Nov 7, 2011 at 1:22 am #1281638
Since we all seem to dig the same stuff around here, I invite you guys to follow along on my PanAm trip, We are camping in the back of 4runner and backpacking around wherever we please.
Howdy folks! Figured it was about time to get this thread going. After saving and planning this trip for the past 3 years, Lauren and I are set to leave TODAY for the first leg of our Pan-American journey.
We are leaving from San Francisco to travel back to our home-state of Florida to say adios to our family and friends, from there we will trek back to Texas and cross the border into Mexico. DESTINATION: USHUAIA, ARGENTINA :bowdown:
We have no set plans, No real set destination other than getting to the bottom. Our timeline for the trip is at least 1 year. We are planning to extend the trip by hooking up with volunteer organizations, couchsurfing, and house-sitting when possible. We have modified my 87 4Runner into a quasi-camper with most of the luxuries of home. ie: Bed, Stove, Shower, 110v etc.
The truck is fitted to tackle some serious off-roading, we look forward to exploring tons of backroads and trails all up and down Central/South America. Any suggestions on places to go, people to see, beers to drink will be appreciated!
I am still waiting to pick up our truck from the 4×4 shop today where they are mounting a rear-swingout for 2 jerry cans, Our lease is up and my last day of work was yesterday so we are OUTTA HERE as soon as we get the truck.
We are going to take about 2 weeks or so to drive from Northern California to Florida. Lauren has never seen much of Utah, Nevada, Colorado so I believe we will be journeying that way. We plan to just look at the atlas and pick out national/state parks/monuments/forests to camp at along the way. Again we are open to ANYTHING so throw up your suggestions.
Here is our blog with more information, feel free to subscribe and follow us on the facebook
JamesNov 7, 2011 at 1:28 am #1799291
November 1st came and went, we were antsy to get going but the world had other plans. Luckily we only ended up two days behind “schedule”, which I am now declaring as a dirty word. Schedules are for people who have someplace to be.
Darren and Marc at Any7 got the truck all finished up, they did a great job putting our ideas for the truck into action. We picked it up and headed home to cram all worldly possessions into the back.
Luckily this process only took about 30 minutes. Impressive! We bid our landlords and our cabin farewell and headed out the door. It was too late to actually make it anywhere and the truck was too full of crap to camp in the back. Darren let us crash on his couch for the night, the first of many couch surfing experience to come I am sure.
Re-arranged the back of the truck in the morning and hit the road. Our destination for the night was the Sierra mountains.
Excitedly we headed off into the rolling foothills of the Sierras.
The clouds looming overhead did not look very inviting, and as we approached the mountain range we saw signs stating the most of the mountain passes were closed. I thought this was odd since I was just up here last weekend and there wasn't any snow on the ground. Cranked up the weather report on the radio…
WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY – SNOW STORM APPROACHING EASTERN SIERRAS AT 730PM – 8 INCHES OF SNOW AND 75 MPH WINDS EXPECTED AT 8000FT.
Perfect, so pretty much exactly where we were heading? Looks like our “schedule” is about to change again. A quick look at the map and we decide we are going to go up and over the Sierra range and camp at a ghost town called Bodie on the eastern-side foothills. The storm was not scheduled to hit until 730, was only 430 at the time. We were about 2 hours from the other side. No problemo. We press on determined to beat the storm.
Not much time for pictures this visit to the Sierras.
Making good time, should make it easily before the storm hits. …until
What the hell!? Construction delays on the Carson pass! A bunch of bozos trying to build a road as the storm approaches, A long line of trucks idling waiting for the road to clear. The white flakes starting to fall and winds picking up!
Eventually we make it over and haul ass down to Bodie as the storm picks up gusto. We find a side-road up in the hills and setup camp for the night as the storm set in. It’s going to be a cold one…
OUCH! 11F at 830AM, Had to have got down to 5F or so overnight
We awake to all the windows completely iced over, rear window and side windows frozen up, only way out of the truck is to move all the crap piled in the front back onto our bed and then climb out the front seats.
She still started on first crank!
Froze our ass off trying to repack the truck in 11F weather, headed into town to grab a coffee then headed south. We wanted to check out the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest. Home to the oldest living things in the world.
Weather was still crappy but we knew if we waited any longer they would shut the road down (We have tried 3 times to get up here, every time it has been closed due to inclement weather/snowed out roads)
Road to nowhere?
