Chapter 2.  Mexico

Day 3 – January 15 – Tampico, Tamaulipas

(Shari) “Stay in the middle of the road,” Bert tells me, “Don’t stop.”

“But I can’t see the road”, I retort. “It is covered with water and all I see are little blades of grass sticking up from the water.” I have never driven a road in Mexico with an RV and since R-Pup-Tent is so easy to drive and I knew (or should I say thought) this road was easy and smooth, I offered to drive after lunch. Unbeknownst to me, the road is under repair and traffic is rerouted on the grassy area below the road. It being low ground and it having rained all day, the ground is covered with water.

“Now what do I do?” I ask when I see a big bus approaching me. “Pull over on high ground.” Meaning someplace that looks dry and not covered with water, I presume. I do so, stop and wait until the bus inches past. Clay says that he is glad this day is supposed to be an easy drive since he is now looking forward to tomorrow. My jaw hurts from clamping tensely on my teeth. My hands are cramping from gripping the steering wheel. I can hardly wait for our rest break so Bert can take over the driving responsibilities.

When we arrive at our destination, Bert uses a water hose to squirt off our muddy steps and sides. R-Pup-Tent looks like we just drove to Alaska. We arrive safely and park with one incident. One of us, while backing into a parking spot, cuts the turn too short and knocks out the rear window of their 5th wheel. I feel so bad for them. I see a group of men taping a strong piece of plastic over the window as I prepare for our margarita hour. This summer I bought a margarita machine. It is about four times the size of a blender and Bert has been grumbling all these months of it taking up too much space. But I made sure that machine went into R-Pup-Tent first, before anything else, even Bert. This is the first opportunity I have had to use it for a big group and I load it up with ingredients for four regular-size batches of margaritas. In goes the tequila, limeade etc. Then I add all the ice from my freezer to its fill line. I turn it on and a half hour later, I have nice slushy delicious drinks. It is wonderful. No more hopping in and out of the RV making batch after batch as each is finished. I can now sit around and socialize too. That little machine was a good investment and I bet Bert will have to agree.

After clean up we visit with Tom and Charlu and see their new rig. It is a Trailmanor trailer pulled behind a Toyota 4-Runner and really quite roomy. It is heavenly, especially when compared to the small rig they used on our previous trips. By the time we reach the restaurant for dinner, twelve others have already ordered. I find my favorite Mexican dish, a whole fried fish with rice, salad, chips and salsa. Bert and I both eat for under $15 including beer.

(Bert) My first bird sighting in Mexico is Great-tailed Grackle, perhaps the most common bird south of the border. Light rain reduces the birds we see on our first day in Mexico, yet doves come out in good numbers. Most impressive is the number of Eurasian Collared-Doves which easily outnumber all native doves combined. It was only four years ago that I saw my first Eurasian along this Tamaulipas route. Now they are commonplace. The hawks wait until mid afternoon to make an appearance and we see White-tailed, Red-tailed, Harris’s as well as numerous Crested Caracaras. The best bird of the day attributes to John who finds it soon after our arrival at our camping spot near Tampico. An hour’s searching by the rest of us does not get us a look at John’s Altamira Yellowthroat. A count-off during our “Welcome to Mexico” margarita party ends with a total of 67 species seen today.

Day 4 – January 16 – Poza Rica, Veracruz

(Bert) At yesterday’s travel meeting, Shari described today’s route as the toughest and roughest between Texas and Belize. Certainly the Tampico bypass lives up to that ill-favored distinction, but thereafter the route is much better than prior years. This time the new pavement is still intact with only a few potholes.

Through the years I’ve learned a lot about birding Pemex stations and after refueling I check out the wooded edges for birdlife. This time Mark and Joanie find a backside lot with Painted Bunting, Wilson Warbler and our first Melodious Blackbirds of the trip. At another Pemex we find Yellow-breasted Chat, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Hooded Oriole and Orchard Oriole.

