Monday, August 31, 2009

Jimena has become news.

Well She's still coming. Her horizontal speed has slowed to 8 mph from 12 and she's still out there huffing and puffing.The first picture to your right is from the NOAA site. The good thing is that the trajectory has been consistent for a couple of days. When hurricane John hit, the predictions were all over the map from the different agencies. He was headed directly for San Jose del Cabo but at the last minute, took a right turn, went out into the Sea of Cortez, then took a left turn and landed almost on top of us in the Buena Vista area. John was reported as a class 3 I believe but the local wind station broke at about 170mph. It was NASTY. Broke 6 glass sliders in our house and a few windows. Thank God there wasn't much rain: mostly wind. Some storms don't have much wind but dump rain at an inch an hour. You have to witness that much rain for 24 hours to believe it.
The second picture is more of a "visible" look at the storm. Looks bad huh? But since I'm not a weather person, IT LOOKS WORSE!!!! AAAAHHH!!!!! Just kidding. I'm not scared. Much.
One more screenshot. This shows the area that will be affected by the storm. We are located on the right edge of the Baja. (click on the photo, then click the "return" arrow) We should only get some rain and not much wind. We'll see, no?
By the way, I always check a site called "". He or she (I actually don't have a clue who this wonderful person is) has combined data from several sources and the site is the place we Bajonians go for the latest scoop.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Hurricane Alert!!

It's that dreaded time of year again. No tourists season. Everything s l o w s d o w n and you wonder if you're ever going to have another customer in your life. It's hot and humid and the A/C is maxed out and your employees are maxed out and you're thinking about your business and you think, "What was I thinking? This isn't any fun!!" A lot of businesses just say "heck with it" and close for the month of August or September.

But then it gets interesting. A hurricane happens!! Hooray!! It forms up South of the Baja Peninsula and starts coming North. Actually nobody says "Hooray" except our friends who have never actually lived through one. But the point is that a hurricane certainly breaks up the monotony.

So right now we have a fairly strong hurricane bearing down on us. Her (I think) name is "Jimena." That is pronounced "He may nah" more or less using English. (Sorry if I sound like some mean teacher talking to bad students but some people just don't know how to pronounce words written in Spanish)

According to the prognosticators, Señorita Jimena will show us her fury sometime Tuesday. So we're busy making sure the generator works, checking for loose stuff outside, moving things away from the windows and fun stuff like that. You don't want things lying around that can blow through a window.

I've had the dubious pleasure of being here for every hurricane since Isis in 1998. I think 1998; my memory really wants to block out the first one. We were house and baby sitting for some friends who had gone to San Francisco for their anniversary. They were only gone one day when the hurricane decided to show and it was on top of us very quickly. So we were in this Fabulous house over-looking the Sea of Cortez with our 2 boys, 6 and 12 and their 4 kids, 5 through 14. The kids made their own plan, covered the whole floor of a large walk-in closet with pillows, took in a tv and vcr, every soft drink in the house and every bit of "portable" food. So while we were bailing water, saving expensive artwork, squeezing out towels and generally panicking about these peoples' nice house, the kids thought we were having a noisy picnic. In the end there was no permanent damage to our friends' beautiful house.

So here we go, a day or 2 of speuclation and watching the internet updates. See you on the other side.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Give 'im FI' DOLLA'!

The local cops in Los Cabos have a reputation for “ticketing” poor unsuspecting tourists. It’s a little unsettling at best to be stopped by the police in a foreign country and very often the timid traveler will shell out the shekels without knowing why. They have even managed to squeeze 5 bucks out of me more than once.

Well they wouldn’t be getting any money from me this fine evening. My tags were current and I wasn't speeding although no municipal cop has ever stopped anyone for speeding. Yep, they were going to have to go pick on some poor tourist. I was totally legit! Ha!

