Heidi (in front) - The Staff to Rylie

Heidi (in front) - The Staff to Rylie
Heidi (in front) - The Staff to Rylie

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

To Utah, and Zion National Park

Utah has so many beautiful sights to see, and I intend to see as many as I can in the next few weeks. I know I won’t be able to see them all, so I’ll have to return again sometime.

After leaving Southern California I drove pretty hard for two days. The first day I stopped in Barstow, California, intending to stay at a BLM campground nearby. After discovering the directions I had were useless and driving around aimlessly for what seemed like hours, I asked three people in town where it was. None of them knew, so I decided to stay at the Ghost Town campground. The ghost town that this campground is next to is called Calico. It was $18 for dry camping and $22 for hookups at this campground, but by this point I was tired and just needed a place to park. I found the only level site I could find in the dry camping section at the end of the campground. I tried to pay the ranger who greeted me, since there was no place that I could see to deposit my money, but she told me someone would come by between 8:00 and 9:00 in the morning to collect my money.

It was extremely windy here, so other than a few short walks with Rylie and a stroll through Calico, I didn’t do much outside. The next morning I waited until 9:20 a.m., but no one came to collect my $18. I finally had to hit the road because I had a long day of driving ahead of me. I looked on my way out to see if there was anyone that I could pay, but I didn’t see anyone. So I left. There could be a warrant out for my arrest in Barstow. I feel so Thelma and Louise-ish. I guess I can mail them the money.

The second day I made it to Springdale, Utah, which is just outside of Zion National Park. The next morning I moved to the South Campground inside the park. There is only dry camping available here, but they have water and a dump station. The campground is surrounded on all sides by red rock cliffs, and the Virgin River curls alongside. It’s very pretty. While I was there it rained every day except one, but luckily I got a few nice hikes in that day.

Zion National Park

Rylie and I did the Pa’rus Trail, because that’s the only trail that allows dogs. I also did the Weeping Rock and Emerald Pools Trails, and part of the Riverside Walk. I extended my stay an extra day because of bad driving conditions in either direction. There was a light dusting of snow on the red rock cliffs, and a definite chill in the air.

Snow Dusting Zion Cliffs

When I left I followed State Route 9 to Highway 89, and then to Highway 12. What an incredible drive! Be warned though, if you have an RV you have to pay $15 to go through the tunnel in Zion National Park. They stop the traffic coming in the opposite direction to allow you to drive through the middle of the tunnel, because it isn’t very high or wide. Lots of hairpin turns, but well worth it.

Rylie’s Notes:

I need a big Baja beach to run on. Having to take The Staff on the leash all of the time is a real drag.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Funny Dog

As I was preparing to get dressed for my morning walk with Rylie the other day, I put my sport bra on the bed and went to the closet to get the rest of my clothes. When I turned back to the bed I saw this:

Rylie had managed to get the sport bra over his head that quickly. It gave me such a good laugh. I just had to post the picture. What do you think, is he a cross dresser?

No Rylie's Notes this time. We don't need to hear his excuses.

Friday, April 20, 2007


My daughter, Cammie, and I had a tradition every three years on her birthday of going to Disneyland. This lasted until she turned 15 and we started going other places like Cancun and France. Cammie turned 22 this month, and decided that she wanted to return to Disneyland to carry on the birthday tradition. Although this was quite a culture shock for me after the peace and tranquility of Baja, I had a ball. I think Disneyland brings out the kid in everyone. It certainly works for me.

I have to say that I was a little disappointed to find that they had changed my all time favorite ride, Space Mountain. It used to be a fast, roller coaster ride hurtling through dark space, with planets and stars providing only a little bit of light. Now they have changed it to be a rock music coaster
ride to a Red Hot Chili Peppers song. It's still fun, mind you, and we rode it three times, but there is more light now, and that takes away from the fun, in my opinion. I guess they wanted to appeal to the teenage audience.

Cammie on Tea Party Ride

Yep, we rode the tea party ride -- twice -- and got our tea cup spinning as fast as we could both times. We staggered off the ride dizzily like drunken sailors, laughing our heads off.

