Thinking ahead

It’s beginning to be time to think about what I want to do on my next vacation now and it’s already pretty clear. I’ll be in Baja for only one rotation this year, so it would be foolish of me to do not hang out for a little while after I’m done. I’ve wanted to rent a car in La Paz for quite some time now and go on a little road trip, so I think that’s what I should plan on doing. Part of what I have wanted to do was go to a town called Todos Santos, a quite little surf town on the Pacific coast and hang out. I’m not quite sure how the Mexican police feel about people just camping out at random, but from the stories I’ve heard it shouldn’t be too hard to get away with. Renting an suv and sleeping in my sleeping bag in the back would probably work out just fine, I’d just have to get food where I could along the way. From Todos Santos I would probably just make a loop down to Cabo and back up to La Paz, Checking out all of the beaches and cool little towns along the way. It would be nice to sneak in some 4 wheeling as well, I’d just have to be real careful not to break the rental car.

My next vacation falls in the middle of March, and goes through the month of April, so it’s going to be storming really hard at home when I return. I’m hoping to get at least one snow camping trip in this year, and two or even three would be ideal. I hope to get one in at the end of this vacation, then probably a couple more in the month of April. This kind of makes me realize that I’m slacking a bit on plans for that! Maybe just a little 4×4 trip up to the snow and hanging out for a couple of days would suffice? I’ll have to think about that one a bit more.

Unfortunately an extra trip to Utah in the middle of this vacation and a little bit too much money spent on presents has eaten up a good my travel and adventure budget for this vacation, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have fun! I just need to get the holidays out of the way.

Mistakes I’ve made during my travels- packing too much stuff!

While I was never exactly a heavy packer to begin with, I always thought I was pretty good about not packing too much stuff. That is until I started meeting some of the folks in airports and at work and seeing what they carry with them. You can always tell the ones that have some good experiences under their belt, because they aren’t packing too much of a load. It’s pretty easy, when you are unsure of how things are going to be, to bring things that you really won’t need. I know from first hand experience. The key is to pack as light as you can!! 35 pounds is the absolute MAXIMUM I will ever travel with. This is a good target for anyone. One exception is if you have gear that you need to take especially for the trip like photography equipment, climbing gear, or musical instuments are obviously going to be something else, but everything else should be in the other bag!

Here’s what I use as a guideline for packing.

  • Backpack or suitcase
  • Clothing for a Hot or Normal Destination
  • Wind and waterproof jacket – try to get one that is breathable
  • Fleece or hoodie, designed for under the jacket when cold and wet, or used on its own when just cold
  • 2x Lightweight shirts/blouses – long sleeves – for warm nights with mosquitoes about, and which can double up as slightly smarter wear
  • 2x Light weight pants, long legs, suitable for trekking. Consider zip off trousers/pants that turn into shorts
  • 3x T-shirts
  • 2x shorts/skirts for the ladies
  • Swim suit
  • Socks and underwear, any where between 5 and 10 pairs, but I like a week worth personally
  • Shoes designed for hiking/walking, but also not so shabby as to look out of place in a restaurant
  • Sandals for when you’re not wearing the shoes, and I prefer to swim in mine quite often
  • Plastic slippers known as thongs, flip flops as well, for use in showers or just lounging around
  • Second bag light weight, collapses down to a small size, designed to be packed away 90% of the time
  • Nalgene Bottle or equivalent
  • Duct Tape is quite essential, massively strong tape good for fixing just about anything. Black electrical tape, slightly different uses. Can be wrapped around Nalgene
  • Guidebook and maximum two – one for your destination and the next area, you’ll have to pick up the rest as you go, carrying too many is crazy.
  • First Aid Kit with bandages, disinfectant wipes, antiseptic cream, pain killers, chapstick and suntan lotion.
  • Sun glasses – get a good quality pair that protects against UV in your home country, those on the streets often come from dubious origin and may not protect your eyes against harmful UV rays.
  • Sleeping bag for the occasions where you don’t have bedding provided, or you don’t trust it.
  • Earplugs cause if you need them they are great to have, and plus they take up no room at all.
  • Fiction books take two paperbacks, when you’ve read one, trade it for another – hostels often have a trade bookshelf.
  • Music Player CD Player, Ipod, Cassettes, Minidisk whatever you have. Lot’s of music is good!
  • Camera
  • Cell phone that I know will work where I’m going
  • Flash light, a small one like a LED head torch is perfect, as it allows your hands to be free when in use
  • Laptop computer
  • Merry Christmas everyone!

