Around The World in Soccer Mom Mobile

Some people are better suited for the traveling life. Seems as they take it seriously. In comparison, we fly by the seat of our pants…

Following our emergency evacuation from San Blas, in the middle of Semana Santa, we headed north along the coast of Sea of Cortez. About four hours later, we arrived in Celestino, a small fishing village right off route 15D. Quite surprisingly, there were several campgrounds, right on the beach and we were lucky enough not to settle in the first one we’ve came across. Celestino RV park, owned and operated by Chris and Marissa is a US style gravel campground, offering all hookups, electric service, clean bathrooms with hot water showers at the lowest price we’ve seen so far. We decided to stay for three nights, especially as we only needed to pay for two…

Celestino RV Park doesn’t have much to offer in terms of tourist attractions. It’s just a gravel beach front lot with amazing sunsets and very decent star gazing opportunities. Doesn’t have a pool, not even an Internet connection, just the bare necessities for motorized campers. What it does provide is peace and quiet. Even in the midst of Semana Santa, all park guests are in their coaches right after sunset, all you can hear at night is just the sound of waves crushing on shore and you wake up in the morning to the singing concerto of exotic birds flying all over colorful bushes and palm trees bordering the campground.

When we arrived Chris, the owner welcomed us at the entrance. Hearing that we are from Poland, he mentioned that a couple from the Czech Republic pulled in the day before. We found them without problem and parked right next to their shiny, fully armored Toyota Land Cruiser, covered in maps of the World and hand written marks showing the route they’ve covered. Our neighbors started in Europe and after conquering the African off roads shipped the car to Southern America, where starting from Cape Horn were already more than half way to Alaska. From there, they plan to continue their trek through Russia back home. Their vehicle, rather plain in terms of modern day technology, looked quite impressive with weld-on aluminium containers, roof-top spare tires, stainless steel plates covering the hood and countless devices mounted all over the car. Our dusty, soccer-mom mobile wasn’t quite a match.

That made me think how ill equipped we really were for this journey. We did fairly well in the States where the National and State Parks provide all amenities to weekend camping warriors like us. Every camp site has a fire place, a picnic table, water and electric hookups, sometimes a grill and even wi-fi internet coverage. There are laundry facilities, clean bathrooms, hot showers and camp stores if you run out of supplies. In Mexico, most campgrounds offer just the basics: mostly run down, incomplete and not very clean toilets, showers with occasionally warm’ish water and… that’s about it. Those handy propane bottles fueling our camp lights and portable stove are not available in Mexico, so our cooking abilities are severely impaired. Even a morning cup of coffee becomes quite a challenge and turns into an hour long hunt for a nearby coffee shop (usually ends up on a gas station). Our portable cooler doubles as a picnic table, even though it really gets messy when we forget to pull something out of it ahead of time.

Despite being on the road for quite a while now and spending considerable amounts of time putting up and folding down the tent, we still didn’t quite figure out the routine. Somehow, on the travel days, we can’t seem to get our act together quickly enough to cover some distance in the daylight. Usually we can’t leave the campground before noon. True to our motto, we sleep longer, then struggle for a shot of caffeine, mess around with breakfast, clean after ourselves, dress up and eventually start packing. And even though we’ve done it hundreds of times already, some of us are still standing clueless faced with the complexity of few poles and a piece of fabric.

How did we make it so far…?

Road Trip Packing Strategies Revealed

Packing strategies revealed, it means how (not?) to pack a car for a long road trip and what to better leave behind.

This morning, I woke up on the floor. Fortunately the fall wasn’t painful, as I only dropped a few inches. Actually not even dropped, but rolled. I slept on an air mattress. No, not to practice before the trip. This has been a bare necessity, as my wife sold our bed the day before.

We keep crossing stuff off of the tasks list. The vehicles are sold, the utilities cancelled, most of our rubbish is either at Goodwill, at the Salvation Army or in our storage. The furniture keeps disappearing. People come and take it away. It’s no longer months and weeks, we’re down to a few days and it’s time to start counting hours. So far we’ve been unsuccessful in securing tenants for our house. It’s been on the market for almost a month now and even though the rent was calculated to barely cover the costs, we were forced to lower it. It means that we’ll actually pay for some people to live in our house! Other than that, I think we’re ready. There is still some junk in the garage and in our shed, but I’m sure we’ll be able to clean it out before departure. I think, we can start packing.

Car Packing
Car Packing

Disclaimer: The car pictured on the left is not ours, however we are seriously considering adopting similar packing strategy for our Sabbatical road trip.

We’ve been thinking about the most efficient way to pack the car. We’ll have a roof rack, in which we’ll carry all the camping gear and kitchen stuff. It’s fairly easily accessible and in the first part of our road trip, through the United States, we will use it the most. All four bikes will dangle on a hitch mounted carrier behind the car. That way, we’ll have the entire 57.5 ft3 (yes, I’m a geek) for our disposal. I’m not sure how exactly we’re going to arrange it. Leaving it to the Captain, it would be filled with three thousands pairs of shoes (each in their individual shoe box) and the rest of stuff packed in Wegmans shopping bags. Leaving it to our Explorers and it would be full of toys and garbage they can’t part with. Looks like yet another item on my to-do list… To keep things organized, I thought about stuffing everything into large, transparent, plastic containers. You can put them on top of each other, forming two layers inside the cargo area. Things used more often (like towels, bathing suits and sandals) will be sitting on top of stuff that we’ll only need sporadically (rain jackets or sweatshirts). Assuming all containers will be the same size and shape, packing will be no problem. Not even for the Captain… In case of emergency car sleepovers, we’ll be able to put an air mattress on the boxes and spend the night reasonably comfy (even though it might be terribly close to the ceiling). Accidental leakages will be contained to one box at a time. Same with unpleasant smells. Their waterproof quality will be helpful for packing and unpacking on those rainy days. Finally, once we settle for few weeks in a small apartment, we can stack the containers into each other and conserve living space as well. Obviously there will be some unused space in between boxes and the car, which I’m sure can be stuffed with smaller, soft items like  sleeping bags and pillows. I need to take exact measurements, but I believe we’ll be able to take 8 or 10 such boxes with us.

What are we going to pack? I mentioned the camping gear already. That includes a large tent, two large air mattresses, four sleeping bags, one large and one small tarp (to put under the tent), gas stove, lantern, flashlights and tons of other, smaller equipment. The kitchen will be reduced to a frying pan and a cooking pot, cutting board and a few sharp knifes, ceramic plates, bowls and silverware, first aid and roadside emergency kit, small toolbox, essential spares for the car and bicycles, ropes, bungees and a cooler. Those are all very typical road trip accessories, but we plan on taking also other items like laptops, wireless router, maybe a slow cooker or a juicer (or both?). And obviously hundreds of chargers and cables, because all of those devices use a different one. We will have a separate box for our Explorers books, toys and learning materials. Our reading and e-mail communication needs on the road will be satisfied by a Kindle (what a wonderful little gizmo!). Now we just need to think about a way to safely carry our passports and cash, especially once we cross the first border. Somewhere I also read that it’s a good idea to stop at a sign shop and make a copy of license plates, as they tend to be a hot commodity among some Latin American collectors. I’ll think about it in few months, once we get to Texas.

Those are our big travel plans. I’m sure there are plenty of people reading this post, who have their own experiences with road trip travels. We are always eager to learn from others, so please feel free to leave your comments below. In the meantime, we are going back to packing our suitcases for a flight to Poland next Tuesday. Or should we use plastic boxes…?