Adventure Notes
Camp Sites in C.A.



Adventure Notes
The Rig
Good Guys
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The Adventure Continues - July 26th 2004 (50,000 miles on the odometer). Once we were back in the States I visited the Ford dealership in Hondo Texas to inquire about what I needed to do about the warranty claim for the clutch work done by Ford in Cancun Mexico. Unfortunately the only person qualified to deal with the claim was the service manager and he was away on vacation until the following week. We couldn't wait until he returned and we were told that the claim could be made at any dealership so decided to try again at our next stop.

A couple of days later we decided to spend some time just outside Carlsbad NM., so I tried again. The service manager although not happy to see me was very helpful and as he had never processed a claim like this before searched through his manuals to find the correct way to handle the claim. After much page turning and mumbling it was established that his manual didn't have the procedure and he would have to call Detroit and could I return the next day? He made copies of the work orders, the towing invoice and the invoices for the parts we purchased in Cancun. As we were leaving Carlsbad on Saturday we said we would return on Friday and left him our Sat. phone number just in case.

Well with not too much confidence we returned on Friday and were told that Ford had accepted the claim but was not finished processing it yet. Could we return next week? I asked if, or  when, Ford approved the claim could they just debit my credit card and email us with the outcome of the claim. Well, Tuesday of the following week I got an email and not only had Ford paid the full amount I paid Ford Cancun, but they also paid for the towing and to top everything off the exchange rate had changed and I actually made a couple of bucks off the deal. Apparently the delay in processing the claim was because the Cancun work order had a box for kilometers on it and they had written down the miles off The Rig's odometer in the kilometer box and it took Ford awhile to work out that it wasn't kilometers but miles! As when they did the conversion from kilometers to miles my claim in Cancun was made with less miles on the odometer than the service I had done in Texas before leaving for Mexico. Well hurray for Ford and we now have a new "Good Guy".

After New Mexico we made our way to Oregon and spent a couple of weeks exploring, using the Church's "Camping In The Pacific Northwest" camping/guide book. Oregon is truly an amazing state. We had often visited the Oregon coast and are always amazed by it's breath-taking beauty, but we had never ventured inland. What a surprise was waiting for us there. The inland portion of the state has incredible high mountains covered in pine and fir trees with crystal clear mountain streams. This is especially true around Sisters where Annie found all the quilt stores that a quilter could dream about. The beauty of Crater Lake is not to be missed, although I would probably try and visit later in the year than we did as the Rim Road around the crater was closed during our visit in May. Traveling further inland we came to Oregon's high desert. Then down the Columbia River Canyon to Portland. We took the Church's advise and got onto the Old Highway for our drive to Portland and visited the numerous waterfalls hidden within the forest. Hidden from the modern new highway, that is, but right alongside the Old Highway. What a treat?

While we were dragging our feet in Oregon our friends Mike & Liz (The Grey Nomads), whom we had planned on getting together with sometime this summer, wrote and said that they were going to celebrate the Summer Solstice in Inuvik in Canada's North West Territories. This sounded like a great idea and we decided to join them in Inuvik for the celebration.

The road to Inuvik is called The Dempster Highway and starts just outside Dawson City. Although The Dempster is called a highway it really is a 2 lane dirt road that stretches for 734 kilometers from the junction outside Dawson to Inuvik. The first fuel stop is at Eagle Plains 369 kilometers from the junction and then at about kilometer 406 we crossed the Arctic Circle. All the reading we did on The Dempster had warnings about how hard the road was on tires and suggested travelers have at least 2 spare tires and even that might not be enough as flat tires were very common due to the sharp shale that they had used to make the road. While we were doing our laundry in the campground in Dawson we meet two travelers who had just traveled The Dempster and both of them had had 2 flats a piece and of course had horror stories of people that they had met who had as many as 6 flats. Well we had 1 spare tire, 2 inner tubes that we could insert into our tubeless tires and we had a tubeless puncture repair kit. Well prepared we thought.

