I wish I could say that the last few days of our whirlwind USA tour was calm and relaxing but it wasn’t. In fact, as the sands through the hourglass trickled down to a final few the more frantic we became.
The lengthy lists seemed to get longer as items slipped into mañanaland. At long last we had to return our faithful little Spark back to Hertz and that drew the curtain on the non-stop circle-jerk shop-a-thon. Some things just didn’t get done. My list was looking pretty good but I had a few optional things that frankly we just couldn’t afford to do but we gave it our best effort. Things like a kayak, readily available in the US, all but unattainable where we’ve been cruising. When you add the $300-plus dollars to ship it and who knows how much duty, well let’s just say no-can-do, and leave it at that. We’ll keep looking locally.
Then came the challenge of packing all this stuff into four large suitcases, plus four carry-ons. Yes, you read that right, American Airlines allows each passenger two 50 lb checked bags plus an overhead and an under-seat for free! After us they just might rescind that offer.
Marce quickly kicked me out of the packing room as apparently I’m an undisciplined packer. I will say that a solid week of packing, unpacking, and then repacking is a little OCD for me.
At the airport all went smoothly until Mr. Friendly Check-In Agent suddenly grew squinty eyed, looked up and drilled us with his best Joe Friday stare and said, “You have a one way ticket to El Salvador. Why?” Marce reached into our official file folder and produced a last-minute addition to our papers. Bill at our marina had suggested to ask Hotel Bahia Del Sol for a letter in English stating that we have a boat moored and waiting for us and that we would be leaving by sea. Whew! Feeling less secure and under greater scrutiny we entered the moment of truth, suitcase weigh-in. But when the bags were gently set down on the scales at check-in each one weighed exactly 50 lbs! Any kind of blogger would have snapped a photo of the guy’s face when he shook his head marveling at M’s accurate weigh-in. However, discretion being the better part of valor, I demurred.
As the Airbus 319 accelerated and we were forced back into the full upright-positioned seats, I began to think about our tornado tour of the eastern seaboard and it seemed to come down to a couple dozen unconnected vignettes with the only thing in common being leopard prints. Yeah, you know, leopard prints. leopard hair things, leopard scarves, leopard tops, leopard belts, leopard shoulder bags, hand bags, gloves, leopard bathing suits, shorts, capris, clamdiggers, pants, socks, footwear of all description. Did something happen while we were gone, America? I saw one woman, admittedly in Miami where women apparently strongly identify with large cats, who wore more than five dissimilar leopard prints… simultaneously. Truly an amazing country.
I may have dozed once or twice but I do remember seeing the little plane on the screen right in front of my face, crossing right over Havana. That’s unfinished business but first we have to negotiate Immigration and our old friends Customs with well over 200 pounds of boat parts and food items compressed into every bag we have. Actually we don’t own any suitcases, all of these are borrowed.
The first clue that we were in fact in El Salvador was an announcement that we would be deplaning via roll up metal stairs due to the jetway being broken. Now we have to lug four incredibly heavy bags through the plane, down the stairs and back up two floors to immigration, which was easy to find because of the line that snaked back and forth Disney-style with only two agents at the head carefully looking over everyone’s documents.
Now It was their turn to ask about the one way to El Salvador. M was ready with our get out of jail free letter. However it was in English causing many knitted brows at the immigration desk. I like to think they’ll remember us.
Next stop was Customs. This one we really sweated. I mean what could go wrong with a six foot high stack of suitcases teetering on a tiny $3 luggage cart filled with our whirlwind Xmas largesse:
12 Racor 2010sm fuel filters
11 assorted beefy screw-drivers and racheting wrenches
10 vacuum bricks of Bustelo coffee
9 kilos of various favorite Trader Joe’s products
8 lbs of vital wheat gluten
7 nut drivers
6 cabinet latches
5 LED flashlights
4 three-packs of reading glasses
3 lbs of Vermont maple syrup
2 rigging knives
2 raw water Speedseals shipped via the Royal Post from England
2 Racor 500fg2 turbine diesel fuel filters with vacuum gauges
1 handheld digital depth sounder
1 yogurt maker
1 microwave popcorn maker
1 veggie spiral cutter
1 precious jar of homemade blueberry jam from the kitchen of Nancy Strife
1 Yamaha outboard propellor and
1 Pioneer double din touchscreen, Pandora-ready, bluetooth, iPod accommodating, DVD playing panel mounting receiver (free with credit card points)
This is a partial list.
As we approached the Customs agent M pulled out a Ziploc bag stuffed with receipts that only an IRS agent would want to go through. The Ziploc was a good tip from our friend Walter on Flying Cloud who does this a lot. Really, we felt it could go either way because while we were under the personal limit for declaring items, we did have some unusual things we thought could be confiscated if someone were being picky. It went smoothly until the agent looked up from our declaration forms and said, “Push that button.” Huh? “Push that button” and he motioned toward a large industrial looking yellow button near the floor. Marce pushed it and a green light blinked on. I took that as our invitation to take a hasty leave out into a wave of heat and humanity holding signs and jumping up and down. Hustlers of all manner and description descended upon us. Lottery tickets, a little bag of cashews, a taxi amigo? It was all so disorientating, but while I guarded the bags, Marce came up with a cab and a hotel, so it was off to the Hotel Villa Serena in San Salvador.
So as I was saying, I have over 200 pounds of boat projects to do but the first order of business is our 10:00 am audience with El Salvador’s very own French Embassy where we’ll attempt to score an extended stay visa for French Polynesia. We’re hoping that our two inch thick stack of official papers will be enough.