the

Scenic highway 395 near Bishop, California.
Where are Kevin and Ruth right now? Bishop, California.

Where are they going next? South, towards Death Valley National Park.

Friday, May 4, 2018

Reflecting on our Mexico RV Caravan Adventure

We promised you all some insight into our Mexico RV Caravan adventure. And now that a month has gone by since we exited Mexico, it's a good time to give you some of our thoughts about that trip and what we feel about the possibility of us doing it again.

The trip was scheduled for 86 days. Just under three months. There were 11 other rigs, each carrying a couple. So including us, there were 24 people.

There was the first problem. In our opinion, the ideal number for this type of trip would be 10 rigs and that would include the wagon masters (us). When you're traveling with that many rigs, it's difficult to find places to stop for lunch and breaks. It's difficult at fuel stops. And it's difficult getting everyone organized at campgrounds. Especially at some of the campgrounds on the route that we did through Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula.

Many of the places that we stop are not what you would call actual campgrounds. They are simply places to park in order to see some of the sights in the area. Sure, some of them have hookups, and some of them have facilities to use such as when we are "camping" at a hotel... but they are not campgrounds.

Also, the type of rig you bring on a trip like this is an issue. Smaller is better when touring Mexico by RV. We had two class B van style rigs on the trip and of course they were most maneuverable. However, they lose their benefit on a caravan trip because the trip, the route, and the places to stay have to be suited to the largest rig in the group. So while a class B is the best when traveling alone in Mexico, it is not necessarily better when traveling with a caravan. We had two larger fifth wheels in the group, and it's a good thing there weren't six of them. That would have been an issue because they are the least maneuverable. Motorhomes up to 36 ft (no towed vehicles allowed) are okay, but so long as it's only one or two in the group. Ideally, for a caravan like this would be motorhomes to 32 feet.

Many people were not fully prepared for the amount of dry camping that was involved. The infrastructure just isn't there in parts of southern Mexico, especially for a large group. Some people are used to being hooked up all the time and using as much water as they want. And we tried to teach people how to conserve, but for some it was an issue. The same goes for air conditioner use. You're in a hot climate with very basic electricity at most campgrounds. Many were at shared 15 amp electrical outlets that simply can't handle an RV air conditioner and there were more than a couple of times that the whole group didn't have electricity because one or two rigs tried to overload the system. Fortunately, we also had a few people who were properly set up, just like Sherman was. These people had no problem at all.

With the heat, we had problems with the dogs. We had an abnormally high (7) number of dogs on this trip. And when it was hot like that, you can't leave the dogs inside your rig with no air conditioning while you go out on an all day tour. So somebody had to stay behind to look after dogs. Usually, one of the dog owners would volunteer to do just that, but I know some of them were expecting dog care to be part of the trip. And even then, some people didn't want to leave their dog behind for others to look after. Ultimately, having a dog with you on this trip will bring the added responsibility that dog ownership entails. And you might miss out on some things because of it. We thought that needed to be better explained to people.

When you have 24 people essentially living together for three months, there are going to be personality clashes. We had very few issues, but we did have some issues. People learn to avoid those who they don't see eye to eye with, and fortunately it's pretty easy for everyone to find someone to get along with. And, we avoided all talk of politics. Many people aren't able to see the view of the opposing side, and unless you have an open mind (and most people do not!) these types of discussions aren't likely to end well. So we all made an agreement at the beginning that there would be no talk about politics.

And of course it's difficult to make everyone happy. We tried really hard to accomplish that, and it was more work than we expected. "Babysitting" is perhaps too strong of a term, but we found ourselves constantly having to help someone with something. Yes, the people paid a lot of money for our services and we didn't mind doing it.... it was just more than we expected and we're not sure the compensation was worth it. One of the reasons we have not yet committed to next year's trip is that we have not yet discussed this with the owner of the company.

In our opinion, the caravan route was too long for an 86 day trip. There are not enough stops where you have a chance to rest and to do your own thing. We drove 9,000 kms (5,000 miles) in under three months. We spent $2,500 CAD on fuel, and $795 CAD on road tolls.

