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Northern Mexico pre and post COVID19 outbreak trip report

Northern Mexico pre and post COVID19 outbreak trip report

Old Aug 29th, 2020, 08:01 PM
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Northern Mexico pre and post COVID19 outbreak trip report

We had bought a condo in Omaha, back in December (sight unseen, though we’d stayed in an Air property in the same building) with the idea of using it when we visited our son and daughter in law, and then rent it out as an Air B&B when we weren’t there. Lol, who else lives in Mexico, but has a vacation home in Nebraska? So we headed to the states from San Miguel the last week in February to furnish and prepare it to rent out. There were several big time events planned for the year; NCAA Basketball, Berkshire Hathaway, College World Series, Olympic Swim Trials. 2 br condos were renting for up to $400 US a night for some events. The trip began normally enough. 1 night in San Luis Potosí, one of our favorite stops. But on the way, we first wanted to visit the ex-hacienda Jaral De Berrios, one of the largest and most important in Mexico. A bit out of the way, but hopefully worth it. When we got there, it looked locked up but I went up to the door and it was unlocked. A guard said a tour (self guided) was $50 mxn p/p, so we said sure, since who knows when we might get back. I walked 20 feet to the car to get money, but when I got back, the very same guy said it was closed for a meeting. Huh? That was odd and disappointing. I would have loved to have taken some pictures. Oh well. On to Saltillo. We chose a route through the Altiplano on highway 63 vía Charcas instead of the heavily traveled 57. A bit out of way again, but a pleasant, traffic & truckless drive. Passed through a number of unspectacular small pueblitos. I doubt I’ll take that route ever again, but it looked interesting on the map. Then a night in Saltillo, where we typically just wander around centro, grab a bite with a couple drinks, and people watch. But it was absolutely freezing and damp, probably the coldest night we’ve ever experienced in Mexico. So it was Church’s Chicken in our room at the Hotel Urindola, which had no heat. How different from Daniel Williams’ experience, where it was too hot! Otherwise, it was adequate, if not a bit on the small side. Secure parking next door.
Next on the itinerary was Piedras Negras, a new route for us as we opted this time to stay west of Monterrey and MEX 85 and the Texas I-35 corridor which we normally take. Piedras Negras was OK, but nothing special as it’s still a border town and a coal mining center (hence the name) and a large CFE power plant. Plus a massive Corona brewery. But it was fairly quiet and clean enough in town. With a Starbucks! Our hotel was the Autelrio Inn, comfortable and mostly quiet even though it was pretty busy. Dinner was at La Casa Del Senador, which reportedly dates back to the 1800’s. The place was empty and pretty pricey for a border town restaurant, not to mention average food. But walkable from our hotel. Cartel activity, real or perceived, has been pretty devastating for the local economies of border towns. We were there on a Saturday night and the town was dead. We walked around centro for about a half hour before returning to the hotel. Uneventful. On the way to Piedras Negras, we passed some pretty spectacular mountainous desert scenery between Saltillo and Monclova. Monclova, as a drive by, looked ugly and dirty. It’s a steel producing center, so lots of smokestacks and pollution. But a financial center too. Wiki informs that it has one of the lowest poverty rates in all of México. I’m sure it has its attractions, but it was easy for us to bypass. Should the need have arisen, I’d not have hesitated to get a hotel for a night, but it just didn’t fit into our itinerary. Maybe another time.
So on to Nebraska, details of which I’ll mostly avoid since this is a Mexico thread. But while there, I lost/misplaced my Permanent Resident visa card. It was my only ID with a birth date (Mexico driver’s license doesn’t show a birth date), which I needed in order to buy alcohol at the Walgreens across the street from our condo, as they check everyone’s ID. I mean, how else could you manage the COVID19 lock down without wine, beer and liquor? Fortunately, I had a laminated copy of my visa (illegal in Mexico but in Nebraska, who’d be the wiser)? So that worked out OK. Supposedly, the Mexican consulate can provide proof of residency (Acta De Internación) for a misplaced visa, but they were closed for 2 months. When they did finally open, they were clueless as to what I needed. Normally, that wouldn’t pose a problem since I never stop at INM when entering Mexico anyway. However, due to COVID, Mexico supposedly was restricting non-essential travel and unless I could prove residency, I was concerned I could have been denied entry if an overzealous INM agent (or whomever) decided to press the issue. Even though I have a Mexico driver’s license and Mexico plates on the car, you just never know with Mexican officials. Would I be hassled for a “tip”? Normally we cross at Laredo, but due to the aforementioned (and recent reports of robberies in Nuevo Laredo, we opted to cross again at Eagle Pass/Piedras Negras, a much quieter crossing). It was uneventful. Upon returning home, I found out that while Mexico agreed along with the US & Canada to restrict land crossings, the reality was they weren’t enforcing any restrictions at all.
On to Saltillo for our first night back in Mexico. We had decided to stay at Hilton & Best Western properties (due to enhanced sanitation protocols) in the states and in Mexico. In the US, we found the franchised hotels to be mostly following corporate protocols, though not 100%. Many guests were pretty lax as well. However, at the Hampton Inn in Saltillo, we were greeted with a shoe sanitizing mat, gel, masks required, temperature checks, and a inquiry as to where we’d been, who’d we’d been with, etc. To use the elevator, we first had to sanitize our hands and then use a Clorox wipe to press our elevator button(s). No breakfasts, no coffee, not even in room. Fortunately, we had anticipated this and had our own single cup unit plus enough food/snacks in the cooler.
Next, a not too terribly early departure for San Miguel, since it’s only like a 6.5 hour drive. Starbucks in hand, the trip was smooth with no delays or checkpoints, which was somewhat rare. We did notice that northbound traffic into Saltillo was being diverted from the cuota to the libre due to a rockslide just outside of town. Probably because of the heavy rains a week or so earlier due to the remnants of hurricane Hanna.
Back in San Miguel. After 5 months away, we were relieved that everything in the house was OK, no break ins, no power outage, just lots of dust. We were able to keep up with utilities and rent remotely by bank transfers since we’d long ago set that up with Santander etc. Of course, we had to restock certain things; groceries, etc. We live a few miles outside of San Miguel, so going into town subjected us to a ‘filtro sanitario’ where all motorists coming into town are subject to temperature checks and confirming that everyone were wearing masks. Much of that is aimed towards tourists from CDMX and Queretaro (of which there are still quite a few, at least on the weekends), with CDMX being a COVID19 hotspot. Once in town, all the stores and shops we needed to go to had the shoe sanitizing mats, masks required, gel dispensed upon entry, and some even took your personal datos like email, cell, and name. While we didn’t venture into the jardin/plaza, we did see sanitation tunnels in operation on the pedestrian streets leading into the jardin. I’d also read how the jardin is sanitized regularly. We have a friend who owns a restaurant who related that he and his staff have to have 8 hours of sanitation training protocols to receive a clean/safe rating for tourism, which the city as a whole is striving to achieve. The program, starting the 28th of August, (tomorrow, as of this writing) is called ‘GTO Sano’, and participating hotels and restaurants will be sending out QR codes to out of town guests that have made reservations, which will then be checked by officials as motorists enter town; don’t know how that’ll affect residents like myself, or what traffic delays will be like. I’m by no stretch qualified to speculate on how effective such measures might prove to be, but it seems a welcome change from what we’d experienced while in the US. But I applaud the effort, nonetheless. It can’t hurt; if nothing else it should raise awareness. So far, we’ve stayed home for meals, except for some carry out pizza. There’s a number of restaurants we know that have sufficient spacing and/outdoor seating that we’ll probably cautiously patronize going forward.
Well, that’s the report. Can’t comment on how any of that relates to other areas of Mexico. But it was a surreal trip, to say the least. How that just a few week’s stay turned into 5 months. Kinda like Gilligan’s Island. But it’s good to be back. There were times when we considered if should we stay in the states, or return to Mexico. We sold the condo. So this is home.

