There and back again

A journey that brought us finally to Mexico. But when unexpected events took place we were forced to make drastic changes to our travel plans. Beautiful deserts, again extremely friendly people, exciting moments, new directions to go and some more very fine sunsets!

There we went, our last travels in the USA. As already mentioned in the previous post, Bob recommended us to visit Anza Borrego on our way to Nogales where we would cross the border to Mexico. More specifically he advised us to go to “The Slot”, a less known canyon in the desert park. In Bob we trust, so that’s exactly what we did!

At first we took the sunset highway with some beautiful views and a stop at Julian to eat some delicious apple pie. These were recommendations given to us by Todd and we enjoyed the relaxing drive a lot. Then we went on in the direction of Anza Borrego and the Slot. We checked the camping in Borrego Springs which was kinda expensive again, but with a lot of available spaces. We decided to take our chances and drive on to the Slot without a reservation.

When we arrived at the canyon it was already quite late in the afternoon and there were not many other people around. We took the hike into the canyon, and well… what we saw there was once again pretty amazing! It’s hard to describe so I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

The sun was setting when we got back to the car. Since the canyon was located somewhere off the road in the desert Nina took this as an opportunity to practice her driving skills. We both had a lot of fun with that!

Of course, a sunset in the desert has its own beauty. So, this means more images we want to share with you!

Now, this all took place on October the 9th, this was the date of our 3rd anniversary together. This could not go without a very nice dinner in a Mexican restaurant and a (one!) very tasty Margarita.

On the internet we found another place a bit further down the road we would be able to camp for free and decided to go for it. We parked the car and got on the roof of it to watch the stars once more in the lovely desert night. At some point coyotes started to howl in the night and we decided this was our queue to go to bed.

Ok, the next day we mostly drove to Nogales Arizona, and then took left to… well… Patagonia!

Of course, we could not miss on this little village, we did some shopping and found a camping at the shores of Patagonia lake. We even spent some time on the beach around there. Preparing ourselves to go to a new part of the world: Mexico!

Alright, getting to Mexico was pretty easy, just some basic questions and we were in. Getting our passport stamped was a bit more work but it all worked out pretty fine to our feeling. Once all this was settled we checked in to the Hotel we already booked. Some more shopping and a bit of frustrations later we got ourselves a Mexican prepaid sim card so we could surf the internet (the wifi at the hotel was just terrible). Pfiew, we were really settling in! We booked some more hotels for the following days and went to sleep.

The next day we drove on in the direction of Hermosillo. At the 21st kilometer (that’s really what they call it) we still had to go through the minor administration process of getting a temporary import permit for our car.

Hmmmmmm, wait… minor administration process??? As it turned out our temporary Canadian insurance did not count as a full registration process. When your car is not fully registered in your name (even if you have bill of sale and everything) you cannot (!!) bring it to Mexico at all. But, don’t worry, they just told us to go back to the USA, get it quickly registered there and then come back and all would be fine.

This was kind of a bummer. But ok, we went back to the USA, standing in line to cross the border, explaining the customs officer we had to go to the DMV to get the car registered etc… A long time waiting at the DMV proved to be useless, they could not give us a temporary permit/registration because the car did not meet the USA standards (on paper of course). They told us we had to go back to Tucson and try with a 3rd party organization to get the car registered.

Well, we gave up on the idea of getting to Hermosillo that day and went back to Tucson. The 3rd party company did not want to give us the registration as they did not know the regulation for a Canadian car, we had to go to the DMV head office to check with them.

By that time it was already late afternoon. When we got to the DMV headquarters they told us they needed to inspect the vehicle thoroughly (level 2 inspection), but it was already too late for that. We had to go back in the morning. Beuh… we were tired of all this mess and booked a room in the cheapest motel we could find. Luckily the guy was very friendly and we tried to enjoy the evening as much as we could.

A new day, a new start! At 7am we were in line for the inspection at the DMV. When it was our turn the inspection guy explained us he could not inspect the car because it was not imported in the USA! What? They couldn’t have told us earlier? Ok, we followed his guidance and went to the airport of Tucson to go to the customs and get the car imported.

I think you can finish the story by now. Some more waiting later we were firmly but friendly told by the customs we could not import the car because we were no residents of the USA. And no way we could work this out, even if somebody else would get the car imported and registered it would not matter as the Mexican customs only allows cars registered to the person who is driving them. Our only possible options were to sell the car or drive it back to Canada.

Now we got a bit desperate, and we thought about the friendly words of Bob: “If you have any problems along the way, you are always welcome here!” We contacted Bob and even though he had to go on a field trip for the weekend, we were welcome to stay at his place once more. We drove all the way back to Pomona that day, parked the car, went shopping and enjoyed the evening forgetting about our problems.

Okay, how to sell a car quickly in the USA? Well make sure it is imported and registered and call one of the many car buyers who give you a bad price for it, that’s all! What? Imported and registered? Turned out we could not even sell our car and since our temporary Canadian insurance had expired by that time, driving back to Canada was not even an option anymore. An American insurance is only valid when the car is also registered. What to do now? We tried to figure out some scenarios, none of which were really satisfying. For example, fly back to Canada, get a new temporary insurance (only given in person!), fly back to L.A. and then drive back to Canada to sell the car. This would cost a lot of money and take a lot of time so we were not eager to go for this solution.

Another option was driving to a scrap yard and try to sell the car there for a few bucks, that is, if they would do it, because they cannot legally scrap a Canadian car. This would also cost us a lot of money (almost no refund on the car) but at least it would take a lot less time.

That’s why we went to the nearby scrap yard that next afternoon, hoping to get rid of the car. We were brought to the friendly owner of the scrap yard. He asked a bit about the car and when he figured out it was still a perfectly functioning car he called a friend of his.

Finally, fate took a turn in our favour again. The friend turned out to be a tower, and he told us he got a way to make this car legal again in the USA. It seems that there is a rule that if a tower tows a car away and it is not claimed within 30 days by the owner, it becomes his. Regardless of the paperwork or the origin of the car (he was driving an Australian car himself). So, he offered us some money for the car (more than we expected to get by that time) and in return we promised not to claim the car (why would we!).

Well, what a relieve! We got some money back for the car and we got rid of it. Time to make new plans for our travels! We did some research and decided to fly straight to Cartagena in Colombia and so skip on central America in total. A nice feature of winging your travels is you can just change your plans completely if necessary.

With another week to go before we would fly to Colombia we enjoyed staying in Pomona. We spent some time with Andrea and EJ going for dinner and a school choir concert in which their daughter participated. It was awesome!

Bob got home from his trip and we were very happy to see him again. Furthermore, his wife Masha also came back home from a 3-week working trip at the university of Bristol. We were very pleased to meet her too and had a very good time altogether. They even lend us their car so we could visit the Griffith Observatory in L.A. Time for another stunning sunset!