Baja 2016 - The Ultimate Road Trip
One Dog, Two people and Four Wheels
A wild 6-month ride wheeling through Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, Heidi, Tom and Sam here we go…
Of course, skip all the dribble if you like and just check out the photos
The concept started over two years ago when Heidi and I were sitting around a campfire at our cabin in Northern Wisconsin. The discussions turned to “what should we do next?” We made it through the recession and are living at our cabin, a dream come true for sure. Now we are back to discussing the same old theme “We’re getting older. We’re both still healthy and vibrant. We can do it. What are we waiting for, let’s GO!”
Now the discussion turns wild “where should we go? When should we start?” The Dominican Republic has always been our number one favorite place in the world but we have Sam now. We love Sam and he must come along on whatever adventure we do. Heidi has always thought about Alaska. I want to do Alaska so Alaska it is, the Land of the Midnight Sun. We decide to shoot for the Summer solstice party at Deadhorse Alaska in the Arctic Circle, one of the most Northern towns in the USA. So to pull that off and be at Deadhorse by June 20th we calculate that we need to start this ride by May 1st at the latest. We study maps, read guidebooks about driving to Alaska and study all the various routes. There are two common routes through Canada to get to Alaska, the Gold Rush route and the Rocky Mountain route. For weeks we are discussing scenario after scenario while researching. We enjoy camping while on a road trip and no matter what route we choose to get to Alaska, at that time of year means it is going to be cold, real cold, too cold for comfortable camping, too cold for just hanging out taking in that beautiful scenery.
Now our discussions kick into overdrive. We know we are going somewhere sometime, we just need to decide where and when…
“The adventure starts when you decide to make it happen. When the start date is set your mind goes through stages and patterns that are yet to be discovered. Insecurities come and go and are overcome. Thoughts and daydreams accelerate exploring places never imagined. Often those places are scary, often exciting. People facing death report seeing their life flash before them. I see my future flash in front of me. I like that. Looking at your past does little good. Looking at your future in a positive tone lays a path for you to follow. Only by paving your own road and following your own compass heading will you arrive at your destination, not the destination prescribed by others.”
I make the suggestion “Should we put Sam on a plane with us and fly to the DR?” Our minds shift to what our life would be like with Sam living in Cabarete, our favorite windsurfing village on the North coast of the island. Our vision of getting around is not good. We like public transportation and motorcycles while in the DR, not possible with a dog.
“What about Belize? We can drive the Jeep there. Sam would love it!” Heidi goes crazy looking on the internet for dog friendly long term rentals. We rode our motorcycle down there in 2002’ and in 2008’ and we loved it. Placencia would be the best place, a small village on the tip of a long and narrow twenty mile peninsula into the Caribbean Sea. We know life would be great there with a dog and a jeep, we can see it. The city is only two blocks wide at the tip, two blocks from the Caribbean to the bay. Everything seemed right but the rentals on the internet didn’t pan out as hoped. Either too expensive for long term or just a little too crude. And this is where the jungle meets the Caribbean. Heidi and I have experience trying to live long term in crude jungle rentals like this. It may look and sound good on the internet but we trust little. Once we reserved a two story grass roofed bungalow in the jungle for six months. The internet showed a pool right outside our front door. We found the internet photo was Photo shopped, the pool is actually in front of the owner’s home. And the internet didn’t say anything about the worms, or the filth, or the bars on the windows and doors, the horse, the dogs or the geese … We were lucky to escape out of there after the first month with no financial penalty. Whoosh!
So anyway, this is an area where Heidi and I have trouble, I like to just wing-it and look for a place when we get there.
I say “we can reserve a hotel for a week and take the whole week to find a better place!”
Heidi says “I don’t like that”
Well, I can’t argue with that. If we both felt there were other good and affordable places to find in Belize I know we would have done it, but the number of
towns we would consider living in is too limited. Heidi is a smart girl and I need to listen to her, and most of all ‘hear’ her. I tell Heidi “I hear ya with a Big
Ear” We laugh.
Heidi schedules another campfire meeting and soon blurts out with conviction “The Baja! We can all drive down the Baja, we can stay at Los Barriles where we camped that one time with good windsurfing”, this time I hear her right away “Brilliant, the Baja, Los Barriles!”
Photo: Winter campfire at the cabin:
Now it’s the last day before we leave for Mexico, Heidi gets a last minute dentist appointment, the last day our dental insurance is valid and on a day her dental office is normally closed. Heidi gets her new and painful crown ripped off and a new smaller crown designed built and installed in one day. Bingo, instantly Heidi is toothache free. Fantastic, our dentist, an old family friend did us a solid. That was a close one. I need to get the windsurfer on the truck that’s super caked with ice and snow. We have no garage. Our friends Don and Colleen offered the use of their heated garage. That worked great and as always it’s fun hanging out and talking with friends in a garage, our friends are the best.
