RV'ing to San Felipe

San Felipe, Baja, Mexico

Victoria BC to San Felipe, Baja, Mexico

- by Kent and Lynn White

We don’t quite fit into the retirement classification yet, but we really look forward to our vacations with our travelling buddies, Ed and Gabriella Pakos. Our plan was to catch the Coho ferry to Port Angeles, WA. We planned to leave on Saturday, Feb. l9th, on the l0:30 a.m. ferry, but being excited, we all agreed to knock off work early on the 18th instead, and take the 4:30 ferry that evening, "just to get a jump on things". Then we all figured if we were going to go Friday afternoon, we might as well take the whole day off and go in the morning. As it worked out, we ended up taking our motorhomes down and spending the night in the parking lot Thursday, and starting our trip with dinner in the Charles Dickens Pub in the Empress Hotel. Great hamburgers!

Once in Port Angeles, we searched out the lowest priced gas and fueled up, $1.34 U.S. per gallon. We thought that to be very reasonable, and headed for Hwy.101 to Olympia. Along the way, you pass little villages where the homes are right on the water’s edge on quite calm bays. The occasional pub and stores are on the opposite side.On the beach in San Felipe

Our first stop for the evening was Eugene, OR and more gas. As we were on limited time, we did not look around Eugene and left bright and early after a peaceful night at the K-Mart RV resort. Not too fancy but the price was right.

Before leaving Victoria, we both installed this PVI thing. That’s short for Platinum Vapour Injection, a miracle invention that claims to boost your mileage by 15% to 22%. Along with this, we installed a K and N air filter. Prior to all this I was lucky to get 7 or 7.5 mpg. After my first tank-full I shot up to 8.20 mpg. Depending on the terrain and headwinds, I averaged 8.8 mpg, with my highest being 9.9. All in all it is worth it as you get 25,000 kms per kit. Look it up HERE.

Our next stop was in Redding, CA. The weather was getting a little warmer and we all stepped out of the motorhomes in shorts and T-shirts to go and explore the Liquor Barn. What a store, even for someone who only drinks those fluffy umbrella drinks! We were $80 poorer when we left. Gas in Redding was still reasonable at $1.36 US a gallon. After a long day on the road we pulled into a vacant restaurant, had dinner with our friends, watched a movie and hit the sack.

It’s now Sunday morning and after an hour or two of driving, we pull into Coalinga CA for fuel. Wow! Only $1.65 a gallon. We are assured by the attendant that it’s not quite as high down south.

Next morning finds us in San Diego. I guess this is one drawback of being too young to retire - you drive long hours each day so you can squeeze as much time in at your final destination, and then turn around and do it all in reverse so you can make it back to work on time. Once we stock up at Costco and refuel at a more sensible $1.34 a gallon, we’re off for Calexico, which is a small town on the border, with Mexicali on the other side.

By the time we get our Mexican insurance, it’s almost 2 p.m. We flip a coin to decide whether to head across today or wait for first thing tomorrow. Heads wins and we head for the border, knowing it’s going to be tough getting to San Felipe before dark. As it turned out, the road through Mexicali was pretty straight-forward and we were on the open road in no time. We had done some research on the Internet and found the Eldorado Ranch and RV Resort just 7 miles north of San Felipe, but did not make any reservations as we weren’t sure just when we would get there. We arrived at 5:15 p.m., the sun just starting to set and we all felt a little easier as we got out to stretch and check out the Sea of Cortez. As it turned out, the Eldorado was full but they offered us the use of their parking lot for the night as well as camp passes so we could wander around and have a drink down at their own private cantina. It’s true what they say about Margaritas down there, the tequila does run freely.

The next morning the tide was out and all you could see was sand, sand and more sand. We decided to venture further south and see the city. San Felipe is very quiet compared to other Mexican towns; its main street has shops and restaurants on one side and the water on the other with a nice esplanade. You can walk along it and hire a fishing expedition or buy jewelry or shirts, etc. from the vendors. We felt quite comfortable parking our rigs on the side of the road. As we looked around, the Canadians and Americans almost outnumbered the locals.

As we headed further south towards the airport, we turned left towards Puerto Puertecitos. As the tourism is down in this part of the Baja, we found many deserted camps and resorts. I’m sure we could have camped there forever and nobody would have cared. After many attempts at finding the right spot on the right beach, we settled for the Villa Marina Resort, about 8.5 kms. from the turnoff to the airport.

We were to be the only residents there for the next four days. We had water and septic but no electricity. As everyone has heard, the water on the Baja is okay for cooking and washing, but for drinking and making coffee or tea, get purified water. We paid $10 a day but later found out we could have bartered and probably paid about $5 or $6 a day. As I mentioned, we were the only ones there, so we had the whole beach to ourselves and took advantage of it at low tide when we went beachcombing for shells and sand-dollars.

The sand-dollars are indigenous to San Felipe and are the most unusual design we’ve ever seen. I’m told they will make great wind chimes when dried and painted. We have so many shells and sand dollars stored in our rigs that Ed thinks we will be called into the scales for weigh-in on the way home.
The temperature was in the mid to high 70s while we were there and we always had a nice breeze off the water. As we left our private resort, we were already making plans to return next year, hopefully with a dune buggy so we can explore further down the beach, and also head into town if we were to hear the calling.
It’s now Saturday and the plan is to camp at one of three campgrounds in town. We chose the Baja Mar, and after walking around the city and checking out the other two we all agreed we picked the right one. The cost per night was a negotiable $12, including showers, hydro, sewer and water. While sitting at an outdoor bar having a margarita, we hear this big Ola! and it’s a close friend of Ed’s and Gabriella’s. They knew we were down in the area so they drove up from Mulege to search us out.

Dennis and Dorothy had left Surrey BC in early January and were touring around the Baja in their brand-new 35-foot Landau motorhome. After a few more margaritas in town, we all ended up back at our campsite for a few more fluffies. The next day we moved to the Eldorado Resort and found two spots right next to Denis and Dorothy, Ed’s friends, again overlooking the ocean. We spent our last two days here and had a great time. Each evening we would go down to Juanita’s cantina and sit around this big firepit in the middle of the room and listen to the entertainment or just talk to all our newfound friends from the campgrounds. Oh yeah! And have a margarita or two. The shrimp are out of this world; to say they are JUMBO is an understatement. The vendors come around to the campsite each morning and you can expect to pay about $20 U.S. per kilo.

We left San Felipe after nine days. Coming through Mexicali we couldn’t believe our eyes! They have a Costco! We decided we had better stop and check it out. Well, you would think you were in any other Costco in Canada or the USA, except it’s all in Spanish. After stocking up on hot peppers and sauces we made it to the border and had no problems getting back into the US.

The trip to San Felipe can be done on one tank of gas, but we saw plenty of Pemex stations along the way. We came upon two army check-points on the way down and one on the way back - each time they were very friendly and polite. The Mexican people are all very friendly and kind and love to hear us try speaking Spanish, and they like to practice English. By supper time we were all set up at the Westwind Resort in Yuma, AZ, where I have my first ever game of golf and then the slow journey home.