Sunday, January 28, 2007

Wednesday, January 3, 2007

3rd-4th January 2007 - San Diego, Anza Borrego and Palm Springs

We woke up early to a beautiful San Diego day and headed right away to Peet's for our first espresso in over a week, plus some of the delicious baked goods from the bakery next door (Bread and Cie). It was so nice we were able to sit outside around 7:30. We went back to the hotel and changed clothes and headed towards the beach (Mission) for a run. Peter took off down the path so Kelly and I braved the beach-I say "braved" not because it was anything less than a PERFECT day, but because there were several trucks going back and forth sifting the sand. Maybe there are nicer beaches around San Diego because there was next to nobody there but this was a really nice beach. The sand was completely clean and nice-Kelly had a great time. When Peter returned I asked how it went-it was our first run in over a week-and he reported that it was "like running in paradise". I reported that for us it was "like waiting for him in paradise". I ran down the pathway along the beach and many condos. It really was like running in paradise and when I returned all I could say to Peter was "so what is the downside to living in San Diego?".

Our checkout time was noon so we raced back to the hotel to shower and get out of our room around 12:03. We decided to fuel up ourselves and the car before the projected 90 minute drive to Anza Borrego. I had spotted a Chinese restaurant just down from Peet's so we went there and go broccoli beef and vegetables with tofu. I was having serious vegetable cravings and this did the trick. We fueled the car and hit the highway. The drive out of San Diego was strange-you hit a National Forrest right away and yet there are no trees. Eventually we did some climbing and driving through rolling foothills with large oaks, and then finally hit some dessert.


We drove into Borrego Springs and found the visitor center. Behind the counter were a bunch of senior volunteers who didn't look like they were going to be very useful in helping us figure out where to camp. At some point though I hear this man telling Peter advice about off road driving, here is a great canyon to camp, etc. Apparently this man had been traveling around AB his whole life and had too many recommendations for us even to remember. He came up with once canyon that was just a few miles from the visitor center and since it was nearly 4 and therefore about to get dark, we headed for that.

The drive up to Glorietta canyon was really easy-sandy roads. As we got to the top there were already 2 cars there but on closer inspection, they didn't look like they were camping so we just looked around and waited. We found a very nice spot off of the road and Kelly started scampering around on the rocks. As it got dark I made some dehydrated stragonoff and we settled in to enjoy the spectacular rising of the full moon over the mountains.

It was a relatively warm night but Kelly was excited to get into the tent (we had been promising her camping for nearly 2 weeks) so she and I retired somewhat early. I woke up early and went out to see the sunrise and watch the moon go down. Again it was warm and pleasant. We had coffee as we sat in our chairs and watched the sun light up the mountains and valley.


We drove to the VC to wash up a bit and then drove to the Borrego Palm Canyon. There's a short hike (3 mile round trip) to an oasis up a canyon. It started out well with Kelly scrambling over the rocks as she went. A few hundred yards into it we realized we had forgotten sunscreen and it turned out to be really lucky that I went back to the car for it-the hike lasted a lot longer than we had thought. About halfway through we were having some trouble getting Kelly to keep moving. We had to bribe her with promises of treats, but by about a mile we hit some shade and could see the palm trees so she perked up. The last half mile is along water with some palm trees and she liked that. We had a short break and snack at the end and headed down. Kelly braved the hike down with nearly no complaining at all-in fact she and I ran the last part of it together when I mentioned that there was a Coke waiting for us in the car.

We certainly could have spent more time there-the park is beautiful and we only explored a small amount, but we decided to head to Palm Springs and come back another day. We had lunch in Borrego Springs at a kind of depressing cafe, and hit the road. Kelly napped as we headed to Palm Springs which we entered just as it was getting dark.


We were a little disoriented but spotted a nice looking Motel 6 and decided to see if they had a room. For $60 including tax we decided to take the bargain-most places in PS didn't look too cheap.

There was a pool and hot tub at our hotel so we decided to give Kelly a treat and go for a swim. Even the pool was heated to a comfortable warmth which I enjoyed, and a little time in the hot tub was very welcome for both of us. After a quick shower, we went to the Pizza Hut down the road and had pizza. While driving through town earlier, we had seen that there was some big event being set up so we drove up and went for a walk. One of the main roads was closed and full of hundreds of booths of art, food, etc. It was definitely a scene. Later we found out that every Thursday they have this Farmer's Market type of thing (without the farmers).

Tuesday, January 2, 2007

2nd January 2007 - Guerrero Negro to San Diego

We woke up and had a quick breakfast of yogurt and granola bars. There was a coffee maker in the room so I made some coffee (not so good) and we hit the road headed north. Our plan was to visit Catavina, lunch at Mama Espinosa's, and spend the night in San Quintin. Kelly fell asleep around 10, probably an indication that the New Year's Eve party two nights previous had affected her since the previous night in GN was gloriously quiet.


