Mexico 2 - Mazatlan to San Diego to Seattle

Mexico Day 4
Monday, 25th of February, 2013

Ok, its morning, and I'm on a mission, so will keep this short, Si? :)

Last night, I decided I'd cut my time short here in Mazatlan, and get closer to home.

There is a ferry that crosses from Mazatlan to La Paz, over on the Baja Peninnsula. From there, its about a 24 hour trip up to Tijuana, and then I'll Amtrak on up to Seattle. But I might break that up a bit. If I do get up to Wenatchee too soon to ride the motorcycle, I do have some maintenance that needs to be done before I hit the road.

I have to remind myself that just because its warm here, its not warm up north yet!

Anyway, its nice here, now, so gonna go take some pictures. Stay Tuned!


Ok, back again.

After I posted the above on the previous entry, I had planned to go for a walk, take lots of pictures, and make something of the morning.

Didn't happen!

I guess I still needed some down time, so I just kicked back, surfed the internet a bit, and relaxed.

About noon I checked out of the hotel, and as I was walking out the front door to the street, a golf cart taxi stopped in front of me. Cool, that saves finding a taxi! I told him I needed the Baja Ferry, no problem, he drove me straight there.

There was a bit of a line waiting to buy the ticket for the ferry, but eventually I was able to buy my ticket, for 1078 peso / ~$90 US dollars. By 12:30 I was waiting to board, boarding didnt' start till 2pm, so I grabbed a hamburger and chilled a bit. I know, it seems kind of weird to eat a burger in Mexico, should have at least bought a taco right??

As I was waiting to board the ferry, I'm mentally counting my remaining cash. Not sure if I'll have enough to get up to Seattle / Wenatchee or not, will be close!

Now on board the ferry. There are cabins, but I didn't want to pay extra for that. There is also a nice big room with some airline type seats that look really comfortable. Those were first come first serve, based on when you bought the ticket. Note for next time, buy the ticket a few days before you sail, not a couple hours before you sail. Good to know!

The remaining option for where to stay is in the cafeteria. There are tables and normal chairs. That's where I'll be spending the time. Not so posh, but at least not outside all night!

Watched a few movies in the cafeteria. They have multiple flat screen tvs all playing the same movie, between the lounge and the cafeteria. At least they got that set up good! Helps pass the time. The movies ran until at least midnight. I eventually got over into a darker corner of the cafeteria, and pulled 3 chairs together, layed down and slept a bit through the night. Not the best, but I've done worse!

By 6am (might be 5am, not sure if / when time change was) I'm awake again. Another hour, by 7am, I can start to see the waves through the window. Around 7:30 they start serving in the cafeteria, so I get a coffee and a muffin. Then around 8am, they serve a full breakfast. There were 2 meals included with the ticket price, so we ate the meals for free, but paid for our drinks, and of course the snacks were extra.

At around noon we are docked in La Paz, so the crossing was about 20 hours. I've read it can be quicker, but there are sometimes rough seas so they slow down. It was kind of rough last night, I remember bouncing around a few times.

I caught a taxi right from the ferry terminal to the Tourist Bus Terminal in La Paz, which cost me 300 Peso ($25) That's the most expensive taxi I've taken on this trip, but it was a pretty long ride, so I don't think it was out of line. It was more than I had expected though.

At the terminal I booked my ticket right away, then had some time to relax. The bus ticket was 1740 Peso / $145 US Dollars, and it will take me all the way to Tijuana. The bus doesn't leave until 8pm (20:00 hours). The terminal is right across the street from a park right on the water, so I spent the next few hours sitting on the sea wall, watching the waves and boats. Perfect day, nice and warm, sunny. Since I was saving my pesos now, I ate a can of tuna and drank some of my water I'd been carrying for a while. And I remembered I had half a bag of potato chip (crumbs!) in my bag somewhere, so life was good!

Sitting on the sea wall, the warm breeze, the salt smell, the sun. I so need this. No matter what, this is the life I need to be living. Nice...

By 8pm we were boarded and the bus was rolling. The tickets dont usually say when we'll arrive at a destination, but I'm guessing around 24 hours. Time to sit back and enjoy the ride.

There was a bit of confusion on my part at the terminal. The ticket says I'm going to the ABC Terminal in Tijuana. There were a few ABC buses around the terminal, so I just assumed I'd be taking an ABC bus. But by 8pm, I didn't see any more of them. Hmmm I just picked a bus that seemed to be boarding near 8pm, and showed the driver my ticket, he seemed to think I was in the right place, so ok then! Still, I guess I should learn Spanish for the next time, at least a little bit!

For the last bus trip in Mexico, I'm on an Aguila company bus. I'm sensing there is less money in this part of Mexico. Mexico City, Mazatlan, and the south part I traveled through seemed a lot more wealthy. This bus, and also the roads in Baja aren't as nice as what I've gotten used to. Its not horrible, but it just seems a little bit more run down.

