"I've Been Everywhere, Man" Living the song on two wheels.

Discussion in 'Ride Reports - Epic Rides' started by swedstal, Jun 5, 2017.

  1. swedstal

    swedstal Been here awhile

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    Wait...isn't Xmas in the Southern Hemisphere in June? :-)

    Ughhh...I still haven't seen it. I might try to see if a theater here is playing it in English.
    KiwiPewe and Aces 6 like this.
  2. swedstal

    swedstal Been here awhile

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    Ok, everybody. By now you should know that I am an absolute travel genius. I invite you to bask in my glory as I share my simple 41 step plan for getting into Mexico. :thumb



    Step 1: Planning ahead is vital. Be sure to cross the border at the absolute busiest time. The Saturday preceding Christmas should suffice. Crossing at a busy time ensures that you get your money’s worth from your immigration experience. It will not be a brief stop.

    Step 2: Have some technical difficulties which delay your departure in the morning. You don’t want to beat the crowds (See Step 1).

    Ready to roll:

    [​IMG]

    Step 3: Take the West bridge over the Rio Grande. The traffic will already be backed up, allowing for ample time to study the amalgamation of belongings in the bed of the pickup in front of you.

    A good example:

    [​IMG]

    Step 4: Pay $3.50 to cross the bridge. Find the least spiky-est path to roll your motorcycle through the barricade.

    Step 5: Wait on the bridge to get into Mexico.

    Step 6 (optional): Give some change to the guy wandering through the traffic playing the accordion.

    [​IMG]

    Step 7: See the long lines of foot traffic waiting to get into the US and be thankful that you are not one of them.

    Step 8: After finally getting up to the gate, follow the guards instruction to just drive right through. Don’t take off your helmet. Don’t show your passport. Don’t ask any questions. Don’t tell them whether or not you have weapons. You are now in Mexico.

    Step 9: Make sure your parent’s vehicle is still behind you. Wave some cars around to attempt to travel in tandem.

    [​IMG]

    Step 10: Loop around to get to the big immigration building. You should probably tell someone that you are in their country.

    Step 11: Arrive at parking lot for said building to find it absolutely packed with vehicles. Assume the gentleman in the reflective vest knows what he is talking about and follow his instructions to drive down a steep muddy embankment to an overflow parking area beneath the eastern bridge over the Rio Grande.

    [​IMG]

    Step 12: Park vehicles. Tell your parents everything is going to be fine. Gather documents and march up the hill, across the street, through the parking lot to the immigration building.

    Step 13: Very important: Be sure to forget what the word “paso” means (“step” in English). Even if one of your favorite songs in Spanish is called Pasos de Gigante (“Giant Steps”). Remembering this word will make the process too smooth.



    Step 14: Follow what appears to be the main crowd of people to what appears to be the longest line. You will not be deterred by the sign saying “Paso 4,” because you no longer remember what this word means.

    Step 15: Begin to have doubts that you are in the correct line, even though you’ve been there for about 30 minutes already. Listen to your mother and seek out some assistance.

    Step 16: Find the staff member who is the tallest, talking the loudest and who is most demonstrative. He will be the most helpful. Use your Spanish to see if, by some miracle, he speaks English. He will respond in perfect English, explain the process as thoroughly as possible and remind you what the the word “paso” means.

    (Seriously though, that guy was awesome)

    Step 17: Follow the instructions of tall awesome guy to leave somebody waiting in the line for Paso 4, so you don’t have to wait there again. Choose the member of the party who is best at making new friends. My mother was elected unanimously.

    Step 18: Take your Father and your documents outside to find a smaller door with a smaller line leading up to Paso 1. Meet a nice young lady in line who speaks perfect English and who verifies with a staff person that you are in the right line.

    Step 19: Call your Mother to see how she is doing. She will have a new friend from Indiana by this time.

    Step 20: After a 30 minute wait or so, you will be at the front of the line. This is your big moment, don’t blow it.

