Baja 1994-95

We left the Mendocino area and celebrated one more Christmas party at Doug and Jan's in Ukiah. Treated ourselves to dinner at the Ten Thousand Buddha's and back to their house for package opening. In the morning we took care of some last minute items in Ukiah, groceries, the bank, and the used book store and were finally on the road at 11:00 AM. Stopped for breakfast at "Mom's and Pop's" in Lakeport and then out to Williams and south on I-5. There had been a major wreck in the Sacramento area and traffic was routed over towards Davis and then back towards Sacramento for those heading south.

We got to the Buttonwillow turnoff and into Bakersfield in plenty of time for the Basque Restaurant. Had a fine dinner and then out and over Tehatchpi Pass and down into Mojave. Filled the gas tanks and went on to the turn-off (Kramer Junction) onto 395. Went about ten miles and decided to call it a night. It was cold out, the past full moon making it easy to see. We noticed a large Joshua tree off to the right and pulled off the highway to park beside it. Set up the bed and fell into it. It was eleven at night.

Woke up in the morning and it was twenty eight degrees out; the dog water was skimmed with ice. Soon the sun rose and shortly after that a B-2 Stealth Bomber made a pass, and then another pass. Having worked on that thing back in the early eighties, at Northrop, it was quite exciting to see it actually fly. There was a small chase plane following it around.

We packed up and headed on down the road to San Bernardino. The only thing that caught my eye, passing through that area, was a sign:

"Mr. Faul Bail Bondsman.
I will get you out if it takes twenty years!"

On down to Highway 10 and left out past Palm Springs then right to the Salton Sea. We stopped and had lunch in a grove of Palm trees, the temperature in the high seventies. What a change from just the day before. We reached Calexico, bought Mexican insurance, a few final grocery items, topped off the gas tanks and crossed into Baja. Soon we called it a day and camped about half way between Mexicalli and San Felip in a vast volcanic area, the Ocotillo in bloom.

Next morning we zoomed on into San Felip and Lolli bought some post cards and tacos. On to Purtocitos and the end of the black top. Then on to the "Terrible Threes"; the three worst grades in Baja, or at least they use to be. They have been regraded and now are pretty much passable in second gear with a down shift to first required only once or twice. The overall road isn't much improved though. Mostly second gear driving at fifteen miles per hour. Eighty miles of this will take us out to Highway 1, eventually.

It clouded up and soon started to rain. We found a nice beach to stop at and I took a swim in the Sea of Cortez. The water temperature was sixty six. The air temperature was sixty. Not bad. Lolli elected to use the solar shower bag instead. We pressed on for another hour or so and found a beautiful quarter mile long beach between two rocky points. We had it all to ourselves and set up camp for the night, right beside the beach, a glorious double rainbow over our heads.

In the morning we headed on south after getting stuck in the loose gravel along the beach berm and spending about an hour getting out, then west towards the highway. The rain had made the road a mess in places and we barely got through. We finally reached the highway "Mex 1" and headed for Gurrero Negro thinking we would spend the night down around there.

Some of the "Vados" had water running through them and then, up ahead we saw a lot of cars and trucks stopped. We pulled up behind them and discovered the upcoming vado was too treacherous to go through except for eighteen wheel trucks. We pulled off the highway and found a spot to spend the night; other folks were doing the same thing. We're told "The Mexicans have more time than money, the fix will be to wait for the water to recede". By morning it had and we were on our way again.

The next evening found us at a beautiful little beach south of Mulege. The beach turn-off is across from the Tecate Store several miles south of Mulege.

We celebrated Christmas Eve. I built a little shrine out of "Cow" stuff, cow cups, candles, and cow Christmas lights. I then composed a song and sang it with the video recorder running, Lolli and the dog howling in the background!

"Oh Holy Cow of Wisconsin
Your milk brings such delight

Because of you and chickens too
We'll have egg nog tonight.

