Dramas & Crossing the Border to Mexico /// Vanlife

After a few amazing days of free camping on the Bolivar Peninsula, we took a short ferry ride to Galveston, TX for a day of sightseeing. We were so pleasantly surprised by the character of the historic district and harbour. It was a part of Galveston that we hadn’t seen before and we had previously misjudged the city as being an overbuilt commercial strip on the ocean. We were wrong and you are so very cool Galveston!

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On our last day in Galveston, the weather was turning and we decided to head up to south Houston to run some errands. BIG MISTAKE! Houston was slammed with a winter storm that day, stranding us in the city and forcing us to take shelter for the night in Walmart, eat take out and binge watch Netflix. It seems no blog post is complete without a Walmart stay.

We awoke the next morning to freezing cold temperatures INSIDE the van (feeling very thankful for our MEC down sleeping bags). We turned on our propane heater to discover… no more gas. Argh – let me tell you by this time I was one unhappy camper. We didn’t spend days driving south for this! With no ability to heat, cook or refrigerate, we stumbled out of bed deciding to leave directly for Laredo, TX in search of propane and the Mexican border.

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Upon setting out, we didn’t realize that Houston’s highways had turned to sheer ice and that the majority of roads, stores and services had closed in a state of emergency. We set out on the road to apocalyptic scenes of crashed vehicles, empty stretches of highway and police vehicles everywhere. After over 2 hours of either crawling over icy patches of roads or not moving in traffic, we discovered an alternative route and made our escape from the city.

Trying to find propane for our tank was like a scavenger hunt. After no luck for hours, we stopped at Walmart (damn – again!) to get some Wi-Fi and locate a propane source. We finally found propane at the Flying J in Laredo and settled in for a night at the Texas Information Centre. We treated ourselves to a cooked meal (first one of the day) and a well-deserved beer.


We spent a day in Laredo stocking up on supplies and then finally, it was border-crossing day. This year we decided to cross at Columbia, just west of Nuevo Laredo. It was by far the smoothest, easiest crossing into Mexico that we’ve ever experienced and I can’t understand why we didn’t try this crossing sooner.

Literally, upon arriving in Mexico, the sun came out and the temperature rose, as did our spirits. We arrived at La Posada in Hidalgo, NL in time to find a campsite and settle in for the night. La Posada is an excellent little campground that caters to holidaying Mexicans and international climbers, visiting to scale the canyon in El Potrero Chico. We stop here before and after the border crossing every year and it’s easily one of our favourite places in Mexico.

Highlights from this year’s stay in Hidalgo include: almost summiting the El Torro trail in the canyon (my legs still hurt!); meeting ‘Little Black Dog’ who followed us all the way up the trail and back (heeling perfectly, unlike Walter who practically dragged me down the mountain); eating delicious Mexican street food at El Taco Loco; sipping coffee and hanging out with fantastic people at El Buho; and meeting a family from Quebec also travelling through Mexico and Guatemala in a Roadtrek… what are the chances?! We’re on the road again, heading south but you can be sure we’ll be back to Hidalgo.

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Lessons Learned:

  • They don’t plow, sand or salt their roads after winter storms in the southern US so just stay off the roads! Wait, didn’t we already lean this one?… Incorrigible!
  • The Columbia border crossing from Texas to Mexico is excellent. There are no line-ups, all of the administration can be done in one building and the officials are much more relaxed than at Nuevo Laredo.

Pro-camper Tips:

  • Propane for RVs can be hard to find in the US. It’s definitely best not to wait until your tank is near empty. The Flying J Truck Stop is apparently one of the most reliable places to find propane.
  • Most (if not all) Texas Information Centres let you park overnight for free and they are immaculate with public washrooms, vending machines and gorgeous landscaping.

7 thoughts on “Dramas & Crossing the Border to Mexico /// Vanlife

  1. Nice and challenging trip. Here we had snow and icy rain which led to all trees covered with ice and one of my front tree lost a big branch. Enjoy the beautiful warm sun as it is rare over here. Take care!


    1. We saw the news from back home – your storm looks much more epic than the one we had down here! Freezing rain is the worst. We will make sure to fully appreciate our sunny weather down here 😉


  2. Nice pictures! Walter looks very happy. During storms propane sells out fast. In the Boston Ice storm I could not find any and had to buy a torch kit to get the included propane bottles.


    1. Thanks Elias. Walter is SOOOO happy! He is better behaved and less anxious on the road for some reason – even in the big crazy cities. Yesterday he made best friends with a nice young Mexican woman… I thought maybe he was going to decide to go home with her!


  3. “I was FORTUNATE/1998 TO 2002, NO SNOW, and/or ICE in Texas, Florida, California; and ALL THE SOUTH THAT I VISITED EACH YEAR…1998 TO 2002. February 6, 2000=104 DEGREES in Nuevo Laredo, MEXICO…PARTY TIME; being a Canadian from SNOW BELT Ontario!!!” “Happy Trails to Y’ALL, BE SAFE, BE FREE, ENJOY…Later, Brian CANUCK-THE BREEZE Murza, Niagara Falls, Ontario, Canada.”

    Liked by 1 person

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