Caravan Life

    The 35 caravaners were mainly older couples.  They came from Canada, Wisconsin, Montana, Colorado, California, Arizona, North Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Texas.  They drove every kind of RV, from large and medium motorhomes, through trailers drawn by vans or pickup trucks, to truck campers like our Harry, which was almost the smallest rig.

    We met each other and the caravan leaders at Pharr, Texas, on the lower Rio Grande.  Here Wagonmasters Bert and Shari Frenz, Assistant Wagonmasters Ralph and Virginia Wiggers, and Tailgunners Dan and Sue Hertz guided us through orientation, vehicle inspection, and border-crossing papers.
The Gang (Wr)
Wagonmasters Bert and Shari Frenz (H)
Border-crossing papers (F)

    Once across the border, Wagonmaster Bert led us down the highways, using CB radio to communicate roadside bird sightings, hazards, and directions to his several miles of followers.  Rest and lunch stops were coordinated when possible with gas stops at the giant parking lots of the government Pemex stations, but sometimes we had no alternative to pulling off on the shoulder.  In many places Mexico's single-lane, potholed roads have given way to divided-lane, high-speed toll roads, with parking lots and toilets at the moderately expensive toll booths.  Navigation was worst through cities, where anarchic traffic, frequent stoplights, and poorly marked turns made keeping in contact difficult.  Tailgunners Dan and Sue always brought up the rear, making sure no one was left behind and stopping to render assistance if necessary.  When Lee and Pat Yoder's "Black Stallion" sputtered to a stop, Dan and a local mechanic worked for hours before discovering that it had simply run out of gas.

Down through central Mexico (Wr) Roadside rest stop (H) "It's the fuel gauge, stupid!"(H)

    Our route was carefully planned to give us longer stays of up to a week in the best birding areas, with overnight stops between them scheduled at comfortable intervals.  Campgrounds ranged the gamut from shadeless parking lots with no facilities to extremely comfortable and inviting.  Wagonmaster Shari was the tireless mistress of our peripatetic hearth, shoehorning our arriving vehicles into each new place, handling the fees, and orienting us for each new leg at an early morning travel meeting.  Her margarita recipe was legendary, and she was constantly arranging potlucks and visits to villages and establishments celebrated for various crafts and products.

Squeezing'em in, Patzcuaro (Wr) Neighborly chat, San Miguel (M)
Richard Hoyle, Charlie, June Hoyle
Our last travel meeting, La Pesca (F)

    Each day we weren't traveling, Wagonmaster Bert led a birding expedition to a carefully selected area, for each of which he had distributed lists of species to be expected, as well as lists of all Mexico/Belize species on which to record our individual species counts.  For local transport we used the pickup trucks along with mini-SUVs that some of our rigs were towing.  We took our identification manuals along, and many a field seminar was held on doubtful sightings.  Returning by late afternoon, we gathered with our folding chairs, snacks, and not infrequently margaritas, to socialize while compiling a definitive bird list for the day.
Campground birding, Zitacuaro (M)
Coen Dexter, May Gong, Carolyn
Field ID seminar, Monte Alban {Wr)
Lee Yoder, Woody Woodhouse, Coen Dexter
Roadside birding, La Pesca (Wr)
Ralph Wiggers, Charlie, June Hoyle, Lee Yoder

    Initials appended to photos indicate copyright (2003) by (F) Bert Frenz: (H) Dan and Sue Hertz; (M) Carolyn Merchant; and (Wr) Brenda Wright.

 Click Here for Border to San Miguel de Allende, Jan. 15-19

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