2004 Mexico Trip Daily Travelogue
We then headed over for Texas Trails and the 7 pm gathering to car-pool and go to Mexico to get Ediths Tourist Permit and our Vehicle Permit. We used CB and two meters. Dick lead and Denny followed and kept everybody inbetween. In the dark and with the rain it was a bit hard to see where to go but we all got in the parking lot OK. We had about a 1/4 mile walk back to immigration where they got the Tourist Permits. Since I had mine from Mexicali when I got my amateur license I went over where you get the vehicle permits. I went to have copies made and they said I had to have the original to the title so I had to walk over to the pickup and get it. I then had trouble understanding where the place was for the vehicle permit as the door said do not enter but Denny came along and went in anyway. I suppose because he had been there before. It took a long time and they held the rest back so I was fortunate. She was very hard to hear and spoke very little English. One of the group was by me and she could understand here better than I. They had to have the originals for everything and ultimately they gave them back and kept the copies. Anyway if one is going one better have the originals of everything. I think a copy of a birth certificate would not work. It looked like they were going to be there a good long time as they appeared to only come up with one other worker. It was not clearly marked at all on how to get back to the USA so we were told to turn around and take another road. We finally found our way on out and got back to the USA border. The US customs official was a ham operator and the entry back in was a breeze. We had about a 15 minute wait in line. Since we drove down coming back we just had to come back as far as Tropic Star which is one the south end of Pharr. The bad news is they have moved the starting time up to 7 am for tomorrow.
January 24, 2004 Saturday The first official day of the trip. We got up at 6 am, packed up, said good bye to Lynn and Lorraine and headed for Texas Trails. We got there a little after 7 am and talked to the gate man and he let us go right to our area. We got backed in very quickly which was really a tough place to get into because the street was not very wide, the pad we were backing on was extremely narrow.
Dick found us and wanted to go early to set up so we stopped setting up and went with them. We spent the morning going over things, took a dinner break and then spent the afternoon. We also got a chance to exchange our dollars for Pesos. The fellow next to us had been on a lot of Caravans and he said this one did the best job of any he had been on of explaining things. They went over all the books, discussed the log books and maps which are a real plus. They had an interview process where we each interviewed someone else and reported so we found out quite a lot about everyone. The main reason people were on the caravan was safety and having a guided route. I am going to assist with communication and keep track of problems with the logbook and check the GPS readings.
Adventure put on a Pizza party, beverages, salad and cake. It was nearly dark when we got back but I did get the CB antenna on and checked it out. I also got it figured out how to do the Lat/Long for a way point in the Street Pilot and how to do a GO TO. When we get close to an RV Park I can see where we are at in relation to the GPS. Hopefully we will get the green light at the border and we are in and apparently there is not a second check point for really looking at what you brought in so we would be clear and we would have no concerns getting back into the USA.
Dick our wagon master said there are three rules. # 1 Have fun #2 If not having fun let him know and #3 Refer to rule #1. We will travel caravan style at first and then move to "Scattered" style. We can deviate from the route if we want and can make it to the next camp ground by the time set. This will make it possible for us to go through Aguascaliente on the way to Zacatesas so we won't have to back track. The just leaves Nuevo Leon which we can leave the 5th wheel at camp, go there, turn around, come back, hook up and head west.
I am amazed at the big rigs here. There are about six of them that list for about $300,000 new. There are a couple of Class "C", one travel trailer and two fifth wheels so that leaves 14 that are Class "A"
January 25, 2004 Sunday Today the Caravan left for Mexico. We had a prayer with our new friends from Canada. Everyone was ready at 8 pm but it took awhile to get everybody lined up and for the Class A rigs to hook up their totes. We had a CB repeat system where 4 people were designated to relay any messages down the line from the wagon master to the tail gunner. The wagonmaster, myself and the tail gunner Denny also used two meters. It was amazing how much better two meters was than CB and the skip was not even bad. The relay system worked quite well since for the most part we stayed close together.
After trying to stay together I am pretty much of the opinion that is impossible unless it is a wide open road or an Interstate that is not two busy. I am sure Dick will continue to try and keep us grouped for several more days until people get used to traveling in Mexico. It is working well between us on two meters and I am happy with the way I have things set up. I may add a CB antenna so I can monitor with the radio in the 5th but will wait and see if it is worth the effort. The border crossing was amazing! There was no one at the border and if you did get a red light you just pulled ahead and they waved us on. In all our border crossing be it Canada or Mexico this is the easiest yet! After we got through the Green Angles came with flashing lights to deliver two cell phone for our Wagon Master and Tailgunner. It was pre-arranged for them to watch for us and the phones came from contacts in Mexico city that work with the Green Angles. The Green Angles patrol the highways to help people out. The have fuel, tools ,etc. and many times can get people going. The can all speak at least some English. They got the phones delivered and then offered to lead us through Reynosa with a red light escort. South of Reynosa they led us through the 22 KM checkpoint where they usually check for Tourist permits and Vehicle Permits but because of the escort they just waved us through so it was an amazing deal to get all the way into Mexico with no checks at all. We will have agriculture checks and military check points for drugs but as far as immigration we are home free. It is a real concern as you are not supposed to bring multiple items of the same thing such as more than one computer, one radio, etc. They often will let you but they can stop you, make you pay a high duty, etc. I have amateur friends who have had problems. One thing you definitely don't want to do is have anything in a box so it looks like it might be new and that you could sell it as new. The whole idea is so you don't take things down and sell them. With the vehicle permit you basically bond with your credit card that you will return it. Supposedly they will try to put at least part of the value of the vehicle on your credit card. Most people do not have that big of a limit so in truth I don't think that is the case. I have read if you don't want to use a credit card you have to post a $400 bond and of course it would be very difficult to ever get another vehicle permit.
We took a break south of Reynosa, bid the Green Angles good bye with honking horns as it was the drivers birthday. He really appreciated it and our Wagon Master has his personal cell phone number to call him to rally Green Angle help for us if we would need it on the trip. We soon discovered a hot brake but it cooled down quite quickly and it was determined the like cause was over greasing of a ball joint and it dripped down on the pad. Anyway it made it the rest of the day with no problem and was checked out at our CG and everything is fine. Not to much farther down the road one of the big Class A diesels lost power, the engine stopped. Denny our Tailgunner and two other rigs stopped to assist and the wagon master, Dick had me pull off and let everyone pass and we assumed a temporary tail gunner position. Denny had him turn everything off which on a Cummings diesel resets the computer and it fired right up. Apparently that happens every so often with a Cummings. On some diesels it happens with the transmission as well and on some you have to disconnect the power from the batteries.
We eventually caught up and had dinner and we and a few others got fuel. I had a nice visit with the attendant Manuel as he pumped the diesel. He knew only a few words of English so I was pretty excited at how well it went which was very satisfying after all the work I have done learning some Spanish. We have one of the wives on the tour who was born and raised in Mexico and of course knows Spanish as her first language and she can do a decent job with English so she is a great resource. From what I have gathered so far our tail gunner and his wife Donna know more Spanish than our Wagon Master and his wife. The trainee's wife I think knows quite a bit of Spanish. There are a few others that know some Spanish.
As we went south we went out of farming country, things looked tough and pretty primative and it was muddy. But south it got more hilly and brushy, no farming, just livestock. Definitely more rainfall and looked quite pretty. As we approached La Pesca it got more hilly with more vegetation. We slowed down at Dicks request to let some get farther ahead so he could get them parked. In a way we had a taste of being Wagon Master as we were the lead with know one ahead to tell us anything. The log books work good but even our Wagon Master missed a turn just out of the Pemex station and ended up having to unhook the tote to get turned around.
The La Gaviota CG is on a lagoon of the gulf of Mexico. The rigs our dispersed around a grassy area. We have a fair open area but the rigs in the various areas are quite close. Some have hookups but they are very limited. Most of us are dry camping which we will do here again tomorrow night and at our next stop the following day. There is a nice pool, nice view and a dock. We had a great sunset. Dick went over a few things at our evening social gathering and we each got a great English/Spanish notebook to help us learn some Spanish from Denny and Donna. They did each one by hand so it was a lot of work!!! We will learn a new word each day and we have Irene to make sure we are pronouncing it correctly and that is is a Mexican word vs a Spanish word that might not be used that much in Mexico.
Our friends are have refridgerator trouble so we took some of their food and put it in our refridgerator. Hopefully Denny can get it going and they are talking about getting ice to put in it. This will prove to be interesting but likely at a bigger town Denny can get it going.
I started talking to a local, Juan and found out he wants to do boat tours. He could speak a little English and normally takes people fishing but in our case it would be sightseeing for Flamingos and Pelicans. He can take 4 per boat and it would cost about 100 pesos each or about $10 dollars. The exchange rate for us changes US currency to Pesos was 10.85 pesos per dollar so for quick figuring just us 10 so you can move the decimal point knowing it is slightly better than that. Again I was pleasantly surprised at how much we could communicate with his small amount of English, maybe 5% as much as I know in Spanish and some had signals and pointing.
Anyway he is supposed to show up in the morning at 10 am and we have 3 boat loads of 4 that are interested. We will report tomorrow on what happens in regards to this. We had supper and I did this travelogue. BTW I was able to get my e-mail this morning but had no success until after 7 am. I will try again in the morning. Due to the congestion I decided to not put up the dipole but just go with the bug catcher.
I found today getting diesel I had an old Peso bill from our trip two years ago that is no good. I though it was 1000 peso's which would be $100 but in reality if it would of been good it would of only been worth $10.00. All the rest of the Peso's we have are the so called new Peso's so we will be fine. We have come up with some safe places to keep our money which is a considerable amount as we wanted plenty of cash along to not repeat our experience of two years ago in Mexico where we basically ran out of money and if it would not of been for two small saving accounts we had in Bank America and Wells Fargo and getting it with an ATM machine we would not of had enough money to get home. We really don't plan on using our credit card much on this trip and hopefully not our ATM cards. We do have $500 worth of travelers checks that are hard to cash in Mexico but if need be we might be able to get that done. We had a great visit with our new friends Gwen and Tom from Canada who do missionary work. They have been in Florida this year, usually building things and stay in their travel trailer on site.
January 26, 2004 Monday- We got our e-mail right away with great signals from K4SET and K4CJX. I also sent some e-mail and sent our GPS locaton. I tried the sked on 20 meters but no success. We spent the day relaxing at the CG La Gaviota( means the Seagull). We went on a boat ride for about 2 hours which was nice. It started out cloudy but the sun burned it off. We seen the houses along the Rio Leo which flows into the lagoon area which flows into the Gulf of Mexico. It is a popular fishing spot and also people do some hunting here;especially for ducks. We enjoyed looking at the houses, hotels, fishing places and others along the shore and seen Pelicans and also some very pretty flamingos. They were a very pretty pink and were the first flamingos we had ever seen. We toured the waterways in the lagoon, got up to the Gulf of Mexico where the breakers were coming in and seen them catching some salt water trout. It cost us 300 pesos or about $15 each and it was a nice, calm ride.
I learned some Spanish words and looked at a Spanish English dictionary that Peggy had from Barnes and Noble. I liked it a lot and am going to get one. I also fixed some fabric that came down on the front of the 5th under neath by the generator. Tom had a staple gun so I pushed it up as it originally was with the end slipping behind the angle iron. I then stapled it in place and then the ends where some wood was showing I caulked it which will also help hold the fabric. It was a good fix and should last a long time. Edith washed down the back of the 5th that had streaks from the roof. We both visited with some of the people and got involved with working on a wiring problem for one on the totes which we will have to pursue another day as we ran out of time. Basically there was voltage on the ground wire to the tote when the brakes of the coach went on which blew the fuse. Apparently this ground is isolated from the body ground or it would blow even without the tote hooked up. We then had our logbook meeting for tomorrow and found we are leaving at 9:30 am as we have about 142 miles trip is all. We are parking in a hotel parking lot so likely it will be fairly tight again. It is just an over-night and we travel again the next day. After the meeting we had a social with everyone bringing dips and snacks. We had some excellent non-alcoholic beverage with lime in it which was excellent. We again had a beautiful sunset. We spent the night relaxing in the 5th wheel and I worked on the computer and studied Spanish.
January 27, 2004 Tuesday. Today we travel to about 20 miles south of Manuel to the Hotel Country Express Parking lot to dry camp. We got up this morning and traveled into La Pesca with the F-350 and on to the light house and beach. There were a 100 or more Palopas on the beach which was right on the Gulf of Mexico. On one spot up a tributary there must of been 100 boats that appeared to be used by fishing so apparently catches out of the ocean and tourists are the main lively hoods here. We got back and headed out about 9:30 am. It is quite a procedure getting everybody out of the small place because the have to get the totes off, get them out of the way and then get into a place to get them back on and have people where they can still pull in line where they are supposed to be. The CB repeater stations were spaced out perfectly this time. Things went smoothly until a couple of people were really low on fuel. Dick wanted everybody to stop to keep us together but it really was a jam up as the place was not big enough. It turned out we had more gas rigs than expected and the gas pumps were at the front so they blocked traffic. They ran out of diesel almost right away and the two that needed it the worst did not get any. It was a mess but finally Dick and Denny got everybody back on the road with the CB repeaters spaced fairly well. We found another Pemex station down the road about 3 miles so just the two that badly needed fuel stopped along with Denny the tailgunner. They got about 8 miles behind but eventually started to catch up. Dick got into the hotel lot early so he could describe the turn and found it to be a big lot. We pulled in and lined up and some started setting up and others went to eat at the café. Then Dick found out from the management that they wanted us to circle on the outside of the lot which made sense so their lot was not all jammed up. It took a long while to get the word to everybody to get them out of the café, etc but eventually everybody got moved and circled. Dick and Denny use portable C.B handhelds so that works pretty good to direct people. On the way down I had a sked with Chris at 10 am, then at 1 pm with Chris again and Ole was there. Now suddenly I had all kinds of SWR. I finally figured out that I had not moved the antenna switch so apparently at 9 am with Chris I was transmitting on the 11 meter antenna with horrible SWR but he heard me fine. I am amazed I did not trip out the amp but maybe I did and Chris was so strong I did not realize it. Anyway I have to remember to change antenna's on the switch and remember to back the drive power down into the amplifier.
I ran some tests and the CB set seems to receive as good as my IC-746 so the CB set seems to be working fine.
In the lot Edith found the toilet was plugged with water in the pipe above the floor level. I was sure our black water tank was not full so it must of stopped up in the pipe or where the pipe goes into the tank. The pipe goes at a slant and in a parking lot we don't have any water available to try and work out the plug with water and a hose. I finally a coat hanger into a long wire and left the hook at the end and it went down easily but it still did not unplug. I finally turned and turned the wire while moving up and down and broke it loose. I am not sure why we are having a problem as we have been flushing plenty of water when we flush the toilet and when we dump we hook a hose to flush kit we have installed in the black water tank which sprays water inside the black tank under pressure to flush things out. If we can get to someplace where we are hooked to the sewer we will have to try and run a hose down the stool and see if we can bust loose any accumulation that may of build up right under the inlet pipe The tank only appears to be 6 or 7 inches deep so there would not be a lot of clearance. Anyway it sure got my attention with another night of dry camping left and also I think the next stop just has a dump so we may not be able to do the hose thing there.
After setting up I decided to use 20 meters and since Chris had been so strong and tried N0IA/4 in Florida with great success so this is going to give me another option. I can try and contact around noon on our travel days when we take a break and also may be able to sometimes on free days or other times we are around the camp but suspect most of the time we will be out touring. Again this morning 30 meters was good with strong signals. We have our log book meeting at 5 pm and that is it for the day. We might eat in the restaurant here as prices seemed reasonable and get started trying some food in Mexico.
At our 5 pm logbook meeting Dick had the owners stop by and they explained how they started construction in 2001 and opened in April of 2002. Their daughter spoke English for them but he did understand some English. They have a Hotel and Restaurant and hope to add some campground facilities. It is a very nice place and the restaurant is new and has lots of tile. We had our Spanish lesson and Dick and Denny got things better organized with a time set up for everyone to be by there CB radio. They will toot their horns about 1 minute before radio check time. We will leave at 8 am. Becky did a nice job with the logbook session and had a couple of more maps for us. We then went to supper at the restaurant and we asked Willy and Brenda Casteels to eat with us. They are chicken farmers from Ontario but get away in the winter and go south and have done a lot of traveling. He came from Belgium as a young lad. We had a great time and had a completely Spanish menu and the waitresses spoke no English at all so between us we figured out as much as we could. We had Helga come over and help us as she knows quite a bit of Spanish and we ended up getting pretty much what we expected. I can see we need to take our phrase book with us and a small flashlight so one can see the book better and maybe a small magnifying glass. The food was excellent. Dick our wagon master said they have not had problems with anyone getting sick eating in the restaurants in there past three trips so we are going to plunge ahead. The camp ground here is the parking lot of the Country Express Hotel north of Tampico and it is not in the Mexican Camping book. The url is www.countgryexpresshotel.com.
January 28, 2004 Wednesday- We headed out at 8 am and in Tampico Unit 3 was pulled over by the police. Apparently they entered a street on a flashing green which immediately switched to yellow for a split second and then red. The stopped about 2 meters into the intersection and the police there flagged them down and they had to pay a fine of 500 peso's or go to the police station. They paid the fine. Meanwhile this was reported and the tailgunner was watching for them but did not come upon them. We did not know any of the above other than they we reported being stopped by the police. We were trying to get the best information where they had last been seen as they are the only unit without a CB other than a handheld which did receive but not transmit. About the time I got the best information I could for Denny as to where they were last seen ( I had been driving very slow to not get out of range of Denny and those behind me) I came upon the group that was ahead of me and low and behold there was unit 3 and we got the story of what happened and got the word back to Denny. I still do not know what happened. It is possible that they paid there fine, those behind up to me got past them and they then pulled back on the road ahead of me explaining why I or anyone behind us never came upon them and because I was driving slow it took me awhile to catch up to them. We then headed on south and made a fuel stop around noon. As there was not room for everybody Dick took most of them on ahead. Denny decide we would eat dinner there and then head on. We lost radio contact with those ahead so I ended up being in the lead and we got into Tuxpan and a sign was not there that should of been and we did not turn where we should. We found later the front group got lost here as well but the police lead them on through but by the time we got there the police had left and we were on our own. We figured out we were wrong but we had gone to far so we had to figure a way to get turned around which was impossible. Finally rather than pulling down a street and trying to back up into a busy street I took a side street north, eventually found a decent looking one back west but turned out to be up a steep hill and the telephone wire looked low but we managed to get under them and then headed back south and got on the street we were on going back the way we came, got to the corner where we missed our turn and headed south. I did have to go up over the curb once in this detour. That part I hate based on my past experience with broken leaf springs but no trouble with the heavy duty springs and load E rated tires. We al got together thanks to two meters and CB and headed off again. We got to the Pemex station where we were all told to fill up or top off which we did. By that time there were just the four of us in the rear group. We got into Poza Rica and was confused by the directions as we had two maps. I asked for suggestions from behind but Denny was not sure. It hind sight we had turned to quick. Anyway we got into downtown Poza Rica and lost so I determined I was going to turn around and go back to where we last knew we were correct in following the log book. With all the static and interference it was tough on CB and Denny and Donna were trying to figure out where we were at. I came to where I wanted to go back where we came but it had a no turn sing so had to go on by and take a side street. I had one corner where I could not quite make it so I had to roll the 5th wheels over the curb again. We got parked on a side street, made contact with unit 12 and found where they were parked on CB and kept contact with Denny our tailgunner on two meters. His wife ran into a store and got directions for us to the campground and if got them from Denny and got them relayed to Unit 12 and we got followed his directions and eventually caught up with them. It was right through El Centro and we had to make a returno. Denny then lead us into the hotel/RV park which we had to make another returno to get to. We are packed in here like sardines and still no black water dump and we will be here again tomorrow night. Most people here have electricity and water. We have nothing but we dry camp all the time so no big deal other than it would of been nice to dump and rinse our black tank seeing the plugged situation we had last night. We had a social and tomorrow we go on a bus tour with a guide that can speak excellent English as well as Spanish and has lead many tours so we should have a great tour as long as it is not wet. It rained most of the day today. I see they have an Internet connection in the hotel so I will try and check that out tomorrow night. On Friday it looks like we have a long day, one of the longer of the trip but hopefully some of it is cuota and will be smooth and not much traffic. More on the route to the next campsite later. We did have a jello cake made for us of the flag of Mexico which we got pictures of before we ate it. I sent e-mail just after dark via K6IXA on 20 meters and got my e-mail. I talked to Chris earlier today but had to quit early because of the route problems mentioned above. He was not able to be there at 2 so we lost contact. Anyway I had an e-mail from him and sent one back letting him know we would be on the road again Friday so we can try a sked again then. I did learn some words that are on the road signs today.
January 29, 2004 Thursday Guided busTour of El Tajin and surrounding areas leaving at 7:30 pm and getting back around 5 pm. We had a shower, the hot water heater worked perfectly and we noticed the water is hotter with gas than electric. We had a problem with the toilet again but the water let loose and went into the tank. I don't know if if plugs up because of traveling and material lodging by the inlet or if we have a build up by the inlet. Hopefully we can dump tomorrow night and rinse and take care of the problem. I did my normal walk around and found the top carrier on the right hand side was bent out. On climbing the 5th I found something had snagged it in our adventure yesteday and bent it and in so doing ripped out the roof bracket holding it. I broke it off and there was some plywood the bulged under the rubber roof so I pushed it down and got some of the good flowable roof caulk and patched it so water don't get in the holes. When I get time I will say the busted end off flush and probably call it good.
We were on the road as planned and it was cloudy and misty but no rain. We went to the Totonac Indian village. It was about 2 ½ hours to the village. We were greeted by the mayor and his wife. We gave him an Adventure Caravan jacket which he really appreciated. They then talked about their customs and put on a mock wedding and then we had a noon meal of a traditional food of theirs. We then got to walk around the town about and hour. We had fun practicing our Spanish and Edith bought some lace material and some school kids were there that knew English but the person selling did not so we had fun. I'm happy with my Spanish and being able to communicate. It has been encouraging. I certainly have a long ways to go and it is hard to follow it quickly enough but the only cure for this is practice. We then headed back and stopped at a stand to get jecama and banana's. They were very reasonable price. We then got back to the El Tajin site. Our guide Vicky who speaks Spanish and English showed us the site and we walked around and some we could climb up on. We were able to only see a small amount of it but with her descriptions we certainly got a good idea of what the history was. The Totonac Indian's were under the Aztec rule but other than paying tribute and having to meet a few other demands lived there own way It was 1500 - 800 BC. They were instrumental in making it possible for Cortez to capture Mexico City. We then seen the Flying Totanac Indians follow and ancient custom while one sat on top of the pole and played music the other four let them selves down, upside down while turning. The ancient custom required 13 revolutions as that was a holy number to them. This was accomplished by winding the 4 ropes around the pole 13 times in drum like fashion. The ropes went out away from the pole over a support to keep them separated and this turned. There weight unwound the ropes and the unwinding caused them to rotate around the pole and go lower on each revolution. When they reached the ground they uprighted themselves and then the one on top got off the top of the pole and slid down one of the ropes. He wrapped his feet around the rope and put something on his hands to protect against rope burns. We got back at 5:40 and had our logbook meeting at 6:30. They did a better job after all the mix up yesterday. I studied it and went over it with Edith and am going to do that every time. We got caught yesterday as I never expected to be the lead one!
