On the road again…to Mexico

 

Camping...somewhere

Camping…somewhere

I am driving in my truck–the same vehicle that has faithfully hauled my butt across the continent for over two years when suddenly it hits me.

This is it! I’m on the road again!

My cabin is winterized. (A pernicious leak under the bathroom floor will wait till spring.) The place is mostly mouseproofed. (Never underestimate the destructive ferocityof a mouse.) The refrigerator is empty.

To be clear, I’m still several weeks from actually beginning the next trip. At this point, I’m only heading south a hundred or so miles to my daughter’s house to await the arrival of a new grandson. (You may recall that the birth of the FIRST grandson was the reason for my extended visit to New York City.)

Then, once everyone is recovered, with blood counts and electrolytes and weight gains/losses and sleep patterns all in order (yeah, right), this grandma is hitting the road for real.

I will NOT (repeat, NOT) be driving or towing or otherwise be mistress of my own conveyance on this trip. In fact, I have sold my trailer.

Yes, that sweet and trusty little home that sheltered me through wind and rain and dark of night.

Gone.

The little trailer that always felt like home, that eased the bumpy transition from ordinary, small-town life to transient weirdness. It even smelled good. Where everything had a place, and I had everything I needed? Sacrificed in service of my practical and minimalist nature.

Sold.

I don’t keep things that I don’t need, especially large, expensive items that tend to deteriorate. Plus, I have no appetite for driving and towing large vehicles south of the border. Frankly, it would scare the shit out of me. So I’m trading in my wheels for a backpack and funding the first few months of travel from the sale of the trailer.

I’m going to Mexico.

At home wherever I land

Good night sweet trailer.

When I tell people I’m going to Mexico, the reaction is universal: Silence. Hesitation. Knitted brows. They say, “Be careful.” They think, Why would you want to go there? It’s so dangerous.

Well, yes. There’s the drug troubles. There’s corruption. (Although THIS encounter with the Mexican powers-that-be ended surprisingly well.) Mexico is still “developing,” which means that the modest economic rung I occupy in the US is slightly more stratospheric there.

But if you think about it, why would anyone assume that the US is so much safer? This is where everyone carries a gun. This is where random shootings can happen anywhere, not just where the bad guys are. I don’t feel all that comfy in the US. It’s just that I’m accustomed to the risks, just like I’m used to traffic and expensive health care and sewer systems that can handle toilet paper. It’s all part of the white noise, right?

I’ve traveled in Mexico before, and I love the place for some of the reasons I listed here. This time I want to see all the stuff I missed, because my inner actuary tells me that I probably won’t be back again.

So here’s my itinerary through Mexico. Please, please share any suggestions, tips, experiences, what-have-you. Save the warnings. I’ve heard them all.

1. Take bus from Phoenix to Nuevo Casas Grandes in the north of Mexico. Here I will visit the ruins of Paquime, a UNESCO World Heritage site and a once and former crossroads of trade between the southern Aztecs and northern desert peoples. I’ll also finally see the famous potters of Mata Ortiz, who create intricate, symmetric patterns on hand-thrown pots formed without pottery wheels). The work is breathtaking.

Mata Ortiz pottery. Amazing, huh?

2. On to Chihuahua, where I’ll begin the trip through the Copper Canyon–a series of interconnected canyons four times bigger than our Grand Canyon and many times more remote. I’ll visit some tiny indigenous villages–Urique and Batopilas–at the bottom and return to the rim to complete the train ride through some of the most gorgeous scenery on earth.

3. Guadalajara and environs. The train ends at the Pacific coast, so I’ll continue on down, through Mazatlan and other villages, heading inland toward Guadalajara, the second-largest and less-visited city in Mexico. A side trip to Tequila, where the blue agave grows, will not be overlooked.

4. Guanajuato. I’ll settle in this colonial silver-mining town (and UNESCO site #2) for a few weeks to study Spanish–so I can Que pasa? like a local. Or at least find out where el banyo is. On weekends, I anticipate several trips to surrounding pueblos–San Miguel d’Allende, San Luis Potosi, Aguascaliente.

