27. MEXICO, Baja California, San Ignacio

We are in sunny Baja, generally heading south but not sure if we want to go all the way down to the southern tip of it. About half way, there’s a port town (Santa Rosalia) so might just jump onto a ferry and sail over to the mainland (shipping is also cheaper from here than from La Paz) But we have time to figure that out. There are a few things we want to see around here so definitely sticking around for a few more days.

On our 3rd day in Mexico, driving south from San Felipe (nothing much happened in San Felipe) towards Mex 1 was about 55 km nasty, rough road where we ended up with a punctured diesel tank. Now, that’s what definitely no one wants.
The first hundred or so Km of the road from San Felipe is beautifully paved (everyone said it’s rough all the way) So we had a great time enjoying the posh, smooth tarmac road, wild-camping on the beach at a couple of lovely places.

Baja California May 2013

Baja California
May 2013

Then we learnt that the last 55 or so km isn’t paved so that morning we let the tyres down by almost half to soften the impact of the road and moved on.

We saw a car by the side of the road and we stopped to asked if they needed help then realising that actually we were the ones needing help. John hopped out of the cab and immediately noticed the leak soaking the dry desert ground with horrible diesel oil. We spent the following 3 hours in the bleaching sun pumping the diesel out from this tank to our container tank so at least saved the pricey fuel.

Diesel pumping.

Diesel pumping.

When we were done, we cleaned up the mess as much as we could and heavy heartedly moved on, knowing that there’s still another 10K of this road. Surely, we know there are plenty of this kind of roads in Central-South America and Burt has been built to take the rough impact on these roads but after this experience we weren’t exactly in the “off roading” mood.

We finally reached the paved Mex1 highway, inflated our tyres and headed to Bahia de Los Angeles a small town where we heard there’s a mechanic who might be able to help with our tank. Bahia de L.A. is in a bay of turquoise water and with countless islands around it. It was pretty and felt good to see this beauty. Actually the road was very beautiful too with unusual, desert plants, cactuses, yuccas shining in various desert-colours in the sunset.

Desert view. Baja California May 2013

Desert view.
Baja California
May 2013

Once in town, we bumped into the same family+friend (Mark, Mary 2 kids, 2 dogs and friend Mark) for the 4th time. We had, once more, another good chat, a few tacos and a couple of beers with them, filled them up with drinking water, for return they suggested some great places to visit and for the 4th time, we said our goodbyes.
We found the suggested mechanic but he couldn’t (or didn’t want to) help so we moved on to find our spot for the night. Emotionally (also bit physically) drained we found our camp spot for the night (A little hippy-ish Campsite: Daggett’s Beach Camping) As we’re dry camping they let us park wherever we wanted (which is always right on the beach) + Johnny negotiated a bargain $10 for the night. (he still thought it was too much :)) We had a horrendously wind-storm throughout the night keeping us awake. I thought we’re going to end up in the water!
But we didn’t. After, finally a couple of hours sleep in the morning, as nothing happened, the calm water, the blue sky, sparkling sunshine and a few squabbling seagulls greeted us. The only reminder of the storm was the sand and dust that covered absolutely everything inside Burt that we tried cleaning up -almost impossible. We had more understanding for fellow travellers in the African desert. After our morning coffee we headed off keeping the broken tank in mind. How could we forget about that…

We were heading to San Ignacio (recommendation of Mark’s) a small midland town, an oasis in the desert that has a freshwater lake with lush date palms and a Mission church that’s apparently a must see.
After a good 6 hours drive (and a bit of a dramatic Mex1 experience involving a huge 40 tonne truck lying on its side across the highway -no one was hurt) we were only an hour away from San Ignacio driving through a small community, John had a good vibe about the place regarding to fixing our diesel tanks…. We pulled up at a run-by-father+son (+1 handy guy) workshop at about 4pm to ask if this is something they could fix, arranging a day and time etc. Of course there are language barriers but it’s amazing how one can actually have a conversation with anyone, anywhere in the world and generally understand pretty much everything. Anyhow this was one of those scenarios, Johnny couldn’t even finish the sentence the guy, Jose, was already under the truck unscrewing the tank bracket. Looking at John’s face…. I mean he’s built Burt with his bare hands, sweat and blood, it was his baby and now there’s someone unscrewing things, and disconnecting the fuel lines and all!! The concern on his face was….. priceless.
In no time the damaged tank was off. Turned out the three of them (Jose, Jose and Jose) were excellent thinkers and pretty creative to solve any issues throughout the whole process. This really suits how John operates so we can say it was a good match. Although John got himself involved just to make sure things were done his way (which is always a proper good way) Approx 3 hours in, by the time this tank was fixed and they moved on to the 2nd tank, (we wanted to strengthen this one too before disaster happens here as well) we were sitting around practicing our Spanish, their English, drinking a couple of cold Mexican beers and joke around, while the work was still progressing. And I think that suited their way of working. Even that Johnny’s got his hands dirty also made sure our super-duper aircraft glue was used to fix bits they didn’t mind his input at all -in fact I think they learnt a couple of tricks too.

