About Us

The Pack Family Journal is a place where we gather text and images of our lives, adventures and travels. This is a very personal site, written openly and honestly. Enjoy.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year from Baja California Sur.

Rachel and I wanted to wish you Feliz Navidad and the very best wishes for the New Year. We've included a few picture we took this week, just for giggles.

John & Rachel Pack
Mexico Living


Christmas Cai getting into the spirit.


Rachel and Cai on the shore of Bahía de los Sueños (the Bay of Dreams), recently changes from Bahia de Los Muertos ("Bay of Dead Men"), so named for the giant “dead-men”anchors used here to moor barges in the early 1900, guess the people building the HUGE mansions along the shoreline didn't like the dead thing...


Here I am napping on the beach, while the fishermen catch the bait with nets.


Cai sporting her San Felipe t-shirt with Rachel as we cross the bay.


In the early morning looking out at the bay before we put in...


Burros grazing along the roadside...just seemed cool


We went to the orphanage last week to pass out gifts, and the kids just loved Cai and our friends dog Ivy...

Hope you enjoy the pictures. Feliz Navidad

Thursday, December 3, 2009

December 2009 - Gypsy Journal - If You Love Shrimp, Like I Love Shrimp . . .

I love shrimp. I think the best tasting shrimp in the world comes from the northern Sea of Cortez. I've had shrimp from other parts of the world. I ate more than my share when Rachel and I lived along the gulf in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Bubba said it best, "Anyway, like I was sayin', shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey's uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir fried. There's pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That . . . that's about it."

Bubba forgot about the San Felipe bacon-wrapped blue shrimp, the single most common recipe of the annual San Felipe Shrimp Festival, now on it’s 17th year. The smell of bacon is carried on the sea breezes as you walk the Malecon past the many vendors of this shrimp delicacy, so prevalent you’d think they were caught that way.

If you love shrimp, like I love shrimp, you’d travel 800 miles for a couple days of these tasty blues, and many do. The event has become an annual Baja pilgrimage for many, including Rachel and myself. Shrimp season is a great time of the year on the northern sea: great weather; returning friends; and wonderful, wonderful shrimp.

Every time I think of shrimp, I think of a trip Rachel and I, and our friends, Gene and Darcy Jensen took. We spent a week at Alfonsina's on Bahía San Luis Gonzaga, or Gonzaga Bay as it’s commonly referred. A wonderful little hotel and restaurant on the shores of the bay and longtime stopover for off-road racers and adventurers.

On the beach Rachel and I found an old, molded kayak, it was tandem with an open deck, sort of resembled a canoe, something you might use on the lake. It belonged to the hotel and they said we could use it, so we decided to explore the barren rocky cliffs and the cactus that cling to them. We had paddled nearly to the bay opening, examining the rough terrain and the sea life that moved in and around the rocks below us in the crystal blue waters, when we noticed three shrimp boats making their way into the bay. By the time we paddled our way into the center of the bay to investigate the boats; they had already anchored and gone ashore.

When we got to the shore, Gene had mentioned the fishermen were making their rounds selling shrimp—hallelujah! I immediately scanned the beach up and down like a junkie looking for his dealer; I almost felt ashamed, but that quickly passed when I noticed the soldiers and their machine guns just a couple yards away. Apparently, while my mind wondered about shrimp a federal boat had landed with about a dozen armed soldiers, they too were looking for the fishermen.

The fishermen returned shortly thereafter, they were empty handed. The soldiers on the beach were there only to watch the boat, and while they and I waited, their comrades had found the fishermen and purchased the last of their load.

I was disappointed as I watched them walk by with empty boxes. I asked one of them, “¿Tiene más de camarón?”—Do you have anymore shrimp?—and he replied in English, “No, but we will trade for some chocolate.” They then continued to the shore and their waiting dingy.

“Did you hear that?” I asked Gene, more as a statement, than a question. “Let’s go get some chocolate!” We both leapt to our feet and headed to Gene’s truck and the area’s only store, where we stocked up on Hershey bars and anything else we could find dipped in chocolate. Of course, it hadn’t dawned on us how we were going to make the trade. Were they going to wait for our signal and bring their dingy ashore, or did we have to go to the boat?

When we got back with candy in hand, one of the boats was already leaving the bay and there was no way we would be able to signal them from their distance; swimming was out of the question; we had no way to keep the chocolate dry (as if that was really an option); we were left with only the molded plastic kayak.

This kayak was not meant for the sea, and although this was the bay, the swells were building and white caps could be seen near the bay mouth. The kayak was still sitting on the sand where Rachel and I had left it.

“Come on Gene, let’s take the kayak!” Gene looked at Darcy, as if waiting for her to give him an excuse why he shouldn’t go, but none come. Gene climbed in up front and I pushed him out into the water and climbed in back.

