It was this trip that I saw an unloaded truck and a driver being arrested for drug smuggling at Benjamin Hill. There was also a horrible truck accident north of Imuris. As we approached the states, the weather deteriorated. Lower clouds, sprinkles, then finally rain.
We reached the border around 2 PM, 8 hours to cover 360 miles. Yes, it takes that long. There are a lot of areas that are slow, especially in the towns. There are few bypasses and I stopped at the Home Depot in Hermosillo. I know how to get around town, but the traffic is always terrible in Mexican cities. It took an hour to cross town.
Driving the maxipista had turned out to be easier than expected. I was able to keep up with the fast traffic and there were enough other cars on the road to make the road hazards easy to spot. Mexicans are the ultimate defensive drivers. No one is looking out for you, so you’d better look out for yourself. I had no trouble adjusting, I drive that way in the states. We all cooperated, I hung with the same cars for long periods time after time.
There was not too bad a delay at the border, we waited for about 45 minutes. I don’t bring the trailer this way when I leave Mexico. It is quicker and easier to go out by way of Lukeville and Gila Bend, Arizona. But I was after building supplies. So…off to the Home Depot in Nogales. Bad news. Not a staple in the store. Most of their business was from across the border and Mexicans simply don’t use air powered staple guns. The definition of a Mexican staple gun-a hammer bending over a nail. But there were several Home Depots in Tucson. OK, back on the highway and an easy 40 mile drive to Tucson, or so I thought. By now the rain was pouring down and visibility was restricted and I was getting tired. We pulled into the Home Depot on the south side of Tucson at around 5:30 PM. I was in luck, they had several cases. Some were a little shorter than the ones we were using, but only 1/4 inch. We could use those on the good walls and use the longer ones on the difficult walls and ceilings. I bought several cases along with some tools, shovels, mortar trowels, another air stapler and soon I had a large pile loaded into my pickup. I got totally soaked from the rain, which was coming down in buckets by this time. We stopped at the Burger King in the parking lot and got takeout. I was heading to a motel in Green Valley for the night. I hauled most of the supplies into the motel room so they wouldn’t get stolen from my truck. More getting soaked. We finally settled in around 8PM.
The next morning we were on the road by 7am. The rain had ceased. I noted in my journal that the "wind was howling, it’s going to be a long day. I hope we get south of the wind." The border crossing was easy. We already had all our paperwork and it is legal for me to leave my trailer in Mexico temporarily. The border guards hardly looked at us and we were headed south. Slowly. Look at this…
That’s no mistake, we are on the wrong side of the road. I hadn’t dared stop earlier to take a picture, it was way to dangerous. The rain had caused large round rocks to roll off the bank into the highway. There were 100,000s of them, blocking the southbound lanes. It was obvious that the occupants of the smaller cars had to get out and clear a path even in the northbound lane. I was able to wind around and I had enough clearance that I didn’t have to stop. I didn’t want to stop, as the rocks were still rolling down the road cuts. You can see a few here, but imagine this road with about 10 rocks per every 100 square feet. Some were as big as basketballs, but vast majority were in the range of softball size or smaller. They weren’t hopping into the air, so all you had to do was hope that none rolled into the side of your wheels. I had to dodge a few, but hillside was pretty stable by the time I was passing through. The man in the yellow raincoat was trying to clear the road. No way. It would take heavy equipment to clear the rocky area, about 2 miles in length. Any highway department in the US would have closed the road, but in Mexico you are on your own and you make the choice.
Another "memorable experience", a quote from my favorite Mexican travel author, Karl Franz . "The People’s Guide to Mexico" is a great read even if you never plan to travel to Mexico. It is warm and humorous, with a very personalized look into the Mexican culture.
Back to the highway. We stopped back at the Home Depot in Hermosillo, and I bought one 80cm doors. They had a bunch of 70’s, but we needed 80’s. Then across the street to a Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet for lunch. Pat was ecstatic, they had mashed potatoes. The first she had seen since arriving in Mexico. Called puree, they tasted like instant. She didn’t care, they were mashed potatoes. There was also cole slaw, the first I’d ever seen in Mexico. Then on the Ciudad Obregon. 150 miles in 2 hours and 10 minutes. I bought 8 more door frames and tried to order about 20 more. Nope, they would order them if you prepayed (Shirley came back and ordered them two days later, I think). Got into Navajoa at dark. It turned out my headlights were covered with slime, and I had to creep cautiously for the last 10 miles. Total distance was a little over 800 miles in two days.
