Monday, December 1, 2014

Made it!

No problema.  No problems at the border.  

Yes, there was a one hour wait in line, but sailed through once I got to the booth. 

The lesson here is clear.  If you live a clean life, and stay on the straight and narrow, good things will come to you. 

Sure hope you enjoyed the blogs as much as I did writing them. 

If you get a chance, let me hear from you.  I would be especially interested in which stories/blogs were your favorites.

Neil 

Last day

Today, if all continues to go well, should be the last day of Neil's Adventure Trip to Baja California.

It has been one hell of a ride.

But it is not over yet.  Three more hours of driving to get to the border. 

Then the border!  Can't wait to experience both the US and Mexican sides.  We shall see what stories come from that experience. 

Stay tuned!

Cacti

OYou all know that the plural of cactus is cacti.  Pronounced Kak-tie.

Did you know that a cactus is part of the cactaceae family (my father's college major was horticulture).

I am beginng to love cacti.  

You might ask why?

First of all, when you are in the desert and you see a cactus, you immediately know there is life.  Living plants and organisms exist in the desert. It is a good sign to see a cactus. 

Secondly, they are unbelievably well adapted to their environment -- the often brutal weather that permeates a desert. 

Third, they have their own beauty.  Have you ever seen an ocotillo in bloom?  Gorgeous!

Fourth, they are survivors.  

Fifth, they are environmentally conscious.  They require very little water and, to my knowledge, discharge no waste.

Sixth, they have many varieties.  They are not boring.

Seventh, yet they are part of a large family.  Why can't we all be friends?

Eighth, they are critical for man to survive in the desert.  Remember the earlier blog about how wonderful to eat was the cactus that Kelsey cooked? It was so juicy. 

And finally, they are a succulent, which to my way of warped thinking makes a cactus kind of romantic. 

Having said all of these positives, there admittedly is one big negative.  You cannot hug a cactus! 







Sunday, November 30, 2014

RVing

As most of you know I live part of the year in my Motorcoach.  It turns out that the subset of Americans (estimated to be over 2 million) that live in their RV's either full time or part time are a wonderfully interesting cohort who come from all walks of life and from many varied locales. 

On this adventure trip I did not take the Motorcoach.   Just the Jeep.  

However, I did see some signs of those that did take their RV to Mexico.  While the ameniities that I am used to (manicured lawns, multi colored plants, swimming pools, clubhouses, 24 hour security, 18 hole golf course, tennis and Pickleball courts, bocci ball courts, professional management, home owners association, cement pads for each Motorcoach, accessible food cafe, loads of activities, and a full time activities director) may not be there, the location on the beach is truly spectacular. 


The trip back #3

As noted in #2, here are some pictures of the road with nada (nothing) except Coco.

For those of you that are tracing the trip on a map the road connects the Bahia San Luis Conzaga on the Sea of Cortez with Chapala on Mexico's Route 1.




The trip back #2

Almost 12 hours of driving today.  But it does not seem that long. In part because of numerous fuel and food and picture taking breaks.  Not to mention the many stops to ask for directions or just to talk. 

I usually start with "una pregunta, por favor?"  Or "puede ayudarme?"   One question, please?  Can you help me?

The response is always very positive.  People want to help. Mexicanos are no exception. 

What made today's drive particularly interesting is that I took a different route from what I had planned and from the route I took coming south last week.  

Instead of following route 1 going north from Guerrero Negro to Ensenada and the Pacific coast, I turned east to return to the Sea of Cortez ending up in San Felipe on the east coast of the Baja peninsula.  Guerrero Negro is about mid point on the peninsula.  It is the town that is located on the border between the states of Baja California and Baja California South. It is also the town where the time zone changes from pacific to mountain time.  

To go east from there is a challenging experience.  There are no paved roads.  Only dirt and sand and rock.  There is only one road.  It is 45 miles long before it hits the Sea of Cortez. There is nothing on the road.   No towns, no houses, no ranches, no farming, no businesses, no parks, no attractions, no historical markers,  no gas stations, no automotive repair shops, no taco stands, no bars, no restaurants, no schools, no churches, no hospitals, no police, no fire services, no water, no sewer, no electricity, no internet, and no cell service. You get the idea.   There is nothing on this road but you and your vehicle!  (Pictures to follow in #3)

The one exception is Coco's Corner.  Located half way, this "oasis" is the brainchild of Coco.  Grizzled, missing one leg, can speak some English, and with a wonderful outlook on life.  Has been here 25 years. I asked him how many other people he had met today and his answer was one.  Not a lot of daily traffic. 

Yet he has been determined to have some fun with his life.  His fences are loaded with beer cans.  The ceiling of his open air outdoor rest stop is littered with underpants and panties of all sizes from all over the world. 

