Baja Beer and Travel Journal: Expat Stories at Cielito Lindo

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Ken and April at Cielito Lindo sign in Baja Mexico
  • Villages along Highway 1
  • Fidel’s El Pabellon RV Park
  • Cielito Lindo Motel and RV Park
  • Expat Stories

We are all about the stories when we travel, and Baja was no different. Still without a real plan or destination, we headed out after El Campo #5, only knowing that we wanted to go where the warmth and the beaches were. And we wanted to find the stories of the places and the people along the way. Little did we know, we would do just that at Cielito Lindo Motel and RV Park, just south of San Quintin, Baja California Norte.

Those Pesky Roads

Out first adventure was the road construction on Mex Hwy 1. I do believe we were off-roading a bit. And in our 24 foot RV, this was no easy feat. With the construction re-routing everyone to a dirt road at times barely wide enough to fit any vehicle, let alone an RV, and most times wide enough to encourage a free-for-all, this trek out of Ensenada was definitely one to write home about. Don’t get me wrong, though, the main highways through Baja are just fine and the rolling hills, desert landscape, and views of the Pacific make for a stunning drive – much better than Kansas, which is where we are driving as I write this.

Surviving that, we slowly rolled into a few small villages dotting the highway, glancing the blue of the Pacific along the way.

Food and Propane

Famished and needing propane, we stopped in one of those villages. Getting propane in Baja is actually quite easy. While there are several along the highway, I recommend getting filled up as soon as you see a filling station, as you never know when one might be closed when it is supposed to be open.

Glancing across the street at the sign stating Pollo, we decided to test out our rusty Spanish and were so kindly greeted and heralded into the restaurant, which we at first thought was only a street stand. While we were both looking forward to some street tacos, we received a huge plate of fresh chicken, beans, rice, tortillas, and two ice-cold Cokes, instead. (Why does Coke taste so much better in Mexico? It really is the only time we drink it.) No street tacos, but very good food, and considering the fact that we had no idea what the proprietor was saying when he helped us order, I would say it was a successful meal. And at around $4 US dollars, I’m not complaining one cent.

a man walking through a Baja village on a dirt road

PRO TIP: We debated whether we should tip or not because we had heard that in small establishments and small villages, it was not expected. So we decided not to tip, and driving away, I immediately regretted that decision. A small tip would have been very much appreciated here, and valued. Lesson learned.

Fidel’s El Pabellon

Bellies and tanks full, we headed further south towards Fidel’s El Pabellon RV Park outside of a small town called Nueva Odisea. With two RV parks right next to each other, we will never know what called us to Fidel’s, but we are so happy whatever it is that did. Follow your gut. Or maybe it was the lobster. Yeah, that’s it, follow the lobster.

Considering we spent almost three weeks here (not consecutively), we have a lot to say about Fidel’s and the surrounding area. It was our piece of paradise while in Baja. (Read all about it in Chapter Five – to be posted soon.) This was also the place we decided we wouldn’t go further south, at least this time around. Hard decision, but with our faulty brakes taking all of our money prior to crossing the border, it was a good decision for our pocket books. Not ones to be stopped by lack of money, we adjusted what little plans we had and forged forward, or rather backward.

Days Three – Nine: Cielito Lindo, margaritas, cervezas, expat stories

After staying a few nights at Fidel’s, we headed a few miles north to Cielito Lindo Motel and RV Park, known for its spot on the bay, but more so for its margaritas.

Just a couple miles off the main highway, Cielito Lindo is a restaurant, bar, RV park, motel, and boondocking spot where many people seem to stop for a night on their way south. And with boondocking spots being only $5 US dollars allowing access to alcohol, showers, and bathrooms, this is a valuable and entertaining place to hang for a night or two. If you are so inclined, there are even full hookups for about $12 a night.

Cielito Lindo bar next to palm trees and blue skies in Baja Mexico

Happy Hour at Cielito Lindo

While the bay was within walking distance, if not sight distance, the bar was even closer, and hearing a lot about the margaritas here, we wandered into the bar at happy hour. If you want to meet people here, happy hour is the time to do it. The conversations are cheap and the drinks cheaper!

Not knowing that we found ourselves in an expat community, we settled onto the bar stools with dreams of drinking many margaritas and beers alongside traveling strangers.

Those dreams came true in so many ways. The margaritas were strong and flavorful – everything you would expect from a margarita in Mexico. The beers were abundant and easy drinking – everything you would expect from beers in Mexico. (Kenny sucked down Modelos mostly, but we were lucky enough to also find some Cucapa, a craft beer from Mexico, tucked away into the cooler.) The strangers were the best part of the night and each night thereafter.

Expat Stories

Cielito Lindo offers a great place for a night or two for travelers. But it turns out, it also offers a great place for many more nights than that for a group of retired expats. It is their stories, both travelers and expats, that have an impact on us every time. It is their stories that we want to share with you. Regardless of how brief our encounters are with the people we meet on the road, it is those encounters that shape our love for the world. We can only hope they help shape yours, too.

