Adios Palm Creek and Hola Yuma

Tue, Jan 31, 2017

After three months in Palm Creek, Carol and I pulled up stakes and headed west to Yuma.

I didn’t have much in the way of expectations for Yuma but boy were we in for a nice surprise.  When we drove through town to our hotel (well, it was my Bday eve and I thought a king bed might be nice), we were surprised to see a very clean and updated city.  Who knew?

When I approach a new city, I wonder to myself ‘why is it here?’.  It’s usually geographical and that’s the reason here.  Yuma is located on the Colorado River at the narrowest width of the lower part of the river.  So naturally that’s where the Native Americans and early settlers crossed.

Then all hell broke loose during the 1848 gold rush as thousands descended upon Yuma.  If you were in a covered wagon, you’d cross on a road ferry.  Otherwise, it was into the water you went and when you came out the other side, you were in California.  Here’s a pic of one of the info signs.

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No party was bigger than the rush to California gold and that brought out some, uh, bad hombres (to quote our President).  At that time, Arizona was a territory and their response was to build the Territorial Prison which opened in 1875.  Can you imagine doing time there during the summer?  No thanks!  Here’s a pic of the cell block area.  It’s really a pretty cool place if you pardon the pun.

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After decades of ferry crossings and wooden bridges, the first modern bridge was built in 1915 and linked the lower west and east coasts.  It’s called, wait for it, the Ocean To Ocean Bridge.  Here’s a crappy iPhone pic that I took while walking TiVo that night.  And yes, they are proud of it so it gets neon lights.

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Cabo to Fairbanks

Fri, Feb 3, 2017

We left Yuma a couple of days ago and are camped in Potrero County park, just a few miles from the Mexico border crossing town of Tecate – as in the beer, i.e., Tecate my body 🙂

There are 15 other rigs in camp and we are heading down the Baja penensula in a caravan run by Baja Winters.  We’ll take 10 easy days to get there, then layover for 14 days including a few in Cabo San Lucas, then another 10 days back to Tecate.  We’re really looking forward to it.

After we cross back into the US, we’re going to Death Valley for a few days then back to Marin via Hwy 1 with plenty of stops along the way.

After our return, we’ll keep the rig pointed north and work our way up to Alaska.  This is a bucket list item for me and it’ll take about 10 weeks to work our way up there.  Carol’s not so excited 😦

It’s roughly 6,000 miles from Cabo to Fairbanks and we’ll be up there from mid June through mid July.

Here’s what it looks like on Google Maps.

Cabo > Fairbanks

A Big Oopsie and then Baja Wine Country

Sat, Feb 4, 2017

We’ve been in camp two days meeting with the caravan and getting our rigs and tourist visas in order.  So I was bummed when Murphy reared his ugly head.

On Sat morning, everyone was hitching up and heading out to the road for the line-up.  So I walked to the back of the Cayenne and dropped the Airstream on the hitch.  Then I reached down to attach the weight distribution spring bars to the Airstream A-frame.  But they were way too low and no way I could get them on.  So wtf?

Carol and I have towed the Airstream over 8,000 miles without a major issue and then I can’t hook up on day one of the caravan?  When everyone else is on the road waiting?

It turns out that the hitch has a retaining bolt that I hadn’t been monitoring and it had loosened up.  What a relief that I was able to figure it out and tighten things up after only a short delay.  But nonetheless, I was Bozo #1 on the trip…

Carol and I were able to catch back on to the caravan at the border crossing at Tecate. With a wink and a nod to the local beer (remember the logo ‘Tecate My Body’?), we were on our way.

The drive was wonderful as we passed through Baja wine country. While it’s no Napa, the mountains and valleys make for spectacular scenery.  It may not be saying much that the region produces 90% of Mexico’s wine, but it’s a big deal down here.

Here’s a shot of the vineyard adjacent to the local wine museum.

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Then into the RV park that is owned by a orphanage called Sordo Mudo (deaf mute). We had dinner with the director where we offered food and supplies that we had picked up at Costco. He was very appreciative.

Beach Camping

Sun, Feb 5, 2017

Today’s drive went smoothly as we passed through Ensenada on our way down to the town of San Quintin.

Ensenada was a trip in itself as we tried to stay together.  No chance, of course, but that’s why we were required to carry a CB radio 🙂

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Tonight’s site was a dry camp on the beach at San Quintin. A dry camp means that there are no hook-ups for water or electricity and this type of camping is also called ‘boondocking’.  It’s all battery power and black & grey storage tanks.

The weather was unusually cold and foggy as a winter storm was passing through California and the west coast.  For us it meant that our margarita beach party was postponed and that we were to wear sweats, not tanks and shorts.  Oh well, it’s good for sleeping.