January 30, 2004 Friday This was our travel day to Veracruz. The bad news as I went to bed last night I suddenly did not feel very well, had a fever and got the chills and shook a lot. Shortly there after a severe case of diarrehea. When I got up to go to the bathroom I definitely felt weak and listless and had a headache. Edith got the diarrehea about the middle of the night. We had to be in our rigs ready to line up at 6:30 am so it was no fun getting things packed up feeling like we did. Fortunately the trip went pretty well but the road was pretty bumpy and our stomachs were sore. Fortunately we made enough stops we could run back to the bathroom. We were able to dump at the entrance so that was good as were pretty full and I was concerned about our black water problem. Unfortunately we could not rinse with our rinse kit as there was no hose but Edith did run lots of water down the stool The Green Angles found us at our last Pemex stop so they lead us into the Hotel Mocomba RV lot. We were told we would have electricity and water but many did not get it but for us it does not matter. We did get to fill with water and with our batteries we are fine. We are not going to use toilet paper for the rest of the trip to be sure we can get by with the problem in our black water tank. We are going to try vinegar in it with some liquid to see if that will loosen any deposit under the inlet pipe. Hopefully someplace we will have a sewer hook up at our site and we can really work with the rinsing. We were able to get e-mail all OK. We had our welcome to Mexico Supper. We had not eaten all day and all I ate was my steak. At one federal police checkpoint our Wagon Master experience one of the persons trying to get 100 peso bribe but the acted like they could not understand English and they waved them on. One other of our group did get searched which is pretty unusual
January 31, 2004 Saturday We slept better and the diarrehea is less but still definitely not normal. Today we toured Veracruz, went to a special coffee and breakfast place, seen the zocola, the harbor, the Fort Protecting the harbor and had a boat ride on the river that Cortez came into Mexico and stayed with the Indians. We had dinner there and again we ate very, very lightly and managed to handle the diarrehea. On the way back the bus stopped at Walmart as many were short of food because of concern about the border crossing which turned out to be no problem at all but we did not know that of course. We got some food and toilet paper. Our neighbor who had problems with his cummings diesel found out had had a broken wire to the alternator due to corrosion. Our guide here helped him find a Cummings dealer and they came out, fixed it and checked it out. He now had proper voltage. He could of fixed the wire himself probably but it was way in behind and really tough to get at and he wanted to be sure no other damage had taken place. He stayed back at the CG and got it all fixed. During the day Tracks Caravan came in. We are now really crowded
Tomorrow is a a rest day, we may go to Sam's Club and see if anything gets lined up to see the Super Bowl. We did get some diarrehea pills from our friends Tom and Gwen from Canada. They have been getting by with ice in there broken refridgerator and of course really can't have frozen stuff other than buying something frozen and using it quite quickly. They are proving that using ice is a viable alternative if you refrigerator dies someplace where you can not get it fixed.
February 1, 2004 Sunday This is a free day We visited with some of the others from the other caravan. I helped Willy check his CB antenna and caulk a spot by his dish mount. I also changed out a tail light bulb as some noted the left one occasionally went out for a bit. The one connection one the bulb looked bad. I then found out Tom had all three wheels off his travel trailer so helped him get his electric brakes working better, grease a wheel bearing and one another the both needed to be changed. I then helped Chris Carter on his jeep tote wiring along with Willy. We found that there must of been a very bad connection as it was wired correctly but when hooked up it did not work. In other words under load the voltage dropped way down. We tapped in front of some connections and got things working. We did find out his class A has a separate wire for the brakes rather than using the tail lights so we won't be able to make his brake lights work on the jeep tote until we can get some diodes then we can make a Y from the red brake lead to the two signal light wire. Denny checked out a hot brake problem that shows up from time to time, worked on a tote wiring problem and he had a Trojan battery that had a broken terminal and a hole in the top of the battery One of the gal's has a radiator with red coolant that is a bit low so we had a lot of maintenance today. We went to Sam's, got fuel and walked on the beach. Beautiful, sunshine day with a breeze. We are supposed to have a super bowl party at the restuarant. I also talked with four Canadians traveling together and they warned us about the agriculture check into Campeche where they took away their eggs and pork so we are boiling our eggs and have cooked our pork and if need be we will take it out of the refrigerator before the checkpoint. We actually should be OK tomorrow and the next day so we will get a lot of the pork used up. Today I learned about having a washer the correct size to install the races for the bearing in the wheel for the 5th and having a solid rod as a punch to pound on the washer with and I also need to carry some diodes for wiring concerns. On the Ladtel phone cards lift up the receiver, get dial tone, hit the abc key down below the key pad to get English, put in your phone card and then dial 001 605 337 3505. The drivers meeting was late as Dick and Becky were late in getting back from looking at other camping possibilities. All in all the meeting ended up taking 50 minutes which got old as we were missing the start of the Super Bowl as we had reservations in the nearby restaurant where they could get FOX in Spanish of course. When we got there it was still 0 to 0 and was just into the second quarter. The 2nd half the music in the place was horribly loud so we had a great picture and we could see the numbers. After the half time the music stopped and it was much nicer. Our Canadian four couples were there and the lady I talked to earlier confirmed the agricultural check point from her notes. They were from BC. It was a great Super Bowl and watching it in Spanish was no problem. After the game the water hoses had stretched down to me and just as I arrived and got my hose out Willy who is next to me got his tank filled so we started flowing into mine and it took about 10 minutes as the flow was really slow. I then hooked up our sewer hose and dumped our grey water and left it open so we won't have to carry any grey water. Our gray water is plenty clear and as far as soap in it there is a terrific lot of soap that goes on the ground from washing all the rigs so were really are not adding to the problem. It is pretty much an excepted practice in Mexico because most camp grounds do no have sewer hook ups and those that do are septic system so they go into the ground as well. We leave at 8:30 am to 9 am after the Tracks Caravan who are headed from Mexico City. We have a big day tomorrow, about 293 miles but nearly all of it is on good toll roads so it should be some of the best roads yet. Tomorrow night we camp at the campgrounds.at Verhermosa and we will not see the Olmec heads but will see them on the way back as we will stay at the same campgound. I think one of the reasons is that the Olmec heads site is closed on Mondays. Our campsite the next two nights has a dump and limited electricity and water but at Campeche we are supposed to each have a pad, water, electric and a sewer connection. The sites alternate as 30 amp and 50 amp sites. If this is true this will be the most modern campground so far.
February 2, 2004 Monday We watched the Tracks Caravan take off and we got pulled out and hooked up about 8:30 am and was on the road about 9:15 am. The Green Angles ended up leading us out a different route from the one at the 50 minute meeting so every one's odometer reading was off all day. It turned out to be the route we originally had planned to use coming in but the Green Angles wanted to use a different route so in some ways they are helping and in other ways they are not. We got separated on the toll road because it was very rough and we can not go as fast as the Class A with their air ride and big tires as we were driving faster than we wanted. One of the disadvantages of a cavern. We expected a major exchange and it just looked like a little exit to a town and the towns indicated on the signs were not in our log. Anyway we got by the corner and Tom followed and in a mile or so I definitely knew we had missed the turn. Well it is a major deal as there just are not many RETURNO's so we ended up going 15 miles and finally saw a gravel cut across and of course could not get stopped in time so we backed on the shoulder and got back to it and then walked over and looked at it. It looked like to much for Tom's rig so I twice encouraged him the we go on and look for a true RETURNO so he went ahead. I suggested he take it at an angle but he took it straight on which in his case may of been the right thing to do. He got over to far to the left but did get the truck through the ditch and it had enough power to get up the other side and then the hitch held up the front. The rear had metal skids welded on them and they started dragging. He has three axles and the first wheel became suspended in the air over the ditch, then the first and second and then all three. There was like 2 foot below the wheels to the ground. It slide along and about time the skid was going down into the ditch and I though it was all over the front wheel caught the other bank and then the second and then all three. It was like a sled bridging a canyon. It was a miracle and as far as we can tell absolutely no damage to the trailer. I will give the company that designed this trailer up in Canada a lot of credit. Those metal skids are something. They stick down about 8 inches but without they it would of been a disaster. We got headed back and got back into radio contact and actually did not have any more problems. We did find several mistakes in the log and found one place where it said to make a right turn but one needed to go straight ahead. We later heard people went 3 different directions here. We pulled over and decided it had to be the Cuota road and that was the right choice.
The problem is that the Class A with the AIR RIDE and big tires just go to fast and we can't keep up with subjecting our 5th wheel to far to much abuse. Because of this we get separated and become the leader and then when we make a mistake we lead others with us and that I feel very bad about. Edith and I have made errors before and we will make more but we seem to always figure them out and recover but this is a new ball game when you lead others astray. I have learned one thing and this will hold true when we are traveling alone when there is a question about a turn try and pull over before the turn and think it out. Even if one is by the turn get stopped as soon as you possibly can and maybe you can still get backed up if that is the turn you should of made. Mexico is a lot tougher as the maps are not very good, the road numbering is poor or for sure confessing as for example Hwy 180D can go three directions from one point, one left, one straight ahead and one right and actually 4 as it goes back where you came from. You don't find this in the states other than City route for Hwy 180 and bypass but in Mexico they call the exits all by the highway name many times so it you don't know what city you want to go to you are likely to make a mistake. Once you make a mistake it is hard to recover as it may be very hard to find a RETURNO and if you do you may find it very hard to get the 5th wheel or any rig around it. Then when you get back to where you should of turned many times you have to go way beyond to find another RETURNO to get over on the other side of the road where you originally were to now make the correct turn.
Denny and I both had a great deal of trouble today having Dick hear us when he called us and we answered him. We were supposed to all gather at a PEMEX at KM 125 and they actually stopped two PEMEX ahead of that so it was crowed and everyone we wanting to go by as they were only at about 117 KM. When we pulled out with the crowded conditions Bruce ran into Chris and got a hole in the side of his 5th wheel from Chris's mirror but it was Bruce's fault. Certainly part of it was the crowed conditions. We were bunched up and we did get through Villahermosa and to the CG at the fairgrounds in good shape. At our logbook meeting at 6 pm there was frustration about the logbook errors and I complained about the Class A WITH THE AIR DRIVING TO FAST! AND WE ARE SUPPOSED TO MAINTAIN VISUAL CONTACT. We just can not do this with out driving way faster than we should with the two 5th wheels and the two travel trailers. Well it then came out the the Class C and some of the less expensive CLASS A felt we were going way to fast. One suggested looking in back and slowing down and Dick said we should keep up but I don't agree as it will work by slowing down to keep people together as well. Dick came by later to our 5th and went to a lot of other rigs so the complaints are being heard. I feel Dick and Denny are doing a good job it is just that people need to slow down and the rest of the problems of wrong turns are mainly poor logbook instruction so when you become the lead one it is very easy to make a mistake on a road you have never been on in your life. Dick has been on it before although not always the same direction and Denny has been on it once so that gives them a big advantage. I could do well if I had been on it last year. Edith and I are working hard on figuring out the turns and getting our action plan in place so we can do our best to get stopped and think about it before making a wrong decision or as I mentioned before stop as soon as possible. We got e-mail easily. BTW the bugs really started biting as it got dark at the logbook meeting. Becky drove the morning route immediately after getting her to be sure it is correct and did a great job going over it. Hopefully Dick can work with his squelch and he can hear Denny and I better tomorrow. I had a great schedule with Chris and Old with great signals. We must of talked for at least 30 minutes. They have over 20 inches of snow in SF and at noon it was only 17 degrees and has been below ZERO every morning. After that Jim K0HW called in and we had a nice chat so it is great to maintain contact. Tomorrow we leave at 8 am but everyone is hooked up and we have all kinds of room here at the fairground parking lot so it should be easy. We take Libre Hwy 180 and there is no Cuota so things should be a lot less confusing as long as we check the map for the next town.
February 3, 2004 Tuesday We left at 8:00 am. The standard prepartion to get going and I got a picture of the CG which was the fairground parking lot. We are in a new travel order and at least for a few days I believe the speed will be less. We will see if it lasts. I had a nice visit with the guard and was able to get help on pronouncing some words. Things went well with the Spanish on this attempt. We then got under way and so far I have been able to keep my directions straight. We added the computer Map N GO and Garmin GPS so we have a better mapping program. The maps are off in a number of cases, only major roads but I can see where occasionally it could prevent making a mistake. It fired right up and worked perfectly all day so the pre-testing worked. It was a much more relaxed day, I was comfortable with the speed and it seems as always ended up being the leader of a group as the others got ahead of us. We managed to not make a wrong turn. We got in about 2 pm and the CG is shaded, nice, right on the Gulf of Mexico. We have water and there are 15 amp electric but we did not use and a sewer dump for the way out. We walked the beach and Edith got two buckets of shells. We walked back through town and got some rolls and vegetables so had fun with my Spanish. I got somewhat confused and did not do nearly as well as this morning but the key word is practice, practice. I did get a few things communicated anyway. Both cases there was ZERO English. It was all Spanish. We had a social hour and they told us about some upcoming things. We visited, talked to Pattie and Jacky about 5th wheels as they had all sorts of questions, I worked on E-mail and the first travelogue. We had a great supper of pineapple, a hamburger, cantalope so it was great. We have some projects for tomorrow. We did manage to get into Campeche with our pork as they did not check us and if they had we had the pork out of the refridgerator and we had the eggs boiled. They also would of taken away chicken but we did not have any. Anyway our Canadian friends really gave us a valuable tip and we were prepared. Most of our group lost a lot of products so we will get to eat ours. One of the gals marched her eggs over to the trash barrel and smashed them, to be sure they were not used! It was pretty funny if you would of seen it but she did not think it was funny.
February 4, 2004 Wednesday Today we had a free day. We got up about 7 am had eggs for breakfast to get rid of most of our fresh eggs. We then changed out the tail light so that problem should be taken care of for a few months anyway. If the left one gives us trouble we will change it out as well. The problem with the old one appears to be a problem we have experienced before and that is the ground strip in the tail light goes bad. I sent out the travelogue, some other e-mail and we brought our travel map on the outside of the RV up to date and updated the GPS listings for the campsites.. We then used a local taxi service which were motorcycles pulling a two wheel cart with a top and side shade and a padded bench seat. They played music and took us all over town. It was over an hour and cost 60 pesos so less then $3.00 each. The Tracks Caravan came in and we were amazed to meet Linda Aten who is a sister of Carol Sweeter who I a home economist I worked with in the extension service for many years. Then there was a SD couple and it turns out she is a sister of Joy Grapes in Salem so in the space of about 3 minutes we meet people who are sisters to people we know well so that is just amazing. We then headed off with the F-350 and went on down Hwy 180 where we will go tomorrow and got a lot more nice shells. They were actually in drifts in places. We seen others from our group that went out as well. I had a good visit with the attendant at PEMEX and I did well with my Spanish and he did not know any English. We then drove a few places in town and took some pictures. I got my first experience with the phone card and it worked fine. You lift the reciever, hit the ABC key, insert your card arrow first and up and then dial 001 and the he USA number. I got through to my Mom but found there seems to be a front end charge as the card dropped to 18 pesos immediately then to 7 peso and it ran out before I expected as it was supposed to be 5 pesos per minute but I did not notice the big up front charge the first time. I used my other 30 peso card and called again and explained what happened and got a weather report. I will have to buy at least a 100 peso card next time and a 300 peso would be better. The quality was excellent. We then went to the town Zocola and did some shopping but I could not find a Mexico T-shirt. Back at the CG is visited Thomas the owner XE3CA and got pictures of his antenna's, his gear and of him. He likes his horizontal loop and says he has one of the best signals out of Southeast Mexico on 40 meters. I then worked on my Spanish words and then did one more try for a T-shirt but did get a notepad and had good success with my Spanish and then ran into a family right outside the gate where the daughter knew some English so she helped me with some Spanish pronounciation. I sure wish I had had my Camera.
February 5, 2004 Thursday We left about 8:30 as the other group did not get going as scheduled. We did find out some of there group had broke leaf springs. They had travel trailers and 5th wheels, conversion vans and pick up campers, some Class C and some Class A's. It was the best road yet, the first few miles was old road but not bad, then a narrow new road as only one side was done but after that a wide road and new and wide shoulders. We stopped for a break out about 60 miles and then picked up the Cuota close in. It was the best Cuoto yet, divided, new, and a big shoulder. We got off for Lirma but then it was not so obvious. A lot of our group thought we were lost but the GPS showed us heading toward the Ocean. We went aways, stopped, had a roadside meeting and decided to head on. Dave Unit 15 came and he wanted to go back the other way but I told him we decide to continue. He wanted me to call on 2 meters and I said I would be did not dream I would get Dick as he has not been receiving well but I did get him and he confirmed we were correct. We got to the PEMEX landmark and continued back south and got to the CG turn off. The Cuota had taken us by a bit so we had to take the city bypass and then head back on Hwy 180 Libre. If we would of been by ourselves we would not of taken the Cuota but took the Libre and we would of come right by the CG on the coast. It is the best CG yet, Club Nautical with sewer, 50 or 30 amp service and water. Nice cement pads but a but tight for a 5th wheel 30 foot long to back into. No problem for Class A or C's or shorter 5th. There are a few spots that would be a little easier to back into with a longer 5th. We rinsed and rinsed and rinsed our black water and had totally clear water coming out. We will be careful not to put toilet paper in while in Mexico to help make sure we don't have a problem Had a great schedule on 20 meters at 11 am with Chris and Ole. Once we got set up I sent our our location and also sent out an e mail to several, Tomorrow we do a bus tour of Campeche. Today we loaf around, check out the beach and pool. We did run the AC as it is 93 degrees outside but the 5th was nearly 100 degrees. We will have to work on the fantastic fan in the bedroom that Edith broke last night pulling on the manual lever and broke the plastic bracket that holds it. Anyway I got it working again electrically and if worse comes to worse we can let it hang by the wires so we can run the fan. We would have to hold the mechanism in place by hand to manually open and close the roof cover for the fan.
February 6, 2004 Friday The bus doesn't get here until 9:30 so we fired up the toaster and had a piece of toast and cheese. I then went to work on the epoxied piece for the fantastic fan. I scraped the paper towels off with a carpet knife and soon decided a file would be the best way to take of the excess epoxy and form it back to the original shape. I then took a drill and made holes through the epoxy filled screw holes. I then reinstalled it and it works great so definitely a technique to remember. Just lay something on a paper towel, rebuild it and use plenty of epoxy and then after a day when it has cured with a file and can shape it to the original shape and if it needs holes just drill them. It was hot and humid and I started getting stomach cramps. It looked like the bus trip to Campeche might be tough. We took our back packs and water. Campeche had been attacked by pirates from Isle de Carmin to the south and many were killed over the years. Eventually the government in Spain finally decided they had to do something so the build a fort and walled the city. That finally prevented the pirates from attacking the city. The pirates then attacked other smaller cities to the south but eventually an invasion force was formed against the European pirates and they were pretty much wiped out. We toured the fort and I was feeling tough so eventually just went back to the bus and got some water and rested. We then went down town to the old walled city of which just part of the wall remains. We drove around it first in the bus. It is about 8 large blocks by 8. On the way from the fort we also stopped at a Catholic Church the had a black Christ. The bus dropped us off about noon and we were on our own until 3:30pm. Becky got everyone tourist permits and was going to pay for them. The banks were full as it was payday for a lot of people so they had to wait in line a long time. We walked in at the sea gate and came out at the land gate and went over to the market. We bought a couple of T-shirts, a pineapple, tomatoes, banana's and more than a peck of oranges in a sack. Everything was very reasonable with the oranges costing 40 peso's or less than $4. When we got back to the gate the information guy found a young man to carry it for us over to the sea gate which I was thankful for as I was definitely sick with a fever and cramps and just did not have any zip. The bus was not available as it was about 1 ½ early so Edith stayed with our stuff on a bench in the shade and I went back to an Internet café and for 50 cents for ½ and hour I got on the Internet and checked my mail and bank balance. The only thing tricky was some of the symbols we use were not on the key board such as the ~ or @ so had to have the fellow in charge help me find them. They were holding down the alt key and typing two or three numbers. I will put them on a cheat card and see if they are the same next time. I was happy to see my mailbox was not full of junk with all the virus problems. I deleted out everything I did not want. We had to wait for Becky to finally get done at the bank so the bus left about 4 pm. Back at the CG I laid down on the couch and still had no interest in eating anything but felt better other than I was very warm, I think from a fever yet. It started raining hard. I did get my e-mail in the morning and I also learned how to correctly pronounce some Spanish words today. We found out a Spanish school of six weeks cost Denny and Donna about 1100 peso's each
February 7, 2004 Saturday It rained hard several times during the night. Water is setting around this morning and it is windy and much cooler so a cold front must of moved in as it has been in the 90's the past few days. When I woke up I felt much better and had a light breakfast. I still feel a little warm but not bad. I got an e-mail from Curt to try a schedule today on 20 meters so I sent an e-mail to his cellular telephone that I would start looking for him at 10 am his time which would be 11 am my time. I was able to talk to Curt 3 times the best being at 4 pm my time. He did run his amplifier which really helped. He ran 300-400 watts and it made his signal go from S-3 to S-6 and he sounded about twice as loud. Edith went into town with some of the others to Sam's Club and a Mexican Grocery Store that would be typical of a US Grocery store in that they had things besides groceries. I stayed at the CG and worked on my Spanish, sent Curt some e-mails to his cellphone which works great. It started raining shortly after Edith left and basically rained all day. Sometime light and sometime heavy enough to get wet but not as hard as last night. There were lots of water puddles around today. They are having a carnival party at the headquarters building here tonight but it is by invitaion only but we looked at the room and it is nicely decorated. A couple of other campers pulled in, one from Illinois that were at our last CG and there is one here when we came from NM. Edith talked to the ones from Il, they are on their own but their church had put together a map and info on Mexico they have found helpful. They are headed to Cancun so we may bump into them again as there are not that many campgrounds in Mexico. There are some nice small ones we don't go to because our group is to large. We had our logbook meeting and I visited with Sandy and Pattie and got some Spanish words figured out. I made good progress on my Spanish today. I still have stomach problems but at least don't have the cramps. The route looks simple for tomorrow, no tolls but we do go through a lot of small towns which means lots of topes so it will take quite awhile. We will go to Xamul which is one of the four biggest sites in Mexico. Hopefully the rain will stop. We are back to dry camping for the next several days.
