Monthly Archives: November 2014

Finally getting ready to head SOUTH

We have been planning and packing for the last two weeks. I had a few medical issues taken care of and I now see that the really cold weather is ready to hit our home by Wednesday 11/12/14.

RV ready2_2014

Everything in our fairly new RV seems to be working OK, and today is mild and sunny for final packing.

I’m taking my WW kayak as usual as I hope to be able to do some river paddling in the Huasteca region of Mexico in the state of San Luis Potosi, near Ciudad Valles.

The rivers down there are worth the visit even though you don’t paddle. They are Turquoise and all have spectacular waterfalls.

There are many tour companies that conduct hiking, rafting, swimming & touring trips.

We hope to meet up with a friend from the Washington DC area who runs kayak trips in the area, Tom McEwan. I hope to paddle with him or his guides for a couple of days while Peggy just enjoys some reading, walking and warm weather.

Our eventual destination is Xpu-Ha 20 mi south of Playa del Carmen in the state of Quintana Roo. After enjoying the paddling we will visit Tepetapan RV park in Catemaco, Vera Cruz. Gene Gaudi the campground owner, originally from Chicago, puts on a pot luck Thanksgiving dinner for the campers. He supplies the Turkey.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Yesterday was our annual early Thanksgiving dinner with my family and grandkids. Three of the older kids are away at college while the oldest is in the navy stationed in Bahrain. So we invited three of the kid’s friends to fill in to help eat up all that Turkey.

ThanksgivingGrandkids

ThanksgivingGrandkidsEat

Peggy and the rest of our family getting ready to dig in.

ThanksgivingFamily

Our first night we will only get as far as Cincinnati since we plan to stop in Dayton to visit my cousin Kathy Priem who moved down here to be closer to her kids after her husband died last Spring. In Cincinnati we will visit with her daughter Betsy who recently retired from her job at Procter & Gamble. We have been close to the Priem’s for years. I worked at NASA with Kathy’s husband, Dick and our families got into canoeing and kayaking almost 45 years ago. Our families travelled a lot together and had lots of fun. After our visit here, as usual, we will head to Houston to visit with Rich Priem and his family. He always calls me his uncle but I guess he is really my second cousin.

A Prime Start to Our Trip

Day 1 to 3 – Travel Plans & Map

first snow 2014

Or should I say a Priem start. We left as the forecast storm was approaching. It was not snowing but it was cold.

We drove to Dayton, OH to see my cousin Kathy Priem and her son Jeff. We stayed for a few hours and then left for Cincinnati to Visit Betsy Priem Chisholm and her husband Jim.

We had a nice visit and went out to a folk music bar for dinner.

By then we were tired from our drive and headed to our RV for a good nights sleep before hitting the road at 7 AM. It sure got cold, the low hit 18oF, the furnace got a workout but I set it too low for Peggy’s taste.

We had originally planned to take the Natchez Trace south from Nashville but it was so cold we decided to go the fastest way to Houston through Memphis and Texarkana. We made it past Memphis to Forrest City and parked at Wal-Mart for the night. I set the thermostat much warmer and we had a good sleep. No complaints from Peggy.

We got this picture of the snow from my daughter Joan that hit home the day we left. We just got out in time. The weather was cold but sunny. However, I guess they were not taking and chances. Every freeway we drove on they were spraying brine on the roads. It was saltier than the beach at Xpu-Ha.

We got to Rich and Tracey Priem’s in Houston on Saturday at 4 PM. Saturday is a good day to drive through Houston the roads were fast and there were no crazy drivers. We had a wonderful dinner that Tracey made and enjoyed the company of Tracey’s parents who live nearby.

We will stay here until Tuesday morning. We will then head to the Mexican border and overnight in Harlingen, TX.

 

Crossing the Border

We had a short stay with Rich, Tracey, Cade, Dane & Finn Priem in Houston. Tracey cooked a great dinner Saturday and had her parents over to eat. Caught up on all that’s going on in Houston.

Sunday turned out miserable. It was cold and rainy. But at least we were not in a snow storm. So we watched Houston beat the Browns on TV. Well I guess we are back in last place again. We went out to our favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, Lupe Tortillas. We had a good dinner as usual.

