Saturday, February 20, 2010

26 Days Rving In The U.S.

What an experience. We traveled through five states, covered thousands of kilometers and stayed in rv parks, Walmarts, and state parks. It was a lot of fun and I have so many thoughts about the whole experience that I'm not sure where to start.

I can say it is good to be home, and by that I don't mean my house. I'm ready to stock the rv and take off again. Crossing the border into Mexico I felt like I was back in my own environment, my own skin. I guess after so many years it grows on you. It was exciting to be met by people crossing the bridge that greet you with a smile, a wave and ask you politely for your papers and documents. With pleasure I pulled over and open the rv for an inspection. I told the guy he could look wherever he wanted with complete confindence. He said the military would want to inspect it too, but after a few minutes they said it was no problem and off we went to the 26th kilometer.

We laughed for a few minutes when I said, "oh look, trash on the ground, broken down cars, transito waiting with baited breath, it's so good to be back home". Of course I was only kidding but we laughed our asses off with that one. I actually looked forward to crossing the 26km, seeing aduana, military and immigration in uniform. They are really nice guys who don't have a grudge or bone to pick with someone because they decided to change countries. We got a red light and were pulled over for inspection. It turned into a conversation about rvs and what type to buy, what year and make. The aduanero was fascinated by the subject and got another red light customer and waved us on.

Mexico is definitely a different place with different rules but it's the place I call home. We can park anywhere we want, we don't have so many rules or at least they aren't enforced unless it is to the advantage of someone else. Most of all, there are people, lots of people and there are people everywhere. Walking down the street, riding on buses, filling markets and stores. There is life and it's active, dynamic and you have someone to talk to whenever you want. In the states everyone seems to stay inside their work or house watching t.v., playing video games. When was the last time the kid next door walked down to the corner and got on a bus? A country like the U.S. that produces more pollution than any other and most of it comes from cars and they spend all their time trying to find solutions to reduce pollution. Take a bus, walk, ride a bike. Of course I believe that if you do that it is considered low class. I couldn't imagine visiting my siblings and arriving to their house after taking the bus. It would be like, "what's wrong? where's your car? are you okay?".

I remember living in San Antonio in my first house back in the eighties. I lived on that block for a year and a half and the neighbors would come and go, pulling in and out of their homes with their electric garage door openers and a quick but insecure wave of the hand. Even though in Mexico we are living with some violence, people aren't afraid of each other. I guess in the U.S. it is a "mind your own business" society.

I realize we have our problems and some pretty big ones now. In the U.S., it all seems money oriented. After that depressing experience in New Orleans a change of scenery puts things into perspective. I felt so bad trying to have a good time when all that was around us seems to be in a constant state of implosion, decay both moral and physical, crime running rampant, insecurity, the list goes on. How did people forget New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina? I still want to know the answer to the big question: Where are the monies allocated by the Feds to Katrina victims, reconstruction, FEMA trailers, etc. ? Don't you want to know? If that were Mexico it would smacked with the label of corruption.

It was hard to find someone to talk to, even get a smile from someone. I had my sourpuss radar on most of the trip and the results were depressing. In our rv park in Naples we weren't received very well. I hate being snobbed when I give someone a smile and a hello. I did find some solace in the laundry room one day when a woman about my age struck up a conversation with me saying it was because of our age more than anything else. There was almost an envy of some sort from these people. Questions like; "are you old enough to be here?", "you're not going to make noise all night, are you?", "how can you be retired, you're too young". They referred to us as "those two guys". Is that like Two Guys From Italy?

I had a hard time not touching people or talking to babies in grocery carts. In the U.S. you just don't do those things. In Mexico, not doing those thing offends people. Everyone seems so self-absorbed, wrapped up in their getting somewhere or buying something. I can't imagine not saying hello or good morning to someone and them literally not responding. It doesn't happen here.

It was a big relief when we were in northern Florida where one can get into a state park with some luck. You see, in Florida, snowbirds book the parks 13 months in advance. I was able to find one site in a state park near Ft. Meyers for March 2011 only to find out it was a tent site. They have a system which keeps the parks booked. Florida doesn't care, the revenue streams in but the same groups take over the parks year after year. To each his own, but a state park is a place where you appreciate and commune with nature, not hunker down for the winter in your rv. Go to an rv park if that's what you are looking for.

