Our crossing back into the U.S. was uneventful from our trip with the Xscapers. We went early and we went alone. It was easy breezy. We had a lot of ground to cover as we were due to meet up with another rally to drive back to Mexico. Say what?! This time we were headed to Mexico with “Chapter 8: the Mexican Connection.” The parent group to the Xscapers is called the Escapees. They are traditionally more mature folks who are retired. Their organization has different groups you can join called “Chapters.” Each Chapter has a different function/role/place they travel to. Chapter 8 travels to Mexico. We went with them last year to San Felipe with Kevin’s grandparents Ralph and Lorraine and had a great time. This year we were going with Kevin’s Dad and Step Mom Verla. This year it was a rolling caravan with several different stops along the way. This year promised to be more adventurous and interesting. This years trip did not disappoint
Total length: 21 days.
Total miles: 476.5 (762.4 km) Potrero Park to Mario’s. Roundtrip: 953
We all met at a county park outside San Diego: Potrero Park. Kevin and Verla met us there by Uber (they CAN use a smart phone after all!). We parked and tried to get organized. It’s tricky to simultaneously clean the beach sand out of your camper from one trip to Mexico while prepping for another one! We stocked up at Walmart. We did laundry. We watched the Superbowl game. We met Lynn and Michael.
*Lynn & Michael*–Lynn and Michael are Australians who are visiting the US traveling around in their Class A RV they call ‘the bus.’ Before we had even unhitched our RV at Potrero Park Lynn approached us to introduce herself and told us ‘she loved children and had requested to be in our group.’ (We were the only RV on this trip with kids). We didn’t know her but she seemed nice. Because we were in the middle of unpacking we didn’t get a chance to chat with her so she stopped back later with her husband Michael to re-introduce herself. Turns out they are such funny, kind people who genuinely love playing with kids. They were in our group and every chance we got we parked right next to them. Both Eloise and Eliza loved playing in their ‘bus’. (Michael nicknamed Eloise Unicorn #1 and Eliza Unicorn #2 because he kept mixing up their names haha)
Part of Chapter 2’s mission is make you comfortable to travel to Mexico on your own if you’ve never been before. We attended numerous pre-travel meetings detailing road conditions, expectations, and the travel itinerary. The group of about 43 rigs was divided into smaller travel groups 1-6. We were in group 4 and Eloise picked the name for our group: the Unicorns. Our camper was Group 4 Unicorn #5. Dividing everyone up helps keep caravan sizes manageable. For this rally we used CB radios for communication and had a “nobody left behind” policy (unlike our other rally ha-ha). (If you couldn’t see the person behind you in your mirrors then you were to slow down and use the radio to reach out to the them and radio ahead for the group to adjust its speed.) We took a day trip to the border to get our tourist visa and exchange money the day before we left and enjoyed some tacos and ice cream too in Tecate. Finally we were all ready to go.
The border crossing was smooth and quick. For this caravan there was no police escort waiting for us at the border. We all had maps/GPS/everyone’s cell phone/contact info and a plan to all meet at our first stop.
Destination #1: Zoologico Parque del Nino Jersey, Guadalupe valley, MX. This area is known as the heart of the mexican wine country and we were here for 2 nights. This place was amazing. It was a huge zoo/children’s park that was closed to the public on the days we were there. We were free to explore it at our leisure. So cool. The animals were active. The playground was huge and amazing. The staff was friendly and helpful. It was our first stop but still now even after the trip was over it was one of my favorites and certainly little Eliza’s favorite as well. We could hear the lion roaring from our RV. While were were there we took a day trip over to L.A. Cetto Winery where we toured the winery and enjoyed a wine tasting with tapas. We also check out a much smaller winery nearby with beautiful views of the valley were we all relaxed just the 6 of us.
Destination #2: La Jolla Beach Camp, Punta Banda (near Ensenada). We were here for 8 nights. Amazing beach camping. We were right on the beach. This was a great location for exploring the area. We went to Carnival with Lynn and Michale, we visited La Boufadora (The blow hole), we celebrated Valentine’s Day with a nice dinner and all the caravan members gave Eloise and Eliza Valentine’s on Valentine’s Day (organized by Lynn) . We also played Just Dance on Nintendo in our RV with Lynn and Michael and we haven’t laughed that hard in a long time. So much fun. Its also here Chapter 2 held its annual Charity Auction where they raised +$10,000 for various charities. One really neat and interesting point here was the La Jolla Beach was a thermal beach so as you dug into the sand you could see and feel warm hot geothermal water bubble up. Kevin and his dad dug several beach ‘hot tubs’ for us to sit and relax in. It was very neat. You had to be careful tho: the water was so hot in some spots on the beach that you could easily burn yourself!
Destination #3: Molino Viejo, San Quintin. We were here for 3 nights, we dry camped in the parking lot of the restaurant Molino Viejo. It was right on the bay and Kevin, Verla and Eloise went out in the Kayak while Kevin’s Dad tried his hand at fly fishing from the shore (he wasn’t able to catch anything tho!) We enjoyed a delicious dinner at Molino Viejo with some hilarious Chapter 2 karaoke and celebrated Kevin’s Birthday! 🙂 We had an interesting breakfast as the restaurant next door: Don Eddie’s where the main waiter was certainly a character and we waited over an hour for breakfast?? haha we were on Mexican time. We also had the chance to visit San Quintin and take in the local culture, enjoy a delicious lunch, and stock up on groceries.
