The Skinny On Driving The Baja

Speed run went pretty smoothly

My wife & I drove up the peninsula from Cabo to California and back again in 2 weeks flat. The speed run was actually really nice and we had no problems.

The trip really got under way as we were waiting on a week day to cross into the United States for more than three hours. I always get in the wrong line no matter what!! As we pulled up to the U.S.  immigration officer he asked if we were U.S. citizens and I replied of course as I handed him our passports, he then asked if I were a California resident and why wasn’t my truck registered with California plates? (I have South Dakota plates). I informed him that we had a vacation home in Cabo San Lucas and leave our truck there most of the year. He then replied that I need to have California plates if I live in California and became rather belligerent about the whole matter and furthermore, the immigration has the right to refuse entry based on the license plates and my truck could be confiscated, so how about them apples? Well, he actually didn’t say that last part. Apples were not mentioned.

I replied that I was under the impression license plates are the concern of the California highway patrol and local police and not immigration officials.  After some back and forth on the matter he let us enter the U.S.

On the return trip we passed through the new border crossing at Tijuana and entered the nothing to declare line. The Migra officer took one look at my truck and asked us to pull over and as she opened the back window to my camper she immediately told us that they would have to pass my truck through the X ray machine. This was new to me, but I pulled into the X ray line. We were told to exit the truck and wait outside in a corner area where you cannot see your vehicle, making me a bit apprehensive.  It only took a few minutes and everyone was really nice and we were allowed into Mexico.

The new bridge to the toll road was not yet finished and I had heard horror stories of everyone getting lost trying to follow the poorly signed detour, but it is really easy as you just stay over toward the left and follow the signs to “Centro/ Zona Rio” then continue up the ramp and follow the signs to “Paseo De Los Hereos / Centro” then stay in the far right lane and take the ramp to “Playa de Tijuana/ MEX 1 Rosarito Cuota”. Of course you have to know all those streets or you wouldn’t know where to go or where you are. Just hope the detour is over with before you have to drive south across the border. That would be your best plan.

Continuing south, there is quite a lot of road repair going on right now, (I don’t know why they start at the beginning of the rainy season?)

There is new road repaving between Maneadero and Santa Tomas so you are required to shift over to dirt side roads for just a few kilometers.

Next section for caution is north and south of Catavina with lots of potholes so watch your speed, be kind to your tires.

There is also paving repair going on just south of Ciudad Constitucion.

But the worst construction is making a mess just north of La Paz for only a few kilometers. The problem is the side road is in terrible condition so again, watch your speed.

All the military check points were easy going with no problems. The young soldiers are always pleasant.

I always stop and top off my tank at every large city just to break up the trip even though I still carry an extra diesel and water can just in case. Not everyone does this, as evidenced by the roadside entrepreneurs who will sell a few gallons out of a 55gallon drum resting on the bed of their pickups. We say a few gallons, because when you see the price of their delivered merchandise you will only buy enough to get you to the first Pemex. Our dad told us it was just as easy to drive on the top half of the tank as the bottom half.  Didn’t everyone’s dad tell their kids that? Apparently not, or these business men would not have a business.

Just a note about a new hotel I hadn’t seen before. A nice surprise, it was in Guerrero Negro just as you come into town. No, I don’t know the name, I It’s on the right hand side just as you turn off the highway, and has brand new large rooms and is very inexpensive. It’s a nice change from all the old hotels in that town.

And this pretty much covers my travelogue. If you’re planning a trip either south or going north, keep yourself posted on the weather forecast as there are lots of pop up storms that can wreak havoc on the roads, river bed crossings, and especially on all the dirt side roads you need to take during the road constructions.

Gary Kaufman owns and operates  Los Cabos Home Inspectionss.