Archive for February, 2009

Pictures of the opening ceremony of the Florida State Rally

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February 27 2009 | Rallies | Comments Off on Pictures of the opening ceremony of the Florida State Rally

The Baja Caravan – Journal by Dick Martiny

Baja Adventure
Saturday, January 17

It is 19 F outside. We finished loading the trailer and discovered we had locked both of our sets of truck keys inside the truck. Quick response from the local paint/repair shop (W&R) had it opened and on the road by 9:30 am.

We drove to Demopolis, Alabama – a beautiful day. The 275 miles brought us to our night camp at the Wal-Mart. We contacted the Angelini’s and the Reaves to confirm arrangements for our meeting enroute tomorrow. Three short trips to the store filled all our needs and gave us a little exercise. We slept well.

Sunday, January 18

It has warmed up to the 50s – a nice improvement from yesterday morning. The Angelini’s and Reaves are waiting at the visitor center when we arrive. The Krups coffee pot does not cooperate when brewing manually – our first mess and will be replaced at our next stop. After a chat and coffee, the three of us head west to intercept the Whites. Our Ford turned 164,000 and pulled like a new one – but noisier. We lunched at the Louisiana visitor center, called Mike and Steve, and completed 370 miles before pulling into a Cracker Barrel in Shreveport, LA for the night. Happy hour was at the Angelini’s and dinner was in the restaurant.

Monday, January 19

We left the Cracker Barrel (which had no crackers) at 7:30 am for the Flying J (fuel and breakfast). By 8:45 we are continuing west on I-20. It is a long day across Texas with lunch and a nap at a roadside rest. We make it to Abilene, park at a Wal-Mart; have dinner at Red Robin and tuck in to sleep well.

Tuesday, January 20

We left at 7:30 am. and headed for El Paso, TX (450 miles with a lunch stop). It is Inauguration Day and every news station on the satellite radio is covering the event. Gossip, philosophy, chatter and foolish questions fill the airways between meaningful news coverage. This pair drives faster and longer than we were planning to travel. The new coffee pot works great. We talked with Whites and confirmed our intercept. They will be at a RV park in Willcox, NM for two nights. We are ahead of plan and the planned intercept with the Montagues will be difficult. We stay at Wal-Mart and go to Hooters for dinner – the wildest Hooters we have ever been in. After many laughs, we retire for a night’s sleep. We are seeing some nice countryside but moving ahead without any extra stops. Maybe we will slow a bit tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 21

We travel just 250 miles (whew). It is 39F as we depart El Paso for Fort Willcox RV in New Mexico. Morning g traffic is hazardous and we have our first near miss event. We arrive at Gila Bend, AZ by 1:00 pm. Judy does laundry, dick dumps waste tanks and we refill with fresh water. It is good to have electric power, hot showers with lots of water, and good friends to share it all with. Happy hour is at our trailer and Whites have a plan to slow us down a bit. We sleep even better.

Baja Adventure
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Thursday, January 22

We departed at 8:30 am in rainy, dour weather. The roads were good. The rain stopped before we arrived at Casa Grande Ruins National Monument. The story about this 1400 BC to 400 BC village was interesting. They had developed an agricultural system to irrigate the desert into croplands. The tens of thousands of residents had a well developed system of governing which did not fail until the water supply faltered for several years. The main building remains with some restoration under a protective cover. Holes in the adobe construction of the building telescope the time of the year for planting and harvesting by positions of the stars and the moon.

By 3 pm we had arrived at Holt’s RV park in Gila bend. Dick purchased a new firestick CB antenna in an attempt to improve communication with the Whites and the Angelinis. No luck. We switched back to the old one after the new one showed no improvement and the winds gave the new one trouble. The mileage dropped to 126 miles for the day.

Friday, January 23

Gila Bend to Yuma to El Centre, CA covered 190 miles. We departed at 8:30 am and arrived at the newest Wal Mart in Yuma before lunch. It was an overcast day in the high 50s. City ordinances barr Wal mart from overnight parking but we had oil changed on three trucks before departing. We refilled our propane tanks and headed for California. The roadsides were vegetable fields and sand dunes. At El Centre we parked in the lot of an old Wal Mart. Homeless people shared the lot with us. An officer from the City Police came by and gave us his home and office number to use in case of trouble. He indicated the homeless fight frequently if possessions are lost or drinking becomes excessive. We had no problems. Dick and Judy took an evening walk to put on a few miles. We are averaging 3-4 miles each day.

