Saturday, October 31, 2009

Happy Halloween!

 We got up at dawn, which is easy when you go to bed at Baja Midnight, had our coffee in our outdoor chairs and began packing up. We left Playa Juncalito at 8:30 after saying our goodbyes to Tom and Cindy.

 Our drive took us 1300 feet above sea level in the first 30 miles through Las Gigantas Mountains, the same mountain range you see in the photo of our RV on this blog’s masthead. The rest of the trip was 180 miles of the flattest and straightest roadway, thus the easiest driving, anywhere in Baja. It was largely flat desert and agricultural land. We arrived in La Paz at 2pm and are now settled in at Campestre Maranatha on the west edge of town. This facility was established in 1950 by the missionary father of the current owner. There are dormitories and meeting halls for church groups (several are here now for the weekend) as well as spaces for RV parking. We’ll have full hook-ups for the next two weeks, including laundry facilities, so things are easy.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Our Last Day at Juncalito

We woke to clouds for the first time, so sunrise this morning was not as spectacular as usual. The wind was blowing about 10 knots and waves were crashing on the beach, but our new campsite was quite protected so we were still able to sit outside for coffee. We took a long beach walk in the morning, continuing our new mission: cleaning the world’s beaches of garbage (we adopted this goal a few years ago when we were visiting Costa Rica and now always take a shopping bag with us as we walk the beaches and collect “treasures”). The afternoon was spent sitting in our Lafuma chairs reading, with an occasional period of eye resting. About 4pm we were joined by Tom and Cindy from next door, as well as Rick, a new arrival from Redmond, Oregon, for our last happy hour on Playa Juncalito!

We broke up about 6:30 for dinner and then read for the rest of the evening. Cathryn has now mastered Baja Midnight, and fell asleep at 7:45.

Just Another Day at the Beach

We almost decided not to post anything today because, as the title says, it's "just another day at the beach", but since we're at the internet cafe, why not?  We attended a nice dinner party at Don and Brenda's house in Juncalito Village last night, along with Bill and Tey. Delicious homemade chicken enchiladas, slaw, rice and beans, eaten in the outside screened patio area at their house.  As usual, the evening ended early, at 8:30, and we returned our to our campsite where we managed to stay awake to the late hour of almost 10:00!

Today we're reading books, lounging, took a walk on the beach in the morning, and will get together with Tom and Cindy, from the next campsite over, for a last visit tonight.  Tomorrow morning we break camp and drive 5-6 hours to La Paz, where we'll settle into an RV campground and begin spanish language classes on Monday.  We're unlikely to post tomorrow other than to add a SPOT message updating our location after we've arrived in La Paz.  We've had a lovely week on the beach, are very happy to have been here again, and are also ready to move on.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Weather Shifts

We woke this morning to cloudy skies and light wind, cool enough that Cathryn put on capris and a short-sleeved t-shirt instead of shorts and a tank top for the first time. Listening to the 8:00am “net” on our marine radio, we learned it’ll be windy (18 to 26 knots, with seas to 6 feet) for the next couple of days. Since it won’t be pleasant for walking and sitting on the beach, or for any water activities, we’ll head into Loreto for some shopping, filling up on gas, and trying a restaurant for lunch which has come recommended by a number of folks we’ve met. We remain happy and well.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Juncalito: The “Big Move

Check out the “Where We Are” gadget on the right side of this page and see if you can tell the difference in location between where we were on Wednesday compared to Thursday.

OK, for those of you who find the technology stuff kind of boring, here’s the scoop. Every afternoon on the Sea of Cortez the wind picks up for several hours. It’s just a normal part of being here. But today the wind blew stronger than usual, and it picked up the sand off the beach so powerfully that it hurt when the sand hit us. The weather forecast for the next two days calls for higher winds from the north, and our location (see the masthead picture above) is just too exposed. So this afternoon we moved about 100 feet north on the beach and parked the 5th wheel behind some trees and oriented so the trailer will block most of the wind. We’ve discovered that hitching and unhitching a 5th wheel is easier than we thought, so the whole effort only took ½ an hour, thus we were able to squeeze it into our “busy” schedule. We’ll hope it does the trick.

Today we finalized our membership in the Puerto Escondido (Hidden Port) Yacht Club. We arrived at the Yacht Club at 10am and were met by Brenda, wife of the Commodore. She took our money ($90), issued our membership cards, and gave us our HPYC burgee and t-shirts. We met a couple other yacht club members who were hanging around and went on our way. We'll add a photo of the Yacht Club soon.

