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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.