Final Days With Bridget Back in the USA
We'd only met Barry several days before this through several degrees of people, quickly it went something like this: A guy picked us up hitchhiking day two in Mexico and let us crash with him in his village, he introduced us to a guy named Luciano who lived there as well. On our loop back up Mexico we went to visit Luciano, bumping into his neighbor Kevin along the way. We partied with Kevin for some days, then he pointed us to this village south of San Felipe where he knew a couple who could put us up. Barry was this couple's neighbor.
So that's how we met Barry, who coincidentally, conveniently and amazingly was heading back to his house in Big Bear, California on this very day where we were originally going to hitchhike as a means of getting back to the states. This was much easier.
The three of us stopped in San Felipe first so he could donate some books to the school, get tacos and a pina coloada that Bridget and I spent the last of our pesos on.
By dark we were waiting in the long line of cars at the Mexicali border, peppered with beggars, enthusiastic windshield wipers and other types trying to make a buck or get a bite to eat. Couples talked from either side of the great fence, passing notes and sweet nothings.
Eventually it was our turn at the border, it didn't take long for the confusion to begin. For Barry and I there was no issue, we both had US passports. Bridget however, had her Australian passport and a visa that was coming into question. The guy didn't know how to handle it, so sent us on to a secondary check point.
We pulled into the extra check area and another border patrol guy, a more knowledgeable one, started assessing the situation. The catch was the wording on Bridget's visa. It said something like "90 days for up to two years, multiple reentry". We'd interpreted that as her having 90 days allowed in the US that could be spread over two years. Because of this, she'd spent about 80 days in the states, then we dipped down into Mexico to stop the clock, and now the reason we were returning to the states with less than a week before her flight, as to not go over the 90 days, more like 87 give or take.
This is not how that visa worked, according to border patrol. Apparently once Bridget entered the country the 90 day countdown began, leaving the country to Mexico or otherwise would not pause the countdown. She could still reenter, but it had to be within 90 days of when she initially entered. I guess the two years bit had to be from when she was issued the visa, but that was never clear and obviously the confusing part.
Anyhow, her 90 days in the US allowance had expired about a week or two into our Mexico trip, so they were not keen on letting her back in right away. We got sent to yet a third place, an office waiting room situation where we could maybe get something worked out. Barry showed how awesome he was by showing no issue in waiting on the other side of the border for us to get it all taken care of.
We waited our turn and got to talk the people in the office, showing them her scheduled plane ticket and explaining our confusion which seemed pretty reasonable. Bridget seemed nervous at first, but at last they granted some sort of $6 visa that would be good enough to let her stay in the US at least until her flight out.
Happy of course, and luckily with six bucks, we went to another window and paid the fee. We then ran on down the hall and out the door into America again, on my phone now trying to find Barry's location and meet up. There was some confusion, then I saw the fence and saw what side we were on. I'll be damned if we didn't run the wrong way, straight back into Mexico.
We went back the same way and managed to smile and laugh our way past the guards and everybody, then back out the correct way, really into America. We found Barry quickly and cruised through the middle of the night, up into the cold and all the way to his snowy cabin in Big Bear.
In the morning we enjoyed the peace of the forest for a while, but were soon riding down the mountain and into town. Barry dropped us off at a gas station, we were hitchhiking again, destination San Diego to see one of Bridget's friends who was living there.
We got a ride quickly from a woman, we drove for a mile until she realized she'd been short changed by the gas station. We flipped around and waited for her to deal with that, then got back to the road and she drove us out to the 215 where we'd have a better shot at another ride.
We waited on a ramp, not talking much. I could tell Bridget wasn't focused on getting a ride, something else was on her mind. She soon became emotional, upset even, there was something I should have been saying and wasn't apparently, but I couldn't be certain of what.
