Travels with Miss Cindy

Chapter 1

The Trip, Prepping to go, Heading Down I5, CHP stop, Mexicali Police Escort, Federal Police Stop, Arrival in San Felipe, Launching on the Beach.

I worked too slowly building 'Miss Cindy' over the summer to test her out for a trip direct to Mexico from Victoria so she is going down the road. I found this 1989 Chev station wagon on CraigsList that was on Saturna Island. I talked to the owner a few times and he figured she could probably make it to Mexico. Getting the car was a bit of an adventure in itself as Saturna has a population of about 350 and no insurance agent. Sebastion faxed me authorization and I got a temporary transport permit. The next day I headed out to pick the car up. Left by bus from Nanaimo around 0730 and got into Victoria around 1000. Loitered about for a bit then another bus to Sidney where I lived for a number of years and where my parents lived till they died. Went and got fruit buns from the Sidney bakery like I have done for 35 years and they still are quite nice. But I was in a hurry to get out of Sidney as walking around it was full of ghosts for me.

Waited a couple of hours at the ferry terminal then arrived on Saturna at 1600. Sebastion spotted me right away as I was the only walk off, and he commented that I traveled light. I saw the car, started it up, checked the tires. He told me she was a good old lady and to be nice to her and I headed out to wait 4 hours for the next ferry off the island. Got into Sidney around 2300 then drove to Nanaimo over the Malahat. Car did fine. Got my plates for only the second car I have owned in my life later that day.

I wanted to do some work on 'Miss Cindys' keels as she had a bit of lee helm and also not enough keel forward to protect her from rocks.

She was hauled out by travelift at Newcastle Marina in Nanaimo. Their load gauge read zero pounds. We were ready to go 4 days later despite the rain. Only problem was it was the Canadian Thanksgiving long weekend and the travellift was not available till Tuesday. However using 2x8's and jackstands we pushed her up and drove the big wagon under.

I stuck some bolts in the roof top for the forward 2x8's and tied her on six ways from Sunday. I dropped a note and the dough for the haulout thru the mail slot.

The original Miss Cindy and I loaded the car up with all the gear that 'Miss Cindy' will carry.

Then we went and parked her at the ferries for pickup in the morning.

Monday Oct 13 2008

The original Miss Cindy dropped me off in the ferry parking lot and I got on the 5:15am ferry. There was some interest from the truckers in the lineup. The ferry loader tipped me that my nav lights were on and I thanked him and let him know I was using them as clearance lights. ( This would be a problem later ) When I drove off the ferry I got a nice thumbs up from the traffic director. The first of many on the trip.

At the Blaine border crossing the guy was friendly compared to past boarder crossing experiences.

Him: Where are you going?

Me: Mexico

Him: Your passport please.

Him: Do you have any fresh food with you?

Me: No

Him: What do you do for a living?

Me: Retired

While this conversation was going on his pal was tapping the hull with his knuckles.

Him: Drive on.

Kept the speed around 80-90kmh and learned to watch the semi trucks when they passed. When they pulled in about 2-3 truck lengths ahead there was a side to side swaying probably caused by big eddies off their square ends. Driving was quite tense as I hadn't figured the car and boat combo all out yet. Going thru Seattle the road was pretty bad, lots of concrete washboard , I thought I had got a flat at first. There were also lots of big cracks and out of place concrete in the slow lane. After about 1/2 an hour of that there was a big bang and a loud clank clank clank. I pulled onto the shoulder and checked the boat out and it was ok. I had a chunk of tail pipe banging between the road and the bumper and no muffler anymore. Tied up the pipe and roared on down the road.

Some time in the afternoon after improving my driving skills I was more relaxed and noticed people were taking pictures. Typically if alone in the car they would sit behind and I could see them using their camera, then they would come onto the quarter and shoot another. If they had a companion they did the photos. They were a bit self conscious if I looked over but it worked out ok if I waved at the same time. Also got lots of thumbs up.

Photo by John O'Neill

Gas mileage was averaging about 10MPG and, and the gas jockeys asked the usual questions, mostly how am I getting it off and how did I get it on.

The bubble windows had a bit of their plastic cover flapping so I bought a bucket to use as a step stool and taped it up in my hotel parking lot. Also removed the tail pipe assembly and left it as art piece in their rock garden.

Second day thru Grants Pass and Weed and went thru Sacramento at rush hour. Population 500k and crazy busy fast traffic but worked ok and on to Westley California. From Redding on I must have been passed by 5,000,000 lbs of onions. The trucks with open tops would pull in front and if they were close I could smell the onions.

Car also gobbles oil, about 3 qts a day currently. As per yesterday noticed dozens and dozens of people taking photos including one with 3 people in it with two cameras flashing away and someone else taking photos from a Walmart semi trailer.

Been careful with the throttle when in town getting gas as I don't want to have to take care of the muffler.

