From the Archives: On the Road at Nine and Ten, 1988-89



As I was working on my book about my nomadic hippie childhood, I unearthed a travel journal that covered two trips to Mexico in the late 80s. The odysseys included research for “The People’s Guide to RV Camping in Mexico,” extended stays at Tenacatita, and my first visit to Guatemala. We also drove some Huichol friends on a pilgrimage to their sacred lands in Central Mexico. I’ve chosen a few excerpts for your amusement. You can read the first installment here

Dec 26, 1988

We started the trip on last Friday. Today is Monday. We had a wonderful Christmas at Bluejay Ridge with Miranda, Terry, Tia, and someone from Great Britain. I got a new stuffed animal for my birthday and one for Christmas. On Christmas I also got a watch. Write now it is 12:19, but it doesn’t really matter if you know that because it is now 12:20 and by the time anyone reads this it will be even later.

Dec 1988

By the way, we have a new big green van named Jolly. It is longer than our white van, and the kitchen is in the back instead of the front. Right now we are in Arizona and it is snowing. I almost froze my hands at a rest stop. We are headed for Santa Fe and we should get there by 7:00.

I got a pair of binoculars for my birthday this year and I can really start bird watching without borrowed bird glasses.

Yesterday I saw some pretty weird names for roads like Jolly Road, Devil Dog Road and Holy Moses Wash. Isn’t that weird?

Jan 1988

We went to Ray and Ada’s house to visit them and the Huichol Indians. We had a great time and we are going to the Huichol’s sacred mountain later. We did an Indian dance.

P.S. I might get a camera.

drawing of van in Mexico

Jan 1989

We are finally in Mexico. I am so happy I could jump for Joy. Tomorrow we should be in Tepic, then THE BEACH.  I can’t wait. Maki might come see us!! And maybe she will bring Orquidea!! Tia and Jazmin might come in February!! I am very exited. I am also driving my Dad off the wall by asking “Day after tomorrow we’ll be at the beach, right?”

Jan 1989

We got to the beach, and Ruby and Blanche, some friends I met years ago, were here! Blanche has her seven-year-old sister Marydulce with her! So even if Jazmin and Orquidea don’t come, there will be kids! Today we saw a huge ocean turtle laying or trying to lay eggs.

Jan 1989

There have been a lot of dolphins and whales this year. Just a few days ago the ocean was boiling with dolphins. Last night was Trivial Pursuit night at Bob and Bette’s. The team I was on won. To change the subject, I’d like to say that we usually see at least one dolphin a day.

Jan 1989

Everything is still pretty much the same. Everything except one thing! We are making a movie! I get to be a pirate in the movie! And Maki is a smuggler’s mother! And Blanche and Marydulce are pirates too! It’s just a homemade film and it will probably never make it to the big screen, but it sure is fun.

Feb 1989

I love this world and I love my life. Of course there are things about them that I don’t like, but I like a lot of things. I like my friends, some  of who are my relatives. I like Orquidea–she is a friend relative. All my relatives are friend relatives. I like my new kite and much, much, much more. I don’t like liver or flies or pollution. But that’s natural. I mean, who would like pollution? I guess I would eat liver if I had to, but I don’t like it.

March 1989

We are in a lakeside restaurant a few hours from Tepic. We have finished our buying trip and we are now on the Huichol trip. We have been doing lots of ceremonies. This morning I went the tortilleria with Laura and her cousin Picanacky. Last night I stayed up till 11:30 doing a ceremony. We are not with the rest of the people right now, only Juana. We are taking a Huichol runner to the end of the road so he can get some other family members for the trip. He is going to run for two hours. So we are waiting for him to get back. We can’t eat any salt on this trip.

March 1989

We are headed to Guatemala. I am reading a book of Daddy’s called “Warriors of the Rainbow.” It has a lot of hard words, and the people get drunk and say swear words (because they are all grown-ups.) But all in all it is a pretty good book.

P.S. Easter is in a week.

PPS. My dad had his birthday.

