It seems a long time ago now that there was a promise of “A great big beautiful wall” to be built along the Mexican border. I recall jovially remarking at the time that eventually there might be another wall along the Canadian / US border. I had no idea about the Covid walls that were to come. I despair about how long it will be before I can legally cross that line and head for the back roads of the desert again.
I’ve recently learned how, during WWII with desperate labour shortages, the US turned to Mexico for help. It went so far as military assistance where the US recruited, trained and equipped a fighter squadron known as the “Aztec Eagles” which provided a significant contribution in the South Pacific. I’ve no idea of what else went on. I am sure there are plenty of missed pages in the history books regardless of who wrote them. One has to keep their mind open; always. I wonder if some of the discord about illegal immigrants crossing the border from Mexico began with those desperate times. “A friend in need is a friend indeed” and what happens when that need is perceived to be reduced? The solid “Old Wealth” of many nations was built on the backs of its enslaved people until a newer, more insidious system was developed to enslave us all. So few of us can see that and choose to believe the fantasies and myths we are fed to distract us from certain harsh realities. Recent global protest about racial inequity (Already dying down) has me asking more questions than ever.
My curiosity about the ‘Black Lives Matter’ campaign has eventually had me stumble over the name Paul Robeson. A Black American who had no problem calling himself a “Negro,” he was an athlete, a singer and actor who championed the causes of the working man and also the civil rights movement in the US back in earlier days. He was politically aware, courageous and active in the 1930’s through the 60’s. A globally famous and loved entertainer he was yet another whom the McCarthy inquisitions worked hard to crush. A hero of British coal miners, he seems almost completely forgotten here in North America. Here’s a link to an award ceremony involving two other famous personalities and political activists, Sidney Poitier and Harry Belafonte. Robeson is mentioned there as an inspiration to them. There is plenty of information online about this great man if you care to look. Here’s one link.
I am embarrassed to realize my ignorance about many things which you only discover when you are in quest of more knowledge. How could I have not known that for so long? I can certainly say that the more I try to learn about Black civil liberties and oppression, the more confused I become. You cannot demand both equal rights and special consideration without creating more division. Eventually you become your own worst enemy. I continue to declare that the mantra has to be “All Lives Matter” before true equality can ever begin to occur. I know that no matter what anyone says on this matter, someone else will be offended. It seems that’s what it takes to inspire folks to open their minds and look outside their personal comfort zone. I don’t so much want people to agree with me but rather to just ask their own questions.
Meanwhile this bogtrotter still prefers to be isolated out at sea or somewhere in the back country and off I’ll go again as soon I can. With the cool, damp weather we’ve had so far this summer, our forests are still open to wander. A few days of higher temperatures and drying winds will change that. Then the skies will fill with smoke. It is a “Go now” time. Summer is far from over and as we’ve learned so well this dreary year, you must grab the moments you have.
A joy of getting older is accepting that nothing lasts forever; neither good nor bad. This pandemic will one day fade into history until something new rears its ugly head. We’d nearly forgotten the Spanish Influenza. All things considered, in comparison, we’re getting off easy this time. Approximately twenty-five million died then and that was without the aid of air travel. We’ve forgotten all the other deadly viruses we’ve endured since. Today one viral carrier can go anywhere in the world within twenty-four hours. More folks than ever take vacation cruises despite all the illness that has been spawned aboard those monster incubators. I am guessing that there are now more cruise ships on the planet than there used to be ocean liners. Perhaps we’ll get up to Covid 49 when the planet’s population is killing itself off with something like toxic flatulence, which might be a viral mutation spawned by all the plastic and genetically modified food we’ve ingested. Imagine those face masks and the bottom filters we’ll scurry to invent. Whoo! Then we’ll look back to the good old days. All they had to worry about was Covid 19.
All things pass. I’ve recently lamented about how dry our spring has been. As I write the rain hammers on the skylight above me. The gas fireplace is guttering away in an effort to displace the damp. Jack is wisely in his bed, in a deep state of dog zen, a skill I’m working to acquire. I’m getting there!