*Topes* –Topes are speed bumps. Its important that if you ever drive in Mexico that you are aware that topes are all throughout Mexico: on both small town roads and major state highways. They come in varying heights, from minuscule to mountainous and are both marked and unmarked. Yes, that’s right there are giant UNMARKED speed bumps in Mexico. They are typically when entering and when leaving a town/city but not always!
Destination #4: El Pabellon Beach RV Park. We were here for 1 night and we all parked right on the ocean dunes camping. On our way here we hit an unmarked tope going 40+ miles per hour. We launched off of that thing and hit hard. We shattered the kids back closet shelving. Once we parked and saw what a mess had been made Kevin and his dad went right to work repairing it which of course meant driving a few towns over for wood and other supplies. Meanwhile Verla and the girls and I walked around the sand dunes and dipped our toes in the ocean. We enjoyed a yummy dinner of tamales here as well but the ocean breeze kept things slightly chilly.
Destination #5: Rancho Santa Ynez. We were here for 2 nights. We hiked out to an ancient Mexican heritage site. We enjoyed a traditional Mexican meal and enjoyed the company of our new Aussie friends.
Looks like roads in Maine? ha-ha
*Roads* –Let me interject right here that we had been warned ahead of time that the roads in the Baja in some places were highly questionable with big potholes but if we went slow they were ‘fine.’ We were told by the leaders of this trip that the roads were in the worst condition between Santa Ynez and Guerrero Negro. One of the descriptions we received from the group leaders was this: “Allow 6 hours for driving, slow, narrow road, no shoulder, some potholes, can be a demanding drive.” If you go by that description you think: Oh cool, totally do-able. Well let me tell you it was a nightmare of a drive that we never should have taken our camper on. The roads were quite narrow, no shoulder, winding, HUGE potholes and there is no room to maneuver around them because there are giant tractor trailer trucks coming right at you from the other direction. (One RV from our group went off the road (no one was hurt) and another persons side view mirror was shattered when it was struck by a tractor trailer truck.)
Destination #6: Mario’s in Guerrero Negro. We were here for 3 nights. When we arrived and unhitched it was immediately clear to Kevin that there was RV damage. One of our hydraulic hoses had come loose and fluid was leaking everywhere. And upon further inspection we also broke an airbag and a leafspring. Our camper is big. Its heavy. And the roads were like a wash board with giant potholes every 100 feet. Again Kevin and his dad went right to work trying to assess the damage and figure out what needed to be done. Mario’s campground called their local repairmen and within an hour we had a new leafspring. It was a hand pressed leafspring that Kevin did not have much confidence in but it was our only option. The next day was our long awaited whale tour day and it did not disappoint.
Thankfully Eliza slept almost the entire trip and didn’t flail about in the tiny boat which held about 12-15 people. Eloise loved it and had fun “calling” for the whales to come near our boat with Lynn. Everyone on our boat was able to touch a whale. What an amazing experience!
We enjoyed a nice dinner at Mario’s and had a farewell visit with Lynn and Michael; parting is such sweet sorrow. Kevin made the decision that we were to leave the caravan a full day early because we had to get Kevins Dad and Verla back on time to catch their flight back to Maine, we had a long journey back up to the border, and he knew the roads were rough and that we might need additional repairs.
Unplanned destination #1: Side of the road tire shop. Just short of half way back up to the border disaster struck. The camper started leaning drastically to one side and Kevin knew that the ‘new’ leafspring that we had just put on at Marios was broken. We happened to be within a mile of a roadside tire shop / mechanic who spoke English. Coincidentally we knew friends who had used this shop in the past so we were hopeful. The mechanic did not have a new leafspring however he gave Kevin detailed directions on where to get one. It was a 6 hour round trip journey which Kevin did alone. Kevins Dad, Verla, the girls and I stayed behind in the RV to wait. He returned right on time and the RV was fixed again in no time. While Kevin was gone we made friends with a little 5 year old Mexican girl who came over to play. She did not speak English but we did out best. We shared toys, we all had mac and cheese, and we rode bikes. She was very sweet. Eloise has never been keen on bike riding and before we left we gave her family the bike, some clothes and money and they were very appreciative.
The little girl who lives at the tire shop
We continued along in an uneventful manner until….
Not quite this bad thank goodness!
Unplanned destination #2: Stuck at the border. There are many options on where to cross the border back to the US. Kevin had done the research and had decided to cross at Otay Mesa. It reportedly wasn’t that busy of a crossing and other RVs had done it. We made it, it was congested but we also had the bad luck of hitting it right around 5pm. After an hour in line we finally make it up to the border agent. All of our paperwork was in order and were cleared to drive through. Slight problem: we were stuck. Our camper was too tall to make it under the overhead roof and too long to make it though their normal exit. For the next 2 hours we totally blocked that lane of the border crossing with our camper while Kevin and his dad unbolted roof ACs, aired the tires down on the trailer, and inched the camper out of this booth. What a mess! When our RV had finally cleared the overhead roof, the border agents helped us exit through a side maintenance exit. The girls were frustrated, tired, and hungry and thankfully fell asleep.
14+ glorious hours later we had finally made it to the RV park and were parked. It was a very adventurous 3 week journey through the Baja but we were glad to be back! 🙂