Mexico, Part 8: Agua Verde and Life Off the Grid in the Secret Cove.

Agua Verde

After leaving Rattlesnake Beach, we bought provisions, filled our water and fuel tanks, and headed toward the fabled paradise of Agua Verde, an often-photographed beach/cove/fish camp that lies at the end of a dirt road. The dirt road has a reputation that changes with every traveler’s telling of their own story. Descriptions range from “totally doable,” to “tight and washed out hairpins,” to “a hellacious decent,” but all we really knew was that it was ~42 km of twists to the waypoint on our GPS marked “paraíso.”

The first 10km of the road off Mex1 is superb asphalt, sort of a trap for folks with big rigs and travel trailers. From there, the road degrades steadily, first to mediocre washboard, then to exposed single lane hairpins turns, then to rutted sand, and finally into a 50m long, 35° pitch of alternating gravel stair-step drops that leads you smack dab into the prettiest sand isthmus you’ve ever seen, complete with palm trees, a lone fishing shack, and turquoise water lapping at the beaches in front and behind a secluded camp spot.

At the transition from tar to dirt, Chels and I stopped to aired down the tires. While we were mussing about in the dirt, dropping the tires from 75psi to 35psi, what should pull up behind us but a white Toyota Tacoma closely followed by a gun metal grey Land Rover Defender; it was Sabrina and Henning of Trail Gypsies fame and Jan and Diana of Steffens.live fame! We were all going to the same place, so we switched on the walkie-talkies and caravanned down the road.

About 2/3rds of the way to our beach destination we spotted a small note, black indelible marker on white paper, taped to a kilometer marker that read,

“RESPECT THE CHICKEN”

Pablo and Anna, of Viajeros4x4x4 fame, had left Rattlesnake Beach a day before us, and we had planned to meet up at Agua Verde. They had left us a note referencing Pablo’s gentle criticism of my too-American method of grilling, a clue wrapped in an inside joke (see last week's post for a more detailed explanation). We were pretty sure our GPS waypoint was the same as theirs, as our mutual friend Mauricio (of @Ensenada fame) had given us the same set of highlights on our mapping app. We photographed the note, very excited that our friends were nearby, and continued onwards, one eye on the GPS, one on the bushes and signs and fence posts, looking for more clues.

The top of the road into Agua Verde. There is over 1200 feet oF descent between Mex1 and the beach.

The top of the road into Agua Verde. There is over 1200 feet oF descent between Mex1 and the beach.

Exposed Hairpins begin!

Exposed Hairpins begin!

The views from the road were stunning.

The views from the road were stunning.

That's the Trail Gypsies and Jan and Diana in the distance.

That's the Trail Gypsies and Jan and Diana in the distance.

Little Foot posing with the others down below on the road to Agua Verde.

Little Foot posing with the others down below on the road to Agua Verde.

Catching up to the convoy after a photo opportunity.

Catching up to the convoy after a photo opportunity.

The first of three signs telling us to "Respect the Chicken."

The first of three signs telling us to "Respect the Chicken."

The second clue! Alas, we missed the third…at first.

The second clue! Alas, we missed the third…at first.

Another photo opportunity as we waited for a car coming the other direction to pass us.

Another photo opportunity as we waited for a car coming the other direction to pass us.

A pano of the Agua Verde region.

A pano of the Agua Verde region.

Agua Verde proper is a sandy isthmus strung between a rocky cliff and a rocky island, but a kilometer further down the road is a small fish camp and village, Puerto Agua Verde. Furthermore, the beaches lining the road in the 20 kilometers leading up to the isthmus all boast stupendous campsites adorned with waves of emerald and turquoise, so the entire region is kind of known as Agua Verde, at least to ignorant travelers.  We knew the Viajeros could be camped anywhere, but we were half betting on them being camped on the isthmus. During our drive in, Chels and I spotted one more sign ordering us to “RESPECT THE CHICKEN”, but we also missed one and drove right past the Viajeros’ camp on our way to our intended destination.

As we descended onto the beach, still looking in vain for La Cucuracha and her inhabitants, we were faced with one last steep pitch. Chels jumped out to film as I engaged both the rear differential locks and the front axle, essentially making Little Foot a 6-wheel-drive beast. We dropped into our campsite without a problem, leveled out the rigs, and made dinner in near paradise.