Mexico, which entered the early pandemic days with very low infection numbers is now raging with the virus, and of course, having to fend for itself. You can’t expect assistance from countries which can’t help themselves. Mexico already has huge social issues. With an insidious national presence of violent gangs, masses of corrupt bureaucrats and politicians, some days it seems to be all part of the same self-devouring monster. Journalists and sincere elected officials are regularly executed by one group or another and the poor masses of the country endure medieval miseries. But pandemics are great equalizers, respecting neither wealth or power, good or evil. Perhaps there are fairer days ahead.
I love that country, especially its rural areas and people. I look forward to being able to return there. Yes, it has plenty of violent crime but if you drive there through the US, where there is at least, on average, one hand gun in everyone’s sweatpants, purse or vehicle, you’ve beaten the odds. Just keep your one mouth shut and both your eyes and ears open. That’s a basic rule of survival anywhere and perhaps something our politicians should work out. Please, no more medical suggestions, if even in jest, about ingesting disinfectants.
The media does not give much press to Mexico, or Central and South America, Eastern Europe, Africa, the smaller countries of Asia; we hear little of smaller Asian nations and nothing of backwater China. There may be little news other than the pandemic and frankly who cares about them when we’re struggling to look after ourselves. Sadly, folks who need assistance most urgently, even in our society, are the last to get it. Life is never fair.
Everyone is tense enough without deliberate provocation. Store clerks are testy, others surly and insular. I get it and have to work at not being reactive. Near closing time in a local grocery store I was challenged by a cashier. “How’d you get in here?” I responded in kind and our interaction spiralled rapidly. I’ve since tried to imagine her workday and feel badly. I broke one of my trusty “Four Agreements,” the one about not taking things personally. And so we learn, over and over.
Some folks have become maniacal about hand washing. I have always been suspect of public washrooms and would rather not wash my hands if it involves touching soap dispensers, taps, or drying devices. Who’s messed with that? I go so far as to handle toilet seats, doors and handles by using my sleeve as protection. The other day I was admonished. “ Hey, ya dint wash yer hands!” I replied, “Where I come from, our mothers taught us not to pee on our fingers.”
“Wha dar muddle wi me?”
Don’t look down on anybody …unless you’re helping them up.
I am an autodidact. The trouble is that I never payed attention in class. I did well enough in school and even graduated with a scholarship a year ahead of the rest of the class. Then my real education began and don’t, for a moment, confuse schooling with education. Some of the stupidest people I have known possess box loads of degrees and certificates. I attended the old school and the university of hard knocks. Some folks ask me from time to time where I went to university. I simply say that I graduated from Perdue, which really was the name of my high school. There’s no point in explaining further.
The problem is, that at my age, the clever self-taught one who thinks he is some sort of writer, has new-to-me words appear and I wonder why I’m only learning them now, words like autodidact which is the name for someone who is self-taught.
And if I am so damned clever why am I standing on an empty dock with my prized ‘Seafire’ moored somewhere else, now documented with someone else’s name? I should be softly singing “Free at last,” but I am now living in a big emptiness. It is, however, only temporary.
I have a plan. In the weeks leading up to this wistful day, I’ve been scouring on-line sites which advertise RVs and others which advertise trucks. Eventually, I want to own a displacement-hull powerboat, big enough to live in and seaworthy enough to voyage at least as far as Mexico. The right boat will be tough to find. First I need more funds. For the moment I will satisfy myself with land-based expeditions.
I do want to satiate my strong land travel-lust. I have considered every option. There was a time when crawling under a tarp stretched across an overturned canoe was perfect, even romantic, but now my knees are too shot for kneeling in a canoe. I am well past even the tenting concept. I have tried the camper van notion and am not inclined to repeat that. I’ve considered truck-mounted campers but don’t like that idea for a few good reasons. Motor homes are not my cup of tea. So I have settled on the trailer concept. For me a trailer that can leave the pavement and also be dropped while roaming about with the towing vehicle only.
I first owned a home-made teardrop trailer. My early blogs of five years ago described a trip to Mexico with that trailer. I loved it but soon the romance wore off. I almost froze to death in it one night in Nevada. It had only sitting head room; so the simple endeavour of getting dressed while inside was challenging. Getting dressed outside was also interesting. “Mommy, what is that man wearing,” and that before I’d pulled on a shirt! Sticking your bare feet outside into the darkness with a good chance of stepping on scorpions while going to pee did not pique my sense of adventure. The tiny, cute kitchen in the back, under a huge lid, was not so great or exotic when the rain and wind came.
