Sunday, December 31, 2006

31 December 2006 - Bahia Concepcion

In the morning we headed to the restaurant in our hotel for the bottomless cup of coffee (and some eggs topped with slices of ham and possibly American cheese). It tasted slightly better than it looked. The coffee worked though.

Then we wanted to stay in our room for another night and confusion followed. There was some Spanish confusion, but mostly it was a procedural problem. It seemed that 2 other people needed to check out before we'd be allow to stay. They wouldn't be able to tell us for another hour or so.

We drove out to the Mission. The Mission was closed but cool looking. It was up on a hill too and looked out over the palm trees and the river. We spent some time on a small lookout nearby looking at the vista.

Back at the hotel we were told staying another day was 'no problem'. So we headed for the beach.

We drove south to the Bahia Concepcion. The road wound along a coast with beautiful coves along the way. The concept of beach camping started to become clear with many of the beach fronts filled with RVs and 4WDs. The beach was then turned to a parking lot. It wasn't particularly appealing.

Hungry ("100 times hungry" said Kelly) we stopped at a restaurant built right on the beach called Bertha's. We were the only people there but it took about 30 minutes to get quesadillas. I tried quesotacos which, at least at this establishment could be described either as quesadillas with meat, or tacos with cheese. The food was easily the worst we've had but at least it allowed us to proceed to the beaches. We finally made it to El Requeson beach, described as "one of the 10 best beaches in Mexico", which must mean that there aren't very nice beaches in Mexico. It was pretty but full of campers and the wind really had picked up. We walked out to the islands which were attached to the beach via a sand bridge and Kelly was able to do some sand play while Peter and I relaxed. On our way back North we stopped at Coyote Beach which was recommended by some Americans at the restaurant. We got a nice spot on the beach to ourselves and Kelly played in the waves until the sun disappeared.

Back at the hotel we were able to get Kelly to nap and Peter and I were able to enjoy a beer on the patio outside our room while we worked on this journal. It was nice to be able to get Kelly a nap and not have to be hanging out with her. Peter and I also took turns taking little walks around town. When he came back he had news that there was a big party being set up at the gymnasium a block away (it was New Year's Eve). This would prove to be a problem.

When Kelly woke up we took a walk around town and finally decided to eat dinner at our hotel. When we went into dinner around 7 there was one group ordering and the rest of the restaurant was empty. By the time we had ordered, the whole restaurant was full of Americans out for a nice New Year's Eve dinner. We ate steak and some kind of fish we'd never heard of in front of a fire, and finally had a couple of margaritas (good). When our bills came, we got celebratory crowns and horns-it was actually a fun, festive atmosphere.

The very LOUD music of the party started around 10 pm, just after we got Kelly to sleep. We managed to fall asleep for awhile but woke up just before midnight and heard them playing a Mexican version of Auld Lang Syne. The loud music went on and we finally slept again for awhile. I woke up some time later and the music was still going on-I checked my watch and it was 5:20. It finally ended around 6:00! Now that's a party. We had it pretty bad but there was a hotel adjacent to the party which must have been unbearable.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

30 December 2006 - Guerrero Negro to Mulege

Peter and I decided that since we had already missed the 8 am whale watching trip and we wanted to reach Mulege, maybe we would try to do whale watching on the way back. We drove down to the nearest whale watching place (at an American-style hotel) and spoke with a man there. He agreed that waiting would be better since there were few whales in the cove at the time. We also determined that Jan 1st they wouldn't be operating since they couldn't get down the road (it's controlled by the big salt company that "runs" the town). The restaurant next door had a very pleasant outdoor patio so we stopped for coffee and breakfast which were both good.

Back on the road, we put down some miles, or at least it felt like it. Around noon we arrived in San Ignacio, an oasis town with a river and lots of palm trees and an old colonial town square. There was a place called Rice and Beans advertising itself as a SCORE destination so we decided to give it a try. We had a pretty good standard Mexican meal on the veranda and hit the road again. The next town was Santa Rosalia which had some interesting decrepit structures and apparently a French colonial town square but Kelly was sleeping so we kept moving. Finally we made it to Mulege around 4 and checked into a very quaint hotel with palm trees.

Friday, December 29, 2006

29 December 2006 - San Vicente to Guerrero Negro

Yes, there was no hot shower, even after letting the water run a LONG time as suggested by the hotel keeper. We ran into him outside while packing up and asked "Is there anywhere around here to get a cup of coffee?" He directed us inside and we had a very pleasant cup of coffee (probably called something like "cafe americano" with him and his family. He showed us pictures of a recent road trip he had taken "down" Baja, and we made simple conversation with his wife (who spoke no English) and daughters (who spoke some). We headed out feeling renewed by a night's sleep and the warm feelings from a very sweet family.

