Monthly Archives: November 2011

Getting the RV ready to roll

Today was work on the RV and make sure all systems are go.

I took the RV to Sam’s Club early this morning and had all 7 tires rotated and balanced. It cost less than $30. Two tire stores near me said they couldn’t do it even though I’m under 10′ high and will fit in their doors. A nearby truck place wanted $90 for the same job. So we drove over to Sam’s in Elyria and after 2 hours we were ready headed back home.

IMG_1335 (Small)

Our next problem, I filled the water system and everything was fine, but when I tried to dump the water that I had put into my Grey water tank I found out that my Sani-Con Macerator Pump was rusted and would not rotate. It also blew the switch from the high current draw. So a quick phone call to the RV manufacturer who for only $250 will ship a new one out tomorrow. Hopefully a switch comes with it and installation goes well.

We installed a new window awning last month to give Peggy a little more shade in the bedroom.

The rest of the packing is going well.

On Sunday we are having the whole family over for a early Thanksgiving dinner since we hope we will be on the road by late next week and will not be back until we fly back for our Christmas vacation.

In between getting the RV ready we have been raking leaves which have been coming down like rain. Don’t want the piles of leaves to matt down and kill my grass over the winter.

Early Thanksgiving

Like the last few years we invited the family over for a Turkey Dinner before we head off to Mexico. Six couldn’t make it but we still had a good crowd since we have 4 children, 4 spouses and 11 grandchildren.

TurkeyDayDinner_Leah_Peggy_Pam_Devan_Erika

Dinner is served, Peggy making sure everyone has a full plate.

Leah. Peggy, Pam, Devan & Erika.

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Joan. Brian, Meg and Jeff dig in.

.TurkeyDay_Jake_John_Jett_Sierra

The little kids eat in the kitchen. Jake, John, Jett and Sierra,

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Erika, Devan and Leah relaxing after dinner

TurkeyDay_Pam_Meg_Joan_Jeff.

Our Four Kids – Pam, Meg, Jeff & Joan.

My new macerator pump just came, hopefully all will go well with installation this afternoon. 

We plan to visit my Cousin Rich, his wife Tracey and their three kids in Houston on our way to the Texas border.

NATCHEZ, MS

We got a nice early start on our trip Wednesday morning. The past few years we made two long days to Houston stopping at a Wal-Mart in Jackson, TN for our overnight.

This year we decided to take three days and have a more relaxing drive down the Natchez Trace Parkway which starts about 15 miles West of Nashville and goes 450 miles to Natchez, MS.

http://www.nps.gov/natr/index.htm is a good site to view maps and information on the parkway. The cool thing is there are no stop signs or traffic lights for the entire distance. And at this time of year there is virtually no traffic. The speed limit is 50 mph but we averaged about 55. The Trace ends in the town of Natchez. There are 3 free campgrounds that  are nicely spaced along the way. We overnighted at Meriwether Lewis Campground on Wed. night near the start of the Trace.

We arrived early enough to visit the NP visitor center and take a walking tour around town seeing some of the grand old mansions.

StantonHall

MissOverlook

Nat_Mansion

GreenLeaves

Friday we will head to visit my Cousin in Houston.

Last Day visiting the Priem’s

It’s nice to be able to keep up our relationship with Rich & Tracey Priem and watch their family grow. They have three boys, Cade – 8, Dane – 4, Finn – 2.

PriemFamily

We went out to eat Saturday night with the Priem’s and Tracey’s parents to a new area of Western Houston called City Center. It is an area of hotels, restaurants and upscale stores all set outdoors similar to Crocker Park in Westlake but on a much larger scale.

Tracey is getting ready to compete in an Ironman competition in Tempe, AZ next Wednesday, http://ironmanarizona.com/ where thousands of participants from all over the world will compete. The grueling competition starts with a 2.4 mi open water swim followed by a 112 mi bike race and then a 26.2 mi marathon run. The pro athletes are able to do the entire race in just over 8 hrs. I would be lucky to do it in over 8 days. Tracey hopes to finish under 14 hours.

Our travel plan is to leave Monday morning for Harlingen, TX, get our FMM visas at the border and cross early Tuesday morning at Los Indios.

