Trip out of Mexico: Day 2

We did not get out of Coatzacoalcos until almost 9 this morning. Even at that we were on schedule to cross the border pretty easily on Thursday night.

Broken Tongue
We had gotten a couple of hours down the road when we crossed a bridge. As we went over the bridge with the “smooth” road, we started bouncing up and down. That nice up and down movement was apparently just right to snap the tongue on our trailer.

I am sure the trailer is quite weighted down. But I have had it this loaded before. Maybe the former abuse was just what it needed to break it the rest of the way. I have had the trailer for over 10 years. I am not sure how it was used previously. Whatever is the cause, it did break. We were very fortunate that it simply sagged to the ground and I was able to pull over to a stop. It could have just as easily broken and then dug into the asphalt and ripped the back end off our van, or flipped the trailer over onto us.

Off to Find Help
We were on a toll road and only 2 Km from a toll booth. We unhooked the trailer and drove up to the toll booth. I did not pay to go through the booth, but pulled off the side of the road. I did not want to pay $20 and then find out I had to pay it again just to go get my trailer. That wisdom proved to be accurate. If I had left the area, I would have had to pay each time I crossed back in.

For the next 3 hours I worked with a mechanic crew that hangs around the toll plaza for just such occasions trying to figure out how to get the trailer to a welder. There were two obvious solutions, but neither of them seemed practical to the mechanic. One solution was to bring the welder to the trailer. The mechanic’s argument was that the welder needed a generator to plug the welding machine in to. I suggested acetylene welding instead of arc welding. He did not know a welder who had that set-up.

The second solution was to call a tow truck and have the trailer either lifted onto a truck or do one of those amazing tow-truck-guy things that they do with chains. I am sure one could figure that out. I later found out that this was not a good solution for the mechanic because then he would lose the money to someone else. It was not about helping me, but about getting my money.

Mexican Ingenuity
Ultimately we pulled the trailer with my van by the tongue and the mechanic’s truck rode behind the trailer pulling down on the back end with a rope to balance the trailer between the two vehicles on the trailer tires.

We pulled-pushed the trailer 5 Km (just over 3 miles) to the welder. That short trip took probably close to 45 minutes. The mechanic charged me $90 for his work. I felt like I was stuck paying that price since we really could not agree on a price before we knew what was going to be involved. I thought $50 was more justifiable, but paid the $90 anyway.

Welder’s Work
The welder said it would take him an hour to do his part. We agreed on a price of $55 to put the trailer back together and then reinforce the tongue area. It took him 1.5 hours. I got some nice pictures of him working. I will try to upload some later.

Back on the Road
That all took just under 5 hours to complete. With our late start today, we only traveled about 4 hours from where we started this morning. We ended up between 2 larger towns (where we know the hotels) to try and find a place to stay. We were headed for an area called Costa Esmeralda (Emerald Coast) to pull over for the night. When we made our final gas station stop we saw a hotel with Internet. We don’t even really know what town we are in, but we were able to get to bed early for an early start tomorrow.

There is still a slim chance of crossing the border tomorrow night, but not looking real likely.

Day 3 (Preview)
We will continue north through the town of Poza Rica. Actually, we get to skirt around the edge of town. Then through one of our least favorite towns, Tuxpan. From Tuxpan it is a horrible little road for several hours to the city of Tampico. The stretch from Poza Rica to Tampico is probably the worst roads we will encounter on the whole trip. Once we get past Tampico a couple of hours we have very nice roads the rest of the way to the border.

Trip out of Mexico: Day 1

This log should include the days leading up to day 1 to start with.

Day 1 minus 3
Saturday we worked to get the last of our items sold that we needed to get out from under so that we could move everything back to the US that we had left. The garage sale went somewhat well, but we did not get rid of everything we needed to.

We packed up most of the trailer on Saturday evening. We could not get everything packed and sealed up until at least Sunday night or Monday morning. Things progressed well with the packing as much as we could do up to that point. In fact, we packed so compactly that we had more room than stuff. Ultimately we did find enough stuff to pack into the holes we had left.

Day 1 minus 2
Sunday I was able to get my long run for the week done. I love that church does not start until 11:00 at our church in Merida. I ran my 8 mile long run and really enjoyed being able to focus on something other than packing for a couple of hours. I took the opportunity to run in some areas of town I don’t normally frequent. Being Sunday morning I did not expect much traffic on my run. For the most part it was pretty clear.