This was our first time going to the California Adventure park next door. We ended up only going on one ride there, because the wait in line was so much longer and we wanted to get back to Disneyland to watch the fireworks. The rides at California Adventure do appeal to an older audience than the ones in Disneyland.

Rylie's Notes:

And where was I when all of this fun was being had? Stuck in the motorhome, of course. Tami came and rescued me though, and I got to play with Mona AND Lucy at the same time. They were chasing me all over the place. I was in heaven.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

One Last Post on Baja

The tan is fading and wonderful Baja receding from the passage of time, but I have many great memories to fish out of my bag of tricks to hold me until I can visit again. I thought I would post a few last photos before I move on to other topics.

I forgot to post this one when I was writing about the funny sights I saw. It's a bit far away, but this is an osprey nest we saw on one of the little islands off El Coyote beach. It has a hoola hoop in its construction, can you see it toward the right? Those osprey nests are huge!

This is an out-of-focus close-up of the barnacles on a gray whale. I can't decide if the barnacles look like pretty, little flowers or some strange species that would invade the planet in a horror flick. At any rate, I thought they were interesting.

This is Rylie having fun in the sand dunes at the El Pabellon campground near San Quintin. That is a great beach for dogs to run off leash, and he loved it.

Rylie's Notes:

A few times in Baja I had to scare off the coyotes who came near the motorhome by racing toward the front of the motorhome from the bedroom in the back, barking full blast. El Pabellon was one of the places I had to do that. I always get a kick out of waking The Staff from a sound sleep.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Dead Body on the Beach - The Old Man and the Sea

On El Coyote beach in Baja lived two old fishermen. They were brothers; the oldest in his nineties and the other somewhere in his eighties. Everyone staying at the beach knew of these old men, and the story went that they had been born in the hills above El Coyote beach, which consist only of desert scrub. Apparently, they had family who lived in town and preferred that the brothers come and live with them, but the brothers refused. They preferred to live on the beach in their little fish camp under a tree, with only a tent to house them and pit toilet nearby. They had their old, wooden panga, or boat, and would go out every day to discover what the sea would offer them.

Fish Camp

Fishermen's Palace

I would see these old fishermen every morning as Rylie and I had our morning walk to the other end of the beach. The younger of the brothers would try talking with me, but with his limited English and my limited Spanish, we managed to comprehend only a few words here and there. He would tell me my dog was beautiful, or that it would be hot that day, or that the birds were making an awful racket outside of his tent. (This last one I figured out only after much charades and him showing me the small rocks he tossed into the trees to chase them off.) This brother often walked the length of the beach to collect aluminum cans from the trash bins for recycling. I took to saving mine, as many others did, and brought them out to him when we saw him so that he wouldn’t have to dig through the trash.

One day tragedy struck our little beach when the older brother’s body washed up along the shore, not far from the little fish camp. At first rumors ran rampant that foul play was involved, but it was eventually determined that it was simply the old man’s time to go. How appropriate that he left this world in the arms of the sea that he so dearly loved.

I left El Coyote beach after that for a couple of weeks of travel further down the peninsula, but then returned again to the beach and my morning walks. The younger brother was still there, collecting his cans and manning his fish camp. He seemed even more interested in conversation, and even told me how his brother was gone and now he was alone. My heart really went out to this guy, who must have terribly missed his brother’s companionship.

The day I left El Coyote beach to head back to the states, I took a final morning walk to the end of the beach. I stopped at the fish camp and had tears in my eyes when I discovered that the tent was gone and only a pile of rubbish remained of the little fish camp. I guess I should have been relieved, because it probably meant that the old man had gone to live with family in town. But all that I felt was an incredible sadness that the his life next to the sea had been drastically changed by the loss of his brother. I hope that he is happy, living in town.

Rylie’s Notes:

I liked the fish camp, it always smelled great. I miss that place.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Military Check Stations in Baja

If you drive in Baja, sooner or later you will encounter military check stations. In fact, you will probably pass through quite a few of them, as we did. There will be soldiers carrying guns that want to come inside your RV or vehicle, but it's nothing to be concerned about. Just be courteous and friendly and you'll be fine.

