Mex 05-10: Update 5/31/05: The entire journal starts at ->‘Mexico 05’ <-
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.
The biggest pile of chilies yet.
Tons of incense, potions and religious things.
This looked like bundles of weeds and sticks. Herbal cures.
Everything is displayed so nice.
And piled just right
Lots of people.
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 Wisconsin winter for the perfect weather of Mexico. This was a good adventure.
We hope you enjoyed! :)