“The campground is over there,” he said as he got back into the Casa Rodante (house on wheels) and started it. He pulled forward a bit - then stopped. He put it into reverse and backed up a few feet - then he stopped, opened the window and stuck his head out to look behind us. There seemed to be a problem. The motorhome with the trailer behind was too big and unwieldy to turn around on the narrow gravel road. If he backed up straight the trailer, which was now at right angles to the motorhome, would jack knife or drop into the sand, if he went forward the front wheels of the motorhome would be either in the sand or climbing the porch of the cantina. Either way we would be stuck for sure. He had to keep everything on the road. Now this was a predicament. The card players were out of their chairs leaning on the porch rail watching with interest. One turned and called to someone inside and the men and women from the cantina came out to watch too. One man still had his guitar in his hands. He sat down in one of the now empty chairs and put his booted foot up on the rail and continued to strum his instrument while watching us with interest. The rest leaned on the rail or sat on the steps. Now the smart/easy thing to do would have been for Randy and John Mc to get out unhook the trailer and move it out of the way. Bill could then have turned the motorhome around, hooked the trailer back up and been on our way. But Bill had to do the macho thing and maneuver out because the local hombres were watching and betting on whether the estupido Gringo would be able to get moving without getting stuck. Looking out the back window, I could see that more of the town had come down to the beach to watch. There was a lot of gesturing and talking and exchanging of money going on on that porch. Words of encouragement were shouted to Bill with each inch gained. One half-hour of sweat and swearing and twisting and turning later the motorhome and trailer were headed back towards town and the campground. One of the card players hollered and waved and came up to the window with a fist full of bills and grinning told Bill he knew he could do it. He invited us to join him at the cantina that evening - he would buy.
“Probably the best entertainment they’ve had in years,” says John Mc. We all gave him a dirty look and told him to “Shut-Up!”
The campground was very nice long thick grass and lots of palm trees. It also had electric and water and sewer hook ups. We found a pleasant spot and parked. While we were getting set up Bill took a quick shower, after all that work he really needed one.
Later we all walked the short distance into town. Bought sundia (watermelon) and banana bread, delicious!! Fascinated, we stopped and peered through the open door of a home. A woman of undeterminable age, her gray-black hair pulled back and covered with a black scarf, was making tortillas by hand. She was dressed all in black; including her stockings and shoes but covering her front she had a bright yellow apron. She looked up and shyly smiled, never missing a pat; she made it look so easy. We bought a couple dozen. If she knew how we were going to eat them she would probably have fainted. The kids liked to warm them on the stove and put jelly or caramel sauce on them then roll them up and eat them.
The boys found a shop with a "futball" game and stopped to play with some niños from town. Holding hands Bill and I slowly strolled back to camp. Curious mongrel dogs and fat black and white pigs followed us for a while then went about their business. There were chickens all over, scratching in the dirt and running from the children. The roosters paraded around with their chests puffed out and their tail feathers spread. Every once in a while two of them would run up to each other, bump chests and battle for a few minutes. A few feathers would fly but no one seemed to win. The brown hens didn't seem impressed. It was funny to watch though. Cows and horses strolled through the campground nibbling on plants and bushes.
The weather was balmy so John Mc and Randy decided to sleep outside in their sleeping bags. No reason to put up the tent.
A couple of times during the night a few cows foraged through the grounds. They walked right over the sleeping bags not caring what was in them. Through the open windows I could hear Randy holler, “Scram! Get out of here. Look out. Stupid cow.”
Laughing I drifted back off to sleep thinking that no one thought to mention that the campground was used for grazing.
Without warning, in the black of night the door crashed open.
"Get in there.”
“Hurry up! Get out of my way!”
“Close the door!”
In stumbled John and Randy swearing and swatting. Their sleeping bags wrapped around their heads and arms. San Blas was also noted worldwide for something besides its beautiful setting. It was famous for its jejenes. They are tiny almost invisible bugs that BITE. They hide in the grass during the day and when disturbed at night (probably by wandering cows) they come out in force. Millions and millions of them. Randy and John made a swell dinner.
For the next few days the two of them scratched and moaned and took on the appearance of raw hamburger. Nothing stops the itching - only time. Everyone slept inside for the rest of the time we spent in peaceful San Blas.
We found out a Naval training station was located just down the beach from the campground. It had been there for over 200 years. Our first morning, just as the sun crested the mountaintop, we were jarred awake by the most God-awful noise imaginable. Someone “was playing” reveille on a bugle. Anyway that is what we thought it was, it was hard to be sure. Throughout the day the bugle played to mark time. Only the cadets could possibly understand it. We started to look forward to it, just to see if there would be any improvement. Never was.
