Saturday, March 28, 2009

A Strange Rig

Location: La Quinta, CA

I had hoped by now to have some additional Mexico stories and photos to share, but the Computer Gods had other ideas. I somehow picked up an annoying virus or malware that kept kicking up one Internet Explorer ad window after another -- and I only use Firefox so I know they weren't pop-ups or pop-unders from the site I was viewing at the time. After several attempts to kill it, using several anti-virus programs, I finally gave up and restored my PC to its pristine state (thanks to Ken for showing me the Easy Way to do this instead of the ZoAnn Way!)

Of course, I then had to reinstall all my software, apply updates and patches to most of them, then curse here and there because I forgot to back up something that would have made all this a little bit easier (such as all my browser's bookmarks!). But I am now up and running again with no loss of significant data. Whew!

Until I can get back to looking at the Mexico images, here is a photo of an interesting and strange rig we saw in Riverside. It's a converted fifth wheel with 5 doors on one side, and 6 on the other. Two of the doors lead to bathrooms, but the rest are individual sleeping quarters -- each of nine travelers have a their "own room" that runs the width of the RV. They said they all fit in the pickup for travel -- I sure wouldn't want to be packed into a pickup with that many other people for anything but a really short trip!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Around LA

Location: Riverside, CA

Here's a site you don't see very often -- palm trees in the foreground and snow-covered peaks in the distance! Normally, the peaks around Riverside are all but obscured under a thick coat of smog, but a cold front moved through the other day and sucked out the smog, leaving instead a coating of snow on the mountains:

Today we took a drive to the Pacific Coast, passing through Santa Monica and then heading north to Malibu. Beach access was tolerable through Santa Monica, but once we got to Malibu it was virtually non-existent -- all that was visible to the west was an infrequent, quick glimpse of blue, and the backs of the wall-to-wall buildings that filled all the available real estate from the edge of the beach to the edge of the street. We didn't get very far into Malibu -- it covers 27 miles of shore -- so maybe it got better further north, but I doubt it.

We then drove to Simi Valley to visit the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. I had never been to a Presidential Library, but envisioned it as a huge ("voluminous" if you like) libraresque collection of every scrap of paper, writing, or doodle to come out of the White House, complete with rows and stacks of alphabetized tomes, and a faint "old-book-smell" to the air.

In other words, boring.

Instead, we found a wonderful, interesting collection of All Things Reagan, a replica of his Oval Office, and the actual Air Force One in use during Reagan's administration (this plane was also used by Nixon, Ford, Carter, and Bush Sr. before it was retired). Plus, Reagan's grave, and the magnificent view from there of the Simi Valley.

About a week ago, just after we got back from Baja California, we decided to spend a few days in Riverside, CA. Literally while on the road to Riverside, I got a phone call from my friend, Val, in Maryland. She, and Mary Pat from New Jersey were leaving the next day for an ice skating competition in Los Angeles, about 60 miles from Riverside! So we met for dinner tonight in an Italian restaurant near the skating venue. From left to right, Val, Mary Pat, John, and me:

It was great seeing you!

Sunday, March 22, 2009


My Current Location: Riverside, CA -- but this blog entry is about Baja California

All up and down Mexico Highway 1 -- the only road that spans the length of Baja California -- are all manner of descansos, or roadside memorials. "Descansos" literally means "resting places," and originally they marked the place at which the pall bearers would rest as they carried the casket from church to cemetery. But today they usually mark the site of fatal accidents, just as roadside crosses (or infrequently some other religious symbols) do in the States.

The Descansos come in all sizes from a simple cross, to a small enclosure, to an elaborate building. Most are tended, at least to some degree, and some are meticulously cleaned and decorated with live flowers. Those that are little buildings typically have a small area inside that contains candles, icons, and framed photos of Jesus or Mary. The outside may or may not be painted, and some are adorned with christmas tree lights (we were never on the road after dark, so I don't know if they are lit then or not).

At the top of this page is a slide show of some of the descansos we saw. If you cannot see the slide show, please visit my Picassa Album.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Back In The USA

Location: San Diego, CA

We have been unplugged for the last few days -- no TV, phone, or internet access, so I haven't added any new blog entries -- but more Mexico entries will be coming soon. For now, however, we are back in the USA!

Our final two nights in Baja California were camped on the ocean in La Salina, a resort town north of Ensenada. This area of Mexico is very Americanized and modern, although we were told a bungalow on the beach could be had for around $100,000, and the fanciest mansion -- and some were VERY fancy -- for half a million.

Final Sunset in La Salina

Our 16 rigs (two Mexico Tracks tours joined during the trip) left La Salina for the drive to Tijuana with Green Angel escorts -- a government-funded rescue squad, primarily for tourists, that patrol Mexican highways. Once we got nearer to Tijuana, several policia on motorcycles assisted us as we navigated the streets of the city (yes, they all got tips!).

