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Making Plans and It Feels So Good

Marking One Year in Baja


View 2021 & 2020 on mrb430's travel map.

After a year in Baja, I find myself reflecting on both the unexpected anxieties and the unforeseen benefits of being in one place this long. It's been a truly amazing year in so many ways. Baja has given us a safe home to stay out of harm's way - just as we anticipated it would - and for that we are incredibly thankful. While not universal, Mexicans in Baja (if not all gringos) have taken the risks seriously. Safety and sanitation requirements and compliance with mask wearing is very high. And of course the less dense population means it's easy to social distance. While the danger has not yet passed, we can foresee the return to more normal times. And, honestly, it can't be soon enough. We are ready to get moving again!

But it will be hard to leave Baja this time. It feels like starting our retirement all over again. Saying goodbye to good fiends, leaving the comforts of a well stocked house behind, and hitting the road is never an easy transition. We have been so fortunate to have had such a wonderful place and wonderful friends to see us though this year of forced rest; we will surely miss the beauty of Baja and all of the good times.
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Here are a few (well maybe more than a few) highlights since I wrote last.

WINTER FUN

Last I wrote, we had just moved and we really love living in our house on the hill. The views are beautiful! Sunrises over the water and sunsets over the desert. But! We didn't anticipate how much colder it would be outside of the city over the winter and it tested our mettle for sure! Now I know, for those of you that get real winter, the low 60's don't seem cold but for us it required down jackets, slippers, and fires in the evening.
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Scott has started to MASTER THE "LONG SMOKE" on our grill and has made some amazing pork shoulder for pulled pork as well as various other fowl and fish.
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As a result, we had a great, if lonely, THANKSGIVING DINNER of smoked turkey breast and traditional sides.
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And of course, football!
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We took a beautiful road trip with our friends Sue and Bill out to the waterfall and mission church near SAN BLAS.
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OUR ANNIVERSARY found us missing the Scottish Parade and our "parade friends" but we had single malt and treated ourselves to a fabulous dinner and overnight stay at Hotel Posada de las Flores and Oliva al Mare.
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I kept myself busy during the holidays VOLUNTEERING our truck and driving it to less fortunate pueblos to deliver food and goods with a local aid organization.
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MR HAPPY joined us in December. He and our other foster dog, Ruby, hit it off immediately and he and Scott formed a special bond.
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CHRISTMAS brought the news that Ruby had been adopted as a Cristmas present...
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...it brought our Christmas present of Guinness to the grocery store...
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...and we finally got to celebrate a holiday with friends! Thanks to Linda and Thierry who made the traditional seven fishes Italian dinner for us and Rebecca and Jim.
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We celebrated New Year's Eve quietly but made up for it with mimosas on the beach on NEW YEAR'S DAY.
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January brought THE "KIDS" TO BAJA and we took them to the East Cape on the Gulf of California for sun and fun...
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...and then to the Pacific side, to Pescadero. As luck would have it, the only two days it has rained in our year in Baja happened at this time. Ugh!
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But we managed and enjoyed our visit to Todos Santos.
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When they left, we kept the amazing house we rented for one more weekend and our friends from La Paz joined us for some "SERIOUS" FUN.
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By February, we were all sick of winter and tried a BEACH DAY. It was met with mixed success! Bikinis and down jackets - that's February in Baja!
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We did start heating the pool again for those rare windless days.
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We took a road trip up to SAN EVERISTO. Quite an adventure!
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And we went WHALE-WATCHING at Adolfo López Mateos. It was cold and foggy on the water...
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... but a beautiful day back on land. Such a beautiful area of Baja.
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And Thierry cooked local scallops he harvested himself!
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And the best part was we brought oysters home!
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In early March, we said GOODBYE TO RUBY.
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It was heartbreaking but she is with an amazing family in Westport, Washington where she runs on the beach, goes hiking, and is loved. We couldn't be happier for her or for her forever family.

We celebrated Linda's birthday with them at their lovely condo in Las Tunas with the Frigate birds bathing in the estuary below and then gliding over our porch.
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We also made a trip back to SPA BUENA VISTA for Scott's birthday. One of our favorite places. We had a great house and great times with friends who joined us for the celebration.
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And that about catches us up.

