There are two roads to get from Celestino Gasca to Mazatlán; the free road (MEX15) and the toll road (MEX15D). To get to the free road you have to backtrack on MEX15D back up to La Cruz de Elota and then wind through town until you find MEX15. This is how we came in and I wasn’t particularly looking forward to repeating the trip. Much easier to just get on MEX15D right outside of Celestino Gasca, which is what we did. Well, I paid dearly for this bit of laziness. Once on MEX15D, there is no exit until you reach Mazatlán. That means that you WILL have to go through the toll booth. Mexico charges tolls for how many tires are on the ground. Since our little rig has duals back aft, that’s 6 tires. So, it costs us as much as many much larger delivery trucks. In this case, the toll was $188 (~$13US). Lesson learned, I hope.
I was happy that we’d spent so much time in Mazatlán back in early 2012 because, when we hit town, I knew my way around enough to not get too flustered by all the traffic. We found our way to the San Fernando RV park on Ave. Tiburón, which was the 2nd cheapest park we found. It’s a pretty small place filled with huge rigs that are here either permanently or, at least, all winter long. I think we’re the only bonafide transients here.
It was a little iffy finding a spot. Although the map shows that there are at least 6 available spaces, the winter-long snowbirds have managed to use up the empty spots to park their tow vehicles, their towed vehicles, their boats, etc. And, as you might expect, no one comes out and offers to move their stuff like they should. They just hide in their rigs and hope you’ll pick another spot. Finally found a spot that a young Mexican who was working on our neighbor’s rig had his car parked in. He politley offered to move the car so we could park. “No problem.” Gringos, take note.
It was over 90 degrees when we got here on Wednesday and the humidity was in the high 90s. By the time we were parked and set up, we were both sweating like a whore in church (Lulu loves that expression). We decided to go for a walk to reacquaint ourselves with the lay of the land. We walked two blocks down to the main drag and took a left. Followed the street all the way to the cross-street that goes up to the Mega Supermercado and then crossed and worked our way back. At the northern end of our walk we stopped in at Diego’s on the beach for a couple of cervezas and a plate of nachos. We’ve been pretty disappointed since we’ve been back this winter in that the beer just isn’t cold like it always used to be. We’ve told many people that there’s cold beer and then there’s Mexicold beer. Mexicold is beer that is just shy of crystallizing. We’re not finding that this winter. Finally had to ask for a couple of vasos con hielo (glasses with ice).
If you happen to go back to around December 20 or so in 2011 and reread the Mazatlán blogs, as I just finished doing, you’ll find that I was even more preoccupied than normal with writing about food. As I read some of those old articles, I found my mouth watering. There were definitely places we were going to have to revisit on this trip. And we got the visits off to a great start when we stopped in at Fat Fish on our way back to the RV park from Diego’s. Fat Fish has a perpetual special going: either two orders of ribs or two ribeye steaks dinners for a set price. back in 2012, that price was $160MX which, at the exchange rate at the time, was about $12.50US. For two dinners. The price has gone up about 10 pesos per year and is now $190, which at today’s exchange rate is still only about $13US. We had the ribs, which are bigger than the plate they’re served on and unbelievably tender. Ribs, baked potato, green salad, coleslaw, and bread, plus drinks and a tip cost us around $20US. Total. For both of us. As I found in rereading some of my posts from back then, this is one of the very few food bargains in the Gold Zone (tourist area).
We were off to a good start food-wise.
On Thursday we caught the bus and headed out to the marina to see if anyone was there that we knew. At La Isla Marina, where we stayed in 2012, we found Steve (s/v My Vice) and visited for quite awhile with Mike and Melissa (s/v Tortue). We also visited briefly with Al and Jillian on s/v Barnaby. It was good to see all these folks and to get caught up with what they’ve been doing and where they’ve been since last saw them.
From the marina, we decided to walk to our favorite produce stand where we bought only a few things since we hadn’t brought our packs with us. In keeping with our previous Mazatlán style, we then continued walking back towards the RV park. Ended up overshooting the turn, adding an extra mile or so to the walk. Lulu had her pedometer with her but we refused to look at it until we got back to Flipper, lest we be disappointed. It was a really long walk and, by about 4:30 or so, we still weren’t there. We were, however, getting hungry as we hadn’t eaten since breakfast. So, we pulled in to Carlos and Lucia’s Restaurant where we spent Christmas 2011. Their now married and quite pregnant daughter was most welcoming. Lulu decided to have Tacos ala Carlos (shrimp tacos) and I opted for the Steak and Fried Onions from the “More Cuban” section of the menu. If you remember, Carlos and Lucia are both Cubanos. My dish was very reminiscent of the Bistek de Res Encebollado that i had enjoyed at the restaurant above the central mercado when we were here before: Very thinly sliced steak fried up with onions. Nothing fancy, but oh so good. By the time we got back to the park, we had walked about 6 miles. Hm. Seemed like more.
