Baja Finale / The Flip Side of Adventure

After leaving Santa Rosalia, we drove back to San Ignacio, where we stopped long enough to have another awesome Date Shake. We left Jeff and Marilyn there, as we were moving on to the states more quickly than they were.

That night we stayed in Guerrero Negro, at the same place we’d stayed on the trip down. Then off in the morning, and on to Gonzaga Bay, across from Isla San Luis Gonzaga.

Gonzaga Bay Rancho Grande

Our campsite here was right on the beach. We had no hookups, which means we would most likely have to run the generator for a while. We purposely went way down to the last of the campsites, so the noise would not bother anyone else. Late in the afternoon, somebody else backed his trailer in right next to us! Why?? Whatever, he had to put up with some generator noise. He left early in the morning, so I never got to talk with him.

The beach was beautiful and we had fun walking and birding and some shelling.

Then it was time to leave…

Scary Story

I’m going to inject a story here that is a bit out of sequence. For some reason, I didn’t want to publish this story until we got safely back to the USA.

Before we set out on this Baja trip, an experienced Baja traveller and friend told me of a game that the military plays down there. The roads are narrow, and a military truck will try to hit your mirror as they pass going the opposite direction, and then make you pay $600 for their broken mirror. I thought if I saw this game being set up, I’d slow down and pull off the road a bit if needed. Except I didn’t know the whole story…

A lot of the main highway down Baja has lanes only 9 feet wide. Our motorhome is 8.5 feet wide. So that gives me 3 inches on either side if I want to keep it centered. The worst part is that there is no shoulder… the road often drops off 3 or 4 feet in a very steep slope right from the edge of the white line. So driving this home down the road is challenging… While the rig is 8.5 feet wide, the mirrors stick out a bit over 12 inches on either side. So that means if the motorhome is on the white line at the edge of the road, my mirror might be almost 6 inches over the center line. So we had some cardiac exercise every time a semi passed us going the other way!

So when I saw the military convoy coming, there was no place for me to pull over… And yes, they hit my mirror, shattering it. The convex mirror on the bottom survived, but the big top mirror was toast. But there was no place to pull over, for them or for me. We all just kept going. We pulled over at the next available spot, and shared the adventure with Jeff & Marilyn. We adjusted what was left of the mirror so I could see, and we resumed our travels.

I was wondering if we’d beaten the $600 game, but then we came to the next military checkpoint. Sure enough, the convoy had radioed ahead and they were waiting for me! It was obvious our rig was the one the convoy informed them about, and we spent some time negotiating. I was praying hard the whole time! I decided to take the offensive early in the discussion – “Who is going to pay for my mirror?” I need to admit that the discussion was extremely awkward… The officer would type on his phone, which translated to English. Then I would type back, but the spell checker on his phone would auto-correct any English word I typed into a Spanish word spelled similarly. Then I’d correct it, and finally have the whole sentence translated to Spanish. They insisted it was my fault, I insisted it was theirs, and continually asked who was going to pay for my mirror? At one point the officer asked “What can we do to make this go away so you can proceed with your friends?” (who were waiting patiently up ahead.) It was pretty obviously a request for remuneration, but I was not willing! I finally said “How about I pay for MY mirror, and he pays for HIS mirror.” The officer considered for a bit, then said “I’ll write it up like that – you can go.” So we went, certainly relieved, but thankfully not relieved of $600!

We decided that while we were having fun in Baja while camped somewhere, the driving was too much cardiac exercise, and we would linger longer at the next stop. So that is why we stayed at Mulege as long as we did. Jeff and Marilyn went a bit further south, and then we joined up again when they headed back up north.

We had lots of fun in Mulege, trying to find a glass shop to get a new mirror cut. An auto repair place finally understood my question, and called a glass man, who said he’d drive to the repair place and pick me up. I rode with him to his shop (NEVER would have found it!) and he cut the new mirror to shape of a template I’d made from the good mirror on passenger side. It was fun to watch him, and he charged 200 pesos… or about $10.

The next step was to break out the remaining mirror, and bond the new piece in place. I had to toss the heating element that was bonded behind the mirror, but at least I had a new full sized mirror again.

