A Big Circle and a Long Tail…

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Greetings from La Paz…again!

Having discovered that the shipment (to the hotel in La Paz) of our stock alternator was delayed by 5 days, Ned and I decided to drive south to the quaint little town of Los Barriles on the Sea of Cortez. Our friends, Spence and Carlee Rauber live down there in the winter, so it was a good chance to spend some time with them. We had a wonderful couple of days eating lots of good food, walking on the beach, and enjoying their wonderful company.

We left Los Barriles on the morning of Monday the 6th, but rather than drive the highway north, we enjoyed 78 miles of incredibly scenic dirt roads, heading south, then west toward Todos Santos, and finally ending up making a great circle back to La Paz.

Amazingly, our package was waiting for us in the hotel lobby when we arrived later that evening. We were not thrilled to be in La Paz (which is a big, noisy city) for another night, and our goal was to replace the alternator first thing in the morning, stock up on fuel, food and water and then head out camping in the wilderness for the next three nights. Not feeling the need to get a hotel room, we pulled the first of what will probably be many stealth overnight stays. Charlotte tip-toed into the side parking lot of a nice hotel and we crawled into bed in the back and spent an undisturbed (and free!) night.

Bright and early the next morning, we tip-toed out of the hotel parking lot and headed for the Walmart parking lot where Ned performed the alternator retrofit. Now totally sick of being urban parking lot rats, we ran our errands and took off for the wild country.

We headed north along a dirt road which literally hugs the Sea of Cortez coast for 30 miles and spent a heavenly night and half of the next day camping, walking and swimming on a completely deserted beach. Around 2pm the next day, we pried ourselves off of the beach and headed inland, driving through some more spectacular country. We spent the second night camping in a lovely canyon, drove a bit further the next day to a little village called Las Animas, then turned around and headed back the same way. The third night (last night) we camped at yet another deserted beach and then grimaced as we had to drive back into La Paz. All told, our out-and-back “tail” was 168 miles of remote dirt roads and Charlotte ran beautifully.

As I am writing this, we are nicely ensconced in a non-pretentious hotel with all the necessities: A MUCH needed hot shower, a clean bed, and wifi! Tomorrow at 2:00 we ship out on the ferry; we are ready to take on the Mainland!

On our big circle…from the Sea of Cortez to the Pacific Ocean (pictured out on the horizon) and back!

On our big circle…from the Sea of Cortez to the Pacific Ocean (pictured out on the horizon) and back!

One way to survive the harsh Baja desert.

One way to survive the harsh Baja desert.

A bathroom break in a sandy wash that turned into a mini-siesta.

A bathroom break in a sandy wash that turned into a mini-siesta.

An interesting passerby!

An interesting passerby!

Alternator fixed and on our way to our first beach camp. Beautiful pink and green rocks and a spooky overhanging cliff…

Alternator fixed and on our way to our first beach camp.
Beautiful pink and green rocks and a spooky overhanging cliff…

The “watermelon” cliffs went for miles and miles.

The “watermelon” cliffs went for miles and miles.

Lucky me…I get to go for a run…

Lucky me…I get to go for a run…

While Ned makes me breakfast!

While Ned makes me breakfast!

Yumm!  Nothing like bacon and cheesey eggs on the beach.

Yumm! Nothing like bacon and cheesey eggs on the beach.

Where did you get that red jacket!? We saw many of these beautiful birds with white chests, so this red one was a great surprise.

Where did you get that red jacket!?
We saw many of these beautiful birds with white chests, so this red one was a great surprise.

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Can you hear me now?

Can you hear me now?

How about now?

How about now?

Ok, got it!

Ok, got it!

Awwww….

Awwww….

The Pelican Quartet

The Pelican Quartet

And a solo

And a solo

Morning at the canyon camp…Ned gets his workout tightening the alternator belt, while our new mascot looks on…

Morning at the canyon camp…Ned gets his workout tightening the alternator belt, while our new mascot looks on…

  …and I get my workout jumping rope!