Most places, you are there for two to three nights and then you're moving again. On the bright side of that, people who are not familiar with Mexico will see almost the whole country during this trip and hopefully will have found some locations that they would like to return to on their own.

Tours. You see a lot of stuff! One of the reasons you don't have any time to yourself is because there are around 26 scheduled tours. They are almost all full day tours that include a meal out. They're all professionally done, with bilingual certified Mexico tour guides. And you see some neat stuff, that you would not have an opportunity to see on any other kind of tour.

We found that a lot of people couldn't wait to get to the nearest Walmart or Costco, while Ruth and I have no problem finding whatever we need to survive on from the smaller independent local stores. The smaller rigs had a bit of a problem going more than a few days without a grocery store because they don't have as much storage are and of course smaller refrigerators.

As a whole, this particular group didn't roll with the punches very well. We had explained to them in our meetings in Texas before we crossed the border that this was going to be an adventure and that things in Mexico don't always happen the way you want them to. But there were still more than a few times where some people got unnecessarily upset at something that ultimately didn't matter. They were definitely more high maintenance than the group we had in February of 2016. Not everyone of course... there were several couples who didn't let anything ruin their day!

So I've talked about some of the issues here that we had, but when all was said and done at the end of the trip, I doubt there was anybody who didn't say "that was a fantastic three months". It really is. There are a lot of good things about it too. We thoroughly enjoy showing off Mexico to people who have never strayed outside of the tourist areas. You see a lot of neat stuff, and hopefully you make at least a few friends for life. Facebook makes it easy to continue to stay in touch with people, and we hope to see a few of the group in British Columbia this summer if our paths should cross.

So, will we do it again next winter? Probably. If we can come to an agreement with the owner of the caravan company. If we can't come to an agreement, we will do our own caravan tour with a smaller number of rigs, perhaps 6 to 8 and with limits on size so that we can get to some of the places that the larger rigs can't handle. We will see.

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Still the best deal out there for a two pack of zero gravity chairs with cup holder trays included...

Two pack of zero gravity chairs

And in Canada...

Star Wars Day




49 comments:

  1. Exemplary synopsis Kevin and Ruth!

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  2. Good info. I am planning a 3 mo. trip to Alaska with a group of 5 (including me) Truck Campers. I intentionally limited the group to 5 and specified Truck Campers, no towed vehicles, no Class A, B, or Can. We will be doing a lot of gravel roads (Dalton Highway, Denali Highway, Road to McCarthy, Top of the World highway) that other vehicles don't fare so well. We will also be spending three weeks traveling throughout SE Alaska via The Alaska Marine Highway Ferry System. Short (<30') vehicles make it more affordable. Looking forward to learning about free boondocking spots big enough for 5 short vehicles along the way on your Alaska trip.

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    1. While in Alaska, we were warned ahead via internet that there would be long lines of traffic to Denali due to vehicle accidents or slow RV. We didn't find that a problem. RVs were definitely on the road at slower pace but they pull over and allow cars to pass. The rule is, if you fives cars behind you, pull over and let them pass. Of course there were speedy drivers in a hurry to get somewhere but we kept to the speed limit. BTW we rented a car thru Costco...an intermediate sedan & it did fine even off road for short periods. Have fun. Alaska is amazing.

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    2. Just a general comment on Alaska. I spent 5 weeks there and traveled every form of conveyance...plane, train, car, boat....I may be leaving something out. :) But anyway, the Milepost is essential for anyone going to Alaska. It is very detailed and we found it quite accurate and up to date.

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    3. Barry, it sounds like you are planning it the right way if you are going with others, keeping it small and all with similar vehicles, more or less puts everyone on the same footing. I hope that we will be able to share some good info for you but the main focus of our trip is the Yukon and Northwest Territories rather than in Alaska. I am sure we will be visiting Alaska but perhaps not as in-depth as you will be wanting to do.

