April 23-29, 2019 : Rafting the Lower Owyhee

This past weekend we were invited to go rafting on the lower section of the Owyhee River in southeast Oregon. We’d never done the stretch, but had heard of it and knew it was supposed to be quite beautiful.

It’s 48 miles of class II-IV water (classes vary greatly depending on the level). Typically it’s a spring-runnable river, as the levels become far too low to run it in the summer and fall. With the spectacular winter runoff, the levels were ideal, so it was a perfect time to go paddle it.

Christian and I paddled our little Hyside Mini Max (we were the ONLY paddle boat that we saw on the river…everyone else was rowing and we saw a few commercial trips that had some inflatable kayaks along). Gracie came with, which added an extra level of difficulty to what would normally be a very straightforward section of river.

IMG_9266.jpg

Other folks along for the trip were our friend/neighbor Colin in his 14 ft boat, George in a cataraft and Dave in his amazingly retro hard-sided Infinicat. The first few miles were flat, meandering through farmland with lots of grassy side channels. We took one of these channels and happened upon a goose nest. A very angry goose greeted us, flying aggressively towards the boat while honking loudly. This startled an already trepidatious Gracie, who backed right off the boat into the water. Christian pulled her back in before she even had a chance to think about paddling, but it was clear she’d been scarred and spent most of the first day trying her darndest to avoid another encounter with the water.

IMG_9271.jpg

We think we paddled about 16 miles the first day, prioritizing getting a campsite, as the river was absolutely packed. Once we stopped and made camp, we counted 58 boats come by us that night.

Our campsite for the first night didn’t disappoint.

Our campsite for the first night didn’t disappoint.

IMG_9293.jpg

By the second day, Gracie was getting her water legs and found that she really enjoyed hopping onto the other boats to say hi. She’d never stay with them long though, whining and worrying as soon as we paddled too far away for her to jump back in with us. When going through any splashy water or rapid, we’d tell her to get into the back of the boat and lay down. At first we’d forcibly put her there and hold onto her if we didn’t both need to paddle, but by the end of the second day she had those commands down and followed them closely every time she heard whitewater approaching.

IMG_9306.jpg
IMG_9323.jpg
IMG_9334.jpg

On the second day, we made the realization that would could tie onto the front of Dave’s Infinicat and create an unstoppable paddle machine. This technique helped us breeze through several long flat sections.

IMG_9349.jpg
IMG_9352.jpg
IMG_9375.jpg
IMG_9389.jpg
IMG_9390.jpg

The second day, we stopped at mile 31 to camp below a rapid known as Whistling Bird. It was a great spot to sit and watch boats float by, but also had a nice side canyon hike accessible from the camp. In addition to being Gracie’s first raft trip, it was also her first hike. Christian had to turn around with her after seeing a large rattlesnake and we then kept her on a leash the rest of the trip after realizing what an abundance of snakes there were.

IMG_9395.jpg
IMG_9401.jpg
A great view of the canyon down river from our camp that we would paddle through first thing the next morning.

A great view of the canyon down river from our camp that we would paddle through first thing the next morning.

IMG_9422.jpg
The third day, Gracie all loaded up and ready to hit the water as if she was born to be a rafting dog!

The third day, Gracie all loaded up and ready to hit the water as if she was born to be a rafting dog!

Christian and Gracie admiring the canyon views.

Christian and Gracie admiring the canyon views.

IMG_9481.jpg
IMG_9502.jpg

The canyons along this section were varied and beautiful. We knew it had been referred to as the “Grand Canyon of Oregon” but had no clue that it would be so impressive. Each time we entered a new section we’d sit around and stare at the new scenes before us. The last canyon felt like we were in Jurassic Park and John Williams’ soundtrack should be accompanying us while we floated along.

IMG_9517.jpg
IMG_9534.jpg
IMG_9535.jpg
By the third day, Gracie was pooped. During the flatwater sections she’d ball up and fall fast asleep.

