Bill and Cathy McArthur on the Road 2005: 7

  Monday, February 14, was a very warm and sunny day in the Puerto Vallarta region. The temperature was in the 80s for most of the day. We started the day with some chores around the campsite. One of our jobs was to decide whether to live on Mountain Time as do most of the inhabitants of Bucerias, or on Central Time as do the inhabitants on Puerto Vallarta. We decided to stay on Mountain Time. That settled, we got fully settled into our campsite. Bill went to the Los Pinos Bungalows next door and was able to plug his laptop into their network for $2 per hour. Afterward, we traveled with Paul and Martha into PV. We found the city to be a combination of Key West and Ocean City, Maryland with all of the good and bad features. We ate lunch by the beach at "No Name Cafe", our third restaurant in that genre (where are the others?*). We had good meals with a great view of the water. At the table next to ours were two couples from a Norwegian Lines ship that were on a 8 day cruise on the Mexican west coast. They were in vacation mode and it infected us. After lunch we wandered around Old Town for a while and then headed home via Wal-Mart. When we arrived back at the RV Park, we took a walk into Bucerias and wandered around until after sunset. When we returned to our rig, we found that the couple in the rig next to ours, from Montreal, were being visited by a large group of family members who had flown down to Puerto Vallarta to meet with them. We saw a heap of luggage on the patio and wondered if they were all going to move in for the week. Except for the French, it would be like home in the Villas. Earlier in the day we planned the rest of our Mexican itinerary with Paul and Martha to drive south toward Manzanillo on Sunday and stay somewhere around there for 3 nights. Then we will start the long trek north and spend 2 nights in the San Blas area. We will then drive to Mazatlan and spend 2 nights. We will pick up Melva and Anne Marie and drive to Los Mochas for 1 night. We will likely say goodbye to Paul and Martha who will probably ferry over to the Baja. We will drive to San Carlos for 1 night and then to Benson, Arizona on March 1.

  On Tuesday we learned of a family situation that required our curtailing the trip: our daughter Katie had a baby girl at 11:00 PM, 23 days ahead of schedule. We decided to leave for the north on Wednesday morning and head for Mazatlan. We spent the day on details necessary for our departure. A highlight of the day was lunch at Hooters while we were with Paul and Martha in Puerto Vallarta. They decided to stay for two additional nights before returning to Mazatlan. They also treated us to dinner at Adriano's Restaurante in Bucerias.

  On Wednesday morning at 6:30 AM we departed for Mazatlan. We decided to go via the coastal road through San Blas. The route was pretty tricky, but we made it through the back roads to Mex 15, the major highway. As we drove, we talked with our daughter Alex and then Katie and Tom, the new parents. This was the first time we used our cell phone since we entered Mexico. We made the trip to Mazatlan in 7.5 hours, 30 minutes less than the trip down. We found a site in the overflow parking lot for our Mazatlan campground. Bill walked the beach to get some exercise while Cathy caught up with all of the news. We had a celebration at the beach bar with the remainder our fellow travelers. Irene came around to collect a night's rent around 8:00 PM. We had intended to shower in the campground bathrooms, but there wasn't any water available there, so we showered in the rig and Bill dumped the grey water and filled the fresh water for the second time since arriving in the campground.

  Thursday we pushed real hard and drove 500 miles from Mazatlan to El Mirador in San Carlos. We got the same site, #80, that we had before. We drove from 6:30 AM to 3:45 PM. It's amazing that we did so well. Bill would like to credit Cathy's navigation, but in between screams of fear, she slept. We have decided to get Cathy on an airplane in Tucson on Sunday morning. Bill will then meander back, maybe stopping to fish in the Keys and walk warm beaches barefoot. We should be across the border sometime Friday afternoon and our cell phone will then work again. We enjoyed a great last dinner in Mexico at El Oasis Restaurant. We were so tired that we didn't even connect the TV cable.

  On Friday morning, we had to wait until 6:45 AM for enough light and then departed for the border. The trip north was smooth except for a bottleneck in Hermosillo and waits at the Banjercito (15 minutes) to cancel our vehicle permit and at the border (an hour). At the Banjercito, the far right lane goes to a booth where everything is done without leaving the rig. The four lane queue at the border was a chaotic scene filled with vendors and impatient motorists. We were boarded for a quick check of our refrigerator and asked about any liquor that we were bringing back. We did not have to show any credentials. Right after crossing the border, the right exit on Target Range road leads right to I19. This quick route to the interstate highway is not marked at the exit; our GPS navigator, Batie, found it for us. At the next exit, Mariposa, we turned right and got back to the shopping center near where we stayed overnight and exchanged our Pesos at the Cambio there on the left side of the street. We ate lunch at Bella Mia, where we had had our last US dinner before leaving for Mexico. As we ate, we located a RV Park near the Tucson Airport and called for a 2 night reservation. We drove to the Mission View RV Park and set up our campsite. It was a 55 and over resort, but most people seemed to fit the 75 and over category. We drove to the airport to check out access with our rig for Sunday morning and then went to Safeway. Bill doesn't like to shop, but he enjoyed the availability of all of the familiar US products. We rented 2 DVDs at Blockbuster, "Da Vinci Code Decoded" and "The Terminal". We enjoyed both.

