Baja 1995-96


 Total trip 3,100 miles. Left December 22, 1995. Returned January 6, 1996

The plan was to check out the east side of the Sea of Cortez, Old Mexico.

First a party at Hans and Ann's, Wednesday. Next day a party at Holly and Rogers with Doug and Jan and Holly's mom in Ukiah, Thursday. Slept in the bus in their carport. Cold.

Friday, topped off the bus with gas, books, munchies and out of Ukiah by 10:00 am.

Over to Williams and Granzella's. Granzella's is building a huge new motel/convention center. Down I-5 we go. I finally crawled in the back and slept with the dog a while. Seemed like we arrived at Buttonwillow and the turnoff for Bakersfield in no time. The central valley was gray and cold. I got some cardboard at Granzella's and blocked off the radiator, made the engine temperature run up around 190 degrees instead of 160. It helped heat the bus some.

In Bakersfield we tried out the Basque Restaurant we spotted last time just off highway 99. Not bad. Typical of all of them. Out of there and up over Tehachipi, down to Mojave and gas stop. Out to Kramer Junction and south. This time I found a dirt road off to the left just past the top of the hill; early morning sunlight being the goal. Cold. Real cold. Thermometer showing 28 degrees.

Woke to frost on the windows and the thermometer juice all down in the bulb! I figure 22 degrees! But warming sun rising.

Down to Cajon Pass and in to San Bernadino, then onto 10 and east through Banning. We screwed up and took the first turn off to Palm Springs and wound up driving through miles of stop lights, traffic and shopping areas. Next time stay on 10 until Indio.

Finally got on 78-86? south and headed for the Salton Sea. Stopped there to have lunch on the bank of the lake and wash the dog. Then down to highway 8 and east for Arizona. Arrived on the outskirts of Yuma and took the road towards the border. Found a huge K-mart and did some shopping, filled the gas tanks and found a place to camp for the night beside an irrigation ditch and a race track. Lots of egrets flying around and a helicopter crop-dusting a field across the way.

Up in the morning and off for the border. Stopped in the last town and tried to buy Mexican Insurance. Nothing open yet. We were told we could buy it on the other side of the border and rather than wait we went ahead and crossed into the Mexican town, saw a sign about Mexican Insurance and double parked, Lolli staying with the bus while I went in to get it. $72.00 for two weeks! Last year I think it was $50. Busy, confusing town but we found Mex-2 and headed east. Stopped and bought a map at a Pemex but it wasn't very detailed. Off we go to Puerto Penasco. Miles of two lane blacktop across the desert. Little shrines along the way where folks were killed in car wrecks. Finally up and winding through dry craggy mountainous rocks and eventually the turnoff to Puerto Penasco. That road was a four-lane most of the way. Oh-oh. Development.

Sure enough, when we got to Puerto Penasco it turned out to be a town like San Felipe. Huge hotels along the sand bluff facing the sea, gobs of kids on 4 wheel ATV's, gringo land. We tried to drive north and get around it all but all roads lead to huge hotels. Went back and tried south. Finally found a road that headed the right direction but back inland a ways. Saw a sign, something about a woman's oyster camp and took it. Sure enough, it went back to the bay and into a fish camp, some folks there. We looked around and saw a rut heading on south. We took that and wound along the sage brush and garbage dumps and finally came to a possible camp site on a sand bluff overlooking the bay. Went on further and saw some other possible sites and finally ended up down by the bay but the road went through mud and wasn't passable. We returned to the first spot. The weather was nice and we set up camp. Finally.

We stayed two nights. Lots of shore birds, the lights of Puerto Penasco off in the distance at night. Took walks along the shore collecting firewood, sat around and read novels.

Did some driving around to try and find an even better spot and finally got stuck in the sand by a fish camp. Let the air out of the tires and drove back out.

Finally packed up and headed back to Puerto Penasco and then tried a possible road to the south, heading on down the gulf. Back to the original plan; explore the east side of the East of Cortez.

Turned out the road was okay with power lines along one side and a railroad track running down the other. Buzzing along and then a custom stop showed up in the middle of nowhere. We stopped and he asked for our sticker. No sticker? You have to get the auto sticker back at the border. That's it. No further. We turned around and headed back to Yuma. Now what? Head into Arizona and poke around? Go around the gulf and down into Baja? What?

Decided on Baja. Back towards Yuma and crossed the border, took a hour and a half of stop and go to get across, then went to the K-mart for more supplies and then off looking for a restaurant and had dinner, then back to our camp site by the canal and race track and egrets.

Next morning back across the border and west on Mex-2 to Mexicalli. Then down to San Felipe. New four lane going in. Not good.

We stopped where we had camped last year to see if my "cow cup" was still there. I had somehow lost it there, I think. We finally saw the area where we thought we had pulled off and camped before, over by a volcanic looking hill, and drove over. Sure enough, there it was, upside down. Not broken or sun faded or anything! We couldn't believe it although I knew it was there all the time.

