I took Tulbirt on a little 5-day weekend Mexican road trip. To Mexico.

Phi1osopher

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So a few months back I had this dream to buy a cool diesel VW station wagon and take it to Mexico. After much searching I found Tulbirt and named him Tulbirt for The Ultimate Low-Budget International Road Trip. Tulbirt and I knocked out some sweet back-logged maintenance and spent some time looking at maps. I'm based near Austin, TX, and there are beautiful mountains just a few hours south of us, plus my friend had never been to Old Mexico, so it was time to go!

Over all we got about 40mpg, but I rarely drove under 85mph, and the mountain roads in Mexico are not to the same standards as here in the US: some of them are really steep!! But Tulbirt never missed a beat. I would argue that the turbo and torquey grunt of these little diesels are PERFECT for this kind of trip. and as far as "the ultimate low-budget international road trip" goes, Mexico was cheap, cheap, cheap, beautiful, safe and cheap!

Road Trip? LETS GO!



South Texas. The gauges tell a typical story for our trip.



The usual offenders.



My first setback was in Padre. The "Manual Transmission Relay Lever Cable Carrier" broke. Well, I actually wouldn't call it a setback. Anytime you're on a road trip, especially one that's about to take you out into the middle of nowhere, and something breaks close to a hardware store, that's a blessing! That's the Universe saying, "Here you go, this one's for free!"



You can see I was kind of winging it here. I used a stick and a straw I found on the side of the road to tie the cable to the transmission shift housing. It worked perfectly to get me the few miles to the nearest hardware store.



Here's what I bought to fix it. The parts, from left to right are: carriage bolt, extra fat big washer, long nut to get the spacing right, two nylon washers, and then a pair of double nuts to make sure the cable end is secure, but not tight.



Around here we call this a performance mod/ short shifter. I also ended up using safety wire to make sure the 'axle part' of the Transmission Relay Lever Cable Carrier stayed in place... I ordered a replacement Transmission Relay Lever Cable Carrier, but this repair got us through the whole trip and is continuing to work perfectly!



After fixing the shift cable I was able to drive to the beach! I am clearly very excited.



We spent 2 nights here at the beach.
Up next: MEXICO!
 
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Phi1osopher

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Day Three!!
We crossed at McAllen, TX/ Reynosa N.L. and drove to Santiago, Nuevo Laredo (N.L. is the state), Mexico. The plaque on the bridge across the mighty Rio Grande river! Viva Mexico!!



Our hotel in Santiago, N.L. Mexico: the lovely and highly recommended Posada de Colores. It's a relatively inexpensive boutique hotel with about 10 rooms and a lovely garden courtyard. Everything in Santiago is more expensive than most of the rest of Mexico, but this place is cheaper than the rest, but just as nice.



Emiliano Zapata and I discussing my much loved "El Pendejo" loteria card shirt. On the central square in Santiago.



I saw a dinosaur!!



Exploring some cool old abandoned buildings on the edge of Santiago..
 
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Phi1osopher

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Day four!

One of my goals for this trip was to go explore this amazing natural bridge and some caves outside of a little town I've often visited called Galeana. The drive to get there is one of those stunningly beautiful ones through the mountains (paved), and then dirt at the end. I had driven by and looked down at the natural bridge several times from the top, but have always wanted to climb down to the river and explore some of the otherwise unaccessible caves some of the locals had told me about.
This is a road-side shrine on the way from Linares toward Iturbide, N.L. on our way to the natural bridge.



on the inside.



We drove through the mountains: Linares -> Iturbide -> Galeana, then took a dirt road several miles to the natural arch, the Puente de Dios. It's huge in a way that's difficult to photograph. We ended up climbing down to the river to splash in the cool water and have lunch.



Exploring the arch and some of the caves.



From the Puente de Dios we drove about 20+ miles along this dirt road to get to Rayones.





This is a video of the dirt road on our way to Rayones. I tried to embed it, but don't know how to do this, so here's a link. It's really nothing special, just beautiful high-desert mountains rolling by as we drive along.
https://youtu.be/Uoue1YgIDSA


Rayones, Tulbirt, and some street dogs! Rayones is the nuez (Pecan) capital of the region. The paved mountain road across the pass from Rayones-to-Matemoreles is one of the most beautiful roads anywhere!
 