SUMMER IS COMING BACK TO BAJA

You may wonder, what happened to Spring? While there is a period in March and now April where the nights are still cool, the days are back in the 80's and 90's and it feels like summer. We are really happy that it's warming up again! We're looking forward to a few more months enjoying it and the beaches before we leave at the end of May.
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We're planning our last six weeks here and hope to have a few more adventures to share before we leave. In the meantime, we spend hours on the beach walking Mr Happy. Scott takes him almost everyday and I often join in. For your amusement and viewing pleasure, check out his video.

AND NOW WHAT YOU'VE ALL (OR AT LEAST WE) HAVE BEEN WAITING FOR

We're planning out our travels after we leave and have made some plans we're really excited about. Fingers crossed we're able to carry them out!

In June, we plan to drive up the Baja again and be at my parent's in Fort Collins to visit and get vaccinated. July will take us to Grenada for a month in the Caribbean sun. In August, after a brief stop through DC and Alexandria for Morgan's Catholic Wedding, we'll be off to Aruba, Bonaire, and Cauraçao for five weeks. Since we have to be back on the East Coast for Morgan's Beach Wedding in September, we decided to stay close and go back to the Caribbean. After two weeks on the beach in Dewey, Delaware, we'll head back to Fort Collins for another visit and to sell our beloved truck, Libby. And then...hopefully back to Asia to pick up where we left off over a year ago.

The map looks a little crazy but at least we'll be back on Arrradventure!
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Stay safe and healthy!

Posted by mrb430 18:55 Archived in Mexico Comments (2)

Hitting the Beaches in Baja


View 2021 & 2020 on mrb430's travel map.

Since we've been back in Baja with Libby (our new truck), we've been venturing out about once a week to visit some of our favorite places. The best thing about Baja is all of the small beach towns, each with their own speciality and/or personality. Here's a quick look at a few of our recent outings.

Saltito

Saltito is perhaps the closest white-sand beach to La Paz. It's a really pretty drive for the last few kilometers down to the beach and just a nice place to pass a day. It was our current foster dog Ruby's first beach outing and she did really well.
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Mystery Beach

I have no idea if this is the real name of this beach but it's what our friends Linda and Thierry call it and, since they showed it to us, it's what we'll call it, too. It's quite a ways back a rough sand road off of one of our favorite beaches, Tecolote. As with so many of these places, we had it all to ourselves. It's an amazing thing about Baja. There are so many little coves and beaches you rarely have to share. Great for social distancing!
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Linda and Thierry aren't in Casper the Ghost costumes for Halloween, they wear a lot of cover for snorkeling.

Cabo Pulmo

We also took a long weekend down on the East Cape in Cabo Pulmo, known for the marine park there. Scott and I had a day on the beach while Linda and Thierry went diving the first day.
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But the next day Scott headed out, too. The area is known for giant fish balls and huge schools of fish. It's also a destination dive for diving with Bull Sharks. Thierry got some great video. Check it out.

We had a great house and, as usual with these two, a lot of fun and great food.
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La Ventana

Closer to La Paz, we took a day trip to La Ventana (The Wind), which for obvious reasons given the name is known as a kite boarding destination. We had a great day chilling on the beach watching the boarders. It was a sunny, cool, windy day that reminded us of fall on the Eastern Shore.
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La Ribera

Whenever I get a chance, I drag people back to one of my favorite beaches, La Ribera. We spent a month here in 2019 and it holds a special place for us. So when our friends Bill and Sue were camping nearby, it seems a perfect opportunity.
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And we celebrated the Biden/Harris victory over the chaos and disfunction of the last four years!
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We ended the day with dinner at the Buena Vista Hotel with a lovely dinner on the terrace before spending the night and heading home early for Sunday Funday football.
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In Other News

In between our trips, we've been keeping busy. I've been volunteering with Baja Dogs and taking care of the garden. Scott's been fixing little things around the house and exploring our surroundings. And we are enjoying football season. Most days we put the TV outside and watch it from poolside - or sometimes from the pool!
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And sometimes with friends.
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We fostered a puppy for a week, which was both adorable and a total pain in the ass. Turns out I don't like puppies any more than I like babies and there isn't a whole lot of difference at 6 weeks IMO. Puppy pads = diapers, check. Middle of the night feedings, check. Constant supervision required, check. Nap time, check. Off the charts cute? Check.
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We're cautiously optimistic about the new vaccine and the possibility it may speed our ability to get back on the road. However, we're planning to be waiting for at least a year. And now we have an appointment in September 2021 in the DC area as our daughter Morgan is getting married! We couldn't be happier for her and her wonderful fiancee Steven.
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So another road trip is probably in order in the US next summer. Something to plan! Yay!

