Skip to content

Italy rocks with foodie fun

our group!

Why did it take me this long to finally travel to Tuscany and become a crazed red wine lover and seasoned Italian foodie?   Too many fabulous stories to share so I’ll give highlights of the food fun in point form:

1. Traveled to Tuscany, Amsterdam, Paris and Bruge – 3 weeks –  my 33 year old daughter, Toni – LOVE that girl so much my heart swells (last time I spent three weeks in a row enjoying quality time was when she was a teenager!)   I had to fight off the Italian men who are known for adoring beautiful women!

2. KLM Vancouver flight was easy and even ultra swanky when we upgraded for the trip home which continued the food intake on board

3. In Tuscany, we stayed in a small village, Colle Val d’Elsa,  with my friends Susan & Patrick.  Patrick lives there p/t selling for a luxury Tuscan Timbers property “Castello di Casole.”    More fun too … as we met up with more friends, Julie and Hopper from Cabo San Lucas.

4. A short 40 minutes drive from Florence, Colle Val D’Elsa is the perfect little town with a center square that dates back to the 10th Century!!    Charming and old and historic …  and so lovely, lined with small cafes and bars filled with locals eating, drinking, visiting and smoking all hours of the day.  Narrow cobblestone streets and bustling with life!

5. Truffle season was happening so the sweet and muddy smells wafting through the ancient walled Castle village of Monteriggioni.   Hey … only 800 years old and still perfect!     Oh… sunny lovely days allowed us to enjoy the blue sky backdrop for perfect pictures.

6. Enjoyed drinks, the newly invented ‘San Patricio’ (Gintini & Lime & Rosemary which grows abundantly everywhere) at Castello di Casole – a TOP resort pick in all of Europe – and only 4200 acres in size!   Rolling hills and small restored farm houses (5000 sq.ft.) with stone pizza ovens, private pools, white frette linens and every detail to pleasure your every need!

7.  Foodie alert:   Osteria di Varno, a vineyard and winery and B&B in the heart of Tuscany with the owner, Varno, hosting the evening with his stories of family and farming and the wine he creates from the earth up.   Local Prosciutto & salami with a creamy sheep’s Ricotta (his neighbors farm creation) and 2 rustic breads with fresh Tomato sauce and a homemade noodle.   Salad was a basket of vine ripe tomato’s and a side bowl a greens and Home pressed olive oil (forgot to mention Olive trees are everywhere) and Balsamic.    There’s MORE:  Thin sliced rare beef with bottles and bottles of  Risala red wine.   Don’t forget dessert … Biscotti and chocolate with a sweet berry liqueur and grappa.  A wonderful 4 hour crazed foodie experience.

8.  Gimignano is a Walled 14 tower castle like village where we spent hours shopping and buying local leather purses and colorful scarves.   Lunch was pizza & gorgonzola ravioli with a ripe tomato salad.    Toni visited the torture museum and was unable to share what she saw as being too graphic!

9. Leaning tower of Pisa – was smaller then I thought

10.  Cinque Terre – WOW x 1000.   Love Love Love these 5 little cliffside and oceanside villages that are connected by ferry and train and onerous curvy cliffy roads.  (yes, a car just went off the cliff and being recovered and the person or person could not have survived it)     Train schedules were a bit slow allowing us to drink red wine out of plastic cups passing the time away.    Next time – We will do the famous hike between the 5 towns

11. Tenuta Casanova – Just when you think you can not drink or eat another thing … along comes Silvano and his wife Rita.  The wine ‘Easy to Fall in Love” is the best red wine you will ever ever have!    Home pressed, award winning, olive oil and 30 year old Balsamic!!!  ($30/1.3oz)     Silvano nurtures and cares for every single step in brewing Balsamic for 30 years, his wines and his cooking school and herbs gardens, and turkeys and vineyards that only one other friend has growing in all of Tuscany!      Bruschetta w/tomato and Bruschetta w/mayo and chives; Prosciutto & Salami; ‘Casa Nova” red wine (lots of it:) and Chickpea & Tomato Salad (GOD Inspired) and grilled peppers w/virgin olive oil (home pressed) and his local honey and cheeses to cleanse the palate.   (who needs sorbet)

12.  Tenuta Casanova Continued …  Yes, there is much more food still coming!   Lasagna (famously made by his wife Rita with the home grown tomatoes and herbs)  Scrambled eggs with TRUFFLE oil!!   Sweet garlic pieces which is home grown and picked and pickled.     DESSERT:   Vanilla ice cream with a drizzle of his 30 year old balsamic!!   Oh, and bruschetta with grapes freshly picked and home made creamy tiramisu!   Did I say food coma yet?    And this too was a 4 hour foodie dream.

13.  Il Profeta, a lovely, little, tiny, narrow and small restaurant in Florence.   OMG you would think we could no longer fit our clothes or even walk by now considering the amount of wine and food we have now devoured.   Red wine and more red wine.   Tenuta vineyard group Osteria da Varno table mat Il Profeta group Il Profeta Claudio Florence Red Gloves cinque Susan does stairs cinque terre Florence Beautiful Toni cinque group w boat colors Castello small ride SJ Toni and DK sitting on wall Toni Castello Varno DK too much wine

our group!

Varno’s table at Osteria da Varno

This put us over the edge:  Claudio, the owner who entertained and treated us all to another 4 hour foodie event.   He insisted we have the ‘John Travolta Pasta, lick your plate, red cream sauce pasta.’   YUM!  A homemade traditional bolognese spaghetti! Caprese w/antipasta and another award winning olive oil.   Truffle cheese pasta inside a parmesan crust bowl.  Hopper had the 2″ thick steak the size of a 12″ plate!  (yes, he ate the whole thing)    We were so full of red wine and his amazing food and said no to dessert.    He was not hearing us and insisted we have his home made Tiramisu!    THE BEST creamiest yummiest dessert ever!

 

Advertisements

Hunka Hunka Burnin Junk

Lands End page

the wagon

Hunka Hunka Burnin Junk

The lonely brown station wagon was parked along the main street beside a small Zapateria. The car had a $ sign neatly painted in white peeking out the back window.   It had that ‘freshly cleaned’ look even with the sand blasted side panels. The store was overflowing with neatly aligned shoes, on narrow shelves lining all four walls reaching the ceiling. Remarkably, there was cellophane wrapped tightly around every single shoe, and only the left shoe was displayed. I did wonder why these shoes had coverings yet the local grocery store didn’t bother to wrap their mounds of unrefrigerated meat?

The loud voices from a Spanish soap opera escaped the doors and a young man sat watching a portable TV with rabbit ears.   He didn’t offer assistance when I walked in. The miniature size of this store was impressive housing so many shoes. In my best Spanish I said, “Hola.”   He returned the gesture with a huge smile. I pointed to the car parked outside his window – a mere four feet from where we stood.   I traced my finger in the air to outline a dollar sign and a question mark.   He wrote the price, 2200, on a small scrap of paper. I quickly calculated the price divided by three (the exchange rate of that summer day in 1993) and came up with $700.00 usd.   Finally, a car I could afford and way less than my original budget.

Having just moved to town with three kids in tow, I soon discovered there were no used car lots. Cabo is a small fishing village without the need for used car lots. Boats, however, were everywhere.   In our search for a car, we did find a large boat yard with all different sizes of boats in various stages of repair. A boat cemetery, with faded hulls and bleached out names like ‘El Dorado,’ ‘Gone Fishin’ & ‘Play Me.’

We quickly realized we had to chase down cars that had white ‘$’ signs painted in the back windows. This made it easy to decide what to chase and what not to chase by looking at the condition of the car. My budget was limited, and expectations of what $2000 US dollars could buy, was soon in the gutter. In the meanwhile I had borrowed a friends Pinto (you remember … the car that could explode for no reason) we affectionately called the Yellow Banana. I only had to get the oil changed as a small token payment for being allowed to use it. There was one stoplight in town (when it worked) all dirt roads had potholes the size of craters, stop signs – that no one obeyed – and roaming packs of dogs everywhere.  If we didn’t find a car soon and bottomed out the Pinto, I’d own the Yellow Banana!

It took some difficulty finding the oil and lube place which conveniently doubled as a car wash. Looking around this little establishment you could see how enterprising they were – they sold sodas from a small cooler and a small stack of ham sandwiches roasting to salmonella in the hot sun. Full service. I couldn’t speak a word of Spanish so I pointed to an oil spot on the dirt and hit the hood of the car several times and the guy seemed to know exactly what I wanted. While the kids and I waited, a car drove up with a large white $ sign painted in the window. Slowly I picked my wilted body up from the only sliver of shade to see about this car for sale. Shade was precious and rare and the kids sat cozied up to share the relief.   I couldn’t believe the stamina these young Mexican men had to endure the suns rays nonstop all day without much rest.

“NO Mom, not THAT car!” the kids yelled in unison. True, it did look like a wrecker’s salvage. A large beast of steel, four door, 70’s old and rusted through so badly you could not tell what color it had ever been. The tires looked new enough though. A Mexican blanket covered most of the foam spilling out of the front the back seat. Even so, I was desperate to be done with the Yellow Banana.

The young girl understood my ‘caro venta,’ while pointing to the painted $ sign in the window.   She wrote 3000 on a piece of paper. Quickly I figured out the exchange rate, three to one, and was excited at the price only being $1000 usd – half my car budget.  I decided to take it for a spin to check how the engine sounded – as if I’d really know whether it was running well. After settling in behind the wheel, trying hard to not breath in the foul musty smell, I pointed to the ignition area asking for the key by motioning twisting my wrist back and forth. The girl, not much older than my daughter Toni, aged 12, said, “Nada.” It didn’t have a key. She reached over my shoulder and turned the silver ignition piece and the car started. Amazing really.

Could this be a stolen car?  Even without the key I figured they wouldn’t have to worry about it ever being stolen again. I didn’t bother with the test drive, thanked her and went back to our little piece of shade to wait while the Pinto finished its oil change.   The shade barely gave relief from the extreme heat and we sat waiting for what seemed forever, in silence.  The heat seems to take away your words.

