Sunday, December 27, 2009

Family Christmas in Ohio


Pam, Meg, Peggy and Joan celebrating Christmas at Joan’s home.


All eleven Grandkids ready for Santa Claus.
GrandKidsXmas Sierra, Erika, Devan, Jeffrey, Eve, Jett, Elena, Leah, John, Mandy & Jake


Erika and Jeff


Elena and Eve with their dolls.


Mandy, Pam and Leah

Snow finally came on December 27th, only a week and we will be back in Mexico where it’s warm.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Happy New Year


Trying out my new 2010 blog. The blog contains all my posts starting with November 2009 for our RV trip to Mexico.

Note I posted a slide show that can be viewed using this link. Slideshow from Fall 2009 Mexico Trip

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Feliz Navidad - Merry Christmas

We are back in Ohio for a family Christmas and wanted to wish all the readers of our blog a Merry Christmas. Here is a little entertainment for your pleasure.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Invaded by Mexican College Students

Late afternoon on Sunday two big tour buses rolled in with 100 college students from Mexico City on some kind of one week class. It was good for MecoLoco but bad for us three campers. They began to set up their dozens of tents everywhere, including within a few feet of our campers. They seemed fairly quiet until the ones behind our camper started drinking.

By about 11 pm we got pretty tired of listening to the loud laughter, Peggy went out and seemed to quiet them down for the night, although at 2 AM, I could still hear them. I said, I’ll bet they don’t get up at 6 AM when the sun rises and we get up. Wrong, somebody got them up for their group breakfast which wasn’t even served until 9 AM. They went to Chichen-Itza for the day and one of their buses broke down so they didn’t return until 1:30 AM.

We left, while they were still in camp, to walk around the city of Cancun. When we were here 24 years ago, the city had a few stores and some residential streets where the people that worked in the new hotels that were being built in the hotel zone lived. That year there were 1500 hotel rooms, 18,000 inhabitants and 100,000 tourists. Now, there are 24,000 hotel rooms and 500,000 residents and millions of tourist visits. They now have several large malls, hospitals and thousands of small stores. It is a big metropolis. After our long walk we caught a bus and then a collectivo (mini-van) back to camp.

When we got back to our RV we found that someone had sat on our little aluminum end table and totally destroyed it. The next day we asked the students camped near us if they did it, all of a sudden they couldn’t understand English. We found their instructor who promised to pay for it, but I checked and couldn’t find any company that sells this nice light weight aluminum table any longer. Now I’ll wait to see if he actually pays for it. Cost me about $25, two years ago.

The one good thing is that their instructor made them move their tents far away from our RV. Of course they were even louder and stayed up to 4 AM but we could barely hear them.

We will print up our boarding passes today and get our small backpacks ready to fly out on Thursday at noon. We have no winter clothes with us so will will freeze when we get to the 30oF weather in Cleveland. We will have to catch a collectivo to the bus station and then an airport bus. We will leave our RV here until we return on January 3rd. Hopefully, like last year, everything will be OK.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

El Día de La Virgen de Guadalupe

The people in Mexico seem to like to celebrate a lot. From our first week in La Pesca where they had a big Independence Day parade to the past week driving through the Yucatan where we came across parade after parade. We saw bicyclists on the Cuota (turnpike) with large pictures of the virgin on their backs.
We went out to dinner on Friday, December 11th and drove past at least 5 different parades going down Ave Bonampak. On Saturday morning a small parade came right past our campground to the little church up the road which has ocean front property. This was all to celebrate their big holiday, Dec 12th in honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe feast day.
Here is a video showing some of the scenes that we have seen in the past week filmed by the website Yucatan Living, Virgin Video the site includes some explanation of the holiday and how they filmed it. The video is at the bottom of their page.
Our free dinner was at a pre-opening of Chili’s new restaurant at the big mall, Plaza Las Americas. The campground owner knew someone who gave him the coupons for free dinners. John & Elsie have a pickup truck, so we went out to dinner with them. The dinner was free so that they could practice with their new staff, a day before their grand opening. We got to select from 4 different menus and it was all free. They gave us a bill so we could see what it would have cost and so we could leave an appropriate tip for our young waiter, who was really trying to learn better English. Of course his English was already ten times better than my Spanish.
I didn’t have high expectations since I had eaten at a Chili’s in the states and it was so bad I couldn’t eat it. All of our meals were great. I had Salmon, Peggy a big hamburger, Elsie had a huge chicken salad and John had a huge appetizer .
We did a 16 mi round trip bike ride on Friday out along Isla Blanca to a little tent campground with small cabins and a restaurant called Captain Morgan’s. They have a great beach where you could walk for miles and never see another person. Peggy was very tired from the heat and her first long bike ride. On Sunday we did half the ride and she sprinted though with no problems. It is cool in the morning but by the time you get back it gets pretty hot. If fact, when we got back we turned on our A/C since at 9AM it was already 90oF.