La Pesca, MX

See Map 1
On Monday morning we pulled out of Houston at 6:30 AM, the traffic was not too bad. It took us 6 hours to get to Harlingen, TX. We went straight to the border at Los Indios, TX. It took about 45 min to get our FMM’s (Visas) since there was a big group of junk car drivers getting their permits.

We then did a retorno to go back to Harlingen. We told the MX & USA customs that was what we were doing so none of them entered the RV or did a search. We had hoped to have a late lunch at our favorite Texas Bar-B-Q, Long Horn, but found out that they are closed on Mondays. So I dropped Peggy off at the Mall to do some last minute shopping and we overnighted at the Wal-Mart across the street. We had a nice dinner at the Olive Garden right between the two.

We left at 6:30 AM, when the sun was rising, and crossed the border again at Los Indios with only a 2 minute look by the customs women. There was lots of traffic going in both directions and it felt very safe. We stopped in the town of Valle Hermosa to visit a ATM and go to an OXXO store (Similar to our 7/11’s) to pay my 500 pesos for the 3G internet service. They credited the same phone number that I had last year and when I got back to the RV it showed the payment and I texted the phrase bat30 to the address 5050 and instantly my internet was working using my Telcel USB modem, that we has purchased last year.

 There are a lot of topes (speed bumps) in town but after that there are none and the road all the way to La Pesca is wide and fast. We followed the other traffic in case a tope occurred but other than another the short custom’s stop where you join MX180 the drive was fast and uneventful.
We got to La Pesca, MX about noon and found the bumpy road through town was again being all dug up. The road was totally closed.

LaPescaMain St Progress
We had to back track through some narrow dirt streets to make it past the town to the beach side of town. It turns out that the State has decided to make main street a reinforced concrete street to go along with the new airport completed last year. They still hope its proximity to Texas will make this beach down a vacation destination.

When we got to Tropicana Campground it looked closed but about the same condition as last year. We untied the driveway rope and parked where we did last year. We found out that the power and water were working and like last year, I had to drive my own ground stake in to get power into the RV since my EMS requires a ground.

Tropicana Campground Wide

The women caretaker arrived soon afterward and said that the owner was back in Monterey and the campground was closed. We asked her to call him and ask if we could camp overnight. After her call she came back and said he remembered us and we could stay. However it does look like he will be selling the place so another nice Mexican campground goes out of existence. La Gaviota campground is about 2 mi before La Pesca and is still in operation. We liked Tropicana since it was 3 mi closer to the beach.

Rio Micos

See Map 2

Since the Tropicana Campground wasn’t in operation and it was very buggy parked in the grass we decided that one night was enough and left at 6:30 AM. They have been continually straightening and widening MX-180 to a full what they call a 4 lane road. It is really a 2 lane road with 2 wide shoulders that are used for slow vehicles. About 16 mi south of Soto de Marina there are 3 construction zones in a 5 mi section. After that you are back to the old road which is not that bad. At the rate they are improving the road they may be finished from MX101 to MX80 by 2013. The 65 mi they have already completed is a really nice smooth wide fast road.

We have never taken MX80 West of Gonzalez through Ciudad Mante. It is a beautiful fast drive all the way until you take MX85 to Ciudad Valles, that road is a little narrower but not that bad so we made good time even with a few stops along the way we got to our destination at 1:00 PM.

Driveway

We located Don Roy for the gate key and the caretaker Margarita who rode with us down Grant Amaral’s driveway. For my kayaker friends, it was narrower, steeper and bumpier than Rockville road.

I hit my kayak rack on a overhanging tree limb and I had to reinstall the floor flange to the roof. I hope the Shoe Goo that I used to reseal everything works OK.

The camp is right on the Rio Micos, a beautiful setting with Turquoise water flowing over limestone water falls.

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BigTreePeggy

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We took a little walk along the river, Peggy finds a friendly duck that wants to follow her.

There is marginal cell service here for my internet to work here, so you may get this blog.

 

 

I’m not sure how we will manage to get out of this place,

Our next destination is the Emerald Coast North of Veracruz.

