Writer’s Block

The Harbour Light, looking out from Silva Bay to Howe Sound across Georgia Strait
The Harbour Light,
looking out from Silva Bay to Howe Sound across Georgia Strait

Thank you! It’s working. My Flickr photostream is becoming easier to find due, in part, to your interest. https://www.flickr.com/photos/flickrfred/ will get you there; I have over two hundred forty frames up so far.

The Morning After
The Morning After

I’m hoping to earn some income from my writing and photography as I travel. In today’s world, if you have no cyber presence, you don’t exist. It would be much nicer to sit with pen and paper beneath a palm tree writing the world’s ultimate novel but that is only fantasy long lost. I know that I cripple myself by avoiding the mad scrum of twitter, titter, squeak, squack and honk yet I have to do something to validate my creative existence in the cyber world. A few years ago a publisher told me that e-books weren’t “Real”. Now it seems, writing is not legitimate if it isn’t an e-book. So, that’s what I’m up to with all this effort at seeking attention.

The old and the new
The old and the new

I’ll admit I’m a dinosaur in this modern world of computer-everything but I’ll hold my low regard for the sheep-like manner in which people eagerly accept persuasion to follow corporate marketing innuendo. Our culture has become hopelessly addicted to cyber devices. It seems that even a primal survival instict, fear, has a declining sensitivity. We are rapidly loosing the ability to fend for ourselves to the point of wandering into danger’s way while texting, tweeting and gaming. People drive and walk with head-down texting focus as they stumble through traffic, crowds, the woods and even on the docks. Kerplunk!

More old and new
More old and new

Amazingly, in our enlightened age, few ask questions. Our thumbs keep twitching out unimportant messages and we stumble along without looking where we’re going. Letter-writing has become a lost social art. Correct spelling and grammar are a foundation of clear communication. Language and communication is a cornerstone of civilization and we apparently don’t much give a toss about those basics. I recently saw a dictionary of texting abbreviations. (Lol ddba wm yy2.) No! I don’t want to have children with you! Huh? Coincidentally, as I write, a radio announcer reads a story about how people “Are married to their smart phones”.

Don’t we see how addicted and reliant we have become? Whenever the electricity goes down or we lose one of our devices we panic. Even in the backwoods of Mexico people appear entirely dependant on their cell phones. It seems like a deadly epidemic to me and I’ll admit that like it or not, I’m infected with the cyber bug as well. But I do care and will maintain a questioning attitude. You wouldn’t imagine the blank look I got in the cell phone store when I said I wanted a phone that only made calls, took calls and messages. Neanderthal!

I will readily admit that I heavily utilize the internet for research. A few minutes online can easily replace a day in the library. But, it doesn’t replace the collective intellectual energy of a building full of books.

It is important to remember who is slave and who is master.

Honey Bee evening patrol
Honey Bee evening patrol

Most offshore sailboats don’t even have a sextant aboard anymore. We DO have access to all sorts of satellite rescue systems when our incompetence prevails. If Uncle Obama flips the switch and there is suddenly no GPS available it will be a total disaster. I’ll admit that my sextant lies dormant in its case and I’ve forgotten how to use it. Mind you, leaving the dock is the first step to needing it. Here comes an embarrassed, pregnant silence.

Think Green
Think Green

I’m having a bout of writer’s block and as I poke away at my laptop the tely is on playing the 1961 movie ‘The Misfits’. It is a beautiful film made on location in Nevada. Marilyn Monroe is outstanding, her acting is incredible and Clark Gable is grand. He utters lines like “People can get so afraid of dying that they don’t ever live. Of course there’s danger in most worthwhile things”. In real life he died within days of finishing this film. Eli Wallach, Thelma Ritter and Montgomery Clift all turn out stunning performances. A believable script encompasses human longing and weakness within a parable about greed versus the environment. I love the clever use of light in black and white films and this one is certainly no exception.

The old Waco biplane had me lusting heartily. John Huston was the director and the messages about fiscal wealth versus integrity and compassion, from over forty years ago, are stunning. Not surprising, it was a flop at the box office. Few know of it. I think it should be re-released.

Quacks
Quacks

Now it’s Sunday, a week before Easter. Another stellar weather day dawns. We will almost be able to hear the leaves bursting out and see the flowers opening. Fluorescent white flesh is on display everywhere and I smugly flaunt the remains of my Mexico tan. Then as the evening sun settles behind the trees, it’s back into our woolies. Drifts of fir and maple pollen fill the air and everyone’s sinuses. Folks are finally back on the docks checking to see if their boats have survived the winter. They offer the usual annual cliché yucks about how boats are holes in the water that you shovel full of money. I offer my standard responses about how a “Stitch in time saves nine” and that houses are holes in the beach that you shovel money into while the scenery never changes. A few visiting cruisers are appearing at the marina now. Next weekend the marina circus will begin for another year.

Step into the picture
Step into the picture

A friend en route with his yacht to Easter Island and then the Marquesas stopped at the Galapagos two days ago, for forty hours! He had a passage From La Paz, Baha with light winds and he ran low on fuel but forty hours? I’m sure he has his good reasons but I can’t imagine how hard it would be to put to sea again without a decent rest and a long reconnoitre of that fabled place.

Jimmy has his daughter Karmin aboard and I hope they find a place to stop and can make their marathon a wholly pleasant odyssey. He’s put so much into preparing for this journey.

Gabriola Pass light
Gabriola Pass Light

Other friends have left their boat ‘Sage’ in dry storage for the monsoon season in Northern Phuket and are coming home to Victoria for a break away from the heat and humidity where they have been sailing. Connie and Tony did this once before on a tiny Vancouver 27. They spent seven years exploring the South Pacific and Japan. Their blog ‘Sage on Sage’, is what prompted me to start my own. I am deeply inspired and humbled by folks who are able to achieve their dreams.

Good on you all.

Now it is Monday morning. As the sun rises in the East (As usual) a high thickening overcast is rapidly approaching from the South. The barometer is holding steady, for the moment, but it looks like rain to me. It didn’t rain. In fact this afternoon my pallid shanks were sticking out again beneath a pair of tattered work shorts. This evening there is a new overcast blocking any view of tonight’s lunar eclipse.

It was quite a day. I don’t know why but I’m experiencing a massive lethargy and depression accompanied with all sorts of strange pains, swollen glands, and a generally pathetic state of being. I know, I know, it shows in my writing. Spring fever, allergic reactions to all the pollen in the air, a chronic attack of self-pity, I can’t explain it. Other folks report they are laid low with flu so I’ll go with that.

In the midst of this gloom a friend recommends going online to a ‘TED Talk’ and looking up an essay by a conductor and classical musician named Benjamin Zander. “Yeah right”, I thought as I typed in ‘The Transformative Power Of Classical Music.’

It was spell-binding, a midday epiphany.

This brilliant man explained things about classical music which I never understood and then leads the viewer on to some wonderful concepts. “Who I am being, if my children’s eyes aren’t shining?” Who am I being, if other people’s eye aren’t shining?”

His message, I think, is to apply your unique gifts in such a way that other people are inspired and enlightened.

Become a bird that flies above the fields. Fences are no longer obstacles”.

Now it is Tuesday morning already and I’ve awakened cynical and jaded as ever. That might have to do with the aches and pains of my battered old frame. (I used to wonder why old folks were so often grumpy!) Jack the dog is out on deck surveying the world and absorbing the moment in the light of the rising sun. He has, as usual, the correct philosophy and is immersed in the moment. I’m sitting with my morning coffee pecking away on this blog trying to find a clever ending. Perhaps a final quote from Zander will work.

Never say anything that won’t stand if it is the last thing you ever say!”

Hmmmmm. Flap, flap, flap, bang!

Skunk Cabbage, all through the woods, A hydroponic aroma clung in the trees
Skunk Cabbage is blooming all through the woods
A hydroponic aroma hangs in the trees, but then that smell is common on this island in a lot of places!

Reluctant spring

Reluctant Spring

Looking for Alice ...Stepping stones in a local forest
Looking for Alice
…Stepping stones in a local forest

We’re doing OK. Just because the beaches of Jalisco are far away, and it still seems cold and wet here, doesn’t mean there’s anything to complain about. A little to the south, in Oso Washington, a massive mudslide has wiped out that entire small community. Despite appallingly unstable ground conditions, rescue crews are still looking for bodies and the faint possibility of more survivors. Tonight’s adjusted figure reduces the remaining number of missing to thirty, down from ninety. Over two dozen bodies have been recovered so far.

Skunk Cabbage ...they smell like a local hydroponic product
Skunk Cabbage
…they smell like a local hydroponic product

The East Coast of the country has endured it’s first spring blizzard with up to 120kph winds and 30 cm of snow. (There’ll be at least one more blast sometime around Easter…Well, it happens every year!) Subsequent bad weather has kept some schools closed for five days.The missing Malaysian Air flight is a growing mystery. In an age when satellites can read the numbers on lost golf balls laying in the brush this story is becoming a real-life James Bond epic.

Russia and the whole of Europe are slow-waltzing about the recent invasion of Crimea. Mr. Obama and the Pope have met to discuss growing global poverty. I doubt that either considered liquidating some of the Catholic church’s incredible wealth or to quit buying rockets.

