Tecate, Mexico

Trip Start Apr 11, 2010
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Trip End May 20, 2010


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Flag of Mexico  , Baja California,
Saturday, April 17, 2010

To avoid the hectic Tijuana/San Ysidro border crossing I decided to drive about 30 miles southeast from San Diego to Tecate, a small border city surrounded by hills that look something like the introductory shots from the old show M.A.S.H. I bought some Mexican auto insurance on the U.S. side, a year's worth of coverage the same price as for the 35 or so days I anticipated being in the country.  Crossing the border was a piece of cake as the gate opened automatically and no one on the Mexican side said a word to me.  If only all border crossings could be that simple!

Since I was going to be traveling south of Ensenada I needed to check in with immigration to get my tourist card.  The bored-looking immigration officer probably hadn't seen anyone all day, spoke English well, and was very chatty and helpful.  With 180 days authorization and a year-long auto insurance policy I could stay in Mexico quite a while if I so choose.

There's a bit of hype in the guidebooks about Tecate being the nicest Mexican border town.  That's not saying much; it's still a rather dull, dusty place beyond its pleasant Zocalo (central square) with strolling Saturday mariachis.  The town's main attraction is the brewery where Tecate beer is produced but tours are limited and by reservation only.

I spent the night at a campground on a beautifully situated ranch in the mountains a few miles east of Tecate, one apparently owned by people of Basque origin from the architecture of the farm houses and the flags displayed in the office.  While the camping facilities at Rancho Ojai are well kept and extensive, it felt oddly deserted for a Saturday night.
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