Made It Through The Gauntlet (Kind of)

On Wednesday morning three rigs left our other RV friends at La Jolla Beach Camp and headed back to the good ‘ol U.S.A. The rest of the group (24 rigs) were moving on the same day but heading south further into Baja California. Some were going over to the Sea of Cortez at San Felipe while another group was heading further south to Playa Santispac to camp on the water front and do some whale-watching.

One group actually went across Rt 3 to San Felipe and the other group down Rt 1

Thanks to those in the group that had experience crossing back over the border at Tecate, we made it to the wall just fine. Driving north from La Jolla Beach through Ensenada just after rush hour made the trip easier than leaving earlier, but still a lot of traffic, a lot of potholes, and very light painted lines showing separation of lines. You gotta keep both hands on the wheel!

While we waited in line to cross – all along the side of the road are vendors trying to sell you snacks, drinks, and trinkets. This is just one of them. Most just walk up and down the street trying to push their wares on you through the window.

After about 45 minutes we finally made it up to the U.S. Customs crossing inspection gate at Tecate. They came in our coach and looked in our fridge where they then took our eggs and a yellow pepper. They couldn’t tell where these were purchased and they don’t want Mexico meat, eggs, or veggies coming back across the border.

Then the 3 rigs drove on another 20 minutes back to Potrero County Park to camp for the night. We all went out to dinner together, said our goodbyes and heading to our respective destinations (ours to our lease lot at Casa Grande AZ) the next morning.

Ron & Liz (from FL), Liz’ brother Matt (from NY), Jim & Luanne (from OH), and us

We made it back safely (6 hour trip) from CA to AZ stopping once for fuel along the way. And that’s another story – I gotta tell you about how we saved $.78 / gallon with our new truckers fuel card! – but that will be for another post.

When we got back the first thing I wanted to do was wash the rig. Here’s where I found a torn tire – oh no!

Turns out when we left La Jolla Beach I cut a corner a little too close and there was a jagged rock that cut into our drivers side rear tire. The hole is about the size of a quarter (or $10 peso coin) and at it’s deepest is about 3/8″ deep. The “flap” is attached at one end.

I called my local (Coolidge AZ) tire /auto repair shop. He services a lot of Border Patrol and prison buses and I thought he would have a tire in stock. No luck. Loren asked me if I could see the steel belts – my answer was no. He suggested that I trim off the “flap” and not worry about it. He’s had enough experience with heavy truck and construction vehicle tires that I trust his judgement.

But instead of cutting the flap off, I decided to use my Rubber Contact Cement to glue the flap closed so that the wind from being on the road won’t rip the hole any larger.

So we’re back at Rover’s Roost for the weekend and leaving Monday morning to head to Florida. This will be about a 1700 mile trip and will take a week or more to get there. We’ll spend the 2nd and 3rd week of March visiting friends and family in Florida and then the 4th week we will drive up to North Carolina where we will be working in a small privately owned campground right near the Blue Ridge Parkway starting April 1st and going through July 4th.

’til next time … take care and thanks for riding along.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Giving Back to Our Hosts

NOTE: This post was started about a week earlier but I ran out of data on my Mexican (Telcel) phone and so I no longer had a hot spot for wifi to my computer, so I’m finishing up this post while we are back at Rover’s Roost in Casa Grande Arizona where my Visible phone service and hot spot (with no data cap) is working great.

Now, back to the story …

Yes, we’re really enjoying our visit to the Baja with our new Escapee friends. Although we’ve been members of the club about 5 years now, there’s no way you can get to know everybody as there are currently (I think) over 50,000 members nationwide.

The main entrance to La Jolla Beach Camp

To find out more about Chapter 8, visit their web site at this link. And here is the link to the Chapter 8 Facebook page.

And although Chapter 8 has been coming to Mexico for 37 years, the people that travel with them change from year to year. Some have been coming for years while others (like us) have made this their first trip with the chapter and very likely the first trip to Mexico. They don’t always travel to this side of the Baja. Sometimes it’s San Felipe, Rocky Pointe, or even Mexico City.

We’ve been given the opportunity to give back to the communities in which we stay. At our stay at the zoo in Guadalupe Valley we were offered reduced camping fees and free admittance to the zoo (even when they were closed to the public) and in return we helped the keepers in the care and feeding of the animals and their habitats.

We learned that the zoo was founded by Mr. Jiminez and his wife Perla as a service to the forgotten and abandoned animals and the children of the community. They wanted a place that all families could come and enjoy wholesome family time together not only to learn a little about the wildlife kingdom but also to enjoy some recreation together.

