Monday, July 13, 2015

We are not heading back to Mexico for the 2015-16 Winter season.

We have travelled to Mexico for 14 years, mostly in our RV’s. The last seven winters were spent in the Yucatan, since we loved the white sand beaches. We had lots of good experiences all over Mexico but we wanted to try something different this year. If it doesn’t work out we probably will come back to Mexico next year.

We used to spend a lot of winters in Florida. Even when I was working full time, we managed to get away for Christmas or Easter breaks with our kids.  By my count we have been to Florida 16 different times but we have not spent as many days RV’ing in FL.

The last time we went down during the winter season we found it very hard to find campsites south of Tampa where it is warmer than Northern or Central FL. But it is still not as warm as the Yucatan in the winter. This year we may reserve a few camp sites in hard to get into parks and still fly home at Christmas time. We hope that all the camps will be Federal, State, or County parks. I will try to Blog and post pictures like I did here. But I will be using a new Blog URL.

http://khflorida.blogspot.com/  I just added a post with a tentative itinerary.

So if you don’t see any more posts here, go our new blog and please feel free to post comments.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Some Folks Get Tired Of The Rain

This old Tanya Tucker song keeps rolling through my mind. I guess since it has been so damn rainy. We were at our camp watching the weather report which was predicting 3 more days of cool rainy weather in the south, We were going to stay here at Kincaid Lake for one more night but everything was so wet that we decided if it stopped raining for a few hours we would drive to Natchez and get on the internet at the visitor center and then drive to Rocky Springs Campground at milepost 55. Most of the drive was dry but we didn’t leave until after lunch so we didn’t get there until 5:30 PM. It started to pour again and was still raining in the morning.

So, nothing to do here either in the rain so we bypassed our planned camping at Jeff Busby, mile 195, and continued all the way to Meriwether Lewis campground at mile 385. We stopped at the visitor center in Tupelo to access the internet and stop for gas. It rained hard the entire 330  mile trip. The good thing about the Trace is there is no commercial traffic and very few cars. We passed no one and two cars past us the entire way. The speed limit is 50 mph which was fine for a rainy day.

We had our nice left over dinner of spaghetti and watched TV in the rain. It was still raining in the morning but when we got to Nashville the heavy rain had finally stopped and when we reached Louisville, KY the sun was shinning. We decided to stay at a Wal-Mart in Carrolton and continue to home on Sunday. There is no rain is predicted. We will stop at Betsy Priem Chisholm’s to drop off a package for Rich and hope to be home by mid-afternoon. Cleveland weather report says cool & cloudy but it should be warmer & sunny while we unpack on Monday.

We have been away from home for four months and really do miss our big family.

 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Back in the Cool-Wet South

After some shopping in Harlingen, TX we drove to my cousin Rich’s home in Houston on Wednesday afternoon . It was a sunny and warm drive but on Thursday the cool wet weather moved in. No bike rides or outdoor activities, so Rich bought a new home theater receiver and I helped him hook it up to their TV, DVD, I-phones, computers, and their existing speaker systems. It took us 2 days but Rich was pretty happy with the results.

FinnTraceyDane

I didn’t take many pictures but here is one I got of Tracey with her two youngest, Finn & Dane, before we went out to eat at Lupi Tortilla’s, our favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, a short walk away.

We spent 6 nights there but got sick of the cold and rainy weather.

It finally cleared on Monday night We  left Rich's on Tuesday morning after rush hour. I was surprised how light the traffic through Houston was at 9 AM.

We had a nice 5-1/2 hr. drive to the same campground in Louisiana that we stayed in last year, Kincaid Lake in Kisatchie NF. It is one of the few National Forest camps that we have run into with 30-50 amp power and HOT showers. The camp fees are only $15/night or half that for Golden Age Passport holders.

We are planning on taking the Natchez Trace Parkway, a linear National Park, for a  relaxing drive North. It is a limited access parkway with no truck traffic and no stop signs or cross roads for 444 miles from Natchez, MS to near Nashville, TN. There are three free primitive campgrounds along the way.

Kincaid Lake is right on our way. It’s 150 miles NE of Houston and 90 miles due west of Natchez. We got the same campsite as we did last year and were finally able to wash off all the road grime and dirt that we got from driving out of Mexico.

KincaidRV

They have nice hiking trails but they were a little soggy from last week’s rain. It was cool but dry. We took about a three mile walk, past the fishing docks, and swimming beach which doesn’t open yet for a few weeks.

