"Illegal aliens have
always been a problem in the United States. Ask any Indian."
I travel a lot; I hate having my life disrupted by routine.
~ Caskie Stinnett
It is good to have an end to journey
towards, but it is the journey that matters in the end
Never take life seriously. Nobody gets out alive!
I told the doctor
I broke my leg in two places. He told me to quit going to those places.
When I get to a place
for the first time and know it like home, this is when I know my journey
will be over
The elderly usually don’t have regrets for what they did, they regret what they didn’t do - Unknown
When you don't know where you're going, any road will take you there ~ Anonymous
RELEASE THE REGRETS OF YESTERDAY,
Dream more while you are awake
Life is too short to waste time hating anyone
Don’t take yourself too seriously. No one else does
One solution comes up every morning
Make peace with your past and
The best is yet to come!
Enjoy the ride! You only have one ride through life so make the most of it
The world is a book,
and those who do not travel, read only a page
Not all who wander are lost
No one traveling on a
business trip would be missed if he failed to arrive
5% of the Worlds
Population Consumes a Third of its Resources and makes nearly Half of
Stop worrying about
the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey
Around the Next Turn is Where Our Adventure Begins
- Pat Bonish '07
"When I get to a place
for the first time and know it like home, this is when I know my journey
will be over"
Pat's April 2008 Blog
If this is your first time here, you might want to start from the beginning of our fulltime RV Journey with our Past Blogs
Check List - A list of things we do before leaving camp.
Again, this isn't gospel, but its a good start for those who might not
already have a list made up.
Tuesday April 1st 2008
I'd like to start by saying that I'm sorry that I haven't been around for the past few days, but I haven't really felt like putting anything in my blog. I try and never be negative, so that's why I haven't been typing much.
See, after that first time we went out with the flying mobulas on the Sea of Cortez, I couldn't stop thinking about getting back out there and trying to get even better shots than our first attempt.
We had gone down to the beach a few different times, but each time there would be either no flying rays, or the water was too rough to paddle out in our kayaks. Cindy and I really wanted to go out in the kayaks to try and get real close up to these wild creatures that jump right out of the water for no apparent reason.
We both thought it would be just out of this world to be paddling this close to something so out of the ordinary. Or I should say, that I thought it would be cool. Cindy kept saying that she didn't want to do it incase anything would happen to us, or worse yet, one would hit one of our kayaks, causing us to tip over and the camera gear would take a salt water swim.
Well on Sunday afternoon, we heard the water was pretty calm, so we drove the truck down to the beach and unloaded the kayaks. Cindy said right away, "There is a pretty good chop on the water, so I'm not bringing my camera along!"
I decided that I'd bring my 1D camera body, her big 28-300 lens (Her pride and joy) and my flash, because I wanted to try a few different things with lighting to see if I could get a different look. Like I said, this is all I had thought about for the past few days. When you've got that photography bug as bad as I do, it tends to control your thoughts.
So I got Cindy loaded up and out into the water. A beach entrance on a kayak can be tricky because of the fact that you have no way to get into the kayak with anything on the ground to hold it steady. So once she was in and paddling towards the giant school of jumping mobulas, I finished loading up my kayak, (I was bringing extra compact flash cards and all 3 of my camera batteries because we planned on being out for awhile) and I started to get into the water.
The waves were coming in mildly, and I had to walk my 14' kayak into waist deep water to get in so the entire boat would be off the shore. The camera was sitting in my deck bag, a bag that is water resistant nylon, to keep splashing water off of it, but not waterproof by any means.
As I was crawling into the boat, a nice wave came and knocked me off my balance which made the camera start to teeter. I lunged for the camera just in time to grab it before it went into the ocean. What happened next was enough to make a grown man cry!
The momentum of me diving for the camera and not being stabilized by anything but the boat, had me way off balance. I was trying to recover without tipping the whole thing over, but after a few minutes of looking like a drunken penguin, the worst case scenario happened. I went in the drink with camera in hand.
I think time stood still for a few seconds as I was underwater thinking "Hopefully this is just a bad dream and I'll wake up having just wet the bed or something bad like that!" But when I put my feet down and pushed up on the sand, I instantly came back to reality knowing that I had just ruined close to $8,000 worth of camera gear in a few seconds.
All our gear is pro quality gear, and is supposed to be able to handle splashes and some rough handling, but nothing short of a $1500 water-tight case can protect a camera from full submersion in salt water.
I came shooting up out of the water and was practically running on the top of the waves. I made it to the truck in record time and set the camera on the hood when I realized the keys were in my deck bag which was still upside-down on the kayak.
I ran back into the ocean, dove under water to retrieve the flash, my two batteries that were now floating on the bottom like a couple of rocks and right the upside down kayak itself. OH MY GOD, how could this possibly happen?
The next few minutes probably looked comical to anyone standing on the shore watching me run back and forth to the truck like I was a paramedic returning to the ambulance for rescue supplies. At this point, Cindy was still paddling out towards the jumping fish I wanted so badly to take pictures of, and was clueless to my sheer and utter panic.
As I was trying to frantically dry everything off on the front seat of the truck, I heard Cindy yell, "Hey dumbass, your kayak is starting to float out to sea!" She hadn't seen any of it and was just thinking I was still standing at the truck getting ready to paddle out. Little did she know, that her camera lens, the one that she had said "Why do you have to bring my lens out? You had better not let anything happen to that or else!" was now having salt water poured out of it.
I could feel needles popping out of my spine not wanting to turn around from the safety of the truck and have her see all my gear on the seat, filled with a thick salty residue.
When I finally did turn around and she realized I was soaking wet, I saw her face go white with fear. Her lips started trembling as she said "Tell me you didn't tip over already!"
I just stood there knowing I was at fault. Why on earth hadn't I taken the half hour to get all our Pelican Boxes out of the storage bins? The ones that hold the camera gear dry and protected on the deck of the kayaks. I normally go through the hassle of getting out all this extra equipment, but I had become so cocky after the last month of paddling these calm ocean currents, that I thought "Why go through all that hassle every time when you never tip over?"
I swear, I just wanted to sit and cry right there in the sand. Now of all people, I will be the first to say "It's just a piece of equipment, I know I can replace it!" But we're in Mexico, it's hard to even find a place to buy batteries, let along a camera repair shop or even a camera shop in the first place.
When Cindy finally got out of her boat, I thought she was going to come up and knock my head off. She just walked up and looked at all the gear with her lip trembling and said "OH MY GOD, I told you this would happen! You've ruined our trip!" There it was, the proverbial "I Told You So!"
Just as she was saying that, I started to take the battery out of the camera and about a quart of salt water just poured out when the battery door opened. That was just the icing on the cake, and she stormed off to walk home. I was honestly thinking she'd walk all the way home to Michigan at this point.
I said what I always say in a predicament like this, "Cindy, it's just a materialistic item, we can replace it!" But she wanted no part in my calming down speech, and kept waking down the sandy shoreline towards our campground.
So here I was left on the beach with all this ruined camera gear sprawled out around the truck trying to dry. I loaded up the kayaks, and if things couldn't get worse then they already were, while trying to back out, I buried the truck in the sand.
Remember the part about a grown man crying, well short of tears streaming down my face, I was as close as you could get to fully bawling my eyes out. While getting a full lesson in humility, I got out and aired down the tires as low as I could, and spent the next half hour digging myself out.
By the time I pulled back up to the street, Cindy was walking the dogs towards the truck when she asked "So how long were you stuck for?" I just gave her a look, you know, one of those looks, and drove right past.
By the time she walked back to the campground, she had cooled down enough and apologized for yelling so bad at the beach. She said, "You're right, they are just materialistic things, and they can be replaced; so lets forget about it till we get back to the United States and can send them back to Canon to get fixed."
Then she added one more stab to the gaping open wound when she said, "And don't plan on using my camera now that you've ruined yours!"
The rest of the night I don't think we said two words to one another, which is hard when you live in 200 square feet of space. I spent the night with a fan blowing on all of my gear, and tried to wipe everything down as best I could.
I'm almost positive it's all a lost cause, but what else was I to do? I just couldn't stop thinking about how stupid I was and why hadn't I gotten out the waterproof boxes? This would be the second time in only a month I've gone against two of my own rules. Don't rush, and do it right the first time.
Last time I did something in a hurry, I tore off the rear scissor jacks while trying to pull out as fast as I could. And rather than load the camera gear up the right way, I get cocky and think "I haven't tipped over in the last hundred times out on the water, why get out all that waterproof gear?" Then I go and tip over, and I don't have a single picture to show for it.
Needless to say, neither of us slept too good that night. We both stayed awake all night not saying a word to one another. I knew Cindy wanted to just scream at me, but what more was there to say when I already knew how stupid I was? She knew I felt like that too, so except for continued apologies from me, there was nothing more to say.
The Next Day - Monday March 31st
We had planned on going out on a fishing trip to try and take some pictures with one of Congo's Awesome Sport Fishing guide boats today, and being as neither one of us really slept much last night, I was up and getting stuff ready by 6am. Cindy had already been up for a few hours and was working on the computer.
I asked if she was coming, to which she replied, "No you go by yourself, I think I need some time away from you today." So I apologized again, and grabbed her camera and a few more lenses and headed for the docks. Hopefully I would be able to stay above the water today.
Theresa said she had one boat going out that only had one gentleman chartering it with a young man going along, and that was who I was going out with. So I introduced myself to Richard and Eric, and we headed away from shore with a light fog hanging over the water.
While the 1st mate was rigging the rods and getting the boat prepped, Richard and I made small talk and got to know one another. That's just what I needed was something to get my mind off of what had happened yesterday. Besides, there is no use in crying over spilt milk as they say.
It was within the first 45 minutes when we heard a line get snapped from the outrigger and we knew we had "Fish On!" as the 1st Mate was running for the reels.
The rest of the day was spent with Richard and Eric reeling in numerous Dorado, Richard landing a small Mako Shark, and Eric fighting a 150lb Marlin for about 45 minutes. Needless to say, it was a good day on the water.
On our ride back in; we were 20 miles out at one point, we spotted pods of dolphin, a few sea lions, and one Humpback Whale that kept breaching far out of the water.
Richard was kind enough to give me a steak from each fish they had caught, which just about stuffed our freezer full with today's fresh catch. The rest was going to be donated to the local elementary school here in Los Barriles where Eric's mother and father teach.
I guess Richard has been coming down here for years now, and has sort of adopted Eric to help him with his schooling and education. Each year Richard makes a large donation to this school to try and help them out with food and supplies. He told me that he also works for Pepsi Co., and what ever he donates, Pepsi doubles. So last year they gave the school close to $15,000 dollars in much needed support.
He explained the Mexican government only gives the school $50 per month to feed the kids, and the rest is up to the children and their own families to provide. So even though they normally wouldn't keep the 150lb Marlin, they thought that the 100 lbs of meat they would get off of it would be greatly appreciated by the local school kids.
We all agreed that normally we preach Catch and Release, but since this was going to such a good cause, it was justified.
I know when I got home and showed Cindy the large portion of meat I had gotten in exchange for a copy of all the pictures I had taken, she had a smile on her face.
Neither of us had any idea how to cook the Mako, so Cindy went and asked Theresa how to prepare it.
Teresa said "I think you put it in some corn meal, if you know what that is?" Cindy laughed and said "Girl, I was raised in Tennessee, we used Corn Meal in our diapers instead of talcum powder!"
So Cindy rolled the Mako in a corn meal batter and fried it up and man, oh, man was it delicious. Some of the most tender meat I've ever eaten in my life. Not fishy tasting at all.
By this point, we were both over the camera mishap, and agreed to try and not bring it up anymore. It was a hard lesson learned, and one I know I wont forget for a long time.
Wednesday April 2nd 2008 Leaving Los Barriles for Cabo
It was a hard decision to make, but we decided to pull up stakes in East Cape RV Park, and head further South for Cabo. We had been contacted by the editor of the Gringo Gazette, a local American newspaper, who had asked if she could use a few of our photos in the publication.
Her offices are in Cabo, and we were headed that way, so I emailed her saying when we get into town, we will call her and meet up.
Driving South from Los Barriles to Cabo isn't all that much fun. Once you get anywhere near Cabo, you hit a 4 lane highway, that was just bumper to bumper traffic. Something that we hadn't seen in over a month, and one of those things you never want to see, especially in a third world country.
To drive in Mexico, you must be 100% alert at all times. Between the motorcycles, scooters and ATV's that split traffic lanes, to the drivers who just don't think they need to obey the stop signs or merge lanes, this wasn't a fun drive to say the least.
Even though we said we had wanted to see Cabo San Lucas, just to say we had seen it, we were both ready to just roll right through without ever stopping.
We did find the campground that Lindsey had recommended, Villa Serena, and parked the camper for the night. I walked to a pay phone and called Lindsey to let her know we had arrived, and she said her and her fiancée would meet us there in an hour or so.
The afternoon was roasting hot, and the slight breeze blowing off the ocean that was in sight felt great. Lindsey and Louis, pulled up and we sat around in the shade getting to know one another over a few cold ones.
We decided to head downtown and grab some dinner where we would have a great night of conversation and good laughs. This young couple had some great stories to tell, and Louis being from Mainland Mexico, kept us laughing all night with his different stories of childhood and growing up between the two countries.
By the end of the night, we felt like ol' friends, and hadn't talked a bit about the pictures or the story we had originally planned on. That's what made the night so great, it was just casual conversation about adapting to life in the Baja for us and this couple who had just moved from New York. Talk about a culture shock!
Thursday April 3rd 2008 Leaving Cabo for Todos Santos
Waking up to our dog scratching his ears uncontrollably isn't the best way to start the morning. The past few days, Luca, the big dog, had developed a case of something in his ears that he wasn't too fond of.
Lindsey had told us about a local veterinarian that they had used and trusted, so we called her for directions and drove the dogs downtown to see if we could get him fixed up.
I thought that since his ears are big, and always drooped over, keeping them taped up might allow some air to circulate in there and dry up the moisture. I put some cloth tape on the ears, pinning them together, which he seemed to love. He stopped scratching them and was as happy as could be.
But this didn't cure it 100%, and there is no need in making him suffer, so the vet would give us the details on what we needed to do. Hopefully this wouldn't break the bank with the cost of the vet's charges.
About an hour in the vet's office, he had taken a sample of the ear canal and looked at it under the microscope, which ruled out ear mites. He told us it was probably just an Yeast Infection in the dogs ear canal, which he said is very common with some dogs, and can be caused by their food.
He gave us some drops and said if it doesn't go away, try switching his food and taking him back to a vet once we get back to the United States. When I went to the counter to pay the bill, it said $300! I thought "Oh Man, these dogs are killing me!" But the woman said "300 Pesos"
That's only $30 American, which included the prescription medication. Not nearly as bad as I had expected, and I thought, man, I should have the doctor look me over while we're here.
