It rained A LOT last night and the place is all wet and muddy. Birds are playing in the deep puddles. But it’s a bright sunny morning and the bay is as calm as calm can be.
The town streets are all very muddy. One flooded field had a car, halfway under water! That was a photo (that we didn’t get.) Everything is sparkly, green, after-a-rain clean. Except for Sprockets. Can’t believe the back windows are still so dirty after the heavy rain. And all the sprays of muddy water makes her dirtier still.
We drive up the lush valley — lots of farms, rolling hills to the east, ocean to the west, up and down and around hills…back through the “old” wine area around Santo Tomas… the checkpoint south of Ensenada…then through one busy town before Ensenada, then Ensenada…to El Sauzal.
We’ve had some wonderful asada tacos in Ensenada and El Sauzal but can’t seem to find any today. The taco cart where we stop to eat has tacos of stewed seafood. It’s a mix of manta (rays), octopus and shrimp, served hot or cold. We have it hot, with a cup of “jugo” the soup from this stew. It’s the first time I’ve had anything like it. I like it and it tastes strangely nostalgic, like something homey and Japanese.
Tijuana is not too far and I’m able to navigate us into the proper line this time. It’s about 2:30pm. The wait time on their website was already 2 hours (Otay Mesa is closed on Sundays) so we inch along, car length by car length (or less) in this carnival-like atmosphere with vendors galore, walking between cars, setting up stalls between the lanes…beggars…trash collectors…kids…
“Oh yeah, I forgot to buy that huge and hideously ugly ceramic bulldog!”
“A creepy, giant replica of the Virgin of Guadalupe? Just what I wanted.”
People are selling puppies, ugly aprons, crap from China. (“Remember Cherokee Nation?”) There are ice cream vendors, sweet gorditas (looking like the Japanese Ohban-yaki,) churros, tacos. Gum, shaved ice, drinks. Pharmaceuticals! The actual vendor booths are closer to the gates and they have duty free cigarettes and booze, though they may be fake brands.
It’s Superbowl Sunday so a lot of people are listening to the game as we inch along to the border. “3-0,” Big Dog informs me after he checks his phone. As we approach the actual CBP station, someone yells out “3-10!”
It’s late. Darkness sets in. There are mariachis, illuminated balloons… Actually, the circus that is the Border Wait was entertaining enough to keep us from going completely nuts. (Until just before the checkpoint, we are diverted to a new lane that literally comes to a dead stop for a while. Big Dog who has been sooo good, taking all of this in stride, finally goes nuts.)
After 6:30pm and what turns out to be a FOUR HOUR WAIT we get to the immigration inspection. I had already juiced the oranges and eaten the avocado, but we still have a tomato and cucumber in the fridge so we get sent to the ag inspection area — a big cavernous garage. While waiting (more waiting!) we watch the car next to us get inspected. The back is STUFFED with shoes. Huh? You’re bringing old shoes to the US??? Finally, we are asked to step out and wait while the Ag inspector and her Black Lab (= food inspector dog; Beagles = drugs, GSD = arms/bombs) go into our rig. Turns out the tomato and cuke are fine but our frozen mangos get confiscated.
We’re finally cleared and made to wait in the car. (More waiting!) Meanwhile, B goes a bit crazy sniffing the whole place. “Who’s been here?! I leave and suddenly an unknown DOG comes in? With an unknown PERSON?” I can see what they touched by the stuff B is intently sniffing.
Big Dog has reached his patience’s limit. He’s super irritated and everything I do now is pissing him off. We get off the I-5 to get gas and I can’t find the on-ramp in the dark and we have to U-turn. I say something. He can’t find something. Doesn’t matter. It all pisses him off and he takes it out on me. He was so patient during the wait, but now his irritation continues until he goes to sleep.