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Anyone Heading South 1st Week of April

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CanuckBob
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Post by frkshnwa Fri Feb 17, 2012 9:46 am

We are retiring and heading for for Ajijic from Seattle the last week of March in our Jeep. Will be making a border crossing the first week of April. Is anyone else going down at that time. Planning on crossing at Laredo (Columbia) or Piedras Negras. That is unless there is someone crossing at San Diego and heading for La Paz. We have entertained the idea of taking the ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan. Would love to hear from anyone heading across the border during that period. Also any information seasoned drivers may have on any of these routes.
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Post by CheenaGringo Fri Feb 17, 2012 10:19 am

If you are driving down from Seattle, do you have a particular reason for driving all the way to Texas before heading south?

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Post by frkshnwa Fri Feb 17, 2012 10:51 am

Yes, that is what we have been advised to do. Described to us as the safest route.
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Post by brigitte Fri Feb 17, 2012 11:08 am

I don´t know where you got your advice but the safest and shortest route from Seattle to Lake Chapala is through Nogales. If you go to Laredo, you are going way out of your way for no reason. In fact, going through Laredo is almost certainly less safe than the drive from Nogales down the coastal route.

If you wish to head down through Baja and take the ferry, that makes sense as a fun alternative but Laredo from Seattle to get to Lake Chapala? I think not. Someone has given you bum advice.

In all due respect, if you are afraid to drive down the coastal route to Lake Chapala, perhaps Mexico is not the best place for your retirement. Nothing personal but the drive down the coast is no more dangerous than your drive from Seattle to Eugene during the daylight hours.

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Post by CheenaGringo Fri Feb 17, 2012 11:21 am

Frank:

That is what I thought. Please keep in mind that the highest percentage of people traveling to Lake Chapala are from the Midwest, the East, Eastern Canada, etc and that is the only route they have ever traveled. Thus, it becomes the safest and best. You will also find that many people have traveled the route down from the AZ border with no negative incidents and swear by that route.

While there are no guarantees that the conditions which exist today won't be different two weeks from now but if I was making the choice at this point in time based on narco activity levels, incidents between the military & narcos and daily Mexican media reports, I would be inclined to drive the route down from AZ. You are talking about adding serious time and mileage by driving all the way over to Texas and depending on routing, some of that countryside can be the most boring on the face of the planet. Columbia or Piedras Negras are two crossings that I wouldn't even consider. The main Laredo crossings - YES.

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Post by viajero Fri Feb 17, 2012 11:36 am

I would cross at Nogales if I were coming from Seattle.I've driven that route several times and never had any problems,I don't overnight in Culiacan,I usually stay at the no tell motel in Mazatlan just off the cuota,clean rooms and secure parking,then an easy days drive to Ajijic.
Chris


Last edited by viajero on Fri Feb 17, 2012 11:46 am; edited 1 time in total

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Post by frkshnwa Fri Feb 17, 2012 11:45 am

We were told at a seminar in Ajijic that the Laredo Crossings were the only safe crossings to make and advised to only cross there. I would prefer to make the crossings in West since we want to go to Las Vegas and Los Angeles to visit our sons. Still regardless of which crossing we take we are looking for others to travel with. We are leaving here the last few days of March. I also want as much toll road travel as possable. Love hearing your suggestions>
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Post by viajero Fri Feb 17, 2012 11:50 am

It's pretty much all toll roads from Nogales to Ajijic.
Chris

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Post by frkshnwa Fri Feb 17, 2012 12:06 pm

Toll roads sound good!!!! My only concern about that route is Culiacan which we have been advised to not go near. When we were looking at the Baja route (mostly for adventure) we were considering the longer ferry crossing to Mazatlan from La Paz (12 hours) to insure that we would cross south of Culiacan. You have to realize that our best resource is those of you on the ground. Ninety-five percent of the people you talk to here in the States tell you they would never cross the border and will not go to Mexico. We have traveled to Mexico many times but have never driven anywhere other than to Ensenada. When you cross at Heroica Nogales how would you break up your trip? Suggestions for hotels? Are there a turn by turn trip directions available somewhere? Thank you all for the help. Total drive time from the border?
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Post by CheenaGringo Fri Feb 17, 2012 12:32 pm

Frank:

If you take a look at the map shown below which is the fairly standard route:
[img]Anyone Heading South 1st Week of April Captur10[/img]
You will note that you travel through or near Monterrey, Saltillo, San Luis Potosi. I mention those three cities because it has been well documented that "narco turf wars" exist in all of them and the surrounding areas. In fact, we have a friend with 16 years experience of driving to/from Laredo who lost his truck on a Sunday morning at 11am on the toll road around Monterrey.

