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Archive for December, 2009

First, a picture of a street musician the day after Christmas. He played 1960s oldies – pretty good, too. There were lots of people in town having fun, especially the kids riding their new scooters. I even saw a few brave souls in the cold water.

It was so cold here last night I almost thought I was back in Coffeyville, Kansas. I think you’d call it at least a “two dog night.” Lacking those critters, I made do with three blankets, a couple of pillows stuck between me and the outside wall of this rig, a pair of socks, and a sweatshirt over pajamas. Tonight I’m ready for it, having cleared out the space under the bed in front of one of the furnace vents, just in case. Warm socks, along with sweat pants and a sweat shirt, and an extra blanket, just in case. So far it’s okay. My wish is that the wind will calm down a little and the temperature will get just a bit warmer.

Lots of beach walking today, at both high and low tides. This afternoon I went on my normal low-tide shell walk and found more and more sand dollars – very fragile. However, today something new was added – a hermit crab inside a very large shell.

I saw the shell down the beach surrounded by several seagulls. When I walked closer, the gulls flew off and I thought – aha! A huge shell for my collection. I picked it up and discovered a large hermit crab inside. Hmm. Didn’t want to pry him out even though the shell would have been wonderful for my collection. So, I put the shell down near the waves and watched. The crab slowly inched its way almost out of the shell, first legs and feet, then tentacles. However, for some reason it got spooked and drew everything back into the shell, doing this several times. Darn, I hadn’t brought my camera. So, I placed the shell quite a distance from the incoming tide and made the long walk back to get the camera.

David was walking toward the beach when I returned, so I invited him to take a look. We did a fast walk back down to the shell and continued to watch what the crab would do. It moved a little, but then stayed inside. When I put the shell into the water, I guess it was waiting for the right time. Actually, I’m not sure it could get out as the crab looked quite large, at least its legs and claws. I took several pictures, and we decided to just leave it in the water. Although it would have been a great shell for my collection, I figured the crab needed its home more than I needed the shell. I’m wondering if it will still be there tomorrow and will check at low tide.

We bought a kilo (about 2.2 pounds) of extra large shrimp today from Joe, the fisherman with the net stretched out into the ocean here. They’re probably the biggest shrimp I’ve ever seen – at least three to four inches long shelled. For 200 pesos, about $16, I’ve got enough in the freezer for at least three more meals for two, not including the ones we cooked tonight. Very simple, too – just sautéed in butter, a little garlic, and some lime juice. Delicious with rice, a tomato I bought yesterday, and some wine.

What a hard life.

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The sun goes down here around 4:30 PM and it’s usually dark about an hour or so after that. If I had electricity here, other than a noisy generator in my motorhome, I’d still be reading, watching a movie, or doing something using that power source. My house batteries – two marine batteries – are old and in poor condition, and do not keep a charge for long. Therefore, in order to maintain enough power to keep the igniter for the refrigerator in gas mode working, I use lights and other electrical things as little as possible. We’re making a trip up to Yuma next week for two new batteries for me and one for Ruben, the caretaker here. In talking with him yesterday, I found out that he is also having the same kind of problems, but batteries here cost about twice as much as in the States. He offered to install mine since he’s very knowledgeable about things like that.

In the meantime, living according to when the sun rises and sets is an interesting experience. I’ve done it before when tent camping, but not for so long at a time. For one thing, I’m getting PLENTY of sleep, probably too much. I’ve always been an early riser, so it’s not a problem to get up in time to take a walk on the beach and watch the sun come up over the ocean. This morning I discovered where the large brown pelicans hang out early in the morning and watched them for a long time. I also saw at least two larger mammals in the water, perhaps small whales, but more likely dolphins. They swam very close to shore, among the pelicans.

The sunrise begins as a faint orange glow in the east, over the rocks, and that glow becomes brighter and brighter until the sun fully rises. It’s a time for walking slowly, for climbing on the rocks, for discovering new places, for seeking out more beautiful shells and small stones for my collection. Right now sunrise comes when the tide is still fairly high so there’s a limit to how far out I can explore. But, there’s still plenty to see.

There is a downside to living according to the sun, though. I don’t like to use the generator at night because it’s noisy and disturbs the silence here. I’m living by the ocean because the sound of the waves is peaceful, and I hate to add more noise. So, I usually get into bed shortly after sunset to read or work on the computer for a while. I have a battery-operated Coleman lantern and a flashlight, as well as a small inverter to provide power for the computer. So, no problem there. It’s easy to write up my daily impressions and take care of photos for my blog.

