Slowing Down

Due to limited WiFi in Baja California, we were’t able to post this particular blog during our trip.  Here’s one from the tail end of our trip, when the bus was getting cranky.   

One of the most scenic parts of driving Baja is the central Catavina desert region.  It lies between Guerrero Negro and El Rosario (which is also known as the famous 300 km ‘Gas Gap’).  Mex 1 passes through a region known as Sonoran Desert Vegetation and reminded us of Tucson, AZ and St. Geoge UT.  This is the land of cardons (larger relative to the saguaro cactus), boojum trees, chollas and agaves.  Many of these species can only be found in this region.

We were super stoked to hike in an area littered with massive granite boulder and these rare cactus species.

As we wound our way through the various mountain passes towards the trailhead, we came around a bend and saw cars backed up.  We could not see what was going on further ahead around the bend, but lined up in the queue.

We suspected an accident, as this was a ‘Curva Peligrossa’ (dangerous curve).

IMG_1847 We stopped Marigold, got out and saw that it was in fact a serious accident.  A fatal car accident.  Many Mexicans were standing around and helping at the scene.  We stood back, out of respect, to give the people space. There were many helping hands already working together.

A distinguished elderly Mexican gentleman left the scene and approached us.  He quickly stated in his perfect English, that he is a medical doctor, and there is one fatality and a woman in serious condition.

He then asked us, “Do you own the yellow Kombi?”

Jeff replied, “Yes”.

(You see, Mexican’s refer to these hippy busses as Kombi’s. ‘Kombi’ comes from the German word Kombinationskraftwagen referring to a combination motor vehicle – part cargo mover and part people mover.  In North America we refer to them as busses, transporters or Westy’s. In Europe and Mexico they are known as Kombi’s)

The doctor then went on to explain that help was 100 km away, most of the travel being through mountainous passes.  An ambulance had already been dispatched, but would not be arriving for a very long time.   The group helping at the accident scene wanted the injured lady transported by our bus, Marigold, to a medical facility closer to San Quintin.

IMG_1848

Jeff and I stepped aside and discussed this urgent situation.  Do we transport a woman without understanding the extent of her injuries, in a bus that could breakdown any moment, without being in cell phone range?  Not to mention that neither Jeff nor me are Paramedics?  Or do we take her, and at least get her closer to a medical facility, even of the bus breaks down?

After a quick discussion, we felt the heart-led thing to do was to offer Marigold as an ambulance for the injured woman.   The back seat folds flat and she could be comfortably transported.

Another Baja traveller offered to follow us, knowing we were having some engine issues, in case we broke down.

So we gave the doctor the green light to transport the injured lady, although we were extremely nervous about her medical state and saddened by this whole situation.

The doctor went back to the scene, and then returned to us. He then shared that the injured lady would prefer to wait – but thanked us for offering our help.

Then another person helping at the scene came to us holding a cell phone covered in blood, and some ID.  In her broken English, she said this was the cell phone of the deceased man and asked if we could call his family.  She explained he was a single driver, English speaking, and that no one at the scene spoke English well enough to notify his family.

We warmly shared that the police and ambulance should be the ones to handle all of the details from the accident.  It turns out we couldn’t get a cell phone signal anyways in our remote location. So we politely declined.  Our thoughts then turned to the many police and firefighters that have to make those heart-wrenching calls as part of their daily profession.

Again we found ourselves in a situation that would likely never happen back home.  To be so close to an accident, not to have police, fire or ambulance securing the scene, and to be directly and emotionally involved in such a horrific, upsetting situation.

After some time, we got flagged through, and Marigold narrowly made it past the carnage. Other vehicles had to wait hours before the accident was cleared.

We drove in silence until we reached our lunch stop.

While eating Lobster Burritos at the famous Mama Espinosa’s in El Rosario, the ambulances went by in the direction of the accident.  Likely an hour and a half after we left the scene. We counted our blessings, thought of the families impacted, especially the friends and family of the man from California, and expressed gratitude for our life and being safe.

There is a quote, “The value of life is revealed when it confronts death from close quarters” – A. Dubey.

Having just experienced a life and death encounter, we shared our gratitude with one another for being healthy and having an abundance of love, opportunities and experiences.   And simply the value of being alive.

This tragedy will always remind us to be grateful for all that is (and all that will be), as someday this will all be gone.