Back to the brown wagon story … Mr. Zapeteria dug the key out of his pant pocket and we walked out to the car. He was talking quickly in Spanish, likely giving me the reasons to buy his car. The wagon was only missing a few things … a radio, rearview mirror, the speedometer and back door handles.   Heck, it was clean and sported brand new diamond studded ceiling upholstery. At this point I was desperate to return the Yellow Banana before some chunk of money was needed to repair it.

He opened all four manual crank windows hoping some air would take the heat out. Sitting comfortably in the drivers seat I started the car on the first turn of the key – this was a good sign of a well-maintained engine. After driving around the block I could hardly contain my excitement to finally find a car. I wouldn’t even try to bargain him down – not one peso. “Si,” I said and dug around in my purse for some money to leave as a deposit. Borrowing his pen, I circled the 2200 on his scrap of paper. “Two thousand US dollars,” He said in nearly perfect English, stressing the US dollar part. I tried to explain that I thought it was 2200 pesos and got nowhere fast. It had keys, a cloth interior, the engine started right away and we could live without a radio and speedometer. I did wish it had air conditioning! The car seats were fabric so we wouldn’t get leg burns from the sun scalded vinyl seats like the Yellow Banana.   I liked it.   One odd thing stood out though – it had California plates and a Mexican registration. Somehow I knew this sticky little detail was to be a problem sooner or later.   Absolute frustration was the deciding factor to buy this car right then and there from a nice smiling shoe salesman for a about $1500.00 OVER asking price.   His lucky day!

The police station turned out to be a full service institution – register your car, buy license plates and driver licenses, pay fines, stay over night, etc… Yes, just being inside a police station intimidated me. The movies do not even come close to imitating the real look and feel of a Mexican police station with the jail cells in plain sight. The walls have years of filth covering peeling plaster, a long counter of smooth cement with bullet hole chips (no kidding).   An old-fashioned manual typewriter sat on the counter ready to seal your fate, and two real live cops holstering guns, standing behind the counter. People lined up to do their business including me.

When my turn finally came, handing the documents to the officer, I explained what I could about needing to register a car and get new license plates. The officer led me outside to check over the car and match the documents, which were a bunch of crumpled worn papers with official stamps all over them. He walked around the car twice studying it carefully. Finally, he read the documents over several times then cracked a smile pointing to the license plates saying, “Nada Placas en Cabo.”   He didn’t comment at all about the California plates and Mexican papers which obviously didn’t match each other.   I kind of understood his Spanish saying there were no Cabo license plates available and to come back later. I wondered whose California plates I had but he didn’t seem to care.   I left the police station feeling like I really accomplished something – it only cost $10.00 usd to transfer title into my name. I couldn’t contain my excitement to get home and show the kids our new car. They instantly HATED it even after I pointed out the seats were fabric and in great shape!

I knew it was very important to get a mechanical inspection before we ventured north to La Paz, the little city a two hours drive, through the hellish desert heat along a narrow dangerous highway. My luck was getting better and the local mechanic was on the dirt bi-pass road. It was a little difficult to find the mechanic’s but it soon gave itself away with the many junkyard car parts haphazardly displayed around the dirt yard. Oil cans and other types of trash piled atop each other with a small tin roof overhead for a brief reprieve from the sun.   He did have a big hole dug into the ground, I guessed for oil changes, half filled with water from the last rain. His scrawny horse was tethered to the small cement abode with a narrow door and tiny window opening. We couldn’t really communicate with each other but he understood I needed a full inspection of the car, checking all the gadgets and fluids. He wrote 70 in big numbers, I divided by three and calculated $23 US dollars – fair for a full inspection.

Later that day I made my way back to his little repair shop and it looked like the car had not even moved from where I had originally parked it. He repeated, ‘Manana’ several times. I knew this meant the next day or something like ‘just not today.’ Something simple like having a car checked turned into the chore of a lifetime!   Heck, he could have offered me his horse.

Three days of pestering, he was finally finished proudly saying, “Perfecto.” What a relief to know that I could buy a decent car. The only problem was he made me pay $70.00 usd – I knew as I was paying him that I was being royally taken, yet again.

The long list of school items could only be purchased in La Paz.   “Do not drive at night,” was the standard warning given when I asked around for directions. The plan was to drive up and spend one night there, shop for school clothes and maybe even take in some sights. We were excited to go to a city with a real shopping center and a movie theatre, even a Chinese restaurant. The car was packed light, a change of clothes and a small cooler with drinks and sandwiches. A picnic along one of the Pacific’s endless beaches sounded like fun, even to me. The gas station attendant washed the windows, filled us up and off we went on our first Baja driving adventure.

It is interesting to note that September is, in fact, peak hurricane season and I was the only person in Cabo who did not know this.   (This was the summer of 1993 – no google!) I was smart enough to think through a few details for driving through the desert in the extreme heat was worthy of some safety considerations, i.e. bring water.

The drive was slow and tedious, curving along a narrow two-lane highway and hilly with terrible blind spots. We didn’t see anyone coming or going from either direction for many miles.   The craggy mountainside peaks outlined the horizon, appearing like sleeping giants lying atop one another. Cactus forests dotted every square mile as far as we could see and the sandy coastline was thumping with gigantic waves. At times we could feel the car shake!   All four windows were rolled down as far as possible and the hot air flowing throughout the wagon did nothing to cool us down.

A few skinny cows along with a few goats and donkeys added to the hazards of driving. Groups of them would graze what little vegetation sprouted through the tar and sand alongside the highway. The boys, aged 10 and 5, were obviously feeling the heat and had stopped their generally noisy wrestling matches.  Seeing herds of bony cows inspired a conversation around good nutrition. The first dead animal we saw, and smelled, alongside the road grossed us all out.   With every dead sighting we sang, “EWWW, Grosssss, Stinkyyy,” louder and in harmony each time we’d drove by a carcass.   To pass the time along, we made up a great new game of ‘who can spot the dead animal first.’ We quickly learned the first clue for spotting something dead on the highway ahead was the kettle of circling vultures!  Big and black and fat, these amazing birds loved dinnertime in the desert with so many choices on the menu. Good family fun!

The ominous black clouds hovered the horizon and over the mountains not too far off in the distance. So dark and heavy, I had never seen such a sky before. These clouds were moving quickly towards us at the same time we were driving right into them. What should I be more afraid of – the narrow roads, highway grazing animals, banditos (Too much TV) or the hostile weather front now closing in fast?

“Mom, the car’s on fire!” Toni and her brothers squealed in unison. Smoke spilled through the vents so quickly we were choking on it. Thank God I was on a flat piece of highway just at this moment and pulled over as far as possible without sinking our new car into the soft sand. “Everybody out of the car and grab what you can from the back,” I commanded. Out I jumped while searching for the hood latch somewhere near the break pedal.   The kids scurried out with the cooler and backpacks, making their way as far from the car as possible. I found the hood latch but was so scared to open the hood thinking the whole car might explode any second.   The smoke was squeezing through the outline of the hood and I could hear the flames licking the roof. I fumbled for the hood latch, finally opened the hood only to find it was missing the hinge to hold it upright so it fell backwards onto the window.   I ran like hell to stand with the kids. One second later the sky opened up and the heavens gushed a glorious rainfall.   The rain was quick and powerful lasting less than 5 minutes. We were soaked to the bone, a wonderful relief from the heat. We were in luck! The rain put the fire out.

The roads were abandoned in either direction. Toni whispered, “What now Mom?”

A large 18-wheeler transport truck was approaching from the direction we just came from. I tentatively reached my arm out hoping he would stop.   He inched his load slowly beside the car, stopped and rolled down his window. He spoke quickly in Spanish. Of course I couldn’t make out one word. In loud English I yelled, “Can You Take Us To A Town?” He pointed at his cab, normally fit for two, and four heads popped up. I think he said he would send help and roared offed towards La Paz. I had no intention of waiting around for banditos to drive by, with three kids, on a deserted highway.

“It’ll be okay, another ride will soon come along.” I kept repeating hoping the kids would get some comfort from this quiet declaration.  A drizzle of rain started up which offered us a nice reprieve from the dead air. The steam rose up from the pavement giving the illusion ghost pirates were raising from the dead.   (Yes, I watch too many movies)

“Here comes a car!” Michael screamed and pointed. A taxi slowed down carefully stopping beside us. The driver leaned over his front seat passenger and spoke in rapid short spurts of Spanish which went nowhere in my brain. Getting out of his car, he quickly ushered us into his already full car. The other four passengers, an elderly couple with two young grandkids moved over, allowing us to squeeze in the back seat. The family welcomed us with warm bright smiles. A few miles later, the rain hit the windshield with a force so violent it shifted the overweight car to cross over the centerline. No need to worry about oncoming traffic because no one was driving in either direction.

Our nice driver didn’t slow down a wink during this insane rain and drove at a speed that should have hydroplaned us right into the ditch. Rivers were quickly forming, moving swiftly across the highway. Surviving being stranded in the desert, a burning car, a speeding taxi parting the thunderous rain waters now tidal waves on the windshield, in a car made for four, now burdened with eight passengers, in a foreign country, seemed only natural to wonder if we would be killed. If not a death by car crash, maybe the driver would sell the kids and me to some underground sex-slave business. Did I already say I watch too many movies?

Unbelievably, there was no rain at all in the next town over. Todos Santos is an old village, housing a few cantinas and one lonely gas station. The hurricane of 1940 something wiped out their livelihood of sugar cane and the 60’s brought some traveling flower children that still live here selling sandals made from old tires and beaded headbands. The taxi driver turned off the highway onto a sandy road and seemed to know where he was going. He stopped at an unpainted cinder block house with a large yard and a line of laundry flipping around in the small tornado dust balls kicked up from the gang of small children running around kicking a ball. A generously large woman in an apron appeared from the open doorway. Our driver spoke to her at length while pointing at us. We all crawled out from the taxi and found a large shade tree to stand under.