We said goodbye to Lindsey who had met us at the office so I could give her a CD with some images on it, and left for Todos Santos. We figured driving through Cabo, with the 200 t-shirt shops and all the cruise ships in port was about enough as we needed of this big city.
Before we left, we stopped at the first Wal-Mart we had seen south of Ensenada. Our cupboards were looking mighty bare, and we thought we might as well stock back up for the next month.
Once on the road North, we were both happy to see almost no traffic going our way, and everything headed towards the hustle and bustle we always try and avoid.
It only takes a few minutes of driving North along HWY 19 before you're back into barren mountain sides lined with thick cactus forests. With the big Pacific Ocean on our left side, we were having trouble keeping our eyes on the road because of the beautiful views along the coastline.
Todos Santos is only 50 miles North of Cabo, but might as well be on a different planet for the diversity between the two cities. This little art community is almost all American ex-patriots who were in search of a simpler life and chose this little seaside village in Southern Baja.
You might recognize Todos Santos from the legendary Hotel California the Eagles made so famous. You know the one that you can never leave...I guess it's a major tourist attraction now and people take tour busses up from Cabo to come see it.
There is only one campground in the town, and when we pulled in, Cindy said "I'll tell you right now, if it means driving at night in Baja, I'd rather risk it than stay here."
The Camp Host came out to greet us, and over the multiple barking dogs chained up in the place, the first thing she asked was "Are your dogs nice?"
Cindy said "Yep, and they don't bark either!"
She said, "Good, because those damn dogs never shut up!"
We asked if there was anywhere to camp along the beach, as Todos Santos is about a mile inland. She told us about Playa Los Cerritos which was about 7 miles back down the road. But warned us that the surf can be very dangerous, they've been know to run people off and we might get stuck in the sand, and it's dry camping.
We said, "We'll give it a try", and whipped around heading for the beach.
Between Mile Marker 64 and 65, we found a graded dirt road with only a small sign for Los Cerritos Beach Club & Surf. We figured that had to be some kind of joke, since why would there be a beach club out here in the middle of no where?
But after a few miles of bumpy washboard dirt road, we pulled up to a beautiful beachfront tiki bar, overlooking some amazingly huge surf pounding the secluded shoreline.
There were cars everywhere, surfers playing in the water, some tents set-up on the beach and a few motorhomes who had found this secret surf spot along the beach. I walked up to the bartender asking if there were any rules to camping along the beach? He just said "As long as you don't set-up your camp right in front of the bar, you can camp anywhere you want."
Now most of the places we've run into on the Baja, are pretty laid back, but this brought me back to my days of working as a cabana boy on the beach in South Florida. Cerritos Beach Club has luxury beach chairs, tables and umbrellas set up in front of the tiki bar. On top of that, they have a few servers, good looking ones that Cindy was already eyeing, who were serving drinks, lunch or anything else you might request right to you on the beach. I think we found home for the next few days!
It was amazing how calm the waters were on the Sea of Cortez side just a few days ago, but here on the Pacific side, we were watching 6-8 foot waves pounding the shore. Surfers were everywhere enjoying the constant supply of rollers coming in, and to sit and watch them, was just as much fun for me as it was for them to get pounded by Mother Natures awesome tides.
When Cindy and I were walking up to the beach, a young guy asked us about our camper, the usual, if it was a rental. We got to talking with Brad, an American who actually worked here at the bar who told us some info about the place.
Cerritos Beach Club is going to be a top notch resort area when it's finally finished. Right now they are just in the developing stages, but the bar is as top notch as I've seen here in the Baja. Phenomenal service, very reasonable prices and just the right amount of Americanism to make you feel at home, but still let you know you're in Baja.
I liked the big plasma screens showing the Speed Channel over the bar, the tables on the beach with propane fireplaces in the center, and the beach rentals which included surfboards, boogie boards and jet skis if you were brave enough to take your chances with the pounding surf.
Brad even said they rented Lap Tops by the hour if you needed to catch up on some emails while at the beach relaxing. Now, I've seen internet cafes, but never the rental of the lap top itself and especially not on the beach with a salty margarita to go along with it. This is as top notch as they come!
I think we sat talking with Brad till the sun set and most of the surfers had retired to their tents along the beach. As the night air got a bit cooler, one of the waiters brought out nice thick Mexican Woven Blankets for us to cover up in while sitting out on the beach. Does it get any better than this?
When we camped along Playa Santispac, we were lulled to sleep each night with the comfortable sounds of the calm ocean water lapping at the sandy shore. Tonight we sat listening to the surf booming as it struck the shoreline like thunderstorms off in the distance. The cool breeze blowing off the Pacific Ocean had us fighting over the blankets, but surely not complaining for the perfect sleeping weather.
Friday April 4th 2008 Kicking Back in Los Cerritos
One thing I've never understood is laying out in the sun? I've never been one to just sit and fry myself while sitting still for any length of time. So when Cindy woke up and said "I just want to lay on the beach and listen to the waves all day." I thought "Oh man, this is going to make for a long, boring day!"
I put our biggest lens on the camera with a 2x extender and sat beside her watching the surfers play in the waves. Only problem was, the surf wasn't nearly as good as it was yesterday, so none of the good surfers who were so fun to watch were in the water today.
I basically had to sit and watch a bunch of tourists take their 20 minutes lesson on surfing, before they went and fell with each passing wave. It was fun to watch, but after awhile, I just wanted to go give them a hand. You start to feel bad for them.
While scanning the beach, I found a few women laying out topless, so it wasn't all that bad of a day. I did get to play Mr. Peeping Tom, that was till Cindy rolled over and said "What the hell are you looking at?" I just said "Oh, there is a cool dog playing in the water down there."....LOL
When it started to smell like the bacon was done, we both decided to get out of the sun and go find a table with some shade. One of the beach vendors selling hand woven blankets asked if we were interested, and he could probably see SUCKER written on my forehead.
Next thing you know, I've bought us a nice, warm, authentic Mexican blanket. Of course Cindy was saying "Why do you waste our money on stuff like that?" I just said "I feel bad, that guy is carrying 20 blankets up and down the beach trying to make a living, and I happened to like that blanket."
Of course, as soon as the sun started setting, Cindy has the blanket draped around her saying "I'm glad I have this blanket to keep me warm!" I should also mention that after I bought it, she says to me "You bought blue, we have nothing blue in the camper, I'm going to go find the guy and exchange it for a color that better matches our interior colors." So this made her feel like she made the final decision on the purchase. What ever floats her boat.
After dinner, Cindy says "I'm going to lay down and read till you come to bed and we can watch a movie." It wasn't but 5 minutes later and I can hear her and Luca having a snoring war in the bedroom. What the heck? It's only 8pm!
She wakes up at midnight and yells from the bedroom, "Are you going to stay up all night long!?!" I just laughed thinking, in our past life, we didn't even get busy at the bar till 11 or 12 at night and those last few hours building up to Last Call were when you got your second wind and really worked your butt off.
Here she is yelling at me because I'm staying up SO LATE and it's only midnight! How funny it is to see what two years away from the bar will do to our lives.
Saturday April 5th 2008 Another Day at Los Cerritos
This beach is too hard to leave. We've been camped only a few miles from Todos Santos, yet haven't been able to leave our beach side campsite to go explore it.
Today was no different, as proof by Cindy waking up bright and early to lie on the beach some more. Between the sun bathing, and multiple walks with the dogs, we spent almost the entire day watching the waves crash along the shore.
I had mentioned to Cindy yesterday that none of my pictures were turning out due to the haze from the water. But we realized today that it's not haze at all. What happens is the sun heats up the sand, and when the cold Pacific water hits the hot sand, it steams up. The steam is then blown across the sand and looks like a haze or fog.
It's cool to watch, but makes almost any picture I take look like I have gauze over the lens.
Overlooking the beach, the American who bought all this property to build the resort is in the process of having his own house built. From the looks of it, it'll probably be over 20,000 square feet of house! I'm not sure why anyone would need a house that big, but who knows, maybe he has a big family? I just know that we've lived in 200 square feet of space for the last 15 months, and seem to be quite happy.
Maybe he'll let us move into a walk in closet or something small like that when he's finished.
Today, all the workers who are building the cinderblock foundation of the huge structure, took their lunch break and played a game of soccer, or football as they call it down here. It was funny to sit and watch these guys play soccer along the beach. You would think they were playing for a trophy, as many times it became a full contact game.
After another long walk on the beach with the dogs, we heard some nice jazz music coming from the tiki bar. We put the dogs back in the camper, and headed over to see where the great music was coming from.
We found a nice comfortable chair, and spent the afternoon being entertained by a local musician who was amazing on the violin. Daniel Siqueiros plays this electric violin like Jeff Beck plays the guitar. It was amazing how fast this mans fingers could move and the sounds he could get out of this little violin.
We sat watching and listening all afternoon and just loved every second of it. This little tiki bar on Los Cerritos Beach just never seems to amaze me.
Sunday April 6th 2008 Happy Birthday Dad
Today I was determined to get some good pictures of the surfers. I've figured out that if you walk along the rocks that line one edge of the shore, you'll be in front of the sand that has all the steam coming off of it and wont have that haze over the pictures.
Cindy said she was content reading her book and spending one more day trying to exfoliate her feet in the sand, so I grabbed the camera and went for a hike along the rocks.
Once you get out a few hundred yards, you're actually right in line with the surfers and the waves they're catching. It's almost like being in the water with them, and was a great place to just sit and watch the waves roll in.
Another interesting tid-bit I found out was, if you sit still on the rocks long enough, the local crab population will start to crawl on you to see if you're edible. I know if Cindy would have been with me, she would be cracking up.
I'd be sitting down on the rocks, looking through my lens when I'd feel something start to crawl on my foot. I'd look down to see a little black crab trying to taste me with his claws.
This would usually result in me screaming like a little girl and kicking the thing back into the water. As soon as my foot would move to kick it away, I'd see the whole layer of rock move around me with other crabs scurrying back for cover.
Once I was done taking pictures, I came in and said "I thought we were leaving today?" Cindy said "I'm ready, are you?" So we got in the truck, and pulled around the parking area to get ready to leave, when I came up with a great idea, "What if we just move closer to the beach?"
Cindy replied very enthusiastically, "Hey, that sounds great to me!" So we just moved about 100 feet today, and took the dogs for another long walk down the beach.
I was telling Cindy how cool it looked from out on the rocks, so we ventured over there so she could see the wild lava rock formations. I asked her to sit right near the waters edge where every now and then a big wave would crash, sending water about 10 feet in the air.
She hadn't seen this happen, so had no idea what was in store for her. She kept saying "What is taking so long?" as I pretended I was adjusting the camera settings. When I saw a nice roller starting to form behind her, I said "OK, smile pretty for the camera!"
Just then, a monstrous wave came crashing in underneath her and erupted all around her. I'm amazed that she stayed dry, as the wave was a little bigger than I thought it was. But the look on her face was so worth the admission cost. She was scurrying away from the edge faster then those crabs were earlier in the day.
Our evening ended with the sun setting North of us, as we're below the Tropic of Cancer. I mentioned to Cindy, "This is the first time in my life I've had to look North to watch the sun set." We put my Mexican blanket to good use, the one I'm still getting flak for buying, and sat on the beach till it was too cold to watch the surfers trying to wait for that perfect wave.
I would like to say a huge Happy Birthday to my dad. I felt horrible all day today because I couldn't be with him, or even call him today. It's my father who instilled such a strong work ethic in me and taught me to be such a strong person. He is one of the main reasons I am where I am today.
I've always held him up on a pedestal because of his hard work and strong family values. Raised a dirt poor Pollack in Detroit, he was the first in his family to graduate high school, then went on to get his Masters Degree and work his way up through the ranks in Ford Motor Company. He started out working in the garage at World Headquarters and retired after 30 something years as an Executive with a nice pension plan.
He always taught us kids that we'd get no where without hard work, determination and always being true to yourself. There was never a dream of mine I told him that he wouldn't say "Work hard enough, and you can do that some day." He never told me my dreams were foolish, just that I needed to be determined and I could accomplish anything.
When we told him that Cindy and I wanted to sell everything and do what we're doing now, he said to both Cindy and I, "I love you kids and support you in everything you do, if this is what you want to do, then I'm very happy for you." He did say "It's not something that I would ever do, but I know traveling is something you enjoy, so you should go for it." Knowing we had his blessing made me feel more comfortable and knowing that our parents were happy with our decision is something you always strive for.
I only wish I could be with him more to spend quality time together. Something you can never have enough of when it comes to your parents.
Monday April 7th 2008 Leaving Los Cerritos for La Paz
We knew today was our day to head out from our little beach hide-away. We had been putting off the inevitable, but knew it would come sooner or later.
After one last long walk along the beach with the dogs, we got on the road and drove the few hours North to La Paz. There is nothing really fun to talk about between these two towns, but a whole lot of cactus, which were just starting to bloom. We did drive through Todos Santos, but did just that, and drove through it.
The town had a few tour busses parked at the square, and the streets were lined with tourists. The shops were all boutiques and not really anything that said "Wait, you should check us out!" So we just rolled on through and said, "Sorry, not our style." I would have liked to check out the Hotel California, but with 3 tour busses parked outside, something tells me it wouldn't show us too much charm with having to wait in line to see it.
I also think both of us were in some sort of funk today, as neither of us really wanted to leave Los Cerritos, but knew we had to. Once you start heading North, it's means you're on your way home, or in our case, back to the States.
We both knew that our next few days of driving would involve passing through areas we have already visited. What our goal is, is to try and make it to Bahía Asunción as quickly as possible, then once we're there, we can spend a few days exploring the area before we have to head back to the United States to be in Northern Arizona by the first week of May.
We've also come to the conclusion that we're starting to get strapped for time if we want to make it that far North in this short of a period. We normally like to travel at about the same rate as a turtle on valium, but know we need to pick up the pace.
Bahía Asunción is one of those areas we wanted to stop at on the way down, but the road is under construction and wasn't recommended for Chuck's bigger Class-A motorhome. We've talked back and forth through emails from an American woman, Shari a Marine Biologist, who came down here years ago, liked the area so much she decided to move down and ended up marring a local Mexican man. In one of the emails, Shari described the place to us saying they think we'll like it very much as it's one of the last in the Baja that is still untouched by the tourism bug. She said it's as close as you can come to seeing what Baja was like 20 years ago.
When we pulled into La Paz, we found Casa Blanca RV Park, where we had stayed with Noel and Jackie a few weeks back, and checked in for the night. We knew this would be our last time we would have full hook-ups for awhile, so I topped everything off and emptied the black and gray tanks, making sure to flush them real good.
Cindy caught us up on laundry, and we were in bed early watching a few movies. Not that we went to bed early, because we ended up watching 3 movies and finally calling it a night well after 4am.
