June 8, 2008 - Location: Dutch John, UT
Back in the U.S.A.!!!!!!!
Greetings from nearby the famous Green River and Flaming Gorge! I'm back on familiar turf and it feels a bit weird. I no longer have to maul the Spanish language, get lost in the side streets of huge metropolitan areas or shop for all the necessities of life in more than one store (Wal-Mart and Costco could be the only reason to leave the house!). Never-the-less, it is good to be home.
After rolling off the ferry, I spent a couple of nights in La Paz. I'm sure the city is known for many other attributes, but in my mind La Paz is best known for the awesome fish tacos sold by street vendors! My little bit of fish taco-nirvana was located across the street from the El Angel Azul (The Blue Angel) Bed and Breakfast (also a great place to stay www.elangelazul.com). The vendor was conveniently open from 5:30am till sundown, making it possible to enjoy the deliciousness at breakfast, lunch and dinner!
After La Paz, I headed south to La Ventana. A bit past the town is the Ventana Bay Resort, run by a Canadian-turned-Baja fixture, "Baja Bill." Bill has been operating resorts in the area for over 20 years and has a picture-perfect spot on the bay. Although the high-season is in the Winter (the place is a kite boarding/wind surfing mecca), Bill generously offered to put me up in his resort. Over the next week I mixed a couple of guided trips in with some do-it-yourself trips in the "tinnie" that I've been carrying around since Australia.
I have a feeling that the area is about to be discovered as a tremendous destination for inshore sport fishing. The waters off-shore area already well-known for sailfish, marlin and dorado. However, in July and August, these species, along with tuna, yellowtail, jacks and roosters can be found right near the bay. I managed to land a medley of species, along with the smallest roosterfish ever landed (see picture).
I would like to thank Bill for his hospitality and generosity. Anyone who wants to fish the Sea of Cortez should contact Bill via the Ventana Bay Resort website (www.ventanabay.com). You will not be disappointed!
Driving up the Baja
The Baja has experienced a few issues with "banditos" recently. Apparently, these groups pose as police officers, pull tourists over and extract money and valuables at gunpoint. I didn't run into any of these fellas. But then again, I try to abide by the common sense rule of NOT driving at night. The only bandits I discovered wore Pemex uniforms and worked right in the center of Santa Rosalia. Below is the story:
I rolled into Santa Rosalia nearly on fumes and in urgent need of a bathroom. I pulled into the downtown Pemex station to a crowd of 4 employees sitting on the island curb in what appeared to be intense discussion. They disassembled and studied the LandCruiser as they approached the truck. I hopped out, unlocked the gas cap, asked them to fill it with diesel and walked off to the bathroom.
When I returned 2 minutes later, "gas goon #1" said something to the effect "Check the level....it might be full." I asked how many liters they pumped. "66" they said. I turned on the ignition and the fuel needle slowly crept up to ¼ and then stopped. Goon #1 said "It is slow." I said "Yes......slow but accurate. It is only ¼ full. It is not possible that you put 66 liters in. It is a 90 liter tank." Each of the 4 goons shrugged their shoulders and goon #1 began filling the tank again. I asked them 3 more times, "how many liters?" Each time......."66." I knew where this was going....... It reminded me of a cartoon or Abbott and Costello-type of exchange that I think I've seen. 2 men are facing each other, looking each other in the eye, 1 man has his hands in the other guy's pockets, taking his money. The robbee says "Are your hands in my pockets?" "No." "Are you stealing from me?" "No." It is this sort of situation that requires a suspension in the belief that mankind is inherently good.
When they finally filled it up, I asked how many liters they put in the tank. "119" was the response. I smiled a mildly entertained, sarcastic smile and said "not possible." Here is how the rest of the conversation went:
Gas goon 1: "690 pesos in total."
Dan: "Hold on.......690 divided by 5.79 per liter is 119 liters. That is not possible. Tank maximum is 90. How many did you put in the tank?"
Gas goon 1: "119 liters."
Me: "That is NOT POSSIBLE. Look.......the owner's manual says the capacity is 90 liters. See????" (He looks, shrugs his shoulders.) At this juncture I was incredibly humored by his refusal to acknowledge the principles of physics and simple addition.
Then, all 4 gas goons huddled up and began talking in rapid Spanish just out of my hearing range. Here is what I THINK they were saying (this is just conjecture on my behalf).
Goon #1: Where is this guy from anyway?
Goon#2: Germany maybe?
Goon#3: I think you may have overdone this one. The boss said to get an extra 5-6 bucks per tourist car. Not $17!
Goon#1: Well.......I've never seen this type of Toyota before......so I had no frame of reference. Is he looking over here?
Goon#4: Porsches are made in Germany. Yeah......he is staring at us. His arms are out with palms up. Looks like he's checking to see if it's raining.
Goon#1: Did you just look at him?!?!?!
Goon#2: Yeah.....my cousin lives in the U.S. Says everyone has one there. You aren't supposed to get caught looking at him when you check to see if he's looking at us.