The Dempster Highway must be one of the most beautiful roads that we have ever travelled. We kept cresting a hill or going around a corner and just gasping at the beauty surrounding us. Our friend Markus in Norway wrote and told us of his travels in Norway and said he often felt like he was "Traveling in this painting" and that just about explains the experience we had driving up the Dempster. As the road is less well traveled the opportunity to see wildlife is much greater than on other roads on the way to Alaska. We saw a lone wolf, a number of moose including a bull moose and a mother with a youngster in tow at Two Moose Lake ( I wonder why they called the lake Two Moose Lake? We must have seen four or five!) at different times a couple of ptarmigan, Dall sheep close to the road and a few raptors.

Inuvik and the Midnight Sun didn't disappoint us either. The First Nation People had a demonstration of the different Northern Games which included things like Blanket Toss, Head Pull, One Foot High Kick, Two Foot High Kick and The Alaskan Kick. There was an Traditional Dancing Competition and an Traditional Dress competition and of course folk singing accompanied by the Traditional Drums. Free burgers, hotdogs and baked salmon. All in all a very memorable couple of days.

We traveled back to Dawson with Mike & Liz boondocking along the highway at a couple of great secluded pull-outs. Neither The Grey Nomads nor us had a flat tire on the entire trip, although Mike did have a stone break his headlight. Both Mike and I have the same theory about flat tires and The Dempster... the more aggressive your tire tread the more likely they are to pick-up a rock and then that rock is just going to be pounded into the tire as you travel down the road. We also traveled a lot slower than just about anybody else and when we were being passed, in either direction, we slowed right down and pulled over to the side of the road. We did see a couple of vehicles with flat tires pulled over to the side and abandoned while their drivers went to get help. In both instances the trucks had mud or snow tread tires.

Most of The Dempster is a very good dirt road. So good in many places that it was possible for us to travel at highway speeds if we had wished to do so. There are some very rough spots where it is prudent to travel at 15 to 20 miles an hour, but they are few and far between and don't last for more than a couple of miles or so at a time. We saw 40ft motorhomes, tiny compact rental cars, motorcycles and even an intrepid bicycle rider along the way, so just about anyone could enjoy the adventure. If you travel to Dawson City it really makes a nice side trip to just travel the 1st 100 kilometers of The Dempster to the Tombstone Mountain overlook and pay a visit to the Tombstone Campground Interpretive Center. The first 100 kilometers part of the road is in excellent condition and you get to see some majestic scenery and as you have travelled so far to get to Dawson City you may as well add a couple of miles and enjoy a little bit of The Dempster.




The Adventure Changes - February 26th 2004 (35,000 miles on the odometer). The best laid plans of mice and men... We could not find a ship that would allow Trudy to travel with us from Costa Rica to Ecuador and the only way to take Trudy would have been to fly her and because of her age we were advised that it would not be a good thing for her. So our travel itinerary had to change. We decided that we would head back to the States and travel with Trudy to Alaska this summer and then depending on her health, make fresh plans for next winter which could include only Mexico and Central America if Trudy was still with us, or if she was not, South America, Australia or Africa.

We decided, on the way south, to avoid El Salvador, as all the guide books and most of the travelers we had met cautioned about traveling in El Salvador because of the possibility of violence and the possibility of being robbed on any road. Especially the roads around Santa Ana and Cerro Verde volcanoes.

During our travels in Central America we had met a number of people from El Salvador and they encouraged us to visit their country explaining that the violence and robberies were a thing of the past. We decided on the way back north to throw caution to the wind and venture into El Salvador. This was one of our better decisions. We found the country to be beautiful and the people the friendliest in Central America.

The border crossing into El Salvador was very easy and we spent our first night at the Turicentro in San Miguel. This is a very large swimming pool complex that closes to the public at 4:30 pm and then, except for the guard, we had the place to ourselves. The manager of the complex was so pleased that we choose to stay at his Turicentro that he treated us as if we were his long lost relatives. What a great introduction to the country. The next morning we went to a very modern supermarket (where we could have spent the night in their secure parking area) and stocked up on supplies.

We then went down to the coast on a very good, narrow 2 lane road to Playa El Espino. This is a small pueblo on a long black beach that was hit very hard by Hurricane Mitch. Most of the beach front buildings that were destroyed by the hurricane have not been restored as the owners have decided to rebuild one or two blocks back from the beach. We camped, for a small fee, just off the beach in one of the lots that had a destroyed building on it. It was nice to be on a fairly clean beach again, to be able to swim in the warm Pacific and to take long walks along the beach. We were quite a novelty in the small village with our rig, Trudy and our limited Spanish.