My second trailer, was a beautiful conversion of a 12’ cargo trailer. I loved it. I could stand upright in it and I had a porta-potty for those night time functions. Cooking inside, or sitting to eat and write was next to impossible. There was a lovely retractable awning outside, which is where you spend most of your time as you go further south, but the notion of cooking or writing there in inclement weather soon paled as well. What would be perfect for me was a trailer small and tough enough to survive being towed on primitive roads. I needed separate, comfortable beds for at least two people, indoor cooking and dining facilities, some sort of bathroom facility and adequate storage as well. That will allow total self-sufficiency for 7 to 10 days without going to town. That’s a tough order to fill, especially on my budget. Building exactly what I need is very appealingbut the cost of doing it right would be formidable.
For a towing vehicle I also required an affordable, reliable short-wheel base 4×4 truck with enough power to tow the trailer yet be good on gas, have a canopy to store extra fuel and water, a small generator, a small air compressor, extra tools and also enough room to carry a small boat, outboard motor and a kayak. Most of the time, four-wheel drive is not necessary but when you need it, by gad you really need it. I wanted all of this for less than $20,000. I know! I am a dreamer. Both pre-owned trailers and good used trucks have ridiculous prices. My only hope was to find something online, even if it meant flying and driving across the continent. Importing any vehicle from the US is essentially straight forward, yet there are so many clauses and codicils, that one has to be quite wary. Imagine showing up at the border with a vehicle which may not be imported under any circumstance because the clearance lights are wrong. Vehicles over fifteen years in age are generally permissible but still vulnerable to subjective opinions of individual customs officers about things like the location of clearance lights. Yes, I did read that. And, every import is subject to GST which really chips into tsavings you’d calculated. Then, once over the border into Canada, there are two separate safety inspections to pass before the vehicle can finally be registered in your home province. Geez Louise! I looked anyway. Day after interminable day, all over the continent, for several hours at each sitting. This endeavour furthered my autodidact education and my standing as a masochist.
Simply put, we’ve all heard it before, “If it’s too good to be true, it is.” I think I can safely claim that three quarters of the ads I pursued were scams. Firstly, if something is advertised in an area a great distance from where it is alleged to actually be, raise a warning flag. There was a disconcertingly consistent bullshit story with an almost word for word same script. Repeatedly the story was that a lady officer in the military was about to be re-posted, usually overseas. Old dad had died and this beloved truck, or RV, was a too-sad reminder of him and they just wanted to clean things up before their imminent deployment. The transaction would be done through E-bay and the sale item would then be shipped to me. Photos of the vehicle were extensive and showed something in immaculate condition. I made several inquiries, simply out of bemusement and also the theory that once in a while the ad might actually be legitimate. WRONG! That gambling philosophy is what gets a lot of folks into trouble.
One ad, placed in Craigslist-Kootenays described a near-virgin Rialta motor home which, it turned out, was claimed to be located in Prince Rupert, several hundreds of miles away from the Kootenays. (First Alert) Considering the remoteness of this location, it did seem plausible that the price was less then half of other quotient prices especially with the story I was given. A senior lady from Prince Rupert was in a California hospital with her husband who was waiting on a donor to provide a heart for a transplant. Because she was so far from home, and desperately short of funds, she had arranged for a quick sale through a third party, a shipping company in Prince Rupert. If I met her price the RV, and all paperwork, would be shipped to me. In response I explained that I never buy shoes without first trying them on. I proposed to fly to Prince Rupert, inspect the RV, do a lien check and then pay by bank draft. Clearly, paying a shipping fee out of such a low price did not make sense, nor did the notion that some unnamed shipping company was quarter-backing the deal. I have not heard back from her. In previous years there was an experience with some Nigerian scammers claiming an interest in a sailboat I advertised. That is a whole story in itself.
There must be masses of stupid people out there. Scammers would not be plying their trade so vigorously if they weren’t making money. There was a strange pleasure pretending to be a potential dupe until I finally wearied of kissing all those frogs.
