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Augusta Chronicle- The South’s oldest newspaper

Expedition company owners hope excursion leads to business

Staff Writer

Scott Woodhams’ custom Land Rover Discovery gets attention in grocery store parking lots. But it’s nothing compared to the interest he generates when he and friend Bernard Barbour drive around town in their matching SUVs outfitted with roof racks, 100-watt spotlights, brush guards and rooftop tents.

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Central America Overland Expeditions members Bernard Barbour (left), of Martinez, and Scott Woodhams, of Evans, practice setting up their rooftop tents on their expedition vehicles for their upcoming excursion to Central America. The two will also be traveling with Woodhams' wife, Angela.  EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF

EMILY ROSE BENNETT/STAFF
Central America Overland Expeditions members Bernard Barbour (left), of Martinez, and Scott Woodhams, of Evans, practice setting up their rooftop tents on their expedition vehicles for their upcoming excursion to Central America. The two will also be traveling with Woodhams’ wife, Angela.

“People stop and look at you. I get so many looks at the grocery store,” said Woodhams, 39, of Evans. “When there’s the two of us, that’s when people start asking questions. We draw a lot of attention.”

The questions give Woodhams a chance to tell people about the new travel and adventure company he’s starting with Barbour: Central America Overland Expeditions.

The two, along with Woodhams’ wife, Angela, take off on their first expedition through Central America on July 9. They’ve rented their Evans and Martinez homes and saved up from their jobs as self-employed property managers to fund a three- or four-month expedition at a cost of about $3,000 a month. When they return, the group plans to offer similar excursions to locals looking for adventure or churches looking for mission opportunities.

“It’s exciting. This is something we’ve always wanted to do,” said Barbour, 52, of Martinez.

The trio will drive from Georgia to Texas before crossing the border and making their first stop outside the U.S. in Monterrey, Mexico. They’ll head south along Mexico’s Pacific Coast and cross through Guatemala and Belize before looping around the Yucatan Peninsula and driving north up the Gulf Coast of Mexico.

The trip includes several stops for volunteer work, as charity is a key part of the excursion.

“Anywhere we go, where there’s an opportunity to help out, we want to do that,” Woodhams said.

While in Central America, the group plans to connect with a handful of Christian mission agencies working with children or in community development programs. In the future, he’d like to offer their travel experience to churches doing missionary work in Central America. There’s potential, too, to expand with expeditions to Africa, where Woodhams’ church, New Life Christian Center, is already digging wells.

The trip also includes several stops for sightseeing at beaches, remote villages, mountain towns, tourist destinations and ancient ruins.

“We want to explore, visit, take in the full culture,” Woodhams said. “Our friends and family, they say, ‘Are you crazy?’ There’s been some concern, but we have their full support. It’s been our dream.”

 

 

 

 

http://archive.constantcontact.com/fs022/1102609499039/archive/1110762405314.html

