I’ve taken a month to reflect on this, but now think that the biggest disappointment of the whole trip is not being able to get into the USA. The reason, although still not confirmed to me, is that I rode through Iran in 2017.
The US State Department, via its Consulate in Lima, Peru, wasted 50 days of my life whilst I was sat in a hotel bedroom, going steadily more insane by the day. In the end I decided that I could not wait any longer, and left. To the date of this post, it has been 85 days since I was interviewed there, but I still have no answer.
My interview was in fact a shouting match with a disinterested official behind a bullet proof screen. It was followed by the receipt of a further round of questions covering my life, work, travel and personal history for the last 15 years. I have nothing to hide and was happy to answer the questions immediately. Then the wait started.
I have been using the visa waiver system since I first went to the USA in 1986. I have visited almost 40 times since. However, for the first time ever, I was deemed “not authorised for travel”.
I wrote every week to the Consulate. I tried to be respectful and humble. I tried to be pathetic and desperate. I tried to be slightly grumpy and impatient. I even tried humour. But every time I just received a stock reply. “The process cannot be expedited”. “We advise applicants to apply well in advance”. When their timescale moved from “can take up to 60 days”, to “can take several months”, I quit.
No-one showed me the slightest personal consideration. The fact that I had visited the USA close to 40 times in my lifetime seems not to have been a consideration. I explained that I had visited for business and pleasure, and that my company, in its better years, bought a million dollars worth of US goods every year. I pleaded that I had been nothing but a friend of America all my adult life. I love America.
The Iran leg of my journey was a fabulous experience. One that I will never forget, or regret. A condition of my visa was that I had to be accompanied by an official guide at all times. He took me to a number of fascinating cultural sites, whilst traversing the country from north to south in just 7 days, and deposited me at my exit port as arranged.
I have every respect for any country’s right to patrol its border as it wishes, but I struggle to see why it is taking so long to make a decision about me. I struggle to see why the USA should have the slightest concern about me.
I’m still counting the days …..
So, I have flown my bike over USA into Canada, and feel very welcome here.
“Down with USA”, as the posters state in Tehran.