The good roads get us into Poza Rica more than an hour ahead of schedule. The hotel has created a new campground at the bottom of the hill where the hotel building stands. Our travel logs do not show the details of how to reach the campground so after our first group of four rigs is settled, Shari monitors the CB and I stand in the boulevard to direct the next two groups of four toward the U-turn and to the entrance gate. I am surprised when the last group comes in led by Clay and Joyce, our rookie couple who are only into their second day in Mexico. After complimenting Clay on his bravado, he explains what really happened. It seems Tom and Charlu missed the turn entering Poza Rica – the same turn Shari and I missed one year – and Clay successfully made the turn only to find he was now the leader through one of the most congested Mexican cities we will navigate. He and Joyce performed admirably.

(Shari) For eight years, this stretch of road has earned its reputation as being the worst segment of our trip. The road starts out living up to its reputation at the bypass of Tampico. In fact the road has remarkably deteriorated since last year. After we reach the main highway, the pavement is often smooth. However it is dangerous to assume that it will stay smooth, so I continuously help Bert watch for dark spots in the road indicative of a pot hole or a tope or a break in the road. R-Pup-Tent curves and straddles the bad spots nicely. It is a shame that a newly surfaced road can already be littered with potholes. We hit some of them and I insist it is because Bert insists on birding as he drives. It just drives me nuts. It does not help that this group is so birdy either. Not good from my perspective. So the CB has constant chatter as to which bird just crossed the road, or what is on the pond to the right, etc.

We arrive at Poza Rica and continue up the hill toward the RV parking area only to find our normal parking place is undergoing some construction. A man in a golf cart comes out and intends to lead us to a different place. Now with our other rig this chore would have been difficult as we could not turn on a dime. But now we easily make a U-turn in the parking lot, as do the three others following us and we follow the golf cart to the bottom of the hill, to the right and into a newly graveled lot with full hookups and great electricity. The bathroom even has three clean showers with hot water. Nice, nice, nice! I get on the CB and lead the other two groups in as Bert stands out on the street marking the spot where they are to turn. Tom and Charlu miss the turn into Poza Rica and that makes Clay and Joyce the leaders of that pack. My goodness, they could not have picked a worse place to lead as through the city of Poza Rica. Clay reads me each street as he passes it and I assure him he is doing fine and to keep on driving straight until he sees Bert. I tell him Bert will see him before he sees Bert. He arrives just fine as do all the others.

Later the hotel puts on a welcome margarita party for us complete with delicious bean dip, guacamole and salsa. I am impressed with Clay as he tastes all four but decides he likes only the bean dip and maybe the margarita, which tastes like limeade, it is so weak. Joyce likes the guacamole. Bert and I eat so many of the snacks that I decide that it is our dinner. I stay and chat awhile with Charlu, Tom, Joanie, Mike, Kaye and Carol before we all walk down the hill to our rigs in a misty rain. When we arrive, we learn that the broken rear truck window is already being replaced. Now that is a fast fix! The insurance adjuster was just called this afternoon.

Day 5 – January 17 – El Tajín, Veracruz

(Bert) Ideal conditions of overcast skies, relatively cool temperatures and a light mist induce feeding flocks to be active throughout the morning. We are almost never out of sight and sound of five to ten active birds and sometimes dozens. Arriving before the El Tajín gates are open, we bird the wooded edges near the vendor settlement before any of the sellers have set up their booths. One of the first birds I identify turns out to be one of the best discoveries. A pair of Black-crowned Tityras, camera.GIF (1399 bytes) later to be succeeded by several other pairs, is unexpected. Range maps do not show this species extends this far to northeastern Mexico, but is consistent with other discoveries we have made at El Tajín in that the habitat here seems to parallel that of Gomez Farias, a popular foothill birding site for Texas birders reaching into Mexico.