Make sure to check out our Los Cerritos Gallery
Los Cerritos to La Paz
We passed through one military checkpoint where the guard asked me to open the door of the camper, but only looked inside and said I was good to go.
Tuesday April 8th 2008 La Paz to Puerto Escondido
Driving from La Paz North, you travel through many different types of terrain. At some sections you can see the beautiful Sea of Cortez, from high up on a mountainside. Other sections you're in the middle of a barren desert that reminded me of the images the Mars Rover sent back to Earth.
One thing that has amazed me on the Mexican roads are the amount of shrines the locals build for those who have been killed in automobile accidents. These shrines dot the road sides from time to time, some being only a simple cross, while others have erected an elaborate shrine that is just amazing.
Just North of La Paz, there are two shrines that we had to stop at to get some pictures. These were the largest two we had seen in the Baja. What is so amazing to me is you have to remember that many of the local Mexicans live in run-down, shacks built out of any scrap material they can find. Many of these homes have no electricity, water or those basic essentials we take for granted back in the United States.
Yet, out in the middle of the desert, and I mean 100 miles from anywhere, you'll find one of these elaborate shrines magnificently built out of stucco. Some have multiple rooms and some even had electricity run to them so at night they could stay lit up. It just goes to show the respect the Mexican Culture holds for their loved ones after they pass on to the afterlife.
Between stopping at a few of these beautiful shrines along the road, we also found a unique roadside shop that was loaded with various indigenous animal skulls. I was going crazy here. I have a wild collection of Skulls from various travels of ours that I have now had to put in storage. When we lived in our stick built home, we kept many of them displayed in our house in my grandmothers china cabinet that Cindy also kept her collection of antique perfume bottles in. I know, quite the contrast, but it makes for fantastic conversations when people look into the antique china cabinet.
So when Cindy saw me walking up to the truck with a large Mountain Goat Horn, she just rolled her eyes saying "Where do you think you're going to put that?" I just smiled and said "I'm going to mount it right on the hood." To which I got one of those looks of disgust I'm so used to by this point in our marriage.
After too many hours of driving, we pulled in to Puerto Escondido for the night. This is the area we had talked about when we were in Loreto with Chuck and Sandy. On one of our days of exploration, we had checked this area out, but had decided not to move down here. This is also where we had found the Yacht Club that was abandoned, yet still had a book exchange in the old hurricane ravaged building.
This worked out perfect, since we had 4 books that we were finished reading, and we knew this exchange had a few books we were interested in.
It is also free to park along the waters edge and camp for the night. Cindy grilled up some amazing hamburgers that she topped with thick blue cheese and crispy bacon along with some grilled fresh red peppers. Man do I love her cooking.
We both fell asleep listening to the sounds of the fish jumping along the protected waters of the cove. That and someone out on one of the sail boats playing a saxophone, which was very surreal. The way it echoed off the surrounding hillsides and lulled us to sleep was like I was already dreaming with my eyes open.
La Paz to Puerto Escondido
One military checkpoint where the guard looked in every cabinet in the camper, then told me "You have good day, Mister."
Wednesday April 9th 2008 Puerto Escondido to San Ignacio
Since we knew Loreto was one of the last big towns we would see for the next few days, we stopped and had our propane tanks topped off ($15 here compared to the $45 it cost me in California) and also had our bulk fresh water tank refilled.
So far, we've used 93 gallons just for drinking in the last 38 days of being in Baja. This bulk tank has come in very handy and is a much better way of not using the small plastic water bottles which create too much waste. I'm still amazed how they can fill the 35 gallon tank in the bed of the truck, and only charge me $2.50? It also burns my ass every time I remember getting 8 gallons refilled in Mulegé for $8.
Once we had these little items taken care of, we drove North past all the beautiful beaches that were so packed the last time we came through here. This late in the season, they were empty and disserted, which made them look all the more appealing. But we had an agenda now, and needed to keep moving if we wanted to keep it.
After Santa Rosalia, with a tear in our eye, we bid farewell to tropical waters of the Sea of Cortez and started our long climb up the mountains away from that beautiful coast. The next time we would see water, it would be the Pacific Coast, and much farther North.
After hours of driving through empty desert, rimmed with some distant volcanoes, we decided to stop for the night in San Ignacio. This little campground was as picture perfect as they come. Nestled right beside the lagoon and rimmed with those big, beautiful date palms.
While Cindy cleaned the inside of the camper, I got out the hammock and strung it up on the waters edge between two big palm trees. When Cindy came outside, she said "You're crazy if you think I'm going to get in that!" I laughed asking her what she meant?
One of the times while we were staying in Playa Santispac, she went to get in the hammock and the rope came loose which dropped her hard on the sand. This time she pointed out that if anything came loose, you were going to end up in the lagoon.
So I braved the risk of relaxing in a hammock beside a tropical oasis, while she said "I'm going inside to work on the computer." I was fine with that, I had a new book I had exchanged from the Puerto Escondido Book Club, and a few cold cerveza's I needed to see if I could polish off.
The best part of this campground is, there is no noise. It's set far off the road, and except for the constant sound of the wind blowing through the palms, that and the few birds swimming up to check me out, I had the place all to myself.
No better way to finish a long day of driving.
Puerto Escondido to San Ignacio
Thursday April 10th 2008 San Ignacio to Bahía Asunción
It's hard to leave a campground this picturesque, but we were starting to get excited to see new places and a town that would show us what Mexico is really about. That's what we were told Bahía Asunción would be like.
Diane, a woman I've talked back and forth with on Baja Nomad, had made sure to tell us that "The road out to the little village would be rough in sections, and that the sand drifts sometimes hide the road, but we shouldn't have too much of a problem."
Mike & Terri Church describe the road as "This is a long, rough, lonely road across Baja's dryest desert" in their Camping Mexico's Baja book.
The first 20 or so miles are paved, but potholed pretty bad. For most of the road, I was able to drive right down the center of the two lane highway, as we only passed one other vehicle, or I should say they passed us.
No matter which direction you look, the landscape is flat, scrub brush all the way to the horizon, blurred only by the heat waves coming off the white desert sand. Then we started seeing signs for something, but they were in Spanish, so we couldn't make out what was coming up. Cindy looked at our map which gives explanations in both English and Spanish and said "We're passing through some sort of Biosphere Reserve?"
I'm not sure what that meant, but we came over the top of a hill and our jaws dropped. If I thought our past few days of desert driving were eerie, then this was another dimension for sure.
There were salt flats that stretched for miles on each side of the road. At one point, I came to a complete stop and shouted "What the hell is that blowing across the road?!" Up ahead there was big pieces of dried salt tumbling over top of the narrow road way in the strong winds.
This was just getting creepy. As we passed over the salt flats, I got out of the truck to snap a picture, and was instantly shocked by the temperature drop. The wind was blowing something fierce, and the temperature had probably dropped 20°. Cindy started to get out, but then jumped back in the truck saying "Oh my GOD, what the hell happened to the temperature?!"
For the two of us, who were in shorts and t-shirts, going from high-70's just a few minutes ago, to the mid-50's was quite shocking. All in only 20 something miles. I got back in the truck and turned the heat up and we trucked on.
Our next obstacle was when I said "Does the road turn, or does it just stop up ahead?" Cindy looked through the big camera lens and said "Nope, the road is covered in sand!"
Looks like we might have to use 4-wheel drive on a Mexican highway.
We sat there looking at the big sand drifts wondering how soft they were and if we were going to get stuck out in the middle of no where. Just then I noticed a truck approaching from behind us, our second vehicle we'd pass in over 20 miles. We decided to wait and let them pass through the sand first to see how soft it was.
Little help that did, as the truck was a full size 4x4 that never even slowed down. It just barreled off the road and bounced through the sand along the edge with no problems.
Well, worse that will happen is we'll get stuck on a main road...LOL So I put it in 4-wheel-high and drove through the smallest sections of the drifts. Just when you think you would start to get stuck, the tires would burry themselves through the sand and grab ahold of pavement and pull you through. I'm not sure how good this was for the driveshafts, but it pulled us through with no problems.
Once on the other side, we stopped to let the dogs out to run in the middle of the road. How often can you say to your dogs "Go on, run around in the middle of the highway!" and not worry about them getting hit?
Just past the big drifts, the road splits with one route taking you up to Bahía Tortugas and the other taking you to Bahía Asunción. We've heard that the road up to Bahía Tortugas is longer and much worse than the shorter route to Asunción. They're in the process of paving the road out to Asunción, so the first 10 miles is newly paved and as nice as can be.
While we were cruising along this beautiful section of road, we spotted a big saguaro cactus right along the edge of the road with a giant nest in it. We were both looking at the nest when we saw a big Horned Owl pop up and look at us.
I locked up the brakes and we sat watching as the momma owl perched over the fuzzy baby in the nest. We got to see the mother swoop down on some prey which it sat and ate in a nearby tree. It then flew back and sat watching us watch her.
A few trucks passed by us and would stop to see if we were in need of help as we were sitting right in the traffic lane with our flashers on. I figured we didn't have to worry about too many vehicles since we had only seen a few the last couple of hours and there was no shoulder to pull off onto. But it was nice to know that if you're stopped, the locals will all stop to ask if you need help.
When one of the truck drivers asked if we were all right, I pointed to the owl and showed him my camera. He then turned around and the passenger got out and crawled into the bed of the truck with his camera so they could also get a picture.
Once we were bored with the owl, or I should say Cindy was bored with looking at the owl, we moved on. I find it very funny that we carry our house behind us, and when Cindy says "OK, I'm bored with just sitting here." I told her to go in the camper and take a nap or make some food, or read or just do anything she wanted to do. I really wanted to sit and watch these owls and see if I could get some cool pictures.
She just says "No, I don't want to take a nap." So we start driving and not two minutes later, who asleep in the passenger seat? Oh man, I normally let her sleep, but this time I kept making sure she stayed awake.
Once we got to where the road was being worked on, I know why Diane had warned about larger RV's trying to make the trek out here. They have you detoured into the desert along some rough, makeshift roads. Even with our camper lifted, we scrapped down the backsides of many of the steep inclines.
Up to this point, I had kept saying "Chuck could have made this trip no problem, I don't see why she warned us about the roads."
But once you get into the dirt sections, I knew immediately what she was talking about. Chuck would have had to turn around and head back had he tried to make it in his Class-A. In my rearview mirror, I did see what looked like a larger Class-A coming down the road, but we never saw it once we got into town, so I'm wondering if it had to turn around?
After you get through the construction, you get to what many tell me all the roads in Baja used to be like. A narrow road/trail that is made up of a mixture of sand and gravel, and 100% deep washboards along the entire stretch. We've been on hundreds of dirt roads, many with bad washboard, but none like this.
I tired to pick up speed and see if we could just coast along the tops of the bumps. This made it almost impossible to hold onto the steering wheel, and I was afraid, or should I say I knew I was going to break something if I stayed driving like that.
The last 10 miles were slow going. Very slow going. Cindy would try and talk to me and we would both end up laughing because the sound coming out of her mouth was being bounced like a little kid bouncing on their parents knee.
When we finally reached the little fishing village of Bahía Asunción, we both let out a cheer when we hit the paved streets. I know I'm going to have to replace the shocks when we get back to the states now.
Pulling through the narrow streets of Asunción, we had no idea what we were looking for. I had spoke to Shari a few times back and forth through emails, but had forgot to write down all the specifics she had told me once we got into town. I did remember that she described her place as being out on a point, so we drove till we saw a little stone house on a windy, rocky point.
I knocked on the door, but no one answered, I then walked down the street and interrupted a man working in his yard. We tried to talk to one another, but neither knew what the other was saying. He went in the house and came out with another man and woman. Not that it helped any, as neither of them spoke any English either. And me being the stupid Gringo couldn't even communicate with them enough to get some directions.
The man finally got on his cell phone and called someone. I thanked him and he told me "Someone will come who speaks English." Or at least that's what I got out of it.
I walked back and got Cindy, and as we were sitting there in what we thought might be Shari's yard, a young police officer pulled up. He walked up asking if we needed any help in very broken English. I explained that "We were looking for Shari." He told us she was in town and said he could take us to her. So we got in his truck, and he drove us back into town.
With his limited English, he told us she was with some doctors, and was busy taking care of them. When we pulled up to the beach, there was a group of women walking along, and Larry, the young police officer, introduced us to Shari.
I explained who we were, and she said "Oh great, you've finally made it." She introduced us to the group of women she was with who were all doctors. They had flown in for the weekend to set up a clinic to help the local village with check-ups.
Shari told us that she helps these doctors with lodging when they fly into town. The Flying Doctors visit Asunción a few times a year for the small local village to get advanced medical attention. The doctors volunteer their time and fly in for a few days with some pilots who also donate their services to help this small village. Now how nice is that!
We talked for a few minutes and Shari pointed out a spot that we'd be safe to park at near her house. We really wanted to park beside the beach, but there was already a camper parked there, but they said they'd be pulling out in the morning. We asked about a spot we might be able to eat at, and Shari pointed to a small hut one block away, and said "La Palapa, it's got great food and great service."
We thanked Larry for the drive over, and parked the camper near Shari's house. We then wandered down to the palm covered hut for some much needed dinner.
We walked in and asked if they were even open? The nice woman came out from the kitchen and acknowledged that they were, and please, have a seat.
The whole Palapa was maybe a 15' diameter, and covered with small wooden windows overlooking the very windy shoreline. She walked over to the table where Cindy and I were and just sat there looking at us. Cindy asked "Do you have menus for us to look at?"
The woman just said "No" with no expression. Cindy looked at me, and then asked "OK, what do you have to eat?" The woman thought for a minute and said a few items that we couldn't understand, but when she said "Tacos or Enchiladas", Cindy said "I'll have the enchiladas and he'll have the tacos, and two cerveza's please."
The woman left and went into the kitchen, where we could see her young, maybe 6 year old daughter, doing her homework at a kitchen table. Her son, who might have been 13, brought us out our beers and I said to Cindy, "I feel like we're intruding. This totally feels like were in someone's living room and they're making us dinner."
We sat watching The Simpsons in Spanish on a small TV set that was sitting in the corner on a folding table. We both laughed because the voices were much different in Spanish then they were in English. Homer's voice was very deep and scratchy, and Marge's voice sounded like she had lung cancer and was a 4 pack a day smoker. Lisa and Bart sounded the same, and Ahpoo (the convenience store owner) even spoke in Spanish with an Indian accent.
When we were finished eating a very good meal, I paid the young boy and gave him a $3 tip on a $11 tab. When he looked at me somewhat confused and I told him to keep it, he ran out the door. By the time we were getting up to leave, he had come back with a fresh soda from the neighborhood store, bought with his well earned tip and a big smile on his face.
We walked back to the camper, freezing the whole way. The wind was blowing so strong that the wind-chill alone had to have the temperatures down to the 40's or 50's.
