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tejolot3

Jul 15, 2014, 8:46 PM

Post #1 of 24 (11666 views)

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Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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We live in Wichita, KS, and every year we drive to Parras, Coahuila (between Saltillo and Torreon). For the sake of argument, let's just say we drive to Torreon. We always cross at Colombia (Laredo #3) and skirt around Monterrey and Saltillo along the way. I'm very familiar with the route, and have no issues with the Mexican side of things.

However, I've become more and more displeased with the American side of the route... Translation: I have developed a deep-seated hatred of driving through Fort Worth, a hatred strong enough that I no longer plan to enter Texas via I-35, and instead have planned a course through Hill Country, one which bypasses DFW, Waco, Austin, and San Antonio. From there, it is pretty simple to rejoin I-35 south of San Antonio and proceed into Mexico as usual.

But crossing at Ciudad Acuna would shave about 60 miles off our drive. I'd never really considered crossing at Piedras or Acuna before, because I always try to avoid driving directly through cities, but 60 miles is significant enough to make me reconsider. I don't like city driving, and the route would include Acuna, Rosita, and Monclova. As it is, I can get from Colombia all the way to Parras without a single stoplight and only three sets of topes (highway 40 west of Saltillo).

My question is this: would the 60 miles I'd save by crossing at Acuna instead of Colombia actually translate into time saved? Or would that savings get eaten up by lower speed limits, stoplights, etc.?



Altahabana


Jul 16, 2014, 5:12 AM

Post #2 of 24 (11646 views)

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Re: [tejolot3] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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 I don't really understand the route you are proposing to get to the border, but Eagle Pass/ Piedras would seem a better entry point than Acuna or Columbia. Whatever route you take you need to avoid the Crystal City/Carrizo Springs area because it is the center of the Eagleford Shale drilling region and the oil field traffic makes for worse driving than anything you will see along IH 35.

Del Rio/Acuna is west--not south--of San Antonio and Acuna is north of Mexican Highway 57, which is the route you take from the Coahuila border to the interior. You add miles to your trip by entering at Del Rio rather than Eagle Pass.

Highway 57 is a good, almost entirely cuota free, highway. Nueva Rosita and Sabinas Hidalgo are the only towns between Piedras and Monclova that you pass through and they are simple to navigate. It is a straight shot through Monclova on Hwy 57. There are topes and stoplights along Highway 57, but they aren't significant in my opinion. There is nothing between Monclova and the outskirts of Saltillo. Torreon would not be part of any itinerary I can see if you are entering Mexico at the Coahuila border.

Considering that you are adding many miles and extra time getting to the border, a shorter distance on a particular route once you get into Mexico seems insignificant to me. But if you are going to drive to the Coahuila/Nuevo Leon border by a route west of IH 35, Eagle Pass/Piedras is where you want to enter.


tejolot3

Jul 16, 2014, 6:32 AM

Post #3 of 24 (11637 views)

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Re: [Altahabana] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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Let me lay it out in detail, so you can understand where I'm coming from.

Basically, I would be driving through/around Del Rio anyway, so crossing at Pedras Negras seems like it would be an unnecessary detour out of the way. There would need to be some big reason for me to avoid crossing at Cuidad Acuña. Or, in other words, we would not add miles to our trip by entering at Del Rio rather than Eagle Pass.

For the sake of illustration, I have plotted the routes on Google Maps only from/to where the routes diverge, not from/to the actual endpoints.

Most recent preferred route:
Through Fort Worth & San Antonio, cross at Colombia
http://goo.gl/maps/Nc5oT
882 miles

Planned alternative:
Through Wichita Falls and Kerrville, cross at Colombia
http://goo.gl/maps/O7zVS
894 miles — 12 miles longer, but worth it to me for avoiding Fort Worth

2nd possible alternative:
Through Wichita Falls and San Angelo, cross at Ciudad Acuña
http://goo.gl/maps/u5vN3
829 miles — 53 miles shorter than Fort Worth, 65 miles shorter than Kerrville

3rd possible alternative:
Through Wichita Falls and San Angelo, cross at Piedras Negras
http://goo.gl/maps/DKh2U
847 miles — 35 miles shorter than Fort Worth, 47 miles shorter than Kerrville, 18 miles longer than Cuidad Acuña



Altahabana


Jul 16, 2014, 8:05 AM

Post #4 of 24 (11615 views)

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Re: [tejolot3] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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I understand now the routes you are proposing to get to the border. Eagle Pass/Piedras via San Angelo would be the route I would choose.