To the checklist of birds we have seen at El Tajín since 2001, we add a few more species today. Far in the foothills, a Laughing Falcon laughs for nearly an hour. A Ladder-backed Woodpecker is an addition to the more common Golden-fronted Woodpeckers. Chris and others find a Dusky-capped Flycatcher and a Boat-billed Flycatcher makes several reappearances until all have seen it. Dorothy is the first to spot a Worm-eating Warbler accompanying a Golden-crowned Warbler. The best bird of the day for me is a Blue-winged Warbler that on further study turns out to be the hybrid Brewster’s Warbler. I am delighted to get several good photos of the fast moving bird that stays with us for a half-hour. Second best for me is a Tropical Parula which is the less common parula within the birding sites we will visit this year and a bird we might have missed for our trip list. We end with 72 species for the day and with the new additions my El Tajín checklist 2001-2008 now includes 121 species.

(Shari) I don’t know what takes me so long and before I know it I have spent three hours with caravan receipts, reports and e-mail. By 10:30 I walk over to visit Pat and help her with her new camera. I see no one else in camp and presume that all went to El Tajín with Bert to bird and look at the ruins. The day is gray, cloudy and drizzly and the birders come back earlier than I expected. Bert conducts a bird count off before our travel meeting next to the lovely pool and a few of us try out the margaritas. Hey, someone has to do it! I have arranged a dinner at the hotel and this year we have the buffet. It is a delicious meal of shrimp and cactus soup, salads, spaghetti, empanadas, baked salmon, shrimp stir fry, big individual steaks grilled just as you like it, desserts and drinks. I hear only good comments as we walk back to our rigs hoping to wear off some of the calories we consumed.

Day 6 – January 18 – Veracruz, Veracruz

(Shari) “I am superwoman, I am superwoman”, I hear Judy announce over and over. I have never seen her so excited about possibly having to use her 4-wheel drive truck to pull out Nelda and Gilford’s rig if they get stuck. The ground is very soft and Tailgunner Bob has concerns about someone getting stuck. All the men push Gilford’s rig as he drives to higher firmer ground and he successfully makes it without even spinning a wheel. Poor Judy has to wait for another time to be superwoman. I don’t know if it is the small rig we are driving or the improved roads or that I don’t have to worry about my dad or that the group is so terrific, but whatever it is, this year is more relaxed than any year I have traveled this route. I actually am getting to smell the roses a bit. Today we buy some hot tamales from a man selling them as we cross a tope. We eat them for lunch and they are good but not as good as my son-in-law’s mom’s tamales.

The road is so good today that we shave off an hour of drive time from previous years and make it to the beach at Veracruz by 1 PM. This is the first year I get a chance to walk the beach. As I approach I see a group already sitting on lawn chairs, birding the water’s edge. I decide to walk the shoreline toward another group of our birders. I pick up two starfish and two sand dollars to take as souvenirs. By 4 PM I am ready for a margarita and decide to start them early; someone has to be the first taster. I am on snack duty as well this afternoon and I make an artichoke dip that I serve with crackers. Pat brings a cream cheese pineapple dip along with spicy almonds and Dorothy surprises us with chocolate covered pretzels. I don’t think we have to worry about starving during the next 73 days. Half of our group is not back in time for a travel meeting and I decide to run it without them and let Bert conduct another one for them. That will show them to bird during a travel meeting. Ha! It is so pleasant outside that four of us remain sitting beneath the palapa, enjoying the sound of the ocean waves and the cool breeze after the meeting is over. While Bert fixes a broken shelf that collapsed from overloading, I take a shower in the restrooms. Unfortunately I am in for a rude awakening when no hot water comes out of the nozzle. I must say I am refreshed.

(Bert) I once regarded the State of Veracruz has having the worst roads in Mexico. No longer! Most of today’s travel is along nicely paved, fairly wide, unblemished highways and our travel time is so good we arrive about two hours earlier than prior years. Our campsite is on the sand dunes along the Gulf of Mexico and all of us head to the beach to enjoy the sea breeze and delightfully warm weather. Although not abundant, we do find shorebirds, most notably a single Snowy Plover which may turn out to be a unique find for our tour route. Joanie finds a distant Aplomado Falcon for us to see through the scope and a half hour later Chris has the good fortune to photograph close up as it dismantles an Inca Dove.

