Friday, October 31, 2008

Another year, another trip

Harry and I are planning for another trip to Mexico--this time in our minivan with only one dog, Maggie--and with a more limited scope. We're heading to Mazatlan and have rented an apartment there for five weeks. Because this trip won't be in Mohita, we've set up another blog to record our travels. Check it out at

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Final Thoughts on Mohita and Mexico

We arrived back in Victoria to a couple of inches of snow on our deck and the spring flowers just beginning to bloom. It felt pretty nice to be home and to sleep in our own comfy bed and have a whole house to move around in. The dogs ran into the house as happy as can be and seemed pleased to be able to hang out in the back yard.

We've been back home for almost two weeks now and in some ways it's as though we'd never been away. Our tans are fading and we're immersed in the details of our life in Victoria again. But when we look in our driveway, there she is: Mohita, the intrepid adventurer. What a lot of mileage we put on her (over 13,000 km). She took us through 20 degrees of latitude to the south and then back again, climbing from sea level to over 8,000 feet on more than one occasion. She introduced us to a great number of people we'd have never otherwise met--in mechanic shops, on the road, and in RV parks. It was an interesting trip and as Sue said, our worst experiences have become our best stories. Mohita is our hero. She helped us escape from what sounds like one of the worst winters ever, and even though we probably won't be taking her that far south again, we've realized that there is an abundance of camping opportunities here in BC and we're going to take advantage of them in the warmer weather (if it ever arrives in Victoria).

As for Mexico, we'll be visiting there again. Probably next winter for a couple of months but we'll try driving down in the van and renting an apartment somewhere. That way everyone who wants to can come and visit us there.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Back in the Pacific Northwest

We spent a nice day Tuesday driving up the Oregon Coast, then overnighted at Lincoln City and this morning drove up through Portland. It's a lovely time to drive through the countryside with all the fruit trees in bloom and daffodils and spring flowers scattered about. It's nice to be back in familiar landscapes but we are finding it very cold. It seems that Spring is very late this year and we even heard a forecast today for snow at higher elevations in Washington State.

We're looking forward to seeing Jamie this weekend if he can find a window of time between studying for his final exams. Then it's over to Victoria and a return to our normal life. I expect that we'll have a couple of weeks of confusion as we re-enter but we are looking forward to being back. Our house and our garden will need some attention, not to mention the paperwork and bills to sort out. After three months on the road we're eager to dive back into our life. The dogs too will be glad to get out of the “rolling kennel” and spend more time in the outdoors.

We undertook this trip in the spirit of exploration, not just of Mexico but also to look at possible ways of spending the winter now that we are semi-retired. Harry's idea was to find a way to get “two summers” a year, and we certainly fulfilled that goal. However, we've found out that we don't really want to spend one of them lined up in RV parks, no matter how lovely the weather. We found that RV parks have a lot of rules and a lot of established cliques. Also, there's a real lack of privacy in these places, where you can hear conversations from both sides, and the close quarters created difficulties for us in exercising the dogs.

We were surprised to find how many people in the RV parks actually live there year around. We met some people who had been “homeless” for a couple of years or more. Some of them travel around and stay for a while in different parts of the country, and then move on I guess. It makes sense if you enjoy the RV lifestyle and it's certainly cheaper than buying a house.

Our goal was more to get away in the winter though, and we have an idea for next year that doesn't include Mohita. We're going to look into an apartment rental somewhere in Mexico for a couple of months and drive down in our van. If we go to Mazatlan, it's only six days drive from Victoria and with the gas savings alone we can pay for motels on the way. But that will be for next year and perhaps another blog. As for this one, it's coming to an end. Unless there are more adventures or mechanical failures to report, you can assume that we'll be back in Victoria this weekend. Thanks for sharing our journey along the way.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

The Lost Coast of California

Take a look at a map of California and you'll see that it's possible to drive along the coast from San Diego in the south all the way up to Crescent City at the north end--except for the area around Ukiah. Here the coast road sweeps inland through the Redwood trees and the steep hills. But west of that on Cape Mendocino is the lost coast. Very few people ever make it there because it's protected by steep hills (I'd call them mountains) and a very rough and twisty road. The last time we were through here to visit my cousin Greg and his family in Petrolia was ten years ago. We were driving a little Toyota and although we remembered the beauty of the drive, we had forgotten the steepness.

To get to Petrolia you leave 101 at Weott and drive through a magical grove of Redwood trees on a narrow road that used to be paved but hardly counts now as there are so many potholes. From there the road winds up and up, then down and up again through the most amazing views of hills and trees. We passed through the first little community of Honeydew and the the road climbed up again to Petrolia. It took us more than two hours to go about 40 miles. But the amazing thing is that Mohita made it without a glitch. We met Greg and a couple of his kids on the main street and then he guided us up behind the town on an even narrower road along a ridge and into his beautiful property.

He and his family have lived here for more than 25 years and they have created a peaceful retreat that feels like Shangri-La. Level fields surrounded by hills covered with incredible trees. They're not actually raising sheep anymore as Greg does a lot of building and Margie is teacher and principal of the Petrolia High School (now with only a few students). When we last visited, Greg and Margie and their four children lived in a small house made from sawn wood and shingles, but they were in the process of building a new house of rammed earth. The old house has been moved now and the new house is pretty well finished. It's a beautiful building, with thick walls and deep windowsills, designed to take advantage of the site. Fireplaces give heat and banks of windows allow in south light. They have done an incredible amount of work on the house and the garden to create this paradise.

