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Trip Report: Lakeside to Pharr


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Made the drive from Ajijic to Pharr on Sunday morning.

Used the bypass at the airport since the new road still isn't open and requires quite a detour at the end.  Looking at the progress of the construction at that end I think it will be about 6 months before finished.

Toll Road Ruta 80 in very good condition, only encountered one small section narrowed to one lane for repaving.  A lot of recent repairs to the free road from the end of the toll road to the ring road outside of Lagos so it is good shape too.  Ride the left lane where possible, it is in better shape.

Lagos ring road has had a few repairs but it is still pretty ragged.  Toll road outside of Lagos to San Luis Potosi very good with recent repairs.  Bathrooms there at the toll booth open and clean.

We elected to drive through San Luis Potosi, encountered no serious delays.  The new westside ring cuota was supposed to open in October, that isn't going to happen.  I think you're looking at six months more for that one too.

Ruta 57 north of San Luis Potosi very good condition.  In fact, all of the roads on this route with the exception of the bypass along the south side of Ciudad Victoria are good.  We got a flat at the military checkpoint just outside of Ciudad Victoria, the "llantas" guy on the mountain was there and extremely helpful.  The tire was ruined but he sold me another OK tire, a salvage, for 400 pesos including tip and we got to Texas on it no problem.  Only in Mexico. :)

Lots of repairs on Ruta 101 north of Ciudad Victoria, much improved.  However Ruta 97 up to Pharr is in poor condition for about half the way.

Because of the tire we arrived later than usual at the border and it took over an hour to get through the U.S. side.

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Thanks very much for your report, Mainecoons.  I've driven to/from Pharr many times in past years, but the route via Ciudad Victoria has recently been said to be very dangerous--so dangerous, in fact, that police were shepherding convoys from C.V. on route 101.  As a result, in April I took the much longer, but said to be much safer, route to Texas via Zacatecas, Saltillo, and Laredo.  Although I have read that there is still significant drug cartel violence in the state of Tamaulipas, including in C.V., San Fernando, and Valle Hermoso, and I think that the U.S. State Dept. is still advising not to travel in that state, I assume that you now deem the route you took to be safe, which is good news.

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To update this report after making the trip back we note that SAT has begun manning the Pharr crossing more consistently and was checking everything coming across at 8AM on Sunday.  As has been the case over the 8 years we've made this trip, making sure to bury the "sensitive" stuff deep and pile things like grocery purchases on top, plus keeping the total haul at or below the bottom of the windows of our CRV continues to work.  After a cursory check we were on our way.

Southbound, Ruta 97 is in better shape probably because it is the northbound overloaded trucks that are doing the damage.  There was a lot more truck traffic on Sunday this trip and the deterioration of the roads from over heavy truck traffic is more pronounced.  I saw in a recent Mexico News Daily that SCT admits they are finding trucks as heavy as 100 tons, twice the legal limit.  It is clear these overloaded trucks are destroying the roads, I am glad someone in government is finally admitting it.  Whether they'll do anything about it or just get paid off by the trucking companies is another matter.  

I feel bad for the guys who drive them as they have the choice of doing so or not having a job.

There was a short delay for deck replacement work on the "new" toll road north of Lagos, otherwise it was wide open.

On the return trip the construction on the Ruta 80 toll road outside of GDL continues but is easily traversed.  You are enticed by the end of the Macrolibremiento just past where they continue to work on the junction of it with Ruta 80.  Six months should do it.  In the mean time you can elect to get on Ruta 15 for a short stretch by taking a sharp right hand exit just before the last toll booth headed into GDL and then you go a short distance and get charged a 55 peso toll to exit onto the Macrolibremiento upon which you are immediately charged another 44 pesos, for a total of 99 pesos for a short run to Chapala highway.  Showing the receipt from the first toll booth to the second one did not make the difference.

We went that way out of concern with what might be going on around the airport.  Fast but very pricey.  At the end you have to go towards the airport a short distance before doing a retorno to get headed south.

Chapala highway is a real wreck.  I've never seen it this bad in 8 years.

BTW the new road is very scenic and everything was gorgeous green. I see no sign of construction west of Chapala highway, it looks like that landowner still has the new road stalled.

