Jonathan Roldan – BAJA BEAT

Click here for Jonathan Roldan – BAJA BEAT

Thursday, October 20, 2011
Fall doesn't fail
Friday, November 11, 2011
Cabo Magic's REAL Winning story

Five star as it gets
Don't get me wrong. I like being pampered as much as the next guy when I go on vacation and stay at a hotel. There's nothing wrong with room service; a great restaurant; a spa; fluffy robes and a (Okay...I admit it)...a mint on my pillow and cookies! 


Surely, I've stayed in some of the best in Baja...Hotel Cabo San Lucas, The Finesterra, Palmas de Cortez, Spa Buenavista among so many great resort properties and enjoyed them all tremendously.


But that's not usually how I roll. I WISH we could do that all the time, but that's just not very economical.


But, especially in  pre-internet days 15 or 20 years ago... In the days before all those sites like Trip Advisor and Yelp and other websites arose to  dissect every aspect of every resort from the size of the pool to the softness of the toilet paper and the fragrance of the shampoo; there weren't many resources to finding a place to lay your head. 


There was always the dog-eared dusty copy of dad's Auto Club guide in the glove box or under the seat and that was about it if you were road-tripping down the Baja.


In  those early days when I would routinely drive up and down the often-lonely-always-bumpy Baja several times a year, some of those were the best stays I ever had.


There were three kinds of nights.


Sleep in the car or truck on the side of the road curled up under the steering wheel.


Pull over in the dark. Camp on the side of the road or beach. Never quite sure where you pitched your tent until you woke up the next day.




Really  "splurge" and find some road sign as the sun goes down. Take a chance that "Clean rooms. Cheap Rooms. Hot Showers. Comida Rica" (good food) really meant what it said.


Cheap rooms sometimes meant "economical." Sometimes, it meant exactly what it said...CHEAP!  Single light bulb hanging from the ceiling with a pull-chain.  Threadbare towels the size of a dishtowel. Worn mattress on top of a concrete slab and a TV with rabbit ears made of a clothes hangar. 


But those were the exception. More often than not, off the road and to the left meant finding a little Baja gem. They still exist. The scenario didn't differ.


Sun going low. Too many hours driving in the shimmering dessert heat with the Jimmy Buffet cassette tape getting pretty old. Junk food wrappers on the floor.  Reading the road signs for miles. Rusty, sun-baked, poorly-lettered or hand-lettered attempts to look attractive nailed onto any fence post, tree, or any vertical piece of wood.


Casa Maria Palapa and Campground 5 km.

El Sol Beach Hotel 3 km.

Hotel Bahia Hernan Cortez 1.5 km.


Perhaps not grammatically correct but lots of credit for effort.


"Hot Chowers and Gude Fud"


I would eventually be forced to make a choice prompted by tired eyes and diminishing light. Down the road and to the left. Often down a dirt or gravel washboard. Sometimes parting a herd of goats or rousting the lazy dog.


And the trees would open and there it would be. 


Often on the beach. Often only one or two other cars and a well-used hotel pick up truck in the parking lot and lit by yellow bug lights illuminating concrete walls, terra cotta tiles, and a palapa roof. 


Lots of tangled  bouganvillia vines climbing the old columns and up the terraces. Maybe an old fountain in the brick courtyard. Maybe not. But the  savory smell of grilling corn tortillas and searing meat coming from somewhere. The faint sound of an old mariachi tune off an 8-track or the sound of a TV playing a soccer team carries over the early evening air.


Family owned and happy to see you with big smiles. As you check in, family pictures on the walls. A cheap Baja calendar over the check-in desk. Mama happily checks you in. 


Lo siento, Senor! No credit cards, but rooms are $15 U.S. Will that be okay?


It's a deal. Papa comes in "Bienvenidos, Amigo! (Welcome!) and helps with your luggage to a clean little room. Daughter brings fresh towels again with a shy welcoming smile. This will do. There's a fuschia-colored flower in a glass on the nightstand. Nice touch.


I follow that wonderful aroma that caught me as I came in. Down to the little three-table cafe on the concrete slab overlooking the beach. Pacifico Beer poster on the wall next to a faded picture of a bullfight.


In the soft  yellow bug lights, there's a dry-yellowed dorado taxidermied on the wall and some shark jaws dangling from a decorative old fishing net tacked nearby. The soccer game flickers from an old black and white TV.   


The plastic Corona Beer tables match, but the silverware and plates don't.  Grandma in the back frying something good. She sees you and smiles.


There's no menus. Grandson comes out and tells you what they are serving that night. And treats you like you're a guest in their home. Which you are!


Tomato salad (from their own garden)

Homemade rice and beans

Grandma’s corn tortillas and green tomatillo salsa

Grilled lobster tail (proudly caught by their cousin that morning on the reef who doubles as the gardener)



...for eight dollars.


Is that oky, he asks awkwardly as if he regrets charging a house guest. "Es bueno?"


"Claro" (Of course) I smile back.


He brightens and eagerly heads to the kitchen.


A Baja feast. And, of course, ice cold beer. Heaven. Smiling grandson brings the beer.


I lean back in the chair kick off my flip-flops and let my feet rest on the cool concrete. Beer so cold the icy liquid burns the road dust at the back of my throat. Sigh. Slow exhale. Inhale the salty beach air. Ahhhhh... And watch the sun go down on the Sea of Cortez.


It's as Five Star as any person ever needs.


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