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Veracruz, Tampico y Estados Unidos

Veracruz, Tampico y Estados Unidos

Heroica Veracruz, Veracruz I knew almost nothing about Heroica Veracruz before arriving and now that we spent two days there, I now know very little about it.  A port city with a population of 430,000, it is Mexico’s oldest European-founded settlement with a cornucopia of architecture as a lasting result of French, Spanish, and Americans troops (they occupied the city in 1914) battling their way through the city.

Baluarte de Santiago (Santiago bastion) – the only surviving fort of nine that were once in Veracruz

The prettiest part of the Veracruz IOO (in our opinion) was the zócalo.  That was clean and lively and inviting.  According to Lonely Planet, people from Veracruz are called Jarochos and they are known to be lovers not fighters.

Cool graffiti – Jarochita
Baluarte de Santiago (Santiago bastion) with a palm tree

Gran Café del Portal Av Independencia 1197
Gran Café de Portal – tapping to the music of this awesome Cuban band and enjoying a beverage.
The music makes us want to go to Cuba.
I had a Machacado de Pina. The peppers were a snack.
The Zócalo aka Plaza de Armes and Plaza Lerdo. It was world feral cat day!

Municipal Palace of Veracruz – Dia Mundial de Los Gatos Ferales
This kitty needs a casa.

This awesome group of workers and volunteers were at the Zócalo celebrating Día Mundial de los Gatos Ferales and helping local cats get adopted and sterilized.
The group of people above were working for this program:
Aliados de los Gatos Ferales
MVZ Luz Teresa Espin Iturbe
The Aduana or Customs office of Veracruz
What would be a lovely fountain were it not for the trash. 🙁

Benito Juarez Lighthouse
Charming streets of historic Veracruz
The Civil Registry
Fruit basket and machete

I don’t know the real name of this monument but I think it’s called the Monument for the Independence of Mexico.
Just a dog and her man in Veracruz.
Faro Carranza on the Paseo del Malecón – a lighthouse and statue of Venustiano Carranza – the Mexican Constitution was drafted here in 1917
Venustiano Carranza up close and personal
In the fountain in front of The Carranza Lighthouse about a dozen turtles were swimming around. This little one was eating a piece of litter that someone so generously contributed.
Catching some rays
Statue of the Spanish Emigrant – celebrates Veracruz’s role as a port that welcomes immigrants
The Malecón – an exhibit by Pemex (gas and oil company) on all the great things it does for the environment.
Basura floating near the convincing Pemex exhibit

Stella making new friends

Boca del Rio This is where we stayed, a municipality that borders Veracruz.  While the hotel was fairly awesome, the town itself is just okay.  Tall buildings, loud traffic, and dirty beaches.  There is a long malecón with statues that borders the bay. That was kind of sweet.

Merman statue guy
Hubby and puppy on the malecón
Love, Honor, Truth, Work…they really could use one about Respeto for the earth.
Cool fish art display. I think this fish is sad because of all the trash on the beach.
The Peace Tank
I welcome your thoughts on a caption for this photo.
These beaches would be truly lovely were it not for the garbage.
Obscene amounts of trash, mostly plastic. How is there not more respect for the earth?
I think my husband peed his pants. I think my wife forgot to check our seats before we sat down outside. I think my husband forgot my employment as seat checker has been terminated. I am now just a full time wanderer leaving seats unchecked throughout all of North America.
This was a beautiful hotel with a lot of rules, but the bed was totally worth any hassle. Again, one of few places that accepts dogs, but we prefer the most “rustic” aka cheaper places.

Despite the beautiful zócalo, I have no desire to ever return to the city of Veracruz, and I do not recommend it for anyone else who has earth consciousness. While many parts of Mexico are terribly polluted, I think the city and surrounding areas of Veracruz ranked as some of the most polluted. And by polluted, I mean everyday humans throwing their $h!t on the earth. It was a monumental disappointment, so much that for the couple of days we were there I felt utter resignation about holding out on any hope for our planet. It is with  absolute certainty after seeing the disregard for ocean life and health here that humans are destroying this planet. If we ever return to the state of Veracruz, which I doubt, we will stay at one of the beautiful beaches towards the border of Tamaulipas and hope those are cleaner. I don’t expect to return, and that’s a damn shame.

Veracruz to Tampico

And thanks be to the Gods and Goddesses for audiobooks.  Harper Lee, Dan Brown, and David Sedaris have been getting us through the long drives.

My memories of driving to Tampico will unfortunately be wrought with hair-raising images of horrific roads and treacherous rains.  I think the worst roads in Mexico, maybe even the entire universe, are between Ciudad Veracruz and Tampico.  The drive started out easily enough.  We had a relatively clear day and it seemed like it was going to be smooth sailing.  We passed some gorgeous coastal towns, and I longed to stop and enjoy the beautiful beaches.  NEXT time I want to stay at one of those places instead of Veracruz.  Like El Pital.  That town looked super cute.  Add to it, we passed several cool-looking Mayan ruin sites along that drive.