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Phi1osopher

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Day five:
Day five was saved for some of the most beautiful drives in the region. The first time I came out this way was on my dual-sport motorcycle, and the road was not paved. Times have changed, and there's a good asphalt road, but the views remain perilously beautiful. We're headed up highway 20 from Santiago toward Laguna de Sanchez.



Laguna de Scanchez! This place is super cool for a lot of reasons. Laguna = lake in Espanol. There used to be a lake up here. I am not certain I have all the facts 100% correct, but understand about 12 years ago there was an earthquake that cracked the bedrock, draining all the water from this high-altitude lake. You have to appreciate that Monterrey is a very large, very affluent city, and Santiago is the scenic getaway just out of Monterrey. Laguna de Sanchez is just a little further up, but it's up a mind-bendingly beautiful drive, one of such perilous beauty that it's difficult to comprehend, even when standing in it's midst. And the road to get here until about 4 years ago was unpaved. This lead to a hug retro-cool dune buggy scene among the super rich of Monterrey, and they would rip up and down these mountain passes in their sand rail VW buggies, Baja bugs, Manx buggies, ATV's, motorcycles, and anything cool you could imagine. If you dig cool old air-cooled VW buggies, this region is full of them. Well, now days the super rich drive highly modified razor side-by-sides with mega-tweeked out sound systems, etc. We're talking about buggies that easily would cost $40,000+ here in the US. ....and they used to all go ripping up to Laguna de Sanchez to enjoy the beautiful lake and cool high-altitude afternoons.
Now that the lake is gone and the road is paved, there is less traffic, and it's easy for normal guys like Tulbirt and I to drive up there. The town has turned into a postage-stamp little village at the end of a road, struggling to stay alive with its beautiful waterfalls, apple orchards, and the small trickle of tourism that still goes out of it's way to go up there.
None of that really is important except this one thing: they have the best damn bootleg apple liquor any I know has ever tasted. The BEST Ever. I mean it's like an apple brandy that will make your mouth melt. They've perfected it, and even though it's technically illegal, if you know who to ask you can drive home with a few bottles in your luggage. So this otherwise boring photo is one of the guys I know who will run around town and find a few bottles for me! Wahoo!



Yes. It's so good, I'd drive to Mexico for a bottle. Can you see the full apple in the bottle? Can anyone guess how it got in there?! (They also make a crazy-crazy good local bootleg mezcal. ♥)



The drive along highway 20 out of Laguna de Sanchez was so beautiful, honestly, I didn't think to take many photos. But here one of where the mountains have turned into rolling valleys...



And that is the end of the trip! We drove from here 7 hours back to Austin. And it was amazing.



VIVA MEXICO!!!
 

jhax

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Great trip! I love how the line on the border is painted ever so slightly in favor of mexico. On the road trips thread I documented my trip from golden, co to las Vegas without taking interstates. By far my favorite trip.
 

ToddA1

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Thanks for the scenic shots. Was this the road test, prior to the bike race?

I’m guessing the bottles are tied to the branches with apple blossoms, and the apples grow in the bottles.

-Todd
 

Mozambiquer

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I really love that area of Mexico! (I love every part of Mexico I've been in, pretty much) I went down to Linares a couple years ago, we drove down from Missouri, in the summer time. Yeah, it was quite warm, but I loved it!
My gear head mind couldn't stop looking at all the old air cooled VW's, including a couple of really nice VW "Things"!
Yeah, I wanna go back! Last spring we flew in to Puebla and drove to Tehúacán. It's also very gorgeous there! Great photos though!

Sent from my KYOCERA-E6790 using Tapatalk
 

Jetta_Pilot

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You've barely scratched Mexico at just a bit south of Monterrey.


At the end of this month I'll be doing my usual fall drive to somewhere near Manzanillo, Colima for almost a 6 months stay. That's about 1,000 miles from Laredo or better Nuevo Laredo.

BTW: There is no Mexican state named Nuevo Laredo. Nuevo Laredo is the Mexican city across from Laredo and is in the state of Tamaulipas and so is Reynosa.


Otherwise a nice trip.