So far, no one had asked that dreaded question, “Are we there yet?” No, we only had 10,000 miles to go on our drive down the Pan American Highway. The kids were pretty good while we traveled not many fights about who got to sit in the front seat because the sun came through the big windshield and it got pretty hot to sit there. Guess where Mom sat.
Gil sat up front more than the rest of them. He had his plastic Star Wars plate that he held in front of him like a steering wheel. Concentrating on the road and moving the “wheel” just like Dad. He would drive many miles before we reached our destination.
The back was kept set up as a bed so anyone could nap or read if and when they wanted. Up front, the eight-track tape played continually. Elvis, The Beetles and my favorites: Kris Kristofferson or any county song. Especially the ones about the “Long Lonesome Highway.” I still remember the words to most of them.
From San Blas to Tepic was 45 miles. It took four grueling hours to drive.
This was the Drive from Hell! The guidebook mentions something about “beautiful mountain scenery.” HA. Maybe if you were flying over it and not driving through it. It was a wonder no one got car sick, too scared I guess. Once back on the main highway there was not one straight stretch of road in the whole 45 miles. It was only two lanes wide, all mountains and curves. Not U.S. lanes mind you, these lanes were not even wide enough for the eight-foot wide motorhome. My side seemed to be either scraping the mountain or hanging over the edge. We all sat very still and quiet. Except when the road was banked, then when the motorhome leaned to the left we all ran to the right side to counter balance it. It sounds funny now to say that but it was anything but funny then.
Eleven days and 1500 miles since we left LA. After looking at the guidebook and the map we decided to take a short detour to visit San Blas. It sounded beautiful and interesting to visit. We were headed towards Tepic about 230 miles further south and San Blas was only 20 miles off the main highway right on the coast. This turned out to be very a grueling drive. Bill was still doing all the driving. John Mc was willing to take over at times, but not me. I didn’t want the responsibility. The first time I ever drove the darn thing I hit a tree that hung over the road, and I didn’t want to repeat that again. The highway was narrow, one lane in places, mountainous and rough. Most the time the road was half pavement half pothole. The grades were steep and the curves blind. He drove in low gear a lot. You never knew what to expect next. The road would narrow to one lane, no warning. Of course, there was still two-way traffic, so if something bigger than us was coming we had to find a way to squeeze over. If the on coming traffic was a car we kept going and they tried to get out of our way. By then Bill was really getting into this BIGGEST stuff, must have been the Argentine coming out. The rest of us held our breath or closed our eyes. I kind of sucked myself in, trying to make myself smaller as if that would help.
When we reached the turn off for San Blas the road didn't improve but the scenery did. It was absolutely breathtaking. Very jungle-like. Lush foliage in every shade of green imaginable from the palest mint to the darkest forest -- all varieties and sizes of palm trees, ferns as big as a Volkswagen, brightly colored flowers everywhere. Avocados, mangos and orchids were growing wild. A clear, clean river flowed along the side of the road.
We slowed as we came upon two women on the banks of the river washing their clothes. They were standing knee deep in the water, scarves over their hair, loose-fitting shirts and skirts, rubbing their clothes on big rocks to clean them and then putting the multicolored items over low bushes to dry. This added vivid bits of color to contrast with the green.
A little further on were two more women sitting in the river, these in contrast to the others were not dressed. They were taking baths and washing their long black hair. Their brown skins glowed in the sunlight. As we passed they waved and kept right on washing. We all stared out the window entranced, no one saying a word. John and Paul ran to get one last look out the back window as we drove by. Around a corner and they were out of sight - as if we had imagined it.
According to the guidebook, there was a campground in San Blas not far from the beach. The road we were on turned to gravel as it ran through town.
San Blas at that time was a small, old fishing village. It had remained unchanged with the passing of time. The buildings we passed were thatched with palm frond walls and roofs. Only the church on the plaza was built of adobe. We stayed on the graveled road until it ended on the beach.
There were three or four structures built on the sand to the sides and at the end of the road. They were, for lack of a more descriptive word, thatched huts. The one at the very end of the road where we stopped had a wooden porch with a palm frond roof. Behind the porch through a door I could see what looked like a large room. Logs held up the porch's roof, everything, logs and thatching were sun bleached to a silvery gray. It seemed to be a restaurant or bar. The smell of meat cooking and the sound of guitars playing came from inside. In the dim interior, I could just make out some couples dancing. Four or five middle to old-aged men sat at rickety tables on the porch playing cards and smoking. They stopped playing and watched as Bill got out and went into the cantina to get information about the campground.
A very Interesting Drive to San Blas, Mexico in our Motorhome