Leaving Veracruz – on many street corners were women with their children all asking for money.
Cutest statues ever – small, naked children playing on this cement structure
Remember this – 074 for emergency help.
The viewer cannot see the gorgeous coast – marine green.

At some point, about 2-hours into the drive everything changed – an about-face.  It’s like that point on an amusement park ride when you start to think, “Hey, this isn’t so bad, this is pretty chill!” then you encounter the ascent. This is when you realize you’re on a ride that hasn’t been inspected by any agent of authority for the last two decades, and it dawns on you this thing you’re on, this vehicle of amusement, is more than 100 years old. The rickety boards beneath you feel like they will splinter if you lean even the slightest bit to the right.  At the apex you look at the park all around you and for the briefest of brief moments you once again feel a sense of great joy having a bird’s eye view.  This happens just before you look at the imposing structure around you, the structure that’s plummets 100 feet in 2 seconds.  On the verge of puking out your intestines and wondering if you’ll be written about in tomorrow’s paper or if even your life merit’s an article on page 8 of the Yokel Herald and several neck-breaking turns that require a year’s worth of chiropractic later, you spin into a dark tunnel, come to a screeching halt, and it’s over.  THAT is how the remaining 8-hours of our 10-hour 30 mph drive proceeded.

We paid a total of 120 pesos in tolls. Generally, the toll roads are exquisite here in Mexico. This was not the case en route to Tampico.

The very worst part of this drive was around Tuxpam (or Tuxpan).  It was a nightmare of BAD and flooded roads.  It was like the Exorcist, Psycho, and Silence of the Lambs nightmare-bad. Potholes were masked by puddles or ankle-deep mud, 18-wheelers passing with oncoming traffic, torrential rains, flooded streets…We’re scratching our heads wondering why in the world these roads need topes or worse yet, the greatest offenders, topes followed by vibradores.

I think every bridge en route from Veracruz to Matamoros is being repaired.
Two lanes of traffic on one lane because of the roadwork.
Trucks passing trucks with oncoming traffic.

We stayed at the Comfort Inn in Tampico, which incidentally was fairly comfortable.  And they accepted Stella despite the fact they are not a dog-friendly hotel.  The next morning, we dragged ourselves out of bed and headed for the border.  Still hung over from too much drive intake the day before, we gathered ourselves and geared up for what could potentially be the most dangerous drive of our lives. Tampico to Matamoros

The state of Tamaulipas – the border is just around Tampico

I couldn’t help but feel some stress with this last leg of our journey. On the heels of the drive less than 12 hours earlier and with the US State Department’s warning looming heavily on our minds, we wanted our drive to Matamoros to be behind us as quickly as possible. But one of the hassles and joys of living in Mexico, most things simply are not accomplished quickly.  We were mentally, emotionally, and physically preparing ourselves for another long day of driving and the unfortunate and potential outcome of being murdered.  After all, this road has been dubbed Highway of Death or highway of satan or something like that.

From US State Department
The kidnapping rate for Tamaulipas, the highest for all states in Mexico, more than doubled in the past year. In February 2013, four masked and armed individuals attempted to kidnap a USG employee in Matamoros during daylight hours. All travelers should be aware of the risks posed by armed robbery and carjacking on state highways throughout Tamaulipas, particularly on highways and roads outside of urban areas along the northern border. Traveling outside of cities after dark is particularly dangerous. While no highway routes through Tamaulipas are considered safe, many of the crimes reported to the U.S. Consulate General in Matamoros have taken place along the Matamoros-Tampico highway.

It was fairly easy getting out of Tampico. With a full tank of gas acquired the night before, we were on Avenida Hildalgo which turns into Highway 80.
I think Tampico has some pretty parts to it, but we weren’t there long enough to know for sure.
Tampico does have the cutest taxis I’ve ever seen. The taxis here beep constantly. It’s like they’re talking with one another.
We saw some runners and one carrying a torch as we headed out of the city.
Is that blue sky I see breaking through those clouds as we leave Tampico? You betcha! wink.
The first army inspection zone is less than 30km outside of Tampico. I liked our army guy because he liked Stella.
The word for detour is desviacion, which I accurately confuse with devastation. With each detour, we lose drive time, and there have been a lot of detours the last two days of driving.
Only 414 km to Matamoros. Things are looking up. And no, sadly, we don’t help anyone along the Mexican highways.
For huge stretches of our drive we were the only folks on the road. And then we’d encounter a hay truck. While the empty road made for easy and beautiful driving, it’s also intimidating. Is something or someone lurking behind those tall grasses ready to pounce?
Another bridge being repaired. Another detour.
Another bridge being repaired another detour. Most were quite easy with an auxiliary road to the left or right of the bridge.
Our spirit guide? Or is it a preying animal following us and patiently waiting for our ultimate demise and a fleshy feast.

We eventually settled into this drive realizing there was no danger in sight, only pretty landscapes.

Just before entering Highway 101 – the road notorious for kidnappings, carjackings, and general all-purpose crime, we thought it best to stop at the Pemex for a bathroom break and final fill-up.  Pulling in, we realized this place was totally abandoned.  With only about 90 miles to go, ONE of us decided to hold it until crossing the border.

