The winter is almost over. The back yard is in full bloom and it feels like summer.
We did not spent a lot of time this winter in the desert. Our yearly trek to Quartzsite was again an experience.
Added to the fun was doing things with Chappy and Dottie and our friends from Saint Louis, Darlene and Larry.
We also participated in activities with the WINs.
Unfortunately we had no time for the Shanty Shakers and the Boondockers.
Those are camping clubs we also belong to.
Like most camping clubs, they had their outings the last two weeks in January, for the Camping Show and Gem Show.
Attending the Convair Tool Designers luncheon was fun too.
We did not attend the Dance Rally in Casa Grande this year. I traded it for a Whale watching trip to the San Ignacio Lagoon, in Mexico.
I had signed up for a similar trip with the Mexican Connection, another camping club I belong to. They take only 50 rigs and I was not lucky enough to be chosen at the lottery.
This would have been a less expensive trip then going with a private company.
I will fly on the first of March to the lagoon.
Doreen will stay at home. She will not cross the border.
Our February outing with the Convair Camping Club was in Borrego Springs, in a RV Resort with swimming pool and all the other amenities. On the Palm Canyon trail we saw Bighorn Sheep.
With the Shanty Shakers we went on an outing in the Laguna Mountains. We did some good hiking.
Doreen had a colonoscopy on the Friday before the outing. Saturday night,
just before midnight, she woke me up.
She was not able to breathe. We got dressed and jumped in the car and were on our way to the hospital.
After driving 100 feet she stopped me and wanted me to call 911.
I backed up in the drive way and called 911. She was put on oxygen right away and taken to Tri City Hospital.
After checking the lights and doors in the house I went to the hospital and stayed with Doreen until 5:30 AM.
They took X Rays and blood every hour. First they thought she had pneumonia, then a blood clot.
Then they concentrated on the heart. The doctor had called Kaiser and wanted to transfer Doreen to a Kaiser facility. Kaiser told the doctor that they had no bed available and to keep her.
I went home and slept for two hours. Doreen called me and said that she would be transferred to Palomar hospital in Escondido.
Palomar is a contract hospital for Kaiser. They took more tests. She spent Sunday and part of Monday there.
We went home at 5:30 PM on Monday. Doreen felt pretty good but wanted to stay at home.
I picked up the motor home and loaded it.
I left Tuesday morning and spent Tuesday and Wednesday with the group.
Tuesday we walked to the State Park Visitor Center and Wednesday we walked up Palm Canyon.
This was the first time in all the years I have been walking up the canyon, that I saw Bighorn Sheep. We saw first three big males and later on four more. It was very exciting.
Thursday morning it started to rain. I canceled visiting Ron Carlson and headed for home. On top of the mountain it started to snow. I made it home without problems. Later, when I watched the news, I saw the people stranded on the highway. I was lucky to get through before the snow became a problem and before highway 78 was closed because the road had caved in.
I had gone to the doctor because of my left shoulder. I thought it was arthritis, but he told me it was a problem with the muscle. He proved it by pushing his finger into my flesh. It really hurt then.
He sent me for X rays, just to make sure. When I arrived at the lab they gave me a cup. I told them that I was there for X rays. Since I do not see my doctor very often he had signed me up for a urine check and for a blood check. They almost drained me of my bodily fluids.
When I brought the X ray back my doctor gave me some more good news.
He had signed me up for a Colonoscopy, which will be done when I come back from this trip.
To make me even more happy, he wants to see me again in two months, and talk about all the tests, and check my prostate.
I am looking forward to this visit.
We left the house at 4:30 AM. There was no traffic on I-5 and we arrived at the Crown Plaza Hotel, in San Diego, at 5:00 PM.
My fellow travelers who come from out of town are staying in the hotel.
The bus picked us up at 6:30 AM and we headed for the airport in Ensenada. We spent 45 minutes at the border to get our visas and get our luggage checked.
The Mexican border guards let us play a traffic light game. You push a button and when the light turns green they do not go through your luggage. I was lucky and had a green light.
The drive was very pleasant. After Tijuana the road follows the Ocean.
On the hills were the wild flowers in bloom.
In Ensenada there is a Walmart next to a Home Depot and Costco is across the street, almost like in San Diego.
We arrived at the airport at 9:00 AM, and after security went through our luggage boarded the Convair 240. The airplane was build in 1955 in San Diego. A Mexican family owns it and uses it to fly people and Cargo. The plane has a large cargo door in the passenger department and they removed seats.
Before we took off, the pilot told us not to worry about the black smoke coming from the engines when we take off. He explained that the oil on the bottom of the cylinders has to burn off first. He was right thick black smoke appeared, but it got better after a while.