“How much do you weigh?” Gene asked me over his shoulder. I knew he was looking at the weight capacity label attached on the molded plastic in front of him. “Don’t worry about that,” I replied, “we were over the limit before you got in.”

As we slowly paddled our way to the nearest fishing boat, the swells were rolling into the boat. Our combined weight had the deck of the kayak about even with the waterline, so every swell would put a little more water into the kayak. When we got to the boat, I was surprised to see it was in worse condition than it appeared from shore—surprised because from shore it looked like it had seen better days—but along side it, I wondered how it floated. The hull was nearly all rust; in places I could see where the rust had eaten all the way through. Fortunately for them it was above the waterline.

I grabbed a rope hanging over the side and hung on as the swells rose us up and dropped us down. The same fisherman we spoke to on the beach leaned over the railing and grabbed the candy. The whole time I’m trying to keep from rubbing against the boat in fear of getting scratched or cut by one of the many sharp, rusty edges. The candy cost us about $10, but we had no idea how much that would get us in shrimp. “Hell, he could bring back two,” I thought to myself. “What would I be able to do about it?” Moments later the fisherman was back, and when he reached over the rail this time, he had close to three kilos of beautiful, frozen Gulf of California blue shrimp. We said thank you and slowly and carefully turned our nose back towards shore.

By the time we made it back to shore, the kayak was half filled with water and both Gene and I were exhausted from protecting our bounty, while fighting the growing swells. But, if you love shrimp, like we love shrimp, it’s all worth it. We made it to shore and that night we had a shrimp festival of our own on the shore of Bahía San Luis Gonzaga.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Thanksgiving Day 2009

I hope today is not like yesterday. Yesterday was another day of depression and anger and no ability to focus. I can't live like this.

This morning was much like every morning; wake up, drink some coffee, eat something, then get on my computer and start working. This morning, we took Cai to the beach to run out her morning energy.

Today my attention is on syncing the website, the publication and weekly. Eat have the same sections and information; Places to Eat, Place to Stay, Things to Do, Things to See, etc. I also need to get the boat rack ready to go and then take time to enjoy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tough Day

I'm not sure what causes or triggers my depression, but when it hits me, it brings me down hard! The feelings of no self worth over take me, I no longer possess the will to live - I hate myself and my life.

I think there are many triggers. The tough money situations and the frustrations related to that, including workload are the biggest contributors. I know I can not stop working when I feel behind; behind in money, bills, goals, tasks or anything. I need to stop, breath, and relax.

Yesterday Rachel and I went to the El Dorado Property when I hit bottom, it felt good. It always feels good when we're alone and not on our computers, and especially when we're outdoors.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

November 2009 - Gypsy Journal - Hurricane Jimena

We had been watching the hurricane for days. This was on Tuesday and our son's wedding was in five days. The direction of Hurricane Jimena would force our hand; would we be able to go or would we be trapped?

As Loreto prepared, we too prepared what we could. "Talking cars" were driving through town announcing that the water was going to be turned off. We filled our tanks and our two five-gallon bottles of drinking water. Our neighbor had even filled his boat with gas, "might need it to get through town," he said, not setting our minds at ease.

Tuesday night, Rachel began to cry as the fear was building. I assured her things would be okay, and I had a plan; of course, that didn't help at all. We could hear the wind whipping outside as we reviewed the plan. We would sit tight; if it looked as if it were going to move northeast, we would leave early in the morning and try to race past it; if it appeared to head directly east or southeast, we would batten down and pray.

At 4 a.m. it looked as if it were heading northeast—this was the deciding factor; we needed to get past it or we would be be stuck.

Outside the wind was howling and it was eerily dark. Our greatest fear was the wind blowing a hatch off the top of the RV and rain pouring in and destroying it. So, Rachel and I worked as a team to hoist large rocks onto the roof and strategically placed them on and around the hatches to help hold them in place. As we were about to leave, Yolanda, the park owner, kept saying, "muy peligroso, muy peligroso" ("very dangerous"). But, if we didn't leave then, we wouldn't be able to leave at all.

As the rain fell and the wind blew, we said good-bye to our cats, which would be cared for by our neighbor. We got our dog, Cai, into the car and left. We drove through the darkened town toward the highway, dodging growing streams of water in the streets and only passing two vehicles; a local police pickup helping another police officer change a flat.

When we reached the outskirts of Loreto, at the military checkpoint, the soldiers were holding their posts. The wind made holding the steering wheel difficult. Our windshield wipers had not been used in so long, they had dried up and now were almost useless, so the rain made it hard to see.

As dawn approached, we had still not seen any other vehicles. The sky was ominous and dark, and strangely beautiful. North of Mulegé, the highway was becoming washed out. We had to cross streams of water 30 feet across and thankfully only as deep as our floorboard. Then we reached a bridge being built, and at the bottom of the bypass around the construction the river had overtaken the road and there was no way to pass. There was no room to turn around, so we backed up the highway and drove over the unfinished bridge—still unpaved, without railing and covered in gravel.

