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Old 05-23-2004   #1 (permalink)
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Condensed (road) trip report.

Condensed (road) trip report.

Rose and I are back from another very short but wonderful visit to Playa.

On Sunday night Rose suggested driving to Playa. On Monday I quit my job, rushed out to the camera store and bought myself a Nikon D70. By Tuesday morning we had new tires on the truck and were driving east across the US, away from the Pacific towards the Gulf. We did not use a paper map for the entire journey. I connected a GPS to my laptop, fired up some mapping software and we had the luxury of full satellite navigation.


God was not my only copilot.

We drove the 3,400 miles from our Livermore CA house, to our Playacar House in just over three days. The drive was much easier than I thought it would be, we drove day and night stopping only for gas and (very occasionally) for food. We had set up a bed in the back of our SUV so that one of us could sleep while the other drove.


Ear plugs and eye shades made this a luxurious bedroom.

The vehicle rested only at gas stops and for the one proper meal we ate each day.



Last edited by michaelholmes; 06-01-2004 at 11:45 PM..
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Old 05-23-2004   #2 (permalink)
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You QUIT your job....?
Or do you mean you got off work for that day?

WOW...must've been a BAD case of PDC-WS, eh?
So did you drive because you had provisions and other things to get to PDC?
Or perhaps you were to bring the grill to Villa Flamboyan for the BBQ?

Oh, and leave it up to you Michael to plug in some of the software/electronics
gadgetry to get to PDC...

Glad it went ok as the BBQ would attest...

Last edited by cuffedlinks; 05-23-2004 at 03:29 PM..
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Old 05-23-2004   #3 (permalink)
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Cops!!!!!

Don’t you just love those road signs in Texas.



As we drove through Texas, we had the first tangible benefit from the use of GPS. Satellite navigation provides a very accurate vehicle speed. It was interesting to see the effect of the new tires. Our actual speed was 3 mph faster than the speedometer indicated. Using the GPS I set the cruise control to 80mph for the 75mph speed limit across Texas. As the sun came up on Wednesday morning we had our first meeting with the Texas Highway Patrol. Those guys are so nice. The result, a written warning for driving 80 mph in a 75 zone. If I had relied on my speedometer to judge the fastest non-ticketable speed, I would have been calling the same cop something less than complementary.

After our roadside meeting was over, I called Tyra and asked her to set up a party at Villa Flamboyan for Sunday night. At this point I was still overly pessimistic about the difficulties of driving across Mexico. And so Sunday was the earliest ETA that I could be sure of.
Special thanks to Tyramania for this favor.

As we started to get closer to the state line the road signs started to look at little more ominous.




The border crossing at Laredo was difficult. There is this sign in English after you cross. All tourists must turn right. An odd sign. What does it mean. Turn right at some point in your journey? Or is it a political message? It is actually an incomplete attempt to get us to the office to license our vehicle to operate in Mexico. However the notion that the office is to the right without any specifics was nothing more than a vague hint. We stopped asked a local person where to buy vehicle insurance and received complete instructions as to the location of the office. Which at this point was behind us. So we did a U turn (I guess we had turned left and where driving the Kerry route by this point. Left and right are almost the same direction these days, but enough about politics).

NOTE: If you have multiple passports, bring in your vehicle using a Mexican passport. We did not know this and used a US passport. Our vehicle permit is for 6 months instead of the 12 months available to Rose using her Mexican passport. We told the official that we where headed for Belize. (as that is the country that the truck would visit to get its papers renewed).

The drive to Tampico starts easy enough but the roads are really bad at the edges of town. I am still amazed by driving through an urban setting on a dirt road that was indistinguishable from a plowed field. It was late at night when we drove through Tampico, I would not have liked to have driven these roads in a car during the night. I was so very glad of those big truck tires, I simply powered though all of the pot holes with absolute confidence.

As the first good paved roads appeared in an industrial area at the edge of town I picked up speed and was soon traveling comfortably over the speed limit. Then all of a sudden I found myself in the middle of a nest of cops. On both sides of the road, in front of me and behind me. Blowing whistles flashing lights, I was busted! Or perhaps not. They had one small car. I had momentum. As a recent graduate from the James school of Mexico driving I decided it would be too dangerous to stop. The safest thing to do would be to keep moving and blend the truck into the traffic ahead of us. I had a good teacher! The cops never did get their car started and I continued at a little more modest pace for the rest of the drive through town.

