Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Drive Down the Baja Peninsula

We're back! You didn'teven know we left didja? We took a quick trip to Oregon to visit family, go to the doc and buy a pickup to drive back down.Everything went well. Donna's brother-in-law Mike, was given a nice retirement party by his kids. My mom

celebrated her 79th birthday but I don't know if it was her first time. We had a barbecue at my sister and bro-in-law's house. All kids and most of the grandkids were there. We were missing 2 of my 3 boys, Bob and Wayne.

My 18 year old tore up a knee playing basketball and is still on crutches but we managed to have a good time together.

The weather was GREAT. Didn't rain for the week we were there. In fact, it was pretty hot a couple of days.

We started back down the Baja Monday morning, crossing the border at Tecate around 10 AM or so. I had a couple of motorcycles in the back of the pickup to deliver for a friend and some clothing articles for an orphanage just south of Santa Rosalia at the little village of San Lucas. There is a store there and the orphanage is right across the side street, on the right side of the highway..

The young man who inspected our vehicle was very efficient and cordial. He checked all the numbers on the motor bikes to make sure they matched with the documents I had. He asked me if the clothing was new or used. I knew it was a trick question but I figured I had a 50% chance of answering right so I said "used." He then told me that he couldn't allow me to carry the used articles of clothing across the border because of the flu. I then quickly said, "I meant new!" He laughed and ignored me even though I assured him that they had been washed thoroughly. After verifying that the bikes were ok, he sent us on our way but with a warning that next time, he wouldn't allow the clothes. By the way, if you take stuff like quads or bikes, always take something to prove that you have a legal right to possess the item. I met some kids once in Cabo that had their motorbike confiscated because they couldn't prove that they owned it. The police allowed them to have the documents faxed down but it was quite a time-consuming hassle.

This is the second time we have crossed at Tecate and I doubt I'll ever cross in Tijuana again. At Tecate there's less traffic and once you cross, you're in the country. I admit that driving along the coast south of Tijuana is one of the nicest drives anywhere but I really hate the traffic and delays etc associated with Tijuana. And you save like 6 bucks because you don't have to pay the tolls!! Woo Hoo!!! (I've been hanging with my friends from Monterrey again, could you tell?)

After you cross through the inspection, the road is fairly well marked; follow the signs to the highway that will take you to Ensenada. The drive down to Ensenada is pleasant. You'll pass through small villages, grape fields and wineries. There's construction on the highway between Tecate and Ensenada but they've built a nice bypass and you're not left waiting for 2 hours behind a flagman.

The road from Tecate ends at the highway to Ensenada. Turn left towards Ensenada, you'll drive for a bit before you are actually in the city. There's a marked truck route but stay on the road that says "zona touristica" or something similar. When you see that there are 3 lanes, stay in the middle lane. Take a left on Gral Agustin Sangines. Across the intersection is "Club Vegas", on the right is the navel base, you can't miss it. Stay in the right lane, watch for stop signs! There's like hidden stop signs. You'll pass the hospital IMSS, go through one light then turn right at the second light. There's a big sign at the corner that says "Soriana and Home Depot." Now you're cool. Drive south. A few minutes south will be a Costco on the left and a shopping center on the right if you need stuff or fast food. You are now on the main highway headed South.

South of Ensenada you will be passing through lots of small towns. The highway is also the main thoroughfare that the locals use. So you might creep along at 30 to 40 mph for quite a ways. Be ready for it and don't get impatient. If there's lots of locals going slow, go slow with them. There's a couple of places that have "speed trap" written all over them. There's another place south of Ensenda that also has road construction and a bypass road. The locals if they're in a hurry, will try and pass you in the dust, on a corner, wherever. Let 'em pass. Just make sure and give yourself enough space in front that they can squeeze back in when a Metro bus appears suddenly in the dust cloud.

When we drove through the wine country at Santo Tomas, there was a pretty good smoke cloud that looked like a brush fire in the hills behind the L.A. Cetto vineyard. I don't think it was threatening any homes; we didn't see any emergency equipment.

You don't have to worry about gasoline until you get to el Rosario. Fill up there just before Mama Espinoza's restaurant. From there, the next gas stop is at Cataviña but it's not a Pemex; it's a guy with 5 gallon cans of gas and you'll pay dearly if you forget to gas up in el Rosario. It's a good photo op though. After Cataviña, the next gas is just a few miles before Guerrero Negro.

Before we tavel on to Guerrero Negro, I want to mention Doña Anita Grosso de Espinoza: "Mama" Espinoza. I only met her once but I know from the old Baja rats that have traveled the peninsula for decades that she is a very special lady. Before you go, do a web search on "Mama Espinoza." You'll be amazed at the references to her. She was born around 1908 or so, opened the restaurant in the 30's and has entertained guests since. I didn't see her this trip and honestly don't know if she has passed on or not. By the way, the restaurant has good food and I normally stop there to eat. There's a hotel next door that has wireless internet.


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