RV Roadtrip to Baja Post #5: The Return Trip, Big Blogging Dollar$, And A St. John Update

As predicted it was technically very tough to post from Mexico. The cold, hard truth of the matter is we just totally dropped the ball on this whole blogging thing. We’re already back in the states and we’ve been back for quite a while. Weeks. Maybe months. I’d love to say that we’ll never disappear like this again but the fact is we make zero blogging dollars. As a result, there are very few consequences when we drop out like this. Our scholarships are not on the line. No endorsement deals are in jeopardy. I can honestly say that no one is more disappointed by our lackluster commitment to posting than we are. How’s that for chicken and egg? Let me tell you what happened anyway.

After Todos Santos, we started the long journey northward. We had about 1000 miles of rough road ahead of us to make it back to the border. Luckily, there were a few towns  we skipped on the way down so we wouldn’t just be retracing our steps. In all honesty, our expectations were pretty low. Baja didn’t really seem to be panning out and we were ready to cut our losses. But, lo and behold, the return trip was full of hits! Our first stop was a town called La Ventana. It’s just outside of La Paz and we went because a server at the coffee shop in Todos Santos thought we’d like it. You know, because he knows us so well. And we pretty much always take travel trips from strangers. Turns out he was right. It was wall-to-wall kite-boarders. Literally. But they were all from Quebec and speaking French, which somehow made it way more interesting. Loved La Ventana. We ended up spending a couple of days there.20180207_162344

Next up was Loreto. Which we also liked. It’s a little town with a pretty impressive  (and absurdly Jesuit-positive) mission. Also, there was a carnival going on the night we were there. It was charming and we had some of the best tacos ever. The carnival taco stands in Loreto have table service. Enough said.

 

From there, we headed to Bahia Concepcion which is a big bay on the Sea of Cortez. It’s a fantastic destination for RVs because there are several beaches that you can camp on for just a few pesos. We chose Playa Requeson and it was stellar. We were literally parked right on the beach. Vendors come by selling vegetables and fish and tamales, so if you manage your water and dumping situation you can stay for a while. We were there for three or four nights, just chilling and giving ourselves a little rest. We also stopped in a few other cute towns like San Ignacio, Santa Rosalia, and we checked out some very cool cave paintings in Catavina.

20180213_115239

This is so Baja. Beautiful. But also kinda oppressively depressing.

20180213_113619

Beachside camping.

 

We were out of cell reception for several days in a row. When we finally got back on the road and the cell service kicked in, we had inboxes full of bad news. Jennifer’s grandfather passed away and she needed to get to New Jersey ASAP for the funeral. The best plan we could come up with was to make a bee-line for San Diego (which sounds so much easier than it actually was) and hope we could get her on a flight in time. And instead of spending a couple of weeks visiting friends and family out west, as planned, I would start driving from San Diego towards Indiana (with the dogs) and we would pick Jennifer up somewhere along the way.

It all worked out. She made it to the funeral. I got to spend one night with friends in LA. The pups and I listened to a bunch of Audio books, ate some Sonoran hot dogs and In-Out burgers, and picked Jennifer up at the El Paso airport. After that, we spent a few days at Guadalupe National park before driving to Indy for another work week. We spent a lot of that time processing our Baja trip. Here’s what we ended up with:

  1. We’re glad we went, but it was tough. The desert almost beat us.
  2. We definitely wouldn’t do it the same way again. If we did it again, we would only rv as far south as Bahia de Concepcion. If we wanted to go back to Todos or La Paz, we would fly. And the Valle de Guadalupe (wine country) is super accessible by plane, rv, or car and we will definitely be going back there.
  3. There are no really great fish tacos in Baja. Get over it. The mariscos/ceviche is amazing, though. Go with that.
  4. There are sooooo many Canadians. Prepare yourself. I think they might be responsible for the fish taco problem. Just a guess.

I mentioned we’ve been back from Mexico for a long time, right? I wasn’t joking. After that week in Indy, we drove down to Florida so that my mom (World’s Greatest Dog-Sitter) could watch the pups while we did a short trip to St. John to meet with contractors. It was our first time going back since the storms.

Here are some befores and afters. (If you’re reading this, stop what you’re doing and go out and take same nice pictures of your house. We never did this. We have lots of close ups of food and flowers, but this is at good as it gets for the house).

 

IMG_0247

 Before: That’s me in front of our house.

20180314_080827

After: This is me in front of our used-to-be house. Same shirt! That’s my sad face.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Before: View up from pool/workout area.

20180314_075403

After: New open concept.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Before: The Shack.

20180314_074646

After: The Invisible Shack.

It’s weird. We’ve been traveling like crazy since the storms and even though we always thought we’d go back to St. John and rebuild, we’ve also been sorta open to the idea that we might find somewhere even better for us out there on the road. Have you ever seen that movie Away We Go? With John Krasinski and Maya Rudolph? It’s fabulous. You should see it. Anyway, it’s about this couple who are visiting friends in different places and trying to decide where they want to live and how they want to be. It’s probably about some other stuff, too. Who can remember? I see a lot of movies. Anyway, we’ve felt a little bit like we were in that movie this whole time. Like we’re constantly going on interviews and first dates with all these different places. Like, could we live here?  But nothing has really clicked. We’ve spent a lot of time in super random places recently and when I look around I’m always wondering (sometimes aloud) how did these people get here? I mean, were their ancestors wagon-training-it to California and they just got distracted? Or they ran out of hardtack and salt pork? Did the wheels literally fall off the wagon? Are these the descendants of failed settlers?

