Two Miles in Four Hours (February 3 2019)

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.

IMG_0807The 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.

IMG_0794We 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.

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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…

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IMG_0812“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.

IMG_0755 (1)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!”

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Are we there, yet?

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.

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Valle de Los Cirios (February 2 2019)

Tanuki: It drizzled during the night and is still drizzly in the morning but it’s still beautiful out here at the Old Port of Guerrero Negro. B and I walk around a giant pit of sand — it’s encrusted with salt. Maybe it was a salt flat. She gets to really run, unfettered by leash or other dogs, at last, waking up birds sleeping under a sand ledge by the water. They take off in noisy indignation. Big blue heron-like birds, others similar but with black heads, geese-like birds… There were birders around the old lighthouse yesterday but they should have come in the morning.

The landscape becomes a lot more interesting after climbing up and inland. Valle de Los Cirios. There is so much cool and interesting vegetation! It’s a treasure trove of diversity! Red barrel cacti, giant cordons, tentacled spiny things, senitas, chollas… Elephant trees, yuccas (big yellow umbrella flowers on some!) Instead of the purple flowers along the road, it’s yellow daisy like flowers here. As we approach El Rosario, we see patches of orange poppies, too. Everything is greeeeeeen!

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The tall conical plants are cirios, also known as boojum trees.

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Just before Catavina, we stop long enough for B to have breakfast and while there, the Arcata couple we met in El Requeson pulls up. They had been in San Francisquito (“Dicey! Beautiful airstrip, dilapidated buildings, a boat launch…” Hmmm) and Bahia de Los Angeles, but are on their way back, too.

They tell us about “Canyon Camp” south of San Quintin. It looks like a nice beach camp, but the weather is getting worse and we worry about our ability to get out if it’s raining so we keep going to San Quintin and Molino Viejo. Eventually, the Arcata couple gets there too. It’s cold and windy outside so we all sit around inside our rig, talking for a long time before they leave for their campground where they are staying and B finally gets dinner. So do we.

What’s Big Dog having? The molcajete, of course!

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Big Dog loves the molcajete (right). The fried oysters (left) were succulent and tasty, too!

Surf Dogs (January 10 2019)

Bailey: It’s overcast in the morning when The Woman and I go walking. She pooped in the bushes last night and is trying to cover her tracks. Humans are funny. They don’t like to see poop but will eagerly pick it up. And then they think it’s gross when we chomp on horseshit. Doubly funny when you think of all the crap they eat.

Oh! And I got to that mysterious bag on the beach! It’s got something dead and wonderful in there! I had to get close and personal with it, rubbing my face in the smell. Mmmm. Dead thing! Of course, this sends The Woman in a tizzy.

“I can’t touch you now, Bailes,” she keeps saying, giving me her wrinkly face look. I want to tell her that it’s not a good look; that it will end up giving her more wrinkles. But more than that, I am severely disappointed when she pulls me away from the bag. But I still smell like it. Heh heh heh.

After we all have our breakies, we go out to watch the waves. It’s okay. People on boards, standing on water. Maybe it’s fun for them. Must be, because more and more people are coming, pulling on fake skin that makes them look like seals and going into the ocean.

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Once the sun sets, there are fewer people, which means fewer dogs. I get to run around a bit, do “catch the ball” with The Woman and The Man, but later, the Spanish speaking kids appear and they are dirt biking all around the dunes, scaring the shit out of me. I’m happy when they leave and it’s quiet again.

Tanuki: I get up early and think of exploring Big Nothing but signs say keep out — including people — and I notice there are people inside, looking out. Guards? I don’t know what was in that bag of dog food on the beach but now Bailey who rolled around in it stinks like a dead animal. And so do my hands from touching her! I have to wash my hands. Actually, I have to wash a lot. My face and bod, for one. Clothes. Towels. Most of all, Ms. B!!

