Well friends, I finally checked another item off my bucket list by going to Mexico last week. But my destination was not some pansy-assed all-inclusive resort full of pasty Alabama factory workers pounding beers while Sammy Hagar wails in the background — I went Gonzo, and drove down into the dusty, dirty hinterlands of Baja California!
My sister has been on a sort of corporate detox/Rumspringa since quitting her loathsome marketing job back in February, and accepted the offer of an ex-colleague to stay at his family’s beach house down near San Felipe for a couple weeks, to chill out and meditate and think things through. I had to work the first week she was down there, but after I finished with the licensing expo and the beauty show and whatnot, I packed up my truck and drove down to join her.
It’s not that far from Vegas to San Felipe — about 8 hours, depending on the whims of the border guards. My sister sailed through the border with no problem at all — they didn’t even check her milquetoast little Infiniti, just waved her through. But since I drive a pickup, they did make me stop and explain in my sad güera Spanish where I was going, why I was going, where I came from and what I do. Fuck, I can’t even explain that shit in English!!! ¿Como se dice “hussy” en Español?
Anyway, I somehow bungled through, and they let me in, after banging on the sides of my truck bed a few times to roust out any hidden contraband (I guess people are known to smuggle drug cash in pickup truck beds, is why I was flagged). What those poor fuckers didn’t know was that I’d thought ahead, and had already stashed all my drugs in a secret hidey-hole in the desert, so I could pick them up on my way back from Mexico, when my sis and I planned to camp out at Deep Creek for a couple nights before heading back home.
Since there was no way I was spending two nights at Deep Creek with no weed to smoke or shrooms to eat, and since I couldn’t exactly bring it all back and forth across the border with me, on my way down I scoped out a quiet spot behind some bushes at an intersection just outside the town of Brawley, and buried my little sack o’ fun for later retrieval. The ultimate Geocache!!! So anyhoo, by the time I rolled into Mexico, there was nothing for those rifle-wielding teenagers at the border to find. I did bring one special chocolate chip cookie, camouflaged in a bag of regular chocolate chip cookies, and an empty pipe, since my sis had indicated she’d found a connect down there. But aside from that, I was clean as a whistle. ¡No problemo!
I entered Mexico just south of the Salton Sea, through this shitty little town called Calexico on the U.S. side, Mexicali on the Mexican side. Jeez, I thought Calexico was shitty — Mexicali was a whole other world of shittiness! Dogs roaming around, garbage everywhere, leathery toothless beggars and just a general air of steamy, sun-baked, sewage-scented lethargy and decay. Awesome!!
But after passing through Mexicali, it was basically just two hours of desolate, barren desert highway, nothing but sagebrush and busted tires, with the Sea of Cortez off to the left. That is some serious wasteland — most of the touristy stuff you see in Baja is on the Pacific side of the peninsula, Ensenada and Tijuana and all that, but the east coast of Baja is pretty much just vast, empty desert. And in late June it was screaming, broiling hot; I can’t imagine how desperate a poor illegal immigrant would have to be to undertake a crossing by foot — it really speaks to the hopelessness of their situation!
Meanwhile, if you’re coming from the other side of the border, Baja is a great place to hide out! The desert and the beaches are sporadically dotted with rusted-out trailers, campers, shanties and bizarre compounds housing god-knows-what type of hippies/hermits/fugitives, with the occasional beachfront campo made up of retired American expats living on the cheap in fairly nice homes…out of sight and out of mind from meddlesome U.S. tax and legal authorities. It’s a real mix of weirdos down there. In other words…I felt right at home!!!
The place I was headed for was called Pete’s Camp, about 7 km north of San Felipe; basically a tidy little beachfront community of U.S. and Canadian retirees living out their their days boozing and racing around on quads and dune buggies. There’s a big redneck speed freak demographic down around San Felipe, and everyone has “toy” collections made up of various motorized contraptions upon which they careen madly about for fun and profit in various off-road races. I personally don’t get it, but that stuff is huge down there!
Now this was late June, so things were pretty quiet — it gets hotter than balls down there in the summertime, so many people board up their homes and take off for the season, returning in September when it’s not so unbearably baking hot and humid. Only the dregs were left behind, and it was a real fun crowd, let me tell you! There’s a little cantina in the middle of the campo where everyone hung out to watch the World Cup, and since they had free Wi-Fi, I spent a lot of time there myself, drinking Cuba libres and posting shit on Facebook.
