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

Molar City

yuma  026We first heard about Los Algodones, also referred to as Molar City, on the third month of our walkabout. Our neighbors in the Miami RV park we stayed in that first winter told us about this place in Mexico where lots of Americans went for dental work and glasses. They had had extensive dental work done for less than half what it cost in the states. Needless to say, we thought that was pretty interesting.

yuma  030yuma  015A while later we read a couple of detailed posts on the Wheeling It blog about Nina’s experience getting a crown in Los Algodones. Nina recommended a Dr. Eva Ureña.

Finding a Dentist

I was quite fortunate that my tooth acted up just before we planned to visit Yuma.   And that I’d read the post about Dr. Ureña, since I considered that  a personal recommendation, which is my preference.  And, when we met our friends in Yuma, it turned out that Tim and Becky had been getting work done at Dr. Ureña’s for several years.

Her website, just like many other dentists,  provides a U.S. telephone number,  so it was quite easy to make an appointment.

yuma  025The Town

Los Algodones is the northernmost town in Mexico. It’s located near the borders of southeastern California and southwestern Arizona and is tucked into a spot where the border has a little notch and follows the Colorado River. There are U.S. borders in all cardinal directions (due south, due north, due east and due west) of the town.  Only if you head SW do you actually stay in Continue reading

I Rang in the New Year with … a Root Canal?!

yuma  051Ah, yes! Hector, Angel and I spent a quiet New Year’s Eve in Yuma, Arizona inside Island Girl while I recovered from a root canal on the previous day. I must say that the champagne helped the recovery process tremendously.

yuma  052Things happen for a reason. We’d planned to visit friends in Yuma and made reservations so we could meet them in their winter home.yuma  050

We also figured we’d take advantage of some of the services available in town before heading for the desert. Like getting our car detailed and maybe getting Island Girl washed and waxed by the same group that we used last year. Easy, peasy.

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The Good People of Albuquerque

When times get tough, the kind of people you have around you matter. Especially when they are mostly strangers. And the good people of Albuquerque provided much needed support during some difficult situations.

A lot has happened after our brief respite in beautiful Taos. Island Girl is fine, but Angel is sick.  I wish it were the reverse.

During our time in Taos, we found out that most of the parts for Island Girl’s repair had arrived at Camping World. And the last and most important part, the fiberglass roof, was scheduled to arrive the following Wednesday. So we developed the perfect plan. We left Taos for Albuquerque on Monday and parked outside Camping World that night.abq  035 (1)

ABQ  012First thing Tuesday morning we delivered Island Girl to the service department. We wanted them to complete the demolition in order to begin the installation work right after the roof arrived on the next day. There was a chance of our getting Island Girl back late Friday, so I booked a bed and breakfast.

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Tips for Balloon Fiesta

Balloons 166Major events are usually a learning experience not only for those hosting them, but also for those attending. And the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta was no exception. Although as first-timers we are by no means experts, we learned a lot about planning, options for RV camping, getting around the Balloon Fiesta Park and the area around it, and crewing. Below are some tips for Balloon Fiesta that we hope will be helpful to others planning to attend in the future.Balloon 101 015

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Crossing the border from Canada back to the U.S.

Mountie_TrooperI get stressed out before driving across the border to or from the U.S. in the RV.  Not because we have anything to hide, but because of some horror stories I’ve heard about people who presumably also had nothing to hide. So before driving across the Canada/ U.S. border, I always prepare thoroughly. This time I gathered passports, paperwork for the car and RV, Angel’s rabies certificate, and a list of open and unopened liquor.uscanadaborder

In the past we’ve crossed with zero produce nor raw meat, but we had a few vegetables left and decided to bring them and declare them. Our sense from various sources of information was that no fruit is allowed whatsoever, but some vegetables might be ok.

I’d also read that dog food wasn’t allowed in or out of the U.S./Canada border. So when we bought some dog food in Canada, I asked the proprietor of the pet food store about that. He said that the important thing was to keep the package to show what the ingredients are and where the food was made. But he didn’t know which specific foods were not allowed.glacier  001

We crossed the border at a pretty quiet area, Chief Mountain, which is between Watertown National Park and Glacier National Park. The customs officer did in fact ask about produce, raw meats and dog food. We showed him our produce, and he confiscated all of it except for onions, garlic and cilantro. For some reason he even took our rosemary. So maybe he was going to make a fabulous dish with rosemary that night 🙂

Hector handed him the dog food bag. And the officer told us that the two ingredients currently not allowed are goat and lamb. Apparently because those were responsible for an outbreak of hoof and mouth disease years ago. Good to know.

He never asked about liquor nor about the rabies certificate. And he of course asked about guns, which require proper documentation.

So a couple of tips from this border crossing are:

It’s best to avoid taking ANY produce or raw meats across

If you must take dog food across the border, keep all bags or containers

Always be honest when answering questions because if you declare something that’s not allowed they will confiscate it or you might be refused entry, but if you don’t declare something not allowed, you may get fined or worse

And the resource with the most comprehensive information I’ve found to this point is – This website includes a separate page for every port of entry between Canada and the U.S. And for each port of entry it contains information about border wait times, days when high traffic is anticipated, closures (for example, the Chief Mountain border crossing closes in Winter), telephone numbers and more.

us can flagBeing better informed relieves some of the stress.   And I have to say that every customs officer we’ve encountered these last two years has been extremely courteous. But check with me next summer when we’ll cross the border into and out of the U.S a couple of more times.

~ Brenda

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.


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

RV Care … A Side Trip to Yuma

yuma1 yumaWe’d planned an overnight stop in Yuma, Arizona to have Island Girl washed and waxed for a very cheap rate that we found out about on the Wheeling It blog.

And we were very satisfied with the service provided by Robert’s RV Wash, Wax & Carpet Cleaning.  Not quite like a wax job we’d do ourselves (we are persnickety) but certainly very well worth the price they charge.  There are multiple companies doing the mobile wash and wax that you can find either online or in the “White Sheet”, a little pamphlet listing all manner of local services.

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Tips for Quartzsite Newbies

quartzsite  004When we arrived in Quartzsite (the “Q”), we really weren’t sure what to expect and went in search of information about basic services.  And we found the ladies at the Chamber of Commerce at 101 W Main Street, across from the Post Office, very helpful, they answered all of our questions, gave us a business directory and a directory of vendors for the various shows, as well as some other event and tourist information.quartzsite  003

For those that prefer to get their information in advance, I compiled a short list of various services that we used and were satisfied with below:

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