Van Conversion – take 2

May 6, 2019 Leave a comment

It took 12 months to realize that our van conversion just didn’t work. Main complaints being that there was too little space between the shelves for 2 folks to sleep comfortably, and that accessing whatever was on the shelves was a PITA, requiring scrambling around on knees, finding the correct container, and so on. Plus, we found that if we happened to have a 120 VAC connection nearby, there was no easy way to bring that connection into the van, and shut the door at the same time.

We also wanted to keep to the idea that we could turn it back into a plain van. So, no permanent structures that would impede full access.

So, we got rid of the shelves. Sold them on Craigslist.

The issue of the 120 VAC connection was easy to solve. We got San Diego Trailer Supply to install an external socket….

and a 20 amp breaker and 4 way socket….

So now we can hook up our Indel B fridge/freezer and a 400 watt battery charger for our ‘house’ battery (plus charge up or power anything that needs 120 VAC).

To solve the storage issue, we got a MorRyde Slide out tray and had San Diego Trailer Supply install it…

That thing is just fantastic! It’ll support 400 pounds and slide out 80% of its length.

To remedy the sleeping problem, I used rivet nuts and lengths of 1.5 inch aluminum right angle bolted to those rivet nuts along each side of the van, to support half inch birch ply, itself braced with aluminum C-channel, to create a bed platform above the slide out tray…

 This turned out to be pretty darn rigid, but we have some ‘legs’ that we can brace it with, if needed.

This now means that we have plenty of space for the inflatable mattress…

We haven’t yet actually slept up there, but we’ve tried bouncing around as though we might have been, and it seems solid. My pals were concerned that the stresses on the rivet nuts might be too much for the inner side walls. This does not seem to be the case.

More to follow….

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Baja Trip. Wrap Up

March 11, 2019 Comments off

We drove just over 3000 miles. This on a peninsular that’s only 900 miles long. Side trips, loads of them, are the difference. Fuel ‘economy’ was a smidgeon under 15 mpg, which in fact is remarkably good for this vehicle, in our experience. The average cost per gallon in Mexico turned out to be US$3.65 and that’s for Magna (87 octane). We had no issues with anyone trying to ‘cheat’ us in any way on gas (or any other transaction, for that matter).

Money and exchange rates. We can’t prove it, but it seemed that paying in US$ got us a worse exchange rate than getting pesos from the ATM at a bank and paying in local currency. The bank with the ATM and our credit union in the USA take a bite out of the ATM transaction, but even so it seemed to be in our favor.

Despite the fact that we’ve done the same Spanish language classes (level 1 & 2) three times at our local adult education scheme, we still were absolutely hopeless with the lingo. It began to start ‘coming back’ to us after the second week, but really slowly. The only excuse we have is that we are old. Despite this, we always managed to figure out with the Spanish-only speakers what it was they wanted/we wanted, because they really try to work with you.

There are Walmarts in Tijuana, Mexicali, Rosarito and Ensenada. OK, but who knew there is a Walmart Supercenter in La Paz. Plus, the Bodega Aurrera chain is owned by Walmart (and has Walmart WiFi).

We took enough clothes for 7 days. We found that laundromats are widely available, and ‘servicio’ (service washes) are frequently available and cheap. B broke out with livid rashes on her face and hands, which could be due to whatever laundry chemicals that had been used on our service washes/hotel bedding. Next time, we’ll be sure to use our own low allergy laundry liquid, and try and avoid hotels (or, bring our own pillowcase since B’s rash wasn’t all over).

Sirius/XM Radio works just fine. Except, in our case when you get as far south as La Paz, and then it’s just useless. The ‘techie’ in me thinks that the satellite signal is ‘focussed’ on the USA, and you just run out of ‘edge’ signal, that far south.

Wifi/Cellular data is ubiquitous. Where people are ubiquitous. Otherwise, it’s non-existent. That seems reasonable. We got an AT&T pre-paid SIM for one of our phones, and we were able to roam on TELMEX almost everywhere in the towns and cities along Mex 1. It was mostly HSPA, except in La Paz, where we had LTE. We got nothing in Bahia de  Los Angeles. Most hotels had some form of WiFi. On average, the WiFi wasn’t too bad, sometimes exceptional, sometimes, just useless. Even Rancho Meling had WiFi, sort of.

Google Maps vs Garmin. For ever, we have found that Google Maps is a great way to run your phone’s battery down, without offering much more than Garmin GPS does. And Garmin, because it’s satellite based, is available everywhere, unlike the cellular data based Google Maps. This changes in Baja. The actual maps are pretty much like for like, but what Google Maps knows about restaurants and places to visit, and so on and so on, way outstrips the limited information that Garmin has in its database.

Finally, we rediscovered that the people in Baja California are honest, hard-working and charming. I’m certain that there are bad apples, but we didn’t encounter a single one.

 

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Baja Trip. Episode 15

March 10, 2019 Comments off

It was so windy last night that the pilot light for our water heater had blown out, so cold shower. B’s face was slightly worse, so we stopped by a pharmacy to get some anti-allergy potion. Too early to determine whether it’s making a difference.

40 miles north of San Quintin, we made the eastern turn towards San Pedro Martir. Everything is so green from the recent rain, and it all looks so pastoral, not at all like the Baja we thought we knew. Eventually we start seriously gaining elevation and the scenery around us becomes a riot of yellow, orange and purple wild flowers.

