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Archive for the ‘Sonora’ Category

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I thought about changing the entire name of the blog to “Isolation and Car Repairs” because so far that seems to be about all I have to write about. We find ourselves in the tiny little beach town of Huatabampito, Sonora. We are again the only rig in the RV park. Still wondering whether it is the safety situation or it is still to early in the season (mucho calor) that has us so isolated. I’m guessing a little bit of both.

The AC unit is working great. It was really comfortable in the van last night but both of us had trouble sleeping for a variety of reasons…

The van is already acting up again. More electrical issues. Two more cables got changed today once it cooled off a bit. This time the electrical gremlins have manifested themselves in a short to the stereo (ghast) every time we hit a bump (its Mexico, so every 45 seconds or so), the headlights, and the in-dash AC unit.

Something akin to plastic or rubber hit something hot that it shouldn’t have in the engine compartment in the middle of Navojoa sending smoke billowing into the van and forcing an emergency pull-over. Not sure what it was, there were no signs of any problems when I opened the hood and it never happened again. I zip-tied the shit out over everything loose to try to prevent a repeat occurrence.

Also the house battery doesn’t seem to be charging like it should. Opened the dash and all the shaking and rattling seems to have seriously deteriorated a positive battery cable this time and a ground on the house battery. So el mechanico (me) made another appearance today and we’ll hope that solves it. It is beginning to challenge our resolve a bit. We have talked about potentially taking the ferry from Mazatlan to La Paz and driving home up Baja should it continue. Hopefully this repair will be the last of it and we’ll continue on.

We were able to test out our new shade and bug fortress today. The wind made for constant adjustments but it is pretty nice and we’ll get it figured out.

Huatabampito (or little Huatabampo) is a sleepy little spot, there are some locals on the beach today since it is Sunday but there isn’t much going on. We are here for two days, but we’ll be anxious to head to El Fuerte tomorrow morning. Huatambito isn’t somewhere we’d normally stay for two days but we have a new rule of the road: no driving on Sundays, because there are no mechanics open on Sundays!

Oh, and Natalie got stung by a sting ray today and never made it past 8 inches of water.

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A note about Guide Books

We are using two guide books as our primary sources of information. It is amazing how different they are. The Lonely Planet Mexico doesn’t even mention Hotel Playa Cortes in Miramar/Guaymas and its one of the “better spots in the area for travelers heading to points further South” as the Mexican Camping guide book eloquently put it. But the Mexican Camping book barely mentions El Fuerte as a better jumping off point for Barranca del Cobre (Copper Canyon) while the Lonely Planet raves about the colonial mining town and how it saves you three plus hours over Los Mochis. The moral of the story is to have multiple sources of information and compare. Then, after you’ve digested all the advice, find your own way.

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Our first night of AC in the van alternated between freezing and sweating, we don’t quite have the settings worked out yet but the good news is the AC works! We spent our first night in another desolate RV park just outside of Guaymas, however this park is attached to a beautiful hotel with lots of amenities that are available to the campers. So we spent the morning lounging, swimming, walking the grounds and checking out the set-up for the wedding. The bride and grooms table was the most impressive bling going. A definite must-have for you soon to be hitched readers.

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On the road again…

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Retorno a los Estados Unidos

Something had to be done about the van, the heat and the bugs combined with the u-joint issue and a mounting list of other minor mods was a pretty daunting list to attack in Mexico. During the night in our resort hotel room in San Carlos we decided that the six hour drive back to the states would be worth it. We’d be able to get our issues solved in Tucson and start again.

The drive back from San Carlos to the border was uneventful and pretty easy. We were pretty happy with our decision and even happier when we saw the line at the border. 40 minutes max. Granted Mariposa isn’t San Ysidro but 40 minutes would be easy. And it was. Right up until the point that we were next in our line to greet the border patrol agent. The van overheated. With a rather surrendering demeanor, Natalie sheepishly walked through the line. Apparently this happens all the time since the three customs and immigration officers were joking with me as we pushed our 9000 lb van through the border that pushing cars across the border was the only exercise they got.

Two hours and secondary inspection later, the van cooled down sufficiently and fired up and we were on the road for the almost two hour drive to north Tucson to my old Scoutmaster’s house. Ron and Jan Talbot were so very gracious to put us up for a few days, feed us, and take care of us while we sorted out our issues. We were pretty stoked for some AC and respite from our misadventures. And then Natalie sprained her ankle getting out the van. Crutches and everything. Awesome.

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San Carlos

San Carlos is amazingly beautiful. Its amongst the most picturesque places I’ve been. But it is going to be hard to remember it fondly.

