Rothenburg ob der Tauber, a German Medieval Walled City

Rothenburg ob der Tauber 5

Guy claiming to play German folk songs. He was playing the Beatles’ Hey Jude. Literally translated that means Hey Jew. Oops

Christophe, You’re a Mensch, September 30, 2015 —

It’s almost as if we’re isolated from the rest of the world. Actually we are isolated, literally. In this walled-in medieval city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber one gets the feeling that all life begins and ends here. There is no outside. Sure the internet works but who’s checking it? Daily life has evolved here reluctantly over the centuries. There is a routine. It is Germany of course. One of the routines is the duty of the night watchman. The night watchman makes his nightly rounds ensuring the inhabitants are safe and ever vigilant of fires.

I recommend the Night Watchman Tour. It is advertised to tourists for them to meet at the Market Square at 2000 (8 p.m). You can’t miss the guide. He’s dressed in a long black cloak holding a lantern and some sort of weapon. Here’s the funny thing, and I don’t think they meant to do this…he looks like Robert Plant circa Song Remains the Same.

Rothenburg ob der Tauber

Every business is adorned with these ornate signs symbolizing the heritage of the establishment.

According to the brochure: “In the years before the dawn of the 20th century, the night watchman was one of many citizens of Rothenburg responsible for the safety of the inhabitants of this walled, fortified city. Even though the citizens who slept soundly at night in their beds trusted him to keep the streets inside the high stone walls safe, his status was less than honorable. His pay was low and his job was a dishonorable one. Only the gravedigger and the executioner were lower. His job was dangerous, because he had to guard the city at night like a policeman.

The good citizens went to bed early. The people that he met on the streets were the drunks and the thieves. To protect himself and to show his authority he carried an intimidating weapon called a hellebarde.”

   The guy doing the tour is hilarious. His knack of English sarcasm, peculiar inflection, and strange awkward pausing makes for a spooky yet fun-filled evening event. I recommend having dinner and a few beers first. Also, it ruins my theory that children, old people and Germans don’t get sarcasm. Robert Plant is very sarcastic.

   Rothenburg in the day time is best done after having had a traditional breakfast of coffee, cold cuts, Emmenthaler cheese, fresh bread, butter and marmalade. And, don’t forget the soft-boiled egg that comes with its own egg holder and spoon. After being fortified in this typical German morning tradition you’re ready to tackle the cobblestone (hobble stone) streets for a bumbling stumbling route of discovery. By noon you’ll see a new medieval tower or spectacular sight and shrug as if you’ve seen them all. There is so much to see and so many wonderful sights that you’ll long for a break. I don’t care how in-shape you think you are, unless you have a size 11 shoe or larger you’re bound to hit the edge of a cobblestone and wreck your ankles, pull a hammy or just feel like the you’ve run a marathon. Side note: the Japanese tourists can be seen limping to their hotel rooms by the end of the day.

   And by break I mean stopping into the local butcher (Metzgerei) and ordering a few Landjaegers and a drink to take elsewhere and enjoy. A Landjaeger Is a German-style beef jerky similar to a Slim Jim. The difference being is that the Landjaeger is not: “Beef, Mechanically separated chicken, Corn and wheat proteins, Lactic acid starter culture (ConAgra refers to Slim Jim as a meat stick and they all use bacteria and sugar to produce lactic acid, which lowers the pH of the sausage to around 5.0, firming up the meat.), Dextrose, Salt, Sodium nitrite (Cosmetically, this is added to sausage because it combines with myoglobin in animal muscle to keep it from turning gray.), Hydrolyzed soy (Hydrolysis, in this instance, breaks larger soy protein molecules into their constituent amino acids, such as glutamic acid. Typically, the process also results in glutamic acid salt—also known as monosodium glutamate (MSG), a familiar flavor enhancer.”

 A Landjaeger is made from beef, pork, sugar, red wine, and spices.

   By the end of the day you’re ready for a beer and a few Scnappses. This ain’t no Peppermint Schnapps from college. This is the real deal. It’s a clear brandy made from fruits like pears, apples, cherries. It’s forty percent alcohol and tastes like diesel. Not sweet. After the third one and all of the churches you’ve seen throughout the day, you’d swear you were suckling on the teat of Lady Madonna herself.

   And this brings me to the Weinstubbe portion of the day. Weinstubbe means wine pub. Imagine yourself finally reaching the end of the day. Your American sedentary life has caught up with you. Your legs are burning from a 10-mile power walk over irregularly-placed jagged cobble stones. You’re bickering with your travel mates as low-blood sugar and road weariness sets in. Your neck aches because that fancy camera you’ve been carrying has pulled disc L1 and L2 away from your spine.

