NOTE: Click on the thumbnails to display the full-size images
Day Twenty-Five - November 5, 2011
Cabo San Lucas to Todos Santos (Los Colibris)
Just a short drive up the coast highway (#19) from Cabo San Lucas to Todos Santos (about 75 kms) but I hadn't planned on seeing quite so much road construction. It seems at least 80% of that stretch of highway is undergoing the widening process (to 4-lanes) and even on a Saturday the crews were hard(ly) at work on it. Lots of people, lots of equipment, not too much action. With this being a tourist area, but also home to many native Bajaites (?) the mix of drivers on the road was from lunatics on a mission, to timid types who barely moved on the rough dirt roads that made up most of the journey. Lots of "interesting" situations to deal with to be sure.
As you'll see from these pictures, the casita waiting for me at the end of the drive was certainly worth it. Friendly people, great views, lovely little town, and as always on this trip: great weather to enjoy. More of the same in the forecast for tomorrow it appears, and I've read somewhere that this area gets 340 days of sunshine a year! Whew.... tough to take.
Day Twenty-Five - November 5, 2011
Bahia Hotel & Beach Club - Cabo San Lucas
Even though I missed the sunrise, I was out early-ish (before 7am) for a quick stroll down the hill to Medano Beach, the busiest, most crowded and most popular beach near the center of the city of Cabo San Lucas. As is always the case with Mexican beaches, it's infested with clubs, restaurants and bars that keep creeping ever closer to the water and take up precious beach space in the process. Still, it's almost impossible to destroy the beauty of the location and the hotel I'm staying in looks pretty good in the morning light.
NOTE: The gentleman having the "sand-nap" on the beach appeared to be just a victim of too good a time on Friday night. All his extremities were still intact and there were no large red stains on him or the sand nearby.
Day Twenty-Three - November 3, 2011
Villa del Faro to Bahia Hotel in Cabo San Lucas - Back to civilization
After three days in the literal wilderness it was time to get back to the more modern and civilized world of Cabo San Lucas. Not for the nightlife or the restaurants or tourist traps, but simply to have a hot shower at any time of the day or night, be able to order room service if I wished and be able to re-connect to the wired world that drives and directs so much of what I do. But it certainly was with no small amount of regret that I hauled my bags up the hill and loaded them in the Dodge and prepared to depart.
Not willing to make the same mistake I did a year ago, this time I knew my trip south to Cabo would be on the road more traveled, in other words, through Paolo Escopeta and Santa Catarina out to Highway 1 and the relative comfort of the national highway. Last year I made the coastal drive down to Cabo and it was a major adventure, with washouts and large chunks of the road missing in places and a top possible speed of barely 40 kmh. It featured beautiful vistas and amazing scenery but once was more than enough.
After a quick stop at Soriana (a sort of Mexican Walmart without all the really weird people) for some needed supplies: more sunscreen, a hat, and a few more shirts (brought four for nine days) it was full speed ahead for Cabo. One little problem was that I didn't really have exact directions to the hotel, only knowing it was near a large shopping mall on Lazaro Cardenas and not far from the highway. The address on the hotel's website didn't correspond to anything in my Garmin GPS memory - not surprising, it's constantly throwing me curveballs - but I wasn't worried as I had all afternoon to find the place.
Day Twenty-One/Two - November 1 - 2, 2011
Villa Del Faro) - The Stone Beach Cottage
If you've been following the features page, you may have noticed that I stopped here for two days on my first trip to the Baja last fall at this time. Even though some of the pictures are similar to last year's efforts, I've tried to present the Villa in a different light, and being the only guest this time I was able to take a closer look at the other casitas and the overall facility. If you want to learn some more about this hidden jewel, check out their website.
The sheer quantity of pics I took during this visit (more than 100 presented here) are a little daunting to thumb through so I'll try to streamline the process by adding dates and anchor tags to speed up the navigation on this page. Give me a few days to get that done though as I'm still working under rather minimal conditions with the only internet access here at my hotel in Cabo being a weak wi-fi network in the lobby.
No, I'm not hauling this monster laptop to an internet cafe in search of a better workspace. I'm able to write the files and do my photoshopping up here on the balcony outside my room, then take the 'puter and flash drive down to the lobby to upload the work.
