Internet Newsletter

From The 90 Day Yacht Club Guide to Ensenada

June 2004

Volume 2, Number 6



A true traveler has no fixed plans and is not intent upon arrival®










            This morning, Monday, Memorial Day, I discovered a way to completely miss the sometime 4 hour border wait that those traveling south to Ensenada experience when coming back to “civilization” after the 3 to 4 to 5 day holiday that some like to stretch as long as work day/vacation time renders possible. I have now done the round trip over 150 times in the past 5 years and have never had to return during the time when the little city of Ensenada is packed with tourists and this morning the prospect of an excruciating border wait was alleviated by a simple trick. I awoke at 3 am, was on the road by 4 am, in Tijuana by 5:20 am and across the border by 6:05 am. There was absolutely no traffic to speak of on any road until I reached the border! The only reason I waited more than a half hour at the border was because the crossing guards were taking extra time with each vehicle due to the recent terrorist threats announced before the holiday. At 6 am the lines really started to move as they opened more lanes of traffic. So… if you find yourself in the same situation July 4th or any other busy weekend south, try this little secret, but don’t tell anybody. OOPS, I received over 23,000 ( >update< more than 120,000 hits as of June 2005) on this website last month and I guess now all will know… O well, that’s my job. By the way, the reason I came back today, this May 31st was to post this new newsletter supporting two books that judging from your response, have helped all of you realize a happier and safer trip south. Thank you for the praise, recognition and accolades.

            Take time to thank a veteran this month and through out the year keep these noble warriors in your prayers. They are the reason we travel so freely and have the opportunity to complain about those high gas prices!!!  



            May 15th (June 1st in the Atlantic region) of every year signals the beginning of the annual hurricane migration north to our latitudes from the Gulf of Tehuantepec which washes the Pacific shores of extreme southern Mexico. Your yachts insurance policy probably stipulates that you not venture into latitudes below near Ensenada unless you pay a premium for hurricane coverage. From June 1st to October 31st these restrictions apply, and anyone True Traveling south by sea to the area from Ensenada to Costa Rica should be aware of the dangers involved in being caught in a tropical depression that could possibly spell disaster. Usually these storms dissipate before they reach latitude 30 degrees north, but the tail end of many hurricanes do reach as far north as San Diego as illustrated by the satellite photo of hurricane Nora below (the 1st picture of the set) dated 9-27-1997. The next 8 photos of the set below are of hurricane Linda dated September 12th and 13th in 1997. Linda was one of the largest hurricanes witnessed for years, and her influence caused hot sticky and tropical rainy days as far north as Los Angeles. This was a very volatile weather year which included an El Nino influence. The largest hurricanes usually occur in the months of August and September, but the May appearance of warm 69 degree water off the coast of California this year could warn of a banner year for tropical storm activity. Already, this past 10 days saw the birth and progression of the season’s first hurricane, Agatha. The life of these storms and often the path they take is determined by the temperature of the water and, of course, the warmer the water the more violent the storm. The good result of these storms is the big south swells that cause big surf to place smiles on the faces of the local surfing clan. So let’s emphasize the positive effect of the summer storms and be aware of the possible dangers and enjoy safe and sensible yachting during this summer and early fall.  

Click on these photos and the following photos in this newsletter and use your web browser back button to return to this page

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            The cantina’s founder, Johann Hussong, was born in Germany in 1863. When he was 23, he immigrated to New York, where he became John. In 1864 he moved to California. In 1889 the discovery of gold south of the border lured him to Ensenada. Back then, there were 1,337 people, three hotels, one bar, a pier, a few shops, a flour mill, a school, a stable and a wine cellar. There was a new telegraph and phone line between San Diego and Ensenada and a steamship line that operated between the two cities. The road between the two was often impassible.

            John hunted quail, geese and other wild fowl which he sold to local restaurants. In 1890 he bought a barbershop and began running a carriage with six horses between Ensenada and the gold rush camp, El Alamo, about 60 miles to the southeast on a very bad road. His carriage flipped one day that June, and he broke his leg. He was brought to J.J. Meiggs’ cantina in Ensenada to recuperate. A few days later Meiggs attacked his wife with an axe. He was arrested and she took off for California. The day he got out of jail, Meiggs sold the bar to John Hussong and left to search for his wife. Neither was ever heard of again.

            In those days, the cantina was located where Papas & Beer is now. However, the next door neighbors complained constantly about the noise, so John, who had by then become Juan, moved his bar across the street, where it’s been ever since. In April, 1892 Hussong’s Cantina was established.

