Mexico, Part 7: Loreto, Cockfights and Respecting the Chicken at Rattlesnake Beach

Loreto

We left the Bahía de Concepción and drove to Loreto, the next big town down the east coast of the peninsula. For some reason, we were fatigued, and the prospect of a night in a hotel was intoxicating. Sabrina and Henning (of Trail Gypsies fame) directed us towards a cheap-ish hotel in Loreto, citing its price, WiFi, hot showers, complimentary breakfast, secure parking, and pet friendliness as a list of luxuries. While they were not wrong, our stay was decidedly uncomfortable, but by no fault of the hotel's! We learned that night that we didn't want hotels anymore; Little Foot is our home, certainly our bedroom at least, and we have built him up to our idea of comfort, and anything else on the road is alien. We love hot showers and WiFi, but we don't need hotels anymore, especially in temperate-to-tropical Baja. It was a good lesson to learn, especially at the $35 USD price tag - we could have paid A LOT more to learn the same lesson in the states!

Parking in the hotel's secure lot did allow us to freely wander Loreto's downtown. The community is cute, and it has just enough gringo influence to create an interesting mix of cultures, but not enough to overpower. The town square is beautiful, and boasts a small tourist district, as well as an old church and, surprisingly, a very American microbrewery.

Mexico 1 is a great road. Just look at those mountains!

Mexico 1 is a great road. Just look at those mountains!

The hotel room that taught us we don't need hotel rooms.

The hotel room that taught us we don't need hotel rooms.

Pet friendly, but Loulou wanted back in Little Foot.

Pet friendly, but Loulou wanted back in Little Foot.

Cockfights!

While wandering around town we spotted none other but Pablo and Anna (of Viajeros4x4x4 fame) in their beloved van, La Cucuracha! Chelsea had just been wondering aloud about when we might see them again, and then, speak of the devil, they appeared. We exchanged pleasantries, and Pablo mentioned that he wanted to attend a cock fight in town that night. He had, by chance, spied a billboard advertising that tonight was the monthly cock fight, but Anna didn't want to go. He offered to one or both of us to join him - perhaps if Chelsea wasn't interested she could walk back to downtown with Anna? I was tentatively interested, the ladies less so, but all four of us walked to the event, hemming and hawing about the situation. Upon arriving at the town's purpose built cock fighting arena, and upon paying the small entrance fee ($150 MEX for each couple), we decided to give the event a chance. The night turned out to be excellent, and it was probably the best cultural experience we've had in Baja yet!

The cock fighting arena in Loreto is not a multi-purpose venue. It is bespoke and purpose-built for the sport, and I hope that helps to impress upon you the importance of this pastime to the locals. It's like seeing rodeo grounds in the western US - when you see one, you know the community has a rich background in herding and managing cattle. Loreto has a deep agricultural background, and the cock fighting arena is a testament to that.

The compound is a walled structure, maybe 50 meters square, complete with stalls for food vendors, two sets of gendered bathrooms, and a large holding area for competing birds. The arena itself is open air, but set in an excavated pit, lined with red and white concrete stadium seating, and covered by a concrete roof to protect from sun and heat. The ring is dirt, with a series of starting lines delineating different starting points for different rounds of the fight. An MC directed traffic from a worn, wooden ringside table, and toddlers climbed around the stadiums stairs while their mothers sat together and gossiped. This was very much a family affair, and we felt at home, welcomed, and safe.

The fights themselves were fast affairs, usually less than a few minutes, and were mostly a flurry of feathers, although here and there a minute amount of blood was visible. Make no mistake, these were fights to the death, and each fight caused at least one, but usually two, rooster deaths, as the winner was often killed out of mercy. This part of the event caused hesitation in Chelsea and I (and perhaps Anna). We didn't love the idea of the birds dying, but I realized a few things. First, there was an appreciable amount of beauty surrounding the fights, from the dances of the birds to accouterments carried by the bird's handlers. Second, this night was a good chance for the handlers to win some big money, with the victor receiving $70,000 MEX ($3500 USD). And third, there is almost nothing cute about roosters, and when watching them fight you realize they are essentially feathered dinosaurs, and that nature, with no help of the farmers or ranchers, has designed the creature kill other roosters. In the end, I really don't mind watching dinosaurs kill other dinosaurs, especially while eating hotdogs and crushing cold drinks.

Pablo and Anna at the enterance to the cock fight arena - Pablo is smiling because he knows we are all going in, and we are all going to love it.

Pablo and Anna at the enterance to the cock fight arena - Pablo is smiling because he knows we are all going in, and we are all going to love it.

The arena, like the event and practice itself, is cemented in the community.

The arena, like the event and practice itself, is cemented in the community.

A family affair in Loreto! There were folks of all ages.

A family affair in Loreto! There were folks of all ages.

Rattlesnake Beach

We directed Pablo and Anna to Rattlesnake beach, the hideout of Mr. Rod Davis, a senior boatman at our summer employment, Timberline Tours in Eagle, Colorado. Rod has it all figured out - he spends his summers in Colorado boating on the rivers, and then escapes to sunny Baja for the winters, where he continues boating, but on the waves instead. We pushed the Viajeros towards him, and stayed an extra day in Loreto doing laundry and running errands.

