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Saturday, March 28, 2015

The Middle of Somewhere

We woke up to a good start, with the local police cruising through the empty parking lot behind AutoZone and giving us a friendly honk.  With expectations low and hopes high we parted ways with our asphalt abode and cruised south towards our uncertain future.  With every finger in the car crossed we continued south on Highway 85 in relative silence, the only sound being the accustomed roar of our unmuffled motor.  For the next hour we each contemplated the demise of our trip, knowing that if (when) the car died we would have exhausted all possible options with the exception of either 1. blowing it up in sadistic delight, or 2. selling the broken down piece of shit to some poor soul.  Two hours down the road and to our surprise and tentative delight the car was still functioning.  

As we crossed south across the Tropic of Cancer there was a sudden and dramatic shift in landscape and vegetation as the road headed towards the mountains.  Semi-arid agricultural landscapes almost immediately changed to heavily vegetated tropical valleys surrounded by massive clouded mountains.   Military checkpoints also increased along the windy road and nearly every half hour we were stopped and inspected.  Inspections were more or less out of curiosity and only at one stop was there any genuine effort put into it, albeit by a very young and clumsy drug sniffing German Shepherd that was having way too much fun smelling our food and stinky clothes.  By the 5th stop in two hours it had almost become a joke to us as every car in front of ours would cruise through the checkpoint without stopping and we would get an immediate wavedown.  The faces of the inspection agents were priceless each time they first saw us coming down the road…Complete boredom, squinty eyes as that saw Arnold, a flash of interest once they saw gringos, big smiles as they flagged us off the road.  

Along the way to Cuidad Valles we stopped at a small roadside vendor with an assortment of unique dried plants and goodies for sale.  Among the more interesting things for sale were what looked like your classic popsicle shaped bird feed with a variety of nuts and seeds.  Elliott asks the vendor, “Oh, are these to feed to the birds around here?” and the vendor responds with a slightly confused and humorous smile, “No these are for eating.” “Great, we’ll take three.”  We also bought  ¾ of a liter of the best honey we’ve ever tasted for a whopping $7.  

Roadside food stop
 Later in the day we found our way to our final destination of the day, Cuidad Valles, to buy groceries and supplies for the next jaunt of the trip.  I think we all agreed that it would have been nice to be able to spend more time in the town of over 100,000 people but it was getting late and we had to head out of town to find camping.  We guerilla styled on someone’s pig farm and after a midnight soaker we woke up, dried out, and head to the mountain town of Aquismon where Elliott and I read there were some amazing caves and soltonos to explore.    

Heading east off of Highway 85 through a mixture of cow pastures and palm trees we drove into Aquismon, undoubtedly in my mind the most beautiful town I had seen on the trip thus far.  At the base of towering tropical mountains obscured by dense clouds sits this Corvallis sized town, charming in so many indescribable ways.  Elliott hopped out of the car to inquire about guided tours of the famous caves of the region as the rest of us navigated the narrow cobblestone streets to find parking.  We found Elliott at the tourism office in perfect Elliott form, having already befriended the tourist agent as well as a local guide and negotiated an all day caving tour for a total of $14.  