In between postings, I found time to chat with many of the locals, and like I said they were a fun bunch. Alkies, boozers, leathery-chested ladies and hard-drinking, teary-eyed men. Often they would tell you the same story over and over again, but they were all so nice that it didn’t matter. This one guy would come over and sip his double Jack and Coke while reciting a litany of all the toys he owned: “Three quads, two sand rails, dune buggy, Jeep, Trophy Truck, etc. etc. etc.,” and would invariably sum it all up by emphatically reminding himself how happy he was, and how great life was down there. Meanwhile, he always seemed just on the verge of breaking down in tears. Then there was this other cute little old — nay, ancient — man with a liver-spotted countenance and a terrible black eye, which he said he got when he “took a tumble” the other night (in a drunken stupor, no doubt). Awww!
The scuttlebutt was, there were also some unsavory types living in the area — pedophiles and whatnot, on the lam, hoping to escape detection. Like I said, it’s a pretty remote place… but apparently the Federales came in and arrested this one guy one day, and come to find out he had all this child pornography on his computer. Yikes!!!
In any event, all the people I met down there were amazingly kind and generous, in particular the Realtor who was handling the sale of the house my sis and I were staying at (it’s listed at $220k, if you’re interested…it was really nice, and right on the beach) and his wife. They had us over for dinner one night, and they were just the coolest people ever. Everyone down there, without exception, was super friendly and welcoming; my sis (having already been there for a week, and being about 30 years younger than everyone else) was already the Queen of the Campo by the time I got there!
Anyway, I rolled in around 5:30pm — everyone had warned me over and over again not to drive in Mexico at night, so I made sure to leave Vegas super early so as to arrive before sunset. But like everything else in life, I found Mexico to be way less scary and dramatic than everyone makes it out to be. I had zero problems down there, and it wasn’t because I was cute and flirty — I barely speak Spanish, and my face was going through a terrible breakout, so I was totally self-conscious and not on my A-game. But I was polite, alert and careful, and thus managed to bungle my through several checkpoints and car searches without incident nor payment of any specious “fines.” It was all good, in my experience!
Once I got down there, I basically did nothing but drink and eat. It was too fucking hot to do anything else!!! I did manage to drag my ass out of bed at 5am a couple times to run 5 miles on the beach, because sunrise was the only time it was cool enough…but other than that, I just laid low. In deference to the conservative culture, I wore a bikini most of the time, only tanning nude on this little crow’s nest patio on top of the garage, where no one could see.
We went out to San Felipe a few times to eat, but the rest of the time we just hung around the campo, relaxing. The house we were staying at was really nice, with air conditioning and nice bedrooms and everything, so it was basically like being at a hotel where you had nothing to do all day but relax and stare at the sea. But you know me — I can only take so much relaxing! My friend Bennie had given me this awesome guide to all the hot springs in the U.S. and Baja California, and I’m determined to visit as many as possible… so after a few days at the beach house, we packed up and headed down the coast a couple of hours to check out these nearby springs in the village of Puertecitos.
The springs are located in these beautiful tidal pools right on the edge of the Sea of Cortez, and there’s only a limited window each day during high tide when the mixture of seawater cools the thermal water in the pools to a comfortable soaking temperature. But if you camp out overnight, you can at least catch two tides…so we decided to bring our tents, and stay on the beach.
Now meanwhile, everyone at the cantina was warning us about the journey: the roads were said to be really rough, pitted with steep dips called “vados” that would fuck up your shocks if you didn’t drive slow…plus there’s no cell phone service down there, and it’s really remote. But what the fuck?! YOLO!! I took my truck, and we made it just fine. The road was nicely paved the entire way, and most of the vados were mild annoyances rather than shock-busting disasters. It was really remote, though, and there isn’t anything along the way, especially in the dead summer season when everyone with half a brain flees for the Pacific side of the peninsula.
But there was a little campground in Puertecitos, right on the beach about a ten-minute walk from the springs, where for $20 a night you get a little shaded picnic table, water, electricity and use of the toilets…plus unlimited use of the hot springs. There’s even a little lending library full of English-language paperbacks which was a real hoot — I “borrowed” a John Grisham thriller, which I do plan on returning or replacing upon my eventual return (I am the kind of person to really do that, I tell you!).
