My Political Journey – So Far

I first posted this in September, 2015, when Trump was new on the scene. Since then things have gone from bad to worse, IMO. I was recently asked by a conservative person who calls me his friend, “Sometime when things settle down, I would like to have a calm, if that is possible, personal talk with you. There some things about the liberal side thinking that I really don’t understand. And, I don’t understand why there is such hate for Trump.” Here’s my reply:

“’Hate against Trump’? Well, I find him repugnant. He’s repugnant to me personally because of his boorish behavior, his bullying, his lies (more than 20,000 at last count), his (alleged, but credibly so, IMO) sexual predation, and more. He’s repugnant to me interpersonally because of how he treats Melania, his subordinates, and everyone else. He’s repugnant to me professionally because he denigrates the military and has declared (corporate, it’s true) bankruptcy, what? Six times? He’s repugnant to me on a national scale because of what his Administration is doing on the border, especially where there’s no need for a 30-foot wall. (And that’s just for starters.) He’s repugnant to me internationally because he’s pulled out of the Paris accord on climate change and out of the agreement that was keeping Iran from getting a nuke. And he’s repugnant to me because of the way he cozies up to dictators, or wanna-be dictators, like Duterte (Philippines), Kim (North Korea), and Putin (Russia). He’s repugnant to me objectively because he refuses to acknowledge the science behind what the CDC is saying about COVID-19, and about climate change, and about so many other things.

“He’s repugnant to me ethically – the man has no ethics. An ethical man doesn’t stiff his company’s suppliers and try to screw them out of what they’re rightfully owed. He’s repugnant to me morally – again, he has none. Would a moral man cheat on *all* of his wives? Would a moral man *brag* about grabbing women by the pussy? He’s repugnant to me psychologically – he never accepts responsibility for mistakes (COVID-19 being only one), but always blames someone else, yet he’s always ready to take (undue) credit for anything that goes right.

“He’s repugnant to me because of his inflammatory behavior. Does he try to calm things down after (yet more) shootings? No. He deliberately inflames the situation. Does he disavow Nazis, white supremacists, and the like? No. He encourages them. Does he move on from events in the past? No. He’s still harping on the 2016 election. Which is how he got to be President. He must be *really* insecure if he has to keep talking about an election that put him in the driver’s seat.

“He’s repugnant to me. Period. Full stop.

“And if he isn’t repugnant to you, then I don’t think we have much to talk about.

“I will concede that there have been a few good things to come from his Administration – one of them being the United Arab Emirates’ recognition of Israel. But all of the good he’s done in the world is, IMO, vastly outweighed by all of the bad. I truly fear for our nation if he’s elected again.”

I make no apologies for this. I consider myself well-educated, intelligent, and well-read. I use the “media bias chart” here ( to decide how much weight I’ll give a story I read. I get my basic news from TIME and the daily paper, which gets most of its stories from the AP newswire. I read articles in the New York Times (left), the Wall Street Journal (right), and Forbes (right). I figure when even Fox News calls out Trump, then the man has done something seriously wrong. I read conservative columnists like Jonah Goldberg, William Krystol, and Michael Gerson, as well as liberal ones like Leonard Pitts. And I have to say I love the Fitzsimmons political cartoons, but I also appreciate that the paper runs cartoons by Lisa Benson (conservative).

The Peripatetic Traveler

A Facebook friend of mine posted this meme recently:


This led to a “discussion” (and I use the term loosely) among my friend (“R”), another gentleman (“A”), and me, about the Second Amendment. After two or three exchanges between A and R, A made this statement: “So far I have heard no facts to prove that ANY liberal understands the purpose of the 2nd Amendment.”

To which R replied, “So far, you’ve only expressed disdain for about half of the population of the United States, including constitutional scholars, several presidents, and members of the Supreme Court, among others of a wide spectrum of brilliant scholars. Thus does not bode well for any arguments that follow.”

A’s retort: “OK! I get it. Liberals DON’T know as I suspected.”

At this point, I entered the fray with, “A, what kinds of facts would you be looking for, if you were looking for facts?”

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What was your first thought when you read the subject line? If you’re like I am, with a love for machinery, you may have thought this would be about one-of-a-kind railcars, or engines/trackage/infrastructure abandoned and left “as is” many years ago, or …

You’d be wrong.

My wife and I took a road trip recently from AZ to IL, IN, NE, and TX, covering just over 4,200 miles in two weeks. While driving south on US Route 81 from I-80 in Nebraska to I-135 in Kansas, we found a town called Concordia, KS. In that town, we found a marker for the Orphan Train Museum. Since it was lunchtime, and since I love trains, we decided to go take a look at the place.

