Oasis in the Desert

Saturday, January 31, 2009

Bumps along the way

Photo after I whacked the bridge
The 1977 GMC school bus mirror

We have not talked very much about our Mexican Cuisine. We will try to write a few blogs on the flavors of Mexico as we travel to different parts of Mexico. Needless to say, we have eaten well!

Things really started happening (and not necessarily good) after our departure from Catemaco. I did find (with the campground owner’s help) a salvage yard outside of Catemaco. There I purchased a 1977 GMC School Bus Mirror for 200 pesos to replace the passenger side mirror that I lost crossing the bridge in Poza Rica (before and after photo). It doesn’t look like the driver’s side mirror, but, hey, while I am in Mexico, I might as well look the part. A thorough parts cleanup, a few added bolts, and a PVC water pipe (spray painted black) produced the finished product.

To summarize the bad news…we had to replace the brakes, replace the passenger mirror, the generator has gone south (just after we crossed the border), and in San Cristobal the 120 volt system on the RV shorted out (both plug-in and generator) leaving us with only 12 volt power. In addition, we developed a water leak in the plumbing next to the water pump. (Other than that Mrs. Lincoln, how was the play.)

Not to be discouraged, after all we are in Mexico and a Mexican can fix anything. Well, a Mexican electrician looked at our electrical panel and said “I can’t fix that”. That is like a redneck saying “I can’t fix that with duct tape”. That is unheard of. I think I will try to find another electrician. If I can get the 120 volt system operational, I can fix the generator and the water leak myself.
Next post, San Cristobal – what a great city!

Friday, January 30, 2009

Lake Catemaco

The evening's entertainment at the restaurant
The view from the table

Dinner at a Catemaco restaurant

Lake Catemaco, State of Veracruz, Mexico

Several miles of nature trails were constructed next to the Hotel Azul.

Our stay in Catemaco was pleasant. We extended our stay from three to five days and explored the surrounding area as well as visited some of the local waterside restaurants. We had a long hike at the Playa Azul nature trails located on the hotel grounds and walked along Lake Catemaco’s shoreline.

When bad things start happening, it is best to be in a good place and that was true in this situation. The Hotel Tepetepan and RV Campground was owned and operated by an American from Chicago. Gene not only spoke English, but had lived in Catemaco for the past seven years. He knew the best brake mechanic in town. He took me over to the taller and introduced me to the owner. Gene’s Spanish told the owner what my problem was and arranged a time for his crew to come over to the campground and check out my brakes. The next morning the owner and two of his workers came to the campground and started to work. The front brakes were good, but the back brakes needed new pads. By the end of the day, we had a good set of brakes on the RV.

The Hotel Tepetepan and RV Campground

The Blogs have been few due to only intermittent Wi-Fi, but we should be able to catch up here in San Cristobal, Chiapas. We left Veracruz and drove to Catemaco, Veracruz, Mexico. A truly beautiful place, a location one would consider staying, like forever. Bordered beside Lake Catemaco, the Puebla of 23,000 was only a few minutes’ drive to the coastal beaches of the Gulf of Mexico.

Catemaco lies in the mountains at 1200 feet. Not very high, but the climb is short and steep. That’s when things started happening. Just a few miles from Catemaco, as we passed through the Puebla of San Andres Tuxtla, the RV brakes faded from overheating. Fortunately, we were on a level plane and traveling only about 5 miles per hour. I pulled over and pumped the brakes for that last bit of stopping power. I was towing the car up and down the hillside and the extra 3200 lbs. overloaded the brakes.

We parked the RV, disconnected the car, took a walking tour of the city, and had a delicious lunch at a small three table hole-in-the wall restaurant. After an hour’s wait the brakes cooled and we drove the RV and the Chevy into our Catemaco campground.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

I lost two photos of the ruins at Tajin in the last post...

Tajin Ruins and Veracruz

The original spanish fortress

We had the opportunity to take a cruise around the Port of Veracruz.

We left the Emerald Coast and continued down toward Veracruz. We read the El Rey campground was the campground of choice (later we found out that it was the only campground in the area, the others were closed). Again, rough roads, but only a 94 mile journey (it took about four hours). When we arrived (thanks to the directions in the Mexico Camping book and the GPS setting), we found a campground on the water of the Gulf Coast. We also found our Canadian friends we left in El Zorro. They were reading the same book and following the same route.

When I checked the 15 amp hookup, the voltage reading was off the scale (on the high side). We plugged in our heater at the receptacle and turned on the A/C inside the RV. It was still on the high side. We decided that this time we would not hook up, but would run our generator when we needed power. The next morning, we needed a cup of morning coffee (and I mean needed). Note, we feel that in every civilized society, coffee or some form of caffeine was morning requirement. Since our coffee pot was 110 volt, we started our generator and brewed a fresh pot of coffee. The generator quit us three times during the brewing process (possible problem). Suggestion, invest in one of those cook stove percolator type coffee pots that brews coffee on an open flame just in case there is no electricity.