Wednesday, 27th of February, 2013
I slept through until about 5am or so, so maybe 7 good hours of sleep. Bus seat way WAY better than the 3 chairs in the ferry cafeteria!

At about 6am thre was a Mexican Army checkpoint. As I've said before, the Mexican Army guys I'm seeing are very professional, polite, and thorough. They are actually quite soft spoken, they do not use intimidation tactics, although there are still some of them with assault rifles and there are usually some areas with sand bags or concrete barriers that they could get to if the shooting starts, they seem to be going out of their way to be nice.

Note to self. Do NOT smuggle guns or drugs or weapons in Mexico. I don't think this would be a good place to experiment with human rights.


Ok, hope this doesn't get too confusing (this is still Wednesday the 27th, ok?)

Counting backwards, as I remember the details, the rest of the day goes something like this (Sometimes its too difficult to write things down as they happen!)

Its about 11pm "now". (would have been midnight, but I set my clock back).
I bought my Amtrak ticet at the Santa Fe Station at about 10:15pm. I got there by riding the San Diego Red Trolley from the Tijuana boarder, right into downtown San Diego. Think the trolley was only $2.50, so an amazing bargain.

I got to the Tijuana boarder by Taxi, which took me from the bus terminal to the border for 160 peso, or about $13 US dollars. Of note there, when leaving the bus terminal, they have an attendant that asks where you want to go, and you pay for the taxi at a little booth. They give you a ticket, which the driver then takes, and that's it. Pretty simple, and it seemed less like I was going to get over charged.

Prior to the taxi, I decided I'd eat at the bus terminal, because I hadn't eaten hardly at all, all day. I was almost out of pesos. So I found an ATM at the terminal, took out 500 pesos ($40 US Dollars), and ate a hoggie sandwich and a coke. While sitting there, I discovered a free wifi signal, so did a quick email check. The sandwhich was soo good, I had another one. Now feeling more human, I went for the taxi, to the border, but you already read that part!

At the US Border, the crossing went really well. The Taxi drops me about a block from the border. There are signs and a walkway that's fairly well lighted. The US Customs guy asked a few questions, didn't really hassle me at all, and never even looked at my bag. I suspect being Canadian, and saying I worked on an orphanage, might be less scary than saying I was somewhere in Central America, and being vague about where and for now long.

A quick walk through the border, and I jumped on the Trolley to down town.

At this point, I feel like I can kind of relax. I have paid for my ticket to Seattle, so I'm basically ok now. I'll end up staying the evening in a 24 hour Subway sandwich place.

Thursday, 28th of February, 2013
I stayed awake all night last night, drinking coffee, eating a cinamon roll, and eventually a foot long sandwich at the Subway. About 5am I left there and went walking some more. Got some great pictures of some of the Navy memorials down along the harbor area, next to where the USS Midway museum is.

I had planned to get an all day Trolley transit pass ($5 for unlimited all day riding) but stopped at the Starbucks for a break. I had my laptop out, was drinking my coffee, just living the good life. The Starbucks is across the street from the train station. Anyway, I'm sitting there, and decide I'd look again to see if my tax return had posted yet... oh JOY, it DID... YIPEE!

Now what. Wow, Now I'm in San Diego, and I have money. I don't have to sleep on the beach this time... ok, calm myself, do some quick notes, finish my coffee, just as my laptop dies. Oh. Well, ok :)

First stop, go to the Amtrak station, and get my ticket changed, so rather than leaving Friday morning, now I'm leaving Monday morning. No problem, they didn't even charge me an admin fee. Perfect!

Next step, walk a couple blocks to the Holiday Inn on the Bay, which is right across from the Star of India (big black sail ship) and also where the Cruise Ships dock. It cost a lot to stay there, so I only stayed one night. Then once the laptop had charged, I did some more looking, and decided a few extra blocks from down town, at the Motel 6, for about 1/3rd the price, made more sense! So I moved.

But while at the Holiday Inn, I finally got to meet my friend Lisa. Lisa and I go back like 4 years or something. We only knew each other through Twitter and email. I always knew eventually I'd get to San Diego, so we kept in touch. So we found a comfy couch in the hotel lobby and talked a few hours. It was nice, and a bit weird, to be able to actually talk to someone in person after that long of email only. We'd never even talked on the phone I guess.

Over the next few days, I kept myself busy with seeing the sights.