We were still vexed by the lack of the Viajeros when we awoke the next day. Despite hikes to multiple viewpoints, as well as a tandem SUP mission to the village of Agua Verde on the advice from a morning hiker that there were two Spaniards in a van camped there (alas, it was the wrong set of Spaniards in a van!), the Viajeros remained hidden, the end of their trail of signs still a mystery.

The steep, gravel hill into the camp spot.

The steep, gravel hill into the camp spot.

The rigs, posing.

The rigs, posing.

Loulou also likes to hang out by the fires.

Loulou also likes to hang out by the fires.

A full view of the Agua Verde isthmus. It's a popular place for yachts, as well.

A full view of the Agua Verde isthmus. It's a popular place for yachts, as well.

Exploring the beaches and looking for the Viajeros.

Exploring the beaches and looking for the Viajeros.

No end to the beauty in this area.

No end to the beauty in this area.

We found a beautiful fully empty beach with no road in that was also too shallow for boats. We did consider making a road...

We found a beautiful fully empty beach with no road in that was also too shallow for boats. We did consider making a road...

The weather turned on the last morning and we headed out to Loreto.

The weather turned on the last morning and we headed out to Loreto.

Our time on the isthmus was limited – Chelsea had an appointment with Antonio back in Loreto for more back relief. We climbed out of our camp spot, again engaging Little Foot’s 5-wheel-drive, and started back on the road to civilization, with our eyes firmly glued to our rearview mirrors, searching for a clue we may have missed on the earlier drive. Low-and-behold, just a few kilometers up the road we found a brown paper note, half folded over, that read “Respect the LEFT Chicken.”

In our rush we had assumed the Viajeros would be on the isthmus, but they had turned early and headed down a dirt track to the beach. We followed the winding track and found Pablo and Anna camped on an idyllic beach (henceforth referred to as “the cove”) with the other set of Spaniards in a Ford Windstar, true shoestring overlanders. We exchanged pleasantries, and offered to resupply the Viajeros, which turned into resupplying three sets of couples (the Germans showed up right as we were pulling out) and forfeiting most of our clear water. We hustled off the beach, now late for our appointment, and headed back to Loreto for a night at an RV park and a large shopping trip.

6 wheel drive, engage!

6 wheel drive, engage!

It was an easy climb out, but we were prepared.

It was an easy climb out, but we were prepared.

Another view of the isthmus, taken on the drive out.

Another view of the isthmus, taken on the drive out.

Spotting the Viajeros! We found them!

Spotting the Viajeros! We found them!

The third, and originally missed, clue.

The third, and originally missed, clue.

The Viajeros found an excellent beach, but honestly, they are all excellent.

The Viajeros found an excellent beach, but honestly, they are all excellent.

Weather moving in and out over the mountains.

Weather moving in and out over the mountains.

Driving through Loreto, supplying up for a few more days on the beach.

Driving through Loreto, supplying up for a few more days on the beach.

The Secret Cove

We returned to the cove the next day, which also happened to be Anna’s birthday. Under secret orders from Pablo we brought back a birthday cake and a candle shaped like a question mark for the night’s festivities. The Windstar Spaniards had driven to the little fishing village of Agua Verde to secure a goat for the barbecue, which cost the group a grand total of $12.50 USD, cleaned, butchered, and ready to grill (yet another reason to love Mexico). A few of us searched for firewood as Jan and Diana setup their fancy hanging grill, and the birthday party was underway.

Pablo, ever the Argentinian, tended the fire and the grill, treating the recently deceased goat with great respect. Dinner and dessert was absolutely fantastic, and Anna was sung to by the world’s worst multi-lingual chorus, as God put on a show by lighting up the waves with neon blue iridescence. He gifted Anna with a tide of phosphorescent plankton, and we played around in the shallows, kicking and stomping and setting off miniature lightening storms that dissipated into a momentary parody of the night sky above our dancing heads, and then vanished into the nothingness of the gentle surf.

The cove.

The cove.

The bioluminsence on display at the cove on the evening of Anna's birthday.

The bioluminsence on display at the cove on the evening of Anna's birthday.

Spectacular bioluminsence.

Spectacular bioluminsence.

Chel's feet and her Chacos, bathed in light from the sea. (Hey Chaco…sponsor us!!!)

Chel's feet and her Chacos, bathed in light from the sea. (Hey Chaco…sponsor us!!!)

The stars and the sea playing.

The stars and the sea playing.

Beauty and light pollution, reminding us we're not alone.

