Rett woke with little appetite, so it’s now clear that she’s likely suffering a less hard-hitting but similar case of pathogen-induced digestive illness to what I went through on the opposite end of Bahia Concepción. Late in the morning she eventually ate some eggs, perhaps because her body’s demand for calories after yesterday’s draining ride was strong enough to overcome its protective appetite-suppressing instincts. Meanwhile, I feel especially bad for her because I’m now to the point where just about everything tastes good to me, and my body is easily putting down calories it refused back in Mulege, and making up that deficit.
By the afternoon, we decided that moving on out of Loreto tomorrow wouldn’t be a good idea, so we booked two more nights in town. Unfortunately our current AirBNB was no longer available, so we needed to find another place. But that allowed us to pick a place closer to the center of town, which, if Rett was blessed with a sudden improvement, would make it easier to spend some time actually exploring what seems to be a very comfortable town. So that meant that we’re doing an exact replica of what we did in Mulege: booked a place for two nights, wished we would have booked for longer to give us time to absorb the town, and then “luckily”, one of us got sick, forcing us to book two more nights at a different, closer-to-town place.
I was able to do laundry at the outdoor machine at the house (one of the reasons we booked it), and then line-dry it on the clotheslines in the back yard. Meanwhile, Rett used the magic of running water to give a good cleaning to all of our 9-days-grungy cooking gear. I made another run to “Big Smart”, the Oxxo-equivalent convenience store for some groceries, but that was the only departure either of us made from the house.
Rett’s still on a diet of instant ramen with Ritz-clone “Crackets” (regular pasta with tomato sauce for me), but now has an additional stress besides her own digestive system: her dad’s digestive system. She’d been concerned because he’d been sick in bed for several days (and recently she’d been unable to reach him on the phone, living alone in upstate New York). Today she learned that he had gone to the hospital, might need gall bladder surgery, and worse, was possibly septic. Losing her mom eight months ago was an unimaginable horror. Losing both of her parents in less than a year suddenly felt like an even-worse possibility.
I went for an early-morning run back to the Big Smart for a stick of butter (well, margarine…butter is more difficult, though not impossible, to come by in Baja), because the jar of butter we’d been carrying unrefrigerated for a couple weeks had gotten some weird pink coloring to it, and hey, we’re trying to improve digestive systems here, right? An unsurprising lesson we’re learning is that stuff definitely doesn’t stay preserved as long in our panniers here and now as it did in November in northern California! The never-refrigerated Mexican eggs are still big winners though.
On the way back, just a block from our place in our out-of-the-way neighborhood, I was surprised to see Brian and Tom, the bike tourers we met a couple days ago! They were coming around the corner a bit lost trying to get out of town, and it was a (hopefully) useful coincidence that we ran into each other, because as someone who had been planning to ride back to the highway from this obscure neighborhood, I had mapped out the gravel-road route and was able to direct them to it.
We checked out of AirBNB #1 at noon, and our plan to hit the Super Ley Express grocery store between places was foiled by AirBNB #2 notifying us that we could check-in early. Ok, that’s nice, now we don’t have to deal with locking/watching the bikes at the store. “The Mermaid” is on the second floor, so we had to take all our bags off the bikes to get them up the stairs, but it is one of the more-modern and luxurious AirBNB’s we’ve stayed at in Baja (in the 2019 StreetView the second level of the building was just bits of concrete and rebar). Which made the sewer-gas coming from the shower drain more-surprising than it’s been at the couple of other places we’ve experienced it. When I learned DIY plumbing in recent years, the codes about venting the plumbing stack seemed a bit fussy to me, but now I’m starting to think that similarly-rigorous standards could be helpful here! Anyway, keep the bathroom door closed and refill the trap (at least I assume it has a trap?) and it was manageable.
The Super Ley did have several of the hard-to-find things we expected it to have (sandwich thins!), but the lines were so insanely long, we just settled for “groceries” at our new local Big Smart. We’re retired people hanging out in this town with nothing particular to do, we ain’t got time for lines! That at least made it easy for me to get the third ice-cream sandwich I’ve had in as many nights, as these AirBNBs with freezers have allowed me to end one of the longest ice-cream droughts of my life!
The whole time we’re trying to keep most thoughts of Rett’s dad out of our heads (because there is very little we can do from here). But she was finally able to get a nurse on the line at the hospital, learned the “good news” that he was not yet septic, but would be having surgery tomorrow to remove his gall bladder. Her sister Sophie would be flying from Chicago to New York to provide some on-site care, and we tried our best from-a-distance to assist Sophie in making those travel plans, the one thing we could do from here.
