Our departure from Mexico is with an escort. We had seen little police presence up till this point, just the occasional patrol vehicle and a couple of checkpoints closer to the USA border, but as we by pass Nuevo Laredo to cross the border, we find we are travelling with a three vehicle convoy of military vehicles.
We have been reminded from time to time by friends during our stay in Mexico of the dangers that exist and we need to be careful. In our case, we have sailed through without incident, which could make us, and those who follow us, overconfident but we are reminded of the risk by the police shootout with drug cartel members while we were in Mexico that left over 40 people dead and the two robberies on someone working close to where we stayed in Mexico City that serious crime does exist, so we should be alert but not fearful.
We are approaching the border and we can see the USA over the Rio Grande river with the building’s American flag. We make our way towards the border, which seems to have a number of crossing points and it is not clear which one we need to follow. We find ourselves in the VIP lane, but sadly have to be diverted out through the concrete barriers as our VIP status, in our minds, is not recognised here.
Entry into the USA is easier than we had thought. After stopping at a kiosk, we are told to park past the customs inspection area to do our bike paperwork. As we ride through, past drug detection dog checks and vehicles being pulled over, we realise that we could just keep on riding and ignore paperwork process completely. Process seems to be built around US and Mexican citizens crossing regularly, which is paperwork free. Turns out we do not need a temporary import permit or the EPA document we had acquired as this only applies if we are staying in the USA, not just visiting.
We ride out of the customs and immigration area, we are in the USA after more than 11 months of travel, we have good roads ahead, we let out a huge shout, we have made it here! Couple of sets of traffic lights and we are on I35 North. Smooth tar and multiple lanes greet us as we ride north. The first thing that strikes me as we pass truck after truck and see Union Pacific locomotives pulling double stacked container trains, is a that this transport is a measure of level of business activity in the USA. As we got closer to the Mexican border, we saw increased business traffic, but here in the USA we can see a much higher level of economic development that is then reflected in people’s living standards and employment opportunities.
Onward we travel, some roads under our wheels, sun shining, as usual we are in good spirits we ride further into Texas. We are surprised at the amount of green that surrounds our journey until we remember that last month, Texas had the wettest May on record. Again we see a different landscape to the one we expected.
Our first night in Texas is outside San Antonio. We are staying at a Hilton near Seaworld in the middle of Texas – I thought Seaworlds were all by the sea. The hotel is filled with families and we get our first exposure to making s’mores. These are tasty nighttime campfire snacks made with toasted marshmallows, chocolate and biscuits or crackers as they are referred to here. The hotel sells kits with skewers to make your own. Casey at reception kindly gives us a pack for free to experiment with.
A number of fire pits surrounded by seats are setup at the hotel so we approach a family for assistance. A six year old, face covered in chocolate and marshmallow, quickly explains the process and we are away. They are tasty and we look forward to more s’mores, maybe on the 4th of July?
While trying to resolve Anne’s bike problem, Anne had found a BMW dealership in Austin which was willing to investigate her bike’s situation. Drew has been so helpful in following up with BMW in both the USA and Berlin, Germany. With the current BMW Motorrad recall for the larger bikes, there were just no free slots available in Austin until the end of June, which would not work for our schedule. We wanted to visit Drew to say thanks for all the help he has given us so a quick side trip to Austin was on the cards. If you are in the Austin area and need some servicing on you BMW or Triumph, do contact Drew Cooper at Lone Star BMW/ Triumph or BMW Motorcycles of Austin as they are being rebadged.
We replace my Draggin Jeans with a new pair, the old pair had reached the end of their life, five continents, many 10’s of thousands of kilometres and two accidents. I think I have my money’s worth out of these.
On our way to Houston, we stop at La Grange, a small town that has a great feel: we smell the cut hay, hear the birds singing as we walk from our hotel past farm machinery for sale and even a Walmart with its own pedestrian crossing that goes nowhere. Everyone else is driving, but we don’t want to ride with all the motorcycle gear to dinner, so we negotiate long grass and gravel, probably to strange looks from locals, I do not think anybody walks here. It is a very pleasant town and a real change for us from the big cities – we enjoyed our time there.
Having dodged a few storms, we make it into Houston where we will spend a couple of days.