The soldiers are supposed to look for drugs and weapons, but it seemed to me that many times they are just curious. It really varied what they looked in, but I never had anyone ask to see my outside storage compartments, nor did my fellow travelers. One of the soldiers wanted to know how much I paid for my motorhome, but I didn't tell him. Sometimes they looked in the bathroom, the cupboards or the refrigerator, and sometimes they checked the bedroom drawers, pushed on the ceiling or looked in the closets. Only once did they want to look under the hood.

They didn't speak much English, and I knew very little Spanish, but we managed to communicate. One soldier wanted to buy four sodas from me and handed me some money, but I said he could have them. A number of them didn't seem to like the fact that there were four women traveling without husbands. When we were asked where our husbands were and said we didn't have any, they just shook their heads. I guess women don't travel without their husbands in Baja.

One soldier, Mario, tried to get a little too friendly. Once he found out that I didn't have a husband, he told me I was "mucho pretty" and "I love you." He even asked for my phone number. That boy had been practicing! No matter that he was young enough to be my son. I guess those boys get bored, or else they assume that all Americans are rich and might be a ticket out of there. I should have sent him to his room.

Having Rylie in the motorhome seemed to help deter some of them from coming in or searching longer. The first thing they always asked was whether he bites. I guess I should have told Mario that he did.

No photos this time.

Rylie's Notes:

Those soldiers were constantly invading my territory, but I played it cool. Even when they tapped on the window and tried to get me to bark. I could have rounded them up into a corral if I had wanted to.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Funny Sights in Baja

I saw some amusing things while I was in Baja. Some of them were good-hearted attempts by the people of Baja to post signs in English for their gringo visitors, but I had to chuckle anyway.

This was painted on the trash bin in one of the campgrounds we stayed in, where you deposited trash in the top.

This sign was posted by a gringo who leases land on the Bay of Los Angeles (Bahia de Los Angeles) to poke fun at his neighbor, who has dogs. The guy happened to see us photographing the sign and invited us inside the security gate to see what he and his gringo neighbors had done with their properties and to share some smoked fish with us. This area apparently can be extremely windy, but there was no wind when we were there.

This toilet was sitting in someone's yard in the hills above Bahia de Los Angeles. Was there an outhouse in the works, do you think?

These distance signs were also near Bahia de Los Angeles, with everything from Disneyland to Canada to Peru listed, sometimes in conflicting directions.

Bahia de Los Angeles (this doesn't do it justice)

Rylie's Notes:

The guy whose neighbor has dogs obviously doesn't have his staff as well trained as mine. My Staff promptly picks up all of my deposits and puts them in the trash can. It's just a matter of training.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Problems in Baja

Okay, so it wasn't all fun and games in Baja. I did have a few minor problems while I was there. But if you're looking for stories about Baja banditos, you will have to look elsewhere. I never encountered these phantom creatures. The people of Baja were friendly, courteous and kind to me. The problems I encountered had to do with the motorhome.

When Lorna and I settled in at Martin Verduga's RV Park in Los Barriles, I noticed a mildew smell in the bedroom. Upon closer examination, I found the carpet was wet and that my water pump was leaking. After taking out the drawers under the bed and hoisting up the mattress, I could see there was a slow leak coming from underneath the pump. Lorna mentioned my problem to the very kind Canadians parked on the other side of her, and they came over and took a look at it. They determined it was a bad seal, and secured the pump in a container to catch the water until I could get it repaired. Those Canadians are the greatest! I am eternally grateful for their help. We were helped by Canadians more than once on this trip. They're good people. I kept the pump turned off except when using it and bailed out the water daily.

I called the Lazy Daze factory and they put me in touch with the Shur-Flo representative, who put me in touch with someone else at the factory to coordinate the replacement of the pump. Because I was told it would take a week to get a new pump sent to me and our travel schedule could not accommodate that, I decided to wait until I returned to the U.S. to get the pump replaced. I notified the Lazy Daze factory that I would be coming and they fit me in to get it replaced, even though I came earlier than expected. They replaced the pump and checked for water damage, but found none. They decided to seal the floor just in case. The new pump is noisier than the old one and if the faucet is opened less than halfway it has fluctuating water pressure, but I'm told this is how they make the pump now because of the problems they were having with the other ones.