By the third day, Gracie was pooped. During the flatwater sections she’d ball up and fall fast asleep.

IMG_9549.jpg
IMG_9573.jpg
IMG_9581.jpg
One last ride with Colin!

One last ride with Colin!

All in all, it was a fantastic trip and we’d do it again in a heartbeat. It was a great opportunity to practice our overnight setup with the Mini Max (it’s only 10 feet, so it’s quite a small boat to take days worth of gear in. We’re hoping we can make this trip a tradition every spring.

March, 2019 : Time for an update!

It’s been a LONG time since we’ve posted anything to Traveling Tuttles. For those that only follow the blog and not our Instagram, it might seem that we’ve fallen off the face of the earth. Happily, that’s not true!

Wanna know what we’ve been up to since May of 2017? Get ready for a whirlwind rundown to catch you up to speed!

.

May 2017 : Moved back to the Vail Valley in Colorado to raft/work with our old rafting company, Timberline Tours while we figured out our next step.

Christian guiding Dowd Chute on the Eagle River.

Christian guiding Dowd Chute on the Eagle River.

August 2017 : Christian applied to be a patroller at a mountain resort in Idaho named Tamarack Resort.

October 2017 : Moved to McCall Idaho to begin a new chapter, both of us working at Tamarack Resort (Christian on ski patrol and myself as the ski school administrator). Spent the winter there with only one mishap of me breaking my humerus. It was a long winter…

A beautiful sunrise view from the summit of Tamarack during one of Christian’s patrol shifts.

A beautiful sunrise view from the summit of Tamarack during one of Christian’s patrol shifts.

April 2018 : After falling in love with the area, we decided we wanted to settle here. So, we bought an undeveloped acre lot in Donnelly, ID (6 miles from Tamarack Resort) to build our future home on.

This was us on the lot on purchase day - you can see Tamarack Resort’s ski runs behind us above my head.

This was us on the lot on purchase day - you can see Tamarack Resort’s ski runs behind us above my head.

May 2018 : Moved back to the Vail Valley again to work for Timberline Tours for one more summer.

August 2018 : Trekked back to Donnelly to get the lot in shape and attempt to build a house before winter hit. We parked Little Foot on the lot, ordered a porta potty and got a membership at the lodge gym so we’d have a shower to use nearby. Biggest first steps to developing the lot were getting a shipping container to store our supplies and tools, had a well dug and electricity run to the lot.

Yes, we mowed that entire acre with a old wobbly push mower.

Yes, we mowed that entire acre with a old wobbly push mower.

We set up camp in the back, which made for a lovely private homestead.

We set up camp in the back, which made for a lovely private homestead.

September 2018 : Finished prepping the lot and finalizing the building plans. Received our building permit on Sept 19th and had our foundation being laid out by the end of the day. Every day from that point on was a building marathon.

Pouring the foundation!

Pouring the foundation!

Aerial view of the lot to give you a good idea of the layout - it’s pie shaped.

Aerial view of the lot to give you a good idea of the layout - it’s pie shaped.

October 2018 : Built. Every day. Literally woke up, got to work and didn’t stop until it was dark.

Our friend Colin (fellow patroller at Tamarack and now neighbor) is a contractor and would come over regularly to teach us how to do the next step of our build. Here we are enjoying the beams he helped us lay for our floor.

Our friend Colin (fellow patroller at Tamarack and now neighbor) is a contractor and would come over regularly to teach us how to do the next step of our build. Here we are enjoying the beams he helped us lay for our floor.

A rainy chilly shot of the third wall shortly before we lifted it into place. Some of the walls required help, others we were able to muscle ourselves by building and lifting them in pieces.

A rainy chilly shot of the third wall shortly before we lifted it into place. Some of the walls required help, others we were able to muscle ourselves by building and lifting them in pieces.

November 2018 : Built. Every day. Like it was our job and we would be homeless if we didn’t finish by winter.

The interior, with insulation shortly before we had a team come put in drywall (we were going to do it ourselves, but were warned against how labor intensive it would be and how much time it would take with just the two of us. We’re so happy we hired someone else to do it for us.

