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Driving from California to Quetzaltenango, Guatemala
January 2003 - Jeep Cherokee pulling a trailer

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Hi everyone!

Well, we are at it again.  After spending 3 years in California we are on our way back to Quetzaltenango commonly called "Xela."  We have a bigger crew with us this time as our daughter Holly was born in 2001.  So there are now 4 of us.  We decided that this time we would take a few things will us.  So we loaded up a 15 foot wooden trailer and pulled it behind our 1993 Jeep Cherokee.  The Jeep was rated to pull 5000lbs but we could not part with a few things so our load was closer to 7000lbs by the time we finished packing.  We decided to give it a go and if all works out we will write a story about it.

We left Manteca, CA early on Dec 26, 2002 and headed south to what we believed would be our first up hill challenge the Interstate 5 Grapevine right outside of Los Angeles.  Well the Jeep really surprised us, we put her in 3rd gear and she motored over the Grapevine without looking back.  We made it to Palms Springs and spent the night at a Quality Inn $45.00/night.

The next morning we were up early and on the road by 6am.  We drove all day and made into New Mexico by late afternoon.  We stayed in a Comfort Inn $40.00/night.   There are some GREAT coupon books available along I-10 at the rest areas and truck stops.  These books contain discounts on hotels all along this route

Dec 28, 2002 - We again got an early start and drove all day.  We made it into Texas which is a HUGE state!! We spent the night in a roadside hotel - $40/night - I can not remember the name.

Dec 29, 2002 - This was one of our shortest days. We drove to Austin TX and meet up with 2 other families who were going to drive with us to Guatemala. We met Lew and Dottie Schroder and their friend Lauria from Panajachel who has 4 kids, Michal, Andoni, Michelle and Kim.  We ran around Austin getting our insurance papers in order with Sanborns Insurance (GREAT COMPANY).  We then swam in the Comfort Inn swimming pool had some dinner and got ready for the next day. Comfort Inn Austin $50.00/night

Dec 30, 2002 - We all got up early and drove to Brownsville, TX where we got a room at our favorite hotel Brownsville Red Roof Inn.  This hotel is about 10 minutes from the International bridge into Mexico they have a pool and Jacuzzi that the kids and adults just LOVED!  There is also a $2.00 movie theater right behind the hotel which was a big hit.  While the hotel was wonderful the day started to get frustrating when we found out that in order to take our trailer into Mexico we need to pay $300 for a Transmigrante permit.  This permit is an official list of all the items you have in your trailer.  Well it was Dec 30 and we could only find one person who was open and she was not able to complete the paperwork until the border reopened on Jan 02, 2003.  This was a setback but as it turned out we all just relaxed and spent New Years enjoying Brownville, Texas!

Jan 02, 2003 - We were smart enough to go to the border and fill out all of our paperwork the day before we crossed. This makes crossing the border VERY easy.  We had all of our stickers and stamps so we only had to slow down as we passed into Mexico.  The first night we stayed in Tampico el Alto which is just south of Tampico proper.  The hotel Grill was clean and comfortable $50/night.

Jan 03, 2003 - The next morning we were up early and headed out.  We drove all day with frequent rest stops for Gasoline which cost about $2.65/gallon.  By the end of the day we were along the Costa Esmeralda which is a beautiful stretch of highway along the coast south of Tampico and north of Vera Cruz.  We ended up getting a large suite in a wonderful resort hotel along the beach.  I believe the name of the place was Costa Sol Resort.  They had 2 large swimming pools and a nicely stocked bar!  The beach was very nice and FULL of living sand dollars.  You could reach into the sand and put out a hand full of them every time.  The kids thought this was COOL. The room cost $140 for 12 people.

Jan 04, 2003 - Another early start and a full day of driving landed us in Acayucan.  A small town south of Vera Cruz.  We stayed in Hotal Acayucan which is a 5 story hotel right off the central park.  The hotel is nice with an indoor swimming pool and good restaurant.  Cost $45/night.

Jan 05, 2003 - Luckily we got another early start because today was going to be our last day of driving.  But as luck would have it, that would not be the case.  Around 10am that morning as we were turning a very sharp curve, I noticed that there was white smoke pouring from the back left wheel of our trailer.  We immediately stopped to see what had happened.  It looked like the axle of the trailer had shifted and the tire was rubbing on the wheel well.  Blessedly we were close to a Pemex station and were able to get the trailer safely off the road and into the station.  There was a welding shop across the street from the Pemex station and the guys who worked there came over and 4 hours later had fixed our axle and we were on our way.  Amazingly this mishap only cost us $50.00 to repair.  Thanks to my wonderful Guatemalan wife who negotiate with the best of them!!  We made it Tapachula that night but stayed in a hotel because the border crossing was already closed.  Hotel cost $44.00/night.

Jan 06, 2003 - We made it!!  We spent the better part of the day waiting at the border for our paperwork to be done.  Because we had the trailer we had to again make a declaration about what we had.  But by late afternoon we were in Xela and started to unpack - which is a whole other story!

Happy Travels,

Tom Lingenfelter

Mexican Tourist Road Atlas

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