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Not your average year!

19 Mar

Just finished celebrating my birthday (March 14th), the last year of my 50’s as my youngest so delicately put it. Sitting around the fire, eating BBQ ribs, scalloped potatoes and drinking tequila, talking about how much longer we all have before we have to head home once more.

The population of campers on the beach has halved over the past week, signaling the end of another season. For all of us, it’s a time of sadness as well as anticipation; sadness because some may not make it back to the beach next winter and anticipation as we all look forward to seeing friends and relatives back home!

This is what the waters have looked like up until today.

This is what the waters have looked like up until today.

As I sit here writing this (March 16th), I’m listening to the VHF radio, hearing chaos out in the Waiting Room and Inner harbour at Puerto Escondido, as boats break loose from their moorings, dinghies capsize and docks are torn to pieces. Today is the very first north wind, exceeding wind speeds of 55 knots! That’s higher than the wind from Hurricane Paul of 2012. It almost seems as if Mother Nature was saving up everything for this one blow!

..and this is what it looks like today!

..and this is what it looks like today!

Up until today our weather has been unseasonably calm, and warm. We’ve had mostly gentle breezes when we would have appreciated slightly higher ones, due to all the mosquito and no-see-um activity all season and we’ve had our little heater on for exactly 45 minutes the entire winter. While everyone at home suffered through some of the worst winter weather on record, we seem to have been sitting right on the very edge of the drought conditions hitting the southwestern United States.

This has been an odd season because normally the Grande Nortes start blowing in November/December and the temperatures begin to drop. It usually gets cold enough that most of us are wearing long pants, with a light jacket during the day because of lower temperatures and blowing sand. Nights and mornings are usually cold enough to have a heat source on for at least a little while.

This year, as I said no winds and average daytime temperatures never dropped below 70 F with averages in the low 80’s. Even the water temperatures have stayed high. High enough that even I’ve been out swimming recently and that’s never happened in the past, at least not for me! Once the water gets below 65, I just don’t want to go in, but this year, it had only just reached that when it started to rise again and it’s now fast approaching 80 again.

For those with years of experience on the water, they’re starting to be a bit concerned about the coming hurricane season since 80-degree water sustains them. They believe with the high temperatures this early in the year that it could lead to a very bad hurricane season with multiple storms. I guess we’ll see and we’ll be watching the weather closely before we venture down next fall.

Ladies fishing day

Just me and Jan out fishing and successfully I must say!

Other than strange weather and worrying about our families back in the extreme cold up north, it’s been pretty much an average year, lots of parties and get togethers, BBQ rib nights, bocce ball games, when we weren’t getting eaten alive by the bugs, fishing, kayaking and hiking. I even got to catch a couple of large Yellowtail on my single action reel which I’d been told was impossible plus we managed to have a couple of Ladies only fishing trips which were highly productive and the cause of much conversation around the fire!

Awesome fight with a 24lb Yellowtail on my single action reel and 10 foot rod!

Awesome fight with a 24lb Yellowtail on my single action reel and 10 foot rod!

The big difference this year was the season brought us kittens instead of puppies. We are usually the recipients of abandoned dogs and puppies on the beach, from the locals, since over the years the folks here have managed to find homes for almost every one. This year it was 9 kittens and 1 cat, most likely the mother of 8 of the kittens, maybe. I have to thank our friends and neighbours on the beach, Sy and Jan, who actually shouldered most of the burden of looking after this brood. We only had one at a time appear on our doorstep, while they had almost the entire group!

Sadly, out of the original 8 kittens, 2 had to be put down and 2 died, most likely from complications of Feline Leukemia, which is a major problem amongst the cat population down here. One of them, I’m sad to say, was a little Siamese cross female that we had decided to adopt and named Bella.

This was the lovely little girl that we originally adopted, before she started to show symptoms of illness.

This was the lovely little girl that we originally adopted, before she started to show symptoms of illness.

Happily, however the other 4 found homes and still remain healthy. For this we have Jan to thank as she did all the leg work and doggedly searched for people to adopt these lovely little girls! The adult cat was eventually live trapped, spayed and released, where she will hopefully manage to survive without producing any more unwanted kittens.

Unfortunately there is no place to take cats in Loreto. Animalandia, a volunteer organization, deals with dogs and has no facilities for cats beyond arranging for spaying and neutering.

Just when we thought we were done with all the animals, I went for a walk up to the little convenience store, and on the way found a very young, very cute, puppy. I may not be a dog lover but there was no way I could ignore this tiny little girl so I carried her to the store and then back to our campsite. As I was showing her to Richard he exclaimed in horror that she was covered in fleas and upon putting her down, it became obvious she really was! There were so many on her, you could see them seething through her fur and she was covered in bumps from bites. Surprisingly enough, not one got on me, nor did I receive a single bite!

