Sunday, March 31, 2013
Here we are at our farewell seafood dinner last night at Arturo's in El Alamo. Great meal for a great price. I had to arm wrestle Juan for the bill. I will let him win when we are at a more expensive place next year!
We will not make it all the way to the border for two reasons. Samana Santa is over today so the roads will be busy and worse, the border crossing will be a madhouse as Mexican Americans return to the USA after the holiday. Also, for a lot of reasons, we have a policy of only crossing borders in the morning.
There is a large Pemex along the route between Monterrey and Laredo where there is a store and restaurant. That is where we will spend the night. Laredo, Texas tomorrow!
Thursday, March 28, 2013
Most of the noise is coming from the central area where they have a fire going and a live band. This is a nightly thing and we have been over there three nights. Lots of fun but tonight we are attempting to have a quiet night.
The weather is good. Cloudy but relatively warm. It is presently nine o'clock and is still 69F outside. We are now planning to leave here on Sunday.
Check Chris' Blog for a more Mexican point of view of the evening. Chris and Juan are sitting in their palapa next door watching the action and sipping a vodka while Norma and I are watching some taped episodes of Law and Order.
Wednesday, March 27, 2013
Tuesday, March 26, 2013
We are just relaxing here for a few days. It rained all night and into this morning but has stopped now. Chris and Juan have driven home for a few hours (they live 45 minutes away) to pick up some stuff and for Chris to download some work. He does editing and his work is emailed to him. We were talking about going out to a local restaurant after they get back later this afternoon.
My Banda Ancha expired last night and I tried to renew for a shorter time than the one month I usually renew for by giving Chris 200 pesos to apply to my account at an OXXO store, I then sent my text message but it tells me that selection is not valid. I am using my “gift” time which is used up very quickly at one peso per megabyte. I think I have about 800 pesos in that account. maybe I will get Chris or Juan to call Telcel for me later to see what my options are.
In the meantime, it is a lazy day. The park here is deserted for now but should start filling up as Semana Santa (Holy Week) starts Thursday and Mexicans flock to resorts and campgrounds. This usually means late night partying but one of the rules strictly enforced here it the 10:00 PM “Quiet Time” so we should be OK.
Ha! My Banda Ancha is working again. 1 GB for 7 days. 169 pesos. That should see us out of Mexico.
Photo blatantly stolen from Chris’ Blog:
Sunday, March 24, 2013
Here is part of a group of maybe a hundred horsemen on the road. These are real cowboys, no rhinestones here!
We had a little difficulty finding the RV park as the entrance is not at KM 196 like their webpage says but at KM 195 so we drove past the entrance before we even started looking for it. After a couple of kilometers we asked a cop who told us it two kilometers further up the road. Wrong directions! Three kilometers later we stopped at a Pemex and another customer sent us back in the right direction.
We pulled up to the gate and the guard, who was expecting us, sent us over to where Chris and Juan were parked and had saved a spot for us. We are staying for free as Chris and Juan had some complimentary guest passes they let us use but the rates here are very reasonable. You have to know a member to get in but the cost for overnight parking is only 65 pesos per person per night and includes access to the pools. We have low amperage power but no other hookups. This is fine because it is cool enough that we do not need A/C. I understand there is a dump station for us to use when we leave.
We will stay a few days and get ready for our return to the USA.
Another RV'er had problems crossing into Texas at Columbia Crossing on Friday so I am trying to get some details. It looks like they have changed where RV's enter AGAIN. They were forced to back up out of the lane they were in and go somewhere else. We cannot back up because of the dolly so we have to know in advance which lane or entry point we have to use. This will be the third change in five years that we know of. Sometimes we have to use the car lanes and other times, the commercial truck entrance. They never put up signs or lane markings and then they get angry when we guess the wrong one. I wrote a letter of complaint last year and got a nice reply thanking me for pointing out the problem. It evidently did not help.
Saturday, March 23, 2013
It is located on Mex 85 between Linares and Montemorelos, south of Monterrey. Google Maps says it is a three hour drive so we hope to be there around one or two.