We took an afternoon beach walk. I’ll try to take some more pictures tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Cancun – MecoLoco

See Map9

MecoLoco campground early Tuesday. We camped next to our friends John & Elsie who we met along the way last year.

We will stay here until we fly home on Thursday 12/17.  When we return from our holiday, we plan to stay here until 1/08/10, this way we can get their low monthly rate. John will keep and eye on our camper while we’re gone.
Mariano, the campground owner, keeps the place very clean. He just rewired many of the campsites so they have 30 amp service but still only a 20 amp plugs. The power is good enough to run your A/C.

I did a little vegetable shopping on my bike today. A nice stand with low prices is in Puerto Juarez about 2-1/2 mi away.

There is a problem with beach access, the homes across the street completely blocked anyway to get to the beach so you need to walk 1/4 mi up to the little Catholic Church which has beach front property. Peggy and I walked up there and down the beach for about a mile walk today.

Last year we did some nice bike rides out on Isla Blanca which is a new condo complex just past the Punta Sam ferry to Isla Mujeres.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Loltun Cave – Near Merida

Monday morning we broke camp at Uxmal and headed along the Puuc Route to Loltun Cave. It is the largest cave in the Yucatan. The road signs were good as well as the road until we got near the cave. I think there is another route without all the big chuckholes by going a little further on a better road.
They do their tours once an hour and you are required to have a guide that they say to tip at the end of the tour. The entrance fee was very reasonable and AFTER you pay a English speaking guide wandered up and said his fee is 600 pesos which is almost $50 for a 1-1/2 hour tour. There was another couple who didn’t think the fee was unreasonable so I did not have the opportunity to negotiate a better price. The guide said, if more people were here the price would stay the same, but whether you have 1 or 20 the group MUST still tip him 600 pesos.
Actually the tour was quite good. It is a very large multi-passage cave and the lighting was OK except that most of the time it shined in our eyes making walking the rough terrain a little hard. Along the way this dog started to follow us and kept jumping at my heels. At one point, for no apparent reason, the dog runs up behind Peggy and jumps up on her almost knocking her over. I pushed the dog down, he yelped and ran away. A woman on the tour with us then came and scolded me for abusing the dog. She could care less that Peggy was scratched and almost knocked down.  A real animal lover,
just doesn’t care much for people. I kept hoping the dog would come back and bite her to see if she might change her animal activist ways. We saw Ancient paintings that they probably redo every few years.

After the tour we decided to drive up toward Valladolid to see some cenotes (caves full of water) and tour the city. The short road back to the MX-180 was OK, but slow through all the small towns. So when we got to Piste (Location of Chichen Itza) we decide to stop at the Stardust Inn RV park. What a joke. It used to have power, water, sewers and bathrooms with hot showers. Now, nothing works but it is a nice level grassy field and cost 80 pesos to dry camp.

We were getting tired of the bad roads and saw all the churches, ruins, caves and busy little towns that we cared to, so when we awoke in the morning we drove over to the 4-lane Cuota (turnpike) and happily paid the  $20  toll and head all the way to Cancun and MecoLoco RV park. We stopped to fill our water tanks with bottled water and get fuel. We made it there in 3 hours and it was a very easy drive.
We intend to pay for a month. However we will leave our RV for 18 days when we fly back home for the holidays. We did this last year and our friends John & Elsie, camped right next to us, again agreed to keep an eye on our camper. MecoLoco now has free Wi-Fi so I’m catching up on all my website updates.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Uxmal – Mayan Ruins & Show

See Map8

Our last visit here was 23 years ago. We remembered that we enjoyed the ruins and the Sound and Light show in the evening. So if you don’t like driving in the dark, the best thing to do is just dry camp in their RV parking lot. We got here early after our bike ride in Merida and checked out the restaurant menu next door and got the password for their free Wi-Fi signal.

