Number of tie wraps: 49 (holding steady)
Countdown: 7067 miles down, 1518 to go
So far, all of our border crossings have been filled with angst, and today’s lived up to all expectations. We arrived at the border crossing by Grebneva, Latvia about 10:30, had cleared the Russian side by around noon, and thought we would surely be in Daugavpils by mid-afternoon to enjoy the sights. But the border gods had other ideas in mind.
First, one of the Latvian border guards pointed out that John had only a copy of his registration for the 1928 Roadster, and that copy wasn’t sufficient proof of ownership. The fact that John had used the copy to bring the Roadster in and out of Japan, China, and Russia twice didn’t seem to sway the guard’s opinion. While we were mulling what to do about this turn of events, the same border guard came back out and said that Leo’s Envoy also couldn’t enter Latvia (or anywhere in the European Union, for that matter) because it doesn’t have a front license plate. He was unpersuaded by the fact that the state of Florida doesn’t issue front license plates, so there is no way to legally obtain one. However, he said that we could bring Leo’s car across the border on a truck. Presumably, we would then be out of his hair and on our own to deal with no front license plate.
The border guard also suggested that we return to St. Petersburg to obtain convincing documentation. In addition to setting our itinerary back several days, the main problem with this approach was that it wasn’t entirely clear what documentation the customs folks wanted. John asked if a U.S. embassy or consulate could just fax the documentation and the guard said he would check and come back. He disappeared into another building and when he returned, the verdict was that John and Luke could drive the Roadster across (for reasons still not entirely clear), but the Envoy had been denied entry and would have to start the whole process over.
We waved goodbye to John and Luke at about 2:30, and then Cathy, Natalia and I climbed into the Envoy with Leo and drove about 200 yards back to the Russian border. After a bit of negotiation, we were able to turn around without reentering Russia and we drove back to the Latvian Customs line to wait for another turn. While we were waiting, Natalia had a brief conversation with the Latvian border guard who had denied our initial crossing, and he indicated that they had found a “solution.” We pulled back into the customs area about 4:45 and 15 minutes later, we were on our way. We still don’t know what the “solution” was, but we’ll take it!
After getting across the border, we met up with John and Luke and had a nice drive through the Latvian countryside, where we saw many houses and small farms with gardens and greenhouses.
We arrived at our hotel about 7:15. but we gained an hour, so it was only 6:15. We said our goodbyes to our Russian guide, Natalia, to whom we are eternally grateful, and our new guide, Karen Bradbury, greeted us with champagne and a new set of tie wraps for the Roadster! Karen will be with us until Paris.
Alas, this is our only day in Latvia. Tomorrow, we head to Vilnius, Lithuania, 173 km. We’ll be staying there Monday for some sightseeing and then on to Kaunus.