   And then, you see it…the ornate placard hanging like a beacon of salvation swinging gently calling to you like a Siren in stormy seas, the Weinstubbe.

  Translated conversation from the Weinstubbe,  “Hallo Christophe. Can we please have a beer, dry white wine and some schnapps?”

    “Why of course, Kind Sir,” Christophe replies with a smirk that implies that my German pronunciation sucks.

     Christopher brings the order. “Better bring me two of what I just ordered. I’ve been through hell and back. Please forgive the Audie Murphy reference, Christophe.”  He doesn’t get it.

   Thirty minutes later.

   “Christophe, another round.”

    Fifteen minutes later.

    “Again.” After bringing the drinks I nudge over to Christophe and politely ask, “I would like to present my water to the closet. Where is the water closet?”

   He’s heard it all before. “Back there,” he says pointing to a big sign that says WC.

  Merriment ensues. The night blends into morning. And, all is Wunderbar again except for a brief encounter with a disgruntled leather-clad German guy on his 5th beer. “I work for Toyota. Toyota sucks. I have to work tomorrow. I hate my job.”

   “I’m sorry to hear that. If it makes you feel any better we drive Hondas.”

  The next morning I peek into the kitchen and interrupt Christophe as he’s shoulder deep in a vat of sausage, “Two quick questions, Christophe.”

  He wipes his hands on his apron and dutifully appears at my side flinging gristle and lard chunks from his fingertips. “Yes?”

   “I have two days left. One, where do I spend the rest of my vacation? Two, will you pay for it?”

   He ignored the second question but pulled a map out of thin air and told me how to spend the next two days.

   Thank you Rothenburg.  Christophe you’re a Mensch.

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Dresden, Germany 2015

Dresden 2015

Angela Merkel is apparently a secret Muslim as this woman implies during an anti-Islamitization protest in Dresden.

Angela Merkel is apparently a secret Muslim as this woman implies during an anti-Islamitization protest in Dresden.

They call it cobblestone syndrome. Tourists who aren’t familiar with walking on cobblestones hobble in the most peculiar way. Their gait is erratic. The right knee may slump inward giving them the appearance of being crippled. Cobblestone syndrome occurs after walking at least 10,000 steps through an ancient city like Dresden whose cobblestone-lined streets tend to mock foreigners with the motto of King Augustus: “Strong, proud, tough, fuck you, man up.”

King Augustus, king here in the Baroque era, had quite an influence. His name still reverberates in almost all walks (pun intended) of daily life. His self-commissioned statues adorn virtually every rebuilt structure here. A typical Augustus statue is of a heavily bearded crowned man atop a galloping horse in mid prance. One gets the sense that Augustus “the Strong” enjoyed making life more difficult than it needed to be. Everything is overbuilt. Doors here are harder to open. Stairs are steep. The historic bridge has 26 pillars and columns where four would have sufficed.

But, it is a beautiful city. It is difficult to imagine that it was reduced to rubble in the waning days of WWII. To top that off, the communists ran amok here for nearly 50 years during the Soviet era not improving a damn thing. It was only since the reunification in 1989 that Dresden was rebuilt (almost) to its former splendor.

The touristy side of Dresden rarely mentions the GDR era winking and nudging that that topic is really not what the city’s historical patrons would like to portray. By touristy side I mean Hop on Hop bus rides, the Air BnB host, and waitress in the corner pub. Instead, Dresden is portrayed as the “Florence of Germany.” That’s funny because I’m sure no one in Florence ever said “welcome to the Dresden of Italy.”

Don’t get me wrong. If one had only one city in Germany to visit then Dresden should be that city. The restaurants all make the best German food. The beer is cheaper than water. Everyone is friendly to tourists. The historic buildings, art, culture, fashion all exhibit the stereotypical ideal that is Germany. And, isn’t that what you’d want if you had only a few days and a desire to fulfill your postcard-like dream of Germany?

In a single day I saw a spontaneous launching of four hot air balloons, a peaceful protest of anti-Islamic immigrants, a table full of Italians whooping it up for a family reunion, a woman eating two softball-sized potato dumplings, an innocent child picking dandelions in the park, and a kind camera store employee coming to my rescue with a replacement for my Nikon MH-25 “Ladegerat”, battery charger. The battery charger I brought from home sizzled then died when plugged into the 220-volt socket. Don’t mock me. I had a converter. Lesson learned. Don’t buy cheap converters at the airport.

Filling up the balloon.

Filling up the balloon.

First day of 80 on world-wide balloon ride.

First day of 80 on world-wide balloon ride.