      Thank you for the additional information Rita and Mistress Snowbound. Have to admit we are a little up in the air about buying the Milepost. Kevin is able to find tons of info on the internet and we seem to do well just doing our own thing but he will look into it more closely before making the decision.

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    4. Ordered (used) milepost from ebay low priced. Got money back with free ice cream coupons! Somewhat helpful; info readily available on web. Lots travel books; some older for sale online/amazon really bargains! (if you have space for books).

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    5. That's more or less the way we feel, much of the information is readily available on the internet and yes, it might be a good idea to pick up a use milepost rather than a new one. We already have quite a few travel pamphlets on the Yukon so they will also be quite helpful. I am sure we will do just fine with the information that we have one hand. Thanks for the suggestion though about buying a used Milepost, Pat.

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  3. I enjoy discussing politics, but it's definitely a good idea to avoid discussing politics (or any other subject) with people whose objective in arguing is to win. If the objective is to learn something ("I could be wrong, let's find out") we'll never have a problem.

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    1. When you have a big group like this, there will always be one or two who don't have an open mind and aren't willing to hear others opinions, so it is just best to leave politics and religion behind and sit back and enjoy the trip. :-)

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  4. Friendship will last A life time.. our first caravan was in the Baja even after traveling of the west coast of Mexico many times. These friends now travel with us on the west coast and one guy even bought s condo in mexico. We followed the caravan however we only had one other couple and honestly it was the best.

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    1. Yes, you can almost always be guaranteed to meet one or two people that you will just click with and know that you will either travel together again in the future or at least make a point of meeting up with them sometime down the road. So glad to hear that you have meet such people. :-)

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  5. Wonderful review of the caravan. We prefer to travel alone and do our own thing, and enjoy out time together. We enjoy the odd tour but not that much in that period of time. Our coach and towed is not suitable for a lot of places in Mexico having been there.
    We too enjoy the local grocery stores and small villages in Mexico.
    Interesting to see if you do it again. A smaller group would certainly be better.

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    1. Thank you George. No I doubt a caravan like this would suit you and Suzie. We had a couple on the trip that had a 36' motorhome and did just fine with it so your coach would be good, you just wouldn't bring the car along with you if you were with a caravan. However if you were doing it on your own, many of the places could accommodate both your unit and your tow car we have seen others do it.

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  6. There's always one or two in the crowd who are miserable or make misery haha. Definitely should say more about pets and their comfort level. Pets normal temp is 101 compared to humans at 98.6. If we go a degree up, we feel it so would your pets if their temp went up. We live in Phoenix so our pets get groomed for summer weather and they get athletic tape for dogs on their feet for hot ground...dirt/sand get very hot for pets to walk on. I think taking the same route over and over would get old in Mexico but the people you guide have never been. I like the trip and looking forward to another if it happens.

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    1. I think taking the same route over and over would get old in Mexico...

      To a certain extent, that's true. But we are doing it as a job, not a winter vacation.

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  7. If you had any of the newer diesel powered trucks or motorhomes on the tour, did they have any issues with the Mexican diesel?

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    1. Yes, we had two newer trucks in the group and no, they did not have any issues with the Mexican diesel fuel. It is my opinion that most stations are now being supplied with ULSD.

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    2. We have a 2017 Sprinter van RV and went on the Fall caravan. We didn’t have any problems

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  8. Thanks for sharing. I really enjoyed reading your blog.

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    1. You are welcome and thank you for following along on our adventures. :-)

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  9. For sure our trip to Mexico (fall 2017) was challenging but nevertheless memorable, Mexico is beatiful. We were prepared for adventure and made lifelong friends. However we were not prepared for being treated like children and bullied by the wagon master. The caravan you led were in good hands with you guys. I'm sure like me the travel misfortunes will fade and the fond memories will remain.

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    1. Hey there lifelong friend!! 😎

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    2. I am glad that you enjoyed the adventure itself and made good friends with Cindy. We like to think that the caravan was in good hands with us but you never know what goes through some people's minds, so there may have been one or two that weren't as totally happy with us, it is hard to say. Having said that I am sure that overall they still enjoyed the trip itself. It is hard to please everyone but we tried our best.

