Crossing the border at Pharr International Border Crossing!
We spent the night before we left at a Walmart in Alamo, Texas. Up at 5:00 am and on the road by 6:00 heading to the Pharr Border Crossing.
Crossing was easy, the border patrol just waved us on through. They were all bundled up in toques and warm coats. Wouldn’t you know, we headed onto the wrong road almost immediately, even though we had great instruction from our friend Marcel! Luckily, not far down the road was a little corner store, much like a 7 Eleven, we stopped and a kind Mexican hopped on board and took us to the right corner so we could get to Highway 97. Marcel had given us instructions for the whole trip, if we would have followed them we probably wouldn’t have missed the turn. Our first sunrise in Mexico as we drove through Reynosa. A few kilometers down the road was a check stop and the young friendly Mexican checked our papers for the Motorhome and sent us on our way. We drove through farming and cattle country. When the road is 2 lanes, they also have a very large curb and in this case most vehicles, especially the slower ones are all driving on the right curb. Vehicles are constantly passing, so strange to see sometimes 3 or 4 vehicles on a passing on the same stretch of 2 lanes. But the drivers all seem to know what they are doing, great idea, 11:45 am we stopped at at Pemax (the government controlled gas stations) all full service. No problems at all, very pleasant, the only thing to remember is that very few stations have Credit Card service, you need to make sure you have lots of cash on hand, which we did. At this station it worked out to 90 cents per litre for the premium gas.
Past many small villages and farms etc. On to another highway and heading to Cuidad Victoria. Beautiful scenery and interesting views. Our first day was smooth going. We stopped in a small mountain village and Jim gave out some of the toys he had brought along. News travels fast, he gave out a couple of things and all of a sudden there were many Moms and children that showed up.
Everyone was so happy and thankful, but none happier than Jim as he did his thing. We all enjoyed watching the little ones and their Moms. As you can see from the pictures, the weather was chilly and everyone was wearing a jacket. This was our last stop before getting to San Luis Potosi where we would spend the night at a Pemex (gas station). The rest of the afternoon drive went quickly and as we got closer to the city, looking for the Pemex, we missed the turn off to the Toll road that we should have taken around the city. Oh, well just keep looking for a Pemex on our side of the road. Finally, just before the turn off to a major ring road we saw a Pemex and pulled in. Seemed fine and settled in for the night. Next to the Pemex there was a little Pub, Jim and Rolf went and had a cerveza with the locals. Very nice, friendly folk. We parked so close together that Jim decided to try and climb across from one motorhome to the other through the window.
Later we all had dinner together and settled in for the night, Camp Pemex was noisy with vehicles and music from the station all night long, not bad music, mostly Mexican music, just not something you want to hear while trying to sleep
We had driven 680 klm and were on the road around 11 hours…
Day 2……got up at 5am, topped up the gas and left by 6. Jim had talked to the gas station attendant and was advised to go through this city ( early Sunday morning, quiet on the roads ) as opposed to around it. So off we went, nice freeway, not much traffic and within 20 mins, we see a police car with sirens on. Well they pulled us over, directed us off the freeway onto a side street in town. What the heck! Long story short, we were not supposed to be in the left lane on the freeway, and possibly not on the freeway through the city. Should have been on the Toll road that we missed yesterday. So they started off wanting $4000 peso for the fine and you can pay at the police station on January 2, 2013. Then you get driver’s license back. That was not going to work for us so we kept talking and finally we got them down to $3000 pesos, which is around $230. Pay on the spot. We were in the wrong and the fine was probably not out of line. The police were very nice (of course they got their money) and then they proceeded to escort us back on the freeway and out of town. Not a great start to the day but we were relieved to be on the road and out of San Luis Potosi. Oh, Oh, this road is probably not the road we should have taken. Just carry on and see what is next. We travelled at least 30 klm on a narrow windy mountain road that eventually connected to Hwy 80. It straightened out but was heavy fog and difficult to see. Thank goodness it was a good paved road.
