Blogging off

August 25, 2008

Tuesday, August 18th,  James worked and I packed the car. He arrived back at the house around 2 pm and we were on the road by 3 pm.  It was the final drive.  On the Bay Bridge I noticed the engine was revving high.  As I approached 50 and then 55 miles per hour the car was not shifting into 4th.  Manuelly shifting between drive and 3rd made no change. Something was wrong with the transmission.  James jumped on his iPhone and came up with a mechanic that works on Chevys in Berkeley.  So instead of driving north we exited and searched out yet another mechanic.

The options, as described by Gary our friendly mechanic, were as easy as a solenoid in electrical system of the transmission or as complicated as a new transmission.  He wouldn’t know until he ran diagnostics through the computer system the next morning. James and I left the shop and walked to the North Berkeley BART station for our new journey – back to James’ house.

The next morning I made the first call to the mechanic at 9 am.  After talking each hour it was decided the car just needed a new solenoid and that would be done around 3 pm.  James and I took the BART back over to Berkeley and walked to the shop and were on the road by 4 pm. It had been a 24 hour delay.  We stayed the night in Weed, California and rolled into Portland around 2 pm Thursday August 21st.

Thursday night my parents took me out to dinner at a new Thai restaurant in NW.  When I arrived back at the apartment I found an acoustic concert taking place in the backyard. There were over 30 people in attendance.

Friday night five of us went to a new restaurant and bar “Matador” in NW. At one point in the evening I noticed that everyone at the table except me were on the phone or texting. Looking around the restaurant I discovered our table was not unique.

Saturday I was lured to Reid’s house on a false pretense to find a party. It was a welcome home party with a wide array of family and friends in attendance.  What a great re-entry into the city. It is a joy to be surrounded by the familiarity and comfort of home but the lure of the road doesn’t fade quickly or easily.

It’s taken me a while to write this last blog.  After 33,000 miles, 16 countries, 13 months it is difficult to believe I have arrived at the end. In reality it is just the beginning however what and where the next adventure will be is yet to be determined.

Thanks to everyone who has followed along and given encouragement and support.  I couldn’t have made it through the last year without with it, especially the invaluable assistance of my dad. From emergency car question calls to postal logistics to caring for my vacant subterranean apartment to lengthly video chat updates he was always there and supportive granting me the freedom to continue.

The two days in Palms Springs soaking up the sun in Merritt’s pool was a perfect first landing in the US. Thursday morning I drove around Los Angeles and up the 101 to San Luis Obispo and stayed with Melanie, Tony and their two kids Lucy and Milo. The last time I had seen any of them was 3 years ago just after Milo was born. It was great to catch up. They have built a beautiful house a short bike ride into the heart of San Luis Obispo.

Friday I drove up the 101 to San Francisco and met James at his office. That night James and I went to dinner with Frank Lindh and his partner Brian Johnson. I had never met Brian and I hadn’t seen Frank for over 7 years.

Saturday I was invited to accompany the company James works with on their employee rafting trip. We drove to the American River north east of Sacramento. We set up camp with the other guys and I was able to use my tent – for the first time this whole trip. Sunday we got our safety training and were off on the water. I’ve never rafted before and it was a perfect introduction; a very easy first half of the day and a few class three rapids the second half of the day.

Monday we drove back to San Francisco and had dinner with Denis and Paul and Joe and David two couples that recently moved back to San Francisco from Portland.

Tuesday James and I will start the last leg of the journey to arrive in Portland later on Wednesday.

Back in the U.S.A.

August 12, 2008

I arrived at Merritt’s in Palm Springs about 10 am on Monday. The border crossing was simple and quick. I had a pleasant conversation with the customs agent about my trip.  He was very interested in the border crossings and police stops in the various countries I had traveled through. It was much quicker and friendlier than the crossings I have experienced driving to Canada.

This is a great place to relax and reintegrate to the US. I am enjoying every 105 degree of the hot temperature here.

It’s Sunday the 10th of August. The last three days I’ve driven 9 hours each day covering about 420 miles each day.

Friday I drove from Guadalajara to Culiacan. I had originally thought I might stay in Mazatlan but was able to go a couple hours north and made it to Culiacan about 7 pm. I was happy to realize that I had crossed a time zone and had gained one hour.

