After five weeks and 4,000 miles on the road, I thought it would be fun to not only report on Mazatlan, but also to check in on how we are doing and what this vagabond life is like on a daily basis.
We seem to find ourselves settling into two very different travel modes, each with its own pros, cons, routines and idiosyncrasies. The first is when we are in more urban environments and unable to camp. There have been a few overnights in hotel parking lots, but most of these times we have opted for motels and hotels. So far these stays have landed on the heels of camping in the wilderness for days on end, so I have to admit the biggest blessing that comes with renting a room is a shower! Since leaving home, water temperatures have ranged from cold, to tepid, to truly hot, and our longest shower-free stint has been six days. By contrast, hot water and good pressure is the very lap of luxury.
As Ned told you in our last blog, we ended up in Mazatlan after roughing it in the Copper Canyon. Oddly, we stayed six nights. Normally we would have been gnashing our teeth to keep moving, to get out of the city and onto back roads, but there is something so different about having an open-ended trip. I think this was when it hit us that we didn’t need to get back home…we didn’t need to be ANYWHERE. Neither of us has ever been in that position. It was surrealistically relaxing, like being wrapped in a big, warm, cozy blanket. We kept looking at each other saying, “Why not stay another day…we could go explore the city some more…” Words like that have never before left either of our lips!
So stay we did. We took our time preparing our blogs. We hung out at the pool (really?). We walked and rode bikes on the Malecon (waterfront sidewalk). We took pictures of sculptures. We ate a lot. We explored the old-town. We ate a lot. We visited with our friends from Canada. We rented a Waverunner. We drank lots of beer. We ran barefoot on the beach. We explored the local market. And we took lots of showers (my record standing at three in one day).
Our timing coincided with a vacation our friends, Ian and Susan from Canada had booked at a very nice resort called Pueblo Bonito, so we stayed our first two nights there. Whew, was that out of character. Charlotte roared into the place looking like a 19th century-mountain man at a proper High Tea and I’m afraid we didn’t look any better. But we really enjoyed catching up with our friends, and oh were those showers wonderful.
After two nights at the posh Pueblo Bonito we decided to slum it a little and got a very nice, basic room in town at the Best Western (where for a fraction of the cost, there was actually working wifi, an equally good shower AND free breakfast).
Enjoying Mazatlan was a surprise. It was a gift given to us by time; a gift of vagabond living and an unplanned future, but camping mode is, of course, much more natural for us. We love it. Living on the road, out of the bus is so very basic. Life boils down to just a few important things like navigation, food, fuel, water and safe places to camp. In the back country our minds are sharper and more focused on survival, we observe vivid landscapes with breathtaking acuity, and daily routines are more like daily rituals.
Just for fun, I thought I would offer a peek into some of our “Smelly Bus” rituals. Ned thinks this is all TMI, so feel free to skip this and go right to the photos if you think so too!
Like I said, when out in the wilderness it’s about the basics. We have the capacity to carry 13 gallons of water. Five in our water dispenser jug, three in a spare jug, and another five gallon jug in a cabinet under our “kitchen counter” with a hand pump to dispense into a large stainless salad bowl. Needless to say, conservation is critical, and water for consumption is king.
Teeth (Usually done outside):
Dispense toothpaste on brush
Pour a little water from stainless drinking bottle to rinse brush
Rinse mouth with two mouthfuls from drinking bottle
If too many bugs outside or being stealth in a parking lot, this can be done in our “kitchen sink”
Use lots of baby wipes
If water stores are good, a sponge bath is a nice luxury
Use lots of baby wipes
Use one or two half paper towel sheets to wipe off food from pots and dishes
Drizzle small amount of biodegradable soap into a pot
Add one half to one cup of water and heat on Coleman stove
Use another half paper towel sheet to wash pot
Transfer hot soapy water to other pots/and or use to wash up dishes
Offer the hot soapy water to the one not doing dishes for hand washing
Dump out soapy water and set soapy paper towel aside to wipe up table later
Use another half paper towel sheet to wipe off soapy water from all dishes
Ration out another half to one cup of clean water to rinse dishes
Use final half paper towel sheet to wipe dry
Wait for diarrhea…just kidding!
Some of you may not want to hear this, but we do wear the same clothes for an (untold) number of days (we only have each other to smell, after all!).
When in towns, for a few bucks a load, we have very nice local people do our laundry.
Small amounts of laundry can also be done while taking showers in hotel rooms.
Staying fit on the road takes a bit of creativity along with the normal discipline. We have with us, exercise bands, a jump rope and a telescoping pull-up bar that Ned fabricated onto our roof rack. Believe it or not, we are better at this while camping than in a hotel room, but we try daily to do our posture exercises and stretches, 100-plus squats and lunges, push-ups, triceps dips, pull-ups, hanging abdominal work (from the pull-up bar) and some resistance work with the bands or with local rocks. We also get the occasional run or hike in. In general we are not quite as fit as we are at home, but we’re doing alright considering the circumstances (yeah, ok, we’re getting a little soft!)
Looking back over the last five weeks, I’ve been spooked a couple of times, but everything has really gone well. The weather has been incredibly good, and with the exception of the two hundred or so sand-flea bites we are each suffering through right now (that’s a story for next time!) we both feel good. We also agree that of all the vehicles we considered taking on this trip, the set-up we have with Charlotte has been ideal. No other vehicle would have had as good a ride on bumpy roads, have been as nimble for driving down tiny cobblestone streets, have been inconspicuous for stealth camping, have been non-threatening at military checkpoints, nor would have been nearly as comfortable. We feel like everything is perfectly “dialed.” We have everything we need and nothing we don’t need, and it’s not only accessible enough, but it all fits without bouncing, rattling or coming loose on rough tracks. We do miss our friends and family, but neither of us wishes for anything different.