We then headed to one of the highlights of our trip, Cerro Verde National Park. Cerro Verde is at 6,000 ft and has an surprising view of Izalco Volcano. Izalco, because its such a young volcano, about 400 years old, does not have any vegetation growing on its slopes. The park has an orchid garden and a hiking trail with great views of Lago Coatepepue and Finca San Blas. They no longer allow camping in the park, but just outside the park, along a very rough road there is a campground at Crystal Hacienda. We had a clear view to the west and were able to watch the sunset over the Pacific ocean which was about 35 miles away. Being at such a high altitude, the nights can get very cold which was a welcome change from the heat and humidity of the coast.

Last time I mentioned things that have worked really well for us. As usual I missed a couple, so here are 2 more. Window Awnings... Keeps the tropical sun out of The Rig even in the strongest winds. Portable BBQ grill that taps into our fixed propane tank... This little guy allows us to cook most meals outside, including breakfast of eggs and bacon on the skillet, soups and stews in our pot and of course any regular BBQ.



The Adventure Continues - December 28th 2003 (32,000 miles on the odometer). Through Belize onto Tikal, Rio Dulce, Coban, Panajachel, Antigua & Monterrico all in beautiful Guatemala. A visit to the Coban Ruins in Honduras and a ride down the Caribbean Coast of Honduras. Our first live volcano up close in Nicaragua and then straight into Costa Rica. 3 months and 8,000 miles of excitement, worry and amazing sites.

Belize has some of the most accessible rainforests in Central America, especially the Cockscomb Basin Jaguar Sanctuary which has beautiful hiking trails through the forest. Unfortunately Belize also has some of the most unfriendly people we have encountered. We drove down to Puenta Gorda with the intention of spending a couple of days at the beach, but we were treated so badly by the locals that we turned around and headed back without spending a cent in their town. Then Belize also has the Mennonite community in Spanish Lookout. They can't do enough for you and all at exceptionally reasonable prices. If you need repairs of any sort, do as the locals do and head for Spanish Lookout and Caribbean Tire. If they can't fix it, they know of someone who can. The community also runs the Farmers Trading Center which is a great grocery store to stock up on supplies.

Tikal has always been on my Life List of things to see, so you can imagine my disappointment when we got to the gate and the guards saw Trudy and said no dogs allowed. We begged, we pleaded and a Spanish couple translated and begged on our behalf. Finally they agreed but only for 1 night and someone had to stay with her at all times in The Rig so that she didn't bark and disturb the tranquility of Tikal. Tikal didn't disappoint especially in the early morning before the tourist buses arrived. You can enter the ruins at 6am and either climb Temple IV and watch the sun rise or head to the Great Plaza and enjoy the sounds of the jungle waking up. The plaza is a magical place at this time of the day.

Guatemala is my favorite country after Mexico. The people are friendly, the countryside is beautiful and the towns just full of color with the indigenous people in their traditional dress. The road to Copan from Rio Dulce was especially surprising with waterfalls around one corner and quaint villages with their colonial churches around the next. We spent 3 weeks at Panajachel on Lake Atitlan taking Spanish lessons. I can't think of a more beautiful place to be while studying Spanish. We were parked right on the shore of the lake and every evening we enjoyed a beautifully unique sunset.

One of my most memorable experiences must be the small, 1 car barge ferry to the town of Monterrico on the Pacific Coast. The only way to get to the town is by ferry. The ferry takes about half an hour while traveling along a tranquil river bordered by a mangrove forest with many species of birds both in the water and in the trees. This is one of the many times I was glad we had high clearance and the 6th, extra low gear as we needed both to get The Rig on and off the ferry.

I thought I would mention some of things that have worked and some of things that I would have done differently. Remember no-one sponsors us so this as honest as it gets.

