Minka Goes To Baja - For Baja Bound

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Here is the latest article for Baja Bound - guess I loved writing in Minka's voice!

As a dog, there are a couple of things I will always know to be true when I hop in the truck with my mom and dad. There will always be a big adventure when we finally stop. There will always be lots of new friends to kiss. And, there will certainly always be blissful bits of road scraps to be wolfed down. My folks like to eat like kings and most times, I just follow their bellies, knowing that if I’m a real good girl, I’m gonna see and taste all sorts of new delicious things. Little did I know what was in store for me on my first few trips to Baja (grilled fish, creamy avocado, bones galore, big chunks of machaca) but I’m now an old pro at border crossings (four times in less than a year!). However, in the beginning of my puppy days – whew, what a whirlwind!

My first mega trip across the border into Baja (December 2012) involved all sorts of preparation. We visited my vet to get travel paperwork, we set up the back seat of the truck with lots of soft blankets (I actually called shot gun most of the trip), and we hit the pet food store so I could select a new toy (Mrs. Squirrel, whom I happily unstuffed just outside of Santa Rosalia). We made it across the border and lots of military checkpoints and nobody ever questioned me, or my wagging tail.

Minka Baja Dog

I know my folks were nervous about finding hotels that were dog friendly along Highway 1, especially with limited internet access to do research on the way, but my mom is a smartie – she used the website vrbo.com (vacation rentals by owners) for most of the trip and when we got into no mans land she’d just perkily enter a hotel (with me) to see if pets were allowed and once they saw my super cute face and cheery smile, they always said yes. I always noodle my whole body around peoples legs to make them comfy and usually they give me a little treat or at the very least a good scratch behind the ears. I’m a really big fan of the nice cool rooms at La Mision Hotel in Loreto. We always get bay scallop risotto there and so many new friends pet me in the lobby every day. The life in Loreto is just my speed – chilling in the town square while my mom sips a mango margarita and I touch noses with all the dogs off leash running around. They usually want me to come with them on their scouts through the village, but I know the best place in the world to be is right at the base of my mom and dads feet. Ever had nibbles of the scrambled egg and cheese burrito from Café Ole just off the square? Wow.

Now as for food along the way, the perk of being a road dog is the quantity of good girl treats I get. My mom always takes me to the funnest restaurants – all with outdoor seating, so I’m always invited. Tiny shacks on the beach where I get to jump in the water, practice my fetch skills and eat lots of grilled shrimp and fresh fish. One of my best Baja friends is a really pretty girl named Pele down on the beach in Bahia Concepcion – her parents run Ana’s Restaurant on Playa Santispac. We ran on the beach until we were delirious, but you gotta watch out cause those little pangas have anchor lines to shore that will clothesline dogs like me if you aren’t careful. Pele and me witnessed that travesty firsthand.

Baja Machaca 
Baja Guacamole

Mom enjoys tequila and there’s the most amazing place we trek to in La Bufadora where I have certain spots that I hide things and then rediscover on later trips. She raves about the housemade tequila to everyone, and I quote directly from mom’s mouth:

"Just south of Ensenada is La Bufadora, the world’s 2nd largest blowhole. It’s interesting to see it shoot 100 ft. into a cloudless sky, but what’s more enthralling is what’s tucked behind the bar at La Bufadora Tequila Grill, just up the hill from the blowhole. Literally – the best tequila you will ever taste. You’ve never sipped tequila like this before. Yes, you sip it. And ever so slowly. The recipe for this vanilla pod, herb tangled, orange peel, raisin infused thrill ride runs back triple generations and is like nothing else you’ve ever let tickle your tonsils. You can take in a few rounds onsite while watching the sun set over the Pacific or even better buy a bottle to go ($100 per) and you will be the kingpin among all the dis-believers when you bust it out at your next dinner party. This is a handcrafted batch of Gods’ tears and rumor has it that it’s good enough for Tiger Woods to chopper over for (he’s building a golf course nearby), consider it next level sippin’."

Minka Baja Dog

There is also one of my fave spots on earth – San Javier. Turns out this little village in the mountains above Loreto, is full of dogs. Only 140 people live there and there are at least 20 dogs running around! Oh, the joy. I’ve never played with a friendlier pack of pups in all my days. Little ones, big ones, sassy ones, and one real funny one who had a beer can tied to his tail. Guess everyone wanted to know when he was coming down the boulevard! Mom likes to drink skinny margaritas at the little café on the square and just recently we got an amazing tour of the huge farm behind the church. One of the oldest families in San Javier owns it and they have lots of old grape vines to make wine from and olives for fresh pressed olive oil. I can’t wait to go back for the harvest this fall. I’m definitely planning on a personal tour with Memo again. He’s the handsome cowboy that makes the homemade machaca I love so much at Palapa San Javier. He’s famous for it and was even in a book!

