"There have been WagonMasters leading RV Caravans around the world for decades"
There have been WagonMasters leading RV Caravans around the world for decades, on Baja soon after Hwy 1 was completed in 1973. Much like their predecessors in the 1800s leading pioneers across the old west in covered wagons, WagonMasters of today are a unique breed engaged in work that can be very rewarding, enjoyable and sometimes challenging. Familiar with the journey and hazards that may lie ahead WagonMasters today lead RVers to vistas unseen, places only dreamed about and experiences that will hopefully become fondly recalled for years to come. Baja California, Mexico’s frontier, offers RVers a trip much more akin to those settlers during the 19th century in the wild west than any other RV tour in the US or Canada.
As with any tour, the primary duty is to deliver what the clients have signed on for in a manner that is safe, timely and most important fun. The larger the group the more challenging it becomes to keep all of these dynamics in balance. In many ways Baja is very straight forward given there is only one highway (Hwy 1) from top to bottom, with the majority of 3.5 million residents living Ensenada north and about 500,000 living La Paz south. This leaves relatively few Mexicans living across the 1500 km (900 miles) in between these communities.
For our tours everything starts on Day 0, where we meet and greet our group in Potrero, CA. In addition to introductions, we ensure the required paperwork is up to snuff, conduct an orientation and have a social. Everyone is excited about the prospect of this new adventure, many also have anxieties having heard from all their friends and family about the danger of Mexico, not that they have actually have any firsthand experience or knowledge. Our responsibility is to calm any fears and prepare our guests for the journey ahead. As important as it is to share our knowledge, we must ensure not to overwhelm folks with too much information.
To start with it is all about driving protocols; in town, highway, topes (speed bumps), the attributes of defense driving, speed limits, local police, pedestrians, dogs and farm animals. Within a couple of days everyone gets comfortable with the VHF radios we distribute and what to expect when driving with Mexicans, often on a narrow roadway without shoulders. Every driving day for us starts the same; prior to departure we have a pre-travel briefing. How far are we driving? When are we expected to get there? How many body breaks (pictured above) should we expect? Are we stopping for fuel? Are we going to encounter any military checkpoints? Do we stop for groceries? What excursions are planned? This usually only takes a few minutes and everyone is prepared for the day.
The good news is our RV tours are our limited size; we have much more flexibility for fuel stops and take very little time to set up on a beach, RV park or campground. Taking charge of both these procedures is vital for an incident and stress free. The same goes for grocery stops, body breaks and military check points. When and where to stop, how long to stay and when to get going become second nature after multiple tours. Accordingly some have described our tour as “Tight but Loose”, relaxed but on schedule, folks often comment how busy the tour is particularly with the excursions, but also say they would not want to miss even one.
In addition to keeping on schedule and delivering excursions is introducing the group the many friends on Baja, some are beach vendors, restaurant (like Lattitude 22 Pictured above) and store owners, RV park operators and lots of snowbirds we have known for years. We also have to expect the unexpected; this could be a flat tire, dead battery, stuck in the sand or an illness. Over the years we have made many good contacts on who and where to call or contact to get things fixed and people looked after.
The fact is when we first started our business there was no Baja WagonMaster training course. Fortunately Dan graduated from SEEDS (Self Employment & Entrepreneurial Development Society) which prepared us well with a well thought out and prepared Business Plan. Our years of camping in Mexico, first in 1985, also prepared us well for many aspects of what we needed to know to effectively plan and deliver the tours. Familiarity with the language and culture has also been very helpful. However it was only after repeatedly doing the tours, subject to critical analysis that included guest evaluations, that our tours have really become almost effortless and stress free to conduct. Notwithstanding unforeseen circumstances we usually know within 15 minutes what km mark we will be at on travel days at any given time.
A smoothly delivered tour by experienced and seasoned operators definitely lessens the anxieties of all those in the caravan. Planning, repetition and constant assessment has ensured our selection of all stops with the RV Caravan work well, an important consideration when traveling as a group of 6-8 rigs on Baja. Our VHF radios are particularly helpful when driving on the open highway. We know how important it is to the safety of the group to be alerted when vehicles are passing from the rear, large vehicles approaching from the front, animals on the roadway or other hazards we may encounter. Although speed limits are well posted our experience has taught us that additional caution may be appropriate when conditions are less then optimum; high winds, poor road surface and road construction are just a few examples.
Overtime we have accumulated a wealth of knowledge about Baja and Mexcio which is reflected on tour everyday in our destinations, excursions, activities and protocols. Swimming, kayaking, fishing, hiking, shelling, shopping, eating out; where to go, what to see, who to meet, the list is really endless.
Pictured above Dan Goy in his office
For us the attraction and motivation of being WagonMasters has been straightforward from Day 1. We love Baja and RVing, how do we spend our winters as snowbirds and still meet all our financial obligations. Simple, we created Baja Amigos RV Caravan Tours. In addition we meet interesting people, some of who have become lifetime friends. It is also very rewarding to introduce RVers to this magnificent peninsula, the excitement this generates at every new vista and Baja experience, see the smiles of appreciation from the many vendors and restaurant owners alike as we arrive with a new group of customers.
Yes, having a siesta in a zero gravity chair on the beach at Tecolote listening to the surf is ok too! Sometimes we have to pinch ourselves to confirm this is the life we are living. Perhaps you want to join us?
Dan & Lisa Goy
Baja Amigos RV Caravan Tours