The interior, with insulation shortly before we had a team come put in drywall (we were going to do it ourselves, but were warned against how labor intensive it would be and how much time it would take with just the two of us. We’re so happy we hired someone else to do it for us.

The exterior, close to putting on siding and a roof.

The exterior, close to putting on siding and a roof.

December 2019 : On December 6th, we received verbal confirmation from the building department that it would be ok for us to move into our house…an unofficial sort of “occupancy permit” if you will.

Siding going up!

Siding going up!

January 2019 : Adopted a puppy (who, with some serious training and effort will become an avalanche rescue dog!), got our official occupancy permit for the house.

Gracie tucked away in Christian’s patrol vest on her first day at work!

Gracie tucked away in Christian’s patrol vest on her first day at work!

Gracie and Loulou joined in for a family photo when we received our official paper copy of our Certificate of Occupancy!

Gracie and Loulou joined in for a family photo when we received our official paper copy of our Certificate of Occupancy!

February 2019 : Got 14 feet of snow.

We had a few massive storm cycles in February, which kept us shoveling to keep up with access to our house and driveway. Luckily, our partially finished house fared well!

We had a few massive storm cycles in February, which kept us shoveling to keep up with access to our house and driveway. Luckily, our partially finished house fared well!

Though I might have missed some details along the way, I think this covers the last few years in a nutshell.

I’m excited to get back to blogging again and start updating on a regular basis. I’m getting back into photography full time and having a blog to put my photos into is a great excuse to make sure I have my camera on me at all times to document our lives.

Stay tuned for more frequent updates from now on!

Mexico, Part 18: Projects in Ensenada

We have to apologize for not having a post last Monday. In our mad dash back to Colorado, we were off the grid and pounding pavement for several days. Time for some catch up!

Chelsea was ordered to stay in bed for the first two weeks of her recovery, and only partook in the most limited amount of movement. I, on the other hand, was bored and restless. Luckily, Mauricio, our host, let me help him remodel his new rental property. The house, which was situated next to his existing rental, would eventually be used as an AirBnB product, but first needed a new kitchen, some furniture, and a lot of paint. Lucky for us, they agreed to let Chels recover in the back room while the remodeling happened. The location was amazing, and with some hard work, the house would soon be able to host couples and families, and start generating income for Mauricio and Abby.

We had done some furniture shopping before Chelsea's surgery so there's a few photos of us walking around Los Globos, an enormous flea market that stretches over city blocks. Chels and I are huge fans of second hand stores here in the US, so visiting Los Globos was a real treat. In addition to the great shopping, we had a chance to sample many local dishes, including shaved ice, fried pork rinds (chicharones), tacos, and some sort of fermented corn sugar beverage.

The walkway to Mauricio's second AirBnB rental after we got it all cleaned up.

The walkway to Mauricio's second AirBnB rental after we got it all cleaned up.

Much of the kitchen renovation happened on that shaded patio. What a view!

Much of the kitchen renovation happened on that shaded patio. What a view!

The old kitchen, coming apart. SOme other travelers had already painted the walls.

The old kitchen, coming apart. SOme other travelers had already painted the walls.

Demo complete and a new kitchen counter being built.

Demo complete and a new kitchen counter being built.

All finished! Chels' photography really makes it shine.

All finished! Chels' photography really makes it shine.

The living room, complete with a couch from Los Globos.

The living room, complete with a couch from Los Globos.

Starting the shopping excursion with some sort of fermented corn sugar beverage.

Starting the shopping excursion with some sort of fermented corn sugar beverage.

City blocks upon city blocks of this: the best used good available.

City blocks upon city blocks of this: the best used good available.

So many things we wanted. We need to move into a home with a garage next.

So many things we wanted. We need to move into a home with a garage next.

Chels found a camera!

Chels found a camera!

Shaved Ice!

Shaved Ice!

Loulou couldn't come with us to Los Globos, so she stayed at home...

