Landcruiser Porn from Costa Rica

Here are some scanned 2013 70 series, HDJ78, Hilux, Prado, 200 series & more ads I picked up from a dealership in Liberia, Costa Rica last month. Please see the handwritten prices in USD (note: no negotiation by me to lower the amount).  Also, only some factory options are listed as this is what they sell in Costa Rica.  Hope you guys enjoy the LC porn. 

Seriously, the prices in CR are too high, but I have found early 1990's Diesel 70 Troopies for $14k here.  Northern Guatemala is 80% Toyota on the road with most being 70 series trucks. Forget the 25 yr EPA import, just drive to Mexico every 364 days and do a temporary permit...

PS - car parts in Costa Rica are 2X-3X more here and the Purdy Toyota in San Jose, CR wanted 20 days to get a sensor that I could special order in 2 days from AZ.  

PSS - The ambulances & police rides are all HDJ78 or HZJ78's here and would make for a perfect overland build when they dump them every couple years.

Even more adverts after the break

Here are some Toyota's I spotted as well in Mexico, Guatemala, and Costa Rica:

Holidays With the Family and Friends

We went to Playa del Carmen (PDC) when we were in college with my family and friends and have fun memories, so of course, we are pumped to go meet Jeff’s mom, dad and brother Jon.  Jon lived with us for the first year we were married, and we saw him all the time at home, so we are happy to spend some time with him.  Like most vacationers to PDC, the Yaeger’s were staying in an all-inclusive.  The hotel they were at was booked and way out of budget, so we opted for the close by, Phantom Paradise Hotel, or shall we say "Phantom Menace" down the street.  We found out at 10pm that night, when the club felt like it was next door, why it was such a good deal.  Oh well, if we can sleep through fiestas, barking dogs and street noise, we'd be fine.  We spent the next few days on the beach, catching up with family and went to good restaurants at night.  Jeff’s parents even got us passes to enjoy the amenities of their resort as well, thanks!
excited to be with family
sportin' the colors, both patriotic and festive
Christmas Eve Dinner
Tulum, makes you want to swim.
Yaeger family
he hung out on the beach with us
the beautiful Debbie, floating in style
Yes, we made it across, Xel-Ha
Yax-ha Campground, Chetumal
welcome to paradise
San Pedro, where you can have any car you want, as long as its a golf cart or a Toyota Delica van

We finally got to use our SCUBA gear and do a local dive.  Unfortunately, from all the off-roading our gear had taken a beating and we needed to replace some hoses in our regulators, which we found out after getting to the boat, easy fix, we just didn’t get to use our gear.  The dive itself was alright.  We hadn’t dove in the past year, so it was an easy refresher and a perfect way to spend Christmas Eve. 
That night we went to a beautiful dinner.  The Yaeger’s usually have a big Christmas Eve party,  so this was our way of celebrating on the road.  Christmas day was a full day of relaxation.  Although I was sad to be away from my parents and brothers, I'm grateful we had family to spend the day with.  
We went to Tulum the next day.  It was swamped with tourists and vendors, but once down on the beach, its really an incredible sight.  

That night the Yaeger’s resort was having a luau, so we partied the night away there.  At 5am the next morning, Jeff woke up with what we knew would hit us at some point, we just didn’t expect to get sick from a resort buffet.  We’ve been eating street food for a month now and of all places… oh well, at least we were in a hotel for him to recover.  That night, big Jeff and I drove to get our friends, Andrew and Traci, from the airport.  Andrew is one of Jeff’s best friends from college and was a groomsman in our wedding.  The next day the whole crew went to Xel-ha.  Again, its super touristy, as most places in the Yucatan are, but a really good time.  It was our last day with the Yaegers, so it was nice to float around the place with them before seeing them in Costa Rica.  

That evening we drove to Chetumal, to the Yax Ha campground.  This is one of the nicest campgrounds we’ve stayed at yet and had a really interesting evening with the owner a week later, but that’s another story. 
That night, the luau food decided to attack me, however I had to spend the night in the tent (quite possibly my worst night camping EVER).  Our buddy Enrique offered to keep an eye on the Landcruiser at the campground while we took off for the week. Our plan was to catch the ferry to San Pedro on Ambergris Caye, Belize so I had to suck it up and take the crowded, hot, smelly ferry out to the islands while feeling like I could lose it at any minute.  Two hours later and after clearing what may be the cutest customs area we were on a room hunt.

Customs and Immigration, San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize

Traci and I waited with the bags and Jeff and Andrew headed out on a search, not an easy one considering the island is packed for the New Year.  An hour later they arrived back on a golf cart and we had our home for the next 5 days.  The next day we stocked the fridge and hit the beach.  Unfortunately, over the next few days we all took turns being sick and we even had a day where we didn’t leave the hotel, that is except to go on a hunt for an HDMI cable to watch movies.  We were happy to be ringing  in the New Year with good friends, even if we were all not feeling 100%.

Happy New Year

I'll take my conch in a conch, please.  Delicious dinner for the last night on the caye.

The lovebirds are feeling better
The beaches on the island were beautiful and San Pedro was charming.  After a few days of isolation on the island we headed back to Chetumal and drove back to Cancun to bring our friends to the airport.  

Thanks for the visit Andrew and Traci

We stayed one night in Puerto Morelos where we were lucky enough to run into some other overlanders, Tranquillo Adventuras and Southern Tip Trip.  The next day we said goodbye to Andrew and Traci and got back to life on the road. 

