#43 Drive Around North America #EpicAdventure

Day 14:

The last day. This will be a short post, as this, finally, thankfully, was a short day. It looked like this on the map:

#EpicAdventure - Day 14

The cat – finally – pooped in the litterbox before we left, and slept the entire way. It’s as though on the final day of the journey she figured everything out.

We headed out of our fancy Porn Hotel first thing in the morning; the bad news was no coffee… imagine our excitement when we came across the Italian Coffee Company in the middle of the highway, partway between Merida and Cancun!  A couple of cappuccinos and Americanos later, and we were on our way. Then a quick bypass of Cancun, a quick trip through Playa del Carmen, and into the line for the ferry to Cozumel. Woot! Scott has turned into quite the traveller, and even seemed to enjoy the ferry ride as well as could be expected.

#ScottTheCat taking her first ferry ride!

We’re home, and I couldn’t be happier about that!

home sweet home...

This journey was indeed epic. Over, and also out.


scott is a mexican now


Day 13:

Cosamaloapan, Veracruz to Merida, Yucatan. Took a while; looked like this:

#EpicAdventure - Day 13

The countryside was quite pretty, a lot of it underwater or close to it on this isthmus that connects most of Mexico to the Yucatan Peninsula.


Most of the roads were better this day, but the drivers. Jeepers creepers! There’s this system where the center line is dotted (presumably indicating that one can pass) and the shoulder line is dotted. If someone is trying to overtake you, you pull onto the shoulder on the right, and the passer goes by, partially in the oncoming lane. Works great I guess, as long as someone isn’t doing the same thing in the other direction.

scenes like this were not uncommon

As we crossed over this bridge heading to Ciudad del Carmen, the Gulf of Mexico is on the left, and the Laguna de Terminos is on the right.

heading to Ciudad del Carmen

We have been in this truck for a long time now. Getting a little punchy.

Finally, we enter the state of Yucatan, as darkness approaches.

We end up in another “auto hotel,” this one much nicer than the one last night. In this one, you speak to the reception desk on an intercom, they direct you to a room, you drive your vehicle into the garage and enter the room. Shortly thereafter, the receptionist shows up, rings the bell, and speaks to you through a small window – you never see them.  Completely anonymous. Money, instructions, even food and liquor pass through this window. We called it the “Porn Hotel.” Once more, we slept in our clothes.

Scott, fascinated with her image in the mirror on the ceiling in "The Porn Hotel"

Day 12:

Well, this was a long day; about 11 hours in the car, some of it on some very sketchy roads. Here is today’s route:

#EpicAdventure - Day 12

Our 616 km journey took us through the Mexican state of Veracruz, which was quite beautiful. There was a lot of farmland, most of which was growing stuff unknown to us. There were loads of orange groves, oodles of bananas and miles and miles of corn. There were many stands selling the wares from the fields, in addition to guys standing by the side of the road selling bags of oranges. It was a Mexico hybrid; made me feel warm and fuzzy as it reminded me of the Mexico I’ve come to know and love (unlike Reynosa!), and the farming made me feel like home.

the fields...

...the fruits of their labours...

There are several things here that catch my eye. The roadside grass cutting is done by an industrious crew of machete-wielding men, and at the beginning and end of the day you see them walking along the roadside with their food sack, a jug of something to drink, and their machete. Following them is a crew of guys where one has a pitchfork and one or two are stacking, and they collect all the clippings and pile them on the side of the road, presumably for pickup later.

Then there is the constant military presence. These guys look bad-ass; I won’t be messing with them anytime soon. When they stopped us today, the fellows at the roadside were enthralled with the cat (they asked us to get out of the truck, and when we did, there was a chorus of “Look! It’s a cat!” like they’d never seen one before.) This is what they look like most of the time: rolling down the highway in a caravan, with several Humvees with guys with machine guns standing at the top.

bad ass!

As we headed south around the Gulf of Mexico, this was our first view:

gulf of mexico

Great to be seeing some progress!

