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Friday, February 10, 2017

Tempting Fate? Ensenada, Mexico - Part 1



It’s New Year’s Eve, 1979. I’m here in Ensenada with my friend, Frank, trying to get into just the right amount of trouble before the big hair era of the 80’s begins.  We’ve been drinking our way northward on Avenida Lopez Mateos steadily and the hours are getting late.

We find ourselves at a bar that’s not my favorite but is the oldest and most famous here, Hussong’s.  After another strong shot of some forgotten cocktail, we wander outside onto Avenida Ruiz.


Hundreds of people are milling about and as we wander down the street, as if a light were flicked on, everybody starts fighting. Frank and I do not know what caused this, only that we don’t want to end up in jail or worse on this night due to rioting.

Ducking down the first side street we see, we find a quieter area, then down another side street where we see a half dozen policemen standing around a car, shining their flashlight inside where a dead body is sitting up in the back seat.

Welcome to  Baja…


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It’s been twenty six years since I’ve driven down to this port city. American tourism has suffered a great crash due to the news coverage of the drug wars going on in Mexico. In Ensenada itself, cartel violence hit when 18 people were murdered in El Sauzal, the small town just north of Ensenada, in 1998. 

It’s been 15 years since that nadir in the drug wars here. Although I’ve always felt safe traveling down here, the sensational news still gives one pause, incidents like the New Year’s Eve riot linger in the back of my mind, and some friends and relatives think I’m out of my mind to even think of a trip like this.

I’d be lying if I didn’t say there was some trepidation but after an hour on the road after crossing the border, I feel like I’m stepping back into a comfortable pair of old shoes. I almost feel at home and completely safe.

Frustration occurs when I try to book a wheelchair accessible room. I had called the San Nicolas, a nice hotel with old memories for me, and asked. They said their 30 inch doors were too narrow. When I said Tim’s chair was 26 inches wide, they said the bathroom door was too narrow. When I asked if someone could measure the door, the answer was “perhaps you’d be happier somewhere else.”

That went on with about a half dozen hotels before one finally said yes but they wanted me to send my credit card information via e-mail, which made me uncomfortable.  I had wanted to stay in the heart of town but finally decided on Estero Beach Resort, six miles south of downtown, because I know it’s nice and they were happy to provide an accessible room.


Fighting the local traffic in this town that has grown much in the last quarter century, I’m waiting to get south of town to where I know Estero Beach sits well past civilization. Past the Sam’s Club, the Wal Mart, the Home Depot, and even the Costco…Ensenada has come a long way.

I’m still waiting in this hectic drive to get out of town when I just see the sign…Estero Beach, turn right at next signal.  Wow…It used to sit out in the country…well south of town, now it’s right in town.

I make the turn and drive through a rough-hewn neighborhood with hotels that charge low rates for 3 hour blocks.  I get to the end, turn left, and there’s the arch to Estero Beach with its guard shack and barrier.

We get to the front office and registration. The manager asks if I’ve stayed here before. “Around thirty years ago,” I answer.


“I think you might notice a few changes,” he deadpans.

He says the room is accessible “only a couple of steps.” Really?  I can’t have one step I assure him.  He sends an assistant with me to the room (which is still a quarter mile drive away) to explore “options.”

We get to the parking lot, go up two ramps, and there’s the front door. “Where are the two steps?” I ask. There are none…the manager was just a bit confused, I guess.

The room itself is huge. Two queen beds in a 400 square foot space, large dresser, dining table and chairs, and great Mexican artwork.  Add in the large bathroom…which is accessible only in that a wheelchair can roll in and access everything (no grab bars or roll in showers here)…and the foyer/closet and you’ve got 500 square feet.


A floor to ceiling patio door window gives a great view of the ocean with a nice little patio outside with the most uncomfortable Adirondack chairs I’ve ever had the pleasure of sitting in.

Just a few feet outside of our room is a malecon, a seawall, which we can stroll along the bay. Tim and his chair have to detour around the building but it’s still not a long way. 


We explore the seafront of the resort and the fun looking free-form pool with the swim up bar. It’s way too cold for us (in the 40s and 50s) to think about taking a plunge but several kids staying at the resort are still in the heated waters.  It’s nice to know that there’s a ramped entrance into the water for another time when we can come when it’s warmer. No lift, but we can handle a ramp.


For now, our bright yellow pool access wristbands will just go to waste but others are not so easily swayed. About a half dozen kids make their presence in the pool known.


After a four hour drive from L.A. and unpacking, it’s over to La Terraza…the resort’s restaurant and bar…for dinner. We have some average margaritas, chips, and salsa along with some superior chile rellenos and deep fried tacos.

A relaxing walk along the malecon in front of our room, and then we retire to watch some scratchy Mexican TV and get a good night sleep before we explore the town tomorrow.

Stay tuned...




Darryl
Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

1 comment:

  1. I've downed a Margarita or two at Hussong's - they were only about a dollar when I was last there, about 10 years ago. Hope to get back there one day.

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