    Step 21: Luck into getting a staff person who speaks some English. Explain that you will be in Mexico for more than seven days, while your parents will be here less than seven. There is no charge for a visa unless your stay is longer than seven.

    Step 22: You now have three Forma Migratoria Multiples (FMMs) in hand. Your mother did not need to be seen to obtain one. Maybe they’ve heard of her? A staff person will instruct your Father to just sign for her. Seems legit.

    Step 23: Following the directions of some fellow travelers, go wait in line somewhere between Paso 1 and Paso 2. The line is for a Banjercito (I’m not sure how to translate this…maybe like cashier/treasurer?)

    Step 24: Take the advice of another traveler in line to leave your Father in this line while preceding on to the line Paso 2. Paso 2 is basically just a little window for making copies. They also sell books and bibles if you are in need.

    Step 25: After waiting in that line, stroll confidently to the window. They will speak no English, but will be impressed by your ability to mix up the verbs “llevar” (to take) and “llegar” (to arrive/come). They will see that you have made some copies prior to coming and instruct you on which other ones you need (assuming that you can explain the situation to them in coherent Spanish). The lady here will also tell you that you are ready to proceed to Paso 4.

    Step 26: Go retrieve your Father from Paso 1.5…..or whatever that line is. He will have made a new friend by this point as well.

    Step 27: Attempt to return to Paso 4. Tall awesome guy will still be doing his thing, even though a couple of hours have now passed. Tall awesome guy will look over your information and your copies and let you know what else you need. He will inform you that you still need a copy of your Dad’s FMM (Visa form) and the original registration for their car (which will still be in their car).

    Step 28: Call your Mother to make sure she is OK. Let her know that you still have some hoops to jump through. She will now be at the front of the line at Paso 4, just letting people pass.

    Step 29: March with your Dad out the door, through the parking lot, passed the food carts, down the hill, back to where the vehicles are parked. Retrieve the registration form and march back the other way.

    [​IMG]

    Step 30: Go back to the line for Paso 2, the copy station. Hand over the 5 pesos for the last copy, Dad’s FMM.

    Step 31: A fellow traveler will ask if you can take her husband (not sure), David, to the front of Paso 4 with you. She has been very helpful so agree to give it a shot. David will speak some English and be a pleasant addition to the party.

    Step 32: Tall awesome guy will no longer be acting as a gate keeper for the Paso 4 line. Instead, tell the situation to an official looking guy wearing a flak jacket. In Spanish, tell him where your Mother is and inform him, “Somos tres.” (there are three of us) He will direct you around and lift one of the line barriers for. Position David between yourself and your Dad and sweep him to the front of the line with you. He will be very thankful.

    Step 33: Mom will appear to be doing OK. At this point you will have some regret at not teaching her the word “adelante” (go ahead). She has been getting by with a smile and hand signals. She has met some nice friendly people, though.

    Step 34: Wait for the instructions to go up to one of the clerks at the desk. Hope that you get someone who speaks English. The clerk will be a young gentleman who does not speak much English, but who is very helpful.

    Step 35: Do the document dance. Spread out all of your documents and hand over each one in turn. The customer at the next window will speak English and be able to help with a few translations.

    Step 36: Take care of your parents and their vehicle first. They will not need to pay for a visa since their stay will be less than 7 days. They will just need to pay a deposit of about $340 US to bring their vehicle into the country. (This fee is meant to discourage people from bringing in vehicles to sell. It is refunded upon exit)

    Step 37: Take care of your motorcycle. You will need to pay the visa fee, about $25 US, since you are staying longer than 7 days. Your deposit will be about $440, since your vehicle is newer.

    Step 38: Ask the clerk if he needs to see your Mexican insurance. Since you already paid for it, you kind of want to show it to someone. He will say to just keep it with you.

    Step 39: Ask about your parents getting their deposit back if they return over a different border. The clerk will say that is fine, but highly recommend steering clear of Reynosa, saying that it is “feo”(ugly).

    Step 40: After a multitude of stamps, signatures and stickers; you will be told that you are all set. Welcome to Mexico!

