The Transnistria parliament building with a statue of Lenin out front. In the city of Tiraspol, Transnistria. Photo taken December 9, 2016.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Tiraspol, Transnistria...the country that doesn't exist.

Where are they going next? Northern Moldova. Arrive December 11th.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Everyone arrived, but not without a few hiccups!

What a great group of people we have in this RV caravan. Everybody was ready to go by our 8:00am meeting, and we were all pulling out of the RV park by 8:20am or so. Right on schedule.

Our goal is to always be parked up by 2:00pm in the afternoon. That way, if there are any problems along the way, you have lots of daylight hours left to fix them. We were only doing 160 kms (100 miles) or so, but of course you can never get anywhere quickly in Mexico, so better to start earlier than later.

Sherman doesn't often travel on toll highways in Mexico. They're usually expensive, and often not in any better shape than the free roads. But yesterday, Sherman was spoiled with really good toll roads!

Exiting from the toll road on to the free road before Silao.

At 9:35am, taking a short break after one of the toll booths.

We all have CB radios installed, but I'm not overly impressed with them. Some definitely work better than others, but I expected more range. We're rarely more than one km apart from us to the last rig in number 10 spot, and yet the best we can do is to relay the messages back because we can't be heard, or hear, the last rigs. I don't know a lot about CB radios, but I'm going to do some reseach when I get a chance to try and make them work better. It has to be something to do with the antenna location or something. I dunno. I just expected more I guess.

We went through a police check near the Michoacan border. They were pulling vehicles over, but they just waved us through. This was the lineup going in the opposite direction.

We arrived near the San Juan del Lago RV Park at about 11:30am. We all pulled over the a spot on the side of the road. But now the tough part began. We had to wait for the RV Park owner, Arturo, to meet us there. I called to advise him that we were close, and he came to meet us ten minutes later.
  
Pulled over, waiting for Arturo.

Four of us went for a drive with Arturo to check the route into the RV Park. It's a long story, but when the park was built he had access from the main highway. But when they expanded the highway they closed off his access because it was from a toll highway. Now, the only access to the park is through the small village of San Juan Benito Juarez, and then up a short, but very steep hill.

As we drove through the village with Arturo, the local police were busy clearing parked cars off the very narrow one way street so that this caravan of big rigs could get through.

We checked out the steep hill, and we all agreed that it shouldn't be a problem. We drove back to the rigs, and got ready to go. 

The police blocked off the highway and stopped cars in the opposite direction to allow us to cross the highway and get to the road through the village.

Following Arturo through the narrow streets.

Here comes Paul and Fran behind us with their big fifth wheel. Yes, the kids were watching. I'm sure they thought the circus was coming to town!

Arturo's helper had to raise some wires for each rig as we passed through.

Here they come!

We made it through town without any issues, and then were lined up at the bottom of the short, steep hill. Arturo has built a sort of launch pad at the bottom where you can pick up speed before the hill becomes steep. Sherman was the first to go!

The diesel powered rigs don't have any problem going up a hill like this. The gasoline rigs have to work hard though! We've only done one hill this steep before, so I knew we were going to have the pedal to the floor. But we had faith in Sherman!

Sure enough, about half way up we started to slow down to a crawl. But Sherman summoned all of his horses, and we made it to the top. We were cheering him on though. :-)

We then brought each rig up one at a time. Because of course if you couldn't make it, you were going to have to back yourself down.

One of the diesel rigs churning up the dust making his way up the steep hill.

The second last rig to come up had a problem. He tried three times and couldn't make it past the 3/4 mark up the hill. We brought him back down one last time and did some thinking. It turned out that he was carrying a nearly full fresh water tank. And his tank holds 86 gallons of water. That's nearly 800 lbs! I suggested he dump that weight and we try again. We also took about 400 lbs worth of tools and equipment out of the rig. And, I suggested his wife stay behind as well. Hey, every 100 lbs might help!

Jim took a run at that hill, and I though he might have been going too fast to make the first corner! But he made it, and carried on, all the way to the top! He was not about to let that hill beat him! We were so happy that it worked. The alternative was that they would have dry camped at the bottom of the hill. Arturo came back down in his truck and picked up the tools and Betty and I.