The ancient bristlecone pines are only found in the highest elevations of the Inyo forest, from 8000-12000ft these beasts have lived for over 4000 years. Older than the next oldest living thing by over 1000 years! I had to see them!
Conditions worsening, 4Runner can take it. My buddy Jimbo gave me my first 4×4 lessons driving in a Sierra blizzard, I think I can handle a little powdering.
Quick poses! too cold to hang around
Back to the truck and crank the heater up!
Nov 7, 2011 at 1:29 am #1799292
Drove back out of the park and camped on another backroad near the back entrance to Death Valley
Not a bad sight to wake up too.
Headed up the backroad into Saline Valley, Death Valley National Park
DV has some of the most breathtaking scenery in the U.S, the weather/light was crap most of the day so I couldn't get very good pics.
Stopped for some lunch, you can somewhat see our current “organization” system. Still a work in progress.
Saline Valley Rd.
Part of the old trolley system that carted salt from the Saline valley up and over the mountains to Bishop, CA. quite a feat in its day.
Driving down Saline Valleys dirt roads was a blast. The new OME suspension ate it up! I could haul ass now over every type of rock, pothole, dip, whatever. The suspension ate it up and asked for more. I am really happy with it, Thanks again to Any7 Offroad for putting it all together for us.
Riding down the road we came across a Toyota FJ60 broken down on the side of the road. Not being one to leave a fellow Toyota behind we pulled over to see what was up.
Hmmm… 20 year old spare didn't cut the mustard in Death Valley?
Turns out these guys were from LA and were out here cruising for the weekend headed to the Hot springs. They caught a flat the day before and the spare blew out them just a mile down the road. They had been stuck there for about 24 hours now.
At least they had a nice view…
10 minutes with the plug kit and the punctured tire was repaired, took about another 3 hours wrestling with the jack and the stock sagged out springs to get the blown out spare off. Luckily they had beer, which is about all it takes to keep me around for 3 hours.
Stock spare off, not enough clearance to mount the fixed tire though.
Gotta air it down! Ladies… We need your butts.
With the tire aired down we were able to clear the lugs, get it bolted on and air it back up. Back on the road!
We set our separate ways and setup camp somewhere down in the valley.
Woke up in the morning, pack the truck up and headed out. Destination Las Vegas.
Joshua Trees in DV.
Lauren says this is where Dr. Seuss came to write his books, the truffala tree looks oddly similar to the Joshua Tree
Off out the valley, into Nevada.
Reason #1 why Nevada rocks! Was paying ~$4/gal in CA.
We are now lying in bed in a hotel in Las Vegas, couldn't pass up the cheap deal and a hot shower! The adventure continues…Nov 7, 2011 at 1:34 am #1799293
I am having some issues with the truck though, looks like when the motor got rebuilt they put a O'Reillys thermostat in there instead of the dual-spring OEM one so I am getting tempature overshoot constantly, espciailly in this cold weather, the block cools down instantly and the thermostat slams shut until the truck is practically overheating, then it drops back down to normal temp, i gotta keep the RPMs up the keep the temp up to prevent the thermo from slamming. Calling the Las Vegas Toyota dealer in the AM, hopefully the have the thermo in stock, if not Ill call ahead to my next town and have them order it for me.
Also looks like I am seeping oil from the oil pan gasket and possibly someplace else, I thought I saw some red ATF fluid under the truck at one gas station but have not seen it since.
Going to give everything a scrubdown tomorrow and evaluate, anyone know know a spot in Las Vegas that I could get some work done if need be?Nov 7, 2011 at 8:00 am #1799343
Ben CBPL Member
Very jealous of your trip. We were down in death valley last month and really loved it too. Its hard to explain what's so special about it but it really is. Looks like you'll hit the southeast just about in time to be among the barren trees. Some like the views it gives but I like my leaves.
I have traveled a lot of Mexico and central america. I am a fan of the volcanos and west coast beaches. We loved Nicaragua. Its beautiful and the Nicas are really fun people overall. Make sure to stop in Granada, Ometepe, and the beaches south of San Juan del Sur (you will be glad to have your 4 wheel drive there).Nov 7, 2011 at 10:49 am #1799388
thanks Ben, sounds like some awesome sites, I am really looking foward to Central/South Am
I found a dealer in St. George, Utah that ordered me the t-stat going to check everything out here today, if we look good I am planning to drive the Tuweep trail down to the North Rim of the Grand Canyon, then head back to St. George to pick up the part tomorrow.Nov 7, 2011 at 11:13 am #1799394
@hknewmanLocale: Western US
Sounds like an excellent adventure and one of these days ….. I assume at least one of you speaks Spanish?
