While our original trip through Mexico to come to Guatemala took almost 10 days, we decided on a faster trip back home. The temple schedules weren’t lining up at Villahermosa, and the Veracruz temple was closed, and we were a little mayan ruin’d out, to want to take the time and effort to go to Palenque (notoriously bad roads, and many hours out of the way, though apparently an amazing ruin site). So we chose a more direct route along the southern border out of Guatemala, then cutting up north past Tuxtla Guttierez to the Atlantic border from Veracruz to Brownsville, lasting only 5 days.
(Click below right to read more . . . .)
1) Largely well-paved roads and 70 mph
2) Veracruz chill and beach day
3) Tampico Temple
4) El Tajin Mayan Ruin Site
5) Roadside Tacos and cheap Mangos
6) Uneventful, fully safe drive with great car kids
7) Lots of vomiting in and out of the car
8) Central American “Auto Hotel”
1. Largely well-paved roads and 70 mph – After the curvy, potholed, steep mountain roads of Guatemala, the large flat well-paved roads of through the main corridors of Mexico were a delight. We averaged 60 mph for the first time in 3 months. I was eager to pay for the road tolls, to keep me on the flat and fast highways.
2. Veracruz chill and beach day – We stopped after 3 days of driving, and spend a down day in Veracruz. We stayed in a beachfront apartment and rested. Veracruz wasn’t a particularly beautiful city, and the beach was brown sand and murky water, but it was a needed rest day.
3. Tampico Temple – We stopped in Tampico, and attended the temple there. It was a nice morning of baptisms for the dead, with names the kids had found in family search. Tampico was the 9th temple we had visited on this Central American trip (Monterrey, Mexico City, Oaxaca, Tuxtla Guttierez, Quetzeltenango, Guatemala City, San Salvador, Veracruz, Tampico)
4. El Tajin Mayan Ruins – While we didn’t go out of our way to see the Palenque ruin site, we did stop in at El Tajin ruins site, right outside of Veracruz. It was beautiful and old and impressive. Half of the kids stayed in the shade and rested, while Tera, Emily, Nathan, Megan and I toured the entire site.
5. Roadside Tacos and cheap Mangos – We stopped a time or two for some great roadside Mexican tacos, and we even bought an entire crate of mangos (about 50 in all) for just $5. It was an incredible price, for mangoes grown and picked from the hundreds of mango trees which lined the roads upon which we drove. I don’t I’ve ever encountered such comparatively inexpensive roadside fruits and veggies ever.
6. Uneventful, fully safe drive, and great car kids – the car continued to run without fault. The scrapping of the hitch was manageable, the roads were safe and fast, we found hotels to stay in, at just the right time, the airbnb’s worked out, we were never pulled over, and the border crossings went fairly well. At the crossing back into the US, we had a bit of a time-delay, when the customs office closed just 5 minutes before we finished with the immigration guy. This meant that we couldn’t cancel our Mexican car import permit, which cancellation was needed to be able to get our $400 deposit back. So we had to drive about 30 minutes to another border crossing, where the customs office had longer opening hours. Of course, in Brownsville were another two border bridges, only one of which had the available office, and we got into the wrong bridge line, so we had to turn around in busy traffic to get back to the right bridge. We finally got it done, and drove back into US territory. Through it all, the kids were fabulous in the car. Being cramped into the back set, with 6 kids, and backpacks can be uncomfortable to say the least, but the kids endured it without complaint and with a great attitude. After this great roadtrip experience, we decided to make our next Europe trip a road trip, rather than buying flights.
7. Lots of vomiting in and out of the car – Our one lowlight was poor Jacob’s stomach. He is usually a great car traveler, but in this trip back, he would be feeling fine, upbeat and happy. Then, without warning, he would call out that he needed to vomit, and up it would come. Sometimes we got pulled over in time. Other times he just crawled over siblings and spewed out the open window, and other times we would send him back a bag to barf into. Luckily, after the vomit session, he would be back to normal, happy and content, though a little pale from the experience.
8. Central American “Auto-Hotel” - Though we usually pre-arranged our overnight stays at airbnbs, on this trip, there were some days of driving where we wanted to get as far along as we could, before dark set in. So we anticipated finding a motel along the way to stay in. The infamous Central American “Auto-hotels” were the cheapest option. These are pay by the hour hotels, that are specifically marketed to couples who want a short place to stay to have an indiscreet amorous relationship. The motel have drive-in bays, which you can close immediately upon entering, to lessen the risk that someone sees your car. They have little slot windows, so the hotel manager can come to collect the cash for payment, without every seeing your face. The hotel rooms at times have special furniture for adults, with picture instruction cards that needed to be whisked away out of sight of kids eyes. One can assume what TV channels were tuned to (we didn’t actually check). We specifically avoided these types of hotels for much of the drive, but they were also cheap, ($20/night per room)
Plan? What plan?
Our first Gap Year was a fabulous "2017-2018 School Year" of travel: from the Netherlands to Jordan to Texas to Hawaii to Mexico to Central America to London and back to the Netherlands. Our "2018 Summer Vacation" took us all around Western Europe, back to the USA on a transatlantic cruise, a road trip through New York and into Canada, and ending up in Utah. We have now kicked off the "2018-2019 School year" with a trip to Asia. Follow along with us on our visits to new places, as well as revisiting some of our favorite places from our time living there. It's going to be great!!