Saturday, January 17, 2009


Yeah, Thirty dollars! That's it... that's how much it costs to import a 27-year old mini into the US. Permanently import too, not one of these temporary transit imports, the type we paid a couple hundred dollars for in Turkmenistan! Nope, the American customs agent in Blaine, WA, who started off being rather serious, but quickly warmed up to the plight of the mini, studied some of my documents for a little while, generated another document, certifying the official import, and asked me to pay $30... with a credit card even! The process took about an hour. He did examine the car, and while he did open (and was then unable to close) the toolkit, I'm fairly positive he never even bothered looking at the VIN number. Honestly, I was almost a little disappointed (I was geared up for so much more of a battle...) almost! And pretty soon I was cruising down an American interstate towards Seattle, marveling at just how humongously bigger the 18-wheelers, that would routinely pass me, were bigger than the mini.

Disregard the 'Do Not Enter' signs, if you please - I didn't break any traffic laws for a change, I entered heading the right way. Did drive the wrong way down a one way street for a while back on the Canadian side of the border, but that's just because of how hard it is to find the Canadian customs agents, who are to stamp your car out of their country...

Side note: speaking of the customs officer starting off being awfully serious... two things:
1. Granola bars do count as food, so you're supposed to declare them as such on the customs form.
2. When they ask you 'Have you ever been arrested, questioned in regards to a crime, or finger-printed?', you are supposed to say No, sir! When you actually say, 'Well, I think, I've been finger-printed,' they don't actually care about the fact that Japan finger-prints all foreigners coming into the country, they only care about being finger-printed in relation to a criminal investigation. And then you have to explain all this... Now back to your scheduled programming...

A month off the roads, the mini was clearly feeling rather refreshed because we made the drive to Seattle without an incident (I still felt better having the toolkit with me, of course, even if it was a pain on the ass on the bus in Vancouver!). The speedometer is in kilometers only (and is about 10% off), so I wasn't sure exactly how fast I was going down the interstate, but I'm pretty sure I was in no danger whatsoever of breaking the speed limit. I did pass three people on the way down though - that was a little strange. And later that evening, I delivered the car into the official care of Theo, Tina, and Cyrus. Apologizing to Cyrus along the way that I was unable to bring the Panda muffler with me...

The mini enters the US! Near Theo's house the evening of January 9th.

Saturday, I ignored the proximity of the car, but Sunday it was time to do the obligatory circuit around Seattle and pose the mini in front of the landmarks:

Well, first we did have to pump up the tires... with the Mongolian foot pump I had snuck across the Pacific in the car. Theo pumping away here surrounded by his car (the Subaru in the back), and his Mongolian ride from the summer.

And then on to nearby Microsoft. Lott, Cyrus, Logan, and I have all quit and gone to travel in silly places like India and Mongolia, but we did all earn money there to afford all this insanity!

Off to visit Adrenaline Watersports, one of our charitable sponsors. Tina was so excited to see the car here, she was learning to walk on air!

Mike (the proprietor of Adrenaline) was pleased to see the car as well.

On to the west-side, across the 520 bridge, fitting in with the flow traffic reasonably competently. Husky stadium in the backgrond.

Seattle's Space Needle towering over the mini and me.

We like the Needle, let there be two pictures.

Pike Place market, where we were minor celebrities again with random passerbies photographing the mini. Including a girl I had met on one of our Vancouver hostel's pub crawls a few days ago. Peggy's French, so she was excited to see a French license plate.

Showgirls is a Seattle institution too, right?

And this was it for the flight (and plight) of the mini. From Paris to London to Mongolia to Japan and now to Seattle. Here, she will remain, rest, and, hopefully, get an entirely new suspension. Driving around on the roads of Washington state, you quickly start to notice that it really does drive like a tractor by now, after all the suspension 'modifications' we had done along the way. And American roads aren't nearly as smooth as our proper suspensions make us think.

Last order of business was to go to the DMV Monday morning and get real Washington state license plates for the mini (not quite sure how I'm going to attach them to the car yet, but I'll wait on that for a while and keep the French plates anyway). The lady here, who of course hadn't the vaguest idea what the hell a Rover mini was, wanted to see a lot more of my documents than the customs ever did, and she kept both my French registration (that I had to fight for so valiantly back in Paris) and the importation documents I got from Blaine. And she charged me $90... but at least the car is much too old to require any emission testing! Wonder if it would pass?

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