The peaceful protest was cool and eerie all at the same time. Of course I wound up in the center of it. I took several pictures before I asked someone holding a sign depicting Angela Merkel as a Hijab-wearing refugee what all the fuss was about. Nice Photoshopping by the way. The man looked somewhat incredulous at my asking the question and said, “We’re protesting all of the foreigners of course.” I guess my German was passable enough not to be detected as a foreigner. I wanted to reply, “Does that include Americans and Jews?”  I didn’t of course. He even thanked me for taking his picture. You’re welcome. And at this point I wanted to present him with an invoice on behalf of the American government for the WWII bombing campaign on Dresden the Nazis forced us to carry out. I opted not to press the issue. Like I’ve always maintained, Germans at rallies don’t get subtle sarcasm from Americans who think they are clever and witty after three beers. Though this may seem specific, it is not that unusual. If I had a Pfennig for every time this has happed to me…

Next stop, Rothenburg ob der Tauber. This medieval city in the Badden-Wurttemberg region of Germany is a walled town noted for picturesque buildings, cantelope-sized sugary fried dough balls and torture. Can’t wait.

According to my waiter

According to my waiter “It’s 70 to 30 in Germany. Seventy-percent are afraid of the Islamitization of Germany.”

Moon Over Dresden2

Moon rise in Dresden. Lunar eclipse was at 4 a.m. This is at midnight. Who wants to get up at 4a.m.?

Pre Euro Tour ’15, Oktoberfest, Migrants, and the Danube — September 10, 2015

German Stuff

German Stuff

It all started as a lark. Where do we travel to next? After an exhaustive dart-throwing session on a weathered wall-sized world map, picking Germany as a vacation destination seemed sort of silly. With a 1980 copy of Europe on $10 a Day in hand we trusted the darts. You see, I used to live in Germany. My mother is from Germany. We have family in Germany. We have been to Germany more times than most have been to Disneyland. Bottom line, it’s not really a vacation spot for us. If we go we usually visit family and friends. It’s not a bucket list destination like Machu Picchu or Rio.

But, we realized when the rusty bent dart pierced the heart of Dresden, Germany might not be a bad idea as a travel holiday destination. With a 1980 copy of Europe on $10 a Day in hand we trusted the darts. Despite having lived and been to Germany before, there was so much we hadn’t seen — Berlin, Dresden, the migrant tent cities.

Speaking of the migrants, allow me to veer off onto a delicate tangent for a moment. Regarding the migrants, I’ve got a plan.

The refugee crisis in Europe is a complete tragedy. It is estimated that more than 4 million Syrians are displaced and on the move. It’s the largest refugee crisis since World War II. Let’s not even discuss the irony that they all seem to want to go to Germany. Here’s my humble solution. I call it D.I.P.F.A.R.T., David’s International Plan For Asylum, Really, Today.

All European Community countries should have an emergency session to divide the total number of refugees they will accept. Base this on GDP, current population, etc.… For example, Germany gets 250,000, Italy gets 80,000, France gets 150,000, and Hungary gets 15,000. This is only fair and successful countries shouldn’t be overburdened just because they manage their economies well. EU members who refuse should be invited to leave the Union.

A subsequent session should be held, preferably later in the day after an espresso but before beers or a nice glass of ’97 Rhone du Vin Beauchamp. During this session EU members should outline the P.A.D., Practical Assimilation Doctrine. The PAD will discuss how long a refugee remains on refugee status in the adoptive country. In other words, how long you get to stay before they cut off the welfare. How long is that, you ask? I don’t know, I’m just the” big idea” guy. But, it should provide detailed instructions on language courses, cultural awareness*, employment training and job search, housing, transportation. Without a detailed plan for all of these things, history will repeat itself and soon these adoptive countries will have its citizens fleeing as refugees due to another war, crisis.

Problem solved. You’re welcome.

There are only two more things for the world to figure out. One, why is it that all of those neighboring Gulf States (Kuwait, Bahrain, Iraq, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates) have a policy of accepting ZERO Syrian refugees? That’s right, not a one is allowed in. And two, how can an imbecilic rag tag army of 30,000 (ISIS) displace 4 million people with a combined army of 5 million surrounding them in the Gulf States? Doesn’t it seem logical that the refugees would want to remain closer to home, remain with a culture that is their own? Don’t these Arab States think in the long term? Can you imagine the heartfelt thank you notes they would get when this is over? Think outside the box, people.

So Germany it is. We Begin in Berlin (alliteration intended). I tried Beginnings in Berlinings but that didn’t work. I tried I Left My Heart in Dresden but that didn’t work. Too soon. I even went so far as to entertain Skippin’ In The Schwartzwald. Nein.

We have nine fun-filled days to explore the Germany we’ve never seen. We’ve rented a car. We’ve got a few Air BnB’s lined up. So far the plan is Berlin, Dresden, Rottenburg ob der Tauber, the Black Forest, and Stuttgart.