The Jiminez family also owned the Jersey Dairy and for many years the dairy supported the zoo financially. Recently the dairy was sold to another corporation and the zoo is now a stand-alone non-profit zoo. It still has Perla (Mrs.) Jiminez as Director and the family is still involved in the management and operation, but the funding is FAR below where it was just a few years ago.

As a result they are struggling to feed and care for the animals. A lot of their “residents” are brought to the zoo by the government that has confiscated these illegally owned animals at ports of entry. Although the government delivers the animals to the zoo to be cared for, they provide NO financial assistance for their care and can come and remove these same animals at any time. That’s a real frustration for the keepers.

We (Chapter 8) members will also help the zoo by ordering items from their Amazon Wish List and some of us brought items down and hand delivered these things to the keepers while we were there. The keepers here are much like our teachers back in the states in that they buy a lot of their own supplies to care for their “flock”. Many of the 13 employees at the zoo are single and are so attached that they think of the animals in their care as their “family”.

In case you are interested in seeing what sorts of things the keepers need – and maybe you’re even moved to help as well, you can check out the Amazon Wish List link here.

When we arrived here at La Jolla Beach Camp, our hosts the Pabloff Family introduced us to the need at a local “Grandparents House” about 10 miles away from our camp. Our Wagon-master and Charity Committee had previously arranged to have us form a work party and provide them with about 200 man hours work to insulate one of their new living units.

When we arrived on site we were introduced to the husband and wife team, Angelica and Nicholas (both pastors) who started this mission along with the help of Justin who’s family is doing mission work both at this home and another one a few miles down the road.

We arrive at the site about 10am and greet some of the residents who were waiting to meet us outside.
Justin gives us an overview of the home and the history of the Pastors and their work

It’s really a pretty remarkable story. Mrs. Pastor fourteen years ago found an old woman sitting on her front lawn. The lady looked to be alone and unfortunate so Angelica invited her into her home for lunch. They chatted and got to know each other. At the end of the lunch, Angelica told the lady she was welcome to return for lunch again the next day. The lady thanked her and asked if she could possibly bring a friend …. and so the beginning.

One friend led to another and another and another. Pretty soon Angelica was feeding 20 homeless old people on buckets and tree stumps in her front yard.

In Mexico there is very little money for programs like we have in the states and further these people that Angelica was meeting were mostly forgotten. They have no family that will admit to being related to them, they have little or no education, they have no way to travel, and they have not the knowledge or experience of how to ask for help. They are typically migrant farm workers who historically have lived the nomadic lifestyle traveling from farm to farm working in the fields and living on what little meager existence they can eek out with the wages their farmer pays.

Angelica knew there must be some public assistance available for these poor souls. She took one of them into a government office and introduced her as her grandmother. The agreed that Grandma qualified for a pension of $25 every other month. She then took another and introduced him as Grandfather. Then another and then another. You know what happened next … by the 5th time they knew something was up. She told the government agents the truth. They told Angelica that they were going to make a surprise visit to see for themselves.

When they arrived and saw what she was doing – unfortunately they couldn’t help financially with anything more than the $25 per person every other month. But the COULD provide her with a building close by where she could prepare and serve the meals. Soon after and still today, she and her volunteer helpers are serving meals to about 200 forgotten souls on a daily basis.

But she knew there was still more to be done. These people needed homes. They were living under sheets of cardboard under trees. The more fortunate ones had acquired plastic tarps to live under and were begging on the streets. These are sick and aged people in their 70’s and 80’s who could no longer do manual labor.

That’s where our new friend Miguel Pabloff comes in. Mike helped them obtain the land on which to start a small community of nice clean stick-built homes for these people. All the work and all the materials have been donated. Angelica and her husband Nickolas receive no government funding except the $25 previously mentioned.

We will be insulating the orange building. The purple and green buildings are completed and occupied with 5 residents in each building – each with their own room

Currently there are 15 residents and the Pastors do all the cooking, cleaning, bathing, activities and more. The do get volunteer help as well. The day we were there two student nurses came to check on all the residents and will be coming weekly for the next six months while they are still in school. Other volunteers come (unsolicited) from churches and neighborhoods in the area to help because they’ve heard of the unselfish work that Nicholas and Angelica are doing and want to help.

One of the 5 resident rooms in each of the finished buildings. Each resident has a bed, a chair, a toilet, sink, a small table, and a clothes closet

Although the resident rooms are very plain, we were told that to these folks, it’s a castle. Most of them had been living on the streets.

