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 3: Waiting for Christmas and Christmas

Waiting for Christmas

After spending a few days in the Valle de Guadalupe and Rancho San Carlos, we started playing the waiting game, passing the time in Ensenada until my father arrived. He had asked us months ago, when we were on the Oregon coast, where we would be for Christmas, and we had NO IDEA. It's pretty tough to schedule an overland trip, much less an overland trip in a 30+ year old Swiss Army surplus van. We glanced at the map, figured if we hadn't made it to Mexico by Christmas we'd be enormous failures, and therefore chose what we thought would be a home-run destination, a local wine region just over the border. 

What this meant in reality is that we had loads of time to kill in Ensenada. Luckily, our newly made Mexican friends, Mauricio and Abby, let us camp at their house for over a week, and we got some projects started and finished. We searched for some steel hardware to better secure our doors while we're away from Little Foot, and stumbled upon a small factory building Baja 1000 trophy and race trucks. We found a fantastic Spanish teacher and took some language lessons, and watched American football at a foreigner/expat bar. We even scoured the beach for mussels and made free dinner at Mauricio's seaside abode. By slowing down we got to explore even more of Ensenada and become closer with our new friends. It was great.

The Baja buggies at this factory took me by surprise! We were looking for small pieces of angle steel to make into locks and pulled into the lot of what looked like a scrap metal recycling center. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the workshop and saw this scene!

The Baja buggies at this factory took me by surprise! We were looking for small pieces of angle steel to make into locks and pulled into the lot of what looked like a scrap metal recycling center. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the workshop and saw this scene!

The finished lock project.

The finished lock project.

Scouring the beach with Pablo and Anna for mussels.

Scouring the beach with Pablo and Anna for mussels.

Preparing the mussels! (Hey Leatherman… we think this could be an ad photo for you!) (Is that how sponsorship works? You just write a caption and it happens?)

Preparing the mussels! (Hey Leatherman… we think this could be an ad photo for you!) (Is that how sponsorship works? You just write a caption and it happens?)

The best part: eating the mussels! A free protein from the sea for dinner. Very nice. 

The best part: eating the mussels! A free protein from the sea for dinner. Very nice. 

Overlooking northern Ensenada from a fantastic and mostly hidden cafateria at a local university.

Overlooking northern Ensenada from a fantastic and mostly hidden cafateria at a local university.

From right to left: Mauricio's 1961 Land Rover 2A, Little Foot the Pinzgauer, and the Cucaracha of Viajeros4x4x4 fame.

From right to left: Mauricio's 1961 Land Rover 2A, Little Foot the Pinzgauer, and the Cucaracha of Viajeros4x4x4 fame.

Loulou got used to her oceanside view at Mauricio's.

Loulou got used to her oceanside view at Mauricio's.

Chelsea took me on a date to watch the New England Patriots at a local expat bar.

Chelsea took me on a date to watch the New England Patriots at a local expat bar.

Spanish lessons might have been made more difficult, but far more entertaining by these two charismatic kittens.

Spanish lessons might have been made more difficult, but far more entertaining by these two charismatic kittens.

Helping Mauricio work his way through some designs for his Land Rover overland project.

Helping Mauricio work his way through some designs for his Land Rover overland project.

Christmas

Chuck, my dad, finally arrived in Mexico and the Christmas Festivities got underway. He chose to stay at boutique hotel named Hotel Boutique in the wine region of the Valle de Guadelupe. It rained for the first few days of the stay, but the sun cleared after that, drying out the vineyards and providing great weather for wandering around the agricultural region.

In addition to visiting the wineries of the Valle de Guadelupe, we toured parts of Ensenada, including the docks, the Mercado Negro, and Hussong's bar and restaurant.

The Mercado Negro, which translates to the Black Market, is a sizable warehouse full of fish vendors. Decades ago, captains returning from a day or week of fishing would hide some of their catch from the ship's owners and sell this portion to the people of Ensenada. Hiding the fish allowed the captains to make some side cash, while letting the people of Ensenada access the sea food without paying a middleman.