I was quite surprised to see some empty tracks next to the Museum, instead of seeing rare and unique railcars or engines. Upon entering, however, I realized why: The Museum isn’t about *trains*; it’s about the orphans who *rode* the trains – somewhere around 250,000 of them between 1854 and 1929!

The Museum covers the stories not only of the orphans, who were either from orphanages or were living on the streets of New York City, but also of the Agents who shepherded them to all 48 Continental states (some before they achieved statehood) and several foreign countries, as well as the stories of the communities where the orphans were placed.

It’s a heart-wrenching episode in the nation’s history – all these kids whose parents either died or abandoned them, having no prospects at all of a good life (and not too much chance of surviving to adulthood, even!), being moved (sometimes) thousands of miles away from the only life they’d ever known, and resettled in small communities. They weren’t allowed to take much, if anything, from their former lives. Sometimes the placements didn’t work out, and the Agents would come get the kids and find another home for them.

These two photos show a representative railcar from that era. The car itself has its own history, but it has been refurbished to look like cars the orphans might have ridden from NYC to their new lives.


Car exterior


Car interior, showing how little each child could take with him/her.

If you ever get to Concordia, KS, I recommend you take some time to go through this little museum. They’re still gathering information about (and from) the children, and many books have been published about them – including a six-volume series of stories in the children’s own words!

When I was growing up, my Mom and I would drive from Richmond, VA (where we lived), to Gilmanton Iron Works (GIW), NH, to spend the summer at the family cottage. Our first trip was in 1960 – the year we moved to Richmond in January – and our last was in 1969 – the year I graduated from high school. The trip initially took two days, but as the Interstate system was built, we eventually managed to do the entire trip in one (long) day, leaving Richmond about 10 AM and arriving in GIW around midnight.

It was always a jolt to get out of the car at the cottage. That very morning, we had left hot, muggy summer weather (we left very soon after the school year ended). By the time we arrived at the cottage, it was completely different. The air was cooler and crisper; the sky was darker; and the sounds were rural instead of suburban. I still remember getting out of the car and just standing for a few moments, drinking in the sigh of the wind in the pines, the uncountable bright stars in the dark sky, and the scent of the New Hampshire woods. And, often enough, shivering because I was dressed for hot, muggy Virginia and not cool, dry New Hampshire.

For many years, I called that cottage “home.” I first went there at age 6 months, and I spent every summer there except one (when I was in Europe for two months) until I went off to the Air Force in 1973. I’ve been away long enough that I no longer call it “home” – Arizona has taken that spot – but I still relish those memories.

And it’s a good thing, too, because they’ve been resurrected twice in the past year.

The first time was last June, when Wynne and I traveled from Tucson to Silver City, NM, for a conference. We got to our lodging well after dark, and when I got out of the truck … WHAM! The wind in the pines, the scent of the trees, the stars in the sky, and the MUCH cooler temperatures took me right back to GIW. We spent a great weekend in the cabin (well, some of the time was in the cabin – the rest was at the conference) and plan to go back someday, simply for the pleasure of the location.

The second time was tonight, and it was tonight’s tug on the memories that prompted me to write this. Once again, we left Tucson’s heat and drove through the afternoon to get to our lodging for the weekend. When we got to Pine, AZ (yes, there is a town called Pine – go look it up) and found our room, I was again pulled back to a late-May night in the 1960s, at the end of a 13-hour drive with Mom from VA to NH. The temperatures were similar, the stars are the same, and the scents and sounds are close enough. Additionally, the first thing we did was unload the truck and bring our clothes, food, and other weekend supplies into the room (just like Mom and I used to unpack the car and get the essentials into the cottage the night we arrived). It’s one of three in a small cabin with a wide front porch and some steps up from the gravel drive. There were so many similarities between tonight and that May night 50-odd years ago that it was easy to drift back in time and pretend, for only a moment or two, that I wasn’t in Arizona at all, but at a cottage on Crystal Lake in Gilmanton Iron Works, New Hampshire.

I hope your childhood memories, or at least some of them, are as good as this one is for me.

Political Activity

No, this isn’t one of my usual travelogue posts – not that I’ve actually *written* any “usual travelogue posts” (or any other posts, for that matter) lately…

Instead, this is about the current resident of the White House, and something I decided to do.