The very second that thought began to age in my mind like a fine wine, I saw red flashing lights in the rearview mirror and the cop horn beeped.
I pulled over and thought smugly, "You don't know who you're dealing with Mister. I live here." I could hear my little voice saying, "Ahh just give ‘im fi’ dolla’ (my inner voice has an accent but it's hard to put on paper) and wish him merry Christmas and save us both some time." I considered it but 5 bucks is 5 bucks!

This cop walked to the car, shined his flashlight in the windows briefly and greeted me. We chatted about the weather for a few moments and finally I politely asked if there was a problem because after all, he had stopped me. He said “Yes, I'm afraid that you have a taillight that isn’t working.”

Taillight?? Carrumba!! I smiled back and told him “No, I didn't know that but don’t worry. I will get it fixed first thing in the morning.” Then I thanked him profusely for bringing it to my attention hoping that might be the end of it.
"Very good" he replied "It is for your own safety señor but there is a problem, this is an "infraction" and requires a ticket."
Ahhhh, there’s the rub. Well, he had me fair and square but I wasn’t ready to cave in just yet. I kind of shrugged my shoulders and said innocently, "But sir, there's not a police car in Baja that has all its lights working. Can you give me a ticket for that?" He gave me a grave look and told me to get out of the car. Uh-oh this was new. No Baja policeman had ever asked me to get out of the car before. My inner voice had very recently sounded like a zen master while giving me advice but was now large and angry and racing around in my mind screaming, “Why you not give ‘im fi’ dolla?? You a stupid!!” Point taken.

The officer stood behind my car and pointed at the offending tail-light. I casually tapped the plastic cover hoping it might come back to life. No luck. Then he told me to stand and face his patrol car. I looked around hoping to see Rodney King holding a video camera. No chance. Then I thought about asking to see his badge but if he would have said, “We don’t need no stinking badges” I would have laughed so hard that I'd probably still be in jail. So I calmly turned toward the patrol car while the little voice continued to insult my intelligence. He walked back to the driver's door of the car. His mustache-adorned face glared at me as he reached in the car. Suddenly the left blinker started flashing. Oh no, not the old Chinese blinker torture! I still didn’t understand what he was up to. Then he nodded towards the front of his car and asked, “It works, no?” I looked back and answered, “It works, yes.” He then proceeded to operate all his blinkers and flashers and high and low beams. I nodded in approval at each one and then I was told to please walk to the rear of his vehicle where I watched as went through his whole repertoire again and even showed me the brake lights for good measure. His license plate light even worked for cryin’ out loud! He got out of his car, walked up to me with a smile on his face and dollar signs in his eyes. “All your lights work” I said. He waited patiently as I pulled out my wallet hoping I had at least 100 pesos. The entertainment value alone was well worth the price of admission. Unfortunately all I could produce was a 50 which he graciously accepted. We wished each other Feliz Navidad and he reminded me to get my taillight fixed. I sat there smiling to myself as he drove away and realized I had just enjoyed being stopped by the police. Go figure.

My little voice reminded me that I could have just given him the “fi’ dolla’ in the beginning. Yeah maybe, but look at all the fun I would have missed.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Coffee Shop, Part 1

We were sitting around the coffee shop one day taking another morning to solve the world's problems all over again. (This actually was my coffee shop that my now ex-wife and I opened in 1997. I'll tell you about it someday. Great place).

We had been reminiscing about the good old days of Baja before the land was worth anything and the developers came. The good old days were when the phones worked poorly when they worked, the grocery stores had about 5 products and every time a storm blew through, you were stranded with no gas, no water, no lights, nada for days or even weeks. (There was always beer and birria (goat meat) though). If you actually had some gas, you had to drive through flooded arroyos to get anywhere because the few bridges that existed were washed out.

Those were the good old days. Go figure.

We drifted in and out of subjects mainly abusing our friends who hadn’t made it to coffee that morning. Finally someone's indignation flared up over the abundance of poor drivers, another daily subject that we endlessly flog. Someone else complained that nobody ever gets stopped for speeding and how dangerous it was to drive the highway to Cabo from San Jose. When the weekend came, it got worse because not only do you have speeders in the left lane you have drunks in the right lane weaving slowly towards home.

