A Hell of -Day at Sea

I live within spitting distance of the Sea of Cortez and I like to go stand-up paddle (SUP) boarding in the morning for exercise.  This morning the water was crystal clear.  For exercise reasons, I paddle backwards part of the time (It works different muscles in my arms and back).  As I am doing this I see a sting ray off to my left going the other way.  He is full grown, about 3 feet wide, and sandy brown color.  I stop to observe him, he is about 3-4 feet below the surface and just as he passes me, he looks over.  He slows down a bit and circles around toward the back tip of my SUP board, which is the way I am looking.  I very excited, but I am also stingraythinking this would not be a good time to fall into the water.  The ray comes up to within a foot of the board, seems to realize I am not a ray and swims off real fast.

I am thinking about how I am going to tell you guys about this, when I see manta rays jumping out of the water.  Normally, I would consider this very interesting and if you have not seen this, take a look at this video (The flying rays are about 20 seconds in), but today it is almost distracting.  Then I see a huge fish breach the surface of the water about 20 yards in front of me.  It occurs to me that it might be a dolphin, however we almost never see dolphins here and certainly not this close (20 yards from our beach), so I am skeptical.  I keep my eyes in the general direction where I saw the breach, and 30 seconds later the dolphin breaches again.  I paddle slowly toward it, luckily his dorsal fin is sticking out of the water most of the time.  As I track him a bunch of Mexican teenagers on the beach start humming the music to Jaws.  The dolphin does not seem to notice me and I get within 7 feet of him.  This is probably the most clearly I have ever seen a dolphin in the wild.  He finally noticed me and lazily pushed away.


“D” of the famous thriller writers DK Halling


Mechanics & Banditos

Our Suburban had been having problems starting for awhile.  On super bowl Sunday, we went to the local cantina, Buzzards and enjoyed a few too many cervezas.  Naturally, the car decided to not start.  We asked the owner of Buzzards, Harry, to give us a jump and no luck.  So we walked down the arroyo and through the sand streets to our house, in Baja Mexico.

225In the morning I walked over the car and it still would not start.  With the help of a friend, we found a mechanic Tony who agreed to fix the car.  He took along some tools told me to jump into his car and we headed to the Suburban, about four miles away on the highway.  On the drive Tony shakes his head “car’s it’s always one thing or another.”  He proceeds to tell me how the car we are driving in crapped out on him when he went to La Paz one time.  Since he had no tools, what could he do but call a mechanic.  That appeared to be particularly humiliating to him.

After taking a look at the car and attempting the old hit the starter motor while turning the ignition on trick with no luck, Tony told me he would replace the starter motor and drive the car to my house.  I gave him the keys with some trepidation as he told me it would take about two hours and around $150 and headed into the house.

Dear reader, I apologize for interrupting, but it is important at this point to know that about three weeks earlier someone stole our passports, credit cards, drivers’ licenses, basically any identification we had.  If we just had those large life insurance policies still our kids would have been set.  After posting this tragic loss on the Baja Pony Express, the local online paper, we start to receive emails from an American woman who thinks she’s spotted our black bag on a hike.  She always emails late in the evening and did not respond to phone calls.  Several days later, an acquaintance of ours was robbed, just for cash in the house.  Turns out, the only person he had let into the house who might have known something is this same woman.  Now everywhere we go, people say, “Oh, Sarah.  Yea.  That makes sense.”  Apparently, she’s lived in the area for years, grifting and stealing with her little bandito gang of drugees.  No deportation or stint in Mexican prison to date.