The 3 Amigos; Jose, Jose and Jose.

The 3 Amigos; Jose, Jose and Jose (and their friend)

By 8pm both tanks were fixed and done. Hurrah! And we just had enough time to move on and get to San Ignacio before dark. Although the nice Tres Joses offered to park up at their workshop if we needed to. This was very nice of them but we were so close to our destination so after settling the deal we thanked their help and offer and we moved on.

By 9pm we were sitting on the patio of the restaurant of our RV park, enjoying a couple of nice cold beers, some fish tacos and listening to an amusing conversation about ice cream of folks from Birmingham (first time in 6 months hearing English people!)

In the next day or so we’ll be going to Santa Rosalia where there’s a port to find out prices and ferry time so we can make a decision to ferry over to the mainland or drive back up.


26. CALIFORNIA -Joshua Tree

Wow. Where do I start…?

OK, here we go; Joshua Tree is one and only place in Johnny’s world that has ever got the title “my favourite place on Earth” Now, Johnny doesn’t give these titles easily, the place has to earn it. (He’s been here 5 years ago for a few weeks, climbing, hiking and such so had a solid foundation of his statement)

We’ve been scooting around in the state for over 3 months and been to really great places and met wonderful people. We meant to cross the border for Mexico probably 2-3 weeks ago but we always thought we had to go to Joshua Tree before we leave the country and I guess, also conveniently as being right south, we wanted to leave the best for last 🙂

But before I get to telling you about Joshua Tree, here’s something life brought to us (again). We travelled across this area back in March (on our way to Arizona) so we knew a good spot for the night (BLM land along Hwy 274 south of Barstow), and a sweet little cafe (Cafe 274 in Lucerne) for breakfast before we get to Joshua Tree. In the morning we set off and headed to Cafe 274 for a homemade breakfast and coffee. Here we bumped in to the same man, Ray who we met back in March and thoroughly enjoyed his company. With a big cheer, we greeted each other as old friends and he sat down at our table. Ray is really a ray of sunshine in anyone’s life. He is a very good-hearted man with a kind smile and the most optimistic belief in life. He rescues horses’ lives from places where they’ve been badly treated or neglected. He runs his own business from his own strength and support on a land where water and vegetation is seldom but this old cowboy lives and breaths horses and this morning he just lost one. Through his kind smile we saw his long term fatigue pain and we let him talk. His positive view on life shone through the conversations and we were just happy sitting there and listening to him for a couple of hours. For some reason, we bumped in to Ray twice, though we only had a chance to enjoy his company for a short time on both occasions, he sure touched our hearts. After this pleasant two hours he said goodbye and drove off in his old Bronco.

Betti and Ray Lucerne, CA May 2013

Betti and Ray
Lucerne, CA
May 2013

We moved on as well after breakfast (which was more like lunch) and reached Joshua Tree in the mid afternoon hours.
Johnny found a pretty good sounding RV park in Joshua Tree (the town) We had some domestic duties (cleaning, washing sheets, filling up with water and stuff) so a couple of nights in an RV park is in order. Besides it really sounded brilliant -Peaceful sites, Mojave desert night sky, water, lake, ducks, facilities in good condition etc (Joshua Tree Lake RV Park) And on our arrival, everything was as promised + friendly owners. There were 3-4 RV’s already parked up there but the site was huge and we tucked ourselves away in the far corner so it was peaceful and quiet. We planned to stay a couple of nights here then one or two nights in the National Park then head south to the border.
On our first day, after being busy with cleaning and tidying I left Johnny touch up a few things on Burt while I went to hang out by the lake for a few hours. Just chilling out with the ducks.

