Wednesday, November 21, 2018

RVING OUR WAY HOME IN MEXICO: From Nogales, Arizona to Sayulita, Mexico

The Trip Itself Was an Adventure!

Discovering Magical Places in Mexico
San Carlos, Sonora
     After crossing the border into Mexico, we looked forward to arriving at the Totonaka RV Park in San Carlos, Sonora. The majestic red rock of Mount Tetakawi and the sparkling blue Sea of Cortez greeted us as always, making us feel relief and joy that we were on our way home. It was hot when we arrived on that clear, sunny afternoon, as it usually is in late October. But as soon as the sun dipped behind the mountain, the breeze began to blow, and the evening turned comfortably cool.
One View from the Soggy Peso Bar
     Totonaka RV Park is a full-service, dependable location to spend a few days. The internet is good and the nightly rate is fair. We rested in the shade while we read our Kindles, caught up on laundry in the park’s lavandería, and spent an afternoon at the Soggy Peso bar watching the wind-surfers and listening to Mexican rock ‘n’ roll. Three relaxing days and we were ready for the next leg of our RV road trip.

North of Navojoa, Sonora
Yaqui "Dance of the Deer" Statue

     As we were driving south toward the city of Navojoa, we began to glimpse a very tall statue in the distance, rising up out of the desert on the right-hand side of Highway 15D. The giant “Dance of the Deer” sculpture has fascinated us for years as we have watched it being erected. We have driven by it twice each year, once going north to the border in early summer and again on our way south each autumn, wondering when it would be completed. It represents the Yaqui indigenous group in this area, a tribe that is known for a traditional dance done by a man wearing a deer head with antlers atop his head.

     While the sculpture has been completed for several years, the large park surrounding the statue has never opened, as far as we can tell. This year, we were able to pull off at the entrance to the park so that I could try to capture the majesty of this huge monument with a photo. It’s one of those shrines that must be viewed in person to be fully appreciated.

Álamos, Sonora
Entrance to Alamos

     We hadn’t been to Álamos in over ten years. Since that time, it has been designated a Pueblo Mágico, so we decided to make that our overnight stop between San Carlos and Mazatlán this trip. But that didn’t work out as planned! Does anyone know what’s up with the RV parks in Álamos? There are three listed in the last edition of Church and Church’s Mexican Camping book, but that was the 2009 edition. RV parks come and go (mostly go) in México, so we knew we needed to verify whether any of them were still open. We started emailing and calling all three to see which were still open.
     Jon called Hotel Dolisa and RV Park and was told they do not accept RV’s any longer. Their name and sign may still include “RV Park”, but it’s no longer true.
     Real de los Álamos RV Park was the next place Jon called. A man answered so Jon asked him in Spanish if the park was open. “Si,” the man said. Jon asked if there was space for our 28-foot motorhome. The answer was, “Si.” The answer is usually “Si” to questions we ask in México, but not always true. When we arrived at the gate on October 28, 2018, the gate was chained, the jungle was taking over the park, and there was no one around. We tried calling on the phone again. No answer. We sat in the motorhome, wondering if we wanted to check out the third and final option.
     Rancho Acosta B&B, RV Park and Guest Ranch is on the far side of Álamos and the directions said RVs longer than 25 feet should not go through the narrow streets of town. We could see that, as we approached the round-about with the Pemex on the corner, the only way for us to get there was to turn left, away from centro, and drive down the dry arroyo (dry riverbed). That is, if the arroyo was dry. The rainy season was just ending, so we wondered if there would be water flowing in it. 
A Pedestrian Bridge Spans the Dry Arroyo in Alamos
     When we reached the arroyo, the bank down to it was a bit steep for our rig and the riverbed was covered with fairly large, round rocks. I told Jon I didn't want to drive our “new-to-us” motorhome down that rocky riverbed. A local man approached us and said he could show us the back way around town to the RV park. I asked Jon to call them again, first, to make sure the park was open. No one answered the phone, so we never did find out if it was open. We thanked the Mexican for his offer of help and said we didn’t want to drive down a rough, dirt road for a mile to a place that we weren’t sure was open.
Good Place for Pollos Asados--Yum!
     We were hot, hungry, and tired by this time. The pollo asado store was doing a good business on this Sunday afternoon, and the aroma of the grilling chicken, the skin golden brown and crisp, drew us near. We parked the RV and I sent Jon to order a whole chicken with all the fixings, including corn tortillas, macaroni salad, and salsa. Since it was over 90°F outside, too hot for us, and 95°F inside the motorhome, I turned on the generator and air conditioner, and set the dinette table with paper plates, forks, and lemonade in preparation for lunch. It’s such a treat to have our little home on wheels with us all the time.
     While Jon and I gorged ourselves on the juicy, tasty pollo, we discussed our options for where to park for the night. Our Garmin GPS said it was only about 75 miles, a 2-hour drive on two-lane highways to Huatabampito. We had time to get there before dark, so we cleaned up our lunch debris and hit the road.
Huatabampito, Sonora
     Huatabampito was so much cooler when we arrived at El Mirador Hotel Restaurante & RV Park than it had been in Álamos. The cool sea breeze, salty tang of the air, and the sound of gently breaking waves were reminiscent of our home in Sayulita. We pulled our RV right up to the seawall and parked for the night. We were glad we had decided to leave Álamos and drive the extra distance to the beach.
Overnight Stay at El Mirador Hotel Restaurante & RV Park

