Snow in Arizona – it’s a beautiful thing.

A week ago, we drove back to Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, seeking refuge from the snow and sub-zero temperatures that were forecast just about everywhere else in Arizona.  What we got instead was rain – torrential rain that poured for hours and hours and created flash floods and turned dry arroyos into treacherous creeks with a foot or more of water raging through. We made it to the high ground of our campground and waited for brief spells between storms to set up. It was incredibly cozy – we had lots of food to eat, plenty of books to read and I even had a 500-piece puzzle I had picked up at the campground book exchange. It was absolute luxury to tuck in and listen to the rain pound on our roof.

As much as this snow and rain is excessive, the locals are delighted. Arizona needs all the moisture it can get and as tourists, we need to learn not to complain.  The day after the big storm, we went out for a walk in the desert and everything had perked right up. I have no idea how much water was here before the storm, but we sat for about a half hour, watching the birds and hoping to spot wildlife. (no luck – those coyotes and javelinas are too smart to be out mid-day.)

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And then,  a huge helicopter flew right overhead, banked hard and flew down the wash.

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A half hour later, as we were hiking  back out again, someone pointed to where the chopper had landed.  We had seen lots of border patrol activity on our way to the hike.  I was so curious to go over and peer down and see what was going on, but thought that might be frowned upon, so left it alone.

This is the snow we wanted to avoid driving in and camping in and now we have the best of both – bright sunny days with snowcapped mountains and the remnants of the storm still in the fields.

This is just outside the town of Patagonia; about 10 miles from Patagonia Lake State Park, where we have camped out for the past four days.

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This area is abundant and more lush than we have experienced in Arizona so far. Still semi-arid, but ringed with mountain ranges that surround broad valleys. This is cattle country.

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We’re also in serious birding territory. We had no idea – this is a magnet for serious birders due to the huge variety of species and the area’s geological and ecological diversity.  Prime time for viewing is March to September; a moot point since we are neither birders nor in possession of binoculars – arriving in this area was purely by accident. We were the only people on the trails without being there for the express purpose of seeing birds. Of a type, birders travel singly or in small, quiet groups; outfitted with hats, comfortable shoes and field guides.  They whisper to one another and identify birdcalls. They don’t appear to frighten the birds, who  have seen them all before. This is a group I would love to join. “It’s addictive,” one serious birder told me, after she had expertly mimicked the difference between an owl and a white-winged dove.

In the town of Patagonia, we stopped by The Paton Center for Hummingbirds, which began in the 1970s when local residents Marion and Wally Paton created a garden and began attracting birds with specific plants and feeders. They attracted several varieties of hummingbirds and migrating birds, and the birders soon followed. The Patons set out chairs and invited strangers into their front garden. Before long, it became a world-famous destination and has since expanded into a trail behind the house. Now in alliance with Tucson Audubon and supported by private donors, this magical space belongs to everyone.

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We saw many, many birds (which is like saying we went to a botanical garden and saw many, many flowers), but without a decent camera or binoculars or even a passing grasp of bird species, this is the best we could do:

The ladder-backed woodpecker

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Gambel’s Quail

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The town of Patagonia is so interesting; a town that is both rough-hewn and in the words of a local, “hippie-dippie.” An artistic community that is managing in spite of a depressed economy. From a couple of quick walks around town, Patagonia revealed an eclectic crowd.

The car and the gent, possibly of a similar vintage (1928 Ford).

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Many of the houses in Patagonia are modest; others have a more cared-for appearance and Spanish influence in design.

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We were lucky to find the Patagonia Museum open. It is run by volunteers and usually open only a few hours three days a week. It is housed in what was the Grammar School that ran from 1914 until 2014.

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The docent was a teacher there for number of years and she even allowed Stephen to pull the rope and ring the bell, ” a great privilege for my Grade Twos,” as she pointed out. It was fun to wander through the four classrooms, now filled with local artifacts and display boards.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch…  Patagonia Lake State Park is set on a man-made lake which is stocked with fish, primarily bass.

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It is also a lovely spot to rent a boat and row your sweetie around until you are exhausted. The young woman was curled up on the bow, laughing; the young man was grimly rowing. We caught up with them again as they cleared the bridge, heading for the dock.