Crackers and seafood salad were our dinner. We have gained another hour by moving into Pacific time zone. Montagues have closed the gap and will probably catch us on the road tomorrow.

Saturday, January 24

We departed at 7:30 am for the 120 mile trip to our final caravan rendezvous location of Chula Vista, CA. The terrain is mountainous, rocky and beautiful along this border Interstate road. We arrived at 10:30 am and Montagues pullup behind us at the registration desk. Bruce and Enid Paulk meet with us and assign us some responsibilities. We move some caravan cooking equipment into my truck’s trunk for the caravan. We went out for Vietnamese food with the Paulks and discussed more of their backgrounds and expectations. Vietnamese food is not our favorite but we tried. Bed felt good.

Baja Adventure
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Sunday, January 25

We went to church with the Montagues and Whites. Yes, six adults in his Chevy pickup. The members of the Hilltop Baptist Church were very friendly and the pastor was preaching on the biblical basis for tithing. Young people led the music with a variety of contemporary and traditional songs. It was a good service. We had lunch at KFC before heading north to the San Diego zoo. As seniors, we qualified for $28.50 tickets. The parking lot and zoo entrance were jammed with vehicles and Girl Scouts on a special events day. We left and headed for the USS Midway aircraft parked in the harbor as a permanent museum. The audio tour was great, the volunteer help was cheerful, and the $13.00 ticket was in our price range. We had dinner and played Joker with the Montagues before bedtime.

Monday, January 26

This is the first official day of the caravan and first day of life for Elizabeth Kay Martiny (born to John and Mollie at 5# 6oz). We did laundry and finished distributing the gate keys to late arrivals. Everyone was in by noon. Carol and Judy made a Wal-Mart run and returned for the introductory meeting at 12:30 pm. This took 2 hours and much information. Dick took one couple and a single man back to San Diego to get their tourist permits and Mexican insurance. We had group dinner at a local restaurant and had identification pictures taken for our journal. Women received a Baja ornament and men received a new caravan cap. Carol and Winston came over to chat and then into bed for the night.

Tuesday, January 27

The group drove to E street station to catch the trolley to “little Italy” in San Diego. The historic walking tour with a guide and individual headsets covered the years 1740 to present. The group luncheon was a wonderful Italian dinner with salad, bread, pizza, red sauce pasta, white sauce pasta, and spumoni. Excellent!! The trolley ride back was uneventful and by 2:30 we were enjoying a nice nap.

Dick lubricated the fan seals and repaired the cabinet support that had broken on the way out. Penny and Tom came down to learn Joker and eat popcorn. It was a good night.

Wednesday, January 28

We left for Tijuana with the Whites in our truck to get our tourist visas stamped and to exchange money for some pesos. Marcia drove her scooter for the first time. The trolley ride both ways was pleasant and clean.

Dick decided to exchange the 2004 trailer batteries with new ones before we left. Interstate provided the replacements at a reasonable price. We took another Wal-Mart stop for wine and bottled water. The black and grey tanks were flushed and the level sensors worked well.

Steve (in Louisville, KY) has been without power for the past week and had some roof damage from the storm. The Warrens and the Joneses came over from the Northern California Caravan and we all joined that group for the happy hour. At 6:30 pm we had our own dinner and celebrated a birthday with Arlene Matches. We finished the day prepping for departure tomorrow.
Thursday, January 29

We left with the early party of eight rigs in convoy style to safely bypass Tijuana. The drive was beautiful but a little nerve wracking because of all the traffic, construction, etc. The city is very busy building for the future. We passed through the border checks without problems.

We arrived in Ensenada about 11:00 am, parked our group, and prepared for the arrival of the other two convoy groups led by Angelini’s and Montague. With only minor problems, we had all the units parked before lunch. The first GAM (called fiesta on this caravan) was hosted by the Showers and was completed before happy hour and a group dinner at the resort restaurant conducted at 6:30 pm. A full day led to a good night’s sleep.

