A Mexican Adventure!

Ciudad Victoria Travel Blog

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Crazy driver in Mexico!

11.11.08  Whoo-hooo!  We wanted adventure and we got it in full force. 


We're in Mexico- it has been exciting getting here to Ciudad Victoria.  Here’s what's happened- then I lay my head to sleep.


Sunday - Nov. 9  We left the house at 1:25 pm and made it around Houston to Lake Texana State Park, not quite to Victoria.

See how you straddle the dotted line and pass over the double yellow line? Interesting...
  Although it was early (5:15 pm), we were tired from the marathon packing sessions and emotionally raw from leaving again.  So we took a nice walk around the campground that we shared with the camp host and one tenter. We never did see the alligators that were so prominently forewarned around the park.


Monday - Nov. 10 - It rained all night, which made for peaceful slumber, and then we took care of the tanks, the door that seems to open on its own (tightened up all the screws and adjusted a spring) and then made it an hour or two down the road.  Cruising along at highway speed, we’d gone south of Corpus Cristi when the engine started surging crazily.  The instrument panel lights and gauges went beserk, and we limped on the side of the highway a short distance to a Citgo.  Thank goodness for Good Sam’s Emergency Road Service who had a technician on the way nearly immediately.  I cannot find our GPS coordinates on the Nuvi 650.  I miss our Sallie GPS so much.  Is it just because I know her or is she really better?  Since I bought the card for Mexico Navigator GPS, I cannot really go back now, but that Garmin 2720 is awesome.

View of Mexico headed south toward Ciudad Victoria


Anyway, I told Good Sam’s that it was probably the alternator and to please have the tech bring one for my Ford when he came.  He got there much sooner than expected but did not have the alternator, nor did the courier who delivered the wrong alternator from 30 minutes away.  Back she went and Ford didn’t have the right one, so they found the correct alternator, delivered it back, and Duane installed it by the flashlight that I held.  Cash only for payment (they confirmed this in advance), which made me mighty glad that I’d travelled enough to know that sometimes cash is the only way out.  Back on the road at 7pm, taking a risk that the solution was fixed, driving a straight and lonely highway to the Brownsville Walmart at 9pm. 


Restless sleep -worried about the border crossing and Mexico and everything I don’t know.

Ciao Baby at Ciudad Victoria Trailer Park (Rosie's place)
  Hot too!  Sticky, sultry, smoggy, exotic.


Monday, Nov. 11th - Into Mexico!


Up early, into Walmart for some supplies, filled up gas, through the bank ATM to restock, and up one exit to Sanborn’s Insurance to pick up our Mexican policy and submit Central American policy request.  They were all very nice and bought a 99 Days to Panama book at cost.  Harriet, he tried to take my autographed copy, but I protected it fiercely and he got a different one! 


Then at 10:30 am we headed a few miles south on I-77 to the Church’s book recommended crossing of Veterans Memorial International Bridge.  The U.S. guy at the book at the end of the bridge told us that we were going to be “thrown into Mexico” the minute we went across the bridge.  That was foreboding!  Did we tremble or was it the RV lumbering across the huge, multi-lane bride for a long way, clattering alongside zipping cars and noisy trucks? 


We crossed the bridge and suddenly, everything was in Spanish!  Everything!  There were no niceties for the poor fools crossing who didn’t understand any of the signs for customs.  Regardless, we went forward and saw two buildings on the left side.  We knew from reading what we needed to get, but heaven help people who think they’ll be someone to ask.  We literally scraped through a high concrete barrier, seeing nowhere to park the rig to get out and go check in.  The concrete only got 2 screws on the front driver’s corner, but I was as slow and thin as I thought Ciao could be.  Was I to follow the sign for “trucks”?  Who knows?  But certainly a newer, wider rig could not have gotten through the concrete curbing.  Where is all the parking that the church’s book discussed?  I missed that.


So we thought we saw a parking area on the left and asked a Spanish-only (SO) speaking federale police (black uniform), where to park to get the vehicle permit.  He finally moved a cone and we backed up into a spot beside where we had just scraped through.  Apparently, the parking area was only for those unlucky enough to hear the dreaded buzzer as they went though and had to get inspected.  Then he put the cone back in front of us and off we walked into the building, while everyone around watched us like we were aliens.  We felt like aliens.  We were very nervous and quite confused since there were no instructions anywhere.