4. The monarch butterflies. Every winter, up to 1 billion monarch butterflies migrate from my part of the world to the mountains west of Mexico City where their fragile weight bends the pine boughs and the beating of their wings sounds like rain. I’ve wanted to see this for over a decade. Now I will. (UNESCO site #3)

The butterfly migration

5. Oaxaca area. After the monarchs, I’ll take either the long and winding coastal road or the more direct inland highway to Oaxaca, another of Mexico’s Pueblos Magicos–the “magic towns” so designated for their beauty and unique character. I’ll also visit a handful of villages both north and south of town.

6. Yucatan. My plans get fuzzy here. The Yucatan peninsula is known for its Mayan ruins, cenotes (beautiful formations in water-filled limestone caves), and, of course, its resorts. This place isn’t called the Mayan Riviera for nothing.

I’d like to see the handful of towns and ruins that make the cut between awesome and not-obscenely-touristed. I think I have to see Tulum and Chichen Itza. Probably Merida and San Cristobal de las casas, but I haven’t really nailed any of this part down. I’ll also be breathing heavily down the neck of my tentative return date in late May.

So–whaddaya think? Any must-see destination I ought to consider? Anything I should X out? I will figure out how to properly do Spanish accents on this blog. That’s the least I can do.

My route--very rough.

My route–very rough.

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24 Responses to On the road again…to Mexico

  1. David Hilbert 3 December, 2013 at 3:03 pm #

    Good luck on your trip, Kate,

    I would include Palenque in Chiapas State. You will be close if you reach San Cristobal de Las Casas. Good lodging/camping at Maya Bell near the lower entrance to the site. Walk up through the forest along a stream to reach the ruins. Much better experience than Chichen Itza
    Also consider Tikal, reached from Palenque via vans and boat ride on the Usumacita River.

    • Kate Convissor 4 December, 2013 at 12:04 pm #

      Great suggestions Thanks so much, David. My Yucatan travel plans are pretty fuzzy right now, so I greatly appreciate any help in narrowing the overwhelming amount of stuff to see. The Maya Bell lodging sounds amazing.

      Thanks!

  2. Mar 19 November, 2013 at 5:53 am #

    Hola!
    Just discovered your blog while looking for ideas for my upcoming NYC trip and liked it a lot; being Mexican I can tell you, you’re going to love Guanajuato and San Miguel, the monarch butterflies are an excellent experience.
    About food, in Guadalajara you should try the “tortas ahogadas” (huge sandwiches soaked in salsa), in Guanajuato try the “enchiladas mineras” (Guanajuato style enchiladas, very tasty) and in Yucatan try anything that has the word “pibil” in it – best places to eat all these things: markets or small restaurants called “fondas”.
    While in Guanajuato, you might want to pass by Leon, there’s not much to see, but they have the best quality leather stuff in Mexico (shoes, belts, etc.); and perhaps on the way from Guadalajara to Guanajuato you want to stop at Zacatecas (near Aguascalientes), nice colonial city.
    If you’re going to go through Chiapas, try stopping at the “Cascadas de Agua azul” (waterfalls) and the “Cañon del Sumidero” (canyon) both natural beauties.
    Enjoy Mexico! (and keep posting!)

    • Kate Convissor 20 November, 2013 at 9:55 pm #

      MUCHAS MUCHAS GRACIAS! So appreciate the tips. I’m a real dummy when it comes to finding good food. (You didn’t see much about food in my NYC section because I somehow missed finding the good stuff. How can you do that in NYC?)

      Please stop back and leave more tips. I’m all ears.

  3. Jenny 8 November, 2013 at 9:15 am #

    Kate – Just had a chance to read your wonderful itinerary!!! WOW! this will be a trip of a lifetime and you will be greatly enriched by it, let alone fun (and take you out of your comfort zone, my introverted sister-in-law 😉 )

    I am just so proud of you, as always!

    • Kate Convissor 9 November, 2013 at 1:51 pm #

      Trips of a lifetime are starting to pile up in my bucket. I’m one lucky girl.

      Thanks, Jen. Hope you enjoy following along.

  4. hoz 5 November, 2013 at 6:07 pm #

    Bueno suerte on your new adventure Kate. Vaya con Dios.

    • Kate Convissor 5 November, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

      Thanks, Liz. Vaya con dios is what it’s all about.

  5. Quade Baxter 27 October, 2013 at 12:50 pm #

    Ive been in Mexico City for the last 10 days, you should really consider a stop. I can recommend a very inexpensive nice hostile in Zona Rosa, awesome city!