Whew, got through that one and on a country road. Rolf needed propane so we are keeping out eyes peeled. Jim spotted one on the left side of the road and on the right was a Pemex. Pulled off quickly and topped up, parked while they got their propane. This is farming and ranching country. While in the Pemex, a young lady from the Los Angeles told us that we could get cash from the bank in the next town. Because of our episode with the police we were concerned that we might not have enough pesos for the toll roads. Well, finding our way through the village was a challenge. OMG the town was big but very small tight congested streets. A very nice Mexican man pulled over in front of us, got out of his car and with his broken English, asked if he could help. He led us to a place to pull over, then walked us gals to the bank, while the guys stayed with the RVs. He waited until we got out of the bank, offered to get us a coffee, asked if we needed vegetables (which we did), explained what some of the unknown fruits and veggies were, walked us back to the RVs, insisting he walk on the outside of the sidewalk. Then suggested how we should drive through Guadalajara and lead us out of town with his car. We would have never been able to figure it out without him. He wouldn’t take any money for his help, you could tell he was well off. Mexicans are kind, helpful, beautiful people. Two Escorts already and it’s not even 11am.
Lots of tolls. Very high mountain roads but excellent pavement and everyone moving along. Passed by some markets on the road. Beautiful scenery!!!
Busy, busy on a Sunday afternoon. One very scenic and interesting village we passed by was Tequila, named for all the agave plants grown there for the tequila. Also, very interesting to see the brick factories along the highway. All fired by hand. Amazing! So much to see and impossible to record for viewing at it’s fullest. We missed the exit to Tepic which was going to take us to the final toll and down to Highway 200. Had to make 2 U-turns on the highway. Very intense! Rolf with his shorter motorhome had now problem but it was touch and go for us. On the second one there was a vendor selling pillows that were displayed along the shoulder of the road. I think we may have run over a few so I gave the young fellow some pesos to hopefully compensate. A very bad spot to be set up to sell. We held up the traffic and luckily made the turn. Finally, our last toll road, we see a group of young folks trying to catch a ride. They looked very friendly and so told them that we could take 3. They pleaded, hoping that we would take their amigos as well. Turns out that there were 6 amigos from the University of Guadalajara travelling to Sayulita(surfing beach) for some of the Christmas break. They all crowded into the motorhome and off we went. Beautiful young people, 2 musicians, an artist, a dancer, and 2 journalists. They assured us that they were not dangerous. A great bunch. The last leg of our journey was not without incident. The road was very narrow and steep, lots of traffic(big buses full of tourists), at one turn Jim had to do some major over compensating for a incompetent bus driver who was over the center line as he came around the curve meeting us. As we were turning on to Hwy 200, it seemed as if the motorhome had no power or was not getting any fuel so stop along the road for a bit and then it seemed OK. Continue down the steep highway and finally we get to La Penita, no power again, pull over on to the lateral road (service road), the guys check the bus. Wow, we sure noticed the heat when we got out. Waited a bit, the motorhome started and we continued on our way, hoping that we were soon at our destination. Another 10 – 15 minutes and we arrived at Lo de Marcos. One of the students said that his grandmother has a house here so they left us near the entrance to town. Another challenge presented its self as we tried to navigate the streets of Lo de Marcos in the big rigs. Narrow, cobblestone, rough streets, big pot holes, lots of people and cars parked along the side. We disconnected the car. Jim could not make the first turn so had to back up and go to the next corner, finally made it around the corner down the street to La Parota RV Park. It took the owner Juan Jose a few minutes to figure out where he would but us until the weekend folks had left. Finally, after 700 klm and 10 hours on the road, we could breath a breathe of relief and congratulate the guys for a great job of driving.
In retrospect, it was a very tiring, stressful day, but we made it without any accidents or any life threatening incidents. Maybe we should have done the trip in 3 days but the closer we got to the Pacific coast, the more we wanted to just reach our destination. Turns out that we should not have driven through the cities with a big rig. That is a definite no no here unless you can drive the lateral roads. We are learning and have stories to tell!
Thanks for taking the time to read this lengthy post.