It seems that much of the time I am obliged to begin a blog entry with an apology over how long it has been since the last one. And the apology is usually as warranted as this one is. While there hasn’t been much going on that I would have regarded as reportable – with the possible exception of our visit to the States in December – the days seem to get away from me. Or, is it a problem with my prioritizing? Regardless of how I choose to assign blame, no matter how creative the excuse(s) I come up with, it always boils down to me. I didn’t do it. So now I am – finally.
There, that feels a little better. I’ve assuaged my guilt some so let’s get on to the sharing……
Christmas Holiday Road Trip
On December 6th we began our drive north to visit family and friends for the holidays. Driving Mexico Highway 1 is an interesting event and in the post dated September 28, 2013 I described it from the perspective of first timers. This was to be our second passage we are now seasoned veterans. OK, maybe not “seasoned” veterans but we did have a better idea of what to expect.
However, we were not destined to get out of town cleanly. Nope. While stepping from the boat with a load of bags for the car one end of my camera tripod caught on a piece of hardware without my realizing it. That fact revealed itself with a big splash as the tripod dove into the water. Dang! Our departure had to wait while I dug out mask and fins and went diving for the errant tripod. I couldn’t help but think how much more tolerable this was going to be than if it had happened in Alameda. Hah! That would not have been me searching the cold, murky waters – I’d be waiting for the diver to come search. But we weren’t in Alameda and this wasn’t bad. In pretty short order the escapee was on the dock and enduring a thorough fresh water rinse. Now where were we. Oh, yeah, we gotta get on the road.
We were headed straight for the SF Bay area so planned for some pretty long days in order to keep down the travel related expenses and on that score we did pretty well – making long days out of it that is. The first night was spent in Santa Rosalia making day 1 our easiest of the trip. This time however, we did a little advance planning and secured advance booking. On our last visit here we rolled into town armed only with naïve confidence and ended up paying a premium price for a decidedly un-premium property. This time was different – better different – and we enjoyed a comfortable and quiet nights rest at Las Casitas.
An early departure on day 2 revealed that grabbing something to eat might not happen. We grudgingly settled on an gas station mini-mart expecting to make do with some cellophane wrapped sugar pill, at least they would have coffee for me and soda for Judy. But the god’s of breakfast smiled on us that day as a young lady was delivering hot, homemade empanadas and burritos as we walked in the door. Day 2 was starting out well as we enjoyed our breakfast while climbing the twisty, windy road out of Santa Rosalia.
Having only fueled at the highway Pemex when passing through Guerrero Negro last time, we decided this time we’d take a few moments and travel off the highway the short distance into town and have a look. We were surprised and a little impressed. Guerrero Negro is a small but thriving pacific coastal town boasting a commercial seaport and a Navy base, that plus many appealing restaurants and hotels. Nice. It was a little early for lunch so we fueled and pressed on while making mental notes for the trip south.
Lunch at Catavina
Catavina rates a mark on the highway map but is more a small collection of buildings than any sort of town. Maybe it’s a village. Regardless, it is so small that it does not have a gas station. With miles and miles before you can find gas in either direction, a gas station might be useful here but there ain’t one. HOWEVER, you can get gas. All towns and villages along the highways in Mexico have speed bumps to force motorists to moderate their speed when passing through. Catavina is so small that it only has one such speed bump (called Topes here – pronounced toe-pay) and enterprising locals strategically perch themselves right at that tope offering 5 gallon jerry jugs of gasoline for sale. I can only imagine what they charge but if you were there and in need of gas I guess you’d pay whatever you had to.
Judy had noticed a small hotel and across the street from it a little restaurant on our last pass through and planned on us checking them out this time. We stopped at the hotel for a look (simple but clean and perfectly fine) and then it was lunch time. The staff consisted of a Mother and her very cute but business like 9 year old daughter and the atmosphere was pretty rustic. But the food was good and we got a good dose of local character to boot.
Stop early or press on
We planned to end day 2 at San Quintin but we had already fueled and were ready to check in to the hotel by 3:30. That seemed a little early to stop and with day 3 planned to be our longest and Ensenada just 120 miles up the road, we talked ourselves into continuing on. What we did not know at the time was that there were 4 construction zones and a military checkpoint between us and Ensenada. Add in fairly heavy traffic and the drive that we expected to take 2 hours and a bit actually took 3 and a half hours putting us into Ensenada well after dark. That was the bad news. The good news was that we did good by getting all of that behind us rather than seeing it become part of day 3.
The hotel we came up with at Ensenada was a lucky find. An aging but sprawling resort, the Hotel Estero Beach is lightly occupied at this time of year which made it seem almost unnaturally quiet. But, the rooms were huge and nicely appointed and the restaurant served good food reasonably priced. We came and went under cover of darkness but made plans to see it in daylight when we came back southbound.
Crossing the border at Tecate had been easy when we came through southbound a few months ago but how would it be going northbound? Not very bad at all is the answer. Of course, with these things timing plays a big role in the experience but we found the backup to be about 20 minutes long and, when we got to the head of the line, our USCBP agent was actually pleasant. Much, much better than the long lines at Tijuana.
And just like that (it sort of seemed) it was over. We had been on the road for about 12 ½ hours when we pulled up to Randy and Angela’s home in Fairfield, tired but none too worse for the wear.
Over the next several weeks we will be catching up with family and friends in California and in Arizona, renewing our passports, and, as long as we are here, we might as well schedule a bunch of doctor stuff too.