A New Adventure, Day 1: San Diego to Creel

We woke up at the crack of dawn without getting much sleep because we were so excited to finally put our backpacks back on and do some adventuring!

I feel like I’m finally doing what I am meant to do again!  It’s been a long year and half of helping other people travel (my job is Assistant Manager at a hostel), feeling a little bit more bored by the routine of it every day.  I’m happiest when I have a light pack on my back and a plane ticket in my hand!

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There is now a pedestrian bridge (Cross Border Express) from the San Diego side of the border into the Tijuana International Airport.  The cost is $15 per person, but it’s super convenient as opposed to crossing on foot and having to take a Mexican taxi to the airport. I slip in and out of sleep on the flight from Tijuana to Chihuahua, catching glimpses of the turquoise-blue passage over the Sea of Cortez, then dry, craggy, cardboard-brown mountains jutting violently out of the flat, barren desert.

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Chihuahua at first glance seems like the Wild West of Mexico.  Lots of men wearing owboy hats and giant belt buckles, very few gringos.  We had  to use an ATM to withdraw pesos because there was not even a “casa de cambio” in the airport.

Chihuahua is close to Juarez and the landscape reminded me of the scary, violent scenes from “Sicario” as we rode into town on a taxi.  I think it’s much safer, although not very touristy.  Our friend from here warned us to stay in the main tourist town of the Copper Canyon (Cañon del Cobre), Creel, and not spend any nights in the small villages, as that’s where we could get kidnapped.  Creepy.

Our taxi quickly dropped us off at the office of Autotransportes Turisticos de Noroeste.  The ticket saleslady said something about our trip being slow but our Spanish was not up to par enough to understand why at that moment.  On the bus, the city ended quickly and we rolled through open desert with mountains in the near distance.  About an hour outside the city at the first toll plaza we saw the protest.  People and trucks were blocking the highway in both directions.  Apparently the price of fuel had been raised 20% overnight and everyone was mad.  We had to wait about an hour before they let our bus through.  The bus was slow and we had to wait at another roadblock; the mountains got bigger and trees started replacing the cacti as we got higher.  It looked a lot like northern Arizona.

After roughly seven hours (should have only taken 4.5) we rolled into Creel, a cold and sleepy town after dark.  Hotel Temescal was welcoming and warm, with super-cute Chihuahua pups to play with!  Some authentic food at Restaurante Veronica was exactly what we needed.  Zach got “El Norteño”, a cast-iron skilled of beef, cheese, and veggies, a traditional local dish.

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Hueso, the cutest little Chihuahua in Chihuahua!

We dropped into bed early, happy to have made it through our first big travel day and ready for more adventures!

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The Long Way Back

Pristine beaches near Mulegé on the drive back north
Pristine beaches near Mulegé on the drive back north

Randomly browsing the Internet while sitting in our Cabo hotel, Zach happened upon a news report concerning Hurricane Erick!  Although Baja rarely gets hit by hurricanes, apparently Erick was headed right towards us.  Forecasters were predicting it would hit the whole peninsula and even cause storms in San Diego!  This turned out to be false, as weather reports often do, but nevertheless, we felt the pressure was on to “get while the gettin’s good!”  We definitely did not want to get stuck on a washed-out road in the crazy desert during a hurricane/flash flood!

Sadly, due to our desire to stay in front of the hurricane, we only got to see one more town on our trip.  Mulegé, a quiet small town on the Sea of Cortez, didn’t have a lot going on.  It was a nice change from the bigger cities though.  The nearby coastline boasts some of the most gorgeous beaches we’ve ever seen and we wished we had more time to hang out and do some kayaking.  Whenever we go back to Baja, we’ll definitely head straight here!

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The second day’s drive was pretty tedious.  We did get hit with some rain on windy mountain roads, but nothing too bad.  Because we were heading north and because of the recent election in Baja Norte, the military was patrolling in force, and we got stopped and searched at each of the five checkpoints we passed.  Nevertheless, we managed to survive a record-breaking 18 hour day in the car and pulled up at our casa just before midnight.  We’re sad that the trip is over, but it won’t be our last excursion into México!

