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All y’all know I live off the grid, right? “Off the grid” only means that we live off of the power grid. Someone could ostensibly be living “off the grid” in New York City if they were living off of the main power grid there. What I REALLY mean to say when I say that we live “off the grid” is that besides providing for all of our own power needs, besides getting our internet via a satellite dish and besides having no telephone reception whatsoever, we live WAAAAAAAAAAY the hell out there! I mean, UPS and FedEx won’t deliver to us, and neither will USPS. Our closest neighbors are two miles away. We live waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay the hell out there by LOST COAST standards, and the Lost Coast is in itself waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay the hell out there.

We live in a yurt that is like slightly glorified camping. Our sink is balanced on some plywood supports, every item we use in the “house” is on it’s last legs (- we don’t want to really invest in anything until the inside drywall and flooring is done, but that’s another post). Cutlery? What my mom gave us! Dishes? Whatever’s unbreakable from Costco! Sofa? Um… carpet! Toilet? Outhouse! We *do* have running water (and it’s amazing water, coming straight from our own water springs). And we’ve got hot water too!

But it’s pretty basic up here in a lot of ways. It’s life off the grid.

So, yeah… CAMPING!

Meriah Nichols San Simeon-1-2It’s weird for us.

The whole concept is sort of hilarious, really, when you think about it, right?!

I mean, you drive for hours and hours.

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Meriah Nichols San Simeon-6You see some cool towns that time forgot if you are lucky!

Meriah Nichols San Simeon-5You get to the campground and wait in line with everyone else who wants to rent a small piece of earth and erect temporary shelters right next to one another.

And you get to use porta-potties! Sometimes pay showers! Little grill things to make a fire in – and lets not forget the asphalt spaces for car parking!

Meriah Nichols San Simeon-4It seems ridiculous, doesn’t it?!

We were going to hang out with one of my besties, Katie, and meet her friend, Corinne.

We were all bringing a kid or three, coming from various parts of California, and hadn’t seen each other for a long time.

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Meriah Nichols San Simeon-12I forgot to bring the hot dogs. And the plates. And the bowls.

Meriah Nichols San Simeon-3If Katie hadn’t brought these, we would all have been eating directly out of the pot!

Good thing for Katie.

Meriah Nichols San Simeon-38I met Katie in my late 20’s. I was in Taiwan to see my brother Dana, and I had stopped over in Taipei to visit my friend Liz. Who was friends with Katie. It turned out that both Katie and I were getting ready to move to the San Francisco Bay Area (she from Taipei, and me, from Tokyo).

She and I connected when we both actually moved, and then became good friends. Which was what, a whole life time ago. Back when her job singing and waitressing at Max’s in SF was super sweet, I was an elder caregiver and we both loved partying wherever, whenever we could.

Pre-husbands. Pre-kids. Pre-adulting.

It’s amazing how much can change in 1o years, isn’t it? I mean, think of it. 1o years ago, Obama wasn’t even known, Donna Summer was still alive and iPhones didn’t exist. But some things never change and one thing that hasn’t changed about Katie is her adorable Midwestern sensibility and charming customs. Like this:

Meriah Nichols San Simeon-33“Banana Boat”

Take a fresh banana. Slice it open, and gently place a smattering of chocolate chips inside.

Meriah Nichols San Simeon-34Then mini-marshmallows.

Wrap tight in tin foil and roast it over the fire.

Meriah Nichols San Simeon-32Open and ooooooooh!

Meriah Nichols San Simeon-31I really liked her friend Corinne too. She was super chill, with good vibes and knows how to build some solid fires.

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Meriah Nichols San Simeon-40We had a blast. And tuned Zootopia on for when us moms really wanted to hang out with each other.

Meriah Nichols San Simeon-6-3Right when the kids were in the tent quietly watching the show, a guy from the camp next door came over and apologized for being loud, told Katie and Corinne to holla if it got to be too much, and Katie said something like, “see all those little shoes outside that tent?!!”

Meriah Nichols San Simeon-36Camping with Kids

The Junior Ranger program is one of the best things about camping with kids. Or just going to a campground in general. It’s really pretty awesome. My two little ones weren’t all that into it after half an hour – they are still just too young – but Micah was, and so were Katie and Corinne’s boys.

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Meriah Nichols San Simeon-8-3I swear, if I was an animal, I’d be an elephant seal. Lie on the beach all day and kind of blub.

Meriah Nichols San Simeon-2Meriah Nichols San Simeon-1S’mores.

S’mores. Because Katie Makes Things Happen. After a lifetime of, “sure! we can make s’mores!” then “oh no, it’s too late, I don’t want you going to bed with all that sugar in you…maybe tomorrow…“coming from me, my kids were THRILLED. Like, thrilled in the incredulous way – “is this really happening? Are we REALLY going to get ’em?”

Meriah Nichols San Simeon-30Meriah Nichols San Simeon-29Meriah Nichols Camping with Kids in San Simeon-26And hot chocolate with mini marshmallows.

Micah set up the camp stove for me, and then urged me to make coffee for myself, “I think you need your coffee more than I need my hot chocolate, mommy.” I’m sure it was true, but what made him say that??? Was I shaking?? Frothing at the mouth? Snappy and wild-eyed?!

Meriah Nichols San Simeon-25He was mad about something. What was it? I dunno. Hard to keep track. Maybe I didn’t roll his sleeve up precisely one and a half times?

Meriah Nichols Camping with KidsI did, however, give him the blueberry bar that he wanted! Look at his reaction.

Meriah Nichols San Simeon-3-2They were trying to cheer him up. Three year olds… man, they are worse than menopausal ladies in the throes of a hotflash and hormone swing.