Warning: If you are just fine with the 45th President, you might not like the rest of this post. If you read it anyway, you can’t say I didn’t warn you.

There have been, and will continue to be, many many different ways to protest against this person – ranging from marches to rallies to postcard campaigns to get-out-the-vote campaigns, and many more.

But I decided to do something different. In addition to sending postcards and emails to my Representative and Senators, I decided to write to all five living former Presidents (Obama, Bush II, Clinton, Bush I, and Carter) and ask them to stand up, as a bipartisan group, and speak out against the worst excesses of the current Oval Office occupant.

Here is my letter:

“Dear President [ ],

“I’m writing to you and your fellow Presidents Emeriti and asking you, as a group, to please speak out against the worst excesses of President Trump.

“I realize there’s an unwritten rule that past Presidents don’t comment on their successors’ policies, plans, or actions. I respect that. But the current occupant of the Oval Office is so totally at odds with everything our nation should expect a President to be and do that I hope you’ll consider my plea.

“Each of you has been my President. While I disagreed with some of your policies, I never felt that I, my country, or the world was in any particular danger from your Presidencies. I *do* feel this way about the Trump Administration – the man himself scares me, and the actions he and his Administration are taking are truly terrifying.

“You and your fellow Presidents Emeriti are members of a very exclusive club. You are from both major political parties and collectively have more than 30 years of experience in the White House. If there are issues that you all agree on, whether it be Trump’s constant lies, his nepotism, his narcissism, his misogyny and sexism, or any other personal traits, including his appalling inability to control his impulses; if it’s one of his policies or initiatives – such as the National Monument review, the immigration bans, the gutting of agencies like the Department of Education or the EPA, or any of dozens of other actions; or if it’s personal decisions he has made, like his refusal to release his tax returns or divest himself of his businesses, I ask you this:

“Please speak out with a unified voice. Do not remain silent. Let it be known that you are still engaged in the world’s affairs.

“Thank you.


This is where I sent each message:

Obama 2012, 2008

Contacted through website:

Bush II 2004, 2000

Contacted through email to Office of George W. Bush:;

Clinton 1996, 1992

Contacted through Clinton Foundation website:

Bush I 1988

Contacted through email to Bush 41 library:

Carter 1976

Contacted through email to Carter Center:

Please copy, share and use this letter, or write your own. The more people who contact the former Presidents, the more they may see the value in speaking out as a group.

Notes from the field – er, beach – for Thursday, October 27, 2016:

*sigh* 😉 Back to paddling again…(Oh, a note: people paddle canoes and kayaks with paddles; they row boats with oars. Now you know. So there.)

On our final paddling day, we moved from Isla Espirito Santo to Isla Partida. It’s no big deal, because the channel separating them is *really* narrow, and I think you can wade across it at low tide. But nonetheless, we were going to explore a new island!

Along the way, we were introduced to a narrow fissure at one end of an inlet, into which it was possible to paddle our kayaks. My paddling partner, Wynne, and I chose not to go in it, but some of the others did. Going in was no big deal, but depending on their level of experience, it was either uneventful or comical watching them back out.

One thing that has always grabbed my attention, whether while I’m driving on an Interstate or paddling a kayak, is geological displays. Highway cuts are always a great place to see how the rock layers under our feet can be folded, curved, squished, or otherwise changed from how they were originally laid down, but there are other places to find these layers as well. One such place was the shoreline of Isla Perdita, which has eroded away to show several distinct layers – not of sedimentary rock, but of volcanic. Since different layers typically erode at different rates and in different patterns, their juxtaposition can be quite beautiful:


And with this particular kind of volcanic rock, the erosion patterns within a layer can be other-worldly:


Alas, all good things must end sometime – but sometimes they’re replaced by *other* good things! In this case, the paddling was replaced by some hiking into the island’s interior. If you remember my description of an earlier hike as being “2” on a presumed scale of 1-10, this one rated a “7”. We walked up the beach to where the island rose from the sand:


We’re supposed to go *up* this?!?

It turned out not to be *quite* as hard as it looks in the photo, but it was no cakewalk, either. But we persevered, and along the way found a couple more fresh pitahaya fruits to savor. Partway up, we had this gorgeous view of “our” beach to enjoy (the mountains in the distance are part of the Baja Peninsula):


When we finally reached our destination, it was at the edge of a cliff that fell off to a dry lakebed. On the other side of the expanse we could see through a gap to the Sea of Cortez, on the far side of which is mainland Mexico.

