1 - 30 June 2018 Baja, Mexico - Arizona - Utah - Colorado - Wyoming - South Dakota - North Dakota - Minnesota - Iowa - Illinois - Wisconsin

June 30, 2018

Friday 1st June

 

Los Barriles – Playa Santispac 569 km

 

Departed Baja Sunrise RV Park 6:30 just as the sun was coming up. Jorge, Sergio and the three dogs -Canella, Rocky and Miel – came out to say goodbye. Los Barriles has been our home for seven wonderful months but now it was time to say goodbye. With heavy hearts we turned onto Mex 1 and headed north, taking in our last views of the beautiful Bahia de Palmas. There are no plans to return but this place does get under your skin, someone described it as having ‘perfect imperfections.’  It is in a beautiful setting, but it is not a picture-perfect resort town. It is a very real working town catering for sport fishing, kiteboarding, retirees and snowbirds which makes for a good mix of locals and visitors. There is an excellent variety of restaurants and markets owned or operated by locals and the atmosphere in town is friendly and relaxed. There is plenty to do, fishing, paddle boarding, kit/wind surfing, snorkeling, diving, kayaking, pickleball, hot springs, cool lagoons, ATV safari, hiking, biking, arroyo exploring, and so on. We have met some great people and have had to say a lot of goodbyes these past few weeks as gradually, everyone left to go home for the summer. Now it is our turn and Rick and the dogs are the last ones left. We have made many new friends here and have had a busy social life over the months, especially playing pickleball and having one or two margaritas over dinner. We will be taking some very fond memories with us as we leave, and I am sure we will find a way of getting back one day but for now, adios LB.

 

So, we were back on the road, onwards and upwards to new adventures. Our first stop was Bahia de Concepcion and one of our favourite places, Playa Santispac – 200 pesos per night, no hook ups.

 

 

 

Apart from a couple of campers and four sailing boats moored in the bay we had the place to ourselves.

It had been a long drive and we couldn’t wait to have a dip in the warm, shallow waters of the Bahia.  A short walk from the RV was Armando’s restaurant where they make a very good margarita. After an early dinner and another dip in the sea, it was an early night for us all.

 

 

 

Saturday 2nd June

 

This morning we took the dogs for a walk along the coast to the next bay.

 

 

Back at the RV we all went into the sea to cool off. The dogs love the water and are fascinated to see the fish darting about in the shallow water. It was the first time we had seen Kira swim.

 

 

 

 

 

Back on the road by lunch time, we continued north to San Lucas, a small cove just south of the mining town of Santa Rosalia. The RV Park was located down a sand track and was quiet, just a few long stay residents still there. We didn’t have any hook ups and the cost per night was 180 pesos.

 

 

Our journey so far had not been without incident. First, on arrival in Santispac my mobile was missing. I was convinced it was somewhere in the RV and had just slid somewhere because of the tossing and turning of the Mex 1 road. When we got to San Lucas and had 3G we used FindMyPhone, it turned out its last location was at 2:30 on the 1st June in Loreto. We had stopped at a view point over looking Loreto bay for a sandwich lunch. It’s a mystery how the phone got out of the RV, but it obviously did.

 

The next incident happened just before we arrived at San Lucas. Tony glanced at the rear-view camera and noticed the bikes were missing. We stopped when a cut out in the road appeared. The bike rack had cleanly sheared off, there was no sign of the rack or the two bikes attached!! We could see where the rack had hit the bonnet of the Toyota which was on the tow dolly but where it happened we have no idea. We saw or heard nothing!

 

Postescript: a few days later the phone was found. I was outside watching one of the slide outs being extended. I happened to glance underneath and there it was, wedged on a shelf. The phone had obviously slid under the sofa and somehow fallen through to the outside of the slide out! It had crush damage to the top but did turn on.  No sign of the bikes tho!

 

San Lucas Cove is about 15 kms south of Santa Rosalia. We took the car into the town late afternoon. The buildings in Santa Rosalia are very different to anywhere else we have seen in Baja. There are a lot of wooden bungalow style homes, some with very slopping veranda’s or roofs, indicating their age. The town has a French colonial influence because a French company called El Boleo mined copper here in the 19th century.

 

 

 

 

 

Iglesia Santa Barbara de Santa Rosalia. The building is made of metal and is said to have been designed by Gustave Eiffel. 

 

 

 

 

 

Back at San Lucas Cove we went to the small and lovely restaurant they had on site. The food was first class, delicious and the owners, Renee, Janine and their daughter Alexandra made us very welcome.