I will tell you that it felt awfully good to see another human being and to be able to talk and laugh and enjoy each other if only for a brief period of time. I will never forget Coco.  





Friday, November 28, 2014

Clayware of Candelaria #2

PGetting to Candelaria was not for the faint of heart as discussed in #1.  But the real experience was just about to begin. 

We stopped to ask where we could find Ms. Hanken, an American who was the person to see regarding the "ranchware" pottery we were seeking to learn about.  No one spoke English. We were told that she was not in town, but on a trip to La Paz and will be back on Monday.  

Oh no, we had come all this way to see her and now she wasn't even here!  

I asked if anyone else in town made the Clayware we were looking for.  She said Carmen did, and she lives just up the road.  

So we go looking for Carmen.  We stop at the first yard that is fenced - sort of.  Three dogs immediately come running to our car, barking like mad.  I call out from the car for Carmen. An older woman acknowledges my call out.  She nods her head. Haltingly I get out of the car and walk very slowly and gingerly up the path to a concrete slab that was outside of a hut/home seemingly made out of mud. 

I explained what we were looking for and why we were here. She said that yes she made the Clayware and that she could teach Kelsey and me. I called to Kelsey in the car and motioned for her to come up to meet Carmen. 

All conversations were in Spanish. I wish I could say that I understood everything that Carmen said, but we were able to communicate.  We started using our hands as we kneaded the pottery material into clay, and then we pinched, pulled and punched the material into predesigned shaped forms.  This took quite some time. 

Carmen was very patient with us, and especially me. She smiled several times as she watched us attempt to look like we knew what we were doing. 

The shallow bowls that we were making needed to have rims which required a coiling technique which was challenging.

Once we had the basic shape and rim somewhat finished then we needed to smooth the surfaces.  This was done with a little bit of water and tool made out of a cow's rib. 

We were finished with making the piece.  Now the bowls are left to dry naturally.  Carmen gave us small smooth stones for us to use to trowel and polish the bowls to create the aesthetic result one is looking for.  

While all this is going on outside of her home, we got a chance to meet her daughter, husband, and grandson Antonio. Antonio is four years old and just starting two hours a day of school.  He was so proud of his school backpack.  His favorite toy was a string tied into a circle with eight of the can openers from soda cans. 

We learned how this rustic pottery is made. But more importantly we got a chance to have a small but meaningful interaction with real people living in a very poor, rural environment.  And perhaps, even more importantly, we learned that the trip to Candelaria was worth everything we went through.  






Gearing up for the trip back

All vacations must come to an end.  And so does this one. HP had to leave yesterday.  Today, Saturday, the rest of the "crew" left to return to San Francisco and New York City. 

And I began the return drive from Cabo to the States.  The same road that I got here on.  1,000 miles. Same cautions in effect.  No driving at night. I have my bear spray and my satellite phone. 

I made it to Loreto tonight. Then maybe to Ensenada on Sunday night.  Sadly I have to be in Newport Beach at 11am Tuesday morning for a funeral service for a dear friend Merritt Van Zant.  Merritt and his wonderful wife Marilyn served as surrogate grandparents for the kids when I first moved to Southern California in the late 1990's.

Bailando

Dancing is what soothes the soul.  Not the soles of our feet but the souls of our bodies. 

As many of you know I really love to dance and spend some time trying "to improve my game"

What you may not know is that my daughter Kelsey is beginning to put some effort into becoming a dancer too.  She is taking weekly lessons in New York City in rumba and waltz with her fiancĂ© Brian. She is also taking West Coast Swing -- my favorite dance -- instruction weekly.  

West Coast Swing is part of the swing dance family (Charleston, Lindy hop, balboa, east coast swing, etc).  Danced as if one was on a railroad track.  The woman goes up and down the track, being led by the man as he switches from one side of the track to another.  A very romantic dance, and a very difficult dance to pick up.  They say it is the second most difficult dance to learn, after Argentine tango. 

Needless to say somehow we found time for some father daughter dancing in Cabo.  

Off road

I know that some of you are concerned that we are not doing anything but laying on the beach during our stay in Cabo.  

While Kelsey and I sought out local pottery (see other post), Guy, HP and Brian sought out off road vehicles. ATV's.

For two plus hours they explored the Pacific Ocean beaches about 15 miles north of Cabo San Lucas. Then they followed a dry riverbed trying to find its headwaters. Also raced along the expansive white sand beaches of the Pacific.

Pickleball

For those that don't know this sport, get to know it.

The fastest growing sport in the States. Invented 50 years ago by three guys in Seattle.  Named the sport after one of their dogs.

We struggled to find a pickle ball court in Cabo San Lucas but we were able to make do.  

We found a tennis court that we marked up with white chalk to represent the dimensions of a Pickleball court.  As you can see from the picture below, the person that laid down the chalk lines (yo) was apparently a little wobbly for some reason.