Friday, January 30

The day started with early breakfast at the resort restaurant. The service was wonderful and the breakfast plate was fit for the finest. From this we walked to the private museum of the resort owner to learn and see artifacts of the history of Mexico from the times before Christ and the Spaniards. His collection of coral and shell was beyond beautiful.

Later in the morning, we drove to Buffadoro, a village of vendors. The main street was lined with shops selling clothing, jewelry, Mexican blankets, hats, T-shirts, and you name it. We enjoyed but didn’t buy much. After returning home, we washed the truck and trailer before the Driver’s meeting and had a glass of wine with the Angelini’s before bedtime.

Saturday, January 31

We left Ensenada at 6:30 with the other members of the leaders-parking crew. The drive to El Pabellion RV campground took 4 ½ hours. The area was filled with agricultural activity – strawberries, broccoli, celery, cilantro, edible cactus, grapes, and beautiful fields. The tomato hot houses measured miles on each side. The Mexican roads include speed bumps called topes to reduce the traffic speed very often. It is more effective than American State patrols cars. The passage through most cities is limited to 25 mph.

We had lunch with the Montagues before the first units arrived at 2 pm. We had everyone parked by 3:15 pm. We walked the sand dunes in search of sand dollars and other shells along the beach. It was a beautiful sunset. The evening was cool and jackets were comfortable. We joined Montagues, Reaves, Angelini’s and Whites for dinner in the adjacent town. The waitress spoke no English and we have no Spanish skills. The meals were ordered with the help of an ag-manager at an adjacent table. We ended up with only soup but some received the meals and drinks they had ordered. Lots of laughs and good conversation filled the meal hour. We were home and in bed by 8:30 pm.

Sunday, February 1

We went to town to refuel and walk through shops. There was nothing special here. Lots of dust, dirt, and smiling faces filled the streets. Back at our campsite, a group had prepared a steak dinner with all the fixings. The air was cool and windy but spirits were warm. A campfire continued into the evening. Angelini’s joined us for a Joker game before bedtime.

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Monday, February 2

We left for Guererro Negro at 6:30 am for 7 hours of driving through a mix of good country and desert lands. Many types of cactus had replaced trees and shrubs. The road had been improved since the previous year’s caravan. The bulk of the others arrived early and we decided to park them to get them off the highway. The power supply to the campground was poorly maintained and low voltage. The water supply needed chlorination and had low pressure. The group was quiet as we gathered for dinner, fined the early arrivals, and reinforced the importance of following the caravan schedule. The money from the fines will be used for an ice cream social at the end of the caravan.

The dinner was very good. The restaurant had Wi-Fi. We caught up on news from home. Steve and Sabrena have a plateful with bad weather at home and worse news about the health of Sabrena’s mother. The good news was Kaitlin’s Team took National Championship of jazz dance and a second in POM Squad.

Tuesday, February 3

We worked with the journal until time to depart for whale watching. They were amazing. They swam so close as to rub their barnacles off on the 10 person boat and get touched by some of the passengers before spouting and driving playfully. It is hard to describe 40 foot mammals playing with our 25 foot boat – rolling, diving and showing off like children but over 25 tons in size. After returning to shore, we received a briefing as we passed through a salt manufacturing plant producing salt for the Japanese market.

Fiesta time was 4 pm and the drivers’ meeting was at 7 pm. We prepared our rig for departure at 7 am.

Wednesday, February 4

A low pressure tire alarm sounded before we got to the highway and we pulled over and changed the center tire on the passenger side of the trailer. The rest of the work group drove ahead expecting us to catch up somewhere down the road. The tire exchange went well and we had caught up after an hour of driving as they took their first break. We arrived at the campsite to find our entrance road closed by a spring washout. We continued on the highway for 10 miles before finding an acceptable place to turn our trailer rigs around. After another 20 mile return trip we found a “first-come” beach side campground with enough space for our 25 rigs. It was located on the beach at Santispac. It was perfect. The first arrivals came on time and were called in by CB. We had everyone in safely an hour later. Another Fiesta, another dinner, another joker game, and we are ready for bed.