We stopped for the night in Cosamaloapan, Veracruz, at what is referred to as an “auto hotel.” These places are all over Mexico it seems. They’re popular spots to rent a room for an hour or two; the girl seemed surprised that we wanted the WHOLE night. It was dark and we didn’t want to drive any further, there was a restaurant, and a safe place to park the truck. The room was a bit of a dive; the cat chose to not sleep on the bed, but rather to sleep in her carrier on the floor (a first for her – after spending over 100 hours in that carrier, she gets out at most opportunities!). We drank some chianti, put on our long pants and shirts, and slept tentatively on top of the sheets.

This is why it’s Epic, I suppose.

not even the cat would sleep in this bed

Day 11:

#EpicAdventure - Day 11

Longest day so far, made so because it’s STRESSFUL crossing a border. I like Europe; it’s totally NOT stressful crossing borders there! So, the drive looked like this: about 675 kilometres from Zapata, Texas, USA to Tampico, Tamaulipas, Mexico.

We got a good early start and were enjoying Starbucks in McAllen, TX by 9: 30 a.m. Then we headed to the border, where we didn’t really know what to expect, what with visas, a cat, a truck, and of course, all of the stuff IN the truck. Turns out it was mostly a non-event, just a bunch of paperwork. Then came the “buying mexican insurance for the vehicle” part. Once we had the temporary importation permit, and we had visited immigration and customs, we had someone wake up the insurance agent… but his computer – sadly – did not wake up when he did. He spent the next fifteen minutes (and I’m not even kidding) madly sweeping his mouse about, clicking it, and pressing on the spacebar as fast as he could. 15 minutes. Finally someone called someone else, who banged on the monitor a few times. It woke up, we bought insurance and went on our merry way.

That was it; we were now in Mexico. No one asked to see the cat’s papers (there are several vet bills I’m not getting back), no one looked in the truck to speak of, no questions, no nothing. We got out of the immigration area and headed down the highway.

For about five minutes.

That’s when the police stopped us. Flashing lights. Foreign plate. Mexican policia. Sigh. Claimed we’d been speeding through a school zone (we weren’t) and told us we needed to go with him to the office to pay the ticket. $120. OR, we could pay it directly, on the spot for $60. I’m sure he thought that was quite a bargain! Matthew told the nice policeman (who had shaken both our hands when he stopped us) that he didn’t have $60. Well how about $40 then? No, I don’t have $40, I have $20. $30? No, I don’t have $30; I have $20. Turns out if that’s what you have in your pocket, that’s sufficient to pay the fine for speeding through a school zone. It’s a good thing that a friend of ours advised us years ago to always make sure you have a twenty in your pocket; no more, no less. More and they’ll take it; less and they just might haul you off to the hoosegow, but twenty ought to solve any problems with the policia.

As we were driving away from this debaucle, I asked “Did you get your driver’s license back?” Turns out no, it’s not in his wallet. OH MY GOODNESS. Visions of a fake passport having already been made and credit cards being printed flashed before our eyes. A quick U-turn on the highway took us back to the scene of the crime; seems the policia are doing a nice little business stopping foreign plates. First one we passed wasn’t our guy, but the second one was. Matthew asked him about the license, he said “I gave it back, no?” and it turns out it was in M’s pants pocket the whole time. Whew. Bullet dodged.

One more immigration/customs stop a few miles down the highway, and then a caravan of federales (or whatever – about eight trucks loaded with army looking guys with big machine guns, call them what you want) that we slipped into the middle of and just drove with them down the highway for a while. It felt partly creepy and partly warm and fuzzy in there.

About three hours into Mexico, we started to calm down – neither of us had eaten more than a Starbucks pastry, and it was a nerve-wracking day. We stopped for gas (half a tank, you know) and that was about it. We’re here in Tampico, in the Best Western with a locked yard to park in, had some dinner, now up for a good sleep and another day tomorrow. Not sure what the destination is; we’ll tentatively plan a few stopping spots so we can make sure we’re fed, watered, clean and safe by the time the sun sets.

nice view of sierra madre oriental mountain range

nice view of sierra madre oriental mountain range

Day 10:

Pecos, Texas to Zapata, Texas. About 750 kilometres, along this route:

#EpicAdventure - Day 10

What can I say about west Texas? It’s big. It’s big, and there’s nothing here. It gives Albuquerque to Roswell a run for its money in terms of barren. We did see several roadrunners (AWESOME) and an armadillo (road kill), both of which were on my “I hope we see…” list, so that was good. As always, I enjoyed watching the scenes change, and was again startled by how much the scenery can change in very little distance. Right around Del Rio, the barren, bushy emptiness was replaced by farmland, cattle and humans… then a few miles later, back to dead grass, brush, and pumpjacks.

