Baja Dec.20, 2000 to Jan.1, 2001
This trip started for us at the end of a workday. We quickly made our way across the border and down to the road to Erendira which is below Ensenada. Later that night we were joined by another Fukarwi, Rocketman, also known as Walter Moeller which is the name his mother selected. We simply pitched a tent and that night was very chilly. We were in bed by the time he arrived, next morning the opening salvo from Rocketman “I really like this Alpine camping”.
There was only one thing cast in concrete for this trip, that to be at Palmas de Cortez on Dec. 29th for fishing from a cruiser on the 30th. Before getting on the road that morning our van was slowly and painfully fitted with a CB radio, I was not happy. My only other experience with CB, also in Mexico, was not good. These, however, are different, they actually work. A very distinct advantage soon became apparent. Rocketman in the lead could provide oncoming traffic information for passing in the mountains. There was a big truck with a major breakdown just before El Rosario.
We stop at Guerrero Negro for gas. This town is named for a war ship that beached near here, the translation is Black Warrior. Three years ago the three of us were stranded here for 2 1/2 days with no gas available. Some gas was sold for $10 US per gallon. After gassing here one must turn around to get back to the highway. With traffic and towing a boat, I pick an intersection to make a left turn. I know that I will need to circle a block due to the narrow streets. The traffic permits a hurried turn and very soon I realize this is a one way street and I am going counter to the arrow.
Backing out with the boat was not an option and Walt was following me. I continue make a left turn and then a second left to get back to the main street. Before entering I see cars parked facing both directions. Walt does not follow me through this turn. When I get back to the main street there is an arrow proclaiming this too is a one way street. A pedestrian looks at me, then at the arrow, and back at me. I know what he thought. He did not know that I was thinking that doing two one way streets backward, both the same in length must have a canceling effect.
We get to Santa Rosalia just after dark on the first full day of driving. Dinah and I get a room at the El Morro, Rocketman uses the shower and sleeps in his van that night. As I shower Walt is outside puttering around the van (his vankeeping practices could use some help). When we got into his van to leave there was a plastic cup containing wine sitting on the windshield wiper for the driver's side. A small exclamation escaped Walt's lips, then he recovered and said "let's see if I can do this"? He turns the ignition to accessory, gets his left hand in position to catch the cup, and then turns the windshield wipers on "throwing the cup toward his left hand. This was not perfect but the cup was recovered with a quantity of wine still inside. I am glad this happened so quickly that there was no time to get a bet placed.
We park and take a walk through the town I purchase some pan dulce from the famous bakery. Santa Rosalia is also famous for stealing a steel church from the French. For dinner we have street stand tacos, I eat one made of the small intestines of a beef, not bad but not that good. The next morning Walt and I had breakfast at a hotel in the downtown area. The coffee was excellent.
When Dinah is traveling and a stop at a hotel/motel is needed, once she gets into the room there is a very slim chance of getting her back into a vehicle until the next morning. That is just her nature, after 20 plus years I have learned to accept it.
We decided to stop at Mulege, which made for a short day of driving. Upon arriving we had trouble deciding where to camp, we finally decided on a regimented campground with rules and stuff. This is a beautiful bay the water is clear and is very protected from weather. We stay the rest of that day and all the next day leaving early the following morning.
Some people came in from Seattle, the guy has a new wife from Texas, and two teenage boys obviously from a previous marriage. They had a prototype boat that was designed in the US and constructed in China under the close supervision of the guy’s partner. The boat had a ½ inch drilled hole in the hull that had been covered with masking tape and painted over. Who was supervising the drilling of that hole?
The boat was designed to be used by divers as the three men/boys were all divers. The boys were twins and seemed to attack life. I ask them if they ever did any of the twins tricks with girls that are portrayed in the movies? No they answered and they had a rule about that. If one breaks up with a girl, the other twin must wait six months before that girl is eligible. When I was 17 six hours was along time to wait!
We find a lot of Canadians who are spending three months here. Permanent structures are prohibited as all beach-front property in Mexico is a federal maritime zone. There are some structures here that certainly have a look of permanence. Most people have motor homes and photovoltaic panels for electricity. The fishing is not good. I spotted the biggest Osprey nest that I have ever seen. They build a rough looking nest from large sticks, if this one should ever catch fire it will be a major blaze. We caught a couple of triggerfish after we caught a bass for cut bait. Took Dinah out the second day to get a picture of the nest.
We were assured that Oscar would be around to collect the federal fee for camping. Oscar did not come. We still owe Baja for two nights rent.
As we approach the end of Bahia de Conception, Walt turns off the road. He wants to get some clams never mind that it is illegal for gringos to take shellfish and there is a red tide. He races across a flat area like a man possessed. I am pulling a 15’ 4” aluminum boat with a 25 HP motor which Walt and I co-own. I take a path that looks like it will intercept the route that Walt is on and give me a place to turn around. It did not, I needed to cross this small salt patch. I could see old tracks where people had been stuck but this thing looks as hard as cement. Those tracks must have been made after a rain. My turn around plan is still going to work.
Not going to work
My vehicle is a 1972 Dodge Van, I get about two van lengths into this salt area when very suddenly my van sinks. I step out to find this stuff is very slick, sticky, and heavy. There is no need to look to see if I am on the frame but I do look and indeed confirm that situation. We have some 4 x 4 wood with us so I get out my hydraulic jack and start to get some elevation. Walt comes up and tells me to put away that toy, I have a real jack. He produces what I know as a handyman jack, these jacks lift major things such as large farm tractors, houses, and bulldozers.
