Visa Renewal

Mexico offers 180 days in their country to US citizens.  Our 180 days ended at an inopportune time, right in the middle of Pacific Mexico.  Realizing this, we knew that we needed to drive to Tucson since we were so close (7 hours) and spend a day in the U.S. then back to Mexico which would renew our visas…or so we thought.  So with the assistance of our friend Dianna, who has a pick up, we went to Guaymas and rented a car.  We left on the morning of October 8, and drove toward the Mexican border. We were a little nervous as this portion of northern Mexico has seen it’s fair share of drug trafficking and Narco wars.  However, it was a relatively uneventful trip to the border.  Lots of mountains, cactus and road construction. We arrived at the border in Nogales to find out that the wait would be an hour in the multiple lines of cars.  True to form, the Mexican people know how to capitalize on people waiting, we were bombarded with folks walking through the lines of cars selling everything from burritos to huge velvet paintings.  Just when we thought that we had seen it all, we were passed by a guy carrying a tall (6 ft) coat rack for sale!  Wow!  While we were marveling at this, we heard some commotion and yelling coming from the car next to us.  The guy got out running at another car.  Well, as we had been reading all of the info about the Narco gangs, this was a little unsettling. Do we duck??  He then began to kick the other car and we realized that it was just a case of road rage, apparently the other car had bumped him while inching toward the border crossing.  OK….guess you can see this in the U.S. too!  After an hour, we were at the crossing.  We asked the agent (U.S.) how we could check out of Mexico and into the U.S.  She didn’t know??!!  As we were blocking traffic, we continued on.  We were in Arizona and headed to Tucson, but no passport stamp or piece of paper.  

We enjoyed a couple of nights and one day in Tucson.  Of course we took advantage of every store that is not available to us in San Carlos, including Costco.  We filled the trunk and back seat.  We ate cheeseburgers and steaks instead of tacos and burritos!  BUT, one thing that we haven’t been missing is the exorbitant U.S. prices! One meal in the U.S. costs the equivalent of 3 in Mexico!

We picked up our friend, Bob (Dianna’s husband) who had flown into Tucson from a visit with his Mom in California.  Squishing all of our purchases, we made a spot for Bob and began our journey back across the border.  All went well as we headed into the Arizona portion of Nogales.  We crossed the border….not even a stop!  Shoot….how do we get our visas renewed?  We stopped and went into the building next to the border crossing and noticed a small sign “Immigracion”.  This must be it!  We walked in and asked the security guard.  He took us to a desk.  He did speak a little English and we got our point across.  Wait here.  OK, so we waited and waited for 25 minutes.  Is anyone coming?  Finally an “Immigracion Oficial” came and speaking no English, waited for the security guard to explain what we wanted.  She got out the forms and we were congratulating ourselves on completing our mission when she looked at our passports and visas.  “Why you no check out”  She does speak English!  So we began to explain that we asked and could not figure out how this would have been accomplished.  Using the security guard, she told us that since we had not checked out she could not extend our visas.  We asked how this would have been done.  Apparently there is a nondescript “Immigracion Oficina” at kilometer 21 BEFORE the border.  Who knew?!  So she began the process of checking us OUT of Mexico, but could not check us in and give us the visa.  How do we do this?  This whole process was made much longer and more difficult due to the fact that neither of them spoke much English and we spoke very little Spanish.  We did finally figure out that the kilometer 21 office could check us in and give us the visas.  So back into the car we went and through the crazy streets of Nogales counting off the kilometers to 21.  There was a large parking lot on the side of the highway.  A tiny sign said “Immigracion”.  How do you see this while driving?  OK, we are here.  We walk up to the door and noticed the line of U.S. citizens waiting.  So we joined the line, outside.  Here is the process:  wait in line, receive form to fill out, go to the back of the line and fill out the form, wait in line, go to the official and give her our passports.  She tells us that we need to pay 533 pesos each (aprox. $30) and could do this at the bank.  The bank?  So the bank is in a small trailer behind the Immigracion building.  Stood in line at the “bank”, paid our money, waited for a receipt and went back to Immigracion to stand in line, yet again!  Finally we were done and had our 180 day visas!  Back we went to San Carlos as we had been watching the weather and knew that a hurricane was likely within the next few days.

Acres and acres of cactus along the highway

Our friends the “Marinas”, keeping us safe

One of many highway vendors

The “Wall”

Border Crossing

Arriving in Arizona 



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