After the weekend we will have to find a place to park for a day or two to get things ready to cross the border.
Friday, March 22, 2013
I hate it when these things happen!
Thursday, March 21, 2013
Wednesday, March 20, 2013
It turns out they are from France and bought the motorhome in Quebec. They speak only a tiny bit of Spanish and no English. The grandmother spoke a little of each but was only staying with them for two more weeks when she has to fly home to France. The rest are staying for six months.
I asked where they were headed and the grandmother answered, "They are going to Panama". Wow! I wonder if they have any clue as to what awaits them. I looked at the tires on their rig and they were certainly not new. My guess is they were just whatever was on it when they bought it. They may have a spare underneath the rig but no extra tires anywhere else. They had four bikes tied to the rear.
I think they are in for an eye opening experience! I hope that is all! People have to research before heading off into the unknown. That is what the Internet is for.
Laurie and Odel stopped their RVing lifestyle about a year ago, shortly after Odel had knee surgery. I suspected at the time that driving might become difficult for him. They then announced they had set up housekeeping in Sacramento, CA. for the foreseeable future.
They are now selling their rig! Here it is. It is located in Sacramento, CA. Details on their Blog. Take a look, it has had a lot of upgrades and might be a fit for you.
We contacted our friends Chris and Juan and will be meeting up with them on Saturday and Sunday at their membership RV park near Monterrey. They can get us a two day pass. It will be fun.
Lets see if Carlos Slim will let me send this.
Tuesday, March 19, 2013
The road started out really bad and got worse. There were potholes on the traveled portion of the road so I drove with the right wheels on the (mostly) paved shoulder and the left wheels between the worn tracks. Following traffic, of course, took this as an invitation to pass which they did regardless of oncoming traffic, creating three wide situations on the two lane road. This prevented me from taking any evasive action to miss the potholes on the shoulder so it was a very stressful drive.
The road surface got a little better as we approached the Sierra Madres but then we started going up... and up! Steep grades, narrow roads and heavy traffic do not make driving a 50 foot combination rig easy! On one of the worst inclines, my "Check Engine" light came on! I know what it will say when they read the computer, "Low Fuel Pressure". This happens every time I tackle a long steep grade in hot weather. I guess the fuel pump just cannot satisfy the V-10's demand for fuel. I will get it reset in the USA where many places do it for free. We finally started the downhill run to Rio Verde (spelled Rioverde by Garmin)
Last time through Rio Verde we stayed in a grocery store parking lot right in town. Problem was, this time we did not need groceries and the turnoff on 75D was just before we got to the city. We did not want to tackle the city traffic so we took the turn onto 75D thinking there should be a spot to park before too long. Well, there was not but 75D is such a beautiful road we decided to keep going. The speed limit was 100 KMH and I set the cruise control for 99. Before we knew it we were on 57 heading to Matehuala so we just kept going. We pulled into the RV park behind the Motel Las Palmas at about 5:30. A 7 1/2 hour, 475 KM day, long for us.
Starchoice is set up, we have eaten, so off to watch TV. I am exhausted!
Monday, March 18, 2013
Anyway! We left at 10:00 this morning and headed north, thinking we would park for the night is a small, closed restaurant near Tampico. We found the restaurant but they have fenced off the entrance, making it inaccessible. We continued on, looking for a suitable Pemex or other good spots but were out of luck. We arrived at the Pemex on the outskirts of Tampico where we had to make the u-turn to get onto the truck route but there was no room to park there. The next Pemex was not in a very nice neighborhood and it was right where trucks started gearing down for a detour, so that was out.
We got onto Mex 70 and found a nice quiet Pemex with a huge parking lot that actually has a Federali office off to the side.I walked over to tip the pump guys and found one of them speaks English! He asked where we were heading and I said, "Canada". He laughed and said it was much too cold there and we should stay in Mexico.
