As we sit on the Colorado River in southern California it is time, once again, to reflect on another winter on the Baja. This year brought an entirely new adventure because of our first caravan trip with Baja Amigos.
Last winter we met Dan & Lisa, the owners of Baja Amigos in a couple of spots throughout Baja as we all traveled highway 1. A few happy hour conversations had us committing to leading one of their yearly 28-day caravan trips so we left our spot in Los Barriles to meet our group.
The last update happened mid-trip and now, one week after returning to the USA, we’ve had time to reflect. The first question everyone asks is; Would you do it again? I’ll get to that but first up what we learned along the way.
First and foremost we learned, perhaps confirmed, that we are good at this. As with managing a campground, being leaders of a caravan of travelers allows each of our strengths to come into play. We have always worked well together and work such as this allows Jim’s general handiness, sociability, and ability to problem solve to be a highlight of the team. My normal organizational abilities handle day-to-day planning and schedule as well as keeping everyone else, Jim included, on time. Aspen reprised her role as Camp Ambassador to be Caravan Ambassador and was lucky enough to have two fantastic dogs, Gypsy, and Norman along for the trip.
We also cemented our belief that we do enjoy a good road trip with others, something that we’re beginning anew tomorrow as we meet Dave, Anne and fur baby Max (don’t be jealous Norman~ Aspen can handle two boyfriends) for a two-week road trip through California and Oregon. I won’t claim there weren’t days that ended with us retreating to our trailer for peace and quiet, but in general, we greatly enjoyed traveling with our group. Having been up & down Baja 9 times in the last few years it was truly lovely to experience it through the eyes of those exploring this fantastic spot for the first time.
Dan & Lisa have this trip down, having led it themselves for a decade and the wagonmaster guidebook was indispensable. We knew when to leave, where to break, and what was planned each day making that end of the job a breeze. The main plus in this on our end was that our job required we stop in Guerrero Negro (a town we don’t love and never stay in) in order for the group to go whale watching. This is an activity I had done several times in my old life in travel but something Jim had not yet experienced. I got work done back at camp and took care of the traveling dogs but ended the day elated at the stories and smiling faces of not just the group but also from Jim as he raved repeatedly about the experience.
Due to the schedule we also finally spent a couple of days on Tecolote Beach east of La Paz. Tecolote, as we told our group, is either a dream spot…or assuredly NOT a dream when the winds are gusting. We lucked out with two days of perfection that allowed for hiking, swimming, and a campfire happy hour at sunset. Previously our only trip to the point had been to spend quiet time with Porter before his final trip to the vet and perhaps that was part of our reluctance to even attempt camping there but the scheduled stop forced us to go and experience what is a truly lovely spot.
We spent a peaceful evening at Rancho Verde in between La Paz and Los Barriles, also never on our radar previously. We had driven past it dozens of times but with the distance between the towns short never took the time to visit what is one of the most peaceful areas in all of Baja.
The trip also brought us back to old favorites such as the arroyo and cactus fields of Catavina, lunch in El Triunfo, the lovely Bahia de los Angeles, and the expansive beach at Pabellon.
There were issues, of course. Jumping topes is not recommended as one Class A motorhome’s split shocks can attest to. Not paying attention to my warning of deep sand at Tecolote also caused a bit of a temporary issue for another big rig stuck in the sand.
Traveling with a group, especially when six of them are in their mid-80’s brings its own challenges and I repeated myself often (and generally still had someone “not hear me”) but with a fun-loving and happy group, even these occurrences became a source of humor and good-natured teasing. When, on our very final morning radio check departure, one couple had a dead radio battery (as happened most days~ we simply learned to charge one for us and one for them) it caused laughter all around and was a good indication of how close the group had grown.
So, would we do it again? I’m sure we would. Granted, each group brings its own personalities and challenges making each journey an entirely new experience, but we found as we all went our own separate ways at the Tecate border, that we were already missing checking in to make sure everyone was still with us.
We know some will become long term friends and memories of days spent filled with frustration but also laughter will remain with us. We have already heard from some and enjoyed a festive happy hour in Mesa catching up with others. This last week has been filled with long days catching up on writing assignments for myself while Jim rebuilt the back seat platform and did various maintenance and cleaning jobs on the truck and camper.
A brief stop in Phoenix brought visits with our nephew Andy and his mom, Maggie, neither of whom we see enough along with a stay at one of the very oddest campground stays ever at Schnepf Farms.
Our life is now our own, once again. A gimpy paw/leg had a vet visit with x-rays in Aspen’s day showing bone growth arthritis and a reminder of the sad reality that our baby girl is starting to show her age. However, this morning swimming after her new floating toy in the river before rolling in the grass at camp brought a smile to her face as well as ours.
Tomorrow a new group road trip begins with the first night among the wildflowers and serenity of Anza Borrego State Park and more new memories to be made.