Hacienda Jaral De Berrios

A cold night in Saltillo


Sanitary checkpoint

Everybody needs a mask!
baldone is offline  
Old Aug 30th, 2020, 11:55 AM
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Very interesting. Thanks, Baldone. But "sold the condo"? I understand the impulse but a surprise ending.
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Old Aug 30th, 2020, 12:10 PM
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Thanks for the report!
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Old Aug 30th, 2020, 06:05 PM
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Thanks for this report! It’s hard for me to imagine Saltillo being cold given the heat when I visited, although when in nearby Monterrey maybe 15 years ago in January, I do recollect wearing a jacket and layering, so I really should be able to imagine. Thanks also for the pictures as I really do love that cathedral in Saltillo and the pink plazas.
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Old Aug 31st, 2020, 01:08 PM
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Mme, after COVID we just decided we didn't want to be in the hospitality business after all. Sold it in one day for 15k more than we paid, so that was good.
Mlgb, thanks. I want to post a few more short compilations of places in Northern Mexico we've been but I've never posted here. Not much activity here lately.
DW, I can still feel the cold when I review those pics!
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Old Aug 31st, 2020, 07:05 PM
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Good job on the resale. I completely understand not wanting to complicate your life. I envy you being back in Mexico. Times like this certainly help sort out priorities, don't they.
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Old Sep 1st, 2020, 12:46 PM
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Anyone want to post a report on Huatulco?
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Old Sep 1st, 2020, 06:16 PM
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Originally Posted by mlgb View Post
Anyone want to post a report on Huatulco?
Been 15 years. Felt my first earthquake there.
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