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!

Mexico, Part 6: Playa Ines, Mulegé, Bahia de Concepcion

Playa Ines

Playa Ines lies just south of Santa Rosalia, a little port town on the Sea of Cortez. Santa Rosalia is small and beautiful, but we didn't stay there long enough (read: we didn't take enough photos) to give the town a whole section of this post. It will suffice to say that Santa Rosalia is very cool, very welcoming, highly walkable, and home to a fantastic French influence, including a very decent French bakery and the Iglesia de Santa Bárbara, a church designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel. 

The church is pretty cool. If you're rolling through the area, stop and check it out. It was originally designed for the 1889 Exposition Universelle, essentially a word's fair held in France, as an early example of the wonders of modular construction. The structure is built of stamped steel and was meant to be shipped and erected on site in Africa, but was forgotten about for a decade until Charles Laforgue, the French director of Santa Rosalia's Boleo copper mine, found it lying in pieces in Belgium. He had it shipped to Santa Rosalia and installed in the town's center, where it stands today. 

Winding Mexican pavement! Baja has some great paved roads in addition to the very well known dirt and sand tracks.

Winding Mexican pavement! Baja has some great paved roads in addition to the very well known dirt and sand tracks.

The  Iglesia de Santa Bárbara , a church designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel. 

The Iglesia de Santa Bárbara, a church designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel. 

After Santa Rosalia we headed to Playa Ines, a beach with little traffic that we found on "iOverlander" an IPhone app for overlanding. The drive was great fun, a soft, turny, flat trail with little bumps and pitches here and there, lined with 15 foot tall cacti and paralleling a fantastic beach. That's the photographic fun of this area: cactus growing up to the ocean. In Alaska the mountains touch the ocean, with no in-between; in Mexico, its the desert that takes an unusual bedfellow.

Upon arriving at what iOverlander told us was a spot to find some free parking, we found a large-ish European 4WD RV parked, and, not wanting to spoil their spot, we continued. We drove a mile or so down the road until we met a ledge in the road we didn't really want to deal with, at which point I set out on foot to scout for campsites. Finding none, Chels and I turned back to crowd the Euro RV, and man, we sure are glad we did!

Kevin and Dani, and their dog Mali (or Mali, and her humans Dani and Kevin) are just great, arguably the kind of people we want to be someday, if not today. They've been traveling off and on for ages in a variety of vehicles, and their current rig is an Iveco Trakker with a custom camper box on the back. They are one couple (and this isn't limited to just couples) of many that we've met on the road and whose relationship we truly value. In just the past month and a half we've made a whole lews of friends, including Mauricio and Abby, Pablo and Anna, Mariana and Alex, Kevin and Dani, Jan and Diana, Sabrina and Henning. Have you met 10-12 new friends in the past 6 weeks? If not, consider selling everything, buying a truck/van/wagon/bike, and traveling long term.

Anyways, we met them at Playa Ines and spent a great night there, getting used to being on the beach and free camping in Baja. Not paying for camping creates an equal measure of liberty and fear, but camping next to another rig takes some of that fear away.

Little Foot just little-footing around.

Little Foot just little-footing around.

Parked on Playa Ines by the Iveco Trakker.

Parked on Playa Ines by the Iveco Trakker.

Another shot of Playa Ines, and the desert touching the beach, a sight which would become very familiar over the course of the coming weeks.

Another shot of Playa Ines, and the desert touching the beach, a sight which would become very familiar over the course of the coming weeks.

Mulegé

We left the playa a day before Kevin and Dani, and at their recommendation headed towards the sleepy little town of Mulegé. Mulegé is a cute little place, an oasis town that is balanced between farming and fishing. A mission church stands on the hill and the town center is a nest of tight streets that wreak havoc on many a gringo RV.

We stayed at RV Park Don Chon and waited out the short-lived fuel crisis that was gripping the peninsula at the time. The in-town Pemex station was out of fuel, and we used that as an excuse to spend a slow four days at the RV park. Our lives consisted of late mornings, hot showers, and walks to the mini market for groceries. Notable events that punctuated our peaceful days included haircuts from Dani, an afternoon game of bocce ball, and silently muttering curses into our pillows as the six raucous, young Australian men in the next spot over partied late into the night, every night. The water pump on their school bus had given up the ghost and they were truly marooned in Mulegé, much to our chagrin.

Dani making Chelsea pretty, Kevin looking on.