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On ‎2016‎-‎10‎-‎24 at 10:00 AM, Mainecoons said:

To update this report after making the trip back we note that SAT has begun manning the Pharr crossing more consistently and was checking everything coming across at 8AM on Sunday.  As has been the case over the 8 years we've made this trip, making sure to bury the "sensitive" stuff deep and pile things like grocery purchases on top, plus keeping the total haul at or below the bottom of the windows of our CRV continues to work.  After a cursory check we were on our way.

Southbound, Ruta 97 is in better shape probably because it is the northbound overloaded trucks that are doing the damage.  There was a lot more truck traffic on Sunday this trip and the deterioration of the roads from over heavy truck traffic is more pronounced.  I saw in a recent Mexico News Daily that SCT admits they are finding trucks as heavy as 100 tons, twice the legal limit.  It is clear these overloaded trucks are destroying the roads, I am glad someone in government is finally admitting it.  Whether they'll do anything about it or just get paid off by the trucking companies is another matter.  

I feel bad for the guys who drive them as they have the choice of doing so or not having a job.

There was a short delay for deck replacement work on the "new" toll road north of Lagos, otherwise it was wide open.

On the return trip the construction on the Ruta 80 toll road outside of GDL continues but is easily traversed.  You are enticed by the end of the Macrolibremiento just past where they continue to work on the junction of it with Ruta 80.  Six months should do it.  In the mean time you can elect to get on Ruta 15 for a short stretch by taking a sharp right hand exit just before the last toll booth headed into GDL and then you go a short distance and get charged a 55 peso toll to exit onto the Macrolibremiento upon which you are immediately charged another 44 pesos, for a total of 99 pesos for a short run to Chapala highway.  Showing the receipt from the first toll booth to the second one did not make the difference.

We went that way out of concern with what might be going on around the airport.  Fast but very pricey.  At the end you have to go towards the airport a short distance before doing a retorno to get headed south.

Chapala highway is a real wreck.  I've never seen it this bad in 8 years.

BTW the new road is very scenic and everything was gorgeous green. I see no sign of construction west of Chapala highway, it looks like that landowner still has the new road stalled.

Good statement--Sounds like you were on these roads recently?? I was wondering if you could write (print) out the directions you usually take.I am sure the gps should get us there but nice to have it in print.There might be new roads that GPS has not picked up on yet.Thank you KEN

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GPS makes mistakes in Mexico.  Use maps and directions.  You can visually preview a route using Google earth.

Latest version:

FROM LAKESIDE TO PHARR
 
Head towards Chapala like you are going to the airport.  At the airport exit get in the right lane and IMMEDIATELY past it take the exit marked to Zapotlanejo.  Watch out for traffic from the airport entering on your right. This is the GDL Periferico.  You can take it around to the Cuota 80, the exit onto 80 is clearly marked to MEXICO.  You take this cuota to the end and follow signs to Lagos de Moreno.
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NOTE:  The new "Libremiento" is not complete all the way to the end where it intersects with the Mexico 80 toll road and as a result you are charged two tolls and diverted onto the Mexico 15 toll road where you have to double back to get headed in the right direction.  Since we leave very early in the morning when there is little traffic we are still using the route described ABPVE because, among other things, I don't want to give these toll roads any more money than necessary.  I don't see any significant time saving with the new road because of this detour and you end up paying twice for the same thing.  Make your own call on this one.
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Shortly after you cross the Leon toll road just outside of Lagos, you will go up a long hill, at the top of which on the LEFT hand side is a very big Pemex full of trucks.  Just past that, you'll see a sign directing you to turn left in order to go to San Luis Potosi.  Take this left, this is what passes for a ring road around Lagos de Moreno that will bring you out on the other side of town and back to Mex 80.  Much much  better than driving through town even though it is a lousy road.
 
You'll cross a railroad track and wind around a bit before coming to a big intersection.  You will notice that most of the traffic will angle across this slightly to the right.  Do this, keep going.  After this you always go straight as you slowly circle around to your right.  At the end, you come to a traffic circle.  Follow the signs to San Luis Potosi.  You do a right hand turn followed by an immediate left across the bridge and then just go straight.
 
