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!

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.

Boondocking in El Tomatal (March 5 2016)

Goodbye San Lucas!

DSC06002First stop is Santa Rosalia, for cash and food. It’s Saturday and many people are out, eating at yummy looking taco stands, standing around the church (a funeral seems to be in progress) and just enjoying themselves. There is no stop at the El Boleo Bakery, however. (“We won’t get fooled again!”)

DSC06005DSC06007We are nearly out of everything, but while shopping at Ley, we remember the agricultural check at Parallelo 28 so avoid getting much in the way of fruits or vegetables.

The road north of Santa Rosalia is terrible, with the worst potholes. In fact, some have just expanded into dirt/rock road. A wacko driver overtakes a truck at the crest of a hill and nearly runs into us, coming up the other side. Driving is such a thrill out here!

DSC06009Back through the basin behind the Three Virgins volcanoes, then up and down into San Ignacio. As we had promised ourselves on the way down, we go into the town this time.

DSC06013DSC06014Wow! This really is an oasis! The road down to the town is thick with date palms and foliage. There is a lake and things are lush and lovely. When the narrow road reaches town, there’s a pretty plaza with big trees and a church which might be one of the nicest in Baja. It’s more like one of the mainland churches – large, airy and well constructed out of stone.

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“This should be a Pueblo Magico,” comments Big Dog. All over Mexico, you find towns designated as “Magic Villages.” Some are truly captivating attractive towns while others are…not. Maybe they paid some official for the denomination. Todos Santos carried the nickname although we didn’t feel that much “magic” there. (Santa Rosalia was more “magico” than Todos Santos…) San Ignacio feels better than Todos Santos – like it is more of a real town, somehow.

DSC06024DSC06025Back on Mex 1, we are driving north towards Guerrero Negro. At the military checkpoint, one of the soldiers gets into the vehicle and starts opening cabinets. When he opens the back cabinet, Big Dog’s undies fly out. Good thing he didn’t open the opposite side or my undies would have exploded in his face.

The long, flat stretch before Viscaino is very windy and we get tossed around a bit. Some gusts are strong enough to send poor Sprockets wobbling. On top of that, a bee finds its way into the vehicle and onto Big Dog who gets stung while driving!

DSC06028We want to go back to Antonio’s fish taco truck in Guerrero Negro, but by the time we reach Viscaino, we are starving and stop at the first taqueria, “Señor Taco.” Mr. Taco only has asada and adobada tacos. There’s a tv on the wall playing a popular Saturday variety show. It’s silly and colorful and slapstick – just like a weekend variety show in Japan. We both order one of each kind of taco. They are only P10 each and super taaaaaasty! The best part is the homemade salsa which is full of umami and one of the best tasting salsas we’ve had.

Our hunger is sated, but when we reach Guerrero Negro we go back to Antonio’s anyway. He’s now got a really cute girl working with him.

“So, was it still the best fish taco?” asks Big Dog. On the way down, you thought so, but back then, it was only the second fish taco place we had visited.

“The fish is still awesome, though I like the way the Loreto gals fried theirs. Of course, their fish was different. It was lighter while Tony’s is meatier.”

“If Tony had Señor Taco’s salsa, his would be tops.”

“Or if the Loreto gals had that salsa, they’ve be tops.”

DSC06029Just north of Guerrero Negro is the ag inspection but today, there is no inspection, no spraying of tires. The inspection point looks deserted. Is it because it’s a Saturday? If there was going to be no inspection, we could have bought a bag of oranges. Drats.

DSC06030We are headed to El Tomatal, a beach one of the campers recommended.

“The turnoff is right there at the military checkpoint,” he said, and sure enough, after the “vehicle frisk/pat down” (as I’ve been calling these inspections) and a funny conversation about how to say “buenas tardes” in English, we ask about El Tomatal and they point to a dirt road, partially blocked by their cones.

Not knowing what it is like up ahead, we rattle down the road, passing wild burros and a ranch with some cattle. A ranch hand is there so we ask him if this is the road to the playa. Like, duh, what else is out there?

This dirt road is not too bad and it is short – only about 2.5 miles. As you approach shore, you see dunes in the distance, but just before that, a tiny oasis with a lagoon, palms, grass and clover.

DSC06037Nobody is here, so we just stop in the middle of the road, just before it gets too soft and sandy. There are dunes all around. It feels wilder here. The beach is round rocks, a few shells, but not an overabundance of them, like San Lucas, Bahia Concepcion or even Guerrero Negro. Surf is hard, pounding, rough and rolling. It smells like the Pacific.

DSC06033DSC06032On the highway, we saw purple and white wildflowers but here it is mainly thorny bush and low growing vegetation. It looks like sea asparagus. There are animal prints in the sand but the only creatures we actually see are…ants. Of course.

The setting sun casts a hazy glow. Not a bad place to boondock for a night.

End of Day Miles: 2347.3 mi

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The Friendliest Gringos in Baja (March 1 2016)

“It’s March.”

“Bummer,” answers Big Dog.

The water is not as placid as it was yesterday, but we take the kayak out again anyway, hoping to run into Mr. Whale Shark or Mrs. Sea Turtle. No luck. Every dark spot on the water turns out to be a bird. It’s also hard to see anything underwater because of the ripples.

The camp is nearly deserted today. Just one tent and The Intruders.

“Shall we go up to Escondida?”

“Or Playa Cocos?”

“Or onwards?”

“Or just stay here?”

“The battery is real low.”

“But with yesterday’s trip, we might squeeze in another day…”

I am leaning towards getting up to San Lucas where there were toilets and hot showers. Ahhh. The thought of a shower is too good.

In the end, that becomes the decision, so it’s onwards to Caleta San Lucas.

DSC05959At the San Lucas RV park, we drive into the main part and although there are a few waterfront spaces available, we find a spot underneath a big tree.

DSC05981Big Dog immediately hits the showers and I begin washing clothes. While I am doing that, “Dave,” a resident of the park rides down on his bicycle to invite us to Happy Hour at his place. It turns out to be that beautifully landscaped site on the waterfront which we admired when we were first here.

DSC05980They have built a “living room” in front of their rig and a “patio” next to it. He and his wife put in a lot of elaborate work to make a very cool beach home. There are dozens of North Americans there, including Royce and Susan whom we had met on your earlier stay here. The women are all dressed up. At least I’ve showered.

Dave has smoked yellowtail, which is delish, and others have brought all sorts of munchies.

“Have more! We’ve got all kinds of stuff to drink!”

DSC05977The “residents” here are all so friendly and welcoming. When we first arrived, one older resident tells us how the showers work. Now, Big Dog is talking about the battery situation and broken generator and they all jump in.

“Francisco’s the guy to fix it.”

“I’ll take you to see him tomorrow.”

“You can borrow my battery.”

“You can use my generator.”

Have we just entered Bizarro World where everyone is Mexican Friendly and Super Helpful? What IS this place? Land of the Good Samaritans? Did Posada Concepcion Ivan come from here??

End of Day Miles: 2155.4 mi

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