Posts in Adventure

Following the Crowsnest through Interior BC

Snaking around hairpin turns in Osoyoos before venturing into the mountains on the Crowsnest Highway through Castlegar, Creston and Fernie, British Columbia. 

The time had come for us to veer away from the gorgeous Pacific coast that we had spent the last two months conquering and head into the interior, bidding farewell to the ocean for a while until we reach the Atlantic. From Princeton, we started on the Crowsnest Highway, which we’d be taking the whole way through to Alberta. Most people opt for the other route through Golden, BC to Banff, AB but that’s precisely why we didn’t – it gets crazy packed with tourists all summer and luckily, we’ve both done it before. The Crowsnest Highway is also incredibly beautiful and far less busy, which is great for us since Clemmie doesn’t exactly love going up hills. Anyway, we settled into another camping spot along the Similkameen River not far from Hedley and took cover as massive swarms of baby mosquitoes tried to gobble us up. I didn’t mind having to stay inside because after spending a week in the city, I got sick. Interestingly enough, neither of us have been sick at all since we’ve hit the road (even in the winter) and have been spending so much time outside but after a week of close quarters with lots of humans, it got me good.     

Generic Van Life - Crowsnest Highway Similkameen River
It’s hard to find bad views in the mountains. This was our spot on the Similkameen River, between Hedley and Keremeos.

We carried on into picturesque wine country where it was 30°C/86°F and everything was in full bloom. If you’ve never been to Osoyoos before, do yourself a favour and go. It’s a magical valley within the Okanagan area that seems like it could be the setting of a Disney movie with lush greenery amongst a background of snow-capped mountains. There’s a killer lookout point as you leave town that gives a view of the whole valley and the switchbacks you just drove up to get there. This led us toward Anarchist Mountain (great name), where we camped a night at yet another one of BC’s awesome recreation areas called Jolly Creek. We had our share of struggles in the winter when it was so cold that we’d wake up with frost on our phone screens and our dish soap would be frozen but now that summer was coming into full swing, a whole new set of challenges were arising. We’ve got a small fan but with no airflow, it kinda just pushes the warm air around. The only cure for that is to sit outside in the heat and remember the times we nearly froze when running out of propane in the middle of the night in -30° and stop complaining.

Generic Van Life - Crowsnest Highway Osoyoos
Could Osoyoos get any prettier?

The van didn’t want to start up the next morning which further solidified our inkling that the ignition timing was out of sync and the drive through the mountains would be a slow crawl until we could fix it in Calgary. With most of our day spent fiddling with spark plugs, we made a brief stop in Grand Forks before hunkering down for the night at a spot called Mud Lake. Because of the elevation, there was still snow on the ground even though it was over 30°C/86°F and sunny; for the first time ever, we had a snowball fight in shorts and sandals and it was something out of every Canadian child’s dreams.

Generic Van Life - Crowsnest Highway Mud Lake
Sunshine and snow at Mud Lake

The next morning had me waking up dead sick but luckily we were on our way to Creston where we’d be visiting some family for some much-needed TLC and home cookin’. We stopped in Castlegar to trade in my oregano oil for extra strength Buckley’s before making the trek through the Kootenays via Salmo Pass. This was really hard on Clementine because it was the longest and probably the tallest mountain we’d climbed so far. Alongside the logging trucks, we slowly creeped up to the snowy summit where we had to stop for roadwork. Turns out there was a massive mud slide just a week prior where a couple from Saskatchewan got pushed off the cliff and had to find their way out of the mud and get airlifted out…YIKES. Anyway, we eventually made it to Creston (mud-free) where we spent a few days relaxing and chowing down on lots of fresh, local asparagus (asparagus tourism, anyone?).

Generic Van Life - Crowsnest Highway Salmo Pass
No shortage of bad views on the Kootenay Pass from Salmo to Creston

With some rest and lots of cold medicine, I was feeling alive again and ready to keep truckin’. We made a stop in Cranbrook to get some groceries and got caught in a vicious mountain thunderstorm that actually made the power go out at Walmart. You know it’s intense when even Walmart is down. Once it passed and order was restored in the universe, we made our way toward Fernie for our last couple nights in British Columbia. By this time, we’d been on the road for six months and had barely seen any wildlife aside from the usual suspects of deer and possums. Not far out of Cranbrook near Joffre, we had our first bear sighting. Unfortunately, it was dead on the side of the road with its tongue hanging out and was not at all pleasant to look at…neither was the smashed up car that hit it. We passed the scene of the crime and spent the night at Wapiti Lake where we camped lakeside to the soundtrack of elk mating calls. When we were exploring the forest a bit, we found a bag of deer legs dumped on the ground. This was pretty weird and creepy so we retreated back to the van and tried not to let our minds wander.

Generic Van Life - Crowsnest Highway Wapiti Lake
When a lovely lakeside camping spot turns into…
Generic Van Life - Crowsnest Highway Wapiti Lake Deer Legs
A creepy deer massacre!!

Fernie is a wicked little mountain town not far from the Alberta border. It’s a hotspot in the winter for skiing and snowboarding but is equally beautiful in the summer where sidewalk patios give way to a view of the snowy Lizard Range Mountains. The Three Sisters are a heavily photographed mountain chain that you can see clearly, right from downtown. After putting in some work hours at a café, we grabbed some Fernie brews and headed up Mount Hosmer where we’d spend our last night in BC. Hartley Lake is a small emerald green lake nestled among the mountain tops that made for an awesome camping spot. You really can’t beat mountain-fed lakes and the peacefulness that surrounds them. We spotted two beavers swimming around but when we walked around to get a closer look, the one we gathered was the male protecting the pregnant female started jumping out of the water to make some major splashes to scare us off. Ok beaver, it worked. We’ll keep to our side and you can keep to yours.

Generic Van Life - Crowsnest Highway Hartley Lake
Beautiful Hartley Lake on Mt. Hosmer, about 20 minutes away from Fernie

After a quiet night’s rest, we gathered our things to make our way toward Calgary, where we started our journey six months ago. Of course, Clementine didn’t want to go home and decided yet again, she didn’t want to start. She eventually got going after the usual fiddling so we were anxious to get to Calgary to catch up on the overdue repairs and tuning. Returning to Alberta was coming full circle from where we bought and renovated the van and it felt great to know we’ve made it such a long way. We’re stoked to keep heading east through Canada and check out tons of cool spots along the way. Keep checking our camping directory as we add new spots all the time!

Generic Van Life - Crowsnest Highway Sparwood Truck
Bonus! Check out “The World’s Largest Truck” in Sparwood on your way out of BC. It’s definitely not small…

Surfing our Way Up-Island

Camping in Vancouver Island’s rainforests outside of Port Alberni before catching some good food AND waves around Ucluelet and Tofino, British Columbia.

Anyone who has been before knows that Vancouver Island has got it goin’ on. We’re hoping we can one day venture out to what’s truly considered “up-island” (Campbell River, Port Hardy, etc.), but for this leg of our journey, we were en route to the furthest west we’d be going in Canada.

Generic Van Life - Vancouver Island Cathedral Grove
Cathedral Grove is a must-see stop on the drive to Port Alberni

After scouring around the BC Sites and Trails website, we found a few really awesome free campsites within an hour of Port Alberni. Bear in mind that even though they’re a full hour’s drive, they’re less than 30km (18 miles) away – AKA some rough dirt road driving. What has now come to be one of my favourite camping spots to date, the first place we checked out was Arden Creek. A surprisingly well maintained logging road brought us to a small opening within the trees where the very discreet road in made its way down to the water. There are four designated campsites, each with different scenery ranging from a rocky beach to a crystal clear river hidden by mossy trees. This place was downright magical.

Generic Van Life - Vancouver Island Arden Creek
What a campsite! Arden Creek was wicked

We decided to stay there a few days while relaxing in the trees and watching the tide of the Alberni Inlet roll in and out like it was going out of style. Once we were ready to start trailblazing again, we headed to Nahmint Lake, another gem of a BC Recreation Area hidden among old growth hemlock trees. As beautiful as it was, the drive to reach it gave Clementine a run for her money. Potholes are one thing but this road had some majorly steep grades that were quite a challenge when you’re a 34 year old bitty that weighs well over 5000 pounds. Just when the engine got a break from hill climbing, the brakes got their share of stress on a not-far-from-vertical descent down the mountain that made us look forward to climbing it on the way out (not). On one rock, someone actually spray-painted “KEEP ‘ER PINNED” as a reminder to keep that gas going…thanks helpful Canadian vandals! Anyway, the spot was super nice and definitely delivered on being remote. With all the vegetation and wildlife around, there was so much life enveloping the van into its flourishing mossy grasp. If you’re looking to get your jungle fix without leaving BC, it’s well worth the steep rocky drive in.

Generic Van Life - Vancouver Island Nahmint Lake
Our campsite at Nahmint Lake

Ultra scenic highway 4 led us through the mountains, by the wayside of picturesque Kennedy Lake and finally, back out to the ocean. The rain came down hard that day and created a misty haze in the trees that looked pretty cool and doubled as a free carwash that was much needed after the alternating cycle of mud and dust that was the Nahmint Lake drive. As the clouds cleared, we arrived in the small fishing town of Ucluelet where we ate some tasty fresh cod at a food truck called Jiggers and passed by a bunch of other vans on the same pilgrimage.