Stay tuned for some Baja travel tips and a budget summary!

Ensenada, Mexico. Our first stop down the Baja.

Let the honeymoon road trip begin!

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Tasting wine in the Valle de Guadalupe

Before this trip we had only been to one town in Baja California.  Slimy and shady,  Tijuana is a close stop for some cheap food and drinks but not very exciting unless you’re into drugs and hookers.  Ensenada was surprisingly different.  We crossed into Mexico at Tecaté where we didn’t even need to wait in line, nor talk to anyone about coming into the country.  We drove through the Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s only wine region.   The vino there was AMAZING.  We first stopped at Vinos Lechuza, whose owner, Ray Magnusen, Zach had met through work in San Diego.  After we had a whole tasting of Lechuza’s magnificent wines, Ray gave us a whole second round straight out of his aging barrels, showed us around the area a little bit, and took us to Michelin-starred chef Drew Deckman’s new popup restaurant right across the road.  Deckman’s setup was amazing and totally changed our views on what gourmet dining can look like!

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Picnic-chic restaurant with a view! Wish we could have stayed for dinner!

That evening we made our way to Ensenada town, only a 15-20min drive from the Ruta del Vino.  The city has everything you need but isn’t super big and obnoxious.   We ate some awesome tacos and tasted more vino.  It was a nice spot to walk around and, to say again, awesomely different from Tijuana.

We only spent one night, but since its so close to our home in San Diego, we hope to make it down to Ensenada again for a weekend in the near future.  Stay tuned for tales of the rest of our Baja California Adventure!

The Cost of Our Cross-Country Move

Toledo, Ohio to San Diego, California

6 Days

2461 miles

Gas: $398.11

Tolls: $25.80

Food/Beverages: $245.85

Accommodations: Free!

Grand Total: $669.76

We didn’t exactly live like paupers during this road trip.  We Couchsurfed everywhere of course, but we also splurged on quite a few meals out and quite a few brewery stops in Colorado.  It was a mini vacation!  Still, I think the fact that we spent so little proves something…

Do it.

Moving to California – The Final Day

We spent a restful day at my parents house in Williams, Arizona, then made the last push to San Diego, our final destination, the end of the continent.  Arizona was our home for about a year, and when we woke up after a night there, it was as if we had never left.  I was offered a stable job at the Grand Canyon.  We thought “are we stupid to leave here?”  But those are the times when you must push forward, the times when most would take the easy road instead of doing what they really wanted.  We almost always do what we want, so found ourselves on I-40 west with Los Angeles on the highway signs, only hundreds of miles away.

Mr. Moose hates the heat.

Usually we take the old Route 66 to L.A. and then cut south to San Diego.  This time we chose to take a shorter but slower direction by turning south right after entering California.  The desert got CRAZY – super hot with dust storms as we passed through abandoned towns, dried up and shriveled remains of old dreams and desires.  We had a CouchSurfing hose in Moab tell us a story about a guy he knew that went out hiking in the desert and they never found him.  “When the desert decides to take you, there is nothing you can do about it,” he said very seriously.  The desert sure is a strange place that demands respect.

With that said, we were worried about the car, making sure we wouldn’t run out of gas, sweating and sweating and… but we got through and soon were gazing upon the beautiful palm trees near Palm Springs.

Mr. Moose near Palm Springs.

The last bit was the longest, as it always is.  We hit a mountain range that was unexpected and we again worried about our brakes smoking.  But, all of a sudden,finally, FINALLY WE MADE IT WHOOO SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA YEAH WHOO GET US TO THE OCEAN YIPPY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Our new home, Ocean Beach!!! (or for the locals, simply OB)
Our main drag, famous Newport Avenue in Ocean Beach.

Stay tuned for more from one of the most beautiful cities in the U.S. of A.  Be ready to get jealous as we leave you with a picture from Sunset Cliffs Natural Park, near our new home in Ocean Beach.