Once in Stuttgart we will visit family and the Volksfest (a concurrent copy of Munich’s Oktoberfest). I have two friends also joining me for the second leg of the Euro Tour. That portion of the tour will undoubtedly cause a mild world crisis in itself. I expect at least one international incident involving mass quantities of beer, schnitzel and Polizei. My friend said “as long as I don’t end up being beheaded on the internet.” I can almost 98.7-percent guarantee that won’t happen. Most of those places don’t have internet anyway.

Not to spoil upcoming blogs but after two weeks my beautiful wife must return to California and to work. I am staying an additional two weeks. I mentioned this to two of my bowling league pals, saying “hey, you guys should meet me there.” Much to my surprise they bought tickets and will be meeting me at the Oktoberfest. This little trio plans to visit Stuttgart, Prague, Vienna, Venice and Innsbruck. Ach du Lieber!

*Cultural Awareness training might include for all adult males the mandatory donning of Lederhosen and knee-high girly socks on October 1, the subsequent slamming of three one-liter steins of strong room-temperature beer and the forced-feeding of bratwurst by the hands of a big-breasted Valkurian-like woman who yells at you to take it like a man.

Stay tuned for Day 1.

Day 4 -9 At Sea– Hey Battleship Potemkin, You Ain’t Got Nothing on Us.

Day 4 -9 At Sea– Hey Battleship Potemkin, You Ain’t Got Nothing on Us.

Usually a listicle is the lazy journalist’s way of writing to lazy readers. Instead of prose and description the writer simply lists what they think are newsworthy items. This is popular on the web today as anyone who clicks on Facebook reposts of usually mindless articles can attest. Miracle food cures cancer. Beyonce slips nip at MTV Awards, Market Crash Certain by Christmas, etc… My purpose in the following listicle is far more practical. Being in WiFi hell along the Baja Peninsula getting enough signal to post these blogs is getting increasingly more difficult.

Whether licking his catch or dry-humping it, local fisherman, Adolpho, brought us many amusing moments.

Whether licking his catch or dry-humping it, local fisherman, Adolpho, brought us many amusing moments.

Just yesterday in San Juanico, the tony village of 42 people, my four-chapter masterpiece was erased during upload. First world problem, I know. But, for you the reader, I feel sorry. It was a combination of Moby Dick, the Iliad, and East of Eden all rolled into one. For those not familiar with those classics, you’ll be right at home with the following listicle amd in need of a a semester of English Lit at your local community college.

  1. First day at Seat, refridgeration broken. All meat had to be thrown overboard.
  2. Alarms going off at all hours. it usually means Ted’s girlfriend is calling. For some reason Ted’s cell plan is better than NASA’s communication system.
  3. Bilge pump not working. Boat is lower in the water now.
  4. Water gushing into front cabin soaking all bedding.
  5. Day Two, water is dripping onto my sleeping bag. Smells like its passing over a petrified rat full of cheese that’s been stuck in the hull since 1979.
  6. Stepped on two Chihuahuas. Really pissed them off and I think I maimed one in the process.
  7. Caught a mackerel. Left it on deck for two days. Smelled like a two-day old mackerel.
  8. 45-mph wind gusts with 25-foot waves every 3 seconds.
  9. Launched out of bed in the middle of REM sleep. Bruised ribs.
  10. Day Three, bathing has become a distant fond memory like Christmas morning as a kid.
  11. Forced Ted to shower in San Juanico and was chastised as being too sensitive.
  12. Whales, dolphins, shark, pelicans. Yadda yadda yadda.
  13. Batteries low.the only thing that seems to be charging is Ted’s cell phone.
  14. Day Four, solar panel nearly slips off of boat. Secured it with Zip ties.
  15. Putting toothpaste on brush during rough seas is like squirting glue on the wall.
  16. Caught 30-pound yellow tail tuna. Fish juice all over. Ate it raw because propane stove went kaput
  17. Captain ran out of e-cigarette juice. Now smoking real cigarettes in cabin.
  18. Met two fishermen who gave us oysters and fish. The fish had to be chucked. See #16.

To sum up the trip, I would punch the first sailboat salesman who offered to sell me a sailboat. Sail boating seems to me to be a series of fleeting glimpses of awe with continuous moments of panic and terror.

But, sail boaters would say, “But the stars.” Hey, sail boaters, go outside anywhere you are on the planet (even off the planet) and look up…stars.

Sail boaters might even say, “But, the sunsets.” Again, go outside and look up. You’re welcome. I just saved you 100K and a high blood pressure problem.

“But, the wind is free.” True, the wind is free. But when the wind is coming from the wrong direction, you’re burning diesel like the Exxon Valdez. And, how much was that little stainless steel fitting you had to have?

