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Old 02-23-2018, 11:31 PM   #1
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Join Date: Oct 2014
Location: Juneau, Alaska
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The weather made me do it ...

A couple weeks ago in Juneau we were have a long stretch of cold and I was mostly sitting at my desk working on my income tax. Boring! Up turns an almost expiring cancelled ticket for Alaska Airlines .... mmmmm. It will take me to Bellingham, WA where my trailer and tow is stored for little cost. Ok ... things are looking up. 5 days later I'm in Bellingham within 4 hours more on the road. Juneau temp at that time was 9F. Bellingham mid 50's .... oil change in tow and a couple flushes to get the "pink stuff" out of my water system .... gawd I'll never do that again.

Anyway clear sailing all the way down I-5 to San Diego. Rest stops were my accommodations all the way down. Not very luxurious but my trailer is! Price was right. Several years ago I went to a rally for Tear Droppers at a neat little "Country Park" called 'Sweetwater Summit Regional Park' .... hookups for water and electricity for about $32 / night. I like it because it feels like country but really you are near the hub bub of the big city - everything is close. Sort of.

I was to meet up with a High School buddy and his girlfriend and then off to Baja. Trouble was girlfriend was to meet us 2 days later and THEN my buddy discovered that his EuroVan needed a new timing chain. He belonged to an EuroVan blog and they told him who were the best mechanics in San Diego. 4 days later we were off to Mexicali and the border crossing.

A little back track: Mexican Insurance .... You really SHOULD get insurance. An accident = jail time til it gets sorted out. You do not want to spend ANY time in a Mexican jail! Get insurance. I got comprehensive coverage for both truck and trailer ... based on valuation of both = $209.00 US for the ten days I was planning to be in Mexico. Kinda high ... yup. But looking at the same valuations for 6 months ... costs were only about $130.00 US more. There were no other fees. And in fact crossing the border in Mexicali nobody wanted to check if we had insurance or not. In fact nobody checked anything ... no passport check, no drivers license check, no 'how much money do you have' check .... easy peasy.

Now before we went across the border, we found a Walmart in El Centro on the US side. There I bought a few veges, gasolina and a 2 gallon jug of agua .... just in case.

More tomorrow ... I'm tired of typing
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Old 02-24-2018, 12:16 PM   #2
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Back to Baja:

Getting a late start out of San Diego, we drove about 2+ hours down highway 8 and as it was getting dark, pulled off Hwy 8 towards a little town called Ocotillo and drove up Hwy S2. This road leads up into Anza Borrego Desert State Park and this whole region looks pretty interesting. I'm coming back for further exploration - perhaps on my way home. We found free campsites near the huge windmills - BLM land just off road S2.

The next morning and another 2 hour drive found us at Walmart in Calexico buying a few groceries and for me - two 2 gallon gas cans. It was reported that a few areas had no gas for 200 miles and that is the approx. range of my Tacoma towing. A little insurance here ... especially not knowing the effects of rough roads on my MPG.

After about a two hour drive from our campsite, we were in Mexicali clearing into Mexico and as I reported last night an easy crossing. Driving through Mexicali was another matter for someone driving solo and not used to the border town chaos. Suddenly, all signage was in Spanish and I struggled to drive, read, remember my last century Spanish and avoid other drivers who might think stopping at stop signs was optional.

Fortunately, it didn't take long to pass through Mexicali and soon new terrain kept me entertained. Two hours later down Hwy 5 and we were in San Felipe on the east coast of Baja. Ahhh nice views of the Gulf of California. One of my first stops was to find a bank to convert US funds into Pesos. I converted $350.00 US into about 7000 Pesos. Larger grocery stores seem to be able to handles US money and all took plastic. Gas stations however wanted Pesos.

Here is an easy trick to convert Pesos to US money:
Look at the price posted for the item you are interested in. Lets say its $40 - they mean 40 Pesos not 40 US dollars in spite of the dollar sign. Move the decimal point one diget to the left (4.0) and divide by 2 = 2 US dollars for the item. Its not exact due to money fluctuations and taxes but close. In my money conversion above ... 7000 Pesos = 700.0/2 = $350 US dollars.

Next buying gasolina:


Tom
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Old 02-24-2018, 01:36 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by StarvingHyena View Post


A little back track: Mexican Insurance .... You really SHOULD get insurance. An accident = jail time til it gets sorted out. You do not want to spend ANY time in a Mexican jail! Get insurance. I got comprehensive coverage for both truck and trailer ... based on valuation of both = $209.00 US for the ten days I was planning to be in Mexico. Kinda high ... yup. But looking at the same valuations for 6 months ... costs were only about $130.00 US more. There were no other fees. And in fact crossing the border in Mexicali nobody wanted to check if we had insurance or not. In fact nobody checked anything ... no passport check, no drivers license check, no 'how much money do you have' check .... easy peasy.

Yes, like most insurance short term insurance is more expensive. We found that if you're going for 3 weeks or more it's hardly anything more for the 6 month policy.

Did you get a FMM, a tourist visa? There are many checkpoints. Although it's a frequent discussion point on BajaNomad, some hardcore Baja types don't bother. There's also been some discussion about insurance coverage being invalidated if you have an accident without a FNN as that makes you in the country illegally.

Quote:
Originally Posted by StarvingHyena View Post
Back to Baja:







Two hours later down Hwy 5 and we were in San Felipe on the east coast of Baja. Ahhh nice views of the Gulf of California. One of my first stops was to find a bank to convert US funds into Pesos. I converted $350.00 US into about 7000 Pesos. Larger grocery stores seem to be able to handles US money and all took plastic. Gas stations however wanted Pesos.