    Step 41: Exchange vigorous high fives with your travel companions.



    Phew! What an experience! We left our hotel at around 7:30am and were not done at the border until noon. It was a wild ride. However, I should make sure to mention that this sort of experience is not necessarily typical when crossing into Mexico. One of the people that my Mom talked to said that they do the whole process in about 20 minutes when they cross in the summer. More than anything, I think it was just bad timing.

    Furthermore, I can’t really say that it was a frustrating experience. Though it took a long time, we met so many nice helpful people who tried to help us out. There is almost a sense of camaraderie among travelers, as everyone is in the same boat. My parents were real troopers, too. As lost as I was with the language barrier, I know it was worse for them. They were still smiling at the end though.

    I think my parents were a bit surprised by the lack of English speakers and signage at the border. Linguistically speaking, the transition from English to Spanish takes place in Texas. Once you cross the border you shouldn’t expect anyone to speak English. Culturally, we probably only saw 3-4 people among the hundreds who would be considered Caucasian. We stuck out a little bit.

    My Mom commented about how amicable everyone seemed. No one in line seemed to be getting impatient. We never saw anyone get angry or upset with one of the staff. Strangers tried to help each other. Though this was a confusing experience, I can’t say it gave us a negative first impression of this country. Perhaps this is a good way to sum up Mexico: The quality of the people much exceeds the quality of the systems.

    Perhaps the best thing about our crossing was that we never felt unsafe at any time. Nuevo Laredo has some rough spots, but the area along the border is very well patrolled.



    That’s all for this episode! Next time we will learn the rules of the road in Mexico. They seem to be based purely on Darwinism. Thanks for reading!
    WEA$EL, scudo, bar-low and 20 others like this.
  3. btrrtlwtr

    btrrtlwtr Adventurer

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    never mind thx for reading . thx for posting your rr is great . hope you had a wonderful Christmas and wish you and your family well for the new year. safe travels
    swedstal likes this.
  4. ace1123

    ace1123 Adventurer

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    This still looks fun! Good luck through South America!
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  5. Lanis

    Lanis Full Time Wanderer

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    Hey Swedstal

    Thank you for the Ride Report. Binge reading this has been absolutely fantastic. The joy I have received from the many laugh out loud moments is one of the better Christmas Presents I have received this year !!!! (That, and a issue of the UK Adventure Rider Magazine).

    I admire your foresight in Step 17. Excellent problem solving. Use the tools you have available to find a quick solution. My mother would have done the same things for me. She, however, would have made it to the front of the line making everyone her friend along the way, then stepped into the booth to help the workers in there at 'Paso 4"!!!

    Step 40 must have been pretty gratifying!!!! Time for Street Tacos !!!!!!!!!

    I can't wait for more chapter 3 !!!! Please, please keep it coming.

    Lanny
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  6. Davidprej

    Davidprej Davidprej

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    I crossed on Christmas day and it took about an hour including me waiting in the line for those RETURNING, not those entering MX. Just wanted to rub that in..
    swedstal likes this.
  7. stillwater0302

    stillwater0302 g00ber

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    Just binge read the RR and am caught up to current time. We are blessed on ADV to have some of the best RR/travelogues anywhere. This one? One of the best!! Merry Christmas and am looking forward to the next installment.
    swedstal likes this.
  8. swedstal

    swedstal Been here awhile

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    Aww...thanks for the encouragement, guys. I spend a lot of time and effort on telling this story, so it is nice to feel appreciated. I hope I can keep up the quality level of the content throughout the whole journey.

    @Davidprej , I'm sorry to hear that your crossing went so smoothly. You really didn't get your money's worth. :-) Too bad it didn't work for us to meet up this time. Maybe we can get together on my way back through the states.
    Davidprej, MizzouRider and grindstone like this.
  9. swedstal

    swedstal Been here awhile

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    Saturday, December 23rd

    OK. We followed the 41 steps to enter Mexico. Now what?