It’s also good for the sunset as the clouds did a great job of refracting the lights.  Here’s the beauty.

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More Color and a Whale

Mon, Feb 6, 2017

Monday started out pretty much the way Sunday ended, i.e., with beautiful colors. In this shot, our rigs are on the left, then the sand dunes, the beach and the ocean on the right.  It was a beautiful morning.

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As has been our schedule, we were up and ready to roll at 0830.  This may not sound like an early start but trust me, with Carol it is.  As I’ve done every day for the past six months, I bring her coffee in bed and then start praying that she’ll get up on time.  And there’s no dog big enough to get her out of bed if she’s not ready 🙂

On the way out, we saw a whale skeleton and I couldn’t resist an iPhone pic.  What’s since become clear, there are a lot of these down here.

whale

Today was another dry camp at a place called Catavina up on the Baja plateau. The central ridge of the Baja peninsula isn’t particularly high but the ecosystem varies greatly from the coastal regions.  And our trip was to take us from the Pacific coast over the plateau and then down to the coast of the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez?).

The terrain contained a mix of cacti growing amid the granite boulders. Here’s an example.

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Pemex and Rice and Beans

Tue, Feb 7, 2017

You may have heard about the gasoline riots in Mexico over the past year. The government has decided to allow investment in Pemex, the national oil company, and that has led to market pricing. Gasoline is very expensive here at just under $4 per gallon. That took me by surprise.  Ditto for the Mexican working class.

Pemex has also shut down noncompetitive stations, as there were plenty that were across the street from one another. They have also shut down rural stations and here’s an example at one of our ‘Lenny’ breaks.  Lenny was an earlier client who couldn’t go 90 minutes without a stop.  So they will forever be known as Lenny breaks.

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Because of all of the winter rains, the flowers are really spectacular.  Here’s a snap that I grabbed during one of the Lenny breaks.

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Today was a long one as it took about six hours to cover the 235 miles to San Ignacio. This camp was a parking lot behind a restaurant / hotel called Rice and Beans.  It was great to have full hook-ups. The restaurant also meant that someone else was doing the cooking and cleaning. As everyone was tired and thirsty, the margaritas were great and we hit them pretty hard.  I wish I had a shot of the place 😦

Mission San Ignacio

Wed morning, Feb 8, 2017

Just down the road from Rice and Beans is Mission San Ignacio.  The mission is located in San Ignacio because there is a palm-lined Cochimí oasis. The church was constructed in 1786 and is claimed to be the most photographed mission in the Baja.

The mission was abandoned in 1840 and it’s remarkable that it has survived in such good condition.

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The Fishing Village of Mulegé

Thu, Feb 9, 2017

Mulegé is an oasis town in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur, situated at the mouth of the Río de Santa Rosalía.  Because of the abundance of water, the area has been inhabited for thousands of years.

Mulegé (moo-la-hay) is internationally famous for its rich fishing grounds and we were the beneficiaries as the fish mongers would walk the beach in the morning offering shrimp, scallops, red snapper and other fishes.  Fresh fish dinners every night were absolutely wonderful.

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One of the highlights of this trip was camping on Santispac Beach at Bahia de Concepcion just south of Mulegé.  It is very popular with RV’s and it’s easy to see why.

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Here’s a night shot taken from our campsite:

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We’ll be back to Santispac Beach in three weeks and we’re looking forward to it.

Dry Camping with Fried Batteries

Sat, Feb 11, 2017

After our second night on Stanispac Beach, it became clear that our batteries weren’t up to the task.  And there’s no excuse for it.

Modern travel trailers have power control units that distribute the 120 V power  to the AC and microwave and also converts the power to 12 V to run everything else. They also have an inverter to convert 12 V power to 120 V when you are not connected to shore power and must rely on your batteries.  This means that when you are dry camping, everything works except the AC and microwave which cannot run on 12 V.  No problem, right?

Well, not exactly.  For reasons that only a bean counter can justify, Airstream specced our rig with an inexpensive Parallax power control unit that uses a trickle charger to keep the batteries topped off.  This is fine for short periods but the constant 13.6V pushed into 12V batteries will fry them.  And it fried ours 😦

We have been traveling now for six months with full hook-ups every night so we haven’t relied on our batteries.  Although we didn’t know it, our batteries were shot even though they weren’t even a year old.  Now who puts a POS power controller unit in a very expensive travel trailer?

We were really exposed on Santispac Beach as there were no hook-ups.  We do have a 160 watt solar suitcase that we used but it couldn’t keep up with the demand.  Fortunately, we also recently purchased a Honda 2000 and had it converted to run on propane.  And it saved us on the last morning when we we woke up to see 8.8 V on our batteries, i.e., nothing worked.

Looks like we’ll be hitting Costco or Walmart for some batteries 🙂