I handed our driver some money and whispered, “Gracias.”   Big Mama yelled at her oldest, maybe around twelve years old, in a babble of Spanish and he ran off as fast as he could down the dirt street. Toni stood motionless and had run out of words somewhere back at ‘What now?’ Robyn, my stocky little athlete who took to the ocean like he was born to its grandness, stood shell-shocked with his hair dried stuck to his head from the rainwater. Michael, my baby, missing his front teeth, looking so vulnerable and so in need of a familiar moment, curled himself around my leg.

Standing under the tree, millions of tiny fleas and flies swirled around our eyes and any other place on our bodies that was damp. Our clothes were drying quickly in the intense heat, yet damned uncomfortable. A rough looking character, unshaven with a mass of matted hair, stumbled towards us. He rattled off Spanish sentences, yelling at the circle of children in the dust filled yard. The skinny kid who ran for the Dad now carried a large chain over his shoulder to a severely dented old pick-up truck. Our new mechanic guided the kids and I over to a mini-van, wildly painted in brightly colored faces. He opened the door, handed me the keys and motioned for me to follow him. His son was sitting in the pick-up ready to go.   This mini-van, a disguised hippie vehicle from another time, must have an amazing history. I had no way to ask him where this van came from or who it belonged to.

The flies followed us into the hippie van, which was missing all the passenger seats except the front one. Toni sat in front while the boys sat in the back on the floor without even so much as a minor fuss letting Toni sit up front. We followed the old pick-up, backtracking along the highway to our car.

Remarkably, the roads were now completely impassable. The rain was still pounding down just a few miles from the dry dusty town we just left. Rivers flowed naturally cutting arroyos from the mountains to the ocean crossing the only pathway back to our two thousand dollar new car. We sat behind the pick-up waiting for a sign of what to do next. There were several cars behind us now waiting for the rain and the river to calm down enough to pass through. I tried to make some light conversation with the kids but got nothing in return. The chorus of hand slapping sounds, to rid ourselves of the micro fly attacks, was the only noise coming from any of us.

The mechanic motioned for me to stay put and NOT to drive through the arroyo, now a raging river. Of course I would stay on this side of river. What devotion this man has to his profession as he was taking a huge risk.   We watched carefully to see if the pick-up would make it across. The rushing water rose over the top of his wheel wells (I held my breath) yet he easily made it across the other side of the 40-foot river. Other cars passed around our fancy-faced van and crept their way across the river in a game of ‘follow the leader.’

Time passed painfully slow as I scanned the distant horizon hoping to see my new favorite mechanic return. How many other rivers had formed between here and our broken down car? Finally, I saw a truck pulling a car behind him. A rush of relief swept over me to see it still had tires.

Roughly translated, my car had no water in the radiator and gaskets & other such stuff were burned out. Furious, I couldn’t wait to get back to the mechanic, whom I paid $70 US dollars to check my car out, and get my money back. My new mechanic wrote a phone number and a date to call him back in two weeks. Two weeks could be two months for all I knew. He took no money for his efforts. The fact that he had a phone was remarkable since practically no one in Cabo had one. There are two phone centers in Cabo, each one the size of a bathroom, with little stalls for privacy. I hadn’t even called anyone back home in Edmonton yet to tell how wonderful we all were. What fun paradise is!

The mechanic was nice enough to drive us to the bus station. The fish taco stand that doubled as the bus station was just closing for the day. At least the bus ticket lady was there to take our money for the ride back to Cabo. Only two other people waited for the bus. I wanted to ask them which way they were going and did anyone know what time the bus would arrive but didn’t know any Spanish. We found a shady spot and waited it out. Our little Styrofoam cooler, we had lugged around this far, had drinks and sandwiches that came in handy. Without an appetite, we nibbled on a few sandwiches and drank our sodas & waters. Waiting, sitting and standing and changing body positions, moving every time the sun shifted the shade location, we swatted flies until darkness arrived.   I wondered if we would have to sleep here.

The big bus looked and sounded like the Greyhounds back home. Jerking and squealing to a stop, I counted fifteen people getting off. I quickly herded my crew to the open doorway and pushed Toni to go up the steps first. The driver stood up and motioned that there was no room for us on the bus. My day was not going to end with us sleeping at a closed fish taco stand. I pretended I didn’t understand him and pushed us through to the top of the steps, challenging him to do something about it. After all, fifteen people had just gotten off the bus – the driver took our tickets. Sure enough, I could see the bus was absolutely full to capacity, each face looking like the other, saying nothing. Bone weary, I did not care if we had to stand all the way back to Cabo.

Two young men stood up and motioned for the kids and I to take their two seats. Tears stung my eyes as I said, ‘Gracias,’ overwhelmed at their kindness. The four of us easily fit on the two seats, our cooler and backpacks on the floor in front of us. I wondered if the rain was still out there, pounding down in the darkness, making the roads into rivers. Sure enough, the rain was fearless and splashed through the permanently stuck open window, directly beside by my face.

We walked home from the bus station to our little condo only five blocks away. Amazingly, Cabo was dry as a bone.   The stars shining, leaving me to wonder how on earth it could have stormed in the exact place our car just so happened to start on fire.   I tucked and kissed Toni in the bed beside mine, Michael in the big bed in the boy’s room, and Robyn on the sofa. Robyn had not slept in a bedroom since our Cabo adventure started one month earlier after the ‘scorpion on the ceiling’ episode.

The mechanic was true to his word and only a few weeks later the kids and I hitched a ride to Todos Santos to pick up the ‘hunka hunka burnin junk!’

 

BEST worst date story ever!

Best ‘worst date ever’ story! 

Here is a Challenge to all single women over fifty – Find the ‘Best worst date ever’ story!!  

With Valentines Day here, yet again, I am inspired to share my ‘worst date ever’ story, which is only a few weeks old.  In fact, this ‘worst date ever’ is so horrible it made all my other ‘creepy’ dates seem like dream dates!

Rob was late.   He didn’t seem the type to be late as he had the military hair cut and body stature.   He also had returned my call to confirm the time and directions to the restaurant so now had my cell phone number. (Oh Oh)  My three friends and I had met Rob a few nights earlier at a local nightclub my friends insisted we go to continue celebrating a birthday.  Rob was standing, alone, watching the band play and we happened to find a spot directly beside him.   After a few moments, we started talking (yelling into each others ears) and after a few more moments my friends found a table and I asked him to join us.  He was happy to be included.

Rob was visiting Cabo San Lucas for the first time (I live in Cabo) and told me a hooker had propositioned him on the walk over from his hotel.   He was proud how smart he was to only have a few hundred pesos on him and leave his wallet at the hotel.  He wondered how he was singled out and I fake laughed thinking this was his idea of humor.   He asked me how I ended up living in Cabo and I yelled ‘long story’ not wanting to share anything about myself.

Throughout the hour of loud music (he nursed only one beer) and two dances later, he revealed into my ear that he was divorced, retired, has two awesome grown up sons, got his pilots license at 60, has all the ‘toys’ including a Harley, motorhome, ATV’s, and a fishing boat.  He loved to snow ski and golf especially since he has two new knees.  (OMG he is tall, kind of handsome, in my age range, active and has everything on my ‘next husband must have list’)    He asks me if I want to go golfing and I accept, happy with myself for putting myself ‘out’ there.

He wondered what was the appropriate way to reach me and as I was thinking this over (not wanting to give my cell number out to a complete stranger) he wrote his name and phone number on a drink coaster asking me to call him with golf details.

A few days later I realize I could not devote any time to golfing so called him asking if he wanted to do lunch instead and he was happy with that plan.

As I am always on time, I waited at the restaurant for 15 minutes when my phone buzzed.   Rob was terribly upset and apologetic that he walked to the wrong restaurant across town, had a frustrating time trying to call my Mexican cell phone, (normal) and to please tell him again how to find me.

When we finally met up, he was sweating like crazy after his extensive walk through town in the hot sunshine.   He was out of breath and quite awkward.    When the waiter appeared with menus he said he wasn’t feeling that well and ordered water and a salad.  (He is 6’3 and fit) I stayed away from having a margarita or wine (smart girl) and ordered a limonada and pork tacos.

Rob’s first question to me was, ‘Tell me the long story’.

I have a short readers digest version of how I moved to Cabo for a one-year adventure, in the summer of 93’ with three small kids, healing a broken heart from being dumped by my husband of 13 years.   Then I proceed on saying how I met Mr. New Yorker who raised my kids, loved me like crazy and passed away six years ago.   (I always hate revealing this part)  With a stern look, he was paying close attention (while still sweating) and said ‘what killed him?’

I said, ‘cancer’.  He nodded.

Cheerfully I say, ‘So, I hope you are having fun here in Cabo?  What did you do the last two days?’    He said some scuba diving but mostly he stayed in his room trying to shake off being unwell.   I am now wondering if he has the flu and if should even be sharing a table with this man not wanting to catch whatever bug he has.

Unprompted he started telling me a story about his ex-wife’s Mother who belonged to the Hemlock Society in San Francisco, California, a right to die club, and asked me if I had ever heard of this?   I said no wondering where he was going with this.

He carried on, methodically detailing that his Mother-in-law was very ill and wanted to die with dignity where she could take some strong drugs and then put a bag over her head and suffocate herself.  He quickly said it is illegal to assist a suicide.

I inhaled sharply and said ‘Whoa, that is dark and disturbing.’  (WTF a bag over her head?)

He went on to say he was certain the she was murdered by his Father-in-law who wanted her dead for the money.   Rob was allowed to read the coroners report and yes, she died with a bag over her head but had no drugs in her system.  This proved to him that the Father-in-law murdered her.

Again, I repeated, ‘This is a very dark and disturbing story.’

He goes on (still sweating) saying his Father-in-law was a SOB and evil to the core and when he, the Father-in-law, was dying of cancer only 5 years ago (okay, here is the cancer connection I am now thinking he is telling me this crazy story for)  The son, Syd, wanted the Dad dead for the money.   Rob was quick to add that Syd was asking how much inheritance was to be expected and questioned when will the Dad finally die?   Rob was incredulous that Syd would ask such a thing!  He continues on saying that his wife, Angie, was hysterical calling from her Dad’s bedside wanting Rob to hurry and get to San Francisco as the Dad was nearing really sick.