Our easygoing and softspoken local guide Cesario climbed into the front seat of the Burb and we were off.  For 45 minutes we climbed one of the gnarliest roads we had been on, bumping and bouncing our way farther away from civilization as we knew it.  Cesario explained to us that the majority of people living in Aquisom were of Temic descent and as each mile ticked by on the odometer it became very apparent that the majority of people we were seeing were indigenous.  While a road to access these rural mountain communities had existed for some time it was only in the last 15-20 years that electricity had made it this far into the mountains.  After what seemed like a very uncomfortable eternity we had finally arrived at the trailhead to Cueva Linda, Cesario’s favorite relatively accessible cave.  We hiked through dense jungle seeing unfamiliar trees and plants and listening to the calls of unfamiliar birds.  Eventually we made it to the cave entrance, an impressive 30 by 30 foot foreboding black hole with vines dangling over the entrance like icicles.  Being vastly underprepared for the endeavor we galloped into the subterranean vastness with a few questionable flashlights, a handful of extra batteries, and a water bottle apiece.  For nearly a mile we slowly made our way from room to room, admiring the otherworldly geologic formations.  By far the most impressive room in the cave was called the Marimba Room where stalactites came down from the 40 foot ceiling to the ground in formations resembling the pipes of the massive organs of European cathedrals.  Cesario took a stone from the cave floor and while we stood in the oppressive blackness of the cave he began to tap his rock against different sized stalactites creating a haunting and beautiful sound fit only for a place as special as this cave.  As if we hadn’t got our money’s worth from Cueva Linda Cesario attempted to guide us to another cave even more inaccessible to the average tourist.  For nearly an hour we trudged along an ancient stone trail used by the indigenous to bring fresh coffee beans to Aquisomon before the Mexican government built the existing road to the mountain communities.  In the sporadic yet drenching tropical rain we made our way up the mountainside to Cueva Oscura.  Although less impressive than Cueva Linda in size and formations, the hike to Cueva Oscura through unfamiliar flora and fauna was well worth the hard work.  

Cesario insisted that we drive to his hometown well up in the mountains where in the morning we would be able to watch a massive daily migration of the “Golondrino,” a small and speedy bird that resides in the many local limestone sinkholes of the region.  We spent the evening cooking and sleeping under the roof of a well kept thatched roof hut Cesario had on his property.  Waking up at midnight to the sound of pouring rain put smiles on all our faces, knowing we were very lucky to have such an awesome guide.  In the morning we woke up in the dark and hiked down the hill to Soltono Golondrino where we would be able to watch the birds leaving their cave.  In the early morning light before the surrounding mountains had taken on a green color we peered into the hole, over 500 meters deep, and listened as thousands of birds prepared to fly out for the day.  We watched as groups of Golondrinos numbering in the hundreds flew out of the cave in a spiraling formation, gaining speed as they rose, until they reached the top of the hole and sped out at blurring speed to avoid the predatory hawks. 


Cesario's guest house near Soltono Golondrino

We parted ways with Cesario later in the morning deeply grateful for his guidance and hospitality.  Back in Aquismon we wandered around the Saturday market for hours sampling various food and bargaining for our groceries.  If we weren’t as pressed for time we could have easily stayed another week in Aquismon but as things were we needed to get on the road again and make time.   

Delicious food at the Aquismon Saturday market
The going was slow as we made our way south along a curvy highway littered with “topes.”  After navigating our way through two large and confusing mountain cities we finally were on the road towards the Gulf Coast.  Towards sundown we began looking for camping.  A promising technique lately has been to cruise down a dirt road until we see someone and then hopefully luck out with a campsite on their property.  As it happened we lucked upon a farm hand who directed us down the road to a hotel where we should ask for Margareta.  An older gentleman with nearly unintelligible Spanish let us into an open grassy area behind a closed gate at what appeared to be an old auto hotel.  He kept a curious eye on us while we unpacked and prepared dinner.  Seeing four young gringos cooking was the most interesting thing he had apparently ever seen, so he went into the house to grab is aging wife so she could meet us and watch the shenanigans. 
Margareta was an adorable old lady, hardly 5 feet tall, reminding me a lot of Yoda.  She greeted us with a warm smile and immediately walked over to our large pot where she had to get on her tippy toes just to peer down into it.  We sat down and drank our beers while we chatted with them about our adventures thus far and what we were planning down the road.  After stuffing our faces with what we had prepared Margareta came out with a plate of mole enchiladas for desert.  So good. 

Margareta and the fam in the garden

The next morning we were invited to have breakfast with them and their two daughters.  We ate like kings, each filling up with an assortment of chorizo mole enchiladas while we drank their homemade coffee.  After our stellar breakfast we toured Margareta’s tropical garden where we she stopped at each edible plant to pick some for us.  We made out with dozens of ripe oranges, lemongrass, pepper-like leaves used for teas, frozen mangos, an indigenous liquor, and homemade chocolates made from their cocoa tree.  After saying our goodbyes and giving Margareta the biggest hugs possible we headed down the pothole strewn road towards Tuxpan with Margareta’s husband in the front seat guiding us through the confusing country roads.  We dropped him off in Tuxpan, again said our thanks, and continued south along the Gulf Coast towards Nautla where we found a great campsite next to the river. 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Los Cuatro Mecanicos?