February 8, 2004 Sunday Today we travel to Uxmal leaving at 8:30 am. We got out a bit late but the trip was easy and the logbook was good. The country was hilly and it was ranch country with not a lot of farming. We went through a lot of small towns with lots of topes. A number had stone fences between some of the yards and some had upright sticks the were tight, probably several layers for walls. We seen quite a few houses made totally out of palm leaves over a frame of poles like the Palapa's. We stopped at a small town and took some pictures, walked around and ate. We took a picture of the arch into the Yucatan and they waved us through the agriculture check. We are packed into the parking lot. We walked around and helped Sandy and Patty with their CB. It turned out to be a major project as their radio died. Denny the tailgunner had another so we installed it after tearing out the old one as we could not get at the antenna without tearing it out. We had to remove some of the dash panel. The worst part was that Denny did not have a power cord so we had to make shift some connetors and then secured them with duct tape. They should be fixed up. We then ate and I did e-mail and got one travelogue back. Tonight we go to a light show and tomorrow we tour the Uxmal ruins on the the big four in Mexico. We passed other ruins right along the road on the way here. Actually it was a sound and light show and it was very nice but no ear phone English translation was available as the units were our for maintenance.
February 9, 2003 Monday-Adventure hired two guides so we split the group in half. Both guides were excellent with lots of information, you could hear them and their English was excellent. It was a sunny day which after all the rain was a real blessing. We got wonderful pictures and got done about noon. In the afternoon we car pooled and went to a nearby town of Muna and seen two artist shops and a women cooperative where they made things and then south of town we went to a third shop. It was a fun afternoon, relaxed and I got to practice my Spanish quite a bit. I got a Spanish/English dictionary from Sandy and Patty for helping get them going on CB again. After we got back we took pictures with the sun in the west and had a show and tell at the logbook meeting. We had a nice visit with Larry and Carol from IN who are parked next to us. It sound like we have sewer and water at Merida and then dry camp the next spot and sewer and water at Cancun. Both have weak 15 amp electricity but we won't hook up because we are better off with our batteries and don't have to be concerned about voltage problems. If we need A/C we will have to run the generator. There really has only been the one day at Campeche were it was hot enough to need a/c in the 5th. We are able to get T-shirts, XXL for less than $3.50 so that is a bargin. I also bought a high quality Panama Hat with a very nice band, signa on it.
February 10, 2004 Tuesday-It is a short drive to Merida only about 60 miles. We got started about 8:30 am and it was a good road and the log book was good. We stopped at a Hacienda called Yaxcopoil (the place green alamo tree) It was deteriated but certainly was grand and huge. It had high roofs and at its peak was about 22,000 acres. It ran cattle and during the hay day of the sisal era made large amounts of rope. In later years it had a huge one cylinder diesel engine. We got into the Rainbow Trailer park next to the Liverpool Department Store, there is a huge Mexican flag for the store that marks the CG entrance of which I got a nice picture. We went downtown to get find Wal-mart to get some Ammonium A-D but could not find it. Later we found we drove right by it. It is in the historical district and there was a lot of controversy in building it so it is build so it blends in and it is very hard to see. We were shown on the map and seen where it was later. We went to Carrefour which is a large Mexican Supermarket kind of like a Super Walmart. I did not want to leave the camara's in the F-350 but they would not let us bring the camera's into the store so rather than leave them at the service desk I just took them back out the the vehicle. I don't know why but we seen price comparisions to Wal-Mart so I suppose it was a way of protecting coping of what they did with displays, etc. Driving was interesting with all the glorieta's (round abouts)as they are used aggresively. We meet Bob and Elaine in the store and they have no Tote so were walking. We loaded their items in the back of the truck of which they had a lot and then squeezed 6 of us into the F-350. Back at the CG we looked at some Hamocks and the fellow could speak good English so I learned some Spanish words from him. I find a number of the words I have learned are no good in Mexico and it is very hard and possibly impossible to find a true Mexican/English dictionary. I also wrote down the names of some of the produce at the grocery store. The new dictionary I got from Sandy and Pattie is working out well as it fits in my pocket, is fast and has pronounciation and I used it in the grocery store with a clerk to help me find liquid milk. They did not have milk in a jug but rather super pasturized milk in boxes not refridgerated. It may of been irradiated, I will have to try and read the label and figure it out. I guess there are no dairy cows in the Yucatan. At our informal 5 pm social hour we had some Alaskan Smoked Salmon from the wagon master. It is excellent and was from the Discovery Boat Tour people in Fairbanks Alaska which we were on and had some but did not buy any as it is very expensive and we had our own Salmon we caught. A local American who came down here at 19 years of age spoke to us. She came down for learning Spanish and met a Spanish man and got married. They have a great business where they sell advertisements in a tourist guide that is put out monthly. They have a 27 year old daughter and she told about her life here and absolutely has no regrets. She said she used to miss some of the things that were in the states but in the last 10 years they have all the american stores her so she no longer has and lists of things to get when they or others go stateside. She gave us a lot of good information on the area. About 7:30 pm we rode downtown with Denny and Donna following Dick and Becky and went to the Zocalo and toured the government building which had many lighted paintings. We seen a lot of European tourists. There were many lovers in the benches in the Zocolo and there was some music and the church was lighted. Dick met some Mormans at the church who gave him the Pages from the Morman bible that describe the Connection the Mormans believe between people of Jesus time and this part of Mexico and why some Mexican's are so fair skinned. This meeting was arranged at a previous stop we have made. They are not interested in the Morman religion but are interested in the so called Morman connection between the Holy Land and so called Meso-America. It was a most interesting evening and Merida is definitely the nicest city we have been in yet, bar none. Much more prosperous and kept up.
February 11, 2004 Wednesday We left on a trolly open air bus tour of Merida at 9 am until 12 noon. We seen many, many homes in Merida and the French, Italian, Spanish, Moorish and combinations thereof types of architeture. We also seen the park of America the Zocalo a number of churches and some of the Myan plants and trees and the sisal plant and some information on the process. After we got back to the CG we asked around and Bruce and Eunice went with us to Progresso the seaport about 15 miles north. We ate at the Flamingo and when we came in a couple who were from up north waited until we were had set down and he said Bruce is that you, it has been a long time and he went on and on and Bruce you could tell could not remember who this fellow was. Well it finally turns out he just seen Bruce's name tag and was just pulling his leg. Bruce is always giving everyone a bad time so he got a taste of his own medicine and we all got a big kick out of it. We had a nice visit with them. You can rent a home from between $600 and $1000 a month from people out of Merida who use there homes at Easter and in the summer. They said they had been there since November 1st and had driven down from Ontario. There are a lot of Canadians in the area but not many from the U.S. They said it had been windy and that the seaweed had smelled but that from now on it is much better. They will be leaving the end of March. We seen the pier going out as this is the only port in the Yucatan and it is shallow so the pier goes out several miles. There are two cruise boats a week that come in and they was at least on out there today. It appeared they anchored out farther and used there life boats to run people in like they did at Juneau. We had a good meal at the Flaming restaurant and bid farewell to our Canadian friends. I learned a few new Spanish words from the waiter. We then went east to were there is an observation tower for the flamingo's and fortunately they were there and close enough to see decent with the naked eye and were fantastic with the binoculars. We seen some fighting and a few flying. Out across the lagoon there were thousands of Flamingo's. These were tall and very orange, pink. Their color comes from their diet of sea plankton. They were to far for good pictures. In talking to the ranger on duty he said there are more closer at 8 am in the morning so we are going to come back then and I will bring my telescopic lens in case they are not close enough. We will then have an early dinner at the Flamingo, go out on the dock and get some pictures and I want to buy a T-shirt. It was warm in the 5th when we got back but Eunice showed me a town she really liked south of Puerta Valarta and they also have friends in Rincon north of Puerta Valarta and he loves to fish so she said she could hook us up with them for next winter and we can coordinate through E-Mail. At 6:30 pm we car pooled down toward downtown for a supper. They did a nice job and there were lots of pictures and the waiters made Mayan coffee which they used I think Brandy with it so it flamed as they poured it back and forth. I am not much of a coffee drinker so I had a few tastes and left it.
February 12, 2004 Thursday We got up early and rode with Bruce and Eunice and another car load went with us to see the Flamingo's and they were up close. I had my spotting scope, binoculars and used my telephoto lens and go some great close ups. We also seen a number fly close by so we spent about an hour watching. We then went to Progresso to the Flamingo Restaurant and had breakfast and had a great visit. I bought a T-Shirt from them for $5
as they had an exclusive on it. Edith bought a nice one along the beach for $3.50. Again I found you can buy pop the cheapest from the stands rather than a restaurant. The price varies from 5 pesos to 15 peso's so it sure pays to shop. I am getting savy, I ask and if it is to much I just so to costoso and thank then and go on. We tried to got out on the pier but it takes a commercial permit or you have to take a taxi you can not take a private vehicle. Elaine speaks Spanish and we were told we could not go. We then headed back and some wanted to got the the Mayan Dzibilchaltun site but we missed our turn. When we got back it was about 100 degrees in the 5th so we started the generator. I downloaded my pictures and found I had great Flamingo shots so I backed all our Mexico pictures to this point up on CD. We then decided to go to the Dzibilchaltun site as it is the best one having a window where the sun lines right up in the window on March and September 21 and also lines up corner ways on June and December 21 and also a window for the beginning of the Mayan year in the first part of July. We found our group who had hired a guide so we went with them. We seen a Conote which at one end was very deep and goes into an underground river that goes many miles so it is a ancient source of water. The other end is shallow and Elaine went swimming in it. I tried to buy a picture, T-Shirt and book but the booths that had these items were not manned as it was late in the day. We did meet a local girl who sold place matts to one of the booths. Her mom was from San Diego before marrying so she could speak perfect English with no accent and also perfect Spanish so she was fun to talk to and very polite. She said her Mom could not roll her RRR very good and they teased her about sounding like a Gringo. We then went to Sam's Club and got some supplies including some ice cream When we got back a fellow was selling Hamacks and I decided to get a good one. It was more expensive than I liked but it was high quality and I got him down aways. I could of traded my watch for it but decided not to. He agreed to help me with Spanish as part of the deal so I got my list and went through every word to be sure they were understood in Mexico and found 99% of them are. About 1% would only be understood in Spain or possibly some other Spanish countries but not Mexico but now I know.
We then had our drivers meeting. The four girls had a great story. On the way into Progresso they spotted a big snake about 5 feet long and about two inches in diameter. They decided to go around the block to try and get a picture. When they got back around it was still there so Sandy rolled up slowly and Pattie was on that side and she snapped a picture and then the snake decide to crawl under their Jeep. They watched on the other side to get a picture and it came out the other side but the trouble is it did not come out. They waited and waited and waited and it did not come out. They did not know what to do so they went to the Police station and was going to report it and they decided that Sandy knew the most Spanish so she was figuring out how she was going to explain this in Spanish. They got there and chickened out as they were not sure what might all happen so they decided to turn into a dirt road that went across a field that was rough so the bounced along hoping the snake would fall out from under neath but it never did. So as far as they know the snake is still someplace under the Jeep when the got back to camp so everyone is watching for a snake and wondering about their pets and making sure they keep their doors closed. It really had everybody laughing and certainly was quite and experience. Later we hope to catch a ride down town for Yucatan music in a La Plaza near the Zocalo. We got down to listen to the music. It was nice, with a band, Yucatan dancers, guitar players and a singer from Cuba.
February 13 2004 Friday Today is day 20 of the 62 day caravan. We left about 10 am, some left earlier and we probably should have. About half way we stopped at a large Pemex and unhooked and had Bob and Elaine go with us and a group of us went to Xalum where there is a huge old church that dates back to the 1500's and has a lot of Spanish and Mayan history. An early priest wrote some of the earliest history about the Mayan culture. Some of our group got there ahead of us so they suggested a place for lunch. Edith was not feeling well today so only had a Sprite. We then headed back, hooked up and a little ways down the road stopped at a special cemetary that was really decorated. We brought up the tailgunner position. We got into Chichen Itza about 5 pm and by 6 it is pretty dark. It rained on and off since noon hour, sometimes hard. I had a good sked with AC0M at 11 am, he was 20 over S 9. It rained pretty hard as we were parking on the ball field. TRACKS Caravan is here. We are all dry camping and I doubt if we will get to see the sound and light show because of the rain. I got our e mail for the second time today first try and sent some e mails. February 14, 2004 Saturday Today is day 21 fo the 62 day caravan and we tour Chichen Itza. We got in about 9 am and had a great guide, his name was Abel. He said he taught himself English. He is without a doubt the best English speaking guide we had yet and he also understood our questions. He was a very, very smart person and he had great photos in a photo book that he showed us that really added to the tour. I have to give Adventure Caravan credit as they have used this guide before and went to special efforts to get him again. He had just broke a bone in his foot playing football so he rode and pushed a bicycle with his good foot. He gave us the logic that a lot of the so called human sacrifice may have been more symbolic than real based on the lack of skeletons found and the the people were astronomers and mathmeticians. It is amazing how the had the calendar and how they knew directions and the seasons and how good acoustics they had. The one that was absolutely amazing was in the ball field where if you made a noise it echoed seven times. I climbed the big temple and also took the door at the bottom to climb up the inner temple where there were and jaguar and another animal. It is our understanding that this is the last year the public will be able to do this so we wanted to take advantage of it. There are huge crowds here on the equinox dates to see the special shadows and light. They had knowledge of eclipse events and of the stars and even had primative telescopes. I got a book on Chichen Itza and then got some T-Shirts and had a good time using my Spanish with them. When we got back it was nearly a l00 degrees in the 5th and very humid so we ran the A/C. We watched the movie Frida but it was a poor movie, we did not care for it at all. We had Tom and Gwen over to cool off as they had no A/C and next time we have to remember to have Sandy and Pattie over. There were lots of people around trying to sell things or trade. I visited with one a couple of times. His English was quite good. At 5:30 we had our drivers meeting in the restaurant and then had our buffet supper. After that we had special dancers for Valentines day. They had Mayan costumes and did a nice job.
February 15, 2004 Sunday Day 22 of the caravan trip. We left at 8 am and took the toll road to Cancun. It cost us 460 peso's for the pickup and 5th wheel for the tolls. I will say it was a good road, totally limited access, 4 lane like a USA Interstate and a shoulder. The traffic was very light. We followed through Cancun and north past the Isle Mujeres ferry to our RV park. It is not in the Mexican Campers book but is a good RV park and the caravan's all seem to use it. It has sewer, water and 15 amp electricity so we flushed our black tank and filled our tank. We did not plug in but rather used our batteriers. I am charging my batteries for my electric drill with the electicity. And I had a problem with the coax to my CB antenna so re-did a connector but not sure I got the right one. I did run a new jumper from the radio to the antenna and everything is fine so it apparently is not the antenna or the radio so if it gives trouble again I will have to redo more coax connectors. The CG managers can speak excellent English and the have a local who does laundry for 15 peso's per Kilogram and they have Internet for 15 pesos per half and hour which is high for Mexico. We had dinner and pretty much everybody took off. We walked up the road with Tom and Gwen and checked out a hotel on the beach side that the RV park has an agreement with. If you buy 3 drinks here, we are not sure if they mean soda's or what you can use the pool there. At the hotel for $15 they said we could use the pool all day, eat and get something to drink. We are not exactly sure what you get to eat and drink. I then talked to a fellow who had been in the park for awhile from NV and asked about the bus. He said it was 4 peso's to the ferry terminal and then take the red fronted buses and for 6 peso's you could go to the end of the hotel zone and then you would have to pay to return in the same manner. If you get off then when you get back on you have to pay again. We waited along the road and soon flagged down a small van bus and he could speak a little English and with my Spanish we confirmed what we wanted to do. He let us off at a red fronted bus and it went clear to the end of the hotel zone. It was a nice ride, we got lots of pictures and had a map to check where we were at. Just as we were told at the end we had to pay to come back. We got off just past the ferry and was waiting for a bus to take us toward Punta Sam as our RV park is just south of there. About that time Denny and Donna came along and we caught a ride with them. They had been to Sams and Walmart downtown. The bus stopped at a spot he called El Centro and from there we could of caught a bus to El Centro and Walmart as one of the passengers asked the bus driver to tell him when they should get out to go to Walmart and that is where he told them to get off. For 16 peso's we seen the whole hotel zone. Back at the CG I helped Harold and checked his CB antenna and it was OK so he has a radio problem. He took the one from the car so he is working again. I have had and SWR problem from time to time on the CB and tonight it showed up again. I isolated it to the coax run to the antenna. I changed one connector and twisted another tighter and now it is working. If it gives trouble again I will have to change out the other connector. The mosquito's were bad right at dark. We bumped into a couple from Canada that has been at some other parks we have been at. There has been a fire at the next CG we are going to be it appears to be OK . Tomorrow we go to Isle Mujeres to swim and we also have breakfast on the boat going over and a buffet dinner tomorrow noon. Tuesday is a free day and Wednesday we travel a bit south to our next CG where will be at Palmul. I got and sent e-mail several times today. In Cancun by far more than anyplace we have been you see tourists and you find a lot more people that can speak a little English such as the taxi drivers and bus drivers and of course those selling things. On our bus ride we met a gal from TX who lived here and another fellow worked for service groups and he was here from the USA. Every year he travels from Sioux Falls to Mitchell so I told him we live right along I-90 just past the rest area's going to Mitchell and have lots of antenna's and he remembered that and the big bull by Montrose. It is expensive in the Hotel zone but one could stay in our RV park or rent a space by a small hotel up here on the north end pretty reasonable. One could likely get access to the beach, I know our RV park has an arrangement with a hotel which has a pool and access to the beach. From what we have seen so far coming down the east coast of Mexico and following the coast all the way to the Yucatan and being at Progresso the beach to the north of the Yucatan I will say this is the nicest beach and prettiest ocean we have seen by far, We have been told that a nice, more out of the way spot is Port Moreles to the south a bit. I think we will get to check it our ourselves. The downside of Cancun is that because there are so many tourists and american business places you really don't get much of a sense of what Mexico is really like but it does have a nice climate, good weather and nice beaches and a beautiful ocean. There are a few bugs which we have not found this time of the year in other parts of Mexico other than Villahermosa at dusk.
February 16, 2004 Monday We left for Isle De Mujeres car pooling and went down the hotel zone and in the first part of the zone stop at a hotel that had a boat dock. They got us arm bands and we then went out and waited about 20 minutes to get on the boat. It was a nice ride out on the observation boat; however it was others besides Adventure Caravan people. We got a small breakfast and soda's on the way out. We decided to take the 2 hour golf cart tour of the island and we did see the whole island. The ocean is beautiful with the deep green and blue colors. Once we got back we walked through the shops for about 1 ½ hours and then came back for a 2:30 PM buffet lunch. It was a good meal and you could get more. We got more fish as it was good and we could have soda's and we had fruit for dessert. We then went on the beach and waited for the boat. The weather was turning rainy. We watched the crew and some of the passengers dance. We got on the boat and they had a party on the way back. All the commentary was in Spanish and English. The Spanish version seemed to be a lot more in detail than the English version. I can tell I am getting able to understand more Spanish all the time. The last little ways into the dock it was misting. We got back pretty much on our own to the RV park, Tom did a good job with his diesel van. We got our 11 Kilograms of wash at 15 peso's per kilo. It was the best price yet and it looked like a nice job. It still is pretty expensive but one does not have to drive and spend all that time at a laundry mat and fold everything so since we are on vacation and on all the other trips we do our own washing this is a nice change of pace. I sent and got e-mail easily twice today. The advertisements for the caravan said they took care of the tips but I will have to say it is not working out that way so far as the singers and workers all expected tips today. The other night the dancers expected tips so in reality it only seems the tips are taken care of at our meals but anything else it is not.
February 17, 2004 Tuesday It is day 24 of the RV tour and it is a free day at Cancun. We checked with some people where Wal-mart and Sam's were since we wanted to get a few things such as food, phone cards and some upset stomach medicine that has been working well for others. We rode down with Tom and Gwen and Jutta. Our map reading was good and we drove right to it. Before we went there Tom did the hotel zone tour which was a repeat of our bus trip the first afternoon we were here but it was fine to see it again. We then came back to the CG and put the things away, some in the refrigerator. BTW last night our first tank of propane ran out so it lasted about 30 days so we need to start watching for a place to fill it. It was misting some but we decided to ride back down with Bruce and Eunice to Wal-Mart. I had bought a better city map of Cancun at Wal-mart so I had the information gal show me where the best market was and she told us to take bus # 4 or 5 and it took us right there. I asked the bus driver in Spanish if the bus was going to Market 28 and if he would tell us when to get off which he did. Another Senior riding the bus also undersood what we wanted and also motioned to us that this was where we should get off. It was a large market and we bought a fanny pack and 3 T-shirts. The T-shirts are higher here than any place else I guess there are to many tourists here. We then had to figure out how to take the buses back home which was more difficult. We went to where people were waiting for the bus and I was asking a senior in Spanish and some tourists told us we want bus R-13 to get to Punta Sam. We waited awhile but I got suspicious so I asked another senior in Spanish and found out bus R-13 does not stop here and that bus R-13 stopped a few blocks away so I got directions and we started walking. Along the was I talked to another Senior in Spanish and he confirmed bus R-13 stopped not to far away in the direction we were headed so we walked another block or so and we seen people waiting for the bus so we walked over there and I asked another Senior if bus F-13 stopped here and he said it did and then I confirmed that R-13 did in fact go to Punta Sam and he said yes. We waited a few minutes and just as I was going to asked how long we would have to wait for a R-13 bus he was telling me it was coming. Here it was just barely peaking around a corner about a block away so you sure can tell he is way more experience than I am at spotting buses. I stepped out and waved to be sure the bus would stop. We got on and the bus did say Punta Sam on the window. I talked to the fellow ahead of me in Spanish and confirmed we were going by Wal-Mart about 1 block to our right and that this bus would go to Punta Sam. I also asked him if bajarme was understood in Mexico to me to get of the bus and he confirmed it did. He told me I apprendar rapido learn rapidly)so that made my day. The bus went on streets we were familiar with and by the time we got close to the RV park was nearly empty and since there is no bus stop at the RV park when he stopped to let some people of I asked him to let us get of at the RV Parque but he did not understand me. I was going to try something else but a gentleman who I am sure understood English told him the El Meco Loco which he understood. We stood up when we got close to be sure he seen us but he knew and stopped and we were back at the RV park. I asked Edith if she could of made it back on her own using the buses and she said she could not off. She probably could of found a taxi driver who spoke enough English or could of shown him on the map. They Taxi would of been much more expensive. The bus was 4 peso's each. Tonight we have our drivers meeting and get ready to go to Paamul which is about 55 miles.
