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November 11, 2019

Shrimp Festival - San Felipe

The 27th annual Shrimp Festival that marks the beginning of San Felipe’s high tourist season.  The festival is held the first weekend of November on the Malecon.  

Normally we'd cross the border at Mexicali, but the new crossing at Rio Nuevo is still a mess.  This trip we chose to cross at Tecate.  We enjoy this small mountain border town, I blogged our visit there a couple years ago HERE.

Just east of Tecate the free Mex 2 meets the Federal Mex 2D.  Mex 2 is a narrow two lane alternative to the 4 lane divided Mex 2D toll road, saving us $123 pesos.  Both roads join 50 km away at La Rumarosa, where the toll is a more reasonable $36 pesos.  

There is a 2-digit grade in places as it changes elevation between La Rumarosa and La Cuesta (The Slope).  However there are numerous pullouts to enjoy the view, while giving the brakes or transmission a bit of time to cool.  

La Cuesta provides ample parking, a nice restaurant, convenience store and a gas station.  When was the last time you were welcomed into a gas station by gals in short-shorts, dancing and waving banners?

Mex 2D, the toll road, from Tecate La Rumarosa is in excellent condition.    Mex 2, the free road, is a narrow 2 lane in pretty good condition.  Mex 2D from La Rumarosa is in excellent condition to the junction with Mex 5.  Generally Mex 5 south of Mexicali to San Felipe is also in very good condition, although, on this trip there was a minor detour around some bridge work.  

Fran's brother, Bobby, has a Beach House south of San Felipe at Bahia Santa Maria.  The road south of San Felipe always seems to be in need of work.  Sections of the road were covered in sand from a windstorm last month.

There is major road work to replace the vados with culverts on the Puertecitos road, adding additional detours.

However, the "Oh Shit Dip" at km marker 17 remains.  This is the worst of the vados!

When I opened the house I discovered a couple bats had made their home behind one of the storm shutters.

Well it is Bat Week!  Cute critters, aren't they?

The same windstorm that covered the road with sand, caused a storm surge that has eroded away our last 5 yards of beach.  Water made it into the house, ARG!  20 years ago there was 30 yards of beach in front of the house.  We often played volleyball there, now that is all gone, we might be the next home to be claimed by the Sea of Cortez.

With the house opened we find several outlets and lights are not working.  That's a common theme since the electrical wires run under the slab and short out when the water level rises.  Something else to deal with tomorrow, today is for the shrimp.

We arrived at the Malecon just before sunset, the kids' rides were ready for their first customers.

We like to sample shrimp, rather than a full meal from a single stand.  Costal Azul with Chipotle is one of my favorites.

What's not to like about spicy bacon wrapped shrimp?  Even better when I can find it stuffed with jalapeno and/or cheese.

Shrimp cocktails in spicy Clamato are a treat.

Live music and dance events on the main stage liven up the event.  The locals arrive early with their chairs for the performances.

They'll be waiting nearly an hour for the first performance, which is a Beatles tribute band.

The festival this year falls the day after Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead).  Characters from the movie Coco.

By the time we left the party was in full swing

Back at the Beach House, we begin to move some sand and fill sand bags to help keep the water in the bay.

Doing this by hand is not going to do much good, but when a piece of equipment is not needed by the road work, it can be hired out.

We have less than a year left on the lease, hopefully the sand will last that long.

Otherwise we could well look like this house that's just down the beach
The birds seem to be best suited for dealing with the shifting sands

With what sand that could be moved in place we had time to relax.  Fran was the only one to kayak this trip, although we had some perfect days for it.

We all enjoyed some golf on our course - Bahia Santa Maria Executive North 8.  We lost one of our flags a few years ago making it an 8-hole, to make it an Executive 9 we have to play one of the holes twice.

At low tide I noticed a bunch of pots in the bay.

The shifting sands covered once productive clam beds.  This is an effort by Mexico to reseed the bay with clams.

It'll take time to see if this works, the locals have already raided the pots.

The Beach House is a one-bedroom, with a loft.  It's Bobby's house, he gets the bedroom.  The loft has 2 double beds, a queen air bed and a single roll-away bed.  Fran takes the nicer double and I take the roll-away onto the roof.  That may seem strange, but here's why:

Although I enjoyed a lot of shoulder activity from the Taurid Meteor Shower, I did not capture any with the camera.

