Is Driving Through Mexico Really That Scary?

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The reactions you get when you tell people you’re going to drive through Mexico are funny. One worker at the grocery store told us simply, “You’re gonna die.” A rather grim message from the guy bagging our provisions for an extremely long road trip. A few statements, including the U.S. Consulate’s warning against driving through every portion of the country we’d be visiting, made us second-guess our decision, but the opportunity to be mobile (with our dog in tow) in a country with a  coastline full of perfect waves, vibrant culture and $.10 tacos, seemed worth the “risk.”

It’s safe to say the drive from North Carolina to southern Mexico was our best road trip ever (until our next road trip), and although the trip went flawlessly, it wasn’t without a ton of research. This article is a guide for anyone thinking of driving through the absolutely beautiful country of Mexico: things to do, things not to do, and why you should certainly make the drive — no matter what the guy at Food Lion tells you. Continue reading “Is Driving Through Mexico Really That Scary?”

A Gringo’s Guide to NOT Looking Like a Tourist in Mexico

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Photo Credit: in pulverem reverteris

We’ve all seen him – the pink-skinned gringo nearly passed out on a beach chair ordering daiquiri after daiquiri in a tone that embarrasses everyone. It’s more of a yell, than a “May I please,” – a tone he’d never use when talking to a server back in Minnesota.

He joins in on tequila volleyball, tequila bingo and tequila shuffleboard until he’s fully fried to a crisp – in more ways than one.

Nobody wants to be the rude gringo who sticks out like a sore thumb in Mexico, and many vacationers don’t even know they’re doing it. Follow these few simple steps to losing your silly gringo traits and enjoy an overall better experience in Mexico. We’ll all be thankful you did. Continue reading “A Gringo’s Guide to NOT Looking Like a Tourist in Mexico”

Millennials in Moby: An Interview with Be You Be Sure Co-Founder Alison Sher

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Typically, I would write an introduction for my interviewee. Something like, “This writer is inspiring, and here’s why she’s inspiring.”

Maybe it was my questions (probably not), or maybe it was her responses, but once you read this interview, you’ll see why Alison Sher doesn’t need much of an introduction – she speaks for herself.

So here she is folks. Alison Sher – the co-founder of BeYouBeSure.org, the Be You Be Sure Project and an entirely new post-college philosophy that your parents are going to hate. Continue reading “Millennials in Moby: An Interview with Be You Be Sure Co-Founder Alison Sher”

Crossing the Border with a Little White

Little White at the Tijuana-San Diego border crossing
Little White at the Tijuana-San Diego border crossing

Considering you don’t have a car full of illegal drugs or guns, crossing the border to and from Mexico is a relatively easy task. Wait in line, show your passport, hope for the green light and go. It’s all pretty simple. That is, unless you really do have something illegal in the car.

In that case, you sit and worry and sweat like you’re 50 yards from the finish line of a 10K. You have small talk with the passengers in your car, because you really can’t talk about anything of any substance – you’re too nervous.

This is the way we felt the day we smuggled Little White across the border. I’m sure you’re thinking I really shouldn’t talk about smuggling something little and white across the border on the internet, but we did. We dressed her up in a froo froo looking doggie t-shirt from a swap meet in Tijuana and brought her skinny little hairless butt to the border crossing.

photo 2“How many dogs do you have in there?” Asked the border security officer in the booth – our final question before crossing back into the United States after a full winter chasing waves south of the border with our black lab Ellie.

“Two,” I replied – in my usual quivering voice induced by social anxiety.

“Ok,” he said, “Welcome to America.” And he waved us through.

We drove for about 100 meters straight ahead waiting for a border guard with an AK 47 to pull us over, search the vehicle and nab our prized possession, but they never did. So instead, we drove toward San Diego looking for the nearest place to stop, so we could pull the vehicle over and give our precious cargo some fresh air.

There it was. The parking lot of a full-blown American shopping mall. Our dusty SUV with a Mexican flag sticker stuck out like a sore thumb in the spotless parking lot, but we did it anyway. We opened the door and let Little White run free like she had never run before.IMG_2337

“You’re an American! You’re an American!” we yelled. And the little mange-covered mutt who didn’t know a word of English wagged and squiggled as if somehow she knew. We felt compelled to tell her of her new-found freedoms. And of course, how much money we were about to spend on vet bills.

But through all of the stories of deportation and drug busts, this is a true story of a Little White that made it successfully across the border.

Of course, we only stayed in that parking lot five minutes before a security guard on a segway escorted us away for loitering.

