by Ray Alexander
Dinah prepares with institutional size containers of salsa
We begin this trip at the end of a work day. We quickly make our way across the border and down Mex. 1 to the road to Erendira, below Ensenada. We simply pitch a tent and the night is very chilly. Later that evening Rocketman joins us. He is also known as Walt Moeller, the name his mother selected for him. We are asleep by the time he arrives. The next morning the opening salvo from Rocketman, “I really like this Alpine camping”.
There is 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 is slowly and painfully fitted with a CB radio, I am not happy. My only other experience with CB, also in Mexico, was not good. These, however, are different, they actually work. With Rocketman leading a distinct advantage soon becomes apparent. He can provide real-time information regarding on-coming traffic. There is a tractor/trailer with a major malfunction just north of El Rosario.
Between El Rosario and Catavina the road is straight – napping not recommended.
We stop at Guerrero Negro for gas. This town is named for a war ship that beached near here, the translation is Black Warrior After gassing here one must turn around to get back to the highway as the station is several blocks off the highway. Given heavy 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 is not an option and Walt is following me. I continue make a left turn and then a second left to get back to the main street. Before entering the return street 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 another 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 am 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 van keeping practices could use some help). When we get into his van to leave there is a plastic cup containing wine sitting on the windshield wiper for the driver's side. A small exclamation escapes Walt's lips, then he recovers and says, "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 is not perfect but the cup is recovered with a quantity of wine still inside. I am glad this happens so quickly that there is 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 why eat that when they have really good stuff, like carnitas.
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 accept it.
We decide to stop in Mulege, and that makes for a short day of driving. Upon arriving we have trouble deciding where to camp, we finally decide 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.
The mightiest river in Baja
Some people come in from Seattle; the guy has a new wife from Texas, and two teenage boys obviously from a previous marriage. They have a prototype boat that is a US design with fabrication done in China under the close supervision of the guy’s partner. The boat has a ½ inch drilled hole in the hull that is covered with masking tape and painted over. Who supervised the drilling of that hole?
The boat is designed to be used by divers as the three men/boys are all divers. The boys are twins and seem to attack life. I ask them, “Have you ever played any of the tricks with girls that are portrayed in the movies’?
“No” they answered and they have 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!
There is 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 catch a couple of triggerfish after catching a bass for cut bait. I take Dinah out the second day to get a picture of the nest.
Osprey nest with a protective parent on the short cactus to the left
We are assured that Oscar will be around to collect the federal fee for camping. Oscar does not come. We owe Baja for two nights rent.
Sunrise Christmas Eve at Mulege
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 that Walt and I co-own. I take a path that looks like it intercepts the route that Walt is on and gives me a place to turn around. It didn’t, I need to cross this small salt patch. I can see old tracks where people have been stuck, but this thing looks as hard as concrete. 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. They are commonly used by Jeepers and identified as a high lift jack. These jacks are capable of lifting major things such as large farm tractors, trucks and bulldozers.
This place is so soft that even using the 4 X 4s as a footing for the jack the right front can’t be raised. The jack simply buries the footing in the mud. It also quickly becomes clear that Walt’s van is not going to move mine. The boat has an electric winch that has the ability to be attached to a trailer hitch. We have doubts about it being strong enough to help us in this dire situation. Dinah is out looking for things that might be of use. 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 the 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 finds a running board from a 1936 Plymouth that is instrumental in our extraction. The jacking begins, but 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.
Walt can not get the jack to move in the down direction. I get 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 when I attempt to do up and it kills my back. We break the chain more than once, but three hours later my van is once again a self-propelled conveyance.
After this ordeal my wife accused me of being lazy. On our last trip to Baja I 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 gets very personal with the mud. I use the shovel as much as possible. When we finish Walt is more completely covered in mud than I am. Lastly, Walt wore a hole in his new Levi’s from jacking. We go dig a half-bucket of clams partly to get mud off of us and some off of the implements.
When we get on the paved road my front wheels are horribly out of balance due to clumps of mud inside the wheels. Three days later in places where the mud gets little heat from the engine or brakes it is still wet.
The back of Walt’s van looks as if a giant frog has left muddy footprints. This is from him climbing the ladder to get things off the top. We are planning to be in San Everesto tonight. 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 very difficult to reach and the fishing was 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 the section from about 30 miles south of Loreto to La Paz is missing.
On to Loreto, gas, and 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 then 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 recover the shovel, not much visual evidence of the ordeal. Walt never realizes that the shovel left his van.