In Santa Rosalia it seemed that they had already been hit by the hurricane; although they had not, the highway was covered in mud and water. In many places the water flowed across the highway into the sea. If this is how it looked before the hurricane, how could it handle a direct hit?

As we crossed the peninsula towards Guerrero Negro, the skies cleared and the day became beautiful. When we reached the El Rey Sol Posada hotel in Ensenada, it was dark and we were exhausted.

The next morning we were heading to a wedding! Santa Barbara was beautiful. David Cybulski, my best friend since Jr. High, and his wife, Karin, and daughters Sarah and Amber, welcomed us into their home for the week. That night our son, Troy, came by after his bachelor party in the mountains—a full moon and plenty of bourbon!

My mom and my sister, Suzette, arrived the next morning. That evening we met our son's new family. I hate this kind of stuff, but surprisingly it went well and everyone had a good time.

Just as we were finishing dinner, David called and said they were out scouring the neighborhood in search of Cai. Apparently, the gate was left open and our dog went looking for us. So, Rachel and I spent a exhaustive evening out prowling in search of Cai; we turned up nothing and went to bed empty handed.

The next morning, as we began to continue our search, my Mom leaned out the car window and asked the first person she saw if they'd seen a little red dog that looks like a fox. "Last night," was the reply.

It turned out someone down the street had picked her up. After knocking on several doors, we came up empty handed again. So, we went to the pound and asked if they had seen her. "We just brought her in. Here she is," a man said as he handed Rachel our scared puppy. I had two very happy girls!

The wedding was the next morning. We had left in such a hurry that I only brought dress shirts . . . no pants, no belt, no tie, no shoes . . . nothing! Fortunately, David enjoyed the culinary delights and spirits as I did, and had similar girth; so, I was dressed in David's attire and was "wedding ready."

The wedding was on a beautiful grassy knoll, overlooking a lovely golf course. In the distance I could see the Pacific Ocean and endless blue skies. The ceremony was stunning, my new daughter-in-law, Cherise, was gorgeous and my son was more handsome than I've ever seen. Rachel, of course, was tearing up, as well as my Mom and nearly every person around me.
We had outrun Mother Nature to get here . . . and I couldn't have been happier!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

October 2009 - Gypsy Journal

All the photos can be clicked on, to get full size.
Photo credits and captions, top to bottom. Uses as many or as few as you like.
1. Brent, Joe, Julie and John wading in clear warm waters of Isla de Coronado, by Rachel Pack
2. Rachel takes self portrait with everyone in background, by Rachel Pack
3. Rachel takes self portrait with Cai, who is clearly happy on her first boat trip, by Rachel Pack
4. John and Brent watch Cai play on the beach, by Rachel Pack
5. Brent's boat rests on shore with crystal clear waters, by John Pack

A Gypsy is defined as an itinerant: a laborer who moves from place to place as demanded by employment. One of the best things about being a gypsy and traveling to work is the discoveries and people along the way.

One such discovery was San Javier Mission and the new friend we made in the process. Everyone we spoke to would say, "have you been to San Javier Mission?" Of course, we hadn't, having just arrived and, at the time, only having bicycles for transportation.

San Javier is 23 miles up into the Sierra Gigante mountains behind Loreto and we were not about to ride our bikes. We had heard the road was incomplete and the first portion is a vertical climb until you reach the high plateau at the mountain top. Fortunately, we met Brent Currier, a resident of the RV park, where we're staying; he had made the trip many times and offered to give us a tour.

At mile marker 7, we stopped to visit the rock paintings at a canyon oasis, and although the paintings were not too impressive, not for lack of talent, but rather because they were faded and worn, the oasis was very impressive. Even now, a hundred years or more later it was clear why this area was selected; tall palms, a creek that has run down through solid rock for hundreds of years, creating a deep channel and some great swimming holes.

As it turned out, the road was completed nearly half way, turning to dirt at the 10 mile mark, which was nearly to the top. From there the road turned to gravel and rock, and it was clear to see why it hadn't move beyond this point yet, 100 yards past the pavement was what appeared to be a very tough area for construction; a slope around a narrow, solid rock corner. Plus, it was August and very hot this time of the year. Fortunately, the day we took the trip, we had some cloud cover and it wasn't too bad.

At the top of the mountain were large ranches in a canyon of yet high mountain peaks and on the fare side of the canyon was our destination, the village of San Javier and the Spanish Mission of San Francisco Javier. This was one of the most well-preserved missions in Baja, standing proud and beautiful over 250 years old. Behind the mission are olive trees that were planted by the original Spaniards and there is an active aqueduct with running canals (see the September 2009 edition for the story of San Javier).

On the road back to Loreto, just before reaching the highway, we stopped at Del Borracho Saloon and Grill for an ice cold draft Modelo Negro and a mouthwatering burger. Any trip to San Javier is not complete without a stop at this saloon.

