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.


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.


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.


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


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.


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…… 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.



Sierra Nevada Splendor

Before you read this….find Yosemite on a map.  Do you see all those mountains that surround it and extend north and south?  That is the Sierra Nevada range, and our playground for the next few days.

Said good-bye to Mount Diablo, and drove 3 hours East through almond groves.  This was a tad melancholic, as we have mixed feelings about mass farming and monocultures. There are 800,000 acres of almond trees here.  It’s quite nuts that 1.5 MILLION bee hives are trucked here for a 2 week window to ensure pollination occurs – the largest pollination event on earth.  Many cite this as a possible factor contributing to the widespread colony collapse.  Ya think?

We had some reservations about Day Two of our Road Trip.  Not campground reservations, but rather some concerns about visiting Yosemite National Park.  Many had warned us that Yosemite Valley (where all the iconic images of Yosemite are from) is hyper-orchestrated, Disney-like, and infested with oversized RV’s and oversized people.

Our route took us right past Yosemite Valley, so we took a chance.  And wow did it ever pay off.


We hit Yosemite Nat’l Park at dusk which was haunting.  Grim remnants of the mass devastation from the recent Rim FIre were everywhere and as far as your eyes could see. More than 400 square miles were burned.

Camped illegally in a cute gas station nestled amongst the Sequoias at Crane Flat.  The Park was full.  We learned the next morning we dodged a hefty fine for sleeping in our vehicle, and avoided being shooed on our way.  Being kicked out would have been a 2+ hour drive out of the Park.


Next morning we drove in the dark 1.5 hours to Glacier Point to watch the sunrise.  We had the place – and the road – to ourselves.  Yosemite unveiled all of her beauty to us as the night dissolved….

We had seen all the photos, but were completely unprepared for what we saw.  It’s breathtaking!  The size of the rock faces, the depth of the valleys, the views, the sunrise….. we were blown away.  This is NOT to be missed.  After the sunrise, we skipped through the Valley with all the RVers still asleep – with visions of steak and eggs dancing in their head, and headed up out of the valley.

ImageAfter this epic start to our day, we headed on Hwy 120 – the scenic Tioga Pass – to the Eastern Sierra Nevadas.  Boy are we lucky ducks! This pass closes from later October to early June each year. The road summits at nearly 10,000 feet and gets socked in with snow.  We drove under clear blue sunny skies and unusually warm temps.

The next morning the Tioga Pass closed and won’t likely re-open til next Spring.  Lucky we are…!

ImageThe bus chugged along and was very happy, even on big hill ascents.  As we climbed into higher altitude, she did become sluggish due to the thinner air.  We crested at 9,945 feet at the Eastern entrance.  You see, Mount Whitney (highest point in the contiguous US) is part of this range which is a bit south of here.  Most of the peaks surrounding the Tioga were at 12,000 ft and higher.

Lunch was a delight at the Whoa Nelly Deli located in the most unexpected place – a Mobil Gas station.  This place is apparently famous and Gourmet magazine wrote about it. We had fish tacos and their famous buffalo meatloaf while overlooking Mono Lake at Lee Vining, CA.  Absolutely splendid.  Once again, we snuck in before closing time, as it was their last day of operation for the season.  Whoa Nelly shuts down when the Tioga shuts down.

ImageOnto Mammoth where the splendor continued.  Just west of the ski town of Mammoth are two gems – The Minarets and Devil’s Postpile.  The Minarets are jagged peaks located in the areas designated as Ansel Adams Wilderness.  The view is spectacular and worth the drive at sunset.  Descend 1,500 feet to see the Devil’s Postpile – one of the best examples of columnar basalt in 60 ft. vertical hexagonal posts.  It’s hard to believe this was created naturally by our earth.   The Pacific Crest Trail (or ‘PCT’) and the John Muir Trail pass right through the Postpile.  Having just read Cheryl Strayed’s, ‘Wild’, it was fascinating to stand on the PCT and imagine her journey from the Moajve to Oregon.

Luxury ‘glamping’ at a beautiful hotel in Mammoth – and a chance for a shave, a scrub and a warm shower.  And a chance for Marigold to have a break.   Spendid evening indeed.

We just woke up and looked out the window.  Major snow storm in Mammoth, we are at 8,000 feet and 3 inches on the ground.  Today should be very interesting……