Less than 3 weeks before we leave for our Winter trip.

2012-2013 Trip PlanningRV Roof2

We bought a new Phoenix Cruiser RV for this year’s trip. We had two large Solar Panels (280W) installed on the front of the roof and our kayak rack and TV antenna mounted closer to the back so that we don’t get shadows on the solar arrays.

We also had 2 – 6V Trojan golf cart batteries installed to give us plenty of deep cycle capacity. These combined with an 1800W inverter will give us 110v power to watch TV and use our laptop at night. We included a system which keeps track of your batteries state of charge.

Power at RV parks in Mexico is always a problem. Even though some may have 30 amp outlets you will seldom find more that 10-15 amps available to your rig. Other problems are; many do not use a ground wire which could cause the outside of your RV to be 60v above ground. Some reverse the hot & neutral wires making it even worse. The last problem is that most of your electrical appliances and motors need to operate between 104 and 132V. We found that the voltage could drop as low as 80v and go as high as 150v in some campgrounds. This would really cause problems and blow circuit boards.

So we use an Energy Management System (Progressive Industries) that turns off the power when any of these conditions occur. I carry a copper ground rod and a adapter to switch polarity when needed.

We use the Internet and Skype to stay in touch with our friends. Telcel markets a USB modem which connects wherever you can pickup a cell signal. It is inexpensive and no contract is required. It is much faster than dialup service. Depending on how much bandwidth you use, the average cost is about $30-40 per month.

Our travel plans can be found on this link 2012 Mexico Trip Plan, with route maps for all our travel days. We hope to get out of Ohio by November 4th but like other years we will fly home for the Christmas holidays.

On Our Way

It was a rough week. Luckily we brought our new motor home early to pack for our Mexico trip. Super Storm Sandy hit the East coast of the USA on Monday morning. The storm was so large that all the way in Ohio the outer bands hit us hard. It had been raining hard for a few days and on Monday night the 70 mph winds hit the North coast communities. Trees were down everywhere and the power failed around 9 PM. Our power company had sent most of its trucks & crews to the east coast to help them out. Not realizing that our area would be hit hard. There was not enough help to remove trees that had fallen on the power lines. Crews from the far West USA were sent in. Of course it took them 3-4 days to arrive. We had no power, people’s basements were flooding, no sump pumps, food was spoiling in the refrigerators and no political commercials to watch on the blackened TV’s. That’s a good thing.

We had better luck, we had our RV home with a 4 KW generator and deep cycle batteries to run a inverter at night, so I didn’t need to run the generator. We hooked up the power with heavy long extension cords to our sump pump, refrigerator and one TV and a few lamps. When we needed to cook using the microwave we just stepped out to the RV microwave and used it. However it was obvious we wouldn’t be able to leave for our trip until the power came back on. We were also going to cancel our early Thanksgiving dinner that Peggy prepares before we leave for the Winter. 18 family members were expected.

CabinWinterStormAnother weather concern we had was the big snowstorm they had at our cabin in WV. The power was out there also and the report was 24” of snow with lots of trees down. Bud Chavez our neighbor went down to check on everybody’s cabins, no big problems. He sent this picture.

Power was restored at our home on late Thursday afternoon, dinner plans were back on, trip plans back on. Now never mind my mask, here’s my plans (as the Lone Ranger used to say), dinner on for Saturday, clean up, finish getting house back in shape and leave before noon on Sunday. The trip is starting out with a trip back to the Phoenix RV Factory to repair a rubber seal on our slide-out. It’s west but about 2 hours out of the way heading to TX . Hopefully they can do the repair quickly so we can be on the road heading south before 12 noon.

PamMomJoanMeg (Small)

We slept in their parking lot on Sunday night since they start work at 6 am Monday morning and we didn’t want to lose a minute.

RV Factory Repair

We pulled our RV into the Phoenix factory at 6 AM. The problem was a leaking rubber seal on the side-out which contains our refrigerator and dinette.


This is what the inside of our RV looked like at 6 AM.


One hour later the dinette was removed.

Then they removed the refrigerator.




The adhesive on the big rubber seal adhesive had failed and come loose from the rubber seal, not from the slide-out floor.

Here is the new seal.

They had to remove the slide-out to put the new seal in. Of course rather than just rely on the adhesive to hold they actually screwed down the new seal.


In their spare time they put in a new emergency exit window since when we tried to demo it, the window seal did not comeback together properly. They didn’t  know why, so they just installed a new window.

