March 17, 2008 – Totonaka RV Park, San Carlos, Sonora, Mexico

I awoke around 6 am, and the boat cabin felt like the inside of a deep freeze, which wasn’t surprising, given the 32 degree inside temperature. Outside, the boat and truck were pebbled with frozen rain droplets. The mountains to the southeast were blanketed with snow almost to their base.

We fired up the heater/stove and had coffee and cereal in the slowly warming cabin. Then I hitched up and we proceeded toward the border. There was a long line of vehicles cued up on the Mexican side of the border, waiting to reenter the US. As for us, we just drove on across the border without even so much as stopping. About 18 miles beyond, we reached the expected stopping area, where we obtained our tourist permits and boat importation permit. The lines were almost non-existent, and the officials were very friendly and helpful. Some spoke good English, and some rather broken English, but we were well prepared with our documents and copies, and it went well.

We then headed south on Sonoran Highway 15. This is a divided 4 lane highway, which, for the most part, has a good driving surface. It’s a bit chuckholed in a few stretches, but nothing like I-5 in Southern California. The most noteworthy thing about this highway is its shoulders, or rather, lack thereof. Along most stretches, there is about a 6 inch drop from pavement to dirt, and then the dirt road base slopes down at a 45 degree slope for about 10 feet. Even though much of the road travels along level terrain, the whole thing seems like mountain driving, with severe consequences if you ever dropped a wheel over the fog line. In the small towns along the way, sharply pitched speed bumps cross the highway. Anything over 5 mph there would be disastrous.

The sides of the road are heavily littered, especially in the vicinity of towns. They do have litter barrels at regular intervals, however most are impossible to safely access, due to the lack of shoulders or turnouts. This doesn’t discourage their use, however, since each one has accumulated a great heap of trash, strewn about around its base. My best guess is that the barrels are used as targets, with trash being thrown out as cars drive by. The barrels are mounted on welded frames, and are suspended above the ground. Those that are on turnouts have just as much trash lying around them, and I never saw one overflowing at the top. My best guess is that these barrels lack bottoms, and are used like basketball nets. The trash must be tossed in, and then fall out the bottom. We did see a couple of litter cleanup crews, working along the side of the road. By the looks of things, they are guaranteed an ample supply of work well into the future.

We saw a few Federales, and one military checkpoint on the northbound lanes. One car was freshly off the road on our side, with emergency lights flashing, but there was no way I could stop, given the curving location and lack of shoulder. This is a toll road, with 3 toll plazas along the way, which cost us about $7.50 per stop. Roadside shrines occur regularly alongside the route, perhaps marking spots where unfortunate drivers paid the ultimate toll. I worried about getting a flat tire, since it would be impossible to safely stop for many miles, in most places. However, we experienced no problems at all. No flats, no traffic tickets, no wrong turns, and not even a close call.

Nonetheless, we were glad to finally reach San Carlos, around 4:30 pm. The temperature had reached a high in the upper 60’s, and a brisk wind was coming in from the west. We stopped to fill the boat’s gas tanks at a Pemex station outside town, and then drove over to the marina. By time we got there, they had closed for the day. I met a guy named Peter, who teaches Spanish, and he showed me where things were. He has a friend with secure parking, and he thought his friend could give us a better deal than the marina’s parking. We plan to come back tomorrow morning to launch the boat and get set up. We will stay the night in a slip, if they can accommodate us. We then drove back through town to an RV park we saw in the drive in. We are registered there for tonight. It’s a nice place, very clean and located just across the road from the Sea of Cortez.

Once the boat was unhitched and leveled, we walked out to the highway, in search of dinner. We walked by a promising place with a great view of the sea. They had a great steak and shrimp special, with free margerita. A couple of employees standing there by their chalkboard sign invited us in, and we accepted the invitation. We definitely didn’t regret the choice. We sat at an open air table, sheltered from the wind, with a stunning view of the bay. Gulls and pelicans circled out over the water. The drinks and dinner were excellent. Midway through the meal, a Mexican lady with a lovely guitar strolled in and asked us if we’d like her to play a song. We said yes, and she played and sang a lovely romantic song. I handed her a 50 peso note when she had finished, and she seemed pleased with the tip. She later sang at the next table, and had to inform the Americans there that they should pay for her singing. She said the rate was 40 pesos per song. I felt I’d opted for the right amount. We really enjoyed her song, and the warmth which accompanied her singing. The folks at that next table were a lot of fun, though. They were from Philadelphia, and the guy is a bar singer himself. He ended up singing to the Mariachis in a fine tenor voice, while they tried to follow along with their guitars. It being St. Patrick’s Day, he favored Irish ballads. We all got a laugh when one of the Mariachis broke out in a perfect rendition of “Danny Boy”. After dinner, we went for a stroll along the waterfront walk, enjoying the last light of sunset. In the distance we could see the faint outline of the Baja side. Even though it is over 70 miles away, some of the peaks there are 6 to 7 thousand feet high. We look forward to our crossing in a few days. Hopefully, the weather will be suitable by Thursday or Friday.

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