            This past November we enjoyed an annual street party commemorating the birth of Hussong’s Cantina. Hussong’s has changed little in 111 years since its opening. The addition of electricity, a new sheet metal ceiling and a new ice maker are the few improvements to date. The bar has maintained the family tradition of serving consistently great drinks, using top quality liquor and charging reasonable prices. In the 60’s when I discovered the place, the bar possessed a rowdy, somewhat dangerous atmosphere; I remember a couple of stare downs that could have resulted in violence, but thankfully did not. Today the bar attracts mostly locals and offers a laid back, friendly and casual atmosphere. The dark green interior, wooden floors covered in sawdust, and the art on the walls are a charming frame for the festivities. Mariachis rotate in and out, just like they always have. Most nights a guy with a Polaroid cruises by, offering souvenir photos. Whenever a song finishes, there’s a round of hooting, hollering and cheering. We encourage you to visit this classic bar, the first cantina to allow women into a decidedly male institution, the Mexican cantina.



Page 21

New XM Radio Information

            The radio satellite subscription system is ideal for a large selection of radio programming and is reported to have its coverage extend to 200 miles beyond the borders of the continental United States.

New Pemex Fuel Information

            There are usually two kinds of gas; an unleaded fuel called magna in green handled pumps and a premium unleaded fuel in red handled pumps. Magna seems to have an octane rating of around 86, so expect a lot of pinging. Diesel is carried at most stations, which contains a high sulfur content, making changing your oil more often advisable if you use a lot of Mexican diesel fuel. 

            Due to the recent rise in fuel prices in the states, purchase of fuel in Mexico has been a more attractive practice. The quality of the fuel has been questioned by some who use the magna grade, so we advise you buy the higher grade fuel called premium. There is also the issue of exchange variable from station to station. The rumor is the independently owned stations franchised by Pemex give you a lower amount of value for your dollars than the stations directly owned by Pemex. The large station as you enter Ensenada just after crossing the bridge has always been friendly to us and never presented a problem. The fuel is sold in quantity by the liter. One gallon is 3.78 liters so multiply the cost of a liter by 4 and you will have the approximate cost per gallon. Pricing varies every first of the month by a factor of plus or minus 0.5%. Most of these stations are full service and tipping is suggested.

Page 74

Please make this correction.

Mexico Country Code: 52… NOT 011





            Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, founded in 1834, was the last mission to be established in either of the Californias. It was also the shortest lived of all the missions, being abandoned in 1840 following an Indian uprising. The mission was situated to the north of Ensenada 35 kilometers distant on the wagon trail to Tecate, about 15 miles from the sea and at an elevation of about 1100 feet. The valley is about 10 miles long and 2 1/2 miles wide, rimmed with mountains and extending in a gradual descent from the northeast to the southwest. At that time, it had sandy but fertile soil and water conditions that were relatively favorable, with a water table underground that was readily obtainable. The valley had many groves of olive trees and a numerous Indian population.

            In 1845, Alta California Governor Pio Pico granted his secretary, Juan Bandini, land at the ex-mission site, but the Mexican government eventually annulled this grant. In the next 25 years the land changed hands many time but only a few small ranchos were established. By 1872, the population of Guadelupe reportedly numbered 8 men, 3 women, and 5 children.

            A group of Russians settled at Guadalupe in the early 20th century known as Molokans, a sect somewhat similar to Scottish Presbyterianism. They fled their homeland, with its harsh Czarist regime and its Greek Orthodox religion, most of them coming to the New World. In 1905, a group of 100 Molokans families acquired this land in the Guadalupe Valley from an American holding company that had just purchased the property. The reported price was $50,000, although there is some measure of reason to believe they paid twice that amount. In March 1906, Ivan Samarin and C.P. Blumenthal negotiated a colonization contract with the Mexican government and by the summer of 1907 the Colonia Rusa was reported to have a population of 187.

            The Molokan colonists held the land, in the old Russian tradition, as community property. This precluded the isolated farmsteads more typical of the area and brought about the formation of a Russian-style village with dwellings, barns, and other buildings being lined up along a single, broad street planted with tall shade trees. A little less than half of their land, or approximately 6,000 acres, was arable, but they also share-cropped neighboring lands, at Vallecitos further inland, and San Antonio and Salsipuedes, closer to the coast. Their principle crops were grains, chiefly wheat, of which about 80 per cent were said to have been produced at Guadalupe. As time went on, reckless and primitive use of the land considerably decreased crop yields, and along with marketing and transportation problems, created discontent and encouraged migration, especially among the young, who migrated to Southern California. By the census of 1912, the colony was listed as having 351 inhabitants.

            While the Guadalupe colonists relied on dry-farming for their grain crops, every farmhouse had an orchard irrigated by a well by means of a windmill in the fashion of the homeland. They grew oranges, peaches, vegetables, etc., but only for home consumption. Livestock was relatively important, with each family owning from 10 to 300 cattle, yet not a direct source of income. Numerous coyotes around Guadalupe were blamed for the failure to raise sheep or goats. Peculiar to the Russians, and not to be found in any other Mexican culture, were the beehives and flocks of geese. They also introduced the cultivation of grapes to the area and a few were bold enough to prepare wine for community consumption.

This fascinating story of the local Russian Settlement in the Guadalupe Valley continues in next month’s newsletter.





