This is primarily a travel blog in which I write about traveling in our motorhome. Our travels have

Nacogdoches, TX, United States
I began this blog as a vehicle for reporting on a 47-day trip made by my wife and me in our motorhome down to the Yucatan Peninsula and back. I continued writing about our post-Yucatan travels and gradually began including non-travel related topics. I often rant about things that piss me off, such as gun violence, fracking, healthcare, education, and anything else that pushes my button. I have a photography gallery on my Smugmug site (http://rbmartiniv.smugmug.com).

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Banditos in Uniform

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Cholula/Puebla/Teotihuacán
Feb 17 - 18
(Posted at Teotihuacán on Feb 18)

There isn’t much to say about Friday and to be honest I’m feeling a little down right now (tell you why later in this post).  We went on a day-long bus tour in an open-air, double-decker “trolley” with hard plastic seats that were molded to look like wood-grain.  The tour included a walk through more ancient ruins (they are all beginning to look alike), the most notable portion of the ruins was a huge pyramid on top of which the Spanish had built yet another church.  If you are really interested in knowing more about the pyramid just Google “Cholula pyramid” and you will find all kinds of information about it.  After the pyramid and the church we went to a Talavera Pottery factory to see how it is made.  It was very pretty pottery but expensive as hell.  Butch advised us to wait and look for it in the shops in Puebla where it would be much less expensive.

After the pottery factory we were taken on a bus tour of the old colonial city of PueblaPuebla is really a very “comfortable” city and most of the colonial buildings are well maintained.  The architecture is both interesting and somewhat complex.  A lot of colored tile is used in various geometric designs on the buildings. 

Carol Ann and I sat on the open top deck in the front row of the bus so I could take photos.  There were a few times when we had to duck because of low hanging wires that were strung across the streets.  There was often a tangled nest of wires and even a few loose ends left hanging where the wires connected to the utility poles.

The bus dropped us off at the city’s central plaza, a large square-shaped park with giant shade trees, flowers, and beautifully manicured lawns in between the walkways.  In the center of the plaza, to which all of the walkways led, was a large water fountain that was in the middle of a large stone patio.  There were other fountains located around the periphery of the park.  These shot streams of water straight up into the air from ground level.  At first I thought a water main had burst because there was so much water coming out of the ground.

We had lunch at another VIP’s.  This one was much larger than the one we had supper in Thursday night.  The theme of the restaurant was the Paris Metro and the structure included a lot of steel beams, Victorian globe-shaped lighting fixtures, and colored glass windows.  The food was excellent.

After lunch, Carol Ann went with a small group to do some shopping while I wore off some calories and a lot of shoe leather (figure of speech, it was actually “shoe rubber”) looking for photo ops, of which there were many.

At 4:00 PM we met back at the bus for the return trip to the Las Americas RV Park.  While we were gone an auto-body painter had come out with his compressor and painting stuff and touched-up the dings on both Jim and Kathy’s and Bruce and Karen’s motorhomes.  He used a computer to match the paint and did an excellent job.  It is much cheaper to have it done here than to pay the $500 deductible back home.

The drive to Teotihuacán this morning was an easy one, only about 80 miles and mostly on a brand new toll road (Highway 40D).  The tolls were kind of high but well worth it based on our experiences so far on the non-toll roads.  The last few miles were a little bad with broken pavement and potholes but we survived.  All in all the drive was short and relatively comfortable. 

Everyone except for Bob and Billie had decided to stick with the caravan because the directions to the RV park were somewhat confusing.  Bob and Billie left about a half hour or so before the caravan but they joined up with us later after making a wrong turn at one of the confusing intersections!

At one point on the toll road the Federal Police had set up a road block/check point and directed all 18 RVs to pull over.  An officer informed Butch and Kathy that towing vehicles was not allowed on the highway without a special permit and everyone who was towing would have to unhitch and drive the towed vehicle separately!  That was totally unbelievable and unacceptable. We suspected he was looking for a bribe.

Butch and Kathy argued with the officer and then invited him into their coach to see their “paperwork.”  Instead of permits, Butch got out a blank complaint form (provided by the Mexican Department of Tourism) and began filling it out.  He asked for, and received, the officer’s name, badge number, and car number.  When the officer saw what Butch was doing he immediately backed down and said that he only wanted to see our passports and visas.  Butch and Kathy showed him theirs but the officer only glanced at them before saying that everything was OK and we could be on our way.  He even offered to give us a police escort to our destination, which Butch and Kathy declined.

