Mercury in Retrograde

As fellow RVers and travelers know, traveling is not always perfect. Things go wrong and plans don’t always work out.

So although our trip across Baja was amazing, we encountered a number of mishaps while on this journey. I always say that problems tend to come in threes, but we had quite a few more than three so we’ve written it off to Mercury in retrograde.

#1 Somewhere down in Baja California Sur, the tow car turn signals, brake lights and emergency lights stopped working when it was hooked up to the RV. A pretty minor issue although it was not entirely safe and made us technically illegal as we drove around. And we couldn’t find any RV repair place to fix it.

Hector visited a bunch of auto and boat repair places and mostly got blank looks until someone referred him to a motorcycle mechanic of all things. The guys at Motos Chepe in La Paz were totally game and together with Hector diagnosed the problem.

One of the cables than ran under the car had been crushed by a rock and they repaired it. Thanks Jose, Cesar, and Armando!

#2 The check engine light on the RV lit up right as we entered our RV park in La Paz, 900 miles from the border. YIKES.  Fortunately La Paz has one of the only authorized Sprinter service facilities in all of Baja (plus Cabo and Tijuana). We took the coach in and the engine code was diagnosed as low pressure at the fuel injection rail.

After the first “fix” we headed back north and as we approached Loreto the check engine light came on again. We made a decision to drive 320 miles down to Cabo to the main Sprinter shop.

The second “fix” lasted almost all the way back to La Paz and then the check engine light came on again. Valuable advice from our friend Michael in San Diego helped us avoid replacing a fuel pump that would have taken over a week to get imported. Dirty diesel, common in Baja California, had clogged our fuel filter and we replaced it instead. Solved!

The process involved four days, two overnights at two different sprinter shops, missing a blue whale outing, and a 640 mile detour. Not to mention the stress of driving all those miles with the check engine light on hoping not to get stuck in the middle of the road.

 

 

#3 We had a “smash and grab” incident while our car was parked during a night out to dinner. This type of incident can happen in any big city or town, and in no way do we want anyone to see it as a reflection of Baja or Mexico. But though we are normally more careful, we’d gotten pretty relaxed at this point of our trip, and had items sitting in plain sight in the back seat. And we parked on a lonely street.

The next morning, Hector created a temporary waterproof cover for the window. And we lucked out that the thief stole relatively inexpensive stuff – a couple of new masks and snorkels and old fins that we had loaded in the car in preparation for snorkeling the next morning, a cooler and two old bicycle helmets. But they missed an expensive camera lens and binoculars that were not visible. It could have been much worse.

One more note – the police were great. They gave us a moment to process and to check what was missing. When we told them what was taken, they sent a patrol car to look around the area.

They also pulled film from a nearby camera which showed the guy breaking the window and taking the stuff but it was too dark to make him out clearly. But the video also had a time stamp which was just after we arrived over an hour earlier.

#4 That same night – just as we were driving back to the RV, I got a text from our fabulous next door neighbor, Betty, that we had a huge puddle forming on the side of our barn in Albuquerque. What?!!! A pipe that had busted in the beginning of winter had apparently busted again.

Betty graciously offered to let plumbers from the plumbing company that had previously worked on the problem into the house. This time they found the real culprit and fixed it. And it was under warranty. Score!

#5 A funny one – on our way back north after the check engine light saga, we hit a bad section of road with lots of bumps. In Mexico, eggs don’t have to be refrigerated, and we kept our eggs in a basket along with other foods on top of the bunk above the cab. The bins are usually too heavy to move but this time one of them came crashing to the ground.

Of course it was the one with a large egg carton and 23 eggs came crashing down. Fortunately, they went splat on the small linoleum part of the floor and missed the carpet. Wow! And we found five lucky survivors.

#6 Hector lost one of his cameras. We’re not quite sure what happened. We called and went back to a couple of places where he might have left it but nothing.

Fortunately, this was his oldest camera and we’d just been talking about the fact that it was near its end (digital cameras have a finite number of “clicks” and he had far surpassed that) and his oldest lens. Someone in our house just might be getting a new camera.

The crazy thing is all of this happened in a period of two and a half weeks. Mercury in retrograde. When bad things happen and technology rebels.

But these bumps in the road were only a small part of our two-months of spectacularly beautiful places, lovely people,  yummy food, kayaking to our hearts delight, “petting” gray whales and fun Carnaval celebrations in a beautiful city.

And once we solved the check engine issue there was more fun to come on our drive north!

 

 

 

 

 

 

We’re off to Baja California!

Hi everyone!  We are back out on the road for a couple of months.

Ever since sometime in the 90’s, we dreamt about visiting Baja California. The peninsula is 1000 miles long, with remote deserts, lonely beaches, Pacific views, Sea of Cortez kayaking in crystal clear waters, whales, and more.

We planned to go around a business trip Hector had to San Diego while we lived in Miami but something came up and that trip never happened. 

So when we started fulltime RVing in 2012, I tried to add a trip to Baja California to our plans, but Hector did not want to drive our Class A motorhome down there. It turns out he was right, more on that later.