Well, that’s the old me.  After all of this time on the road I’m starting to get it. I see how you could end up saying, “Yeah, this is good enough. Forget about where we were headed, let’s just stay here. There’s probably no gold in them thar hills anyway.”  Going back to St. John was a great reminder of where we want to be. Yes, the house is still gone. Our neighborhood is insane. But we can’t wait to rebuild. We like it way better than Mexico. Or anywhere else.

20180329_140837

Plus, we still have the terrible house sign. Our neighbors found it. It’s tucked away in a closet at my mother’s house. For now.

Happy Easter/Passover, everyone. Until next time.

 

RV Roadtrip to Baja Post #4:

Hello again. Our internet access (and our attitude) has been extremely spotty.  I’m not sure when we’ll actually be able to upload anything…possibly not until after this whole trip is over. But, for what it’s worth, I’m writing this almost two weeks after our last post, you know, the whales (some video below).. Let me catch you up.

 

Two weeks ago, even before the whale watching, we started feeling a little oppressed by the miles and miles and kilometers and kilometers of harsh desert landscape, zombie towns, and semi-sketchy RV parks we were leaving in our wake. The landscape really is beautiful, some of the best (and frequently most treacherous) scenic driving ever. But enough is enough. Keep in mind, when we saw the whales we were barely halfway down the peninsula and we knew we’d still have to drive back again. We were kind of losing it. We were ready for some picture-perfect-seaside camping, interrupted only by life-changing fish tacos and/or local fisherman offering up some of their catch as they wearily returned in their cute little boats.*  So we decided to skip some stops in order to reach the more promising destinations in the south.20180213_123510

We had to hole up somewhere along the way, and we’d heard good things about a town called Mulege. So we went. Mulege is indeed a cute little town. There are stores there that are open regularly. There’s a very nice RV camp along the river that is walking distance to the town and the beach. It’s well-run and welcoming with shaded private sites and actual people instead of zombies. The whole town is kind of like an oasis. Parts of it are lush and green because there is a river that runs through it to the ocean. And there’s a mission. Very nice. Mulege is becoming a popular retirement spot for ex-pats, but despite the recent activity it does manage to retain some  of the characteristics of other Baja desert towns: an overall feeling of desolation, a gauntlet of dogs in the streets, almost everyone speaking Spanish. This is the kind of place that many people who know us would expect us to move to. Not quite, guys. Not quite. We moved on after a couple of days. 

 

Our next big push put us solidly in the south. We passed through La Paz, the capital of the Baja Peninsula, but decided not to stop. Once you get to La Paz, the highway basically does a loop hat will take you through a few popular spots including Los Barriles, Cabo San Lucas, and Todos Santos. We were planning to skip Cabo (we’ve heard it’s very touristy and not that rv friendly). We opted to start with Los Barriles, not only because our book recommended it but also because we got an email from someone who actually reads this blog and who’s spending the winter there. Done.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

There’s the loop. Under La Paz.

 

Pulling into Los Barriles was a shocker. It was like falling out of Mexico into a regional American beachtown, but with dirt roads and everyone on 4-wheelers. Or ATVs. Or quads. Whatever they’re called. Compared to everywhere else we’d been, the place was packed. And everything was in English again. We were tooling up and down the main street looking for the RV place, kind of freaking out. It was like culture shock. Suddenly,  Jennifer tells me that some lady was trying to wave us down. What? Did I inadvertently run over an ATV? Possible. Happily, it turns out that it was the woman, Colleen,  who emailed us! She recognized us. Madness. We made plans to meet up later.

 

Apparently, one of the big draws for Los Barriles is the kiteboarding. And the cheap retirement. It’s an interesting place. Lots and lots of Canadians and Americans either retire or spend every winter there. I’m not sure we got to speak  any Spanish there at all. Also, there’s this huge trend of people buying RV sites and building permanent structures on them. Like on top of the RV.  Los Barriles has a lot to offer in terms of kiteboarding, ATVing, SUPing, kayaking, and charter fishing.  We used to live in the World’s Greatest Small Beachtown (in Delaware) and this really was not that different. It was nice, but not enough of a payoff for all the desert driving. Without question, the highlight of this part of the trip was going out to dinner with Colleen and Betsy. If you ever have the opportunity to go out to dinner with someone who voluntarily reads about your life (unlike many, many people we actually know), do it. You will love them. I hope we get to see them again, even if they try to talk me into kiteboarding.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wembley remains extremely skeptical about kiteboarding.

 

Next, we set our sights on Todos Santos, a much-lauded, boho chic destination for those in the know. Or, anyone who reads Vogue. Or, anyone who might be staying at an amazing boutique hotel or renting a house. It’s a very cool place. The beaches are, in fact, stunning. Mostly freezing and unswimmable, but stunning. It’s on the Pacific and you get all the dramatic, cliffy coastline action. There are tons of different beaches and they seem mostly deserted, in a good way. The whole area is popular with surfers. The town itself is largely bent towards tourism. Lots of silver shops and leather-goods stores, art galleries, like that. There are apparently many fine restaurants in the area, with an emphasis on farm-to-tableness because of the presence of several organic farms nearby. And we found amazing mariscos, coffee, and a good natural food store, because we are predictable. 

20180207_105435

Natural Food Store

20180206_133506

Beach

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Coffee

 

Unfortunately, we were not staying in a boutique hotel. We were staying at the only RV park in town, because we are idiots. It was far and away the most depressing place we’ve stayed so far. We picked it because we wanted to be able to walk into town, which we did, through dusty streets, dodging the ubiquitous free-range dogs. What was different in Todos was that the RV park manager actually warned us that some of the neighborhood dogs were biters and that we for sure should not walk around with our own dogs. She also helpfully showed us how to pretend-throw rocks at the aggressive dogs should they bother us. Thanks, Sylvia.

