A Travellerspoint blog

March 2013

A Quiet Week in Baja

A Meeting of Desert, Ocean, and Vagabond

sunny 79 °F

I’m sitting on a table on our bridge deck (our highest deck). My legs dangle in the breeze. I lean back and look up to the rising moon. I have a cold beer in my left hand and my Ipod with select cuts in my right. I’m rocking out to a big moon, and a beautiful Mexican seascape. I’ve got it pretty damn good.

I’m thinking about what I want to write about this week, but I can’t come up with anything. It doesn’t matter. I take a sip of beer and smile. This week is good. I’m doing good. And sometimes, there just isn’t anything to say.

Bonanza Bay Slack-Line Session
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It took me three tries to find the right set up for this line. It was hard to find the right combination of distance, boulders and height to make this line happen. It’s hard to wrap a line around a boulder and make it hold. A taut line on boulders tends to slip no matter how hard I pull the tension. Using a couple of different knots, I finally got the line to hold.

This was the highest line I’ve ever walked. I know it doesn’t look very high, but the landing was sketchy. Should I fall, a small bed of boulders would break my fall. It took me a couple of tries to get comfortable on the line, but I overcame my fears and relaxed. I told myself it’s no different than a low line, it was just higher. For some reason, this line of logic worked, and I walked it.
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The best part of this session was soaking in the cool crystalline waters of the Sea of Cortez afterward.

Orange Whispers
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I love dawn. There’s something proper to sipping a good cup of coffee and watching the sun rise over the waking world.

The Magic of Isla Magdalena
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Isla Magdalena never fails to impress me with its diverse beauty. I’ve written extensively in the past about the finer features of Isla Magdalena. It never fails to provide me with a sense of peace, a sense of place, and a sense of time.

My buddy Paul and I walk across the wind swept dunes to the Pacific side. A fine layer of sand blows over the dunes as thin as smoke. We lose ourselves in conversation, the dunes and our destiny.
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On the Pacific side, I drop my accessories and run off into the ocean. I run until the waves trip me and I fall forward into the water. I love this beach. I love this ocean. I love this place. I time the waves and jump with them hoping for that magical feeling of flying. It’s elusive, but I finally catch the perfect wave. I accelerate as the wave curls and breaks. It seems I‘m better at flying in water than I am in the air.
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I leave fully satisfied and refreshed. To swim in the Pacific is good for the soul.

Sea Lion in Death
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A dead sea lion lay on the sand. Paul and I walk around it, inspecting it. It smells like death. It’s interesting and puts life into perspective. Everything here is temporary, so what the hell is all the fuss about? I don’t know. Neither does Paul.
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Isla Magdalena is home to the dead. The bones of countless animals, and perhaps men, litter the island. I can’t think of a more beautiful place to lie still.

Undocumented Moments
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This week I experienced several moments I can only tell you about. I’ve kept camera mostly tucked away this week. I didn’t want any distractions. I kept my senses wide open, receptive to it all. I was not disappointed.

I saw three blue whales this week. One of which brought its fluke into the sky as it dove away into the wild blue. I was inches away from several gray whales this week. When they breathed, I was blasted in the face with their breath. Some whales expel their breath at over 100 miles and hour. I breathed the same air a whale expelled. That has to be some kind of good karma, right? I watched streaking dolphins glide through black water. They are ghostly, lit by bioluminescence.

My favorite part of the week was realizing I love my job. I’m a mariner, and I work on the sea. Sometimes the sea gets lumpy and hard to work on. Every move I made was difficult. I was at the mercy of the water and the wind.

I worked with my mates and we got the job done, despite the challenging conditions. We ate a late dinner in the relative peace of the crew lounge enjoying the camaraderie of a good days work done well.
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To work here, you need a sense of timing, physical coordination, and knowledge of the sea. It’s an ancient craft, and I’m happy to say it is mine.

Posted by Rhombus 22:51 Archived in Mexico Tagged beaches night desert mexico whales sunrise time photography moons slacklining Comments (0)

A Change of Fortunes: Back in Baja

So Long Winter, Lamenting Minnesota, a Cat and a Slackline

semi-overcast 75 °F

I have severely improved my predicament. I’ve left the icy grip of late winter in the midwest for the hot desert comfort of Baja, Mexico. To put it in numbers, I went from 29 to 75 (f), from freezing rain to warm and sunny. The sun hits my skin as I peel off my layers. It feels wonderful. I am reborn.

I’m in Mexico to w-w..work. Just thinking that word is hard. I haven’t lifted a finger for myself since last November. It’s been a good run, but the time has come to replenish my coppers. I’ve been hemorrhaging money lately (since 2009) and working for a couple of months will help stem the flow.
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The Baja peninsula is one also one damn fine place to play. I can’t wait to immerse myself in a silent desert landscape. I’m going swimming this week. I’m going hiking this week. I’m going to watch the sunset tonight, and I’m going to watch the sunrise tomorrow morning. Overall, things are looking up.