Anyhow – this roundup barely touches the life I lead down in Baja. Like my mom and dad, I dream of it often. But, as I say to the border guard at the Tecate crossing (we always use this one cause it’s shorter lines and a prettier drive) – Woof! Woof! And catch ya on the rebound! He just tosses me a smile and waves us right through.

Minka Baja Dog

Pet Traveling Tips

  • Pack your pet's travel paperwork with you just in case.
  • Let the hotel desk clerk meet the dog right away before they jump to conclusions.
  • Check out Baja Bound's Pet Friendly Hotel Guide for hotel ideas in Baja Norte.
  • Pack a chilled towel so when the fun is over you can rub your dog down, cleaning and cooling him/her at the same time.
  • It is recommended to give your pet bottled water.
  • Let your dog play with the local dogs – just keep yours on leash.
  • Bring an extra harness and leash in case for some reason yours snaps in the middle of Baja.
  • Coconut oil soothes hot, sore paws from long walks in the heat.
  • All restaurants are dog friendly if there is outdoor seating – and that’s what Mexico is all about.

G is for Going Underground

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G is for Going Underground.

Holy moly, now that the Airstream is on the move...it's time to get down and dirty on the road.  This little silver nugget feels straight up luxe.  No projects to complete, no tile to buy, to decisions to be made.  Just one huge shopping trip at Camping World and a farmers market run this weekend and we are sorted.  The headroom alone just blows my mind - should have done this months ago (granted, who knew the Flo would take so long...and I do so love living on the run).

That said, Mexico is right around the corner...literally on the horizon of the new year.  All my old haunts are 'this' much closer to being right out my front door.  Primo sushi and sunsets at Carlitos Place; perfect surf after a couple margs at Cerritos; kite surfing attempts in Las Ventanas; crazy fresh yellow tail at Rancho Pescadero; random snapshots of movement up and down the Baja; stars by the gazillion; whale birthing season in Magdelena Bay; Minka Mouse chasing birds on deserted beaches; a possible land purchase down near Loreto; a couple of cold beers here and there, but mostly frosty margaritas; researching the TV show I'm gonna craft in the nowhere sand dunes (think conspiracy/espionage/traitors/esoteric vibes); cooking up a storm - meaning finally mastering cooking a whole fish; homemade ceviche from just caught fish; slowly kayaking the Sea of Cortez; finally diving again (Indo seems so long ago); searching out a new 4th World Love CDC (for those who can't make it to Indo); remote spots that only solar can reach; and buckets of all the goodness that makes up Mexico. 

It will be real, real, real tough to come back across that border, I can tell ya that much.  Going underground HAWDDDDDDDDD.

I will just be devastated if the Mayans called it.

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If/When I Have a Restaurant

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Thing is, you pick up ideas everywhere...

And, since I'm doing a micro-budget remodel on the floating home, I've peppered my vocab with all kinds of words that I'm sure people are sick of hearing me toss out.   Weathered, white-washed, reclaimed, rough-hewn, distressed, hand-scraped, industrial, and on and on.  SHUT UP!

I have all kinds of new internet searches for things.  It's not just kitchen island.  It's industrial vintage work-bench. Can't just be walnut.  Gotta be hand-scraped walnut.  Not just sink faucet.  It's now oil rubbed bronze sink fixture.  Anyhow - there's lots to decide when remodeling a place and it's literally the most overwhelming thing I have ever, ever done.  I swear this beast will be done in a month though - done and done and done...

When it comes to food though - it's pretty easy.  Serve as much local, seasonal stuff as possible.  That even goes for drinks.  Meat grass-fed.  Vegetables organic.  Seafood caught local.  Liquor good as you can get with no artifical mixer.  I'd like to think it's just that simple to have a successful run at a small food joint.  That's my next plan in life anyhow as I wind down my hard-core trenches of production days.  Oh yes - I said it, I mean it.

Finca Altozano down in northern Baja is that exact kind of place.  Wine is all local - made in the valley and served slightly chilled.  They are charring up meat so unbelievably delicious (yep, had to try it) that it's next to impossible to ever think of meat the same way again.  Octopus caught that morning - crispy and tender at once. Salads with greens harvested just that day, little bursts of red tomatoes.   All local cheeses made in the valley. Tiny tostadas with pickled onions.  Baby jars of dressings, sauces and oils.

You can taste the difference in them meal a billion fold.  As for the restaurant?  It's down a dirt road, wild stallions peppering the valley on the way in.  It's packs up tight, though how the hell would anyone know how to find it is beyond me (guess I did, though).  It's all open air, with big beams creating a patch of shade.  All the materials are recycled, reclaimed, rustic and sophisticated at once.  It can be hot as sin, but then sunset comes along and the heat falls away. The sky turns purple, pink and orange.   Flocks of birds soar past over each course.  The staff smiles, plays along with your combat Spanish and serves up another bottle of barely chilled red wine.  