After we had voiced every possible opinion and a couple more, a local Mexican friend had finally heard enough, "I'll tell you what the problem is. You Americans don't know how to drive drunk." (Now there's a sobering thought) "In the U.S. you're scared to get stopped by the police so you act sober and drive 60 mph when actually, you're HAMMERED. Here, before there were drunk tourists on the road, we drove with our flashers on and crept along the shoulder (where a shoulder actually existed) at about 20mph. Everyone knew you were drunk and avoided you. It was a good system"
While I was trying to wrap my brain around that concept, Señor Oso weighed in with his latest issue: "What's the deal with space?" Space? I wondered how we made the quantum leap from drunk driving to space.

"You know, you're driving along with some space in front of you and out of nowhere, somebody jams their car in YOUR space that you’re trying to maintain for your own peace of mind and it turns out he's only going another block and has to jam himself back into the space he came from. Or how about parking space? Nobody builds parking space here for their business. Ya gotta park on one side of town to get groceries on the other side." Ahh, that space. I've wondered that myself actually. Maybe space really is the final frontier.

If you come down, DRIVE CAREFULLY. The fine folks here in Baja Sur have developed their own driving culture that is sometimes completely at odds with the way we Americans as a whole, learned how to drive. Pay attention, don't get in a hurry and you'll be fine. I have plenty more to tell you about driving. Wait 'til you hear what the left blinker means.

To be continued...........

Saturday, August 22, 2009

From Alaska to Baja

When people ask me where I came from, I always expect a surpised look or comeback. I say "from Alaska" and the response I get is usually "Wow, you sure went to extremes!" Of course it seems that way but actually the similarities far outweigh the differences. When we think of Alaska, we think of majestic mountains, beautiful lakes and rivers, fish and wildlife and of course snow. Alaska is all of that and much more but what doesn't come to mind immediately is that if you're not near one of the 3 major cites, you might be living a pretty rustic lifestyle.

Of course the same is true here in Baja California. When we drive highway one down to Los Cabos, there's a lot of bleak areas out there that you don't want to get stuck in. On the Baja you might have a real problem if you don't have a spare tire or enough gas.

The problem could be compounded several times if you're not prepared to wait out in the heat. There's miles of remote roads in Alaska also but if you're not prepared for a breakdown, you could easily suffer from hypothermia, frostbite or even death.

Thousands of tourists flock to Alaska every year to fish. Sound familiar? The sportsmen up there have exactly the same complaints about fish management as we do down here. "Well boys, looks like the nets are gonna kill every fish in the ocean."

I can tell you one thing that doesn't change no matter where you go. Fishermen and fish lies.
When I first got to Baja, some friends took me fishing. I didn't want them to think I was a babe in the woods so I mentioned that I had fished for years in Alaska. One pal looked at me and said. "You caught SALMON right?" The word "salmon" came out of his mouth like you would spit out old gum. So I clammed up about catching salmon in Alaska and let my thoughts drift back to fishing in Baja. It wasn't long before my rod went down. Great! This was my chance to at least demonstrate that I knew how to reel in a fish. I grabbed the rod, set the hook, checked the drag and proceeded to almost get yanked out of the boat. "HOKEY PETE," I yelled calmly, "This might be a good one!" El Capitan walked over, pulled some line off the reel and mumbled something like "Tuna, maybe 30." Yeah right. I'm hooked up with Moby Dick and he's saying a 30# tuna? Shut up already. After what seemed like forever, I got my fish to the boat. There it was, a monster all right. All 30 pounds of it. I broke a sweat over a 30 pound tuna??? I was casting about in my mind trying to come up with an appropriate comment but I was distracted by excessive laughter. Then it hit me. Ball players love to come down here for vacations, right? We've seen 'em! Great big guys with way too many muscles. They all swim and snorkel. You see where I'm going with this right? Come on, how could a 30# fish put up such a fight? You put two and two together and bingo! There are NATURALLY OCCURING steroids in the coastal waters of the Baja peninsula. Seriously! I've caught hundreds of salmon, all the types that call Alaska home, but even the 60+ pound Chinooks couldn't hold a candle to a small tuna. What else could it be??

