Verifying the claim that the Best Fish Taco in Ensenada is actually in Los Feliz
May 5, 2010 6:17 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning a roadtrip for my 30th birthday. Origin: Los Angeles. Destination: Seattle or Cabo?

My girlfriend and I want to make a 2-week trip out of the big 3-0. My birthday is at the end of June and hers is in the middle of July, so we're shooting for somewhere inbetween.

One of my lifelong dreams has been to drive all the way through Baja, stopping at every fish taco stand along the way. However, the news from Mexico hasn't been that great lately. I was ready to shrug off the fears, but a Mexican co-worker cautioned me against it. Is it really that bad?

The safe alternative is Seattle. We'd drive up there along the coast, stop at the redwood forests, etc. I think it would be a pretty drive, we'd enjoy the trip, and I've been strangely fascinated with Seattle ever since seeing Harry and the Hendersons in the 2nd grade.

But, somehow, that just doesn't seem as much of an adventure. I've already driven the coast highway to San Francisco, and I guess I'm worried that it'll be more of the same all the way up. Not to mention, we'll probably just shoot down the 5 all the way back, which will be tedious at best.

Is driving through Baja Mexico really putting our lives on a limb? Is the drive up North magnificent enough to overcome the feeling that the trip was a cop-out?
posted by hwyengr to Travel & Transportation (12 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I think you're considering two very different kinds of trips. Visiting Seattle isn't going to be anything like going to Mexico, but it could be a really fun trip in its own right.

The Oregon coast is really beautiful, with huge rocks along Cannon Beach. I recommend staying at the Sylvia Beach Hotel in Newport. For a great little knot-in-the-road diner, try the Otis Cafe.

Seattle, of course, is a city with loads of interesting things to do and see.

I don't think you should consider the trip a cop-out if it's what you have chosen to do. It's simply a choice to visit a different place.
posted by Fleebnork at 6:29 PM on May 5, 2010

Can't speak to the Baja trip but I did a leisurely ten-day drive up the coast from LA to Seattle a couple years back and it was fantastic. The redwoods north of San Francisco and the Oregon coast are not to be missed. Don't forget Portland, either. If you haven't ventured much further north than San Francisco, you should definitely check it out sometime. I'd even go as far as saying that Seattle was the least interesting part of the trip, but I may in the minority on that point.
posted by dhammond at 6:37 PM on May 5, 2010

Don't forget that Vancouver, BC is just a three hours' drive north of Seattle and gorgeous in the summer.
posted by halogen at 7:15 PM on May 5, 2010

I'd skip Mexico and go to Portland via 101.
posted by MsKim at 7:33 PM on May 5, 2010

The drive from LA to Cabo sucks. Once you get south of Ensenada there's very little but grinding poverty and fishing shacks for hundreds of miles. The scenery also sucks. You may detect the bitter taste of experience talking here. We planned to go to Cabo, but we got 1 day's drive south of Ensenada (say 250 miles), found a fishing shack hotel to stay (3 miles down a dirt road), then turned around and came back again.

The drive along Hwy1 from LA to Seattle is a piece of heaven.
posted by Long Way To Go at 8:10 PM on May 5, 2010

I've ridden a motorcyle into and through Baja three times and taken a car twice, as far south as La Paz. It's all about what you are expecting. Here's a typical town:

Slow WAY down for the topes, pass a few llantera shacks, enter into the main strip. Usually there's a dirt road/parking parallel to the highway on each side, meaning everything is covered with dust and dirt. People everywhere, dogs barking, maybe a transito cop in a Nissan and a group collecting for charity with a barrier across the road. Lots of trucks, run-down buildings, and then you're out the other side, one last tope.

I think the reason I keep going back is because there are hidden gems in the grime and poverty that make it worthwhile for me. It's also just a very different life to see and experience not that far away. The Mexican people are incredibly warm and open (especially if you speak even basic Spanish), the food is fantastic and the landscape is unique.