I tried to join their band of merry men.

After I caught up on my E-mails and blog we took a tour of the ruins.  They didn’t seem as large as we remembered them but Uxmal was the first Mayan ruin that we had ever seen and since then we have visited Chichen-Itza, Palenque, Copan and Tikal all of which are larger. It was a warm day, sunny and 85oF, but there was a nice breeze. We took our time and rested in the windy shade quite often. There was hardly anyone here, we felt we had the place to ourselves.

I climbed up to the top of The Great Pyramid to get this aerial view. We went back to  the camper cleaned up and headed across the parking lot to dinner. Peg had a nice big fish dinner while I had pasta with shrimp. Usually I get the fish and she gets the shrimp.

During dinner several tour buses came rolling in, so when we got back to the ruins we met a large crowd waiting for the sound and light show which promptly starts at 7PM. Too bad we don’t understand Spanish as the story being told was in Spanish. Something about the Mayans needing water and praying to their rain god Choc. The sound of the lightening and rain was quite realistic. Tough to take pictures in the dark but here is my try.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Sunday Bike Ride in Merida

A few years ago they started a tradition of closing off the streets through the center of town and out the grand boulevard of Paseo De Montejo on Sundays from 8AM to 12:30PM.

Read these two stories;  and , click for a Route Map. It sounded like a fun thing to do. So we planned the trip so we would be in Merida on a Saturday night and broke camp about 7:30AM to drive our RV and bikes to a side street at the most northern part of the route. 

We started and rode by the beautiful old mansions on the boulevard.

Exactly at 8AM all the streets are blocked and volunteers are at every intersection motioning when to go or stop. The route was very easy to follow and people were jogging, walking and riding. They were almost all local residents. 

The entire round trip is only 7 mi. but you can shop along the way, especially at all the craft stands in the central Zocalo. It was a much more pleasant way to see the city, especially after spending Saturday being crushed by the thousands of shoppers at the central market.
We were back to the RV and on our way by 9:30AM, there was still not much traffic and it was an easy ride on Circuito Colonias to make our way out the SW part of the city to head for the large Mayan ruin of Uxmal. We plan to tour, go out to dinner and see the sound and light show at the ruins. Camping is only 120 pesos, which is only 70 pesos more than just for parking for the day. The 111 peso/person entry fee covers both day tour and the show, Dinner at the Lodge at Uxmal was good. and they allowed me to use their wireless internet which I can reach at my campsite.

Two Days in Merida

We caught a bus on Saturday morning to go down to the old central city. They had carriage tours available but we opted for the free 9:30 AM, 2 hour walking tour around the buildings surrounding the Zocalo.

The knowledgeable guide could speak fluent English and Spanish. He had to repeat in both languages for us, a Japanese couple, a women from Guadalajara and three young women from Europe.
We learned about how the Spaniards crushed the Mayans and tried to erase their cultural history.

Oldest House in Merida
We took a tour here 23 years ago on our first trip to Mexico. This is the first time we had a chance to return to the city. It has grown and the shopping seems to have deteriorated into hundreds of stores selling mostly trashy items probably imported from China. The last time all the men wore Guaybera shirts and the women wore Huipile dresses.

This time everyone just wore normal casual clothes. The last time the big three items everyone was selling was Shirts, Hammocks and Panama Hats. Now we barely saw a store selling them.

It was Christmas time and they blared carols everywhere and had all the decorations up. I’m not sure what these guys were up to but the looked cute so I took their picture.

On Sunday they close the main road through the old town and people can ride their bikes for about 4 mi past all the old mansions built by the rich Sisal producers in the early part of the 20th century. This is where all the rope came from before synthetic materials replaced the natural fibers.
We hope to break camp early Sunday, find a place to park our RV and ride our bikes around the town. I’ll try to post this from one of the many Internet cafes.

We then plan to drive South to the large Mayan ruin of Uxmal and camp in their parking lot and go to the evening sound and light show.

The Worst Road in All of Mexico

See Map7

We laid out a good plan for Thursday. Get to Campeche early, find a place to park the RV, tour the old city within the walls of the pentagon shaped fort. Then head along the coast road toward Becal where they make the Panama Hats and head to Celestun where they have flocks of pink flamingos and camp over night in the tour boat parking lot.