20180206_170056

Welcome.

20180206_165916

Our home in Todos

20180206_170600

Our neighborhood in Todos Santos

 

Would I go to Todos Santos again? Absolutely. Would I drive 1000 miles through the desert to get there? Probably not. It’s just not the best way to visit. If you want to go to Cabo or Todos or La Paz or Los Barriles, buy a plane ticket and rent a car. We actually considered renting a house and parking the RV for a week or so, but that’s not really the point of this trip, so we didn’t do it. 

 

We’re kinda bummed, guys. It’s like when you’re all excited for Olympic gymnastics and your favorite gymnast comes out and does great on the first event, absolutely kills it,  and then has a tiny little wobble on the balance beam. Big deal, lots of events to go, right? And then…she doesn’t quite stick the landing on the vault. Okaaay. If she absolutely crushes the parallel bars and the floor routine she still has a shot at the podium. That’s what this trip feels like. We’re running out of opportunities to pick up enough points to make it onto the Roadtrip Podium.  Gold is almost certainly off the table. We still haven’t found that fantastic place that would make this trip make sense. I’m very tempted to rename this blog “Jennifer and Cj: Driving the Entire Transpeninsular Hwy, So You Don’t Have To.” Really. But that’s in my darker moments. And it’s not over yet. We still have to drive back. 

 

*These were our expectations because our pre-trip knowledge of Baja pretty much consisted of long-ago references in Beverly Hills 90210 and reports from friends who fly into Todos Santos (probably first-class), spend a week in what I’m willing to bet is a stunningly quaint rental house, and fly home. We love you, guys.

 

RV Roadtrip to Baja Post #3: Whale Watching in Guerrero Negro

 

Greetings, amigos. We made it from Bahia de Los Angeles to Guerrero Negro, back on track on the main route. We stopped at Guerrero Negro for one thing: whale watching. In the winter, gray whales migrate from Alaska to Guerrero Negro  to have their baby whales. According to our books, it’s an amazing experience and you sometimes get to see the whales up close and possibly even touch them in a non-Seaworld scenario. We all know Seaworld sucks. Thank you, Blackfish.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Sea lion sighting while whale watching. No extra charge. Nature’s bounty.

Seeing the whales is really the only reason to go to Guerrero Negro. It’s not a tourist town. It’s a company town. The company is an open-air salt mine. One of the biggest in the world. Not kidding. It’s actually kind of fascinating, but I’ll spare you the details. Anyway, we spent the night at an RV Park that’s basically just a parking lot with a restaurant. It’s also the place from which the whale tours depart, which was great, because you just hop on the tour bus at 8 and they drop you back-off at 12:00. Check-out time is at 1 so we were able to leave the pups in the RV for the tour and not have to worry about Wembley attacking a whale and disrupting an ecosystem.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is the restaurant at the place where we stayed. It was actually fabulous. It was exactly how I imagine a nice steak house dinner in Mexico would be in 1974. We got a seafood platter, otherwise I would have ordered a Brandy Alexander.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is the guy who sat in front of me in the boat. This was my view for a lot of the trip. Also, that’s the tour company we used. Fantastic.

The tour company drives you out to the preserve and then they load you into these little boats with a captain. Our captain was Juan and we had a total of six people in our boat, including us and Juan. There are two tours per day and there are never more than six boats allowed on the bay at a time. Once we were all life-jacketed, we motored out into the bay and…bam. Whales. Very, very cool. The whales were feeling good and playing with the boats and, yes, we all got to touch them. The whole operation was stellar. Everyone was super-professional and knowledgeable. I cannot recommend this trip highly enough. And as soon as you’re done, do everyone a favor and get out of Guerrero Negro. We have some video, but there is little to no chance we’ll be able to upload it right now. Here are the whales:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

It is much easier to photograph whales playing with other boats. I imagine Jennifer and I feature prominently in that family’s photos. Sweet.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Up close and personal.

 

Disclosure: We wrote this weeks ago. We just haven’t had enough service to post it. Posts may be appearing wily-nilly, as wifi access permits.

Next stop: Mulege.

Baja Post #2: Ensenada to Bahia de Los Angeles via Puertecitos

Buenos Dias! Everything is still OK. Dogs, people, and van. After Ensenada, we decided to check out the hot springs in Puertecitos. The thing is, there’s one main highway that runs North/South down the whole Baja Peninsula and our plan is to drive the whole thing. But to get to Puertecitos you have to take a little detour over to the west coast. No big deal. There’s a road from Puertecitos that heads south and eventually picks up the North/South highway, saving a ton of time. The problem is that road is unfinished. The passability of that road is the topic of much discussion among RVers. We talked to a bunch of people and decided that it was not worth risking a broken axle. But since we heard good things about Puertecitos we decided it would be worth it to drive four hours there and four hours back to Ensenada even though it was out of our way. Plus, I was dying to get my first look at the Sea of Cortez.

baja road map

 

Because driving at night here is highly not recommended, we spent the night in San Felipe along the way.  I’m sorry if your mom’s from there and you have warm and happy childhood memories of the place, but San Felipe is now firmly in my top ten of worst towns ever. It’s unbelievably weird in an ominous way. Lots of abandoned RV parks, roaming dogs, terrible tacos, and retired Canadians who should dream bigger. None of these things are unusual in Baja, but for some reason in San Felipe it all adds up to no bueno. If you’ve ever seen that movie Quick Change with Bill Murray and Geena Davis where they rob a bank and spend the rest of the movie just trying to get out of NYC, you may remember the scene where the old lady with a cart is wailing “ Flores! Flores para los muertos!” over and over again. In San Felipe I kept thinking I was going to run into that lady at any minute. We moved on pretty quickly.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Look how quickly we were moving.

