The Black Warrior

To get to the town of Guerrero Negro (Black Warrior), you have to cross the state line from Baja California to Baja California Sur. The state line is the 28th parallel (latitude).

The government does not allow produce across to Baja California Sur so we gave our remaining produce away before we left Bahia de los Angeles. Some people said that “they never check” but we like to do all we can to have nice easy border crossings. They did ask us if we had produce and Hector said “of course not, we heard you couldn’t bring any across”. The officer was pleased with that answer.

The other unique thing about this border crossing is that when you cross there is an automatic spray from the road to the underside of your vehicles and your tires. Presumably some sort of pesticide agent to kill off something or other (hopefully not us).

Our original plan had been to continue directly to the Ojo de Liebre lagoon, where we planned to go whale watching, and bypass the town of Guerrero Negro. But we needed to run several errands and our provisions were getting low so we decided to stay at Guerrero Negro and take a whale watching tour from there.

Guerrero Negro gets a bad rap, so I had very low expectations. I was, however, pleasantly surprised. The town may not be a charming colonial gem but it has a very interesting history and is neatly kept.

The whaling Captain John Melville Scammon discovered the entrance to the lagoon and whale nursery and to his delight found it full of whales.  Of course he promptly killed as many as he could and had a great windfall.  The secret soon got out and other whalers joined in the slaughter in “Scammon’s Lagoon” and soon the majestic California Gray Whale was hunted to near extinction.  It is estimated that the total population dropped to a few hundred individuals.

Perhaps because there were no more profits to be had, Captain Scammon became one of the earliest conservationists seeking to protect the animals.  Happily, the grey whales have recovered and there are now over 20,000 around the world.

During the whaling times, a wooden ship named the Black Warrior ran aground on the shallow sand bar separating the northern and southern parts of the lagoon. The wreck served as a warning to ships of the shoal water for decades.  All that remains of the wooden ship is the wheel, displayed at the bar of the Malarrimo RV Park and Hotel.

We stayed at the Mallarimo RV Park right in the center of town. They also sell the whale watching tours at this location so we could board the bus to the lagoon right outside our RV. And they have a hotel and a restaurant on site. Check out our review of the campground here.

We set off to handle our errands and found an ATM, a place to fill our water jugs with drinking water, a decent grocery store, a very nice fruteria (fruit and vegetable store), a panaderia (bread store), a liquor store, fresh oranges and a laundry all within 10 minutes of the RV park. People were extremely helpful.

But best of all, we found the best fish tacos at the Tacos del Muelle taco truck. Others that have been to Baja say they’re the best tacos in all of the peninsula. A fellow RVer commented on Facebook that “by extension, that makes them the best in the world”.  I don’t doubt it.

That afternoon we drove out to the camping area at the lagoon just to check it out. It’s about 35 minutes from town on a pretty good gravel road. It’s a lovely and remote area to camp and we may just camp there on our way back north.

In the 1950’s the present day town was built as a company town to support what would ultimately become the world’s largest salt mine.  Huge shallow ponds with hard rock bottoms are flooded with sea water and allowed to evaporate leaving behind sea salt.

The salt mine exports millions of tons of salt annually and covers an area larger than the city of Los Angeles!  The government originally named the town after some Mexican historical figure, but no one called it that. They used the Spanish name for the wrecked Black Warrior, Guerrero Negro.  The name stuck and it was officially changed to the name it has to this day.

The site of the wreck of the Black Warrior was eventually replaced by a proper lighthouse whose ruins can still be seen. The drive out was between wetlands and was actually more interesting than the lighthouse itself.

We saw long-billed curlews and lots of yellow-crowned night herons, osprey, great blue heron, snowy egret, great egrets, and more gulls and pelicans.  This is the largest concentration of Osprey in the world and we saw lots of them.

On our return we drove over to a bird refuge area that you can walk on and spotted some brants in the water. I don’t believe we’d seen those ducks before. And we saw more osprey, they are nesting right now.

We have a much better appreciation of this friendly company town.  And the actual whale watching was incredible.  More on that next.

 

Island Girl in Puerto Rico

PuertoRico -7PuertoRico -1

Although I made a quick stop in San Juan a few years ago on the way to a cruise, it has been many more years since I have spent more than a few days in Puerto Rico. Let me state up front that since my little camera died just before my trip the photos taken by this island girl in Puerto Rico were taken from my phone (there are a few from my niece’s phone) and should not be compared to the fabulous photographs that Hector normally includes in our posts. But on to my trip.

PuertoRico -36PuertoRico -6Just as I was thinking that I needed to plan a visit to my family, my friend Katherine from Atlanta called me to tell me that her daughter, Kirstin, was going to get married in San Juan and invited us to the wedding.

