(October 4 – written by Dave)
Today we started our Spanish lessons, one road sign at a time. We like Spanish road signs better than say, Thai or Greek road signs. We may not know what all the words mean but at least we know the letters and can sound out the words. We can generally make a guess at what the sign is telling us to do, or most likely not do. But we are not yet 100% sure every sign.
Today, throwing road safety caution to the wind, we didn’t stop and look up the road signs that we didn’t understand. This would take too much time. I am allowed to stop for a picture, so long as I don’t doddle. Today, Nancy often stopped as well as she is still thinking that we should be glued together here in Northern Mexico (near the border at least). I photographed the signs and later when we reached our destination, we looked up the meanings and saw how many roadside rules that we may have violated. Best I can tell, today we stayed on the right side of the law. See below for today’s signs – try guessing the meaning before you read the caption.
We were up early and ate in our room. We had a pile of bread and muffins left over from yesterday’s bakery run. The new immersion heater worked great for coffee – it is blazingly fast at heating a single cup to the point of scalding. We were riding away from the hotel by 8AM and cleared “rush hour” traffic soon thereafter. There didn’t seem to be really any rush hour in Tecate. In fact, we had very little traffic all day long. The shoulder was stunningly good all day as well – at least 5 feet wide for most of the route. We had a bunch of new pavement throughout the day and an old road was visible at times – some of the road works that we’d read about are now done and so far at least, I have nothing but high praise for the Baja roads and drivers.
Morning tea was taken at an Oxxo shop. Oxxo shops are everywhere in Mexico (so far for us – we’ve heard from others that this is nationwide). We are really happy with Oxxo as a food stop. They have pretty healthy choices (see below) and almost always have a restroom. I asked, in Spanish where the toilet was at the first stop today and was directed out the back to a very clean and bright facility. I was pleased to pass the test on using my limited Spanish. Nancy is making me go into the Oxxo shops, get the food and suss out the bathroom situation. This works well for my small bladder and also improving my Spanish.
The scenery is a lot like it was near San Diego but the valleys are clearly irrigated. Palm Valley appears to be a large olive growing region and later near Guadalupe we entered the Baja wine region. The hillsides are fairly sparse of trees but they aren’t lacking in rocks. Olive tree and grape vines don’t mind rocky soil so they’ve chosen their crops well.
We were going to stop today and camp at an RV Park run by a deaf school, about 4ks north of Guadalupe. We arrived there around 12:30 but no one was around. We pulled up under their shade structure and ate our lunch while we contemplated the next move. Eventually a nice young man working there came by and gave us the story. He was the grandson of the founders. All of the money made on the park goes to the school but the park itself is still not really functioning. They have bathrooms (they were all locked when we got there) but no showers, no hot water and no even sinks. He said that the water was very salty meaning we probably couldn’t filter it. They have a little grass on a couple spots but from what I saw, this is also where park users walk their dogs – you’d better keep an eye where you step. We discussed it and agreed to move onto Guadalupe and a motel.
Guadalupe is often called the Napa Valley of Mexico. And it is expensive. There are no cheap hotels. Nancy’s sister sent us a link to a story about Guadalupe that ran in the US magazine, Sunset. We rode past one place that they mentioned in the article (having looked it up on booking.com earlier). It was interesting looking but they wanted $390 USD for a “cabin in the sky” – yeah, that’s what I thought “$390 for a what…”. Anyway, we didn’t pick that hotel (Senior editor – surprise, surpise…). We ended up in a nice (but pricy) place much closer to town called Posada Inn. We are now thinking about dinner – we’ll report on it tomorrow. And we are also working on our road sign Spanish so that we can be safer tomorrow.
Tomorrow we head to a Warmshowers host in Ensenada. It’s a short ride but we’ve heard that traffic picks up there, after Highway 3 (our road) and Highway 1 join. They are supposed to have nice seafood there and we’ll be back on the coast for a day or two. From there, who knows? We have booked our place in La Paz starting 6 November to study Spanish for awhile, so we have quite a few extra days to make it to La Paz (and a large number of road signs to help our Spanish). We’ll take our time and try to really enjoy all that Baja has to offer.