    The border cities are considered some of the most dangerous places for travelers. Even though we felt safe in the area immediately after the crossing, we thought it best to get out of town in a timely manner. Time to roll back through our muddy lot.

    [​IMG]

    At one of the last stoplights in the city, we saw why Nuevo Laredo is so dangerous:

    [​IMG]

    Yes. A juggling Santa without a clearly displayed solicitation permit. This place is pure anarchy.

    We eventually made it on to 85D and began heading south.

    The road we took is a toll route. In Mexico, there will often be a free highway that runs parallel to the toll road. This was the case for much of our route. I did not want to take any chances with my parents, so we just paid the toll.

    Traffic slowed to a crawl for nearly 20 minutes at one of the booths. As we crept along I had a nice conversation in Spanglish with a couple of guys from Leon. They are riders too. I’ve gone back and forth about whether to leave the sign on the back of Annie for Chapter 3. It’s maybe not the wisest thing to draw even more attention to oneself. However, it prompted a very nice conversation in this instance.

    I have been a lot of places, especially in the central time zone. It felt a bit strange to see mountain ridges begin to rise in the horizon as we continued south. Maybe this marks the definite end of the Great Plains. We’re definitely not in Nebraska anymore.

    [​IMG]

    As I was thinking about it, I realized that this day also marked the furthest south I have been in my whole life. Though I’ve traveled nearly the entirety of North America and 12 countries in Europe, I’ve never ventured so near to the equator.

    Another traffic jam occurred as we entered the city of Monterrey. This was only stressful since I was trying so hard to keep my parents vehicle right behind me. Motorcycles are an easy target for people merging into the lane (move or be moved, basically), so it was hard to stay together.

    We both worked hard and were able to reunite once traffic thinned out. Driving through the city of Monterrey was a bit hectic, but there was not a ton of traffic. It felt like a real accomplishment to arrive in the parking garage of the Hotel Monterrey Macroplaza.

    [​IMG]
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  10. swedstal

    swedstal Been here awhile

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    After the driving was over, everything just seemed to go great. There was a very helpful gentleman named Saul working the desk. He spoke great English and made sure we had everything we needed. The room was nice, the view was nice and the location (right on the plaza) was perfect. Plus, the internet speed ranked in the top 5 of my whole trip. The room was just $70/night for the three of us.

    [​IMG]

    Monterrey is arguably the most developed and modern city in Mexico. It is also huge, home to about 4.5 million in the metro area (comparable to the San Francisco Bay Area in California). It is possibly the most expensive city in Mexico, excluding the areas that cater exclusively to tourists, but we found prices very reasonable.

    Our first meal was an all you can eat buffet just two doors down from our hotel. It was crowded and busy, but was only about $5 per person. I explained to my parents that “nieve” is the Spanish word used both for snow and for ice cream. My Dad observed that in this country “nieve amarilla” (yellow snow) is not necessarily something to be avoided. :-)

    We walked around the plaza a little bit after our meal. The whole area felt both welcoming and secure.

    First look at the Neptune Fountain:

    [​IMG]

    Despite the confusion of our border crossing, our first day in Mexico was a smashing success.
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  11. swedstal

    swedstal Been here awhile

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    Sunday, December 24th

    In Spanish they call Christmas Eve “Nochebuena” (literally “good night”). We had a great day traipsing about the city. My Mom’s fitbit showed 6.62 miles by the time we were all done.

    We began with breakfast at another local restaurant. Good service, good food and a waiter who was patient with my Spanish. All of this was about $14.

    [​IMG]

    My Mom never feels at home in a place until she has her hands on a map:

    [​IMG]

    There was so much to see within a short walk of our hotel.

    The Cathedral:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The municipal building on the south side of the plaza:

    [​IMG]

    Monument of the sun:

    [​IMG]

    The big orange thing is called the Monument to Commerce:

    [​IMG]

    As we were walking back north along the plaza, we were met by Moto Santa:

    [​IMG]

    It didn’t look like they were accepting tips at all. They were just riding around passing out candy and taking pictures with people.