We rolled in to San Carlos about 9:30 Sunday night. We found what the guide books had called “the best RV park in San Carlos”. Not exactly our most favorite locale so far. It was clean, well kept, the security guard was extremely helpful and even walked us down to the closest, still-open, bar for a cool-down drink. It even had free wifi, which I had planned on utilizing. But it was the worst kind of RV park. Stall after stall of electric hook-ups, water spigots, and waste dump pipes. It was uninspiring, no privacy from other campers (had there actually been any), no views, just off the main highway, and some hotels for neighbors. Literally, it is pretty damn hard to find somewhere in San Carlos that isn’t stunning – you have to try, hard… plus it was 300 pesos a night.

And then there were the bugs. The park is right next to standing water. Freshwater. The mosquitos, gnats, no-see-ums were amongst the worst we’d encountered so far. It was readily apparent that our bug proofing modifications to the van had little effect. We rolled out of there at the first sign of light. We quickly noticed an AC dealer a few meters down the street and stopped in to ask about a unit for the van. They thought they might be able to help us but we’d have to come back tomorrow. Hmmm… I’ve heard that one before.

We took to checking out San Carlos and all it had to offer. A pretty cool place all-in-all, with good fishing and diving. Lots to do and see. One such place is a quintessential expat bar called the Soggy Peso. A fabulous little hang-out where the guidebook touts the margarita as “amongst the best in all of Mexico”. We had to confirm this. Had to. So we roll out to the end of the road to where this splendid little joint resides and spent the rest of the day drinking and cajoling with other gringos. In our search for respite from the battle royale that had become our nightly ritual (insects vs. heat) we asked the waiter if it was safe to camp on the beach. He said it was and that the resort next door and the subdivision on the other side both had security guards that patrolled it at night and didn’t let the unsavory types in.

So after all the patrons stumbled home to their hotels and condos we fired up the van and drove out on the beach to camp in the cool sea breeze.

The sand was pretty soft and we started to spin a bit, I decided that the wet sand would be harder and despite Natalie’s objections I veered off into the wet stuff. In my defense, the wet sand in places with waves is indeed harder and easier to drive on. Apparently there are no waves in the Sea of Cortez to accomplish this phenomenon. So I drove us off of the soft stuff into the really soft stuff. Where we sunk.

We then spent the next 45 minutes digging out the tires and trying to get out, forward, reverse. Nada.

About now the aforementioned security guard has spotted us and has started flashing his light at us. I flash mine back and he walks down the beach to witness our predicament first hand. No bueno, mucho mal. El mar está subiendo, que tendrá su coche. Um yeah. Got it. Even my bad Spanish caught that one. Bummer. The tide is rising, it will take your car out to sea. Awesome. No worries he says, you have 4-5 hours. Did I mention it is about 10:30 at night. At least it isn’t Sunday this time. The security guard decides that he and I should go to reception at the hotel and call his friend with a winch on the front of his truck.  We head to reception, leaving Natalie on the beach – alone, continuing to try to dig out the tires; the receptionist (who speaks pretty perfect English) explains to me that the guard doesn’t have his friends’ phone number but that his friend knows the police and they will know how to find him.

Awesome… now they are calling the police and we have to play a game of phone tag on latin time to find the one guy in San Carlos with a winch strong enough to pull us out. The security guard has also made it clear that he expects some compensation for his efforts in order to get some refreshments after work (not that he doesn’t deserve it, but still).

We head back to the car to find Natalie covered in sand; every square inch and every orifice. And she is super happy with me. Super stoked to be my girlfriend at this point. We give it one more try to back it out since her efforts at digging out looked fairly promising. We got about 8 inches. Having had enough of this escapade, Natalie and the security guard head up to solid ground to eat cookies and kick it with the now arrived police, who proceed to tell stories of other dumb gringo tourists who have lost their rides to the sea. While I’m sure that these stories are probably mostly-true, and undoubtedly hysterical given the time and place, I’m feeling a bit nervous that the winch won’t show till just after the van is fully inundated with salt water.

Just as the tide is within worrying distance of the tires, winch-guy shows up. He walks down to the beach takes a couple long looks at it and says it is going to be double. “Are you sure you want to pay double?” Granted, I don’t know double “what”, but whatever double turns out to be it has to be less than letting the van get sucked out to sea by the tide. $1500 pesos later, the van was on solid ground and I was silently driving Natalie to the resort for a de-sanding shower and some AC. Our free night of camping had turned into a $2400 peso near-catastrophe.

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