I can't really say about the safety... I would do lots of research before going. I know in late 2008, early 2009 I would not have gone. I say this as someone reasonably comfortable traveling through lots of sketchy places in Mexico and Central America. Now seems better, but that can change quickly. The worst violence is always around Tijuana and the other border towns. I've never had a problem, but that of course means nothing.

MeMail if you have any specific questions.
posted by letitrain at 10:56 PM on May 5, 2010

Oh, yes. Highway 1/101 is about as enjoyable as driving gets! If you're renting a car (you could do a one-way trip and fly back from Seattle while most insurance won't let you go near the Mexican border), make sure you get something sporty so you won't regret being unable to have fun with the curves.
posted by halogen at 11:00 PM on May 5, 2010

I'd say that two weeks is not enough time to enjoy the coast drive northward and then have 3 days digging up things to do in Seattle (let alone going up to BC). Just end your trip in Oregon. You could explore the BEAUTIFUL coast, and then swing eastward and look at the way the Rockies spill out onto eastern Oregon.

Just a thought. Anyway, Seattle could possibly be cold, rainy, and gloomy. It is now 38 degrees tonite as I write. Oregon is always better weather.
posted by yazi at 12:20 AM on May 6, 2010

I've done LA to Cabo. It's a terrific trip if one has an idea of what to expect -- namely very few towns and lots of wide open spaces. Also, a tiny fucking road with big trucks driving down the centerline.

I had an experience on that trip that, unfortunately I can't do justice to in the time I've got available. It involved a broken-down car, and some resourceful and very friendly locals, including a kid who couldn't have been older than 10 who rigged a special purpose wrench out of random pieces of junk.
posted by lex mercatoria at 1:21 AM on May 6, 2010

The joke about Seattle summers is that the sun doesn't come out until July 5.

The sad thing is that it is mostly true. But after July 5, Seattle summers are glorious. Schedule the trip for July and come on up. It is not going to be 38 degrees in June or July. Despite the naysayers, Seattle is worth visiting.
posted by litlnemo at 4:55 AM on May 6, 2010

I have done lots of cross country driving - in the US, Canada, and Mexico.

I have never driven LA to Cabo. The drive from LA to Seattle is absolutely spectacular, one of the greatest drives you can do.

That said, you have do what is in your heart. I have done many drives that other would never do - because I wanted to do them, and in that found something special for me.

Yes, Mexico is not the same level of safety as California and Oregon - but if you plan, you will be alright. Drive in Mexico low-key - no flashy car or clothes. Be very polite to the people - and nearly all of them will be polite and kind in return.

Go to the CDC web-site for Mexico, look up the recommended vaccinations, and get them. One trip to the doctor, and you can beat Montezuma's revenge before it starts, and make the trip that much mroe enjoyable.

Hide your credit cards and cash really well. Have an invalid credit card and some cash to give up in case you ever do get robbed (plan for worst case scenario, just by planning for it, you help to prevent it from happening - and by the way, my guess is statistically, you are more likely to be robbed in San Fran than in Ensenada). One thing to keep in mind, if you do get robbed, they will want your passport - so, don't keep that with the hidden stash, instead keep a photocopy of the passport with the stash.

In the end - the drive north is amazing. But if you heart is with the drive south, then that is what you should do. You just need to research and plan more if you do go south, but it can be done.
posted by Flood at 7:02 AM on May 6, 2010

yazi: "I'd say that two weeks is not enough time to enjoy the coast drive northward and then have 3 days digging up things to do in Seattle (let alone going up to BC)."

Totally disagree. I've done pretty much exactly what you describe, minus BC, in less than two weeks. I spent about seven days getting up to Seattle before spending about three days there and only had to drive about three hours each day. And that was a leisurely drive along the coast with plenty of time for stopping off and exploring the scenery.
posted by dhammond at 11:48 AM on May 6, 2010

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