More surfers keep arriving. Someone who got here last night said when things are good, you get real nice rides here, but it doesn’t happen often. Said it’s supposed to get better. I read that this place can get a beautiful right side that you can ride for 1.5 miles! From the jetty, we can see the pretty (small) barrel.

Bathroom privacy all but disappears. But we set up the chairs and table anyway, read and watch surfers. Waves do get really nice and the sun finally comes out.

The surf dogs are at it all day — til sunset. Then, all is quiet.

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Nice when the sun comes out…

Strange Plants, Giant Boulders (January 9 2019)

Bailey: It’s another Beautiful Morning! I do an early morning walk with The Woman, and then with The Man but by then, the tiny flies are back out and he wants to get going. More English speaking people are appearing and you know how all of them like to travel with dogs, so maybe it’s good we’re moving along.

Back on the rutted road, Sprockets is rocking back and forth. There’s farmed land out the window. After we get back on pavement, we stop at a gas station where they fill up Sprockets and then crawl underneath for something.

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IMG_0748The road goes through a lush valley, and then into an area with the strangest plants I have ever seen! Some of them look familiar – those spiny things called yuccas, others are tall wavy cones with soft, thin, curly things sprouting all over. And then, we enter the Big Boulder Zone. The boulders are giant!

We pull over in front of a little wooden building. It smells like smoke and grease and meat and gasoline. After The Woman walks me around a bit, they go inside. When they come out, they smell just like the building.

Sometimes I nap, sometimes I watch the scene from the window, sometimes I stick my head out (“Snottle!” The Woman says every time I snort) and sniff the air. Eventually, we get to another beach. There’s more trash on this one, including an intriguing looking/smelling bag on the beach. I’ll have to investigate it as soon as I can.

More people and cars are here. And more dogs. Ugh. Some of them want to come and say hi. Don’t they get it? I don’t like them. I don’t want them near me. I’m not a dog, like they are. So, just stop it, okay?

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Tanuki: The beach was so deserted yesterday but one after another, North American cars appear. Surfers from BC…Washington…who knew this was so popular. Glad it was deserted when we were there.

At El Rosario, we fill up with expensive diesel (P21/ltr), and then crawl under Sprockets to tie up some loose cables. The area around El Rosario is also fertile ag land. It seems busier, with more restaurants, hotels, etc. than before.

After the fertile valley, we enter the rolling hills of cirios. This is the big cirios biosphere that extends over a vast area. Pretty much from here to Guerrero Negro. But everything is stunningly green and there are pretty wildflowers everywhere. The cirios are so bushy now, they look like furry cones, with leafy stalks boinging out every which way. Yuccas are flowering, barrel cacti are plump… Even when we get to the Big Boulder Zone, there’s a lot of green between the rocks…

Until we cross over to the Marmol Mesa area. Here, it’s more Mojave-like: big boulders, small shrubs and not much else. We stop at a truck stop cafe — a little house in the middle of nowhere beyond Guayaquil. They have a montage of faded photos of big rigs out front, along with chairs made of old truck tires. It looks like it was once an RV park, too. Several pull through sites are on both sides of the house, with sewer outlets (and water inlet?). Once upon a time. It had water. Power, too. Someone’s good idea that didn’t work, I guess. (Like La Gringa RV spot at Bahia de LA?) There is also a pack of dogs lying around on the other side of the house. Glad they didn’t come out when B and I first walked around.

When we enter the “cafe” it’s cold and dark inside but at least it smells like food. Big Dog orders the machaca seca comida and I get the machaca burritos. That’s pretty much all they have and the machaca is really seca! And salty. And expensive. But out in the middle of nowhere, what can you expect?

We still don’t know if we’re going to stop in Catavina or not, but when we get there (and there are LOTS of hotels!) we decide to keep moving.

“We can do it on the way back,” we say.

So, now, do we go to Bahia de LA or??? We finally decide on Santa Rosalillita. I’d read that there’s a beautiful paved road to it. Another good idea that went nowhere, I guess. Mexico is filled with them.

