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To say we were a little uneasy about crossing the border again would be an understatement.

We consoled ourselves with the belief that a traveler’s worst nightmare couldn’t happen twice in a row. There’s no correlation between leaving the country and having bad news befall you. It wasn’t punishment for this lifestyle we chose to pursue. We knew this. But it didn’t make us any more excited to cross again.

In fact, we found ourselves rather hesitant.

After leaving Mariposa with our little moto-trailer in tow (this time being very thankful we had made the decision to leave it behind), we wound our way down to Banning and camped out that night. The following day we snaked along some scenic routes down through the San Jacinto and Cuyamaca mountain ranges towards Interstate 8.

Our last evening in Mariposa, getting our things organized for travel again after staying 16 of the past 20 nights there.

Skirting the edge of San Bernardino on our way to Banning. It got to be a long day after riding nearly 400 miles in the heat.

Enjoying the pines near Idyllwild.

Continuing south, we arrived at Tecate after another hour of riding. Canceling the TVIP paperwork for our bikes was easy enough, but we noticed that the very first thing they wanted to know was whether we had the trailer. The first of many times we will accredit the people we met at the Horizons Unlimited travelers’ meeting for saving our ass.

We then went to renew our tourist visas but realized the immigration office had closed an hour before. And, while it would be open the next day (Friday), we wouldn’t have time to come back to take care of that bit of paperwork since we would be busy delivering the trailer to our shipper in San Diego. We also determined that giving our old TVIPs some time to be processed through their system would be a good thing to do before getting new ones for the same bikes (sans trailer, of course).

Sitting in the border line to cross back into the U.S. had us drenched in sweat and just plain wore out. So we opted to stay at our favorite motel in Pine Valley to have an easy night in AC and get in a nice shower. We also went over our options for killing a few days waiting for our canceled paperwork to process, ultimately deciding that we should be tourists in San Diego for the weekend.

The next day we dropped off the trailer, checked into an extended-stay hotel (we wanted to save money on eating out by cooking our own meals, plus the hotel was a good deal for San Diego standards) and plotted out some touristy things to see and do. The museums at Balboa Park: check (hit and miss: the Air and Space and International Art museums are a must). San Diego Zoo: check (kind of a let-down; we’ve really been spoiled with the unique opportunities we’ve had to interact with animals, so zoos have become somewhat less appealing to us). Midway Museum: check (highly recommend).

On our way to drop off the trailer for good. So long, Bartleby!

Britt really digs the classics. The San Diego Automotive Museum was small but had some great specimens; the featured exhibit covered serious offroaders, which Ehren enjoyed immensely.

A nicely arranged knot display onboard the USS Midway. Ehren’s dad, a scoutmaster for 35 years, would be impressed.

Marveling at the size of the aircraft carrier. Note the ‘Unconditional Surrender’ statue in the background.

We used a ridesharing app (we had picked up a refurbished smartphone a few days previously) for all of our tourism travel needs over the three days we were in San Diego (beats riding in heavy traffic and then having to worry about parking). It was our first experience with ridesharing and, yes, we know we’re total squares.

Anyway, now it’s Tuesday morning. After getting a late start, we still don’t quite feel ready to head over to Tecate. We blame it on livin’ dat hotel life and opt instead for camping out a night in the Laguna Mountain Recreation Area just north of Pine Valley. Mostly to get ourselves in traveling mode again, but also to escape to higher elevations in an attempt to flee the annoying heat that seems to follow us everywhere we go.

We pull in to the campsite and the camp host walks over, sees that we are on bikes and that we’ll be tenting, and in a concerned tone states that it gets down to 30-degrees at night and wonders whether we’ll be warm enough. We look at each other, grins on our faces, then turn back to the host and tell him it’s exactly what we were hoping.

Camp chef Ehren, making magic out of whatever was left in the cooler.

What we weren’t hoping for, however, was a midnight bandit making away with our bag of dry food. It was ultimately our fault for overlooking it and leaving it out on the picnic table. Fortunately for our snacks, Ehren is such a light sleeper that his ‘weird noise radar’ went off around 1 a.m. Nudging me half-awake, he tells me in a frantic whisper, “Something’s eating our stuff!” I managed to groan out “Whaaa…?” but he is already halfway out of the tent, scolding something in the distance.

I fumble for my glasses and peek out of the tent and see Ehren walking back towards me, in nothing but his boxers and motorcycle boots, gleefully clutching our bag of food to his chest: “It was a huge raccoon!” He then regaled me with his story of triumph: he had started walking towards our little thief as he was waddling away, holding the wrong end of the bag so he was losing food with every step he took. Then he said he chased him into a tree where the raccoon dropped the bag entirely and ran off into another campsite. He must have scared him pretty good cuz our friend did not visit us again.

Morning crashes in and we pack up camp and make our way into Pine Valley again for a hearty breakfast. We realize we don’t have our Mexican vehicle insurance policies printed out so we head to the local library to take care of that task. It is now after 11 a.m. and the immigration office closes at 1 p.m. We fret for a bit before deciding to just head to the border as quickly as we can to see if we make it in time. Crossing at 12:30, it takes no time at all to cancel out our previous visas and get new ones. Getting new TVIPs for our bikes was slightly more time-consuming but we ultimately prevailed in getting it done.

Just over the border in Tecate.

Part of what makes the TVIP process more lengthy is that they require their own copies of your vehicle and personal identification documents. Luckily, there is a copy shop just around the corner. As we are leaving the shop with fresh copies in hand, we hear a voice call out from behind us, “Hey Elefants!” We turn and immediately recognize the person as Gary (a.k.a. Shrekin), someone we had just met at the traveler’s meeting in Mariposa two weeks prior.

Finishing our respective border paperwork, we decide to ride into Ensenada together. Later that evening, we chat with Gary and another traveler he has been in contact with, Johnston, over some cervezas/Cokes and fish tacos. Everyone exchanges route information and by the end of the night new plans are in motion, with Gary and Johnston deciding to ride together to San Felipe on the eastern coast of Baja while Ehren and I head down the west coast towards El Rosario and Cataviña. We say our goodnights and settle in for a big day of Baja riding in the morning.

It was Wednesday, Oct. 11, that we crossed into Baja for the long haul. These happy coincidences of meeting other travelers right away, along with feeling a generally more welcoming vibe from crossing the border this time, helped us move past that frozen state of mind we had been in since last spring. For once everything felt right, we felt ready, and the road ahead was ripe with opportunity.

—Brittany and Ehren



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