Fili and his wife, our favorites!
After dealing with the heart ache that struck the four of us in an immigration office in La Paz, the diligent research, and the swift decision to drive back to the border to acquire our proper tourist papers, it wasn’t but 250km down the road when we were already beginning to experience our next obstacle. As the car lurched back and forth, grasping acceleration and losing it, the expression developing on Brian’s face was one of utter dismay. Initially we thought it was strong winds that were causing such feeling in the cars performance and quickly assured Brian he simply needed to give it more gas. It was only another 50km when reality fully struck us that we were facing a much larger issue….

After spending an hour with a mechanic who had a huge heart and spoke great English, just south of Laredo, we gave him a $20 bucks and walked away with 30 beers and a new spark plug hose that had a hole burnt through it. Yes, we paid him twenty bucks and somehow walked away with 30 beers and work having been done on our car. He explained to us how the beer was for a party that nobody showed up to and he no longer drank, so he kindly gave them to us for free. Not a bad deal, if I don’t say so myself!

Hanging out at Fili's
Somehow we were able to make it back to the U.S. in a mere 36hrs, due in large to the driving champion of the night Mr. James Teeter, who took the hard shift from 1-5:30am. After crossing back into the United States, which was easier than getting into Mexico (go figure) we were off to Arizona to meet up with some much beloved Grandparents . We were able to stop by Josh’s Grandparents house in Yuma, Arizona for some much needed showers, date milkshakes, and a tour of the local college’s solar project. After some quality time being shown around and recouping from the all night driving session, we were off again with the next destination, Elliott’s Grandparents house in Coolidge, Arizona.  
Grandpa Courtney and Joan with the Beast
 After driving all night the night before, and most of the morning without a hiccup in the cars performance we all thought that the experience the day before might have been a fluke. It wasn’t until the heat of the day, driving along 80mph interstate 10, that the car finally croaked. As we sat, with cars buzzing by us at astounding speeds, we decided to pick up the phone and give our brainiac mechanic, Jason, a call. After explaining the different symptoms we were having he came up with 3 different possibilities.

Letting the car sit for 20ish minutes to cool down, we were off again with only 150 miles to go until we reached Mr. and Mrs. Fick’s house. With multiple delays of stopping and letting the car cool down, what would have been an easy two hour drive, quickly turned into a four hour drive. As we rolled up to the Grandparent’s house much later than expected, the power steering hose abruptly start shooting fluid all over the street. Exhausted as we all were, this was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Thankfully a plate of hearty Midwestern style dinner, of pork chops, bake potato and corn, were we beginning to see any kind of positive end to the rough past few days. It was time for a FULL night’s rest, with stuffed bellies to boot.

With Grandpa and Grandma Fick
The whole next day was spent with changing the fuel filter, (the cheap and easy idea Jason gave us) identifying, and changing the power steering hose that had caused an oil slick in the Grandparent’s driveway. It took the whole day futzing with the nut at the end of the hose, because it happened to be the most rare and illusive size in the mechanic world, the 16mm. We were definitely the talk of town in the little community of Ho-Ho Kam, as everyone kept coming up to us seeing what we were doing. At one point we had five old men gathered around watching as we worked, each pitching their 65-80 year old two cents. Out of all the gummers coming up and giving their opinion, there was one in particular who knew actually something about cars and was happy to lead us along as we wrench on the car. A constant purr of golf carts, and scooters, with oxygen tanks rolling behind them was the majority of the activity we saw during the day while working on the car. A big shout out to Elliott’s Grandparents! They fed, housed us, and even did our laundry over a couple of days which is tall task for anybody. After much persistence and help, we were off again with two gallons of freshly squeezed orange and grapefruit juice thanks to James and Grandpa Fick. A quick stop at a mechanic to get a tail light fixed, which cost us nothing beside the fin off the top of our surf board (the mechanic got a little excited and drove our car under a low lying over-hang and ripped the fin off of one of our boards) and we were on the road.

