The Schaub Family in Belize
Date: 28 April 2002
Well, we finally made it to Belize. It took nine days to drive the bus from Aylmer, Quebec to Corozal, Belize -- 7 full days of driving with 2 days spent at border crossings. They said it couldn't be done (and possibly shouldn't be done), but I drove the 3500 miles alone and often into the wee hours of morning. Crossing the Canada-US border at Thousand Islands was a breeze. I drove the bus while towing our Pathfinder SUV. Towing wasn't so bad, but it definitely slowed me down through the hillier areas in NY, Kentucky, and Tennessee. The generator wasn't working and the propane/DC/AC fridge was not running on propane so there was a lot of demand for electricity from the newly installed solar panels. As long as I didn't try running the air conditioner or the desktop computer installed in the bus, the solar panels provided enough power for the GPS, laptop, lights, fans, and other accessories without the need for external power.
Averaging 50 miles an hour, it took 4 days to get to the Texas-Mexico border in Brownsville. Sorry for not stopping to visit any of you that may have been along the way, but I just simply did not have the time. Lila and the children were flying down on the 23rd and they would be waiting and wondering where I was for several days as it was. Driving 12 to 14 hours per day (not including stops) , my hands and butt were numb -- and it kept getting hotter and hotter (it was snowing back in Quebec).
The only real glitch was at the Mexican border where I had to get a driving permit before crossing the border. After about an hour of preparing the proper paperwork, I was told that one driver cannot bring in 2 vehicles. So I was returned back to the States where I had to leave the Pathfinder behind in storage. The next day I attempted another crossing at the Free Trade Bridge at Los Ingnios (a wider crossing more suitable for trucks and RVs) where I spent 4 hours going through customs. After inventorying everything and evaluating the value, I paid $350US for the privilege of driving through Mexico for a week. I would have to spend another 3 hours at Mexican customs at the Belize border to make sure I still had everything I came in with (plus another $50 to leave).
Three days of brutal driving through Mexico was taking its toll on me. There would from time to time be wide lanes but most of the time it was on 2 lane roads with no shoulder other than a 10 foot drop -- go over the shoulder and you're done -- no railings, just the occasional cement post to mark the edge of the road. I was told by just about everyone that you should not drive through Mexico alone or at night -- I did both, but I will tell anyone else the same thing -- don't do it. Near Villa Hermosa at 4am on a toll road (MX180) I encountered a string of logs lined up across the highway. It was too late to stop by the time I saw them. The bus crashed through them, but if I were in a car or a regular camper, I would have definitely been in trouble. They were no doubt a trap and if I had stopped or been disabled, I am sure that the bandits who placed these 5-foot long by 1-foot high logs would have come out of the shadows. Just one more day...
I arrived at the Belize border at about 10pm and was told that unless I wanted to pay duty on the bus and all my stuff, I would have to come back in the morning to get the temporary importation permit I would require. So I returned to Chetumal, Mexico and camped out another day. The next day after going through Mexican customs (2 hours), I then began the long process of entering Belize with the bus and my stuff. After numerous meetings with officials and customs brokers, I eventually made into the country by 5pm.
So now to figure out what to do... everything is fine and I have finally caught up with the family. We'll stay in touch.
Eric Schaub and the family
PS -- Pi brothers, wish I could be at canoe trip -- see you next time.