If you’ve been following along for a while now, you know that we spent a couple of weeks last February visiting Baja California, Mexico.
We traveled there with the Escapees RV Club Chapter 8 – The Mexican Connection. Chapter 8 has been organizing Mexico caravans for nearly four decades now and we found the trip to be exciting and relaxing at the same time. The countryside was beautiful and our interaction with the locals made the trip all that much more rewarding. We look forward to the next Chapter 8 trip
As a refresher, you can go back and look at some of our posts by following this link. Clicking on this link will bring up a search results page with links to each of the posts I wrote while we were on the trip.
What I wanted to share with you today is that our caravan Wagonmaster (Kassandra) recently received some pictures from our friend Miguel at La Jolla Beach Camp. Miguel was not only our host at the beach camp, but was also instrumental in helping to identify local areas of need where we, as travelers and guests to their area might be able to help.
One of those groups of folks that we so enjoyed getting to meet were the residents of what we here in the states might call an “assisted living” center. In Spanish it’s called La Casa del Abuelo (Or “The House Of The Grandfather”). I’m not going to go into a lot of detail here because I’ve posted about that visit back in February and you can go and refresh your memory by following this link.
But I do want to share with you the pictures that Miguel sent along. These show how the monies that we donated through our auction and through individual donations have been used to pay for fabrication and installation of the new range hood in the kitchen along with installing new gates on the compound to promote the safety and security of the residents.
I know that our fellow Chapter 8 members are just as proud as Kathy and me that our efforts and our donations have been put to good use and we look forward to a return trip so as to be able to help even more.
If you’re an RV’er and you’d like to find out more about Chapter 8 and their caravan to Mexico each year, check out the chapter web site at www.mexicanconnection08.com
On Wednesday morning three rigs left our other RV friends at La Jolla Beach Camp and headed back to the good ‘ol U.S.A. The rest of the group (24 rigs) were moving on the same day but heading south further into Baja California. Some were going over to the Sea of Cortez at San Felipe while another group was heading further south to Playa Santispac to camp on the water front and do some whale-watching.
Thanks to those in the group that had experience crossing back over the border at Tecate, we made it to the wall just fine. Driving north from La Jolla Beach through Ensenada just after rush hour made the trip easier than leaving earlier, but still a lot of traffic, a lot of potholes, and very light painted lines showing separation of lines. You gotta keep both hands on the wheel!
While we waited in line to cross – all along the side of the road are vendors trying to sell you snacks, drinks, and trinkets. This is just one of them. Most just walk up and down the street trying to push their wares on you through the window.
After about 45 minutes we finally made it up to the U.S. Customs crossing inspection gate at Tecate. They came in our coach and looked in our fridge where they then took our eggs and a yellow pepper. They couldn’t tell where these were purchased and they don’t want Mexico meat, eggs, or veggies coming back across the border.
Then the 3 rigs drove on another 20 minutes back to Potrero County Park to camp for the night. We all went out to dinner together, said our goodbyes and heading to our respective destinations (ours to our lease lot at Casa Grande AZ) the next morning.
We made it back safely (6 hour trip) from CA to AZ stopping once for fuel along the way. And that’s another story – I gotta tell you about how we saved $.78 / gallon with our new truckers fuel card! – but that will be for another post.
When we got back the first thing I wanted to do was wash the rig. Here’s where I found a torn tire – oh no!
Turns out when we left La Jolla Beach I cut a corner a little too close and there was a jagged rock that cut into our drivers side rear tire. The hole is about the size of a quarter (or $10 peso coin) and at it’s deepest is about 3/8″ deep. The “flap” is attached at one end.
I called my local (Coolidge AZ) tire /auto repair shop. He services a lot of Border Patrol and prison buses and I thought he would have a tire in stock. No luck. Loren asked me if I could see the steel belts – my answer was no. He suggested that I trim off the “flap” and not worry about it. He’s had enough experience with heavy truck and construction vehicle tires that I trust his judgement.
But instead of cutting the flap off, I decided to use my Rubber Contact Cement to glue the flap closed so that the wind from being on the road won’t rip the hole any larger.
