THE Naked Cowboy

Welcome to our next bus adventure!

This time we’re with three of our kids, plus our beloved Marigold PLUS a second VW Westfalia that we are renting.  A double-bus adventure begins.

Post Baja, we stored Marigold in Irvine, California for a few weeks until our return on March 12th. We decided to take the kids on a camping adventure in SoCal for March Break.

Two buses hit the road from Costa Mesa with Jalama Beach (2 hours north of Santa Barbara) as our first destination. En route, we decided to check out famous Venice Beach. We strolled along the boardwalk, people watched, saw the famous Muscle Beach and then walked along the sand. It was 33 degrees and gosh was it ever busy! Apparently it was the nicest day of the year so far – by a large margin.

When Debbie returned to the busses, there was a whole lotta activity going on with the car parked right next to us. Cowboy hats on the roof of their car, guitars on the ground and white cowboy boots laying around.

Hmmmm…

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Then Debbie noticed the writing on the hat. It clearly stated, “Naked Cowboy”. This immediately took her back more than 10 years ago when she first saw the iconic Times Square ‘Naked Cowboy’. She first thought this was an imposter until she made eye contact with the 6’5” blonde, blue eyed, pony-tailed, ADONIS and realized he was the real deal.

Yes – the NYC Times Square real deal. THE Naked Cowboy.

Frisking the Naked Cowboy

Image our good fortune. Now imagine the look on our kid’s faces…..

Robert – aka The Naked Cowboy – got into costume. Yep – ripped his clothes off down to his corporate sponsored ‘Fruit of the Loom’ tighty whities. Then put on his gigalo-white boots, slung his guitar over his bare chest with it strategically placed to give the illusion of nakedness, and put on his white cowboy hat. He was ready for action.

While he is synonymous with Times Square, he shared with us that his real start was right here at Venice Beach where he used to model.

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So here he was, on vacay, back where it all began.  And with his wife in a scantily-clad bikini alongside.  She is apparently the Naked Cowgirl.

We had a good chat with him as he was getting ready to ‘perform’.   He was super curious about our two busses and our story. Funny – while we were away from the busses and cruising the boardwalk, he was observing the plethora of people taking photos of Marigold and our rental Ruby.

We said our goodbyes, but not before we got a bunch of autographed photos, and learned about his new venture, Naked Cowboy Oysters.

Then onwards to Jalama Beach, where we are spending 3 glorious nights camping directly on the beach.

And as the Naked Cowboy told us today as we parted ways, “Each day keeps getting better”.

Thanks, Robert. That is now our trip mantra, and words we will cherish forever….

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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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!!!

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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.

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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.

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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.

Northbound We Go

Day Nine: El Pescadero to Tecolote Beach (145 km)

Woke up to the full moon setting over the Pacific Ocean, while the sun was rising to the East.  It was a spectacular display with the moon illuminating our room, before the Sun made her presence.  The moon’s size, shape and colour reminded us of the large harvest moons in the Fall.  A magical way to end our stay at Rancho Pescardero.   We watched in awe as the moon set on the horizon.

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Packed up and said our good-bye to hotel living.  But not before their chef allowed us to take a tour of their organic garden and hand pick some fresh veggies for the road.  Chef Bueno picked baby romaine, tomatillos, limes, zucchini, cucumber, beets, red leaf lettuce, basil, Boston bib lettuce, sage and tomatoes.  Tonight we will make a fresh salad courtesy of Rancho Pescadero – such a treat!

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Drove north through La Paz and spent some time looking for a replacement Coleman stove.  No such luck.  We did learn from Dave – our VW camper van neighbour at Tecolote – that any sort of fuel can be used inthe MSR Whisper lite.  So we can use regular gasoline, as we cannot find any camp fuel in Baja.

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Windy as heck here at Tecolote Beach. Strong winds from the east, however warm and clear blue skies.  The water is turquoise and the mountains surround us.    We are camping in the dunes between some shrubbery to help shield us from the wind.

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Laying low tonight, as tomorrow is our single longest driving day. – about 500 km with a large mountain pass.

We are hoping the winds shift direction and blow in from the south. In doing so, we’ll get some help over the mountains and improve our fuel efficiency (which is running at about 18-20 MPG).

Northbound we go.  145 km down, and 1,500 km until we reach San Diego.

Marigold has been a dream, and has presented no issues.  Her sliding door is getting a little sticky – likely from all of the dust down here.  We’ve topped up the oil and are putting in premium gas.  Otherwise, she runs perfectly.

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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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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On the Path

Day Three:  Bahia de Los Angeles to San Ignacio (350 km)

Day Four:  San Ignacio to Bahia Concepcion (179 km)

Sometimes I am amazed at the synchronicities in life. The moments where your thoughts are aligned with what occurs in the world – simultaneously.  Lately it’s been happening a lot to us.

Jeff and I have talking on this trip about how we wish to live our life from this point forward.  Lots and lots of blue sky discussions and a desire for simplicity.  We’ve both been raised in traditional ways – get a good education, get a good job, get married, get some kids, get a second property, work until you retire THEN live out your dreams in the golden years. There is absolutely nothing wrong with these values and beliefs.  It’s just that they no longer seem to serve us.

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So wherein lies the synchronicity?

We’ve met three interesting couples from 3 different generations in the last day or so who have inspired us and are living in a way that is aligned with many of our values.

Last night we beach camped on the Sea of Cortez at Bahia de Los Angeles, beside a Canadian couple.  They were from Alberta, had to be pushing 75 and were in a new pick-up truck camper thing-a-ma-jig. They quickly told us they only work during the Canadian summer and spend the winters travelling around Baja and the Southwest.