There were strong and deep emotions that were generated from this experience – yet a stillness descended on us as we drove away. We both acknowledged the importance of living life in the slow lane and being present – both physically and mentally – in order to truly live life. And to find inner peace in our busy world.   Easier said than done.  I guess this is part of our work, and perhaps why Marigold has come into our lives. To teach us some important life lessons about slowing down.

If we were not so single-minded about keeping our lives moving, and for once could do nothing, perhaps a huge silence might interrupt the sadness of never understanding ourselves“.  – Pablo Neruda, Chilean poet 

‘Moon River’

We didn’t have an opportunity to post all of the blogs we created while in Baja.  Here’s one from our time in Bahia Concepcion.

On our way northbound, we could not wait to return to Bahia Concepcion.  A breathtakingly beautiful place where the mountains meet the azure blue waters of the Sea of Cortez.  Having met many travellers, we learned that Playa Escondida was THE beach to camp on.  It’s called Hidden Beach and is set back from the highway, over a mountain saddle away from everything. The roads leading to this beach are rugged and large RV’s cannot make it here.  We had no issues navigating the dirt road and welcomed the company of smaller campervans at our destination.

DSC_8802

The beach camping area was smaller than we anticipated and much busier.  The winds were strong and this was one of the few sheltered camping areas.  So we picked our spot and settled into our base camp for the night.

Our immediately neighbour, Dan, came over in the afternoon and introduced himself.  He quickly commented on our Nikon camera and its large zoom lens.   In the most respectful and courteous way,  Dan begged us to take a picture of the moon rising from behind the island in front of us.  He described the islands and the cactus and the mountains beyond, with the moon shining over the ocean water. And the incredible silhouette of the cactus atop this island.   It was quite the picture he was painting.   We were game.

Throughout the day, Dan gently reminded us of the time the moon hit this magical moment.  7:00 pm……

Now the pressure was on.  We set up our tripod and snapped as many shots as we could, hoping that we captured the image for Dan.

Dan was on a father-son camping trip with their golden lab, Timber.  He was a widower who has been travelling to Baja for many many years.

His description of the big event was impeccable.  The beauty of the moon rising, illuminating the Bay, back lighting the cactus was something we will remember for the rest of our lives. We all stood in silence soaking up the moment.

DSC_8819DSC_8835

Then as the moon rose higher and higher in the sky, a river of light appeared on the Sea of Cortez.  It was so bright none of us needed flashlights and Orion’s Belt was hardly visible.

DSC_8844

Dan asked us if we knew the song,  “Moon River”.

Debbie replied, “Yes.  It’s by Henry Mancini and I happen to have it on my iPod”.

Dan was gobsmacked.  He got a little emotional and shared with us that he had not heard the song since he was 12 years of age, more than 4 decades ago.   He asked if we could play it.

So Debbie queued up the song – an old time favourite of her late father’s.  She recalls him singing it to her when she was a little girl.

Under the full moon, Dan, Debbie, and Jeff crooned out loud the lyrics from this classic.  It was one of those precious shared experiences that brought Dan to tears and got Debbie choked up.  A special moment for each of us an individuals, and for us together – being total strangers.

Moon river, wider than a mile
I’m crossin’ you in style some day
Old dream maker, you heartbreaker
Wherever you’re goin’, I’m goin’ your way

Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waitin’ ’round the bend
My huckleberry friend, Moon River, and me

Two drifters, off to see the world
There’s such a lot of world to see
We’re after the same rainbow’s end, waitin’ ’round the bend
My huckleberry friend, Moon River, and me

 

 

 

 

 

Opening Our Door

Here is a blog we weren’t able to post during our Baja California roadtrip.  There are a few more blogs to follow shortly!

December 26, 2014:  After an extra long journey to Costa Mesa, CA on Boxing Day, we arrived late at night to pick up Marigold. Thanks to a 7 hour flight delay caused by bad weather in Denver, we finally arrived at VW Surfari at 7 pm to pick up Marigold, with little time to stock up for our 16-day camping expedition.  Our goal was to cross the border at 6 am the next day, so we worried about being able to honour our pre-camping ritual: Trader Joe’s.

IMG_1647

Back in November, Bill Staggs of VW Surfari generously offered to receive our bus off the car carrier and then store it along with his dozen-plus air cooled VW campervans. We’ve gotten to know Bill a little bit by phone as we live over 4,000 km away from one another. You may know him from his appearance in the recently released documentary, “The Bus Movie”.