After church we went and grabbed a quick lunch. I had become quite preoccupied with the tires and slightly bent axle on our trailer. The old tires were pretty chewed up and there was not much tread left on one of the tires. This was actually the cause of lack of sleep Saturday night. But Sunday afternoon I took the trailer to a friend of mine to see what could be done about straightening the axle before putting on new tires. I was very disappointed when he told me I would have a hard time finding tires since it was an odd size in Mexico. These trailer tires are so common in the US you can find them at any Wal-Mart, but apparently not common at all in Mexico. We even considered the possibility of adapting my axle to accept different wheels or replacing the axle altogether. That is what I got to mull over while sitting in church Sunday night.

After the evening service we got together with a group of friends for a meal. One of the pastors had some ideas of where I might be able to get tires for my rims. On Monday morning he was able to give me phone numbers to call.

Day 1 minus 1
We were supposed to leave Monday. The earlier the better, but were determined that if we could have left before 5:00 pm we would still have enough time to get a couple of hours down the road and not have to push so hard the rest of the week. We are trying to be home by Saturday afternoon. We will see how the week progresses.

I had an appointment with a man at 10:00 to come and buy the rest of the items we had for sale. While waiting for him I called tire shops and finally found some tires that would fit. They were not terribly expensive, but about twice what I would have had to pay in the US. I also got a chance to sell a few more items. The man I was supposed to meet with did not show up by 10:40 so I called his work and got his cell number. He told me he would be there in an hour or so. I emphasized to him when I first set up the appointment how critical it was that he be on time since I did not live at the place where the items were stored and I was really crunched for time. That apparently meant nothing to him. I asked him to call me when he was close and I would run some errands while waiting for him. He finally showed up an hour and 40 minutes late. Typical. I also ended up not selling anything to him. He was only interested in 2 items and offered me only 1/3 of what I was asking.

Then to the other end of town I went to pick up the tires. I grabbed them and met my friend who helped me the day before and we took the tires to be mounted. After the mounting process, he insisted that I have the axle fixed. I knew at this point our departure was in jeopardy. Fortunately the process of bending the axle into place only took about 30 minutes at the local alignment shop.

Back home to finish packing and hit the road. I did not get back to the house until 3:30. We did not finish packing the trailer until 6:00. So much for leaving Monday.

We went and had a nice meal that night and also picked up a few more items that would help keep our stuff dry in the trailer. The trailer is a simple flat bed with a short rail around it. We built a 4′ X 8′ X 4′ plywood box on it. With the extra time I was able to caulk all the joints and do a pretty good job of wrapping the box in a tarp. The biggest issue is that if we have to open the box for any military, police or customs checkpoints, I will probably never get it sealed up as well as it is now.

Day 1
We got up at 5:30 with the goal of having the van packed and on the road sometime between 6 and 7 AM. A few hangups here and there and we finally left town at 9:00. In the process we bought Wal-Mart out of their whole stock of duct tape. We have plenty to seal up any holes or leaks in the tarps.

After a couple of early naps between my wife and I (and driver changes), we were finally awake enough to make some time. We intentionally traveled slower than normal because of the added weight of the trailer. When we pulled this trailer with our Suburban when it was similarly loaded, there was no noticeable difference in the way the truck handled. Not true with a Honda Odyssey. Starting up and slowing down are much more of a challenge. Even at the slower speed we were only 1 hour behind our normal schedule of making it to the city of Villahermosa, Tabasco.

At one point along the way today we did something we have thought about many times, but have never done. We pulled our van off the side of the highway and enjoyed a little wading in the gulf waters. We had talked about swimming. Though we could not see the waves from the road, they were pretty strong. But when you got down to the water line you could see that there was quite a strong pushing and pulling of the water. For prudence sake we just waded a while.

When we left Villahermosa we knew we could make it to the city of Coatzacoalcos in 2 hours. Within 30 minutes of leaving Villahermosa we were in a tremendous thunderstorm. The best thing for our trailer and contents is to keep moving in rain. I have everything packed in such a way that it is best protected from water entering the front and being blown off as we are moving. While I don’t think we have any major leaks, if there are any, they are going to be most easily exploited when the trailer is sitting stationary.

This storm was so strong and violent that traveling 20 MPH at times seemed risky. So much for movement. While I am not normally a pessimist, I don’t see any way that our stuff stayed dry. It was a torrential downpour for 40 minutes. By the time we got to the hotel it had slowed down, but the streets in the city were totally flooded. What did not get wet in the rain probably got soaked from the bottom up with the trailer buried under water for 30 minutes. On the bright side: if we make it home this weekend and anything is dry, then I should be pleased.

It is currently still raining and the trailer has been sitting in the rain for a couple of hours. Sigh.

