Spring 2016 RV Caravan
Former Wagon Master
Jan 9th, 2016
I was not supposed to lead this caravan, but our normal Wagon Master had to back out at the last minute due to medical related problems. This meant that I (Paul Beddows) and my sister in law, Bobbi, had to take over at the last minute. Although I am an experienced Wagon Master I am not used to leading large caravans, and this one, at 18 rigs, is a large caravan. Furthermore most of the rigs are large RV's. Everyone arrived in Nogales on time and we went up the Chinese Buffet for orientation. This bunch seems like a good group.
Jan 10th, 2016
An early start this morning as we anticipated a long wait for permits. When we arrived there were quite a few in front of us despite the fact we left at 6:30. I think they saw us all parked at the Walmart & rushed to beat us. To our surprise there were lots of staff on. Gabriel had phoned to warn them a large group was coming through and it appears they responded. One of our group had a vehicle registered in his own companies name and he did not have a letter which is required. Big problem. However, I went back to my trailer and printed one up with official looking letterhead and they accepted it. Problem solved. The rest of the trip was uneventful, except for a front wheel coming off a semi ahead of us. I was glad he was not passing when it happened. We continued on to Sonora RV park in Hermosillo. This park has been much improved and even has a small pitch & putt golf course. (note it closed in 2018)
Jan 11th, 2016
We carrried on to Totonaka RV Park in San Carlos and had our usual welcome dinner at Charlies Rock across the street. This really is a great group. From what I can tell, it is the best group I have ever had. No awkward customers. It was quite a logistical challenge to get 18 rigs into a crowded RV Park.
Jan 12th, 2016
Today we did our usual tours of the Sea Lions, the Pearl Farm and downtown Guaymas. Our good friends, Ray & Marcia rolled in late. We had been planning to travel with them this spring before I ended up being Wagon Master, so now they are with the caravan.
Jan 13th, 2016
A free day. Except of course for the Wagon Master. Let's see. Arranging emergency dental for one customer, tracking down a muffler for another, and a broken hydraulic line for another. And so it goes.
Jan 14th, 2016
Off to Huatabampito. Everybody on time, quite a feat for 18 rigs. However, it was a 4 hour strip stretched into 7. One customer took a wrong turn and got lost and another had a trailer tire blowout. Well I am glad it happened on a short travel day. I am finding the big issue with a caravan this big, is traffic lights. They slow us down considerably. Anyway, we all arrived safe and everyone loves this spot. The weather is perfect. In Huatabampo, we picked up a police escort with flashing lights and everything. I thought they were pulling me over at first, but he reached in shook my hand, asked if we were headed to the RV Park, and gave us an escort.
Jan 15th 2016
A free day today, except for me, I helped the customer with a blowout find a new tire and I also had to go visit a doctor to deal with some minor medical problems I am experiencing. The folks love this park. Fortunately the wind is not up which can make it a bit awkward as the sand is very fine.
Jan 16, 2016
Off for the short trip to Alamos today. We arrived in good time for a happy hour. A bit of a logistical issue getting the rigs in, but it went smoothy except for one incident. A Class A missed the turn then turned right onto the next street. I was in a bit of panic as this is not a town for large rigs. I tried to find them in my truck but could not. Then I spotted a Class A parked in a backyard. It turned out that none of our group was lost, it was coincidence. You do not see many Class A's down here, so it was a logical error.
|Jan 17th, 2016
We split the group up today for a couple of tours of Alamos, I stayed back in the park to catch up on paperwork. I did however, join the evening walk around town with the musicians. This is a wonderful experience and I never get tired of it.
Jan 18th, 2016
Another relatively short day for our drive to El Fuerte. One mishap with a mirror. This particular rig has mirrors that stick out a long way. Not the best thing for Mexico, where narrow lanes are common. No permanent damage, however. We did a tour to the Indian village of Copomos and observed native dancing in the afternoon. In the evening we went to the El Zorro show which is always fun. We had an excellent meal there, but they started serving wine without telling everyone they were charging 80 pesos a glass, and it was not included. (2 drinks earlier were). I will have to apologize to the group about that. We did have words with the management.
Jan 19th, 2016
An early rise this morning for the Copper Canyon train. This is where I leave the caravan for a week. Our tour guide, Charlie is taking the group up to Copper Canyon, while I take a repeat customer down to Mazatlan & Teacapan.
I pick my wife up tommorrow at Mazatlan Airport and we will head to Teacapan and wait for the caravan to catch up.
