Here’s a little trip recap from Florida to the Mexican border….
Mike and I posing with the Jeep, all packed and ready to go!
We left Florida on a Friday morning, with plans to stop in Pensacola at a free campground I found on www.freecampsites.net (great website BTW, has a lot of information on free camping especially in south and western US, and also has pay campgrounds listed). It rained, and rained and rained, so when we were thinking of stopping and setting up camp for the night, we decided to just keep driving instead, and hope for no rain soon. It was during this part of the trip we discovered that the lovely people at Healy Chrysler Dodge Jeep in Beacon/Fishkill didn’t calibrate the Jeep correctly when putting on the after-market wheels and tires. Apparently for every mile we drive, according to the odometer, we actually drive .1 miles farther. Also, Mike’s speedometer was 5-6 mph under what we were actually driving. This would be good to know for the remainder of the trip to avoid speeding, and to properly record MPG and miles driven.
We made it as far as central Louisiana that first day, and camped in a Wal-Mart. It was gross and smelly outside. There were a few homeless types wandering around and there were groups of kids coming and going at all hours, walking in from these fields behind the store. Mike, being the researcher he is, looked up this lovely town’s Wal-Mart on his phone and discovered that recently a body was found behind the store in those fields. Wonderful. I was too tired to care at that point, and fell asleep. That is, until a train came blowing through every hour for the entire night. Oh well, we slept a few hours, used the facilities in Wal-Mart, and headed back on our way shortly after sunrise.
Our plan was to get to Houston, and we were already two-thirds of the way there, so we got to town in time to hit a grocery store (Kroger, which is huge, and apparently only sells beer to people with Texas ID’s) and a BBQ (Texas Original Rib Tickler. Delicious. Closed Sunday AND Monday though, so don’t try to go there those days like we did). We stayed at Spring Creek Park in Tomball, TX. It’s a nice spacious park, not a lot of camping, but it’s free (found on freecampsites.net) had full hookups and bathrooms with hot showers. You can’t really ask for more than that. We also left our camp set up for the days we had to go into town and nothing was stolen or anything like that. For this portion of the trip we used the 8 person ground tent. It really is an instant tent and set up in like 3 minutes and broke down in like 5. This was our first time using it so now that we know how it will probably go faster. This park is also for RV’ers but you do have to call in advance if you plan on going there to see if they have sites available.
Just inside Houston we went to a very nice vet, Parker Road Animal Hospital. We got the international health certificates for the dogs (about $100 each) and they got their Lepto shots (not required in NY but it is in most southern states and suggested for Central America, and cost about another $100 for the shots and the visit). Afterwards, we found a local cigar shop, Serious Cigars, since Mike had a hankering for a good cigar. He was smiling from ear to ear when he came out because it was the biggest and best cigar shop he’d ever been to, and tobacco isn’t taxed like it is in NY so the prices were much cheaper. He spent his grocery money for the week in there, and managed to remember to buy me my little flavored CAO’s I like. While in Houston, we discovered we didn’t need to visit any consulates, and all necessary paperwork for the dogs and vehicle should be taken care of at the borders. We learned this from other helpful travelers on the Drive the Americas Facebook group. So we cut that visit short, and instead of staying the full week, left on Tuesday morning. As a side note, it rained every night in Houston (not a ton, but enough to soak the ground and tables) except the last night before we left. I was starting to think rain was going to be our constant companion until that point.
Our campsite in Tomball, TX with my fanny sticking out of the tent.
On to Arizona… we decided the “drive until we can’t see” (aka drive until Tiffany gets cranky because she needs sleep) plan would be in order again. En route, we drove past Juarez in El Paso. I wish it was daylight so we could have seen more, but as it was, you could see the border fence from the highway, and the distinctive difference was astounding. It went from bright lights and strip malls and chain food shops on the right, to 1 or 2 room cinderblock homes with sad little street lights on the left, just over the fence. We stopped that night in Deming, NM, at a Wal-Mart again. This was WAY different than the last one. The lot was full of RV’ers spending the night, the people in the store were friendly, and, while there were the occasional homeless types wandering around, they seems more like hippies than homeless. Oh, and there was a train again. Another poor night of sleep and then it was, Onward! to Why, Arizona!
Pics from the road
Why Why? Well, we were originally going to sleep on BLM land in Ajo, AZ (another free gem from freecampsites.net), but decided one more night with a bathroom and showers was in order, so we paid $8 to camp at Coyote Howl in Why. We stopped in Tuscon to print our Mexican Insurance paperwork ($599.60 for a year from ICI including full vehicle coverage), and make some final photocopies. Why, AZ has pretty much nothing. Two gas stations with little markets (not much of a selection, we got hot dogs), and a café/diner type place open for breakfast and lunch. While there isn’t much around that bodes quite well for the awesome sunsets over the desert, as well as crazy star-gazing. This would not be the first night I wished I had a book on constellations. Coyote howl had decent spaces, a lot of permanent residents, fresh clean water, and available showers. If you ever make it there it’s nice to know to bring quarters. The showers are free but the hot water is not. I think a quarter bought about 5 minutes of the good stuff. Since we only had two quarters for two people, that was the fastest shower I’ve ever taken. Mike spotted a scorpion in the men’s showers so we tossed the pups up in the tent and went to bed early, after our delicious hotdog and white bread dinner (topped with BBQ sauce and salsa – I totally got my veggies in). During the night, not only did we actually get to hear coyotes howl, we also got another night of freight trains. Apparently, if its not raining, we must deal with super loud trains all night.
The Jeep at Coyote Howl in Why, AZ
That is the end of our American adventure (for now), because the following morning, Thursday, we packed up, and headed south the 27 miles to the Lukeville border crossing. Coming up next… Mexico!
Oh and if you’re wondering the 7 states we drove through/stayed in were: Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexicio and Arizona.
Our trip sign. It came down that night.