Tacos and salad arrive and I am happy for the distraction.   Where on earth is this story going and when will it end?

Rob’s demeanor shifted now, he sat up straighter and proclaimed, ‘Not on my watch will my Wife be hysterical’.  He repeated, ‘Not on my watch.’   (Rob is a Vietnam Vet) Rob immediately flew from Oregon to San Francisco to find both siblings, Syd and Angie anxious and pacing the floor.    (I am chewing my tacos and not feeling well thinking I should get up and excuse myself to the bathroom and not return)  Rob visited the Father-in-laws bedside and found the he was lucid and seemed okay.   Sick but okay.    Steve and Angie talked Rob into giving the Dad some strong pills they had acquired, with instructions of what order to give them.   Rob was to give a final pill, ‘The piece de resistance’ (Rob said with flair while his fingers motioned at his smacking lips)  The Dad would basically fall asleep and die.

Again, I repeated, ‘This is very dark and disturbing story Rob’.

He was in a trance like state and continued on saying Angie and Syd left for lunch leaving him to ‘take care of it’.    He gave the Dad the pills as ordered but couldn’t find the final pill that was to end it.   He was suspicious of Syd that he might be up to something trying to ‘pin’ this death on him by withholding the final pill.   (WTF)    The siblings returned from lunch to find Dad was still alive.  Angie was hysterical again (we know what Rob thinks when this happens) and Rob was talked into ‘finishing’ it.

Staring straight ahead, he confessed, ‘I pinched his nose and covered his mouth with my hand and smothered him.   To death.’

I am dizzy and cannot find any words.  I sit very still, not moving, saying nothing.  This man, my lunch date, just confessed to me he murdered his Father-in-law.  My brain is snapping trying to comprehend what I have just heard.   At any moment now Candid Camera will jump out wanting a close up of my reaction to this lunch date escapade.

“And then”, Rob continues, “My wife divorced me”.     (IS this really happening?)  Rob seemed to share this horrific confession wanting me to know THIS is why he is divorced!  Not because of infidelity or abuse or anything else.   Because he murdered her DAD!

I sit stone like.

There is more.   Rob now shares with me that he is so enraged and filled with fury he suffered from ongoing illusions of torturing Syd and watching him die slowly.  He is happy to share that he will be able to get his pilots license back soon.   He has to be one full year without certain drugs.  He leans back in his chair, finished with his story and says this is the first time he has shared this story without crying.  He remarks now that he only has one friend, a buddy from Vietnam days.   How they take his motorhome and go to the Vegas NASCAR race every year.    His 10-acre farm is too big and his house is too big.  He tinkers in he 5-car garage on all his toys.   He smiles, looks me in the eye, and says he wants to rent a Yacht and boat up the Sea of Cortez.

With a big fake smile, I say, ‘Rob, I have an appointment I have to get to.’  (Big lie)   I continue, ‘hey, don’t ever tell that story again, to anyone, especially a lunch date!’

Lizards and snakes and bugs, OH MY!

Big Daddy Lizard LIVES!

Big Daddy Lizard LIVES!

Lizards and Snakes and Bugs, Oh MY!

When your hanging out with friends and sharing a few Corona’s the conversation can lead to some interesting wildlife stories and undoubtedly someone will always try and ‘one up’ the other to win the best ‘worst encounter with a bug or animal’ story.     We Canadians can tell some great black bear encounters or moose tales, but Mexico animal stories wins all!

Everyone lucky enough to live in Cabo has experienced some crazy and scary encounters with a scorpion or giant spider and with time the story gets more and more exciting.   My most recent lizard story is a good one.

My little dog Bruce loves to chase lizards and flies out the door each morning knowing their exact hiding spots.   This particular morning he immediately found ‘big daddy’ basking in the sun and he urgently escaped Bruce and ran as fast as his little reptilian legs would go and flew straight into the pool.   I was barely awake and luckily happened to witness big daddy splash into the water.   The instant he hit the water his body stopped moving.  He definitely knew the dead man float!   I was horrified and hoped to see him swim his way across the pool but he did not.   I searched my early morning brain and wondered – do lizards swim?   Thankfully he was not sinking to the bottom of the pool and still floating but I couldn’t tell if he was breathing.

For a split second I thought of jumping into the pool to pick him up with my hands. (Nope)  I ran back into the house and found a broom knowing that with each second that passed meant life and death.    I reached the straw broom under his lifeless body not knowing if he was dead or if he would spring to life the moment he was out of the water and race away.   I gently laid him on the pool deck and he lifted his head (Yeah) but it flopped back down showing me he was certainly dead.   I gave him lizard CPR using the broom handle to give 3 short taps on his back, rested for 3, and 3 more short taps on his back … over and over.   He lay lifeless.

Big daddy lizard has lived in my outdoor terrace wall for years and I do enjoy seeing him each summer.    I have seen his family grow and even caught him sexing one of his females.    Yes, I can report to you that I may be one of very few people in the whole wide world who has actually seen a lizard penis.   This being a family magazine I can only say it was exactly the same as a male dog.  (Really)

Okay, so I decide to go back into the house and watch from a distance.   It didn’t take long when he made a full recovery and scurried off to his nearby home in the wall. (Happy ending)  Big daddy smarty-pants was playing dead the whole time!

Besides having a few good scorpion and big black hairy spider stories (best told over wine) my absolute favorite is when we had a rattlesnake living in our house and we didn’t even know it!

The perfect sunny Cabo morning always includes coffee (bold) while sitting in the shade of the terrace, feet up, and ocean waves crashing in plain view all while soaking up the tranquility of life in paradise.    You can imagine the jolt to this exceptional morning when our long time maid Angela started screaming,  “SERPENTINO, SERPENTINO” (and other excitable Spanish words)   We ran into the house to see what the heck was going on to find her frantically jumping and pointing to our large Poinsettia plant sitting atop a 3 foot planter stand.   At first we couldn’t see what she was so afraid of but were stunned to discover a rattlesnake coiled in and around the lower branches.   “OH MY GOD”, we both shrieked and leaped backwards.   Freaking out, I ran to put both dogs in the bedroom thinking they would quickly find the snake and try to play with it.

We needed a snake removal plan and my big strong New Yorker was yelling directions (his normal self)  at both Angela and me to stay back and to be quiet (he was yelling) in case we woke the snake up!    We couldn’t even tell which end was which as he was curled around the branches hiding his head.   WTF!

Our terrace window was directly beside the large poinsettia plant so I could get a good look at him without any danger.  He was definitely sleeping, but even with the glass between him and me I was terrified to get too close to the window.  We agreed it would be too dangerous to pick up the big plant and throw it outside knowing he would likely wake up and lash out a good bite.

Mr. NY ran out to the garage and was quick to bring back two brooms, duct tape and a large set of pliers.   He worked frantically unscrewing the broom tops and pulling larger pieces of duct tape to wrap the plier arms to the broom sticks.   I kept asking, over and over, what are you doing?   He was mumbling, this might work, this might work.    All the while, the snake was quietly resting.

Angela did mention she had seen this snake a week ago (WTF) and said nothing thinking innocently it was ‘plastico’ and that it was a joke our boys played on us.  How on earth did the two dogs not notice!   Did the snake sleep in this plant the entire time?  Did he slither throughout the house all night long?   I would have nightmares over this one.

Voila!  The new invention was now created.   A giant four-foot long set of pliers!   Mr. NY was pleased with himself and was certain he would be able to pick up the snake, nearest his head, and easily take him outside and set him free.   I immediately doubted the plan.

I was afraid to take my eyes of the snake in case he slid into some sneaky hideaway.  We would have to MOVE.  Until now, it was just Mr. NY, Angela and myself and I insisted on going next door to get the neighbors’ gardener to help out.   Mr. NY was sure the gardener would have had too much beer already but said, okay, go get him.   (I am pretty useless at this sort of thing)

Mr. NY’s new 4 foot long pliers were working pretty good picking up a tea towel and I suggested he try something heavier just in case they were not strong enough for the snakes weight.   He agreed to test the strength of his new invention on my finger and when I pulled away … sure enough they snapped apart!  (I knew it)   Back to the drawing board he went.  He used the entire roll of duct tape to strengthen the broom handle pliers and his new tool was now strong enough to pick up a person!    The more urgent dilemma is to make damned sure he picked the snake up closest to his head so he wouldn’t have any length to snap out and bit one of us.

The gardener was only slightly juiced, one injured eye (who knows what happened there) and had a shovel in his hand and ready for a snake fight.    Mr. NY was now ready to pick up the snake and guess what?  Yup, he picked the snake up 4 inches from his tail, the wrong end, and the snake awoke snapping mad, flailing and lashing out.    We were all screaming.   The long pliers were working but barely keeping the 3 foot long snake within the 4 foot long broom handle porting of the giant pliers.

We quickly realized there was no possibility to follow through with plan A, to set the snake free, so as usual my Mr. NY was yelling orders in English, to the Mexican gardener (Didn’t understand any English) to catch the head of the snake with his shovel on the carpet. (Yes, my new IKEA carpet)   The snake was frantically flailing his body and wildly snapping out in every direction and someone was surely going to get bit.

With the minutes passing and the madness of it all escalating the gardener finally managed to catch the snake’s head between the shovel edge and my nice new carpet.   The gardener was jubilant and pointed at his victory catch and pulled a knife from somewhere on his body and quickly sliced the head off.   I had no idea snakes had so much red blood and it was now pooling on the carpet, and guess what?  The body was still wriggling long after the head was off.    The gardener was thrilled to be able to keep the catch.  (For what?)

Mr. NY and I were high on adrenalin, marveling at the expertise of his 4 foot pliers, and once we calmed down had the same question …  was he alone?

(I so wish Iphones and youtube was invented for the snake in the kitchen story!)

