Chapter 1.  Rendevous in Texas

Bert & Shari Frenz, 2004 All rights reserved.

Day 1 - January 14, 2004 - Pharr, TX

(Shari) I see the doorkeeper shake his head continually left and right. This is not a good sign. We, along with Dan and Dorothy, our Tailgunners for this trip, and Judy are at the Mexico/USA border applying for our paperwork. We anticipated a problem with Judy's vehicle and believe it or not, the paperwork for our RV, so we check in two days ahead of schedule to get any problems resolved. Ours turns out to be a non-problem but Judy's is another story. She went on the West Coast birding caravan last year and for whatever reason, crossed the border on a Saturday when no one was around to take her hologram off her windshield. To compound matters, she traded her vehicle in for a new one and the Mexican computer (why don't they not work when YOU want them to not work) has tied her passport number to her old vehicle and thinks she never took it out of Mexico. READ THAT as sold it in Mexico. She knew she had done it wrong and even had the California Motor Vehicle department give her a letter saying yes indeedy she traded it in the United States and she had a letter from the Mexican Consulate in Sacramento stating something (it was written in Spanish) we interpreted as permission to bring another vehicle into Mexico. But ... this doorkeeper has blocked us. In no way, shape or form is he going to budge. He must be feeling very important because he keeps shaking his head, not even looking at the paperwork Judy presents to him. Dan tries to talk to him. Judy tries, Bert tries and even I get in the fray and start my "poor me, can't you help us" act. Other customers who know better Spanish try to help. Other clerks who know English try to help. Seems our doorkeeper is the highest-ranking employee here right now. When I ask about his "El Jefe" (boss) he says he is not here and does not know when he will get here. After 90 minutes of explaining, cajoling, begging and almost crying we walk back to our cars defeated. BUT I AM NOT GOING TO GIVE UP. As soon as we get back to camp, I call the office and they remember there is an affidavit in my packet that would give Judy the right to give someone else permission to bring in her car. We just have to go it notarized. Okay, that is a plan. Judy decides to try another border crossing. At 3 PM she is not at our orientation meeting and all of us give her a less than 25% chance of being successful. At 4 PM, in she strolls, but I cannot read her body language to determine if she has her sticker. I cannot contain myself and interrupt the meeting to ask her. SHE HAS GOTTEN HER STICKER. Hallelujah, AND she did not even have to pay a fine or bribe. Seems it was not even all that hard to do. So goes the first day on a 65-day caravan tour to Mexico, Belize and Guatemala. Stay tuned for more exciting times. We have a wonderful group and have had two impromptu happy hours in two days. It is going to be a terrific trip. Glad you can travel with us, even if it is vicariously.

(Bert) The group dynamics takes shape as this year's travelers introduce themselves, tells a bit of personal history and their expectations for our forthcoming trip. From married for 54 years after a two-month courtship to married less than two years after a 12-year friendship we certainly vary in age and marital association. From Toronto to California, Arkansas to Michigan our formative years were spent throughout North America. Computers tie three of us together, science teaching pairs two, airline entrepreneurs are unique, as is map-making and book editor. One interest that unites us all is love of travel. As we complete the circle of introductions I hear A-Z: Africa, Australia, Belize, China, Europe, Iraq, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Southeast Asia, and New Zealand. Don's favorite answer when local Illinois neighbors ask why he travels so much and so widely is, "Why not?"

Day 2 - January 15 - Pharr, TX

(Shari) Morning errands, afternoon meeting, last minute details. Our group is small and very very nice. I think we will be a great family. Our oldest can be grandparents to our youngest. As the years go by, I find myself getting closer and closer to the average age. I guess it could be worse. Bert runs most of the meeting this afternoon and does a terrific job as usual. He covers birding 101, 202 and 606 and all of us do pretty well on his "exercises."

(Bert) One by one we check off the items on our To-Do lists in our final preparations for departure. In the afternoon my talks are entitled Birding 101, Birding 202 and a taste of Birding 606. Our group's birding skills vary from almost non-existent to dedicated birder, so the presentations cover a little bit of everything. The exercise on trying to identify species from a few field notes is popular again. In Birding 606 we touch on the type of documentation often required to get a rare bird sighting accepted for publication in North American Birds quarterly journal. Our trip last year was particularly successful in that regard as we got about a dozen citations referenced in the Mexico and Belize sectional reports. The dynamics, interests and skills this year are different and more diverse, so I'm curious what the birding results will be. We set our departure time for 7 AM tomorrow morning, to reach the Mexican border by 8 AM.

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