The problem lies with the equation that darkness = time to sleep. I’ve been going to sleep around 7:00 or so each night. That’s fine, except my body usually rebels a bit about 11:00, saying “you’ve had enough sleep. It’s time to wake up.” And I do, at least for a while. Tonight I got dressed and walked down to the beach. The strong wind of the past few days has finally abated a little, at least temporarily, and the stars were out in full display. Orion glowed clear and bright, as did the more reddish Mars. I sat on the sand down by the water and marveled at how lucky I am to be here in such a beautiful place.

However, that still leaves the problem of now being wide awake again. When I finish this reflection, I’ll most likely attempt to go back to sleep. That’s usually not a problem. I know people have lived their lives according to the rising and setting of the sun for thousands of years, and I believe it’s a perfect way to live. But, after a lifetime of living according to clocks and “expected” times for doing things, it’s taking a while to get used to this more natural way of measuring time.

I’ll eventually return to that way of life, at least for part of the year, to living by a clock and performing expected tasks at expected times. However, this much simpler life on the beach in Baja will always call to me. And I’m sure I’ll respond by returning again and again. Right now, I’m ready to go back to bed and look forward to seeing more life early in the morning.

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This Christmas was quite different than I’m used to, but nice all the same. It began last night when Ruben’s wife brought David and I each three freshly-made tamales and wished us Feliz Navidad. I ate two of them for dinner – delicious. She told me her kids loved the chocolate chip cookies I’d made for them.

It’s been very, very windy for the past three days, and today was no different. So this morning, instead of taking my usual walk down the beach to see the sun come up, I looked outside the window by my bed, saw the sky, heard the wind, and decided to go back to bed. Of course, with the sun setting so early, about 4:30 PM, I’ve been getting more than enough sleep. But, it felt pretty good anyway. Finally roused myself out of bed sometime – no idea what time it was. In fact, I even had to ask someone what day of the week it was.

I bundled up in a Christmas sweatshirt, jacket, jeans, shoes, and socks instead of the normal shorts, t-shirt, and sandals, and wandered down the beach a bit. The tide was still pretty high, so not many shells. Came back, ate a little breakfast, and read a little. It was so quiet!

David and I had decided to cook chicken and veggies in his slow cooker for dinner tonight, so I chopped up some onions, garlic, carrots, celery, zucchini, potatoes, and corn on the cob. Browned the chicken a little, then threw everything into the pot with some seasonings. We’ve been using an unoccupied campsite (as of right now, anyway) for electricity, so plugged the cooker in there, along with my small stereo. This campsite is one with a permanently installed trailer with solar panels, tables, a porch swing, etc, right next to the beach. Very nice. We’ll have to make friends with the owners when/if they return. In the meantime, we have permission to use the spot outside. I left the dinner to cook all day and walked on the beach some more.

David told me his phone had a pretty good signal and asked if I’d like to call my mom or son for Christmas, so I was able to talk with David (my son) and left a message for my mom and for my friend Steven. That was nice since my phone doesn’t work here.

I took advantage of the very low tide later this morning and took a walk up to the lighthouse and small chapel on the hill. It was so quiet and peaceful up there sitting on a large rock in front of the chapel, looking out over the rocks and ocean below. I took many pictures of some of the eagles flying overhead as well as a seagull and a heron.

We talked to Joe on the beach who was checking his fishing nets, and found out he has lots of very large, fresh shrimp for $16/kilo, about 2.2 pounds, so will buy some tomorrow. Joe is also a San Diego Charger’s fan with a hat to prove it. He lives in a trailer nearby.

Puttered around rest of the day, trying to stay warm and out of the wind as much as possible. We finished up the bottle of Riesling and decided that even though the potatoes weren’t soft yet, it was time to eat. I’d made some Japanese cucumber salad, so we had a feast. Lit a candle for light and listened to a Neil Diamond CD. Watched the stars come out and did a lot of talking. Fed leftovers to one of the dogs here who loved all the attention. And the wind finally abated this evening. All in all, a very nice time.