Thankfully one of the campers had a flea spray medication that was suitable for young animals, and we soon had the little girl completely free of fleas. She was very appreciative, though I imagine, the previous bites itched like hell! The next morning we took her into Loreto and turned her over to the kind ladies from Animalandia, who figured she would be very easy to adopt out, since the size of her feet indicated she would probably grow quite large, had the colouring of a Rottweiler, and good guard dog instincts, all desirable traits.

Feeling good about ourselves, we headed for home knowing that thanks to our actions, this little dog would have a much happier life, rather than getting hit by a car, being eaten by coyotes or bobcats or dying from starvation or dehydration. We walked through the door of Grummy, only to have our neighbours knock on it moments later, with a small furry bundle wrapped in a silk shirt and the greetings of Happy Birthday!

On their walk early in the morning they came across another kitten, all by itself very near the highway, and they just couldn’t leave her to get killed by a car. Knowing that we had lost the kitten we’d adopted, and that we had talked about getting another kitten when we got back to Canada, they brought her to us. And so, Bella 2 came into our lives. (I would post a picture but WordPress seems to be having major problems uploading photos these days)

(The name was stuck in our heads and even when we tried calling her something else, “Bella” always seemed to come out. She responded to the name almost immediately, so we figured she was destined to be called it).

You know, we had both forgotten what it was like to have a kitten.  They’re crazy; fun, entertaining, cute and cuddly, but crazy and they wake up way too early. So now we have to figure out how to travel with a kitten and live with her in our Dodge van at home. So far she’s taken to the Grummy with no problem at all and doesn’t seem inclined to wander out of sight of us. We’ll see,  I guess it’ll be one step at a time. We’re really hoping it will work out for her, and us, but if not, we’ve already had a couple of folks at home volunteering to take her. So one way or another this little lady is going to have a great life.

Stay tuned; I may have to change the title of this blog to “Travels with Bella”!

Oh, cry me a river!

6 Dec

Okay, don’t whine! I know I’m a couple of days late with this post, but hey, what don’t you get about RETIRED?

 

Halloween is over, having given away handfuls of candy to local kids dressed to the nines, American Thanksgiving has been celebrated with turkey and vast amounts of food, two Full Moon parties have been held and the Christmas feast discussion is under way. Richard’s and our friend Kottie’s birthdays have been observed and another campers is fast approaching. The celebratory occasions are coming fast and furious but we’re all having a hard time being as social as we usually are. The reason?

BUGS!!!!

Hence the name of this post, because every time I try to explain to anyone at home about our plight, that’s the answer I get. Absolutely no sympathy from anyone, especially since the first thing they ask is, “What’s the weather like?” and I have to be honest and tell them it’s sunny and the daytime temperature is hovering between 23C and 28C. Isn’t that wonderful? The problem is we can’t go outside to enjoy it unless we’re heading out on to the water, slathered in DEET or the wind is blowing more that 15 miles per hour.

 

Just one of many different flutterbyes. This one stayed still long enough for me to get a good shot

Just one of many different flutterbyes. This one stayed still long enough for me to get a good shot

Going out on the water is great but you can’t do it every hour of every day, the idea of covering every square inch of oneself with vast amounts of DEET (Yes, I did say every square inch) everyday is probably not a healthy idea and the wind is just not cooperating this year. Not only that but even on the 2 occasions when the wind has actually reached those speeds, the little buggers just hover in behind us and take sips at their leisure, and for God’s sake don’t step into the shade!

 

When the wind does blow, you can walk on the beach, but only at low tide since the messy debris left by Paul is still there and will be for years. Trying to walk at anything but low tide is treacherous, since not only is there woody debris on the beach but also buried deep into the sand making footing none too safe. There is no other place to walk, for as soon as you head up the road the bugs come out looking for blood and the many trails we have walked for years are so thick with weeds that it’s hard to find them. When you do find them, there’s no telling what’s under your feet and with the number of snakes, spiders and other creepy crawlies wandering through the grass, none of us are going to attempt them until the weeds and grass dies.

 

2011 was the last of four years of drought, preceded by six years of sporadic and lower than normal rain falls. I’ve written in the past about how hard it was on the livestock and the people, but there were no bugs! Oh, sure, there were the few wasps, flutterbyes, moths, ants and beetles we see every year, but no mosquitoes or biting insects at all. Even scorpions had become scarce. Snakes might have been seen occasionally but rarely. This year, everything has changed!

 

There were three major rain events this summer here, each lasting two days and dropping between 10 and 15 inches of rain, in August, September and October. Each one giving a boost to the local plant, insect and reptile life.

