Dec 11

Simon Lee

A family’s adventure on the PanAmerican Highway





Eight days and about 900km later. We have gone down Baja Norte down the coast of Sea of Cortez. This part of Mexico is very untouched. It’s vast and dry. Desert and mountains. It’s very beautiful. This time of the year the temperature is perfect for us Northern Californians. It’s never too hot during the day and a slight chill at night.

baja norte desert sportsmobile

baja norte desert

Simon and I are big seafood fans so naturally are eating out much more than we should. I have been ordering caldo de mariscos every time we eat out and love it. This particular bowl is from a restaurant called La Morena in San Felipe and featured everything we found on the beach actually…clams, octopus, snails, fish. We are still searching for the quintessential Baja fish taco. The ones we had didn’t impress us.


kiki’s campground san felipe
Our first Mexican campsite was at Kiki’s in San Felipe. There is water, wifi and bathrooms here and a two level palapa. Perfect transition to rougher camping to come.
After San Felipe, it was another couple hours drive on pavement to Gonzaga Bay where it’s dry camping but still cost $10 for the “campsite”. This part of Baja is more expensive than we thought. We are not ready to bush camp though as we have some rules that we try to follow…like don’t drive at night and don’t bush camp with the kids unless it feels really safe. Although one of these rules we have already broken. In Gonzaga Bay we bought some fresh halibut from the fisherman. 100 pesos or about $8 for 3-4 pounds. Fed us for two nights when we made our own caldo de pescado!

gonzaga bay


Ty on gonzaga bay beach
Notice Ty signed his sand castle!
gonzaga bay campground

After Gonzaga Bay we had our first car trouble. We had been anticipating having to deal with this at some point but of course didn’t think it would happen so soon. On a bad bounce we broke the bracket that held the left side shock absorber. Simon found it when we stopped at Coco’s Corner which is a midway stop on the stretch of rough road between Gonzaga Bay and Hwy 1, a stretch that is part of the Baja 1000.

baja 1000 coco’s corner

Coco himself is a legend. Living solitarily in the middle of the desert, he built the roadside stop from scrap materials. We were inspired by his strength and humor living such a physically and mentally demanding life even after losing both legs. Also in our case, being so kind and generous in helping us take out the shock absorber before the scraping did any more damage.

coco’s corner


coco’s corner

After Coco we made it to Bahia de Los Angeles in the dark and woke up to this view.

bahia de los angeles

In Bahia de Los Angeles we stayed for three nights waiting for the town welder to return so we could get the shock absorber back on. We felt a little stuck because we are at a stage in our travels when we are simultaneously excited to see the next place although we also feel a bit road weary. Really we are still adjusting to life on the road, finding our rhythm. Here in Bay of LA we shouldn’t complain about being stuck though. The bay is picturesque and calm, sheltered by the mountains behind it and the islands in front of it. It’s a perfect place to slow down and do nothing.

Camp life. Ty has been a much better eater on this trip than at home. Being outside all the time works up an appetite.
Our default breakfast. Tortilla with nutella and honey. It’s so good.
A final highlight from this past week. Jamie turned 10 months!





The family was chatting along on the drive to Joshua Tree and Simon says to Ty, “On this road trip I am going to teach you how to drive. Do you want to learn how to drive?”

“Yes. I want to drive.” He paused then continued. “And you will make me coffee and I will drink it.” Another pause. “And you will make me beer and I will drink it.”

Coffee and beer. I am glad it stopped there. Do I have trouble on my hands or are all 3 years olds like this?

I’m tired.
I’m tired.
We met up with a climbing group at Joshua Tree for Thanksgiving weekend. Before Ty, my friend Winnie introduced me to climbing and I caught quite the climbing bug for a few years. After Ty was born, I tried to continue but when he turned about two I called it quits. It’s hard to progress in climbing and do the climbing I want without putting in the mileage. And having a toddler makes going away every other weekend very hard. Being at Joshua Tree again reminded me how much I really miss climbing. Some day. Maybe with Ty.

ty and daddy cragging
Ty and Daddy doing some off width moves.
A little night bouldering with headlamp.
A little night bouldering with headlamp.
Hannah and Andrew were awesome kids. Look at Ty’s feet…he got his first climbing shoes from these guys.
Hannah and Andrew are awesome kids. Look at Ty’s feet…he got his first climbing shoes from these guys.
campground Joshua Tree

Jamie enjoying his bath under the desert sun
Jamie enjoying his bath under the desert sun
Joshua Tree

Sportsmobile at Joshua Tree

From Joshua Tree, it is another couple hours to Indio which is just outside Palm Springs. It was just a stopover point before crossing the border, to do more last minute preparations, ie. shopping. I know Mexico has everything and even Walmarts and Costcos. But what if we can’t get something RIGHT AWAY in every single town and all the time. What if (gasp!) we run out of wet wipes or paper towels? I cannot imagine. One thing good from staying here is our first experience with a real RV park where snowbirds from Canada and the northern states flock to. Indian Waters RV Resort was actually a great experience. For $40 we got heated swimming pool, great wifi, spotless bathrooms. Owner Rob was very overlanding friendly and welcomeed our small rig. We camped right across a Swiss couple with a MAN camper who have been overlanding for many years. They gave Ty a Swiss chocolate bar.

Indian Waters RV Resort

Last stop before Mexico we passed by Salton Sea. At first after seeing it on the map we were going to stop here and camp. The name sounds pretty cool. Then we found out it is really a depressed area and it’s not a body of water you would really want to visit. Salton Sea, California’s largest lake, was created when the Colorado River flooded over in the early 1900s. Tourism boomed around this miracle lake in the middle of the desert in the 50s and 60s. Then fish started to die. Runoff from the surrounding agriculture lands poured salts, minerals, pesticides, fertilizers into the lake and dead fish started to pile up, rot, smell, and a lot of people left. We drove through the streets and spent some time on the “beach”.

