Monday, March 30, 2015

Hola Mexico!!

Hello Mexico, and life on the road!! It seems that we have been preparing for ages, so to finally be here feels like the best thing ever. It has only been 5 days since we crossed the border, but it feels a lifetime. Things are going, not as "planned", but as expected for the most part.

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own, and you know what you know. And you are the guy who'll decide where to go.

The border crossing at Eagles Pass/Piedras Negras was easy peasy. 2 or 3 questions and we were off into Mexico! Immigration was about 35 miles into the country, and was quick and uneventful! We had decided before hand to take the mexican toll roads (cuotas) for the first few legs of the trip, for speed, safety, and reliability and we have been thoroughly impressed, and have made great time getting from place to place so far! Chris has been an excellent driver, and adjusted very quickly to the wild wild west rules of the road down here, and Lola (the car) has been a beast, giving us 19-21mpg, while dodging car swallowing potholes, downed powerlines, goats, one wicked hail storm, and crazy motorists who apparently value speed over their lives!

Taking in the gorgeous views on our way into Cuatro Cienegas

Destination 1 was the highly anticipated Cuatro Cienegas. Shortly after arriving we realized that our planned campground (La Poza Becerra) was closed and looked like an old weapons test site. We left San Antonio at 5am, and although it was still early afternoon, we realized we now had to scramble to find somewhere to stay. No one in town spoke a word of english, the local ATM was being finicky and we couldnt get any pesos out, and we had no idea where the crap we would sleep! We found the local toursim office (a hole in the wall with 2 ladies that spoke no english playing on their facebooks) and used our limited spanish skills to obtain a map with a few places that might allow camping outside of town. We then asked around about currency exchange and found our way to a small convience store that will trade you a few pesos for a few bucks. Feeling lucky that we managed to figure this much out, we headed to the campground. The campground was actually cool... It was like a western ranch ghost town, with just a few construction workers during the daylight hours, and then only us all night! We choose a random spot, and of course the first rock that Chris turns over happens to have a scorpion and a snake under it!!! Really!!! Thanks Mexico, for the quick induction into this lifestyle!!! In the end it was both creepy and cool to sleep in our car in the middle of no where with no one around, and only the sounds of the wind and a nearby donkey braying. We can get used to this for sure!

Camping spot night 1

We made a quick stop through in Saltillo, and moved on to San Miguel de Allende, a beautiful little city set on a steep hillside, full of cobblestone streets and gorgeous architecture. Again, finding the recommended camping place near town turned out to be a wild goose chase. We had to make last minute plans, which thankfully turned out better than we could have imagined at first. We got a sweet little spot in a RV park located right in town, and have been just enjoying the city, and happy to not be driving for a few days!

La Parroquia de San Miguel Arcangel
Palm Sunday
The streets and buildings are still in colonial form

Yesterday we walked the picturesque hilly town for hours, and made sure to get to the highest place in town, for the best view! We are enjoying being still, chatting with locals and other travelers, and taking time to slow down and enjoy the life we have worked oh so hard for the past year!

Mallary standing next to another Palm Sunday oddity
Mallary standing next to another Palm Sunday oddity
Beautiful little alleyway as we made our way to the top of the city
Chris the Redeemer
Another street view of San Miguel de Allende

Today we just returned from an awesome day out on the bikes. Our original plan was to drive to this park called El Charco del Ingenio in a pretty big natue reserve then bike around. But the owner of the RV park told us it would be easier to just take the bikes to the park from here. Right now, as I write this, I am so happy we did... but at the time, during the moments of pushing our bikes up and up and up steep cobblestone hills with traffic... Not so happy. Until the moment we arrived at a surprise scenic overlook of the city!! So beautiful! Then we continued on to the park, found some very awesome dirt path off road biking trails and had a blast! Then, just to top off the greatness of the day, we toured around the Botanical Gardens, which was far larger and impressive than we could have imagined.

Surprise! Consolation prize for the tortured climb up!
Canyon view inside the park
Scouting out some dinner
I'm a bird! (And also an idioto!)

