Monday, March 25, 2013

We left Mexico about a month too soon.

We stayed in Houston until we saw two nice driving days and then warm weather so we could unpack and clean up our motorhome. Well that plan went well. In fact the day after we got home it was sunny and 70oF. We washed up the RV, got everything unpacked and ready for summer storage but we kept the RV at home to fix a few problems we had along the way.

We had to get a new glass shelf for the refrigerator. One too many topes in Mexico, it just shattered. The good thing was it only cost $8 and it slides right in place. Some of the cheap cabinet latches broke but the manufacturer sent out free replacements including a few spares.. The third thing that happened was when we were slowly driving through a huge chuck hole in a construction zone the RV rocked side to side and hit my sewer macerator pump. It broke off 2 out of the 4 tabs that connect it to the sewer dump in place of a sewer hose. This was a little more expensive, $36, and a little tricky to disassemble. But I got that fixed even though it had turned much colder. In fact after that warm Sunday the temperature has stayed in the range of 25oF to 40oF.

The last reason the RV is still here at home is that I need to replace the circuit board in my Energy Management System. A surge blew the surge protector when another camper’s transformer shorted out in a rain storm and fed 250v back up the ground wire. Progressive Industries had agreed to send a new circuit board free and it looks simple to replace, however it’s been lost in the USPS system since the day we arrived home. Hopefully they will send another one since it doesn’t look like the USPS will ever find it along with two prescriptions from a mail order pharmacy that were lost on the same day.

Snow on March 25th

But here it is the end of March and we had a snow storm last night. Why did we come home so soon? Our kayak race that was supposed to take place yesterday was also delayed 2 weeks due to cold weather and lack of water in the river.

So the only other thing I have been doing besides my income taxes is reading books on my Kindle. Here is my review on a great book I just finished last night.

Precipice by Leland Davis

This story was a real surprise. Well written, good story line, lots of action and very unpredictable. I read the book since I am a kayaker and love to read mysteries and action thrillers. This book has it all. The main character is reminiscent of Lee Child’s “Jack Reacher”. It is a very believable action thriller and it would challenge the book/movie “Deliverance “ as the best plot which involves paddling. His other previous books were river guide books, so I knew the kayaking portions would be very believable. Non-paddlers who like action stories will love the story line. The whole story is a real page turner that kept me up late trying to finish it. It’s available for the Kindle for only $2.99.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Two day drive – Now Back Home

We have been at Rich & Tracey’s in Houston from Monday night to Friday morning. We watched the weather forecast all week looking to find 2-3 good driving days from Houston, TX to Cleveland, OH. This year I saw a short window of good driving weather coming up starting Thursday to Sunday. We decided that if we took the shortest route home we could make it to Jackson, TN in about 12 hours. Stay at a nice Wal-Mart/Sam’s with free Wi-Fi and then take another 10 hours to drive via Nashville, Louisville, Cincinnati and Columbus to Home.

It looked like Friday and Saturday would be dry and warm and Sunday would be the warmest day of the winter in Cleveland, great for cleaning up and unpacking. So we got an early 5:45 AM start. Houston traffic was light. Later in the day we saw some of the TX spring break campers getting an early start for the week but traffic was really light all day. There was one traffic delay on I-40 in Arkansas on the way to Memphis. We tried a detour route but I think if we would have just stayed on the freeway it would have been faster.

Saturday was nice; sunny and dry. We saw signs of last week’s snow storm around Cincinnati. We lost 1 hour going from CST to EST and with a few accident delays the drive took us 11 hours. On Sunday, we lost another hour to DST. I got to wash all the salt and grime off the RV while Peggy emptied all our food and clothes. I drained the water systems.

Rain is predicted for Monday and cold and snow later in the week. Now I have to start my exercise bike training to get ready for our annual kayak race which is in two weeks.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Now at Rich & Tracey’s in Houston

After a nice quiet night in the Harlingen Wal-Mart, we did some shopping in the morning. I got on the internet at the new Lowes store about 3 miles away. Our Keel-Hauler website got hacked and I had to remove the bad files. I hope it’s fixed. I drove a few blocks to fill my Propane tank. For those that don’t know, MX sells Butane instead of Propane. Most campers don’t know because MX just call it Gas. It works fine and mixes with no problem, but if you return to the Northern cold climates you may find that you can’t get any gas from your tank or  bottle. Butane has 0 pressure at 32oF. So always refill your tank with Propane when you return.

I heard from Rob, they overslept but made it OK to Soto, then today they made it to McAllen, TX. They had no problems driving or crossing the border.

We drove to Houston in the afternoon and had a nice dinner with their family.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Made in all the way to the USA on our Third Day

When we woke up at 5:00 AM at Neptuno we saw no lights in Rob & Shirley’s motor home but we discussed our route the night before and it looked too long to make it all the way to the border but a shorter day if we only drove to Soto de Marina.

When we were ready to leave after a good waffle breakfast, there was still no sign that they got up, so we figured they preferred to leave a little later, we really weren’t travelling together but taking the same route.

