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 15: Awaiting our part in Loreto

Waiting for Parts

After limping our way back to Loreto, stopping only for red lights and refusing to pull over to let traffic pass (sorry!), we strategically approached the RV park that would provide our safe haven for nearly a week as we awaited our part. Christian slipped Little Foot into low gear and  rolled slowly through a u-turn on a dead-end street as I hopped out and ran to the entrance, hastily explaining our situation before Christian arrived. Luckily, we knew the owner from our previous time spent there and she let us have the first spot available, which meant Christian could literally pull straight in.

We heaved a huge sigh of relief once we arrived, knowing we were settled until morning, when we rallied enough man-power to push Little Foot to the back where we’d be out of the way as a caravan of big-rigs arrived to take over the rest of the lot.

One of our favorite things about the Loreto RV park is that there is a beautiful common area, complete with a grill. During our time there we grilled out often, feeding not only ourselves but an array of fellow travelers, usually bicyclists and motorcyclists who would gather around to hang out as the food cooked. It was always a pleasure to entertain and it gave a sort of wonderful purpose to our nights there.

Our front and center spot when we first arrived. We quickly moved to the back of the lot, only to be parked in by a caravan of 19  big  rigs.

Our front and center spot when we first arrived. We quickly moved to the back of the lot, only to be parked in by a caravan of 19 big rigs.

Sitting in the common area at the RV park, enjoying the wait while our laundry hangs to dry.

Sitting in the common area at the RV park, enjoying the wait while our laundry hangs to dry.

Enjoying one of many beautiful sunsets while tucked away in the back.

Enjoying one of many beautiful sunsets while tucked away in the back.

Can't be upset about being stuck somewhere when there's a hotdog stand nearby!

Can't be upset about being stuck somewhere when there's a hotdog stand nearby!

One of many communal dinners at the RV park.

One of many communal dinners at the RV park.

Loreto's beautiful downtown church.

Loreto's beautiful downtown church.

Christian kept his mustache for a while.

Christian kept his mustache for a while.

Enjoying some very non-exceptional sushi in an exceptional location.

Enjoying some very non-exceptional sushi in an exceptional location.

Killing time in Loreto

About every other day, I would walk to the house of Antonio, the local “healer” that had provided me with relief from my back pain. It was on the other side of town in the local area, where gringos aren’t usually seen walking around. I was taken by surprise one day by a gentleman yelling “Hola!! HOLA!!!” at me and running towards me as I walked. Preparing to apologize profusely for not being able to speak very good Spanish, the man quickly interrupted me saying, “Don’t worry! I speak English!” Relieved, I asked him if everything was ok. He then looked at me and said, “I came over here to ask YOU if everything was ok!” (I guess the sight of a limping American girl wandering the local side of town got him worried. After I explained that I was headed to my friend’s house and was in fact totally fine and not lost, he begged me to let him buy me a soda. If I hadn’t just split one with Christian shortly before the walk, I would’ve taken him up on the offer.

I wanted to share that story because so many people have expressed concern for our safety while in Mexico. In my lifetime, I’ve had two attempted muggings, had my car broken into and my iPod stolen, and found my car on cinderblocks with all four tires gone…ALL WHILE LIVING IN THE USA.

Here’s the thing: there are bad people everywhere. There is not a higher concentration of bad people in Mexico. However, there is a higher concentration of bad press about Mexico. No one is going to write a news article that gets circulated around Facebook about a random Mexican offering help and a soda to an American girl walking around his neighborhood. I am in fact more comfortable here than I have been in several cities we’ve traveled through in the US, and for good reason. The majority of the folks down here are grateful for the tourism industry and the revenue that brings to their towns. We’ve had countless people ask us if we’re enjoying ourselves and if we feel safe and how they can help. The locals are more helpful than most people we’ve encountered in the US because they’re genuinely happy we’re here.

Ok, rant over.

At Antonio's place, getting ready to get healed.

At Antonio's place, getting ready to get healed.

Antonio is a very gifted and self taught therapist, but at this point he was just treating pain, not the cause of the pain.

Antonio is a very gifted and self taught therapist, but at this point he was just treating pain, not the cause of the pain.

We spent our hours and days finding ways to fill the time, reading books from the RV park book exchange, visiting Antonio for pain treatment, making trips back and forth to the grocery store, etc. Even though Loreto is a highly walkable town, we had to limit our time wandering because of my ever persisting pain. It was becoming apparent that treating the pain was a very temporary solution and that we would soon need to address the bigger problem (though we still didn't know exactly what that was.)

In our time spent waiting for the part, we met a bunch of fellow travelers with cool rigs and stories. One was an ambulance, which is close to our heart since the Campbulance was our first conversion. Since Little Foot is often the most unique rig in a group, we're used to giving tours to everyone that wanders our direction with a curious look on their face. This means that we get to ask for tours in return and see how everyone's setups function differently and get ideas for how we want to change and adapt our own setup for the future. Nothing helps you brainstorm quite like seeing someone else's camper and picking their brain about their likes and dislikes.

Admiring a homemade sun shelter awning on a fellow traveler's rig.

Admiring a homemade sun shelter awning on a fellow traveler's rig.