“But, how about having a hot cup of coffee in the middle of the night while gazing at the sea?” In my experience, it was like the scene in Young Frankenstein when the blind man spilled scalding hot soup in the monster’s lap.

All in all it was an experience I am grateful to have had.Key word, had. I’m glad it’s over and can now say I traveled over 991 nautical miles without serious incident. Thanks Captain Ted. You’re detail to planning, preparedness, and careful attention to all things seaworthy, we are alive to be glib and snarky.

Day 3 At Sea– Cabo San Lucas, Baja California

Day 3 At Sea– Cabo San Lucas

Editor’s Disclaimer: In advance of the following blog, I would like to apologize to the Mexican Tourism Board, the Baja California Fishing Fleet Union, the Cabo San Lucas Chamber of Commerce and anyone who has graduated from the 8th grade.

The sun peaks over the craggy hillside stirring awake the sleepy hamlet and its inhabitants that is Cabo San Lucas. Dogs half-asleep along dirt roads stir almost in unison as their bellies begrudgingly remind them of the day’s unending quest for scraps of food. Scratching lazily, they stretch out and give a silent yawn as they do every morning as they have every morning of their lives.

Along the beach the tepid Sea of Cortez slaps the sand in a welcoming nudge beckoning it to awake. The remnants of the previous day are evident to the eager mango solicitor. He spies an empty Sol beer bottle rolling haplessly back and forth along the surf. He sees a fuscia-colored bikini top half buried in the sand and smiles. His only companions on this quest for prime real estate to set up shop are the ocean birds darting across the sand looking for a landlocked crab or two.

Across the bay a slow procession of Cabo’s vast tourist fishing fleet is seemingly parading past the famous Arenchurio Hole, the last outcropping of rock that separates the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean. It is known by some as the A-hole. These boats, Tornadoes Urbano Rio Diplimaticos or T.U.R.D.s, today are lining up for a special tourist attraction. Only rarely do the conditions allow for such a treat. One by one they are proceeding slowly, cautiously through the A-hole giving the “touristicos” an added bonus to their daily deep sea fishing experience.

As the T.U.R.D.s navigate through the A-hole one can almost feel the triumphant discharge of relief each T.U.R.D. captain must feel as he glides effortlessly past the circumference. On this morning as with most mornings the A-hole has been cleaned by the sea leaving a smooth passage for each successive T.U.R.D. The outer rim does show a slight build up of pelican nesting but the hurricane season is coming and all will be blasted clean again.

The tide is rising and the fifth T.U.R.D. is testing the limits of his beam as he tries to make the passage through the A-hole.

Sure enough, the T.U.R.D. gets stuck in the A-hole. The furious captain can be heard barking commands to his mates from hundreds of yards away. It sounds familiarly like a fog horn with belching and booming echoes. While his beam scrapes back and forth through the A-hole onlookers can see this red-faced Capitan grunting and trying his best to bring it through with sheer will and guts.

The alarm is signaled and the Fastidos Inducemento Servico Tugbarca or F.I.S.T. is hailed on emergency radio channel 16. The F.I.S.T.s are a slightly larger boat with a 4-foot bumper of rubber tires on the bow to help push boats. It looks similar to a tugboat but usually painted in bright colors as is the custom in Mexico.

The stuck T.U.R.D is in luck this day as the F.I.S.T. is there in a hurry to lend a hand.

“Push my T.U.R.D. with your F.I.S.T.,” screams the captain. The ever-obliging F.I.S.T. gives the first bump. Scratching can be heard. Paint chips fly off the T.U.R.D. in ever-increasing damage. It has moved only slightly.

“Mucho harder,” the captain bellows. “Push it strong like bull.”

The following sound cannot be described but the relief on the T.U.R.D captain’s face says the final thrust of the F.I.S.T. has pushed him through the A-Hole and all is right again in Cabo.

This post is dedicated to my friend Steve Friday, who majored in Scatology in junior high school.

Day 1 – At Sea

Day 1 – At Sea.

Dear Diary, it’s our first day at sea and although we have plenty of fresh drinking water I am taking the extra precaution of saving my urine in old film containers just in case. Safety first.

We are underway and spirits are high. There’s lots of high fiving and backslapping going on. We’re just short of bro hugging.

Pacified, Not Pacifico EPIRB

The Watch –

Ted and Kelly are getting ready to hit their bunks. I have the first watch, 8p.m. to midnight. It’s a little disconcerting since I don’t know jack squat about running this beast. Suddenly I have a thousand questions before they leave me. They tell me to look up occasionally and check for nearby boats. What happens when I spot one? Beats me. Is this some sort of game where whoever spots the most boats wins?