The other shocker was a terrible truck accident close to our campground which killed two persons and destroyed their 18 wheel truck and it left the highway and rolled over crushing the cab. It was a very sad site reinforcing the hazards of shoulderless Mexican highways.

Thursday, February 5

We headed to town early to get our tire repaired, do our laundry, and some shopping. The burned skeleton of the truck accident lay alongside the road. Our tire had a sharp stone in it which had wiggled and worked its way through the steel belts enough to slowly deflate the tire. The tire repair went well and cost $3.54. The laundry was clean, late brunch was in the courtyard of a local hotel, we shopped some and Dick lost his set of keys somewhere along the way. We will retrace our steps to try to recover the key set tomorrow.

Dick replaced the tire and we were ready for the group cookout by 4:30 pm. A Mariachi band and another campfire filled the evening. Judy received an update on JoAnn’s condition from Sabrena. It is not good news. The family members will all get to Chattanooga quickly. Megan and Sabrena are there now and Thomas and Steve will join them very soon.

Friday, February 6

We loaded our 46 persons into 3 vans for a tour of Mulege. The town has a historic mission church, was the original capital of this state, and enjoys a good tourist trade. The mission was built on a hill of volcanic stone bound by limestone cement in early 1700s and stands proudly serving mass yet today. It was the hub of the missionary outreach for this district. The missionaries had planted thousands of date palms along the river and developed farmlands for other crops on the adjacent properties. Their outreach included two large sailing ships to deliver materials to the other five centers along this coast. The federal jail in the town was open until the early 1980s and was replaced by a larger modern facility in LaPaz. The community converted the building into a museum but lost the roof during the hurricane of 2007. It remains closed, except for tour talks at the entrance gates, until money for the repairs can be received from “FEMA of Mexico”. The historic lighthouse still provides guidance into the city’s harbor area. The harbor is lined with nice housing priced at half the cost of their American equivalents. The city streets are narrow, often unmarked, and frequently congested with traffic.

While waiting for our group luncheon at a local hotel, Dick retraced his steps and amazingly recovered his set of keys at a local ice cream shop. A keyboard singer provided wonderful music during our luncheon.

We returned to camp by 2:30 pm, got a nap and joined the group for happy hour on the beach until the temperature started to drop. A nice long beach walk, popcorn and wine, and good conversation wrapped up the day by 8:30 pm.

Saturday, February 8

The vans returned to take 28 of us to the cave paintings located in the mountains west of town. The roads are horrible and we make two stops enroute. The first stop is a citrus farm. We hear about this business, sample some recently picked product and buy some to take home. The second stop was in the desert to receive a talk about how to use the desert plants for pharmaceutical applications. The spokesman says many still cure everything, including cancers, with extracts from desert plants. The road passed through a farm and we paid the farm owner $11.30 (100 pesos) for each person for use of the access. Our guides name is Salvidore. He leads the 28 of us (average age about 73) up a ¾ mile rocky hill climb to the viewing site. Most persons agree it was great but they would never do it again. The walk included two water crossings in cold water over our knees. But the drawings, dating back to 7000, BC are remarkable treasures. Salvidore’s wife had packed a tortilla lunch we shared before the 1 ½ hour trip back home of many of the same horrible roads and ditches.

The drivers meeting was at 5:30 pm to prepare for tomorrow. After dinner, we walked up the beach to a restaurant for drinks with the Angelini’s, Reaves, and Skiebouts. The place was jammed with tourists having a great time on Saturday night.

Sunday, February 8

At sunrise, we are on the road south from Santispac. The drive plan is 150 miles of mountains and deserts – lots of hills, curves, and wonderful scenery. The group stopped every hour for a stretch. The pulls off locations are about an hour apart. The road has no shoulders but was recently resurfaced. The scenery is unbelievably beautiful. Beaches follow the road to Loretta and then the road turns west to climb to 1400 feet with switchbacks over the mountains. The mountain views seem to go on forever but we crest and drop gently down the western side into a 40 mile descent to Ciudad Insurgentee. Agricultural land replaces desert space as we approached the city. In the 1950s and 60s, the Mexican government relocated people here to farm this land of corn fields, sorghum, orange groves, dairy farms, alfalfa fields, and local support businesses.

