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Baja California Information Pages
Tales of Baja California

    Blind Date To Baja

Ron Bloomquist  

- First Contact -


Delta #543, due San Diego 12:55 on 29 Dec, returning 8 Jan. Can't do it sooner; I must give a paper in New York city on 28th Dec. I tried to get out of it - can't without causing problems for the conference organizer.

Will that fit your plans? Please let me know right away.

I write back:
Hi Lenore,

Fantastic, but can you get more than ten days?

She responds by stretching it to thirteen and we are set, except I have never met her; in fact I don't even know what she looks like.

One week before the departure date I break down and call her for the first time.

"Ah, a couple questions have come to mind."
She responds,
" I thought there might."
I said,
"Well, the first question is, how do you like your coffee?"
"And, uh, how will I know you when you get off the plane?"
"Well, I'm 5'6", slender, dark hair with lots of gray and . . ."
"How 'bout if I stand there with a kayak paddle in my hand and you find me?"
"Great. See you then."
"Okay. See you then. Bye."
Oh boy!

- Off To San Diego -

A week later I pack my 1967 VW bus, this time for two, and load the kayaks, my Sea Otter for her and my Oddysea Ski for me. I check out my tent and start loading stuff. As I pack my extra sleeping bag I think about the other essentials - food, water, extra gas, tools.

I arrive at the San Diego airport one hour early, go in and check the arrival times. Her flight will be half an hour late. I have one and a half hours to think about the upcoming event. Geez! Is this any way for a forty three year old man to act, meeting some strange woman at an airport, holding a kayak paddle in his hand? What if we can't stand each other? Well, if so, it will all be Kevin's fault. He was the match maker. My old buddy. Her good friend.

I head for the lounge, drink a beer and worry some more. Finally it is time. I go get my paddle out of the bus and head for the arrival gate.

I watch her plane land and pull up to the building. I watch the ramp glide up to its side. Soon people start to come into the building. I'm standing there, paddle in hand, grinning at every middle-aged woman that gets off the plane. They look at me, the paddle, and walk on by. Geez!

Over half the plane is empty. Two thoughts come to mind. Either she didn't get on, or she saw me and kept on going. Oh God. What an idiot I am.

And then, there she is. No doubt in my mind. There she is and here we are. We share an awkward embrace, bumping kayak paddle and hand luggage, then turn and head for my bus. She tells me she is carrying everything with her so we won't have to wait for luggage. As we go into the San Diego sunlight I keep stealing side glances. Who is this woman?

We hop into my bus and she bangs her head on the fire extinguisher. I apologize. Oh boy! Who is this woman?

We talk as I drive along. I don't know what we said. I don't know what we passed. I'm babbling like a fool, driving like a nut. I pull off at the last exit before the border and tell Lenore that I have three things to get. I need Mexican insurance, two two and a half gallon containers of water, and pesos. We take care of these items and the next thing we know, we are being waved through the border into Baja.

- Baja California -

I ask Lenore to help me navigate with the map I hand her while we head for the Ensenada toll road. I have planned to get as far as Punta Banda, south of Ensenada by night fall. Last year I made a wrong turn and wound up in Tijuana where I had my windows washed by some fourteen year old entrepreneurs. They would have repainted the bus and recovered the seats if the stop lights would have stayed red longer!

We have a sunny drive along the coast and a beautiful sunset over the Pacific. Just past Ensenada we stop at a restaurant for dinner. I have the chicken, rice and beans while Lenore has the fish. We wash it down with cerveza. Ah! Good ol' Mexican cerveza frio. All the time we are talking and although I don't know what we said, bit by bit I start to find out who she is.

She is surprised to find that Kevin hadn't told me much about her, whereas she had learned a lot about me from him. Kevin rents a room from her, had her as an instructor last year. She also, with my permission, had read some of my letters to Kevin, so she has a pretty good idea of who I am but, as for me, I have just met her.

I know she is a Professor at a University. I don't know what she professes. I learn that she teaches the graduate course in Philosophy and has some heavy duty titles but she puts that aside and says that really she is only a teacher and thinks of herself as one.

We talk some more and continue the conversation as we head for Punta Banda. We arrive, after dark, and find quite a few other campers. I find a level spot close to the shore and we call it a day.

It had been a long one for Lenore. She has come directly from New York, a three hour time change and an even bigger climate change. I have arranged the bus to have a fairly roomy sleeping area so we won't have to set the tent up every night. I give her a sleeping bag and take a walk. After what I think is an appropriate length of time, I return, turn out the light, undress and crawl into my sleeping bag. Again. Who is this woman?

As dawn approaches we wake to the sounds of goats with bells on their necks. I make coffee and we sit up in our bags, sip coffee and discuss our next move. Should we stay in the area or move on? Lenore is for moving on and so am I. It should be warmer farther south and we can begin kayak camping that much sooner. I would like to get as far as Guerrero Negro, 327 miles south, today. That's not far by the usual standards but driving the Mexican highway is a whole different story.

We resume our journey. I drive for a while and then Lenore takes over. She tells me that she has driven many miles in VW busses. Over the years she has owned several and she loves them. Hey! This woman is all right!

It is quite a change for me to be riding in my bus rather than driving it. I discover an I.D. plate on the roof vent I didn't know I had. Also, everyone has different driving styles and she tends to rev the engine tighter than I would. This bothers me but I know I must let it go, relax and enjoy the trip. Never the less, I finally tell her about the stripped spark plug and my concern that it will blow out. Now I can relax. Let her worry about it.

We rattle along with big bursts of conversation and then spaces of comfortable silence, all while watching the Mexican scenery unfold. What a pleasant way to travel. She tells me about her past, her thoughts, her directions. We are becoming friends. We stop for petrol and creveza and then continue on.

From Colonet to El Rosario we catch glimpses of the Pacific ocean to our right. After El Rosario the highway cuts inland as we drive upon a high plateau. We begin to see cirios, tall plants that taper to a point like upside down green carrots. They grow nowhere else in the world. Further on we come to an area very much like the Wonderland of Rocks in Joshua Tree National Monument, north east of Los Angeles. Granite boulders of all sizes and scattered in piles.

We drive through a Vado and go around a curve where we decide to stop for lunch break. We park and then sit on the rocks and snack on cheese, fruit and crackers. I just happen to have a bottle of wine along. Several, matter of fact.

After lunch I suggest a hike over the hill to see if we can get down to the stream that passes through the Vado. Off we go through the mixture of boulders and cactus and just before we arrive at the stream I come across something I have wanted for years. A cow skull! It is bleached bone white with a nice set of horns. Lenore finds a jaw bone with all the teeth. We take our findings down to the stream and rinse off the sand. Then for a short while we sit and enjoy the scenery, the stream and the quiet. Soon we return to the bus and I put our treasures into the Sea Otter. The rest of the day we drive and talk.

