Saturday, September 29, 2012
Well, before the tape about the clock stuck at 11:20 gets replayed for another time, it might be worthwhile to attempt to describe what it is like to cross the Sea of Cortez, or at least the southern mouth of the Sea, with the side effects of a bloody hurricane whipping up 40'waves.
Still having all of those hangovers from 35 years of planning every day, organizing my life to fit bells and schedules, I dutifully had organized the tickets to Mazatlan the day before. I helped Peter and Jon find the place in downtown La Paz, and they were set to go as well. We had some time to kill before the 2:00 order to appear, so we ended up at a downtown restaurant. Soon after we arrived, two dudes pull up in camoed Suzuki 650. It turns out that these are the two brothers from Chicago who have a blown top end in the younger brothers' KLR. They have been posting on ADV rider, and seeking parts all over the continent. It seems that it will be awhile before the parts are sourced, and when they are able to fix the bike and then ride. They seem to be in good spirits in spite of the set-back and delay. I said to the oldr brother that this is a good opportunity for the two to bond, as I am always seeking ways to have my two sons spend time together. The older brother kind of rolled his eyes. When I can get online, I will post his thread here, as his back story is interesting, in that he was a US Ranger, and did 4 tours, so I think it is kind of imperative that kharma comes down on their side and that these two guys can get riding again.
We arrived at the dockside promptly at 2:00, and after some initial confusion, which seem to be the going rate for any transition where government and or bureaucracy are involved, we settled in for a long wait as the ferry was loaded. I have to give the guys credit who are loading this ship. From what I can tell there are 5 decks, and 4 of them are committed to vehicles. Most of the vehicles are tractor trailers and other commercial loads. Some of the truck drivers take their own rigs into the bowels of the ship, while Baja Ferry guys in the jump trucks maneauver the rest into place. Every vehicle, including motos, is weighed before going onboard, and the dockmaster must have constant communicatins with the weigh scale and the oncoming traffic. Not only does the ship have to be balanced, but the length of the rigs needs to be taken into consideration. It was interesting to watch the crew load the ship. Everybody had a job, and knew what they were doing, and in spite of the temperatures in the 40's the guys did their jobs.
We ended up being loaded about 4:30, and from what I could tell, we were in the bowels of the ship,in the lowest deck, right at the bow. It did not dawn on me how significant our placement would be until about 2 o'clock in the morning, when all hell is breaking loose. Another biker had joined us by this time. A young fellow from Hyderbad, India, was riding a super Sherpa, and he mnaged to get his papers straightened out in time to load with the rest of us, including a Vespa scooter.
It began to dawn on me that I should have tried for a cabin, as this 16 sailing was going to be long. Little did I know how long. Well, I didn't get a cabin, as I had some sort of fantasy about sleeping on deck. Two things wrong with that idea: the tropical squalls would dump 3 inches of rain on the deck in a matter of minutes, and once we left our bikes, the whole lower decks were sealed, so I was S.O.L for sleeping bag and pad, which I would learn to regret very soon that evening.
There was a small sitting area for all the passengers who did not have cabins, and it seemed like at least 50 of the rest of us had not got cabins, or figured they were too expensive. There was also a common cafeteria. Each of these areas had 36 inch Televisions playing movings continuously. To their credit the moves were mostly high quality shoot up up, race it up, cut it up Machismo type of stuff, and certainly no girly movies. The down side of the movie entertainment was that they were played at about 130 decibels. The noise from the movies and the conversations was almost overwhelming, and I found myself taking more than a few walks on the deck to settly my old nerves. That was in spite of the reality that the deck was pitching an heaving in incredibly rough seas. More on that in a bit....
After we had been underway for ahwile, on the 16 hour crossing, it became evident the the so-called pacific was not being very cooperative, and we began to feel the impact of very strong winds from the south west, which continued to batter the ship throughout the night. I tried to get some reassurance from the crew about the bikes, and they told me all was good, but by 2:00 AM I was convinced that Blondie was lying on her side, and getting battered about. We had not secured the bikes in any way, as there was nothing around to use, and and we had wrongly assumed that the crossing would be flat calm on this inland sea. There was nothing that we could do, and the main focus was to secure a place where we could get some sleep. The seating area was incredibly cold, as the ships crew insisted on keeping the air conditioning at about 15 degrees. I ended up crashing in the common eating area, pulling some chairs to gether and I used them as a quasi bunk. I may have got a couple of hours sleep in total.
When dawn broke, it was clear to me that I would be dealing with a smashed bike, and that my ride was over, when and if we arrived in Mazatlan. The storm did not relent, and carried on all night, and only around 9:00 AM did the winds drop a bit. By the time we sighted land, the winds had dropped a bit, but there were considerable rollers and tall seas still rolling at the ship. The harbourmaster at Mazatlan would not allow the ferry to dock, as it was too dangerous getting her through the narrow entryway at the harbours' mouth. The captain of the ferry had to hold the ferry off, in rolling seas, from 10:00 am until just before 5;00 oclock, when the pilot boat was able to bring a pilot along side. With the help from two very big tugs, they were able to bring the ferry to the dock.
I was very concerned about Blondie, and I was going over in my mind the different options in terms of getting her fixed. Welders and God knows what would be needed, and I was thinking that the nearest BMW shop was Guadalaraja. This was going to be a cock up,and I was blaming myself for assuming that this was a safe little ride across the strait, ala BC Ferries...