We're  always  interested in an ambulance!

We're always interested in an ambulance!

There were all sorts of rigs, and we gave many tours of Little Foot, so in turn we were given many tours of other rigs! It was fantastic.

There were all sorts of rigs, and we gave many tours of Little Foot, so in turn we were given many tours of other rigs! It was fantastic.

Installing the part and hitting the road!

We had our part shipped down Baja using a service called Baja Pack. It's a delivery service that utilizes the bus system, saving both time and money because of its efficiency. Waiting on the part was only slightly frustrating, as it was scheduled to arrive either Saturday night or Sunday morning. The buses run seven days a week, but the office closed on Sundays. As our luck would have it, the part didn't arrive Saturday, so we spent another day sitting around waiting, knowing the part was behind the closed doors of the office.

Christian walked over first thing Monday morning to retrieve the package, determined to get the part installed and hit the road by the end of the day. Lucky us, it was there and as expected, the install was straight-forward and fairly quick. By the afternoon, we were hugging our new friends goodbye and crossing our fingers as we started Little Foot for the first time in a week.

Waiting for the part at Baja Pack. This parcel office was clear across town, but the walk was enjoyable everyday.

Waiting for the part at Baja Pack. This parcel office was clear across town, but the walk was enjoyable everyday.

So... where is my part?

So... where is my part?

It arrived!

It arrived!

Clutch Master cylinder in hand!

Clutch Master cylinder in hand!

The install of our new part was super fast.

The install of our new part was super fast.

Old parts out, new parts in.

Old parts out, new parts in.

Little Foot fired on the first try and as Christian depressed the clutch for the first time, he shouted with glee when we didn't hear brake fluid immediately rushing back into the master cylinder. The part had fixed the problem and we were clear to hit the road! We started driving north, skipping all the places we would've loved to stop and enjoy one last time. Our timeline was starting to get a little tight with the delay from our breakdown and we didn't want to risk not having plenty of time to spend in Ensenada before crossing the border. So, with a sigh, we kept driving, only stopping to camp and gas up, knowing we'll be back to enjoy Baja again someday.

So  excited to be driving again.

So excited to be driving again.

Every bend in the road taunted and teased us. Every ebach deserved a week or two of camping.

Every bend in the road taunted and teased us. Every ebach deserved a week or two of camping.

We stopped at beaches we had been to before, knowing that we could camp easily and freely.

We stopped at beaches we had been to before, knowing that we could camp easily and freely.

Putting the Sea of Cortez behind us.

Putting the Sea of Cortez behind us.

Onwards, to Baja Norte.

Onwards, to Baja Norte.

Mexico, Part 13: Todos Santos, Sea Turtles and a Fellow Pinzgauer Nut!

Heading South One Last Time

After Pablo and Anna's presentation at La Ventanna we headed south one last time. We hadn't seen Todos Santos, and many people told us it was a cool, artsy town with a lot to offer. I'd had experiences in both the US, China, and Indonesia that led me to believe that "artsy" was a clever cover for tourist trap, but there was a turtle sanctuary nearby that Chelsea desperately wanted to visit, so we went. Who can say no to baby sea turtles? Surely, not us.

On our way we drove right past a beautiful mission in El Triunfo, and had to stop. There are many neglected missions off the beaten path in Baja, old Spanish missions well on their way to becoming earth again, but there also roadside churches that have been given new paint and longer lives, and while perhaps they lack some of the "authenticity" of a ruined structure that has been untouched for centuries, the maintained beauty is no less striking.

The mission at El Triunfo.

The mission at El Triunfo.

Inside the mission at El Triunfo, holes in the roof let speckled sunlight in.

Inside the mission at El Triunfo, holes in the roof let speckled sunlight in.

Many of the living missions we have been to on this trip exhibit breathtaking wooden ceilings. 

Many of the living missions we have been to on this trip exhibit breathtaking wooden ceilings. 

Outside the mission at El Triunfo in the afternoon light.

Outside the mission at El Triunfo in the afternoon light.

Todos Santos

We made it to Todos Santos later than we wanted to, but had a pretty good line on some free camping. We found a deserted beach a few miles out of town, crawled out onto the sand, and parked for the evening. In the morning we were greeted by gently crashing surf and limited visibility. We were back on the Pacific!

The turtle sanctuary releases baby turtles on a nightly basis during their hatching season, but all the releases happen at sunset, so we had a full day to play around in Todos Santos. The town is touristy - after all it is only a short drive from Cabo San Lucas - but not terribly so. There are very few overt tourist traps. Instead, the town offers a handful of legitimate art galleries, and some very nice handicraft stores. Foreign style bakeries and coffee shops are everywhere, but if you leave the main drag you'll find little taco stands offering killer carnitas and chicharrones and that's where the locals are. All in all it's a nice blend of tourist, gringo, and local. A cute, artsy town that has sold out a little to the white folks, but hasn't lost it's own flavor and identity.

Morning fog moving in to envelop us.

Morning fog moving in to envelop us.

Flags flying over the streets of Todos Santos.

Flags flying over the streets of Todos Santos.

A magnificent bench in a coffee shop.

A magnificent bench in a coffee shop.