After Punta Prieta, the road curves and goes down toward the coast. Out here there are yuccas and things that look like Joshua trees. Yucca brevifolia. A big wide road turns off of Mex 1 and goes down to Santa Rosalillita. There is something big and industrial down there, all kind of in ruins. Was it once a dock? packing plants? Other than that, there is a collection of funky buildings and homes, some abandoned, some not… We are reminded of Puertocitos.

In from the beach, there are little dunes and places to park between them. One spot is already taken by an SUV with tent on top. There are small but beautifully formed waves that look like fun surfing. A few pangas are resting on the small deserted beach.

But then, The Others begin arriving. One gringo vehicle after another, all with surfboards. Is that a caravan of surfers next to us? 4 or 5 vehicles corralled together in one spot. Lots of gringo dogs, too, so we have to be careful, but B still gets to run around a bit, sniffing a big bag of dog food washed up on the beach.

Unfortunately, my stomach begins to hurt so I am running out to poo in the bushes. Not having a useable toilet in Sprockets is a real drag since there are more and more campers and when it gets dark, a local walks around with a flashlight. He says he works here and looks out, so no problem staying. Or something like that. Maybe all the residents are employees of the Big Something That Never Was.

Surfin’ Safari (January 8 2019)

IMG_0605It’s a bright sunny morning! The Woman gets up and we go outside to walk, sniff, pee and look at birds. There are boats on the water and one of them looks like it has a family onboard. I find out that the other strange smell that reminded me of the pile of railroad ties at the ranch comes from the wooden boardwalk. I like it so much I push my face onto it and The Woman flips out. She stops me before I can squirm all over it.

“Ohh, no, Bailey. It’s covered in tar! Look at how black your face is now! And smelly!”

She dips a towel into the bay and starts scrubbing my face with it. Oh, great, now I smell like rotty fish, too. I smell many dogs but don’t see any until The Man joins us on our walk. One big white dog appears out of nowhere and starts walking towards me. Uh-oh. Grrrr. No, you are NOT going to sniff my butt. The Man and Woman know better than to stay there and quickly move away. Good.

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Looks scary, but it’s not real.

We go back to Sprockets where I get my morning yum-yum and they have pastries (The Man gave me a small taste!) and yogurt with bananas.

We drive down some dusty roads, continuing South, then off the pavement bouncing around until we get to another Beach. This one is really cool. It’s almost completely deserted, no dogs, with high dunes where you can go for a better view. I don’t have to be on a leash and I get to run around like crazy. Love it! Is this the kind of trip we’re on? Super cool!

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That’s The Woman, behind me.
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The Man fails to share his sandwich…

Tanuki: After San Quintin, we continue down Mex 1, through a valley of nopales farms. There are a lot of nopales farms here. The grilled ones in our molcajete were great. I must grill nopales more. The land is green now – very much like our ranch area.

After a military checkpoint, the road winds down, down, down through pretty green hills to the tiny town of El Rosario. I think Bocana de Rosario might be something but we find ourselves on the much longer dirt road to the Punta. Big Dog asks how far it is to the coast when a truck passes us. 15km? On this dirt road? It’s pretty well graded but… And then we make another wrong turn and it’s a shorter road to the beach, through a marshy area, then dunes, and finally ocean. Row after row of big waves crash down. It could be good surfing, or boogie boarding. If it weren’t so chilly.

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Bailey is running wild and free and looks so happy, running, running, running. Up she goes, to the top of the dunes. When I call she runs down to the beach and then back up. There are a few guys on the beach loading big round rocks. Later, more rock gatherers appear, as well as guys on a dune buggy, but other than that, it’s completely deserted.

 

Border Crossing (January 7 2019)

The Woman gets up after the sun rises and we go outside. It’s chilly and I have to be on a leash but I find a nice spot on a grassy knoll to do my Morning Business. Why does she pick up my poo whenever we’re away from the ranch? She doesn’t bother to do this at her own home.

Speaking of home, this is a really comfy home and I could stay here forever, but I see that The Man and Woman are packing up again. After I get my breakfast and they have their coffee, fruit and yogurt, we get back into Sprockets and keep driving South.