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  10. Good observations. Thanks for sharing.

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  11. Can't agree more regarding using the local "mom and pop" stores; that is part of the overall experience of visiting Mexico. In fact, that is part of the experience in other countries, too. An exception would probably be Cuba because of the embargo; you could use your whole day shopping for water and fresh bread because they are in separate and sparse locations around Havana, but we tried it and found we needed a lot of help. Mexico has so many small stores and markets that the only decision you have to make is which ones to buy from.

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    1. For the most part you can find just about everything you need at these little stores but perhaps the language issue is a little intimidating compared going to the large grocery stores. And, if you are wanting food stuff that is a little more "Americanized" then it would be harder to find these items in the little "mom and pop" shops. I think just about everyone loved the markets that we went to.

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  12. After following your Mexico adventure, and reading about how you handle situations and people and keep things organized and rolling along...I would hope to have you, Kevin and Ruth, as our wagon masters one day. Well done!

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    1. Thank you very much for that comment. We would like to think that we did a good job and we are pretty sure we did, we do know that we did our best to try and keep everyone happy and for the most part they were. However you don't always know what goes through other people's minds so there may have been one or two that felt we could have done better.

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  13. I have a feeling the caravan owners would prefer to have even more rigs, not fewer. I'd love to see you guys do your own tour with a smaller group.

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    1. Yes, the profit level is substantially higher with each rig.

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  14. Its evident, Kevin & Ruth worked hard, went above/beyond expected, so Mexico Caravan travelers could have best possible trip. Their vast knowledge from yrs of exp of rv travel to Mexico, enabled them to make great trip better! Even with breakdown, they maintained constant communication with group & were back with group asap! Trip went on without anyone missing out on anything! If peeps/pets sick or rv sick ALL taken care of. Kevin & Ruth's dedication & love of travel really shined brightly....on this caravan; more so than desire of compensation. For us, yrs ago, less than ideal situations made things very undesirable. Even so, we call this our BEST/FUN trip! Set our mind to have good time & smile! Realize some people not always happy; like to see glass 1/2 empty vs 1/2 full. Travel with Kevin & Ruth blog is very enjoyable, educational & helpful. Love pics, detail, & they take time for personal informative reply. From rv in gen. to travel, routes, to cooking, etc - shopping/budget/costs - their blog covers it! Please keep traveling/posting! Much appreciated!

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    1. Wow, that is all we can say to this comment! Thank you so much Pat and Geraldine for these wonderful words of praise for us. We do try to make the blog informative, helpful and hopefully fun to read.

      We did put our all into trying to do a great job on this caravan and keep everyone happy, which isn't always easy. We did hear a few words of where we could improve upon that and if we do a future caravan we will definitely try to make it an even better one. As you mentioned, even with our breakdown we did all that we could to make sure that the group was able to continue on to their next location and not miss any of the tours or interesting sights. We have Michel and Louise, as well as Paul to thank for getting everyone moved on to the different locations that we weren't able to get them to. Everyone sure pulled together and we thank them all for that and their patience.

      I hope that you guys had fun in Mexico as well this past winter.

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    2. Most welcome on compliment...much earned/deserved ;) Thank you Ruth, had great winter in Mexico! Plan winter again, Somewhere/Mexico! Yes your blog always fun, interesting! Sadie is beautiful, awesome artist! Sorry, forgot cute lil grandson's name C? As readers, realize how HARD you both worked on Caravan, for benefit all; BEST time. Sorry; Sherman had stressful/major repair! But you managed get things repaired rapidly/back on road! Poor Sherman is like timex watch...takes whipping, keeps trucking!(not ticking) LOL! Smaller caravans, right idea. More of personal caravan vacation! Peeps appreciate NOT cattle shuffle; like cruise ship tours! Love Your Travel/Blog Dedication!

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    3. Glad to hear that you enjoyed your winter in Mexico, we knew that you would though!

