USA, USA, USA! Sigh . . . I embarrassed myself a bit at the border. Whether through pure zeal at leaving Latin America or just stupidity (no vote necessary), I couldn’t find my way out of Mexico. It fell to the ninth person I asked in the space of thirty minutes, all of them actual border-control staff, to prize-out this sacred information. Unfortunately for me there are several bridges from Mexico to America, only one accepting my foreign vehicle. Naturally, I wasn’t at that one and was in fact halfway across another bridge altogether with my passport already stamped to leave. U-turning across lanes of traffic and circumnavigating confused officialdom that thought I’d left, I eventually got all my documentation checked and was lining up at some kind of demented drive-thru: there were twenty drive-thru border-control checkpoints and about one hundred cars all darting for the smallest line. It sounds like hell but it was quite fun! Finally pulling up to one, I got out to talk and was subsequently yelled at to “stay in your car, sir!” I apologised in that very British way I’m accustomed and put on my super-polite-please-don’t-shoot-me-in-the-face face.
The young border guard asked the usual questions, then summoned me over to customs for a vehicle inspection. Everyone was incredibly formal and shouty, as expected when having to deal with morons all day. I was tasked with dragging everything out of the vehicle for inspection and then dragging it all back again soon afterwards. To my surprise the whole thing went smoothly, with a few questions concerning the authenticity of my Incan relics. At $1.50 for two in Bolivia, they were quite satisfied! Since another inspection was being carried out behind me, boxing me in effectively, I was left to pass the time having a yarn with the customs team. They were genuinely lovely. Curious about the trip, we were chatted away amiably and I gave them some toy koalas for their kids.
It was a surreal moment though. I mean, that was it. That was the entire thing. No more questions, forms, permits for the vehicle, no signing anything, nothing. I was free to just saunter into America driving my twenty-five-year-old Land Cruiser from Australia with the steering wheel on the wrong side. No one spoke of restrictions, of registrations, of regulations . . . just go ahead, son. I positively roared! I apologise to anyone passing me on that day, as you’d have most certainly seen a madman bouncing for joy in the seat of his jalopy. It was the one of the happiest moments in my entire trip. I’d made it, I’d actually bloody made it to North America!
Having travelled the west and east coast before, Texas was entirely new to me, and completely not what Id’ imagined. For a start, it was green. And not just in patches, but along the highway verdance stretched for miles in every direction. This was summer, and I was in gawd-damn Texas, it was supposed to be like the films: beige and red desert landscape; tumbleweed and a scorching hot sun. In fairness, the latter still prevailed, but I was driving on silken smooth motorways roaring straight through a lavish state, every few miles passing screaming billboards of McDonalds, Wendy’s, Dennys, KFC and Burger King, tall poppies trying to outdo one another to garner attention. Pick me, pick me! As much as I despise fast food, after months of travelling in Latin America, anything that didn’t involve beans and corn-wraps sounded heavenly. In San Antonio, I entered a 24-hour Walmart, bought some fresh bread and cheese, and at almost midnight in the middle of a sweltering car lot where I would spend the night, I eat blissfully. And they say I don’t know how to celebrate!
The American Heartland
I had a few hundred miles to cover over the coming days to reach my friend in Tyler, two hours east of Dallas, and would have to import and register Izzy. My friend, who also had a Troopy, had a tonne of trouble importing his from Honduras, so I wasn’t looking forward to that at all. However, if I could complete that, I would then have some pure pleasure time in the US and across the pond in the UK where I could finally have, after months of driving, years of planning and plotting, time to relax. Maybe even celebrate. Probably with a sandwich.
The blog will be a record of everything - from idea conception to old age in making this adventure happen
You can find the excellent 2006 Antipodean Adventure blog by Dwyer Rooney here