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Baja California RV Travel Uncategorized

Freedom!

The reason we chose the Baja Winters caravan over all the others was because, once they led us into the very southern portion of southern Baja, they cut us loose giving us 14 days of ‘on your own’ time . This was the perfect compromise for Mitch and me – help us get acclimated to a different system and then let us make our own discoveries and mistakes.

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Mitch sporting his Baja hat which cost us a whopping 70 pesos ($3.50)!

Because the drive from Santispac to Los Barriles (our freedom time jumping off point) would have been too long, we stopped overnight at Ciudad Constitucion. Situated on a flat stretch of the Transpeninsular Highway surrounded by lots of agriculture, the town appeared tidy and organized. The most memorable things from Ciudad Constitucion were it’s main street with its strange traffic pattern (there was a regular two lane road in the middle and then an extra lane on either side. You weren’t supposed to make left turns from the road in the middle. To make a left turn, you went into the right lane and then, at the next four way stop sign, you would turn left across all lanes of traffic – a little scary. I guess it was kind of like New Jersey’s jug handles without the handles.), Mitch finding his Baja hat, and my humbling experience at the big supermercado (super market).

After looking all over the store for fresh guacamole I finally went up to the customer service desk and asked, “Tiene guacamole?” (Do you have guacamole?”) As I’d mentioned in an earlier post, I used to have a decent grasp, both speaking and understanding, of the Spanish language, most of which I’ve forgotten. But I still thought that my pronunciation and accent of the vocabulary I remembered was tolerable. However, after my question, the young guy looked at me like I had two heads. So I tried to explain, thinking that, even though every restaurant we’d been in sold it, maybe guacamole was not a thing grocery stores here carry pre-made. “Con aguacates?” I added. (With avocados?)

“Oh, si, aguacates,” he smiled, led me to the huge bin of avocados in the produce section, and began choosing avocados for me.

“No, gracias,” I said. “Guacamole.” Still no recognition on his face. Maybe they call it something else here in Ciudad Constitucion. So I started listing ingredients and making hand gestures. “Con aguacates picados (chopped avocados) y ajo (garlic) y cebolla (onion).” All the time making the motions of chopping, mixing, and scooping a chip through dip.

Finally his face opened up. “Ahhh,” he said. “Guacamole?”

The next day, due to road construction, we had the worst day of driving yet. When they are repaving the roads here, they don’t shut down one lane and then the other, they close off the entire road and reroute all the traffic (18-wheelers, double tankers, 44 foot RVs) onto horrible, steep, sandy, washboard and boulder riddled unpaved side roads. We had to put our truck into 4WD to get up one hill. The other RVs had to go one at a time, letting the driver in front get up the hill so they could get enough speed to make it all the way up.

But finally, we made it through the construction, through the city of La Paz, over a few more ruggedly beautiful mountains and down across a few washes to the windsurfing, four-wheeling town of Los Barriles on the Sea of Cortez where our 14 days of freedom started. No more group pot lucks, no more 8:00 am line-ups, no more scheduled bathroom breaks – a vacation in our vacation. Much more to follow…

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In Los Barriles it seems to be either super-windy or flat calm. When it is windy, the view from our camper was all kites!

 

(Spoiler alert – we are no longer in Baja. For awhile there it seemed like either we had internet with no electricity to turn on the computer, or vice versa, or we were too busy exploring to sit down and get a post out! So we’ve got a little catching up to do!)

 

 

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Baja California Photography RV Travel Uncategorized

Santa’s Pack

The word is actually Santispac. It seems too harsh to be a Spanish word but it is the name of a beach/campground/gorgeous slice of the Bahia de Concepcion about 12 miles south of the town of Mulege (pronounced moo-ley-hey – which I love to say. Mooleyhey, mooleyhey, mooleyhey) where we dry camped for three days. It can be terribly windy but when it is calm, the kayaking and paddleboarding can’t be beat. The water is so clear that you can watch sting rays and fish carry on below as you paddle between the rocky, cactus-covered islands. Stings rays and some little fish – that’s all that I saw when I went kayaking for a couple of hours one morning. Mitch went out after me (stupidly, we only brought one kayak, one paddleboard, and one bike so we can’t do anything together. Hmmm….) and he saw sting rays, fish, AND sea lions, AND a pod of about 100 dolphins feeding and jumping and going crazy! Not fair!