Know the feeling? Low slack tide
Know the feeling?
Low slack tide

If you are fool enough to consider the chains of trivial event which trigger global wars and then factor into that notion the planet’s vast over-population, much of which is very hungry and discontent, well we’re head-first deep in the outhouse basement. So, the only way to make sense of it all is to quit trying and just enjoy the moment. It is all we have. Implement change by example and step out of the gloom and doom. The moment, it’s all we have!

Maple flowers
Maple flowers

A miserable slanting drizzle this morning gave way to thin sunshine filled with promise. Jack the dog and I went for a walk in the woods. Deer tracks fresh in the mud show that fawns are being born. The skunk cabbage is sprouting, blooms are now everywhere and there is a profusion of daffodils. Lambs cavort in the fields and it is still light at eight pm. The wharfinger is muttering about new contracts and increasing my moorage fees. Weeds are starting to grow on the bottom of the boat. It must be spring. March here came in like a lion so we’ll see if the bit about the lamb holds true. Jack and I took our before-bed sortie ashore. The moonless sky was clear and the stars were especially brilliant. Somewhere in the timber a Barred Owl sang its loud echoing call of Who-Hoo Hoot Hoot. There is a bog hole surrounded by blackberries above the marina. Last night a thunderous chorus of frogs burst out there. This morning the boat rides an uneasy swell as the thick cold rain pelts down again. Yes, it’s spring! See ya at the beach, I’ll be under the Corona umbrella. The only one!

Rodger the rigger ...some spring maintenance before another adventure with Betty Mc
Rodger the Rigger
…Some spring maintenance before another adventure with Betty Mc

So, seize the moment the man said. I want to step outside my incessant introspection and share some happy and even uplifting thoughts. All my endeavours are now focused on getting back south. I haven’t made any decisions other than to re-affirm that one’s regrets are usually about the things we didn’t do. I’ve been planning on taking a boat south for a very long time. I’m frightened to think of how I’ll feel if I did sell ‘Seafire.’ But it’s only ‘Stuff’. Right?

Betty Mc on the ways. This Tasmanian lobster boat has travelled here on her own keel with her owners Rodger and Ali
Betty Mc on the ways. This Tasmanian lobster boat has travelled here on her own keel with her owners Rodger and Ali

A few days have passed. Yep, I’ve been busy with stuff; more buying and selling. The little green truck is gone. It is now the property of a friend from Gabriola Island who shared his accommodations with me in La Manzanilla. He expressed great interest in the truck and now that it’s home and all fixed up, it belongs to him. I’ve managed to find a lovely older SUV (Remember?…Stupid Urban Vanity) It is in great shape and will soon be broken of any urban tendencies. I will now be able to tow a bigger trailer than the teardrop and orf we go again.

So now it’s heads-down time. One project boat to finish and then old ‘Seafire’ gets her just and overdue rewards. The weather is grudgingly admitting that it may be spring. Periods of two or more hours of undiluted sunlight are beginning to occur without rain. It’s time to get up the mast and finish installing mast steps to the top. Then new companionway doors, brightwork, more wiring and fiddly pre-voyage chores as well as the eternal pursuit of loot, ever more loot.

Betty Mc business end. all wood to the bitter end
Betty Mc business end.
She’s all wood to the bitter end

Meanwhile I’ve successfully put up a photo stream on Flickr. It’s an online portfolio of my photography to which I’ll be adding more of my camera work as time permits.

The URL is https://www.flickr.com/photos/flickrfred/

The more a link is used it rises in the pecking order of search engines and becomes easier to find. So go ahead, hit me please. (I was amazed and humbled to discover how many Freds and Fred Baileys there are out there.)

There are even a few of us on Flickr. Next time I set up a site I’ll use an illustrious handle like ‘Aardvark Rocketman Fred.’

Jack hunting rabbits... he's never caught one yet, but!
Jack hunting rabbits… he’s never caught one yet, but!

One more morning. Now it is April 1st. The joke came last night when the power failed in phases. The dock lights were on but my neighbours and I frantically assumed the charger/inverters on our boats had failed. These are expensive devices we use to keep us dependant on the electrical grid ashore. It is amazing to realize how dependant even we fringe-dwellers are! Our collective angst was huge until we began comparing notes. Now the sun is rising into a cloudless sky. If this too is a prank, it’s a happy one.

Morning in Dogpatch Bay
Morning in Dogpatch Bay

I took an hour for myself in the middle of the afternoon. The frogs were in full rehearsal and somewhere in a far corner of the bay a pair of loons joined the chorus. Two fat cheeky river otters frolicked on the dock and I decided to go for a walk with my camera. The first three photos are the result. I don’t feel at all guilty.

By the way, come to think of it, March did go out like a lamb!

Ursa Major slightly to the left
Ursa Major slightly to the left
Life goes on
Life goes on

It’s Gone!

My beloved teardrop trailer, mi chiquito, it’s gone!  It sold in forty-eight hours after first being advertised. There was a deluge of interest. I didn’t expect anyone to want it but calls came from as far away as Washington State!  Of course I’m left thinking that the price should have been higher but I was daunted by the parade of folks lining up to buy it. If I’d had ten teardrops (How’s that for a song title?) they would all be sold by now. Jill did a great job with the ads. Unlike most boats I’ve sold I’ve actually broken even on this rig and it went to a very nice lady on Vancouver Island who will use it exactly as it should be. I have warned her that the big drawback will be all the attention it draws wherever the teardrop goes. Oddly, within the week, two other teardrop trailers appeared for sale but neither compared in quality and value to my baby. It’s gone now, all over but for the drinking.

Hig life on the road, somewhere in Sinaloa
High life on the road, somewhere in Sinaloa

I’ve decided that it is rather nice to stand up to put your pants on and in consideration of travelling southern latitudes where snakes and scorpions roam, it might be nice not to have to go outside to the bathroom in the night. Besides, it might be easier to invite guests if we don’t have to spoon! I also found the little trailer very warm in Mexico.  So, despite my diatribes about stuff, I miss the teardrop, but probably as much for what it represents as anything else.  So onwards toward next winter in Mexico. I’ll be reviewing every small trailer ad I come across and as the weather warms, work on ‘Seafire’ will resume. Fortunately, preparing it to sail, or sell, requires the same efforts.  So my decision about parting with my floating home does not need to be made in a panic.

In recall  of my recent teardrop pilgrimage and in anticipation of what lies ahead, the rest of this blog is some more photos in review and in projection of the journey.

By the way if, as some people indicate, you like my philosophies about life, spirituality, stuff and true values, check out Ken Robinson on You Tube.  Sir Kenneth Robinson travels the globe expounding ideas outside the box on education, social and political  interactions, truth, passion and higher ways of living. He moves at times in circles close to the Dali Lama. I love what he says and how he says it. Anyone who unabashedly  promotes living away from the herd and drinking upstream of it has my vote.

In one presentation he quotes part of a poem by Anais Nin. I’ll do my best to paraphrase it.

… The agony of being tight in the bud

became more than the pain of blossoming.”

The message is clear.

Daybreak in San Blas
Daybreak in San Blas

Life is a journey

Water temp. 82ºF cold beer and fresh fish at the cantina
Water temp. 82ºF , Cold beer and fresh fish at the cantina.
Hope springs eternal
Hope springs eternal
The girls we leave behind
The girls we leave behind

 

NUTS!
NUTS!
I try to imagine the Spaniards with all their gear struggling through this
The long and winding road
All roads lead to the sea
All roads lead to the sea
Mexican Red
Mexican Red
Texture, The Mexican elephant
Texture,
The Mexican elephant
Cantina by the sea
Cantina by the sea
Last of the revolutionaries
Last of the revolutionaries

Back door

La Banga
La Banga
Mexican alarm clock
Mexican alarm clock
San Blas River
San Blas River
Indelible
Indelible

Crash And Burn

Until I come again
Until I come again

It has been two weeks since my return from southern latitudes. I do live in a beautiful place right here and finally winter is losing it’s grip. Most of that welcome-home blizzard is now gone, only piles of debris remain where huge trees and limbs blew down. It is obvious that this was an extraordinary storm. There are green buds, snow drops, daffodils, and the odd crocus beginning to appear. Last evening I photographed plum blossoms. It is now about time to go collect the early spring crop of nettles. They’ll sting the hell out of your unprotected hands, but once boiled they become a delicious tonic of greens.

Plum blosom
Plum blosom
Plum pretty
Plum pretty

Russia has marched into Crimea. Obama has rightly condemned the action. ( No one had dared to respond by asking about the US in Afghanistan, or Iraq, or Vietnam. Oh right! No ranting! ) Meanwhile the Para Olympics are in progress in Sochi, Russia just to the east across the top of the Black Sea. A Malaysian Air Boeing 777 with a load of passengers has vanished into the sea somewhere off the southern tip of Vietnam. We think. There is also speculation that it may have gone down in the Straits Of Malacca, in the opposite direction. Implications of hijacking and terrorism are rife. There is tremendous innuendo about each of these stories. Of course, media speculation leads to more stories and so someone’s misery is milked for maximum profit. While perusing these areas on Google Earth I discovered some fantastic islands of the SE coast of Vietnam. It is an archipelago known as Con Dao. I’ve never heard of it before and wonder how to get there. It is beautiful, exotic and almost unknown, yet another destination for the bucket list.

