By 4:00, as the sun approached the Pacific horizon, we figured Tommy, Dan, and Sunday were in the clink. The last we’d heard from them was the previous day in a quick email stating that they’d meet us at Tommy’s beach house near Tijuana between noon and 1:00. We bought some tamales from a guy in a beat up minivan and hunkered down on the deck of the beach house to wait. We knew something unexpected would happen on account of Sunday being in the car. Strange things are always happening to him; he’s been run over by a drunk driver while on a date, sandwiched between two semi trucks, attacked by a vicious dog in American Samoa, the list goes on and on. Like a magnet for calamity, Sunday had surely done something to get the whole group put away at the US/Mexican border.
The previous day we had made the unexpectedly long journey from Puerto Penasco to the Pacific Ocean. At the first military checkpoint we got out of Nacho and let one of the soldiers in, while another soldier approached us. “I’m so sorry for the inconvenience, this is a routine checkpoint to inspect for weapons and drugs. It’ll only take a minute.” We told him we were happy to stop, and that the weather was perfect for a quick stretch. “Yes, the weather is great now, but in the summer we suffer in our army uniforms.” We told him about our Baja trip last summer, and about the heat we encountered. “So you’re going to Ensenada now? It’s not far. You’ll be there in four and a half hours.” We made our way across the barren desert at the Northern tip of the Sea of Cortez before turning North, where we began skirting the US border. After Mexicali we climbed high into the mountains just as the sun set, breaking our “no driving after dark” rule for the second time. We descended from the mountains into Tijuana in the dark. After what seemed like an eternity we arrived at the surf spot known as K58, South of Tijuana. Driving time: nine hours.
At nearly 5:00, after we ate tamales from the clunker minivan, after Sheena went for a run, and after I walked around the beach aimlessly like a crazy person for what seemed like an eternity, Tommy and the boys finally showed up. Contrary to tradition, nothing ludicrous had happened as a result of Sunday’s presence. No semi truck accident, no attack dogs, no clink. Tommy had simply forgotten his keys at home, and only realized it when they were nearly to Mexico. We had such a rough time sitting on the patio watching the ocean while we waited, we decided we would never forgive him.
We built a campfire on the beach and grilled up steaks, asparagus, and sweet potatoes. The boys broke out a bunch of microbrews for an impromptu beer sampling. We sat in the hot tub, and then went for a middle-of-the-night ocean swim. Sheena made hot chocolate, and I wondered why it took us so long to decide to do this. So far living in a van isn’t half bad.
Later in the weekend we decided it was time to tempt fate. The waves had let up slightly since we had first arrived, but it still wasn’t pretty. The house sits in the middle of a long beach break, so at any time there are about five rows of progressively bigger waves standing between the beach and the calm water beyond the breakers. All we have to do, we thought, is use our weak arms to propel ourselves past all five rows of those enormous, violent waves, and we’ll be home free. Sheena and Tommy were the first to make the attempt in the tandem sea kayak.
I watched with concern as they broke through the first two sets of waves. They paddled fast, and then Sheena’s arms shot up in the air as they crashed through the wave. I watched with fear as they paddled through the third and fourth rows of waves. The kayak became almost vertical on the wave face, Sheena’s arms flailed, and the boat sailed through the air as it broke through the wave crest, crashing back into the water. As they reached the fifth row of waves, I watched the boat become vertical, Sheena was ejected, Tommy flew in the opposite direction, and the boat was tumbled all the way back to shore, sans passengers.
After Sheena and Tommy’s ill-fated attempt, I threw my better judgment to the wind and got in the boat with Tommy. It went much the same way as it did with Sheena. On the fifth wave, I heard Tommy’s usually casual voice turn serious. “This is going to hurt…BAD!” The boat shot up the face of an enormous wave, but as it became airborne I remained in my seat. Tommy was long overboard as the boat sailed backwards, upside down, into the crush of the crashing wave. I remained seated as the weight of the boat drilled me upside down into the churning whitewater blender. As the boat folded me in half, I returned my lunch to mother nature. I imagine it was how Sunday felt when he got sandwiched by those two semi trucks. Our boat was gone, so we swam to shore while periodically getting drilled by more waves.
This evening we steamed some fresh clams that Tommy collected and ate them on the patio before bidding ado to our friends as they pointed the car northward. Dan is headed back to Oregon to fight fires. Sunday is headed back to Rhode Island to write mapping software, and Tommy goes back to work as a mechanical engineer on his family’s California dairy farm. Later this year Tommy and his fiancée, Brooke, will take off to drive the Pan-American highway in their VW Vanagon. In the morning, Sheena and I will go test out the road for them.