Generic Van Life - Vancouver Island Highway 4
Rainy days on Highway 4

Continuing on the tail end of highway 4, we headed into Pacific Rim National Park where we camped at Green Point for a few days. I’m proud to say that this was our first time paying for a campsite in months and on this part of the island, it’s well worth it because boondocking is next to impossible. With our newly acquired 2018 Discovery Pass in tow, we got to explore Long Beach and sleep under the familiar jungley trees from Nahmint Lake. The only downside was that the trees created almost complete shade so it was consistently chilly and not great for solar, but luckily every campsite had an electrical hookup to keep that fridge cold.

Generic Van Life - Vancouver Island Hemlock
Nahmint Lake is surrounded by huge hemlock trees among tons of other plants. Keepin’ it green!
Generic Van Life - Vancouver Island Long Beach
Tidal pools disguising themselves as tempting hot tubs

Unlike many other coastal beaches, Long Beach is nice and sandy and has tons of really cool tidal pools that look like mini tropical oases. This also makes it a great place to surf since the waves in this area are pretty reliable. As it turned out, the weekend we were there happened to be the Rip Curl Pro surfing competition so Tofino was bustling. We went into town to grab some Tofino Brewing beers and some tasty cured meats and cheeses at Picnic Charcuterie before making our way to Cox Bay to scope out the competition. When we got to the beach, we were greeted by a thick fog that made it hard to see what was going on 20 metres away but were pretty confident that not many people were out surfing. We ate, drank and were merry with all the other people on the beach before heading back to the campsite for the night.

Generic Van Life - Vancouver Island Cox Bay
Thick fog swallowed up all of Cox Bay

Tofino is a pretty tourist driven town with gorgeous scenery in all directions that felt more like Australia than Canada. It’s an easy place to spend money but also a great spot to just walk around and take in the views. The next day, we rented some surfboards and wetsuits and spent the afternoon at Chesterman Beach surfing (or at least attempting to). Turns out the fog was too thick for the judges to see anything the day before so all the events were being jam-packed into one marathon of a competition on this final day of the weekend. Chesterman was much better suited for beginners so we happily got endlessly knocked over there. I mostly belly rode the whole time, which was super fun, but Justin managed to successfully stand up and surf the waves. Truthfully, the hardest part for me was carrying the damn longboard because it was double the size of me and super awkward. In any case, we had a great time in the water and were completely exhausted by the end of it.

Generic Van Life - Vancouver Island Tofino Surfing
Tubular, bruh!

With one night left on the island, we managed to find a free spot near the local landfill (glamorous) that had a road as pothole-ridden as those in Mexico. To illustrate just how bumpy it was, we had an avocado in the banana hammock that got rocked back and forth so vigorously that it made guacamole on the ceiling – yum! We had a much-needed sleep before heading back to Nanaimo to catch the ferry to Horseshoe Bay where we’d begin our journey to the mainland and start heading east. Summer’s on its way and we’re stoked to be back in Canada!

Lower Vancouver Island

Starting our return to Canada off right by heading straight to one of our favourite places, Vancouver Island. We partied with friends in Victoria before making our way around Jordan River, Cowichan Lake and Nanaimo, British Columbia.

Hello Canada! We are back and ready to get all up in your business! Or, just drive across you while visiting friends and family and marvelling in your beauty. The ferry ride over was an A+ way to cross the border: beautiful scenery, a beer-stocked boat and the smoothest border crossing we’ve ever had. Like most humans, the border always makes me nervous even though we’ve done nothing wrong, but this one was so chill that the lady actually laughed when we bothered to claim some auto parts we were bringing back. Plus, no need to deal with that Peace Arch congestion that can take hours to go through. Also worth noting that Clementine is about 18’ long so we were able to pay standard vehicle price, which ended up being just $80 USD total for us all to cross – MUCH less than we’d pay in gas driving through Seattle to Vancouver and taking the BC Ferry to the Island. Win-win!

Generic Van Life - Vancouver Island Coho Ferry
Non-stop beautiful views on the ferry from Port Angeles, WA to Victoria, BC

The great thing about being back in Canada is that we know a bunch of people scattered far and wide so we can cash in on some valuable shower and driveway time. Isn’t that what friends are for after all? We spent a week in Victoria staying with a friend’s awesome parents (shout out to John and Ruth if you’re reading this 😉) and some old friends while catching up on work and enjoying the lack of rain that coastal BC can be known for. We even managed to get in some beach time at Gonzales Bay, where you can sunbathe and party at the foot of multimillion-dollar homes that you’ll never own. What a life! We also broke all the rules of stealth camping and had a party in the van while parked on a city street but managed to get away with no police visits or tickets and escaped with just a hangover. Success!

Generic Van Life - Vancouver Island Seal Molting Gonzales Bay
There was also a seal molting on the beach

One place we checked out that wasn’t previously on our radar was The Butchart Gardens. Lucky for us, we were given a 2 for 1 admission pass so we took the opportunity to explore all the flowers that you normally just see on postcards. We didn’t think we were all that interested in flowers, until we visited. Basically, the area is an old limestone quarry that’s been converted into a dream-like sunken garden, along with Italian and Japanese gardens and a rose garden. Perfectly manicured greenery and flowers of every colour filled every direction, along with the highest concentration of extremely happy old people I’ve ever seen in my life. The place was packed – even when it started to rain and everyone huddled under clear bubble umbrellas so as not to miss any of the pretty floral views. They have some odd restrictions about not wearing period dress or cosplay but all in all, it was a pleasant surprise how much we enjoyed it (no, we weren’t planning to dress in cosplay even if it was allowed).

Generic Van Life - Vancouver Island Butchart Gardens Sunken
The sunken garden was something out of a fairytale

I’ve mentioned the difference in gas prices before between the US and Canada but we were ever so fortunate to come back into Canada when Vancouver is experiencing the most expensive gas prices in North America. Currency conversion aside, we’re paying almost as much per LITRE ($1.62) as we were paying per gallon in some states ($1.99)…and there’s 3.78L in a gallon, so you can do the math. Anyway, we couldn’t let that stop us from continuing around the Island and heading to Jordan River. A popular surfing spot for people who actually know what they’re doing, the river meets up with the coast at a rocky beach filled with crabs and other tidal sea life. We camped right along the beach and enjoyed being back out of the city for a few days.

Generic Van Life - Vancouver Island Jordan River
No surfers around in the thick fog at Jordan River

Continuing toward Port Renfrew, we stopped at China Beach where we explored the woods and I failed massively at skipping rocks. In Juan de Fuca Park, there’s a botanical beach with lots of little sea critters and these crazy bonsai-esque trees that grow in all kinds of warped twisty directions. They almost end up growing into each other and carve interesting paths in the hiking trail, dictating which way you’ll walk around them. Sombrio Beach is another cool spot with the classic west coast rocky beach that the high tide can do such a good job at hiding. You can easily kill a couple hours flipping over a few rocks and seeing all the crabs scurry on to their new homes while playing the tough guy card and pinching their claws at you.

Generic Van Life - Vancouver Island China Beach
These twisty “natural bonsais” wrap their way around the park

We spent the next day exploring Lake Cowichan and the Cowichan River Park where we hiked around and watched crazy kayakers battle the river. These provincial parks have plenty of no overnight camping signs at trailheads and parking lots so we eventually circled around Cowichan Bay in hopes of finding a spot to camp for the night. Unfortunately, most of the more remote areas around here have become rich peoples’ houses so we went on a little further before stopping in a town called Chemainus. Turns out they’ve got designated RV parking spots around town where you can stay and enjoy a view of the ocean. We spent the evening at a park by the water with a boat ramp and relished in the definite start of summer with the sun not setting until well after 8 PM.

Generic Van Life - Vancouver Island Cowichan River
Watching people kayak counts as kayaking too, right?

One pitfall about Canada is that there are very few Planet Fitness locations where we can grab a shower…and maybe a workout if we’re feeling ambitious. We didn’t have any friends to phone up in Nanaimo so we racked our brains and took a different approach by visiting the pool. I’m normally not a fan of public pools at all but this place was $7 and had a wave pool, waterslides and a huge hot tub! After a long day of working, it was a fun and relaxing way to unwind…until a kid puked in the pool and everyone had to get out. Oh yeah, that’s why I don’t like public pools. Anyhow, we got all shampooed up and headed to a BC Recreation Area about 20 minutes away from Nanaimo and hunkered down for the night. This place meets up with the Trans Canada Trail so there were a few hikers and equestrian folk around since the area has lots of corrals and grassy land for the horsies to roam around. There was even a BBQ in one of the sites that seemed to be open for use.

Generic Van Life - Vancouver Island Nanaimo Bars
No trip to Nanaimo could be complete without a couple nanaimo bars

We’re now on our way toward Tofino and stoked to explore everything in between. Vancouver Island is a magical place and is FULL of amazing free camping spots that just take a little research to discover. Canada seems to be much less prominent when it comes to finding spots on websites like freecampsites.net (the bible) but by taking some time to dig around BC’s Sites and Trails site and talking to locals, the Island is full of great surprises.

Generic Van Life - Vancouver Island Butchart Gardens
Another Butchart Gardens photo because it was THAT magical

California Chronicles: Central California

Spent a windy night north of San Luis Obispo before making the glorious pilgrimage down the coast to Big Sur, CA. Oh, and got kicked out of two camping spots twice in one night…cheers, Central California.

Sure, San Luis Obispo is more so part of Southern California but heading that way marked the end of the desert and the beginning of the lush, grassy mountains that would continue up the rest of the glorious California coast. We got word of a spot amongst the mountains that was supposed to be beautiful, but a little on the windy side. After our Drumheller experience, we laughed off 40 mph gusts since we managed a night of nonstop 100 km/h winds on the edge of a canyon just fine. By “fine” I mean we were terrified but ultimately, didn’t die or do any damage to the van – score! Anyway, we headed up the winding dirt road and spoke to a couple people who had stayed where we were the night before and were on a mission to find a spot higher up the mountain in hopes of a less windy night. We’re not afraid of a bit of wind! Let’s stay! The view was spectacular, after all.