Friday, March 15, 2013
On the Emerald Coast. It is very relaxing here and we are still by ourselves. We got the motorhome washed. We thought of doing it ourselves but the water pressure is so low, the thin stream that comes out of the hose does not reach the top of the motorhome. We hired the caretakers to do it and they hooked the hose up to the larger pump that supplies the showers and that did the trick. Unfortunately for them, the pump burned out just as they were finishing.
The lack of Internet is annoying and is making me lose track of my Blogging friends. The world is going on but I have lost touch of it! Norma is into the figure skating finals so we are staying at least one more day, maybe two.
From here it will be a lot of driving without RV parks as we head towards the border. We drive up the coast to Tampico where there is a complicated set of u-turns to get onto the truck by-pass heading towards San Luis Potosi. There is an abandoned restaurant just before Tampico where we parked last time we were here. Perhaps it is still available. Tampico is not a great place for RV’s as they have a law against “large vehicles” in town and many RV’ers were getting tickets. The u-turns and by-pass route provided in the Church’s book avoids this problem. We have been through here before and had no problem. There is a huge Pemex complex on the bypass road at San Luis Potosi that has a Pizza Hut and a Colonel Sanders Chicken place. From SLP we turn north on Mex. 57 towards Saltillo.
The weather here on the Gulf Coast is not great. It is pretty steady overcast. It rained for a few hours last night and that woke me up. It stopped at about 4:00. This was the first rain we have had here on the Emerald coast and the humidity has not been bad, so all in all, we have little to complain about. We still have the place to ourselves. There are workers here every day and it looks like they are getting ready for a much better year. They refinished the pool and put new stairs on the water slide. There was a truck load of large rocks delivered and yesterday a small crew laid out rocks defining the parking spaces followed by two young men with paint brushes painting all the rocks white. The layout will not work as it does not leave enough room for big rigs to turn onto the road out. Oh well, they will find out after many of the rocks are run over. The Neptuno RV park next door is also being worked on with new roofs on the palapas, pool work and all the buildings getting a new coat of paint. It is nice to see an investment being made in RV parks, this has not been the case where we have traveled this winter.
There is a nice beach here and I will have to walk down the short path to check it out. Maybe even dip my toes into the water. Last time we were here the Gulf was warmer than the pool. I also want to go to one of the local restaurants for a feed of fried camerones, I have a craving! It is nice to just sit back and relax for a few days.
Wednesday, March 13, 2013
It took us about five hours to get to the Emerald Coast and the Trailer Park Alba. No real reason, we just drove slow and stopped at a few places looking for a painted bowl to replace LindaLee’s that their cat broke. No luck, we are out of the area where they do that kind of pottery but we will keep looking.
We stopped for gas and a pickup full of Federalis polled up. Two in the cab and five in the back, one standing behind a very large mounted machine gun which he never left. The other four in the back all had smaller machine guns and got out of the truck. They saw me and came over to chat. Very nice guys. One spoke perfect English and had gone to school in Seattle. They were amazed that we drove all the way down to Mexico every year. They wanted to know where we had been in Mexico. The only one who could shake hands was the boss, the others were holding onto their guns. They told us to have a good trip and I thanked them for keeping us safe and secure. Like I said, nice guys in a very dangerous job.
The last time we parked here the place was half full. This time we are the only customers! No one is here. The pool is open and there are workers painting the wall. All the electrical outlets are new but ungrounded! We found a spot where someone had driven a metal rid into the ground and fastened a wire to it leading to the outlet. It was grounded. Norma went and asked the workers if they would wash the rig and they said they would do it tomorrow morning. It is just coated with salt!
The bad news is, we have no Internet. No WIFI (which they advertise) and no Banda Ancha. We are going to the nearby town of Nautla tomorrow to take in laundry so I will send this from there but other than that, I am going to be silent for a couple of days.
Tuesday, March 12, 2013
The wind blew most of the day yesterday and of course, being close to the very salty Gulf, we are coated with salt and cannot easily see out of the windshield or side windows on the water side! Hopefully there will be a car wash along the way that has a parking area big enough for the motorhome.