Advice: Get through the Texas-Mexican border during early daylight hours due to the troubles in their major cities and stay away from the Mexican states with a state dept advisory. All the restaurants on the MX side of the border towns are relocating on the US (Texas) side now – about to go eat in one now actually, so there's no real reason to stop. The border culture is much different from the interior culture. Read you were drinking coffee: Many other cultures prefer Nescafe instant (including south of the border) or something similar, so you might want to slowly limit your caffeine intake. However, I've read where some countries do not want you to leave with a sample of their coffee as well, so meh.Nov 7, 2011 at 12:23 pm #1799424
Eugene SmithBPL Member
@eugeneiusLocale: Nuevo Mexico
This was an awesome little report, enjoyed it tremendously. You have a killer Runner there. I'm a Toyota FJ60 owner and love seeing these things out in their element…. scraping along somewhere out in the desert. Mine is sitting over 300,000 miles and has a leaky tank, need to drop that thing and throw some JB weld in there when I get a chance. ;-)Nov 7, 2011 at 4:45 pm #1799531
d kBPL Member
Sounds like a great trip you have planned. If you haven't read it already, you MUST MUST MUST pick up a copy of Tim Cahill's "Road Fever" and read it either before or as you drive down there. One of the funniest true books ever, covering the journey in the opposite direction (Ushuaia all the way up to Alaska).Nov 9, 2011 at 7:25 pm #1800257
ha nice, love those FJ's, hate the gas mileage though, thats why I went the 4Runner. Wish I had more ROOM sometimes thoughNov 14, 2011 at 8:43 pm #1801868
Wow! We had a great response to our first post. I am glad you guys are enjoying our adventure. I know in our last post we said that the Sierras and Death Valley is some of the majestic scenery in all of the U.S. I think I need to keep my mouth shut because the past 7 days of traveling the “4 Corners” area of the U.S. has been AMAZING.
The Colorado Plateau is a geographic region of the U.S which covers over 130,000 sq miles of land shared between Arizona, Utah, New Mexico, and Colorado. This area has the greatest concentration of National Parks in the U.S and it is easy to see why. Developed over billions of years and uplifted and modified by faults and receding oceans this area is chock full of geological, ecological, and historical splendor. We had a blast.
Leaving Las Vegas!
Our night in Vegas was spent mostly holed up in our room enjoying the HEAT! and updating the blog. We did make it down for a few drinks and some midway games at Circus Circus
Lauren won a Rhino, He got some free drinks
Headed up to St. George, Utah and camped off some forest road.
Our first taste of red dirt
Snow Canyon State Park, St. George Utah
Since leaving the Bay, we have been having overheating issues, the thermostat on the truck has been malfunctioning. I had read about this issue in the past happening with your standard Autozone thermostats and knew it was fixed by getting the expensive Toyota OEM dual-stage thermostat.
$45 later and 1/2 gallon of coolant onto the NAPA parking lot and we were fixed up, issue solved, no more overheating.
Off to the Grand Canyon! We read about a 90-mile backroad from St. George to a remote area of the Grand Canyon National Park called the “Toroweap Overlook”. Talked to a few people in town who said that it would be snowed and we would not be able to make it up and over the Mount Trumball pass. We’re used to naysayers and of course headed off anyway, the 4runner could make it.
Sunset on the Toroweap Rd.
Nightfall hit by the time we made up to the mountain pass, It was covered in snow and mud, I had a blast mashing through it all in 2 wheel drive, slipping and sliding all over the place and making a big ol’ mess of the truck.
Eventually made it to the campground, setup shop and went to sleep. Awoke in the morning completely alone and surrounded by the majesty of the red rocks and Grand Canyon.
Headed out on a hike to the Toroweap Overlook, no one around for miles but us and the canyon. No guardrails, no tourists, just the way we like it.
Played around in the Canyon for a while, then headed off again back to Utah. Headed to Zion National Park.
Spotted some Coyotes
We arrived in Zion in the middle of the night, awoke surrounded by huge canyon walls and beautiful CLEAR weather! Something we have been lacking most of the trip.
Spent most of the day hiking around Zion, then headed off to explore more of Southern Utah.
Headed to Bryce Canyon. Amazing Scenery of course.
Bryce Canyon was pretty well snowed out when we got there, Still checked it out.