We found the Visitor center in Campeche with a huge empty parking lot just before 8 AM when it opened. The friendly tourist person gave us the info we needed. We took in the sites and made our way back to the RV about 10 AM. We found that the parking lot was not only full but they were parking in the middle, behind all of the cars. How the heck will we get out I thought, there were cars behind me and alongside of me. Peggy noticed that the curb was low so that we could pull on to the grass and then squeeze out.

We were on our way. The coast road was fast and smooth, the road to Becal was even better, we got there about 11AM. I thought we could find a place making hats but all we found was narrow streets, oh well lets move on.

The signs said take this nice road toward Merida but I have two GPS programs that said take this shorter road that goes more directly to Celestun and save 40 miles. How could they lead me wrong. There were a few very slow towns with lots of Tope’s (speed bumps) but no traffic, things were going well, but a little slow but it was forty miles shorter. It only took me 30 min to get through the 10 mi of small towns, not too bad.

Then the road turned to SHIT. The road narrowed to the width of my RV, sure hope we don’t meet any other cars, we still had 20 mi to go to hit the main road. The pot holes became craters, the craters eliminated any pavement but we pushed on not wanting to take the 30 min to go back and the extra 40 mi of road because maybe it will get better, It got worse. For my kayaking friends, the road to Rockville by the Big Sandy would be smooth in comparison. I glad the RV has a lot of clearance, because some of the holes were 6” deep. We finally made it meeting only one small truck and a few motorcycles along the way. It took 2 hours to go only 20 mi, don’t take any Mexican short cuts.

Frigate Bird
Even with all of this we made it to Celestun by 2PM. They said we could camp in their lot and we agreed to take a boat tour until he quoted me a $100 price for a two hour tour for the two of us. I only had 500 pesos on me at the time, about $40. A boatman agreed to that price and only cut out 30 min from the tour by going faster.
He was great, he could speak English and was very knowledgeable of the birds and mangroves. It was well worth the boat trip but not the shortcut drive to get here. Stay on the wide roads.
Here is a You-Tube video about Celestun that I saw on Francois and Emily's Blog. We met them in La Pesca, and camped with them on the Emerald Coast and at Catemaco.
Rosette Spoonbill
We camped overnight in the Visitor Center parking lot in Celestun. We ran into another camper from Quebec that we have seen at two other camps. We are hitting about the same sites that they are along the way.

Young Pelicans have no color
On Friday morning we did a short 2 hour drive to Merida. We pulled into the large Rainbow RV Campground. There was only one other camper there. We walked to a large upscale Mall and Department store next to the campground and then walked down the 4-lane road to another mall with a big grocery store. We stocked up on food and some alcohol. Our load was heavy and we waited for a bus back to camp but got impatient and just took a short cab ride.
We will stay here two nights but there is no internet available at the campground, if I post this it's from some place in Merida on Saturday.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Club Nautico outside of Campeche

See Map 6

Only a short 2hr-15min drive to Club Nautico from Isla Aguada. The roads were great and there was very little traffic. We thought we might stay for two days and take a Collectivo (Minivan bus) into town on Thursday but we didn’t really care for the place even though it was one of the fanciest campgrounds we have seen. They even have 50 amp service so you could run your A/C which was needed since there was no shade and it was over 90oF.
They have a weak free Wi-Fi signal that I could reach if I sat under a tree near our camper.

The place is really an athletic club with a pool, tennis courts, weight room and game room but in the winter it is like a ghost town with a few RV’rs making use on the place at 350 pesos per night.

There is no beach here for any long walks, so unless we change our mind again we will drive into Campeche about 8 mi away in the morning and try to find someplace to park near the old city that is surrounded by walls.

We would then head over to Celestun to see the Pink Flamingoes.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Isla Aguada – No Internet

See Map5
It was a 320 mi - 8 1/2 hour drive from Catemaco to Isla Aguada from Catemaco. Some like to break it up into a two day drive and stop overnight in Villahermosa, like our new friends from British Columbia did. They stayed in a very noisy Wal-Mart parking lot. They left on Saturday at noon and we left Sunday at 6:40 AM. They arrived a few hours before we did.
Freedom Shores RV Park promised Wi-Fi just like last year and just like last year I couldn’t find any internet service anywhere in town. The next day we did a beach walk and on Tuesday Peggy and I took a bike ride around the town. Our friends invited us to happy hour at their RV’s next to us. Lot’s of fun discussing the roads and police in Mexico.
Finally found a small internet place that caters to the local school children, it opens from 5pm – 9pm. Wed morning we leave for a Club Nautica campground outside of Campeche.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Last Day in Catemaco