Jan 22nd, 2016
Spent a couple of nice relaxing days here at Teacapan without having to deal with the miserable group of customers we have this spring (Just kidding, they are the best group I have had). A little bit of exitement today when a Mexican teenager almost drowned in the ocean after getting caught in a rip current. Its tough for an old guy like me to run that fast down the beach. Her friends managed pull her out and fortunately I did not have to administer CPR, I doubt any of the locals know how to it. She was coughing up water as they dragged her onto the beach. Another Mexican guy who had tried to rescue her was in just as bad shape, but he was also coughing up water on his own. Most Mexicans cannot swim, so they were very lucky.
Jan 24th, 2016
I headed into Mazatlan today to meet the caravan coming south from Los Mochis. Charlie, our tour guide is leading them down, along with the Green Angels. It gives me a chance to do some shopping and visit some friends. I received a call form Charlie that the same customer who had a blowout earlier on has had another trailer flat, but it was quickly fixed en route by the Green Angel and they were actually ahead of time. I was not watching the time, and got out to the highway just as the caravan was passing. The timing could not have been more precise. We all arrived back at Color Marino in Teacapan an hour before sunset.
Jan 25th, 2016
Everyone seems to be impressed with the beauty of this place as I suspected they would be. Since it has been closed for a couple of years, I did not realize the one row has bad power. We had a couple of mishaps as a result. One blown digital clock and a blown converter board on one rig. I am having a new board shipped down from the US, I can replace that on site, and we can use a portable battery charger to function in its place for now. This illustates the importance of using a power protector in Mexico. I have to be more specific in future as to what they should buy. 3 customers just bought surge protectors, when you really need something that blocks continuously high or low voltage. One other individual damaged their satellite receiver box. They had the correct protection, but did not use it. I have seen that before, people find their power blocked by the protector, consider it inconvenient, and bypass it with nasty results. In this case I think they simply forgot. This is the first caravan I have ever led, where anyone has had issues, but it illustrates the necessity to take precautions down here. Down the road we will have to split the power and share protectors. Another customer has a portable oxygen generator for breathing, a necessity for high altitudes like Copper Canyon or Durango where we go next. It stopped working. Nothing to do with the power in this case. It is a sophisticated piece of equipment and it simply malfunctioned. None of the troubleshooting information in the manual helped and it is not replacable down here. It looked like the customer would not be able to go on. On a hunch I disconnected all sources of its power, including pulling the battery for a minute and it rebooted itself and now works. Whew, close one!!
Tonight the group organized a pot luck on their own with no prompting from myself. Very successful. This group is very social and that always makes a caravan so much more enjoyable.
Jan 26th, 2016
Well, they out did themselves today with a pancake breakfast. It this keeps up, my job will be easy. I had a nice relaxing day.
Jan 27th, 2016
We had an uneventful trip to Las Jaibas RV park in Mazatlan. At 5:30 we all bused to the El Cid hotel for the Fiesta Mexicana show. This has been downsized from last year, but it was still a lot of fun.
Jan 28th, 2016
This morning 9 of us got up early to go fishing and forfeit the Pulmonia tour around Mazatlan. It was great success with about 60 fish caught between our 2 boats. One individual spent half the trip with his head over the side, it was pretty rough going out. We are going to have a fish fry tomorrow as a farewell to the 1/2 of the group who are returning to the border.
Jan 29th, 2016
This is my day to get caught up on things, while Gabriel takes the group on the Mazatlan countryside tour. When they returned, we fried up all the fish we caught yesterday and had a farewell party for those returning home.
Jan 30th, 2016
The group returning to the border left at 8 AM, and we pulled out at 9 AM for the trip to Durango. A beautiful sunny day and we all stopped in the middle of the Balluarte Bridge. Except John who sais FU on the radio, as he drove as fast as he could to the other side. (Scared of heights) The trip took longer than usual due to slow moving truck traffic and road repairs. We arrived at Durnago in good time. This is our first stay at the hot springs complex we discovered last Fall.
Jan 31st, 2016
Today was a tour of Durango, including a visit to a Taco restaurant which specializes in Scorpions. A few brave souls partaked, including John, the "height fearing" wussy from yesterday. We then proceeded to the usual Brazilain "Carnivore Only" restaurant for lunch. Fortunately the 2 vegetarians scheduled for this trip backed out. After lunch we went out to the old western movie sets to watch a show. It was hot and too long, and in Spanish, so I am thinking we may drop this one in future.
