Posted by: glenswatman | April 16, 2009

200904-1-MEX USA Texas

 

200904

 

WEDNESDAY 1 APRIL 2009 – We have a very quiet
night with just the occasional donkey braying to disturb us.  Our plan is to set off across country
tomorrow to avoid the rush traffic for the beginning of the Semana Santa
holiday this weekend.  We’ve still got
some vegetables left and cannot take raw ones into the States so spend an hour
or so preparing them for the freezer but also doing a batch of home made potato
crisps, most of which we eat during the manufacturing process.  Cruise ship of the day is or should I say
are Sapphire Princess and RCI Mariner of the Seas.  There’s a big hill at the end of the peninsula and we climb this
to get superb views in all directions.  Throughout
the day we see the tourists doing horse rides along the beach, quad biking,
water sports and walks around the island. 

ISLA DE LA PIEDRA 3, BENJIS

 

THURSDAY 2 APRIL – We are up just before 6am
ready for our big journey.  It’s not
that we have a really long drive towards Durango but it is on very twisty
mountain roads.  It takes almost an hour
to get to the start of Mex 40 and sure enough we begin climbing and winding our
way into the Sierra Madre almost immediately. 
The road is good with lots of lorries using this route but progress is
slow and the driving tedious.  We pass
one Quebec camper en route.  There are
far reaching views but nothing spectacular to see.  We pass the Tropic of Cancer at 1700m then reach the summit and
cross into DURANGO state around 2620m complete with military checkpoint (clocks
forward 1-hour).  We are now on a
plateau with stretches of excellent new road going through the pine forest and
logging the main industry.  Billboards
tell us that the development of the next 45km will include 38 tunnels and 34
bridges.  Around km 57 we stopped at
Parque El Tequan.  Signs tell us it is
open Thursday – Sunday from 8am – 10pm but we still have to shout through the
gate to be let in even though it is 12.30pm. 
For P50 (£2.50) we can stay overnight and we walk around before picking
an area at the lower level by the basketball court and near the chalets.  After lunch we are ready for a nap.  When I set out for a late walk I find that
the Quebec camper van is here and parked further along as they have a 4wd
truck.  Even with that the road leading
to the dried up lake was too bad for them to continue.  Jacques & Jeanne are very interesting
people.  She is Belgian and was raised
in Belgian Congo and he is French but they moved to Quebec 50 years ago.  They still have a motorhome in France and
have take it down to Morocco and other north African countries and have taken
this camper all through South America so lots of inspiration for us.  Our days are now numbered so we start to
work out way through our DVD’s and watch a Barbara Cartland “The Lady and the
Highwayman after supper.

PARQUE EL TEQUAN, KM 57 MEX 45 – P50 (£2.50)

165 MILES

 

FRIDAY 3 APRIL – It has been a really cold
night and is still only just above freezing when we wake up so we get chance to
give the central heating a run.  As
Jacques & Jeanine are leaving they tell us it went down to –4C.  We really like it here; it is so quiet and
the only noise in the night was the occasional distant truck using air
brakes.  In reverse of recent days when
we have sat out in the morning before it got too hot here we are sit in for the
morning until it warms up then outside in the afternoon but boy is it hot
then.  One car comes in to check the
place out but other than that we have the place to ourselves unless you count
all the deer in the enclosure. 

PARQUE EL TEQUAN 2

 

