Archive for January, 2010

Don’t Go To Mexico

Posted on January 29, 2010 by 43 Comments

As you read this, we are probably somewhere with our toes in the sand and enjoying a cerveza. I just thought I would share a sample of the discouraging emails we have received regarding our travel plans south of the US border.

We’ve heard plenty of this, and it does generally seem to be from people who haven’t actually traveled in Mexico. This one stood out in particular because a) it was a tome b) it’s completely second-hand hearsay and c) the xenophobic bias seems to extend over the author’s entire lifetime.

References like “Many years ago, I worked with a man who knew a family” and “Several years ago, I talked online with someone” and my favorite “.. and cell phones weren’t even invented, yet” just make me scratch my head.

We honestly appreciate the concern, but, ummmmm, yeah.  Enjoy.

I don’t want to put a bummer on your trip, but if I were you, I’d stay clear of Mexico. It’s VERY dangerous, right now. When I say, “right now”, I mean, for the foreseeable future. There are a lot of very dangerous people down there, kidnappings for ransom are commonplace, and they will not hesitate to cut off fingers, torture and kill you.. or anything else which comes to their mind. NOT a place to take a young family.. Don’t expect help from the police. Some of them are in on it. I kid you not. Several years ago, I talked online with someone on the list who used to build surfboards with his son. He and his son went to Baja about every two months to surf, and they had done this for a few years. Then, once, they were sidelined by some bandits and had machetes put to their throats. They really thought they were going to die and said goodbye to each other. Shortly, the bandits left.. But, it does not always end so well. They never went back, and his advice to me was to stay away.. But, he said, “if you must go”.. to NOT travel at night, or on Sundays. Basically this is when the police are sidelining as bandits, the drunks are on the road, and cows crossing the highway cannot be seen. If you get into trouble down there, anything could happen, and it might not be good. I was terribly disappointed to hear all of this, because I had long entertained the notion of retiring in Mexico. “Mi amigo, asi es muy peligroso”.. My friend, it is very dangerous.
Not so long ago (a few months), there was a talk show program where callers were contributing their own personal horror stories of travel in Mexico. One was REALLY bad. A family went down there in an RV, looking to camp. They got lost, asked for directions, and were pointed right towards trouble.. a remote village or camp, where they could not turn around, out in the middle of nowhere. And, since nighttime was approaching, they decided to park and rest for the night. They assumed the people were friendly.. WRONG!!! In the middle of the night, they were awakened by loud pounding on the door. Strange men were demanding entry, and not in a friendly way. When they did not open up the door, shots rang out and windows were broken, the vehicle was penetrated with bullets. Left with no choice, the man opened the door, and several men came in.. starting going through everything, looking for things to steal. Raped the wife.. they took turns, while the husband watched helplessly. They beat his ass, and finally left. Lucky these people lived. They prepared to leave immediately, driving in the dark. When they went to report the crime at the local police station, they were told that they could not leave Mexico until the investigation was over.. which dragged on for weeks. Finally these people decided to head for the border, and were turned around there by police and made to go back to the town where they had filed a report. It was a huge mess!
Many years ago, I worked with a man who knew a family who went camping down there with some kids.. a church group. Only three adults along. When they got there and dropped the kids off with at the camp, they had to go to town to buy fresh food and provisions. Along the way, they saw two children on the road. They picked them up to take them into town. All the money for the trip was in a pouch on the dash. When they got into town, those kids grabbed that pouch and dashed through a crowd, taking advantage of a street signal to make their getaway. One of the two adults along chased the kid with the pouch and caught him.. But the kid started to holler like hell, and pretty soon, here is a policeman, arresting him (and taking possession of the money). Now, the other adult gets involved, trying to explain, and he gets arrested, too. Both go to jail, and the bus is impounded. In Mexican jails, you are not allowed to call anyone… and cell phones weren’t even invented, yet. So, here are all these kids, sitting around hungry, and the one adult with no ride, waiting and not knowing what happened. Finally they put it all together, somehow.. But it was a mess. And, when they got the money pouch back.. It was empty. This is a true story.
So, my advice to you is to just stay the heck away from Mexico. It’s a fine place to go if you fly and go directly to a resort area, and stay there. Traveling around the country.. Well, you take your chances.

If you do go, I sincerely hope you have a nice time and no troubles. But, it’s even more dangerous now, than it was a few years ago. So, think about it.

-name withheld

They then sent another e-mail 8 minutes later and decided to write off an entire continent.

Please read and do more research before you go south of the border. I had forgotten to mention that it is also very dangerous in some regions of South America. Again.. Your chances are not so bad if you travel with someone who is “savvy” and know people who can look out for you when you get where you’re going. Best bet is to fly directly to a resort destination. Mexico City is a mecca of kidnapping, but there is a lot of trouble along the border towns and districts, too.

-name withehld

viva_mexico

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Filed Under: Baja

Dream Beneath the Desert Sky

Posted on January 28, 2010 by 1 Comment

We were having so much fun with the Rambling Three from BBB that we decided to caravan to Joshua Tree. We were a little disheveled from the long weekend and we were flagged down for some final goodbyes before we left the campground so we got separated quickly – before we even left Lake Havasu –  but met up at the visitor’s center at Joshua Tree.