Maya "End of the World" Rally, part 2

Day 6

We woke up really early because we wanted to get to Teotihuacan, meaning, “where man met the gods”, before the crowds of people arrived and also because we had a long drive again that day ahead of us.  All through the night we heard club music, which is typical being it was a Saturday night, however, once it was 4am, then 5am, then 8a, and the music was still blaring, we were pretty curious about what was going on.  It seemed that the closer we got to the pyramids, the louder the music.  We found out that a rave was going on near the entrance to the pyramids and people were rolling into Teotihuacan after they left.  Every pyramid we visit is spectacular for the construction and the technology and time that went into the process.  I was blown away with the size of the Pyramid of the Sun and the Pyramid of the Moon.  The view from the top of the Pyramid of the Sun was spectacular (minus the immense air pollution from Mexico City, just 30 miles southwest).

view from the Pyramid of the Sun looking at the Pyramid of the Moon
Pyramid of the Moon, Teotihuacan 
We all then started making our way to Oaxaca.  After another 5+ hour day of driving we were able to navigate our way to a campsite we had just gotten wind of (  Leanne and Calvin were extremely helpful and have converted their property into a charming place for overlanders to hang out for a while.  They recommended a seafood restaurant down the street, where we ordered the special.  Once I got over the appearance of the fish head and Jeff pulled the meat off the bones for me I was able to enjoy the delicious meal.  We were all pretty beat from the consecutive long days of driving, so we decided to stay for a day in Oaxaca and enjoy the city. head
Day 7
Jeff had been contacting Doug French, who is the owner of Scorpion Mescal to try and arrange a tour of the factory for us.  Visiting a mescal factory was one of the challenges for the rally, so we were happy when Doug offered us a private tour.  We all piled in Nate and Sarah’s truck and headed into the city.  The factory was hard to find, so when we asked some locals on the street where it was, the response was, “see that drunk man sitting on the road, right behind that gate”.  Sure enough, behind the gate was Doug.  He explained to us how the mescal is made using the hearts of agave plants.  After learning the difference between Anejo and Reposado, he offered us  tasting, but bear in mind its 11am and none of us our mescal or tequila drinkers.  Doug started by putting six shot glasses in front of each of us, which we reduced to six per couple and began pouring.  After the six were gone, we were all having a merry time, so he took out some of his good stuff and Doug joined in the tasting as well.  We all bought some bottles at the end of the tasting and Doug offered us 3 bottles to bring to Bacalar for the end of the world party to share with the rally group.  All of us were able to add quite a few points to our tally’s towards the rally and even scored a few bonus points for bringing bottles to share.  Thanks Mr. French, we had a great time.
massive agave, where the Mescal is derived from
several shots later, we're all pretty happy, Thanks Mr. French

reject scorpions that don't make the cut for being bottled
Another challenge in the rally was to try some unique “bizarre” foods.  For this we needed to head into the Oaxaca Zocalo, which in my opinion was the most beautiful one in Mexico thus far.  It is lined with restaurants and cafes.  Children were running around playing with balloons, people are selling items and you can always hear music.  The architecture of the buildings and churches was phenomenal.  We heard or a restaurant that sold huitlacoche, so we headed off looking for it. Huitlacoche is the mushroom fungus that grows on corn.   We all ordered some but thought it would be best in a quesadilla and a drink, took photos for evidence and then headed towards the market for our next challenge, to eat chapulines, or fried crickets.  I’d been dreading this challenge, but Jeff handled it like a champ.  After strolling around the huge market, where you could easily get lost, we headed out on our next strange food hunt, for tacos de tripas.  We found a stand that was making tripe tacos and also tacos de cabeza.  Tacos de cabeza was not one of the challenges foods, but we knew extra points were awarded for additional strange foods, so Jeff went for it.  Again, I couldn’t stomach either of them.  All three of our teams enjoyed a much needed day of minimal driving, filled with lots of eating and drinking, while racking in some more points. 
chapulines, take your pick between small and crunchy or large and juicy

huitlacoche, I'll give it a try
don't be fooled by his face, he loved these
Jeff's new favorite street taco stand

Day 8

We decided we wouldn’t have time to visit Sumedero Canyon or San Cristobal, locations of other Maya Rally challenges, since we spent our time enjoying Oaxaca.  So we headed out bright and early, in hopes of making it to Palanque. We weaved through the mountains of Oaxaca for several hours and then started descending from the mountains.  We finally got our first taste of the heat and humidity and shed the sweaters we had started the day off wearing.  After 5 hours of driving windy roads we finally made it to a toll road/ highway.  After only a few miles on the road we were suddenly in a dead stop.  People turned off their cars and were hanging out on the highway.  We called our friends who had left an hour before us and they too were stuck and had been for a while.  We asked around and discovered that there was a friendly protest going on and that buses had completely blocked the road.  We had also heard rumors that the same protest occurred yesterday and that people slept in their vehicles.    These protesters were smart and made sure to place the buses in a place where traffic could back up for miles and there would be no exits.  We decided, f%$# that and took the first U-turn we could, only to get back on the toll road in the opposite direction, so that we would have to pay to exit the road that we had just paid to enter, grrr. Three hours later we were out of the mess, but our friends were not.  We continued driving as much as we could, in hopes of finding a place to sleep, but at 2am we couldn’t bare it anymore and slept at a gas station.  Palenque would have to wait till tomorrow. 

 Day 9

We wake up at 6am, only after 4 hours of sleep and drive to Palenque.  We arrive before the gates open, which is the best time, because you can get pictures before the mobs of tourists and vendors arrive along with the heat.  We explore the ruins for a while and a tour guide was shocked when I told him I was American.  He said not many Americans care about history and all they want is the beach…ouch!  The ruins are pretty incredible, but the sun is rising and I’d really like to be on a beach right now. Go America!