  6. Colleen Boe 22 October, 2013 at 9:08 pm #

    I too have sold my little trailer (17′) that I was so attached to, so could really relate to saying a sad farewell to your home away from home. I’ll be wintering in Yuma….eagerly awaiting your updates. Best of luck on your Mexican adventure!!

    • Kate Convissor 22 October, 2013 at 9:39 pm #

      I remember that little trailer you were towing when I met you–one of the only solo RVers I’ve ever run across. It IS sad to lose our little homes. I really loved mine, but I didn’t love towing. I’m thinking that the next one will be a tricked-out van.

      Happy you’re still following. I’ll think of you in Yuma as I head even farther south.

  7. Dale Blech 21 October, 2013 at 8:11 am #

    Kathy & I took the train part way through Copper Canyon — it is awesome!

    • Kate Convissor 21 October, 2013 at 8:42 pm #

      Good for you! Most of us northerners have never heard of the place.

      I’ve wanted to make that trip for over a decade, and I’m looking forward to some slow travel through the canyon. Glad to hear it’s as amazing as I hoped.

  8. Debra Darvick 20 October, 2013 at 8:59 pm #

    Vaya con Dios! I can’t wait to read about the adventures to come,
    especially the monarchs.

    • Kate Convissor 20 October, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

      Thanks, Debra! I’m really excited about all of it–and especially the monarchs. Any chance of a rendezvous before I leave in the next couple of weeks?

  9. Maria 20 October, 2013 at 4:23 pm #

    Kate, you’ve got a great adventure awaiting. If you end up coming through Texas at any point (I see it’s not on your map route, but one never knows what changes may occur) Let me know – it would be cool to meet up and share a meal and real-time laugh.

    • Kate Convissor 20 October, 2013 at 10:14 pm #

      I thought you were in the Northwest. Where are you in Texas? It’d be GREAT to do real-time facetime. Let’s keep it on the radar–maybe on my way back? Or on my way there, depending on your location.

      Can’t wait to see this stuff and maybe finally become more comfortable in Spanish.

  10. Joe Todd 20 October, 2013 at 10:33 am #

    Just think you are going to miss all the snow LOL Will be looking forward to your adventure. I know this is a trip I will not ever have the chance to make but I will have an opportunity to see it through your eyes.. Thank you

    • Kate Convissor 20 October, 2013 at 10:18 pm #

      Hey Joe–I LOVE the snow, but you know, sometimes the good stuff just happens to be where the sun shines. Oh dear.

      I’ll try to see everything for you. (And for me–cuz I probably won’t be getting back again, either.)

  11. Joanne Kuszaj 20 October, 2013 at 8:11 am #

    I don’t know anything about Mexico, so can”t offer any advice on where to go! We have been to Belize and loved it so I think the Yucatan area will be great! All of your choices sound wonderful so will be looking for your posts!

    • Kate Convissor 20 October, 2013 at 10:20 pm #

      I think the Yucatan and Belize share a lot of similarities–and I may have to duck into Belize to reset the clock on my Mexican visitor’s permit–so that could be fun.

      Maybe I can entice you to visit Mexico sometime, too.

  12. Kate Budzynski 19 October, 2013 at 7:15 pm #

    My husband highly recommends the market in Merida as well as a breakfast place called Pops or something like that. The best food he’s eaten was in the Yucatan! Can’t wait to hear about the monarchs! I grew up raising monarchs and tagging them with my mom and dream of seeing their southern destination.

    • Kate Convissor 20 October, 2013 at 10:23 pm #

      I haven’t heard a peep about the food in the Yucatan, so that could be a pleasant surprise.

      Love Mexican markets, and I plan to visit Merida (I hope), so that could come together nicely.

      I would absolutely love to raise monarchs when I get back from seeing their winter home. I may have to get some pointers from you. What a wonderful childhood memory!

      • Veronica Jabrocki 29 December, 2013 at 12:42 pm #

        Loved reading about your plans! If you can squeeze in La Cruz de Huanacoxle, Punta de Mita, Bucerius, Puerto Vallerta, Mismaloya, and Boca de Tomatlan; you would be vising some of my most favorite places. Happy days, Amiga!

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