We left our spot on the on ramp and went into the parking lot of the adjacent McDonalds, soon she was crying. This wasn't for me, tears and being upset, this translated to being uncompassionate which did nothing to better the situation. She was upset, now I was getting over it. It certainly seemed like I was now tolerating her rather than enjoying her.
She'd said something along the lines of being able to handle herself. Now I was looking for exits, searching the road and my mind for the better option. Four months of travel, tied together, just a few days left and I was thinking bail. She cried to herself, taking some space away from me for the moment. Logic and forward thinking have no place in such an emotional mess, these things usually require retrospective looping analysis until it's so far beaten down that energy becomes depleted and finally a decision needs to be made. That's not my style, but seems to be the way.
I did neither, I just stood waiting. Either waiting for her to sweat it out, or for me to decide on a farewell and start walking or hitching towards a new adventure. Either way I was feeling like an asshole and knew I shouldn't be, I just wanted out at this point.
Eventually she dried up, we talked and made something like amends, back to the road we went. We got a ride, now in better spirits, we packed in with the three people who picked us up. They took us to Riverside, right downtown actually where there was apparently a big free food to do going on, except there wasn't. We hopped out right around there anyhow and started thinking what our next move would be, the sun was well on it's way to setting and San Diego seemed very unlikely.
I posted to the Riverside couchsurfing group hoping to hear from someone, then we started walking towards the freeway again. We stuck our thumbs out for a little while, my phone buzzed, I looked at it, we had a place to stay.
Amy picked us up shortly, a couchsurfing host in town who'd seen my post on the site, she was happy to put us up for the night. We relaxed at her place drinking tea and telling stories. We relaxed a little more in the morning, easing into the day with more tea, then Amy gave us a ride back to the freeway to carry on.
We got a ride quickly from a woman heading south, then got another ride about as quick from a friendly poker playing limo driver. He was heading close to Escondido, anyone in the beer world could guess what my next thought was.
We finally got moving again, walking back towards the freeway to continue on to Julie's house, Bridget's friend near San Diego. A guy flagged us down right outside the brewery asking where we were going, then offered us a ride. We waited for his friend to come pick the three of us up, they were on a business trip. They happened to be going towards the coast and could therefore drop us off right at the gate to Julie's fancy community in beautiful north San Diego county.
They ordered Indian food and her dad soon arrived home, it was an easy night of stories and smiles. I laid down to sleep while Julie played some music and sang like an angel to Bridget in the next room.
The next day there was fancy breakfast and smoothies, then we hopped in the car with Julie. She took us out to Coronado beach by the Hotel Del. After some playing in the sand she dropped Bridget and I off back in San Diego at Balboa Park. We did a fair bit of wandering, looked at some art, then into downtown for a couple pints of beer.
Julie dropped us off in Oceanside the next day where we met up with my brother. That night we headed to the pier for dinner with his girlfriend, he was at a sort of Marine ceremony/celebration called a paddle party. Back at the house, his girlfriend's house on base, their neighbors were brewing. I joined them, enjoying home brew and more beers once my brother came back. Nothing like brewing and good beers.
My brother drove us north the next day towards LA where we parted ways, then met up with my sister who was going to school in Hollywood. We walked around a bit with her and she took us out for lunch at Mel's diner. We went back to her dorm, we couldn't actually go inside, but we took my sister's car and parted ways with her.
We drove out towards Santa Monica and the airport. We parked and ran down to the waves, then back up into the town for one last beer and meal together. We couldn't help but get some ice cream cones next and head back to the beach for sunset.
I drove the short way to the airport, one last round of kisses and hugs and off she went, into the depths of the airport to fly on back over the ocean. We'd had a hell of an adventure together, four months of hitching across America west to east, down the east coast, across again through the south and then our adventures in Baja.
I hopped in the car, cranked the music and drove on out. I was on my own again, no plans, destinations or expectations. I'd loved Bridget and our adventure, now it was time to start the next chapter. It wouldn't take long for things to get a little wild.
March 26, 2012 to April 1, 2012