Peering into one of the many open workshop galleries in Todos Santos.

Peering into one of the many open workshop galleries in Todos Santos.

One of the many handicraft stores in the town center.

One of the many handicraft stores in the town center.

Some beautiful street art in Todos Santos.

Some beautiful street art in Todos Santos.

Wanted: Turtles, Dead or Alive

After spending the day waiting for sunset, we headed out to the turtle sanctuary, which turned out to be a simple greenhouse structure surrounded by a chain link fence. Inside the green house are piles of sand, decorated with little signs bearing some vital statistics, and surrounded by their own little chain link fences. And under those piles of sand lay many, many hundreds of sea turtle eggs.

Turtle sanctuary volunteers collect the shells from sea turtle nests during the laying season, and re-bury them in the protected green house. Months later, when the eggs are hatching, the volunteers dig them up and release them into the sea. This practice keeps the eggs safe from a big threat: humans with trucks. A truck or possibly even a motorcycle bombing down the beach runs a big risk of crushing whole nests.

We were very excited to see the turtles, but, alas, the turtles were not excited to see us. The volunteers dug up about 100 empty turtle shells, the equivalent of 100 still-born turtles. According to the nice volunteers, this could have been because the mother's age (immature or too mature) or perhaps bad health. But, they told us there might be more eggs tomorrow. Most of the crowd was dejected, but we had the freedom of the road on our side, and decided to camp in the parking lot and wait for another day. We camped, spent another day wandering Todos Santos, found more cool arts and crafts, and ate more killer chicharones and waited for more sea turtles.

The sea turtle sancutary was a simple affair.

The sea turtle sancutary was a simple affair.

"See this here? It is a blue line. And this? This is another line, but it is red," said Christian, as he explained the graph.

"See this here? It is a blue line. And this? This is another line, but it is red," said Christian, as he explained the graph.

The greenhouse structure acts as a large, passive incubator.

The greenhouse structure acts as a large, passive incubator.

Volunteers removing eggs from the soft sand.

Volunteers removing eggs from the soft sand.

Chelsea trying to get a good shot.

Chelsea trying to get a good shot.

All of the infertile eggs were removed, incase some turtles were trapped at the bottom.

All of the infertile eggs were removed, incase some turtles were trapped at the bottom.

Over 100 empty eggs.

Over 100 empty eggs.

Our parking spot became a magnificent camping spot. The photo below is what I was capturing.

Our parking spot became a magnificent camping spot. The photo below is what I was capturing.

A pano of Chelsea taking a photo of me, taking a pano of her! Magic!

A pano of Chelsea taking a photo of me, taking a pano of her! Magic!

Some of the handicrafts being made in Todos Santos.

Some of the handicrafts being made in Todos Santos.

Real exquisite stuff. 

Real exquisite stuff. 

It was difficult to not take one home with us, but our home is so small!

It was difficult to not take one home with us, but our home is so small!

The next evening was a busy evening at the turtle sanctuary. Perhaps it was just the rhythm of the tourists, or maybe everyone who was let down the night before came back with more friends to check out the event, but either way there were many more people at the sanctuary. The volunteers do a great job of taking care of the baby turtles, and they told us a little about what was going on, but it was very apparent that public education was not their purpose.

A large bowl of maybe a dozen sea turtles was laid out on the sand, having been dug up earlier in the day. Small, white, American children immediately surrounded the bowl, and stayed there for over an hour, initially interested in the little aquatic dinosaurs that time forgot, but eventually losing interest and fighting over the use of their parent's iPhones. Out of a crowd of over 50 people, eight or so children dominated any viewing space of the turtles. Older children (as in, older than nine years of age), teenagers, honeymooners, parents, and the elderly were all kept away, and kept silent, by the very powerful hesitation to criticize both someone else's child and someone else's parenting.

Chelsea and I both really love seeing kids get out into nature and learn about the beauty of this world. As a raft guide and an educator, I understand the value of hands-on, experiential learning. Young children should have the first and best chance to see stuff like baby sea turtles, but not the only chance. Everyone wanted to be a part of the moment with the critters, and the moment stretched for over an hour, but because some of the parents (we're not talking about you, Danny and Kassie) refused to see the world past their children, a lot of folks were left out. Parents: your kids are the center of your world, but they are not the center of mine. Please be considerate.

Eventually we peeled away a few of the children from the bucket, and Chelsea got to take a few photos of the turtles, but we were already bitter and the magic of the experience was fairly well ruined. We watched the volunteers release the turtles into the sea, and it was actually kind of funny to see the little sea turtles get battered by the large surf, and struggle to get into the ocean. Actually, it wasn't funny to see that, it was scary and heartbreaking, but it was funny to see the cookie-cutter tourists realize that the world isn't perfect.

Chels, getting pushed even further back by the crowd of mothers edging in to make sure their child gets a front-row seat.

Chels, getting pushed even further back by the crowd of mothers edging in to make sure their child gets a front-row seat.

Sea turtles surrounded by an impenetrable wall of six year olds. The wall didn't move for over an hour.

Sea turtles surrounded by an impenetrable wall of six year olds. The wall didn't move for over an hour.

I'm sure parents would have started glaring had Chels stayed too long in the "circle of children."