mas Palanque
it's just so incredible, una vez mas
One of the challenges for the rally was to go to the Rainbow Circle gathering which was being held near Palenque this year.  We started looking for some people that were dressed like they may possibly be attending the gathering and sure enough, we manage to get directions.  I had no idea what this gathering was prior to the rally, so was eager to witness what I had been hearing.  From what I know, a large group, roughly 4,000+, come together once each year in a different international location, where they set up a community where the only currency that exists are hugs and barters, and live for a month.  People come and go during that month.  During meal time they form a small, inner circle, followed by many outer circles where they then sit together and enjoy a communal meal.  Upon arriving in our monster of a truck that clearly stuck out, we were greeted with “welcome home”.  I see that an orientation is going on since loads of backpackers just arrived out of a pick-up.  I’m handed a banana and a woman starts going over the rules.  As I am listening, I’m looking around and thinking that Jeff and I clearly don’t fit in here with his collared shirt and my neatly brushed hair and shaved legs.  We walk around see people waking up from the night before (its noon) and pass by the meditation area, yoga area, casual encounters area (I can only imagine what goes on here), and river where people are bathing naked and swinging from some ropes.  People are playing music, girls are sewing or making jewelry and guys are reading tarot cards.  Since it is lunch time, people are starting to head to circle. We pass by the cafeteria on the way there, which I’m a little skeptical of since they only use lime juice as a disinfectant and people are bathing and using the restroom not too far away.  People are getting served something white and mushy, possible a porridge, and then passing their bowl and spoon for the next person to eat.  It’s hot out, there’s poor sanitation and naked, hairy, sweaty people are all around me.  I wanted out! As we start making the trek back to the car we walk by the “shit slits” which need no description, which only hurries my pace.  This was an experience I don’t care to repeat, but we scored some points for attending and the people were friendly. Nuff said..
Rainbow Circle Gathering, Palanque (I hope there's nobody naked in the background)
 It was only 3p so we decided to start driving to Bacalar, which is the ending location for the party, located in Mundo Maya.  On the way, we pass by a Chinese restaurant.  One of the challenges was to go to a Chinese restaurant, save the receipt and fortune cookie and you get more points.  If it’s a vegetarian restaurant, you get bonus points.  We had no such luck.  It wasn’t vegetarian, and they didn’t give fortune cookies!  What a crock!  We at least got the receipt though for a few points.  We rolled into Bacalar late, and are stoked to see Tad and Gaila, team Overland Now, and Bryon and Anthony, from Team Astrid, both whom we had volunteered with in Guanajuato.
campsite in Bacalar
 Day 10
Teams start slowly rolling in throughout the day.  The campsite in Bacalar is beautiful and sitting on a clear, fresh water lake.  We spend the day swimming and relaxing since we are beat from all the driving. Finally, its December 20 and the world should be ending at any time now.  The teams take turns showing photos and other memorabilia from the rally to the judges, which takes hours.  Meanwhile, the food and drinks have been brought over and we start partying like it’s the end of the world. I don’t think Jeff remembers much, but we had an extremely entertaining night with several bottles of Mescal, piñatas, cervesa’s, good food and new friends.  Jeff and I even managed to get 3rd place in the 4WD category and scored a sweet computer bag and water bottle. 
The world didn't end!!!
Day 11
I have no idea how, but we woke up at 7a, so that we could make it to Ichkabal Mayan Ruins at 8am. Centuries ago the Mayans were able to predict when the sun would align perfectly to reflect off a wall and make light in a small circle on a rock.  That's a pretty weak description, but I guess I was envisioning this huge light on the top of a pyramid that was monumental.  This tiny whole close to the ground wasn't what I had envisioned, still, it was neat to witness.  Tons of people came to observe this once in a lifetime opportunity. 

 Along with touring the pyramids we tasted some pure cocoa from a tree on site and chew some natural gum before it is flavored, modified and packaged.  

cocoa beans
 The rally was now over, the world didn’t end, it was time to move on and celebrate the holidays with family and friends.  

the whole rally crew

Maya "End of the World" Rally, part 1

Day 1

We were finished volunteering and ready to rally.  The rally challenges were all being kept secret, although the organizer, Christian, did tell us that we could all finish one challenge early, which was to visit the Mummy Museum in Guanajuato.  Neither of us had ever been to such a creepy type of museum, but it is one of the main attractions in the city and its part of the rally...we must go.  The museum is one of the main attractions in Guanajuato, and after going can see why.  Mummies of all (recent) eras are gathered here and very well preserved, but we didn't stay too long, something about baby mummies and mummy fetus’s didn't sit well with us. This might by the first time I've seen Jeff actually get nauseous. 

Quick HIstory: The mummies get preserved from the high mineral content in the soil.  This happens fairly quickly (under 10 years); the most recent mummy is from the 1980's, if I recall. It might have been wearing basketball shoes!  Unfortunately these mummies did not consent to be here.  Apparently when you buy a plot, your family has to keep paying dues over time to keep you in the expensive real estate here. This place (mostly) is a collection of the poor souls who could not afford this, or families could not be located,and were disinterred. We felt slightly wrong paying to see them.
Museo de las Momias
baby mummy
All rally teams had now gathered at the Morrill campground in Guanajuato and were getting antsy about what the rally was going to hold.  When signing up for the rally, no information was given other than a starting and ending location and date, what happened between was still unknown.  To kick off the rally we all went to a dinner/party where the teams introduced themselves and the hype started to build.  After several drinks Christian and Persephone (the judge) finally distributed the rally packets and teams began planning their routes.  We teamed up with Matt and Isabel and Nate and Sarah, from The Long Way South and starting creating a plan. 

Guanajuato is beautiful at night

Day 2
We started off the Maya Rally with a police escort through town to the main centro for all the people in town to view the trucks/cars and for the official start. 

Rally trucks poised at the start

all the competitors 
 We all then went off-roading up to a viewpoint of the city, lead by Ponce from World Rally Team. Everyone took their vehicles up a pretty steep hill and while parked at the base, Jeff turns to me and asks me if I want a turn.  I nervously accept and he coached me up the hill.  I heard others cheering for me, which definitely boosted my confidence, much needed as I get nervous when Jeff attempts crazy roads normally.  Not to gloat, but I was the only female contestant who drove the road (I should have told the judges that at the end of the rally and maybe would have scored some extra points).  All teams gathered for the last time before meeting up at the ending location several days later, and then we were off.

Team Overland the World

Jeff and I headed to see Cristo Rey, which is a beautiful statue that is geographically located in the center of Mexico.  This wasn’t part of the rally, but we decided we weren’t going to stick totally to the rally book, we would go see other sights if they were near and sounded interesting to us. 

Cristo Rey in the center of Mexico

After a few pictures and taking in the incredible view we were off to San Miguel de Allende.  Sam Miguel is another beautiful city, but more English is spoken there than Spanish.  Many retired Americans and Canadians have moved there and thus the real estate prices are extremely high on Mexico standards.  We met Matt and Isabel at a campsite there and the three of our teams pretty much completed the rally together.  We pulled our resources and made dinner, while we planned out our route for the next few days of the rally.  Celebratory drinks were in need too, as we were excited to be on the road again.  We explored the town for a bit since it was December 12, the actual day to celebrate the Saint Patron of Guadalupe. 

