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Archives: Volume 2 - April 2001
2000/2001: Oct | Nov | Dec | Jan | Feb | Mar | Apr

Traveling Mexico - Homeward Bound

"We, however, got a push from some federal camino police officers, thank god for cattle guards!"

K.L. Moore

Some many people come here via plane. Some even come by bus. And a few come by car. Driving through Mexico, how crazy is that???? Not so crazy. It is cheaper. It allows you to see more of this wondrous country. It is long, but the view is beautiful, sprawling mountains, thick forests and quaint colonial towns. Granted, you will need some time. About two to three days, depending on how fast and furious you drive.

Last year, I hopped in the back of a 1974 Jeep Wagoneer, properly named Scrappy, and headed north to Texas. There are routes to take to all four of the border-states. Stick to the cuotas, or toll roads. They are safe and well traveled. Drive during daylight hours, always. Our driver wanted to head toward Texas via Guadalajara and San Luis Potosi. Known as the scenic route, we headed up the coastal highway, HWY 200, to Colima. It is a very windy road, with some very breath-taking views and turns.  

Definitely leave Zihuatanejo early morning. You need to take the toll road, or cuota 54, outside of Tecoman towards Guadalajara. We made it right after night-fall. The entire day was beautiful, but we had some car problems on the toll-road into Guadalajara. We stalled, or ran out of gas, depending on the male/female opinion. This is an interesting note. Ever heard of the Green Angels? They are a rescue/repair service provided by the Mexican Tourism Board. They are wonderful. We, however, got a push from some federal camino police officers, thank god for cattle guards! We were obviously blocking rush hour traffic. As we sat by the side of the road, waiting for our driver to return with some gas.....I realized, here I am experiencing every tourist's nightmare, stranded by the side of the road in Mexico. It was like waiting anywhere for gas. Just a long wait; I had my book. 

Outside of most of the larger Mexican towns look for motorist hotels, safe and secure; they are usually marked, MOTELS. For about $20.00 USD, you get a private locking garage for your car and a clean comfortable room. Note, the maximum stay is eight hours, the rooms are usually rented by the hour. They are wonderful for those people who do not want to unpack their car or want to catch a few z's without worrying about their car being out in the open.

The next day, we jumped in Scrappy, rested and gassed up and headed for our next destination, via San Luis Potosi. In Guadalajara look for signs for the cuota 80 north to Lagos de Moreno. This toll road lasts until the city of Lagos de Moreno. After this it becomes a free road, still highway 80, until you come to the city of San Luis Potosi. Once you are in San Luis Potosi, take the cuota 57 North to Matehuala. Our true destination point was outside of Matehuala, Real de Catorce. 

This day of driving was long, about ten hours...and as we turned off onto the unlit desert road to Real, Scrappy did start to get tired. She needed to rest. So we let her. Standing once again on a road in the middle of a desert in Mexico, I wished only for a few more hours of sunlight. After a long nap, Scrappy revved up and made it the 30 more miles or so to our destination point. 

Real de Catorce is an abandoned silver mining town, which has become a destination point for the adventure traveler. You have to go through an old mining shaft for about 2.5 miles to reach the town. We made it and sighed a sigh of relief. After mopping our brows, we realized there were police cars everywhere. No one was being allowed into the town. This can not be. Our driver said, very adamantly, he was not spending the night in the truck. I could not blame him. The local police were cordial and nice, but they, too, were adamant. No, there is no escaped murder or convict....just a movie, a big Hollywood production movie. It seems that the film people can and do take over entire towns while filming. No room at the inn.

Well, I had been there before. I had friends in small places. Friends with inns. These friends had family, who had family, who had family. I obtained the last room in town. Above my friend's brother-in-law's sister-in-law's small two-room house, with toilets and showers but no covering on the window, it would do. The police were rather amazed at my find, so much they let us take the car into town. Scrappy barely made it up the narrow steep walkways that are the streets of Real de Catorce. We quickly learned that this was no mere film, oh no, it was a Brad Pitt movie, and suddenly, for all the women in the car, staying in an open-air room with two beds for four people, seemed just fine. Brad Pitt sightings, instead of sightseeing became the main goal. 

A full day and two nights later we set off for Texas, we stayed a day longer to let Scrappy rest, of course. Goodbye Brad, Hello Laredo! Up Highway 57 to Monterrey Cuota 40, take the loop around Monterrey, then Cuota 85 to Laredo. This last bit takes about 8 hours or so. Be prepared to show your tourist card/FM-3 documents before entering the border area! Once you are in Laredo, cross the bridge, go through customs and you are on I-35 to Austin. A note, drive slow through Laredo....our driver, after 27 hours of driving through Mexico, got pulled over for speeding. He was not too pleased. 

A quicker route to Texas and not as scenic is via Acapulco. Mostly toll roads after Acapulco, take Highway 200 south to Acapulco then Cuota 95 to Mexico City. Remember, in Mexico City there is a ban on cars driving in the city on certain days. Look at your license plate. Do not drive on Monday if it ends with a 5 or 6, Tuesdays a 7or 8, Wednesdays a 3 or 4, Thursdays a 1or 2 and Fridays a 9 or 0. Saturdays and Sundays there is no ban. Once in Mexico City, take a left on the Periferico (loop, looks like a clover) to Cuota 57 to Queretaro, and then on to San Luis Potosi. Then follow the directions from above. A good map is a must. A car in good condition is even more of a must. But, most importantly, you need a sense of adventure. Drive through Mexico, if anything, it makes for good dinner conversation.

April 2001

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