We have made about 15 roundtrip drives to central Mexico from here in New Mexico using a different route that is no longer safe. If we had to make the drive today, we would take the route through AZ based on my current knowledge of the situation along the various route options.

I would suggest that the recommendation made during the seminar, while well intentioned, was based upon their personal experiences and probably had no basis in actual knowledge of the current situations along other routes.

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Post by frkshnwa Fri Feb 17, 2012 1:00 pm

Neil, we are very aware of the problems in and around the three cities you mentioned. We will look at the Nogales crossing very closely. I presume you used to cross at Juarez. Once we are down we probably won't be driving back untill we need to sell the vehicle. Prefer to fly.


Last edited by frkshnwa on Fri Feb 17, 2012 1:12 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Post by viajero Fri Feb 17, 2012 1:04 pm

I average about 12 hours from Nogales to Mazatlan,you could stop in Los Mochis if that's to much driving for one day,if you stay on the toll road you will bypass Culiacan,no way would I drive to Laredo if I were coming from Seattle.
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Post by frkshnwa Fri Feb 17, 2012 1:17 pm

What about travelling during Santa Semana through Nogales. We could cross the border as early as April 1. I would probably go all the way to Mazatlan since I have heard some bad things about Los Mochis from a friend who goes there bass fishing.
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Post by frkshnwa Fri Feb 17, 2012 1:18 pm

Is there anything published with step by step instructions for the route from Nogales? I am also still considering the route through the Baja anyone with recent experience taking that route?
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Post by viajero Fri Feb 17, 2012 1:31 pm

frkshnwa wrote: Is there anything published with step by step instructions for the route from Nogales? I am also still considering the route through the Baja anyone with recent experience taking that route?
Guia Rojii map books are good.If you go the baja route you have to take the ferry which might be sunk by marauding grey whales on their annual migration.Don't sweat it you'll be fine,just drive carefully with your eyes wide open.
Chris

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Post by frkshnwa Fri Feb 17, 2012 1:33 pm

I have ordered the latest Guia Rojii map book.
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Post by CheenaGringo Fri Feb 17, 2012 1:39 pm

You might find the following somewhat helpful:
http://www.chapala.com/webboard/index.php?showtopic=31916&hl=%2Btrip+%2Breport&fromsearch=1

There used to be someone on MexConnect who had a spreadsheet for the trip but I cannot seem to find those conversations.

From everything I could find, Semana Santa is April 1-8 officially but our past experience is that the vacation season often lasts up to three weeks. We have found that hotels often jack their rates up during that period and rooms, especially in resort areas, can be tight. In a way, extra traffic on the toll roads can sometimes be comforting since you are not out there rolling through wide open stretches by yourself.

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Post by Zedinmexico Fri Feb 17, 2012 2:30 pm

We travel from Seattle and cross at Lukeville Arizona and take mexican
route 2 to Santa Anna and pick up 15D Cuota. Heading south in Hermisillo
can be fun. Pay attention to the signs for the detours!! Easy to get lost
in Mazatlan. Cullican is no problem. Tepic is no problem. Ask someone
else about Nagales if thats what you want. Just pick up my story at
Santa Anna.

Here is our schedule southbound

Start in Ajo Arizona 30 miles north of the Lukeville Customs station. Ajo
is an old Phelps Dodge Dead copper mine. It has a good B&B and a couple
of clean OK motels. It does have a great resturant downtown that has a
pile of Microbrews and good good food.

Leave US at Lukeville. Get red or green light in Mexico side if green go to KM
21 customs area and get your visa and bond for you car/truck. Use credit
card for bond as when you leave the country they will just credit it back in
a week or so. If you do cash you have to wait til they get cash if they don't
have any. If you got a red light at mexican side of the border do what they
tell you. After you get car permit and visas you will go to customs red light
green light thing. If Green light go forward and drive toward Santa Anna
to pick up Cuota 15D. If Red light do what they say to do. You will be stopped
100 miles down the road again for another customs stop because
a road comes in from the north so they check you out again. Head to Santa
Anna and pick up Quota 15D and head south. Stay on her til Guamas or
San Carlos for the night. Remember if you go through customs in the early
morning it is fast. Later in the day much slower and if you get two red light
you could lose an hour easily for a search. So we stop at the Best Western
in San Carlos or another place on the beach in San Carlos.