I first stopped at the Radisson in Culiacan but quickly left when I was told it was $120 a night. I settled for a local hotel that was just $25 a night. I was sitting on the bed when a large cricket like creature surprised me landing on my leg. I have no idea where he came from in that windowless room and I think he was as surprised as I was scampering quickly under the bed. I never heard or saw him again.

That night I walked up to the main street and found a restaurant named “Tu Sushi”. I ordered a chicken and avocado roll deep fried and topped with sirimi. I also had a meat and vegetable rice dish. It was not the sushi I’m used to but it was tasty.

Saturday I got up early and was on the road by 7 am. I drove from Culiacan to Hermosilla. In Hermosilla I followed the signs to the Zona Hotelera and found a large resort like hotel with a swimming pool. I arrived after 4 pm but was again pleased to learn that I had crossed another time zone and it was actually about 3:30 pm. I had time to lounge by the pool and enjoy the extreme heat. I paid a total of $84 in road tolls on Saturday.

Sunday I was again on the road by 7 am driving from Hermosilla to Mexicali. I easily found the hotel that Marcine had recommended and again had time to enjoy some heat poolside. I saw a sign as I drove through Mexicali showing the temperature was 105 degrees.

The Mexican countryside has been spectacular. Saturday I drove through lots of farm land. Most of the day Sunday was desert and desert mountains. The last part of the drive as I neared Mexicali the farming picked up. For much of the last couple hundred kilometers I drove very close to a large fence on the US border. Driving parallel to the border I have experienced some serious military checks. One check was obligatory for every car. All passengers out of the cars the search included looking at the underside with mirrors.

The Lucerna Hotel is supposedly only 10 minutes from the newer quicker border crossing. I hope to be on the road to the border around 7 am Monday morning. My last border crossing back into the US.

Mexico City, Morelia, Guadalajara

Driving into Mexico City we had two maps, the small city center map in the Lonely Planet and a larger overview showing only the main highways.  Mexico City is supposedly the second largest city in the world, behind Tokyo. I’ve heard numbers between 20 and 30 million.  We drove for miles through the outskirts.  Trying to follow the larger map of highways I became worried that we had missed our anticipated route into the center and rounded the city to the west.  In fact after a long time of not knowing exactly where we were we finally found a street sign and were in fact on the correct street driving north towards the historic center.

We didn’t have the address of the hotel we had made arrangements with but thought we knew the block in which to find it from the Zocalo.  When we went searching for the hotel all the streets in that section of the old historic center were all torn up.  We finally gave up and drove in the direction of the Zona Rosa.  Fortunately we hadn’t reserved the hotel with a credit card.  We stopped at the first hotel we passed, the Hotel Niza.  I parked outside nearly blocking traffic as Darrylle checked out the hotel.

It was passable and so we accepted two rooms with very high ceilings, balconies overlooking the street and terribly inferior bathrooms.  Unfortunately when we were previewing the rooms one was still being cleaned and I saw the mattress without sheets.  I had trouble getting that vision out of my mind and ended up sleeping the second night in my light sleeping bag. The bathrooms were step saver type where showering and using the toilet can be a simultaneous activity. Unfortunately there wasn’t hot water but what can you expect for $18 a night?  We had limited time in Mexico City so we didn’t spend much time in the hotel.

While waiting for me in the lobby Darrylle got the added benefit of a shouting match between two of the hotel employees. After one employee ran out the other threw a pail and then brought Darrylle into the action accusingly asking him why he hadn’t asked for toilet paper the night before, which of course he had.

Our first afternoon in Mexico City was Sunday.  We explored the Zocalo and the areas around.  The Zocalo in Mexico City is quite large and without anything other than the giant flag. There are no trees, paths or benches, just the stone squares that make a huge flat open space.  There was a large stage and a demonstration going on so we walked over and checked it out.  Apparently Mexico City was hosting an international AIDS conference and the opening ceremony had just taken place in the Zolcalo.  We continued to see people wearing the identifying t-shirts or carrying the bags throughout the city for the next 36 hours.

Mexico City is not as consistently picturesque as Morelia or Puebla.  There are many colonial and historic buildings in the center, but there are also large neighborhoods with very different environments.  The street with our hotel felt like what Soho must have felt like in New York twenty plus years ago.  The other few neighborhoods we experienced were a fresh relief from the austerity of the old historic center.  As we drove out of town the freeway went right through the center of Santa Fe, the newest, sleekest and apparently very affluent suburb of Mexico city with it’s shiny towers, corporate headquarters and own airport.