Dani making Chelsea pretty, Kevin looking on.

Dani making me look pretty!

Dani making me look pretty!

Roving bocce in Mulegé! With a new, super fast haircut!

Roving bocce in Mulegé! With a new, super fast haircut!

From right to left: the Iveco, Little Foot, and the temporarily non-op school bus, home of the team Aussie.

From right to left: the Iveco, Little Foot, and the temporarily non-op school bus, home of the team Aussie.

Bahía de Concepción

From Mulegé we headed south to the Bahía de Concepción, a fantastically calm bay, home to many sandy beaches and campgrounds. The beach we chose, Playa Escondido, was a whopping 85 kilometers south of Mulegé; Chelsea, Loulou, and myself were getting used to the drive-a-little, camp-a-lot mentality. The beach campground was far from vacant, but by no means noisy and crowded. All the different rigs had room to stretch out and not bother each other. We inhabited a parking spot freshly made by the beach's operator, Manuel. He was, no joke, leveling the spot with fill dirt as we pulled in, and he immediately offered up his new product. That's some real instant gratification, for both him and us!

At Playa Escondido we met Sabrina and Henning of @thetrailgypsies, as well as Jan and Diana of https://Steffens.live. I'm not sure if they are on the interwebs. They camped nearby, and you can see some glamour shots of the rigs in the photos below. Sabrina and Henning are in the white Tacoma with the roof top tent, and Jan and Diana are in the Land Rover with the pop-top.

The few days at Playa Escondido were fantastic. Highlights included: photographing by the full moon, spotting whale sharks near the shore, paddling on a borrowed kayak and SUP, and running errand's in our neighbor's dinghy (the nearest mercado was most easily accessible by sea). I hiked up a hillside to photograph one of the camp's residents restoring a mural of the Virgin de Guadelupe, Mexico's image of the Virgin Mary. (Sadly, Chels didn't join me on most of these adventures, as her back has been acting up in a fairly severe way. She was out for the week and had trouble standing, much less trying to walk and hike. Luckily, we found her some relief in Loreto…which we'll talk about next week!)

This week (or so) of our trip was a big turning point. We slowed down, camped for free for the first time, and continued making friends on the road. We also started toying around with, and eventually decided upon, the idea of just staying in Baja this winter, rather than trying to explore the entirety of the country. There are a handful of logistical reasons, but mostly it comes down to the fact that Baja has a lot to offer, and it all deserves to be done, and slowly at that. So, look for more Baja to come in the next weeks, because we'll be down here until the rest of North America thaws out!

Playa Escondido on the Bahía de Concepcion

Playa Escondido on the Bahía de Concepcion

Our freshly created parking spot, and our friends in the background.

Our freshly created parking spot, and our friends in the background.

The full moon a-rising.

The full moon a-rising.

The rigs of The Trail Gypsies and Jan/Diana posing in the moon light.

The rigs of The Trail Gypsies and Jan/Diana posing in the moon light.

Little Foot posing too! And the beach, lit up like midday in the moonlight.

Little Foot posing too! And the beach, lit up like midday in the moonlight.

Me, paddling on someone else's SUP. We're trying to figure out how to rig one to Little Foot.

Me, paddling on someone else's SUP. We're trying to figure out how to rig one to Little Foot.

Running errands!

Running errands!

Running errands.

Running errands.

Paddling to find a whale shark.

Paddling to find a whale shark.

Manuel looking up to the Virgin de Guadleupe.

Manuel looking up to the Virgin de Guadleupe.

The restoration project underway.

The restoration project underway.

The cliff created a fantastic halo around the mural's head. The last coat of paint had been weakened by the most recent hurricane.

The cliff created a fantastic halo around the mural's head. The last coat of paint had been weakened by the most recent hurricane.

The view of the beach from the site of the mural.

The view of the beach from the site of the mural.

Little Foot and the neighbors. The truck two roof top tents in a traveling family. Two adults and three kids, living (yes, LIVING) in one truck. It's fantastic. 

Little Foot and the neighbors. The truck two roof top tents in a traveling family. Two adults and three kids, living (yes, LIVING) in one truck. It's fantastic. 

Mexico, Part 5: Baja Sur, Whale Watching in Guerrero Negro, and San Ignacio

Baja Sur and Whale Watching in Guerrero Negro

The peninsula that Americans know as Baja is comprised of two states, Baja California and Baja California Sur. Baja means lower, and refers back to Fransican's division of their Californian mission territory into Alta and Baja. The peninsula is still known as Baja, and the lower half of lower California is know referred to as Baja Sur, or southern Baja.