 

 

 Sunday 3rd June

 

Santa Rosalia - Catavina 450 Kms

 

North of Santa Rosalia we turned inland into the mountains, leaving the Sea of Cortez behind. Traveling through the Sierra de San Francisco and the Vizcaino Desert, crossing the border into northern Baja at Guerrero Negro.

 

Entering the Valle de los Cirios we come into a sparsely populated desert area that still has very little influence on it from the outside world. Approaching the small community of Catavina, giant boulders and a wide variety of desert plants and cacti in perfect condition appear in this protected wonderland.

 

 

We pulled in at Rancho Santa Inez and parked under a large mesquite tree for shade. We paid 120 pesos for the night and had the place to ourselves. No phone signal, no electric light, just perfect desert silence.

 

Monday 4th June

 

Catavina - San Quintin - 186 Kms

 

The buzz of a lot of Mexican bees was coming from our mesquite tree. Couldn't locate it but it sounded like a large hive somewhere up in the branches. After breakfast the dogs had a good run around before we got on the road to make our way west to the Pacific coast.

 

 

As we came down from the mountain plateau to the town of El Rosario we drove into coastal fog.

 

Coming through the mountains a couple of small deer like animals ran across the road. They looked very like berrendo, a rare desert pronghorn antelope. There are very few of these animals left. For water they use the dew that comes from coastal fog and feed on plants with a high moisture content. They are protected and usually, are only found further south in Vizcaino. Unfortunately, I wasn't quick enough with the camera.

 

 

Camped at El Pabellon RV Park (180 pesos-no hook ups) right behind the sand dunes. The beach was covered in sea mist, but the dogs loved it. The sun made an appearance late afternoon.

 

Sandy had been to this beach before. On the sand track from the main road to the beach she knew  excatly where she was. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday 5th June

 

San Quintin - Yuma AZ - 526 Kms

 

Leaving El Pabellon we continued north travelling through San Quintin and the agricultural fruit and vegetable growing area.

 

The sun came out as we approached the beautiful Santo Tomas Valley and wine country.

 

 

Stopped for lunch in the Guadalupe Valley, overlooking LA CETTO Winery before making our way to the border town of Tecate. 

At the border crossing in Tecate we queued for about 30 minutes. A Border Officer came onto the RV to check we didn't have any prohibited food, such as fruit, veg and meat. We went into the immigration office to get an I-94. On land borders there is no stamp in the passport. The I-94 card Is stapled into the passport showing entry date and required exit date in six months. There was some confusion for a while explaining why Tony had gone in and out of the US twice since January - when we were buying the new RV. After a few tense moments we got it straightened out and we were on our way, back in the USA.

 

Exiting the border into California we took the CA-94 east through ranch country to pick up the I-8. Back on wide well maintained roads, what a pleasure. Mex 1 is not easy, long very narrow stretches with pot holes.

 

As we crossed from San Diego to Imperial County we were in rock and boulder country with steep gradients and high winds. As we entered the Imperial Valley, fields of wind turbines came into view.

 

 

The high country soon turned into hot desert with temperatures over 42 degrees. A lot of the Imperial Valley is irrigated with water from the Colorado River via a canal system called the All-American Canal. It is incredible to see how the dry desert suddenly turns into green fields of crops.

 

At first Kira was a nervous traveller in the RV because of all the bumps and jolts we experienced on Mex 1, but she has now started to settle down nicely. 

 

A long day on the road today and we were pleased to reach our destination, Quechan Casino Resort, near Yuma, not far from the Mexican border town of Algodones. We parked for free in a reserved area of the large car park, just a couple of other RV's and trucks with us.

 

Wednesday 6th June

 

Yuma - Lake Havasu - 155 ml

 

Crossing the CA/AZ state line at Yuma we took the US 95 north.

 

Part of the canal system that irrigates large areas of desert.

 

The Yuma Proving Ground is a large area of desert used by the United States Army for testing military equipment.

 

A tank crossed the road and went off into the desert in a cloud of dust.

 

Lake Havasu State Park at the side of  the Colorado River. 

 

The lakes claim to fame is that they have the old London Bridge. The bridge was originally constructed in 1831 to span the River Thames. By the 1960's the bridge was not coping with all the motorised traffic and was gradually sinking. The City of London sold it to an American entrepreneur who was building Lake Havasu City.  He wanted it to help attract tourists to the area and his idea seems to have worked.

 

 

The bridge spans a channel from the City over to an island on the Colorado River. It was good to see it operating as a working bridge and not just an ornament. What a different environment, from the fogs and smogs of Victorian and early 20th century London, to the sun and desert heat of Arizona - over 40 degrees today.

 

 

 

Thursday 7th June

 

Lake Havasu - Page 336 ml

 

Early morning paddle in the Colorado River before we start our day’s journey.