We spent the evening there and took a walk with the dogs the next morning. Greg and Margie have two border collies as well and after a period of introduction the four dogs romped around together without too much problem. Geordie was in heaven and clearly demonstrated that he wanted to stay there forever. We had to drag him back into the motorhome when we left.

We headed out on the north route that goes to Ferndale, thinking that the road might be easier to travel. No such luck--it is just as steep and narrow and rough. One hill in particular was incredibly steep, but once again Mohita handled it. By the time we were in Ferndale, the brakes were pretty hot and we took a break to let them cool down.

Ferndale itself is a pretty down with an almost intact Victorian Main Street and a lot of restored houses. But it paled after the views we'd had driving the lost coast. (These pictures give just a flavour.) This morning we're in Brookings, on the coast of Oregon and looking forward to a scenic drive to the Portland area.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Berkeley and Beyond

We managed to get back on the road reasonably early on Saturday morning and drove to Berkeley in time for a fabulous dinner of lamb and couscous. Helen and Sam are wonderful hosts and we've spent a nice weekend in the Berkeley hills. It's a lovely season to be here. The trees are blossoming and the Jasmine as well, plus many other flowers. We've been walking around with the dogs and the fragrance of the gardens is amazing. We spent Sunday exploring the gourmet food stores and galleries on Shattick Avenue. This morning we are heading out once the commuter traffic slows down a bit. We'll drive up Highway 101 and stop in to see family in Petrolia. This is a little town on Cape Mendocino and over a bit of a steep road. But if Mohita can do the canyon road into Sedona, she can pretty well handle anything.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The Mechanic Shop to Travelling Ratio

So--here we are again at another mechanic's shop. This time in Mojave, California--a desolate little town along the highway, dominated by freight trains, boarded-up buildings, and a compound of huge unmarked cargo planes. Mohita's rear wheels started making a noise and we thought perhaps it was brakes, but it turned out to be wheel bearings. We don't think they'd been replaced since she was new in 1978. As it happens, those particular kind of bearings are not that readily available, and we found this out after the old ones had been removed. Yes, here we are again camping in a mechanic's compound and waiting for the new bearings which are supposed to be here tomorrow morning. Cross your fingers!

I guess this is the time to thank all of our friends who politely refrained from telling us that we were crazy when we planned this trip with an antique motor home and two berserk border collies. We do appreciate your forbearance, mostly because we won't have to listen to "I told you so" when we get back--if we do get back. We hate to admit it, but we counted up and we have been into mechanic's shops eleven times on this trip. The ratio of mechanic time to travel time is looking pretty grim.

However, in spite of it all we're still having an overall good time. Occasionally we get the blues but most of the time we're still having fun. Tonight we are barbecuing behind a pile of used tires in the car repair compound. But you know what? It's actually a good thing--the dogs can wander around as if it's their own back yard and we've got space to spread out and set up our lawn chairs. The two dogs that normally guard this compound are fenced into another area tonight--but Harry made their day by giving them each a chunk of steak.

It's kind of incredible how we manage to have a good time in spite of the hardships. And we do keep reminding ourselves that the weather is beautiful. Unlike Victoria, which we hear is suffering from a very cold spring. Once we're on the road again, we'll be heading to San Francisco and then up to Petrolia, California to visit Joanna's cousins who live on a sheep farm there. And then home again.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A Hiatus in the Mojave Desert

After several long days of driving (again across deserts) we've holed up at a little town called Mojave so we can get Mohita's rear brakes checked tomorrow. It's no surprise that some things will need work after all the miles we've put on in the past few weeks. The brakes were making a bit of noise and rather than worry, we've decided to look into it. Besides, Harry needed a break from driving. Mojave is (you guessed it) in the Mojave desert. I think this is our fourth or fifth desert on this trip--and they are getting a little bit boring. We've degenerated into some drastic methods of passing the time, like racing with trains, playing numbers games with road sign distances, conversing with dogs and with Mohita. It could be worse, we haven't started counting road kill yet.

I think that this all signifies that we are road weary and starting to yearn for home. The only problem of course is that we still have to cover around 1,500 miles. So a little break in Mojave is probably a good thing. We've checked into a Days Inn with free wireless internet, a big bed and even a bathtub. Tomorrow morning we'll get the brakes checked out and then, hopefully, head up to the Bay Area to see our friends Helen and Sam for a short visit before continuing north.

Maggie and Geordie have been awesome travellers. When we take on long distance drives they just hunker down in their chosen spots and go into suspended animation. Maggie sprawls out on the couch and Geordie curls up behind the passenger's seat with his nose hanging over the edge so I can give him a scritch from time to time. They're suffering somewhat from lack of running and playing but we try to find a spot every day for a little dog running fun.

Tonight they'll have to be by themselves in Mohita as this motel doesn't allow dogs, but they are now so comfortable with their space here that it will be no problem. We've started calling Mohita the rolling kennel. A good clean out and vacuuming will be in order on our return.