This evening we had our first “Baja Cocktail Hour” with other travelers. Tom and Cindy, the folks camped next door at our new spot, came over at 4:00, and it turned into a 3-hour gabfest. Tom and Cindy have been married 4 years (they’re about our same age) and have developed a life that involves being here on the beach 8-9 months per year in their 24-foot trailer, then spending summers in the western U.S. camping and visiting family and friends. Tom’s brother Mike owns the local restaurant Del Borracho in Loreto which we wrote about a few days ago, and they’ve spent a number of winters down here, so they have some special connections to the area. He’s a carpenter, and she’s an accountant, and they both still work occasionally when the right opportunity comes along. They each have some health problems that limit the amount and type of work they do, and result in their not having a huge amount of money, but it clearly doesn’t limit their enjoyment of life at all. We had a great visit, and we’re sure we’ll spend time with them again during this visit, and hopefully on the way back north in March. They’re friendly, good, knowledgeable, generous people.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Yellow Circles

No, this isn’t about yellow snow. Bob mentioned to Cathryn a week ago that he had a “surprise” in one of the bins in the bed of the pickup truck. Out it came today: an 8-foot long, bright yellow inflatable two-person kayak! Much to Cathryn’s delight as she really enjoys kayaking, after inflating it, we headed out from the beach to give it a try. We paddled and paddled, and spent most of our time spinning like a top (reminiscent of a brief event this past August when we were on a 60-foot trawler in heavy fog in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and made an unintended 360 degree maneuver except this time it wasn't just Bob at the helm), . We tried all sorts of techniques to navigate in a straight line, but all of them resulted in our going around in circles. Finally we gave up, and Cathryn, who was in the back, used her paddle as a skeg or rudder, and Bob did all the paddling. It worked ok, and we covered some ground, but we think there will be a yellow inflatable kayak listed on Craigslist when we get back home. The day was sunny, the Sea of Cortez flat, and the temperature 90 degrees (having started the morning at only 59). We didn’t get far, but it was a nice way to while away the afternoon and stay cool. After returning to shore, Cathryn went for a brief swim.

Rhetorical question: Why are attorneys so often also musicians?

Late this afternoon two vehicles pulled up and parked in the spot immediately adjacent to ours, and Ted, Joan and Dan alighted, along with Ted and Joan’s 2 dogs. We quickly ascertained they’re only here one night, on their fast-track way from Canada (they left 4 days ago) to La Ventana, a wind-surfing and kite-sailing community not far south of La Paz. We learned a bit about them, including the fact that Dan is a small-town attorney with 4 almost-grown kids. He and his wife own a house they built in La Ventana. Pretty soon Ted and Joan took off for a walk with their dogs down the beach, and Dan asked if we’d object if he played his guitar and sang. We told him we were fine with it if he’d play close-by enough that we could listen, always interested in a live music exhibition! So Dan set up his chair close to our outdoor mat and began to play, some familiar tunes, others not. We enjoyed it, and he seemed to too. We have other attorney friends who engage in creative outlets, and our son Ryan is also an attorney who composes a lot of music, paints sometimes and writes occasionally. What’s with that connection between attorneys and their side-bar creative undertakings???

Monday, October 26, 2009

Joining the Hidden Port Yacht Club

What an amusing an interesting morning! Yesterday when we met Bill and Tey, they told us about the Puerto Escondido Yacht Club which operates out of the marina 3 miles down the road where we go for internet every day or two.

 For $20/year you can get a laminated membership card. For $90 you get a HPYC (Hidden Port Yacht Club) burgee to fly on your boat, two t-shirts with the yacht club name and insignia, and two memberships with laminated membership cards. This membership, of course, gives you reciprocal privileges to most all yacht clubs in the U.S., which is the main reason we joined. However, the yacht club is also a non-profit organization which, among other activities, pays for scholarships for many children from ranchos in the vicinity to attend the Internado (boarding) school nearby, provides sailing lessons for free to any local kids, and other things. The kids attend school during the week, then return to their homes every weekend to work on the family rancho. The Yacht Club holds a LoretoFest event at the end of every April and raises money to continue their local works. Last year they raised $14,000, which goes a long way down here! See the photo which includes Dan Beck, the yacht club commodore, Tey, the Vice-Commodore, Cathryn, and Brenda Beck, Dan’s wife. We sat on the porch at their home for two hours getting acquainted, filling out the paperwork for membership (which only took 5 minutes) and discussing the local community. Dan tells us our membership will be announced on the morning marine radio broadcast tomorrow – ha! We’ve been invited to their home for dinner Thursday night, and Brenda plans to make chicken enchiladas for the occasion. Tey will bring dessert, and I’m to provide an appetizer.

Early this afternoon while we were sitting outside our RV reading, a nice pickup truck drove up with signage saying “Municipalidad de Loreto” on the side, and 3 men piled out. Using Cathryn’s limited Spanish and their limited English, we came to understand they wanted to collect $15/night for our stay on the beach. Knowing this was an outlandish rate for a place with no amenities, Cathryn said that was “too expensive” and that we’d leave if we had to pay that much. They then asked how long we intended to stay (one week, we responded), and said they’d let us stay a full week for the 3-day rate of $45. We paid. They gave us a completely official looking receipt with stamps and signatures and went on their way. Cathryn then wandered over to the next campsite where Manuel, on hearing our story, rolled his eyes (he works for the federal government) and said the City of Loreto has no jurisdiction whatsoever, as it’s a public beach owned by the federal government. He lamented “Oh, I’m in the wrong business!” Other nearby campers had also paid these same guys, and apparently it’s an ongoing dispute between the Feds and the City and the campers. We still feel it’s a good deal ($6/night) and they do provide garbage pickup and pit toilets (which we don’t have to use this year!) We just hope the money goes to some municipal use rather than to line the pockets of these fellows. If so, we don’t mind at all.