Lichen or not
Lichen or not

Life goes on, no matter who lives or dies. A week ago I was writing about how clearly I could see the world after my little sabbatical. For some reason, only a week later, I’m feeling desperately low and aching to be south again. It is an absolute puzzle to me that despite my questioning mind,  it has led me back to the labyrinth that I hoped escape on my short sojourn. A certain type of personality, once released from prison, soon deliberately commits a crime that puts them back into the familiarity of the incarceration they have come to accept as normal and comfortable. Life outside of the box is too much to bear.

Alder bark
Alder bark

I used to live within a prison of busyness. It didn’t matter what I was accomplishing so long as I was distracted from the torments of my soul by staying busy to the point of utter weariness.

My manic father taught me indelibly that indeed, “Work shall set you free.” (That is the infamous epitaph above the gates of the death camp of Auschwitz) This is all an affirmation of my previous notion that we are a manic race desperately in need of distraction so often achieved by our incessant doing versus being. Suddenly I see travelling as yet another form of doing, a distraction from our unrest and insecurity. It is not necessarily a pilgrimage of discovery and enlightenment.

Pollinate me baby, it's spring!
Pollinate me baby, it’s spring!

I suppose that’s what becoming a monk is all about. Trash all ambition and immerse yourself in an endless routine of simple existence; no creativity, no lust, no abstract pleasure, just work, prayer, meditation and other self-inflicted penances. I’ll never be a monk. Then again, with all of the self-denial, maybe I’m one already. 

Hope
Hope

Mind you the pounds so proudly lost, have almost instantly reappeared like putting on a fat shirt and yes, I have been careful about diet. My Mexican program of fish and beer was working so well! I simply must get back down there!   To do that, I need to develop a mental fortitude that is also required to permanently lose the excess baggage.                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Jack stands the dog watch, happy in the sun on a level deck
Jack stands the dog watch, happy in the sun on a level deck

                                                                                                                                                                       I’ve I have researched ghost towns of the North American Southwest. With numerous ancient native ruins and all the natural wonders of Western North America I realized that therein is a lifetime of exploration. A friend today suggested that my fascination with the ocean and my new infatuation for the desert begs a simple solution. Take my boat down to the Sea Of Cortez where there is an abundance of both. A good idea, and my original plan.

Checklist; Blanket, white wine- chill in stream pastry, cheese, chocolate. Leave mobile phone at home. Oh yeah, significant other!
Checklist:
Blanket, white wine- chill in stream.
Pastry, cheese, chocolate.
Leave mobile phone at home.
Oh yeah, significant other!

So, the time has already gone ahead an hour to Daylight Savings, the first quarter of the year has blipped past and here I sit. This has to be the year, there is no doubt about it.

Well, the rising sun is in my eyes, it’s time to get off the boat and do something on this fine early spring morning. I close today’s blog with a quote. It’s a bit abstract but, if you wade through it, entirely appropriate to my musings.

– From Ernest K.Gann, ‘Fate Is The Hunter’

... I was suddenly very lonely. And I found it agreeable.

For loneliness, I thought, is an opportunity. Only in such a state may ordinary minds, spared comparison with superior minds, emerge victorious from thoughts which may prove perilous to explore in company. Loneliness presents no challengers to undermine by argument and stipulation those comforting theories born of it. Loneliness is not deadening, even for dullards who contrive against the condition because it forces them to think. Unless men are transformed into true imbeciles and simply stare at nothing, or play with their physical toys, then loneliness can form a magic platform which may transport the meek to thoughts of courage, or even cause the scoundrel to examine the benefits of honesty. Mere physical separation from other human beings can energize new conceptions for those usually incapable of any mental experiment. Yet to be thought lonely is automatically to be pitied, which is an insult, since pity is most loudly offered by the patronizing and hypocritical.  Pity for the lonely speaks of uncleanliness and rejection (Poor fellow, he is not as admirable as I know myself to be); thoughts so often nursed by those terrified of separation from the mass.”

Submarine Races, Starting soon
Submarine Races, Starting soon

Runamuck In Tillamook

Tillamook blimp hangar. The rig, beneath an airplane called a Guppy and finally a workshop almost big enough for all my projects
Tillamook blimp hangar. It once housed up to nine K-class blimps each 252′ long!
The rig in front of an airplane called a Guppy and finally a workshop almost big enough for all my projects.

It is March the fourth already. The sleet is angling down and my hands are numb from being outside with the dog. I should be working on my client’s boat but first I warm up with the dregs of my morning coffee pot and this bit of finger aerobics. Did anything, as portrayed in the last few blogs, ever happen? The heaped-up bills are real enough and all I have to show are my photos and blogs and a few souvenirs. I am very tempted to put my few significant possessions up for sale, pay my debts and go south with whatever is left. Tell me why not.

You'll never find something like this driving the freeways!
You’ll never find something like this driving the freeways!
Wot! No airbag?
Wot! No airbag?
Is there a car named Darkness?
Is there a car named Darkness?

Yesterday the price of gasoline here went up twelve cents a litre, allegedly because of the unrest in the Crimea.  We have our own abundant petroleum resources and I can’t make sense of it. I joke about a chicken farmer who goes to town to buy eggs but that’s exactly what we do. I drove up the Oregon Coast where I saw Asian ships being loaded with raw logs in world-famous timber towns where the sawmills now sit idle. It’s just the same here where our raw logs are loaded into foreign vessels tied in front of more shut-down sawmills. What the hell is going on? At least in Mexico, folks eat the eggs and chickens they raise in their own front yards. Not once down there will you hear the wasting drone of a lawn mower, They have livestock.

Out behind the blimp hangar
Out behind the blimp hangar

The only way to make sense of life is to stop trying and simply get on with what works for you. What a curse to be someone who has to constantly feed their questioning mind! Sometimes I envy those who can be content with a case of inferior beer, a sack of potato chips and a television. Sometimes; for a second or two, but I just can’t say baah.

Teenage boys once flew these off aircraft carriers. They're old men now but this baby is still good to go.
Teenage boys once flew these off aircraft carriers.
They’re old men now but this baby is still good to go. This is a Chance Vought F4U-4 Corsair. In WWII over 12, 500 were built.

The last lost photograph I’ll try to describe is from the morning I awakening in my little trailer on the beach in Bandon Oregon. It had been battered by frequent squalls throughout the night. Now a sunrise back lit the crashing surf and the grey storm clouds offshore. Seagulls, fluorescent in the sunlight against grey clouds, hurtled sideways in the gusting wind. Then in the rain of the next cloudburst appeared a brilliant rainbow which framed this timeless scene.

It's all larger than life!
It’s all larger than life!

Eventually after coffee and breakfast I trundled northward toward Astoria and the Fisher Poets Gathering. It is an annual event and can be checked out through the link posted on this blog.

Brute force and ignorance. P-47 Thunderbolt
Brute force and ignorance.
P-47 Thunderbolt

Tillamook Oregon is a couple of hours south of Astoria. Perhaps most famous for it’s cheese industry it also has one of the world’s largest wooden buildings. During WWII a coastal patrol base was established here. Two monstrous blimp hangars were built. One has since burned down but the remaining hangar housed up to nine blimps! Some of the airplanes I have flown could burn off a full tank of fuel flying inside this building! 

A Stearman 17 More people have learned to fly in these than any other single type. I knew these as crop dusters when I was starting out in the flying business, late 1960s
A Stearman 17
More people have learned to fly in these than any other single type. I knew these as crop dusters when I was starting out in the flying business,
late 1960s
The basics of real flying
The basics of real flying

Essentially a monstrous quonset hut it is built as a single incredible arched truss, almost a thousand feet long. My first thought was of all that old-growth clear fir timber, air-dried for over seventy years. Its value as boat lumber is incredible!

Contact!
Contact!

I was alone and took the liberty of  a prolonged indulgence in the aircraft museum now based here. A collection of airworthy vintage aircraft, some of which I have flown many years ago, It is sobering to see icons of your youth now in a museum. Flying was once a huge a part of my life as the sea has now become. I miss flying immensely, especially the old school of flying where it was personal skill and not electronics that got you there. I understand that not everyone is passionate about aviation so I’ll try not to post too many airplane pictures.

Grumman N3N3 So ugly it's beautiful
Grumman N3N3
So ugly it’s beautiful

I was intrigued to discover a collection of derelict locomotives in a yard behind the hangar. Yes damnit! I also remember working steam trains when I was a child. I know, I know, I’m older than dirt! It was all a great photo opportunity despite the poor light. Fortunately I used my trusty Olympus T2 pocket camera. Those photos were stashed in a separate folder and so all is not lost.

1930 Bellanca Aircruiser This one was a bush machine in Northern Ontario. One snow ski sitting under port wing.
1930 Bellanca Aircruiser
This one was a bush machine in Northern Ontario. One snow ski sitting under port wing.
No inflight movies! This is how you got to your trap line and fishing camp -40 outside, -50 inside But, if you could get it loaded inside, it would fly it! Yes it IS fabric-covered.
No inflight movies!
This is how you got to your trap line and fishing camp -40 outside, -50 inside
But, if you could get it loaded inside, it would fly it! Yes it IS fabric-covered.
Fond memories
Fond memories

I confirm my previous rave about what a wonderful camera this is and I heartily recommend it as a back-up, or single travel camera capable of both great still photos and movies with excellent sound above and below water. I have proven that it is water proof and shock resistant and am confident it is  superior to competitive products.

