How it all began...

The idea had been circling in my head for years. But the time was right and I could no longer fight the wanderlust that had built up. I bought a 1977 GMC NuWa motor home, threw a solar panel on top and started getting it ready for the open road. My main goal: to wander around North America, catching up with old friends, visiting new places and experiencing things I haven't before. This is my story...

Friday, March 18, 2011

Ticked!

San Luis Reservoir Wilderness Area near Los Banos, CA - I have spent the better part of my evening on a "search and destroy" mission. The target: the multitude of ticks that have attached themselves to me and my two dogs (Stella and Emmy). You know how in some situations you have phantom-itches or you keep feeling an imaginary insect crawling on you? Well, it's like that except that they are neither phantom nor imaginary. Several times tonight I thought to myself "wow it feels like something is crawling on the back of my neck...I really hope that one is my imagination." Nope, it was real and alive and a tick. Yep, one of those blood sucking disease transmitters. Oh boy.

My day started off innocently enough. Woke up, enjoyed a wonderful breakfast while reading a book, looking out over some beautiful rolling hills. The weather was near perfect and it was nice to dry out from the previous rainstorms I've encountered during the past 3 weeks or so. I wanted to take advantage of this respite from the rain considering the forecasted showers for the next 10 days. Perfect day to hike down to the reservoir and go for a quick dip in the water. It was quite the scenic hike, dropping me down close to 1000' in elevation to the water's edge.
Although it took me a while to finally submerge myself in the chilly water, once I did it felt incredible. It was just nice to sit and relax by the water. Upon my return to my rig, I let the dogs in for a drink of water and suddenly noticed something crawling on Emmy. Crap! Ticks! I evacuated the rig and started my tedious search for the elusive arachnids (they are in the same class as spiders, having 8 legs). I spent a good 30 minutes on each dog, searching through their fur, brushing them, then searching some more.
Once I was done with the first round, I returned to the first dog...and found quite a few more. Back and forth I went for the next hour or so. Finally, I felt pretty good about the thoroughness of my inspection. Now it was my turn. I'll be honest here, it is very difficult and awkward to check yourself for ticks...there are simply areas which are nearly impossible to see unless you are a skilled contortionist...which I am not. But it had to be done, so arming myself with a small mirror and a headlamp, the examination began. Almost immediately I found my first passenger. It was attached about an inch below my belly button...thankfully it stopped there on its southward travels. Yet after checking myself and my clothing for 15 minutes or so, I found no other hitchhikers. "Maybe that will be it" I thought unrealistically. But once inside, I kept noticing a few ticks every time I went by the dogs (which was quite often considering the size of my RV and the fact that I REALLY did not want ticks inside my rig). So even now, some 7 hours later, I am still feeling the creepy-crawlies (some real, some phantoms) and doing the quick search of the dogs...and EVERY single time I look, I find at least one. Ridiculous. This most certainly will have an effect on my slumber tonight. And this really ticks me off. (oh come on, it was just too easy NOT to use a pun somewhere in here!). All things considered, though, I still had a beautiful day filled with sunshine, rolling green hills and a plethora of wild flowers surrounding me. I guess ticks are just part of the package.


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Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Time in Baja, Mexico

Santa Cruz, CA - Several months ago, at the end of 2010, I had the opportunity to travel down to Baja, Mexico and get involved in some community work. The one thing I heard from all the locals down there was this: the tourists have stopped coming down and it’s hurting the little towns. Plastered all over the media in the US, we see how dangerous it is to travel to Mexico. Yet watching the local Los Angeles news one evening, I was appalled at how much violence there is right here under our noses. I wrote the passage below upon my return to the States, but never got around to typing it up and publishing it. Yet I felt it my duty to come back and share my experiences to help others make an informed decision on travel to Mexico. Please realize there are inherent risks involved each and every time you travel out of the country (or for that matter, traveling right here in the United States). As always, though, being a smart, safe traveler will reduce your chances of encountering troubles along the way. I traveled to Baja several times back in 2001 and 2003, and I followed the same advice this time as I did back then…don’t travel at night, be aware of your surroundings and don’t showcase that you have lots of valuables (which for me was quite easy considering that I have very little valuables). Nothing in life is a guarantee and we each have to decide on the risks we are willing to take. But never forget to live life and enjoy the experiences. Happy travels!

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To all those folks out there that are filled with fear about travels to Baja, Mexico, let me reassure you, the only thing you should fear is the emptiness in your heart and the strong desire to return there once you cross the border back to the United States. The beauty of Baja is tremendous, yet simultaneously quaint. The towns and villages bring one back to times of yore, an era many of us have never truly experienced. This is a land where the beauty of the desert meets the allure of the sea.


I spent the vast majority of my time sleeping under a palm frond thatched palapa, providing me with shelter above me and along two sides. Laying tarps and blankets on the sandy ground, it provided me with the basics of a dwelling. Each and every morning, as I lay snuggled in my sleeping bag, I witnessed several amazing sights. First, the rising of Venus, bright enough to see its reflection glowing in the waters. Next, the sun rising above the mountains and sea, casting its shimmering glow upon the surface of the Bay of Conception (Bahia de Concepcion).


Most days were filled with swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, reading and relaxing. Occasionally, I would drive the 15 minutes to the town of Mul├ęge to pick up supplies, visit with people I had met and so forth. And I met some truly wonderful people down there. The locals were friendly and accommodating, greeting you with a sincere “hola” and a smile. The gringos (foreigners) were genuine and respectful of the land and its people. The one common theme about the people I met down in Baja was their lust for life and living on their own terms. Most were not rich, yet they made decisions in their life and made being in Baja a priority for themselves.

Most of the 5 month residents I met (from the US, Australia, Canada, etc.) were in the 50+ age demographic, with the vast majority of these between 60 and 80. Yet these folks were physically and mentally active and so alive with a zest for life. Every Saturday night you would find a large crowd gathered at Ana’s to eat the nightly dinner special, preceded by cutting a rug all night long to work off their meal. It was truly a wonderful experience to behold. I struggled to keep up with these folk!

While down in Baja, I also got involved with a local fellowship run by a co-worker from my summer camp hosting job. We spent a total of about 7days traveling some 600+ miles along mostly dirt roads, visiting remote villages, bringing supplies such as toys, clothing, medicine, eye glasses and food. These villages see very little gringos coming through their parts due to the difficulty getting there. It was such a rewarding experience to meet these amazing folks that are surviving in a harsh desert environment, yet always had smiles on their faces and laughter in their voices. There are truly amazing people.