This place was so soft that even using the timber as a footing for the jack the right front could not be raised. The jack simply buries the footing in the mud. It also quickly became clear that Walt’s van was not going to move mine. The boat has an electric winch that has the ability to be attached to a trailer hitch. We had doubts about it being strong enough to help us in this dire situation. Dinah is out looking for things that may help. Walt and I have a beer, scratch, spit and reach a conclusion. I have done a totally excellent job of getting stuck.
The approach that we take is to use Walt’s jack as a “come along”. The jack has an eye at top. We remove his trailer ball and use it to bolt the jack to his van. We then put a chain between the moving part of the jack and my trailer hitch. The jack is now horizontal and when operated it will shorten the distance between the two vans. We then block both of Walt’s rear wheels with the 4 x 4s. Dinah had found a running board from a 1936 Plymouth which was instrumental in our extraction. My van does not move, Walt’s van is being dragged toward mine or into the swamp, but as promised the distance between the two vans is indeed getting shorter. Blocking the remaining two wheels of his van reverses the movement. We broke the chain more than once but three hours later my van is once again a self-propelled conveyance.
Walt also got very personal with the mud. I used the shovel as much as possible. When we finished Walt was more completely covered in mud than I was. Lastly, Walt had worn a hole in his new Levi’s from jacking. We go dig a half-bucket of clams partly to get mud off us and some of the implements.
During this ordeal I was accused of being lazy. On our last trip to Baja I had hurt my back for the first time in my life. Loading for this trip was very painful and the injury was already a month old. Walt could not get the jack to move in the down direction. I got out some light oil and with manual manipulation I could achieve the reverse movement. We quickly agree, he will do up and I will do down and by the way up kills my back.
When we get on the paved road my front wheels are out of balance due to clumps of mud inside the wheels. Three days later in places where the mud got little heat from the engine or brakes it is still wet.
As we approach the turn to Bahia de Magdelena a decision had already been reached to save this adventure for another trip. After the mud episode I don’t need much more excitement for today. The back of Walt’s van looks as if a giant frog has left big muddy footprints. This was from him climbing the ladder to get things off the top. The next planned overnight stop is San Everesto. I have wanted to get to this place ever since I saw it from an airplane in 1994. Gene Kira a Valley Center resident who writes books on Baja fishing told me how to get there. He also told me it was difficult to get there and that the fishing is excellent. He said “the fishing is sooo good that we have not revealed this location in any of our books”. I looked after getting back home and from about 30 miles south of Loreto to La Paz is missing.
On to Loreto, gas, and more tacos from McLulu’s taco stand. When the food arrives at our table Walt produces his own salt shaker from a pocket???? We then stop at a large icehouse that is doing a very good business. The crushed ice is so fine that it refreezes. It is also crushed on demand not days before and bagged. The guy dispensing ice is very good, he looks at your ice chest gets a block of ice and if necessary a few quick stabs shapes it to fit your chest.
Full of ice, food and gas we head south. Just below Loreto the highway goes through the best mountain scenery of the entire length of Mex 1. When we get out of the mountains the terrain becomes very flat. Somewhere along this straight stretch of flat road Walt’s shovel comes off the top of his van. I am amazed after no more than two bounces the shovel is sliding straight down the road and as physics dictates, heavy end first. I recovered the shovel, not much evidence of the ordeal.
As we approach CD Constitution it is beginning to get dark. I suggested that we get a motel. Wrong! we are going on to San Everesto, some time before we get there I rename it for my Uncle Ernest. On the way out of town our fearless leader missed the turn that he had wanted to take. Dinah looked at the map and decided we could intercept the road a few miles farther south.
Walt stopped, we discussed the situation and continued south. In a surprise move Walt stopped at a convenience store. He goes in with the AAA map of Baja and I follow belatedly. This is the first encounter with many very friendly and helpful people. Two ladies in the store managed to convey to me that the only roads passable to San Everisto are from Santa Rita or to go all the way to La Paz and come back the road through the mine and along the coastline. It is a good thing that I went in because the recently divorced and horny Walt couldn’t hear anything or see anything on the map that he had brought into the store. Especially when the younger one was talking.
It is fully dark now and I am allowed to take the lead because Walt has impaired night vision and his big lights have smoked the switch. We reach Santa Rita and go through the town, no signs. Dinah consults the map again. Outside of town there is a road toward the Pacific, which is farther south than the road to San Everesto. We turn around and there in the middle of town coming from this direction is a road sign. Only an intersection is indicated, no road identification or named destination. An experienced Baja traveler will know that this is the road, there can be no doubt. I have already seen a lot of flood evidence, Walt has seen none. Could it be the lovely young lady in the convenience store was still on his mind?
When outside the jurisdiction of the town Policia we stopped. Walt wanted to let some air out of his tires, I took on about a quart of his wine. I knew this was going to a trying journey. We go for many miles without much change, there is evidence of a lot of recent road repair. Some steep creek crossings and one cement vado in very bad shape, extremely sparse of dwellings but the road goes on.
I take on another quart of wine and Dinah wants to drive. In a foolhardy display of bravado, I let her. When we go to our place beyond Puertocitos I usually get a lot of driving instructions. These increase in frequency and volume as we approach our destination. I tried to mimic her behavior. She blamed the alcohol and said I was being foolish (yeah right).