Everybody settled in at the top of the hill.

I'll give you a little more detail about the park itself and the people in the group another day. Time is running out, and we have a bus arriving at 8:00am this morning to take us to see the monarch butterflies. We've seen this twice before, but it's always a magical experience, and it's especially fun the first time. So we're looking forward to seeing other people enjoy this bucket list item.

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45 comments:

  1. You had me chuckling this morning....the nerve unloading Betty at the bottom LOL too funny. Nice RV park even tho it's hard to get to.

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    1. We were all laughing and joking about it even before we knew that Betty didn't make the trip up the hill in the motorhome. She is such a great sport about it and it actually sounds like she was happy not to have been in the motorhome for the drive up. ;-)

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  2. This sounds like it would be a great adventure! Maybe next time!

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    1. That last part was definitely an adventure and sounds like everyone actually enjoyed the adventure. We have to do it again on the way out! ;-)

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  3. The extra weight in a rig does make a huge difference, we know that to when we encounter steep hills, disconnect the car, or go around.

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    1. Well it certainly made a difference for this hill but the main thing is they got the job done and Jim got up the hill.

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  4. Good grief, now there's a nail biter...

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  5. Does the park offer their hands on help for every rig that wants to stay there? It looks like a great place to stay but without help getting in and lifting the wires it could be a sizzling experience. We are planning to explore areas you are visiting next winter.

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    1. Arturo is very helpful and the municipal police there are in our pockets so to speak. You might ask Kevin to post a close up of the wire lifters I gave him, I made 2 with $10 worth of parts form home depot and you won't electricute yourself. I always carry them (except when I've loaned them to Kevin)

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    2. Definitely need his help. You just need to call him beforehand and he will be more than willing to help you get through town and lift the wire (it's a telephone wire by the way, not electrical).

      Arturo has been fantastic, I have never seen anyone work so hard to make sure things are working well, and if there is a problem he is on it right away. He is knowledgeable about the area and wants to get locals involved with any needed services.

      It's hard to get to but certainly worth the effort. I know Kevin and myself won't hesitate to come back here by ourselves some other winter.

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  6. Wow - that's quite the adventure getting up the hill! Glad everyone made it.

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    1. Yep, the most exciting part of the day! We are so happy everyone made it too. We weren't about to leave anyone behind on our watch. ;-)

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  7. You are doing a great job Kevin. Good thinking on unloading that weight. We were in a similar situation about 10 years ago when somewhere between Mexico City and Cuernevaca we were trying to get back onto the toll road from back roads and needed to go thru a tiny village. We were too large and the police need to shut down streets and lead us to the correct road. The lifting of wires was involved as were tight corners but fortunately no steep hills.

    So what time was everyone parked by?

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    1. Thanks Contessa! Yep, some of these towns can be hard to maneuver though but as you mentioned usually the police are more than happy to help if you ask them.

      I think Jim (the one having the problem getting up the hill) was parked in his spot shortly before 2pm. :-)

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  8. You or others may not have their CB antennas adjusted property. You'll need a SWR meter for the effort. Or they don't have the antenna mounted on a good ground plane. You might try some of the other 39 channels.

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    1. Thank you very much for your suggestions Daryl we will give them a try. Hopefully one of them will work or at least make things better than they are already.

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  9. Magical! Enjoying every moment of your trip! It's like the Super Bowl on steroids!!

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    1. Ha, that's funny! So far we are enjoying ourselves too but driving days are going to be a little more stressful with a group than when we are on our own.

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  10. Sounds like a wonderful adventure!

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    1. It certainly seems to be and everyone is really enjoying there time here.

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  11. Thank you for sharing this. I can't wait to go on one of these trips with you guys.

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    1. You are welcome! Hope that you will enjoy more posts from this trip.

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  12. Taking Tara through the 101 along the Pacific Coast was tough on her for sure, I can't imagine how all those rigs managed. But then again they have yet to go down.......

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    1. Yep, it was definitely a steep hill and Sherman has been on a few of them before. If they made it in and up they will have no problem making it down and out and least we hope they won't. ;-)

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  13. What a great story! I found myself holding my breath to see if everyone was going to make it!!!