Loulou couldn't come with us to Los Globos, so she stayed at home...

... and made a friend!

... and made a friend!

In addition to helping Mauricio and Abby with their mini renovation, and helping Pablo and Anna with their Airstream restoration, Chelsea and I had a little wish-list of projects for Little Foot. First things first, we wanted a roof rack over the cab, partially to add storage space and take weight off the top of the roof, and partially to add security. Without a roof rack, anyone could take a knife to the cab's soft top and gain entry. While a burglary would be heartbreaking, the cost of replacing the soft top is crazy! $2000 for a new one! So, to dissuade the unjust, we added a roof rack.

Mauricio and Pablo got in contact with a Lupe and Mario, two very talented fabricators who used to work with Baja Rack, a performance roof rack company that outfits a lot of adventure ready vehicles. Lupe took one look at the project, deemed it to be very simple, and told me to meet him the next Monday to fit the rack to the truck. Awesome!

Scoping out the project.

Scoping out the project.

Lupe and Mario getting after it in the workshop.

Lupe and Mario getting after it in the workshop.

Me, wishing I could help. Or weld. Or be cool like Lupe.

Me, wishing I could help. Or weld. Or be cool like Lupe.

Test fitting.

Test fitting.

More test fitting. (We used the old machine gun foundation on top of the cab to bolt the rack to for support. It worked really well.

More test fitting. (We used the old machine gun foundation on top of the cab to bolt the rack to for support. It worked really well.

Welding in place!

Welding in place!

Finished welding, and ready for powdercoat.

Finished welding, and ready for powdercoat.

Installing Little Foot's new hat. It attaches in three places…on the machine gun mount, and on the hood where there were already bolts for the windshield to fold down.

Installing Little Foot's new hat. It attaches in three places…on the machine gun mount, and on the hood where there were already bolts for the windshield to fold down.

Isn't he handsome?

Isn't he handsome?

Aren't I handsome?

Aren't I handsome?

In addition to the roof rack, Lupe was willing to fabricate a larger fuel tank for us. The original held roughly 19 gallons, which just wasn't enough. After 5 days of work, Lupe, Mario, and myself and created a tank that would hold over 32 gallons, and greatly increase Little Foot's range. I slept on a street corner (in Little Foot!) for 3 nights, abandoning Chelsea at Mauricio's, just to get the project finished. It was a big undertaking, but I made great friends. By the end of the project, Lupe's family was feeding me, and I was well acquainted with most of the drug addicts in the area, all of whom were very nice to me, and most of which returned my salutations of "God bless you," something that doesn't happen often in the states.

I can't thank Lupe and Mario enough. They worked crazy hard, and they are very talented, and we made a beautiful tank. I don't know when I will see them again, but I hope it is soon, because they're my friends now. God bless you guys!

Little Foot's Original tank.

Little Foot's Original tank.

Unbloting and draining.

Unbloting and draining.

Draining the rest.

Draining the rest.

Trying my hand (and my mouth) at siphoning.

Trying my hand (and my mouth) at siphoning.

TACO BREAK!!!!! I love Mexico.

TACO BREAK!!!!! I love Mexico.

Finishing fabircation.

Finishing fabircation.

Dryfitting the tank.

Dryfitting the tank.

Looking good in steel. Ready for paint..

Looking good in steel. Ready for paint..

Painted!

Painted!

And mounted. (We chose white because fuel doesn't like being hot, so black was out of the question…and, as you can see, our paint job isn't quite holding up that well, so we might try to repaint LF White in the future.

And mounted. (We chose white because fuel doesn't like being hot, so black was out of the question…and, as you can see, our paint job isn't quite holding up that well, so we might try to repaint LF White in the future.

Loulou freaking out because we locked her in Chels bedroom. She just couldn't be pleased. First she missed Chels and wanted to hang out, but then when the door was shut she could only focus on trying to escape.

Loulou freaking out because we locked her in Chels bedroom. She just couldn't be pleased. First she missed Chels and wanted to hang out, but then when the door was shut she could only focus on trying to escape.