It was still bad weather on Monday,  Tracey prepared a delicious Salmon dinner for our last night.Then we just hung out and watched a movie and the start of the Pittsburgh/Tenn. game. We hit the sack early since we like to get on the road at sunrise.

We had a smooth drive down to Harlingen, TX where Peggy likes to do some shopping. We got here at 12:45PM. I filled up with the cheap US gas. This year in Mexico’s gasoline is $1.00 more per gallon. We also got our Propane tank filled.

We drove over to the border nearby at Los Indios. We like to get our Mexico Visa, called an FMM, have dinner at the Long Horns Bar-B-Que and then sleep at the Wal-Mart back in Harlingen. This way we can get an early morning start without stopping for immigration. However it took over an hour, I put my last name & first name in opposite places on the form. They had a fit. They made me white it out and do it right. I hope I do it right the next time. I really got scolded.

Trip Plans for our first day in Mexico

Mexico First Day–Made it to Rio Micos

SignPost_AldeaHuasteca.pg

We woke up at 5 AM had a nice breakfast and drove over to where I could get Wi-Fi so I could post yesterday’s blog. We headed for the border and go across with no inspection by 6:30AM, a nice early start. It was dark and the traffic was heavy heading North.

We got to Valle Hermosa to get pesos out of a bank machine (Cajero Automatica). I tried 5 different machines. No luck.

One thing that was good, I had paid in advance to have my Telcel Banda Ancha stick activated on this day. It worked, I could get on the internet and send e-mails.

I should have tried my other bank card but I didn’t. We wasted 30 minutes and didn’t have many pesos left from last year. When we got to MX83, I saw that a Pemex gas station had a bank machine. I used my other card no problem, I tried the first card to make sure it was not the other machines, no luck.

The roads were fairly good and fast. We got to Ciudad Valles by 2:45PM and found stopped traffic the way we planned to go, so I pulled into a Pemex. I turned on my Telcel, there was a really strong signal. I tried calling my bank with Skype, yea it worked. I got the same girl I told that I was going to Mexico, she said it should have worked. After about five minutes of hold she came back and said they had deactivated the card since it has not been used for a while, but they turned it back on. So off to a bank machine, yea it worked. I now have two working bank cards and plenty of pesos.

RVatMicos

This place really is not a campground but I can get level and they have nice toilets and showers. The also have a restaurant and cabins. They run adventure tours out of here but this is where I hope to meet up with Tom McEwan and possibly paddle one of the local rivers.

RioMicos_2014

So even with all of the delays trying to get the bank card to work we still got here at 3:45 PM. Plenty of time to have a walk, take the pictures and have a great dinner prepared by Peggy. 

RioMicos2_2014

This is the Rio Micos at the camp. This is the takeout when running the waterfalls of the Micos.

I found they had a good cell signal here this year so no problem posting the blog.

Rio Micos–Kayak & Hike

The Aldea Huasteca is where we meet up with Tom McEwen who runs Liquid Adventures from the DC area. Tom got seriously hurt last summer kayaking and spent 2 months in the hospital so is not able to paddle this year.

Last4FallsMicos_2014 His company, however, is still running their advanced Mexican paddling trip. My plans were to meet him on the last two days of his trip and see where he was paddling. They rolled in after we did on Wednesday after two hard days of paddling with their group of 10 paddlers.

The Micos is a short 2 mile run over about 8-10 waterfalls, one right after another. This picture show the last 4 falls. Actually there is a nice pool between all the falls.

I first ran the Micos 15 years ago on a Keel-Hauler trip. It was very low water.

Last year the water was too high here so I ran the Rio Ojo Frio with Tom & a guide. In 2012 I ran again with Tom and a large group.

This river has Hydro plants on it to take advantage of the big drop from the mountains into the town of Rio Valles.

For comparison I posted three pictures of the last falls before a nice 2 mile paddle back to the camp which is right on the river.