The shrimp harvest was pretty good this season.  We came home with a few kilos of beautiful and tasty jumbo shrimp.

Although we will not have the Beach House much longer, San Felipe will still have the shrimp.

October 30, 2019

HowTo FMM - Forma Migration Multiple

Forma Migratoria Múltiple (FMM) is a document required by the Mexican government for all tourists entering the country.

It is easily obtained at the INM (Instituto Nacional de Migración) at the land border crossing, or online.

I prefer to fill out the form for both Fran and myself online and pay online.  I exit the browser between forms as it tends to remember entries from the previous form.

However, even once paid and printed the form is still not valid until stamped by the INM at the border. 

Below are the basic steps on filling out the FMM form getting the appropriate stamps.  It's how we spent our morning ...

The FMM application in English can be found HERE.

Select By Land and agree to the Terms and Conditions at the bottom of the page.

If using either of the two INM stations in Tijuana select El Chaparral as the Point of Entry.
Use the drop down calendar to select your arrival date.  Note select first the month and year, and then the date.  Once the date is selected the entry is completed.  Also note the selection is stored in the European format of Day/Month/Year.

I’ve added my comments to assist with the remaining questions.  There’s no secret to answering to them.  Disclaimer:  my entries below are examples only and not related to any actual person.

Forma Migratoria Múltiple Important: To generate your request disable pop-up blocker browser and check to have installed Acrobat Reader. It is essential that has an email account.
<jsp> magenta accent added as this is important!

Forma Migratoria Múltiple (FMM)
Entry Information
Means of entry*:
By land

Point of entry*:
El Chaparral
<jsp>  Tijuana

Date of arrival to Mexico*:
<jsp> 30 Oct, 2019

Date of departure*:
<jsp> 6 months from date of entry

Personal information
John David
<jsp> First and middle name/initial/space as it appears in your passport

<jsp> Last name as it appears in your passport


Date of birth*:

Nationality (Country)*:
United States of America

Country of birth*:
United States of America

Identification document
Type of document*:


Document number*:

<jsp> passport number

Document number (Confirmation)*:

Country of issue*:
United States of America

Date of issue*:

Date of issue (Confirmation)*:

Expiration date*:

Expiration date (Confirmation)*:

Place of residence
Country of residence*:
United States of America

Address of residence*:
<jsp> I only provide a city, state, zip.

Trip information
Reason of trip*:
<jsp> I could select Other –> Health –> Dental.  But the FMM is good for 6 months and all of Mexico.  So again I am a bit vague.

Baja California
<jsp>  The FMM is good for all of Mexico, but we spend nearly all our time in Baja

Address in Mexico*:
San Felipe, BC
<jsp> Again a bit vague, but it’s never been questioned


Email (Confirmation):

Verification code*:
Not readable verification code? Try another one
<jsp> Enter the Captcha shown in the graphic, or ask for another.

Save the form and review it.  If all looks good, be certain pop-up blockers are disabled click Submit. 

A new window will be opened for Payment.  Today I paid $588 Pesos (~$28 USD) each for our FMM forms.  Be certain to print your receipt.

After payment an email link from notificaciones-inm@inami.gob.mx will be provided to  download the FMM itself.  Download and print the FMM.  Both the Entry and Exit forms are printed on a single sheet of paper.  

Since no sharps, paper cutters, scissors etc. are permitted in INM, I crease the forms and cut them about 3/4 of the way apart – top toward bottom.  Thus the agent can see they belong together and tear them apart easily.

Take BOTH the bank receipt and the completed FMM to the INM office.  There the agent will stamp both the Entry and Exit forms.  The Entry Form is retained and the Exit Form returned.  I keep Exit Form in my passport as it is proof that I am in the country legally. 

To reach the border crossings for Tijuana, ride the Blue Line Trolley to its last stop at the San Ysidro Transit Center.  Or take I-5 or I-805 to the last USA exit at Camino de la Plaza.

Today we are driving south on I-5 to the 'Last USA Exit'

The cars behind the fence on the right is where we usually park for the El Chaparral crossing (PedWest).  Today we’ll go left to the remodeled San Ysidro crossing.

