Native man shares tales of journey and life classes in 70s roadtrip to Mexico (9 images)

Fifty years ago, Gilford’s Eric Whitehead and best friend Murray Jupe went on a five-month trip to Mexico and the United States. This experience taught them many things about life, travel and culture

January 2, 2021 will mark the 50th anniversary of the epic road trip from Toronto to Mexico and Las Vegas that best friends Eric Whitehead from Gilford and Murray Jupe took.

Her adventure diary is documented in her self-published book “Then There Was One: The Ultimate Road Trip of the 1970s,” which captures the essence of the era in raw, tell-tale tale.

“I kept a journal, the book is the journal,” explains Whitehead, who wrote most of the entries.

“The language is outdated and raw, but it reflects the time,” said Jupe.

In 1971 Whitehead (19) and Jupe (20) lived in Toronto. They went to high school together and planned the trip two years ago, originally with two other friends. But as time went on and circumstances changed, the four-man journey turned into two.

The friends knew they wanted to travel, but where and how was the question.

Europe seemed like a good idea, but with limited resources and concerns about weather conditions, the couple opted for a road trip instead.

After much deliberation and budgeting, they bought a used car for $ 500, packed a tent, and drove south to Acapulco, Mexico, then northwest through Texas to Las Vegas.

“This was the cheapest way to see the world,” said Jupe.

It was the first time the couple had been out of the country without their parents. During their travels, they met many unique people and experienced life to the fullest: camping in the desert, launching Apollo 14 in Florida, witnessing a near-fatal accident, celebrating Jupe’s 21st birthday in Vegas style – some of the experiences that they have have shaped the people they are today.

“It was really a learning expedition,” said Jupe.

They share their shock and frustration with some of the racist individuals they encounter in the southern states and Mexico.

“I believe there is a simple formula in relations with the Mexican people. If you treat them with the respect they deserve (and they deserve a lot of respect) and treat them with kindness, they will almost give their life for you. I honestly wish Canadians were more like that, ”read an excerpt from Whitehead on February 7, 1971.

“It (the racism) was just sick,” described Whitehead, who said the trip taught him a lot about tolerance of others.

“We were two young people who didn’t know much about life, to be honest, and we learned an incredible amount about life in general,” Jupe mused.

On the street, the two constantly stopped to have the brakes on the car repaired.

“That was our biggest problem,” said Whitehead.

In total, the couple spent around $ 1,000 on car maintenance throughout their five-month adventure.

Communication back then wasn’t as instantaneous as it is now, and the only time they could get in touch with family and friends at home was by phone call or email.

“We would collect our mail from the central post offices,” Jupe explained.

After months of traveling together, a Tiff threw a wrench to Whitehead and Jupes’ plans, leaving Whitehead alone in Vegas while Jupe flew to BC halfway through the trip.

“If you put two people together in a tent for months, something will go wrong,” Jupe said.

Looking back, he says resentment is pointless.

“What was important when we were in Vegas … didn’t really matter in life. Our friendship outweighed hostility.”

It wasn’t until seven years after the trip that the two happened to see each other while driving in Toronto. They reconnected and have been best friends ever since.

“And that’s one of the greatest lessons in life that we hold onto anger and resentment,” said Jupe, who says it’s not worth it. “We supported each other and helped each other, and that is exactly what friendship is.”

After all these years, Jupe and Whitehead remain best friends.

Jupe and his wife Karen, who live in Mississauga, feel “adopted” by Whitehead and his family and celebrate every holiday and special event together (except this year – thank you Covid!).

Whitehead has lived in Gilford with his wife (also known as Karen) for 36 years. Whitehead says it was the road trip with Jupe that sparked his love and passion for travel. This was the first of many books Whitehead published about his travels.

Before the book was published in 2010, Whitehead published and read the old diary each year on the anniversary of the trip. Over the years the pages deteriorated, which led him to officially publish them in a book.

Would you make the trip again?

In a heartbeat. It was the most unforgettable experience. But they don’t believe that it would be possible these days, with Covid, tightened security restrictions and everything.

“Anyway, I wouldn’t be going back now,” said Whitehead.

He and his wife have explored Canada for the past few years and encouraged others to do the same.

“You will never run out of places to visit in Canada,” he says.

To learn more about the book and to see some of Whitehead’s other travel works, visit

To purchase a copy of the book, email Whitehead at [email protected]

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