Oregon I5 roads were much nicer than Washington, but for the most part California's are the best, some are just so smooth. Stopped at the agriculture inspection station, the guy said 'thats a neat looking boat' , then 'drive on' . No questions for me. Average 8MPG thru hilly parts of Oregon and California and then 11MPG in the flats from Redding on.

Expect to be near Mexicali tomorrow night for another hotel and cleanup and shave then into Mexico first thing Thursday.

Wednesday Oct 15 2008.

Left about 1/2 hour after dawn. There were occasionally bunches of tomatoes fallen at the road side. Made a note not to follow tomato trucks too closely. Around 0900 I was taking a picture out the window of some neat light on the lumpy hills and there was another quarter panel rider who I assumed was taking photos too. Turned out to be CHP and they pulled me over. Tall guy seemed friendly , reminded me of Tommy Lee Jones. He actually did not come to the drivers side but went to the other and started looking at the roof rig. I came around the front saying 'Hi' so as not to surprise him. He asked how wide it was and I said 8' 5" and he said how much was that in inches, I said well 8' is 96" plus 5 would make 101. He said that would be legal, I said max width is 102 right, he concurred. He asked how much it weighed, I said 500 lbs. I said I had designed it to be legal width for trailering but for various reasons ended up this way. He asked for my drivers license and registration which I got out for him. His partner showed up , I guess he had been running the plates. His partner was bad cop. He asked how wide it was and good cop said 101. Bad cop said 'we should measure it'. Good cop said no it looked ok. Bad cop said 'we should measure these' ( pointing at the 2x8s) . I said those were 8' and the maximum width was not there but up here touching the sheer rail. ( always like to help )

Bad cop and good cop did some cop talk like:

BC 240 1031

GC no I don't think so

BC 240 10??

GC no that only applies to commercials

BC yea. 'We should measure it'

GC he designed it he knows how wide it is.

GC asked where I was going. I said San Felipe.

BC said those navigation lights can't be on only amber lights forward. I said I will tape them up.

GC said, do it when you stop tonight.

BC said they should get a photo for the training stuff they do. They could put it up and say what is wrong and then get them because nothing is wrong. I said yea I was careful when I loaded it, the rudders stick out 1'9" from the bumper so they do not even need flags, but I thought they were a good idea.

BC said looks like you know your stuff, then went to look at the tires.

I asked GC if I could get a photo with them. He said sure.

Their supervisor showed up and they had some cop talk like:

SP where you going for coffee.

GC dunno

SP how bout out on 140

GC sure

When BC got back GC asked him if he was checking the tire rating, BC said 'yea their good'.

I asked if the super could take the photo and he said sure. GC asked if I wanted cuffs, I said sure, great, but he was just joking.

I asked the guys if they would do a thumbs up in case I got stopped again, I could show the photo. I mentioned I had been passed by lots of CHP cars and they did not stop me. BC said 'were the best, commercial vehicle enforcement'.

They did the thumbs up and the supervisor mumbled and pressed the button a bunch of times. The one photo I got looks good but no thumbs up.

BC asked me what I was going to do in Mexico and I mentioned the Nicaragua thing and the transport overland to the lake. He asked how I was going to get it to the lake. It seemed kind of obvious to me, but I said I will put it on a pickup or something. He asked if I had done this sort of stuff before and I mentioned my offshore experience and asked if he sailed, he said 'no, all I do is work'.

They took their photos, GC gave me back my license and registration without having done anything with it. They would have been fun to have a beer with, some good stories I am sure. I carefully started the no muffler car and pulled away.

Somewhere along the road I saw something small out in front on the road, like a leaf. As I got closer it turned out to be a really big spider maybe 4" long and a couple high. By the time I figured it out it was too late and it did a prairie gopher impersonation behind the car. Went by lots of familiar named places, Boron and its big borax mine, Edwards Air Force base where lots of radical aircraft were tested. Drove thru the Mojave desert and on down into the San Bernadino valley. That had a 12 mile 6% grade going my way. Noticed a new photographer behaviour with cars having passed me pulling over up ahead and getting out to take pictures as I went buy. Saw 4 cars do it that I noticed. The San Bernadino valley is really pretty except for the 5,000 windmills.

Desert sure is pretty when the sun starts to set.

I got sent this photo of "Miss Cindy" on the road. It was posted on a forum at

On my way to the Salton Sea area having bypassed LA and San Diego it was dusk and I had another car behind with his headlights on, thought he was trying to take a photo till blue and red came on. Friendly park police guy introduced himself by full name and asked for my license and registration. He had seen the red running light and that was the problem. I mentioned the CHP guys etc and that they did not want me to tape it up on the road. Neither did this guy, he said to wait till I was parked for the night. They asked their questions and the other guy took a flash picture to show around the office I guess. The other guy asked how southern Oregon was. I said all the roads were pretty good except around Seattle. Don't know if he was asking about the hills or the Oregon cops. Staying in Westmorland which is about 45 minutes from the Mexican border.

