The trouble started last year when a nice gentleman named Antonio Munoz invited posters on a Baja internet forum to a free theater party hosted by him in the Tijuana Cultural Center. Marian and I (and 50 others) had a great time. So….when he invited us to a Festival in his home town, El Rosario, about 200 miles below the border, we jumped on it. Then things started to go wrong; Marian’s heart arrhythmia started to act up and she decided not to go. The doctor gave her an appointment a couple of weeks in the future so she let me go out of town (so she could see her boyfriend, Angus, she said). I didn’t want to drive down by myself and thought it would be nice to take an orphan from the local home down for the ride. Marian canceled that bright idea after she found out the orphan was 28 years old.
What to do? I called around and the only ride I could get was with Cranky a.k.a. Gary Thomas in his Chevy camper. I hemmed and hawed and allowed that was better than nothing, so at the ungodly hour of 1:30 a.m. Friday morning, Marian drove me to the truck stop meeting place on I-10. Cranky rarely lives up to his nickname, but at 2:00 a.m., I do. I get out of the Tacoma and drag my gear into Cranky’s rig. Where’s my personal bag? At your feet, dummy, giggled a feminine voice. Mutter, mutter, I guess I’m ready, goodbye smartburro. Editor’s Note: I had to clean up Mr. Johns’ a--.
Just as I was getting comfortable in the big wide seat, Cranky tells me we are picking up an old hunting buddy in Ensenada. Mutter, mutter. His camper is about 20 feet high and pushes a lot of air aside. Cruising speed approaches that of a fast rowboat. Nevertheless, we get to San Diego in a few hours and cross the border without incident. We take the marked “Scenic Route” which is Spanish for Pay Every Few Miles. The scenery consists of other gringos passing us while driving ill-maintained Yugos. I start making a list of things forgotten; camera, razor, shaving cream, candy, etc.
Ensenada holds fond memories for me. It’s where I got my last root canal. After driving around town until I am lost. Breakfast is suggested by the Captain of my Ship, so I rashly agree. The menu is in some foreign gibberish and the only word I recognize is one that I have previously seen on hot sauce. “I’ll have what you are having”, sez I, thinking I would be safe that way. Why do people eat hog guts and hominy anyway? So much for breakfast. We headed over to his friend’s house and his friend and wife were very nice. They couldn’t pronounce “Neal” very well, so gave me an old honored family nickname; Pinche Gringo. I liked them.
Did I mention the air conditioning didn’t work? It went out a few years ago and Cranky was waiting for a trip to Ensenada so he could get a discount from a friend of a friend of his friend, Mariano. This took a couple of hours while we watched the highly trained mechanics strip threads, bend framistans, and commit public aggravated mopery. The three of us departed Ensenada with the AC on full blast, cooled somewhat by the open windows.
El Rosario Festival – I can hardly wait until we get there; I keep falling asleep and leaning over onto Cranky’s shoulder and it’s embarrassing when he wakes me up by blowing in my ear. Mid-afternoon we arrive and drive out to the first event – a speechifying at the original old Mission. Everyone is leaving, it’s over. Sigh. Mariano shows us the remaining walls of the old adobe house where he used to live in 1936. We look around town and can’t find anyone from the Forum we know, so we head out to the beach to camp. We park a couple of hundred feet from some gringo rigs that we suspect are Forum members and walk over to check them out. No one home, so we look around for something to steal. Nothing; they must have known we were coming. After they get back, they share some burnt fish with us for dinner. They claimed it was Blackened Fish, a delicacy.
Saturday, we went into town and joined up to go on the 4wd tour of the area. We started off great until we turned off the pavement. Hooowww mmmuuch aaairrr in thheee tttirrress, Crrraaannky? “I always carry 70 pounds of good American air and there is no way I will leave it down here” he expounds. The group is out of radio range now, but we have a hand drawn map but it is hard to reeead it at our breathtaking speed of 80 cm. per minute. Still, due to my fantastic mapability, hundreds of acres of chili pepper fields are passed and we soon arrive at the Cardonal. This is a forest of giant Cardon cactus. They look somewhat like the Arizona saguaro cactus. We push onward to see where the road goes and meet the main group head on. We hide in the bushes until they are past. The road dumps into the main wash and we park and look around. We found a long-ago washed out dam in a side arroyo and two broken manos (the hand held stone used to grind seeds against a metate).
Time to head back to town for the rodeo. The local studs park their trucks around the ring to hold up the plywood fence and the fun is on. The beauty contestants were giving rides to their friends outside the ring but somehow missed me. Darn 16 year olds, anyway. The guys were in the ring trying to stay on top of very reluctant horses and bulls for a few seconds with very indifferent success. No seats, so after a while we left to check out the industrial fair and dance hall. Cranky and Mariano got a free sea urchin cocktail (big seller in Japan - $35) from the local fishing co-op, but I passed. There was a small carnival set up but no one offered to buy me a ride and Marian gave me little money to take with me so I just looked with my thumb in my mouth. She is still asking me about that orphan. The dance and beauty contest had not started yet so we old folks went to bed. We found a nice open, but covered, camp spot across the street in Mariano’s friends lube shop. I slept between the grease pit and the wall; had a great dream but it was just a stray dog giving me a big wet kiss.
Sunday, we bummed some menudo from Antonio’s family and headed home, dropping off Mariano in Ensenada. As we got ten or so miles from the border, the traffic slowed and stopped. It took a couple of hours to get across (according to a toll taker, the free road was closed). Never seen it like that before. Had a great time in El Rosario with Cranky and his friend, Mariano, in spite of all the Mountain Dew inspired lies above.