Generic Van Life - Central California Drive
Sunshine and grassy mountains in San Luis Obispo

We spent the evening hanging out with a fellow Canadian traveller when the wind started to pick up. By the time we went to bed, the gusts were gaining momentum so we just parked on a different angle and settled in. Fast forward a few hours and it sounded like every bolt holding the roof on was hanging on for dear life. We were rocking like a canoe and not in a peaceful lullaby kind of way. No big deal – we’ll just move the van a bit further in to be shielded by the nearby mountain. The amount of wind blowing into the front of the van kept choking it out so it was a challenge in itself just to get it started but eventually, we found sweet salvation and went back to bed. Ok, now fast forward another couple hours and the wind changed direction drastically so we had to move again. This time, we saw 3 or 4 other campers trying to find a new spot as well – it was 4:30 AM so I don’t think they were just trying to get a head start on their day. We ended up having to drive down the same skinny dirt road that was sketchy enough in the daytime and ultimately parked at a trailhead beneath a “no overnight camping” sign. We managed to get a couple hours of sleep before the area became a construction site with bulldozers and other noisy machinery out to re-grade the road – restful night!

Generic Van Life - Central California San Luis Obispo View
Take the wind out of the equation and this is a beauty spot!

The next leg of our journey was what I had been waiting the whole trip for: driving down California’s Highway 1 to Big Sur. Normally, we could have started in San Luis Obispo and gone all the way to Monterrey but a portion of the highway was closed due to a mudslide so we had to take the 101 to Monterrey before going as far south as the highway would allow. The road was closed at Gorda so despite not being the most efficient route, it was pretty great to drive the coastal highway south and north to see it from both angles. Sometimes seeing those stunning views from the rearview mirror just doesn’t cut it.

Generic Van Life - Central California Coast
Gorgeous coastal views weren’t in short supply

If you’ve done this drive before then I don’t need to remind you of how beautiful it is but if you haven’t, this is my not-so-subtle nudge to start planning a way to do it. From the roaring coastline to the sandy beaches and everything in between, the entire drive is absolutely breathtaking and evoked an emotional response within me. Everything is rich with life and smells fresh and vibrant to a point where you can just stand in one spot and be overwhelmed with peace and joy. Just like Southern California however, the views are clouded by trash, which is so sad to see.

Generic Van Life - Central California Big Sur
If you could virtually smell these flowers, you’d be loving it

We then disappeared into the forest and made our way to the Henry Miller Memorial Library. Miller is one of my favourite writers and along with some other beatniks, was the reason I knew Big Sur would be so special. The “library” is self-described as the place “where nothing happens” and delivers on being a peaceful retreat surrounded by obscure garden art and towering redwoods – and books, of course. If you like playful cats and having a cup of coffee in the forest, then it’s worth stopping in.

Generic Van Life - Central California Henry Miller Library
Lots of garden art at Henry Miller’s

On the entire drive down to Gorda, we were keeping our eyes peeled for forest roads that we could potentially camp on since this part of the coast borders Los Padres National Forest. You’re pretty much SOL anywhere north of Big Sur, but there are a few forest roads close to Gorda that are relatively unmarked and make for some great dispersed camping. We pulled onto Los Burros road, where we passed plenty of other campers doing the same thing. This road eventually leads to Naciemento-Fergusson Road where we read that you’re no longer allowed to camp on, BUT has some other dirt roads off of it that seem to be fair game. I spoke to the dude giving info at the Gorda highway closure and he said that he believes you’re allowed to camp on Naciemento going southbound, just not northbound but he wasn’t entirely sure. The forest roads are worth exploring if you’re up for it! Being able to wake up in the quiet, grassy mountains to a view of the ocean is just the best.

Generic Van Life - Central California Los Burros
Los Burros Road camping

We spent the next day exploring some of the parks and soaking in all that fresh salty air. The McWay Falls in the Julia Pfeiffer Burns State Park is pretty much what I think of when I imagine what paradise is supposed to be like. Unfortunately you can’t access the beach from there so we headed to Pfeiffer Beach where we walked in the purple jade-filled sand and watched the ocean crash onto the rocky shore. Certainly not a sunbathe-in-the-sand-with-an-umbrella kind of beach, but an amazing place nonetheless. Keep an eye out for the only unmarked paved road without a gate in between the post office and the state park to access its hidden entrance.

Generic Van Life - Central California Pfeiffer Beach
Rocky shores at Pfeiffer Beach

After leaving Big Sur, we found a little street close to a beach in Moss Landing where we’d heard is a good place for an overnight but ultimately ended up getting kicked out by the police. Fun! We sought out an RV-friendly Walmart and hunkered down for the night in the comfort of being surrounded by 5 or 6 other big rigs (you generally know it’s a safe bet when there’s a 40ft RV with a tow trailer parker already). Around 12:30 AM, we got a knock on the window by Walmart security who then asked us to leave before the tow trucks arrive. Double fun! In the several months that we’d been on the road by this point, we’d never gotten kicked out of any spots (other than by the wind) until it happened twice in one night. This is a reality of van life and sometimes you’ve just gotta roll with the punches and keep moving. Lots of people are under the impression that all Walmarts are cool with overnight camping, but with all the inconsiderate litterbug RVers and increased insurance costs, many Walmarts are transitioning over to no longer allowing it. As with all spots, try and do your research first and note that it’s always courteous to ask permission if you opt for a Walmart. Out of desperation, we ended up at a Flying J in Salinas that is plastered in 2-hour parking signs. Luckily by going in and asking, they gave us special permission to stay the night.

Generic Van Life - Central California San Luis Obispo
The sunset over San Luis Obispo to remind us of prettier times

Central California really brought its A-game when it came to views but also gave us a run for our money when it came to boondocking. Taking the good with the bad is all part of it and makes for a funny story. After all, you can’t be that surprised that people don’t want you staying on their property for free all the time – if anything, it makes you appreciate all those really awesome successful spots even more!

Music and Mountains

Greeted by The Smokies, we ventured from the wilderness of the Ocoee River to the honky tonk of Nashville and ended up at Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee.

Tennessee marked our 15th state on this trip so far. We eventually want to do them all but being Canadians, we’re only allowed to stay in the US for six months out of every year. We could probably spend six months in Arizona alone so we don’t want to rush through discovering each state for all it has to offer. For example, the only places that really ever came to mind when thinking of Tennessee were Nashville and Memphis. But the amount of stunning mountains and rivers on the eastern side gave us a new impression of the music-famous state.

Generic Van Life - Tennessee Ocoee River
Rainy days along the Ocoee River

Not without stopping for some authentically Tennessean BBQ first, we took the rocky winding road down to Tumbling Creek where we got to enjoy being back in (almost) completely secluded nature. No cell service, a sky full of stars and the sounds of a soothing creek made for a peaceful evening where we were able to sit by the fire long after the sun clocked out for the day – which wasn’t until 8PM I might add. Going off of our bible, freecampsites.net, this particular place had a lot of questionable reviews about rowdy locals who apparently like to cause a ruckus here. I generally take most negative reviews lightly because people complaining about slight road noise or not having restrooms doesn’t really bother us but this place seemed to have a thread going about redneck stereotypes and wild parties. It was a Friday night so we were admittedly a little bit excited for the characters that might roll through but no one seemed to join us all evening. It wasn’t until after midnight when everything was pitch black that a few stray trucks drove past but didn’t seem to stick around. The wee hours of the night and early AM brought some heavy rain so we decided to head out before the roads got washed out and veer toward the Cherokee National Forest.

Generic Van Life - Tennessee Camping
When there’s music, campfires and beer, a good time is to be had

Luckily the rain meant that the roads were pretty empty and we had the gorgeous views all to ourselves. Looking uncannily like BC, the Ocoee River and views of the Smoky Mountains looked extra eerie and mysterious with the damp haze hovering over the usual blue-tinged fog that gives the mountain range its name. There were trickling waterfalls around every corner and various kinds of rocky formations that made the area feel so alive. Signs for white water rafting and paddling made this area seem like it’d be a hot spot in the warmer months but was just as unusual and desolate as ever on the rainy March morning. This was not at all what we had imagined Tennessee would look like and were so stoked to be proven otherwise. We dreaded getting back on the interstate after the scenic drive through the mountains but we had a destination in mind and that was Chattanooga.

Generic Van Life - Tennessee Smoky Mountains
We can see where the Smokies earned their name from

We had one main draw coming to Chattanooga and that was to see the Ruby Falls. We had a busy day on our roster coming from the Smokies and eventually spending the night in Nashville but photos of this place seemed like it’d be worth the stop. And I’m sure it usually is but once we got to the top of Lookout Mountain, we were informed that a water pipe had burst about 20 minutes before we arrived so they had to evacuate and were going to be closed for at least 2-3 hours. Well, shit. Guess we’ll just have to keep admiring the Falls from Google Images until the next time we pass through Tennessee. On the bright side, at least we saved ourselves the $20 admission fee?