Hurricane Fun in Baja 1995

ImageWindy sisters, Flossie and Henriette

Gigantic pounding waves inspired me to leave the comfort of an air-conditioned office, at the small seaside resort I worked at, and see for myself the epic size surf, which were so enormous I could feel the vibrations of each boom!   I was lazily making my way around the cute little resort and couldn’t help but notice a small army of workers expertly placing each lounge chair in the pool.   Yes, IN the pool.   All the outdoor patio furnishings, including the smaller drink tables, were being individually sunk to the bottom of each pool!   (Remember, Iphones were not yet invented for a winning photo Op)  Clearly, this sunken mound of white plastic was not going to be for some wild treasure hunt.   It was September 4th, 1995, and the hot muggy air was thick with salt misting from the ever-increasing crashing waves.

We were smack dab in the center of hurricane season.

Our little fishing village of Cabo San Lucas had already suffered through the intimidation of hurricane Flossie, a baby sized category 1, which blasted just west of our sandy coastline a few weeks prior.   We were not prepared for Flossie so once she opened her flood gates of water did we scramble to put all our patio furniture and flower pots away just in case there was enough wind to carry them through windows.   She took her sweet time traveling northwest and we all welcomed her much needed rain.  Flossie stuck around for 3 long days and luckily we didn’t have to endure her mighty inner rings of powerful winds up to 95mph.

Our Baja dessert is dry and parched for most of the year and the mountain reservoirs are thirsty for the mere 15 days of rain we get.   These underground canyons provide the Los Cabos area with water for the year.

Home I go and tell my New York husband (who knows everything) that there is talk at work that we are ‘red zoned’ for a direct hurricane hit and we better get prepared.  I recounted how ridiculous it all looked with bulges of white plastic lounge chairs overflowing each of the pools in preparation for the big hurricane now named Henriette.   Our little casa is right on the beach about 50 yards from the waters edge and vulnerable to wind and surf surges.     He was guffawing and chortled saying he doubted very much a hurricane was coming and recounted, with authority, the direction that Hurricane Flossie took veered west ‘like they all do’.   He also said that his boat captain buddies expertly advised him we had nothing to worry about.   ‘After all, we have had no hurricanes since 1992 and even Flossie travelled northwest of Cabo.  Honey, there is nothing to worry about.’  (Famous last words)

We had just put all the planters and outdoor patio furnishings back in place so I had no desire to duplicate the chore.   I dropped the whole thing.  (Big Mistake)

Some simple hurricane preparedness tips had been circulating around town and I paid serious attention to it all because the first year I had arrived to Cabo we had an unexpected horrendous rainfall that wreaked mass destruction in the entire Los Cabos area.  It was November 3rd, 1993, and 30 inches fell within a 24 hour period and the storm was not even classified a tropical depression.  I awoke in the night, around 4:30 am (No Squid Roe fun that night) to thundering sounds of ‘I didn’t know what’ and went out the balcony to investigate and realized it was an impenetrable waterfall of pouring rain making such a loud noise.   At that very moment the electricity went out and I was instantly afraid.  I was mesmerized and watched the rain pour like nothing I had ever seen.  I couldn’t imagine what type of damage was to be revealed the next day.

When morning arrived it was still raining and many of us gathered around the Marina Sol lobby area commiserating like little refugees marveling at what Mother Nature is capable of.  The underground parking lot was flooded in four feet of water and the one-acre center pool and grass area was completely submerged.   Reports were coming in via the few CB radios as to the kind of destruction already being reported.

The brand new four-lane highway was torn apart, the raging water sent chunks and entire mountainsides swept into the ocean.   Flooding was instant and entire neighborhoods were destroyed being buried under tons of sand and mud.   Cars were dragged and pushed and piled upon each other at the edge of every corner.

Once the rain settled down a bit we were able to walk through town and see for ourselves the level of destruction.   Shocking sites of flooded streets and a rushing river still gushing down the Centre of town naturally making way to the marina and out to sea.    Electric poles were lying around like match sticks and sand and brown murky water covered everything.   The beach was littered piles of wood and palm trees and debris of every size and shape.   The normally pristine aqua blue water was now a boiling frothy dirty brown for hundreds of yards off shore.   We were walking in a brown and white world, surreal, without color, as everywhere we looked was brown.

Even with all that rainfall we were still withering in the relentless heat and humidity.    No relief in sight.

Hurricane Preparation list:

Drinking water

Propane tank for BBQ

Full tank of gas for car (Baja will run out of gas if roads are impassable for tankers)

Candles and batteries for flashlights

Stock up on canned goods

Ice for coolers

Sheets of plywood to board up windows

Have a ‘safe room’ to ride out the worst winds

First aid kit

Radio with new batteries (Need to know Spanish)

Who knew you had to think ahead for a natural disaster?   I was from Edmonton, Alberta where snowstorms and cold weather would cause a day or two of missed school but I don’t ever recall needing to be prepared for weather issues.  (Oh, I just remembered we had to have a flashlight and blanket in the trunk of the car just in case we broke down – at night – in the winter – on a rural road – note to self – good reason to move to Cabo)

Hurricane Henriette was making her way slowly, at 9mph, directly toward us but we had no way to find out her expected path.   The rain had started and dark ominous clouds were gradually making their way towards us.   We had an unobstructed view over the Sea of Cortez, facing southeast, with the entire front of the house being windows.  Yes, all windows.   The rain was coming in waves and the surf surge was an awesome sight.   Each pounding wave reverberated beneath our feet every 12 seconds.

My youngest was turning 7 on September 5th, so I baked a yummy chocolate cake with creamy chocolate icing for the big party the next day.   We were going to our favorite kids birthday party place, Squid Roe (Yup – all those wood chips on the floor, cheap tacos, great music and crazy fun waiters, clean up included, made this the best party place for kids)

The kids, aged 7, 11 and 13, two Cabo mutts, and I had some fun running around the beach getting soaked by the glorious rain and chasing the surf line back and forth between each surge.   After bath time, we had a delicious fish dinner settled in to watch a VCR Disney movie.  (No television, phones, or Internet)   We had the air conditioning running on overdrive as the heat was unbearable.   We didn’t even notice the barometric pressure was falling fast.

At 5 am, I awoke to a startling screeching sound and one I will never forget.   The grinding metal on metal was deafening and my New Yorker, who was already up, ws yelling at me to hurry and get away from the windows.   I noticed he (lovingly) had put a row of pillows along the edge of the bed between the ‘wall to wall’ windows and me.    His idea of protecting me in case the window broke.  He was herding the kids and dogs into the laundry room and sounding frantic.   Our neighbor was standing in the living room holding a flashlight asking what can he do to help prepare?   Too late – we were inside Henriette’s path and about to know her powerful wrath up close and personal.  I yelled, ‘get the cake, get the cake’, which he did and slid the last few feet into the cramped laundry room.

There we all were, huddled together, breathing each other’s heavy air, awaiting the windows to shatter and splinter everywhere slicing through everything with the powerful wind.    The screaming sound of windows and metal rubbing was constant and frightening.    Every few minutes we would send one of the men out to grab something we felt we needed.  They sprinted for much needed supplies:  water and drinking glasses, knife for the cake, chips, paper towels, pillows to sit on, and … OH MY GOD the new Macintosh computer was on the kitchen table and we had to get it!  (I just paid big bucks for our first computer)

We witnessed in awe the windows bowing and stretching from their frames at least 6 inches.   (Myth Busters kind of amazing)   Who knew windows could bend so much.   The water was pouring in and flooding the living room and would soon reach us in the laundry area.   The adrenalin supercharged our senses and we continued to huddle and wonder how many more hours we would have to endure.

All of a sudden the wind stopped.   It was late afternoon and we were grateful the windows held up and it was all over.   Phew!   We slowly surveyed the damages.   Wet floors, beds soaked, chairs and patio table missing but otherwise only elbow grease was needed to clean it all up.   (When do I say ‘I told you so’)  We were desperate for coffee and without power wondered how we could manage making hot water.   AHA!  We had a friends travel trailer sitting out back on the sand dune and so we all trotted up there to figure out how to turn on the propane tanks to get the little stove working.   As we were fiddling around making coffee it dawned on us that the storm is NOT over yet and we just might be in the EYE of the storm.   Yup, we were right.

Holy Crap hurry up and get this coffee made, restock the laundry room with food and water, find the kids and dogs and get the hell back to the safeness of our laundry room.  The wind started without warning and the palm trees were now bent to the ground facing the opposite direction!   We spent the entire night nestled tightly in the laundry room, drifting in and out of sleep wanting the noise and wind to stop.   Morning came and once again, we were so darned lucky to make it through the worst winds, category 2 at 110 mph, without the windows blowing to shreds.

Within a few days we had the house semi back to normal and along with hundreds of other families were without electricity and water for many days.   Arroyos filled with rushing rivers cutting off all access to town.   No school for the kids.  (Darn)  Of course the large hot tub on the deck, now full of water, served as our make shift shower and water dunks for emergency toilet flushes.    Hot and sweaty, we lived by candlelight (had to conserve the few we had found) and were overcome with JOY the day the electricity returned so we could sleep in air conditioning.

It didn’t take long for our town to clean up the streets and life became normal again. The highway was all torn up and would take at least a year to repair, but we were counting down the days to October 15th when the weather shifts and we no longer dart for air-conditioned rooms.

Less then ten days later I arrived home from work and found my New Yorker frantically putting flowerpots and our NEW outdoor patio furniture into the house.  He said, “Hurricane Ismael is on her way”.  (He learned fast)

In Hot Water

In Hot Water

(a fun Los Cabos adventure day … with good friends)Image

‘How much further?  We have to be getting closer.   If we keep driving towards those rocky foothills we should eventually find it.   You know, over there somewhere.’ (Pointing left)

 

‘I am pretty sure it is only a few miles from that little village we just passed through, Mirror Flowers, or something like that.  Where is it exactly?’