Stay safe and stay healthy! And stay tuned.

Posted by mrb430 18:12 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Road-tripping in the Southwest


View 2021 & 2020 on mrb430's travel map.

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As I mentioned in our last post, we recently spent two weeks or so in the Southwest United States. Our flight into Salt Lake City was amazing. I had no idea the vastness and desolation of the Great Salt Lake or the amazingly varied landscape of it. You can imagine the settlers finding it and their wonderment and, likely, disappointment.
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Violating the Prime Directive

After flying in, we headed up to the small town of Logan, Utah to pick up our new truck. And let me just pause here to say that I know we have an unconventional life. Our legal residence is Florida, our mailing address is Virginia, we live in Baja, and we were titleing the truck in South Dakota but I'm pretty sure we blew the minds of the dealership in this small town. They just couldn't figure us out. I mean add to it that we had flown from Baja to come up and pick up the truck from them after completing the entire purchase online and through email. In the end, we worked it out and I think they got an education but it was kinda hysterical and we kinda felt like the crew of the Starship Enterprise in Star Trek Into Darkness when they violated the Prime Directive by letting a primitive civilization see the future. In any case, it was a beautiful drive back down to I-15 and we saw some amazing fall colors and golden grasses.
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Crossing the Divide

When we planned to pick up the truck, we knew we had to fit a visit to my parents into the mix. I mean, when you're less than 500 miles from somewhere out West it's practically a day trip! We took two days to do it, stopping in Vernal, Utah overnight. We traveled on US 40, which is two lane most of the way and virtually devoid of traffic except in the small towns. There were times we'd travel fifteen minutes or more without seeing another vehicle. Through Utah, there are a lot of reservoirs and beautiful grasslands.
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Once into Colorado the highways follows the Yampa River for quite awhile and crosses it numerous times. It was really lovely.
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Climbing into the mountains in Colorado, it became a breathtaking drive that took us up over the Continental Divide at Rabbit Ears Pass in Colorado at 9426'. The Aspens were golden yellow and orange, the willows had turned yellow, and the wildflowers were blooming. It ticked a bucket-list item for me of seeing the Aspens in the fall.
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We enjoyed being in Fort Collins with my parents. It was a great surprise for us all that it worked out.
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We did some US-only shopping, ate a lot of US-only food, and generally reacquainted ourselves with our country. Scott has a perpetual bucket list for whenever we return to the US, mostly involving food. Steak sandwiches, wings, buffalo chicken, Jujyfruits, you get the idea. It was also a productive break because we got the truck registered with South Dakota (yes, it's all online and through the mail and it's open to anyone with a US address). We didn't want to cross back into Mexico without proper plates and registration so it all worked out perfectly. And then we were back on the road.

Ticking off the Bucket List

Two places I've always wanted to go are Great Sand Dunes National Park and Monument Valley so I put those on our itinerary on our way back to Baja. The drive across US 160 from I-25 takes you around the bottom of the Sangre de Cristo mountain range in Colorado and past Mount Lindsey and Blanca Peak, the fourth highest in the Rocky Mountains. They are a beautiful range of mountains in the semi-arid southeast of Colorado.
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On the way into the park, we drove up the Zapata Falls Trail for Libby's (if you read the last blog, you will know that's what we named our truck) first off road excursion. The views back to the dunes were awesome.
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The Great Sand Dunes are enormous and really amazing. The entire dune field encompasses 30 square miles and the tallest dune towers 750 feet high. They have all kinds of activities from sliding down the dunes on boards (nope!) to hiking up them (double nope!). We just enjoyed the views.
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I think what attracted me to them was just the strangeness of all that sand at the base of the mountains. Thousands of years of erosion and wind. It lived up to my expectations and we're really glad we stopped. We drove on through more aspen and passed the Wolf Creek Pass Overlook with stunning views down into the valley around Pagosa Springs before we spent the night in Durango, Colorado.
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Here's a short video with some of the highlights of the day's drive.