Meriah Nichols San Simeon-4-2We wrapped up our awesome trip and headed north on Highway 1.

Hopefully next year Katie and Corinne will come camping in my back yard – where I am, there isn’t a line to get in (because most people don’t even know where the entrance is!). Where I am, people tell me that it’s completely quiet at night (once the kids are asleep). Where I am, the star-filled night sky begins at your feet when you are in an open space, and people lift their hands off of their steering wheel in greeting as they drive past you.

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Meriah Nichols San Simeon-1-5 .

 

I can’t say I like RV parks anywhere. It feels so much like camping in a parking lot to me. Everyone is so close to each other, there’s all that concrete going on and those monster buses! Holy cow!

Blow. Me. Away.

Part of me wants to ask why those people are traveling anyway, if they are just bringing their entire home with them, but then I take a sip of some Chill and try and zen out. It takes all kinds to make the world turn, right?

We don’t have to stay in an RV park because our rig is self sufficient. Our power is solar, we have a small portable toilet inside and we bring our own water. Regardless of that, we usually camp in RV parks or designated campgrounds because it feels safe, there is wifi, usually a space for the kids to play, showers and laundry. It’s convenient.

Camping in a parking lot, but convenient.

RV Parks in Mexico

That was cool for the US, but after we stayed in the Totonaka campground in San Carlos, it just felt really weird. Like, huh. Here we are in MEXICO, surrounded by white retirees from the US (with a few from Germany sprinkled in, judging from their license plates and rigs), with the only Mexicans around being the people who are maintaining the establishment. It didn’t feel right to us.

So for a while, we were trying some other things out: we’d ask locals about camping – that turned out to be our best experience yet. We asked an elderly man sitting out in El Fuerte. He jumped up (and looked so much like my Grandpa Knobby that tears immediately sprang to my eyes) and led us to his back gate and we camped in his back yard (with the chickens running around) for 50 pesos.  Awesome.

We also tried camping in the parking lot of those pay-by-the-hour motels (!!!!). Not bad – usually in a good location, super cheap to park/camp and felt safe. But weird. Really weird.

Then we noticed that the further south we went, the more the license plates on rigs changed. There were far more Mexican plates than foreign.

In Guadalajara, the RV Park was entirely Mexican. Mexicans camping, Mexicans in their full-time rigs and Mexicans who had built houses around their rigs. It was fascinating to see how different things were in a completely-Mexican RV Park (- the pool was dead, for instance, but the attention to the trees! It was like camping in an arboretum!).

We are enjoying RV parks more, the further south we go. We like having Mexican neighbors in Mexico, it feels great to be vacationing with Mexicans in their own country.

Here are some photos from along the way:

the pay-by-the hour motel...
the pay-by-the hour motel…

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…and…Books We Use:


Also using iOverlander, which is a new app developed by Jessica from  LifeRemotely. It’s just beginning, so I’ve actually added some campgrounds that we were at (-like at Stone Island across from Mazatlan). Free, in the app store, check it out – the more of us that use it, the better it will get

 

This is a replay of our month-long trip to Mexico earlier this year (which was the inspiration for our current  plans to leave for the Pan American Highway as soon as we can).

This expanded entry was originally posted in a simpler form on 1-3-12 on my now-retired travel blog. I left you here, in which we had spent the night in Catalina, "Mad Max Land", and were once more – very gladly – on the road again.

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We drove from Catalina to Mulege.A drive through a desert land to an Oasis, complete with palm trees.

We knew there were too many white people in Mulege though when we hit the grocery store to stock up on camping provisions and the grocery store workers were pretty flat out rude to us. That only – but only – happens to us when the people we're interacting with have hit "white man fatigue" and their eyes start to glass over with "typical" white-people-grocery-store demands. All white people merge in the minds of these folk, and they don't really even see us anymore; they just see SKIN.

 

Anyway. We spent a lot of money there and were pissed they wouldn't let us use their bathroom. I ended up having to rush Micah over to the gas station bathroom across and down the street – no toilet paper! bucket of water! poopy job! – and was grateful for it.

 

Stopped by a very cool dive shop – run by a white guy from someplace Northern, I think. They had low prices by American standards for good quality, highly useful things. We bought a couple of snorkeling sets, one for kids, one for adults. Headed out to find our perfect beach to camp at.

Like Goldilocks and her bed and porridge, we searched through beaches surrounding Mulege until we found our 'just right' spot. This wasn't particularly easy – the Mulege area is chock-full of beaches. Lovely bays, gorgeous glimpses of tantalizing beach-space would lure us down from the highway off and down roads, just to discover at the very end, it was more like a parking lot full of RV's and "snow birds" (- people escaping Canada and the Northern US States). Or there were no pit toilets and no bushes or space private enough to do some business.

Or it was really super windy ( we had a tent to stake down, remember). Or something.

 

It took a while. But we found it. And it turned out to be Playa el Coyote.

It was great.

Close to the water but not too close. Sheltered but  not too sheltered. Wind but not too much. Neighbours but not too many.

See? I'm around Mikey so much now that my "smile" is changing

Sublime.

Now, for what we have learned:

– Vendors will bring everything to the beach. Everything. Water, fruit, raw seafood; they'll take your produce/store order and deliver it the next day. Tamales, eggs? No problemo. It felt a little silly to be hauling most of Safeway with us.

– Kids will play with anything. The less you give them to work with, the more creative they become in the making and what a delight it is to see that unfold.

– There is absolutely no down-time for parents on the beach. On. The. Watch. 24-7. We were tired, far more ready than the kids to crash into sound slumber at 6pm.

– The moon by night through the tent screen… sigh.


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