I didn’t take a picture to prove I fixed it until I arrived in Tucson… but here is proof:

Back to the Baja trip…

San Felipe

I travelled a ways into Baja a few times when I was a kid – with school trips or family trips. More than once we went to San Felipe, but I don’t remember anything like this. (Not that it has changed – I was just a kid and didn’t notice much!) The town curves around a nice bay, and has several nice beaches.

Our campground had a very nice beach, but we elected to stay in one of a few larger sites, (with great electricity) a couple hundred yards from the beach. We were still able to do our walking / birding / shelling thing.

It’s not often you get to measure yourself compared to a whale vertebrae!

Among the cacti near our site were plenty of pretty purple flowers.

From San Felipe to the US border is supposed to be about 3 hours. Even though the road we took north, along the gulf coast, (Mex 5) is mostly wider and nicer than the road we had taken south, (Mex 1) it is still work and we were going to be glad when we got to bigger US style roads! We decided not to hook the car up till we’d fueled up the motorhome, as the way in and out of the station was tight. So we hooked up on the edge of the main highway out of town. We always check our lights, and Cherryl reported that the right blinker was not working on the car. Sigh… There was no way I was going to climb under the car to fix it now! I would wait till we got to a campsite in California. So I would just be extra careful…

As we approached Mexicali, where we would cross to El Centro in Southern California, we were wondering how the crossing would go. And how would we get there? Our GPS in the motorhome knows the size and weight of the rig, and supposedly takes that into consideration for route planning. But as we approached Mexicali, the route looked convoluted. Cherryl’s phone had what looked like a more direct route. But periodically we would see a sign telling us a third way! AAARGGG! I decided to stick to the signs… as well as I could. Sometimes a sign would suddenly be visible and say to turn left, and I was in the far right lane. It was scary! We finally missed a turn, and ended up who knows where, on little tiny streets. I found a place to pull over, and told Cherryl I was going to stop and we’d figure out our route. Then I noticed we were getting a Police escort to the side of the road – a cop had flipped on his lights and followed me to a stop. When we opened the door for him, he asked if we were lost. Cherryl almost screamed YES! He then politely told me our blinker was not working! AAARGGG again! He said it was a serious problem, especially since we are so big. It would be a $100 ticket, and we’d have to follow him to the police station. I explained the obvious – that we could not follow him to the station. We went back and forth a while, and then I asked if perhaps I could just pay HIM instead of going to the station. I would be willing to pay if he would guide us to the border. I offered him $40 – all I had in my wallet – and he said “No, $60.” I showed him my empty wallet, and he said “OK… I’ll guide you. Follow me.” And with lights flashing, he guided us to a ramp that said Calexico, our border crossing site.

That should have been the end of the story, but for one more problem. We followed the lane we’d been shown, and it took us right to a very congested border crossing. DONE! Except… there were three lanes of quite well behaved traffic, separated by concrete barriers up to near the end. The lane on the left was moving well; I’m not sure who you had to be to get in that lane. The lane we were in was blocked at the end by concrete barriers, (this time with barbed wire on top,) which would force you to turn either right or left. I figured we would just merge into the left lane… and then as we got closer, we could see there was no opening into that lane. The lane to the right was the only option, and that would involve a turn to the right, and an immediate left turn and through a very tiny gate. There was no chance we could do that in the motorhome, even without the car… So what were we to do??? You’ll have to watch a couple minutes of highly accelerated Dash Cam footage to see if we got out or are still stuck there!


  1. Quite an adventure! Glad you made it back over the border in one – well – in two pieces.
    Where to next?

  2. What an experience! ‘Glad you made it out all right. We usually go down to Fountain of Youth on the east side of Salton Sea. This year we decided not to go and wish we could have and would have seen you. We had an interesting experience some years ago when I was with a group of high-school kids that went down to Mexico to build a church. When we were traveling home the police stopped us and wanted all the kids to get out and line up beside the road. Then the plan was to let the bus go and we could find our own way home… Our group coordinator did a lot of fast talking and after about a half hour they decided to return our passports and let us stay on the bus!! Lots of prayers on that very hot afternoon…

  3. Never a dull moment! Love you people! Love your updates! Be safe and hope to meet up with you again during one of my travels!

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