As we approach CD Constitution it is beginning to get dark. I suggest that we get a motel. Wrong! We are going on to San Everesto. On the way out of town our fearless leader misses the turn for the road he wants to take. Dinah looks at the map and decides we could intercept the road a few miles farther south.
Walt stops and we discuss the situation and continue south. In a surprise move Walt stops 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 manage 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 along the coastline. It is a good thing that I go in because the recently divorced and horny Walt couldn’t hear anything or see anything on the map that he took into the store. Especially when the younger one is 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, that 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 been seeing a lot of flood evidence, Walt has seen none. Could it be, the lovely young lady in the convenience store is still on his mind?
When outside the jurisdiction of the town Policia we stop. Walt wants to let some air out of his tires. I take on about a quart of his wine. I know this is going to a trying journey. We travel for many miles without much change; there is evidence of a lot of recent road repair. Some steep creek crossings and one cement vado is in very bad shape. The country is extremely sparse of dwellings, but the road goes on.
I take on another quart of wine and Dinah wants to drive. This is completely out of character for her. In a foolhardy display of bravado, I give her the wheel. When we go to our place beyond Puertocitos I usually receive a lot of driving instructions. These increase in frequency and volume as we approach our destination. I try to mimic her behavior. She blames the alcohol and says I am 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 am more than ready to drive. We are in a dry wash that is strewn with big rocks. I walk ahead, but can’t find a road. This means we need to turn around. During this challenging activity I discover there are no brakes, none, nada, zero. We camp exactly at this spot, I feel as if I have been here before, boy that is good wine.
Very early the next morning, I crawl 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 have missed a turn in the dry 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. I see a tiny village having a very nice bay and beach. I also walk down the road toward La Paz, where I find a tree that has captured a boulder in the roots and over time the wash has exposed the roots. The boulder is about three feet in diameter and 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 6x painted on a rock. At the apex of my desert racing days my number was 6x. I have been here before.
The brake problem is a direct result from being stuck. The heavy and very sticky mud has 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 has also become dislodged during the trip.
When I get back to camp the Rocketman is 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 trying to locate the lost transom support. 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 yellow jackets. Dinah gets stung later, but not at that place. We decide to go into San Everesto to inquire about brake fluid. Walt is sure that he has some but, a lengthy search turns 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 could see this is a store. Please keep in mind this is reasonably early Christmas morning. I go in and Walt follows. A word that I have just learned is the word for oil pronounced ah thay 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 no. 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 Day. 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. However, the people controlling that site are not at home. I notice an outside building of about 3,000 square feet is a walk-in freezer. There are less than ten pangas in town. Is the fishing good around here or what?
We go back to my truck. We discuss 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 is 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 go with his visegrips as I have never owned a pair. I wire the visegrips to the frame using two independent wires.
Dinah and Walt take the road south to look for a campsite while I work on the truck. I clamp the line and bleed the left front wheel. I did not have a lot of excess fluid after filling the reservoir. I adjust both rear brakes even though they have automatic adjusters one can always achieve 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. On the first road to the left I see their tracks. I follow toward the beach – this looks bad. Finally I am sure that I see two sets of their tracks and I hastily turn around. 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 meet them coming back; they have not found a place to camp. They have been stuck several times and that is all I am going to say on the subject.
A town with more donkeys than people
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 likes 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 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 high lift jack when Walt was stuck this morning has buckled his bumper. Now the left rear door will not open. If a person gets the door open the bumper can easily been beaten into submission with a large rock. Some how Walt gets the door open and the beating is given. Even before we get the boat in the water I catch a three pound some kind of mackerel deal from the beach. Dinah says, “You two go fish and I will set up camp.”
Camp is backed up to a large cliff. And before I forget it Walt gets stuck while trying to get his van level. He is now level, I ask, “Do you want to stay there or get higher now”?
He responded, “Let’s move it now.” He is only mildly stuck this time.
We go around the corner from camp and stop to fish. We 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 cooked it.”
We 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. We clip on the launch wheels and manually pull the boat up on the beach
I go 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 are so heavy that after the cable gets about two levels 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 get some water out of the boat. Then we were able to move it farther and faster as the two-wrap limitation no longer exists.
After creating a wind break by putting various boxes beside Walt’s van to stop the air from going under it. We are ready to sit down to Christmas dinner. We have brought my favorite spaghetti sauce Barilla along with a very good mild Italian sausage. Walt decides this is not bad. He soon misses his salt shaker. As dryly as possible I say, “It’s probably at McLulu’s taco emporium in Loreto”.
We have champagne and exchange Christmas gifts. We give Walt a wall hanging weather center with German instruments. He gives 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 would 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 are 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 is if the wind were stronger. And folks, it gets stronger. We gather around the evening fire. We are traveling as light as possible, no big tarp for a windbreak. This means soon to bed.