They completed everything and had us back together by 11 AM, a 5 hour job. They sure know what they are doing. A local RV sales place near us told us it was a 40 hr. job.

Minutes later, we were on the road to Houston. We will go via South Bend, Indianapolis, West Memphis, AR, Texarkana, AR, Marshall and Livingston, TX.  We will stop overnight at a Wal-Mart when I get tired.

I got tired at 4:30 PM and we stopped overnight in Salem, IL, and had a KFC dinner and a early sleep.


We made it to Houston

After two nights on the road in Wal-Mart parking lots, we finally made it to Rich & Tracey Priem’s house. Rich is my 2nd cousin and we have been close for years. He started kayaking 40 years ago at the same time I did. They have three sons who get bigger each time we visit.

      Cade                                                      Finn                             Dane




We will visit for a few days and hope to get an early start to TX/MX border on Saturday morning. We will get our camp patio mat enlarged to fit our new larger RV awning, and get our Mexico Visa so that we can cross the border early on Sunday morning.

Crossing Border into Mexico on Sunday

We said goodbye to the Priem’s at 6 AM, they are early risers like us. Leaving early in Houston is a good thing, there was very lite traffic all the way to Harlingen, TX. We got there at about noon but had a lot of stuff to do.

First thing since we have a new RV with a larger awning, we needed to have our patio mat enlarged by 4’. They don’t use the same color material anymore but luckily found a scrap wide enough to work for us.. This took about 2 hrs., so we bought a few things at the big flea market.

Next stop was to drive to the border at Progreso, TX. We parked on the USA side and walked to the Mexican customs to get our FMM’s (Mexican 180 day visa). This is the slowest place I’ve ever seen, instead of giving you the form so it could be filled out and then pay your 290 peso/person and have your passport stamped. She talked to everyone and it took over an hour. But we were glad we didn’t drive over, there were two lanes of cars backed up for a half mile that we walked past, but even the pedestrian line was long and they had 4 agents checking. I guess all the winter Texans go over to shop and have dental work done here.

By 4:30 we were back in Harlingen where Peggy got her fix of mall shopping while I checked my e-mails at a McDonald’s. We will stay the night at the big Wal-Mart and do some last minute grocery shopping. We hope to cross the border at 6:30 AM.

Here is a link to tomorrows plan, from there you can see each day’s plans.

Tomorrow’s Plan

Good days drive to the Rio Micos

Since we had all our paper work done (FMM & TIP) we could use the easy crossing at Los Indios. On Sunday you are allowed to cross here but you can’t get Visas or Vehicle Permits It is also open to return to the USA on Sunday but you can’t turn your permits back in, which is required when leaving MX for the year. They now use computers to keep track that you paid for your FMM and have returned it before the 6 month limit.
We got going early and crossed the border at 6:15AM. When we tried to reactivate our Telcel Banda Ancha to give us internet access in MX at a OXXO convenience store it didn’t work. It is possible that the number gets cancelled after  6 months of non-use. We got pesos OK from a ATM and tried the recharga at another store in case the first store did something wrong, no luck. Looks like no internet until I can get a new sim card.

AldeaHuestecaThe traffic was light the whole way but it was very windy. There were lots of Topes (giant speed bumps) in Valle Hermosa, but virtually no more until we got to Ciudad Valles. We tried a new way this year taking a very straight & not hilly highway from just before Ciudad Victoria back to MX81 at Gonzalez, then turned back on MX80 to Ciudad Mante. It’s 15 mi. further but 15 min faster than going through Soto. When they complete the widening of MX180 through Soto that way will be better.


We arrived at our campsite at 4 PM. The driveway into Aldea Huasteca was rather washed out but we made it in ok. Half of the kayakers were already here running the Rio Micos. I drove the fast 20 minute shuttle for them, so they could make their 4th run of the day. We then set up our RV next to a deer on a leash, weird.

TomsKayaksA little later Tom McEwan arrived from the Tampico airport where he picked up 4 more paddlers who will join the Liquid Adventures Kayak trip that starts on Monday. I only will paddle with them when they are staying at this campground, when they leave to paddle on some more advanced rivers we will move on to North of Vera Cruz on the Emerald Coast of Mexico. No internet here.

Paddling the Rio Micos – Monday

The group included paddlers from the Eastern USA and one from France. I had paddled with several in the past. There was one young women who was a newer paddler, who may only paddle the easy sections.