IMG_1649

So last night we arrived at his shop – weary and anxious to get going – only to discover the sliding door on Marigold was jammed. It would not budge. At this point we are in Bill’s garage, working like possessed zombies half asleep, trying to open the door. It should be noted that we have never had issues with our sliding door. Ever.

We called Bill who was 30 minutes away. He talked us through a series of remedies (including Debbie hip checking the door from the inside repeatedly.)

Nothing worked.

And we were losing patience…

Bill told us to make ourselves at home at VW Surfari’s world headquarters and he’d be over right away. Meanwhile we were course-correcting our trip and praying Trader Joe’s was open late on Boxing Day. Otherwise we’d be losing one valuable day in an already tight schedule to travel the entire Baja California peninsula.

IMG_1659

Bill arrived and quickly went to work on the door. He took charge for no charge, and worked tirelessly for more than an hour. We took the sliding door off, took apart the hinge, replaced parts, deep cleaned everything, and super lubed the seized piece. Bill said he had seen many things, but not a door like ours (which he said was working a few weeks before).

IMG_1661

IMG_1663

At 8:45 pm PT, the problem was resolved, Marigold’s door was reinstalled and working better than ever. Without Bill coming to our aide our trip would have been greatly compromised.

He was kind, generous, trusting, patient, wise, and provided a wealth of information. He lives and breathes Baywindows and Vanagons and is a walking encyclopaedia. Fascinating man – someone we’d love to sit around a campfire with for a long chinwag.

Thanks, Bill, for opening the door to your business. And opening Marigold’s door – our home for the next 16 days in Baja California.

On a final note – Trader Joe’s opened their door to us as well! We arrived at 8:50 pm just in time to shop for our trip before they closed at 9 pm. Our grocery list was quite long and TJ’s staff stayed late to allow us to stock up.

 

Mexican Magic

Day 14:  The Driveway of Naomi and Gonzo (near Aqua Caliente)

Woke up our second last day of our adventure, and quickly started calling Bus Depot, Go Westy and many parts suppliers to get a brand new alternator.  Only Bus Depot had one in stock, at it was going to take days and a whole lotta shipping charges to get the part to San Diego.

DSC_8972

Meanwhile, Naomi had offered to drive Debbie to the San Diego airport.  So sweet.  Our Plan B was coming together with a new part for the bus, and getting Debbie home in time for the kids.

Plan A was sourcing a part locally, and getting back on the road by the end of the day.  Gonzo believed our alternator could be rebuilt, so off he and Jeff went to the guru in town.  They said it could be done and it would take a few hours.

During this time, we connected with our hosts and their friends.  Peeking into a world that was foreign to us in many ways.  Naomi and Gonzo have given up much of their money, possessions and now their home, to be in service to others. They were days away from having an Open House to show off their new home for the abandoned and neglected elderly in Mexico.  Their home was part trailer and part permanent structure – perhaps about 1,100 sq. ft in size.  They were giving up about 800 sq. ft. of their home – 75% of their personal space – to help others in need. Something we rarely see in our society.

DSC_8970DSC_8975

Naomi quickly got Jeff to help out the volunteers finish the kitchen – some dry walling, electrical wiring and cabinet installation.  Meanwhile, Naomi and Debbie hit the kitchen to do some baking for the Open House.   Debbie learned how to make Empanadas with a recipe from Naomi’s Mexican grandmother.  We also baked cookies.

bus2naomi2

Then Gonzo returned with our refurbished alternator.  And voila, after a few more hours the bus was running and like new.

gonzophotogonzo

We hugged, kissed and high-fived our new friends and hosts.  Debbie even got a little teary-eyed saying good-bye.  Touched by the kindness and generosity of total strangers.

DSC_8973DSC_8976

The whole experience was magical, moving and expanded our world.

For us, the emotional extremes were profound.  Having the bus breakdown in an unknown area……at night……..in Northern Mexico, conjured up all sorts of obvious stress and anxiety.  Fear for our safety and wellbeing, getting Debbie to the airport on time (we had less than a day), and finding a replacement part for Marigold with limited resources available to us.  We didn’t know if our phone would work, and there was no WiFi.  Plus, we were in the middle of an intersection when the bus konked out. At night!

But lo and behold, it was our good fortune that the car behind us was a helpful soul who took the time to ensure we were taken care of.  Thanks to Ulysses and his wife Patricia (who stayed with Debbie and Marigold, while Jeff went to visit the mechanic).  How lucky is it that we ended up meeting not only a magical mechanic, but generous people with HUGE hearts.  Naomi and Gonzo wanted nothing in return and were simply helping us.