 

‘Over there.’ (Pointing left)

 

‘Cripes, there’s another fork in the road.   Hmm, looks to me like staying on the left is the more traveled one.  I see wider tire tracks.  Hey, You said you were here before.’  (With a tone)

 

‘Sure, like in 1994 and I was a passenger in an old beat up suburban, the air conditioning didn’t work, oh and with rusted floor boards where I could see the gravel road below my feet’.   (Was on a 3rd date with a long haired New Yorker)

 

‘Hey, that sign looks promising.  “Curva peligrosa.”   Maybe it says watch for pelicans and birds or something like that.  They always live near water.’

The beautiful hot and sunny weather along with a good adventure plan to find the magical hot springs with unearthly healing powers was underway.   The road was winding and rough, some long stretches of wash boarding and slow going but seemingly well traveled.    We packed a cooler with water, sandwiches and snacks, and our backpacks for the hike up the canyon to the waterfalls.   We couldn’t wait.

There are a few ways to find the hot springs nestled close to the tiny village of El Choyo, near the other tiny village of Agua Caliente, just north of the other tiny town of Mira Flores, or south of the other tiny town of Santiago.     Sketchy directions at best – turn left at the church where the road narrows and the local butcher may have his hides hanging along side his property fence.    We thought we saw the church but not hanging pigs.  (Not sure if that was good or bad)

Several areas in southern Baja have natural hot springs bubbling above ground from a large volcanic rock vain rising up from the center of the earth.   The water really does pour out of the rock with temperatures up to 114 degrees, mixed with fresh cool spring water and you have nirvana!

The folklore and history surrounding these springs go way back to early 40’s when the Governor of Baja piped the healing warm waters to his home from springs farther north of El Choyo in an area known as Los Barriles.   El Choyo has a ‘short wall’ dam where water flows from the mountains all year round.   This dam is operational and does provide the much-needed water for farmers in surrounding local villages.

Best to pay attention of the time of year you want to visit these springs.   When we have our rainy season between August and October, the canyon fills up and the tranquil stream becomes a raging river.   This is an awesome sight, as our many dry desert arroyos become roaring waterways sending all that glorious rainfall into the Sea of Cortez.

Visiting in February is considered the dry time and allows for easy hiking up the canyon following the creek bed.  (Well, I use the word easy and probably should be saying difficult for some of us)

We were excited to finally find the small village of El Choyo, with only a handful of small casitas lining the narrow dirt road with the hot springs straight ahead.    Each home is surrounded by beautiful greenery, of all shapes, and an abundance of overgrown flowers of many colors poking out of every opening along the stick fencing.   From the dusty traveled roads this is a lovely and remote paradise, and so far away from civilization.   A familiar sight, we carefully maneuvered around some children running around kicking up dust balls.

We easily parked along side the small dam and knew immediately we were in for a rare treat.   There was a sandy beach with two families enjoying a Sunday picnic.    A few heads poked out of the shallow waters all sitting directly beside a rock wall where the hottest water was pouring out mixing with the clean spring waters.

We donned our hats, laced our running shoes, filled our backpacks and away we went.    The hike was easy but slow considering the larger boulders required decision-making skills to climb over and around.  (Plus dodge cow patties)  We breathed in the sheer beauty of this lush creek side oasis, starkly different then the dry stark desert brush and cactus just a few hundred yards away.

We had to cross over to the other side of the creek to continue our hike up canyon.  The water was clear and shallow and surprisingly cold, refreshing to our already tired feet.   Continuing up the canyon we could hear the thrashing sounds of a distant waterfall.

Oh Oh, we had a decision to make.   We had come to an impassable spot only to realize we should have been on the other side.    To continue on our journey, we could swim a narrow opening except the water was dark and likely deep, and we didn’t know what mystical creatures were waiting below.   The dense marshy area across the water, definitely not swimmable, had scary sounds of wildlife vibrating from it.   (Giant toad sounds)    And we couldn’t see around the corner of this rocky edge to even know if there was a way up out of the water.   Now what?

We were highly motivated in continuing on to find the waterfall we could now hear roaring up canyon.   Higher above the hilltop we saw a palapa structure, perched high above, like a lookout fort.    There was a narrow trail snaking up the hillside and we considered it.

Three interesting travelers came our way.   They looked like they just walked off the set of Woodstock – long hair, full beards and serapes as their only piece of clothing.  (He was hanging loose)   Their backs were bulging with camping gear.  These youths were living in the ‘biospa’ commune just down the road and were hiking a few miles up canyon to experience the solitude of Mother Earth for 6 whole weeks.   (They will eat roots and stuff and they had definitely NOT seen soap for a while)   They were excited to reveal that a palm tree forest was only a few miles away and several other waterfalls were close and an easy hike.    They also shared that this oasis is a government-protected biosphere with many unique plants only found here in this most unusual microclimate.   Awesome information.

They did offer some insight into our difficult decision as to how to get to the waterfall.   They said very easy … just go back down, cross over and climb the canyon from the other side.   Okay.   We could see the other side and wondered how we could possibly traverse the side of the flat-faced rock wall.  (I have sky dived so could likely do it)

My dear friends have adventure tattooed to their behinds so while one climbed further up the rocky ledge the other decided to jump into the dark water and swim to see what was around the corner.   I stood guard watching both.  (I had an anxiety-induced stomachache watching both of them)  Sheer cries of delight came from the swimmer “holy good god almighty this is cold”.    Disappearing out of sight, I heard, “Nope, nowhere to climb up!”     Thankfully she made it back safely to the rocky shore.    The rock climber had also maneuvered his way up and around the rocky wall and also yelled down, “Nope, nowhere to cross”.

Before making our way back down to the hot springs, we sat atop giant boulders and enjoyed our lunch, immersed in the beauty and listening to the echoing sounds of giant toads.

We encountered another friend along the way down.    She was big and black, wearing a nice bell around her neck and had a pretty good set of racks on her.  (That’s Texas talk for horns)   She tried to stand still for a photo but was trying too hard to show her best side!

We easily made our way back down the canyon ready to soak in the magical hot springs.   Even though we didn’t make it to the waterfall we felt exhilarated having had such a fabulous and unique adventure and all agreed,  ‘Lets do that again’.

Cabo’s Biggest Visitors

Cabo’s biggest visitors!

Very special visitors arrive every year just in time to settle in for the perfect weather Cabo is now famous for.    However, they won’t be golfing or fishing or soaking up the sun like most of our tourists enjoy.   Several thousand come a long distance and stay for a well rested 5 months.    Just like those Canadian relatives we call Snow Birds who flee winter conditions and head south to Arizona and Florida for half the year.  Instead of spending money on hotels, restaurants, margaritas and activities, they actually bring in thousands of dollars in revenues.   These special guests appear with their families in tow travelling 2 long months to get here and leaving zero carbon footprints.   They swim 5000 miles from Alaska and have only two things on their minds… mating and birthing babies.

Big beautiful gentle giants, our Grey whales and Humpback whales arrive every November and leave for their northern summer home each April.   It doesn’t take much luck at all to see them up close and personal even when sitting on the beach with a Corona in your hand.    Of course, be careful as it is easy to mistaken a baby whale for the more common species, a larger beer bellied man splashing about in a speedoJ

We locals await the first sightings, always in November, and boast to everyone we know, “I saw a whale today.   I saw a whale today.”   (Usually skipping and jumping up and down with joy)    Legend has it that whales are our distant cousins, being so darned smart, and they breath air just like us smaller above water creatures.

As well they are considered the most intelligent mammals on earth.   I believe this to be true.    Many boats of all sizes carrying sightseeing tourists go whale watching every single day and snuggle close to our 50-foot long relatives who are swimming inches away and could capsize each boat causing mass hysteria and death… but they never do.     They seem as interested in us ‘smaller peeps’ as we are in them.    They are nosy, just like Aunt Martha, wanting to sit close and likely wondering why on earth we wear such ridiculous clothes.    They truly love us.

By the way, the largest of all whales is a Blue Whale reaching sizes of up to 100 feet long!    To give you some perspective, most panga fishing and tour boats are about 20 feet in length.

Both our species feed babies with rich mothers milk.   Our human milk is about 1.5 perfect fat and to compare – cows milk is about 4 percent fat and whales milk is 40 percent fat.   Calves gain 175 pounds a day!   That is the equivalent of attaching a short football player to you every day for one and a half years!   In fact most adult Humpback whales reach 35 to 45 tons, which is approximate weight of 500 people.

There are 79 species of whales better known to scientists as cetaceans. (A Greek word)  We humans have blubber just like they do except the whales can be up to 20 inches thick.   This thermal thickness is a necessity, which keeps them warm for the northern Alaskan cold waters where they binge eat on Krill every day.   We humans have no excuse at all for maintaining purposeful fat.  (Tacos have zero calories:)

Our cousins love to show off for us and fly right out of the water, breaching high above, falling and splashing award winning belly flops.    Every single time we witness such a fantastic moment we ‘ohhh and ahhh’ and squeal with delight.   What showoffs!  I like to think this playful romp housing is just for our entertainment but in realty each time a whale breaches they are trying to shake free the heavy barnacles and lice.    They can be burdened with 1000 pounds of the little bastards.   Breaching can also offer them a brief glimpse of who’s in the neighborhood.  The Grey whale tries to make it out of the water with his whole body but rarely does.   (Hey fatty)

Spy hopping is another way these giants look around, barely poking their enormous heads out of the water and turn around slowly like a submarine periscope.    Snoopy buggers.

Watching a mom with her new calf is a spiritual experience.   You see her gently raising her newborn to the waters surface to breath life for the first time.  She then shows him how to come up for air and he copies her wanting Moms approval.    Her large dorsal fin pops up through the water and she blows, then her little calf’s dorsal fin pops up and he blows.   They do this over and over several times until his first of life’s lessons are learned.  WowJ

Moms are very protective of their calves and will fight to the death if a stray Killer whale sneaks into our safe waters wanting the easy prey of a young calf.   Mom will battle to the end.   To witness such a sight is overwhelming with the piercing high-pitched squeals and steady pounding of ‘fluke slapping’ using her 20 foot flipper churning up the water and her flailing body between her baby and the Orca.    You hold your breath so long wanting her to win but when the water finally settles down, you never really know the outcome but hope to God Mom won.