SATURDAY 4 APRIL – Today is the start of the
main Mexican holiday but we can’t get on the road early, as the park gates
don’t open until 8am.  The by pass round
Durango is excellent and we pick up the free road to take us across country
with comparatively little traffic.   The
“periferico” around the tri cities of Ciudad Lerdo, Gomez Palacio and Torreon
is good and fast although there is a lot of traffic.  We are now in COAHUILA state, along with Durango sited by the
Americans as dangerous places to be!  We
stick with the free road and this merges with the main road in many
places.  It is easy driving on good
roads across a flat barren landscape with lots of saltpans, much like central
Australia.  Heading towards Saltillo on
the free road we hope to find a place to stay overnight.  The hotel in Saltillo is our banker but time
is against us.  Options are very limited
with just roadside parking by very poor housing communities.  Truckers are using these places but we’ve
learnt they often just stop for a few hours so we could be left alone and
safety is our primary concern.  We are
very happy to see the only Pemex en route about 50km before Saltillo.  It’s 6.15pm so we take it and settle in at
the back of the parking area.  The gas
station closes from 11pm to 7am but the attendant lives here and tells us
truckers usually park up as well so we feel safe. 

PEMEX, 50KM BEFORE SALTILLO ON FREE ROAD

344 MILES

 

SUNDAY 5 APRIL – With our 7.15am start we are
around Saltillo before any traffic builds up. 
Good job too as the signs for Monterrey are terrible, you have to turn
off the ring road but the signs are at the bottom of the off ramp.  Call in for a last shop at Soriana only to
be disappointed when they refuse to sell me booze on a Sunday.   Enter the state of NUEVO LEON and make good
progress until the Monterrey ring road where we miss a sign (or there was a
sign missing), overshoot and have to double back.  Last year we paid to use the toll road towards Laredo but know it
was very expensive so opt for the free road.  All goes well until we reach Sabinas Hidalgo with a diversion from
the main road.  This leads us right into
the centre of the bustling little town on small roads but with no signs to get
us out.  We keep asking directions and
with great difficulty make it back on track. 
Enter our last Mexican state; TAMULIPAS then pick up the road out to the
Columbia Bridge exit point west of Nuevo Laredo.  It’s fairly busy with lots of Mexicans heading into the States
for holiday week.  Leaving the Mexican
side is easy as they have a booth where they remove your vehicle sticker after
checking that you are taking out the same things you brought in – laptops, TV’s
etc.  After turning in our tourist cards
at the office and paying P50 (£2.50) bridge toll we cross the Rio Grande to the
USA.  Getting through with the vehicle
is easy including a sniffer dog check and so far we have only been about ½ hour
in total.  The final hurdle is American
immigration where we queue up and then fill in the Visa waiver forms.  At the desk they ask us lots of questions
but we were prepared for this after our last entry difficulties.  This time they really get stuck in and
accuse us of living at our friends Texas address.  Worse is to come when they ask for our drivers licence as there
are now special Texas visitors’ licences but when Steve got his back in 2002 we
were issued with a residents licence. 
They imply that we obtained the drivers licence under false pretences so
we have to explain exactly how we went about getting it.  There are 3 officers on our case and talk of
refusing us entry and sending us back to Mexico but we explain that we have
sold our motorhome and have a flight and cruise booked out of the States.   They then ask us for our vehicle registration
documents which are in the motorhome. 
Steve goes off to get them but my mind then goes into a panic imagining
us trying to explain why the vehicle is registered in Florida with our friends
Miami address.  A computer printout
shows them all the times we have visited the States and I talk the officer
through the scenarios and explain that on our last entry it should have been
logged on the computer what our ongoing plan was.  The offices huddle together talking our scenario through and seem
to reach a decision before Steve gets back. 
Fortunately they agree to grant us entry with a 3-month stay.  All that is left is for our 4 fingers then
thumb to be fingerprinted and a photo taken before paying $6 (£4) each visa
charge.  Welcome back to America!  So we are now in TEXAS and suddenly find our
clocks have gone forward an hour for daylight saving time so it’s after 5pm
before we leave the border.  Realise now
that I definitely made the right decision not to go back for my sisters wedding
as re entering twice would have been must too much for them.  The exchange rate is now around $1.40 = £1
and the first gas we see is $1.89 (1.30) gallon.  Luckily we have a free camping spot in mind; the Texas Welcome
centre at junction 18 on the I35 and it’s a great spot.  We’re too late for the visitor centre but
they have free wi-fi and a nice seating area in gardens complete with pretty
pools.  We chat to some truck drivers
and learn that the new vehicles are so automated that the engines must be left
running at all times for cab temperature control.  On hearing this we clear it with the rest area security guard so
we can park where the cars go.  Not sure
whether this was a good move or not as just after settling down to sleep we
realise we are right beside a railway. 
Between midnight and 1am 3 noisy trains go past and this is why I am now
sat up at 1.15am writing my diary!  At
least trains in Mexico never bothered us – they don’t have any.  I do some figures out of interest and find
out our time in Mexico averaged out at £125 week, that’s for food, meals out,
sightseeing, petrol and everything. 
Within this figure is the Central America 2-week trip and there we spent
£500 in 2 weeks so the real Mexico figure is even lower and what a great time
we had as well. 