The experience will stay with us forever, and really can’t fully be captured in words.

By 2:00 pm we were back on the road, heading north on Mex 1. Naomi had secretly tucked some warm empanadas and cookies in our bus. In her usual self-less way – she gave us half the batch of baking that we had made together.

Our next big hurdle was crossing back into the US at Tijuana before dark. Not long ago, waits could be up to 6 hours to cross.  Just last year, they upgraded the San Ysidro access point and we sailed through at 5:30 pm on a Friday night. This is the largest border crossing in the world with 1,000,000 passing through each and every day.

Made it to San Diego at sunset…..sad to know it was the end of an epic trip, and happy to know we made it 4,000 km safely.  And much richer for the magical experience.

TJ

Jeff’s Banana Hammock

Day Eleven:  Playa Escondida, Bahia Concepcion to Guerrero Negro (350 km)

While initially we were planning on staying 2 nights at Bahia Concepcion, midday we decided to break camp and move on.  But not before a kayak around some islands to chase a pod of dolphins.

Kayak

And not before checking out the hand made goods from a beach vendor.  They came along selling the usual blankets, jewellery, etc.  However this vendor was selling something very special…..

…a Banana Hammock!!!

DSC_8850

Seriously.

No, not the Speedo variety popular in Europe.

We bought the REAL DEAL.

A genuine hand-made Mexican mini hammock for our banana’s and other fruits.  (If your mind is elsewhere, focus).  We could not stop laughing after we made this purchase.  It actually works perfectly and gentle cradles our fresh fruit.  We picked a yellow hammock to match the bus interior.  Several fellow campers on the Baja are seriously envious of Jeff’s Banana Hammock.  It seems everyone we meet wants one like ours!

Now back to our travels….

Having the freedom and flexibility to change our itinerary to suit our daily desires is one thing we love about road tripping in Marigold.

Now that we are backtracking north, we get a chance to repeat things that worked well for us – not to mention the amazing scenic drive on Mex 1.

DSC_8797

One of the highlights was a stop at a famous 100+ year old bakery in Santa Rosalia.  This town has a church designed by Eiffel, which was built in France then shipped overseas and re-assembled.  The bakery – no doubt – was influenced by the Parisians.  We stocked up on their famous warm Conchas (Pandulces or sweet breads).  Pure yummy-ness.

We arrived in Guerrero Negro to find our friends from Montreal camping here.  It was nice to get caught up with them and camp beside them.

The bus is making the most peculiar sound.  We had to visit Chinos Garage here in Guerrero to determine how serious the problem is.  It’s been a stressful day determining how to proceed – whether to flat bed or carry on.  The Mexican mechanics believe her engine is solid and there is some wiggly part in the fan making a racket.

chinos1 chinos2

To be safe, we are spending an extra night in Guerrero to drive solely during the day.

Stay tuned.  750 km to the border……fingers crossed.

BTW, in case you were wondering, Jeff wears board shorts, not Speedos.

Turnaround Point

Day Eight and Nine:  Rancho Pescardero south of Todos Santos (0 km driven today)

Months ago while planning this trip, not having any idea how we’d feel after driving 1,700 km in a vintage VW Westfalia, we decided to check into a hotel for 2 nights at our turnaround point.  Our thought was that we’d take this time to recharge,  put our feet up and get ready for the second leg home.

Here’s the problem…..Now that we’re back in civilization, we really miss Marigold. And it seems our need to recoup doesn’t really exist. Why is this so….?

We had the best nights rest – sleeping in our bus. Like 9 hours each night.

We ate incredible food – cooking while camping in our bus. Clean and healthy.

We were rested and mellow – from the drive in our bus. Chillin’ while drivin’

La Paz and RP-7

So we are well rested, and this hotel stop is merely an added bonus.  Although we are not quite sure what to do with ourselves.   We don’t have to set up camp, pop the top, make the bed, do the dishes, stow away our gear, make the meals, let alone navigate and drive.  This is our way of life when living in a 90 sq. ft. home on four wheels.

We actually developed some neat systems in Marigold and are proficient at breaking camp, splitting the driving (Debbie prefers to do the first leg in the morning), and setting up camp.  It has become second nature to us. We each intuitively know our jobs and get ‘er done each day.