And in our sleeping bag slumber
Our dreams are sweet and light

For in the morn', sure as we're born
Our Latte's milk steams right.

Christmas Day we arrived in LaPaz, restocked our supplies and pressed on for San Jose Del Cabo. We took the turn off towards La Ribera and did the washboard loop along the Sea of Cortez on down to San Jose Del Cabo. Finally the sun came out and we started turning red. We finally felt like we had arrived in Baja. We saw several camping spots on bluffs overlooking the sea but there were a lot of campers already there. We pressed on. Finally, just in sight of Del Cabo we found a place out on a bluff overlooking the beach and had the place to ourselves. We stayed two nights.

We zipped through Del Cabo and then Cabo San Lucas and headed up the Pacific side.

Driving through one town, Todos Santos, Lolli noticed an espresso sign!! We camped on the beach overnight and went back to that town the next morning and discovered a nice little restaurant that had espresso, home made baked goods. Around the corner a used book store. A little gringo enclave in a very nice small Baja town. Great find.

We stopped to visit El Triunfo, a former mining town that use to have a population of ten thousand; now it has four hundred! The smelter and old buildings in ruins. The town women formed a cooperative and make baskets. Lolli bought one.

Back to LaPaz on secondary roads along the Sea of Cortez, restock supplies and then off on an adventure. We have decided to see if we can follow the secondary road along the Sea of Cortez on north to Punta Evaristo and then take the bad road up over the Sierra De La Giganta to Santa Rita, back on Highway One.

As I write this now we are on the beach at Punta Evaristo. It is a beautiful cove with hundreds of pelicans diving into the bay. Four sail boats are anchored out and one Canadian couple is camped to the north of us. We are far from the maddening crowd. It is New Years Eve.

New Years Day. 1995.

We are parked beside an unoccupied thatch roofed palapa. Outside the front window of the VW bus pelicans are diving for fish. Several islands of the Sea of Cortez lie out on the horizon. We decided to stay another day, or so. I had previously written two pages worth of how we finally came to be at this place, towns visited, bad roads traveled, rain and wind but it read like a travelogue and travelogues all pretty much read the same.

No. The highlights of this trip are contained in two phrases we heard in different locations during the course of this trip.

The first, camped alongside Mexican Highway 1, waiting for the water to recede in the "Vado" so we and about fifty other stranded travelers could continue on south. One of the fellow travelers exclaimed. "The Mexicans have more time than money" meaning that the "fix" would be time. Wait long enough and the rain would stop in the mountains. Then the run-off would diminish and the route would be passable. Twelve hours later, it was.

Us folks from El Norte are not accustomed to waiting. We want it now, we want to go now. Throw enough money at it and you can. Build a bridge. But not here. Here you wait and see.

The second phrase that stuck in my mind was uttered by the receptionist at the Museum of Anthropology in LaPaz.

We asked if there was a entrance fee to the Museum.

Yes, he replied.

How much we asked?

"It is free."

There it is in a nut shell.

It costs a lot to go to Baja. Getting a sufficient amount of time off from work. Trying to cover all items of concern with the vehicle: tires?, engine?; camping equipment, water, insurance, money, and then the desired destination, someplace with sunshine, warm water, no neighbors.

Checking the map, picking the road, is it passable, is it possible?

We hail a passing fisherman in a tired Ford truck? He looks at our map while I point to where we want to go. I ask Lolli what he said. She says he thinks so, he said "It's possible, more or less". We press on. Soft, deep, sand washes, steep rocky passes with the rutted road hanging to the side of the cliff, the sea edge breathtakingly below, freshly fallen rocks litter the way.

Impossibly we finally arrive. A beautiful small bay almost encircled by rocky points from the mountains behind us. A quarter mile crescent of sandy beach. Pelicans diving for lunch. An abandoned palm thatched palapa just waiting for us.

It cost a lot to get here but, it's free.

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