Boy does time fly. It seems like we just got here and a week has flown by. We have to get moving so that we can be in Cancun in two weeks. We fly home for the Christmas holidays. So we are going to pull out of here early Sunday morning to head for Isla de Aguada.
It finally got sunny and warm on Saturday. Thursday and Friday were cool with off and on rain. Sunnyvz who stays in a Casita here year around, suggested that we take our kayaks out on the lake. She would paddle her new inflatable kayak with  Bev who has the Casita next door.

Bev put our kayaks in the back of her minivan and we drove to the lakeshore about 1/2 mi away. We paddled from town and enjoyed all the birds and views from the lake.

If the whole picture is not visible, double click to bring up a bigger picture. Catemaco on the shores of Catemaco Lake.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thangsgiving at Tepetapan

It was another dreary drizzly day in Catemaco but our spirits brightened considerably when the campground owner, Gene, invited us to enjoy his big Thanksgiving dinner with all his guests.

I guess each year Gene cooks up a couple of turkeys with all the trimmings to share with his friends and guests.

Everyone brought their own wine and drinks and had a great time making friends with Canadians and Mexicans celebrating the US Holiday.
A great party, great food and great new friends.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Catemaco – The crowd just left

We pulled into Tepetapan RV Park about 1 PM, greeted by Gene the campground owner. The sites along the wall were almost full, really unusual for this early in the season. He indicated that some were leaving tomorrow and we could then have the nice patio site above the river. Well, actually 5 campers left all heading in different directions. One couple, I forgot their names, were heading all the way to Honduras to Trujillo. This is where Christopher Columbus landed in 1503, the only time he actually landed in America.

So all there was left was another RV and us. We met Sunny, a gal who lives year around in one of the Casitas (Cabins). She and her friend Beth both have a couple of kayaks and said maybe we could paddle together on Friday.
Peggy and I took a walk to town down the Malecon (Walkway along the lake) to see if much was changed since we were here last year. It was a dreary dark day so there weren't many boatman trying to interest us in a boat trip to see the monkeys on the islands.
The power in the campground is 137 Volts so my EMS will not let me have any power. Also the site I moved to had the polarity reversed on the power plug but I have a polarity switcher I made myself for just such an occasion. Peggy wanted to bake some Brownies in our convection microwave so I came up with a plan. I plugged our waffle iron into a second outlet on the power plug and it reduced the line voltage to 131V, Voila the EMS turned on the power to the RV and she made some wonderful brownies to go with our big Pork dinner tonight and for tomorrow’s turkey dinner. We brought leftover turkey, gravy and dressing with us to celebrate Thanksgiving in Mexico.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

On our way to Catemaco

See Map4
We decided that the weather was a little dreary and we had taken our beach walk. I rode my bike to pick up some cash from a ATM machine (Cajera Automatica) at a Pemex a couple of miles away. We washed all the road grime from the RV and are ready to be on the road by 7AM. This should put us in Catemaco after lunch.
We will stop at the hotel Playa Azul to see if they still have camping spots but will probably end up at Villas Tepetapan where we stayed last year.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Attempted Bite in Tampico

See Map3

I forgot to really tell yesterday's travel story. Traffic was really light until we passed Altamira coming into Tampico. I was in the passing lane of a 4-lane divided highway but going around the speed limit. Lots of trucks were in the right lane when a policeman waved me over. He started speaking rapidly in Spanish, of course, and the gist of what I caught was that I'm supposed to travel in the right lane. He asked for my driver's license and began to ask where are we going, and don't we have any money. I told him Cancun and nothing else. He inferred the ticket would be costly and mar my driving record but I just said OK give me a ticket. I then handed him a copy of this logo. He talked some more and handed both back and said stay in the right lane, adios.

We decided to take the Tampico bypass so I wouldn't get stopped again by driving through the city. The bypass was improved slightly but it was still a bumpy long way to go. MX-180 south of Tampico was much improve, not a lot of chuck holes but a wavy pavement. Traffic was really heavy until we got off the Alamo bypass then it was light again. Without the traffic cop stop it would have taken exactly 9 hours as we planned.