¡Vámonos! Our RV caravan to Mexico

What was our biggest fear about taking our RV across the border for the Escapees Baja Mexico Hangout in San Felipe in February?

(screen cap: Apple Maps)

Welp, as two people who quite happily roll by the seats of our pants, often departing for the day’s drive rather giddy with the notion that we have no idea where we’ll be sleeping that night, it was the massive level of planning required.

Dios mío, the paperwork! Some was new, and some we just had to ensure was accurate and up-to-date, but the list was impressive: passports, Mexican tourism cards, Mexican liability insurance, driver’s licenses, registration, and US insurance.

Our group members also had to figure out what to do about weapons, alcohol, and other items that are prohibited/restricted in Mexico; about drinking water; about pets; about cell service, fuel, and groceries. As with any type of foreign travel, the more you prepare, the fewer unpleasant surprises you may have to deal with in a country whose customs and language are not your own.

Luckily, our Escapees Hangouts directors rose to the occasion as they have for prior gatherings, and made sure — via social media, email, an event web page, and even a live webinar Q&A — that very little was left to chance.

I won’t fill this post with all the decisions we made and actions we took for every little aspect of the trip. It’ll take forfreakineverrr, and I’d rather get to the good part: the pictures.

However, if you’re considering an RV trip to Mexico, and you’ve got specific questions, first read the FAQ on our event’s web page, and then feel free to ask how we personally handled that issue by posting a comment below. If I’ve got an answer, I’ll tell ya. If I don’t, I’ll shout, “Hey look at that giant margarita over there!” to distract you, and then we’ll laugh and laugh because I am so hilarious.

And now, the photos. ¡Ándale!

We gathered in a mall parking lot in El Centro, CA, on the day before our border crossing, for a brief orientation with our directors, a radio check, and decal distribution. All of us dry camped in the mall lot that night (by previous arrangement with management) to be ready for our 0800 departure the next morning.
We used the radios to relay messages along our 46-rig caravan during the 140-mile trip, and the decals were used to keep us in numerical order for parking in the right spots at our destination, Victor’s RV Park in San Felipe. Tim and I brought up the rear, hence the ULTIMO decal. It also helped our police escorts in Mexicali and San Felipe tell when our group was done passing through the intersections they’d kindly blocked off to ease our passage through their congested cities (another pre-arranged perk).
And that fourth shot is our view from the tail end, as everyone waited along the Mexico side of the border wall for the last of us to pass through customs and immigration, a process that took about 2 1/2 hours from primero to ultimo.
Like the other Hangouts we’ve attended (Maine and Carlsbad Caverns), this one offered scheduled group events.
1. Day trip to Valle de Los Gigantes, home to a forest of cardón, the tallest growing cactus in the world.
2. Service project planting 30 trees our group donated to our host town as a gesture of goodwill.
3. Margarita Throwdown, a $1/vote contest that served as a fundraiser for Escapees CARE.
4. Guacamole Throwdown, a $1/vote contest that raised all the money for those trees. (photo by V. Fillmore)
We also took a trip to the San Felipe Brewing Company, where one of our members was sporting the best RVing shirt ever, and I drank a hibiscus ale and a couple of other varieties that I no longer recall, but it was enough to make me kick off my sandals and dance to the live band. A lot. Looks like I also threw my arms up and shouted “wooooo” maybe a little more often than usual.
Ahem.
The great part of it all is that we went by bus, so none of us had to drive home.
And the hilarious part of that, given our tipsy-chummy state, was that they were school buses. Ha!
Unlike our other two Hangouts, this one offered several large blocks of unscheduled time so that we could get out and explore on our own.
Which we did!
We carpooled with a small group to these natural seaside hot springs
(photo by D. Lupton)
… we rode our bikes to the lighthouse…
… walked into town for tacos several times, because at these prices, it was cheaper to eat out than cook at home (70 pesos = about $3.70 USD, for not one, but four fish tacos)…
… and I spent some time in a bathing suit, with my ass in the sand and my margarita green toesies in the Sea of Cortez.

It was easy to love the colors of our little town on the Baja. Check these out:

I know at least a few of you are wondering if there were any “incidents”?

Ugh. Yeahhhhh, unfortunately there were two, and I didn’t want to mention them at all, because they did not detract from our fun, nor have they turned us off from future visits to Mexico.

But not mentioning them feels dishonest. So…

At a Mexican military checkpoint on our way back to the US, two members of our caravan had items stolen from their RVs during the inspection. And a few of the trees we planted were vandalized after we left, but later replaced by the volunteer organization we’d been working with.