I always wanted to fly in a Convair 240 or 340. I spent some time in them when they were on the ground. A charter company at Palomar airport had several of them and when we did not have tooling to make spare parts, I went there to borrow parts for re engineering tooling from the parts.
In 1961 I flew in a Convair 880 Jet to Florida, never thinking that I would work in the future for the company.
At 1:00 PM we arrived at an airfield in the middle of nowhere. We could not see anything because of the dust created by the plane. We had landed on a dirt landing strip.
18 people were waiting to board the plane and go back to San Diego. We ask them whether they had encounters with whales. All they told us: " You will have a good time". It was kind of odd. When we were heading back we were told to say the same thing, to keep expectations down.
At the air strip is a makeshift restaurant. Two women from Baja Expeditions, our tour company, were preparing fish, and we made our own fish tacos, with the fish and all the ingredients.
I pigged out and had four tacos. It reminded me of San Philipe, where Rubio got his idea for his fish tacos.
San Ignacio Lagoon and the area around it is a protected area. No airplanes are allowed to fly over it between January and June, so the whales and birds nesting are not disturbed.
Around the lagoon are small fish camps with six to eight houses.
After lunch we boarded an old school bus and went to one of the fish camps. Our next stop was a place, about a mile from the camp, where many piles of shells are located. As far as one can see there are shells. One time the lagoon was full of scallops and those are reminders what happens
when you deplete a resource.
Now there are rules and the fishing people abide by them.
Our guides finally told us we can go to the camp, the clean up crew had done their job.
After arrival at the camp we got instructions, how to use the toilets, how to wash our hands, how to take showers, and how to behave during whale encounters.
Then we were assigned to tents. The tents are large walk in tents with two cots, two chairs and a table between the cots.
Assigning tents for the two married couples, and the two unmarried couples was easy. Some of the women agreed to share a tent. There was only Peggy and I left. Each of us got a tent. I loved it, I can snore as much as I want and do not have to worry about somebody else snoring.
There is also a young lady, who for her dissertation is making a film about the lagoon. She hired a sound man from Tijuana.
There are 12 tents in the camp. A maximum of 24 guests can be accommodated.
The crew lives in trailers, motor homes, and a big dormitory tent.
Before Happy Hour and dinner I walked to the waters edge and looked at the water spouts appearing all over the lagoon. I hope that I can get close to one of those creatures.
What a day we had.
After breakfast I had gone again to the water and looked at the spouts. I was ready to go out there.
Cold breakfast was at 7:00 AM. I had my regular breakfast, dry cereal with half a banana and milk. The milk was hot, because it is also used for coffee. I could say something but I will work around it.
They are very accommodating. One woman does not eat fish, a couple can not eat pork, and one person does not like chicken.
Hot breakfast was at 8:00 AM. When I saw the food I could not resist and had another breakfast.
The kitchen staff brought one large container with a mixture of scrambled eggs and cut up vegetables. There was of course a large pan with frijoles. Not the dark beans, those were very light colored and tasted very good. There was also hot cereal and fruit. It was a super breakfast.
At 9:00 AM we were ready to board the two boats. We looked like we were ready for action, in our high rubber boots, life vests and rain gear. The boots were needed to go to the boats.
The water level changes by the hour and we had to walk through mud and water.
Since we are only 16 guests instead of 24, almost all of us got an outside seat on the boat. There were seven people in my boat and nine in the other. The filming team was in the other boat.
One fifth of the lagoon is used for whale watching, which is an area about five miles square. Only 16 boats are allowed in this area at any given time. A boat can stay for ninety minutes, unless there are no boats waiting in line. It is actually a large area.
As soon as we arrived at the whale watching area a baby whale came to the side of the boat. We all touched it and the mother decided to get in the action too.
A big head with white barnacles appeared. Not a very pretty sight, but a very exiting experience. We all could not wait to stroke it too.
Here was my chance to get friendly with that big creature.
When a baby whale is born it is 13 feet long. The mother is about 40 feet long and weighs about 70,000 pounds. That is a big mother.
The mother is almost twice as long as our boat. It is difficult to explain how it feels to encounter such a large animal. It is a emotional and spiritual experience.
All the other wild animals get angry when somebody approaches their offspring but the whale lets humans touch its baby.
We went another 100 feet and another baby whale came to the boat and then the mother.
This went on for an hour. We had many encounters and were very exited.
Jose, our guide, told us this is not the norm. We were very lucky, on our first outing, from one whale mother and baby to another.
Since there were not 16 boats in the area we stayed for over two hours.
This was a day I will not forget so soon. One of the women has now come six years in a row. All the guides know her.