Mexico, Part 17: Back surgery in Ensenada

Happily back in Ensenada, we looked forward to hitting the ground running with some projects. We were wanting to build a roof rack over the cab and have a new gas tank fabricated, but we were also eager to help our friends Mauricio, Abigail, Pablo and Anna with some projects of their own. Since we'd been gone, Mauricio and Abby had secured the rental house next door to their own and were feverishly rehabbing it to turn it into a rockin' Airbnb rental. Alongside that, they'd also purchased an old Airstream with P&A and were ALSO rehabbing that to turn it into an Airbnb! Lots of projects to be and worked on!

Shortly after we'd arrived, the recurring issue of my back pain came up. We'd decided that receiving an MRI to diagnose the cause was my best bet to start working towards a solution. Knowing it'd be a while before we returned to the stability of a job and able to buy health insurance, I wanted to try to get an MRI while still in Mexico, where we were certain it'd be much more affordable. As luck would have it, Mauricio knew a wonderful neurosurgeon in town and was willing to set up an appointment for me to get a referral for an MRI.

From here on out, I'm going to do this post in a timeline form. Our experience with me having surgery in Mexico was really wonderful and eye-opening…from the quickness of the process to the cost of care, we were just blown away. Not only would we not have been able to afford any of this in the US, it would probably have taken months of appointments, referrals and the like to achieve the same outcome.

Monday, March 13th

Mauricio calls Dr. Fong to see if he can set up an appointment for me. The appointment was scheduled for the very next day.

Tuesday, March 14th

I have my first appointment with Dr. Fong. He gives me a small examination and tests my movement after having me describe my symptoms. Appointment ends with him writing me a referral for an MRI and some X-rays. I ask if I need to set up an appointment to get them, he says, "No, just show up in the morning and they'll set something up."

Total cost for appt: $35 USD

Wednesday, March 15th

I show up to Burboa Radiológos with my referral and no appointment. After listening to me stumble through a poorly spoken Spanish explanation that I didn't have an appointment, they tell me that they're so sorry, they can't fit me in until 10:30am (it was 9:45am at the time). I paid my bill up front, and after a short and pleasant wait, I was brought in for my MRI promptly at 10:30am. Following the MRI, I had a set of three X-rays taken and was then told I could wait for my films out front (which only took an additional 15 minutes after I'd finished being scanned).

Total cost for MRI/XRAY: $238 USD

Friday, March 17th

Another appointment with Dr. Fong for a follow-up to have him read the films and diagnose. Burboa had sent him the scans online, so he'd been able to review them before our meeting. His first comment when I walk in the door is, "I don't know how you're still walking!" He identified two herniated discs…one between L4/L5 and another, the culprit behind my pain, between L5/S1. He recommends surgery (a microdisectomy with nucleotomy in L5/S1). We decide to think on it, and he gives me his cell phone number to call or text him when we've made a decision. He also says I will have to get labs and blood work done beforehand, but that can be done without an appointment at his clinic.

Total cost for appt: $35 USD

You can see where the disc is severely herniated in the lowest disc above my tailbones. (Between L5/S1 for those that know…) That large black protrusion should not be there. I also have a partially herniated disc above it in the L4/L5, but that one was left alone during surgery.

You can see where the disc is severely herniated in the lowest disc above my tailbones. (Between L5/S1 for those that know…) That large black protrusion should not be there. I also have a partially herniated disc above it in the L4/L5, but that one was left alone during surgery.

Saturday, March 18th

We text Dr. Fong to let him know we'd like to do the surgery. Even though it's a Saturday, the clinic is open, so I go and get my labs and blood work done.

Total cost of labs/blood work: $45 USD

Tuesday, March 21st

I have another appointment with Dr. Fong to go over the details of my surgery and review my labs.