Meet Skip!

Expat, retired, music lover, and one of the good old boys. If you have met a Skip, you know the type of person I’m speaking of. His friendly banter, jovial laughter, flashy smile, and plain all around good guy persona is infectious.  His genuine love for people and all types of music is an instant attitude booster. We only knew him for five minutes when we found ourselves invited to his house for a traditional American Thanksgiving dinner, complete with pumpkin pie, American football, and old fashioned moonshine. Skip is probably what kept us here for the next four nights.  I even found myself in his arms. And as he twirled me around the dusty barroom floor to I Get Around by The Beach Boys, life was confirmed as wonderful!

Meet Wylie!

Expat, retired, and everyone’s image of the grumpy old man.  His outlook on life was so dim, we weren’t sure if he was being humorous or serious. Quoting lines from some philosopher I had never heard of (doesn’t really say much) while simultaneously complaining about everything around him including our iPhones sitting on the bar (which we hadn’t touched all night – ‘sides what did they ever do to him?), we realized his grumpy old man facade was nothing but that.  My positive attitude was beaten down silly sitting next to him. Nevertheless, I did happen to catch a glimpse of a possible smile coming from him a couple of times over the next few days, but then again, maybe it was just a grimace. One can only hope.

Meet Rick!

Expat, retired, flirtatious, and a sweetheart.  We chatted for only a few moments in those nights spent drinking Mexican beer and margaritas, but those few chats will stay with me for a lifetime. I think he may have wanted to recapture his youth a bit through me.  That may be a bit presumptuous, but his eyes seemed to look into my soul, and if I was a single woman passing through, at another time, in another world, and our eyes had locked then…Maybe just that thought put out there in the universe will reach him somehow, and he will realize youth is only just a word, and his sweet soul far outweighs any age.

Rick and April smiling at Cielito Lindo in Baja Mexico

Meet Billy!

Expat, construction worker by day, beach lover by night, and over-the-top adventurer. We had already made the decision to not go much further south, but this dude immediately made me regret our decision. His crazy ass tales of adventurous off-roading travels, seafood served directly from the water to you, pristine white  sand beaches surrounding crystal blue water where one can laze their days away drinking umbrella drinks, and then meandering slowly down the beach to join the pretty people dancing the night away around a beach bonfire. It’s like an Eat Pray Love moment in Bali – everyone must have a love affair in Bali.  Record player screeching to a halt. We are not in Bali, my husband is my love affair, we are not on vacation, and all of this is right here, right now.  But still, this guy with his rugged good looks and adventurous spirit, if you meet another like him, words of wisdom, be careful not to get too lost.

Meet Bebo!

Local, bartender, cool, calm, and able to handle any situation handed to him.  With a constant stream of tourists stopping for a night to sip on Baja California Norte’s best margarita (my delegation) and enough cervezas to get an elephant tipsy, while keeping the entire expat community smiling and drinking during happy hour every night, this guy’s a genius. The four nights that we slung ourselves over the bar, there were French people, Slovenia people, locals, countless American and Canadian people,  and those infamous expats.  Everyone of them (well, except our grumpy old friend) left with a slight hiccup in their step (their margaritas are strong) and a smile on their faces. Plus, he put up with our Spanish, which is still not very good.

Meet Thomas and Lizzie!

Van-lifers, 20-somethings, fellow beer lovers and travelers. We were drawn to them instantly. As many of you know, we interviewed them for our Stout Conversations series.

Figuring out how to make a living while traveling, dreams of surfing, beaches, beers, and long walks with their doggy, these fellow Coloradoans are inspirational indeed.

Meet Suzana and Renato!

Travelers, bikers, adventurers from Slovenia. These two work normal jobs, but every year they travel somewhere different for vacation for about a month. Still normal, right? Their vacation consists of bike traveling in different countries. When we met them, they were a quarter of the way into their current bike adventure that started in Tijuana and ended in La Paz. Seriously, who does that? Stay tuned, we plan on having them on our podcast, once we get that up and rolling.

Slovenia bikers posing on their bikes in front of Cielito Lindo in Baja Mexico

Meet Skellie!

We cannot forget Skellie, Skip’s skeleton buddy who hangs out at the bar with him nightly. Quiet, reserved, and very pale, Skellie evokes conversation that nobody else can. With a fresh drink in hand, matching Skip beat for beat, his words are never slurred, and he tells no lies.

Skellie, Skip, Kenny at the bar at Cielito Lindo in Baja Mexico

Cielito Lindo, lovely sweet one. This is why we travel.

Click here to read all the Baja Beer and Travel Journal Chapters. More will be added often.

Chapter One – Baja Bound
Chapter Two – Mexico Border Crossing in an RV
Chapter Three – Tijuana to Ensenada
Chapter Four – Expat Stories at Cielito Lindo


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