We stopped at a Baja institution, Mama Espinosa's in El Rosario, for lunch. The lobster burritos and fish tacos were really quite good. Leaving ER is supposedly leaving "civilized" Baja for the wild south.

We finally started to make some time on our drive, even though it was much hillier than expected. It was a landscape filled with rocks and cactus. There were no gas stations. No ATMs.

We weren't sure we were going to do it but we pulled into Guerrero Negro just before dark (now about 6 since due to the time change as we entered Baja California Sur). GN is a bustling place, or at least it was Friday night of the New Year's weekend. The town itself was hard to deal with-a busy divided road and it seemed like we were always on the wrong side. We selected a hotel to try and secured a room which was kind of natty Spanish but clean enough. Of course a group of rowdy young men checked in next door but they left around 9 and we had ear plugs to help when they returned very late. On our way to the bank we spotted a pizza place so decided to try pizza in order to break up the relentless "Mexican food". The Hawaiian pizza we got was actually quite good, though we still went to sleep feeling a little sad-GN is not a very picturesque place.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

28 December 2006 - First day in Mexico

We drove into Mexico with plenty of expectations of what it would be like. Only 20 miles south of the Peets we sat drinking coffee earlier in the morning we entered Mexico (without having to stop for anyone) and most of those ideas proved wrong. I thought that being so close to San Diego -- to the US border -- at least the first part of Mexico would be more American than it was. Perhaps more american, in reality, translates to more crappy. But things around it were instantly Mexican. The cinderblock constructions of half completed buildings, the roadway with fast moving trucks and woman with grubby children running across it.

But initially, or at least for the first hour or so, we were isolated in our car and its sealed windows. Tijuana passed by on the left, the multiple walls and fences of the border to the right. Our first contact with anyone was the toll collectors as we took the 1D motor way south to Ensenada. We paid for the tolls in US dollars.


At Ensenada we swung hard right and pulled up down the road from Immigration office to get our tourist card for travel south. It turns out that either every piece of information we had about what we needed to do for our card was wrong, or there was a good local scam going here. We had to pay a fine ($5 each, but not Kelly) for not getting our card at the border, and pay another $5 each for the forms needed to pay our fine! In addition we had to pay for our cards ($25 each). The worst part was the 2 hours it took to get the forms, pay our fine at the bank (of course the fine needed to be paid in cash) and get the authorities to stamp it. And there were only about 5 others trying to do the same thing.

We drove around Ensenada looking for a bank for a while until finally finding some place to park. The scene was pretty crazy. Out of the car we walked down the street to find a restaurant but soon entered the touristy zone (you could tell: it was labeled with a sign, it was full of bars with thumping music, and people started to beg or try to sell us necklaces) so we beat a retreat to what looked like a nice enough little restaurant a few blocks back.

We ordered and Patty and Kelly headed to the bathroom. I sipped my bottle of coke. Then suddenly I caught some movement out of the corner of my eye. A rat, a big fury one, came flying by and headed towards the back of the restaurant. Right then Patty and Kelly came out of the bathroom and stepped into its path. It stopped. They stopped. Patty considered whether she was going to have to kick it. Kelly looked it straight in the eye then leapt up into Patty's arms. The rat spotted an opening and headed left (with the restaurant staff in hot pursuit), Patty and Kelly headed right.


We drove south, no longer with a toll road, and the progress slowed. One town after another brought the speed limit down and suspension busting speed bumps made sure you kept to them. It seemed we'd never get anywhere.

With the sun setting low we decided we'd had enough for the day so decided to find some place to stay. It happened to be San Vincente. The hotel owner was really nice and had three little girls. We checked into a pretty bare room which seemed to not have hot water, but was basically clean and cheap. We walked across to the local park. The frontage roads to the highway were dirt filled with activity, children, stray dogs, pickup trucks coming and going.

We picked up some yogurt at a market, Kelly ate a hotdog from a roadside stand, and I had one of the best tacos I've ever had a taco sta

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

27 December 2006 - San Diego

We woke up in San Diego to pouring rain as a fast moving Pacific storm blasted through the area. Once the rain finished the wind remained. The beach seemed unlikely. As did getting a run in.


We often seek out the local Peets when traveling. If there is one. This has worked out pretty well as it both gets us our coffee and has often led us to a more interesting area of a new city. Today's excursion took us to the Hillcrest area of San Diego which is an area which actually has a little soul: filled with interesting shops and appealing restaurants. Plus, we found a secret route between the back of our motel and the area, so we've hardly had to acknowledge the fact that our motel is on some horrible hotel circle alongside a freeway. We just duck out the back, head up the hill past some UCSD parking lots, and we're in a different world. Fun.


Our other favorite place is REI. After Peets we drove out to one of the REI's in San Diego to grab a few things before heading into Mexico tomorrow.