  Saturday, we took our time getting going. We made lots of phone calls to all of the kids. Bill made his plans to stay overnight at Gila Bend on Sunday and then drive to the Colorado River at Ehrenberg on I10 on Monday. Further plans will depend on the weather. We had lunch at Beyond Bread on Speedway Drive in Tucson. After some shopping, we returned to Beyond Bread to use the wireless Internet there. It rained off and on all day. On the way back to the campground, we stopped at the Pima Air and Space Museum. We enjoyed walking around among the various aircraft on the ground. Bill especially liked walking around and under the B-52s in the collection. He remembered many nights in the barracks at Fort Bliss, Texas, being awakened by low flying B-52s from Biggs Air Force Base nearby. We watched 2 of the 3 used DVDs we bought, "Indiana Jones Extras", which was very good, and "Heavy", which was very weird.

  On Sunday morning we arose at 5:30 AM and headed to the Tucson Airport soon thereafter. We discovered to our pleasant surprise that the short term parking lot had a few RV spots in it. We obtained Cathy's boarding passes and then ate breakfast in an almost deserted cafe. After breakfast we said goodbye as Cathy headed into the security queue. Bill drove to Gila Bend, AZ and checked-in at Augie's Quail Trail RV Park. Bill then took off for a 6 mile round trip into town; it was sunny and warm for the walk. Gila Bend is supposedly the hottest place in Arizona. He had a McDonald's milkshake for lunch. Cathy's sister Marianne called on Bill's cell phone and Bill took the opportunity to catch her up on family doings. Bill stopped at a tourist information office and found that Ehrenberg was due for 3 days of heavy rain. Bill called the RV park there and cancelled his reservation. His plan now is to head for Benson, AZ and get the oil changed in the rig before moving on. Bill found a wireless network connection at the RV Park and was able to track Cathy's flight online and "saw" it arrive at 5:03 PM Eastern. Cathy called Bill at 5:21 PM when she was in the car with Alex, Phil, Erin, and Bridget. Bill spent some time puttering around the campsite to while away the afternoon.

  Bill checked his book of Interstate exits on Monday morning and found a Wal-Mart Supercenter listed for exit 246 of I10, west of Tucson. After breakfast, Bill headed east on I8 and then I10 and got off at the Wal-Mart. Cathy had taken Bill's day pack, so he replaced it with a pretty good one for $5, which must have been a mistaken price. He also restocked the rig. There was a Starbucks in the same shopping plaza, so Bill headed in for lunch and to read a newspaper. Coming down the Interstate, Bill had noticed that Saquaro National Park was nearby, so he drove there after lunch. At the visitors center, Bill found the description of a trail which went for 3.5 miles to the summit of Wasson Peak, at 4800 feet the highest in the Tucson Mountains. This sounded like a perfect hike, so Bill packed GPS, knife, flashlight, camera, cell phone, raincoat, and two bottles of water into the new day pack. He drove to a parking pulloff a bit of a walk from the trailhead and started hiking. When he was getting close to the summit, Cathy called on the cell phone, so Bill stopped for his first break on the trail and had a chat before continuing to the top. The entire hike took around 3 hours. By the time Bill was back at the rig, rain was threatening and it was getting close to 5:00 PM. So Bill drove back to Wal-Mart and joined a large group of RVs camped in the parking lot. Bill chose a spot very close to Starbucks so he wouldn't have to cook the next morning. Bill bought a couple of small microwave pizzas in Wal-Mart. After talking with Cathy, he put on the generator and cooked a pizza dinner. It was excellent.

  On Tuesday morning, Bill ate breakfast at Starbucks as planned. Then he drove to Beaudry's Chevrolet in Benson, AZ to get the oil changed. Unfortunately, they were all booked for the day. Bill headed east and drove to Deming, NM and Rockhound State Park, 14 miles out of town. Bill grabbed one of the 14 sites with hookups, ate lunch, and went to the Visitors Center to finished registering. The center was closed for the lunch hour and Bill was 2 cents short of the $14 necessary for the campsite. The payment had to be placed in an envelope and placed in a slot. Bill was tired of waiting around and asked another waiter, Bill Snyder from New York State, for 2 cents so he could complete the registration. Bill Snyder actually supplied a nickel and didn't want change. Our Bill put the envelope in the slot and then returned to the then opened center to get an orientation from the ranger. Bill tried his hand at some rockhounding and was high up on the slope of the mountain when he heard thunder. In his haste to get back down, he got a calf full of cactus thorns. He made it down in time and had gathered about a dozen stones of dubious value. The rain and thunder continued off and on into the evening. Bill enjoyed talking with Cathy a couple of times during the day. Cathy ventured out to a shopping mall and continued to pitch in and help Katie and Tom and Rachel. Bill cooked in the rig.

  Wednesday was a big travel day for Bill; on the home front, Cathy was getting a cold. Bill decided to shoot for a Wal-Mart at Exit 505 of I10 in Texas. This was a 600 mile drive, but Bill just put on the auto-pilot and cruised along. Toward the end of the drive, Bill was on the edge of a nasty weather front for about an hour. The local forecasters were saying that there could be large hail and 60 mph wind with the front. Bill called our son Bill in Atlanta and asked him to check on his computer to see how the front was moving. Son Bill said that the front was lifting away from I10, so Bill pulled in to the Wal-Mart in Kerrville, Texas for the night. Customer Service pointed Bill to the proper place to park after granting permission for the overnight stay. Bill talked to Alex while he was pumping gas in Kerrville. While Bill was running the generator and microwaving pizza, he talked with Cathy whose cold sounded worse than in the morning. Son Bill is heading for Puerto Rico on Thursday. The cold weather is too close for comfort in Texas, so Bill is heading for Brownsville to escape it. Meanwhile the Northeast is getting more snow and expecting a big coastal storm next week. When will it end?

*Boston and Big Pine Key

        Bill and Cathy