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Friendly people on Santispac beach. I was chatting with a kayaker from Alaska.
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The sea lion that Mitch saw from his kayak.
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One of the islands dotting the bay

 

santispac_bassBecause we have a truck camper we were able to get to the best spot on the beach. We were tucked into a cove right next to a little mangrove estuary where you could hear the fish jumping all night long. Mitch walked 10 feet from our camper, made one cast, and caught a decent-sized bass! Snowy egrets, oyster catchers, reddish egrets, tri-colored herons, and one bird we couldn’t identify feasted at the mouth of the tide run at low tide. And we had friendly neighbors (two from Canada and one from California) who stay in this same spot every winter and filled us in on the area telling us that this past November there were 28 whalesharks right here, off Santispac. The Californian, Eric, even took Mitch for a boat ride and showed him a few of the different beaches spread down the bay.

If you are looking for your very own secluded, quiet beachfront campsite – this is not it. At least not in the wintertime. Every inch of waterfront had wheels parked on it. A steady stream of uber-tanned retired folks paddled past us in ancient Ocean Kayaks without seat backs from their swanky development the next cove up. There were two restaurants/bars on the beach and on Friday night we went to sleep with “She’s a Brick House” echoing through the cove punctuated with the air brakes of the 18-wheelers slowing for the hairpin curves on Highway One just above us.

After three days of 30-second showers and a dog and a cat frolicking on the beach, we needed to upend our camper to get all the sand out. But even with the close neighbors, engine brakes, and “Brick House”, we had a hard time leaving. Luckily, we’ll be coming back here on our way north for a couple more nights.

santispac_pano

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Baja California RV Travel Uncategorized

Yipeeee!! We’re South of the Border

Wow – I’ve got a lot of catching up to do! Don’t worry. I won’t be detailing our travels over the last seven years since my last blog post (seven years – how is that possible??). But this was the year I was going to blog about our trip again and we’ve been on the road a month now with no posts to show for it!

Why blog this year when I’ve skipped the previous seven? Well, we are finally doing something really, really different – for us anyway. We are driving through Baja California from top to bottom and back to top. Because Mitch doesn’t trust my navigating skills we are with an RV caravan group call Baja Winters. And being smack in the middle of a line of 18 RVs with roads too narrow to U-turn is the only way I knew we’d make it south of the border!

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Our first campsite, El Rancho Surdo Mudo, from Mitch’s drone, tucked in between vineyards and wineries.

The first day on the road was short – about 65 miles from the border crossing at Tecate (yes – it’s a real town, not just a beer) to the wine country of the Guadalupe Valley where we stayed in a small RV park run by the deaf school.

My favorite thing about our first day was reading, hearing, and trying to speak Spanish again. I’d forgotten how much I loved the language (I majored in Spanish and lived in Costa Rica for a year) but hadn’t used it in cough-ehemm-twenty-cough-cough-two years. Out of the cobwebs of my brain vocabulary words began to pop into my mouth. Verb conjugations, on the other hand, are extremely stubborn. I’m afraid they’ve been eaten by the spider.

The next day we drove through the busy, sprawling city of Ensenada with its thousands

el-pabellon_camp
Is this campsite amazing or what?? This is south of Ensenada in a town called San Quintin. Mitch took this photo in the morning just before the cloud cover came in again. The campground is called El Pabellon. The showers were very clean and hot but definitely don’t drink the water here – it is salt water!

and thousands of stop signs and spent a chilly night on a beautiful, empty beach on the Pacific side. My favorite thing about the second day was my reintroduction to tamales. As a picky teen I’d labeled them “disgusting”. But thankfully, my eyes have been opened!

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Cirio in Spanish means tapered candle. John (our wagon master) is giving us the run down on this crazy tree. Unfortunately the photo doesn’t show it but it has yellow flowers on the very top of it that look like flames. They can grow up to 30-40 feet tall.

Day three our truck got a work-out dodging potholes and traveling up and up through the beautiful, desolate mountains of the protected Valle de los Cirios. We camped at the Santa Ynez Ranch in Catavina where they served us a delicious bunkhouse meal. I have no idea what it was but we asked for seconds! A cirio is a tree, but one of the craziest trees you will ever see. It is a bizarre-Dr. Suess-looking creation that only grows in this one little spot in the world.

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Another cirio next to a cardon (looks very similar to a saguaro but it’s not!).
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MItch went on a great mountain bike ride at the ranch – sandy but beautiful views.
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Isn’t this hilarious?? A cutout of a soldier holding a machine gun to signify an upcoming military checkpoint. Nothing to be concerned about here!

About half way through day four we crossed into Baja Sur!

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Welcome to Baja Sur!

