Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Busy Monday

Layne laughed at me when I complained my feet were sore and I was exhausted from all the faffing around getting stuff and loading stuff and cleaning stuff. “Wow,” she said. “This used to be just another day of getting stuff done.”  I’m retired now and mooning around walking my dog and making photos is more my speed. I got no mercy. 

We spent the morning doing laundry including rugs and seat covers and Rusty’s bed. The security guard at the truck stop made the point that deserts are cold at night. 

Layne spotted a military patrol taking a break at the truck stop as we vacuumed and swept GANNET2 and I rubbed the van cabin with Armorall to restore shiny black plastic. We’ve driven through four police checkpoints so far and never been stopped. Despite all talk of violence in Mexico we have seen nothing like that around here. 

Our first chore was to fill our water tank. We had about five gallons left in our thirty five gallon tank so we returned to the original purified water store to refill. First we stopped by Home Depot so I could buy two meters (6 feet) of 3/4 inch food grade hose. They sell five gallon jugs of water for 75 cents (15 pesos) per jug. Mexicans themselves like to drink purified water do what they do is buy an empty jug and exchange it for a full one. We simply park and empty the jugs directly into our tank. It’s easy and inexpensive. 

Bruce in Arizona had texted me suggesting a siphon hose. Not having anything so sophisticated I figured a simple length of hose would work. It did and it was easy. We still filter our drinking water through our Berkey filter but having purified water in the tank is one extra step in keeping life simple. We loaded thirty gallons for $4.50 with no effort and not too much spillage. 

Layne was watching the youngsters at the store having a good day at work.  

Lunch was next and with a slew of positive reviews on Google maps for this place: 

We had four different tacos which we shared and each had a cooling glass of horchata (rice water, a traditional sweet drink). 

The whole bill including a tip came to ten bucks. We were stuffed and skipped dinner as a consequence. 

Then we went back to Walmart where we managed to carry out the entry requirements without too much chaos. Hold out the back of your hand to have your temperature taken, walk through the disinfectant mat, wash your hands with a foot squirt of sanitizer. Everyone wears  masks, no question. 

There are of course local products that you won’t see in the US including 150cc motorcycles for $1300…”Saving is real”

The range of people shopping this supermarket will sink your Mexican preconceptions. This field worker doesn’t belong…or does he? 

I will confess that getting the 21 foot Promaster 3500 extended into Mexican sized parking spaces can be a bit of a chore. There are lots of American full sized trucks and SUVs on the streets but there are also tons of very small cars that you will never see in the US, models from manufacturers you recognize and from others you won’t - lots of Peugeots and Renaults and the like. The van dwarfs them and usually I get more respect than you expect. 

However the parking spaces are small the travel lanes often poorly defined and driving requires paying close attention. It’s tiring! 

Layne got her fifty dollar teeth cleaning by an English speaking dentist who trained in Tucson, meanwhile Rusty and I went for a walk and he met a local. 

After the tooth cleaning done sugar was in order apparently and we ate ice creams almost as expensive as lunch! A rare treat and much enjoyed. Rusty preferred my pistachio cone to Laynes butter pecan I think. 

Then back to the truck stop with all chores done and a chance to rest in preparation for our drive south to Alamos. 
How was your Monday? Equally frenetic? I hope not.

Monday, January 10, 2022

Idle Sunday

Layne has the Libby app on her phone and we have moved on from David Robichoux mysteries to a Randy Wayne White Doc Ford story. “I like that we know the locations,” Layne said. Libby gives you access to your library online using your card number. Very slick. 

I mention it because yesterday was cold and gray, gloomy and overcast. We hunkered down in GANNET2’s cabin shared with half a hundred annoying flies. Layne painted and we listened to the story. A complicated DNA mystery set on Sanibel Island. 

On our morning walk we checked out the clouds on the mountains, or at least I did. Rusty kept his nose to the sand. We passed Clark in his Sprinter. Later he came by. 

He told us stories of sailing, delivering boats, cruising the Bahamas and by way of contrast getting badly lost in the mountains of the Baja peninsula. Eventually we had to stop discussing the relative merits of routes to Alaska and continue to clean our sandy van. He’s heading south he says so we may meet around Mazatlan later. 

I like being around these dispersed campers, people who have found their own way. Clark’s story of getting lost in Baja on a donkey trail in his van was full of laughter but respect too. He saw a trail and without a lick of Spanish took off.  He passed a Mexican walking his donkey and the guy’s eyes opened wide at the sight of the van, Clark  said. “Never a good sign when the locals are shocked to see a car on a trail “ he laughed. And yet he lived to tell the tale. 

There is talk of rain on Wednesday which will turn this area into a muddy ice rink. But that’s not an issue for us we hope. By the time you are reading this on Monday, and I’m pretty sure today is Monday, we will be in town doing laundry, getting water, cleaning Layne’s teeth  in preparation for a departure from San Carlos. 

Our goal is a warmer spot down the coast. I want to explore Guaymas a little bit and reach Los Mochis where we found a Pemex gas station with overnight parking. Such stops are widely available in modern Mexico offering free overnight parking in a formal truck stop or simply an open space next to a gas station. We carry small bags of Pedigree kibbles to feed the dogs from nearby homes that don’t get fed as much as they can eat. Until gringos stop by. Giving food eases my pain. 

