Well another trip to Mexico down, this time San Carlos, Sinaloa, MX. The last trip was to Kino Bay over Christmas. http://www.airforums.com/forums/f42/nogales-sonora-kino-bay-sonora-28917.html
This time it was for a quick spring break, TUSD splits their spring break into two short chunks so kids can go to Rodeo Days here in Tucson. I had not been to Guaymas/San Carlos in 20 years and thought a refresher would be nice since Kino was pretty slow. Turns out that Easter weekend in Mexico is the mother of all party's, who knew. So same way to get down, take 189 Mariposa truck entrance at Nogales, total tolls all the way down is 30$ for a 3 axle airstream. Paid all the tolls this time. Not nearly the police presence as their was over x-mas heading out of Nogales, saw maybe two all the way to Guaymas plus the usual Mexican Army check-point half way between Hermosillo and Magdalena, but only for North bound traffic. We took the Hermosillo highway bypass. The road past Hermosillo is free, 4 lane, and is in better shape than the toll road from Nogales to Hermosillo which is still not horrible but cruising above 65 is out of the question due to roughness, at least while towing. Which is probably fine considering the speed limit is about 62.
Our destination was El Mirador RV park. We took the exit to San Carlos just North of Guaymas and headed into the “Party Zone”. There were thousands of people lining the streets and cars everywhere, people camping on the beach, and on the side of the road. Beer tents had been set up all over the place, imaging towing your rig into a crowd of 100,000 drunk Mexicans. Both the wife and I had to change our shorts one we got to our destination. Good news is that this is a traditional holiday, there were police everywhere in town and they were keeping things under control. Turns out that El Mirador is all the way through San Carlos, around the bay, through the mountain gap and on the way to Algodones Beach and the recently built up back side of San Carlos (last 15 years or so). We took a traffic circle to the left and there was the RV park on the right hand side, well marked with a big sign. Also, ther e were signs all the way along about every couple of miles so it was easy to find. The park is new and facilities were modern, sort or, I only saw 30 amp connections, but the sewer connect was standardized for a screw in fitting for a 90 degree connector and water pressure was excellent. The “cable” tv had only 10 or so channels, was badly degraded on a few of the channels, and pretty much a non-event if this is important for you. But the water was decent, no pull throughs, put plenty of space and good spacing between spots. 95% of the park was retired American, looked like a guided RV tour was passing through and they made up about 20% of the occupants. They had two tennis courts in good shape, a fair pool, clean, and a hot tub. We did not use the pool or the tub, but they looked like they were in good shape and the water was clear.
There was a community restroom, separate men/women and with showers. The park also had a decent restaurant. Interestingly, I'd have to say the management sucked. My guess is that a rich Mexican owns the place and has his kid run it, he did not get up till 4pm one day but did have it open by 10 on other days, even though posted hours were 9am. Many of the palm trees were dead and it looked like the trash had not been picked up in a while. Could have been the holiday. Still, this was by far the best park in the whole area, I just hope the hours and upkeep was an aberration and not the norm since it was a really nice park, it would be a shame to see it degrade.
Both Tetakawi and Totonaka RV parks were on the main strip in San Carlos and were right next door to each other. It looked like a Best Western hotel franchise was running the Tetakawi place, while Totonaka was local. Both looked of equal quality from a distance. The facilities did not look as nice as El Mirador; however, they were directly across from a nice beach, where El Mirador is across the street from pretty much nothing but a bunch of desert and a bladed lot ready for construction. That said, the beach is less than 2 minutes away by car and that is not an exaggeration.
We also drove by Playa De Cortes Hotel and RV park in Guaymas. This was an old railroad hotel according to online history, we saw it in person. It is actually on the beach, is an historic hotel, and does have an rv park. The RV piece of the park is definitely not their main business. It was pretty grungy and tightly packed, however, it was also empty save for 1 nice motorhome and two families car camping. So you have the park to yourself which might make up for the somewhat dilapidated appearance. The hook-ups were 30 amp, but the sewer was ala “Kino Bay” style, a broken off pipe stub in the ground, at least the locations were standard and they looked useable. The good news is that it is in Guaymas and does not have near the beach pressure that San Carlos did. They had two tennis courts, one might have been playable in the 40's, but has long since grown over, the other was recently re-done and in Tucson public park shape (playable if you don't mind a few cracks). El Mirador's courts were in good shape, but not excellent.