Next day is a long long drive to Mazatlan where we stay next to the beach
in the Azteca Inn in the golden triangle. Nice affordable place with good
food, bar, and pool. You will be stopped during the day by Agriculture police
looking for beef, oranges, whatever. You will also be stopped by Federales.
Please smile and be polite and they will be. They might search your car and
do things like look into your doors to see if you have anything. That kind of
thing. So don't be alarmed but start early from Guamas or ST Carlos.

Last day Mazatlan to Lakeside is pretty short but it has two sections of
curvy roads. Not a lot of Pemex/Oxxo stations also. Time your fuel tank
and bladder accordingly. Outside Tepic until Tequilla regions you will hit
some very large hills and curves. No Shoulders in many areas so you can
go around a corner and suddenly is a broken down truck on the right lane.
So PAY ATTENTION.

You will need $125 USD worth of Pesos for Tolls
Three days worth of Pesos for gas depending on your MPG
Change for food at Oxxo. Not sure about what is available
we lived off liquid yogurts and such.
No driving at night
No driving around away from the Cuoto or major federal roads.
Early on the trip the tolls can be paid with dollars.
Get good highway maps and print out google maps for the cities
and don't be surprised if no street signs period in some places.

Have done this three time round trip in the last 15 months.
Hope this helps.

Z

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Post by brigitte Fri Feb 17, 2012 2:38 pm

frkshnwa wrote:We were told at a seminar in Ajijic that the Laredo Crossings were the only safe crossings to make and advised to only cross there.

Who held this seminar and gave you this information? It is absolutely without foundation. It is discouraging to think that leaders of seminars are spreading this disinformation. We have driven the route from both Nogales and Laredo and, these days, due to developments in the narco war, Nogales is much safer than Laredo although neither is that dangerous for tourists passing through. It´s just that Laredo makes no sense from Seattle.

Culiacan and the state of Sinaloa are not dangerous places if you stay on the toll roads. In fact, Culiacan is a rather attractive city. I would not hesitate to spend the night in Sinaloa along the main highway routes in such places as Mazatlan. I wouldn´t be wandering about in secluded mountain backwaters ruled by outlaw hillbillies but you would not be doing that enroute to Lake Chapala. Dawg would not be wandering about hillbilly enclaves in California either.

I suggest:

Spend the night in Tucson.

Drive the next day to San Carlos, Sonora and stay on the beach there.

I suggest some such place a Navajoa and/or Tepic the next night depending on your disposition and patience. Then on into Chapala. The last time we drove this route some ten years ago we were goung slow because we had four dogs and three cats with us. We found, back in 2001, that the roads were quite good but we haven´t been back north to Nogales since. The roads are, no doubt, better now.


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Post by frkshnwa Fri Feb 17, 2012 3:45 pm

Thank you Brigitte for your insight and the information. Very helpful.
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Post by CheenaGringo Fri Feb 17, 2012 4:18 pm

Ironically, this very same topic was the one which caused me to quit posting on TOB 4+ years ago. All of the idiots who had only traveled one route (Laredo-Lake Chapala) were hammering on a couple from Bellevue,WA that their route was the only one to travel. The topper was when they told us that we didn't know what we were doing traveling our normal route from New Mexico. And that was before one needed to pay attention to what the narcos were up to!

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Post by frkshnwa Fri Feb 17, 2012 4:44 pm

Thank you everyone for the travel information. I think we are two routes....either Baja for the fun of it or through Nogales. We really appreciate your help. Frank & Shannon
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Post by CanuckBob Fri Feb 17, 2012 5:18 pm

Frank, I would do Baja and take that ferry from La Paz across to Mazatlan. It may take a day longer but sounds like it would be great fun. See you in April.

BTW the Santa Semana traffic won't be any worse than Seattle at rush hour..........
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Post by CheenaGringo Fri Feb 17, 2012 5:33 pm

CB:

That is a real consolation since Seattle is ranked as one of the worst in the US!

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Post by CanuckBob Fri Feb 17, 2012 5:36 pm

Yes, and Vancouver is one of the worst in Canada so I know all about bad traffic.......LOL. I have also experienced Seattle many times and it ain't pretty.
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