The Family Beach Hippie is Happy!

Yesterday morning we went to the tianguis (open air market) in Loreto and stocked up on vegetables. Considering it’s a temporary market, set up and taken down each Sunday, it’s astonishing how big it is, and the variety of wares available in addition to food: clothing, tools, bikes, furniture, some electronics. Shortly after, we pulled up camp in Loreto and drove 15 miles down the highway to settle in at Playa Juncalito. It’s as beautiful as we recall from last year: the spectacular La Gigantas mountains rising sharply behind, immediately on the other side of the highway, the Sea of Cortez with islands beyond in the foreground – a really lovely setting, perhaps our favorite in many ways. There are 3 other groups camped here: Tom and Cindy who are long-term campers and will be here for many months, and two groups in tents who seem to be temporary, including one couple with 4 children under the age of 10.

Bob’s blood pressure continues to plummet, he has become more talkative, and smiles more frequently. He’s happy and in his element camping on a beach! Cathryn was even successful in luring him into the Sea of Cortez for half an hour yesterday afternoon. The air temp was 85, the water must have been about 80, and there was a light breeze. It felt marvelous and cooled us down nicely. In the afternoon we went for a walk down the beach to the nearby “village” of Juncalito, made up of about 20-25 homes – mostly combinations of built structures with older RVs included in the mix. We met Bill and Tey, who called out to us as we walked by, and their friend Steve who lives next door. It turns out Bill and Tey are friends of Jupiter, with whom we had dinner the night before, and they saw him at the Loreto market yesterday, so he told them to expect us to move into the area. Tey called out “Bob! Are you Bob?” and next thing we know, we’re in their home, being handed a glass of wine, taken on a tour of the upstairs open-air bedroom, then the 3rd story “star gazing deck”. Tey is originally from Belize, and Bill and Steve are gringos. Very nice, friendly people who invited us to come back for another visit, use their kayaks and let them know if we needed any help. We’ll take them up on it.

Last year when here, we learned the entire local community has established the habit of turning on their marine radios at 8am daily and covering all kinds of community news. This seems to be an outgrowth of the large boating community that resides, either temporarily or longer term, in the marina at nearby Puerto Escondido. Bob brought our marine radio this year and we listened in for the first time this morning. There’s an official moderator, everyone checks in by name, and the moderator goes from person to person covering arrivals and departures, weather and tides, announcements, lost and found, items for trade or sale, help or rides needed, and a dozen other topics. It was interesting and seems like a nice way to establish a somewhat cohesive community. They even announced a Halloween party scheduled for Saturday.

One of the features we’re enjoying about our new RV, the Arctic Fox, is the solar panel we had installed at the time we purchased it. It’s a 100-watt panel mounted on the roof. Whenever we’re camped without hook-ups, the solar panel keeps our batteries fully charged. Last year we had to be conservative in our use of lights or other electrical devices in the Chalet. This year we’re able to use lights with little thought to conservation, Bob plays music on his iPod while plugged in, and we re-charge our computer daily and camera and other batteries as needed. We feel like we’re living in the lap of luxury! And our refrigerator is sufficiently large (it runs on propane) that we’re even able to keep a jug of water in it, so always have cold water to drink, thus reducing our consumption of beer, the other cold drink available.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Diana and Picazon

Another nice day in Loreto, especially after finishing “chores” of going to the laundromat, washing the filthy truck, and buying some groceries.

Shortly after lunch a local girl showed up at the Arctic Fox inquiring if we wanted to buy some tamales made by her mother. She was here 2 days ago, and Cathryn bought 2 delicious tamales then, so invited her into our RV and bought 8 chicken tamales today. They make good lunches! Diana is 11 years old, speaks no English and was eager to chat. Cathryn especially likes talking with children because they enjoy teaching her Spanish words she doesn’t already know when she stumbles at some spot in the conversation. She learned several new words today, including “tianguis” or “open air market”. Diana was perplexed when Cathryn said we were going to the “mercado in el arroyo manana”, so gave her the correct word. Diana was interested in looking at our laptop computer and seemed excited by the idea of “correo electronico” or email. Sweet, beautiful girl.