Bell 206A Jet Ranger I was 17 years old when I began my apprenticeship on these. They were absolute civilian hi-tech at the time, obsolete junk now. this one has over 22,000 hours logged
Bell 206A Jet Ranger
I was 17 years old when I began my apprenticeship on these. They were absolute civilian hi-tech at the time, obsolete junk now. This one has over 22,000 hours logged

The Fisher Poets Gathering was the usual affirmation for me. Kindred water folk bared their souls in song, poetry and prose behind the microphones of several venues. It is uplifting and deeply inspiring to be among such incredibly talented performers. There are always some new faces and voices who manage to raise the talent bar yet another notch. This year, two nautical poets from England came to read and record us for the BBC. Then, on the last Sunday morning of February, under the brave glow of a sunrise beneath the cloud cover,  I crossed over the five-mile long bridge across the Columbia River. As I drove northward through the long miles of raped forest, the sleet and rain thickened. I was home without a doubt. But the dream is more alive than ever. Soon I’ll be gone again.

Iraq veteran
Iraq veteran
Damn! It's ugly! But it flew. This one was used to transport S-64 helicopters, which are huge themselves
Damn! It’s ugly!
But it flew. This one was used to transport S-64 helicopters, which are huge themselves
Photo of a photo
Photo of a photo
The office
The office
Leg room
Leg room
Bomber nose art
Bomber nose art
Not a way to see Europe
Not a way to see Europe
Ubiquitous Mig 15
Ubiquitous Mig 15
BORIS! Don't point that thing at me!
BORIS! Don’t point that thing at me!
1001 projects for the home handyman
1001 projects for the home handyman. The roof!
Radio room ...Roger blimp 69
Radio room
…”Roger blimp 69, where are you?”
Columbia River view Astoria Oregon
Columbia River view
Astoria Oregon
Inside the Wet Dog Café A Fisher Poets venue
Inside the Wet Dog Café
A Fisher Poets venue
Looking back to Astoria from Dismal Nitch Washington, five miles across
Looking back to Astoria from Dismal Nitch Washington, five miles across
Home from Mexico ...and planning to go again SOON!
Home from Mexico
…and planning to go again SOON!

First Impressions

I’ve done my best to verbally convey my first impressions of real desert. I suppose, if you found me in the same environs in mid-August trying to re-shoe the donkey, I might have a different perspective. Would it be be my soul for a Popsicle and how’s the weather in the Gulf Islands?

 I spent an interesting few hours in a place called Randsburg, well up in the Mojave Desert. It is inundated with off-road motor-heads who love noise, dust and the wild abandon of ripping up the desert. However, their dollars keep the old mining town alive and for me the place was a fantastic photo opportunity. I could spend days there as the light changed and new colours and textures are revealed. This blog will be a simple photo essay from one afternoon in Randsburg and the area nearby.. I hope you like it.  The photos selected were a tough choice. First impressions are often lasting impressions so I have taken some artistic liberty  with a few shots. There’s nothing wrong with your computer.

The pause that refreshes
The pause that refreshes
When a tree falls in the desert... ...yeah probably1
When a tree falls in the desert…
…yeah probably!
That old tiny feeling
That old tiny feeling
A kindle bush
A kindling bush, well that’s what I call it.
Rattling-dry mellons
Rattling-dry melons
Boom and bust
Boom and bust
Complete with optional donkey hitch
Complete with optional donkey hitch
Honest Pedro's Used RVs and Trucks
Honest Pedro’s Used RVs and Trucks
Moved, address unknown
Moved, address unknown
Junk Mail
Junk Mail
The mailman always shots twice
The mailman always shots twice
I always wonder where this guy lived
I always wondered where this guy lived, the note under the rock describes a lost dog
There's always one!
There’s always one!
Homeland Security
Homeland Security
Hot Mail
Hot Mail
At the Corner of See More and DoLess
At the Corner of See More and Do Less
Dry Oasis
Dry Oasis
Eat Here and Get Gas
Eat Here and Get Gas
After almost hitting an elephant on a road in Mexico, I'll believe anything
After almost hitting an elephant on a road in Mexico, I’ll believe anything.
First Impression
First Impression
Randsburg
Randsburg
Putting up a front
Putting up a front
I'll have two floozies with a side of fries
I’ll have two floozies with a side of fries
If we ain't got it, you don't need it
If we ain’t got it, you don’t need it
Never driven on pavement
Never driven on pavement
No comment
No comment
A beautiful little beast
A beautiful little beast
A doom...I mean dune buggy with compulsory trophy chick zoom, zoom baby
A doom…I mean dune buggy, with compulsory trophy chick
Zoom, zoom baby!
Old VW's never die
Old VW’s never die
Getting away from it all
Getting away from it all
A picture's worth a thousand words
A picture’s worth a thousand words
Doobees are us
Doobees are us
The job
The job
Yeah really!
Yeah really!
In the desert I sailed a boat with no name
In the desert I sailed a boat with no name
How do you play these things?
How do you play these things?
My kind of lawns
My kind of lawns
A truly civilized community provides public washroom in it the town center
A truly civilized community provides public washrooms in the town center
Indigenous gardening
Indigenous gardening
Original paint
Original paint
Snob Hill
Snob Hill
Pit Prop[ Presbyterian
Pit Prop Presbyterian
Once, someone shut off the ignition and stepped out of this car for the last time
Once, someone shut off the ignition and stepped out of this car for the last time
He was in the pink
He was in the pink
Slivers and old nails
Slivers and old nails
The old man remembered growing up in a small house at the edge of town
The old man remembered growing up in a small house at the edge of town

Sailor In The Desert

From this...
From this…
...to this!
…to this!

I’ve been home a week now. If I thought things were a blur before…Wow! The memories swirl.

Boots and Saddles cowboy... it's time to ride!
Boots and Saddles cowboy… it’s time to ride!
Deep In The Coronado National forest
Deep In The Coronado
National forest

So much in such a short time; nearly 12,000 kilometres in five weeks. I feel like a big sponge, it’ll take a while to wring out. I’ve also managed to fall asleep while editing my photos and…well, there some incredible shots that you’ll never see. My banana fingers managed to keep on deleting after I nodded off. All the king’s techies can’t find Fred’s files again. BUGGA! You’ll have to take my word for it, there really were some amazing shots of Northern California and the South Oregon Coast.

Find the cow!
Find the cow!

Once out of the saddle I’ve taken my boots and socks off. Thus able to do the math I’m realizing how desperately financially broke I am for the moment. The good old truck, like a loyal pony, is dropping apart one piece at a time now that it’s home. So am I. The initial prognosis for my ankle is surgery. Of course the process requires that I help every medical specialist possible extract a Porsche payment from the system before the first diagnosis is firmly confirmed and a date for the grim day is set, and probably postponed, for some time far down the road. The weather here at home is cold and snowy and utterly miserable. In the last week a friend died tragically under very mysterious circumstances. I MISS MEXICO!

Arivaca Arizona Business district We're Closed!
Arivaca Arizona
Business district
We’re Closed!
Uptown Arivaca
Uptown Arivaca

Old ‘Seafire’ is happily afloat and looking good. The recent snow has scrubbed her clean. She’s cold and damp inside but there are no apparent leaks and the old girl is tugging at her lines, wanting to get off the dock. I am now more confused than ever. I love this boat and all the dreams and assurances she provides me. She has been my home for a few years now. ‘Seafire’ is the cumulation of all the other boats I’ve owned and put so much of my life into. However, the epiphanies I sought and found are telling me things entirely unexpected.

Ruby ... Looks like she did take her love to town
Ruby

Looks like she did take her love to town
Spring time in the desert
Spring time in the desert

For half of my life I have had myself convinced that I could not live away from the sea and that a man without a boat is a prisoner. If I did not own a boat, I felt like a worm. I am suddenly realizing that several hundred miles inland I survived healthily and happily. In fact, in the dry desert air, I found I could breath better than I have in years.

Behind the hanging tree, Baboquivan Peak from the southeast
Behind the hanging tree,
Baboquivari Peak
from the southeast
Baboquivari from the north, as seen on Kitt Peak
Baboquivari from the north, as seen on Kitt Peak
Some of the telescopes at Kitt Peak
Some of the telescopes at Kitt Peak

I actually found the same feeling of fulfilment in the vastness and mystery of the desert that I do at sea.

A surplused mirror from one of the telescopes
A surplused mirror from one of the telescopes

I have realized how much I have denied myself by accepting a barrier that kept me from travelling inland of the shore and accepting the richness of this planet which is available everywhere to perceptive people. I am also realizing the profundity of my own words when I condemn materialism.

If I had a hang-glider!
If I had a hang-glider! The T in the road is the turn-off for Kitt Peak, 12 miles to the top

Have I owned several boats or have they owned me?  Why are my sailing friends with the most sea time also the folks who’ve never owned a damned boat in their lives?