I went to the USS Midway Museum. The Midway is an old aircraft carrier, so the museum is pretty awesome. They have lotsl of the US Navy aircraft on display, and very few ropes in the way. Some of them are open so you can walk through them, etc. Of special note, one of the helicopters that I worked on while I was on Guam is there. Not just the same model. Its the same serial number, so an actual helicopter that I worked on, is there. Plus, there are all of the other types of aircraft that I've worked on in my time in the Navy. So there was an A-4, an A-6, an A-7, F-18, F-14, and the H-46 helo from Guam. All in one place, so how cool is that?

After the museum, I got on a water taxi that goes from the harbor piers at down town, and goes over to Coronado island. I think that was only $5 each way, so a quick way to get some great pictures. It was about a mile walk from the water taxi dock, over to the Del Coronado Hotel, which is on the opposite beach. I spent a couple hours walking and sitting on the beach, then walked back for the return water taxi. The Coronado beach is one I went to quite often when I was stationed on North Island, so it just seemed like a good one to go to.

The next day I walked over to Balboa park. There is an Air and Space museum there, and also an Automotive museum too. After the Midway museum, I think the Air and Space museum was a bit redundant. I've been to the Boeing Museum of Flight in Seattle, which I liked a lot better. I think the reason I don't like this one, in San Diego, is the lighting is horrible. Its not too bad for just looking, but for photography, it was a real challenge. But they had some great displays, so I took lots of pictures.

The automotive museum, which is almost right next door, has some great cars, and especially some old motorcycles. Lots of pictures of that place. There is one car that I just have to describe. It was an older Cadillac, that the guy had modified to be driven long distances without stopping. For example, it had a trailer that it pulled, which held 250 gallons of gas. The car has jacks installed so the crew can change tires without stopping the car. It drove from San Diego, to New York City, and back, non stop. They would have fuel trucks refilling the trailer, think they did that several times during the drive.

The last night, Sunday, I had decided I was going to get to bed early, because I wanted to wake up at 4am. The train was to leave at 6am. As is often the case, when I really need to go to bed early, I can find lots of things to keep me awake. I think I finally settled down and went to sleep around 2am. Maybe 2:30am. So not a lot of sleep there!

Monday, the 4th of March, had me springing out of bed at 4am. Not recommended, but at least I didn't over sleep!

Quick shower, through my gear together, and I checked out by 5am, and had a taxi ride to the Santa Fe terminal. Technically I could have walked if needed, but with about 50 pounds of gear, the taxi seemed like a good idea.

By 6:05 (the scheduled departure time) we were all loaded onboard, and wheels were rolling. I checked my big bag this time, and had a new back pack with my snacks, laptop, and other odds and ends to store in the over head compartment.

Its about 3 hours from San Diego up to Los Angeles, where I changed trains at the terminal. It was about an hour layover.

The trains (both from San Diego, and the second one from LA on north) kind of zig zag a bit, there are some areas where you are right on the coast, watching the waves. Its just stunning.

We don't follow I-5, most of the time, so much of the scenery I saw was new. I had thought of turning on my GPS to keep track of where I was, but mostly didn't worry about it!

When in San Diego I bought a cheap smart phone, that can create its own WiFi hot spot. That means I can surf the internet on my laptop, using the cell phone,and I don't even have to hook up a wire. I know, that has been possible for a few years now, but my other phone didn't do it. And as an added bonus, the phone I got is a prepay plan, only, no monthly contract. So when I get back to Canada, or where ever I end up, I won't worry about this phone.

It was quite fun to be able to surf the internet, go on Facebook, and even upload pictures to my blog, all the while riding on the train. Wasn't always working, since the train sometimes doesn't follow the highways, but any time I noticed we were coming into a town, I'd get some more stuff done.

Trains are more fun when you have a little bit of money. I rode this train once before, on a trip where I was almost completely broke, and that kind of sucked. This time, I was able to eat meals in the dining car. The food is good, (not super fancy, but I liked it), not horribly expensive, considering its on a train. And it was nice to get out of my seat and go for a walk to the dining car. The way it is on this train, at least, before they start serving, one of the staff will walk through the cars and take reservations. So by the time they get back to my car, my meals were usually the later ones. Not a big deal though, as we didn't feel rushed to eat and get out so the next people could sit down.

I quite enjoyed getting to know some of the other travellers. I think talking to other travellers is easier, because we're all going somewhere, and we all have stories. I find it difficult to talk to "non travellers", they tend to be kind of boring!

I think the total ride time will be something like 36 hours, something like that, from San Diego to Seattle. I'm actually thinking of getting off in Tacoma, since I have friends there. I just talked to one of the staff, and at first he said that wouldn't be a problem, except my one bag is checked, and they may not be able to get it fast enough. So we'll see how that turns out!

If that all fails, I might just go to Seattle anyway!

That's about it for now!

As of this time, we have crossed the Columbia river, and are in Washington state. Its now 4:40 pm on Tuesday, the 5th of March.

By Carlin Comm posted on 2013-03-5