Generic Van Life - Tennessee Lookout Mountain
The view from Lookout Mountain. The outside of the building was about all of Ruby Falls we got to see – exciting! …

Driving through the mountains is undeniably a little intense with tight turns and steep hills but the drive into Nashville was a whole other level of madness. Granted it was a Saturday, the highway was slammed with aggressively impatient drivers and their love for not using their signals. This made us question why we bother with cities at all but we couldn’t go to Tennessee without making the stop. First things first, we popped into Third Man Records and relished in the analog-heavy media and entertainment that Jack White has revolved his label around. You can watch monkeys play cymbals or even record yourself saying something dumb and have it pressed onto a vinyl. Cool spot to empty your bank account at and you might even catch a gig there if you’re willing to fork out a good bit of cash in some variation of a repeated three-digit price ($111).

Generic Van Life - Tennessee Third Man
Storefront for Third Man

From the industrial outskirts of SoBro where Third Man was, we crept our way into downtown, which was a huge mistake. How could we have forgotten that it was ye olde St. Paddy’s Day?! It was around 3PM and the streets were backed up with pedaling beer wagons while the stationary bars were literally spilling out people. We love to drink beer but not when it’s green and you’re squeezed in a place like a sardine drinking it. Luckily for us, Nashville’s got plenty of bars that aren’t downtown. We stayed the night in East Nash, just on the other side of the bridge at the TA Travel Centre. There were a few RVs and tour buses there but we were shocked that more people weren’t taking advantage of a free spot to park that’s a mere 15 minute stumble from downtown. With a staggering amount of chicken bones filling the sidewalks, we booted around to a few different bars in East Nashville and enjoyed the company of other folks that were also in search of non-green beer. All in all, we had a good time in Nashville but definitely left a pin in it to check out again on a non-holiday weekend. When we left the next day, there was already live music in full swing by morning and there seemed to be lots of cool spots to check out another time.

Generic Van Life - Tennessee Crying Wolf
We enjoyed this spot in East Nashville. Check it out and grab a $2 PBR if you’re around

Next stop: Memphis. Nashville’s famous for its country music scene but how could we come to Tennessee and not stop in the home of the blues and of course, Elvis?! One thing that Memphis also has going on is “The Pyramid”. All we knew is that we were allowed to park there for the night but man, was it so much more than that. Right on the Arkansas River just minutes from downtown is a giant mirrored pyramid that is a Bass Pro Shop + restaurant + hotel. This is America at its finest. Innocently wanting to just use the washroom, I entered the building and was amazed that it actually had a river running through it that was stocked with fish and docked boats. Taxidermied forest animals and game were on large displays covered in fake trees and bushes while children took their turn at target practice at the hunting simulation. I’ve been to a Bass Pro Shop in Canada before and it was crazy but this was like Disneyland for hillbilly adults. For hilarity alone, this place is definitely worth the stop and if you’re into that kind of stuff, it’s a playground.

Generic Van Life - Tennessee BPS
And somehow this is a store

More heavy rain and warnings of a tornado left us cruising down Beale Street by car but still solidified that Memphis is a pretty rad spot. And to make it more rad, we were about to tour Elvis’ mansion at Graceland. Unlike modest Hemingway’s in Key West, Graceland is a full-on compound with a well-oiled operation of stores, restaurants and shuttle services ready to take you on the full Elvis experience. We opted for the bare bones mansion tour simply because prices are borderline extortionate. With John Stamos as our guide (lol), we were decked out with iPads and brought over to the house (across the street from the entrance) by shuttle bus. Pouring into the mansion, folks are enchanted by the tackiest and most 70s décor possible. Fabric-covered walls, shag carpet and an excessive use of velvet made this place feel very Elvis. My only advice would be to visit later in the afternoon because even though it was a Monday, the mid-morning was so jammed that you barely even got to hear John Stamos’ sweet voice explain about Elvis’ affinity for fur-covered furniture and mirrored ceilings before someone was prodding you onto the next room.

Generic Van Life - Tennessee Elvis Jungle Room
Elvis’ “Jungle Room”. Yikes.

After touring all but the upstairs of the house, you can go outside and check out the descendants of his horses and visit his meditation garden where he, his parents and his grandmother are buried. Apparently Elvis and his mother were originally buried in a regular cemetery but his father, Vernon, had their bodies moved to Graceland after someone tried to steal his corpse. If you wanna pay some more cash, you can tour his airplanes, see his automobiles and stand a few feet away from his jumpsuits but that was the end of Graceland for us.

Generic Van Life - Tennessee Elvis Grave
Good luck stealing that body now

Tennessee was full of surprises and that’s our favourite part about travelling – learning new things and seeing things from different perspectives. We’re onto the Midwest next and are eagerly hoping that it too will be full of surprises and won’t be as boring of a drive as we expect!

We won’t take away all the splendour of gaudy Graceland for you, but here’s a few more snaps to tie you over until you visit 😉

Keys and Glades

Highway 1 took us from Fort Lauderdale to the southernmost point in the United States. We had a blast in Key West before boating through gator land in the Florida Everglades.

After the rocket launch madness, we were stoked to head toward a BLM-style camping spot like those in the west, which are hard to come by in Florida. Over here, there are Water Management Areas where camping is permitted in designated areas by making a free reservation. That being said, they can get booked up quick – especially with February being the peak of high season in Florida. We arrived at DuPuis WMA after nightfall expecting a quiet forested area but soon realized it was basically an RV Park without hookups. I’m sure it’s not always like that but it was comical how jampacked it was. Granted it was a Friday and this place boasts amenities like bathrooms, hot showers and garbage disposal (a euphemism for dumpsters), which are all rare to find on free public land. This particular area is considered an equestrian campground but accommodates non-equestrian campers with RVs as well. As someone from the city, it was pretty cool to wake up to horses walking by the van despite them having to trot through a maze of RVs. When navigating which WMA you can camp at based on your camping equipment, the lady I spoke with on the phone clarified that a small camper like ours can fit at any of the sites, except backcountry. Larger RVs are generally best suited for the equestrian grounds and tents are good to go anywhere. Depending on the time of year, I’d suggest preemptively making some reservations along the way and cancelling them ahead of time (be nice) if need be – easier than scrambling last minute and toying with the idea of pitching a tent in a Walmart parking lot (don’t do this).

Generic Van Life - Key West DuPuis
This is the DuPuis WMA after some people had cleared out in the morning. Still lots of folks but plenty of green space to go around

Fort Lauderdale awaited us with friends, an air conditioned apartment and even colder beer. We spent the weekend catching up with an old friend of Justin’s and enjoying the luxury of having a flushing toilet at our disposal. With our streak of abnormally low temperatures hitting every town on our path, Fort Lauderdale shook things up and hit some seasonal highs. After months of acquiring extra blankets and making sure our propane is topped up to run the furnace, we had to go out and buy a fan. Boohoo, I know, but keep in mind we have a Canadian van aka great furnace but no a/c. Needless to say, we received no sympathy from people back home as they scrape ice off their cars and moustaches. Anyway, we set up for the work week at a county park called Easterlin Park in the Oakland Park neighbourhood (how many times can I say park in one sentence?). This was a really cool spot that even our Florida native friends didn’t know existed. It’s a lovely green space in the middle of an urban area that felt secluded and lush – well, until the blaring train went by. It’s part of a group of 5 parks scattered across Broward County that all offer different types of camping (and wifi!) with nice facilities. We just so happened to be there when the Parkland shooting happened and received alerts on our phones when the shooter was still at large. We were about 25 minutes away, so that was a little scary. Not gonna get into it, but here’s to sincerely hoping that no such emergency alert has to be issued again.

Generic Van Life - Key West Easterlin Park
Easterlin Park made for some jungle-like camping minutes from Fort Lauderdale

With the drive down the Keys on our agenda the next morning, we took the 1 all the way through Miami to Homestead. Of course this wasn’t until after making an important stop at Le Tub in Hollywood Beach to eat burgers bigger than our heads. I’ve heard Miami traffic is crazy and we can now attest that that is certainly true. At least there were trippy lightshows of dancing people on the sides of buildings to keep the drive interesting. We eventually parked up in Homestead and stayed the night in a Home Depot parking lot about 40 min north of Key Largo.

Generic Van Life - Key West Le Tub Welcome
Bathtub shop? Nope, burger joint. And we’re talking 16 oz patties

The much-anticipated drive down the Keys was well worth the excitement. Gorgeous views from every angle made it hard to not daydream about spending the day boating to a far out sand dune to have lunch like many of these boaters seemed to be doing. Even with the beautiful turquoise waters glistening in the sun, it was evident that hurricane Irma made a lasting impression on several of the Keys, especially Islamorada and Marathon. Piles of debris lined the highway and left behind not-so-distant memories of beautiful beach homes and pristine beaches. In fact, we drove past to see that even the KOA was closed for reconstruction. It’s clear that, similar to Texas, some areas have more money than others to clean up and rebuild, leaving virtually no trace of disaster. That being said, we drove out of the Keys on a Saturday and saw groups of people scattered around working together to clean up. As unfortunate as these things may be, the community coming together to help each other is always a good aspect of the outcome.

Generic Van Life - Key West Drive
Even our broken mirror looked gorgeous in the Keys!

Reaching Key West, we were on a mission to find a private parking lot that we could pay to park in for the night, as per advice from other vanners. Camping in Key West is known to be next to impossible unless you’re cool spending over $100+ a night and booking a campsite months in advance. After passing by several parking lots with blatantly posted signs stating “No RVs, trailers or campers” or simply, “overnight parking prohibited”, we went to a hotel to ask to park in their parking lot. The guy at the front desk said they don’t allow that but there’s no need anyway because in Old Town, you can freely park on the street. In his words, as long as you’re not in front of someone’s house, on the yellow lines or parked “backwards” (backed in) then you’ll be fine. He assured me that there’d be no trouble and that he had my back if the police had anything to say about it. Of course I left out the minor detail that we’d be sleeping in the van, but at least I made a new friend. We parked not far from the hotel in an area with a bunch of other cars, away from any main streets. We closed all the curtains, put our sun shade in the windshield and walked into all the tourist action to load ourselves with beverages.