We get to the bottom of a major hill and lose the road. At this point Dinah says these brakes are fading. By now I was more than ready to drive. We are in a sand wash that is strewn with big rocks. I walked ahead found no road. This means we need to turn around. During this challenging activity I discover there are no brakes, none, nada, zero. We will camp exactly at this spot, I feel that I have been here before, boy that was good wine.
Very early the next morning I creep out of the tent. It is obvious that we are very near the ocean and our destination. I walk uphill back tracking and find nothing. As I am coming back down I see the road on the next hill. We had missed a turn in the sand wash. I walk across to the other hill, at the base there are three road signs. I walk to the top of the hill and peek over at San Everesto it is Christmas day 2000. A tiny village with a very nice bay and beach. I also walk down the road toward La Paz, there I find a tree that has captured a boulder in it roots and over time the wash has exposed the roots. The boulder is suspended by the roots.
We are in a very beautiful place. There are very large and colorful mountains some with flat tops, the signature of past volcanoes. I also find the number 6x painted on a rock. At the apex of my desert racing days my number was 6x, I had been here before.
The brake problem is a direct result of being stuck. The heavy and very sticky mud had forced the flexible part of the right front brake line into the lower control arm. The road into San Everesto exercised the suspension consequently wearing a hole in the brake line. The transom support for the boat motor had also become dislodged during the trip.
When I come back to camp the Rocketman was making coffee. Small things become very memorable in situations such as this (I just knew that coffee would taste so good). We decide to backtrack a few miles to try to find the missing part. With Rocketman at the controls I very quickly have a large portion of the coffee in my lap creating a vivid memory, simply savoring the coffee would have sufficed. We do not find the transom support.
We come back to find Dinah up and somewhat disturbed about being left alone. The sun is fully on our campsite and there are a gizillion yellowjackets. Dinah gets stung later but not at that place. We decide to go into San Everesto to inquire about brake fluid. Walt was sure that he had some, a lengthy search turned up power steering fluid. As we top the hill Walt proclaims “this town will not have brake fluid, however, one the private yacht’s currently in the harbor probably does’’. I verbalized my thought “they don’t have brakes so why in hell would they have brake fluid”?
We cruise slowly through town and I excitedly ask Walt to stop. I can see that this is a store. Please keep in mind that this is reasonably early Christmas morning. I go in and Walt follows. A word that I had just learned was the word for oil pronounced ah say tay. I know that
fray-nos is brakes. I had already decided to ask for brake oil. The man shows me transmission fluid I shake my head. I repeat, soon he makes a pumping motion and says brakes in Spanish. Yes!
He goes out to his truck gets a partial bottle of Quaker State brake fluid and sells it to me for 20 Pesos, just over two dollars. I give him another twenty Pesos for selling me his personal brake fluid on Christmas. We do a little more scouting, not much in the way of camping sites. The man from the store starts walking toward us. He tells us that camping is available at the north end of the beach. The people controlling that site were not at home. I did notice that an outside building is about a 3,000 square foot walk-in freezer. There are less than ten pangas in town. Is the fishing good around here or what?
Back to my truck. We discussed various ways to overcome the problem at hand. We are still about 60 miles from La Paz and the map clearly indicates the road ain’t no picnic. Walt’s idea was to clamp the rubber line with a pair of visegrips and go with brakes on three wheels. Since I could not find any small screw type hose clamps in my toolbox, I went with his visegrips as I have never owned a pair. I wire the visegrips to the frame using two independent wires.
Dinah and Walt went on the road south to look for a campsite while I worked on the truck. I clamped the line and bled the left front wheel. I did not have a lot of excess fluid after filling the reservoir. I adjusted both rear brakes even though they have automatic adjusters one can always get a better pedal with a manual adjustment. Walt and Dinah should have been back.
I waste a little more time then decide to go look for them. I employ the CB – no luck. The first road to the left I see their tracks. Start down toward the beach – this looks bad. Finally I am sure that I can see two sets of their tracks and I hastily turnaround. Next is a sand wash Oh shit! I get out and walk down until again I am sure I see tracks in and out. More calling on the CB – no response. Pretty soon I see them coming back, they had not found a place to camp. They had been stuck several times and that is all I am going to say on that subject.
I hook up to the boat then we go back to town. We can’t get in to the place at the north end of town to camp. We discuss camping in town, none of us really like that idea. Walt and I decide to drive over the hill to the north of town on a road inland from the beach. A little exploring reveals an excellent spot, however, it is very close to the graveyard. There are also small salt ponds and to get to the beach one drives over a narrow levee between two salt evaporation ponds. Since I see no power equipment I assume that nature intermittently floods the ponds. Not many people have died in San Everesto. We go for it.
Use of the handyman jack when Walt was stuck this morning had buckled his bumper. Now the left rear door will not open. If a person could get the door open the bumper could have easily been beaten into submission with a large rock. Some how Walt got the door open and the beating was administered. Even before we get the boat in the water I catch a three pound something (mackerel deal) from the beach. Dinah says you two go fish and she would set up camp. Camp is backed up to a large cliff. And before I forget it Walt was trying to get his van level in camp and gets stuck again. He is now level, I ask do you want to stay there or get higher now. He responded with lets move it now. He was only mildly stuck this time.
