Sunday, February 21, 2016

From summer to winter in two hours

Steve in front of his trusty steed
Our good friends Steve and Sandy have been coming down to Yelapa in Banderas bay for quite a few years now. Last year they started to build a palapa on a beautiful spot overlooking the ocean and Steve hopes to make some progress on it this year which includes the installation of a spiral staircase which he had made in Denver. Yes Denver Colorado, not exactly just down the road from Yelapa but a 2000 mile drive. Steve has been so kind in helping us take Sarita up the coast to Washington and back down again so I offered my limited services as a co-pilot for the journey from Denver. So I flew out of Puerto Vallarta on New Year's Day along with a band of hung-over revelers on their way home and landed in a rather chilly but sunny Denver. Steve picked me up in their shinny Chrysler 300, pimp mobile and drove me back to their house in the mountains outside of Boulder, a beautiful spot and at this time of year it was covered in snow and looking very festive with all the Christmas lights everywhere.  Coming from a hot and humid climate to a freezing climate was like flying from winter to summer in just two hours.

I had taken the opportunity to order a host of spares for the boat which I could take down in Steve's truck and these included a new fridge compressor and evaporator plate and a portable freezer which we will use as a back up when, yes when, the main one breaks down. It was like Christmas all over again unwrapping all of the Amazon packages.

Steve's truck was loaded up with the spiral staircase, my stuff, not to be outdone on the weight front, I had purchased an 88lb anchor and off we set on the journey across 3 states and half of Mexico. Riley, Steve's dog watched in distress as his master drove off without him and down to McDonalds in Boulder. Steve apparently has a morning ritual with Riley, his dog, where they both go to Mc Donald's and both have a sausage egg mc muffin. I felt like I was a poor substitute for Riley as I was not slobbering enough before eating my Mc Muffin, which was a totally new experience for me.

Thank goodness petrol is cheap at the moment at 16 miles to an American gallon the V8 truck purred along but drank like Steve Duren. (only joking Steve). We watched the landscape and weather change as we drove across the snow strewn high plains of Colorado and New Mexico and slowly as we lost altitude the weather became warmer.

We stopped off in Albuquerque to have supper with some friends of Steve and Sandy's: Aaron, Stephanie and their delightful daughter Mia and a delicious home made meal it was and with great company.

We checked into our first budget motel of the trip, lugged a lot of our precious cargo into the hotel room and called home to report on the day's events.

The next day we drove from Albuquerque to Nogales, Arizona, on the Mexican border., an interesting town that seems both American and Mexican. Again we checked into another budget motel and went out for a meal at the local bar and planned our crossing into Mexico.

We awoke up early, Steve getting his cup of coffee and we repackaged the car and filled up with petrol as it is nearly half the price of Mexico. We visited Safeway and bought a few items that cannot be purchased in Mexico and then headed across the border. It's always a bit nerve-wracking crossing a border, you just never know how long it's going to take and how much it's going to cost you. Steve's luck held and we got a green light so no inspection was required and we sailed through with no passport or customs check. Phew.

So there we were, cruising down the Mexican highway towards Guaymas, weaving our way through the light early morning traffic of Nogales and then into the open country. We put on a CD that Wally, one of Steve's friends from yore entitled Mexican Road Trip 1 which contained appropriately Mexican music that set the scene for the drive down.

The intention was to drive only during the day and split the trip into 3 legs, Nogales to Guaymas, Guaymas to Mazatlan and then Mazatlan to Puerto Vallarta. We only wanted to drive at night as general advice is that you run the risk of getting hijacked by drug bandits along this stretch of road. Two unfortunate Australians were murdered a few months ago on this stretch of road and this is where the famous drug lord el Chapo is supposed to be hiding out.

We arrived at the outskirts of Guaymas at around 1:30pm, too early to stop for the day so we decided to carry on to Los Mochis.  We booked a hotel along the way and arrived in Los Mochis just after dark, taking a little time to find the hotel. We performed our routine of checking in, taking the valuable stuff from the back of the truck into the hotel room and then going for a drink and something to eat, in this case we stuck to the hotel bar as Los Mochis is supposed to be the capital of el Chapo's territory, not the safest place to be for two gringos.

We departed at dawn listening to Ry Cooder, very appropriate music for this beautiful start to the day. We pounded on down the road and again decided to skip our planned destination of Mazatlan and carry on to Puerto Vallarta. The roads were mainly excellent and travelled along near the speed liming of 70mph.

Steve has been trying to get me to listen to Alan Watts, the 60's philosopher, but his grating voice reminded me of my pompous teachers at school in England. I guess I am a philistine. Sorry Steve.

The final leg of the journey to Mazatlan took us over an impressive mountain range, we peeled off the toll road and joined a single lane road that weaved it's way to the top of a mountain passing through small Mexican villages and dense jungle before descending down the other side with a view of the ocean in front of us. Quite spectacular and the highlight of our trip for me.

We arrived in La Cruz in the late afternoon and were greeted by Jude and Katya, unloaded our stuff from the truck and had a beer or three in celebration of a completed and fun journey. The highlights of the journey for me were the journey through the mountains, listening to Steve's excellent collection of music and hearing his stories, seeing the one armed Honduran flaming torch juggler outside of Nogales and generally just taking in the beautiful scenery as we glided down the highway.

Thanks Steve for this wonderful adventure. I will remember it for a very long time.

Before leaving I had dropped off our turbo charger to get inspected and serviced if necessary and I went on the bus to pick it up so we could put it back on the engine and start heading south. But I was very disappointed to find that it was in worse shape than I left it. The bearings rattled, clearly the wrong size and they had sprayed the whole assembly a different colour. I left it again so the mechanic could fix it but our plans for heading south vanished.

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