We knew that we would be in the Southwest at that time of year, so I purchased a ticket from the Phoenix airport and we made our way to that city before my flight. Unfortunately, Hector had to stay behind to take care of Angel.PuertoRico -2

The wedding was to take place in Old San Juan, my favorite part of the city, so I booked an Airbnb apartment a couple of blocks from the wedding venues. Upon arrival, I took a taxi to Old San Juan thus avoiding driving or parking, which can be quite a hassle there due to the narrow streets.

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From Oregon and Down the Length of California

We have been on a pretty long break from blogging, so here is our very late post about our adventures and misadventures during our drive from Oregon and down the length of California.

Cali 2015-9ycogqd4ziWe usually don’t drive Island Girl in the rain, but when it rains every day it is impossible to avoid. Since the rain seemed endless, we decided to drive out of Oregon during very wet weather.floods_2023625

We knew some roads were flooded to the north of us but happily no flooding was reported on our route going south. As we continued however, we passed by areas where the waters were rising and with the continuing rain were likely to flood the roads. We also drove by a small flooded farmhouse, hoping that everyone was safe.

best-sunscreenWinchester Bay-6Next we spotted some official vehicles with their lights flashing as we drove by a bridge, Police officers scanned the waters below. But we got through safely and it was good to know that roads were being monitored this closely. We are thankful to all of those who serve to protect us.

Our destination was the Lucky Seven Casino for a quick overnight stop. We stopped for a pizza and I ran out in the rain to pick it up. Then we settled in for the night in the back parking lot of the casino. Hector ran out for a quick walk with Angel, fortunately there was a covered walkway with a grassy patch, so they had a bit or protection from the rain.

il_570xN.521909692_o359Though we usually like to patronize the places where we overnight for free, we never even entered the casino, it was just raining too hard to venture out. Check out my review of the casino here.

The following morning it was still raining quite hard, but as we drove south the rain abated. We reached Crescent City during a lull in the rain and decided to go for a long walk along the shore.

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To the Arctic Circle and Back in 2015

What a year!  We travelled to the Arctic Circle and back in 2015.

cartoon529-2Be warned, this is a looooong post.  But we hope you enjoy a quick tour back through this most wonderful year with some of Hector’s favorite images.

Island Girl traveled a total of 12,345 miles.

We stayed in 88 campsites (29 of them were overnights and 61 were dry camping).

Visited 10 States, 2 Canadian Provinces and 1 Canadian Territory. And 6 veterinarians in 5 states and 1 Canadian Territory.

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Stormwatching

Winchester Bay-2Winchester Bay-32There are so many great choices of places to visit on the Southern Oregon Coast that we had a tough time picking a “home base” from which to explore. The forecast was for stormy weather, so we were focused on finding a good spot from where we could do some stormwatching.

Winchester Bay-33We chose Winchester Bay because it was right around the corner from the Umpqua River Lighthouse, which we missed seeing last year, near beautiful sand dunes, and within day trip distance to the charming town of Bandon.

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The Central Coast of Oregon

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Newport-1Our next stop was along the central coast of Oregon, not too long of a drive but longer than our last one. The coast of Oregon has an endless amount of rocky beaches and coast and many interesting lighthouses and the town of Newport is a great location from which to explore some of those.Newport-6

The last time we stayed in this area we stayed in a marina in the town of Waldport a little further north and really enjoyed it. This time we decided to try the marina in Newport. Both of these marinas offer dry camping at cheaper rates than the Oregon State Parks.

The marina is also walking distance from the Rogue Brewery, so good beer was in our future. And we were the only RV in the dry camping area of with a lovely view of the small boat harbor and the Yaquina Bay Bridge. Check out my review of the Port of Newport RV Park and Marina here.Newport-34 Continue reading

The Mouth of the Columbia River

Astoria-56Astoria-1Last year we paid a brief visit to Astoria, a funky town at the mouth of the Columbia River, and really liked it so we were determined to spend a little time there this year. As Thanksgiving approached, we knew it was time to get to the coast and begin our (slow) drive south, but instead we made a slight detour north to Astoria.

Astoria-33Astoria-32We stayed at Fort Stevens State Park, a beautiful park just outside the town. The campground was pretty empty, so we found a cozy, private spot. Check out my review of the campground here.Astoria-7

Astoria was named after John Jacob Astor who founded Fort Astoria as a fur-trading port for his American Fur Company in 1811. During its early history, Astoria’s primary industries were fishing, fish processing and lumber.Astoria-19Astoria-20

Astoria’s deepwater port still serves as port of entry and trading center for the Columbia basin. But both the fishery and timber industries declined, forcing the town to reinvent itself. And it did so by supporting a burgeoning art scene and bringing light manufacturing into its fold.Astoria-17Astoria-18
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It also succeeded in growing a tourism industry. With its location on the Columbia River, Victorian architecture poised amongst hills, proximity to the Pacific, surrounding lush forest and fascinating maritime history, it gained the nickname of “little San Francisco”. Astoria’s deepwater port now welcomes several major cruise lines.

