Monday, January 29, 2007

In the Desert, You can't remember your name

After all the anticipation, master planning, and wild last-minute weapon stashes, we finally are lucky enough to experience the "Real Mexico." Layers of sandy dust now coat everything we own, thus christening Guntero as Baja-worthy. Amid the saggy chi-chi dogs (don't pet them), cowboys on ATVs, and dusty children on bikes there lies a surprising diversity in both the landscape and people of Baja.

There seems to be a double existence here. The majority of people cling to the cities in a desperate attempt to catch up with the modern world. On the other hand, there are the traditionalists (i.e. farmers, ranchers and fishermen) who seem very content doing what their parents did before them. Anyone who has ever been to Tijuana or Ensenada knows which group fares better down here. With each city, we leave in semi-disgust, and within an hour we find a quaint, friendly people enjoying the natural beauty offered by this country.

As the cities have had little appeal to us, we've been relaxing in some of the best campsites I've ever been to... for about $5 a night. So far I'm surprised daily at how enjoyable the country is outside of the cities and cinder-tarp sprawl. In just six days we've camped on cliffs over the sea (unfortunately with little to no surf), sat around a campfire drinking Tecate in the desert highlands, paddled around on ocean kayaks, and hiked through a desert that blows away any I've seen in the States. Everyone we meet heading North gets us excited about the amazing cities to look forward to on the Sea of Cortez. For now we will continue to make out with mother nature, safely nestled in our metal tent.

We are now in Guerrero Negro, the first city in the state of Baja California Sur. We plan to try and pet some Grey Whales, drink some more beer with our newfound psuedo-caravan friends Chris and Tyler, and find some surf. On an endnote, Rachel cut her thumb, resulting in a very eerie scab resembling Mexico.


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Pimp My Ride - Edicion Mexicano

After enjoying the splendor of Los Angeles for almost a month we decided it was due time to hit the road for our adventures south of the border. But any fool can just take off for Mexico without thinking twice about it. Thats not how we roll. We figured that since every person we love has expressed fear for our well being that we needed to take matters into our own hands and give Guntero (aka Guillermo) his full inspector gadget treatment.

First we began with the cosmetic. To blend in with the surroundings, thereby lowering our "rob me, I'm a stupid gringo" factor, we strapped decaying board bags and a second spare tire to the roof. The end result is one step closer to "Baja Bus" status.

Secondly we addressed comfort. The deserts and jungles of Central America are hardly comparable to the icy Alaskan tundra so we added our own Mexico version of air conditioning. Yes, it's an oscillating fan which we screwed to the ashtray. Simple but effective. I can already feel the sweat disappearing.

Steps 3,4,, safety, safety. First we rigged up the fish bat by the sliding door for all bludgeoning needs. (*idea courtesy of Jim Abraham)

See this harmless lil pen?

That's right you dont see it cause your eyes are burning from the pepper spray.

And finally, what could be better than the last resort knife strapped under our kitchen table. This is all Rachel by the way. I'm not picking a fight with anybody armed with a butter knife in hand. I'll stick to my hatchet, bat, and tear gas. In case you are wondering why we need all these smuggle copious amounts of prescription drugs used to cure everything from "travelers diarrhea" to malaria. And where do we keep our valuable cargo you ask?

Where else except for our new secret compartment that we built under the back seat and covered with a nice inconspicuous carpet.

When doing all of these modifications its amazing what you can find in a 20 year old vehicle. That's right (see blog entry "pork paw and the hairy vents") Same hair, but for some reason it doesnt bother me so much this time. I think were finally ready to live la vida loca...without the vinyl pants and shaved chest.

Tomorrow is the big day, we'll be driving across the border from San Diego. Thanks everyone for all the well-wishing!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Who's Exciiiiited?

Typhoid live culture pills? Check. Arm-breaking tetanus shots? Check. Malaria Medication? Check...