…and I get my workout jumping rope!

Inland we found more pink and green cliffs and  small “ranchos” nestled inside these palm oasis.

Inland we found more pink and green cliffs and small “ranchos” nestled inside these palm oasis.

Giving out “dulces” to some very excited school children.  Interestingly, we also had pens with us, and the kids were even more excited about those than the sweets.

Giving out “dulces” to some very excited school children. Interestingly, we also had pens with us, and the kids were even more excited about those than the sweets.

A typical home in one of the ranchos

A typical home in one of the ranchos

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A really long commute.

A really long commute.

Heading back south toward La Paz again to finish our out-and-back “tail.” Tomorrow we leave the familiarity of Baja behind and board the ferry to mainland Mexico.  We are looking forward to the adventure of the unknown…

Heading back south toward La Paz again to finish our out-and-back “tail.”
Tomorrow we leave the familiarity of Baja behind and board the ferry to mainland Mexico. We are looking forward to the adventure of the unknown…

Oops! These two pictures got left out!

Ralph was one of the wonderful recipients of our Christmas deliveries.  There wasn’t a dry eye among us as we listened to his story and how much this visit meant to him.  It was great having the Hoyle and Balda kids along to help.

Ralph was one of the wonderful recipients of our Christmas deliveries. There wasn’t a dry eye among us as we listened to his story and how much this visit meant to him. It was great having the Hoyle and Balda kids along to help.

Who needs a mall? A clever roving “shopkeeper” arrived as we enjoyed the beach at Bahia Concepcion and began to pull colorful Mexican goods out of his van.  The girls were hooked like fish on a line within minutes.

Who needs a mall? A clever roving “shopkeeper” arrived as we enjoyed the beach at Bahia Concepcion and began to pull colorful Mexican goods out of his van. The girls were hooked like fish on a line within minutes.

Happy New Year from La Paz!

Charlotte and the GoWesty Gang heading out from Agua Verde, where we camped on the gorgeous (and totally deserted)  beach for 4 nights. We have traveled with Lucas many times in Baja and Charlotte always stands out as the only one not sporting a Westfalia pop-up top. Happy New Year everyone!  After 12 days on the road and almost 2,000 miles we finally have (somewhat) reliable wifi and are able to get a blog done.  It’s been an amazing trip already and we haven’t even left Baja.   At 6am, December 21st, right on schedule, Ned and I looked at each other in the pre-dawn dark of the bus, gulped a couple of times and said goodbye to all the comforts of home.  The future was now an immense unknown.  I felt this crazy fluctuation of feelings bouncing around somewhere between the anticipation of elated excitement and the apprehension of sheer terror.  But how incredibly fortunate we were; the road ahead was not so much a black hole as a blank canvas. Our first stop was Placerville, California where we joined the Flat-Fender Jeep Club for our annual Christmas tradition of delivering food and good cheer to some wonderful, elderly people who needed it very much.  Then, for the next 3 days we drove south through California enjoying wonderful visits and tearful send-off’s with friends and family. At 11pm on December 23, we met up with Lucas Valdes, the owner of GoWesty (all things Westfalia Camper Van) and his gang of 9 people and 4 Westfalia Syncro Vans.  Of course, we barely made it to the campground just outside of the Tecate border crossing into Baja, but we will let the pictures tell the story from here…