Let me describe the setting. It’s pitch black and I’m tethered to a hook in the cockpit. I’m also wearing a fancy lifejacket that’s a 20-year-old hand-me-down. I’m not even sure if I put it on correctly. Will the thing inflate and pop my head off? If you’re reading this I guess it didn’t. Will it even inflate? It doesn’t even look like a lifejacket. It looks more like a rolled up towel with a little pull tab dangling from the bottom.

Was that a whale? Chrissake! Don’t those things go to sleep at night?

The lazy slapping waves are calling me like the sirens of Capri. Their whispering sweet lies are beckoning me to untether and jump in for a swim; the cool embrace of a watery grave. “Come on, Old Friend. Just change course and head for the jagged rocks of Isla de Meurto des Gringos. All your troubles will be finito.”

Ha. Joke’s on you, bitches. I don’t know how to change course. Speaking of course, I was told to not deviate from what the waypoint the auto pilot was set on. It wasn’t quite that technical of course. “Just look out for boats and stuff.”

Now it’s 8:05p.m. I’m five minutes into my watch and am already convinced that this will be the longest four hours of my life. I’m looking out for boats like an eagle zeroing in on a vole. If my alertness could be bottled you could put the cocaine business out of business.

I see a flashing light ahead. I wake Ted up. “It’s a lighthouse. Goodnight.”

I notice on the GPS monitor that I’m on course to sail through the narrowest of passages with only inches on either side of me. I wake Ted up. “You have 5 miles on either side. Goodnight.”

A lot has happened already. I’ve dodged some pretty harrowing stuff. My watch must be coming to an end. It’s 8:06 p.m.

I settle in for the next three hours and 54 minutes. The moist salty air is whipping my face leaving chunks of, well, sea salt, on my cheeks. This I gather into a Ziplock I have for this very purpose. It will be a wonderful addition to my culinary spice rack at home.

As the watch comes to a close I feel prouder than a new father, or a guy who’s just been promoted, or a guy who’s just single-handedly saved the lives of three men. Then it hits me…I will have the midwatch tomorrow night, 12a.m. to 4a.m. Sumbich.

Departing

Departing

Scenery

Scenery

Day 6 – Countdown to Leaving La Paz or Tequila, You are Not my Friend

Herding Goats

Herding Goats

Waking up this morning was like scratching your way out of a dirt grave using only your eyelids as tools. Trying to breathe in 90% humidity is like sticking a moldy wet towel down your throat and getting kicked in the gut by an angry burro. Tequila should never have been invented. Although Clamato y Cerveza is my new favorite drink, Tequila, you are not my amigo.

Shopping in a super Mercado is like shopping at any large grocery store except they have three aisles for peppers alone, two for cans of mystery meat, and at least six for packaged sugary things. There was some lady peeling and selling large cactus leaves. That must be the secret fifth ingredient in Mexican cuisine.

We also went to a Home Depot to get a few tools for the boat. The interesting thing was that there were about a dozen Americans in the parking lot looking for day work.

It’s official I’ve discovered the secret to Mexican food. There’s only four different ingredients. They just shape it together a little different and voila you have a different dish. Have you ever heard of someone liking a taco but not a tostada? It’s not possible unless you are a shape snob. Also I wonder if at home they say, “You guys want Mexican food tonight?” Or, do they just call it food?

The boat is coming along. We’re definitely in vacation mode. Every time I ask about something we need to get done before leaving they say that we’ll do it in the morning before we leave. That list is getting huge and tomorrow may creep into Wednesday. Today is Sunday mind you.

This is what happens when you try to fill the water tank but stick the hose in the waste holding tank.

This is what happens when you try to fill the water tank but stick the hose in the waste holding tank.

This may be the last post for a while since I don’t think we’ll get innerweb access at sea. Please look forward to a gaggle of posts once we hit civilization again.

Day 5 – La Paz and the Boat

Day 5 – La Paz and The Boat.