Continued north following the Colorado to pick up the I-40 east at Kingman. This interstate follows the old historic Route 66. We started to climb and soon reached over 7000 ft and the Ponderosa Pine trees stared to replace arid desert. The temperature dropped 20 degrees, it still felt warm but with a freshness in the air instead of  feeling like the inside of an oven.

At Flagstaff we turned north onto the US-89, saying goodbye to Route 66. As we descended the pines trees disappeared and were replaced by desert scrubland. We were now heading into Navajo country, passing the Grand Canyon to the west and the Painted Desert to the east. The colors in the sandstone rocks and sand along this stretch is incredible, subtle shades of blue, green cream, pink, grey, brown.

 

 

Wahweap RV Park is near to the shore of Lake Powell just outside the town of Page near the Arizona/ Utah state border. This large picturesque lake was created when the impressive Glen Canyon Dam was built across the waters of the Colorado River. The lake caters for all types of water sports and has a busy marina. Page is at the northern edge of the Navajo Reservation, the largest Native American reservation in the US. Tomorrow we go to explore some of the Navajo land at Antelope Canyon.

 

 

Friday 8th June

 

Our day started in Page at Chief Tsosie’s, Antelope Slot Canyon Tours. The company advertise air-conditioned transportation and it certainly was, as we climbed into our four-wheel drive open sided truck, I felt like I was going on maneuvers. As soon as we turned off the highway it was a bumpy but fun ride to the mouth of the canyon.

 

We gathered with our tour guide Nate at the entrance to the canyon. He explained how the canyon had been carved out of sandstone by winds and water to form a tight passageway through the rock. Most of the guides had face masks on to guard against the amount of sand they could potentially breath in, particularly as they are in the canyon every day.

 

Inside the canyon it is like being within a sandstone bluff with the occasional beam of light shining through the ceiling onto layers of sandstone colours. This canyon has been well photographed and is recognisable from pictures in tourist brochures, but nothing prepares you for the real thing, it is quite extraordinary. The pictures speak for themselves.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Antelope Canyon is the most photogenic place we have been. Although we were there with several other tour groups, the canyon still retained a very ethereal atmosphere. Winding through tiny dark passageways, breaking out into wide spaces with a brilliant searchlight of sun piercing the ground. High chimney like structures with a hint of sunlight coming through. An amazing array of colour tones from deep purple to bright yellow, to pale pink and cream. A special place, natures work of art.

 

 

 

On the way back to the campground we crossed the Glen Canyon Dam holding back the Colorado River and creating Lake Powell. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday 9th June

 

Page – Bluff, UT  172 ml

 

Into Utah and the small town of Bluff. We travelled east on US 160, past Monument Valley and then north on the 191. Crossing the San Juan River, we arrived in town and pulled in at the Cadillac Ranch RV Park.

Surrounded by red rock cliffs, Bluff was founded by the Mormons in the 1880’s.

 

Bluff Fort is an area of the town where many of the log cabins of the original settlers have been recreated. Every cabin has an audio giving the history and life story of each family. These personal stories give a fascinating glimpse into pioneer life and the risks and hardships of travelling across the country, some just pulling hand carts. The determination and ingenuity used to get over every obstacle was amazing. Although there was tragedy, and many didn’t make it. This is a very thoughtful, detailed and well put together record of pioneer life in the 1800’s. Many of the furnishings, photographs and artifacts in the cabins were donated by the descendants of those first settlers.

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday 10th June

 

Bluff – Silt, CO 280 ml

 

Travelling out of Bluff through the red rock canyons to Moab, we passed Canyonland and Arches National Parks before turning east on the I-70 and crossing into Colorado

 

Grass fire at the side of the road. Lets hope it is not a sign of another bad summer of forest and grass fires like last year. 

 

Our stop for the night was KOA Glenwood Springs, at the side of the Colorado River with a large dog park for the dogs to burn off some energy.

 

Monday – Thursday 11 - 14th June

 

Silt – Fort Collins 236 ml

 

Heading into the Rocky Mountains. Continuing east on the I-70 we followed the Colorado River through deep canyons before getting to the ski areas.

 

Vail still had some patches of snow on the slopes.

 

 The dogs settled in very nicely for the journey.

 

 

 

We skirted around Denver to the north to pick up the I-25.

 

Fort Collins is 65 miles north of Denver. Driving through the suburbs of the town in the afternoon sunshine we immediately had a good feeling about the place. Plenty of old, well preserved wooden paneled homes blending in nicely with the new.

 

We checked in at Fort Collins/ Lakeside KOA. A very smart campsite with spacious sites and a lake surrounded by a good dog walking path.

