The Long, Last Chapter of the Big Adventure

We met with the importer on Monday morning, June the 6th.  The first step of the process was to drive the motorhome to U.S. Customs to have the vehicle “exported” from the USA.  That was quick and easy.  So now we had a motorhome with no country.  We went back and unloaded all of our personal belongs from the motorhome to be driven to Mexican Customs for the importation process on Tuesday June the 7th.  Well things went downhill fast.  It did not happen Tuesday, or Wednesday, or Thursday, or Friday, for some reason unknown to me, but supposedly because it was a “classic” vehicle, and there were problems establishing the “value” of it for the import duty.

So Friday afternoon, the import broker said we better just go home.  We had our dog, lots of clothes, coolers, bags, etc. in the motel room, so a bus and/or a plane were out of the question.  We decided to rent a car to drive one way to Guadalajara.  We booked it on Expedia, through Budget Rent a Car.  But we had to rent the car in Mexico, at the Nuevo Laredo Airport.  The Import Broker had one of his drivers take us to the airport on the Mexican side of the border, early Saturday morning.  Right before we left, he said, “You better hurry, the airport closes at 8 a.m.”  I guess when there are no flights scheduled in or out, they just close?  When we got there, no one was at the Budget Rent a Car kiosk.  There was a phone number to call.  We called and he said he would be there in 15 minutes.  15 Mexican minutes is about an hour.  He shows up in a Renault Scala, with over 120,000 KM on it.  Not a single part of the car does not have dings or scratches on it.  The floor of the trunk has oil stains all over it.  When you open the gas filler door, it falls off, and you have to figure out how to get it back on.  Over 60 mph it shook like crazy.  And it cost over $700 for the two day, one-way drive to Guadalajara.  When I went to turn it in, the woman did not believe that it was one of their cars.  She also did not believe the amount of damage.  She called the agent in Nuevo Laredo, and he confirmed that it was in that shape when I picked it up.  But at least we were back home, Sunday afternoon, June 12th.

The last discussion we had with the import broker, he assured us that upon our return, the motorhome would be in his parking lot, ready to load back up and return.

On Saturday, July 16th, we receive a copy of the paperwork that we needed to complete the process of importation.  We told the broker that we would not return until we had a copy in our hands, to insure no more delays.  We left Sunday, July 17th, and drove to Saltillo, Mexico and spent the night at the “less than lovely” Hotel La Fuente.  It was clean and comfortable, but a little shop worn around the edges, so to speak.  Ready for a re-do.  Early Monday, we left for Laredo, and after waiting in line for two hours to get across the bridge and through U.S. Customs, we call the broker while waiting in line, and he tells us that there was no driver to take the motorhome through Mexican customs that morning, so that it would be Tuesday, now.  Remember, it was to be ready and waiting in his parking lot.

Tuesday morning we are at the office at 9 a.m., waiting for the driver, who was again, a no show.  We left to do some shopping, and sometime around noon the driver shows up that takes the motorhome to Mexican Customs.

By about 4 o’clock it is through Mexican Customs, but the ever changing rules now require us to pick up the motorhome in Mexico, not in his parking lot in Laredo, Texas.  He drives us to his office in Mexico, and we check out the line waiting to cross the bridge, and it is several miles long, four lanes wide, at the least a three hour wait.

So we decide to drive several miles through the narrow streets of Nuevo Laredo, out west of town to another border crossing.  His warehouse closes at 5:45, so we have no time to spare.  We get to the other border crossing, and there is also a long line, but not terribly long.  As we approach the U.S. Border Entry point, an officer comes out and tells us that we have to get in the line with the commercial trucks.  Seems that the week before a motorhome got stuck in the line that the cars and light trucks use.  Steve had to get out of the motorhome and walk across the border, because there could only be the driver in the commercial truck lane.  Another thirty minutes in this line.