 

It turns out Puertecitos is a scruffy little village with a  campground that has a handful of palapas (which are like little shaded beach huts) right on the water. It was completely deserted when we got there, but we found a young guy named Luis who took our camping fee and explained to us that the gate to the village is locked at 10 pm and no one can go in or out after that. Obviously. Where would you go? He also led us to the springs…which were fantastic. Basically, there are these hot springs that fill little rock pools with steaming hot water. Then, when the tide comes in, the cold water floods into the pools and cools them down. So you end up with a patchwork of pools ranging from scalding hot to mildly warm, depending on how close to the waterline you go. Fabulous.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bustling downtown Puertecitos.

After soaking in the springs for a while, we settled into the empty campground in our almost totally unpopulated town. Locked. In. We got a little spooked in the middle of the night when we were awakened by crazy howling noises that we did not investigate. Eventually we had a discussion about zombies and went back to sleep.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Trick photos at our Puertecitos palapa…before lockdown.

The next morning we met these two young dudes who were bicycling down the baja. Uh-huh. Yup. Michael and Ben. We got to chatting and it turns out they’d heard the next bay down the road, Bahia Gonzaga, was really amazing. It was just a little bit down the road and it was before the notorious unfinished road. It seemed a shame to miss out on that so we pressed onward, agreeing to meet up with our new biking friends if possible. Which we did. And it was great. The landscape and the drive were amazing. Like otherworldly amazing. Bahia Gonzaga itself was pretty cool. We spent two nights there. We had a beach bbq with our new friends and a very cool couple from Utah. After extensive discussion we realized if we were to push onwards there were really only 24 miles of the unfinished road. And it would be insanity to backtrack almost 6 hours in the wrong direction. And if we combined forces with Michael and Ben we would have four sets of eyes on the road and two bikes on which to go looking for help if need be. Sold. We stuck their bikes in the back of the Travato and took off.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Michael and Ben. At the Bahia Gonzaga BBQ.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Road to Bahia Gonzaga

 

That 24 miles wasn’t so much a road as a path through a totally stunning desert landscape. In my head, despite the warnings, I was imagining a road that was in really bad shape. You know, big potholes, broken pavement. That’s not what this is. Think about it: an unfinished road is a normal road that completely stops at some point and then is just an idea. That’s what this was. There was a nice road and then there were big barricades and then, off to the side, were the tracks of the total idiots who came before us, following an idea into the desert. If you’re imagining some kind of raucous, devil-may-care, beer commercial adventure, you are sadly mistaken. It’s jaw-droppingly beautiful, ass-clenching tedium. It took us three hours to make it through that section. That means we averaged 8 miles an hour, which seems extremely generous. We’re so happy to have had Ben and Michael with us. They hopped out at several points to scope the “road” ahead because, in addition to the gnarly terrain, there are all of these off-shoot paths and nothing is labeled. All hail the Travato. Totally unscathed. You can do anything if you do it slow enough.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Along the unfinished road.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Michael, Frances, and Wembley. Ass clenching.

 

We kept our new Mexi-family together all the way to Bahia de Los Angeles, another beautiful beach community on the Sea of Cortez. Which is where we are now. Resting and taking care of some essentials. Like getting the propane tank filled and getting some laundry done. Our new buddies took off on their bikes today. Hopefully we’ll see them further along the route. Next stop: Guerrero Negro for some whale watching. Thanks for tuning in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Good times.

 

Sidenotes: we’ve been through numerous military checkpoints and still haven’t shown any paperwork. If we end up missing, maybe follow up with Michael and Ben. Last names unknown. Also Michael-we have your alligator!

 

RV Roadtrip to Baja. Post #1: San Diego to Ensenada.

Hola! We’re fine. Just wanted to get that out of the way in case anyone was worried. We’re actually way better than fine. We’re having a blast.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is us. Having a blast….at an rv park in Mexico.

Yes, it is true that we didn’t get off to the most auspicious start. Both the books we bought about traveling into Baja with an RV and two dogs clearly stated that we would sail straight through the border as long as we had the necessary paperwork. So we spent some time in San Diego getting all of that paperwork in order. I know, I can hardly believe it either.  When we got to the border crossing in Tijuana our whole plan kind of devolved. There were 6 million people and 217 lanes of traffic, all conveniently labeled in Spanish, which makes a lot of sense because it’s Mexico. Whatever lane we ended up in was staffed by a really nice and extremely intimidating woman in a black tactical vest. She opened the back of our van, took a look, spoke some rapid-fire spanish at us and strenuously pointed us to another checkpoint area. This was a little disturbing because approximately 95% of the other cars passing through the border didn’t even really slow down.

It turns out we’d been selected for some kind of high-tech scanning. We finally grasped that passengers and pets were not allowed to stay in the car, so under the scrutiny of another friendly border patrol officer, Jennifer tried to exit the van gracefully while both our dogs went completely ape-shit. There was barking. There was snapping. Wembley took a head-dive out the door. Jennifer was not looking happy dragging those two morons off to wherever they were being sent. I definitely would not have let either of them into my country. We don’t have any pictures of this because when I tried to pull out the camera Jennifer had a meltdown. She thought the Mexican authorities would think we were spies. We’re not.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Here’s a picture of a fish market in Ensenada instead.