See Map 3

On the way to the Emerald Coast, MX

See Map 3

We spent three nights parked along the Rio Micos outside of Ciudad Valles.

Micos_John

On Thursday night Tom McEwan from Liquid Adventures showed up with 3 friends. In about a week he has a group coming down from the States to show them the rivers in the area. In the meantime Tom and his friends are paddling the various river sections.

On Friday morning I walked over to where they were staying, Aldea Huaxteca, next to our camp. I wish I would have stuck with my plans to stay there. Their driveway is wide and smooth and there are plenty of places to park my RV. The reason I didn’t camp there was they said on Fri & Sat nights they would have a large Mexican group staying there. But actually we are now leaving on Saturday morning to head for a Neptuno Campground on the Emerald Coast.

Tom was great to let me paddle with them and showed me the lines on all the waterfalls. It’s a great place for first time waterfall runners to learn the proper techniques. We had a lot more water than when I was here 11 years ago and I had forgotten all the lines. The picture of me is from that trip.

After the waterfall run we continued down the river a few more miles where I took out at my campsite. The place we are staying at belongs to Grant Amaral from Idaho. He also leads trips down here. He owns Agua Azul Kayaking

I’ll try to post this before I leave in the morning but if not I’ll post when we make it back to Ciudad Valles.  Hopefully we can make up his driveway without incident.

PegEmeraldCoast

The Emerald Coast is very popular with Mexicans in the summer time. Dozens of hotels and campgrounds are spread all along the highway about 90 mi North of Vera Cruz. The sand here is a fine black sand but it is fairly clean. It is about a 250 mi drive on some rough roads but we will be bypassing Tampico and their crooked police.

Bad Day – Bad Memories

Maybe it’s the town of Ciudad Valles. Eleven years ago when we headed to the town we ran into a detour with the old RV. The detour ended up in an orchard where we were bogged down in mud so low we tore the outlet off our blackwater tank, our step and fender flares were also damaged. Then we couldn’t cross the detour bridge anyway, we had to back track losing 4 hours and ended up spending the night in a Pemex miles before we got to Ciudad Valles.
This year we had camped right of the Rio Micos. We had a small problem getting into the camp so we were worried about getting out. The drive was steep but we made it out of our campsite OK.

 
I was then worried about the next turn,  a steep rutted uphill and then a narrow passage between two overhanging trees. Peggy expertly directed me with no problem. When we got to the gate it looked like it was still locked so I walked all the way up the drive to get the caretaker who had the key. When we got back to the gate, apparently the lock was locked but not through the hasp. We wasted an hour doing this.

 
The next section was fairly flat with a steep paved uphill. I wasn’t worried, I made it down OK.  But we still hadn’t got to the last 50’ of steep rutted section of the road.  Believe it or not it walked right up past the ruts with no problem. I thought great we are not far behind schedule and on our way.
We had just got back on the narrow paved road heading back toward Ciudad Valles. I knew the ditches next to the road were deep but there wasn’t any traffic. All of the sudden a big beer truck comes roaring around the curve. I hit my brakes and pulled to the right watching that our mirrors don’t hit. We had slowed almost to a stop when my rear dual wheels dropped into the ditch.

 
The front tires slipped in as well as I came to a stop with the RV leaning over but it did not tip. I thought there should be no problem getting back out of the ditch, not realizing there was a big jagged rock in there with me. I heard a few crunches as I pulled back on the road.
The first thing I noticed was that the electric step did not deploy. I looked in from of the step and saw that I did a little fiberglass damage underneath and the step looked bent. Not too bad. As I walked to the back I saw that my outside rear dual tire must have hit a rock and tore a hole into the side.
TireCut
I then walked to the rear to get my jack out. Oh no!! I must have caught the bottom of the back corner on the same rock. The entire back is one piece molded fiberglass. The bottom corner moved back about 3” causing cracks to occur in the back, the back compartment frame was bent and the roof ladder was bent.

RV_RightSideDamage LADDER_CRACKS

We pulled up to road to a flat area where I could get partially off the road. I changed the tire putting on the new spare tire. When we got up the road there was a Pemex station with a pay phone. The insurance company has an 800 number and with the help of some police that pulled in behind me I finally was able to reach my insurance company. You must report the accident as soon as you can. I was on the phone for an hour waiting for an English speaking operator. The police told me there was a big Michelin store in town. I asked that the adjuster meet us there.