            As you leave Ensenada and just after you pass through the little town of El Sauzal, there is an exit across from the fish factory to Mexico's two lane Highway 3 which winds northeast through the Valle de Guadalupe and Baja's famous winery regions, through chaparral & boulder-covered hills, eventually ending up in the peaceful border town of Tecate. It is a pleasant, quiet drive with many opportunities to stop and enjoy a bit of backcountry Mexico. Much of this area reminds us of the rich area northeast of San Diego, Rancho Santa Fe.

True Traveler Note: the kilometers numbers decrease as you approach Tecate and the international border.


KM-95 to 92        The San Antonio de la Minas Area
This pueblo is the beginning of Baja California’s wine country. It is fast developing into a bohemian community of fine art and local crafts.

Corre Caminos - Located in a low-slung brick building on the right side of the road recognizable by the painting of a roadrunner on the roof sign. This is a popular breakfast place and for good reason - outstanding selection, prices and service. A table is reserved in the back for truck drivers, and you know they say that truckers know the best eats on the highway. This place is also a bakery.

Restaurante Mustafa – This is the last building on left hand side of road before you head out of San Antonio de la Minas, you can’t miss it. Mustafa serves succulent Moroccan specialties and great seafood. The octopus salad, as it comes dressed up nicely on a bed of red cabbage, is highly recommended.

Bodegas San Antonio is also found here and wine tours are available.

One other point of interest just northeast of San Antonio on the Highway is Punta Morro Organic Herb Farm with over 175 different kinds of culinary and medicinal herbs. Tours not only net a wealth of information but a page full of fresh cut herbs and a tour of their wreath making factory. Hours 8-3:30 Monday-Friday/8-noon Saturday. US phone number to set up guided tours and get directions - (619) 794-0570.

KM-77 to 73            The Guadalupe Valley Area
Valle Guadalupe Highlights - at the intersection by the big bridge you will see a house with a cart out in front - This is Irma’s place. Fabulous carnitas....quail in a light chili sauce or rabbit birria. She also sells processed/frozen quail raised on her ranch, and they are in the process of setting up the same system for the rabbit. Irma makes great Salsa de Chili de Arbol. (Look for the Carnitas sign painted on her house just as you cross the bridge). Also, here you will discover a little museum which traces the history of the Russian settlement of Valle de Guadalupe. Known as Colonia Ruso, a small cemetery, church, and some Russian-style homes still exist from the migration of Russian Molokan religious order which was granted land in 1905. At one point about 500 Russian immigrants lived here.

Though there are probably at least eight wineries in the Valle de Guadalupe, the top three with tours are:

Monte Xanic is located west of the Valle proper - at the main intersection turn west towards Pueblo Francisco Zarco. Tours available.

L.A.Cetto can be found on the highway about a mile from the main intersection in town. You will come to a straight stretch in the road - on the right is this winery. They have tours Monday through Saturday. Best to get there around noon to make sure you don’t miss the tour or at least the sampling of their stock. Pretty ride through the vineyard to get to the bodega.

Domecq Vinicola is across the highway in the huge processing building. They too have tours Monday - Friday from 10:00AM - 4:00PM and Saturdays from 10:AM - 1:30PM .

*See our photo page for pictures of this scenic wine producing area.

You'll notice Rancho Sordo Mudo as you approach L.A. Cetto & Domenqc wineries. It is a school for Deaf/Mute children founded by a Baptist missionary couple almost thirty-five years ago. Their sons and wives work there also (the sons spent much of their youth on the ranch). The children learn home sign and tasks that will enable them to earn an income in the outside world. They have Apple computers and are always looking for software - in Spanish.

                              Continuing down Hwy 3
Six miles before you get to Tecate (just past a scary right-hand hairpin turn) there is the Rancho Tecate Resort - this resort was started by John Alessio (the one & only Mr. A of San Diego fame) - good food, nice atmosphere - and the BEST Sunday brunch - plus you might get to see Mr. A walking around the grounds.

Upon entering Tecate, visit the town's legendary Tecate Brewery. The brewery now has a beer garden and tours of the plant. To get there, make a left at the light just after the crossing the railroad tracks, it is two blocks down on the left. You can’t miss the huge beer factory, as it dominates the skyline of the little ciudad of Tecate.

Once in Tecate, head for the zocalo (main plaza) and relax under the shade trees in Baja's oldest border town. Across the street on the east side is La Placita, a small restaurant famous for their nopolito (cactus) tacos. You can also take in a baseball game if the home team is in town.

True Traveler Note: Lodging is limited to a couple of hotels and a few RV campgrounds en route to Tecate. There is only one Pemex gas station between El Sauzal and Tecate located in the Valle de Guadalupe, so fuel up at either end of your trip. Just after you cross the border there is a gas station in the little strip mall on the right hand side of the 2 1/2 mile long road that leads to highway 94. On Hwy. 94, you can travel to San Diego (38 miles west) or the Imperial Valley & Arizona (east). Bon voyage amigos!


The Russian colonists introduced orchards of fruit irrigated by a well by means of a windmill to the Guadalupe Valley, along with flocks of geese and beehives native to their home land.





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