I'm sure parents would have started glaring had Chels stayed too long in the "circle of children."

The critters were quite adorable.

The critters were quite adorable.

Many people didn't have a chance to observe the beautiful creatures because a few parents wouldn't move their kids.

Many people didn't have a chance to observe the beautiful creatures because a few parents wouldn't move their kids.

I WANT OUT.

I WANT OUT.

Being a baby sea turtle is super tough.

Being a baby sea turtle is super tough.

Releasing the turtles into the surf.

Releasing the turtles into the surf.

Their journey was just begining. The dots are baby sea turtles.

Their journey was just begining. The dots are baby sea turtles.

Getting ready to do battle with the surf.

Getting ready to do battle with the surf.

Nothing beats watching baby turtles crawl into the sunset with 50+ other tourists!

Nothing beats watching baby turtles crawl into the sunset with 50+ other tourists!

During the two days that we spent killing time in Todos Santos and waiting for sunsets, we were parked on the side of a busy street, using the shade of a tree as a sort of "day camp" as we wandered the town. We spent a lot of time looking at art, window shopping, and writing blogs, but we also spent a lot of time sitting in or near Little Foot, and we had many, many visitors. One such visitor was Mr. John Brown, the owner and operator of Shut Up Frank's, a popular local restaurant and watering hole. He was very much unlike all the other gringos on the street that stopped and gawked at our rig. He knew all about Pinzgauers - he was once a Pinzgauer owner, just like us!

John Brown is one of those guys that found paradise at the right moment. Now he is a Todos Santos local with an amazing spot right on the beach at a secluded surf break. He made the right move at the right time, and he's got a thing for cars as well. At one point, there were 14 vehicles on the property, including a Pinzgauer 710M, the 4x4 soft top model. He showed us around his property, which is mostly mangrove and a few small houses. We "helped" him clear a few items out of his storage container, including a few Pinzgauer manuals and two aluminum water tanks that we're planning on bringing back to our friend Mauricio in Ensenada. Meeting John Brown was great, and I kept asking him, "Please, stop living my dream."

We left John Brown to keep living his dream on the beaches of Todos Santos, and chose a dirt road that looked like it would take us through a ghost town and out to the highway, instead of returning through town. It was all fun and games being back on a dirt road in nowhere, until our clutch started acting funky! More on that, next time.

John Brown has a thing for cars.

John Brown has a thing for cars.

Walking through the Mangroves to his house for a property tour.

Walking through the Mangroves to his house for a property tour.

John is a successful guy with a simple beach house. No need for extravagance.

John is a successful guy with a simple beach house. No need for extravagance.

Leading the way to the Storage Shed.

Leading the way to the Storage Shed.

Pinz stuff! Gold!

Pinz stuff! Gold!

Driving on a beautiful sandy road without much of a clutch! 

Driving on a beautiful sandy road without much of a clutch! 

Mexico, Part 12: Meeting up with Pablo and Anna in La Ventana

For a couple of weeks we had known that our friends Pablo and Anna (of Viajeros4x4x4 fame) were scheduled to give a presentation at a kiteboarding camp in La Ventana, a town 150 kilometers north of the San Jose del Cabo/East Cape area. We were a little torn about the option of tracking down the traveling Spaniards. On one hand, we really enjoy Pablo and Anna's company, we love hearing their stories, and time spent with them usually produces valuable lessons. On the other hand, we had already been to La Ventana, it wasn't on our planned route back, and we wanted to head to Todos Santos, which was on the opposite side of the peninsula. After some hemming and hawing, we decided to track down our favorite heroes and go support them at their talk.

We spent a night at a campground while en route to the presentation, and made time for a little Sunday morning Bible study before continuing on to our destination. Arriving in La Ventana, we still didn't know how we would find our heroes in the town, as it was mostly made of winding back roads and beach encampments that resembled refugee camps for surfers. We were parked, using some free wifi, when out of nowhere the bedraggled purr of a Japanese turbo diesel alerted us to their presence. We didn't need to find them, they found us! There are many benefits to owning a highly recognizable vehicle.

We followed Pablo and Anna to Baja Joe's, a multi-service, multi-purpose beach resort in downtown La Ventana. Baja Joe's is part hotel, part cafe, part bar, part kite school, and most importantly, part community meeting place. Pablo and Anna had met and subsequently been adopted by Kevin, a Canadian who blurs the lines of gringo and local, and he set up the lecture with the folks at Baja Joe's. Kevin's connection with Pablo and Anna? He's a Mitsubishi Delica owner as well. Remember what I said about highly recognizable rigs?

Pablo and Anna packed the open air cafe and bar with their lecture/talk/slideshow. They presented 17 years of excellent pictures, and talked the audience through the successes, failures, and adventures of their life on the road. Folks were engaged, and many questions were asked and they were all answered. We felt like the event was part lecture and part stage show, as Pablo and Anna have an amazing rapport, especially considering the talk was given in their second language. We assumed they had given talks very similar to this in the past, as a some of their dialogue was so quick it felt practiced, but they told us later that it was the first of this kind that they had delivered. I suppose their stage presence is a byproduct of travel, produced in the white-hot cruicble of the cockpit of La Cucuracha.