The other event that caused a ripple in my serenity was a flat tire. Somewhere between Loreto and returning to El Coyote beach the last time, I picked up a screw in my tire. I check my tire pressures before every trip, so it must have happened somewhere along the way. I discovered it the day before we were to leave El Coyote beach and start heading north toward the U.S. border. When I checked the air pressure on one of my inside dual tires, I got nothing on the gauge. Oh oh. I had my air compressor with me, so I filled up the tire and listened to the air escaping. I felt around on the tire and discovered where the screw was, so I filled up the tire again right before we hit the road, and then had the tire repaired in Mulege, which was not far away. Even after getting the tire repaired it was still losing air, so it had to be refilled every day and watched carefully. When I returned to the U.S. I had the spare tire put on the motorhome and got the tire repaired again.

I also had a problem with my CB antenna, when the wire detached and the antenna looked like it was settling down to take a nap. Norm Pawson, my hero, climbed up on the roof of my motorhome and replaced the little eyelet do-hickey and reattached the wire.

Norm Fixing My CB Antenna

I have to say a special thanks to Norm, who helped me repeatedly on this trip, from problems with my internet connection, to the tire and CB antenna. Norm and his wife Jerri were such a pleasure to spend time with and so helpful. We spent quite a bit of time with them at El Coyote beach, and had a great time.

Norm and Jerri

Rylie's Notes:


Sunday, April 08, 2007

Fun and Games in Baja

Besides whale watching, cavorting with dolphins, snorkeling trips, and the boat trip around the island of Espiritu Santo, we had other activities to keep us busy in Baja. Rylie and I enjoyed countless romps and strolls along the many beaches, and I had several hikes in the hills at El Coyote beach, near Cabo Pulmo, and in Catavina. A number of people had kayaks at El Coyote beach and were willing to share them, so I was able to go out kayaking a few times. I think I might like to get one of those inflatable kayaks. I tried out Lorna's and liked it.

Bob and Julie Kayaking at El Coyote Beach

Thanks to Norm, Jerri and Bob, we were able to go out on the Bay of Conception on Zodiaks and see the islands, snorkel, play with dolphins and stop at Bertha's restaurant for lunch. Since I didn't tow my car while in Baja, we caught rides with friends when we needed to go to town or shopping, sight seeing, or to do laundry.

There really wasn't much we needed to shop for while at El Coyote, since many vendors delivered their wares to the beach. Every day Adolfo, one of the vendors, would drive to the beach in his van, grab some things out of the back and then trudge up and down the hot beach smiling and calling out, "Almost free! How many? What color?"

You could get anything from fresh shrimp and scallops to fruit and vegetables, propane, water for the RV and, of course, jewelry, blankets, pottery and many other Mexican treasures. By bargaining in good humor, you could always get the price down on souvenirs, sometimes nearly half the starting price.

In San Ignacio we were treated to a performance of Mexican dances by the local students in honor of the Benito Juarez holiday. They even had a live band. This made our stay in this quaint little town even more fun.

Then there was the eating. I lost track of how many potlucks there were, but it was a lot. There's something about eating on the beach that makes it taste so much better. You won't go hungry in Baja, that's for sure. Meals are shared with old friends and the new ones you just met on the beach. Lots of socializing was always going on, and cocktail hours too.

I drove a quad for the first time, and Lorna also got a driving lesson from Jim, one of the friendly Canadians on the beach. Many people do a lot of fishing while in Baja, and there seemed to be plenty of fresh fish for eating.

Lorna's Quad Driving Lesson With Jim

There were also special events that took place like craft fairs, chili cook-offs, pig roasts, and Valentine dances, among other things. At El Coyote beach there was even a movie and book exchange, thanks to Jerri Pawson. At the Martin Verduga RV park in Los Barriles, the gang played bocce ball every Friday afternoon and Texas Hold 'Em on Saturdays. I didn't do all of this stuff, but I never got bored during my two months in Baja.

Bocce Ball Gang at Martin Verduga RV Park in Los Barriles

Rylie's Notes:

Listen up, canines. Do you want to know the best thing about the beaches in Baja? Dead fish carcasses. Lots of them. I saw puffer fish, tuna, and lots of skeletons of unknown origin. One day I was able to scarf up an extra breakfast before The Staff chased me away from the remains. Lots of good eating here.