After selling Island Girl two years ago, we bought a nice Winnebago View on a Sprinter chassis from some friends of a friend. One key selling point was that it was “Baja ready” and could take the “dirty” diesel that is still sold in parts of Mexico which more modern diesel engines cannot.

In fact, this rig had already been down to Baja and to other parts of Mexico.  She is also a “skinny Winnie”, the nickname referring to this class C RV being narrower than most which would prove helpful on the narrow Baja roads.

We named her Island Time.

We went on some long and fun shakedown cruises which we did not blog about and then we planned our trip to Baja,  Now we were finally ready.

And we were off!

Our route plan was pretty simple, first an overnight boon docking stop in the Agua Caliente BLM area outside Phoenix, enjoying the always entertaining desert SW and Route 66 stuff along the way. Check out our review of the BLM area here.

And then down to Tecate, California to cross the border into Mexico.  It is a bit out of the way down a pretty windy road which makes it one of least busy crossing points. It is also a convenient place to take care of getting our tourist visas.

When you fly to Mexico your fee is included in the airfare and you fill out the little immigration paper on the plane. If you drive in, you need to go inside the immigration office at the border to fill out the FMM form and pay a small fee ($32pp).  Parking is very limited at the border crossing and doing this transaction in an RV can be complicated. So we camped on the US side, drove our car to the border and parked on the US side, walked across, got our papers in order and walked back that afternoon.   The US border agent asked how long we had been in Mexico, answer = about 6 minutes :-).

We had a fun dinner that night with friends who live in the mountains outside San Diego close to Tecate and stayed at Potrero County Park which is just a few miles from the border.  Check out our review of the park here. One last systems check and dropping off of produce with the park ranger the next morning and …

With our paperwork in order, crossing the border was pretty easy. We had one other RV in front of us, which the border patrol officer waved on. This made me think that they would stop the next one (us), and I was right. She boarded Island Time briefly, looked in a couple of cabinets and asked where we were going and where we came from. Then she poked around in the car and asked what was in our five gallon jug – water. That was it. She then waved us on.

My first experience in Mexico was some friendly construction workers waving and smiling at me.

And just like that we are back in Mexico and off on our next adventure!

Stay tuned.

Hector and Brenda

Angel Goes to Mexico

mex  014Here we were enjoying the desert, but we were so close to Mexico! Hector lived in Mexico City for a year or so back in the 90s and we spent weekends and vacations traveling the country in his SUV.   We love the country, and found it impossible to resist the temptation to cross the border. So off we went with Angel for a day trip to Mexico.mex  011 Continue reading

Our Annual Denver Pit Stop

Almost a year passed since we stopped in Denver last November.  And what a year.  In the winter we traveled around New Mexico and Arizona and settled for a while in Southern California, in the spring we headed north mostly on the coasts of California, Oregon and Washington, in the summer we visited Vancouver Island, Vancouver (the city), and beautiful National Parks in Western Canada, and in early fall we visited more national parks in Montana and Wyoming.   Whew!

8000 miles on the RV, who knows how many zooming around in the Subaru, three Canadian National Parks in two provinces, eight US National parks in eight states, one trip to Miami for a wedding, and lots of great adventures later it was time to head back to Denver for our annual pit stop.

rv-repair-road-sign-nut-1-copyIsland Girl had been running hot when going up long grades causing us to have to drive slowly and carefully to avoid overheating.  This overheating problem had been getting progressively worse, so we scheduled a thorough check of our radiator along with our annual oil change and RV chassis service right as we arrived in Denver.  Hoping to get all the major RV service over with and then enjoy our stay at Cherry Creek State Park.

Meanwhile we’d made plans with many of our friends and family and were really looking forward to some quality time with them.  Starting with Hector’s cousin Roy and wife Cindy who we stayed with while Island Girl was in the shop.

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Oh Canada! – Again

canadian_flagLast summer, on the day before crossing the U.S. border into Canada our refrigerator broke down. Although we found an RV service shop that repaired it early the next morning and so avoided a really big delay, we didn’t arrive at our campsite until 9:30 p.m.

So I was extra cautious and vigilant on the eve of our journey into Canada this year.

Victoria Ferry  003This was also going to be a different approach. Instead of driving across the border, Island Girl was taking a ferry across to Vancouver Island.

We took a down day the week before to handle various errands and preparations for our entry into Canada:Victoria Ferry  007

Called our credit/ATM card companies to notify them we’d be in Canada.

Put a temporary stop in our Millenicom MiFi account (not available in Canada).

Signed up for a special Canada plan on Verizon for our cell phone and text service.

Settled our bills.

beaver_cartoon

And prepared our documents: passports, rabies certificate for Angel, registrations and insurance documents for the car and the RV. And a list of all alcohol on board.

We chose to go (way) over the alcohol allowance, and take the duty hit, which worked out well for us last year. Not recommending that for others, because duties are at the officers’ discretion (with a very high cap) but that is our approach.

Victoria Ferry  002Victoria Ferry  004Off we went to Port Angeles to board the ferry. We had a reservation and just needed to show up an hour in advance.

The ferry staff checked our passports and gave us a slip to fill out for the ship manifest. The slip simply asked for our first and last names, gender and dates of birth.Victoria Ferry  005 Continue reading