As much as we had hoped, it turned out changing the fuel filter did not fix our problem of the car stalling out when it would get hot. Even though the car was not fully fixed, we were all determined to make it back to Mexico as fast as possible.

As we were on the cusp of leaving Arizona we once again found ourselves hanging out on a road just off the interstate. Just as we opened up the hood to inspect the motor, the most unique individual appeared from the bushes. He quickly walked over to us and introduced himself as Scott, and exclaimed “Bitchin motor!” We explained our troubles to him and he welcomed us up to his house to change what he thought was the issue, the thermostat. As we rolled up to his house, the four of us couldn’t stop laughing about Scott’s crazy eccentric ways and constant use of the word “bitchin”. We arrived at his place to find what was once a nice little house in the high Arizona desert, but through years of neglect and not cutting the buffalo grass (that he mentioned several times he refused to cut) it looked more like a crumbling old cinder block compound. Come to find out, he had been living there without electricity for the last year, had no running water, and hadn’t eaten in over a week. It would be an understatement to say Scott had fallen on some hard times. Even with that, he opened up his doors to help us solve our car troubles. We fixed the thermostat and made a massive pot of spicy sausage spaghetti, fed Scott and listened to his imaginative stories.  We had originally planned to spend the night there but the stories Scott was telling us kept getting more and more, wild. They included  him taking a bullet to the jaw, someone being shot to death on his property, his time in prison, and how he had met us before along the same interstate a couple years ago, it was then that we decided it had best to thank him for his service and hit the road.

Looking at our BITCHIN' motor

Getting our hands dirty
Though valiant in his effort to help us, fixing the thermostat was not the solution to our problem. At this point we were all tired and wanted to just get back to Mexico. So we babied the car, and through tons of patience and late nights sleeping next to the interstate, we made it back into Mexico in only two days. We crossed back in, in Laredo, Texas. We spent several hours at the border checking and re-checking to make sure we had all of the necessary paperwork to spend the next few weeks in Mexico. To say we had learned our lesson about not getting the proper tourist paperwork would be an understatement. Exhausting as the last few days had been, we were finally back in the wonderful country of Mexico. In a stop and go fashion, we made it all the way to Monterrey, Mexico before we decided we better look into the other options that Jason had given us to try and fix.

Playing football on top of the dump
Powerline party zone
The lines literally electrified our car! Watch THIS! 

After sleeping in a dump and under some high voltage power lines that electrified our car (not the best camp spot choice), we decided to head into Monterrey to look for an auto store.  While sitting in an Autozone, a store that we had all come to be too familiar with,  looking for new injectors did we stumble into a mechanic. He told us to take our car over to his shop and he would help us. $150 dollars and a whole day spent later, we had a new fuel pump. We were all skeptical of his proposed solution as I had just installed a new fuel pump before we had left Oregon. Alas, we thanked him for his service and moved on.
Massive Monterrey

Huge mountains in Monterrey
Just south of Monterrey, a massive city of 5 million citizens, we were once again stalled out behind a little diner and a barn where coffee was ground and roasted. Even though we were once again stuck in an unusual spot, the beauty there was absolutely stunning.  There was limestone faced mountains jetting straight up to several thousand feet, dense green grass and a wide array of colors and smells coming from the vast amount of plants in bloom. The gentleman that worked at the coffee roasting barn knew had a friend that was a mechanic in town that we could take our car to and see if we couldn’t get a new ignition coil. $10 bucks later we had a new ignition coil off of a car that was sitting by the mechanics shop and away we went.

Cruising down the highway 40ish miles south of Monterrey, the jerking and loss of power were once again upon us. Quickly pulling off the road, Brian and I played hot potato with all of the injectors to see if one was faulty. Basically when the car is acting up, by pulling out the injectors one at a time and replacing them so only one is out, if the car sounds better then you know which is the faulty injector. Even though we came to the conclusion that all of the injectors were fine, we still wanted to use a voltimeter to test the ohms of each of the injectors just to be sure. For this task we headed to our trusty auto parts store, AutoZone.