We don’t blame Mexican culture for these incidences any more than we blame Boston culture for the time my friends had cash stolen from their hotel room, or San Antonio culture for the time my brother had the contents of his car stolen, or Austin culture for the three times our son has had his bike stolen.

Crimes of opportunity happen everywhere. If you already harbor fears of foreign travel, and assumptions about certain peoples, I know I’ve done nothing to dispel them. But hiding this part of the trip would feel like a crime on my part. So take reasonable precautions when you travel outside our borders, yes? Just like you would on more familiar soil.

This.
This is what we’ll remember about our trip to San Felipe: that we felt so welcomed by its people, and most especially by its small businesses and restaurants.
We were the third and final large group of Escapees RV Club members to stay in this seaside town over the course of a month, and it was clear that our presence was very much appreciated.

We’d go back!

WheRVe we been? Our travels, 4th quarter 2019

‘Twas a rolling feast!

We pureed pumpkins near the Mexican border, got stuffed with turkey near the Canadian border, and baked cookies for Santa after a return trip south.

But that’s what happens when ya roll from a SoCal Halloween, to a PNW Thanksgiving, to a desert Christmas.

Yes, it would have made far more sense to just stay in the southwest for the duration, but then we would have missed out on Thanksgiving with family (hadn’t seen our older boy and his girl for more than a year), and that was important enough to us to make the schlep back and forth through the brrrrr.

Here’s the summary of our 4th quarter travels, from Escondido to Port Townsend to Tucson, thanks to a little help from Google.
RV miles traveled this quarter: about 3512
(Map does not reflect our exact routing, hence the mileage discrepancy.)

Escondido, CA, Oct 1 – Nov 4: What an orange blur October was. Our workamping experience at Pumpkin Station really deserved a blog post of its own, but I just didn’t get there. The quick facts:

  • We worked 10-11 hours a day, 7 days a week, for the entire month.
  • Service industry employment was basically new territory, since neither of us had worked directly with customers since college days. Quite a learning curve, that.
  • Although our job title was Assistant Managers, we really had our hands in all kinds of tasks necessary to keep the business running: hay rides, tours, petting zoo, sales, stocking, cleaning, decorating, phone calls, hiring, scheduling and more.
  • Our compensation included a salary and W/E hookups on-site with regularly scheduled tank pump-outs.
  • Errands like laundry and grocery shopping meant late nights out after the work day was done, since we didn’t have weekends off.
  • And that meant we used very little fuel and spent very little money during the month we were bound to the farm. Another bonus? Free home grown pumpkins after we closed for the season. I didn’t have to buy a single can of Libby’s for my holiday baking!
  • It was both exhausting and rewarding, and we haven’t ruled out a return in 2020.
– The pumpkin patch as viewed from the upper fields
– A hungry goat (they’re always hungry)
– One of many school field trip groups
– Our site management team
Tim can now add toddler entertainment, hayride driving, tent re-stabilization, and goat-proofing to his list of marketable skills.
I get to add sunflower gathering, cashiering, petting zoo maintenance, and price gun wielding to mine.

Las Vegas, NV, and Savannah, GA, Nov 4 -12: So what did we do to decompress after a month of working together day in and day out? We took separate vacations!

Tim held down the fort in the Las Vegas area (and even moved the fort successfully from one site to another without me) while I flew to Savannah, GA, to join the girls for our 25th annual gathering, which we call FriendFest.

The ten of us met when our husbands were serving as naval officers aboard the same ship in the 1990’s, and we’ve gone on our own “deployment” every year since 1995. We eat until our pants are tight, drink until we stumble, laugh until we pee, and we’re gonna keep doing it until we can’t keep doing it anymore.

– Tim’s boondocking site in the desert, near Lake Meade
– Front and back of custom made FriendFest t-shirts, and perfect party napkins for our crew of retired Navy wives

Port Townsend, WA, Nov 14 – Dec 2: Although heading north in the winter is not our favorite thing, we do it to spend time with people who are some of our favorites. Fun fact: This trip made it so that we hit all four corner states in a single calendar year. Bam!

We stayed on the Olympic Peninsula to be closer to our son and his girlfriend, which meant taking an early ferry across the sound to spend Thanksgiving with Tim’s sisters and their families, who live north of Seattle.
I used my challah dough recipe to make a turkey to go with the turkey!
Oh. And on the way north, I learned a good lesson about using other vehicles to judge back-up distance.
Spoiler alert: I got it wrong.

Southern AZ, Dec 7-31: We had no specific destination in mind upon leaving WA, so our goal was to head south until we could stand outside without coats on.