The Fast Road becomes a Slow Road as it goes through some buildings and The Man shows papers to a uniformed person outside. We’re heading to the side. The Woman and I have to get out while The Man drives Sprockets onto a kind of platform. Eventually 4 vehicles are on this platform and a loud metal thing goes over them as lights flash and a siren goes off. This happens again and again.

All during this time, The Woman and I walk around. It’s boring here. Just a lot of metal and concrete. The rubbery plants I walk on make me want to poo again. The Man is in a shed near the platform, with 3 other men.

Still no Sprockets. I have to poo again!

Finally, The Man gets back into Sprockets and drives to us. We get in but in no time at all, they are out again, walking to a Big Building, leaving me inside. It smells different out here. I can’t quite tell what it is…

After The Man and Woman get back to Sprockets, we are on the road again, still going South, still with the ocean out the window but it feels warmer now. The towns are dusty and loud but outside the towns, it’s not too different from home. The sun goes down while we’re still driving, driving, driving…until finally we stop at a small bay. Seagrass, birds, fishy smells… The Man and Woman leave me inside for a while and return, smelling like food – something creamy, something fishy, something boozy. I guess we’re sleeping inside Sprockets tonight. Nice and cozy!

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Tanuki: After our night in Encinitas with Dano, who helped Big Dog film his documentary about the Great Pyramid, and his lovely wife, we tank up at the last cheap diesel station north of the border and then get to the Tijuana Border Crossing. I had expected delays because it’s Monday morning, but things weren’t too bad until we get picked to be x-rayed. 4 vehicles are randomly selected (we are the only non-Mexicans) and everyone but the driver is asked to step out. Then, the vehicles line up on a pad where this metal arch on rails moves down the length of the pad. It goes back and forth, stopping for minutes, then again. And again. How long is this supposed to take? We must have been there for an hour. Long enough for Bailey to poop twice in the ice plants. Ha, take that!

When it’s all over, we have to go to the immigration office for our visas. They cost $59, I think for the 2 of us — seems like the price is different every time! Now we finally get rolling! No one has asked for Bailey’s papers.

There are 2 layers of walls at the border. The US wall and the Mexican wall which is being built by Mexicans! We see that there’s a lot more rolled up razor wire everywhere. Did they bring these in when the border was being stormed? There’s a tent city next to the main road out of Tijuana not too far from the border. Guess this is where the migrants are housed. There were tourist police cars around the area. I want to believe the police are there for the migrant’s protection rather than harassment.

We take the cuota for the first time. It’s nice and goes along the coast all the way to Ensenada. It’s an easy drive along a sunny coast. After a quick taco stop in Ensenada, we continue south towards San Quintin. The road is mostly good — pot holed in only a few places — but just beyond the valley of Santo Tomas (wine country!) as the road goes up and over towards the coast, there’s major road work and we’re stuck for a LONG time. There are all sorts of vendors — ice cream, veggie sticks, yaca (I find out later that it’s jackfruit), candies, candied apples, elote (fresh corn), drinks…

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The land is very very green and lovely. As we get into Camalu valley — a major ag area — there is more traffic and we’re slowed down by slower vehicles. The sun is setting, in a blazing ball. Once again, we find ourselves trying to get to San Quintin before dark! The sun sets before we get there and we have to find the turn off to Molino Viejo in the dark but we do and SURPRISE! The road is paved all the way to the restaurant and boat launch. It’s only 5:30 or so but already dark. It’s chilly! Big Dog really wanted to come here for the molcajete, he loved it so much the last time we were here. I order a Bohemia (for me, wanting to go “lighter” after all that wine last night) and a margarita (for Big Dog, a reward for a big day of driving), clam chowder and molcajete de mariscos. It is still really good, all hot and volcano-bubbly, with grilled nopales and queso fresco.

There are a few partying in the parking lot but they disappear quickly. We settle down to a movie and then sleep.

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