At AutoZone in Linares we met the best store manager any of us had ever met. With slicked back hair and a bigger build, Pedro was just the man for our problems. We told him our car symptoms and what we had suspected the issues could be. He believed we were on target and began to draw us a diagram. We went down the different levels of the diagram until we came upon a question mark with the distributor. Out to the car we went and a began tearing into the distributor to locate the ignition module. As we were working away in the parking lot of AutoZone, we began to realize we didn’t quite have the tools for the job. Good thing we were in Mexico with a great guy like Pedro looking out for us. He quickly assured us that we could take pretty much any tool we needed off the shelf and use it, and when we were finished with it to just “return” it. With sweat pouring out of us, lots of cussing, a couple of nicks in our hands we finally got the ignition module and coil out of the distributor. The ignition module checked out good, but the coil was corroded and needed replacing. We did good in taking the distributor and such apart, but it took knowledge beyond any of ours to put it back together and get the cars timing back. This is important as the distributor sends the spark for all of the spark plugs and with the timing off it can cause the gearing to begin to erode. Once again Pedro had our back and got on the phone with one of his friends, Mario, to come and finish the job for us.

Hmm, past our expertise
Mario spent several hours trying to pry out a brittle old pin that had froze into the main drive shaft coming down from the distributor. As Mario beat the living shit out of the shaft with every kind of hammer he could find, multiple times did both James and I look at each other and smile, both joking that we hoped our car would ever start again. Once out, he quickly assembled it back into place and aligned the timing for us. With cheers from us, friends and his father we negotiated a price and called it a day. The real saint of the day though, had been Pedro. Our last dilemma was where in the world were we going stay seeing how it was 7:30 at night. Our concern was erased when Pedro said we could sleep behind AutoZone and that not only would it be quiet but also SAFE. With the sudden relief, out came the pigskin and we were having ourselves a great game of catch in the massive parking lot, singing Pedro praise.  We would soon be traveling thousands of miles without another car issue…

With all of the struggle and hardship we faced in dealing with forgotten tourist papers and a multitude of car issues, it all made us stronger people and helped us came across individuals with massive hearts that we are all very thankful for

   Josh Courtney

Ferry Crossing?

Sunrise over the bay
In the morning I rose early to catch the sunrise from a nearby massive hill while Josh watched the massive moon set over the Tecolote Bay. After a quick breakfast we walked into the immigration office downtown at 10 am planning on catching the 9pm ferry. In between we had visions of getting internet and doing laundry. In the office we explained the situation and they promptly informed us that no, we could not get the FMM there, the only place to get it was at la frontera or the border. What? Why!? We pleaded; we came by yester day and the workers said we would be all good if we returned today? We explained exactly what we wanted, how could you tell us to simply come back if there actually was no recourse? Frustration flared from each of our nostrils. This makes no sense. Why would you waste our time? We walked outside to regroup and rehash what we had learned. Entering the lion’s den we pleaded our case once more asking if there was any way we could figure this out. Finally we came to the realization that we had no options, we could purchase an expensive permit that would make us legal for 30 days, however, that permit did not allow for travel with a car. Flabbergasted, we thought about the multitude of others who must have done the same silly thing before.
Moon setting over the bay

One of the workers suggested that we simply drive back to the border because that was the only place place to obtain the FMM and he argued that it would be the most economical option. ARRGG!!! We finally left the office after they made some references to us being illegal; fearing a fine, we assured them we would decide on an option soon, this meant slinking away to our favorite café with Wifi and the extremely helpful owner Ana Luz. We researched as fast as we could looking up everything online. Apparently a rule changed in 2010 that made it impossible to get the FMM anywhere other than the border. We also realized that we were not in the country illegally as the FMM is not necessary for travel in Baja, simply everywhere else.
We realized we had few options, Ana Luz kindly offered to contact a friend from San Diego who was visiting her in a few days, to see if he might be able to do something. Unfortunately we came to the conclusion that no, we could only drive north. As with most decisions in our group, we hemmed and hawed but upon realizing we had no other option, we quickly mobilized and prepared for the drive north. Ana recommended the safest route, entering in through Nuevo Laredo and heading south to Monterrey and Ciudad Valles on our way to Vera Cruz. We calculated the distances and gas prices, finding that the route back through Texas in some sickening Carbon joke, was actually cost similar to crossing on the ferry. Crazy world of gas prices. Filling up our water in Ana’s kitchen we thanked her for everything, packed up the car, and headed for the border. 

