At the Border – Daze 1 (part 2)

by Jim on 16 April 2010

When we last left our brave travellers, they were on US government property, overstaying their welcome.  Their van battery was dead.  Thankfully, their friend and co-worker Rod was sending up a missing document so that, in a couple days, they would be able to return to Mexico to try to register their vehicles again.

Trying to get off Government Property

Of course, Rod would need an address to send the document to.  But we had no hotel reservation, as of yet.

But it was late afternoon, and we had another more pressing issue – getting a tow truck.

I had AAA (CAA) membership, but didn’t have the emergency number.

The US officials, anxious to get rid of us, allowed me to use one of the phones in their office.

I tried several AAA numbers, but none worked – finally someone in the office looked up the right number.

I gave the operator careful instructions – van and trailer, need a tow, here’s where we are, here are the nearby landmarks, etc.  A 45 minute wait, the operator said.

Remember our running theme from yesterday?  Overtired, bored kids.  Yes, they did very well, but give them a break.  They’d been cooped up in the van all day, and they still couldn’t go anywhere (for some reason, the customs officials didn’t want them them wandering around on government property where passports were being checked.  Go figure.

We waited.  Shari took Hannah to the bathroom, weaving through the long line of people lined up to go through customs.  Officials kept asking who they were and what they were doing.

I took Nathanael to the bathroom, weaving through the long line of people.

Meanwhile, a customs official came over to the van and trailer with a big dog.  We thought we were all done with this checking, but we were looking very suspicious, I suppose.

Suddenly, the dog leapt up, right in front of Shari, on to the hood of the car!

Ma’am, do you have any pets in there?

I left out a detail from earlier.  When the official with the booster was first checking out our engine, he made a discovery.

We’re guessing that several weeks ago a neighbourhood cat was chilly on a cool Mexico City night.  It climbed up into our warm engine.  But was still there early in the morning when Hannah had to go to school – and —-

Just guessing.

But whatever happened, there was now a dead cat in our engine.

No, really.

No wonder we had a mouse in our house, building a home in our oven, shortly before we left… no one left to chase him.  But we got the mouse.  And, apparently, we got the cat too.

After 45 minutes the tow truck hadn’t arrived.  An official said to give him another 15 minutes, then to call again.

Then I spied some pay phones across the street – so I ran over and called.

The operator couldn’t imagine what had happened.  He kept trying to get a hold of the contact person, and eventually put me on hold.  While I was on hold, the tow truck showed up.

I had been hoping to book a hotel too, but now had no chance.

The tow truck driver came in a big truck with his (I think) 9 year old son.  He didn’t speak (much) English, so we carried on in Spanish.

I would hate to be stuck in Laredo, USA, not knowing Spanish!

He wasn’t told about the trailer, he claimed.  He would have to charge for that.

Fine, I said.

We loaded the van on the truck, and hitched up the trailer.  (He was pretty well equipped, considering he apparently knew nothing about the trailer)

The six of us crammed into the small (well, it seemed small with six of us!) cab of the truck, and drove to the hotel.  It was about 10 minutes away, I imagine.  Nathanael fell asleep.

The Hotel

We arrived at the hotel, and the tow truck driver began to unload.  I carried a sleeping Nathanael into the hotel and went to the front desk – remember, it was evening and I still hadn’t made a reservation (actually, none of us had eaten lunch either, come to think of it).

By the way, that was one reason we didn’t go straight to a mechanic.  The other reasons were that we didn’t think many would be open by then, and AAA couldn’t recommend any in the area, so we thought we’d better wait until morning.

The hotel could give us a reservation, but only one night – apparently the Disney on Ice cast was coming to stay at the hotel.

Fine, I’ll reserve for one night.  But I still needed the second night, because I needed an address for Rod to send our document to, remember?

The tow truck driver was done – it was going to be US$85 to tow the trailer.

Now, I had some cash, but not that much.  Credit card?  Nope.  Pesos?  Nope.  (I wasn’t crazy – lots of places just north of the border take pesos)

He said we should go inside the hotel, maybe they can charge my card and get me cash.  They couldn’t.  He said he was charging for time, so I’d better hurry up and get something.

The hotel staff were a big help.  They gave me a free shuttle drive to a money exchange place.

Which was closed.

We went to another.

I got some money exchanged, but then made the mistake to ask for specific change so I could pay the tow truck driver.  (We’re communicating in Spanish again here)

He took the money, and handed me back pesos.  I explained again.  By the time the money had exchanged hands 3 or 4 times, I thought I’d better check my change – sure enough, he’d given me US$15 too much.  I gave it back, rushed outside (it was starting to rain) and went back to the hotel… and paid the tow truck driver.

Meanwhile Shari and the kids had found some microwave food in the hotel lobby, and were eating it.  Lunch and supper combined.  It was getting late.

I quickly tried to get a hotel reservation for the next night.  Still under the illusion we might get in a mini-holiday, I booked a hotel with a pool.  I sent Rod the address.

It started to rain cats and dogs (there are those cats and dogs again!).  It was pouring.

I unloaded the van and trailer in the rain, and got soaked.

I returned to the hotel.  Hannah was having a bath (all those hours at the border in the heat aren’t great for cleanliness), so I played briefly with Nathanael, microwaved a mini-pizza, and wrote this tweet/status, to let people know we were fine:

In the USA for a couple extra days, but everyone is fine, together; I’m at the moment playing Hot Wheels with Nathanael.

Well, what else was I supposed to say in a few words?  I think that 5 minutes of playing Hot Wheels was just about the only "holiday" we had!

It was around 9 or 10pm when we ate "lunch" and got the kids to bed.  I was moving furniture and I spilled the applesauce, and it went all over the floor and wall …. but enough about that day.

Maybe tomorrow will be better.  Maybe?  We’ll see as we move on to Daze 2 at the Bordernext time!

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{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Rod April 16, 2010 at 9:38 am

Oh my goodness.

Grandma C. April 18, 2010 at 11:57 pm

Now I know where the dogs and cats come into the story. Yikes! What a day!

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