February 18, 2004 Wednesday Day 25 of the tour. We left Cancun about 9 am and it was and easy trip. I was surprised how far south of town we had to go to get to the airport and the road that comes from the hotel zone going west to the airport. It was a 4 lane divided highway with good shoulders and in the towns they had service roads. At Playa Del Carmen it changed to a two lane road. It is well marked and an easy drive. We got to the RV park around noon but we had to wait awhile for Dick to make arrangements so we could go in. Out by the road is a great self serve laundry mat with an attendant and they will also do it for you. It is about 12 peso's a load for washing. It has tile floors, new machines and is very nice. We seen lots of SD 19 license plates but it turn out somebody knows someone who got them all plates etc. for SD and none of them live there. A lot of people spend the winter here. Some drive down and park their motor homes under Palapas, others just get spaces and others buy places that have tailers but have palapas over head and have a tiled or nice porch area. They apparently sell for between $20,000 and $40,000 and some may be more but that was the price range I saw. One lady told me she has to pay $5000 a year for maintenance fees which includes electricity and water. There is a propane truck and sewer truck that comes regularly to the park. One can go diving here or snorkeling. There is some sand beach but mostly it is coral so not a real great swimming beach but lots of white sand so nice to lay on the beach and the sea is green and blue and with the rocks and waves is very nice. This is the carribean ocean here. We ran into people we had seen at other parks we had been in. Even with the caravan here there are a few spaces. One couple said the Fantasy Caravan just left and they had to wait to get hookups until they left but they did have a place to stay. The permanent places are right on the beach and they can look out at the ocean all the time. They block the view for the rest of us but we all have access to the beach. I checked with the office manager who did not speak English but again my Spanish paid off and I was able to ask him what it cost to stay. It is $20 a night, $120 a week, $475 a month and $1300 for 3 months so it is about $15.88 a day if you stay 3 months or you can see just a bit more to stay a month and actually the week rate is about $17 a day so none of these are that bad. The only downside is it is only 15 amp so one would not be able to run the AC but it appears not to get that hot here right off the ocean and cools down nice at night. So far the bugs have not been out but we will know more about the weather and bugs after a few days as we stay here 5 nights. People seem friendly and a bunch were having a volley ball game in the sand court which was by the gate not the beach. There is a good restaurant here and I lots of boats so fishing definitely looks possible. A number of people buy here, some time share and they fly to Cancun and drive down as it is about 45 miles from the airport. They can take a bus or a taxi. The bus is much cheaper. A lot of them buy a car down here and leave it and license it in the U.S. It appears some drive a car down and leave it. There are a number of Canadians here as well. One person has a motorstat dish for the internet. There are dishes here and they are SKY which is Spanish and Star Choice which is Canadian but you can subscibe to the USA networks on Star Choice so you can keep up with the news, sports, etc. There is a good shopping mall in Playa Del Carmin and a good cheap Internet Place about 15 minutes north of here. Cancun is about 50 miles north of here where you have Wal-Mart, SAMS, and COSTCO. One can fly in and out for a round trip ticket of around $250. It is the best place we have found so far to spend the winter. The problem is to drive an RV or pull a 5th wheel down here it is a long ways. I would estimate about 1700 miles from the tip of Texas so it is going to take you about a week to get here. Obviously after you did it once you would be familiar with the route and where the campgrounds are and it would be a lot easier. One would likely want a generator here to be able to run you're a/c and keep your batteries charged up. The security seems pretty good here and no one reported any problems at all. The RV park we stayed at in Cancun would also work however the mosquito's were bad around dusk and there was no beach real close by. There was a public beach about ½ mile south that was OK or you could take the ferry to Isle De Mujeres where there were excellent beaches or you could strike a deal with nearby hotels to use their beach, pool, etc. The one we checked with was $15 a day for food, drinks, pool and beach per person so that would get pretty expensive but one could do it once a week and other times use the other choices. One can take the bus downtown and back for 20 peso's each for round trip so that would be reasonable. Shopping at the markets and Wal-mart, Sam's and Costco one could get by pretty reasonable but most things in Cancun are high relative to Mexico. I would prefer this spot over Cancun and drive to Cancun once a week or every couple of weeks for supplies as it is not that bad to get around in Cancun; especially earlier in the day. All this said I think the west coast of Mexico has more to offer. The only downside is that a lot of the good area's on the west coast North or south of Puerto Vallarta would not have the shopping opportunities to get supplies. Fish should be readily available and produce in markets but to get meat and other supplies would be tougher. I suspect Peurto Vallarta does have some good stores so one could likely drive there and depending on where you stayed it would not be a lot farther to drive; although the road would not be as good as it is here. The sand is not as white on the west coast and the water may not be quite as pretty but the beaches are better and there certainly would be a lot less people and it would be much more Mexico than Cancun. This is not bad here but still anything south of Cancun down to Tulum is greatly affected by the herds of people that come to Cancun.
February 19, 2004 Thursday Day 26 of RV Caravan, Day 44 of the trip It was cool during the night and got down to 59 or 60 degrees. I think it is a cool front but I think along the Carribean Sea it cools down at night and does not get as hot during the day. I will have to check with some of the people who have been here a few years. We car pooled and left for Xcaret a tourist attraction. It is on the ocean and has many things to do and many shows. It is in some ways like a Mexican Disney world. There is a jungle boat ride, swim with the dolphins for a fee, tour a Mayan village, to river floats/swims, horse shoe, horse rides for a fee, snorkeling, diving for a fee, museum, chapel, 240 foot tower you can ride to the top and down in a rotating gondola and the highligh is and evening program of a mayan ball game and then a pagent of Mexico history with great costumes and music and lighting. It was spectacular. We had special reserved seats at the end of the court and had a great meal served to us. This I am sure was the most expensive event of the trip the was included so far and the show and dinner were the nicest so far. My take on Xcaret is OK and it is clean and well staffed although a lot more Spanish than English but for me it was so, so but the night show which you can watch without buying dinner and the costumed people coming into the show along the torch lighted walkways is spectacular and well worthwhile and the tower ride is nice so in that way you do get your money's worth. The food is expensive so I think you could sneak your lunch into the park in a back pack even though they ask that food not be brought in. Just make sure you put everything in the trash to help them keep it clean. I would also say to bring water inside your backpack. For the rivers floats for you can use a locked bag to put your things in and pick them up at the end of the float. Actually it is more of a swim with life jackets than a float. The concern is if breakable things like cameras will be OK in the bags. I believe in hind sight they would be fine, just pack them well in your towels and clothes. We rented a lock at the end of the river, changed and then walked back to the beginning which is quite a long walk. We got home about 9 pm so it was a big day. BTW from the tower we could se Cozumel and all the cruise ships off shore. Tomorrow is a free day and I think we are going to Coba.
February 20th, 2004 Friday Day 27 of the RV Caravan and Day 45 of our trip. Talked to a lady from Manitoba, she and her husband have been coming down for quite a few years with their 5th wheel. They pull it with a truck tractor and park under a palapa. They have it tiled and do all their cooking outdoors have a bathroom and shower, kitchen and storage room and a large lounging living area. They have sliding glass windows rather thanscreens but it definitely is not all enclosed. They dive so have lots of shells and she is good with art so painted on the wall and they had someone paint a strip of decoration above there awning which is up because they are under the palapa. She also has made designs in gords and puts lights in them and made wind chimes out of shells. The get Star Choice and get everything, since Star Choice allows 4 receivers they have four of them that go together and they split the cost 4 ways. They have no problem getting it. She told me this cold spell was unusual but it does not get real hot here. She said there is a free zone at Belize and things are very reasonable. She also said there is a good sand beach to the north. For propane on the class A's a truck comes through the park to fill them.
We talked to another couple who is there first time down here and he has the motorstat Internet dish and it works great, upload about like phone line and download like slower broadband, plenty fast he said but he said the ISP company had bought out motorstat and the service has been poor and they have had a book keeping problem with them and they got shut off about a week ago and they can't get them to turn it back on. He uses it for business on the road and has about 50 e mails to answer so they may have to head back to the USA but I see they are still here tonight so maybe they got it resolved. I will see if they are still here in a couple of days.
About 9 am we went to Coba the Mayan site with Tom and Gwen and Bill and Monika. We hired a guide and asked a couple of other gals to come with us so we got it down to $5.00 apiece and he could speak good English and did a nice job. It was a decent site but not like the big 4. He recommended a restaurant and it was good and they had special home made totias. We got home about 3:30 pm. I went up to the beach and found a few shells and saw a topless sunbather on the beach. I talked to some gals from Louisiana who had kids in 4-H and did rodeo. They seen my SD 4-H T-Shirt. They asked if I was an agent and I said I was for 30 years. We had a good visit. Back at the CG I visited with some of our group and seen the 3 rigs from Alaska come in that were at our other CG at Cancun. The people we met at Campeche at Club Nautical are still here. Tomorrow we go to Xel-HA where pretty much everything is paid for. We are going to try snorkeling. Sunday we will go to Tulum with Tom and Gwen and Monday we will go to Cozumel and also try and look at Playa Del Carmen and Port Morelas to the north if we can fit it all in. We likely won't stay at Cozumel that long. If we get short of time we will have to skip Port Morelas.
February 21, 2004 Saturday Day 28 of RV Caravan tour and day 46 of our trip. We left for Xel-Ha about 8:30 am. It is about 20 miles south and along the ocean. We got in quite quickly and Dick showed us where the Play With the Dolphins would be that several from our group were signed up for. We then had a buffet breakfast and the we went to Tulum with Bruce and Enuice and we got them to mark Tulum on our Xel-Ha bracklets which got us into Tulum for free. We did have to pay $5 for parking and we walked which saved us a couple of bucks. It was hot but the view from the ruin out over the ocean is fantastic. We got some good picutures. It is a small site so it did not take a long time. We then headed back to Xel-Ha and had dinner and then talked to Tom and Gwen and they had an hour with the dolphins and really liked it. You could tell they were excited about it. The girls were going to be with the dolphins at l:30 so we got there in time for to watch. I got good shot of two dolphins giving them a foot push up out of the water. One dolphin on each foot. These were great shots as they were really excited and the power the dolphins had to push them up out the the water from a floating position is amazing!
We then went snorkeling, BTW everything was paid for by our entrance fee, food, drinks, snorkel gear, etc. The only thing that was not was Playing With the Dolphins and a walk in the sea. We got into some great fish areas and Edith and I got along good on our first time snorkeling. It was much more impressive than I expected what you can see. The coral was not much but hopefully now that we know how we can snorkel in a area where the coral is pretty also. We then had supper as the play closed at 5 pm. It was a great day, we liked it much better the Xcaret. Edith did forget her swimming suit but we will try and pick it up in a day or two. When we got back we watched the videos of the Tom and Gwen and the 4 girls from our group with the dolphins on Dicks TV which they have in a door in the basement of there motorhome and we could all watch it. It was a great video. I also made a CD of the pictures I got of the 4 girls and gave it to them and also of Dave and Connie going down the river in Xcaret. Tomorrow we are going to Cozumel so we will still have a free day left to go to Port Morales and Play Del Carmen or we could go diving. We sat around by our 5th wheel and visited with several of the group.
February 22, 2004 Sunday Day 29 of RV caravan and day 47 of our trip. We were going to Cozumel with Bruce and Eunice but Bruce got sick during the night so we caught a ride with Dick and Becky. Denny and Donna were also along. We got on the 10 am ferry so we had a little time before leaving so we looked around a bit of Playa Del Carmen which Dick says has grown tremendously in the last 20 years. The have a couple of shopping centers and a Sam's Club. The ferry was fast and we made the approximately 16 mile trip in quick time. We rented 100cc motor cycles which had automatic transmissions. We rode double and it cost us $34 for the day including $6 for insurance. It has been a long time since I have driven a motorcycle and we started right out in town but I got by alright. I sure was thankful for the past experience. We headed south down along the coast and stopped at several scenic spots. We stopped at a seafood place for dinner and bumped into Peggy and Barbara from out group who were on a taxi tour. We toured on around the island to the south end and then across to the east side. We stopped several times and then up the east side. The beaches and ocean was beautiful. We then cut back across the island to the town of Cozumel and then north past the airport and military base. They were starting to block things off for the carnival so we decided we would stay for that. We had supper upstair in a restaurant and then we stayed and watched the parade. It was fantastic, it was after dark so the rigs had gasoline generators on them that run the lights and amplifiers for music. The floats and the costumes were fantastic. Many were high up on semi-trailers. I did not think we would get to see a big carnival in Mexico but we did. It was a great day and we certainly seen most of Cozumel! We got back about 8:45 pm on the ferry to Playa Del Carmen and back in the RV park about 9:30 pm so it was over a 12 hour day with lots of sun and some wind so we got burned a little.
February 23, 2004 Day 31 of the RV Caravan, my count has been one day off and we have 31 days left. It is day 48 of our trip. We went to the laundry place and got 3 washers and dried 3 loads for 72 peso's and the equipment was good and it had tile floor. There were several others of our group to show up but we got machines right away. The weighed the clothes as it can not be more than 4 kilograms per load. While we were washing we went back to Xel-Ha to get Edith's swimming suit but it was not on there lost and found list so someone must of grabbed it before it made it to the lost and found section. We came back and finished our laundry and then headed into Playa Del Carmen to the shopping mall. Edith got a swimming suit and I got on the Internet very, very reasonable, it was 15 peso's per hour and you just paid at the end pro-rated to the minute so it only cost me about 70 cents and I was on quite awhile. We were going to get some ice cream but it was to expensive but most things were pretty reasonable. There were a lot of Gringo's but also Mexicans. We then drove down town and found a place to park about 4 blocks south of the main drag. It appeared to be pretty secure. Fortunately we did not have a problem. We walked toward the ferry and I spotted a bank and figured out there was a special door and window for changing money into peso's. There as a fair size line and nearly everyone appeared to be Mexicans who I think ran businesses and they sold things to Americans in dollars and then came here to change it to Peso's. There was a couple ahead of us which based on there language I think were French. I asked some of the Mexicans what the exchange rate and found out it was 10.80 which is real decent so I was willing to stay in line. The next question was if they would do travelers checks but I seen the French couple had travelers checks so I would find out when they went through. They got them changed OK, my only concern was they used their passports for ID and our passports were back in the RV so I was going to have to use my drivers license. The teller really looked their travelers checks over but they were OK. When it was our turn he did not look at ours nearly as close, they were American Express which I think helped and the drivers license with the picture worked great. He did not give us any problem about the signatures looking exactly alike, actually he barely looked at that. I know most of the time in Mexico getting the signatures to look alike is a major problem. We did $400 worth no problem and there was no extra fee. We saved $100 back for when we get back to the USA until we find a Wells Fargo or Bank America to get some money from our ATM accounts. We should have more peso's than we need but we plan on coming back to Mexico again so we will just keep them. Next we went closer to the ferry and I bought a Playa Del Carmen T-shirt. We went farther and tried to get a Cozumel but did not have any success. We then started talking to a fellow and he could get some for us from Cozumel but that would not be until tomorrow and we are leaving in the morning. Then he had this deal where we could go to the Mayan Palace and listen to a sales pitch for a membership and get for free a meal, 4 T-Shirts, 2 blankets and a hamock. We would get free transportation out and back and no cost or obligation. We got a taxi ride out and learned some Spanish from the gal driving. She was nice. At the Mayan Palace we found out we were to late from breakfast and that they did not have lunch so we missed out on that. It was definitely a pretty hard core sell from the beginning. It was supposed to take 90 minutes with eating and it ended up being 120 minutes without eating. It was a nice place but I could see this was to spendy and fancy for us and to many things promised that might not in the end work out as promised. We said no and then they said we did not give it serious consideration and I told them off that we sincerely looked, asked sincere questions and when we finally found out what it cost we were not interested and they were not holding up there end of the bargin. Then they backed off. We did an exit evaluation and I really blasted the manager, the sales person was fine. They tried one last time to give us a reduced offer and I refused. We then got our gifts and a free ride back. I knew enough Spanish to get him to let us off along the street we were parked on so we only had to walk the 4 blocks to the south. Thankfully the F-350 was still there and no problems. Actually I am getting to feel safer leaving things in the vehicle here in Mexico than in a lot of places in the USA. When we got back I took a walk and had a wonderful visit with the Canadian couple who have the Internet dish. They got it turned back on so they can stay. They recommended a dealer in NM and said it is now $3900 for the dish and $600 to installed and the weight is about 100 pounds. The ISP is about $100 a month. Suddenly I realized it was 5 pm and time for our drivers meeting so I had to leave. The were really nice. We had a long drivers meeting as we are going to have tougher roads in the jungle until we get to Acupola and long days and not many turn offs. We also go a briefing on our trip into Belize. Peggy got a dolphin balloon as a reward for courage for swimming with the dolphin's when she can not swim. We got e-mail several times easy as usual today. I found out the you can have a Palapa built for about $5000 and the maintenance fee as I mentioned before is about $5000 a year. What ever else you want done in the Palapa is on top of that. The maintenance fee includes the water, electricity and sewer. By next year it should be 30 amp.e
February 24, 2004 Day 32 of caravan and day 49 of the trip. We traveled from Palmul to Chetumal today about 185 miles. It is a decent road. From the turn of to Coba for about 100 miles it is narrow with hardly any shoulder but the truck traffic was light. There were a couple of unmarked, unexpected topes where you would not expect them. I really had to brake hard once and still hit it a lot harder than I liked. We got in about 1 pm and used the Mexican Camping book and had no problems finding it. There is still no water and sewer here and a few sites have a little electricity. It is right on the ocean and there is a nice breeze. It is a pretty spot but really no beach here but there appears to be a swimming beach right next ot us that is public. We ran the generator as it was over 95 degrees in the 5th but tonight I think it will cool down with the breeze of the ocean. I took care of e-mail, sent out travelogue IV and hopefully got Tim and Valarie's address problem resolved. We were not level and I had unhooked so I jacked up one side and put blocks under it so we are now level. They bottom line is to try and get it more correct before unhooking but it was a zoo with everybody coming in. Tomorrow we go to Belize and have to give our guide out passports and Mexican Tourist permits tonight so he can get things lined up so we don't have as much hazzle with the border crossing as they did last year. Our meeting with him is at 4:30 pm. We had some Mexican music at the meeting as the RV owner paid for them and then our group requested and paid for some songs. Some of the girls danced and were very, very good. Our guide from Belize told us some things about Belize. The readily take American money, their dollar is about 50 cents on the dollar or to put it another way it takes two of their dollars to equal one US dollar. They are looking for people to move to Belize and you can own land in Belize and do not have to live there to own land. We are going on about an hour bus ride and then about a two hour boat ride to the Lamani Mayan site. We should see some crocodiles and lots of birds. It should be very much jungle scenery and holler monkeys. Mennonites settled here in the early 50's so we will see their farms along the river. We will have a meal at the site and when we get back and opportunity to shop for about 30 minutes before coming back.
February 25, 2004, Wednesday, Day 33 of the RV tour and day 50 of our trip..Today we went to the county of Belize. Henry was our guide and he did a very nice job. We got to the border about 15 miles from the RV park. We had to fill out forms to leave Mexico. It was very interesting as in the past Henry had paid them and they just looked at the passports and let the tour bus in. They raised the price on Henry and he refused to pay them as it was coming out of his profits. The forms were in Spanish of course but with Irene's help and some of what we know we got them filled out. The most unusual think was they wanted your mothers maiden name, your fathers and your name. We had to present that form, our passport and our FM2 Mexican tourist permit. Henry and the head guy had quite an animated discussion. It really is supposed to be free but they have been charging people. Some of the first corruption we have run into. It will be interesting tomorrow when we go to the free zone if we have to pay or not. There was a long line and only one guy working but he started to stop looking at things and just stamped things and it speeded up. At the Belize border we had to show our passport, and then the Belize entry form we filled out and then go through customs and we told them we had nothing to declare which was true. We got a picture of the welcome to Belize sign. Henry answered a lot of questions about Belize. I was amazed to find the Belize City only has about 70,000 people and Orange West which we went through only has about 40,000 people and the total size of Belize is about like MA and they only have about 350,000 people so it is no wonder they want people to come here. Henry said the government was very corrupt and had run up a huge debt. English is the official language however most people speak Belize Creol which has some English words in it and if spoken slowly you will get some of it but spoken fast as it normally is you won't get it. It was a very interesting drive, people make more money here than across the border in Mexico. They make about $10 a day where across the border they make about $15 a week so quite a difference. They are supposed to get free medical care but usually they end up having to pay for medicine and the good doctors are in the private hospitals in Chetumal, Mexico. We also noted things were much cleaner and we think it is because people own the land and take better care of things. We seen lots of black people where in Mexico we don't see many black people. The road we were on in Belize continues all the way to Panama. He said you went on three different roads, he called them south, east and west but he said there is only one road and it was about what we were on all the way. It does not have many pot holes but is fairly narrow and not much for shoulders. I will say it was not to bad but it goes through a lot of towns so there are lots of topes so it would take a good while to get to Panama. He said other than parts of Belize City it was safe. We seen two trailer parks one of which Henry owns. I would not be concerned about driving in Belize but according to the Mexican Camping book insurance can be a real concern so one would need to check that out. I would think taking a bus down to Panama and staying in hotels would definitely work; especially if you could speak some Spanish. We arrived at the New River where we got on boats to go to the Mayan Lamania Site. It was a nice trip and our driver and guide was a birder so we seen several birds that are not seen in the United States ever. We did see one small crocodile. The site was much better than I expected. The one temple was 33 meters high and another had a face that was in as good of condition of any we have seen. This site is the longest active site in central america that had a large population and was occupied from 800 BC to 1800 AD which is unbelievable. We also seen howler monkey's. It was a nice trip back on the river. Both coming and going we talked to some Mennonites fishing and went by their farming village of Shipyard. There is a 9 mile dirt road into it. They had row crops and sell a lot of food in Belize. This is a different group than we are familiar with as they live in a community coming here in the early 1950's. They speak Spanish and possibly German but I am not sure about that. They do not have television, radio, rubber tires and other modern things but do have tractors, etc. but not rubber tires. I will have to try and check it out on the Internet and ask some of my menonite friends. I did buy a Belize t-shirt at Lamanai and a mahoney wood letter opener. We stopped at a gift shop but no body bought much. It was different seeing the English system with things in Miles and hearing English and seeing mostly English signs. Being so close to Mexico of course we still had a good deal of Spanish influence. At the border we had to go through everything in reverse so it is quite a process. We did see that for the tariff free zone you have to check out of Mexico but you can go into the duty free zone without going through the Belize customs and then when you return you have to check back into Mexico but because of the duty free thing it should not be a hassle bringing things back in. When we got back we decide to go to a restaurant by the CG. I went to check if they would serve us as they looked pretty closed down. I had some problems coming up with the right Spanish words but finally got going and found out they had fish but no shrimp. We wanted shrimp but decided to go with the fish. We had a good meal and my Spanish went better during the meal and afterwards. Tomorrow Becky is lining up a car pool to the free zone so that will be interesting. Then we have our drivers day and a long day of travel to Palanque. We will have a potluck supper there after we get in.
We found out that yesterday on the way down south of the turn of to Coba Bruce and Eunice and two others traveling with them stopped at a Pemex station. We seen them as we went by and then we had to wait for two in our group that got behind to catch up and meanwhile they passed us again. Anyway when they were at the Pemex they got out and they heard this voice yelling Bruce, Bruce IS THAT YOU? Would you believe it it was the same couple we met in Progresso from Canada and they were clear down south of Cancun about 90 miles. It is just amazing that there paths crossed again!!!