Kitt Peak Selfie
Kitt Peak Selfie

The devastation of the ongoing recession in the US is clear. I saw people of my age, begging on the street corners. They carry home-made cardboard signs saying things such as, “We’ve lost every thing. Any help gratefully accepted.” How close we all live to the edge! I know the clear-eyed dignity of Mexican peasants and their children and realize that despite my awareness and all my words, I am as hard-wired for our superficial, consumer culture as anyone. I truly wonder who are the truly rich people. Is it those who know how little they need?  In Mexico, the roadside crosses of the poor and those better off all mark people’s passing who are all equally dead.

DRY
DRY
Old Hammerhead
Old Hammerhead

  I am among the growing numbers who ask questions and I do really want to end my days outside of the sheep pens most of us willingly inhabit. I remember George Carlin’s last time on stage and his parting words, “Folks, it’s all bullshit!” I met folks who have been freed of their life in a rut, their possessions and all the entrapment of contemporary North American life. They now live as happy wanderers and have learned to see each day for the glorious experience it can be. Repeatedly, I heard from each that one of their joys is realizing how little material stuff they actually need. Collectively they all seem to be enjoying a liberation and freedom previously unimagined. The lies which ran their lives are shattered.

Catch me if you can
Catch me if you can

I am NOT turning my back on my affinity for the sea, nor my sailing dreams. I AM realizing how wonderful it is to have my head out of that place where the sun never shines. It is wonderful to feel the affirmation of wind in my hair and the sun on my face as well of the cool darkness of deep water.  I have some decisions to make and hope to find a balance to my life that I have been denying myself and those who try to love me. The journey continues.  To have written and published the last two paragraphs, I hope, is a testament of progress which I claimed to seek when I first began writing this blog. Life is a journey, grow or die.   

A mesquite fire, a cowboy singing "Git along Little Doggie" a coyote howls as the moon rises in the east; well that's the way it went in the movies.
A mesquite fire, a cowboy singing “Git along Little Doggie” a coyote howls as the moon rises in the east;
well that’s the way it went in the movies.

Once I’d crossed the border from Nogales, Mexico into Nogales, Arizona I collapsed for the night in the regional Walmart parking lot. Despite my aversion to the McWally world it is nice to have a safe, level place where you are welcome to park your trailer for the night and use the clean washrooms whenever you want.  Dare I lament the absence of shower facilities?  I mean really!  Some people do appear to live in these edifices of tacky acquisition.   

Only in america
Only in America

The next morning dawned on Valentine’s Day and I was amazed at the masses of Spanish-speaking people thronging into the place before six in the chilly morning to scoop up every card, chocolate, flower and stuffed toy.

I beat a hasty retreat into the desert. I turned Westward onto Route 289 which led me into the Coronado National Forest. The trees are twenty feet tall and a hundred feet apart. Some of the cacti are as tall. How many trees within sight of each other make a forest? As the sun rose at my back I travelled a meandering dirt track that led me through one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. Rocky cliffs, caves and steep gulches form a maze that begs to be explored on horseback. I expected to meet a stage coach on every switch-back. If John Wayne or Gary Cooper stood beside a dead horse, hitch-hiking with only their saddle, I would have calmly asked then if they’d like me to brew up some coffee. I passed an abandoned mine town named Ruby and again marvelled at how the human race was able to map this country, develop it so rapidly and find rich mineral deposits so readily.

Howdy Stranger!
Howdy Stranger!

For hours I could see the telescopes on distant Kitt Peak and it seemed to take all day to drive a distant radius around Baboquivan Peak, a towering granite pinnacle which must have held great significance to the indigenous people. I stopped in tiny but lovely Arivaca, once a U.S Cavalry camp, now home to the tiny Casino Rurál and the lovely Cantina Gitana. I drove on through the Altar Valley and the massive Tohono O’Odham Indian Reserve.

What the? How'd a fishing boat end up in the middle of the desert?
What the?
How’d a fishing boat end up in the middle of the desert?

This is all in the northern portion of the Sonora Desert. Once at the end of the twelve-mile drive up Kitt Peak, which rises a mile above the surrounding desert and yet still looks up at 7,738′ Baboquivan, you begin to understand the meaning of vast. You can see forever…well at least half-way to Nevada!

I can only wonder at the original inhabitants and their wonder at the abstract concept we white-faced creatures held of defining and dividing eternity.

Whatever dude!
Whatever dude!

Fortunately it appears that here, the native population truly holds a controlling interest in how the land is husbanded. I am told that only 25% of Arizona is held as deeded land. Much of the remaining area is Indian Reserve and State or National Park.

Miles and miles of miles and miles
Miles and miles of miles and miles

Sadly the paranoia of The US Homeland Security is at a fever pitch. They are everywhere, easily working their mandate up to a hundred miles north of the Mexican border with trucks, ATVs, horses, helicopters, drones, blimps and random checkpoints. They seem to operate carte blanche with an unlimited budget. At various check-points, many miles inside the border, huge tents cover both lanes of the road.

Ya can't miss it
Ya can’t miss it

The guards, armed just like their Mexican counterparts are friendly and conversational. Hell, it’s lonely out there. I ask them if they ever actually catch any illegal immigrants. Their grinning, guffawing response assures me that indeed they do and that I, “Wouldn’t believe some of the drugs they try to bring in.” They really seem to enjoy their work.

Beautiful downtown Blythe California Really, that's it!
Beautiful downtown Blythe California
Really, that’s it!

The photos taken from Kitt Peak are wholly incapable of portraying the feeling of human smallness beneath the deep blue sky. The huge granite summit is dotted with several massive telescopes. It is a place where man tries to find his way home somewhere among the countless billions of stars all around us.  Arizona is presently in a drought and there was deep concern about the peril of fire on the peak. To my wonder I noticed massive bald cliffs, thousands of feet above the valley floor, that glistened with the wetness of spring water still rising from deep within. It is a sad thing to find a tangibly spiritual place and have to move on. My funds were limited and I had a speaking engagement a few days away.

A lizard's head of rock, look it blinked.
A lizard’s head of rock,
look it blinked. This natural wind-eroded formation is huge from eye to nose is about 20′

I stopped for the night back in the Belly Acres RV Park in Ajo Arizona where there’s a pistol-packing granny doing a splendid job of keep all things organized. As she did on the previous visit, I was warned about wild pigs, or ‘Javelinas, which’ frequent the camp at night and boldly scrounge for scraps. The end of the next day saw me in Earp, California on the banks of the Colorado River which is the border between Parker, Arizona and the final Western state. It is where old Wyatt himself is planted.

Relaxing in the desert ...I guess!
Relaxing in the desert
…I guess!

The next day saw me driving in hours-long straight lines through undulating desert which becomes known as the Mohave. It finally runs up against the Sierra Nevada Mountains where I turned north and paralleled the Western edge of Death Valley. It is stunningly beautiful, even in the dull winter tones of mid-February. This is country photographed by people like Ansel Adams and it is easy to understand how one could take an entire year trying to capture the amazing light playing on a few rocks or stunted trees. The desert here affords great solitude and peace. The quiet is palpable. The views are infinite. Mirages in the distance make perfect sense. Nights under the desert sky must be overwhelming. Mono Lake is the final jewel of the desert before it climbs into the mountains and the world changes its beauty.

Old School
Old School

Sadly there are others who see the desert differently. Areas for off-road recreational vehicles are provided restrictively so that the entire desert is not decimated but it still seems horrible to come upon an area where hundreds of motorcycles, ATVs, dune buggies and other roaring contraptions turn the desert into an apocalypse of noise and dusty mayhem. A ranch I passed has set itself up for this obnoxious activity and provides a huge tavern for the thirsty to come and tank up. Toddlers clad in body armour zip around with everyone else in this mad mindlessness. I can’t condemn something I don’t understand but it seems to me that horses and burros make a lot more sense. When the chips are down, it’s damned tough to eat a jeep.

New School
New School

I visited the quaint old mining town of Randsburg. It is an intact but mined-out frontier town where things seem to be much as abandoned. A handful of folks still live there and eck out a living from the tourists and more swarms of off-road warriors.

Even I had to admire these hogs, and their riders loved the tiny trailer.
Even I had to admire these hogs, and their riders loved the tiny trailer.

This entire desert seems to be pock-marked with abandoned mines, and the odd monstrous mess of open pit copper mines, some still working. The wealth of a few has permanently scarred the countryside. I wonder at all those who worked this dry, hard country spending and giving their lives for another man’s greed. I suppose some things never change.

Once upon a dream
Once upon a dream

Eventually, on the next day at dusk, I fetched up in South Lake Tahoe. Maybe I was exhausted, but this place is one of the most vulgar locations I have found. This beautiful huge mountain lake is rimmed with a throbbing strip mall of crass commercialism and dotted with towering casinos. Everything seemed cheap and tacky. The road westward was snow-lined, steep and winding. The rushing traffic was heavy but I drove on until I was able to park at a fairgrounds in Auburn, a suburb of Sacramento. It was a long day.

Mined out
Mined out

Eager to make my way to Astoria, I drove off the next morning determined to be on the beach in Oregon that night. I did not know that the photos I was taking would soon be lost.