Well I did find both the right trailer and a great towing vehicle, right here on Vancouver Island and within a day of each other. Oddly, the same thing happened when I bought ‘Seafire’. I looked at boats all over the continent, as far away as North Carolina and Toronto. I found her languishing in Blaine, about forty miles away. Go figure eh! Including taxes and insurance I am well within my budget for truck and trailer. Now I just have to get rid of the frog breath. Speaking of which, today is a fine clear, warm and sunny day. While writing this I am in a beautiful, luxurious semi-rural home dog-sitting for some friends. At the bottom of this acreage lies a small swamp. The frogs are singing heartily. Wherever I look, I can see no snow. Is it really spring?
“Money can buy you a fine dog, but only love can make him wag his tail.” Kinky Friedman
In Mexico, in the mornings, their blackbirds can conjure up a symphony of calls that sound like a jungle filled with a hundred different birds. It is splendid. This morning, Jack and I went for a walk at Swallowfield Farm. The wet snow had frozen so the long trampled path was easy enough for me clomping along in my winter boots. Jack trotted along happily on top of the untrampled frozen snow with a great grin on his old phizog. In the distance I could hear the call of red-winged blackbirds. I waited until I actually saw one to confirm it was the real thing and not some starlings mimicking the song. The blackbirds, with their red epaulettes, were real and their trilling song was true. It is a first sign of spring here, despite the harsh winter the northern hemisphere is enduring this year.
I look back on the last month’s mad travels (8,000 km/5000 miles in one month) and see how how I could have done things much differently. I should have stayed home and completed the deal on ‘Seafire’ then ambled south with nothing to rush anywhere for. With the harsh winter, and cool temperatures with snow throughout the Northern Hemisphere, It would certainly have been best to wait a while. Hindsight! Shoulda, woulda, coulda! In another two months the Sonora desert will be starting to bloom profusely. Maybe I can return there in time for that. I do know that I saw many marvellous things and met some incredible people with a perfect timing which almost seems predestined. I know that this old salt has left a big piece of his heart in the desert.
I have previously travelled to Mexico while towing a teardrop trailer. I learned a lot from that jaunt and I now have my experience with the old camper van. It’s not sexy but it did get me home again. I’ve made up my mind that I need a small, sturdy trailer of less than twenty feet which can be used for shelter in inclement weather. I have a blind fantasy of living outside beneath an awning at a small table but the weather dictates how that happens. I’ll pull the trailer with a 4×4 truck that is old enough to be affordable and also repairable by myself. The trailer can be dropped off while I explore especially rugged areas with the truck.That towing vehicle can then hold tools, bicycles, extra fuel, a kayak, an inflatable boat perhaps. The trailer has to be rugged enough to be eased along rough back roads without falling apart. Many new trailers being marketed as “Offroad” could not survive for long off-pavement. Putting knobby tires on a trailer is stupid and does NOT make it into a rugged offroad RV.
I could write about what are my does and don’ts, but those may not be especially helpful to someone else venturing out. There are many different ways to direct the same script. I found that Northern California was very expensive. I am told that the southern part of the state is considerably more ridiculous. The secondary roads in California are in dreadful condition, on a par, or even worse than back roads in Mexico. Diesel fuel, in many places, was moreexpensive than regular gasoline sometimes by a dollar more per tiny US gallon. Gasoline generally was up to a dollar more than in neighbouring states. I soon learned not to buy fuel at the first location in town that one comes to, sometimes thefuel in the middle of town sells for as much as sixty cents per gallon less. Most gas pumps will ask you for your zip code when you stuff your credit card into it. It was frustrating until I was taught that with a Canadian card, you enter the numbers in your postal code followed by two zeros. It always worked like a charm. in my case I found that the road signs in the US in many places were inadequate or downright misleading. My road maps often did not agree with each other and my GPS, at times, seemed utterly confused about which planet it was on.
In any case, do not put yourself in a space where you are regretting what you did not do. Today is all you have, go for it! In the blogs I have written about this trip, I have often alluded to the vastness of the states I crossed. Despite man’s imposition of change everywhere he goes, there arestill massive expanses between the horizons of a majestic, sprawling land. There are many areas where you can view the planet almost as it has always been. Then, when a person looks at a map and sees they have only travelled a tiny scratch of the earth they become very humble. That is a good thing.