Next is a sad commentary: The van has a new CD player, but I have not mastered setting the clock. Neither of us wears a watch. The best mechanism that we have for telling time is a Mr. Gadget wristwatch that came in a McDonald’s kid’s 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 took the pain to set both date and time, however, some turn of events has changed the display and who knows what else.
Dinah wakes me 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 go back to sleep fully confident the watch is wrong.
Walt wakes us about 5 am 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 move the boat to within a few feet of the van.
The next incident is a secret so don’t tell anybody. While we were still in the rush mode, I need something from in front of the van. The cable is still tight to boat and in the dark I trip over it. It could be much worse, however, I am face down in the sand and I can’t even blame it on alcohol, that’s bad.
Walt and I build a fire over at the base of the cliff and make some coffee. We then 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 who won, 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?”
Bad but not bad enough to flood the evaporation ponds
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 are speeding by and now the end is in sight, those plans with hard dates force this issue. Walt speculates, “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 evokes a vision of the scene in Vanishing Point where the Reverend J. Hovah frees the vipers. With all the effort that we have put into getting here I hate to leave, but traveling is the best use of the time. Our conversation is perhaps two hours, and is far from frivolous. It is something I will remember and cherish
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 and I want to leave the firewood. Wrong. All the wood is loaded and we depart about noon.
The first several miles were very easy but from the map and Gene Kira’s description I know the terrain will change. This road goes through some very beautiful scenery. There are sedimentary layers of deep green alternating with red. These layers are very thick. The mountains are very steep, but with my newly acquired posi-differential the up hills are easy. With my even more recent acquisition of three-wheel brakes the down hills are very exciting. Sliding the left front wheel a large percentage of the down-slope on many (hang on vise grips). On one of the nastier ones an older Suburban is over the edge. I call Walt on the CB, “I think that bumper will fit on your van”. No printable 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 gotten it out. A case of beer and a couple of sticks of dynamite would help.
My van is not running very well, sounds rich. At a stop we put five 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 were 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. The first sputter of low fuel was a couple of miles back. We lack about a half block getting to the gas station. I got some boat gas and put it in. The van will not start. I finally take the engine cowl off and pour gas in the carburetor. With the air cleaner 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 will settle on the Hotel California in about twenty seven minutes.
In filling everything that I have emptied of gas the bite is 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 is a much happier occasion and there were considerable changes to the motel. The entrance has moved for one. We fill out the application, pay cash, and get a room assignment. I ask about parking outside? Not a good idea is communicated. I said that I will park the boat inside and the van outside. Of course the clerk didn’t understand a word I said.
When a vehicle is driven into or out of this motel they 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 brake fluid. Time is nearing 5 P.M. We find a small partes establishment. He does not have what we need, but drew an excellent map along with verbal instructions for finding auto 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 speaks English better than a Harvard graduate however; in retrospect he is 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 along with Spanish nomenclature for all the components. In being forced to think about what a transom support really does I come 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 the pulling force. It is better to put the weight in a more-vertical attitude. For this day of travel we tied the motor to the bow in the full up position. 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 were, the city is doing an excellent job of minimizing gringo confusion by not posting street names. You couldn’t pronounce them anyway, so simply get instructions by the number of intersections. In fairness, all major intersections are identified, but what we are looking for is on a smaller calle (street).
Soon we are sure this new set of navigation instructions does not work. We are told that the brake place stays open until 8 pm. We find our way back to the first place where we stopped. We then reused his map to get back to the second place. The guy at the boat supply is just closing and he will 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 find that 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 understood is Dodge. I get a pen and paper and write the information plus derecha the word for right. I point again to the right front flexible hose.
Heads nod and wheels turn, out comes a hose, but it is not correct. I tell them no. We start again and I realize I have advised them to get the wrong part. I have converted the van to disc by a wholesale swap from a 1973 Dodge Van. I am sure that ‘72 vans have 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. I open the other box and there is the most beautiful right front brake hose I will ever see. I say, “Si.”
There are smiles all around. I also point to brake fluid they reach for a small bottle and I say, “Grande.”
They get the quart size. The bill is less than $20 in US currency.
When we get back in Walt’s van he inquires, “What chance is there of that being the correct hose”?
I replied, “100%.” Walt is hopelessly lost and believes that we are heading into the city. I am sure that if we go south to the next major street and then continued in the direction that we are presently going we will find the motel. Walt disagrees. During this trip it has came 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 sees something he recognizes.