Some captions would certainly help explain the pictures in this update and I will add them as soon as I can. But first, let's just get it all posted, see what it looks like, then start tweaking the product. Until then, enjoy the pics and be happy knowing that I'm having a great time down here in paradise.
Day Twenty - October 31, 2011
Los Angeles to San Jose del Cabo (Villa Del Faro) - Ridiculous to the Sublime
As I negotiated my way through the underground passages of the long-term parking garage near the LAX airport, I wondered just what I would come back to in nine days. No car at all, or one missing important components, like tires, wheels, an engine, or if it would be just as I left it, low on gas and covered in dead insects and desert dust. Parked and upstairs (hope I remembered to lock it) to the waiting shuttle for the ride to the airport, I started going over the mental checklist for my trip.
First item on the list was the check-in procedure but that just gets easier and easier all the time. Walked up to a kiosk, entered my name, clicked a few buttons, paid $20 for my one checked bag (the carry-on plan was foiled as I was carrying nail scissors and some liquids that were too big for security regulations) and boarding pass in hand entered the fabled "security" lineup. You know the one... it stretches all the way to Hollywood Boulevard and beyond on a busy day.
Allow at least __ hours - you fill in the blank, a number between one and infinity - to get through this special modern day torture. It must have been a slow day or slow time of day as less than 30 minutes elapsed in line and when it came time to make the last few strides to the freedom of the boarding lounge, I forgot to remove by belt with the big honkin' steel buckle on it.... and the scanner didn't even beep. Glad I'm living in such a secure society and my safety in the air is assured.
While sitting waiting to board the plane and working on a race report from the Big O Tires Nationals (Las Vegas) - see Dean, I was actually doing some work - it dawned on me that the rental car reservation I'd made months ago hand't been printed out and I couldn't find it with no wireless access in my area of the terminal and I certainly couldn't remember which company it was anyway. All I could think about was the gauntlet of car rental and time-share sharks lurking at the exit of the airport in Cabo. Welcome to hell, Bob.
To compound matters, I'd e-mailed another low-budget local company (Coyote Economy Rent-A-Cars) and left instructions for them to contact me. Of course the number I'd left them with was for the phone in my.... checked bag. Great plan. Next worry was the very much oversized laptop bag that just wasn't going to be checked in, no matter what. No cargo monkeys are going to be tossing that baby about. No worries though as the boarding went smoothly, the delay in taxiing was short and barely two hours later we landed in San Jose del Cabo.
Customs and Immigration went smoothly, even though my luck with the red-green button finally ran out and I was held up for a two minute inspection of my bags, then through the line of salesmen and into the parking lot and straight across to the National Rental Car shuttle van. Made a decent deal for a Dodge Attitude. Don't laugh when you see the pics of it - it's "attitude" seems to be that no matter hard you press on the go pedal, it'll only do what it feels like, and that isn't much, and as the sun started to set, headed to the grocery store and finally the road to Villa del Faro.
If you're wondering where all the airport and such pictures are, well the camera was in the checked bag too and by the time we got around to shooting pics in Cabo, it was well after dark as you can see from the first shots of the Stone Beach Cottage. One final note on the trip: the scenery count enroute to the cottage on the 20-something miles of unlit, unmarked dirt road was 26 cows, 2 dogs and one streetlight. Most of the cows on the Baja are black and that just makes it more exciting when you slide around a corner and are suddenly confronted with all these dark shapes in your headlights. Think Baja 1000 in the dark!
Day Nineteen - October 30, 2011
Las Vegas to Los Angeles - Five Hours of Hell
This mission was simple on the surface: just drive from Vegas to L.A. in time to get on a plane to Mexico on Monday. The execution was not quite so simple. As the final echoes of a pair of nitro funny cars reverberated off the edifice of the oval track across the street from the The Strip at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, I was loading my camera and computer gear in the car and preparing to make a slightly early exit from the Big O Tires Nationals and try to beat the traffic on the I-15 to Los Angeles.