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Port Townsend Washington

Port Townsend-2Port Townsend Washington has been on our list of places to visit since last year when we first visited the Olympic Peninsula. At that time we stayed in the heart of the peninsula. So this year we decided to explore the area closest to Seattle.

Port Townsend-4Port Townsend-1Back when we set up camp in the casino in Seattle, we discovered that the back of the motorhome and the front of the car were covered with a film of oil. And realized that during the annual service for Island Girl in Canada, the oil was overfilled. We did not realize the gravity of the situation until we drove to Port Townsend, when we discovered the oil cap had blown off!  This would need attention.

But first we set up camp at Jefferson County Fairgrounds, a very reasonably priced and simple RV park. Check out my review of the campground here.

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We Are Back!

Washington-15Yes, we are back! Back in the lower 48 and back to blogging. I must admit that we needed a break after our Alaskan adventure. Time to rest, a break from driving and visiting places, and a break from blogging. In fact, this is the longest gap we have had from blogging since we began doing it three years ago.

We also needed some time to reflect.  In September we marked our three-year anniversary of being “on walkabout”. What an amazing adventure we are having. This was to be the end of the journey as we had planned it but we are extending for a year. So this will be a transition year as we decide on the place to begin our next chapter, and yes, there is another sticks and bricks home in our future. And there will be more adventures as well.

Washington 5Washington 3Washington-2Washington 9Washington 4Upon reaching the lower 48 there was lots to do. Every inch of Island Girl was dirty inside and out, and she had a couple of service issues. The Coquí was also filthy, as were our bikes and kayaks and there was the matter of our broken windshield and sunroof.

We have now made it to Portland and taken care of most of Island Girl and the Coqui’s issues, rested, and (loosely) planned our drive south for the winter. We also flew across the country to visit family and friends in Miami, while Island Girl and Angel remained with friends in Portland. Not exactly restful but it was wonderful. But more on all that later.

So where have we been since leaving Canada? We crossed the border from Osoyoos, British Columbia, to Oroville, Washington. Our plan was to drive the Cascades Loop and visit the North Cascades National Park on route to Seattle.

We scouted several National Forest sites searching for a campsite. And saw firsthand the after effect of the Okanogan fire, the largest in Washington state’s history. One campground had lots of trees down, some on the campsites. At times we could still smell the fire in the air. But now that and the other wildfires have been eradicated, thanks to those who risked their lives (and some who lost their lives) to contain the wildfires.

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The Northern Lights

imageWhen we planned our trip to Alaska, I never once thought about seeing the Northern Lights. The Northern Lights, or the Aurora Borealis, were something that I believed only happened in the dead of winter.

Then, when we stopped in Talkeetna and visited the Aurora Dora gallery, Dora, the photographer, told us that she had seen the Aurora Borealis as early as August 22nd. Dora gave Hector the name of an application that provides forecasts about the Aurora, based on NASA spacecraft observations of the sun. Hector began to monitor the app sometime in August.

WHAT ARE NORTHERN LIGHTS ARTIC CIRCLE CRAZY AURORA BOREALIS CARTOON EXPLANATION INTERESTING FACTS LEGENDS 1 (5)Hector discovered that there were a couple of days with strong Aurora forecasts during the time we planned to be in Haines. We checked the weather and found that one of those days also had a clear weather forecast.

WHAT ARE NORTHERN LIGHTS ARTIC CIRCLE CRAZY AURORA BOREALIS CARTOON EXPLANATION INTERESTING FACTS LEGENDS 1 (6)A couple of days later on the cloudy day with a strong Aurora forecast we looked outside late at night and saw light coming from the north behind a couple of the thinner clouds.

WHAT ARE NORTHERN LIGHTS ARTIC CIRCLE CRAZY AURORA BOREALIS CARTOON EXPLANATION INTERESTING FACTS LEGENDS 1 (7)That evening we in fact “saw” the Aurora for the first time ever, but it was just a faint colored light moving behind the thinnest clouds. There was one fleeting moment when an intense moving light pierced the clouds. It was not a photographable event but it was pretty amazing.

The following evening was the next strong Aurora forecast and to our delight, the weather was only partly cloudy that day.

haines Aurora 16That evening we headed back out to the same spot by the water. And this time we truly saw the Northern Lights.

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