Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Not Bad For A Monday
By Michael

Deposit money in the box to the right.
I can’t recall a night before last night that our family spent the night in a brothel, at least not a Mexican one. But I’m way ahead of myself.
So we woke yesterday morning in Arizona both anxious and eager to have another go at the border. At 7:00 a.m. local time (9:00 a.m. PV time), I made my first phone call to the administrator of the villa development where our boat is berthed. This call was a follow-up to the email request I sent the night before, asking for a letter from him, on the development’s letterhead, indicating that our boat was indeed berthed there and that to the best of his knowledge, the boat parts we were declaring at the border were for the maintenance and repair of said vessel.
When I reached him about 8:00 a.m., he’d already read my email and made phone calls to the Mexico City Aduanas and the Nogales Aduanas. He was on the ball, but told by Aduanas that persons are not allowed to modify or repair their boats in Mexico. (Huh?) He had a lot of questions for me. I thought I did an adequate job explaining the situation when he offered to scan and send the requested letter via email. He said to give him a few minutes.
Excellent! In our mind, this was our ticket out of paying taxes on the stuff we were bringing in, critical to building a compelling case for Mexican Aduanas. But the clock was ticking; we wanted to get to the border soon as we had a long way to go.
When I called back 45 minutes later to ask if everything was on schedule, he said that the letter was ready to send, but he wanted approval from his boss, traveling someplace in the U.S. He was waiting for a return email.
“But we have to check out at noon, and we should get on the road much sooner that that…”
He assured us he hoped that permission would come in time.
At 11:56 a.m. (and after a couple unsuccessful follow-up phone calls asking how we could maybe change the letter to make it less objectionable), all hope was lost and we were packed up and walking out the door. The phone rang! The boss calling from Colorado. After a short conversation, he was eager to help and said he would send an email that minute authorizing the letter be sent. I called the administrator to give him a heads up, but spoke to someone else.
“He left the office. He should be back by 4:00 p.m.”
Our morning lost, we headed for the border with no more paperwork than we had with us Saturday.
The Aduanas officer I encountered was kind and understanding, but said there is no provision in the law to import our items without paying taxes. It was now 12:30 p.m. and the girls were stuck in the hot, uncovered parking lot behind the building. I said, “Okay,” and followed him to another office.
He introduced me to a guy and left. The guy said he was my broker and his fee was $75.00USD, in addition to any taxes owed.
”Whoa, I don’t need a broker, I haven’t declared enough to warrant it.” He shrugged and replied that the officer brought me here, therefore I needed a broker. I asked him to excuse me for a minute and walked back to find the Aduanas officer.
“Senor, porque tengo un broker? No nececito un broker, los todos dolares son menos tres mil de persona.” He said that I declared five batteries, that this exceeded the threshold for a non-broker transaction.
There was no fire lit under my broker on this day. It was 3:45 p.m., and after I’d partially unpacked the trailer, and after he’d let me know a tip was in order since he was not making me unpack the entire trailer, when he handed me my paperwork and sent me to the bank. The amount wasn't bad considering the amount of stuff we are bringing in, terrible considering the stuff is for our boat.
Despite everything you may have read, neither the Bancomer nor HBSC bank branches at the kilometer 12 Aduanas station accept credit cards. Nor does either accept dollars. Despite the large Java runtime error message blocking the middle of the Spanish-only ATM screen, I was able to successfully parlay my lifetime experience using ATMs, to extract a lot of pesos.
It was after 5:00 p.m. before we finally pulled up to the famous Mexican Light Of Fate. Red or green? I was certain that if it was red we would be forced to unpack all. Others who shared our parking lot that day were made to do so.
Green! Every muscle in my body relaxed. We were giddy. It had been a long, stressful day and we’d covered only 12 miles from the Holiday Inn Express. We were all hungry.
At kilometer 21, we obtained our visas from immigration and then headed over the bank for our last stop: mandatory temporary import permits for our car and trailer.
“Senor, your name is on the trailer registration and your wife’s name is on car registration.” I took a look at the small registration cards the District of Columbia issued. She was right.
I don’t have any idea why this was a problem, given we were both present, but according to her and her boss, the trailer and car registration names must match. The only way to obtain our needed permits with non-matching registrations is with an original marriage certificate. After a lot of discussion and pleading, it was decided that a fax would suffice.
I knew that our marriage certificate was in a folder with our other important and rarely accessed documents, such as birth certificates. Neither of us had any idea where that folder was. After I spent an hour looking for the folder in the car, and poking around the trailer under the tarp in heavy down pour, we convinced ourselves it was inadvertently left with my mom among the boxes of important keepsakes and baby books.
We returned with every document we could find that had both our names on it, including the notarized documents we received from the title company when we sold our house.
No good.
There is only one motel in the border zone and we can’t leave the border zone without our car permit. The place charges for rooms by the hour; we bought 12 hours. It is the most interesting place we have ever stayed. The room has no outside door and we were not given a key. Instead, we pulled into a proper one-car garage, closed the garage door with an opener, and entered our room. It is clean but gaudy. With a nod to the girls, we were warned against turning the TV to channel 14. There are music controls at bedside and a deposit box between the garage and the room. If we were using the room as intended, we’d deposit some pesos in that rotating box before we were let in.
But we made good use of the safe, well-lit place. In our private garage, we completely unpacked the car top, the car, and the trailer, in that order, in a couple hours. In the last of the plastic bins on the trailer we opened, we found our marriage certificate. There is no holding us back today.
Windy in our snazzy garage, marriage certificate in-hand.


