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One Star

mojave

ONE STAR

Originally Published the Week of  Dec. 30, 2018 in Wester Outdoor Publications 

 

It was my first Christmas in Baja almost 25 years ago.

 

It wasn’t where I really wanted to be.  At least, not at that time of the year.  Not really at that particular point in my life either.  But there I was.

 

Sitting on my beat-up plastic ice chest.  In the dark.  In the moonlight on a chilly desert evening that was doing it’s best to creep through my thin sweatshirt and grungy army surplus pants.

 

I was in Baja.  Kind of in the middle of nowhere.  At night just off a lonely stretch of road not far outside a small fishermen’s pueblo.

 

Pretty much outta gas, outta money  and out’ve prospects.  And almost outta batteries in my flashlight.  Great.  Just great.

 

When morning hit, all I knew was that I’d be headed down the road to somewhere that only tomorrow knew.

 

Obviously, I also knew that I wasn’t going to be coming home for Christmas.  Because well…for the time being,  my mini-van was home.  Right here.  Never in my wildest dreams would I imagine that I’d be in Mexico for Christmas.

 

Pulled off the shoulder on an empty highway.

 

My Christmas “dinner” that night was a sumptuous feast of canned chicken soup cooked on my single burner camp stove.  Washed down with the last warm Coke I had sloshing in the melted ice water of my cooler.

 

And tonite, like many nights lately, I’d be hunkered in my old mini-van.  Living large.

 

I unrolled my sleeping bag and shook it to make sure no critters had crawled in.  The winter nights are cold, windy and clear in the desert.

 

Sleeping in the van stretched out among my gear wasn’t luxury. It was a necessity.

 

“Come to sunny Mexico!” say the brochures.  “It’ll be fun!” they said.  “It’ll be WARM!” they said.  Someone screwed that up.  Mostly me. Plans had gone catawompus…left of center.

 

This sure was a different Christmas.

 

No gifts.  No family or friends.  No Christmas parades or shopping.  I would have been grateful for a cold turkey sandwich let alone a hot plate of mom’s roasted bird covered with gravy.

 

I used to bitch about hearing Christmas carols for weeks before Christmas.  And the endless Christmas TV shows.   And now it would be great to hear even one corny Rudolph song.  One Frosty.  One RUM-Pa-Pum-Pum little drummer boy.

 

Where are you Charlie Brown?  I know how you felt when no one liked your little tree.

 

No cell phones back then. I couldn’t even call anyone to let them know where I was or how I was doing.  Those were my “knucklehead days.” They weren’t talking to me much back then anyway.

 

I really didn’t need to hear, “I told you so…”

 

But still…

 

No gaudy Christmas lights.  Nothing except a few lights coming from the hardscrabble little pueblo I had passed about a mile back down the road.

 

Just another typical dusty cluster of concrete block homes set in the saddle of some low hills.  Mini- trucks that probably never had hubcaps.  A  rider-less kid’s bike left against a fence, probably when someone got called for dinner.

 

Just like me.  Stuck in the middle of nowhere and not really going anywhere either.  At least not this Christmas night.

 

Especially in the dark, a colorless Baja landscape except for the faded wind-scoured Coca Cola and Tecate signs someone painted a generation ago against a wall.

 

And some tired  political graffiti about voting for somesuch guy who promised to change all this.

 

       “SOY TU REPUESTA! Juntos por el Futuro!” (I’M YOUR ANSWER! Together for the future!)

 

Right.  Politicians and promises never change.  No matter the country.

 

I had passed through the pueblito earlier,  but decided it would be better to pull off the road outside of town.  No sense causing a stir with a strange van parked on their road with an even stranger guy sleeping inside.

 

From my distance, there was surely no sense that it was Christmas.  No colored lights.  Surely no music or semblance of a holiday.  Just me singing the blues in my own head.

 

No other lights except the stars on a clear dark cold night. The kind of stars you can see when there’s no other lights.  And shooting stars too.

 

And one shooting slowly over that little town.

 

And a goofy thought.

 

About another town. Many many years ago.

 

In the middle of nowhere.  No lights.  Maybe some non-descriptn dusty block houses not unlike these.

 

Folks inside just going about their lives. Simple dinners over.  Maybe going to sleep. Just another day. Snuff out the candle or lamp.   Another night.  Nothing changes.

 

Including the night sky.  The same sky.  The exact same stars.  No changes.

 

Yea.  It’s the same night sky.  Gotta be. Thousands of years.  They don’t change.

 

Tried to wrap my tired brain around that one.

 

Maybe the only ones who took notice were some guys on the nightshift watching their animals.  Guys like me, trying to fend off the cold.

 

Who looked up.  Just like I was doing.  Because there was really no place else to look.

 

The story says they saw something up there. In the night sky.  Two milleniums past.

 

And maybe these same stars saw something as well.  Down here.  In a desert town.  Middle of nowhere.

 

Somehow there was a promise that night.  A hope?  Maybe not graffiti’d on a wall.  But something happened that night.

 

And these same stars were there. Back then.

 

And maybe some guys hanging on a windswept desert hill saw something up there too.

 

So say the stories.

 

Or maybe they were just tired and ate some cheap chicken soup.

 

That part wasn’t in the stories.

 

But it was getting colder and the wind was coming up. I climbed into my van and into my sleeping bag.

 

And, for some reason, Christmas wasn’t so bad or lonely anymore.

 

RUM-Pa-Pa-Pum…

 

That’s my story

signature June '18 two 1

______________

Jonathan Roldan has been writing the Baja Column in Western Outdoor News since 2004.  Along with his wife and fishing buddy, Jilly, they own and run the Tailhunter International Fishing Fleet in La Paz, Baja, Mexico  www.tailhunter.com.