The closer we got, the more suburban it got until I would officially describe it as suburban hell. Giant single family homes popping up in clusters of monopoly houses. The REI itself is across the road from the Walmart in the 'town square'. The town square was in fact a mall with one of those pretend streets and a bunch of stores you'd never need.

Is it just me, or has REI sunk to new levels?

Inside the REI itself was fine and the man working the trail running shoes really knew what he was talking about. The two of us talked motion control.
We got what we needed and a few extra 'Life is good' hats and got out of there.


We drove from REI to Coronado Island, taking a freeway within fleeing distance of Mexico. We saw out first watch out of illegal immigrants running across the road sign. We drove by the amphibious base, home of the Navy SEALs including a rather fun looking obstacle course. Its a pity they don't have demonstrations, because that would be worth turning up for. Perhaps one lucky member of the audience could get their throat slit. Seems, though, that San Diego is a pretty cushy place. Do you want to reward the best by stationing them in paradise, or send them somewhere more brutal to toughen them up?

We parked by the Coronado Hotel and walked around. Kelly played gamely on the beach for a while in 50 mph winds wiping sand at her as she tried to use her little plastic shovel and bucket.


For lunch we hit the main San Diego waterfront for the major tourist spot: Anthony's Fish Shack. With the waves and gale force winds, plus it being the holidays, the tourists were down and it was actually pretty fun. The seagulls still lined up the beg, and the fish and chips were still pretty good.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

26 December 2006 - Lost Hills to San Diego

We woke up at a place called Lost Hills, which is basically a few motels and fast food restaurants on one side of I-5, in the middle of nowhere. The view was unremarkable.


We got back in the car and headed south and didn't stop until LA. We took the Santa Monica freeway and headed into Venice to hit the Rose Cafe. Pulling up into a parking spot we realized we were parked in front of Digital Domain. Now that is strange, since I didn't even know where it was! Is the universe telling me something.

We got some much needed coffee and food there. It was too late, a headache had already set in thanks to a morning without coffee and driving right across LA.


We returned to the 405 and rolled south to San Diego. We walked around La Jolla to check that out. It was sort of like Pasadena, only on the beach. I'm not sure we exactly liked it. It was also swarming in tourists. Fat ones. Ones that smoke and say "I don't think I can go in there" "Why?" "Because it's California". It was true, the mall walkway was too narrow to get the required distance away from the doorways.

We ate at a diner called "Harry's". When we walked in we felt like we'd been in many places like it before. That we'd sit down and some haggard old waitress named "Angel" would call us "Honey" a lot before taking our order. Most of all the food would be horrible. But it wasn't like that at all. The food was good and I wasn't called "Honey" once.

Once back in the car Kelly fell asleep. She was toasted. We drove around looking for the Salk Institute to see the Louis Kahn building. Patty and I took turns looking around it while Kelly slept. I would have liked to have taken the tour, it was truly an impressive masterpiece.

From there we followed to coast down to Mission Beach and watched the sunset. It was so spectacular that it seemed the whole town had stopped what they were doing to watch it. Every access point to look out over the ocean had people, standing still and silent, looking out to the sea and sky filled with color. Finally we parked and watched it too.


Later we found our hotel and had dinner at a pizza place in the Gas Light district. Tourist central, but not too crazy being the holidays. The brick sidewalks and gas lamps are a new addition, but the buildings themselves are old and some are not like anything we'd seen before. Our restaurant was basically ordinary in every way, except the service, which sucked when it filled up with large groups of college basketball girls. (Patty and I had pizza with weird artichoke hearts and cheese on it. Kelly has angle hair pasta with butter.)

Bed couldn't come too soon.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

This is a test. Repeat. This is a test.

Did I mention it's cold here? And starved for daylight. But then I'm spoiled by living in North California. Really it's not cold or dark at all. It's not like I'm out running in 3 degrees. It just feels that way.

This is really a test. You can type a document in Google Docs (formally Writely) and then post to this blog from there. Somehow that seems like it could be useful. For one, a dedicated word processor should be a better environment for composing text. And for another, it keeps my postings with my other documents.

However, adding images could be easier. Once I download an image from my D70, it's a huge 3k image. Just as well I don't have a 12 Mega-pixel camera, or there'd be even more pixels to deal with. Then I need to add it to the text. But I can't just drag and drop it, and the browser for mechanism is docs is pretty basic. Resizing needs to be typed in as pixels, both x and y. No way to fix an aspect ratio that I can see.

I'll try the same process from Blogger and see how that is.

Heading down south

"What are you doing for Christmas?" asks my co-worker.
"Heading south."

Truth is, we plan to drive south until the water temperature is over 80 degrees, or we run out of time, or land. We're headed to Baja California, leaving Christmas day. We have two weeks total, including 10 days of Mexican car insurance to play with, a 2001 Toyota 4Runner to get us down there, plus an almost four year old to entertain the whole way.

And we're not stopping at no Lego Land.