February 26, 2004 Thursday- Day 34 of RV trip and day 51 of trip This was a free day. Edith got up early and got a good sunrise picture. I did e-mail, downloaded my pictures and put all the second bunch from the trip so they are all on CD. We decided to go to the duty free zone in Belize. We told Mexican immigration where we were going and they just looked at our passport and FM2 and that was it. It cost 10 peso's to enter the duty free zone. There must by 100 or more stores. It is hard to go through all them in a day. Belize can not shop there but Mexicans and tourists can. We did not see any americans or europeans. There were lots of clothes, electronics, some automotive and shoes, liquor and a some toiletary things. We figure the brand name clothes were about 60% off from USA prices. They all spoke English but many of the clerks mainly spoke Spanish because most of their customers are Mexican. We did find quite a few people who had moved from India to Belize. To go to the duty free zone you turn in just before Belize customs to the left. If you watch there is a sign for Zona Libre. We spent about 5 hours there. Leaving we just had to show our passport and FM2, we told them we had been at the Zona Libre. We went through the military checkpoint and they asked if we had any fruit and asked me to step out and and open the doors. They looked in and off we went. In Chetumal we stopped and priced some nuts but they seemed high about $5 a pound. We did buy a papiya for 20 peso's. I will say I am not wild about it. It taste like bland muskmelon to me. We have a shrimp dinner lined up for tonight at the same restaurant we ate at last night at 6:30 pm after our drivers meeting at 5:30 pm. It appears we were the only ones to have the courage or ambition to go to the duty free zone. We also got diesel at 4.81 peso's per liter so the price decrease from 5.02 is still holding. This is good so we will be ready to go tomorrow and will not have to try and get in and out of a Pemex pulling the 5th. It was cool sleeping last night at about 70 degrees and got into the low 80's today but lower humidity and clouds a lot of the day. It was much more pleasant. The nights have been warm and humid every since Cancun so this was a welcome change.
February 27, 2004-Friday, Day 35 of the RV Caravan and day 52 since we left home. Today was a travel day and I think the longest mileage day of the entire caravan trip at about 312 miles which on the narrow roads we had a good portion of the way along with many small towns with topes is a long day as you have to be concentrating every second of the time or you could go off the oil and with no shoulder a very, very serious accident is going to occur. There were not a lot of pot holes but definitely some bumps and up and downs but then in all fairness no worse than some roads in the USA or Canada or the AlCAN highway. We pushed it pretty hard with a gas stop and bathroom break mid morning, 30 minutes for lunch and a gas stop and bathroom break in the afternoon. We left at 7:30 am with our group of four and got in at 4 pm so it was 8.5 hours which is not bad for 312 miles. We made no wrong turns and we had a great schedule with Ole and Chris at 11 am and I had another great one with Chris at 2 pm. He was loud. We got e-mail in good shape a couple of times today. I got my picture of the CG and the GPS coordinates and uploaded our location so it is available on the Internet. We had a nice potluck supper tonight. It is muddy here and there are electrical problems so Dick has asked no one to use the electricity. As soon as I noted there was some questions about the electricity I immediately decided to just use our batteries. We were plugged in at Campeche and we did plug in at Palmul.so we have been plugged in about 7 days of the 35 days. The only place that had 30 and 50 amp was Campeche. At Palmul it was 15 amps. The only advantage of plug ins for us is that you can run you're A/C if it is hot at night. Between 7 am and 10 pm you can run your generator. We have 3 rigs that don't have generators so they have to watch their batteries however they have one big advantage in that they can run a cord from someone who has a generator and charge their batteries back up. For us we have had sewer often enough along with water that we have been able to do a good job flushing our black water tank and we have not been putting any toilet paper into the black water tank so we have not had any problem like we had the first few days out. I think we have gotten the build up under the inlet pipe pretty well loosened up and out. I am sure we will be OK for the rest of the trip. When we get home we will work with a snake and see if there is anymore we can break loose. In talking to Chris today we found a cold front had pushed south and it was only 47 degrees in the pan handle of Fl. About 11 am and later in the day it was only 52 degrees. He said it would be another day before it warmed up so we should have a day or two of cool weather yet. It is going to be cool again tonight so that is three cool nights in a row. It got down to 57 degrees this morning. I found out Harold hit a post at the end of the gas pumps in Chetumal and bent one of his storage doors. Everything seems to be holding up goodof on the 5th wheel. I have one leaf on one spring that has slid a slight bit out of alignment. The metal band holding them in alignment is gone. When I get home I will have to get the weight off and get them in alignment and hold them in alignment with a clamp. We go on the tour of Palenque at 9 am tomorrow. The next day we go to the water falls and Azul agua which is a pretty area in Chiapas. Then we move on to Villahermosa.
February 28, 2004 Saturday, Day 36 of RV Caravan tour and day 53 of the trip. Today we toured Palenque. This is our favorite site. It is massive and spectacular and we seen things we have never seen before such as a crypt in the Temple of Inscriptions with a huge stone lid with wonderful sculpturing. We got a large leather wall hanging reproduction of it to hang at home. We seen a toilet and sewer system they had and we seen by far and away the best paintings we have seen with several different colors and we seen the most and best preserved sculpturing we have seen and the best museum of artifacts we have seen. Our guide Victor spoke excellent English and really showed and explained the site. It is a very old site and in Mexico the purist Mayan site there is After the tour of the site we went to the museum. We tried to get passes for 4 pm to visit the crypt in the Temple of Inscriptions. Pakall II the great was buried in the tomb. They sent me to a building but all I found was bathrooms and they were teaching an art class. Becky started working on it and found out there was an office upstair but they lady who gave out the passes was not there but would be back. When she came back later it was locked up so she went back to the site and talked to our guide Victor who was still around and he made arrangements with us at the front gate. We climbed the temple and then decended clear to the bottom through a tunnel that had ventilation shafts. The Mayans had filled it with ruble but in 1952 they took out the ruble and found the crypt. It is like an Indian Jones movie going down the stairs with the Mayan arch above you and there is a switchback on the stairs. The crypt has a huge lid that is sculptured and it is only about 4 feet away so you can see it plainly and they have it decently lite for this period of time for a little while starting at 4 pm. The rest of the time it is locked up. By 4 pm the buses have left and the crowds are small and there is little advertisement about being able to see the crypt so few really do see it. Edith made the climb down which is the hardest if you have knee problems. The trip out was easier but she did fine. It is a memorable experience. We then got back to the CG and sat under the awning we had put down earlier and there was a little breeze so it was not bad. It got to the mid 80's but the humidity is still down. It is cooling down this evening so we should have another great sleeping night. This is a tropical rain forest here and Chiapas is considered the most mountainous, beautiful state in Mexico with rivers and canyons and water falls. Tomorrow we travel south into the mountains and will see these and see some of the native indians that live in Chiapas. We got a book on Palenque and also one on Chiapas and they were interesting reading and we can refresh our memory. We have now seen what most people consider the 4 best Mayan sites in Mexico. As we go west we will go to areas where the Aztec's were. We will see a lot of things from the Mayan sites at the Museum in Mexico City. We spent the rest of the day visiting and relaxing
February 29, 2004 Sunday Day 37 of RV Caravan and day 54 of trip We left in the vans at 9 am and headed south into the mountains and rain forest of Chiapas. It is lush and we seen some villages and some cattle. The main crop we seen was corn but there are pineapple, vegetables and fruit as well. Our first stop was Casada Misol Ha a breathtaking falls of 30 meters. You can take a path and go in behind the falls and you can also go under the falls and a little beyond and climb some steps into a cave where an underground river is coming out. You will get your feet wet. You can swim below the falls. About another 50 KM is Agua Axul which is a river pouring out of the mountains. You can walk up stream about ½ mile and see waterfalls, rapids, small and large pools. What is really special is the water is a turquoise color and very clear. You can swim in many, many areas. As in most places in Mexico there are stands, stores and restaurants along the river. Both of these require a small fee to enter. There are a number of reports of stealing and robberies in this area and having to pay boys to watch your vehicle or it would sustain some minor damage. We seen absolutely none of that. I would not care to drive my 5th wheel up there although it could be done as we met 18 wheelers on the road. A better plan would be to stay in the CG near Palenque and drive up in your pickup or tote. If you are at these sights during the day time and at Agua Azul park by a restaurant and leave in time to get back to Palenque or go on to San Cristabol I absolutely see know problem. If there are kids around pay them a small amount. One could stay over night in San Cristabol and look around and drive back to Palenque or if you have lots of time explore more. Another way would be to take a tour to these locations which our Canadian friends we met in Veracruz did. Right now the last uprising was in November of 2003. Since them the militant leader a women has died and the other leader has taken over, she is also a lady but not nearly as militant and she has told the government that they were going to give the government a chance to make good on their promises. Since she took over there has been no uprisings. It is obvious that the tourists pumb a tremendous amount of money into the local economy so even during time of unrest the tourists are going to be fine as long as they don't become involved in the political side of things and use some common sense. On the way back we stopped at a tope and a young lad was selling some fresh sweet corn on the cob called elote. He sold his corn to one of our group and was grinning from ear to ear. As we pulled away he was yelling and shouting, and jumping up and down in glee that he had sold his corn and had some money
March 1, 2004 Monday Day 38 of RV Caravan and Day 55 of the trip. It was a travel day from Palenque to Villahermosa and was about 95 miles. It was an easy trip with a decent road but it did have some ups and down in it and a few unmarked topes. While still in Chiapas we seen lots of cattle and horses so it was cow country. In Tabasco you could see the mountains of Chiapas to the south. We were supposed to gather at a PEMEX just out of town where we would go in together. Unfortunately Dick could not make the turn so with traffic coming he though he could go across the grass but unfortunately there was a rock in it and he busted up the fiberglass on the right front of his rig.
We got into the fairgounds in Villahermosa about 12:30 pm which is where we camped on the way down. I checked the GPS reading to be sure the previous one I got was at the gate and it was. I did upload our location to the Internet and let Ole and Chris know where we are and set up a radio schedule for tomorrow. We left for LaVenta Park where the Olmec heads are at 1:30 pm. The Olmec were about 1500 years before Christ and some of the oldest civilization in Mexico. The largest head we seen weighed 24 tons and where they were found was about 100 KM from where the raw stone rocks were so it is amazing how they got them so far. Likely they rolled them on logs and most of them had flat backs and loaded them on a raft and then used the gulf of Mexico and then come inland on a river and then again used logs to roll them on but still it seems and impossible feat. To my surprise there were many other stones they had sculptured. Most had to do with people, juagars eagles and owls and snakes. The features of the people seemed to be Aftrican and a few seemed to be oriental. There may be some Africa race in Mexico as some black Mexicans show up from time to time so there may be some in the genes. The mosquitoes were bad in the park and they were bad last time where we were parked with the RV's. They were not there tonight but is was earlier so they still may come out at dark. Edith bought a great dress and I got a Olmec t-shirt. Tomorrow we go about 275 miles but it is narrow roads and lots of small towns and in the mountains so we are leaving at 7 AM and it is supposedly one of the more exhausting days. We do have a dinner and entertainment where we are staying which is an old hacienda. The RV park is just an area under trees and has no hook ups. After LaVenta we went to the Super Wal-Mart along with lots of others and got some supplies. The problem we have is that we don't want to have to much fruit and meat on hand as it could be taken at the border.
March 2, 2004 Tuesday Day 39 of RV trip and day 56 of the trip. I had a nice visit with the same night watchman as the other time we were at the fairgrounds here. He spoke a little English and has been working on it as I have been working on my Spanish. The first group left at 7 am and we left at 7:40 am with one other. We lead but soon ran into construction and had to get from the left lane into the right and a truck let us in so I let the other rig in and that is the last we seen of them. Their CB like so many others in the caravan don't work well at all. I would say there are about 6 CB's that work well and the other 13 are either not working or just go a few 100 yards. Anyway there was a lot of construction which really slowed us up. One thing we note is the Mexican flag people really do a good job with their flag telling you what they want you to do. USA flagman could definitely take lessons. The other thing we keep noticing is the use of manual labor shoveling hot mix, etc. In one area there must of been 12 people who rode out to the work site on bicycles and had machettes and were cutting the grass, etc. along the toll road. They were doing it rather than a mower. In fact I don't remember seeing a mower anyplace along any road but rather hand labor cutting the roadside or animals grazing it. We did hit a good stretch of toll road but then we got on some very rough, rutty, pot hole, up and down road. It was bad, very bad and even at 30 miles and hour it was bad. I hit a big sink hold that you could not spot ahead and really could feel the 5th come down on the springs on the right side. In the old days I am sure I would of lost a spring. The heavy duty springs and E rated tires are the only way to go. We then headed south toward Tehauntepec in Oaxaca and the first town was Sayula the road was beyond believe. It was just a jumbled mess of broken up oil with loose pieces, huge holes, ruts and all the trucks and we were just crawling along. I will have to say this June will be 3 years since we started our retirement travels this is the worst oil road we have ever been on bar none. It was about 4 miles Once we got south of town it got better but the next 30 miles were still very, terrible. The only place that was this bad was in Nova Scotia. I would say it was about a toss up. The log book directions were good and we pushed it hard. We caught up with the wagon master about noon, had some dinner and took off again. Not to far behind the wagonmaster. Just into Oaxaca we got a pineapple and a huge bag of Oranges for about $5.00 total. They did not look like much on the outside but they are sweet and juicy and made great orange juice, the best I have ever had. We then went into the mountains. It had been dry so the grass and trees were brown and there had been some fires but it was scenic but there was a lot of smoke in the air. Coming out of the mountains we could see the plains and checkerboard of fields. We also seen a lot of cattle, cattle trucks, what appeared to be buying stations and some irrigation. There were also some beef butcher places right along the road. Basically they slit the juglar vein bled them to death and processed them We hit about a 5 mile detour where they were building bridges and an interchange. It was very rough and rocky and reminded me of some of our Alaska and northern Canada roads. We just had to crawl along. Once we approached the turn off we got word on two meters that the hotel had built a fence around it and we would not be able to pull and there and wait like we had planned to be led into the CG. We sent the word back and then were going to go down the road and pull over and wait but it was rough and rocky so we had good directions in the Mexican camping book so we just went slow and made it to the CG on our own. There were some following us. We did get word back to Denny.about the change.
When we got into camp we found out Tom and Gwen's trailer which had 3 wheels on each side with tortion bars on the frame with a spindle that one of the spindles had bent and the tire was instantly ruined. The rough road had taken its toll. Tom though he heard a loud pop on the last detour I mentioned just previous to this. Since we are going to just be here over night it does not give much time to get things fixed and one night in Port Escondego and then on to Acapulco. The wagon master, tail gunner and a few of use discussed the situation. Contact was made with the CG owner who could speak English and he lined up a local mechanic to take a look at it but he did not have a way to straighten it. It was then decided to call the Green Angles and in about 1 hour the Green Angel truck and one fellow showed up. He could only speak Spanish but Irene interpreted and he said he would take it apart and then they would decide what to do. Meanwhile we had our supper and cultural entertainment for after our drivers meeting. After he got the drum and brake shoes off you could see the spindle broke out of the tortion bar and the bottom of the tortion bar was split. The plan was to bring in a acetylene torch, straighten it, get it as straight as possible and weld. He went to get the fellow but could not find him. Tomorrow is the Green Angles day off but he will come back and they will get it done and meanwhile our tailgunner will go with Tom and get a new tire mounted. Hopefully by mid morning they will be ready to roll. If all else fails they will just have to stay back and show up in Acapulco when they can or leave the rig and drive back for it after it is fixed but right now it looks like it is going to be fixed. The big question will be how true the spindle will be and of course if the weld will hold up. My opinion is the first question is the hardest to satisfy. I think they will be able to weld it good enough. I loaned the Green Angel my spotlight. He really liked it so I stood around to make sure I got it back. I am definitely going to make a 12 vdc cord for it so I can hook it to my battery bank as it really throws out the light. The internal battery seems to last for a good long while so it is very useful. We seen several oxen carts with wooden wheels and a steel band go by the CG on the dirt roads. We had a great supper and show of fashions and they had a mock Mexcican wedding of a couple that are a part of the caravan. There were some great jokes and a great time.
March 3, 2004 Wednesday, Day 40 of the RV Caravan and Day 57 of the trip. We had a great breakfast put on by the owner of the CG in the old Hacienda and had lots of laughs. We then headed out early traveling with the other 5th wheel Bruce and Eunice. The logbook was the most messed up of the trip. We seen the turn for Hwy 200 which we knew we ultimately had to be on but in Mexico you see signs all the time directing you but it may be one of several ways that will work. We followed the log but met some of our group coming back who said they log had to be wrong. We went around the block and headed back and got to the corner where we seen the sign to Hwy 200 and took it and it was correct. Earlier than that the log was wrong but we realized it right away and went around the block and went back and got back on the right road. 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 peso.s 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 spingle 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 tcest. I really think seen the worst roads yesterday and from now on they won't be to bad.
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.
March 4, 2004 Thursday Day 41 of RV Caravan trip and Day 58 since we left home. We presented the school supplies to the school and then headed out as it is a long drive. There were 3 in our group, Bruce, Harold and us. It was not to long until the Wagon master caught up and we let them pass. The road was slow going with areas of bad pot holes, lots of hills and curves and we got behind big trucks that were barely moving. The worst was many, many small towns with lots and lots of topes. It seemed like we must of went over 200 topes. We pushed hard all day. There was a question at one town and we followed Hwy 200 to Acapulco rather than the log. It turned out they went through el centro and we took the by pass. We came upon Dick our wagon master in the middle of the road as his tote had a flat tire. He waved us on by. We found out later he got sick along with at least two others in our group. Denny our tailgunner had to finish it and Becky drove. We got together at the Pemex as planned and headed toward Acapulco where the Green Angles were supposed to meet us and lead us to the CG. At the Pemex I discovered somehow I got a pretty healthy scratch on the fiberglass on the side so something got to close earlier in the day but I have no idea what.
We sat in the middle of the road for awhile while we bunched up and the Green Angel lead us in a round about fashion to miss the rush hour traffic It was pretty tough with the communication on CB but no problem on CB I relayed like crazy and Denny did from the back. A number said with out the relay's they would of got lost. We got near the CG and Dick being sick could not park us so Denny caught up and went on in and he let me kinow on 2 meters who should come in and I let them know on CB. BTW the scenery of mountains, coastal area and the Pacific was very nice.
As we started sending them in we discovered #12 Tom and Gwen were not there and had got separated. They ended up finding someone who rode with them and gave them directions and then they paid the taxi for this person to get back to where he started from. They certainly had an adventure. We have been trying to park by the ocean so I though I could get backed in but it was to tight so they said I could park at the end in the road but I had to back out and Denny and Dave wanted in so we had to wait for them. In the dark it was tough backing out. I was going to back in but decided to try a spot to the west. I had a tough time getting it in. In the process I may have blown a seal on my transmission as there is transmission fluid on the ground I smelled it on from the heat where is was on the hot metal. In hind sight I should of put it in 4 x 4 and will remember that for future reference. Edith was beat but we did get the A/C on and have a beautiful spot right on the Pacific Ocean with the surf pounding and Dolphines going by. I will have to deal with the transmission thing tomorrow
March 5, 2004 Friday Day 42 of the RV Caravan trip and day 59 since leaving home. I got up early and put in a quart of transmission oil and ran it and could not see any leak but looking at the ground in the daylight it appeared I had lost quite a bit. Denny and I looked for Neil who manages the CG and originally was from the USA and is an American and married a Mexican gal. He showed up a little after 9 am and between him and his wife we got directions to the Ford dealership, Walmart, Sam's and Carrefore. Denny took me to the Ford garage where they only had one person who spoke English. It was looking tense as a transmission problem is to complex a subject to communicate with our levels of Spanish and a lot of words we would need are not really in the dictionaries and they are going to get impatient and not want to spend that much time. We found out they were very busy and we could not get in until Monday and worse yet they do not have F-250's and F-350's in Mexico and so there are no parts and they would have to be shipped in from the USA.
We then went to Wal-Mart which is at the far end of the tourist zone but we got there quicker than expected. It was a super Wal-Mart which I believe all of them are in Mexico. Denny needed money so I got a lesson on the ATM machines and they will take debit cards. The good think about these were they were in both Spanish and English but even with just Spanish I think I can figure it out. I have wondered about a debit card so this is good to know. You are pretty much limited to $300 per day per card. We got 8 quarts of transmission fluid and headed back,
We started putting in transmission fluid but it was hard to determine if it was full due to the residue on the filler tube. Earlier I had borrowed a filler tube from Harold and that is something we have to get. Anyway we kept adding and running it and we could find no place leaking, no damage from rocks as there were some rocks where I had backed in. We finally though we had it full after adding about 4.5 quarts which seemed believable looking at the spots on the sand. I took it out and drove it 20 miles and no leaking. It appeared to be full at that point but still hard to see the fluid on the white plastic on the end of the dip wire. I finally did not put the dip stick in all the way and pulled it out and had very little residue on it. When I put it in all the way I had pink transmission fluid on the plaster end with the cold and hot hash marks so am pretty confident it is full but not over full but that is a tough thing to tell. I then called McCormicks in Salem and talked to their transmission man and he said what happen is when I was backing the oil got hot and the front seal expanded and I lost some oil. He said there is a seal in the torque converter that would of done the same thing. In either case when it cooled down it sealed back up and that does happen. I will consider it a blessing and thank God for it. Anyway the only thing to do is try it pulling and I think we will be alright. The main thing will be to keep the transmission temperature down but not pulling it hard for long distances and leaving it run rather than shutting it off so the transmission cooler can do its thing. Bruce who we travel with has a guage on his so when he starts to heat up we can stop and wait for them to cool down. We don't have and huge days left but do have about 3 days that are just over 200 miles but we can leave early and have time to stop and let it cool down if need be.
After that we worked on trying to get Denny out of being stuck in the sand. We made progress but it was time for our Acapulco tour. We had the best bus of the trip with lots of room, great A/C and great guides. Acapulco in the daytime gives you the impression of being half way between Maztalan and Cancun. At night I will have to say Acapulco is by far the best., It is nice, very nice as the city goes up away from the ocean and bay quite rapidly and there are all sorts of colored lights going up these hill along with the lights in the high rises and hotels. There are all kinds of beaches and as we traveled we find there is other areas on the ocean besides the first hotel zona you find. You also have the huge Mexico area so Acapulco is much more Mexican than Cancun. I have heard Acapulco had lost its glitter and was old and worn out but that just is not true. There may not be quite as many glittering hotels as Cancun but over all I am the most impressed with Acapulco than anyplace I have been for a tourist fly in visit or cruise ship visit.