Lunch was served at 12:30 PM. It was a typical Mexican dish and I loved it. We get to eat all kinds of fish.
I have a feeling I will gain another five pounds.
At 2:00 PM we went out again. We saw many mothers with babies but only one pair came to the boat.
I can not complain, I touched several whales and saw large whales come out of the water in a vertical position.
Everything else is now icing on the cake.
Happy Hour was at 5:30 PM. One can drink all the margaritas, Mexican beer and soft drinks. I like the soft drinks. The are made by Coca Cola and have a fruity flavor, like mango and orange.
Dinner was served at 6:30 PM and after dinner we had a slide show about whales. Jose, who is a marine biologist, did the talk with interruption from his four and a half year old son. Whenever Jose left something out, Estaban would fill in for him in, in English.
Estaban's mother is from Lansing, Michigan and speaks English to him while Jose speaks Spanish to him.
Estaban is very cute, the women just loved him. He is very smart since he is around adults all the time.
He calls some of the crew uncle and Lupita, tia (aunt)
He goes to Kindergarten in a small village ten miles from the camp. His mother takes him there. He comes to breakfast all dressed up, with a neck tie on.
Lupita, one of the guides, asked us last night who would like to go kayaking this morning at 7:00 AM.
Four of us signed up. Some of the group thought it was too early.
Cold breakfast was served early. To get to the kayaks we had to walk a quarter of a mile.
I told Lupita that I never have been in a kayak. She gave me some tips how to hold the paddle and how to keep my body and head in correct position.
It was high tide and we took off for the mangroves. The channel we were in changed constantly in width from ten feet to sixty feet.
Two of my companions ran into the mangroves and had to work to get out again. First I stayed back and when I felt more secure took the lead, just to get away from everybody.
It was fun watching the birds in the mangroves and in the water. We saw a lot of black irises.
I had planned not to go on the 9:00 AM whale watching outing. When I went to the dining room tent, to take my name of the list, I was informed that the outing was canceled because of the high wind.
I went back to my tent and swept the floor. I had brought a lot of sand in my tent.
The 2:00 PM outing also was canceled. The camp manager decided to have early lunch and then drive to San Ignacio.
He rented a 12 passenger van and driver from the company they rent the boats from.
After lunch we took off in two vans. Jose's wife and Estaban came along too.
I have been in San Ignacio, with Hanna, many years ago. It is an oasis in the middle of the desert in Baja.
Because of the underground river they have gardens and date palms and real toilets.
I was interested in the new museum. In this part of Baja are caves with paintings of large figures. They call them the Tall People.
The museum recreated part of the cave and copied the paintings on the wall, with the same size and colors.
The beautiful mission church is on one side of the plaza. Shops are on the other three sides. It is a very colorful setting.
We stayed two hours and then headed for home on the bumpy dirt road. It took us two hours for the 60 miles.
Because we were late for dinner there was no lecture after we ate.
Another beautiful day, blue skies and very little wind.
We boarded the boats at 9:00 AM and went to the opening of the lagoon. We encountered many males.
At one time we saw four males coming straight up. They were in the vertical position for about 30 seconds.
On the way back we followed three males and watched their antics.
Several times we saw a mating ritual. It usually involves one female and between two and ten males.
This causes quite a commotion in the water.
Just before we came back a baby approached us. The mother stayed four feet from the boat. The baby bumped the boat twice with his head and then wanted to be petted.
Everybody in the boat got a chance to touch the baby whale.
When we came back to camp I found out that the other boat had stopped at the other side of the lagoon and saw whale skeletons and turtle shells.
They had gone with Jose.
I had decided not to participate in the 2:00 PM outing, but when I found out about the whale skeletons I talked to Jose. He agreed to switch boats and take us to the other side of the lagoon after the 90 minutes of whale watching were up.
I am glad it worked out that way. We saw a baby whale riding on top of his mother. Both, Jose and the boat driver had never seen this before and both got their cameras out. The baby had his mouth open, which is unusual for whales. We were on the side of mama and baby and followed them for 30 minutes.
After the 90 minutes were up we went to the shore and looked at the whale skeleton.
Dinner was a Farewell Dinner. Lupita gave a slide presentation and talk about her work year in the lagoon.
She works from February to April as a guide. She calls it her vacation. The rest of the year she fishes with her father and cousin.
They fish with nets for fish and traps for lobster. She is one of seven lucky people who have lobster licenses. She inherited hers from her grandfather.
Five years ago Lupita did not speak English. Baja Expedition gave her and others a three month, ten hour a day, crash course.
In the second week she wanted to quit, but they would not let her. Now she speaks fluent English and loves her job as a guide.