The border between the brother states is marked with limited fanfare: a large flag, some Grey whale bones, and a guy spraying down tires with pesticide. Like a never ending Phish set, Baja Sur is a continuation of the song of the north, with a few more subtle riffs on beautiful beaches and palm trees added for good measure. It's very nearly the same paradise, but "very nearly" isn't identical.

Our first stop was Guerrero Negro, home to the greatest salt mine in the world and a renowned whale-watching spot. Grey whales spend their summers eating and copulating in the rich waters of the northern pacific. When the weather turns and the days get shorter, the lady whales migrate to the warmer waters of Baja to birth their baby whales. The water is warm and the lagoons are protected, providing a perfect spot for teaching their little ones how to swim and breathe and get by.

We camped on the beach by a salt refinery for very, very little money, and caught a whale watching boat the next day. By a blessing from God we found ourselves alone on the boat, just the two of us and the captain and a boat hand. IT WAS AWESOME! No crowd, no one else to talk to, just near silence while we stalked a few pairs of enormous whales. The babies were pretty big and the moms just huge, to put it in bland and blatant terms. I grew up whale watching every summer on Cape Cod, and this is nothing like that. While our captain did keep us a respectful distance from the new mother-child pair, it was much more intimate than my expectations.

The camping spot was exquisite. We weren't actually charged for camping, but for entrance into the park, so technically the camping was free. There weren't a lot of other folks camped, and almost no light pollution, so the photo opportunities were outstanding. Chels broke out her big camera and tripod one night to capture some stunning shots of the sunset and the starry night.

Flag, whale bones, and somewhere down this road there is a lonely gentleman spraying tires with pesticide to protect the desert ecosystem.

Flag, whale bones, and somewhere down this road there is a lonely gentleman spraying tires with pesticide to protect the desert ecosystem.

Loulou, exploring yet another campsite, this time at Guerrero Negro.

Loulou, exploring yet another campsite, this time at Guerrero Negro.

Spectacular sunsets, as per usual, over the west side of the Baja Peninsula.

Spectacular sunsets, as per usual, over the west side of the Baja Peninsula.

She knows how pretty she is.

She knows how pretty she is.

Did I mention sunsets?

Did I mention sunsets?

The campsite was amazing at all times of the day.

The campsite was amazing at all times of the day.

Little Foot looks good in any light, no big deal.

Little Foot looks good in any light, no big deal.

Me, impersonating a whale.

Me, impersonating a whale.

All alone all day! No other tourists with us on the boat ride.

All alone all day! No other tourists with us on the boat ride.

Scared? I don't know.

Scared? I don't know.

Whale saying hi!

Whale saying hi!

There was no part of the trip that wasn't magical.

There was no part of the trip that wasn't magical.

We were super close to the enormous beasts of the sea.

We were super close to the enormous beasts of the sea.

I couldn't stop giggling.

I couldn't stop giggling.

The scars are from barnacles, boats, rope, nets, and other bad things.

The scars are from barnacles, boats, rope, nets, and other bad things.

Half the fun was searching for the whales.

Half the fun was searching for the whales.

Little Foot driving through the salt flats.

Little Foot driving through the salt flats.

San Ignacio

After leaving the Guerrero Negro lagoon and campground, we provisioned in the town and headed out. With tanks full of water and a stocked fridge, we made our way to San Ignacio, by way of some small highway town that gave us a foggy night of camping in a hotel lot.

We arrived in San Ignacio, parked in the town square, and explored the nearby mission. There are missions up and down the peninsula, and the one in San Ignacio is supposed to be the best balance of accessibility, originality (as in terms of structure), and quality (as in terms of upkeep and grounds). We're Christians but we're not Catholic, but that didn't keep us from really appreciating the grandeur structure. We recognize that the history of missions in both Mexico and the US is a history of bloodshed and subjugation, and while we in no way support the methods put forth by the missionaries in the name of God, we can't help but recognize a beautiful structure when we see one.