Presently I am unloading my beloved ‘Seafire.’ It is a big job which I hate, especially when performed through misty eyes.This vessel is a huge part of who I am. (I have arguments with myself about stuff being part of my identity.) She’s going to good new owners but, for me, it is hard to envision a future without her. I’ve painted myself into a corner financially, this is my way out. I intend to have a trailer and a powerboat in which I will live and travel and write into my dotage.
As I write, I close my eyes and can smell the sea air of Mexico, the pure silent wind in the desert; I can see red rocks and sand, cacti and palms, high-altitude twisted, stunted pines. I have fleeting images of jackrabbits, wild burros and horses and perhaps an illegal immigrant hiding in a thicket of mesquite. I think of people whom I metthere who know only their world and are very content in it. My home is here on Vancouver Island, which folks come from around the world to see, because it is spectacular. I need never leave this island to have a full and wonderful life. But I am one of those who is cursed with a compulsion to see what is around the next corner…and so I go.
This Saturday evening came with bursts of heavy sleet and snow during the drive to Nanaimo to see a movie, ‘Green Book.’ It has many nominations and awards andcertainly deserves them. I suggest that if you see only one film during the entire year, this is the one. I’ll end this blog with one of many great lines from the film.
“The world is full of lonely people afraid to make the first move.”
The peace of morning and a first coffee is shattered with the distinct double crack and earth-shaking clatter of a sonic boom. It is soon followed by another. High overhead jet fighters hone their deadly skills. They are too high to be seen but the eternal thunder of their presence is oppressive. I am on the Southern edge of the Barry Goldwater Air Force Range. The military actually posts schedules and provides passes for folks who want to sit in bleachers and watch as ground assault aircraft practice “Ordinance delivery.” Bizarrely the range is adjacent to the Cabeza Prieta National wildlife sanctuary. Run rabbit, run.
The desert weather has been wet and windy and cold. This is another bleak Sonoran morning. I finally get to know an acquaintance of over thirty-five years and it is grand to find a kindred spirit. The day speeds by. I have been introduced to the amazing area around this small Southern Arizonan community of Ajo. My old van has been repaired and I am very glad I did not attempt the job myself on the side of the road. I will begin meandering northward in the morning. I am grateful for the camaraderie and the rest my stop here has provided. This place is fantastic and I want to return soon. Hostile as the desert may be, it has seduced me.
It is nearing midnight as I start this blog after editing another day’s batch of photos. Outside, nearby, coyotes yip and howl. I will sleep well.
“I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.”
(Note: This blog is finally being posted eight days after beginning my journey southward From Ladysmith. At present I am in an RV Park in Yuma Arizona. I’ll catch up to immediate events as soon as possible)
I’m almost on the road, finally, into the land of Trump, heading for the wall. It has occurred to me how that man could effectively close the gaps in the already half-built fortification, if he simply erected a continuous billboard across the continent, ten feet high with shoulder to shoulder portraits of himself, facing into Mexico. He could be shown waving his hands horizontally as he does, and with a quote saying something like “This will be very effective, very effective, you will pay.” Better than bullets! An endless chain of his porky fizog peering out from beneath that blond mop on his head would certainly repel me. Sorry Republicans, nothing personal, it’s just a repugnance I’ve developed after all the news stories about this character’s latest tweet. (Feel free to slander our own flacid Canadian Prime Minister.) Well, I know that I’m supposed to be a smiling non-partisan guest as I greet each gun-toting American child of God. And so I shall. “Is that a Smith & Wesson in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?”
My experience with the ordinary American citizen is that they are warm, friendly, generous and compassionate. They are trusting and complacent which is why they’ve ended up with the porcine fuhrer they presently have. When questioned about the dangers of driving in Mexico I always explain that I’ve beaten the odds once over the Mexican border. After the drive across the US I feel much safer. It is a beautiful land with lots of great people, too bad there is a cloud of constant anxiety above it.
