Saturday, November 22, 2014

Driving through Mexico - The final part

When we left Villahermosa it was pouring rain, roads were flooded and detours were many. Also we were driving over some of the worst roads of our trip. Think pot holes that jarred the car so hard that the door alarm went off. Luckily there was not a peep from the cats.
We took MX 180 which went along the bay of Campeche. The weather in the US had produced an "El Norte" which are winds coming across the Gulf. Wow was the sea angry. Huge crashing waves almost to the road. Pretty scary winds made driving very difficult and tiring. We went in and out of rain storms and hoped that we would drive out of the weather soon.

We arrived into the small beach town of Champoton. Seeing a Pemex station with a Italian Coffee Company (like a Starbucks) we stopped. It looked pretty popular as there were lots of people standing around and many stopped tour buses. Think German tourists... But we than find out through the Federal Police that there is a labor protest ahead and the road into Campeche is closed by this protest. But however we are not to despair...the District and Federals have made a detour so we can go around this disturbance....problem is that it will take an extra 2 hours on the back roads. Because the roads are rural and narrow only cars and small vans can go this way. What should have been said was that only 4 wheel drive could travel this way.

We started off with pretty good roads. At intersections there were police pointing us the right way. There were many cars and they jostled for position and passed in a desperate way. Scary. The good roads quickly became roads that we could only travel at about 20 mph....however there were pickup trucks and vehicles like taxi's that were going at least 50 mph. In some places the roads were close on being impassable....think single lane bridge made out of logs...
Finally at about 5:30 we were approaching Campeche and the road to Merida. We debated staying the night in Campeche, but the road seemed that it would be fine as it was a 4 lane highway and we remembered that it was fairly new. So we chanced it, even though we had not driven 'after dark' the whole trip.
3 Hours later we pulled up in front of our house. Carlos, I and the 4 cats were tired, hungry and happy!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Driving to Mexico - Part II

We drove into Mexico early on Saturday morning. No problems, the border patrol US dude just waved us through, though he did ask where we were going. When Carlos mentioned Merida, his response was that he heard it was cheap to live there. On the Mexican side we were not even stopped. Customs just waved us through as well. The 800.00 dollars I spent on the three cats getting their international health certificates were not even used. I figure if I hadn't gotten them, it would be the first thing customs would want to see.. 
Carlos had ordered our auto temporary import permit via the Internet and we placed them on the windshield the night before, so that didn't even have to be done. But like many, we travelled down the road about 25 km to find out that we had neglected to get our visa stamped at the border, so back we went. The customs official was actually pretty funny. He told us that we could go on instead of returning to Nuevo Laredo and take care of the problem when we arrived in Merida...however he said, you'll have to come back here to take care of the problem...your choice!
When we had accomplished this we were off down the roads in Mexico....our first night we planned to stop and stay in Mantenhuala, which is south of Monterrey. There we checked into our first auto hotel, named Hotel Real.. We really lucked out, it was the first one coming into town and it was clean and comfortable. The cats enjoyed it as well.

After loading up the car the next morning we were off. The cats only cried for the first hour than settled in for the rest of the day. The scenery was beautiful.

A full day of driving found us searching for a place just outside of Puebla for the night. Many of the auto hotels there did not have a garage door, just a heavy curtain. We finally found one with a garage door, but the room was above so all we needed for the night had to be carried up a steep flight of stairs. Another problem was that the rooms were not really soundproof and did not have the buffer of a garage between them. This place was pretty busy. They must have thought we were into something pretty kinky as Gus choose this night to start complaining with his Yowls at about 3 am! We ended up keeping the TV on all night.
The next morning I loaded up the car pretty quick and we were off. Cats settled in quick and most of the day was uneventful.The mountains coming down out of the mountains were breathtaking..the roads were good, but all that huge truck traffic was pretty scary. There were many tunnels as well as mucho of down and more down. Spectacular!

Arriving into Villahermosa we were ready to call it a day. We found a great little auto hotel, ordered a meal delivered to the dumb waiter into our room and just kicked back. This was the nicest auto hotel yet.
In the middle of the night it started to pour and did so all night and into the next day. There must have had at least 5-6 inches of  rain. Streets were flooded and we had to do several detours the next day just leavening Villahermosa. 

Next comes the final.......

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Love (Hotels) Across Mexico

Love Hotels also called Auto Hotels are an interesting resource in Mexico, Immaculately clean, with some rather interesting decor, the hotels were an interesting solution to our travelling with pets.

 Here is how they work. You drive through the gates of the hotel, and clerk comes out to your car. You tell her how long you want the room. The minimum is 4 hours.. She gives you the room number and you drive and park in that garage, check out the room and meet her again outside the room. If the room is satisfactory, you pay the amount, close the garage door and you're in. No names, no keys...very discreet and also a great way to sneak in 4 cats waiting in cages in the car.

And no need to unload the car full of boxes and suitcases. The only drawback is that the place can be rocking...if you know what I mean! We usually booked at the 24 hour rate which would be about 40.00 US... and they always threw in some free condoms...