When we all got tired of staring off into the distance, we retraced our steps and returned to our beach.

We discovered that the crew had not been idle during our absence. Rather, they had taken the panga (you remember what a panga is, right?) and gone offshore to catch our dinner! I’ve never been good with fish names (Grouper? Cod? Frank? Carl?), but fresh-caught, fresh-cooked fish was on the menu – and it was DEE-LISH-US! There was plenty of it, and we all, including some laughing gulls (seriously, that’s what they’re called), ate our fill.

But do you want to know what the highlight of the day was? ICE CREAM! Real, fresh-churned (well, fresh-shaken-in-a-Baggie) ICE CREAM! Although we only had about a spoonful each, it was a real treat!

And then, for the piece de resistance, we saw a black jackrabbit!


With that, Dear Readers, I’ll bid you a good night. We have to rise early on the morrow for an extra treat – another swim with the sea lions! – before returning to La Paz and civilization. And whale sharks. Mustn’t forget the whale sharks!


(…as remembered three months later…)

October 26, 2016, dawned clear – as did all our days on the trip. There was no need to pack our gear this morning, though, because we weren’t going anywhere. Instead, today involved a couple of “expeditions.” The first one was to a sea lion encampment (rookery?nest? whatever the place where a bunch of sea lions live is called) where we were given the opportunity to snorkel with them! Regrettably, my camera isn’t waterproof and I don’t have a watertight case for it, so I don’t have any great photos (or even any lousy ones!) of anyone swimming with the sea lions. Rest assured, though, we did. They were quite playful and inquisitive, even to the point of trying to nibble our flippers, fingers, or anything else they could get their mouths around. But just like friendly puppies, they never bit hard. They were just using one of their standard methods of getting information from their surroundings. These were some of our playmates.


I found out something interesting about myself today, too: I get seasick while snorkeling. (ergh…) I think it might have something to do with my nearsightedness, because I can’t wear my glasses while swimming and I don’t have contact lenses. I know I missed a lot of beautiful fish and other great underwater sights because of that, and I suspect that not being able to see anything clearly may have contributed to the nausea. *sigh* I’m told that it’s possible to get prescription diving/snorkeling masks, so I may look into that … eventually.

After our playdate with the sea lions, we motored (panga’d?) back to our campsite for lunch. As usual, the crew laid out an impressive, and delectable, spread for us. They really know how to treat their guests right!

Lunch over, we took off in a different direction for the afternoon – instead of being on the water, we walked inland (if you can do such a thing on an island) along a well-marked trail. It turns out that the cove we were staying in had been used at one point by a Mexican Army garrison, and they had dug a well. This well is still viable today, and we all took turns getting ourselves soaked by buckets of cold, (almost-) fresh water.


After refreshing ourselves, we walked the rest of the trail (one of the crewmembers rated it a “2” on a [presumed] scale of 1 to 10), past fig trees and other plants growing in the oddest places. The tree on the left originally took root – I think – at the top of the cliff, and then the taproot just kept growing down until it found somewhere to dig in. The small one on the right hasn’t quite gotten to that point.


We also walked past fantastic erosion-created vistas and got our first taste of fresh pitahaya! (Pitahaya is the name for both a cactus and its fruit. We ate the fruit, which tasted sort of like watermelon, and not the cactus.)


At the end of the trail was a perfectly-framed view back to the cove and the beach where we camped.


Our “hike” didn’t take all that long, which left us with plenty of time for floating in the water, paddleboarding, or other leisurely pursuits (most of which involved doing a lot of nothing). At bedtime we simply crawled into tents that were already up, with gear that was already unpacked.


And so ended Day Three of the Great Baja California Sea Kayak Vacation!

I know I haven’t finished the Baja Mexico saga yet (and there are other posts I haven’t yet written about my travels in 2016), but I want to take a bit of space here and wish everyone a happy “holiday(s)-of-your-choice”. For myself, that includes Christmas (mainly because it’s also my birthday) and New Year’s Days, but really, who needs an excuse to celebrate at this time of the year?

With that said, here is my 2016 holiday letter. I’ve written one since … um, since people used actual typewriters, and have all of them since 1999 stashed on my computer – somewhere. I’ve never posted one before, though, so this is something new for me. It’s slightly edited for the blog (as opposed to, say, a physical letter that uses up dead trees and gets sent through snail mail), but *only* slightly.