Little White the first day she got in the car - somewhere near Tecoman, Mexico
Little White the first day she got in the car – somewhere near Tecoman, Mexico
Little White at home in Carolina Beach, N.C.
Little White at home in Carolina Beach, N.C.

Driving is the New Flying: Choosing Your Surf Vehicle

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By Courtney McCaffrey

Planning a surf trip has always been one of the best parts of being a surfer, but lately, it seems like a ticket to just about any surf destination is approaching $1000 (not to mention escalating board fees).  A quick search on Kayak may have you convinced that you’ll never be able to leave your home break again.

So what do you do? Settle into the knee-high shore break of your local surf spot and accept it as your destiny, or sell all of your belongings and work triples for a year just to spend a week in Costa Rica.

We (my boyfriend Jeff and I) refuse to settle for either of those options, and you should too. It’s time to get yourself a surf vehicle and start driving to the countless beach, point  and reef breaks dotting the shores of the west coast of the United States, Mexico and Central America.

While buying a new vehicle may seem like a huge investment, you can find an ideal surf-mobile for the price of a ticket to Bali. When shelling out the cash, keep in mind that you now have an asset that can be used for tons of epic surf trips. And if you realize the vehicle doesn’t suit your needs, you can sell it and get your money back (or buy a plane ticket).

Choosing the perfect surf vehicle can seem overwhelming, but as long as you keep your budget and comfort needs at the forefront, you’ll be cruising to some of the world’s best waves in no time. Oh, and don’t forget to watch out for topes (speed bumps).

Car and Tent Combo

The most budget-friendly option, traveling in a car or truck with your tent in tow, works well for surfers who aren’t afraid to rough it. You can also build a sleeping space in the bed of the truck if you have a topper to protect you from the elements.

The gas mileage is great and having your own vehicle to cruise from surf spot to surf spot is awesome, but the tight quarters might get old (and stinky after days of surf). Setting up and taking down your tent every night can get really tedious, and you simply can’t leave a tent pitched all day while you’re in the water in some areas. It’s very likely you’ll come back to your campsite, and all of your belongings will be missing.

Tents also don’t offer enough security for certain areas. In 2010, armed banditos robbed a number of tent campers in La Ticla – a popular destination in the state of Michoacan, Mexico, for American and Canadian surfers. Although tent robberies aren’t a major occurrence, it’s best not to make yourself an easy target.

Buy an RV

Recreational vehicles are a comfortable alternative for those who don’t want to sleep on the ground. They can also save you tons of cash on hotel rooms for the days that are just too hot to tent camp or in areas where tent campers are vulnerable to crime.

RVs would really be the ideal surf vehicles if they weren’t such a money pit. The amount you save on hotel rooms usually goes into gas and, even worse, repairs. And who wants to play rock, paper, scissors every time the septic tank needs to be emptied?

RVs are ideal for cruising across the States or sticking to the toll roads in Mexico and beyond, but when you decide to veer off the pavement to some of the best breaks, your RV may not seem so useful. Many RVs won’t fit on the tiny, pothole-filled dirt roads of Baja and Central America, so you may end up missing out on some killer waves.

The Ideal Surf Vehicle

After trial and error with tent camping and shopping for the perfect RV for Mexico, we came across the most ideal combination of the two – a van. It may not have the same to ring to it as Winnebago or Toyota Tacoma, but a van is essentially an affordable, and permanent, tent on wheels.photo 2

The most economical choice is a family van that still gets a decent amount of miles per gallon. Although you may not reach the breaks that are only accessible by 4X4 vehicles, a small van like the Honda Odyssey can house a good sized bed (with the rear seats removed) and plenty of boards and supplies for two. Note: Don’t forget to remove the stick figure family on the rear window after purchasing.

Although minivans get better gas mileage, we chose a full-size van for the additional room. For just a few thousand dollars, we were able to snag an ‘86 Chevy Vandura with a 4X4 conversion done by Quigley Motor Company. It came with a gutted interior, so with a few of pieces of plywood and an old futon mattress, we created a bed in less than an hour. A couple of beanbag chairs and plenty of storage bins later, our creaky old work van turned into a full-blown surf vehicle.

We sought the 4X4 version, so we could access the muddiest roads in all of Baja. Although 4X4 isn’t necessary, it certainly suits our needs, and the extra money we’ve spent on gas has proven to be less than what we previously spent on months in hotel rooms. And best of all, we’ve parked on cliffs overlooking some of the best waves in the world without another car or surfer in sight.

So before you start missing the surf at home because you’re working a double to pay for flight to Costa Rica, think about investing in a vehicle that you’ll be able to use surf trip after surf trip for years to come. Heck, the proper surf vehicle may even give you the confidence you’ve been needing to quit your day job.