Saturday, July 23, 2011

A Temporary Home
By Michael

Eleanor near her temporary home.
After 49 days on the road, we made it to Puerto Vallarta late Thursday. Here are the stats:
  • Distance traveled: 7,924 miles
  • Gallons of fuel burned: 310.53
  • Overall miles per gallon: 25.52 (this is amazing to me, considering we spent all of our time--except when going downhill--with the pedal floored, hoping to go faster, and we averaged only a little better than this in our day-to-day city driving in D.C.)
  • Number of trips to the gas station: 35
  • Cheapest fuel: $3.18 in southern Arizona (Mexican gas ain’t cheap, at least not on the toll road)
  • Tolls paid in U.S. (not including $36.60 for ferry to Olympic Penninsula): $54.35
  • Tolls paid in Mexico: $141.55 (paid in 1,499 pesos)
  • Child meltdowns: few (They are getting on better than they have in their young lives. This car trip has proved to be an unexpected boon to bringing them closer.)
I haven't written much about our plans for our Puerto Vallarta arrival and beyond, but we rented a 3-bedroom, 3.5-bath villa right near our boat, owned by the couple from whom we rent the slip. We rented it for the first month we are there. This will give us a home base while we get busy cleaning, painting, hauling out, and otherwise working on the boat. Also, my sister Julie and her kids will join us for part of the month, acting as our nanny so Windy and I can really go to town without distraction.
One of 16 toll booths we passed through in Mexico.
We always paid extra for our extra eje.
Having settled in, the villa is beautiful. Our boat is 50 feet from the patio in back, and the pool is 50 feet from the front door. If it wasn’t so bloody hot and humid, it would be a perfect situation for getting the boat work done. While the climate is slowing us down, it does seem today that we are beginning to acclimate, even settling into a routine. We went to the market and bought food stores, the girls spend hours in the pool, and we happily discovered the owner’s music collection spans Billy Bragg to Midnight Oil to REM to Frank Sinatra.
But we had to earn this nice place to stay, even after the difficult border crossing.
First, had we been following the Bumfuzzle blog more closely lately, we'd have arrived in Mazatlan Wednesday night knowing that there would be very few hotel rooms available, and they would be hard to find. We got into town about 6:00 p.m. and didn't find a room until 8:30 p.m. It ain't Semana Santa, but something close here in Mexico. All of the kids are out of school and the families are packed into all of the tourist spots.
Awaiting road contruction on beautiful Highway 200.
We are not parked on the shoulder, but in our
lane, and note there is no line to separate us from
oncoming traffic.
Second, Highway 200 from Tepic to Puerto Vallarta was a difficult stretch, and nearly 100 miles. It was a narrow, 2-lane road winding up, up, and up into a tropical rain forest with no shoulders, hardly a single pull-off the entire way, and trucks and tour buses passing us on blind corners. Our only respite came on the downhill run just before P.V. when we were stopped for an hour for road construction. It’s hard to really enjoy such a stretch with brakes that fade faster than the time it takes Windy to yell, “Slow down!”, an engine that can hardly find the strength to get us up the next incline, and a spouse in the seat next to me yelling, “Slow down!” for the duration.
And almost the entire stretch from Mazatlan to Tepic was absolutely beautiful. I wondered aloud on the drive why all of those cruisers just left Mexico for the puddle jump to the South Pacific as the peaks out our windshield looked identical to the iconic Bora Bora vistas. Of course, it’s likely because anchoring a boat in the Mexican interior is difficult.
Even on the toll road, we were diverted through many small towns on our trip.
What is especially interesting on this trip is how few Americans seem to be here. We aren’t seeing them. While the fear spawned by U.S. reporting of the Mexican drug violence* is a big part of it, the season plays a role too. When Windy and I were in Mazatlan 15 years ago, the entire Zona Dorada area was packed to the gills with light-skinned people who didn’t speak Spanish. The other night, it was crowded beyond belief with vacationers. Walking about for a few hours, they all appeared to be Mexican. The cover bands booming from the street-side bars aren't playing to American tastes and soccer games dominate the big screens. It was a nice, festive place to be.
When I imagined being here in the villa in Puerto Vallarta, and especially after we arrived, I worried about the transition to the boat. How will it be to move from this lap of luxury to a 40-foot fiberglass tub without A/C, a swimming pool, a large kitchen, big screen televisions, freshwater showers, and big comfy beds? The first time we all stepped aboard it was about 10:00 p.m. at night. We let Frances board first because she was the only one who hadn’t yet been aboard. Windy then ducked down below to turn on some lights and then came topsides while we let the girls do down below on their own to excitedly explore their soon-to-be-home. She and I sat in the cockpit enjoying the warm night air, the reflections of the marina in the water around us, the sounds of our girls below, and our own deck up to the bow, lit softly by the spreader lights. In that moment everything was right. I’m no longer concerned about the transition and I think Windy feels the same way. The end of this month cannot come soon enough.

* I can now offer my first-hand opinion that this problem is sensationalized beyond reality in the U.S. media. Granted there are real problems, but they are localized and day-to-day life here feels as safe as anyplace I have ever travelled.

A view lost to time.


  1. So glad you made it! (Although I know I'm not nearly as happy as you are to be out of the car.) While you guys are there, do you have an address where we can send mail? I'm thinking we might be able to do at least one letter exchange during your final month on land?? Let me know, and email me privately if that works better.

  2. HOORAY you made it to lovely PV! If works out that we can meet up before our new crew arrives within the next few weeks - let us know. Otherwise let's shoot for September. Oh and if we can be of any help - please email.
    Ali and Pat

  3. Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! I am so happy to hear that you have reached your destination. We miss you!

  4. Hey Micheal, Enjoy the ride! I will be following you postings- Srini

  5. What??? The Nanny??

  6. Congrats from Michelle and me! We're glad you made it safe. Michelle was pestering me with questions on your border crossing (since she she still does not read this blog) and all I could tell her was, "Well, they spent the night in a brothel with a covered garage, but things look rosy for the next day since they found their marriage license......". Her response was a puzzled look and a face that was trying to compute why this happened.....or if she misunderstood! Anyway, enjoy your palacial temporary home and let's get the boat fired up!

  7. If it's any consolation, the weather isn't much different here - heat indexes in the 110-115 range and super muggy. You're probably better off where you are!

  8. Wow! What an adventure you've had already! Glad to hear you (and the car) made it. Loving the posts!

  9. That is awsome you guys! So glad you made it (not that we ever doubted it). This is the first time I looked and the blog and couldn't stop reading. Good luck with the repairs. Send us your mailing address. -- The Leffs


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