I turn left at Camino de la Plaza, then right and parked in a lot on the right.  The advantage of parking on the right is that it is a right turn from the parking lot, and another right at the intersection onto the northbound freeways.  A few lane changes to the left is I-5.

Across the street is the San Ysidro Transit Center.  Since the rework, the entry to Mexico is straight ahead past McDonald's, no longer a dog-leg to the left.

This is just a different approach to the same building.  Once inside the queue for FMM is on the right.  There were a few people ahead of us, but the line moved quickly.

Once in Mexico if you are looking for a taxi?  Walk on past the yellow cabs, they are not regulated.  At the end of the walkway are the regulated white cabs with their fares clearly posted.  

Note the return to the US is a walkway originating about where the blue cart in the picture is located.

Despite the new remodel on the US side, not much has changed south of the border.

The pedestrian line forms just east of the freeway.

The building on the right (circa 1930) is the previous pedestrian crossing.

The USA is straight ahead, SENRTI Card holders to the right, everybody else to the left.

I checked Border Wait Times and both the remodeled San Ysidro and El Chaparral/PedWest were reporting 10 minutes.  I multiply by 3, expecting a 30 minute wait ... it's almost an hour!

The new San Ysidro pedestrian crossing could really help with congestion at the border.  It has 24 inspection stations, but the day we were there on 4 were operational and the wait was almost an hour.  At least that’s twice as many as the old 1930’s station that had 2 stations.

I know many people chose to cross into tourist towns, such as Los Algodones for dental visits, without issue.  The same form can be filled out at the INM desk at the crossing, there is no charge if the stay is for 7 days or less.

I've been asked to show the FMM every time we use either pedestrian crossing into Tijuana and about half the time driving across in Mexicali (west).  I've not been asked when driving into Tecate.  I've also been asked to produce the FMM in San Felipe and Puertocitos.

Now we at least we now have all our paperwork in order, we're off for a couple weeks in San Felipe.  And SHRIMP!

October 26, 2019

Culp Valley Trail - Borrego Springs

The Culp Valley Campground is located high above Borrego Springs on the Montezuma Valley Road.  At nearly 3000’ above Christmas Circle in Borrego Springs, it’s typically a bit cooler.

On the way home from Borrego Days we stopped to check out if the campground was RV friendly and stretch our legs on the Culp Valley Trail.

There are two easy trails from the entrance, or combined as a loop.  The trail to Pena Spring I blogged a HERE.  To hike the loop, review the previous blog too.

Back-in-the-day I often tent camped here, I've seen Borrego Sheep, coyotes, rabbits, lots of birds, etc.  Pena Spring provides a water source for all the critters.

Although the dirt access road has been graded there are only a few campsites where we would be able to level the RV.

The trail head is at the end of the campground.  This is an easy gravel trail.

The trail is well maintained and ADA accessible.

The rains of this past September have some of the flowers already blooming.

At about a quarter mile the trail makes a 'Y'.  To the right is a short side trail to the first overlook.

This first overlook is to the east over Borrego Springs, past the airport to the Salton Sea.  This is also the best spot for a cell signal, if needed.

Return to the main trail and continue the gradual uphill.

A few yards after crossing the California Riding  and Hiking Trail (CRHT) is the final viewpoint overlooking Hellhole Canyon.  A bit of a scramble on the rocks below the overlook provides views into the canyon, the trail to  Maidenhair Falls can be located, although the falls will be totally hidden.  Palm groves both above and below where the falls are located beckon.  The CRHT can be taken east into the canyon.

To hike both the Pena Spring and Culp Valley Trails as a 2.5 mile loop, I'd suggest parking at the ‘Y’ where the entrance road splits, below the Pena Spring trial head.  From there proceed up the access road to the Pena Spring trail head.

From the trail head follow the trail/wash crossing the CRHT to the spring less than a quarter mile beyond.  A small trail leads across a marshy area to the spring.  After checking out the spring return to the CRHT and proceed east over the ridge.

The CRHT will cross Culp Valley Trail, which is easy to find as it is 4’ wide and paved with gravel.  A few yards north is the viewpoint over Hellhole Canyon, south is the campground and the parking area.