Our next discovery was the Isla de Coronado, which is on the northern end of the Bay of Loreto Marine Park. This is the third protected marine bioregion in the Gulf of California, joining ranks with the Upper Gulf/Lower Colorado Biosphere Reserve to the north above San Felipe and the Cabo Pulmo Reserve to the south. The park is fairly small, covering approximately 1,283 miles (roughly a half million acres) in the Sea of Cortez. The five islands lying within the designated Bay of Loreto Park boundaries include Islas Coronado, Carmen, Danzante, Montserrat and Santa Catalina.

Our friend Brent, once again, took us on a tour, only this time on his boat. We were joined by our new friends Joe and Julie Whelan. The water of the island was as blue and clear as any I have seen. We spent the afternoon exploring around the amazing volcanic island and wading off the white sandy beach and diving off the boat into the crystal waters. We also discovered that during the hot summer months small jellyfish migrate in the Sea of Cortez. Some of these animals are so tiny that you'll barely be able to see them. Fortunately, the sting isn't painful, and for many people it isn't much more than an itching sensation.

Even our dog Cai made discoveries this month, she discovered she enjoyed boat rides and she discovered she actually could swim. Both of which were great discoveries of our own, because the water has always and will always be a big part of our life, and considering she is a desert dog and had never been on a boat before, this was a wonderful discovery. She enjoyed the island as much as we did and ran up and down the beach, exploring. But, the most surprising discover was finding out, after the fact, that bringing dogs on the island is a $2,000 fine. Ouch!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Round Trip from Loreto to Loreto

John and Rachel Pack

Every since arriving back in Loreto from La Paz, it has been a whirlwind, from the format change and printer change of Mexico Living to general non-stop go, go, go, and between it all we've made a couple of important discoveries—the first is we needed wheels with air conditioning. It's been almost three months now that we've had our bikes to get us around and it's been fun, but as August came upon us like a warm wet blanket, these wheels were becoming less inviting. The second came when we began to address the first discovery.

The only way for us to get air-conditioned wheels was to go get our car in San Felipe. That meant one of us would have to take the bus to get it . . . you can guess which one. When we left on this journey, we decided we would just leave the car and use our bikes and local transportation to get around. Which in most cases in Baja is ideal, except in the later part of summer. So, I had to go back to San Felipe to get our car. When Rachel bought the ticket, she did so without checking the connection time and as it turned out my 18-hour bus ride from Loreto to Ensenada was to arrive at 6 a.m., with a connection to San Felipe at 6 p.m.—the only one of the day. What I didn't know was how efficient they were, when they arrive at 4 a.m.

I wasn't exactly sure where I was in relationship to Lopez Mateo and the tourist zone, so I sat around the station until the sun started to come up enough that I could look for the Pacific or the the enormous Mexican Flag near the cruise ship docks. Sure enough, I spotted the flag, about 10 blocks away, probably the only flag that can be seen from outer space.

The trip was rather uneventful, the first 18 hours were spent watching Roll Bounce, a roller skating disco movie with dubbed Spanish, circa 1979, or Like Mike 2, a basketball movie with the little rapper Bowwow. I was astonished to find that Bowwow was fluent in Spanish. The 14 hours spent in Ensenada ticked away while I walked from one end of the tourist zone to the other . . . many times. I watched the U.S. get stomped by Mexico in the Gold Cup, and did a little work at a couple of Internet cafes.

I found out that although there was only one bus going to San Felipe that day there were dozens others that same time coming and going from many destinations, so many in fact, I almost missed my bus. Fortunately, I was able to get onboard just as it was pulling out. Another uneventful ride, except that the movies were better, both were in English, which was a lot more entertaining for me. The first was a mountain climbing movie, which was shown during the drive over the mountains, and as someone with an issue with heights, I watched it with the shades pulled.
The second movie was I Am Legend with Will Smith. I was so enjoying this movie that when the bus broke down, I wasn't too concerned because we were getting close to town and I didn't want to miss the ending. Fortunately, the bus starting having problems shortly after the road construction and in only a few minutes was rolling again, albeit only about five miles an hour, but it was getting me there. The bus will stop nearly anywhere you ask, so Joyce and Richard, Rachel's parents met me at the El Dorado Pemex. It was 10:30 p.m.

We had left our car at our friends', Gene and Darcy Jensen, house tucked in their garage for safe keeping. They were not in town and the house sitter, who's name I'll leave anonymous, since I didn't ask permission to publish it, had the keys. The next morning after lots of running around and getting four tires replaced, Rachel's dad and I went to get the car; of course, the battery was dead, apparently they need to have water in them and with the advise of the house sitter we put some water in it . . . lo and behold it started. Once we got back to Richard's house we loaded up, I grabbed my "Honey Do" list and it was off to Mexicali . . . almost . . . we had to jump the car again—then it was off to Mexicali at 11 a.m. First stop, Walmart for a new battery. On a previous trip I had learned my lesson about buying batteries, when I went all the way to Walmart on the U.S. side of the border only to find the batteries were "Hecho de Mexico."