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 came back into the room Dinah said, “This place has porno movies.” One more little touch, each automobile space has a canvas curtain that when closed conceals the automobile. Most occupants employ 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 want 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 had noticed). We go to another taco stand. That night Dinah and I have some physical activity. Those movies are really bad.
The next morning I get up and put the brake hose on. I return Walt’s vise grips to find him washing his van using the clam bucket? I also help him with some rearranging and ask, “If he had discovered the porno channels?”
He informs me, “His TV does not work.”
Just as well, he is already in bad shape and quickly running out of patches for his air mattress.
In our driving the evening before I noticed a very large supermarket with ATMs outside. I brought about $1,000 in US currency, but I can see that I am going to run short. Walt is in the same situation. My plan is 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 has miraculously remembered his PIN number. We go to the large supermarket, but he didn’t much trust me or the machine. Once the machine spit out the requested number of pesos, he thought that is way cool. My reasoning had gone something like this, five years ago I was able to get Lira in Italy from an ATM, and certainly this will work.
Inside the market there is almost anything you could want including a one window bank. I try to get pesos from Visa, the teller points to an inside ATM. I exchange all of my remaining US currency for pesos. This is the first time 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. 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 was sweeping the sidewalk wants to know what we need. We display the picture and he says, “Come with me”.
He leads us through an alley around the back and into the parts warehouse area. We are turned over to another person who did not speak English. We then go into the show room and get a skin packed OMC transom support. When we enter the showroom it is 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 is a little bigger than I wanted but it is the only one available. We agree to purchase this item. The part number is entered into the computer and the price comes up $47. The symbol for peso and dollar is identical. Forty-seven pesos is far too cheap. I ask, “47 dollars US”?
He replies, “Yes.” This is the first piece of merchandise that has been priced in dollars and we have just converted all our dollars to pesos. The word irony comes to mind.
We go back to the motel to get Dinah. Then we are on our way to Cabo San Lucas. Walt is leading, I pull into a left turn lane and Walt continues straight. Dinah and I discuss the relative merit of following him toward *^#$@ San Diego. I was 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 let’s say the rest of the trip to Cabo is uneventful. It’s not the truth, but this is all you’re 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, but finds no place to sit. I said, “I can fix this no furniture problem.”
He wonders, “How?”
“Bring in some pool furniture.” We bring in 2 big lounge chairs.
The next morning we were going to Lands End in our boat and then do some fishing. We go through a residential area trying to give away the wood. No luck, but we did pass a boat shop. We start preparing to launch the boat. We are as subtle as possible while neatly stacking the firewood next to a truck and boat trailer from Oregon. No love lost between those two states. Walt comes a little later and rolls in saying “let’s go I have everything arranged to launch.” The boat is not ready as we took out the battery, gas tanks, and anything else that was loose during the San Everesto fiasco.
Among other things we soon discovere 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 is not open yet, but he comes back with one that is supplied at no charge. Since we were not going to get an early start we decide to have breakfast. That is 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. We finally get the boat off the trailer. I take the van and trailer back to the public lot and walk back.
We load up 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 than us. We get to the view of Los Arcos and take some pictures. When we are ready to leave the boat repeatedly starts then dies when put into gear. Panic, paddling, and cursing ensue. I finally decide that this is the symptom of something wrapped around the prop. Walt looks over the transom and indeed that is the case.
This is the best evidence that I have to offer
A length of industrial strength black plastic had taken many turns around the prop. Walt works at this for a good length of time before the prop is free. 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.
We go around the corner and out into the Pacific. We do a little trolling in close. A lot of construction is going on, massive amounts of manual labor in use here. One particular structure has a minimum of 100 people working.
Nothing is happening here relative to fishing. We head 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 surprises me. What surprises me even more is the huge number of very small black marlin taken. Some are less than 100 pounds or not even 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.
Out in the Pacific with the big guys
I had not brought anything from my new fishing gear. We feed the mackerel to the larger fish, as the hooks that we have with us are too small. We could have saved time by simply throwing the money in the water. We got 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 in. 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 is 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 are cast in the wall. The same is true here as well as the platform for the bed. That makes it tough for women with PMS or ENS to rearrange the furniture.
Walt has arranged for a porn movie actress to meet him in Cabo. He is an amazing man. The airport is several miles away and Walt has a couple of drinks before he leaves. We are waiting for Walt and his date that evening at the bar; we enter 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 to get the rocks that we have collected. He advises the green stuff is malakite and the mine here is certainly copper.
