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John and Mandi

us --> van --> overland
7 yrs and 6 days - end of the road

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House Keeping While Hibernating at Lake Atitlan

Aug 23, 2016
by John

We have missed sitting around, in our own place, basically not doing much of anything. Hanging in camp, while equally enjoyable, cannot replace the Sunday (gonna get nothing done) lounging on the couch feeling. There were times we got a little antsy, thinking we should accomplish something, so we have been doing a minuscule bit of housekeeping. More could have been accomplished, the most necessary has been handled. Soon we will be leaving our apartment to return to our life on the road.

Our recent break, something we built into our trip from its inception, helps us catch our breath and sort a few things impending. Having a real kitchen, complete with oven, is the utmost convenience. For us, stopping and pulling out of the van is necessary, a suggestion from travel friends we did not ignore. While the cost of our dwelling was well above our expected monthly living expenditures, it all washed out in the end since we were no longer in motion. Diesel, Entertainment, Van Maintenance, and other budgeted items covering the difference.

It's this oceanic like motion that keeps us adrift. Time spent moving and time spent at rest. Expenses somewhat offset by reduced expenditures or cost avoidance. Visiting spectacles and wasting days reading to the sounds of nature. Experiencing new culinary delights and having pot lucks with good friends. Living big then living small, the life current of it all.

What We Did

Hung With Other Travelers

Even though we spent the majority of our time hiding in our apartment hibernating, Joe & Josee pried us out on several occasions to meet overlanders that were passing through and to engage in some social gatherings. We neglected to carry our camera so we don't have pictures of everyone we met, we have stolen a couple group shots from Josee. That in no way should reflect badly on those we spent time with, just our aloof lackadaisical approach during our downtime.

Shout outs go to Pierre (owner of Pasaj Cap) & his three beautiful German Shepherds, Carolina (from whom we expect a personal tour of Colombia), Brett (Asphalt & Beyond), Mitch & Taylor with their friend Shon (South by Land), Mark & Saskia (Dream Drive Repeat), Joe & Josee's family, and Julie & Ricardo.

Lake Atitlan, Sololá, Guatemala

Slow down you young whippersnappers

Lake Atitlan, Sololá, Guatemala

On three. One, two...damnit John (Photo: Josee Parsons)

Lake Atitlan, Sololá, Guatemala

14 bottles of wine later... (Photo: Josee Parsons)

Added an Embedded Map Displaying Our Instagram Photo Stream

Adding some sort of travel map has been on our list for some time. We just don't use the tracking feature of our DeLorme enough for it to display any kind of cohesive route so we have never included a link to it. We both really like the Instagram mapping feature that overlays all of our account photos on a world map. I did a little sleuthing and found a way to embed a similar feature on our site that uses our Instagram photos and Google Maps. While only a portion of the places we have visited are represented in our Instagram photo stream, it is still a neat way to view our trip. Our plan is to eventually fill in as many places as we can to create a more complete and interactive picture. We added a Map menu item that is linked to this new feature. **Update** - Feature removed in 2020 due to issues with Instagram changes, it was cool while it lasted.

This is just a screen shot, duh

This is just a screen shot, duh

Ported Our US Number to Google Voice and Wired it to Skype

We rode the T-Mobile world plan as long as they let us, eventually receiving an abuse of terms notification that included a cutoff date just before reaching Lake Atitlan. We want to keep our US number as it's one of the ways my clients can contact me. A little research later had me wiring Google Voice and Skype together as a makeshift work around with unlimited inbound and outbound calls with the States. The way we did it is not the only way, just what we decided to do to bulletproof it the best we could for our needs.

Google Voice is not a phone service, more of a call routing, text messaging, and voicemail provider. It is an easy way to set up a universal phone number and get email notifications of missed calls and transcribed voicemail messages. We decided it was the best choice for porting our US number, so we started by adding the service to our already existing Google account. The one caveat is, Google Voice is only available to US residents so number porting wasn't an available feature after we signed up for the service. I installed the Firefox Extension, VPN Unlimited with a free 7 day trial, and set my location to one in Florida so Google would think I was in the US and magically the number porting feature was available. Stepping through the porting process was simple, it cost $20, and took a little over a day for it to complete.

While Google was doing its thing, I purchased a US based number from Skype that included 1 year of unlimited incoming calls from the US. After I had the number, I added 1 year of unlimited outbound calls to the US, roughly $87 for both per year. This gives us a working US number to make and receive calls from, great but not exactly what we are after. To get that little extra, once our number ported, I added our newly acquired US based Skype number to Google Voice as the forwarding number...meaning all calls to our old number will be passed from Google Voice to Skype for us to answer or ignore.