My pidgin Spanish was enough to ascertain that the tidal situation was just right to go soak as soon as we arrived, so after setting up camp, we hiked up to the springs, right at sunset. It was beautiful!! I swear, my new theme song is Itchycoo Park — lately it seems all I ever do is take drugs and cry about how beautiful shit is (well, not really). But these were definitely some of the most scenic hot springs I’ve ever been to!!! There are three or four large, fairly deep
soaking pools with super-clear water and rocky bottoms, and plenty of boulders to sit on while you soak and watch the sunset amid the pounding surf and squawking seagulls. The only drawback is, the water smells pretty strongly of sulphur, which eventually you sort of get used to, I guess. But what I never got used to was the thousands of super-creepy bugs skittering all over the rocks!!! They looked like a prehistoric combination of a leech and cockroach, and they were scurrying about everywhere!!! Some of them were up to two inches long — SHUDDER!!!!!! The smell and the bugs prevent me from giving these hot springs an A+ rating, but it’s still an amazing place. Just be advised!
Anyway, after sunset we hiked back down to our campsite on the bay, and drank wine and munched on whatever shitty snacks we’d brought — there’s no restaurant or anything like that in Puertecitos, at least not in the summertime. This cute little mouse kept bugging us though, running onto our blanket, trying to steal food. We kept scaring it away, even going so far as to pull out some stun guns my Arkansas girlfriend had given me, and zapping them in the mouse’s direction…but the dumb little fucker wasn’t fazed, so I finally bashed it with a tire iron and killed it!!! AWWW!! All I wanted to do was scare it away, but I guess I was a bit overzealous 🙁 Don’t come between me and my food!
Anyhoo, we woke up at sunrise and went for a half-assed little run back up to the springs, where we enjoyed a fantastic sunrise soak. That place is amazingly photogenic!! Even my shitty little Samsung Galaxy got these amazing shots! Imagine what you could do with a real camera 🙂 Once the sun came up and it got too hot, we went back to camp, packed up, and drove back down to San Felipe for a few more relaxing days of boozing and
reading. That John Grisham thriller came just in time — I had just finished my other book about Ted Bundy that one of my fans sent me from my Amazon wish list. We blew through the rest of our pesos on ceviche and Cuba libres, and then used the remainder to haggle for a cheap hammock at a souvenir shop in town. Good times!
All in all, it was a fantastic trip…but I was really looking forward to the drive back. The plan was to head directly to Deep Creek hot springs for a couple days, then my sis would continue on to the Bay Area, and I’d go back to Vegas to do some laundry, lift weights, and pack up for my July west coast modeling trip. Everyone in Pete’s Camp told us to hit the border around 10-11am for optimal traffic, but we didn’t manage to leave San Felipe around 9:30am, so came to Mexicali right at noon — one of the worst times of all!! The line to cross into the U.S. was recockulous!!!!
At first I didn’t mind sitting in line so much, because I finally had cell phone service and was able to check my voicemail and stuff. But after an hour or so, it got old pretty fast — it was broiling, baking, screaming hot and humid, and even my a/c quit blowing cold after awhile. Talk about First World Problems — meanwhile, hordes of poor resourceful locals were out in the direct sun, working the lines of cars, selling everything from window shades to iced coffee, with a few beggars thrown in for measure. This one poor legless man was scooting along the broiling asphalt on a piece of cardboard, dragging himself from car to car with his hands, which were protected from the searing ground by nothing but playing cards. It was surreal, like the 10th circle of Hell in Dante’s Inferno — all these poor, desperate souls writhing and melting in the relentless sun, knocking on windows like damned wraiths in the depths of Hades. FUCK!!
Anyway, we finally made it to the checkpoint, and of course were singled out for special searches — me because of my truck, and my sister just randomly. I only had a small chunk of cookie left (those cookies are strong, and you only need to eat a tiny piece to get baked as fuck), and I had cleaned out my pipe with boiling water as best as possible, so I wasn’t really too concerned. They made me pull over, open my hood, and wait in a cage while they searched my stuff for drugs or hidden people or whatever the fuck they’re trying to protect us from. What a fuckin’ circus!!