Amazing too is that each whale species ‘blows’ differently, their personal signature – high and narrow sprays or shorter and wide sprays.   Some of our local boat captains can actually tell the difference.     Really?

If you have the time you must visit Magdalena bay, a long but beautiful seven-hour drive north of Cabo or a short one-hour flight.    The one-day long Eco-friendly tour arranges transportation from the little dirt airstrip to the bay, your small skiff, captain, lunch and flight back in time for a great dinner.    My trip a few years ago included several friends so I made sure to reserve our spots.  The little plane holds 12 folks with the pilot.   We arrived at the Cabo private airport and found there were 13 of us!   Now what?     I’ll tell you what … the captain pulled out a lawn chair and my friend volunteered to sit in it.  Yup, no seat belt.   (Please don’t tell the FAA)

We are so lucky to own great little gadgets for videoing all the excitement of a whale-watching trip.  Having just received my new IPhone 4 with the option of having both the front and back camera to record I was ready to capture all the action on video!    Quickly we saw the blow and our boat captain raced to get closer.   The music was festive and the air charged with excitement to be seeing whale tails and blows so darn close we could taste the exhaled salty spray.   I videoed the excitement holding the IPhone as steady as I could not only recording the fantastic whale tail and dorsal fin action but the loud whoops and hollers from my friends.    The sun was glorious and the sky a perfect blue background for the exhilaration we all felt.    Gleefully encouraging her, all yelling in unison ‘Tail, tail, tail.  Breach. Breach. Breach.”   We wanted her to show off!

I couldn’t wait to review the recorded event with all that excitement.    Oops, the entire video was of my face!   (I love new technologyJ

By the way … only the male whales sing.

 

 

YOU WHAT?

YOU WHAT?

(published in the Nov/Dec edition of Land’s End Magazine)

Kids birthday party at Squid Roe

Kids Birthday Party at Squid Roe

“Yes, it’s for sure – I am moving to Cabo San Lucas, Mexico,” I say with as much courage as I could muster letting my three bowling teammates know I am dead serious.   “Oh, and by the way, I am taking the kids with me!”

They are now rolling all around me in complete shock and dismay shrieking in unison, “You can’t take the kids.  They are too young.  You will ruin their lives.  You can’t drink the water!  You have to be kidding.  You can’t go away for an entire year, alone!!  You’re going where exactly?   Mexico?  What will you live in?   How will you make money?  One year is too long.  You hate bugs!  What about banditos?”   And so it went on like this for months and everyone I knew said the same thing.

After discovering Cabo’s overwhelming beauty while on vacation in 1991, leaving the frigidly cold northern Canadian city of Edmonton was easy.   I couldn’t wait to live in paradise where summer was the whole year long with endless white sandy beaches and warm ocean water to swim in and most important of all – everyone had a maid!    (Besides, I was still licking my wounds of a broken heart by being dumped by my husband … ouch)

Arriving in the middle of August of 1993 was not the smartest plan.    I didn’t even think to check and see what the weather was like during summer months.  (Google not invented yet)  Besides, what could go wrong living in paradise?   A whole other story – that’s what.

The very best part about living far, far away, in a little Mexican fishing village is meeting all the other interesting, lets just say, odd characters, and hearing their stories of finding this Mexican paradise we all call home.   We expats qualify as the ‘wanted and the un-wanted’ and are a strangely courageous bunch somehow struck with wanderlust.   The truly ‘normal’ folk’s who must know what is going to happen day in and day out, same routine with a job and life in general, don’t do such outlandish moves.   The wanderers of the world end up staying here, welcome grand adventures and have fascinating stories to share.    And some expats eventually grow up and go back home, usually north.

There are some real doozies, stories of how expats arrived to live in Cabo.  Almost every expat is asked, “How did you end up living here?  You are so lucky to live in paradise.”  The most common reply is “I came on vacation and never left.”    Of course almost all who ask understand completely how this would happen.   Doesn’t everyone go on vacation and never return home?

Taking up roots in paradise means so many visitors from ‘back home’ now vacation on your living room sofa bed.    I didn’t have to add dramatics when sharing our first adventures with scorpions, blackouts (electric not alcohol induced), water shortages, hurricanes, a burning car in the desert, and a rattlesnake in the kitchen!”    After a bit too much tequila one special houseguest sighed, “Sounds like Cabo is great for vacationing in and not meant for living in!”    Okay, some days this fits.

I like the love stories where someone, usually a woman, falls madly in love with the waiter at the Office (beach club bar) and moves here to be with her new soul mate.   Not shocking at all.  Back home she had a great job, living in a big house, only to move in with Mr. Waiter somewhere up on a hill in a studio condo nowhere near the ocean.   Ahhh, but at night who notices there is no view?

Most of us arrive to this very special micro-paradise soul searching, wanting adventure and much needed change from the ‘real world rut’, all this recovery might as well be in perfect weather.    Of course there is the reality that wherever you go … you take yourself with you!

When you ask a local expat how often they go home to the USA and they proudly announce, “I never go home.”    Run the other way quickly as this is a sure sign that this Person is one of the ‘wanted’.    (Either that or they hate shopping!)

Cabo was a small little fishing village in the early 90’s with limited access to telephones.   The two phone centers in town offered pricey long distance calling while standing in narrow stalls with curtains for privacy.   Satellite TV was typically only found in hotels and if you were lucky enough to have TV in your rented condo or home it was with a pirated service card.  (Pricey!)  The small local jail and small offices around town still used the old manual typewriters.   (These relics fetch a pretty price the days on EBay)    The ‘Up’ street, the ‘Down’ street, dusty roads, one stoplight and everyone knew your name.

There is a significant date to be aware of when exactly an expat arrived:  Before BC or after BC?  When separating the true renegades of Cabo, those who arrived single and with kids vs. married, flat broke, or broken hearted, we also use the BC date.  The real defining factor of who earned their survival badge in the early years BC.  (Before Costco)  Yes indeed.   We originals who had kids to feed found ourselves desperately craving American products.

The arrival of Costco changed all our lives forever!   We would plan ‘date night’ every Friday, slowly walking up and down each isle breathing in the sights of each new item waiting for us to feed our shopping starvation.   Touching everything and giddy with anticipation to see what was new each week.    A love story with Costco was born.

BC, happily when our local grocery store, which stocked a few American items, had new shipments arrive we all new about it and raced to see what products came in.   Seriously overpriced and usually outdated, we had our favorite items, such as B&G cream of wheat individual serving pouches, Captain Crunch or Kraft aged cheddar cheese, real salted butter or sour cream!     Guess what?   We expats would buy every single item left on the shelf in case the store never restocked!    We became hoarders.

The unusual marketing and display techniques were evident with the motor oil and gasoline additives placed along side the canola oil and mayonnaise.  Or, one sunny warm day we had giant belly laughs discovering a large bin of plastic window ice scrapers made by the company ‘Igloo’.   Most likely someone ordered hundreds of these thinking they were something cold and icy!  (Wrong latitude for that)

Many interesting sub cultures live here.   The ‘boat’ people, basically those who work on the many luxury yachts and fishing boats moored in the marina, from Captains and first mates, to the owners and managers.   These spotless yachts are privately owned and some are enjoyed but once or twice a year and can cost several hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in upkeep, to the smaller fishing charter boats.   Some boat Captains can work crazy hours 24/7 and have very little rest when the owner and guests are in town fishing.   But then, when owner and guests leave, the Captain gets to siesta for the next 3 months enjoying his own company.

The ‘sales’ community is the biggest of all because our town if full of luxury resorts that sell timeshare, fractional and general real estate.    This is now a huge expat community and most of these talented folks can sell the salt off a margarita rim.    This group tends to be the ‘big spenders’ with many golfers, fishermen, surfers and divers.  (Diamonds for the girlfriends)   Some of the best stories come from this group of renegades.

Of course there are the ‘art’ people, all those cultured painters and crafty types.  The many galleries are all over southern Baja.  Todos Santos is a well-known art community just north of Cabo by about 50 miles and full of fabulous life stories!   I always describe Todos Santos as the place where all the 60’s hippies arrived and thrived and never went back home.  (Love this town)

Besides the slower beach and surf days soaking up the perfect weather, we had very little entertainment options so created our own fun events.     Close friendships became our family and we created special themed dinner parties, which were a ‘must attend’.    One favorite party was a ‘non wedding’ party celebrating the cancellation of a doomed wedding engagement to a newly arrived local character.   Us gals all dressed in wedding gowns and dined out at Peacocks Restaurant.   GREAT fun.   Two days later the bride-to-be secretly ran off and married him anyways!  Then, divorced him within 3 months (Yup – true story)

What about the kids you might be thinking?  ‘Cabo Kids’ is the groups name our gang of expat children all grew up with.  These kids were the luckiest kids in the universe with daily beach fun, pool time and surfing.    Every few weeks someone’s kid, no matter what new age, had a birthday to celebrate.   Of course we all attended, meaning entire families went to Squid Roe!   The best party place ever created.   The floors are covered in wood chips, the dance floor is a playground and the dance music loud.   Fabulous waiters provided entertainment, all food and drink service and the clean up.    May I say the best part was the clean up!   Cabo’s streets were safe to roam and we never once worried about them.   School was 3rd on the list of priorities.  (1. Family time at beach; 2. Time with family at the beach)

Now, the ‘Cabo Kids’ are all young adults living around the world in places like Switzerland, New York City, Mexico City and Canada.    Some are here working and enjoying life in the NEW Cabo San Lucas.  In fact this group had a reunion recently and realize they all share a special bond that is forever.   (Smile)

Our NEW modern day Cabo San Lucas is so famous now and well photographed.  Cabo is ‘THE’ place where the celebrities come to play and be ‘seen’.   We see the action photos in People Magazine beachside weddings, honeymooning and dining out and partying at the local clubs like Squid Roe and the Nowhere Bar.

