Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Reader Questions Driving Time

On some trips I have more time to stop and smell the cactus.

In the letters to the Editor column last issue,
Dear Gary,

I read with incredulity your account of driving from the border to
Mulege in one day. I’m a 78 year old Baja traveler, who has made
this trip numerous
times, and rather than writing a letter to WON challenging your
assertion, I want to ask how fast you traveled in the open road, 60,
70, 80 mph?

It’s about 615 miles from the border to Mulege, and you say you
started “in the gray”, which I translate as first light. On October
28, that’s about 6:30 AM at the earliest. You say you arrived in
“late afternoon”. Let’s say that’s 5:30 PM, which I think is
generous, but let’s go with it. That gives you 11 hours to make 615
miles, or an average of 56 miles an hour.

The best I’ve done in one day is Guerrero Negro. Admittedly, I always
stopped for breakfast and lunch, and an occasional potty stop, but
still I’m flummoxed by your trip. Even saying you only stopped once
for fuel and never for anything else, you still had to navigate
through slow areas like TJ, Ensenada, Maneadero, Colonet, San
Quintin, El Rosario, Guerrero Negro and the Santa Rosalia Grade, plus
Santa Rosalia itself, a pretty slow slog. And, what about the
military stops to check for guns and drugs?

You’ve got to clarify how you did this. If inexperienced Baja
travelers think they can do anything approaching your feat, there
will be a lot more mini shrines along the road.

Best regards,

Bill, San Diego

Here is my answer:


I have been driving Mex 1 since it opened in the early seventies. I have no idea of the number of times I have driven it which seems odd since as you will see I keep pretty detailed records of my trips.

Not all my trips are destination oriented where I need to be somewhere at a certain time and on those trips I have more time to stop and smell the cactus. The biggest negative of a trip that is destination oriented and time is of the essence, is that I don't take the time to take photos or visit with friends.

I don't advocate anyone driving above their comfort level on Mex 1 or for that matter on any other highway.

I try to time my crossings to take advantage of the traffic, hence the early morning. When I first began driving Mex 1, I crossed earlier but now restrict my driving to daylight hours. The result is little or limited traffic in Tijuana and I am usually past Maneadero before the locals in Ensenada are stirring and I usually get through San Quintin after the buses and trucks that transport workers are on the road.

I know where every curve, every town and even every pothole (almost) is located. This makes a big difference in how I drive. I choose the opportunity to pass other cars carefully. As an example on the straight stretch south of Santo Tomas after the' topes' and before going up the grade, it is important to pass any trucks along that stretch. If not, you will go up the grade slowly behind a struggling semi-truck. There are many other similar situations that can have a definite impact on the driving time. You mentioned Military checkpoints, my experience is that they seldom inspect southbound travelers, but as I travel frequently, I'm often waved through.

As far as fuel stops are concerned, my one-ton, self contained van carries ample fuel, and I only make three fuel stops on the way down. I do not have to make stops for anything but fuel. I seldom stop at a station that has a line of cars waiting.
Because I carry with me all the conveniences of home, I don't have to stop for breakfast, lunch or whatever, which probably saves several hours.

Your time to drive to Guerrero Negro is about right considering your breakfast and lunch stops, and an occasional potty stop. I arrived at Gro. Negro at 2:30 p.m. so if you factor in your stops, we were not that far apart.
I have included two tables for that trip: one that lists my fuel stops and times and a second that is a record of the "Find Me Spot" reports posted on my blog. Note: At Viscaino I didn't take a full tank as they would not give me the full peso to dollar rate.

Trip Fuel Stops

Rosarito Beach 6:30

San Quintin 10:00

Viscaino 2:45
Santa Rosalia 4:30

Find Me Spot Report

10/28/2009 6:13 0-7378327 32.54074 -117.049 Border
10/28/2009 7:25 0-7378327 31.90313 -116.732 Ensenada Toll Gate
10/28/2009 10:21 0-7378327 30.42571 -115.881 Maneadero
10/28/2009 12:09 0-7378327 29.72609 -114.712 Catavina
10/28/2009 14:23 0-7378327 27.96645 -114.012 Guerrero Negro
10/28/2009 17:18 0-7378327 26.88578 -111.951 Mulege

He responded to my reply;

Gary, What can I say? You've convinced me it can be done. I thought you had made a factual mistake in your account. Thanks for the details, and my hat is off to you. Like you, I love to "smell the cactus". I'll sometimes just pull off the road and hike into the desert.
Glad to hear you don't drive at night; that livestock can be rough on your vehicle.
Best regard,
Bill B

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Three Weeks on the Road

John Yancey, San Clemente, CA landed this whopper while I was at Lopez Mateos.