I can't wait to have my own place.  Can it be that hard to serve good food to people who love it?

Apologies in advance for the iphone pix...but still..so good.

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Corazon del Tierra, a One-Eyed Cop and a Late Night Tamale Hunt

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Baja wine country is a secret I keep trying to hold close.  

I fail time after time, though.  I just can't help but rave every time I meet a new person, taste a glass of wine, basically open my mouth.  It's just deserves to be explored and meandered through.  It's only 3.5 hours from LA.  It's way cheaper than Napa.  It's just plain old special.

Corazon del Tierra, the new farm to table (for real, it's in the middle of a giant garden) at La Villa de Valle (a super Tuscan-style bed and breakfast dead in the heart of Baja wine country) is a sight to behold.  From Mex 3, you plow down a dirt road that's easily a few miles long, til like a mirage, you see an enormous Tuscan farmhouse nestled into the hillside.  They used to serve dinner in a teeny room on Floor 1 of the B & B, but now they have gone balls to the wall and created what every designer in posh Venice, tony Napa, expensive Bev Hills is looking to create. 

The new restaurant is now perched on the edge of the garden, with an open kitchen.  The style is all reclaimed and industrial.  The vibe is so low-key and breezy.  Tingly music floats through the background, the staff is on it hard core and the wine pours bottle after bottle.  The make their own wine on site and you can take tours of the vineyards - or just walk out the front door of the restaurant and skip about.  In fact, with all the open dining, they simply want you to peek about the land at your leisure as they whip up your multicourse meal.  

Oh, I wish I could tell you all that I ate.  There was so much chilled wine pouring, I had a hard time keeping up.  There's no menu, you just get whatever they are preparing that day.  Freshest of the fresh.  Fish, lots of fish.  An Asian influence, but deep in the heart of Mexico. Micro-greens picked fresh from the garden.  Tiny bursts of tomato.  More wine.  Slivers of local cheese.  Piping hot herb bread served up in a brown paper bag. They're rustic in process, but precise in delivery.   Delicate homemade ice cream with warm brownie - soft and crunchy at the same time.  Another glass of wine.  Perfect hunks of seared ahi.  All caught local, all grown on site.  

When you've never been to Baja and hear me spin a tale, and then try to warm me to be careful down there...I'll leave you with this one note.  We left Corazon del Tierra, headed back to Endemico for the night to watch the meteor shower and somehow, all I wanted to have in my grubby little paws was a tamale.  I'd been on the hunt all day and it was taking over my every thought.  So, we turn down a back road, into what looked like a small village.  Within minutes, I'd been pulled over.  Seems I ran a stop sign.  Don't they know I'm on a tamale hunt?

Well, after speaking combat English to us, the bad cop heads back to his police car and now comes the good cop.  The man can speak English and he also had one eye.  So, here we are, 10p, down a dirt road, looking for a tamale, being hustled by a very friendly one-eyed cop who is saying sadly, he's gotta take us to the station closeby so we can pay the fine for running the light.  It was $30 USD.  Welp, dontcha know I paid that to the one-eyed bandit onsite and continued on my way.  Guess everyone has gotta make a living. He apologized profusely, told us his side gig was working at Endemico (our hotel) and told me where to find tamales the next morning.  They don't serve no tamales at night in the Baja, you fool woman!

Still, never felt safer.  And alive.  And buzzed.  And free.

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Carlitos - Pescadero, Baja - Top 10 in World?

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What a lofty ass statement. 

To proclaim that Carlito's, a fish shack of a joint down a parched dirt road leading to nowhere in the wilds of Baja is one of THE TOP TEN bites of my life....well, sars to letcha - but its true. 

It's so hard for me to spill the beans here, but I feel like peeps are so scared of Mexico and the Baja as a whole, nobody will ever make it down that way, so I'm safe as a goose.  But, if you do...if you man up and  develop the cojones to head down to really good surf, amazing sun and light, immense freedom and just one of the coolest spots on earth - don't miss Carlito's. 

Yah - it's a shack - one with a real bathroom though.  Yah, it closes early - but not if you bring in special La Bufadora orange and raisin infused tequila to entice the owners to stay open late.  Yah, it's a secret and 100% off grid - but not to those who are deep foodies.  It's a gift from the Gods, this food, this vibe, this place.

I've never had sushi so fresh.  At first bite, it's like gravity changes.  I've never craved mango margaritas like these - fresh off the tree and loaded with mad alcohol.  The pup Kong makes my heart soar.  The music pulsing in the background transports, just like the sunset does.  I just want it all day, every day. 