The rooms are spartan and very clean. There is one very large shower (to accommodate a wheelchair) in each building. When the residents want community or meals, they need to get over to the community dining room. Some are ambulatory with the help of canes or walkers while others need to be pushed along in wheelchairs.

The dining hall / community room where we ate beef quesadillas for lunch
The new kitchen under construction – currently Angelica prepares ALL the meals for the 15 residents and her own family on-site in her home

Remember, clicking on any of the thumbnail photo will open a larger picture so you can see more detail.

Our own Malcolm Russ entertained the residents with his violin and beautiful singing voice

The pictures in the gallery below show tables filled with donation items (food and clothing) for the Grandparents home and also to distribute to some of the less fortunate out in the country.

We collected (from ourselves) the donations and then on Saturday night we had an auction where we got lubed up with $2 Margaritas beforehand and then bid on items given by ourselves to our “other” selves. We raised about $4000 in the auction. This is just part of the monies that Chapter 8 will be giving back to four different Service Projects (charities) here in Baja California before we leave.

Thanks for riding along … More to come in our next post.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Movin’ On South

I’ve lost track of what day it is … easy to do when you’re retired and don’t have to worry about a schedule to keep. We have a Wagon Master (and a Tail Gunner) and because we’ve broken down into four traveling groups – we just listen to our group leader to tell us when it’s time to attend a gathering or to load up and head out. Kinda’ like school children listening to the headmaster!

In any event, we are now a little further down the Baja Penninsula to a great little camp on the beach (Pacific Ocean side). It’s called La Jolla (LaHoya) Beach Camp and it’s just south of Ensanada.

Our route from Potrero Pack (California) to La Jolla Beach (Baja California)
Our (25) rigs parked up on the bluff looking north over All Saints Bay @ La Jolla Beach
Kathy’s out for her first stroll on the beach

Once we got everyone parked and they all got settled, we walked across the street to the neighborhood social hall where we were treated to a superb welcome dinner presented by our host family the Pavloffs. We were offered vegetarian Mexican Lasagna, veggie kabobs and/or meat meals that included seasoned beef tacos, beans, rice, salad and Flan for desert along with unlimited servings of local wine, Mexican rice drink (Horchata) and Hibisucus Tea

We listened to a short history of the Pabloff family and their impact on the area of Punta Banda. The Pabloff family over the years has been very good to the general Ensenada area and the Punta Banda Peninsula in particular. Read more about the genealogy and their connection to Russia by following this link.

Alejandro Pabloff and his wife (both entered New York from Russia in the 1920’s) then came to Baja California from Los Angles in the 1940’s and bought land here and ultimately developed not only a beach front campground but also a large community for ex-pats.

They had seven sons – we met Miguel (Mike) and Esteban (Steve) and each has taken an active role in the family business. Mike runs the camp, Steve runs the farm and others manage or work in the auto repair shop, the market, the salon, or any of the other businesses the family owns. They also employ probably hundreds of local nationals to perform both skilled labor and manual day labor at any of their locations throughout the peninsula. They keep everybody busy and productive and those that can’t work get help (food and housing) from the family.

There is also a huge (hundreds of homes) hillside community of U.S. citizens who lease land from the Pavloffs and build their homes (seasonal or year-round) here. You have to be a Mexican citizen to own land here but you can lease land here and own your home.

There is a homeowners association here who’s purpose is to join together to enrich not only their own lives but those locals in the area as well. The social hall, the library, the thrift store, and the theater are for the benefit of everyone.

We were treated to dinner in the social hall, we visited the thrift shop and library this morning, and we’ll be having our benefit auction and enjoying a performance by the Folklorio Dancers in the Gertrude Pearlman Theater on Saturday.

Sometime today we’re going to help move all the auction items that we brought over to the theater for the auction Saturday afternoon.

Maybe I should explain a little more about Chapter 8 and why we are all here on this trip. I’ll copy this info from the Chapter 8 web site that you are invited to visit and find out more for yourself.

(From the web site) The purpose of Chapter 8 is to:

  • Introduce Escapees Chapter 8 Mexican Connection members to RV travel in Mexico, its scenery, traditions, food, culture and folklore.
  • Travel South of the border and give back more than the enriching experiences we gain, through charity donations and business patronization.
  • Enable Chapter 8 members to feel comfortable to return to Mexico for future rallies as well as their own road trip adventures.

This is the 37th year that the Escapees RV Club Chapter 8 “Mexican Connection” group has been coming to Mexico and I’m not sure how many of those years have included giving back to the communities that they have visited, but it’s probably at least a dozen or so.