Hussong's is one of two restaurants that contend the title of "Home of the Margarita". The place is in the tourist district, and is itself a little touristy, but you know what you're getting when you find it. The margaritas were alright, and if there is a famous home for an iconic beverage near you as you're traveling, you've just got to go. It was worth it.

Wine Tasting.

Wine Tasting.

Ensenada's dock region.

Ensenada's dock region.

The Mercado Negro. The catch was SO fresh you couldn't smell fish, no joke.

The Mercado Negro. The catch was SO fresh you couldn't smell fish, no joke.

Hussong's!

Hussong's!

Loulou making friends with a wolf dog that wanted to eat her.

Loulou making friends with a wolf dog that wanted to eat her.

More wine tasting while we opened Christmas presents!

More wine tasting while we opened Christmas presents!

Mexico, Part 1: We made it and it's AWESOME.

Mexico Border to La Fonda

In a previous post I mentioned that state borders in the US felt like simultaneous start and finish lines. The Mexican border was an enormous departure from this motif - we were wide eyed and wired on the caffeine of a foreign land as we drove the last few miles down the I-5 towards the Mexican border. We were doing it! We were at last and at least making it to one foreign country. We were winning. We won! It was great!

The Mexican border was no problem, even though we got called into secondary for an x-ray search of Little Foot. He's too tall and too unusual not to search. Chels grabbed LouLou in her critter carrier and we piled out as Little Foot was scanned by a massive, moving arch. The scan was quick, and we were on our way. The Mexican border guards were professional but also super congenial. After we passed our x-ray inspection, they stopped lanes of traffic so we could scurry across the freeway to the mass transit immigration office. It saved us a lot of time having to track down another immigration office, and we had our passports and our prepaid tourist cards stamped for the duration of our trip.

PRO TIP: Prepay your tourist card at www.inm.gob.mx for three reasons: its cheaper online, its easier online, and its one less stop on your border crossing. If you purchase it in person after you cross the border, you'll have to obtain the form and fill it out at the immigration office, then go to a bank to pay the fee (small, but annoying to make another stop), and then return to the immigration office with a bank receipt, at which point your tourist card and your passport can be stamped for entry. The only reason not to do this would be if you are traveling by land, exclusively staying in the state of Baja California, and staying for less than 7 days. In that case, the form is free and the imigartion office is a one-stop-shop.

We left the border in the dust and rocketed towards a campsite we had lined up for our first evening. We had decided to keep our dreams simple and find a campsite outside Tijuana, in the hopes that even if the border crossing was long and arduous, or if we got lost or held up somewhere with paperwork, we could still make it to a safe destination. We made it to the K58 campground in the sleepy town of La Fonda with daylight to spare. We parked Little Foot, and headed out to explore the town.

Streets lined with beautiful vegetation.

Streets lined with beautiful vegetation.

We found Poco Cielo, a small restraurant and hotel, right next to our campground. Very cool.

We found Poco Cielo, a small restraurant and hotel, right next to our campground. Very cool.

The view from our site at K58. It s a cool surf spot, apparently. The other two parties camped there for the night were a converted school bus and homegrown diesel Sprinter conversion. Our kind of people!

The view from our site at K58. It s a cool surf spot, apparently. The other two parties camped there for the night were a converted school bus and homegrown diesel Sprinter conversion. Our kind of people!

Loulou and Chels enjoying our first Mexican sunset! The pacific just won't quit when it comes to sunsets.

Loulou and Chels enjoying our first Mexican sunset! The pacific just won't quit when it comes to sunsets.

Our first morning! Just as beautiful.

Our first morning! Just as beautiful.

Our first breakfast at a little place in La Mision, Baja California. We had no language skills, but we managed to order  very  well.

Our first breakfast at a little place in La Mision, Baja California. We had no language skills, but we managed to order very well.

