Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Travel Advisory Was ‘Do Not Go’ but We Drove from Tucson, Arizona to Mazatlan, Mexico Anyway

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Travel Advisory Was ‘Do Not Go’ but We Drove from Tucson, Arizona to Mazatlan, Mexico Anyway



“Do not go and, if you have to, fly” is what the US State Department warns about Mazatlan, Mexico. But we were horrified that the airfare was $700pp when it is usually $200. It is probably because we were going in the height of the holiday season. After calculating that we stand to save just under $1000, we decided that we would go by land. Besides, we could use a car since we were staying for three months.

Preparations for the Road Trip

We were nervous about our road trip, especially since one of the cities on our route is rated Level 4, the highest in terms of crime. Also, the situation at the Nogales border may have deteriorated with the current migrant crisis like in Tijuana. So we bought male and female urinals. We figured they will not necessitate getting out of the car for rest stops. As for gas, we would look for the safest and newest looking PEMEX (government) gas stations. If they looked ok, we could even make our rest stops there.

very new PEMEX gas station

We also booked the most expensive of the hotel chains we found on hotels.com. Then we took a three-day Christmas vacation in Star Pass Golf Suites in Tucson, Arizona for Christmas. What a different Christmas that was (please see this post). It reduced our total driving time by two hours. But it would still be a long 15 hours plus time at the border. Unfortunately, it became 22 hours in all.

Border Crossing Woes

When we approached the Mexican border at Nogales, Arizona the signs indicated Truck Route. Since we had a car, we didn’t follow it. Instead, we got lost. Eventually, we found our way to the downtown border crossing called Deconcito on Grand Avenue instead of the border crossing called Mariposa on the freeway. We were happy they waved us in until we found ourselves in the heart of downtown Nogales.

Yes, I was scared and Bill was a little concerned. Later, we found out that there was even a third crossing, a border station called the Morley Gate. And much later, when we were already at our hotel in Hermosillo about three and a half hours away, we discovered that we had to go to Km 21 to get tourist cards and a temporary vehicle permit for the car. The route we had taken had bypassed that point. It was ten kilometers past the Mariposa border!

Km 21

It was good we were booked at the Hermosillo hotel for two days. So our second day was used to go back, this time to the Mariposa crossing, and process our paperwork at Km 21. That’s where we found out we needed to put a $400 deposit on the car. Hope we do not forget to get it refunded on the way out or our savings would disappear! The beginnings of our trips are always problematic. In Europe, it was $3,000 more expensive when the airline declared bankruptcy the day of our flight. In Mexico, it was having to drive for seven more hours.

From Hermosillo to Los Mochis

view from Hampton Inn in Hermosillo

We stayed at the Hampton Inn by Hilton in Hermosillo, the capital of the Sonora State. The Liverpool Mall was just across the Paseo de Rio Sonora. That’s where we had a good late Mexican lunch. Plus we found an English movie showing, Mary Poppins Returns. There was a complete selection of English TV channels. And in the morning, there was a Mexican and American breakfast buffet. We will definitely go back to this hotel on the way home to the US.


Cuota Collection Kiosks

Mexican 15D is the name of the freeway that connected Nogales to Hermosillo. From Nogales to Los Mochis, the concretion of the highway is about 70% complete. It runs straight south and we registered  44-46 mph throughout. The toll fee collection plazas were not collecting fees but there were men and women asking for donations. We handed out  an average of M$20 at about eight stops on the eight-hour drive.

chapelitas

It was like a new drive since the last time we drove it was November of 2009. The chapelitas and other religious signs were all along the highway from the get-go, especially on the sites where tragic fatal accidents have happened. We noticed that there are no huge mountains but just major hills around the vast flat Mexican lands. And there was not much going on those lands.

From Los Mochis to Mazatlan

Sagrado Corazon de Jesus in Los Mochis

We stayed at Best Western Plus in Los Mochis in the Sinaloa state. In front of the hotel are the Sagrado Corazon de Jesus and a Plaza that came alive at night with many colorfully lighted kiosks of Mexican food. But I didn’t want to risk it.  This is in the area rated Level 4 in terms of crime. So we had dinner at the International Restaurant inside the hotel. We should have gone to the kiosks! Plus they didn’t have any English channels on TV. We won’t stay there on the way back to the US.

old highway with potholes

But from Los Mochis to Mazatlan, it is as we remember it from ten years ago, full of potholes and Cuota Collection stops every half an hour. The fees exacted varied from M$22-137. There were eight of them on the four-hour drive from Los Mochis to Mazatlan! The fees were adding up. By the time we go back, we probably will have very little savings left if we count all the dollars and cents.

thriving farms

The Sinaloa state has a thriving agricultural industry. But corporations must have taken over many small farms. We saw plenty of innovative farm implements that protect the plants at various stages of growth. And the color of the soil they are tilling are still reddish brown, probably infused with a lot of fertilizers. But we also saw many men lined up in truck stops and in front of farm entrances waiting around for farm managers to pick them up to work on the fields. The scenes were both uplifting and depressing.

pinnable image
pinnable image
Once we approached Mazatlan, the big blue ocean appeared to our right. It stayed with us in the last hour of our road trip. We are now in Mazatlan for a three-month vacation and a more intimate look of Mexican culture and life. Are we going to drive again next year when we go back for another three-month vacation? We will see how it is on the way back to the US. If we don't get to use the urinals, we probably will drive down again!  
pinnable image