So here goes:

Oh, my, what a crazy year this has been! Let’s get right to it, shall we? But before I begin the litany, I’d like to apologize for the tardiness of this post. I had the best intentions (don’t we all?), and have had this on my to-do list since Thanksgiving! But time has a way of passing *MUCH* too quickly these days…

I guess I’ll start with the big news, which will help explain everything else. Last March I met a wonderful woman named Wynne Brown, who has become such an indispensable part of my life that we are now engaged to be married! There’s no date yet because some other things have to happen first, but it *will* happen! I couldn’t be happier, and I am *SO* lucky to have found true love again! Here are two pictures of us. The one on the left was taken last spring when she completed a 10-mile (NOT 10K!) trail race at Catalina State Park, and the one on the right was taken in November after I completed the 55-mile distance in the El Tour de Tucson event.20160402-with-wynne585432_244195887_xlarge





In July I bought a new-to-me house for us. Part of it was built in 1945, and two other parts were built at two different times after that. The 1945 part is mud-adobe-brick walls covered with stucco (on the outside) and plaster (on the inside). It’s, um, *interesting* … to say the least. We haven’t moved in yet, as there is a lot of renovating and upgrading to get done first. When we both feel comfortable with its progress, we’ll move there and *then* begin planning our wedding!

You may be following the progress on the JeepMonster here. It finally came home in August, after more than a year at the builder’s shop. It’s now sitting in my garage, waiting for its turn on the “actually do something about it” list. This is what it looked like on its way into the garage.


And I guess I officially qualify as an “old guy” now—I’ve been retired for 3 1/2 years; I’ve been collecting Social Security for three; and I turned 65 on Christmas. That also means I’m now part of the Medicare cohort. Oh, joy.

But just because I’m old(er) doesn’t mean I’m sitting around doing nothing—at least, not since I met Wynne. We travel—a lot! In April, we attended the 65th-anniversary Penn State Air Force ROTC Drill Team / Honor Guard reunion at the Nittany Lion Hotel in University Park, where she got to meet, and be regaled with lies—um, *stories*—from, my college buddies. The Drill Team was founded in 1951, and alumni from 1969 through 1994 were there. Everyone had a great time! On the way back to Tucson we detoured to Chicagoland so Wynne could meet Eve and Rick. She passed that test (and all the others!) with flying colors. 🙂

In May I spent a long weekend without Wynne at the Overland Expo in Mormon Lake, AZ, which is about 30 miles southeast of Flagstaff. I volunteered there this year, which meant that, in return for 12 hours of my life (mostly spent directing traffic at the entrance to the camping areas), I could wander around the entire Expo all three days for free. I took full advantage of that!


In other travels, Wynne and I went to Flagstaff—not once, but TWICE! The first time was as guests of friends, while the second time was with a group of friends from Portal, AZ (go look it up!), with whom we combined a social/touristy few days and a trail half-marathon (13.1 miles) at an altitude of 8,000 feet! Wynne’s goals were not to be dead last, and not to be dead—and to be the first woman finisher on Medicare! In all three, she succeeded. 🙂 (She says I have to add, in the interests of full disclosure, that she was the *only* woman finisher on Medicare…but, hey, who’s counting?) My goals were to get her to the starting line on time and to welcome her in at the finish line. I succeeded. It was a good day.

We also drove to Austin, TX (in July!) to visit Wynne’s son, Richard, and his family. While it maybe wasn’t the *smartest* time to go to Austin, the family reunion made the environmental discomforts worthwhile. Wynne was able to catch up with Richard, his wife and their two sons, and her family (all of whom emigrated from Macedonia).

Our big trip this year, and the one when Wynne finally agreed to marry me, was an eleven-day trip to Baja California Sur—in other words, La Paz and Cabo San Lucas, Mexico. On October 23 we flew from Tucson to Houston, then Mexico City, and finally to La Paz, where we embarked the next day on a five-day sea-kayak adventure on the Sea of Cortez. On the last day, when we were *finally* paddling in the same kayak, she said “Yes!” So it took almost six months, but I ultimately passed all the tests she gave me. (As I said earlier, we haven’t yet set a date because we want to move into the new-to-me house first.) We finished the official trip with a half-day of snorkeling alongside whale sharks in La Paz Bay. These fish can be (literally!) as big as a school bus, sometimes reaching 40 feet in length! After the whale sharks, we spent three days in Cabo, snorkeling, eating, relaxing, and just basically being gringo tourists. We flew back (from Cabo to Phoenix and then Tucson) on November 2. The sunset photo is typical of the evenings we spent on the island beaches at our campsites. The other photo, taken by Lorena Sanz of PuraBaja Tours—our guide for a morning of snorkeling, fish-watching, and relaxing in the boat, shows us near the southern tip of Baja, where the Pacific meets the Sea of Cortez. The opening behind us is slowly being worn away by wave action from both sides.dsc04949img_1844