- Guerrero Negro -

It is dark when we reach the outskirts of Guerrero Negro and stop for more petrol. Three "gringos" are pouring stop leak into the radiator of their motor home. They warn us that the road into town is rough.

I tell Lenore about a restaurant where I had "pescado" last year and we set off to find it. We have to drive up and down the main drag a couple of times to find it but we finally do. I recall that last year I had to do the same thing. The trouble is, it is so hard to tell if the place is open or not. The locals don't hang out bells, whistles, or sodium vapor lights. Either they are open or they are closed. Another confusing thing about this particular restaurant is that the front door is boarded shut. It was last year and it still is but the side door is wide open. Once inside we find a bustle of activity, lots of people but then, not only is it a restaurant, it is also the bus station!!

We are served a very tasty dinner of fish and enjoy some more of that good Mexican beer. One of the local children keeps pointing at my watch. We finally figure out that he is saying that it is one hour off. We have moved into mountain time rather than our Pacific time, reminding us that our journey south is also a journey east.

After dinner we go in search of our spot for the night. I know that there is a lagoon north of town and that it would be a great place for Lenore to try kayaking for the first time. We leave town and head for it. As we drive along looking for the turn off we come to a black topped road headed in the right direction and a sign that say "Aeropuerto".

By now it is very dark and a sort of sea mist fog hangs in the air. I drive along very slowly. After about a mile we come across some abandoned buildings that look like they might have been an air port terminal at one time. A little farther on the black top ends and a muddy lane begins. We turn around and grope our way back through the fog and find a solid looking gravel area off to the right. I pull onto it, find a nice level place and shut off the bus. There is instant blackness and silence. I take my spotlight and go have a look around. After a bit I come back to the bus and tell Lenore that as near as I can figure it, we are parked in the middle of a runway. Would it matter? Hard to say but we decide to move. In a few more minutes we find another level spot that doesn't feel like it might hold any surprises and we call it a night.

The morning dawns sunny and cool with a fog bank hanging off to the south. While making breakfast we hear a plane take off but we never see it. Ah! Magic Mexico.

- Kayaking -

"How 'bout some kayaking, Lenore?"
So we pack up and go off in search of a road to the lagoon. There is a lot of evidence of recent rain and when we find the road there are lots of puddles and soft mud. Now is the time to introduce Lenore to my style of off road driving in a VW bus.

There are a variety of phenomena involved in my approach to off road driving though the white knuckles are probably the most prominent. Underneath my seemingly calm exterior one would find a sever puckering of the lowest part of the digestive track, the right foot hesitating between the gas pedal and the brake, the brain arguing with itself, half saying "go for it", half saying "Stop" and finally, the bottom line. How much is it going to cost to get towed out?

We make it. The lagoon is before us.

At the edge of this breath taking scene we hop out of the bus and look around. Shore birds are wading along the edge. Pelicans are diving into the water, off in the distance are islands of white sand.

We unload the boats from the roof rack and carry them to the shore. I take the paddles out of the Sea Otter and begin instructing Lenore on how to hold the paddle, how to sit down in the boat. As I talk to Lenore I realize she is scared. Well, maybe not scared but I detect a lot of concern. "Hey, not to worry. It's a piece of cake". I glance out at the lagoon again. It is still flat as a board with no wind. I know that once she tries kayaking she will love it.

We have to carry the boats a way out into the water. There is a real gradual slope and we wade out about twenty feet before we have four inches of water. I have her sit down in the Otter while I steady it. She pulls her feet in, I hand her the paddle and shove her off. I grab my Ski and follow.

We have a beautiful morning and it is perfect for beginning kayaking. It takes her a while to get the idea of the feathered paddle but soon she does and we start working on the next step; paddling in a straight line. She is zig zagging all over the place but soon she sorts that out too and begins to notice the scenery.

The whole northern shore is composed of snow white sand dunes, very smooth and rounded. White dunes, dark blue water and pink morning light. It is wonderful. After a mile or so of following the shore, we turn around and poke along back towards the bus. Once there, Lenore floats and paddles along the shore line looking at the birds and enjoying the kayak. I head off to the dunes, strip and take a swim. After my swim we meet back by the bus. I tell Lenore that being with nature brings out the nudist in me. It's not because I have a beautiful body and want to show it off; it's just that it feels so right. I hope she is not offended. She tells me that she is probably a more avid nudist than I am.

- On To Mulegé -

We talk about whether to stay or go and we elect to go, though it is a tough decision. The beauty of this lagoon and the possible mysteries along its shore are tempting but I am set on showing Lenore the wonderful places I traveled to last year. We load the boats and look at the map. 171 miles to Mulegé.

About half way there we come to the town of San Ignacio. We turn off in order to check it out. It is a beautiful little town, hidden under palm trees. I want to buy some huraches, the sandals with leather tops and car tire tread bottoms and Lenore wants to buy a straw hat. We can find neither so buy some cerveza instead and head on south.

Just before the Sea of Cortez comes into view and just before the infamous Cuesta del Infeirno (the steepest grade of MEX 1), BANG! BAAAAMM! The stripped spark plug blows out!

I ease off the gas and as the horrible racket continues from the engine compartment, I look for a place to pull off the road. On the left is a likely looking spot so, off the road we go. I park amongst the cactus so the setting sun will shine into the engine compartment and allow me to see what I'm doing. I shut off the engine and the deafening roar of the Baja silence drops down around us.

I tell Lenore to go for a hike, if she wishes, 'cause this is going to take about forty-five minutes.

I get out my tools, open the engine compartment and set to work. I had bought a 14mm tap and helicoil set a while back just in case the spark plug did blow out. The VW motto "Be Prepared". Using the new 14mm tap and a ratchet handle I screwed new threads into the head making sure the piston was retracted. The instructions that come with the helicoil set say there are no guarantees if I don't remove the head first but that would be major surgery, so I take my chances. After tapping in the new threads I install the helicoil on the spark plug, put some Loctite on the threads and screw the plug into the threaded hole. The instructions suggest a fifteen minute cure time and since Lenore just got back from her hike, we have a spot of tea.

After the allotted time, I unscrew the spark plug and with the insert now glued in place I have Lenore start the engine. It is loud but it blows all the aluminum chips out of the cylinder. She shuts the engine off and I screw the spark plug back in, hook up the plug wire and we're all set. I put away the tools, wipe off my hands and we hop back into the bus. I smile at Lenore, fire up the bus and we back up onto the highway. Thank god I bought that insert kit.

As we buzz along I tell Lenore that when I am traveling by myself I just take these things as part of the adventure but when I'm traveling with someone, I feel like it is all my fault if something happens. Even it there are mosquitoes or if it starts to rain, somehow I feel responsible. She reassures me that she is having a marvelous time and is more than willing to just take it as it comes. I tell her that my mode of travel is definitely not Club Med. She said we wouldn't be together if it was.