First stop: Ontario, OR
Nope.
Second stop: Hill Air Force Base, UT
Still no.
Third stop: Page, AZ
There was no snow at Horseshoe Bend, but we still needed coats.
And hats.
Success!
In southern Arizona, they know how to put the mmm in warm.
We stayed at Lost Dutchman State Park in Apache Junction, Painted Rock Petroglyph Site near Gila Bend, and the Davis-Monthan Air Force Base Famcamp in Tucson.
We celebrated Christmas by baking cookies like we thought our boys were still at home to help eat them, and by setting out our few decorative items.
And when I opened our blinds on Christmas morning, I realized I’d just missed Santa’s takeoff!

Where to next? Our experience at the August Escapees Hangout in Maine was so rewarding that we’ve signed up for two more in early 2020.

In mid-January, we’ll join a team of RVing volunteers in New Mexico at the Escapees Carlsbad Caverns Cleanup Hangout. Per the event description, we will “help the National Park Service preserve the wondrous formations of Carlsbad Caverns. On Monday through Friday of this Hangout, we will spend 4-5 hours each day underground, deep inside the heavily-visited parts of the caverns, cleaning lint and other debris from the formations.”

And to keep life in balance after our work time, we will then go spend part of February at play, at the Escapees Baja Mexico Hangout, with toes in sand, margaritas and tacos in hand.

Follow us on FacebookInstagram and/or Twitter for updates as we go.

¡Con sueños de la playa, hasta la próxima!


We started full-timing in August of 2015, but I didn’t think to do an annual review until the end of 2016, and it was just a listing on Facebook of places we’d visited. After that, I started using a quarterly format.

I did a dumb thing (and nobody got hurt).

Blame it on hormones. Or Mercury in retrograde. Or the children. I don’t care.

I honestly don’t know why I thought it was the ideal moment to try backing up the RV for the first time. 

(I know. I did all that practicing for the upgraded driver’s license last year, but that was with a friend’s flatbed trailer, which I could see behind. That’s not possible with our 5th wheel, which is why I’ve heretofore been too chickenshit to try it.)

Anyway, our site was a giant parking lot at a remote casino in northern CA, for a quick overnight.

There was only one other vehicle in it. 

Sure, it was after dark, but there was plenty of room beside that big rig, and all I had to do was go straight back. 

I knew I could do that. 

In fact, I’d already done it quite successfully on the opposite side of the lot, but after Tim guided me all the way back, he realized he’d backed me up to a closed gate, and we didn’t know if or when someone might need access, so we moved. 

I declined Tim’s offer to spot me in the second location, because I knew I’d be done when my front end lined up with that semi’s cab. Easy peasy!

But also a big mistake. 

That is when we were reminded that some big rigs are shorter than others. 

Some are even shorter than we are. 

Like this one. 

So yeah. I backed into the fence. Because another compounding factor? Wire fences are pretty much invisible in the dark. 

I didn’t feel it — at all — but Tim definitely saw it when he got out to check my position. 

If I’d pushed any farther, there’d have been some flattened fencing — and two red-faced Rohrers exchanging insurance information with the casino manager come morning. 

The truly embarrassing part was that I know better. I paid more attention to my overconfidence than to two critical rules. (Hell. I couldn’t even see those rules, blinded as I was by that sparkly outfit Overconfidence was wearing.) 

  1. Take extra safety precautions after dark. 
  2. Always — always — use a spotter when backing up. Yes, even if the lot is the size of Connecticut. And especially after dark. 

So now my sense of embarrassment is the size of Connecticut.

There’s no photographic evidence of the actual smoosh, but I took a morning-after shot, showing that I’d had to make a forward roll of shame.

Oh, and one showing where I’d scraped the paint off Tim’s bike frame, although that might actually be from a far older boo-boo. Neither one of us is sure.

And uh, one showing that I bent our bike rack pretty good. Dammit. We really like this one, and it took no fewer than three prior duds to get to it.

The fence took no damage; my ego sustained a fairly large bruise. 

And that’s why I’m sharing this story. 

Let it serve as a reminder that things like this can happen to any RVer, new or seasoned. 

It could have been worse, and thankfully, Tim and I go easy on each other when it comes to such incidents, by which I mean we know full well that we take turns being the bonehead. 

This time, it was my turn.

WheRVe we been? Our travels, 3rd quarter 2019

We don’t always make plans without consulting our calendar or a map first, but when we do, we end up having to drive from Maine to southern California!

Luckily, we had almost a month between events. And hey, maybe next year, we’ll try the Washington-Florida diagonal to make things even.

Here’s the summary of our 3rd quarter travels, mapped with a little help from Google.

