Late night desert fire to keep the wild animals away. Those kids get crazy after dark!

Not to be outdone, Anya showing her guns!

We said we wouldn’t, didn’t think we would, but did. We went to Mexico.

Started out Friday morning by rising and shining our way into the hot springs at the BLM LTVA (Long Term Visitor Area) just East of Holtville, CA. Like so many other of our best travel tips, we found out about this place thanks to Charlie at the Rest Area a few days ago. He was one of the three guys that were working on the place when we woke up at that remote rest area before Salvation Mountain. He also tipped us to the ham dinner at the Lutheran Church- which we ended up passing on, since it was $8/person. That night we stumbled upon a Chinese restaurant on Holtville that was the most authentic Chinese restaurant we’ve eaten in, in the US. If you’ve been to China, you’ll recognize these signs of authenticity: revolving glass table centerpiece that allows you to share all of the food with your neighbors effortlessly; the A/C was not on, even though they had it, probably to save money- we were the only ones in the restaurant (in China they also leave the lights off in many businesses until someone comes in); the soda was sold in cans, not fountain service- and the cups with ice we requested were plastic with straws and homemade tray ice; finally, the food tasted like it was airlifted from China and dropped off right to us. It was a good find.

The LTVA at the hot springs, dry camping at it's finest.

Now about these hot springs. They are very nice. We arrived there on Tuesday (cleaning day) and found our little slice of the dry dry desert with some small amount of shade, and stepped into the 104 degree geothermal water that was flowing abundantly up through a well, and into a pipe that did 3 things: deposited a continuous stream of water into the hot pool, sprayed a steady arc of water into the sky to provide a shower, and ran through a gated hose to fill the visitors water jugs- everyone arrived with 2-4 jugs.

Closest is the cooler pool, then the hot pool, then the shower contraption. Behind the camera is the pond.

Most used the water for cleaning back at the RV, and we took it back to rinse off at the campsite. The fee for this area is reasonable- $40 for 1-14 days, which includes trash service. The hot springs are also BLM land, but a free day use area. It’s funny that the highway runs about 100 feet from the edge of the springs and adjacent oasis pond, but you wouldn’t know driving by thanks to the dense palm trees. It’s one of those places you probably drive by on the interstate and wonder ‘what the heck’ are those crazy people staying in the middle of nowhere for?!  A few big rigs tooted their horns driving by as if to say they knew what we were doing, and they wish they were too. I8 is about 7-8 miles from the Mexico border at this spot, and there are signs of illegal immigration activity all around. From hidden campsites to discarded supplies to the constant presence of the border patrol, it definitely makes you think about the issues we usually just hear about on the evening news. If you haven’t yet taken a look at the Trip Notes section we just added to the website- take a minute to read the article about this location when you finish this blog post, (I’ll include the link at the end to remind you).

We did get some school work done in the desert, outside in the shade it was pleasantly in the low to mid 80’s, although inside the bus it went up to the high 90’s. Boondocking or dry camping are terms used to describe when an RV is functioning self contained- and this was classic dry camping.

Circus material, those kids are. A real life swimming hole!

Ran the generator to cook dinner and cool down the bus for bed time, and we were able to stretch the 160 gallons of fresh water out to 4 days! We relied on the spring water for showers and conserved at every turn. I’ll bet the kids have flashbacks about using water in the years to come. They are good at it, but takes a few reminders to get everyone back into the mode of brushing teeth with just 2 ounces of water in a little Dixie cup. Every ounce makes a difference when the water supply is 10 miles away. Also of note is the oasis-like pond that collects the runoff from the hot springs. Wow! If you ever dreamed of having a pond to grow up around a la Huck Finn or The Great Brain- this was it. The kids perfected the 3 high on the shoulders maneuver, and collected minnows, and chased fish, and dunked their father and swung in on the side mount tree swing, and had a great time. There are some parts that we’ll look back and miss- this will be one of those stops.

More late night antics, we got better with practice. A 15 second exposure and great imagination made this work.

While at the springs, we chatted with the regulars that come every year, and know the lay of the land. Although we had written Mexico off already, after listening to them and asking a thousand questions, we thought we’d at least take a look at Algodones, just SW of Yuma. These folks recommended it because we could park our vehicle at the border on the US side, then walk across. It was a relatively small city, and hadn’t yet been plagued by all of the violence and strife that has become a threat for visitors from the US. Each person assured us it would be a no brainer if we wanted to see Mexico on this trip. We decided to drive by and take a look.

Driving South toward the Indian reservation parking lot, we were hooked up to the van and had passed miles and miles and miles of scrubby, dirty, prickly barren desert that was the stereotypical Mexico border. We could imagine people making the run for the border, although it would be difficult considering the ample supply of watch towers, BP vehicles, fences and barriers- not to mention the fence that ran along the border itself. Finally, we arrived at the border, to teh sign that read LAST US U TURN. At 67 feet long, U Turns are not in the playbook, unless we have a city block to perform said maneuver. We turned into the Indian parking lot, past the tire spikes and made our way straight to the exit. Felt like we took the parking lot as a way out of the impossible U Turn, and the rate was $12 to park until 10pm. Well, just 50 feet before the parking lot was a dusty little RV park with a variety of RV’s along the fence that abutted the highway that left this fine country. We stopped in, to unhook the van quickly in case we were going to keep looking for parking- and to check on the overnight RV parking rates. $25 for a spot with full hookups. Quick math tells us that we’ll be staying overnight and we selected a spot next to a nice looking class A with Oregon plates. Oregon people- despite honking at me when I don’t drive 100 miles an hour on farm roads in their state- are nice when you meet them. Within 5 minutes of shutting down the motor, we were talking with the lady and met her sz puppy, the kids needed a pet-the-cute-puppy fix. It was reassuring to talk with her and ask some basic safety and crossing questions. We continued to think we could go over without any problems since the real life story was that it would be OK, despite the media and government lines that we were taking our lives into our own hands irresponsibly by considering a trip down there.

Giving the feet a rest after the long walk from another country.

So we put on our shoes, filled the water bottles and set out on foot for the ¼ mile walk to the border.

Checked out the pharmacy, looked at purses, smiled and said ‘No Thanks’, and had dinner. Goooood dinner! Potent daiquiri. Cold sodas. Loud music. Then, picked up some toilet paper and headed for our home country. No line, 2 officials as if they were waiting for us at 7pm on a Friday night- and we were home. Set up Master of Disguise on the outdoor theater screen and munched popcorn while the BP trucks passed by, occasional chopper flyover- no problems for us, perfect weather.

Making our way where they may be lines any other time, not tonight- as we leave Mexico.

Now, Kelly and Ethan and Trevor are back in Mexico- where we’ll meet them later. We may stay another night, this is very pleasant.

Next to the highway to Mexico, where it says 'no stopping or standing- fine $199'. That should keep the neighborhood safe.

Remember to check out the Trip Notes section.