Thursday, October 16, 2008

Leaving Texas 10.16.08

After spending a week working on the property, it was about as close as it could be. The appliances were purchased, carpet purchased & scheduled, painting of the main house had begun and we decided to leave.

We left Corpus Christi on Thursday morning and headed to the Mexican border at Reynosa, just opposite McAllen, Texas. We had 3 choices to cross - Nuevo Laredo (opposite Laredo, Texas), Reynosa, & Matamoros (opposite Brownsville) and chose Reynosa as it seemed the smallest & I felt it would be safest. If you've been paying attention to the news in Mexico, the drug traffickers & police shootings have gotten worse in the border towns and general violence & kidnappings have become worse than ever. So we hoped for the best and crossed over. We were stopped by the U.S. Border Patrol on our way out of the country - yep, the U.S. Border patrol! We were asked to pull over and they had us get out of the truck and, seperately, interrogated us. They took us into a room and made us take everything out of our pockets & even patted down Michael (the female officer was busy so I didn't get that treatment). They asked us the same questions and we believe because our stories collaborated, they released us. We guess they suspected us of taking money or drugs into Mexico, but they wouldn't tell us.

Once we were inside the border, we got the 'Pase' green light at customs so they didn't inspect the vehicle (whew!) and we headed over to immigration to get our 6 month tourist permits & our temporary import permit for the Jeep. Not that we were bring in anything illegal, but we were over in our limits of a few items. We had no problems with that at all - woohoo!

But as we left immigration, our luck changed. We took a wrong turn accidentally while attempting to get to the highway and a crooked cop spotted us. Bummer. He pulled us over, for no reason, and told us because we failed to stop (yeah right!) for him, he would impound the vehicle for 36 hours. No way, we said. OK, what will it take for him to let us go? 6,200 pesos. Yep, that's right - $620 USD!! No way... We continued to talk & negotiate down our 'ticket'. During the entire incident - he spoke absolutely no English while we stuttered along with our Spanish (thankfully we had just spent 1 month in Nicaragua and had honed up our Spanish a little bit!). He finally settled on $175 and then gave us an escort to the highway. How nice of him - $175 for a personal escort to the highway. But the experience spoiled our whole day. We were pissed at being 'taken' and that we were stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Oh well....we continued on. We wanted to make it to Monterrey for the evening. The toll roads in Mexico take you from one spot to another - with no stops in between! We decided to take the Toll roads even though they are quite expensive as the roads are better and it's much faster as it avoids all of the cities! But because they avoid the cities, we ended up going around Monterrey all together and continued on to Saltillo. It was about 5pm and we figured we would look for a place to stay. We stopped at 4 hotels - the first one was $125, the second $159, the third $199, and the forth....$20 for 6 hours. Well, we didn't feel comfortable in any of them so we decided to continue on....even though it would be dark by the time we would hit the next big city. I hate to drive at night ever since my eye surgery gave be bad night vision but we just wanted to get further down the road. So we ended up in Torreon. It was raining like cats & dogs so the streets were flooded, it was super dark, and they were building a new freeway system that was half good and half bad. We saw signs for hotels but there wasn't directions other than '5 minutes away!'. We saw a hotel on the right hand side of the street and so we exited the freeway. Unfortunately though, we couldn't get over to the right hand side of the street because of the freeway construction! So we ended up driving down the street looking for a hotel, then turning around, getting back on the freeway, exiting the next exit, and somehow making it to the other side of the freeway to the hotel. It didn't matter the price - it was after 9pm and we were both exhausted and just wanted food & a bed. The next morning we were up bright & early and headed out again. We were determined to make it to Mazatlan and had an easy day's drive ahead of us.