Dry hole
Dry hole

Through the fruit and nut orchards I went, picking and eating oranges, trying to capture some of the abundance with my camera. I followed the Sacramento River northward for miles as the countryside slowly changed. I ruefully recall one photo taken in a popular waterfowl hunting area. An entire store side was painted with the message, “We Pluck Your Ducks.”

All things shall pass
All things shall pass
Who has seen the wind?
Who has seen the wind?

I turned west at Redding, stopping to copiously photograph the beautiful old mining town of Shasta. There was no one around, the light was soft and pure. I took some amazing pictures. They are indelibly printed on the hard-drive in the back of my skull. Westward in the thickening rain I drove the spectacular highway along the Trinity River until finally I found the ocean again at Fields Landing. Home, driving through huge thick timber, horizontal rain and crashing surf. `I wondered about the sunset down in Jalisco as I crawled into my cold, damp sheets in Bandon, Oregon. My little trailer rocked in the buffeting wind. Home! Yeah right.

In the distance you could see the sheriff coming for miles. he never understood why no-one was home when he arrived with a warrant.
In the distance you could see the sheriff coming for miles. he never understood why no-one was home when he arrived with a warrant.

Homeward Slowly and Reluctantly From Tuxpan

Homeward behind a load of sugar cane
Homeward behind a load of sugar cane

Tuxpan was a hell-hole to my gringo eyes. (Pronounced Toose-pan) As mentioned in my last blog I corrected the error of my ways and got the hell out of there before total darkness fell.

I was not welcome there and could feel it in the air. Like roadside markers out on the highway, there were crosses on the streets and I knew these souls had departed their bodies for reasons other than any driving error. I had bought an eighteen inch machete with a saw-toothed back for collecting firewood but it didn’t leave me feeling more than defenceless. Occasionally you hear yet another bandito horror story but apart from my own blundering I actually feel safer in Mexico than at home. I’ve explained to a few other gringos that the big difference between here and Mexico is that our police keep most of their weapons hidden in the trunk of their vehicle.

Another cross coming soon. A coke truck bites the dust. See! Coke really is bad for you!
Another cross coming soon. A Coca-Cola truck bites the dust. See! Coke really is bad for you!

I stayed in the back of another Pemex station that night, not at all an exotic place but I felt safe enough and sleep well. In the morning the same attendants were on duty, now sustaining themselves against the chill of dawn by drinking tequila-braced coffee from Styrofoam cups.

A siter Nissan truck...Mexican style
A sister Nissan truck…Mexican style

I declined their generosity.  I drove northward stopping regularly to take photographs. The Policia Federales stopped to enquire what I was photographing and then drove off to accost a madly-careening eighteen-wheeler, all the while I’m sure, puzzling about yet another mad gringo with a camera. Being desperately broke and worried about police wanting mordida, my truck breaking down, exorbitant toll fees and whatever else that might go wrong, I made my way north on the libres, or toll-free highways. The tolls, or cuotas, equalled the price of two tanks of gas on the way down and yes things were looking that desperate. I ate once a day at the less-grotty roadside cuchinas where truckers stopped. The food is freshly prepared over wood fires,  is delicious and generally cheaper than cooking for yourself. I have not had one bad meal in Mexico anywhere. I did not ever drink tap water but nor did I take any special preventions against eating the local fare.

Restaurant kitchen
Restaurant kitchen
Restaurant kitchen chimney
Restaurant kitchen chimney

After again passing through El Rosario, (Which I learned in amazement was founded in 1655,) the libres led me into Culicán. As usual in these places, it seemed to be rush-hour. Hot, dusty, thirsty, needing to pee, low on gas, I tried to stay alive in the traffic while desperately looking for a sign that would lead me out of mayhem. Eventually, I ended up in Navolato, about twenty kilometres on, and although I had actually passed under the freeway, I could find no way onto it or the adjoining libre. After ending up in a cornfield I began to drive back the way I thought I had come feeling very lost and frustrated.

A family moment in the restaurant
A family moment in the restaurant

Spotting two municipal traffic cops, I careened in front of their car, and slammed to a stop. They emerged with pistols half-drawn as I frantically tried to smile while saying “Hola amigos, hola senors. Jo gringo esta mucho perditio. Dondé esta la camina a Nogales? Esta nada signas!” They tried to explain the escape route and then decided to escort me onto the highway. With red and blue lights flashing the led me on a convoluted trail through the bustling streets as more and more cars swerved into the increasing gap between us.

Finally I found myself grovelling in gratitude as they explained that this was the highway to Nogales. They made it clear to me that this stupid gringo was to stay on this road until safely out of their country. At the moment I took it as good advice. As they were leaving, but still in plain sight of them, a giggling little man jumped head and shoulder into the driver’s window and began trying to peddle a huge bag of cocaine in front of my face. Terrified that the police had set me up for a bust I began cursing loudly and honking my horn as I drove off with this rascal still trying to close a deal. All I can recall is that he was finally gone and I don’t give a damn what happened to him.

So….yet another  couple of don’ts:

Don’t drive the streets of larger urban areas with your windows open. Keep them up with the doors locked; that is what air-conditioning is for.

Don’t drive alone in Mexico. I’ll never do it again. Driving is a full time job, especially in Mexico with all its mad motorists hurtling in and from all directions. There are other characters to watch out for as well as the full-time job of watching for topés. As well as those big speed bumps there are vibradores which are multiple smaller speed bumps in rows. The name is perfect. There are also mucho baches, or many potholes. The military will set up roadblocks at random and they use heavy ship hawsers zig-zagged across the road. I guarantee you’ll stop for these. Especially with the kids in pickup trucks on the side of the road. They have .50 calibre swivel-mounted machine guns. At one check point I watched desperately as a young fellow in full battle dress cleaned his weapon. It was clearly loaded, a bandolier snaked down into the truck bed. As he polished his little cannon the muzzle swivelled wildly but all the while pointed at me.  Yeah right! It’s funny now!

As an interesting footnote, a few days later, Joaquin Guzman was arrested in Mazatlan, one hundred twenty miles to the south. The “Most wanted drug lord in the world”, “El Chapo” is regarded by many as a sort of Robin Hood character, known for amazing generosity to locals. In Culicán, hundreds have taken to the streets demanding his release. Their parochial loyalty will remain rock-solid even to whomever takes his mantle. I rather expect an escalation in violence as the next in line to head the cartel is decided.

Why panic now? Another day in a Guaymas shipyard.
Why panic now?
Another day in a Guaymas shipyard.

After yet another Pemex evening I arrived next morning in Guaymas, a destination of my dreams. I’ve heard so many sailors tell what an incredible place this is. After thumpy-bumping my way past a waterfront industrial area, complete with a decaying, but still-functioning shipyard I arrived at a crumbling water front and single dock.

Beautiful downtown Gyuamas... Come on in!
Beautiful downtown Gyuamas…
Come on in!

Immediately there was someone lurking in my peripheral vision who wouldn’t face me, nor leave. After my recent adventures I was beginning to feel a bit paranoid and suddenly felt an uncanny ache to be back in Amurica. I’ll

Where even pagans (like me) are awestruck
Where even pagans (like me) are awestruck

admit, in retrospect, I was merely becoming worn-down but at the time I felt more than a little endangered, much like a brave old moose being worn down by a pack of wolves.

In the barrios
In the barrios
The pigeon catcher
The pigeon catcher

Downtown Guaymas is a beautiful old town and I photographed another amazing old cathedral. Broke as I was, I bought a small finch-like bird for thirty pesos from a vendor, who was puzzled that I didn’t want a cage.  He seemed completely amazed when I released it. It probably flew home for him to sell again.

A detail from old Guaymas
A detail from old Guaymas

It made me feel immensely better. Once again, there was a lack of road signs but eventually I found my way to San Carlos, an icon of security for all yachters in the Sea Of Cortes. I found one ‘Marina Sec’ or dry-storage yard and can agree that it is a fine place to leave a boat hauled-out for an extended period. However let me warn you that the hot, hot summer and the intense ultra-violet sunlight is harder on a boat than our Pacific Northwest winters. Also, think twice about those cheap boats abandoned in Mexico. Remember that something for sale at a bargain price has not had any money put into it for a while. Apart from the tricky paper work if you want to bring the vessel home, and despite the yacht broker’s cavalier claims, you get what you pay for.  What really offended me about San Carlos was that it seems to no longer be Mexico. It is a clutter of gringo holiday houses, hotels, high-end marinas, convenience stores, and hurtling, self-righteous blue-hairs in various recreational conveyances. You may as well be back in Los Angeles or San Diego. Why the hell do we always impose upon ourselves, and everyone else, what we came to escape? Enough said.

The jewel of Guaymas A tribute to the fishermen of the Sea Of Cortez
The jewel of Guaymas
A tribute to the fishermen of the Sea Of Cortez

I sat on a concrete wall after scrounging a meal from the soggy dregs in my ice box. I watched the ice melt and then dry up under the sun and felt very much the same. A few days earlier I had put the finishing touch on a forty-year old ankle injury. With that throbbing pain and my sense of defeat about my stupid misadventures, I too simply wanted to vaporize.  Sadly I headed for the border hoping I had enough gas and pesos to make it to the crossing in Nogales.