Tonight we went to Jupiter’s home, the guy we met at Bahia de Los Angeles last week who lives here 7-9 months each year and in Steamboat Springs the remainder of the time. His wife flies into Loreto tomorrow, so was not part of our plan unfortunately. He gave us a tour of his lovely home which they built in the last 2-3 years – artsy, colorful, and Mexican in style but larger than most. The 3 of us then left to dine at one of Jupiter’s favorite local restaurants, Picazon (which by the way strikes us a very odd name, as it means “itch” or “uneasiness”).

To get to Picazon, you leave town headed north on a one-lane dirt road often adjacent to the shoreline and continue about 5 miles through 10-foot tall brush and trees, with no homes or buildings anywhere in sight, and occasional “dips” that only a high-clearance vehicle would be comfortable navigating. Had Jupiter not been with us, we’d surely have turned back assuming we were on the wrong road. Instead, we eventually came upon a most lovely site! Alejandro and Imelda run the restaurant there as well as have their home on the property. It is open air, right on the beautiful beach, with outdoor tables under the stars. Alejandro conversed with us as he took our orders and served us, updating Jupiter on their two sons who now attend college in Guadalajara. Bob had a delicious shrimp burger, and Cathryn had a shrimp and fish wrap.

Accompanied by terrific margaritas, a cool breeze, and views of sailboats and mountains beyond, we thought we’d died and gone to heaven. It was a lovely evening, accompanied by interesting conversation with Jupiter. See the photos of the 3 of us taken by Alejandro and of Alejandro bringing us our first round of margaritas.

So tomorrow we leave the campground in Loreto and move on to Playa Juncalito, a favorite beach from last year where we expect to stay for awhile until leaving for La Paz next weekend. There are no facilities of any kind at this beach, so we’re happy to have a somewhat larger RV this year, with a bathroom and a few more comfortable amenities. We’ll drive 3-4 miles into Puerto Escondido every couple of days, a nearby marina and port, where we’re allowed to use the internet in the bar as long as we buy a beer!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Lazy Day in Loreto

We got off to a slow start today, drinking coffee, running, and reading the newspaper (for the first time in two weeks) on the internet. We were ready to head out for the day when a fellow named Jupiter who we met at Bahia de Los Angeles, but who owns a house and winters here in Loreto, dropped by our campsite with two young fellows from Ireland and England. The young guys had put a little over 15,000 miles on their motorcycles since they left home, traveling through Europe, Russia, Mongolia and the U.S. before arriving here in Loreto! We spent an hour and half hearing about their experiences. What a trip! We said goodbye after agreeing to meet Jupiter tomorrow night for dinner.

We then drove south 20 miles to a beach, Playa Juncalito, where we stayed last year for a week. We wanted to check out the access road to see how it had changed since last month’s hurricane, and to see if there were enough folks camping there to meet our security parameters. Good news on both accounts, so we’ll be moving there Sunday after going to the local farmers’ market here in Loreto. We currently hope to stay at Playa Juncalito for 6 days before moving on to La Paz for our Spanish language school. While at Juncalito, we met some folks (Tom and Cindy) camping there who told us about a restaurant run by his brother here in Loreto.

Here is a picture of Mike (Tom’s brother), the owner of Del Borracho, where we had lunch: terrific burgers for both of us, a milkshake for Cathryn and pink lemonade for Bob; some “American” comfort food.

After picking up some groceries, late this afternoon we sat by the campground pool reading our books and sipping a beer. A nice day.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Bahia Concepcion

We had a somewhat sad experience today. We left San Ignacio about 9am and headed south, with the intent of arriving at Playa Santispac on Bahia Concepcion around noon, one of our favorite spots last winter where we stayed for a week. We’d heard that Hurricane Jimena, which hit Baja last month, had done some damage there so were expecting things to look different. We arrived and found there were NO other travelers staying there, all the palapas had been blown away, the beach had suffered a lot of erosion. We drove 10 miles further down the highway to Playa Requeson, another of our favorite spots from last year, and discovered the spectacular sand spit that connected the mainland to a nearby island, and on which RVers regularly camped, was completely gone! Again, the palapas had disappeared as well. We continued the length of Bahia Concepcion, which has about a dozen beautiful camping beaches and saw essentially no campers and lots of damage. Having planned to spend a week at Bahia Concepcion, we instead continued on to Loreto, another 75 miles south, and pulled in at a formal beachside campground that includes laundry and internet, even a pool , where we’re now sitting drinking a beer, catching up on email (we’ve not had internet since Monday), and posting to the blog. We’ll stay here perhaps 3 days so we can go to the wonderful Sunday Market. We remain happy and well!

A Short Bike Ride

Back home some of our family and friends make us feel like we’re pretty adventurous people. Sometimes when we’re traveling, we meet people who make us feel our adventures are BEYOND tame! That happened again last night. In fact, for those of you who followed our Baja blog last winter and remember our story of Erin and Aaron who were kayaking 300 miles of the coast of Baja in the Sea of Cortez, we finally met a couple who make that trip look tame!

