Day 1 – “Just a 16 hour drive”
At 4:am the day before Thanksgiving I kissed my sleepy wife on the forehead avoiding the stink eye she’d been giving me about making this trip at all. My truck already packed, I checked the load one last time to discover that everything was completely iced up and “crunchy” from the 28 degree frigid weather. Heading out for my 14 hour trek from my hometown in Colfax California, I ran over the list of things I’d packed, certain that I would make a u-turn to grab something I’d forgotten.The freeway was pretty much deserted as I sped onto I-80, headed south to Yuma Arizona where I would rendezvous with Brad for a five day trip to El Golfo Mexico. Brad had been inviting me for several years to join him for his Thanksgiving “Turkey Bash”, but the traditional family feast here at home always kept me from attending. This year tho, I wasn’t going to miss it again, even if it did mean I’d be couch surfing when I got home.The downside of taking Adderall as a prescription medication is that if I forget to take it early in the morning, I’ll be up all night painting murals on the bathroom walls. The upside of taking Adderall is that if I don’t take it early in the morning, I can drive 14 hours straight through to Yuma singing Bohemian Rhapsody, while flicking pistachio shells at the dumb asses who pass with their brights on. I do rather enjoy long road trips by myself. I can take the scenic routes instead of the “fastest” that my wife and Roada would prefer. “ROADa” is my GPS, and she travels with me on all of my excursions. Plus, shes the only relationship outside the marriage my wife will allow. Roada and I get along great most of the time. She doesn’t complain when I slam on the brakes or bitch when I jump out and take a picture of an old rusty tractor at the side of a picturesque country road. My wife on the other hand would say, “It’s just a rusty tractor on the side of the damn road!” If Roada complains about straying from the intended course, I just lock the bitch in the glove box! Three pepsis, two nasty ass tacos from Jack in The Box and a couple packs of cigarettes later, I rounded the bend into Yuma. “Your destination is on the right” came a muffled voice from the glove box. The weather here was still chilly but considerably warmer than back at the homestead. I grabbed my iphone off the pile of junk food wrappers on the passengers seat and clicked on “save-energy” to touch bases with Brad who was still about an hour inbound from Phoenix. For all I knew, we’d be ducking gun fire and swerving to avoid decapitated heads as soon as we crossed the border.
One churro and two cups of coffee later, Brad, Anika, Shawn, “Doc”, Jim, Tanya, Tracy and “The Princess” pulled in with four ultralight hangliders and a couple of quads in tow. Brad had recently made contact with one of the Mexican border agents to make sure we wouldn’t run into any problems getting the ultralights into the country. “No problem my friend!” he said. “When you get to the San Luis border crossing, just ask for me and I will get you right through!” Sounds wayyy too easy doesn’t it? Yeah, it was… A short thirty minute drive south out of Yuma and we pulled into a gas station about three blocks from the border in San Luis. While snapping off a few pictures on the Canon I overhear Brad in the middle of a phone conversation with Mexican Border officials. “I understand that it’s his day off, but could someone call him at home?”, asks Brad. “He told us that it would not be a “pro-blay-muh” getting our ultralights across the border!” The conversation got a lot louder when Brad realized we’d been set-up. They not only didn’t intend to “get us right in”, but now they were asking for a $300 “tip” for EACH of the airplanes that we brought in! Brad finally just hangs up on the guy. I’m pretty sure he would have SLAMMED down the phone in his ear, but what good would that do on a cell phone? Hell, you could shoot your phone with a bazooka and all they’d hear on the other end is………. “click”. So, we gathered everyone together for a crisis management meeting and after an hour of deliberation it was decided that we would just “Crash The Gate!” What were they going to do when six vehicles with trailers pulled up to the border with a 150 cars in line behind us? Make everyone back up? Again, this solution made the least amount of sense. So we went with it. In one long single file we jockeyed into position as we approached the border. From my position at the back of the pack, I watched as other vehicles were waved past the border guards and into the land of pinatas and shrimp tacos. Brad took up the lead position. His vehicle got the pass and drove straight through the gates.Then our plan fell completely apart as the US Border Agents began signaling for the rest of us to pull into a secondary inspection area. From there we were all shuffled into a detention room where for the next two hours there would be questions, interrogation, background checks and more questions. It seems that bringing ultralite powered aircraft into Mexico raises eyebrows since drug smugglers use them to transport drugs across the border…. Damn good idea really! They’re relatively cheap. They can take off and land on the desert and they could easily fly below radar.
About the time I was expecting to be waterboarded they let us go… all twenty five feet to the Mexican Border Guards who were anxiously waiting for their $1200 Christmas bonus… Determined to pocket some pesos, they held their ground and threatened to turn us all around, but they finally began to crack under the unyielding and relentless assault coming from Brad.