April 1989

We had Easter in San Cristobal and by a lake. Easter morning we had an egg hunt and a piñata, and I got a basket. Then we drove down to this lake and went on this long walk through the exotic jungle. We went swimming in a crystal clear river and explored unlighted caves. The Huicholes would have loved the caves–some altars were in them already.

April 1989

I am lying back on a hot, sticky seat reading a Greenpeace book, listening to Revolutionary music and entering Guatemala. “Darn!” I am thinking because my dad just turned off the tape and it helps me write. Luckily he turned it back on so now I won’t get writer’s block. I can’t stand it when I get to a good start and then don’t know what to write. Darnit! I can’t think of what to say! I am so mad. All right I will say something true but rather boring to read:”It is beautiful here!” My mom says there is something oriental about Guatemala, which is all very well. I just hope we don’t get killed here.


April 1989

We have been living in Guatemala for about two weeks. There are some strange vibes around here, my mom and dad say. Your first feeling is beautiful, beautiful, but the beauty has side effects: tourists! The Indians have been ground into the dirt for so long that they tend to think white people are enormous wallets without feelings. But not all Indians are like that, at least not Doña Paula and her family, including her daughter Argelia and her husband Eric. Doña Paula is shorter than me with white grey hair and has a good sense of humor. They live in a little home in the country and my mom used to live with them. My mom also learned to weave from them before I was born. She bought a beautiful huipil from them and it is for me!

May 1989

Water, water, water, water! Time flies fast.. We have been back in Mexico a week now! And we keep ending up in swimming pools and rivers! We have just left Las Estacas, which was great. Me and my mom slept on the roof of the van! Right now, time seems to be going as fast as Jolly drives. But while we were in Las Estacas it seemed to go as slow as me running (which is slow).

May 1989

Augh! What happened to two days in San Miguel? By tomorrow, it will be two weeks! I guess I am leaving you hanging about the reason for all this. I might as well start from the beginning, which was a month ago when we were in Guatemala and Dad fell off the roof of the van. Actually only part way off, but he was badly hurt. He wouldn’t go to a doctor! But it was still hurting when he got here, so to the doctor he went and now he knows he has a ruptured kidney and so he is healing slowly, slowly, slowly. I want to get home so so so so so so so bad bad bad bad bad.


June 1989

We are finally in the U.S.! Well, actually we’ve been here for about two weeks, and day-after-tomorrow we will be home! After we are home I will be there for a week of school and then freedom! You know–hot days, cold creeks, purring cats, sunshine coming through the chestnut trees. But best of all: my room and my friends!

Speaking of beautiful, Canyon Land Utah isn’t something to complain about.

7 Responses to “From the Archives: On the Road at Nine and Ten, 1988-89”

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  1. Tina says:

    Oh, do so love this! The drawings are fab, and I just wish there was more, more more!

  2. ada says:

    How wonderful to revisit those times from your point of view, Churpa! Delighted to read them!

  3. Lorena says:

    What fun Churpa. It’s great to be traveling with you.

  4. -El Codo- says:

    Hint: In perhaps thirty years time, you will find the true worth of your recollections and drawings! My cheeks hurt from smiling so wide. I cannot think of a better way to start the day than to sit down with a huge mug of fresh ground Huehuetenango coffee, and read your journal :)

  5. dobie says:

    Love the readings from your archives and the drawings are super. Brings back lots of memories. Looking forward to the whole book!

  6. Gabino says:

    Was thinking all day of you and your dad and Tina. Wanted to say ‘Happy Birthday Steve!’ Found my way to this article/blog, glad I did. Reminded of the year we (your family, me) spent Semana Santa in the trailer park in San Cristobal de Las Casas while your folks worked on a shopper’s guide and Steve and I made the best mango ice cream EVER! Your journal is priceless.

    • Felisa Rogers says:

      I remember that mango ice cream so clearly! It really was the best ever. Remember when you flew to the chile festival? Just sent you an email. Hope you got it.