NORTH OF LARDEO, I35, EXIT 18 TEXAS WELCOME CENTRE REST AREA

270 MILES 

 

MONDAY 6 APRIL – Claire’s birthday so we are
happy to be able to chat with her on Skype. 
She’s off work for 2 weeks partly because it is the school holidays but
she is also studying for her Chartered Accounts exam next month.   Leaving the freeway we are impressed by how little traffic there
is on the minor roads, how smooth the road surface is and how quiet it is
inside Harry.  Stopped at a junction we
cannot even hear the engine running. 
Although distances are now marked in miles we seem to travel them faster
than the same in kilometres in Mexico because the roads are so good and there
are no topes to bring us to a halt in the towns.  In Beeville we do a Wal Mart grocery shop, it’s actually quite
hard not to stock up as there is such a wide choice of stuff compared to Mexico
but with only 3 weeks to go I have to show some restraint.  I’ve been having problems with my new laptop
and Victoria is the nearest major city with a Best Buy so we aim for there and
are impressed by the RV Park on the edge of town.  It’s a grassy area by a stream at the edge of the City Park and
only $12 (£8.50) night with full hook ups. 
It is now light until around 8pm so we potter around outside until that
time.  Then with unlimited water and
electric I use the kettle for hot water to do lots of inside cleaning
jobs.  Digital TV did not begin in
February as planned and so we wind up the evening watching telly.

VICTORIA RV PARK – $12 (£8.50)

209 MILES

 

TUESDAY 7 APRIL – We want to go back to
Mexico, can’t handle the cold nights and last night was almost freezing.  Once the day warms up we get the hose going
and give Harry a good clean outside and what a difference it makes.  Head off along Navarro, the main road with
big stores and Malls.  Best Buy admits there
is a problem with my laptop screen but would have to send it back to Toshiba
and it would be away for at least 2 weeks. 
The only solution is for them to fill out a fault report form so I can
deal with it back in England.  By
dropping into different stores we manage to get many of our odd jobs done.  A few small things broke in Mexico and it
was just a matter of getting the right parts to fix them up.  Surprisingly the running around takes all
afternoon so we return to the RV Park to take in the last of the sun.  We are happy that it is less cold in the
evening and night so maybe we will stay!

VICTORIA RV PARK 2

20 MILES

 

WEDNESDAY 8 APRIL – Heading off just before
lunchtime we stop at Pizza Hut to partake in their $5.99 (£5 inc tax) buffet
lunch and as usual manage to overeat. 
Coming out of Mexico our attention is immediately drawn to the amount of
obese people in America, especially at the all you can eat buffets!  We move on to “Buffalo Wings” car park as it
is a sport bar showing the Liverpool match. 
Whilst Steve spends him money in the bar I head to the shops to pick up
a few new clothes for our cruise back to England.  It is easy to lose track of time in the Malls, as they are
somewhat like casinos with no natural light and few clocks.  Consequently Steve is back before me and not
a happy bunny after they lost.  Even
worse the waitress chose the moment Liverpool scored to come over and chat to
him so he missed the goal and the replay! 
Wal Mart will do us for overnight; the number of RV’s surprises us. They
are all from Quebec and gathered together for a happy hour with their chairs
set up in the car park, in our opinion abusing the hospitality offered by Wal
Mart.  I manage to buy a few more
clothes in the store to complete my new wardrobe and now just need shoes.  At this stage Steve knows he needs stuff but
just can’t be bothered to shop for it.