driving through west Texas, take 1

take 2, this is near Langtry, where I hoped to see The River

take 3, somewhere south of Del Rio

take 4, somewhere else south of Del Rio

My uncle Mike is right; big, blue sky. The weather was beautiful, the drive was uneventful, we put some miles under our feet. We unwittingly killed a bird on the highway, but it was better than hitting the deer we encountered later, which was just standing there looking dumb. We watched a roadrunner try to commit suicide by running under the wheels of a truck, appearing to get hit, and then turning and running back into the ditch, no apparent harm done. Laredo took a bit longer than we had hoped, but we left with an oil change and a clean cat carrier. (Laredo is where we learned there’s no such thing as “just a little bit of poop” when it comes to #ScottTheCat.)

Tomorrow, a couple more hours until we arrive in McAllen, Texas, where we’ll check out the duty free store, the Starbucks, and then hit the border crossing into Mexico. I trust that the Rio Grande will be more spectacular here than it was in Albuquerque (where it was the Rio Meh) and all the spots we drove next to it.

Day 9:

In an effort to facilitate our preparation for the border crossing into Mexico in a few days, today we drove a bit farther than we have been; we made a little over 800 kilometres today. Here’s what Day 9 looked like:

#EpicAdventure - Day 9

Basically, the plan was to drive through New Mexico. I’d never been there before, so was looking forward to it. Well. It looked… barren. Desolate. Empty, bereft of wildlife, greenery, water, humans, farm animals, and traffic. We’d been watching and keeping track of license plates; somewhere between Albuquerque and Roswell, that game died a slow and very painful death. (To play the game, you need other cars.)

albuquerque to roswell, take 1

take 2...

take 3

We did see several deer.

Roswell, New Mexico is famous as the site of recovery of a crashed object, perhaps a UFO. Turns out the object – whether it was an alien craft, or, as the Air Force claims, a surveillance balloon – was actually recovered in Corona, NM. We didn’t care; I wanted to see an alien, so we stopped in Roswell and had some Starbucks. Here we are: Aliens!

roswell, new mexico

After Roswell, next stop TEXAS. The best part about this sign is that it is riddled with bullet holes.

YEE and also HAW!

Today, we tried something new and let #ScottTheCat out of her carrier; on her leash, of course, and never bothering the driver. She did very well, and seemed to enjoy – but not abuse – her new-found freedom.


We ended our day in Pecos, Texas. Matthew asked “what is the dark beer on the menu?” and was told, “I’ll have to check.” Then, upon her return: “It’s the Sam Adams Newcastle.”

God Bless Texas.

Day 8:

After a fantastic evening in Vegas, we headed east. Here’s what Day 8 looked like:

#EpicAdventure - Day 8

getting our kicks

We are currently in Gallup, New Mexico, where I have the song Route 66 constantly running through my head. Although we did it backwards from the song, we went through Kingman, Flagstaff and don’t forget Winona. (Incidentally, #42 on the list is “get my kicks on Route 66” so wait for that trip as well!)

We also made a quick stop in Winslow, Arizona, to stand on the corner and see how that worked out… as it turns out, Winslow is a bit of a sleeper town, so not much happened. We did snap a couple of pictures; we’re just taking it easy. We estimate that this is where we cross the halfway point; not certain, as we (obviously) don’t have our final mileage yet, but for now, this is 1/2!

standing on a corner in winslow, arizona

Arizona: deserty, shrubby, sandy, red dirty. No life to speak of, other than in a few small towns. Few trees. A lot of same-same.

arizona mostly looked like this

and some of it looked like this; watch out for rattlesnakes!

Day 5:

Odd day today. I have a business meeting in Chicago the next couple of days, so here is where I parted ways with my husband and our cat. They dropped me off at the San Franciso airport and then headed east on their own. For my part, I discovered that there are several Ghirardelli stores in SFO so I of course now am loaded up with awesome chocolates.