Peggy_KincaidDock

SmokeyBear1

We didn’t see any eagles in their big nest along the trail and we didn’t see Smokey Bear either like last year.

We had dry weather on Tuesday & Wednesday but thunderstorms blew in on Thursday morning. So we decided rather than leave in the rain we would wait until Friday morning to drive to Jeff Busby National Park Campground on the Natchez Trace Parkway. It is about a 6 hour drive to milepost 193.

See Map of Planned Route.

My daughter Joan sent me this picture of our driveway up in Ohio. I hope the snow is gone before we get back home, possibly on Sunday night, March 15th.

Housesnow30915

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Back to the USA

Our third day on the road went according to plan. The sun rises later as we traveled west so we didn’t leave until 6:30 AM as it was just getting light. MX 180 from Cerro Azul to Naranjos is nothing but topes and chuckholes. It was a little drizzly and foggy and heavy truck and bus traffic. As we got closer to Tampico the road got better and faster. We went through town and did not get stopped by any police, but traffic was really heavy and slow. Finally when we got to Altamira, traffic lightened up and chuck holes reappeared. Once on MX 80, 81 & 83 traffic was light and fast. MX101 was very fast and we had a short stop at the big MX military stop on MX180, one guy came in looked in a few cupboards and we were on our way. The light rain and dirty roads caused our nice clean RV to be covered with black dirt.

We got to the border at 4 PM, then the fun started. When I went to turn in my MX FMM he saw it was not from driving but from an airline. He wanted to charge me. I explained the airline provides it fully paid as part of fare. He looked all over in the passport until he could match up the dates and said OK. Then I gave him Peggy’s, she was in the RV. He didn’t even look at it and stamped it. But that was nothing. Now USA crossing. Absolutely no line, that’s why we like the Los Indios crossing. But they have a policy, all RV’s get a secondary inspection.

Mine got a  tertiary inspection. First they did a walk though and found one potato but everything else was fine but we needed to have the rig x-rayed at the truck area. That’s not too bad but then the 2 bonehead inspectors tore into every cupboard, refrigerator, leaving things out and in disarray. Tossed the beds, went into every outside compartment including sewer, propane, batteries. They left some open to flap in the breeze, if I hadn’t checked them. Why in the world x-ray if you can’t figure it out. It took an hour to get through and they were rude besides. I guess Peggy and I look like drug smugglers, or maybe our dirty RV bothered them.

So was this route safe? We saw no accidents, dozens of police and military on all of these roads. Plenty of truck and bus traffic, not a lot of people in vehicles. I still think this is better than going all the way to over 9000’ in the mountains and paying $100 more in tolls while driving 100 miles out of our way.

If we didn’t have to go through USA customs it would have been perfect but I expect there are stupid rude USA border agents across all of our borders.

After a nice Bar-B-Que dinner at our favorite restaurant we stayed overnight at the Harlingen, TX Wal-Mart.

These are the plans for all 3 days of Driving out of Mexico in case you missed the others.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Monday Night in Cerro Azul

We left the balneario campground in Villahermosa at 6:15 AM, it was just getting light. The traffic was light and there were no big delays. No military or police inspections, they just waved us through.

Seems like we stopped a lot for gas and my pesos are running low.Hope we have enough pesos to make it to the border to buy some cheap Texas gasoline.

It was another 11 hour day, a little light rain near Vera Cruz. A big surprise, they finished the last overpass on the MX180 bypass of Vera Cruz, but you still have to drive over the train tracks. There is a fairly new bypass around Cardel, it's marked Poza Rica. Saved driving through the slow intersection in town.

We got to the Condado Auto Hotel & campground just before 5 pm, after stopping to buy a liter of orange blossom honey in Alamo. There were hundreds of Topes today and we sure stirred up our cupboards and refrigerator.

There is no wireless here and we didn't try the electricity. Camping is 150 pesos/night. The Telcel Banda Ancha worked fine for the internet.

So here are our plans for Tuesday

Cerro Azul to Los Indios - Day 3
Mexico Trip Map 14_3a
City City Miles Hours
Cerro Azul S Tampico 90 2:00
S Tampico Altamira 45 1:15
Altamira MX83/81 Xicotencati turn 57 1:05
Xicotencati turn on MX-81 To Ciudad Victoria-MX101/83 Interchange 60 1:10
MX101/83 Interchange MX180/101 Intersection 75 1:30
MX180/101 Intersection Los Indios 120 2:15
Los Indios Harlingen 15 0:45
       
Cerro Azul Harlingen 462 10:00

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Second Day of Our Drive Back Toward TX.