Feb 1, 2016
A free day today. Or at least it was until we heard the mayor and bunch of politicians were coming out to meet us. They came bearing gifts and we impressed them with tours of the various RV's. Lot of photographers, so I imagine we will be featured in the paper tomorrow. They have provided a 24 hour police guard at the front gate to the complex for us. Probably unnecessary, but they are bending over backwards to make sure we have a good time in Durango. The guy in the picture (center) is the Mayor of Durango.
One of the customers has an air bed. It has developed a leak and will not stay inflated. They took off this afternoon to try & buy a regular mattrees. This afternoon they showed up, with Stan sprawled across the mattress to try & hold it into their pickup truck to get it back to where we are camped. The municipal police were already here. In Canada or the US they would have arrested Stan for riding on top of a mattress in the back of a pickup. Here, no big deal. They helped him get the mattress into the RV. I love this country.
Feb 2, 2016
Well as I pulled out today I noticed my Gray Water Tank is leaking, but onwards to Zacatecas.
Feb 3, 4, 2016
I spent 2 days under my trailer trying to access and fix my gray tank leak. Hopefully I have suceeded, but time will tell. I had to rip off the underside & chuck all the soaked insulation, but at least it is usable until I get home and can do a proper job with it.
Feb 5th, 2016
Today we drove to Guanajuato. Kevin & Ruth who are taking over for 28 days were already there, and this is the end of my blog until March 3rd when I re-take the caravan over. Go to www.travelwithkevinandruth.com/2016/02/our-first-full-day-with-caravan-group.html to follow the adventure for the next 28 days.
Feb 25th, 2016
I have enjoyed my time off here in Melaque except for last night when I had to drive the lady next door, who appears to have had a heart attack, to the hospital in the early hours of the morning. It looks like she will be all right. My trailer shackles are also broken, I do not know when it happened, I am hoping not while I drove down steep Hwy 80. I suspect they gave way just as I pulled in, maybe even backing into my spot as both axles are still perfecty in line Regardless, my wife will be hauling down heavy duty replacements next week when she flies home & back. It was fortunate I am not responsible for the caravan right now, and I have 10 days to get them installed before we head out of here. I am new to trailers, having had a truck camper before, now I know one thing more I need to check regularly. During the time my wife is gone, I am planning to drive up to Guadalajara in just my truck to join the caravan. I will travel with it to Mazamitla where I have not been for a few years, then take it down to Melaque on Mar 3rd to allow Kevin to get some needed dental work done. I have lots of fun activities planned for the group once they get here. It appears Kevin & Ruth have done a stellar job with the group since I left them, but I am looking forward to getting them back.
Feb 29th, 2016
Well I drove up to Guadalajara yesterday to meet the caravan and today tail-gunned it to Hacienda Contreras near Mazamitla. Kevin & Ruth have planned quite a few activities for the fhe group while here so it will be a busy couple of days. It started with a group dinner at Cheema's restaurant and quite a few of the people I have met RVing in Mexico over the years are here. Its great to see them all again.
March 3rd, 2016
Well I am back in charge of the caravan. Today we made the 6 hour trip down to coast at Melaque. A huge change in climate from the cool highlands to the hot & humid coast. Colima volcano was letting off a bit of steam as we passed it, but nothing like the eruption we saw on the Fall trip. We had a few issues getting parked at Laguna del Tule RV park, mainly issues around the Bochi ball court created in the middle of the park. It was impossible not to destroy parts of it as people got themselves parked. People do not seem to realize that it's an RV park first, Bochi ball court second.
March 4th, 2016
Pretty much a chill out day for people to get used to the new surroundings. A couple of us went to Manzanillo to pick up a few things and also pick up John's kids, who are flying down to join us for a week.
March 5th, 2016
I arranged 2 ATV trips for today. We had to do 2 of them, as most of the group wanted to participate. I went along with the second one. Everyone had a great time, we went up a river where we could swim.
Sun March 6th,2016
Today I tackled the replacement of my Trailer shackles with considerable help from the others, especially Larry who actually did most of the work. Male bonding time. In the evening we went to the Salmandra restaurant for dinner. A bit pricey, but well worth it. The 2 younger folks in the photo are Heather & John and John's kids who have flown down to join them for a week.
Mon March 7th, 2016
Today we all car pooled out to Tenacataita Beach and La Manzanilla. Unfortunately my truck appears to have starter problems so we skipped the later and I have taken it into a mechanic.
Tues March 8th, 2016
Well, the mechanic says its not the starter but the Pastilla Encendado, whatever that is. From what I can tell its some sort of ignition module. Anyways it is starting, albeit a bit intermittent. I have determined not to drive it except from destination to destination and try to get it back into the US, or at least close to the border. Getting parts shipped down here is not easy.