Rancho San Carlos

After our first night on the beach, we headed inland through Ensenada to find somewhere to camp. Chels did some great offline research and pointed us towards a little hot springs. We had no idea what to expect, but some nice Jehovah's Witnesses chatted with us about our travels at a gas station and told us that if we didn't expect much, we would love it. OK! We can do that!

The road in was 10 kilometers of mild dirt road with some shallow water crossings, one or two deeper water crossings, and a lot of harsh granite. Little Foot was up to his axles at some points, but it was no big deal as I had just repaired and replaced three axle boots. Hopefully he's water tight!

The hot springs were fantastic, and nearly entirely deserted. Right when we thought we would be the only folks there for the night, two parties rolled in. One was a gentleman in a two wheel drive Astro van who needed my assistance the next morning due to a tire puncture/leak. The other party was two vehicles, a 1961 Land Rover 2A truck piloted by our new friends Mauricio and Abby, and a Mitsubishi Delica van, all kitted out for travel, driven by our new friends (and unwilling mentors?) Pablo and Anna. Mauricio and Abby are locals of Ensenada, the nearest city to Rancho San Carlos, and Pablo and Anna are their long time friends, and even longer time travelers, having been on the road for over 16 years!

You can find and follow Mauricio and Abby here:
@Ensedada - Instagram

You can find and follow Pablo and Anna here:
Viajeros4x4x4.com
@Viajeros4x4x4 - Instagram

The other water crossings were deeper! I swear!

The other water crossings were deeper! I swear!

The nearly deserted Rancho San Carlos. Come at the wrong time, though, and all the pools will be packed, we were told. 

The nearly deserted Rancho San Carlos. Come at the wrong time, though, and all the pools will be packed, we were told. 

Mauricio's FANTASTIC Land Rover. What a beauty. Birds of feather flock together.

Mauricio's FANTASTIC Land Rover. What a beauty. Birds of feather flock together.

Little Foot had friends. The property was inhabited with geese, cats, dogs, pigs, swans, etc.

Little Foot had friends. The property was inhabited with geese, cats, dogs, pigs, swans, etc.

Testing the new tire inflator as LouLou supervizes.

Testing the new tire inflator as LouLou supervizes.

Enjoying the hot springs pools.

Enjoying the hot springs pools.

Enjoying (maybe?) a mud bath followed by a rinse folowed by more hot springs pools.

Enjoying (maybe?) a mud bath followed by a rinse folowed by more hot springs pools.

A Few Nights in Ensenada

Mauricio and Abby extended an invitation for us to park at their property by the ocean for a few days. A few days turned into a week or so as we waited for Christmas, which we planned to spend in the Valle de Guadalupe. While staying at Mauricio's property we had the chance to learn many, MANY things from Pablo and Anna, the full time adventurers. At their suggestion we added another set of locks to Little Foot, ditched some gear we didn't need, and generally improved our rig.

With Mauricio's assistance we visited Hugo the helpful mechanic and borrowed some tools to readjust Little Foot's breaks. I needed to pull every wheel off our rig to access the break adjustment caps, and to retighten them I needed a bigger torque wrench than the one I packed. In addition to providing tools, Hugo also double checked my adjustments, so as to insure that the job was done right the first time.

All in all, it was a huge blessing to meet these wonderful people. 

Enjoying the beach house's fantastic patio.

Enjoying the beach house's fantastic patio.

A Pacific ocean sunset.

A Pacific ocean sunset.

Wrenching on little Foot with the help of Hugo's tools and expertise.

Wrenching on little Foot with the help of Hugo's tools and expertise.

Hugo didn't charge us, but we did take an oppertunity to buy him ice cream.

Hugo didn't charge us, but we did take an oppertunity to buy him ice cream.

Lou made fast friends with Vini.

Lou made fast friends with Vini.

Pablo helping me rivet our license plate onto its mount.

Pablo helping me rivet our license plate onto its mount.

Tacos at El Flamazo!

Tacos at El Flamazo!

Tacos at Asadero La Chispa!

Tacos at Asadero La Chispa!