The Xcursion... after over a year of driving, much of it on very rough roads, and 11 months of living full-time in her, she really surprises me with how well she has held up. I have not needed to tighten one screw. I can't say this about any of our previous rigs. A testimony to the quality work done at Xplorer Motor Homes. The Ford diesel chassis... except for the clutch problem in Cancun it has been trouble free. She has taken us along dirt tracks and over mountain passes that would scare the pants off anyone and diesel is sometimes half the price of unleaded gas. The water filters... especially the reverse osmosis. We have pumped water from a pond in Belize and used it for drinking water without thinking twice about it. It also has been great to have our drinking water taste the same no matter where we filled the tank. The Endless Breeze Fan from Fantastic Vent... this 12 volt, low draw fan has been a Godsend when we have camped without hookups in the tropics. No carpets and dual pane louvered windows must be part of the list. And as Mike & Liz say "Don't leave home without your GPS". We struggled over getting the rear view camera, but Annie was right, it has been indispensable and well worth the additional expense. We originally had leveling jacks installed, but we removed the front levelers as they lowered our clearance too dramatically... the rear ones have been great to lift The Rig when we have had to remove stones between the dualies and when we needed the sand ladders to get us out of the mud. The 6 gallon plastic jerry can for filling the water tank when the faucet was beyond the reach of the 50 ft hose. The list must also include the extra counter space and cabinets that the additional length allowed us.

I wish I had installed a locking rear differential. We would not have got stuck in the mud in Cockscomb if I had had one. The rear dualies are a pain. Every time we came off dirt roads, and sometimes while we are on them, I have to get out and check that we haven't picked up rocks between the tires. If you do pick up rocks and don't notice them they will eventually wear through the sidewall of one of the tires not only giving you a flat but also making that tire completely un-repairable. Additional solar panels, during the rainy season you need as many panels as you have room for. An additional 2 golf cart batteries. You'd be surprised how much power you suck up overnight.  I have read that the rule of thumb is 2 batteries per person and we feel this to be accurate. The wish list would also include a built-in high capacity air compressor to air up the tires after airing down to handle off road conditions. I don't mind the length or width, but I truly wish we weren't as tall.

And for all who are wondering, our travel weight is about 16,000 lbs. and we are averaging 11.5 mpg after 32,000 miles. Price... talk to Joe, he would probably make you a deal. Would we consider ourselves an Expedition R.V.? Well we have 4 X 4, high clearance, diesel and have traveled where no ordinary R.V. could or would go.


The Adventure Begins- September 13th 2003 (24,000 miles on the odometer). After a frantic 2 expensive days of stocking-up on supplies that we might or might not need, we crossed into Mexico at Pharr, Texas. The border crossing is relatively easy, the Mexican officials are very helpful and the whole process takes less than 2 hours. Now the fun begins... within 10 miles of traveling in Mexico we got lost ( not our fault, never is, they had created a divided road so that we couldn't get to the road that we needed to take South), watched a donkey pulling a way overloaded cart, being cut off by a taxi, slip and slide its way to a stop while we sat with our hearts in our mouths, sure that it was on it's way to meet it's maker. Then for us to come back to our missed turnoff we went the wrong way down a one-way street. Traveling is fun, traveling is fun just keep repeating, traveling is fun.

We spent our 1st night at the small fishing village of La Pesca at La Gaviota Restaurant y Hotel. They have a fabulous pool which we both enjoyed. The next day was a hard rough ride around Tampico to the Costa Esmeralda where we spent 2 nights enjoying the endless beach right outside the campground. We then drove to San Juan Teotihuacán about 50 miles outside Mexico City and where the Teotihuacán ruins are situated. The ruins include the huge Pyramids of the Sun and Moon. The Pyramid of the Sun has the same size footprint as Egypt's Cheops, but is only half as tall. Truly an amazing sight. Off to Cholula just outside Puebla for a couple of nights and then back down to Costa Esmeralda and a visit to El Tajin ruins with the Pyramid of the Niches with it's 365 niches and the Voladores (flying men).

