The goal was to be back in the USA in time to celebrate Dave’s birthday and we made it. We set off super early to the border, having checked the waiting times, online, at each bridge going from Juarez to El Paso. We had a bit of a shock when, after passing through immigration to exit Mexico, we were informed that the correct office to cancel our bike permit was 30km away on the road to Chihuahua! We should have done it on our way to Juarez. So few overlanders come in this direction that it was impossible to find out the correct procedures, even after hours of research on the internet. So we lost our deposit and may risk not being able to ever bring a vehicle into Mexico again (well not in Dave’s name anyway). We decided to forget about it and focus on getting into the USA.
The internet said the wait was 15 minutes at the Zaragoza crossing and it was pretty accurate. There were hundreds of cars, but with 6 lanes open, we were soon at the front of the line. Almost everyone who crosses here is either a US or Mexican citizen so the immigration and customs officers were a little bemused to see us. They were very friendly and welcoming and walked us through the whole process. At the immigration centre, where we were taken to complete the paperwork, we jumped the queue, much to our embarrassment as about 20 Mexican people in front of us waited patiently. The whole thing took about 90 minutes.
We were so relieved to be allowed back in and to be able to relax after several days (or weeks depending on your perspective) in less safe places. Northern Mexico seems pretty developed compared to Central America but it does not prepare you for the level of development in the USA. There are just so many cars and shopping malls and restaurants and everything everywhere. It can feel a little overwhelming.
We were once again in the middle of a classic US road trip, riding through miles of emptiness.
Staying in old school, mom and pop motels.
And enjoying the crazy place names so now you know where to find him).
We spent 2 nights in Tucson, Arizona at an Airbnb. We celebrated Dave’s birthday with a cinema trip to see Star Wars: The Force Awakens, followed by a visit to the Pima Air and Space Museum. There were literally hundreds of planes. They all looked the same after a couple of hours (at least to me they did). Dave loved it though. He had his picture taken with a WW2 bomber.
And the Top Gun plane.
And a helicopter used in the Vietnam War, similar to that featured in Apocalypse Now.
The guide was ex military and there were a few ex military personnel on the tour with us. Although they spoke quite neutrally about the “kills” achieved by some planes and “successful missions”, I felt uncomfortable and I know Dave did too. US society seems so much more militarised than we are used to. I guess because they have been at war pretty much constantly since WW2 and they have troops risking their lives on a constant basis. We both felt it was appropriate to keep our mouths shut and only voice disquiet to each other.
There were also some motorbikes at the museum on special display courtesy of Vietnam Vets who I guess must have shipped them home. Urals made in Russia are still quite commonly seen in Vietnam and available for rental. That would be a crazy trip and easily doable from Hong Kong. I am not sure I fancy sitting in the sidecar though.
Arizona is a crazy desert place and we enjoyed Tucson. We will return here in a couple of weeks with the camping gear.
So we are now en route to Pasadena, L.A., to collect our camping stuff from Heather’s parents, who have been looking after it for us. We have spent a lot of time on Interstate Highway 10 in the last few days. It is not bad as far as motorways go. It is free (not like in Mexico) and the views across the desert really don’t seem to get boring.
We have seen many “snowbirds” in their RVs on the highway and have also had a few strike up conversation with us. I have every admiration for these retired folk who spend the winter in the warmer climes of the southern USA in their huge camper vans, some the size of coaches. Some are even permanently mobile, spending the year in different parts of the country. What a great way of life. It is quite common to see them towing a car, so they can use it to get around to the shops and sites, but we saw one today towing both a car and carrying a Harley. I can see this in our future (not with a Harley though, obviously. It would be a Triumph).
The weather at this time of the year is amazing. Just the right temperature for motorcycling and endless, clear blue skies. In the next couple of weeks we will spend some time camping in California and then head to the Grand Canyon via Las Vegas. We will probably go up to Monument Valley in Utah but it is a bit cold up there so we have to keep an eye on the weather as we do not want to be caught in snow. It is really great to be back in the USA. To have access to great food and supermarkets. To be able to communicate freely with people in English and to have so many great places to visit.