San Miguel de Allende
Day 3

We started off the day with apple and banana pancakes made by Jeff (his specialty) and then packed up and headed to the Mega, which is basically a Walmart/Target to load up on some supplies for the Rally week.  We started heading toward Volcán de Parícutin, caravanning with Nate and Sarah.  The drive took us all day and like most places we pass, the scenery was beautiful.  Volcán de Parícutin is located in the state of Michiocan, which has many travel warnings for tourists, but were so glad we decided to go anyways because the entire state was beautiful.  We camped at the entrance to the volcano park and again pulled our ingredients together to come up with a meal for us all. 

Day 4

We decided to get up early and take horses up to view the volcano and to explore an area where a church once stood and now it is almost covered with volcanic residue from an eruption 1942. 

Volcán de Parícutin
The ride was a filled with peaceful scenery and crisp air. It seemed like all the horses were a bit temperamental though,  we never knew if one was going to take off, bite another horse or buck.  This all just added to the experience.  We hiked around for a while and gazed up at the active volcano in the distance.  I was surprised that a place that was so beautiful was not swarming with tourists.  I guess this is one of the beauties of Mexico. 

"City Slickers"
 In a village at the base of the volcano, local women were making tortillas, meat and vegetables.  We decided this would be a good opportunity to eat and also to learn how to make tortillas.  The women showed us how and they made it look so easy.  You needed to get your hands wet and then get the right amount of raw tortilla to shape into a circle and place on the grill, before the tortilla got to soggy and formed holes.  I have to admit, Jeff was much better at this than me and none of mine even had a good enough formation to make it to the grill.  The women were helpful but also laughed with us as we butchered our tortillas. 

making tortillas isn't as easy as the women make it look
We still got to enjoy our delicious lunch and then brave the temperamental horses for the ride back to camp. We were all able to add some more points towards the rally for visiting the volcano and the cooking lessons.  We packed up camp and headed off towards the El Rosairo Monarch Reserve.  After passing through several small towns, questioning our GPS constantly and what seemed like 1,000 topes we arrived after dark.  We ended up camping in a local families front yard.  The space was tight, but we fit.  Nate prepared an awesome stir-fry for us all that night, we had a few drinks and then off to bed.  Already a routine was forming on the Rally of wake up, eat, pack up camp, drive, drive more, arrive at a cool place, eat, drink and sleep. 
Thank you for letting us stay at your home
mi casa es su casa
Day 5
We woke up early to the sounds of roosters and sheep. Since we arrived at dark, we didn't notice how beautiful the place we were camping was.  We were in a valley at nearly 8,000 feet that was filled with farms and fresh air (minus the awful stench of sheep dung).  We then headed off for the reserve.  This was my personal highlight of the rally and something to scratch off the bucket list.  Millions of monarchs migrate south for the winter and all meet in this specific area of Michiocan, Mexico for a few months yearly.  While we were there, we heard that 135 million were in the area.  They choose this area because of the climate and the plants to eat from.  During the daytime they take shifts flying down from the trees to eat, drink and sun.  The rest of the time they are gathered in huge groups up high, weighing down the branches of the trees.  After entering the reserve, we still had to hike a ways to the area where they gather, so we opted to hop on some horses and head in.  As we got closer, the monarchs started to appear more steadily until we were finally in an area where we had to dismount the horses and watch our footing to ensure we wouldn't step on any.  I couldn't believe what I was seeing, but in my opinion this was one of the most beautiful sights I have ever seen.  After a while of gazing, we had to be on our way to make it to our next stop on the rally by dark.  We packed up camp, thanked the family for welcoming us to their home to sleep and headed on our way towards Mexico City to see the Aztec  pyramids of Teotihuacan. 

We've made it!

I'm in heaven
While driving through one small town our GPS directed us to go down a one way street, where we happened to run into some policia.  We thought a ticket may be in to works, but instead the cop had us follow him while he showed us the correct was through town.  In another city a young boy ran out in front of the truck, which was a really close call.  Jeff slammed on the breaks, making them lock and luckily we avoided any trouble.  The drive continued to be pose more navigational challenges, but again, we finally made it to our campground just as it was getting dark.  Matt and Isable made us all some delicious mole’ dulce that night and again, we were all in need of some good rest. 
continued in Maya "End of the World" Rally, part 2

Boys, Bombs, and Barking

We had heard about the city of Guanajuato and its unique beauty, however when we arrived by driving through a system of cave-like tunnels, we were blown away.  We arrived at our campsite, or home for the next 10 days and are amazed by the view and also relieved to be in the same location for a while. 
Breakfast at Morrill Campground, Guanajuato

That night we went to Katie’s house for a delicious pozole dinner with everyone who would be volunteering over the next week.  She shared with us the volunteer projects we would be working on and the excitement in the room was shared amongst everyone.  We wake up early the next morning and head out to the city of Irapuato, where the boys orphanage is located.  The boys were all so excited to meet us and for us to play with them, they especially liked Tad and Gaila’s motorcycles. 

Some of the boys on Tad's GS850

 We spent the day playing games with the boys like soccer, zombie tag, giving shoulder rides, climbing trees, drawing with chalk and getting to know them.  Even though we had a pretty large language barrier, we all seemed to have a great time. 

Jeff the caballo

I found myself missing my former students a little, so it was nice to get to spend some time with these special guys.  The boys all left for school at 2pm.  Schools in some places in Mexico are so crowded that school is broken up into two daily sessions from 8 – 1p and 2-7p (those poor teachers).  While they were gone at school we starting planning our mission for the week.  We all got carried away with some ideas because there was so much we wanted to improve at the school, however we decided on 3 major ways  to help improve the school, of course with input from the boys.  The playground was in pretty bad shape and the slide resembled more or a cheese grater than a device to play on, so the men all decided to work on a playground transformation.  The boys bedrooms were very dull, dirty and did not feel much like home.  Gaila and Jen took on the project of painting 2 very large rooms.  The boys were also in need of bedding, they were currently sleeping with either a sheet or a dingy blanket, that would not even keep and Eskimo warm, so I decided my skills would be best used by sewing sleeping bags and pillowcases.  After a run to Home Depot, and a good nights rest, we started working in the morning.  The boys were all interested in what we were doing.  Some of them wanted to help tear down playground equipment and some were interested in using power tools.  Others were excited about painting their rooms.  A few boys even wanted to learn to sew and help in making their own sleeping bags.  We worked for four long days to complete our projects.  A lot went down in those four days, but the results and the reactions from the boys was the most important.  The playground now had a teeter totter that was functional and safe, new swings were installed and a climbing wall made from tires was created.  The bedrooms were bright, clean and made the boys smile.  15 sleeping bags and 15 pillowcases were sewn and my heart was beaming. 


