Thursday, November 30, 2006

The latest...

Have stayed in San Quentin the last couple of nights. First night we had the 100-space campground to ourselves, last night it was invaded by a 30-40 vehicle caravan heading north - OMG We are SO glad that we never did anything like that! Seemed so regimented, complete with their own little Sgt Major on the CB radio marshalling everyone into their slots! Quite funny really, we watched as we sat out in the sun supping Bloody Mary's.

Have been having good weather. Warm in the days, but gets pretty chilly as soon as the sun goes down. Really just enjoying chilling out and not doing very much.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Mexico Safe and Sound

So here we are...been 5 days already! Right now we are in Ensenada - about 70 miles down the coast from the border.

Travelled over the border on Monday. Simple stuff though it didn't stop me worrying! Buying liability insurance for the vehicles, getting tourist cards, going to the bank to pay for said tourist cards. And all the while not speaking the lingo. We've bought a phrase book are are determined to learn as much as possible. Drove to lovely campsite, completely in the middle of nowhere, down a 7 mile dirt track that took nearly an hour to navigate. On our stroll out to explore we got as far as the bar....and that's all I remember of our first night in Mexico! (we did meet 3 american dirt-bikers who we had dinner with, and picked up some good tips for getting along in next bit!)

Wednesday morning we drove on out. Just at the end of the dirt track before hitting the highway back to civilisation we got pulled over by the police. We had no front number plate (don't need one in Florida where the RV is licensed). And it would cost us (now there's a thing) He took our papers hostage and chatted with his mate. Decided that if we paid him $40 there and then we could go. Or a visit to the police station where it might be as much as $65. And so here's where it helps picking up tips from well-travelled dirt-bikers.....agree to go to the police station. We started up the engine and waited for him to lead the way, all the while watching him in the rear camera. Funny old thing....his bluff was called...he waited a few seconds and then came knocking on the door, handed back our papers and let us on our way!!! Top tip - always agree to go to the police station!!! Apparently it's a nightmare in paperwork, and I still wonder now if not having a number plate is even a problem!!! So we felt quite chuffed with ourselves for encountering and overcoming our first potential Mexican mishap!

Drove on into Tecate where we stopped by the main square for tacos and a free beer in the Tecate brewery beer garden (limit 1 a day - you get your ticket as you go in the gate!).

That night we stopped at Rancho Sordo Mudu (it means Deaf ranch) in Guadelupe Valley - about 40 miles south of Tecate, 25 miles north of Ensenada on the inland Mex3 road. This is an amazing place where we have spent the last 2 days and loved every minute. This is a school for Mexican Deaf children. Many come to the school with no language at all and here are taught not only Spanish but also American sign langauge (did you know all sign language is different - how mad is that?!). On our first night we were invited up to the school to join them for supper. We had a quick tour of the place and in supper had many inquisitive pairs of eyes in our direction!

Yesterday was Thanksgiving here. We joined them again for a traditional thanksgiving lunch of Turkey and stuffing and Pumpkin pie (which we'd never had before!) It was joked we must've brought them good luck since all their food is donated and someone had provided 6 turkeys for them that week - it would never have been such an elaborte meal otherwise! We spent time in one of the classrooms that morning, answering hundreds of questions from the kids and explaining what we'd been doing. They gave us sign names. (these are 'made up' and are given based on you - what you like, your personality etc, e.g Chris was the sign for C then placed on his shoulder representing the rank slides of the military, mine was the H drawn in a smile across the chest - so sweet) We learnt signs to spell our names and Good Morning (which so strangley would not be recognised by a british signer). It was such a great time. These kids are so happy, the workers there are all volunteers and all have such passion for what they are doing and achieving at this amazing place and all the happiness and love is so infectious.

Friday, November 17, 2006

The last week

It may seem we haven't been busy in terms of things we've done and places we've been but it seems to us we've been dashing around like headless chickens. We now have just 3 days left till our US visas run out and we head south of the border into Mexico. Are looking forward to it with excitement and maybe a little apprehension - mainly just the unknowns. Have been out getting some minor work done on the RV in preparation and stocking up on supplies (probably buying lots of stuff we don't need to be - stuff that will be available in Mexico and probably for half the price than over here! but still - we're well stocked!)

Spending the last couple of nights in a lovely campground on the outskirts of San Diego. Sadly not sure we'll have time to spend in the city itself - a shame coz we hear such good things about it.

Not sure what internet access will be like in Baja - only time will tell. But for now we're assuming that we won't be online often to send emails and update this blog - we'll do what we can!