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The park is also surrounded by more prime birding opportunities. We walked to this trail from our campsite, where we easily identified white-winged doves.

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The trail led through forests of mesquite – low-ish trees that look dead right now, but are slowly developing that lovely green haze we all wait for that tells us winter is almost over.

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Incongruously, there is a herd of cattle that grazes in this state park and this little crew gave us the hard stare as we approached.   We encountered cows on a number of our hikes, miles and miles away from anywhere; in Arizona, cattle are allowed to  graze free range on public land.

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Yesterday we took on a 3-mile hike through the Patagonia Sonoita Creek Preserve that should have been easy – a slight elevation and a loop trail leading though cottonwoods and ocotillo, with grand views of a number of mountain ranges.

We can’t say we weren’t warned. The ranger advised us that the creek running through the upper end of the hike was flooded due to the snow, and the normally wet rock crossing was now submerged under 2-3 inches of water. We can do that!

A beautiful walk – everything just on the verge of greening up and springing into blossom. “If only we were here two weeks from now”, we said.

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We reached the halfway point, and walked for a while on an old railway line.

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When we reached the rock crossing, it was not two or three inches, it was over a foot of water over the rocks, which meant the water on either side of the rock crossing might be two to three feet deep.  (forgot to take a photo of the creek, sorry).

We walked back and forth and saw one part of the creek that we thought we might be able to cross by getting our feet a bit wet, then hopping up onto a fallen tree and shimmying over it to the other side. If we had to save our very lives, we would have attempted it, but I had visions of plunging off the tree into the water, ruining my camera, and possibly doing harm to myself.  We had no choice but to retrace our steps and add another mile or so to our hike. We had fun in spite of ourselves, and our lone truck in the parking lot shone like a beacon.

We’re off to Bisbee area tomorrow for a week – see you again soon.

 

 

 

The Snowbirds are freezing in Tucson

First of all, I strongly dislike the term “snowbird” and the image it portrays.  Older folks fleeing snow and cold and then huddling in groups for safety and comfort. There is little diversity in campgrounds and RV parks – this is the playground of senior retired white people in protective hats and three-season activewear. And yes, this describes Stephen and me as we travel about, but I’m not happy about it.

So you can imagine our chagrin that our snowbird payoff (sun and warmth) is nowhere to be found here in Arizona. If British Columbia’s winter was behaving normally, we would be experiencing this exact weather back home.

We are in Tucson, staying at a scenic campground about 20 minutes out of town, up in Tucson Mountain Park with the coyotes and the cactus, and we’re freezing.  The past two nights have dropped to below zero; this morning we woke up to frost on the truck. This is the coldest and wettest February that locals can remember – at least 10-15 degrees cooler than normal. They are calling for yet another storm system to pass through over the next week; most places will have snow and nighttime lows of minus three to minus six. We have changed plans to ride out the next week – we will head back south to Organ Pipe Cactus Monument for a few days. It is the only place we can find that does not have snow on the horizon.

In the meantime, as they say down east, this is where we’re to.

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Our campground is just around the corner from this twisty mountain road; a hugely popular campground that is first-come, first-served and competition for a spot is fierce. You must line up as early in the morning as possible to wait for campsites to empty out; being granted a spot is like winning a lottery – they are usually gone before noon. We are here for seven days (our maximum allowable stay) and trying to see as much of the area as possible in spite of the weather.

Tucson is a sprawling city with a stunning University of Arizona campus and an historic downtown well worth exploring.  There are a number of museums, theatres and galleries on campus, including Arizona State Museum.

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This museum is largely devoted to the history and culture of the 21 Indian tribes in Arizona. Basket weaving has always been an important indigenous art form – these baskets were exquisite:

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I have never seen shoes woven from reed or straw before; these were probably created more for the artistic challenge than for the practicality of actually wearing them.

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We were befuddled by this sign, and wonder if it was posted as a result of an over-zealous and missing-the-point-entirely complaint.

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There is a section devoted to each tribe and a photo section that was particularly striking.  I loved this photo:

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Also on campus is the Center  for Creative Photography; a research and archive facility with exhibitions by Richard Avedon and Ansel Adams, among others.