Now it’s the night before takeoff, the intensity in the air is thick. Our eyes meet often with anticipation and joy.
Heidi “I can’t believe this!” Me “Unreal…we are on the road tomorrow!”
Everything is set, everything is packed, except the nuts of course, the mice get at the nuts if we leave them in the truck overnight. There is nothing in the refrigerator and nothing is left inside that can freeze and explode. The last task is to drain the hot water heater, fill all the cabin’s water lines with RV- antifreeze and blow all the pipes out with compressed air. This makes sure no water is left in the pipes. When our cabin was a summer cabin I had to repair busted pipes every spring, it’s not easy to drain all the water out.
Sam knows there is something up, Sam is our dog, the third cog in this wheel. Sam has been acting weird for days as he watches us. Maybe it’s the intensity in our conversations, maybe all the travel stuff laying around. We talk through check lists and explore countless travel scenarios / options. Sometimes we know he understands what we’re saying.
The Start: Hayward Wisconsin, Friday January 15, 2016’
The last thing I do is disconnect the toilet water line and suck out the last few drops of water in the pipe. It’s minus 20 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s too cold to start the old Ford if it’s not plugged-in. When it gets that cold we turn on the 60-watt light bulb inside our pump house also, the pump for our well water. But we drained the water out of the pump yesterday so no more worries about freezing pipes or pumps.
Instantly while driving along we experience a loud tubular sound, like someone is blowing a giant Hawaiian shell. The next gas station I wad-up a bunch of paper towels and jam them inside the open windsurfer mast hole. That helps the noise as did a few strap tightening’s on the surfboard. There are still weird sounds happening depending on the wind direction but not as bad.
Back to the room the air temperature inside feels colder. Heidi and I are wearing our down jackets with sweatshirts underneath and we are still cold. We get the motel management involved. The manager gets defensive and starts shining a red laser beam thermometer directly inside our heaters vent. She says “this shows its 72 degrees” I say “point that thing right here” pointing to a return vent blowing in zero-degree air. She freaks out when she sees the temperature. Then with an attitude she continues trying to point the red beam where she would get a warmer reading. Heidi shouts out, there is no way it is 72 degrees in here! After some calmer insistence we are given a different room. We move to the other side of the building and everything is warmer. Shutting the bathtub drain and cranking on the shower hot water helps warm the room to comfortable. That’s a trick we have used several times.
There was more snow overnight. Nebraska is broadcasting Winter Travel Advisories. The state roads are not plowed or salted which got me the ‘stink eye’ from Heidi, these are dangerous driving conditions. I told her we’re taking the scenic route now and that I didn’t expect the snow covered roads this far south. Heidi doesn’t care!
Sam seems to be adapting to road travel well. I like to drive down rustic farm roads to take a break while on a long trip, this is working well with Sam.
Heidi, Sam and Tom, your website hosts.
In Texas it is finally warming up and we think we lost all the snow.
Photo: White sand dunes of Texas.
While riding along we see our ‘Check Engine’ light come on. Crap! We don’t want to tool through Mexico in a truck with over 200,000 miles and a ‘Check Engine’ light on! We pull into a one horse town off the freeway and find a Ford dealership. How lucky is that. We get a diagnostic performed on the light in under two hours. They don’t have the part, an O2 sensor but we got the paper work that says” bank 1, cylinder 1 O2 sensor bad”. We ride on to Tucson Arizona where we plan on getting fresh oil, four new off road tires and an O2 sensor. All good!
Our left headlight has been intermittent for the last few days and now it finally gave it up for good. We pull into an auto parts store, pull out the lightbulb and buy another. Heidi likes to help. New headlight installed we are good to go.
Photo: Sam resting in a hotel room while on the road.
We were concerned about how Sam would adapt to life on the road. Sam grew up on a farm and was trained as a Raccoon hunting dog, he is half Coon Hound and half Black Lab. We took a couple overnight road trips and he eventually got used to that. Now on this trip Sam really seems to be digging this way of life on the road and spending 24/7 with us.
We visit Heidi’s niece Rebecca and family in Tucson. They live near Finger Rock canyon. Their home has awesome Cacti everywhere around. Hiiking is one of our favorite activities while on the road. It increases our fitness and makes us feel great (once we’re done) Finger Rock Trail is just down the street from Heidi’s niece’s place so here we go.
Views are unbelievable. Trying to determine if we can make it all the way to the Finger or not.
We are not going to make it to the Finger today, we must get home for the start of the Super bowl.
We spend a few more days in Tucson to take care of some planned chores:
• We get the O2 sensor in bank 1 cylinder 1 replaced. The ‘Check Engine” light is no longer on. Oh Yeah!
• A fresh oil change.
• Four new off-road tires “Baja Champion” (We are doing the Baja! Oh Yeah)
The next day we make a run to Yuma where we plan to stage for the border. We don’t have much to do here, just a few more road supplies and that’s it.
Stay tuned for more fun in Baja Mexico…
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