Turns out our first stop was the military checkpoint. I forgot to leave the car running and turned it off—no bueno, now it wouldn't start. Richard and I pushed it off to the side of the road, and in a couple moments one of the higher ranking soldiers came over to offer a hand. All I needed was a jump, but he insisted they could fix it and brought over their mechanic, who fiddled with this and that, cleaned the terminals with brake fluid and finally walked away after saying something I didn't understand. Moments later he was back with a Mexican man in a pickup truck, just someone they got from the checkpoint line to help. He gave us a jump and we were on our way. I tried to offer the only thing we had, money and cold beer, but he didn't want either. Instead he said we needed to go get a new battery, which I explained was our next stop, and asked if he would like us to bring him some fruit or soda on our return. Which we did.

Mexicali was as hot as any place I had ever been—118. When we got into town, I realized the the car wouldn't even idle; I had to do the brake, neutral, idle, drive, brake, etc., to keep it running. The best part was the train blocking the Walmart entrance and the bumper-to-bumper traffic. "Traveling with you is never boring," said Richard, when I reminded him that the only difference between adventure and an ordeal is attitude.

By the time we got to Walmart, I hadn't stalled the car once and was getting pretty good at driving like that, although very dangerous. All this stop and go had put us way behind. Once we got the new battery we headed over the border, got all our errands done and were back in Mexico in less than an hour.

The drive home was non-stop. We were back in San Felipe by 8 p.m., just enough time to help Rachel's mom label the new edition for all the new subscribers of the month. At 5 a.m. the next morning, while Richard and Joyce slept, I started the car—no jump needed. Seventeen and half hours, lots of potato chips, water and text messages to Rachel, I was back in Loreto with new tires, a new battery and air-conditioned wheels!

Places We've Been

Here is a map of places Rachel and I have been together.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

An Wild Trip to La Paz

John and Rachel Pack

[All Images]

BANG! From over the stereo and underneath the coach came a loud sound that we could feel under our feet; “What the hell was that?” Rachel and I both said aloud in unison. “Now what?” is actually what we were both thinking.

Because of the never present shoulder, we had to wait until we came to a place wide enough for us to pull the RV off the road and investigate the sound. Both Rachel and I got out and looked under and around, but didn’t see anything. We assumed it had to be something in one of the compartments that had fallen or rolled. We got back on the road again—only this time, no stereo.

I was driving deliberately slow, listening to the RV, the road or any sounds that were not normal. BANG! This time there was no music and I was focused on all sounds. Again Rachel and I waited until we could get over, and then got out to investigate. This time we found the problem immediately; our inside right dually had lost its tread and had managed to knock our back bumper loose as it passed beneath. “Damn it!” Rachel and I both said aloud in stereo. “Not again?” is actually what we were both thinking.

Just 24 hours earlier we had a blowout as we ascended the mountains just 20 miles south of Loreto. We hadn’t sat for more than five minutes when a Federal Highway Patrol car pulled up. Between his zero English and my Spanglish, we determined he just wanted us to move up and out of the road, so with flashing lights from his patrol car we limped forward a few hundred yards to a wide area of the shoulder and pulled off. Then, just as we were feeling the relief of having someone to help us, he drove off leaving us there on the side of the road.

I walked to the top of the ridge to see what was beyond, only to find more of the same. At that point we decided we had to get back to where we could get help, so we turned the rig around and headed back the way we came at a staggering speed of five miles an hour. After two hours of big rigs passing us on the winding two lanes descending the mountains, we arrived back at Puerto Escondido and Tripui Resort, where we had been earlier for a meeting with Alma, the manager. We were late leaving Loreto and missed our appointment; this time she was there.

The Tripui Resort is on the right side of the road leading to Puerto Escondido, a boater’s haven and part of the Escala Nautica (Nautical Ladder). We explained the situation and apologized for missing our earlier appointment. Not only did Alma understand about missing the appointment, but she allowed us to stay the night for free. From the road, the resort appeared to be a small store, stark RV park and an office. But once inside the property gates a whole new world opened up. This was more than it appeared from the outside; this place had nearly 200 individual RV sites, each unique with beautifully constructed ramadas, outdoor kitchens, sun decks and nearly every one of them had large sport fishing boats. This is a fisherman’s oasis.

The llantera (tire shop) in Loreto came and changed our blown tire for our spare and we spent a wonderful evening at their resort. We had rescheduled our meeting with Alma for 10 a.m. the next morning. Our meeting with Alma only took about 15 minutes and Tripui Resort became a new advertiser of Mexico Living.