So here I go. The old van I bought has proven to have the usual plethora of used vehicle woes but I sally forth with some tools and optimism. I’ve even cut a hole in the floor above the electric fuel pump which is mounted inside the fuel tank. If that fails, I would otherwise have to remove the entire tank, which of course will be full with gasoline when the fuel pump dies. This is accomplished by squirming underneath the vehicle, on your back, while laying in the dust of a remote desert area. I’ve been in that situation before. There’s no romance to any of it, even looking back. There is no valid excuse for putting a pump inside a tank without providing an access panel like many foreign vehicles. A friend has loaned me a used fuel pump to carry, just in case. I know that since I have that angle covered, Old Murphy will find something else to to nail me with. Well, enough nattering. Shut up and drive! Find a country music station on the radio and let the miles erase the angst. I’m worried that I have forgotten how to relax and how to play. So here goes!
So what is it that I like about Mexico? I love a journey with constantly changing scenery. I love being warm and dry. I love Mexicans. Despite all the negatives I’ve heard I am far more inclined to trust a Mexican than most gringos. I have not met a lazy Mexican, which is why the US economy is built, in no small part, on the backs of these folks. Their economic system does not allow them to sit around leeching off of others. Work or starve. They possess a dignity that defies our comprehension and also the wonderful ability to live in the moment. If you can feed your children today, bueno! Besides, what can you really do about tomorrow? Mucho Gusto!
Mexican also still embrace the concept of family. Both children and the elderly are treasured and provide elements of security within the basic unit of government in any culture. Drugs. Yep a, nasty business, made even worse by the incessant focus of the media. Nature abhors a vacuum and we all know where the huge market is for that poison. Yep, right here! If you want to stop the drug trade, stop buying the shit! There is plenty of violence and death right here at home, drugs or not. By the way, The Mexico and its people I know is always as far away from the tourist centres as possible. There are many folks who go into Mexico, stay in a resort area and never see nor taste the real country. I prefer the back roads, rural areas and remote pieces of coast. I also do not portray myself as a shiny, wealthy, arrogant Northerner. A smile and a sincere effort at the language also goes a long way. Ándale!
Well finally! January 17th, 10:15 With a mighty boooop of the ship’s horn, we pull away from the ferry dock at Duke Point in Nanaimo. Propitiously, we are exactly on time. The van is two decks below me, stuffed randomly with food, clothing, tools and cameras. I will have to sort it all out later, but the immediate objective is to cross the border. There is an electrical problem, the brand-new battery which runs the house system including lights, fridge, and furnace is flat dead. I need to find out the problem right away so the battery can recharge while driving along. I am dead shattered-weary but I’ll fix it.
There is an exhaustion which is due in part to the stress and duress of preparing the old van, worries about money and the general low health blaahs which I fall into every winter. My arthritis this year has made it difficult to walk at times, to hold a wrench, or even a pen. My handwriting is more terrible than ever. My fingers miss the letters on this keyboard and I understand why as a youngster, I knew old people were often grumpy. Now I get it. I hope that I do not yet exude the old man smell I remember when I’d have to sit near an oldster on some hard oak pew. It was not pleasant. To increase my duress there is a tentative deal cooking on my beloved ‘Seafire’ which is very bittersweet. But I have plans beyond parting with my dear old boat and I assure you, I have not swallowed the hook. There will be another boat, somehow, in my future. I have a dream. Continuing my blog is part of it. Thank you all for your support and your many cheering compliments and creative criticisms.
So the first hurdle is dealing with Homeland Insecurity as I cross the border. They can see the horn which sprouts on my forehead each time I have to deal with them. I need to thumb through my copy of “ Being Contritious With Bureaucrats For Smart-assed Old Farts.” Perhaps I have enough points to earn a free trip to Guantanamo Bay. As it turns out, they did query me about all my camera bags and if I was going to work in the US. For once, I kept my pie-hole shut and simply answered YES/NO as required.
One of the grand things about travelling in the US is that there are fast food outlets everywhere, in fact it is often difficult to find a real restaurant that serves those jelly belly hi gluten and trans-fat meals otherwise know as home cooking. The fast food joints all have wifi so the blogs will continue to be beamed out to you. You’ve been warned!