Next buying gasolina:


Tom
Are you taking 5 until it reaches 1 again? If so, I'll be interested in your comments.

Probably too late to tell you of a sort of secret beypass for Coco's Corner.
Shaves a couple of miles off which is about 10% less unfinished road.

Yah, those gas stations. Some rip you off big time with short fills etc.
Again, BajaNomad has lots of information on which ones are the "good"
and "bad" ones.


Ron
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Old 02-26-2018, 12:02 AM   #4
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Buying gas is a bit of an anxious time. I think I'm fortunate in that my filler pipe is on the drivers side so I could pull up to the pump and try to have the filler right next to pump that I wanted to use. I'd hop out and kinda stand in the way for filling until the gas grade was selected and the attendant would ask how much by saying "Full?" Si Bueno and I'd point to the 87 octane button. Most of the time the attendant would, almost like a salute point to the price screen so I would notice that it was zeroed out. "Gracias with a nod". Some would notice if I was a bit distracted and get the nozzle in the filler really fast and have the pump flying to register the volume pumped. These were the times when I got ripped off .... it only happened a couple times and I knew ahead of time how much gas I needed. Both times it was less than a few dollars so rather than argue, I told my self ..."next time I'd be more careful".... and was.

We entered Mexico through Mexicali ... border guard only asked how long I was going to be in Mexico. Had my insurance papers on the seat next to me but did not have a Visa ... I had expected to buy it at the border. Wasn't asked about it ... and honestly I forgot. Somewhere I saw a posting that its cost was about $50.00. Nobody want to see my insurance paper either.

Got the green light to go ... so did. San Felipe about 2 hours ahead down hwy #5. The road was good with exception of a few pot holes. Found San Felipe interesting. We camped a bit north of town in a little RV park with palapas right on the beach. The matron of the place came right down charged us $20 each ... that's US $ for our two cars and two palapas ... she didn't want Pesos. The next day at low tide we dug a big bucket of steamer clams and they were really good. The matron kinda stood around til we asked her to stay for dinner .... they were her clams after all.

It was another few hours drive to a place called Puerticitos and was another Palapa right on the beach campout. Only this time the wind came up and blew a steady 50mph with gusts to perhaps 70 mph. I stayed inside my trailer and watched the sand blow in the space at the bottom of my door and form a sand drift of really fine sand. Made me realize that I would have been smart to bring and extra air filter or two... next time.

We were finding our campsites from a cell app called Maps.me . The nice thing is you can us your maps off line even when there is no cell service as it operates off your cell phone GPS coordinates. I down loaded maps of Baja Norte while still in the US with cell service. Glad I did as Google Maps pooped out just past the border.

Not long after passing Puertecitos the road got really bad. BC Ron spoke about it last year. I'm with Ron's wife ... no go again until its fixed! As a word of encouragement, I did pass some huge paving equipment heading the other way on 5 near the south end where it joins up with HWY #1.

I was glad to get on 1 but it too had really bad pot holes .... sometimes you could salomn around them other times nothing to do but hit them at speed or come to a near stop. When I entered Mexico at the north end of 5, I wondered why there were blown out tire carcasses about every 100 feet - really! Now I know.

I liked Hwy1 better along the Pacific Ocean but the campsites were much further off the road and a real concern for a trailer ..."Can I turn around after driving down this unfamiliar road"? I really liked the area around Santo Tomas ... a little south of Ensenada. Looked like a little bit more of Old Mexico but unfortunately my time was running out and I couldn't stop. Next time.

Because of where I was I decided to enter the US at Tijuana. What a mistake! ... I'll never do that again. There are a lot of toll roads and the toll takers are rip off artists that made the gasoline boys feel like amateurs. Recommend the extra drive to cross at Tecate.

My trip was waaay too short and covered a lot of ground but all in all I'm happy. I never felt threatened ... in fact just the opposite. At first I was pretty apprehensive about traveling alone in just my vehicle but after a while I was relaxed. A couple times I started to get worried when a gang of young guys gathered at the rear of my trailer when parked. When I approached them, it turned out they had spotted my Rad Rover Fat Tire Electric bike ... they had never seen such a bike ... it may as well been a Mars Rover. We struggled with Spanish / English stuff but in the end they appreciated that I showed it to them ... and we all left with smiles.

I wish I was fluent in Spanish

Tom
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Old 02-26-2018, 02:11 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by StarvingHyena View Post
... did not have a Visa ... I had expected to buy it at the border. Wasn't asked about it ... and honestly I forgot. Somewhere I saw a posting that its cost was about $50.00.
It has been almost two decades since I was in Mexico, but back then the FMT or FMN (predecessors to the current FMM) was just a free form you filled out and handed to the Mexican immigration officer, who accepted (or perhaps challenged) it. A Mexican government web page describes the form and offers electronic submission; I didn't want to complete one so I didn't see what the fee might be. According to another website, there is now a 500 peso fee, which would be US$27 or CA$34. Two decades ago, 500 pesos would have been about US$50, but not now.

EDIT: To be consistent, I suppose I should have written the values as 500 MXN, 27 USD, and 34 CAD... or MX$500, US$27, and CA$34.
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Old 02-26-2018, 11:21 AM   #6
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That's correct, 500 pesos now. The thing that's changed is that previously you had to return the FNN when you exited and that was a bit of a nuisance. It you didn't then the next time they'd know that you hadn't checked out properly. That could have caused a problem. Now, as of last year, they don't seem to care if it's turned in.

I'm really hoping that Mex 5 is paved by next year. I'd rather be down at Coyote Beach now than home in the snow.

Ron
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