I think in general Piedras--Bridge II--is a better crossing than Acuna and the roads in Mexico are in better condition from Piedras to the Allende checkpoint. Moreover it is about 30 miles less from Piedras than it is from Acuna to the Allende checkpoint. Additionally, though it has been fairly quiet for more than a year, the intangibles are better on Highway 57 than the road from Acuna.


(This post was edited by Altahabana on Jul 16, 2014, 8:07 AM)


tejolot3

Jul 16, 2014, 9:56 AM

Post #5 of 24 (11590 views)

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Re: [Altahabana] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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I think in general Piedras--Bridge II--is a better crossing than Acuna

In what way is it better? An associate of mine in the ministry basically refuses to cross at any point other than Piedras Negras: he loves it that much. Another associate of mine refuses to cross anywhere except Laredo, specifically avoiding the route through Monclova, so go figure.


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and the roads in Mexico are in better condition from Piedras to the Allende checkpoint.

Are they? Good. Sometimes our vehicles are heavy-laden, so a smooth roadbed is a welcome thing. For example, the road from Nuevo Laredo to the libre/toll split isn't bad with a light cargo load, but it's a roller coaster when there's a lot of weight in the back. Four lanes versus two lanes isn't that big of a deal to me, since the Acuña road has shoulders for passing. Were you referring to a smooth ride or a wide road?


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Moreover it is about 30 miles less from Piedras than it is from Acuna to the Allende checkpoint.

That's not really much of a consideration for me. In fact, I quite like Mexican driving. If we cross at Acuña, would we still need to stop at the Allende checkpoint, or is it possible to get all our papers straight at the border itself?


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Additionally, though it has been fairly quiet for more than a year, the intangibles are better on Highway 57 than the road from Acuna.

This is the general impression I've gotten from people, both in person and online. It's not a deal breaker for me, but it is something that I always take into consideration, especially since I lead a team of other people in caravan. I don't believe the government has released municipio-level data on the drug violence since mid-2011, but I was keeping track of it up until that point.


Altahabana


Jul 16, 2014, 11:16 AM

Post #6 of 24 (11566 views)

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Re: [tejolot3] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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The bridge in Piedras and the ring road to Highway 57 are easy to navigate. It's been a while since I've driven to Acuna, but the highway from Piedras to Allende is well maintained because it carries a greater volume of traffic.

The main difference between the two crossings is the shorter distance involved to get to Allende from Piedras. There is also more traffic on the road--although the traffic is not heavy. All other things being equal, I always opt for the shorter route, but that is just a personal preference. Also, I don't know anything objective that makes Acuna a better crossing point.

I don't know if you can get the vehicle permit in Acuna. I doubt that you can, but the permit station in Allende is convenient and easy.

Historically there have not been many security issues for travelers in this area. Northern Coahuila and the tri-state border area though is the home base for the Zetas and they are very active. That is why I stick to Highway 57 and don't venture off it. It's also one of the main reasons I avoid the roads in and around Columbia Bridge.

My wife is from Monclova and we go there often. I know of no reason why someone would specifically avoid traveling through there.

Basically there isn't a specific problem with either crossing. I am just expressing a personal preference having lived and traveled in thisarea for a number of years.


(This post was edited by Altahabana on Jul 16, 2014, 11:23 AM)


sir veza

Jul 16, 2014, 11:44 AM

Post #7 of 24 (11559 views)

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Re: [tejolot3] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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I have to agree with Altahabana on the Eagle Pass crossing. We have used all 3 crossings you mention. We live west of the Acuna crossing and go right by it to get to Eagle Pass. My wife and I both prefer this crossing.


tejolot3

Jul 16, 2014, 7:44 PM

Post #8 of 24 (11513 views)

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Re: [sir veza] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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OK, you almost have me sold. It still seems weird to drive from Del Rio to Eagle Pass and then back southwest again, but I do see how Acuna could be a slow town to drive through.