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Avedon’s current exhibition is entitled” Relationships”, showing a series of photos in which he captured the chemistry between people.
This couple from Nova Scotia tells quite the story:

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Tucson’s historic downtown is very walkable, and we had the excellent Turquoise Trail map to guide us. We followed a turquoise line painted on the sidewalks and consulted the brochure, which listed points of interest along the way.

Every city should do this – it is such an easy, helpful and informative way to explore a new destination.

Barrio Viejo streetscape – typical brightly painted adobe homes.

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Homes in Tucson are almost entirely one-storey and many have deeply recessed porches to help cope with the summer heat.

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The splendid Tucson courthouse.

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Tucson is filled with interesting old signs and neon. This  apartment building appears to be undergoing a renovation; the lower stucco was being refaced.

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While this hotel and swimming pool is no longer in business, the sign and building remain, waiting perhaps for someone else’s great idea. You can see the turquoise line on the sidewalk (with Stephen in the distance.)

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As business plans go, this one is hard to resist:

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Not all downtown is historic, of course. Modern steel and glass fits right into the streetscape.

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We visited the beautiful double-domed San Agustin Cathedral, went inside and took a pew.

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We are not religious, but there is something reassuring about being in the quiet and calm of a church and we often take time while travelling just to sit and reflect.  We witnessed a deeply moving sight. A frail man who was leaning heavily on two canes and appeared to be blind made his way slowly past us. He set down his canes, dropped to his knees and inched painfully and slowly, up the tile floor. When he reached the top, he turned and made his way back, again on his knees. He appeared to be in such pain, so unwell and alone – was this penance, asking for strength?

Not far from the cathedral, we came upon another poignant site – El Tiradito, or The Castaway.

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This Tucson Historic Site is a shrine dedicated to the souls of sinners buried in unconsecrated ground. There are burned-out candle stubs, flowers, small notes tucked into small holes in the adobe wall. I wondered about one photo – three young men with their arms around each other, full of life and energy. Two of the men were born in 1971; one in 1977. Two died in 2006, one in 2014. Clearly they had all been friends and now were all dead. How did they die? What was their story – why did they all die so young?

With no clear answers to unknowable questions, our next stop with the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum.

The 98-acre museum, which is largely outdoors, is comprised of several botanical gardens, aviary, aquarium, zoo and natural history museum. This is a huge favourite with visitors and locals alike; we made the mistake of going on a Saturday and it became very crowded at times. Since the museum is so spread out, the crowds did tend to alternately clump up and thin out.   It is a well-interpreted museum and for the most part, we thoroughly enjoyed our 3-mile walk.

But… and this is a perspective I know many of you will not share, but… we both struggle with most zoos and aquariums. I know there are a number of excellent zoos in the world (Toronto’s zoo, for one), and animal sanctuaries and refuges do important work. The museum had several areas, none of them large, to showcase the area animals. We saw an ocelot in a cage the size of a bathroom, running in circles; demented behaviour that was deeply upsetting. This poor roadrunner also showed distress – it ran the length of a cage that measured about 20 feet.

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The rest of the desert animals were housed either in fenced compounds or in a large cage designed to look like its natural environment.

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We have heard coyotes howling and yipping in our campgrounds, but still haven’t seen one in the wild. This is what I hope to encounter one day in his own turf.

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We were both so hoping to see javelinas in the wild – these peccaries are quite the local fixture and as one gentleman told us, we would be more likely to see them in town looking for garbage than out in the desert. He also advised us they could be aggressive and to keep our distance.

These characters were not one bit interested in photo ops, but this will give you an idea of their size and appearance.

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We finished our tour of the museum with a “raptor in flight” show. Five Harris hawks that had been rehabbed and could not return to the wild have been trained to fly close to spectators. They have been trained with food and their handlers put small pieces of meat on branches to allow us all a closer viewing.

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They are beautiful creatures – it was a thrill to see them so close. We had been warned ahead of the show to keep our arms down – to take photos at eye level only and not to hoist small children on shoulders for a better look. The hawks frequently flew right over us, literally a foot or two above our heads.

They would then return to the same area, squabbling over territory.

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Another common bird in southwestern Arizona is the turkey vulture.

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More to come – we have another couple of days in Tucson, and weather permitting, we have a lot yet to see.