Matthew and Scott did this:

#EpicAdventure - Day 5

They’ve ended up in Las Vegas, where they will spend a couple of days (hopefully shopping and relaxing, not gambling!) while I meet with my work colleagues; and we’ll all rest up. I think the cat will appreciate a couple of days NOT having to be in the truck; she’s doing great, sleeping most afternoons, but is having some meowing time in the mornings while she gets settled.

On Thursday morning, we’ll head east from Vegas, toward parts unknown. I’ll be curious how the countryside differs from what we’ve been seeing. The vast majority of the wildlife we’ve encountered in CA has been raccoons – dead; I’m hoping as we head through Arizona and New Mexico, I’ll see an armadillo – alive!

Here’s Scott taking a walk in the Redwood forest; notice her eyes. She is evil.

Scott in California

Day 4:

Today began in Eureka, CA, with at trip to Starbucks, then headed south down Highway 101.

#EpicAdventure - Day 4

Shortly after we began we had to stop and clean up after the cat, but hey. As I said earlier, that’s not unexpected. The first detour of our day was to the “alternate route” called the Avenue of the Giants. Wow. Those redwoods are something else! Huge, ancient trees, that smell like wilderness and are utterly amazing. We stopped in this 32 mile stretch of highway a couple of times, to clean up after the cat, to drive through a tree, and to check out an observation point. Northern CA was all about trees.

wow! you're tall, tree...

Matthew, the tree hugger

After trees, there was wine country. Vines and vines and vines, winery after winery. We somehow missed all the turns to the wine, so took a short detour to Sonoma to visit a tasting room; it seemed like the thing to do.

wine country

enjoying wine country

Then a short drive into San Francisco over the amazing Golden Gate Bridge, into a TRAFFIC-FILLED ZOO that is the city. Finally, a bottle of California Pinot Noir, some clam chowder, and a nice piece of steak at the Hungry Hunter, just around the corner from our hotel. Oh, and I don’t care what anyone says about La Quinta hotels anymore; this room rocks.

local wine, local beer, and CLAM CHOWDER

As an aside…

this is where GPS Daphne said "turn around"

Day 3:

Another great (read: uneventful) day started in Cannon Beach, Oregon with a walk on the beach to take a photo of Haystack Rock, and is ending in Eureka, California with a glass of Oregon Pinot Noir and some Tillamook cheddar.

#EpicAdventure - Day 3

The Oregon coast is a beautiful drive; the view is amazing and I loved the many quaint seaside towns, at least two of which that had a road named “Lois Lane.” I found myself wondering many times if there is scuba diving there – there must be! Lincoln City was nice enough to put on a kite fest for our visit, and Coos Bay had some sort of a zombie thing going on; there were painted up people wandering the streets all over. Oregon is my kind of place, for sure.

they don't just mean Portland!

Once we entered California, it was all redwoods. Our original plan (if you can call what we have “plans”) was to stay a bit farther north. Klamath, was what the map said. We went there, and it took about five minutes to decide that if ever there was a place where you could imagine becoming part of a high school horror film, it was this place. The guy racing up the winding road, in the dark, with no headlights, hanging out the window of his car was the icing on the cake; we decided to keep going.

After today, our mileage total is 2314 kilometres, which brings us over the 25% mark for the journey. If you’re following the cat saga, today was the day she finally used the litterbox when we took her out of the truck for some fresh air! Yay! In a perfect world, she’ll use the box every time we stop, and refrain from going in the truck! Fingers crossed.

Tomorrow we head to San Francisco, possibly via Napa for a late, wine-filled lunch!

Haystack Rock, Cannon Beach, Oregon

Day 2:

A good second day! Started with Starbucks, is ending with a glass of wine, with lots of uneventful driving in between. Downright repetitive from yesterday, which is just fine with me.

#EpicAdventure - Day 2

We started out in Merritt, British Columbia and on the drive to the border crossing we discovered that it’s been so long since either of us have driven the Coquihalla, the toll has been removed and we didn’t know it. Huh. That’s $10 bucks I’m going to spend on a nice Oregon Pinot Noir tonight. The border crossing was Completely Uneventful; it did not live up to my horror stories and wicked imagination at all. We stopped at the Canadian side to declare all the items we were “exporting” and then it took about five minutes to cross the U.S.A. side. A piece of cake, and thank goodness!

border crossing #1

Then the drive through Washington; lots and lots of traffic around Seattle and it took a while to get past there. If you’re keeping track of #ScottTheCat, she peed three times in the truck today, but did not poop. Not sure if that’s better or worse than yesterday. 728 kilometres today.