That was yesterday. Today we had a problem with no resort and no spare. We had just passed El Cien, about six miles back and thought it was our best bet, so we headed back the direction we came for the second time in 24 hours. El Cien was once a small village alongside Baja Highway 1 and, at some point in time, it was a working village, but today it was a nearly a ghost town. The only thing there was a dead gas station with the skeleton remains of two pumps, a small cocina (kitchen) and a llantera.

The llantera was a small shack of tin and scrap lumber. A large woman and two elderly men sat out front. Thrown about were lots of used tires in various stages of wear. It was clear that one of the men owned the shop and the other was just a buddy helping out. We were able to find a tire to fit that actually had a good load rating and he sold it to us for 400 pesos. Not too bad, I figured.

Neither of their jacks could raise the RV high enough to remove the tire, so they put a log from a tree on the floor jack and propped the RV up on that. Rachel had to turn away; she just couldn’t bear to watch. He only had a single socket for his air gun that fit our lug nuts, and on the first lug nut the socket snapped in half. For the next hour we watched as these two old guys replaced our tire using long steel bars, a sledgehammer and fire—Yes, fire. For quite a while they were having difficulties getting the tire to seal off the rim and couldn’t get it inflated. Finally, he put carburetor cleaner on the side wall and inside and lit it with a match. POW! Just like that the tire was sealed.

Once again we were heading to our destination, La Paz.

When we arrived in La Paz, it was already getting late in the afternoon, due to time lost dealing with the tires. Rachel had put together a list of all the RV parks, their prices and amenities. We had books on all the RV parks, and even purchased a list online. But after another hour of driving from one empty RV park to the next, we came to find out, after talking with one of the former RV park operators, that as of March the last RV park in La Paz closed their doors for good. All of them were being turned into condos and resorts.

Ten miles north of La Paz in El Centanario, and the closet park to La Paz, was Maranatha RV Park. A very nice, very clean park with a pool, playground area, private showers and buildings that resembled a hotel surrounding a large covered patio area, big enough to hold 50 people or more. On the corner of the property, near the highway, was a coffee shop called Café Exquisite that had WiFi internet. When we arrived at the RV park, the parking lot near the patio area was packed with cars and there was some sort of meeting on the patio. A couple hours later live music began and a patio of people sang for hours. At approximately 4 a.m. it all finally got quiet.

Turns out that the park is part of a Christian camp that has large events nearly every weekend and the occasional group of school kids during the week, for overnight pool parties. The property began as a landing strip many years back when the current owners’ father would fly down on missionary work. Today it is still used for missionary work.

Fortunately, the city bus stops on the highway in front of the café and for eight pesos we were in downtown La Paz in 20 minutes. Of course, there is no drinking on the property. Not too bad considering attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure.

Be sure to follow us next month as we explore more of Baja California Sur and destinations beyond . . . that is if we make it there!

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Marlin for Dinner Tonight

Today we purchased 2.5 pounds of freshly caught marlin for $60 pesos (about $4.60 in dollars). To put this into perspective, we cut it into seven 1 inch thick steaks about 7 inches long. Tonight we're BBQ in a roasted sesame seed marinade. Of course Rachel will make me eat broccoli with it.

The picture will give you an idea of the size of these things, amazing. It's currently Marlin, Dorado (mahi mahi) and Sailfish season and they're jumping from Mulege to Cabo San Lucas.

Friday, June 12, 2009

We've Got Wheels

We've finally got wheels. Walking is fine and all, but riding a bike is mucho mejor (much better)! Yesterday alone we saw more of the town than we have on foot all week. Today we had our first meetings and getting around town on bikes is a snap. In only about an hour, we set up our first retail location in the historic district of town, a very nice restaurant called La Cas Cada.

We also have several addition meetings for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. So next week is going to be a busy one for us. However, this weekend will be a little slower, we're hoping to do some more photography, video and writing about Loreto. We were hoping to also get in some fishing off the marina, looks like it might be a pretty good spot. This quaint little fishing village is special, possibly one of my personal favorites.

Now that we can swiftly make our way around town, we actually found a Banamex and got to do a little banking, and were able to go grocery shopping; I think one more cheese quesadilla for lunch was gonna kill me. Although, last night we did include some packaged meat making them into big tacos/fajitas, but that was dinner after all.

The image is of the municipal building in the town square. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Things are coming together

[the image is of the Loreto Malecon [beach walk]

Things are coming together. I was beginning to get frustrated because with things have not moving along like I wanted, not anyones fault, just want it faster, but I think we have our grove on now.

Yesterday was the first day we actually went to the beach and hung out, only for about 45 minutes but we were able to go swimming in the warm waters and let Cai run nuts on the beach. The beach was small pebbles until the edge of the break, where it became a dark sand. The water was as clear as a swimming pool.

We also walked to the grocery store and stocked up, not an easy walk carry groceries for about 2.5 miles. I didn’t want to do that again, so today we took the bicycle shop. We got a little turned around and walk another 5 miles. I now this because my lovely bride owns a pedometer, so I know I actually walked 9963 steps.