 

This is one of 5 tarantulas I've seen so far this year. Don't worry we built a little rock bridge to this one could get to safety.

This is one of 5 tarantulas I’ve seen so far this year. Don’t worry we built a little rock bridge so this one could get to safety.

There are more insects per square inch here than most have ever seen, even the locals. Now, the average lifespan around here is 80 years, but climatically, that’s pretty short, so it goes without saying that it’s likely this is not the first time this has happened. BUT, it’s the first time it’s happened to all of us campers on Rattlesnake Beach, and it SUCKS!

 

There are so many bugs here that we all swear there are some that have never been catalogued! Thank God I bought that No-See-Um netting before we left!

 

We have a vast array of flutterbuyes and moths, just about every size, colour and shape imaginable, from ones the size of your baby fingernail to others the size of your hand. The air is alive with thousands of gaudy, sunshine yellow butterflies during the day and gigantic brown and grey moths at night, that cover your radiators and your windshields, not to mention that as they die off they cover the ground like torn up origami paper.

 

We have Stink Beetles that raise their posteriors and shoot out a foul smelling acid. These at least are quit small and their numbers have decreased considerable since we first arrived.

 

From an ill advised trip outside without protection. This is just a small portion of Richards arm, imagine what the rest of us look like.

From an ill advised trip outside without protection. This is just a small portion of Richards arm, imagine what the rest of us look like.

There’s a beetle here that has huge, long antenna and a large body. They look like there is no way in hell they should be able to fly, but they do! Not very well, and they seem to have a hard time navigating, but the bastards fly. Nothing like getting a beetle that’s the length of your middle finger flying into your face. Then, there’s the ants. We’ve got all kinds, big ones, little ones, red ones, black ones and sort of a combination of both. We got some that only come out at night and others that we see only during the day. We’ve even got some that keep on getting into Grummy. Not many, but we’re constantly on the look out. It’s not a good thing when ants get into RV’S.

 

Most of the grasshoppers are gone now but for a while you couldn’t go out with out the grasshoppers going off in a sort of domino effect. As we walked or drove, those around us jumped, sending those where the first ones landed, off, over and over again. Sometimes it felt like a type of bow wave as the hoppers continued to jump just ahead of us until we hit the pavement.

 

And spiders? Don’t get me started! If there’s a place they can get into, they’re there, there are a lot of them and they are big! I’ve seen more tarantulas this year that all the past years combined, though they don’t actually bother me. Maybe it’s because they are furry. The yellowy-brown  ones the size of the palm of my hand, and the black ones of any size are the ones I really don’t like. It’s a good thing the seals on all our widows and doors are in good condition because the big ones are constantly trying to get in that way and they sit just inside the metal parts of the doors unable to get under the seals, then when you open they door, the leap out! Yeah, that’s great for my nerves! I hate spiders!

 

 

We’ve seen lots of big scorpions, as well as snakes and snack track. Watched a beautiful Rosy Boa taking a short cut right through our campsite the other night! The bane of our existence though, are the mosquitos, no-see-um-s, bobitos, hey-hey-nees and collectively, for want of a better name, ankle biters! These little bastards are making life miserable for just about everyone. Some or all of us react to at least one if not more of all these biters. The mosquitos are at their worst during dawn and dusk but bites can happen all day too. Though once night falls they seem to mostly disappear. The biggest problem with the mosquitos is they are known carriers of Yellow and Dengue Fever, and there is still, and will be for sometime to come, many, many areas of standing water for them to breed in.

 

The worst ones are the small ones, some so small you can barely even see them, but these buggers pack a wallop, they can really hurt when they bite. It feels like someone has stuck you with a pin, and the itch is intense and long lasting. Even weeks later when all evidence of the bite is gone, the site can still itch. These nasty little bugs can walk through your clothes and DEET seems to have little to no effect on them.

 

Right at this moment, I have 20 to 25 bites, mostly ones from the ankle biter types and almost all on my lower legs and feet. From where I’m sitting typing this, I’m looking at five different bug repellants and two bug killers sitting on the doghouse of the engine, where they are readily available for use before we go outside. Apparently after the big rain event in August the town of Loreto ran out of repellant. The local merchants must have taken note because there is stuff available everywhere now and it’s a damn good thing too!

 

You CAN’T go outside without some form of protection, if not chemical than clothing that consists of long legs and sleeves that are thick enough to stop the mosquitos from biting you through the material and tight enough to stop the tiny ones from getting inside.

