- First Contact -
I write back:
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.
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
One week before the departure date I break down and call her for
the first time.
Fantastic, but can you get more than ten days?
"Ah, a couple questions have come to mind."
" I thought there might."
"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."
- 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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
"Mucho viento! Lots of wind!"
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,
"Oh! Yes it is cold. Mucho viento, mucho frio!"
"What are you names?"
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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?"
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."
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
"Err . . Two tans and a pair of huaraches."
"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
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 (email@example.com)
Contributed November 28, 1997
Copyright © 1997-1998 Rom Bloomquist