Flight from LA to Cabo.  Car rental.  Drive to Pescadero.  Check into Rancho Pescadero.  Kill a mojito.  Spitfire down the way to Carlito's.  Stuff face and throw a billion back.  Sleep til ya can sleep no more.  Surf with my buddy Carlos at Cerritos.  Almost die time and time again.  Drink and drink some more.  Lunch at Carlito's again.  Drive to 'port.  Abandon car (they'll find it).  Flight home.  All in less than 48.  Perfection.

In 2 more weeks, I'm the F outta Jesery, back home and everything in the entire world is coming up mangos!!!

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Things That Catch My Eye

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See, now...these pix would make me hit the road pronto.

I think it's a mix of the rawness, the simplicity and the "do you see what I see" factor that makes me snap the pix I do.  Landscapes are ok.  I never got Ansel Adams and B & W.  Nor do I care to.  It all seems so cold and lonely.  I like shocks of brightness.  Blasts of color.  Images that transport for a second. 

I think you should be able to blink and witness an entire lifetime take place in that tiny fraction of a second.  Try it.  Maybe that's just me though.  What a harsh judge I am.  Scary.

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Again...Rancho Pescadero Slays Me

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Hide in a bit of luxe...

At the end of a billion mile trek thru Baja, there is really no finer place to check into than Rancho Pescadero.  It's on the Pacific side of the peninsula - and really just a perfect patch of heaven.  Very quiet, chill music spread evenly poolside, incredible design, thoughtful touches (cowboy hats and plush peach towels by the pool; homemade soaps and lotions cultivated from desert plants; welcome 1st drink on them; free bikes to troll about on; very close proximity to Carlitos - home of best food in Baja), and a killer view anywhere you look.

They have these comfy little day beds out on the beach where you can plop into, draw back the curtains, read a spy thriller and watch the whales cruising by on their way to lay some babies.  Super private.  A set of binoculars are in each room and you can get very close to seeing their heads poppin up every morning.  Watching whales spew water is definitely something to witness in this lifetime.

The yellowtail coming out of the kitchen is mega-fresh.  Just caught and grilled.  And, with a chilly margarita alongside, it's really difficult to leave the joint.  There are reading nooks everywhere - on your front porch, by the sparkly pool, down on the beach, upstairs in the dining area.  Just a haven for all who want to escape and not have anyone bother you.

The list goes on and on about this place and next time I'm down there, I might not go anywhere else.  Just there.  Hidden among the palm trees and tucked into a good book.  Watching stars by night and getting tan by day.  Sipping the hours away.

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Baja Beauty - A Perfect Snowbird Location

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Between Mulege and Loreto is this insane view...

Every time I go to Baja, I take the same dang photo.  There's a point when travelling on the Sea of Cortez side of the peninsula that this vista appears.  It's slam-on-the breaks beauty, like a full mirage.  Especially after hauling across a torn-up desert. 

So quiet, so peaceful.  Beyond special. 

I can't believe I didn't kayak this trip around - how did that happen?  It all just went down so quickly in a tequila haze.  Guess I have the rest of my life for it, though.

How do you pick the next adventure?  It's like I want to explore all the new spots I've not been to yet, and at the same time, spend so much more time in my fave places round-the-world.  The never ending quest for permenant freedom.  I love the decisions).

 


Whales, Margaritas and Dirt Roads

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The largest animal migration in the world...

One of the main reasons to go to Baja in January is to witness the epic whale migration.  For real - just the most insane thing ever.  Right now is right about the time when the mama whales give birth to their babies and they spend time flip-flopping around the San Ignacio lagoon, teaching these newly born pre-historic beasts how to swim, breathe, live on their own (they weigh 3 tons when born). 

I camped out right on the beach at a very remote spot about 2 hours down a dirt road from the date tree filled village of San Ignacio (best date pie ever).   Here's how it's done.  Basically, you make a reservation with the eco-outfitter in town for a tent spot (or a cabin spot).  You then drive down the ROUGH road not seeing a soul for almost 2 hours, swilling sake the whole way.  You pop up a tent once on the beach and then join the other folks who dared pop down that way for dinner in the cozy dining room.  Fish or meat, only.  And hard-core, heavy duty margaritas.  Where they get ice, lord knows.  But, they have lots of it.  After a mega-buzz hits, take a shower in the no-lights, but crazy clean shower hut and hit the hay.  The next morning you wake up at the crack, slam some eggs and tortillas and roll out to see mega whales, their babies and chirping dolphins. They come up super close to the boats and want to be petted. Can you imagine?  They're called "the friendlies."

Just a bloody miracle. 

Back on shore after about 3 hours and bam!  Back on the road to points north or south.  One more killer margarita down, first, of course.  Heading out of there, you're surrounded by all these eerie red pools and lakes.   Coulda been Mars.  Alone again.  Nice.

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