Thursday Oct 16 2008

It was quite an eventful day. I Got into Mexico at Mexicali around 0930 and talked to customs. I told them I would be going outside the 'free zone' in the boat and wanted a tourist card and permits for the boat. ( did not mention the car ) The guy looked at the boat but did not want to go up, said he was afraid of heights. I pointed at the stuff in the car and said it was for the boat or personal gear for me. They sent me 10 km across town to import the boat and to get a tourist card. They told me I did not need to come back to see them.

I stopped for directions once and finally found the place. Seems to be a privatized outfit that does most of the paperwork. They sent me to immigration a 100 yds away to get a tourist card, which I brought back and they issued a receipt to me both of which I took back to immigration who stamped my passport and my tourist card. The tourist card and I went back to the outfit who did a 10 year temporary import permit for the boat, but you could tell they don't normally do those in Mexicali. Paid $60 for all of this and left with lots of official looking paperwork and stamps.

Headed out of town but I made a wrong turn onto a side street. While I was working my way back to the main street a Mexicali police car pulled me over. He claimed the load was not legal in Mexico, must be on a trailer, lots of friendly discussion in my improving Spanish. He said 'ticket' a lot, asked me where I was going, I said San Felipe and had gotten off the road by mistake. He asked me how much the boat had cost, seemed like a question with a purpose, I said $6000 ( fib ) but not a big enough fib. $100 ticket, he went to his car and ran his finger down the front and back of his ticket pad as if looking for the infraction, but seemed to have a change of heart got in his car and said to follow him and he would take me to the road to San Felipe. I said I would like to offer him a token of my appreciation. He said no that was not necessary. I held my hand to my heart and said I was really grateful and would like to, he consented. I was tempted to give him the two packs of gum I had bought from a vendor while waiting in line at customs, but thought better of it and gave him $20 Canadian. He put on his blue and reds then switched to yellow lights and I followed him for 15 minutes, briefly entertaining thoughts that this might turn out very badly.

He turned off and waved me on with a smile and I headed down the highway to San Felipe. 60 km along I passed a Federal Policia car parked at a cantina, he pulled me over. Similar routine but much more practiced. I was not legal, not too wide, not too high, no details just not legal. Wanted to know what I did for a living, helps in setting the price. Need permit, must get permit in Mexicali. Ticket $55 must pay ticket in Mexicali. Bla bla bla. I asked if he could help me out, he does not understand, I ask again differently, he does not understand. I ask if I could help him out, he understands that fine. I ask if he could issue me the permit himself for say $40. Sure no problem.

I go to the car to get the $40 and when I get back he has his radar gun out and wants to show me what a good police guy he is. He explains how he separates the speed of two cars approaching etc etc. One car is going 82km in an 80 zone and he does this big jumping up and down while patting downwards with his hand. I give him the $40, but there is no permit ( I must have misunderstood ). I start the car with a big roar and head out. I decide if I see another police car I will just pull in beside it and give him $10 saying how I know they are hard working and underpaid and that I am doing this with all the police cars I see. The only other one I see is 15km from San Felipe and he is heading the other way and keeps on going.

Pull into Club Pesca an RV type park with some small houses. Park on a RV pad 10' from the beach.

People staying there are mostly modest income retirees, with some vacationers and long time residents as well. Found a Canadian who may be interested in taking the big wagon.

Made arrangements with owner for a crew to carry the boat off the car at 0900 tomorrow. Spend my first night on board 'Miss Cindy'. Lots of stuff has jumped around on the road trip down. The charge controller has a wire disconnected ( crappy design ) but I put it back in carefully so as not to bust the clamp.

Friday Oct 17 2008

0900 did not happen. The crew has gone out to the desert to get fire wood, mostly ironwood which apparently grows in the desert. When they get back some time this afternoon we will unload. I legally sell the car for $1 to a Canadian Ray Lloyd who is the proud new owner. He is 83 but does not look a day over 70 and maybe not even that. He reminds me of Frank Hedingham, my neighbor on Gabriola Island for a dozen years, really nice guy, quaint English accent, but Frank always had bad luck following him around, Star of Courage (posthumously). Ray seems lucky. I also get some provisions in town.

Around 1700 with the office closed I talk to a bunch of guys from Sacramento and San Jose who agree to help with the unload. I back the car up off the pad and with a few other locals we put 'Miss Cindy' on the pad then over the seawall onto the beach. I worked in the car headlights until about 2000 rigging and stowing gear. The lights attracted some unpleasant looking insects. I leave 500 pesos and the car keys with my neighbour RV to pass to the Club Pesca owner for my two night RV fees and to pass the keys on to Ray.

Copyright © 2008, 2009 Tony Bigras.