The new bright bedroom Gaila and Jen painted


making the sleeping bags

The new pillow cases and sleeping bags

Boys playing on their new playground


The whole team on the new tire wall

Being overlanders, it made sense that we celebrate with a campout.  We made a fire, set up tents and slept at the orphanage for the night.  As a teacher, I am of course thinking that this would never fly at home unless we all went through background checks and fingerprint clearance, which is unfortunate, because it was a blast! 

S'mores by the fire

Throughout our time volunteering, Katie, who works for the Muskoka foundation ( was phenomenal.  She moved to Guanajuato 3 years ago from St. Louis, Missouri and has created so much positive change since she arrived and has such a positive attitude about her work, even when challenging.  Another special bonus to the week was the friendships we created.  Being away from friends and family can be sad at times, but not this week. 

In Guanajuato and throughout Mexico, celebrations were happening for the Patron Saint of Guadalupe.  We took to the streets a few nights where parades were happening and families were gathered in the streets to celebrate.  A major part of the celebration is to light fireworks, aka: BOMBS!  To an outsider, these fireworks can be alarming, but they are all part of the culture and celebrations.  Little children would light the bombs, something my mother would have never allowed, and their families stand by and cheer. 

Guanajuato by night

Holiday celebrations in the city

The volunteers out in the city

One of the many caves/ tunnels the city is built on
After a while it was part of the background noise to us and the noise just added to the charm of Guanajuato.  In addition to the bombs, there is a constant barking in the background throughout the city.  In Guanajuato, the homes and buildings are all built on and into hills with very narrow cobblestone roads.  What this also means is that there are not many backyards in the city, so where do dogs roam? No, not on the streets, but on rooftops.  Well, they roam the streets too.  This was actually one of the things I found charming about Guanajuato. 

hanging out in the backyard aka: rooftop

Our last night in Guanajuato was also the first night of the Maya “End of the World” Rally.  Teams from all over the states had now arrived and were ready to take on Mexico….








We waved goodbye to our families as we left Jeff’s parent’s house.  Although the car isn’t in tip-top shape, we decided we had done everything we could at this point and that we would manage any problems if they arise.  This time leaving our homes was different.  We would be heading towards the unknown for an undecided amount of time, leaving the comforts of home and our loving friends and family.  Excited, overwhelmed, sad and a cocktail of other emotions about what we have been planning for months and that we are finally off. 

We drove to San Felipe, Baja Norte, crossing the border through Mexicali. We had gone to the Mexican consulate in Phoenix earlier that day, so crossing the border with importing the car was easy, taking maybe 30 minutes.  We heard that you could complete the car importation in La Paz, if you are taking the ferry to the mainland, however this service stopped, so if driving down the Baja and are planning on taking the ferry over, make sure to complete the paperwork at the border crossing.  We met some people that had to fly to Tijuana from La Paz to take care of this.  We finally got to do some beach camping, which I wish we got to do more of.  

The drive down the Baja took us only 3 nights, which we would have preferred to do over a few weeks.  We had to make it in time to get to Guanajuato though to volunteer.  Luckily we were able to fit in some sunrises and sunsets over the ocean and a full day of off-roading near Mike’s Sky Ranch, which was a very pleasant, unplanned surprise.  A decent meal and a mattress was needed after 8 hours of four wheeling.

The next day we continued south to Conception Bay, passing by so many beautiful places, wishing we had more time to explore and relax.  

We woke up early and heading towards La Paz, hoping to make our reservation.  We were told to arrive 3 hours before the 3pm departure, and we arrived in Jeff and Monica style, 1 hour before departure.  Luckily we had made the reservation, or we were told we would not have made it on.  Later we found out other people had arrived at 9a that day.  I guess we lucked out.  We opted for TMC Ferry, aka the Trucker Ferry.  I was one of 3 females on the ship, the food was far from good, and our neighboring truck was filled with live goats, but we enjoyed being able to stay with our truck.  20 hours later we had arrived in Mazatlan, ready for our drive to Guanajuato.  

On the Road Again

So our blog is seriously behind, but we are hitting the road again, heading south through Mexico, Central America and South America.  This portion of our journey will take us around 8 months, that is unless we absolutely fall in love with a place. Let's hope that our transmission worries will float away (like metal shavings in the pan) when we get Baja bound tonight. FYI - the Mexican consulate has moved in Phoenix to 3rd St and McDowell and the Banjercito is only open from 8am-12pm. Don't get there at 12:15pm on a work day and expect too much.

We'll be heading down Baja for the next week and then will take the ferry from La Paz to Mazatlan.  We are volunteering with the Muskoka foundation in early December, helping at an orphanage and school in Guanajuato, Mexico.  We are trying to incorporate as many service opportunities as possible while we travel.  When we're finished with volunteering we will be doing the Maya "End of the World" Rally!( If any other overlanders want to join in the end of the world party on December 21st, we can send you the super secret location where we'll be celebrating. 

We're leaving several days behind "schedule" due to some car issues related to the transmission.  If you know Jeff, and I guess I'll take some blame too, "schedule" is a term that should be avoided with us.  We're just happy to be able to hit the road and we'll handle whatever unfortunate car issues as they occur.  

We're sad to leave our friends and family for such a long time, however knowing that our parents have trips planned to Playa del Carmen and Costa Rica, make the distance easier.  We saved 2 seats in the back, so friends, plan your vacation days accordingly.  Sadly, our courageous 5 pound companions will not be joining us as we head south. They'll continue to enjoy their towers of fleece blankets and the comforts of a home.  If they got into any street fights south of the border, it would be pretty clear who would win.  

