A Grueling Driving Day (Or San Carlos to Guamúchil, Redux)

Today was a cautionary tale about keeping your driving days short in Mexico. In Canada and the US, I wouldn’t hesitate to plan a 1,000KM day if I was traveling on main highways, but more than 500KM at this time of year, when the days are short, is all I’d chance in Mexico. Still, I left San Carlos early enough this morning that I actually had a backup plan in case I wanted to push on to Culiacán since all I had on the table was a measly 450km and an 8AMish start time…

I took the libre through Guaymas to save myself a toll and pulled into a Pemex once I was free of the city, putting in $500 worth of fuel, which got me half a tank, so fuel prices are slightly better than last year.

After that, it was construction, construction, and more construction all the way to Ciudad Obregón. There, it was HUGE, vehicle destroying, potholes all through the city. I’m not exaggerating. I’ve only ever seen potholes that size on main roads in Quebec. Hit one of those and you’re not getting out with a tow truck and some major damage. I wouldn’t have wanted to be in a car low to the ground with no view of the obstacle course that lay ahead!

Once I finally made it through, it was construction, construction, and more construction all the way to Navojoa. Very slow speeds, too, since we were sharing the opposite driving lane. It was about 300KM to get there from San Carlos and it took over four hours to arrive. WHEW. The only stops I made were for toll booths and the Red Cross, who were collecting donations.

I learned another really important lesson today: if you think you need a bathroom, jump on the opportunity to use one even if you’re planning to use one only about 20KM away in case you encounter construction, traffic, a billion red lights, and a really bad accident resulting in a detour along the way…

Needless to say, I was very happy to reach the Soriana in Navojoa! I had lunch there, a really good slice of pizza, and then I picked up a new pump for my water bottle since I don’t like the style that comes with the casita and I wanted a spare for home anyway.

I was really parched by this point, having already downed the 2L of water of cold water I had with me and only infernal-temperature water left. I looked in the Soriana coolers to see if they had Electrolit, but struck out. Thankfully, the Oxxo across the street had some that was icy cold and I drained a whole container in just a few gulps! It did the trick, and I followed it up with a cold bottle of water over the next hour. I’m glad I was introduced to that stuff last year. No matter how much water I drink, it’s hard to stay hydrated in this climate.

I had one stop shortly after Navojoa by what I think is the major crimes unit and I didn’t ‘like’ this guy. He just made the hairs on my nape prickle. I gave him vague answers in broken Spanish and was finally sent on my way.

I saw a couple of things today that made we wish I had a navigator who could take pictures for me, or a driver so that I could take the pictures myself! One of them was a clever ad for a limeade drink that said, “Limón y nada.” “Lime and nothing” sounds like the Spanish for “limeade”, the product, and also insinuates that the product is all natural.

Another thing I saw that absolutely delighted me was a rather long stretch of road with a bunch of goats eating the weeds along the shoulder! They were not impeding traffic, just having a buffet. There was so many of them!

Finally, I saw the first signs announcing Maz! Home stretch! And speaking of Maz, it was SO GOOD to finally hit the Sinaloa roads. They weren’t great by any means, but much better than those in Sonora!

It was a tough driving day, very technical, but not stressful, not even when I was driving through the big city traffic. I’m a better defensive driver than I would have thought and definitely getting comfortable driving in this country.

My ETA to Guamúchil had started off as 1PM, but had stretched to 3:30PM as I approached the off ramp to the Culiacán libre. I was beyond done for the day! I found the motel from last year without any trouble, but they insisted on $700 when I only paid $550 last year. I wasn’t going to quibble over 12CAD. The rooms are still rather shabby, but clean, and I recognise the value they offer for the price, like access to the pool and a bottle of cold water waiting in the fridge! Speaking of the pool, I was in it minutes after arriving. 🙂

I’m off to have dinner. Early by Mexican time, but late by my body clock. 😀

Home tomorrow. I can’t believe it!

San Carlos to Guamúchil

I left San Carlos earlier than planned this morning because I had to go back to the TelCel office and had no idea how long that would take. I actually have no idea what time it was when I pulled out of Guaymas, fuming at TelCel, but excited about the day ahead.

I got clear of the city and pulled into a Pemex with an Oxxo attached. I got 500 pesos of fuel (I love saying 500 in Spanish — quinientos, not cinco cientos!) and then went in to get my second coffee of the day, feeling like I was embarking on a proper road trip!

When I got back out, there was five guys doing a really nice job polishing all the windows of my truck! One thing I’ve decided is that I hate fueling and I am going to tip the guy who does my fill even if he doesn’t do anything else. I also like having shiny windows and have decided that that’s worth a few pesos. So I gave each of the guys one peso for their hard work and enjoyed my spotless windshield for five minutes until a GIANT bug splattered across it. No problem, a called a window washer over at the next populated area. Am I getting the hang of this or what?! 😀

The first milestone of the day was leaving the ‘free zone’, where I now needed my temporary import permit! Real Mexico at last!

