After filling the tank, packing the trunk and saying goodbye to Tha Queebs and Birdrito we departed Redlands around 6:30 pm on Wednesday night, heading south to Encinitas to stay at Mike and Penny’s, a short drive north of the border.
We had a chill evening with Mike, Penny, and special guest Abel Perez. A couple of drinks and we were at Filiburtos for their legendary Chicken California burrito (w sour cream). Came back to the Hunts and started playing some game which may or may not be called Alphaband. Someone starts with the letter A, picks a band and plays a song off the jukewebs. Next person picks a band that starts with B, next with C, pretty straightforward. After some Bon Jovi and Mike deviating to videos during the D round we stumbled upon this rather amazing video during the E round. James had another notable entry during round H.
We woke up at dawn, Penny cooked breakfast for us, and we rolled out around 7:30.
Extra water, trail mix, and other road supplies were quickly grabbed from the Seaside Market in Cardiff, but we then hit a delay. The I-5 south from Encinitas was moving at 2-3 mph; even the ramps leading onto it were backed up several blocks. We tried to be clever by finding an alternate route around town but the whole place was jammed. Eventually we got onto the PCH and spent the better part of an hour making our way down it… By the time it forced us onto the I-5, things were moving.
We pulled off at the last American exit and into the Mexican Insurance Plaza (I’m pretty sure that’s exactly what it was called) – our Canadian insurance is no good south of San Ysidro, so we loaded up with some good Mexican stuff.
The border was a breeze. We pulled our car through something that looked like a toll booth, but without an attendant and with an array of sensors mounted in every direction. A red light came on, indicating that we were flagged for further inspection. Pulling aside into an inspection area, a Mexican border lady asked us to pop our hatch. She unzipped two or three zippers and emphatically declared that we were fine, upstanding people, allowing us into her country.
For the first hour or so the drive was beautiful – a well-surfaced coastal road with very little traffic, likely attributable to it being a toll road. Construction jammed us up hard at one small town though – the toll road was in progress and we were forced onto local roads after sitting stationary for twenty minutes. The combined traffic on a two-lane undivided road, along with a few major league assholes caused the road to move slowly; in one place, someone had tried to pass on a curve and as a result, two cars were on the side of the road, completely totaled, with their windshields missing.
We decided to pull off for lunch at the tourist trap that is Ensenada. Walking along the strip, we found a bar with kind of a covered “patio” in the middle of the sidewalk, so we downed a few drinks and some burritos.
Covering nearly every surface of our drinking abode were American one-dollar bills, taped up after having personal messages on them. We followed suit, but using a 10-cent Canadian Tire bill:
On the way out of Ensenada we filled up the tank and we swapped seats, getting Murphy behind the wheel of the beast for the first time. We left Ensenada and continued South towards San Quintin. The road began to wind upwards into some hills. Instead of a sensible ridge road along the mountainside this road was more like someone strapped a paintbrush to a donkeys tail and slapped it on the ass. The result was a collection of dizzying, sense of direction destroying turns all marked “Curva Peligrosa”. Finding ourselves behind several transport trucks along these roads led to some questionable maneuvers from a car with no finesse to begin with.
After the ridge race we came upon our first military check point. A camo fatigued, machine gun wielding 16 year old gave us a fairly routine where did you come from, where are you going, vacaciones? and waved us along.
It was around this point where every town that we approached placed a crazy number of speed bumps before entering and exiting. They start widely spaced and then get closer and closer together, rattling your car and your very will to live, until they crescendo into one final giant hump. These are called Topes. We now hate topes. Sorry Tope. We deduced that the government must have a monopoly on all struts and shocks in the country and that this is some evil money grab. Or it could save the lives of hundreds of dogs and children each year. Who knows.
We hit a cute mountain town called El Rosario and caught a sign with a gas pump symbol and “next 286km”. Looked at the gas gauge. We can make it. Thirty seconds later we saw another sign “next 314km”. We can still make it, but we then lost all confidence in the accuracy of signage in Baja.
We went through another drunk donkey pass peligrosa and then the terrain shifted to an interesting tilt of tall soft sandstone. The age of the place revealed by the orange sediment lines stacked up the sides. A brief stint of driving with this on either side of the car and the landscape changed again to a vast expanse of cactus-plush desert with mountains on either side off in the distance. James mentioned that, if you take out the human element, this area looks a lot like places in California. Not much wildlife to speak of tho, other than some cows and a sleek looking blue road runner that scurried across the road in front of us.The desert terrain continued seemingly forever, the mountains turning red as the sun set against them.
Through the dark the curva peligrosas came up quicker, cows suddenly became illuminated dangerously close on the side of the road, and those damned topes were upon us before we could hit the brakes. We’d wanted to rally all the way into San Ignacio, but around 9pm we hit Guerro Negro and our thirst for cervezas was too great to withstand. We actually lost an hour crossing into South Baja as well, so it was good timing, we found a hotel with a bar and knocked a few back just before it closed. We were pretty wiped but it felt good to log over 13 hours of driving on the first day.