My work with the Donor Network of Arizona (DNA) continues. This year I attended the annual Speakers’ Workshop in January, where I learned how to present my donor story in public. I got to put that training to use when I was asked to talk to a group of new nurses at one of the local hospitals. It’s never easy talking about a double loss (both my son-in-law and my wife were able to donate organs upon their deaths), but it humanizes the experience for the audience and makes them somewhat more empathetic toward the grieving families who have to make these decisions. I was also asked to become the “Lead Ambassador” in Tucson and Southern Arizona. This essentially means that I’m the person volunteers call when something isn’t going right at an event (insufficient supplies, no table, etc.), as well as keeping tabs on what supplies we have and getting more when they’re needed. [DNA gives away a *lot* of ballpoint pens, green bracelets, lapel pins, bumper stickers, and other items to promote organ, eye, and tissue donation.] I was also privileged to attend Donate Life Day at the Arizona State Capitol this year. It meant I actually had to dress up (in a suit and tie!), but I got to meet two State Representatives and a State Senator, who himself is a tissue recipient, so he’s definitely sympathetic to our cause. And I’ll be walking in this year’s Fiesta Bowl Parade along with other donor and recipient families. (It’s Saturday, 12/31, from 10 AM to noon MST.)


I hope this year was good to you, and that next year will be even better! Happy Holidays!

Not to worry – that’s the scientific name for the black witch moth, which I’ll get to later in this story. But I’m getting ahead of myself, so let’s back up to the midden we explored on the morning of our second full day.

It wasn’t located in the same bay as our camp, so after breakfast we loaded up our gear and paddled off. The water was a beautiful, clear blue, lighter close to shore and darker as it got deeper. Naturally, no photograph can do justice to views like these, but here’s a try. This shot was taken from our lunch stop. [Pay no attention to the dark smudges at the upper left and lower right; after we got back to La Paz – or even as late as Cabo San Lucas – I finally discovered that the camera’s lens covers were sticking when I opened the camera. Humid, salty air will do that sometimes… They always seemed to *close* completely, but frequently didn’t *open* completely.]


After lunch, and before the afternoon paddle-session, we explored the shoreline along the bay we were in. At one end of it, where the dried-up estuary from the upstream canyon met the beach, was a huge, long, wide pile of shells and dirt and bones and … stuff. It extended for maybe 50 yards or so inland from one end to the other, was perhaps 20 feet wide at its widest, and from the erosion off the front edge, looked like it might be three or four feet deep.

Our guides picked up what seemed like random stuff, but it turns out that pretty much every piece of “trash” in the midden had its own story to tell – or was part of a larger story – about pre-Columbian visitors to / residents of the island. [Regrettably, I don’t remember enough of any of the stories to be able to relate them to you, but this should serve as an incentive to go see these places for yourself!] Various kinds of bones, shells and horns were readily available to examine.


Some of them, like the shell fragment on its own rock above, merited their own pictures.


After we all became “certified garbologists” (or maybe just “certifiable?”), we piled back into the kayaks for the afternoon’s paddling. Grant declared he wanted to try one of the solo boats, so everyone shifted around to give him that chance. He took to it like a duck to water and was soon paddling quite smoothly. The biggest thing he noticed about solo paddling, he said later, was that when you stop paddling, you stop moving. There’s no one else to keep going while you take a drink / take a photo / have a snack / adjust your foot pegs / do anything but paddling.


While paddling in the afternoon, we passed some fascinating erosion patterns in the rock. One looked like petrified foam, while another looked like … well, I don’t know what it looked like. Decide for yourself:



Our last activity of the day was a snorkel session in another small inlet, before we reached our campsite. Since I don’t have a waterproof camera, I didn’t take any photos of my own (and because of my nearsightedness, I probably wouldn’t have been able to make decent pictures anyway). But trust me on this – even being 2/3 blind, I was blown away by the beauty of the fish, rocks, and corals.

Our camp for the night (the next two nights, actually) was on a large beach that accommodated several groups simultaneously. We were just there for two nights, but the group to our north was a (summer-long? month-long?) class in which the students learned by actually exploring, touching, and feeling the world around them. I was envious! The group to the south changed each night, and the interesting thing about that side was that it was cut off from the rest of the beach by a rock promontory. So if they wanted to take the trail up the canyon, they first had to scramble over the rocks to “our” beach and then head inland.

