Some of our friends already wonder about us when we tell them that we’ve chosen to spend our winters in Mexico. They worry about things like our safety and if our severed heads will end up displayed on a highway overpass for all to see. But this year, when Cathryn and I told everyone we were driving to Mexico, they looked at us as if we were from a different planet.
It’s not like I haven’t researched the idea or spoken to other snowbirds from places like Toronto, BC and Quebec who’ve made the trek more than once and lived to talk about it. So, with a bit of preparation and a good set of wheels like my Chevy Silver Bullet, why couldn’t we do it? That car has taken us to both of Canada’s coasts and back, so why not Mexico?
Of course this is me talking, the guy who travelled to S/E Asia and parts of South America with nothing but travel itinerary and backpack on wheels. Sure, Cathryn was a bit worried about things like scorpions and cartel hijackers, but she’s proven to be a trooper on our Harley trips around the continent. It’s not that she’s gullible and believes everything I tell her, she trusts me (so far).
And when she realized how much more she could bring by taking our car to Mexico, she made quick work of adding to her packing list. She had to consider what specialty foods and cookware to bring, instead of how many different outfits she could fit in her suitcase. After she had it all sorted out and in boxes, we went through it together and I cut it in half so we didn’t have to tow a trailer.
With the packing thing under wraps it was my job to plan the itinerary – the route we’d take to Sayulita, Mexico, how long we’d drive each day, and where we’d stop on the way to our final destination. According to Google Maps, it takes 40 hours to drive from Detroit to Sayulita, staying on major highways. That meant at least 5 days of driving for 8 hours. Easy peasy.
Our plan was to rent in Sayulita for the month of January, then in Melaque for February and March. So, I had to pick what date to leave home and an interesting place to spend NY Eve on the way south, without having to spend the night in a non-descript highway motel. December 29th became our departure date, after spending ample time with family over the holidays.
After rising with the birds, we ate our pre-made breakfast wraps gave Earl Grey hugs and kisses, and were on the road by 7am. Being only recently reopened, the tunnel to Detroit was a breeze with only two cars in front of us. Unseasonable mild weather meant clear roads, but we dealt with light and patchy fog most of the day. The mild temperatures stayed with us through Ohio, Kentucky and and Tennessee where fog turned into rain. It was better than snow, but driving in heavy rain after dark was nerve-racking.
I had hoped to inch further south on the map the first day but settled on Memphis for the night. The first day’s driving conditions took a toll on both of us and we wondered if we should make a planned pit stop near Austin, Texas to visit my old water polo coach. As it turned out, day two was better. There were some serious traffic jambs to contend with but my old map reading skills got us hooked up in time for an early dinner with my old friend.
We arrived in San Antonio, Texas early enough on the second night to take a short stroll for a well-deserved drink on the Riverwalk. Day three was NY Eve. We slept in, had a great breakfast out, the lolly-gagged around downtown San Antonio and it’s Riverwalk, taking in the sights. As the NY revellers took to the streets, we sat and people watched until calling it an early night without waiting for the ball to drop.
Being in San Antonio put us within easy reach of the Mexico border. Driving through the baron landscape made me wonder what those at the Alamo actually fought for. We crossed at the lesser-known Columbia bridge, something that looked like it was run by Barney Fife. We drove right through to the highway before realizing nobody stopped us for passports, visas, or the vehicle permit we needed to drive in Mexico. After turning around, to enter the country legally, we found ourselves the only visitors at the border crossing.
Day 4 had us cutting south-west across Mexico to a city called Torreon. The only difficult part of that day’s drive was trying to keep count of our toll fees – it’s quite expensive driving on Mexico’s safe highways – they are comparable to those in the U.S. with some things extra and some less. There aren’t many service centers along the way but emergency phones and even water is available every few kilometers. The Torreon hotel was basic but offered us the best breakfast omelets ever.
Day 5 was a shorter drive, but way more interesting than we had anticipated. Climbing the Sierra Madre mountains became breath-taking, a mountain range comparable to the Rockies without the snow-covered peaks. We lost track of how many bridges and tunnels we encountered, figuring there were at least fifty of each. By the time we started our decent on the western slopes, we were both a bit nauseous.
We arrived in Mazatlan before dinner. Our waterfront hotel was nothing fancy but the view from our room made it priceless. We even got to park on the road directly out front. Stopping is Mazatlan for 2 nites served a few purposes. First off, it broke up the drive, once again. And besides being on my Mexican bucket list, it got us to the Pacific coast where Sayulita was only another half day’s drive south.
The silver bullet looked dusty grey when we pulled into the garage at our Sayulita Airbnb on day 6. The odometer showed 4,000 kilometers or 2,500 American miles. After a couple of celebratory cervesas Cathryn and I agreed the drive wasn’t all that bad. There was that first long day of frayed nerves, but no high jackings or beheadings. Will we do it again next year? You’ll just have to wait and see.