This week’s article is written by guest columnist, Bernard Barbour, the newest Grupo Eco  Volunteer from Georgia, USA.
 “Turtle Camp There’s Nothing Slow About It”
Somehow, someway I had this thought in the back of my mind that working/volunteering on a Turtle conservation project would be all fun and relaxing while still enjoying my vacation. Well, hello and wake up and smell the sand dunes, this is a lot of work! Let me set the tone right now! I really don’t mind working and have been most of my adult life. I’m quite used to hard work and manual labor but this is very different.  And I might add that this is some of the most interesting and rewarding work I’ve ever experienced, saving the turtles. I guess it would best be explained like being in paradise but you get to work in the background. Remember in the movie The Wizard of OZ, when Dorthy, the Lion, the Scarecrow and the Tin Man got to meet the Wizard? Remember Toto, the dog, pulls back the curtain and they see the Wizard manipulating all the switches; making fire, thunder and lightning. Then he says, ” Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain!” well that about sums up my experience here. You just go about your job here making things happen because it’s all about the turtles. Up until this time in my life, whenever I saw a turtle release on the beach I had no idea what all it took just for that special moment. Now working behind the scenes,  it’s a very eye opening experience. A magical experience that I will always carry with me for the rest of my life. Watching and waiting for a turtle to emerge from the sea, make her way onto the sandy beach and lay her eggs, lay there and listen to her in labor, and then watch her return to the sea is one of natures most precious gifts. I am so glad I got to labor for it and to participate in this creature’s survival.
The work here is 24/7 kinda work with a few naps in between. As we go day to day, hauling sand from the beach to the nursery, maintaining our vehicle, painting, doing electrical work, working in the rain and thunder storms in the middle of the night, it’s all in days and nights work.  It’s funny how I think about it now. I never realized how much behind the scenes work went in to create that  Kodak moment of watching the hatchlings crawl to the sea at sunset.  I never imagined  that to get to this point I would have to move many 75 pound coolers full of sand and baby turtle hatchlings around in a hot nursery to get them down here for this photo shoot. That I would have to be up all night working on the beach in the rain and the lightning gathering eggs.   That I would be chasing poachers away from the nests at 3 am!  The odds of survival for the turtles of San Pancho would be almost zero if it were not for the volunteers and many people that donate their time, money  and additional resources to make this all happen.  I had no idea before, but I certainly do now!  It’s not slow work, it’s fast paced, interesting, fun, rewarding and most of all humbling. And lastly don’t pay any attention to that man behind the curtain.
Bernard Barbour is an Expedition leader with Central America Overland Expeditions www.caoexpeditions.com They conduct tours throughout Mexico and Central American. Additionally they volunteer  to serve the people , communities and charitable/non-profit organizations in their travels.  They are currently traveling down the Pacific coast of Mexico. If you are interested in a tour, or want to know how to get involved in volunteering or a donation, please click on their link.
Grupo Ecologico de la Costa Verde is a Mexican non-profit group dedicated to the conservation of the endangered Olive Ridley sea turtles and the environment.
For more information about the turtle program, visit our website: http://www.project-tortuga.org/index.html
Or you can see our day to day work on Facebook at: San Pancho Turtles  https://www.facebook.com/pages/San-Pancho-Turtles/179273792083463
We would also like to thank Felisa Churpa Rosa Rogers of  The People’s Guide to Mexico and ThePeoplesGuidetoMexico.com for her wonderful article you can read here: http://thepeoplesguidetomexico.com/blog/road-blog-central-america-overland-expeditions/

Road Blog: Central America Overland Expeditions

Posted on July 24, 2012 by churpa

Scott, Angela, and Bernard. (photo stolen from their blog.)

Back when I was a kid, a substantial migration of Mex Trippers drove south every winter. Vehicles ranged from rust-speckled VW vans to tricked-out luxury liners (we once met an elderly couple who were driving in Fats Domino’s former tour bus, which was paneled in purple plush). Every year, we’d run into “our kind” in campgrounds,  on remote beaches, and in the coveted walled hotel parking lot (where we’d pay a few dollars to set up camp and access a bathroom). When we met with fellow travelers, we’d share travel tips, horror stories,  and (if we hit it off) good camp spots and secret camping beaches. These days, the RV community is the only strain of Mex Tripper culture  that really remains vital. It always saddens that more people of my generation don’t get to enjoy the great adventure of driving across Mexico and Central America. Last year I vowed that I would blog my next drive to Mexico. My hope was to inspire a new generation to check out the truly awesome adventure potential afforded by a set of wheels, a visa, and a good cooler. Bernard, Scott, and Angela have beat me to it with their blog Central America Overland Expeditions. It’s great to see the drive to Mexico through fresh eyes!

Though I can’t help but feel a spark of envy for those rooftop tents…

 

A Beginner’s Guide to Driving Through Mexico


May 2, 2014

Cleveland, Tennessee, USA – This post is for the folks who are planning on driving through Mexico but haven’t done so yet. We decided to create a sort of guide of what we think folks would like to know before beginning a journey throughout Mexico, and we have been to a great many places. Since my husband and I put 3,300 miles on our Land Rover this last trip, we had plenty of time to create this list.

Of course, everyone’s experiences will be different, but we hope this helps in some way. If you have any questions, please feel free to Facebook message me or email me attndancelover(at)gmail.com. I am no expert, but I will help you if I can.

Getting Started

• Download several Spanish translation applications on your phone, which will not require access to the Internet.

• Make sure you have your original car title, car registration, driver’s license, passport, and a couple of copies of each with you. If you finance your car, you may have to get written permission from the loan company allowing you to take the car out of the United States. We did not have to deal with that, so I am not sure what to do with that.

• Have your vehicle thoroughly inspected and have all routine maintenance completed prior to the trip. There are some Auto Zones in Mexico, but they may not have the part you need on hand, and if they need to be ordered it could take an extra day or 2. We actually brought some spare parts with us just in case.