We then bypassed Veracruz and drove straight to Catemaco where we camped in the parking lot of Restaurant La Ceiba right on the shores of Laguna de Catemaco and had the best pollo (chicken) tacos for dinner. On to Isla Aguada across what must be the 2 most expensive toll bridges in the world, cost $30.00 USD to cross them. Next day off to Bacalar, just outside Chetumal where we camped across the street from the Cenote Azul where you can swim in the crystal clear fresh water. Diving is allowed off the restaurant's roof and the fish come begging for any unwanted tortillas. Started early the next morning for one our favorite spots in all of Mexico, the campground at Paa Mul. We had planned to spend about 5 days there soaking up the sun and enjoying the coral reef just off the beach but just like the last time we were there we couldn't tear ourselves away and 5 days stretched into 10.

While doing the inventory of our spare parts I realized that I had forgotten to stock-up on fuel filters and our friends Mike & Liz who are currently down in Brazil had told us that oil, air and fuel filters for the 7.3 diesel are impossible to get outside of Mexico. So on a rainy Monday we decided to drive the 50 miles to Cancun to visit Ford and buy the fuel filters. Just outside the city the clutch started to feel a little strange and then just as we entered the city at a busy intersection, the clutch went completely. Panic set in... but Annie, usually the one to say "What now Frank?", sat there cool as a cucumber and said that she would stay with The Rig in the traffic and explain to one and all what happened while I take a taxi to Ford and get help in the pouring rain. Fortunately Ford had a service guy that had lived in Massachusetts (he did insist legally, but he was much to adamant to be believed) who was very helpful and within the hour we had The Rig towed to Ford. The diagnosis was the "clutch pump" was bust. Now there are 2 clutch pumps, a big one and a small one and they only had the big one but they were sure this would fix the problem. Remember this is Mexico and you must take them at their word even if you are not sure what a big and small clutch pump is. Couple of hours later they declared the problem fixed, so I tried the clutch. Yes, it worked but it was taking right at the floor. They said it would start taking a little higher the more we drove The Rig. So off we went with our fuel filters and a somewhat doubtfully fixed clutch.

Well, we drove the 50 miles back to Paa Mul and drove around the next day and the clutch did not miraculously fix itself. So, back to Ford to have them adjust the clutch. No sir, the clutch cannot be adjusted you need the other pump to really fix the problem. They were able to order the part from Guadalajara and it would be there in a couple of days. OK, we will come back. When we did I had a look at the new part and realized that it was the Master and Slave cylinders that they were replacing. Well, this did fix the problem and The Rig ran like new. Of course Ford Mexico does not honor Ford USA warranties but I was assured that all I had do was contact Ford USA and all would be refunded... seeing is believing. Now, we are finally ready to cross into Belize.


Introduction (August 2003).

This past March & April 2003, we explored the Baja from San Felipe to Cabo San Lucas and then crossed to the mainland to explore the Copper Canyon. We must have traveled at least 300 miles on dirt roads as this was intended to be our shake down cruise before our trip to Central & South America, which is still on schedule to start in September.


After spending a very exciting couple of weeks on the Baja we took the ferry from La Paz to Topolobampo near Los Mochis on the mainland. There are a couple of ferry companies that do the route and there seems to be quite a difference in the basic fares that are charged. We choose Baja Ferries, which charged us $3,280.00 pesos (about $300 USD) for our rig and 2 passengers. This was about $1,000.00 pesos more than the other company, but Baja Ferries assured us that we would be loaded on the top deck and be able to stay with our rig during the crossing provided we were ready to be loaded at least 5 hours before departure. Being able to be on the top deck was a huge plus for us, as it meant we didn’t need to get a cabin and we would be able to cook our own food for dinner and sleep in our own bed, easily making up for the extra cost. The other company loaded all vehicles below decks and even if we could have stayed with our rig it would have made for an extremely unpleasant journey.


As it turned out, it was a very pleasant crossing. Lots of fun, being jammed in between 18-wheelers on all sides. We did have enough room to open our door, so therefore, we were able to slide between the trucks and get to the ship’s rail and watch the sunrise, and enjoy the voyage. Mexican ferries are loads of fun.