    Well, I hope that everyone is having a great time, where ever you are in the world!

    I got the one thing I really, really needed. A new camera! Its pretty nice 10 mega pixel Nikon point and shoot. Now I won’t have any reason to not have good pictures here, and I’m really happy about it. Thanks, Dad!

    The kids are well fed and very spoiled as well. It’s been great being able to spend time with them, and for them to spend time with my family. This is the first time for my son, so it’s an extra special treat. I sure am grateful that I have all of these great people in my life.

    Maintenence of the website continues…

    I’ve been spending some good time working out the bugs on the site here, and things are coming along pretty well. To the right here, you can search for key words to help with research and what not, and if I’ve talked about it, you should be able to find it. If you scroll down the page a bit staying to the right you should find categories down there past the links. If you are looking for general information you can search through these and keep busy for a while.

    The format may change a few times in the next couple days, I’m going to try a few out and see which I like. If you care to leave a comment about one or the other, please do. Input is always appreciated.

    Updates are coming along well

    I’ve been doing some work the internals of the website over the last couple of days, and hope to start working on fixing up the stuff that you all can see soon. For now, I’ve added some good books for download that are in PDF format, please take a look and download them for future reference! The best part is I still have many many more to upload for you, so keep an eye out.

    In an attempt to make the website easier to use for both you and I, I will not be adding pages, but instead will be categorizing my posts. I hope to go back as far as I have time to and divide everything up for easy reference. With some luck I will have a search feature up and running that will allow you to search through posts and get all the info you will need. If you are headed to a place I have been to, but you still have questions, please feel free to contact me, clay@atlastrekker.com as I would love to give you any information I have.

    -Clay

    Needs assesment for an expedition vehicle

    As previously mentioned, I am a bit up in the air over what I want to do for an expedition vehicle to get me through the next couple of years. I love my faithful Hi-Lux, it’s been a great companion on lots of great trips, but it’s getting to be time to do some work on it, or move on to something else. I really don’t have a problem with working on the old Toy, it’s a very easy rig to work on and parts are still very cheap. It’s also quite reassuring to see the very same truck driving around in every country I’ve been to so far. This most likely means getting parts in these places would be not too big a deal.

    Now here is where I run into problems. As many of you know I have two kids. My daughter is six years old now and has traveled many places with me since she was about three years old. She was very well potty trained and could talk to me about what was going on, and traveling with her so young was never a problem. Now my son is two and a half years and he will definitely be ready to follow in his sisters foot steps. So that means a minimum of one adult and two kids on a trip in a little truck and it doesn’t take a genius to see that room becomes a problem really fast. The kids gear and clothes don’t take up too much room at this point, and we can all sleep in the bed of the truck pretty comfortable, but the problem is the seat in the cab. It’s tight and not much fun on a long trip, especially ones that are in and out of the cab routinely for weeks at a time like I have planned for this summer and on into the future.

    At this point I’m kinda wondering what my choices are, and what I could find to fit my budget. I’ve narrowed the choices down to three of solid contenders and would like to see if I can get some input from friends are readers if at all possible.

    The first option is to keep the Toyota truck, make it as comfortable as possible and fix all the little things that have been coming up as well as carry out the upgrades that would make it more capable. This would be the simple is good route that’s been working for a couple of years now.

    Second option is to buy and build a friends 1979 Chevy Van. This is no normal van, though. It’s a 3/4 ton 4×4 converted van with an almost new motor that is mechanically as sound as the day it rolled off the lot and is plenty stout. While it’s probably not as capable as the Toyota, with it’s 35″ tires and the addition of a winch and air lockers this rig could go anywhere I would ever really care to go. The real benefit is that there is all that room inside. The van has four captains chairs, which would be just fine for my needs, and then there is plenty of room to fabricate a sleeping area with maybe some type of slide out drawers for storage. The addition of an awning and a roof rack would be about all that would be needed to make for a pretty good trip anywhere. The only thing I’m not quite sure of is parts availability south of the border, but I hope to have a solid answer on that here in the near future from my buddy down in Panama.

    Good examples of this are sportsmobile and quigley

    Maybe something like this:

    Third option is a 1996 to 2004 Toyota 4runner with a V6. These are my favorite vehicles out there right now. The engines are a perfect mix of power and fuel efficiency, the running gear is fairly stout for a newer vehicle, and they are comfortable to ride in for hours at a time. Parts are everywhere here in the US and as far as I can tell in most places south of the border, which is a good deal. The only real set back I see to these is that they are a little small on the inside, and fitting three people with gear could be a concern. A build up would probably include a roof rack, and definitely include an e-locker and suspension lift, with some 285’s, as well as a winch on a warn front bumper and some other good armor. This would also be the most expensive route, I would add.