Wish us luck and keep us posted about the exciting events in your lives.  

Laguna Seca & San Francisco

Unfortunately, we missed the Historic Races on the Monterey Peninsula by a couple weeks.  That did not stop us from seeing the magic that is Laguna Seca on a warm summer day.

The Corkscrew @ Laguna Seca

We got to spend the night at our awesome friend (and Catan partner/nemesis) Eric Wu's place overlooking Russian Hill in San Francisco.  Since he may never move back to Phoenix, I hope to see him again on our trip and (if he is reading this) please find me a job/housing in your area when we get back to the states. Thanks Buddy.
From Russian Hill towards Alcatraz
Lombard Street

CA Coast & San Simeon

300 deg. shot from San Simeon toward the ocean

After Lake Isabella, we headed to San Simeon State Park to camp, and while expensive to camp, well worth the beach access. I've driven by "The Ranch" before but never had the chance to take the tour ($40/person = ouch). Hearst Castle is most certainly worth the effort and even more so if you have some background on the history. The tours are all separate and cost accordingly.  If you want to see it all, plan on the whole day, or two. We only did the "Great Rooms" tour, as the road and our dogs were waiting.

Stay tuned for some GoPro video we took cruisin up the PCH. SPOILER - it's mostly me going frustratingly slow behind some terrible cars with fleeting moments of automotive bliss.

Found this dangling under the car, another surprise leftover from Mesa Muffler

Departure Date: 8.26.12 AZ, Vegas, Death Valley, CA

After several delays, we finally made it out of Phoenix and headed northwest to get out of the heat, to Vegas, nevertheless, on the road. The first night out was definitely not roughing it as, we made it to the palace of a house that our gracious friend, Bobby, currently resides.  However, we quickly suffered the first set back of the trip; we couldn't open the back to get our bags, since the Slee rear bumper part that opens it, fell off during the nights ride. While fixing it, we also found that the new exhaust that was installed 2 days before had melted several wires, including important brake lights and rear camera wires.

What it's supposed to look like
The resolution

A roll of electrical tape and a Leatherman (which I naturally lost immediately after) and we were sorted for the next days drive.  This may be the only time I've been to Vegas that I neither drank nor gambled, so not all was bad.

The following day we drove through Death Valley.  The car almost overheated and we had to drive for about an hour in in 115 F heat WITHOUT AC.  The dogs and the wife were not happy. We did however get some good photos and go offroad.

We spotted these

We finally made it to our first real nights camp at Lake Isabella, near the Sequoia National Forest. I bent the tent ladder while trying to open the tent for the first time (note: you must unlatch it first).  I'm really glad we are durability testing everything in North America first.

Lake Isabella

How to: Limb Risers / Bush Wires / Branch Deflectors

Note: the wash cloths drying

As we have struggled to make it North before the weather turns, I haven't posted as much in the last few weeks.  Apologies all around and without further adieu; Limb Risers.  What's a limb riser? It helps branches on overgrown trails up and over your windshield and roof rack without all the bashing (allegedly).  If you can not be bothered with making them, they can be found at Front Runner Branch Deflectors.  Super nice, but something similar can be had for less than half the price on your own.  There are many ways of attaching with or without a bull bar or roof rack, but with, is the easiest. You may only do one side (for a snorkel) or need different combos of the below parts.

You'll need:

  1. plastic/vinyl coated steel cable
  2. SS turnbuckles or SS Springs
  3. Saddle Clamps
  4. P-clamps, shaft collars, drilled eye-bolts, or conduit hangers
  5. Thimbles and/or aluminum crush pieces for the cable
  6. SS eye bolts
  7. Carabiners - to quickly remove for hood access
Step 1 - Basically rough measure the amount of cable you'll need (8-9 ft/side).
Step 2 - Determine how you want to attach to the bull bar and rack. options include P-clamps, shaft collars, drilled eye-bolts, or conduit hangers.
Step 3 - Allow for slack and stretching of cable, as well as shock loads to the cable.  I will be trying different combos of turnbuckles and springs and report back.  This hopefully addresses the two greatest dangers by doing this mod; (one) that too much body flex on one side while 4wd will rip the hardware apart, and (two) that if you hit a branch that won't budge, you'll have given yourself enough leeway to back up before the branch snaps back and bashes the windshield.
Step 4 - Cut extra cabling away
Step 5 - Paint, Heat wrap, or protect any shiny parts or places that contact your bodywork
Step 6 - Enjoy the test drive in the boonies

Optional :
Split collar shaft (opt. 1 & opt. 2) w/ welded eye bolt
Shrink wrap the connections
Paint or Plasti-dip

Courtesy of
 Search Amazon for P-clamp


Dual use bonus; they can also be used as a short clothes drying line.

The Most Dangerous Roads In The World

Some of these look fun & others foolhardy, just don't tell your actuary.  We hope to check a few off the list. Enjoy.

(Note. While Bolivia is considered the most dangerous, the rest are in no particular order)

1.     The North Yungas Road, Bolivia (The Death Road)

Built by Paraguayan prisoners of war in the 1930s, the North Yungas Road, which locals call the “Road of Death,” snakes across roughly 40 miles of the Andes in northeastern Bolivia. In 1995, the Inter-American Development Bank named the La Paz to Coroico route “the world’s most dangerous road.” And for good reason. The unpaved road is bordered by 3,000-foot cliffs. More than 100 travelers die every year trekking the route’s hairpin curves.

2.     Sichuan-Tibet Highway, China

In China, the number of deaths caused by car accidents has nearly doubled in the past 20 years, climbing from 3.9 to 7.6 per 100,000 of the population between 1985 and 2005. During this time, the number of cars on the road increased ninefold, and the number of other vehicles, principally motorcycles, jumped by a factor of 54. Government statistics show nearly 82,000 road deaths--5.1 for every 10,000 motor vehicles--in China in 2006, according to the Xinhua News Agency. Ironically, the least populated regions had the highest overall death rates per 100 000 motor vehicles. The Sichuan-Tibet Highway, a high-elevation road between Chengdu and Tibet where landslides and rock avalanches are common, is undoubtedly part of the problem.