We played golf at the San Carlos Country Club. Even though by Saturday a Federale told us the crowd at San Carlos was estimated at 250000 people, the golf course was deserted. We are golf hacks, so I can't rate the course, but for what it is worth will say the first 9 was well laid out and challenging, the back 9 was a bunch of basically straight fairways, the grass was green, and we were the only ones playing. It was 32$ per person with cart after 2:30pm for an afternoon special. We had a blast and took a break for Pina Coladas after 9 which were excellent and only 5$ for both and then finished just at sunset. The best course for the money I have ever seen is the public course in Page, AZ, this was about the same price and maybe ½ the course, but it was a great afternoon and a lot of fun.
Because of the crowds for the Easter holiday, we only went to the beaches to look. Algodones was the best, but as I said, there were people everywhere, cars stuck all over the place, and piles of white paper in all of the bushes, glad we had our hepatitis shots up to date. The locals all said this was once a year, usually it is real nice they assured us.
We walked around Guaymas, saw the square with the three presidents, got some fruit drinks from a stand and took a few pictures. Due to the holiday, maybe 2/3 of the town was closed, hard to say what kind of shopping opportunity it was. On Sunday, we drove South to Empalme, a nice surprise. They had a Sunday street market, mostly junk, but the atmosphere was authentic, the produce excellent, and we were the only Gringos in town and the kid at the out door taco stand treated us like kings so we tipped him like stupid Gringos and made his day.
Guaymas is home to a shrimp fleet, so there are good deals to be had if you like shrimp. Speaking of buying food, at El Mirador there is a guy who visits daily with fresh vegetables and shrimp, his vegetables are as fresh as any in the store but he is a bit of a fast talker and before you know it you have bought 70$ worth of shrimp and don't really even like it that much. OK so I am a push-over, but another guy in the park who had been there all season and had been coming down for years recommended the man, just be sure to say “No” when you have what you need. Guaymas has two major supermarkets, a Ley and a Soriana. The Ley is a US style Safeway, the Soriana is a regional chain. We did not go into the Ley but did shop at the Soriana and found it to be like a Super Wal-Mart with merchandise as well as groceries. They had fresh baked break, pastries, and a fish market that had pretty much everything you could catch in the Sea of Cortez on that particular day, it was all fresh and looked great, but I already had 10 pounds of monster shrimp to eat.
We did cruise the San Carlos strip at least a few times to take it all in. I'd say if you were between 18 and 25 and liked a wild outdoor drunk fest then San Carlos at Easter should be at the top of your list of things to do
. My wife and I, on the other hand, while adventurous, are not that adventurous, so a few pictures and back to the RV park for a quiet dinner was just fine. Totonaka and Tetakawi were right in the middle of the action, I am sure those residents did not sleep at might, life was pretty slow back at El Mirador except for the distant thump of Mexican music but that was overcome by crickets, a fresh ocean breeze, and a brilliant night sky.
We drove back home Monday, uneventful drive, took the correct exit on the way back and sat in line at the border for an hour and a half. But no problems, we both had our new passports ready to go and the custom's agent was more interested in talking UofA basketball than checking anything in particular except for our produce and meat products. My guess is that they are clever folk and checking a few drawers in a well stocked RV is not going to locate a bail of Mary Jane, but talking with the owners and seeing how nervous they get in 10 minutes might be a better approach, he did ask us twice at different times when we left for Mexico and we were on our way in 10 minutes or so after commiserating on yet another season down the toilet and the need for Lute to retire as he has had a good run, but the fire is gone and the coals are about done and the last several recruited teams are pretty much a bunch of unskilled idiots.
That was it, a nice RV park (hopefully it stays that way), great weather, nice towns, and lots of things to do. We would go back here rather than Kino Bay simply because the access to a close large town is far better and San Carlos is much more commercialized, which does have it's huge advantages especially when you need something. There are beaches, dive shops, restaurants, tennis courts, and a reasonable golf course all within 5 minutes drive. Total travel time was about 9.5 hours from steps up in San Carlos to parked in driveway at home in Tucson.