 

 

 

 

The town has a large University campus, a vibrant town centre with plenty of places to eat, plus many craft breweries and pubs.

 

The Old Town Square has blue chairs and tables for everyone’s use and a kids play area with water spouts. Lots of boutique and specialist shops are set up in the restored Victorian buildings. The town has kept its small-town America feel and preserved many of the red brick buildings. I could imagine it being used as a Hollywood set.

 

 

Coopersmiths Brewery was our choice of drinking and eating establishment. Tony was very happy with his pint of Punjab cask IPA, the best pint of beer he has had since arriving in the US.

 

 

 

 

 Kira settled on her new bed.

 

 

Charlotte's 'big' birthday on the 13th. So sorry we'll miss the party.

 

 

Rocky Mountain National Park

 

Just over 40 miles south west of Fort Collins is Rocky Mountain National Park. Following the Thompson River on US 36 we travelled through a granite canyon and past small resort towns alongside the River, to the eastern entrance of the park at Estes Park.

 

The Rockies are fairly new in geological terms, being 40-70 million years old and one of the world’s longest mountain ranges, stretching from Alaska down into Mexico.

 

The lower areas of the park (under 9,000 ft) are very green with aspen, pine trees, and meadows of summer flowers. 

 

 

Trail Ridge Road follows an ancient Native American path and winds for 48 miles east/west across the park.As the road climbed the landscape changed to subalpine, cool and moist with Spruce and tall fir trees. We had moved from summer to wintry autumn in just a few miles.

 

 Kira's first sight of snow

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Above 11,000 feet we entered alpine tundra. A sparse cold landscape of winter weather and snow covered peaks.

 

 

 

We came across bighorn sheep and elk.

 

 

 

 

At Milner Pass we had reached the Great Divide, where drainage water separates and flows down to either the Atlantic or the Pacific Oceans.

 

 Hiking trails are one of the most popular activities in the park. There are miles of paths leading to wilderness and magnificent views.

 

 

We stopped at Fairview Curve for a picnic lunch and just south of there was the Colorado River Trailhead. The headwaters of the Colorado River are in the Park, located in the Never Summer Mountains at La Poudre Pass Lake, 6.5 miles along the trail. On this leg of our trip we have followed the Colorado River from where it flows out into the Sea of Cortez (Gulf of California) to its source as a tiny stream. It is incredible to think that downstream it will provide water for 40 million people.

 

 

 

 

 

Fort Collins scored high on our favourite places list. It would be a good town to spend a summer. A great town centre scene, community atmosphere, plenty to do and see in the area and the Rocky Mountains great outdoors.

 

Friday 15th June – Monday 18th June

 

Fort Collins – Laramie, WY 64 ml

 

Time for a last cup of coffee before we hit the road.

 

 

A short ride north to Laramie just over the state line into Wyoming. We are now east of the Rocky’s and at the start of the Great Plains. Laramie is another university town but reminiscent to me for western TV and films such as Lawman and the Man from Laramie. Staying at the KOA Laramie just outside town.

 

 

 

 

On Friday evening in town a band played outside in Grand Avenue. Plenty of locals were out in the street having a beer and listening to the music. We found Altitude Tap House for dinner.

 

The town has an old 1950’s style,look and feel. Although it is very much part of the old west story and has two story buildings dating back to the 19th century. The original settlement was Fort Sanders, built in the 1860’s as a military post to protect travellers on the Overland Trail and workers constructing the Union Pacific Railway. The town really began to grow when the railway opened.

 

 

Good old down to earth pub/taproom. Somewhere to meet the locals.

 

 

 

Over the weekend we nearly bought a Jeep to replace our trusty Toyota Celica, but it wasn’t to be. We had trouble getting insurance and we would not have been able to tow it on our existing dolly.

 

Monday afternoon after a walk around town we went to the Library Sports Bar and Grille. A friendly bar where we got chatting to the locals. We spoke to Chuck who was interested in our travels and gave us information on what to do and where to go when we get to the great lakes area.

St Matthew’s Cathedral.

 

 

 

 

 

Overall, we liked Laramie. It is much more understated than Fort Collins and doesn’t appear to be as affluent but it has a friendly down to earth quality that we got to like during our short stay.

 

Tomorrow we start our journey east towards the great lakes and Chicago. This will be a road trip with few stayovers, mostly overnight stops at Walmart then back on the road.

 

Tuesday 19th June

 

Laramie - Bismarck ND 600 ml

 

A long day’s drive as we zig zagged across eastern Wyoming into South Dakota and on to North Dakota.