We’re also hoping to make an hour long drive into the mountains to see a colonial town called Alamos (“poplar trees”) which comes highly recommended as a stop for foreigners. IOverlander says the formal campground doesn’t take dogs (unusual!) but there is street parking they say. We shall see, I hope. 

We are hoping to find a wild camp north of Mazatlan similar to this one  with more heat and sunshine and warmer water. Clark has been doing some research and says the seawater here is about 65 degrees while Mazatlan boasts 75 degree seawater. Now we’ve cracked cold water swimming that sounds positively tropical! 

A quiet Sunday then cold and dreary enough to persuade Rusty to join us aboard our anchored boat and sleep the afternoon away in his bed on our bed. I made some pictures yesterday morning as we walked trying to recreate the image in my head of ink drawings of classic misty mountains that we tend to associate with Far Eastern art. 

Too soft the beach sand for our Promaster so we save it for walking. And it’s cold sand in the morning so I don’t walk in bare feet as uncomfortable as Crocs are in the silky soft sand. Time to find real barefoot country! 

Sunday, January 9, 2022

Situational Awareness

Humor me a moment and imagine you leave your house one morning to go to work. You step out and there is a weird vehicle parked on your street, half truck half RV and with a strange license plate. Foreigners! Camping! On my street? 

What to do? Call the police? They may move them on, eventually. If you take the electric bike off the back will anyone notice? Could you break in and kill the occupants and steal the truck? Can you drive it? What would you do with it? What would your neighbors say? In the end you’ll continue your routine I’ll bet and eat breakfast and go to work. Just like any other day.

And that pretty much is what happens in Mexico when weirdos abandon their comfortable middle class community lives and take off in tin boxes to be uncomfortable on the road. I know it goes against the grain, against the negativity you read, the frisson of fear you get just thinking about it but that’s the sad truth. Narco traffickers shoot rivals. Police are bored most of the time and Mexicans are happy to overcharge you for items that in reality are pretty damn inexpensive to start with. 

We found these tostadas (toasted tortillas) in various flavors in the stores including Walmart. They cost around 25 pesos ($1.25) and you can use them like crackers without the added salt or crumbs everywhere. Quite delicious. We were sitting around with Ron in the evening sun when a group of Americans came by. They had three dogs two of whom were owned by nervous New Mexicans who exuded a leash law vibe even though their dogs weren’t, but the third engaged Rusty to the exclusion of all else. A rather severe middle aged woman with the aura of a buxom head teacher of a private school approached and asked us what the security situation was. Huh? What did it look like as we three longed in the sun without a care in the world.

She launched into an account of petty thefts and a drunk Mexican stepping into her van at three am before being brusquely ushered out by her good self in no uncertain terms. It sounded like an average night on Duval Street when I was on night shift. This wildness it turned out on subsequent investigation took place in distant 2016.

No, Ron said it’s pretty quiet around here. I said nothing but I did want to say we suffer from deafening silence  every night. Wild Mexican home invasions are apparently on the wane.

I am fond of pointing out Mexicans don’t carry out active shooter drills in their schools. They like their children. I only wished they liked their dogs as much despite the Pope’s recent suggestion that we none of us should. Personally I don’t think the woman who dropped by our camp had much situational awareness. We weren’t acting like gringos under siege that much was obvious even to my oblivious eye.

Most Americans who nag on about the dangers of Mexico are people who have never visited or old timers who came forty or more years ago when Americans drove Delta 88s and imagine Mexico is in a time trap  stuck in the same era.
Mexico isn’t perfect and had I had my motorcycle wreck here I would most likely be dead. I may very well die here, but the idea of not visiting especially if you want to but are afraid to cross the border would be a shame.

I have seen the videos on YouTube that advocate van life for people on the edge of economic devastation as though sitting in a van in a cold Arizona desert saving money is the best option. Maybe it is but sitting on an empty Mexican beach twenty degrees warmer suits me better.

It’s not just about money or the lack of it. It’s an opportunity to see life from a different angle. All the rules imposed are impositions you discover. They aren’t requirements for living.  Mexicans do things differently and some of those differences may suit you better. They could teach you a better way to live if you watch and withhold judgement. Sometimes they show you that what you know is better than their way. The way you live that puzzles them, like living child free for instance, can leave them judging you negatively. All of it is a give and take, an opportunity to be curious, to be patient, and to learn.

Being curious about Mexico doesn’t diminish the fascination of the US. We find traveling at home easy. The roads are smooth mostly (some notable exceptions) and thus easy to drive at night. Potholes, topes (speed bumps) loose animals and unlit vehicles all make streets and surface roads a bad gamble in Mexico. The US has first class tow and first aid services and all you need to do is be able to pay for them. We plan to explore the US endlessly when we are more infirm and slowing down.

Foreign travel takes patience to learn the customs and time to learn the culture and desire to learn the tricks of daily living. We still enjoy curiosity and reasonable physical strength and an adequate mastery of Spanish. When we run out we have back up plans for later.

My biggest beef with Facebook is the way it gives voice to fear, which combined with lack of context and narrative accountability makes it a tool to hold you back. I’m not a fan of aphorisms either but if you don’t seize your day, whatever it is, no else will seize it for you. 
Come on in, the life is lovely.