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    So there you have it. These are the three choices for expedition vehicles I have somewhat decided on. Let me hear what you think about my ideas, or just tell me I am totally off, and what you think I should do. I hope to have something at least in the starting stages of development by June of this coming year, so the time to decide this is now. What do you think?

    I welcome your comments!

    I welcome your comments!

    Please feel free to comment on my posts by clicking on the “comments” link at the bottom of the post. I would enjoy some feed back on my thoughts and travels. Currently, the page is going to be going through some updates, I’m going to be working on revamping some of the pages of the site, starting with the downloads section, which I highly recommend you bookmark, because I have some really great information going in there.

    Thanks

    Clay

    What is freedom?

    For quite some time now, I’ve wondered what the answer to this question is. Many years have I spent pondering the solution and trying to find the one answer that would satisfy my quandary.

    When I think of freedom, I think of it from the political sense. Thoughts of the US Constitution, the Bill of Rights and being a person living in a United State of America always come to mind at first, but the more I think about it, the more I realize it goes deeper than that.

    What does it mean to be free? In my mind, it means that you can do as you please. So from there I tend to think that the definition of freedom would be something similar, maybe that you have “the freedom to do as you please,” but that still doesn’t tell us what it means to be a free man or woman. The more we look at the way the world is, the more we understand that life is what we make of it. If we are not happy with our situation, I truly believe that we can fix it. Look at all of the people that leave a horrible situation in their home land and move to a different place to make a better life for not only them, but their children. If they were able to leave their own personal hell, they were finally able to understand what freedom is all about.

    Freedom isn’t something that some one can give you, it’s something that you take for yourself. Think that you are controlled by an oppressive government? Maybe it’s time to work on that. Think that you are in a relationship that is bringing you down and not letting you be the person you really could be? This is restricting your freedom! That job is so boring and it’s really starting to slow you down and keep you from being yourself! Don’t let it!

    Freedom is something that you can take, if you learn to take life by the horns and do what you want. Personally, through my own experiences in life, I have found that there are many, many people out there that are out to take your freedom from you. Debt is huge! No amount of debt is worth the slavery you receive when you take it on. There is nothing more to say, other than don’t spend it, if you don’t have it.

    The ability to travel around at a moments notice, with out worry is a huge freedom and it’s not just for the super wealthy elite. Take the time to see how the world is and what is going on in other neighborhoods and you won’t regret it. The knowledge you gain will both empower you and scare you. Embrace it. Groups of people that come to mind would include sailors, truck drivers, photographers, hippies living in an old school bus converted to a motor home, surfers always looking for a new place to ride a wave and retired people living in a motor home. If you don’t fit in to one of these groups, and I didn’t, find a way to bring some combination of them into your life. Just like that family escaping religious persecution and an oppressive government, you have to find freedom and live it.

    I personally have been trying for some time now to become a free man. There are many people out there that have this far more under control than I do. Although, at first it may seem like they do not have things under control at all. These people are something to see. It really is an interesting thing to talk to a person who does what they want, when they want and there is no worry in their mind. I’m not saying that these people are not responsible in any way. Most hold jobs, and have houses, cars and other things normal people do, but it’s the way they do things that makes them different.

    One thing that amazes me, is that most people don’t understand that freedom and happiness go hand in hand. If you are free as we have previously stated here, you will realize that there is less to stress out about, less to worry about and things in life come much easier. There is a natural tide in the world, we all have to learn to understand this. Just because we cant have something right now, doesn’t mean it’s not attainable. If we learn to have some patience we will see that life and the world will provide for us if we let it. In the mean time, we can spend much more time and effort on living in the moment,rather than worrying about the future and the past. This is a huge step to becoming a free man or woman. Being conscious of your surroundings and having a realistic grasp of your situation is key.

    In my mind, being free means that you have the things you have with no guilt or debt, and you are free to do as you please as well as come and go as you please with no remorse or worry. What a life that would be.

    In an ever changing world

    I look ahead and see myself doing different things with this blog. I’ve taken a little time off from the whole thing in an attempt to take a step back and look at what it was that I hoped to accomplish with it and the answer has come to me that I should continue to post about the things going on in my mind. What’s happened in the last few months to make me think about this is I have had a slight mindset change and feel that it would be good to incorporate that into this website.