Wendesday, March 9th, 2016
Pretty much a relax day. Most of the folks went to the weekly market
Friday, March 11th, 2016
John's kids flew out this evening back to Toronto. Most of us went to the female impersonator bar where of course the Wagon Master had a lap dance
Saturday March 12th, 2016
Tonight most of went downtown to watch the crazyness of the St Patrick's week fireworks. This hard to describe to anyone who has never experienced it before. The best way is to give you links to some videos I took a couple of years back. We all arrived back home uninjured although we did have to duck a few times.
Tuesday March 15, 2016
Today we drove through Puerto Vallarta to Lo de Marcos, for a quiet week of beach relaxation.
Saturday March 19th, 2016
This is the start of Semana Santa when everyone in Mexico is headed for the beach. The beach we are on is no exception, but the campsite itself is quiet. There is no way we are going north to Chacala. The beach where we planned to dry camp is full of tents. I know I went up there & checked. We will do our tour of San Blas from this campground
Chacala beach during Semana Santa
March 22, 2016
Today we did the always enjoyable river tour at La Tovarra in San Blas
March 24th, 2016
Today we did the lengthy drive back to Teacapan. Semana Santa traffic made it a slow trip, long lines of buses and cars loaded with camping gear. A time change to our advantage helped a bit. We are now back at Color Marino for 3 days to wait out the crazyness. This place is remote enough that there are few campers & rowdies.
March 28th, 2016
Today we did the short drive to Mazatlan. I had heard the god awful 30 km drive into Stone island near the Airport had been paved in the last month, so we decided to go in there & give it a try. It turned out there was only 1 km left of gravel and this is a beautiful spot. It is actually on a Penninsula across the harbour from Mazatlan old town. There are pangas to get across and if you tell them you are a resident they are very cheap. Many of us went across to go to the Shrimp market and stock up on shrimp to freeze & take home.
March 29th, 2016
Pretty much a chill out & beach day. I just got word that Los Mochis RV park has been sold and is closed. Wasn't a pleasant spot, anyway. My partner Gabriel has left to do a Copper Canyon tour for my friend, Dan Goy of Baja Amigos Caravans. He said he found a Chinese restaurant with a huge parking area just north of Los Mochis and has arranged parking at 60 Pesos a night for us, so we will give it a try. It is way too far to try & make it to San Carlos in one day.
March 30th, 2016
We made a 7 AM start today, and arrived in Los Mochis in the early afternoon. I found the Chinese restaurant, which despite its appearance, is now a traditional Mexican Restaurant. The parking area in the back is huge, is not visible from the highway, secure, and even a bit grassy. A real find, we will use it in future. (Note there is now a new park 20 km north of Los Mochis, El Jito, just before the an Miguel Toll booth)
March 31st, 2016
Today we drove back to San Carlos, Guaymas actually, I decided to give another RV park a try for variety. It is attached to the oldest hotel in the area and right on the beach. We had our farewell dinner here. I skipped the traditional Mariachi band, we are all sick of Mariachi, and spent a bit more money on booze instead.
April 1st, 2016
Well the final days drive to the border. All went well until we go about 50 km south of the border. Jim, about half way back in the caravan, radioed me and told me Bob at the end had been pulled over by the police and needed a translator. It took me 10 min to get everyone safely parked and get back there. I pulled over on the other side of the highway and could see the cop brow-beating Bob. I tried to cross and he yells, NO at me. I think he felt we may be ganging up on him. I got back in my vehicle and went down the road a few hundred feet and turned around so I was on the same side. Apparently Bob had run a semi off the road. The Federale thought it was hit & run. I managed to convince him Bob was unaware of what he had done. Just then the semi in question showed up. He had been driven into an embankment and had some damage to the lights on his trailer and a broken strut on his front end. I asked him how much he estimated the damage was and he said about 3000 pesos (about $200 US). I gave him the 3000 pesos and he was happy. $200 is far less than the $500 deductable an insurance claim would have cost. The Federale was happy not to have to fill out reports, take Bob in, or any of that stuff. When it was all over we had a group hug, myself, Bob, the cop & the truck driver. I am not kidding, we really did. The cop was actually a real decent guy after he realized it was not intentional. What the incident does show me is that we need to have a Green Angel (Like AAA) behind us all the time. I had not bothered in sections I know are OK, but in future we are changing that policy. A Green Angel would have been a witness and as a government official, better able to deal with the police. Regardless, it all ended well, we entered the US and headed for the Casino south of Tucson to say our goodbyes.
All in all, a sucessful trip.