Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Wild Ride Back to the USA

After a tranquil week camped on the shores of the Pacific at Ensenada, it's time for Hans, Ursula, and I to point our Winnies back towards Yuma and the U.S.  Last year, we drove the scenic Highway 3 through Baja's wine country, the Guadalupe Valley, and crossed back into the U.S. at small city of Tecate (yes, where the Mexican beer of the same name is made!).

The route last year, along US Interstate 8 was pleasant enough, but after looking at the maps, we all start getting very intrigued and excited by a certain section along Mexican Highway 2D... see it?

Yep, this section--

It's called La Rumorosa.  When it was just a 2-lane road, it was considered one of the most dangerous roads in all of Mexico.  Even now, with traffic moving the same direction along a modern, divided 4-lane highway system, this section drops your jaw, grabs hold of your attention, and demands the utmost from your vehicle.

Of course, Hans, Ursula, and I know none of this until after driving this highway!  All I can say is thank God we're driving it west to east (descending) and not the other direction!

La Rumorosa starts out nicely enough...a gentle climb up to its peak elevation of 4377 feet, with "boulder" hills and wind turbines similar to those on the I-8 stretch between San Diego and El Centro.

But after a few more turns, I'm seeing mostly blue sky out the front and left sides of my windshield!  The highway has literally brought us to the edge of a 4,000 foot cliff!  Now the real fun begins...

After passing beneath a few giant "curvas peligrosas" (dangerous curves) signs and starting our descent, I pull out to a large overlook so we can rest our brakes and admire the scenery.  Those 2 straight black lines along the desert floor is where our road will ultimately get us to within just a few short miles!

Here's what this drive down a 4,000 foot cliff looks like on Google Maps' elevation view-- yep, that's about right!

This video on YouTube from a Mexican trucker shows the start of this drive and the same overlook as where we stopped.  Hopefully, it gives you a better sense of the magnitude!

Once we gingerly weave our way down to sea level (and color returns to my white knuckles), the rest of the drive to Mexicali is pretty boring, flat, and easy.

While crossing at the smaller town of Tecate (like last year) would be much faster, I want to get the RV permit removed from my View's windshield (as my windshield needs replacement, and the stickers can only be removed at certain Mexican border crossings).

One of these crossings is "Mexicali II", the truck crossing on the east side of town.  As is common anytime you must deal with "Banjercito" at the border, it takes a while to find the right lanes and right office to get to the proper Banjercito official (a few bilingual signs would make this way too easy!).  

Finally I get to the right guy who knows just enough English to tell me to bring the View to a little hut building down at the other end of the parking lot where he will remove the sticker.  Why he can't remove it on this side of the parking lot is anyone's guess.  But after unhitching the Tracker, I make it to the "hut" and the blasted sticker removal is finally complete.

Mexico requires all foreign vehicles to have special import stickers when they're in most mainland Mexico states.  Car stickers are removed when you leave the country (as that's how you get your deposit of a few hundred dollars back).  RV's, however, require no upfront deposit, and the sticker is good for up to 10 years.  In theory, you can leave it on your RV for many happy return trips to Mexico.  Sounds great...until you wish to sell your RV or need your windshield replaced!

There is a convoluted Banjercito process (do you sense a theme here?) where you can take the sticker off yourself and mail it to Mexico City.  If all goes well, your permit is removed from their computer system and you'll be able to purchase a new one the next time you bring that vehicle to Mexico.  But if things don't go well...Ay caramba!!!  So, I gladly jump through all the hoops here in Mexicali in-person to ensure that next Fall's return to mainland Mexico will go smoothly.  

After leaving Banjercito, we relax and watch the sunset as we inch ever so closer to the US border--

By the time we finish with U.S. Customs, it's dark out and we're all tired and hungry.  We do a quick drive over to El Centro for dinner and a night at our favorite Walmart parking lot.  Yuma can wait until the morning.


  1. Wow that is some road surely not for me, I would never be able to do it!
    Removing the sticker is a process but necessary in some cases, it was for us.

  2. I drove east to west a few weeks ago, but with just the truck and utility trailer. Although I'd not want to take the RV up that hill, it might be easier than going downhill as there is absolutely no danger of the brakes overheating :), but the views are not as spectacular.

    As a plus the Calimax in Tecate had a bottle of Monte Xanic! and I was the only one at the crossing that Friday afternoon.

  3. WOW re the road. We used our entire 10 years before we turned it in last month. OF course we will get a new in the fall. Love to read about your planned return to the Mexican mainland.

  4. Nerves of steel - that's what you have! I watched that video made by the trucker. Quite the view and loved the music. I drove north along that Pacific Coast Highway and another time drove south and really freaked out more the first time. But, that road you were on is SO much scarier looking. OMGosh. Good for you. All three of you.
    Happy Trails.
    Pamelab from Houston

  5. Looks like quite an adventure. Enjoyed the pictures and video.

  6. Don't think that drive would be one I would venture - even without my little trailer. But gotta give it to ya, you got guts. I like the idea of my colorful TorC artists painting up my ankle cast. Will send you a picture if I get it done.

  7. You NEVER know in Mexico! One time someone suggested I drive from San Miguel to Brownsville to cross the border. Said it was faster. Well, indeed it was NOT. I was on a two lane serpentine drive for over two hours. At one point, I saw large buzzards flying lower then the elevation I was driving at. When I was finally able to find a place to pull over, my brakes had completely overheated. What a memory that trip was. I've driven back and forth to the border at least 100 times, but I have NEVER gone on that road again.


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