Added 5 May 2007
Saturday, 24 March 2007, Punta Bufeo, Baja California Norte, Mexico to Tucson, Arizona, U.S.A.
Baja treated us to a phenomenal sunrise for our last day in Baja. The sky was smoldering in the distance while pelicans pounced on fish in the foreground. We all did some last minute soaking in of the Baja aura in the morning, and were on the road heading home by around 8:30 or so.
Right before leaving, we all got together and got the only pictures of all three of us together in Baja. In one of the pictures, Chuck's teeth were sticking out and he looked like a jackrabbit, which we all got a good laugh at. Later, under the guise of reviewing the pictures, he deleted that shot. Fortunately, I was able to recover it from my memory card . . .
We went right through Puertecitos and didn't stop until we got to San Felipe at around noon. We still had a long drive from San Felipe, so Chuck set a deadline of 45 minutes to eat, do some shopping, and hit the road again.
As we parked, Chuck noticed two guys looking closely at our trucks and was nervous about their intentions. I wasn't all that concerned, but had him point the two guys out so I could help him watch what they did as we walked away to find a place to eat. We were behind them as we walked to the main part of the shopping district until they turned and headed west. It seemed possible that they might circle around the block back to our trucks. As we walked along the rows of shops, we encountered quite a few left over spring breakers, mostly college boys with no shirts on and a lot bluster coming out of their mouths.
After roaming around a bit with no one really showing any great interest on making a definitive decision on where to eat, we finally just collectively gave up and went into the place we happened to be standing in front of at the time. I wasn't all that hungry, so just got a quesadilla while Marisa and Chuck got more substantial meals. As we sat there, I started thinking about the stuff in the back of my truck on top of my truck bed platform that, while not particularly valuable, wasn't very well secured. I figured that the last thing we needed was to run into trouble during our last hours in Baja, and since I didn't really want to do any shopping I decided to head back to our trucks right after I ate. Chuck and Marisa said they would head back once they were done eating, and do a little bit of shopping along the way.
When I got back to the trucks everything was just fine. I considered going back to wander around a bit, but figured Chuck and Marisa would be showing up anytime since Chuck wanted to be moving again soon, so just stayed put and did some people watching. In retrospect, I should have wandered off. Chuck and Marisa didn't get back to the trucks until after 1:15.
On our way out of San Felipe, we gassed up and sped north. The road from San Felipe to Mexicali was the only place in Baja where, despite speeding ourselves, we were passed by more cars than we passed ourselves. Indeed, it's the only place where we were passed at all that I recall. It was somewhat of a reintroduction into the land of non-Baja.
Once in Mexicali, we headed straight for the border crossing, then spent 45 minutes creeping forward trying to get back into the U.S. There were the usual hawkers of souvenirs plying the lanes of traffic hoping for a last-minute sale. As I watched them move through the cars, I couldn't help but noticed that many of them looked as though they had been completely used up. There was not a shred of hope left in them. It was a sad realization.
I had no interest in anything, and didn't have much money left anyway. I ended up getting rid of the last of my pesos on a guy who "washed" my truck, and a couple of charities, including the Mexican Red Cross. I also gave the truck washer a gallon of water. He looked like he really needed it. It turns out the money I gave the guy to wash my truck may have been well spent, as I would find out later.
While we crept along, we saw several Mexicans use a couple of techniques to scale the 20 foot or so high border wall and illegally enter the U.S. Each was within a hundred yards of the actual border station, and one was within 50 yards. Each appeared to make it to safety without getting caught. This farce of border security got both Chuck and I railing against Bush's inane border wall, which if it ever gets funded, will span the entire U.S./Mexico border. What a ridiculous waste of time, effort and money for the sake of a little ludicrous political pandering. If a middle-aged woman can clear the 20 foot wall within a stones throw of a hundred border patrol agents, how is the wall going to be even remotely effective out in the middle of some remote patch of desert somewhere?
The border wall makes me livid. It will do nothing but prevent wildlife from being able to move freely across a boundary that they don't know exists and could care less about. It certainly won't keep Mexicans or anyone else from getting into the U.S. illegally.
I have to say that the experience did give me a bit of hope though. If I'm ever traveling and lose my passport, now I know that all I have to do is make it to Mexico. I could then head to the nearest border crossing, hop the fence and run, and I'd be home free.
Chuck made it to the immigration officer before me, but he got singled out to go to secondary inspection. As I rolled up to the immigration officer in my lane, I feared I would be subjected to the same fate. The woman asked me the usual questions about fruit, what I'd bought, etc, to which I truthfully answered that I had no fruit and I had bought no souvenirs. She asked what was under the platform in my truck bed, and I said camping gear. She looked dubious, but didn't truly inspect anything and she let me go through without having to go to secondary, so I was out ahead of Chuck.
Now for why the money I spent to get my truck "washed" was well spent. Once in the U.S., Chuck related a story of a guy who tried to re-enter the U.S. and had a dirty truck. More than dirty, it was muddy. The border agent wouldn't let him cross the border because the mud was obviously some time of soil, and it's not allowed to bring soil across the border, so this guy had to go back to Mexico, find a place to get some cash (he'd spent all his pesos), then find a car wash before returning to the border. All of this took him many hours, because he had no idea where a bank was and even less about where a carwash was. There are other stories of people with dirty vehicles getting stopped for the same reason. It's not like my truck was a mud pit or anything, but I think it may have helped to have a shinier looking vehicle.
Chuck caught up to me a ways down I-8, and we caravanned to Yuma, where we got gas and dinner. We didn't waste any time there though, because we still had a lot of miles to cover. Our next stop was Gila Bend, where Marisa returned to riding with me, the cooler got moved back to my truck, and where we parted ways with Chuck as he went up to Phoenix and we headed down to Tucson. Marisa and I spent the rest of our journey home talking about this and that, and by around 10 o'clock that night, we were back at my house, unloading gear.
Partial Baja species list:
Cardón Barbón (Pachycereus pecten-aboriginum)
Cardón pelón (Pachycereus pringlei)
Magnificent frigatebird (Fregata Magnificens)
Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
Red-tailed hawk (Buteo jamaicensis)
Crested caracara (Caracara cheriway)
Yellow-crowned night-heron (Nyctanassa violacea)
Marbled godwit (Limosa Fedoa)
Willet (Catoptrophorus semipalmatus)
Snowy egret (Egretta thula)
White ibis (Eudocimus albus)
Reddish Egret (Egretta rufescens)
Little blue heron (Egretta caerulea)
Grey Whale (Eschrichtius robustus)
Blue-gray gnatcatcher (Polioptila caerulea)
Humboldt squid (Dosidicus gigas)
American oystercatcher (Haematopus palliatus)
Brown pelican (Pelecanus occidentalis)
Great blue heron (Ardea herodias)
Phainopepla (Phainopepla nitens)
Zebra-tailed lizard (Callisaurus draconoides)
Red Spotted Toad (Bufo punctatus)
Still haven't had enough Baja? Then check out Chuck's web report and photo galleries at: http://www.chucksweb.net/Trips/2007/BajaMar07/BajaIntroPage.html