Well, my good Kharma saved the day, yet again. The young fellow from India had stayed behind when the rest of us went up on deck, and he had managed to get a crew man to tie some of the bikes off. I am assuming that because the bikes were so deep in the hold, that they did not take the buffeting and bashing that we were experiencing 5 decks up. The short story is that the bikes were fine, and all my worrying was for naught. A little after 6 pm on Friday, we were able to offload. The 16 hour crossing had ended up being more like 30 hours, but the bikes were safe.
Mazatlan was a brief stopover for me. There were a couple of Irish boys who joined the bikers as we waited for the waters to calm down enough, and all of us met at a restaurant later that night to celebrate being on dry land.
I headed south at a wanders' rate, with the goal of spending some time in San Blas, which is south of Mazatlan, and right on the Pacific. I have been here twice before, once in 1971 or 72, I can never figure out which, and in 1981. There are a few of you out there who have heard my San Blas stories, so bear with me....
In the 70's, when I first came here, it was a undiscovered surfing village, and had just started to become popular with the hippies and surfers in the previous 5 or 6 years, although I am sure that there are vagabondos out there who were here in the 30's, although I wonder if they are still alive. Anyways, I ended up staying here for about a month, and this is where I went hunting for iguanas, baking about a 1000 doughnuts because there wasn't any cookie mix for the humoungous sack of weed that was given to me, and going into the jungle on different quests. While certainly not life changing, the time that I spent here was out of this world, in terms of the rest of my life. I have always had a desire to come back here, and I was able to convince my wife of the day, in the 80's, to come and see the little town where the town clock stood still for 30 years...I never did thank her properly for supporting that little jaunt, like a lot of things, I took that kind of acceptance for granted, as part of a relationship.
In some respects, my experinces down in Mexico as a kid were framing me for my future. I was aquiring a sensitivity to many aspects of life and different cultures that I think in one sense I still sustain. The down side to those formative experiences was that some of the habits were ultimately self-destructive and totally ruinous for a relationship, and by that I mean my liking for the drink. I know that I have mentioned it before, and for the thousands of people who can handle a beer or two and walk away from the table, life is pretty good in that respect. For guys like me, who never learned in time that they cannot walk away from it, the life lessons involved are sometimes also the deepest canyons in our minds, and the blackest holes in our hearts. I digress somewhat, but not really, as I am writing this in a San Blas bar, not too far from where I would sit and bang back tequilas with the town drunk. When you are twenty or twenty two, getting loaded with the town drunk who has a parrot on his shoulder and comes from Bella Coola seemed to be the coolest thing in the world to be doing. I saw some poor soul passed out on the very same benches in the very same centro this afternoon, and memories of that crazy guy and his misspent life came back to me. I can only be thankful, as I am always am, for the past 25 years that I have been away from those habits that I thought were cool and grown up..
On the road to San Blas, south of Mazatlan. Lots of water lying in the fields...
I wanted to see San Blas again for a lot of reasons, not all of them clear even as I write. One of my exploits during my stay here was to travel to Guadalajara, go to the market, and find a bruja, who is a witchdoctor, and secure some peyote. I managed to do that, and although I ended up on the wrong bus, I eventually made it back to this sleepy little village with my bag full of peyote. I was full of Carlos Casteneda and all of his stories, and although I cannot remember the characters anymore, I knew, or at least I was pretty sure that the path to understanding who and what I was had a lot to do with eating a bunck of peyote. I hired a boat to take me to some outside islands,and I had my experince. I cannot remember the details, but I when I developed the films from that time on the island, there were some fantastic designs made from shells in the sand. It is safe to say that this self-directed trip did involve lots of coulours, and certainly had me howling at the moon.
Just to put this in context, as I write, I looked down from my bar stool, and the bar car is playing with a mouse. Not a big mouse...but certainly a dead mouse in the end..
Another exploit that I was involved with in this town was a search for monas, or remains of prehistoric artifacts. I remember going to a village, and I think that I passed it today, “La Libertad” and getting to go with these guys and finding these figurines. They were definitely old and certainly looked pre-Columbian. I think that I still have a couple of those pieces left from that little expedition.
The iguana expedition and the accompanying back story which culminated in a snowstorm in North Dakota on February 14th has a carry over to this day. It seems that when the American Government instituted their war on drugs, I was not immune for being included in that data base, as a result of having 6 salted down iguana skins in my kit bag. As recently as two years ago, an insensitve border guard hasseled me about the incident. Of course the computer records don't get at the reality a dumb kid hitchiking in a February snowstorm in North Dakota.
The final story within the story is that the clock in the church seems to have been removed. There is now not any way of telling if the universe did in fact stop at 11:20 for 40 years. I did try to bring witnesses here to verify my particular hallucination....
I am very glad to have made it back to San Blas for a third and last time? I have difficulty sometimes sorting out the real memories from the desired memories, and sometimes the old tapes play in my head much louder than the tapes of the day. I don't joke about memory issues or dementia or early onset of alezheimers' because it is a very real issue for many people. I just like to sort out the reality from the dream dust that has filtered into aspects of my being. As I head further south, there should not be any old tapes running because if I were to tell any one that I have been somewhere south of here before, I would have to be a figment of my own imagination, excluding of course, Cancun and Playa, which, of course is another story...