We had dinner at a favorite restaurant on the plaza in San Ignacio. Sitting at the adjacent table were a couple we had passed and taken note of earlier in the day on the highway – riding bicycles! They had their bikes loaded down with gear, parked next to their table and were conversing in Spanish with the waiter. They looked to be in their 20s. Cathryn couldn’t resist the urge to hear their story so started a conversation. Turns out they met a year ago in Japan. He’s from Orange County, she from Toronto. They both love to bike, so agreed to do a trip together this year until whenever their money runs out! They started in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada in August. They pedaled the entire west coast of the United States, crossed the border into Baja, Mexico and are continuing to La Paz, several hundred miles further south. At that point they’ll take a ferry to Mazatlan on the mainland of Mexico, then continue south through central America and all the way to Argentina! They’ve pedaled 2700 miles so far, and expect to come close to 6,000 before it ends. They average about 70 miles a day, but did 95 the day we met them. Their bikes have about 45 pounds of gear including a tent, sleeping bags, clothes, cooking gear and when the water bags are loaded. They were extraordinarily cheerful in telling their story, laughed a lot, and clearly are having a wonderful time! They stay in a motel once every week or two, take real showers (camp ground showers or sponge baths otherwise) and do laundry. We asked how their parents feel about their adventure, and they said his parents had bought them a SPOT device (which we have one of as well) and they send a “We’re OK, and here’s where we are today” message daily. It goes by satellite to selected email addresses, and only costs $100/year, so is not dependent on the availability of internet and is very inexpensive. They sound like very savvy travelers, and between them they speak 6 languages: English, French, Spanish, Japanese, Vietnamese and some Portugese! They gave us their blog address which is (see a link also on the right hand side of our blog). We’ll follow their travels from here. See why we feel like we’re tame, conventional travelers????

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

San Ignacio

                               Church in Bahia de Los Angeles
Last night we went next door to Larry and Raquel’s restaurant for one last margarita before leaving town and to say goodbye to the folks we’d met there. Well, one margarita turned into more than that when Betsy, Larry’s girlfriend, who had taken a bit of shine to Cathryn, kept buying us one more “on the house”. We didn’t get home until 10pm, well past Baja Midnight (for those of you who read our Blog last winter, you know this is the extraordinarily early hour at which most Baja travelers turn in and go to bed – well before actual midnight!).

                                          Military checkpoint on the road to San Ignacio
We left Bahia de Los Angeles this morning about 10am to drive 210 miles south to San Ignacio, which some of you may remember was our staging point for our whale watching expedition last year. The whales don’t arrive until January, so that won’t be part of our current visit. The plan is to stay just one night, partake of dinner on the town square at a restaurant we enjoyed last January, then head south again tomorrow.

 The plan beyond that is a little vague. San Ignacio is at the north end of the swath of coastline that got hit by hurricane Jimena last month, and the condition of the campgrounds in this stretch have gotten mixed reviews from people we’ve talked to on the way down. It’s mostly a question of the condition of the access roads, which wasn’t great before the hurricane, and the number of mosquitoes, which due to the amount of rain, is higher than normal. So we may or may not stay in the area for a few days. If we do, we probably won’t have internet access, so we may not post for a couple of days. We will send Spot (satellite) messages, so you can find out where we are by looking at the “Where We Are” section in the right hand column here on the blog.

The 3 Plus 1 Rule: One of the things we’ve learned this trip is that the number of tourists in Baja is much reduced in October compared with January and February when we were here last winter. Today, for example, we saw 5 other RVs in the 200-plus miles of Mex 1 we drove. While we didn’t count last year we’re sure we’d have seen more than 100 in the same stretch. One of the basic safe/smart camping rules down here is: don’t camp alone. We’re choosing, based on advice received from a long-time Baja traveler, to apply that to mean no “boon-docking” in places where there are fewer than 3 rigs present when we arrive (we then become the “plus 1”). Based on what we’ve heard, this may also contribute to our moving south a little faster than we otherwise would since there just aren’t that many campers here yet. Tonight, we’re one of only two rigs at the “Rice and Beans” RV Park, but it has resident managers on-site who provide 24 hour security, so it doesn’t constitute boon-docking. More later.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The Cactus

The other day when Cathryn bought vegetables from Roberto and Alsonso, they convinced her to purchase a Pear Cactus and provided instructions for preparing it as a vegetable dish. The cactus “leaves” come already cleaned of their thorns and are to be diced and sautéed with onions, tomatoes, and garlic, then seasoned with oregano and salt. Cathryn felt somewhat less adventurous regarding the cactus, so tonight diced up several leaves and added them to our chicken curry instead. They didn’t have a strong flavor, or objectionable texture, and seemed to have a similar affect as if green peppers had been added instead. Maybe next time we’ll try it in the more traditional Mexican manner, and some remains in the bag so we’ll have the opportunity.

Monday, October 19, 2009

We succeeded in resisting the siren call of Concha’s fish tacos last night, and stayed “home” to cook in our campsite. Later we sat in our Lafuma chairs by the beach, drank a glass of wine and watched spectacular lightning flashes across the water by distant islands. It had been another hot day, but the evening, with a nice breeze, was comfortable.