My latest Baja adventure began when I crossed the Tijuana border at gray light on October 28th. Aside from stopping for fuel, I kept the ‘pedal to the metal’ and by late afternoon I crossed the bridge over the Santa Rosalia River (also known as the Mulege River). ..the same river where the snook mysteriously reappeared last March after many years of absence.

The effects of Hurricane Jimena that had slammed into the area in early September were still apparent. My usual stopping place, the Hotel Cuesta Real, was still full of mud and was being dug out. Since the hotel no longer had Wi-Fi I needed to find another place to stay.

Mike and Roz Reichner have a home on the river. When I had visited them on my last trip, they were in the middle of restoring their house after it had been six feet under water. They emailed me a few days earlier to report Roz’s early morning encounter with a small snook in her nightgown! I decided to stop and hear first-hand about her snook! During dinner they confirmed my often quoted line ‘by the time you hear about a Baja snook, it’s too late.’ And it’s true. Invariably by the time the news travels very far, the bite is over.

Midday the following day, I picked up a Tel Cel 3G USB card from my friend in Lopez Mateos that would allow me to connect to the Internet anywhere there was cellular service. Unbelievably, I only had to pay $30 pesos a day (less than $3.00 U.S.).

My second night, I stayed at Theresa Comber’s East Cape RV. Theresa also owns a two local charter boats. Over dinner that night, she entertained me with stories of her adventures as a female entrepreneur in Baja and she brought me up to date on the current East Cape fishing conditions.

The following day, I stopped by La Playita to visit Eric Brictson of Gordo Banks Pangas. As we talked there was a steady parade of pangas unloading both large tuna and wahoo. As Eric and several helpers hung a 180+ pound tuna on the certified scale he commented, “We have been seeing huge tuna every day for the past few weeks. Yesterday we had a 247 pounder.” Needless to say that was exciting news for WON’s Tuna Tournament.

I checked in at Tesoro Hotel, where the WON staff was based, and I picked Yvonne up from the airport that afternoon.

For the next two days, Pat McDonell led the WON team consisting of Mike Packard, Rich Holland, Judy Passerello, Carolynn Collett, Jonathan Roldan and wife Jill, Chuck and Rhonda Buhagiar, Mike and Andrea Bohn, Gary and Yvonne Graham and Kit McNear in preparing for the big event.

Seeing the 383 pound tuna that shook Cabo was an exciting event. Crowds suddenly appeared to watch the unloading of this huge fish. That was the biggest, fattest cow of a tuna that I had ever seen in my entire life…a definite WOW! Thanks to everyone’s help the 11th Yamaha/Western Outdoor News Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot lived up to its motto fish hard, party harder and the event was an over- the-top success!

During the tournament, Kit McNear whispered to me about the snook snap going on in La Paz Bay. We agreed to meet in La Paz after the tournament and catch a few ourselves. Every time we bumped into each other we smugly nodded, knowing that there was chance for a trophy snook in our future.

When I arrived in La Paz the night before, however, for the planned snook trip, there was a cryptic email from Kit. Trips off… the bite is over!

But I enjoyed a great dinner at Jonathan and Jill Roldan’s Fubar Cantina located right on the Malecon that evening. The meal was outstanding, and the Cantina was hopping with sports enthusiasts who had come for the good food and the Monday Night Football.

Since there are no RV parks in La Paz, I spent the night in my Roadtrek van parked right on the Malecon.

My final stop was Lopez Mateos. There had been no reports of snook so I arrived with no expectations. On the last two days of the trip, we landed SEVEN snook! Smugly, I remembered,“ by the time you hear about a Baja snook it’s too late!”

So if you hurry…


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