Assuming one cannot buy a car permit in Acuna, or assuming I end up using Piedras instead... Where would I get the FMM? Allende, or at the border office? Which is to say, is it necessary to stop at the actual border at all?? I'm so used to crossing at Colombia, where the two offices are literally twenty feet apart. I've also heard that, crossing at Piedras, one of the officials there refuses to issue FMMs for seven days (free), insisting instead on only issuing 180 FMMs (not free). Would that be in Piedras or Allende?


Altahabana


Jul 17, 2014, 3:50 AM

Post #9 of 24 (11494 views)

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Re: [tejolot3] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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I don't know if you can get the FMM at the bridge in Piedras. I always have gotten it at the Allende checkpoint. I'm not familiar with the 7 day free FMM, but I have never had a need for one. The FMM now costs $306 MN.

I am not trying to sell you on crossing at Piedras. There's not a reason I know of to avoid Acuna, but there is no advantage in using it either. Whichever route you take, I do recommend that you use the cuota road when you leave the Allende checkpoint rather than the free road. Have a good trip wherever you decide to cross.


tejolot3

Jul 17, 2014, 6:49 AM

Post #10 of 24 (11481 views)

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Re: [Altahabana] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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Thank you. So, just be clear... if all we need from customs are FMMs and vehicle permits, then there is no need to stop at the actual border itself? Everything can be done at the Allende checkpoint?

If that's the case, then it boils down to a decision between...
(1) Driving through Acuña and three small towns on the way to Allende, versus
(2) Driving 18 miles out of the way through Eagle Pass & Piedras.

We'll probably be staying the night in Del Rio anyway, because that's how the mileage works out. Driving to Piedras would add about 9 stoplights as well, but would be a more pleasant border experience. Hmmmmm...... It's a tough one. But, either way, I'm already sold on giving up the Colombia crossing.


RickS


Jul 17, 2014, 7:07 AM

Post #11 of 24 (11475 views)

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Re: [tejolot3] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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" So, just be clear... if all we need from customs are FMMs and vehicle permits, then there is no need to stop at the actual border itself? Everything can be done at the Allende checkpoint?"

This is correct....


Altahabana


Jul 17, 2014, 9:26 AM

Post #12 of 24 (11460 views)

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Re: [tejolot3] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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 In my opinion you are over thinking this. I believe most ex-pats and tourists who have used both would consider Bridge II in Piedras a better crossing point than Acuna You pass around town at Piedras, but you have to navigate through city traffic at Acuna.
Other than that, there isn't a lot of difference between the two besides the extra mileage and since those miles are in Texas that would be less of a factor to me.


tejolot3

Jul 23, 2014, 7:54 AM

Post #13 of 24 (11325 views)

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Re: [Altahabana] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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" So, just be clear... if all we need from customs are FMMs and vehicle permits, then there is no need to stop at the actual border itself? Everything can be done at the Allende checkpoint?"

This is correct....

And that is true for both Ciudad Acuna and Piedras Negras, right? Allende serves as the point of issuance for FMMs and TIPs for both cities?



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In my opinion you are over thinking this.

Yes, I over-think travel details. My friends and family know this about me. I'm a mapgeek. I tend to be familiar with the entire route for a trip before ever leaving home. And the things that decide one route over another for me are not necessarily the things that to so for other people.


Altahabana


Jul 23, 2014, 10:02 AM

Post #14 of 24 (11304 views)

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Re: [tejolot3] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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Allende is the interior checkpoint for both Acuna and Piedras. My only advice--wherever you enter Coahuila---is stick to Hwy 57 and don't venture off onto the secondary roads.


tejolot3

Jul 23, 2014, 12:33 PM

Post #15 of 24 (11283 views)

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Re: [Altahabana] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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Thank you. I've been trying to distill the information that's out there on the interwebs, and so far the conclusions I've drawn are that...

- The border office at Ciudad Acuna will issue a tourist card but not a vehicle permit;
- The border office at Piedras Negras will issue neither one;
- The checkpoint near Allende will issue both; and
- There is no need to get either one anywhere north of Allende.

As for veering off the main road, no worries. The free road from Allende to Rosita is one I never really gave a second thought; but so many people online have emphatically said not to take it, that I'll make certain not to give it a second thought. I'm used to paying more than 250 pesos each way anyway. As for Monclova's bypasses, I'd really only consider the western one, but it doesn't matter anyway since we'll be stopping in Monclova for lunch in both directions. Our route doesn't split off from 57 until more than 100 km south of Monclova, by way of Hipolito. That road (Coah-114) is known to an associate of mine like the back of his hand, and from there on it's our usual route.

