Subject: Travelogue VII Ed and Edith Gray
From Tehuantepec we then headed southwest along the coast in the coastal mountains. It was quite dry but lots of trees, rocks and neat towns and the ocean on our left showed up from time to time. It was mountain type driving with curves, hills up and down and the road was narrow but there was not much traffic. We got to the turn of for Puerto Angeles about 1:30 pm and went south to the coast. This is the southern most point in Mexico. It was about 12 miles downhill with curves to the town and the street through town was narrow and we could not get turned around. We tried a couple of times to stop traffic and back around but we did not have enough room. Finally we spotted a trailer park and got into it so we could turn around. We found out from the trailer park manager that the ocean and a seafood restaurant was near by. He showed us and we had a great meal and meet a couple from Sweden who came from Oaxaca by bus and also a Canadian who we gave a ride down town had been to Oaxaca. Everybody says the road from there south was bad, very bad. We paid the guy 20 pesos for parking. It was well worth it. We headed back for Hwy 200 and got in to camp last but not by much. We made the 6 pm drivers meeting and then had the girls over for supper and they went over NZ with us so we really got a ton of great info for our trip there. We will do Australia another night soon. We meet the school people in the morning at 7 am and leave at 7:30 am for about 280 miles to Acapulco. If the road is like today it will take all day. The road was not bad but had lots of curves, hills and towns and topes so you do not make good time. We seen more oxens today and they were being used to plow and in another case to cultivate corn. Things certainly can be primative. We stopped at a market and bought a Spanish CD we liked the sound of. It only cost 30 peso's so a great deal. Tom and Gwen with the help of the Green Angel who came on his day off went with Tom who slowly pulled his trailer to the welding shop not to far away in Tehuantepec and got the spindle lined up straight with the tortion bar by heating it and then they welded it with and electric welder. The got a new tire and it runs nice and straight. Of course they had to remount the brake drum, etc. Tom says it is tilted in slightly but it was that way before so if the weld holds it is as good as new. They put 180 miles on it and there were some pretty vigorous up and down so I would say it had a good test.
The neat thing about today day was we have added to our list of being as for north, west, east as you can be in North America and in the USA and now we have added as far south as you can get in Mexico.
The trip to Acapulco was interesting. The road was narrow, curves and mountians, many small towns and I literally think over a 100 topes. Our wagon master got a flat tire on his car. He got sick as well as about 5 others in our group. He could not change the tire. We met the Green Angles outside of Acapulco to lead us into the CG. The traffic was fierce so they tried to miss a lot of town and go around and then come back from the north. We had to totally depend on CB and every day that goes by we have less CB's that work decently. I think we are down to about 5 so it seemed like the wagon mistress who was driving as the wagonmaster was so sick he was laying down, myself and the tail gunner and the girls were the only CB's working good. Anyway we got separted and it was pretty hair raising for a lot of our group. Tom and Gwen got lost and we did not know about it until the tail gunner started parking people. The finally found someone who rode with them to guide them to the CG and they paid his taxi fare back.
We had not been by the ocean so we wanted to park by the ocean. It was terribly tight and we could not get in a spot so we had to back down the drive in the dark to get out and then found a spot but there were rocks in front and it was up hill. Somehow with all the backing in reverse to try and get it in and some soft sand we got the transmission hot and from what we now know likely the front seal expanded and we lost 5 quarts of transmission fluid. The next day we were up early to talk to the CG manager but he did not show up until about 9 am. We did put in a quart of transmission fluid and ran the truck and could not see it leaking but we could not see it on the dip stick. The manager made a map for us as to where the Ford garage was and I and the tailgunner headed for the Ford garage. We get there and no one speaks English and it is pretty tough to descibe a transmission problem with our limited Spanish. Finally someone shows up who does speak English, we had been convinced no one did. Anyway bad news, they do not have F-250 or 350 in Mexico, they don't work on them normally and have no parts and they could not look at it until Monday and it would probably take a week from then. He suggested we might have hit a rock, etc. Denny and I went to Wal-Mart as he needed money from the ATM. I found out you could use a debit card and these machines were in both Spanish and English. I got 8 quarts of transmission fluid. We got back and started adding but it is really hard to see it on the dip stick with the residue in the tube from pouting it in. We added, checked, ran it and finally decided it was on the dip stick. I took it out and drove it about 4 miles and came back and no leaking and the transmission shifted fine. We added more ATF and was pretty sure it was in the cold range. I then drove it 20 miles and came back and still no leaking. We worked some more and determined the level was where it should be by no putting the dip stick all the way down and seeing how much was on from the residue and then inserting all the way and seeing much more pink so I was finally confident it was full but not over full after adding 5 quarts.
