Made It Through The Gauntlet (Kind of)

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.

One group actually went across Rt 3 to San Felipe and the other group down Rt 1

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.

Ron & Liz (from FL), Liz’ brother Matt (from NY), Jim & Luanne (from OH), and us

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.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Giving Back to Our Hosts

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.

The main entrance to La Jolla Beach Camp

To find out more about Chapter 8, visit their web site at this link. And here is the link to the Chapter 8 Facebook page.

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.

We arrive at the site about 10am and greet some of the residents who were waiting to meet us outside.
Justin gives us an overview of the home and the history of the Pastors and their work

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.

We will be insulating the orange building. The purple and green buildings are completed and occupied with 5 residents in each building – each with their own room

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.

One of the 5 resident rooms in each of the finished buildings. Each resident has a bed, a chair, a toilet, sink, a small table, and a clothes closet

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.

The dining hall / community room where we ate beef quesadillas for lunch
The new kitchen under construction – currently Angelica prepares ALL the meals for the 15 residents and her own family on-site in her home

Remember, clicking on any of the thumbnail photo will open a larger picture so you can see more detail.

Our own Malcolm Russ entertained the residents with his violin and beautiful singing voice

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.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Mexico Day Two

We (Group 1) left Potrero Park at 7:30 a.m. Our group is the Parking Group so we need to head out before any of the other groups so we can be in place at the next location far enough ahead so we can be set up and ready to Park all the other rigs coming in behind us. There are 3 other groups consisting of 5 or 6 rigs each.

Since we all have our FMM cards already, we COULD have been swept right through the border crossing. But Kathy and I weren’t so lucky.

The official stopped us, checked our registrations, looked in a couple cabinets, and then greeted us with “Happy Valentine’s Day”

We moved on through the gates and all 6 rigs in Group One stayed in touch on our CB radios as we traveled the next 50 or so miles down to Zoologico Parque del Nino in Guadalupe Baja California Mexico.

Once we arrived, our fearless Group One (parking group) leaders Jim and Connie gave us our instructions along with our bright orange safety vests and flags. We we’re now official parking team members!

Our official uniforms

We then spent the next couple hours greeting and parking rigs as each subsequent group rolled in.

We we’re the first rig in so we got the prime spot in the corner closest to the wolves and the lion!

Right up front closest to the action

After we got all the rigs parked, we all wandered over to Ed & Kassandra’s (Our Trip Leaders) rig to pick up our new Baja jackets and get an update on the schedule for the coming days. Ed talked a little about the history of the Baja Jacket and his design for the logo embroidered onto the front.

Right after the afternoon meeting we moved on into the zoo where we were gifted with a beautiful Valentines Dinner prepared by the park owners daughter who is also a recently graduated chef! The meal was a delicious dish of Mexican Lasagna with green salad and refried beans served with fresh sangria or a unique cucumber/lemon drink and topped off with Red Velvet cupcakes.

And another special treat of the night was a gift from Malcolm Russ – one of our own who, as it turns out is a retired professional musician and vocalist who has played in national orchestras as well as smaller venues all over the country. He took requests, while also giving us some great love songs to bring the evening to a close.

Day three brings us a personal guided tour of the zoo with a close-up look at the animals with led by one of the two zoo biologists.

Stand by for more!

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Mexico Day One

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.

Our walk across the border after getting our FMM cards

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.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Stopover at Potrero

We drove yesterday from the SKP Park in Yuma (where we spent Sunday night) on over West to Potrero County Park.

It was mostly a great drive, with a little rain and a LOT of wind .. it was definitely a two-handed drive! The scenery was fantastic, along westbound I-8 (I wish I had pulled over to take a picture) there were miles and miles of huge, smooth boulders as far as the eye could see. It’s so fascinating to see all the different types of landscape we see as we travel.

These were large hills (or small mountains) made of millions of huge (larger than a truck / some larger than a commercial building) smooth-surfaced stones mounded on top of one another.

