There are several caravan companies from which to choose (see sidebar), and they will make all the campground reservations in advance. Excursions and professionally guided tours at destinations visited are included, as are many gourmet meals eateries. Professional guides (referred to as wagon masters, often a husband-and-wife team) lead the caravan every step of the way. They're familiar with the route, as they've done this many times before. The same is true for the caravan's mechanic (often called a tail gunner). He's the last to leave camp in the morning and last to arrive at night at the next destination. His mission is to "bring up the rear"and assist anyone who might need additional help. It's his charge to ensure everyone arrives safely at the next destination. A subtler but equally important benefit of traveling by caravan is the camaraderie of doing it with others like yourself. In a caravan, Mexico's culture and diversity can be experienced and enjoyed from the security and safety offered only when traveling in numbers.
A typical scenario is to rendezvous with 15 to 20 other parties in El Paso and begin the trip south. An orientation and get-acquainted party is hosted by the wagon master. Everyone is required to have a CB radio; the wagon master continuously uses it to explain what you're seeing as you travel through what for most in the group is uncharted territory. Using his CB radio, the wagon master broadcasts upcoming turns, stops, toll roads, and fuel and rest stops. When everyone's completed a milestone, such as making a necessary turn in a city, the tail gunner notifies the wagon master. Traveling by caravan is a time-tested, foolproof method that works very well.
Places Visited: Chihuahua
To the Indians, the word Chihuahua means dry, sandy soil. However, the name today is synonymous with Pancho Villa. Mexican history recognizes Villa as a hero, an important broker in Mexican politics, although at one time he was vilified. He began his career as a desperado, taking the name of a bandit killed on the job. Eventually, Villa was brought into the fold of the revolutionaries, and, during a decade of revolution, he became a general. He was assassinated in 1920 while driving his Dodge touring car. He was decapitated, and his head never has been found. Today, his rancho (in downtown Chihuahua) is a national museum, with his personal possessions and other items from this era on display inside, including the Dodge he was driving on that fateful day.