Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Missing CONKSO

I knew that John, Dakotah and my first road trip together through Baja would test our compatibility as a family.  It required daily interactions with primarily each other over three-weeks of driving and remote camping.  We're either gonna get along or not.  There would be no technology available to dig our noses into and we had to rely on each other to work as a team if things were going to go well.

Our roles came easy for us.  John is mainly responsible for the vehicle and the driving.  Dakotah helps out with the meals and cleaning.  I am responsible for packing all our necessities, including food, toiletries, bedding, clothes, toys and supplies.  My obsessive-compulsive behavior has led me to be an organization freak, with the ability to maximize the use of space. 

On our long trips we would read books, hang out at the beach swimming, fishing or simply hanging out at camp.  I shouldn’t be surprised that John and Dakotah got along amazingly well.  What I enjoyed most was our daily rituals of spending some time together around the bonfire before we crammed into the back of the Callen camper, lying side-by-side on the tundra bed talking about everything and anything.

We affectionately named our truck CONKSO, a silly name that John and I randomly conjured up one afternoon.  We have traveled five years with CONKSO.  It has been transformed from year to year as we learned through each trip what we needed and didn’t need and found innovative ways to live out of a truck comfortably.  We eventually created a home on wheels that we could literally live out of for weeks.  We were so proud of what CONKSO has become.  But as it is, John and I are always snooping around at the newest and latest in camping, which has led us to a new endeavor-- to create ELMUCHO (which you’ll hear more about soon).  It was tough to part ways with CONKSO.  It was like having a family member move away.  We have had so many good memories with CONKSO.  We’ll especially miss the sounds of laughter from those who read the license plate for the first time—the same reaction we had we when we came up with the name! 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Finding Sharks in Baja

When I tell people that we travel through Baja for the holidays most of them say, “Aren’t you scared?” or “Please be careful.”  I understand their concern. Especially, if they have never traveled south past Tijuana. It's easy to get a negative view of travel in Mexico when you're bombarded with news that seems to focus only on the bad things that happen.  Like any other country, there can be corrupt officials and dangerous people down here, so it's wise to be vigilant.  I have to admit, I was a little afraid on my first road trip even traveling with a seasoned veteran like John.   It was intimidating going through several check-points with armed Military men asking us questions.  I thought for sure that they were just hassling us because we were Americans.  I know now that they are there to keep everyone in the country safe. 

The best way to see Southern Baja is to have a general sense of where you want to go but be flexible.  There is so much more to Baja than Avenida Revolucion in TJ (where we frequented bars during our high school and college days), Papas and Beer (popular restaurant/bar) or even eating fresh-caught lobsters in Ensenada.  The cactus-filled deserts and clear blue beaches that you get to see when traveling on the East Cape are breathtaking.  There is so much beauty to be discovered. 

Of course, for your first road trip I would suggest staying close to the main road but in Mexico you don’t really have to follow the beaten path.  We love to venture into small towns (there will be many along the way) and rub noses with the locals.  Befriend them and they might tell you or even bring you to some cool places. 

On this year’s trip we followed a local to an arroyo located about 4 miles inland from the ocean.  Without him, we definitely would not have found it. This spot is known to have lots of fossilized shark's teeth in it.  The arroyo was huge, it was covered with rocks of all sizes.  It was overwhelming for my attention-deficit mind to concentrate on searching out the shape of shark's tooth mixed in among all the rubble. 

I found other cool things such as petrified wood and shell-embossed rocks.  Dakotah was the winner for the day locating the most shark teeth.  I mentally mapped the route to the arroyo as we drove out.   We hope to go back next year and search for more shark teeth.

One of the shark teeth that Dakotah found.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Fishing Sucks

I wasn’t thrilled to find out that we’d be leaving my Honda dirtbike at home. This trip we would be carrying John and Dakotah’s Hobie kayaks. Usually, one of us (admittedly, I got to ride more than John) would get to ride the twenty miles or so of unpaved road while the truck slowly followed me on the wash-board gravel, dirt road.  The ride on a motorcycle is so serene-- riding through untouched, pristine Baja surrounded by beautiful desert-scape. Once the paved roads are connected, I’m sure this scene will look different. Also, it beat riding in CON KSO, slow as a snail (as it seemed) with everything bumping and shaking around.  Anyway, I wouldn’t get to do this ride this year.

Baja breaks things.
Notice the fender on our trailer?  At least it matches the other side now.
Dakotah and John have become avid fishermen.  At home, they enjoy getting up at the butt-crack of dawn to go fishing, or in John’s case fly-fishing.  I tried fishing with them at Coronado Bay, sitting on the back of Dakotah’s kayak.  Fishing sucks—I just don’t have the patience for it.  In a couple of hours I caught only two spotted bay bass, we call them "spotties".  I realized that there truly is a skill to fishing but I'm not patient enough to learn. 

Grouper #25
This year we stayed at a new campsite on the west coast of Baja.  Spot X (John won’t let me give the name) is not an easy place to get to.  John went there when he was a kid but he really discovered its fishing potential during his Thanksgiving week fishing trip.  The small, remote campsite is nestled among the northernmost mangroves of the Baja peninsula.  The afternoon when we arrived, John and Dakotah immediately trekked out to go fishing.  They returned so excited, apparently having caught so many fish that they lost count (the estuary is catch and release - you can keep a corvina or two to eat but being a meat harvesting, fish-glutton is frowned upon by the locals).  They invited me the next day but I was hesitant to have to cross over the wet-marshland to get to the fishing destination.  With much reluctance I went.  John said we had to cross over two streams of water that only went knee-deep…

At high tide this is covered with water. 