We go around the corner from camp and stop to fish. Catch some small fish with a huge mouth, the inside of the mouth is outlined in a continuous black line bordered by a similar white line. We let these ugly devils go. We cruise the bay of San Everisto. While we are out Walt asks the question “what is planned for dinner”? Finally a question I can answer “spaghetti” I reply. Walt grumbles “I am not fond of spaghetti, but, I will eat it because Dinah is cooking. Catch a couple of triggerfish and come back to camp. Almost immediately the wind kicks up. I did not want to anchor the boat out and swim in.
I set about doing camping things. Soon an alarm goes up, the waves are coming over the high transom of the Baja Special. That is the model of the Gregor boat made especially for Baja other Gregors have the conventional low transom. We start taking things out, battery gas tank, tackle box, etceteras. If we don’t take them the ocean will. Suddenly what started out as a wonderful day has turned fairly ugly, at least for camping.
I take the electric winch off the boat trailer and use the metal base that allows it to slip over a ball hitch. I get things all hooked up and start to pull. The boat and water is so heavy that after the cable gets about two wraps on the spindle the clutch slips. The winch has enough power to pull my van sideways. After a couple of movements limited to the two wraps we are able to get some water out of the boat. Then we were able to move it farther and faster as the two-wrap limitation is eliminated.
After creating a wind break by putting various boxes beside Walt’s van (to stop the air from under the van). We are ready to sit down to Christmas dinner. We had brought my favorite spaghetti sauce Barilla along with a very good mild Italian sausage. Walt decided this is not bad. He soon misses his salt shaker. As dry as possible I say “probably at McLulu’s taco emporium in Loreto”.
We have champagne and exchange Christmas presents. We gave Walt a wall hanging weather center with German instruments. He gave us a kit of lures, leaders, swivels, feathers and more. I exclaim “this is just like the one that you won a couple of years ago in the East Cape fishing tournament’. He replies “that is the one that I won”. Walt claims to have no use for it or know how to use it. I had looked at buying a “dorado” size feather before this trip. On a trip that will cost well in excess of $2,000 dollars a person must draw the line somewhere. I drew it at the purchase of a $13 feather. There were also waterproof fishing maps of Baja included. What a score!
By now Walt is very glad he moved his van. It would now be an island. I have not mentioned that the wind is coming at a perfect 180° angle to our beach or in other words the only way it could be worse was if the wind were stronger. And folks, it did get stronger. We gather around the evening fire. We are traveling as light as possible, no big tarp for a windbreak. Soon to bed.
Next comes a sad commentary: The van has a new CD player but, we have not mastered setting the clock. Neither of us wears a watch. The best mechanism that we have for clock time is a Mr. Gadget wristwatch that came in a McDonalds kids meal. Our grandson refused to take the watch when he returned home after his summer visit. Mr. Gadget rides forever on the engine cowl. Before leaving on this trip I went to great
pains to set both date and time, however, some turn of events had changed the display and who knows what else.
I just received a joke from this grandson.
What did the fish say when it hit cement?
You have got to start them young.
Dinah wakes me up during the night to take a look. Big waves are pushing water to the back of the boat. I fully believe I see a softening of the black to the east. I come back inside the van and consult with Mr. Gadget. Mr. Gadget believes it is approximately midnight and I believe it is much later. If Mr. Gadget is right we are in trouble and this could be an opportunity for nature to flood the evaporation ponds. I hope not and then go back to sleep fully confident the watch is wrong.
Walt wakes us about 5 A.M. with “you might want to look at this”. The waves have already flung the boat sideways. I am very thankful now that the boat is not at anchor. The winch is ready so it does not take very long to get the boat moved to within a few feet of the van.
The next incident is a secret so don’t tell anybody. While we are still in the rush mode, I needed something from in front of the van. The cable is still tight to boat and in the dark I trip over it. It could have been much worse, however, I am face down in the sand and I can’t even blame it on alcohol, that’s bad.
We build a fire over at the base of the cliff, make some coffee and decide to stay up placing ourselves on hurricane watch. We can now almost get out of the wind. We make a wager on how high the water will come. I don’t remember if there was a winner but the fact is it came damn close to Walt’s van. After we warm up a bit Walt asks “is there any spaghetti left”?
I know exactly where it is but I am very surprised by the request. We add some water, heat it and manage to polish it off. Meanwhile we plan the day ahead. The days have been speeding by and now the end is in sight, those plans with hard dates force this issue. Walt speculated “this is a good day to travel”. Also in this predawn time Walt gets the bucket of clams that had cost us so dearly and with one deft heave seeds the beach. It evoked a vision of the scene in Vanishing Point where the Reverend J. Hovah frees the vipers. With all the effort that we had put into getting here I hated to leave but it was the best use of the time.
Since it is only 60 or so miles to La Paz and we get back to paved roads in about 40 miles there is no rush. In my mind this is the last opportunity that I see for camping I want to leave the firewood. All the wood is loaded and we depart about noon.
The first several miles are very easy but from the map and Gene Kira’s description I know the terrain will change. This road goes through some very beautiful terrain. There were sedimentary layers of deep green alternating with red. These layers were very thick. The mountains are very steep but with my newly acquired posi-differential the uphills were easy. With my even more recent acquisition of three-wheel brakes the downhills were very exciting. Sliding the left front wheel part way down many (hang on visegrips). On one of the nastier ones an older Suburban was over the edge. I called Walt on the CB, “I think that bumper will fit on your van”. No repeatable response. Had one of us been driving that Suburban and if we had two jacks, two shovels and the winch I believe we could have got it out. A case of beer and a couple of sticks of dynamite would help.
