Monthly Archives: December 2010

Our Lady of Guadalupe

Chula Burger

The best breakfast tacos in Laredo.


Peter, Paul and some Other Guy in Laredo, TX.

Paul was a phenomenal host, offering up a very cool home to two complete strangers. It was the perfect place to sort some things out and make a couple of runs across the border before taking the plunge.

Couch Surfing

Peter is a member of a couch surfing website. Many of you may already know the drill, but I am new to the ride. We sent a message to Paul in Laredo that we were coming through, and needed a place to crash. Paul had room, so we met up with him and chatted a bit and were promptly invited to a Young Rotarian Christmas party.
It was a great time. Most members of this rotary club seemed to be in their thirties. The party was held in a beautiful home, and the host & hostess were very gracious to include us in the gathering. The traditional Mexican meal pozole was served, and it was incredible. The first time I have had pozole.
There were some fantastic people at the party, who both cautioned me and encouraged me with regards to the trip. I received some very good advice on a more specific route south towards Veracruz, and was told which areas to avoid at all costs.
It was an incredible experience, and I consider myself extremely lucky to have been invited.

We did cross into Nuevo Laredo today, which was an absolute zoo. We went later than I had wanted, due to the party the night before, and it was a Saturday, but there was no way I could be prepared for the sheer number of people crossing. Winding around the corner, we found ourselves in the “Declaration” lane, and no one had any intention of letting us out of it. Luckily, an incredibly sweet woman customs agent on the Mexican side, stopped traffic and escorted us over to the “Nothing to Declare” line. Bless her beautiful soul.
It was absolute insanity with all of the people. The lines were horrendous, and the directions we were given to get the tourist visa and vehicle importation permit, took us to the wrong building in the first place. By the time we made it back over to the correct building and saw the lines there, I had had enough of the hours of clutching and braking. Peter agreed, so we will get up early tomorrow, go to the border and play things by ear after that. If we camp out tomorrow night near Laredo, neither one of us will be upset with that, if it means a good start past Monterrey on Monday.

Back on the road

We drove back into SA from our campground north of the city, and found the Rover out in the lot. The truck was done. I’d probably skip this entry completely, if it wasn’t for Mac, but he deserves the appreciation that is coming.
The guys at British 4×4 Centre, did a great job at getting the truck into the shop. When I called them from Laredo, they thought they had the wheel cylinders, but in the end, they did not. They were not available in town, nor were the rebuild kits. Luckily, I had Mac’s number from when he flagged us down on the road, so we called him and he was convinced that he had them and he would run the parts by the shop when he was back in SA.

Then the strange part of the story comes into play.

I called the shop prior to renting the car, and was told by the head mechanic that he had talked to Mac and he didn’t have the parts either. They would order the parts from somewhere else and get us on the road as soon as they could. So we rented the car, and went back to the shop to get the camping gear out of the Rover.
I was digging my Bibler tent out of the tool box inside the Rover, when I heard Mac’s distinctive voice behind me. He was talking to Peter and had a box of parts in his hands. I climbed out of the back wondering what the heck was going on.
Mac was incredible. He had the correct wheel cylinders and refused to take any money for them. He also offered us a loaner vehicle, but I turned that down, mainly because I had already reserved one, but I’m also not very good at accepting the hospitality when I can not return the favor. Peter was not happy when I turned the loaner car down, and he vented his frustration at me thoroughly that evening.
Still, I was preoccupied at the time by the idea that the mechanic seemingly had completely lied to me about Mac & his parts and I could not think of any reason why, all things considered.
Mac had driven his 1965 Series IIa wagon to the shop, so I used that to try to distract the temper that was brewing over the misinformation. It was a beautiful rig, and both Peter & I enjoyed going over it.
A major thank you goes out to Mac and his incredible generousity. He was a tremedous help in getting us on the road sooner than I either me or the shop expected. Hopefully the readers will send some warm thoughts and energy Mac’s way, because the guy was phenominal.
The brakes are not as good as they were when we dropped the Rover off, leaky cylinders and all. They did not do a good job in bleeding them, but I get the feeling they just wanted us out of the shop. Between the misinformation & the spongy brakes, I do not have a great feeling about the 4×4 Centre.

The Campground

It’s a beautiful morning here in Texas. Temps in the thirties, but with calm, clear skies. We pulled in after dark, so I’m a bit surprised by how many campers are here. The place is near capacity and it looks like the campers intend to stay here a while.
There is an airstream parked across the way with a little fenced in yard. Behind the fence are three blue healer dogs. Next to the bathroom is another airstream that is decked out with Christmas decorations, including an inflatable Santa peaking out the door of an inflatable pull behind trailer.

I’ve gone for a hike this morning and packed up all my gear into the rental car. I’m getting a bit antsy to get back to SA. Peter is in the bathroom warming up. Sounds like he had a miserable night. He brought two lightweight sleeping bags instead of his one good zero degree bag, and he regrets that decision. I’m not sure what he’ll do if he still wants to camp out at high elevations.


They didn’t finish the Rover. No excuse for it not to be done, but I’ll expand on that later.
Found out the Rover is too old to get Mex. Auto insurance through AAA, but they did give me the name of a company that would do it in SA.
I rented a car from Enterprise, which was right down the street. Had some incredible Mexican food for lunch, then escaped the city a bit to camp.
Hopefully tomorrow we will be nearer the border.

Ice fog

AJ: Ice fog happens in Fairbanks when it drops to -30 or colder.  When moisture hits super cooled air that can not hold any more moisture, we get ice fog.  The “extra” moisture comes from cars, homes, furnaces and power plants, as well as other sources.  It is complicated by our temperature inversions, where the warm air is found at higher elevations and the cold air is forced lower, trapping the ice fog.

My buddy Peter did decide to ride along for part of the trip afterall.  He arrived via Amtrak around midnight of the first visit to SA.  When we drove down to Laredo, we drove I-35, but on the return trip north, we went the scenic route and drove Hwy 59 to Hwy 16.  I drove to Freer, then had Peter drive north on 59.  About 8 miles out from SA, a very enthusiastic gentleman, who was standing on the side of the road next to a white pickup truck, was frantically flagging us down.  We assumed that he had passed us, and that there was something wrong with the Rover. Peter hit the brakes, causing the Rover to swerve just as the fellow walked closer to the edge of the road.
“Well, don’t hit him!”  I shouted.  I slid the passenger window open and the man said, “I’m sorry, but you just don’t see many 109’s out this way anymore.”
“Oh.  Well.  That’s ok.”
We chatted for a bit as traffic flew past us, and he gave me his cell number & email in case I need anything.  He has “tons” of spare Rover parts.  In the end, I gave him my email as well.
By now Peter had time to think over driving the Rover into SA, so I went back to the drivers seat and we left Mac waving us off.
I’ve never had that happen before.

Back to San Antonio

We camped out at Lake Casa Blanca last night in Laredo.  A beautiful clear night, although the wind did pick up during the night.  Some great people run the park, and several stopped by to see how things were going and we were met when we tried to exit the park as well.

Unfortunately, I noticed a wet tire on the Rover in the morning, which left little doubt as to what the problem was.  I googled some shops in Laredo, but few were interested in looking at an old Series, and none gave me confidence.
British 4×4 Centre in San Antonio were interested in looking at the old truck, so after a short debate, we made the drive back.  I figured I might as well have someone who know Rovers look the truck over.
Sure enough, the driver’s side front wheel cylinder was leaking, and they should have me back on the road by noon tomorrow.  We’ll see, but they had the Rover in the garage immediately, which says a lot.  I am also having them change the oil and dilute the antifreeze mix.


The Alamo