Spent most of the time running out the overlook then back to the car, was about 30F outside at the time! Too cold for this Florida boy.
From Bryce we headed down another backroad towards Capitol Reef National Park, sun went down and we setup another freezing camp. Awoke in the morning to frost covering the truck once again and dreary cloud cover.
The beautiful dirt road through Capitol Reef made up for the weather. This is a great drive and there was no one out here but us. We enjoyed taking our time cruising through this beautiful place.
Eventually the dirt road led us to Glen Canyon National Recreation area, which is home to most of Lake Powell. Similar to Hetch Hetchy in the Sierras, a environmental tragedy took place here where we dammed up the Colorado River and flooded the majestic Glen Canyon to increase water supply to the surrounding area. The created reservoir was named Lake Powell after one of my heroes.
We hit the highway once again and headed towards the 4×4’er mecca. AKA MOAB, UTAH!
Got to Moab in the middle of the night, shacked up in a cheap motel. I thought I had heard some strange noises coming from our trash bag we had been carrying since Grand Canyon. Messed around for a bit with it and didn’t see anything, figured I was just crazy. Next morning Lauren is doing Yoga and hears the same noises coming from the bag. We snatched it up and dumped it into the bathtub to investigate.
Screaming like little girls and dancing around the room in our underwear trying to catch him but he ended up escaping somewhere in the motel room. Sorry Motel6!
Now that our adrenaline was pumping it was time to go beat on the truck some. We headed to the “Poison Spider 4×4 Trail” to try our luck and see how far we could make it. Lauren has never been 4wheeling before and was pretty much peeing her pants the entire time as we drove all over this place. The 4Runner with little 31 inch tires and open differentials is still a pretty capable machine.
After mashing around in Moab for most of the day we were headed up to Grand Junction, CO. An awesome guy from MarlinCrawler forums had offered to help us fix up a few issues with the truck that we did not have the tools or knowledge to tackle ourselves.
Drove around Colorado National Monument looking for a campspot, eventually found some dirt road that we took, kept getting higher and higher into the mountain. Eventually we were driving through deep snow in the middle of no where, figured we should turn around. Well the rear wheels dropped into a icy rut and we were stuck. 30 minutes of winching later we were turned around and headed back down the road. The Smittybuilt winch is no longer a virgin and it worked like a champ!
Next morning headed over to Phillip’s shop in Grand Junction. The shops name is Karnage Fabrication, Phillip knows Toyota’s like the back of his hand. He has owned over 50 of them and had ours torn apart and fixed back up in no time. This guy was a lifesaver, The Toyota community is an great group and I feel honored to have met such an awesome guy and his beautiful family. We replaced the oil pan cork gasket with the proper sealant, fixed up a leaky inner shat oil seal, and replaced the failing AUTO hubs with some beefy AISIN manual hubs. Thanks again Phil, you are our hero! And Thanks to Sean and Ace for grabbing some much needed parts. It was great to meet all of you!
Lauren and Phil’s daughter became bestest of friends.
4×4 Fabrication/Arts and Crafts. Karnage Fabrication has it all!
Headed off today for Vail to meet up with one of my dad’s old friends. Speaking of which… I should probably get on the horn and let him know were coming!Nov 23, 2011 at 2:25 pm #1804922
New post up on the blog if you want to check it out!
With Thanksgiving quickly approaching we had to step our game up. No more dilly dallying! We still have a few obligations to our parental units to uphold and one of them was Thanksgiving dinner in Florida. Unfortunately this means we had to pick up the pace from Colorado to Florida in order to hit our deadline. We missed a lot of great stuff and look forward to coming back someday to revisit lots of sites along the way. Luckily we have lots of friends along the way to stop in and crash for the night. Less camping shots on this post.
Heading out from Moab towards Colorado. We stopped off in Beaver Creek, CO to visit an old friend. Tommy is one of my dads best friends and basically an uncle to me and my brothers. It was great catching up with him and nice to get out of the cold for a bit. Tommy is a wild man, loves deep-sea diving, heli-skiing, dragracing, and basically raising hell. When I was younger he gave me my first job, let me get away with all my shenanigans, and was there to kick my ass when I needed it. A good guy indeed.
Beaver Creek, Nice little ski town. Still needs more snow to get pumping.
A little further up the mountain, Vail, CO had runs open and people skiing.