This year we/they have designated four local groups as our Service Projects and all the travelers have brought down donations of food, clothing, bedding, toys, and more to share with these previously identified groups. In addition, we have brought with us (or purchased locally) items for our “in house” auction that will take place on Saturday where we will bid on each other’s donations in order to raise cash funds to be given to these very needy groups.

More to come as we continue to enjoy our stay in Baja California with our new friends.

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Mexico Day 4 – More Zoo & Wine

This might be getting a bit repetitive, but it’s not getting old for us! This is so wonderful being able to get such a close-up interaction with the zoo animals and their caregivers.

Today we spent time with the Yellow Parrots, Pumas, Spider Monkeys, and Macaws. We helped to feed them and helped to clean their habitat — things that the keepers do every day. We also gave them enrichment toys – things that help to keep them curious and stimulated – not just bored & locked in a cage.

See the cart that Arturo (picture above) is pulling along the trail as we walk from exhibit to exhibit? They use carts (usually pulled by bicycles) to move tools and supplies around the zoo as they need them. In the states we would have the luxury of being supplied with motorized carts/trucks of some sort.

One of the groundskeepers emptying the trash receptacles in the morning

Arturo got one of the staff here at the zoo to take our wheel off and get the flat tire fixed and reinstalled. Service on-the-spot and only $300 pesos ($15 US) – Hooray!

Our flat tire got fixed by one of the staff

Later in the day we got to share some time with a new (3 month old) lion cub “Carlotta”. She’s very playful so she had to be watched very closely by both Stephanie and Antonio (keepers) because the wooden fence isn’t that tall and she can jump easily and quickly.

Keeper Carlos talked to us about the 4 different types of reptiles and introduced us to a few of the residents of the habitat he manages. Some were so uncomfortable they left the room or refused to come in to begin with, but most of us stayed and enjoyed Carlos’ informative presentation.

Late afternoon we all carpooled to L.A. Cetto Winery. We got a great tour of the operation led by our tour guide Adrian. He shared with us that this winery was started in 1928 here in Guadalupe Valley and it is the largest winery in all of Mexico. They manage and harvest about 3000 acres, having about 250 seasonal employees in the fields. The grapes are all hand picked and they produce over 1 million cases of wine annually. The (2) rooms of stainless steel fermenting tanks hold over 3 million liters of wine at a time. After fermentation the wine is transferred to the oak barrels where it stays for just a few and up to 65 years!

After the tour we all went up to the outdoor patio for the wine tasting and Tapas made by our own crew. Our caravan leader Ed Dennis graduated in culinary art from a Paris school years ago so he asked for volunteers from our group that could help him prepare our afternoon feast – It was fabulous!

There’s more to come …. we’re all heading out to a local Mexican restaurant tonight and tomorrow morning we will all say goodbye to our new friends at Zoologico Parque del Nino Guadalupe Valley and head further south on the Baja Penninsula to La Jolla Beach Campground.

C’Mon Along!

We’d really appreciate it if you would do us the favor of helping us continue to publish this RV / Travel / Workamping blog. Do you purchase any products from Amazon? If you do, it would be great if you’d use the link in the sidebar or one of the links below to get to Amazon … after that you can change your search. By making your Amazon purchases from our site, we will receive from Amazon a small percentage of your purchase and it doesn’t cost you any more. We’d really appreciate your help. Thank you, Herb & Kathy

Mexico Day Three

Day three (Saturday February 15th) started out another beautiful sunny wonderful day in paradise. After breakfast in the coach – Kathy with her oatmeal and me with my scrambled eggs with mushrooms, onion, and a little potato mixed in – we headed on over with the others to the pavilion in the center of the zoo. Here we met with zoo biologists and keepers where we divided into four groups of 12 and then headed out for our “up close and personal” tours of the Zoologico Parque del Nino Guadalupe.

Our tour group leaders (biologists, keepers, veterinarian, director)

This zoo was started dozens of years ago by the owner of the Jersey Dairy Company. He and his family created, managed, and funded the zoo. In recent times, this man passed away and as a result just this year the zoo no longer gets any funding from him or his family. The zoo is now a not-for-profit organization and relies on admission prices and donations to stay afloat. It became very clear to us during our tours that the employees of the zoo (11 employees total) are working here because of their love for the animals. This .. in many ways is their family.

The Escapees RV Club Chapter 8 “Mexican Connection” came here last year and again this year to not only be entertained but also to help out both physically and financially through our admission fees and our auction that will be held here later this week.

Antonio – Our tour guide for the day – 32 year old Zoo Biologist

Remember, you can click on any of the thumbnails below to see a larger image.