We needed gas and tooled around looking for it but didn't find an easy station, so we jumped on the toll road and headed to Durango. Durango is a large city and we were sure to find gasoline there. At Durango, we encountered our first Mexican Army checkpoint. The young boys were very friendly and they waved us through after chatting with us a bit. Again, the toll road took us completely around we were on the outskirts before there was an exit. At the exit, we saw a Pemex station and drove over there....and it was a closed. Bummer. We jumped on the toll road again hoping we would find a gas station ahead. As the gauge got lower & lower, we really started to worry. There was no civilization ahead as far as we could see and we were almost on empty. We found an exit on the highway and exited. We drove along but it was looking bad. The light came on indicating we had only 2 gallons left. Luckily we had brought along two - 2 gallon gas cans just in case, and we stopped to put in our last few gallons of fuel. This gave us about 45 miles to find a gas station....or else! We were about 30 miles outside of Durango and we could drive the 'free' road and were sure to find a gas station, but that would mean turning around. Or we could take our chances that there was fuel in the next town, La Salto. We decided to turn around and go back to Durango. The fun part about driving the 'libre' roads in Mexico is all of the sights you get to see! And the obstructions in the roads. There were cows, horses, & donkeys alongside the road or even on the road in several spots! And it was an incredibly windy road, winding along the mountains. We found our 2nd checkpoint of the day on our way into Durango. We had quite a chuckle with the military members as when they asked us where we were going and we responded 'Mazatlan'....they looked at each other and said it was the other way! 'Yes, we know, but we don't have enough gas to make it to Mazatlan (the soldier looked at our gas gauge and concurred...haha) so they graciously gave us directions to the closest gas station. Whew! That was a relief!

All fueled up & ready to go....we jumped on the same toll road (again!) headed to Mazatlan. A few miles up the road, we were stopped by some guys on the road who told us there was an accident. Looking ahead, there were only about 5 cars in front of the accident and the emergency personnel had not arrived yet. Everyone turned off their vehicles & many exited the cars to go up & take a look. Emergency personnel arrived about 10 minutes later, moved the vehicle out of the way and we were allowed to pass. It was a van that had obviously flipped several times, ejecting the passengers. There was at least one dead, and they were working on one other as we passed. It was very heartbreaking. We continued along until the toll road abruptly ended, sending us onto the 'libre' (free) highway.

The most comical part of the entire day was our encounter with 'Crazy Trucker' (and any related play on the words). You see, we exited the toll road and mistakenly thought it continued even though there was a little bit of a road block. We decided to go through it until we came upon an even bigger road block where we turned around. We got onto the 'Libre' road just in front of this trucker. At this point, we were in the Sierra Madre mountain range and the road is called "El Espinazo del Diablo" - Devil's backbone. The scenery is fantastic - beautiful vistas, waterfalls right alongside the road, and nice & cool temps. But the switchback after switchback, hair raising turns, road construction that sends traffic onto the same side of the road, etc. And this crazy trucker obviously knew the road like the back of his hands. He was nearly driving us off the road before we let him ahead of us. And once in front of us - he took the S turns like a pro, right into oncoming traffic, driving speeds that no fully loaded trucker should be able to maintain - and blind curves? No problem for crazy trucker! So we figured being behind him was a great place to be as he was clearing the way! haha... He would pass other semis like they were standing still - blind curve coming up on not! We stayed behind him for almost the entire way to Mazatlan. We were pulled over on one military checkpoint and he got a little ahead of us, but we eventually caught up. At the checkpoint into the state of Sinaloa, we were pulled over & one member went through the truck, as well as he could. We had the hitch on the back so he couldn't open up the back, so he had to look through the stuff behind the seats. He went through our luggage and looked at each of our medicine bottles (Tylenol, vitamins, etc), opened up most of the compartments, talked to us a little bit, and let us go. We caught up with crazy trucker a bit ahead as he got stuck behind some other semis. We were stopped two times as there was road work ahead and they would close the road for like 30 minutes each time. So we finally rolled into Mazatlan about 6pm on Friday, went straight to a restaurant as we were both starved, and then down to the boat. We moved stuff around enough to get to the bed and one of the heads. We had purchased a little air conditioner before we left Mazatlan and had it on the boat and when we arrived, it was still in the upper 80's with very high humidity. We placed the A/C in the main hatch and along with the two oscillating fans, knocked down the heat enough for us to sleep.

We made it - woohoo!!
More to follow...
{GMST}25|34.922|N|103|24.227|W|Hanging in the hotel|On our way to Mazatlan{GEND}


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