Early in the day, I got to a mess of construction and a worker stopped me and said something very fast. All I understood was a word that sounded like the French contre-sens, which told me that I would have to drive against the traffic. I was going to ask him to repeat himself and then thought, ‘No. Tell him what you understand and try to get a si or no answer.’ So I said “If I understand correctly, you want me to go left and then drive against the traffic?’ Yes! It was a long detour with no cones or markers and the people in the other direction didn’t really care that I was going the opposite way and were quite content to nearly mow me down. That was the start of my ‘OMG, so glad I’m not doing this in an RV!’ attitude. 🙂

After that, the drive was very steady compared to that in San Carlos and I got into a driving groove. It was hot, which kills my appetite, so I wound up not stopping at any one of the myriad of taco stands I passed.

All the bridges in Mexico, even little insignificant ones, have name, so when I passed the ‘puente sin nombre’, I got ‘I drove through Mexico on a bridge with no name’ stuck in my head for the rest of the day. 😀

The first city I crossed was Ciudad Obregon and I was really glad I wasn’t doing that in an RV! But then things got really interesting in Navojoa where I followed the Los Mochis sign to the libre, which was like an average road in Quebec, one pothole after another. I realised very quickly that I was off main MX 15 and turned back around to take the road through Navojoa, which was smooth going.

I really liked the look of Navojoa; it was exceptionally clean, with well maintained buildings. I thought of stopping at the Soriana at the south end of town for snacks, but was well stocked with coffee and granola bars and really didn’t need anything else.

The next big milestone was crossing into the state of Sinaloa!


I have now been to four of the 31 (plus MX City) Mexican states! Baja California, Tamaulipas, Sonora, and Sinaloa!

The roads in Sinaloa are MUCH better than in Sonora, comparable to the drive from Quebec into Ontario on highway 417.

My destination was a Pemex station in Los Mochis, where I arrived around 3:00, WAY too early to stop and truck camp! The bed of the truck is full and it was hot and sticky anyway, so a motel was in order. I decided to keep going and check out each motel I’d pass, giving myself a deadline of 4:30 to find something decent, regardless of the price.

Shortly thereafter, I saw the first sign for Mazatlan! Home stretch!


I stopped at one point to get more fuel and my bladder decided that it had had enough holding all the coffee, thank you very much, and if there’s no baño here, you can go behind a bush! Thankfully, there WAS a baño and it was impeccably clean. There was no toilet paper or soap, but no problem, I had wet wipes in my purse. Ladies, carry wet wipes!

After four 65-peso fares and one at 20 pesos, I was DONE with cuotas (toll roads) and when 4:00 came along with no suitable motels behind me, it was time to get onto a libre (free) road, where I was more likely to find services (I’d done my research!). I stopped at two cheap but terrifyingly dingy motels and arrived around 4:30 at a motel in Guamúchil that looked decent.

They wanted 600 pesos, 200 pesos more than I was hoping to pay tonight, but it gets dark VERY early here and it was time to stop. Not negotiable! I asked if 600 pesos was their best price and the guy looked at me, quirked a smile, and said that he could do 550 pesos since I asked so nicely in Spanish. Done!

The room is okay, not as nice as what I have gotten for less in the US, but decent and I LOVE the balcony over the pool, where I am writing this post.

Sorry, should have taken this one in daylight!

Sorry, should have taken this one in daylight!

I sat with the AC on for five minutes and that revved up my hunger, so I went down to the restaurant. I got out of there for 100 pesos, including a good tip, and had a cold lemonade and a huge plate of enchiladas with rice and beans, plus chips and salsa! THAT cheered me up immensely!

The rice and beans were soooo yummy it was all I could do not to lick the plate! The enchiladas were filled with chicken and had a spicy red sauce, the first truly spicy food I’ve encountered since arriving. It was just at my limit of tolerance and very tasty. I just cooled my tongue off with a bit of rice or beans when I couldn’t stand the heat any more.

I was surprised that such a meal is real Mexican food, not Tex-Mex, although they didn’t drown it in cheese and sour cream the way the meal would have been north of the border. Plus, it’s corn tortillas here, not wheat.

I was amused when the server brought a pole with a hook on it for my purse (bolsa)!

It was getting cool when I got out of the restaurant, so I wrestled my suitcase out of the truck to find my bathing suit and ran up to my room to change. I headed back down and swam for a half hour until it got chilly, a really nice end to the day.

I didn’t stop as much as I should have today but that was typical for me on a day with easy roads, nothing to do with a fear of stopping or anything like that.

Going off script today says a lot about how I feel about being here in Mexico — safe. I have standard driving rules (like giving myself a deadline for stopping) and obeyed them. I now have an hour less to do tomorrow, although the libre might eat up that additional time as it will be slower going than would have been the cuota. I’m going to try to be out of here by 7:00 as Contessa agrees with my expected travel time of seven hours to Isla.

Now, I’m off to try my landlady again…