Monday morning we went to the Zocalo and caught a double decker tour bus.  It was the type with on off privileges so we got off in the Condessa area and walked the neighborhood.  We had a drink at a sidewalk cafe and then had great tacos at a corner street market and stand.  As Darrylle put it they were the best flavor for dollar we had experienced, 80 cents each.  Condessa is the furthest neighborhood on the bus tour. There are tree lined streets with lots of shops and restaurants.  It has a very comfortable neighborhood feel.

After finishing the tour we returned to the hotel and headed out to the Zona Rosa for dinner. The Zona Rosa is close into the center and is right along side the famous Reforma Street.  Apparently the Zona Rosa gained fame in the 60’s and 70’s when the alternative crowd aligned themselves with neither the left or right, they were in the middle or pink. Hence the name pink zone.  Today it is also the center of the gay community with one street, Amberes, which is surprisingly lined with gay bars and restaurants.

Tuesday we drove from Mexico City to Morelia.  Neither Darrylle or I knew much about Morelia but it was conveniently placed mid way between the two cities. We drove into a picturesque stone city with very few trees.  All the buildings were consistently built with the same stone with a few stones of pink color accenting specific architectural details like the cathedral spires.  The city has very tastefully lit the buildings at night to make the place post card perfect.

We drove into Morelia without reservations and found three hotels conveniently placed at one corner of the Zocalo.  The first hotel we entered suited us beautifully if not priced over $200 a night.  It was a spectacular stone building with the interior courtyard domed over with a stunning stained glass roof.  The furnishings were rich and warm. If this was the luxury of the old world it was truly decadent.  Despite being supremely impressed with our first interior view of Morelia we pushed on to find more affordable accommodations.

We finally settled at the Best Western which was situated on the Zocalo and entered through the wide colonnade that ran the length of that side of the Zocalo.  It too had a now enclosed interior courtyard.  The hotel was very comfortable, the staff extremely helpful and the whole experience was a great relief from our past few nights at the Hotel Niza.

We only had one night in Morelia so we set off and explored the city as best we could.  In our short time we hoofed much of the city, shopped at every store worthy and dined in the glow of the cathedral towers watching the steady traffic of pedestrians on what was a very busy Tuesday night.

With the advice of the hotel Wednesday we didn’t set out on the toll road to Guadalajara.  Instead we drove the local roads traveling through small artisan villages.  There was the village of ceramics, the village of Catrinas (what I’ve always called Mexican drag queens – clay skeletal women with bright colors and fancy dress ranging from 6 inches to 2 feet tall), the village of cheese, the village of auto parts and more.  We spent a fair amount of time in the village of Catrinas (I can’t remember the name) even seeking out the supposed master of Catrina making.  We were more impressed with the small family stores with their workshops behind.

We ate in a town known for their carnitas.  We ate in the main square and were handed a bag with pieces of pork, a bag with tortillas and small plastic bags of salsa.  It was a make your own affair.  The whole process was on the honor system and we had to search out the stall that had provided our food in order to pay.  We ate with three people from the US who were living in the area and just out shopping for the day.

Our day stretched out and we arrived in Guadalajara in the afternoon and were pleased to find the hotel extremely easy to find.  The Hotel San Francisco Plaza was well situated.  It was another building with a large interior courtyard covered over with glass.  We met with Alberto a friend of Brian’s who we all know from Guadalajara and Puerto Vallarta.  We were lucky he was in town as it was vacation time from university.  Alberto led us to one of his favorite local restaurants from local cuisine.

Thursday Darrylle and I walked around the Guadalajara. We searched out the Mexicana Airlines office asking each policeman stationed at the door of each bank we passed. Then we located the street of money exchangers to find the one exchanger (we think in the whole city) that would take the quetzales I still had left from Guatemala.

Finally we headed to the small city of Tlaquepaque which is really a part of Guadalajara now.  It was originally built as summer homes of the wealthy of Guadalajara. Now those palatial homes are shops and restaurants with some of the best shopping we experienced in Mexico.  The stores ranged from the required trashy touristy stuff to some very artsy and creative places.  One end of the pedestrian street is oriented towards furniture.

On Alberto’s advice we ate at Casa Fuerte and had an excellent meal.  We met a couple who were on vacation from the US.  One had even grown up in Portland and gone to Lincoln High School. She was in graduate school and her partner had just finished law school.