Joanie wanders off by herself and returns to report seeing a Rufous-necked Wren which we at first think is out of range. Many of us follow her back to the site across the entrance road in the dunes and find dozens of birds while we search for the wren. When we finally find it, I take lots of photoscamera.GIF (1399 bytes). Reexamining Howell’s range maps we see the bird is in range, but in a small 100-mile isolated pocket and is a subspecies of the more wide-spread nominate form. By the time we return to the campsite, Shari is almost done with the travel meeting, speaking to the few that were not out birding. As a penalty, she says I have to conduct the travel meeting for those not in attendance at the proper time. Okay, but first I conduct a bird count off and we are amazed at how many birds were seen in route today. When I add the ones we just saw here, it comes to a surprising 101 species today. I’m quite sure we’ve never seen that many on a travel day before.

Day 7 – January 19 – Villahermosa, Tabasco

(Shari) Feeling irritated at all the motor home shaking, I tell Bert to please be still and quit wiggling. He tells me he isn’t doing anything and I realize that the wind has picked up and is rattling our motor home so much that it shakes on its springs. We had heard last night that wind gusts up to 40 mph were expected today. I had hoped that the front would come in after we left but that is not to be. Our first group leaves promptly at 7:15. The intersection onto the main road has again changed and the signage is confusing. I jump out of the door and run across the street to ask a man “Donde es Pasa del Toro, aqui o ahi?” He points to the proper direction and we radio back to the other groups to take the left fork at the intersection. It is not until later that I realize the man actually understood my Spanish and answered me correctly. I must be improving.

The road surface has much improved on this segment of our trip also. Last year, I remember Tailgunner Bob telling the young lady at the tollbooth that she should pay him for traveling on such a terrible road. This is not the case this year and I am brave enough to take a 2-hr. driving stretch after our first break. We stop for lunch at my favorite statue and one of Bert’s favorite rest stops. He birds and I take pictures of the two men. Bert says the statues depict the friendship between the two Mexican states of Veracruz and Tabasco. I think maybe it is a dedication to the fantastic bridge in the background. After 90 min. I honk the horn to indicate it is time to depart. I honk again and I honk again and I honk again and I honk a fifth time. Finally Bert comes waltzing back and we take off on our final leg for today. The birding must have been good.

The rain starts soon after we leave and continues the rest of the way to Villahermosa. We witness the remnants of four accidents, including two fender benders and two overturned trucks. We arrive at the campground and are surprised that another caravan is already there. All the spots are taken and the area is covered with water from the rain. The manager puts us up farther toward the building and although we do not have electricity or water, we are on stable ground and fairly dry. Bert spends the next hour parking the group and I pay for the night and negotiate a fish dinner for our group as well as the use of the tables and chairs in the open air restaurant. It is Saturday night here and traditionally Saturdays are noisy party nights. When we arrive the music is loud but because of the rain, no people show up and the music quits at 6 PM. Thank goodness for the rain. We conduct a travel meeting, a bird count off and then have one of the greatest fried whole fish dinners I have ever tasted- all for only $3.50 per person.

(Bert) Again the highways are much better than last year. Even the toll road where last year we thought they should pay us to drive is much improved. We reach our lunch stop birding spot by noon and either forgo eating or eat quickly so that we can enjoy the birding. Common Tody-Flycatcher and Gray-necked Wood-Rail and nine warbler species are among our best finds during our 90-min. break. Winds are strong, blowing the birds into cover of bushes too tangled to penetrate with binoculars. But the high winds are a delight to the vultures, gulls and a hunting Snail Kite.

When we leave the area we have to drive more cautiously as the winds buffet us and heavy rains reduce visibility. Local drivers are less caution and some pay the penalty as we see four accidents in route. Winds have knocked down big tree limbs from the African Tulip Trees that line the boulevard into Villahermosa. Several of the drivers in our group have to swerve to avoid a fallen tree in the road and at another spot the branches may have been the cause of one of the accidents. When we arrive at our campsite we find another caravan is already there and have almost filled the usual sites. With the heavy rains the remaining sites are too wet and potentially muddy to use. So I direct our group to other sites usually used for parking cars. It takes an hour to get everyone parked and I’m glad I have a good raincoat and high rubber boots while I am standing in the rain. Fortunately the park has a protected restaurant for us to hold our travel meeting and bird count-off. As evidenced by the checklist, birding along the highway was again good and included Roseate Spoonbills, Wood Storks, Aplomado Falcon, Purple Gallinule, Limpkins, and Fork-tailed Flycatchers. After the count-off most of us stay for delicious deep-fried whole fish, a bargain at only 35 pesos per meal.