RP on Sat-8

So this morning – with all of our extra time – we walked north on the beach to San Pedritos to check out the surfers and the free beach camping site.  Much to our delight there were two Baywindow busses camping in amongst the big rigs. Sadly, however, the hurricane ravaged this area and it is a mess.  Gone are the lush surroundings, and palms.  Instead there is debris everywhere and the access is poor.

One of the busses was a 1992 that looked like a 70’s Baywindow.  It had Chilean plates.  We spoke to Ben, the owner, who told us it was made in Brazil.  You may recall, the last of these busses rolled off the assembly line a year ago.  It should be noted the Brazilian busses are an interesting and odd breed.  They combine the front end of the 70’s bay window bus with the back end of the 60’s split window configuration (15 windows).

RP on Sat-12RP on Sat-5

Ben has been on the road for 2 years and has another year to go.  He is a videographer who is documenting his journey and bus life.  Part of it involves being a sort of taxi service for anyone wishing to join him for the ride.  His website (www.kombilife.com)  is where you can follow along.

RP on Sat-6

Finally, we wish to acknowledge our friend, Juliet Nicol, who first introduced Debbie to this beautiful  part of the world.  Many of your friends are still here – Carlos, Danny, Renee, and Karla.  Hola from your friends here at Rancho Pescadero.  (Yes – the fish tacos are still out of this world, Juliet)

RP on Sat-9

 

Meeting the Whale Sharks

Day Six: La Paz to Tecalote Beach (50 km)

New Years Day and we headed to Costa Baja in La Paz.  It’s sort of like the French Riviera (ummmm,,,,that is a bit of a stretch).  Beautiful stone sidewalks adjacent to the ocean.  Loads of cafes and restaurant along this stretch of the ocean.

Our mission this morning is to find someone at 8:30 am on January 1st, who is sober, willing and able to take us to see the whale sharks.   Whale sharks are slow-moving filter feeding fish that grow up to 40 feet long.  They are the largest fish and the largest shark in the world.  Fortunately they don’t eat people.

Our preferred tour company, Espiritu Tours was closed.  Seemed everything was pretty much closed this morning.

Jeff found a guy and a decent enough looking boat (it was floating) willing to take us.  For $100 US, we got our own boat, a wetsuit and we were the first boat out to the feeding area which was 30 minutes away.   We brought our own snorkel, mask and fins.

Whale Shark ad Tecalote-21

Our captain was searching for the calm streak of water, signalling the merging of the ocean currents where the plankton collects.  Once we found this calm water, we followed it until we came upon 8 – 10 whale sharks.

OMG…..

Debbie couldn’t get in the water fast enough to snorkel alongside. Check her out to the right in the photo below, to give you an idea of scale.  These sharks are HUGE!

Whale Shark ad Tecalote-15

These massive creatures of beauty appear to move slow and even stand still at the surface, however it is hard work to keep up beside them!  Their mouths are 3 – 4 feet wide, and skim the surface for plankton.  When they are feeding, they stop swimming and gently open and close their jaws to allow water to flow in.

Whale Shark ad Tecalote-18

Our pod of whale sharks ranged from about 15 – 20 feet long.  It’s freaky, as they look exactly like a the classic predatory shark (think Jaws), except for their heads, their white polka-dot markings,  and their sweet disposition.

The world is an amazing place.  And we got front row centre seats to some of it’s beauty.

What a way to start the New Year!

We then headed to Balandra Beach to check out what many consider the most beautiful beach in Baja.  Given that it was a holiday here, the beach was packed and we could barely get in the parking lot.  So we moved on.

Whale Shark ad Tecalote-30

Our final destination and home for the evening is Tecalote Beach.  Free camping on a breathtaking stretch of beach.  The pictures will do a better job capturing the essence of this place.

Whale Shark ad Tecalote-40

Whale Shark ad Tecalote-38

Whale Shark ad Tecalote-36

Whale Shark ad Tecalote-43

 

 

 

Crossing into Mexico

Day One:  Dec 27, 2014

Oceanside, CA to San Quentin, MX (400 km)

I must admit I was a bit nervous and stressed about crossing into Mexico.  While everything we read, and everything we heard gave me comfort, my spidey senses were tingling a bit.  Hard to ignore that feeling and have the fear creep in to my mind.

Welcome to Mexico!

We chose to cross at Tecate, about 30 miles east of Tijuana, upon the advice of many.  Furthermore, we avoided toll roads and rather opted for a meandering scenic drive through Mexico’s two main wine regions (Santo Tomas Valley Region and Guadelupe Valley), south of Tecate.  Apparently this was a safer, less busy route.  Which indeed it was!