     A young man and woman from the United States came over to talk about how excited they were to be traveling in México with their trailer for the first time. We exchange information about RV Parks farther south and wished them a good trip.
     Jon set up our beach chairs facing the Sea of Cortez, a good place to watch the few people on the beach. I pulled out some cheese and crackers, green olives, and glasses of wine. We threw the ball for Bella and proclaimed that Huatabampito was going to be our overnight place between San Carlos and Mazatlán from now on. It adds less than twenty miles to the whole trip and is well worth the detour to be on the sea. The restaurant at El Mirador is good also, just steps away when we don’t feel like preparing a meal after the long day of travel.
     Huatabampito has everything we look for in an overnight stopping place—the sea to cool and soothe us, an RV park with easy in and out access, a restaurant within walking distance, and a nice beach for walking. It even has a hotel for those without an RV.
Mazatlán, Sinaloa 
Mazatlan Sunset

     There’s so much we love about Mazatlán that we always spend five or six days there twice a year. The sunsets are some of the most spectacular we’ve ever seen.

A Typical Saturday Evening on the Mazatlan Malecon
     The newly refurbished Malecón (boardwalk along the ocean) is a perfect place to people watch, especially on a Saturday evening. Families and couples stroll or sit, enjoying the cool evening.
    We spent one Tuesday afternoon at the Diego’s listening to the Brenster sing country music. Saturday night, we were lucky enough to catch the “Wingin’ It” show with Lori Davidson and Rob Lamonica at Macaw’s in the Historic District.
Music by "Wingin' It" at Macaw's in Old Town Mazatlan

     One evening we decided to take our beach chairs, Bella, our wine bottles (yes, two wine bottles—red for Jon and white for me), and wine glasses to the beach for our happy hour while we watched the sunset. We got there right after the sun dropped below the horizon, but we were just in time for some great entertainment. A group of about sixty Mexican teenagers were having a wonderful time with sack races, three-legged races, and singing what sounded like camp songs, enjoying organized competitions that I haven’t seen since I was a youngster myself. Do kids even do these things in the U.S. anymore? They laughed at themselves and each other when the waves came up unexpectedly and caught them hopping down the beach in their gunny sack. We laughed, too, as we enjoyed watching their happiness and determination to win their games.
Gunny Sack Races on the Mazatlan Beach

     We discovered La Mona Pizzaria’s new location at Vicente Guerrero 213 in the Centro Historico, with the help of a taxi driver. It’s larger and has a nice big viewable kitchen (the pizza ovens are no longer in the back parking lot), but we preferred the ambiance of the original La Mona’s. The pizza and service are still as good as always and they still flip a coin on Thursday, heads or tails for a free drink. 

The New La Mona Pizzeria's Kitchen

     San Fernando RV Park in Mazatlán’s Golden Zone has changed again. Each time we arrive, it is smaller, though the pool is still there. Both ends of the park has been closed for the construction of condominiums. We wonder if the RV Park will even be open when we return to Mazatlán in July 2019. Thankfully, there is still the Las Jaibas RV Park and the Mar-A-Villa RV Park, though they require a longer bus ride to Old Town. We really like staying in the Golden Zone in our RV, where we are within walking distance of so many good restaurants, but those days are coming to an end. We’ll still visit Mazatlán often, but we’ll need to find a new favorite RV Park.