VICTORIA 3, WAL MART

 

THURSDAY 9 APRIL – We’ve done all we wanted
and more in Victoria so head off to the coast to Magnolia Beach.  Again the place is full of predominantly
Quebec vehicles.  Unfortunately it is
extremely windy and not so pleasant to be outside plus the mosquitoes are a bit
of a problem.  On the other hand we have
a lovely view and the price is right.

MAGNOLIA BEACH

47 MILES

 

FRIDAY 10 APRIL – The wind dropped in the
night and it is a glorious morning.  It
is Good Friday an American holiday and many families arrive to camp at the
beach.  They come towing boats and jet
skis for a fun day in the water.  There
are loads of people camped up here and we’ve walked around but not seen anyone
we knew.  However we missed Paula who
comes over to chat to us, we met her and Serge at Tenacatita Beach in
Mexico.  The rest of the people here
have been too afraid to go into Mexico so spend winter in the south of the
USA.  They don’t know what they are
missing!

MAGNOLIA BEACH 2

 

SATURDAY 11 APRIL – It is windy again so we
take a walk into Magnolia.  This is a
really strange town that doesn’t seem to know whether it is coming or
going.  The store and gas station have
closed down but a laundrette has opened in a hut and plots of land are being
marked out for sale.  Many people seem
to move here in their RV and then build onto it.  By the time we get back many of the motorhomers have left and it
is much quieter other than Linda from Thunder Bay who comes round for a chat.

MAGNOLIA BEACH 3

 

SUNDAY 12 APRIL – The weather has got worse
and we’ve had a little rain in the night and wake to a dull drizzly
morning.  A few families brave it and
are rewarded when things improve dramatically and we end up with a superb hot
afternoon with clear blue skies.  There
are 2 Mexican families, from Victoria, next to us and they entertain us with
their Easter egg hunt and deliver some eggs to us.  The family business is making tacos and this uses lots of
eggs.  For the last few weeks they have
been careful removing the egg through just a small hole.  Having washed the eggs they decorated them,
stuffed them with a type of confetti and sealed the top with tissue.  During Easter they go up to people and
pretend to crack the egg on their heads at which point all the confetti flies
out.  It is so hot in the afternoon that
we have to keep going to the water for a cooling dip.  At one point a dolphin can be seen swimming out in the bay and late
afternoon we see a couple of oilrigs being towed into Port Lavaca.

MAGNOLIA BEACH 4

 

MONDAY 13 APRIL – We sure are getting a mixed
bag of weather here.  Today we have
clear skies and sun but with wind coming along the shore.  Someone who stayed here all winter said it
had been cold but at least they hadn’t any rain.  A local tells us they have a small problem here with mosquitoes
in the summer – from March to December! 
Still we manage a few hours sat out sunbathing in the afternoon.

MAGNOLIA BEACH 5

 

TUESDAY 14 APRIL – Many more vans leave and we
are now down to single figures.  Get on
with a few more clean up jobs; the outdoors furniture sure gets grim.  Manage to get on the Internet in the evening,
the nearby campground has wi-fi and the password is their phone number!

MAGNOLIA BEACH 6

 

WEDNESDAY 15 APRIL – Usual day bit of cleaning
bit of sunbathing, lots of doing nothing. 
Linda & Brian leave, they look like a convoy as they have a truck
towing a 5th wheel towing a boat, in total of about 54’.  They make us laugh when they say they have
only used the boat once all winter. 

MAGNOLIA BEACH 7

 

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