We turned south on Highway 1, to our campground at Ciudad Constitucion. We plan and park all our units before 3:15 pm. We showered, vacuumed, emptied and filled trailer tanks before happy hour at 4:30 pm. Dinner was served at 5 (pork in pineapple, fish casserole, cactus salad, peppers, onions, refried beans and tortillas) and continued until everyone was full.

Dancers and singers, from the University extension here, delighted this audience with a two hour program of Mexican entertainment. It was very well done. The weather turned chilly but the young people were delightful. We collected email from the Wi-Fi of the office area. JoAnn is more comfortable, Steve’s home has power, and Thomas/ Mike/Susan have been updated. Life is easier but still includes tough days ahead.

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Monday, February 9

The campground served the entire group an American style breakfast. After breakfast, we combined a write-up with some pictures to describe our travels on January 31-February 1 for the caravan journal being assembled by Alex and Arlene Matches. They plan to distribute completed sections of the journal every couple weeks. This is a “free day” so we worked on our to-do list. First priority was to pull the rearmost wheel and drum from the driver’s side axle to determine why it is running warm but not alarming level hot. The disassembled wheel exposed a brake pad had pulled off the shoe and was dragging on the adjustment mechanism. We had a spare brake assembly but Dick broke one of the five face plate mounting bolts during disassembly. The fourth auto repair shop in town had two replacements of similar size. (NAPA and Chevrolet dealer had none.) We completed the reassembly by 2:00 pm. WD Richardson took our empty propane tank for refilling. All propane refill stations are required to build outside the city limits with adequate fire free space around them. We went to the local grocery for fresh fruit and the Premex station for refueling. Mileage had averaged 13-14 mpg and cost has been $2.11 – 2.14 per gallon. We toured the main street markets and Dick bought branded Polo Club shirt and Dickies slacks (priced about same as Wal-Mart in US). The locals seem to be shopping off the main street and we planned a return visit tomorrow. By 5:30 pm all our jobs are complete and Happy Hour begins. A great pasta salad and fresh oranges are prepared by my favorite cook (Judy) for supper. We made another run at email before spending an evening with Angelini’s for small talk. We returned to our trailer, washed dirty dishes and tucked into bed by 9 pm.

Tuesday, February 10

The entire group was served another good breakfast at the campground – Mexican style. The Whites, Montagues, Showers and we two go to town to explore the backstreet markets. Carol and both Judys had their haircut ($6-7 each) and each looks great. The men discover a bakery tucked away on a side street with fresh pies, custards, whole wheat biscuits (and much more). Norm declared the Mocha pie as the best he had ever eaten. Dick purchased a shirt identical to yesterdays at half the price.

We returned the white’s to the campground to do laundry and the rest of us drove to San Carlos – a beach town 35 miles away. The nice little restaurant reopened for us to serve 6 lunch meals (mostly seafood combination platters but Dick consumed a 3 dozen oyster cocktail while Judy had seafood soup was so full of meat it required a fork to eat it). The food was great and inexpensive – 1/3 the USA prices.

We returned to camp by 4 pm for a Fiesta with 4 other couples and a Driver’s meeting with the whole group. We prepped for departing at 6:30 am and went to bed by 8:30 pm.

Wednesday, February 11

After jockeying the Larkin’s out of their parking space, the early crew left the park by 6:30 am for Los Barillos. We had three stops enroute; a stretch after an hour, a pause to checkout and confirm a campground the group will use on the return trip, and a third time in the small town of El Triunfo where we purchased hand-made baskets and the music museum of Professor Nicholas Carrillo. He gave our four couples a wonderful concert of Chopin, etc. It was magnificent, the acoustics accentuated every note and his mastery of the piano was unbelievable. He no longer does world tours but hasn’t lost his touch. He dressed in a suit, wore special platform shoes, had an obvious neck position handicap as he proudly described his many pianos, instruments of mixed origins, and displays of many years in the music field. He sat at his concert piano, relaxed and left us to play magnificently – no longer thinking about anything earthly. WOW, what a gift.

Dick bought some Mango tarts at a street market and was offered gallon bags of shredded marijuana for 20 pesos (18 cents). The sales person assured us it would make us loco. He went without a sale. This was the most difficult drive day we have had across the mountains on narrow roads of marginal quality. We made it to our RV camp by 2 pm and everyone was parked by 4:30 pm.