From here, you are on the new toll road between Lagos and San Luis Potosi (SLP).  Just keep going straight.  The toll is 90 pesos.  As you approach SLP there will be an exit for "Mexico" and Matahuala.  Here you can chose to ether go straight and go through San Luis Potosi or you can exit onto the south bypass toll road.  I have described both routes.
 
Driving straight through San Luis Potosi
 
This will save time and money if you are reasonably skilled in driving in Mexico.  It is easier than driving in GDL for sure.  However I would not do this if traveling through on week days around rush hours.  On weekends early it is a piece of cake for the experienced Mexico driver.
 
To use this road, go straight on to the end of the obviously newer road and then wind your way north towards San Luis Potosi.  You will eventually come to a big traffic circle, go straight across this circle and through the two traffic lights after which you will be on a limited access road to the north side of town. 
 
After the trafic lights a short ways the road will bear to the right.  Just stay on it following the obvious main road.  When you get further along there is an intersection with the main road towards Monterrey and Matehuala.  I believe it is signed for Matehuala, follow those signs north out of town until you rejoin the main road Mexico 57 headed north towards Matehuala and Monterrey.
 
Alternative using south and east bypass cuotas
 
As you approach Villa de Arriaga you see an exit marked MEXICO.  Take this exit to the right, do not go straight towards SLP as that will take you into the middle of town per the other directions.  Quickly, after this exit, there is an entrance to the right for the cuota towards Mexico.  Take that.  
 
You are now driving eastward, south of SLP.  This road terminates at the main road between Laredo and Mexico city, Mex 57 .  Watch out for a speed trap after you cross the railroad tracks (overpass bridge) shortly before the end.  They drop the speed limit to 60 KPH and then trap the unwary.  Cops usually sit on the right hand side of the road or under the overpass further on.
 
At the end of this road, you will see that you go left towards Matahuala.  Do not go right towards Mexico.  After getting on Mex 57 north, stay in the right hand lane as the very next exit takes you onto the SLP east side bypass cuota.  Take this exit.  It is signed for Matahuala I believe.
 
Big gas station and very nice food court and bathrooms just past the toll booth.  We always stop there for a potty break and freshen up.  Really clean, you think you're in another country.  Alternatively there are several nice stops well north of town.  The one with the railroad cars is the best.  It is just before a big police checkpoint on your left going north.
 
At the end of this bypass, the road merges with Mex 57 towards Matahuala and the border.  Go on this road for a ways, you come to a big police checkpoint.  Right past this, you are going to exit right onto Mex 75, follow the signs for Ciudad Victoria via corta (cuota).  You'll go a ways on this and approach a very big cement plant on your left, just past an exit for it.  This is another speed trap area, slow down as you approach the bridge and past it.  Cop sits under the bridge.
 
Not far from the cement plant is the exit for Mex 101 north clearly marked to Ciudad Victoria.  Take this right hand exit onto this toll road.  You are going to ride on a long stretch of 101 to just outside of C. Victoria.  Right past the big military checkpoint, you cross a bridge over a river and come to a junction.  Stay RIGHT onto Tamps 126, this is the C. Victoria bypass.  Do not follow the road to the left unless you want a longish but very scenic mountain route that ends on the west side of Ciudad Victoria.
 
Tamps 126 completely bypasses Ciudad Victoria.  
 
You take Tamps 126 all the way in a straight line until you come to the end of Tamps 126 which exits for a short stretch onto Mex 70 headed east.  This is a right hand exit and is signed towards Matamoros, I believe and maybe San Fernando. 
 
You will come to an overpass in a couple miles and there's a big Pemex and restaurant on the left.  Cross the bridge, turn right onto the ramp.  At the end of the ramp you can make a left into the Pemex.  We generally stop at the Pemex to gas up and potty break.  Get a receipt for your gas or they'll charge you to use the baños.
 
You will go north on Mex 70 a few miles and see a right hand exit for Route 101 again, which you will rejoin at that point.  Definitely signed towards Matamoros.
 
You're going to ride a long time on Mex 101 until you finally come to an exit signed to Reynosa and Mex 97.  This is a right hand exit onto an overpass over the 101, take it.  There is usually a police checkpoint just before the exit.  You're now pointed straight north.
 