The colors ranged from white to sand to deep browns and reds. No jagged edges here like so many other geologic formations we’ve seen, just big rocks smoothed over millions of years by what force? Did they all actually used to be in a huge ancient riverbed whose cool running water smoothed them?

Once we got off I-8, we traveled about 25 miles west to Potrero County Park where we met up with about 20 or so of our fellow Escapees who are going to be our travel partners to Mexico over the next couple weeks.

Our home at Potrero for a couple nights

Last night we had a Happy Hour at the park shelter where those of us that are here early could get together and share some munchies and get to know one another. Seems about half the group so far are returning travelers while the others like us are “Newbies” to the Mexican Connection trip.

Our social time on our first night at the staging location at Potrero County park

Today the group leaders and some of the board members are headed across the border to Tecate just to make sure all is in order for our excursion there tomorrow. While we are in Tecate tomorrow we’ll get our Mexico FMM card, exchange some U.S. dollars for pesos, and visit a local bakery and brewery.

Can’t wait!

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

On Our Way To Mexico

It’s Saturday Feb 8th and we left Rovers Roost this morning and made our way 3 hours West to Quartzsite (AZ). We came over here because our new lithium batteries weren’t acting the way I thought they should.

Brian Boone installed our solar panels, controllers and inverter. We could have bought the batteries through him when he installed all the other, but it just wasn’t in the budget at the time.

But when we went to the Big Tent RV Show last month, the sale price on these batteries was just too good to pass up, so we bought 2 and I installed them myself. They market them as “Drop in replacements” … We’ll, not exactly the case.

When we spent 10 days in the desert at the big show, we were still using our Trojan T-105 Deep Cycle Lead Acid batteries. The solar and the batteries played well together and we never once had to fire up the generator.

But once we got back to the Roost and I swapped in the new lithiums, things always seemed a little screwy. I was constantly watching the volts, the amps, the capacity (in percent) and the amp hours from full. And the math just wasn’t adding up!

Time for some professional help. I called Brian for help. He and Sue are still dry camping in Q, so we drove out here to have him take a look. What Battle Born doesn’t tell you is that there are more than a couple settings that need to be changed when converting from lead acid to lithium batteries.

Brian made the changes and all seems to be working well now. I’ll monitor things tonight and in the morning and let him know before we head outta town.

Our camp site for the night at Road Runner BLM land a few miles south of Quartzsite

We’ve got the windows open, no fans on and a nice breeze moving through the coach. Kathy’s taking a little siesta on the couch right now as I write this. We’ve decided we’re going in to Silly Al’s for pizza tonight.

Tomorrow (Sunday) we’ll head on down SR 95 to Yuma where we will spend the night at the Escapees KOFA Co-Op park for the night, then Monday morning head West through El Centro CA to Potrero County Park

Potrero is where we will meet all the others going on the caravan to Mexico. There will be 27 rigs total. Kathy and I are on the parking team so we need to get into Potrero a day early so as to be able to be ready bright and early to greet and park the folks coming in.

We’ll spend a night or two at Potrero before we caravan into Mexico.

Much more on that later. I know our Visible phones won’t work in Mexico, so I’m going to try to buy a SIM card in Mexico. Not sure how pricey it’ll be, so it’s not clear on how many pictures I’ll be able to post.

But rest assured you’ll hear from us again. If not sooner, then later!

Adios for now!

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

The Fence / Wall / Border

So on down from Bisbee / Lowell we went.  I wanted to see the border.  Douglas is right on the border and lots of Mexican license plates on the cars lining the downtown streets.  Just your typical small town (not tourist shops like Tombstone) but another workamper here at the park told us we needed to check out the Gadsden Hotel.

The hotel opened it’s doors in 1907 and features a two story lobby with grand marble staircase, Tiffany windows, and marble columns.  This was the place for mining tycoons to stay, dine, and make their deals worth millions.

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After visiting the Gadsden, we drove down a couple blocks to see what Trump is talking about.

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Two fences about 30′ apart at the Mexican border at Douglas, AZ

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy
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