We then made our way to Alamos and a very cute campground on the far side of town. The campground is part of a motel and occupying the motel was about a dozen students from Washington State University on their spring break. They were exploring and studying the geology and fauna of this part of Mexico and were gone all day out in the field but returning in the evening. After dark they got out their flashlights and searched the campground for tree frogs, toads, geckos and 1 guy had a black light and he was searching for scorpions. Of course we had to join in the fun (or get in the way I am not sure which) but we did find a couple of tree frogs around the pool and the guy with the black light found a scorpion much to Annie’s chagrin. Unfortunately they were there for only 1 night and while they were getting ready to leave the next day I couldn’t help but compare them to the other spring breakers we had encountered in Los Cabos with their margaritas and hangovers, and wondered who was really having fun. Well the next night we got out our flashlight and went looking for tree frogs. We found a couple near the pool and although the male would sit still to have his photo taken the female moved as soon as we switched the flashlight off (we had to use the flashlight to allow the camera to focus in the pitch dark) so we got a lot of pictures of a frog walking out of the picture frame.

After Alamos we drove the back roads through the quaint town of Quiriego and along a cattle track to La Cobriza and then joined Mex 21 into the Sierra Madre Occidental on our way to The Copper Canyon. Some of the most beautiful country in Mexico. We spent the night in the courtyard of a small hotel in Yecora and dinner at the hotel's restaurant. The menu consisted of 1 item, Carne Seca, (dried meat, I hope beef). It appeared to be a jerky that was fried in a spicy hot oil and served with refried beans. Actually very delicious, my mouth is watering now thinking about it.

The next day we drove to Basaseachic to explore the countryside around Mexico's tallest waterfall... Cascada de Basaseachic. You can view the waterfall 3 ways. From just above it, and look down a stomach turning drop to the bottom, climb down to the bottom along a well worn path or drive a couple of miles to the other side of the canyon and view the whole waterfall from atop of the east canyon wall.

We spent the night at a great campground (Rancho San Lorenzo) about 1/2 mile from the east canyon wall, where two beautiful mountain streams meet to form one stream. We were the only campers there. From here we had a very easy ride to Creel and the gateway to The Copper Canyon.


Rolled over watermelon truck on a bridge outside Tenacatita, MX

Iguanas on fence post Tecapan, MX. He wasn't going to let go!

Snow bank in May 2004 at Crater Lake National Park, Oregon.

Black Bear alongside the highway in B.C.

Stellar Jay

Owl alongside dirt road outside Tumbler Ridge B.C., Turns out to be a Great Grey Owl, North America's largest owl! (Thanks to visitor Chip for the I.D.)

Start of The Dempster Highway

One of The Dempster's magnificent views.

Fireweed along The Dempster.

Truly a multi-purpose highway

Did we really cross the Arctic Circle?

Bull moose at Two Moose lake.

Ptarmigan holding onto some of it's white winter plumage.

Blanket Toss.

Head Pull.

One Foot High Kick.


Campsite at El Espino - El Salvador

Playa El Espino

Sunset El Espino

Izalco Volcano - El Salvador

Cerro Verde National Park - El Salvador

Sunset from campground at Crystal Hacienda outside Cero Verde

Fisherman on Lake Atitlan -Guatemala



Road through the Belize rainforest

Waterfall beside the road to Copan, Guatemala

Mountain pass in Guatemala and somehow we all make it by

Sunset from our campsite in Panajachel, Guatemala

Mayan Ceremony on a hilltop outside Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Cutie in Antigua, Guatemala

One car ferry to Monterrico, Guatemala

Bird admiring itself in the window of The Rig. Lago Yajoa, Honduras

I look better from this angle

Butterfly visiting the campground in San Jose, Costa Rica

Rocks stuck between the dualies after a river crossing

Pyramid of the Sun in Teotihuacán

Excavation continues at Templo de Quetzalcoatl in Teotihuacán

Bell Tower with paper flags in Cholula.

Narrow Mexican road, potholes, wide bus and all.

Temple of Niches at El Tajin

The Voladores at El Tajin.

Happy Landing.

Campsite at Paa Mul

Palapa and Caribbean Sea at Paa Mul

Beach at Paa Mul

Cheek to Jowl on the ferry, but the door could just open between the 18 wheelers.

Sunrise and coffee on the Baja ferry

King Palms and Bougainvillea around the pool area at Alamos

Male tree frog

Stand still, will ya!

Cascada de Basaseachic from the East Canyon Wall.




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