The Happy Hour began at 5:30 pm at Hotel Palonas de Cortez and the buffet dinner was served at 6:30 pm. The Montagues, Angelini’s and we two met for 6 person Joker. It was great fun. Dick’s pedometer said 4.5 miles as we headed for bed at 9:00 pm.

Thursday, February 12

The group breakfast was served at the hotel from 7:30 am until 9:00 am. It was American style meal and all you could eat of everything offered by a good eating place. The hotel has free internet in the plaza entrance area. We thank those who responded to the first publication of our Journal. Sabrena’s mother has been relocated to a nursing facility and is more comfortable with better control of the liquid buildup.

We returned to the park for ATV driver training. Almost everyone took to it very well. Tomorrow is a multi-hour ride up a river bed. After updated the journal pages, the Richardson’s joined us for a trip up the seashore recommended by Tom Angelini. The roads went from poor, to hazardous, to horrible and finished impassible. We backed down a goat trail cut into the side of a rock mountain and turned around when impassible became obvious. Never have any of us traveled on such poor roads. The early sections had American mansions with hired help, the next was vacation size homes, then came Mexican family homes and the final section was poorly constructed shacks with dilapidated motor homes as a guest house. We would never travel this route again. It was truly hazardous to your health. We came back safely.

Over half of the caravan members have experienced diarrhea. This could be a partial explanation of why there seem to be fewer over weight Mexicans.

Judy prepared soup for Angelini’s and us. Montagues came over for 6 person Joker and a game of Nines. We were in bed by 10, hoping to sleep off our discomforts.

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Nice Campsite. View from Montague’s window

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A marachi band played one night for dinner on the beach

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Friday, February 13

We returned to the hotel for breakfast with the group. Dick’s intestinal problems are quieter but we stayed with toast, fruit, tea and juices. The Montagues joined us as we both needed to do laundry. The small but clean Laundromat was full of members of our caravan as soon as it opened. Dick and Winston returned to the hotel to connect to the internet. Steve had written. JoAnn Saluk had passed away in her sleep the night before. There will be a graveside ceremony next Tuesday. Our lunch consisted of toast and tea due to Dick’s unsettled stomach.

At 1:30 pm, after a quick nap, we mounted 4 wheel ATVs for a 4 hour tour of the beach, some washboard sand roads, a river bed and up to a small waterfall. The waterfall and surrounding oasis stands out among date palms in this arid desert environment. The source of the water is reportedly the mountain area a few miles away. The water drops over a large rock system. Jerome Reaves attempted to climb the rocks following Sandra Stalmack. His feet slipped and he dropped headfirst into a small water pool breaking three teeth, straining his neck and raising a large welt on this lower back. It would have been much worse if the 4 foot deep water pool had not broken his fall. On our return trip to the campground, Dick (Judy hanging on) and Firman Skiebout (riding single) drove at maximum speed. We must have been quite a sight to the native animals. We were successful at catching up with the earlier ATV group and getting to the camp’s toilet before any problems. There are no restrooms in the desert and the cactus provides only minimum cover for diarrhea patients.

The driver’s meeting was at 6 pm. We and the Montagues went to a hamburger place recommended by the Whites. We mistakenly got the wrong one. The hamburgers were Ok but not good. The place had two drunken Americans drawing attention to them with load talk and dancing with the wife of the bartender. The next morning, we were told we had the wrong place and Carol had been sick enough to have her body reject her hamburger. Mexico has many surprises built into their landscape of adventure.

Saturday, February 14 – Valentine’s Day

After 11 years of retirement and fifty years of marriage, we awake in a desert, have a quick breakfast, connect the trailer and depart with the early crew for the next campground. After a short ride of 70 miles, we cross the Tropic of Cancer – marked with hard surfaced sphere surrounded by several strands of barb-wire fence. We arrived at our next park by 11am and are told we had only 22 locations to park our 25 units (each needing a sewer connection since we have been four nights without a working dump station). The other units begin to arrive at noon and we double part three units to give everyone access to a sewer. The parking configuration is difficult but Dick received excellent cooperation from a weary travel group.

