We stayed with the very generous Jean in San Diego for a few more days and wrapped up some final details before leaving the country.
Mexican car insurance. $108 for six months. Check.
Copies of all important documents. Check.
Extra bus parts. Check.
Multiple trips to the Post Office. TJ’s. One last Indian food buffet. Huge stash of rice milk for Bode. Check. Check. Check. Check.
We also had time to see several of our California friends one more time too. An excellent way to wrap up our warm-up lap around the U.S.
After all of our encounters with bad weather, we were in Southern California just in time for the biggest storm of year. So, without further hesitation, it was time to leave Lady Liberty behind and head further South.
Tecate was our first destination, but we did everything wrong. The guide books and other folks all tell you to cross first thing in the morning and take care of all the ‘headaches’ and drive away as quickly as possible. We’re late sleepers and we goofed off all the way. We showed up at 4:30 pm with no real plan. We thought about staying on the US side of the border, but we just didn’t see any place worth stopping. Miles and miles of nothing followed by an imaginary line and a large Mexican city pushed up against the border.
There was no waiting at the border crossing and we were waived right through, so we just drove right in. No passport check or anything. We parked the bus (we were told earlier there would be no parking anywhere) and got out to get our tourist cards (only needed for long stays.) Again, no problems and no waiting. We were the only people in the immigration office and the officers were friendly and helpful and spoke perfect English.
It was getting dark, so we had to find a place to stay in Tecate to validate our cards the next day at the bank. Our hotel was sort of institutional-feeling, and for some reason they decided to mount all the fluorescent lighting about 12 inches off the ground. Strange, but we didn’t complain for a place right in the center of town with gated parking for $22.
We walked around Tecate a while and Bode got to start practicing Spanish with the very friendly restaurant owners at dinner. Later, Bode did express some concern about the weather, “Dad, you said it would be warm in Mexico…and it is not warm! You were wrong!” Just a few more days, we told him.
He also had innocent but expansive questions like “what’s a border?” and “what’s poverty?” and was introduced to watermelon Popsicles with seeds. It’s a whole new world.
The next day we decided to explore the town a bit more. Tecate is a completely average Mexican town and that’s why we picked it. No touts trying to herd people into blaring bars. No major tourist stuff or crap stores. Just a regular town with a pleasant central square and shopping district.
There are lots of dentists and doctors offices here, so if you’re interested in medical tourism this seems to be an easy place to do it.
We considered the Tecate Brewery tour, but we decided to skip it and head out to Ensenada via the Ruta Del Vino. That’s right – Mexican wine country.
The drive was scenic and fun and was made more exciting by our sub-par Spanish. We are learning this the hard way.
J: What does ‘peligroso’ mean?
Jason steers through a treacherous mountain curve.
A: AHHHH! Dangerous! Dangerous! It means Dangerous!
J: Well, it was a beautiful, dangerous curve. Look! More beautiful curves ahead!
The drive was through lots of green farmland and mountains. It reminded us of the Big Island in Hawaii, and not at all what I was expecting in Baja.