Adios, Mexico — or San Carlos to Nogales, AZ

I left the motel just past nine this morning and decided to drive into San Carlos for fuel since I was running on fumes and wasn’t certain when I’d encounter a Pemex on 15. I only had 800 pesos left and wasn’t sure what I was looking at for tolls, so I decided to take on just 500 pesos and then top up with the credit card if needed. It was 9:30 when I hit the open road and I hoped to be in Nogales by 4:00, 3:00 local time

I saw this weird truck (RV?) as I was getting on the road. From the front and side, it looks like a UPS-type truck.

I saw this weird truck (RV?) as I was getting on the road. From the front and side, it looks like a UPS-type truck.

The first part of the day went by fast. By the time I was just shy of Hermosillo, my coffee had caught up with me and I really needed a bathroom. I pulled into the first Oxxo I saw, grabbed a coffee, paid for with my last 13 pesos of change, and only then learned that they didn’t have a bathroom. I was told to try the Pemex at the next corner.

So I did. The bathroom was inside an Extra convenience store and the cost was five pesos. I used it and then went to the cash to let them know that I was going to have to pay the five pesos with a 100 peso note. The lady looked at me funny and said, “Didn’t you just fill up with fuel?” I answered in the affirmative and she said no charge. Before y’all judge me, not only did the bathroom not have paper, soap, running water at the taps, or seats, IT DIDN’T HAVE A DOOR. I think I get a pass on this one!

Hermosillo was still under construction, but the detour wasn’t too bad, except for the nearly Quebec-sized potholes along one short stretch.

Goodbye ocean/coast, hello desert!

Goodbye ocean/coast, hello desert!

Before I knew it, The Big Military Checkpoint just before Santa Ana was upon me. 18-wheelers were backed up several kilometres, but there was almost no lineup for cars. The guy ahead of me had Arizona plates, was asked what appeared to be about dozen questions, and was instructed to pull over.

I pulled up and was greeted in clear Spanish. We had the following exchange:

-“Where are you coming from?”
-“San Carlos.”
-“San Carlos! And where are you going?”
-“Nogales!” Then something I didn’t catch.
-“Could you please repeat that?”
-This time I sort of got one word, “trae,” which I vaguely thought means carry. It actually means bring, so he was saying, “What are you bringing with you?”
-“You want to know what I have with me?”
-“Clothes and household things.”
-“Okay. Go ahead.”

So I did. Meanwhile, the guy who was ahead of me was being held at gunpoint while his vehicle was being searched!!!

I hit the E mark on the fuel tank just after the checkpoint, shocked that I’d made it that far. I can go quite some time on E without the you need gas now light coming on and having done nearly 300KM on a half tank already, I wasn’t stressed about running out of gas since the gas gods were obviously at work today. Can’t complain about my gas mileage so far!

I pulled into a rest area that had a Pemex and asked if they could take my credit card. The attendant asked me to show it to him and he said not a problem, but he’d have to run it through before pumping so I had to be sure about much I was putting in. Not a problem; this is just like pre-paying in Canada or the US. I then used the bathroom since I had a feeling it would be my last obvious opportunity before the border.

Driving through Santa Ana, I debated whether or not to stop for lunch and decided I wasn’t hungry. What a difference from when I came down, though, in that a) I wasn’t afraid to stop, and b) I saw tons of places I would have eaten at if I was hungry. When I came down, I didn’t know yet that the little roadside taco stands and such are okay to eat at.

Before leaving Mexico, you have to turn in your temporary vehicle import permit. Until this morning, I thought that meant having to go back into the immigration office/Banjercito and wait for ages to be served. But I got several comments that mentioned a booth and sure enough, there it was, well marked in advance for foreign-plated cars to get into the far right lane to turn in their permits. It was at most a five-minute wait to be served.

The attendant took my paperwork and then took photos of my license plate and a sticker on the inside of my door jamb that has the VIN number on it. She then scrapped the hologram off the windshield (leaving a nice mess), and that was that! Easy peasy. We’ll see how long it takes for the money to be returned to my credit card.