Studying the Bible while Loulou considers her escape.

Studying the Bible while Loulou considers her escape.

Did they see us yet? Maybe they didn't see us. Maybe we can still escape.

Did they see us yet? Maybe they didn't see us. Maybe we can still escape.

Pablo and Anna preparing for their talk, and mostly waiting for the sun to go down so the projector could be useful.

Pablo and Anna preparing for their talk, and mostly waiting for the sun to go down so the projector could be useful.

Pablo and Anna packed the house at Baja Joe's!

Pablo and Anna packed the house at Baja Joe's!

The next day we spent the morning looking for a mechanic's garage to perform an oil change on Little Foot. We had the filter, and we had the oil, and we had the wrenches, but we needed the bucket! We don't carry an oil pan with us because oil pans are dirty and oily, so we had to search one out, as well as some uninhabited dirt upon which to do the work. My timing on the oil change was a little early, but I had been unable to find an SAE30 oil in Baja, and Little Foot likes to burn and leak a little oil, so we were running low. Most stores carry 20w50, and Little Foot is happy with that, so a preemptive oil change let me relax knowing that surplus oil is available at nearly every corner store.

After the oil change we went for a walk on a short trail that boasted interpretive and educational signs describing the local desert flora. Rumor has it that the very American upgrades to the town, including this nature walk and the local maze of mountain biking trails, were products of generosity from Alice Walton, Sam Walton's daughter. Possible!

The nature/interpretive trail was fantastic. Usually the desert brush surrounding the large cacti is so dense and unforgiving that folks don't get a chance to walk through the dry forests. In La Ventana, the trail winds through a stark, beautiful grove of cacti, some over 20 feet tall. Small signs gave us a little information about the local plants, their flowering and fruiting seasons, and common uses.

Changing the oil at a closed tire shop.

Changing the oil at a closed tire shop.

Petting the cactus!

Petting the cactus!

Checking out some of the interpretive signs on the nature trail.

Checking out some of the interpretive signs on the nature trail.

A close up of a cactus.

A close up of a cactus.

Some of the cacti were just huge, with many limbs.

Some of the cacti were just huge, with many limbs.

Kevin, the Canadian local/gringo that was hosting Pablo and Anna, extended his hospitality to us as well, and we spent a couple nights camped out in his driveway. He's an avid kite surfer, and loves to instruct and talk shop about the sport, although he'll tell you he doesn't know how to teach someone to ride. We had a chance to head out to a local beach while the wind was up to learn how to fly a trainer kite, the first step to kite surfing.

We watched some folks launch from the beach, and got a general idea of the basic maneuvers of the sport. The kites, which vary in size from 6 meters to 13 meters, are super powerful - there is a lot of air being caught by the kite structure, and a 10 meter wing can easily pull a human through the water. Kevin taught us how to lay our lines for a kite, go through a pre-flight check, and prepare the inflatable structures of the kite's wing. It was a real day of learning! Eventually he launched for a ride, and we got to play around with the tiny-by-comparison trainer kite. 

Generally it took two people to launch the trainer kite, and one to fly. Once up, the rainbow wing required constant attention, needing to be powered and de-powered to maintain a stable rhythm of arcs through the air. Too much turn one way, or too little power at the wrong moment sent the nylon wing plummeting to the sand, and the helpers sprinting out to the beach to relaunch.

The whole experience was fantastic - just flying a kite is great fun, and Kevin's friend had developed a two part control bar that made flying a small kite more difficult. You'll see it in some photos - the bar furthest from the harness is the standard bar, and bar closest to the harness was added later as an auxiliary bar, and interacts with the main control bar through two rubber bands. Essentially, the auxiliary control bar adds a degree of lag to flying the trainer kite. Its like driving a car with lots of play in the steering wheel.

In addition to flying the kite, Chelsea and I got to ride in La Cucuracha on the way to the beach! And we got use the van's best party piece - the stand-through expedition-worthy sun roof! It was excellent.

Riding in La Cucuracha.

Riding in La Cucuracha.

Expedition worthy sun roof!

Expedition worthy sun roof!

Sun roof beach action!

Sun roof beach action!

Watching a kite surfer body drag before standing up on his board.

Watching a kite surfer body drag before standing up on his board.

Kevin, describing the basics of flying a kite.

Kevin, describing the basics of flying a kite.

Laying out the lines on the trainer kite is as important as laying out the lines on a big kite.

Laying out the lines on the trainer kite is as important as laying out the lines on a big kite.

Attaching the harness to Pablo.

Attaching the harness to Pablo.

PRETTY RAINBOW KITE!!!

PRETTY RAINBOW KITE!!!

Anna and I preparing to launch the kite for Pablo.

Anna and I preparing to launch the kite for Pablo.

Difficulty launching. At this point, the little wing is alive with power.

Difficulty launching. At this point, the little wing is alive with power.

Kevin teaching me about the basics of preparing an inflated kite.

Kevin teaching me about the basics of preparing an inflated kite.

Fixing... something.

Fixing... something.

Pablo with his hands on the auxillary control bar, which slows down the control of the kite.

Pablo with his hands on the auxillary control bar, which slows down the control of the kite.