Later… We’ve just enjoyed some clam chow-dah in Cannon Beach, Oregon, along with a bottle of local Pinot Noir and a nice walk on the beach where my toes got wet with the Pacific Ocean and a nighttime viewing of Haystack Rock. I love the sound of the waves crashing – there’s something about that that makes me feel like I’m the only person on earth. Off to sleep soon; tomorrow is a “vacation day” where we’ll sleep late, get up and drive wherever the heck we feel like (as long as it’s south) and stop when the spirit moves us to do so.

As we headed into Oregon, we turned toward the coast immediately, trusting our GPS, whose name is Daphne. Daphne took us here:

how far do you trust YOUR GPS?

Day 1:

A good first day! Started with Starbucks, is ending with a glass of wine, with lots of uneventful driving in between. Okay, the cat pooped once in the car, but it probably wasn’t her fault. (Editor’s Note: I have long thought of this #EpicAdventure as the alternatively titled “8,500 kilometres + 1 cat = #WhatCouldGoWrong” and so a little poop on Day 1, if not expected was not completely UNexpected, if you know what I mean.)

We left St. Albert at 9:45 a.m., stopped in Jasper for some sandwich love and stopped briefly on the highway to take in the awesome view of Mount Robson behind us (this is where the pooping incident was discovered). We stopped along the highway near Clearwater for some cat-adventuring (need to let her out of the truck from time to time) and then stopped in Kamloops for gas. My dad always told me that if you’re only going to fill half your tank, make sure it’s the top half, and so in honour of his good advice, that’s what we’ve been doing.

This was Day 1:

#EpicAdventure - Day 1

And here’s the best view from today’s 888 kilometres:

Mount Robson

Now some sleep and good vibes mental preparation for tomorrow’s border crossing.

Day 0:

I’m working on partially completing this item. “The item” is to drive around the continent. So far, the plan is to head from St. Albert, Alberta to Cozumel Mexico, like this:

The route. #EpicAdventure

The house is packed up, the truck is packed up, the cat is packed up and we’re ready to go. Just a little stop at our local watering hole with some friends to play a quick game of cork, have some beers, and say hello/goodbye… Many of our great adventures begin at Original Joe’s.


~ by ktatkins on October 6, 2011.

16 Responses to “#43 Drive Around North America #EpicAdventure”

  1. wow – look at the pic of Robson – FAB!!!! sounds like you’re off to a great start. take care my friends

  2. Look forward to hearing about your adventures on this Awesome Trip

  3. Wow! I didn’t know you were driving this time! I am very excited to read about your daily adventures. Keep blogging please!

  4. Cool photo of Robson – we have never seen it without a cloud shroud – that’s a really great sign for your trip.
    Be safe (not sure about those road photos…) and have fun! XOX

  5. looks like a great route enjoy the scenery.have a safe drive:)

  6. Eyes on you!!!

  7. What a great trip!!! Drive safe, see you guys in Feb!!!

  8. You’re lucky with the dark beer… in Wyoming this summer it was “Moose Drool”… 🙂 Hugs to all of you!! ❤

  9. Very interesting blog Kari. We’ll have to follow to see the other items on the list and to find out why you aren’t trying to meet Suzuki anymore. Cheers, Sean & Roo

  10. Glad to know you’re safe so far… have a good night!!!

  11. Enjoying your journey … travel safe! And, we’ll see you on Cozumel 🙂

  12. I esp love the La Quinta comment. I may email that to all or put it as a topic on a Monday call. 🙂 Thanks for that laugh, Kari!

  13. Welcome to your Mexican home.. and thanks so much for sharing. Good job, Scott!!

  14. How hot is it in that truck?? I loved your bad *ss account of border patrol and the twenty bucks for the policia. Will file that away for future reference. Road trips look fun! Esp w cat. =^^=

  15. […] We are safely back in Cozumel, after a fourteen-day drive! Click to read the story of our #EpicAdventure! […]

  16. […] post, like this one recounting the drive from Canada to Mexico, will have the recent day at the top. This means that […]

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