3.     Guoliang Tunnel Road (China)

The road in Taihang mountains was built by local villagers: it took five years to finish the 1,200 metre long tunnel which is about 5 meters high and 4 meters wide. Some of the villagers died in accidents during construction; undaunted, the others continued. On May 1, 1977, the tunnel was opened to traffic. It is located in the Taihang Mountains, in the Hunan Province of China.

4.     James Dalton Highway (Alaska)

The James Dalton Highway is a 414-mile gravel road. It heads straight north from the Livengood turnoff of the Elliott Highway, through arctic tundra to the farthest north reaches of Alaska. Alyeska built the 360-mile haul road, now known as the Dalton Highway, from the Yukon River to Prudhoe Bay, for $150 million to supply the oil facilities on the North Slope. The pipeline bridge across the 1,875 mile Yukon River is the only span across that river in Alaska. 

But this is not a road for the faint of heart, or those with a brand-newvehicle! It is still the main supply route for the Prudhoe Bay oilfields, and you will be sharing the road with large tractor-trailers. Windshields and headlights are easy targets of flying rocks. Most rental companies will not allow you to drive their cars on the Dalton. Trucks speeding along the slippery gravel track kick up thick clouds of dust or mud, reducing visibility to absolute zero; potholes take a heavy toll on cars and services, gas, and repairs are practically nonexistent. Don't even consider driving the Dalton unless you have 4-wheel drive, a CB radio, extra fuel, food, tires, and a trunk filled with supplies.

5.     Pan American Highway, Costa Rica
The Pan American Highway, a network of roads that stretches nearly 30,000 miles from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska, in North America to the lower reaches of South America, is the world's longest "motorable road," according to Guinness World Records. Although only a small portion of the road runs through Costa Rica, that portion boasts some of the most dangerous miles. Called the Hill of Death, the stretch of the Pan-American Highway from San Isidro de El General to Cartago is a gauntlet of narrow curves, steep cliffs, flash floods and landslides.

6.     BR-116, Brazil
The second longest road in Brazil, BR-116, runs from Porto Alegre through Curatiba and Sao Paulo, all the way to Rio de Janeiro. The Curitiba-Sao Paulo section of the highway is nicknamed “Rodovia da Morte” (Highway of Death). The name fits. The road runs around--and even through--the edges of steep cliffs. The result: “accidents and road fatalities are distressingly common,” as one travel advisory puts it.

7.     Coastal Roads, Croatia
The good news for the droves of tourists pouring into the fishing villages and sea resorts that crowd Croatia’s Dalmatian Coast on the Adriatic Sea is that they don’t need to worry about land mines. The detritus of a decade of ethnic warfare that ended with the breakup of the former Yugoslavia is far from the narrow, congested and curvy roads along the coast, which brings us to the bad news. The coastal roads and the fast-driving Croats that crowd them probably account for more deaths and injuries than accidents associated with unexploded ordinance ever do.

8.     Cotopaxi Volcan, Ecuador
Traveling to Ecuador? Be careful, the roads are dangerous, and the most dangerous of them all is one many tourists unwittingly travel. Slightly south of capital city Quito, the Cotopaxi Volcan Road is a 25-mile span of treacherous dirt road that connects the Pan American Highway with Cotopaxi Volcan national park, which boasts the highest active volcano in Ecuador at 19,460 feet. The “road” is plastered with potholes and runs through a nightmarishly deceptive “stream” that puts the “flash” in flash floods when it rains. Add poorly maintained cars and poorly trained drivers, and you’ll appreciate the trials and tribulations of a drive in the jungle.

9.     Luxor-al-Hurghada Road, Egypt
The road that links the ancient city of Luxor in southern Egypt and Hurghada, the regional hub for several scuba diving resorts on the Red Sea, is a death trap. The vast majority of drivers never turn on their headlights after the sun goes down, setting the stage for the high accident fatality rate that has earned the road a spot on this list. Ironically, the only thing more dangerous than driving on the road at night with your headlights off is driving at night with them on. If the bandits don’t get you, the terrorists probably will. In 1997, terrorists shot and killed 62 German tourists in Luxor in a massacre that resulted in a massive government crackdown that endures today.

10.  A44, U.K.
The A44 runs from Oxford to Aberystwyth. The two-lane road has tallied enough accident fatalities and serious injuries in recent years to earn the ignominious honor of having government surveillance cameras installed to deter speeding and otherwise encourage cautious driving. And on a road where more than 25% of crashes on are head-on collisions, caution is well advised.

11.  Patiopoulo-Perdikaki Road, Greece

Although the Ottoman Empire occupied Greece for 400 years, they never conquered a small mountainous region in central Greece called Agrafa. They had the military fire power and political will to do so. They simply didn’t have any way to get there. The roads were as dangerous in the steep, mountainous region then as they are now.

12.   Grand Trunk Road, India to Afghanistan

The Grand Trunk Road was built in the 16th century to connect the major cities of India with those of Pakistan and Afghanistan. It hasn’t changed much since then, but the world around it has. The road is chronically congested with ox carts, animals, bicycles and pedestrians and massive numbers of cars and buses.

13.  Ruta 5: Arica to Iquique Road (Chile)

The road from Arica to Iquique is renowned for being dangerous; you drive past very deep valleys and wind your way through, spotting ever so often tell-tale vehicle skeletons at the bottom. The few times you can see cars and buses passing by, they were doing so at such a speed that you may think they are either tempting fate very foolishly or perhaps they are just ghosts whizzing past. The mono-hued and isolated scenery is well capable of endowing you with the capacity to have such visions, so concentrating and avoiding the use of any form of hallucinatory substance is essential here.

14.  Siberian Road to Yakutsk (Russia)

The Russian Federal Highway connects Moscow to Yakutsk, where the coldest temperature ever recorded outside Antarctica was recorded. Yakutsk is also the largest city built on continuous permafrost. Most houses are built on concrete piles because of the frozen ground.