From Beaver Creek we stopped in Denver to see another old friend. We all call him Howie, I think his real name is Chris. But he has always been Howie to us. I met Howie back during my brief-stint with college. A lifetime friend and accomplice, how we got away with 1/2 the stuff we pulled I will never know. We stopped in unexpectedly and they were planning to go to a concert that night…
more on the blogDec 15, 2011 at 6:46 pm #1812628
Howdy folks, new post up on the blog. Check it out http://homeonthehighway.com
Sorry it has been so long since our last post, things have been busy on the Home on the Highway front. When we last left you we had just entered Florida right around Thanksgiving time. We spent the holiday bouncing between our two parents houses and seeing friends anywhere and everywhere in between.
Beautiful Ladies, Impressive genes!
Vacation Dad! and his beautiful daughters out for a pleasure cruise on their boat.
You get two opinions of Florida, those who think it is a tropical paradise and others who think its nothing but a muggy retirement home. Like most things in life, Florida is all about the timing, and November is PRIME TIME for adventuring in our homestate. The mercury drops, humidity vanishes, bugs and tourists are banished, and we get to enjoy these pristine months in shorts and t-shirts relaxing on the beach while the rest of the country is bundled up fighting off Jack Frost. Needless to say, I love Florida.
After we wrapped up Thanksgiving in Tampa with Lauren’s folks we headed down to Miami for a bit to hang out with my family. First order of business… FISHING. My crazy Uncle Wendell was happy to take the family out for a day of hunting dolphins. My Uncle is a true Old man of the Sea, not a lick of electronics to be found on the boat, no fancy GPS, no fish finder, none of the gauges actually work, hell I don’t even think there was a UHF radio on the thing. We fish by sight, smell, and feel out here.
My brother Jonathan and Mama Dukes, 80’s stylin on the fishing trip
Nice little Dolphin, To take the skunk off the boat
Laurens turn at bat
Sushi time! Blackfin on the menu
Put a few more in the boat and headed back in for dinner.
Happy Captain and Crew!
Next day we headed on down to the Florida Keys, one of my favorite places on earth. My folks have had a timeshare down in Key Largo forever and I have been exploring these mangrove waters as long as I can remember. I love it down here. Old Florida still survives in places like these.
Mom, Daddio, and yours truly.
Continue Reading…. http://homeonthehighway.comDec 15, 2011 at 9:16 pm #1812671
David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
I totally agree that you must read Tim Cahill's "Road Fever". But it appears you haven't since you did all those mods to the Toyota. All my Toyotas stay totally stock. No mods. At all. I took the first one to 294,000 miles with two $100 repairs (fuel gauge sender unit at 100k and a new clutch master cylinder at 200k). I didn't want to give it up but the wife (with the big pay check) felt it had gotten too doggie smelling. Someone else is still driving it around town, 23 years old now and coming up on two Earth-Moon distances. And every Toyota I bought since is still running except those that hit a moose. And you are totally safe from moose for the next year.
It sounds like a GREAT trip and I hope it goes really well for you.
But I'd paraphrase my standard travel packing advice ("Half as much luggage and twice as much money as you think you'll need") as "dump half the stuff you've brought and alwys keep a few bucks in your pocket." Overloaded vehicles break much more often. And spare parts and extra gas solve only a few problems. Extra money solves all problems.Dec 16, 2011 at 7:39 am #1812782
ha tell me about it Dave, I should have just drove it stock. Shes a tough cookie though. Love ToyotasDec 16, 2011 at 5:47 pm #1813060
stephan qBPL Member
Wow, sounds like a great trip. We went from Quito to Lima by road( mostly buses)this May/June. Crossed into Peru at the frontier crossing south of Zumba and made our way to Chachapoyas before heading to the coast. Fuel in Ecuador is only $1.25 per gallon for unleaded, and the country is fantastic for travelers. If you have any ?'s about the area we will be glad to help. Some great info can be found at our friends blogs, vnextstop and/or polarbearstopenquins. These folks are on bicycles, but you will find great info and local tips from them. stephan.Dec 17, 2011 at 7:41 am #1813223
@benwoodLocale: flatlands of MO
James, this is awesome, i don't know how i missed this until now.
sounds like like all kinds of fun.Jan 10, 2012 at 9:58 am #1822651
Hey guys, Things are going good here in Moreilas, MX. We are just about to head out from here up into the mountains to check out the Monarch Butterfly reservations. Apparently there are millions of these guys all over the place up there. From then we are headed to Mexico City!
