This is more of a personal than a professional piece but with less and less separation between the two dimensions, herewith. Our recent travels began the first week in January, took us respectively through Houston and Phoenix and we crossed the border around noon to Mexico on January 9 at Otay Mesa, the eastern port of entry at Tijuana, thus missing one of the busiest border crossings in the world. We had camped the previous two nights in Chula Vista, CA getting ready for the big trip south to Baja. Little did we know what lay ahead. Driving a 39′ motor home some 8′ wide, towing our Jeep we stopped the first night in Ensenada, only 91 miles. We set out the next morning, quickly ran out of good roads and then began the narrow two lane roads and later on through mountains of snaking curves, steep ascents and descents and the trip to Los Barrilles, some 1000 miles, took four more days arriving on Sunday, January 13. This fishing, kite surfing village is about 45 miles north of San Jose del Cabo and another 20 miles from there to Cabo San Lucas at the tip of Baja.
Ten days later we set off for La Paz to put our vehicles and us on a ferry to Mazatlan. We had arrived in plenty of time to pick up our reserved tickets, measure and weigh the vehicles, go through customs and inspections and get them and us, separately, on board the Mazatlan Star of Baja Ferries. The pictures here (www.bajaferries.com) are not our ship but a newer one with a few more amenities.
This was definitely not a cruise ship but a commercial ferry that carries mostly big tractor trailer rigs and a deck or two of cars and of course some passengers, maybe 100-150 many of whom walked on. There are six decks, four of which are for vehicles, one for reception, cafeteria and lounge and a few cabins and another with mostly cabins and outside deck space. We had a small but comfortable cabin on the top deck.
As I started to drive on to the ferry in the motor home, Susie with the Jeep, one crew member wanted me to back on, another wanted me to drive on front first. The two of them argued and the drive on head first guy won out and I proceeded up the steel ramp onto deck number 3 and up another ramp to level 4. I had to pull forward and then back into a very narrow space between two rows of tractor-trailer trucks of which there were probably five or six rows on that particular deck. They pack all the vehicles in like sardines front to back, side to side, with several crew members directing. That done, I squeezed through and was led by a security guard up to reception where I waited for Susie. We had begun loading at 3 PM and all was accomplished in two hours and we cast off around 5 PM. From the bay near La Paz, at the port of Pichilingue, we headed north then made a big turn south into the Sea of Cortez, also known as the Gulf of California. Our course took us toward Mazatlan on the mainland, arriving there some sixteen hours later, a calm and easy crossing.
As we are often up before sunrise, we wanted to see this one especially out on the water and it was spectacular. Sunrise on the Sea of Cortez reminded me of those early sailors and explorers who, guided by the stars, traveled so many of the oceans, searching for new lands to exploit and conquer but also seeking new countries for those willing to start a new life in another land. Somehow, the sun over water adds a dimension of brilliance to both elements and the ocean air is a third variable in the equation that makes an early morning meditation both easy and very peaceful. The winds were fairly clam although a flight of five large sea birds could hover almost motionless above the ferry as we plowed through the water.
Mexico has a fascinating history with significant cultures of indigenous people going back some 13,000 years. Then the Spanish came in the early 16th century and either conquered or merged with the Mayan, Toltec and Aztec peoples. Hernando Cortez was one of those explorers who marched across Mexico, over ran the Aztecs and established Mexico City but that whole campaign was not won easily. There are many stories of the struggles of the Mexican people right up to the current day and the political leaders and issues that continue to plague this beautiful country and the people who live and work here.
We landed the morning of January 25th, in Mazatlan, exited the ferry for another inspection by the military and then hooked up and headed for Guadalajara, almost all expensive toll roads but easy driving until we hit the outer limits of the city. Then it was solid six lanes of traffic in both directions until we made a wrong turn 300 feet too soon, had to unhook and get back out on the busy road before finally finding San Jose del Tajo, a remote campground in Guadalajara and drove down a cobblestone road under low palm trees and a narrow passage way. The next day was a “morningmare” getting out of the city. We got lost, in spite of our GPS and good sense of directions, went at least 30+ miles out of the way, finally ended up in a barrio dead end and had to get a taxi driver to get us out to the highway headed out but in a different direction than we had planned. We were about 2 hours delayed by that fiasco and then another wrong turn in Queretero and we ended up in some catacomb tunnels under the city, arched stone passages that were low and narrow and dark. An angel on the street gave us directions out through a straight long tunnel and we headed on to San Miguel, arriving finally around 5 PM, about 4 hours later than planned but intact if a little harried.
Here at Hotel Balnerio San Ramon there are some concrete pads for about six RVs and one of them was already occupied by a couple with an identical Allegro Bus to ours, same year, a bit different floor plan. They have been almost full time for about 7 years, lived on the island of Vieques in the Caribbean for six years prior and are originally from Colorado. They have mega information about RV travels, Mexico and all the systems that make this kind of life comfortable and enjoyable. There is good connectivity here most of the time via WiFi, cell phone and email, so I continue to work with those back in the states with whom I am engaged in several projects that are ongoing. Another couple from the Yukon territory near Whitehorse arrived and have already been in Mexico for a month planning to spend 4-5 months seeing other parts. They are traveling in a truck camper, the Dodge diesel truck is 10 years old, in great shape and the camper is new. They can go many places we cannot such as boon docking on wonderful beaches, remote and beautiful mountain spots and smaller parking places in many campgrounds that cannot accommodate our big rig as they’re called here and in the states.
Speaking the language would be a tremendous asset when traveling here and we’re hoping that by the end of our three weeks of Level 1 Spanish classes we can at least get along better than we have thus far. The Mexican people are wonderfully friendly and helpful and seem glad to see us Nortenos from Estados Unidas or Norteamericanos. This is our fifth extended trip to Mexico and we are already looking forward to more. The challenges are far outweighed by the rewards of both the travel and being here. The weather is superb, the people gracious and generous of spirit, our house on wheels comfy and cozy with an outside patio for additional space.
Sunrise this morning over the hills of San Miguel de Allende reinforce our desire to continue this kind of travel and new living/learning experiences. The warm days and very cool nights are most comfortable, the surroundings are beautiful, the old part of the city charming and intact, and we are looking forward to being here for the next several weeks. School is hard, learning a new language at this age is challenging, the teacher, Warren Hardy, is terrific and we should come away with at least some basic language skills to help us communicate a little more effectively with our Mexican friends here south of the border. We don’t expect to become fluent but we do hope to add to our very limited vocabulary and use of the language.
I learned yesterday and even more today about why my brain is not so resilient as previously. Both it and I are much older! We fill that storage space with all kinds of memories, information and details.
And the older we get, the more that’s in there and the harder it is to add anything more. If someone has a way of erasing that which is no longer of use, without surgery, please let me know. In the meantime, as lifelong learners, we continue to challenge ourselves with learning what we believe is important, valuable and practical. The rest will just have to be put on ignore!