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    1. We were holding our breath as well, as each and every one of them had their go at the hill. It was so disappointing to hear that Jim made 3 attempts and couldn't make it but we weren't about to let the hill beat us and we didn't. You should have heard the applause as we watch his unit crest the hill.

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  14. Glad you all made it up kevin. WE had some issue sin Falll as well with a Gas Class A, very smart emptying out the water. Your CB issues boil down to the fiberglass body of sherman, They work a lot better with a large metal ground plane. Although I managed to find you an antenna that supposedly does not require one, it will not be as efficient. A standard antenna ground to the frame may be the ticket. I had no problem being heard 18 rigs back at the atart of the trip, but I have a $100 US antenna and the groudn plane of my entire truck. Regardless they work a lot better than the hand held FRS radios were tried on previous trips. It would help if all radios were capable of SSB which yours is, howerver one customer with an old radio, and you can't use it. It has more range. I think in future trips we may insist CB's have that capability. BTW, it seems you & Ruth are doing a fantastic job and you have been a life saver with giving me a break. Gabriel was a little wary at first since you had not led a caravan before, but Mexico driving experience counts for a lot.

    Arturo is quite a character isn't he?

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    1. We are so glad that they all made it up too!

      Kevin will have a look at the antenna tomorrow and try a few different things to see if what will make any difference. We will make things work some how and Danielle seems to be the strongest and everyone hears her so as long as things can be relayed through her we are good to go.

      Arturo is a great guy and so enthusiastic, he bends over backwards to make sure everything is working correctly and that everyone is happy.

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  15. BTW Kevin, I told you they were a great group. In fact they are the best group I have ever led on a caravan, bar none. That includes the 6 who returned home on the shorter caravan from mazatlan.I dont think I ever saw one of them late.

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    1. No, you didn't lie! They are a great group and we are enjoying our time with them.

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  16. Does the tour operator check out these places beforehand? That sounds a bit crazy and stressful (IMHO). If I shared this story with my husband there is no way he'd even consider traveling this way! Glad it all worked out for everyone.

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    1. Yes, all of this was known ahead of time and explained to the group. Mexican RV touring can be an adventure at times, and I'm sure that it's not suited for everybody.

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    2. That's great that everyone knew and were good sports about it. Otherwise you could have had some unhappy campers! I'm sure the rest of the trip will be full of adventure :)

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    3. I believe that this was the hardest campground to get into on the whole trip but with Arturo's guidance and the help of the local police it really did go smoothly until that hill gave Jim a hard time. ;-)

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  17. Finally, the mystery park revealed. We wanted so bad to stay there when we were on our way to Morelia. Good on him to get the place accessible and that the locals including police help out. Only in Mexico! More pics of the park please.

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    1. Finally! We too had tried to find this park before and couldn't. Arturo is working hard with the local government to make it more accessible and when that happens signs will go up which will help to guide people there. Too bad that they won't let him have access from the toll road, that would have been so much easier!

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  18. Well, that was my afternoon chuckle. 800 lbs. of water, 400 lbs., of tools, and Da Wife!

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    1. Everyone here had a good laugh over that too. Good thing Betty has a sense of humour.

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  19. RVing can often be an interesting adventure.... I can relate with many stories! This is a good one because there was good help available right there. It is all about having the right attitude.

    The end result is that it looks like you reached a nice park.

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    1. Totally agree with you Alex! Most people RV because they want some adventure but soon afterward find ways of avoiding it by staying in parks that are so pristine and easy to get too, we are totally the opposite and it seems like this group is loving the adventure too.

      We will do a post soon that shows more of the park and what it has here. We could easily spend a week or two in this area.

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  20. SO.......did the doctor give you any kind of recovery time line after you told the guy's wife to get off their RV so it could make it up the hill?

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    1. Lol...fortunately everyone in this group (including Betty) has a great sense of humor!

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  21. Looks like an exciting ride:) I opined on the one caravan I have been on, that controlling the group under way was like trying to herd mice:)

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    1. Actually from our one day on the road with them, they really work together well and it went quite smoothly. The original Wagon Master has done a fantastic job on putting pictures and directions of the routes into a book so each caravan unit has a copy. Hoping our second travel day will go as well.

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