My van is not running too good, sounds rich. At a stop we put 5 gallons of gas in my van. On we go and we finally see a Japanese freighter being loaded from the mine. The public road now goes around the mine, I have been told that in the past the mine roads we used by the public. We foolishly think that this is where we meet paved roads. Seems like another 10 miles before we intersect with the infamous Mex. 1.
The wind has not calmed. As we are getting into La Paz I know there is a gas station on the street to the left. We had the first sputter of low fuel a couple of miles back. We lack about ½ block getting to the gas station. I get some boat gas and put it in. The van will not start finally take the engine cowl off and pour gas in the carburetor. While the air cleaner is off I pound the element on the sidewalk. It emits a cloud of dust with each impact. Given the wind direction and velocity I figure that dust settled on the Hotel California about twenty seven minutes later.
In filling everything that I had emptied of gas the bite was about 60 dollars. We go back toward the edge of town to a motel that Dinah and I had stayed at on our previous trip. This was a much happier occasion and there were considerable changes to the motel. The entrance had moved for one. We filled out the application, paid cash, and got a room assigned. I ask about parking outside? Not a good idea was communicated. I said that I would park the boat inside and the van outside. Of course the clerk did not understand a word I said.
Now when a person drives into or out of this motel you must pass through a confined entrance at the front desk. In other words it is easy for the clerk to see everyone who comes and goes. Almost immediately after I idle into the complex, the clerk comes running and trades keys with me. I am now in #19. Dazed and confused I continue looking for #19, what did I do wrong? It is where the old entrance was and has a very long parking space where I could pull straight in van and trailer, the combination nearing forty feet in length. This room is upstairs and all the rest are downstairs. Exchanging my room was an extremely nice move on the part of the clerk, mi amigo.
While at the gas station I inquired in my very best Spanish “auto partes grande”? Mexicans have embraced the word auto, however, I do know the proper word is carro. A blank stare and shrug of the shoulders. Walt and I go off to find a brake hose and brakefluid. Time is closing in on 5 P.M. We find a small partes establishment. He does not have what we need but, draws an excellent map along with verbal instructions for finding partes grande. We shoot over to the place and go into a commercial boat supply place. The man speaks good English, auto parts is two doors down. Since this is obviously a boat place Walt stays with this guy to see about a transom support. The parts store does not have what I need. They have R-12 out on a shelf you don’t need no stinking license here. That does not make it any cheaper.
A young man in the store spoke English better than a Harvard graduate however, in retrospect he was pretty lousy at maps. Meanwhile Walt has got an address of a retail boat establishment plus a sketch of a boat with an outboard engine and the missing stick plus Spanish nomenclature for all the components. In being forced to think about what a transom support really does I came up with one thing. The motor is held between the up and down position. In the down position the motor is pulling on the top of the transom with rough roads adding to pulling force. It is better to put the weight on a much more straight down attitude. For this day of travel we tied the motor in the full up position to the bow of the boat. The motor latch in the up position is not a positive stop.
Off to find the frenos specialist. By now it is getting dark, this might not be the case all over La Paz but where we are the city is doing an excellent job of minimizing gringo confusion by not having street names posted. You can’t pronounce them anyway, so simply get instructions by the number of intersections. In fairness, all major intersections are identified what we are looking is on a smaller calle (street).
Soon we are sure this new set of navigation instructions does not work. We also have been advised the brake place is open until 8 P.M. We can find our way back to the first place we stopped. We then reuse his map to get back to the second place. The guy at the boat supply was just closing and he would be happy to lead us to the address. In a very short time he stops and I see the brake place.
I go in and nobody speaks English. There is a schematic of a brake system on the wall. I point to the right front flexible hose and declare 1972 Dodge Van B200. The only word that I am sure they understand is Dodge. I get a pen and paper, write the information plus derecha the word for right (the right side not meaning correct). I point again to the right front flexible hose.
Heads nod and wheels turn, out comes a hose but it will not fit. I tell them no. We start again as I realize I have advised them to get the wrong part. I had converted the van to disc by a wholesale swap from a 1973 Dodge Van. I am sure that 72 vans had disc brakes as an option. I change the written information to 1973 and include the disc. They say ahh disco. By now Walt wants me to think about buying pieces and plumbing parts to fabricate a hose. I assure him that exactly what we need is in this shop.
Another trip into darkened interior of the shop produces two boxes. They hand both to me, I open one and I am confident that it is for a 1972 disc brake. I hand over that box with a negative comment. Open the other box and there is the most beautiful right front brake hose I will ever see. Si and smiles all around. I also point to brakefluid they reach for a small bottle and I say grande and get the quart size. The bill is less than $20 in US currency.
When we are back in Walt’s van he inquires “what chance is there of that being the correct hose”? I reply 100%. Walt is hopelessly lost and believes that we are heading toward the city. I am sure that if we go south to the next major street and then continue in the direction that we are presently going we will find the motel. Walt disagrees. During this trip it has come to my attention that we have very different personalities, he is stubborn and opinionated while I have no concern over which way the wind blows and am easily persuaded.
We were just about to do a 180- degree turn when Walt saw something that he recognized.
Back to the motel and now I want to tell you a little more about this motel. The only thing I remembered from our previous stay was the very high showerheads and there they were. Wilt Chamberlin could stand directly under the water delivery point and have a one foot clearance. Each room has a revolving delivery device where a product can be paid for and subsequently brought into the room with the buyer and seller never seeing the other. One can see that some amount of trust is involved. Our bed is the widest I have ever seen with a mirror at the side and foot. It could easily accommodate six for sleeping or 12 for other activities. When I come back into the room Dinah says this place has porno movies. One more little touch, each automobile space has a canvas curtain which when closed concealed the auto. Most occupants employed the curtain.