After pondering the beauty of the town square and its mission, we headed out of town to find a camping spot, only to run (pun intended!) into the Via PanAm team! Via PanAm is a team of four crazy people who are running marathon lengths (26.2 miles) from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina for charity. Weking and Seba are the runners, and Liesbeth and An are their support. "To Walk Again" is their chosen charity, and their goal is to support folks with physical limitations. Maybe that means keeping them active or maybe it means starting the process to get an expensive prosthetic made. To help the charity, the Via PanAm team runs a marathon EVERY DAY. Everyday there is one team member running, one recovering, and two supporting. The supporting team members drive two very cool Toyota Hilux trucks with custom built camping boxes, but the trucks are just there to carry the stuff. Their's isn't a vehicular trip. Their travel is supported by wheel, but driven by feet.

They haven't raised a lot of money, and they deserve your support. Give them the price of a latte or a draft beer, or something. Check out their website www.ViaPanAm.Today and maybe give a little, not because you must, not because you can, not because they are living an amazing story and it inspires you to push your own limits and realize your untapped potential, but because THEY RAN A MARATHON TODAY.  And they will tomorrow. And the next day. And then again. And then again and again and again. All the way to Ushuaia, Argentina. Oh you don't know where Ushuaia is? IT'S WHERE SOUTH AMERICA RUNS OUT OF THINGS YOU CAN RUN ON.

Our camp site that night was awesome. The Lagoon in San Ignacio is fed by a freshwater spring, a real life Oasis on the peninsula of desert. We camped, cooked, swam, and enjoyed the rope swing. Cost? 80 pesos (~4USD) a night. I love this country.

Digging out our water tanks to refill. Agua Purificada shops are plentiful and cheap. Even better…the water they produce is absolutely delicious.

Digging out our water tanks to refill. Agua Purificada shops are plentiful and cheap. Even better…the water they produce is absolutely delicious.

Chels' morning yoga and stretching ritual is often interrupted by head butts with Loulou.

Chels' morning yoga and stretching ritual is often interrupted by head butts with Loulou.

The foggy camp spot. Cool trucks camp together.

The foggy camp spot. Cool trucks camp together.

The mission at San Ignacio.

The mission at San Ignacio.

Chels shooting in the mission.

Chels shooting in the mission.

Mission beauty. 

Mission beauty. 

More mission beauty.

More mission beauty.

Contemplating benches.

Contemplating benches.

If your kid told you he was driving from Alaska to Ushuaia, or maybe riding motorcycles, you'd probably be terrified. These crazies are  running  that trip. On their  feet . Donate now: www.ViaPanAm.today

If your kid told you he was driving from Alaska to Ushuaia, or maybe riding motorcycles, you'd probably be terrified. These crazies are running that trip. On their feet. Donate now: www.ViaPanAm.today

San Ignacio camping. Super Sweet.

San Ignacio camping. Super Sweet.

Rope swinging.

Rope swinging.

Rope swing panicking.

Rope swing panicking.

Chels's jumping photo had an equally if not more terrifying face, but she wouldn't post it since she was in her skivvies. Alas, you'll have to take our word for it and at least see this photo of her soaking wet as proof that she jumped from the rope swing as well.

Chels's jumping photo had an equally if not more terrifying face, but she wouldn't post it since she was in her skivvies. Alas, you'll have to take our word for it and at least see this photo of her soaking wet as proof that she jumped from the rope swing as well.

Just buy a truck, a van, a camper, a rig, ANY RIG, and go exploring. This is what you'll get. (Cat not included.)

Just buy a truck, a van, a camper, a rig, ANY RIG, and go exploring. This is what you'll get. (Cat not included.)

Stretching and coffee with Loulou.

Stretching and coffee with Loulou.

Contemplating the day. Evidence of a fire in the background. San Ignacio.

Contemplating the day. Evidence of a fire in the background. San Ignacio.

Mexico, Part 4: Mike's Sky Rancho, Sea of Cortez, Coco's Corner

Mike's Sky Rancho

We left Ensenada reluctantly, saying our temporary goodbyes to Mauricio and Abby (and Vini the dog and the '61 Land Rover). Mauricio repeatedly told us that he didn't want us to leave because once we realized how excellent Baja really is, we'd never return to Ensenada. Don't worry Mauricio, we'll be back, we promise.