So I am driving a motorhome with Arkansas plates, and a Mexican Title, and paperwork.  Remember that it is completely empty, except for me and a few pieces of paper. When I reach the border crossing booth, remember this is the U.S. Border, the officer makes a few phone calls, and tells me that I will have to get in line with the commercial trucks to go through the X-Ray booth.  This is another hour wait, so now it is almost 8 p.m.  Steve and I have been in contact by cellphone for these hours, and he has called the broker, and the broker graciously agrees to go out to dinner with his family, and return to the warehouse and open it up for us, and help us load our “stuff” back into the motorhome.  There are no instructions at the X-Ray station.  I watch what the others are doing, and try to figure out the system.  Pull up, get out, take a pink piece of paper to a foil covered booth, and stand outside while a R2-D2 device with a flashing light on top runs down a track and X-Rays the whole motorhome.

So I drive up, how far?, and get out and there is this UPS van that has pulled in behind me.  The driver is motioning to me and speaking something in Spanish.  I hear a loudspeaker, but I cannot understand anything.  “Pull Forward so the UPS truck can get X-Rayed at the same time”.  Oh, I get it, there is room for both me and the UPS Van in the same space it takes to process a long commercial truck.  Get back in the motorhome, pull up, get back out and take my pink piece of paper to the booth, where a window slides open, and a gloved hand reaches out to take my paper.

I pass, and get waved on.  The poor UPS Van has to drive up onto a ramp for some sort of further scanning.  I do not hang around to see what happens,  I want out of there.

The  broker comes to his warehouse not long after we get there, and helps us get things “thrown” into the motorhome.  We drive back to the motel, and spend the next three hours unpacking the boxes, filling the cabinets, making the beds, you get the idea.

We finish somewhere around midnight, and get up bright and early to head home.  We cross the bridge into Mexico.  I am waved over to be inspected, no vehicle permit on the windshield.  They want to see my papers.  Same situation, Arkansas License Plates, Mexican Paperwork.  He checks with his supervisor, and gives me permission to proceed.  Elapsed time, no more than 10 minutes, maybe less.  I was nervous and shaking like a leaf.  I am sure I did not look innocent, even though I was.

So 10 minutes to get into Mexico.  Three hours to get into the USA.

Steve is driving the car, and I am driving the motorhome.  Not long after we get away from the border, I get stopped at a police routine checkpoint.  Here we go again, I think.  The officer looks at my papers, chooses one piece of paper to put on the dashboard, and assures me that I will have no more problems.  I did not!  His companion officer toured the motorhome and had nothing but nice things to say about it.  You know what it is like driving a nice old Travco.

We spent the night in Matehuala, at the beautiful Las Palmas Hotel.  We just got a room, we needed a nice quiet evening and a good meal.

We made it back to Ajijic the next day, no problems, other than traffic, and a few bad roads.

The next step, which luckily we could just pay for, thank goodness, was to get the Jalisco License Plates.  A lawyer drove our motorhome to Guadalajara.  He left at 4 a.m. so that he could get in line.  It took all day, he got back around 6 p.m. with all of the proper plates, stickers, and papers.  I just cannot imagine having to do that myself.

So here we are, home safe and sound, legal, plated, and ready for more adventures.  Maybe not quite as adventurous as this previous one.


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Tulsa to Laredo

We left Tulsa Friday morning after a three day stay at the radiator shop.  Seems longer than that.  We needed to be in Laredo, TX on Monday morning to meet with the import broker to finalize the importation process into Mexico.

That meant that we had a slow easy trip down to the border.  We spent the first night in Waco, just a few short miles off Interstate 35, at a very comfortable RV Park, not far from Baylor University.  Since it was Friday night, there were a few college parties going on, but it did not keep me awake.  I could see the tell tale signs the next morning.  They must have left during the night, or very early the next morning.  The park owners were a little disappointed with the mess they left.

Saturday we ambled down to San Antonio, and stayed at a nice RV Resort, “Traveler’s World”.  It had obviously been there for many years, and was beautifully maintained, and appointed.  Many permanent residents, some small houses, and some mobile homes, interspersed with the RV’s.  Everyone was very friendly and welcoming, even though we were only staying one night.