Guard: “OK, OK Senor! You pay $150 dollars for each ok?”
Brad: “$150? We want to spend our little money on food and the poor people of El Golfo!”
Guard: “OK… you pay $100 for each plane ok?”
Brad: You are a good man, si? I know you want to help your Mexican people…
Guard: “OK OK… You pay $100 for ALL of the airplanes. Si Bueno?
Brad: (the final blow) “Amigo, look at these poor senoritas that have traveled many, many miles with us. They are very tired and very hungry. A good Mexican man would NEVER let a woman go hungry…
Guard: (long pause)………. “Welcome to Mexico”
One long pot hole filled road and two and a half hours later, the pavement ended and the little fishing village of El Golfo appeared on the horizon. Now, even after everything that Brad had told me about El Golfo I was still amazed and a little shocked at the reality of this little fishing village. El Golfo sits on the northern shore of the Sea Of Cortez. The entire town resides inside about a six by six block square area. There are no big resorts. Most of the town relies on shrimp fishing for a living and I would imagine the average family income is under a couple hundred bucks a month. Once we entered the town, the pavement ended and we bounced along pot hole dirt streets. Couple of blocks and a street vendor shrimp taco later, we rounded the corner to Brads house.
It was after midnight and everyone was pretty exhausted from the long drive and BS at the border so we unpacked only essential crap like blankets, sleeping bags and a fifth of Tequilla.
Brads “house” is a reconditioned 40′ long house trailer that he paid $300 bucks for and hauled it to Mexico. If this trailer were parked at Burning Man it would definitely be considered “The Love Shack!” Comfy furniture, dark fabric walls, red rope lighting throughout and a “guest suite” with a sign over the entry depicting two people going at it doggy style… I guess I’m only assuming the outline graphic was a guy and a GIRL! I don’t think Brads up for the baloney pony and Butt Sex…. (“Not that there’s anything WRONG with that!”).
So, I claimed the big comfy leather couch… Brad and Anika giggled the nights away in the “Guest Suite” and the Princess set-up her King Size inflatable mattress across the ENTIRE fucking living room floor. Two shots of Tequilla and ten or twelve “shushes” later from the Princess who was trying to get her beauty sleep, we crashed. I would have snored all night if it had not been for the occasional jab from the middle of the fucking living room floor… No worries. At least the couch didn’t have an air leak in it. 😉
Day 2 – “Pure Poverty”
I woke up around six. I’m usually an early riser (in more ways than one). So, as not to send the women folk into a frenzy, I wrapped myself in a big fuzzy red blanket, tip-toed over a few bodies, and snuck out the front door.
The wind was blowing pretty hard and I wondered if our ultralights would even get off the ground today. Being this far south in “sunny Mexico” I thought it was going to be t-shirt weather for sure, but It was colder than a TIT outside! Lighting up for the morning Marlborough, I huddled on Brads front steps and wrapped myself up in the blanky. As I peeked thru the small opening where my cigarette stuck out, I was a little surprised that El Golfo wasn’t that picturesque little fishing village that I had imagined it to be. Litter and junk were pretty much scattered everywhere. On the streets, in yards, and blowing past me in the road. Most people here own two or three cars but two or three of them are either up on blocks or missing the motor!
As surprised as I was about the level of poverty here, I was far from disappointed. I was a world away from what I was used to, and I appreciate my own life when I can immerse myself in the less privileged lives and cultures of the world around me. These people are as satisfied and happy as I am back home. They’ll live their entire lives without any of the luxuries that I have. I’ll bet there isn’t even an XBox or Nail Salon in all of El Golfo! Hell, they don’t even have boat trailers to haul their twenty foot shrimp boats from the front yard down to the sea! They drag the fuckin’ things! But it actually doesn’t look THAT difficult. They’re all dirt roads! I guess with the money they save, they’ll get to buy that new dee-lux “Bubba Gump” shrimpin’ boat. The new one… with the reinforced super duper scratch resistant hull!
An hour went by before I heard the shuffle of feet toward the bathroom inside. Most everyone was up and around, except the “princess on the queen size”. She was still fast asleep with a pink fuzzy night mask over her eyes. Brad offered to make pancakes but he didn’t have any milk, so I volunteered to walk down to the local food market and drag Tracy along for protection against a starving poodle with nothing to lose. There probably aren’t any man eating poodles in El Golfo but if there were, well… I knew I could outrun Tracy.
The market was about as big as a 7-11, but looked like it had been there since the Mexican Revolution. We actually walked right past it until one of the locals pointed back to a door on the side of an old stucco building.
