Life in the desert

Now we settled into rancho life for another long haul. Committing a month to a place may not seem like a long time, but when you’re on the road, things are different.

I remember back to a time in the northern states of the US where for months on end we rarely stayed more than one night in any one spot. Now we are at the other end of the spectrum. Both are probably not how you would want to travel. It took us quite a while to settle into this lifestyle, and feel like we were ‘doing it right’. We bombed around a lot of America, constantly repeating that single terrible word, ‘deadline’.

When planning, not that we did much for this trip, a year seemed an age. A whole year, we said to each other. We’ll just park up for a few weeks here, a few weeks there and enjoy it. Then we realised that to complete our loop of northern America, we would need to be going into a new state at least every two weeks to make it. Suddenly, things seemed a little more hurried.

Then the reality came and we were here, driving around. Suddenly we had places to be. A concert to get to or Halloween plans, made us drive sometimes quicker than we would maybe have chosen. This was especially true of crossing the southwestern states, not only were we rushing to meet my parents in Las Vegas, but we were very aware of the amount of distance we had to cover without our alternator. This probably led us to blitz across quicker than we might have done otherwise.

From Vegas, we covered a lot of miles in the two weeks my parents stayed with us. Having reached San Francisco and deciding we now wanted to be in Arizona again, we completed another series of big drives before totally changing our minds in mid-January to head to Baja.

Baja was a breath of fresh air. For the first time since we arrived, we only had one fixed date in our calendar, and that was in July. We couldn’t really rush around too much as we needed to spend a minimum of five weeks down here in order to reset our visas. So we slowed down. We decided to try and claw back our Christmas credit card bill and drive on average an hour a day at most. We spent several nights in the same spot. We met a lot of people and were very sociable too. This was the perfect speed. We kept moving enough to see and experience things, but we didn’t feel obligated to drive a minimum of three hours a day. It felt like things were just about right and we saved a bunch of money too.

Then the Coronavirus hit and things as we know it changed rather dramatically. Instead of a few days in one spot, it was now a few weeks and that began to merge into months. The pace of life slowed dramatically. I have always been a busy kind of person, and now I have become someone who can fill a day with very little. I wonder how I ever managed to work a regular 9-5 job and be so productive. I guess it’s something I’ll relearn.

The point of all of this is, that for this first time really we can buy things online, as we know we’re going to be here. This led to a mad spate of amazon orders, and also to Lee getting a new phone. Very much due an upgrade, his phone was on its last legs. It hadn’t had an easy life.

As we still use our English contracts and don’t have much in the way of disposable income, it made sense to get an upgrade. Naturally, the English phone company weren’t really up for the idea of posting his new phone to Mexico, even when we offered to pay the postage. This left us with a brand new phone sitting at my parent’s house in England. Eventually, my dad managed to find us a courier that would transport a phone, even though it had arrived in the post apparently most companies did not post phones.

Fast forward one week later, to a hot rancho afternoon. I flick through my phone and see that someone has tagged me on the town’s Facebook group. After some time, it loads a picture of what I assume is the new phone with my name on the label.

Thanks to Facebook though, someone has managed to let me know what’s going on as apparently the courier can’t phone me. He also can’t deliver to the post office in town because there is an import fee to pay. Someone has helpfully given the number of the guy, so I have little choice but to phone him and try and arrange to meet him. Easy enough if you speak Spanish, which I don’t. Fortunately, I am learning and I just about manage to explain who I am and where I am. That bit’s kind of hard though, as I’m sure he’s not going to drive half an hour down a dirt road to deliver the phone, so we arrange to meet at the local petrol station in 20 minutes.

After throwing all our stuff around in a mad attempt to pack Ruby away very quickly, we are soon off. Driving down the increasingly bad washboard road much quicker than I would have chosen. As we reach Pescadero, the FedEx van is waiting for us in the petrol station, excellent. Now we just need to pay the import fee. Shouldn’t be a problem, but as we are rather unprepared for the situation we don’t have all that much cash. Certainly not £90 worth. Lee heads off to the nearest cashpoint and I do what all great British people do when we are stuck with people we don’t know. I talk about the weather, in very bad Spanish. The FedEx guy is a patient man and humours me for what feels like a small eternity. Then Lee is back with the money and we make our way back down to the campsite, new phone collected and at a rather more leisurely pace.

This particular washboard track is definitely not improving with the passage of time. When we arrived I remember it being a fairly decent road in, a couple of rough patches at the most. Now large sections are now heavily washboarded, go above 10mph if you hate your vehicle and your bones.

There was one day, in particular, we drove this particularly bumpy access track several times. Chico, who had now recovered from his nasty infected lump was due back at the vets. It was going to be official; he would be chipped, neutered and vaccinated. Now officially the property of Kerstin and Hanno. I went along for the ride and to go fill up our growler at the brewery and collect one of the many amazon orders that were waiting for me in town.

Having lent them Aimee’s bag, we dropped Chico off. Now we considered the time. It was around 10.30 am and it’s around a 15-20 minute drive back down the track and the vet said he would be ready at about 1 pm. The brewery doesn’t open until 2 pm and the post office until 4 pm. Figuring we didn’t have enough to do to kill 3 hours we went back to camp in the meantime.

A few hours later we headed back down towards Todos Santos. We filled our growlers, Hanno had now been given a ‘redneck growler’ by one of the owners Liz, which consists of a very big and now empty bottle of Bacardi.

We went to the shop for a few bits and bobs and with still no word from the vet, decided we should go and collect him anyway. This is a tad annoying as the vet is in Pescadero, about 15 minutes drive from Todos Santos. Very convenient if you are on the way home, but annoying if you need to get post. So we drove back to Pescadero, picked up an incredibly stoned Chico who was not particularly impressed by the situation. Then we dove back to Todos Santos.

We parked up outside the office and waited for 4 pm, only about an hour to go. 4 pm came and went. Several other people in search of post sat in the cars on the street waiting, with the occasional one going to check the door wasn’t open yet. About 45 minutes later, he opened in true Mexican style. Now with parcels and cat collected, we headed back towards Pescadero and home for the third time that day. Chico bumped along in the back still coming around from his anaesthetic, while we the knowing cat owners waiting for the familiar roid rage to come.

Sure enough, trying to put him on his harness brought out the anger and left Hanno with less skin than he previously owned. Leaving him to catsit, we had headed up the hill to water the plants at our hosts request. There are quite a lot of these and it takes a while, we were also dog sitting while Dane and Sabrina were out. Lee had been up there most of the day, and so fairly soon after he headed back. A few minutes later, Kerstin came over to where I was sitting and said she was headed down too, apparently, Chico had escaped and was nowhere to be seen. He was not normally a cat you would worry about letting out, but in his current drugged up condition, things were a little different.

I stayed up there a while until Dane and Sabrina returned. We had a beer and watched the sunset and then they packed up and headed back down to their rented place in Pescadero, while I closed the gate behind them. Equipped with some more sourdough starter for Hanno, I made my way back down the hill.

I had messaged earlier to ask if Chico had been found, but dodgy internet had meant no one had replied. I walked back into came and saw him by the van. “Oh good, you found him!” I exclaimed rather enthusiastically. Dane’s rather strong weed quite possibly having an effect. Lee and Kerstin were quick to shush me, this was the first time he had put in an appearance in hours and my loud entrance was not welcomed. Fortunately, Chico didn’t seem bothered. Now not the highest person in the camp, he was a little miffed with his new parents for putting him through that experience, but no doubt all would be forgiven in the morning.

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