I was exhausted, but wound up from the drive. To relax, I walked over and watched 4 on 4 soccer on a basketball court. It was amazing, those guys were good. It had rained and the soccer field was too wet and muddy. So they improvised. Mexican’s are the best improvisers that I have ever seen. "Whatever works" seems to be the Mexican motto. That night it rained about 1 inch of rain…
Next-Mud and Flies.
Tip-Choosing a safe restaurant. It’s easier than you would think. In the tourist areas in cities or towns, there is little to worry about. All of the restaurants (even palapa restaurants with sand floors) are used to foreign tourists and they try to keep everything clean in the prep, cooking, and serving areas. They use bottled water for rinsing vegetables. Why? They don’t want the bad reputation of making tourists sick. Word gets around. What about the outlying areas? It’s a little trickier. Ask the local Americans or Canadians. More remote or street vendors? Follow your nose, it will lead you in the right direction. Then watch, or better yet, ask the Mexicans. They don’t like getting sick either. A busy restaurant or street vendor usually means good, safe food in spite of sometimes crude conditions. Trust your nose, though. If it smells questionable for any reason, don’t eat it. I shy away from deep fried foods on the street, the oil usually looks revolting. Also, avoid ceviche from street vendors unless you know them. The only time I got sick at a restaurant in Mexico was from a large American chain in Puerto Vallarta. It was the last place I would have suspected. I ate there again 3 years later and had no problems. You worried about getting sick? Some suggestions will be in the next tip.
An wizened 85 year old lady runs this little stand with a granddaughter (daughter?) near the Dodge dealership in Navajoa, Sonora. Her business has been a fixture in this area since the 50’s! She puts out scrumptious beef tacos and salsa made with 5 different types of chilies. I hot rate the salsa at "nuclear", but it sure is tasty. No bacteria could thrive here due to the radioactivity. The owner of the dealership lets her work in the shadow of his building, but she will have to move when he remodels. Many local workers eat lunch here. She got mad and threatened me when I tried to get her picture. With all those husky Mexican men eating nearby, I put my camera away.
A typical scene at a local market. First look them over, then take your pick.
A line of food vendors with stove pipes above their booths at the overlook in Copper Canyon. The man on the right is hauling an inexpensive lunch back to the train. They make some spectacular burrito thingies with meat, potatoes, and vegetables and salsa ranging from wimp level clear to floor wax stripping strength. You can’t go wrong. And yes, I will have an entire post on Copper Canyon later on with lots of photos and commentary.
Mr. Moros, Playa las Glorias. The yellow building is the kitchen, to the left is the palapa dining area. My trailer is tucked under the palm trees on the right.
The dirt floor dining area at Mr. Moros. They also have a dirt floor kitchen. This restaurant is, in the opinion of many RVers including myself, one of the best restaurants on the upper west coast of Mexico. The fish is purchased daily and they use only the freshest of ingredients. The Red Snapper Sinaloese brings in travelers from miles around. RVer’s will actually make the extra effort to stop here even though the park is 20 miles from the maxipista. A tip of my cap to "Tortilla Maria". She has been working here for over 15 years, and hand makes all the tortillas served to the customers.
The El Mirador, near the turnoff to the Paricutin volcano in Michoacan. This meal was my most memorable in all of my Mexico trips. This was a dilapidated worn out building with a tiny little sign on the front. We stopped here and pointed to what we wanted to eat. She fixed us a meal so tasty and well prepared I can taste it to this very day. The weather was very cold and business was slow and it was obvious she was having a bad day. As a tip we left a nice sweater to help her warm up. Her excitement at receiving such a nice tip was touching, and she was crying with joy as we left.
Although you can’t see it, tears are running down her face. Great food in such a humble atmosphere.