Ford in Tapachula
12.23.08 Tapachula Brakes & almost to Veracruz
We didnâ€™t make it very far yesterday because the brakes needed work. I could feel the exact moment that the back brakes were not working and it made my stomach drop. So we sought out the Ford Dealer (with the help of the nice Pemex owner who drew a nice map for us and some nice Samaritans along the way) and convinced them to go ahead and take a look. It is not easy to explain things in Spanish, but we managed to make it happen (freno is brakes). They did a most excellent job.
The Driverâ€™s side apparently wasnâ€™t working at all because the rear brake cylinder was leaking.
Also, the self-adjuster had also come loose and was disconnected. The Passenger side shoe was thin on the outside edge. It apparently was doing all the work and needed replacing.
Iâ€™ve now had my rear brakes adjusted, replaced or repaired in May, September, and December. While I drive much, that seems ridiculous. Still, the Mexican price was less than $300 for the dayâ€™s work. The brakes have never felt better! They worked really hard to get the adjustment right and the lines bled. Ned tipped our head Mechanic, who seemed a little embarrassed, but we told him it was for Feliz Navidad.
Then we got permission, since it was 5:30 pm (and sunset) to park out front, tipped the vigilante, and ran a few stores down for some delicious Mexican food.
We are so happy to be in Mexico with their delicioso food! We bought these topos (or something like that) that were buns filled with a slice of ham, then pollo or carne, and some onions, tomatoes, and mayo. We got some Corona at the little shop on the way back to the RV. Delicious!
By the way, the LP Gas station is directly across the street from the Tapachula Ford: (N14â€™55.242 / W92â€™16.197). We filled our onboard tank there.
By 7am, we were on the road! We headed up the fast and flat Mexico 200, with 2 police checks along the way at official locations. They checked vehicle permit and driverâ€™s license at the first, and passports at the second (as well as providing us directions and a fun chat). Then we passed about 3 other police stations with officers who didnâ€™t get up, but watched us drive through. I guess they were just looking for unusual activity. These checks were not intimidating because they were at official, standard checkpoints, not predatory police officers trying to get bribes.
We then took the road toward Tuxla Giutterez (it goes NE), which was a really great toll road. The toll was very inexpensive (28 pesos or so) and the scenery was spectacular. It was one breathtaking vista after another through amazing mountains and valleys. Chiapas is a rugged, amazing area. Weâ€™d seen it from the north, in Palenque and down Hwy 199 to Agua Azul, but saw much more of it these last two days. I must say that for all we hear about the rowdiness of Chiapas, the people we met were all very nice and helpful. They seem a little gruff initially, but a smile quickly resulted in the same, breaking down the initial armor.
Then we took the gorgeous new toll road that the Churchâ€™s mention in their book. The bypass around O was about Â˝ mile from the Pemex and exited right into an overpass. We were glad weâ€™d asked directions from the Pemex guard. About 3 sections of around 7 miles each were in really bad shape in the middle of a repair, but the rest of the 150 mile or more road was 55-65 mph road. Terrific!
We did have one military checkpoint (official) as we left Chiapas state and entered Veracruz state. The officer there asked us a few questions, but seemed a little embarrassed by the language difficulty and just laughed and waved us on. It was pretty funny.
We made terrific time on this driving day and arrived at the Tollroad heading to Veracruz (180D) at Coatzacoales by 4:20 pm.
There was much traffic on the tollroad toward Veracruz tonight as tomorrow and Christmas Day are holidays. But the road was excellent (for the most part) and the speed limit of 110 km/hr made for a really quick drive. We chased the sunset until about 6:15 pm when it was finally getting dark.
We are now parked at the Pemex along the 180D Tollroad, at the Cosamaloapan exit, on our way to Veracruz. Weâ€™re just before the Caseta at N18â€™ 20.069/ W95â€™49.177 and are parked along the 24-hour restaurant. They also have parking right along the road between the highway and the Pemex, but it is quieter back here in this level grassy field. We asked the Pemex guy, who filled our tank, and he seemed to indicate anywhere out of the way was fine. The place is hopping and Iâ€™m sure theyâ€™ll be happy if we just donâ€™t park in the middle of the lot, like most people seemed to do, nearly blocking the 5 gas lanes!
Weâ€™re hopping to make it to Costa Esmerelda tomorrow (about 4 hours / 190 miles to go) to spend a wonderful Christmas with our friends at Yuri Campground who we met on the trip down. Weâ€™re so happy to have made it so far and that weâ€™re all together!
We were making a list of all the amazing sights and fun activities weâ€™ve had on our trip Part 2. Will have to share that list. Also, to sum up the countries we visited, my favorites were Mexico and El Salvador, followed by Belize and possibly Guatemala (although I didnâ€™t get to spend as much time as planned in Guatemala), then Nicaragua, and finally Honduras. The people of all the countries were nice, but my level of personal safety, of whether we felt like Martians, the degree to which they tried to speak any English at all (which isnâ€™t expected, of course, but shows a friendliness or connection with other cultures), and the food and beauty of the countries influenced our feelings about the various countries.
While I enjoyed Honduras for the northern section, the roads, food, and horrible police checks and bribe attempts about 8 times along the southern 150 miles between Nicaragua and El Salvador make it unlikely that Iâ€™d want to return there.
El Salvador though, was absolutely gorgeous and intriguing. The people seemed friendly and engaging. While they didnâ€™t speak English, they did humor us well with our Spanish and tried to help us understand. The beach is stunningly beautiful. We avoided the cities and didnâ€™t get to spend much time there, but that is one place I would like to revisit.
Mexico! What an amazing country. I love the people, the food, the colors, the central plaza of the beautiful colonial cities, the countryside, the lush mountains and valleys, the â€śsure, no problemâ€ť and helpfulness of everyone. I think the Spanish is easier to understand than in other countries too. While the police can be a problem trying to get moribida, I hope Iâ€™ve figured out how to thwart that with the license in the wallet and the obvious B&W photocopy to hand over. Not once have I ever been cheated on the gasoline pumping although I have had occasions where the change had to be corrected.
I think the concern over crime is sad. As I told Ned, the scare with police checks or violent crime is that everything seems normal and then the attack seems to come out of nowhere. It is difficult to relax when you have to remain on guard. But the same could be said in America, except we donâ€™t like to act like it could happen in our town. Also, people like Tioga George say that fear robs you of joy, so donâ€™t let it. He lives fulltime in Mexico, where he says he can overnight in his motorhome with nobody bothering him. I sure hope that the drug crimes get under control because it is a shame that such a fascinating country remains undiscovered by those who fear the well-reported violence.