Returning to Minnesota

This past week was good to me. I returned to Minnesota. I once lived in Duluth, Minnesota for seven years. It was odd to drive around my old stomping grounds. I saw places that are familiar, yet unfamiliar due to the passage of time. I drove through a city of memories.

I came to the realization that Minnesota was never really home to me. I grew accustomed to living there, exploring there, and being there. But, I could never love Minnesota the way the natives love their state.

But that’s ok. That’s all part of life’s journey.
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I spent some quality time with my brother Karl and my good friend Curly. It’s great to meet someone you haven’t seen in a year and pick up right where you left off. That’s the sign of a quality friendship. Granted, most of our time was spent reminiscing, laughing and talking about nothing, but it’s all good for the soul.

Map
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My brother has a cat by the name of Map. Map reminds me a lot of Hobbes, of “Calvin and Hobbes” fame. He loves a good sneak attack. Cats love to surprise their prey. I fell victim to his timely ambush several times.
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He’s also a good wrestler. He’ll pounce on your foot before grabbing it with his claw and sinking his teeth lightly into your foot. He’s good about not stabbing too deeply, he nips just enough to let you know he’s there.
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He’s a quality cat.

A New Slack-line
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This week I bought a new slack-line set. I purchased sixty feet of one-inch climbers webbing and a strong one-inch ratchet set. I set up an experimental line in my brother’s yard one morning. I wasn’t sure if it was going to work, but after a few tries I found the sweet spot. It felt good to get back up on the line. I had a good session despite the cold temperatures. Now all I have to do is get it set up on white sand instead of white snow.

There you have it. One minute I’m sitting on a bus driving north through a dreary landscape, the next minute, I’m setting up my slack-line on a beautiful white sand beach. I think that’s a promising change in fortune. Or is it? We shall see.

Look for more Mexican tales next week.

Posted by Rhombus 12:55 Archived in Mexico Tagged beaches winter friends baja slacklining Comments (0)

Bus Thoughts

On Buses, Thinking Too Much and the Unpredictable Future

overcast 36 °F


I’m inspired. I would give almost anything for a pen right now. Sadly, I am pen less (which is almost as bad as penniless), and my journal remains unopened. Ah well, I’ll have to do this electronically and transpose it to paper later. This is the opposite of how this normally works.

I’m on a bus rolling north on Interstate 35. I’m a passenger. Why am I not a “passager”? Why is that “n” there? Now that is a perfect example of a bus thought. I’ve spent a lot of time on buses and trains this year. I’ve gone from the top of Michigan to the middle of Florida by bus or train. This has given me a lot of insight into the nature of this style of travel.

Here and Now

Parallel streaks of water slide down at a 15-degree angle from the top of the window. It distorts my view. The heavy gray ceiling hangs over drab landform of the plains below.

I’m listening to tunes on my I-pod. My songs: “Truth” by Alexander. “Some Say I’m Not” by Mason Jennings. “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver. “How to Disappear Completely“ by Radiohead. “Islero“ by Crooked Fingers. The music creates a soundtrack to the movie of my life. I picture past events and put music to those moments. I’m vain enough to think it would be a cool video.

A minute ago, we passed an abandoned farmhouse and barn along side of the road. It would have been an easy scene to establish mood in a photograph. Three “D” words come to mind: Decay. Decrepit. Dreariness. Sadness hangs over that place, even the trees don’t want to grow. I wonder about it.

The dark afternoon suits my temperment for this ride. I’m a bit hung over today. I’m also a bit tired. Last nights adventure took my nephew, his future bride, and myself into downtown Kansas City. We ate and then went to the Blue Room over in the Jazz District. Have you heard of the Blue Room? It’s a Kansas City landmark, right on the corner of the Jazz District. Many Jazz legends have played the Blue Room. The proof hangs on the wall in the form of vintage black and white band photos. The music is good, the mood is light, the conversation flows. Two events surprise us: Free cake and a saxophone player. The latter being a musician of modest fame, who happened to be in town, and was packing his horn. The former was delicious. Both surprises are delightful.

My memories, the soothing landscape and my music are the order of the day.

On Thinking Too Much

Buses offer a lot of time to think. Alan Watts reminds us that, “A person who thinks all the time has nothing to think about except thoughts. So he loses touch with reality and lives in a world of illusions. I’m not saying thinking is bad. Like anything else, it is useful in moderation. A good servant, but a bad master.”

So true.

