Well, we have arrived at our home for the next three months. Three Weeks. Three Mechanics. Thirteen Campgrounds. Nearly 2500 miles.
Although our most recent reinvention has us less overlanders than the last couple of years, we are still firmly rootless on many levels. And these last few of weeks moving from our summer -home at Camp Coeur D’Alene, to our former state of Oregon, to our latest winter resting spot in Los Barriles have reminded us of the reality of a life lived, at least part-time, on the move.
The popular t-shirts say it all “Home is Where You Park It”. For all of us living out and about in the world, this is absolutely true. Jim’s parents sometimes refer to us as “coming home” when, in fact, Oregon doesn’t feel as much like home these days. Yes, we will always have roots there for many of those we love the most do call it home. But our latest time spent there only strengthened our inner feelings that it may never truly be our home again.
Part of the wonder of travel is that you gain the ability to immerse yourself in new places, new cultures, new ways of thinking. This is a learned art, but once you have acquired it, you are given the priceless gift of always feeling at home. This is not to say some locations are not more challenging than others, but the ability to merge into new situations with a certain amount of grace goes a long way.
It took us two weeks to reach Los Barrriles from Portland; a shorter time than we had meant to give ourselves. We know this road, having driven the length of Baja five times in the last two years in our truck camper. Pulling Taco, our 20′ Lance trailer, was sure to prove a new adventure on narrow, pot-holed, winding Mexico 1. We weren’t wrong.
We left Oregon in the rain and, as we always do, considered the long state of California something we simply needed to endure. Reluctant to hit I-5 in lieu of a more scenic route we wound our way through the Redwoods following Hwy 101 as far as Paso Robles for a much needed two-night stay.
One of our goals for the journey: stay at a variety of campgrounds gathering ideas for Camp CDA. In exactly 14 days of travel, we spent as little as $5 for a beachfront spot with some of the most disgusting bathrooms we’ve ever seen at Playa Santistpac (and that is saying a lot) and as much as $71/night at the extremely crowded Wine Country RV Park in Paso Robles.
We camped in torrential rain and 65mph wind gusts at scenic Harris Beach State Park in southern Oregon and dry desert in Catavina, Baja.
We spent two nights at Sweetwater Regional Park in San Diego after swearing never again after our time there two years ago but are happy to report we survived with nothing stolen and no domestic disputes (from other campers, not us!) this time around. We were much more thrilled to return to L.A Cetto Winery and the Kadekaman Hotel & RV Park in Vizcaino, two of our favorite spots along the way. (and yes overlander friends, the bathrooms at Kadekaman are STILL the best we’ve seen anywhere in Mexico).
This time around we “got” to visit three mechanics. Never a good thing and yet just another reason to love Mexico! Upon departing L.A. Cetto we realized our air conditioning on the truck had gone out. What to do? We could suck it up and just get through it but with highs in the 90’s and 1000 miles to go did we really want to go that route. More concerning than our own comfort was that of Aspen. Black dogs, in general, are sensitive to the heat and black labs, with their double coats, even more so. A mechanic visit in Ensenada seemed a more reasonable stop than a potential vet visit.
Ioverlander came to the rescue as it so often does and brought us to Andres. After we gave him a call a mere 40-minute wait (an anomaly in Mexico) had him arriving at his shop to diagnose our problem`~ a blown a/c sensor caused by a hole leading into the radiator. Alas, Andres wasn’t a pro at air conditioning so rode with us to his friend Marcos at Aire-Auto. In less than two hours he and his team had us back in action.
Sometimes on the road, you spend an evening watching the sunset while drinking wine in a vineyard where the grapes were grown. And sometimes you spend the afternoon sitting on a curb, on a dusty back street in Ensenada, eating Birria street tacos while your radiator is fixed. All just another day in the life. This ying and yang of travel is what feeds our souls and keeps us coming back for more.
After our mechanical adventures, amounting to a few hours and $46, we hit the road and found sunset heaven at La Jolla Beach camp just south of town happy to be back on the road. Little did we know more adventure awaited us.
The Baja 1000 needs no introduction for me. What we learned is never again do we want to be driving Mexico 1 during the race. The always stressfully narrow and winding road from El Rosario to Catavina and points south is hair-raising enough with just the truck drivers hauling ass as the steep drop-offs and complete lack of road shoulder seem to come ever closer. Add in dozens of testosterone-laced support drivers in enormous truck-trailer combos and it becomes downright harrowing.
The site of the Pemex in ValleJesus Maria and Taqueria Kassandra’s next door was a welcome sight as these two landmarks brought the end of North Baja, the last of the support trucks for the day, and some of Baja’s best fishes tacos.
I took over driving and road smoothed out….until that one pothole. The size of our entire lane and over 2 feet wide there was simply no recourse than to hit it and cringe. We gimped into Kadekaman to greet Fabiola and the crew and didn’t spot any immediate damage.
The next day the clanking noise in the tire made it clear that all was not as it should be. Luck was on our side with great road conditions, even in notoriously bad Santa Rosalia, but by the time we entered the Bay of Concepcion it was evident that Coyote was not to be and we pulled into Playa Santispac to peruse the damage.
Luckily Jim is Mr. Fix-It. He even has socks that say so (:) Thanks Jen!) and it was a relatively simple task to remove the broken brake adjuster that was causing the racket. This didn’t fix our brake, of course, but at least no more damage would be done. Breathing a sigh of relief we drank beer, and drank in the stunning scenery, before limping our way to Loreto and the great guys at Frenomex.
Another town. Another mechanic. This time around $10.50USD bought us a repaired brake adjuster and new spring and we joyously headed back to our familiar spot at Yolanda’s Riviera del Mar RV. Beer and pizza for dinner in the square? oh yes!
One long day to go. We hit the road early, still cautious of our trailer brake. Thank goodness for Jim’s concern because half-way to Ciudad Insurgentes he found the , bearings were running far too warm. An unscheduled stop to loosen the castle nut to the correct tightness was, luckily, all that was required.
And finally~ three weeks, three mechanics, thirteen campgrounds, and nearly 2500 miles and we are once again back in Los Barriles. Over the last two years, we have come and gone from this town five or six times, always happy to return. Yes, it is pretty darn gringo, for better and worse, but it is also comfortable and while we market for camp and plot and plan for another amazing year at Camp Coeur D’Alene, we can’t think of many places we’d rather be.