Today we drove the truck into town with a 35-gallon plastic jug we borrowed from Mike, our next door neighbor, to get water. There is not, technically, a municipal water system as we know it in the U.S. However there is a spring at the edge of the hills, and the government has installed a 4-inch diameter hose, a tiny office, and an employee who staffs it until 10am each day. Trucks drive up, wait in line, and fill their mostly 500 to 1000-liter plastic jugs and drive away, paying a pittance for the water. Our 35 gallons cost 2 pesos, or about 15 cents. This is the source of water for all “suburban” residents of Bahia de los Angeles (and the main method of providing water for  most of the non urban parts of Baja.)

Hurricane Rick has diminished from a category 5 hurricane to a category 3 hurricane, and is now forecast to hit in the La Paz to Cabo San Lucas area Wednesday morning as a category 1 storm. We’re told the only effect that might be seen here in Bahia de los Angeles is some rain, which would make residents here quite happy as it’s been a long, hot dry summer. We plan to stay in place until more is known about whether it veers further north (as Hurricane Jimena did last month, hitting Mulege and causing quite a bit of damage, not from winds but flooding).

Today we drove the truck to La Gringa, a “place” on the beach about 5 miles north, 4 of those on a rough dirt road. We took a picnic lunch and sat on the beach to eat after discovering there’s really nothing there. Two dilapidated and locked-up shacks, several seemingly abandoned RVs, and an absolutely lovely beach littered with zillions of clam shells is the sum of La Gringa. We’re told this is where Larry and Raquel’s restaurant gets their clams, when they have them.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

We Shouldn't Have, But We Did

We went to Larry and Raquel’s for another dinner of fish tacos and margaritas again last night. The food was fabulous and the margaritas were potent, as we’ve come to expect. Dinner here is not exactly like going to a restaurant at home. We sat at a table with 5 other people for a couple hours while we ate. This was everyone in the restaurant and bar. Those present included Larry and Betsy (the owner and his girlfriend; we won’t go into their complicated and somewhat sad stories or what happened to Raquel; maybe another time), Chris and Jeanne, a couple who live in San Diego and have owned a home next door to Larry and Raquel’s for the last 15 years, and Dan who was visiting the area for the first time. Only Dan and the two of us actually ate dinner, but all of us engaged in a discussion that ranged from fishing to children to the moons of Jupiter (which we saw through Larry’s huge telescope). These people have lived “colorful” lives, none of which we would choose for ourselves, but who created an interesting mix for the evening. Many of the people we met in Baja last year were snowbirds, much like us; these folks last night fell more into the category of ”Baja characters”, and thus in many ways were more interesting.

This morning after breakfast, exercise, showers, and dropping off our laundry with Concha to be picked up tomorrow, we went to see the Bahia de los Angeles museum, something we missed last year. It’s small but nicely done, exhibiting photos, stories and artifacts from the days of vaqueros (cowboys), silver and gold mining, and much of the marine life of the area. The people who settled this area were tough and tenacious, and many of the names that populated the area 100-150 years ago are still present.

We’ve also had our first interactions with food vendors, local Mexicans who arrive in small trucks roaming the campgrounds seeking customers. Cathryn purchased vegetables from Roberto and his son Alfonso and discussed the high cost of law school in Ensenada, from which Alfonso was forced to drop out because he ran out of money. Bob purchased chicken tamales and empanadas from another vendor.

Talk is picking up about a new hurricane, Rick, forming southwest of the Baja peninsula and moving slowly in this direction. We’ve decided to hang out in this area a couple more days to see how that evolves before we continue. Residents say Bahia de los Angeles is a perfect place to “ride out a hurricane” as it’s well protected by large off-shore islands to the east and mountains to the west. We’ll see. We’ll plan to skip the fish tacos and margaritas tonight.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

It's Hot Down Here

When we got up at 6am today today to watch the sun rise it was already (still?) 77 degrees, this afternoon at 3pm its 94. It’s hot!!! Bob is comfortable if he remains in the shade and doesn’t move . . . Cathryn is not, period, paragraph! We went for an hour-long walk on the beach around 8:30, then read in the shade under our palapa until 11am when we got in the truck to explore a bit of the countryside south of town to see the area where there was a gold mine in the 1880’s, the origin of the settlement here. We’ll update this post later with pictures, but so far Bob hasn’t downloaded them to the computer. During our tour we ran the truck’s air conditioner on high most of the time. Though we have A/C in the Arctic Fox, it only works when we have electrical hook-ups which are not available at Daggett’s Fish Camp.