Charlotte and the GoWesty Gang heading out from Agua Verde, where we camped on the gorgeous (and totally deserted) beach for 4 nights. We have traveled with Lucas many times in Baja and Charlotte always stands out as the only one not sporting a Westfalia pop-up top.
Happy New Year everyone! After 12 days on the road and almost 2,000 miles we finally have (somewhat) reliable wifi and are able to get a blog done. It’s been an amazing trip already and we haven’t even left Baja.
At 6am, December 21st, right on schedule, Ned and I looked at each other in the pre-dawn dark of the bus, gulped a couple of times and said goodbye to all the comforts of home. The future was now an immense unknown. I felt this crazy fluctuation of feelings bouncing around somewhere between the anticipation of elated excitement and the apprehension of sheer terror. But how incredibly fortunate we were; the road ahead was not so much a black hole as a blank canvas.
Our first stop was Placerville, California where we joined the Flat-Fender Jeep Club for our annual Christmas tradition of delivering food and good cheer to some wonderful, elderly people who needed it very much. Then, for the next 3 days we drove south through California enjoying wonderful visits and tearful send-off’s with friends and family.
At 11pm on December 23, we met up with Lucas Valdes, the owner of GoWesty (all things Westfalia Camper Van) and his gang of 9 people and 4 Westfalia Syncro Vans. Of course, we barely made it to the campground just outside of the Tecate border crossing into Baja, but we will let the pictures tell the story from here…

Around Long Beach on our night time drive to the border, we noticed our voltage was dropping and realized our alternator wasn’t charging. This was the forth time we’ve lost an alternator which is part of the Premier Power Welder system we have installed on Charlotte. The company has been great in supplying warrantee replacements, but Ace Alternator, who builds the custom, high output alternators for them, doesn’t seem to be able to build one that will last. Very frustrating. We managed to make it to the campground at the Tecate border crossing on battery power alone. The next morning I installed our only spare at the campground. I also made the decision to give up on running the welder and ordered a stock Bosch alternator and new brackets to be shipped to us in La Paz.

Around Long Beach on our night time drive to the border, we noticed our voltage was dropping and realized our alternator wasn’t charging. This was the forth time we’ve lost an alternator which is part of the Premier Power Welder system we have installed on Charlotte. The company has been great in supplying warrantee replacements, but Ace Alternator, who builds the custom, high output alternators for them, doesn’t seem to be able to build one that will last. Very frustrating. We managed to make it to the campground at the Tecate border crossing on battery power alone.
The next morning I installed our only spare at the campground. I also made the decision to give up on running the welder and ordered a stock Bosch alternator and new brackets to be shipped to us in La Paz.

Having made it across the border on our spare alternator, we spent Christmas camping near Laguna Hanson (which looks a lot like Tahoe and nearly as cold!) in northern Baja.

Having made it across the border on our spare alternator, we spent Christmas camping near Laguna Hanson (which looks a lot like Tahoe and nearly as cold!) in northern Baja.

Crossing the Diablo Dry Lake, a staple section of both the NORRA Mexican 1000 and the SCORE Baja 1000.  Dry lake beds are beautiful, vast, open and silent (when you’re not racing through!).

Crossing the Diablo Dry Lake, a staple section of both the NORRA Mexican 1000 and the SCORE Baja 1000. Dry lake beds are beautiful, vast, open and silent (when you’re not racing through!).

Kat speaking: “Baja, a beer and a good looking man…does it get any better?”

Kat speaking: “Baja, a beer and a good looking man…does it get any better?”

The whole gang on the way to Gonzaga Bay and yummy fish tacos at Alfonisa’s.

The whole gang on the way to Gonzaga Bay and yummy fish tacos at Alfonisa’s.

On December 27, we stopped for the night at Serenida, a lovely old resort in Mulege.  We drank lots of great margaritas, ate lots of good food and took much needed showers.

On December 27, we stopped for the night at Serenida, a lovely old resort in Mulege. We drank lots of great margaritas, ate lots of good food and took much needed showers.

What else do you do on a beautiful beach in Bahia Concepcion?

What else do you do on a beautiful beach in Bahia Concepcion?

Ok, that’s better!

Ok, that’s better!

On the dirt road leading to Agua Verde, a tiny, remote fishing village south of Mulege.

On the dirt road leading to Agua Verde, a tiny, remote fishing village south of Mulege.

The dirt road to Agua Verde is one of our favorites.  It is steep, winding, and incredibly picturesque.  It was nearing twilight as we descended, but still beautiful.