The big question is where did the 5 quarts leak out at, you could see lots of ATF on the sand. I called the guys a McCormick Motors, the Ford garage at Salem and found out what I mentioned earlier. It was a great blessing that the seal seems to be working after it cooled down.
Now about Acapulco, a great place! The best we have been in Mexico and we had a great CG on the beach. We put on a pan cake breakfast on morning, had two great bus tours and a harbor boat tour and seen great sunsets every night we were there and seen Acapulco at night. Acapulco has the tourist, fly in section and the cruise ships but it most of it is Mexico. There are many, many very expensive homes and there are many, many great beaches. The harbor is very deep and protected.
Today we headed north through the mountain toward Mexico City climbing 6000 feet. The mountains reminded me of Utah as it was desert like, cactus and lots of rock and brush but quite dry. There were some pretty towns. We were on the toll road or it would of took all day if not more to make the trip on the libre. We were the first out shortly after it got light as we did not know if the transmission would hold up when pulling. I was pretty sure the transmission was OK but rather the seal would stay sealed was another matter when things warmed up. We went about 30 miles and I checked an no leaking and the transmission was acting normal. I checked again every so often as it was mountain driving. PRAISE THE LORD no leaks and we put on 200 miles of mountain driving and no problems. THE LESSON I LEARNED IS WHEN BACKING IN REVERSE WITH THE 5TH IS TO PUT IT IN 4 X 4 SO YOU HAVE LOTS OF POWER AND DO NOT HAVE TO WORK THE TRANSMISSION. If you don't have 4 x 4 or need to turn sharper than you can in 4 x 4 then don't back long at a time and give things time to cool down. For my situation I am always going to put it in 4 x 4 low range unless it is very, very easy backing up and only takes a minute or two. If your Pick up that is a diesel be it Ford, Chevy or Dodge you probably are best of figuring out a way to get it hauled back to the USA and get it fixed and then come back for your 5th wheel. If the transmission would not of worked the tentative plan was to leave the 5th in a CG and tow the F-350 behind on of the Class A's back to the USA, get it fixed and come back for the 5th. You can see why we consider ourselves so blessed to not have to do that. We will keep and eye on it but with no problems today we should be OK and I am now a lot wiser about backing.
BTW at the CG at Acapulco the tailgunner got stuck in the sand. We jacked and blocked far a couple of hours and got him a ways and he sank again. The next day we worked a couple of more hours and he backed onto the concrete slab and we were all cheering that we got him out and about that time the cement gave way and he dropped though again. The cement was on sand and only 2 inches thick. So another two hours and we get him blocked up and lay a path of boards on the cement and he makes it of with the cement totally shattered. Another chapter for my RV guide, you can not be two careful about sand. The other thing is the electricity in the CG almost always have no ground and the polarity is often not correct. There is no wiring code and it is bare wire, sometimes in plastic water pipe, sometimes running on top of the ground. Of course low voltage or high voltage can be a problem. Generally we ground the 5th wheel from the frame to the ground and if the polarity is wrong we change it around with a two prong adaptor. The understanding of wiring a CG is pretty lacking down here. When I get back to the USA I have to get a checker for ground and polarity. I had material along for grounding things. Some places we have been able to ground at the outlets but most places not as they don't have a ground wire.