 
We easily found the store, they had the exact right tire in stock and the cost was the same as back home. They replaced the tire quickly and I asked them to look at my step. They used a sledge hammer and actually were able to straighten the brackets out so that the step was now working. I gave the mechanic 100 pesos for his trouble. They also lent me a phone to call the insurance adjuster again. They had said they would be there in an hour. After 2 1/2 hours and another call we left. We had hoped to at least get to near MX180 where we could stop at a campground in Cerro Azul. But it was past 5 PM and would be dark soon so we pulled into a small Pemex with a 24 Hr. convenient store and parked in their parking lot. We are in the town on Tantoyuca, MX on MX127.

 
So like 11 years ago, we ruined our RV and didn’t make our destination. Hopefully it will be a better day tomorrow, At least our Telcel Banda Ancha modem is working here so I can tell you all the bad news.

One Night at Neptuno

See Map 4

We got started on Sunday morning at 7 AM, the road was fair until the Alamo turnoff. The Alamo road was great, the construction on the toll bridge was complete. Stopped for some oranges and honey at the fruit stands.

Don’t miss the right turn at the top of the interchange so you can bypass Poza Rica on a very inexpensive Cuota. I’ll bet it saves an hour. We got to camp on the Emerald Coast at Neptuno Campground at 11AM. Cost was still 150 p/n.

We took a nice one hour beach walk. It looked like the storms took out most of the beach access stairs from the small hotels and campgrounds in that area. We had a big steak dinner to celebrate our journey so far, forgetting about our RV problems, that we can fix some other day.

Got on the road just before 7 AM on Monday morning. Just past Nautla they are paving the road and there must have been an early morning truck accident. We sat there for 20 minutes then got back up to speed. Most of the south bound lane has been resurfaced all the way until the 4-lane starts by Cardel. It’s the best I have seen this road in years. Took only 2 hrs. from Nautla to Cardel.

They finished the bridge on the east side of Vera Cruz, so if you are heading toward the Tuxtla’s you won’t miss the turn to Alvarado on MX180. The drive to Catemaco took 6:45 min with a one hour stop to shop in the nice Soriana in San Andres Tuxtla.

So here we are a few days early at Tepetapan Campground and dreaming of Gene’s big Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday. There is only one other camper here right now, a couple from Switzerland who shipped their rig to Brazil and have been on the road for the past 4 years. They are also heading to the Yucatan.

Catemaco Thanksgiving

We got to Catemaco on Monday afternoon and have been relaxing ever since. Even though the free wireless internet here is a little week it works fine for us since I use and external modem with an antenna. I get a strong signal and it works well at our camper. Claude & Erika the Swiss couple, only have an standard wireless in their laptop and need to go to the pavilion for a good signal.

On Tuesday Peggy and I took a walk to town to see what has changed, it’s just across the road to the malecon. Other than the dozens of boatmen trying to get you to take a ride to the monkey island, the walk was pleasant as a good breeze comes off the lake and it is shady under the trees along the lake.

Catemaco_Launches

Fisherman StatueThe fisherman statue picture is not from this year. Someone broke the blade off his oar so he now looks like he has a stick on his shoulder.

We made a stop at the ATM to get some more pesos which is right across from the cathedral.

Cathederal2

We saw that there is now a very nice bakery right around the corner from the campground that has a good selection of sweet treats for breakfast.

A short rain shower hit on Wednesday morning so I did some work on the RV. All those topes took a toll on my bed support. I had to re-screw it back on the wall.

After the rain we washed the dirt and grime from the RV. While we were doing that two big motor homes from Montreal rolled in and set up on either side of us. They were the same ones we saw Sunday at Neptuno on the Emerald Coast.

We decided to walk into town tonight with Claude & Erika to eat in one of their fine restaurants,

Peggy is planning on baking her brownies again for desert for our potluck Thanksgiving dinner that Gene & Gaby prepare for their RV and Casitas guests.