Sorry. I will keep it going.....Hope you are enjoying!
Guadalajara has a few huge suburbs where dealers come from all over the world to buy Mexican crafts at bargain prices. After we learn the bus routes we travel to these places easily for about 35 cents one way.
The craft factories are right here.
Shopping is hard work so we need to take breaks.
It's hard to imagine the crowds of people here.
My mother designs and makes theme craft mice and is always looking for miniature accessories. I score loads of stuff here for pennies, miniature Mexican hats, bowls, cups, fruit, panchos.
Where there's shopping there is always lots of food.
Last edited by cavebiker; 01-10-2006 at 06:37 PM..
I was never one to go on guided tours but our hotel manager was telling us of a great 6 hour tour to the town of Tequila and it only costs $18, only a couple bucks more then taking a bus there on our own. Well the tour had my name on it, Tequila, and it included a tour of a tequila factory where the best tequila in the world is distilled complete with samples. Say no more, a luxury bus picks us up at our hotel and we are off.
In route we pass fields and fields of blue agave cactus, the only cactus that can used to make tequila. Only a few states in Mexico can grow this type of cactus.
A statue of a Jimador, a blue agave cactus harvester. This is a tough and skilled job, a Jimador starts learning the job at age eight.
Lots of tequila for sale in the town of tequila.
The boilers at the tequila factory and a truck being filled up with shredded cactus pulp.
These are the harvested blue agave cactus called pineapples. I pinch myself to make sure this is real.
We all taste a piece of shredded pineapple. It has a kind of molasses taste.
We are all ready to check out of hotel Roma. We need to drive the jeep out of the parking basement and attach the rack and put all the stuff back up on top. But No!. I left the dome light on one day and no way was the jeep going to start. All the parking attendants were there and willing to help but nobody in Guadalajara has jumper cables. We all back the jeep up so we get the longest running start we can, about twenty yards. The head attendant says to stick it in second gear. They all start pushing. It starts!
I get out of the parking basement and pull the jeep off the road and onto the curb. It was early and the street businesses weren't open yet. Heidi is helping me get the rack back on. I just get it secured when a bicycle cop shows up asking lots of questions and telling me I have an infraction, I think? Heidi freaks out because she had told me not to park there and runs back inside the hotel to look for the manager, Luis who has been so nice to us. We have been through this before in other countries so I suspect what the deal is, so does Heidi. Luis comes out to help translate. Luis:"Yes, we have a 180 pesos infraction that we would have to show up and pay tomorrow or maybe the next day at the court house, OR we could maybe pass the officer a little tip, 50 pesos" Well, I already had the cash ready in my right front packet and I guessed the amount to the exact peso. 50 pesos (US $4.50) and all good and the jeep stays there for as long as it takes us to pack. While planning the trip to Zacatecas and never knowing what lies ahead we were already anxious about hitting the road. Nothing like some drama first thing in the morning to get the adrenaline going!
Guadalajara is a huge city and the traffic is a mess. Major streets change names sometimes three times through town and the maps we carry don't reflect all of the changes. Well of course we get all snarled up looking for a street that had already changed names, our map had another name on that section of street.
We manage to get to the outskirts of town. Now we are looking for the highway to Zacatecas. Things didn't look right. For the first time I ask Heidi to pull out the compass so I can get a good feeling about the road we are on and the direction we are going. Well it's been a lone time since Heidi was a Girl Scout and she claims she wasnâ€™t there for the compass training. I make the mistake of telling her to line up the arrow with the main marker north. Wellâ€¦. The big black moveable arrow was pointing southeast on the compass. I get a reading from Heidi that was a little skewed. I do some great jogging around and feel good that the highway is just over the next hill, But No, and No, and No, We ended up in some little village with no outlets except bumpy dirt roads going up into the foot hills. We drive back to the village and finely find it on a map. Whoosh, hours later we have our bearings back and are heading out of town on the highway to Zacatecas.
The scenery on the way to Zacatecas city is beautiful. We go though desert then forests and sometimes palm trees.