I’d checked the map before leaving this morning, so I knew to keep left when I hit Nogales. There was no signage for Nogales cuota or Mariposa Road or anything obvious to let you know the bypass was that way, just a sign in the other lane for Nogales downtown being that way.

I had to roll through the Mexican customs (nothing to do), then pay my last toll. Tolls today were 65 + 25 + 57 = 147 pesos, or about 12CAD.

Then, the border, and OMG. It was CHAOS. No lane markers, dozens of aggressive vendors, and tons of people weaving in and out trying to find the quickest path to the front of the line. I don’t think I could have handled it in an RV since signage for the RV lane was so slow to appear and I would have likely missed my turn for it. I arrived at 2:55 San Carlos time and just stayed in one spot, moving forward as I could. I got to the front of my imaginary line much more quickly than expected.

The customs official asked me for my plate type, which meant state because he didn’t realise he was holding a Canadian passport… He asked if I had any plants or produce and I said no. He said that they would have to check and to follow him to an inspection booth.

There, a very kind official promptly came over, asked me where I was coming from and where I was going, then informed me that I was being subject to an agricultural inspection. I made my declaration and then he said he had to go through all my stuff.

He had me open up the back, where I discovered that my tailgate isn’t opening again!!! WHAT?! He said that was okay, but I had to empty out everything and it was up to me to figure out how to do it without them needing to get a crowbar. I quickly replied that I never put the tailgate down while traveling and everything was packed to fit through the top (absolute truth). I began to pull out my bags and suitcases and crawled in to get the tote way at the back. I did not have to pull out the cot.

Let me pause here to say that I do NOT believe that emptying out the truck was an unreasonable request. Quite the contrary and I even packed for that eventuality making sure everything was containerized by category and that there were as few loose items as possible.

While I was getting my exercise, he was going through my bags and totes in the front and his partner was pulling off the lid off my tote from the back and just peering in before closing it.

I was then called over and the guy was holding up my chia seeds. My first thought, pardon the French, was “FUCK.” I declared them on the way down and was told that they were okay to bring across, so the thought of declaring them this way (not the same ones, I got more in Mexico) completely slipped my mind. I had declared no to seeds and was caught red handed. I told the guy all this and he said, “It’s okay, sweetie, but you got lucky that these are perfectly fine to bring across.” Yes, he called me ‘sweetie’!’

He then told me I could pack up and go. I just threw everything into the truck and took off. It was 3:24 when I was clear of customs, so the whole thing from arriving in line to being clear was just 29 minutes. Dang did it feel longer than that! But it was yet another very nice American border official (although his partner was rather Canadian in her business only, I don’t know how to smile attitude).

From the border, it was just a few minutes to the Motel 6, where I arrived just shy of four San Carlos time, or three local time!

Contessa wondered why I’m staying Nogales, and her question makes absolute sense to anyone who has been to Nogales. The answer is that any other options are too far away today and I really don’t feel like driving any further. It’s not like being in an RV and being able to pull over outside the city. Moreover, I have work to do in the morning and I knew that the rooms here would be clean, well suited to work with a proper desk, and with good wifi.

The rate was lower than in November, $42 with the taxes, so with the exchange rate about $50, same in CDN as in November. I asked for a room in the back, thinking it would be quieter, and got free wifi in exchange for giving them my email address. I am getting TelCel service, so I’m using up my Banda Ancha and Saldo Regalo, then will use the wifi.

After checking in with everyone, I went off in search of US cash and food. 100USD was 120CAD, OUCH. Because of the exchange rate being as bad as it is and my planning to be on the road for a full month, I am being mercilessly tight with my budget and am on a very strict spending schedule. I do have reserves for true emergencies, but otherwise, I have exactly as much as I anticipate gas and lodging will be, with about 10USD per day for food, however I want to spend that, and a little bit for incidentals and outings not covered by my Interagency pass.

I really don’t want to get home flat broke and am not on vacation the way I was in October. I am just trying to avoid getting home while it’s still cold and want you all to be prepared for the very likely eventuality that if the roads are passable through the mountains, I am going to decide to just get home already and start shooting north very fast. Vicki, I am still coming to visit if I choose to do this!