This isn't my first rodeo, anyway, as they say. I've been to Mexico sixteen times, nine of which were to the interior. Modes of transportation have included airline, taxi, long-distance bus, chicken bus, rental car, personal vehicle, hitchhiking... I should tell you sometime about our most recent adventure, wherein the wheel bearing on our friend's pickup went out in the middle of nowhere in the desert (the story includes broken tools, hitchhikers, and a mechanic from the rancho who was mute).

(This post was edited by tejolot3 on Jul 23, 2014, 12:35 PM)


Altahabana


Jul 25, 2014, 8:07 AM

Post #16 of 24 (11210 views)

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Re: [tejolot3] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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I am in Monclova right now for the Feria San Buenaventura. The "bypass" is the route commercial vehicles take to the maquiladoras that ring the western edge of Monclova and its sister town, Frontera. The reason anyone would consider it an alternate to driving straight through Monclova on Hwy 57 baffles me.

There are a number of good restaurants along Blvd. Pape---the street name for Hwy 57 as it passes through town. Here are a few.

Hacienda Campanario is a very good restaurant, although it is pricey for Monclova.

https://www.facebook.com/...ario/120155794669368

Las Corrales is probably the best known restaurant in Monclova and is known for its grilled meats.

http://www.loscorralesrestaurant.com/

Vitali is a very popular outdoor place that specializes in tacos. They have two types of oversize tacos---piratas and gringas--which are excellent.

https://www.facebook.com/...9?rf=313139945402093

Have a good trip.


(This post was edited by RickS on Jul 25, 2014, 10:30 AM)


RickS


Jul 25, 2014, 10:53 AM

Post #17 of 24 (11188 views)

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Re: [Altahabana] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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I *think* the derivation of using the bypass came from some years ago when RV travelers would want to/were told to avoid driving through the middle of Monclova with their rigs. This must have set up the opportunity for mordida from the Frontera police as I have seen several first-hand reports of said in years past.

Although I have not driven straight thru Monclova on Blvd. Pape with an RV rig (although I am an RV'er), I have done so in an automobile several times and would surely do the same in an RV if the opportunity presented itself. Blvd Pape, as the name implies, is a divided 4-lane boulevard and, aside from having a ton of signal lights, is an easy drive and I would never consider taking any bypass. Just drive the speed limit (which is low) and one should be OK.

I have noticed, in my 'recent' trips through Monclova, that there are a lot of big "No Mordida" signs everywhere, not on the bypass (which I have never taken). I suspect that the populace or the officials recognize the bad rep the area has had and is trying to combat the (mis) conception. I personally LIKE Monclova as it is very clean and modern looking and has nice motel/hotels with convention centers, restaurants and a beautiful public building of some sort.... museum, civic center or ???


Altahabana


Jul 25, 2014, 2:57 PM

Post #18 of 24 (11164 views)

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Re: [RickS] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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I have spent much time in Monclova over the past ten years because my wife is from its sister city Frontera. It could never be called a tourist destination, but it is a decent place to live.

It is an old town, founded in 1689. It has an interesting 230 year old cathedral and another church building which is even older. The museum you are referring to is El Museo de Coahuila y Tejas which is in el centro ---east of Blvd. Pape. It is the center of the steel industry in Mexico, so it reminds a little of the 60's era Pittsburg.

The "bypass" was built to accommodate the maquiladoras which have been opened over the past 25 years. It was not built as, nor intended to be, a ring road or periferico, for passenger vehicle traffic. I am sure Rick's explanation is correct, because it seems North American motorists will go miles out of their way to avoid things that wouldn't faze Mexican drivers. Monclova is the easiest Mexican city to navigate through that doesn't have a real periferico.


RickS


Jul 25, 2014, 3:45 PM

Post #19 of 24 (11151 views)

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Re: [Altahabana] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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For those of you who, like me, don't have a clue what a maquiladora might be, see : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maquiladora


tejolot3

Jul 25, 2014, 5:42 PM

Post #20 of 24 (11136 views)

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Re: [Altahabana] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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Vitali is a very popular outdoor place that specializes in tacos. They have two types of oversize tacos---piratas and gringas--which are excellent.

https://www.facebook.com/...9?rf=313139945402093


The Vitali facebook page suggests that the restaurant might be permanently closed. Confirm or deny?

