But we’ve been driving!
We’ve been in Nova Scotia since September 16th, coming up to a month of being here. First stop was Cape Breton Island. It is now connected to the rest of the province by the Canso Cuaseway, an unassuming jut of landfill that nevertheless spans Canso Strait, doing away with the need to board a ferry to attain the other side. We went north there after leaving Prince Edward Island via the Northumberland Ferry, from Woods Island, to the New Glasgow area of Nova Scotia, to stop at Baddeck on Cape Breton.
From our camp there we traveled about the region, first to the gigantic Fort at Louisberg, built by the French in the 17th century as a base to guard the St. Lawrence River and utilize the incredible fishery in the nearby waters.
The fishing was so good, it was said, that some years the catch amounted to 30 million pounds of cod. The fish themselves were up to 250 pounds individually and the take led credence to a claim that this area was the most productive fishing location in any of earth’s waters.
Another day was spent right in the Baddeck area, now dubbed the “Cradle of Canadian Aviation.” Near this place, his house still visible from town, Sir Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone, built the airplane first to fly Canada’s skies. This was one winter’s day over the frozen waters of bay nearby. Always concerned with safety, he thought the flight over ice would be better. He also invented a boat equipped with hydrofoils which, for awhile, held the world speed record for a boat, 71.1 mph. In the town of Baddeck there is a very good museum devoted to the life and inventions of Bell. A native of the British Isles, he came to Canada, but soon was offered a job in his field, in Boston. Most of his decendants live in that city.
While the Cabot Trail is known far and wide, it really encompasses several other, named scenic highways. One we took on a drive was to Cheticamp…the site of French settlement in the northwest of Cape Breton. These folks were descendants of Acadians who had escaped the vicious roundup and expulsions of 1755 and later. The wind was howling as we drove, and the watery vistas were impressive, as the sea waves crashed along the coast, for mile after mile.
Not wanting to do the entire circuit of the Cabot Trail at once, we turned around and headed south, for Inverness, and a little beyond. For here there had been constructed a distillery unlike any other, except for those in Scotland: one that made a whiskey that tasted like Scotch!
The Glenora Distillery was just off the road south of the small town of Inverness. Advertised as having music in the afternoon, we were happy it had the Maritime flare we expected, from a piano and a violen, played in a room full of luncheon patrons. Seated by the fireplace, we enjoyed lunch ourselves, and tasted a ten year old sample of their whiskey. Yes, it did taste like a single malt scotch. I would have bought a bottle but was a little startled by the price. The ten year old, was 100 dollars. At the gift store one could buy the oldest available from the distillery, but for 300 dollars for this 19 year old product. The distillery brings barley from Scotland, and uses local water from a selected stream nearby.
But we’ve been driving!
Hard day on the road, the wind alway s threatening to blow us off, into oblivion. Finally made it onto the Confederation Bridge…and got the gift of a tailwind! 16 kilometres later we were onto another province, Price Edward Island. Someone said it is a 4 hour trip from one end to the other. But this is a full province in the Confederation of Canada…all signed right here 147 years ago.
Pictured here in February, 2014, we’re at Kool Korners, known to a few RV’ers who either heard about the area, or stumbled upon it after seeing others camped on its slight incline. Beside us, the interesting sound of a bubbling canal comes from the small weir a few yards away beyond the single-lane gravel access road. The weir itself allows for an accurate measure of water flowing through which is vital to the farming practices on the plains below. In the distance shown in one of the photos below, large groves of date palms flourish, on the California side of the Colorado River. The harvest of vegetable crops is happening closer.
