In 2002, Pat and Ali were living the standard American existence in Chicago. One night over pizza and beer they decided to leave the life they knew, buy a catamaran, and sail around the world. They took an intro to sailing course, bought a boat, and set sail. Four years later, they had made it all the way around. Not yet ready to settle down, they sold their boat and bought a 1958 Volkswagen panel van and drove from Alaska to Argentina. Now they have two kids and live aboard a sailboat, which they’ve been slowly cruising down the Pacific coast. Their current location: Puerto Vallarta.
Ambling down the dock toward their boat, Bumfuzzle, we recounted to Pat how we had arrived in Puerto Vallarta hoping to camp at an RV park in the old town. It had closed, so we ended up staying at a cheap hotel where we fell asleep to the soothing sounds of a wailing hooker on the other side of our paper thin wall. Oh, if our mattress could talk. I awoke in the morning to find that the fitted sheet had come off, and I was lying directly on the bare mattress. As we walked to the boat, I habitually scratched at my sides, convinced that our bed had given me the clap.
When we arrived at the boat, Ali greeted us holding their infant son, Lowe. A few minutes later Ouest, age two, awoke from her nap and sidled up the stairs. She took her place next to Ali’s leg, shoulders sagging, and squinted at us with sleepy eyes. Sure, Pat and Ali keep the boat clean and running, but we could tell who called the shots around here. A red and yellow Playskool car was parked next to the mast, and the boat’s perimeter was lined with kid-proof netting. A set of pink tea cups sat on a ledge. This was Ouest’s territory.
After a quick tour of Nacho we headed to the beach for drinks. Ouest, ever the unique two year old, had quesadillas and guacamole. Pat and Ali lived in their VW van for two years, so it was nice to compare notes and see how our outlook compares to theirs.
Soon enough, Sheena’s guilty conscience got the best of her.
“So Ali, did you drive a lot during your Volkswagen trip?”
“Um, every once in a while.” She looked a little sheepish, but then Pat interjected.
“Ali, the only time you ever drove was when I was behind the van pushing. In 60,000 miles you drove less than a hundred yards!”
“Yeah, like I said. Every once in a while.”
Great. The precedent has been set.
A recurring theme in Pat and Ali’s blog is their inability to capture a normal family photo due to Ouest’s shenanigans. We all decided to give it a try for a Bumfuzzle meets Drive Nacho Drive photo, and it was the same old story. First attempt: Everyone stands in a line, the camera timer starts, Ouest runs away, click. Second attempt: Everyone stands in line, the timer starts, Ouest runs away, Pat runs after Ouest and snatches her by the armpits, Pat runs back into the frame just in time, click. Yep, we know who calls the shots.
The afternoon turned to evening and we talked about their near term sailing plans. Would they stay in Mexico, or venture elsewhere? In true Bumfuzzle style, they hadn’t made up their minds. They sounded content sailing up and down the Mexican coast, but Pat mentioned that it would be fun to make another Pacific crossing.
“Where would you go? Australia?” I asked.
“Well, if we made the crossing then we’d probably sail around the world again.” You know, if you’re going to bake a cake, you might as well open a nationwide chain of bakeries. Obviously.
Their spontaneity and confidence was an inspiration. The next morning, after getting lost for three hours and ending up back at our starting point, we headed East. As we drove up into the mountains toward Guadalajara it felt like a weight had been lifted from our shoulders. For some reason until now a sense of urgency has underscored our trip. We had a plan and a rough timeline and each stop was another step toward executing the plan. After our day with Bumfuzzle we were more at peace. We drove higher and higher into the mountains, not leaving first and second gear. As soon as we felt like it, we stopped. There was no reason to go any farther; wherever we were was the destination.