Defending the border in southern Arizona

Sometimes certain realities take longer to sink in than others. With the exception of distinct regional accents, I never thought of Americans and Canadians as being that different from one another. Most Americans comment on the fact that we don’t sound “Canadian”, so I guess we blend in.

We’ve been to the U.S countless times but this was the first time it really struck us that America is a military nation. While the role of the United States as “the world’s police” does not come as a surprise, seeing it in action is new to us.

Southern Arizona is home to a number of military installations, including the Barry Goldwater Air Force Range and eight border security stations. In our first week here, we have heard the roar of fighter jets, seen planes fly in formation over the desert and heard bombs drop (not on citizens, there is a practice area not far from here) .

The 262-mile Arizona border has become increasingly militarized, with over 4200 agents covering eight stations. The white and green Border Patrol trucks are ubiquitous and this morning a helicopter flew low over the desert in front of our campground.

We are currently 10 miles from the Mexican/U.S. border and this is a common sight:

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While truck patrol is the first line of defence, the region is also covered by agents who ride out into the desert on ATV’s.

Signs like this one are posted throughout the desert.

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Seriously, if you managed to flee your country, travel hundreds or thousands of miles and cross the border, only to have to cross a mountain range like this one, you should be given automatic entry. Your perseverance, bravery and strength of character could only be considered assets to the country.

There are hundreds of migrants who die each year in the desert, from exposure and dehydration; in 2017 there were 294 recorded deaths, but actual numbers are much higher. There had been a lot of controversy in the past couple of years over the treatment of humanitarian workers who had been leaving water in the desert, to try and prevent more deaths.

There was huge outrage after a video showed border patrol agents deliberately kicking over gallon jugs of water left behind by aid workers and harassing them about leaving “garbage” in a pristine area.  A number of workers were arrested and posters like this one began popping up:

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Interestingly, in Republican Arizona there appears to be a shift in mood in some quarters. People mention “the wall” with an eye-roll and a shrug – apparently many border patrol agents believe the money could be better spent in improved technology. We can’t know the behind-the-scenes machinations of border security, but this was a heartening sight. There are several of these bright blue water stations, marked with a flag. The border officers know about them and they have remained in place.

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We ran into a couple from B.C. who were boondocking in the desert.  They work actively in the desert – picking up garbage and clothing left behind by migrants and helping migrants with food and water if they see them. They told us that there are boxes of unclaimed human remains in Tucson; heartbreaking in that their journey ended with such suffering and their families have no way of identifying them.

In the context of Trump’s government shutdown, this manufactured fear of desperate migrants seems pitiful. We have to assume the real criminals have easier channels to the U.S. than having to crawl through the desert.

Also in the context of the shutdown, we spoke to a number of National Park rangers who were discreet but clear in their views about this administration. I have learned (I think) to allow others to lead the conversation if it takes a political turn. When the talk turns to Trump, we smile ruefully and nod in agreement and say little and that seems to work.

And so…on to the beauty of the Sonoran desert. We began our time in Arizona in the small town of Ajo (Ah-jo). a sweet little place that became prosperous with the copper mine that operated from the 1890s to its closure in 1985.

We were able to see the vast open-pit mine from a fenced-off viewing area. There is a greenish lake at the bottom, about 100 feet in depth.

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With the mine closure came a reversal in fortune; the town has seen better days.  The central plaza is beautifully preserved though and the buildings around the downtown are worth a look.

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One of the churches:

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This old school has been converted to an artist’s community, with thirty low-income apartments. There was a quilt show on while we were there; the organizer told me the artists take turns setting up events.

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These homes are typical of the miner’s cottages that line the streets of Ajo.

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As we headed south from Ajo, we passed through the tiny crossroads called Why, pop.2. The name came about because it is situated at a Y-intersection. Since places are required to have a proper name (not a letter) and no-one appeared to be too inspired,  Why was born.

We stopped for gas at the Why Not:

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We camped for four nights at Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, at the Twin Peaks Campground. The Park is named for the Organ Pipe Cactus, (which resembles the pipes of an organ) and is found in Mexico, but only in this area in Arizona.

These cacti are about 6-10 feet tall.