 

Which brings me back to my original comment about how this is affecting life on the beach. We now spend a lot of time in each others rigs instead of sitting out enjoying the sun or stars and even that doesn’t really help since most of the tiny biters can easily crawl through the screening on everyone’s RV windows, except ours and ours is too small to have more than four people in it at a time. Even that can be too much sometimes. We’re all going through a fortune in repellants and soothers and everyone is searching through their wardrobes for suitable clothes that won’t cause them to suffer from heat stroke. Outdoor get- togethers are short and sweet and accompanied by lots of fans, bug zappers, long sleeves and the heady aroma of many different bug repellants. We talk about which ones we use and how well they work, where to get them and a comparison on prices. Conversation has definitely taken a strange turn this season.

 

The nice thing about this year is that it’s throwing us into each other’s laps more. It’s become quite usual to have a dinner party for four or six and simple hold it in whoever’s rig is the biggest, even if they aren’t actually doing the cooking. I’ve walked more than one platter of sushi down the beach so far this winter.

 

Now, I know it’s cold where you are, maybe raining, maybe snowing, but in your heart of hearts, when you would normally think of us with envy and yes, maybe even a touch of bitterness throughout the winter, this year you can comfort yourself in the knowledge that we are suffering too.

 

In our own way maybe, but believe it baby this is suffering Baja style!

 

Hasta Luego!

IT’S ALL IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

27 Oct

So how are things going with you? Hopefully you’re working or maybe collecting U.I.?  Maybe your benefits are just about at an end and the prospects of collecting Welfare are starting to loom large. Ever since the recession hit, things have been pretty rough and if you watch American T.V. you’ve certainly come to realize that things are way worse in the States than they are in Canada. Europe is constantly in the news, as Greece slides into financial chaos soon perhaps to be followed by other countries that have been unable to control their financial messes.

A cardinal comes to sample our oranges in the early morning

Through it all, how much have you heard about Mexico? Probably the only things you’ve heard about have been the drug wars and innocents being murdered by the drug Cartels, or perhaps the media ranting about how unsafe it is because some tourist has been mugged or killed. I’d be willing to bet you haven’t heard a word about how the Recession has impacted down here have you?

Things are very bad, very bad indeed. First let me explain a little about Mexican Employment Law. Once you have been hired, unless you do something so egregious that you could be arrested for it, you can’t be laid off or fired. The only way you leave a job is to retire, quit or die. Our social services such as Welfare and Unemployment insurance either don’t exist here or are offered only sporadically depending on which State you live in and Baja Sur has neither. Now I exaggerate, but not much, you can be laid off but it requires a large severance package to be paid.

So imagine what happens to cities and states that have all these employees, but no money to pay them. Not only do they not have money to pay the employees, they have no money to run the basic infrastructures that keep cities functioning. Since they have no money to pay in wages, they certainly don’t have any to pay out in severance packages to laid off employees, so they stay on the payroll.

Trying his luck, fishing at dawn

Let me give you a little background here, so you’ll have a little understanding. Mexico is a third world country that has lots of petro dollars and like every other similar country; it also has lots of corruption, from the local city cops right up to federal government ministers. It also has very wealthy drug cartels.

Now this is going to sound a bit strange but when there wasn’t this huge crackdown on the Cartels, things worked better. The Cartels held areas of the country, mostly along the border and in a few other states such as Sinaloa and Chihuahua. In these places the Cartels ran everything, including the schools, hospitals and charities. They made sure that the people were looked after. Sure the elections were rigged and only those politicians who were being paid by the Cartels were elected, and if you crossed them your life wasn’t worth a plug nickel, but things worked, maybe only in a warped way, but they worked. Money trickled down eventually to everyone.

That is no longer the case.

Who watches the watcher?

First came the American war on drugs and the billions of dollars offered to the Mexican Government to do away with the Cartels. Now, I’m not saying that was a bad thing, since at the same time Calderon was also getting rid of those in his government from Customs Officers to Federal Ministers who were corrupt and replacing them with honest people who would work for the betterment of the country as a whole. In the minds of right thinking people this was a wonderful idea and full of good intentions. The problem is we all know what the road to Hell is paved with.

Calderon was using the American money to try and break the Cartels and was siphoning other monies to the cause from various Government agencies, when the recession hit. Now the Cartels are no longer looking after the people in their areas, they are using it to fight a war against the government and the Government no longer has excess money to spend on anything. The people are suffering.

A school of fish paying me no attention.

Down here in Baja, the city has employees, but no money to pay them and hasn’t for 2 years, there is also a drought that’s in it’s 2nd year and the fishing is getting worse every year. Unemployment is rampant and even those with jobs are only holding on in hopes that eventually some money will appear and they will get some back wages. The Rancher’s animals are dying because they can’t afford to feed them and there is nothing left to eat in the desert. The fishermen, generally the poorest of the poor are bringing in less and less all the time and no one has any money to buy their catch anyways. Even the big tourist developments have stopped work because the tourists are not buying anymore and they certainly are not coming in the numbers they used to. Things are very bad.