      Yes, Sherman had a bit of a stressful time with his breakdown but we have him up and running and hopefully in tip top shape for his journey north. Still a couple of things that need to be done but nothing too major. He is very much like the Timex watch! ;-)

      Boy, we sure are missing the grandkids! Our grandson's name is Cameron and I think he is the artist out of the two of them but he is also older than his sister, Sadie. Sadie just melt our hearts and Cameron sure gets us laughing. We will be seeing them a few times this year. They are flying out to British Columbia in August where we will meet up with them for a week or so and then we will be back in Ottawa at the end of September. It will be so nice to see all our families.

      Thanks for following along with us. :-)

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  15. I think it's like any vacation, people have expectations going in and if you don't meet them some people will just want to complain or change things. I found this when going on Cruises too, lots of people anticipate it will be one way, only to find it another way and they don't like their dream of how it should be changed. I'm glad you will continue doing this, I think there's alot of benefit to caravans, but like you said a smaller group and restrictions on rig size will make it easier for sure.

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    1. Yes, that is the problem sometimes. We tried to prepare everyone at the beginning of the trip on what to expect and that it was going to be an adventure, which it was. Overall, I think everyone enjoyed the tour itself but in some aspects it just didn't meet the expectations that they had in their minds.

      For this particular trip, the size of the group really needs to be limited to a total ten units. The infrastructure really isn't there for larger groups, it was doable with 12 but ideally 10 would have been better.

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  16. I have gone on several Rick Steve Tours and he has a "No Gripping Policy."
    Participation: Although we want everyone to have a good time, it sometimes happens that someone participating in a tour can misbehave or do things that are incompatible with the safety, comfort, or convenience of other members of the tour. In those circumstances we have the exclusive right and discretion to expel someone (even you) from a tour at any time.

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    1. We like the "No Gripping Policy", sounds like a great idea. We also have a policy that if anything major happens with a group member, we have the right to "expel" them. Luckily that was not the case in this caravan. There was never anytime that we felt we even needed to consider this option. All in all, everyone was great, there were just the occasional time when a few people didn't see eye to eye.

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  17. All and all sounded like a wonderful trip. You will always have some problems but you both seemed to handle them well. Hope you do it again next year it would be nice to compare the two. Enjoy your Yukon trip!

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    1. Yes, all in all it was a good trip, just a little too rushed for our liking but then we are used to traveling a little slower.

      It will be interesting to see how it will go next year if we decide to do it again. Different people create a totally different experience, plus we have learned a few things on this caravan that we can apply to the next to hopefully make it an even better experience. :-)

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  18. Your knowledge of Mexico is so valuable. I hope the company that hires you takes your intelligent input and uses it. Your input will only make the trip more enjoyable for every customer who takes the trip with you. Enjoyed this read very much. so glad for your blog.

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    1. We are hoping the same and already they have adjusted the route and the schedule to accommodate some of the changes that we think are necessary to make the tour more enjoyable. They definitely seem to be listening. :-)

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  19. Excellent summary and responses to comments back and forth. We thoroughly enjoyed living vicariously through your blogs since we couldn’t go on the caravan as planned. We hope Caravanas Mexico takes your recommemdations to heart and act on it. I think it will be better for the reputation and success of the company in the long run if there are more satisfied customers rather than pushing for larger numbers of rigs per trip. We will continue to follow your blogs and wish you happy and safe travels wherever you are Kevin and Ruth. As a first time follower of a blog, I am most impressed with yours.

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    1. So glad you enjoyed this post including the comments and that you had fun following along on the caravan virtually.

      We do believe that the caravan company is listening and it seems that they have already made a few changes to the route and the schedule do to our input. For this particular caravan you really do need less rigs because the infrastructure is just not there for more and I think the company totally gets that, on some of the other tours they have it is possible to have more but not on this particular on tour.

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  20. I have seen most of the issues you have mentioned on the three US and Canada caravans we have done:)

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    1. When are you coming to Mexico with us...? :-)

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