It is nice to be here.  Life in paradise is easy peasy now and I am proud to be a Cabo ‘original’ expat.

Mike's 8th birthday at Squid Roe

Mike's 8th birthday at Squid Roe

Bear Camp, Lake Clark National Park, Alaska (Awesome!!)

Blondie the bear

Alaska Brown Bear

The gun shot boomed twice cutting through the frigid night air.   It was midnight and I was frozen with fear.   Did our young guide Dillon, with the big 12 gauge shot-gun, shoot a bear, or shoot himself?  Or, is he a fiction novel freakish serial killer about to kill all 9 of us idiots who paid big money to fly into Bear Camp in a small 6-seater plane that could land on a beach (big sand tires) twice a day between high tides a brutal weather conditions!

Bloody hell, I could see my breath while laying in my comfortable cot, in the dark with my runny nose so darned cold it could fall off at any moment.  With a small dim light from the propane heater it would seem easy that I could find the tissues inside my backpack at the bottom of my bed.   That would mean removing the blanket and allowing more cold air to reach me.   Zero heat was generated from the heater on ‘low’ because the fear of dying of some carbon gas was a warning my favorite son-in-law Danny gave me, which meant I froze the whole night long.   At least bedtime was at a respectable hour of 11pm.     I had to pee so badly but was afraid of venturing outside, alone in the dark, to the outhouses out behind our Bear Camp tents.  I was desperate and prayed for morning to come quickly.   My two tent-mates were young girls, Avery, aged 10, and D’Asia, aged 12, and gave me no sense of safety although my granddaughter, D’Asia, the 12-year-old was fearless and thus far on our Alaskan adventures the best fisherman among us.  I could wake her up and she would have held my hand.

Bear camp tent girls

Bear camp tent girls

Danny, who was luckily afflicted at birth with triple ADD (endless energy) was in heaven way up here in Alaska where there is never a dull moment, 24/7 activities with hiking, fishing and now bear watching.   He planned his own “Danny Disneyland” and ‘fun’ was on the daily menu. I am lucky and blessed to be apart of such a unique family trip.   To see Alaska through the eyes of young Avery and D’Asia made each new adventure pure joy!    We couldn’t help but over use the word awesome!

Bear camp family pic with Dillon

Bear camp family pic

I was tired from being awakened earlier that morning at 4:45 am to go fishing on the Kenai river, near Sterling, AK, for King and Silver salmon.   It is a giant mystery why the fishing guides claim you must start your day before dawn and be on the boat before 6am (still before dawn) with lines and hooks in water ready for the fish to bite.   Complete BS!   I personally found out the real truth … we were still on the Kenai river fishing at noon in the – still cold but warmer part of the day – and the fish were definitely out there and chose to bite or not to bite even at noon.    With the sun peeking out here and there, my nose was still frozen even wearing 3 layers of jackets with a woolen toque with ear flaps … August weather in Alaska!

I laid there wondering what to do.   Get up and check out the murder scene of what happened barely 15 feet from the front of my tent?   I was so afraid I couldn’t make myself go investigate.   I heard tree rustling sounds from outside the tent wall and could hear breathing from my daughter Toni’s tent next door barely 2 feet away.   Also, every few minutes a water droplet, caused by condensation from our breathing, would fall from the vinyl ceiling hitting the wooden floor and the top cover of our thick bed duvets. (Chinese torture)

My bladder would not make it to morning.  Now what?   I had some solid choices, walk to the outhouse, go directly outside my tent door, or use the small bowl sitting the nightstand.   The last choice was the winner.

The sunrise was brilliant pink and orange and magical when morning finally came and everyone was talking about the gunshots in the night.   No one was dead nor were any bears killed … phew!     Dillon explained he heard a bear too close to our camp so quickly shot a blank to scare off the nosey intruder.  It worked.  He did his job well.   One well traveled couple, from Richmond, VA, bragged how toasty warm they were all night long with their heater turned up to ‘high’.  (I glared at Danny)  After a quick breakfast we walked to the sandy point where the large inlet was now at low tide.  The bears were there!   Everywhere you looked we could see them making their way to the best fishing spots.

awesome photo

Twelve feet away

AWESOME up close and personal moments with big giant brown bears.   Running and splashing pawing their fish catch.   So big and beautiful.   Watching their magnificent interaction with their cubs, living the life cycle … fattening up at low tide fishing for the hundreds of dog salmon that were caught up in the tide pools.   Nature is amazing and cruel.   These sows and cubs would soon have to find their hibernation spot, mountain side, and sleep the winter away using their bodies high fat content surviving to spring.

Bear camp mom and triplets

Bear camp mom and triplets

Alaska the beautiful gave us a treasure of memories and a trip of a lifetime.

To catch a fish

To catch a fish

True story 1995

To catch a fish

(To be published in the August issue of Land’s End magazine)

Well, you might have heard that Cabo San Lucas has the best sport fishing anywhere in the whole wide world.   Of course one would imagine a perfect day of sport fishing by getting up at 5:30 a.m., prop your eyelids open and drag yourself down to the marina, then being welcomed on the fishing charter boat you may have spent $500 US for the day or ‘mucho dinero’ more than that.    The best part about chartering a fishing boat is that the crew is ready to go, well trained in the skills of fishing from birth, the bait is already caught and sitting in the live bait cooler, the beer and sandwiches are ready for your lunch and of course the captain has charted a course of where you will be going for the day to catch that big black or blue marlin, an award winning sized blue fin tuna or even a grouper!   (Grouper is the best eating fish ever)  You have even thought far enough ahead and brought your own igloo cooler to take your fresh filets home, which will be sitting in first class on dry ice!    Everyone back home will be feasting at your next BBQ on freshly caught fish from the Sea of Cortez.    You will be a sport fishing superstar back home in Fargo.

It has to be mentioned too that the ‘thrill seeking’ part of sport fishing has to be at the ‘top of the list’ of reasons for even spending the big money on a boat charter.   Last on the ‘thrill seeking’ list is roasting in the hot sun for 8 hours, being violently thrown around a small boat deck while gripping tightly onto a large fishing reel with a 200 pound fish on the other end pulling your shoulders out of your sockets.   Last but not least is breathing in the diesel fumes.    Add all that up with a wicked hangover – well worth the money!

There is another way to catch a fish.

Two men, Kenny and Mike, were sitting on the beach, chairs leaning back at a slight angle soaking up the sun talking about their luck in finding such a paradise as this, with a warm ocean breeze and an endless white sandy beach in Los Cabos.   Not another person in sight in either direction along the pristine Corridor beach situated exactly center of the two towns, San Jose and Cabo San Lucas.  Of course, there were a few sport fishing boats bobbing along adding to the already magnificent view.   These two ‘locals’ were waiting for their fishing buddies to show up from Washington so they could get there much anticipated two days of fishing in.   The boat charter had already been reserved and paid for.   The Washington guys had never been to Cabo and had heard countless hours of bragging and boasting about how crazy fantastic the sport fishing was in Cabo San Lucas!   They wanted to see for themselves so left the wives at home.   (I already don’t like these guys)

Kenny, a tall athlete from ‘the day’, superstar basketball player and world class surfer (he could hold his breath a long time) had discovered Cabo in about 1991 and because he had lived the real estate boom years in Aspen, Colorado, he predicted this little dusty fishing village would one day be the place for the rich and famous with land values jumping up into the millions.   Mike too, had discovered this little Mexican paradise about the same time as Kenny and built a small home right on the beach ‘all in’ for about $250,000.   Oh, and besides his oceanfront home, he owned the whole acre behind him and thought maybe one day it would be worth something and he would develop it.

Almost dozing off, sitting enjoying the sound of the waves and watching nothing much at all, Kenny sat bolt upright and shouted, ‘what the freaking hell is that?’ while pointing at something awkward looking floundering just off shore about 50 feet out.   They both stand up and run to the shoreline.   This being January it could have been a whale but it was too small for that, yet sill big enough to get their attention.    Whale season is between November and April and boy oh boy do you see whale action during the season.

Kenny, already in his board shorts, (no speedos for this guy) started making his way into the water when Mike yelled at him to be careful and not to get too close to ‘that thing’.   Kenny, a New Yorker who doesn’t listen well at all (had three wives that all said so) continued on into the waves and dove under the incoming surf.   He popped out and starting swimming the crawl to make it to this ‘what-ever-it-is’ that was out there, faster.    He caught up to it quickly and yelled back, “Oh My God it is a Big Giant Grouper”.

Yes, the amazingly large grouper was floundering around on top of the water and Kenny swam up beside him and was able to somehow thrust his left hand and arm right up his gill!    The grouper was not having anyone assault him like this so immediately dove down, and down some more into the depths of the salty sea.   Kenny was stuck inside his gill and unable to fight his way free from the grouper and was dragged deeper under the water.

This fight was on and from the shoreline Mike was watching in horror and shock at the scene worried that Kenny might be drowning before his eyes.

Just then, the taxi with the two Washington buddies showed up and saw Mike at the shoreline so dropped their suitcases off at the side of the beach house and walked to meet Mike at the shoreline.   They each had a beer in hand and were already taken in by the beautiful ocean view.   “Hey Mike how you doing?” they both said as they kicked off their shoes and let the water wash over their feet.

Mike was sick, out of breath and gasped,  “My friend is drowning!  A giant fish just took him down under the water and it has been over two minutes now and I am sick he may never come back up.  I think he is dead.”

“Are you saying your friend was taken by a big fish?  How many beer have you had Mike? ” Both buddies said in unison.

The next moments were surreal as the three men stood and watched as Kenny jumped straight up out of the water and started swimming to shore struggling to hold onto the giant grouper with his left arm still jammed up the gill.    Kenny was fighting it the whole way into shore and rode the last wave onto the sand.   Lying there, laughing and gasping for air and yelling, “I got him. I got him.”

It took all three men to carry the one hundred pound grouper up onto the shore.  Both Washington buddies said, “You said this place had great fishing but I had no idea you could catch one with your bare hands!”  (True fish story 1995)