Now, try to predict what happens in places like this when every 6 months, there is a large influx of what look like rich tourists who come to stay for 3 to 6 months at a time. Do you think you’d look upon these folks as fonts of money? Bingo!

When we arrived a few years ago, the economy was booming, condos, golf courses and hotels were being built at breakneck speed and all the beaches that were accessible were free to all. That changed in 2009, with the introduction of a rental fee for the right to stay on the beach and call the space you occupied yours for the season. Now we are talking a million dollar view for a pittance. The rate was 1940 pesos per month, that’s about $160.00 Canadian.

This little fellow was just as curious as I was.

You can imagine the hue and cry that ensued, with some flat out refusing to pay and actually being escorted away by the local constabulary. I mean let’s face it, none of us, regardless as to where we come from, could find anywhere at home for that price, probably not even a rat infested flophouse.  So most of us coughed up the money, knowing that we were is some small way helping the locals.

The price stayed the same all of last year, but and it’s a big but, no one was quite aware as to what the local Mayor was up to. It seems after the election in Loreto last February, it become obvious that the previous Mayor was a big time crook and he took the city for ever last cent they had, then buggered off. The city is absolutely, flat out broke and there is no money to be had from the State of Baja, since they can’t get any from the Federal Government. What’s the new administration to do? Why, raise the beach rates of course.

The fellow who has always collected the monies came last week and told us that the new Comptroller wanted to raise the fee to 3600 pesos a month, (about $300.00 Can). Since we are all rich tourists we could afford it they thought. Wrong!

Heading back to his home.

Off we all went to see this gentleman and to try and disabuse him of that impression. Most of us who spend 6 months of our lives every winter in this beautiful place do so because we can’t afford to live in our own counties full time. We are the poor (but not impoverished) of Canada and the United States, who have to travel to a poorer country in order to survive on our limited pensions and incomes.

We made a new friend that day and we all came away with a new understanding as to the struggles we are all facing in this new age of financial uncertainty. He understood that we could afford a small increase and that all of us try very hard to spend as much money as we can afford to support the local businesses. We were made aware of just how bad things are down here and how far they need to go to get back to where they were just a few years ago.

So rent has gone up to 2400 pesos a month, (about $200.00 Can) bringing in some badly needed funds into the cities coffers and helping to pay city workers that haven’t had a pay cheque in months, we got an offer of garbage pick-up, better security, a little work on the road coming in here and maybe, somehow they’ll bring in water. We’ll see, sometimes money in hand down here means we won’t see anyone again until next months rent time, but since we now have a better understanding as to what poor means down here, none of us mind. We pay our rent and this beautiful spot is ours for the winter and if we can help the locals make it through the bad times, so much the better.

We may not have much but for those who have nothing, we are rich beyond compare. They see us arriving with our cars, motorhomes, campers and boats and see wealth. We see old cars, motorhomes and campers that are past their prime and boats that need TLC to keep them afloat and constant tinkering to keep the motors running.

I guess everything really is relative and people judge things based on the only reality that exists for them. We all see our selves as poor or just getting by, yet we all seem to feel ourselves lucky to be here at this place and in this time. Even the locals who are suffering, will tell you that they know folks who are in worse shape than they are and that though things are not great, they could certainly be much, much worse.

Life truly is seen simply through the eye of the beholder, isn’t it?

THERE’S NO FREE LUNCH

20 Oct

 

 

Just before dawn and only 22c

 

I mentioned previously that the average daytime temperature down here was sitting at around 35c but that doesn’t actually tell the real story. You have to factor in the humidity levels, which are between 35 and 40 percent. Now I know that doesn’t sound like very much but oh, man does it make a huge difference. With the humidity, the actual temperature is between 40 and 45c. In other words, it’s freaking hot here!

Our home, where ever we are

 

It’s so hot and humid that you sweat heavily just sitting still and there is no part of you that isn’t wringing wet all day long. Just before sunrise it’s only 22c but as soon as the sun comes up the temperature skyrockets and within 20 minutes it has reached the maximum it’s going to be for the day and it doesn’t cool down until about 3 AM.

 

So what’s a person with lots of time on their hands to do? Why go swimming of course, or snorkeling or simply standing in the water, right? Uh, wrong. Not unless they have a full-length wet suit. Why? Well, there’s this little creature in the water here that folks call an Auga Male (that’s pronounced malay) Which translates to Bad Water in English. Now that’s probably not its real name nor have I been able to find anyone who can tell me what it really is, but it’s a suitable description.