• Pay for Mexico car insurance and have a printout of the insurance details. You can get that online and print out the receipt. You will need all of this at the border crossing. They will put a hold on your credit card for several hundred dollars, depending upon the year of the vehicle. If you sell your vehicle in Mexico, the will charge your credit card that amount. You will receive a sticker to place in the middle of your windshield that proves you have gone through this process.• Get plenty of pesos and in small denominations. We were not always able to use our credit card when we expected to – so make sure you have enough money in your pocket.

Gas Stations

• All gas stations in Mexico are PeMex. Prices are controlled by the government. The ones that accept credit will usually have a sign that says Pago Electronico. We were fairly successful with this, except that a couple of gas stations near the Southern part of Quintana Roo said they only accepted Mexican credit cards.

• They are one directional, so follow the arrows. You are not allowed to pump your own gas. An attendant will do it for you.

• Make sure that they reset the pump to Zero. Always be mindful.

• The word for Full is Lleno (pronounced yeah no). I would always say “lleno con premium por favor,” since we required premium gas.

• Between cities, gas stations can be few and far between – so do NOT let your fuel tank get too low.

Driving / Traffic Tips

• Folks stay on the right side unless they are passing. The shoulders are meant to be driven on to allow for easier passing.

• There are topes (speed bumps) everywhere and not all are marked. It is painful to go over them at full speed (ask me how I know.) Drive slowly.

• On highways, the driver ahead of you will turn on the left blinker to indicate to YOU that it is safe for you to pass. Of course, you will need to use your own judgment about that. Having said that, don’t put on your left blinker to pass someone because what you are actually doing is telling the person behind you that they can safely pass you. Drivers driving in the opposite direction will flash their lights at you to indicate there is an issue ahead (i.e. construction, accident etc.)• It is now allowed to turn “right on red” unless there is a derecha con precaución sign.

• In the cities, drivers are VERY aggressive and pedestrians at times with walk right out in front of you. You have to drive somewhat aggressively as well to be able to get anywhere.

• Google maps and other GPS devices are very inaccurate. Case in point, a supposed 2.75 hour trip from Tuxtepec to Oaxaca actually took us 6 hours. It will always take longer than you expect. We encountered more cuotas (toll roads) than we expected. Some were inexpensive and some were quite expensive. The most expensive one we encountered cost $11 USD.

• Military / police checkpoints are common, so be prepared. We had all of our paperwork nearby to grab quickly (passports, proof of car insurance, license.) Roll all your windows down as your approach. A lot of times they will motion you on through. We did get stopped a few times, and they wanted to know where we were going.

• DO NOT drive at night. There are too many topes, animals, and people along the roadside, and it is just not as safe to do so.

Miscellaneous Tips• Expect to pay to be able to use a public bathroom. Most PeMex station restrooms are usually free though. Most of the time there is not a toilet seat, toilet paper, or soap at the free ones, and often not at the pay one. Have a small “baño”kit to take with you that has toilet paper, soap, paper towels, etc. Trust me on this.

• Have patience. Keep in mind that everything takes longer in Mexico, even getting gas. I had to work on this.

• There are a lot of fires burning along the roadside. We kept a scarf to cover our noses when the fumes were too bad.

• Do not expect to get consistent wi-fi even if the hotel says they have it. It can be less reliable in Mexico.

Finally, don’t expect Mexico to be like the United States because, if you do, you will most definitely be disappointed.

Highlights for me on this last trip were El Tajin, the Costa Esmeralda area, and Oaxaca.

This is by no means everything you need to know, but we hope it at least helps you in some way. Driving through Mexico was a wonderful experience, and we cannot wait to go back and explore some more. Go with an open mind, patience, and an understanding that different is not inherently bad. We made some wonderful friends and saw some breathtaking places.


Tammy Barbour is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and the University of Florida in Materials Engineering. Her first career immediately out of graduate school was in the aerospace industry in research and development. With her desire for more freedom she left the engineering field after a few years and became a successful Realtor first in Michigan and then in Georgia and South Carolina. And now after almost 15 years as a Realtor, the desire for the outdoors and adventure led her to her final career change: overlanding expeditions. She has joined the experienced team of Central America Overland Expeditions who drove Land Rovers from GA, USA all through Mexico, over 3,000 miles for this journey alone. This is her fourth trip to the beautiful country of Mexico. Her goal is to explore all over Mexico and every country in Central America over the next few years and hopes to meet lots of like-minded adventurous folks along the way. You can follow their adventures atcaoexpeditions.com.