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The campground is set high on a hill, with gorgeous views of the mountain ranges. We have not witnessed one of those technicolour Arizona sunsets yet as the weather has been a little unsettled. Our first night here was lovely – the sunset cast a pink glow over the mountains.
The view from our trailer:

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There are a number of hikes and scenic drives from the park; here are some images of this landscape.

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The desert flowers are not quite out yet in their full splendour, but we walked past many poppies – the first of the season.

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We go to sleep at night listening to the owls and wake up in the morning to a wild chorus of birdsong. This little cactus wren has the most beautiful voice.

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Tomorrow we drive three hours to Tucson, where we will camp at a county campground about 20 minutes outside the city. We have a few things to take care of – oil change for the truck, haircuts, repair a broken latch for the trailer, etc. We plan on being in the Tucson area for about a week – so much to see in Old Tucson as well as the surrounding areas.

La Mordida – the Bribe

Well, sooner or later, it had to happen. We have driven throughout Mexico three different times, for a total of nine months and for more than 25,000 km. We have been pulled over for speeding and waved off with a warning. We have had a police officer in Michoacan (a cartel state) shake our hands and thank us for visiting Mexico – this during a time when tourism had dropped drastically due to cartel violence. We have had police officers help us when we were hopelessly lost. And in spite of our positive encounters with the law, we were both very conscious of widespread police corruption and of the infamous mordida – the “bite” put on tourists for bogus traffic violations. We didn’t think the police were our friends, but we somehow felt immune to them. Still, when every Mexican blew through stop signs and red lights, we dutifully came to complete stops.

Before I tell you our sad story, let me assure you we were well aware of the crooked practice and thought we were prepared for being pulled over. We had read the forums and knew the drill. Don’t hand over your licence, just deny the charge, stay calm and polite and insist on going to the station to pay the “fine” directly. Since the cop has no intention of going to the station, invariably he gets fed up and waves you on. But…other circumstances prevailed.

We were using Google maps on our phone to lead us out of Tecate and to the U.S. border. Unfortunately that map had not been updated since the road changed to “pedestrian only” three years ago and we found ourselves in a narrow area with virtually no space to turn around. Thankfully a kind man stopped to direct Stephen how to back up with almost no wiggle room. He proudly banged on his chest, “truck driver” and within minutes we were on our way again. We had to drive several blocks before we could make a U-turn and then head back for another try for the border. We took the turn and then the road split into three, with absolutely no signage directing us. We took a chance and made the wrong turn. By now we were both in a state.  I spotted a cop car coming in our direction, flagged him down and sure enough, he wheeled around, put his siren on and pulled in behind us. By some mystery of magical thinking, I believed this man was wanting to help us, so I hopped out of the car and walked back toward him.

That was my mistake. He became very agitated and aggressive and ordered me back to the car. He then proceeded to tell us that we had driven through a stop sign, past an emergency building and I had also broken the law by getting out of the car. All of those infractions carried a heavy price – 2400 pesos (about CA $170.00). We had two choices – we could go to the judge and plead our case and that might take a couple of days, or he could pay the  fine in the office on our behalf.  He also informed me he wanted to speak to the driver only (Stephen) as I was flapping indignantly in front of him. Stephen told him he wanted to do the most efficient thing, as we just wanted to get out of the country.

We both had plenty of money in various hiding places, but I had US$100 freshly cashed in from our remaining pesos and stashed in my pocket. Stephen helpfully pointed out that we had that sum at our disposal and that was his mistake.

These guys usually score about $10 or $20, if they score anything at all. This cop lit up like a Christmas tree and thought that sum might just help us out of our difficulties.  We followed him down around the corner and pulled in behind him. He produced a “violation book” and pointed out where our transgressions were listed. Since it was written in Spanish and we had already established our knowledge of the language was slight, it could have been a washing machine repair manual for all we knew. He instructed me to put the “fine” in the book,  he closed it up and stuck it in his jacket – as if it had never happened. He made his way back to his car, then instructed us to follow him to the border.

