Detroit to Cabo: What can go wrong? (Our drive to La Paz)

When we found out our work went fully remote this past November, we made the decision to move to La Paz, BCS Mexico. We had read a lot about the digital nomad lifestyle and were eager to try it out!

Due to COVID, we decided to drive instead of fly. We started in Detroit and drove our Toyota Prius non-stop until we arrived in Houston. Upon arrival in Houston, we found a local Airbnb to rest in for a night.

If Texas were a waffle

After a night of well deserved rest, we were eager to get back on the road. Little did we know, Toyota Priuses are good for one thing, and one thing only: their catalytic converters. Someone had stolen ours while we were sleeping, and they didn’t even have the decency to leave us a note…

We quickly realized that there are absolutely, without a doubt, no mechanics that work on Sunday in Texas. Even though the car rattled and rumbled, we pushed onward towards Austin. We crossed our fingers and hoped that we wouldn’t get stopped by the police, but little did we know, that should’ve been the least of our worries.

The Austin area issued a winter storm warning even though the snow had only powdered the roads. Being Michiganders, we mocked the Texans as we flew down the highway. One thing we didn’t take into account is that Texas isn’t prepared for snowstorms; they don’t salt or clear the roads. We were reminded of this when we whipped a donut on the highway after our brakes failed. Luckily, we swerved out onto the side of the road and managed to save the car from flipping. It was really a miracle; we were 2 feet away from causing a 3 car pile up.

We were pretty shaken up after that, so we got some rest and found somewhere to fix our catalytic converter. To avoid having it stolen again, we just replaced it with a pipe.

The drive was boring from West Texas to Tucson, but boring is just what we needed. We celebrated our fourth day of driving by getting In ‘n Out in Tucson.

On day 5, we woke up early and booked it to the border crossing at Mexicali. We were nervous because we technically didn’t have a written “permiso”- the permission you need to cross the land border during the COVID era.

They stopped us at the border, pulled us over, and took a quick look at our car. Because we didn’t have a “permiso” we had to get out of the car and go inside the patrol station. They made us pay $33 per person to obtain a permiso and a tourist visa. They asked us our business (where we came from, where we were going, etc.) and then let us on our way.

We drove through the beautiful Baja Peninsula on the Highway 5. If you didn’t already know, the Highway 5 is pretty remote and passes through the desert. Although it was a beautiful drive, we were stressed out about the lack of “gasolineras”along the way (it was almost a close call).

Something we didn’t expect was to be stopped at military checkpoints. We were initially pretty nervous about being robbed (we brought all of our electronics, camping gear, etc.), but the men who searched our car were very professional and waved us on after we let them check the back.

There are pretty much no towns in between Mexicali and Guerrero Negro, so we only stopped whenever we passed a gas station, of which there are few. Actually, we also stopped at a few pull-outs to admire where the desert meets the ocean.

La parte de la vía en la que el desierto y el mar se encuentran

We decided to spend the night in Guerrero Negro, because you can’t drive during the night. Apparently, the cattle wander onto the roads at night and cause accidents. We didn’t want to take the risk. There are many lodging options in Guerrero Negro, but we stayed at Hotel TerraSal at $30 USD per night.

The following day was day 6 of our road trip, and we continued heading south on the Baja’s Highway 1. This part of the trip was possibly the most beautiful driving route I’ve ever taken. The highway curves through the desert and gives you spectacular ocean views. If you want, you can even camp on one of the breathtaking beaches. We ran into a lot of RV tourists from the States and, just so you know, the highway is paved and well-maintained.

Pictures don’t do it justice

Once again, there weren’t towns, only small villages. Gas was available, but there were definitely 100 mile stretches without any gas stations in sight. We passed many more military checkpoints. They checked all parts of the car, and even made us get out to check the seats. It is a bit uncomfortable to have your car checked but, overall, it went smoothly.

After 6 days of driving, we made it to our rental home in La Paz, BCS.

There is definitely a learning curve when driving in Mexico. Here are some helpful tips.

  1. When someone wants you to pass them, they will put their left turn signal on.
  2. When someone wants to turn left, they will stick their arm out of the window and wave to let you know.
  3. The “topes” AKA speed bumps come with no warning as soon as you enter a small town, so please slow down unless you want your head to hit the ceiling of your car (I do not recommend).
  4. Go with the flow of traffic, no matter what
  5. If it looks like a 4 way stop, it is (even if there’s not a visible stop sign)
Sit back and enjoy the view

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