Just before noon we hit Catavina and pulled down a dirt road north of town to get a closer look at the crazy plants and rocks. Kelly had a great time climbing on rocks while Peter and I finally got a close look at the "upside down carrot" trees-the cirio, and the cardon which look like seguaro cacti but are HUGE. There were actually close to a dozen different types of cacti within a few feet of our car-hopefully we can get back and camp here some time.


We got to El Rosario around 12:30 and eagerly headed to Mama Espinosa's. This time it was fish tacos for me and Peter and quesadillas for Kelly. Peter and I have agreed that we have never had a fish taco that we really liked before but these were great. We also tried once again for "Mexican coffee" and once again were served "regular" coffee with a pitcher of milk. All of the coffee we have been served has been good but not the special brewed-and-poured-with-steamed-milk "Mexican coffee" that we had read about. Sigh. While at lunch Peter suggested maybe we should just make a run for the border. The idea struck me as pretty appealing-we could be back in the USA that night and at Peet's SD again the next morning. We agreed to see how it went since we knew we had a few more military check points to go and the first part of the trip had been very slow. On the positive side, once we hit the outskirts of Ensenada we knew that driving at night wasn't going to be an issue like it was elsewhere in Baja due to the development (lights and the toll highway to Tijuana).

This was actually the emptiest we let the fuel go-getting bolder by the knowledge of where Pemex stations were located for our drive North. We filled up at the station adjacent to Mama Espinosa's and drove on. We stopped only to switch drivers in San Vicente and when we hit the turnoff for the Bahia San Quintin it was still early so we made the decision to press on. We reached the outskirts of Ensenada just as it was getting dark and drove through a see of shadowy dirt as we made our way into town. While leaving Ensenada the previous week, we had spotted a McDonald's so we decided to have a break, go to the bathroom, and give Kelly a break before making the final push to the border and whatever it was that we faced there (the "busiest border crossing in the world"). There was a huge new shopping mall with a brand new McD's, Walmart, Home Dept, etc. We got the Mexican version of a Happy Meal for Kelly (can't remember the name) and ice cream cones for me and Peter. Kelly finished her nuggets and headed for the climbing structure and made friends with a little Mexican girl there. It was with a little sadness that we got back into the car to exit Mexico. This time through Ensenada we drove past the port area so saw where the big cruise ships land-quite a bit fancier than the part of town we had seen on our first stop there. The toll road to Tijuana was just like driving an American highway-wide with lights, reflectors, etc. so we had not trouble with that night driving. Coming through Tijuana we felt a little nervous but it became obvious when we were getting close to the border-suddenly the cars stopped, nearly all had American (California) plates, and there were people walking on the freeway between cars trying to sell caftans (?) and snacks. After about half an hour we made it to the booth of our lane. The immigration official asked us a few questions and even he was impressed with how far we had come "Guerrero Negro, that's a long way away"-and he hears answers to that question all day. It was a little strange for me because he Mexican and even had an accent so I kept staring at his uniform to confirm to myself that he was an American immigration official. Once again there was NO sign of any Mexican government presence at all-we were told we needed to surrender our tourist cards when exiting the country but to whom?

We drove on to our previous hotel in San Diego and even though it was empty now it was more expensive than the previous week but in any case it was a welcome sight. We got a room two doors from our previous room and were able to transfer Kelly from the car to her bed without much disturbance (she reported the next day that she didn't remember it at all). I made a cup of noodles in the microwave and Peter ate a couple of granola bars as we sat in the near darkness and tried to readjust to our by now strange surroundings (i.e. the US).

Monday, January 1, 2007

1 January 2007 - Mulege to Guerrero Negro

We woke on the first day of the year in Mulege. The woman at the hotel restaurant was particularly grumpy but we figured that nobody in Mulege got any sleep the previous night. After coffee we loaded up the car and headed North. Our first stop was Santa Rosalia-the former French mining town. We had a major disappointment when we found the French bakery (yes-Mexican baguettes) closed, presumably due to the holiday. We did manage to get a look at the Eiffel-designed church in town and some other really cool, odd buildings. Kelly was too hot or tired or too something (I'm sure she didn't sleep so well either) so we got a quick snack.


The next town North was San Ignacio which we were also interested in seeing due to the interesting mission on the square. It was a nice afternoon with Mexican famililes hanging out on the square and visiting the mission. We had a picnic of tuna and crackers since nothing much was open.

The drive North was beautiful again-spectacular wildflowers in a desert full of seguarro cactus and Yucca/Joshua trees. We also experienced our first military checkpoint-so far so good-just took a quick look in the back and asked a few questions.


We arrived in Guerrero Negro around 5 pm and stopped at the nice hotel which we had breakfasted at previously (La Marinella) and got a room. It was a little much ($50) but definitely the nicest room we have had in Mexico and there even seems to be hot (warm?) water. Unfortunately the pizza restaurant proved to be closed for the holiday so we decided to eat at the restaurant at our hotel. We had a very good meal of halibut and carne asada.