 

As we were travelled through the grassland prairie, a couple of Pronghorns ran across our path. Quite unique animals, they are often referred to as a type of antelope and are one of the fastest animals in North America.

 

 

Through Morton Pass at 7,218 feet, low cloud and mist descended.

 

 

Male elk

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The roads were mostly deserted as we continued over the prairie passing isolated ranches and farms. We crossed the state line into South Dakota and the weather brightened for a while. By the time we crossed into North Dakota we had torrential rain.

 

Crossing the Missouri River, we entered the state capital, Bismarck and found a Walmart, to stop for the night.

 

Wednesday 20th June

 

Bismarck - Fergus Falls MN - 251 ml

 

We had a quiet parking spot in the corner of  Walmart car park with plenty of grass around for the dogs and spent a very peaceful night. Our journey continued along the I-94 into Minnesota.

 

 

Stopped off at a rest area for a break.

 

 

 

Minnesota is known as the land of 10,000 lakes and apparently one in every six of the population owns a boat, therefore, it’s not surprising that Walmart sell kayaks.

 

Wouldn’t you know, just across the road from Fergus Falls Walmart was Mabel Murphy’s Pub where we had dinner.

 

 

 

 

Thursday 21st June

 

Fergus Falls – Albert Lea  - 272 ml

 

'I don't know,  the price of petrol these days.'

 

 

On  the way to our next destination we stopped off just south of Minneapolis in Bloomington to visit Mall of America. This is a gigantic shopping mall and entertainment centre, a cross between shopping centre and theme park. Nickelodeon Universe is a seven-acre indoor theme park with rides and entertainment. The place is packed with things to do, 520 stores, 50 restaurants and no sales tax on clothing or shoes.

 

 

 

 

Lunch at Hard Rock Café.

 

Friday 22nd June

 

Albert Lea – Coralville IA -204 ml

 

We had comfortable night at Walmart in Albert Lea.

 

We soon crossed the state line into Iowa and after an early start we stopped to have breakfast at Story City Rest Area. South and North Dakota, Minnesota and now Iowa have all had excellent rest area facilities that we have made good use of. Today we even had a woodland trail to walk the dogs with lots of grass and wild flowers.

 

 

 

 

Our next stop was Bass Pro Outdoor World in Altoona - a favourite place to buy clothes.

 

Saturday 23rd - Sunday 24th June

 

Coralville – Rockford IL -180 ml

 

First stop this morning, Camping World in Davenport to pick up a few things for the RV.

 

 

We crossed the Mississippi into Illinois and took the I-88 going north east.

 

 

 

We have travelled through some very fertile prairie and wetlands over the past four days, farms, fields and crops. Today we have reached Blackhawk Valley, a very green and pleasant land with the Kishwaukee River running through. Our campground is at the side of the river with lots of trees for shade and luscious grass fields. In the morning lots of bird song and in the evening plenty of fire flies. The landscaping reminds me of some of the city parks in England. A nice place to have a couple of days off the road.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Monday 25th June – Saturday 30th June

 

Rockford – Milton WI - 42 ml

 

Just over 40 miles north into Wisconsin to the KOA Milton – Hidden Valley campground. This is a large very well-kept park set in a pleasant valley with rolling green hills, the Rock River and Lake Koshkonong nearby. Lots of farmland in the area and four towns close by.

 

 

 

Good facilities for the dogs, plenty of grassy fields and trails to use.

 

 Good facilities for humans too!

 

 

 

Our local pub, The Anchor, at the side of the Rock River. Friday/Saturday music outside by the river.

 

 

 

A few days ago, when I was out walking Kira, she saw a rabbit and decided she wanted to be a hunting dog and bolted after it. This was unusual, she had never shown any interest in running after critters before. The lead was pulled out of my hand and the loop at the end of the lead caught around one of my fingers. The finger was a little bloody, bruised and swollen but I didn’t think too much of it. However, it didn’t seem to be healing very quickly and looked a funny shape. I decided to pay a visit to the local ER department at Edgerton Hospital.

 

I walked through the door and was registered immediately, saw a nurse within minutes and she took details of the injury. The doctor came in and checked the injury and arranged for me to have an x-ray. The radiologist escorted me to the x-ray department where the staff were waiting, and I was x-rayed immediately. The only short wait I had was for the doctor to return with the x-ray results. Anyway, the outcome was a ‘closed nondisplaced fracture of distal phalanx of right ring figure’, the finger was splinted, and I was on my way. I hit the facility at a quiet time and I’m sure it can get hectic but what a service. I was also called the next day to check if I was okay, happy with the treatment I had received and if I had any further concerns about my injury.

 

 

 

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