I had to stay in the van. By myself. And then I just kept smiling and nodding until I figured out I was supposed to drive the van onto this special ramp with like 6 other suspicious vehicles. Then I had to get out of the van and go wait behind a concrete bunker with the other drivers while all of our vehicles were subjected to what looked like the World’s Biggest MRI. Then there was a really loud siren. And then we were all allowed back into our duly irradiated rides and ushered to another little parking lot area where I saw Jennifer and the pups sitting and chatting with some lady in some kind of tent building. So I figured we’d have to wait for the results of the scan, maybe do an interview, and get our paperwork checked. Not so much. Basically, the guy in the parking lot just let me pick up my passengers and take off. No ID’s checked, no passports stamped. Not a glance at our International  Pet Health Certificates, Mexican auto insurance, or our pre-paid tourist visas. Nada. And the next thing we knew we were cruising through Tijuana on the highway and it definitely felt like we missed a checkpoint or did something very wrong. So we were in a bit of a panic, trying to figure out if we needed to hunt down some sort of immigration office. Ultimately we just kept driving. Shocking, I know. 

(Turns out we didn’t do anything wrong. This is standard operating procedure. Because Mexico is a nice country and they want us to come visit).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Over the border!

 
Our first stop was supposed to be at a campground in Baja’s wine country. We had no idea Mexico even had a wine country until a few days ago when we met some lady in a state park in Arizona. She’s from Belarus and she told us all about it.  Anyway, it’s called Valle de Guadalupe. We looked it up, found a campground that looked promising and headed over. It’s only about an hour and a half from the border so we thought it would be a good place to spend the night and collect ourselves. The drive was beautiful and amazing, skirting the pacific ocean at first and then climbing up into the mountains. We made a few wrong turns but finally made it down a winding dirt road through acres and acres of grapevines to our destination, at which point I turned into what I thought was the driveway and promptly sank the front tires deep into a mud puddle. First day. Out in the sticks. Super-heavy RV stuck in the mud. See? Not auspicious.

20180118_155955

Only puddle in ten acres and we found it.

Lucky for us, the campground owner, Cesar, hooked us up to his pick up truck and pulled us out. Hero. This is where our luck turned back around. The campground, called Glamping Ruta de Arte y VIno,  is basically 10 acres of open land dotted with restored vintage Airstream trailers that they rent out, plus a little communal area with showers and a bar and a  little kitchen. Sometimes they show movies. Winter is their low-season so there was hardly anyone else there. It was amazing. Cesar told us all the great places to go. We ended up staying 3 nights. Villa de Guadalupe is basically like Napa-South. Tons and tons of wineries, beautiful scenery, some of the best food I’ve had in a long time. There are lots of little hole-in-the-wall places, but also a ton of more upscale eateries some of which are attached to the vineyards. The recognition of the strong wine game attracted the attention of some amazing chefs. Everything is kind of campestre, which I think means country-style. Everything local. Lots of grilling over wood and eating outside. Suckling pig. Smoky beef cheek tacos. Handmade tortillas and shredded lamb. Fresh cheese. Oh, and the ocean is only about 30 minutes away. You know what? You should look it up!

We did a few great wine tastings. Turns out the reason you don’t hear a lot about Mexican wine is that like 95% of it goes to restaurants in Mexico city. You’re only allowed to bring back 1L per person, so the best way to enjoy Mexican wine is to drink it in Mexico. Which is what we’re going to do. The van is stocked.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Wine country.

 

After 3 nights in the Valle we headed down to Ensenada, which is probably the biggest city we’ll see for a while. We’re in shockingly pleasant RV park called Ramona Beach right on the Ocean. We took the local bus into town today where we had some top notch ceviche tostadas from a semi-famous street cart called Guerrerense, changed some money, and bought some toilet paper.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Plaza de Patria in Ensenada

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Where we stayed. Kicking it like retired Canadians.

 

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Mariscos tostadas on the Street!

We were planning on having some fish tacos and trying a Margarita at the bar where they were invented, but apparently Monday is the day that everything in Ensenada is closed. Oh well. Maybe on the way back. Now we’ll either head south or possibly detour to the east to check out San Felipe and some hot springs we heard about. Stay tuned.  

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

$4.98 Walmart chairs looking good!

We’re Making a Run For the Border

Happy New Year, everyone. Let’s hope that 2018 really fucking delivers. We just finished up our winter round of Indianapolis work weeks and East Coast holiday visits. It was like 17 degrees below zero when we made it back to Indianapolis just in time for another NYE in nobody’s favorite hotel.

20180107_143508 (1)

This is what negative 17 degrees looks like.

Life in a campervan is a huge hassle in cold weather so we decided to blow this pop stand (America) for a while. Did you know you can drive to Mexico from Indianapolis? You can. So that’s what we’re doing.  It’s going to be amazing. I know because I bought a book about it.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Actually, I bought two. We left Indy about 8 days ago and now we’re in San Diego, CA. We should be crossing the border in a couple of hours to start our not-very-well-researched tour of the Baja Peninsula before heading back. We’ve got about a month for this trip. We have to be back in Indy by the end of February and we have a date with the World’s Greatest Siblings in Memphis just before that. We’re going to be better about posting and taking pictures on this trip.* Adios.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Somewhere along the way. Possibly New Mexico.

*empty promise alert

Greetings, Turkeys. Thanksgiving 2017.

Hello. Hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We spent ours in Indianapolis at our very favorite extended stay hotel because it’s a work week. This is our second Thanksgiving in a row at this hotel. Not that we’re counting. It’s actually kind of awesome being here around the holidays. Everything is pre-decorated. We roll in from wherever and, BAM, it’s a winter wonderland in the lobby.