Knowing that her dad was at least getting care helped settle Rett’s stomach a bit (as did her immune system stepping up), so she was actually feeling hungry today. That gave us an opportunity to finally walk a bit around town, checking out the Mission (the first Mission established in Baja), the tree-collonaded pedestrian streets, and the waterfront. Those historical, geographical features have made Loreto even more of a gringo-attracting tourist town than Mulege, which has then fed back on itself into gringo-led development, which makes it even more gringo-attracting, and the spiral continues. Your perspective determines whether you see that spiral twisting upwards or downwards, but for me, I see it mostly upwards. It results in far more tourist knick-knack shops than we’ve seen since Porto Nuevo outside Ensenada, and even touts hanging out at the waterfront hawking boat tours, but it also results in nice places like our AirBNB (owned by Mexicans) and, selfishly for me, a brewery, Zopilote (owned by expats), opening onto the square next to the Mission with a small farmer’s market. At the latter we got a lunch of burgers and, once again, beers just for me, for they had very little in Rett’s non-bitter domain. But their IPA and stout were very fresh and good for me. While sitting on a bench on the square, we saw more people go by on bicycles (including a family of bike tourers too busy to stop) than we’ve seen in the whole of Mexico!
After a lot of radio-silence and many calls, Rett finally learned that her dad’s gall bladder surgery was more complex and difficult than normal (taking 5 hours), but in the end, successful, so we’re happy to feel that the risk curve is trending downward.
We still decided to stay longer in Loreto, mainly so that we could be Internet/phone-connected in order to be a reliable remote support for Sophie to aid her direct-support of her dad. Also, Loreto does have a small airport with flights to the U.S., so it felt good to keep that in our back pocket as a just-in-case. Unfortunately our current place was booked for tomorrow, forcing us to move on to a third AirBNB, and since the finding-a-new-place + moving takes up a big chunk of a day, we decided to reserve for three more days, hoping that would be our final extension. And of course being free to hit the pause-button on our forward-motion whenever we like is even more valuable now than it was for hitting up Taco Tuesday.
We had a nice conversation with our hosts when leaving AirBNB #2 (he spoke fluent English, and translated the fun bits for his wife). Among other things, we got a warning about “Semana Santa” (Holy Week), which sounds like it’s really a two-week-plus period of spring-break vacationing in Mexico built around the Easter holiday. We had gotten some similar info on the Bahia Concepción beaches, with long-timers like Eduardo at El Burro telling us that every inch of the beach would become packed with cars and tents, completely filling even the wide open areas far back from the water. And after two years of COVID-19 closures, everything was open this year, so the thought was the pent-up-demand could make it even more insane than the normal insanity. The relatively late date of Easter, allowing the waters to warm more, could amplify the crowds even more. Today we got a more-explicit warning about all those vacationers leading to high traffic volumes on the roads, and worse, drinking before (or during) their driving. Thank you for the local insights that we never would have seen in any blog posts or guides!
Our new place was only a couple blocks from our old one, so we just walked our bikes over to the pedestrian street, sat on a bench under the trees for a while, and then got some lunch at Zapata’s, because its indoor/outdoor setup looked cute, and it was both right next to our bench and our new place.
Our third AirBNB was perhaps the most modern, American-style place we’ve stayed in yet. Loreto80 was designed and recently built as a block of tourist apartments, and in a country where many hotel rooms will have a single two-plug wall-outlet that will happily eject your loose plugs if you look at it even slightly-askance, this place must have had a dozen, and every one of them a four-banger! Inspired by the AirBNB listing photos, I spent the afternoon sitting outside our unit, working on the windowsill with the windows wide open into our kitchen, and a Tecate at hand.
The one-block-away independent El Pescador Supermercado ended up being even more gringo-focused than the Ley, so we got some Italian sausage to cook up with our roasted-vegetable dinner.
In order to try to stay in some sort of shape while in our holding pattern, we’d had an idea to do a long mostly-unloaded out-and-back bike ride to the San Javier Mission through what sounded like a beautiful mountain valley. But Rett had bashed her elbow pretty badly on the concrete countertop yesterday, and her arm was still pretty sore, so we’ll have to save that for next time! Instead we didn’t leave our apartment once the entire day.
To get some bit of exercise, today we settled for a long walk on the beach, heading north from Loreto where the Malecón ends. We had the whole line of rocky shell-covered sand (plus the occasional fish-skeleton) nearly to ourselves, and on the way back, got tremendous views of the mountains rising up sharply behind Loreto that have somehow been invisible from all the places inside the town.
The best news was that Rett’s dad was being released from the hospital today, with her sister at his house ready to receive him. Even better, he seemed to be recovering quickly, so Sophie might only need to be there another couple days, which meant that we also would feel comfortable moving on, back into the Mexican wild.