Crossing was a breeze.  We were well prepared getting our Mexican documentation in advance, there were no waits at the border. No inspections – unlike the movie “We Are The Millers” where the yellow bus was ripped apart and the hippy guy beat up….

Tecate was typical Mexico.  Broken dusty roads, colourful wall murals, locals standing around looking bored, old beat up cars and trucks, brightly coloured cinderblock storefronts and stray dogs running around.

Tecate

The roads were fairly quiet and we got into the Mexican driving groove, learning the nuances.  Passing on the double line is common, and we learned that if you are the slower moving vehicle (yes, that would be us), you move as far right as possible (like on the shoulder) to allow cars to pass. So around some crazy twisty mountainous roads, we had large trucks bombing by us with oncoming traffic. Yikes.  Mexico is in the process of upgrading their notoriously dangerous roads.  Lots of construction, new asphalt and wider sections.

El Pabellon campground

On our journey we stopped at Ensenada for lunch on the beach, then drove south past San Quentin to El Pabellon Campground directly on the beach.  For $10 US a night or 130 Pesos we stayed on the beach, had clean flush toilets and hot showers,  Saaaweet!  Debbie drove the bus right next to the surf, but got stuck in the sand along the way.  We tried and tried to get the bus moving however we kept digging a deeper hole.    Amazingly – on a totally remote beach – a couple appeared with a dog.  We figure they were amused by the rooster tail of flying sand from our spinning tires and decided to check things out.   Thanks to our fellow Canadians from Osoyoos, we had 4 extra hands to push us out of the sand rut, while Jasper their dog wagged his tail with excitement.

Wheels spinning - not moving

We set up camp amidst the dunes, made a gourmet meal of organic salmon, with a kale salad and ate on the beach watching the sunset over the Pacific.

Good night Baja

Our dream is now a reality.  400 km down and 3,000 km to go.

We crawled into bed at 7 pm after two long days of driving.

Buenos noches, all, from Mexico.

 

To Baja With Love

The trip of a lifetime awaits us in 7 days.

After a pretty quiet summer here in Canada with not a heck of a lot of bus roadtripping, we shipped Marigold to southern California.  Days before the Snowmageddon in Buffalo, we dropped off our bus at a dealership in order to be auto transported across America. Although we are based in TO, we save nearly $1,000 by shipping from the U.S. versus Canada.  Strange but true.

So about this big Baja adventure……

ComArt_Bajabaja-map

We are driving 3,400 km from Costa Mesa, CA all the way down Baja California penninsula to Cabo San Lucas (and back) in 16 days.  We will be crossing the border on December 27, 2014.  The inspiration for the trip came from various things, people and experiences.  Quite frankly we didn’t think we could pull this off until the kids were older.  (We are travelling just the two of us – no kiddlets).  Thanks to our schedules, and the best Chistmas gift ever from Deb’s mom (the gift of babysitting), we are taking nearly 3 weeks for this trip.  Let us share a bit more about our love of Mexico and Baja specifically….

Jeff has many deep connections to Mexico.  Namely his mom, dad and sister (who are Canadian) moved to Mexico City when he was in high school.  He was fortunate to travel much of the Mexican countryside, truly experience the culture and learn some Spanish.  It was during this time he fell madly in love with air-cooled Vee Dubs and dreamt of owning one someday.  Sadly, Jeff’s mom was diagnosed with cancer while they were in Mexico and she passed away in Mexico City in 1988 at the young age of 46. An emotional connection to this country will forever stay with Jeff.

Meanwhile, Debbie first visited Baja in 1989 on a college trip.  Back then , Cabo was a sleepy fishing town wanting to grow big and become the next Puerto Vallarta.  It was love at first sight for Debbie.  The California grey whales, the sand, ocean, desert, fish tacos, and majestic mountains pretty much won her over.  She left Cabo longing to return someday.  It took more than two decades before her return.  In the last five years, she has visited Cabo three times, learned to surf and has shared this place her kids and several friends.

While on her most recent trip last Feb. 2014, she bought a book called, ‘Travellers Guide to Camping Mexico’s Baja’, by Church and Church.  She got this as a gift for Jeff hoping to spark his interest in driving Marigold there someday.  Debbie also took the time to speak with locales last year about the drive, safety, duration etc.  Everything checked out a-okay and they told her she bought the best resource guide – Church’s, ‘Baja Bible’.

bookphoto

Little did we know the trip would become a reality so quickly. Guess that’s the power of positive intentions.