As an added bonus, my birthday was just a few days ago and my mother sent me a holiday package which included a big Happy Birthday balloon. This tipped off the staff and they created a birthday surprise for me.  At 7 am.

imagejpeg_0 (2)

It really pays to be a regular.

We spent the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving tooling around Florida.  Spent some quality time in Gulfport and hit up a truly stunning mid-century modern architecture tour in Sarasota. For people without a house, we love a good house tour.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jennifer trying to imagine the sunken living room as a hurricane bunker. We’re still wearing the booties. They’re very comfortable.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That amazing bar was shipped piece by piece from…Stockholm, maybe? In case you’re still bar shopping, Wills. And, yes, we are frequently the youngest people in the room. By decades.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Our plan was to work our way back to Indianapolis via Tallahassee so we could visit Jennifer’s dad.  We ended up stopping along Florida’s Forgotten Coast. It’s a stretch of Florida between the Gulf of Mexico and something called the Apalachee Bay. We only went there because we read about a chill campground on a barrier island. It was crazy amazing. White sand beaches. Beautiful campsites. Pet friendly. Not freezing. We ended up staying for a few days.

 

 

Also, we love food but we’ve decided we can’t eat at one more restaurant with artisanal ice cubes. Not for a while, at least. Because of this, we’ve been hitting up some more out-of-the-way spots. This part of Florida is very well known for it’s oysters but a little research (an article titled “Deadly Harvest) revealed that eating those oysters can result in death if they’re not properly handled. After tons of discussion, we decided we’d only eat the cooked oysters. Then we came to our senses.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Seriously some of the best oysters ever. At a place without a hand-crafted cocktail menu, but WITH an honor system beer cooler. We’re moving in the right direction.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This is another solid establishment. FYI: smoked fish is staple in Florida. Lots of these places had smokers outside and super delicious smoked fish spread on the menu.

We also entertained our first dinner guest. In the van. Jennifer’s dad is a trooper. Plus, he’s a flight instructor and we got to spend the night basically on the runway. Our Travato fit right in.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

That’s about it. Right now we’re packing up to get back on the road. We’ve got about two weeks to amuse ourselves. We’re going to point the van south until the temperatures become acceptable and figure it out from there. We may go back for more oysters and we might end up in New Orleans. We’ll let you know.

 

Street Spice!

Ok, we did exactly what we swore we weren’t going to do. We went a long time without posting. We went a lot of places and we did a lot of things. Should we relive them all here? Should I spend all day trying to remember everything we did? I’m thinking no. I’m thinking I’m just going to do a synopsis slash hit list. So here it is.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Aquatic as ever.

Synopsis: Since our last post we basically did a 33-day 5,000 mile shakedown trip in our new Winnebago Travato,which we now refer to as Street Spice (sort of a nod to the horrible name we inherited when we bought our now non-existent island house, Sweet Spice). Anyway, we took Street Spice from Indianapolis up through the Finger Lake region of New York and through the Adirondacks into Maine. We spent about 5 days in Acadia National Park, which I highly recommend. (I also recommend eating as much lobster as possible, which we did.)  We actually had reservations in Acadia so we kind of sped through New York to get there but we’re looking forward to going back eventually.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Also we went to Niagara Falls.

After Acadia we had to haul ass to DC to catch the always fabulous All Things Go Fall Classic. That’s a music festival. You should go because it’s always fabulous. This year it was three days instead of one and we only made it in time for the last day, by which point we were so fried from traveling and just like, coping or whatever, that we ended up leaving before the headliner. And it was STILL FABULOUS. Also we got to spend a few hours with several of our favorite people, so that’s a plus. We got out of DC as fast as possible because we were just generally kind of freaking out about having the RV in the city, but everything worked out great. Sidenote: We are much more comfortable with the RV now and take it pretty much everywhere.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Soooooo many leaves.

After DC we headed over to Shenandoah National Park (which we’ve visited many times) and hopped on and off of Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway all the way down to Asheville, NC. Basically this whole trip was a foliage-fest. Jennifer loves fall foliage. I’m not that into it because changing leaves means weather and I think we can all agree that weather just plain sucks. Nevertheless, we have lots of pics of Wembley and Frances and leaves.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Biltmore. Be sure not to miss the “bachelor wing.”

While we were in Asheville we finally made it to the Biltmore Estate which we’ve been meaning to do for years. We love a good house tour. The Biltmore is this gigantic, enormous estate that one of the Vanderbilts built. It’s beautiful and amazing. Frederic Law Olmsted, the guy who designed central park, designed the grounds. Yeah, it’s like that. The thing is, it wasn’t really that interesting. It was kind of too tasteful and classy and there wasn’t much of a story (except that it seems like this Vanderbilt guy was pretty gay, although it was never mentioned and he did eventually get married and we’re totally just guessing . But, you know, it was tasteful). I’ll take circus-mogul John Ringling’s house in Florida over the Biltmore any day of the week. Onwards.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Hiking like it’s 1992. We are extremely wardrobe-challenged when temps dip below 75.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park was kind of a bust because they have a pretty tough dog policy. Dogs are allowed in the campgrounds but not on the trails. This turned out not to be a problem because there’s tons of National Forest around the park which is, in many ways, better to camp in anyway. Usually it’s cheap and/or free, the sites are less developed and way less crowded. We did tons of camping and hiking and figuring out the complex intricacies of life in the Travato. (It’s not that hard, mostly because we don’t really have much stuff.) We did buy some camp chairs which are pretty ugly but have upped our recreation game considerably. And a Soda Stream! We finally bought one of those soda stream machines and it is completely life changing. Endless seltzer. Endless boxed wine spritzers. In chairs. We’re getting good at this.