We napped and showered for dinner. Kent and Dorothy Charles came over to invite us to ride with them to the dinner place. We had a very good meal at Puerto Viego and decided to walk with some of the others back to the campground. This allowed Fred Larkin to ride with the Charles. We gathered at Angelini’s to play joker with the Montagues (the men won again). The majority of the group is having some stomach intestinal problems. Judy seems to have dodged most of it.

We spoke with Steve via Verizon. Thomas will not make a return trip to Chattanooga for the burial because he had spent the previous weekend with JoAnn and the family. We will get a better night’s sleep.

Sunday, February 15

Judy set up her barber shop and gave haircuts to Dick and Winston before 9:30 am. Montagues, Whites, Richardsons, and we two headed for Cabo San Lucas to find an English speaking church service. We located a non-denominational congregation meeting at 10:00am. The praise service, Holy Communion, and sermon had none of the familiar trappings of our Baptist & Methodist training. The 150 + congregation jammed the building, using every available seat and some standing room to sing unfamiliar simple but meaningful praise songs with arm waving and hand clapping. The sermon was good thoughts about how Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit communicate with each of us in the same manner they did with Joshua, Moses and Elijah. The service climaxed at 11:30 am.

We headed for the harbor area for lunch and ended up at Burger King. The harbor was filled with expensive boats sitting on clear blue water in bright warm sunlight. We walked the streets after lunch to view the many shops, to purchase some jewelry, blankets and wood carvings. Judy and Carol have new silver bracelets purchased at better than Wal-Mart prices. We headed home for a nap and dinner. Judy’s fresh pasta tasted great and calmed our tummies. We retrieved email and played Joker with six (men won again) before heading to bed.

Monday, February 16

At 7:00 am, we lined up to depart for a very nice breakfast at Hotel Finisterra. It is a lovely resort hotel with all the amenities overlooking the harbor and the ocean. The meal was everything it could be and more than any of us needed – but nice. The hotel was built recently and is an architect’s dream job. Enroute back with the Montagues, we shopped at the new Wal Mart plaza, Sam’s and Costco. Dick put our generator on Montagues power system, Winston walked his two boys, and we reloaded the car for a quick trip to San Jose del Cabo – about 20 miles away. The town plaza was beautiful, the shops were traditional, and the shopping was limited to looking.

We returned to camp, dumped the grey and black storage tanks, refilled with fresh water and prepared to meet our taxis for a caravan planned tour of a glass factory and dinner cruise. A beautiful sunset, a few whale spottings, a good meal and many drinks surrounded with fellowship took us until 7 pm. Some of our ailing seemed to forget their troubles before we returned quietly to camp and a good night’s sleep.

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Tuesday, February 17

The 8 am Drivers meeting prepared everyone for the trip to LaPaz. As a member of the work crew, we departed at 9 am and had an uneventful drive on a beautiful day. We arrived at the Marantha campground after lunch. The lot had been truckload piles of sand as we passed here two weeks ago. It now has the sand spread, a water system in around the perimeter, a new fence and entrance gate. The owner was very proud of what they have accomplished. The campground is part of a Mennonite mission with showers, bathrooms and laundry machines available to us. The little coffee café on the corner has free Wi-Fi internet for the campers. The sand is loosely packed but we have everyone parked by 3:15 pm.

At 4 pm, we carpooled downtown to the LaBoehme restaurant for a delicious French meal of beef and potatoes or a seafood casserole. Dick’s beef was excellent and Judy seafood casserole was also – except for the “chewy” bits of squid. Elegant desserts topped the meal with coffee.

Downtown LaPaz had many of the beach streets blocked off for their Carnivol (like a Mardi Gras) which starts on Friday and goes through next Sunday. With GPS help, we made it back to the camp safely.

Wednesday, February 18

At 7:30 am a horn beeped to announce the pastry truck in the campground. Our pastry was purchased from the kitty fee and enjoyed with fresh coffee in our trailer. Both were very good. At 8:45 am, we boarded a classy tour bus for a city tour. Our guide, Betty, spoke both good English and Spanish. The Catholic Mission Church was adjacent to the old city square. The Stations of the Cross were in English and everything else was in Spanish. La Paz does not cater to the tourist trade and believes the capital should retain its historical appearance and behaviors. Earlier in the 20th century, the chief pearl merchant had given the world’s largest pearl to the Queen of England for placing in her crown after his only daughters (the apparent heirs) had died unexpectedly. The Queen was grateful and visited LaPaz to gift the church with the 13 stations (and that is why they are in English).