It looks like a 210 KM drive today so that will be about 3 or 4 hours on the coastal roads. An easy day. Talk to you soon. Life is Good!
Monday, March 11, 2013
You order Cafe' Lecharo. You can order other coffee's, but what's the point? You are given a heavy, ribbed glass with a large shot of espresso in it.
He then raises the kettle up in the air as a thin stream of hot milk lands, perfectly centered, in your glass.
The finished product! Enjoy!!
This same ceremony has gone on dozens (hundreds) of times a day for decades! The cafe is full of happy customers, tourists and locals alike, happily clanging their glasses. Cost? I am not sure as we had a guacamole salad to share as well but the coffee was less than 40 pesos ($3) each, less than a Starbucks coffee at home.
Weather.com says it is currently blowing 31 mph out of the north but I think it is a little behind the times and is actually much more than that. Weather Underground has their "Blowing Sand" warning that I hate to see up again.
Weather Underground has just updated to 37 mph at 6:00 AM. The gusts are much more than that!
What's it doing up on the Texas side of the Gulf, Rae?
Sunday, March 10, 2013
We arrived back at the RV park to find three different groups starting parties, one with a Karaoke machine. Well, it being Mexico, the music went on all night. At sunrise they all went into their tents but both stereos got left on. They are still on but much louder. Mexico!
Friday, March 8, 2013
Today she showed up at noon as the watchman has been hired to do some maintenance work around the pool. Being here in the daylight gave me a chance to take her photo. I can highly recommend her. She does a great job.
Norma went over to some of the workers this morning and asked them if they would wash the motorhome on Sunday for some extra cash as it is covered with salt spray. No problem! She then tried to ask about the poor water pressure and if they could get enough pressure to do the job. They said not to worry. I hope they have a trick up their sleeve as the lawns are watered with sea water and that outlet has tons of pressure. Please don't wash the rig with sea water!
Thursday, March 7, 2013
There was an eight inch long scratch and a whole lot of white paint just above the front drivers side tire.
We had to stop at Mega on the way home for a few groceries so I bought some combination rubbing compound & scratch remover. When we got home there was still a half hour or so of light so I read the instructions, dampened a small cloth and started rubbing (back and forth, not circular). In just a minute or so, most of the white paint was gone! I applied more compound to a clean part of the cloth and rubbed some more. All the white paint was gone! There was a small dent left but hardly noticeable! I gave it three coats of car wax and it is as good as it is going to get, just about perfect!
On the way home we stopped in a nice riverside restaurant in Boco del Rio. Norma had breaded shrimp and a glass of vino blanco and I had Pescado Veracruzana and a dark Victoria beer. Both dishes were really good and Norma actually finished all but two of her camerones! My Veracruzana sauce was perfect. Mild tomato base sauce with olive oil, onions, capers, olives and bay leaf. Perfect! Most times when I ordered this dish away from Veracruz it has been spicy. Spicy is not the way it should taste. It should be mild and flavorful, just like it was tonight! It was a little more expensive than last night but the meal (at least mine) was a lot better. The tab was 390 pesos ($32) with tip.
Wednesday, March 6, 2013
Navy marines from their camp just up the beach. They were checking the water line for something. I think I know what.
The beach yesterday
A bird tries the air
And the beach
The dish held down with concrete buckets, rope and a water bottle. The mast that we need tor the dolly mount got lost during the Honda paint job. It would have solved the problem. There is one place left to look but it involves emptying the trunk.
We thought of heading into town but the best place to walk is along the waterfront and the wind would make that difficult. So, it is a TV day and Norma is busy cutting up veggies for "something".