When I lived in Fairbanks sometimes I would think to myself, "What happens if the whole financial system collapses?
I'm gonna freeze here in the dark!!!!"

Not anymore........

Nos Vemos

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Los Barriles

Los Barriles captured a special place in my heart several years ago. It is the first place I visited in Baja sur and still holds good memories. We found Los Barriles because that's where the hotel Palmas de Cortez, is located. Our travel agent had actually tried to talk us out of going to Mexico so we bought a travel magazine and stumbled across the Palmas. We stayed in one of their old, romantic, palapa roofed rooms complete with fire-place. (At the time I couldn't even remotely imagine it being cold enough to want to build a fire. You know, being from Alaska and all.....) No locks on the doors nor danger in the streets and no problems. Every day we snorkeled, swam, walked the beach and relaxed. In the evenings I read to my kids. The hotel was all-inclusive and one of the kitchen staff clanged an old-fashioned cowboy triangle every day at lunchtime. Lunch was supposed to be about 1:30 if I remember right and by 12:30 we were already leaning towards the kitchen. After a week there, I was completely enamored of Baja Sur or at least the little bit of it I had grown familiar with.

That was 20 years ago. The area has grown since then but Los Barriles is still a pleasant little town. It's perfect for those of us who aren't quite so enamored with the night life in Cabo. Of course on the other hand, if you do get a little carried away,
everybody and I mean EVERYBODY knows about it the next day. So watch it, ok? The streets really do roll up early here and in fact 9pm is referred to as "Baja midnight." Remember what this joker did the other night?>>>

FYI: I haven't found any great web sites for Los Barriles but my friend Mary whose picture is featured as a musician at the Roadrunner Cafe earlier in this blog, has a nice site for her condo. It's got some good info so check it out.

When I came in '89 there were very few restaurants; I think Tio Pablo's was still a hot dog stand. The Plaza del Pueblo, where our restaurant and the bakery are located today, had not been built yet. But fishermen had been coming long before a paved road was built so there were already several hotels along the coast: Rancho Buena Vista,(circa late '50's) Hotel Buena Vista, Rancho Leonero, Punta Pescadero and of course the Palmas. Many of the hotels had their own landing strips for private planes since it took 4-ev-er to drive the 1000 miles of bad or NO roads. In fact, the airstrip was still being used at the Palmas when I was here before and the strip at Punta Pescadero is paved and well-maintained to this day.

The wind-surfers had discovered by '89 that the wind is perfect just North of Los Barriles. Wind surfing (and now kiting) is a winter activity here. The surfers and kiters start breezin' into town by January and are becalmed by mid-March. Fishing gets better in the spring so as the wind-people are being blown somewhere else, the fishermen are drifting in. These are 2 distinctly different groups of sportsmen who can occasionally be at odds with each other. It has to do with surfing where boats are anchored or maybe it's anchoring boats where people surf. One or the other. Of course there are some bi-sportual folks like my guitar playin' pal Big Jim who do both. (Maybe if your first name is "Big" it just goes without saying.)

Monday, August 17, 2009

Roadrunner Cafe & the new Bakery

Well I suppose in the interest of keeping peace at home, I should give you a tour of my wife's restaurant and her bakery. She opened a diner-style cafe, the Roadrunner, in Los Barriles 3 years ago and has just opened a bakery in the same plaza, Plaza del Pueblo.