In any case, we’ll have the bikes back tomorrow with four inflated tires and good running condition. When we get our wheels, we’ll be all over the place. Explore, explore, explore.

On the business side of things, we’re looking solid. We’ve made 40+ business contacts in Loreto now and have got a few good leads from other people we’ve connected with via email.

Tonight we’re sending out our Loreto introduction letter (see below) and start arranging our meetings, stayed tuned the next week is going to be busy. This is the method we started in Peñasco and it works great.


My name is John Pack and my wife Rachel and I are currently in Loreto and would like to meet you personally to introduce ourselves. We’re the publisher’s of a printed monthly guide to Baja California and Sonora.

We’ve been growing our audience for the last 3 years and with the June edition we've expanded to include Baja California Sur.

The guide is called Mexico Living (http://www.mexicolivingguide.com) and we have a monthly readership of 25-30 thousand. We are a full color printed guide and sell for $20 pesos at retailers in Rosarito Beach, Ensenada, San Felipe, Los Algodones, Baja California and Puerto Peñasco and San Carlos in Sonora.

We’re working on our August edition and the featured destination is Loreto Baja California Sur. We want to make sure to include you in the Loreto section of Mexico Living. Ads start as little as $50 pesos, so no Loreto business should be left out.

Rachel and I will give you a FREE business listing in the August edition, just for taking 5 minutes to say hello. You can see all of our past issues on our blog, or visit our website.

Back Issue Archive:


John & Rachel Pack

Monday, June 8, 2009

Made it to Loreto

Hola Amigos, 

We left Estero Beach in Ensenada at about 11am. The last few days have wiped us out, so we took time out in the morning and organized some before heading out.

The trip from Ensenada to Catavina was beautiful. We always like reaching the top of the central Baja mountain range. Of course the higher altitude made for a couple of cold nights.

We filled up in Ensenada before heading out a got into Catavina with 3/8 of a tank, perfect, or so we thought until the only pumps in town were out.

Fortunately we were able to purchase 5 gallons for 36 pesos a gallon, not bad considering. That night we stayed at Rancho Santa Inez for $6. Nice big ranch, where we could literally setup anywhere we wanted. 

The family that owned the ranch were very nice, the dad and two young boys played on the porch with dad looking on, while mom and grandmother sat in the kitchen. From the open window on the porch we order from her hand written menu. We had a nice dinner of tacos Dorado for Rachel and chorizo and eggs for me.

We found a real nice place near a tall palm in a wide area where we could see the full moon. Once setup, we took both Cai and Max out for a walk, yes even Max the cat walks on a leash - when he wants.  

The night was bitter cold, but when the sun rose in the morning it was spectacular; warm and breathtaking with large trees and a lush arroyo of palms running one side of the our site.

The next gas station is Jesus Maria, where we filled up before going into Baja California Sur. The trip across the peninsula was beautiful, but uneventful.

Loreto is a gorgeous fishing town with lush gardens of bright tropical flowers in every color. The Malecon is a site with the sea literally slashing up to the sidewalk. After spending about an hour driving around town looking for the two RV parks listed in both our RV guides, which we NEVER found. We came across another real gem, called the Del Mar RV Park. We are only one of three people staying here, so it’s quiet and it’s has free WIFI for Internet, free laundry, is completed fenced in with high hedges and tall trees shading our site and the BBQ palapa behind us, and my favorite part is it’s only 1.5 blocks from the beach, marina and Malecon.


View Rivera del Mar RV Park, Loreto BCS in a larger map

Our plan has changed a little, we’ve decided it makes more sense for us to spend the next couple of weeks here in Loreto and get to know the area and people. We want to look for the Rotary and Lions clubs and go to a meeting of each. It’s a great way to introduce ourselves and quickly meet some of the people Mexico Living could benefit.

Today is Monday June 8th and time to get to work. 

[Photo of Loreto Mission]

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Travel Log: Day 1 - San Felipe to Ensenada


We've made it safely to Ensenada and the adventure has begun already. We left San Felipe at 6:30 PM on June 5th and arrived at Estero Beach in Ensenada at 1:30 AM June 6th. This is a trip that we've made many times at no longer than 3 hours, this was 6 hours of head on traffic on Mex 3 with roadside campsites of racers getting ready for today's Baja 500.

Yesterday the 12-volt inverter stopped working, so we have no power in the coach unless we plug-in. When we get stopped in either Loreto or La Paz we're going to have it looked at.

Max, Cheeto and Cai are all getting along great and Rachel got a workout unpacking and putting things away as we drove down the highway.

Estero Beach RV Resort is very nice, our full hookup site is on an estuary in front on an open bay, across from the point where La Bufadora (the blowhole) is located.