    When I started this site I purely had the intentions of sharing my travels with friends and family, and I was pretty cool with that for a while. Then I fell into a sort of a rut with my travels, pretty much going to the same few places all the time. In my mind, this was great, because I was becoming far more comfortable with these places and really getting to learn where all the “good spots” are. I feel pretty good that I could plan a solid week trip to Baja California Sur, South East Alaska, or southern Utah that would give most people a trip of a life time. There’s nothing wrong with that!

    I have been going to different places, and still plan to go to many, many places, but in the meantime I hope to post some things on the site that will not only keep you and I occupied and reading along, but maybe we can learn some things about travels as well.

    A couple of areas I plan to explore in the future are interviews or guest articles with people describing interesting places they have been, how to articles on simple things like building a survival kit and starting a fire, and reviews of books, websites and gear that I come across which I feel deserve a mention.

    I still do plan to build up a rig capable of taking me to far reaches of the continent, but in recent months I’ve stalled out on my Toyota project and haven’t decided whether or not to move forward. The Toyota is a great rig, and I would feel comfortable driving it anywhere I wanted to go, but part of mindset change has got me wondering if I don’t need something bigger. Like a 4×4 conversion van or maybe even just a 4runner. I’m not even sure at this point. I hope to work that out here in the future as well.

    The future is a place filled with dreams and goals. I hope that you will keep coming back to see some of mine realized.

    Shipyard ’09 and Positioning South

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    In the month of November every year the ship that I work on comes to Alameda, California in the San Francisco Bay Area to get some work done and go through a Coast Guard inspection. The whole process is really quite chaotic, because this is one of few opportunities to do work on the ship that simply can’t be done any other time of the year. We bring the ship up out of the water on a synchro-lift and then it gets a paint job on the part of the ship that is normally under water. We also had to have a bit of steel replaced this year, as she is starting to show her 29 years a little bit. The good thing is that the Sea Lion is in far better shape than other ships her age, a tribute to the maintenance of the crews that have come and gone.

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    This year I was in charge of painting the entire machine space, which was quite a chore. There is very little open space in these two rooms, so it can be quite an ordeal to clean, grind, chip and paint some spaces under and around machinery. Good thing I had some awesome helpers of Matt and Kathy, and we got everything done ahead of schedule and I was even able to send the two off to help others complete their chores. Everything turned out very nice, and we got to prep and paint a lot of places that hadn’t been touched in quite a while.

    After completing that project I was put in charge of completing the Coast Guard inspection by showing the inspector around the machine spaces and demonstrating all of the alarm systems we employ on the ship. That went well, and I found the inspector very knowledgeable on ships and a great guy to talk with.

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    Shortly after Thanks Giving Dinner we headed out of Alameda, under the Golden Gate Bridge and south to our final destination of Costa Rica. While we did catch a weather window, the waves heading down the coast were HUGE! Luckily we were riding the waves down and the 25 foot swells weren’t so bad. It sure was interesting being on the highest point of the ship and looking UP at the waves all around.

    After we got passed San Diego, Ca the seas became smooth as a babies but and it was real good all the way down to Cabo San Lucas. We stopped at Sand Dollar Beach in Magdelena Bay for a swim. This was the start of what would be the best positioning trip I’ve had to date. Swimming became a daily routine, though that was the only time at the beach, and the further south we went the warmer it got. The water temps around Guatamala topped out at 86 degrees! That was amazing, I’ll tell ya.

    We made our fuel stop in Cabo and got to run around town for a little bit. I feel so bad for the people down there. they are obviously feeling the pain from the swine flu scare and the down economy. Prices were marked down quite a bit and people were seen getting deals on top of that as well. I’ll help stimulate their economy as much as I can, but about all I can do is suggest here that you take a trip down to Baja and spend some time. It’s a beautiful place and the people are great.

    After making our way south for a few days we entered the much talked about Gulfo de Tehauntepec, where rogue waves are said to be a common sight. We took the safe route and hugged the coast line a mile of shore and had a good ride the whole way. After that we were into Guatemala waters with an escort from the Mexican Navy and then the Mexican Air Force, which was pretty entertaining after not seeing much for several days. Not much came of it, though.

    Unfortunately, heading south through the waters of Guatamala, El Salvador, Honduras and Costa Rica was worse than being on a road trip across the US on an interstate. Staying off the coast really didn’t allow for any type of view of what the terrain was like or anything. All that I know was the swimming was good, the water and air warm, and there is apparently no rules that fisherman have about setting out lines in any of those countries. We ran over lots of long fishing lines, unfortunately, we probably ruined a couple of fisher mans day. What can you do though….

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