December, 2001


Text and Photos Copyright ©2002 Mark E. Halliday



I tried to find a companion for the Jeep trip down to Chiapas, but no takers. So I would bring the Jeep home alone. Just before Christmas, I flew back to Mexico City from San Antonio on the return leg of my AEROMAR frequent flyer ticket.

The Sunday-only flight stops in San Luis Potosi, but this time I didn't have to pay $20 for the tourist card. Maybe the tax is included in the air ticket? I still can't figure out the system.... probably I was not supposed to leave Mexico without the Jeep, but nobody seems to check.

The Mexico City Airport to Cuernavaca bus had a 2-hour line, so I arrived at Aunt Anita's place after midnight.

I took a few long walks around the town, and got a haircut. I didn't recognize many landmarks in Cuernavaca, though I had lived there a month.

The next day I visited "Experiencia", the intensive-language school where I first studied Spanish 13 years before. The school has moved, and now has very fancy setup.



Anita was busy organizing doctor's visits for Uncle Fernando. This gave me some insight into the Mexican health care system.

Fernando's CAT scan documents were stuck somewhere in Mexico City, and were required for an upcoming consultation with a specialist in Cuernavaca. They had been waiting for this specialist appointment at least a month.



Anita and I took the first-class bus from Cuernavaca to Mexico City. She went by taxi to the Medical Center, and I went downtown by subway.

I watched "Aztecs" dancing in the plaza for the tourists, and saw these two girls making a phone call.







Anita had recommended a Mexican Archeology exhibit at a museum near the Plaza Mayor.


Later, I walked around, bought some posters and had the battery changed in my watch.


I met Aunt Anita later at her hairdresser's place!





We visited relatives, a couple who are both Aeromexico pilots. We had a wonderful dinner and visit with their extended family.





Anita waves goodbye as I leave Cuernavaca in the Jeep.

I was thinking to drive the Pacific Coast to Mazatlan. I could visit Ixtapa, Manzanillo, Puerto Vallarta, Mazatlan, Durango, then to Austin via Monterrey.

This would take 3-4 weeks to explore the whole coast. Then I read many reports of bandits on the coast roads. Driving alone in the open jeep did not seem so smart.

A direct course North to Texas I would take me to San Miguel de Allende. I expected it would be too touristy, and I would move on quickly.



But first I needed to drive through Mexico City.

This made me very nervous, as I had ALWAYS been stopped by Mexico City police on previous attempts, costing from $3 to $40 for nothing.

I found the way through the maze of interchanges; a few motorcycle policemen looked me over, but probably the big gringo in the dirty open jeep looked too like too much trouble.







San Miguel was very interesting and I stayed 4 nights !

With so many resident foreigners, there is a lot to do.


These antique-looking trash cans with large Coca-Cola signs were all over the city center.

Later I learned that these cost over $2000 each, paid for by Coca-Cola. The Presidnt of Mexico was previously the head of Coke, so a few people thopught there was something funny going on with these bins!













Christmas pastorela in local theater.

Young girls are tempted by the devil,

but saved by sword-wielding Saint Michael, i.e. San Miguel











Various gringo associations organize historical city walks and special interest trips out of town.


Goat-cheese factory run by an Italian working with UN money..













Paper mache factory where I loaded up on vegetables.

Even masks of Bill and Monica!


even a Bin-Laden-on-a-Stick noisemaker.







A special Christmas tour of historical homes was fun.























View over San Luis Potosi



Region Huasteca





La Media Luna

A warm lake with scuba diving center.

down long winding road in fog to coast, sugar cane area, overnight hotel in ________









Up at 4 am, watching sun rise and a freezing cold ride.

I passed this monument, and officially was out of the tropics.

Coming into Ciudad Victoria, I bought a newspaper from a street vendor with the headline screaming BIN LADEN IS DEAD.

At least it sold a newspaper.





I had a fine buffet breakfast in Ciudad Victoria, and warmed up while I studied the map.

Looking for back routes, I saw a way to the Rio Grande through a town called China, of all names !

The road was fine and clear of traffic, with orange groves on both sides, and the weather beautiful.

The Jeep creeped up to 70 mph, which was too much for the old 4-cylinder engine.




Suddenly it lost a bit of power on a hill, then started missing badly. I pulled into the only small store along the deserted highway.

Opening the hood, flames were shooting out of the exhaust manifold!

I tossed some water on, and waited a bit.

Two cowboys in a pickup came along, and stopped to see what was up.

They offered to tow me into China, which was just 5 minutes ahead.





They knew a good mechanic,

and we left the Jeep at "Taller Ramiro",

a name I would know for many months to come!





The nice cowboys then drove me to a motel, where they showed me their badges.

They were undercover highway patrol officers !


I should have noticed the VHF antenna on the truck cab.

I gave them my best and only bottle of Tequila as thanks for their help.

They gave me their phone number in case I needed anything else.






In the morning, I re-packed my bags for bus travel.

Walking from the desolate motel back to Ramiro's shop, along a dirt track, I saw something laying in the mud. It was a $100 bill !

In this Catholic land of miracles, two days after Christmas, I considered if this was a "sign". A sign that somebody was careless.

Mexican workers often come home from the U.S. for the holidays, pockets stuffed with cash from a year's work.




Strange house on the way to the mechanic's place.

At the mechanic, I asked for a diagnosis and repair quotation.

No real diagnosis, only weeks later I would see the piston that had a hole burned through the very top !

Anyway, the engine would need a rebuild. Including hydraulic clutch repair, it would be $350, and 5 days.

Seemed very cheap, probably too cheap. I said OK, knowing that was just a starting position.

There would a few "complications" later!




I took everything out of the Jeep I could carry.

I thought I might never see the old Jeep again, depending on how things worked out. I was prepared for this possibility when starting out to Oaxaca 10 weeks before.

Ramiro drove me to the motel for my gear, and dropped me at the China bus station. Three hours to Reynosa, and I walked across the bridge to McAllen. At the bus station, I just missed a northbound bus, and waited five hours. A very long ride, with a chaotic change in San Antonio, refreshed my memory of what a disaster the American bus system is.




Text and Photos Copyright ©2002 Mark E. Halliday