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Rocking the self-timer.

On our way back to Indiana we stopped in Oak Ridge, TN. Maybe you know about Oak Ridge? We had no idea. Basically, it was a completely secret town that was part of the Manhattan Project- you know, the development of the nuclear program? Yeah, it turns out there were thousands and thousands of people living in a SECRET CITY in Tennessee during WWII working on making the atomic bomb. We got there late so we didn’t get the full tour but it was still mind-blowing. We’re definitely going back.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

In lieu of a driver’s license, Jennifer got an official Oak Ridge ID.

As an added bonus while driving towards Oak Ridge we ended up on a crazy, twisty road full of hot rods, motorcycles and photographers. Apparently it’s some famous achievement to “drive the dragon.”

 

1770658

Professional photo, guys. We slayed the dragon. Let us know if you’d like a print. Or a t-shirt. They’re available.

After that it was straight back to Indy for a week of motel-living and a paycheck. Yes, we were back in the same extended stay hotel we’ve posted about previously. No, nothing at all interesting happened in that week (although the Hallmark Channel is doing it’s holiday movie marathon, in case you’re interested. Like me.).

20171025_150412

One of the benefits of being a frequent guest at a quality hotel is that the staff sometimes attaches little notes when your new shoes are delivered. Thanks, Renee!

Finally, we headed down to Florida (where we are now) to register the van and get some government ID. On our way down here we camped at a state park in Kentucky. On Halloween. When we pulled in it was after dark  and almost completely deserted.  So we took a spin around all the sites to find the best one and then we went to the after-hours registration station, filled in our info and parked at our deserted campsite. Five minutes later headlights show up out of nowhere. Right behind us. Suddenly Kentucky didn’t feel like the World’s Friendliest Place. But it turns out the couple in the car were the campground hosts. Apparently, we were looking very suspicious pulling in late at night in a black van. They thought maybe we were a meth lab. You know, like the two other meth labs they busted at that campground the week before.  Not even kidding. All in all it was a pretty good shakedown cruise. No major malfunctions. Lots of good times.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Kentucky. I think.

*Progress Update on Sweet Spice: We had several text exchanges and static-y conversations with multiple insurance adjusters who have confirmed that “you’re house is gone” and “seems like it was a nice place, probably.” Then we got a letter from FEMA denying our request to build a bridge. We had no idea that was even an option. Stay tuned.

 

 

Eating Our Feelings: Lobster Quest 2017

This is our first update from the road. We’re learning that wifi is spotty out here in America and we’re staked out in the Starbuck’s alcove of what may be the last remaining Barnes and Noble. Who knew? I thought they were long gone, but if you need to relive the You’ve Got Mail era head over here to…somewhere in Virginia.

Anyway, we’re going to have to keep this update fairly brief. Our travels in the Travato so far have been great. We’re still a little shell shocked from the whole hurricane displacement issue, but our motto has turned out to be: keep moving. In that vein we have spent the last 2.5 weeks camping through the Finger Lakes and Adirondack park in upstate New York (all of it lovely and kind of a blur), hitting up Niagara Falls, and spending about 5 days in Acadia National Park in Maine. I don’t have time to share all the details of these spectacular destinations right now but, trust me, they are spectacular.

In Maine we decided that our second motto should be: distract yourself with treats. So we completely dedicated ourselves to Lobster Quest 2017: Pursuit of the Perfect Lobster Roll. This happened because we knew we wanted an amazing lobster roll while in Maine (obviously) and we found a list of great places for lobster rolls. Then we selflessly dedicated ourselves to trying as many as possible and coming up with a way to rate them. Ultimately, we ended up trying lobster rolls from 5 different establishments on the list. That’s a lot of lobster in 5 days.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Maine: Mayo and Chives

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

The Connecticut: Hot Butter

First, let it be said, we did not have a bad lobster roll during this challenge. We have to be nit-picky in order to rank them. They were all delicious, but when you take in the overall setting/ambiance as well as the overall quality of the roll (amount of lobster, lobster taste, roll/meat ratio, etc.) there were some clear winners. Here are our results, good to great, of Maine’s best lobster rolls (according to us).

#5 Side Street Cafe in Bar Harbor. This was kind of a weird one.  All of the other places we tried were legit lobster pounds or seafood stands. This place is like an eclectic cafe in the touristy town right next to Acadia National park. It’s right in town, so it’s really just a lobster roll of convenience. We took ours to go on our way out of the park. Were it not on our list, we would never have stopped. They have a whole burrito section on their menu. However, the lobster roll was still above average with a nicely buttered roll and a good amount of lobster meat. Not really memorable, though.