Flowers1

At around 20 miles, we see the road down to Rancho Meling, which is where we’ll be staying later, but on up the road we go, the temperature dropping as we climb. We start seeing pockets of snow at the side of the road, and then the road goes crazy – switchbacks and hairpin turns. Eventually we get to to the entrance to the park – Parque Nacional Sierra de San Pedro Martir – and we’re up to our ankles in snow

snow

We continue past the museum all the way to the locked gates of the observatory, at about 60 miles from Mex 1. There was a small line of vehicles in line waiting, so we can only assume that they open at some time. We hadn’t made any arrangements to visit the observatory, but it’s pretty high up and cold here – about 8,550 feet.

altitude

We turned around and started to come off the mountain, stopped by the museum, which, for some reason, had all its doors open, making it rather chilly. Further down the hill, we made the left turn onto the dusty dirt road heading to Rancho Meling, and checked in. Er hem, electricity only between 5 and 9 pm, light your own wood-burning stove in your room, and your own kerosene lamps. Can you say rustic? Not really, the place has a huge satellite dish (not for us, no tv in our room), and WiFi, if you choose to sit next to its antenna. It’s to be a communal chicken meal tonight.

This place is, quite literally, in the middle of nowhere, and it is beautifully maintained. The gardeners are at work outside our door as I write this. The hill behind our room:

Flowers2

I joined the communal dinner (without B, who felt indisposed), and happened to sit next to the owner, David Lang. That was wonderfully informative about the history of the ranch, and made me feel very special.

Today, Sunday, the clocks changed, and so did we. We decided to head back home because poor B’s IBS and rash were not making her life too enjoyable. All went well except for a 100 minute wait to cross the border at Tecate, and my, those border folks are brusque, don’t they realize that the taxes I pay, pay their salary?

I’ll do a wrap up post with facts and figures about this trip, next.

And we’re planning a trip to San Felipe, very, very soon.

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Baja Trip. Episode 14

March 8, 2019 Comments off

Well, everything (except one) worked out today. The ATM gave us some cash (Yay!), we got needed supplies and our resting point for the night (Don Eddie’s Landing in San Quintin) is in a lovely setting, and we have some great views from our room (the honeymoon suite).

What didn’t work out is that B has a rash on her face, and it’s making her feel weird.

Photos from hereabouts:

DonEddies1

DonEddies2

DonEddies3

DonEddies4

Jaws

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Baja Trip. Episode 13

March 8, 2019 Comments off

13 is a good number, not.

Today is Friday.

On Tuesday, we left Mulege, and looked at the motel options in Vizcaino, settled on one, and then set off back along the road to try to see Mission San Francisco de la Sierra. We got about 20 km along a paved road that went way up high in the hills until it fizzled out into a bright red mud dirt road. No way were we going to drive along that. Back we went.

Wednesday, after overnighting in Vizcaino, we took the road to Bahia Tortugas. It’s a long road, with not much to look at. When we got to our destination, we felt that it was a place with a great future behind it. So, we drove back and stayed at the Halfway Inn (no joke) on the 28th parallel just north of Guerrero Negro. From the hotel, one can see that the old Federales checkpoint has lost both its huge ironwork eagle and its huge Mexican flag. What’s up with that?

The bank (Bancomer) ATM refused to let us have any pesos – the same ATM that gave us some, last time through.

Thursday, we had decided to spend a couple of nights at Bahia De Los Angeles. It turned out not to be, as all the hotels were booked for some racing event. Filled up with gas at the local Pemex – they wouldn’t take a credit card, thus eating into our dwindling pesos at $4.50 a gallon! Back we tracked to Mex 1 and pulled off at the La Pinta hotel at Catavina. $70 a night and 30 pesos an hour for wifi. No cell signal. Got us by the short and curlies. But, oh well, at least they take credit cards 🙂

We shelled out the 30 pesos, and at least got ourselves places to stay for Friday and Saturday.

Later, the day redeemed itself, somewhat, as the food in the hotel restaurant was delicious. B had enchiladas de camarones and I had tacos barbacoa.

Today, Friday morning, we turned off Mex 1 to take a look at the old marble mine – El Marmol – and got about 1 km along the dirt road only to calculate that the 30 km return journey would take us more than 2 hours at our current rate of progress. We weren’t that interested in a non-working marble mine.

Looking forward to episode 14, as numero 13 wasn’t a whole lot of fun.

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Baja Trip. Episode 12

March 4, 2019 2 comments

Unrushed day, today, driving north from Ciudad Constitucion to Mulege.

On the way we stopped to admire the geology:

geology

Bahia Concepcion – yes, the water is that blue:

BahiaConcepcion

and wandered down to the Isla el Requeson:

IslaElRequeson

 

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Baja Trip. Episode 11

March 2, 2019 Comments off

Here is the famous La Paz Dove (see B in inset for scale). Yep, everyone has a photo of this. This is ours.

LaPazDove

We had a gentle and moderately twisty drive north west around the bay this morning. Here are some images from San Juan De La Costa:

SanJuanBay2

SanJuanBay

Roofless

BoatnMountain

Heron

BoatnSea

 

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