While we were there, we had the opportunity to see once again the Papantla and their spiritual routine. I always get vertigo when I watch these guys do their thing (it also cost us 50 pesos each to witness this event).

During our stay on the Emerald Coast, we wanted to visit El Tajin, an ancient Indian city. When we arrived we realized we were too late -- they had left during the year 1200. Obviously, we were too late to visit with the natives.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

More Photos of the Emerald Coast

Cindy showing off her formal evening gown at the elevated patio (under three layers of clothes). The eagles nest is to Cindy's left. One can see miles of coast line from the nest.

The grounds at El Zorro were well maintained, but one had to watch for falling coconuts. They do make dents in RVs, Autos, and one's head.

During our stay, the rain was a frequent visitor and walking on the beach was not as much fun in the rain.

The Emerald Coast and El Zorro Campground

For the first 3 days we were the only RV on site. We did not have WiFi in the park nor did we have TV (English or Spanish). We did, however, find movies in a village near by and WiFi at the Italian Coffee Cafe.

I can't quite get the photos and the messages to match. I will keep working on it. The El Zorro Campground has three pools, an eagle nest, and an elevated cocina and dining area.

El Zorro Campground entrance

After leaving Poza Rica, we drove to the Emerald Coast. Along the Emerald Coast there are probably ten to twelve RV Parks. We decided to stay at El Zorro RV Park which was suggested in the Mexican Camping book. We arrived at about 4:00 pm, which gave us plenty of time to set-up our site. Being the only RV in the Park, we had to choice of locations. Number 7 was the winner. We had a beautiful view of the water and being the only RV a panoramic view of the complex. The photos tell it all. It is a great place to stay. The electricity is iffy, the water is iffy, but the septic is fine. One could ask for not more.

The electrical polarity was correct, but the voltage was too high, jumping to 130 volts. We turned on our ceramic heater which drew enough current to put us in a safe range (about 124 Volts). If it got too hot we would turn off the heater and turn on the A/C. If we needed to use the microwave, we turned off everything and ran the microwave. We had the system down pat.

Arriving on Sunday, we spent the next three days as single campers in the park, but came Thursday a couple from Washington State set up camp, then two couples from Quebec came on the scene and now we were back to sharing the grounds. They were all good people and we enjoyed their company. The Washington couple has spent the last few winters exploring Mexico in the winter while the Seattle area chilled down for the winter.
The Canadians also wanted to escape winter’s blast and enjoy the temperate climate of Mexico. They are also planning to travel the perimeter of Mexico, traveling from the east coast south to the west coast and turn back to the north.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Photo of Adventure Caravan group and an evening sunset at the RV Park
Photo of Cindy in her bikini (under three layers of clothing)

La Gaviota Resort, Beach of La Pesca, and Poza Rica
Cindy read that there were only two things to do in La Pesca – Fish and Beach. Shopping was minimal and the town was not booming with activity. I would like to add two more things to do in the area. Relax and enjoy the countryside and catch up on RV chores. We left Oklahoma without really finishing our RV makeover . We had the materials and tools on board, so that is just what we did. Working outside at the campground was not much of a chore and the finishing touches to the RV were completed..
The three day stay passed quickly and we were making plans to move on to Poza Rica, via an overnight stay at the Country Express Hotel Just north of Tampico, Tamaulipas. We left La Pesca and traveled south to the Inn. We found a group from Adventure Caravan staying at the Hotel. There were 21 RVs parked and heading eventually to Panama. We all dry camped overnight at the Inn at a cost of about $7.50 USD (100 Pecos).
We skipped breakfast and attacked the roadway early (about 8:30 am) and headed for Poza Rica. The drive was long and tiresome. We finally reached Poza Rica about 4:00 pm in the afternoon (a distance of about 200 miles). Road conditions varied and we probably did not average more than 35 miles/hr. On the way in, I drove a little too close to the bridge frame work and left a passenger side mirror on the way through. I was able to find a suitable replacement at a Mexican Auto Zone.

We stayed at the Poza Rica Inn parking lot for two days and did little more than shop (we found a Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club in the city). The Adventure Caravan also stayed at the Inn and had reserved all of the RV spaces, thus we landed in the parking lot. We were grateful we left the caravan trail and headed on our own.

Friday, January 9, 2009

The drive to La Pesca

We had two choices – take Hwy 97 south from Reynosa or proceed east on Hwy 2 towards Matamoras to Hwy 180 then proceed south. The book (Traveler’s Guide to Mexican Camping) suggested that we drive east over to Hwy 180. Well, one and one half hours later we were still only a few miles from the border and somehow got caught up in Matamoras traffic. The roads were rough and 25 miles/hr was fast and bumpy. Maybe we missed a road along the way. Next time, we will take Hwy 97, for us it would have saved several hours of torturos driving.