Several RVs have converged here to watch the 2014 Winter Olympics from Sochi, Russia. Canada led all nations in gold medals won at the 2010 Winter Games held in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Of course, we were a group of Canadians who were hoping to repeat the success in Vancouver, and we all watched carefully the several days of the contests at Sochi on Shaw Direct satellite television. The core of our group had watched the Vancouver games at Senator Wash, AZ, another BLM (Bureau of Land Management) regulated land located no more than 15 miles away from where we were. Senator Wash is a vast area a little beyond the Yuma Proving Grounds army garrison. Marguerite and I had never had television in our unit until there and then. With those 2010 Olympics games beginning that year our fellow Canadian neighbours, all of whom we camped with on a tropical Mexican coral beach for several years, donated all we required except for the television, which I went into Yuma and bought. We all hoped to repeat the 2010 Olympic wins, especially in Hockey. Nice to be among these good people, who had become great friends.
From our place on the hillside, the substantial activity on the plain below is ongoing, some taking place even into the night. Then, some of the preparation for harvesting another field will be done. Through magnifying lenses it is interesting, otherwise we are just bystanders too distant to even notice, except maybe when another heavily laden truck makes it out to the highway, on its way with food to feed the world.
Once we plunked ourselves on a likely looking spot on the beach, hoping we were beyond the reach of high tides, and watching for soft spots as we manouvered our heavier equipment around, we spent the next three days growing to like our new territory- around the motor home, that is. On the third day. rather than sit out in the wind that had sprung up, we went shopping. As always, I lagged behind as Marguerite shopped, dutifully checking the prices in every liquor section. As always, very reasonable. I bought a six-pack of Pacifico beer. There was an ATM in the store we bought groceries at; later we learned the location, not far from there, where we could have our garrafons (19 litre plastic water bottles) refilled. This was off on a sand-covered road that was conveniently on our route back to Sandy Beach and Reef RV.
On another day we had a look at the Malecon. Took a parking spot and quickly found-actually directed into-a cafe that would serve us lunch. It was quiet there, only one or two others tables in use and, sitting overlooking the street, we liked the busy aspect of the Malecon.
Later, from street level we found a break in the buildings and had a good look at the beach where we were camped. A long stretch of sand beyond some never finished multi-storied buildings yielded the tiny spec of our motor home, perhaps five miles distant, across water. There has been much interest in the area of Reef RV, as it is the chosen site for a development that will become a cruse ship port. The RV stopover there will eventually disappear, perhaps move to another location, but the much-touted cafe and nightclub area should remain. In the short duration of our stay we had become happy denizens of the $5 -dollar portion of this beach. But as traffic moved out with the winter season winding down, we became one of only five or six paying customers, and it became evident that what we liked about this site, surrounded by sand, came down to the local vendors that came past. Not particularly what they brought to sell, but their cheerful presence and the banter we exchanged. Terry and Joanie had just left for Canada, and Drew and Pat had moved over to the full hookup side of the Park as they were not quite ready for steady boondocking.
The day finally came, with the sweep of toy haulers and trailers sporting off-road vehicles arriving, and more of the same on their way behind them, when we decided to allow their dusty wake to fall on our empty spot. And in place of a trip south, and perhaps a battle with crowds of Spring Breakers (both American and Mexicans) in our near future, we reset our goals from the never-visited Bahia Kino, and from a revisit to San Carlos, and we packed and hitched up to take the road north to Sonoyta and to rest awhile near the old familiar haunt, the BLM land just south of Why, Arizona. The weather remained cool and a bit damp as we again enjoyed a large measure of lone-style camping. We could either visit the Tombestone area and some friends there, or travel to Goodyear to stay in a favourite park and the decision came as the weather began to warm up, and we were away again. Goodyear, near Phoenix, was next. Spring Training MLB Baseball games and a visit to a relative of Marguerite’s were fine draws, and a trip to Sedona and return via Jerome, and Wickenberg also became interesting side trips.
We made our way from San Felipe, Baja California, leaving the park at about 8:15 on February 15th. Just before setting off we helped Drew and Pat pump up a low tire on his towed car. They made it out in good time even though stopping to get his tire patched up there in town. Terry and Joanie had already left. We needed to dump our tanks before we left Club de Pesca, and also stopped just up on the highway for gas. This fuel for the motor home carried us all the way to Sonoyta, Sonora, near the U.S. border at Lukeville, Arizona. We hooked onto the car just out of town and continued north on Hwy 5 towards Mexicali, but turning about 40 km short of the city to go south east. At first it all seemed straightforward, but when it came to access the hwy 3 leading south towards El Gulfo, we got lost in the town of Sanchez.