    Neptune in the daylight:

    [​IMG]

    At the north end of the plaza is the Government Palace/Museum of the state of Nuevo Leon. Kind of like in Nebraska, locals seem to have pride in their state as well as their city.

    [​IMG]

    All along the grounds there were creative nativity displays, sponsored by local businesses. A cement company had this one:

    [​IMG]

    A bicycle company had one made of old chains, nuts and bolts. It even has Satan in the background holding a pitchfork. :-)

    [​IMG]

    Just off the plaza is the Museum of Mexican History. There was not much English to be found, but we still saw some interesting displays.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The following chart really struck me. It shows a graph of the indigenous population during the colonial era. From 22 million to around 2 million in about 75 years. Oooof…

    [​IMG]
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  12. swedstal

    swedstal Been here awhile

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    Next up on the agenda was a boat ride. There is a canal called the Paseo Santa Lucia which connects the Plaza area on the west with Fundidora Park on the east.

    [​IMG]

    There were lots of families out and about so there was a bit of a line. This was a prime opportunity to grab some churros. :-) My ticket was $3, but I was able to get my parents’ tickets for $2 by explaining that they were seniors.

    [​IMG]

    Paseo Santa Lucia is sort of like the riverwalk in San Antonio. Very picturesque. There are some shops, but a lot of it runs through park areas.

    [​IMG]

    On the boat ride we got our first view of “Luztopia.” “Luz” is Spanish for “light” and “topia” is Spanish for……”topia,” I suppose. It is a grand holiday display with over 200 metal framed, cloth covered figures.

    [​IMG]

    Fundidora (which means “foundry”) Park is a wonderful place, both in terms of concept and execution. Monterrey was a major steel manufacturing center for much of the 20th century. When the industry went bankrupt in the 1980’s, the industrial area was converted into a huge public use park. They still have some remnants of the steel era around.

    [​IMG]

    This is perhaps the most iconic Monterrey picture. The fountain is made out of a cauldron/crucible from the steel days. Cerro de la Silla (Saddle Mountain) is in the background. I looked hard, but there is not really any way to get Annie up here unfortunately.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    We walked further into the park and saw Horno 3 (Oven 3), a steel manufacturing building that has been converted into a museum/restaurant. You can also take an elevator to the top for a panorama of the park. Unfortunately, it was closed this day.

    [​IMG]

    Our plan was to visit the Luztopia light display this evening, but Christmas Eve is the one night when it is closed. Both Mom and I overlooked this information. We were also under the impression that the boats stopped running at 5pm, so we started walking back. They appeared to be running at least until 6pm though. Ahhh….the joys of not quite understanding everything. :-)

    We used the extra time to bulk up on some of the body weight exercise equipment along the way.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    It was a really pretty walk.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    A fire juggling unicyclist back in the plaza:

    [​IMG]

    We had had a full day, covering a lot of ground. We arrived back at the neighborhood of our hotel looking for a place to eat. Being that it was about 6:30pm on Christmas Eve, we found lots of places closed.

    My Mom did quite a bit of research before we arrived (a really nice break for me!). One of the places she wanted to make sure to eat at was a restaurant where the waitresses dress up like nuns, Las Monjitas (the little nuns). Unfortunately, we had no idea where it was.

    As fate would have it, we turned down a side street and almost bumped in to a “sister” in full habit. We verified that they were going to be open for a bit longer and walked down the half flight of stairs into the eclectic eatery. We couldn’t have found the place if we were trying.

    [​IMG]

    We were the only ones in the restaurant and we had great time interacting with our waitress and the cook. When I told her the man to my right was my “Padre,” she looked at me inquisitively and crossed herself.

    “No, no es mi sacerdote, es mi Papa!” (No, he’s not my priest, he’s my dad!)

    We had a good laugh. They were very encouraging of my parents use of Spanish words and told me that I needed to be their teacher. I made sure to order a Dos Equis, which is brewed in Monterrey.