I laid down in bed and told Cindy to wake me up in 20 minutes, I just needed to take a quick nap. Next thing I know, it's 3am and I'm getting up to take the rest of my clothes off so I can sleep a bit more comfortable.
It was a long day, and I was exhausted.
Ignacio to Bahía Asunción
Just North of San Ignacio, we did get stopped at a military checkpoint that I forgot to mention. The two young officers who came into the camper with me looked through everything very thoroughly and questioned me on many items.
When he saw my headlamp hanging above the bed, he kept asking me what it was? I put it on my head and turned it on to show him. He asked me "How Much?" I told him it was $10 thinking he was asking me how much I had paid for it.
He looked through his pocket and told me he didn't have enough. I then realized he was asking me how much I wanted to sell it for. When I told him he could have it, I thought he was going to hug me. His face lit up and he was all smiles.
I figured I can replace it at any Home Depot where I got it at, but to him, it was a big deal. So for $10, I felt good knowing I had made someone's day.
Friday April 11th 2008 Spending the day in Bahía Asunción
For how little the waves are here in this small protected bay, you'd think we were listening to a winter swell pounding the North Shore of Oahu. Waking right near the waters edge, the sounds of the waves and the morning gulls is one of the best alarm clocks I can think to open my eyes to.
The day looked beautiful, and the winds that were so nasty yesterday afternoon were gone. We grabbed the dogs and went for a long walk down the black sand beach.
The sand isn't as black and course as the black sand on those famous beaches in Maui, but it is a dark grey, and really makes all the bright shells stand out from the contrast.
Walking along the beach, it was hysterical how Luca found a liking for the local crab population along the waters edge. Never before had we seen him take notice to anything in the water, but when I pointed out one of the small crabs trying to scurry into the sand, he went after it.
At first, he'd eat them whole; claws, head and everything else he could get down his big sandy mouth. After about the fifth one, he had learned that if he held the body in his mouth, he could shake it vigorously, which would knock off all the arms, legs, claws and anything else he didn't want. Then he would just eat the body where all the meat was.
Lucy wasn't that interested in eating them, she just wanted to play with the ones that were still fighting to get back in the water. So it was a little team action going on. Lucy would find them, play with them for a second, and then Luca would come up and grab ahold of it and eat it up.
I wasn't sure who was having more fun, these two and their new found appetite for crab, or Cindy and I laughing at their antics.
After a few hours of walking along this deserted beach, we came back to the camper for lunch. The other campers had pulled out, so we moved our Sunline right along the beach and set up camp for a the long haul. Shari came over to see how we were doing and one of the pilots, Rob, came over to introduce himself.
We all got to talking about our travels, with Rob telling us about some great hide-a-ways and secluded little towns they know of from flying in with the Flying Doctors.
Another one of the pilots came over and to see what was going on, and after meeting Bob, they invited us to dinner tonight with the entire group of Flying Doctors. They told us that Shari had a little beach bungalow in San Roque, which is another, even smaller, fishing town only a few miles from here.
We offered our BBQ Grill, the dorado we had from Fishing with Congo's Charter Service on the East Cape, and said since they were trying to cram all 10 doctors in one suburban, a few of them could jump in our truck and ride with us.
It was still early in the afternoon, so we made plans to meet up later as Cindy and I needed to walk into downtown and see if we could find one of the internet cafes. Amazing to me that we're in a town this small and they have two internet cafes!
By the time we got our blogs uploaded, answered a few emails and made it back to the camper, Bob was yelling from the beach house, "Hey, you guys want some Cerveza's?" Now, is that a great pick up line or what?
We sat around meeting a few of the other doctors and making plans for tonight. Bob was a very funny guy and had the kind of personality that put everyone at ease with his constant humor and jokes.
When the rest of the group gathered around, we all piled into our vehicles and headed down the sandy trail to San Roque. If we thought Bahía Asunción was what Old Baja was like, then San Roque was tried and true authentic Mexican fishing village.
Shari has owned a little cottage overlooking the beautiful Bahía San Roque for years, and the place was dripping with character. With an old church nestled in the mountains behind it, and a little cemetery on the shore, it was as picturesque as you can imagine.
The town is still without electricity or running water, and is really only used for a few months out of the year while the fisherman follow the catch.
When we had pulled into Bahía Asunción last night, the winds had a cool chill blowing in the breeze, but tonight the Santa Anna's were kicking and the strong winds were blowing like a blast furnace. It's hard to put it into words, but the setting sun over the bay, with the purples and pinks reflecting off the calm waters, the warm winds and the cold cerveza's....Lets just say "I think I've found home."
The rest of the evening was spent mingling with great people who were filled with fascinating stories. I've come to the conclusion that if you surround yourself with different people, it's hard to have a bad time. There are so many great stories from fellow travelers who have seen so many places around this small world of ours, I'm confused how anyone can sit still in one place and be content?
Just when you thought it couldn't get any better, someone gasped out "Oh my God, look at the moon!" Every one piled out from under the front porch where the Grill was sizzling up fresh dorado and BBQ Chicken, to see an amazing ring/rainbow around the half-moon.
I had seen these big rings before, but never in a warm climate. Every time I had every seen something like this, it usually meant it was going to snow the next day. I found it hard to imagine it snowing anywhere around our vicinity with this Santa Ana winds keeping us nice and warm.
But in the few minutes I was trying to take a picture of the Moon Ring, I did see 3 shooting stars cross the bright sky. So maybe something was going on in the cosmos tonight and I just had a second to see some of its beauty. What ever it was, it was magical.
Saturday April 12th 2008
I'm not sure who gets more enjoyment out of our beach walks, the dogs or Cindy and I. Today was no different. We walked along the beach laughing at the dogs eating their fill of crabs and chasing the birds along the waves.
I found some really cool bones, one bird skull and a large vertebra that I will have to add to my collection in the truck. Hopefully if we get stopped at the border, the Customs Officers wont think we're some sort of cannibals when they open up the tool box on the truck and find a pile of various bones scattered about.
When we had reached the two mile mark, we turned around to start heading home. I was carrying a really cool shell in one hand, and Cindy had another large shell that she was carrying. Luca walked up and looked at us, sniffed both our hands to see what we were carrying, then found a large shell of his own. He then carried it all the way home!
I think he wanted to show us that he had found something he liked. We kept asking him what he had, to which he'd show us the shell, wag his tail and jog off all proud of his new find.
We did see a few whales very close to shore, and couldn't believe we were still seeing them this late in the season. A sea lion and some dolphins also would pop their heads out every now and then to take a look at us.
When we got back to the camper, Luca dug a big hole in the sand, and buried his shell in it. He made sure to cover it up with his nose and pranced away like he would remember it on the next walk. I know this isn't unusual for a dog to do, but in the 3 years we've owned him, we've never seen him do this.
After our walk, Cindy and I wandered into town to meet up with the Flying Doctors and see how they were doing today. The women who rode with us last night suggested that we come by and see how they have the clinic set up. When I walked in and told one of the doctors that I wanted to take some pictures of their set up, she let me know that the two women who had rode with us were both Gynecologists, and it probably wouldn't be a good idea to take any pictures in that room...LOL
She did say that I was more than welcome to take as many as I wanted of the Optometrists room. That Picture is of Bob and Rob and two of the locals.
We sat talking with Rob and Bob about different events that we want to go to in the future, and Rob filled us in on a few tips about Burning Man. This is an event that we've been trying to make it to for the last five years and hopefully this year will be the one we experience it.
If we do, I doubt I'll be able to post any of the pictures of the debauchery due to the fact that clothing is optional, and most choose to leave their garments at home.
The Santa Ana's had blown in some serious heat for us today, so Cindy and I picked a few shady beach chairs in the shade cast by the camper and caught up on some reading. Normally there is a cool ocean breeze blowing off the Pacific, but today the winds were kicking out of the Desert, and it felt like sticking your head in a blast furnace.
Kevin, a retired Americano who lives here in Asunción, came walking over as the sun was setting and sat sharing some of his awesome pictures from various Baja scenes he has captured in the past six months.
Cindy grilled up some fish and we watched the sun go to bed toasting with some ice cold cerveza's. While we were sitting out watching the sun do it's show for us, a young Mexican boy came by and showed us his pet Burro. He had seen Cindy out walking the dogs on a leash, something most of the kids think is very funny, so he wanted to show her that he could walk his Burro with a leash also.
Sunday April 13th 2008 Take 2 with Mother Ocean
Just off the Bay is a little island called Isla La Asunción. Shari told us the island is teaming with Sea Lions which had Cindy and I jonesing to get the kayaks down for a paddle. The island would be a short paddle across the protected bay, and would offer us a chance to paddle up-close with some playful sea lions, seals and hopefully a whale or two.
While the sun was just coming on stage, I was getting the boats off the top of the truck. Cindy packed us up a huge lunch as we planned on being on the water most of the day.
The ocean was nice and glassy this early, and if we could make it over the smallish waves that were breaking just off the shore, we would be home free for the rest of the paddle.
After my last battle with Mother Ocean, the one where she had won and I had lost alot of camera gear to her, I made sure everything was packed up good today. No fooling around, and I had all the drybags and waterproof boxes out and filled with camera gear.
Cindy was a bit nervous because of the waves crashing along the shore, but we sat watching the rollers coming in and both noticed that they would come in with a predicable pattern. If I could get her out between the crashing waves, she'd be home free.
We counted off a set of waves, and as the water sat calmly, I started pushing her out to sea. While I was pushing her out, she started yelling for me to stop. I looked up to see a wave had come out of nowhere and was fast approaching her getting ready to break over the front of the kayak.
I yelled for her to start paddling hard, but she just sat still like a deer in the middle of the road with a truck barreling down on it.
I was already laughing as I watched the front of her 14' kayak head towards the sky, riding up the crest of a 3 foot wave that was breaking over the top of her.
When the crest of the wave hit her square in the chest, I could hear the air get knocked out of her with a loud thud. The kayak came tumbling backwards with her and everything else in the boat getting tossed into the cold waters of the Pacific.
Round two goes to Mother Ocean and this time she wasn't fooling around. This mean old lady had just tossed my wife into the surf and was now taunting me. Cindy came up screaming as the early morning water woke her up for real.
She grabbed a few of the floating pieces of equipment while I grabbed ahold of her kayak as the next wave almost knocked both of us back down. When we both got safely onto the shore, we sat laughing hysterically at each other once I knew she wasn't hurt.
"Just a bruised ego" she laughed, and we got to the chore of pumping the water out of her cockpit with the bilge pump. Once we had the boat emptied of salt water, we regrouped and came up with a strategy.
Every ten minutes or so, the waves would die down, and you'd have a few minute window of flat, calm water along the shore. Cindy sat in the cockpit while we waited for our window.
When we both said "Ok, here it is, let's go!" I started pushing her out while she started paddling like mad. But something was telling us today we wouldn't see the island.
Just when I thought she was in the clear, we both saw what we hoped we wouldn't see again. Another wave started forming a little farther out this time and was coming for her with some force this time.
Oh man do I wish I had my camera in my hand to get this on film. But here I am standing in waste deep, early morning, freezing cold, Pacific Ocean water; watching my wife get pummeled for the second time in only a few minutes span.
This time the wave didn't knock her all the way over, but it did come completely over the top of the boat and smack her in the chest again. She knew what to expect this time, and was able to hold her ground, but without her Spray Skirt on, the cockpit was completely filled with water again.
She was trying to paddle down the back side of the wave, but the boat was too heavy and just became a sitting log. The next wave started to form, and she knew she was in trouble. As she bailed out the side of the kayak, I was laughing for her to watch her back as the wave came crashing down on her.
When she came up for air, we were both laughing even harder this time, but she finally stood up and said "That's it, she wins, I'm done for the day!"
We got her boat out and back up to shore, where mine was sitting just itching to see some seals. That's two times in a row now we've tried to go for a paddle and have been foiled by the sea. Maybe something is trying to give us a sign, or maybe we just are too foolish to keep trying, but we werent going to be paddling today.
Just to rub it in, while we were sitting beside the camper sorting through wet clothes and gear, a pod of dolphins came swimming by. I looked at Cindy and said "I think they're taunting us!"
It took a few hours to get all the gear back up to the truck and cleaned off now that everything was covered in sand and salt water. The waves break so close to the shore here that they are filled with a silty sand. When they came crashing down on Cindy, they not only swamped the boat, but they also filled it with black sand and coated everything she was wearing.
The life jackets pockets were filled with sand, all her clothes had sand in ever seam, and she had sand in places she wasn't supposed to. As she got undressed beside the camper, I laughed when she asked if she had gotten all the sand off her butt. I looked and said "Are you joking, you have so much sand in your butt crack, that you'll probably clog the shower drain!"
The next few hours were spent cleaning everything off and putting it back away. By this point, I was starting to wonder what I had done to piss off the old woman in the the sea. I needed to figure out a way to calm her down and allow her to let me back on the water.
When the heat of the day died down, we loaded the dogs in the truck and drove over to San Roque. This little fishing village was so neat, but had yet to see it in the daylight. Last time we were hear, it was mostly dark, so we couldn't wait to see what it held in store for us during the daytime.
The village is empty, except for a few fishing shacks and some crumbling buildings. We parked the truck, let the dogs out and wandered around looking at the various huts that Mother Nature is trying to turn back into dirt.
There are power lines running through the village, but like many of the smaller villages here in Mexico, they only powered the homes when the generator was running. That power source had been long gone, so the power lines were just a reminder of years gone by.
There were various fishing boats sitting on the desert floor. Piles of Lobster Pots waiting for the next season to come along, and crumbling cars sitting in various stages of decomposition. It was a true ghost town in every way.
The weirdest part about it, was it was so peaceful, that if you offered me a piece of property anywhere along the Baja that we've visited so far, I'd probably ask for something right here.
With the rough road to keep people out, no power companies to worry about paying any bills to, and some amazing views of the Pacific Ocean right out your front door, I couldn't think of a better place I'd want to sit and retire at.
Maybe someday when we do retire, we'll try and find a place here. But for now, we just laid out a big blanket, and watched the surf roll in with miles of beach all to ourselves.
Monday April 14th 2008 Abalone Fishing in Baja
While we were out on the beach in San Roque yesterday, Shari came riding up along the shoreline on her horse with the two dogs clipping at its heals. She had ridden over from Asunción and Juan was pulling up in his truck.
They told us they were going to be staying in the Rustic Cabin for the week to get away from the hustle and bustle of Asunción. You know, the other village they have a house in that maybe has a population of 3,000 if every house and boat along the shore was full.....LMAO
We all sat around talking and Shari asked if I would be interested in going Abalone Fishing with Juan? Why not, I'm always game to try something different. And how could I say no when I don't even know what an Abalone is or how you fish for them?