  1. Think of all the opportunities down the road to recall these great stories! I think this puts the "vent" into "AdVENTure". =)

  2. Brothels, bureaucrats, and dives! Hopefully, Windy kept the girls a safe distance from the "workers".

  3. Windy's expression is, well, priceless...

    Cheers from Austin, TX

  4. Hopefully you are across the border now in "dark territory" and you won't read this post for ages. So sorry to hear about your recent travails -- very un-Robertson of you to have such bad luck. As for our family, just a workaday life in the world you left.. commute, work, camp, daycare, dinner, play, books, and bed. I decided to have the girls try on all the shoes in their closet so we could weed out the outgrown ones. I had also noticed some hand-me-down shoes in the last bins of stuff you brought over before your departure. After we sorted through the too-small and just-right shoes, I headed down to the basement to grab the "new" shoes from Eleanor and Frances. What I did not realize was that in addition to giving us those shoes, your tortilla press, some toys and some dishes, that you also (at the bottom of the bin) gave us two pints of raspberries. How thoughtful! Unfortunately, after two months, they had decomposed into a smelly sticky goo. But, on the bright side, at least they were on the bottom of the bin, so the goo didn't get on any of the shoes or other good stuff.

  5. If you guys and this blog were on FB, I would "like, like, like". Lo adoro! I love reading up on your adventure and recounting it to Justin and Vanessa. I bet you never have to go back to living the traditional work life. You can become your own reality show.

    Your Devoted Takoma Fans,

    La Familia Schor of Aspen St.

  6. Holy cow, what was the chance that the hourly motel would include an enclosed garage?!

    Division of chores results in 2 different names. I'll bet the DC DMV would not have allowed Windy to put your name with hers on the registration of the car unless you appeared in person with your marriage certificate....!!!

  7. How are the kids doing through all this? I wonder what stories they will tell....

  8. I hardly know what to say - my life seems so dull in comparison! I can't wait to hear how your journey continues; this is really riveting stuff, and I check in almost daily to see how you're progressing. There's gotta be a book in all of this. Caden misses both the girls and asks me to send them his "hello." He thought of Frances earlier today when I was cutting his nails - wishing he was more like her, as she just loves to have her fingernails cut.

  9. Hi Michael! Great post that helped me "refocus" on our upcoming adventure. We have felt pretty overwhelmed with all that still needs to be done to our boat, the house, etc! Can't wait to meet like minded people, such as the Eyoni and Del Viento crews! Nancy, your comment was spot on as well! Thanks for sharing.

    We are also very curious as to how you ended up in the Guaymas yard, as that makes us neighbors! s/v YOLO is currently sitting with a stripped bottom over in the main yard side. What are the summer plans?


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