Monday, June 15, 2020

Now I Know Why I Don't Drive to Mexico: Ensenada, Mexico - Part 4

(Please read our Covid 19 Statement first - Ed)  Three days south of the border on the beach in Baja. Relaxing, relatively stress-free, soothing, and fun days. I’d better built up a reserve because I will need all of it on this last day.

Starting off the day with breakfast at La Terraza, the hotel’s restaurant and bar, we have another quite good dish of chilaquiles and eggs. Not quite as good as Garibaldi’s a couple of days ago…the hotel only uses one egg where Garibaldi’s gave us two…but still quite decent.

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Check out is smooth, one more wave to the entrance guard on the way out, and we’re on our way.

Driving by El Sauzal, the site of a notorious cartel execution 15 years ago, I’m reminded that in no way did I ever feel unsafe, worry, or feel the need to keep looking over my shoulder while we were here. The people were friendly and always ready to help.

Ensenada was like visiting an old friend from way back…you might have done some wild things together in the past but you’ve both grown up, can sit back over a drink, relax, and wonder how you two have got to this point in your life.

One thing about the drive from Ensenada to Tijuana, it's a lot like highway 1 in California. The road hugs the cliffs over  some of the most spectacular ocean scenery in the world. 

Traveling up the toll road, we stop at the last rest area just as we get into Tijuana and the border crossing. Fearing the worst in a Tijuana rest stop bathroom, my mind is put to east as I step into the spotless, marble Taj Mahal of a bathroom. Unlike many public restrooms down here, it is also free.

Rested and ready, we head into Tijuana proper where the highway abruptly ends in a detour sending us through several side streets in this not-attractive city.

The Customs and Border Service maintains border crossing times on their web site. The main crossing…the busiest in the world…shows a three hour wait. Otay Mesa, on the east side of the city shows a 45 minute wait. Tecate, another hour to the east, also shows a 45 minute wait.

Picture courtesy of Wikimedia
Francisco Santos under CC BY-SA 2.5 license

We thread our way along the border to Otay Mesa and park ourselves in the left lane of the regular crossing. There are also “Ready Lanes,” 8 of them, for holder of the RFID embedded passport cards (not us and everybody in the car has to have one) and one SENTRI lane for people who go through a background check to get a special card.

The lane crawls along but I can see the border not too far ahead. The Ready Lanes to my left keep whizzing by. An hour later, we’re halfway from where we started. So much for accuracy on the website.

Then, they close our lane and open it up to make another Ready Lane. This means I’ll have to merge into the lane to my right. In the one inch gap the driver there, who has been waiting over an hour too, has left to prevent people from merging in. They don’t know and probably don’t care that our lane has just been closed. They only know that all these cars to the left are suddenly trying to cut in front of them.

It’s heated. Tempers flare. I tell Letty to ask the driver next to us as nice as she can if they can let us in. “We’ll manage,” is his cryptic reply.

Another 20 minutes and there’s still a one inch gap. Letty looks back to the driver and shrugs her shoulders.  Finally, he waves us over. Only another half hour and we’re finally at the guard booth.

The border guards looks over our passports, goes into the back of the van, comes in the side door to see if Tim matches his passport, gives our van another stink eye before finally handing over our passports and waving us on.

Only two and a half hours. Probably would have been better to drive to Tecate.

The rain is starting up and the Southern California drivers are not handling the slick roads well.  Another three and a half hours and we’re home. Driving down? 4 hours. Driving home? 7.

I really like coming down here, it’s coming back that’s the nightmare. I’ve got to look into getting those passport cards.

With that, this great trip is over and we’ll spend some time recharging our travel batteries for next time.

Copyright 2013 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

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