The next day we headed out on Highway 160 again, detoured to the Four Corners monument and let Scott step into New Mexico to add another state to his list. Then we headed into southeast Utah toward bucket list item number two.
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Monument Valley was first made famous in early Westerns, including those by John Ford and a few starring John Wayne and Henry Fonda, and later in movies by Sergio Leone. It was also used in a few space movies like 2001, A Space Odyssey. BUT Monument Valley is located on Navajo Nation land and visitors exploring the area usually travel with a Navajo guide. Due to Covid-19 and it's terrible impact on the Tribes, Monument Valley was closed! Thankfully, Valley of the Gods offers similar scenery without the tribal restrictions; it is located on BLM land and was OPEN! Valley of the Gods is filled with isolated buttes, towering pinnacles and wide open spaces that seem to go on forever. A 17-mile dirt and gravel road winds through the valley. It is sandy and bumpy, with steep sections, and was totally amazing!
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The western end of the Valley of the Gods road connects with Hwy 261 just below what is known as the Moki Dugway. The Moki Dugway is a section of very tight switchbacks on Muley Point Road that allow it to climb the cliff face to the top of Cedar Mesa and, after turning into a dirt road across the mesa, out to Muley Point. The Point looks out over the massive canyon carved by the San Juan River. The drive up and the views were definitely worth the detour.
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Check out this video of our drive through Valley of the Gods and up the Dugway to Cedar Mesa (apologies to the bug on the windshield!).

Our last stop wasn't on my bucket list but it easily could have been. Goosenecks State Park is a small park up on another mesa that overlooks a place where the San Juan River makes a few hair pin turns that result in a meander of six miles to cover barely a mile westward toward Lake Powell. The water was a strange color of green that reminded us of the weirdly blue glacial rivers we've seen.
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We went on to Flagstaff for the night and to watch the Chiefs game - yes, I brought my jersey!
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And maybe just a word or two is in order about how we stayed safe in these times. We cleaned every touchable surface of every hotel room with Clorox wipes the minute we entered. We ordered food in and ate in our room almost exclusively. We bought our own alcohol and made our own drinks, which can be challenging in places like Utah! We wore our masks and stayed away from people that weren't. And we used a lot of hand sanitizer. In all honesty, we were pleasantly surprised that in most places we went into people were wearing masks and even small hotels were taking appropriate precautions. It was a really different experience and we missed being able to socialize and meet new people but those times will return someday. For now, we made safety our priority. The great thing about touring these types of places is the whole point is to be outdoors!

Baja Bound

Before bee-lining back to La Paz, we did a short detour down Hwy 89A from Flagstaff down to Sedona. We thought the canyon a bit underwhelming but the red rocks of Sedona are pretty cool.
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The town itself is just another tourist outpost for adventure activities. Scott had been in Sedona in the late 90's and couldn't believe how much it had changed and begun to look like a million other small tourist towns. After Sedona, we hit I-17 and took it down, with a jog a Phoenix, to I-8 and crossed the bottom of Arizona before crossing into California. The only thing of interest on this part of the trip was seeing the "border wall", which was a fence where we were, and these giant sand dunes that came up out of nowhere.
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We spent the night in El Centro, California and crossed at Mexicali without incident the next morning. After a beautiful trip down MX-5, which is a beautiful, new, lightly-traveled road and much superior to MX-1, we spent the night in one of our favorite towns, San Ignacio. Of course we enjoyed a few margaritas on the square, too.
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The next day we arrived back in La Paz. If you're interested in seeing the Baja, check out these posts. Driving the Baja Peninsula, Part 1, Driving the Baja Peninsula, Part 2, and Adventures on Our Way Out of Baja. I didn't document it again.

We really enjoyed being on the road again in a ZR2 and seeing some new parts of the US. It was like welcoming an old friend back into our lives. We're thinking of another extended road trip next year if things improve with the Covid situation. Stay safe!

Posted by mrb430 10:18 Archived in USA Comments (0)

La Paz 4.0


View 2021 & 2020 on mrb430's travel map.