What does all this have to do with being one of the world's most dangerous roads? Well, during the winter, which is approximately ten months long, driving in and out of Yakutsk is subject to heavy snow, ice, and reduced visibility. However, winter road conditions are a picnic compared to trying to navigate the Russian Federal Highway on July and August. Though many Siberian residents will tell you the highway is not paved to keep the Germans out (a tired World War II era joke), the truth is because of the permafrost there is no asphalt, creating a mud induced traffic jam every time the summer rains swing Yakutsk's way. Near thousand car traffic jams are not unheard of and during these back ups and travelers might pass the time while stuck in Siberian traffic by looting, beating, and kidnapping other travelers. Siberian mud pirates.

15.   Trollstigen (Norway)

Trollstigen (The Troll Ladder) is a mountain road in Rauma, Norway, part of Norwegian National Road 63 connecting Åndalsnes in Rauma and Valldal in Norddal. A popular tourist attraction due to its steep incline of 9% and eleven hairpin bends up a steep mountain side, the road up is narrow with many sharp bends, and although it has been widened in recent years,vehicles over 12.4 meters long are prohibited from driving the road. At the top there is large parking place which allows visitors to leave their cars and walk for about ten minutes to a viewing balcony which overlooks the road with its bends and the Stigfossen waterfall. Stigfossen is a beautiful waterfall which falls 320 meters down the mountain side. 

16.   The A682 Road (England)

The A682 between junction 13 of the M65 and Long Preston is the worst road in England as it has claimed almost 100 fatalities over the last ten years. The 14 mile single lane A682 between junction 13 of the M65 near Nelson, Lancs, and Long Preston in North Yorkshire, had 22 seriousaccidents in the past three years - two of them fatal. Experts say it has an average of 0.5 deaths per 10 miles annually. It is a favorite for motorcyclists, especially early on a Sunday morning. 

17.   Stelvio Pass Road Trollstigen(Italy)

stelvio2 The highest paved mountain pass in the Eastern Alps --and the second highest in the Alps, after the Col de l'Iseran (2770 m)--, the Stelvio Pass Road connects the Valtellina with the upper Adige valley and Merano. It is located in the Italian Alps, near Bormio and Sulden, 75 km from Bolzano, close to Swiss border. 

While it might not be as risky as other deadly routes, it's certainly breathtaking. The tour books advise that the toughest and most spectacular climbing is from the Prato side, Bormio side approach is more tame. With 48 hairpins, this road is regarded as one of the finest continuous hairpin routes in the Alps.

18.  Karakoram Highway, Pakistan to China

Karakoram Highway is the highest paved road on the planet connecting Pakistan with China. It’s a popular tourist route, with motorists stopping to view K2 and other stratosphere-scraping peaks from the pavement.

19. “Los Caracoles” Pass in Andes


Gear Review #2: Titan Straps

Length: 25" (63.5 cm)
Weight: 2.4oz ( 4.25g)
Load: 206 lbs (93kgs) @ 71.6 F
Price: we paid 3x $7.99/strap plus shipping
Quirks: The strap is meant to fold over itself (as compared to a typical belt bucket), as show below
Made in USA - Bozeman, MT

These polyurethane straps are handy to hold a variety of our gear together.  We are most likely going to use them to hold and retain our coiled power extension cord and marine water hose.  Might try to use them as a quick strap for the awning.  Initial impressions are that these guys are well built, with additional rubber material built around the eyelets or buckle holes. We'll let you know how they hold up, but I suspect they'll last a long time and are inexpensive (my favorite).

Why Do Some Countries Drive on the Left and Some on the Right?

Right Hand Drive Vs Left Hand Drive

The following is a great article, excerpted in ExPo, about a recent article, with a title of the same name.  One of the most interesting parts of travelling is that you are forced on a daily basis to deal with the inane arbitrary differences of modern infrastructure.  This goes along with my recent post on international electric plugs. History buffs rejoice.

How To: Scepter Water Can Portable Camp Shower

With the departure deadline looming, we had to add a camp shower quick.  Originally, I planned on adding a Helton Heat Exchanger with chassis mounted water tanks next to my aux fuel tanks.  It looks like neither is going to come to fruition in the next week, so I scoured and found what looks to be a promising hot portable water shower system. Bonus: it fits in Jerry can holders, has a pressure release valve, built-in shower head holder, and it can be refilled in place and without removing the red lid.

Whats needed:

  • Scepter Water Can 20L (10L probably works as well) - $45
  • RL PRO Model 996P Powered by Solo weed sprayer from Home Depot - $29
    • (Note: This may be discontinued going forward, look at the pic of the scepter threads and red lid threads when searching for an alternative)
  • Hose Barb Adapter - 3/8" barb & 3/8" FIP - $5
  • Shower head with flow valve, and 6'-10' tubing - $18
    • (Note: This shower head came with tubing, there are other alternatives, please see links at the end of the post)

The Scepter does bulge a bit but seems fine, I did however order a

Portable 12V DC Powered Water Pump & Shower Unit

RESOURCES: Camp Showers/ Scepter Water Cans

Safety Abroad: Part 1 - Mexico

As most overlanders' already know, the question of safety is often the first question people ask when learning about our trip.  While generalities like "South America is dangerous" and "Mexico is a terrible place right now", are often wrong, so are the assumptions that nothing bad can happen while travelling. Hasn't everybody seen NatGeo's Locked Up Abroad?  Thus, a cautious approach is what we have decided and prudently created a couple of ground rules.
  • no driving at night
  • no driving over 65MPH
  • avoid crowded areas but also avoid desolate areas where we are alone
  • modify routes based on the newest and best info we can find of areas prone to issues
  • have code words and signals for each other to BUG Out of situations.
  • additional OPSEC measures

Also, here are a few good resources we have used in our planning:

GLOBAL ALERT MAP - Earthquakes, Epidemics, Fires, Hurricanes, etc.

While I have been to Mexico over a hundred times without issue, it's mainly been to the states of Sonora, Baja Norte, Baja Sur, or to the Yucatan (all relatively safe). However, I have found that the simple rule of not doing things you wouldn't in the States or being in areas (that you also wouldn't if they were in the US) after dark, will get you through majority of the time.  

Safe Travels