Whine It’s Wine
This mis-adventure occurred in Baja at the time the road
from Puertocitos to Gonzaga Bay was being improved. The
time is before the Internet or direct TV with multiple
channels that are devoted to weather 24 hours a day. Today,
if you don’t like what one channel says’ about
the weather in Rice, California, which incidentally, has
a population of zero go to a different channel, you may
like their weather better. The local TV channels were
positive that Baja didn’t have weather as their
coverage clearly stopped at the border. No cell phones
so plans couldn’t be altered minute to minute, I
suspect we now have cell phonies who plan constantly and
never really do anything. Our planning consisted of picking
a date, a menu and allocating items for individuals to
bring to this all male fishing event.
The date came around on the calendar I pack my camping
and fishing essentials in the van. I then double check
to assure that I have toilet tissue and all of the items
that I have been assigned to bring. The sharing originally
began with large items such as stoves and was done primarily
to conserve packing space. Later the practice was extended
to consumables, after all why should 4 people bring butter.
Larry Sidders is a master at doing these assignments;
it is done on a sheer numbers basis. Sixteen items on
the shared list, four people going, the four-function
calculator indicates four items each. He then started
writing initials beside items some way he always ended
up bringing the lump of coal and someone else brings the
kilo of gold (the metal). After packing and checking it
is very likely that I went into Escondido to pick up some
one else. I don’t remember any concerns about the
weather as we left. I have left here many times in the
rain and usually drive out of it as I cross the first
mountain range well before getting into Mexico.
When we get to Puertocitos we are surprised that the
road is not where we left it the last time we came down.
We had observed newly set survey stakes months ago. If
you work for the SCT (highway department) in Baja it is
more about staying busy than making real progress. So
all the survey stakes meant to me was; an idle survey
crew was dispatched to survey for a new road through about
10-miles of really nasty mountains.
Incidentally, this 10-miles of road is semi-famous, as
drivers of yore encountered one after the other of “The
Three Terrible Sisters”. At the bottom of two of
the sisters’ there is an automotive graveyard for
the unprepared conveyance. Both the Rocketman and I wish
these cars could talk. When I go there on my motorcycle
and no one else is around I talk to the 1963 Volvo I know
it is a ’63 because about the only thing left on
the body is the factory ID tag. I say what are you doing
here, was you owner on drugs, a Volvo ain’t no kind
of goddamn Baja car. On the other hand a 1954 Chevrolet
4 door sedan totally belongs here. You ask why, well because
Papa Fernandez became a legend for driving from Gonzaga
Bay to San Felipe in a ’50 Chevy sedan with no trunk
lid. He was going to get supplies for his store. On the
return trip he had a 55-gallon barrel of gasoline in the
trunk and groceries everywhere else. Papa Fernandez has
managed to produce offspring that are not near as tough
as he was. One day while the wind was blowing about 800-miles
an hour, Jim Stone and I decide to drive to Gonzaga Bay
just for fun. We come upon a light green Ford truck with
a flat tire and it is loaded with cement. There appears
to be no one around but then a head pops up inside the
cab. It is one of Papa Fernandez’s sons and his
lug nuts have been put on with an air impact wrench if
my interpretation of his antics is correct. We get out
my breaker bar and a socket knowing that we would need
a “cheater”. We can’t find anything
we try in vain using the breaker bar alone. In a more
thorough search I look at the end of my bumper jack. That
looks to be big enough to go over the end of the breaker
bar. It does and now we have a 3-foot extension, each
lug nut comes loose with a resounding crack. Now we find
that his load of cement is too heavy for his jack, we
unload the cement, change his tire, reload the cement,
wipe his ass and get him on his way. On one of my trips
within the last six months some motorcyclists have ask
where are the terrible three sisters. I replied “boys
you’re about 15-years too late”.
In the correct frame of mind and with something to ride
I could take you to two of them. You would swear that
we went over all three but that is just not true.
only is the survey crew busy but, somewhere another small
industry is busy making stakes. The stakes are made from
local ocotillo, as Baja does not have a timber industry,
the spines are trimmed off then the slender limb is split
so that it can be written on. We have also seen ocotillo
being used as a wedge to bust up asphalt. The ocotillo
is sharpened to a point and driven into thick asphalt
using a sledgehammer. This is not one but at least 30
sets of these tools in use simultaneously. This work is
being done within the city of Mexacali, a city of heavy
industry indicating that other tools were available and
close at hand.
In those days we camped about a mile south of Puertocitos
and it took a full thirty minutes to travel that mile.
Civil Engineering was part of every trip. The new road
makes the trip about five minutes, but when we arrive
at the place where we camp the new road has cutoff the
access to the old campsite. This is cause for cussing,
discussing, a couple of Corona Cerveza de Barrils, and
more Civil Engineering. We have decided to camp on a high
spot in a dry wash where the water has gone on either
side. Our campsite later becomes an island. One more beer
and we construct an off ramp, which enables us to get
to this lovely place. We did an excellent job because
both the ramp and the campsite are still used today.
Directly to the west is a large mountain and unless weather
is coming straight up the gulf your weather horizon is
very short or in other words by the time you can see approaching
rain, you're wet. By now it is looking like it just might
rain. I have always had a tarpaulin that attaches to the
passenger side of my van. My brother improved my status
by giving me a trucker’s tarpaulin that covers half
of Baja and we wisely erect this structure. Usually we
don’t stress the gray matter that much on these
trips, normally it would be wine, cooking and we can take
care of taking care en la manana. There is an easy way
to identify a trucker’s tarp on the highway if it
has torn out three eyelets and is flapping in the breeze,
it ain’t one.
