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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.

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!

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