Yesterday we asked Jose, who works here, if there was a nice restaurant in the nearby tiny pueblo of Anton Lizardo. He told us of the one he likes, La Perlita. I had a hankering for Gulf shrimp so we drove down there. It is a very rustic beachfront place and we were the only customers. I ordered the camerones mojo de ajo and Norma the quiche de camerones y jaibas (shrimp and crab quiche). Mine was a bit disappointing. The shrimp were few, small, unpeeled and the meat stuck to the shell. A lot of messy work for not much reward. I should have taken the owner's advice and ordered the coconut shrimp but it is generally not one of my favorite dishes. Thankfully there was lots of sliced, cooked garlic to mix up with the large scoop of rice that accompanied it. The camerones were 90 pesos ($7.50). Norma's 110 peso ($9) quiche on the other hand was delicious! Large and perfectly prepared. She could only eat half of it so I came to her rescue. All in all an enjoyable dinner added to by a chat with the English speaking owner or manager. We drove home in the dark, something we try to avoid but it was not far and we followed a bus which acted as a "Tope Detector" for us.
The wind is still blowing but nowhere near as bad. We have the slide out again. The forecast has been calling for a 50% chance of rain tonight but there is not a cloud in the sky. I just clicked back on Weather Underground and they have changed the forecast to a 10% chance with overnight winds from 5 to 30 KMH. We will decide later if we are bringing the slide in overnight.
Tuesday, March 5, 2013
We just put in the slide because the topper awning was flapping like a flag in a hurricane and the whole slide was groaning. I checked the weather for Veracruz and it says, "18 C and Blowing Sand"! That does not sound too good for the recent wax jobs on both the motorhome and car!
I just might get seasick in bed tonight!
We got on the road by 8:30 heading for Veracruz. Ms. Garmin wanted to take us through town but we knew of the bypass on the Libramento. Ms. Garmin protested loudly every time I ignored one of her instructions but eventually fell into line on the south side of the city. We found the El Rey RV Park and pulled in. There were no other rigs but there was a red pickup. A young man walked over to us and we discovered he spoke great English. He told us there had been only one RV in the park and he had just left so they were temporarily closing the park! He said the same owner had another facility two KM to the south that had a couple of RV parking spots.
He locked the gate behind us and lead us to the Coco Aventura just down the beach heading south. We followed him down the narrow winding road past cabins to the beach where there was room to park two large RV's. There is a water faucet to share and one 20 amp outlet (actually two but both on the same breaker). No sewer but we are only staying five days and had just dumped. There is, however, a pool and the beach! It will do. We are paying 220 pesos a night.
Jose said he did put up a sign at the El Rey and they will open up the park again if people show up.
We hooked up the StarChoice and found the signal. Jose tells us it will not be nice tomorrow but pick up again on Thursday. If is not raining tomorrow, we will head into Veracruz for my Pescado Veracruzana. If is raining we will hunker down here.
More photos later. This is off their website.
Monday, March 4, 2013
We did not want to carry on to Veracruz as we would get there at rush hour. We will make a pasta and sleep right here. It seems like it will be quiet.
Norma walked over to buy a membership and a few groceries and talked to the manager. He spoke English but did not understand what a motorhome was. He thought she wanted to sleep in her car. After he walked out for a look, he said "No problem. One night only though." It is 4:00 and is 84 degrees. Life is good!
If you look at yesterday's map, we are right at the top of the hump on the top route.
Sunday, March 3, 2013
On Friday we started wondering if they sold San Miguel brand shoes in Puebla. I bombarded Google with search terms and sure enough, there was an outlet store downtown. We jumped in the car and headed down. There it was, a half a block from the Zocalo, the small retail store! Norma headed into the store while I headed to the Zocalo and the Italian Coffee Company where I sat... and sat...and sat. Norma finally showed up with a shopping bag full of shoes. Three pair at under $40 CAN each. What a score! One third the price you pay in the USA for SMA Shoes (if you can find them)! Today I went for a few groceries while Norma watched curling and right there in the mall not five blocks from the RV park was ANOTHER San Miguel Shoe store! I came home to get Norma and she bought another two pairs before we went for dinner in the food court! She is now officially shoe shopped out!
We can now plan a different route North. Veracruz is experiencing some great weather and we have not been there for a few years. That is where we are going! Beach time!
