Ruta del Vino and North (March 8 2016)

It’s sunny! The rain front has passed.

Big Dog thinks we should check out Hussong’s, the famous cantina in Ensenada, so I open the iPad to see where we are in relationship to it. Miraculously, we are on the street that goes straight into the center of Ensenada.

The traffic is as congested as always and there are no parking spots anywhere near Hussong’s. After circling the area, we decide to split. It’s not as if we were ready to belt back margaritas this early in the day anyway.

DSC06160But we are hungry and there are street tacos on the strip along the highway between Ensenada and El Sauzal. The taco cart we choose is busy with customers. Truck drivers from the opposite side risk their lives crossing over the busy highway for these tacos, so they must be pretty good, right? And they are. Big, filled flour tortillas with delicious chicken and carnitas.

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DSC06180We stay on Mex 3 which takes us on an inland course to the U.S. border. It is the Ruta del Vino – Wine Route. This is Baja’s burgeoning wine area. There are beautiful hills and small valleys. It reminds me a lot of home, although there are not as many official signs to various wineries in San Luis Obispo. There are more restaurants on this highway, too, as well as olive and cheese shops.

DSC06164DSC06171DSC06175There are more interesting, modern architectural styles in the buildings here compared to the rest of Mexico which can be just simple cinder block structures or old colonial styles. In one area, construction is going on for a big restaurant ~ wine cellar ~ brew pub ~ outdoor grill. I can see an arty wall of wine racks. It is all surprisingly upscale although there is still some Mexican funkiness, which I love.

DSC06184The hills are accented by big beautiful rounded rock outcroppings. Someone has built a home inside one of the rocks!

DSC06182The AAA map seems to be outdated, as signs point in a different direction for the border crossing at Tecate. We follow the flow to… the bottom of a hill. There are 2 lanes going up the hill: one empty, the other full of cars in a line. We figure that’s the one for the border crossing and get behind the last car in line, but every so often, what appears to be a “cheater line cutter” comes barreling up the empty lane. This drives Big Dog nuts.

“Another cheater!” he yells, moving the vehicle slightly into the other lane to block their way.

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There’s much to keep you entertained…
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…but it’s good to have snacks for the wait. Who can resist “Japanese Karate Nuts.”

DSC06193As we wait, people in safety garb stroll down the line of cars, selling drinks, popsicles, snacks. A blind man is panhandling. A girl with bleached hair asks for money for her mother’s eye operation. A ratty looking dude wanders by.

DSC06190The line inches forward to the top of the hill. Now we can observe the action below, at the border, through our binoculars. Now we see that most of the “cheaters” were only trying to get into the neighborhood. (But some of them were real cheaters!) Beyond the border, the road goes back up another hill. This is where the big rig trucks and commercial vehicles are waiting.

Yay! We’re at the bottom of the hill. We get into the proper lane for “RVs, trailers and trucks” and after going through immigration, get sent to the Secondary Inspection.

DSC06196A friendly officer comes over and asks questions (“Any fruit or vegetables? Meat? Pets?”) She comes inside the RV and checks the fridge and inside a few cabinets. She also asks about shells and I show her my little collection of shells in a plastic bag.

“This one’s fine… So are these… They’re all okay. Do you have any wood products?”

“Just this piece of driftwood I picked up…” I pull out the driftwood I found in San Lucas on our way down – it’s been traveling with us for weeks now.

This is a problem. She takes it away and Big Dog has to give her his passport and driver’s license, then sign some kind of form before we are free to go.

DSC06197Across the border, the landscape is similar – round boulders sprouting through green hills. We drive past pretty ranches…through Jamul…Steele Canyon… and come across a roadside produce store. There are mountains of gorgeous looking fruits and vegetables. Oranges are only $1 for 5 pounds. We get oranges, avocados (not Hass, the regular supermarket variety, but bacon avocado which are tastier), asparagus, cauliflower and the biggest strawberries ever. They’ll make a nice gift for B and T in San Diego.

As we approach San Diego, the number of mad drivers increases.

“In Baja, you had to do some magic driving to avoid potholes but here, the hazard is the swarm of assholes,” I laugh.

We’re back!

End of Day Miles: unnoted

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Author: ontheroadwithsprockets

I've been traveling since I was born -- the first big trip was before I was two, across the Pacific, from my native Japan to Los Angeles on a cargo ship. There have been many journeys since then, through many continents and cultures.

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