We went to the Flamingo Hotel where John Wayne, Tarzan and many other movie actors stayed and also seen Frank Sinatras house. We then seen the Acapulco cliff divers which is at night in the lights, they climp the cliff and then dive in this narrow gorge where the water is only about 12 feet deep so they time there jump when the surf comes in so it is about 16 feet deep. It is impressive as the high one dives about 110 feet and hits the water at about 45 miles and hour. We then had our supper on the south west side way up on the hill in an open air café looking out over the bad and over all of Acapulco to the east side of the bay but as I said earlier there are a number of areas. Some are on the Pacific and at our RV park areas there are miles of beach which is on a Pennesula north of town.
March 6, 2004 Saturday, Day 43 of RV Caravan and day 60 of trip. This was a free day in a wonderful beach location and nice CG along the Pacific. It did get into the 90's for several hours and did feel hot. I had quite a few chores, it did some things on the computer, found my antenna problem was easy to fix, I had gotten confused and had it on the wrong tap so I sent and received E-mail as I have been out of touch for about a day and a half. I then went over to help get Denny out and found they were already working. They had made some progress but when they went back they sunk in the sand again. We got it jacked up again and got wood under the tires and got things lined up to back it on the cement pad behind and to the right side of the motor home. If we got it on there we would have it made. Denny backed it up and the front end almost hunt up in the loose sand but he did get it up on the pad but the pad did break up some. The then was ready to drive ahead on the pad and out in the center alley. As he went ahead the pad started breaking up and the wheels broke through. We were in shock as we were sure we had it whipped when we go it on the pad. It turns out the pad is 1 ½" to 2" thick on sand so it was not nearly heavy enough. We had to repeat the process of using the leveling jacks and a 20 T hydraulic jack on the back frame to hold it so we could block up the leveling jacks so they could lift the tires up above the concrete. We then slid broken concrete slabs under the tires and let the MH down and crunched the cement, then lifted the MH again and crunched some more cement. We were then able to get the 20 T jack out and left up the leveling jacks and we had laid a path of boards out ahead of the back wheels to distribute the weight over more surface. Denny took of at a pretty good speed and as he went the concrete broke up but he was able to keep going and not drop through. He then parked out in the alley. We have about 4 other rigs that are now concerned about it when they go to leave so several are going to go out on Monday night so if they have trouble they have some time to deal with it. Harold came up short 4 of his oak 4 x 4's so I went back with him and help dig for them and we found them all which made him happy. I got my blocks back. Back at the 5th Edith had washed clothes in Willy's MH and then went shopping so I hung them out to dry, fixed my bent whip on the Bugcatcher, downloaded the pictures of the camera and checked some setting in the book as some had got messed up and got them corrected, charged my hand held computer, sent the travelogue, fixed the lead for my VOM, got the gps readings, sent our locator, added a few things to the east coast list and called my Mom. I found out she got sick this morning and had a bad cold, cough and headache. The A/C in the 5th is great. I did notice one wheel bearing cap leaked a little so I will have to check them closely on Tuesday when we travel. I took a little nap and studied some Spanish but we kept having visitors which was fine. Edith was helping along with a few others to line up a beach party with a bon fire. We used some of the broken up wood from getting Denny out and Dave has carried firewood for 4000 miles and was ready to get rid of some of it. We had a great beach party and the caravan spent some money and got hot dogs, buns and chips and a few others brought some things. The CG hired a singer for an hour and helped with more firewood and tables and chairs. Some of those that were sick had recovered so it was great to see them. We also may be able to go deep sea fishing for a reasonable price on Monday, everything is furnished. We were planning a pancake breakfast on Monday but if the fishing thing will work we will put it on hold.
The sunset was great and it was the first time I had ever seen the sun sink into the sea. It is amazing how fast it sets when we are this far south. You can literally see it move, much faster than up north where it is quite fast right at sunset but not nearly this fast. We had great food, good visits and Edith come up with singing God Bless Mexico one verse and then close with the one verse of God Bless America and it went over great.
I am impressed with Acapulco and the more we are here the more area's people in our group find. South of here there is a whole new area where Costco is at and there are more areas to the north so it is huge. Tomorrow we see more of Acapulco and get a boat ride and brunch. This is also a great fishing area. We have a fellow next to us that has a topper and also a hammock and his area is set up as an outdoor kitchen with a counter and he has a hot plate and used the sink. They have 2 grounds keepers and today being Saturday some school kids working. One young boy I think a grandson of the owners speaks good English and was very helpful in getting the party set up. This CG has a need for work to handle the big rigs but they are trying. They fill up during any of the Mexican holidays for the beach so they want lots of sites and they don't have to be very big. Of course a lot of Mexicans just camp on the public beach. There are also spring break kids down here.
They were telling me about San Felipe and the El Dorado trailer park. One can also drive about 50 miles south where hot springs flows into the ocean and there are tidal pools. Dave took a bucket along and poured some cold ocean water into the hot pool so he could stand to get into it. They had a great time so we will have to do that and take our swimsuits. Donna also said there was a beach where you could drive on with the campers but as we learned today one has to be very careful!!!
We definitely drink a lot of water as you sweat a lot. It is great to be able to come in and cool off in the A/C. Hopefully as we head north to near Mexico City where the elevation will be about 6000 feet it will get much cooler at night. I guess Mexico City is the 3rd largest city in the world. I thought it was the largest.
March 7, 2004 Sunday Day 44 of RV Caravan and Day 61 of the trip. I got E-mail and then got together with Harold to try and help him with his GPS. We ran out of time before we had to leave on our bus tour for Acapulco. We learned about the history of the area and had a nice tour of town, got a mirador of the bay and hotel zone and then had lunch. We then went to the Fort, museum and mask museum. We then went to where the tour boats shop but it was to expensive so we shopped around the zocolo and we got some T-Shirts and a couple of silver bracelets The tour guide said the silver was of good quality.. We then got a sack lunch and got on the boat for a harbor and sunset cruise. It was a nice day and we seen how big Acapulco really is and the two guides were some of the best we have had and it definitely was the nicest bus we have had. There were not enough to make the fishing trip feaseable so we then announced we would be having breakfast. After we got back we got things lined up for the breakfast. We got a very heavy duty gas grill from Bruce and a propane tank from Dick and we have a gridle and Dick has one and some others are bringing things so we are set. I feel much better with the propane rather than electric where we could blow a circuit and not have anyone around to get it going again. One thing that is really amazing is that the stores, cafes, etc. are wide open and as people sit outside there just are not bug problems which seems hard to believe considering it never gets cold here. It appears to not rain a lot here so that may be some of it but in other areas of Mexico there has been lots of water setting around and the bugs were not bad. Other than Villahermosa where they were bad and in the evening north of Cancun in the RV park they were quite a few but not during the day.
March 8, 2004 Monday Day 45 of RV Caravan and Day 62 of the trip. We had a pancake breakfast for everyone. Bruces heavy duty gas grill worked great and we were able to use one electric griddle on an extension cord from another circuit. We had a great turn out with the two German couples the only ones who did not make it out of bed. We had excellent help and Donna had some bacon and Eunice had some sausage. We had blueberries for the pancakes and orange juice. Some brought coffee and a pot of tea. Someone else brought some pineapple and Larry brought the rest of the watermelon. It went over great and as we were breaking up we seen dolphins and some small whales jumping in the ocean. After clean up I helped Howard with his GPS and eventually got his serial to USB cable installed. I had to change the setting on his Magellan so it would communicate with the computer. I also installed a copy of Delorme Map N Go which I know how to run so tomorrow he can see his position in relation to the roads that are on the map. Mexico GPS mapping is very limited and often out of date. I did put in the GPS location of our CG for tomorrow night. I also installed a copy of Microsoft Street and Trip software but it is not as good in Mexico as the Map N GO. Windy does have Rand McNally and says Mexico is pretty good on it so I will have to take a look at that. Before next winter I need to look into mapping but given we will be in the Baha and down the west coast it is pretty straight forward so in reality no big deal. We got things ready to roll in the morning and are optomistic our transmission will be OK. The drivers meeting was pretty interested with a number of people very upset about the way the Green Angles led us in and how hair raising it was. The major problem is they took a new route and the mapping is poor so people were totally dependent on the CB radios and by in large most of the CB's work terrible so it is a wonder more people did not get lost. We got permission to leave early at 7 - 7:15 AM and Dick will pull out at 8 am. and the groups after that. It is about 200 miles with a lot of it expensive toll road. We will be climbing from sea level to 6000 feet going into the state of Morales. Those that were sick got a special van tour today and got to see the Acapulco divers and a number of other things and they had a great day so that was nice and they were very appreciative. I got the Street Pilot set up with our CG location for tomorrow night and will also use the computer in the car so I can reference it to Harolds. It is hot here in Acapulco in March but it is the nicest CG and City we have been in for beauty. The electricity was a little lacking but we were able to run our A/C so for us it was OK and the beach site was great but far to tough to get into and the people getting stuck was a bad deal. I certainly learned do not work the transmission in reverse. If it is tough backing put it in 4 x 4 and then be sure to let it cool if it is taking some time. Also be sure it is not in over drive.
March 9, 2004, Tuesday is day 46 of the RV caravan with only 16 days left so down to just over 2 weeks. It is day 63 since we left home. PRAISE THE LORD! An answer to prayer, the transmission worked fine and it did not leak any transmission fluid. When I needed to back up I put it in 4 x 4 so I had plenty of power and did not have to work the transmission. We got and early start and were the first ones out at 7:30 am. I helped Harold with his GPS as his computer was being unstable like yesterday so I got my computer to use since I have a serial port and we could hook right to the GPS. Unfortunately it was tracking good and then my computer got unstable so apparently it has something to do with the Megallan GPS or serial cable. We had the best roads in a long time. The first road out of the CG was rough but after that not bad. The Cuota cost about $80 and was a little rough in spots but over all it was good, very little traffic and it was great not to have topes. I checked the transmission at about 30 miles and it was not leaking at all. I was so thank ful! The transmission seems to shift perfect and I was convinced all along that the only problem I had was the front seal or something in the torque converter where I lost the 5 quarts of transmission fluid. The log book was good except right at the end it said turn a corner toward a certain town and that town was on no sign. I pulled into a propane place and asked and that was the road. When we got in town we found a couple more of our group parked so we pulled in on the shoulder. I ran across the street and asked and they confirmed it was that town. Dick the wagon master came by and we followed him and he promptly missed the turn. I know when we got to what turned out to be the correct corner I told Edith I sure would of took this corner. We got turned around and headed back. It is a narrow trail down to the CG. It was a big hold up getting in and it was tight. Bob and Willy and Dick all got scapes on their rigs today. I got good news as to how I can repair my scratch from a few days ago. I also checked the wheel bearings on the 5th and they are not heating up so that is good news. Tomorrow is our free day and there is talk we will discuss GPS and computer interfacing.
The next day we tour and then head from Pueblo. After this we have just one free day left in the last two weeks so it will keep up busy.
We are so thank ful the transmission is working OK and not leaking. We climbed from sea level to 6000 feet today with lots of ups and down so the transmission got a big workout.
March 10, 2004, Wednesday, Day 47 of the RV tour with 15 days left and day 64 since we left home. We went into Cuernavaca with Tom and Gwen and some others as they had to get some money. We took the libre in but had to do some back tracking due to no exit to the Libre. We got to the Zocola and seen Cortes Temple and then looked at some of the most interesting stores we have seen yet in Mexico. It is a town of about 1 million people so lots going on and things looked pretty prosperous. I called my Mom and Laura at Gentle Touch answered and I found out she went to the hospital on Sunday. Back at the CG I got the Platte Hospital number and put it in my billfold so I would have it and drove to town and called. The nurse said she was better and it was not life threatening at the moment and the antibiotics were given in the vein and now would be oral and se had a chest X-ray to check her lungs and a scan to see if there might of been a slight stroke. She is breathing better. I then talked to Mom and she wished she felt better and then I talked to the hospital so they had my e-mail address to contact me if needed. I also got two 100 peso phone cards. We are going to eat at Bruce and Eunice tonight. I looked at alternatives if we need to get back for my mom. Right now if we don't go to Copper Canyon I will drive over to Nuevo Leon the night we get in and then in the morning get up early and head for Durango and Chihauhau and then Persidio, TX. Tomorrow we take an all day bus tour.
March 11, 2004, Thursday, Day 48 of the RV tour with 14 days left and day 65 since we left home. Today we went to Taxco which is an old Colonial Mining town. The person who found the rich vein built the great church there. Taxco has a great climate with the temperature pretty much the same the year around as it is up in the mountains. It is ever better the Cuernavaca which is called the city of eternal spring. The tour guide Gabriel gave us a lot of information on the bus ride to Taxco. It is on the hill sides and in the main part of town all building has to be approved that the original style is not changed. We had a tour which gave us information on silver mining and what to look for in buying silver. I got a picture of a silver serving set that cost $10,000.00. Edith bought quite a bit of silver jewerly. We then took cabs to the zocolo and toured the church which has beautiful paintings and is beautiful inside. We went through the market place which are long narrow areas that go all over. It almost seems to be underground but is on narrow spaces between buildings. There is everything. We seen some North Americans but a lot of the people visiting were Mexicans. We then had dinner over looking the city and then we had an hour to shop. Edith got more silver and I got a T-shirt. We walked back down the hill to where we arrived to get on the bus. We then went to the CACAHUAMILAPA caverans. This cave is a MUST SEE! This cave is about 1 mile long and it is huge. The whole thing is huge and the types of formations are many and the lighting is excellent and it is an easy walk. It reminded us a lot of Carlsbad and would definitely say it is just as spectacular but of course Carlsbad has more miles of tunnels. We got back a little after 7 pm so it was dark so we get ready to go in the morning and have the drivers meeting at 8 am and leave. Denny had to have his windshields remounted in new rubber gaskets. Tonight Willy finds he has a problem so I am wondering if other Class A's will have problems. The roads are taking there tolls and I suspect in the case of some of the Class A's speed.
March 12, 2004, Friday, Day 49 of RV Caravan with 13 days left and day 66 since we left home.
It was a travel day to Pueblo today. With the tight CG we needed to get out first as we were right by the gate. We were able to make the swing, Bruce had a tough time as there was no way he could make the swing so he had to back and it took awhile to get vehicles moved so he had enough room. The road into the CG is narrow and there can be trucks and if you meet someone has to back up a long ways which with a 5th wheel gets old in a hurry. Fortunately we did not meet anyone but Bruce did but it was a pickup and he backed up and got over in a wider spot. We waited in town for Harold to get out and then we took off. The log book was good today but it took about 7 hours to go 120 miles with all the traffic, small towns and topes. We really only stopped a little while for dinner and once from fuel. Bruce turned one exit early but we figured that out and quickly spotted on another map what we had done wrong so we knew we had to get back to the road we had been on and go to the next exit. We had a hard time getting the word to Bruce as he got way ahead of us somehow but we finally did get the word to him and the last we heard was he did not know how he was going to get turned around. The road into the CG was under construction so it was a mess. Fortunately as we were waiting in line Bruce showed up. It is a tricky turn to the park, then tricky getting through the gate and then we had to go over a little stone bridge to the north part which was trick and then back in. We thought we had to leave a space next to us so it was really tight on our slide side. We got all set up and then found out they changed their minds and were not going to use it so we packed up, hooked up and moved it over which is OK because now we can park our F-350 next to us and use our batteries as the outlets are in terrible shape. I managed to get E-mail and we had a draw that fell down but Edith got it fixed. We had our evening gathering and are going to Bill and Monica for desert. I then called the hospital and found out my Mom is better and talked to her a bit. She will be in the hospital until Tuesday anyway and she said Pat Sluiter would help her with her check book.
The area from Cuernavaca to Pueblo was different as we left the Mountains by and large other that a few here and there. A lot like the mountains are between Phoenix and Tucson. We then went down into a valley and we immediately started to see a lot more crops and a lot of vegetables. There was some of this along with raising flower by Cuernavaca but much more as we entered the valley. There was some irrigation. As we came out of the valley we entered a more flat area; although somewhat rolling and the farming was even more intense and we even seen some mechanization today. There was some corn also. With 22 million people in Mexico City not far away there certainly is a need for a lot of food.
March 13, 2004 Saturday Day 50 of the RV Caravan with 12 days left and day 67 since we left home. It was a cool night getting down to about 45 degrees so that is the coolest in a long time so the high elevation is really making a difference. It warms up quite quickly as the sun comes up but it is dry so not humid and got in the 80's today so very pleasant. We toured Cholula and Pueblo today. We seen the pyramid of Tepanampa which has a huge base, one of the biggest of the world and was several pyramids built over each other. In the early 1900's they dug tunnels and that is how they found this out. We took a tour through these tunnels. We then looked at a couple of several beautiful churches in the city. The one called San Maria is one of the most beautiful churches inside in the world. We also the San Francisco which is unusual with the tile on the outside. We had a nice dinner and then went to the Zocolo in Puebla. Puebla according to my guide is the 4th largest city in Mexico. The number of shops and the Marcado were huge. There were many upscale stores so a lot of Mexicans are doing well here. The Volkswagon plant is a major employer. This was the most people I have every seen walking on the streets. It was just like pictures I have seen of NY streets with mobs of people. The streets are all pretty much one way and the traffic is horrible. We then went to the tile, ceramic makers This tile, ceramic is very hard and durable and virtually impossible to scratch. It is called Talavera. We bought some nice dishes and plates. When we got back I helped Bruce change a tire on his 5th that was wearing on its side. I then had a nice visit with the young man who is the gate guard. He did not know any English but I was able to practice and learn some Spanish from him. While we were speaking a young lady drove up and talked to him and said she was waiting for some friends. She over heard us and got out of her car and came over and I found out she was learning English so she helped me with a few words that my friend Abel was not sure of. Soon her friends showed up so she introduced me to them. I can see where some people who knew Spanish and a little English working with some who knew English and a little Spanish would be a great way to help each other learn. I got E-mail and my sports report on the SDSU Jackrabbits and the girls are still in the regionals.
March 14, 2004 Sunday Day 51 of the RV Caravan with 11 days left and day 68 since we left home. Today was a travel day of just over a 100 miles to Teotihuacan. The first part we went in Caravan style with our CB repeaters as our Wagonmaster and his wife had to drive it four times the night before to get it right. The caravan style worked good and being Sunday morning and this route had no traffic lights so that helped. Down the road some of us missed a turn as the logbook was about 2 miles of so we were not looking yet and seen it just as we went by. The rest of the way was fine. We stopped at a town and had Soapes which is a thick tortilla with carne and beans and what ever else you want on it. We had goat meat (young) and it was fine. We got to Teotihuacan and got fueled up. It was a little tight. The log was not right again and we ended up on the 4 lane and still would of been OK but we did not get the word to Harold to take the next exit so we had to got to the next one which was about 3 miles but we did OK then but just as we came into town we should of made a left and we missed it as we had given up on the logbook. I should of made a right and went back around and went that way but I guess it was not a real good turn that way. We went left toward the CG which on my Street Pilot GPS but got to a bad corner and was just barely able to make it. Harold had to unhook and Bruce got turned around and went back to the original missed turn. We went to the end of the block and went about 2 blocks the wrong way on a one way street on purpose as it took us right to the CG staging area and there was very little traffic on the street. The CG is tight but not bad but as usual the electricity is weak 15 amp so we are just using our batteries.
The country today was like the edge of the Black Hills with praire and rolling hills and a few pine trees where we were driving but of to our left were mountains and pine trees which looked just like the Black Hills. As we get closer we started to see farming with lots of cactus (prickly pair) that they use to make Pulque which is the low form of Tequila. It was a scenic drive and not much pollution at all so you could see a long ways..
It looks like we have two great days of tours lined up before moving on to San Miguel De Allende. So we have 3 travel days to get to Saltillo where I think we will leave the caravan and go through Duragno and Chicuacua. We will have to make a decision about Copper Canyon.
March 22, 2004 Monday Day 52 of RV tour and 10 days left and day 69 since we left home. Today we went to northern Mexico City but could see some of the downtown tall buildings. Mexico City is built on an ancient lake so buildings settle and the big earthquake a number of years ago did a lot more damage because of this.
We went to the Shrine of Our Lady Guadalupe which is the second most visited church in the world. Tradition has it that a young Indian lad San Diego was met by the Mother of Jesus and was told to build a church and the She would intercede for them and take care of him. He was told to go to the Bishop and ask for it to be build, as the story went he had to go three times and the last time he brought a cape/robe that by a miracle had an image of our Lady Guadalupe and it had roses that are only found in Spain. The bishop built the church and she is considered the queen of Mexico and 2 million people come for mass on December 12th the day she appeared to San Diego. That was in 1531 and has a lot to do with the acceptance of the Catholic religion by the native people of Mexico as before it was being forced on them. The robe/cape was displayed in the first church then as the crowds got so big a second church was built and it was displayed there but the building is sinking so a new huge church that will hold 10,000 people were build and it is displayed there and we got to see it.
We then went back to Teotihaucan to see the Obsidian shop and Edith got a rock with a picture on it and it says Mexico and has our names for $1. I think it is the best bargain of the trip. We were shown how the Pulque is made from the cactus. It is sweet and about 6 % alcohol. We then had a buffet dinner which I would rate as the best of the trip.
We then toured Teotihaucan which is a huge site. The two big temples or pyramids are the Pyramid of the Sun and the Moon. They had an idol on top in a temple but that is gone due to the conquest and time. We seen a number of other things there. We certainly got our exercise. I dropped my digital camera on the rocks on top of the Pyramid of the Sun and had a small crack in the case and the view finder was pushed in an over. I had Edith camera and though mine was around my neck and they I was holding hers so I let mine go and it was not around my neck but rather Edith's was so it crashed to the rocks. Praise the Lord, later back at the 5th with small scew drivers we were able to pry it back in place and the lens is OK so what a blessing as I though a $700 camera was gone. When we got back our guide had lined up Mariarches and they were good. We then walked up town with Bruce and Eunice and got some rolls and seen a lot of interesting things so we will go back on our free day on Wednesday. We got 6 rolls and it cost $1.70 so we can add that to good deals here in Mexico.
March 16, 2004 Tuesday, Day 53 of the RV Caravan with 9 days left. We are on day 70 of the trip Today we toured Mexico City for nearly 10 hours and were gone nearly 12 hours. We seen the traffic in Mexico City. They have different color stickers for the who can drive on what day for people who live here. Outsiders can drive on a certain day each week based on the last number on their license plate. The fine is about $80 if you get stopped. What has happened is that people have several cars so they can still drive more than one day a week. Everybody can drive on Saturday and Sunday. About 1/4 of the people ride the public transportation each day so figuring many work in there local area and children that is quite a high percentage About 24 million people live in the area which is about 25% of the total population of Mexico. It has really grown the last 50 years.
The Metro is French technology and runs on a flat steel track with rubber tires and there are rubber tires on the side against steel side rails so the meto has to follow the flat tracks. They are electric and start and stop fast and have I would estimate a speed of about 50 mph. There are also all kinds of buses. The buses can go everyday, no restrictions.