Pressured by increased user demands, available new features, and ongoing constraints, we've upgraded our Baja Life once again.
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Baja Life 1.0, debuted back in September 2018-January 2019 and is well documented here on the Blog. Baja Life 2.0 (March-April 2020) was essentially just a reboot of 1.0 on a temporary basis until we could get the right parameters in place for 3.0. The need for 2.0 is documented here and what its features are can be found here. For Baja Life 3.0, we made major upgrades to a new house, new friends, a new dog, and a new car. We were hoping that 3.0 would be our last upgrade before we could move on to new projects but it was not to be. And maybe that was good for us in the crazy way that Covid can bring good change and new appreciation to basic pleasures in a way our pre-Covid life may have overlooked.

So here we are at Baja Life 4.0. Our travel nemesis Covid-19 is still with us all and unfortunately seems to be making a comeback. We remain largely unaffected, though we now know people who have been sick and even a couple that have died. It seems to be touching us all and reminding us that life is not going to be "normal" again any time soon. And so we continue in the new normal. It's been hard, especially for me I suppose, to come to terms with not being in control of my future. I can honestly say I'm lucky enough that I don't think I've ever felt like this before. It's been a weird adjustment in many ways but, like anything, it's also had an upside if viewed in a favorable light. Accepting that we will be in La Paz for the foreseeable future has allowed us to really invest in our life here and I don't think 4.0 would have been possible without that shift in thinking.

On to the highlights of this new release!

A NEW LEASE

While we loved living in Playa Posada, being near the beach and good friends, the house itself had become a bit claustrophobic. Our outdoor space was a walled in yard and while we did have a front deck with a view, we found we rarely used it. So when our lease was up and we knew we were staying, we decided a change was in order. We wanted a view, a pool, and more beauty around us. Hacienda Palo Verde to the rescue. Ironically, our good friends Jim and Rebecca had just sold their house to new owners who would not move in for a year or more so we jumped on the rental listing. It is an awesome house that checked all of our boxes and then some.
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We even got a fire pit!!
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The community is beautiful and the people are friendly. Although we're still working out some bugs in the "re-lease", we're going to be really happy here. It feels so good to be in a new place - even in the same place - and have new sights and experiences and build up new day to day routines. I'm obsessive about cleaning the pool, though people tell me that will fade. And the birds are amazing out here! I've added five new birds to my life list and we had a really special visitor in our yard and at the pool.
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A NEW RIDE

Another new feature of Baja Life 4.0 is our new truck Libby and we couldn't be happier!
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Our beloved 2000 Jeep Cherokee Sandy began having issues while we were on a vacation with friends. She started overheating in a major way on that trip. Luckily, we made it back to La Paz but the problems continued. Doesn't help it's over 100 degrees most days. In any case, after exploring a few options we decided that we needed to replace the entire engine. We ordered a rebuilt motor from AutoZone. I still think it's crazy that you can just order an entire motor like you would a spark plug. Anyway, it should have arrived in five days but this being Mexico it didn't show up for three weeks. And when it did...they sent the wrong one. The wrong engine.
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Also during this time, the starter gave out so Sandy was just parked at the shop awaiting her engine and we were without a car and really starting to question whether we should just buy a new car. We bought Sandy thinking we would be in Baja six months. Had we known we would be launching 4.0, we likely would have invested in a newer vehicle.

Add to this mix the following:

  1. we needed to renew our temporary visas by leaving the country and coming back before the end of September. We were planning just to fly to Tijuana, cross to San Diego, and come back;
  2. Chive and Rosie were flying north with four other dogs to Tijuana to cross into San Diego for their onward journey to Washington state and needed a human escort;
  3. and, we really missed our ZR2 Ruby and all of the fun we had here with her during 1.0.

We made the decision to buy a new ZR2. Of course the best one at the best price was not in San Diego, that would have been too easy. It was in Utah! Can you say ROAD TRIP!

So off we went, to fly the dogs north, renew our visas, and pick up our new truck.
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Chive and Rosie made it safely to Seattle and their new owners.
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Check out this short video of them in their new home.

More to come in the next post about our road trip in the US and back down the Baja with Libby.