So we’re back at Rover’s Roost for the weekend and leaving Monday morning to head to Florida. This will be about a 1700 mile trip and will take a week or more to get there. We’ll spend the 2nd and 3rd week of March visiting friends and family in Florida and then the 4th week we will drive up to North Carolina where we will be working in a small privately owned campground right near the Blue Ridge Parkway starting April 1st and going through July 4th.
’til next time … take care and thanks for riding along.
NOTE: This post was started about a week earlier but I ran out of data on my Mexican (Telcel) phone and so I no longer had a hot spot for wifi to my computer, so I’m finishing up this post while we are back at Rover’s Roost in Casa Grande Arizona where my Visible phone service and hot spot (with no data cap) is working great.
Now, back to the story …
Yes, we’re really enjoying our visit to the Baja with our new Escapee friends. Although we’ve been members of the club about 5 years now, there’s no way you can get to know everybody as there are currently (I think) over 50,000 members nationwide.
And although Chapter 8 has been coming to Mexico for 37 years, the people that travel with them change from year to year. Some have been coming for years while others (like us) have made this their first trip with the chapter and very likely the first trip to Mexico. They don’t always travel to this side of the Baja. Sometimes it’s San Felipe, Rocky Pointe, or even Mexico City.
We’ve been given the opportunity to give back to the communities in which we stay. At our stay at the zoo in Guadalupe Valley we were offered reduced camping fees and free admittance to the zoo (even when they were closed to the public) and in return we helped the keepers in the care and feeding of the animals and their habitats.
We learned that the zoo was founded by Mr. Jiminez and his wife Perla as a service to the forgotten and abandoned animals and the children of the community. They wanted a place that all families could come and enjoy wholesome family time together not only to learn a little about the wildlife kingdom but also to enjoy some recreation together.
The Jiminez family also owned the Jersey Dairy and for many years the dairy supported the zoo financially. Recently the dairy was sold to another corporation and the zoo is now a stand-alone non-profit zoo. It still has Perla (Mrs.) Jiminez as Director and the family is still involved in the management and operation, but the funding is FAR below where it was just a few years ago.
As a result they are struggling to feed and care for the animals. A lot of their “residents” are brought to the zoo by the government that has confiscated these illegally owned animals at ports of entry. Although the government delivers the animals to the zoo to be cared for, they provide NO financial assistance for their care and can come and remove these same animals at any time. That’s a real frustration for the keepers.
We (Chapter 8) members will also help the zoo by ordering items from their Amazon Wish List and some of us brought items down and hand delivered these things to the keepers while we were there. The keepers here are much like our teachers back in the states in that they buy a lot of their own supplies to care for their “flock”. Many of the 13 employees at the zoo are single and are so attached that they think of the animals in their care as their “family”.
In case you are interested in seeing what sorts of things the keepers need – and maybe you’re even moved to help as well, you can check out the Amazon Wish List link here.
When we arrived here at La Jolla Beach Camp, our hosts the Pabloff Family introduced us to the need at a local “Grandparents House” about 10 miles away from our camp. Our Wagon-master and Charity Committee had previously arranged to have us form a work party and provide them with about 200 man hours work to insulate one of their new living units.
When we arrived on site we were introduced to the husband and wife team, Angelica and Nicholas (both pastors) who started this mission along with the help of Justin who’s family is doing mission work both at this home and another one a few miles down the road.
It’s really a pretty remarkable story. Mrs. Pastor fourteen years ago found an old woman sitting on her front lawn. The lady looked to be alone and unfortunate so Angelica invited her into her home for lunch. They chatted and got to know each other. At the end of the lunch, Angelica told the lady she was welcome to return for lunch again the next day. The lady thanked her and asked if she could possibly bring a friend …. and so the beginning.
One friend led to another and another and another. Pretty soon Angelica was feeding 20 homeless old people on buckets and tree stumps in her front yard.
In Mexico there is very little money for programs like we have in the states and further these people that Angelica was meeting were mostly forgotten. They have no family that will admit to being related to them, they have little or no education, they have no way to travel, and they have not the knowledge or experience of how to ask for help. They are typically migrant farm workers who historically have lived the nomadic lifestyle traveling from farm to farm working in the fields and living on what little meager existence they can eek out with the wages their farmer pays.