The time with Darrylle came to an end too quickly.  He flew out later on Friday but I drove away from the hotel around 9:30 that morning.  I feel as if I’ve known Darrylle all my life.  We are both talkers and we must have talked about every subject possible.  I am so grateful for his joining me in Mexico.  I am certain I wouldn’t have gone the same route.  I have a totally new appreciation for Mexico, it’s history, it’s cities and it’s people.  It is so much more than an amazing coastline.

I had a lazy Tuesday, 7/29/08, morning in Veracruz. Around 11:30 am I headed out to the beach. Veracruz is an old historic port town that has served Mexico City and much of the country for centuries. Boca del Rio just south of the city is the new strip mall, chain restaurant, high rise condo beach town that mirrors many of the other Mexican beach resorts, however without a lot of foreign tourists. I assume that Veracruz and Boca del Rio are truly Mexican vacation destinations.

I went to Playa Mocambo on the advice of the hotel. It was crowded but I believe I was the only gringo. There were large tents covering tables and chairs. If the families weren’t in the water, shopping with the roving vendors or running between the two, they were enjoying drinks or a meal under the tents. I was one of only a few that wanted a lounge chair to actually bake in the sun.

I had taken a bus out to the beach. I caught it literally steps from the hotel and it cost about 65 cents. It was very well air conditioned. I stayed at the beach a little longer that I had planned so I took a taxi back to the hotel to meet Darrylle whose flight arrived at 2:30 pm. The taxi ride was $7 and I arrived at the hotel just after Darrylle had checked in and was heading up to his room.

Darrylle and I walked out into the heavy humid air to find a bar and have a drink. We settled on an open air cafe on the Zocalo (the Mexican word for Plaza de Armas or Plaza Principal) only two blocks from the hotel. Later we ate dinner at a local cafe. We both had sea bass veracruzano, a famous dish from the area. The food in Mexico has been excellent.

Darrylle and I planned to take a double decker tour bus around Veracruz on Wednesday before heading out of town. We had a little trouble finding the bus and when we finally did we were surprised when the tour only lasted half an hour. Somehow we had found the free tour bus not the full service. That explained the confusion when I asked where to pay when I climbed aboard the bus.

A little before noon we left Veracruz for Xico to meet up with John, Diane and Laura, friends of my parents from their mini (the car) club. From the coastal city of Veracruz we climbed into the hills. First we drove to Xalapa where we stopped for lunch. Then we drove through Coatepec, San Marcos and finally at the end of the road found Xico. The city dates from the 17th century and is a small agricultural community. The city itself has about 8,000 inhabitants and it supports another 20,000 in the surrounding countryside. It is that mythical authentic Mexican town you only hear or read about and if you do find it is generally overrun by tourists.

Xico definitely has a tourist side, one that is geared to the Mexicans. After we arrived and found the very comfortable and cozy house that they had rented we all walked a few blocks to the main street in town for some leisurely mole tasting. This area is known for its coffee and coco. Dozens of little stores are set up selling their own brands of mole paste, chile salsas and liquors. The town is picturesque and apparently has been used in a few films. Because it is at the end of the road it doesn’t attract a lot of foreign travelers. Diane and Jim will be using their little house as their base for exploring the region and in deciding where they all want to settle in the coming year. Laura is heading back to the states to get back to teaching. I expect her thoughts will never be far from her future somewhere south of the border.

We all had a great time exploring the town on foot, visiting some fantastic falls only a couple kilometers away and discussing every subject possible. Our time together was a fortuitous convergence of five people at crossroads sharing experiences and advice.

Xico was the perfect place to start our drive across Mexico. Previously I had only experienced Mexican beach towns and Xico is the complete opposite. The town had had a major celebration a week before Darrylle and I arrived and was still decorated with plastic flowers strung across the streets. The cathedral was amazingly adorned with white cloth and fresh flowers like I’ve never seen before. We even caught a glimpse of their holy statue of Mary Magdelena being marched through town as some of the festivities still continued. Horses carrying bamboo, fruit or loads of wood are not uncommon on the streets. No one seems rushed even early in the morning as the women are setting up their sidewalk tables to sell chicken parts.

As usual our breakfast conversation was engaging and Darrylle and I got on the road to Puebla later than we had expected. We had to drive back through Xalapa and then find the road to Mexico City, Puebla being on the way. At the western end of Xalapa Darrylle remembered I wanted to stop and have the wheels aligned (on John’s very good advice) and the muffler reattached as it had again become disconnected. Darrylle reminded me just as we approached a Firedstone/Bridgestone shop. The alignment and the reconnection of the muffler (at a “taller” just around the corner from the tire center) took about an hour.