Last Big Drop before the Park



They took it very slow on this short section of continuous waterfalls that ranged from 7’ to 30‘. There were really no rapids only a big drops and then a pool. Some of the drops were easy slides, while others required sliding, maneuvering and boofing the last part of the falls. Tom explained the boof stroke and the landing position which was different from what I was accustomed to. He made sure all the paddlers could do a few rolls on each side before we began.


The water level was much lower than last year. The first run took over 2 hours. The group took a short break, loaded up again and the second run took only about one hour. We broke for lunch and I decided to rest since after lunch some of them ran the river 2 more times. It is a spectacular river visually, Turquoise waterfalls and dense jungle vegetation.

MultipleFallsAfter all the big falls there is a private park where the locals or tourists swim or canoe in the pool below the falls. There are many food vendors and paths to see various views of the falls upstream.

The rest of the way back to camp the river breaks into multiple channels and series of small drops and for another 1-1/2 mi.


A Rest Day in the Huasteca

This mountainous region outside of Ciudad Valles is full of turquoise streams and large waterfalls. The region is called the Huasteca in the state of San Luis Potosi. Nearby is one of the deepest (vertical) caves in the world (Sotano de las Golindrinas). People actually base jump into it and float to the bottom. Each morning and birds fly out by the thousands and circle back in at night. Google it for videos. The strange estate of Edward James called Las Pozas is also nearby.

Well the problem is even though all the sites are close, the roads are terrible. They get beat to death by the sugar cane trucks.  We didn’t want to take our RV down any of these roads but they would be OK for a 4 wheel drive SUV.

The kayak group is paddling north of here for today on the Rios Salto. Salto in Spanish means Falls, so more waterfall running. I scraped my knee yesterday while carrying my kayak down to the river. It rubbed on my thigh pad all day and was rubbed raw, so I decided to give it a rest and take a short hike with Peggy so that she could actually see some of the falls upstream of our camp that we ran yesterday.

I posted the pictures of the park and some of the falls in yesterday’s blog. So on Wednesday we leave for the Emerald Coast and the kayak group leaves for some even harder rivers for 3 more nights.

Wednesday’s Trip Plan



Rainy & Bumpy drive to Emerald Coast

We still have not been able to get our Banda Ancha computer stick working, and have not been anywhere where we could get internet access. Our Wednesday drive plan worked out exactly as scheduled. We left when it got light at 6:45 AM. It was cloudy and a light rain all day until we got to the coast. The drive had many areas of broken pavement and muddy areas so the RV was sprayed with dirt and the back window was opaque.


The picture really doesn’t look as bad as it is, there is a very light dirt film all over the lower half of our new motorhome.

We arrived at 2:45 PM at Neptuno Campground. We have stopped here on our way South and North for the past 5 years. The manager keeps the place really clean, so it is a nice rest stop along the way. The temperature here was in the low 70’s, a little warmer than the high 60’s the past 2 days. It was really hot the first day we got to the Micos but cooled off nicely.

They have no internet here either but they tell us that 2 mi down the road is an Italian Coffee Co. with wireless internet. If these blogs come through you will know that we got access. We will stay here another night. and leave early on Friday for Catemaco.

Thursday’s Trip Plan

A Day at the Emerald Beach

The Costa Esmeralda is very different than the West Coast or the Yucatan beaches. West Coast is brown sand , the Yucatan is white coral sand, while this coast’s sand is almost black. There are at least 50 hotels, campgrounds and cattle grazing land in this 10 mile stretch of MX180 along the Gulf of Mexico. I’m sure all this development has led to the water pollution. I think the oil rigs and oil deposits in the Bay of Campeche have added the dark black color.


But it is very popular in the summertime with Mexicans from all over the country. But in the late Fall and Winter months most of the tourists come from out of the country. It seems warm to us but cold to the Mexicans. So with an El Norte brewing, we have the campground and beach to ourselves. We like Neptuno campground but TP de Alba and Quinta Alicia are nice parks also, we have stayed in both of them.

We finally found a Italian Coffee Co about 2 mi. down the road at a Pemex that allowed me to use their wireless internet to catch up with all my e-mails. I hope by Friday I can get my Telcel 3G USB wide band working again.


So this afternoon we took about a 3.5 mi walk on the beach. The skies looked stormy but it was the temperature was in the mid 70’s and no rain yet. Tomorrow morning we head to Catemaco with a stop in the Tuxtlas for grocery shopping.