Our first stop was the Mexico Museum of Archeology which you could spend a long day there easily. We looked mainly at the Aztec culture. I did not know that the Aztec had their headquarters on an island in the lake and added to the island with fill and floating gardens. This is right where the Zocolo is in Mexico City. The climate has changed and the Spaniards drained the lake so all that remains is some at the south end. The Aztec influence spread all over Meso-america and they became very war-like. The were actually defeated by the Spaniards so more of their history is known than earlier Indian cultures. I did find the reproduction of the paintings from Bomampak which were by far the best painting I have seen of the Mayan culture and it is in the Mayan hall. The Museum has many different halls each with a different culture in them. It is huge and fairly crowed but you can go to a different hall where it is not so crowed. I wish we could of spent more time in the Mayan Hall since we seen so many Mayan sites and some of the best artifacts have come here but we did not have time to look at them. As every place there is no flash allowed so one needs a camera that can really take picture in low light.
Our next stop was a river ride on what is left of the canals of Mexico City toward the south end. It is a big week end get away for people in Mexico City. We had a meal on the boat but they tried to sell us stuff so that took away from it. From there we went to the Zocolo and seen Diego Rivaras painting in the national palace. His companion was Frida who also is a famous artist in Mexico. Diego was a communist, an atheist and was in trouble with nearly everyone. He also was a womeniser. However his art is well known. Probably not because the pictures are so real but the messages they sent. These are in the National Palace . We also seen the church and the Aztec Pyramid and the lowering of the flag. We then seen probably our last pyramid which was an Aztec one, the Spanish Cathedral and the modern buildings so it called the center of three cultures. There was not enough signed up for the late afternoon and night out in Mexico City so we have our last free day tomorrow so we will walk downtown to San Juan Teotihuacan and look around.
About three times we have seen people with the garbage trucks going through the garbage and finally figured out they are getting out glass and other things for recycling. Our guide discussed the trash you see laying around and says it is a cultural thing. In times past before about 50 years ago things were perishable so when people dropped or threw something on the ground it was soon gone and it is going to take education as many of the things thrown today are not perishable. I will say in central Mexico the situation it much better than any place else we have been in Mexico.
We seen some demonstations and groups that were anti-american policy and the Mexican political situation is always one of great turmoil it seems and right now a lot of corruption is being shown on televison and in the press. Major elections are in 2006 but things are already heating up.
We seen some shanty towns but over all we seen good housing for Mexico and lots of signs of prosperity. The government does subsidize the transportation and does some things with the property to try and even out things. A lot of the problems in Mexico go back many years when the government gave all the business to 300 rich families in Mexico and it is still true today that a few control most of the wealth in Mexico. I would say we seen the most middle class of anyplace we have been. The pollution from smog is bad but not as bad as I pictured it There are many modern building and it is a nice looking town for Mexico. The roads are quite decent and pretty well set up. Certainly the best we have seen in Mexico but with 25% of the vote here you can be sure the politicians are going to do there best to provide things for the public.
Now in regards to crime in Mexico City. I am absolutely convinced beyond a shadow of a doubt that it is much, much safer than I understood it to be. Like any town there are places you don't want to go, especially at night but I seen people walking around, women by themselves, young kids and there were no bars on the windows, etc. In some tourist places and on the public transportation there are pick pockets so you have to be sure to put your money, etc. where it can not be gotten at. There are some taxi schemes, etc.again in the tourist areas but over all I am positive it is not bad. We walked freely around the Zocolo and there actually were not a lot of police and military around which indicates quite clearly there really is not much of a problem. If there was you would see lots of police and military as there is no shortage in Mexico of either! Obviously you need to use good common sense and ask where not to go but by and large it is much safer than it is painted to be!
March 17, 2004 Wednesday Day 54 of the RV Caravan with 8 days left and day 71 since we left home. This was a free day and everybody just stuck around the CG, visited, washed rigs, and walked downtown. I found out a lot about the Copper Canyon, Baja and Great Smokey Mountains from Harold and Joyce. We walked downtown and I helped Harold get some money at the bank and we got some ice cream and met a fellow who spoke English and worked in Wisconsin but came home for awhile as his mother was sick. We met a couple who came in from Switzerland and found out they paid about $400 to take their rig across on the ferry. The spoke English at the La Paz terminal and they took the ferry to Los Mochis. The Copper Canyon train was about $100 each per one way so round trip for two should be about $200. I am not sure if that was the first or second class train. He built up a year of vacation time working weekends and holidays so they are traveling the USA, Canada and Mexico for one year..Willy was showing me about the CD that is advertised in our Mexican Atlas that says it is GPS compatable so I am going to have to check that out. I showed him my state map for Chihuahua which has good city maps on it. Our Mexican atlas also advertises a number of city maps which look like they have good detail. We will have to get better maps for our trip next winter. The Swiss couple said an American owned the CG at El Fuente and that it was very nice.
I talked to my Mom today and see said the doctor said she could go back to assisted living on Friday. I could not get my phone card to work and it appeared to be a ladatel phone so I went downtown to another phone and it worked fine.
March 18, 2004 Thursday Day 55 of the RV Caravan with 7 days left and day 72 since we left home. We start lining up at 7:30 am to leave for San Miguel De Allende. This is considered on of the best Colonial towns in Mexico. In 2002 when we were in Mexico we met a fellow, Mike from the USA who has been all over Mexico and he said that he thought it was Number 2 with Guanajuato being # 1 which we will take a bus tour to so those two towns over the next 4 days should be highlights of the trip. It is over 200 miles today through lots of small towns with topes so it will be a pretty long day most likely It was tight getting out and Tom and Gwen went out the old gate and could not make the left turn so he had to unhook and back in at an angle so he could go right as they previously did before they built the new gate at the other end that we all used. He was supposed to meet the Wagon Master and his group at the other end but when he got there they thought they had already left so they took off. We did not know that so the tail gunner searched the town three times and lagged behind. The Wagon Master and Tail gunner was on the telephone and with me on 2 meters and were very concerned. Finally our group of three caught up the Phylis and Lee and Larry and Carol from IN and they had seen Tom and Gwen go by about 20 minutes ago so we go word to the Wagon Master that they were not lost but just ahead. They were very relieved and so were we since they had gotten lost in Acapulco so we sure did not want that to happen to them again plus they have had lots of other problems. Tom and Sui rig would not come out of park so they finally got it but they don't know how so they are leaving it in Neutral and not putting it in park. I found out Don had to put in a second air bag. Our group had a good day, Harold and Joyce led and no missed turns and we drove right to camp. We got parked right away and set up. Our outlet is not working and now another group of 10 from another caravan has come in so it doubt if we will chance using the electricity but will just use our batteries. We had a nice visit with the folks from IN and decided to go out to a place Bob had seen for Chicken. When we got there we were not sure if it was it so we went on up the street and got to talking with some people who were shutting down for the evening. Between Eunice and I we were doing pretty good with our Spanish. She said the chicken place was so, so but wanted us to come back tomorrow and she showed us a Spanish dish called Puella I believe is the correct spelling. There was also a man there who I think is the owner and his wife. Anyway as we were leaving to go to the chicken place they decide to open up for us so we called everybody back and got the Puella. Phyllis could not hand the heads on the shrimp so she did not have any but eventually she had some of her husbands, had a beer and some coffee and flon for dessert so she was happy. The amazing thing was it was only $4.50 each. We got to joking and found out he was a dancer and they were singing and dancing and we were telling them about our trip and where we had been. She had a T-shirt from Playa Del Carmen so we told them were we had been there. Then we found out he had CD's of the music that he danced to. We had a great time and the CD cost 100 peso's and the meal was as said. The IN couples just ordered one CD as they could share it. This is a classic case where since we can speak some Spanish they opened up for us, we communicated about all these things and had a great time. If we would of not been able to speak some Spanish it would not of happened. The girl said our Spanish was a lot better than her English which was a great compliment as they server a lot of Americans there as there are a lot of Americans in San Miguel and a lot come here and the also with the RV park near-by.
The park has the best swimming pool we have had other than possibly Nautical by Campeche. A lady in the RV park who has been here for a year was looking to buy some chemical for her black water tank and we were able to help her out. She told us the Marcado was the best place to buy. She used to live in Fl and has been in Mexico most of the time since 1988 and lived at Palmul and has been here at San Miguel De Allende for about a year.
I got our location, sent it and got e-mail We take the bus down at 9 am and it is going to cost us 3 peso's each way and we will have a walking tour and then we can look around on our own. The next day is the bus tour to Guanajuato and Sunday we can go to Delores Hildago or do what ever we want. I think we will take it as our last free day and not do a lot. Maybe Edith will go to Deloris Hildago. On Monday we will travel right by on our way to Zacatecas.
March 19, 2004, Friday We are on day 56 or the RV Caravan and we have only 6 days left. It is day 73 since we have left home. Today we had a walking tour of San Miguel De Allende. We took the public bus down and it cost 3 peso's each. A fellow on the bus who lives here from the US we telling us that he and his wife took a sail boat charter out of northern Belize in the area we had been and was kidnaped for three days on a deserted island while they got travelers checks signed over, money and their gear. He said he did not have much with them other than their scuba gear. They were all released unharmed but it was a tense 3 days. He is a corporate lawyer and did not like the "rat race" so he moved down here a bought a hotel and is making good money. He said there is money to be made here.
We all met at the Zocolo and at 9:30 am we had a guide who was from San Antonio, TX and is an American but married and has children and works for a tourism company here. He was very interesting He said Mexico has great potential as there is huge wealth here but things move so slowly and it is so frustrating. He used to think it was because of the US but now he says he absolutely knows it is not but rather the rich and powerful in Mexico want things to stay the way it is. He said President Fox has found out how hard it is to change things and can't wait to get out. San Miguel was founded in 1542 and is one of the most representative colonial towns with Guanahuato probably being the most. He said 1/3 of the worlds silver was mined here during the colonial times. He said there are about 110 million people in Mexico and only about 40 million have checking accounts and the rest are cash and carry. In San Miguel there are about 5000 Canadians, 5000 Europeans and 7000 Americans and another 7000 come and go from the US. You can still rent places quite reasonable here but it is very expensive to buy. He said progress is so slow because of cheap labor. He said for example to issue 10,000 license plates it is all done by hand where it could be computerized but it would put a lot of people out of work so they leave it the way it is.
The AARP rates San Miguel as the #1 place to live. The climate is idea in the 70's most of the year. The two hot months are April and May in the 80's and then it rains at night and keeps things cool for the rest of the summer. It is a little over 6000 feet elevation and the nice thing is we don't see the pollution like we do elsewhere. There is a big lake near by but it does have a lot of pollution but they are working on cleaning it up. The new young mayor is trying to change some things and get the public business on the outside of the city and close the central area to cars to cut down on the traffic. There would be the taxi's and buses and I suppose some trucks. San Miguel is considered the cradle of the Mexican revolution where the revolutionary planning took place. We seen the building where they met.
He said during the Spanish rein that the Catholic Church had exclusive control of Mercury which was needed for refining the Silver and Gold so that gave them a lot of control and wealth In 1926 the Mexican government took a lot of property away from the church and the fall out between the government and Rome lasted until just recently in the 90's after the uprising in Chiapas when diplomatic relations were again made with the Vatican and only in recent years has the Pope visited Mexico. There are still a lot of hard feeling over this and there will be for a long time to come.
He said it was amazing how fast the Spaniards moved across Mexico from Veracruz to the west coast. Some of it was that they got help from some people who seen the white people and according to legend they were arriving Gods to some people. The towns were established about a long days walking distance apart. The Spanish born here were looked down on by those born in Spain. Today he said that if you study the names of those in power you will see they are from the aristocratic families tracing back to Spain and not the common people He said for a long time about 4500 of these families controlled the wealth of Mexico and it is still true today that it is a relatively small number that control the wealth and as I said earlier he is positive why things change so slowly in Mexico. It also helps to understand why there is a good deal of left wing activity in Mexico directed at the common people. We see some of this activity as we travel and it was very likely at the roots of the uprising and war in Chiapas where a number were killed in I believe it is 1995.
Our impression is that the Americans down here lead a very relaxed life and like to get involved in the arts, do a lot of reading. There is a lot of cultural activity here with classes, the artists and language schools, etc. He said the big thing about Mexico is the family. It is key and that it is a close knit relationship and involves the extended family and is the most important thing to them.
Those that live here I gather can speak excellent Spanish where in Lake Chapala I felt many of them could not. Another reason I think this is that most of the market place and stores the people speak little English. Another thing I am learning about Mexico is that things can look run down on the outside but inside the walls and gates is often a nice court yard with lots of plants and trees and artwork and the living quarters are very nice, well decorated and comfortable. Many are not real large but definitely a whole lot nicer than you would ever dream looking at the outside. The building and streets in San Miguel De Allende are of course all very old and you can see there is a lot of wear and things don't look all that great and the streets are cobblestone like they always have been. I will say I can see why a lot of people have moved here permanently or spend the winters here. Prices at the market and many restaurants are reasonable and also hotels but there are also expensive places. I seen an ad on a bulletin board for what looked like a decent place for $300 a month rent so you could live here for the winter quite cheaply and have a relaxing time and if you want to get involved in things you could find plenty to do. The one downside is that the closest big stores like Wal-Mart, etc are a fair distance away. I believe about 50 miles.
March 20, 2004 Saturday Day 57 of the RV Caravan with 5 days left and Day 74 since we left home. Today we took the bus to Guanajuato which took longer than expected. The bus driver got word the normal route was closed due to a truck being across the road from an accident. We started of not being able to get out of the park gate so we all had to get off and walk to the front. We then went through a town with very narrow streets and got to an area he could not get through so we had to turn around and go back and then we started to take the libre and decided to turn around and take the cuota. We got in about 1 hour late. We stopped at the bus station to meet our guides and get into smaller buses as the A Guanajuato is a colonial mining town and is on hills and the streets are very narrow. As usual at the bus station you have to pay to use the bathrooms but our tour paid it for us. While we were there I checked the prices for first class bus fare around Mexico and clear to Puerto Valarta it was just over $50 so that would be a very reasonable way to travel as it is likely 800 miles to there so that would be 4 tanks of diesel or about the same as the bus fare so it is a definite possibility for sometime in the future and stay in budget hotels. We seen the Museum of Mummies; apparantly the water has so many minerals that the bodies buried above ground in crypts due to the solid rock cause the bodies to mummify. We then toured an abandoned mine. During the hay day of the mining they got about 10% silver and gold from the ore and that was in an 80 silver 20 gold ratio. Miners get mineral dust in there lungs and they have health problems. There has been improvements over the years but it still is a problem. Even today they only live into the 50's. We then had dinner overlooking the city and then went across town to the best look out in the city. We then went down town and did a walking tour. We seen some very nice churches one had a large silver block under a statue of Mary. It was about 2 x 2 x 4 feet. It was huge and was pure silver. Another church had 3 areas that were huge in area with all the figures gold leafed in 24 caret gold. We seen where Diego Rivera the famous Mexican artist was born and there was a lot of his art there and a number of pictures of his wife Frida Karlos. We toured the market place and headed home. The town has a multitude of cultural events and the University has had exchange programs for 50 years and its sister city is Ashland, Oregon. In the last 25 years they have build 25 tunnels through the mountains which make it much easier to get around. People come here from all over the world to study so there are a lot of foreigners here. The university is very middle of the line and will not tolerate any movements to the right or left and since you attend free you toe the line. Of course it is very, very hard to gain entrance. All construction has to fit the original architecture and all old building can not be changed only fixed as original. There is a new town being built about 10 miles west but in the old town nothing changes and no modern stores of any kind are allowed. The drive back to San Miguel De Allende is through mountain passes and by the huge lake by town and we seen rocky cliffs and it was very scenic and the air was very clear. It was a little smokey this morning and I think the wind blew some smog in from Mexico City but by night it was gone. The town of Quanajato also has a nice climate the year around like San Miguel De Allende. It is the capital and is bigger. I think San Miguel is more of a small town atmosphere and more Mexican but I think Quanajato has more cultural things going on due to the University and there 3 weeks of cultural entertainment of the best of the best from all over the world. A number of movies have been made hear and an office has been established by Hollywood and more movies are planned for these two towns.
March 21, 2004 Sunday Edith went to Deloris Hildelgo today to shop for pottery. I walked to the Zocolo in San Miguel De Allende a got tickets for a motorized trolley tour of the town. The English tour leaves every day at 9 am. There is a lady around the tourist information booth on the north side of the Zocolo you can buy tickets from ahead of time or starting about 30 minutes or so before the tour. The tour starts a couple of blocks away and she will lead you there. It lasts about 1 ½ hours and gives you a lot of information about the history and the old hacienda's and the park and old buildings and takes you to a hotel where you can see the courtyards. Also it takes you to the look out point. At 11 am every Sunday starting from the Library you can go on an open house tour of San Miguel and see some of the interiors of some of the famous houses. The two hotels we were in were $300 a night and the other $175 US. There are a lot of Americans and Canadians living here. There is an Episcopal Church in town that most of them go to as all the rest of the churches in town are Catholic as about 90% of the people in Mexico are Catholic. We seen where the actor that is in Pancho Villa and a Day in Mexico stayed. We will have to try and get these movies. This evening we had birthday parties for Harold and for Bill which was special. Dick and Becky our Wagon Master took us out for supper in appreciation for the help we gave the caravan with two meter communication and CB communication. We ate in an open air, roof top café which is highly rated right by the church and the Zocolo. The food was fantastic, all the table ware was silver, the old stone walls and the whole place was very, very old but nice and the town lighted and the visit was very special. Their kids work at WGN and we found out a lot about WGN and they parked there in their motor Home. We also learned about Tom Skilling the weather forecaster and he said if we were going to be in Chicago he could line it up to park our rig by the helicopter pad and Tom Skilling would show us around. It was a memorable night also visiting with Denny and Donna, two sincere and honest people who love Mexico and are so sincere in trying to help everyone.
March 22, 2004 Monday, Day 59 of the Caravan with only 3 days left. It is so hard to believe that the trip is almost over. It is day 75 since we left home. We had a travel day to Zacatecas and as usually had a lot of fun traveling with Harold and Joyce and Bruce and Eunice. We left after dinner to take a different route so we could go through the small state of Aguascaliente. This was in keeping with our goal to visit all the provinces of Canada, all the states in the USA and all the States in Mexico. We seen a turn off but it was not signed so we went on by. When we got to a town it was past where we should of turned off so we left and were headed back and then noticed a nice oil road signed toward a town to the south that was on the road we should of taken. We headed down it and about half way with about 6 miles it just quit and turned to dirt. I thought this won't be two bad but very rapidly the road had huge washed out places and was tough to get through without getting hung up with the 5th wheel. It got worse with the road making a "Y" with no signs. I took the one that seemed the most traveled and stopped someone to ask but he did not seem to understand the map at all. I stopped a second car and with my Spanish felt sure that we were on the right road. Unfortunately the road had another "Y" so I took the south one as I knew if I kept going south I had to run into the oil road we should of taken. There were several cement and stone water crossing for high water. I was concerned that as we went thought the bumper of the 5th wheel would hang up. We finally go to the oil after a long, long time but 10 miles per hour it takes a long time to go 6 miles. The oil was good except at the first town it quite and the dirt road was bad. I had run into this before and was pretty confident when we got through town the oil would begin again and that the town was responsible for the road in town and they did not have it oiled are even in good shape. We got to Loreto and again no signs so I stopped a young man and got directions . As we headed to Loreto we hit two unmarked topes going about 20 mph. One I could not see until the last minute and I was paying attention and the other I looked off for just a second and there it was. We bounced pretty good. We got into the heart of Loredo and the streets were decently wide but no directions so again I asked a fellow and again as I mentioned earlier he did not have a clue how to read a map. I think in both cases they could not read and write. I found some other people and got directions. We headed out of town trying to get into the state of Aguascaliente. We kept going along the border and we could not find the road west into it and so I got some more directions and found out how to get to the road we wanted to get to Zacatecas. We decided to go south on a decent looking oil road to get into the new state, then turn around and come back to this road we knew was correct and a good one based on the map and the directions and that is what we did. We then headed on into Zacataces and other than a number of towns with topes it went fine. We found the by pass and the GPS having the CG way point in worked just great! Certainly one of the valuable things I have learned on this trip is how to put waypoints into the Garmin Street Pilot and use them effectively. We were right on and when we got under a tenth of a mile it gave us distance in feet. We acturally have a decent electrical hook up here and I think it is only the 5th place we have plugged in on the whole trip. We have the electric hot water heater on. I sent and got e-mail. We had our going away supper, the food was some of the worst of the trip but the program was nice. The ladies each displayed two of their favorite purchases and everyone shared some of there favorite moment of the trip. Everybody agreed about that everyone got along well and everyone was always on time! With 38 people and 59 days now that is a great thing. There is no doubt about it that with bus trips and I think especially caravans many good friends are made, many which last a lifetime so that is certainly one of the unique things about doing a caravan. There certainly are plus and minus things about doing a caravan. I think many of the people will not do a caravan again but for some it is something they like to do and it is my opinion the reason is primarily the sharing of friendships.
I put the two new state stickers on the 5th wheel today. On this trip we will go through all the states as we go north leaving only the Baha and Baha Sur and then along the Pacific coast the states of Colima and Michocan which we will travel through next winter. This summer we will finish up the USA so in about 3.5 years we will have been in all the states of the USA and Mexico and all the provinces of Canada. We will have to fly to HI.
Early in the day when we stopped for dinner on the way to Pinos a van drove by, turned around and stopped and a guy got out to come and talk to us. Eunice was concerned about safety but I really was not. Anyway it turned out he could speak quite good English. He had been in TX and CA. He talked like a Texan. Anyway we had a good visit and he wondered if we were having any trouble. We gave him some school stuff for him and his brothers kids. There was all kinds of trash by this pull off and he made comment on it and how sad it was that people did that. We told him Mexico was a beautiful country and we were very sad about the trash and hoped that people would change and not litter!
March 23, 2004 Tuesday, Day 60 and our last tour day which will be at Zacatecas. It is day 76 since we left home. We got on a bus and went to a high hill in the middle of town and seen a beautiful chapel with everything covered in gold leaf. There were also three very nice bronze statues of Panca Villa and two other civil war heros when Mexico changed to a democracy. They were mounted on horses at least life size if not more. We then took a cable car across a portion of town. It is certainly a colonial city. We then toured a silver mine and checked out the marcado and had dinner. The Germans stayed downtown and said it is a very nice colonial town and was very neat and seemed very prosperous. They liked it much. It seems to be a reasonably quiet town and people seem very patient. Evie stepped through a grate and hurt her leg. She was treated and released. It was sprained and bruised but nothing broken or badly hurt and she is doing OK. Our tour we not what was expected as Adventure Caravans did not explain clearly what they wanted. We were supposed to tour downtown on a walking tour and also tour a Hacienda where the made silver. We went to Wal-Mart with Bob and Irene after the drivers meeting and had a good time. One thing to be noted Zacatecas is working hard on a clean up program to get and keep Zacatecas clean. The colonial cities are definitely the cleanest of anyplace in Mexico but they have a ways to go.