Angelica knew there must be some public assistance available for these poor souls. She took one of them into a government office and introduced her as her grandmother. The agreed that Grandma qualified for a pension of $25 every other month. She then took another and introduced him as Grandfather. Then another and then another. You know what happened next … by the 5th time they knew something was up. She told the government agents the truth. They told Angelica that they were going to make a surprise visit to see for themselves.
When they arrived and saw what she was doing – unfortunately they couldn’t help financially with anything more than the $25 per person every other month. But the COULD provide her with a building close by where she could prepare and serve the meals. Soon after and still today, she and her volunteer helpers are serving meals to about 200 forgotten souls on a daily basis.
But she knew there was still more to be done. These people needed homes. They were living under sheets of cardboard under trees. The more fortunate ones had acquired plastic tarps to live under and were begging on the streets. These are sick and aged people in their 70’s and 80’s who could no longer do manual labor.
That’s where our new friend Miguel Pabloff comes in. Mike helped them obtain the land on which to start a small community of nice clean stick-built homes for these people. All the work and all the materials have been donated. Angelica and her husband Nickolas receive no government funding except the $25 previously mentioned.
Currently there are 15 residents and the Pastors do all the cooking, cleaning, bathing, activities and more. The do get volunteer help as well. The day we were there two student nurses came to check on all the residents and will be coming weekly for the next six months while they are still in school. Other volunteers come (unsolicited) from churches and neighborhoods in the area to help because they’ve heard of the unselfish work that Nicholas and Angelica are doing and want to help.
Although the resident rooms are very plain, we were told that to these folks, it’s a castle. Most of them had been living on the streets.
The rooms are spartan and very clean. There is one very large shower (to accommodate a wheelchair) in each building. When the residents want community or meals, they need to get over to the community dining room. Some are ambulatory with the help of canes or walkers while others need to be pushed along in wheelchairs.
Remember, clicking on any of the thumbnail photo will open a larger picture so you can see more detail.
The pictures in the gallery below show tables filled with donation items (food and clothing) for the Grandparents home and also to distribute to some of the less fortunate out in the country.
We collected (from ourselves) the donations and then on Saturday night we had an auction where we got lubed up with $2 Margaritas beforehand and then bid on items given by ourselves to our “other” selves. We raised about $4000 in the auction. This is just part of the monies that Chapter 8 will be giving back to four different Service Projects (charities) here in Baja California before we leave.
Thanks for riding along … More to come in our next post.
Our first day in Mexico was without our RV’s. Our caravan of 27 rigs has been divided into four smaller groups to make the trip(s) more manageable.
Kathy and I are the second rig in Group 2. Today the mission for each group is to drive our cars 20 minutes to the border crossing of Tecate. We carpooled and parked our cars in a public lot ($5 U.S.) and walked across. We stayed in our smaller groups of 8-10 people as we toured the town.
Each group’s mission was to check in with Mexican authorities and get our FMM cards, exchange our dollars for pesos, enjoy breakfast at an open air cafe, visit Tecate Brewery (free beer), visit a Wonderful bakery, and anything else we wanted as long as we were back to Potrero Bark by 3pm or so.
I needed to buy a cheap cell phone for Mexico as my service provider does not include Mexico coverage. A couple of folks in our group found a pharmacy to get some much needed aids (drugs) to help with their ailments.
Along the way some of us felt the need to get some ice cream too! I should’ve got a picture of that .. sorry.
The Mexican people are very friendly and smile and wave. A smile back with a “Hola” or “Buenos Dias” goes a long way way toward making new friends in a strange country.
One funny experience we had was our interaction with the border crossing official. After he reviews and processes your passport and FMM card (and collects your $31), he then graciously offers to sell you either honey or hot sauce and he’s sure to tell you the hot sauce is “good on your eggs in the morning!”
Back to Potrero Park for an afternoon info meeting, Happy Hour, dump our tanks in preparation for tomorrow mornings trip across the border, and finish off the night with a nice campfire.
More tomorrow as we drive south and enter the “Zoologico Parque del Nino Jersey” (zoo) at Guadalupe which will be our home for the next few days.