The diner is a real cute little place with red and white tiles, booths, barstools and music playing most of the time. We actually did the tile work ourselves as well as quite a bit of other things including building the table tops.
When there are enough musicians in town, she occasionally offers music on Sundays. It has been very popular and a lot of fun.
She also hosts special events either inside or out on the covered patio.
The bakery idea started forming in Donna's mind a few months ago. I tried to talk her out of it for my own selfish reasons but was getting nowhere. I pointed out that she was self-taught and really didn't know exactly what she was doing. She countered with something like "then you don't have to eat any of my baked goods." That called for a change of tactics. One day after I had formed a new path of attack, all neat and logical, one of our local restaurant folks walked in and started ordering bread by the gunny-sack full. She liked that idea a lot better than mine.
So there's a new bakery in the Plaza del Pueblo. Come check it out.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

East Cape Bisbee Awards Banquet

Just one more post about the Bisbee...... The awards banquet was fabulous. Very typically Baja; it was supposed to get started at 7pm but didn't really go until 8. I lived in Alaska a long time so I know about regional scheduling offset...... The food was delicious thanks to the crew at el Hotel Buena Vista, and the service was genuinely pleasant. The Governor of Baja California Sur, Narciso Agundez, was there with an entorage to congratulate the winners. Clicerio Mercado, an old friend from the restaurant business and the coordinator for the Bisbees in Mexico, announced the awards in Spanish and Wayne Bisbee announced in broken English. (By the way, Clicerio is a philathropist and has spent countless hours helping the orphans of Cabo San Lucas. I love this guy.)

I had a little more than passing interest this year. My employer "Cabo Riviera Resort" sponsored the event. We are building a beautiful marina that consists of channels and islands so that you can dock your boat next to your house. It'll also have a Pete Dye golf course. I have no doubts that someday the tournament will be based from the resort. We'll see.

So the guys from "Tracking International" interviewed Dave, Clicerio and me on the beach. If you're completely masochistic, go to my Shutterfly site and page down until you see it.

This was another great tournament. No controversy, great sportsmanship and a chance to hang out with like-minded folks. LOTS of fish released. Only 2 legal blues were caught but in my estimation it was still a great success.

Here's the final results:

2009 Bisbee’s East Cape Standings

53 Teams, $274,350.00 Cash Awards
101 Billfish Caught, 95% Release Ratio
Top Marlin
Cap’n Jake – Kent Andersson – 341.0 lbs. (blue) – $19,391.40
Mi Corazon – Keith Jones – 310.0 lbs. (blue) – $7,824.60
Top Dorado
Sails Call – Alfredo Lucero – 57.2 lbs. – $9,072.00
Top Tuna
Fisherman – Daniel Fisher – 174.4 lbs. (yellowfin) – $9,072.00
Top Release Teams
Alegria 1200 points (2 blue, 4 striped marlin, 2 sailfish)
Off the Hook 1100 points (2 blue, 5 striped marlin)
Hang ‘Em High 900 points (3 blue marlin)
Marlin Jackpots
Day 1 & Day 2 – Mi Corazon – $116,960.00
Day 3 – Cap’n Jake – $58,480.00
Gamefish Jackpots ‐ Dorado
Day 1 – Sails Call – $8,925.00
Day 2 – Dottie B II – $8,925.00
Day 3 – Lucky Hooker – $8,925.00
Gamefish Jackpots ‐ Tuna
Day 1 & Day 2 – Slippery Lizzard – $17,850.00
Day 3 – Fisherman – $8,925.00

Felicidades la familia Bisbee!!!!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

East Cape Bisbee Tournament is in the books

Well the fish are all caught, there's nothin' left but the shoutin'. My neighbor's boat had the second biggest Blue Marlin which was caught the second day. Since no marlin were caught the first day, his boat took 2 days worth of prize money worth over 100,000. Gary Graham has a nice write-up at his blog "Baja Fly."

This tournament is held every year about the last week in July at the Hotel Buena Vista which is about 100 yards from my house. If you're near the East Cape during this time, it's well worth coming down around 3 to 4 pm to watch the boats come in.

My wife Donna and I are going to the awards banquet tonight. It's always a nice affair with good food, great ambiance and a few yucks.

I had a chance to visit with Bob Bisbee for a while and I'm not sure you can find many more people with as much blue-water fishing experience. That's not to mention his dedication and time spent organizing the various bill fish tournaments that are held around the world. Nice man too.

The next one up is the Bisbee's Black and Blue that is held every fall in Cabo San Lucas.