I could definitely feel the difference from the alignment and we were moving along at a great speed on the toll road to Puebla. The toll road must be under repair because we were soon routed off the toll road to the side roads which added a little time to our travels. We arrived in Puebla around 5 pm making a much longer drive than the expect two to three hours.

Puebla has been an important city in Mexico for centuries. It is situated between Mexico City and Veracruz and was always home to many wealthy Mexicans of European decent. It has a reputation of aristocratic arrogance by those of European descent. We found the exact opposite, many very friendly and welcoming people. It is also home to a large Volkswagen factory. We had seen Volkswagens being loaded onto an auto ship in Veracruz undoubtedly from Puebla.

We took a walking tour from the municipal tourism office on the Zocalo and learned many tidbits of Mexican and Poblano history. Puebla, we were told, is not a colonial city but a city of the viceroyalty era. I’m not sure I understand the distinction, but I think it has to do with the idea it was a power center of the rich aristocrats.

We stayed at The Hotel Royal on the Zocalo. It is an 18th century building facing the cathedral across the square. The south side of the square is dominated by the cathedral dating from the 16th century and with the tallest bell towers in Latin America. The other three sides of the square are occupied by exquisite 18th century three story arcade buildings with grand colonnades along the sidewalks. The wide arcades are occupied by numerous sidewalk cafes. The buildings are brightly colored and very well maintained.

Friday night we ate at the Hotel Purificadora, a restaurant that Darrylle had read about in Food and Wine. The food was passable but the architecture and design of the space were what were truly amazing. From the open air entrance of the hotel there was a picture perfect vista of the neighboring church. The centuries old bell towers were aglow, framed by the austere lines of the clean white contemporary construction thrust upward from the ruins of an old brick building. The juxtaposition of the majestic old church, white linear simplicity, ancient ruins of distressed brick, faded paint and the raw warmth of reclaimed wood were jaw dropping.

Saturday we ate at La Fonda de Santa Clara the antithesis of hip and now. This old mainstay of traditional Poblano food was a perfect complement to the meal the night before.

The old center of Puebla was crowded with pedestrians and we were surprised at the inordinate number of police. Our tour guide explained the police were there to keep unlicensed street vendors off the streets, however we couldn’t help notice a number were in riot gear. Walking the streets on Saturday we were struck by the strong feeling of community. Young and old including tons of young families were shopping, enjoying the street food and being amused by clowns or entertained by musicians (from mariachi bands to traveling minstrels dressed in period clothes). There was a street cleaning project underway with volunteers in identifying t-shirts (including a large number of Mormons) as well as political demonstrations in the square. Of course there was the ever present blaring of competing music from every direction.

Sunday we leave for Mexico City. We have a hotel reserved near the Zocalo and expect the drive to be about two hours.

I toured the market in Chichicastanengo early Sunday and was on the road by 9 am. I had been told that the shorter route towards the border was not a good road and I should double back towards Antigua to get back on the Panamericana. After talking with the man working the morning desk at the hotel and realizing he had actually driven both routes I went with the shorter route. It was a wise choice as the road was mostly new and much better than the road back to Antigua.

The Mexican border was amazingly quick and easy. Even with having to wait for the Mexican Customs official to finish his lunch it was my quickest border crossing. Mexico even takes Visa for the $30 in fees.

I continued on to Tuxtla Guitierez a city I bypassed on the way south. I didn’t realize I had climbed in altitude but the 45 kilometer stretch of freeway all steeply downhill to Tuxtla told me otherwise. I had forgotten how wild the Mexican drivers are. The toll freeways are not at all worth the expense. People travel very fast and when being passed you are expected to drive half in the shoulder so they can pass while traffic is still oncoming. It makes for harrowing driving especially when driving a car generally slower than others.

The descent into Tuxtla was not only exciting because of the driving but the scenery was stunning as well. Despite occasional fog I could see vast canyons surrounding by large mountains, sometimes craggy but always covered by lush greenery giving them the appearance of rocks covered by moss.

The highway became the main street through town and I found a hotel only three blocks from the main square. I believe this is the largest city and the state capitol of Chiapas. It is a fairly modern city. I didn’t see much in the way of historic buildings and the government buildings are all very new and modern.