Sad to leave Tecolote
We drove, drove, and drove more. And then we stopped for gas. And then we made PB and J’s. And then we drove, drove, and drove more. And then the car started making weird noises. And it went put, put, put, and our car trouble fun began. Pulling over we realized that our seat on top of the car had sprung up. WOWZA. Upon closer inspection we found our roof rack was attempting to escape the roof. A few screws had ripped up through their casings, one entire leg had shifted! We saw that our muffler had also pulled free from the bottom of the car. We went to work, strapping the seat back down, tightening and replacing screws, and pulling off the muffler. After thirty minutes of industrious work the beast returned to tip top shape. 

Not a terrible place to break down
Back on the road we cruised north. The sun appearing fully engorged, a massive orange disk slipping behind the mountains and nearing the the western horizon, put, put, put, Brian pressed the accelerator lower and lower with no response from the motor. Shit. Pulling off to the side of the road we began our days of car fun. The shoulder at this point sat a massive five feet below the road, fortunately we coaxed the car forward and pulled onto a small side road spur. The orange sun cast a glow over the incredibly craggy rock desert. The ground consisted of nearly all rock with no soil, but yet myriad elephant trees and Cardon cacti thrived in the area, each silhouetted by the setting sun. We pulled up the hood. We could not start the car instantly. The Beast sounded like it was struggling for air, put, put, put and poop it gasped. Hmm. The engine seemed hot. We messed around under the car and around it. We couldn’t pinpoint a specific problem. After twenty minutes we started him up and the engine fired up. We headed off trying not to push the motor hard as we knew we were within a couple of hours of Puerto Escondito where we had our surrogate mothers, Penny and Suzy!

We limped into Puerto Escondito around 8 pm and thank goodness, Penny and Suzy knew the man we needed to talk with. After hanging out at a full moon party, we had connections to Rich from the area who would help us out. The next morning we talked with Rich and the problem was above his knowledge level but he knew Feely, the best mechanic in town, so off we drove to Feely’s garage. Thank goodness for Penny and Suzy!

    Elliott Finn

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Catching a Ferry to the Mainland?

Unstuck from the muck
We headed to the ferry terminals in La Paz to make reservations. At the terminal we scouted the two available ferry companies, fancy Baja Ferries and working hog ferry TMC. Naturally we chose the cheap, no amenities, cargo ferry TMC. TMC had a reputation for uncomfortable accommodations but the ladies at the front desk were incredibly helpful and we do not need much in terms of material comfort; heck we had not showered in a few weeks.

The ladies informed us that we could board the ferry leaving in two hours if wanted to. After a brief conference we jumped into gear getting our passports out and running around the car. Unfortunately the customs agents quickly thwarted our efforts; we needed to pay a specific Banjercitio tax to the government for the car to get across. The Banjercitio office conveniently closed at 4 and it was 4:26. We resolved to stick to our original plan after realizing we could not get on the ferry. After watching the Superbowl at a bar in La Paz that night, the next morning we planned on getting our ferry information in order.

From the ferry terminal we drove out to Tecolote, a free camping beach a few kilometers from La Paz. We heard about the beach from Mike and Sally, a wonderful couple we met at Cabo Fraile. Mike and Sally gave us a beautiful filet of Yellowtail, let us borrow a helpful guide book, and provided us an example of the travelers we hope to one day embody. At Tecolote the sun slipped below the horizon and we enjoyed a phenomenal explosion of color. 
Not a bad spot

In the morning we headed to the Banjercitio only to find out that we needed to have our FMM cards to get the Banjercitio card. When we crossed the border in Tecate we forgot to pick up FMMs and after our harrowing experience bribing cops we decided not to turn around and get them.