Just past sunset we arrive in Mulegé and drive into town for some petrol. The streets of Mulegé are a special treat. They are very narrow and hilly, winding around in a strange one way sequence. Mixed in with this are no street lights but, lots of people walking around. After gassing up we go into a store and find Lenore a straw hat and my haurraches. Then we go back to the highway, turn south on the highway and head off to find our spot for the night.

After a couple of false side roads towards the bay we finally find a trail to the beach. I drive down it and pull out onto the sand. I park parallel to the shore and we hop out to take a look. Small waves are slapping the shore. The stars are out by the millions. I begin bustling around, setting up for the night while Lenore roots around in her pack. The next time I look her way she has a bottle of Champagne in her hand! "Happy New Years!" she says. Wow. I had forgotten all about that. Yes indeed, it is New Years Eve! I think this woman is going to be all right! I can't remember what we had for supper but I do remember toasting each other, Kevin, Baja, the stars, the bay and most everything else that came to mind!

- Bahia Concepción -

In the morning we decide to head on south and find a place to leave the bus and start the kayak portion of the trip. South of Mulegé is the Bahia Concepción. The bay is about thirty miles long and four or more miles wide. I want to kayak across the bay to the peninsula on the other side like I did the year before.

We drive south and find lots of coves and camp grounds but most of them have too many campers in them for our taste. I recall hearing about a place called Coyote Camp and look for that. Seventeen miles south of Mulegé we finally find it. We pull in and although there are a few campers around it does have that "this is it" feel. Besides, we are just looking for a place to leave the bus. We will be setting out with the boats as soon as the wind subsides.

I see a gringa by one of the campsites and ask her about this place. She tells us that "there is no charge for camping here but there is also no one to keep an eye on the bus while we're out kayaking. However, if we park back from the beach, out of the way of other campers, there should be no problem". It sounds reasonable to us.

The day has warmed up though the wind continues. We decide to go paddling so that Lenore can get an idea of what the kayak feels like with some wind and wave action.

The wind in this cove has some weird gusts now and then, which come out of the canyon to the west, but the main wind is still out of the north. A point of rocks projecting out into the bay, north of us, protect us from that but on out in the bay, the white caps are rolling.

We unload the boats and carry them to the water's edge, get in and paddle out but stay close to shore. I can see that Lenore's confidence is much greater than the first time out back at the lagoon. We circle around to the north and then I tell her to follow me on a down wind leg, diagonally across the cove. As we cut across the cove I have her aim at a cabin cruiser anchored off shore at the south end of the cove. This gives her more practice on tracking straight. When we reach the cruiser, we circle around it and I tell Lenore we'll go back, this time into the wind so she can get an idea of what that is like.

When we reach the north side of the cove I decide to paddle out into the bay just enough to see around the protective point of rocks and get an idea of what is to the north of our cove. The wind is quite strong, especially where it is compressed and deflected by the point of rocks. Wind patterns dance across the waves and the waves are churned into whitecaps. I lean into it and power my way out into this stuff, bouncing through the waves. I am being tossed around and having fun. I glance around and see that Lenore has followed me!

"Go Back!" I holler and motion for her to return to the calmer waters. I glance back again to see how she is doing and see the Otter is upside down in the white caps. Lenore is bobbing along beside it.

I turn around and paddle down toward her with the wind pushing me. I am ripping along. In fact, when I get to her and she hands me her paddle, I go right on by! I can't stop! With a paddle in each hand and the wind at my back I'm blown right past her and out of control. "Hang on, I'll be right back!"

The Otter has sunk, nose down, to about a twenty five degree angle. Lenore is hanging onto the stern.

I'm having a heck of a time getting turned around with an extra paddle tucked under one arm. I finally jam Lenore's paddle blade under one of my forward hatch hold down straps. Now I am free to maneuver. Meanwhile we are being blown farther out into the bay.

Neither of us have life jackets on. Lenore's life jacket is behind the seat of the upside down Otter. Neither boat has flotation bags stuffed in them We were just out practicing! The water isn't frigid but it isn't bath tub warm either.

I have a tow line rigged up on the back hatch of my Ski and I tell Lenore to unhook it from my boat and attach it to the bow strap on hers. She tries but it is caught on something. I hand her my paddle and slide off my boat, swim back and have a look. The snap hook is caught between the strap and the bottom of the hatch cover. I manage to free it and snap it onto her boat. Now at least we don't have to worry about my boat blowing away while we are dealing with the Otter. Lenore hangs onto my boat while I show her the trick I learned for dumping water out of the Otter. I swim to the back of the Otter and lift my weight upon the stern, pressing down while slightly tipping the boat in order break the "air seal" at the seat opening. Air goes in, water comes out. When the water empties out sufficiently, the bow will rise out of the water and then, by giving the boat a spin, it will end up high and dry once again.

I was taught this "rescue technique" in a swimming pool. I have practiced it on Lake Washington, in Seattle. Try as I might, I can't get it to work now. The breaking waves, the wind, whatever , the boat won't empty out. We are farther from shore.

I glance towards the campground off in the distance to see if anyone is coming out to save us "fools' and realize with a shock, nobody has even noticed! We are totally on our own. What a strange, yet wonderful feeling. I'm sorry about our friends wondering about us, but on the other hand, this sure beats a freeway crash or terminal cancer...

"The kayaks of two Americans were found in Bahia Concepción, Baja, Mexico today. No sign of the bodies." All of these thoughts pass in a rush for one split second and then it is time to get serious. I tell Lenore to hang onto the Otter and I will tow her and the boat to the nearest shore. I hop back upon the Ski and start paddling.

The closest shore is the point of rocks almost directly into the wind. I keep paddling and after what seems forever, but is actually about twenty minutes, I can see we are almost there. Lenore has been in the water for over half an hour.

As we approach the rocks in the lee of the wind I tell her to watch out for barnacles and possible sea urchins. We don't need more problems. I wedge the Ski between some rocks and pull in the tow line, the Otter and Lenore.

Here, in the relatively calm water, the "trick" works and I get the Otter empty and upright. Lenore is shivering as I steady the boat. She climbs back in. We are about one third of a mile from the bus. We are both wearing T-shirts and Levi's. The wind chill factor is very apparent.

As we paddle back to the bus I notice the Otter is very sluggish and hard for her to steer. I thought I had gotten most of the water out but evidently not. No time to investigate now. Dry clothes and the shelter of the bus lie just ahead.