The good news is that I am a quarter of the way home already and even with the exchange rate, I’m now on inexpensive gas AND my gas mileage is greatly improved. I budgeted 1,000CAD for fuel. I knew that that was outrageous and that it shouldn’t be much more than 600 or 700CAD, but with the way I was burning through fuel on the way down, I wanted to be prepared. I spent 171CAD on the first quarter of my trip home at about 1.20CAD per litre. Arizona is at about 0.80CAD per litre right now, so I know that my fuel costs will be quite a bit less than 700CAD and nowhere nearly 1,000! I’ll have a better grasp on the number after I do another 1,000KM and I’ll be able to then release some funds back into the general budget for the end of the trip.

For food, I went to a restaurant I went to when I was here in November, ‘Panda Express’, which I think is a national chain. It’s American-Chinese food. I remembered being impressed by the crispy veggies and lean chicken, making for a decent and not too expensive takeaway option. I asked for one main course (grilled teriyaki chicken) and one side (steamed veggies), then accepted their offer to do half veggies, half chow mein (noodles) for the same price. The cost was about 6USD, which I thought was quite a good deal and the food was tasty and not too heavy. I really liked how tender crisp and generous the portion of broccoli, zucchini, celery, and carrots were and that it didn’t have that slimy coating veggies normally have at Chinese restaurants.

I’ll go down to Safeway in a bit and get a snack for tonight and something for breakfast. My only complaint about the rooms here is the lack of fridges and microwaves. I hope their coffee tomorrow will be as decent as it was in November so I don’t have to traipse all the way down to McDonald’s.

Checkout is noon tomorrow and then I will head east. I told clients I’ll be back at work Tuesday, so I’m hoping to get somewhere tomorrow where I’ll be able to get a decent weekly rate or that has super good nightly rates. I’m also considering not taking a motel and just working out of a library or something, but sleeping in my truck for a month is going to get old fast, so I wouldn’t mind starting the trip with one week at a motel and then roughing it for a bit. We shall see. Nothing is written in stone for the next four weeks, other than my visit to the South Dakota Black Hills!

Tired in San Carlos

I know I went to bed too late last night, but that’s not the reason I didn’t get nearly enough sleep. When I come back down in November, I’m going to look for another overnighting option because this motel just doesn’t do it for me. There are bright lights shining into the rooms, which only have nearly useless vertical blinds over the windows. Moreover, with the rooms being backed up against a swamp, there are loads of loud biting insects. I’m rather itchy this morning!

I gave up on sleep around 6:30. Since there’s now an Oxxo practically next door, mustering up the energy to trek there for a coffee was easy. I got in as a gaggle of tourists came out with coffees and found none left for me. I asked them to put on a fresh pot for me and was told it would be about five minutes. I spent the time wandering the store look at the food options (nice looking sandwiches, 35 peso avocados (!!!), sugary ‘health’ bars, and cookies with real fruit filling caught my attention). The coffee making was very quick and I didn’t have time to wish that they’d just hurry up already. 🙂

I came in and started on the coffee with my croissant from yesterday. The tips were a bit stale, but the rest was still nice and soft and felt like a treat. No more bread for me till I get back to Mexico. Except for the odd hamburger, of course, without fries. 🙂

After much hemming and hawing, I decided to get a motel tonight, but almost feels like a waste of money since the only option even remotely within my budget in Nogales is the Motel 6. Now, this is would be a decent option in a quiet location: nice clean rooms and decent coffee in the morning. But it’s at a really busy intersection and loud. The next city kind of on my route that has motels (remember, I did this route in reverse in November and looked for non-online options, too) is the Benson area and the motels are more expensive. I didn’t have any more luck with Priceline than I did in November, when I got the best deal for the Motel 6 by showing up in person. But our dollars were almost at par then and now, well, they’re not, and $60 for a room is going to hurt. But I have a job to do tonight and tomorrow morning, so at least I’ll recoup that money within the first few days of May.