If the wind stays calm tomorrow, it’s my turn to drive into town to check email, do laundry, top off propane, go to the store, etc. I need to check on a couple of marine batteries for this rig as the present ones no longer hold a charge very long even when filled with water. This is the longest I’ve been boondocking and hadn’t noticed the condition of the batteries before this. Since I’ve had this RV for three years and it was used as a rental before that, it’s probably time for some new batteries. I can live without electric hookups here except for one thing: the igniter for the fridge in gas operation.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas filled with warmth, love, and many blessings.

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Jean and Beth left for Ensenada and points south yesterday morning, and I moved into Beth’s site further up the hill. Pulling my rig in facing forward made my water hookup easier to get to since the faucet is so far away. My water hose was just fine although the old faucet leaked like the proverbial sieve. I turned it off until I could get it taken care of.

After getting all set up and seeing the view from my bedroom window – directly down to the beach – I felt right at home. My neighbor David invited me to ride into town with him, and I accepted since it was time to do a little grocery shopping, find a hardware store, check on an inexpensive cell phone at The Movie Star that works here and for international calls, and check email.

First stop was parking the van in a good area. We walked a few blocks over to The Movie Star and checked prices. They had a choice of phones from 495 up to about 1000 pesos with a plan of 15 minutes for $1. Not too bad, but I’m going to wait on it since I really don’t do enough calling to make it pay for itself. In the meantime, David offered to let me give his number to friends and family “just in case.”

While he had an extra key for his van made at the locksmith next door, I walked across the street to the supermarket for a few things like milk, fruit, salsa, and chocolate chips for the cookies I wanted to make for the caretaker’s family since they’ve been so nice and helpful. I found a beautiful cucumber so will make some Japanese salad. However the only chocolate chips were tiny little things, supposedly used for decoration. But, I bought them anyway, along with a package of coconut. After paying for everything, one of the little boys, probably the son of one of the employees, offered to carry my two bags to the car. Since we’d parked quite a ways away, I declined but he was very insistent. Next time I might just let him do it and pay him for it. Cute little kid.

David gave me the key he’d had made so I could get into the van in case I had packages or we got separated. I wasn’t sure about that at first, but now realize it might have been a safety concern since I felt a little uncomfortable on the streets by myself. I’m sure that discomfort will disappear soon enough, but having the key now feels like a good thing.

Since the internet is still not working properly at Rosalie’s, we headed to the Bar Miramar where they also have electrical connections. The same friendly waiter was there and knew right off that I’d order a Sprite. The look on his face was cute when I told him I’d also pay for David’s coke. I need to find out his name. Was able to catch up on email, pay a bill online, and write yesterday’s blog.

We sat out on the ledge overlooking the bay for a while since the sun felt so good. Bought some chili peanuts from a sidewalk vendor and just watched people. So much fun. We decided to head back to the camp, but still needed to find a hardware store so I could hopefully get a couple of little o-rings for my propane camp stove. David began talking to an American man on the sidewalk who told us about his temporary apartment near downtown for $150/month – three rooms with tile bathroom, etc. Sounded okay, but I still prefer the nearness to the beach we have at the campground. The Mexican man with him offered to show us where the hardware store was, so we followed him in the van. The store looked like a much smaller version of Home Depot, but they had exactly what I needed. We thanked the man very much for showing us the way.

Back to the campground and we stopped at the top of the hill so I could pay the month’s rent of 1500 pesos for my site ($120). Found out the caretaker’s name is Ruben, or as he says, Ruben the Cuban, although he’s not really Cuban. It’s easy to remember his name that way, though. I let him know about the water leak and he came right down to fix it. The problem is an old faucet, but it’s fixed for now. I was listening to the Mexican Christmas CD Jenny had given me in Yuma and he loved the music. Think I’ll find out if they have a way to play it, and if so, make them a copy.

I mixed up the cookies and baked several batches of six each in the toaster oven. The little chocolate pieces are very good, not semi-sweet but milk chocolate so the cookies taste a little different than usual. But I like them very much. However, today I think I’ll take the toaster oven down the hill and use the electrical connection there since the generator in my rig is so noisy. I hate to have that much noise pierce the beautiful quiet here for so long at a time. There’s also a clothesline there so perhaps I’ll wash out some items as well.

Today I’d like to hang around here for the very low tide and climb up the hill to see the little chapel at the top. Yesterday I found a beautiful shell – can’t remember what Jean called it – but it’s a long cone shape with no barnacles or other marks.