SAME BEAUTIFUL BEACHES; SAME WONDERFUL FRIENDS

Luckily, we've kept some of the best features of 3.0 - our friends and our desire to see more of Baja! So recently we rented a house for two nights in the remote area of El Cardonal, north of Los Barilles on the East Cape, with our good friends Linda and Thierry.
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We enjoyed the water and sun and snorkeled fabulous reefs right from the beach.
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We watched sunrises and sunsets and moon rises and saw the Milky Way for the first time in a long time.
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We ate (thanks Thierry for going spear-fishing to catch our dinner!)...
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...we drank and we got silly...
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...and we made a new friend that Scott named Ent. large_IMG_5243.jpeglarge_IMG_5322.jpeg

We're planning more road trips here in Baja and now with our new abode and our new ride we plan on making this our last Baja Life release for another six months to a year. Stay tuned for more adventures. And stay home (as much as possible), protect your bubble, and stay safe!

Posted by mrb430 09:30 Archived in Mexico Comments (0)

Living in La Paz - Yup I Said Living


View 2021 & 2020 on mrb430's travel map.

It's been two and a half months since I've written anything but like everything else this blog has been on hold waiting for a return to normal. For us that means travel but, alas, travel any time soon does not seem to be in the cards. So I thought I'd take a minute and just write an update.

My previous posts from here were Staying at Home in La Paz, when we were on total lockdown, and Locked Down in La Paz, when we had just arrived at our new home. So now we are "Living in La Paz" and I guess that says it all. This is life in the new normal.
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We are very lucky to have the house we rented in Playa Posada. It's turned out to be a great location and a comfortable place to shelter and the sunsets are awesome. My plants are growing as is my shell collection.
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Chive is still with us and being a good and sweet companion.
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He got himself adopted with another sweet girl named Rosie and they are just waiting for transport to their forever home in Washington State.
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Sunday Fundays are still fun, we still make Orange Crushes, the hammock is still comfy, and the hose substitutes for the sprinkler to keep us cool in the sun when we don't venture over to the hotel pool across the street.
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Summer is upon us here with daytime temperatures in the high 90's to 100's and with more humidity than you might expect that usually adds 10 degrees to the "feels like" meter. It's hot! Needless to say, A/C has been turned on! The breezes still come up most nights though and we can hang out on our front balcony looking at the sunset and then the stars. Mornings are cool enough to be outside for awhile and to go for a walk and some days like today surprise us and we still have the house open at 1:00. We remember summer from last time we were here and it does get pretty rough - even for heat lovers like us. And this time the movie theaters are closed. They were our go to afternoon activity last time.

But I don't want to talk about Covid and all that has changed because of it. You know it as well as we do and I've gotten really bored of talking about it. Suffice it to say La Paz has cases and, sadly, deaths but so far we are personally unaffected and the hospitals still have room. Some restaurants and other businesses are open again and we do take out sometimes. We've even gone out for lunch a few times.
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And after six months, Scott finally got his hair cut! I think the picture above might have been the last straw! Thanks Angie!
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Basically we're just trying to be as normal as possible in these non-normal times. We've developed our daily routines and life here is both weird and wonderful. It's weird to actually have daily routines and to feel as though we actually LIVE here. But it's wonderful to have made good friends, some with dogs to provide play dates for Chive, and have a normal social life in our little bubble.
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It's amazing what a few drinks can lead to! This is the license plate holder from the Jeep we bought from them finding a new purpose one happy hour.
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And when the daily routines were getting to be too much and my wanderlust had me in a frenzy, Scott took me on vacation! Yup sounds weird I know! You may think "but you're always on vacation" but the truth is I needed a break from the everyday - day to day. From the normalcy of "Living in La Paz". So we headed on down to the East Cape and rented a house for six nights two blocks from the beach. Yay!!!!
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We made mango margaritas with mangos from the plantation down the road, spent a lot of time on the beach, and just generally relaxed like we were on vacation! Still feels weird to say that!
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We were lucky enough that our good friends from La Paz came down to enjoy it with us.
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And I'll just close by saying Mexico is a foodie heaven. We have fresh produce, fish, and seafood; a great selection of imported goods; excellent bakeries, and the freshest preparations. Here's just a sample of some of our best meals lately (kudos to James for the fresh caught fish for sushi and stuffing the peppers we got from our neighbors rancho and to Thierry for both the fresh sardines and the seafood feast at the beach).
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And Linda's expression about sums it up. We are living in La Paz and, for now, we are both very happy and thankful. We hope you all are finding a way to be normal and enjoy life in these crazy times.

Posted by mrb430 13:11 Archived in Mexico Comments (2)

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