Pablo, launching the kite for me all by himself.

Pablo, launching the kite for me all by himself.

Pablo and Anna launching the trainer kite for me.

Pablo and Anna launching the trainer kite for me.

Chelsea flying the trainer using the main bar.

Chelsea flying the trainer using the main bar.

Chelsea flying one-handed on the auxillary bar! Look at the girl go!

Chelsea flying one-handed on the auxillary bar! Look at the girl go!

Still flying one-handed on the lower bar. The is an advanced beginner move, made easier if you bite your tongue.

Still flying one-handed on the lower bar. The is an advanced beginner move, made easier if you bite your tongue.

We celebrated our successful day of beach flying with some fish frying! There was one shop in town with fresh-ish fish, and Kevin bought a bunch of sea bass to batter and pan fry for the whole family. His hospitality was absolutely incredible, and he just wouldn't let us leave the next day without putting us on his paddle boards for a morning ride. The wind had kicked up by the time we launched and we barely had to paddle as we were pushed downwind to our destination.

By the end of the few days in La Ventana, we were quite happy that we had chosen to track down Pablo and Anna once again. The town, while gringo-heavy, is a fantastic destination in Baja, and definetly worth the attention of anyone remotely insterested in wind sports.

A rare dual-Delica shot.

A rare dual-Delica shot.

Paddling on our last morning in town.

Paddling on our last morning in town.

We couldn't stand as the wind was too high! We were being blown way too fast while standing, so kneeling it was for our downwind paddle.

We couldn't stand as the wind was too high! We were being blown way too fast while standing, so kneeling it was for our downwind paddle.

Mexico, Part 9: Nearly Deserted Road and Nearly Deserted Beaches

Nearly Deserted Roads

After leaving Agua Verde all four sets of couples (Jan and Diana, the Spaniards in the Windstar, Pablo and Anna, and ourselves) went separate ways at separate speeds. At Agua Verde, Mexico 1 cuts across the Baja Peninsula headed west, and very nearly hits the coast before turning southeast and heading back to the Sea of Cortez. Between the coasts we spent a few nights at an RV park to catch up on blog posts and enjoy some hot showers before hitting the road again. Leaving civilization, we had our eyes on a dirt road adventure along the Pacific Coast, but were turned back when the locals told us the road on our map didn’t actually exist.

We poked around unsuccessfully, looking for more adventurous side roads, but as the afternoon shadows grew longer we eventually settled on driving to a Pacific surf spot that was listed as a good area for free camping. 10km into a 20km drive down a sandy track, we gave up and stopped for the night. We weren’t going to surf at the beach, the road was deserted, the view was great, and there was no reason not to stop.

The next morning we enjoyed coffee while gazing out over the forest of cactus that laid like carpet over the rolling hills that lead down to the beach, nature’s hand only interrupted by the continuation of the sandy track that had led us to our impromptu, roadside camp spot. Everything was silent; we were alone, stillness laying ahead of us for miles to the sea, except for one tiny puff of dust that soon became a small cloud, and then a trail of flying dirt and diesel fumes furiously kicked up by nothing other than a green and silver Mitsubishi Delica! Pablo and Anna and their van La Cucaracha (of Viajeros4x4x4 fame) had found us again!

We flagged them down and exchanged pleasantries, and both agreed that the nature of Baja, for the traveler at least, is very much that of a town with a single street. We were separately headed for La Paz, the big port city in Southern Baja, and planned to meet up at a Tecolate beach, a popular free camping spot for long distance travelers, to celebrate Chelsea's birthday. The one-street-town nature of Baja had us accidentally bump into each other two more times before the beach. The Peninsula is small when it wants to be.

A beautiful sandy track surrounded by cactus.

A beautiful sandy track surrounded by cactus.

Our lazy, halfway camping spot on the side of a road.

Our lazy, halfway camping spot on the side of a road.

The forest of cactus that laid like carpet over the hills.

The forest of cactus that laid like carpet over the hills.

Testing the six wheel drive - front axle engaged (green lever), rear lockers engaged (middle yellow lever), and front locker engaged (far right yellow lever). Only test on soft straight roads!

Testing the six wheel drive - front axle engaged (green lever), rear lockers engaged (middle yellow lever), and front locker engaged (far right yellow lever). Only test on soft straight roads!

Tecolate Beach

We didn’t really enjoy Tecolate beach, but we did enjoy the company we found. While we were there a strong norte, the northerly winds that ran Rod out of Agua Verde a day early, kicked up, throwing light silt into every crevasse of our rig, and rendering the shoreline unusable for swimming or relaxing. As we sought shelter from the wind we ran into our friends Dani and Kevin, the nice folks we met in Mulege, traveling in their Iveco Trakker with their dog Mali. Finding them made the windy beach more bearable. Eventually we met up with Pablo and Anna as well, and goofed around for Chelsea’s birthday, taking some funny photos in the operating but nearly deserted beachside restaurants.

Sunset at Tecolate with Mali, Dani and Kevin.

Sunset at Tecolate with Mali, Dani and Kevin.

Tecolate restaurant deck. Half the restaurant was deck, the other half was a beached ship cememented into the ground. No joke.

