Paperwork - success at last!

It was time to leave the lovely relaxing refuge of Garry & Ivonne's delightful casa in suburban Mexico City to make my way to Guadalajara, 500 or so km away, and the imminent US Embassy appointment to apply for a visa.  Aussie don't normally need a visa for the US unless staying for more than the 90 days automatically granted under the Visa Waiver Program, but I wanted to stay in North America for the whole of the summer, so needed a 6 month visa, hence the appointment visit to the Embassy.

Packed at last, fond farewells said to Rosa, I navigated my way along part of the route that I'd been taken previously by Lloyd, the household's son, when he took me visiting to the Pyramids.  [There's a story there, I'm sure, when I get time to write it].  Surprisingly, I had remembered most of the roads, without knowing that I would be travelling that way in a few days time, so made good my escape from DF and headed off west towards Guadalajara.

It was relatively good riding weather, and I made good time, swinging along looking at all the countryside along the way, sucking on the water bite valve quite often as it was getting hotter as the day progressed.  At one stage, I felt a burst of water on my left leg, so picked up the bite valve and moved it away, thinking I'd squashed it. Pulled up at the next toll booth (there are squillions of them!) and the guy immediately looked, then pointed, down beside the bike.  There was bright green fluid gushing everywhere.  Arghhhhh!  Coolant, from the radiator.

To cut a long story short, I eventually wound up in a small town some 20km away, and was duly escorted by a chap on a little bike to the one and only moto mechanic, in the main street.  With a mix of spanglish and hand gestures, I got across what was wrong. 

He knelt down, looked through the fins and said "Ah, si", nodding vigorously.

I looked.  "Ah, si, si"  I exclaimed.

The rubber cap which resides on the coolant overflow bottle was no longer there!  At first, a feeling of relief, followed immediately by an anguished thought:  "Where the hell am I going to get another BMW cap out here in the middle of nowhere?"

So we stripped the luggage off the bike, and quickly removed the panel.  There it was, the cap was still resting inside the panel!  Bewdy!!  We filled the radiator and overflow bottle, put everything back where it generally lives, payment was vehemently declined, koalas were distributed to the two workers, and I was away again.  Phew!  Maybe I'd still make the appointment after all. 

When the coolant problem first surfaced, my immediate thoughts were of not being able to make it into Gualajara to the embassy interview, meaning I'd have to wait another couple of weeks to get another appointment. How could I get there?  What would I do with the bike in the meantime?  Was there a bus? It's awful, worrying about two things at the same time, believe me.  But I rolled into Guadalajara in the evening, and located a decent hotel, not all that far from the Embassy.

An 8.45am appointment, get there by 8.30am.  Queues stretching back hundreds of metres along the footpath.  Arghhhh!  But I mastered the requirement of no bags inside the embassy by lodging my backpack for safekeeping at a cafe over the road, got processed into the area, then sat , and sat, and sat a bit longer. Eventually, my number lit up and it started:  full fingerprint set, a couple of photos, lots of curiosity questions from the officers each side of the one processing me, asking about the trip, and "wasn't I scared?" etc etc.  Then that part was finished.  Take a green seat, and wait, and wait, and wait a bit more.  It took a while but I finally figured out how I'd know when my number was called up for the interview.

Got one of the seemingly more efficient (read: faster) guys.  Answered his questions, he looking more and more confused as time went on. 

Eventually he said "I've never had one of these before,  Just wait there a minute."

"Oh hell", I thought.  "What now?  Did he mean he'd never seen an Australian Emergency Passport, or did he mean he'd never had an old Aussie woman travelling the world by motorcycle before?"

I waited.

Back he came, having conferred with someone who apparently knew what was what.  Ticked this, jotted that, stapled things together, then gave me the best ever birthday present: "Keep this slip, and come back at 3pm, show it, and pick up your visa."

I bounced outta there on a huge high!! What a wonderful birthday it was!  WooHoo!  Everything I'd planned for the summer in North America, which I'd had to cancel or discard due to all the delays along the way north, suddenly came back into play.  I could still do it, but it would mean rush, rush all the way!  Onto the bike parked outside, meandered (quickly!) through the city towards the highway north.  Got vigorously tooted in town by a pickup which went slowly past, the driver waving madly and giving the thumbs up.  I can only assume he was an Aussie, and had seen the flag on the pannier.

I was heading north, back to the US.  It was about 1700km to the border at Nogales, where I'd entered Mexico way back in early November. I had some miles to cover, quickly, so did about 500km after leaving Guadalajara about 4pm, to Mazatlan, where I splurged and treated myself to a birthday night at the Holiday Inn, where I'd stayed on the way south. Along the way, I survived after hitting a swarm of bees.

Up early, and on the road by 6am. This day turned into probably the hottest of the whole trip! It was dreadfully hot, and getting hotter.  Perspiration was streaming off me; my clothes were all saturated; the temperature light on the bike blossomed bright red whenever I had to stop for a few seconds at the toll booths (lots!) but went out once I got moving again;  it was getting even hotter!  I rested in shade for some time whenever I refuelled the bike, and filled my water carriers at each stop. I made lots of stops, to rest and revive a little, usually stopping every 100-150km. Hence it was a loooong day's ride. And I didn't take a lot of interest in the surroundings, either!

A couple of hours before the border, coming on to dusk, I got slammed again by another swarm of bees. They were loudly smacking all over the bike, the windscreen, hand guards, mirrors, my visor, jacket, pants, everywhere.  Even had a couple get inside my visor!!  One little mongrel managed to get stuck under the righthand cuff of my jacket, and vented his displeasure by stinging me severely. I reacted badly, apparently now allergic to bees, whereas I'd been stung repeatedly as a child with no after effects.  My lower arm, wrist and hand swelled almost immediately, painfully, such that I couldn't even get my glove back on when leaving the border crossing.  It also made it difficult using the throttle, with a fat, swollen tight, almost uncoordinated hand.

As the evening approached, and darkness appeared on the horizon, it cooled slightly, thankfully, and it was quite pleasant riding through the night. Long queues going into the US border post.  Had a chat with a patrolling Border Guard, with his German Shepherd Dog, about travelling by bike.  He said he'd never consider doing something "so dangerous".  Oh well, to each his own, I suppose.

Finally, about 9.30pm, I crossed back into the States, with a bit of fiddling and paying for the visa.  My visa is for multiple entries over the 5 years duration, but on each entry, the Border Guard allocates how long one may stay.  No problems getting in for 6 months.  Headed into town, to the same motel I'd stayed in previously, as it had WiFi, and was reasonably priced.

I was back in the US.