What do I think about? My future. As a Zen free spirit, I find it amusing that I suffer from mild anxiety about my short-term future more often than I want to. I haven’t convinced myself that there isn’t anything to worry about. Everything will work out, as it should. Ram Dass has mused, “Isn’t that interesting? Far out, I still get uptight about this.”

Four Repeating Thoughts

My finances are dwindling. I may have to give up being a mariner. I don’t have another job lined up yet, though I am working on it. I’m tired of trying to figure out where to go.

These thoughts aren’t all that scary. I don’t know why I’m worried about it. I offer them to give a little insight into the mind of a wanderer. My life is different from most, and sometimes its not easy living on the very edge of stability. I feel like I’m coming to crossroads of my life. I can’t see the next path, yet, but I sense it is there. Which path should I take? And there’s the rub.
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This last paragraph has brought a smile to my face.

Posted by Rhombus 13:52 Archived in USA Tagged travel bus jobs philosophy roadtrips Comments (1)

Remembering Florida

My Favorite Memories of the Sunshine State

sunny 70 °F

Remembering Florida

Florida has been good to me. It's such a beautiful state - so full of life and color. It's a wonderful contrast to the chilly northern climates that I had been visiting. It was good to walk around in shorts again. It was good to swim in a river. It was good to sit around a bonfire under a starry sky. It was good to climb trees again. I ate a lot of amazing food. I did battle in my first paintball war in twenty years. I ate some of the best shrimp of my life in Apalaciacola. None of this would have been nearly as fun if it wasn't for my good friends and hosts, Clayton and Laura Lee.

Florida offered me many new experiences I wouldn't find anywhere else. I saw my first alligator. I ate my first alligator (it was delicious). I pulled an orange right off the tree and ate it for breakfast. I swam with manatees. I took a ride through a Florida swamp on an air boat. I built my first chicken coop. I ate the best strawberry you can get, and I snorkelled down a beautiful crystal clear river (see Soaring Through the Wild Blue). It was great.

Fireside Banjo Jam
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This is what it’s all about. I met up with my good friend Clayton on his farm way up in the panhandle of Florida. We spent 15 minutes cutting up a dozen pine logs and set up a good fire. The stars lit up the dark sky, accompanying the hanging crescent moon. We drank some beers. We played our banjos. We talked of life, and how good it is. This was my first night in Florida, and a damn fine one at that.

Stuck
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Clayton and I got back in his truck. He started it up, and stopped for a second. We could go straight across the sand lot, or we could turn around and stick to the parking lot. Clayton asked me, “Do you think we can make it?” I answered without really thinking about it, “Sure, let’s go for it.” Well, we went for it. We didn’t make it. The sand became deep halfway across and we sunk up to the axle. We were stuck.

After a half hour of futile effort, one call to a tow truck, and trying a few more bad ideas, a four pack of guys came to our rescue. The four of them lifted the back of the pick up and Clayton jammed a six by six log under the tire. Then we all pushed while Clayton spun his way to the road beyond. We escaped just before the tow truck arrived. It was a solid afternoon had by all.

Coop!
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Clayton needed to build a chicken coop for his chickens. I became excited about the idea, and drew up some elaborate blueprints of what Clayton wanted it to look like. I love sketching out the finished product almost as much as I like building them.

One afternoon we went out to the hardware store to buy the supplies, and the next day we started the build. It took a lot longer to build than I thought it would, but the end result looked a lot like how I envisioned it.
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I thought back to where I was two weeks before when I was wandering around downtown Manhattan. Now here I was building a chicken coop on a farm in rural Florida. I love the diversity of my life.

On Oranges
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Florida has the best oranges. Have you ever smelled an orange blossom? It is the most intoxicating perfume I've ever scented. Have you ever eaten an orange right off the tree for breakfast? I did. It was the juiciest most flavorful orange I have ever tasted.
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The Florida Wild

The following photos are from various parts of Florida. Florida is beautiful. It is full of birds, wildlife, flowers, gators, and some of the best trees I’ve ever seen. I love Florida’s trees. The white Cyprus and the giant live oaks are my new favorite, especially when covered in Spanish moss.

Florida Forests
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Terrapin
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Evening Tree Reflection
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White Cyprus and Spanish Moss
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Gulf of Mexico
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Female Grackles Walking the Swamp
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Male Grackle
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Swamp Vegetation
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Baby Gator
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Grackle Flight
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Ghost Fish
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Wood Ducks
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Shamrock in Good Light
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Pitcher Plant Frog
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Lily Pads and Reflected Clouds
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My favorite part of Florida was spending quality time with my friends. Cheers!
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Posted by Rhombus 11:02 Archived in USA Tagged turtles parks flowers wildlife friends florida photography forests oranges Comments (0)

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