We are within reach of being road-ready for the next portion of our adventure. Nauseating vaccinations coupled with another barrage of car "improvements" leave us gouged and almost ready for life on the road once again. Our plan? To drive as far as the Panama Canal and back. We will venture down Baja, take a ferry to mainland Mexico, and drive down the Pacific Coast through Guatemala, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. We plan to hit the Carribean side on the way back, spending time in Honduras and Belize before our round trip through Mexico. On the agenda is learning Spanish via an immersion program, surfing, diving, and general exploration while being drenched in 40% Deet mosquito repellant and 50 spf sunscreen.

We will be updating the blog as often as we can, even if it's just to say, we are OK and haven't encountered any flesh-craving jaguars as of yet. I have visions of us reenacting scenes from Apocalypto amid Mayan ruins while befriending spider monkeys (except for the Rabies part, oh, and the Head Rolling part) and surfing perfect rights with not a soul in sight. When I try to wrap my head around this trip I almost feel overwhelmed, then I remember: we have already conquered double the ground during our North America shenanigans. We are road-seasoned, one with He who is Günther. Or, should we change it to Guntero? Ahead lies even more adventure to be excited and exhilerated by, and I can't wait for us to live it.

Please check out the links on the top right: People's Guide to Mexico and Drive Me Loco, for info on the trip by weathered experts. Our departure date is sometime next week, please keep in touch with us and always feel free to comment on the blog by clicking the "comments" link on the bottom of each entry.

Hasta luego,
Rach & Joe

Monday, January 01, 2007

Post-Holiday Love

For those of you who have wondered whether we secretly settled in Austin to become dishwashers at the Salt Lick, the answer is no. Since our last entry, we've washed the bbq sauce off our grubby chins (yes, I think I may have gained another after Southern eatin') and headed West. The last two weeks have been an absolute whirlwind: driving back to Los Angeles, a snowy Christmas family vacation in Whistler, all while cramming in some of the most beautiful sights on the trip thus far.

Here's a photo recap of the frantic jam-packed drive home. My Grandma Jeanne in Lubbock, TX, a true Texan through and through. Lubbock: home of big hair, Tex-Mex, and cheerleaders.

Heading north through Amarillo, we made it just in time for sunset at Cadillac Ranch. We sprinted through the cowpies and helped ourselves to the leftover spraycans for some interactive art/vandalism.

Santa Fe: the air there felt cleaner than any I'd ever breathed, as the scenery blended into memories of creamy Georgia O'Keefe paintings. Such a beautiful area, with colors that got stuck on my mind.

What a better way to end the trip than with our nation's Grandest Canyon. Sunrise in the freezing cold rewarded us with a view that baffled me, as it seemed impossible to exist. My brain hurt just looking out over the southern rim, struggling to comprehend a landscape so immense and ridiculously pretty. As the sky brightened we did a driving tour, taking a meelion pictures at every stop in my PJ's. Having visited a handful of national parks along the trip, it really just blows me away to think of what an amazingly beautiful country we have. I had no idea how many natural wonders were in my own backyard.

Walnut Canyon is another national park near the GC that I would highly recommend. The Sinagua Indians built these amazing cave dwellings in the cliffsides and you can do a hike around thier 12th century homes. Pretty crazy. You can still see fingerprints in the clay they used to build the walls and black marks from their fires.

So, there you have it, the story of how we made it full circle to Los Angeles. Driving the final stretch along the I-10 was very strange, especially once scenery became familiar in Indio. When we turned left onto my home street I felt displaced, almost like I was watching myself doing something from a different time. Not in a bad way, just strange. Memories came back to me of the day we left 5 months ago, along this same street with our sparkling clean Günther and heads full of expectations. Fortunatately, we won't have to revert to nostalgia as this is merely a break point in our adventure.

For the next few weeks we will continue our research and preparation for the Central America portion of our trip. We plan to continue with our journey in an educated and careful fashion, with thanks to all those who have expressed concern for our safety. We'll keep everyone updated, and give us a shout if you are in town and want to see us.