As you know, if you have been keeping up with this blog, we experienced real Mexican banditos at the beginning of our trip last month.  They had guns, stopped us, and demanded payment.  Now, as we near the end of our trip it’s deja-vu all over again, armed bandits wanting money, except this time wearing a uniform.  You can bet your bottom peso that the Mexican government is going to hear about this abuse of power.

Now comes the part that got me “down”.  As usual, the Teotihuacán RV Park is anything but “big rig friendly” and I added two more dings to my collection while parking.  I was backing into a tight space with the front wheels cut sharply when the front end of the motorhome “brushed” against a big piece of concrete (painted green, same color as the grass) that housed the water and electrical connections.  Then to make matters worse, once I got straightened out, I backed into another one and bent the tow bar and the chrome exhaust extension on the rear of the motorhome.  I am beginning to feel as though I am driving a bumper car at a carnival.

Since tomorrow is Sunday I’ll wait to see about getting an estimate on touching up the motorhome’s dings and scratches when we get to Guanajuato.  I have comprehensive insurance but if I have to make a separate claim and pay the $500 deductible for each incident it will be much cheaper to have it all done at one time and pay for the work out of pocket.  The Mexicans are really pretty good at this kind of work and the prices are unbelievably low.

I have finally come to the costly conclusion that a 40-foot motorhome is far from ideal for travel in Mexico.  I told Carol Ann that once we are back in the US, we aren’t going any place unless it is located on an Interstate Highway and is “Big Rig Friendly”!

Tomorrow we see more ruins.  The Aztec city of Teotihuacán.  Our tour guide will be an American with a Ph.D. who has been working as an archeologist/anthropologist in Mexico for over 20 years.  That should make the day very interesting.  Now, it’s time for Margaritas.

3 comments :

Croft said...

I am really sorry your first experience with RVing in Mexico has been so unfortunate. Your group has encountered more problems than I would guess all other RVers combined have experienced in the last year!

You are correct, your 40' rig is too big for all but the largest parks and toll roads and experienced Mexican travelers have all settled on 30' or smaller rigs, mostly smaller.

It is a wonderful country full of great people, colors and sights but the caravan environment is far from the best way to see and experience it. Schedules, reservations and deadlines do not work in Mexico and routes and destinations must be flexible. Weather comes and weather goes so plans must be adapted to avoid it or when you are in it, it is best to just hunker down for a day or five and let it pass. We spend five and a bit months in Mexico and seldom cover as much territory as you have in your 40 days. We have found a slower pace to be much more relaxing. Our budget for the full winter is probably less than what you paid for just the caravan fees.

We have never done the caravan thing and every interaction with a caravan has reminded us why we have not. It reminds me too much of being back in school with demanding teachers, schedules and assemblies.

Having said that, seeing Colonial Mexico from a caravan is better than not having seen Colonial Mexico at all!

Get your painting done, you will find the entire bill to be less than one or two repairs back in the States and like you say, the quality of work is excellent. When you get home, mull over the adventure and I know you will eventually be glad you did it. It was great meeting you and maybe we will even see you back, traveling Mexico in a far more relaxed fashion. There are better days ahead!

The above is all just my opinion, gained after years of doing this. Please don't let them sue me! I do admit that Norma and I have a more adventuresome spirit than some and our way of travel does not fit all.

Croft & Norma
(spending two weeks on Chetumal Bay)

John Kobak said...

I totally agree with Croft. I travelled only one time in Mexico with a friend in another RV. It was nothing but problems. We prefer to tour at our own pace and enjoy the winter in Mexico. We have spent the last 4 years in the Yucatan, prior to that we toured all over Mexico.
My blog is http://khmexico10.blogspot.com/

Did you ever get your car fixed? How are you going to get it?

Robert & Carol Ann Martin said...

John,
The car repair is SUPPOSED to be completed on Feb 23 (could be Mexican time though). We have a transport service on standby to carry it to the border on a flatbed truck. So earliest we expect to see it is Feb 26. We'll just have to wait in Harlingen until they get it to the border.