I hope Jean and Beth are doing okay and having fun on their drive over to the west coast of the peninsula. As for me, I’m so glad I stayed here. It’s going to be fun getting to know the people and places in town a little better. And I’m enjoying getting to know my fellow Birkenstock friend a little more as well.

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Wednesday, December 23, 2009 – Back to town

It was so beautiful and sunny all day yesterday. However, I woke up around midnight to REALLY strong winds and rain. It rocked the RV back and forth the rest of the night – felt almost like a hurricane. I’d washed some clothes and hung them on the line and by this morning they were totally dry. I guess so, with all the wind.

Took some cookies up Ruben and his family and they were very appreciative. Also brought some in to town this morning for the server at the bar where we access internet. Old guy – very nice – loved them.

I took advantage of the great weather yesterday and walked up at low tide to the little chapel on the hill. Today I’ll take my camera. Also found lots of great shells and saw a large heron near the rocks.

Haven’t heard anything from Beth or Jean yet. They were planning to take Mexico 3 from here up diagonally to Ensenada on the west coast, then down. Probably aren’t anywhere with internet access yet.

And that’s it for today so far. If I don’t get back on internet before Christmas, have a wonderful one.

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Monday, December 21, 2009

For several reasons, I’ve decided to stay here at this beautiful spot a little south of San Felipe for at least a month. The more I thought about being on the road for the next two months, driving lots of miles and using lots of gas, the more I realized it would be so much better and relaxing to just stay here for a while. I love this place. It’s quiet and peaceful, the beach is only a few steps away, and it’s fairly close to town yet far enough away from crowds and noise. The caretakers here are extremely friendly and bend over backwards to make sure we’re happy. The site rent is only $1500 pesos ($120 a month) with water and sewer hookups. And, I’ve become friends with a very nice, interesting guy from Victoria, British Columbia. We’ve spent a lot of time talking and getting acquainted, and neither of us was looking forward to my leaving so soon. Perhaps nothing will come of it, but in the meantime, it’s fun having someone to talk to who loves the Pacific Northwest as much as I do, and is also very content to live day to day here for a while. And, he also wears Birkenstocks, as I do. Haven’t seen many of them in the past year, none in Oklahoma.

I wished Beth and Jean safe travels this morning when they left for parts west and felt relief to be staying for a while. Moved into Beth’s very nice site, then came into town this afternoon with David and found the grocery store (mercado). The weather is absolutely gorgeous with no clouds.

Sunrise yesterday morning
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I found this yesterday. Any idea what it is?
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Bird’s nest on telephone pole
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Fishing boat returning
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We left the airport fairly early this morning and drove about seven kilometers south towards Puertecitos, ending up at an interesting looking RV park. It used to be called Faro Beach Trailer Park but now has the name, Betel II. The attendants, a man and wife, three kids, and several dogs, live at the top in a very small trailer. They are very, very friendly and willing to please. The woman drove us all around the place, pointing out which sites had water and sewer hookups, which didn’t.

This place is amazing. Looks like it either used to be a fancy resort or someone built the resort but it never opened. Now it looks like it’s been taken over by sand. There is a huge swimming pool with bar in the center, stools around the bar in the water. Near the pool is a large hot tub. A two-story building appears to have been meant for condos or lodge rooms of some kind. Lots of chairs and tables all stacked helter-skelter in a nearby storage room. Up from the pool/bar is a large one-story building with the word “BAR” over the door. Peering through the doors, I saw a big area with posters on the walls, carpet, etc.

A number of brick roads leading from the top of the hill down to the bottom by the beach, with many RV sites off of those roads. We wanted to make sure Jean could get her trailer into one of the spots, so we let her go first. The attendant found her a pull-through that worked well. I parked next to her, and Beth parked a little way up the hill.

First things first, a trip down to the beach. The tide was very low, with many dry areas usually covered by water. Walked all around, and it almost looked like we could walk all the way to San Felipe from here. I love this beach as it’s the first one in a very long time where we could find unbroken sand dollars of all sizes as well as scallop and clam shells, all in very good condition. Many of the clam shells were polished smooth, almost white. I’d never seen that before. I also found two very fancy shells that up to today I’d only seen in stores for fancy prices.

It seemed like we walked forever, but it was perfect. Very windy but fairly warm.