Monday, November 17, 2014

Driving to Mexico -Part 1

We left St Louis early Thursday. We had packed the car the night before but as expected not everything fit I had to make some choices, which of course I did not want to do.
The first choices of course was to keep the new outdoor cantilever umbrella we bought last fall, as well as the 4 cats and their cages. Plus I also took a carrier in case Grumpy Gus was impossible...which he was..another story. Than some boxes of Carlos special gluten free foods which we have not been able to find in Merida, clothes, computers, cat foods for the persnickety felines, our personal pillows and a few personal papers that we thought we might need sooner than later..So the car looked like this:

The first day we went as far as Denton, Texas. For the first several hours I had caterwauling cats, even though I had given them, or most of them anyway, a light sedative. After about 4 hours they settled down and sleep most of the time. For the first two nights we stayed in Motel 6's as they welcome pets...the room were just OK. At an average of 50.00 a night I thought it was a good choice as not many chains will accept pets.
Day 2 we went to Laredo, Texas. This time I did not bother to sedate the cats and they settled down after a hour with only occasional protests. We arrived in Laredo fairly early and just had an early night as we wanted to cross the border early in the AM as most people suggest. We took the time to put on our Mexican car TIP (temporary import permit) onto our car windshield, This we had applied for on the Internet and we received it in a week! Unheard of!
And that was our first two days on the road!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

We are in Countdown Mode..

We decided it was a beautiful day and we love the St Louis Zoo in the fall. The animals are active and it is truly one of the most beautiful zoos in the US. So we loaded up the kids and got an early morning start to beat the crowds.

Halloween is now behind us. All the kids did their trick or treat from our house and a great time was had by all. Treat bags were filled to the brim and they didn't seem to mind the cold and windy weather. Its time now to get serious about leaving before the snow start to fall.

I've been working on the Menaje de casa for the last month or so. Carlos and I went to the storage bin and went through all the boxes and numbered them. The few pieces of furniture we are taking are also numbered. The spreadsheet is done and translated. Now I am just going through the house and gathering a few more things and adding them to the list.When Carlos comes back after our visas are finalized he will handle getting the list approved and everything transported. I understand now why people just bring the bare minimum. 

We are almost ready to get on the road. Yes, loading the cats into the car, filling the tank and telling the Garmin where we need to go. Yes, 5 days with 4 cats. Who hate cages and who hate riding in cars, mainly because that usually means going to the VETS! That is where we took them 2 days ago. Shots, international health certificates, a few pills to take off the edge of fear and almost $700.00 US later one more task was off the list.

We received our visas in Miami at the end of our cruise...Our Mexican car insurance is purchased and our sticker has been applied for....we are deciding what else can fit in the van with us and the cats and we hope to be on the road Thursday of this week and cross the border on Saturday morning. Keep your fingers crossed, say some prayers for us and send us any advice you may have....Thanks and see you all in Merida!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Our 14 days at sea...Part 1

For the first days of our cruise, the winds had a northern chill and the seas were rough. Carlos and I stood on the deck and watched the 7 foot waves with their white caps and foaming seas. It was fun and although many people were seasick, the rough seas hardly bother us. As we approached the Azore Islands of Portugal, the winds died down and the seas calmed and the blue sky and sunny days warmed us quickly! Carlos celebrated his 63rd birthday on board and had a grand time!
The Azores were lovely and we had a a nice walk around town and did a bit of shopping as well as caught up with our e-mails. Our friends happened to be on the same ship (not pre-planned) and we spent some quality time with them!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

With love from Denmark...

We are here in Denmark, part 1 of Carlos retirement party....We have spend some quality time with our friends and their families. We have one and onehalf day left and than we start part 2, which is our cruise from Copenhagen to Miami...14 days of wonderful sea air and just two stops, one in the Azores of Portugal and the other at the island of St Thomas.
The first three days in Denmark we spend in Jutland in the city of Kolding. Now for the last three days we are in the small village of Lejre about an hour from the capital city of Copenhagen. Today we spent in Copenhagen visiting Elsinore and Kronborg Castle as well as a forest with deer.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

It's Official...Carlos is RETIRED!

Monday was Carlos official retirement we have many plans of what to do and are right in the middle of them.
First we travelled to South Dakota to get new drivers licenses and to change our residence to the state. Nine hour drive there, a few hours to do what was needed as well as an overnight to make it our residence and than nine hours back. Got our license plates and the car is back from the auto shop all repaired and made pretty...
South Dakota
This morning I bought a couple of dog crates that will fit in the back of the van for the cats to ride in comfort and safety from St Louis to the Yucatan. I figure that I will put two cats, a litter pan and food in water in each. They used to be the crates of a couple of 60 pound labs so we should be good.
Our transportation to Merida

Tomorrow we leave to fly to Ft Lauderdale where on Tuesday we catch a flight to Copenhagen, Denmark. There we will stay for five days with friends that were our exchange students many years ago. After that we will take a ship for 14 days to Miami.This is the start of the celebration for Carlos retirement!
In a strange coincidence friends who used to live here in St Louis area will be on the same ship. (they now live in Celebration, FL) The ship will arrive in Miami on the 20th of October. The morning of the 21st we have an eight am appointment at the Mexican Consulate to apply for our temporal visa.....So today we are making copies of all that paperwork we need......and I have to pack too.
Soon it will be Goodbye St Louis!