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Day 12-14: The Drive Home
For a change, we were the first ones up and ready for breakfast. Our group and the Nances were just finishing up our meal as everyone else came stumbling in for breakfast. Our plan was to get on the road earlier than the group, as we were planning to drive on to Villahermosa for the night, another hundred miles or so past Cd. del Carmen, the rest of the group’s destination.
Luis walked in asking if we had seen the space shuttle the night before. We remarked that we had seen it, and he said he had never seen it flying so close before.
We said our goodbyes to everyone and we were off, racing back to the States. Once on the road we hauled butt up to Corozal to meet up with Dustin and Carey. Along the way we made a brief stop at a Land Rover repair shop on the Northern Highway. Evidently the owner, Steve, takes ex-MOD Land Rovers and converts/restores them for civilian use. He had built the 24v 110 that we saw at Sea Sports Belize on Day 6 in Belize city.
We met up with Dustin & Carey, compared stories of our adventures from the past couple of days and made the short drive to the Belize/Mexican border. They almost didn’t let Tracy into Mexico because a guard couldn’t read the proper dates on her paperwork. The guard, probably attempting “la mordida”, offered to take care of the paperwork problem for us, for a modest fee.
Crossing between Belize and Mexico, we discovered the Free Zone. This is a small area of “no-man’s land” between Belize and Mexico that is a duty free zone where many items can be bought very cheap. For the entrance price of 10 pesos per vehicle (about $1.10) we were able to get duty free Shell gas for the low price of $1.75 (US) per gallon, about half of what we had been paying ever since we left the states.
Pulling away from the border in Mexico, we heard the rest of the group on the CBs saying that they had just pulled into the Belize side of the border. Ironically, although they were only a block away from us, the impending paperwork for them meant that we were at least an hour ahead of them.
The route we took across the Yucatan crossed a part of Chiapas, considered to be the most dangerous of the Mexican states. We were stopped at a checkpoint and submitted to what was easily the most thorough search of the trip…we drove through a huge X-Ray machine that looked through (literally) our vehicles.
The X-Ray inspection delayed us for almost an hour, and put us into Villahermosa well after dark. Upon arriving in Villahermosa, the inspection had turned out to be a good thing; evidently about a half hour before we arrived a tornado and/or freak storm had come through town knocking out power to most of the city and blowing over trees and flooding portions of the streets. People and debris were everywhere and it didn’t help that the four lane intersections didn’t have lights because it turned into a free-for-all just to cross a street.
After spending an hour and a half driving around the city trying to find an open hotel with electricity, we finally checked into a hotel just off the highway. We had a quick dinner from the hotel’s restaurant and went straight to bed. Tomorrow is going to be another long day on the road.
DAY 13: Villahermosa, MX To Tampico, MX
It was a rather uneventful driving day today. We got on the road promptly at 6 am and started our marathon trek. We took the expensive toll roads again, so our peso supply was drained a bit. To help pass the time, we played inter-vehicle Scattegories. Dustin had brought the game with him and we played by communicating our answers across the CBs.
We pulled into town and ended up staying at the Hotel San Antonio, the same place where we stayed on the drive down. We lucked out though because this was the first day that they opened the newly constructed 4th and 5th floors. That means we were the first people to ever sleep in our room. Unfortunately, that also meant that our beds felt like we were the first ones to ever sleep there: stiff as a board.
We went in search of dinner after having said goodnight and goodbye to the Nance’s. They would spend the next day in Tampico and wait for the rest of the group to catch up. Dustin, Carey and Nathan opted to eat at the Gato Rojo (the Red Cat), a cheap outdoor taco bar with a cool logo on the main road through Tampico, while Tracy went for the safe choice: KFC.
DAY 14: Tampico, MX to San Antonio, TX
We had another semi-early start today. Today we complete the last Mexican leg of the trip and cross back into the United States. This time, we made sure that we took the new express highway from Tampico to Cd. Victoria. Taking this road knocked hours off of our trip and we were at the border crossing into the United States just after 1 pm.
In a stroke of either good planning or dumb luck, Camel rolled into the U.S. literally on fumes. The gas light came on while waiting in line to cross the border, so to conserve gas, we turned the Disco off when not creeping across the bridge. We quietly rolled up to the US agriculture inspection with no engine on and barely had the momentum to get out of line. The Mexican gasoline was completely drained from the tank and we filled up with a fresh tank of US gas just blocks across the border in the States. It also meant that we could fill up with the cheapest gas since leaving the US, at $1.10/gallon
We said our goodbyes to Dustin and Carey. They were heading to Port Aransas to enjoy the rest of the weekend sailing, while we were continuing on to San Antonio. We arrived in San Antonio and began the mammoth effort of finding a hotel to stay in. All of the hotels in downtown were completely booked, so we kept looking until we finally found a hotel up in the northeast corner of the city, about a 20 minute drive from downtown.
Exhausted from three long days on the road, a distance we took almost six days to cover on the way down, we had a quick light dinner and went to sleep.
Days 15 & 16: San Antonio, TX To Home (Colorado)
We woke up late on day 15, stumbling out of bed at almost 10 am. We quickly packed up and took Lynn and Dorothy to downtown San Antonio. They planned to spend the weekend there visiting the sites, then fly back to Hawaii on Monday.
We dropped them off in front of the Alamo, taking the mandatory “I was here” photos out front. On the way out of town, we stopped by the Land Rover San Antonio dealership to impress them with our travels, but the people there seemed rather indifferent and we found nothing cool to buy as they seemed to cater more to the upscale Range Rover crowd.
The next morning, we woke up and finished up the short drive home. After eighteen days on the road, we covered 6,065 miles. Averaging about 10.5 mpg we used almost 580 gallons of petrol. I now have nineteen new stamps in my passport and some amazing memories to last a lifetime. We can’t wait to go back.