Generic Van Life - Key West Roosters
Street parking meant we had some rowdy neighbours. They were roosters.

A must-see on our short trip was the Hemingway Home; a gorgeously preserved home filled with polydactyl cats, what’s more to love? Go on the tour and hear the facts and stories for yourself but I’ll just tell ya that this house is lovely and complete with every creative’s dream, a private studio. Walking around the property was surreal, especially for me as my 17 year old self got a quote from The Old Man and the Sea as my first tattoo (yes, I thought I was cool). After spending some quality time with the kitties, we had some delicious food at Santiago’s Bodega before eventually ending up at the tastefully divey Whistle Bar on Duval. A second-floor bar with a wrap around patio was a perfect choice for observing a night in Key West in full swing. Bonus, the third floor of this place is a clothing optional bar called Garden of Eden if that strikes your fancy ;). We stumbled back to the van and discreetly climbed in for the night. Stealth camping is always a gamble so be cautious to not let residents see you and of course, be as quiet and unobtrusive as you can be. From what I’ve read, sleeping in your vehicle is harshly punishable there and the police like to throw out the jail card. With looming paranoia and incredibly vocal roosters going all night long, it wasn’t the most peaceful sleep but a free stay in Key West nonetheless!

Generic Van Life - Key West Hemingway Pool
Hemingway’s backyard with the first (and most expensive) pool in Key West

The drive out was somehow even more beautiful and we made sure to stop on a couple other keys to take it all in. The only thing that would have made our stay better would have been seeing a key deer but we can’t have it all can we. We had our mid-day breakfast on Coco Plum Beach, near Marathon Key, before heading to the Everglades for an airboat tour that we scored a wicked deal on (thanks Groupon). We went to Coopertown, a town with a posted population of a whopping 8 people, for the “original” airboat tour. If you do click this link to go to their website, please enjoy as much as I did that their official video is a clip from Bridget’s Sexiest Beaches, a travel show by Playboy Playmates. Unfortunately there weren’t any Playmates present when we went but we did see 3 gators! This was so satisfying since our eyes were peeled whenever we were by a swamp in Louisiana, to no avail. Riding the gator high after the tour, I spotted at least 10 more gators hanging out along the banks and swimming in the swamps on our drive west out of the Glades along Big Cypress Preserve. Wildlife was the name of the game with several signs warning of panther crossings but like the key deer, they remained a mystery.

Generic Van Life - Key West Gator
Gator patrol

Click away for some more photos from lovely southeastern Florida:

Been to the Everglades? Done some stealthy boondocking in the Keys? We wanna hear about it!

Danger! High Voltage

Power surges and rocket launches in Navarre and Cape Canaveral, FL

Tropical rain and free OJ – we must be in Florida! Although we weren’t quite at the ocean yet, arriving in Florida was a big milestone for us: we had made it to the complete opposite side of the country from where we started and this marked the 10th state on our journey so far. Over the past few months we’ve seen so much different scenery and interacted with so many different types of folks that we were kind of excited to go somewhere where we had been before and see it from a different perspective. That being said, northwestern Florida was still new to both of us – although I just found out that Jaws II was filmed there (!!).

Generic Van Life - Navarre New Smyrna Beach
Gotcha! Not the jungle, just North Florida

From Pensacola, we took the scenic highway 98 so we could soak in all that sweet coastline before planning to make the brief overnight stop at a boat ramp in Navarre when everything exploded. Ok, some context would be helpful. It all started when we innocently tried to charge our laptops through our 12V cigarette lighter inverter. We charge our phones and small things like flashlights all the time without worry and have even brought my 60w laptop to full power from the grave without a hiccup. However, Justin’s 85w laptop gave our 120w inverter a bit more than it bargained for. The little indicator light went red and it stopped charging. It’s a dud, we thought, until we couldn’t shake this nauseating rotten egg smell. We checked on the battery and it was definitely hot and sizzly but we only had 20 minutes left on our drive so we took it slow and cautiously coasted through what turned out to be more like a 40 minute drive because of a nearby car accident. If you’ve ever crossed from Navarre to Navarre Beach then you know that the skinny single-lane bridge is exactly that, skinny. And that’s when things started smoking. Did I mention that it was raining? Well, our windshield wipers started going so fast that they looked like they were about to fly off and slice someone’s head off like a katana (too much?). Seeing as there was no shoulder to pull over on, we parked at the first possible place – which was luckily a gas station just one lot over from where we were planning to stay – and turned everything off. After opening the hood and seeing steaming hot battery acid spewing out, we knew this baby needed some time to cool down. It appeared as though our voltage regulator (which we just replaced in November 2017) was shot so the alternator was working at breakneck speed and in turn, majorly overcharging the battery to a slow and stinky death.

Generic Van Life - Navarre Parking Lot
Calm before the storm. Unbeknownst to us, we happened to arrive with the keeners

We gave it two hours to cool down before trying to start it again so we could pull into the other lot to sleep and deal with the repairs in the morning. Wishful thinking I guess because as soon as we turned the key, this awful noise that sounded like a machine gun became deafening. Boost time! With the condition that our battery seemed to be in, we didn’t want to subject anyone else’s vehicle to possible risks so we phoned AAA and had a professional handle it. We got it started no problem but despite the cool down sesh, our battery immediately resumed sizzling and sent his voltmeter through the roof. Luckily it was about a 30-second drive to get to where we needed to be. This spot was one of those places where it didn’t say no overnight parking so it’s a gamble if someone will tell you to move or not. Our uncertainty quickly disappeared when we saw numerous RVs and campers lined up with crazy set-ups like propane firepits, outdoor big screen TVs and surround sound systems blaring ZZ Top (classic lullaby). Now, this is just a public parking lot but we soon learned that with a Mardi Gras Parade on the horizon, this place becomes a giant party for anyone who’s lucky enough to find a spot.

Generic Van Life - Navarre Float
Just one of the lovely floats ready to hit the parade. This one even had a bathroom in it

Long story short, Justin took a lyft early the next morning to buy a new battery and regulator with the intention of replacing it himself – which he successfully did. As we rejoiced and beamed with pride, we were ready to take off when we realized the blinkers didn’t work. This enlightened us to the fact that nothing worked because it all exploded from the power surge so we spent the morning replacing every light bulb, motor and flasher we could. We also decided it was necessary to order in a new alternator so another night at the boat ramp it was! We actually ended up meeting a lot of nice people and having a fun time in the midst of all of our mechanical troubles. Once the new alternator was ready for business, we waved goodbye to Navarre and continued on the 98 through the sandy beaches of Destin and Panama City and moved inland toward Ocala.

Generic Van Life - Navarre Big Gus
Meet Big Gus. Get acquainted with this 20,000 lb steer in Panama City Beach

Free camping isn’t as accessible in Florida as it has been in other states so we were happy to park up at a Walmart and recharge. The next day, however, we got to our spot early and looked around for something to do when there it was, BOWLING! It just so happened to be the weekend of a Florida State Seniors Bowling Tournament, which filled the place up with pros. Once they cleared out and it was safe to show off our shoddy amateur skills, we bowled the evening away and had a wicked time. With all the driving we do, it was nice to hangout for a while and forget where we were.

Generic Van Life - Navarre Bowling
That form alone would have had the seniors shaking in their boots. Good thing we waited til they cleared out. Wouldn’t have wanted to intimidate them

Making our way toward the coast, we drove down from Daytona Beach to New Smyrna Beach where we’d be staying for a few days to be close to the rocket launch (launch who? Everything you need to know about it here). We were hard pressed to find somewhere to stay for the work week since Florida snowbirds are in full swing and these launches bring in tons of tourists. We had been psyching ourselves out reading all the tips on Reddit to arrive in the middle of the night and how people were coming from all over the country to find a spot in the morning. With that, we woke up stupid early and headed toward Playalinda Beach on the Canaveral National Seashore. By 8AM, people had already set up shop at multiple viewing areas with huge cameras and telescopes. After a slow roll in, we got a spot in parking area 8 and realized that the view from the roof of the van was actually better than the view from the edge of the beach – and it had a stocked fridge.

Generic Van Life - Navarre Playalinda
The edge of Playalinda Beach is as close as you can get to the launch pad without being at the Space Centre (~3.5 miles). Stop looking at that kid’s butt, you weirdo!
Generic Van Life - Navarre Falcon Heavy Launch II
Gotta love a rooftop view!

Alternating between sitting on the beach, the roof and inside, the launch got delayed multiple times and anxiety was rising. The latest update was for a 3:45 PM launch, with 4PM being the cut-off time. A lot of people thought it was going to be a scrub and left to livestream in air conditioning at home. Low and behold, 3:45 rolled around and crowds of silent people watched in awe as the Falcon Heavy blasted into the sky. It was insanely cool and something we never thought we’d get a chance to see in real life. One of the craziest aspects was the delay in sound – we watched it quietly blast off only to hear the giant boom a good 30 seconds later as the van shook uncontrollably. We couldn’t help but take note of how many different types of folks were there with license plates from all over and think of how positive of a thing this was to bring people together. Undeniably history-making in the most wonderful way possible. But, with all these folks came immense traffic. To be expected, of course, which made it extra entertaining to watch people decide to turn around and angrily mouth off about how outrageous it is to not move an inch in 15 minutes. What was a 20 minute drive over the bridge to get in became a 3 hour drive to get out. Again, that stocked fridge thing comes in handy.