We have been getting lots of requests on how we actually setup and organized the interior of the truck, This is Laurens department and she just put up a new post on how we manage it. Check it out!
Sleep mode, activate!
Jan 10, 2012 at 10:47 am #1822675
David ThomasBPL Member
@davidinkenaiLocale: North Woods. Far North.
Nice set up. A flat place to sleep is such a quality of life thing. It can also help you make miles when you need to by sleeping / driving in shifts. But I'd suggest you limit using that trick to US interstates – NOT Central and South American roads. Stick to daytime driving with seatbelts fastened. Goats, chickens, bandits, and potholes all come out at night and you don't need any of that kind of excitement.Jan 11, 2012 at 4:51 pm #1823503
Ya we dont drive at all at night, its enough fun driving in the day avoiding cows, kids, topes, pigs, horses etc… We try to start finding a place to camp at least an hour or two before sundown.Jan 21, 2012 at 11:51 am #1827729
Howdy again friends, Its been a while since our last post. Been busy criss-crossing Mexico. When we last left off we were in a beautiful port town on the Pacific Ocean called Mazatlan. Now I am posting from the opposite side of Mexico, sitting on the Gulf of Mexico down near the Isthmus of Mexico. We have traveled over 2000 miles and had many great adventures along the way.
Leaving Mazatlan we cruised down the Pacific Coast for a while, we were enjoying the beach views and fresh mariscos (seafood). We saw a small beach town on the map by the name of San Blas. Drove on down the road to check it out.
The highway cut inland for a while and then curved back to the coast, when we approached the coastline this time the landscape had started to turn into marshland.
We reached San Blas, Mexico and drove right out to the beach, We got there about an hour before sunset, busted out some beers and enjoyed the view.
Another beautiful sunset… We found a little restaurant on the beach and sat down for dinner. The beachside palapa started to fill with acrid smoke, we looked around and noticed all the palapas were belching out this smoke. It smelled a lot like citronella, and within a few seconds we realized why. We were getting eaten ALIVE by no-seeums (tiny biting insects) The restaurants did all they could to quell the flood of fly's but there was no hope. We inhaled our food and made a beeline to the truck. We discussed our options for camping that night and figured if we got out onto the beach into the breeze and setup our bug net we would be OK.
Wrong! We drove out onto the beach, bugs didn’t seem to bad. We setup our bug net around our sleeping area and passed out. Woke up in the middle of the night getting attacked by thousands of no-seeums, turns out they took a meal break and were back for seconds. They were so small they just waltzed right through our net, gave a laugh at our weak protection, and started chomping on our bodies. With not many options we buried our heads under the covers and roughed it out for the night.
When I finally poked my head out from under the covers there were thousands of dead bugs around me and tons more alive flying around my head. I jumped out of the truck and found Lauren on the beach who gave me the “Lets get the HELL outta here look!”
Read more on the blog… http://homeonthehighway.com/cruising-the-mexican-coastline/Jan 27, 2012 at 10:05 pm #1830799
After we got our share of the beach scene we cut inland, Destination: Butterfly Kingdom.
If you haven't guessed by now we are kind of nerds. Back home we had seen a few nature documentaries on the mass migration of the Monarch butterflies. Each year the Monarch butterflies begin a huge southward migration from as far north as Canada all the way south to Mexico. This incredible journey is over 4000 miles and spans generations of Monarchs to reach its completion every year. Millions of butterflies arrive in the Michoacán highland forests of Mexico every year for the winter before turning around and heading back north for the summer. It just so happened we were here during the right months. We had to see it!
As we cut in from the coastline through the states of Jalisco we started encountering some wonderful mountain scenery and idealic farmland. Jalisco is known as the homeland of Tequila and agave farms abound. We also saw a few huge volcanoes.
Morelia is a beautiful Spanish colonial city. They have retained a lot of the architecture from the cities founding back in the 1500’s. We found it to be a wonderful town and spent a few days exploring the city alongside other Mexican tourists. I think we were the only gringos in town.
We then headed to the Monarch Butterfly Reserve. There were so many butterflies you could literally hear them flying around bumping into each other above our heads.Jan 29, 2012 at 9:30 pm #1831514
Double Update Goodness!