We pulled out about 6:10 AM and it was still dark but by the time we got to the Poza Rica bypass Quota the sun had risen and it looked like it was going to be a warmer sunny day. We made good time on all the roads which had some bad spots but get better each year. maybe because it was on a Sunday that the traffic was light and fast.

We were concerned that we would run into the same police scammers that Brenda did but we saw no police but we tried to go slow and stay in the right hand lanes but did drive through the middle of the town past the airport. The road in Altamira was rough but then was fine all the way to Aldama on MX-180. We had hoped that they would have made better progress widening & rerouting the road south of Soto. I swear they only finished about 10 more miles in the last year and a half.

We reached Soto at 2:30 in the afternoon. I got on the internet, rechecked anticipated driving time and figured if we didn’t get into any long inspection stops we could make the crossing at Los Indios before sunset. So off we went, again, no stops very light traffic except near Valle Hermosa where we bought the last cheaper Mexican gas. The only weird thing we experienced was right at the Mexican side of the border. We knew MX immigration was closed on Sunday here but we didn’t need to cancel our 10 year vehicle permit and didn’t think it would matter whether we turned in our FMM’s, since these were paid by the airline when we flew back to MX after the holidays. We figured we would pay the toll bridge and head right to the USA customs stop.

There were two MX military guys that stopped us right before the toll booth. The one said to turn off the engine which I did but asked me to step out of the car. He spoke no English, I barely speak a few words of Spanish but he understood my NO, I’m not getting out. Why inspect me to leave your country. He kept speaking very fast Spanish I kept saying no. So finally he waved me on to continue. I have no idea why he wanted me to get out.

There were way more cars waiting on the US side then I have ever seen at this crossing which the border people said was typical for a Sunday night. We got there about 6:30 and even with a drug dog search and several agents looking everywhere including in small spaces under my hood we cleared customs at 7:10PM, in time for a nice dinner at our favorite Bar-B-Q just down the road in San Benito, TX.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Second Travel Day we made it to the Emerald Coast

On Friday night after our 10 hour drive from Xpu-Ha, we got gas and parked with the big trucks at the Pemex Gas Station in Chiapas at the highway that goes to Palenque at about 4 PM and in rolled our friends from Xpu-Ha, Rob & Shirley.  They are going to travel to the Emerald Coast on Saturday and are planning the same route but we left while they fueled up in the morning. They caught us when we were filling up at the MX145 Cuota heading to Vera Cruz. We then stayed together all the way to camp.

The roads have been getting better each time I go this way. MX186 in Chiapas has been terrible but it is newly paved and it even had reflectors on the lane markers. This helped out since we left at 5:50 AM and it was cloudy, raining lightly and very dark until we got to Villahermosa. Since it was Saturday the traffic there was very light and fast. The rest of the Cuotas all the way to Acayucan were as good as they were on the way down. We had heard that MX145 after Acayucan was terrible but they have fixed much of the North bound side, not terrific since it is a toll road but not bad.

The one bad section is MX180 south of Veracruz. They are building new bridges and it will eventually have overpasses & interchanges with several of the major roads that it crosses. So now, it’s worse than usual with huge holes and even more helpers flagging you though the intersections. Two years ago they repaved MX180 north of Veracruz all the way to Nautla. It’s still a very narrow, winding road with lots of traffic but fortunately the pavement is still good and it had less than 1/3 the traffic that was traveling South bound. As a result today’s drive was about 9 3/4 hours instead of the 10 1/2 hours that I had planned. We camped at Neptuno Campground  about 3 mi north of Casitas.

We had 2 or 3 Federal Police blockades with portable radar units that we went through but no inspection stops or any military stops.

The rain stopped in the morning and the temperature was in the low 60’s. In Veracruz the sun came out and it was 79oF when we got to camp. We had a small cocktail hour before our dinners. Tomorrow we may still be traveling together and hope to make it through Tampico and up to Soto de Marina. We hope we don’t have trouble with the crooked police like Gerry & Brenda did yesterday. Read Brenda’s blog, she did good avoiding paying a bribe.

See Day 3 of our Trip Plans.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Trip Back to the USA, First Day on schedule

We got off to a good start on Friday morning. Pulling out of the campground at 6:05 AM at first light. I don’t even think anybody heard us leave. We said all our goodbyes on Thursday night.

Dierch says it takes only 8 hours, I said it always takes me 10 hours, which includes one gas stop and a short lunch stop. It took exactly 10 hours to the minute. No traffic most of the way. A little drizzle hit us in the last hour and the roads are the the worst in that area. But we made it safely and Peggy is going to cook a nice Grouper dinner. We never got stopped my any army or police stops.

Hopefully we won’t get parked in at this big Pemex truck stop so we can again leave when the sun rises. It’s a popular rest stop. There is a good signal for our Telcel Banda Ancha.

We were just getting dinner ready at about 5:30 PM when Rob & Shirley rolled in. They went to Isla Mujeres yesterday and camped just North of Cancun, so they had about an extra hour & a half to drive. Long day for them.

See Day 2 of our Trip Plans. We hope to be at the Emerald Coast this time tomorrow.