Dinah does not want to go out to eat. She wants something out of the van. I deliver it via the Lazy Susan device. Walt and I go out to eat, I wanted to sit down to a good meal with a couple of the excellent domestic beers. We walk into a restaurant Walt nixes the deal (remember what I have noticed). We go to another taco stand. That night Dinah and I had some physical activity. Those movies were really bad.
The next morning I get up and put the brake hose on. I return Walt’s visegrips to find him washing his van using the clam bucket? I also help him with some rearranging and ask if he discovered the porno channels? He informed me that his TV did not work. Just as well, he was already in bad shape and quickly running out of patches for his air mattress.
The evening before I had noticed a very large supermarket with ATMs outside. I had brought about $1,000 in US currency but could see that I was going to run short. Walt was in the same situation. My plan was to go into a bank and get pesos on my Visa card. We had talked about this the night before I knew that I did not have a PIN and Walt could not remember his.
By this morning Walt had miraculously remembered his PIN number. He didn’t much trust me or the machine but once the machine spit out the requested number of pesos, he thought that was “way cool”. My reasoning had gone something like this, 5 years ago I was able to get Lira in Italy from an ATM certainly this will work.
Inside the market there was almost anything you would want including a one window bank. I tried to get pesos from Visa, the teller pointed to an inside ATM. I exchanged all my remaining US currency for pesos. This is the first time that I have felt comfortable dealing in pesos. I catch up with Walt and tell him what the exchange rate is and he exchanges all of his US currency for pesos. We buy some items but not ice as we are going to look for the transom support.
We find the boat shop in short order. It is not open. As we head back to the van a fellow who had just been sweeping the sidewalk wanted to know what we needed. We displayed the picture and he said “come with me”. We are led through an alley around the back and into the parts warehouse area. We are turned over to another person who does not speak English. We then go into the show room and get a skin packed OMC transom support. When we entered the showroom it was a beehive of activity, however, there is fanfold printer paper over the windows. This shop is not going to open today. I am sad to say OMC has just gone bankrupt especially since our motor is a Johnson. The support was a little bigger than I wanted but it was the only one available. We agree to purchase this item. The part number is entered into the computer and the price comes up $47. The symbol for peso and dollar are identical. 47 pesos is far too cheap, I ask 47 dollars US? He replies yes. This is the first piece of merchandise that has been priced in dollars and we have just converted all our dollars to pesos. The word irony comes to mind.
Back to the motel to get Dinah. Then on the way to Cabo San Lucas. Walt is leading, I pull into a left turn lane and Walt continues. Dinah and I discuss the relative merit of following him toward *^#$@ San Diego. I am soon to understand why I should follow him. I make it clear that if he goes past the road to the airport I ain’t playing any more. He turns around at the airport road. Now for the sake of brevity lets say the rest of the trip to Cabo was uneventful. It’s not the truth but this is all you are gonna get!
In Cabo I find a horrible motel, but by now it is late. The rooms have mosquitoes and no furniture for sitting. Walt comes to our room to eat. I say that I can fix this no furniture problem. How he wonders? Bring in some pool furniture and we did bring in 2 big lounge chairs.
The next morning we are going to Lands End in our boat and then do some fishing. We get to the public parking lot first after going through a residential area to attempt to give the wood away. No luck but we did pass a boat shop. We start preparing to launch the boat. We are as subtle as possible while we neatly stack the firewood next to a truck and boat trailer from Oregon. No love lost between these two states. Walt rolls in “let’s go I have everything arranged to launch”. The boat is not ready as we took the battery, gas tanks, and anything else that was loose out of the boat during the San Everesto episode.
Among other things we soon discover that one of the wing nuts from the battery is missing. I tell Walt where we saw the boat shop and he goes for a replacement. The shop was not open yet but, he comes back with one that was supplied at no charge. Since we are not going to get an early start we decide to have breakfast. That was a good idea.
The launch area is constricted and the ramp is narrow. There is not enough room to get straight with the ramp before you are required to start backing up. I did not do a good job. Finally get the boat off the trailer. I take the van and trailer back to the public lot and walk back.
Get people loaded and push off. The starter acts as if the battery is dead. Walt checks the battery terminals and the boat starts. When we get away from the docks there are many boats, private and commercial and most are a lot bigger that we are. We get to the view of Los Arcos and take some pictures. When we are ready to leave the boat repeatedly starts but dies when put into gear. Panic, paddling, and cussing ensue. I finally decide that this is the symptom of something wrapped around the prop. Walt looks over the transom and indeed this is the case.
A length of industrial strength black plastic has taken many turns around the prop. Walt is working at this for a good length of time before the prop is freed. Things around the prop are not a common occurrence for me so it was much later when a thought occurred. Using reverse would probably spin that off the prop.
Around the corner and out into the Pacific. We do a little trolling in close. A lot of construction going on, massive amounts of manual labor used here. One particular structure had a minimum of 100 people working.
Nothing happening here. Headed out toward where Walt and I had caught many Dorado in I believe the year was1992. The water is very deep here, 5,000 feet is published in fishing books. Many boats out here but most are privately owned, this surprised me. What surprised me even more was the huge number of very small black marlin taken. Some less than 100 pounds or less than 1/10 of their potential weight. I observe that all the boats are using live bait. We idle up to a Mexican fishing boat, and buy three dead mackerel.
