Thursday, August 6, 2015

A HAZARD OF TRAVELING IN MEXICO DURING THE RAINY SEASON

Stuck in the Muck!

The RV's Bogged Down and Not Moving Another Inch!
     We learned a valuable lesson yesterday about traveling in Mexico during the rainy season of July and August: Just because the ground looks dry on the surface doesn't mean it is solid under that crust! During our drive from Sayulita to Mazatlán, we only encountered a few areas of light rain. By the time we neared Mazatlán, the sky was clear blue with not a rain cloud in sight. The ground was dry, though the vegetation on the surrounding hills was bright green from recent rains. I remember thinking, "August in Mazatlán is beautiful after it rains". And then we arrived at Punta Cerritos Trailer Park....
    We pulled through the gate of the Cerritos Trailer Park into the dry gravel parking area in front of the office, ready to register for a two night stay. Suddenly, the motorhome was not moving forward. Jon put it in reverse and lightly hit the gas, to no avail. He looked at me and said, "Are we stuck?" Boy, were we ever stuck!
Jon said "We Don't Want to Dig it in Any Deeper!"
     After one look at the way the passenger side of the motorhome was mired down in the muck, Jon asked the RV Park manager to call a tow truck. The manager's first response was, "Yeah, we need to do something about that area." As he explained it, they had dug a ditch along that area earlier in the year during the dry season. They filled it back in with dirt only, no rock, and then raked gravel over the top so it nicely blended with the rest of the parking lot. Then the rain came....the rain filled the ditch turning the dirt into a wet, mucky clay. After a few sunny days, it looked dry and firm on the surface, but resembled wet modeling clay underneath. Our motorhome didn't have a chance of driving over the deceivingly wet clay without sinking a foot down --STUCK IN THE MUCK!
     When I asked Jon why we couldn't try to dig it out first, he said he had had enough experience on the job sites with trucks that were stuck that he had found the best approach was to tow it out before you dug yourself in any deeper. He said that if we continued to try to move the rig, we would just break the fragile seal of firm ground under the wheel and cause us to sink further into the sludge below. That would increase the risk of damage to the vehicle when you tried to pull it out. After 30 years of experience as a building contractor in rainy Oregon, he has pulled a lot of trucks out of the mud, so I'm glad he knew what to do.
Hooking the Chain to the Front Axle of Our Bogged Down Rig
     Our poor motorhome, with its 3 passenger-side tires mired in muck, was listing at a disturbing angle. She seemed embarrassed to be caught in this awkward position where everyone driving by craned their neck to see what the problem was, but she still had a smile on her face. She's a brave rig and knew we would save her.
     I recalled my dad telling me years ago that if your RV isn't level, turn the refrigerator off to prevent it from malfunctioning. I'm not sure how true that is, but my dad would be proud of me. I switched the fridge to the "OFF" position while we waited to get out of this mess. I couldn't think of any other helpful thing to do so, of course, I took photos so I could write about this as just another one of our adventures. What I really wanted to do at 5:00 in the afternoon after a long day of driving was sit by the ocean sipping a glass of wine, but that would have to wait.
An Impressive Tow Truck to Pull our RV Out!
     I was happily surprised at how quickly the tow truck arrived. When the RV Park manager told Jon that the truck would be here in a few minutes, I said "Sure, and we know how long a Mexican minute can be. It could be in five or six hours." But, in about 30 minutes a large, impressive truck arrived. Jon conferred with the driver and agreed with his price of 2000 pesos ($125 US Dollars) to pull us out. In another five minutes the two knowledgeable young men had a plan of action, lined up their truck and started hooking the chain to the front axle. 
     The first time the tow truck began to pull, the motorhome didn't even budge and the big truck's tires spun in the dry gravel! The truck driver told Jon he would need to drive the motorhome forward as the tow truck pulled and that did the trick! Here it is, my first ever attempt at video:
video

     We now know that during the rainy season of July and August along the Pacific coast of Mexico, we need to beware of boggy areas. After many inches of rainfall, then a few days of sun, the ground looks dry but underneath it may be soft sand or mucky clay. We had decided not to go to an RV Park in Celestino 50 miles north of Mazatlán because of reports of big rigs getting stuck on their dirt roads during the rainy season. Now we know it can happen in the most unexpected places, even the gravel parking lot at Punta Cerritos RV Park. It's best to be in a city like Mazatlán where they have the equipment to tow you out!