Ps: Here’s a link to a blog posted by my dear friends Tony and Connie. They’re home taking a brief sabbatical from their ongoing wandering sail around the globe. They’ve been on this trip now for nine years…and it ain’t over yet. Tony posted a blog about the walk we went on in the fog at my now-beloved Swallowfield farm on the same day. https://sageonsail.com/
“Courage is the power to let go of the familiar.” …Raymond Lindquist
Eight AM. It was pitch dark fifteen minutes ago. Now the day is taking on a reluctant grey hue. The sky monkey is tinkering with the switch, give him a banana. The rain monkey doesn’t get a damned thing though and don’t even think about the snow monkey. And now we have a fog ape who’s come to visit. It’s all in the forecast at once. I torture myself daily with a visit to the web cam on the beach in La Manzanilla. I swear at times that I can smell the lime and fried fish aroma from Pedro’s Cantina. It’s January and some days I imagine that our daylight minutes are getting longer. It is not my favourite time of year.
Thus inspired I toil on at turning my small trailer into a grand little home for the road. Mexico or anywhere south seems very far off at the moment from that back-alley work site. I’m braced for an unfriendly encounter with a neighbour. Every time I need to make some noise with a saw or a router I first have to fire up my Honda generator. It has a nerve grating clatter and I feel like the bane of suburbia. Then I plug in my compressor to add to the din. Fortunately for the folks living close around there are only about six hours of useful daylight at the moment so they get the evenings off. As the noisy work comes to completion a couple of neighbours have dropped by to see if I’m OK. Nice folks!
I’ve resolved my technical issues on the boat. “Ships and men rot in port” is a line attributed to Lord Nelson and it’s as good an explanation as any. I find that as soon as a boat is left to sit it begins to rebel by revealing various weaknesses. I discovered that the circuit breaker originally installed for the auto helm has only half the rating called for, a great discovery before heading out on a long trip. Often sailing alone, I use that little black box to steer the boat. It is a much better helmsman than any human and allows me the luxury of tending to other ship’s duties while underway. It does not however, have eyes. Maintaining a constant vigil is always required. Radar is not to be relied on for objects just afloat on the surface. It is amazing how quickly junk in the water, as well as other boats, can materialize if your look-out is interrupted. You too can become junk in the water!
The fuel issue was embarrassingly simple. Once in a while you have to put fuel in the tank! Diesel engines will not run with even a miniscule amount of air in the fuel lines. One tank tends to run down before the other and the level was lower than I had assumed. To assume anything is often dangerous as I’ve once again proven. It is no big deal so long as I keep some fuel in that tank but I need to rebuild the entire fuel supply and filtering system. It has been on my must-do list. The horrific cost of a bank of new filters has held me back but having an unreliable fuel supply can be much more expensive. Procrastination can be yet another deadly sin. It was drummed into my brain early in my flying carer to never, ever, trust a fuel gauge. The port tank gauge was showing a quarter tank when it was actually low enough to let air into the lines. Most of the boats I repair are ones which seldom leave the dock. Now, my boat is one of those!
The shore power matter is resolved now that the breaker for my slip has been turned on. My batteries need to be replaced which I want to leave until just before the boat heads south. Fortunately the inverter/charger is unharmed, a major expense avoided. All’s well that ends and I’m confident that the old prune barge is in a state of full seaworthiness.
All of this is going on in Ladysmith, a picturesque little town with a vaguely English, or perhaps East Coast, feel to it. Built on a steep hillside it has magnificent views to the East, The best views are on the streets which run straight down the grades to the main street. Sensibly, they’re closed on slippery days but on any day it’s easy to get a vehicle airborne without the prudent early use of brakes.
Some communities spend millions to build an Olympic-class ski jump, we have one downtown. I have visions of a blue-haired wide-eyed senior flinging themselves in their little Asian car into footless halls of air and landing grill-first into someone’s roof or at least, front yard shrubbery. Of course that could also be a baggy-panted, hat-on-backwards dufus on a skateboard. I can see the sign ‘Welcome to Ladysmith, home of Head-Smashed-In-Skateboard-Jump’. Just past Him Tortons (I love dyslexic humour) look up, way up.