The other day we followed Mex 140 to visit the Pueblo Magico of Huamantila and when we turned off the really nice toll road the signs pointed straight ahead to "Veracruz". We had discovered an alternate route! The old route was on 150D through Cordoba. That road is very rough and contains many very seep hills. It was where we shook the fender off the dolly last year,
I emailed my Blogging friend John of the Blog Viva Veracruz and Viva Puerto Escondido and asked about the road. John and Anita live half a year in the State of Veracruz and half a year on the Pacific shore. If anyone knew about that road, John would. He answered back imediatly, "We take 140 when we go to and from Xico (xalapa) - it is a good road - but dam expensive - in the long run worth the avoidance of wear and tear as well as jangled nerves. ;-)" We are used to road tolls and the saving in damage to the vehicles makes it worthwhile. That is the way we will go! Thanks John and I am sorry we will have to go yet another year without meeting!
The RV park is just south of the city of Veracruz and is right on the beach. From there we will head up to the Emerald Coast before cutting over to San Luis Potosi and turning north towards Saltillo. Somewhere along the way I am thinking of getting a new timing belt installed in the Honda.
We leave in the morning and may spend the night on the road somewhere before Veracruz. Google Maps says it is 3 1/2 hours but they do not understand Mexican roads. I would guess double that. Here is our route. The top route is the way we are going and the bottom route is the old, jar your teeth out route.
Saturday, March 2, 2013
Kelly, I do not want to loose you! Open a Gmail account and even if you do not use it, it will give you a Google ID to comment with. Give it a try here and email me if you have problems.
Same goes for anyone, email me at croftsmexicoatgmaildotcom (fill in the @ and dots) and let me know. I want to keep all of you!
In fact, everyone make a test comment here just to make sure! Email me if it doesn't show up.
Friday, March 1, 2013
The two Pueblo Magicos of Chignahuapan and Zacatlan are both recommended in all the travel guides as a day trip from Puebla. They are about 100 and 110 KM north of Puebla and on the same road. What the books (or even Benjamin from Cummins who also recommended it) didn’t tell us is that it has it’s own micro climate and is very cold. Both pueblos remind me of photos of the Swiss Alps, narrow streets, lots of people, outdoor restaurants (but way too cold to eat at them) and a light fog in the air as if you are in a cloud. The altitude however, is not much different from that of Puebla. As soon as we got near the villages, it started getting cool in the car and the heavy mist closed in. We had the A/C on as it was quite hot when we left Cholula. We turned the A/C off and started seeing people walking on the streets. They were all dressed in heavy jackets, hats and scarves and it looked like they were used to it. We, on the other hand were (me) in shorts and t-shirt and (Norma) in light pants and top! I persevered but Norma went running to the nearest shawl salesman she saw.
They are both very beautiful towns and the people are obviously very proud of them. Here are some shots from Chignahuapan:
It was so cold in Chignahuapan that we did not even look for a coffee shop to sit in and people watch. This is one of our favorite pastimes in Mexico. There are little coffee shops with tables on the street where you can sip a cappuccino and snack on a pastry while watching life pass by. Most people smile, stop to talk or to practice their English. It is always an enjoyable time and you are never rushed. Once you sit down, you can stay there all day without being pestered by the staff. You get your bill only when you ask for it.
We walked around the Zocalo and quickly decided to head another ten or twelve kilometers north to Zacatlan, hoping it might be a little warmer. Well, it was not. In fact the fog got even heavier and we actually needed the windshield wipers at one point. It was just as cold!
Zacatlan is known for clock manufacturing. The Zocalo has a huge working double faced clock made of flowers. We looked in vain for a store that sold these clocks but after walking ten blocks or so, we gave up. Someday we will come back to these friendly pueblos when we are dressed for the weather.
There was a celebration going on in the Zocalo celebrating 49 (XLIX) years of Indigenous education. They were getting ready to perform something with long poles but by then my legs were beginning to freeze and the locals were looking at me as if I were crazy for dressing so lightly. We had to get back to the car with it’s heater!
On the way home we passed another pottery stand where Norma just had to stop to buy a 250 peso swan for her garden.