Jan 2012

Blog, North America


Return to Baja

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.

We woke up to waves that sounded like turbo jet props.  Row after row of fifteen to twenty foot faces pounded the shore, smothering my intentions of surf practice that day.  Instead, I pulled out my tackle box and proceeded to build a rig that I could use for surf fishing while Sheena went to take photographs.  I’ve never used a proper surf rod, but got one for this trip and am anxious to try my hand.  Between my underwater Rambo getup and my atom-bomb like surf fishing rig, I hope to be feeding on homemade fish tacos on a regular basis.  I spent the morning practicing my surf cast, which, as it turns out, I also suck at.  I’m an Arizona boy.  Give me time.

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.

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  1. Damn! That is a bomber rig! Surf fishing is awesome, I left my rod behind but am regretting it, I need to find a place on the truck to store it before I get another one. Try digging the surf break for sandcrabs, they make great bait, I dug them up all up and down the baja coast.

    This guy goes into way to much detail about it… but basically just watch the wash as it goes back out for the little dudes and dig em up!

    Comment by James on January 10, 2012 at 6:55 am

  2. that last picture is like something off awkwardfamilyphotos.com.

    BTW, had another one of the quad last night. It’s far more carbonated now, and very much drinkable. Still could use some aging, but getting better. Don’t know if you had one at your beer tasting in Baja, but they’re drinkable now, I’m quite sure.

    Comment by Nathan on January 10, 2012 at 1:12 pm

  3. Pat Van Orden

    Brad and Sheena,
    Sorry to see that you are having such a miserable time waiting for friends, being search by the military and experiencing (from what it seems in the pictures and story) food and drink that you can’t be used to. I wish we could have done what you are doing when we were your age. Glad to see that you are having such a wonderful life-changing experience. Love reading about your travels. Thanks for the photos you sent us in the mail.
    Love you Guys, Dad and Pat

    Comment by Pat Van Orden on January 10, 2012 at 3:37 pm

  4. I recommend hitting up Salsipuedes tambien. The angle to and fro is a bit dodgy, but it’s dry and you shouldn’t have a problem getting in/out. It looks over the ocean from the bluff, and it’s a sweet little reef break that can be amazing. With the diminishing swell, it might be really good. And it’s not too far from you at all. Might be some good fishing as well.


    Comment by Todd on January 10, 2012 at 6:17 pm

  5. Nice start to the sun and surf! That is quite a good idea on clam capturing as well. we may have to get some tips from you on that!

    Comment by Wendy Pearson on January 11, 2012 at 3:49 am

  6. Barb Wieber

    Brad and Sheena,
    So nice seeing you two with your friends. You all look good. Can’t wait to see you both on the cam Thursday. I will see if I can round up Geo and Chellly so they can hear you. What adventure out the ocean. Did you really loose your boat? LOL Love Mom

    Comment by Barb Wieber on January 11, 2012 at 3:59 pm

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