Just moments after entering highway 101 there was an army checkpoint. I’m starting to like the Mexican army. They have proven to be no-hassle and quite friendly.
For most of our drive on Highway 101, the supposed Highway of Death (or darkness or vampires or something), we found ourselves in a Mexican army convoy. An escort out of the country by the army? Not too shabby.
When pigs fly
Between the Federales and the army, I can’t imagine there’s a lot of crime going down on this road. I think that guy was saluting me.

Matamoros to Estados Unidos Several annoying versions later remaking our own personal rendition of Highway to the Danger Zone, we arrived to the destination, Matamoros, Mexico.

There was some minor confusion about finding the Banjercito. We needed to have them remove the temporary import sticker and return the $300.00 deposit.
Follow the signs for Puente Internacional – we had to take a detour around the bridge – watch out for horses.
Continue heading toward the bridge BUT turn left just before the bridge and go around the glorietta (roundabout) pulling into the Banjercito parking lot. We were assisted immediately. An officer came to the car and removed the sticker.

We were afraid to miss the building, but it’s hard to miss. You have to turn LEFT just before the bridge. Ask, if you’re unsure. We asked an official-looking guy after driving in circles twice, and he got in our car and guided us there. The folks who work there were all very friendly.

We headed back out and around to the bridge.

We paid our only toll of the day and final toll in Mexico, 55 pesos to cross the bridge.  These two friendly chaps wished us a good trip and allowed me to take a photo.  We crossed the bridge said howdy ho to the customs officer who didn’t even bother to check anything in the car or Stella’s health certificate.

We prepared for the worst today and discovered it was one of the easiest drives we’ve had yet. And just like that…we have arrived.  Such mixed feelings seeing this Welcome to Texas sign.  How happy we are to be back in the states and how sad to leave Mexico behind us.  We still have several days on this adventure that leads us to Florida.  Hugging the Gulf coast, we’ll be taking our time (including a stop in New Orleans) to our next destination, Cocoa Beach.

One more post on Mexico coming up…Things we learned while living in Mexico.

“Travel penetrates your consciousness, but not in a rational way.”
 ~Milton Glaser
“One’s destination is never a place, but a new way of
seeing things.”
 ~Henry Miller
“A good traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent on arriving.”
 ~Lao Tzu
“Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.”
 ~Fitzhugh Mullan


*Photos and stuff*  Please contact me for permission to use images and text for commercial or private use.

This is Mexico Post #30
To see Mexico Post #1, Me and My Trimalleolar go to Mexico with my Husband and our Pooch, click this here.
To see Mexico Post #2, Dos Americanos y Su Perro en Mexico, click this here.
To see Mexico Post #3, Feliz Ano Nuevo 2013, click here.
To see Mexico Post #4, Ballenas, Ballenas Hermosas, click here.
To see Mexico Post #5, Una Visita Morelia, click here.
To see Mexico Post #6, Mariposas Monarcas!, click here.
To see Mexico Post #7, Los Pueblos de Patzcuaro, Paracho, y Tzintzuntzan, click here.
To see Mexico Post #8, La pintoresca ciudad de San Miguel de Allende, click here.
To see Mexico Post #9, Guanajuato, Guanajuato, click here.
To see Mexico Post #10, Back to Sayulita and Jaime Visits!, click here.
To see Mexico Post #11, Semana Santa y Semana Pasqua, click here.
To see Mexico Post #12, Semana de Animales, click here.
To see Mexico Post #13, Semana de Amigos y Amigas, click here.
To see Mexico Post #14, Frida y Diego, click here.
To see Mexico Post #15, Adiós Sayulita, click here.
To see Mexico Post #16, Living and Grinning in San Miguel de Allende, click here.
To see Mexico Post #17, Puddle Jumping in San Miguel de Allende, click here.
To see Mexico Post #18, Guanajuato International Film Festival, click here.
To see Mexico Post #19, Ciudad de Mexico/Mexico City: Colonia Condesa, Colonia Coyoacán, y La Casa Azul, click here.
To see Mexico Post #20, Ciudad de Mexico/Mexico City: Chapultapec y Centro Historico, click here.
To see Mexico Post #21, Ciudad de Mexico/Mexico City: Museo Nacional de Antropologia y Templo Mayor, click here.
To see Mexico Post #22, Living the Dream in San Miguel de Allende, click here.
To see Mexico Post #23,  Viva la Independencia! click here.
To see Mexico Post #24,  Adios San Miguel, click here.
To see Mexico Post #25,  Valle de Bravo y Teploztlán, click here.
To see Mexico Post #26,  Ciudad de Oaxaca, click here.
To see Mexico Post #27,  On the road from Oaxaca to Chiapas: 50 Shades of Green, click here.
To see Mexico Post #28,  San Cristóbal de las Casas, click here.
To see Mexico Post #29,  The Almost Halloween Edition:  Dark Mountains,  Foggy Cliffs, Witches, Jungles and Shamans, click here.
To see Mexico Post #30, Veracruz, Tampico y Estados Unidos, click here.
To see the Post 2013 in Photo Review and Lessons Learned in Mexico, click here.

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