Juan works for a Co-Op Fishing Company here in Asunción that most of the town is employed by. He sat describing how they fish for these giant mollusks that are making a big comeback now that the Co-Op is protecting them. Apparently at one time, they were over fished and their numbers were in harms way of becoming depleted for good. The Co-Op now has security patrols and radar stations along the shoreline to make sure that commercial fishing boats don't come in and over fish the delicacy that is so sought after.
When I said I had never seen Abalone offered on the shelf and asked how you even eat it? They told me that you buy it in a can, and Juan and Shari explained that it's more pricey than Caviar and usually in the specialty, high-end shops. That explains why I had never seen it before.
I guess the tender meat sells for $100 a kilo and most of it is shipped to Europe or the Orient where it is in high demand in very high end restaurants.
So after they told me all this, I was ready to go fishing this morning. Really I wouldn't do anything but ride along in the boat with Juan and his two other fishing partners. The set-up consists of a 3 man team with one man acting as the diver who finds the abalone and puts them in a netted bag that he carries with him to the bottom.
The two other team members stay in the boat the whole time. Juan is the boat operator and makes sure the boat isn't going to get smashed by the rocks along the shore. The other man in the boat is the Air-Handler and feeds the breathing hose to the diver that is supplied with air from a compressor on the boat. This guy also hauls up the full nets when the diver signals that his bag is full.
The Air-handler will weight a new bag, throw it to the diver who will swap the empty bag for the full one. While the diver goes back to work finding more abalone along the bottom of the ocean floor, this 2nd fisherman is hauling up the full bag and counting out the abalone. There is a limit on how many they can collect per day. There is also a limit on how small the abalone can be in order to be collected.
Before the sun was even up, I was standing in the protected cove with 20 other fisherman waiting for our Panga to float up and pick us up. Talk about being the odd man out. Here I am wearing some technical clothing, my knit hat and had running shoes on and a camera bag standing on the shoreline.
Milling around me is a large group of Mexican fisherman dressed like you'd expect any fisherman to be dressed. Some had thigh high rubber boots, others had hip waders or heavy duty slickers. The divers in each group were suiting up in their thick wet suits and most were looking at this little gringo with his big camera like he was an alien. It didn't help that I spoke no Spanish so I had no idea what they were all saying about me? First thing I'm going to do when I get home is take a Spanish language class.
So when Juan walked up and said "Good Morning" I was relieved to see someone who spoke English and could explain to this group why I was here. He looked at my shoes and let me know that I was probably going to get a bit wet. I knew that was a requirement, but I didn't want to be wearing Sandals or flip-flops since the cool morning air was already making my teeth chatter.
So when our Panga pulled up, I walked into the water knee deep right beside Juan and jumped into our boat that would ferry us to his boat which was moored in the cove. Juan introduced me to Hector, the air-handler who would stay in the boat with us for the rest of the day, and Martin, the diver who would be braving the bottom of the sea floor today.
We all got onto Juan's Panga, and found a place to stand while he motored out to their fishing locations. About 20 minutes later, we pulled up to a rocky shoreline where a few of the other pangas were already bobbing around in the rough waters.
I was a tad concerned when Juan kept motoring right up to within 50' of the crashing surf. I laughed to myself and was glad that Cindy wasn't with me right now or she would have been screaming that we were way too close for comfort. But I figured this is what they do for a living, so something tells me they know what they are doing.
As the diver strapped on his weight belt and made the sign of the cross with his diving knife, he jumped overboard and Hector started up the compressor. As Juan killed the boat motor and picked up a set of 10' long wooden oars, he began paddling to keep us clear of the thunderous waves that were crashing all around us, covering the boat with a nice salty spray.
I was surprised that within 20 minutes the diver was tugging on his line and Hector was tossing out an empty bag and hauling up the full sack. He heaved this huge bag over the side and went to work filling the plastic crates that were on the floor of the Panga.
I'm not one to eat much fish, and seeing what these big crusty things looked like up close, basically a monstrous snail looking specimen, I would never pay a dime to eat one, I don't care how good they taste. If one was on the small side, Hector would pick up his measuring stick and make sure they werent taking anything that was under the legal limit.
Once his crate was full, he would go to work to retie the net, all the while keeping an eye on the divers hose in the water to make sure he had enough slack and the hose wasn't getting tangled up in anything.
Looking around us, there were multiple Pangas with divers coming in and out of them and waves never ceasing to stop pounding the rugged shoreline. I was awestruck on how much work this was and how meticulous the fisherman were to never get too close to the shoreline, yet maneuver around in the rough surf like they were standing on solid ground.
I'll admit that I usually get sea sick when it comes to rough water, but maybe because the past few months of Baja fishing, my body is starting to get some sea legs about it. And I would never let myself, this little Gringo, get sick in front of these seasoned fisherman. That would just be too embarrassing. So I breathed deep and told myself I was fine, no matter how bad the surf was.
When we had pulled away from shore, it was around 7:30am, and by 9:30 we were headed back to San Roque with our days limit of 130 Blue Abalone and 30 Yellow. I guess the Yellow are a more rare species and fetch a higher dollar at market, but are also limited on how many they can collect per season.
We had seen numerous seals bobbing their heads out of the water along with a few dolphins who had swam past in search of their own morning meal. Two hours of hard work, and they were done for the day. That's my kinda job.
Once we pulled the boat back up to San Roque, there was a truck waiting to collect the days catch, before the fisherman were headed for home. I sat on the front porch of the cabin with Shari and Juan and toasted a cerveza to a good days work on the water. Really all I did was watch, but how can you turn down an ice cold beer with some new friends? Even if it is only 10 in the morning...LOL It's noon somewhere isn't it?
Now how can the day be topped after that morning filled with excitement? Keep reading and you'll see. Abalone Gallery can be seen here.
Well when I got back to the camper, Cindy had spent the morning cleaning the endless supply of sand out of everything, and had even shook the sheets out!
We walked into town so I could take a few minutes to upload some stuff at the internet cafe while Cindy did some shopping at the local market.
We got back to the camper and were relaxing in bed with our books, when we heard a knock on the door. In broken English, an older Mexican man was saying "Anyone home?"
I jumped up and said "How can I help you?"
He introduced himself as Ramón and asked "Are you enjoying your stay here on the beach?" I was thinking it was guy who owned the property we were parked on, because just this morning Shari had asked if the guy had come down and said anything to us. She said that "Every now and then, the guy would get ornery and kick people off his beach front parking spot. But if he hadn't come by yet, then you have nothing to worry about."
So this was the first thing that popped into my head. Ramón asked if I needed a beer as he was holding onto a Tecate. I let him know that I was fine and I had a fridge full of Coronas. That was my first mistake.
He proceeded to plop himself down in one of our beach chairs and started talking to me like we were old friends. Cindy had come out by now and introduced herself. We all sat around talking for a few minutes and the young Mexican man that was with Ramón was looking at him like he wanted to get going. Ramón would just say "Cool down, these are nice people. Sit, talk with us." But his young friend spoke no English and just stood off to the side in his truck.
After about a half hour, Ramón asked me, "Did you say you have Corona?" I said "I did" and he asked if he could have one. I went inside and Cindy grabbed me saying "Ok, this is sort of weird, who is this guy and why is he just sitting here like he knows us?" I just shrugged and said "I think the old man is drunk and just likes to talk about himself."
Working in a bar for so long, I'm an expert at putting up with drunken people, but Cindy was getting a bit nervous, so she came outside and said "Kevin was supposed to come over for dinner, I'm going to go see if he's ready."
Ramón asked me who Kevin was to which I questioned "If you lived here for so long, why don't you know Kevin, the big American who lives right next door?" Ramón just said "I do not know this Kevin you speak of, so I will wait and see who he is!" He asked me if he could go inside and use the bathroom, and I just sort of blew it off saying "Nah, just go outside" I didn't really want him in my camper but didn't like the fact that he just stood beside the camper to relieve his bladder. But remember Pat, you're in Mexico and this is the way the locals act.
Cindy came back and let us know "Kevin will be over in a few minutes." Really she had just woke him up from his afternoon siesta and explained what the situation was. He told Cindy he didn't know this man and would be over in a minute to make sure everything was Kosher.
I was starting to get bored with this Ramón, if that was even his name? He had introduced himself to Cindy with a different name, and the drunker he became, the less English he used. He kept talking to me and half the sentence was in English with the other half in Spanish. When I would tell him I couldn't understand anything he was saying, he would just laugh and tell me "Well you need to learn Spanish then!"
Normally I would just play along, but his friend who had now come over and sat with us, would look at me whenever Ramón wasn't looking and twirl his finger in circles beside his ear for the universal sign that Ramón was crazy. I thought to myself "Great, we now have the crazy town drunk sitting at our camper and cant get him to leave?" Then this young guys wife showed up and they left, leaving us stuck with Ramón for good!
Finally Kevin walked over and introduced himself and was able to talk with Ramón in Spanish. By this point, he had given up with the English and any communication with him was out of my hands. When he introduced himself to Kevin, he again used a different name, so who knows what his real name was?
It only took one beer before Kevin was through with this guy. He stood up and exclaimed "Oh Crap, I forgot my phone and Shari was supposed to be calling." He walked back a few seconds later and announced "Hey Shari called and invited us over for sunset margaritas."
Cindy's head popped out of the door and said "Margaritas, lets go right now!" This was our escape route. I stood up and said "Well Ramón, it was great meeting you, but we have to go!"
He thanked us for our hospitality and walked off. Cindy and I just sort of laughed and said "Thank God for Kevin!" Two seconds later, Kevin pulls up and who's in his passenger seat but Ramón? WTF happened here?
Kevin got out of his truck and says "Ok, here's the deal, he walked over to my house and asked if I could give him a ride home. We're going to drop the guy off and we'll be through with him."
So Cindy and I crawl into the back of Kevin's pick-up truck bed while Ramón and Kevin get in the cab. We couldn't hear what they were saying, but we were both laughing the whole ride because Kevin kept shaking his head and shaking the guys hand. Finally the guy got out and said "Goodbye" to us, we both waved and Kevin drove off. Wheew! We had gotten ride of him!
We circled back around to our camper and Cindy made us all a nice big dinner while we laughed about our days ordeal. You just never know who's going to come knocking on your door here in Mexico.
Wednesday April 16th 2008
After a casual start to the day - a light breakfast and a quick walk, I wandered into downtown Asunción to check some emails. Man I tell you, having to go to an internet cafe every time you need to send an email or upload anything really makes working on a computer a chore. What I'd give to have my mediocre Broadband connection on a regular basis like in the states.
I sat down there uploading a few galleries, which took an hour or more because of their un-Godly slow upload speeds. It's weird how most of the connections will have lightening fast download speeds, but an upload speed that will allow me to go wander around the town while I upload a small gallery of only 37 low-res images.
Once I was finished, Cindy came by and picked me up in the truck and we drove up to Shari's so we could get some info on a piece of property we're looking at, Shari just acts as our translator since she speaks such fluent Spanish. I know, call us crazy, but if I was to tell you what the real estate prices are here in this little town, I'm afraid there would be a traffic jam of Americanos trying to snatch it all up.
I did joke with Cindy telling her that I could probably make 3 or 4 phone calls to a few people back in our home town, and you might as well call Asunción by my home town name of Milford, there would be that big of an influx of Michiganders. Heck, I think if we were to take the money from the sale of our house that is funding this trip of ours, and sink it into property in this little town, we could become the majority stock holder in real estate.
So the trip isn't over, no need to worry, it's just that the prices are soo inexpensive, it would be foolish not to buy while we still can. I know in a few years the prices will be 5 - 6 times what they are right now.
One of the things that intrigues me about this town so much is it reminds me of all the books I've read about the wild west during the 1800's. The stories where people would pack up their life savings and move West to reinvent themselves. Basically you could move here and start up anything you want, since they have almost nothing. Anything you would open would sure to be the only one in town.
To get to a bank, you have to make the 80 mile drive to Vizciano. If you need diesel, it's also an 80 mile drive. No car wash, no ATM, no laundromat, no realtors, no bank, no post office, no copy center, no photo store, no bar that sells liquor and nothing except for a few small grocery stores and a few restaurants that don't even have menus, they just sell what ever they have to cook that day. But that's what makes it so neat. It truly is the Wild West.
One of the reasons we want to get some property here is they are in the process of paving the road into town, which will make that grueling drive seem like a nice day out cruising once the road is finished. They are also in the process of building a new hotel for when the road is done. So something tells me that the $80,000 lot prices of every other town we've visited here in Baja is going to be jacking up the property values here in Asunción in the next few years.
After we got the scoop from Shari, which I think only made me more confused...It seems that an American owning property here in Baja is next to impossible. You basically lease it for a certain amount of years and then have first dibs on renewing the lease. So you never really own anything unless you're a Mexican citizen. You can put the property into a Bank Trust where the bank will hold the title, but it's not like in the states.
We were driving back through town when I spotted Diane and John Trotter. I had been swapping emails with Diane on both Baja Nomad and RVNet about various places to visit in Baja for the past month or so.
This nice couple has been traveling the Baja peninsula off and on for the past few years and even traveled the entire United States in an RV right after they retired. So when I saw them, I whipped the truck to the side of the road and walked over to finally introduce myself in person.
The four of us sat talking in the hot sun for a few minutes before they invited us over to their house they have just built here in Asunción. The funny part is, once they told me which house was theirs, Cindy and I smiled at each other because I had already pointed it out to Cindy saying "Man I love that house right there, we should see if who ever owns it would sell it!"
The rest of the afternoon we sat in their living room, over looking the Pacific Ocean swapping stories and learning a bunch of new stuff about Baja. They are very neat people, and have hearts of gold. They have organized dozens of events here in Asunción to help introduce the local kids to Mountain Biking and don't do it for any reason other than they enjoy the smiles on the locals faces when they see them riding their bikes.
They've gone as far as helping to start a local mountain bike club and even got uniforms for the riders who make the team. Diane told us "The kids just go crazy when they can wear one of the coveted uniforms to show they are part of the new mountain bike team." She told us of a race this coming weekend and how exciting it is for the kids.
We finally excused ourselves after a few hours of keeping them tied up and headed for home. I tell you the people are so nice here, it makes it harder and harder to think about leaving each day.
Thursday April 17th 2008 The Nightmare of Wiring Money to Mexico
Since Asunción has no bank, we had to drive into Vizcíano, 77 miles one way, to see if we could get some money wired to us so we could buy this piece of property. This is much easier to talk about than it is to accomplish.
We made the drive no problem, we actually followed the grader out of town, so the excruciatingly bumpy roads we had crawled in on were now as smooth as a freshly paved highway. We did see a huge snake just sunny itself in the middle of the sandy road, and a giant red tailed hawk scanning the desert for some lunch, but other than that, the drive was uneventful.
Once into Vizcíano, we topped off our fuel since this is the nearest spot for diesel. Then Cindy used the phone to make some calls to our bank back in Michigan.
