Saturday, January 23, 2010

Back in Bucerias - After the 'Drive From Hell'

As I sit typing this blog post, I am treated to the sound of highway traffic; a steady parade of cars and heavy trucks, sirens, and the general comings and goings of foot traffic walking past our park – quite a sharp contrast to Teacapan, which was so quiet it was almost eerie (but in a good way).

The Hideaway RV Park is located a stone’s throw from the main thoroughfare south (Mex 200), however, we are nestled in our own private oasis. The gated park is quite private, and the trees and vegetation have grown up considerably since last year. And we’re all by ourselves at the moment.

We arrived in Bucerias last night around 5:00, after probably the absolute worst driving day we have experienced in our travels to date. The RV Park was empty, and Carl, the caretaker, was nowhere to be found. Great …

Here’s a recap of our last day at Teacapan (Thursday), and how yesterday’s travel day ‘went down’.

Terry and I were up and in the car early Thursday morning. We popped into the nearby town of Escuinapa to pick up a few essential groceries and visit an ATM. Once back at camp, we headed out for a long overdue stroll up the beach, where we didn’t run into another soul the entire walk. What a little chunk of paradise.

Adrian and Brenda promised us an outing to a local seaside eatery that served up great pina coladas and coconut shrimp. Of course we tried them, and they lived up to their reputation admirably. Another sunset on the beach, and a great supper with our buddies topped off our last night in Teacapan.

We left Teacapan Friday morning just after 9:00 a.m. Here’s a shot of the ‘long, country road’ that you travel on out of the Onac RV Park. We managed to sustain a little damage (strictly cosmetic) going in, so were a lot more cautious on our exit. Our departure was a lot less stressful than our arrival three days earlier.

This positive driving experience was short lived, however.

When we reached Escuinapa, ‘Numpty’ (our GPS), had us turn at the wrong intersection, which of course turned out to be a one-way street. Before we left the U.S., we purchased the Mexican mapping chip and loaded it into the GPS, which had been spot-on in directions the two days prior to this. Turns out ‘Numpty’ was complete oblivious to the one-way street systems in Escuinapa, and a few other towns in our travels. Disaster!

So, we missed a turn and ended up going the wrong way down a one-way street. Trying to get off the street and back on track proved to be more difficult than either of us could imagine. We frantically drove down the streets of Escuinapa, looking desperately for a street that might safely get us facing the right direction, all the while with Mexicans in cars, scooters and on foot pointing out the error of our direction.

We managed to get back on a street facing the right direction, but somehow missed the highway sign and subsequent turn at a key intersection. This is when the GPS went nuts. ‘Numpty’ began ‘recalculating’ frantically, and was feeding us a steady stream of orders of where to turn left, right, or make a u-turn.

Now, the streets in Escuinapa have LONG names, and it sounded almost insane having her firing off a barrage of instructions to ‘turn left at Francisca Manora Guissepe Anne Maria Vallarta Street’, or ‘make a u-turn at Hannah Montana Jallisco Veneto Benedicto Boulevard’, or ‘make a right turn at Mary Magdenana Burrito Jalapeno Velencia Avenue’, all of which were either (wrong) one-way streets or pothole filled, narrow disasters that we’d never get our rig down.

Things finally deteriorated to the point that we ended up driving back towards Mazatlan. Realizing this, Terry wheeled over, backed up the rig and made the turn around that got us back on the correct road heading south to Tepic.

We were flustered, but more embarrassed that we could miss the obvious signage. So, off we headed down the highway towards Bucerias. The GPS indicated that it would be a 4-1/2 hour drive, so we felt quite confident that we’d be in Bucerias in plenty of time to set up camp before dark, despite the mishap.

On our trip down last year, we took the mountain road to Tepic and connected with Mex 200. This was an extremely narrow, steep, route. We later learned that there was a Tepic bypass route that took you inland to San Blas and along the coastline to Bucerias, eliminating the steep climbing/descent. We elected to try that route this trip.