Travel & Outdoors 

An American Traveler Shares Her Thoughts on Mexico


May 12, 2014
Mexico is a beautiful and geographically diverse country. We have seen gorgeous beaches, breathtaking mountains, farmland, arid areas, lush tropical areas, jungles, small villages and huge cities.

Cleveland, Tennessee, USA – I have been to Mexico four times now (once on cruise ship, twice flying in and then taking a bus from Cancun to Belize City, and finally, this drive all the way down Mexico.) Here are some things I think about this country. Please note this is only MY opinion and not necessarily the opinion of my travel companions…

1. Mexico is a beautiful and geographically diverse country. We have seen gorgeous beaches, breathtaking mountains, farmland, arid areas, lush tropical areas, jungles, small villages and ginormous cities.

2. Mexicans are resourceful and self reliant folks. There is no sense of entitlement here. You have to try and make a living by selling something or providing a service. As a foreigner, you will be asked a million times if you would like to purchase something. You just have to say “No, gracias.” This is how they support their families.

3. Federales are everywhere especially in the northern part of the country. They look quite intimidating. They just waved at us as we passed through wherever we were.

4. Spanish is not the only language spoken here. The government of Mexico recognizes 68 distinct indigenous Amerindian languages.

5. We passed a great many elaborate descansos (roadside memorials) – especially up in the mountains where someone had died in an accident. I could not believe the size and beauty of some of them.

6. Mexicans will try their best to communicate with you. They are kind and helpful people. I took four years of Spanish in high school. I am surprised what I remember at times. We are usually able to get our point across with broken Spanish and hand gestures.

7. IF (and I said “if”) you want to see the REAL authentic Mexico, you have to venture away from the resorts. You see watered down, “Americanized Mexico” at those places.

8. Do not drive at night in this country. It is not safe because there are no street lights or guard rails. There are animals and people on the road. There are numerous speed bumps that are barely visible even during the day. We are always off the road by early evening to rest and plan our next day. Editor’s Note: Check out Tammy’s other Mexico driving tips.

9. Please be respectful. Don’t disparage a country as a whole especially if you have never been there. I ask you what area of the US is representative of the entire country: is it Detroit, NYC, Appalachia, California. What is America? The same can be said about Mexico. This is a culturally and visually rich country that you should consider visiting. I would love to help you if you decide to be adventurous.


Tammy Barbour is a graduate of the University of Tennessee and the University of Florida in Materials Engineering. Her first career immediately out of graduate school was in the aerospace industry in research and development. With her desire for more freedom she left the engineering field after a few years and became a successful Realtor first in Michigan and then in Georgia and South Carolina. And now after almost 15 years as a Realtor, the desire for the outdoors and adventure led her to her final career change: overlanding expeditions. She has joined the experienced team of Central America Overland Expeditions who drove Land Rovers from GA, USA all through Mexico, over 3,000 miles for this journey alone. After enjoying four trips to the beautiful country of Mexico, her goal is to explore all over Mexico and every country in Central America over the next few years and to meet lots of like-minded adventurous folks along the way. You can follow her adventures atcaoexpeditions.com.


Comments
  1. Ruined Adventures 06/26/12 – 01:31 pm 1 0
    Congratulations to Scott, Angela, and Bernard!
    I just wanted to comment that we have been traveling for the past 3 months through Mexico, from border to border with lots of zig-zagging. We are now enjoying the amazing country of Guatemala, where life is simple and the people work even harder.

    I highly doubt they will meet any murderous people on their journey…as a matter of fact, I’m willing to bet money that there will be many friendly locals willing to bend over backwards and help them feel safe and welcome. Our time in Mexico was amazing and the people are even more amazing, I only wish we could spend another 3-6 months in Mexico since there was so much more to see and experience!

    Unfortunately the news in the US only covers drug-related violence in these countries, most of which is concentrated near the border. We have experienced nothing scary so far, even in remote regions or certain regions that are known for cartel activity. There are many peaceful and beautiful places between here and there and we hope Central America Overland meets up with us somewhere along the road to have a celebratory drink together. Cheers!

  2. localguy says:

    I think statistics will show
    I think statistics will show that there are more murders per capita in many of the cities in the U.S., than in most of Central America. The people in Mexico and Central America are hard working friendly people. I am glad to see someone is going down there to help them out. It sounds like a once in a lifetime opportunity! I will be following your travels.

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