We had to live with the tennis net being a little higher than the one used in regular Pickleball play. 

My son Guy and I had a chance to play some singles too which turned out to be a go workout. 

Where there is a will, there is a way!



Finisterra

In Espanol, land's end. And of course that is what the very tip of the Baja peninsula is. 

A wonderful day of boating, snorkeling and strolling on the beaches of Baja. 

The famous El Archo with the "crew".


Spring Break

To many the trip to Los Cabos is the equivalent to what we used to experience in college -- namely, spring break.  

You remember those days, I'm sure. Traveling with a bunch of fellow revelers, having only one goal in mind. Party central.  It seemed to be a contest to see how late one can party, how crazy drunk one can get, how many stupid advances can one make to try to connect with the opposite sex, how late in the day can one sleep to get over the hangover from the night before.  Yes, those glory days and nights.  

Bottom line.  A chance to act totally irresponsibly for a week or so.  That was and apparently continues to be what Spring Break is today. 

Well, Los Cabos is your classic Spring Break destination. 

As my son, Guy, would say "there are no rules.  It's Mexico".

It is always Spring Break in Cabo, no matter what time of year it is. 

At this stage of my life my only role in the Spring Break tradition of Cabo is as chronicler.  So, I and my crew have dutifully attempted to investigate and report on whether Spring Break is alive and well in Cabo. 

In order to do that we have had to patronize and frequent some establishments that have reputations for being locations that host Spring Break types. Remembering all the time that our role here is simply observe, investigate and report. 

The Giggling Marlin, Squid Roe, Cabo Wabo, and Happy Ending to name a few.  

Needless to say, this is an ongoing investigation.  Stay posted...



Thursday, November 27, 2014

Golf

Golf is an international game. Los Cabos has its fair share of wonderful courses. 

During our stay we have had the opportunity to play two of the courses in Los Cabos. Camp Compestre and Puerto Los Cabos.  Both are wonderful layouts. 

Golf means different things to different people. To me it means several things...

Once I start walking on the fairways I am able to put the many issues that are on my mind away.   Or at least on pause for a few hours. 

It requires a lot of physical skill to play well. 

Even more importantly it requires a mental discipline that is challenging. 

Both the physical and mental challenges are further stretched by the tiredness that one experiences during the last few holes of play. 

During every round of golf one has the opportunity to experience and test some of the most important values.  For example, honesty and integrity have an opportunity to be tested in small ways on every single golf hole.

It is an opportunity to get to know your playing partners during the four plus hours it takes to play 18 holes. My Dad told me to play a round of golf with someone before you do business with him.  

And it is competitive. And who doesn't love a little competition to keep your juices going. 




Clayware of Candelaria #1


Kelsey and I had an adventure the other day.

We sought to find out more about trastes de barro, to foreigners "ranchware".  A special kind of rustic clay pottery.  We wanted to learn how to make it. 

We were told that the only location that is still producing this kind of pottery is in the village of Candelaria.  A hamlet of only 80 people. A small church, a small school, and one store which was not open during our visit. 

Candelaria is not easy to get to.  Lying in the foothills of the Sierra de la Laguna it is accessible only with four wheel drive vehicles.  Located on the West Cape of Baja Sur it is about 20+ miles north of Cabo San Lucas.  

The road was not only not paved.  It also was a challenge to follow.  We made five wrong turns along the way.  There are NO street signs in Baja!  

In addition the road did not have any other towns on it. Once we left Cabo San Lucas we felt like we were in the wild. The closest we came to civilization was the occasional cow. 







Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Culinary Creations

OHow important is food.  Nutrition is critical to good health.  

To some, as important is the creativity involved in the design, preparation, and serving of the food. 

To others what is really important is the opportunity that food presents to bring people to a common table to share ideas and good fellowship. 

Well, check this out.  Our Miss Kelsey last night put together a meal that met all three points noted above. 

Kelsey prepared grilled veggies, ceviche, black beans, grilled dorado and trigger fish, tuna sashimi, rice and grilled cactus.








Tuna, Dorado and Trigger fish

Cabo is famous in part because of its fishing.  World records have been set in the waters near Cabo. 

Today we spent 7 hours on the high seas of the Sea of Cortez.  Bright sun was outdone only by strong northeasterly winds. Five of us on a 28 foot Bertram, guided by Miguel and Jaime.

Fairly early on in the day, coinciding with an incoming tide, we had some good luck.  Kelsey caught a trigger fish.  HP after a long fight, landed a 25 lb. tuna.  And Guy had a fun and successful struggle with the miraculously colored 20 lb. Dorado. 

As the tide receded so did our luck.  Spent the next five hours searching for the elusive Marlin.  No luck today.  

All in all, not a bad day on the seas.