#4 Muscongus Bay Lobster in Round Pond. This is a lobster shack in a quaint setting on the water in an out of the way town in Maine. Jennifer picked up the lobster rolls and she said the place had kind of a bohemian feel. Whatever. Their deal is they make their own buns. And they recommended the whole wheat, so that’s what we got. Terrible idea. Lobster rolls do not belong on whole wheat buns no matter how good they are. Period. The lobster can’t compete with that kind of culinary pressure. Also, they had some kind of tarragon mayo going on (risky move), but we couldn’t really taste it. Basically, this place is ranked #4 instead of #5 just because it’s in a way cooler spot than Side Street Cafe and you feel like you’re getting more of a “Maine” experience.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bite Of Maine Food Truck/Trailer

#3 Bite of Maine in Cape Elizabeth. This is actually a food truck near the big city of Portland. We hit it on our way out of the state. We were expecting it to be kind of a weird urban lobster experience, but it wasn’t. The truck/trailer is parked in this ridiculously beautiful city park on the water with a crazy lighthouse in the background. You pick up your roll and take it to whatever picnic table you want. The deal here is they have different styles of lobster rolls. They have some with wasabi, some with curry, some with cole slaw. In the interest of keeping the competition pure we only tried the classics, which are the Maine (mayo and chive) and the Connecticut (hot butter). The Connecticut won hands down. It was a very, very solid lobster roll. Buttery and delicious and with good lobster flavor. The Maine just tasted like mayo, pretty much. There was a lot of it. I’d still be up for trying some of their more creative rolls next time.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lobster Glow

#2 Five Islands Lobster Co in Georgetown. This was our first stop. It’s in a totally out of the way, completely quaint little village right on the water. You order your roll from the shack and take it out to the wood deck to chow down with a gorgeous view of all of these beautiful little islands (probably five).  You can practically hear the theme song of Murder She Wrote in the air. It feels like you think Maine should feel. The lobster roll was very good. A little bland, but good and full of meat. What it lacked in flavor was more than made up for by the setting. Yeah, you should go.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Uh-huh.

 

#1 Thurston’s Lobster Pound in Bernard. This was the best lobster roll we had on this trip. No question. Great roll, perfect ratio of meat to bun, amazing lobster flavor. Plus, it’s a legit lobster pound right on the water about 30 minutes from Acadia. They have a screened in porch you can eat on over the water, but we ate in the Travato because we had a great view and we also have a screen door. Total happiness. They also do lobster dinners…you pick out your lobster at the counter and they throw it in the steamer out back. It was dinner time when we were there so we branched out and got some corn on the cob, too. Also excellent. Also, they have great t-shirts. I should know. I got one. Perfect blend of cotton and poly, very 1987.

 

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

View of Thurstons from our screened porch/van. Does your car not have a screen door???

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Chowing down in the van.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Thurston’s. Yeah, there’s lettuce. It works.

In the spirit of absolute fucking transparency, I’d like to mention another lobster hot spot that has stellar rolls that we didn’t get a chance to stop at on this trip: Red’s Eats in Wiscasset ME. It was our first great lobster roll experience and if the lines outside the door are any indication, they’re still turning out a very fine product. Probably you should stop there if you can.

And finally, because how can we have even one post without a mention of St. John, I’d like to give a shout out to the super delicious lobster rolls once served at the Tourist Trap in Coral Bay. Sadly, the Tourist Trap closed down even before Irma, but those were great lobster rolls in a truly beautiful spot. Hope you had a chance to try them while they were still around.

So that’s it. That’s our lobster list. It’s time to use the Barnes and Noble bathroom for the 103rd time and get back in the Travato. Stay tuned.

Oh, we’re headed to the Asheville, NC/ Great Smoky Mountains area right now, so if anyone has any tips, please let us know!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

On The Road. Again.

Well, ok, we’ve made some progress. Basically what happened was-we kind of lost our minds. Faced with months and probably years of couch surfing and extended stay hotels while we try to rebuild our house in STJ we both sank, simultaneously, into a deep, dark depression in Indianapolis. I’m not going to go on about that because you can probably figure out that the whole situation sucks (for everyone touched by Irma, not just us. And yeah, we know we’re lucky).

20170920_105759

Jennifer and Wembley packing all of our remaining clothes in hotel.

Anyway, we were seriously thinking about changing the name of this interweb journal from detached and amused to down-trodden and disgusted. But, you know, wordpress is more of a pain in the ass to edit than you would think. So we decided that if the title is detached and amused then that’s what we have to be. AND if we already have the about us page set up to chronicle our journeys in a Winnebago, then we needed a fucking Winnebago. So we got one.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Introducing the Travato. This is a HUGE upgrade from Coachese (for whom we found a lovely and fantastic new owner). This guy is brand new. All the bells and whistles. Very extended warranty. The best Winnebago has to offer in a campervan (and much, much nicer than many of the places we’ve lived). Anyway, we checked out of the exended stay hotel and directly into the Travato a few days ago. Yes, you’re right, we can’t afford this. Thanks for reminding us.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Frances in the Travato. Yeah. We fancy now. She knows it.

 

Let’s stay positive, shall we? This guy is super stealthy. He doesn’t really look like an RV. He’s 21 feet long and pretty much fits in regular parking spots. And even if people know its an RV, it’s so fucking nice that no one minds having it parked in their driveway. I know this is true because we already camped in our friends’ driveway in a very swanky neighborhood in Cincinnati. Thank you Adeoyes. We really, really love you guys.

 

Right now we are somewhere in the Finger Lakes area of NY. Yesterday, we went to Niagara Falls (first time for all of us and very impressive). Later this week we’ll be in Acadia National Park in Maine. And at the end of the month we’ll be back in Indy because Jennifer has work dates scheduled. And that’s how it will go, hopefully. Instead of spending the next year or more in a semi-soul-crushing Days Inn while we battle insurance companies and scheme about how to get our life back, we’ll ping pong around the country in our 100% operable rv, visiting friends and family (yes, this means you) and World Famous Attractions between work weeks (while also still battling and scheming to get our island life back).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Niagara Falls. Taken by storm.

 

Hey, let’s not forget that this was our plan all along. We always wanted to spend part of our time doing this. I know this because I’ve actually read this blog. We just forgot for a minute because it almost always sucks a little when you’re forced into something. Even if it was one of your dreams.