Turned out to be a bit of a horror for us. The road is narrow, winding and takes you through an incredible number of small towns, with their inevitable ‘topes’ (large speed bumps), ‘vibradores’ (rumble strips) and, worse yet – the dreaded angle speed bump.

Hitting an angle speed bump with a motor home is an experience that can’t quite be described. The rig jumps and wrenches wildly from left to right, and it feels like every possible item in the unit has been shaken loose, thrown around and smashed. Each one we went over elicited genuine screams of horror, followed by long strings of profanity that can never be recreated, nor should ever be repeated.

Add to that the narrow roads, so densely tree-lined that they would rake the sides of the motor home and trailer as we moved over to accommodate oncoming traffic, and the overhead canopy of trees that formed a ‘tunnel’ which threatened to tear our satellite dishes off the top of the unit.

But of course it doesn’t end there. After we drove through San Blas, there was another key ‘T’ intersection that required a left turn. I mistakenly advised Terry to turn right. Immediate disaster. We drove into the little town of Matanchen, on a tight, narrow street in our massive rig, and promptly drove to the – literal – end of a road. But that was not before we encountered a low-lying overhead wire that a Mexican had to pull down for us before we could continue. We turned up another street trying to get back towards the main road, only to find that we couldn’t make the turn as there was a parked pickup truck blocking us.

I hopped out of the motor home so I could guide Terry as he backed up, thinking we could just get back to the street we came down on and then out, only to realize that it was a one-way street. Frazzled, Terry drove ahead, taking another attempt at the turn on the other road, but no go.

I noticed a woman looking out of her house, watching our efforts, and asked if the truck was her vehicle. Fortunately, she spoke well enough English that she was able to point me in the direction of the owner’s house, and again, fortunately, it turned out they were home. After the truck was moved, we made the turn and drove on.

On to Bucerias we drove, blood pressures high and the cats in a catatonic state. We reached Bucerias around 5:00 p.m., with daylight left.

Foolishly, we thought things would go relatively smoothly here, as we had, what we believed to be, a good plan of how/where we would maneuver the motor home and trailer through the tight, cobblestone streets and into the RV Park.

What were we thinking??

Of course, no one was there to meet us, so we couldn’t get into the park. Then, the corner we planned (and needed) to turn on was blocked by a parked vehicle with a flat tire, so Terry once again couldn’t get the turning radius he needed. So off we drove down the street, thinking we could travel a little further down, back up, and come at the corner from another direction.

The trailer sunk into a hole, and we ended up dragging and scraping the hitch and trailer, unable to get it out of the rut and back onto the street to attempt that route. We of course gathered quite a crowd of onlookers at that point, as the noise of the trailer sliding and scraping along the cobblestones was very loud. After a few attempts, we gave up, parked the motor home, unhooked the trailer, took out the SUV and went in search of Carl the caretaker at his place of business just up the road. Of course he was not there, and there were no instructions for us.

Turns out Terry had keys to the RV Park pedestrian gate that he kept from last year, so we went in and searched for keys to the padlocked vehicle entry gates. No such luck.

Not wanting to leave the RV and trailer parked too far away, we moved the motor home and trailer closer to the RV park, walked to a nearby store and asked them if they wouldn’t mind trying to contact Carl on their telephone as we knew it would be insanely expensive to use our blackberry phones down here. Success!

Within a short time Carl was there, we drove in and set up for the night. Hallelujah! The only glitch we had was a problem with our internet connection. We gave up, called it a night, planning to start anew this morning.

Things are all good now. The internet is up and functioning, we’ve linked up with our buddies Joanne and Ken from Camrose, and the weather is perfect. Terry is happy because he was able to wash the motor home. The cats are happy because they can come outdoors and wander amongst the vegetation.

We’re looking forward to no stress for 6-weeks, and visiting with the long list of friends and family coming down on vacation. Bring on the cervesa, pina coladas, sun and surf!

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