We finally found the “leche” in the back fridge and after checking the date on every carton, we found one with an expiration of slightly more than 24 hours. On one of the dusty shelves next to the little Mexican girl tending the register, I spotted a jar of dry, wrinkly plums. I guess even in Mexico they put all the “Impulse Items” right next to the register. When I was a kid living in Hawaii, we used to walk to the “crack seed store” and buy these same little plums called “Lee-Hee- Moy”.
“Wow Tracy, you gotta try these! I used to eat ’em when I was a kid.” I grabbed a small handful and pulled a big wad of Pesos out of my pocket. “Uhh, how much is a Peso worth these days?” The last time I was in “MayHeeCo”, 10 gillion pesos wouldn’t buy you a Mexican Hooker!
“Aren’t you supposed to be in school?”, I asked the kid smiling. The little girl just looked at me with a puzzled look on her face. Probably because I just put about fifty bucks in pesos on the counter. She shuffled threw the bills and pulled out one of the more tattered ones. “No habla” she replied as she handed me back four or five more colorful looking bills.” Hell, she coulda’ just taken a hundred bucks from me and made change for a dollar for all I knew. I just smiled looking thru the wad of “funny money”. If the little rug-rat HAD ripped me off, I figured she might realize I was onto her and bolt for the door. But she just stood there with that same puzzled look, so I shoved the dineros into my pocket and we headed for the door.
“Ok Tracy. Stick one of these dry plums in your mouth and just SUCK IT!”. As soon as she did, her entire face puckered up like a butt hole. “Uhhhh, just..a little…salty,” she gurggled back, obviously about to spit the seed in my eye. Mine turned out to be hard as a rock and tasted like it was about ten years old. “PLEAH!!!” I spit the seed out and almost winged her in the forehead. All lady like, Tracy just opened her mouth and let hers just plop down into the dirt. “Oh my God!, she said, “I’m glad YOU didn’t like it either!”
An older American looking couple standing near by, chuckled as we stood there all puckered. “Where you guys from?”, the man asks as he pulled cars keys from his pocket. “We’re from the states” I said still sputtering bits and pieces. “This your first time to El Golfo?” his wife asks. “Yep” I said walking toward the couple. “Well how you enjoying our little town so far?”.
I reached out to shake his hand, “This is our first OFFICIAL day,” I said, “so we haven’t seen much of it except the Petrified candy store… I’m Jim and this is Tracy”.
Assuming we were married, he says “Well, did you bring the kids along?” I was quite taken by the idea that he thought my skinny ass was married to this young hottie. But what the hell, I thought to myself. I’m not going to admit anything.. It made me feel all studly! For some odd reason Tracy didn’t give up the truth either. She just stood there…. gagging on her candy.
“Glad to meet you guys.” he says. “I’m Frank and this is my wife Doris. So, how much of El Golfo have you two seen so far?” he asks.
“We just got here yesterday, so we haven’t seen anything but the trash piles coming through town” I reply with a grin. “Well”, he says. “We run the local church down the road and we’d be glad to take you on a short tour of the town! It aint that big so we might be able to drive ya around in 20 minutes!” he says with a chuckle.
I looked at Tracy who just shrugged her shoulders. “Well”, I said…the worst thing that could happen is the Milk might be Gouda Cheese by the time we get it home, but then I didn’t want breakfast anyway… so the hell with ’em!”
Like a chauffeur, Frank opens the back door of his Dusty white Escalade… Tracy and I climbed in… And off we went. “On a THREE….hour – Tourrrrr” (Gilligans Island intro).
“I’ve had it, Up to my Friggin Axle”
The following morning, we were rousted out of our sleeping bags by Brad. “Get UP! The tide is coming in!”
“What the fuck are you talking about?” I mumbled, still zipped inside my down filled sack.
“We have to drive down the beach, three miles to where we’ll be camping for the next five days! And we have to make it there before the tide comes in, or we’ll all be up to our windshields in the Sea of Cortez!”
Ten minutes later, Wayne and I were parked at the entrance to the beach.Brad had already let most of the air out of my tires, explaining that my truck would drive better in the sand with flat tires. “Ready Wayne!?” I shouted as he turned the radio up to full blast. And with Deep Purples “Highway Star” blaring in our ears, I slammed the Mazda into high gear and was up to 50MPH by the time we plowed into the first sand dune. Rounding the corner onto the long stretch of narrow beach, I maneuvered the truck to get into the ruts of Brads dune buggy who had headed out before us. “WOOOOO-HOOOOO!” Wayne shouted with a big ‘shit eatin grin, as the truck slid back and forth plowing its way through the soft sand. On our left was a steep embankment that would roll us over if we lost control. Five feet to the right was sea foam splashing onto the beach.