Walt arrives with his date, Sue and we have another drink. We had met this lady previously and nothing in her appearance or demeanor suggests her occupation. We had previously decided to take a cab to dinner. That evening we have a very long wait for dinner. We are seated promptly, but advised that the kitchen (cocina) is way behind. Walt is already in a painless condition. Walt, Sue and Dinah get Margaritas 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 have just borrowed $2,000 pesos from Walt and it took most of it to bail us out. While waiting for a cab Walt fell into a cactus and now has large spines sticking in his ass.
The next morning, but not as early as the previous morning, we roll out to go fishing. 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 you 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 would 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 see 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 happened 4 times the distance never diminished. 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 quite some time, Walt finally gets the fish to the boat. I get the gaff, but Walt can’t give me a clear shot. I take one swipe at the tail and don’t not get it. Dinah has the other pole that still has a bait fish on it. I hear, oh-oh-oh as another Dorado finds the mackerel. About this time the large Dorado is gone. The fish was never hooked it was biting the mackerel about 2 inches behind the hook. When the Dorado chews through the mackerel it is 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.
It is about 60 miles to East Cape and it is the first time we have driven north on this vacation. We check in and get rooms in the old part of the hotel as we have requested. These are separate buildings each having three guest rooms and a thatched roof. They also have two large hammocks, one on each end of the front porch. We were 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 is the room that we had in ‘94. What came next was 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 was clear glass and the end of the bulb has a large raised area. The internal parts were very large as compared with modern bulbs. The same bulb was 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 was still there. There was another light in the room that was not working, I go to the front desk and get a new bulb still in the protective sleeve. It was 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 give up knowing that there is one bulb in the room that I can rely on.
That evening when we go to finalize the fishing plans, make lunch choices, beer, sodas, and get assigned a boat. I ask about Benny and get a reply that he still works as a guide but now has a cruiser. We can get him for tomorrow if we want. 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 didn’t like cruisers in those days, we were all younger then. Older with more disposable income ain’t bad.
I think Walt was too drunk to be effective the previous night plus Sue spent a lot of time picking cactus spines out of his ass. They made up for it last night. I think they made some apparatus from one of the hammocks and maybe brought in a couple of wild animals, a chicken counts doesn’t it? Hotels should avoid putting guest that know each other in adjoining rooms
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’t 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 stay close to the beach to try for some larger fish to be used for bait. A Sierra and a couple of Bonita were brought onboard. The Captain takes a Bonita, 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 gets her turn at a strike. This fish is another Dorado but is also small. Later Dinah is on top with Edwardo and he tells her she caught a Dorito. With ito 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.
Dinah has her second Dorado
When my brother and I were 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”?
He replied “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 got back and start to arrange things in the van for the trip back. We have allowed two days to get home. When we get to CD Constitution, there is truck going very slowly with a very tall load. There is also a highway patrol car in a big hurry. The load turns out to be plastic two-liter milk containers. These containers are very loosely confined by vinyl sheeting; all containers are in the inverted position. The sanitary efforts impress me. I wonder what would have happened had the load become upset. The Highway Patrol car turns before the dairy and the dairy is immediately before the gas station.
At the gas station the Highway Patrolman 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 while keeping in constant touch with his gun, nobody pointed out that he is 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 decide they did not need to go any farther. They pull into a side dirt road and wait? I am sure they continue their journey once the patrolman finishes his investigation and departs.
The mountains near Loreto
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 has the same 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 had set a 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 install a new switch for Walt’s big lights. On to Gurrero Negro, the intended destination.
We get rooms, the price range available was for Mexican Specials (not sure of the name). These are a few dollars more. The rooms are beautiful, decorated with cactus woods native to Baja. The water taps are 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 go only to find our favorite restaurant is closed and we return to the motel. The motel restaurant has a special menu for New Years Eve. Plenty to choose from but I want beef. Prime rib and filet minion 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 filet with mushroom sauce, I ordered prime rib.”
He informed me, “No, this is prime rib with au jus.”
My mistake. Smallest prime rib I have seen. 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 lot of attention. How much attention you ask? There is so much candle power concentrated on his van I think spontaneous combustion is a real possibility. At the agriculture check we are informed of road problems between Ensenada and Tijuana. Before leaving on this trip we had decided to cross at Tecate. Walt starts having tire trouble. We eat some black eyed peas (a New Years tradition) at one of the stops for his tire.
Finally we are forced to change that 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. Another Mexican patron seeing us have trouble 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 friendly and helpful nature of the people.
From Ensenada Walt begins to grumble about coming through Tecate. Hey, it is your decision; we told you ten days ago this is the way we were going. On any holiday the border wait in Tijuana can be multiple hours. We get to the crossing in Tecate and 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 and 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 get home I have 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 arrived 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.
Damn CB radios!
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