Before the Toll Road

Baja Bernie - 12-5-2006 at 09:26 PM

Lu Ann and I will be gone for about a week so I thought I would post this one so that a few of you could allow a bit of dust to settle on your shoulders--even over in Europe.

In 1965 things were very different than they are today. Now you zip past Tijuana and hit the Toll Road at Playa de Tijuana. It’s a straight shot down to La Salina. No need to stop for any reason other than the Toll Booth at Rosarito. Without stopping to pee you can make it from San Diego to the Cantina in about an hour. In ’65 the same trip would take from 3 to 6 hours depending somewhat on your life style.

The first problem you would encounter was the normal 20-30 minute back up at the border. Not northbound, but going south, it was always backed up.

There were only a few lanes into Mexico and the Immigration Officers were right on the border. They stopped and checked almost every vehicle. If you were bringing anything worthwhile—like building materials—no problem! You just slipped the guy some ‘mordida’ (a little bite), five or ten bucks usually handled it, no taxes or forms, and away you went.

Getting from the border involved traversing the southeastern area of downtown Tijuana with all of its crazy gringo drivers. Those guys never seemed to know where they were going. They were a real menace to the safe and proper flow of traffic. The traffic snarl began to thin out as you hit the ‘Libre’ (the free road) as it crossed Avenida Revolucion and wound it’s way up and over the hills toward the village of Rosarito. Soon you were rolling through the small community of La Gloria’s. During the prohibition era this was the first watering hole for the Hollywood movie stars as they headed south. Leaving La Gloria’s you found yourself in open farm country heading downhill toward Rosarito Beach.

The Libre from Tijuana all the way to Rosarito was one lane is each direction with numerous curva peligroso (dangerous curves). Add to this very slow moving trucks, crazy gringo’s, macho Mexican drivers and you will understand why this strip has more little white crosses along both sides of the road than any other stretch of roadway in Baja.
To try and pass a slow moving truck was to take your life in your hands. This was definitely white-knuckle country.

As you dropped into the valley leading to the beach you would find a few old Indian artisans sitting by the road, selling ‘real’ hand carved original woodcarvings. If you wanted something special you could order it and pick it up on your next trip. There were other venders selling melons, corn, tamales, olives, and blankets.

If you took your time and studied things, you would find that the prices were highest on Saturday and Sunday and much cheaper on Wednesday or Thursday. Why? Because by Wednesday the Indians were broke and on Sunday they were flush. These poor guys were truly living hand to mouth.

By the time you reached the dusty, sleepy village of Rosarito you were ready for a drink and some time to wind down after all those curvas peligros and those crosses of death. Remember there was no Toll Road and the main street through town, Avenida Juarez, was part of the Libre that connected Tijuana with Ensenada to the south. The City of Rosarito Beach encompassed a mere 15,000 souls half of which were North Americans. “The Hotel” was very run down and no one who knew anything bothered to stop there.

If you needed gasoline this was your last chance until you hit Ensenada.

Rene’s Bar and Restaurant was the last place to get a drink until you hit the Half Way House. Between Rene’s and the Half Way House there was nothing but a one lane, pothole filled, road. Twenty-five miles an hour was good time.

As you approached the Half-Way House you began to notice that the ‘grime’ of the rat race was beginning to peel away. Most people know the story of how this place got its name but I’ll tell it again just to make sure. When the Stars from Hollywood wandered down here they found that the Bar and “Motel” were halfway between T.J. and Ensenada. In those days it was a good days drive to the Half Way House and another to Ensenada.

Would you believe that those glamorous people slept in those 10' by 12' rooms (cribs) out back?

Anyway, the Half Way House had a great dance floor and very friendly bartenders. “I’ll have a Rum and coke, No! How about a bourbon and water? No. Ok! I’ll have vodka no ice. Thanks!” The drinks were somewhat limited but the people were friendly, the music was fair, and the dance floor was smooth.

Heading south you would not see another vehicle until you hit Puerto Nuevo (New Port) which was the home of about 75 people all of whom owed their living to the sea. Two or three of the families would invite you into their living rooms and serve you fresh lobster, beans, and rice, for so little money I won’t even mention it. Señor Ortega had not yet installed refrigeration so all of the langosta was fresh from the sea. Cantamar was just a bump in the road.

Nothing between here and La Fonda’s except Campo Lopez.
Around the bend, through La Mision and, finally, home.

Elapsed time 3 hours 35 minutes.

That was rushing but the dust still settled on your shoulders.

[Edited on 12-6-2006 by Baja Bernie]

Prohibition solution!

thebajarunner - 12-5-2006 at 09:41 PM

I hear that you went down there during Prohibition to do your drinking, is that true?
heh heh heh

(with friends like me.....)

ps. did you ask permission to leave the country?


Baja Bernie - 12-5-2006 at 10:07 PM

Yep! And the Mexicans gave me permision to leave--in fact they sorta shoved me.

fandango - 12-5-2006 at 10:26 PM

i remember.

have a good trip bernie.

FARASHA - 12-7-2006 at 09:47 AM

Originally posted by Baja Bernie
Lu Ann and I will be gone for about a week so I thought I would post this one so that a few of you could allow a bit of dust to settle on your shoulders--even over in Europe.

THANKS Bernie - almost missed it - as I expect it usually for saturday - gosh!!


[Edited on 7-12-2006 by FARASHA]

jimgrms - 12-7-2006 at 01:35 PM

I remember going to el rosario :bounce:in the mid 60's with a bunch from a broncos club ,we left tj at 1.00 pm and it took12 hours to get there and almost 20 to get back i had suffered 3 flats was stuck 2 times and the brushes on my international trucks generator turned to dust ended up using so spare ford brushes and filled to, fit in fact that international is still down there somewhere ,, jim
viva geezerhood

[Edited on 12-7-2006 by jimgrms]