After paying for the insurance, we found a border crossing and drove into Juarez. Getting through Juarez was surprisingly easy, and before long we were on the highway. We had to stop somewhere around fifty miles into the country to go through customs. It’s kind of funny that they don’t have it on the border, but I guess it’s near the border.
Going through customs was an experience. I’m glad we had Dan with us, since he had been through it before and knew what to do. Everything was in Spanish. There were no signs in English. The only thing in English was one paper that we had to fill out. I think U.S. customs is a little bit different. I seem to remember seeing signs with four or five languages written on them. We had to get visas and a temporary import permit for the car. We had to pay for the temporary import permit there, but you have to go to a bank within a couple days and pay for the visas. Weird. Once we got the paperwork done we had to drive through a checkpoint. The guard only spoke Spanish with us, and he was hard to understand because he had a pretty thick accent. I think he was messing with us. He asked us if we spoke Spanish, and then if we spoke Japanese or French. I wish he would have asked if we spoke Russian or Chinese. Dan and I could have had some fun with him. It’s probably better that he didn’t.
After the two-hour or so delay going through customs we were back on the highway. It was nice; much nicer than I expected Mexican roads to be. It was about like an interstate here in the U.S. We were driving on what they called the Ruta de Paizanos. Paizanos are Mexicans who Emigrated to the U.S., and are coming back to visit. There was a brochure for them at customs with a forward from Vicente Fox and everything. I think they are an important part of the Mexican economy, but I’m not an economist.
Before getting to Chihuahua, we stopped at a road-side burrito and Quesadilla stand. Man that was some good Mexican food.
We had hoped to get to Cuauhtémoc by six p.m., because Dan says the police stop patrolling the highways at six, and we didn’t want to be targets for bandits. We didn’t even reach Chihuahua by six, but I think it was okay. We were on toll roads, and before we left Luis at Fiesta en Jalisco (the Mexican restaurant in Missoula) told me that it’s not like it used to be. It is much safer to drive in Mexico nowadays.
Driving through Chihuahua was as surprisingly easy, and even easier than driving through Juarez. We were on the highway the whole time. It wasn’t like that the last two years Dan had come down. There were all kinds of businesses there that you see in the U.S. like Home Depot.
I forget what time we got into Cuauhtémoc that evening. I think it was around eleven, but we went to the Hotel San Francisco. We got a room with three double beds and three breakfasts for around $20 a night. It was another long, but good day. We decided to call Mike the Missionary in the morning, and just crash for the evening.