Sunday, August 1, 2010

Report from Mexico


We arrived in San Miguel de Allende last Sunday after a five day, 2500 mile trip from San Francisco. The journey, which included pulling a 18 foot trailer across the great desert--was fortunately uneventful.

At the border in Santa Teresa, New Mexico (near El Paso and Juarez), we passed through five checkpoints in this order:

1. US border patrol (checked my truckand its contents leaving the USA for the first time)
2. Mexican customs officials--at border
3. Mexican army--at border
4. Mexican army--ten miles from border
5. Mexican customs officials--30 miles from border

The only ones who actually looked in the back of our truck were the US border patrol. We were stopped and questioned by the Mexican army and customs officials, and at the last checkpoint, they checked the temporary import permit for the truck and trailer. But it never took more than 5 minutes at each checkpoint. So, given all, it went well.

I was worried about someone pulling the 1500 pounds of personal stuff (including engine parts) out of my truck, but none of them did. Having La Carrera Panamericana stickers all over the vehicle helped, I think.

I can only hope that the passage of the Coyote Convoy across the border in Nuevo Laredo in October will go so smoothly.

From Juarez, we pulled into Chihuahua City at 1100 hours and saw nothing unusual on that 230 mile stretch of road, except one army troop convoy. The next day, accompanied by my friend and co-piloto, Fernando Garcia, who lives in Chihuahua City, we drove another 11 hours into Aguascalientes, passing through Zacatecas (near La Bufa), again without seeing anything unusual. (The Carrera will return to Aguascalientes for the night next year.)

For most Mexicans, at least those living away from the border, life goes on pretty much like it did before the Mexican government's war on drugs started two years ago. Overall, the country seems busy and not suffering that much from the economic problems of the US and Europe.

The Mexican people, however, seem to be tired of the drug war and the constant reports of killings. The great bulk of those being killed, however, are drug cartel members' low-level enforcers. The cartels' gunmen have also killed soldiers, Federales, and local politicians in retribution.

Few believe that the current party in power (PAN) will continue in office after the elections in the fall. But PAN, a right-of-center group, is trying to form an alliance with a left-of-center group to stop the return of the old PRD party.

September is also the 200 anniversary year of the independence of Mexico from Spain, so there will be a lot of stuff happening this fall.

Here in central Mexico, a lot of people are largely unaware of the details of the war on drugs. It seems the details are more widely reported in the U.S. media, especially in the states along the border with Mexico.

With each trip into Mexico, I am impressed by the constant improvement of the roads and support services, such as the building of new Pemex gasoline stations. However, it is unfortunate that the surface of some of the new toll roads, mostly with concrete surfaces, are already in need of repairs after only 3-5 years of service. This suggests a certain level of corruption and/or a failure to provide an adequate base for the road surface. Even the roads in some of the smaller towns have been improved, but the bane of the rally car crew--those damn "topes" (speed bumps)--continue to spring up everywhere.

For those of you in California or coming to the Monterey Historics, remember the Carrera Fiesta in Monterey on August 14 at the Baja Cantina in Carmel, 5-8 PM. I hope to see some of you there, on my trip back from Mexico. Reservations should go to Bill Hemmer at

On the way down to San Miguel de Allende, I used a GPS tracking device know as Spot-2. You can report your location along the way, and send pre-programmed messages to up to 50 people. Also, you may send SOS or emergency messages to two people, who are tracking yur progress. I am testing the Spot-2 to see if it will be useful for Carrera cars this year. Remember, the cars had no GPS transmitters last year, for the first time in several years. I will make a full report on our experience with the Spot-2 when I return to San Francisco on August 15. The small, rugged device costs $149 or less, plus $99 for a year of service. The device can be monitored by cell phone and computer. For more info go to

Saludos amigos,