This is what it looked like this year. MicosFalls_2014

This is from 2012 when the river was lower. MicosFalls_2012

This is from our low water run in 2000. MicosFalls_2000

I don’t think I have ever run these falls cleanly and this year was no exception. I’m looking for excuses but when I got to this drop I thought I knew the line. As I entered Diego shouted paddle hard right. I paddled but not hard enough. I was way too far left and slid onto the shallow travertine rock. I rolled in the 3” deep water 3 times, at least one time dragging my knuckles against the sharp rock. But I found myself upright and stopped sliding just before the final drop into the pool at the center of the falls. I caught my breath pushed myself into the current and dropped down into the pool where Diego was ready to give me a needed bow rescue. I made it with scratches on the backs of my knuckles on both hands. No cuts just my bruised ego.

The other paddlers were going to have lunch and run all the falls again and then head to camp. I asked Diego and another girl who was also done for the day to paddle back to camp with me so I could clean up the scrapes and put some Neosporin on them.

PeggyMicosWalkOn Friday the paddlers were all heading up to run the Rio Salto, I had run that river on our 2000 trip and it was also nothing but waterfalls so I opted for a hike with Peggy to get the first 2 pictures of the falls.

The little park is full of food & craft vendors but the views are worth the 10 peso (0.75) entrance fee. And its not that long of walk from camp.

Here is a picture from Pat & Mike

Saturday’s Driving Plans

Stopping for a rest on the Emerald Coast

The kayakers were driving back to Tampico to fly back to DC. Two paddlers stayed on and I could have run the Micos again but we were getting anxious to get to Catemaco. We got an early 7 AM start and had heavy traffic until we pulled off on this beautiful straight road to our El Higo short cut. After about 17 miles the road really got bad for 15 miles all the way until we almost got to MX127. They are rebuilding and repaving the road from that end. I guess the huge sugar cane trucks beat it to death. It sort of reminds me of Mountain Dale road by our cabin with twice as many potholes and some 6”-12” deep.

The weather since we entered Mexico has been great. No rain, high’s in high 70’s at the Micos but cloudy. Hot in high 80’s and sunny along the Veracruz coast.

WelcometoNeptuno

We got to our favorite campground on the Emerald Coast, Neptuno. This year we found lots of tropical storm damage, almost all their big palm trees have lost their tops. There is no Telcel internet signal reachable from here. There is an option to drive a few miles to the Italian Coffee Company where free wireless is available, or even better if you have a external modem with an antenna you can reach a signal from El Doral Hotel a few doors away. I was able to get the young boy, that helps out the campground owner, to ask the hotel what their password was. It worked for me. This Alfa Wi-Fi Adapter that I use, is only $20 and it brings in wireless from way further than any computer’s internal wireless card.

Neptuno_W

NeptunoPool_2014

There are no other campers here but the pool is busy with daytime visitors.
We parked up front this year since the day trippers were parked  where we normally camp, closer to the ocean.

There are sewers here and better electricity but there is more road noise at night.

Peggy got down to the beach, she is worried she won’t make it back up.

PegGotDown

All the hotels and campgrounds along the beach have lost about 5’-10’ of land, which included their steps, palapas and palm trees. There  are lots of trees down all along the beach. We took a 2 mile walk on the nice flat dark brown beach.

My girls keep asking why they never get to see me, I guess I take all the pictures. I had Peggy take this one to show them that I am alive and well.

John_EmeraldCoast

So early on Monday morning we expect to hit the road to Tepetapan Campground in Catemaco. Gene the campground owner, from Chicago, usually puts on a great Thanksgiving dinner.

Monday’s driving map & plans

Catemaco Veracruz–Beautiful Mountain Lake

TepetapanSign

It’s about a 5-6 hour drive from the Emerald Coast to Catemaco. The roads are improving every year but it is taking them years to build the bridges on MX180 near Veracruz.

We did some grocery shopping at the Soriana Super Market in San Andrés Tuxtla since it is easy to get in and out of their parking lot.

When you get to Catemaco, stay on MX180 don’t go into town. Right after a big Pemex you will see their sign, they are right down this side road second camp gate for RV’s.

Our little Phoenix Cruiser looks small compared the this big Class A from Mexico. We are the only two campers here and the owner. Gene Gaudi, is preparing a big Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday.

TepetapanCamp

The pools are set to go for the winter guests.

TepetapanPools

They also have some nice cabins for monthly or seasonal rental.

TepetapanCasitas

The lake is popular for taking boat rides and seeing the monkeys on one island.