The last little while has been a mad scramble getting maps, auto insurance, health insurance, our FMM (tourist VISA) planning our route, researching all of the incredible things to see and do, and dreaming of the possibilities.  We are grateful for all of the people who have helped us thus far – Kristina Pearce who insisted Deb buy the Baja Camping Book while in Todos Santos a year ago, Jay Dean from Schmitt’s Audi in Buffalo for welcoming Marigold when auto shipping, Bill Staggs of VW Surfari in Costa Mesa, CA for receiving our bus and storing her until Boxing Day, plus all of the other people who have shared their knowledge of Baja with us.

Baja 2

Our plan is to cross at Tecate and drive about 3 – 5 hours per day before setting up camp and settling down for the night.  Stops will allow us to do some adventuring – namely snorkelling with sea lions and whale sharks in the Sea of Cortez, seeing Scammon’s Lagoon where the California Grey whales give birth to their young, surfing, sea kayaking, scuba diving, camping on remote beaches, and then spending a few glorious days at boutique hotel – Rancho Pescadero – before turning around and heading back north.  We plan to camp in our bus the entire time, except our splurge of 2 nights at Rancho Pescadero just south of Todos Santos.

While Mexico has been getting a bad rap, Baja is isolated from the mainland drug lord violence. That being said, we are expecting some police checks along the way. Additional advice we received was to get as far away from northern Mexico as possible.  So, Day One will involve a lot of driving once we leave Tecate.  The other advice Debbie received was NEVER to drive at night.  The cows down there are jet black in colour and meander all over the roadways, making it impossible to see them from a distance.  So we will drive during daylight hours only and avoid getting the ‘horns’.

We’ve immersed ourselves in reading dozens of blogs of other RV and campervan adventurers posted over the years.  Many make this pilgrimage down the coast an annual tradition – and some have been doing this trek for more than three decades. We feel extremely comfortable and safe in undertaking this journey.

That being said, it is still a great big unknown.  We look forward to the mysteries and new discoveries during this epic road trip to a magical part of the world.

We plan to blog every day where possible and post loads of photos.  Our only limited factor is WiFi.  Not sure what we’ll find, however where there’s WiFi, there’ll be a blog.  We invite you to follow along.

To Baja:  Here we come!

With Love: Deb, Jeff and Marigold  XOXO

12 Things Every VW Campervan Must Have

It’s been a year of incredible adventures with our 1976 VW Westfalia camper van, Marigold. Spending days on end living out of a 90 square foot home (plus another 50 sq. ft. upstairs when the top is popped) can be present some interesting challenges!   During this time we discovered many things that worked, things that didn’t work, and things that are now a must-have with any bus adventure.  Here are our absolute favourite things that make our bus trips extra special and give that ‘glamping’ feel:

1. ESPRO French Press Coffee Maker

This award-winning coffee maker will guarantee to put a smile on your face each morning.  It’s double-filter, double-wall vacuum insulated design keeps coffee fresh, and warm for a long time.  It’s stunningly beautiful and makes a wicked cup-o-java on the road.  We opted for the large size which fills 2 large travel mugs. Part of the fun is buying fresh roasted coffee from local shops on the road.  Two of our fave’s are Macy’s in Flagstaff and FireCreek Roasters in Sedona.  Bonus: Designed in uber-cool Van-Groovy, British Columbia, Canada. (The Green Beanery Toronto)

Big Sur coffee

 

 

esproCoffee...!espr 2

2. Mr. Heater – Little Buddy

After a weekend camping trip in Zion with -10C mornings, we set out to find the best indoor portable heater.  This unit meets all of our needs – compact, safe, and efficient.    It runs off of a standard 1LB propane cylinder, has a large diffuser, shuts off if tipped and most importantly, heats the bus perfectly!  Uses a technology that reduces emmisions, however we crack the window  a bit.  We use this at night before crawling into bed, and in the morning to heat up our ‘living room’ before leaving the comfort of our bedroom.  (Walmart)