Let me describe “the boat.” If a drunk took javelin lessons using the hull as a target, it would look better than this boat. What’s left of the unscratched surface is a chalky mess resembling something out of an 1800’s school room black board. The teak rails have turned a grayish color unknown to man. They’re chemical make up has changed so much that it isn’t even wood anymore. Touching it leaves permanent microscopic slivers embeded under the skin all swimming in your bloodstream headed straight for your heart. The sails are okay if you think using tattered wet toilet paper is okay. Down below looks as if Brad Pitt tossed a hand grenade into a Nazi tank just before slamming the lid shut. Anchor? We don’t need no stinking anchor. Is there supposed to be a 45-degree angle in the mast? Did I mention that this is not Ted’s boat? This is the boat anchored on a mooring ball on the way to Ted’s boat. Apparently it survived last year’s hurricane, barely. Ted’s boat is beautiful. One turn of the key and the motor purred to life. All of the wood work below has recently been varnished. Very nice. The batteries work. The GPS and other electronics seem to work fine. While Kelly was futzing around with mounting some IPerp thingy, Ted and I did most of the heavy lifting, really getting things ship shape (that expression works well here). Ted is one detail-oriented neat freak. Insert hilarity and knee slapping here. Thank God for EPIRBs (Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon). The dinghy needed a little help with some patches and a new fuel line to the outboard. We did it after 6 trips to various marine stores. While at the marina I met this guy named Sea Otter Jimmy or Pelican Pete or something like that. This guy, approximately 105, had gnarled knuckles, knees and elbows that looked like socks full of golf balls. His one eye was skimmed over with a layer of cataracts thicker than a teaspoon of rancid honey. The other eye socket dangled open with the lids looking similar to the lips of a child’s doll. His bushy white beard was only interrupted by a tobacco-stained corner above his lip where a permanent filter-less cigarette. Of course he had a dog. You know how sometimes pets look like their owners? This mange-ridden cotton ball with three legs had a permanent brown stain below its tail. “I’m never going back to the United States. I was supposed to leave for Panama today.” You’re a real national treasure, Jimmy. The country’s really going to miss you. Good luck to you. Good luck Panama. May the wind always be under your keel. May Neptune smile upon your backside and keep your sails wet. Something like that. Later in the day I saw of Jimmy and his dog sputtering out to sea in a dinghy possibly headed to Panama. Or, possibly taking the Mexican Eskimo suicide ride. The rest of the afternoon was spent visiting museums and taking in the vast history and culture that is Baja California. Yeah, right. How about, the rest of the day was spent guzzling tequila in every bar along the Malecon trying to erase the image of Jimmy’s empty eye socket blowing little doll-sized kisses at me. Spanish lesson: Malecon, direct translation to Mal is bad, con is with, and because the “e” in the middle means you’re supposed to put the second part of the word in front of the first part, you have Withbad. Spanish is easy. You’re welcome. Kelly learned how to make a flower out of a palm frond from some dude who looked like he had a quart of tar under his fingernails. The locals ran for the actual hills when we put Meatloaf’s Paradise By The Dashboard Lights on the sound system. To top off the day we all ordered this molten lava bowl filled with meats. I figure they had to kill 7 different animals for that meal. Sorry dog.The Infamous Salt Shaker Trick

Day 3 San Juanico to La Paz, Mexico

I’ve been folded up and placed in the back seat for our final leg from San Juanico to La Paz, a 6.5 hours. I suppose it’s in retaliation for yesterday’s 150-mile dirt road ride of hell in which I wouldn’t relinquish the wheel.

Although you would think it would be cool to drive along the ocean on a salt flat, we didn’t have that experience. There’s no road to speak of and the sand is a foot deep in many places. We had the four-wheel drive locked in the entire way. At one point we came to a small fishing village seemingly right out of a Steinbeck novel. The difference though were the hundreds of plastic bags strewn in the brush fluttering like a giant FU to Mother Nature. Fishing village? The irony.

Also in this village were bags of oysters along the road piled six feet high. A mystery. Were they bad oysters? Were they drying them out for some weird Japanese sexual fetish market? “Sundried oyster meat make you strong like bull.” Meanwhile a few fishermen were hacking away at a truckload of scallops the size of catcher’s mitts. We asked them for directions. One of them laughed, rolled his eyes, spat on the ground and muttered some epithet of endearment, I’m sure. They pointed in a large U-shaped motion which translated to,  “Dumbass. You’re so f…ked. You need to go back 10 miles and take that second cactus on the right. If you see a bleached cow carcass, you’ve gone too far.”

At this point I remember the usually wonderful advice a bi-lingual friend of mine told me. “If you ever get in trouble just use these four words, chupa mi vegra Bendejo.” I don’t know what that means but I’m sure it’s something like, “Brother, being a fellow member in this family of man,  I am in need of some assistance. Would you kindly help this weary traveller in anyway you are able? Didn’t need to use that little nugget here at Santo Meurto de Fishencino. I figure it’s like a lifeline, last ditch effort of survival.

And after all t"You're next, Gringo," says the nice gentleman after we asked for directions.hat, we arrive in San Juanico. We find three bungalow rooms for pretty cheap and mine is only missing toilet paper, a shower head, electrical outlets, water pressure. No problem. After a few tequilas and beer at the El Burro I slide between the blood-stained sheets and disappear till morning where I pray to the almighty Santo de Garcia Vega y Modelo el Negro y Vegra Cabesa del Playa Mango to please don’t let me see Ted naked today.

Today, ‘ol Deathwish Hawkins is driving. He’s never met a pothole he didn’t like. Apparently when you hit them at 60mph it’s much better than going around them. And, that poor goat, sideswiped and raw on the right side.