Thursday, March 23rd (surgery day)

I have my last meal and last liquids before 8 am. I check into the hospital at 2 pm and my surgery is scheduled for 5 pm. When checking in, we pay part of our hospital bill up front and they explain that additional costs incurred will be charged upon my discharge the next day. My room is private with its own bathroom and also has a couch/futon for Christian to stay the night if he wants. The nurses prep me, giving me an IV and compression socks. I'm rolled out at 5 pm on the dot. Dr. Fong greets me in the operating room and introduces me to the anesthesiologist, who asks me some questions and then explains what will happen. We go over the details of the surgery once more and I learn that I will be receiving a catheter (thankfully, after I'm put under). I was also intubated, so my meds to keep me asleep were administered through the IV.

The surgery took a few hours, and Dr. Fong even called Christian down to show him the nucleus that he'd removed and explain that everything went well. My incision was closed up and I was carted back up to the room where I was transferred back to my bed and left to rest and recover overnight.

Total cost for surgery and hospital stay: $4,886 USD

Checking into the hospital. Everyone was super helpful and friendly despite us not speaking much Spanish.

Checking into the hospital. Everyone was super helpful and friendly despite us not speaking much Spanish.

Don't worry, my name was only spelled wrong on this sign. In their defence, phonetically, according to how we pronounce our last name, this is how it would be spelled for Spanish. If we pronounced it correctly according to the Spanish alphabet, we'd have to say, "Tootle"

Don't worry, my name was only spelled wrong on this sign. In their defence, phonetically, according to how we pronounce our last name, this is how it would be spelled for Spanish. If we pronounced it correctly according to the Spanish alphabet, we'd have to say, "Tootle"

Hospital gowns are so flattering, aren't they?

Hospital gowns are so flattering, aren't they?

One of several of the fantastic nurses that tended to me putting my IV in.

One of several of the fantastic nurses that tended to me putting my IV in.

Waiting for them to come get me.

Waiting for them to come get me.

Wheeling me down to the operating room…

Wheeling me down to the operating room…

Friday, March 24th

The next morning, Dr. Fong came to see me and answer any questions we might have about my recovery. I received a prescription for an antibiotic and an anti-inflammatory (no painkillers!). He let us know that the surgery was a very good decision on our part, as the nucleus of my disc had ruptured out in such a way that it was jammed between my nerves and pretty severely cutting off my sciatic nerve. The nerve was very red and inflamed and had we left it alone, I might've caused permanent damage. Thank God we were led down this path!

The nurses then fed me breakfast, my first and very highly anticipated meal in 24 hours, and sent Christian down to the front desk to pay the remainder of the bill and got me up and walking to prepare for my exit. It was painful and slow, but amazingly, I felt better than I had in months. My pain relief from my nerve was immediate, and though the surgical site would need time to heal, I was in high spirits.

TOTAL COST OF EVERYTHING: $5240

Dr. Fong, my hero!

Dr. Fong, my hero!

Walking out of the hospital! (Don't worry, they made me take a wheelchair after Christian took a photo of me shuffling triumphantly out of my hospital room.)

Walking out of the hospital! (Don't worry, they made me take a wheelchair after Christian took a photo of me shuffling triumphantly out of my hospital room.)

I then spent the next two solid weeks in a bed graciously loaned to us by Mauricio and Abi. Christian had worked it out that he would help with all their projects while I recovered in the back room of their beach house Airbnb, both of us equiped with Walkie-Talkies to communicate with. By the third or fourth day, I was starting to become more independent and able to do the simpler things such as get myself in and out of bed and on and off of the toilet by myself. For a 32-year-old who has always thrived on self-sufficiency, relying so heavily on Christian to help with even the smallest tasks was difficult for me, but I was so thankful for his support.

Christian building a bed frame for the mattress for the recovery room. He actually built it specifically for a height that would be more comfortable for me to get in and out of. What a guy!

Christian building a bed frame for the mattress for the recovery room. He actually built it specifically for a height that would be more comfortable for me to get in and out of. What a guy!

Finished!

Finished!

