Sunday, January 17, 2016

MOVING TO MEXICO...OUR MOTORHOME WAS OVERLOADED! WHAT TO DO?

The Motorhome Was Packed for Our Move to Mexico

Dinette Area Was Packed Very Efficiently!
     Our move to Mexico required more work than we anticipated. As a result, I'm a bit behind on my writing. Here's my first catch-up article about our exciting move to Mexico....
     By October 21, Jon and I were ready to move to Mexico.  The motorhome was packed and ready to roll! We had sold all of our worldly belongings except a few of our treasures, tools, and necessities. We felt free!
     We had done some research on the Expat Blog (now www.Expat.com (for Mexico)) about whether to tow a trailer behind the motorhome to move our belongings to Mexico. The importation of personal property by land is allowed by Mexico, but only up to $300 per person (garage sale value) duty free. The consensus from the folks chatting on this Expat Blog discussion was that a trailer full of stuff might cause more scrutiny by the border guards. So we opted to cram as much as we could into our motorhome, trying not to overload it.
     Our carefully packed boxes, plastic containers, and black trash bags contained just enough for us to start our new life in Mexico. We planned to buy a casita, a small home with minimal furnishings, so we weren't bringing any furniture and very few dishes. The forty small "containers" of stuff we planned to bring didn't look like that much before we loaded it. But as we prepared to move our stuff into the motorhome, we realized the challenges were going to be:
     1. How to balance the load evenly throughout the motorhome, front to back and left to right.
     2. How to make sure we didn't overload the motorhome beyond the Gross Maximum Weight recommended by the manufacturer.
     3. How to keep the "containers" from shifting in transit.

    Jon built the dinette area into a temporary cargo hold, using a finished sheet of plywood for the front of the cargo box. We carefully loaded it so the heaviest containers were toward the front of the RV since the rear tends to be heavy naturally with the gasoline, water, and sewer tanks. Then we secured the load with a cargo net. 
     We decided that we would not use the slide on the dinette/sofa side of the motorhome while it was loaded this way to avoid the chance of damaging it. Jon shifted his heavy tools and air compressor to the storage units on the other side of the motorhome to balance the load. 
Shower Stuffed with Black Trash Bags Full of Linens
     The shower looked like another cargo hold to me. I lined the floor of it with anti-slip rug pad to protect the surface, and then filled the shower with our new trash containers packed with household items. I wrapped each container with a Mexican blanket to keep them from banging around. Then I filled the rest of the space in the shower with black trash bags full of blankets, pillows, and linens. I told Jon we could shower at the RV Park restrooms. No problem! We stuck a dowel in the shower track to keep the door closed during the drive, admired our work for a few moments, and proclaimed this a great packing idea. 
Bikes On the Back, Ladders, Fire Pit, Saw Horses, & More on Top
     Jon did a brilliant job of loading and tying down the large items onto the top and back of the motorhome. Each item that rested against the body or roof of the rig had padding to protect the body paint and the roof equipment. When he was finished, he had snugged down a load that included a 20 foot extension ladder, an 8 foot ladder, two stepladders, a metal and tile fire pit, 2 shovels and a yard hoe, and 2 saw horses. The extended hitch held the spare tire and our two bikes covered with a tarp. It looked great!
     We decided that in order to minimize the weight we onboard, we would carry only enough fresh water to fill the tank one-fourth full. We would keep the Gray and Black Water Holding Tanks as empty as possible, and only fill the gas tank to about one-third full all the way to Sayulita. Jon added air to the tires until they were at 115 psi, the maximum recommended, so that they could handle the weight we had loaded in to our rig. It drove like a dream....well like a boat, actually. Just a little sloppy, but otherwise pretty smooth.
     The next stop was a truck weigh station to check how well we had done on our weight and balance. First, we weighed the front half, with the 2 front tires on the scale: 7200 pounds. Then, we weighed the back half, with the 2 back front tires on the scale: 15,550 pounds! Oh, no! The right side was fine at 3450 pounds, but the left side weighed in at 7700 pounds! We were not only 2000 pounds (ONE TON!) overweight, we were still running much heavier on one side than the other. We had to come up with a Plan B for transporting our stuff to Mexico!
A Stop in Klamath Falls, OR to Purchase a Trailer
     After visiting out son and his family in Bend for the weekend, Jon decided we had to purchase a small trailer that would carry 2000 pounds of stuff and lighten the load in the motorhome. He searched for a trailer sales company that was open on Monday, and, surprisingly, there were none in Bend. He called around and found one that had just the right size trailer, but it was a three hour drive away in Klamath Falls, Oregon. We headed for it, driving slowly and carefully, holding our breath that our motorhome would handle the trip. Four hours later, we arrived at Eddy's Great Outdoors, where the father and son team who owned the company were ready to help us get set up with a new trailer. Jon paid for the trailer and parts we needed to extend the tow hitch. The hitch needed to be long enough to allow for the spare tire and bike rack. They wasted no time hitching the trailer to our motorhome. 
Jon Attached a Hitch Extension
    We drove to a nearby Wal-Mart parking lot and spent a couple of hours moving all forty of our "containers" of personal items out of the dinette area and shower and arranging them in the trailer. We also moved some of Jon's heavy tool boxes into the trailer to lighten the motorhome as much as possible. We tied everything down with cargo nets and ropes. Now we could fill the gas tank, let some air out of the tires, and hit the road! The motorhome drove so much better; we knew we had done the right thing.
     But, on October 29, when we arrived in the Palm Springs area, we noticed the tow hitch was scraping pavement when we drove into a gas station. We checked it and realized that the hitch extension was sagging, causing the hitch to drag. We decided we had to move the bikes and bike rack into the trailer which would require repacking the trailer. This was using up precious time and we had a deadline for arriving in Mexico. We were supposed to do the final walk-through on the casita we were buying on November 7 and close the sale by November 10!
The Hitch Extension Started Sagging and Dragging
    Late that afternoon, we parked at a casino where we could boondock for the night and repack the trailer. A nasty sand storm had started, so when we stepped out of the motorhome we felt like we were standing in a giant sand-blaster. We worked as quickly as we could to shift the boxes, making room for the bikes and bike rack, and then removing the extension on the tow hitch. By the time we were finished, everything was covered with sand, including us!
Repacking the Trailer in a Sand Storm
     On November 1, we arrived at the Mexican border. We knew the border guard would ask to inspect our trailer and we had come prepared. We had learned from www.Expat.com (for Mexico) discussions that having a list of items we were importing, written in Spanish, including the dollar values would expedite the inspection. I had labeled each container (box, tote, garbage can, etc.) with the "Container" number and contents. Jon had prepared an Excel spreadsheet that listed the Container Number, contents, and dollar value of each container with the total value at the bottom, just under $600 total. He had used SpanishDict online to translate the content names into Spanish. When Jon showed the border guard his list and pointed to the labels on some containers, he was satisfied. He only asked Jon to open two containers for inspection. Then he waved us on our way. Questions and answers we had received on www.Expat.com (for Mexico), our research, and our preparation had paid off. We purchased our Tourist Visa and our Temporary Vehicle Permit for the motorhome, and then we were on our way to our new home in Mexico!
A Welcome Rest at Mar Rosa RV Park in Mazatlan
     We arrived at Mar Rosa RV Park in Mazatlan on November 3. We were grateful for a three day stay at one of our favorite RV parks. We relaxed and enjoyed the city's weather, food, and beach. We now knew we would arrive at our Realtor's office in time to inspect the casita, wire our final payment, and sign the documents on the purchase of our new home. It had been a trying trip, but worth it!