Sunday we had another easy drive to Casa Blanca State Park, near the airport in Laredo.    We were obviously in the desert now.  Luckily it was not too hot, and we had all hook-ups so we stayed nice and comfortable.  It was a short easy drive into town for shopping, and to meet with the Import Broker the next morning.

One of the requirements for importation of a vehicle, is that it has to be completely empty of any personal belongings.  For an automobile that would not be a terribly big chore, but for us we had to take everything out of the motorhome.  When we bought it the previous owners left all sorts of dishes, pots and pans, linens, etc.  It has never been empty since we bought it.  We  filled up two pallets of personal belongings to be stored in the warehouse for the two day process of importation.  All tools, spare parts, oil, fluids, jack, flares, everything.

Since the motorhome was now completely empty, and we could not stay in it very easily, we moved into a nearby La Quinta for the night.

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Radiator Leak

Well, the small radiator leak, which required us to add a couple of quarts of water every morning before we pulled out decided to raise its ugly head on the way from Branson, MO to Tulsa, OK.  The four hour trip took about nine hours, as we kept having to stop and cool down, add more water and stop leak and head off again.  The first time the stop leak was good enough to get us from Springfield, MO to thirty miles outside of Tulsa, but it went down hill from there, having to stop three more times, and add more stop leak.  We also patched the radiator leak with some two part epoxy.

But with the radiator having already been repaired two times in our 12 years of ownership we decided to try and find a radiator shop in Tusla before heading down south through Texas, and Mexico.  Almost 700  miles from Tulsa to Laredo, and another 700 miles from Laredo to home.  (Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico)

John, at Mid West Radiator was an old pro on radiators.  He told us that the previous repairs were really not done correctly, as one was braised which almost ruined the radiator, (back in 2008).  He ordered a new core, custom built to our size, and removed the tanks, straightened the damage from previous repairs, and silver-soldered the whole thing back together, including re-soldering the drain valve, and the hose connections pieces, and the radiator cap pieces, so all connections are new.

John kindly lectured me on how bad the stop leak products were for radiators, and should only be used in an emergency and only for long enough to get to a repair shop.  Judging from the looks of our radiator core, that is certainly good advice. We noticed that the temperature kept getting slightly higher after adding so much stop leak.  I bet we added six containers over the course of the trip, starting in Louisiana.  Each time we thought the problem was fixed, and it did last for a couple of weeks until the Missouri to Oklahoma leg of the trip.

The only problem was that the custom made core took three days to get there, as it was the week after Memorial Day holiday.  We camped out at the repair shop, an old service station, and were locked behind the fence every night.  He arranged it so we could come and go, so we joined my brother and sister-in-law for dinners every night.  Of course they picked us up and brought us back.

So, hopefully that problem is taken care of for another 41 years or so.  We have not had to add a drop of water since then.

Another in-route problem that cropped up, was a small leak in our three year old water heater.  Very small leak, but enough not to ignore.  We just only turned on the water when we needed it.  While we were waiting for the radiator core to come in, and after seeing the quality of their work, I mentioned, why not get the water heater fixed while we are sitting here waiting for the new radiator core.  It was a hairline crack in the weld.  On a almost brand new water heater.  Of course it goes without saying, no more leak there either.  Just a little extra fix along the way.  This thing is going to be brand new before we know it!

The work was excellent, and the price seemed very reasonable to me.


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2016 Travco Big Adventure

I had planned to send updates along the way, but the combination of too much fun with friends and family along with spotty or non-existent Wi-Fi connections, I just never seemed to get around to it.

Basically we traveled across Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, South Carolina, back to northeast Mississippi, Little Rock, Arkansas, Branson, MO area, and Tulsa.  We are currently in Tulsa, getting the radiator repaired.

No major problems with the Travco, never stranded, but a few minor glitches every now and then.  It is 41 years old, and has basically run like a top.