 

An Auga Male. Sorry, but it's the best shot I could get!

These things are polyps, less than ½ an inch long, and so clear that they are virtually invisible in the water. They feed themselves by deploying a very long clear thread and when it touches bare skin, it burns, a lot! It also leaves a line of raised red welts that sting and then eventually itches like mad.

 

Our problem is where our campsite is. We are the last site right beside the launch ramp, so whenever any of the folks down here are trying to launch or retrieve their boats, they usually need help since all the launch ramp really is, is a gradual decline of sand into the water. Not to mention that except for ourselves, the average age on Rattlesnake Beach is 70 and up, so every day we accumulate large numbers of stings and man, are we going through limes since the best cure is warmed lime juice. Vinegar works but not anywhere near as well and I’m sorry but I’m just NOT going to try the old having someone pee on me experiment!

(Appreciation for help is paid in fish. Not that we’ve ever asked but hey, when someone offers you a Dorado, you don’t say no!)

 

An angelfish swimming by

These little nasty’s will eventually disappear when the water cools down some, but will then be replaced by a jellyfish called String of Pearls which look exactly like their name, except they are an iridescent blue colour. These too make life miserable for swimmers.

 

All in all, though it may seem as if we’ve moved into Paradise, there is always a price to be paid for it.

 

I got smart this year and purchased a full-length wetsuit, but have you ever tried to get into a wetsuit? Try doing it when every square inch of your skin is already wet. I know, I know, use cornstarch, but you know what? When your skin is already wet, cornstarch just clumps. So it’s a struggle and by the time I get the damn thing on, I really do need to get in the water as the sweat is pouring off me. Not to mention that even a wetsuit with mask, snorkel and flippers doesn’t cover every portion of skin. The hands and parts of the ankles and face are still bare and you know, getting stung on the face bloody hurts. Considering how long it takes to get the damn thing on, when the folks need help with their boats, I go as I am and in most cases it’s just my bathing suit and me. Oh well, nobody ever said life was going to be easy.

 

This is a Balloonfish, though they are mistakenly called Pufferfish. These little guys are anywhere there's a rock to protect.

I’m sure your sitting there thinking, Jeez, what a whiner, but you know, writing a travel blog requires truth so here it is, these things are the price we pay for our little slice of Shangri-La… this year. Next year it could be a plague of flies or biting insects, a Grande Norte that blows hard all winter long or a continuation of drought that makes fresh water difficult to come by. We never know what to expect until we get here but we always know there won’t be any free lunch!

 

TTFN

Heading to the 25th parallel

13 Oct

Hidy Ho Campers! Here we are on beautiful Rattlesnake Beach in Southern Baja, once more, ready for another winter in the sun.

Daytime temperature is 33c and nights cool down to a balmy 22c. The water is holding steady at 28c. Yeah, I know that’s rubbing it in but hey, this IS a blog about travelling and I’d certainly be remiss if I didn’t tell my viewing audience what to expect if they decide to come for a visit or want to live vicariously through me, right?

Now, the last little missive I posted told you I have a peeve I want to rant about, so I might as well get it off my chest right away. I started to notice as we slowly made our way down roads less travelled that everything had a name; roads, bridges, overpasses, parks, beaches, trails, underpasses, byways, freeways, you name it. (hahaha, sorry)

Lake Crescent, northern Washington, on Hwy 101

What got me going was that almost everything was named after, in most cases, “Some Politician”.  Now, I tried looking up some of these names and for the most part Google just went “Huh?” What is it about your average politician that they just have to have some edifice named after them, especially since within 20 years, no one is going to remember who the hell they were, except maybe their closest friends, (Is that possible?) and relatives.

I’ll give you an example, in the town we lived in, there was a lovely park in the downtown core, on the foreshore and it was called simply, Foreshore Park. Kind of says it all doesn’t it? Certainly tells you where and what. A couple of years after a Mayor who had served for 3 terms died, his wife and political cronies who still made up the city council decided it would be a great idea to rename the park after him. So in their finite wisdom, the local politicians changed the name to the “Robert V. Ostler Park”. Pretty much everyone still refers to it as Foreshore Park and even my kids who grew up there have only a vague recollection as to who Robert V. Ostler was. Give it another 10-15 years and only those who stroll through City hall and see his name on the list of mayors will have any clue.

The first beach we came to in Washington State, Ruby Beach

Don’t get me wrong, I see no problem naming things after “famous” politicians, you know, the ones you learn about in school or read about in history books, but the local ones? Give me a break! These, as far as I’m concerned are just a bunch of arrogant, self-centered egotists who see a way of giving themselves a form of immortality and the really crazy thing is, WE GO ALONG WITH IT!