As we snaked through the line at the border, beggars, food vendors, and children juggling balls walked among the cars and rigs asking for money. We were fortunately in the bus lane -- it would have added another hour or so to the crossing time if we had been in the huge line of cars waiting for entry.

Re-gaining entry into the US required three stops:

  • First, a kiosk where we showed our passports, declared our purchases, and were passed on.
  • Second, a food inspection station. Pork, raw potatoes, and some fruits are the most common of the prohibited items, and gloved inspectors boarded all the rigs to look through our refrigerators. We lost 4 oranges right away that I had forgotten to toss. The inspector then brought out a baggie from the freezer that contained two hamburger patties, and asked us if it was venison or elk. We told her no, but she said it looked "too dark to be beef" and confiscated it anyway (afterwards, we found another identical package of two hamburger patties which apparently passed inspection!)
  • Finally, we parked in front of a small box truck and were asked to leave the vehicle. The truck, actually a portable X-Ray machine, drove beside the RV, the driver watching a screen for, we assumed, people or guns hidden within the RV.
We passed all the inspections, and are now happily back in the US, laundry piled as high as it can get without coming out of the vents, and needing a few days to just relax and unwind.

Plaque Marking the United States/Mexico Border

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

More Old Saguaros

This is one of several blog entries that I set up to be posted while I am in Mexico.

Saguaros cactus have a hard life in the desert. When young, the seeds grow best if they can find another plant to protect them from the hot sun. They grow slowly -- a saguaro doesn't begin to grow arms until they are 50-75 years old, if they grow arms at all. With a lifespan in the hundreds of years, they still can grow a lot or arms and get quite tall (See this previous post). Here are a few more sightings:


Friday, March 13, 2009

The Granite Dells

This is one of several blog entries that I set up to be posted while I am in Mexico.

The Granite Dells lie about 4 miles outside of Prescott, AZ (pronounced PREZ-kit, by the way). They are huge, imposing piles of granite rock that used to be even huger and more imposing piles of rock, but have now weathered into lumps, bumps, and rounded spires interspersed with clear blue lakes.

Rumor has it that sometime in the 1800s, a bunch of prospectors buried their gold here when ambushed by Indians. The gold has never been found. Hmmm, maybe I should go back and search a bit?

The mountains in the distance are the San Franciso Peaks near Flagstaff. They received a new coating of snow the night before.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Two Days By the Bahia Conception

After Cabo San Lucas, we have two days on the Bahia Conception, a bay off the Sea of Cortez. We have no hookups, but are parked right on the beach, enjoying the sand, sun, and margartias under the palapas. Hola!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The End of My ATV Career

All terrain vehicles (ATVs) are allowed on the beaches north of Cabo San Lucas, so off 11 of us went -- about half were experienced ATVers, and the rest of us were amateurs to first timers like me.

We got to the starting point where we found our ATVs all lined up and ready to go. We got a brief course in using them -- breaks on the handlebars like a bicycle; gas on a lever beneath the right thumb; gear shift under the left foot, push down to shift down and lift up with foot to shift up. Helmets and goggles on, and then we were off.

I had a rough start. I kept giving it too much gas or too little gas, or shifted too early or too late -- reminded me of my first tries driving a stick shift when I was 17! But then I started to get used to it, and was zipping along the flat sand trail, enjoying the ride. I even got used to rising up in the seat, the best way to balance on hills.

Then everything changed.

We got to the bottom of a steep, rutted and rock strewn hill. We all down shifted to second gear, and started up. I was okay until we got about half way up, when my wheels hit a rut and I couldn't get the ATV to turn away from the edge of the hill. One second I was fine, the next the ATV was heading over the hill, and there was nothing I could do -- by the time my brain realized what was happening, the front wheels were over the edge and going down, so braking was useless. So I jumped.

My jump certainly saved me from serious injury, and may have saved my life -- John was in the ATV behind me, and said it did a complete flip before coming to rest 50 feet down the cliff. I landed in a mesquite bush which is covered with sharp branches and little spiky points. My elbow was scraped badly, and blood was dripping down my legs from numerous scratches, but none of the wounds were serious. Had I stayed with the ATV, it could very well have landed on me as it flipped, or thrown me further down the hill.

I finished the trip riding with one of our guides in a two-person ATV, and left the retrieval of my ATV to them. We had some beautiful views of the sandy hills, white beaches, and blue water of the Pacific, and I actually enjoyed that part of the ride. Here's a photo of John and I on an ATV that our guide placed on the edge of a cliff for us all to have a "photo op."

Please don't ask me to get on another ATV -- my career as an Evil Knieval Daredevil ATVer is over. Maybe I should move on to paragliding or bungee jumping?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Spring is Coming! Really!

This is one of several blog entries that I set up to be posted while I am in Mexico.

For those of you who are still shoveling and scraping the White Stuff, here are some flowers to help along that spring fever --

Baha Ruby Fairy Duster, Calliandra californica

Teddy Bear Cholla, Cylindropuntia bigelovii

Columbine, Aquilegia sp

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Cabo San Lucas Sunset Cruise

Yesterday we took a sunset cruise in the water off Cabo San Lucas. We began in the Sea of Cortez, but once we rounded the southernmost point of land, we were in the Pacific Ocean. This marks the furthest south I have been, or will be on this trip!