Day 2 (preview)
We plan to be on the road somewhat early tomorrow. The hotel we are in does not start serving breakfast until 6:30. So we probably won’t be on the road until at least 7:00. Best case scenario is that we will make it to within 4 or 5 hours of the border. We should make it to within 10 hours tomorrow barring any major road problems. Then we will travel all day on Thursday to be able to cross that evening. If we do make good time and distance tomorrow then we can cross on Thursday and get a few hours up into Texas before having to shut down for the night.

I will keep you posted as I can.

Camp starts today

The second of our two camps for the Deaf in Mexico starts today. We are expecting 31 (or so) in attendance. This is our third year to do this camp. The first year was a day camp in which we picked up the kids and took them to a location each day. Last year we used the same camp facility that we are using this year. We had 22 campers last year, so to have 30 or more would be a big jump percentage wise.

We will be there for 3 nights. I am the guest speaker this year. Since I have been gone a year (we left a week after camp last year) then I get to be the special guest. I am still doing basically the same things I did last year except I didn’t have to do as much of the planning. Can’t get much better than that. Well, it could. I could be given special napping privileges while everyone else is outside playing in the sun. But, alas, I get to help run the games too.

So, while I have now committed to being a better blogger, I step away from the Internet for a few days. Look forward to some pictures this weekend.

Marathon selected; training plan in place

I had not planned an official marathon for the fall since we had planned to move to Argentina about the time I wanted to run a race. A couple of weeks ago it was decided that we would not be going to Argentina until early next year. That left the fall open to scheduling a race.

Mississippi Coast Marathon
I looked through Marathon Guide to help me pick a race. My requirements were that it be a Saturday race and that it be within a couple of hours of some place I am going to be in my travels for the fall. I also needed a race late enough in the year to get a full 16 week training plan going. In the past I might have been able to shave a couple of weeks off a plan and not be too set back, but this year my running has been less than stellar. I have been running enough to stay in shape, but not enough to say that I am ready to consider a marathon a few weeks out.

The Mississippi Coast Marathon fits everything I needed. In fact, a full training plan allows me to start today and finish 16 weeks from now running the race. It is run on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. I have not made my travel schedule that far out (boy am I behind), but I do know the plans are to spend Thanksgiving with my parents and some friends in Pensacola, FL. This marathon is about 2 hours from Pensacola.

Training Schedule
I chose the same training plan I had last year. It is a computer generated plan from Runner’s World. I will be running 3 days a week and cross training the rest. The mileage is a bit higher than the plan I chose last year, by just a couple of miles a week.

Last year I did not have any time goals since I had never run a marathon before. My only goal was to have fun. Now that I have a time to beat, 4:32:10, I have specific training pace goals for each of my runs. These should be reachable goals. May be too easy right now. Today I ran 1:50 per mile faster than the training plan called for.

Pre-race Plans
I am thinking of going over on Friday afternoon so that I can get a good night’s rest going into the race. Then if any family wants to come over and see the race on Saturday, they can get up and just drive over for the finish. Not sure if any are interested in that.

What to expect?
As a way to get myself back into blogging and keep myself motivated with the running, I will try to give you a weekly re-cap on my running like I did last year heading into the big weekend.

Packing up

We are still in Mexico packing up our things and getting ready for the big move. Fortunately we are doing this in stages. If you don’t already know, we are moving to Argentina. The plan was to be there in October, but it works out that January will be a better time for us to make the move.

When we left Mexico back in August of last year, we packed up most of our stuff and put it in a storage room. We did not know where we were going next at that time. There was a possibility that we would be staying in Mexico, but not in this area. It made sense to not sell all our furniture until we knew what part of the country, or world, we were going to next. Now that we know where we are going, we need to get rid of this stuff. Most of it is impersonal household items like couches, fans, trash cans and office supplies. Having been apart from these items over the last year, it seems to be a bit easier to put a price on something and watch it walk away.

Currently we are just selling to our friends. Later this week we open the floodgates to the general public. There is still a lot of processing to do to get ready for the opening of the garage sell on Friday. Coupled with that, we are preparing for a camp next week. There is a lot to fill our time with this week that could throw us off our goal of being packed up before camp starts on Tuesday.

As I said, this move is in stages. After this packing up time we will be taking what is left back to the US and putting it in storage there. We will continue to travel throughout the fall and then figure out how to get the necessary items into a few suitcases and start flapping our wings towards Argentina.

Among the things I have enjoyed doing while back in town is running on some of the same roads and paths that have become so familiar in my running career. I have not logged a lot of miles since being back, but I have enjoyed them.