Viv and Natalie were ready to get on the road at the end of our month stay in Mendoza, Argentina May 2023. Unfortunately, we didn’t have Nile’s homeschooling done to a point we could as a family be away from the internet. So, we compromised. The girls were tasked with finding camps close to Mendoza to drive to, spend a few nights and return.
Then came the risk management side of our thinking. This was the first time Viv would be e taking the rig on her own. The what ifs of travel in the mountains without the redundancy of a second vehicle and a more wisened adult along bugged us. So did the insecurity of how the red truck sputtered prior to finding out that the air filter was the wrong model, installed in the last oil change. The air filter problem was fixed, but the experience was enough to prickle doubts. Doubts raise concerns of risk and then kicks in the Borduin risk management reflex.
Actually, the reflex is seen on my side strongly as well through my mother. So, Mike and I decided to send an adult and truck to accompany the girls and the Red Truck to the mountains. Camp a night and return the next day leaving the girls in a spot they wanted to be in for some nights.
The green light sent the girls into action mode. They did their make ready. Committed to take Gypsy the border collie. Shopped, packed, trouble shooted. They checked gas, water, propane and tires. They planned meals and committed also to pay for the estimated diesel.
While they did all this, I sat with Niles as he took World History notes. The Ming Dynasty was starting to be harassed by the Portuguese and Magellan, Portuguese, employed by the Spanish mapped the straight at the tip of South America that would shake up the future here. They were freakishly brave to venture out the way they did. Like the sea faring Oceania people before them.
Viv and Natalie charted our course to an ioverlander spot north of Mendoza, described as remote and mountainous. We took off after filling the Pije tank at an Axion station.
There was quite a bit of silly city driving on streets that were not main routes or at all direct. I was trapped driving behind the girls wondering what their Google Maps setting was telling them.
Once, I drove with my Mom and 3 year old daughters across Canada using the nascent Google Maps of 2011. The filter was set to include foot trails which got us in trouble several times near the Provincial Parks.
Mom and I ended up crossing a Huterite hog farm and talking with a young couple of Huterites out in their truck with a bottle of whiskey. They gave us rights and lefts, around and throughs to the Provincial Park we were looking for. Google Maps had sent us to an ever narrowing jeep trail. We got the explorer package that day. As much as she complained about Google Maps, I think Mom liked the adventure.
And so it is, travel is as much about getting lost as it is getting there. We may not have actually been lost today, but I felt it. And now that’s the experience and will be the memory. We didn’t drive the final pass to arrive at the most remote of the Ioverlander marker, the sun was low, the views spectacular and the traffic on the mountain road was only dirt bikers trying to get back to town before sunset.
The girls set up camp quick and got dinner going. I’m giving space by staying, quite happily in the Pije. By myself! The girls are singing, talking and laughing from the Red Truck. Listening to them made me happy. I’m writing in the Pije. The mountains are quiet.
On the way out to camp, I listened to the first 4 chapters of Travels with Charlie in Search of America by John Steinbeck. Travel books about epic adventures while traveling are a joy. Especially this one. Steinbeck is able to tack the emotional moment to the wall and display it in a way that I feel nervous to do in writing. Many of his observations ring true to me as we travel.
As night fell, we converted the table in the Red Truck to a bed so I did not have to sleep alone in the Pije. The three of us and Gypsy were all cozy post dinner of rice zucchini and ground beef, wine and chocolate.
Staying with the girls in their camper was a good idea. Our minds went to all sorts of dark places when a truck, faltering up the mountain road pulled into our camp. Luckily, it went along it’s way after someone scouted and found the camp occupied.
Next, horses and happy gauchos out on a Saturday night set up camp at the Spring uphill from our camp. The horses were shoed and clanked on loose rocks as they went past. There were happy men’s voices, obviously good friends, enjoying each other yelling and singing.
All was quite after they set up camp and we didn’t hear from them again until the next morning. Viv proposed after we watched the sunrise, that we ride Pije to the “spectacular view” marked on ioverlander.
We weren’t sure about the condition of the road as we went up. And, Natalie is terrified of heights on mountain roads. So, on this Mother’s day 2023, I get to drive with Viv and Natalie to the view. Natalie survived and didn’t die.
We waved and saluded “Buen Día!” to our guacho neighbors. After being addressed, they lost their suspicious expressions and waved and said “Chao!”.
They wore traditional gaucho hats and clothes, their horses were hobbled with leather straps. The younger two gauchos watered the horses at the Spring and the older ones sat around a breakfast fire under a weeping willow. Beautiful lifestyle.