We had planned to take the bus downtown to the old section and the mercado on Friday but, it being December 12, it was the Day of the Feast of the Virgin of Guadalupe so I was thinking that downtown might be a bit of a madhouse. Instead, we hung around home. My Kindle had died the day before. I probably caused it as it was in my side pocket and at one point I sat down and must have had it partly under my leg. I heard a small cracking noise but, on inspection, everything looked OK. However, the next time I tried to use it, the lower 1/3 of the screen stays obscured by the screen saver. A similar thing happened to my first Kindle (the screen saver part, not the sitting on it part) and it was ultimately fixable only be replacing the screen which costs as much as a new Kindle. Now, I gotta tell you, I panicked a little bit. Here we are, one month into a six-month Mexican road trip and my main source of reading material is broken. OMG, what am I gonna do?
My first move was to put a notice on the “On the road in Mexico” Facebook page asking if anyone was coming down soon and would they mind bringing down a new Kindle. While waiting for responses, I checked into the feasibility of just ordering one from Amazon and having it shipped to Mexico. I heard back from a couple folks on FB but one wouldn’t be able to happen until January and the other one was crossing the border too soon for me to get my ducks in a row but then was unsure when they’d actually get to Maz. I didn’t want to cause them to have to alter their schedule for me and I didn’t want to wait around in Mazatlán if I didn’t have to. I thanked everyone but decided to go it alone and order from Amazon. And, since Lulu’s Kindle is beginning to show signs of death in the form of permanent lines across the screen, I figured I’d just order two of them right now. The first surpise was the cost of the Kindle. The basic unit, the one I want, is on sale on Amazon’s website for $79. Well, turns out that the sale price doesn’t apply outside the US so the units would be $99 each instead of $79. OK, there’s $40 extra. The shipping was amazingly reasonable, I thought, for international orders. Using “Priority Courier”, the shipping was $14.99 per shipment and $6.99 per Kindle. Kind of steep until you realize that they’re predicting a 2-5 day shipping time. That’s not bad at all. Amazon also takes care of all the import duties and taxes and then just adds them to the bill. When I saw how much they added, it came out to 19% even though Mexico’s import fee is 16%. Must be adding a bit for their time and effort. Ultimately, I decided that the total cost of $265 for $158 worth of Kindles delivered in 2-5 days to us in Mazatlán was probably worth it. I placed the order. But, once the order was placed, they informed me that the expected arrival date was December 22 or 23. Wait a minute! That’s not 2-5 days. That’s more like 11-12 days. That means we’d also have to pay another $25/day or so for staying in Mazatlán, driving the price up even higher. I cancelled the order. There are a bunch of books in the cruisers’ exchange library here at the RV park and I’ll just have to start reading actual books until we get back to the US. I’ll probably be really tired of John Grisham, Len Deighton, Janet Evonivich, etc. by then but, beggars can’t be choosers I guess.
This hadn’t actually started out to be a treatise on buying from Amazon in Mexico. No, I only told that story to explain why I took the bus to Office Depot on Friday to see if they carried Kindles. They don’t. They had a few reasonably-priced tablets that I could probably use but we already have a basic Polaroid tablet that our son-in-law gave us that will probably work after I download a Kindle reader app. Until then, it’s John Grisham. Which is not bad, you understand. Grisham spins a very readable yarn. But, I do like a little variety.
On Saturday (yesterday) we took the bus downtown.
After Lulu got stocked up on bracelet string at the Parisina fabric store, we wandered around looking for a Movistar office so we could get our cell phone reactivated. Never did find one downtown but saw some cool stuff anyhow.
Once we had decided that we’d walked long enough to warrant lunch, we headed back to mercado and hiked up the stairs. Upstairs is lined with small restaurants down both sides of a walkway. Everyone is trying to entice you in to theirs. You can get amazing bargains up here where gringos don’t generally go. All of the restaurants have some sort of fixed price comida de la día such as chiles rellenos, sopa de mariscos, enchiladas de pollo, etc. All served with rice and beans and usually costing between $35 and $50 ($2.50-$3.50US), sometimes including the drink. But I had my mind on only one thing in only one place. I wanted Bistek de Res Encebollado at the place down at the end where we had eaten with Marj (s/v Kievet) back in 2012. Just like the stuff I had at Carlos & Lucia’s a few days ago, this was nothing really special when you just describe it. Simply a thinly sliced hunk of beef fried on a flat-top grill along with onions that have been fried to sweetness. Served with rice and beans and tortillas and accompanied by a large glass of iced horchata, there’s just something about the taste. I absolutely love it. Lulu, having listened to me wax poetic about Bistek Encebollado since our last visit to Mazatlán, decided she’d order it too. It was just as good as I remembered and I’m pretty sure Lulu wasn’t disappointed. Final cost, including drinks and tip: $150 (~$10.50US) for both of us.
Today, we decided to just sit around home. I did walk down to the beer store to get some beer and agua mineral but that was about it. On the way back I noticed that the little corner place was selling Pozole (hominy stew with pork or beef or, I suppose, chicken, but typically pork). We walked back and got a liter of that for dinner. Lulu had made some artisan bread yesterday which was really good but would only last a day or so. So, after we’d had a couple slices yesterday and then had eggs and toast for breakfast today, she made croutons of the remainder. I love pozole but it’s also an excuse to eat all those delicious croutons.
I just realized that this is the first post since we left our last stop. So, here are the mileages:
Celestino Gasca to Mazatlán: 57 miles
Total to-date: 6,703 miles.