There was a crazy windstorm blowing through this barren area of the desert that had the town looking like a dusty devil was reeking havoc on the area. Getting out of the truck, you'd have to sit and wait for the wind to die down before making a run to the door of where ever you were headed into. If you got caught in the dust, plan on having your eyes pelted with a fine layer of sand that would sting like hell and make you duck for cover almost instantly.
While we were hurrying into the bank, we were approached by a couple of guys that asked if we were staying in Asunción? They said they'd seen our truck out there and were asking because they needed a ride back home.
One of them spoke pretty good English and we told him if they hadn't found a ride by the time we finished all our errands, we would be happy to give them a lift back home. Cindy was a little nervous when I told them that, but I reminded her that all of the people here go out of their way to help us, and the least we could do was help a few of them out when they were in need.
Once in the bank, the fun started. We first asked about Western Union, but they pointed us towards the other end of town saying they could only cash the check, but couldn't write them. That short sentence took about a half hour to get translated into English.
So we cruised town about 3 times, it's only about a mile long, but I'd be damned if we couldn't find that Western Union office. Cindy decided that she'd just do a cash advance on our credit card, she just needed to know what to do first. So we found a phone (This part is too long of a story to tell in and of itself, but we used someone's phone basically and called the credit card company collect) and Cindy found out all we had to do was have the bank call the credit card company and they would take care of the rest.
So we drove back to the bank and tried to explain to them that if they called the credit card company, they'd explain how to get us some money. Well after an hour of hand gestures, grunts, and half the bank staff explaining to each other that none of us could understand one another, we found out that the bank would only give us money if we had it wired in to an account.
So we said "Great, we'll just open an account."
Well an American citizen cant open an account in Mexico without an address, their passport and an FM3, which is a legal document that takes a few months to apply for. Basically we were screwed.
Oh, and there are no addresses in Asunción, since they don't get mail because the village is so small. I should change that, they do get mail but Diane told us it was only like once a month and only if the mailman knows you. She said that if you needed to get mail, there was a certain word you wrote down in Spanish on the envelope, (I don't know what it is?) and it means that the mail man knows who you are and you'll get the mail even though you don't have an address. I'm not lying.
So we left with our tail between our legs not knowing what to do. Cindy needed to call the bank again, and we had to find another phone. We found the guys that needed the ride back to Asunción, and they offered to give us a hand translating, so that we could all get back home faster.
He found a store that would let us use their phone to call the United States, and the girl just timed it with a stop watch so she'd know what to charge us. While Cindy was busy explaining our ordeal to our hometown bank manager, I sat talking with Horacio (I have no idea if that is spelled correctly?) and his brother.
Turns out he knows just about everyone we had spoken with today, and is either related to them, or has a tie to them somewhere down the line. He told us that he has seen our truck in Playa Santispac, in La Paz and in Asunción in the last few months. He was also one of the locals who stopped to see if we were OK when we were sitting in the road snapping pictures of the owl on our way into Asunción last week. We laughed thinking how small this whole place is that we keep seeing one another. I guess our big truck sort of stands out like a sore thumb down here and is hard to forget.
When we finally realized we weren't going to get anything accomplished today, we all piled into the truck and headed for home.
Horacio told us he was trying desperately to learn English, and asked if we could help teach him. Since we are trying just as hard to learn Spanish, the few hour ride home was a great language lesson for all of us.
He would point to something and tell us what the word was in Spanish, and we would tell him how to pronounce it in English. I know I wont remember anything we learned today, but if we could have conversations like we did today, everyday for a few weeks straight, then we'd probably be speaking the language in no time.
Horacio was so nice and offered us just about anything and everything he owned. When we apologized that they had to sit a little cramped because we had a laundry basket full of dirty laundry in the back seat, (another thing we were going to try and get accomplished today, but didn't) he exclaimed "Just bring it over to my house, you are more than welcome to use my laundry machine!"
When we told him about Cindy tipping over in her kayak because we wanted to go see the seals on the island, he said "I'll take you out there this weekend in my boat, Free of Charge!"
We mentioned that we were going to go check out Punta Prieta, another little fishing/surfing village about 30 miles south of here, and he told us he had a small house there that we were more than welcome to stay at for free.
He told us he was a fisherman and that if we came back during lobster season, he would drop off a lobster every night at our camper, for free. I mean, all we were doing was giving this guy a ride, here he was ready to give us the shirt off his back.
Horacio told us there was a Prong Horn Antelope Preserve about a Kilometer off the road on our way back home. He said "I'd like to show it to you since I know you like photography and animals."
So when we pulled off the road, he was just as excited as we were to see these cool creatures. We sat looking at them while he told us so much information about them, I was starting to think he worked here.
He said he just likes to come out here and watch them, and knows the caretaker very well, so he knows a lot of information about them. Kevin had told us about this place and how cool it was, especially since it was free, but if it wouldn't have been for Horacio showing us where to turn off, we would have missed it for sure.
It's just a little hand painted sign stuck in the side of the road, which leads you back a little two track trail to the Antelope. It's worth the stop if you're headed to Asunción, but I wouldn't recommend it for anyone in an RV, the road is rough and narrow and filled with tire swallowing ruts.
When we got back into Asunción, we dropped Horacio off at his house, and while we helped him unload his bushels of oranges he had picked up in Vizcíano, he unloaded a dozen fresh oranges on us.
He said "Now you know where I live, so my house is your house, you are more than welcome to use it anytime you like and please don't be shy."
As we pulled away, Cindy looked at me and said "I apologize for ever thinking any bad thoughts about giving them a ride home! They were two of the nicest people we have ever met!"
We dropped off the bail of Alfalpha we had picked up for Shari and Juan, and Juan's new shocks for his truck we had also picked up for him in Vizcíano, then stopped by John and Diane's.
We shared our days experience with them, as they know exactly what we had went through. Since they recently bought their house here, they've told us some horror stories about getting simple things like this done across international borders.
We all joked that getting nothing accomplished is very exhausting as Cindy and I were dead tired, and we hadn't done much of anything today but sit in lines talking to people, that and driving a few hundred miles for nothing!
Well we did meet two wonderful locals, learned a few Spanish phrases and got some of the best oranges I've ever eaten out of the deal, so the day wasn't a total bust.
Friday April 18th 2008 The Stakes get up'd in Baja
After yesterdays ordeal, we decided to not head all the way back into Vizciano today, and instead would try and get the Western Union office here in Asunción to wire the money in.
That didn't go very far since they said the machine was down and didn't see getting it fixed anytime today. Since today is Friday, that meant it probably wouldn't be fixed till Monday.
We ran into John and Diane and sat talking with them in the internet cafe. We made plans to meet up for lunch at a little restaurant they had told us about.
I finished up contacting the Mexican Lawyer we had been put in contact with who said he was going to get the paper work started for the property purchase and we headed off to lunch.
I'm not sure if this restaurant even has a name, as they just refer to it as Gloria's, which is the owners name. This was another one of those places where you don't look at a menu, they just tell you what they have to cook that day, and she pointed to a table beside us where she had just set down a heaping plate of great looking food.
3 of the 4 of us said "I'll take that!" The next few hours were spent listening to fantastic stories of their amazing travels all over North America and into South America where they used to do some teaching in the little villages along the way. It's so exciting to hear other stories of far away places and always makes me want to pack up and shove off for that next memory making experience.
Diane and John are both into photography, so it's also nice to talk to people who love something as much as Cindy and I do. They can relate to the goofy things we do to go out of our way to get those good pictures we are always after.
After lunch, with a belly so full I thought Cindy was going to have to carry me home, we went and grabbed the dogs and went for an hour long walk just trying to walk off some of the food.
Then we headed up to Shari's so we could meet the Mexican couple we are buying the property from and have Shari translate for us. It's funny because the woman in the Mexican couple can speak about as much English as we can speak Spanish, so talking with them is very comical and we usually all end up laughing at the absurdity of it all. This is why we keep going back to Shari's so she can translate for us.
With Shari as our translator, we were able to let them know that we couldn't get any money till Monday. What we needed was a cell phone so for all these calls we need to be making, we don't have to be standing at a payphone using the confusing calling cards. We saw a cell phone in Vizciano that only cost $40 and I was going to buy it, but the woman didn't speak any English and filling out paperwork that was in Spanish was impossible for me.
So when Shari told this couple that we didn't have a phone because of that reason, they told her to tell us they would take care of it. I didn't know what that meant, but I'd soon find out. He had showed us 3 pieces of property and when he asked which piece we wanted, I think we shocked him when we said "All 3 of them."
He then told Shari that he had one more piece but he didn't think to show it to us because of how big it was. All 3 of the other lots were off the ocean and basically just little small village lots. He told us he had another parcel that was over 2 acres on the ocean if we were interested? Now our ears perked up!
This piece would be big enough to split 10 times if we wanted to do something like that! Now were talking serious development...maybe a RV Park, a Hotel, a restaurant on the beach with a pool and a tiki bar! Man was my adrenaline flowing. But this changed everything!
Since we werent going to be able to get any money till Monday, we said we'd go look at the lot and would let them know on Monday. After looking at it, we both said "Yep, this is the piece!" The other lots were just something to sit on and hope the property value goes up some day and we might make a little money, but this piece was a serious piece of real estate.
We got back to the camper and both just sat looking at the waves with endless possibilities running through our heads. Just then the Mexican couple pulled up and Lizbeth, (That's the woman's name) handed me a cell phone with an envelope with the paperwork in it and the charger. They had just went into town and bought us a cell phone and filled out all the paperwork for us. She just told me that I owed her the $40 and we'd be even. How nice is that!?!
We should have done this right from the start, since we've probably spent $50 in calling cards since we've been in Baja. Now, instead of using payphones, all we have to do is purchase minutes at any Telcel office, and we can add more minutes to our Mexican phone. Verizon had told me we would have service all throughout Baja, but I've yet to be able to get a signal anywhere we've been, even in Cabo and La Paz, which are two huge cities down here.
With the full moon rising out of the Pacific, tugging at the tides and making the waves crash on the shore like a thunderstorm this evening, we watched the sun set over our future piece of property and both kept thinking about the endless possibilities this held in store for our future.
I don't know how Cindy went to sleep tonight? I just laid there with my mind racing listening to the thundering waves. We've always wanted a bar on the beach, would this be the next piece in the puzzle? Only time will tell.
For those who might be infected with this, I thought I'd post a warning a friend sent to me.
The Center for
Disease Control has issued a medical alert about a
highly contagious, potentially dangerous virus that is transmitted
hand, and even electronically.
Thought I'd share a bit of humor with those of you who might already be infected by this awful virus. Cindy and I were able to find the cure, but we know many are still battling with its affects.
Saturday April 19th 2008
We've owned Luca for over three years now, and he's always just been a playful dog. Just one of those happy-go-lucky dogs that always is happy to see you with a big sloppy kiss and a wagging tail.
So I was amazed this morning when we were walking along the beach and we watched him take down a seagull. Once we get away from town and don't have to worry about seeing anyone else walking, we let the dogs off their leashes and allow them to run up and down the beach.
This is the highlight of their day and they absolutely live for it. Normally Luca runs after the large flocks of seagulls that congregate along the shore. He's not one to go into the water, so the chances of him actually catching one of them is very slim.
I think more or less it's just the fun of making all these birds fly away screeching at him as they take flight.
So neither Cindy nor I thought anything when we watched him go running after another big flock this morning. That was till I saw one hopping with what looked like a broken wing. I think Luca saw it at the same time I did and his casual run went into a full on death sprint towards the ocean.
I stopped Cindy in mid sentence and yelled "Look, I think he's actually going to get this one!" The wildest part was the seagull was hopping towards the surf with it's gimp wing dragging behind it and just as a big wave was cresting, the bird rode the wave up and Luca lunged head first into the wave at the same time!
We both were just flabbergasted because here is a dog you couldn't drag into the water, and he's diving head first into a 3 foot wave going after a wounded seagull.
When the whitewater settled, there he was with a seagull in his mouth not really knowing what the hell to do with it. I think he was just as shocked as Cindy and I were that he had actually caught the screeching bird.
He carried it up onto the beach and just dropped it. He had this expression on his big floppy face like "Ok, now what do I do with it?"
I was laughing hysterically by this point, and Cindy was screaming for him to leave it alone. Lucy was even up to her stomach in salt water trying to show him what to do with it next, which was even more of a shock than Luca being in the ocean. Lucy hates water more than anything, so to see her with her feet in the water, let alone deep enough that it was touching her stomach was making Cindy and I question who these two dogs were walking along the beach with us?
Once we got him away from the seagull, he thought he was suddenly the fastest thing on four legs. When ever he would see more birds, he would go after them with a new found passion. It didn't take long for his newly formed bubble to be burst as he couldn't find any others that were wounded and would give in to his lumbering chases.
Although on our walk back, Cindy started yelling when we watched him lunge head first into another wave going after a low flying bird at about 20 mph. He just came swimming back up onto shore, shook it off and kept running along the beach with his slobber getting strung all over his face as happy as could be.
I do think us humans could learn something from the actions of dogs! If you cant eat it or hump it, leave it alone and go look for something new.
Asunción Mountain Bike Qualifying
John and Diane had invited us to go watch an event that they billed as "Fun for everyone involved" They both help sponsor the mountain bike team here in Asunción and today was try outs for new team members.
I wasn't sure what to expect, but they werent lying when they said everyone involved would have fun. When we walked up to the main street that was blocked off from traffic, we saw kids lined up on bikes ranging from toddlers with training wheels to teenagers on some fancy mountain bikes.
The next few hours were spent with local kids of all ages racing up and down main street for honors of becoming team members. The one thing that amazed me was how excited these kids were to just be out having fun.
I think back to my youth and of my young nieces and nephews. They usually don't do anything unless they have everything you'd need to accomplish the sport. I know my sister has five kids (God Bless her and my Brother-in-Law) and to see their garage is like walking into a well stocked bike shop. Even though some of the kids don't even ride their bikes, they all have helmets, gloves, knee pads, and usually get new bikes every few years when they grow out of their smaller models.
Here in this little town, you have kids racing on their sisters bike, or girls on bikes that are way too big for them. Most were sharing helmets between the races as there is a shortage of helmets and some of the bikes looked like something you'd see set out on the curb come garbage day in the states.
But did these kids care about a helmet or what they were riding? Hell no, the fact that there were on a bike was good enough for them. Some kids that looked like they wouldn't be all that coordinated would blow away their fellow racer who might be a few pounds lighter.
There wasn't a kid out there that wasn't giving it their hardest effort no matter how old they were. It was a great eye opener and true to their word, we all had a great time.
After all the kids were done racing, they even talked the mothers of some of the youth into strapping on some helmets to race up and down the main street for bragging rights.
If there is one thing we've learned about Mexican people, they like to have fun no matter what the occasion is and it doesn't matter what your age is either. They're just genuinely nice people who will go out of their way to help anyone around them in need.