RV miles traveled this quarter: about 5512

The briefest possible description: we went from PA to IN to MA to VT to NY to ME, then spent about 3 weeks rolling to CA.

Erie, PA, June 30 – July 7: As I mentioned in our 2nd quarter wrap-up, we spent 4th of July week moochdocking in a cousin’s driveway, and hanging out with Tim’s cousins and auntie.

Knowing that pie crust is one of my culinary challenges, Tim’s aunt invited me over for Pie Camp, and walked me step by step through her no-fail process. I had my own pie tin, and did all the measuring and mixing my own self. Look at that thing!
(She also taught me her method of hard boiling eggs, and I think I’ve finally got it now. Yes, I can make bread in the shape of a perfect frigging lobster, but I regularly fail at eggs.)
We also did some kayaking on Lake Erie, ate our weight in gyros at the Greek Festival, and just enjoyed a relaxing time with family.

Howe, IN, July 7-11: We went back to the DRV factory for Round 2 (ding ding!) of warranty repair work. The punch list had grown after our first visit in February, and since we were already in the general area, we had the repair team attack it.

We know that things go wrong with all RVs, even new ones, and ours has been no exception. That doesn’t make it any less disappointing, and we are both of the opinion that our unit must have missed Quality Control Check Day before it left the factory.

This article explains a lot of the weak points and outright failures in the RV industry, and provides ample evidence that we are not alone.

But misery loves company!
While in IN, we finally got to meet Andrea & Shawn of 40foothouse, and reconnected with friends Michael & Kelly of Performance Trailer Braking — all full-time RVers.
And speaking of performances, we watched some Amish mommies leave the park with their kiddos. They made it look just as easy as piling everyone into a minivan and backing out.
But then, they do learn early.

Massachusetts, July 12-30: We’ve been to Boston before, so this time we focused our sightseeing efforts on some of the outlying areas, like Bedford, Lexington, Concord, and Salem.

We saw Minute Men monuments, Walden Pond, and several cemeteries containing the remains of people who were around to witness the birth of our nation.
Oh, and I got a little witchy in Salem.
I bet brooms don’t break down nearly as often as RVs do. Hmmmm.
We also celebrated our anniversary by taking a ride back in time.
One of the stops on our honeymoon in 1992 was the historic carousel in Fall River, MA, so we recreated the photo 27 years later.
Grayer hair, wider ass, but by golly, that is the same horse.

Waterbury, VT, July 30 – Aug 1: Remember our partners in crime, Chip & Penni from our Amazon Camperforce days? We really have stayed friends! Waterbury is their home, and when we said we’d like to come visit, they offered up boondocking space at their summer location.

Ice cream played a big role in our time together.
We went out for maple creemees, and of course made the pilgrimage to Ben & Jerry’s.
To Chip, it’s a former employer. To me? The holy land, and a visit I’ve been waiting to make for 30+ years!

Albany, NY, Aug 1-11: The good news is that my Auntie Judith turns 85 this year, and a big big surprise party was planned for her in her home town of Albany. The bad news is that I jumped the gun on making a campground reservation, and had to hide for ten days so as not to spoil a surprise that took a year to plan, and involved family members arriving under top secret conditions from locations across the country!

And how do you hide a 41-foot 5th wheel? You can’t.
So even though we were at an exceptionally lovely state park that whole time, I kept my mouth shut and my social media posts vague.
And it worked.
That was one utterly gobsmacked aunt/sister/mother/grandmother/great grandmother, and we hope to surprise her again at 90. Or maybe 88, just to keep her guessing.
(She’ll read this, so please take a moment to face NY and shout, “Happy birthday, Judith!”)

Maine, Aug. 12-19: I’ve already written about this adventure in detail, so here are two photos I haven’t posted yet.

The lobster “roll” I made for a potluck vs. an actual ready-to-eat lobster on my plate.
They could be twins. Right?
(Click for my bread recipe)
Between Tim’s naval career and our RV travels, we’ve admired a lot of coastlines.
Maine’s gets an A+.

The long diagonal from Maine to California, Aug. 19 – Sept. 10: For the first 11 days, we stopped for only one or two nights at a time, before spending the next 11 just south of Tucson. Tim has an aunt & uncle there, so we were able to visit with them and make ample use of their garage for building our solar panel frames.