Rattlesnake beach is like an ad hoc RV park, full of part time and full time snow birds from the US and Canada. The beach is lined with secluded camp spots full of truck campers, fifth wheels, tow behinds, Airstreams - you name it and it is there. The residents pay a little to the federal government to stay there, and everyone is happy. There are no hookups, no dumps, no power, no water - each camper figures that out. They have a nice little community going, a camp ground without a camp ground. It was a nice place to stop for a night or a season. There is a spring a few kilometers away from the beach at the mouth of a canyon where water tanks can be filled, a town is about 7 kilometers away for most of everyone's daily needs, and Loreto is just up the road for anything a city can offer.

The next day we headed south to Rattlesnake beach ourselves, and found Pablo and Anna pulling into a nice camp spot on the beach. Anna beckoned for us to park next to them at the spot as Pablo beckoned for us to continue down the beach to another spot. As per usual, I deferred to the advice of the lady, and we camped next to them. That night, however, I was all ears and a willing student as Pablo taught me how to grill in his Argentinian style. Pablo is both a Spaniard and an Argentinian, and it is easy to see both sides of the man if you spend any time with him, especially if there is a fire and some meat nearby. I, in true American form, had moved the meat on the grill around too much and too soon, earning a dose of Argentinian scorn.

Pablo told me, "You cannot just just move the chicken around where you want to. You cannot just move it and do what you want... You must, respect the chicken!" He went on to explain that you must respect the chicken and LOVE the chicken and it will love you back. That quickly became the phrase of the night, and then of the next few adventures as well. I'm very grateful to Pablo for infinitely helping my grilling skills!

Look! Birds not dying! Birds living! At Rod's camp spot at Rattlesnake beach.

Look! Birds not dying! Birds living! At Rod's camp spot at Rattlesnake beach.

Preparing the chicken to be respected.

Preparing the chicken to be respected.

Preparing a respectful fire.

Preparing a respectful fire.

Camped on Rattlesnake beach!

Camped on Rattlesnake beach!

Rattlesnake beach views.

Rattlesnake beach views.

Pablo tending and respecting the fire.

Pablo tending and respecting the fire.

Temperature is taken by placing your hand near the fire - great respect.

Temperature is taken by placing your hand near the fire - great respect.

The view from the top of Heart Attack Hill.

The view from the top of Heart Attack Hill.

Chelsea had been battling with back pains for months, and it had gotten a little more serious in the past weeks, so we set about finding a cure. Some campers at Rattlesnake assured us that Antonio, a local "witch doctor" in Loreto, could help her out. The next day some folks were going into town, so I loaded Chelsea into their truck, and headed out for a hike with the Viajeros up to a view point (complete with a cross) and then up the Tabor canyon in search of a fresh water spring.

The hike was outstanding, the spring cool and clear. Pablo, Anna, and myself scrambled up and over enormous rocks, and the whole setting seemed like something out of a Jurassic park movie. We enjoyed the views of the sea and the dips in the spring water as Chelsea got adjusted by Antonio, who is very much not a which doctor, but a self-taught physical therapist. She found great relief there, and not wanting to be left out of the fresh-water fun, insisted that we take showers in the spring water the next day before leaving for the next adventure.

I got to ride in  THE  La Cucuracha!

I got to ride in THE La Cucuracha!

Pablo arranged for the electrical station's gaurd to watch the van, to protect from the bandits, which had been reportedly breaking into cars at the trailhead.

Pablo arranged for the electrical station's gaurd to watch the van, to protect from the bandits, which had been reportedly breaking into cars at the trailhead.

The road to the canyon, across from Rattlesnake beach.

The road to the canyon, across from Rattlesnake beach.

Climbing up the canyon.

Climbing up the canyon.

I'm not a great photographer, but hopefully this captures some of the excellence of the area.

I'm not a great photographer, but hopefully this captures some of the excellence of the area.

The views up and down Tabor canyon were outstanding.

The views up and down Tabor canyon were outstanding.

A clear cool spring is just what every traveler needs!

A clear cool spring is just what every traveler needs!

Chelsea did get to bathe in some fresh spring water! Don't worry, she wasn't left out.

Chelsea did get to bathe in some fresh spring water! Don't worry, she wasn't left out.

California Part 2: Central Coast and closing in on San Diego!

Getting out of the San Francisco area was no small (or cheap) task. Chelsea routed us through what she thought would be the most direct route, forgetting that the bridges were tolled and we had an extra axel (which more than doubled the tolls). Her route, however, did take us over the famous Golden Gate, and the view was worth it.

After we exited San Francisco we plunged back into fantastic California coast scenery, again taking many chances to stop and wander. We tracked down one of Chelsea's favorite campsites from her trip up the coast years ago, and it was just as magical this time around. Butano State Park, if anyone is interested. 

Surprisingly light California traffic.

Surprisingly light California traffic.

Golden Gates.

Golden Gates.

Butano State Park.

Butano State Park.

More outstanding California surf.