Here’s what our view looked like in motion:

With the rocket launch over, it‘s time to start heading down the coast toward the Keys. It’s February and we just put all of our winter gear away and don’t mind it one bit.

West Third Coast Best Coast

We never knew Texan beach vacations were a thing until we had one. Cruising through America’s third coast in Corpus Christi and Galveston, TX.

On a lovely grey day, we made our way down toward Corpus Christi to do some beach camping on Padre Island. We would have loved to go all the way to South Padre, which is right on the Mexican border, but it was a little out of the way and we weren’t convinced that the heavy rainclouds would magically transform into clear blue skies just a couple hours down the coast. Weather aside, it was super rad to be able to drive right onto the sand and set up shop. The park ranger told us that the first 5 miles of the beach are hard-packed sand that’s easy enough for any vehicle to drive on, whereas after the 5 mile marker, things get a little softer and 4×4 is probably wise. I’m sure the distant miles of the beach are quiet and secluded but Clementine doesn’t have the best track record with driving through soft sand.

Generic Van Life - Third Coast Padre Island
Room with a view

The next day promised warmer temperatures and a clear sky but in the time we got to the beach and lost cell service, the weather forecast must have changed significantly because all the day brought was fog so thick you could cut it with a knife. In fact, the fog was so damp that after sitting outside for a couple hours, we were soaking wet. It was hilarious to have to dry your hair with a towel when it wasn’t even raining – you could see the fog travelling through the air like thick clouds at eye level. Despite being such a blah day, there was a lot of traffic passing by our spot with all varieties of vehicles looking for a place to camp, or perhaps ambitiously thinking the fog might clear if they just trekked on a little further. It created a very mystical backdrop for the day’s activity since cars only came into view when they were about 250 metres away; it seemed as if at any moment, the Black Pearl would approach the shore to steal all of our rations.

Generic Van Life - Third Coast Padre Island Fog
Foggy days. Note the windows

We stayed two nights on Padre Island before giving Clemmie a much needed bath and moving onto the next beach (get a car wash after staying on the island. The salty air creates such a thick film on the windows and body that becomes a rust magnet. Even if you don’t feel like it, just do it). Our drive took us back through Corpus and seemingly every oil refinery in Texas. It’s not exactly the nicest view to look out on from your million dollar beach home but a nice waterside drive nonetheless. Another landscape this drive brought us through was the heart-wrenching state of Port Aransas and its surrounding areas. With Hurricane Harvey only a few months behind us, the debris and remnants of very tough times were still quite apparent. We first saw a bunch of collapsed trees and fences and thought that was bad until we reached the “heavy debris area” where the city had created landfills essentially in the area between the split highway. Mountains of furniture, clothing and building materials were piled one after the other. Looking at this stuff was like looking at parts of peoples’ lives destroyed and accumulated with no hope of being salvaged. It was clear that relief efforts were slowly helping to rebuild local businesses and homes but it was shocking to see the state of this part of the coast some four months after the hurricane while fancy beach homes and chain restaurants closer to Corpus showed no signs of damage. I think that instead of avoiding these areas, we should be encouraged to visit them and support the local businesses so they can get back on their feet.

Generic Van Life - Third Coast Galveston Homes
Pastel mega beach houses looked pristine four months after flooding

Our next stop yielded harder sand and calmer waters. Magnolia Beach is situated in Lavaca Bay so worries of the tide coming up to the van in the middle of the night were non-existent in comparison to the rough waters at Padre. With a thunderstorm looming, the air was warm and humid and left us with perfect sleeping temperatures and a mellow soundtrack of calm waves hitting the shore. We were parked about 2 feet away from the water and couldn’t have asked for a better spot. The beach is a shell beach so it’s easy to drive on and there were even some big rigs parked further down – an A+ spot to check out if you’re in South Texas.

Generic Van Life - Third Coast Magnolia Beach
Magnolia Beach was calm and peaceful. Waking up to this was perfect

Further down the coast, we took the Bluewater Highway from Surfside Beach to Galveston. There’s a $2 fee to use the San Luis Pass that connects the lower island to Galveston Island but it was well worth it for us to cut down on the driving time and to give us a much more scenic journey. Said scenery also made one thing quite clear: this is rich people territory. Colourful beach houses on stilts lined both sides of the road with towering palm trees and perfectly manicured lawns. From what I’m used to in Toronto, homes that big would generally be 2 or 3 separate apartments but Justin reminded me that these were single family homes. And not just homes, vacation homes.

Generic Van Life - Third Coast Jamaica Beach
Because why not have a mini-putt beside your pond?

We stayed in Jamaica Beach, about 20 minutes away from the town of Galveston. As lovely as the area was, it was an abnormally cold week yet again so we didn’t get a chance to do much outdoors. We went into downtown Galveston on our way out and grabbed our share of the golden food group at one of the many deep-fried seafood joints before scoping out what I was most excited for, serial killer Robert Durst’s house!! He lived in Galveston for a little while, disguised as a mute old woman, before slaughtering his neighbour and throwing his remains into Galveston Bay. Now that’s a tourist attraction! If you’re into true crime then…this probably still isn’t worth the stop since someone seems to live here and either isn’t bothered by it or got a really good deal from their real estate agent.

Generic Van Life - Third Coast Robert Durst House
This is “the chop house” where Robert Durst resided in Galveston as “Dorothy”
Generic Van Life - Third Coast Galveston Pier
Galveston Pier has a little amusement park on it but to our (mostly Justin’s) chagrin, it was closed

To leave Galveston, we took the free ferry to the Bolivar Peninsula. This is about a 20 minute ride across Galveston Bay where you can either stay in your car or step outside to let the wind blow through your hair and the seagulls fly alarmingly close to your head. The lady beside us was throwing Ritz crackers at them so they continuously hovered along the edge of the boat, just plotting whom they were going to poop on. Luckily we made it out untarnished and continued on about 10 minutes down the road to the Bolivar Flats. This is a mud flats meets beach area with a designated zone that you can camp for free in. From the highway, you’ll turn down Rettilon Road and see a big ol’ sign welcoming you to the beach at the end of the road. It’s full of confusing rules and arrows pointing in misleading directions so if you find yourself standing there a bit confused like we did, stand looking at the sign and everything to the left of it until the wash is free reign. To the right of the sign and past the wash requires a permit that’s like 10 bucks and lasts you a week. There appeared to be virtually no difference in beach quality and both sides have access to a portapotty and garbage bins, which is pretty handy. Sadly, the winds picked up and the temperature seemed to plummet when we got there so we stayed inside but we certainly could not complain when the Gulf of Mexico was in our backyard.

Generic Van Life - Third Coast Ferry
Look at these things. You can see the evil poo-plotting in their eyes
Generic Van Life - Third Coast Bolivar Flats
Once you see these signs at Bolivar Flats you’re in the clear. But I probably didn’t have to tell you that

Despite not having very beachy weather, we had a wicked time driving and camping along Texas’ Gulf Coast. It was nice to do this in the off-season because I’m sure it gets pretty busy down there in the summer. What’s your favourite third coast spot?

It’s all Gypsum and Aliens in New Mexico

Spent a week uncovering UFO sightings, White Sands and Bottomless Lakes around southern New Mexico.

I’m going to start off by resisting making any “New Mexico/Old Mexico” jokes since that’s all we heard when we told people we were no longer in Mexico, but in New Mexico. I’m sure the residents are tired of hearing them but more importantly, Wikipedia is telling me that New Mexico was actually named over 200 years before modern-day Mexico was established…who woulda thunk it!? Anyway, we were on the I-10 for the beginning of this drive before veering off to head toward Silver City. It was crazy to see how many abandoned shops, motels and gas stations there were. It had an eerie feeling similar to those towns along Route 66, where the surviving businesses are relying on highway traffic just to stay afloat. Speaking of highway traffic, we saw so many warnings for dust storms and what to do if you’re caught in one that we know they’re not messing around. Luckily we didn’t encounter anything but they seem pretty crazy dangerous. We’ve got the 5 steps on lock if we ever do though.

Generic Van Life - New Mexico Sign
Gotta love being welcomed by dancing chili peppers

Our first night in New Mexico was spent camping in the Gila National Forest, just south of Silver City. The spot was right by the trailhead to the Continental Divide (that we definitely did not hike) so all you active folks can add that to your bucket list. With a cold morning breaking the 6600 ft. elevation, we got back on the road and drove into Silver City. Now, it was Monday at this point, which normally seems like a business as usual kinda day, but not for this town. Chock full of artist studios and showrooms, this quirky little place appeared to be more of a weekend hotspot. Most signs in the windows showed shops being open Saturday and Sunday and then usually another random weekday. It was a drag that we couldn’t visit many places but it was still a cool place to walk around and peek in the windows. At one point, there was even a priest, a biker and a cowboy chatting in front of an herb store – there has to be a joke in there somewhere… Despite the sleepy demeanor, Silver City has lots of colourful buildings and street art that bring the town to life. Billy the Kid seemed to be a popular motif, as New Mexico was his stomping ground. If we ever pass through again, we’ll make sure it’s on a weekend to catch all the action.

Generic Van Life - New Mexico Silver City
Lots of really cool buildings in Silver City. Most just admirable from the street since everything was closed!

From there, we headed east to Las Cruces. Before settling in for the work week, we explored the old Mesilla area a little bit. It had a really cool atmosphere filled with pueblo-style houses and skinny streets that didn’t make you feel like you were in America. The old timey feel was quickly lost when we ventured back into modern America’s love for box stores and supercenters. Can’t deny that stepping into a Walmart and being able to find pretty much anything you’ve ever known to exist is convenient, but I’d still take the character and history of Mesilla over the rest of Las Cruces any day.