Okaaaaay…..enough about that.

Back to our story…

We were enjoying our last visit with our youngest daughter and her family, playing with our Grandkids, sampling the fruits of their garden and being overwhelmed with her gustatory expertise when the rain started. Sure it was only a little and the sun did come back out every day, but the temperature was going down and this year there was nothing holding us back. Richard was starting to get antsy but I kept delaying leaving as a Mexican Visa is only good for 180 days and the last thing I wanted was to be coming home in March. Richard however, held out a carrot. I have a last surviving aunt in Ontario so he suggested that we could work our way along the southern US and then up into Ontario before we headed home. Damn, that was a good carrot!

One of many, free, secluded spots we always find on our travels

Cape Ferrolo, Ore. The last time we saw the sun. If you have the time and the weather permits by all means travel the 101. The views are to die for.

Once again we took the Coho Ferry across to Port Angeles, but this time we turned right instead of left and took the 101 Hwy down the Pacific Coast. The weather was good and we moseyed down the road instead of thundered. The scenery was gorgeous and we had high hopes for a slow, picturesque journey, hopping from secluded forest campsites, to beautiful beaches, all the way down the Washington, Oregon coasts, with a side trip to McMinnville in northern Oregon.

The best shot I could get. Big isn't it?

McMinnville is a small town but it contains one of the biggest airplanes ever built, Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose. This is the crowning glory of The Evergreen Air and Space Museum there and though we had known about this place for sometime, our route and/or schedule had never let us stop and visit. This time we did and we spent the day wandering around, while outside the weather was summer like…and that was the last time we saw the sun, until we crossed the Mexican border.

Not bad eh? Okay it's a picture of a picture, but if you like space stuff, this is a good place to start!

I’ve only included one picture of the Spruce Goose because it’s impossible to get a correct perspective of this baby, but suffice it to say that there are over 100 planes of all sizes nestled under her wings. If you’ve ever been up close and personal with the Martin Mars, you’ll have some idea, but even these don’t come close to the Goose. If you get the chance, enjoy looking at historic airplanes or are interested in the history of the space race from both the American and Russian perspective, go, it’s worth the visit. McMinnville is on Highway 18, just south of Portland and be prepared to spend the day!

Well, folks that’s enough for now. You know where we are and the winter is just beginning, so stand by for the continuing adventures of Travels with Grummy!

TTFN

Why on earth do you bother to come home?

17 May

You’d be surprised at how often we hear that comment? Mostly after people hear me whining about the cold and wet here at home. I mean they listen to me rant about the weather being colder than I can readily handle and how much I hate the rain, they nod sagely then ask us why we bother to come home. My answer is supremely simple, I go home because of my kids and their kids.

There are no other circumstances that could drive me away from the warmth and beauty of Baja and it’s people.

Richard and I have 2 beautiful daughters and between them, they have 3 children. Now, I’m not being parent blind about my daughters being beautiful; every time we go through an Army checkpoint in Baja, the young soldiers who inspect Grummy, stop at our fridge, where we have family photos displayed, and point to the picture of the girls. They want to know who they are, when we tell them,  almost to a man they say, “Bonita!” (Pretty) One young fellow, asked, was answered, made the same comment about them being pretty, then stared for a few moments more, said “Bonita!” one more time then left the van.  Thanks to those photos we don’t often get much more than a cursory inspection, I can tell you!

Cohen, at play in Beaconhill Park

All of you know by now, that we own nothing anymore except the Grummy, it is our only home. Our daughters live in 2 completely different places, one on the Saanich Peninsula, outside of Victoria, the other in Penticton, in the Okanagan. Both have made sure that there is enough space for us to park comfortably in their yards, that way we can be part of their lives for weeks on end. I have to say that as far as we concerned, we couldn’t have better kids. They actively try to recruit us to stay with one as opposed to the other, though without acrimony. Sure sometimes they have ulterior motives, but mostly they just like to spend time with us. Who could ask for more ?

It’s not just our daughters who enjoy our company, our son-in-laws do too, and we really enjoy being with them. We consider ourselves blessed that our kids and their spouses get along reasonably well with each other and us. They are all intelligent, bright and interesting people and we really like to visit with all of them!

Isla, looking pretty in her necklace.

We also get to spend time with our 3 Grandkids. The oldest, Cohen and the youngest, Isla are my youngest daughter, Liz and her husband Adrian’s kids. Cohen turned 3 in February and Isla turns 1 in June. Alena, my eldest daughter and her husband Dave, have Anara, 18 months old. Both of us are discovering the joys of being a Grandparent. Richard has always had a built in ability with small children and animals. He  stayed home with the girls until Alena was about 4, so he’s damned good with them. For me it’s still a bemused amazement every time I look at any of the  grandkids and realize that my babies, have babies of their own!