We now had a way to receive calls to our old number and make calls from our new number, still not perfect. The last step was to add our old number to Skype as the Caller ID number so all outbound calls appear as though they are being made from our old number, clients will be none the wiser (neither will most family and friends). While we are on WiFi or have data service on our phone, we will be able to make and receive calls with the Skype app and text through the Google Voice app, all as our old number. Integration with the native messaging and phone apps on our phones would be fantastic but that's being a little greedy, don't you think? We can also call and text from any of our devices including our laptop. Voicemail transcribed to text and then emailed is just that extra gravy.

Replaced Our Tire Swing Bracket

Just before leaving Antigua we noticed that the bracket that connects our Aluminess spare tire mount to our driver's rear door was showing signs of shearing. We have always known that this would eventually occur, putting 27k hard miles on the van since adding the reinforced bracket, it lasted a long time. Pulling out the necessary tools we adjusted it the best we could, making sure everything was snug. Our test swing shifted everything out of place again so we knew we'd need to fix it soon. Upon our arrival at Lake Atitlan we were talking to Joe & Josee about it and Joe suggested we try and get a new one sent to his son who would be flying to meet them in a few days. A couple texts with Chris, owner of Ujoint Offroad, had a couple brackets in the mail overnight to Joe's son who hand delivered them shortly after his arrival in Guatemala. That is great service!

We expected the job to be fairly easy but soon found our rear driver's door was rendered inoperable due to a latch cable that had popped out of place, preventing access to all of our tools. Fortunately, Joe was on hand to loan us what we needed and to help us line everything up properly. A little finagling by Mandi got our rear door open. At some point we'll need a new rear latch, tenderness and pliers will work until we can get our hands on one. While we could have removed the bracket and had one made, the way it was shearing, lining up the mounting holes could have been an issue. A huge thank you goes out to Chris at Ujoint Offroad, Jason (Joe's son), Joe & Josee, and another Chris who happened to be camped at Pasaj Cap and provided the extra muscle we needed to get everything perfect.

Lake Atitlan, Sololá, Guatemala

Had at least 500 more miles in it

Lake Atitlan, Sololá, Guatemala

Not bad for government work

Enjoyed the Sites and Sounds of Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan has become one of our favorite places. The slow pace of life coupled with its unrivaled beauty sets it far apart from many of the other locations we have visited. Our days didn't consist of much, a little reading, some research, staring at Volcan San Pedro, playing with our camera, occasional supply runs to San Marcos or San Pedro, gallons of local coffee, and a lot of cooking. We explored very little, mostly drunk on the essence of the lake and the frequent afternoon downpours... a nostalgic similarity to where we are from.

Lake Atitlan, Sololá, Guatemala

Take a picture, it'll last longer

Lake Atitlan, Sololá, Guatemala

To the left, to the's alright

Lake Atitlan, Sololá, Guatemala

Boom, yea

Lake Atitlan, Sololá, Guatemala

Into the heat of the night

We made a time lapse of the mesmerizing effect the lake has. Our camera battery was dying, no surprise there, so there is a slight frame jump about halfway through when we changed batteries.

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Say what? (4)
Pam and Randall
Aug 23, 2016 at 07:07 PM
Hey, congratulations on a great trip and blog. We will be heading down the west coast of Mexico this winter, Mazatlan, PV and Manzanillo. We've had AT&T but are thinking T-Mobile. Your experience and costs?
Aug 23, 2016 at 07:58 PM
Thanks Pam & Randall! Sounds like you guys are going to have another exciting trip pretty soon. We really liked T-Mobile, it worked great in Mexico and gave us LTE when available. AT&T had just added MX so we don't have any experience with them. US plans are pricey, ours was $73 a month. Our plan was for 6GB of data so there could be cheaper options. With T-Mobile we could switch carriers to find the best signal, we're not sure if AT&T has similar agreements with all of the carriers. We almost exclusively tethered our phone to maintain our blog while driving the mainland. Good luck and safe travels!
Aug 26, 2016 at 02:39 PM
You are so correct.... as much as we love our camper, one thing we miss is an entire weekend just lounging on the couch while reading, watching movies, drinking wine, playing cards... whatever. Simply hanging. Not so simple in the nomadic life. I'm glad you got a chance to slow down and simply hang out for a bit. And I LOVE the instagram map... gotta be looking into that!
Sep 5, 2016 at 12:38 PM
Thanks Rhonda! Now that we have driven back to Belize you have a better chance of catching up. Just let us know if you get stuck on implementing the photo map.
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