I know some of my imaginings are sick but it is fun to visualize. So far as I know there have not been any runaway vehicle events and I hope everyone stays safe but some days I think there’s just not enough chlorine in the gene pool. Town workmen had a project half-way down the steepest street so they correctly put up a barricade at the top. This happens to be at an intersection which is a four-way stop. At the bottom of the very steep grade, complete with two level bumps at more intersections, is a lovely traffic circle with a fountain and a huge old ship’s anchor in the middle. It would not make a happy ending for a failed brake story. Twice within a minute I watched vehicles stop then turn to go down the hill despite the very obvious fluorescent obstacles erected immediately at the edge of the street. Each driver lurched to a halt at the barrier and sat pondering what was wrong with the picture. It would have been great fun to set up a video camera. If a motorist cannot plan fifty feet ahead while sitting at a stop sign one can only wonder what their awareness is when hurtling down the highway. And some folks think a life at sea is scary! It is. The dangerous part is the drive to the docks.
Meanwhile I sit here tying up loose ends and dreaming and scheming and waiting for the phone to ring. A job I committed to finishing before Christmas has twice been pushed back for various reasons. While I wait I work on the trailer and the boat and the writing.
On the subject of writing, I am sadly interrupted, at least in spirit, by the grim news of the brutal terrorist attacks in Paris against the staff of Charlie Hebdo. I had not ever heard of this publication but I’m wiser now. Just Google it up and see for yourself. If you’ve read some of my blogs you know I’m not afraid to speak my mind, and that I indulge in stirring the pot to deliberately inspire criticism and dialogue. I certainly cherish the right to freedom of speech and expression but I certainly do not condone violence; it only leads to more. That vicious circle never ends. So, if you discover a hornet’s nest would you escalate the situation by repeatedly mooning it? Chances are, every pun intended, that you and your silly arse will realize a very bitter end.
I am sceptical of any religion yet I cannot condone categorical denigration. There are plenty of nasty Muslim people just as there are copious numbers of evil folks calling themselves Christian. There are also a great many human beings who are compassionate, gentle and peace-loving regardless of their religious persuasion. Charlie Hebdo, under the guise of “Journalistic Satire”, claims to be anti-racist yet it certainly appears to antagonize all religions and politicians blatantly and consistently. It produces vulgar and deliberately offensive images which unsettle even my rough blue collared sensitivities. I cannot get past their incredibly offensive cover pages to want to explore the content. To persistently insult people, and knowingly promote division which exacerbates hatred, bigotry and fear, is not journalism in any sense. It is an incitement to indignation and violence. Ultimately hate literature is as deadly as any bomber or gunman. Wars have begun over less. Surely France has endured plenty enough bloodshed in the past few centuries to not understand cause and effect.
Here, in Canada, we have laws against hate-mongering. Most of us abhor legislation but while freedom of the press is a sacred right, the price of any freedom is responsibility. Unfortunately Charlie Hebdo has consistently written a tragically self-fulfilling prophecy. They have paid a high price for their indulgence in irresponsible liberty and the business of creasting enemies. Their next publication will appear again next week. There is apparently a healthy market for more of the pathetic innuendo they produce. Sales figures will now leap. How thoughtless and selfish we humans are! Meanwhile all our information is via the global media machine which I hope no-one is naive enough to swallow whole. And with all that intense media focus and speculation, guess how many other nutters are scheming as I write to go out in a blaze of limelight.
Well, this blog is supposed to be for dreamers who call themselves sailors. “Into the ocean are all things resolved.” We have our own ways of distancing ourselves from the world. I spent today scrubbing mid-winter verdigris from the boat, hoping to placate the old girl and show her that she is still much loved. Thin sunlight broke through the fog for a few minutes but the distant howl and throb of foghorns rang out all day. Still, I swear, there were moments with a sniff of spring in the air. Soon baby, soon we’ll sail south toward the arc of the sun’s daily transit until it passes directly overhead. Meanwhile I scrub, I ponder, I dream.
We’re just entering the second week of January and I’ve already seen two incredible films of this new year. One film is ‘The Theory Of Everything’ and the second is also a marvellous multi-layered comment on many issues and is also brilliantly acted and directed. I recommend them both. Heartily. Here are two quotes from the second film ‘The Imitation Game’.
“Do you know why people like violence? It’s because it feels good. But remove the satisfaction and the act becomes hollow.”
“It’s often the people that no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.”
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.
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.