After experiencing the majesty of the butterfly kingdom we pointed our truck towards another sort of mystical place. Mexico City. Originally we had planned to skip Mexico City due to reports of violence, crime, high traffic, smog etc etc etc. However, during our few weeks traveling the country we have come to realize that 99% of things we had heard about Mexico were bullmess, so we changed our minds and we are glad we did! We ended up spending 5 days in this diverse place and barely began to touch the surface. We also partied our faces off and put a sizable dent in our Mexico budget, well worth it…
We left the highlands of Michoacán and headed towards the mountain-ringed metropolis of Mexico City. Greater Mexico City with its population of 22+ MILLION is the largest metropolitan area in the western hemisphere and the 2nd largest in the world. This place is DENSE. As we broke through the mountain tree line we saw an endless sea of concrete and buildings. Wow
We had made a friend off the internet who graciously offered to let us stay at his place, arrange us a safe spot for the truck, and be our tourguide for the duration of our visit. Note: I made these arrangements at 9PM the night before our arrival, We were lucky to find such a grand host!
We punched his address into the GPS and drove into the jungle. We tirelessly fought across the city streets making headway towards his barrio (neighborhood). The GPS said it should take 20 minutes to arrive, it ended up taking us around 3 hours. The GPS did not account for 1-way streets, curbs, and the constant reconstruction that takes place on the mean streets of Distrito Federal. Luckily we had mentally prepared ourselves for this and took it in stride, rather enjoying the wild west style of driving in the city. It’s a no-holds barred grudge match, kill or be killed, not for the feint of heart. I loved it.
We eventually arrived at Adrian’s place where he introduced us to his grandma and aunt, showed us our room, and took us to his uncles parking lot where we were able to stash the truck for a few days.
Our Mexico City adventure HQ
Wasting no time, Adrian said lets hit the city! We threw down our stuff and headed out, grabbed a cab, to a bus, bus to a train, and popped out in the middle of downtown Mexico City about 20 minutes later. The public transportation in Mexico City is cheap and reliable, bus ride was 5 pesos and I believe the train was a similar price.
Our first spot to check out was the Monumento a la Revolucion. A gigantic monument in the middle of downtown dedicated to the Mexican Revolution and the heroes who were involved in the movement. There is an elevator to the top and we headed up for a view of the city.
Headed to the bars to cap off our first night in D.F., lots of cool spots and plenty of hip young people out enjoying a night on the town.
and BACON WRAPPED HOTDOGS!!11 (Hotdog guy was not amused with my antics)
Woke up the next morning and headed to the Zocolo, Mexico City’s main historic square. This is where the capital building, cathedral, and Tenochtitlan ruins are located. Fun Facts, Mexico City is built ontop of the capital of the Aztec nation originally constructed in the 12th century. The whole region was once a marshy area with scattered lakes. These lakes were slowly drained and built upon over the centuries. The city is seeing the effects of building on this soft lakebed soil. The entire place is slowly sinking into the ground.Feb 14, 2012 at 5:53 pm #1839574
Sorry it has been so long since we have updated, We have been caught up in a whirlwind of travel lately. (This is a good thing!) We have now settled down in a beautiful place called San Pedro De Laguna, Guatemala. We found a great spanish school that rents out nice little cabanas for $25 a week! We are right on the water and loving it here. I am lounging in the shady hammock outside, typing this up and listening to the birds chirp in the trees. Behind us about 100 yards is gigantic lagoon ringed by 3 massive dormant volcano mountains. Have we found paradise already!? Perhaps… Needless to say we have decided to stay here for a month taking spanish lessons and slowing down the pace.
Now back to our regular scheduled programing!
After our hectic day in Oaxaca we decided to put some miles down. My friend Doug runs a community center for a small barrio in Cancun. We had told him we were going to stop by and help him out so we set our sights for the tip of the Yucatan peninsula. As we descended from the top of the Oaxcan mountain range towards the isthmus of Mexico the change was immediately apparent. The pine trees gave way to jungle and the the cool dry air was now thick with humidity. Toto…We’re not in Kansas anymore.
On our way up to Cancun we stopped into the city of Villahermosa. A primarily industrial city with not much in the way of scenery. However it did have a nice museum/zoo combo that sounded interesting. The “Parque Mueso La Venta” combined both native Yucatan animals and excavated artifacts from the nearby Olmec ruins of La Venta into one attraction. Plus it was only $3 which the budget surely appreciates.
Yucatan Crocodiles. Vicious little guys. Note the croc is already missing one foot.