Tecolate restaurant deck. Half the restaurant was deck, the other half was a beached ship cememented into the ground. No joke.

Tecolate beach restaurants and Chels looking a little discouraged and windblown by the thwarted birthday beach day.

Tecolate beach restaurants and Chels looking a little discouraged and windblown by the thwarted birthday beach day.

Pablo nailed it.

Pablo nailed it.

Nearly Deserted Beaches

The next day we shook off the night’s festivities and headed to a possibly deserted beach. We followed a windy road of immaculate asphalt out to some beaches just south of La Paz. La Cucaracha and Little Foot dove off the pavement and onto the dirt at the first possibility, a decision motivated by the hand of God more than the mind of man. We navigated a washed-out decent that caused some Japanese steel to meet some Mexican rock (the Austrian steel was unscathed) only to find a lonely little Volkswagen sedan and a helpless young man at the bottom of the hill, with the car backed up into a berm, and two wheels off the ground. God had sent us down the hill to perform a rescue!

The gentleman had been driving home from the beach the night before and took a wrong turn. As he nosed up to the hill we had just descended, he realized he had made a mistake. While attempting to make a three point turn, he reversed with too much enthusiasm and got stuck on the berm. He had been there all night! We broke out the shovels and muscles and dug him out, and after a short chat we realized that he knew our friend Mauricio (of @Ensenada fame), and the world of Baja got even smaller.

We spent two nights on the beach with Pablo and Anna. It was our first sighting of mobula rays breaching and splashing in the water, as if they were clapping with their entire body. Dolphins splashed in the distance, and a single lonely sea lion sat on a rock and sang to us for hours. Other highlights included baking bread over the campfire, and trying some of Pablo and Anna’s fantastic salted cod spread. There is a recipe he published in Overland Journal out there somewhere, and I’ll try to find it for you. We also collected and steamed crabs, continuing the theme of Pablo and I killing animals and eating them.

A rescue! I was hoping we would need to pull him out but four extra people pushing while Chels revved the gas was enough.

A rescue! I was hoping we would need to pull him out but four extra people pushing while Chels revved the gas was enough.

La Cucuracha chasing me down!

La Cucuracha chasing me down!

Getting ready to tread some sand.

Getting ready to tread some sand.

Our deserted beach.

Our deserted beach.

Prime crab hunting territory.

Prime crab hunting territory.

Crab hunting with Pablo.

Crab hunting with Pablo.

Crabs!

Crabs!

Tasty crabs.

Tasty crabs.

We were surrounded by 360° of beauty. That forest is huge cacti.

We were surrounded by 360° of beauty. That forest is huge cacti.

Prepping bread. We baked it in coals, not on the burner.

Prepping bread. We baked it in coals, not on the burner.

The beach, with some of the cleanest and clearest water we've seen yet.

The beach, with some of the cleanest and clearest water we've seen yet.

Pablo and Anna brought a kayak from Ensenada and chased down some mobula rays.

Pablo and Anna brought a kayak from Ensenada and chased down some mobula rays.

Consulting maps.

Consulting maps.

A Bad Road and a Rocky Cove

After Leaving La Ventana and the comfort of a few days doing nothing on the beach, we set our eyes on more beach and more nothingness as Pablo and Anna headed inland. Our goal was a specific isolated rocky cove that had earned our friend Mauricio the cover shot of the 2016 Rovers North calendar. Two route options presented themselves: a short drive up and over the mountains that lay between us and our beach, or drive south around the mountains and then turn and drive back north again along the coast and through some small towns to our destination. The second option felt laborious and dull, but more importantly we have three locking differentials and nearly 35” mud terrain tires and we need reasons to use them. We filled our tanks and headed to the hills for what we thought would be a mild dirt road, After all, Google maps said we were only 56 minutes away!

What ensued was a stiff climb up a large hill that featured exposed cliffs, off camber turns, a handful of ledges, and loose granite scree. At times my navigator was crying, and at other times her terror rendered her mute, a silence that was quite unnerving. We parked in places to get out and walk, to scout lines, and to weigh options. We shoveled loose gravel into piles in hopes that some of the ledges would toss us a little less. Two hours of the drive was spent out of the vehicle. At times Loulou was even buckled in.

In the end it was a great drive, if a little jarring at times as Little Foot trundled down washed out slopes. Driving a challenging road with your home on the back of your truck definitely lowers your comfort level, but we made it, and the rocky cove was worth every tear and whimper.

We spent two days at the rocky cove, again doing not much. Highlights were reading books, snorkeling, and baking bread over the fire. Loulou chased hermit crabs on the rocks, which was probably a trip highlight for her. On the second day, Sabrina and Henning (of TrailGypsies fame) and Jan and Diana (of steffens.live fame) found us, driving up to the road we had just come down. They weren’t looking for us or the rocky cove and we hadn’t made plans to meet up, illustrating once again that Baja can be small when it wants to be.

While we were camped at the rocky cove Chelsea and I did a little unpacking of the rig, only to find that some moisture, likely sweat, had been trapped under our fantastic IKEA futon mattress and had started to mildew! Luckily we had the sun on our side, so out came the mattress to bake in the warmth after a thorough bleach-spray session as I fired up the drill and added some breather holes to the plywood that forms the base of our bed.

