Our second trip into California was significantly better than our first. Leaving Las Vegas we headed for Death Valley, where we found some fantastic wild camping, went to 87m below sea level, got very hot, then very cold, then very hot again. We saw some amazing views, and nearly ran out of diesel. It was really cool. But not as cool as our next stop – the Alabama Hills. THE Alabama Hills – which I had assumed were in Alabama, but they’re not. Used as a location for many great movies, including my personal favourite Tremors, the Alabama Hills are an area of rocky outcrops that sit in the shadow of Mt Whitney giving some amazing views. We meet a really cool ranger, who loved our truck, and gave us directions to the best camping spot in the area. The boys scrambled on the rocks all afternoon, while we sat and admired the view. We had to leave the next day due to an incoming ‘Wind Event’, which never the less battered us further down the Sierra Nevada forcing us into an Airbnb for the night, and thus giving us our second experience of staying in a ‘5th wheel’, or bloody massive caravan as we would say in the UK. The next day we headed on to Joshua Tree National Park, for some unique trees and magnificent desert views.
And that was it, the final place we wanted to visit in the US. It was now time to think about heading to Mexico.
We drove over to the coast with a list of jobs to do as long as your arm. I had managed to find a really nice second-hand surfboard on the internet so we went and picked that up. We had some work to do on Brenda which we did in the campsite, bought some birthday presents for the boys, did some shopping and ate doughnuts.
And then, after over 4 months in the US and some amazing adventures, we watched the sun rise for the final time on US land, drove to the border, and entered Mexico….
Heading into Mexico did not go as planned. We got to the border, drove through some gates …. and all of a sudden found ourselves in Tijuana, Mexico. No US passport exit stamp. No Mexico visa. No TIP (Temporary Import Permit) for Brenda. Nothing. Slightly confused about what had happened we did the only thing we could think of and had an argument about whose fault it was….
After that, we tried to get back to the border to sort things out. After many circuits of the one-way system, we almost got to the road back into the US, but a Mexican policeman started shouting at us, turned us around, and sent us the wrong way. We’re still not sure why but can’t speak Spanish (yet) so will never know. I tried to discuss it with him, but once I heard ‘estacion de policia’ (police station) and ‘bolleto’ (ticket) I knew it was time to leave.
Unsure of what to do next, in a city which doesn’t have a great reputation, the next plan was to drive down Baja anyway - this is Mexico after all, but after 50km this was seeming like less and less of a good idea, so we bit the bullet, turned around and drove back to Tijuana. This time we managed to find the correct road to get back into the US, waited in a queue for 2 hours, explained the situation to the lovely US border agent and finally we were back in the US!
By this point it was too late in the day to attempt re-entry, fortunately they had space in a nice campsite near the border, which happened to have a jacuzzi and swimming pool, so the stresses of the day were quickly washed away, ready for attempt 2 the following day.