Now it is almost a straight shot to just outside of Reynosa.  You will pass the now closed Aduana checkpoint at KM 19(19 klicks south of the border) and go maybe 6-8 klicks more where you'll see a big Pemex on your left just before an overpass.  Take the right hand exit before the overpass onto the Pharr shortcut.  21 pesos and worth every penny.  It will bring you directly to the bridge.
 
Now, depending on what types of visas you have, you need to turn in your car permit (GET AND KEEP THE RECEIPT!)  and maybe "stamp" out of the country.  Stay left and circle around to turn in TIP.  You'll curve left before the bridge toll booths and after you turn in TIP you have to circle back around to the original entry road.
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5 hours ago, Mainecoons said:

Take this left, this is what passes for a ring road around San Luis Potosi that will bring you out on the other side of town and back to Mex 80.  Much much  better than driving through town even though it is a lousy road.

Maincoons,  I think you mean it's "a ring road around Lagos de Moreno" rather than SLP.

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16 minutes ago, Mainecoons said:

Correct.  Edited to fix error.  Thanks Rick.

Great directions but do you have the same directions going from Pharr crossing to lakeside??If so could you send them to me even if you wish to send via email address --kbigbeaver@hotmail.com  thank you

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Ken:

----------------------------------

The direct road to the bridge from Pharr is South Cage Blvd.  However, you can stay at one of the places between 2nd and 10th in McAllen and get to the bridge on south 2nd just as quick as South Cage is full of untimed traffic lights.
 
The maps are clear about how to get to the Pharr bridge.  After passing through U.S. customs, you drive over a long causeway at the end of which, almost in front of you is the immigration and car permit building.  Park in front, walk around the left hand side to the doors and go in and do what ever you need to do about car permits or entry visas.  You will need to turn in the second part of the exit form you got when you flew out.
 
Leaving the building, you drive through the red light/green light.  Assuming you get a green, just keep driving to the left of the inspection areas.  As you come out of the port of entry, the road is straight ahead and there is a large overhead sign directing you to go straight ahead to C. Victoria.  Just keep going straight and it puts you on the Reynosa bypass cuota.  There is some construction but it won't hold you up much.  Toll is 21 pesos and worth it.
 
You come to a toll booth , just past the toll booth is an overpass.  Continue to follow signs to C. Victoria and San Fernando, take the SECOND exit, on top of the overpass, which puts you on Mex 97 headed south. This dead ends at Mexico 101, go off to the right and continue to follow signs to C. Victoria.
 
You will drive quite a long ways on this road.  Just before you reach the C. Victoria bypass, you will pass through the village of Guemez.  Shortly thereafter, you come to an overpass, on the other side of that overpass you are directed to exit right into a retorno that is signed for San Luis Potosi.  Exit right, follow the road around to cross 101 and then exit to the right onto Mex 75 which is the first part of the C. Victoria bypass.  From here you are following signs to San Luis Potosi.
 
You will go a few miles and come to a large Pemex and restaurant on your right, just before a right hand exit onto Mex 70 which is signed clearly, again, to San Luis Potosi.  This Pemex is a good gas stop, stretch place.  Get a receipt if you don't want to pay extra to use the potty.
 
You will then go west a short distance on Mex 70 and will come to another well-marked exit before an overpass.  That exit is signed for San Luis Potosi.  The road is Tamps 126.  Don't worry about the route number, just keep following the San Luis Potosi signs.  This is the last section of the bypass.
 
Now you are skirting the south side of C. Victoria.  Just keep going straight and after you drive through the first mountains, you rejoin Mex 101 headed south.  You are going to stay on this road all the way to the end.  The first part is a libre, the last part is a cuota, tolls I think are like 55 pesos.  At the end, you get on another short stretch of cuota, like 38 pesos.  You keep following signs to San Luis Potosi, take the first exit at the end, pay the toll and follow the road out to Mex 57, the main road running towards San Luis Potosi.  At the end, you will exit left (last exit over the overpass) and this puts you on 57 south.
 
Right after you pass through the big police checkpoint on 57, there's a big gas station and roadside store/restaurant complex that is excellent for getting gas, using the potty and buying drinks or snacks or eating.  It has a bunch of railroad cars, that is their gimmick.  It is called La Estacion.
 