Generic Van Life - New Mexico Mesilla
Stopped at this cute little spot in Mesilla for a beer…or two

We stepped up our game and stayed at a boujie RV Park for the work week as some sort of a treat I guess? This place had a hot tub that could easily fit 20+ people and they even collected your trash at the curb (the staff, not the hot tub…that would be quite an invention though), but unfortunately what comes with fancy amenities are the fancy-ass people that own million dollar RVs. As bad of a wrap as RV Parks get from most van people, we’ve had such a wicked time meeting people in them and sharing stories. We see it for its sense of community but driving an ‘84 into a jungle of brand spanking new rigs created some sort of a separation. Maybe we were just taking it too personally but people wouldn’t even wave back when we walked or drove by. Granted there were a few times where I didn’t have my contacts in but I’m not so blind that I wouldn’t see an arm even slightly move up. That’s all I’m askin for!! Just a little gesture to acknowledge I exist instead of these elitist travellers just blankly staring. We, of course, didn’t let that ruin our time and just carried on being our dirtbag selves ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ but full disclosure: the staff was lovely, it was just the crowd that sucked. We also got our first rainfall since being in Calgary, which was really refreshing and smelled oh so good.

Generic Van Life - New Mexico Las Cruces RV
You get a cheaper rate if you park along the highway, sold! Keep those fancy people away!

Anxious to go back into non-judgmental nature (not bitter at all), we drove into the Organ Mountains to camp at Aguirre Springs the following night. This place was sick! You take this skinny little winding road into the mountains and pretty much at any given point, you can’t see where your next turn is going to lead. Even when we initially entered the park area, we had no idea where we’d be camping since it just appeared to be heavily forested with jagged mountains popping out of the top. There was something magical about this place that made it feel like a Disney movie; the sun glimmered on all the plants while tiny birds chirped away and butterflies perched on rocks. It was a magical drive that we were happy to make again when we realized we had driven the whole loop and were closing in on the exit, haha. We don’t usually pay for camping on non-work days but this beautiful park was only $3.50 since we have an annual parks pass (best investment btw) and was nicer than a lot of campgrounds we’ve paid $30+ for in Canada. With it being an actual campground comes a couple rules like having to arrive before the gate closes and…yea, that was pretty much it. It’s also all designated sites, not the usual dispersed camping, but each one had a covered picnic table gazebo thing, multiple fire rings, a cooking grill and there were bathrooms nearby. I sound like I work for the park but this was just such an awesome spot that if you’re ever in the area, you should check it out. It’s definitely not great for bigger rigs since the gravel parking pad section of the sites are pretty small but there are lots of cool spots for smaller campers and tents. Being so high up also made for a real big night sky and a view of the town of White Sands, which just looked like a small illuminated square from up there.

Generic Van Life - New Mexico Aguirre Springs
How neat is this little set-up? Plenty of space for multiple campfires, dining and parking. Take all your friends down to New Mexico and do it up!

We were stoked to make some breakfast the next morning and head to the White Sands National Monument in Alamogordo. This place doubles as a missile range and has got all kinds of neighbouring military “stuff” that seemed like complete juxtaposition to this tranquil and picturesque place. As the name would imply, the sand is snow white and is that way because of its gypsum content. So why not make a ton of drywall? No! These sandy dunes are protected and are open for tourists to drive amongst and climb. We were a little unsure about how driving would be after the Quartzsite Quicksand Incident, but a friend told us that 4wd wasn’t necessary since there’s a hard, sand packed road that goes through the park and you’re not even allowed to drive on the sand dunes anyway. You can pretty much pull over anywhere and climb up a soft, sandy dune to get an awesome vantage point of the rolling hills that look uncannily like snow banks. Like snow, the sand was almost blindingly white from the sun’s glow (albedo effect whaddup) and people were even sliding down it on crazy carpets and toboggans. Basically this was all the fun of snow but minus the cold and wetness, beauty! This place was extremely cool and absolutely worth all of the sand that we shook off of our clothes for days after.

Generic Van Life - New Mexico White Sands
Just a lone speck in endless white sand

One thing these big open areas with lots of military presence create is…mystery. That was cheesy but for real, what’s going on at all these top-secret places that often just show up as blank areas on a map? Something the government doesn’t want us to know about and one of those things is ALIENS! Being in New Mexico, it was just a given that we were gonna go to Roswell. We knew it was going to be a little silly but that’s just part of the fun. However, our first bizarre experience began on the drive. Now, I’m not talking supernatural-bizarre, but we had no idea that our route would take us through the mountains and back into snow! Going from white sand desert to snow-covered spruce trees in a matter of hours was pretty trippy. I suppose we just didn’t look much into it, but neither of us had any idea that New Mexico was home to any skiing destinations at all. I’m now learning that the Ski Apache is, in fact, the southernmost ski destination in North America. As we ascended into Ruidoso, it became clear that it was a booming tourist town amongst the Sierra Blanca. When we were leaving White Sands, we saw a mountain that looked snow-capped but we dismissed it as just being some sky-high gypsum. Turns out it was the Sierra Blanca Peak and it was indeed, icy cold snow.

Generic Van Life - New Mexico Organ Mountains
Oops! Didn’t take a photo of the snow. Here’s a shot of the Organ Mountains instead

We were dreading having to bundle up to socialize with some aliens but thankfully, the elevation returned to normal New Mexican heights and the warmer temperatures that come with it. We were greeted with a bunch of car dealerships and billboards for Italian restaurants when entering Roswell, but soon caught of glimpse of what we were lookin’ for, the UFO Museum. We went in with corny expectations and it delivered. Very info heavy but had its fair share of alien replicas (or were they just taxidermied?!?) and stories of sightings from around the globe. For those unaware of why Roswell is significant in the alien world, here is the ultra abridged story: a UFO reportedly crashed just outside of Roswell in 1947 and the man who reported it was threatened by the military to change his claim and everyone involved was sworn to secrecy when the evidence was replaced by a weather balloon. The museum had allegedly original transcripts and signed affidavits, which were the most interesting part to us. Make of it what you wish, but it’s still a fun/spooky/hilarious place to check out.

Generic Van Life - New Mexico Roswell
Re-creation or taxidermy?!?!?!

To get away from all that hustle and bustle of alien town, we camped the night at Bottomless Lakes State Park. Being a state park, there was a small fee ($10 for primitive camping and $14 if you want hookups) but it was worth it for how beautiful the grounds were. After talking to the camp host, we opted to get away from the Lea Lake area, where all of the RVs and hookups are (even wifi), and find a more secluded spot by Pasture Lake. There are designated camping areas with picnic tables, garbage cans and vault toilets. We were the only ones amongst the large rocky cliffs that made for some nice quiet camping. The only thing making noise were the animals (raccoons I’d assume) rummaging through the garbage can devouring the mess left behind by whoever had stayed at this spot before us. The garbage cans were uncovered and these people left a bunch of celery and whipped cream for whatever reason and it was all over our site by morning. We collected as much as we could but it makes me wonder what kind of a weird party these folks were having. In any case, I’m sure the raccoons are well fed around here if that’s the norm.

Generic Van Life - New Mexico Bottomless Lakes
Got a nice little spot all to ourselves

The following day we were able to explore the grounds a little bit more and take in how cool these little lakes are. They call them “bottomless” because they’re so full of vegetation that they take on rich turquoisey-green hues and appear to be very deep. They’re all sinkholes that aren’t connected to any rivers or streams and formed as a result of limestone caves collapsing – similar to the cenotes found around Mexico (shout out to anyone who’s ever done the Yucatán excursion to Ik Kil lol). One lake in particular, Mirror Lake, reminded me a lot of Emerald Lake in Yoho, BC. This lake was exceptionally cool because it was composed of two connected sinkholes, one with fresh water, which had a bunch of game fish, and one with salt water, which couldn’t support these fishies. They’re about 40’ deep but look like they go on forever.

Generic Van Life - New Mexico Mirror Lake
Really hard to capture the colour of the water here but it was super rich and saturated, similar to lakes in BC and Alberta

All in all, New Mexico definitely surprised us in many ways. Their state slogan is “Land of Enchantment” so we’re ready to be enchanted again when we go through Albuquerque on our way back west and join in on the Breaking Bad tourism that has caused homeowners to build barricading fences around their houses (it was just one, but still).

 

Driving Where Your Momma Don’t Want You to Go: Mexico

Venturing across another border in Guaymas and Puerto Peñasco, Sonora

When a lot of people think about going to Mexico, they think of an all-inclusive vacation in Cancún or Cabo San Lucas. AKA Americanized tourist meccas geared to give you just enough sandy beaches and cheap booze to make you feel like you’re in a tropical place, while still feeling comfortable enough to not have to understand a lick of Spanish. To that point, we’re fed by the media to be afraid of this beautiful country and “never leave the resort” – it’s definitely not as popular an opinion in Canada as it is in The United States, but a familiar warning nonetheless.

Generic Van Life - Puerto Penasco Lunch
Hard to believe by my eyes that this was my first beer of the day

With our travel advisory apprehensions in check, we made our way out of Yuma to the border in San Luis Río Colorado. As two young people in a Scooby Doo van, we got searched entering Mexico. I must say, the guards were so polite and friendly and oddly unintimidating despite their fellow officers with machine guns on either side of them. We carried on without trouble and made our way toward Puerto Peñasco, or Rocky Point in English, a total gringo vacation town where prices are even presented in USD. Don’t get me wrong, the town and the view of the Sea of Cortez is lovely, but it definitely fits in the margins of the category I made fun of earlier. People trying to sell you mass-produced “authentic” goods and discount pharmaceuticals (they seemed to have more Viagra than a Pfizer factory) made walking down the street a game of Frogger.