Beauty and light pollution, reminding us we're not alone.

Pablo letting his Argentinian side come out!

Pablo letting his Argentinian side come out!

Respecting the goat, insetad of the chicken.

Respecting the goat, insetad of the chicken.

Jan and Diana provided a really cool, packable hanging grill. 

Jan and Diana provided a really cool, packable hanging grill. 

The fire continued all night.

The fire continued all night.

The next day our friend Rod and his two dogs arrived in his power boat, having motored all the way from Rattlesnake Beach to visit us. Northerly winds, "nortes" locally, can thrash the coast of the Sea of Cortez, so Rod planned his trip carefully and had to leave a little early to avoid rough seas on the voyage back to his winter camp. Between the winds, though, we got a calm day and he took Pablo and I out fishing, which was beautiful but fruitless.

In an attempt to provide dinner for everyone, Pablo, Jan, and myself went kayaking and snorkeling around a rocky point in search for what we thought were oysters, but may have actually been scallops. We tried to eat the beautiful things like oysters, but we kind of failed at that, and have since learned that (perhaps) we were supposed to clean and cook these specific shellfish. Whoops! No one got sick, but they were tough eating. Pablo also caught a fish in his homemade fishing net, and so that was served up for dinner over the fire.

At the end of a beautiful few days on the nearly deserted beach we packed up, and hit the road. Travel is fantastic, especially when you find a place that tempts you to quit traveling.

Rod showed up and we went boating!

Rod showed up and we went boating!

Kayaking for seafood.

Kayaking for seafood.

Pablo teaching Diana how to clean a fish.

Pablo teaching Diana how to clean a fish.

Removing the scales.

Removing the scales.

Opening shellfish.

Opening shellfish.

Cleaning them a bit, including removing a pair of tiny lobsters.

Cleaning them a bit, including removing a pair of tiny lobsters.

A tiny lobster!

A tiny lobster!

Fresh dinner.

Fresh dinner.

Rod and his boat, parked for the night.

Rod and his boat, parked for the night.

All the views were great.

All the views were great.

RoD brought his two dogs, Smoky and Rio, affectionately nicknamed  Los Dos Criminales.

RoD brought his two dogs, Smoky and Rio, affectionately nicknamed Los Dos Criminales.

The view from our bedroom.

The view from our bedroom.

I had to help Rod launch his boat the next morning as a northerly wind blew in.

I had to help Rod launch his boat the next morning as a northerly wind blew in.

Chels, usually the photographer, cleaning dishes in the sea (or maybe making mud pies?)

Chels, usually the photographer, cleaning dishes in the sea (or maybe making mud pies?)

Oregon Part 3: Cousin AdVANture, Roseburg, and OREGON IS TAKING TOO LONG!

Cousin AdVANture!

As we drove down the coast, we met my cousins Jay and George, and Jay's wife Morgan, in the pretty little city of Eugene for an adVANture! Jay and Morgan have just recently purchased a built-up E350, with a 4x4 conversion by Quigley (no, not the Tom Selick Quigley, the motor company Quigley). Their rig is pretty cool, and all the hard parts (slamming an F350's suspension and driveline under an E350) were already done, but all the fun bits like customizing the interior are awaiting their hard work and design.

We headed out on the Coos Bay Wagon Road, a mostly paved, sometimes forested, and often steep road from Eugene to the coast. We had a great time, and Little Foot only broke down once!

Team photo!

Team photo!

My excitement about the chance to have our photo taken going through a covered bridge caused me to stall out Little Foot, and upon trying to restart him, he wouldn't fire. I had a sneaking suspicion the spark plugs needed to be replaced, and THANK GOD we had picked up a spare set the day before. After trying a few normal and easy fixes, like letting the engine breathe, starting with and without choke, and feathering the throttle, I decided to rule bad spark out of the equation by performing some roadside maintenance. New plugs, gapped to 32/1000 of an inch had Little Foot back up and running. For those wondering, Little Foot has an aftermarket solid state ignition manufactured by our friends at PinzSSI.com.

Broken down!

Broken down!

Tuttle cousins and some handsome rigs. Notice the size comparison between LittleFoot and a E350. The bodies are nearly the same length.

Tuttle cousins and some handsome rigs. Notice the size comparison between LittleFoot and a E350. The bodies are nearly the same length.

We set up camp in the rain, but had a great time under Jay and Morgan's excellent tarp. We made a fire, had some dinner, and generally carried on. It was a great adVANture!

