Back in Chicago – Working on a New Plan

July, 1975

Back to Chicago to work out some kinks in our NEW life’s plan. I once again got a job as a head designer working for a classy architect’s office in St. Charles, IL. We got an apartment, now for the third time, in Four Lakes Village, which we decorated with furniture that we moved out of the pickup truck camper. We were on the ground floor, because we now had a new member of our family, our German Shepard-Doberman dog who we named Nevada, and he needed to be let out on a regular basis. Rainy hung colored sheets on the large windows to give us some privacy. She tied them back, I guess to give the apartment the look of some class? It was pretty empty, but very spacious!

We worked and plotted, dreamed and schemed and saved until by Christmas it was once again time to leave. This time we traded in our pickup truck camper on a Jeep CJ-7 and a used 17-foot travel trailer. We were sure that now we had exactly the right travel vehicle that would make it all the way down to Tierra del Fuego or bust. We drove, with big grins on our faces to Brownsville, Texas in just a few days, but before we could make it into Mexico a huge storm came up and blew our trailer over on its side, and wiped that smirk right off our faces. The repairs set us back a few days. And by January we had entered Mexico with our dream setup. We had the intention of driving south forever, but after spending several months in Mexico, we found ourselves in Lago de Atitlan, Guatemala.

We spent several months in Mexico. With our new rig we were usually pretty popular too.

Truly one of the most picturesque places in the world. A crystal-clear blue lake surrounded by 3 volcanoes. Some pretty primitive villages dotted the lake, and were filled with colorfully dressed and friendly indigos. We immediately fell in love, especially when we found out that we could rent 3 houses right on the water’s edge, complete with a family of servants for just $35 per month. So, we happily stayed there for a year and a half. To read a day in the life short story that I wrote about our Guatemala lake adventure click on this link.

After enjoying our exotic living arrangement, we began to feel that all of our “stuff”, including the jeep and trailer, and all of the contents, were holding us back from the true adventure that we had been dreaming of. So, we put up signs all over town, “Gringo Se Vende Todo.” Gringos sell it all. We were almost immediately mobbed by Guatemaltecos who indeed wanted it all, and so in a few short weeks we were each left with only a small day pack filled with our most precious item—travelers checks.

The bus was crowded, but cheap!

We three then walked off down the street, and caught a bus to the next country — Honduras.

It’s Not Always About the Destination

Back to Chicago

John, Mary, Rainy and I travelled for a few months together. A whole new world of traveling and living opened up to us. Our first adventure was down a mud puddle of a road that was supposed to take us the beach where there was a hacienda named La Pesca. John had met a Mexican friend in Brownsville who said his family had a huge hacienda right on the beach, just 100 miles into Mexico. The road was little more than a track. It took us 3 days, a bumper, 2 tail lights and a lot of blue paint to go just 10 miles. When we got there, not only was there no “hacienda” which John repeatedly referred to el big-o house-o when asking for help in directions. He knew not one word of Spanish, but I believe he was trying to mimic it with the sense that the additional “-o” would make it seem more like Spanish. None of the Spanish speaking people ever corrected him. They were too polite.

Us at a the Hotel Tampico right after our first adventure

The road stopped short of the beach, and was separated by a large, what appeared to be, a crocodile infested lagoon. All of our work, no plantation, no sipping pina coladas on our private veranda, and no beach! Still, I had to admit that we were having a great time. The adventure of just seeing a 50-passenger bus hung up as it tried to cross a riverbed, was impressive. The front end was resting on one bank while the patio end was resting on the other bank. The rear wheels were suspended about 2 feet about the rushing water. It gave me a good laugh until it became our turn to cross. We got only a few feet in to water until we became solidly stuck. None of this fazed John. He just got a sly smirk, pulled out the shovels, jacks and other tools, and we all got to work. From this disaster I learned that it is not always about the destination. Sometimes it was just about the path.

That path continued to lead us to even more great adventures. I have no idea what John saw in us. He was an experienced outdoorsman, while we were just about a citified as you could get. He taught us to love the outdoors and to have fun with its challenges. We raced around in the woods on his motorcycle, canoed across the lagoon, and used it, none too successfully, to surf in the oceans waves. We built the biggest bonfire on the beach that I have ever seen. It burned for 3 days!

That’s me fooling around on the ancient Mayan ruins.

After a few weeks it was time to leave and I was much more relaxed about any disasters that might befall us. We travelled down the coastal beach through Tampico and Veracruz until we hit the Yucatan peninsula. Back then there was no one guarding the Mayan ruins except maybe an occasional campesino who was all too willing to let us spend the days and sometimes the nights among the ancient buildings. We played in and on them like they were our own private theme park. What fun we all had! Tulum was the definitive highlight. Miles of beautiful beach with no one on it, all of the coconuts and lobster that you could eat while surrounded by ancient Mayan ruins.

Sometimes we would spend the whole day atop the temples just eating, drinking, reading and staring out at the jungle below.

By June we were running low on funds, but we knew that this was what we wanted our lives to be like so we hatched a plan and went back to Chicago to get it going.