We arrive at the shore looking like drowned rats. Lenore is shaking uncontrollably. We pull the boats upon the beach and run for the bus. I dig out my down sleeping bag while she is tearing off her wet clothes. I get her wrapped up in the bag, close the bus doors and hold her. She continues to shake and I remember the bottle of Jack Daniels my kids sent me for Christmas. I ask her how that sounds and I see a definite sign of life. I can't remember if booze in a situation like this is good or bad but I've read where the old frontiersmen swore by it. Of course, they are all dead now, but it's worth a try.

After about an hour we can start to laugh about it. I'm sorry that it happened and I'm glad we learned such a big lesson, bunch of lessons in fact, without having to pay a bigger price. I hope she will be willing to give kayaking another try.

In the evening we walk over to a small restaurant across the highway. We have a nice dinner and some cerveza while we talk about our recent experience. She doesn't remember what happened. She was turning to go back and then she was in the water. I think she flipped over when she made that turn and got sideways to the wind. Using a feathered paddle in strong side winds probably caught her by surprise and levered her over.

Being out there without life jackets on was just plain stupid. Not having flotation in the boat was crazy; the Otter was sinking. The foam seal around the back hatch cover was damaged and water was going into the boat. The rear compartment was half full of water when Lenore paddled back to the bus. That was why she was having so much trouble steering the boat, why it was acting so sluggish. The only smart thing I had done was install the tow line before the trip. We both could have come in on the Ski but, the tow line saved the Otter.

We return to the bus and the wind picks up even more. We batten down the hatches. I pull the kayaks up to the bus and tie them to the bumper. I don't want them to get blown into the water and out to sea.

In the morning the wind is still with us but as the day goes by it continues to decrease. The people in the camp next to us tell us that there has been a wind storm for the past five days but that it usually abates after that length of time. In the afternoon we go out with the boats again, much to Lenore's credit. Although the wind still kicks up from time to time, she is learning more and more how to deal with it and we have a good paddling session.

In the evening the wind has died and I tell Lenore of my hope to load the boats with our camping gear and head for the other side of the bay in the early morning. She says she's for it! We go across the highway for our "final supper".

The morning dawns bright and clear with no wind. We pack and load the boats. While packing Lenore's boat I make sure there is lots of flotation in the front and back and that there is weight, down low. A lower center of gravity makes the boat much more stable.

Straight out from the cove there is an island with what looks like a strip of beach. I think the island is about three quarters of a mile away although Lenore thinks it is farther. We set out and as we do, the wind begins to blow but it isn't too bad.

The wind stays at breeze level and the morning is sunny and warm. In a surprisingly short time we arrive at the island and look for a place to land. The wind is compressed as it goes around the island and is stronger and there is a chop washing onto the beach. We swing around to the lee side of a sandy point and pull ashore. It is windy and rather chilly. Darn!

I tie the boats together to a substantial looking bush. We secure the paddles to the boats. It is amazing how feathered paddles will roll across the beach with the wind and disappear!

We set out looking for a protected place. First we hike up to a natural cave we spotted from the beach but find it to be in the shade and windy. We climb back down and work our way along the boulder strewn beach around to the south side of the island. Out of the wind and in the full sun we finally feel quite comfortable and we can even remove our jackets.

I have been surprised and disappointed since arriving in Baja. The weather, though sunny and clear is a lot cooler and much more windy than my trip here last year. I had brought two heavy jackets as a last minute thought but we are wearing them most of the time. Here, out of the wind and in the sun it feels more like the Baja I remembered.

Off in the distance we see shiny splashes moving along the surface of the bay. I have my binoculars with me and take a look. Porpoise! They are skipping along the surface, cutting a long diagonal towards us. We watch them draw closer. It is hard to tell how many there are. They arc through the air in twos and threes. All together, there appear to be around twenty. Their path takes them within about one hundred yards of us before they start to recede. After they are gone we sit there and wonder what to do next.

To continue on across the bay is out of the question. The wind has worked the bay up into white caps again. This island is wind swept. Here, where we sit, it is sunny and warm but there isn't any place to pitch the tent. The people back in Coyote Camp told us about a nice cove on the far side of this island. We decide to paddle around the island and check it out. It is either that or return to Coyote Camp.

We launch and drift south and around into the protected lee of the island. I tell Lenore to stay where she is while I take a look around the point of rocks at the south east corner of the island; I'll try and find the cove and get an idea of what it offers.

As I come around the point, into the wind, I find some people working their way among the rocks, coming my way. They look like kayakers. I pull up by them and find that they are camped in the cove and are trying to find shelter from the wind! Well. That takes care of that. I tell them what I know about the parts of the island I have seen, then turn and paddle back to Lenore.

We talk it over and decide to either head back to Coyote Camp and the bus or, possibly check out what looks like a small cove south of where the bus is parked. The wind is steady and the bay is choppy. I know what must be going through Lenore's mind as we set out on our return to shore.

Lenore does very well. The boat rides the waves nicely. There is some toss and turn but nothing too difficult. Now and then I can see a strong gust of wind coming as it ripples the waves. I holler over to Lenore to watch it and we both lower our paddles and bend low, letting that invisible force rush past us. As we near the shore we decide to check out the cove to the south.

Upon arriving, we find it to be a very small crescent of sand maybe two hundred feet in length with a thick wall of brush immediately beyond the beach. It has nice sand and plenty of shelter from the wind but is there any place to pitch a tent?

We coast onto the sand and since the tide is in, we have to push the boats into the brush in order to beach them. We walk along the sliver of sand looking for a way through the brush. At the south end of the cove I scramble upon the rocks and tell Lenore that I am going to circle around the brush and see what I can find. After working my way up and down and around boulders, sticker bushes and clumps of cactus I find that I have almost made a complete circuit with no luck. Then, around on the north side, I find a nice flat grass covered bluff, full of sunlight and no wind with a beautiful view and a trail down to the beach! As I head down to tell Lenore my good news I met her coming up the trail. This is perfect!

Joyfully, we unload the boats and pack our gear up to our new campsite. We've got the cove all to ourselves. So close to Coyote Camp and yet, so far away!

We stay two nights. During the day we read, we talk, we swim, we sunbathe and we practice more kayaking. The afternoon of the first day we notice a commotion out in the water. A huge flock of pelicans, cormorants and frigate birds are wheeling and diving into the water. I run and get my binoculars and upon closer inspection we find that there are also dolphin jumping in the midst of it all. There must be a huge school of fish just below the surface of the water.

In the evening we gather driftwood and build a fire on the beach. We are not where I thought we would be but this sure isn't bad.

The second evening we go for a hike up a canyon and find a way up to a promontory. The view is fantastic and the sunset spectacular. The wind has again died down. Looking through the binoculars I think I can see a cove on the far side of the bay. I still want to go.