But we had all our paperwork and numerous copies, so in we went.  Nothing was self-explanatory and no one was there to ask.  So we went to the Banjercito window where I’d  completed online and in advance a registration for the “Temporary Vehicle Import Permit.”  But he sent us to Migration first to check ourselves in.  He gave us tourist cards and we stepped aside to fill those out.  Jazy was a huge help filling out the forms and her Spanish is terrific.  I kept her directly beside me all day, in fact.


The Migration guys then admired our passport moose stamp from Alaska and prepared our tourists cards.  We were each granted 180 days in Mexico.


We returned to get the vehicle permit.  I had copies of everything they needed except the new tourist card, which we could get at another window for “a donation.”  Each of them spoke very little English in there, but we were fortunate that we were first in line with nice people.  Never did anyone ask to see the authorization letters from Ned.  Interesting!


When we had checked the VIN number on the paperwork, handed over our Visa for the $23 per person fee and $50 Vehicle deposit (I think that’s all), then we were told to put the vehicle sticker on ourselves.  Meanwhile, Charles was hot and didn’t feel good, sat down, and finally seemed about ready to pass out by the time we clamored back into the RV.  More stress!


Then Jazy got out of the RV and motioned to the policeman that she could move the cone, but he kindly came over and waved us through, without smiling, but we knew he was being helpful and were grateful.  It was now about 11:45 am.


So now we’re starting down the road,  the GPS Nuvi is accidentally muted, and we’re in Matamoros.  Not easy driving.  We’re immediately accosted by 3 “donation” guys at the first streetlight.  The second guy smarmed our windshield with the squeegee when the light turned green and we continued moving in spite of him being in our way.  It is a game to see if we’ll stop and we didn’t, but in hindsight I might have coins ready.  Very stressful!


Lots of traffic and suddenly, the signs to Ciudad Victoria ended.  We’re lost in Matamoros!  YIKES!  Nuvi gets unmuted and leads us down a skinny road that turns to dirt.  Mangy dogs are lying under beat up trucks beside lean-to type houses.  No room to turn around without pulling into someone’s “courtyard”.  We can see the road ahead.  “Can we make it?” I ask Jazy, grimacing at the deep ruts, potholes, and large rocks, wondering if we can clear the tanks and levelers, wondering what to do if we don’t.  All prospects are scary.  “YES we can,” Jazy replied firmly.  She must be crazy, if not extremely bold, but I listen to her anyway and we plow forward so we don’t get stuck.  While the outcome was in doubt several times, we seemed to have made it.  A few more turns and Sallie had us headed south out of town!  Yahoo- another sigh of relief.


We needed propane.  We’d been searching for some since Lake Texana.  On the road out of Matamoros, there’s a huge propane station.  Nice looking building, lots of gas-station like pumps, and the only people we saw were a pair of guys hanging out in a big, rusty, beat up old car on the other side of the pumps.  Of course, the office was closed for lunch and it turned out the guys, who also were Spanish-only speakers managed to get Propane in the rig and accepted my 10 to 1 conversion of dollars to pecos (I think it’s 13 to 1 now).  No receipt, which likely means they may have pocketed the money.  They did run get a guy who supposedly worked there to try to speak English, but he made no attempt, and we were glad to scram.  However, we never did see another propane opportunity and were proud of ourselves that we got some when we could.  Without propane, we cannot run the refrigerator, stove, or heat (without electric hookup), so it is critcal.


Good roads to Ciudad Victoria, but strange to us.  Here are some differences that we think we’ve hopefully figured out.  There are half lanes to the side of full lanes in both directions.  You drive halfway over the dotted white line so that your wheel doesn’t go off the half lane shoulder (there is no shoulder).  People pass overtop of the solid double yellow middle lanes.  It doesn’t matter if oncoming traffic is coming, because they are halfway into their halflane too and you only need part of their lane.  See?  It actually is an interesting system that allows for easy passing, provided no one on their side is passing at the same time. 