Things are starting to get a more 'wild wild west' feel the deeper we get into Mexico.
One of several entrances to a huge and beautiful cemetery.
Last edited by cavebiker; 01-10-2006 at 06:41 PM..
The Lonely Planet Mexico guide book is a great resource but one needs to realize that the hotel listings are just a sample of what's available. We are using up Mexico fast and are looking to sha..ling a little more as we get closer to the border. We wanted the Best Western with a pool and bar but the parking clearance was too low again. We end up in a nice simple place just up the road with great parking. We are only a few blocks from the old historic section of town, just the way we like it. The jeep stays parked until we are ready to go again.
We enjoy the historic Mexican feel of this town.
This city was built from the wealth that came from silver mines in the area.
No expense was spared.
Chess players in the plaza.
Last edited by cavebiker; 01-10-2006 at 06:42 PM..
San Louis Potosi:
No matter how deep one travels into Mexico the return journey always seems infinitely shorter then the voyage in. When Heidi and I look into each others eyes now we can sense how close we are getting to the US border. We can’t believe it. This trip is almost coming to a close. The more we travel the more we like Mexico and the more comfortable we get, we don’t want this to end.
It’s about two hundred and some miles to go from Zacatecas to San Louis Potosi. In Mexico that’s a perfect day’s travel distance. Yes you can put on a lot more miles in a day but then you need to stay focused on starting early, eating fast and maybe looking for a motel in the dark, not our style. The highway on ramp was just a block from our hotel. We are out of town in no time.
Sometimes when we coast to a stop with the windows down we can still hear the clicking sound coming from under the jeep. This is not good, it’s getting worse.
The terrain, the trees and cactus on the way to San Louis Potosi are all different from anything we have seen so far.
We pull into San Louis Potosi, a city of over six hundred thousand, early and find our way right to downtown with no problem. Heidi and I act like a finely tuned team now with me doing the driving and Heidi navigating using the guide book, city maps and hotel recommendations. We like to get the hotel first thing then do all our exploring after on foot. In big cities in Mexico it almost always ends up that the road you need to turn down is a one way street going the other way. Heidi barks out with intensity what the next street should be and our possible plan of attack to reach the hotel. We find the hotel, right in the center of old downtown but the parking clearance looked close. The downtown traffic was tense and we almost ‘bailed out’ for a motel on the outskirts of town. We decided to try one more thing and look for the back of the hotel. Bingo, a big secure gated parking lot attached to the hotel. We drive right in and are parked for the duration. Martini bar next to the pool, life is good.
View from our hotel window. We were in a big high rise hotel right in the center of town. This seemed like a big step up for us, bellman, bar, restaurant. It just had the feel of luxury, $64 a night. We don’t like to spend that much but at this point in the trip we just say to ourselves “This is cheaper then a motel-6 in the US” We are geared up for some heavy Mexican Colonel town exploration. Everything is within walking distance.
Our guide book boosts highly about Zacatecas city but doesn’t say much about San Louis Potosi. Well, we liked it here as much or more then we liked Zacatecas. There are tons of old colonel buildings, markets and a real homey Mexican feel to it. We are on another marathon march circling the center of the old downtown area. Lots of fun, enjoy the photos, this is the Mexico we love.
Every big city center has body weight scales set up for the public to rent. This one was 2 pesos. We ask ourselves “What is up with that?”
Cobbler central. I should have had my boots resoled here.
Check out this parking! We have so much more fun exploring cities by foot.
No shortage of impressive old architecture to check out.
After some shopping one day we set out to look for a bar. After walking in and out of a couple of dull places we wander into a happening place with real Mexican décor. The bar was playing a good mix of Latin rock and had a few tables of young people. We couldn’t believe it, with every drink we ordered we were served a plate of some great local food (gratis), ceviche with tostados, bean soup and quesadillas. We couldn’t have eaten any more, what a find.
Back to our hotel.
San Louis Potosi was good for us. We recommend it for anyone who enjoys colonel Mexico.