After about 3.5 hours of waiting for the car to show up I got nervous and headed over to Buzzards on my mountain bike.  The Suburban was there, but the mechanic was not.  The mechanic had mentioned he knew Kate and Bill are neighbors.  Luckily they are at Buzzards, so I asked if they knew Tony the mechanic.  They did and Bill offered to drive me over to his shop.  On the drive over I ask Bill if he flew in Vietnam (I had overheard him talking about flying military planes at the bar one time), he says yes and it was the best war he was ever in – he had been in five wars.  I have never heard anyone say they liked being in any war.  He also thinks Vietnam has the best weather of any place on the planet.  Hmmm. Anyway, we meet Tony at the shop and he says they don’t have the starter motor in stock and he has to go San Jose, about an hour away.  Its 4PM and I am figuring we are not getting our car back until at least manana.  But after talking for awhile, Tony says he will drive down there today and have my car back to me tonight.  Excellente.  I am pretty sure the price of the repair just went up.  Bill drives me back to Buzzards and I ride my bike home.

At about 7PM I am thinking Tony will not be showing up tonight.  How is he going to be able to replace the starter motor in the dark on the road next to Buzzards?  No fancy tow trucks here in Mexico.  We receive a telephone call on our cell phone – we tend to ignore numbers we don’t know and this one is from Mexico.  I think Tony somehow has my number (I never gave it to him) so I pick it up.  After some tortuous spanglish, I find out this guy, Carlos, has found our passports etc.  He wants to meet at our house, but part of what got stolen were our car keys and house keys and there has been a rash of break ins.  So the last place I want to meet is at our house.  Of course I have no car either.  Carlos suggests I meet him at the Calafia Hotel, but that is too far to walk.  So I convince Carlos to come to Buzzards (or BOOSSARRRRDS in Spanish).  We are to meet in half and hour.

K decides to come with me and the whole walk there in the dark, we are trying to figure out how to do this safely and not get robbed again.  A car approaches on the darkest part of the arroyo and K tries to pull me in the weeds.  Carlos has no idea that we are walking or where we live.  It passes us safely.  A minute later a bunch of ATVs coming roaring up behind us just as we pass under the highway bridge.  I suggest we wait so we don’t get run over, but K thinks being under a bridge is a great place to rob someone.  They don’t run us over or rob us, but are surprised by our presence there.  We know them, snowbirds from the States out for a bite to eat.

We finally make it to the bar and a quick scouting shows gringos and the wait staff.  We strategically locate ourselves so we can see anyone walking into this open air bar from the parking lot or street and order a couple of beers – Pacificos, which have turned out to be my favorite beer in Mexico.

We wait about 15 minutes and Carlos has not shown up and we figure he won’t, but K tells me to go check things out.  As I head out to the street I see our mechanic!  Tony has shown up and his wife is holding the flashlight while he attempts to fix my Suburban.  WOW I will get my car back tonight.  I say hi to him, and tell him to meet us in the bar when the car is done.

Another fifteen minutes goes by and I decide to check on Tony as my phone rings.  It’s Carlos, he says he is at Boosssarrrds, but I don’t see him.  Then, around the corner of the building I see two guys getting out of a car in the parking lot.  One of them waves at me.  The parking lot is very dark – they don’t waste a lot of money on dusk to dawn lights in Mexico.

I am leery as I approach them and want to keep plenty of distance.  I also want other people to see them if they turn out to be part of the bandito gang.  I offer to buy them a beer, they are reluctant, but follow me in.  I start to lead the way, but I don’t want them walking behind me.  They accept a couple of cokes in to-go cups.  Carlos turns out to be the cousin of the cook at Buzzards, and they are on their way to Tijuana to pick up a yacht and bring it down to Cabo.  They have our black bank bag with our keys, passports, drivers’ licenses, my original social security card (I think I am the only one to still have a paper SS card from 1975).  No credit or debit cards naturally.  We tell them there was a reward of 1100 pesos, which they did not know about and were thrilled to receive.  Unfortunately, we had already cancelled our passports, but it was going to be a pain to get the drivers’ licenses and new keys for the Suburban.

About 15 minutes later Tony is done with our car – he charges, apologetically, the outrageous sum of 3000 pesos or about $250 for his miniscule efforts.  The car starts like a dream in the morning and we have our drivers’ licenses.  Things are looking up.