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Saltillo to Zinapecuaro

(via Zacatecas, Guadalajara, Ajijic, Chapala & Lake Patzcuaro)

Trip Report # 2, Part 1

By Char & Al Bennett

published: June, 2001
Lorena's Note: Char will be sending us Travel Reports as they travel through Mexico. Keep checking back for their latest adventures.


Jan. 11, 2001
Hotel Imperial Trailer Park
200 pesos ($20 + tax)

Wow! We're actually here! We left Winter Haven, Florida, on Jan. 2nd, where we were freezing to death, drove slowly across Interstate-10, still freezing to death, until we reached San Antonio, Texas on Jan. 7th. This is where we were to meet with Bruce and Judy, our friends from Massachusetts, and Donna and Dell from Winter Haven. Via our cell phones, we knew that Donna and Dell were going to be delayed a day, but Bruce and Judy showed up right on time, so all seemed OK.

Unfortunately, Donna and Dell finally called the next day saying that their motorhome had broken down three times before they even got out of Florida, but finally they got everything fixed and were on their way, driving straight through to San Antonio to meet us. And they did. We spent our last night in Texas in Laredo, and here's where our adventures begin....

This morning has been an experience, to say the least! Leaving our campground in Laredo we drove through mud like we haven't seen in a long time! What happened to sunny Texas?!?! But other than being messy, that really was no problem. Yesterday we had stopped at the International Bank of Commerce to change our dollars into Mexican pesos. They gave a much better rate than at the border -- 9.5 pesos as opposed to 9.2, Then we stopped at H.E.B for groceries, Sanborn’s for advice (we'd already bought our insurance from them) and Pep Boys for spare filters, etc. So today we were on our way.... sort of.

We left the campground about nine, intending to fill up our propane tanks before leaving town. But we couldn't find the place, even after getting several conflicting directions. So we gave up on that until after we entered Mexico. But somewhere along the way, we lost Donna and Dell. We really weren't concerned since we had planned to meet in the parking lot of Customs and Immigration inside Mexico. But they didn't show up.... and didn't show up.... and didn't show up.

Mexican Customs & Immigration

In the meantime Bruce and Judy zipped right through all of their paperwork, taking only about 45 minutes to complete everything. They have just a motorhome, with no tow-car. But our situation proved to be a little different.....

First, our tow car is a Geo Tracker, which is now made by Chevy. The title calls it a Tracker, and the registration lists it as a Chevy. Plus one of the papers lists the little car as a “van” which of course, it isn't. But we finally convinced the customs officials that in spite of the confusing terms, it was all the same vehicle.

Then we encountered our second problem - a major one - (and this would be especially important to older travelers): All of our major possessions such as house, cars, motorhomes, etc., have been transferred over to the Bennett Family Revocable Living Trust, with Al and me as co-owners. This eliminates the need for going through probate in the event of our deaths. Al even thought to have a notarized statement drawn up stating that he was the owner of the motorhome and the car, and it was OK to take both vehicles out of the country.

Our problem stemmed from his neglecting to state on this paper that I was also an owner of the trust. We had forgotten that one person could only bring in one vehicle (I think this should be stressed much more). Thus, if a tow car is brought along as a 2nd vehicle, it has to be put into a 2nd person’s name. All the paperwork has to be separated into one car or motorhome per person.

Important: This also means having a credit card in each person’s name. It can be the same account number on each card, but it absolutely has to have different names on the cards. So for each vehicle, there has to be a title, registration paper, a credit card and drivers license, plus multiple copies of each, and ONLY ONE VEHICLE PER PERSON.

Char & Al with their RV, the Hornet

The thing that really goofed us up, however, was the Living Trust and the fact that my name wasn't on the document. Also, even though it is called a Family Trust, I had nothing with me to prove I was married to Al. Either I had to produce a marriage license (in our safety deposit vault at home) or we had to switch the title of the car from the Living Trust into my name, which would have created even more problems.

By this time Donna and Dell had finally arrived, so we tried to get the officials (who were very nice all the time!), to accept their word, plus Bruce’s and Judy’s, that we were really married. No such luck; it had to be an official document. The main problem was that they had never heard of a Living Trust and they thought it was some kind of a business. But finally, after about 1-1/2 hours of discussing this, the officials decided to let us enter the country. In the end, we were walked specially through Customs with all our documents. After much more discussion, Customs signed off on us also. What a relief!

Donna and Dell had been stopped at the border and their tow car was searched, while the rest of us had sailed right through. Then, when they got to Immigration and Customs, they too encountered a problem. (I know you mention it in your book, but perhaps it should be stressed a bit more.) They had the proper paperwork for bringing in two vehicles, but their major credit cards were in Dell’s name only. Donna had misplaced her VISA and had only a Discovery Card, which, of course, they wouldn't accept. So in order to bring their little VW into Mexico, they had to post a $340 bond, for which they will forfeit $190 when they leave the country. In other words, they will only be refunded $150. But if the car had been a 1994 or newer, the bond would have been about $650.... all because she couldn't find her VISA card, even though it had the same account number as Dell’s.

It was now two o'clock, and we had been at the Customs and Immigration checkpoint almost four hours. Donna and Dell still had to go through the line once more to finish up their paper work and get their stickers. So the rest of us decided to go on, knowing they would catch up with us out on the highway.

We headed to Saltillo for the night, via the toll road, which we highly recommend. The cost from Nuevo Laredo to Saltillo, including the by-pass around Monterrey was 490 pesos, or approximately $49 U.S. The trucks were backed up forever on the nearby free road.

It took us about four hours to get to Saltillo. Now it is 10:30 at night, and Donna and Dell still haven't shown up. We're worried sick, but we also know that if the motorhome broke down again, they have their tow car with which to get help. They have all the directions to get here. They also have the phone number of the hotel campground, but we've heard nothing. They've had so many problems with their motorhome. Unfortunately they hadn't had the time to really test drive it before leaving home. They had traded in a larger motorhome for this one, but with Donna’s unexpected back surgery and Dell’s having to get the house ready for their renters, they just ran out of time and weren't totally prepared for this trip. So, needless to say, we're worried.

The campground here in Saltillo is actually quite basic, but not bad. It's part of the Best Western Hotel Imperial, which is an attractive hotel, with lovely landscaping. At the very back of the property, they have set aside a large paved parking area for motorhomes. Each site has water and electric hookups, however, many of them don't appear to be working. One might have to dry-camp if there were lots of RVs here. The electricity is 30 amps. Since there's only one other motorhome here, it's very quiet. .

Hotel Imperial Trailer Park: .7 mile south of the San Isidro Shopping Plaza (which is on the left) on the main highway into town (Hwy. 40), also called Blvd. Carranza. Watch for the Pizza Hut/KFC on the right. The drive into the hotel/RV park is on the right, immediately beyond Pizza Hut/KFC, between it and the hotel. Check in at the hotel desk. There's good security here. The restroom facilities were very basic, but they did have a laundry that seemed to be working. The gymnasium had equipment, but we were told that most of it was broken. So the campground was certainly adequate, but not great. And we felt it was very expensive -- 200 pesos ($20). (Each time when I quote a campground price at the top of the page, this is the price BEFORE a 15% tax is applied.)

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©1972-2001 by Carl Franz & Lorena Havens