We stopped there, in Sanchez near a Pemex gas station and Marguerite went to inquire about our route. She came back smiling, saying we would be getting a guide truck out of town, but that they needed to return to their house first. These were locals who had come to our aid. We only waited five minutes or so before seeing a pickup truck drive by to show us the way, a father and his teenaged son in the cab. We followed them through town, over the railway tracks, and under a sign that said, “Welcome To Sonora,” in Spanish. A few minutes later we were on the highway we wanted, stopped and said goodbye to our benefactors and showed them our appreciation. We had really been going in circles, not seeing any of the signs we needed or else the signs that were not there. This road was at first looking like we were going the wrong way, by its poor condition, and almost no traffic. But eventually we made it to an intersection where, to the north, you could go to St. Luis Rio Colorado -situated near Yuma and the US border. But taking the road in the other direction led one south to El Gulfo de Santa Clara, or onto the town’s bypass and a new road through the Altair Desert, to Puerto Penasco, or “Rocky Point.” This was a very interesting piece of roadway, recently built it seemed, but at any rate, very well surfaced. It was indeed a pathway through the desert, and one could almost imagine yourself driving through the Sahara! From time to time we caught glimpses of the Sea of Cortes, while to the left were great sand dunes, the sand often blowing, low, across the road much as one from the north would see blowing snow drifting over a roadway. When oncoming traffic appeared the sand swirled up to make a small cloud, making me wonder about how well our air cleaner would take care of this potential problem.
We made Puerto Penasco after driving 420 km, or 260 miles and pulled into the Reef RV, on Rocky Point’s Sandy Beach, using their dry camping beach for our stay. Terry and Joanie were already there, but Drew and Pat had made a wrong turn and drove nearly to the US border, so were a few minutes behind. Once again we had a close-up view of the Sea, albeit from the opposite side of the Cortes. On some days we could see the mountains of Baja. San Felipe was now 80 miles away, over water.
After we payed for our stay at Club Pesca RV, we took advantage of our new location. The tide range in this vicinity on the Gulfo de California is among the greatest in the world, less than Bay of Fundy goes through, but still in the 20 foot range (6 meters). As our stay continued, the range grew greater, and finally sandbars appeared throughout the beach area where the town was centered.
Some in our group were true golfers, and all of us were to some degree or other. I’m in the “other” catagory. While the “real” golfers did the golf course to the north of town, we only did the sand bars. The others joined us when they weren’t golfing the manicured links which they enjoyed, although at the same time reporting the wind being a distraction, unavoidable at the time as the course opened at 9 am just as the wind settled in. Of course, the sand bars had their drawbacks too. The shallow water near the sand made water shots, almost never done otherwise, a regular thing. But whatever else, they were the forgotten with in the joy of doing something rather unique. Scores weren’t really kept, but laughter was the order of the time on the watery links. It was intresting to note that, one day, Pat had the best preformance-using just a putter!
One day we did a convoy trip (three vehicles) to Puertocitos, located farther to the south on the west Cortes coast. The road was fine for our cars, but with many serious dips in the road, and we guessed the Mexican term would likely be, “Vados Grande!” Signs for the gigantic cactus pulled us in, but we didn’t enter once we were told that the entry fee would be ten dollars for each car. Onward (those cheap Canucks?) The road took us away from the ocean for several miles, then plunked us down in Puertocitos. This was a rough-looking area, with a fishing-camp look to it. But one hotel looked a bit upscale, and behind it’s entrance somewhere were the hot springs we’d heard about. But when we were met in the courtyard with the news that we would need to pay 15 dollars per car to stay, we didn’t. Enjoying a great experiences was superceded by a unanimous, Canadian-style sense of economic values. We carried on, by now the lunches we had all packed with us looming forward from the back of our minds. A short distance back down the road we came in on, we turned off, to a distant picnicing area where we settled in with our own lawn chairs to eat, eventually met by a young person on a motorbike who asked for nothing, noting I guess, that we were a group of “oldsters” merely enjoying a place to stop to eat a lunch and the view. Several palapas were set, for busier times; the water was quite far away; sand had been blown up the cover much of the nearby hill. We were careful to leave it as clean as we found it.