I asked if they were farmers.  They looked shocked and said, “Hell, No”.  She  went on  to tell us they both work in the gravel industry, and told their prospective employer they don’t work in the winter.  They both were hired under this arrangement and have never looked back.   Talk about balance and healthy boundaries.

This couple was living the dream.  Their dream….no one else’s.  They even have loads of kids and grandkids.  But felt no guilt being away from them all and following their path.

Later in the day, as we approached our lunch stop in Guerrero Negro, we passed a ’82 Dodge Campervan, and noticed they had BC plates.  You see – it is a momentous event to pass anything on the highway when driving a VW bus.  It’s a memorable unforgettable experience.

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The slow poke Dodge pulled into the same restaurant stop as us. And they bee-lined to introduce themselves.   Emmanuelle and Rebecca – both in their 20’s – were charting a course in life to work in a way that maximized their time for adventure, travelling and living life large.  They were such an adorable couple who were from Montreal.  Hearing their views of the world over lunch together, about their van, and dreams was truly inspirational.   And their deep respect for the environment was apparent, when they were outraged when the restaurant brought us water in a four small plastic bottles.

The third couple is riding their hand built bamboo tandem bicycle from San Fancisco to Argentina. This is after a full tour of Europe on his entirely custom self-built bike for two.  Neither considers themselves a cyclist.  They chose this way of living for the minimal impact on the earth, the simplicity and cost effectiveness.  Nicolas (from Argentina) and Marky (from the Czech) are taking up to 2 years to pedal back to his home country.   We bought 2 necklaces made of bamboo from them.  One is a happy face, which is similar to the ones on his fork caps and now hangs from our rear view mirror.  A reminder to smile and spread sunshine where (and when) possible.

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It was refreshing for us to hear the stories of others – be it 25 years older or 25 years younger.  They are all on their unique path, being mindful of their impact on the earth, finding innovative ways to honour the work-life balance.  All while having fun.

As we are finding our way in life, it is inspirational to meet others, that help us get closer to the path we are meant to be on.

On a final note, given the limited Wifi and the fact it is December 31st, we wish everyone a Feliz Ano Nuevo from beautiful Baja.  Thanks to everyone following our journey.  We are happy to have you along for the ride and love reading your comments and stories.

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Final sunrise of 2014

 

 

Banditos and Boojums

Day Two:  San Quentin to Bahia de Los Angeles (380 km)

Woke up to find that we were robbed last night while we were sound asleep.

Our double burner Coleman camp stove, special cooking table (that we picked up in person from Go Westy), pots, frypan, and lighter were stolen in the night.  Jeff was pissed off about the lost goods.  Debbie was pissed off about some crooks being 3 feet away from her lurking in the dark.    After the initial anger and upset, we counted our blessings that we were okay and that only a few replaceable things were stolen.

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The morning after….

Things always happen for a reason, so we decided that we weren’t really meant to cook all of the time on this trip, but rather visit more fish taco stands and local eateries.  Fortunately we travel with a small MSR Whisper Light stove as a backup, so we can still enjoy our tea in the morning and making the occasional single pot meal.

Before leaving the San Quentin region, we took a sunrise stroll on the beach to shake things off.  What a glorious morning.

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Nowhere did we read about locking everything up at night or bringing ALL of your belongings inside.  So you’re hearing it first from us folks – bring EVERYTHING inside. Leave nothing to chance.

We learned a big lesson here and will be vigilant about keeping everything locked inside the bus.  And also selecting campgrounds that are busy.  Counterintuitive for us, as we long for solitude while in nature, but during this trip we will hunker down with others.  Call it what you will – herd mentality or safety in numbers.  We are seeking the company and security of other travellers.

After breaking camp a little quicker than usual (strange how that occurs with a few less things to pack), we made our way south to El Rosario, then onto the Sea of Cortez..  This is north end of the famous ‘Gas Gap’, with the next gas station more than 300 km away.

We fueled up the bus and estimate her range to be about 400 km on a full tank.  So no need for a Jerry Can.

On our way out of town, we passed a cute hotel and cafe that advertised it had WiFi. We stopped to charge our devices and access WiFi.  Plus chow down on Chilequiles and Huevos Rancheros for breakie.  And watch their two chihuahuas play together.

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Today’s drive took us southeast across the peninsula from the Pacifc to the Sea of Cortez with spectacular scenery and desert flora along the route.

A highlight for us was seeing all of the Boojum trees around Catavina.  These tall skinny cactus look like something created by Dr. Seuss.    They resemble a furry giant carrot growing upside-down. There are Seuss-like tufts at the top.  So bizarre and cute at the same time.  No where else in the world can you find these funny trees which only grow in central Baja.

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Debbie is standing next to the Boojum Tree – look closely!

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We also passed an area littered with massive granite boulders.  It looked like the home of Fred Flintstone.  On our way back north we will stop here for a hike.

Finally, we turned off Mex Hwy 1, towards Bahia de Los Angeles (Bay of Angeles).  This region is considered to be on of the most scenic spots in all of Baja with its blue waters and barren desert shoreline backed by rocky mountains. The huge bay is protected by a chain of islands making it the perfect playground for fishing, snorkelling, scuba diving and sea kayaking.

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Our home tonight is Dagget’s Beach Camping.  Lovely spot just north of town where we have our own palapa and direct ocean access.  Not many spots in this campground, however there are 2 other Canadians as our neighbours tonight.  We are in good company.

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Buenos Noches, from the Sea of Cortez.

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.

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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.

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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.

 

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

 

 

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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)

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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