Lauren goes to the bathroom and when she gets back she hurriedly tells me “I think something escaped from the zoo!” and drags me to come look. Figuring she has been standing in the sun too long I reluctantly follow, and sure enough… something did escape!
or so we thought… We went and grabbed some employees and drug them over to look. They just took a glance at this obviously escaped zoo convict and started laughing. Ummm… hello? Aren't you going to put it back in the cage!? Well… it turns out these odd looking foreign creatures are basically a Yucatan raccoon and are more of a pest than a zoo exhibit. As we walked around the rest of the zoo we ended up seeing tons of them digging and climbing all around in the jungle. Man… we are such gringos.
The Olmec artifacts were very interesting, the La Venta ruins site is just up the road from Villahermosa. In the 1950’s they were planning to bulldoze the ruin area for crop land. An archeologist took charge, relocated most of the ruins to Villahermosa, and started the “Museo Venta” to educate people on the ruins site and Olmec heritage.
Magnificent Olmec heads weighing over 9 tons.
Growing up in Florida I have seen my fair share of Gators, I've seen the “World’s Largest Gator” at least 4 different times in 4 different tourist traps. But I think I may have finally found the actual “Worlds Biggest Gator”. Rumor has it that this thing eats Coatimundi’s by the bakers dozen, as the zoo keepers try to rid the park of the pests they toss them into the gator pit for dinner. He was a BEAST. I would say easily 17ft-20ft long.
Note the turtles in the pic are huge snapping turtles, not any baby sized Red Slider nonsense.
We packed up from Villahermosa and headed deeper into the Peninsula. We have visited a few ruins on the trip so far but we have heard that “Palenque” was one of the larger more magnificent ruins in Mexico. After learning about the Mayan Emperor Pakal, his tomb, and his jade mask in Mexico City, we were excited to see where it was all discovered.
The Palenque ruins were discovered in the 1800’s, explored and excavated over the centuries by a few different archeological groups. It is a beautiful Mayan site set deep in the jungle. They have done a great job with the excavation and restoration. The site and grounds are wonderful to tour around.
Although the site has been worked on for 200 some years, It wasn’t until the 1950’s that Alberto Lluhlier discovered Pakal’s tomb buried deep inside the temple. When he removed the (7 ton!) sarcophagus lid he discovered Pakal’s body dyed a deep maroon red and covered in magnificent jade jewelry. It was one of the largest archeological discoveries ever made on the Yucatan peninsula.
I heard heard rumor that there were Mayan bathrooms at the site. I think this is a ancient Mayan crapper. Either that or I just desecrated thousands of years of history to make a fart joke.Mar 7, 2012 at 9:27 am #1850050
After a great night in Bakalar, Mexico we headed south to the Belize/Mexico border. Unsure of what to expect we checked out our friends “Life Remotely” blog who recently crossed the border and posted a great detailed report explaining the crossing in detail.
Cruising down the road we hit a river with a ferry crossing. This was no ordinary ferry, an ancient hand-cranked job which looked as if it would sink at any moment. (I later learned that it actually did sink about 3 weeks before…) It could hold about 3 cars at a time, apparently it runs 24/7. The conductor sleeps on a wooden bench in the ferry.
We met some cool [url="http://www.northernbelize.com/cult_mennonite.html%5DMennonites%5B/url%5D on the ferry who were partying it up, we shared a few beers while we took turns cranking the ferry across the river. Hard working farming folk, there is a large Mennonite community in Belize. Apparently they got fed up with U.S religious policy and a large population relocated to Belize in the 1950s. Most are still very religious leading an almost Amish lifestyle, preferring horsedrawn buggies to automobiles. We met some of the more "progressive”boys. Ha!
We crossed the river, continued down the road, eventually hitting another hand-cranked ferry.
Pressing on towards the GPS coords we eventually found the spot. And it was worth every mile! Thanks again "Team Equipt"! We enjoyed this secluded beach cove all to ourselves. We stayed here for 2 days not seeing a soul, soaking up the sun and waves.
From our cove we headed towards a small town in Northern Belize by the name of Sartenja. Sartenja, Belize is home to the [“Backpackers Paradise” A great little hostel/restaurant run by an amazing French and Swiss couple. They have carved out their own little piece of paradise here. They rent out cabins, tents, and hammocks to travelers for great rates. Natalie also can cook like nobodies business, we had amazing French/Belizean fusion meals for dinner every night.
The “common area”. No shortage of hammocks to go around. Lauren and I spent most of our nights here lounging in the hammocks listening to the rain and crickets chirping outside.
Read more on the blog… http://homeonthehighway.com
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