Baja Trip. Episode 2

February 19, 2019 Leave a comment

It was cold this morning in Ensenada.  Hit the road without breakfast (and more importantly, without either orange juice or tea!).

It was pretty slow progress, lots of traffic. The new road-cuts north of Santo Tomas really save time, and they are working hard on upgrading the rest of that section – to the point that we were waiting in line for about 30 minutes to get through a section being torn apart by monster levelers and graders. But hey, we are in no hurry 🙂

The new sections of road don’t have the dreaded drop-off right at the edge of the road, allowing a little more margin for error. This margin is liberally used by overtakers – actually by those being overtaken, to move over into.

Then there was the long agricultural section leading into the complex north of and including San Quintin. Slow. Topes. Hidden ‘Alto’ signs. Inexplicable speed limits that none seem to adhere to. But hey, we are in no hurry 🙂

Getting up to midday, my blood sugar level was getting seriously impaired, so we stopped at a Tourism Center and tore into some bread and hard boiled eggs – and in my case, a treasured sausage roll. Still no tea, though. Orange juice? At last 🙂

So, finally, we get south of San Quintin, and all the traffic quiets down, and we make good progress at a general rate of a few clicks shy of 100 km/hr. But the drop-offs at the side of the road return, and the road itself is narrow, and I wonder whether to fold the drivers side mirror in….

At the Pemex gas station in El Rosario, we fill up. Good news and bad. We’re getting 15.5 mpg (I think that’s the good news?). Gas is $4.40 a gallon.

A block later is Mama Espinoza’s Motel and Restaurant. Here we stop, and sit in the sun:


It feels like 75 degrees F. Oh. My. That’s so welcome.

Later we eat at the restaurant. B’s chicken tacos were really good (she says), and my camarones rancheros were to die for (B agrees).

143 miles today. Tomorrow looks like quite a bit further, but with less traffic, so all is good.

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Baja Trip (or driving south to flee the cold). Episode 1

February 18, 2019 Leave a comment

Well, we made all of 125 miles today. We had to do a silly dance to get our FMMs stamped by Mexican imigracion. Went through the border at Tecate, then had to find somewhere close by to park, in order to walk back over the border into the USA, then walk back into Mexico to get to the immigration office???? Last time I came through Tecate (back in 2003 on my way to San Felipe and south on a motorcycle), I was able to stop at immigration on the way through.

Anyhow, a beautiful drive south to Ensenada via the Valle de Guadeloupe (wine country, and now very touristy). On the way, we were snowed on (actually sleet), the temps got down to 40 F, eventually to rise to a relatively balmy 60F.

We decided to hotel it and headed to Estero Beach Resort, and they had a special offer – $100 US per night. I don’t think so, so we found a perfectly adequate room at Hotel Bambu, a mile from there at 700 pesos for the night (about $36).

We hiked it to Tacos El Original, and I had one each of carne asada and adobada tacos, and B had a carne asada tostada. Delish!

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We’ve decided…

February 10, 2019 Leave a comment

We’re heading south for Baja California some time this week. Getting fed up with the chill here in SoCal, which seems like it’s been here for months. Checked the weather down south, and it’s kinda odd – warm on the Pacific coast but cool on the Gulf of Cortez coast.

We’ll see.

Got all the auto insurance and FIMM docs from Discover Baja last Friday. We won’t be taking the trailer, so we’ll be motelling it and car-camping in the van. But that’s just fine, we did a similar trip in 2004, and it was just stellar.

Big difference this time is that we don’t have to rush back for work.

Still, there’s loads of little tasks that need doing before we set off. Wish us luck 🙂

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Baja Almanac

January 30, 2019 Leave a comment

Years ago, we bought the 2003(?) Baja Almanac. It was great for detailed maps. Later, we upgraded to the 2009 edition. About $20, as I recall. We still have it.

We are planning a trip into Baja California next week, and as part of that planning we visited Discover Baja Travel Club in Clairemont Mesa.

Long story short, it turns out that the Baja Almanac has become as rare as rocking horse droppings, and the folks at Discover Baja advised us not to lend our copy to anyone lest we never get it back again. A check of eBay/Amazon has used copies of this item at around $500 each.

Okay. <blinks>

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Solar on the roof

December 9, 2018 Comments off

Way back in 2005 or so, we bought a 30 watt solar panel and controller to feed our 2nd battery in our VW Westfalia. I did ‘engineer’ an aluminum mount so that we could point it towards the sun. It worked, very well, and life continued.

We sold the Westfalia in 2013, but we wanted to continue camping and bought a Nissan Xterra. We acquired a Koolatron Kool Wheeler 12VDC cooler, and a 100 watt Grape solar panel from Home Despot, with controller. We discovered that, after adding gizmos to allow us to point the panel at the sun, we could keep that cooler cool, all day long.

Then we bought the Lance trailer in late 2013 and we’ve been using these two panels in various ways to keep its ‘house’ battery up to snuff. We also bought a flexible 100 watt panel to aid in this, as the Grape 100 watt solar panel was kind of heavy to deploy.