We did not arrive into La Pesca till 6:00 pm, worn to a frazzle, but the campground (La Gaviota Resort) was worth the effort . We arrived just as darkness closed in around us. The 15 amp service was set up backwards, so we had to switch polarity and use the water tap for a ground (all this in the dark with one of those "shake'em up batteryless" flashlights. I suggest you bring one along, but use up your battery flashlights first. The water was questionable - the locals did not drink it - so we came to the conclusion that getting electricity tonight was good enough.
We did not realize just how beatiful the La Gaviota Resort was until the next morning. We have been full-timers for over three years traveling coast to coast and we think this one is in the top three. We soon forgot the long ride and settled in for three great days in La Gaviota. There was only one other RVer in the campground. He is a wagon master for Escapees on a mission to scout out future caravan stops. He had finished his search in La Pesca and left the next morning. The next three days we had the park to ourselves -- it was great!
More about La Pesca in the next post.

On the road to La Pesca

A view of the short cut to La Pesca.

The Crossing
8:49 am Monday, January 5, 2009

Drizzle and cold winds came in from the north as we departed Holiday Village RV Park in Parr, TX. The Pharr Bridge crossing was nine miles due south ($10.00 USD Toll charge for four axles). After crossing the Rio Grande, we followed posted directions to Migracion building which was on the right side of the road. After a turnaround (I missed the correct turn the first time), we found suitable parking for our RV and Toad in a large lot to the left of the auto parking area.

The process was much easier than we anticipated. We carried into the Migracion offices our passports, driver’s license, vehicle titles (both the RV and the Chevy were free of a lien holder), our Mexican insurance policies, verification of our USA insurance, and Pesos. Located in one office were three desks; the Migracion officer, copy center and a Bancercita.

We went to the Migracion officer and receive the FM2 forms. The officer filled out the number of days (180) and initialed. Samples of a completed form were posted on a stand up desk (bring your own pen) in the center of the room. After completing the FM2, we had copies made of the FM2, passports, driver’s licenses, and vehicle titles. We then went to the Bancercita and presented all of our paperwork. We did not need proof of insurance, but she took everything else. We paid 262 Pecos each for our FM2s (cash). The vehicle docs were 413.13 Pecos each (credit card with applicant’s name on the card). Cindy applied for the car with her driver’s license and I claimed the RV. After paying all charges, we went back to the Migracion Officer with the paperwork and receipts. He stamped our FM2s and we were through.

We walked back to the RV and Toad, applied the decals, and off we went. Voila, that was it. We departed for La Pesca, Tamaulipas at 10:37 am.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Brief update from La Pesca

We left Pharr, TX on Monday, crossed the border and drove to Le Pesca, Tamaulipia, MX. On our last day here we found an internet cafe, but alas, too late to give a full report on our trip. When we arrive in our next stop, we will file a full report...so far...gosh, what a ride!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

RVs are houses in miniature that contain everything a person needs to live well, but there's no yard to mow.(RV Travel News)
We left Aransas Pass on New Year’s Day. A great travel day -- no trucks and very few cars were on U. S. Highway 77. After arriving at Holiday Village RV Park in Pharr, TX (located four miles from the Mexican border), we chilled out for the rest of the day.

It was decided to stay in Pharr for four days. We wanted to streamline our load, buy necessary supplies, flush the fresh water tank, checkout the RV for any last minute repairs, fill the gasoline tanks ($1.399 per gallon) and just relax.

Lynne wanted news of our crossing over to Mexico. We are planning to cross the border on Monday at Pharr and will pass on the event in detail. We are taking with us the RV (Stormy) and the toad (a Chevy HHR). We purchased Mexican Insurance for both on Friday from Lewis and Lewis Insurance. The process should prove to be interesting. I will claim the RV and Cindy will claim the HHR.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Have a Happy and Prosperous New Year!

Thursday, January 1, 2009

We then headed for the shallows to search for the Reds and the Trout. We had better luck there. I say “we”. First photo is my catch of the day. I had to throw the catch back, it was not 20 inches in length. It turned out to be my only catch of the day. Homer , on the other hand, did well and after several catches, he was able to keep a nice size trout and two Red Fish. Here is one of his catch (note the difference). The fillets are now resting in our freezer, waiting for the next “fish feast”.

Ten miles south of Rockport is Aransas Pass, one of the gateways by ferry boat to Padre Island. There reside some of our friends, Homer and Nancy Weatherly , who settled in the area after leaving their long time residence in Oklahoma. Monday night found us enjoying their hospitality with friends in their home by the sea.

Tuesday Morning, fantasies of catching “the big fish” (Trout, Red Fish, or Black Drum) filled by head. My fishing guide and good friend, Homer, had his boat ready and loaded with fresh dead shrimp (the bait house owner told us that she did not have any live shrimp that day, but they did have some fresh dead shrimp), lures, and fishing gear on board, as well as a breakfast taco from Angel’s Taco Stand.

Our first stop was in deep waters off the coast. This is where the Black Drum hang out, just waiting for me to drop by. Last time I fished these waters, I brought in a 32 lb. Drum, but alas, all that came out of the water today was my fresh dead shrimp. While we fished these waters, a group of tug boats passed us towing towers at least 400 feet tall – quite a sight. Had to take a photo!