Nov 26, 2010, 2:27 PM
Post #1 of 8
Here is an account of my first few weeks in Mexico this winter in a 23-ft class-c gulfstream "vista cruiser mini." (Because of the word "vista" on the side of the RV, Mexicans keep asking me for eyesight examinations, thinking they've found a mobile clinic.) Maybe someone will find this either useful or entertaining.
I stayed overnight at the big fancy Texas welcome center/rest stop just north of Laredo and crossed the border in the morning on Oct. 6th or 7th. I got chosen to have my vehicle x-rayed but it only took about 20 minutes. Loop around to the vehicle import place to get sticker. Quick and easy. The free roads from Nuevo Laredo to Monterrey to Saltillo to Zacatecas are very good. A little bit of construction going on in the Saltillo area, but otherwise excellent.
I spent about 5 days at the Servicio Morelos trailer park next to Pemex (50 pesos/night) and got reacquainted with my pals in Zacatecas. I drove over to the little town of Morelos, found a welding shop, and had a bicycle rack made for about twenty-five dollars. Then I went south and spent the night at WalMart in Leon across from the big Sears store on (or near) Clouthier, on the north side of town, a very well-off neighborhood with lots of luxury automobile dealerships and so forth. No security concerns.
The next day, Sunday, I drove out to the Metropolitan Park surrounding the reservoir and spent the afternoon cycling around on the bike paths. Then it occured to me that the big Cervantino Festival was due to kick off in Guanajuato on Oct. 13th, so I decided to drive to Guanajuato and get there a couple of days early. I was afraid the trailer park would be full. I probably should have waited until the next day because it was dark when I arrived, but things worked out well when a fellow at the city's entrance offered to guide me to the Morrill campground for thirty pesos. He jumped in the front seat and took me straight there, where I stayed until the morning of Nov. 8th. I was pretty happy with what they charged me for a long-term stay, but I get the impression that negotiations take place with each new arrival. The managers are very nice people and will do your laundry, loan tools, etc.--even made me dinner one night. There were very few other campers during my stay, but one couple from Switzerland who have been traveling around the world for eleven years were my neighbors for a good part of the time. The festival was lots of fun, with plenty of free entertainment.
From there, I went south to Yuriria, where I parked on the street in front of my buddy's bakery--really, in front of the vacant store-front next door--for five days, running my electric cord in under the door at night. He starts work pretty late in the day, so we made an extra key to the shop so that I could unplug in the mornings. Carlos (the baker) drove me and his wife and her cousin and another fellow around the other side of the lake on Wednesday and we all had beer and fish and ceviche and frogs. It was the first time I'd ever eaten a frog--it had more meat on it than I expected and was the color and texture of chicken. I guess there is a reason I've always heard it is like chicken.
Anyway, the next-door business to the bakery is in the same kind of work that used to occupy me before I retired (hydraulics) so I chatted frequently with that fellow, who was born about 20-25 miles away in Salvatierra. He talked the place up so much that I decided to check it out. (Yuriria and Salvatierra are both in the state of Guanajuato, in case anyone wants to find them.) Salvatierra is also a very nice little town with a population of about 60,000--a bit larger than Yuriria. I parked outside town and biked in to the center, about 5 blocks only, to check out the parking and traffic conditions. Then rode back out to the RV and rolled right into the middle of town, parking about a half-block from the main plaza.
It turned out that I was directly in front of a vacant office, but right across the street from a bicycle repair shop. I wanted to buy a couple of tires because I've been neglecting my bicycle for the last 42 years since I got my drivers license and the bike tires had some cracks in them and didn't look too good. It turns out that 26-inch bicycle tires have gotten smaller over the years. I always had assumed that 26 inches was the diameter of the rim (or inside diameter of the tire) but apparently not. My rims are about 23 inches and modern rims that take "26 inch" tires are about 22 inches! I guess 26 is the outside diameter of the mounted tire and, apparently, modern-day tires have bigger sidewalls or something. Anyway, the bike-shop owner was a friendly sort of fellow and I ended up staying three or four days across from his store with my electric cord running in under the door at night.
Then I drove to Tlalpujahua, in Michoacan, and parked on the street again, in front of an unoccupied storefront half a block from the municipal building. Not much goes on there after dark--it is one of those little towns where they "roll up the sidewalks" at night. But there are plenty of bright streetlamps and it is perfectly safe to boondock anywhere you find a parking space (of which there are plenty after about 5 PM). This town depends for its livelihood on the production of glass Christmas-tree ornaments. The "factories" will let you wander in and observe the process. There's also a mine a little bit outside of town which began operations in 1899 and finally closed down in 1959. From 1908 to 1913 this mine (Dos Estrellas) yielded more gold than any other in the world and was the most technologically advanced of its time. They give guided tours to anyone who shows up (in Spanish) and there is no charge, although they do suggest you make a donation so that restoration can continue and so forth. In Tlalpujahua I made friends with a liquor-store owner and, though it was impractical to park in front of his shop for any length of time, I did manage to swing by long enough to refill my water tank.
Then I drove to the Monarch Butterfly sanctuary, which is quite close to Tlalpujahua. That is reasonably priced at 30 pesos. There is also a thirty-peso charge to drive into it on the road they've built. (Well, I guess there are two or maybe even three places you can see the Monarchs. I just stopped at the first one I came to, called Sierra Cincua.) I left there around noon and drove (slowly) until dark, passing the night at a Pemex on the eastern edge of a little town in Hidalgo called Tepatepec. Right next to the gas station is the police headquarters and next to that is the fire station, so no worries.
Next day I arrived early afternoon at the famous ruins of "El Tajin" near Poza Rica and Papantla, in Veracruz state. I decided to wait until the next day (Monday) to tour the site, hoping for cooler weather in the morning. That was a mistake because there is no entrance fee on Sundays, I later found out. So the next day I had to pay the 51 pesos to get in, although the Danish guy and the Canadian fellow who also boondocked overnight in the parking lot--THEY still managed to get in without paying because they were both 60 years old or over. But it was quite a large site, a number of very impressive pyramids, beautifully maintained grounds, and of course (because I waited until Monday morning) my photos are not cluttered up with a bunch of people. So, no complaints. (From talking to the Dane and the Canadian hippies, I am pretty sure that the roads leading to El Tajin are all terrible, no matter what route you take. Drive slow.)
Then Sunday afternoon I drove to the "Emerald Coast" and spent the night at Neptuno campground where I met up with and chatted some with another RVer, John from Cleveland, who was on hid way to Playa del Carmen. The Municipal Police flagged me down as I was leaving Papantla and pretended to be concerned for my safety and well-being and so forth. Asked where I was going, then gave me directions and a time-estimate of how long it would take me to get there. Then told me they were thirsty and asked for help to buy a Coca-Cola. There were four or five of them, so I gave them 21 or 22 pesos, enough to buy a big 2.5 liter bottle and some plastic cups.
Anyway, I am just outside the "city limits" of Casitas now and have arranged to stay a week with water and electric, for 500 pesos. My rear bicycle tire finally gave out so I drove to the nearest repair shop and it is the same story--"inches" appear to have been slightly bigger 50 years ago than they are now. I am hoping that when I get to Xalapa or Veracruz I will be able to find an authorized Schwinn dealer...
For the time being life is good, I'm 25 steps from the beach, there is Internet just across the street, my blood pressure is 117 over 72, things couldn't be much better.