Coming into Texas was a relaxing part of our trip. First off, to hear people speaking Spanish, finding a good stateside taco even if it was TexMex, and a bit more of friendliness. Texas and Nuevo Leon have many things in common and one of them was or is the desire to secede from their respective republics. We found two state parks, Brazos Bend outside of Houston, and Lake Casa Blanca just on the edge of Laredo. I've always had a hard-on with Texas state parks and their day fees but that can always be overcome with an annual pass. But what comes with it is a campsite at a reasonable price, a clean park with limitations on how long someone can stay so that everyone gets a chance to enjoy the park. Sure, there will always be that one person who knows how to massage the system.

In Brazo Bend I saw tons of wildlife. P.J. and Claudia, the DutchDuo would have a heyday shooting photographs of wildlife in Texas state parks. On a short walk yesterday morning I saw tons of cardinals, two ibis, five dear, and a brown spotted owl. The camping spots are spaced far apart and you are in a natural setting. This place is far from civilization and very, very quiet. So quiet, as I was walking flocks of birds flew low over my head and for the first time I actually heard the wind flowing over and through their wings. It was almost surreal.

My decision has been made. We might venture north now and then, but if we do I will only stay in state parks or wildlife refuges, forests, etc. and stay in one place for a period of time. No more rv resorts and always on the lookout for lots of free boondocking spots. Apart from that, we will rv in Mexico. Open beaches, moutain roads that get us into a tight spot now and then, and the freedom that one can only experience in Mexico. Regional foods, a small town festival or running into a wedding or quinceñera. Finding that one unique niche that the media, big business or maddening crowds always seem to ruin for good. I love sitting outside my rv at night, maybe in front of the town square watching it come to life as the lights begin to glow, people come out of the corners and cracks of side streets and buildings, a man selling cotton candy and candy apples, a taco stand with tree trunk chopping block and the owner calls out to you as you walk by. Boondocking on that open beach where there are no people, no signs with rules telling me when and where to be, the smell of leña burning into coals and only the sound of the waves. That's my Mexico. For better or worse, here's where I'll stay.


  1. Excellent post Chris. We feel exactly the same way. We're heading down to Florida in a week, and other than looking forward to seeing our son and his baseball team, we're not looking forward to Florida very much.

  2. Welcome home mi amigos! Everything you say is exactly why we love Mexico as well.

  3. Glad to here you made home safe and sound,Chris and juan, great post by the way and oh so true, how can I get in touch with you two, I'd like to stop by and say hi sometime??

  4. Here's my email so you can get in touch withme,

  5. Thanks for the tip of the birding in Texas, we might going to check it out.
    I wrote something simular when we crossed into Mexico:
    Our poor Spanish was now really rusty and the custom officer gave PJ the advise to learn to speak Spanish, that worked as magic with the girls! He apologized to me and gave me a fat wink. It was a relieve to have a nice officer for a change.
    Two weeks before we went into Mexico we had arrived at New York airport and we were picked out of line by a female custom officer BEFORE we were at customs! She gave us a hard time because we had been in and out the USA for ten years. Why does immigration gave us a ten-year visa if we are not allowed to come and go??

  6. Hola,
    A friend sent your blog, really enjoyed this post. Do you mind if I add your blog to my blogroll???
    I haven't been back to the US since I left - 6 years ago now - and although we do have some issues here, I can't imagine ever wanting to return. Even for a visit!!!
    Mexican Trailrunner

  7. Chris, If you recall I sent you some comments on places in Florida you would enjoy. You skipped them. We go to Florda every few years and NEVER stay in private campgrounds or state parks south of Ocala. You just can't get in. There are many State Forest sites that sit empty, beautiful County parks that are only full on weekends. Three great National Parks with hundreds of available sites. There are boondocking places everywhere, you just are not looking in the right places.
    Also I would never generlize my comments on a coutry when I've visited so few areas. People in the mid section are outdoors people and friendly just like Mexico If fact when people are afraid to go to Mexico I remind them it is as safe and friendly as our midwest.