Our first destination outside Ensenada was Mike's Sky Rancho, a little backwoods ranch popular for dirt bike and off road trips. It's got a long history that we don't really know much about. The winter seems like the off season, as the pool was not full (or clean) and most of the rooms were unoccupied. One medium sized dirt bike tour was at the ranch when we arrived, but other than them, a few ladies running the kitchen, and the Mike tending the bar, we were alone in the woods. The ranch is 31 kilometers in on a decent road with a handful of small, washed out climbs that could be handled by a stock Ford Ranger, but perhaps not by a Subaru Legacy, if that makes sense. Honestly, a Legacy could probably get to the ranch, but might drag a skid plate here or there. We stayed one night, didn't love the price or the accomodations, and left the next morning.

A sweet Ensenada sunset saying goodbye to us.

A sweet Ensenada sunset saying goodbye to us.

The team, animals included, on the morning of departure.

The team, animals included, on the morning of departure.

We could hardly get out of our seats before being surrounded by the folks from the dirt bike tour checking out our pad.

We could hardly get out of our seats before being surrounded by the folks from the dirt bike tour checking out our pad.

Loulou exploring new heights while we peruse the map for our next destination.

Loulou exploring new heights while we peruse the map for our next destination.

4-wheeling with a cat!

4-wheeling with a cat!

We drove through mountains and over small desert passes until we reached the Sea of Cortez at San Felipe. San Felipe is the northern-most city on the Sea of Cortez on Mexico 5, and marks the point where the highway begins to follow the beaches. The town is small, but set up for tourists, complete with a crowded merchant block, and many small RV parks and hotels. We continued south and camped at a forgotten RV resort that never took off. The whole scene was quite dystopian, and even though the security guard was charging too much ($300M) for nothing (nearly no facilities), we spent a nice night and got to cook over a fire, which is always a plus.

The next day we made it to Puertecitos, a small community split nearly 50/50 between locals and expatriates. Puertecitos not only boasts excellent beachside camping, but also a tidal pool hot spring that is a perfect temperature right as the tide is coming in or out. At high tide the hot pools are blown out and filled by cold sea water, and at low tide the pools are hot enough to boil you alive, so the window of opportunity is fleeting and ever-changing.

There we met some other travelers, including one nice Californian who swapped a Chevy 350 small block into his Land Rover. It makes a GREAT sound, and the roar is totally unexpected when you see the rig. We spent New Year's Eve soaking and dining at the community potluck, and headed out the next day.

Desert mixed with beach in Baja California.

Desert mixed with beach in Baja California.

Our camp spot in the forgotten RV resort.

Our camp spot in the forgotten RV resort.

Super slow service at the poolside bar... let it suffice to say that the bartender didn't get a tip.

Super slow service at the poolside bar... let it suffice to say that the bartender didn't get a tip.

Camping and cooking at the forgotten RV resort.

Camping and cooking at the forgotten RV resort.

Free fuel, collected from the beach. The dish in the foreground is a pie plate heaped with coals, acting as a dutch oven to bake the corn bread within.

Free fuel, collected from the beach. The dish in the foreground is a pie plate heaped with coals, acting as a dutch oven to bake the corn bread within.

Our new friend francisco and his Land Rover with a 350! Sounds so good!

Our new friend francisco and his Land Rover with a 350! Sounds so good!

Seaside hot springs in Puetrecitos.

Seaside hot springs in Puetrecitos.

Testing the tidal hot spring water.

Testing the tidal hot spring water.

If you bring your own hose, a convenient water spigot becomes a shower!

If you bring your own hose, a convenient water spigot becomes a shower!

Puertecitos even had a library and a post office! And a yet-unnamed project building.

Puertecitos even had a library and a post office! And a yet-unnamed project building.

South of Puertecitos we followed a highway project back towards Mexico 1, and we had about five lanes of space to use. We dodged ruts and washboard as best we could, but it was tiring. We had heard of a fabled spot, run by a guy named Coco, Coco's Corner, and folks had said camping was free if you bought a beverage. How could we refuse?

We found Coco hollering "HELLO! HOLA! HELLO! HOLA!" over and over and over again. He's nearly 80 years old and a double below-the-knee-amputee, so when a car arrives he's a little slow to greet them, but calls out greetings in different languages in hopes that whomever entered his compound will stay and chat. He's fantastically giving, even though at first glance it looks like he doesn't have much. He lives in a well built, although mostly uninsulated plywood home. Most Americans would call it a shack, but its a step above that. Everything in his house is fit for him. The kitchen counters are too low for me but at the perfect height for his wheel chair. His workshop is the same, with workbenches built just for him. His compound is mostly powered by a few solar panels, but at night he fires up the generator so he can watch movies and turn on the flood lights of the lot. He offers help to EVERYONE, and even gave us a round of beers for free. If you're in the area, stop and see him. His generosity will warm your heart. He is a gift from God for the traveler. (And his 80th birthday is February 25th, so if you're in the area, give him a big birthday hug from the both of us!)