I wasn’t going to rush out of here this morning, but I just realised that I have to stop at MXN customs to get my deposit back for the truck, so the border stuff may end up taking hours and hours and it might therefore be a good idea to get going. It’s 7:45 now and I’m aiming to pull out by nineish. I’m not too stressed about the border in this direction. I have a feeling US Customs will see the decrepit pickup truck and assume it’s full of Mexicans, then be pleasantly surprised to encounter a Canadian gal heading home. 🙂

After Nogales, who knows. I was thinking of going to Las Cruces for a week, but I don’t know yet if I will. Reader Ed put together some possible itineraries for me (thank you again!) and I want to go over them again tonight.

The Winter of My Dirty Feet

Sitting at Charly’s Rock tonight munching on my octopus tacos as I watched the Sea of Cortez, I was flooded with a feeling I couldn’t understand at first. It was overwhelming and I almost choked on it as tears welled up in my eyes and threatened to spill over. I took a deep breath to calm myself and then I knew what it was I was feeling.

If my life was a movie, there would have been a montage running backwards through the last seventeen years of my life ending with me sitting on a bench by Melrose Abbey in Scotland. The feeling was utter oneness with the universe and my place in it. Peace. A certainty that I am exactly where I am supposed to be and that my life is on track.

I’ve always felt that I was being prepared for something. Part of that something was my winter here in Mexico. So many little life lessons all added up to no significant culture shock and an ability to slip so easily into my Mexican routine. I’ve been wanting to come to Mexico for so long, but I was patient and went when going there felt like an inevitability, the most logical and sensible next step in my life.

There is no doubt in my mind that I will be back at Isla this time in seven months. And there is little doubt that I’ll have Mexican residency within the next few years and citizenship within the next decade.

The thing about travel, truly living in a new place instead of just vacationing there, is that it expands your horizons and refashions your worldview. I remember taking a train to Mountainview, California, eight years ago, my first time being in a warm climate, and having a life altering revelation. I didn’t have to keep trying to enjoy winter and cold weather. I could choose something else because there were other options!

Just because I was born in Canada does not mean that I am forced to accept its climate or culture of apathy or exorbitant cost of living. The whole world is open to me and I can choose to live in a climate where I am healthier. Rather than bemoan the status quo and lack of desire to grow as a people, I can choose to live somewhere that is growing into ‘first world’ status and choosing its own path that honours the past while shaping an exciting future. Or I can choose to live outside the first world because I know I can be very happy with very little as long as I have good internet… and just about anywhere in the world has better internet than Canada anyway. And then, there’s my income, barely enough to eke out an existence in Canada, yet sufficient to live well in less developed countries. I might not love what I do, but I love the freedom of schedule it affords me and when I can live somewhere like Mexico where that money buys me a lot of freedom, it really makes me feel stupid to have ever considered giving it all up for a ‘real’ job in Canada.

The life education I gained in the last several years was costly and now I need to focus on paying it all back. I’m grateful that Mexico is relatively close by and will provide me with the stimulation I need I until I can afford to take off and explore the far reaches of our world. I’m also thankful that I found a sliver of Canada that is calling me back, a piece of property that I love and where I don’t feel that my values are compromised. Haven is a blessing and I can honestly say that sad as I am to leave Mexico tomorrow, I am happy to be heading home.

Just think of what lies ahead for me; nearly six months of good weather under the bright blue skies of my beloved Prairies while knowing that my life now is a nearly eternal summer and that I do not have to dread the coming winter. I’ll have a brief spell of cold before I can leave and, soon enough, my feet will be getting reaccustomed to the grit of sand between the toes and forgetting what closed shoes feel like.

For the last seventeen years, this song has been a lament. Fond memories of my Scottish travels were marred by the failures that followed my great adventure across the pond.

Now, I can say, Caledonia, you were the best thing I ever had and I can finally remember you with only joy in my heart and not an ounce of regret.

¡Gracias, Mexico, y hasta noviembre!

Last Full Day in Mexico — or Isla to San Carlos

I’m shocked that I slept well last night! I fell asleep around 10:30, woke for some reason around 1:00, and then slept soundly until 5:15. I uould have probably used another hour, but I was awake and it was still pitch dark out, so I was highly motivated to get done packing and cleaning and head out at first light!