After checking the map, even though the GPS said we were in Aguascaliente I was not sure we had really been in the state so we decided to drive back down and positively be sure we were in the state which we did. We were about 3 minutes late for the drivers meeting but I let Denny know ahead of time on two meters we were just minutes away. We positively have been in all the provinces in Canada and now when we leave Mexico will only have the Baha, Baha Sur, Colima and Michoacan. In the USA we have WV, DE, VA, NC, SC, GA, AR and HI. We will do the USA this summer and the last 4 in Mexico next winter.
Tom and Gwen had axle trouble but limped in and it was cracked and ready to finish breaking. This time it was the front wheel on the other side of the trailer. Dick our wagonmaster knew a policeman in town and got in touch with him and got Tom in touch with a welder. They came, took off both sides and the cross brace and hubs. They thought they had two days so late in the day when they did not come back they were contacted and they dropped everything to get it done. It was a mistake because of the language difference. The had it in a jig and used micrometers to be sure everything was true and square as they welded it. As they were putting the hubs together by generator light they ran out of gas so they finished it with candle light and then brought it out and installed it with car lights and flashlights for light. I used my big flashlight. The got done about 9 pm. The charged $75 to fix it and $40 for bringing it out and installing it. Tom was so thankful for such a reasonable price. It runs as true as can be so he is set to get back to Canada.
March 21, 2004 Wednesday, Day 61 of the RV Caravan and day 76 since we left home. This will be our last travel day together. I believe 7 rigs will leave a Monterry and head for Lorado, TX. We will leave the other direction, west to Durango and Chihuahua to go to Copper Canyon. We need to try and get state maps for Coahula and Durango in case it is not clear how to get through some of the towns. I will leave my business card with everyone and invite them to stop by. We had a good time traveling in our group of three for our last day together. We had the usual fun chatter on CB. We decided to have a picnic lunch along the road! All the truckers honked as they went by as well as some from our group. We had our portable picnic table, chairs and steak burgers, salad, salmon and on and on. We were stuffed. We got into camp in great shape. Early in the day Willy and Brenda's car hitch broke about 6 miles out so they drove back and Denny was waiting as he got the word from us via two meters. He took them to the same shop they took Tom and got it welded and beefed up. Larry and Carol had a water fitting to their hot water heat bust and lost there water but got it fixed and refilled their water.
When we arrived we unhooked and drove over into the state of Neuvo Leon a ways and then headed back and could not find our by pass turn but Edith figured out where we were on the map and we got back by 5 pm. We had a going away supper of things people would have taken away at the border. It was great and a drivers meeting which did not apply to us. We had to sign a form we were leaving the tour in the morning. We said good bye to everyone which was tough as we all have bonded well with 62 days of travel though a lot of challenges and everyone has been easy to like. To me to have this many people get along is a great tribute to the people involved. We gave a small gift to the wagon master and tailgunner and I gave them the GPS coordinates for all the CG we stayed at. We made special friends with our travel group of Harold and Joyce and Bruce and Eunice and also with Denny and Donna our Tailgunners and all the visiting we did with the Wagonmaster and information we got from Dick and Becky.
March 22, 2004-Thursday-Day 77 since we left home. The last day of the RV tour, day 62 and about 5 of us left at 6 am. The rest headed for Loreto or Pharr, TX and we headed the other direction to Chihuahua. It was foggy but not to bad and the traffic was light and we had the windows pretty clear and got through Saltillo no problem. West of town as it started to get light it got a bit more foggy. We got to the Cuota and it got real foggy for several miles, let up and got foggy again. It did this for about 30 minutes and then the sun was hot enough to get rid of the fog. Our planning and map reading worked good in Torreon. We got diesel and talked to the attendant and he told us the turn to Durango and Jiminez and Chihuahua was 13 km which it was. We paid about $80 in toll roads about the same as we would of if we would of continued on to Lorado or Pharr so that evens it out. The good news is we drove toll roads or 4 lane libre nearly all the way so we made excellent time and put on 450 miles and was into the CG here at Chihuahua a little before 4 pm. We have full hookups for $13 so a good deal and we have a picnic table and grill and the whole CG to ourselves. We had no trouble finding it and the traffic was not bad. I got all the extra antenna's off the F-350 and got the CB radio out so we get rid of the wind noise. I put up the dipole and got and sent E-mail with strong signals and got on .339 at 6 pm and everybody was on with good signals. I talked to a couple of fellows building a trailer at a shop on the edge of the CG and they said the road is great to Chetumauac and after that it is OK but two way traffic and narrower. Edith had heard it was very narrow so we will have to see. It is about 150 miles so hopefully we can make it by around noon and get things figured out on the train ride and going to the bottom of the Canyon. The area from Saltillo soon changed for farming and some irrigated farming to desert with mountains here and there, a lot like you see AZ south of Phoenix. We did see quite a few cattle. Chihuahua seems to be a very progressive state and has made lots of imporvements. The toll operators are very, very well dressed men and women and are very couteous. In the Chihuahua area they will take dollars for the toll at a very fair rate. Chihuahua is a nice town and would remind you of Tucson other than no big mountain like Mt. Lemmon but the other mountains would be similiar.
March 26, 2004 Friday- Day 78 since we left home. We left Chihuahua by 8 am and the road to Chetumauac was better than expected. There was one toll but it was not bad. The Mennonites are in this area and we seen dairy, cheese plant and lots and lots of apples and other fruit trees. There was netting I think for sun protection and smudge pots for frost. There were also big cultivated fields so it was quite a farming area. We got diesel at La Junta and the road to there by Mexican standards was not bad at all. It was a little narrow but not bad. South of La Junta it soon gets into the mountains and pine trees and is a good road with a little shoulder and very little traffic. There were a few topes but not many. We arrived at creel about 11 am and got in the RV park.
The owner could speak English and we found out we could likely still catch the Copper Canyon train to La Fuerte so we quick set up, grabbed a few things and the CG owner had a lad take his bike down to the train and have the CG Van come back for us. We made it with three minutes to spare. Earlier we had a lad lead us to the RV park with his bicycle. We tipped them all as they deserved it. We purchased our ticket on board which if you are not part of a tour who gets them ahead of time it is the only way you can get them easily anyway. It cost about $46 each one way from Creel to El Fuente. One can buy a ticket for what ever town you want to go to, get off and get on another day and get another ticket. It seems to be pro-rated exactly. You can also get on the second class train which is about half price. The catch is that is runs later so more of the trip is in the dark and it is reported to be slower but not sure on that. Actually though you would see the best part of the canyon OK but the problem is you get in very late so you have to find a place in the dark to stay and it is going to be late. El Fuente train stop is 7 KM from town so you need to take a taxi and it such that if someone wanted to rob you they sure could. There has not been any problems b ut I would be sure it was a reliable taxi and have some people with you. We got a good taxi driver and it was no problem. We happened to get the same one to take us back in the morning. The ride on the train is 8 hours and they stop a Divisadero, Santa Fe and Bahuichvo.. The only place you really see one of the canyons is Divisadero. The trip from Divisadero on to about 2 hours out of El Fuente is definitely the most scenic of the trip. There are the local Indian crafts available at Divisdero where you have 15 minutes to take pictures on the rim and you can buy out of the train door at Bahuichvo. The train stops here a few minutes as the crew is changed here but they don't let you get off and come back on. There are lots of people getting off and on at stops for backpacking and hotels. There are two or three others places you can get on or off if you plan to stay off. There was some very nice scenery with high mountains and interesting rock formations. Also there were the local Indians living in some remote places. They are noted for their colorful clothing, baskets and other crafts and the trails they have through the mountains and there ability to run very long distances in short times through the mountains. The train route has many tunnels, has a trail carved out of rock on the face of cliffs, many high bridges and has to circle around and cross over itself to get up some to the mountains. At El Fuente we stayed at the San Francisco for $58 for both of us. Very little English but with my Spanish we got by fine. I was kicking myself that I did not bring my Spanish book; especially when we went out to supper. We met a fellow from England at the restaurant and had a great visit with him. He could speak pretty good Spanish and this was his second long stay in Mexico. We had a bathroom, shower, two beds, A/C as it was over a 100 degrees during the day there but cooled of at night. We also had hot water. The hotel rooms were all facing a Spanish courtyard with Spanish arches all the way around. It was beautiful.
March 27, 2004 Saturday, Day 79 since we left home-We got up at 5:45 am and got cleaned up. We should of brought an alarm clock then we could of slept better. We went to the zocolo which was very historical and had the Spanish colonial arches around it with a great plaza. We then went to the mirador (look out). We got some fruit bars but could not find a bakery for rolls. The same taxi driver that brought us in spotted us and I asked him how much and he said 70 peso's. It was 80 peso's last night but given that situation we had no choice but to pay whatever it was or be stuck at a deserted train station. We were early and found out it was 7 km to the train. I talked with him in Spanish and it went well. At the train we found a lot of boys sitting around and I got information from them on the train times which turned out to be very accurate for both the first and second class trains. We wanted to get back to Creel around 4 to 5 pm so we could check out the bus situration to Batopilas. The trip back we again got the canyon side of the train. Coming from Creel you want to be on the left side and going back to Creel on the right side. Our friend from England was on board and got on the right side also. There was a big tour group from Lake Chapala area so they took up a lot of room. There was also a private train that took a large group off a bus from El Fuente. I found out from on the the Lake Chapala group that the Pal Trailer Park had been converted completely to homes so not sure where you can stay in an RV. I have heard there is another park there and I will have to check this out. Edith had the window seat for the return trip. She got some good pictures and we had enough food and water. She got baskets out the train door at one stop and more at the Divisadero. Our friend from England got off here and will spend two hours and catch the second class train on into Creel. He had two different tickets or of course he could of done like we did and just buy them on board. Buying on board gives you a lot more flexability and I don't think you ever have to worry about getting a seat. You might not get two together but often you can move around with the permission of the staff. You are not supposed to eat or drink but they don't enforce it in regards to water or a bottle of pop. I don't think you can have beer. You can have snack bars but if you have other food you are supposed to eat it between the cars or best not to have it at all. You can purchase food at the 15 minute stop and eat it there or there was no problem if you finished it up standing between the car. I and some other finished it quickly before the train started to move. Edith was just finishing up and they were asking her to finish it outside the passenger car but she only had a couple of bites left so it was no problem. The food is expensive in the dining car so bringing snack bars and water saves a lot of money and you can get food reasonable at the 15 minute stop.
We got into Creel at 4:45 PM and a van from the hotel/RV park was there. I had him drop me off where the ticket place for Batopilas was and Edith went on to the RV. I really had to us my Spanish but eventually found out there was no bus on Sunday so we will leave Monday morning and we can come back Tuesday or Wedesday with the return tickets I have. I got the times and a suggestion of Mary;s for a place to stay and I won't need reservations. We leave Batopilas at 5 am to come back to beat the heat; although it may be 6 am. Either way we will need to take our alarm clock. Edith talked to the people who moved in next to us and found they took the oil road that goes roughly the same route as the train down to at least Santa Fe and had coffee overlooking the rim and done some sights around creel to the south so we will do that tomorrow and look around Creel. We very likely will spend two nights in Batopilas since the rooms are so reasonable and food is reasonable there. We should get back early enough to take off by checkout time and go to Chetamauc or Chihuahua and spend the night and then go on to the border and stay someplace in TX.
March 28, 2004 Sunday, Day 80 since we left home. We had a nice visit with the people next to us from Quebec. We then headed for Divisadero and took another look at the canyon and Edith leisurely shopped for some more baskets and I got another T Shirt that said Copper Canyon. We went on to San Refiel where the oil ends. We came back and went out eat where there is a lake and a ways farther where there is a hike to a nice waterfalls but since it has been dry we decided not to do it. I followed the directions from the CG owner but apparently needed to go on farther as I did not come to the hotel or another place to walk in that he mentions. We had a picnic by the lake but were bothered by dogs and by people selling things. We came back to the 5th and I got better directions from the CG owner on a tour to the Indian mission and some rocks. It cost 15 peso's each. We seen the Mushroom rocks, Frog Rocks and Monk Rocks. The Monk Rocks were about 4 miles past the mission on rough roads and it cost us another 5 peso's. We had a couple of kids show us where the elephant and frog rocks were. They also let us take their pictures and the one boy had the sandels made out of tires with leather thongs so I got a good picture of them. We gave them 10 peso's each for helping us and letting us take the pictures. They wanted to go to Creel to spend their money as they were hungry. Many of the Indians do not seem to be able to speak Spanish but these two boys could so that worked out great.
Unfortunately a lot of the kids beg but given their circumstances you can hardly blame them but they were more than willing to help so I had no problems paying them. We don't give anything to those that beg. I got diesel and we have it lined up for the CG van to take us to the bus station for Batopilas. That is Bo to pi las with the Spanish pronounciation. I got diesel and had a nice visit with the fellow pumping fuel. He was telling me something about President Bush being to Batopilas but when I have no idea. That came up as the F-350 was dusty and he wondered if we had been there. I told him no but to the Valley of the Monks and that we were taking the Autobus to there and then he started talking about the autobus taking President Bush to Botapilas. I kept thinking I was not understanding but he kept telling me so I will have to ask more about that of the CG owner and when we are there. I called my Mom and she was doing good but we did get cut off after a few minutes. We got e mail twice today.
March 29, 2004 Monday Day 81 since leaving home. Today we took the bus to Batopilas. It was a 5 hour ride, we left at 9:30 am. The driver went faster than I cared for as he really took the sharp curves way to fast and if he would of missed on we would of all been dead as it was a long, long ways straight down in many areas. We were the only American's on the bus. I did find one fellow from Mexico who could speak excellent English. There was another Mexican sitting across from me and he could speak a bit of English and with my Spanish I got quite a few details as we went along. We drove about 50 miles on oil and the last 40 was on a narrow gravel road. The part on the oil and about the first 10 miles on the gravel was a lot like the Black Hills. The last 30 miles we dropped down in Batopilas Canyon. It reminded me a great deal of the Grand Canyon except things were greener, more plant life. Along the way we picked up and dropped of a number of Tarahumara Indians. They have very colorful clothes. The women wear multi-layered long dresses and have a blanket wrapped around their shoulders and wear a scarf. Most of them were a type of sandel made out of a piece of car tire and held on with leather straps. I bought a pair and they are not bad but of course they don't have any arch support. The men have bare legs to the thigh and have a wrap type affair which is hard to explain and a blanket around their shoulders as well. Most wear some sort of head covering. They are noted for there great running ability. As we dropped down into the canyon we had to make switch back after switch back and it went down a long ways. Someplace in the Copper Canyon complex there is a deeper part than the Grand Canyon but not as wide. Copper Canyon is made up of Cobre, Urique, Batopilas and one other canyon, named for the rivers that go through them. One we got down to the river then we followed along the cliff above the water on a narrow one lane road blasted out of the rock. Many times the tire would be just inches from the edge where some of the road had caved away into the canyon. One really needs to be watching so you don't have a head on collision. We did meet several and one has to back up to a wider spot where the two could just squeeze by. As we got down in the bottom we are only about 1200 feet above sea level so it is hot and it gets tropical. We seen all sorts of tropical plants. Along the way there are some small towns and some old mining activity. Here and there on the other side of the river or way above were the Tarahumara Indians living. They have a little livestock and grow some crops and fruit and barely have enough to eat. They do make crafts and sell them but here they have to take them to Creel to sell them. Batopilas was founded in the 1600's but the big silver was taken out by a man named Shepard in the late 1800's and early 1900 before the war in Mexico in 1910. It is strung along the river and pretty much has one narrow street with a few running up the hill. The town is about 2 miles long and has a population of around 1400 people. The hotels were pretty well full but we managed to get into one where back packers stay. It was so so but was only $20 a night and we did have hot water for the shower. We met a young couple one a Mexican and the other from Australia who were nice and we became good friends. The lady at the hotel could speak some English and our Mexican friend could speak good English. They had it lined up to go the Shepard Hacienda and asked us to come along. There was also a couple from Ohio and an assistant guide who had ridden horses in from Urique to the northwest. It took them a couple of days. Many million dollars of silver were taken out by Shepard and the Hacienda and processing history was most interesting. We had a Mexican guide who's farther drove mules for shepard so he knew a lot of the history and our Mexican friend interpreted for us. We had small bugs chewing on us as we tried to sleep. We had a fan and it cooled of fairly well so we put on a sheep and that seemed to pretty much stop them
A lot of homes are made from homemade adobe bricks. We seen a number of places where they were making the bricks. We seen a number of logging trucks and saw mills so forestry is a big thing in this area. The advantage of taking a tourist van is you can make arrangements for them to stop a few times to take pictures as you head into the canyon. It does cost more. The other thing is you likely won't have to get up at 4 am. The 4 am is to beat the heat and to get to Creel before the train leaves. The bus also serves to bring packages, mail and messages both ways so it is a vital link between Batopilas and the outside world as well as other small communities along the way. A few of the Indian familes live in combination houses and a cave. In other words the house is build in front of the cave.
March 30, 2004 Tuesday Day 82 We got up early and headed on a hike for the Satevo mission. It is about 4 miles south of Batopilas and it is very old, back to the 1600's but the exact date is not know. By the time we got to the church it was getting very hot. Another group of hikers had caught up to us. They were a mixed group that had came down in a van together, they had not met before this and the fellow I met on the bus was with them. We had a nice visit with one from MA as he was walking slower. You come around a bend and you can see the mission about ½ mile away and it is spectacular and there is a swinging foot bridge in the fore ground. One we arrived one of the fellows with good Spanish asked around and found someone with a key so we got to go inside and found it to be simple but very nice. We gave the fellow who opened it and stayed until we left a tip. Edith and I headed back first and we had not gone to far and the heat was really getting to Edith. It was a long, hard trip back for here, mainly due to the heat. The hills really exhausted her. Fortunately we had plenty of water in our back pack which I carried so I poured some on her head every so often and we stopped to rest in the shade. We got back about 11:00 pm so it took us about 4 hours total. She was really tired and sore. I got her a Coke and after the sugar kicked in she started coming around after setting in the shade by our room. Our room was off a court yard with lots of shade trees and was right by the river and there was some breeze so that really helped. I took off and hiked to the north end of town to get a picture of the sign and the elevation and then went to the silver mine and down the aqueduct about a 1/4 of a mile. I met my friend fromt he bus by the sign so we did the rest together. We decided to meet again about 4:30 and hike up a hill above town that some of his friends told him about.
I bought my Tarahumara sandels and learned how to tie them on. I notice I had a couple of blisters as I had walked 12 miles already. At 4:30 we took off but all we could find was a creek bed to follow and nothing up the hill. My friend kept asking in Spanish but most of the people were the Tarahumara of which many of the older ones speak little Spanish. We finally found a fellow who gave us some information so we headed up a side canyon and seen all kinds of mule tracks which guides used to take people across the mountian. We got quite aways along and found a house and family and he said the way we were headed was toward Urique which is a two day trip but we could go in a northerly direction, get on the hill and then hike down into Batopilas. We knew at 5:30 we needed to turn around to get back before dark. He said for $5.00 each he would take us there as we would very likely get lost on our own. We decided to do it. Unfortunately it was a much steeper climb up than we expected and the now 14 miles I had hiked was really taking its toll. With about 1/8 mile to go I really ran out of gas so I had to rest every few steps. We finally made it to the top, I was not puffing to bad but I had just run out of energy! Time was flying by since it took me longer than it should of so I said rather than rest I would be able to make it if it was all down. He said it was so off we went. He told us we would not be able to make the over-look but rather we needed to head down the canyon to a creek bed and follow it into town to make it by dark so off we went. Going down went much better and we made it into town just as it was getting dark. We paid our $5.00 each and thanked him as he really did a good job. I went to our room and sat down and then I realized how really tired I was. I could see it was going to take awhile to get some energy back.
I told Edith to see if our two young friends wanted to go out for supper if we would take them. They said sure, but wanted to take a shower and get ready which was great by me as I needed rest. They got ready and I got up of the bed and about fell down but got to moving and we headed for the restaurant which was about a block away. It seemed like a mile. We sat down and ordered and I was so tired I could hardly stand it. I got a Sprite and drank a bunch of it to try and get some sugar in me for quick energy. About time our meal came I started to feel just a touch better and then about 15 minutes later as I was slowly eating I started to feel a whole lot better so was able to visit and have a good time. We got back and exchanged addresses and phone numbers and went to bed as we had to be up a little after 4 am to be at the bus stop a little before 5 am. Fortunately the bugs were just a few and I soon went to sleep.
I am thankful the good Lord has given me the gift to be a good judge of people. I felt confident about the reliability of my Mexican friend and our guide. In talking to my Mexican friend the next day he was pretty concerned as it was starting to get dark. I was not as I felt I knew where we were and was sure we were headed back to Batopilas. It turned out I did know as the town was right in the direction I though it was but of course without our guide we would of never made it before dark.
I think a great trip would be to take the train to Buchavia from either El Fuente or Creel. Use the second class train, get off there and take a vehicle down to Urique. You can hire a guide and mules for your pack and do it very, very cheap or for more money you can ride across like the people from Ohio did. You could spend a day or so in Batopilas and then take the bus out to Creel for $16 each. You could also do it in reverse going from Batopilas to Urique and up to the train and back to Creel. This trip would have to start at Creel to be able to get to Batopilas. The canyon to Urique is just as spectacular as to Batopilas. Also the two day trip on horse or probably 3 day trip on foot goes over several ridges and is about 20 some miles and the views are fantastic. If you can stay on the main trail you could do it yourself but if you get off you can get into areas where people are growing POT and that would not be good. Considering how reasonable the guides are for the first time I would see no reason not to hire a guide. If you had did it once and had GPS waypoints, etc then you could do it on your own BUT again I would hire a guide so you at least had mules so you did not have to carry the heavy back pack as it is a tough grind. There is water with a purifier so that helps with not having to haul 2 or 3 days worth of water. Anyway it was quite a thrill to hike in the Sierra Madre Mountains. There are definitely rugged.
March 31, 2004 Wednesday Day 83 since we left home. We were up a little after 4 pm and was on the bus and off at 5 am. It was a 5 hour trip into Creel. It was light by the time we got to the most spectacular part of the canyon. WOW! It is nice! On the way to Creel a dual went flat so we had to change that. We also picked up and dropped of a lot of Tarahumara Indians. It is obvious that the bus plays a major part in helping them get around to see relatives, sell things, buy things, etc. Several went into Creel and sold some of there crafts. Edith bought some things at the store where we got our bus tickets and where they buy things from the Indians. Some of the profit goes to the hospital for the Indians. We then walked to the RV park, about a mile and packed up and headed out. I was about 160 miles to Chihuahua. It was a nice drive, but we were getting a little sleepy having got up at 4 am and given all the exercise fromt he day before. We got E-mail and I worked on the computer. Tomorrow we should be in Texas as we are only about 250 miles from the border at Persido, Tx northwest of Big Bend NP.