Outside of San Luis Potosi you come up to a split where the Libre goes to the right and the left hand lane puts you on the San Luis Potosi bypass cuota, 55 pesos.  
 
OPTIONAL-Drive through San Luis Potosi direct
 
You can opt to either take the two cuotas that bypass San Luis Potosi on the east and south or you can drive straight through following the Route 80 signs directing to GDL.  The direct route is much shorter but does involve city driving and a long drive up a hill on the south side.  To follow this route, stay right onto the Libre and you will drive a long time straight where you hit a freeway into San Luis Potosi.  It is shorter and saves on tolls and interesting but very busy.
 
A west side toll bypass is coming that will link up directly with Ruta 80 south towards Lagos de Moreno.  It is about 6 months from opening I would guess.
 
USING THE EAST AND SOUTH TOLL BYPASSES
 
If you go this way, you take the left hand exit marked cuota as you approach San Luis Potosi.  Just before the toll booth, you can turn left into a Pemex and gas up if you didn't do so before.  There's not a lot of gas stops for a long way past this point so fill up here and there are also some good fast food places and clean bathrooms.
 
Continue south on the San Luis Potosi cuota, you come out on Mex 57 well south of town.  This is also a left hand exit marked to Mexico (city).  Get in the left lane, take the exit and stay in the right lane as you will exit at the very next exit towards Guadalajara.  NOTE:  The first section of this road runs through an industrial park and it has low speed limits and is a speed trap.  Drive slow and look for the predatory cops.  After you cross the railroad tracks you're good to go and on the cuota that bypasses San Luis Potosi on the south side.
 
As you exit the San Luis Potosi south cuota, you are on like an elevated circle.  You cross over an obviously new road and immediately see a black and white sign that says cuota entrance.  Take the sharp right hand ramp that puts you on the new road going south, this bypasses one of the worst roads in Mexico, old 80, which goes through Oreijos.  The new road will save you 45 minutes!
 
When you reach Lagos de Moreno, you come to like a traffic circle in the middle of which is a sign directing you to go to the right to Guadalajara.  This is the Lagos bypass.  Crappy but better than driving through town.  Follow it as you slowly curve around to the left, eventually rejoining Mex 80 to Guadalajara.  Follow the signs to Guadalajara on this road.  Towards the end, you come to a strange intersection that you need to bear to the left) as you cross it.  Shortly after you cross the railroad tracks you come to a BIG intersection with a beat up sign telling you to turn right to go to Guadalajara.  Do that.
 
After 20 miles or so you come to the last cuota, directing you to Guadalajara via cuota, right hand exit.  Take it, saves a ton of time.
 
After the third and last toll you have to find the periferico going towards the airport.  Follow the airport signs.  This is a very congested section of road don't wait too long to get in the right hand lane as the exit is right on top of another exit and is a bit confusing.
 
Once you are on the periferico you come up to Chapala highway.  You have to go the wrong way for a short distance and use a retorno to get headed south.  Follow airport signs and pretty soon you will know where you are.
 
Alternate:  New toll bypass to Chapala highway.
 
This is not quite finished at the junction of Ruta 80 just outside of Zapotlanejo.  I would guess 6 months here as well.  However you can get on it by taking a right hand exit immediately before the last (third) toll booth puts you on a short stretch of Cuota 15.  You'll pay a 55 peso toll at the exit of this onto the new Chapala highway and then they immediately hit you for another 44 pesos.  You then drive all the way to Chapala highway where you will have to exit right and go north a short ways to a retorno to get pointed towards Chapala.
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Thanks for Mainecoon's great instructions.

For the past ten years we have been driving to/from Pharr in early January; taking the eastern route via Cuidad Victoria for the past five.  We have never stopped at Mexican customs going north [exiting Mexico] and have never had a issue with our car papers returning south [7 years with a US plated car and 3 with an Jalisco plated car].  We have permenent visas.  We have been stopped at Mexican customs going south a few times, but are usually just waived through after they see the car papers and glance in back of our half full SUV with groceries on the top.   

Is it necessary to to get stamped out of Mexico and then get stamped back in again?  We usually cross the Pharr bridge at about 7AM and there is nobody there to stamp us back in to Mexico.  Though last time they used their new full car Xray machine to check our car.  It took a few minutes, but was no hassle.  

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