Puerto Vallarta, Jalisco
Church and Plaza in Old Town Puerto Vallarta

     Puerto Vallarta is our favorite big city in Mexico. Even though it is 25 miles past our home of Sayulita, we always make the extra trip in our motorhome to visit for four or five days before moving home. We love the Romantic Zone with its old churches, beautiful Malecón, restaurants, live music, and so much more.
Time to Relax in Puerto Vallarta after a Long Day of Driving
     We took a slightly longer route south from Mazatlan, passing near Chapalilla, to stay on the 15D toll road longer, making a wide circle around the small town of Xalisco (I recommend the book "Dreamland" for more information on that town), and avoiding the coastal road through San Blas, which was pretty rough when we took it two years ago. The route we took this year was a little longer, but we prefer it. After 315 miles and eight hours of driving from Mazatlán, we pulled into the Puerto Vallarta Trailer Park, relieved to be able to park in this peaceful, tropical garden setting and relax. 
     One tip about staying in RV Parks with coconut palm trees: remember to look overhead to make sure you aren't parking, sitting, or walking under a tree loaded with large coconuts. A single coconut dropping on the rig, on the dog, or on someone's head can cause serious damage.
Beware--Don't Stay Beneath a Loaded Coconut Palm Tree
     Dia de Muertos ended on November 2, so we arrived in Puerto Vallarta after the festivities. But some large, exquisite Catrinas (dapper skeletons) were still posing on the Malecón. Interspersed between the bronze sculptures on the walkway along the Pacific Ocean, the Catrinas created a whimsical contrast.
La Catrina on the Puerto Vallarta Malecon
     We strolled south on the mile-long Malecón, looking for the perfect seafood restaurant to celebrate our 25th anniversary. We have two anniversaries each year, one in November and one in February—that’s a long story in itself. This way we have an extra excuse to go out for a special dinner. We finally decided on La Palapa Restaurant, a wonderful beachfront restaurant that we had never tried. Yes, it was a bit expensive, but we couldn’t have asked for better food, wine, service, and ambiance. It’s two blocks south of the Los Muertos Pier, so we got a whole new perspective of its lighted sails and the romantic evening shoreline. 
View of Los Muertos Pier from La Palapa Restaurant
     Historic photos line the walls inside La Palapa, telling the story of its inception in 1957, when Rodelinda and her husband, Guy Dickey had a dream to open the first restaurant on the beach in Puerto Vallarta. Later photos show how it changed as the city evolved. 60 years old, and La Palapa Restaurant is still famous and successful.
     We will definitely return there, maybe on our next anniversary in three months. The evening was perfect—perfect air temperature, perfect company, perfect experience. Jon and I are living our dream—never a dull moment in México.

Sayulita, Nayarit
     We returned to our casita (little Mexican home) in Sayulita on November 14, exactly three weeks after we crossed the Mexican border. We certainly didn’t rush home!

Entrance to Sayulita Plaza for Dia de Muertos
     The plaza in Sayulita was still partially decorated from the Dia de Muertos holidays, looking colorful and festive. The archway at the entrance was covered with large colorful paper flowers.
Dia de Muertos Flags Fluttered in the Plaza Gazebo
Hand-made Skeleton Fish “Swam” Overhead in the Entire Plaza
     There are so many fun things to do in Mexico, the trip home is always an adventure! And as with each time we return to Sayulita, we are happy to be home. This is our fourth year since we left the full-time RVing life and moved into our casita. We know this year will bring many changes to Sayulita, a popular Pueblo Mágico, and there will be “never a dull moment” in this village. We look forward to being a part of the change, helping to make our town a better place, any way we can.
     After a week back home, eating our fill of seafood and Mexican food, we look forward to a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner at Don Pedro's Restaurant while we listen to the Spanish Flamenco music of Latcho and Andrea, the Blond Gypsies. Another adventure to look forward to. Happy Thanksgiving!

     I invite you to SIGN UP for my "Healthy Living and Traveling in Mexico Newsletter", published monthly with stories about our latest adventures, my recent blog articles, and news about my books. 

       My "Healthy Living in Mexico #4" eBook will be published in December 2018. Have you read the first three books in this series? Check out my Author Page and in Canada: I would love your comments on my preliminary cover. I will let you know in my newsletter when pre-orders will begin. Thank you for reading my books and blogs.
Terry L Turrell, Author 


  1. What a fun trip! The Dia de los Muertos decor in Sayulita is so pretty. I chickened out on RVing in Mexico after reading about so many parks closing, and it sounds like you encountered some of that. Not a problem as it's far easier for us to fly from the eastern US, where we have family, and arrive here in southeastern Mexico just a couple of hours later. But I do think your journey sounds like a lot of fun. Welcome back to Mexico and hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving!

    1. Thank you, Emily, for reading my blog and for your comments. After flying back and forth in 2017, we decided we prefer the easygoing pace and flexibility of RVing. We won't fly again unless it's necessary, because we would miss all the fun along the way. RV folks are still finding plenty of RV parks and helping each other online, sharing overnight spots they have discovered. Glad you are enjoying your time in Mexico. Life is good here :)

  2. Love this "RV travel in Mexico" post Terry ... I am sharing it with a friend who isn't convinced (yet) what a great place Mexico is to explore via RV. I'm working on it ;)

    1. Thank you for sharing! I hope your friend tries a short RV trip into Mexico to get a feel for it, like we did. Each trip after that, when we ventured farther, was more fun--and still is!

  3. Hello what is the road?Highway like from Mazatlan to Puerto Vallarta?

  4. Hi, Sorry I didn't see your comment until today. The road from Mazatlan to Puerto Vallarta is mostly good, especially 15D. We stay on 15D past Tepic toward Santa Maria del Oro and Champalilla. This bypasses Xalisco and much of Hwy 200. Then we turn toward Compostela and Chacala. It's a little longer to stay on the new 15D past Tepic, but we prefer the road. Do you drive an RV? The road over the hill to Chacala is pretty narrow and winding, so we take it slow and watch for oncoming trucks on the curves. Thanks for reading and commenting! Terry

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