By comparison... Gringoland in San Carlos
By comparison…
Gringoland in San Carlos

Invariably, when the chips are down, scavengers show up to try pecking out your eyes and strip your bones. I became overwhelmed with a sense of being extorted. The closer to

A field of broken dreams One marina sec in San Carlos
A field of broken dreams
One ‘Marina sec’ in San Carlos
The anchorage in San Carlos, a last piece of the way it was, shiny gringo casas sprawl over the hill above
The anchorage in San Carlos, a last piece of the way it was, shiny gringo casas sprawl over the hill above

the border, the more our poisonous capitalist influence becomes apparent. The toll gates, or ‘Plaza De Cobra’ also known as ‘Pavilion Cuote’ become closer together. Each time you stop you are besieged by vendors

The ubiquitous desert island. my last view of the Sea Of Cortez... for now!
The ubiquitous desert island. my last view of the Sea Of Cortez…
for now!

and kids leaping onto your vehicle to wash your windshield, clean as it may be from the last round of cleaning. I began shouting “NO!”, very loudly, and only after yelling repeatedly “No esta No!” only then did the assaults end; albeit with some very colourful Mexican curses of a vivid sexual connotation. They are especially poignant coming form the mouths of children.

For what the tolls pay! An overpass to nowhere
For what the tolls pay! An overpass to nowhere

Finally, I passed the Mexican aduanas where my jaunt had began so ingloriously. I returned my vehicle-duty decal and then exchanged my few remaining pesos for Americanos. I was crossing the border with US$31 to my name and a quarter tank of gas. Sheet! The crawl northward to Nogales, Arizona takes you past Nogales, Mexico. It is a sprawling barrio that runs up and over the distant hills. Barefoot children play among the garbage, wrecked cars and skinny, limping dogs.

A moment of decision. Someone couldn't make up their mind
A moment of decision.
Someone couldn’t make up their mind

It is a scene from hell. All these desperate people crowd against the American’s high metal border fence that extends over the hills out of sight in either direction. There is nothing more desperate than seeing thousands living with faint hope within such hopelessness. Helicopters clatter overhead and the tension in the air is palpable. There is yet another Mexican toll gate a short distance from the US border crossing, which is a blatant effrontery.

Finally you heave into sight of the Homeland Security gauntlet ahead. Still the vendors persist a few car-lengths from the gates selling everything imaginable. One woman tried selling me a beautiful puppy. When I explained that this dog-lover couldn’t take him because the pup hadn’t had his shots and papers she exclaimed, “Oh no senor, he is not for to be shooting!” I tried to explain but I’m sure she knew exactly what I said. He would have been put into quarantine within minutes but I’ll bet some gullible family rescued him. I can only imagine the wails of grief as he was hauled away.

Sniff, sniff, question, question, peek and snoop, the multiple interrogations were finally over and I was no longer in Mexico. There is a very definite line, like stepping from one planet to another, as you drive into Nogales, Arizona.  Machine gun Spanish is still being spoken, but it clearly NORTH America.   I slept peacefully in the Walmart parking lot, secure in the knowledge that I was now where there is at least one handgun in every purse or pocket.

By morning, I was missing Mexico badly. I could not understand why other cars were following me on the road instead of passing on a double line or a curve. Isn’t it strange? Behaviour which, would have incensed me a few weeks earlier, was now normal in my mind. How quickly we become a product of our environment!  I know the one I prefer. As I sit here, now back at home watching a foot of snow slowly melt before a chill West wind, I’m already preparing to go back to Mexico. I haven’t felt warm for over a week. I’ve left a huge piece of my heart there.

The Policia Federales stopped to see what I could possibly find to photograph!
The Policia Federales stopped to see what I could possibly find to photograph!
Morning dew
Morning dew
Welcome to the swamp!
Welcome to the swamp!
Rio Bonito
Rio Bonito
At an abandoned roadside cantina. Can you hear the rusted tin siding squeaking in the wind?
At an abandoned roadside cantina.
Can you hear the rusted tin siding squeaking in the wind?
Road flower
Road flower
'Bent Hitch' A Mexican souvenir and a great name for a rock band
‘Bent Hitch’
A Mexican souvenir and a great name for a rock band
One morning in an avocado orchard
One morning in an avocado orchard
Prima Vera blooms They're everywhere I like to call them the yellow rose of Mexico
Prima Vera blooms
They’re everywhere
I like to call them the yellow rose of Mexico

The Lost Wallet And The Parrot Hunter

The Lost Wallet and The Parrot Hunter

Hotel Erotico La Manzanilla
Hotel Erotico
La Manzanilla

Reluctantly, I’ve begun the trek homeward. I love this place, the native Mexicans and the gringos who are either permanent or regular seasonal come-backs. I could stay here forever and anyone who really missed me could come see me here. But that’s not the way I’m wired and after some misadventures here I have been rescued by my wife Jill, who still loves me for some reason beyond my comprehension. She’s at home in the cold and snow, wind and rain, with a head-cold, performing financial miracles to get me back there. 

Despite first appearances, Mexican dentistry is excellent and cheap
Despite first appearances,
Mexican dentistry is excellent and cheap

Some fellow campers, my forensic research indicates, stole my wallet. I won’t go into the back-tracking, the sleepless night, the quadruple ripping apart of truck and trailer, the long day following and the frustrated hopelessness that overwhelmed me. I posted a noticed on the La Manzanilla online message board, as locally advised, and wonder of wonders, I received a phone call. At a wonderful little bar called ‘The Club.’ A Mexican had turned in my credit cards, driver’s license and so forth. I was out about $250 and the wallet, but I have the good stuff back and a relatively cheap lesson learned. Of course it turned up four hours after I phoned and cancelled the credit and debit cards but all’s well that ends. Special thanks to Bobby, who runs the bar, and Jude, who phoned me. The story was that a local fellow came in with the goods saying they’d been found by a friend. I don’t care about his story, I’m impressed about the honour of the local thieves. Enough said. I can only blame myself for being lazy. I knew better.

Claudio, the hammock-maker and an Indian beadwork artist
Claudio, the hammock-maker and an Indian beadwork artist

Don’t put all your huevos in one basket!” Fortunately I did have my passport and visa hidden away. So yet another don’t for Mexico, and maybe for home. Don’t carry your wallet with cash, credit cards and other important stuff together. Hide your wallet in one place, your cash in another and your cards somewhere else. Carry only enough cash for the moment. That may also help prevent impulse spending.

Gringo cuchina
Gringo cuchina
Mexican cuchina
Mexican cuchina

On the day of the wallet incident (Hier perdito mi cartera)  I drove out to the beach at Tenacatita. It’s a controversial place, overwhelmed by some Mexican tycoons who evicted the hereditary landowners and have hired guards who patrol the place but it is beautiful there and well worth the visit. Unfortunately while kayaking I burst the plexi-glass window out of the bottom of my little boat and had to swim it back to the beach through the surf and swells for about a kilometre. It was a good workout. The snorkeling was fantastic, I’ve shot some good movies of very colourful fish which I will try to post.

In the back of the Cocodrillieo .........WHY?
In the back of the Cocodrillieo
………WHY?
No swimming huh?
No swimming huh?

This past weekend was ‘Rodeo’ in La Manzanilla. The town goes crazy with the dusty streets given over to all sort of madness. Intermittently throughout the days and nights a Mexican jazz band was the fulcrum of artistic delight. It is a blatant combination of amateur Mariachi sounds with a strange twist of what I can only describe as Klesmer music, all over scored with the incessant bop-boop-boop of a tuba. Massively amplified they blew out dental fillings for miles around. Whatever might be lacking in quality is certainly supplemented with enthusiasm. Volume is everything. I repeat that there is nothing tougher than a Mexican boom box.

Patience my arse! Let's eat a gringo.
Patience my arse!
Let’s eat a gringo.
The Lost Beach
The Lost Beach
Some rest for the wicked
Some rest for the wicked
Teamwork and sustainability
Teamwork and sustainability
From the old school
From the old school
Home is where the heart is
Home is where the heart is

Tonight I am sitting alone under the light of brilliant stars and a waxing half-moon. I saw an incredible shooting star. I am all alone. There is no-one else here except in a cemetery a little way off. I sit facing west on a rise between the booming surf of the open Pacific and a lagoon on my right. Strange cries and bestial calls emerge from the lagoon, or perhaps the cemetery. It is utterly magic. I face an un-named cape after driving here on a dusty road that wound from a tiny village through beautiful farm fields. A sign warns that the beach is dangerous for swimming and I have no intention of skinny-dipping in the lagoon. While turning around I sank the truck and trailer in loose sand which was deceptively matted in thick, prickly vegetation. Thanks to the gods, I have a shovel, jack-all and loads of rope with me. I dug everything out but still could not budge the truck. It was hellishly hot and getting dark. A friendly fellow with a jeep towed the truck back onto solid road and refused any tokens of appreciation. In Mexican, he explained, you cannot take money from friends. And so my love of this place grows. Mucho gusto!

The long road home
The long road home
The well in the filed
The well in the field

I’m now sitting and working at my little table in a parking area behind a Pemex station a little north of the junction for Tuxpan. The dreadful mess that is Puerto Vallarta is behind me to the south. Joni Mitchell must have been thinking of Puerto Vallarta when she wrote” They’ve paved paradise and put up a parking lot.” The best word I can use is obscene. It is truly an ultimate piece of pornographic greedy, mindless shame that goes on for miles, right past Nuevo Vallarta. Hell’s teeth!