Before leaving home Bob bought a cook called “Baja Legends” which describes much of the history of the peninsula. Three pages are devoted to the Daggett family, owners of the spot where we’re currently camping. Today’s owners of the camp and residents of the adjacent home are 5th generation Daggetts in Mexico. Their great-grandfather was an Englishman who arrived by ship bearing bricks to be used in constructing a portion of the local mine. He jumped ship in Bahia de Los Angeles, married a Mexican woman from San Ignacio (one of our favorite towns not far down the highway), and subsequent generations went on to marry other Mexicans and carry the unlikely name of Daggett. The current residents are 7/8 Mexican, and still run the Fish Camp more than 100 years later.

About 2pm today Cathryn offered Bob three choices: go swimming with me in the Sea, take me on another drive in the truck and run the A/C, or go to Larry and Raquel’s restaurant next door for a cold beer and internet. You can gather which option he picked. We had dinner here last night: fabulous fish tacos and 1 ½ margaritas each. It was the same meal we had last year, courtesy of Concha the cook, and it was as good as we remembered. Worth the trip in itself.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Our First Day At The Beach

It’s becoming a joke between us that Bob’s blood pressure is lower each day since we arrived in Mexico. He claims Cathryn is unhappy about that because it may mean we have to move to Mexico full-time for his health. She insists that will never happen unless her parents and all our children move away from the Seattle area, and they find a cure for skin cancer, to which she is prone.

So far things feel different here in October than they did last February and March. There are far fewer Canadian and U.S. gringos driving RVs and filling the camps. We saw 5 or fewer our whole way down to this point, even along Mex 1. Arriving here at Daggett’s Fish camp, which last winter was inhabited with a dozen RVs full of Canadian and U.S. couples with ours by far the smallest, we find this year no more than half a dozen occupied RVs and several others which appear to have been parked here uninhabited all summer, perhaps to have their owners reappear sometime this winter. Our 21-foot 5th wheeler, tiny by normal RV standards running to 40-feet, is the newest and largest in the camp. Most are older, smaller motorhomes or vans occupied by men traveling alone. One space is occupied by 3 Mexican men with a truck using the open-air sleeping quarters of the palapa with no tent, surrounded by coolers, presumably holding their food. There are 2 other couples in residence, one a former U.S. couple now residing in northern Mexico near Ensenada. We have yet to participate in “cocktail hour” with other campers as we did almost every evening last winter. We’ve each read an entire book already, something we did little of last year. And the temperatures are much warmer – 92 degrees already at noon today. We had heard the “shoulder” months of October and May can be uncomfortably warm to many North Americans and are beginning to wonder if this may be true, at least for Cathryn, if not both of us. Nonetheless, we’re again struck by the beauty of the Sea of Cortez, islands and mountains beyond, brilliant blue sky, and relaxed pace of life. The fish and birds, wind and friendly Mexicans continue to impress us. We remain happy and well.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Headed South

We woke up to clear skies this morning with absolutely no wind. After making coffee, we sat outside in our camp chairs watching the local fishermen prepare their pangas for a day of fishing. So what is that guy on the right in the picture doing? Launching the pangas was a little tricky. They needed to row through the breakers until they could drop their motors, start up, then take off.

We left at 10am driving through heavy fog inland, and spent the next 5 hours driving to Bahia de Los Angeles about 200 miles away, not our original plan for the day, and our first stop on the very beautiful Sea of Cortez. It was 88 degrees on arrival, so after parking the Arctic Fox in a spot at Daggett’s Fish Camp where we also stayed 5 days last March, we headed into town to buy groceries, check email and post to the blog. The internet at the café was working very poorly, so we were only able to check a few emails and take a phone call from Adrienne on Skype, who detected that we were on line and placed a call to us. We couldn’t get our blog post to load. We plan to stay in place 3-5 days and enjoy the Baja. Vamos a ver.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

San Quintin

We moved south about 130 miles today to a place we planned to stay last winter, but never made it. We almost skipped it again this year because as we passed through the town of San Quintin the wind was blowing at least 30 mph off the ocean, and the entire town and surrounding area were enveloped in swirling dust. At one point we slowed the truck to 15 miles per hour because we couldn’t see the road ahead. But as we left town the dust seemed to diminish a bit, and at the last minute we decided to drive one mile west of Mex 1 to the campground to check it out as a possible destination in the future. (Check out our location using the “where we are, where we’ve been” link on the right to see on Google maps)

Once at the beach, the dust was gone (it was all inland) and there was a great windbreak of low trees at the campground so that once parked, we could sit outside and were actually hot – the temperature was 83 degrees. We decided to stay. After settling in, we went on a beach walk for an hour. On our return, we noticed there was a truck and Mexican couple at the “office”, so went to inquire about paying for our stay. The fee was only 130 pesos ($10), and we spent the next 30 minutes conversing in Spanish with 76-year-old Guadalupe, the friendliest guy you could ever hope to meet. He promised to await our return in March “if I’m not dead, as I’m very old” (said with a huge smile on his face). Cathryn finds it of interest that though Bob has never studied Spanish, and speaks it not at all, he’s able to understand conversations in Spanish if the speed of speech is sufficiently slow, as is required for her to converse. We presume this speaks to the relative ease of moving from one Latin-based language to another. After saying goodbye to Guadalupe, we spent the rest of the afternoon reading and enjoying the sun glistening off the Pacific Ocean with pelicans fishing, as is usual here.