Out for my first real walk, the very next day! My steps were slow and tiny, but it was good to move around!

Out for my first real walk, the very next day! My steps were slow and tiny, but it was good to move around!

Loulou, who was still living in the rig while I recovered inside the house, was a highly motivating factor behind my frequent walks.

Loulou, who was still living in the rig while I recovered inside the house, was a highly motivating factor behind my frequent walks.

One more note about this post and my surgery:

I wrote this post in such detail because I am hoping that my transparency about the process and the cost will help someone else out at some point. For those that are in a position where seeking out proper medical care because it's unaffordable, finding out that there are healthy and safe alternatives to the normal procedures can be very important knowledge. For those not in this situation, it might be a helpful glimpse into a world they're unfamiliar with. Our experience as a whole while in Mexico has been nothing but positive, but once we dove into the medical care side, we were floored by the efficiency of the system. We didn't go into the decision lightly, but we trusted our friend who recommended the surgeon (he had had extensive reconstructive spinal surgery from the same dr.) and trusted the surgeon to not recommend an unnecessary procedure.

That being said, we're so happy I went through with it. I'm a month out from surgery and I'm still blown away by how much better I feel now that I'm pain free. Though the pain only became extremely severe around Christmas, I've been living with moderate to slightly severe back pain for years, so it has been a truly life-changing experience. 

Mexico, Part 16: Fuel Problems, Baja in Bloom & Heading North

Fuel Problems

Rules to live by: if your filters (fuel, oil, air, and otherwise) are cheap, or even if they are not, carry many spares. And, if you see a tanker delivering fuel to a gas station, don't buy gas from that station for at least a few hours, and be wary of all the other gas stations in town, because it is likely the truck stopped at the other spots as well.

We fueled up in Santa Rosalia, passing by one Pemex station that had a tanker delivering fuel parked by the pumps. New fuel being dropped into the underground reservoirs stirs up all the particulate and lacquered fuel that lies on the bottom of the tank. Eventually all this dirt and grime settles again, but if you're at the pump while the fuel is agitated, your fuel filter is going to get a workout. We pulled into a station that was probably just visited by the tanker we had passed, and filled our tanks, preparing for another long day of driving.

A few hours on, Little Foot developed a worrisome hiccup, a very gentle misfire. We performed some on-road tests, like increasing and decreasing rpm, switching gears, and revving the engine in neutral, but we couldn't recreate the hiccup with any amount of reliability. There just happened to be a beautiful dirt track paralleling the highway, so we pulled over, and drove in low gear for a while, just listening to the engine. We started to rule out engine problems and carburetor problems, and eventually we figured that the problem must lie somewhere in the world of fuel delivery. We slowed and parked amidst the wildflowers, took the engine cover off, and had a look at everything.

The fuel filter had a streak of dirt along its bottom, and while it didn't look like enough to cause our misfire, we spun it 180 degrees. The improvement was immediate, and with that figured out, we continued. Just south of Guerrero Negro we pulled off the road and found a hill to shelter us from the view and sound of the highway for the night, and in the morning we drove into town and swapped out the fuel filter for our spare.

The beautiful sand track that we used to diagnose our misfire

The beautiful sand track that we used to diagnose our misfire

The wildflowers in bloom after a wet winter in the desert

The wildflowers in bloom after a wet winter in the desert

A horny toad saying hello!

A horny toad saying hello!

Generally checking things out under the hood.

Generally checking things out under the hood.

Not as clean as I would have liked, but an easy fix.

Not as clean as I would have liked, but an easy fix.

Beautiful Succulents full of water.

Beautiful Succulents full of water.

Our campsite reminded us of parking on BLM land in Wester Colorado And easterN Utah.

Our campsite reminded us of parking on BLM land in Wester Colorado And easterN Utah.

Replacing the fuel filter in Guerror negro the next day.

Replacing the fuel filter in Guerror negro the next day.

A rare passing opportunity for Little Foot! We were cheering the whole time.

A rare passing opportunity for Little Foot! We were cheering the whole time.