I’d left out the coffee supplies, but had packed the BBQ lighter! Thankfully, I found a match that worked, even if I burned my finger lighting it! 🙂 I had my coffee in between doing bursts of stuff. By 6ish, I just had the floors left to do, but it was pitch dark out still. And then, just like at night, someone switched on the light and it was day. There’s really no build up to it!

I made sure I hadn’t forgotten anything, left a note for the landlady telling her I washed all the bedding, towels, and curtains and turned off the water heater, as well as confirming that I’m planning to be back November 25th and that I’ll call if that changes, gave the floor a final mopping, and that was that!

Heading out!

Heading out!

I had promised myself I wouldn’t get too maudlin about leaving, but there was still a huge lump in my throat as I wound my way through the narrow alleyways of my neighbourhood and made my way to The Road.

I embarked on The Road at 6:42.

I embarked on The Road at 6:42.

Last Isla sunrise,

Last Isla sunrise,

The Road was in fine shape, but I took my time.

Off The Road at 7:11, so that means it took me 29 minutes. I'm a bit shocked it took that long. I must have taken this picture as I was leaving Estrella del Mar, not arriving!

Off The Road at 7:11, so that means it took me 29 minutes. I’m a bit shocked it took that long. I must have taken this picture as I was leaving Estrella del Mar, not arriving!

I pulled over at the golf course to get some water since I had put my Nalgene bottles into the back for some reason. As I was getting ready to pull out, my water guy passed me! He pulled over and called out, “¿Adios?” and I replied, “No. ¡Hasta noviembre!” (See you in November). He replied that that was wonderful and wished me a good trip. I didn’t realise that the water guys go to Maz every day!

Traffic was light coming into Maz.

I tried to get a last picture of Maz, but failed. :)

I tried to get a last picture of Maz, but failed. 🙂

I knew there was a Panamá’s near the Santa Rosa Soriana and, with traffic not requiring my undivided attention, I was able to spot it, tucked away into a strip mall. It was just a tiny one. I got a sandwich for breakfast, pineapple empanada for my coffee break, brownie for lunchtime dessert, and a croissant for tomorrow morning (that will likely be stale, I know).

Then, it was time to find fuel. I never noticed that there are bunch of Pemexes between the airport road and Maz southbound, but none on the northbound side until you get into town. I finally found one where getting in and out wouldn’t be a sport. I asked for 700 pesos’ worth and went to use the bathroom while the fueling was being done. The bathroom had paper, soap, AND seats!

700 pesos was full tank, so that meant I would be able to track my gas mileage. When I bought the truck and drove it cross-country, I was able to do about 125KM per quarter tank and get the ‘you need to fill up’ light at about the 500KM mark. My Ford Ranger forum guys said these were normal figures for my truck. On the trip down this fall, I was lucky to get 100KM per quarter tank. Having been told that the brake job would help my gas mileage, I kept a close eye on my gas gauge for the first part of the day.

The first part of the drive was the Libre to Culiacán. Like on the way down, it was a smooth easy trip and the slow speed is easy to accept to save over 200 pesos in tolls!

I encountered my first agricultural inspection and military checkpoint before Culiacán. I just rolled through the military one.

The ag inspection was funny at first, then turned creepy. The guy took one look at me and said in perfect English, “You got fruit?” His tone was hilarious. Then, he asked me if I was alone and yelled to his buddy in Spanish to come see the “hot Canadian woman.” (Yes, I was hot, but I doubt that’s what he meant). For the second time this winter, the hairs on back of my head stood up. It was a very good reminder that I need to be smart about staying on the beaten path until I am much, much, much more used to this sort of behaviour in Mexico and know when to feel threatened or not. I’m not used to be viewed in this manner and my instincts about it are not well honed at all. Anyway, all was well and off I went.

By 9:30, I was ready for a coffee, so I pulled into the first Oxxo I spotted, about 30 minutes south of Culiacán, around 10:00. I decided to try the cinnamon creamer (yum!) and braved the Oxxo bathroom (glad I had wipes in my purse).

