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LA to Tulum — 8 Amazing Days on the Road

By Larry Crowson

Day one

Just got back from a long trip. I flew to LA to pick up a friend’s car who has moved to Tulum from Hawaii and drive it down for him.

I ordered his Mexican car permit online and had that shipped out ahead of time. This cost $60 US and they shipped it Fed-Ex to my daughter’s place and was waiting for me when I arrived.

Picked up the car at the shipper’s warehouse near Long Beach, a 25-minute taxi ride from LAX airport, and was on the road after 20 minutes was heading towards San Diego and the border crossing at Tijuana.

Had some issues that needed sorting out with the car stereo at a Honda dealer along the way and a Costco and Traders Joe’s shopping list that needed to be addressed prior to crossing over into Mexico. There’re always a few items we just can’t seem to get or find here. It’s no big deal; we just make sure to stock up on a few special or hard to find items when we can.

At the TJ Border crossing, I always get just a little on edge not knowing how long it might take or if I will get stopped for some inspection procedure that might take a long time. I’ve never had any issues myself. I believe in being positive and smiling at all times to them. I hear these so-called horror stories and frankly don’t get it. I have never been afraid of the Army or Police and have NEVER been treated rudely, nor have they been impolite to me anywhere in Mexico. I probably have been thru several hundred military inspections or police roadblocks and it’s always the same: where are you coming from and heading to? Where do you live?

When they find out I live here full time, their attitude always gets even more friendly and, at one stop on this trip, the soldier was proud that he could speak to me in English and welcomed me to his country and was proud that I had chosen to live here. It caught me off guard for a moment but sure made me smile back at him. I can’t ever imagine that occurring anywhere in the US with the police or TSA goon squads at the airports, can you?

Pulled up on the Mexican border side with three open lanes all green lights and a nice young lady in uniform waving me on thru; 30 seconds and I was in Mexico – WOW that was a nice surprise. Follow signs over the bridge maybe 500 feet and turn right onto the road heading along the coast towards Ensenada and pointing south.

Good roads and grey coastal fog as I head south. I’m going near the tip of Baja to Todos Santos, which is 45 minutes south from LaPaz or the same distance north from Cabo.

The scenery is nice, with plenty of dramatic rocks formations off the beach. I have to keep my eyes peeled on the road, as I am really enjoying the drive. My plan is to drive maybe 9-10 hours today and maybe make the Sea of Cortez after driving down the Pacific side and then across the desert, spending the night in Santa Rosalia.

Lots of new condos being built right on the water for the next 60 miles, all with beautiful oceanfront views.  It’s an impressive stretch of coast as you drive down. First thing that stuck me was I had no idea they were fish farming here in Mexico.  Lots, and I mean lots, of large ocean going circular pens or nets—not sure what their raising. I stopped at the first Bancomer Bank I saw and drew out some pesos for my drive as you never want to use US money because you will always get a 10-1 rate when the banks are usually 11.7- 13.9 depending upon the spot market. Point is, you would be cheating yourself.

I was looking at all the roadside stands selling fresh seafood or tacos and getting really hungry and finally had to stop and eat. There was a chill in the air from the fog moving along the water, and you could just smell the freshness of the ocean.

The vineyards around Ensenada area are very nice and it was tempting to stop and do a little wine tasting. Mexico now makes excellent wines that the world has finally discovered.

Pulled over at a larger roadside restaurant with a thatched palapa roof, as I was not dressed for cool weather at all and frankly I was cold, which seemed odd in June. They were shucking fresh oysters, peeling mounds of shrimp and huge scallops just off the boat. I had three awesome shrimp tacos and some fresh ceviche and a cold beer. Now that’s my kind of lunch. It’s hard to explain it to someone who’s never been here but the food tastes better and I eat like a king for less than $10.

Back on the road heading south towards the Guerrero Negro area, which will then throw me east across the interior desert towards to the Sea of Cortez. Jacques Cousteau once said the Sea Of Cortez is the most beautiful and diverse body of water on earth, and he might be right.

The drive has been very easy so far, there are Pemex Gas (Pemex is Mexico’s gas company) stations everywhere and little towns or roadside taco stands are plentiful if you’re hungry or want a cold drink.

I tend to be a road warrior when I do these drives and on my first day I was going to push hard. Roads are good and traffic pretty light and I can set my own pace easily at 70 mph. Mexico is spending enormous amounts of money all over the country on its infrastructure and their roads are becoming very good in most places, with new bridges or highways going up everywhere I’ve been. Frankly, their roads are better than in many US states now.

My drive across the desert is fast and the scenery is striking, gigantic boulders and cactus formations and the mountains are getting bigger as I approach them again. Daylight is fading as I pick up my pace a bit to make sure I make it to the Sea of Cortez before nightfall as planned.  Your first glance is of a huge placid body of water as you approach the old historic town of Santa Rosalia.

I decided to eat dinner and find a hotel there. I drove thru the little village and around the town square sizing up my choices and clearly there were many to choose from. I found a great local place for dinner with a mix of expats and locals alike always a good sign for me.  The owner was a nice local Mexican man who was proud of his restaurant, as he should have been. He told me had several fresh seafood choices for dinner and explained them to me: fresh scallops, shrimp, clams and mussels.  My mouth was watering by the time I ordered dinner. I ordered fresh scallops, and my plate had two huge scallops that were each 4-6 inches across and so tender to eat— what a treat! Dinner with salad, bread and two Pacifico’s was $14.

Sadly, all of the hotels were all full for the night so off to Mulege, about a 45-minute drive away in the dark. Wasn’t too keen on that, but the road was great and with a near full moon the water was sparkling as I drove south towards Mulege. Got there around 8 pm and it was a hard to find a place at first so I picked a highway motel that the highway construction workers were all staying at (usually a safe choice, and it was).

More tomorrow…



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