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Day Two

We left Matehuala around 8 in the morning.  We traveled across some of the worst, and some of the best roads in Mexico.  At least three Military Check Points, but we were waved through them without any inspections.  We kept smelling some strange smell.  It turned out to be sulphur gas coming from our batteries.  We checked, and they were both low on water and “cooking”.  Filled them up, and the smell went away, but in a day or two, they would not hold their charge any more…. but I am getting ahead of the story.  Also, one of the straps holding the waste water holding tank broke, and Steve had to crawl under the motorhome with a ratchet strap to hold it back up.  Of course, Mighty Max, the Wonder Dog, loved all of the extra stops, because he got to run around and smell all sorts of new territory.  We had planned to cross the border at “Colombia-Solidarity” Bridge.  We had crossed there many times before.  But we got very close, but could not find it.  The GPS could not find it either.  The Internet said that it was closed???   Doubt that.  But since we could not find it, we let GPS girl guide us back down through downtown Nuevo Laredo to another bridge, which we have often used before, but knew first hand that it would not be “motorhome friendly”.  What a nightmare.  Small compact cars would have trouble in that area.  We waited in line to turn in our “Temporary Importation Permit” for the motorhome for at least thirty minutes, the engine temperature constantly rising.  Then, we did not have a normal VIN, and that really caused lots of problems.  All is well, that ends well, but I am sure that there were many unhappy campers in the line behind us.  Then on to the bridge, where we spent about another hour, waiting in line, starting to overheat.  When we finally got to the USA Border Control Guy, he was nice and friendly, but also sort of wanted a tour of the motorhome, again angering the folks behind us, I am sure, but you got to do, what you got to do, to get through the border.

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Day One

The first day of the trip, estimated by Google to be 4 hours and 20 minutes turned out to be more like 10 and a half hours. We knew it would be longer than the estimate, but did not think that it would be that much longer!

We spent the first night in Matehuala, in the state of San Luis Potosi.  It is in the high Mexican desert, traveling all day in the 6500 feet above sea level range, but just gentle rolling hills.  There were lots of mountains getting up to that level, but once there it was just “high plains”.

Las Palmas was like an oasis.  Beautiful, nice restaurant, good food, and RV parking out behind the motel for about $20/night.  We had both dinner and breakfast in the restaurant, before heading out the next morning for Laredo, TX.

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Friends and Family Tour 2016

We are off on an epic adventure in our 41 year motorhome to visit friends and family in the USA.

The motorhome has been painted, and the mechanic (Filipe Morales) has gone over it with a fine tooth comb, and we hope that all is well.  More posts will follow as we make or break our way through the journey.


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Travco Repaint

After 41 years, and especially after much time on the Pacific Coast in the Heat, Salt Air, and Ocean Spray, the Travco was starting to lose some of its luster.

We decided to repaint and re-chrome to bring it back to almost new appearance.  Here are some photos of the process and the finished product.  We are very happy with the job that they did, and the “new look”!


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Travco Thanksgiving on the Coast

We headed for the Pacific Coast for one of our traditional Travco Thanksgivings, passing the Colima Volcano along the way.  In the past, we have had these Travco Thanksgivings at Petit Jean State Park, Mount Magazine State Park, and Lake Chicot State Park, all in Arkansas.

Those have always been nice and cool  Thanksgiving weather.   This year at Coconutz RV Park, we had temperatures approaching 90 degrees.  It was cloudy, overcast, and breezy thanks to Hurricane Sandra a good distance off the coast as it passed by.  High tides and stunning pounding surf were the only effects that we noticed.  Along with a very slight rainfall every now and then.

I will let the pictures tell the story, suffice it to say that Steve, who is a big fan of Thanksgiving Dinner, leaves nothing out of the meal, just because we are camping out in the Travco.  All the favorite dishes were there for us to enjoy.


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Hurricane Patricia, A Near Miss at Coconutz

Hurricane Patricia came close by Coconutz, and many beachfront restaurants were destroyed, sadly.

Since we had to build up the RV Park a few feet for the sewer lines to drain properly, we came out without much damage.  There was much beach erosion, and trash blown ashore.  Lots of plastic!

All of our palm trees remained standing, we lost quite a few of the fronds to the high winds.  The perimeter fence also survived the high winds.

So Coconutz RV Park is open and ready for your visit.  There have been hundreds of volunteers cleaning up the beach.  All should be back to normal soon. Maybe even a little “New and Improved” !


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