Using not only the whole road, but all the roads.

Using not only the whole road, but all the roads.

Signing Coco's guest book. HEY PACIFICO! SPONSOR THIS GUY!

Signing Coco's guest book. HEY PACIFICO! SPONSOR THIS GUY!

Had to draw Little Foot, for all the travelers of the future to see. (He makes you sign the book with your given birth name name and birthplace!)

Had to draw Little Foot, for all the travelers of the future to see. (He makes you sign the book with your given birth name name and birthplace!)

Cooking with Coco. He told me that I am NEVER allowed to open my own restraurant, as I'm much too slow for his liking.

Cooking with Coco. He told me that I am NEVER allowed to open my own restraurant, as I'm much too slow for his liking.

Glamour shot with Coco. He gets around in his chair, but he also walks on his knees pretty well, hence the hefty leather "boots".

Glamour shot with Coco. He gets around in his chair, but he also walks on his knees pretty well, hence the hefty leather "boots".

Do not feel bad for Coco. He's happier than you. Figure out what he has figured out and you will be happy forever.

Do not feel bad for Coco. He's happier than you. Figure out what he has figured out and you will be happy forever.

Little Foot posing.

Little Foot posing.

Heading on south! 244 kilometers to go until... somewhere?

Heading on south! 244 kilometers to go until... somewhere?

Mexico, Part 2: Valle de Guadalupe

We had to take last week off from posting a real update due to lack of sufficient wifi, so forgive us for the delay and let's pick up where we left off!

After crossing the border we knew we had to cool our heels for a few weeks and wait for a Christmas visit from my father. He was planning on meeting us in the Valle De Guadalupe, an up-and-coming wine region just south of the border. We headed there at the recommendation of our friends Mauricio and Abby. They knew of a good vineyard, the Bibayoff estate, that would let us camp for cheap money. We drove the few miles from Ensenada to the valley, set up camp, and hung out for a few days of nothingness.

In the photos below you'll see highlights such as: beautiful vineyard views, a great camp spot, a few hikes and walks around the area, some great hammock shots, the first use of our road shower, me impersonating a wine bottle, Loulou being perturbed, and some dogs laying in the dirt. Enjoy!

Little Foot and Loulou all set up.

Little Foot and Loulou all set up.

A View of the Vineyard.

A View of the Vineyard.

Many vineyards in the valley are young, but BIbAyoff's grapes have been growing for 40 years.

Many vineyards in the valley are young, but BIbAyoff's grapes have been growing for 40 years.

Chelsea Posing, showing off the Napa of Mexico.

Chelsea Posing, showing off the Napa of Mexico.

We spent multiple days doing exactly this.

We spent multiple days doing exactly this.

Very excited about Pancakes.

Very excited about Pancakes.

Walking A few miles to town for tacos, Gotta have those Tacos, yo.

Walking A few miles to town for tacos, Gotta have those Tacos, yo.

I'm impersonating a Bottle, Poorly.

I'm impersonating a Bottle, Poorly.

PAblo, Anna, Me, Chels, Abby, Mauricio... Little Foot. Our Friends came to Check on us.

PAblo, Anna, Me, Chels, Abby, Mauricio... Little Foot. Our Friends came to Check on us.

Loulou not loving my "Lion King" Impression.

Loulou not loving my "Lion King" Impression.

We went for a short hike and had some fun with JUGgling a two-person Panorama.

We went for a short hike and had some fun with JUGgling a two-person Panorama.

The First Use of Our Homemade Road Shower.

The First Use of Our Homemade Road Shower.

Chels looking fresh after her outdoor shower. The Stand of Pine Trees we parked by was inhabited by at tleast 3 screech owls. it was real cool!

Chels looking fresh after her outdoor shower. The Stand of Pine Trees we parked by was inhabited by at tleast 3 screech owls. it was real cool!

two-person Hammock Hanging.

two-person Hammock Hanging.

The Vineyards Dogs were our constant Companions, always running to greet us when we opened the kitchen.

The Vineyards Dogs were our constant Companions, always running to greet us when we opened the kitchen.