One Last Border Crossing
Our journey through Mexico was a long, hot race across the desert. While we wished we could have spent more time soaking up the warm Mexican sun and dining on the cuisine that had come to remind us of home over the years (a concept that has long ceased to be defined by place), we had made a commitment to be back in the US for Overland Expo, the yearly convergence of world travelers like us who live for the open road.
Mexico felt like one long, dusty freeway after passing through so many smaller countries which required border crossing after border crossing – endless lines, uncertainties, beaurocracies, and paperwork. “Do we have to cross another border today?” Eva would ask. “I don’t like borders, mama.” Neither do I. Finally I was able to tell her no with a smile – only one more border, and we will be “home.”
The US border loomed closer and closer each day, one final hurdle. We had absolutely no idea how we were going to get our Argentine truck into the country – would they even let it in? We had heard horror stories from our Canadian/Brazilian overland friends that they couldn’t get to Alaska as Canada wouldn’t let them enter with their US rig without paying a huge import tax. But we didn’t have the heart to start researching the endless US laws. In our minds we were just going to show up at the border and be welcomed home with open arms, our goal finally reached, “home” finally attained. As the saying goes, ignorance is bliss.
We said a slow goodbye to siestas, kind-faced señoras smiling at our kids (que guerito!), and all of Latin America in general as we idled in line at the border crossing of Nogales. We all know about the great Wall of China, but few have experienced the great Wall that divides the United States from it’s neighbors to the south. It’s a fortress of barbed wire, electricity, cameras, and border guards. Not one but two tall fences run parallel to one another for miles in either direction, and I couldn’t help but think of the countless lives lost trying to cross. So many undesirable things are kept at bay by that wall, but so many wonderful things are too…
Watch Our Video Summary of Our Year on the Road
Stateside at Last
Four hours later, our final border crossing was behind us, and all the troubles it brought became just one more story as we shakily took to the wheel on the smooth, well-ordered highways of Arizona. Suddenly our dusty, beat-up Ford Ranger from the 90’s was the slowest, oldest vehicle on the road. We felt like sitting ducks with no paperwork (the border officials really had no idea what to do with us so they just let us go with a warning of “get this thing imported soon or it will be impounded”). We tried but failed to purchase US insurance before we crossed the border as our vehicle was registered in Argentina. Suddenly it seemed like there were just way too many cops around. I gripped the wheel nervously, trying to conjure up from memory all the traffic laws I was supposed to obey. Speed limit? Check (am I driving TOO slow?). Lights on? Check. Turn signals, proper lane changes… oh my god, please don’t let us get pulled over!
Luck was on our side, and I really have no idea how we survived Arizona without being towed and impounded. I swear to god Tucson had like one cop per block, no joke. It was around this time that I remember hearing about the American hostage Bergdahl being released after years of captivity, and how he was going through a “reintegration” process. I couldn’t help but feel we were experiencing the same thing. The rules were different, and we had to relearn them. Strange, as we passed through so many countries in Latin America, each one different from the next. But the United States was a different world, and though one part of me welcomed the clean order of homogenous strip malls and retail chains, part of me also missed the color and chaos of street vendors and local markets.
But the strangeness began to fade away slowly as we were welcomed by old friends and new friends alike. In Tucson we were treated to dinner by my old elementary school buddy who I reconnected with on Facebook. At the Overland Expo near Flagstaff we met like-minded travelers and swapped stories that inspired us and helped heal our souls. Never had we been surrounded by so many people like us – searchers, wanderers, each with an equally flexible definition of home.
The Next Chapter…
It was wonderful to be back in San Diego, our old home where we had lived together for eight or so years before relocating to Buenos Aires. It felt like no time had passed as we hugged our family and friends there. The only real indicator of the years that have passed were the extra grey hairs (or lack of hairs) and the kids who keep sprouting taller and taller. Then it was off to our family reunion in Bryce Canyon, then back again to San Diego where part of our journey truly came to an end.
Sadly, we had to sell our dear loyal friend, our little Brazilian-Argentine Diesel Ford Ranger, our faithful companion for the last year (for better or for worse). Though our hearts bled to let her go before she could reach the big skies of Montana, we simply could find no way to keep her. After weeks and weeks of trying and failing to get someone at Ford to help us get a certification to import the truck, we were ultimately passed around and ignored. For them it would have been a mere piece of paper to help us complete our yearlong dream – but we were unable to penetrate the heartless beuracracy of the Ford Corporation to find someone with a soul to help us. So it is here that we say our final “F*ck You” to Ford and embark on a new adventure: as owners of a 2011 Chevrolet Express FlexFuel 12-seater Cargo Van! That’s right baby, 16 miles to the gallon and endless interior space – a blank canvas for us to build into our new touring vehicle.
A new touring vehicle you say? Yes, that is correct. We are not finished yet friends. Another adventure awaits this crazy wandering family of four. Stay tuned! In the meantime, as we prepare we are enjoying the gorgeous Montana summer.