The drive the first day was great. Light traffic, 4 police stops with one question where are we going and each one waved us on. The roads were really good, about 7 miles of slower roads on MX186 in Tabasco.

The military stop at the Palenque turn had just closed. at 3:15 PM. They were all jumping into their trucks and waved us on. A few chuckholes here and there but no traffic going through Villahermosa. We got to the Balneario-Recreativo El Gordo  N side KM158 at 5 PM, an 11 hour drive from our early morning start at sunrise, 6 AM.

The cars were pouring out of the water park (Balneario), Actually 6 PM would be a better time to arrive, they were all gone by then. They have fast wireless internet ask them for the password. Camping cost is 250 pesos per night. We didn’t bother hooking up our electric. I remember last year it was without a ground and not high enough amperage to run a microwave.

Peggy put together a great spaghetti dinner with real Italian sausage we brought from home.

A large Toyhauler 5th wheel from Ontario came in after us. They said they got stopped driving through town. Big rigs are supposed to use the truck route, Periferico. They wouldn’t pay the $100 bribe and asked for a ticket, so the cops let them go. NEVER PAY “the Bite”, bribe.

This is the plan for Day 2 of our drive toward TX.

Villahermosa to Cerro Azul - Day 2
Mexico Trip Map 14_2a
City City Miles Hours
Villahermosa Acayucan 140 2:50
Acayucan S of Veracruz 145 3:00
S of Veracruz Emerald Coast 100 3:00
Emerald Coast Cerro Azul 100 2:45
Totals Day 2 485 11:20

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

We played Around & Laid Around This Ol’ Town too Long

And I feel like we gotta travel on. Well, as the song says we need to finally start heading toward the cold north. Not too fast though. On Sunday we will pull up stakes after 3 months on the beach at Xpu-Ha and start heading west, yes west for 3 days to get to the Texas border.

Xpu-Ha to Villahermosa - Day 1
Mexico Trip Map 14_1

City City Miles Hours
Xpu-Ha Bacalar 150 3:30
Bacalar Escarcega 175 3:45
Escarcega MX186-MX199
(Palenque Turn)
120 2:45
MX186-MX199 Villahermosa Balneario 80 1:40
Totals Day 1 525 11:40

It's a lot of driving but we expect it to be hot, so we would rather travel in a A/C vehicle than sitting in a hot Campground or Pemex (Gas Station) parking lot. We expect to drive only during the day and if we are delayed, we will just stop at a safe location for the night. On the west side of Villahermosa there is a balneario (swimming/water slide park) named Balneario-Recreativo El Gordo, it’s on the North side on MX180 at KM 158. This should let us leave in the morning without driving through the big city.

These are the plans for all 3 days of Driving out of Mexico

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Another Day in Paradise

10_MX13_JohnHammock

Not a lot has been going on here, that’s why I’ve not taken any pictures.

We walk on the beach every morning after it warms up. We watch the workers haul the sea weed or Sargassum off the beaches to make the beach walkable.

Seaweed_Xpu-Ha1

It seems this year huge piles are accumulating on beaches all over the Caribbean. Small amounts are good for the wildlife while big piles on the beaches are not. It really piles up on our beach when we get heavy winds from the East.

But after they clean it up and bury it we may have weeks of none at all.

This has been a cooler dryer year so far, only one rain storm. I collected enough rain water to rinse the salt off the RV. Daytime highs around 80oF with lows in the high 50’s.

We read our books on our Kindles in the afternoon. They are the best thing we ever bought, it probably saved hauling around 50 lbs. of books and most we have got free.

We bum rides and go shopping either at the Chedraui super market a few miles up the road or in Playa del Carmen, 20 minutes away.

We go to Pizza Leos on Friday nights or to several other local restaurants in the area.

Gerry & Ann hosted a Super Bowl party with his new TV and Canadian Dish. Ann made her famous Xpu-Ha chili. Good game this year. Rob & Shirley cheered their Patriot team to victory.

When the waves get less than 4’ in the bay, I paddle my river kayak for a couple of hours to stay in shape.