Meanwhile, my drugs were waiting for me in my little cache not 50 miles away 🙂 After finally clearing the border and being allowed back into the sacred U.S.A., we stopped for lunch in Calexico and plotted the rest of the day. My hot springs book showed a cool looking little spot called the Five Palms Warm Well Oasis in the desert outside Brawley, not far from my cache, so we decided to hit that up before unearthing the treasure and heading up to Deep Creek.
To get to the Five Palms Warm Well Oasis, you take CA-78 east of Brawley for 15 miles, then turn off south on a dirt road for 1.6 miles. The road was said to be easily passable, but of course the sand was all tore up by crazy quadders from the nearby Glamis Sand Dunes redneck paradise, so wouldn’t you know it….my truck got bogged down in the sand about a half mile from the springs 🙁 🙁 🙁 Damn! We tried to get out by putting firewood and towels and stuff under the rear tires, but it was no use — I was stuck. I called AAA, but because I was more than 10 feet off the paved road, they wouldn’t cover the cost of a tow truck…so I had to shell out $150. D’OH!!!! Expensive little detour!
While we were waiting for the tow truck to get there, we went ahead and hiked the last .5 miles to the Oasis, which was easy to spot as it was the only cluster of palm trees for miles and miles and miles around. Let me tell you, that place is a true oasis — it’s so unexpected!! There you are, in the middle of a vast, barren desertscape of sand, creosote and sagebrush, and then all of a sudden here’s this little cluster of palms surrounding a super-idyllic shady little pond. The water
isn’t really hot (that’s why they call it a warm well), so it feels refreshing, even in the heat of summer. The bottom is sandy and only a bit mucky, and the water is fairly clean. Some enterprising hippies put in a little bench and a floating coffee table made from the top of a Styrofoam cooler, so it’s a pretty sweet little spot to chill out for a few hours. A Mexican family was picnicking there when we arrived, but once they left I got naked and went for a little soak. Fuck, it was costing me $150 — might as well get my money’s worth!!!
After soaking a bit, we hiked back to my truck and the tow guy was there. He winched me out in about 2 minutes, and I tried to sweet talk him into giving me a discount — which he claimed he was already doing, since allegedly there’s normally a 2-hour minimum, and it would have been $300. Hmmm. Then he wanted a photo with me, which I obliged, afraid he’d charge me the extra hour if I said no!!
Anyhoo, we got out of there, swung by to dig up the drugs, and then got the fuck out of that godforsaken part of the country. I love the desert, but in the summertime there are places I’d rather be…ya know?? Like Deep Creek Hot Springs!! After stopping in Palm Desert for gas and supplies, we headed out to Apple Valley (where Deep Creek is), arriving just before the gate closed at 10pm. It was already dark, which sucked for our hike down, but what are ya gonna do?
Now, last time I was there (with my good buddy Jack Johnson), we camped up top at the trailhead, in the desert. This time, my sis and I wanted to camp at the bottom, on the beach by the springs. You’re not supposed to, but people do it all the time — as long as you’re quiet, and clean up after yourself, it shouldn’t be a problem. But, you do have to pack all your gear down that 1.5-mile trail…and then back up, which is a real bitch :/ Which is why so many assholes leave garbage and junk behind at the bottom — the amount of litter and old sleeping bags and stuff down there is unbelievable. Who are these irresponsible assholes?!!?! If I was rich, I’d hire a helicopter to take me down there for a massive cleanup.
Anyhoo, my sis and I somehow loaded up our tents, sleeping bags, booze and accessories, and hiked down in the darkness. This time there wasn’t much moonlight, but we had headlamps so it was ok. We got to the bottom, waded across the creek, and set up camp on the beach in the shade of some cottonwood trees, by the Arizona pool. Then we ate some pot cookie and soaked in the delicious, clean warm water late into the night. No weird bugs, no sulphur smell, no mucky bottom and no sand to get stuck in. That place DEFINITELY gets an A+ rating!
In the morning, we were up super early like kids on Christmas morning — my sis was so excited to see the majesty of Deep Creek in the daylight! I was afraid it would be really crowded on account of it being July 3rd, right near the holiday…but it was perfect. Just the right amount of people! Aside from the usual naked dudes, there were even a couple of hot young topless chicks who soaked with us and smoked us out, and there was also a guitarist and a fiddler who played some awesome acoustic jams that were perfect for napping to!