The neatest thing that happened at dinner that night was the appearance of the aforementioned black witch moth. Someone saw it fly over to the kitchen (we were about done with dinner anyway, so it was welcome to our leftovers) and land in the fruit salad. We all rushed over to take a look, while at the same time trying not to scare it off. (We succeeded at that!)


We watched it for quite a while, as it eagerly sucked the fruit “nectar” from the bowl through its proboscis. (The big black object to its right and under it is the serving spoon.)

So another wonderful day among great friends (both old and new), topped off by a beautiful sunset and the appearance of a black witch moth, made for a happy guy.


No, it’s not what you’re thinking – Monday, our first full day on the sea-kayaking trip, was anything *BUT* blah! “Blah blah” refers to all the talking that Sergio told us he would be doing during the day – how to get into and out of the kayaks, how to load our gear, what not to do while in the National Park, how to pee and poop (yep, there are rules on how to take care of bodily functions), and many more.

I’ll get that one out of the way right here: Men pee in the ocean. Women pee in the ocean if they’re comfortable with it (like when they’re swimming); otherwise there’s a portable toilet they can use (which will be emptied into the ocean by the crew). Everybody poops into a *different* portable toilet – and DON’T PEE IN THAT ONE. Used toilet paper is burned in the metal can the crew provides.

TMI? Probably. But those are the kinds of things tourists need to know in order to preserve the environment of the islands.

So that’s what “blah blah” was all about: basically, the rules of the road – er, ocean.

Amazingly, we actually all gathered in the hotel lobby at the appointed time (although I no longer remember what time that was) and piled into the van for the ride to the jetty where the boat was tied up. We had been given dry bags at the previous night’s meeting and had packed our gear in them before going to bed, so all we had to do was store our extra stuff (and our luggage) in the hotel’s secure room and then depart.

The panga (aka “boat”) was sitting in the calm water, loaded with kayaks, coolers, etc., and waiting for us. We posed for the requisite “last known location” photo before boarding (one must, after all, leave behind a camera with a final photograph if everyone disappears at sea):


Standing, l-r: Tico (c), Mike (t), Grant (t), me (t), Ruben (c), SO (t), Rosa (t) Kneeling, l-r: Lino (c), Sergio (c)         [c = crew; t = tourist]

We rode for about an hour before reaching our first stop, where we unloaded the kayaks and our gear, and made various preparations for doing some actual (gasp!) paddling. The main things we had to do with the kayaks were adjust the foot supports [the bow paddler has static supports, while the stern paddler’s supports control the rudder] and figure out how to attach the spray skirts. Our gear filled the hatch areas, but since we were supported by the panga, we didn’t have to carry the food or water we’d need for the trip (or the tents and bathroom!). There were two solo boats and three two-seaters. Rosa and I were assigned a two-seater; SO and Grant were given another; Mike and a crewmember took the third; and a second crewmember had one of the solo boats. The other solo boat wasn’t used until Frank, our other tourist, caught up with us on Tuesday. [Some of these details might be wrong; I was having too much fun to really pay attention to everyone’s boat assignments.]


The panga then abandoned us to our fate and we were on our own.


As we paddled north along the west shore of Isla Espiritu Santo, we made several stops to learn about the ecology of the area. We saw mangroves (or “mangos”, as one of our group insisted on calling them), crabs, and really interesting rock formations. And puffer fish skeletons. LOTS of puffer fish skeletons. Apparently, sometimes they puff up and can’t unpuff, and then they die. What kind of evolutionary advantage does *that* give you???


No, it’s not a puffer fish. It’s a crab. Gee whiz!

So we paddled for a while and came around a point of land, and lo and behold, there was our panga! And lunch! I have to say, the crew did a magnificent job of feeding us! Every meal was different, and the treats they whipped up were oh-my-gawd delicious! One night we had Dutch-oven pineapple upside down cake; one night it was peach upside down cake; and one night it was chocolate cake. Lunches always included the Gringo staple (PB&J), but if you ate the other option you were guaranteed a treat.

After lunch, they let us relax in the shade for a while, but Grant chose to try paddleboarding instead. He got really good really fast, and thereafter he spent almost all his free time on a board.


After playtime was over, we loaded up the kayaks again and headed north toward our first night’s camp. Along the way, we passed a frigate bird rookery. They’ve been raising their young there for a long time – you could tell by the amount of guano lying around.