I missed the turnoff for the cuota when I reached the city limits. It’s just tiny sign put up at the exit as an after thought. So I had to find a place to turn around and come back. Not a big deal.

I then encountered my first two toll booths and was not impressed. Even though my receipts said $63, I was charged $73. With the first one, I handed over $63 because that’s what the sign said and the lady said, “No. Se-TEN-ta tres” (emphasis hers). Sixty is se-SEN-ta, so she was being very clear. I was not impressed by these extra charges.

The third booth was marked 20 pesos and the guy in front of me had the EXACT same truck — dark green Ford Ranger XLT! I saw him hand over a $20 and I decided to question the discrepancy if I was charged more. Well, I wasn’t, and from there on out, I was charged the posted amount. Mine not to wonder why…

I needed a break by the time I hit Los Mochis, so I decided to get gas since I was past the three quarter mark. By this point, I knew that my brake job was going to pay for itself because I had been doing slightly BETTER than 125KM per quarter tank AND my gas gauge had not gone from half full to running on fumes within a few kilometres!

Once again, I asked for 700 pesos of fuel, but the guy said Moya would only take 655 pesos’ worth. Curious, because that only put her just past the three quarters full mark. That was fine by me. With my gas mileage back to normal, that would take me to San Carlos, where I had planned to refuel anyway.

A little boy did my windows and was very happy when I gave him five pesos for his hard work. He actually asked his dad if he could accept them! I’m guessing that it’s more than he’s used to getting more than him not being used to getting paid.

This bathroom had an attendant who was handing out paper (a nice big wodge of it, not a few stingy squares!). I asked how much and she said to pay what I wanted. I also gave her five pesos. And since I was in a giving mood, I gave the guy who pumped my fuel five pesos, too. 🙂

The next stop was about 165KM down the road, Navojoa in the state of Sonora. By this point, I had hit two more fruit and military stops, with one of each at the border, where it took me almost 20 minutes to get clear and back on the road.

The first fruit stop went like this, “Uh… fru-it?” “No tengo fruta” and then I got motioned to go. The second fruit stop, I had to get out and unlock the back of the truck. This fruit inspector did not speak English and asked me if I could tell him what I was carrying. I replied, “Clothes and things for the house,” and that satisfied him.

The first military checkpoint, I had to speak to a soldier who did not speak English and who spoke very fast with a thick accent. I asked him to repeat himself and the second time I caught “a donde”, so I thought he was asking me where I was going. I replied, “I am going to San Carlos,” and that must have been the right answer because he wished me a good trip and waved me off. I just rolled through the second military checkpoint.

There was also a checkpoint by the major crimes unit, but they just ignored me and I drove through.

I’d heard that the roads in Sonora were terrible, but these reports were obviously by people who have never been to Quebec and don’t know what a terrible road is. Some parts were bumpy, but didn’t slow me down in the least.

Navojoa has a big Soriana at its southern limit and that seemed to be the perfect (late) lunch stop because I knew I could do four things there:

1) grab a quick cheap lunch of ideally pizza;
2) use an ATM (I spent a lot more on Isla in the last week than I had planned on, so I was about 1,000 pesos short if I wanted a nice dinner in San Carlos);
3) buy a pump for my water bottles back home (hard to find, expensive, and poor quality in Canada versus ubiquitous, cheap (35 pesos), and good quality in MX);
4) pee. 🙂

I had Soriana’s pizza for the first time, 18 pesos for a large and delicious slice! Very good pizza, almost New York style. It was my third time having pizza by the slice this winter all at different locations and they’ve all been great. Rumours of crappy Mexican pizza appear to be unfounded….

A whistle man insisted on guiding me out of my spot even though I was in a pull-thru with no one around me. I decided to make him pay for his tip and asked him to confirm the way out of the lot to turn left since I managed to come in the wrong way down a one way (in my defense, there were ‘entrada’ signs facing me!). He told me which exit to take and to just cross the median and turn left. Then he said, “Going north?” I replied that I was heading home to Canada and like everyone else I said this to today (including several toll takers), I almost gave him a heart attack! 😀

I couldn’t believe that by this point, I only had 200KM left to go! My ETA to San Carlos was 6:15 to 6:30, making for a very long day, but the trip had been very easy so far, with good roads and minimal traffic and construction. Being able to break every 200KM helped my stamina.