The dirt road to Agua Verde is one of our favorites. It is steep, winding, and incredibly picturesque. It was nearing twilight as we descended, but still beautiful.

One of the many deserted beaches near the village.

One of the many deserted beaches near the village.

At the village of Agua Verde we asked around and were able to score a beautiful Yellow Tail which fed 9 people for two nights.  Yumm!

At the village of Agua Verde we asked around and were able to score a beautiful Yellow Tail which fed 9 people for two nights. Yumm!

Greg made amazing ceviche on the first night on the beach near the village…not bad for camping food!

Greg made amazing ceviche on the first night on the beach near the village…not bad for camping food!

Words just can’t express…

Words just can’t express…

Shell shots anyone?

Shell shots anyone?

A second wave of butterflies hit me as we parted ways with our GoWesty pals.  They headed back north…home…we headed ever southward, on our own.

A second wave of butterflies hit me as we parted ways with our GoWesty pals. They headed back north…home…we headed ever southward, on our own.

Mexican McGuiver. Besides these Ace Alternators just quitting, they also vibrate like hell at around 3000 rpm where Charlotte likes to run. This vibration has caused our mounting brackets to crack and break multiple times. (and is probably leading to the alternator’s failure) This is my last “fix” using Vice Gripes and tie wire (thank you Allen Hewett) to hold it all together. Its lasted 250 miles! The booger weld was done with a borrowed buzz box in Mulege, 400 miles ago. It’s pretty bad when one carries a welder but has to borrow one to weld on his own, broken, welding equipment.

Mexican McGuiver. Besides these Ace Alternators just quitting, they also vibrate like hell at around 3000 rpm where Charlotte likes to run. This vibration has caused our mounting brackets to crack and break multiple times. (and is probably leading to the alternator’s failure) This is my last “fix” using Vice Gripes and tie wire (thank you Allen Hewett) to hold it all together. Its lasted 250 miles! The booger weld was done with a borrowed buzz box in Mulege, 400 miles ago. It’s pretty bad when one carries a welder but has to borrow one to weld on his own, broken, welding equipment.

Huh?  Did you ever expect us to stay at a place like this?  Yes, it’s a little over the top, but not a bad view from our room as I prepared this blog!  This is the Grand Plaza Hotel in La Paz where we had GoWesty ship our parts to retrofit a stock alternator to Charlotte.  The only place we could think of to have the parts sent, was to this hotel, which is the La Paz headquarters for the NORRA race where we have stayed several times while racing.  We got a room here to make it convenient to receive our package.  Unfortunately, the parts, scheduled to arrive yesterday the 2nd, will now not be here until Monday the 6th (maybe).  Bummer, what do we do for the next 4 days in beautiful, sunny southern Baja?  We were originally going to make the repairs then go explore some gorgeous remote canyons north of La Paz that we raced through in 2012.  There we would have camped a couple of nights and tested the new alternator setup before heading to the mainland on the ferry.  Now we need to decide if we are going to risk the canyons with our jerry-rigged, iffy alternator…the adventure continues…

Huh? Did you ever expect us to stay at a place like this? Yes, it’s a little over the top, but not a bad view from our room as I prepared this blog! This is the Grand Plaza Hotel in La Paz where we had GoWesty ship our parts to retrofit a stock alternator to Charlotte. The only place we could think of to have the parts sent, was to this hotel, which is the La Paz headquarters for the NORRA race where we have stayed several times while racing. We got a room here to make it convenient to receive our package. Unfortunately, the parts, scheduled to arrive yesterday the 2nd, will now not be here until Monday the 6th (maybe). Bummer, what do we do for the next 4 days in beautiful, sunny southern Baja? We were originally going to make the repairs then go explore some gorgeous remote canyons north of La Paz that we raced through in 2012. There we would have camped a couple of nights and tested the new alternator setup before heading to the mainland on the ferry. Now we need to decide if we are going to risk the canyons with our jerry-rigged, iffy alternator…the adventure continues…