The Cowpatty bar was the next stop. We had passed by it an hour or so before, but now lingered there to enjoy its anbiance. Some motorcylists were just leaving; a group of eight or so were eating outside; others were here and there, searching the walls that were festooned with memorbilia. We sat and enjoyed a libation, Tecate – the only beer offered because, as the owner pointed out, their elctricity was provided by a generator. The front of a bus protruding, as it were, from the building, yielded a fine photo oportuniity. Eventually we left, one by one, at our own pace. Marguerite and I did a trip down one road that became so washboarded we turned back, tried again farther north. The next trip had a better roadway, wide with much soft sand. We made it almost to water’s edge and there, along the sea front were perhaps a 75 palapas, looking like none had been used for months. Sand had drifted throughout, but we found a way back without having to turn our hubs to 4WD. Wenever saw a soul there despite some buildings to one side. Then it was back to our home away from home in San Felipe.
We began in the morning from the El Centro, California, area’s Walmart parking lot where we spent overnight and assembled the three rigs headed for San Felipe. We calculated it would be about a four hour drive, left the Walmart about the same time on the way to the East Gate border crossing that would take us into Mexicali, Baja, Mexico. With all three rigs together, ourselves, Drew and Pat from Prince. George, British Columbia and Terry and Joanie, from our home town, Powell River, B.C.
Couple by couple, along with one or two others doing the same thing, we filled out our FMM tourist permits, walked down the street to the bank to pay for them, and returned to immigration where they still had our passports. Satisfied we had payed for the FMM’s, our official stamped our passports and after a cursory search by the military, we continued on our way, around the outskirts of the city of Mexicali. We found this aspect a little daunting, with the traffic and hustle and bustle – and construction- happening on these streets. They encompassed quite a lot of uneven roadway. Eventually we rode out of the city on Baja Hwy 5 south, gradually clearing heavily populated areas and eventually saw buildings disappear entirely as we ate up the kilometers, in one area replaced by what appeared to be acres of broken glass, shimmering in the morning sunlight. We were a strung-out threesome, never getting close together until we came upon the road from the west, from the Pacific coastal city of Ensenada which joined Hwy 5 at about 40 miles north of San Felipe. There we had another quick Military search, and drove on. The drive from Mexicali covered some interesting regions which ran the gamut from a huge now dry lake area that once held overflow waters from the Colorado, to low mountainous areas where sand dunes now filled gullies on the mountainsides, the sand blown up over time by winds from the valley floor.
San Felipe arrives slowly to a driven vehicle, as the outskirts unfold for fifteen or so kilometers. We did have an idea of where we would try to get settled into an RV park. Club de Pesca RV Resort was where our directions took us. We all parked, walked the area and found spots on a long, wide, concrete apron that gave a three-foot drop to the sandy beach. Two 40-foot motor homes, the owners from northern California, had the first two spaces, with room for three or four more. As it was, we never had to relinquish any of the spaces between any of the rigs. The smaller ones that did stay during our month long sojourn there utilized the spots farther down towards the clubhouse that offered palapas, and were closer to the WIFI and the club house there. As it was, we did not pay for three days, meanwhile looking for something better. The more we looked at our spots the more we liked what we had, the best view, the cleanest location, and far enough from the malecon that we were almost assured of peace and quiet, but not too far from shopping. As it proved later, the mountainous sand dunes behind the property routinely lured sand-climbing vehicles, some powerful and noisy. But these proved to be more interesting than problematic during our stay.