Day 8 – January 20 – Palenque, Chiapas

(Bert) Rain, rain, rain! In northern Mexico it was only a mist, central Mexico was a drizzle, and now in Tabasco and Chiapas it is just short of a downpour. The heavy rains have made the Palenque camping area soft and Gilford loses traction on his truck tires and six or so of us men push him until he gets started again. After that episode the last half of the group park up on the gravel parking lot. I cancel birding at Palenque Maya site for this afternoon, but as I’m getting e-mail while sitting inside R-Pup-Tent I see Clay, Joyce, Mark and Joanie birding the campground in raincoats and umbrellas. They add more to the trip list with Green-breasted Mango, Amazon Kingfisher and White-fronted Parrot. Chris reports an Ochre-bellied Flycatcher near where he parked his rig beside the rushing river. Judy finds a Black Phoebe, a species we have not found before in the Palenque area. Later I go out too and bird with Mike and Kay, studying a Rufous-tailed Hummingbird and comparing Solitary and Spotted sandpipers on the rocks beside the river. At 3 PM Shari gets most of the group together for board games and several of the men watch the Patriots win the football game. At 5 I give a talk on parrot identification, followed by the Green Bay Packers game and dinner. Back in R-Pup-Tent we run the generator, having no battery power all day. Something is preventing our battery from being charged and tomorrow Bob will take a look at the problem while we are birding Palenque – assuming the rain lets up.

(Shari) Rain, rain and more rain! I hear it all night long and it follows into the morning. On top of the rain, our battery is so dead that we need to start the car engine in order to start the generator in order to pull in our slide. The rain follows us all the way to Palenque and into the hotel parking area. The hotel is on the river and the grounds are beautiful. The place to park would be beautiful also except it is grassy and wet. Bert does not think we will get stuck and brings the rigs in one by one. Everything is fine until Gilford and Nelda make the drive down the muddy path and onto the grassy area. Gilford’s wheels slip and slide and he can get no traction. Bert calls for the men to put on boots and rain gear to come help push. That was all that was needed and Gilford is parked on high ground. The rain continues all day long. Some hearty souls - read “really serious birders” - go out with their binoculars and umbrellas. I see Joyce, Clay, Joanie, Mark, Lee, John, and Chris out there getting wet. Wearing Bert’s boots and carrying my umbrella, I walk to each rig letting everyone know of games and bird talk this afternoon and I am surprised at the number I find in the meeting room at 3 PM. Some connect to the Internet, others watch the football game and nine of us play Pegs and Jokers and later Catch Phrase. Unfortunately with my set of players the men beat the women. That doesn’t happen very often ;-). Bert talks about parrots and then we continue watching the football game until dinner time. We join Dorothy, Ralph, Bob, Arleen and Chris in the restaurant and I have delicious chicken cordon blue. I was going to cook tonight but our battery is still dead, did not charge on the trip over and does not charge from the generator. Tailgunner Bob will look at it when it stops raining, so I just have to eat out. You know I have not cooked in the rig once yet. When we get back to R-Pup-Tent we go right to bed. It is hard to do anything without lights. That is okay since it is already 9 PM and tomorrow is another early day. I do read a little bit with the aid of my flashlight but the rain hitting the roof lulls me to sleep. I wonder if the Packers won.