my guarding ducks Joshua Tree, CA May 2013

my guarding ducks
Joshua Tree, CA
May 2013

Later that evening John said that we had a visitor earlier, Bill -one of our neighbours, and he will pop over for a beer soon. And there he was, Bill From The Ville, with a larger than life personality, with energy of a golden retriever and with huge appetite for LIFE. He absolutely loved Burt -that was the thing attracted him in the first place, though not having much sense or interest in the mechanical background of the vehicle, it was actually a fresh breeze of air for a change not to explain and get into endless technical details (no offense :)) Bill had a wonderful sense of humour, a deep interest in us as humans, a generosity to share part of his life’s stories and a pair of eagle eyes for a photographer/ documentary filmmaker.
Bill is from Kentucky and is here to document the 11th Joshua Tree Music Festival that his childhood friend organises right here at this lovely spot in the Mojave Desert in about 10 days time. This year he came 2 weeks early to make sure he had good “making of” shots setting it up, and was staying in a “borrowed” RV. As a man from Kentucky in the Mojave, he had amusing stories about this experience such as; one windy night his RV was rocking so bad he rather spent the night sleeping in the men’s loo sitting upright on a camping chair!

He told us about the festival and about the people involved who are organising, designing and setting it up with such love and enthusiasm. He happened to mention that they could do with some help and they welcome volunteers. I could see the twinkles in John’s eyes who said “well we have tools, Betti likes painting, we also have a couple of days to spare so we could offer help…

And we did. OK, it wasn’t such a straightforward decision (we thought my visa was running out and have only a few days but that’s just one reason) Johnny and I love discussing everything, analysing, discussing more, sleep-on-it, and talk it over again. As almost everything in our lives this topic was like that too. “Shall we do this or shall we just move on as planned?” One minute we felt this way, the next that way. Some point I felt moving on and John the opposite then the other way round.

Before everything, as we planned already for the following day, after Bill’s visit we scooted into the Joshua Tree Park for hiking, climbing and general chilling. We found a sweet little spot in the furthest campground. The park, the trees, the boulder rocks, altogether the view and atmosphere was spectacular.

JT National Park, CA May 2013

JT National Park, CA
May 2013

JT National Park, CA May 2013

JT National Park, CA
May 2013

We love the desert plants. JT National Park, CA May 2013

We love the desert plants.
JT National Park, CA
May 2013

After a day hike we returned to our spot and found that we weren’t alone anymore. On one side we had a cheerful couple of families who we ended up sharing the campfire with and on the other side was a bunch of college kids arriving around midnight when as far as they concerned the start of the party time was and didn’t stop till laaaaaate…
Anyhow the following day we turned up at the work-in-progress festival site, introduced ourselves to Barnett (the main guy) and immediately we had duties.

Bill, John and Barnett

Bill, John and Barnett



We loved being involved and being busy, productive, helpful and all. It felt good. Johnny and I thought “let’s take this day by day, then we can decide if we still want to stick around for the actual festival” It is an experience itself just to get involved and we were already making friends which was fun. From this point, taking each day as a new decision saying each evening “Let’s turn up for 9AM and see if they still need us, if not we just move on” And each day was followed by another 9AM start. 6 days later we were offered 2 free tickets and a prime camp spot backstage in the hub of the organisers and all the new friends.
And guess what… the night before the festival, John and I were sitting in Burt at the supermarket’s carpark discussing if we should stay!! Eeeer…. how much signs and arrows pointing at the obvious direction did we need???

Finally John said “Something great is going to come out of this” I felt he was right. He turned the engine on and we made a left back to the festival site.

When we arrived at backstage taking our spot a huge cheer greeted us from Gareth, Chris, Travis, Al, Kali, Barnett, Lynn, Sarah and people who we didn’t even know but they heard about us. From that moment on we were part of the gang and as Bill said “and this, my friend, is the MOJAVE MAGIC

One of our finest decisions yet. Eventually I checked my passport, my visa was good for another month. We decided to stay for the tear-down and an extra 3 days with some of the guys who also weren’t in a rush so had some quality time with our new friends.
We came away from this experience with 2 things. 1; trusting our hearts, knowing it only brings GOOD. And 2; Friendships for LIFE.

Thanks Bill.

Bill Stark

Bill Stark