We find pieces of wood on our way back to camp and build our evening fire. I talk about trying to go across again in the morning. It seems like the wind is finally going to give us a break. The evening is very calm as we share some wine and watch the fire burn down into embers.

Morning arrives bright and clear with no wind. We decide to go for it. We take down the tent, roll up the sleeping bags and pack everything into waterproof bags. Then we relay it down to the boats and load them. It is amazing how much stuff we can haul in these boats. When everything is stowed we shove off and a small breeze begins to ripple the bay.

Beyond the island we visited two day ago during our first attempt, there are two more. We decide to go as far as the outermost island and then see what the conditions are like. If the winds stay mild we will continue on. If not, well, maybe some other time. At least the islands offer security if the wind comes up. Beyond the last island it will possibly be a four or five mile paddle before we reach land.

It is amazing how quickly we are past the first island. Looking back, we can see where the bus is parked and also the point of rocks where we had our close call when Lenore got blown over. Back then, that was the outer limit. Now look at us!

The wind has increased as we arrive at the outermost island. We paddle into the lee of the island and pull up to it's boulder strewn shore. I hop off my Ski and open the hatches on both boats to check for any incoming water. If we decide to continue on across it will take us several hours and that is a long time for a small leak. Both boats are bone dry. We decide to continue. I seal the hatches down tight, smear suntan stuff on my nose and pull my hat down tight. We set out.

The wind seems surprisingly strong as we clear the lee of the island but I believe it is because of the compression of the wind as it wraps around the island. Away from the island it should be less. On out, the wind will do one of three things. Get better, get worse or stay the same. Two of these we can deal with for sure.

I tell Lenore what a friend once told me about crossing a large body of water by kayak. "The first three hundred yards you are leaving. The last three hundred yards you are arriving. The rest of the time you just sit there and paddle."

The wind is still from the north. We want to go east so I tell Lenore about trajectories and point out a feature on the distant mountain range that we will aim for; a white outcropping in that vast panorama of rock. If we can hold our own against that mark we will arrive up wind of the cove I spotted last night. Then we will have an easy down wind ride to find it.

The whole vista, off in the distance, is a series of alluvial fans spread out from the craggy range of mountains with long slopping ledges easing into the bay. What the shore might be, whether rock or sand, we can't see from this distance.

I glance back to the last island we have left and I'm surprised to find that we have not gone very far. The wind has picked up even more and we are expending our energy, one for one. One stroke for the far shore and one for correcting against the wind. We are going to have to point a bit more off the wind if we are ever going to cover any distance. That is okay with me but I don't want Lenore to get too parallel to the waves. I have noticed that every now and then a breaking wave comes rolling along. I tell her to aim a bit to the right of the white scar.

Well, now I am thinking; should we turn around and go back or should we keep hacking away at it? I realize, once again, how I get stuck with an idea once my mind is made up. I realize it isn't just me out here. What if she flips again. It's too far to tow anybody today. The white caps are becoming more frequent and the wind seems to just hang in there, strong and steady. Looking back, it now looks like we are about halfway between the last island and the far shore. We press on.

I holler over and say that I think I can make out individual cactus. We haven't spoken in a while, too busy just dealing with the situation. We are in sort of a hypnotic state until one of those breaking waves comes hissing along. I have stayed up wind of Lenore in order to be able to get to her fast if she needs help. When I go through a breaking wave I watch out of the corner of my eye to see how she fares with it. It is getting so rough that at times we plunge out of sight of each other, both in different troughs. Sometimes I see her ride up the face of a wave with the front half of her boat completely in the air. She crashes down the other side and sometimes has to fight the boat's attempt to weather vane and turn off of the wind. Without a rudder on that boat she has her hands full.

My Ski is a wash deck boat and the deck is definitely being washed. I am not concerned about my safety. If I get knocked off, I just get back on. But the clothes I am wearing for protection from the sun are wet all the time and with this wind, I am getting cold. Also my hands are feeling numb from gripping the paddle too hard. I shift my hands on the paddle and loosen up. I glance at Lenore and holler "Fifteen more minutes". I don't really believe it but she looks like she could use some good news. Actually it will probably be another half hour at the minimum. We grind on.

I keep hoping the wind will slacken as we near the shore but it looks like we are going to have to fight it all the way. We are somewhat south of the white scar but still north of the cove, I believe. I think I can see it's point.

I tell Lenore about one of my favorite scenes in the movie "Never Cry Wolf". It's the one where the bush pilot is flying Tyler into the wilds and Tyler is having a white knuckle time of it. The pilot turns to Tyler, as the engine conks out and says, "You know what's wrong with the world now a days? Boredom, Tyler. Boredom!" Then he crawls out of the airplane to reach the valve to switch fuel tanks.

That phrase becomes our touch stone.

I think I can definitely see the point of the cove to the south of us but the waves are still so high that I don't want Lenore to turn off the wind and end up parallel to the waves. That or running with the waves. I know how that can trip you up if you are in one situation for quite a while and then change directions and have a whole new feel and response from the boat. Several times, in the Otter, I have almost thrown myself over, reacting to the unexpected moves. The Ski is different, it loves to surf and go down wind but I don't want her to chance it until we are within swimming distance of the shore.

"Fifteen more minutes, Lenore!"
She glares at me but this time it looks like we are definitely arriving. As we arrive I find the shore line to be one long unbroken sweep of stones, cactus and wind. I would like to get out and kiss the ground but instead tell Lenore to head off, down wind. We will drift south and aim for the point.

I hold my paddle blade straight up in the wind, like a sail and it blows me along but Lenore's boat just mush's along. She has to keep correcting to try and get it to go straight down wind. It keeps broaching and turning cross wise to the wind because of the waves. Finally she settles for just being blown along side ways. She is tired and I am cold but the shoreline is uninviting.

I sail on ahead and arrive at the point only to find that it is a false point. It is just a break in the shore line but farther on, maybe a quarter mile, I see what looks like the true point of the cove. I coast on down to it and find it to also be just another break in a basically straight shoreline. Farther on I see another point.

I am beginning to wonder if I really did see a cove over here. I sure didn't think it was this far south. Looking over my shoulder I see Lenore just bobbing along, quite a distance back. I think about hollering "Fifteen more minutes!" but I decide to not press my luck, besides, I can't remember if the fillet knife is in her boat or mine.

As I arrive at the next point a huge flock of sea gulls and pelicans tear off into the sky. A cove!!

There is a fish camp with several boats pulled up on the beach. Two dogs standing there barking at me.

I pull into shore, beach the boat and open the front hatch to get my camera. I want to photograph Lenore's arrival upon this foreign soil. I scramble up over the berm hardly able to walk. How long have we been sitting in those boats?

As Lenore arrives at the point I take some photos and tell her to keep on going, on into the cove and past the fish camp to the inner side of the cove. I then jump back in my boat and follow her.