Day 9 – January 21 – Palenque, Chiapas

(Shari) By 5:30 I can sleep no longer since I am worrying if all the stuff in my freezer has melted. I toss and turn until Bert gets up and I can check the freezer. Surprisingly the ice cubes are still solid. We put on the generator and I make some cappuccino. Yum! I am to take a group to the ruins at 7 AM before returning to camp to fix our battery issue. At 7, it looks like everyone has a ride and our RV is not needed. Bob and I can get busy with the battery issue. As soon as Bob opens the battery compartment, he sees a problem. The cables are loose. He is quite sure that is why we were not charging. He cleans the battery and retightens the cables. We find an electrical socket next to the building and I drive over to it to plug in. After two hours, the battery is not charged. Now Bob tests each cell. Sure enough one of the cells is dead. We need a new battery just after four months on this one. I am forced to learn more Spanish words – words for battery, deep cycle, marine, dead, cell, special. I already know the words for buy, need and where. I ask questions with my words and I get answers that I don’t understand. At one point I tell a young man to “usar otro palabra” or use another word. He does and I understand. Off we go to town to look for a deep cycle marine battery. We stop at the Nissan dealership, hoping someone there will speak English. There is and she helps us find a place that sells the batteries we are searching. It is not far and I make a U-turn on the street. I just love this small rig. Bob gets out while I park and he finds an English-speaking man that works for the town’s tourist center. He then helps us with our purchase. A new battery is exchanged for the old one plus $105 and it looks like we are good to go. The battery reads good on the meter and it looks like it charges from an electrical outlet. I learn some more new words - after, extension and cord. Good thing I just love to practice my Spanish. The people are so friendly and so helpful that I find myself apologizing with” lo siento” all the time. Many tell me my Spanish is bueno. I suppose compared to someone who knows NO English, my little Spanish is better than their English. Later we meet at the restaurant and after a travel meeting and bird count we have another LEO - Let’s Eat Out. I wonder if I can eat out every night the whole way to Costa Rica. Now that is a goal!

(Bert) “Green Honeycreeper”, shouts Joanie. We look up toward the canopy at the Curassow Crest where the bird feeds with Orchard Orioles. The honeycreeper weaves in and out of the foliage and it takes a dozen minutes before all of us finally get a good view of the brilliantly plumaged bird. On another branch some dismiss a woodpecker as another common Golden-fronted until I command, “Look at its face” and they recognize Black-cheeked Woodpecker. Even a better find is the Chestnut-colored Woodpecker feeding just above us on the African Tulip Tree. Chestnut bird on orange flowers makes a pretty photo camera.GIF (1399 bytes). And a Violet Sabrewing hovers above another flower. When we move away from the Palenque museum area and round the corner of the forested stream, a Wood Thrush with a peg leg feeds on the edge, another good photo camera.GIF (1399 bytes).

It takes us several hours before we bird our way to the top of the hill and reach the entrance to the Palenque Maya site. While Mike and Kay hire a guide to explain the archaeological ruins, one group heads off to the foothills and Miso-Ha in Mark and Joanie’s RV and the rest of us slowly bird the Palenque ruins. Our first great find is a Violet Sabrewing, again feeding on African Tulip Tree flowers. A large hummingbird with a curved bill and long tail, its dark body silhouettes against the overcast gray sky and then shows deep violet when it hovers above the orange flowers. At the top corners of the temples the resident pair of Bat Falcons stands as sentinels over their domain. I wonder how many years these falcons and their descendents have claimed Palenque. Based on Maya stories, they could have been here at this same spot for over a thousand years.

Tom points out a bird perched quietly just below the canopy and I anxiously call attention to the others, for this trogon is one we see least often. I tell others to notice the white band separating the red breast from the green head. The Collared Trogon disappears before Joyce and Mike see it, so we patiently try to locate its new perch, but the dense canopy easily hides it. John shows up, having now returned from Miso-Ha and he has a recording of the trogon. A few seconds of the song brings the trogon front and center to investigate. Now everyone gets a splendid view.

Back at the entrance gate, we decide to hike one of the trails leaving from the vendor area and just as we do so we meet John, a young birder from Texas who discovered a very rare Snail Kite in Texas this past July. John tells us he found an ant swarm along the trail and will show us the spot. We follow on the main trail and then a spur until we reach the column of ants. The bivouac seems to be the base of a large tree and a stream of ants march rapidly in a narrow file from the base. I hear Red-throated Ant-Tanagers and we see Hooded Warbler and Tawny-winged Woodcreeper. The swarm front must be some distance from us since activity is minimal compared to when John found it being followed by a half dozen species. Tom sees a Dusky Antbird and we watch more Yucatan Black Howlers crawl through the canopy before we rendezvous with others to carpool to La Libertad.

