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.


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.


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. 


Natural Food Store






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.




Our home in Todos


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.


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.


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.



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:


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


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.


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.


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


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.


Michael and Ben. At the Bahia Gonzaga BBQ.


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.


Along the unfinished road.


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.


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!