(thank you very much, by the way)


Altahabana


Jul 26, 2014, 10:38 AM

Post #21 of 24 (11087 views)

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Re: [tejolot3] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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You´re welcome. We haven´t been to Vitali for a while. I asked but no one in the family knew since they rarely eat out. The Facebook page indicates it is closed. There are plenty of places to eat along Blvd. Pape though and he two others I mentioned are good choices.


tejolot3

Jul 26, 2014, 1:54 PM

Post #22 of 24 (11069 views)

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Re: [Altahabana] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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I've read articles about México closing inland garitas. Does that mean the Allende checkpoint will no longer have a staffed office, or does it just mean there's no traffic stop on the highway?


tejolot3

Jun 1, 2015, 7:02 AM

Post #23 of 24 (9339 views)

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Re: [tejolot3] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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I thought I should post an update, in case anyone was interested. We just got back into the US yesterday evening. There were eleven of us (six adults, four kids, and a baby) in three vehicles.

We stayed the night in Del Rio and crossed at Acuña on Sunday morning the 24th (one day before the tornado took the city by surprise). Crossing at Acuña was a breeze: I don't think there was a single car in front of us. One of the vehicles got searched, which is normal, since that one was a pickup with firearm stickers on the windows and a bulky load covered with a tarp; that one is often the one to get searched. No big deal, and we were on our way within fifteen minutes, tops.

Taking Calle General Nicolás Bravo down through town was easy-breezy: a few potholes and some flooded intersections due to recent rains, but nothing to be concerned about.

The highway from Acuña to Zaragoza was FANTASTIC! Very smooth, appeared to have been recently repaved, wide shoulders for easy passing, 100-km/h speed limit, and light to moderate traffic. One of the best highways of our entire trip. Zaragoza and Morelos were the only towns to speak of before the Allende customs office; there were a few flooded intersections there as well, but still nothing to be concerned about.

The customs building at Allende was a lot like what I was used to at Colombia: small, simple, and uncrowded. The bathrooms were not as nice, though, and I was told the women's was particularly nasty. The only big downside is that, as I had feared, we were not able to get 7-day FMMs, which meant an additional 248 USD--an added expense I was not very happy about. Our pre-authorization forms for 7-day cards made not one bit of difference: the official advised me that the only crossing served by Allende to issue 7-day cards is now Bridge 2 at Piedras. The other quirk about Allende is that there's no public copy machine. I couldn't find the copy of my driver's license needed to reclaim the vehicle deposit, and I was told I'd have to go to the gas station to get a copy made. The other two drivers found theirs, though, and the clerk apparently took pity on me and took my original to the back room to make a copy, which was supposedly against the rules.

The toll road from Allende to Nueva Rosita is in serious need of a resurfacing, but whatever. From Sabinas to Monclova is a boring highway, except for the southbound lanes having a dropoff right by the edge line for much of it. In Monclova, we ate at Los Corrales southbound and Burger King northbound. Los Corrales was a big hit with the group.

The highway was great south of Castaños. Somebody had mentioned there being no services between the highway split and Saltillo, but that's not true. The gas station just north of Coah-114 (near the road to Nueva Nacapa) has a convenience store that's very good: decent bathrooms, and even a diaper changing table in the men's room.

Even with the requirement to get full 180-day FMMs, this will definitely be our new route to Parras. Both the US and Mexican sides are great driving routes, the only exception being the potholes on Coah-114 down through Hipólito.

Thank you all for your input.


(This post was edited by tejolot3 on Jun 1, 2015, 7:05 AM)


RickS


Jun 1, 2015, 10:49 AM

Post #24 of 24 (9300 views)

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Re: [tejolot3] Considering switching from Colombia to Acuna

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Thanks for your update.

BTW, that PEMEX station is fairly new... and I've gone by it with it open and it closed. I just won't depend on it until I see it open a couple of times straight.

I agree about the toll road to Rosita. Maybe soon it will be resurfaced but I'm not holding my breath due to location.

I'll have to try Los Corrales my next trip through!
 
 
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