I instruct Mike how far to drive on the country road and as we near the cow pastures I suggest we slow for a closer look. There they are: Double-striped Thick-knees still resting sedately in late afternoon sun. These odd looking birds with the droopy eyes never fail to be fascinating. Before we leave the area – some 40 species richer – a small flock of thick-knees fly over the road and into the opposite pasture, calling noisily in flight. As the sun dips near the horizon we head back to camp quickly for our LEO (Let’s Eat Out) dinner. After the meal I lead a bird count-off and with the diversity of habitats we visited today our list is an impressive 122 species.

Day 10 – January 22 – Chetumal, Quintana Roo

(Shari) Everyone is ready for our 6:30 departure. This is the longest leg of our journey and an early start is always wise. At our first agricultural check, we are boarded and refrigerator doors are opened. The officials are looking for poultry, eggs, pork and maybe dairy. Forewarned from past experiences, I have none. We all pass the inspection. Soon after we are stopped at a military checkpoint and I have no idea what the young man is looking for - probably guns or drugs. He opens every single drawer in R-Pup-Tent and scrutinizes my spices. Every one of our RV’s is thoroughly searched. The remainder of the trip is uneventful and we arrive in Chetumal by 3 PM, earlier than usual because of the many highway improvements. The sun is shining and the Caribbean is calm and the spot is as lovely as always, showing little damage from the hurricane that hit here last year. Some take advantage of the early arrival and do some wash. My “new” wringer from 1899 that I purchased on e-Bay is getting its first use. I start the margarita machine and actually get a chance to sit and enjoy the view. A worker goes out to get six bottles of liquor for me that Dorothy and Ralph have kindly agreed to take across the border for me. I hand out border procedures and discuss the day’s plans while we sip margaritas under the palapa by the beach. Joanie and Mark are using our spare water pump as theirs seems to have died. Tailgunner Bob spends hours taking their fresh water tank out, removing the old water pump and replacing it with our spare but it still does not work. I think Mark is a bit depressed until Mimie, a guest at the RV park, notices a valve on the outside of the rig. She pushes it just as Joanie had accidentally turned on the water pump and wha-la, they have water again. Now Tailgunner Bob will try to figure out why their battery looses charge and/or does not hold a charge. We find out that the campground has a washer and dryer for free and I tell Nelda she had better hurry to get her wash together before someone else grabs it. After the meetings and imparting all our knowledge, I feel much lighter and sit outside a bit longer to enjoy the ocean breeze before making a salad for dinner tonight. Yes, we actually are eating in.

(Bert) Explosive staccato bursts echoing from a red clay-banked pit attract my attention while others are refilling fuel tanks at a Pemex I’ve not visited before. Lee and I walk to the acre-sized pit and see Ringed Kingfishers excitedly flying from one bank to the other. We count two, then see another pair and a fifth and a sixth kingfisher: six Ringed Kingfishers at one time all energetic and calling. Holes in the steep banks look like they could be kingfisher nesting burrows. I didn’t realize Ringed Kingfishers were colonial nesters. We walk back to the RV’s just as the second group arrives. As we depart I radio them about the kingfishers. Later in the day at our count-off I hear they found other wonders in the Pemex area, including two Double-striped Thick-knees. I’ll mark that Pemex as one to visit again next year and stay a bit longer.

(Bert, again) After reading Shari’s journal, I am prompted to add a note about Mimie. Shortly after we arrived at camp, Jonna and Mimie come up to me to say hello and tell me they have been reading our journals for years and through a mutual friend who is also a journal reader they found out we would be at the same campground in Chetumal. Another coincidence is that Mike and Kay drive the same brand of RV as the two ladies travel in and Mike knows them through the e-group for that RV brand. E-mails have made us a small world!

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