Yay! Away went the coats and shoes, out came the shorts and sandals! I guess it could have been a cooler weather system that went through, but really, it was as if going across that line brought the sun out and temp up. We covered a lot of desert again but camped in a true oasis, San Ignacio. It is really amazing to come across a tiny valley stuffed with an uncountable number of palm trees after miles and miles and miles of sand, rock, and cacti. The next morning we explored the beautiful mission church built in the 1700s before heading out on the road again.

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Our sparkling personalities cleared the room at the Rice N Beans restaurant in San Ignacio!
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The Mexican dogs are very interested in Taz. Hopefully not as a main course!
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Water in the desert is such a surprise!
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Sunrise over the Bahia de Concepcion out our front door.

And then, day five. After a short drive of about 100 miles we dropped (almost literally!) out of the mountains to the blue-green waters of the Sea of Cortez. We followed the coastline past a huge garbage dump (yes – in a spot with a multi-million dollar view sat a nasty dump) and a copper mine (ditto) up headlands through washes and small towns until we reached the Bahia de Concepcion to Santispac Beach where we dry camped (RV talk for no power, water, or sewer) for three days on an enchanting cove dotted with islands and packed with gringos.

OK – enough catching up for now. Enjoy Mitch’s photos while I pull up my piece of sand and have a little one on one time with the warm Mexican sun!

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Roots

“…the one thing that can never be taken from us, even by death, is the love we give away before we go.”  Rev. Dr. Forrest Church

My sister would have been 41 on March 20th.  We spent the day with family and friends.  I wanted to give her some sort of present but I couldn’t think of a gift that could possibly represent everything she meant and continues to mean to me.  So we bought a maple tree that is supposed to have spectacular, long-lasting fall color and will grow to about 40 feet tall and we planted it north of the farmhouse.  Knowing my sister, she would have been thrilled to receive a tree as a birthday present.  May it grow big and tall so that her grandkids will, one day, swing from its branches.

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What We Do Once We Get “THERE”

This past December my college roommates and I had our inaugural “girl’s weekend”.  It was fantastic!  We hadn’t been together, in one room, for sixteen years.  And although we all have very different lives, it was so easy to reconnect.  My travels intrigued them and after talking a bit about past and future journeys, I noticed a confused look on the face of my driven, most ‘plugged-in’ friend.

“So…” she asked, tentatively, “What exactly do you do once you get there?”

It made me realize that not everyone gets this whole travel thing.  So with this blog, I hope to keep friends and family and any other politely curious spectators up-to-date with where we are, where we’re heading, and most importantly, what in the world we’re doing!

We left our base camp in northern Florida in mid-January and arrived in San Diego a few days ago, our third crossing of the continent towing our travel trailer.  One of the goals of our travels, along with seeing as much of our beautiful and diverse country as possible, is to find the ideal place to live.  Our perfect place would have the following:  be close to the coast so that Mitch can have his surf; close to trails for running, hiking, and biking; be a bike friendly community with paved trails and/or designated bike lanes; a population of 10,000 – 50,000 active, friendly, open-minded, forward-thinking, peaceful people; opportunities to see live theater and music; a couple of good micro-breweries; an artsy little shopping area; an interesting and well-preserved history; be comfortable enough in the wintertime to remain active outdoors; low cost of living; no strip malls or sprawling development; no pollution.  Does a place like this exist?  Probably not, but it is fun to search for it!

San Diego would have been very close to our ideal if we could have frozen it at the turn of the previous century.  But, as usual, we missed it!  I can’t help but wish that I was alive back then to see this incredible landscape without the homes and roads and unnaturally brown haze.  However, it is still a lot of fun to visit!

Paddling off of La Jolla has been the highlight so far. There are caves and cliffs and seals sunning themselves on rocks and a kelp forest gracefully waving in the swells.
Mitch checks out a La Jolla cave.
A Balboa Park street performer playing the didjeridu. He said that, although the didjeridu is an Australian Aboriginal wind instrument, he is not an Australian Aboriginal. He is from the Aboriginal tribe of "New Yorkers".
A person could spend a month or more wandering around Balboa Park and never get bored - every type of museum is represented, beautiful fountains, landscapes and gardens to explore, street performers, restaurants, shopping, and lots and lots of people watching. This photo is of an artisan's area of the park. We watched a glass blowing lesson and a Spanish guitar lesson here. These little shops are both studios and retail outlets for the artists.
Cabrillo National Monument was a great place to take in the view of the spellbinding California coast as well as the skyline of San Diego. The park sits on top Point Loma, a rocky peninsula forming the west entrance of San Diego Bay. It is famous for its tidal pools where, at low tide, visitors can spy on marine critters that survive in this specialized environment.