The deepest part was a little over waist deep.

We got to the “hot spot” and everyone found a place to start casting.  I went to the very end away from everyone.  Being a beginner, I was afraid of snagging someone with my lure.  I threw my first cast and within minutes I caught a Corvina, which is good for ceviche, so we kept it.  Amazingly, I felt a sense of accomplishment.  Corvina was the fish to catch.  Then I caught another fish (Spottie), and another, AND another.  It was just ridiculous the amount of fish we were all catching.  Lucky for me it didn’t take much skill to catch fish at this fishing hole.  Fishing sucks only when I’m not catching fish but on this day I had the best fishing day of my life! 

Of course John and Dakotah caught triple the number that I did, not that I'm competitive or anything. 

Friday, December 22, 2017

Giving Up Christmas

I was tired of the stress and costs of preparing for Christmas.  Holiday shopping in chaotic malls for my thirty relatives, plus friends, was getting tiresome.  Figuring out what to bring to the family’s Christmas Eve dinner, attending midnight mass and then coming home to hand out the gifts (which took at least an hour) was getting old to me.  The tradition lost its spark.  Don’t get me wrong, I love hanging out with my family during the holidays but to be honest, it was a gathering that wasn’t any more special than our usual gatherings, aside from the holiday lights and songs.  I wondered about whether or not my daughter would remember each year’s unique celebration or expensive gift that she thought she was entitled to just because it was Christmas—probably not.  So, Dakotah and I (of course, I convinced Dakotah it was the right thing to do) decided years ago to forego the traditional Christmas celebrations of tree decorating and gift-giving for creating unforgettable memories, going on adventures during the holiday season.  The first year we invited the family to join us in Lake Tahoe, when only my mom and dad showed up.  We then traveled to Maui… just us again, then Las Vegas.   We got the hint that the family wasn’t interested and understood that it would be difficult for any family to give up such a huge tradition so we stopped asking the family to come along.

Then I met my boyfriend John.  For many years he has migrated South during the relatively cold winters in San Diego to the warm waters and weather of Southern Baja.  Of course, when Dakotah and I was invited to go we jumped on board.  

Fast forward—this is the fifth year that we’ve journeyed through Southern Baja as a family.  This is not a trip for everyone.  To put things in proper perspective, we travel in a Toyota Tundra 4x4 (so necessary) long bed with a camper shell.  It provides our sleeping quarters for all three of us and all the necessities we need for survival off the grid.  (I could go into detail about what we’ve done to upgrade it year to year to make it the bitchin’ rig it is but I’ll save that for another post.)  Every year is a new adventure.  We travel to very remote places that require a 4x4 with good tires.  We’ve camped in places such as Coco’s Corner (route for the Baja 1000), on remote beaches with the best surf, and under big Cardons (huge hundred-years-old cactus).  That’s the best part—we can go wherever we want.  We take our time, taking four to five days down to our final destination of Todos Santos, to stay a week and then head back for the journey home.  We usually bring lots of toys, such as surfboards, SUPs, and dirtbikes.  This year our trip is a little different than our historic search for waves.  This year we brought two Hobie pro-angler kayaks and traversed through mangroves to catch fish as easily as it is walking into a grocery store.  So, this is why we gave up Christmas-- for Southern Baja to build memories that you can’t be put under a Christmas tree.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Getting Sandy

Some of you may have read my blog, A Boondoggle Adventure.  I was inspired by Brad Pitt's photo shoot at White Sands National Monument.  First, I had to go see this amazing place in person.  And second, I thought White Sands was a great backdrop for photos as demonstrated by Brad Pitt's photos.

I tried to get Dakotah to duplicate this pose.  I'll just say, Brad Pitt is pretty talented.
The information I read online talked about people getting lost because they didn't pay attention to the markers so I made sure we were ready.  Preparing for our visit, I thought Dakotah and I would have to trek a good distance to get to untouched, mountainous mounds of sand.  I packed us a backpack full of water, food and a flashlight (in case we got lost).  We had our phones fully charged and was GPS ready.

The drive into White Sands starts off slow, with some sand on the landscape.  As you continue to drive, it gets a little thicker.  There are places where you can turn off the road and park.  It's challenging not to turn off right away because you get so excited and amped about getting out there to see it and touch it.  We were patient and drove in further past the other tourists who were already on the sand.  Our patience paid off because we landed some untouched spots right off the road.  We were the only ones there.

With such an amazing backdrop, we decided to show off the colorful outfits we picked up in New Orleans to have a photoshoot.  Dakotah has a creative eye for photography.  I can't take any credit, including the ones of her which she took with a tripod.

I love this colorful, flowy skirt made in East Africa.
We can entertain each other for hours-- one of the things I love about our relationship.

I'm floating!
Dakotah and I don't need much to have fun together.

We seriously crack each other up!  We can be so silly!

So over-exposed but I think it's a great shot.

We were scheduled to make an overnight stop in Tucson and another stop somewhere in between Tucson and San Diego.  After our visit to White Sands we were amping to get home.  We stopped in Tucson for a pedi break, while we napped to energize for a long drive home.  We ended up driving a total of 13 hours that day, arriving in Imperial Beach at midnight.  It was an exhausting drive but Dakotah and I were so happy to be home.

Would I drive cross-country again?  I learned on this trip that I'm a better passenger than a long-distance driver.  I'm okay with that because I have a partner who truly enjoys driving (Thanks John).  So yes, I'd absolutely drive cross-country again and will someday but not without John!