I had not brought anything from my new fishing gear. We fed the mackerel to the larger fish, as the hooks that we had with us were too small. We could have saved time by simply throwing the money in the water. We get semi-close to a couple of very large whales they could be finbacks that get to 80 feet. The waves are really up by now and we have a slow trip back. Take out is much easier.
Walt and I go to find a motel, everyone agreed to vacate the one we were at. Dinah will not go, she stays with the van and boat to protect it from theft and to make damn sure the people from Oregon don’t put the firewood back in our boat. The first motel that we look at has little to offer one of the only rooms available was entered from the lobby. It had no windows, a stay in jail should not require payment for the accommodations. We go to a Best Western (damn gringos) and get rooms with windows and air conditioners. The night before I had noticed that the nightstands and the top of the dresser were cast in the wall. The same is true here as well as the platform for the bed. Makes it tough for women with PMS or ENS to rearrange the furniture.
That evening at the bar while waiting for Walt we strike up a conversation with a couple from Canada, the Yukon Territory to be “exact”. I put exact in quotations because I believe the Yukon Territory is a very large piece of real estate. He is a geologist and works for a mining company. I go get the rocks that we have collected. He advises the green stuff is malakite and that the mine is certainly copper.
That evening we had a very long wait for dinner. We were seated promptly but advised that the kitchen (cocina) was way behind. We came in a taxi as Walt is already painless and I want to get there. Walt and Dinah get Marguritas that are strong and the glasses must hold a quart. I stick with what I know young scotch and water. The food is not that good nor is it cheap. I had just borrowed $2,000 pesos from Walt and it takes most of this to bail us out.
The next morning not as early as the previous morning we roll out. We leave the boat and my van back in the public lot. All the wood that was processed as lumber is gone the other stuff is still there. We then go to Pancho’s for breakfast, it is excellent. The waiter has some fun with us. When we agree to “mas caf’e paquito?” he gives you a very small splash then laughs. Of course this is followed by a half cup of coffee.
Today we have large hooks and other fancy stuff that I have never owned. Also before leaving the harbor we get ten live mackerel. This will be a short day on the water as we are all eager to get to East Cape.
Outside the harbor the waves are bigger than yesterday. Two of the mammoth cruise ships are in the harbor. Before hitting the water this morning I saw golf offered for a green fee of $300 for 18 holes. On the way out there is a sailfish jumping about 100 yards in front of us, this happens 4 times with the distance never diminishing. Walt wants to drive the boat. When we make the turn to go back I take the helm. We are ¾ of the way back to the harbor when Walt gets a strike.
The fish is a large Dorado. In a fight that consumes some time Walt gets the fish to the boat. I get the gaff but Walt can not give me a clear shot. I take one swipe at the tail, did not get it. Dinah has the other pole which still has a bait fish on it. I hear oh oh oh as a Dorado finds the mackerel. About this time the large Dorado is gone. The fish had never been hooked it was biting the mackerel about 2 inches behind the hook. When the Dorado chewed through the mackerel it was gone. Walt is left with the head and a small length of the body.
Dinah sets the hook and brings in a small Dorado. Even a small Dorado is two foot long and thrashes violently. With no “whocking stick” I resort to bringing the fish to rest with an empty Negra Modello bottle. Not as many Marlin are taken today.
On the road to East Cape, it is only about 60 miles and heading north for the first time. We check in and get rooms in the old part of the hotel as we had requested. This are separate buildings each having three guestrooms and a thatched roof. They also have two large hammocks, one on each end of the front porch. We are assigned 7 and 8 as we start passing numbers I swap keys with Walt. I had guessed that the lower number might be the room that my brother and I stayed in when we were here in 1994.
It was the room that we had in 94. What comes next is difficult for me to believe. When we were there I called my brothers attention to the light bulb in the bathroom. It looked like it was 50 years old then. It is clear glass and the end of the bulb has a large raised area on the end. The internal parts are very large as compared with modern bulbs. The same bulb is still there and functioning. Another thing that was the same, this room has an old square green Ballentine scotch bottle for a water bottle, it is still there. There was another light in the room that was not working, I went to the front desk and got a new bulb still in the protective sleeve. It is the soft white American-style bulb, I speculated on it’s life span. When I install it nothing, I thought it would work longer than not at all. I gave up knowing that there was one bulb in the room that I could rely on.
That evening when we went to finalize the fishing plans, make lunch choices, beer, sodas, and get assigned to a boat. I ask about Benny and get a reply that he still works as a guide but now has a cruiser. We could get him for tomorrow if we wanted. I say sure and the coordinator scratches out Suzy T and writes La Migra on the slip of paper that he hands to me. Now we have the same guide that my brother and I had for two days on a Super Panga. If my memory is right Benny did not like cruisers in those days, we were all younger then. Older with more disposable income ain’t bad.
The next morning at the dock the Suzy T is waiting to pick us up. I ask about La Migra, it is already gone, on the way to Cabo. The Captain’s name is Edwardo and I can not remember the mate’s name. We get some small fish for bait. I tell the Captain that we fished with Benny in 1994. Both he and the mate are relatives of Benny.