Ciudad Obregon was easy in this direction, with no detours, and by the time I was clear of it, I was ready to be done for the day. I was glad to see the sign for Guaymas taking me away from the toll road since I’d had enough of the endless parade of 65 peso tolls! I spent 427 pesos (34CAD) on tolls today and am glad that I saved the big ones in Maz.

Just before the San Carlos exit, there was another major crimes checkpoint! They were stopping everyone ahead of me and I almost burst into tears! I was really tired and sore and just wanted to get there! But, blessed be, the police man just waved me through! So I have NO idea what the two police checkpoints were about!

Even though I knew what to look for for the San Carlos exit, I almost missed it! But I didn’t and I was soon rolling into town. I managed to miss Totonaka, though, so fixated was I by the sight of an Oxxo at this end of town!

There is now an Oxxo right by Totonaka! No more walking halfway across San Carlos for coffee!

There is now an Oxxo right by Totonaka! No more walking halfway across San Carlos for coffee! I took this walking back to Totonaka after dinner, so the Oxxo is on the same side of the street as the RV park.

I managed to turn around and pulled into the RV park, grateful that the office was still open and that I wouldn’t have to hunt for the security guard. I was delighted to be served in Spanish, which made up for the reservation being under “Ray Cludders.” They had the name in my email, for pete’s sake! 😀 450 pesos for the room, a better deal than paying in USD. I got a different room from November, but right next to it and a mirror image of it. But there is one HUGE difference. The bed isn’t hard as a rock!

Speaking of rock, I didn’t get a coupon for a free margarita this time, so I changed my mind about going to Los Arbolitos for octopus tacos and instead went to Charly’s Rock for the view. There, I was asked if a Spanish menu was okay and left to peruse it while they got me a Pacifico and some cold water. As it turned out, Charly’s Rock also has octopus tacos and they’re cheaper, 90 pesos for three, versus 38 for one at Los Arbolitos!

I was surprised that didn’t get chips (and Contessa, that’s what the call totopos here, too!) with my beer, but they came with my food.

Octopus tacos, a perfect last supper.

Octopus tacos, a perfect last supper.

OMG, they were good. There was a crema-based sauce to put on them, as well as lime and hot sauce. Octopus is amazing when done right. It’s a very tender and mild flavoured meat that really doesn’t taste ‘fishy’ the way that shrimp does. I think that if a person can get past the visual image of the suckers on the tentacles, it’s a very good introduction to seafood.

This was the absolute most perfect last supper for this Mexico trip and I even had a second beer! The total for the meal was just 142 pesos, plus a 30 peso tip.

Dining at Charly’s is such a unique experience. It’s not particularly sanitary, what with the bird poop on the counter you eat at and the gulls landing right next to you, but the view can’t be beat!

I refused a second helping of chips since I hoped that Thrifty’s ice cream would be open. I walked down there and they were! I got a scoop of “chocobrownie” in a sugar cone.

Thrifty’s is the perfect distance from the back end of the RV park where the rooms are, as I am just able to finish an ice cream by the time I get to my room. Once I arrived, I had a shower and settled in to write this post. I’ve been at it for over an hour!

Today was a really good day of travel. For one thing, my truck performed splendidly and didn’t give me a moment of worry. Another thing is that there was zero stress. When I came down, everything was stressful. Would I be able to read the signs? Where could I get a quick cheap meal that wouldn’t make me sick? Where could I get a coffee? Where were the bathrooms? OMG, why was that guy waving at me; did it mean stop or go? Today was a trip where I was just as comfortable as I am driving in Canada and the US. There were coffee and bathrooms and food when I needed them and of course I understood the signs. The flag wavers, though, need more study. 🙂 I can’t wait for tomorrow. It was drilled into me that once I cross the border at Nogales I have to drive and not stop till San Carlos. I don’t plan to obey that tomorrow. 🙂

I have more, but I think it warrants its own post, especially since this one has been so long.

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…