Today's goal is to reach Guerrero Negro today by 6 PM, 375 miles from Ensenada.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

The beginning of a new adventure

In two days a new chapter begins; we are moving back into our 32 foot RV and hitting the road.

The last time we did this we had just got married, loaded up ourselves, three teenagers and a cat and drove across the US - three times. This time it's ourselves, two cats and a dog and we're heading south to explore Baja California Sur.

Having three animals sounds nutty to me, but as I've learned from Rachel that someplace between different and strange is a great place to be.
Like last time, we are not completely ready. The difference is the last time, we had a brand new RV right off the lot. This time it has three years of traveling the US and 4 years sitting in the sun under it's roof.

We haven't taken it back to the US, since moving down four years ago. The tires all had to be replaced from the sun damage from sitting and our 12 volt system doesn't work, even after having every 12 volt, RV person we could look at it. For some strange reason, none of our RV batteries will charge off our generator, or the coach when running. The only way we could get it to work is to plug the RV in, and many Baja RV parks do not have power.
No worries, in a true Mexican way, we used what we had and got it working great with a little ingenuity and creativeness. What we've done is to put our solar system to work for us. What we did is create a secondary 12-volt system. We took our three gel batteries, inventor/charger and put them together under the RV in a compartment. Now we just charge the gels from the parks with power as we use it, then when we disconnect and hangout on the beach or someplace without power, we simply plug the RV into our inverter and run off our secondary system.

Our new power plant is the creativity of our friend Raine, who seems to know everything. Some people that think that are usually annoying, but not Raine, because I think she just might know everything. Thanks Raine it works GREAT!!

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

New addition to the Pack Family

New addition to the Pack Family & the Stories so how we found each other...

Cai - short for Calle.
John found Cai in the middle of the road (Calle) by 7-11 south just about to be killed by all the cars going by. So John jumped out of the car and she came right up to him, he picked her up and swept her away like a knight in shining armorer. It was Earth day April 22, 2009 so her full name is Calle Terra Pack.

Max - short for Maxiums No-Love Pack.
We where in Luissiana visting a friend; there cat had resently had a litter of kittens. John wanted his own cat; because my cat was not a lap cat and he wanted cat that would sit with him as we drove accoss the country. The kittins where about 8 - 10 weeks old and Max was the only gray & white one out of about 7 kittins. Being the odd one out for the bunch John had to have him. We begged and begged for about 2 days and finally Rich & his wife agreed to let us adopt the only gray kitten. He was and is very strong and acts as he is the warror of the house...so we named him Maxiums. Rich our friend is an Ultimate Fighter and his name is Rich "No Love" Clementi. In the honor of where Max's life started, we named him after Rich. John & I adopted Max and he has been all over the US and now we will be working all over Mexico. Maxiums No-Love Pack, an International travling Cat!

Cheeto - Cheeto the Cheese Puff
Cheeto is a very speical cat, she almost was named Cleo (short for Cleopatra). During my college days I lived in a great house just two blocks from the school. One of our neighors cat had kittens and they came over with the last two kittens that no one else would take. So of course I took them Cheeto & Spats
Cheeto was a big fluffy ball of bright oragan; that is where she got the name Cheeto the Cheese Puff. Spats was a hansome kitten calico with white tops of his feet (Spats are a type of shoe accessory covering the instep and ankle.). They joined my clan with Skosy (all white cat with blue eyes - the coolest cat! love and miss him). When John and I moved in together Spats was not happy and scrated everything and did his man tagging thing...so we found him a home and Cheeto became the only cat in the house. she is not about 12 years old and keeps up with Max and talerats Cai.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Yesterday was Earth Day and it was a heck of a day, from waking up feeling overwhelmed, angry and depressed to owning a new dog and back out of the Blues & Arts.

Today I have decided that it's time to re-start keeping my journal. I've never been able to write a journal and stick to it, of course I could say that about may things. Now I think is the time to change all of that and focus on what I am committed: My Health, My Marriage, My Business, Our Life.

Part of that commitment will be this journal. The thought is, if I can stick with the journal, I will stick with the other fore mentioned commitments.

Today started the way I hope may future days start; slowly. This morning we got up and walked a couple miles with our new puppy Kai, watched the morning news and had breakfast. It gave us time to to talk about what we needed to do for the day, which also helps to reduce stress.

I called Gary Dilley this morning to let him know that Rachel and I can not continue to produce the Blues & Arts as co-promoters. Rachel and I have both come to the conclusion that it is too much for us to do, when we have our own business we need to focus on right now.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Where are John & Rachel?

Moving to a new home - Healthy, Happy, & Glad!

John & I just moved to a new house in San Felipe and we love it. We feel with the business growing we need to be able to move around with out having a house payment, just rent where we want to stay and experience the area. So we are staying in San Felipe until June then to Ensenada for about 4 months. In Nov we will be back for the Home Expo for a month or two then perhaps to La Paz for 4 months - La Paz is the next addition to the Guide.