Salton Sea beach, fish bones
Bones, not sand.
Salton Sea beach, dead fish
Dead fish on beach.
Salton Sea Beach abandoned beach front property
Abandoned beach front property
About an hour from the border. Next stop Mexico!




We finally moved out of our house. There are no pictures of the empty house or farewell shots because it’s been such a whirlwind. The first three days after moving out we stayed with family because we just weren’t ready. Then we moved into our van and spent a couple more rainy days reorganizing before finally hitting the road on Thursday November 20 2014. Those first few days, our road life were less than glamorous. Let’s just say, the words “this is the stupidest idea ever” had been uttered more than once.

But since we hit the road, life has been infinitely better. We spent our first night at Millerton Lake near Fresno. Yes, Fresno was our first destination because we needed to get new shocks at the Sportsmobile shop. This time of year Millerton Lake was quite beautiful though.

Millerton Lake SRA
That little dot of a figure is Ty running ahead of all of us down to the lake to go fishing.
After getting new shocks we drove a couple hours to Avila Beach near San Luis Obispo. The highlight there was supposed to be the hot springs that I had visited years ago. But it turned out to be the Avila Valley Barn. It is a little farm that has seasonal apple or pumpkin picking, along with the usual hayrides, petting zoo and homemade sweets. What makes this place special is how chill it is. The vibe is very laid back and pleasant, without the frenzy and zoo like factor that often accompany these places. We spent hours feeding the goats…

Avila Valley Ranch goats

Eating homemade ice-cream…

Avila Valley Barn

Posing for a family portrait…

Avila Valley Barn

And making new friends (hi Ben from Paso!)…

Ty making friends on the road

After Avila, we continued to Carpinteria State Park near Santa Barbara. We got a site right on the beach. The campgrounds here are really RV parking spaces and the one we had cost $50! But it is a beautiful beach with tide pools filled with sea life.

Carpinteria Beach
Ty running in the surf until nightfall.
Carpinteria Beach
First time we actually fired up the stove for breakfast.
Carpinteria Beach
Little Jamie enjoying the view




Ten more days until we hit the road.

This trip has been in the making for a few years. There have been some important moments along the way – milestones, if you will. Like one random day in 2012, when I was casually brainstorming our next vacation and thought of doing a road trip to Baja, I discovered that there was actually a car ferry linking La Paz on the Baja Peninsula to Mazatlan in mainland Mexico. A few more Google clicks later, I found that people can actually keep on driving until they reach Ushuaia in Argentina. I called Simon up from work and tested the waters, “Hey, did you know we can drive from here all the way to South America?” Knowing what makes him tick I added “What do you say if we quit work and take a fly fishing road trip…bonefish, permit and tarpon in Central America? Trout fishing in Patagonia?” Without missing a beat, he answered this out of the blue question in the most perfect way and this reminds me time and time again why I love him – “When do we leave?”

Then there was another random day two years later when I was casually paying our monthly bills online. At this point, we have read every overlanding blog, had another kid, and have even purchased our overlanding vehicle of choice, a Sportsmobile with a 7.3L powerstroke engine. We have changed our minds about the departure date several times, from 10 years out to 5 years, then 3 years, then 1 year. But still, on this random day I called Simon again, “Hey, did you know we are paying an arm and a leg every month for the mortgage, preschool and the meat CSA? Things would be much cheaper in Mexico. November is the best time to be in Baja. What do you say if we leave this November?” And again, in typical Simon’s fashion he answered, “Let’s pack up.” And that was August 2014, three months ago.

There have been other milestones after that. Like the day I gave notice at work. And, yesterday, when we sent Grandma off at the airport to move back to Hong Kong.


For the past four years, from the time Ty was born, my mom had lived with us to help with the boys. Dare I say she took care of Ty and Jamie, better than she ever took care of me or my sisters. And I meant this with gratitude. Grandma doesn’t just take care of her grandkids. She gets down on their level. She plays with them, constantly. She listens to them. She digs worms with them. She lays on the deck and looks at the stars with them. Her arms never tired from holding them, even when the oldest weighs in at 35 pounds.

After we sent her off, Ty said in the car, “I don’t want Po Po to go. There is only three. I don’t want three. I want four.”

“What do you mean, you want four?” I asked.

“You, Daddy, Po Po and Jamie. That’s four. Now it’s just three.”

I don’t think I say it enough or have ever said it in so many words really. Grandma, we love you. Thank you so much for being so good to us. We will miss you and can’t wait to have you visit us on the road.

grandma-jamie_opt (2)





Last night Ty Ty wanted to go camping.

It’s getting late. How about we camp on the street?


photo 1

Today, we went to the Un-Haunted House at the local nature conservancy with his best friend from preschool.

photo 3

These two will take your breathe away.

photo 4


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Dec 05

Upper Sac Trip

The fly fishing was good. I got to hone my Czech nymphing technique. I am now completely sold on fly fishing that way. Greg Murawski and John Vlahos also had success nymphing the European method. We had good weather with little rain. Sitting around the fire at night having our evening cocktails was enjoyable. Everyone caught fish. It was nice not have to bring up all that camping gear. Not to mention having to deal with the rain. We walked over to Mossprae Falls and fished that on the first day. On the way back John Vlahos and I  stopped by the Sundial Bridge and took in the view of the mighty Sacramento River.Ed Beggs and John Vlahos at Mossbrae Falls