Posted January 6, 1998, DULUTH, MN--I can picture her face right now, after the second day. Her smile will have taken on a subtle look of panic. Her panting will be labored, her eyes, a bit crazed. The passenger seat on which she has been pacing will no longer be large enough.

Her repeated paws on the dash, paws off the dash, nose to the windshield, back and forth, dog snot accumulating, smearing the window as it dries, will have worn her down. The fact that, for one dog-reason or another, she simply refuses to sit while the van is moving, will have by now taken its toll. Nor will she, for that matter, have eaten or drank from her water bowl while the van was in motion. She will step arduously off the seat and rest her head on my thigh, burying her nose under the dash. I will tell her to get a grip and return to her co-pilot seat, and after receiving a good thorough head scratching, she will-- for a while. For Zelda, the traveling dog, traveling ages her.

This is our fourth trip to Mexico. 3000 miles. It’s always the same. Entirely predictable. Zelda can go two days until she begins to break down. Me? I can go three days, 12 to 15 hours of driving, sitting in a very poorly General Motors designed driver’s seat. It’s my lower back, knots in my neck and shoulders. Pain shooting down my arms. Cruise control would help. Then I could put my feet out the window. But cruise control is the one indulgence I have denied myself in customizing the van. It’s a beat-up 1985 Chevy van with over 180,000 miles. (I disconnected the speedometer last year in LA because it was making an excruciatingly irritating noise. New cable-- newly greased. The grinding always remained. The van has acquired, no doubt, another some 20,000 miles since then.) It is a "yellow" van, blistered with primer-red pockmarks and chafing rusted metal. It is the perfect camouflage to deter intrusive curiosity, for the sympathetic-looking creature actually houses some groovy electronics.
There is a voltage inverter that transforms the 12 volts from the battery to 110 volts, enabling me to plug in a coffee grinder or a battery charger. There is also a battery isolator, which allows a second battery-- in this case, a big honking deep-cycle marine battery--to be installed, utilized, and charged. This feature enables me, while camping on the beach, to play the stereo or light up my string of hot chili pepper Christmas lights until the second battery is dead, dead, dead. The next morning, using the unused main battery, the motor fires to life and I’m off down the road to see what’s around the corner. Out in the middle of nowhere, desert all around, the existence of a fully charged second battery makes for sound sleeping. Although, remote and inhospitable as is most of the Baja, I am fully confident, misplaced as this might be, that in a situation of need, there will suddenly appear Bajians to the rescue. The Baja is, after all, magical.

Equipment:
OK, I brought all the clothes you would expect, so with respect for your time I will mention, perhaps the not so obvious:

a shovel (to dig the van out of the sand, keep my camping area "tidy.")
two plastic tarps (for the sun)
extendible tent poles (for the tarps)
mosquito netting
a hammock
two beach chairs, (you never know when you’ll have company)
a futon, (ditto above)
clothes pins (to attach the mosquito netting to the van as well as the obvious)
two boxes of books (for the hammock)
two spare tires
two six-gallon water containers
two gas cans (2 gal & six gal)
a fold-up picnic table
one two-burner and a one-burner Coleman muti-fuel stoves
Coleman lantern
electric air compressor (to get outta sand)
three fishing poles
pole holders for the sand
spear-gun and Hawaiian sling
kayak
bike
computer and scanner
rope and bungie cords
numerous flashlights
a battery charger for rechargeable batteries

Zelda’s Diary
A lot of activity. Something is going on. A lot of trips to and from the car. He’s going somewhere, so at first chance I am going to sneak in and sit in my seat. I’ll just stay here and see what happens. Oh, boy…I see fishing poles! Now I know I get to come along! Whenever I see fishing poles, I know we’re going to have fun. It’s the most fun I can have. Outdoors. Running around the woods. Smelling all sorts of wild things. No rules. And I see fishing poles. All right! Uh-oh…crucial time. He’s getting in the car. Do I get to stay? The car is making noises…I’m in! Here we go! We’re going somewhere! We’re in the car! Oh, boy! Oh, boy! Here we go! Somewhere! I’m so excited I can’t keep quiet. I gotta let it out. A few barks. A few serious whines. Here we go!

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