Mr. Heater - Little Buddylittle buddy

3. Mini Hozuki by SnowPeak – LED Lantern

This little light is a real gem.  Pinky promise.  This tiny orb lights up the entire bus interior at night with its wide diffused light.  It has a strong magnet for hanging just about anywhere.  We love to wrap it’s handle around the pop-top push bar.  The Mini Hozuki can be dimmed, for setting the perfect mood.  And it’s collapsable, compact and fits in our kitchen drawer.  Plus a sleek and simple design.  Don’t get turned off by the pricing (as we did initially).  It’s worth every penny.  Trust us.  (MEC)

mini in tentmini hozuki

4.  Center Console Seat Box / Stool

If your bus is missing the box seat situated between the driver and passenger, read on. This was one of the first items we purchased after buying Marigold.  It stores our garbage can, maps, hand cream, camera, purse, and loads of other things that we often need quick access to while driving.  It hides away valuables while you make a quick trip to the store.  It also serves as an extra seat or footrest when relaxing at your campsite.  Cool factor is being able to match your interior fabric to the upholstered seat cushion. Or build your own custom stool.  (Bus Depot)

STOOL

5.  Under Dash Parcel Tray

Coffee travel mugs, hand-held devices, and other road trip nick-nacks were not happening in the 70’s.  So in order to deal with some of our daily ‘stuff’, we installed some under dash trays to hold these things.  It is really incredible to have quick access to lip balm, iPad, change for the toll roads, our National Parks Pass, and our mileage logbook.  There are several kinds of trays, however we love the solid black which matches the dash.  Sweet. Tip:  Buy ‘Grip-It’ shelf liner in black and custom line the bottom of the tray.  Keeps everything in place and prevents things from rattling around.   (Bus Depot)

Blog 1photo

6. Stainless Steel Foldable Drink Holders

As passionate coffee/tea drinkers, we scratched our heads for a while trying to figure out the best way to travel with our water bottles and coffee travel mugs. Bus owners will be well aware drink holders were not a thing of the 70’s and 80’s.  The solution?  We looked to the Marine industry for inspiration and discovered these gorgeous stainless steel foldable cup holders.  A solid base, with foldable arms to give your morning cup a hug.  They are in close reach for easy access.  When not in use, they fold away discretely.  Splurge and get the stainless steel for strength and stability – not the cheap plastic ones.  Hint:  When mounting, leave enough space between for a large water bottle such as a 1 litre Nalgene.  (Any marine supply store – we got ours through Amazon.com)

cup holercup holder close upphotocup holdersphoto

7. OnSight Toiletries Kit

We keep a full toiletries kit for each of us on board.    We played around with several different models and settled upon onSights hanging toiletries kit.  When the top is popped on your bus, it hangs in the corner with loads of clearance below.  Nothing falls out when accessing the various zippered pockets.  Ours fold up into a barrel roll and fit perfectly in the cubbies in the rear.  (MEC)

DSC_7144 OnSight Toiletries Kit

 

8. Storage Cubes from Closet Maid 

These soft-sided, strong, flexible storage cubes fit the cabinetry of our ’76 perfectly.  They measure 7″h x 7″ w x 6″ d  and hold everything safely and securely.  We have a separate cube for our dish washing gear,  our spices, our cups/mugs, as well as our tea and coffee.  We can get 3 – 4 of these per shelf.  Pull one out and voila!  Everything is neat and tidy and self-contained.  When not used they fold flat.  Bonus:  You can colour match these to your bus interior. (Target)

kitchwen cubesphotocloset maid 2

9. Rare Earth Magnets

Outrageously strong little magnets.  Allows towels to double as curtains, holds up dishcloths, secures curtains from blowing around when windows are open.  These tiny mighty strong magnets are a must have on board. (Lee valley)

magnetsphoto

10. Marshmallow Sticks

We quickly learned it was pretty darn hard to find sticks in the high desert.  Not much around, and most of it was damn prickly.  We love our Lee Valley telescopic  marshmallow sticks and cannot imagine bus life without them. (Lee Valley)

sticks

11.  Dry Pack Towels XXL 

We travel with several of these compact extra large towels (in green of course to match the bus interior).  Ours double as a privacy curtain when we are too lazy to put up the windshield curtain. Be sure to get the XXL size which covers the front baywindow width to width.  Use your rare earth magnets to secure.  (Any outdoor/camping store)

dry pack

12. Fiamma Bike Rack

Lightweight, easy to install and enough real estate to display your stickers (from all of your awesome destinations).  We are more than pleased with this wisely designed bike rack which keeps a high clearance off the ground for camping on BLM lands. Plus easy access to the engine.  Adjustable for 29, 27.5 and traditional 26″ wheels.  (Bus Depot)

Fiamma Bike rackFiamma Bike RackDSC_7262