Thursday, 3 February 2011

Baja Or Bust

As Richy told you we went to Mexico for Christmas break. Now of course being us we couldn't just hop on a a plane and fly to an all inclusive. That would be relaxing I'm sure, but not quite up to our level of adventure. Also we couldn't afford the flights! So with our limited means Janine set to work figuring out how to get to the sun. We are used to traveling with our house(boat), taking the boat was not an option it would take months. So the solution was to become land cruisers. Now people will tell you you can't take a rental into Mexico, but have you ever tried to tell Janine "no"? So after a bunch of research, she found a rental outfit that will let their vehicles go to Mexico. Camping World if you are interested. Now when you tell people in 1st world countries you are going to drive to Mexico they start going on about the dangers and the shootings and the drug lords. Reality Check! The week before we left 10 people were shot at 22nd and Oak in a gang related shooting! Janine walks past this locale every time she goes to work. To ease some of the worry we got in touch with some total strangers via email, they were going to be heading across the border the same day as us so we arranged a caravan. Safety in numbers. So on Dec.15(janine's mom's birthday), we picked the kids up from school at lunch and headed south. Yes, they missed a couple days of school but we won't let school get in the way of their education. No offence to all you teachers out there. We crossed the border without incident. Actually it was a really nice guy that saw our surf boards and asked where we were going. a big change from the previous trip. We made it as far as Portland the first day. On Dec.16th we were up at 5:30 and on the road. We made it to Buttonwillow, CA. I bet you've never heard of it. It is just north of Bakersfield. It put us 4 hours out of San Marcos, CA which is where we were to pick up the RV by 11am on the 17th. Now when Janine booked the RV online she was comparing the length of RVs to boats. Our boat is 46 feet long so a 31 foot motor home didn't seem to be very big. We arrived at Camping World San Marcos and saw the 31 footer. IT WAS HUGE! The kids were so excited, it was better than Christmas morning, which is fitting because as I said to them "Merry Christmas guys this is your present!". Camping World expedited a speedy check in, including the Mexican insurance (even if you take your own car to Mexico you have to get this). We were on the road in our new home by lunch time. We then did what all land cruisers do, we headed to the closest Walmart. We stocked up on a bit of food, we had been warned not to cross the Mexican border with too much food, and some other bits and pieces. We then headed east towards Tecate as this is where we were to meet our posse the next morning. We spent the night in a Casino parking lot because it is free, and Janine loves Casinos. Unfortunately this Casino was too smokey to spend anytime in. We discovered the DVD player in the RV didn't work..oh well. It was surprisingly quiet in the parking lot, We had a great sleep then were up at 0600h to go meet the other people. We first met Rich and Sherry, they are from Idaho and were driving a pick up truck towing a home built trailer. They turned out to be a great decoy through all the check points. The soldiers always wanted to look in their trailer and then just smiled and waved us through. We had heard horror stories of the rough skinny roads, but the roads were excellent... until we got to Ensenada. They got a bit narrower after this and there was a lot of construction, at least they are working on making the roads better. We made it to El Rosario that night which is where we met our other caravan member. They were 2 couples from California who have houses in La Ventana. They were both driving pick-up trucks with pop-top campers(this would be the ideal Baja vehicle). Gary and Terry, and Joel and Gayle. Joel and Gayle were the veterans having made this commute numerous time. Gary was a very tall" kid". He instantly clicked with the boys and I'm pretty sure Terry was relieved Gary had some body new to play with. We went to the famous Mama Espinosas for dinner. They are famous for there lobster tacos. The food was good and the company was great. Again it was reinforced for us that the best part of traveling is the people you meet along the way. Rich and Sherry took a very early departure the next day as they were going to try to get further, faster than the rest of us. The rest of us hit the highway at 0700h, we had a brief but longer than expected stop at the local "Starbucks" , where Gary gave us one of his walkie talkies so we could chat along the way. He kept us entertained with his vast knowledge of birds( he is as he says a" bird nerd", he completed his graduate studies in ornithology). He also worked on expanding the kids vocabulary. We stopped at the boulders in Catavana, huge boulders in the middle of the desert. Janine very kindly stayed behind to fix some lunch as the rest of the gang went exploring in the boulders. Her sacrifice was only partially motivated by her dislike for snakes. While she was getting the lunch put together a raven came right to the door of the RV and started clicking and cajoling. It had clearly learned that RV's are a source of food. The guys came back excited and hungry, which is really why Janine stayed back to fix some food. We were back on the road in short order. AHH yes the road. Well when previous Baja veterans told us about the roads being skinny, they were right. The road past El Rosario is 9 feet wide, our RV was 81/2 feet wide and there are NO shoulders if you swerve off the road you will likely lose both tires on the passenger side of the vehicle. We saw several vehicles in this situation. This is manageable until you meet a semitrailer coming the opposite way, which you do a lot! Just past Catavina we were passing one of these monster trucks headed in the opposite direction when BANG! Our driver's side mirror was taken out by the truck. At this point it must be mentioned that Gary is an incredible driver! It sounded like some one shot out his window and the mirror slammed against the window but he didn't even swerve he just kept us heading straight. Janine had every intention of sharing the driving until this point, but after that, there was no way she was brave enough to drive our huge RV an the skinny roads with the monster Semis. So Gary drove the 2000 mile trip, without any further incident. Our plan that night was to head to a beach called......We ran out of sunlight... forgot about the time change heading east, and you do not want to drive the Baja highway in the dark! The cows come onto the road for the warmth, so now you are dodging semis and cows. Gary and Terry were about an hour ahead of Joel and Gayle and us, luckily, G&T saw us as we drove past the beach they had stopped at and was able to call Joel and Gayle on the walkie talkie right before his radio battery died. We turned around and found G&T by the aid of Gary flashing a search light from the beach as we approached. We spent a great evening, with wonderful people, camped right on the beach with the Sea of Cortes lapping gently on the sand. There were sailboats sitting at anchor, a couple of them were lit up with christmas lights. Did we ever miss High Five! We agreed one day we will definitely come hang out down here on our boat. The moon rose up almost full just to complete the picture. We all slept well except for the occasional interruption by the dreaded semis using their engine brakes. The next morning we parted company. The others were off by 0830h, we were slowing our pace now that we had found some warm weather and nice beaches. Of course the kids started the morning by jumping into the ocean. They didn't stay in very long, it is not Caribbean warm! Well I wrote this post months ago but out computer had run out space to upload our photos, we solved that problem so the rest of the trip can be told with photos. The highlights were surfing at Los Cerritos, Hanging with Terry and Gary at their place in El Sargente, hanging with Raphael, Sharon and the kids and Grandparents in La Ventana, the kids getting to drive, our kiteboarding lesson and the scenery, and the best part as usual was the quality time we got to spend together as a family.

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