Good plan on paper.... not so good in practice. The first hurdle was getting past the traffic jam on the freeway section paralleling The Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard, not the dragstrip) and that was more than a little delay as a couple of fender benders and a police stop or two kept traffic at a crawl for a few miles. No sooner had I cleared that section of highway and got up to cruising speed than I joined a long, slow parade of cars all heading in the same direction: west to L.A.
With the only logical exit in the next hundred miles being Barstow - and frankly, who in the heck would want to go to Barstow unless they were low on gas, food or needed a washroom - it was starting to look like a long drive to the coast. If I only knew how long.... and how slow.
Some regular drivers of this route had warned me that it could be a pain, and on the other hand, could be fast and easy; in other words, difficult to predict. The stop 'n go traffic started soon after we crossed the border into California and kept going and going, all the way to Barstow and beyond. Sometimes it was roadwork, sometimes it was an accident, sometimes it was just karma, but whatever the reason it just kept going on and on.
Four hours of it until I finally entered the rat race freeway system of Greater Los Angeles and just kept the pedal down and ears peeled as Karen (the Aussie girl inside the GPS) kept shouting instructions to me. "Turn here, turn there, no, not that way you great pillock", etc. Despite having only 3/4ths of a tank of gas when I left Vegas the Charger made the entire trip without needing refueling and only hit the "fuel low" mark as I turned into the Sheraton hotel parking lot at the end of the trip.
Check out the pics of the desert scenery on the drive and the sort of luxurious and sort of weird furnishings and layout in the L.A. hotel where I organized everything for the trip to Mexico in the morning and attempted to wrap things up from the Vegas race. And if you've been a regular visitor to SpeedZone Magazine lately, you'll know that I didn't come close to getting everything finished on time, but I did try and stayed up until 2:30 am working on it.
Then back up just after 6:00 to start packing and write some more, do some more photos, and stress over any loose ends that might get in the way of an enjoyable trip to Baja California Sur.
Day Sixteen - October 27, 2011
Shopping in North Las Vegas - The Walmart Experience
I'm sure by now most people have seen at least some of the photos of the "people" (and in many cases you really have to use the term loosely) that frequent the various Walmart stores around the world. If you haven't, just google "walmart people" or "walmart photos" or "walmart creatures" and you will see more weird stuff and more people seemingly descended from another planet than you ever wanted to in your lifetime.
While I was tempted to use my camera inside the store on a late night emergency - and I stress EMERGENCY - shopping expedition in search of a replacement suitcase (trust me, I'd never go there otherwise) the fact that many of these people seemed to be in groups or had husbands/wives/handlers with them kept me from adding to the photo collection.
However, I just had to share these two shots of the "Worst Dressed Car in the Lot" which I nearly parked next to until commonsense told me that the automotive leprosy this wreck was obviously suffering from might be contagious and I moved two rows over before parking. Thinking about how the owner of this pile of scrap metal might look just gave me the chills and I moved away quickly as soon as I'd snapped these shots.
Day Thirteen - October 24, 2011
Bakersfield to Las Vegas - Death Valley Daze
Today's drive was quite a series of contrasts, starting with the flat, almost sea level Bakersfield, to the Kern River Canyon, then the foothills, then mountains, valleys, more mountains, and on and on like a crazy slow-motion roller coaster ride all the way to Nevada. Then it was 75 miles of straight, flat and fast highway right into Vegas. We'll get some captions added later today.
Day Nine - October 20, 2011
San Simeon to Bakersfield - from the cool of the coast to the broiler of the badlands
Not much to report today, other than it was a far easier trip through the "mountains" (highest elevation reached was less than 2000') back from the coast to Bakersfield. This time I followed the main highway and while there wasn't a lot of great scenery, the roads were far, far better than my first venture across the state.
The most interesting sight on the trip was a huge field of oil pumps doing their thing near Wasco. They literally covered nearly every square foot of an area stretching to hundreds of acres. And the morning fog quickly burned away into bright sunshine and warm - verging on hot - temps as we reached Bakersfield. The weekend forecast is for even hotter. The hotel is way in the middle of East Bumf#@k as you can see by the view from the room, but it's right next to a freeway and convenient to the track.