Yesterday while at a brief piss stop Ted said to me, “I just knew when I met you 15 years ago  you were the kind of guy I could piss in the desert with.” Today I’m afraid he’s going to say, “I just knew when I met you 15 years ago that you were the kind of guy I could drive 100mph straight into a pool-sized sink hole and die with.”

Speaking of Señor Theo, he is in his element. Other than the intermittent (every 30 seconds) sonar pings coming from his cell phone he is happier than a chihuahua scratching his nuts on a spikeless segura cactus, just enough friction to get the job done but with a little aloe to cool the burn.

The sonar pings? I thought you’d never ask. Apparently Señor Theo has a new girlfriend back home. As with any new relationship, I hope you’ll agree, the first few weeks are communication crucial. It’s where you learn about each other. It’s where you basically flop out the curriculum vitae of your life. Imagine being on that side of the 1600-mile conversation. There’s lots of puppy-love talk. The only thing that would top this off would be if he had found the Donovan’s Greatest Hits cd. Señor Theo, you’re a true Hurdy Gurdy Man. Actually, for all we know there’s nobody on the other end of that phone line. It could just his way of avoiding us. Smart play, Señor.

Next stop, La Paz.

Day 2 – Banning to Guero Negro

I woke up to the din of highway traffic in the distant background. White line fever noise. It’s Banning, California and I woke up one minute before the alarm went off. My first thought was how cool was that that I was able to train my body to get up at a specific time. My second thought was why the hell was I setting an alarm.

Being the boy scout (notice the lower case) that I am I borrowed Ted’s Jeep and drove into town (1 mile) to get coffees and croissants. Ted kept calling it a bagel. Did I mention that Ted opened the hotel room door completely naked? Even upon returning with said croissants he answered the door completely naked. I definitely need to go over the rules again with Ted. There is a mandatory clothing requirement.

Gassed up and on the road by 8 am. Kelly mentioned we need to be in Guero Negro by sundown. My phone isn’t working and I can’t map that yet. When I do, I realize it’s about 8 and half hours away. Have you ever sat in one position for 8 and half hours?

We have to stop for a date shake. Apparently dates are the crop in the Palm Desert and Kelly makes us get one. 5000 calories later we pull into a Big 5 to buy sleeping bags, snorkels and masks.

About 100 yards before the border Ted lets us know that he doesn’t have his car registration or proof of insurance with him. No problem. He drives through and we get red-lighted and have to pull over to get checked by the Mexican Marines. It’s no big deal and we’re through. Now we have to pull over and get tourist visas. We do. I’m feeling very law abiding at the moment. Then Ted says he has to hit the Farmicia to buy some “stuff.”

Kelly and I wait in the car as Ted buys some “stuff.” It’s all legal stuff. It turns out that it’s just a lot cheaper down here. He’s got a bag full of balms, salves, creams and suppositories. We don’t ask.

About 7 hours in we encounter the end of the road, literally. The paved highway just stops and turns into a rocky dirt path for the next 25 miles. I’m driving and it’s pretty tough going. 25 miles per hour tops as I maneuver over large rocks, divots, and cliffs. At about 12 miles in we come to Coco’s Corner. This pit stop, at best, in the middle of nowhere is where one can stop and have a cold beer. The place is decorated with empty beer cans, bras, and weird knick knacks from passersby.

One the road again, Ted decides to drive. Picture this: Ted driving 50 mph over rough terrain, the Who Live at Leeds blaring full blast, Kelly in the back seat finally getting a beer and me video taping the entire experience. There are no words.

Somehow I’m at the wheel again and we’re about 100 clicks (kilometers) outside of Guero Negro. The gas tank is on empty. The fuel light has come on and we’re many miles before the next gas station. We all start to get a little nervous. I’ve already worked out a plan in my head about sleeping in the desert. That’s all there is to it. I’ll have to use that new sleeping bag, wrap myself up and hope the night scorpions or gigante desert rats don’t eat me in the middle of the night.

It all seems hopeless and the mood is hitting an all time low at thisTradtion has it that one must hang their empty beer can on the fence of Coco's Corner, an oasis of cold beer in the deep Baja desert. point. Even devil-may-care Ted is considering siphoning the fuel out of the outboard motor on the roof just to get us 8 more miles down the road.

Well thank you, Sister Mary Consuelo Guadalupe of the Desert, my prayers have been answered. We spot a Pemex sign up ahead and drift in on half a fume. The station attendants’ eyes all lit up at the liters we needed. Never in the history of Baja California has anyone braved the 25-mile road of death on so little fuel.

A few more miles and we arrived at Guero Negro. Check in. Eat. Blog. Sleep.