Then came the “If only’s.” If only we had gone straight instead of left.  If only I hadn’t flagged the cop down. If only Stephen hadn’t mentioned a sum of money. If only we had remembered to stay cool. If only we had remembered we were in the right and the cop was in the wrong.  We were caught out when we were vulnerable and frustrated and lost and we paid for it. It took us a while to get over our fury (at the cop and at ourselves) and embarrassment and self-flagellation, but as the late, great Nora Ephron would say, “everything is copy.

If it can become a story, it can become a lesson, and suffice to say, lesson learned.

This has not turned us off Mexico one little bit, but it is a good reminder – as much as we feel comfortable and familiar in Mexico, it is a foreign country and they play by a different rulebook.

Thankfully, our previous day and night in Baja was so delightful that those sweet memories far outweigh the sour taste left from the crooked cop.

Our friends Cindy and Bob are members of Harvest Hosts – https://harvesthosts.com – an organization that allows people to camp on farms and in wineries at no charge, usually for one night. The hope is that you will buy wine or produce from the hosts – an agreeable arrangement for all.

They were staying at L.A. Cetto, Mexico’s largest winery for their last night in Baja and suggested we do the same. We arrived and pulled in to this dreamy spot.

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We set up and went into the winery for a tasting of their reserve wines – three white and three red. This young man Adrian, gave an excellent tasting and was knowledgable and passionate. He is 27 years old and working toward his dream of having his own vineyard one day. He discovered wine while earning his culinary papers and has switched fields. He and his girlfriend (a biologist) want to travel to the Okanagan in Canada and to New Zealand to learn as much as they can about wine production in other parts of the world. We bought two bottles of wine, a Nebbiolo and a Terra ( made from four grape varietals in the area).

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We then went for a walk around the vineyard – it was about 3:30 in the afternoon and the light was pure magic.

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Our very last night in Baja was idyllic. We have managed to have a few laughs over our border mishap, or as Stephen chooses to call it, “our special escort out of Mexico.”

We are now in Arizona, in the small town of Ajo and enroute to our first National Park (trying to fit as many in as we can while they are still open) – Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.  We’re having fun, but after our contact with all the young’uns in Baja with their old camper vans and surfboards and rescue dogs, this is a serious change of pace.

We are in Snowbird Country, or as we like to say, “No Country for Young Men.” Lots to report – see you again in a few days.

 

 

En route to La Frontera

We had originally planned to be out of Mexico by the end of January and beginning our southwestern U.S. travels, but Mother Nature had other ideas. That most besieged of states, California, has been pummelled with three storms bringing heavy rain, mudslides, flooding and road closures in the south and heavy snow at higher elevations. The tail end of those storms has dumped buckets of rain in the northern end of Baja, so we made the decision to hunker down for a bit and enjoy the sun and warmth while we could.

We spent four days at Bahia de los Angeles, a community that is 66 km. from the highway to the Sea of Cortez.  While it is mainly a fishing and boating destination, we enjoyed it simply for its quiet beauty. This was the view from our campground.

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We went for a few desert walks and came upon this quintessential desert sight – a flock of turkey vultures, just waiting…

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Back on the beach, we met up with this little fellow that we believe to be a curlew. He was the only one we saw on any of the beaches in Baja.

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We arrived back to the campground to a rather frenetic scene. A couple of fellow campers had come back to shore and were cleaning their fish and tossing scraps to the birds. For a while the pelicans were batting 1000, but the gulls moved in and snatched the fish right out of their beaks. Amid the indignant screeching and flapping wings, it was looking like an avian smackdown.

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Our first morning there, we awoke to a beautiful 6:00 am sunrise. I got up to take some photos and sit on the beach to enjoy the changing sky.  Two of our neighbours were already there, readying their kayaks for a sunrise paddle.

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They returned a couple of hours later, with a few grouper for dinner.

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And that is the joy of Bahia de los Angeles – the water, the fishing, the quiet. Alas, the quiet was not to be, as a caravan of seven big rigs were camped out and ready to par-tay. A caravan is like being on a tour with a leader and other campers; travellers pay a good buck for that privilege. The caravan leader is the one who organizes border crossings, campgrounds, tours, restaurants, etc. and the rest follow behind. This was our first encounter with a caravan and if possible, it will be our last.  Probably they are all decent people and the leader bears a lot of responsibility for (not) setting the tone, but both nights 14 people began drinking around 4:00 pm and didn’t stop until 9:00 or 10:00 pm.  Dimwitted cacophony ensued. The rest of the campground had to listen to hours of shrieking laughter and loud inane conversation, punctuated by pointless war cries of “woo-hoo!”  I thought I might lose it, but was prevented by going over to them by Stephen, who quite rightly pointed out the fact that I would be trying to reason with 14 drunks; many of them belligerent.