Last edited by michaelholmes; 05-23-2004 at 09:46 PM..
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Old 05-23-2004   #4 (permalink)
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works every time
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Old 05-23-2004   #5 (permalink)
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The mapping software I was using is a little out of date. And this became evident as we got to the center of town. We had already faced one computer mapping problem in California with two freeways that did not link as expected by the computer. Tampico has a nice new tunnel. A tunnel!!!. Shock horror. Good bye satellites, good bye navigation. We popped out of the tunnel in the wrong part of town and had to work our way back to the highway that we needed. To accelerate the process Rose got directions from a gas station. Left here, right there; we were getting close. Then “Go around the river she explained”. “Go around the River??” I can go around a lake. But go around a river. So much for the directions. We criss crossed the highway using GPS navigation until finally we found an on ramp. Go around the river? Turn right if you are a tourist! Such is navigation in Mexico.

By Thursday night we had driven for nearly 3000 miles and reached Escarcega. Time to slow down and find a real bed that the two of us could use at the same time. Rose visited the first hotel in town and I checked on the vehicle. After 30 minutes she did not return. I checked in on her. The hotel manager was taking care of other customers. He had shown Rose one room and was working with some other customers before showing her another. I had no patience for this (three days of driving was taking its toll) and I decided it was time to take a look at another hotel. We got to the other hotel and were shown an awful room. Rose smiled, as she exclaimed this is so much better than the last place! The sheets were clean, it had air, we paid cash and headed into town for dinner. Wow, I am so glad I never saw that other place.

The next day we had breakfast at the same restaurant that had provided dinner. This was the only place in town with drip coffee as Mexico sustains itself on a diet of instant coffee. A street vendor sold us a small folding table during breakfast. The odd part was when he explained that this would be so easy to take into Belize. The last mention of Belize was 3000 miles earlier at the Border. Here we are in the middle of nowhere and even the street vendor knew where we were headed.
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Old 05-23-2004   #6 (permalink)
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If you arent a writer you should be , you sure tell a good story and know when to leave people hangin!!!
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Old 05-23-2004   #7 (permalink)
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when I made the break in '93, I left Maryland without a map and 5 relaxed driving days later, I was in Mexico City. It was a memorable adventure.

I didn't even have a map of Mexico City with me, but somehow I found the apartment I had rented a few weeks previously.
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Old 05-23-2004   #8 (permalink)
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Hey Michael,
Hate to be redundant but, as Cuffedlinks asked . . .

YOU QUIT YOUR JOB!!!!????!!!!

Are you going to be able to continue to entertain me in the style to which I've become accustomed?

Al from NY
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Old 05-23-2004   #9 (permalink)
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quit?
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Old 05-23-2004   #10 (permalink)
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After the compliment from JX2 I decided to Sex up the report with a few photographs.

I'll try to continue the story later in the week after I start my new Job.
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Old 05-23-2004   #11 (permalink)
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Hey guys, I guess he DID QUIT his job...Now that's strong...although I have the gut feeling that he's landed a better one...
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Old 05-24-2004   #12 (permalink)
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Hey Michael - I'm impressed! i've been thinking myself about taking my old Jeep to MX from California. What kind of mapping software did you use? Can i get a copy of your GPS path? Now if I could just jack it directly into my car and spend the trip sleeping in back while my trusty laptop negotiated the roads, and out ran the cops!
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Old 05-24-2004   #13 (permalink)
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Thanks for the pictures! Now where's the rest of the report? I'm dying here!
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Old 05-25-2004   #14 (permalink)
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It’s too late tonight to continue the story. I’ll finish by the weekend I promise. I’ll even throw in a quiz. Start reading up on Ice, and that way you’ll be the first to answer the “What is this?” photo quiz that will be included in the next segment.

Thankfully we did not attempt to pass blueseas on the journey. Our Tahoe looks too much like a Suburban, especially coming up from behind at 95mph. I did get to see how a left turn signal gets “recoded” to actually mean left turn as opposed to safe to pass. Perhaps that should be tonight’s quiz.

What is the clue offered along with a left turn signal, when you really want to turn left on a highway? I’ll accept either of the two versions I have seen, though one will not work well at night. Double points if you know both.

Last edited by michaelholmes; 05-25-2004 at 12:50 AM..
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Old 05-25-2004   #15 (permalink)
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Left turns.

I have seen people pull to the right and stop with a left turn signal on waiting for traffic to clear.

I have also seen an arm out the window waving wildly to indicate they are going that way.

Somehow I have a feeling it is neither of those.
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