Thursday, June 5, 2008

June 4th-June 5th - Villahermosa

We made up for the time we lost Thursday by driving all the way from Poza Rica thru Vera Cruz to Villahermosa. Mostly on good toll roads - albeit expensive...will add what the tolls cost later as I kept track. Gorgeous scenery north of Vera Cruz-high pointy mountains on one side of the road and the ocean on the other. Sometimes as you drive you come over a hill and look down on beautiful beaches. Hardly any development-wish I could buy real estate there - I'd put my house high up on one of those hills overlooking the ocean.
We decided to bypass Vera Cruz by taking the roads around it. There were times I wasn't sure what road to turn down as you go around Vera Cruz to get on the toll way as it is very confusing. You must take Mexico 150 south going towards Cordoba to get on 145 going east towards Villahermosa-Cardenas. And at one point you see Villahermosa La Venta and Villahermosa Agua Dulce -take the Agua Dulce one.
I don't think that even if they put the directions north, south , etc.,. if it would help at all.
You have to look ahead on your map to find the town names so you know you are going in the right direction. Like when you are in the US on I95 heading south towards Miami even if you are hundreds of miles from it - you still see the signs for miami well before all the other cities along the way.
Found Calinda Viva Hotel in Villahermosa online ahead of time - if I could of booked it ahead of time it would of been about $80 but the walk-in rate we got was $110-has in room wifi and breakfast included.
Quality Inn next door was $100 but was booked up and Hyatt I'm sure was much more.
There is a Walmart and office depot nearby. So we plan to stop at walmart for cat food for Jims cat as he has no luck finding any at the Super Che. I explained to him that they eat cats here so he may have a hard time finding canned cat food. He did find dry though. I hope today at walmart he finds canned otherwise he may have to spend more buying thru a vet.
Jim drives in the mornings and sleeps in the afternoons so sometime misses the great scenery. I got an XM radio so he could listen to his news stations and so I could listen to my jazz while driving...had to put limits on his constant news listening as it does get annoying - not what I consider a relaxing thing to listen to while driving.
Long drive ahead of us today getting to Chetumal on slow roads because of all the little towns to go thru. So we are up early. At least this place has inroom coffee. I knew I would be missing my coffee maker and hazelnut creamer. Yup I'm just a spoiled American I guess.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

June 3rd - Made it to Poza Rica

Well we left pretty early around 7 am from Cuidad Victoria and drove south and made it to Tampico fairly easily.,,,slow roads and traffic to be expected. Except for when we stopped for gas -we learned that you must make the attendant Zero out the pump before pumping. We learned this when we asked for 200 pesos of gas and the attendant said they could only pump 150 pesos. When we left the gas gauge showed we had gotten nothing. So we realized you must make sure the attendant zeroes out the pump while you are looking so they don't pretend to pump gas for you and then point to a pre-existing number on the pump. This is how they scam you into paying for gas you do not get.
They do this to unsuspecting gringoes. So after an expensive 1st lesson we make sure that one of us goes out to the pump and points at it to tell them it must be zeroed out before pumping. Many times you will see 50 to 100 pesos on the readout and they will start pumping with that amount on you end up paying more for the gas then what you are actually getting.
So I tell them to zero out the pump and then I watch to make sure we are getting the number of pesos of gas that we asked for-usually I ask for 150 to 200 pesos at a time.
It's ashame it is like this but right now in the US people are stealing gas because it is so expensive. We calculated that we paid about $2.80 to $2.50 per gallon while traveling south from the border - it got cheaper the further south we went. I know that the US no longer has gas attendants and I don't recall this happening there but this is how Mexicans make a little extra green to supplement their meager incomes.
When I learn something new like this I say to myself - well I just paid for an education...something I have done in the past even in the US for many different things. And I also say to myself - well I guess I just paid a toll on that road to see the pretty mountains and valleys. After all we do pay for the privilege of living in the US and driving it's many roads - it is called Income Tax. You pay for the privilege of living, working and driving there. It is a privilege that you pay for most of your adult life.
I did get lost when leaving Tampico and ended up going west instead of south but did manage to get directions to find my way back to 127 to Poza Rica- although wasted 2 hours of driving doing so. But here we are in down town Poza Rica at the Victoria Hotel $90 US with in room internet access-quite a luxury.
Traffic noises since it is downtown but a very nice place and reasonable priced restaurant. Don't order the chicken - order the salmon. I did find out that wine is more than in the US but mixed drinks are cheaper. I order drinks without ice as I'm not sure I trust the ice even in nice restaurants yet. I only drink bottled water. I am very careful as I don't want to get sick while traveling.

June 1st-3rd 2008 - Brownsville - Cui.Victoria Mexico

Sunday June 1st - Drove down from North Houston in only 6 hours to Brownsville.
We stayed at the Red Carpet Inn exit 802 in Brownsville for only $44 booked thru cheap tickets...wouldv'e been better off just checking in and getting the rack rate of $39.
Had to stay later than we planned in the morning because Jim had to deal with his stock trading program issues on the phone and I had to deal with server issues. Left at 11 am and went across the border at Matamoros. After driving across you pull to the right and park in front of the building for getting your vehicle paperwork and visas done.
As we entered a nice lady told us where to go first to get our visas. I had already gotten my mexican insurance and bancerjicito vehicle permit sticker online. I made a few mistakes filling out the form and tried to get a new form but the official wouldn't give me one so I crossed out my mistakes and wrote above them. Had no problem getting a 180 day visa and neither did Jim. Then we went to the next window to get the vehicle permit. I had already made 3 copies of everything so was well prepared for them asking for copies. I only needed 1 copy but I recommend making 3 so you can use the others later when you have to renew. I had made a copy of every page of my passport but only needed the pages where my picture was.
The Bancerjicito guy stapled my visa paperwork to a copy of the driving permit page and Jims too since I asked if Jim could drive my car too.
The official seemed to be in training and spoke no english at all. I was surprised as I had thought everyone would speak good english like in Cancun. As we traveled I would come to find out that hardly anyone spoke English.
I just stayed on the main road the whole way Calle 6 (sexta) till it showed signs pointing to Cui.Victoria. I went too fast after the traffic cleared out and went thru what I found out was a school area - it was my first time driving in Mexico so I didn't know what signs to look for.
We only stopped at Pemex along the way to get about $20-$30 of gas at a time since the gas prices were less I wasn't sure how much I needed. But I had been told to ask for a certain peso amount ahead of time rather than saying to fill it up and to keep an eye on the pump to make sure I got what I asked for. Many Pemex to not take credit cards so we asked where there was one that did and they would tell us how many km it was to one that did and we would go there.
At one I had to go upstairs to get them to process my card.
Since we got a late start we only made it to Cuidad Victoria around 6 pm - spent an hour looking for a hotel - Best Western was $116 - was surprised that the lady at the desk did not speak any english at all. Found an off brand hotel called Paradise Inn for $957 pesos (about $95) w.WIFI in the lobby. We liked it better because you could park in front of the sliding glass door going to your room - so it was easier for unloading luggage. The restaurant was very nice - great food and reasonably priced. I had fish Vera Cruz for $10 and Jim had the Mexican beef tips $11.
I got up around 6 am today June 3rd to go thru my email and do this post.
Not sure if I'm getting all my email so I may still have server issues.
Jim just went to get some ice at the restaurant...I am still trying to get used to saying Buenas Dias.