Day Eight - October 19, 2011
Monterey to San Simeon - absolutely amazing scenery in the sun
What a complete turnaround after yesterday's sombre and dull run up the coast to Monterey. Fog so thick it was nearly a light drizzle, and just generally a dull, down day. Even though the day started with fog still hanging low, it began to clear almost as soon as I started packing to leave. And by the time I hit the highway at 11:00 am it was almost clear and allowed me to have a great look at Carmel-By-The-Sea. What a beautiful little town, full of boutiques and galleries and old, lovingly restored buildings and homes. Then the beach.... breathtaking; best I've seen so far on this expedition.
It only got better from there as I slowly worked my way south on Highway 1. Slowly, as it seemed virutally every corner brought into view another incredible vista. Photo-op upon photo-op for nearly two hours as I cruised down the road to San Simeon. Even a long delay for some roadwork (actually clearing up a rockslide it appeared) was turned into an opporunity to enjoy the beautiful weather and soak up some sun, some tunes, and just kick back and relax for a while. No stress, no worries, thankfully no deadlines to meet other than to get to my destinationsometime during the day.
Arriving in San Simeon too late to take a long-awaited tour of Hearst Castle, I was only able to observe a massive herd of basking elephant seals on one of the great beaches in the area. Other than that, not much to report of the place. Not really a town at all, other than a strip of motels and restaurants on the side of the highway.
In contrast to the blurry, jittery, out-of-focus shots from the little pocket camera (that I've snapping while driving at the speed limit), most of today's pics were taken with the "real" camera. Hopefully you can notice the difference. And to answer the obvious question: no, the turkey vulture didn't follow me or start circling me. Good sign.
Day Seven - October 18, 2011
Morro Bay to Monterey - getting there wasn't that much fun without the sun
After a run of great weather that ended yesterday afternoon in Morro Bay, the gloomy, foggy, damp skies stayed with us all the way up the coast to the Monterey Peninsula. On a sunny day this area looks spectacular, but in the cold, damp, grey weather it just sort of comes across as a bit blah. Maybe we'll get back to the regularly scheduled California sunshine tomorow at San Simeon. And if it doesn't get better, there's always an afternoon to spend exploring the Hearst Castle. Then it's back to Bakersfield early on Thursday for four days of madness and mayhem... well, not quite that extreme but FORTY NITRO FUNNY CARS at the California Hot Rod Reunion are sure to get me fired up and hitting on all eight again. For now we've got another batch of in-car camera work courtesy of yours truly.
Day Six - October 17, 2011
Bakersfield to Morro Bay - A real magical mystery tour
Today's installment will include a heap of photos that I snapped as I drove from Bakersfield to Morro Bay by the "most direct route" according to my trusty GPS unit. When will I learn to always, and I mean always, program it to give the "fastest time" instead of "most direct". In the GPS's little brain, direct means roads/trails/paths that even goats would fear to tread upon. My first inkling of impending doom should have been the sign that warned trucks longer than 30' to stay off the highway that I was entering, followed shortly thereafter by a slow to 15 mph sign on the very first corner. It only got worse from there....
Unfortunately I wasn't able to snap any shots of the really bad portions of the road as it was all I could do to keep the car on the road and not end up down a canyon on my roof or in the trees. All in all it was a very interesting trip; just over two hours in length but the geographical changes from the flat desert of Bakersfield to the even more barren area around Buttonwillow, to the San Luis Obispo mountains, finally back into civilization again in Atascadero, and even better, out to the Pacific Coast at Morro Bay.
Some of the shots might be a little repetitive, but taken in their whole, they provide a bit of a show of what the trip was like. And if today's drive up the coast on Highway 1 is anything like I remember it, I can only hope I get a chance to take some even better photos as I wind my way along the hairpin turns that mark that route.
Day Two/Three - October 13 - 14, 2011
Albany (Oregon) to Bakersfield - sunny skies and open roads
Let's start the ball rolling with a few snaps taken on the way down today of Mt. Shasta and Shasta Lake and finally the sunset at Famoso this evening. Not our best work, but better than nothing. If we get around to it we'll start a blog on the features page (looks like we did) and give a day-by-day description of our travels and travails during this five week tour-de-farce of four races and a Mexican interlude and of course, provide plenty of photos for your viewing pleasure.