Through the mountains toward Mexico City and all along the Pacific coast mountains and some areas I mentioned previously along the gulf coast and in Chiapas we have seen lots of southern type cattle and lots of horses and cowboys. Yesterday it seemed like most towns in the mountains had a rodeo grounds. Also I think I forgot to mention but several places on the first part of the trip in Tamaulipas and Veracruz we seen places raising fighting cocks. Along the coasts and as you get south in the Yucatan, and along the Pacific coast up to near Puerto Vallarta after March 1st is it getting quite hot and the humidity is pretty high. At Acapulco it was in the 90's with humidity. The Yucatan from May through mid-September is nearly unbearable. As Judy who is an American who married and lives there said it gets from 100 degrees to 120 degrees and the humidity is "6000" She said it is "GHASTLY" so people try to escape to the beaches at Progresso or stay in A/C. That is why the work is early and late and people go on break or siesta from 12-2 or even 4 pm. Most of the construction, etc. is like in AZ early in the day and more in the fall, winter and spring.
This is our second time and having talked to a lot of others traveling in the CG and at tourist sites and having been here 47 days the things most people fear about and keeps them from going to Mexico are myths, they just are not true. We have been in Chiapas and we have been along the Pacific coast from Chiapas north to Acapulco supposed the dangerous areas. The one place that is dangerous in areas is Mexico City! There are military check points but they are no big deal. The police don't bother you other than once in a great while like in the USA there are a few towns who like to get some easy money with speeding fines and probably pick on out of towners. The real challenge of traveling in Mexico are the lack of readily available maps for cities. They are out there and Sanborns has a lot of them. The bottom line is that signs can be poor in Mexico and it can be tough to follow a road through town. Now in a car, class C or even class A WITHOUT A TOTE one can stop and ask but of course if you don't know a little Spanish it is going to be much tougher. You probably can wander around and figure it out if you have some sort of city map but most people don't With a 5th wheel or a Class A with a tote it can be a real exciting experience. The other thing are topes, there are millions of them in all of Mexico and some are poorly marked so you can really bang things up if you don't see them in time. Another challenge is some things are not available for repairs such as I was telling about the F-250'S ETC. One the other hand with other things you have a good chance to get it fixed and fixed cheap. The other challenge can be driving in these town. It is pretty much a free for all with horns used very, very generously and he who is most agressive gets the righ away. When you have a 5th wheel and can not stop on a dim and there are little Volkswagon, small pickups etc. zipping around and the streets and turns are made for these type of vehicles as well as the CG so it is mighty easy to have a wreck or more likely ding things up. Of course you would rather not have a wreck and deal with the insurance; although it is not nearly the nightmare it is made out to be. Get an insurance company that has a 24 hour English line, the phones are no problem to use and they are everywhere and they will get an adjuster out. Anyway we have experience RV'ers in our group and of 18 rigs all but about 4 of them have gotten some dings on this trip. We got the side gouged on the way to Acapulco and I don't know what happen but apparently in one of those towns with the narrow streets and everybody joking to get by us somebody got to close and scaped us. I think I can use some body puddy and fix the fiberglass and replace a decal. One can take a bus everywhere in Mexico but it is tricky in towns if you don't know the language. Most of the time you can talk to someone in a CG and find out specifically what bus you need to take going someplace and coming back. I have not tried the first class cross county buses but again it should be about the same deal. Speaking some Spanish and having a good English Spanish dictionary along would sure help.
The other thing you will soon see is that safety and liability is not a big issue down here. You have to have common sense and certainly accidents happen more readily here as there is not a lot of attention to safety with no codes, not workman safety laws to speak of, etc. What I am trying to say is as and example one could get electricuted at a CG in Mexico a whole lot easier than in the USA. This typical wiring would remind you of something of the 32 volt days with single wires with insulation on it running around. I will have some pictures on the web page in the future.
The saving grace in driving in Mexico even though they drive very agressively and use the horn all the time because of the topes no one can get to going very fast in the towns so if you pay attention the worst is some dings or a fender bender. I will say we have seen only two small wrecks during all the time we have been in Mexico so that tells you it does not happen much.