I am on top with the captain as we head for open water, I immediately see two striped marlin. Edwardo exclaims, “right on the beach”. That was our best shot at a marlin for the day. We stayed close to the beach to try for some larger fish to be used for bait. A Sierra and a couple of Bonita are brought on. The Captain takes a Bonita, which is a very bloody fish, and makes lengthwise cuts to the bone. Then he puts a large rope though the mouth and gill then drags this immediately behind the boat.
Much later in the morning Dinah got her turn at a strike. The Bonita had wore Walt out and he needed a large number of Orridus for his shoulder. This fish is another Dorado but is also small. Later Dinah is on top with Edwardo and he tells her she had caught a Dorito. With its name being a modifier in the Spanish language meaning small we see this as very funny. Edwardo also convinces her that July is the time for Wahoo, roosterfish, and Marlin. Looks like we are going back in July.
When my brother and I was fishing in 1994 it was about 1 PM and we had not yet gotten a strike. I said to him “do you know what is really good about today”? His reply “not much that I can think of”. I said “we are not at work and neither of our wives have out fished us. He then agreed it was a wonderful day.
We get back and start to arrange things in the van for the trip back. We have allowed two days to get home. On the road the next morning. When we get to CD Constitution, there is truck going very slowly with a very high load. There is also a highway patrol car in a big hurry. The load turned out to be plastic two-liter milk containers. These containers were very loosely confined by vinyl sheeting, all containers were in the inverted position. The sanitary efforts impressed me. I wonder what would have happened had the load become upset? The Highway Patrol turned before the dairy and the dairy is immediately before the gas station.
At the gas station the Highway Patrol appears again, literally sliding to a stop at an open pump. In Baja the gas stations are trying to get all the vehicles to approach gas pumps from the same direction. The patrolman is backward as he erupts from the vehicle with his hand on his gun. He pumps gas keeping in constant touch with his gun, nobody pointed out that he was not aligned properly. He roars off continuing North.
We finish gassing and also continue North. In the same stretch of highway where Walt’s shovel fell off there is single car wreck that looks bad. The patrolman is here. Could the shovel have created an imperfection in the road surface, which started a chain of events culminating in the driver losing control? Not likely. Several people have verbalized concerns about the way my mind functions. As previously mentioned this stretch of road is very flat with miles of visibility. A couple of miles up the road two guys in a very flashy car decided they did not need to go any farther. They pulled into a side dirt road and waited? I am sure they continued their journey once the patrolman had finished his investigation and departed.
We are approaching Loreto and it is time to eat. Back to McLulu’s. We order and I look over the array of things at working level behind the counter. There is Walt’s salt shaker being considerably taller than the standard Mexican issue that also comes in a decorative paperboard container just shorter. McLulu happily hands over the errant device. Now all her salt and pepper dispensers are of equal height and Walt’s camping gear again has a matching set. The universe is returned to harmony.
We have set our goal to reach Guerrero Negro for the end of the first day of driving. We come out of Santa Rosalia about dark. We stop for gas in San Ignacio and we put a new switch in for Walt’s big lights. On to the intended destination.
We get rooms, the price range available was for Mexican Specials (not sure of the name). These were a few dollars more. The rooms are beautiful, decorated with cactus woods native to Baja. The water taps were marked C and F. The C is on the left denoting calente and the F is on the right denoting fria. This is not unsafe as I have yet to find water in Baja that is hot enough to hurt you.
Dinah, as usual, does not want to go to dinner. We had gone down to find our favorite restaurant closed and returned to the motel. The motel restaurant had a special menu for New Years Eve. Plenty to choose from but I wanted beef. Prime rib and Filet Mingon with mushroom sauce are the choices. I opt for the prime rib Walt has shrimp cooked with garlic and butter. Mine comes as three thin slices in the shape of a filet and covered with mushroom sauce. I get the waiters attention, I say this is the fillet with mushroom sauce and I ordered prime rib. He informs me no this is prime rib with au jus. My mistake. Later we have champagne in the room to celebrate New Years.
The next morning we do get an early start. At the military inspection Walt gets a very thorough inspection. How thorough you ask? There was so much candle power concentrated on his van I thought spontaneous combustion was a real possibility. At the agriculture check we were informed of road problems between Ensenada and Tiajuana. Before leaving on this trip we had decided to cross at Tecate going and coming. Walt starts having tire trouble. We have some black eyed peas (a New Years tradition) at one of the stops.
Finally we are forced to change this tire. At this point I see that all his tires are Firestone. He assures me that I will NEVER see them again. We change the tire at a gas station where upon seeing us have trouble a Mexican patron comes to us with his tool. It is a cross handle lug wrench with a piece of ½ inch drive extension welded to the smallest lug opening. A great tool and the last incident that demonstrates the nature of the people.
From Ensenada Walt begins to grumble about coming through Tecate. Hey it was your decision, we told you ten days ago this was the way we were going. On any holiday the border wait in Tiajuana can be two hours. We get to the crossing in Tecate have a tough three minute wait. As we approach the agent, he says have a nice day. No questions about citizenship, what we had acquired, nothing. Into America, it is over.
No more grumbling from Walt, the drive is longer but crossing the border is wonderful. We have crossed there many times before the new crossing was opened in Mexacali. We part ways at the junction of I-805 and I-15.
When we got home I had to fix an outside faucet in order to have water pressure in the house. Much to my amazement I find my back is ok now. I don’t know when the back decided to work again, I am just glad that it did. Walt would have done well with no water pressure, he arrives home to find a busted water heater and wet grumpy neighbors in the unit below his. We still have the CB, I call Walt every couple of days but I get no response.