Latest addition is a Nissan NV van, and a second ‘house’ battery in it. The collection of ‘portable’ solar panels was building up, and what we had was all tactics and no strategy.

Blinding flash – put some solar on the roof of the trailer. Yep, without being able to angle it towards the sun, it wouldn’t be as efficient, but solar panels are getting relatively cheap, so we could add, as necessary.

So, that’s what I completed today. The original 30 watt panel from 2005, the Grape solar 100 watt monocrystalline panel from 2013 and a polycrystalline 100 watt Grape solar panel are now on the roof of the Lance trailer, combined in parallel, feeding a 20 amp PWM solar controller, which, in turn, feeds our Group 29 (110 amp hour) ‘house’ battery.

Experience from our last trip, when we had no power connection (and without the second Grape 100 watt panel), has led us to believe that this 230 watt solar configuration will be more than we will need. In the trailer, the fridge and furnace will run on propane, you just can’t run the a/c or microwave without 120VAC/generator, so most of the needed 12 VDC current requirement is pretty limited.

Here they are:


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Van awning

August 14, 2018 Comments off

After a day in the baking sun with no  shade, we decided that we wanted an awning for the van. Looked at Fiamma, but they were heckish expensive, so I trolled around Google and came across the Rhino Rack Sunseeker 2.5 meter awning. It’s made in the land of Oz, which is only worth pointing out because I don’t think I’ve ever bought anything made in Australia, except when I was physically on the continent.

The supplied fittings couldn’t be made to work with our van’s roof, so I got a local metal fabricator to make up some brackets that could.

And here it is:


And here it is unfurled (but not tied down):


It has a channel running along the front edge where we plan to hang screen material.

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2018 Rocky Mountain Trip Part 2

July 7, 2018 Comments off

In the last post to this blog, we left you cliff-hanging in Estes Park, CO, and the Rocky Mountain National Park. In truth, the sheer drops got the better of my heights phobia, and we turned around before getting to the top of the road. Awesome, anyhow.

Next day we set off to tour south east on hwy 36 and then back up the valley of the interestingly named ‘Big Thompson River’. Here be anglers (whilst we ate packed lunch):


Off we set, back down hwy 34, and then headed north, for a quick stop in Rawlins, WY. Rawlins has a pretty nasty history, exemplified by its state penitentiary. It also has two outstanding things:

A museum, which, amazingly, is pretty darn well curated.  It has an old covered wagon in the back – like an early RV…


and Rawlins has, surprisingly, a most excellent Thai restaurant.

Next up was Lander, WY. At a nice clean RV park with wifi that actually worked, for a change.

Almost by chance, we went to Sinks Canyon State Park, which is along a stretch of the ‘Popo Agie’ river. (pronunciation impossible)

When the river is at normal levels, it ‘sinks’ under the rocks, but when it is in full flood, it rushes down the canyon above ground. Which is what it was like when we arrived:

This is where it is supposed to disappear under ground.


This is just a picture of water.

There’s a trout pool a little downstream, and my, those trout are huge!


Dubois, WY was next. It is apparently pronounced ‘DUboys’, apparently as a protest at having a fancy french name imposed upon the town. Whilst we were there, everywhere was closed, but the Longhorn Ranch RV park was pretty nice, right along the river.

Onwards we went – close to the Tetons:



through Jackson (tiresome tourist destination) over the Teton Pass (holy moly, this is darn steep), and down, down, down to flatland – Idaho Falls.



B started having a little cough here. Nothing much, but some breathlessness.

We thought it might be about spending so much time at high elevations, or maybe an infection.

After a couple of nights, we started out north again, and headed to Lima, MT. Funky little one horse town in the middle of beautiful nowhere. We trundled along the 30 mile dirt road to the Red Rock Lakes National Wildlife Preserve, but it was apparently too windy for any wildlife to come out, according to a ranger. To be fair, it would have been better if we had come here at dawn or dusk.

By this time, B was having problems walking any distance, and she asked me to drive her to the place where we had dinner – most strange indeed, as it was only a few yards away.

So, we talked about this, and resolved to visit an urgent care facility in Butte, MT, the next day.

4am the next morning, B wakes me up and says, ‘I’m not going to make it to Butte, call 911!’

Long story short. A volunteer emergency ambulance crew turned up 30 minutes later, and take B to the little hospital in Dillon, MT, 45 miles away at 95 mph. I, gamely, follow, at legal speeds.

First suspicion is infection, so B gets hooked up to antibiotic infusions. A CAT scan shows blood clots in her lungs, so the antibiotics are stopped and heparin started.

6 days later, she is discharged from hospital (Yay, Medicare and MediGap – not a single dime does it cost) and we run for home down Interstate 15 with our tails between our legs.

Here’s what it looked like out of her hospital room window.


B is now stabilised on warfarin, and is doing OK.

But, holy fucking shit.

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