyone is very nice on the Mexican side. Friendly, smiling, helpful and anxious to hear how we liked Mexico and to ask when we will be back. "Why are you going back to Canada"? the woman in Passport Control asked. "It is too cold there"! A real contrast to the grim looks and sour faces on the USA side.

Then we crossed the dreaded bridge over the Rio Bravo (Mexico's name for the river known in the USA as the Rio Grande). There were no signs, even after I was promised by Border Patrol services that they would pass on my concerns when I wrote my letter last year. It was obvious that commercial trucks went right and cars went straight. Anyone's guess where RV's go. I pulled over between the bridge and the commercial truck turn and waited with my flashers going while Norma walked up to the crossing and asked. She was told to get her passport and walk through with the pedestrian traffic while I went to the truck crossing by myself. No reason given for this, even when she asked.

I went to the truck booth, handed over my passport and waited while he played on his computer for a good five minutes. He leaned out and asked me how far south in Mexico we had gone and I told him Puebla. A lie, I realized later, because we had gone as far as Oaxaca. Anyway, he handed me a piece of paper and told me to go to the X-Ray building where I was sixth in line.

While I waited I read the paper I had been given. It informed me that I had been flagged by the Homeland Security Anti-Terrorism And Contraband Team for an "Intensive Examination" WTF? I'm not a terrorist, I'm a tourist! I wish I was back in Mexico!

I finally got to the X-Ray booth, parked, turned off the engine, walked back to the entrance and handed my "Scarlet Letter"  to the operator in his little lead encased booth. He told me to step back outside the door while he fired up his robot. It slowly scanned from both sides and he called me over. "What is the storage tank under the dinette seat"? "The fresh water tank", I answered. "Where are the batteries"? "Under the stairs". "Where are the sewage tanks"? "Underneath, near the back". "What is the large mass above the driver's seat"? "Our extra fridge". He had another long look at the X-Ray image, typed a few things into my file, handed me my exit slip and sent me on my way to pick Norma up at the exit of the huge complex where she was waiting, thankfully under an overcast sky and not in the blazing sun. No questions about potatoes, limes, booze. Nothing. Fifty minutes had elapsed since Norma  left me and started walking to the pedestrian crossing. Not bad. It took our friends Brian and Sue two hours to do the same thing about six weeks ago.

We drove into Laredo, stopping at Radio Shack to renew my USA Virgin Broadband and at HEB Groceries for a minor stock up. Butter, margarine, doughnuts, bread, eggs. Wow! Groceries are more expensive here! We then checked into the Casa Blanca State Park for three nights at $26 per night for water and electric (there is a dump on the way out). Norma wants to record some stuff on TV and we need to check out weather forecasts to find a warm route home.

X-Ray Booth:

Scarlet Letter:


  1. And we wanted to travel to the U.S. for the summer. No way Jose! Glad they didn't make it worse. As they said, why go back to Canada, so what, you give up a little healthcare. Mexico for retirees, no taxes, no b.s. and lots of really good tequila. Buen viaje amigos!

  2. Glad you made it through! Wow, I thought it was bad Canada thinking I'm a drug mule, but the US thinks you're a terrorist! I am impressed!

    You guys are now only two hours away on the same side of the border as me...

    If you're not coming through San Antonio, how about meeting halfway for lunch tomorrow or Wednesday?

    1. Rae, it looks like we are going to be tied up here with laundry, nails, feet and hair (not mine) and cleaning the rig (inside - Norma, outside - me). I just do not see us having time for a road trip. We also have to plan a route home. All in two days.

  3. My friend Jan (of Whit and Jan from Monterey, California) was unable to post her comment. She sent this email:

    Hi Croft and Norma,
    Having just read your post regarding your border experience (but not being able
    to figure out how to post a comment), I would like to apologize for my country's
    rudeness, inefficiency, and general high handedness. No way that you should have
    to go through this experience except that we as a country seem to be
    exceptionally paranoid in the wrong way.
    We are warm....come for a visit.

    Jan, I would willingly sit for hours waiting for an X-Ray if you could see a positive outcome. There is no excuse for them not finding the tons of drugs, guns and cash that cross the border un-challenged. These searches seem designed fool the public into thinking they really want to stop the illegal trade. If they were looking, they would find them.

    The part about separating people from RV's and making one walk through, I do not understand at all. If they asked questions about where food was stored or what food we had, I would not have been able to answer. It makes no sense to take one person out of the rig.

  4. Welcome to the excited states of America!
    Warm and sunny here in Vancouver, BC.

  5. only have one more border to cross before getting back home. I concur with your sentiments on border crossing into the USA. So much depends on the personality of the attending border guard.

  6. Wow! How awful. There is no way I could have walked by myself thru the pedestrian crossing. I assume that pets would have to do the walk also. Needless to say I would have caused a commotion and likely ended up in jail!

    1. Yes, no dogs allowed in the X-Ray area. Our friend Sue waited with the dog for two hours while Brian took the RV through the inspection. She asked how long it would be and was told "8 minutes" so she had no money for the vending machines and no water for her or the dog who were both starving. Plus, she was under the blazing sun.

  7. Good grief, I'm glad I don't have an RV. Croft I've wanted to comment because, of course, I've disappeared from Michael Dickson's site as he blocked me about a year ago. I don't know what to do about Kiva other then to just keep lending. Are you doing so? I can be reached at BabsBlog or

    1. Yes. I am going to keep on giving and letting the group have the credit. There are some good folks there. We will see what happens.

      I did not realize he blocked you! I am sure I have said things that riled him more than you did. ;)

  8. What the heck is up with the border crossing guards. Good grief.