Not a Good Week for Campground Dogs

Correlle

Correlle, one of dogs had a large tumor on her belly. One of the other dogs decided to bite it while the had a little fight. It was torn open and got infected before anyone decided to take it to a vet. in Playa. After a few days she didn’t get better and passed away.

BlondieAlso Blondie, who was Correlle’s sister, who has been cared for by Sigrid, who camps here all year had problems..

Sigrid was in Germany this summer and when she returned she found that Blondie was not her old self but very thin and didn’t fatten up under her care.

After a visit to the vet. Blondie was found to have inoperable cancer. She died one week after Correlle.

We have 5 new campers who arrived during the past week from MI., Ontario & Quebec. Most had been camping further south at Mahahual.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

RV Bumper Finally Repaired

Here is the story from our 11/29/14 blog, about the damage I did in the fog in Acayucan.

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 I managed to do another 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.

2_RightBumperDamage

Right Side damage shown above, Left side is below.

1_LeftBumperDamage

We were missing both side marker lights, one tail light and a small fiberglass piece that the side drawer slides against. Before Christmas I wrote our RV manufacturer Phoenix Cruiser and had them ship the parts to my home so we could bring them back after Christmas with our family. The cost for everything with shipping was only $40. Love this company, they are easy to deal with and know what they are doing and their prices are very inexpensive.

Well in January we finally got a guy that repairs boats at Xpu-Ha to  stop by and agree to fix it. No price estimate was established.

A week ago Monday he finally showed and asks for some money to buy fiberglass supplies and started working on and off for the past 10 days. I took pictures as it finally all came back together.

3_LeftBumper15_LeftBumper24_RightBumper16_RightBumper27_RightBumperPaint8_RightBumperComplete9_RVBackBumper

He finally finished today and it looks great. His total cost including all materials was only $180 USD. Wow, I thought it would cost at least twice that. The best part was, he did it right in our campsite and we never had to go anywhere to have it repaired. I know in the USA it would have come out perfect but at what cost?

The weather here has been great in January. Most of the seaweed went away when the wind stopped. There is still a little coming ashore each day, but the beach workers quickly get it cleaned up at each business. We have had no rain. Daytime highs are in the low 80’s with lows around 65oF. I got to paddle a few days again. One day I went surfing while we still had some big waves and last Sunday I paddled over to Puerto Adventuras when the ocean was dead calm. It’s about 3-4 mi each way.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Home for Christmas for 11 days, now back in MX

We are lucky that they have direct non-stop flights from Cancun to Cleveland. We flew again with United Airlines who had temporarily stopped their direct flights. Frontier Air is taking over some flights so for the time there are two options. The Cancun airport is only about an hour from our campground in Xpu-Ha. There is a ADO deluxe airport bus that leaves every 20 minutes from Playa del Carmen, and it only cost $10 USD per person. It starts at 5th Ave in Playa and drops you right at the door of the terminal. Same deal coming back.
At Playa, when we return we walk two blocks and catch a Tulum Collectivo (Shared Van), that only cost $2 USD per person to Xpu-Ha.
Family_Xmas2014
Our three beautiful daughters and handsome son. They are catching up to us in age. Smile
Here is Peggy having fun opening a few gifts with a couple of grandchildren.
GrandmaOpeningGifts
After a few more visits with friends we flew back on New Year’s Eve. United doesn’t fly everyday and that is the direct flight day, the plane was less than half full.
Back in Xpu-Ha
Wow what a crowd. Another good reason to go home over the holidays is to miss the Christmas Crowd. Lots of tents on the beach, hundreds of people jamming the restaurant parking lot. On the day we came back the day time visitors couldn’t even find a parking place. But finally by today, everybody has cleared out and things are back to normal.  EXCEPT FOR THE BEACH
We have NEVER seen the seaweed so bad. In December the beaches were beautiful clean white sand. Take a look and what happened.
Seaweed_Xpu-Ha_W
Seaweed_Xpu-Ha1
In some places it is almost 2 feet deep. The poor workers at the hotels and restaurants work from morning to night trying to clean it up. The next morning the NE winds brings more in. On the far ends of the bay there is very little but right by us it is unbelievably bad. It makes our morning walk a real chore trying to find a place to walk the length of our bay. Each day we do a 2-1/2 mi walk and usually enjoy the changing shore line. Now we watch the poor workers haul away the unwanted vegetation.
The weather though has been great, no rain, sunny high 80’s but a little warmer at night than in December.