We spent a nice lazy day drowsing around, and then ate some mushrooms around sunset, and spent the evening soaking in the Womb pool with this Deep Creek veteran called the HotSpringsWizard who was super interesting to talk to. He had this magical little lantern, just big enough to hold a tealight candle, and it cast the most beautiful light on the rocks and the water, lending a real Tolkienesque ambiance. Fantastic!
The only unfantastic part was getting up early the next morning to hike out — we got up before 7am to try and escape the heat while hiking, but it was still a long, hot slog uphill, especially with the weight of all our gear on our backs. That’s the only downside to Deep Creek — that hike up is brutal!! But it does keep the half-assers away… so I guess it’s actually an upside, not a downside!
Anyway, we left camp before 10am on Friday, the 4th of July — plenty of time for me to go home, write my blog, lift weights and pack up for my journey to the west coast. I wanted to leave the very next day (Saturday), to avoid the holiday traffic on the I-15 on Sunday, when all the Southern Californians would be heading back from Vegas. But what I didn’t realize was, traffic on the 4th itself was miserable!!!! I figured all the Californians would have left for Vegas the night before, but I was wrong — by the time I got to Barstow it was horrendous. Stop and go, totally shitty. The problem with driving to Vegas is, there’s really one ONE way in and out from So Cal — I-15. It’s two lanes in each direction, but I’m here to tell you that ain’t enough…especially on holidays.
With all my backcountry experience, I figured that surely there had to be some other route — but I didn’t want to go too far out of the way. Alas, my only options were to sit in traffic — or go way the fuck out of the way. I chose the latter, taking the Newberry Springs exit south to the Bagdad Cafe, then catching the 40 up to the Mojave National Preserve, and cutting through that over to Searchlight, by way of Nipton. What should have been a 2-hour jaunt (from Barstow to Vegas) ended up taking over five hours!!! But hey — at least I was moving 🙂
Anyhoo, I got home late, and my Aunt Flo was giving me shit, but I still managed to get most of my stuff done in time to leave Vegas around 1pm the next day, Saturday. That’s how committed I am to fitness — even though it felt like my uterus was trying to force its way down my birth canal and plop out on the ground, I still made myself go through my whole weightlifting routine, cramps and all 🙂
I figured no one would be on the road in the middle of the holiday weekend — wrong again!!! That fuckin’ 15 is always a mess — especially because a huge, fabulously dramatic thunderstorm was moving through the Mojave! It was part of the same weather system that fucked up the Vegas Strip fireworks show the night before — which really delighted the hater in me. I find fireworks to be overrated and boring as fuck, so I thought it was super cool that a thunderstorm moved in and stole the show — nature’s fury is way more exciting and fun to watch, in my opinion! I’m sure all the dumb ass alkie partiers on the Strip were bummed, but oh well — let me tell you, I couldn’t get out of that city fast enough. I was back in town for less than 24 hours, and that was too long for me. I’m all Vegas-ed out right now…it’s so hot and humid and full of dumbasses this time of year.
So anyway, this massive thunderstorm was dumping rain all over the Mojave, so it took longer than usual to get to Barstow, again. But once I turned off that fucking 15, it was smooth sailing the rest of the way. I stopped off for dinner in Bakersfield with my friend Dr. Zhivago, who greeted me at the curb with a Campari & soda and filled me in on his latest WhatsYourPrice.com hijinks (spoiler: he broke down and bought that one whore her Louboutins), and then drove alllllll the way north to my mom’s house up in Sonoma County — a total of 12 hours!!! I was exhausted!!!
I rolled into my mom’s at 1am and basically just passed out. But when I woke up today, it was all worth it — she lives in a beautiful, rustic cabin in the middle of a cool, lush redwood forest just off the Russian River. In other words….the perfect spot to spend the summer! I brought enough stuff to stay til the end of the month, but who knows?? My original plan was to stay here, then do my Seattle road trip (I have several photo shoots booked up there in a couple weeks) and then head back down to Vegas, go to Sturgis, and then Burning Man. But Sturgis might not happen after all — it looks like the guy my girlfriend and I worked for at The Knuckle Saloon last year doesn’t want to hire us back (!!!??!?!?!), so I guess I have no need to be back in Vegas til Burning Man now!! Fuck!!