During the night it starts to rain a slow cold winter
rain. We have people that are sleeping outside on cots.
In near coincidence with the arrival of the rain, outside
I hear more cussing and scurrying around, no concern of
mine, inside the van I am warm and dry. This rain is steady
but not hard. As the van window begins to show a lighter
shade of gray I am ready to get up. I discover that during
the night there has been so much crap drug up under the
tarp that I can’t get out the side door or the passenger’s
door. My only exit available is the driver’s door.
The trip from Escondido is divided into two 4 plus hour
segments. The first 225 miles to San Felipe and the 65
miles below San Felipe each segment taking about the same
amount of time. On the return to San Felipe some people
consider the trip complete upon reaching San Felipe. Yes,
it really was that bad. In huge letters on the side of
a hill some gringo had written in whitewashed rocks “cheer
up half way”. The point is nobody wants to immediately
turn around and go back.
We clear some space under the tarp to make coffee and
breakfast. More coffee, it is soon evident that the rain
is not going to allow fishing today. It is cold so we
use my Weber as a heating stove. The Weber is just inside
the drip line allowing the smoke to escape the tarp. We
switch to wine and start to fabricate tales of past deeds,
mountains climbed, races run and river swum. Already my
wine is getting dangerously low. Telling all of these
lies makes your tongue dry and for that, more wine is
required. Jim Stone’s wine reserve is in the same
condition. Back then we didn’t have the Rocketman
but we did have Walt Moeller. As Jim and I lament over
our supply of vino Walt assures us that he has plenty.
Now Jim and I select our wines from the bottom shelf,
the one where all the bottles are volume efficient and
have screw on caps of the cheapest possible construction.
On the other hand Walt selects wines that are displayed
at eye level and the bottles are sealed with real cork.
All the more reason for Jim and I to wade through this
cheap shit. This excessive consumption of liquid could
normally be detected by a large number of wee wet spots
not today there is only one wet spot, everywhere.
The human behaviorists have noted that in a group like
this there is a recurring period of silence and it recurs
with precise timing. This piece of information probably
only cost the taxpayers 10 million dollars in research
grants. What I have observed is that one deed brings forth
a similar deed from someone else. As time goes by these
deeds come from deeper and darker crevasses. By the third
day you know who has parallel experiences and where they
lie, be it work, women, wine or whatever.
The next day is much like the previous day except now
we have some wind as well. A short walking exploration
of the new road finds the surface very slick, new clay
where old rocks had previously been. Of course what prompted
the walk was some concern about getting out of here. We
are using way more brainpower than usual. Closer to town
the road has been cut into the side of the mountain and
sliding off would not be a pretty picture.
If yesterday was the preliminary, today is the main event.
Walt makes repeated trips to his van each time returning
with a fresh 1.5 liter bottle of rosé wine. Today
it rained hard for a period of time and some water is
running on both sides of us. By nightfall it is taking
Walt more time to locate the next bottle. Jim and I suggest
that we will curtail our consumption as it appears that
Walt is running low. The gauntlet was cast directly at
our feet Walt said “you can not run me out of wine”.
Jim and I relax, we were worried.
The next day we get in some fishing. It wasn’t
memorable. That night Walt is on a mission to get more
wine. For those who have not been exposed to the full
size classic van each cargo door can store about 150 pounds
of small items, 220 pounds if a woman packs it but then
a male can’t find a damn thing. Walt is looking
inside the doors, under seats, in boxes, and under all
loose objects. Jim and I quietly say I think we did it.
Walt returns with a box? He starts to open the box and
out comes a rubber tube like a 5-gallon milk container
has. He whacks off a portion of the tube and out comes
wine. I leap to my feet, or at least I think I did, and
launch into protest. It lasts about 25-minutes and specifically
included an acknowledgement that my wine comes from the
bottom shelf but I have never seen wine in a box and I’m
not drinking it, where in the hell do you get this stuff,
in Watts with food stamps?
Walt says relax this is the same wine that you have been
drinking for two days I just got tired of filling the
bottles. So all the time you have been sneaking over behind
your van and refilling the fine wine bottles from a $#&*%
cardboard box? Walt replies "Ray that puts you right
up there with a rocket scientist in my book". Well,
I am still alive and I can still see, might as well drink
some more wine. That night it started raining again. The
next morning we pack up all of our wet gear and head home.
The first hill is a challenge. When we get to where the
new road is elevated by cutting into the side of a mountain
it really gets exciting. I was making steering wheel corrections
faster than an octopus can pick lettuce.
I began to have a sincere dislike for TV news in 1963,
hold that thought. The road from San Felipe to Puertocitos
has been paved but it still takes well over an hour for
the trip. Where the new road provides easy beach access
there are gringo houses wall to wall with 95% of them
being built after the new road was complete. Traffic has
increased a thousand percent but you no longer need to
pack with easy access to your shovel in mind. However,
over the past two years the Mexican government has shot
both feet completely full of holes. And if it didn't already
hurt enough American TV news has not let any of these
go unpunished. After 911 the border crossing lines from
Tiajuana are multiple hours, great fodder for TV news.
Our longest wait at the border since Sept. 11 has been
6 minutes. TV news, the last thing you should do is believe
For our Christmas dinner in ’01 the Rocketman provided
a 1.5 liter bottle of rosé wine. Before the meal
was served Dinah was reading the label. I looked at the
Rocketman and smiled. How does he keep the labels looking
so good? This year the wine came out of something that
looked like the udder off of some kind of electric cow
gone bad an ugly metalized bag with one teat.
We also had two bottles of Fukarwi wine on this trip.
Another item that didn't make it into the Christmas saga,
while in Agua Verde we lit the campfire once and was able
to restart it from embers for the next three days.