Back on the road:
Three nights here seemed too short. We made a common travelers mistake, saw something we wanted and thought we would have time to get it later. We are now feeling even a more intense sense of not wanting to leave Mexico. The next town on our zigzag route north is Cuidad Victoria, the last stop before the US border. Heidi and I look at each other when we say that and go “Ahhhhhhhhhhh!”
Getting out of town was not easy but with our navigation system and experience of just going with the flow when things are not as expected, we make it out of town. We are on a nice new modern highway, this seems like it’s more US already.
But No, this still is Mexico. We couldn’t believe the lack of warning before major road construction. Yet another reason we don’t drive at night.
Heading up into the mountains.
We encountered lots of construction going through the mountains and the jeep is making funny noises. ??
Our jeeps clicking sound turned into a clunking sound complete with on and off vibrations, just the way it sounded before we lost the drive shaft in Mazatlan. After climbing under I see my suspicions were right. The new bracket the guys put on for me in Colima was the wrong size. The bearing cup is cocked, I’m sure that blew the U-joint out. I straighten everything up and tighten it down as good as possible. We still have mountains to climb and I don’t want this thing falling apart again. Yesterday while in San Louis Potosi we were discussing turning west toward Copper canyon but are again now glad to be pointed north.
Continuing on, the jeep seems to be holding up.
The jeep started some serious clunking again when we first got into town but we made it! Cuidad Victoria, a city of about three hundred thousand and a half a day ride from the border. I stayed here on a motorcycle trip years ago so I knew where to go, we pull right in.
This is the first rain we have seen for months. We were glad to be off the road before it hit.
First thing in the morning I’m off to look for a place to help me out. I know what I want, a new rear U-joint and a new bracket. Heidi and I put together a Spanish cheat sheet to help me communicate what I wanted and what my problem was. The shop right next door to our hotel jacks me up right away then tells me they don’t have the part. One guy tells me where another shop is that will have the part.
The guy starts to lower the jeep down from about 6 feet when it suddenly falls off the jacks and tilts about twenty degrees. I about wet my pants. The biggest mechanic came over to hold it up while they lowered it the rest of the way down. It fell from the spring to the frame on one side but all was OK, our luck holds out……..Can this continue?
I find the next shop about a mile away and they get right on it. I explain and point, they bring me down in the pit to show me that yes, the U-joint is blown. I continue saying that the new looking bracket is also wrong and I want a new correct one. All cool.
They run next door to the auto parts store and get the U-joint but no bracket, they didn’t have it. The boss thought the old bracket looked fine and had the mechanic put it together using lots of grease. The boss asks for 180 pesos ($16), I hand him a 200 ($18) wave my hand and say “propina” (tip). He immediately shuffles off twenty pesos from his pocket and hands it to the mechanic. I thought that was solid.
Cuidad Victoria :
The whole thing only took me about an hour and a half. We were feeling good about the jeep and had the whole day to enjoy Cuidad Victoria, nice. I asked the hotel clerk where we can catch a bus to downtown. He told us at the corner of the next block. Taxis are everywhere and would have cost us less then 4 bucks and that includes a good tip but we like to navigate around new places on the public buses, taxis are just too easy. The buses here were the cheapest we’ve had anywhere, less than thirty cents.
Cuidad Victoria is a nice city to walk around. It has lots of parks and market type shopping. We walked till we almost dropped and did a little shopping too. The sky started to look dark and we felt sprinkles so we knew what to do, hit the first bar! I wish I had the camera. It was like a northern Wisconsin bar complete with stuffed animals, fish and girly posters. This was a different part of Mexico and we don’t think women go to bars here. The bartender told Heidi where the bathroom was. She flies back out after noticing urinals. The bartender says “That’s it!” They gave us an assortment of Mexican snacks at the bar and everyone was very nice to us.
We are only a half day from the US border. Three days here was nice but now we have no place to go but home. It doesn’t seem right.
We were on the road early and wanted to enjoy our last day in Mexico. The jeep acquired its clicking sound again but we were only about 250 miles to the border. We feel good we are going to make it.
I see this place with a restaurant attached. Super. Time for lunch.