We always passed up taking the trip here in all the years we came through the Lukeville/Sonoyta border crossing, bbecause we were bound for the “real” Mexico much farther south. Anyway, we had little thoughts of the half-day travel destinations that could be had from California or Arizona, USA. Weren’t they just getaways often for the weekends only, bring all your toys and rip up the place, there is water! and sandunes! and cheap booze? Let off our pirotecniks? That was our half-baked conception, sometimes true, but often a misconception. Now that we’ve had a smidgin of seeing it for ourselves, all I can say is take it for what it is and what you can make of it yourself. Personal experiences will vary.
For winter travel though, it doesn’t compare with the warmth of the beaches farther south in Mexico. To my mind, winter warmth starts about San Blas, Nayarit; it gets too warm at about Zihautenjeo, so I say though never having camped there. Over time we became aclimatized in the wonderful winter temperatures of the Costalegra – the stretch of the Pacific coast between the south of Puerto Vallarta and Manzanillo.
This year we dedicated time to vist northern Mexican destinations on the Sea of Cortes, which on many maps is named Gulfo de California. Whatever. For some, Cortes or Cortez pleases; for many more the elimination of the historical surname is better, thus the Gulfo terminology is found on Mexican-produced maps. Conquerors are seldom revered, the old from centuries ago or even those since. Incidentley, we live about 40 miles from a British Columbia, Canada, island named Cortes Island. Same guy.
Now in San Felipe, Baja California, Mexico. We’ve been parked by the water for a week now, slowly finding our way around town, getting used to Mexican ways again after being away for nearly four years. But this is our first trip driving to Baja. We were a bit cold when we first arrived but have either gotten used to the environment, or it’s has in fact been trying to shrug off the wintertime blues. Who knows? I check the temperatures each morning and now find I’m not looking for my warm slippers right away now. It must be spring.
We’re just enjoying a quiet lifestyle now. Our friends, Terry and Drew, have been golfing but, truth be told, the winds seem to come our way if not right away in the morning, then just abit later on. Fishing? Ouch my sore back…or it would be if we were out pounding the waves on a trip to sea. Golfing has been okay acording to Terry (no rain) but the wind soon becomes a factor, and no way to beat it as the course doesn’t open until 9 AM. El Norte hits us by 10 each day, so far.
But we’re having a good time. It was laundry day today, and after getting the bulk of it done in town Marguerite had a few things not subject to modern day machinery, so we needed a clotheline (as all campers must have in this world) so that was my job this morning. It takes almost no time to dry clothes here, with the wind a steady 15 MPH and humidity at 18 percent or so.
We stumbled late out of the starting gate earlier in the month. With a hurried departure, some important things got left behind for instance, we missed our first choice for a ferry that would take us from our home town. That one proved to be an unimportant small diversion now that we are looking back on it from sunny days in Arizona. We had a plan to slip through Seattle on a Sunday, but since that was Remembrance Day in Canada and Veterans Day in America, we waited at Nicole and Chiko’s in Burnaby, B.C. for another day because of the long waits at the border crossings. On the Monday a holiday in Washington too, we left meaning we breezed through Seattle for the first time ever. Once camped here in Parker, we discovered important items missing from our Shaw Direct package. We had the dish, the receivers, the wires, the tripod and only later found our “hidden” box containing a level, compass, incline guage and “screamer” which emits a whistling sound when it finds a satellite signal (and maybe not the correct one). But no LBN nor the arm it gets mounted on.
It was then that our friend Walter came to my rescue. He had a new-style LBN he wasn’t using and knew of a welding shop where we could have a new arm made. Very soon, after the short ride into Parker to the shop where a chap named Dennis fabricated a replacement from steel, by cutting, grinding and welding a piece of one x two- inch box stock into the arm we needed, and to Marguerite’s delight we had some fine Canadian television again. Just no NHL hockey.
On the way south we had stopped in Chehalis, Washington, to replace our MiFi internet gadget which worked but had no battery life with another from Verizon, the “Jet Pack.” A new battery for the WiFi was about the price of the JetPack assuming we return the WiFi to Verizon for the announced rebate for sending in the old gadget.