We find a nice spot and paddle into shore. We get off the boats and drag them a bit up onto the shore, stagger on up the beach and collapse in the sand. Wow! Was that a trip or what?

The cove is flat and calm, sheltered from the wind. Just beautiful!. The beach is composed of millions and millions of broken pieces of shell. Above the surf line is a barrier of brush.

After an hour I can finally get up and start unloading the boats. I clear a space large enough for the tent and begin setting up camp. Lenore just lies there. She has had enough Boredom for one day!

As the sun goes down we gather driftwood for the fire. Soon the moon rises. Each night the moon has been more and more full. It is almost full tonight.

After dinner we are sitting by the fire when, out of the darkness, we hear the sound of approaching footsteps.

"Buenas noches!"
"Buenas noches."
"Mucho viento."
"Mucho viento! Lots of wind!"
"Oh! Si!"
"Mucho frio!"
"Oh! Yes it is cold. Mucho viento, mucho frio!"
They sit down by our fire.

Lenore can pick up what they are saying much better than I. She speaks several languages other than English. Having learned other languages she has an ear for it.

The older guy is named Jorge and he is twenty two years old. The younger one is named Enrico and he is sixteen. Jorge has had English in school. He asks,
"What are you names?"
I say
They sit there looking into the fire.
"Ron. Ron. Oh! Ronrico. RonRICO Oh! Si! RonRICO! And her?"
"Hmmm? Lenore. Lenora. Oh! LeeNORa. LeeNORa. Si! Buenas noches! Mucho viento. Mucho frio!"
Then Jorge picks up a stick and squashes a scorpion that has crawled out of a piece of wood I had collected earlier and just tossed on the fire!

Lenore and Jorge continue to talk. I watch for more scorpions.

Jorge and Enrico work with their uncle going out for fish and also shells. They sell their catch over in Mulegé. They tell us that later in the year, when the wind becomes more dependable, the will move around the peninsula to the Sea of Cortez and fish over there. The wind has been a problem for them too.

The moon rises higher into the wondrous Mexican sky. Good fire. Good company. We share some wine, mystery all around us. Finally Jorge and Enrico fade off into the night and we crawl into our waiting tent.

In the morning, just before light re-enters the sky, we hear the outboards start and Jorge singing as they motor out into the dawn.

Looking out the open tent flap, while the coffee water heats, I watch two Eared Grebs paddle along the shore line. Two Dowitchers are poking around amongst the broken shells and now and then pelicans wheel and crash into the surface of the cove. We are all involved with breakfast.

After breakfast we lounge around and read, stripping off more clothes as the sun rises. When it gets quite warm I tell Lenore about something I learned. Prell Concentrate. It "suds' in salt water. I have a tube of it. Soon we are bathing in the cove.

In the early afternoon I ask Lenore if she would like to go for a hike. I have been looking at a canyon through the binoculars, maybe a mile inland, that looks interesting. We pack some fruit, a canteen of water, my camera and head out.

We pick our way through a small forest of cactus and brush. We find a dry wash and follow that. Birds flick on ahead of us. Our footsteps sound like we are chewing grape nuts. Other than that, it is silent. Now and then I catch a glimpse of the canyon up ahead.

We finally arrive at the base of the mountains and head into a small canyon. It twists and turns along and shortly we come to a man-made barrier fence made out of interwoven branches. What a surprise after seeing no sign of human activity during our entire walk. It must be a barrier to keep cows either in, or out. We climb through the fence and continue on.

Soon the sand and gravel floor of the canyon starts showing a trace of moisture. A little further on a tiny stream appears. Here and there are small clumps of flowering shrubs with humming birds darting between the flowers. What a surprise. The canyon bends and suddenly it totally changes. Ordinary stone and rock has become sculpture! There are varying shades of brown, tan and pink sandstone, smoothed into gentle sweeps and odd curves. Twisting around a convoluted bend we are brought to a halt by an eight foot wall sandstone ledge with just a trickle of water sliding down it's moss covered center. It is the end of the trail. We sit on the gravel, lean against the stone, eat apples and listen to the silence. What an unexpected oasis in the midst of this harsh Mexican countryside.

Finally we get up, backtrack a short distance and search for a way around the ledge. We succeed and move on, higher up the canyon.

The canyon changes again. It widens. We rise higher into the mountains and enter a small valley. We stop and look around and then hear a faint cow bell off in the distance. How enchanting and magical. We decide to try going back down a different way; up the side of the valley and possibly back down to the mouth of the canyon from a different direction.

As we clear the valley we come out on a promontory that gives us a view of the cove we are camped in, the bay and way off, the islands in the distance and beyond them, the mainland where Coyote Camp and the bus is parked.

Winding our way down we find a trail, then lose it only to find it again. As we come out onto the dry stream bed once again, we are treated to an air show of three Prairie Falcons fighting over their territory. They make spectacular dives, loops, high "G" turns during which we can even hear the wind rip through their feathers! The sun moves on and so must we but, what a special afternoon this has been.

Back in camp the evening arrives quickly and with it, a chill in the air. We fix a hasty dinner and move into the tent. My little candle light hangs from the ceiling and we read and talk and sip orange spice tea laced with Cointreau. The Cointreau was another surprise that Lenore brought out of her pack several nights ago. It was a Christmas gift to us from Kevin

While we are sitting there enjoying the hot drink a small mouse runs into view and then races away. Soon it is back again and again it races away. It returns and each time it builds up courage and comes closer. We can see it's bright inquisitive eyes and feel it's nervous energy. I decide to make sure all the food is packed away inside the mouse proof fiberglass boats.

In the morning we wake to the sound of Jorge singing and the motors fading away. When the sun is quite high we swim and sun and go beach combing.

I find the head of a hammerhead shark and the carcass of a sting ray. The ray's tail is about three feet long and half way down it's length is the stinger. Not a stinger in the sense of a bee or wasp stinger. This stinger is a barbed ivory spike four inches long. I pull it loose and keep it for a tooth pick.

Back in camp I show Lenore my new found treasures. It's hard to tell what thoughts are passing through her mind. I knew there were sharks and rays in the Baja waters, but she didn't. In talking about it we both believe kayaking in Baja is safer than driving to work on the freeway.

In the late afternoon Jorge returns. I walk over to his camp to see if I can buy any fish.

"Pescado, Jorge?"
He walks over to a large wooden box and removes the lid. Inside are many fish, packed in ice. He pulls out two but I convince him that one is enough. I tell him that we have "no frio" in which to store the fish.

He takes my fish down to the shore and proceeds to clean it. The sea gulls and pelicans arrive expectantly. Jorge leaves the head on as a handle with which I can easily carry the fish. I offer Jorge money but he is offended. I act more offended and he finally accepts. We shake hands and I walk back along the beach to Lenore with fish in hand, feeling like the great white hunter. "Look what I got!"

