Liz Swain 4:24 p.m., May 24
Here's a tip, enter Mexico through Tecate and take Highway 3 to Ensenada. That way you'll avoid Tijuana and the Highway 1D coastal corridor with it's gaudy mish mash of development projects. You will miss some beautiful ocean views, but you will have at least avoided an area that has bore the brunt of the violence and corruption in Baja California Norte.
Unfortunately, a crew of venders in the town of Rosarito will be missed. But this alternate route may be the difference between avoiding Mexico altogether and discovering something new and interesting, and safe. By entering Mexico by way of Tecate, you will see another side of Mexico like the flip side of the coin.
Tecate is only 30 miles from Tijuana but worlds away in tempo and old world charm. There's none of Tijuanas congestion or dangerous neighborhoods to avoid. There's nothing perceptively dangerous about the town. Quite the opposite, it's charming, and beautiful the way it lightly disperses into the surrounding hills, where ranches and agriculture begin to dominate. From the hillsides looking down at the town, its downright captivating.
Ensenada is 60 miles away on Highway 3, a pleasant rural route with quite a few pottery shops along the way. The two-lane road passes through several towns before entering the Valley of Guadalupe where Mexico's best wines are produced. This is a beautiful region filled with vineyards, olive orchards. and much more.
Return this way to go back to the U.S. and you won't regret it. There' s only two gates to cross back into the U.S., but the wait and stress is much less than in TJ. You will have discovered a new region in Mexico and dazzled your friends with your insider's knowledge of Baja.