We hadn’t taken the bus on an adventure since crossing Canada and landing in Eugene Oregon, so the four Robbins children were very excited to be going to Mexico. The bus was a make shift camper. My father had painted a full sized Blue Bird school bus a weird shade of blue with regular outdoor house paint. There was no mistaking, this was a hippie bus. When you opened the school bus door and went up the three stairs, homemade couches lined either side of the area where all of the seats had been removed. The couches folded down at night to make a bed for my parents. Half way back were my and my three siblings’ two sets of bunk beds a path down the middle lead to the kitchen complete with a gas stove. The bunks were crafted out of two by fours and a twin sized bed was in each it was our cozy club house. The back part of the bus had two by four compartments for our clothes, food and everything else we could fit.
The year was 1977 and I was in fourth grade. Because of our many moves, 18 at this point in time, I had rarely gone to school, but I was at an alternative school within the public system and I loved it. I was apprehensive about leaving school, and I had no idea how long we would really be gone or if we would ever come home again. My teacher said to keep a journal and so I did.
We packed the bus with what we would need for the weeks ahead. We brought decks of cards for the gin and rummy games that we would play for hours on the bus. We packed every Tintin that had been published and crayons and coloring books. My father had stolen all of these items I suspect since he had stolen most everything we owned. He had been named “Eph the Thief” by his siblings as a child. He to this day at the age of 85 still steals most everything and amazingly he has only been caught once when he stole a car in New Hampshire.
The bus was cozy and we had fun on the drive to Berkeley California where we were stopping to pick up our friends. Their family had five children, two adults, the husband was father to only the baby, and one other adult joined us as well. We stayed in Berkeley for what seemed like a week. We packed cases of avocados and lots of non-perishable foods and water for the whole time we would be in Mexico.
I remember there was a big debacle about my visa to get into Mexico. There was no father listed on my birth certificate because my mother wasn’t married when I was born and I had always used my father’s last name as my legal name, but at the time we were all living under an assumed name so I’m not really sure what ended up occurring but I do know we all made it across the border.
We were heading for a small remote village in Baja California on the Sea of Cortez named Bahia de Los Angeles. We drove in a caravan of the Blue Bird bus and a VW “Thing” that was a burnt orange color. We were a motley crew of hippies and their clan of children and one lesbian along for the ride. At one point my mother was driving the bus with all nine of the children inside. All of the adults were riding in the Thing. We were stopped by Federalis with machine guns. They boarded the bus and asked my mother, “Are these your children?” she said yes. They walked around in the bus for a while and then let her continue on. I remember when my mom recounted the story to the adults she said that they probably would have torn the bus apart if the other adults had been present, so it worked out.
We finally arrived at in Bahia de Los Angeles about three days later. There were about 15 people in this tiny remote town, as I recall, although I’m sure there were really more. We somehow found our way to a secluded beach on a protected cove and set up camp. The adults set up platforms for the tents that they would be sleeping in and the children were to all stay in the bus. There were scorpions and they worried that since the closest hospital was in San Diego two days away it would be best if none of the children were bitten.
The cove was large, probably 3 miles across, but protected, shallow and very warm. We dove right in and life on the beach had begun. The adults chose to basically live sans clothing during the day when it was warm. No one ever came to the beach where we were. It was paradise. We children had adventures everyday that took us to pirate ships and deserts. We played, ate and slept. We stayed for eight weeks that first trip to Mexico.