As we cook our fish the most spectacular sunset unfolds in the evening sky. I keep taking photos, then more and more photos as it increases in splendor. As we are applauding for an encore we turn to find the full moon just clearing the ragged mountain range behind us. Wow! It is our last night on this side of the bay, weather permitting. We will be heading back to Coyote Camp tomorrow.

At first light we rise to the "Jorge alarm clock", fix coffee and commence packing. There is no "viento". We want to get an early start anyway, just in case. As it turns out, we have a completely boring mirror flat crossing. It is totally enjoyable. We even stop in the middle of the bay and take pictures of each other paddling, trading the camera back and forth.

Upon reaching the other side of the bay we paddle south a ways to check out an interesting looking cove with palm trees growing right along the shore. Lenore dabbles along, looking down through the crystal clear water at the marine life. After checking out the palm tree lined beach I catch up with her and we paddle back to our favorite little cove we had spent several days at earlier. No one is there so we stay and sun and swim and enjoy the afternoon. Later we decide to continue on to Coyote Camp though, rather than unpack everything here only to have to reload the whole process again in the morning.

In the late afternoon we move out and head for Coyote Camp and the bus. On the way we decide to make a beer run after we dump our gear off at the bus. We arrive at camp, unload into the bus and set out in the boats once again. I think there is a "tienda" a couple coves to the north.

We finally find it but it is a lot farther than I had thought. All together I think we made a six mile round trip beer run via kayak. Lenore enjoyed it and I marvel at how her kayaking ability has grown in these few short weeks. We paddle along side each other during our return trip, both of us wish we were just starting out rather than having to start the drive north tomorrow. Both of us are getting quite brown, Lenore especially; she can really take the sun.

Once back in Coyote Camp, we walk over to the little restaurant across the highway. We feel and look like seasoned travelers with our tans, our peeling noses and our salt stained clothes. All our washing of clothes and bodies has been in salt water. Our fresh water we used for cooking and drinking only.

- Heading Back North -

After dinner we return to the bus and in the early morning we leave. Heading north we arrive at the town of Santa Rosilia. Previous times I have roared right through unless I needed gas. The town has a rough look to it. It used to be a copper mining town and the highway winds through the remaining factory and slag heaps.

This time Lenore happened to be looking through a tourist guide we had with us and read about the town. Two items caught her eye. First, a church designed by Eiffel, of Eiffel Tower fame. It was built in Belgium out of metal plate and shipped to Santa Rosalia in 1880. It was the first pre-fab building ever built. The second item is a French Bakery. We take the turn off into the main part of town.

The interesting and beautiful church is open but the bakery is closed. After walking the streets of the town, we come upon one of the best fish taco stands either of us have ever experienced

After Santa Rosalia we settle down to some serious driving. We want to go as far as Guerreo Negro and return to the lagoon but, when we finally get there, the wind is blowing and it is cool out, so we press on. We stop at a PEMEX station for gas. There are a couple of cars ahead of us. Things are going slowly but when it is our turn, I see the reason. The power must be off because they are hand pumping the gas into each tank. While I am getting mine, three huge motor homes pull in behind us. It looks like it is going to be a long evening for the operator of this station.

Farther north we catch a glimpse of the Pacific and what looks like a possible cove that might offer shelter from the wind. We try a gravel road that leads off in the general direction. After several miles we come out onto the cove and into motor home heaven. Here they are, cheek by jowl! Not our idea of camping. We turn around and, heading back to the highway we see another cove off to the left and a marginal rut heading towards it. I look at Lenore and say, "Boredom Lenore. Boredom!"

Off we go, banging and bouncing through the brush. Several times we come around a bend and find a large boggy spot in the middle of the trail. One place is exceptionally note worthy. I find myself sort of standing up while driving across it as if I could somehow levitate us through. Standing up and whistling at the same time. I could feel the tires sinking out of sight and the motor lugging down to the no go point but, at the last moment, dry ground reappears and we make it. Close! So close.

Finally we come to a fence across the road. The tire tracks we have been following continue but the fence remains. We get out and take a look. There is no gate, no cut wires. The fence looks like it has been there for years yet the tire tracks look recent. Ah! These Mexicans and their magic trucks! We crawl through the fence and hike over a rise and can see the lagoon but it is too far to drag the boats. We return to the bus, turn around and repeat the hair raising ride back to the highway.

Farther up the highway we come to a small settlement that has a tienda. Inside the store we find refried beans, avocado and eggs. We ask about tortillas and the woman points across the road towards a small hut.

I walk over to it and knock on the screen door. I see someone moving around inside and the door opens a crack.

"Tortillas, Senorita, por favor?"
"Si. Cuantas?"
I count on my fingers; uno, dos, tres, cuantro, cinco, seis . . .

"Seis. Por favor".
Soon she lifts the sixth one off the stove. Talk about fresh. She wraps them in paper and I hold out a hand full of change. She takes forty pesos.

"Buenos dias Senorita. Adios."
"Adios. Gracias."
I hop back into the bus, hand Lenore my prize package of tortillas and tell her about my linguistic feat. She is proud of me but points out that older women are called Senora, not Senorita. Oh well, maybe she was flattered!

Farther up the road we see a sign. El Tomal. A road heads towards the Pacific. Why not?

This time we are successful and arrive upon a beautiful panorama of the Pacific with huge surf washing upon the beach. We find a place to park and go for a walk. Around the bend we find a fish camp and along the beach, a whole new variety of shells. They are quite different than those we found on the Sea of Cortez side. I tell Lenore that if she doesn't stop collecting shells her plane will be unable to get off the ground. The plane. That is something neither one of us have wanted to think about.

Two Mexicans come walking down the beach. They stop and ask if I have a spark plug wrench. I do and go dig it out of my tool box. They look at it and say it is too large. They have a 1984 Chevy Blazer, two miles north, stalled on a bluff above the beach. The Blazer spark plugs are smaller size than what has been used for years. I am unable to help them.

They tell me that their uncle lives at the fish camp and he will probably show up this evening and help them out.

Evening arrives and Lenore does some magic with the avocados, beans, onions, eggs and tortillas. After a fine dinner the wind and a night chill settles in and we call it a night.

In the morning, after coffee, we hike around a bit and the guys we met the night before come driving up. It was fouled plugs and after cleaning them, their uncle gave them a jump start. They tell us that some fishermen have just brought in a load of shrimp. We walk over to the fish camp and take a look. The shrimp are about three inches long with super long antenna, or feelers. They sell us half a kilo for five dollars and we carry them in a plastic bag back to our camp. I get out my porcelain wash basin while Lenore gets salt water from the ocean and we dump them in. They are moving around and look happy.