After the race, we went out for dinner at Gloria's restaurant again. This time having some of the best food we've had to date in Baja.
Sunday April 20th 2008 Going for a Sunday Drive in Baja
We've been in Asunción for a week now, and except for our little day trip into Vizciano, we've yet to go explore any of the surrounding area.
John and Diane had told us of a few little fishing towns that have some great character and the back roads to get there can be a whole lotta fun themselves.
Cindy packed up a lunch and I loaded the camera gear in the truck, and we headed off for a Sunday drive in Baja. Only difference was here in Mexico, we'd be in 4-wheel drive most of the day.
John had showed us a two-track trail that he said follows the beach and was the route most of the locals took. After a few miles of driving along the dirt road, Cindy was already looking at me like she was ready to go home.
Washboard is putting it lightly when you talk about their dirt roads. So we jumped onto the two-track trail to see what that would be like. I knew it would be much slower, but I'd rather drive slow on a smooth track than have to drive fast to make the stutter bumps not so bone jarring.
Once onto the smaller trail, we both agreed we liked it much better. The views were great as it followed right along the beach most of the way, and once you leave Asunción, the beaches become completely deserted and you have them all to yourself. Not that the beaches of Asunción are busy by any means, but for the whole days drive, we passed two other vehicles that were both on the road.
Most of the time we were up on a big dune, so the views stretched out for miles in each direction. The winds were kicking something fierce today, so even though it was nice and warm out, if you got out of the truck, you needed a jacket on to keep the sand from pelting you. I probably should have had on a pair of goggles to keep the sand out of my eyes too.
At one point we dropped down off the big dune and had to cross a section of beach that was probably 5 feet thick of sea shells. This 1/4 mile section of trail was very strange looking and the tires made a sound like we were driving on broken glass.
To get out of the truck without sunglasses on was blinding on the eyes. The bone white shells reflected the sun light so strong that it was like looking at a welding torch. I've never seen this many shells in one location in my life!
The first town we got to was Punta Prieta. This little fishing town makes Asunción look like a metropolis. Much smaller in size and no paved roads. Just fishing boats and crab pots lined the shore.
The next town was San Hipolito. This fishing village was a little bit bigger than Punta Prieta, but still just dirt roads and a few shacks thrown together. They did have a little church that was very cool looking. John and Diane had told us that once we left this town, stay to the right so we could jump down into the mud flats which would be much smoother this time of year.
This area looks like it gets flooded out during the rainy season and would become a shallow lagoon. Right now it was a dried lake bed that stretched out for miles and was as flat and smooth as a freshly paved road.
There was a section that was hard packed to drive on, but if for some reason your tires were to go off the hard pack, plan on getting sucked into the soft dirt. We could see a few spots that looked like trucks had gotten very stuck when this had happened.
The flatness of the dried lake bed would play tricks with you eyes. In every direction you looked, the heat would dance off the surface creating mirages which made it look like there was water all around us. If it wasn't for the mountains off in the distance, I could imagine someone could get disoriented very easy and becoming lost.
We passed through a few more small villages before we got to Abreojos. By this point the winds had picked up so much that it was hard to get out of the truck. Every time you would open the door the dashboard would get covered with a layer of fine sand.
The town of Abreojos is loaded with Osprey and their giant nests. Every other telephone pole had a nest on top of it with a few baby birds that were the size of a large crow. Everywhere we looked we would spot a giant osprey flying overhead with a fish in its talons to feed their young.
We sat watching a few of the nests before we had to start heading home. By this point it was mid-afternoon and Cindy was worried about getting home before dark. Even though I had begged to stay out till the moon came up, since we knew tonight would be a full moon. I thought it would be soo cool to drive back down the two track trial under the bright moon light. But Cindy wasn't having it.
If we were to head out to the paved road, we probably would be late in getting back to Asunción, so we decided to just turn around a head back along the two-track trail. Since we knew the route already, we were able to make up on lost time and didn't have to get out to scout out the deep sandy sections. We knew to just leave it in 4-High and keep our momentum through those softer parts of the trail.
While crossing the mud flats, I was clipping along at about 50mph pretending I was in the Baja 1000 when we hit a big dip in the road which launched the truck up into the air. As I looked in the rear view mirror to see if kayaks were going to be bouncing behind me, I noticed the our ARE truck cap came up off the bed rails!! What the hell was it doing that for?
I told Cindy what I had just witnessed and told her to watch her side in her mirror over the next bump. Yep, as we hit another big hole in the road, she yelled "Crap, my side just came up in the air too!"
Remember when I said if you want to test anything on your rig, bring it to Baja. These roads are that brutal.
Other than finding out our truck cap wasn't bolted down any longer, the ride home was spectacular. We had the sun setting in front of us and tried to take the narrow trail the entire way. If I was to recommend this trip to anyone, I say the trail is 10x's better than the road. You go a bit slower, but you're right along the ocean the whole time and the views are outstanding. Remember 4 wheel drive is a must.
When we pulled into town, Cindy got to making dinner and I got out the drill and some heavy duty bolts. I guess when they had installed the cap, they just used a bunch of sheet metal screws to attach it to the top of the bed rails. I don't think they knew what type of tests we were going to put our equipment through.
I drilled out a hole on each side, and dropped in a Grade 8, 1/2" bolt with a Nylock Nut attached to it into the newly drilled holes. This is probably what I should have done in the first place, and once we get back to the United States, I'll end up removing all their sheet metal screws and putting two more Grade 8 Bolts on the front of the cap.
The problem was I normally keep a stock of these bolts in my tool box of various sizes, but since we've been down here, I've loaned them out to a few others who have had trouble with failing roof racks and broken parts on their trucks, so I only had two bolts left that were the right length.
While I was working on the truck, I had a few local residents who would stop when they saw my tool box on the ground and offer any help, but when I would point out that I was just drilling two holes, they would smile and I would thank them for stopping.
That was till we had one of the little kids on his mountain bike stop to watch me work. He sat talking to me for ever even though I kept telling him "No Comprende?"
I finally got Cindy to come out to try and understand what he was saying to me, which I think he was asking me if he could wash our truck for us? Our poor truck is so filthy that I'm sure the locals are even embarrassed to have it in their town.
The thought has crossed our mind to wash it, but what's the use? We have another 50 miles of dirt roads to get out of Asunción, and then the dust storms on the way out will just turn it back into a dust monger, so its a lost cause.
After awhile of us all blabbering to one another, with no one actually getting anything across, Cindy brought him in the camper to show him pictures from yesterdays bike race. He sat laughing at a few of them, and then got up and left with a big huff of frustration over something he was trying to tell us.
Cindy looked at me and exclaimed "Now how would come to a foreign country and not be able to speak the language? How stupid can we be!?!"
A few minutes later, we heard a knock at our door and Ricardo, had brought back his brother and another friend who were both in the race. He pointed towards the computer and to both of them, trying to say "Look you stupid Americans, these two were the ones I was saying should see those pictures! Now do you understand me?"
So the 3 young kids crowded around our small kitchen table and all got a good laugh at the pictures we had taken. I finally explained that I was going to burn a CD and give it to John and Diane so they could make copies for all the families involved.
The kids thanked us and left for the night. Probably laughing the whole way home at how ignorant we were for coming to their country and not knowing the language.
Monday April 21st 2008 Leaving Asunción
Even though neither of us wanted to, we spent the morning packing things up and getting ready to make the long drive home. We both had so many things running through our minds and both of us had to keep talking one another into leaving.
We wanted to start working on the property, planting some local trees, shrubs and vegetation so when we return next winter, the plants would be rooted and adding atmosphere to the property.
We drove up to the Trotters so we could say goodbye, and swapped our addresses and phone numbers for the States. We promised to keep in touch and knew we would probably be talking way more than we planned on.
Shari stopped by to say Goodbye, and we also paid a visit to Kevin so we could wish him well before we started down the long bumpy road North. The last time we had went into Vizciano, we had followed the grader and hoped the road would still be nice and smooth. NO WAY!
Oh my God was the road horrendous! I think it was even worse than on the way in. Our top speed was about 10mph, and that might be pushing it. At one point I thought I noticed a strap dangling off the back, so I told Cindy to grab the wheel of the truck. I just opened the door, stepped out onto the dirt road and let the camper pass by me.
Once I could see the back of the camper, I noticed a strap that I normally had tied to itself had bounced loose. The truck was idling slow enough that I was able to walk behind it and re-tie the strap. Once it was secure, I walked back up and crawled back into the truck while it was moving. Cindy was casually holding the wheel the whole time.
She even said "I have to go to the bathroom, no need to stop, I'll just go get in the camper while you're moving at this speed. Want anything while I'm back there?"
When she came back, I asked how it was inside the camper while we were moving, but she said "At this speed, the camper doesn't even feel like it is moving when you're inside."
We had wanted to make good time today, but at this rate something was telling me we should have left at sun up, rather than 12 noon.
We had hoped to make it all the way to Catavina, because once we left Guerrero Negro, which was only an hour north of Vizciano, we had a long way to go with not much in-between.
Most of the day was spent with Cindy quizzing me with our Spanish flash cards and talks of different ideas for what we might do with the property. Since we never make long term plans, we were just throwing ideas around and goofing around with all sorts of off the wall ideas.
As we headed far inland after El Rosarito, we hoped we could make it the last stretch before the sun set. There are no big towns between this little one store town, and Catavina, which is even smaller, but had a campground at least. We had counted six dead cows on the side of the road that had all become road kill statistics, and hitting one after dark when they wander onto the road wasn't something I really wanted to be thinking about.
As we rolled along watching the big red ball drop behind one of the soaring mountain tops in the distance, we were both getting a bit nervous. Cindy let me know that we had about 60 more miles to go, and we both knew we only had maybe 45 minutes of twilight left. Doesn't seem bad if we were on an American highway, but here in Baja, our average speed was only about 35 to 40 mph. Even though I was pushing the envelope at about 55mph, I knew we might be caught out in the dark.
What was worse, driving in the dark, or risking being parked on the side of the road in the middle of no-mans-land? We'd make that decision in 45 minutes I guess.
When the last bit of twilight faded and we were driving in the dark, we were relieved to know we only had a few miles left to travel. We pulled into Rancho Santa Ynez campground in the dark and were both relieved we had made it unscathed. We also made a note that next time we would know to allow for more time when traveling on a dirt road in Baja.
Tuesday April 22nd Another Long Day of Driving = Boring
On our trip into Baja, we had stayed in Catavina, but didn't get a chance to explore the boulder fields that make this area so unique. During one of our many talks over Tequila and cerveza's, I had argued with someone on this adventure that the Mars landing could have been filmed in Catavina, and no one would have argued that it wasn't another planet.
Between the house size, sandstone boulders that look like a child's building blocks scattered on the floor, or the Dr. Seuss looking Boojum trees that sprout up between the rocks, I cant even think of anything to compare this landscape to?
So with that in mind, I woke up before the sun this morning and looked outside to see what the campground had in store for us. When I opened the door of the camper, my jaw hit the metal steps. Luckily we were the only campers in the RV Park, since there I stood in my birthday suit just staring up at the sky.
In the early morning twilight, the full moon was just above the horizon heading home for the day. It looked too big to be real because of its closeness to the Earth, and with the cactus and Boojum trees silhouetted against the sky, I was already having a great day having only been awake for a few minutes. I yelled for Cindy to get up and look out the window!
I was dressed and out the door before she could even get the blinds pulled up. I wandered through the desert looking for a cool location to set my tripod, but everywhere I looked, my only thought was "This is just too beautiful."
Cindy came out with the dogs, and we hiked the trail leading out of the camping area into the middle of the boulder fields. The desert here in Catavina is much different than the barren, dry desert further south. This area is very much alive and blooming with fresh growth.
Everywhere we looked we saw bright flowers on cactus that normally looked dull and lifeless. The early morning sun was making the colors pop with a vibrance that made me think someone had spiked my drink with LSD.
We wandered around for a few hours till the sun got too high in the sky and we lost that perfect morning light for pictures. By this point we had hiked for over an hour, so we headed back to the camper so we could get on the road early today. We had to make it to Ensenada by tonight, and I didn't want to have to worry about driving in the dark again.
From Catavina to El Rosario, we had over 100 miles and my fuel tank was registering a 1/4 full. I emptied the 3 6-gallon fuel cans we keep in the bed of the truck, and knew that would get us there with no worries.
The rest of the day was more flash cards and NPR radio to keep the monotony from driving us nuts. In-between our Spanish language studies, Cindy kept talking about wanting a juicy steak. It had been so long since we had eaten meat, that I think she was going through some sort of meat withdrawal. A vegetarian she is not. This woman loves her red meat and potatoes.
She kept describing how she wanted a big juicy steak wrapped in thick Canadian bacon with a side of plump chicken with some ham stuffed inside, maybe a thinly sliced turkey breast for desert. A full rack of smoky BBQ Ribs and spicy Chicken Wings for an appetizer. With my mouth watering I yelled for her to "Shut Up already!" Now she had me dreaming of these tasty dishes we had gone so long without.
Food to me is just something to keep me alive, I don't dream about it or even think about it too much unless my stomach starts growling to let me know it's been too long since I've put something in it. But Cindy on the other hand thinks about it in her sleep. She's woken me up in the middle of the night to tell me about a dream she was having about making a new dish. I guess you cant tease someone for what they dream about, it's one thing you cant control in life.
When we finally pulled into Ensenada, we were both ready for a nice long walk to stretch the legs. We found the Estero Beach RV Park and Hotel, and checked in for the night.
This place is a little too expensive for our taste, but everything else in the area was within a few dollars, and this spot has great security to go along with its high price tag and beautiful scenery of a secluded estuary. Ensenada is not Asunción or any of the other small places we've been so used to. This is big city, and you can tell by the traffic, the noise and the street beggars. This was the Baja I really didn't care to see.
After the long day of driving with the constant talk of meat, Cindy told me "I saw a Applebee's in town when we were passing through. Let's go out to eat and get some real meat!"
We didn't have any food in the fridge, as we'd been trying to get rid of everything so we wouldn't be bothered coming across the border, so it was PB&J's or Applebee's. I normally hate anything corporate or having to do with a chain, but tonight I wasn't being too picky. It had been quite some time since we had eaten American food.
When we pulled into Applebee's, we both commented on the parking lot, and lack of empty places. "This place must be popular" Cindy said.
Then we noticed the news crews reporting in front of the entrance and realized tonight was their Grand Opening or some sort of big promotion.
The waitresses and hostesses were dressed like they were headed to a Prom dance. They were in black evening dresses, and the waiters were in black dress shirts and slacks. Nothing like the typical goofy outfits worn back in the states. But aside from the fancy outfits, the place looked like any typical Applebee's you'd find on any random exit along the expressway.
I guess you can always count on a chain establishment to look like the cookie cutter it was supposed to be molded after. Except for the menu being in Spanish, it was page for page the same as the last time I was in an Applebee's a few years ago. Luckily there was alot of pictures, so I could do like I always do when a menu has pictures, just point to what I want.