We are joining the “cult” of RV solar power.
Tim may eventually write up the nitty gritty on that, because all I’ve really learned from this process is that I’m good at metal grinding.
Who knew?
I will instead heap praise upon two friends who assisted with some of the physical labor.
My childhood pal, Mark (who went to the Mexican dentist with us a while back), gave us a hand under sweltering conditions in Tucson, and Ted did the same in Escondido.
Love those guys!
As part of the solar power system installation, we have also joined the Cult of the Battle Born. These batteries get a lot of hype in the RV world — so much that I fully expected to hear a choir of angels when I opened each box.
But I did not, so I’ve added glowy starbursty things to the photo.
We’ll see what happens once we’ve actually got them all wired up and working.
Along the way: more meals with RV friends!
Remember Andrea & Shawn from our stop in Indiana, just a few inches up above? Hung out again in New Mexico.
Then, we met up in Tucson with Julie & Sean of Chickery’s Travels, who we’d met in Texas last year.
And finally, we reconnected with Ted & Jan of the Wandering Kolbs, for the first time since we met in Arizona, in January of 2017.
We’re all neighbors. We just rarely meet up in the same neighborhood twice.

Right now: We’re parked on site at the pumpkin patch for our seasonal jobs in Escondido. We’ll work 7 days a week for the entire month of October, co-managing all the fun things with another couple: hay rides, corn maze, school field trips, petting zoo, sunflower field, and of course pumpkins!

It was Ted & Jan who got us into this job.
They’ve returned for their third season at a Pumpkin Station location, and we figured that if they like it that much, it’s worth giving it a try.
Here we go!

Where to next? Uhhh… I guess we’d better figure that out by Halloween, eh? We might go visit family in WA, or we might hide out in the desert for a while, to get some use of that solar power system. Or both!

Follow us on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter for updates as we go.


We started full-timing in August of 2015, but I didn’t think to do an annual review until the end of 2016, and it was just a listing on Facebook of places we’d visited. After that, I started using a quarterly format.

4 years in: RV there yet?

Still no.

We were originally thinking it would be a one-year thing. Maybe two? We certainly didn’t imagine it would be a two-RV thing. But we were quite happily wrong, and we’ve now got enough events planned for Year 5 that there’s no way we’re giving this up yet!

We’re a retired military family. Moving every 2-4 years is in our blood.
We’ve even moved from one RV into another (not as many cardboard boxes; just as tricky).

To celebrate our nomad-versary, I shall regale you with an Amusing Tally of Miscellaneous Statistics.

In four years, we’ve used, purchased, worn through, or replaced for any number of reasons ranging from the mundane, to the catastrophic, to just not getting the right thing the first time around (or second, or third…):

~ the new BFT’s baby picture ~
There were 12 miles on the odometer when we drove it off the lot in May of 2017.
As of August 1, 2019: 57,894

We’ve also held memberships/accounts with:

  • 3 RV insurance companies
  • 3 cellular service providers
  • 2 RV owners’ clubs
  • 4 RV travel/social organizations
  • 2 mail forwarding services

And in addition, we’ve experienced:

Our preferred types of workamping jobs offer visible results.
Here’s how & why we use these opportunities to supplement Tim’s retirement pension.

I’ll spare you a full reprint of last year’s annual review, which included answers to the 13 Questions We Hear All The Time, but I’ll update the three that need it.

How many states have you visited in the RV, I mean like, for more than just a rest stop?

By my count, 37: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming

My criteria for counting a state as visited are a bit fluid, which I know will drive some people a little nuts. Did we stay overnight? Long enough to do the weekly laundry? Go on a hike or visit a national park? All of those are valid to me. Just driving through on the way to elsewhere, with a potty break at a gas station? Not so much — otherwise, we’d have counted Mississippi about 8 times by now, instead of zero.

Map created at amcharts.com

Are you thinking about getting a new RV still?

Response in August of 2018: No. We’ve decided to keep upgrading and modifying this one until… well, until we feel like we’re done. (The rest of the lengthy answer is here.)

October of 2018: We uhhh… well, we felt like we were done, so three months after saying we weren’t thinking about getting a new RV, we drove a new one off the lot.

Go ahead. We’re still shaking our heads too.

This sign hangs in our entryway.
Pretty much sums it up!

What’s next?

We’re going to Maine, we’re adding a solar power system, and we’re taking on some seasonal work in San Diego this fall. You’ll find us in the pumpkin patch, and you can follow us on Facebook, Instagram and/or Twitter for updates as we go!

So that’s it for the end of Year 4. If there’s a topic I didn’t cover, you are welcome to ask your question in the comments section below, but keep it clean. My parents read this.


Other updates: We started full-timing in August of 2015, but I didn’t think to do an annual review until the end of 2016, and it was just a listing on Facebook of places we’d visited. After that, I started using a quarterly format for the where-we’ve-beens and what-we’ve-dones.