Generic Van Life - Puerto Penasco Sign
Tourist-ing it up

Our ultimate destination was Teacapán, Sinaloa – a small fishing village about 2 hours south of Mazatlán where Justin’s aunt has a house. From the border, it was to be about a 3 day trek down. After lunch at a waterfront restaurant in Puerto Peñasco, we started making our way toward Puerto Libertad, where we had planned to stay for the night. Upon arriving to the tiny beach town, we realized that there definitely was no RV Park to be found and that a misunderstanding on a website had led us astray. We rolled up to the Pemex and asked if it was safe to stay the night there. The immediate “no” that came out of the attendant’s mouth made it quite clear that we were to hop back on the highway and keep driving. To be fair, I don’t think that this town was necessarily dangerous, it just wasn’t the Flying J that semis and other travellers would pull into and park for the night. We were a van and a C Class motorhome that didn’t really scream “locals”.

Had some precious cargo on board. This is Justin’s mom’s cat, Sir Walter. He has more followers on Instagram than you or I ever will (@sirwaltermsmelody)

So what now? The nearest RV Park was over 2 hours away and sunset wasn’t far off. We didn’t feel like we had much of a choice so we got back on the road. I want to make it clear that despite our critical view on fearing Mexico, driving at night was something we wanted to avoid. And go figure, on our first night, we found ourselves cruising through the dark (it was only early in the evening so not totally disturbing, but still really, really dark). Nighttime driving aside, the biggest mistake we made was taking the state highway instead of the federal highway. We can’t blame our past selves because we didn’t know the road would be that bad but yikes, we’ve never experienced deeper car-swallowing potholes in our lives. At first it was like a video game, swerving to avoid the odd crater and then it just became downright scary. We had to slow down to a MAXIMUM of 40 km/h (25 mph) in order to not pop a tire or completely wreck the undercarriage of the van. I say completely wreck because it definitely took a beating, even when we were trying our damnedest to be cautious. Luckily traffic was very light (wonder why…) because moving into the oncoming traffic lane was as inevitable as the potholes. Suddenly the 2.5 hour drive started to feel like it was going to be a lot longer. We did pass a number of state and federal police checks that all seemed friendly enough to just make fun of our poor Spanish before waving us along. One shady occurrence was a group of 5-6 cars (some with California plates, others with Sonora plates and the rest with none) that travelled in a close group that would pull over then speed up periodically. Normally this would probably mean bad news but fortunately, they didn’t bother us.

Generic Van Life - Puerto Penasco Drive
At least driving in the dark had some nice views

Peeling our clammy hands and white knuckles off the wheel, we arrived in Bahía Kino and set up at Islandia RV Park and Marina. The owner was lovely and it was such a relief to have a safe spot to sleep for the night in such a beautiful location. Sunrise gave us our first real opportunity to admire the beachfront and chat with other travellers passing through. Our next order of business was getting our temporary vehicle permits necessary to exit the “hassle-free zone” that is the Baja Peninsula and the western side of Sonora. In the simplest terms, you need a permit to operate a foreign vehicle in the rest of Mexico. We already had Mexican auto insurance so you pay a fee, get a sticker and get your money back upon leaving the country. Easy enough so before heading to Guaymas to get it, I decided to give the office a call to see what documents we needed to get the permit. That’s when we realized we did not get our tourist cards (FMMs). Oops! This was quite a silly oversight on our parts as we were supposed to get it in San Luis right after entering. We can blame the border guards all we want for not directing us there (they were apparently supposed to) but at the end of the day, we should have prepared better and sought it out immediately. We were told that even though we had auto insurance, they wouldn’t honour it without a tourist card. This mistake meant driving back to the nearest border, Nogales. If you’re familiar with Mexican geography then you know that that’s a 5 hour haul from where we were, essentially erasing all the ground we covered the previous day.

Generic Van Life - Puerto Penasco Bahia Kino
The beautiful beach in Bahía Kino (Kino Bay)

Justin and I decided that it just wasn’t worth the hours and wear and tear on our vehicle to make the rest of the drive down after having to start over, so we parted ways with our convoy crew after successfully getting our tourist cards in Nogales. It was Friday by this point and New Year’s weekend so we figured we’d stay the weekend in Puerto Peñasco and cross back into the States in time for the work week. No doubt it was a bit of a drag but we just couldn’t justify spending 8 full days of our allotted two weeks driving.

Generic Van Life - Puerto Penasco Bahia Kino Morning
Can’t be too stressed when you’re waking up to this sunrise

Anyway, we made a stop that evening in Santa Ana to spare us from another nighttime drive after an already stressful day. I couldn’t write this blog post without mentioning our dear friend, Edgar Osuna. Originally planning to camp out at a gas station for the night, we zoomed past a homemade sign that said “RV PARK OPEN” right off the 15. We turned around and checked it out and were very glad we did. The RV Park itself was nothing to write home about, with electrical and limited water hookups but no bathrooms or showers. All that mattered to us was that it was a safe place to rest our heads and it was only 200 pesos, after all (about $13 CAD or $10 USD). We got to talking with the owner, Edgar, and discovered that he loved Canadians and his late wife was actually American. At 74 years old, Edgar is paralyzed on his left side but still full of life. He greeted us the next morning and told us stories of how he toured in a band called The Thunderbirds (the Mexican version, he added) in the 60s and used to love driving through Mexico and America. He was the sweetest man to talk to and a local celebrity in the town. I highly encourage anyone to visit him at Punta Vista RV Park if you’re ever passing through Santa Ana.

Generic Van Life - Puerto Penasco Edgar
♥ Edgar ♥ The sweetest Mexican rockstar you’ll ever meet!

The RV Park we scouted out to stay for the weekend was on the west side of Puerto Peñasco, where all of the hotels and resorts are – about a 10 min drive away from the town. Despite not being in a “beachfront” spot, we were just a stone’s throw away from the sandy shores of the Gulf of California. As Justin says, this place was like Arizona Lite. There were many seasonal spots with permanent decks and patios where Arizonans came down for 6-7 months of the year to escape winter (wait, Arizona’s not cold?! It is the sunshine destination for tons of Albertan snowbirds). Essentially, everyone was a sunbaked gringo on vacation. Fine by us, as we were the same – just pale. We enjoyed some beers on the beach and spent the evening on our neighbours’ patio drinking tequila and Tecates. They were indeed Arizonans but were originally from Alaska and New York; they’ve done their fair share of cold winters so I completely understand why retiring in Mexico would be a dream come true. As fate would have it, our neighbours on the other side were travellers from Kelowna, BC! We celebrated in true Canadian fashion by being civilized, polite and friendly, ha.

Generic Van Life - Puerto Penasco Playa Bonita RV Park
Clemmie has broken into van, RV and fifth wheel communities alike

Unfortunately, when New Year’s Eve rolled around, Justin was dead sick. While he rested in the van, I went to a bonfire party with our newly acquainted Arizonan friends and watched some fireworks over the beach. It was a rough beginning to the year with Justin’s flu and my hangover but we couldn’t overlook how awesome it was that we were starting it off in Mexico, in our van, doing exactly what we want to do. Not gonna turn this into some sappy reflection post but we definitely feel super happy to be doing what we’re doing and are so stoked about all the amazing people we’ve met along the way and all the ones we’re yet to meet in interesting places in the near future.

Generic Van Life - Puerto Penasco Playa Bonita
RV Park on the beach > Walmart parking lot

We decided that we’d stay the work week instead of leaving after the weekend because…why not? There was passable wifi, it was cheaper than most American parks, our tourist cards were good for 7 days, oh and being by the beach didn’t hurt. Go figure it was one of the busiest work weeks (we even had to pass up going to tequila shot bingo, sigh) but we certainly couldn’t complain about sitting on a beach after clocking out. We had an awesome time and made lots of new friends but were ready to go back to the US for cheap gas and nicely paved roads. We said our goodbyes and made the short drive to the border crossing into Lukeville, AZ and geared up for an intense search. We’d also been warned that there were often cops camped out in a couple of the small towns you drive through, waiting to give you a “speeding ticket” (get their palms greased) but we were lucky enough not to run into any trouble. The border crossing was a breeze – it was actually easier for us to get into the States from Mexico than it was from Canada. Seems odd but we had nothing on us anyhow.

Generic Van Life - Puerto Penasco Bye
A subtle reminder to brush up on your spanish. And to have a nice trip

All in all, we loved Mexico but will definitely prepare better next time we go. A word to the wise: gas is expensive (about on par with Canadian prices but significantly more expensive than American) and RV Parks aren’t too common so plan accordingly because it’s not worth taking the same risks you might be comfortable with in America by parking on a deserted beach or in the desert. This website as a whole is pretty handy and constantly referenced by travelling Americans, but on this page you can see all the RV Parks on the northern west coast – you’ll see what I mean about them being few and far between.

 

Here are some more useful links to prepare for your awesome Mexican road trip:

All about tourist cards (FMM) here. All about vehicle permits here. You can even do this in advance here and pick it up upon arriving in Mexico. That woulda been smart to do, huh!

This Mexico Mike dude does a good job summin’ it all up. He also was the only avenue we found to find info on the vehicle registration centre in Empalme (just south of Guaymas).

 

Vanned your way through Mexico? Tell us about it! We’d love to share stories.