The Blooming.

Guerrero Negro is the gateway to Baja Sur, and we were sad to leave the great state behind, but time wasn't on our side and we wanted to put some miles behind us, so we continued north. The Baja desert had received a significant amount of moisture over the winter and the hills were covered in blooming desert flora. Deserts, in the US, Mexico, or wherever,  are diverse and beautiful ecosystems, and if you have never visited one, I highly recommend it, especially after an unusually wet season. Everything that is normally brown was green, and everything that was normally green had erupted in color. God's hand had recently been holding a paintbrush, and his work was evident.

We needed a leg stretch at one point, and stopped at what looked like an abandoned rest stop only to find a small nature trail and interpretive center. We followed the signs and eventually ended up in a cave viewing some cave paintings. What a suprise! We had stopped for a stretch and instead were given a beautiful display of desert culture.

Leaving the south, entering the north.

Leaving the south, entering the north.

Ensenada finally started showing up on highway signs!

Ensenada finally started showing up on highway signs!

Green was everywhere.

Green was everywhere.

The desert was enthusastically alive after the wet winter.

The desert was enthusastically alive after the wet winter.

Super Bloom!

Super Bloom!

Signs and cactus at our rest stop walking trail.

Signs and cactus at our rest stop walking trail.

The interpretive trail was deserted but well signed and obviously planned.

The interpretive trail was deserted but well signed and obviously planned.

The trail led us down into a valley, across and arroyo, and up a hill.

The trail led us down into a valley, across and arroyo, and up a hill.

Little lizards were watching us everywhere.

Little lizards were watching us everywhere.

At the top of the hill we found a cave with cave paintings!

At the top of the hill we found a cave with cave paintings!

We hadn't seen a cave painting yet, but they are all over Baja.

We hadn't seen a cave painting yet, but they are all over Baja.

Just chilling in the art cave.

Just chilling in the art cave.

Some of the cacti were crazy!

Some of the cacti were crazy!

Everything was green and gold.

Everything was green and gold.

The "trees" in the center, the Dr. Seuss style ones, had burst into bloom. We had seen them on the way down and the looked like tall, silver cones, but by the time we returned they had grown mini branches.

The "trees" in the center, the Dr. Seuss style ones, had burst into bloom. We had seen them on the way down and the looked like tall, silver cones, but by the time we returned they had grown mini branches.

Heading North

We continued driving and eventually caught sight of the Pacific ocean. We had zigzagged our way across Baja and now we could finally see the ocean instead of the sea. From here, we would follow the coastline back to the border, so finding the ocean here was a lot like opening the last chapter of our book.

We drove through many small communities that we hadn't seen on the drive south, because we had driven on Mexico 3 to San Filipe and down along the Sea of Cortez. We eventually grew tired of the tarmac and found a coastal dirt road that looked relatively abandoned. We camped on a bluff overlooking the ocean and let the crashing waves lull us to sleep. The next day we found that a lot of our dirt road had been washed out during the winter, making for some fun detours and arroyo crossings. We arrived that night to our friend Mauricio's property in Ensenada just in time to catch a spectacular sunset over the Pacific. The next few weeks would be filled with projects, catching up with our friends and even a surprise back surgery (more on that soon)!

The road to the north.

The road to the north.

Fields of orange flowers along the coastal dirt road.

Fields of orange flowers along the coastal dirt road.

Every campsite looked good.

Every campsite looked good.

It was like a dirt road from an adventurers fairy tale.

It was like a dirt road from an adventurers fairy tale.

Camped! in the wide open!

Camped! in the wide open!

A sunset and a book.

A sunset and a book.

Arroyo climbing the next day.

Arroyo climbing the next day.

Little foot loves the hills and the mud.

Little foot loves the hills and the mud.

As always, pictures just don't really do it justice… this hill was much steeper than it looks.

As always, pictures just don't really do it justice… this hill was much steeper than it looks.

Our first sunset back in Ensenada!

Our first sunset back in Ensenada!