Frank, we have taken the bus from Tucson to Mazatlan and are very satisfied with the service. We use Tufesa bus lines, and I believe they go as far into the U.S. as Las Vegas and some Texas cities. They have an "executive" bus that has 3 seats across (instead of the traditional 4), 2 on one side of the aisle and 1 on the other side--very comfortable for traveling alone, and maybe feel a little more secure while sleeping. The seats have footrests and recline well, very comfortable, and all offer movies, some have individual screens in the seat in front of you. Recently TAP (another bus line) has started offering service across the border. I've taken their bus to Puerto Vallarta and was very comfortable, but haven't tried the U.S. service yet. Not sure what's the best bus to take from NC to the west these days! AmTrak would be cool, if they have a route heading west.
Mazatlan has a wonderful mix of commercial and industrial business, and tourism. We have a large shrimping fleet, a working port, produce beer and tequila, as well as having a good tourist business. We have tons of snowbirds that winter here, and quite a few full-timers like Rick and me. Expats are always active in charitable and just plain fun activities. There is always something going on here!
The only really negative thing I could say about Mexico is that they've changed the visa requirements several times recently, making things confusing, and increasing the minimum monthly income you must have to meet the financial requirements for the temporary and permanent visas (You can still get the tourist visas for 180 days with no problem). Fortunately for us, we got grandfathered in under the old requirements. Moving to Mazatlan has been the best thing we ever did! And I think we did indeed pick the right city, a perfect balance of commercial/industrial and tourism. Home of Pacifico beer, wonderful Bike Weeks and Carnaval celebrations, how can it not be great?! Wonderful to hear from you Frank, come see us!