After a whirlwind 2-month Baja trip last winter with friends Hans and Ursula (where we boondocked on gorgeous beaches, snorkeled with sea lions, touched baby gray whales, explored historic missions, soaked up city life in La Paz, conducted a 1,000-mile taste-test of the ultimate best Baja fish tacos, and so much more), we had even more ambitious plans this winter to explore mainland Mexico.
But, as other commitments started whittling away at our time block, the idea of a shorter, less stressful trip began to look more and more appealing. The big mainland trip is now postponed until this Fall, and for the moment, we would now head to northern Baja for a quiet, peaceful, relaxing month of sandy beaches.
We carefully planned our trip to ensure we'd return to the U.S. before Mexico's mega beach holiday-- Semana Santa (Easter Holy Week). But we failed to avoid another event (that would transform our first week in Baja into anything but quiet and peaceful) -- the SCORE San Felipe 250.
Had we seen this short video from last year's race beforehand, it might have better prepared us for the mayhem to come!
All was quiet at the El Centro, California Wal-Mart the night before our re-entry into Mexico. We had stayed here a year ago when coming home from Baja and still remembered the best spots in the parking lot for a level, good night's sleep.
We had stopped at the border town of Calexico in the afternoon to get some pesos at one of the numerous "Casa de Cambio" (currency exchanges) near the border. Flush with pockets of pesos (thanks to the strong US Dollar, we got about $17.50 pesos for each dollar we exchanged!), Ursula and I walked across the border and get our FMM tourist visas from Mexican Customs. We later learned that you can now buy these online and just print them out before crossing-- that will make things even easier next Fall!
After seeing the downtown Mexicali crossing, we decided it would be an easier and more direct route to San Felipe than going over to the recommended eastern "Mexicali II" entry point. The next morning's crossing was (by far) my most simple border crossing yet! A Mexico customs man walked into my RV, took a 10-second look around and told me to enjoy my visit to Mexico. He didn't even look at my passport!
Traffic moved along quite well through downtown Mexicali, and soon we were south of town. driving along a smooth 4-lane divided highway headed towards a row a mountains in the distance. If you've thought about RVing to Mexico, nothing could be easier than crossing in Mexicali and driving 2 hours south to San Felipe!
Our trip was quick and uneventful. Only one small set of hills near the coast, and we were soon rolling into San Felipe.
There are a half-dozen RV parks north and south of downtown (plus another half-dozen boondocking beach camps beyond that), so we weren't too worried about arriving without a reservation....that is, until the first 3 parks we visited told us they were completely sold-out for the weekend. Ut oh!!!
We headed to check out the RV parks on the south end of town and thankfully found 2 that still had a few spaces available. Not great spaces, mind you, but we were no longer choosy. We decided to take 2 full hookup spots on a dusty lane at Club de Pesca. While their seafront sites were all booked for the weekend, the manager said we could move there on Sunday, so we'd only have 4 nights to wait.
The dusty lane sites looked a little small and unlevel, but we've got "skinny" Winnies-- how bad could it be?!!! Well, let's just say that these were the most difficult sites we'd ever wrangled our rigs into...ever!
After an hour of trimming trees (I finally discovered a reason for carrying that camping hacksaw!) and carefully inching in between palapas and precariously perching our tires on foot-tall pyramids of blocks, we were finally parked and (relatively) level. Not an inch to spare!
As the weekend approached, the park started filling up with ATVers and dune buggy enthusiasts (mostly from California) who apparently loved this park for its close proximity to this giant sand dune. See that truck zooming along the top of the sand dune (and the ATV zooming down the lane to join him)? Yep, our little lane was kinda like "pit row" for all the ATVs, dune buggies, and trucks as they took a shortcut to get from one starting point to another on the big sand dune.
An interesting fact I never knew before this weekend-- none of these machines have mufflers! Thankfully, Hans and Ursula had some new, spare earplugs that they gifted me after our first restless night!
Yep, that's right. Zooming up and down the sand dunes was not just a daytime activity-- these vehicles had lights so they could continue racing long into the evening!
Faced with a weekend of big crowds, loud engines, and sand clouds everywhere, we could have sat in our RVs all weekend fuming about our predicament...or, we could just "embrace the crazy" and take full advantage of our front-row seats to soak up this uniquely Baja experience. We grabbed some cold Tecates and headed over to the sand dune to watch the drag racers!
Ursula climbed a small hill to get a better view of the action, and soon Hans climbed up to join her.
Finally, it was my turn to scale the hill. Lots of loud engines, sand clouds, and folks having a great time. This weekend should be quite memorable!