Luckily all five of us hold honorary master's degrees in "Tarp-ology", so setting up the shelter was a breeze. Notice the crucial ladder.

Luckily all five of us hold honorary master's degrees in "Tarp-ology", so setting up the shelter was a breeze. Notice the crucial ladder.

Roseburg: Reorganization, Solar Power, and Shower Version 1.0

In Roseburg we stayed with Chelsea's fantastic Uncle Paul and Aunt Debbie. They opened up their driveway, home, and workshop to us for a few days, and man we needed it. Chels tore all our storage stuff out of Little Foot for a reorganization and pairing down of gear. We sent away a pair of skis to my brother, sent a box to storage with the rest of our moth-balled gear, and reorganized everything else.

Also, I spent some time finally wiring up our solar components, and fully charging our batteries. We also built what would turn out to be a leaky solar shower. We hadn't planned on failing, but we learned that you need to use big, full strength PVC instead of the lightweight irrigation tubing we used. Because we failed, we'll do a full post on our final product in the future, but there's some shots of me drilling holes and such below.

We can't thank Paul and Debbie enough for taking us into their home for a few days. Everyone out there who has helped and hosted us, thank you SO much, especially for the use of your bathrooms! Showers are like gold to us.

Taking stuff down.

Taking stuff down.

Taking stuff out.

Taking stuff out.

Our solar shower (version 1.0, super leaky!) was constructed from 4" PVC irrigation tubing , two caps, and a T-joint with a screw on inspection cover we use as a fill port. We included a tire tube valve to pressurize the chamber and a radiator drain plug to allow for the water gravity feed without air locking. Like I said, we'll do a whole breakdown in the future with version 2.0.

The solar power also got wired together, finally, and is charging our house batteries and powering our Whynter Fridge as I type. Pretty cool!

Installing valves into the screw cap on the T-joint.

Installing valves into the screw cap on the T-joint.

Wiring VERY CAREFULLY!!!

Wiring VERY CAREFULLY!!!

Chelsea painting the shower.

Chelsea painting the shower.

Finishing Out the Oregon Coast

Oregon took a while, in real life and in Blog updates! We're going to try to cram together some weeks of travel in the next updates. The end of Oregon was punctuated by AMAZING coastal views. We spent some time wandering around beaches, impersonating statues in seaside hamlets, and hiking up a forested trail to a coastal peak. Long story short, visit Oregon. There are too many adventures to be had in a single lifetime just inside this great state.

We found some statues. I had to impersonate them. For more BAD performance art, see our  Rusty Does Arches  blog post!

We found some statues. I had to impersonate them. For more BAD performance art, see our Rusty Does Arches blog post!

I  am  the seahorse!

I am the seahorse!

The beaches are outstanding. Check out the driftwood! It collects and naturally barricades the exit from the stairs in this photo. Pretty cool.

The beaches are outstanding. Check out the driftwood! It collects and naturally barricades the exit from the stairs in this photo. Pretty cool.

Chelsea looking pensive.

Chelsea looking pensive.

A great hike on Humbug Mountain

A great hike on Humbug Mountain

Me at the peak of Humbug, doing my Peter Pan stance.

Me at the peak of Humbug, doing my Peter Pan stance.

The light coming through the trees was AMAZING.

The light coming through the trees was AMAZING.

Moss on the trees in a coastal forest.

Moss on the trees in a coastal forest.

Chelsea looking a bit disheveled after nearly slipping and falling down some mud.

Chelsea looking a bit disheveled after nearly slipping and falling down some mud.

Two weeks later…we've made HUGE progress!

Sorry for the nearly two weeks in delayed posts, but we've made HUGE progress and it's time to update! I got punched in the chest with a massive cold a week and a half ago, which took me out of circulation for literally anything beyond a quick get-out-of-bed-and-critique-Christian's-carpentry-skills-and-decisions before I circled back into bed and under the influence of cold and cough medicine.

Hiding spot!

Hiding spot!

That being said, Christian made a ton of great progress while I was under the weather and when I was finally able to muster up enough energy to be upright for more than ten minutes, we started screaming through the build together.

Bedside clothing storage.

Bedside clothing storage.

A very specific fire was lit under us when we got word that the potential buyer we'd been in touch with about Stubbs the Bus was coming out to visit on the 13th, so we knew we wanted to be well on our way to moving into Little Foot by then.