On to San Felipe and a couple of tacos from the street vendors and some post cards, then on to Puertocitos. Blew right through Puertocitos on the rocky road in town and kept going. Up the terrible threes and on down the coast. More development spreading further south. We finally got to where we had camped before but there was someone already there. I had spotted a place a few coves before "our place" and we turned around and went back. It looked okay and we drove off the road and down to the beach. We checked up and down the beach but there wasn't any place where we could actually drive up onto the gravel berm. We finally opted for a spot about dead center beside the sand and gravel berm and parked the bus with the sliding door towards the gulf and so the sun wouldn't shine on the ice box. Beautiful. A short walk over the berm to the water, small hills to the north and south end of the beach, mountains to the west. Nobody else around. Perfect.

We settled down to some serious book reading with occasional walks along the beach. I would go swimming in the gulf every so often. The water temperature was 68. The air temperature from 66 to 75. Clear sunny days, some light cloud cover in the morning. Found firewood, baby baby sea shells, a cloth covered glass water jug. Lolli doing computer work in the bus. Met some folks who were fishing. They had a 4 wheel drive Suzuki jeep. They lived in the next cove down and were retired from Fallon, Arizona. Told us about the area and the drug dealers and stick-ups that have happened in the area. Not scary stuff really, they love the place, just that things do happen around here, it is not all peace and quiet. Something to talk about.

I went kayaking up and down the coast a ways. Even Lolli went out in the boat one day, just poking along and looking down through the clear water at the rocks and fish and what not.

I walked over and visited our Arizona friends, Steve and Mary. They showed me their house they had build by the locals. $3,000.00 for a cement slab, four native stone walls cemented together, a shed roof of beams and plywood. Steve did the windows and doors and finished off the interior, shelving, cabinets and what not. They added on a second room out of plywood for a bedroom and flush toilet, they have a septic tank! They showed me the 12 volt array that provides electricity for the lights, vacuum, toaster, radio, VCR. They have a propane refrigerator and freezer and stove. They leave for two or three months every summer and go back to Fallon. Too hot in Baja. 134 degrees last summer!! They pay $400.00 per year rent. About $60.00 a month for groceries at San Felepe.

Lolli and I barbecued in the evenings. Sunset at 4:30. Sunrise at 7:30! Drank our wine and read our books and worked on my tan.

The fourth night the wind came up at three in the morning. Really started to blow. I went out with the flashlight and secured everything. The kayak was up on the berm where I had left it. Drug it down behind the bus and tied it to the bumper. Folded up the lawn chairs and put the Coleman and table down on the ground. Crawled back in the bus and tried to sleep, the wind buffeting the bus and finally put the bus pop-up down because of the flapping canvas. Fitful sleeping. Finally woke to clear weather but lots of wind. Decided to pack up. Our ice in the ice box was almost gone anyway.

Packed up and cleaned up the camp. Swung around to Steve and Mary's to swap some books and show Lolli their house. Sat inside and talked a while. Steve and Mary really tell long and elaborate stories, especially Steve. Nothing else to do for entertainment, I guess. Then, out of there and off into the wind, heading for Canyon Guadeloupe.

The wind tapered off by the time we got to San Felepe. Continued on after shrimp tacos and found a place to camp for the night out of the wind. Next morning, on to Mexicalli. Stopped at a OXXO on the outskirts of town and bought ice and beer and wine and food stuffs. Then east on Mex 2 for the canyon. When we got to the turn-off we could see dust trails of folks driving across the dry lake, Laguna Salda. Folks coming from the hot springs, we hoped, clear 'em out!! Across the lake bed we go, forty-fifty miles per hour, more folks heading the other way. It is the 2nd day after New Years, folks leaving.

We wonder if any campos will be available. Seeing folks leave is encouraging.

We finally arrive and pull up and see Roberto. He recognizes the bus from the previous time. He tells us about the new campos he has built. They are available. Park the bus and go take a look. We walk back down to the new camps and check them out. Perfect. We choose La Paloma. I go back to the bus and drive back down and park it. Perfect. We set up camp and figure out the kitchen area, the shower bag area for hair washing, the camp fire ring for barbecuing. Fill the hot tub and check the water temperature. 106. Perfect! Yippee.

Four nights at Canyon Guadeloupe. We hike down the new road they are putting in for access to the palm grove on the other side of the canyon. It will be a nice camping area, especially when the temperature is hotter. Met some folks from Quincey, North of Reno. Then some other folks from Albion! Lolli knew the woman, she had taken a weaving class from Lolli!

Soak in the tub, read novels, Lolli doing spreadsheets on the computer.

Four days!

Finally, time to pack, head out. But reluctantly. Started up the bus at 2 in the afternoon. Down to the ranch turn-off in 45 minutes. Washboard sand is do-able at 18 miles per hour or 42 miles per hour! Experiment! Across the lake in an hour and fifteen minutes. Cross over the border and arrive at our campsite south of Kramer Junction, east of Mojave around 11:00 at night.

Up and started driving at 5 in the morning. Lolli drove up I-5 and missed the turn somewhere and woke me up in Dublin! I recognized the place. We were about two blocks from my sisters house. We drove over and knocked. Nobody home, but it looked like they were around. Left a note. Dinner at the Floodgate Cafe in Philo at 5 in the evening.

Back to Lolli's cabin around 8 in the evening. Cool house and damp. Got the fire going and turned on the electric blanket. End of the trip. Best weather we ever had in the seven years we have been going to Baja. Hard to believe it is over. Hope to take Ed and Suzanne down to Canyon Guadeloupe on spring break. Going to try and reserve La Paloma.

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