We reached our campsite in late afternoon, after several hours of steady paddling. The panga had gone on ahead, of course, and when we got to camp, our tents were all set up and waiting for us. We had the first of four scrumptious dinners and then spent the evening relaxing and watching the world go by. That day’s sunset was truly awesome:


Notes from the first day:

  • A two-seater kayak is much more maneuverable when you use the rudder.
  • If you don’t paddle, you don’t progress. There’s no helping current like you’ll find on a river.
  • The sit-in kayaks they had weren’t as comfortable (for me) as my sit-on-tops. It was awkward folding myself into the cockpit, and I never could figure out exactly how to adjust the footrests to make my legs comfortable.
  • On the other hand, the gel seats they had were *way* more comfortable than the seats I have! Imma hafta look into getting gel seat cushions for my kayaks!
  • Make sure you get all your “tent-arranging” done before bedtime, so when it’s time to retire that’s all you have to do. Otherwise, you’ll get yourself all sweaty and hot, and likely be miserable most of the night.
  • Sleeping under the stars (even in a tent) is wonderful, and when you combine it with gentle surf noises it’s a really great way to sleep.


Y’know how, sometimes, you’re on the Interstate and you see something off in the distance ahead of you? And it never seems to get closer? Until suddenly it’s RIGHT-THERE-and-*BAM*-you-passed-it-and-now-it’s-in-the-rearview-mirror?

Have you ever felt that way about an event of some kind? Like, maybe, a much-anticipated vacation trip? It happened to me just a couple of weeks ago.

Last May I first became aware of the possibility that I might be able to go to Baja California this fall – specifically, La Paz, where my Significant Other (hereafter referred to as SO) was planning to take the son of a longtime friend of hers for a sea-kayaking adventure. I won’t bore you with all the details (actually, I don’t want to bore *me* with the details!), but by August it got to the point where I actually *had* to go (I know, we all have to make sacrifices) in order for the trip to even happen, so I signed up. At that point, the trip itself was still almost two months away, and I had a lot of other items on my plate, so it became like that distant object on the Interstate. (NOTE: Our trip was run by Sea Kayak Adventures, an outfit I highly recommend.)

Then, *BOOM*! It was October 22 and Grant (the young man I mentioned) arrived from Montana and we (SO, Grant, a “recruited friend” – Mike, and I) were actually GOING TO BAJA!

October 23 started early: I woke at 1:30 because the plane lifted off at 5:15 and, since I lived farthest from the airport, it seemed logical for me to pick up everyone on the way. I only missed Mike’s house by a little bit on the first pass, and managed not to hit any walls or other cars or objects between there and SO’s house. The four of us arrived at Tucson International Airport with plenty of time left for checking bags, getting through security, and buying “breakfast” (snacks and coffee) at one of the concessions on the concourse.

In due time, we all boarded our first flight of three. To get from Tucson to La Paz, we flew first to Houston, then Mexico City, and finally to La Paz, arriving there about 4:30 in the afternoon, in a time zone one hour ahead of where we started!


From the Aeromexico flight into La Paz

Once we got to the hotel (the Seven Crown – Central) and checked into our rooms, our first order of business was DINNER! We quickly found our way to the Malecon and then to the Bismarck restaurant. We never discovered exactly why a seafood restaurant in La Paz was named after a sunken WW II German battleship, but it was. And the food was great!


Mike and SO after dinner at the Bismarck. There’s a painting of the ship behind Mike’s head.

By then it was 7 PM and we had to hightail it back to the hotel for the introductory meeting for the trip’s attendees. Since we four were the nucleus of the trip, we weren’t *too* worried about being late, but we didn’t want to abuse the privilege, either.

The gathering was in the hotel’s courtyard, near the pool. There we met Rosa, one of the two others on our trip (the final person, Frank, had missed a connection and would join us a day late), and our crew: Sergio, Ruben, Lino and Tico. The meeting was informative and fun, and we got to try on our snorkeling gear to make sure it would fit. The wet suit I was given was too small, but they promised there’d be a bigger one on the boat. (As it turned out, the water was warm enough that I never used the wet suit, but it was good to have along just in case.)

Here’s a nighttime shot of the hotel’s front door:


Having gotten ourselves fed, introduced and informed, we trooped off to our respective rooms for the night. SO and Grant were together, while Mike and I shared the second room.

(Next up: The “Blah Blah” [as in “I have to talk a lot about stuff that you need to listen to”] Day.)

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