After breakfast some of the group took off for the last whale watching boat ride. It was only one hour long.
I stayed behind and walked around the camp, talked to some of the staff and took pictures, and got interviewed by the film crew.
Nothing will be here in four weeks. The tents and small buildings will be gone, only natural objects like the shells, which mark the locations of walkways, tents and other structures, can stay.
Three shells mark the location of the tent stakes. This facilitates setup when everything goes up again next February.
I was very lucky on this trip. I did not have to share the tent with a stranger. It gave me more room and I was able to use the sleeping bag liner from the other bed for a sheet. This way I unzipped my sleeping bag and used it as a cover, and slept between the two sheets, instead of fighting that stupid liner.
When the group came back from whale watching we asked them about what happened. One baby whale had almost come over the side of the boat and one of the women kissed it. Lupida told us that Marion had French kissed the whale. Coming from a sober person, like Lupida, that was funny.
This trip was a fantastic experience. It was spiritual and emotional.
Touching a baby whale and its 70,000 pound mother is unbelievable exciting.
One mother came under the boat and it sounded like breaking glass. The sound was caused when the barnacles were scraped off.
The barnacles look like individual flowers grouped together. They are about one half inch high. The lice crawl between the barnacles.
Some older whales have large spots of barnacles on their body. They can be identified by those spots and by the orca (killer whales) bites on their tail.
Every camp has its mascots. This camp has four. There are two dogs. The first time we met them they were sitting on the side of the road, about one half mile from the camp. They were waiting for the bus. When we got there they were running along the bus barking all the way back to the camp. There is also Amarillo, the very big orange cat. He belongs to somebody a few miles away. He appears when the camp is up. At night he looks for a tent which has the door not completely closed. He jumps on the bottom of the bed and sleeps there. He got kicked out only once because one of the people in tent was allergic to cats. One night he could not enter a tent. He scratched at the tent until he was let in.
And there is Estaban, the four and a half year old son of Jose. He is the cutest and smartest kid. Jose looks more like a Mexican Indian, he has very dark skin. Estaban is light colored and looks more like his American mother.
His mother speaks English with him and his father Spanish. Among the crew of the camp he adopted many uncles and tia Lupita.
He is growing up among adults and one can tell. When his father gives a lecture and misses something or hesitates for a few seconds, Estaban speaks up, and fills in the gaps. It is very funny and everybody gets a kick out of it. Estaban hears every five days the speech and memorized it.
On Sundays he comes along in the boat, dressed like his father, including a back pack.
During the week his mother takes him to Kindergarten in El Centro, a small village 15 miles from the camp.
The school teaches up to junior high. The high school is in San Ignacio. The government provides housing for the students during the school year.
The people in the lagoon realize that there is no future here. Tourists can only come in small airplanes. I was surprised that the charter company flies the Convair 240 here.
Fishing will not support everybody so they send the children to school.
Lupita started fishing with her grandfather when she was eleven years old.
Estaban and his parents will go to La Paz next month when the camp closes here. Jose will be a kayaking guide there for Baja Expedition.
Summer and fall the family will spend in Lansing, Michigan. Estaban's mother will work and Jose will take care of the household. Estaban will get spoiled by his grandmother. He is the only grandchild she has.
At 10:00 AM we took a group picture and then went on the bus. At the airport we made our self sandwiches while the crew cooked fish for the new arrivals. The airplane landed at 12:00 noon and a family of 24 came off the plane. They are here for a family reunion. All the tents are taken this time.
We left 30 minutes later. When we arrived in Ensenada our luggage was checked again.
The bus was waiting for us and the drive along the coast was scenic. The wildflowers on the hills are in bloom and there are yellow and blue colors everywhere. When we arrived in Tijuana I called Doreen and she took off to meet me at the hotel.
Going through the border was easy. Buses have a special lane. We did not have to wait in line for an hour to get to the border gate.
We took our luggage and went through customs. They put our passports and swiped them through the computer. Then they asked us what we bought. We had no chance to spend money. I had bought a T shirt in San Ignacio.
The bus was waiting for us on the American side of the border and we got on and headed for the hotel.
Doreen arrived at the same time as we did.
The drive home was fine since we could go in the commuter lane, and avoided the slow traffic on I-5.
Monday we will be hosting, with Chappy and Dotty, the three day outing of the Convair Camping Club. We have to cook corned beef and cabbage.
Our next trip is planned for June. I would like to go one more time to the Canadian Rockies, Jasper, Lake Louise, and Banff are so beautiful.
From there I would like to cover the whole state of Idaho.
With the gasoline prices rising every day we will make that decision later.
We hope you all have a wonderful spring.