LakeCatemaco

CatemacoLaunches

One block off the Malecon and 4 blocks from the campground, we found this little local restaurant with good food at a reasonable price. Peggy had a shrimp dinner and I had filet of fish Veracruzan style, tomatoes & onions with spices. We each had a Corona and the total price with the tip was only $15 USD.

RestaurantMaryCruz

Thanksgiving at Catemaco

View of the church from the town fishing dock.

CatemacoChurch

We got here on Monday and it was very hot & sunny, with temperatures reaching into the 90’so F. A big cool down came in on Tuesday and it threatened to rain but turned out dry, so we walked all over town. On Wednesday it was even cooler and it lightly rained on and off most of the day so we got in a lot of reading. The Low Thursday morning was 60o  and black clouds were around but no rain. The sun came out and it warmed to the low 70’s.

Gene’s annual potluck Thanksgiving dinner was another big success even though there were not many campers here this year.

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CatemacoThangsgiving2

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Friday’s Driving Plans

A Little Fog–Wrong Turn–Bad Day

We left Catemaco early in a light rain and fog. The traffic was light. But getting on the cuota at Acayucan is a little confusing. Once before I took the wrong ramp. So this time we see the sign that says turn left for Villahermosa, so I do. But, in the fog I turned too soon. I’m driving down the out ramp not the in ramp. So I need to make a U-turn but there are 3 young Mexicans that tried to direct me.

I didn’t see the low guardrail while backing up, BANG, I hit the corner of my bumper, and the guardrail was so low that when I pulled forward it caught onto the bumper and pulled the corner of the fiberglass bumper out from the RV and also broke one tail light.  But, I finally got turned around and even with their help managed to do a minor ding on the left hand bumper.

We made it out OK and into the correct turning lane which was about 50’ further down the highway. I guess when we get to our winter destination at Xpu-Ha we will need to have some fiberglass repair work done.

The roads were a little better this year but there were three long traffic tie ups. One near Minatitlan which was just a rough section of pavement that took 20 minutes because of all the heavy truck traffic. Another long delay was just before Villahermosa. They are building a new freeway interchange. I can’t see why it was so slow, no lanes were missing. The third delay was at the toll booth just East of Villahermosa. I’ll bet we lost a total of an hour but we still made it to our planned destination by 4:45PM. It was a long tough day’s drive.

The restaurant, Campestre Rest Bar-Familiar Maya, is 52 KM past Escarcega. It is back in the trees next to a lake and if you eat there you can camp for free. The fauna are Peacocks that roam freely around the grounds. This year the place looked closed and workman were putting up Christmas lights. We were the only ones eating there this evening. They had no shrimp so we ordered a breaded filet of fish dinner. The filet covered the entire plate with barely enough room for a small salad. Peggy could only eat half, it actually was pretty good.

On Saturday we woke up to clear skies and plenty of sun. We stopped to fill our Propane tank and do some grocery shopping in Tulum. We still got to our campground by 1PM. Our camp spot between Dierck and Carol was still available, so right in we went.

We now need a good rest and will see the beach on Sunday morning.

Checking out all the changes at Xpu-Ha La Playa

IMG_3394 (Custom)We haven’t got our sleep cycle adjusted yet to Central Standard time. It has been a two hour change from when we left Cleveland.

Our early morning walk on the beach found the workers picking up seaweed as usual.

Of course our little rest stop under the palapas at the end of the beach is still there but we could find any good seats to rest on yet.

Our Palapa Rest Stop

There was one lone Pelican.

Pelican

There was a new structure at Esencia, the small boutique hotel, right on the beach.

Esencia Lookout

The old water tower, bathrooms and two story beach structure that was between our camp and the beach has been leveled..

OldBuildingGone2 (Custom)

Top view from camp, bottom view from beach

OldBuildingGone (Custom)

Nicole & Stephan built a large palapa to cover their fifth wheel, making this the third big palapa in our camp. It’s starting to look like Paamul. Rob & Shirley’s little Sprinter RV on the right.

Stephan-Nicoles-Palapa

We heard that all summer long lots of Germans were passing through on their way to Central & South America. They have big military looking rigs and usually only stay for a short time.

German_Overlanders_Rvs