25 Oct 2014

Into the Mad House

We have been to some pretty chaotic places before, but nothing really prepares you for the culture shock of  passing from San Diego into Tijuana. The crossing itself was easy, in fact too easy. After a cursory search of the vehicle they waved us through and at that point we could have gone! I asked one of the guards about a stamp for the passport and they waved us over to an office. That was done in minutes and we asked about the car and they said it was done on the other side. We set off and after a little while we were approaching a toll booth on the motorway, so we did a u turn between some bollards (probably illegal) and stopped at a police station on the other side too inquire about registering the vehicle. After all we had heard about the Federales, we must have met the nicest one in Mexico, he made 3 or 4 phone calls and drew us a map of where we needed to go.

Turns out that you do not need papers for the vehicle unless you are going into mainland Mexico ( we are going down a peninsular called Baja California and crossing by ferry to the mainland at the bottom) and the border we went through did not have the appropriate office to do so. the guard that told us to go to the other side meant the crossing on the other side of Tijuana! But even then the office was a little way from the other border.

We also needed car insurance for Mexico, had been told we could buy it at the border, but again we must have gone through the wrong border. Whilst wandering through Tijuana we saw an AXA sign so stopped for insurance, whilst inside I heard the cruiser horn blow and went out to find that someone had creased the whole side of her car against the front bumper whilst trying to park. Turns out she was the niece of the lady I was buying insurance off!!!! We could hardly see the mark on our bumper, but the damage to her car was immense!

Now insured we set off again in search of this illusive office and with the help of the Federales map and my GPS we found it. But because the cruiser is so old the VIN number did not come up on their computer and they had to contact Mexico, which is 2 hours ahead and was closed. Apparently we could have done it at the point where we take the ferry to mainland Mexico, but as it was already dark we decided to find a Hotel and come back in the morning.

We had an excellent room once the hotel engineer had got the water running and changed the batteries in the TV remote (we haven't seen a telly for weeks) and went out for a meal.

Next day we retraced our steps (courtesy of the GPS), registered the car and set off for the motorway almost 24 hours after arriving.

Tijuana is absolutely massive and a complete shambles, with cars and people everywhere and when you get out of Tijuana the roads are merely a suggestion, in many places there is a dirt strip as big as the road on either side, with stalls and shops at the far sides, with cars driving in both directions on each side and diving on and off the road without warning and in the main take absolutely no notice of speed limits or lines, single or double. A few weeks ago we thought we were on the set of mad Max, now we appear to be in it!

Only pictures I managed to take were these from our camp site on the beach, the rest of the time my hands were shaking too much to take any, not really, after driving around Tijuana a few times I was ready for anything!

19 Oct 2014

High Tide at High Noon

After The Grand Canyon we had a few days of extremes, 46 degrees in Death valley (at -175  feet) on one day, rising up to almost 10,000 feet and down to 16 degrees as we went over the pass into Yosemite the next. We were back up to 4,000 feet by the time we camped on the way out of Death Valley, so not quite so hot and we dropped back down to 5000 feet in Yosemite so had warmed up again.

After a couple of days and a short walk in Yosemite we drove to Stockton (not far from San Francisco) where we had arranged to replace the alternator at Valley Hybrids.They replaced my 60 amp alternator with an 80 amp one from a petrol version and also gave the cruiser a good check over and tightened one wheel baring. The new alternator is a big improvement and is now putting plenty of charge into the leisure batteries.

As we drove into San Francisco we drove into a thick mist and the temperature dropped from a warm 32 degrees to a chilly 17. We drove over the Bay Bridge, vaguely saw the Golden Gate Bridge through the mist, followed the GPS to 3 camp sites that no longer exist (up and down the famous hills where so may car chases have taken place) and decided we had had enough of San Francisco so drove out again and found a camp site about 40 miles south..

Monterey on the other hand (once the capital of California in Spanish time) was delightful and fortunately the mist cleared whilst we were there, but the mist was to plague us on and off most of the way down to LA and the following day saw very little sun at all.

A couple of days later we found ourselves at the weekend again and all camp sites full, but found that we could camp on the beach for $10 a night. This was a huge area with lots of dunes where any form of 4x4 was allowed to drive over as long as they had a  high flag (so they could be seen from the other side of a dune). To access the camping area it was necessary to drive about 3.5 miles along a narrow passage way along the beach front. This was easy as the tide was out and we drove down the wet sand by the water and pitched up between a couple of trailers. That evening numerous vehicles from quad bike to specialist 4x4 trucks with big engines went roaring by in the dark, with banks of LED lights to light there way, all with flags flying high and sometimes up to 4 deep and you could quite believe you were on the set of Mad Max 4 (or would it be 5?)

The following morning  there is a lot of discussion about where high tide would reach, potentially beyond were we were pitched! We were ready to make a quick getaway if it came up to far, but in the end just about reached the back wheels, but by that time only an inch or so deep. the next day high tide was supposed to be 6 inches lower, but the waves were a lot higher and had to evacuate up the breach a couple of times whilst we packed up, until one wave came up as far as the running board whist I was stood on it as I was getting in to reverse up the beach (which I did without problem). By this time the beach was carnage, with vehicles up to their axles all over the place. We skirted round the back in the soft sand (which was good fun) but when we got half way along the narrow section the sea had gone up to the fence and the only way out was to basically head out to see to a sand bar about 100 meters out and back on to the beach further down. Half way through all this I realised I should have put the go pro on, but there was no way I could stop and probably missed some of the best footage I would ever get. I did consider going back but Chris wasn't too keen.

Whilst in Death valley we met a couple of guys on Harley's that worked for a land Cruiser Specialists in Chatsworth (just north of LA) that told us they kept stock of diesel parts, so after lunch at Santa Barbara (where apparently the rich and famous go to get away from LA) we made a slight detour to Chatsworth and stocked up with filters and brake pads. After which we soon realised we would not get very far in the traffic so back tracked to Malibu and found a very reasonable camp site (given the location) over looking the bay.

The next day we made it to San Diego, through the worst traffic we have encountered on the trip, up to 7 lanes in places and when it wasn't stationary cars would overtake on all sides and some would weave across all 7 lanes!

So here we are at San Diego, waiting for a couple of tyres to be delivered so that we will have a full set of Coopers, which will hopefully last until we ship back. We met up with Susan, who we met in Canada and told us to look her up when we got here, and we have all ridden our bikes round the bay and imbibed rather more than perhaps we should over the last 2 evenings.

                                          Death valley



                                          Coast of California                                         


                                          High Tide at High Noon