We visited two family businesses. The pottery (hand painted) demonstrated all phases of their process and sold items at a very reasonable price. We watched as they turned plates and mugs and painted them with bright colored glazes. We were told their products were lead free. The second family business was a weaving factory. Their looms looked like the ones in our museums. All their yarn is hand spun and hand dyed. Their work was very good and their prices were very low also. A rug requiring four effort days to make was priced at the equivalent of $20 US. The bus drove along parks of the Malecon (tiled broad walk along the ocean) and returned us to our campsite.

We picked up email and took a short nap before leaving the camp with the Whites, Montagues and Showers for a trip up the coast to find the “mushroom rock” at Playa Balandra. It was a very pretty drive along the coast, past the ferry boat landings and cruise ship docks past many white sand beaches with blue waters washing ashore. We drove out to the island of Espiritu – reported as the best kayaking site in the Baja. Snorkeling, diving, and whale watching are offered by the local vendors. Several of our women purchased jewelry from the beach merchants before we returned to Sam’s club enroute home. Judy prepared fresh large shrimp and wine for us before bedtime.
Thursday, February 19

This was a “free day”. We chose to shop at the new Wal Mart, walk the public market, and tour the cultural museum. Judy found a pair of leather shoes she liked for $20. She is getting confused as we travel around the town’s narrow one way streets with buildings of every description blocking our view of the Bahia de la Paz. We headed east out of town looking for the village San Juan de los Planes. After 45 minutes of bad directions, and unmarked highways, we found the correct road on our GPS with the help of a hardware clerk. The trip to the east coast is 28 miles of hilly desert country. We picked up two chicken (pollo) plates for a meal at the beach. The Bay of Dreams beach was the home of massive 4000 acre construction project around a beautiful cove. The condominiums and golf course are laid out among large dense cardone cactus – most over a hundred years of age. We returned to the campsite, joined a large happy hour gathering, and shared pasta prepared by the Angelini’s. Judy fixed a fruit plate for salad and dessert. We were in bed by 9 pm because tomorrow is a walking tour of Todos Santos.

Friday, February 20

Our carpool caravan left the campground at 8:45 for the 50 mile trip to Todos Santos – a quaint “tourist” oriented town south of La Paz. The tour buses from the cruise ships are headed to the same place. There are lots of cafes, small shops selling Mexican made items, jewelry of every description, and local artists work. The large 1750s mission church is wonderfully maintained and active. There are several small but highly rated hotels with excellent dining rooms. Their cultural center was inscribed in both Spanish and English. We are riding with the Montagues – which is always great fun. We returned to our campsite, to discover another member of our caravan has had health problems requiring hospitalization for corrective actions. IVs were given to both persons to relieve dehydration. The caravan leaders believe we are experiencing many more sickness events than their previous caravans have had. They also noted the local population (including the police) are less receptive to tourists. Winston Montague set up his grill for cooking out and Angelini’s joined us for a couple games of Joker before going to bed.

Saturday, February 21

It was 42 F as we awoke. This was our fourth day on battery power and all is going well. We took a short walk through the campground which is hosting a three day gathering for young folks. Dick helped Larkin’s with their inverter problem. Jack Bowen has had his radiator repaired. The Reaves towed vehicle remains locked in four wheel drive because of a broken part which is not available until he gets back to the US. We head back to town to walk along the Malecon, buy some spare fuses, and view the Carnivol shops. At 3:30, we meet the rest of our group at Ciao Milans to be entertained by a dozen dancers from the University. Their Mexican/Spanish/Chilean dances are very active and their costumes are beautiful. Our meal was chicken or shrimp fettuccini, an excellent salad, bread and very sweet chocolate cake. We return to camp to prepare the trailer for tomorrow’s travel.

February 14 2009 | Caravans | Comments Off on The Baja Caravan – Journal by Dick Martiny

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