Our boat was followed by several seagulls, and along the way we saw sea turtles, sea lions, pelicans, and humpback whales. I was not able to get a photo of the whales, but I did get one of their "footprint" -- this is a patch of calm water left after they dive.

Land's end was filled with swimmers, divers, sun bathers, kayakers, and boaters. There is a beautiful beach the stretches between the rocks -- one side on the sea, one on the ocean -- but no way to get there except by boat. The sea lions congregated on one of the rocks here, basking in the sun and watching human divers, inadequately mimicking them with air tanks and strap on flippers.

We had dinner on board the boat, and then watched the sun set over the point. It was a lovely cruise, and a fine end to the day.

Saturday, March 07, 2009

The Road to Cabo

Location: Cabo San Lucas, BCS

Finally made it to Cabo yesterday! Internet access has been spotty, but right now I'm sitting in an open-air recreation area in our campground -- right next to the router, which is the only place I can get a signal. This is the first time I've had to pay for internet access -- $2 per day!

Yesterday's trip from Loreto to Cabo San Lucas took us past a few mountains, an occasional view of the Sea of Cortez, the Tropic of Cancer (my first time this far south), and past many little towns and friendly people. Then we got to Cabo, a big-city/mega-tourist destination (we saw the first McDonald's of the entire trip), but with a fabulous view and amazingly pleasant weather. Here are some pictures from the trip to Cabo:


A Chemical Garden

This is one of several blog entries that I set up to be posted while I am in Mexico.

As I was standing near the railroad tracks, watching all that coal move from Wyoming through Colorado (see previous post), I looked down and found a few lumps that had tried to make their escape from the rail car but only made it as far as the stones of the railway bed. Black and shiny, they just screamed "do something fun with me!" So back into the recesses of my childhood mind I go, and dredged up a memory of making a chemical garden.

Now a chemical garden is probably a better science project than it is an RV decoration project, but non-the-less I decided to make one. Here is the recipe:

Chemical Garden

Place coal in a low dish with a little water. Mix well:
6 Tablespoons salt
6 Tablespoons bluing
6 Tablespoons water
1 Tablespoon ammonia
Pour slowly on coal. Put drops of food coloring on coal for color.

And here are the results.

DAY 1:

DAY 2, Morning:

DAY 2, Evening:



Some things to keep in mind if you want to make one of your own:

  • The blue and green food colors seem to take over the other colors. Yellow shows up third best. Don't let the colors bleed into each other
  • Bluing is still available in the laundry section of some stores (I found it in a King Sooper)
  • If you can't find coal, I have heard that charcoal will work, too
  • It grows quickly -- very quickly. Don't start it before you go on vacation!

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Fishing In The Sea of Cortez

Location: Loreto, BCS

On our second and last day in Loreto, three intrepid fishermen in our group got up at the rooster's first crow (not really, the idiot rooster in this neighborhood crows all night long and everyone hopes one of the many stray dogs will have a midnight snack of rooster nuggets), pulled on their luckiest fishing togs, and walked to the beach to board a half-day chartered fishing boat. As dawn broke, they stumbled into the boat, waved goodbye, and set sail on the Sea of Cortez:

When they returned several hours later, they were tired and cramped, but they had caught 7 huge yellowtails (two caught two each, and one caught three)! Here is Paul with one of his.

The fish were cleaned and filleted for them:

And then they put on a fish fry for us all! And it was delicious!


They only cooked two of the fish, and there was so much that we all had our fill and took some back to our rigs for later. I think one fish would have easily fed all 18 of us. Thanks Paul, Dave, and Ben, our Outstanding Fishermen!

The Streets of "Loreto"

Location: Loreto, BCS

We got into Loreto, Baja California Sur yesterday. The directions to the campground were a bit confusing, and our entire caravan wound up threading our way through the busy, narrowish, cobblestoned streets of the town. A policeman on an ATV, probably alerted to our plight by the honking of the helpful drivers of Loreto, kindly gave us an escort and we all made it to the campground unscathed.

The area surrounding the campground is run-down and dusty, with roosters crowing at all hours and stray dogs yapping. But it is reasonably nice inside, and the Sea of Cortez is only a few steps away:

We got up this morning just before dawn. At that hour and this latitude, the constellation Scorpius, the Scorpion was fully above the horizon and looked lovely. We got to the sea while Venus was still bright in the sky, and we could even see her reflection in the water. The dawn was full of oranges, reds, and yellows, and soon the seabirds and the fishermen began their day. It was beautiful, but I need a nap!

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

The Day At The Beach In Mulege

Location: Mulege, BCS

The Mulege Lighthouse:

The Sea of Cortez:

Gulls and pelicans (the pelicans are covering the far spit):

An American Oystercatcher (and we saw them extracting an oyster from his shell):