Overall, life is great! San Miguel de Allende might be a bit touristy, and also too expensive for our budget, but we are having a ball here, and are way under budget these past few days. Good to know that we can go anywhere, and with a little thriftyness and imagination, have fun without spending the big bucks, and still enjoy everything the place has to offer.

The original "Plaza Azteca". Our thrifty find. We choose street food and hole in the wall places any day!

We want to stress how friendly the locals have been so far, many have gone out of their way to help us even though there is a huge language barrier. We have never felt threatened or unwelcome, so far traveling here would be recommended!

-Chris & Mallary


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Day 1: starting point- 37 Degrees North

Thursday March 19th, 2015... We left Virginia Beach, starting coordinates 37N80W! It was bitter sweet to say the least, and tears were shed as we realized what and who we would be missing while we were gone. We respectfully acknowledged the feelings, with an understanding that these feelings would fade, and it would all be worth it.

The last week of saying goodbyes and getting all our ducks in a row was one hell of a week. I recently told my best friend (who just headed out last month for Mexico) to enjoy all the moments, the moments leading up to the trip should be savored as well... Well, I eat my words! The last week sucked. It was filled with sad moments and a never ending to-do list. We got through it, and are so very thankful for our families and friends who made a point to send us off with lots of love!

First stop was Charlotte, NC, for a (way too quick) visit with an old college friend and her hubby. It was so sweet to end an emotional day with seeing their faces and catching up a bit. Then it was off to New Orleans baby, where we spent just a day exploring and taking it all in. The local cuisine, jazz culture, and booze was good along with the random parades. The second picure below pretty much summarizes the wierdness found on Bourbon Street. Fun for an afternoon, but not really our scene these days.


Balcony on Bourbon Street
Bourbon Street wierdness. WTF

We spent our first 2 nights on the road sleeping in the 4Runner in Walmart parking lots. If I wondered what it was like to homeless, well now I have the slightest understanding... And it kinda sucks. I was less than thrilled to wake up and have to walk into a public restroom with boogers still in my eyes!

Mallary's wake of shame

We decided to take a slight detour on our way into Texas, to Sea Rim State Park, to camp out for the night. It started off amazing! I (Mallary) conquered my fear of alligators (kinda) and then we set up camp right on the deserted beach, between the marshes and the Gulf of Mexico. We collected fire wood, and made a delicious Dutch oven stew on the fire and watched the sunset. Perfection... And finally a glimpse into what life was going to be like...

Gator spotting, they're not so bad afterall
Perfection, the calm before the storm
Dutch Oven dinner.

Until bed time... then began MOSQUITOACOLYPSE! We thought inside a vehicle with only a cracked window stuffed with mosquito netting and an exterior screen would be totally safe. But about 2 hours into the night, we heard the unmistakable buzzing sound of mans worst enemy, mosquitos. We quickly dispatched them, hoping it was rogue vermin that made their way in early in the day. However, as the minutes went on, more and more and more mosquitos kept pouring their way in. For every one we killed, it seemed like three more would show up. At first it was somewhat entertaining, turning off our lantern and then turning it back on and luring them to it only to smash them against the ceiling leaving skeeter stalactites. Louder then the crashing sounds of the nearby waves, the swarms of bugs outside were only growing louder by the minute. We held the lantern to the window, and to our alarm, the window was literally covered with bugs. How were they getting in? We concluded that the swarm was so massive that they were working their way through small gaps in the tailgate. Time to get the hell out, pretty sure i've seen an X-files episode of something like this. After making a dash out of the truck to round up our miscellaneous gear while doing a dance similar to when you're trying not to pee yourself, we sped off out of the park and stopped at the first dodgy motel we came across. "Luxury" has never felt so good. Next time a park ranger says "Make sure you have deet!" We'll translate that as "Better stick with Walmart". In the end we made a pact that whenever a miserable situation arises we'll treat ourselves to a hotel, motel, or whatever it might be that counteracts the blow to morale. Roughing it is great, but we draw a line at being stuck in a car with ravenous mosquitos all night....and frankly it was just too early in the game for this. :)

We are now in San Antonio, staying with some good friends, while we gear up for crossing the border. A couple days of R&R, hanging out with friends, last minute prep, and a little Texan sight seeing, before heading south! Life is good, we are so excited for the road ahead!