After a big meal of greasy American food, I was looking at Cindy with one hand holding my fat gut saying "What have you done to me?" We've gone for the last 45 days with only good, real food, and in one night you ruin it all with greasy chicken wings, deep fried cheese sticks and everything else I try and avoid!"
We both went home and crawled into bed in a food coma and slept like a couple of young kids.
Wednesday April 23rd Business in Ensenada
We had a meeting with a Real Estate Translator who would set up our property deal, and make sure everything went smoothly. Most of the day today was spent in an office building talking with a Notary who would handle our deal.
Notario's here in Mexico are nothing like the ones we have in the United States. They are very high up, and there are only a few per area, sort of like our judges in the states.
They have to approve the corporations being established and since there are so few Notario's per capita, they are very busy. The office we sat in most of the day had people coming and going non-stop like a beehive.
When we did leave for a few to go have some money wired to different accounts, we were busy fighting traffic and finding our way around this busy city. We got lost at one point and Cindy rolled down the window to ask a security guard for directions. She asked him in English and he motioned for her to hold on, picked up a hand held radio and said into it "Loco Blondie needing directianio" So for the rest of the day Cindy's new name was Crazy Blondie. How did this man know her so well when all she did was ask for directions?
To think that a few days ago, we were in a little fishing village with only a few hundred people in it, and here we are a few days later sitting in bumper to bumper traffic with the streets looking like downtown New York.
Hopefully we'd be out of here tomorrow, and on our way back to the United States.
After our long day was finally through, we stopped at Wal-Mart to get some food since our cupboards were bare. I was going to try and buy Cindy a birthday card since tomorrow is her birthday, but since I couldn't read any of them, I just explained to her why she wasn't going to get even a card, and we both had a good laugh.
As we drove home exhausted from the days events, I asked Cindy if 2.5 acres on the Pacific Ocean was a good enough birthday present for her, which she snapped back, "Oh come on, that's going to be my birthday present now?"
I joked and said "Ok, that wont be your present, but as soon as we get back into the United States, I'll stop at the first camera store and buy you a new camera, since we're back to sharing yours." She just looked at me and laughed saying "What I want is a real American steak, some juicy red meat that I don't have to worry is some old burro. Some good red wine and a waiter that speaks fluent English so we know what we're ordering and going to get. That's what I want for my birthday!"
Ok, I said, I'll try and get us to California by tomorrow night, and see if I cant get you that present. That should be easy enough. But then again, I think everything is pretty easy.
Happy Birthday Cindy!
Thursday April 24th
Ensenada is only 68 miles from the Tecate border, but those 60 something miles took us a few hours to tackle. John and Diane had suggested we try this border crossing rather than the hassle of the Tijuana nightmare that most Baja travelers dread.
We hadn't heard one good thing about crossing at Tijuana. Most told us to plan on waiting in line anywhere from a few hours to over four!! Tecate is supposed to be much faster, and just seeing what the town of Tijuana looked like made me want to steer clear of it.
The drive up and out of Ensenada towards Tecate is very beautiful and reminded me of driving through the mountains of Kentucky. Big boulders lined the peaks with small farms dotting the rolling hills as far as you could see.
We passed through one last military check point where the young guard asked me flat out, "Do you have any drugs?" I laughed thinking to myself "Does anyone every answer 'Yes' to this question?"
I let him know that we werent carrying any illegal drugs and he waved us on our way.
We pulled into Tecate and got into line for the border crossing. 40 minutes later and we were into the secondary check point where a very nice Customs Agent asked us a few simple questions. We got almost everyone of them wrong.
"Do you have any fruits or vegetables?" Yes we have one apple and one orange.
"Do you have any pork or poultry?" Yes we have some chicken breast we had just bought yesterday.
"Do you have any Eggs?" Yes a fresh carton we had just bought yesterday.
"Do you have any liquor?" Yes, a few bottles of tequila
So all three of us went into the camper where he took the chicken and the eggs, and I was allowed to eat the apple while Cindy ate the orange while we sat talking.
He was very nice and explained why we couldn't bring these items in to the United States. No big deal, we gave up the goods and he wished us well. I did ask if I could take a picture of all of us, but he said "If you even get your camera out in this section, they'll confiscate it." So I have no pictures to show of our crossing.
As soon as we were into the USA, my phone chimed up saying I had 45 missed calls. That I didn't miss. As one reader said in his email welcoming us back "Welcome to the Jungle!"
The next few hours were spent calling family members and catching up on long overdue conversations. The kind where you don't start out by saying "I have 4 minutes to talk, is everything ok at home and how are you? Got to go!"
By the time we pulled up to the Santa Fe Campground in San Diego, I think I had the start of a cellular Brain Tumor. I know that my ear was on fire already.
Cindy started on the long overdue process of laundry, and I did a few little things like emptying out the back of the truck from all our recyclables. We had a few full bags of plastic recyclable products we had used while in Baja, and this campground has a big bin for those type of products.
Cindy was jonesing to go out to eat, but when she pulled one of her afternoon "I think I'm going to lie down for a quick nap" sessions, I knew her birthday festivities werent going to be too crazy.
I did try and wake her up a few times, but I think the noon time margaritas had knocked her out. Around 9pm she finally rose from her birthday nap and said "How about Pizza?"
I had called our good friend Jeff who had recommended a place up in Solana Beach that was a big surf hangout and was known for their pizza and micro brewed beers. But Cindy wasn't having any of that. This campground had cable TV, so she said "It's my birthday, I'd rather lie in bed and veg out in front of good ol' American television." Something we hadn't seen in a few months.
I would have much rather had good pizza and wash it down with some home brewed beers, but it was the queens birthday, and she always gets what she wants.
From border to border, we had been in Mexico for 52 days, traveled over 3200 miles and have had one heck of an adventure. We came home proud property owners and learned that everything we ever thought we knew about Mexico was wrong. And that's a good thing!
We put together a Traveling Baja Page for the first timer. We thought we'd make one page that explains many of the things we learned while being in the Peninsula for two months time. By no means is the one stop answer for everything you'll question, but it is the answers to many of the questions we had to begin with.
Friday April 25th Back to Reality
I was on the phone first thing this morning with Canon Camera out of Irvine. They let me know I could bring the camera up and they would look it over to see if anything was fixable.
I called Jeff to ask him how long this would take to drive, which he let me know "If traffic was good, It might only take you 45 minutes, but if it's bad, it could go into the 4 hour mark!"
Luckily for me I had smooth sailing the entire way up. Fingers crossed the whole way hoping I'd find good news that they could fix it.
I gave the nice young lady at the counter my soggy camera gear , and she said I'll be back in a few minutes after I have a technician look it over.
Then came the news I didn't want to hear. I was the proud owner of the most expensive paperweight I never wanted to own. The camera was toast and so was the flash. The big lens might be able to be salvaged because it would turn on and try to work; something neither the camera body or the flash would even attempt to do.
So I guess I have to purchase another camera body to get Cindy off my back and get us back to having our own cameras. Trying to go out and take pictures is not fun when we're both saying "Give me the camera" every two seconds.
The rest of the day was spent pricing out various camera bodies and seeing what we could afford. Between the prices of having fuel doubled from when we planned for this adventure, the property we just purchased, and the ever growing camera bills, the money that we once thought would keep us on the road for a few years is rapidly dwindling.
It looks like we might have to find some jobs this summer. OH MY GOD, did I just say that awful four letter word? Forgive me, maybe something will fall into our laps
Lets all say some prayers that work doesn't have to be a four letter word.
Saturday April 26th 2008 Happy Birthday Derrick
I've been on the phone back and forth with Jeff the last few days. This is the great guy that allowed us to camp in his driveway before we left for Mexico. He was on the phone with me this morning asking me why I was wasting money staying at a campground in San Diego when I was more than welcome to camp in his driveway again.
After a bit of prodding (I hate to impose on anyone) we packed up camp and headed over to Jeff and Lori's house. Once we were safely parked in the driveway, Jeff pulled out a set of Scissor Jacks that our friend Mike had left over after he upgraded his camper to T-Type Jacks.
So we got to work bolting Mike's older Scissor Jacks onto the back of my camper. Funny that the same place I tear them off at is the place that I put the new set on.
That didn't take long and we had the Sunline sitting steady for the first time in the fast few months. What a difference those rear scissor jacks make. Probably because our entry door is in the rear, the rear scissor jacks make such a difference.
Once we were finished with the new jacks, Mike and his wife Julia came over and Jeff threw some fat, juicy steaks on the grill. Since Cindy hadn't got her American meat fix, Jeff said he would try to quench her hunger with some home cooked BBQ.
The rest of the night was spent with great company, awesome food and warm California weather. Man is it good to be home!
I have to throw a shout-out to my best friend Derrick, "Sorry I couldn't be with you on your big day, but hope you threw one back for me!"
Sunday April 27th 2008 Cleaning Day in Jeff's Driveway
While we were in Mexico, there was no reason to wash the truck or the camper. Water is a precious commodity south of the border, and what's the use when the dusty roads are just going to foil any plans to keep a vehicle clean.
Now that we're back in America, home of the paved road, it was time to clean the vehicles. I'm sure one of the reasons Jeff was so willing to help was the embarrassment of having these two dirt-ball vehicles parked in his front yard (Just Kidding).
Jeff has a great little power washer and offered to help clean both the truck and the camper today. Since California was breaking record temperatures with the unseasonably warm air reaching up into the 100's, washing a few big vehicles wasn't all that bad of an idea.
We washed everything on the camper, including the roof, the awning and Jeff even scrubbed the wheels. We then unloaded the kayaks where Cindy got to the task of cleaning all that Asuncion sand out of the bottom of her cockpit, while Jeff and I scrubbed the truck down.
Once we were done with both vehicles, we cleaned off the kayaks and shined them up too.
By the time we were finished, I didn't even recognize our rolling homes. I hadn't been able to see my reflection through Bubba's dust ridden surface in months, but now he was gleaming like the day he rolled off the Ford lot. My only problem with making him look so pretty is now I want to keep him like that at all times.
When we were in Baja, I didn't care if the truck had a two inch layer of dirt on the hood, something it had most of the time. But once you clean him all up, I hate getting him dirty again. Hopefully we'll be able to keep the shiny surface for a few weeks till we get up towards Monument Valley and head back into the unknown.
After a long hot day in the sun, we showered up and headed over to a little pizza place Jeff and Mike had been raving about.
Pizza Port in Solana Beach is a funky little shack that serves up some tasty pizzas and brews up some strong beers to wash them down with. This was just what the doctor had ordered after our long day in the hot sun.
After filling our bellies with high quality pizza, some of the best I've ever had, we headed home to bed which was one of those things I was really looking forward to after working in the heat all day.
Thanks Jeff for all your help in making our house look so nice!
Monday April 28th Redecorating the Camper
While we were cleaning the camper yesterday, Jeff had asked if I had anything I needed to fix or repair in the camper while I had full access to his never ended supply of tools.
I'm not the type to ask people to help me, so I just sort of shrugged it off with one of those "Thanks but no thanks!"
Problem was Jeff reads our blogs, so he came right back with "I thought you said you wanted to rebuild your living room cabinet?" I did, but I wasn't going to ask anyone to help me do it.
Before I could even talk my way out of it, he was in the camper saying "Look, this will be an easy job for the two of us and we can bust it out in a few hours" he was right. I hated how high I had placed the Flat Screen in the living room as soon as I built the cabinet.
Next thing you know we had the tool belts on and were tearing out the cabinets. Cindy just grabbed her book and headed for a shady spot with a lawn chair saying "You boys have fun!"
The rest of the day was spent measuring, cutting, drilling and redesigning our living room cabinet. It's always better to have multiple pieces of input when designing something. I would say how I thought I wanted it, and Jeff would think about it for a second before coming back with a better plan. This went on for most of the day till we packed up the tool boxes for the night to head out to Costco to do some grocery shopping.
After crossing the border, our Norcold refrigerator looked like the day they installed it. Except for a few beers, some condiments and a piece of dried up lettuce in one of the crisper drawers, we were fresh out of food. Opening up the door reminded me of my bachelor days.
Costco might not be the best thing for someone living in a small camper, but Cindy wasn't fooling around once Jeff showed her the amazing deals this place has to offer. Since Jeff does the cooking in their household, watching those two walk around the store comparing recipes and tips was like listening to a foreign conversation, so I just left them to their shopping while I went to fool with the electronics.
When they were finished filling a cart way over the legal weight capacity, the only thing I could think was "Where are we going to put all this stuff?"
We got home and Cindy spent the next hours stuffing the Norcold to the gills. Thank goodness I installed some Refrigerator Door Keeper to keep the doors from coming open on bumpy roads. Something that happened in Mexico a few times.
Once everything was put away, we watched The Fastest Indian with Anthony Hopkins. What a great movie and an inspiring one at that.
Tuesday April 29th
Today was one of those days where you realize there are still good people in this world. For the past few days, we've been camped in someone's driveway who has opened up their house, their workshop, their family and gone out of their way to make us feel as comfortable as we possibly could.
We've only know Jeff and his family for a few days, yet we seem like lifelong friends. He's spent the past few days helping me clean, rebuild and get ready for the next leg of our journey. It's people like Jeff Bettenga who make me want to keep traveling and give me the hope that there are more people like him out there. Those that don't worry about themselves, but want to make sure fellow travelers are safe, comfortable and happy while on the road. I cant say enough about the kindness this family has shown for Cindy and I.
We were finished with the cabinet early in the afternoon, and it turned out better than I ever thought it would. I cant believe when I was building it the first time I thought the television should ever have gone up that high. It was just too steep of an angle to sit and watch the monitor or try and sit through a movie.
Now it's situated at a very comfortable level, the computer is securely mounted and the cabinet is mounted up on the ceiling with more storage space than when we started.
As we were putting the finishing touches on the new cabinet, Jeff asked "What next?" This guy is just unbelievable. We put the tools away and drove over to Mike's so we could return the Wheel-less Trailer he had let me borrow while we were in Baja. From Mike's we drove to Jeff's warehouse where my motorcycle has been stored these past few months.
Of course I had forgot to leave my Battery Tender with Jeff, so the dang thing wouldn't start. Luckily Jeff had a set of jumper cables, and we were soon on our way back to his house. Hopefully with the Battery Tender charging it over night, it'll bring the battery back to life and I wont have to replace another piece of equipment.
We watched Into the Wild tonight to celebrate the living room television being lowered to a comfortable level. What an outstanding movie it was. I loved this book and have read it 3 times with each time enjoying it more and more. Sean Penn did an amazing job with the directing and should have won more awards than the few Oscars it did win. The Cinemaphotography is beautiful and even though I don't care to much for Eddie Veddar, the original music he performs on the soundtrack is very good.