As for the apple. That's easy. They shove the bottle over the bud and let the apple grow inside the bottle !!!
 
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Phi1osopher

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Right about the Apples in the bottle!
Jetta Pilot, you're right about the NL being Nuevo León.. I get tired and sloppy sometimes with language. I should do better. I was trying to type at work..

I frequently travel all over Mexico. Guanajuato is my favorite city in the world, and I was there maybe 10 times last year..
Do you have any favorite spots to share? I'd love to check them out! I'll be on a 12 day motorcycle trip at the end of October, over the Day of the Dead, Dīa de los Muertos in Guanajuato city.
 

Jetta_Pilot

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You might want to check out Patzcuaro In the state of Michoacan. Pretty old town and they seem to celebrate the Dias de mortes all year round since they are obsessed with skulls and skeletons. Day of the dead in Patzcuaro.


Its on Lake Patzcuaro and there is an interesting island to visit, no cars or any vehicles.
 

Phi1osopher

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Jetta Pilot, I went there for the first time last year, and it was really cool!!! They now have a zip line from one island ot the next, which is kind of mind blowing. The view from inside the statue at the top of the island was fun and romantic. ♥
My friend was there for the Day of the Dead in 2017, and said the processional from the old cemetery was an amazing experience!
 

prsa01

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Looks fantastic!

Sadly I've only ever seen the areas around the touristy towns on the coast. Hopefully some day.

VERY much enjoyed the pics and info about the areas you went. You also showed some ingenuity with both the temporary and less temporary shift cable connection fixes.

Red Green "It's temporary ... unless it works" ;-) My wife would say our car exhibits evidence of a little too much of that philosophy.

Enjoy your b4v. We have loved ours as a utilitarian "truck".
 
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Jetta_Pilot

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Jetta Pilot, I went there for the first time last year, and it was really cool!!! They now have a zip line from one island ot the next, which is kind of mind blowing. The view from inside the statue at the top of the island was fun and romantic. ♥
My friend was there for the Day of the Dead in 2017, and said the processional from the old cemetery was an amazing experience!

A fact not known by a lot of visitors to Patzcuaro.
In the center core you will not see any store signs sticking out 90deg from a wall. The name of the store is painted above the doorway.
The very first letter is in red and the rest is black. The red is to remind people about the bloodshed freeing Mexico from the Spanish rule.
As in "Panaderia" meaning bakery.
 

Phi1osopher

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A fact not known by a lot of visitors to Patzcuaro.
In the center core you will not see any store signs sticking out 90deg from a wall. The name of the store is painted above the doorway.
The very first letter is in red and the rest is black. The red is to remind people about the bloodshed freeing Mexico from the Spanish rule.
As in "Panaderia" meaning bakery.
That is super interesting! Thanks for sharing!!!
 

Rennetto

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That's quite interesting indeed. Looks like you had a super fun time in Mexico. Have you seen a lot of VW's down there?
 

Jetta_Pilot

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That's quite interesting indeed. Looks like you had a super fun time in Mexico. Have you seen a lot of VW's down there?

Still quite a few aircooled VW's and the most are "Taxis" in the town of TAXCO. I doubt there are any left in Mexico City. A few years ago I had to wait almost 2 hours before I saw one.
 

Phi1osopher

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There are lots and lots of VW's in Mexico. The air cooled bugs were manufactured in Mexico until 2003(?). Normal, modern VWs are still made there; the Puebla plant produces the Jetta, Beetle, Beetle Cabriolet, Golf, Golf SportWagen and Tiguan Long Version, and many of my Mexican friends own and drive new VWs. There are also a popular (I think made in Brazil) sub-compact-Golf model , the "Gol," which is a cute, entry level, smaller car... It seems there are other smaller Mexico-only new VW's but I forget. *shrugs


VW Gol:



Here is a fun Jalopnik article on some the air cooled Mexican VWs:
https://jalopnik.com/i-finally-got-to-see-volkswagen-of-mexicos-secret-car-c-1836059542
 
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Koblet

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Nice trip! I've always wanted to drive a long way with an RV. Since recently I've been working in Europe (business trip) and I decided to perform driving in France from Paris to Marseille. It shouldn't take long and it should be very exciting.
 
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