    [​IMG]

    Christmas Eve dinner is always a special time and this one was very memorable. Though we were a great distance away from the rest of our family, these people really made us feel like we were a part of theirs. I’ll never remember what I ordered for supper that night, but I’ll always remember how welcome I felt.

    [​IMG]



    ….and at this point, we’d only been in Monterrey a little over 24 hours. There is still lots to come! I hope I didn’t overdo it with photos in this post. When you have three people you get three times the pictures! There were so many interesting things. Our adventure will continue in the next episode.
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  13. swedstal

    swedstal Been here awhile

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    Realtime update: We are still in Monterrey. Still enjoying ourselves. Tomorrow will be our departure date. My parents will head back to the border at Laredo. I will continue south to San Luis Potosi.
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  14. Bigbore4

    Bigbore4 Long timer

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    Just found your RR and am in the middle of binge reading. Made it to page 16. You're doing it right! Whenever you get back to Minnesnowda to visit family and friends, shout out for happy hour or burgers or whatever. I am in the north metro, be great to meet you.

    I am an old fart with a riding problem. I've been to 34 on a bike, 13 other (work) for 47. I enjoyed your challenge, made me go back and review my spot tracks and maps. Good Stuff!

    I see by your track you are in MX now. Enjoy your time there. The food is amazing and the people wonderful.
    swedstal likes this.
  15. vicmitch

    vicmitch Been here awhile

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    Great, so happy for you , great to have your parents along for the first part of the Mexico trip. If you want to do some insanely great riding on the next stretch, take 85 out of Monterrey to Linares and follow sign to Iturbide. Fantastic ride through the mountains. On to Matehuala and San Luis Potosi.
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  16. Bigbore4

    Bigbore4 Long timer

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    OK, caught up and officially following.

    FYI, not sure of your Brasil Visa status, but when you get it set read the fine print. Several years ago my boss was left odd man out at immigration in the airport at Sau Paulo. He had a 5 year multiple entry visa, obtained a couple / few months prior. He missed the stipulation that required the first entry had to be within x number of days. He missed the deadline by one day and was denied entry.
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  17. Davidprej

    Davidprej Davidprej

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    As per your Spot location, we were right down the street in Monterey. I should have PMd you but I only have (had, long story) my phone, so not conducive to checking Advrider PMs.

    I´ve gotten so much from reading Advrider, in fact I wouldn't be in MX now if not for it, I feel obligated to write up a "first ride in MX" report. Coming soon... Short version - comparing expectations vs. actual experience, this is one of the best trips of my life (even with leaving my phone in the taxi), and I´ve been around a little (Italy, Egypt, S. Africa, Caribbean, etc.) although not by motorcycle, so maybe that's the X factor.

    I look forward to hearing about your MX experience. From my short time here, they are definitely your type of people. Nice, genuine, helpful, sincere...I could go on. Really, you will get along fine with them. I wished I´d learned more (some) Spanish before I came.
    swedstal likes this.
  18. MizzouRider

    MizzouRider Long timer

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    Great updates. Looks like you are really enjoying this part of the journey. Still thinking about that population drop! Wow! Pretty sad..
    thanks for taking the time to keep it going.


    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
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  19. swedstal

    swedstal Been here awhile

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    Will you quit reading my mind! :-) I will have some gifs of said road which are sure to lock up your computer soon. :-) :cob

    Good looking out. The Brasil visa has definitely been one of the biggest headaches of this chapter so far. I'm planning to get it when I am in South America. I will have quite a few chances at different consulates on my way down. The one in Buenos Aires said they can do it for sure.

    Shoot! I should have given you my number. I'm eager to hear your thoughts on MX too. It seems like it exceeds almost everyone's expectations.
    B10Dave, KiwiPewe and Davidprej like this.
  20. swedstal

    swedstal Been here awhile

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    Realtime update: I'm in San Luis Potosi. I have lots of media ready to go, but am having some internet issues. Updates coming soon!
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