Monday, December 22, 2008

Panic at the Border!

Sitting outside our oceanfront RV site in Puerto Penasco, Mexico, marveling at the incredible sunset – that’s where tonight’s posting finds us.

But it has been a long road getting here….

My last posting found us still in Lake Havasu. To bring you up to speed on what we’ve been up to since then:

On Sunday, December 14th, Terry and I headed out for a run up into the hills near our RV park in Lake Havasu. It turned out to be an awesome run, and made you understand why off-roading is such a popular activity in this area. We soaked our weary bones in the hot tub after the run and enjoyed the rest of the day, which turned out to be sunny and beautiful.
I captured a few photos of the surrounding hills at sunset. They are amazing – so many different colors, depending on the time of day – everything from slate grey to brown, gold, orange, pink, and purple.

Here's a picture of one of the more developed lots at the RV Park.

It has a casita, with a full bathroom, washer, dryer, fridge, etc. The lot has an outdoor fireplace, an outdoor kitchen, and a hot tub - that's RV'ing at its finest.

Monday saw the weather turn on us – cooler (50 degrees), extremely windy and threatening rain.

We had a golf game booked with our Wyoming buddies, Bud and Colleen, so headed to the course and toughed it out (don’t hate us for saying that).

Here’s a shot of the golf course, showing the panoramic views of the lake.

We were waiting on mail to arrive on Tuesday, and had planned to head out to Casa Grande upon its arrival. Found out the mail was not going to make it, so made arrangements for it to meet us in Casa Grande. We frantically packed things up, started out just after 2:00 p.m., and arrived at our next venue around 7:30 p.m., in the dark.

Karen and Lloyd Knox had once again extended their hospitality to us by letting us stay on one of their lots in the Sunscape RV Park, located 10 miles east of Casa Grande. Nice park – older amenities, but very friendly residents. Arvella and Dutch – friends of Lloyd and Karen’s from Saskatchewan, provided us assistance in getting ourselves settled that night, and the next day Arvella brought us wonderful homemade Christmas baking – score! Here's a photo of the Christmas lights at the park.

Wednesday, Thursday found us touring Casa Grande (very agricultural - many dairy operations, cotton, maize fields) and more specifically, its outlet malls and massive new shopping centre. We had to stock up things we might need for our two months in Mexico, as well as take advantage of any sales that came our way ….

Friday, we made arrangements to pick up our Mexican insurance (ouch! almost a deal-breaker for the trip, but an absolute necessity) from a company located in Tucson. It was a fast trip, so touring was limited to our routes in, and then out of Tucson.

Saturday, Terry worked on the motorhome in anticipation of our trip to Mexico, while I took advantage of some free time to do a little more shopping.

It’s hard to guess what won’t be available in Mexico, so I stocked up on certain items in particular - I bought enough cat food/litter for three cats for a 2-month period. (Talk about looking like a crazy cat lady – I lied to the clerk at Walmart and told her I was donating it all to the local animal shelter.) Here's a picture of the beautiful sunset from the 'mall'.

Sunday was our day of departure from Casa Grande, and on to Mexico – almost!

After packing up, visiting with Dutch and Arvella, and Karen and Lloyd (they drove in late, late Saturday night), it was closer to 3:00 p.m. by the time we left Casa Grande.

Here's a shot from the drive - love those beautiful hills!

We had planned on driving as far as Lukeville, Arizona, a very small town right at the Mexican border. There was a basic RV park there (note - you can see the wall they are building to stop those darn Mexicans from crossing into the U.S. illegally), so after filling up with diesel, we settled in and planned on being at the border crossing first thing in the morning.

It all sounded so easy…

We happened to pick up a copy of a local (Puerto Pensasco) newspaper. I was scanning through it when I came upon something that made my heart stop. In the editorial, they were reporting that the border crossing was allowing you to bring only two dogs or TWO cats with you when you crossed the border into Mexico.

Of course I panicked (for the record - Terry did not). What do you do – volunteer that you have three cats and see what they do? Confess to two and try to hide one? Hide one? Become a 'cat smuggler'?? Don’t even tell them that you have cats? According to everything I read, RVs were almost ALWAYS inspected – it’s a little difficult to hide three cats in such a small space.

I couldn’t believe that all our plans could potentially unravel like this, and with something we had never considered to be an issue. After having no problems crossing the U.S. border, it was the furthest thing from our minds.

The wheels began to fall off the cart – I started researching the internet, trying to see if this was a genuine legality, or just an oddity isolated to this border crossing. After coming across a few more reports of this, the panic heightened.

THEN, I started coming across other limitations to what you could bring across; only one computer (we have three), one camera OR one video recorder (we have both), NO tools (we have a lot), 3 litres of alcohol (we had two CASES of wine) … THEN I read that you had to declare, and pay duty on, any of those items that you exceeded the limit on. THEN I read that, if you failed to declare any of this, and were found carrying over the limit items, they could fine you four times the commercial value of the items. THEN I read that your vehicle and personal belongings could be confiscated if you do not stop and declare merchandise over your limited allowed by Mexican law.

Needless to say, I was a mess. Didn’t sleep. Thinking the very worst scenario. Could only imagine Terry and I, and three cats on leashes, hitchhiking back to Canada, with all of our worldly belongings trapped in Mexico forever.

First thing in the morning, I began wildly throwing out food – ALL fruits and vegetables, any pork, two whole chickens – anything I could think of that they might catch us on (besides the already stated!!). We decided to put the cats in their cages, putting Champ in the shower stall, and Molly and Callie outside the shower door. Of course the ‘three tenors’ began their loud, soulful serenade. I figured we were doomed.

Finally, we bit the bullet, and drove to the border. Customs lady waved us over, and asked Terry to open the trailer, which he did. She had a look, Terry got back in the motorhome, and we drove off…. No showing of passport, no inspection of the motorhome, no questions about cats… I couldn't believe it. All of that agonizing for nothing?! Life can be so cruel sometimes.

We had to drive to San Emeterio (17 miles east) to pick up our tourist cards, and our vehicle documention, before we could carry on to Puerto Penasco. Puerto Penasco is considered a 'hassle free zone', meaning you don't require tourist cards or vehicle permits when staying there. However, as we were carrying on to parts south after our stay there, we had to pick these up first. On route, I let the cats out of their cages, thinking we were ‘free and clear’ of any problems. However, had another momentary panic attack when we arrived at San Emeterio, only to see ‘inspection areas’ for vehicles, and officials pulling people over.

God must have been smiling on us again, as we had no problems there. Off to Puerto Penasco, where we found our next stopping point, the Playa Bonita RV Park. It’s a large park, but fairly empty right now. Apparently people start arriving in greater numbers after boxing day.

So us, AND our THREE cats, have made it to Mexico. The beach here is amazing, the sunset stunning, the weather quite temperate (about 68 degrees), and all is right with the world (for now). We’re going to set up our little Christmas tree, and settle in for a week.

Hoping all is good with all of you right now!

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