Tenacatita
Tenacatita
Adios Simba, my loyal amigo
Adios Simba, my loyal amigo

Speaking of which, after I left my idyllic beach camp I pulled into a small roadside cantina to photograph a beautiful old clay oven. A smiling woman came wiggling out. Her grin nearly cracking her heavy makeup. She introduced herself as Lucy and welcomed me with an offer of beer for twenty pesos. When I explained that it was awfully early in the day, she announced that she also “Sold sex”. All the while a young girl was twirling round a wooden post on the veranda, dancing to unheard music like a stripper on a brass pole. Lucy went on to explain that I shouldn’t worry, nothing would get stolen while I was being entertained. I drove off mumbling about having had my wallet stolen already. Mucho gracias!

The oven...
The oven…
...and the brothel
…and the brothel

The drive to Puerto Vallarta climbs over a pass so high that the jungle becomes a predominantly pine forest. The warm air carries a lovely scent and I stopped to take some photos in this incongruous setting. Out of the bushes leapt a young man man with a broad toothless grin. He soon explained he was hunting parrots with his sling shot and had a wonderful repertoire of calls. There are so many new things here that he may have been entirely honest but a pine parrot…. hmmm!

YES!
YES!
The Parrot Hunter
The Parrot Hunter
Pine Jungle
Pine Jungle

Tonight, near sundown, I drove into Tuxpan looking for a road to Santa Cruz, the one north of San Blas that is, not the one south. I didn’t find the turn and had to get the hell out of town before dark. The filthy narrow cobbled streets were lined with surly looking groups of young men. Even the dogs looked mean. For once, my little trailer didn’t elicit any positive responses. I locked my doors and behind closed windows avoided any eye contact as I tacked and gybed my way through this horrible setting. So far, this has to be one of the sorriest places I’ve seen anywhere. I have been told there are much worse places in Mexico. I felt like apologizing for being a gringo. Once clear of the barrios of this place I noticed people wandering about en mass on a broad paved road with no cars present. Once I saw some runway markers I understood. Not many towns can boast an airport that is used as their Malecon.   But then, most runways sit level, clear and unused for ninety-nine percent of the time. I can imagine the fun of buzzing the runway to clear before landing. Just when you think you’ve seen it all! 

Northward ho through the sugar cane fields ...reluctantly
Northward ho through the sugar cane fields
…reluctantly

It’s All A Blur

From the where the blogs come
From the where the blogs come
Itchibumbumpa God of Crocs
Itchibumbumpa
God of Crocs

It’s all a blur. At first I was intent on recording all I’ve seen and done on this trip but soon realized that I was beginning to produce yet another “Binderdundat. 

In the pink
In the pink

Another weary travelogue of then I saw, then I did, then I ate. I tipped that little train off its track. I set out to loose some weight, clean my attic, get away from a dreary existence at home through yet another wet winter and make some decisions about how I’m going to live out the remains of my life. The intent of writing about Mexico is to try and share the feeling of the place.

Gotcha!
Gotcha!
When I grow up!
When I grow up!

Now that I believe I have found the real Mexico, which I deeply love and feel at home in, I have to decide if I want to enjoy it aboard my boat or if I should focus on a traveller’s life ashore. There are advantages to each and it will not be a light decision. How I will support myself is another challenge. You don’t need much, but you need

Next please!
Next please!

something.  However those are decisions for the future and all I have is the moment. What a glorious one it is.

Over coffee this morning an idea arose about a thermometer for we gringos in the sun. It would work much like the thermometers used to tell one when the turkey is cooked. This gadget would tell you when you’ve had enough sun and are starting to burn. You could insert it in a few places as per your imagination. I’ve also considered solar-powered roadside crosses. They would have flashing led lights and perhaps play a short Mariachi tune on occasion. The Mexicans, I’m sure, would love them and I’d make my living here.

The dream is alive
The dream is alive
On the hook in Melaque
On the hook in Melaque

I am staying in La Manzanilla, one of three closely-located communities. The others are Melague and Barra De Navidad. Back at the US Border, the Mexican guards had not heard of these places. That, I took as a good sign. I was right. About a four and one half hour drive south of Puerto Vallarta, three days from the border, this area is also accessible by air with flights to Melaque and Manzanillo, a little further to the south. Most gringos come here for at least two months in the winter. Accommodations of any class are cheap, as are groceries and restaurant meals. I have not had a bad meal yet, in fact the fare is excellent. It is healthy food, tasty and affordable. The locals are very hospitable and I have been warmly welcomed every where. Al I have to do is use my smile and display a contrition about my pathetic Spanish skills, as well as an intent to learn another bit of vocabulary. There IS contempt about the many Quebecois who come here. They are noted for being rude, insular and demanding. Despite my aversion to categorizing anyone, I’m afraid and embarrassed to have to agree that their nasty reputation is often well-deserved. I have lived and worked in Quebec. I love it there and I am frustrated to be caught in the middle on this issue.

Cuchina window
Cuchina window

Driving here is a full-time job. There are scorpions and stingrays to step on. Those are the dangers. The Mexicans are friendly, warm, industrious, honest and possess a love of life that we northern folk desperately need to learn. The climate here is sub-tropical, it is lushly green and full of life. Amazing insects and lizards from tiny geckos to huge iguanas and crocodiles abound. The birds are fantastic and the fish stocks are amazing. The ocean is bath tub warm and the snorkeling is fantastic.

Coastecomates Main Street Rush hour
Coastecomates
Main Street
Rush hour

My computer crashed and the local computer store has bent over sideways to get me going. They took the laptop apart, disconnected the keyboard and gave me a Spanish keyboard to plug in and use while a new one arrives. (You’ll notice some weird punctuation in my blogs.* They are thanking me for my patience. The total charge will be about twenty-five dollars. A complete oil and filter change for the truck was ten dollars. Meals average under 100 pesos, about 10 dollars with tip.

It is, however,  all going to hell fast here. All this beauty and graciousness may soon fade.The big money is here, the infrastructure is slowly making its cancerous way south from Puerto Vallarta. The villas and golf courses encroach on the villages and quiet bays. A few years from now this paradise may well be paved over. The moment is the thing.

Last weekend was a Constitution Day, yet another opportunity for holidays and boisterous parties. There was a massive rock concert at the far end of the beach, about five miles away. It sounded like it was next door. Let’s just say there is nothing much tougher than a Mexican boom box. They love music and it must be LOUD! This weekend is La Manzanilla Days or “La Rodeo”. It began yesterday, Wednesday. Last night the stage competitions of folk dancing and break-dancing went on into the night. Cowboys on beautiful, high-spirited horses filled the cobbled streets with children, mothers and families as well as masses of bemused gringos. It was absolutely beautiful chaos. Tonight a Mariachi jazz band is overwhelming the town square. A mile away, I can clearly hear it as I write. It is lovely. A Mexican lady here in this campsite rendered bushels of green tomatoes into salsa over a wood fire. She has finished now and relaxes with some sewing after a fourteen hour day.

Copra smoke from the salsa cuchina
Copra smoke from the salsa cuchina

Last night a small Mariachi band serenaded outside the home of a local prominent family. It is the same place where a week earlier, I was invited in from the street to a birthday party where local musicians played and sang traditional local music. A group of women danced in the cleared-out garage. I was coerced into joining them. If anyone knows me they will be amazed that this leaping ox, with all his injuries, enjoyed himself immensely. I now have friends here.

Run through the jumgle
Run through the jungle

A block away from there, the mangrove swamp reaches down to the sea.  A casually fenced-in portion, complete with suspension bridges and an egg hatchery, contains several huge crocodiles. Apparently, until a couple of years ago, there was no fence.  It is yet removed during the summer rainy season to again allow these beasts complete access to the sea and the beaches. A sign does suggest that there should be no swimming, fishing or pets. I’ve found no coughed-up flip flops or flowered shirts….so far.

 Next to the crocodile swamp

Next to the crocodile swamp

Fortunately the local fisherman’s co-op provides an ample supply of fresh fish carcases.

The local fleet of pangas provides a steady supply of fresh sailfish, dorados, snapper, parrot fish, mahi mahi, albacore,  mullet, octopus, lobster and shrimp. I want to do a trip with them, but the co-op says no.  I need to improve my Spanish. There is a lovely language school here.

Galapagos Next stop!
Galapagos Next stop!

In a few days, I must begin making my way back toward my existence as a northern gringo.

Great snorkeling among the rocks
Great snorkeling
among the rocks

There are deadlines and commitments, bills to pay and decisions to make. I have to pay for this trip and prepare for the next one. I’ll embrace each moment there but I’ll leave my heart here. I’ll be back as soon as possible to this town on the edge of the sea, 19º north latitude. That is 30º of southing, about 1800 nautical miles closer to the equator than where old “Seafire” sleeps tonight, waiting for me. The same ocean beneath her keel is lapping here on the beach, one hundred feet away. I feel the connection. It is strong.

A distant anchorage near La Manzanilla
A distant anchorage near La Manzanilla