I got settled in the hotel, realized that the time was one hour ahead so I had lost an hour and set out for dinner. I ate at a little street cafe near the main square. I had tacos with exceptional spicy salsa and pickled peppers and carrots.

I thought I had gotten up early and would make it onto the road about 6:30 am. But then I realized I hadn’t changed my clock. I made it on the road at 7:30 am. I had been stopping about every 70 miles to tighten the bolts on my right rear axle plate (the same wheel were the axle came loose in Ecuador and almost came loose in Chile). It was leaking again and the bolts were becoming loose on an increasing basis. I was really hoping to make it to Veracruz and find a Toyota dealership.

Around 11 am I stopped to tighten the bolts. The (pay) highways generally provide little opportunity to pull off as the shoulder is best left free for passing but I found a graveled space where I could park off the road. As I jumped out of the car I heard the sickening hissing of leaking air. My left rear tire was leaking.

Even though it was noisy it was leaking slowly so I jumped back in the car and drove as far as I could, about 10 more miles, hoping to find an exit or something. I finally had to pull over onto the shoulder and prepare to change to the small emergency spare.

I took out the impact wrench, got out all the tools and took off the spare. In taking off the spare I had to get the key for the lock on one of the lugs. I immediately found one key. But I have two keys, one for the spare and one for the four wheels. The key I found worked the spare but the key for the four wheels was nowhere to be found. I searched everywhere. I basically unloaded the car. I still can’t believe I’ve lost the key and expect it will turn up someday somewhere in the car. I remember specifically putting it in it’s usual place after the last flat.

Not having a key meant I had to find some other way to deal with the situation. I remembered I had the compressor and the hose to fill the tires. So now I turned my attention to dealing with the source of the leak with my patch kit and filling the tire. I found the source and tried to pull it out. I got about three inches of metal the size of a big nail out but then it was stuck. It obviously had some sort of head and couldn’t be pulled out. So I pushed the metal back in so it was below the tread of the tire and filled the tire using the compressor. The compressor is very slow, but effective. Finally I had the tire up to about 30 pounds of pressure and took of. I had about 60 miles to the most likely town for services. I stopped three times to fill the tire with the compressor. I’m sure I sparked more than a few conversations parked along the highway with a blue tube running from the engine to a wheel.

Once I hit a military check. They wanted to completely go through the car and asked me to take everything out – a first at this point. I frantically told them to listen to my tire and that I didn’t have much time to get to a tire center. They couldn’t deny the hissing sound and they obviously didn’t know I had a compressor on board. That was the most effective way I have found of getting around the military checks.

Finally I drove into Minatitilan (where I had actually stayed on my way south). I had assumed that the entrance to town would be lined with roadside mechanics and hopefully something a little more professional. I found a Firestone/Bridgestone outlet. They introduced me to the mechanic next door so I got both the flat tire fixed and the axle plate reattached. I was back on the road by 2:30.

I wanted a large known company for the tire because I needed to get the lock off the wheel. Surprisingly the “lock” provided no real impediment. He basically hammered a socket wrench over the lock lug and then took it off. I don’t think the lock would really stop someone who really wanted a wheel.

The Firestone guy had more trouble with getting the tire off the wheel. He made a feeble effort to use the machine (the same machine which was used and worked fine at the Firestone in Leon with the last flat) but said the tire was too big. So we walked about two blocks down the road to a local “volcanizador”. This guy seperated the tire from the wheel by hand. The Firestone guy and I and five friends of the local tire guy watched him do all the work. He was a very hard worker, heavily sweating in the oppressive heat. He pulled out the three inches of nail with the head on the inside of the tire, patched the tire and inflated it. His cost was $10.

After the tire was fixed I went next door to the local mechanic to fix the axle. After much discussion with his cohort they replaced the five bolts with the extra bolts I had from Chile. Hopefully this will be the end of the axle problem for the next couple thousand miles until I make it home.

I had 180 miles to get to Veracruz.  The total tolls for the pay highway on Monday were $47.00. Darrylle had made reservations for Tuesday night but I drove directly to the hotel (after stopping at a service station and buying a map) and got a room one night early.

Veracruz is very hot and humid. I walked around the malecon and found a street side cafe to have tacos and a beer. Back in the room I cranked up the fan (no a/c) and took a cold shower to ease myself into a well deserved night’s sleep.