We drove into town to find something to eat, look around a little, and find Wi-Fi. Rosalita’s had both food and wi-fi, but apparently it was down today as we couldn’t get it to work. We ate there, food so-so, then went next door to a bar that also advertised internet. The people working there pointed out that we could even plug our electrical cords into the wall sockets. The connection was perfect, and we all accomplished quite a bit.

After wandering around the downtown area, the malecon, we drove up to the Lighthouse Lounge and walked up the many steps to Cerro El Machorro. This is located on the point with a beautiful shrine to the Virgin of Guadalupe, many lit candles in front of her. What a great panoramic view of the bay!

We finally called it an afternoon and drove back to our site. I talked quite a bit with David, a Canadian from Victoria who is camped here for a month in his VW van. Nice guy. Turned out he’d only had to pay $120 for an entire month here. When I told him we were paying $20/night, he thought about it and walked up and paid the attendants about 300 pesos more. The man said that now he could buy a bicycle. I loved talking with someone who didn’t try to take advantage of other people’s friendliness.

He and I talked quite a bit, about kids, grandkids, where we were from, what careers we used to have, and so forth. He offered us the use of a rubber kayak and his bicycle if we’d like. Probably pass on the kayak in the ocean, though.

We thought about staying here a week, but by sort-of mutual agreement, we’ll probably stay until Tuesday, then take off across to Ensenada, then down the west coast. Of course, those plans, as always, are made in Jell-O.

I’m enjoying this trip a lot even though I sometimes feel like the proverbial fifth wheel since Beth and Jean have been traveling together for so long. They have their own ways of doing things, etc. and it’s taking a while for me to get used to that. But, I figure by a week or so it will be fine. We’ll see how it goes. However, I’m just very happy to be making this trip.

Tomorrow we’re planning to drive down to Puertecitos in Jean’s truck and check out places along the way.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Too hundred miles today, from Yuma to a little below San Felipe, on the way to Puertocitos. A couple of long detours along the way on Mexico 5 – looks like they’re widening the road to four lanes. Lots of desert, much sand, quite a bit of wind.



We weren’t sure of the way to Mexico 2, towards Mexicali, after crossing the border in San Luis Colorado, so we stopped and I asked directions of an older man standing behind his fence. He was kind of sure, and we took him at his word. Then he walked me across the street to talk to a doctor who spoke English. It turned out that he was going to Mexicali, so he gave us directions and asked if we’d like to follow him to the highway. That worked out well.



Getting onto the toll road (Mexico 2) cost $24 pesos, or about $2.00. Fairly decent road.

We turned off onto Mexico 5 a little before Mexicali and had to pay another $26 pesos. Jean wondered afterward if we could have just shown them our receipt from the first toll. Will have to check on that.



Because of the detours and losing our way a little in San Felipe, trying to find an RV park or a place to boondock for the night, we somehow ended up at the aeropuerto. Don’t know how we missed the actual road, but we somehow took a turn into the airport and the sun was beginning to go down. So, rather than wander around any longer trying to find an RV spot, we asked permission to park in the parking lot overnight and leave early in the morning. No problem. So, we’re now kind of huddled together in a far corner of the parking lot. Beautiful sunset tonight and a very tiny sliver of a moon. I fixed myself huevos rancheros for dinner and sat outside to eat, drinking Riesling and watching the last of the sunset and the stars coming out. Very quiet except for a generator.



San Felipe itself looks like a fun place to explore and perhaps buy some camarones (shrimp) from one of the many vendors along the streets. Tomorrow we’ll leave here in the morning and find a place to stay for a night or two, then unhitch Jean’s truck and drive into town. She swears that either Beth or I have to drive, though. It was hard on her towing the trailer through, first, San Luis Colorado, then through San Felipe, both fairly busy towns with narrow streets and many stop signs.



I checked for wireless access here at the airport, but no luck. So, am writing this in word to send in some form when we’re able to get on the internet, hopefully tomorrow sometime.



Beth asked earlier what time it was. Both Jean and I said, “who cares?” I turned off my cell phone and am not sure what time zone my RV radio is set for. I really like the idea of “manana,” at least for this trip. Slowing down and just appreciating what we do and see will be enough. I really don’t want to keep track of time on this trip.



In the meantime, I’m practicing my Spanish in order to get a little more fluent.



Photos later.

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