The guys in the fish camp had told us about a dead whale beached about one mile north. We go for a hike to see it. While we meander along the beach the shore birds scurry on ahead of us. We talk philosophy.

I have always thought about "things"; the meaning of life, where we came from, where we are going and does it really make any difference to the rest of the universe. Sort of a free-lance thinker. Lenore has been through the whole structured route and has the discipline to be organized in her thinking. It is fun to share some of my thoughts and get a professional response to them. I am really surprised to find that there isn't any "one best" way to think, the latest "state of the art" so to speak. Lenore compares the process to Art where one is continuously finding new ways to express "it". None being the "only" way. There are no "final" answers.

We walk on, sharing our thoughts as well as the sights and sounds. We find the whale or rather, what is left of it. It is pretty far gone with gaping holes in the skin draped over large curving bones. It reminds me of a stage prop made of paper mashie and chicken wire.

We retrace our steps. The birds retrace theirs. The surf removes all trace of us being there. Philosophy. What does it all mean? We don't know but, meanwhile, this is really nice.

Back at the bus we pack our shells and drive our load of shrimp gently back to the highway. Lenore drives for a while. I try to count the shrimp. As nearly as I can tell, we each have forty four to eat, apiece! But they are hard to count. The buggers won't hold still.

Since we had a lazy start on the day, evening soon approaches. We are nearing the area of the huge boulders where I found my cow skull. I would like to camp for the night in this bizarre landscape. Looking at the map I discover it is call, "Las Virgines"! At our age, what a laugh!

We try several side roads and it takes a few before we find our spot. The place looks like the back side of the moon or, maybe Mars. We go for a walk and explore around some but it is cooling off fast with the setting of the sun so we return and hole up in the bus with the shrimp. Lenore puts the water on to boil. I open a couple cervezas. I'm not too sure I will like eating them.

During the drive the shrimp have given up the ghost. This will make it a lot easier to cook them. Lenore drops a handful of them into the boiling water. I have a swallow of beer. As they hit the boiling water they change from a sort of transparent yellow into a beautiful pink. Lenore fishes out six for me and six for her. I take another swallow of beer. She shows me how to pull off the tail and the back body shell, then the front half and the legs. I take another swallow of beer.

What the heck. I give 'em a try. I end up with some weird looking pieces with shell and gut mixed in but it doesn't taste too bad. With another swallow of beer I try again.

By my second serving, I am definitely getting the hang of it. They are tasty little buggers. Forty of so later, I am a pro. As Lenore is scooping the last of them into the boiling water she gives a yelp! One shrimp is still alive and kicking! It lays there in the bottom of my wash basin glaring at us. Wow! He is the only one out of over eighty that has survived!

Neither of us can drop him into the boiling water so after dinner we put him out with the remains of his companions. Boy! He must think humans are barbaric! I'm sorry but hey, why do they have to taste so good?

In the morning I look for him, but he is gone. Who knows where he went. It's a long way to the ocean but in the land of Las Virgines, anything is possible, no?

We make coffee, eat some fruit and settle into some serious driving. I want to get us within goal post distance of the San Diego airport. Lenore's flight leaves at noon tomorrow.

By evening we are north of Ensenada and thirty miles south of the border. We watch for a place to park for the night and finally find a nice grassy meadow, high on a bluff overlooking the Pacific. I park close to the edge for the view. We watch the sun set, fix dinner and talk about the trip. After dark the wind comes back up and there is a chill in the air so we go to bed.

Sometime during the night I wake to dreams of being blown over the edge. The wind is a lot stronger and the bus is being buffeted around. Finally I can't stand it any longer, climb in front, and drive about a block inland. The wind is less and the edge is not so menacing. Now we can sleep.

Morning brings another beautiful clear day. We have coffee and the last of Lenore's banana cake. Every day she would bring out another surprise from her pack. Wine, champagne, Cointreau, various baked goodies. Today we are eating the last of it. We also use the last of our stateside water to make our coffee. Even the last of our pesos are going into the toll booths.

- Back To The Border -

We only have the border crossing ahead of us. It is hard to estimate how long that will take. Last year it took me several hours but that was during the New Year's rush. It should go quicker this time. We are clean, meaning we have no fruit, plants or drugs but I wonder about the cow skull lying in the cockpit of the Sea Otter. Is it legal to take it across the border?

We arrive at the border and find the line to be only a couple of blocks along. A border guard is walking down through the line chatting with the travelers at random. He walks toward us and looks at the kayaks. I open my window. Where did we go? How long were we gone? Do we have any plants of fruit? He moves on and we move forward.

Finally it is our turn.

"What is your citizenship? Any fruit or plants? Where did you go? How long were you gone? What did you bring back?"
"Ah, two tans and a pair of huaraches."

"Would you get out and open the side door of the bus? What is under there?"
He points to the "basement" under the sleeping area. I lift the plywood cover and tell him

"Clothes, tent, tools".
I hop back into the bus and he writes something down on a piece of yellow paper. He tucks it under my windshield wiper blade.

"I want you to drive over to the secondary inspection area to have the kayaks checked."
Oh god. Why didn't I confess about the cow skull. Now we've had it.

I start the bus and angle my way through the traffic to the covered area, shut off the engine and wait. After a while an officer walks up. I hop out of the bus.

"Where have you been? How long were you gone? What did you bring back . . . . . .?
My last chance to confess.

"Err . . Two tans and a pair of huaraches."
I hold my grin.

He pulls the note from beneath my wiper and reads it. He looks up at the kayaks and begins to walk the length of the bus. When he gets to the back he reaches up and taps the Sea Otter twice.

"Okay. Have a nice day."
Whew! As we drive away I tell Lenore that I was almost ready to cut and run, wondering how far I would get before the bullets and dogs cut me down. Paranoia!

I still don't know if dead cow heads are illegal.

- Goodbye -

Soon, too soon, we come to the San Diego Airport exit. We drive to the Delta arrival / departure area and find a place to park. Lenore crawls into the back of the bus to change clothes and finish packing. We have about one hour left before her flight.

I get out my camera and set it on automatic and take a couple photos of us standing by the bus. We have run out of words but not out of feelings. Neither one of us want to cry.

I tell her that I will walk her to the departure area, that there is still time. She says she rather I didn't. It is tough enough. I put the camera away and she picks up her pack and hand bag. One last hug and she leaves, winding her way through the cars in the parking lot. Soon I can only see her straw hat then, for an instant I see her up on the sidewalk and then she goes out of my life through the smoked glass doors. She didn't look back.

I get back in the bus and sit there. Finally I start it and head out of the parking lot and back onto the freeway. I am amazed at how empty the bus feels.

Ron Bloomquist (

(Received November 28, 1997)

Contents Page: Copyright 1997-2011 Ron Bloomquist