The problem of mold and mildew makes sense – mattresses need to breathe because we are wet, disgusting animals. While building out Little Foot in Montana we had toyed around with the idea of using a slatted platform to support the bed but had decided on a single sheet of plywood to help with weight, strength, and simplicity. I hadn’t really revisited the problem until now, and I expressed my woes to Henning, who promptly told me that they take their mattress out of their rig at least every few weeks, and drying mattresses is just part of extended car-based travel. I mention this only to show how helpful it can be to talk, at length, with other overlanders, or really anyone in your trade or niche activity. The BS sessions between overlanders aren’t just competitions or mental floss – often both parties gain valuable insights into the shared and unconventional lifestyle.

The start of the drive.

The start of the drive.

Things getting steeper.

Things getting steeper.

Parked in a good spot as we scouted and shoveled.

Parked in a good spot as we scouted and shoveled.

Loulou buckled in, and the rear diffs engaged!

Loulou buckled in, and the rear diffs engaged!

One of a few spots we piled up rocks to limit Little Foots rolling.

One of a few spots we piled up rocks to limit Little Foots rolling.

Just a little light road construction.

Just a little light road construction.

Note from Chelsea: I took this photo after all the scary stuff was over. The technical section was so scary that the idea of taking photos or video just seemed wrong…if something truly bad had happened, I would've been racked with guilt over having been recording instead of helping. Instead, I walked ahead in the line where we had decided the driver's tire would be and used a walkie talkie to communicate any other directions Christian might need. I took this photo as Christian rounded a bend above the scary section to wait for me to run up and jump in. I'm including it to show the angle of Little Foot as it climbs around a slight curve. What scared me the most was being on sections of this road that were so narrow that when Little Foot would pitch like this, it was directly over a steep cliff. So, please take my word for it when I say, it felt much scarier than it looks! 

Note from Chelsea: I took this photo after all the scary stuff was over. The technical section was so scary that the idea of taking photos or video just seemed wrong…if something truly bad had happened, I would've been racked with guilt over having been recording instead of helping. Instead, I walked ahead in the line where we had decided the driver's tire would be and used a walkie talkie to communicate any other directions Christian might need. I took this photo as Christian rounded a bend above the scary section to wait for me to run up and jump in. I'm including it to show the angle of Little Foot as it climbs around a slight curve. What scared me the most was being on sections of this road that were so narrow that when Little Foot would pitch like this, it was directly over a steep cliff. So, please take my word for it when I say, it felt much scarier than it looks! 

The road was as beautiful as it was exciting.

The road was as beautiful as it was exciting.

The rocky cove with dinner on the fire.

The rocky cove with dinner on the fire.

Loulou the hermit crab hunter.

Loulou the hermit crab hunter.

Bread baking.

Bread baking.

The rocky cove at sunrise that earned Mauricio the cover of the Rovers North calendar.

The rocky cove at sunrise that earned Mauricio the cover of the Rovers North calendar.

Little Foot looks good from every angle…at least we think so…but we're a little biased!

Little Foot looks good from every angle…at least we think so…but we're a little biased!

Mold and mildew. More like mild-ewwwwww.

Mold and mildew. More like mild-ewwwwww.

Planning my holes to add at least a little air flow. Don't worry…we thoroughly bleached and scrubbed all of this off.

Planning my holes to add at least a little air flow. Don't worry…we thoroughly bleached and scrubbed all of this off.

Drilling.

Drilling.

Commuter traffic! Even the main paved roads aren't without obstacles!

Commuter traffic! Even the main paved roads aren't without obstacles!

Los Barriles

Los Barriles is a tourist town, end of sentence. Its been taken over by Americans and Canadians and has lost a lot of its Mexican charm. We ran into town only to seek out WiFi, update the blog, and run some errands. Otherwise, we stayed on yet another deserted beach and enjoyed more free camping, more fires, and more nothingness. 

We were so turned off by the rampant Americanization of the town that we chose to avoid viewing the Superbowl. I really wanted to watch the Patriots, they are my team, but I just couldn't put up with the foreigner bars, and therefore I missed what my little brother told me was "The greatest game of football ever." Instead we found solace in our weekly Bible study, because Superbowl Sunday is still a Sunday!

Loulou: "Guys, maybe I can go for a swim?"

Loulou: "Guys, maybe I can go for a swim?"

Snorkel everywhere.

Snorkel everywhere.

Chelsea doing dishes.

Chelsea doing dishes.

Many of our dinner are simply guacamole.

Many of our dinner are simply guacamole.

A beach well above Los Barriles, kitchen of course facing the ocean.

A beach well above Los Barriles, kitchen of course facing the ocean.

Getting a fire going dinner.

Getting a fire going dinner.

Chicken from the fire this evening.

Chicken from the fire this evening.

Our Sundays are always spent with a weekly podcast from Barabbas Road Church (Chels' old church in San Diego) that we follow along with while going verse-by-verse through the Bible.

Our Sundays are always spent with a weekly podcast from Barabbas Road Church (Chels' old church in San Diego) that we follow along with while going verse-by-verse through the Bible.