Hasta la vista baby!

Monday, November 13, 2006

US Costal Route 1

So we’re back from our trip up the coast, and I can’t remember the last time I was as wet and cold as I was today; I woke up at 5 am to the sound of rain, when we left the motel at 8:30 it was raining and it pretty much rained the whole way back – apart from the foggy bit when I couldn’t see far enough to know if it was raining or not! We’d taken lightweight waterproofs ‘just in case’ as it was such a warm sunny day yesterday – hah!!! After two hours I needed gas so we stopped for lunch; two hot chocolates, a burger and chips later and the cold was still steeped into the still wet bones! The idea of seeing the stunning Californian Coastal Route 1 from the opposite direction today was just that – an idea! Apparently the sea was to our right but who knows!

Yesterday thankfully, was a different story; the day although chilly when we set off, turned out to be blue and cloudless. (Well, until we got nearer the top end of the route anyway!) We stopped to watch huge elephant seals do, well, very little actually; at this time of year they come ashore to rest before the mating season, and apart from the odd scuffle for the best bit of beach and the occasional clumsy flicking of sand to protect their wobbling carcasses from the direct sunlight, they couldn’t have been less entertaining if they’d tried!

The road, once away from the towns and out onto the very edge of the earth, was biking nirvana; twisty and hilly enough to make the 55 mph speed limit almost fast enough for a change. The view really did change around every corner and over every brow; from miles of golden beaches, gentle waves seemingly lapping at the wheels, to waves crashing against the rocks hundreds of feet below, the sheer drop also seeming to lap at the wheels, to open meadows and darkened forests ignored by the sun. Apart from the odd roadworks to repair recent landslides, and a mild smattering of traffic, the pace was uninterrupted, smooth, brisk and flowing!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Carpinteria State Beach

Drove back to Carpinteria State Park the day before yesterday. Chris and I had stopped here on our way to Palm Desert and fell in love with the place - had to bring Mum and Dad here for their last night. Gorgeous beach, sunsets and plenty of dolphins, sea lions and seals to watch. the 'last supper' with M&D was a beach BBQ and campfire - perfect and very sad to say goodbye to them after 3 busy weeks - come back soon!

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Joshua Tree NP

Last few days were relaxing. It all seemed spookily quiet without Andy and the kids around. It was so great to see them - such an unexpected bonus to our trip to have them come out and visit. We've just been relaxing in the apartment and by the pool.

Yesterday stayed in Joshua Tree National Park. Camped in the northern part of the park in amongst the huge rocks and joshua trees - the scenery is just so funky, and last night the moon was so bright we could see our own shadows whilst scrambling around on the rocks by the RV. Today we spent cruising around the park in the car. Went to the Cholla Cactus garden - a small area where this particular cactus grows - the conditions have to be specific and are just right in this one area so there are literally thousands of the them. Also had a spectacular view from Keys View - a viewpoint at 5100 feet overlooking the valley and Palm Desert off in the distance - it was quite a dramatic drop down to the valley.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Madness and mayhem

Totally maxed out the last week or so! Last Friday Mum, Dad Chris and I all checked in for a week at the Marriott Shadow Ridge in Palm Desert (a timeshare exchange arranged by M&D). That same evening my Uncle Andy and 3 cousins flew in from London and also joined us - hence the hectic last 5 days. I'm now sat here in (comparitive!) blissful silence, and, due to the layout of the ,Chris and I finally get our own bedroom (rather than the sofabed!) for the last 2 nights of the stay here - Hooray!!

So a completely busy 5 days. Mostly involving long breakfasts, swims at the pool, long lunches, playing 'it' outside the apartment dangerously close to the beautifully manicured golf course (hey - it's grass - its fair game for running all over - no?!) etc.

Sunday night/Monday Chris and I were daft enough to volunteer to take all 3 kids away camping for the night in the RV. Didn't go far - just a couple of junctions down the interstate in fact, but long enough to for them all 'to ride in Harvey sat on the sofa!'). Had an outdoor BBQ, went swimming in the morning and then all went to the Living Desert in Palm Desert. A zoo basically, saw lots of cool desert animals - giraffes, gazelle, meerkats, Oryx and A MOUNTAIN LION!! This is probably the only time Chris and I will ever see one - it's the only BIG wild animal in north america I can think of that we haven't seen in the wild! Still I think it all went pretty well - everyone arrived back to the apartment in one piece ready for responsibility to be promptly handed back over to Andy! - phew!