Nice little restaurant with a mezcal distillery and museum. This place had a northern hunting and fishing lodge feel to it. There is a big lake close by that is said to have great bass fishing.
The still. To bad I was driving, this place also has samples.
Getting close to the border we could sense a difference. It was hard to imagine that the US with all its luxuries and customs was just a couple of miles over there.
We were looking for a small out of the way border crossing I used once before. We found the road but we needed to get on a toll road first, I wasn’t sure if we needed to un-declare our jeep before the toll or after, confusing. We turn around and head to another crossing just up the road. I have also been through this one before, it has a little border town at the crossing.
I pull out all our paper work hidden in the lock box trunk and prepare to speak some Spanish. The last time I came across here I was completely had. I wandered into the wrong building where an official looking dude hustles me into a small room with a table and two chairs. He closes the door behind us. I show him my paper work. The dude starts barking out what sounded like “retribution, retribution!” and pointing to my papers. It sounded like money. I open my wallet with only a 200 peso bill in it. I hand him the bill, Bam, all was cool. He expedites my paper work in front of a half dozen truckers and I was on my way. This time I was the only vehicle crossing. I know the ropes and where to go. I enjoy speaking nothing but Spanish and making fun of how badly I speak it, I think that helps. 1,2,3 we were through in record time.
On the US border side we had a super light inspection of the jeep, paid a couple bucks tax for the tequila and we are off.
I’m not making any of this up! A mile or two across the border we thought the drive shaft was going to fall off again. 250 miles, we’ve gone through another U-joint. I know it has to be that wrong bracket holding the U-joint in place that is the problem. A mile or two later I see this auto parts store. I go in and buy two new U-joints and a matching bracket set, about $25.
A guy in the parts store recommended a mechanic just across the street. I have them install the new parts. The shop owner was very nice. He set us up with a couple of chairs in the shade. Heidi and I sat there feeling like we were sitting beside ourselves. What is going on? We have almost two thousand miles to get to our little cabin in the north. Will the jeep make it?
I go straight to an oil change place and get our third oil change and a complete lube job. We were planning on visiting some friends and family on the way back home but opted instead to make a beeline north keeping our fingers crossed the jeep was going to make it.
Getting on the freeways and doing seventy took a lot of getting use to. In Mexico fifty seemed fast and often forty would also seem fast. I could just feel how tense we both were at first just hoping the new U-joints were going to hold up, listening for any sounds or vibrations.
We did almost three hundred miles the first day in the US. The U-joint is holding, we already put on more miles then the previous U-joint lasted. Every day we stop at an oil change place and have the U-joints filled with grease. Not once were we charged anything. We thought we could hear clicking at times, others times not. By the second day in the US we were feeling more confident the jeep was going to make it.
We made it!
It always feels good to come home after being gone but this feels super good.
We forgot to get beer. A run across the lake to Wolf Point tavern will fix that. We see some old friends there, Joe and Penny and a lot more. Everyone asks us how Mexico was.
We are at our cabin in northern Wisconsin now taking deep breaths and looking at each other saying "Wow" a lot. It doesn’t seem real. Were we really there? The weather here is cool and seems to us like its late Fall, like we should be getting ready for winter. But no…summer is close at hand. We managed to skirt the harsh cold of our northern winter for the perfect weather of Mexico. Now we have a Wisconsin summer to look forward to. What more could we ask for?
Thanks everyone for your Emails and comments, every one of them helped multiply the pleasure of our adventure.
thats an awesome story/adventure.
how was getting gas down there? and what kind of quality was it?
Gas is everywhere in Mexico. I think a lot of writing on Mexico travel are from times long ago, when gas was scarce. But of course you need to know your range and where you are going and the likelihood of gas in the towns you’re driving through based on the dot size on the map . But of course that’s part of the fun. Twice I had gas stations that where out of gas, workers just standing around. Both times I was on a motorcycle with a 150 mile range. Once I had to turn around. Gas is all one brand ran by the Mexican government and is good quality. Much better now then 10 or more years ago I have read.