Writing it off as being another chapter of “life on the road”, we took great comfort in meeting up again with Bob and Cindy from Christina Lake, British Columbia.  We had been hopscotching down and back up the Baja – meeting them a few times in different campgrounds. They were staying at a different campground, so we popped by for a visit and catch-up.

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The town of Bahia de los Angeles has campgrounds on one side and the marina and boat ramp on the other.  It has a bit of an end-of-the-road feel to it. There are boarded-up businesses and run-down buildings and sights like this one – a one-time grand home on the water that was abandoned and left to the elements. There was simply no-one to buy it and fix it up.

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I marvelled at the boat launch. Apparently as boat ramps go, this one is pretty fine, but if you look closely, you will see how far into the water the tow vehicles go. They must gauge where the ramp ends and the water begins and not get those two confused. As people still new to the efficient backing up of trailers, we were suitably impressed.

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We left Bahia de los Angeles and headed north with mixed feelings; our time in Baja was drawing to a close. We expected to have a couple of  nondescript overnight stops, then heave ourselves back into the reality show of the U.S.

As we headed north, we drove through a number of landscapes, including fields of giant boulders.

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I’ve probably mentioned the roads in Baja before. They are almost entirely narrow, with no shoulder and are in parts a pothole obstacle course. They require steely nerves and a steady eye; at times it all becomes a bit much. Again – all part of the Baja journey.

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We arrived at Don Eddy’s, near Lazaro Cardenas, about 200 km. south of the border, with the intention of getting up this morning and heading out, but it is so beautiful here we  decided to give ourselves another full day. Don Eddy’s is an RV park situated on a bay just in from the Pacific. The surrounding area is pastoral and calm – such a change from the desert landscape and it reminded us a bit of SE Asia.

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Our friends had told us about this site and also about a nearby restaurant called Eucalipto. This sweet little place is proof that if you provide fabulous food in a culinary desert and you are not afraid to charge a reasonable sum for it, then the unlikely location  (5 km. off the highway) won’t matter one bit.

Chef Javier, (who bears more than a passing resemblance to Gordon Ramsey) is from Mexico City, has cooked in a number of places around the world and three years ago, opened his small restaurant to great acclaim. Prices are in U.S. dollars, which is a good indication of the clientele.

We split a blue cheese salad, which arrived as a spiral of romaine tucked into a tomato cup, nestled in piles of pungent creamy cheese. We’d both been craving fresh salad so this was a ripping good start.   I ordered yellowtail tuna which was cooked exactly right (I didn’t need a knife) and Stephen had the pesto pasta with shrimp – every single ingredient fresh and popping with flavour.  We barely spoke – it was one of those primal food experiences.

On top of the memorable meal, we had fun watching the sous-chef’s 11-year-old son, (with that most Mexican name, Ryan), working the room. He calmly and confidently bussed tables, stopped to chat and stoked the fire. A true family business and a lovely way to end our trip.

Eucalipto’s crew:

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We popped into town to buy some groceries.  We saw huge puddles of water in the fields and on the side of the road that were the result of yesterday’s rain – that very rain storm we had wanted to avoid. Our timing was perfect.

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This is an important agricultural area, with tomatoes, strawberries and citrus being the primary crops. There are many roadside stands just like this one.

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I’ll leave you with an image that has burned into my brain. Mexico is not lacking for vehicles with questionable road-worthiness. We have seen cars without front hoods, driver’s doors, and windshields. We have seen vehicles that were 50% rust, with fenders hanging on with twine. But this one is the best yet – I wish we had taken a video of it in motion. The entire back end sways, with each side taking turns in a fascinating centrifugal motion. No doubt the driver will keep this baby on the road for a while yet.

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When we talk again it will be from somewhere in Arizona. We’ve never been to that state and have a year’s worth of potential places to visit. See you soon!