We have the campground to ourselves, as we did last night, so everybody else must have been deterred by the dust storm – their loss.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Shifting Gears

After two long days of driving we couldn’t get motivated to start early. We learned the Arctic Fox has an unexpected advantage over the Chalet (our RV last year). Bob woke at 6am and sat on the loveseat to read for 45 minutes, and doing so didn’t wake or disturb Cathryn – not something that could have happened in the Chalet. Amazing what a bit more space and “room separation” produces! We left Oceanside at 10am, arrived at Mexican customs at noon, and cleared quickly after they examined the inside of our RV. We parked on the street and returned to Immigration to get our Tourist visas stamped (always a more lengthy, bureaucratic process than seems necessary). By 12:30 we were on our way south in Baja Mexico having felt the whole border crossing process went much more smoothly than last year. Traveling through the wine region, we passed our first military checkpoint, though they weren’t stopping southbound vehicles. The weather was warm and sunny, about 70 degrees, when we reached Ensenada. Since we’d gotten a slow start we decided not to continue to San Quintin as planned, so stopped at Centro Recretivo Mi Refugio, 10 miles south of Ensenada, a repeat from last winter. This is the place where a family has an unusual crenellated castle with adjacent RV parking for about 15 vehicles, overlooking a lovely estuary connected to the Pacific Ocean. We arrived by 4pm, so sat in the sun looking at the water and mountains beyond, drinking a beer, reading books and doing a couple small projects.

We’re finding, so far, that returning for a second winter is more relaxed and easier – we recognize where we are, know the routines, and have fewer questions about customs and conventions.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Road Kill

Too tired to write much as we’ve put in two long days on the road, but we do want to get something posted. We left Olalla at 8am yesterday and rolled down the road through Washington and Oregon, into California, driving for 11 hours. We arrived in Anderson, CA just south of Redding and for the first time in our RV life, took Wal-Mart up on its offer of free camping for RVers and spent the night in their parking lot. Aside from the overly bright lights (good security?) and refrigerated 18-wheeler parked nearby that kept its generator running all night, it was fine. The Arctic Fox, our new RV, was extremely comfortable, with easy set-up, and we didn’t bother to unhook the truck. This morning we hit the road again at 8am and made it most of rest of the way through California, to Oceanside, another 12 hours of driving. Traffic through LA was not as bad as we expected, and the rest was an uneventful trip down I-5. All in all, an awful way to spend two days, but after tomorrow the vacation begins. We’re in an RV park with internet access and plan to get an early start in the morning and cross the border at Tecate into Mexico by mid-morning. We hope to get to San Quintin tomorrow night where we’ll spend a couple of days if the weather is good. But we’ll see how it goes. We don’t have the same sense of urgency from here on as we have the last two days. Our next commitment is November 2, when we start school in La Paz. We talked to all our kids and Cathryn’s parents sometime over the weekend or today, and everyone is well and happy. Off to Baja!!!

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Hitting the Spot

Do you ever look at the items in the side bar to the right of our posts? If you do, you will see under the heading "Where we are, and where we've been", that Bob has added the "Spot" device pictured above to his collection of electronic toys. If not, you may want to read the section which describes the new toy and take note of the link included in that section. It will show you where we have been during our travels during the last seven day period. (Assuming we have pushed one of the buttons during that period.) At the time of this post we haven't actually sent any locations recently, so you won't see find anything useful at the link. However, we hit the road in the morning and we will start "pushing the button" at least once a day until we get home.
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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Baja 2009-2010 Blog Plan

This year we intend to try to be a little crisper about our blog posts than we were last year. We hope this “shorter” version will focus on the more interesting aspects of our travels and avoid the negatives of travel writing described in the introduction of Paul Theroux‘s Ghost Train to The Eastern Star which we’ve quoted below. It certainly seems to fit most of the travel blogs Bob has looked at during his research on destinations and blogging. Theroux said:

"Most writing about travel takes the form of jumping to conclusions and so most travel books are superfluous, the thinnest, most transparent monloguing. Little better then a license to bore, travel writing is the lowest form of literary self-indulgence; dishonest complaining, creative mendacity, pointless Heroics and chronic posturing much of it distorted by Munchausen syndrome.”

We're Off Again - Baja

After much planning and anticipation we're off to Baja again. The trip plan this year is to leave home on Sunday October 11th, travel southbound on the Baja peninsula, then fly home for the holidays in mid-November and then return to Baja in early January and stay through March.  The only fixed objects in that plan are attendance at a Spanish language school in La Paz for two weeks starting November 2nd, and staying with our friends Jim and Phebe Richards in the house they're renting in Los Barriles right before we fly home in November.