The road frequently went through small towns which looked poverty-stricken with animals (chickens, donkeys, scrawny dogs, and cows) wandering nearby.  We sadly watched a dog cross the street and get hit by an oncoming car, but we think it lived.  Jazy screamed and put her face in her hands.  I had to tell her to not look back as the dog attempted to continue across.  Unfortunately Charles and Lia apparently saw some of it too.  I’d read about the littering of animals along Mexico’s roads and that it is not something that we can change.  Still, seeing it first hand on such a stressful day was about more than we could stand.  It added another rock to the pit of our stressed guts.


We had only one traffic stop by police, as we were about 30 miles south of Matamoros.  This is where, if you didn’t have your sticker on the car and your vehicle papers in hand, you’d have to turn around to go back to the border.  He seemed to be a nice officer and just asked us where we were headed, “Merida,” noted our sticker and paperwork, and sent us on our way.  Easy enough!


We did not have topays (speed bumps) happen out of nowhere.  I had feared this.  We always slowed to 60 k/h from the 100 k/h speed limit, and all in all, had an easy drive, once we figured out the lanes, that is.


The further south we went, the prettier the landscape became with rolling green hills.  Sometimes, people would see us coming and throw their hands up to wave hello.  It took us awhile before we were quick enough to wave back in time.  We


By 4:45pm, we made it to Cuidad Victoria, the capital of the state of Tamaulipas.  I think that is rush hour for Mexicans too, because it was busy, but with Nuvi and the Church’s book, we made it to the RV Park.  Rosie, the owner, followed us in and was very nice.  The “Victoria Trailer Park” caters to people from the U.S. and we are the only rig here, except for a permanent one that looks empty.  We paid our $26 for full hookup (15 amp electric) and are parked on a grassy site under a canopy of trees.


We tried to go a little past the campground to find the Sonina grocery store- we need the cash machine inside it, but quit trying before we reached it.  I doubt there was room to park this evening, and Rosie says to walk instead.  We might just try it in the morning.


When we said a prayer tonight, we meant it.  It was an exciting, stressful time getting here. We sent Ned several “I’m OK” messages, so hopefully it’s on our SPOT map.  I tried calling on the cell phone, but probably need the country code.


A full moon is shining through the trees.  We took  nice showers, fans are running (it was hot, but now pleasant).  We practiced first aid when I tried to turn a running fan and got 2 fingers cut (they’ll be fine).  We think we are in heaven from the luxury of it all.


We are probably resting here tomorrow. We’re in need of cash, gas, and our bearings.  Rosie, the campground owner, handed me some info and then mentioned that I should make a copy of my driver’s license and never give anyone my real one.  I made some copies, including some very good color ones, but I need to find out what she means about “if anyone bothers you” when we’re walking to the store. 


Ah, Mexico.  We are so happy to be here and so confused by it all.  This is nothing like the touristy places I’ve visited four times before.


In one short day, all the reasons for learning Spanish were pounded into the kids.  Say no more!  They are believers now.  Jazy was giving us conjugation verb lessons at dinner.  We must learn in order to survive.  Wish us luck!


Everything is new and disconcerting and uncomfortable.  I explained why it’s called “culture shock.”  We felt like we were in shock from all the stress of the requirements, for which we didn’t have the answers.  But we did note that nobody was mean to us today- everyone was nice enough.  So while we were on guard and stressed and emotionally raw, today was a good day.


I’m really proud of the kids.  If we went back tomorrow, they’d be more worldly than they were yesterday.  So much change!  We look forward to interacting more with the people tomorrow.


Adios mi amigos!



TerryKaren says:
So good to see you post an date on your blog. I admit I was getting a little worried but that is me. Be careful and enjoy the adventure.
Terry & Karen
Posted on: Nov 16, 2008
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Crazy driver in Mexico!
Crazy driver in Mexico!
See how you straddle the dotted li…
See how you straddle the dotted l…
View of Mexico headed south toward…
View of Mexico headed south towar…
Ciao Baby at Ciudad Victoria Trail…
Ciao Baby at Ciudad Victoria Trai…
Ciudad Victoria
photo by: ekthor