On a side note, I can’t believe that guy isn’t hiring us back — we worked our asses off for him last year, and sold quite a bit of booze for him! I guess he preferred to hire local heifers or something…oh, well. It was a fun one-time experience anyway, as I’m sure you’ll recall from reading my blog about it last summer 🙂 So anyhoo, as it stands now, I’m spending the summer in Northern California. My buddy Jack Johnson will also be touring the area, so we made plans to hit up some hot springs together next week, and I’m going to see a couple of his shows in San Francisco, so I can finally catch his act. I’ll be going to see him at some Italian restaurant called Osteria on Monday night, if anyone wants to meet for dinner…hit me up!
One thing I know for sure, I need to make some ca$h, and pronto — I spent almost $400 in gas in the past 12 days alone!!!! So if you’re a Bay Area-based photographer, and want to hire me for any projects any time between now and August 19th or so….holla at me!! Or if you need any copywriting or editing or other writing-type work, I can do that as well. I need adventure money….because in the words of Robert Earl Keen…
“The road goes on forever and the party never ends!”
🙂 🙂 🙂
P.S. for more photos from my Mexico trip, see my Facebook album!!
Which hot springs you going to check out? Try Harbin. Do the hot pool and the cold plunge.
I did Harbin!! I’ll be blogging about it shortly 🙂
I been there many times. My brother-in-law lives in a 100 square foot shack up on Harbin Mountain. The place is a trip! Looking forward to your take on the place.
Hello Wonderhussy : ) I just googled hotspringswizard, which I do every once in a while just to see whats listed and I just happened on to your trip report entry. Once I started reading I remembered meeting you and your sis, and your telling me all about your adventures in Baja. Thats a great trip report, you crack me up : ) I took a look at your website, I’ll read some more there later, my you are full of life, doing so many things, such fun! I very much enjoyed the day visiting with you and your sis that wonderful day down at DCHS, and the time in the Womb hot pool with the candle lantern was magical, just as you descibed it : ) I was just down there this last Thursday, and after sunset I was the only one there at the springs, and I soaked in that sandbag pool in the creek, with the little candle lantern casting its beautiful golden glow. The water was 98 degrees, perfect, and I sat there in the sand and watched the crescent moon sink behind the hills, serene quiet time to think about life, feeling so fortunate to be able to spend such treasured time : ) I see this at the end of your more recent report ” it broke back in June, at Deep Creek, right around the same time as my heart “, ah heartbreak, mine too, over this last year, but I think of it this way like an expression in the movie Castaway starring Tom Hanks, where he said about such difficult emotion, I just have to keep breathing, because you never know what tomorrows tide will bring in : )
It was very special and memorable to meet you both, perhaps you could tell your sis Hi for me too. Take Care : )
I love that quote!!! Here’s hoping tomorrow’s tide is an interesting and fun one 🙂
I’ll tell me sis you said hi!
Tomorrow’s tide for me, back at DCHS again, soaking in the Womb Hot Pool under the Moonlight : ) Here are a couple of pics at my Flickr site of the magical Hobbit Lantern you enjoyed so much. The first image was taken while I soaked at my secret hot spring at Deep Creek that I named Ori, after the Orion Constelation that I love seeing in the night sky, and the second photo was taken at DCHS while soaking one gorgeous evening in the Aniversary Hot Pool : ) I loved hearing your stories WH of your adventures down in Baja with your sister, reminding me so much of my trips down there hunting, fishing and exploring with my Dad back in the 60’s : )
GREAT photos!! Where did you get that little lantern, by the way? I need one!
I’m probably coming back down there in mid-September sometime…I’ll look for ya!
I loved your roadtrip story. I too had the same experience traveling down in Baja. Fabulous people, incredible scenery, great food, no trouble from anyone whatsoever. Mind you this was over 20 years ago, so I am glad to hear Mexico is still the same. We were on our way to see the whales at Scammon’s Lagoon… got our VW vanagan stuck in the mud south of Ensenada and once unstuck (by a very nice Mexican dude with a pickup who refused to take any money for his help) continued on our way south. We had fabulous shrimp dinner in a palapa with a Corona on the beach st Scammon’s a million miles from anywhere.
Anyhoo, thanks for another entertaining read… and I was thinking.. maybe you should change your name to WAUNDERLUSTY?
Ha, I do sometimes call myself Wanderhussy!