This is why we come home. Those who know me well, probably wonder when the transformation took place because I was never what you’d call maternal. I guess a change takes place in most of us when we are presented with a new, small life that comes from our own children, progeny of our progeny. We  are a little older, a little calmer, hopefully a little wiser, and have tips and techniques that have been used successfully by our own parents and grandparents that we are more than willing to pass on! When we get home we act as babysitters, counsellors, maids, gardeners, and any other needed occupation. At least for a little while.

Anara, "Who me?"

When the noise level reaches rock concert levels, the diapers start to pile up and the shit really hits the fan, we can always hand them back to their real parents and escape to Grummy, parked in the back yard!

Oh baby, it’s cold and wet here!

26 Apr

So here we are, back on Vancouver Island, which isn’t really home anymore, but we’re a lot closer than we were. The trip home took us 10 days, and once again, just like the proverbial horses headed to the barn, the closer to Canada we got the quicker we moved. I have to apologize for the lack of photos, since I just didn’t see anything interesting enough to take pictures of. This is the problem with taking the same route home more than once, everything becomes familiar and after a few more times, uninteresting.

We spent 2 lovely nights at our favourite Baja campsite, in San Quintin, though this time around it was anything but quiet. Since the weather was sunny, warm and sultry, and it was the start of the Easter holidays, the beach was filled everyday with picnicking and partying locals. Lots of good food, people and  music. Not to mention the beach itself being used as a freeway, plus a full scale clam fishery underway. It was fun, lively, entertaining and interesting. It’s such a neat place at any time and we know we’re always going to enjoy our stays. Plus you can’t beat the price $120 pesos a night. With the Canadian dollar doing so well these days that’s a grand total of  $10.00. Now I have to qualify a bit as they don’t have potable water for drinking available, but they do provide a sanitary dump  and have hot showers using brackish water. The view is great and depending on the  season, a variety of absolutely fresh seafood is available right out of the  Fishermen’s boats.

Now, I have a dirty secret…I looooove BEEF!!!! Most especially steak and roasts. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll eat just about any type of seafood until it’s coming out my ears and you’ll never hear me complain, but every once in a while I need to eat  a thick, rare, tender steak, which are damned hard to come by in Baja. The beef cows there are free range as I’ve mentioned before but they are also in survivor mode, so there’s no such thing as a fat cow. Beef is definitely available but it’s best cut up fine, shredded or stewed, and if you do get a steak you’d better have good teeth.

Is all this leading somewhere you ask? Well, yes it is. I’m not fond of chain restaurants, but a few years ago we discovered a place called The Golden Corral in a small southern California town named El Centro. It’s a steak and seafood buffet where for $8.00 each before 4PM or $13.00 after, I can indulge my need for BEEF! Richard really just indulges me, but I notice he’s no slouch in the number of plates he goes through. Richard is a firm follower of the SeeFood Diet, you know, see food, eat food!

Anyways, I make him go this way every time we leave Baja, just so I can indulge my need to sink my teeth into a nice piece of rare steak. It causes interesting travel plans since whichever route we use to get home always starts at El Centro. This time was pretty pedestrian, we drove around the west side of the Salton Sea, a route we hadn’t been on before, then just took secondary roads west until we hit the I5. For once, our mechanical problems were simple, a torn fan belt, and replacement of a couple of wheel lug bolts. Both times when need appeared so did salvation. The belt was replaced with an old one we had with us, then a Napa Auto Parts store on the side of the road sent us to a diesel parts shop just a couple of blocks from the Mojave Airport.

We got the belt and a chance to visit the historic airport where Burt Rutan built his SpaceShipOne which was the first civilian aircraft in space. He maintains his company Scaled Composites here which is considered the most creative company working in the aviation industry today.

The bolts were even easier. We stopped for coffee in a road side rest stop in Lake Shasta, when a gentleman walking by looking at the van noticed a bolt missing and informed us. About 20 miles down the road was a Les Schwab Tire store. They replaced 4 of them when it became apparent that the missing one wasn’t the only problem and we were on our way again in a couple of hours. So, for once no catastrophic mechanical failures and the trip home was pretty uneventful. It was even warm and sunny right up to until we boarded the Black Ball Ferry to come home.

We’re back on the island now and it’s raining and cold and the forecast is for more of the same until at least this weekend. We were gone for 5 months, the temperature during the day averaged 65F to 75F and during that entire time we probably had less than 20 cloudy days and 1 hour of rain.

People ask us why we go to Baja in the winter? Well, duh!