Monday, March 26, 2018

Transforming the Tundra to CONKSO

Our Toyota Tundra has undergone so many transformations in the last four years.  We have had many adventures in this Tundra transformed to CONKSO.

This is the Tundra in its original form.  

We needed the 4x4 to take us off-road so traditional campers weren't a consideration.

We were able to carry everything we needed, including surfboards, food, water, clothes and a place to sleep.
Previously we carried that huge cooler for food and beer, constantly having to purchase ice every other day.

We loved our Tundra but it was a lot of work packing and unpacking daily because we
had to store some of our things on top of our sleeping quarters.

This gives you a good perspective on where we slept.  John created a bed with a piece of plywood and a foam mattress.
It was a cozy place to sleep, even on a cold night but it was tough not being able to sit up.  We had to shimmy in and out.

The birth of CONKSO.
The Callen Camper changed our life!

John and I got so excited with the potential for this new camper that
we obsessed with learning about what we could do to it.
One of our first and best discoveries was the ARB refrigerator.  John hooked it up to an additional large car battery that was charged by a solar panel-- no more floating food or having to do ice runs!  

The Callen camper had shelves and such that the original owner installed but we gutted it and made it our own.
John installed a plywood that sat on top of the entire bed like before with a full-sized memory foam that sat on top.  John made it foldable with hinges so that it would be easier to reach down under it to grab the stuff we had stored.  He also included the instant hot water heater and 30-gallon tank that was in the Tundra.  We were also able to store both of our 8'-9' paddle boards inside to keep them safe and were still able to sleep with them hanging from the roof.        

The best part was that the camper was tall enough to stand in.  And most people are amazed when I tell them that John, myself and Dakotah slept comfortably side-by-side (literally) on the bed each winter
during our 3-week adventures in Baja.

Other transformations include the aluminum rack that we were able to sit on top of to watch the sunset or sunrise.  We installed a roll-out canopy shade on the passenger side and the rear side for those hot days in Baja.  The ladder was made and installed by John and his friend.

The last addition to CONKSO was the James Baroud pop-up bed.  We always wanted one but didn't want to pay MSRP.  As luck would have it, we found an amazing deal on Craigslist.  

This is how it looks on the inside.  It sleeps two people comfortably.  Plus, you wake up to amazing views.

So as life goes, things change... and we move on.  CONKSO was retired to John's dad because we found a 4x4 camper that we had to get!

Stay tuned for the Adventures of ELMUCHO.

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.