Our first stop was somewhere in the desert with the amazing cacti. We tried to recreate the U2 album cover, but my memory card was full. 775 photos of VW buses from Lake Havasu had to be downloaded.

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We pulled over at Skull Rock to do some exploration. The kids had a good time getting lost within the giant boulders and trying to find our way back to the vans.

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The next day, we headed south and lunched and lingered in Palm Springs. Desert sushi was in order and Bode shoveled it in like an addict. We need to remember to get the kid more sushi. After a bit of lingering, we took the long way to San Diego via the Salton Sea.

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The Salton Sea is a weird place. Not exactly a destination but still interesting to see. It’s actually an inland sea – seagulls and all. It’s saltier than the ocean and when you get out of the car the salt breeze smacks you in the face. The water increases in salinity by 1% each year, so just about every living creature is long gone except for the hearty tilapia. Once the tilapia finally die off, it will probably turn into a festering salty cesspool of algae. Interested in water-front property?

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Long ago, developers salivated over building a resort destination like Palm Springs and invested heavily in infrastructure. The problem was that nobody came. The roads are all built and the power lines are all there – just no houses or people. Eerie. the houses that are there are pretty dilapidated, so I suppose this place will just eventually turn back into desert.

The drive through the mountains to San Diego was wet.  Really wet. I think we saw this guy at BBB, and we hope he’s okay.

Ghislain’s friend Jean had volunteered to put us all up near La Jolla, so we were plenty motivated to motor through the storm and we made it there just before dark.

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Filed Under: SouthWest

Not A Westy

Posted on January 27, 2010 by 4 Comments

If you see some sort of VW camper van on the road, it’s probably a Westfalia. These are not Westfalias.

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For some reason, when I started searching for a bus, I had a predisposition towards Westys. Maybe it’s because my dad had Westfalias. The other ones just looked funny to me and were usually ragged out. I guess I thought they were bastards or somehow not ‘official’ VW buses or not good enough or some other ridiculous bias. I was wrong and I’ve changed my mind. If I can find one for sale, my next bus may be a high-top or a Dormobile. The Dutch variant is pretty cool too – and spacious.

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I promise – really – that this is the last post from Buses by the Bride at Lake Havasu. Promise.

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Filed Under: SouthWest

What’s Cooler than a VW Bus?

Posted on January 26, 2010 by 6 Comments

A GIANT VW bus… that lights up and has a dance floor on the roof.

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I talked to the guy who is responsible for creating this beast and he was quite proud that they made it to Lake Havasu and cleared all the overpasses with mere inches to spare.

He started with some sort of old airport vehicle and stripped it down and reshaped it from the ground up.  There’s a small lounge on the bottom and a serious sound system throughout.  There’s a deck and dance floor on the top, of course.

He says it’s only rated for 50 mph, but he thinks it can do 70 mph.  Not that he would ever try.

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Filed Under: SouthWest

You Get Seven Letters

Posted on January 25, 2010 by 4 Comments

USETHEM

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Two more posts coming from Lake Havasu, so bear with me ;)

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Filed Under: SouthWest

Stripes, Flames, Birds & Skulls

Posted on January 23, 2010 by 1 Comment

More to come from Lake Havasu. Someday we’ll paint something on our bus. Someday.

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Filed Under: SouthWest

Buses By the Bridge

Posted on January 22, 2010 by 6 Comments

We headed out to Lake Havasu and I saw a VW bus on the side of the road, so I pulled over to see if everything was okay. Boy was it, there were actually about 8 buses stopped that I didn’t originally see.  All were Lake Havasu bound.

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We joined the caravan and drove Route 66 to our destination: Buses By the Bridge – a gathering of about 300 Volkswagen buses. The campsite was near the London Bridge – yes, the one that was falling down, falling down, falling down.

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We pulled in and decided to do a loop around the campground to see if we could find some of the friends we’ve met on this adventure. When I got to the beach, Jason says “oh no! Don’t stop – whatever you do keep going.” Right then I heard someone yell “Angela!” and I slowed down to look.  That’s when we got stuck in the sand. But as we’ve learned, there ain’t a bad VW person around, so within seconds 5 or so guys were pushing and pulling the van.  A few minutes earlier, the same thing had happened to our new friends the Rambling 3 and they decided it was a perfect place to camp. We did to, and we pulled up next to them for the weekend.

We met Ghislain, Heather and Morgane after trying to meet up for months. They are from Montreal and are traveling for a year in a much newer and nicer VW Eurovan (running water! central heat!) Morgane is 7 and she and Bode played all weekend.

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There was definitely the colorful vibe you’d expect from a VW party. Flaming and electric hula hoops, tie-dyed everything, bonfires, hootenannies, VW stuff everywhere and plenty of spare parts. Ghis and I were joking about everyone selling things, but Jason was in heaven, buying little bits and pieces. He even put them all on the van while we took the kids canoeing under London Bridge.

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There were tons of planned activities that kept us busy. A jumpy house, kids raffles and games, and the chili cook-off I entered and lost. We skipped the polar bear club meeting.

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And, we met some more great people and got some good information about the next part of our journey.

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There were LOTS of buses at Havasu. If you’re VW bus averse, you may want to shield your eyes from the next few posts… all with themes.

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Filed Under: SouthWest

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