Goon#3: Does your cousin have a Porsche?
Goon#2: Not yet.....he likes BMW's
Goon#4: Where are those made? I thought we were supposed to ease people's fears of being scammed with direct eye contact?
Goon#1: In Europe somewhere........ That rule only holds in one-on-one conversation, dummy.
Goon#3: Hey.....there's the boss. You better go talk to him. The rest of us will disperse so the gringo can't talk to any of us.
(Goon#1 goes over to the very fat Boss.)
Boss: What's up?
Goon#1: The gringo over there alleges that we overcharged him.
Boss: By how much?
#1: Around 30 liters worth.
Boss: I thought I told you to keep it around 5-6 bucks per tourist?
#1: Yeah, I know Boss. But we haven't seen many tourists today and I thought he was German. You know how strong the Euro is lately. I didn't think he'd care.
Boss: Yeah.....he might be American. Their dollar has been getting crushed recently. They've turned into real peso-pinchers. Does he know any Spanish?
#1: He knows "Not possible" pretty well. And he seems to know numbers too.
Boss: Jeez........Have you maintained eye contact throughout? You know how gringos believe that direct eye contact and petty theft are mutually exclusive.
#1: Absolutely boss, I know the script. He is pretty adamant about saying that his tank only holds 90 liters, though.
Boss: How many are we trying to charge him for?
Boss: Hmmm........what are the chances we can do that, you think?
#1: I'd put it at 50-50 at the moment. He says we can charge him for 90, otherwise he'll call the cops.
Boss: Pfftt! Doesn't he know they are more corrupt than us?
#1: Apparently not.
Boss: Guess he's not in a hurry. Normally we could expect to delay him with our serious-looking conversation long enough that he'd eventually give in and pay us. How long have you guys delayed him with serious-looking conversation thus far?
#1: About 15 minutes.
Boss: Peculiar, this gringo is. How much extra do we make at 90 liters?
#1: About 3 bucks, give or take a few pesos.
Boss: Okay....well.....that's enough I guess. Let this be a lesson to you. We need to talk a bit longer before I go other there. How's the wife?
#1: Good. You?
Boss: Okay......she says I'm getting fat.
#1: Pffftt! She's crazy!
Boss: Yeah....well........I'll go over and tell him 90 liters is okay; then I will split. You come in behind me and take the money....make him change or whatever. And next time, make sure they are European!
#1: Okay boss.
And so came to an end this hilarious and educational experience. The $3 overcharge was worth the price of admission. I suppose I wouldn't have even cared as much if I hadn't been thoroughly fleeced in Mexico City. I may have still lost a few bucks on this exchange, but I can happily submit that it is now: Mexico 1, Dan 1.
I arrived into my previous hometown of Encinitas, CA at around 5pm. After checking to see that The Saloon was still in operation, I put on some clothes that I have been hauling around the world for some inexplicable reason and made my first attempt to re-acclimate to U.S. culture.
A couple of days later I participated in the first "Welcome Back!" party. A big thanks to everyone that showed up, offered career and dating advice and bought me drinks! Next I traveled to my real hometown of Salida, CO. Fortunately, no cameras were around to record the festivities. A big thanks to Michele and Kevin at Busch Liquors (www.buschliquors.com) for organizing the affair. Also, thanks to everyone that showed up. I am going to naively assume that their attendance was due to my return and NOT Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Lastly, I returned to Salt Lake City to rendezvous with family and friends that I have not seen in two years. Thanks to Mo for hosting the gathering. I think I am now thoroughly welcome back-partied out.
Although I still have 3 months of traveling left, I have been asked a number of times "What are you going to do next?" I admit that topping an around the world adventure is tough; but I think I have found a project that will accomplish just that. Over the last 9 months, I have planned, organized and founded (along with my family and close friends) a nonprofit called "Rivers of Recovery (ROR)." This organization will provide all-expense paid, 3-day fly fishing trips on the Green River for disabled veterans, their families and families of fallen soldiers. Our pilot program (15 participants) will take place this month and full operations (170 participants) will begin in April 2009. I am extremely excited about developing this organization on a national scale. Please visit www.riversofrecovery.org for more details.
Thank you for all your support and encouragement over the last 2 years. Please stay tuned for more travel updates and Rivers of Recovery progress!
Locals filling up our panga with sardines in Ventana Bay
Dan with a small yellowtail ("Kingfish" to the Aussies and Kiwis)
This friendly bird flew right up and perched itself on the rod. He seemed pretty content to spend the entire day there.
Dan with the smallest roosterfish on record. I guess you have to start somewhere. Species #62 of the trip!
Back in Encinitas. I found Southern California a great place to live out of my truck.
I parked it on the bluff overlooking the Pacific for free. Other people have to pay millions for a house nearby.
The Encinitas party crew: Dona, Travis, Florita, Dan, J-Da, McKinley, Laura, Annie and Dave.
Springtime in CO? Encountering snow near Monarch Pass
Full Circle" Dan at the put-in on the Green River. It's good to be home!
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