Damn. The Banjercitio lady told us we might be able to get them at the airport or at the downtown immigration office. We showed up at the latter only to find out they did not open on Sundays. We knew the airport was open so we headed there to find out that they could only give FMM cards to people coming in on planes. The officer at the airport told us we could get our cards at the downtown office on Monday.

Josh in La Paz
 Satisfied that our situation was under control, we navigated to the central square in La Paz, posting up in a café with Wifi to get our finances in order and catch up with family and friends. From the café Josh and I headed to purchase some staples, another loaf of bread and tortillas, while Brian and James held down the café. Josh and I spotted a bar on our way to the supermarket and it turned out that not only was the bar showing the Superbowl but the owner had also lived in Seattle for nine years and loved the Seahawks. Additionally he had a deal, six beers and a bucket of wings for 150 pesos, or about ten dollars. We resolved to return for the game.

We cheered, we yelled, and we drank beer for a few hours, enjoying a great game that left us all (though none nearly as broken as Brian) in heartbreak. We all cheered for Seattle and the end of the game left a bitter taste. Why not run Marshawn!!!?? Heck our ‘Burb is named after Beast Mode! Alas and alack. Brian did not speak during the ride home and we pulled into camp saddened but with plans for immigration papers and a ferry ride the next day.

During the Superbowl, a couple warned us that that Monday was a holiday; however, our lady at the airport said the office would be open. Upon arriving at the immigration office, the few people on duty informed us that they were closed for any kind of business but we could come back on Tuesday to get our papers. Exasperated, we settled in for a day of exploring La Paz, finishing up our finance checks, and fixing our water filter.

On our way back to Tecolote we stopped in at the ferry offices to confer with our friends at TMC. Once again I became the messenger walking back and forth from the office to the car.

“The ferry to Mazatalan on Wednesday is full but there is space going to Topolobampo the next day. Did we want to go?” Running back and forth to the group and back into the office, the ladies at the front desk laughed and laughed, “Un otro vez?” Another time? They asked each time, cracking big smiles, we had developed rapport over the past week of coming and going. Yes, was our collective answer; saving a day sounded like a good idea. Little did we know what was coming!

While we drove back from the ferry terminal James suggested we camp on the beach next to Tecolote that night. Whilst hiking the day before he saw a road that he thought would get us to the beach. Why not? We all thought. Winding over desert roads we made our way back and back towards the craggy peaks behind Tecolote eventually funning out of desert road. Stymied, we turned around and rehashed, should we try to find a different way? Brian was hungry and voted we stay at the same beach, Josh and I were indifferent and James, our driver, voted to try once more. So away we went, winding back towards the road on the hill. However on this new road a puddle of water stood in the way. James sped up and then slowed down and slowed down, and then the wheels stopped.

Happier after escaping the mud
Shit. Stuck in the muck with our truck. James lowered his head, dejected, and muttered, “Sorry guys.” As he revved the engine the wheels spun and spun. Jumping out of the car our feet sunk six inches into a sopping mud, sand mixture. Stripping down to our skivvies, Brian, James, and I moved behind the car, mud mooshing between our toes, while Josh our resident mudding expert took the wheel. One, two, three and PUSH! Our catchphrase, repeated over and over, trying to push our way free. The wheels spit mud back at our shins, stomachs and faces. Rocking back and pushing forward we tried to rock the car out to no avail. We dug under the wheels trying to find solid dirt, once again rocking back and forth and still, no luck. Finally with Brian and James pushing from behind, Josh asked me to push on the right front of the car to move us sideways onto solid ground. One, two, three, rock and GOOOO!!! Pushing with all our might, the wheels throwing mud everywhere, the ‘Burb inched forward and then sideways, grabbing into the dirt like a climber dinoing past the crux, grasping for a solid hold, and at last Marshawn lurched forward, out of the mud to an elated chorus of YEEEEESSSSS from tired men.

Moonset over the La Paz bay



Bay from the top of a hill near Tecolote

Mountains behind Tecolote
Needless to say we spent the night back at Tecoclote, licking our wounds and preparing for the ferry. We were going to the mainland.

   Elliott Finn