More outstanding California surf.

A few spots were ludicrously beautiful.

A few spots were ludicrously beautiful.

After staying in Butano, and paying the hefty $35 fee (it honestly feels like a fine for enjoying nature) we were very motivated to camp for free for a night. Unfortunately, much of the surrounding National Forest was burnt and the roads were closed to anything but moving thru-traffic. We found a nice parking spot and made dinner, and were even visited by some fantastic travelers who couldn't help but stop and gander at our rig.

We made dinner, walked Loulou, and basked in the waning light of a beautiful sunset, until a county official drove by and told us to move on or risk a fine. Alas, stealth camping doesn't always work! We found a pull-off down the road and gave camping another try, and thankfully weren't bothered through the night.

Getting ready for the sunset show.

Getting ready for the sunset show.

We've been trying to adapt Loulou to a harness. It hasn't worked.

We've been trying to adapt Loulou to a harness. It hasn't worked.

A nice spot to park and make dinner, but we were run off by the officials. Dang!

A nice spot to park and make dinner, but we were run off by the officials. Dang!

I was in awe all evening. The Sunset was truly magical.

I was in awe all evening. The Sunset was truly magical.

Waves, sunset, and the highway.

Waves, sunset, and the highway.

Little Foot posing.

Little Foot posing.

Just the best spot to make dinner.

Just the best spot to make dinner.

More sunset. More Little Foot.

More sunset. More Little Foot.

Just before we were ran off, Chelsea got out her tripod to start shooting some night photos. Quite nice!

Just before we were ran off, Chelsea got out her tripod to start shooting some night photos. Quite nice!

The next day we were running low on oil, and our pre-occupation regarding finding more 20w50 led us to forget about our fuel level! We ran Little Foot dry, and had a rough time getting him started again. Luckily, we were on our way to see a Pinzgauer Mechanic, and he took our calls and talked us through restarting our rig. In doing so, however, I drained our truck batteries, so I had to swap in our house batteries and re-rig all our wiring. I took us over two hours to get Little Foot running, but run he did! The problem lay in priming the carburetors after they ran dry. It required removing the air box, and capping the top of each carb individually to allow the suction to draw fuel. Now we know for next time!

After that we made it to Morrow Bay and rolled into an RV resort. we were beat, and we didn't mind paying for camping because it allowed us to shut our brains off. We cleaned, plugged into the grid to charge our batteries, did some laundry, and watched shows on Netflix/HULU. Sometimes you need some TV, even on the road.

Let the wrenching begin. God gave us a nice place to roll to a stop, though. Safe, secluded, and quiet.

Let the wrenching begin. God gave us a nice place to roll to a stop, though. Safe, secluded, and quiet.

Batteries out, swapped, air box off, diagnostics happening. Finally he roared to life!

Batteries out, swapped, air box off, diagnostics happening. Finally he roared to life!

Morrow Bay, a nice RV resort!

Morrow Bay, a nice RV resort!

Between San Francisco and San Bernardino, we happened to stop at Shepherd of the Mountains Lutheran Church for a bible study and a Sunday morning service, which was excellent. They are a remarkably welcoming congregation, and their church is beautiful. After the service, we found a note on our windshield, asking us to come a visit a gentleman who found Little Foot quite interesting. He too is a collector of the best kinds of vehicles, and was happy to show off his collection of International harvester Scouts, Travelletes, and old army trucks. Very cool!

Me drooling at the IH trucks.

Me drooling at the IH trucks.

Outside San Bernadino we camped and waited on our mechanic, Mr. Jim Laguardia of Goatwerks Garage, to have some free time to inspect Little Foot. The local Walmarts don't allow overnight parking, so we camped up a ragged dirt road, that really and truly stretched the limit of "dirt". There wasn't a speck of dirt, but rather 3 miles of jagged, sharp California granite scree. It was terrible, but at least the views were nice! We arrived in the dark and couldn't appreciate our views until the next morning.

We spent a day waiting in San Bernardino, blogging and updating things, and camping in the driveway of a relative of one of Chelsea's college friends. We are remarkably thankful for the generosity of all the folks on the road who take us in. We couldn't do what we do without you!

Once Jim had a little time for us, we found his garage and he got to work. I specifically wanted him to look at our carburetors, for while I thought they were running fine, he is known as THE Pinzgauer carb guy. And, as it turns out, our carburetors weren't running fine. He told us that not only were they broken and underpowered, but they were essentially ticking time bombs. He fixed us up with a new throttle body, some new parts, a handful of new jets, a carb balance, and a simple tune up. We were out the door with loads more power and more confidence! Time and money well spent! Thanks Jim!!

Camping above San Bernadino because the Walmarts wouldn't have us.

Camping above San Bernadino because the Walmarts wouldn't have us.

At Jim's with the daylight fading and wrenches flying.

At Jim's with the daylight fading and wrenches flying.

Little Foot in the company of his own. Again.

Little Foot in the company of his own. Again.

Jim on the left working, and me on the right figuring out how I can be like Jim when I grow up.

Jim on the left working, and me on the right figuring out how I can be like Jim when I grow up.