This narrow corridor scared the crap out of me and was only getting narrower as we continued. Twenty minutes later our sandy highway was getting slimmer by the minute. “Where the hell is the campsite!?” I shouted. Four miles into our journey and we were blasting thru water as it flowed far up onto the beach. Suddenly the truck began to groan. We began to lose our momentum and we probably weren’t going to make it. “Hold on Wayne!” We’re going for it!”
In the distance I could now see a long, rainbow tattered windsock that Brad had erected as a “Wind Direction” marker for the hang gliders.
There were only two options. Stay high on the beach where the sand was soft and we would surely sink to the bumpers, or cut straight through the incoming tide where the sand would be wet and firmer. It sounded logical at the moment, and without any notice to my off-key singing passenger, I cut the steering wheel to the right and we blasted straight into the surf! Huge waves of water blasted into the air on both sides of the truck. “Oh Shit, Where the hell are you going!?” Wayne shouted. “I’m not sure, but it felt like the best option!” I shouted back. “Hold on!”
Well… we ALMOST made it…. Half way across the mile wide tide pool, the truck began to shudder as we sank deeper into the rippled mud. “Damn it!” I shouted!
“Abandon Ship!” Wayne yelled as he crawled out the passenger side window into waist deep water. We could hear the laughter and “cat calls” coming from all those that had made it before us.
It didn’t take long before one of our compatriots pulled up on the beach with his beast of a 4 wheel drive, and threw out a long cable for us to tie off to. By the time we were able to winch ourselves onto dry ground again, the tide had completely cut off any exit to get back to town. We’d made it, to Hell on high ground…
For the next five days, we’d be in this paradise of tropical seclusion. Sleeping under millions of bright stars at night and MORE millions of pesky mexican flies that covered our bodies during the day. Oh well… every rose has its thorns….
I’ve been camping and “roughed it” many times in my life, but this by far was about as rough as it gets. Not because we couldn’t get out for things like a “heart attack”, but because I forgot to bring the more important things, like clean underwear. But Brad had been coming down here for years. He knew every square inch of this area, because he’d flown over every square inch of this area for miles in every direction. There were eight of us huddled around the coffee pot in the morning and we had three “Trikes.” A trike is basically a large hang glider with a motorized, two seater “Tricycle” strapped to the underside. Brad is good at hang gliding like Tiger Woods is good at golf. The downside? He’s VERY good, and he’s not adverse to taking risks!
I’d learned how to hang glide while in the Air Force stationed on Guam. We didn’t have the luxury of onboard bucket seats. My rainbow striped custom “Manta” required a cliff, and the balls to hurl yourself off of it. Riding back seat with Brad was just as “nail biting”. Brad liked to do things like intentionally stalling the trike and then DIVING toward the ground to regain enough airspeed before plowing into the beach! But I enjoyed hitching a ride with “B-Rad” over any other trike pilot. Maybe because I trusted his superior piloting skills. Maybe because I wanted to go out in a blaze of glory! So, while my questionably sane pilot was climbing us up to over 4000′ over the beach, I’d be cuddling up to him as the temperature dropped from 93 degrees to 40 degrees. Then without a word of caution, he’d pull the bar in, swing it out and left as far as he could and we’d go into a spiraling dive back to earth. The fun part was unbuckling my seat belt, and with a Canon camera in one hand and a Gopro video camera in the other, I’d lean out of the trike as far as I could to shoot pictures back at Bradley.
On one excursion, we carried a big box of advertising flyers up with us. A local bar in El Golfo was having “Senoritas Nite” all you can drink Dos Equis, and they wanted to get the word out QUICK to everyone in town. So, 5000 flyers in hand, we flew the trike up to 600′ over town and commenced to bombard the entire local population with our fluorescent pink propaganda. Now, if you did something like this in the states, you’d be arrested before you could taxi off the runway, but El Golfo and most of the rest of Mexico do not have Rules Of Etiquette… Hell, the whole town was knee deep in Tamale wrappers and empty beer cans already! Another 5000 “El Coupons” wafting from the clouds would barely wake them from their siesta. So, as Brad maneuvered the Trike around over large gatherings of people, I’d grab a couple hundred flyers and throw them as far out as I could. If I didn’t throw them hard enough, they’d fly back into the prop and there would be more than just Coupons falling from the sky. Yeah, yeah, yeah . . . it was “probably” not the most “environmentally friendly” thing to do, but that bar owner was SO happy the next day that he sent a Taco Truck down the beach to serve us all Chimichangas and Tequilla shots the next day.
Getting the truck stuck in the sand became a habit for me, but my craving for a COLD bottle of Mexican Pepsi pushed me to risk drowning more than once. The carpet in my truck looked more like the beach.
“Sombrero Man” – Video (Click HERE)
“The Pinacante” ~ To be Continued…
While this story is based on true events, some details and/or conversations have been embellished and/or probably down right fabricated!