More hiding spots!

More hiding spots!

Our big projects to complete to get it move-in-ready were the storage on the driver's side of the bed for our clothing and the kitchen shelves/storage area. We built a shelf that would be the perfect depth for those standard fabric boxes you can buy at Walmart, thinking they'd be the perfect solution for clothing storage.

The same bedroom clothing storage, nearly installed.

The same bedroom clothing storage, nearly installed.

The kitchen was mostly just a series of shelves with some slide-out counter space. The upper part is the backing of the shelving unit for our clothing storage beside the bed.

Kitchen, sliding spaces hidden.

Kitchen, sliding spaces hidden.

Kitchen, sliding spaces exposed.

Kitchen, sliding spaces exposed.

With the bed folded down into the "sleeping" position, the shelf looked great and it was all starting to come together.

A big finishing touch we needed to get done before moving in was painting all the wood. We opted to not go with stain because we would've needed more than one step (stain, sand, stain, sand, polyurethane…) to make it look like we would want it to, and we didn't get great quality of wood, so it wouldn't have turned out amazingly clean looking. Our other option was paint, and I'd had my heart set on a color since we were leaving the box interior the stark white that it came to us in. We considered grey for a heartbeat, but in the end navy blue won out. However, if you've ever been paint shopping, you know that there are hundreds of different shades of each color, so we didn't know how to narrow down our navy choice after staring at paint chips in the stores. Luckily, one of them was named Epic Adventure, so our decision was made for us.

After painting the shelf I was fairly convinced I'd made a huge color choice mistake. 

After painting the shelf I was fairly convinced I'd made a huge color choice mistake. 

After the whole structure was painted, I was equal parts disappointed and optimistic that I could save it with filling it with our stuff. Choosing colors is tough.

After the whole structure was painted, I was equal parts disappointed and optimistic that I could save it with filling it with our stuff. Choosing colors is tough.

I'm still of the opinion that it might be a little light for my taste and that stain might have suited it better, but it's done and painted now, so the would've could've should've's get to be buried as we continue the project with it coated in Epic Adventure blue. 

Super cheap tension-rod-and-brace storage solution. Remember kids, always rig to drive.

Super cheap tension-rod-and-brace storage solution. Remember kids, always rig to drive.

Beginning to load our stuff into Little Foot really made a difference. As soon as we put some fabric cubes and books into the shelves we noticed it starting to feel less "cartoony" and more homey. I may always regret my paint color choice just a little, but it'll have to do.

One of the coolest things about the box that is on our Pinzgauer is that it was originally a workshop for the Swiss Army. It was originally filled to the brim with shelving and drawers, many of which actually ended up in our hands when we purchased it. We couldn't stand to not reuse some of the original drawers, so we have slowly been finding ways to incorporate them within our structure.

Even more hiding spots!

Even more hiding spots!

So we've made progress but nothing is anywhere near done yet. We know we're halfway through the build marathon, and there will be more later. Stay tuned!

11.12.15 - Can we go yet? - Day 16.

We are currently anxiously awaiting the arrival of our stove that we ordered weeks ago. Due to a mishap with the order when we placed it, the company never shipped it out, so as we waited while counting down the days, it had never entered transit. Fast forward to when we figured that out and we decided to just cancel the order and find a way to get one once down in San Antonio.

Unfortunately, they didn't cancel the order and instead overnight shipped the oven. It has been out for delivery since 6am and we're now closing in on 5pm. 

We did have a lot of loading and prep to do this morning, so we got all of that done a little more leisurely knowing we had to wait for the package, but now that we're loaded we're ready to hit the road!

We backed the bus up to a sloped hill in the yard to make the loading of the motorbikes easier on us.

Fit like a charm.

Both motorbikes fit absolutely perfectly in the garage space under the bed that we'd planned for them. 

We covered the countertops with rugs and blankets to protect the wood until I get a chance to stain it. The inside felt more and more homey as we slowly, but surely loaded our belongings.

We waited until every bit of our stuff was inside before moving Loulou in. We wanted to give her the chance to roam around and explore her new surroundings before tossing in the loud diesel engine roaring beneath her. (Luckily she's already pretty used to that part because of the Campbulance…)

This will most likely be the last post in the daily series for now as we start our journey south. You can follow us on Instagram to keep up with photos from the road and I'll try to post updates every time we do more work on the interior (we're FAR from done, so stay tuned!).