They also run their Tailhunter Restaurant Bar on the famous La Paz malecon waterfront.  If you’d like to contact him directly, his e-mail is: jonathan@tailhunter.com

Or drop by the restaurant to say hi.  It’s right on the La Paz waterfront!

_____________

 


Jonathan Roldan’s
Tailhunter International


Website: 

www.tailhunter-international.com

Mexico Office: Tailhunter International, 755 Paseo Obregon, La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico
U.S. Mailing Address:  Tailhunter International, 8030 La Mesa Blvd. #178, La Mesa CA  91942

Phones:
from USA : 626-638-3383
from Mexico: 044-612-14-17863
.

Tailhunter Weekly Fishing Report:  http://fishreport.jonathanroldan.com/

Tailhunter YouTube Video Channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBLvdHL_p4-OAu3HfiVzW0g


“When your life finally flashes before your eyes, you will have only moments to regret all the things in life you never had the courage to try.”

 

 

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REALITY CHECK

REALITY CHECK

Originally Published the Week of Nov. 13, 2018 in Western Outdoor Publications

If you spend anytime watching U.S. news or surfing the internet, listening to the radio, or social media, it doesn’t take much to figure the U.S. has a lot of problems.  Yikes.

 

If you even got a smidgen of the TV ads for the recent elections, it was an inundation of mind-boggling battering.  It was numbing.  I happened to be in the U.S. for just two days for a family emergency and it was inescapable.

 

Jill and I still vote (absentee ballot) of course from down here in Baja.  But it’s easy to say at times, “Dang, I’m glad I live in Mexico!”

 

And we do. And we’re blessed.

 

But it wasn’t to escape anything back home in the U.S.  Indeed, we miss the heck out’ve it.  But, through a weird and convoluted series of happenstance, this is where work took me and the business just grew.

 

In fact, I was on my way out of Baja, but it grabbed me by the ankles…pulled me back… and wouldn’t let go.

 

And before I knew it two decades had passed.  And we’re still here.  Funny how careers are made.

 

But, we’re not far removed from being reminded how especially fortunate we are.  Despite all of America’s plethora of problems and shares of idiots, there’s a reason folks are desperate to get in.

 

I mean, I don’t see caravans of people from Chicago trying to bust into Mexico or people from Seattle trying to smuggle themselves into China.

 

We love our many friends and employees here and I have watched their kids grow over the years.  And I wonder what opportunity awaits.

What opportunity lies ahead when 6th grade is the highest level of mandatory education here in Mexico?  Or, even a college degree down here means you’re now qualified to work at the reception desk in a hotel.   Is that really it?

 

I know kids that honestly “aspire” to flip burgers at Burger King.   The bar is not very high.

 

Can you imagine, “When I grow up, I hope to learn to work at McDonalds.”

 

American tourists toss 20-dollar bills around while on vacation.

 

I doubt many of them realize that twenty bucks is 3-days wages for many Mexicans.  Most earn less than 10-dollars-a-day and probably paid 4 dollars to ride the bus to get to work and back home.  And probably having to feed a family.

 

Your own kid working that summer job at Dairy Queen is probably making 100 bucks a day for “spending money.” Not to buy food or pay the family rent.

 

Just the other day, I heard a gringo complain that he had been “ripped off” by a street vendor who didn’t have 75 cents change in American.  C’mon, Man.

 

We know a friend who just found out she has breast cancer.  Serious.  It took a MONTH between the biopsy and diagnosis and the cancer had grown tremendously.

 

But there’s no openings for surgery for THREE months. And even then, the date might come up and there might not be a surgeon available.

 

A death sentence. But, there are no other options.

 

And she’s “lucky.”

 

She has government-provided socialized “medical insurance.”

 

It means everyone has the right to medical care in Mexico.  It just doesn’t necessarily mean you get it “right now” when you need it or the right kind of treatment.

 

If you live in the outlying areas as many folks do, medical treatment means you also have to  travel to a doctor.  I asked one of our captains many years ago what do you do if you can’t get to a doctor?

 

He said sadly, “We just die.”

 

As many of you know, we drive a beat- up Honda down here.  I’m not proud. It’s a junker. But it goes forward and reverse. And the air-conditioning works…sometimes.  At a whisper and often blows dust in our faces.

 

Recently the door handle just fell off.  So, we duct taped it back in place,  You get the idea.

 

Although not stylish, we have the means to get from Point A to Point B.

 

As long as it’s not far.  Or involve hills.  We cannot make the 100-mile drive from La Paz to Cabo San Lucas without overheating.

 

Everyone has a car back home in the U.S.  Or even more than one car.  Last time in Los Angeles, I was  stuck 2 ½ hours driving 20 miles.

 

But, a car here is a luxury.  And we know it.  There are times when we have not had a car and it restricted every aspect of our life.

 

There were several of those early years here in Baja that I did not have a car.  I relied on two legs, my thumb or a generous friend.

 

People make fun of Mexican cars, mine included.  But, it sure beats not having one at all.

 

Back-in-the-day in the U.S., it was a right-of-passage at 16 to get that driver’s license and get a car, no matter how hard you had to work for it.

 

Most adults I know down here do not have a driver’s license. Or know how to drive.

 

What for?  They will never own or have a car in their lifetimes.

 

If you do own one..insurance? Maintenance? They can barely afford gas.  So, make all the fun you want.

 

I was bitching a few days ago because our apartment (once again) did not have hot water.  About 20% of the time, we don’t have hot water.

 

I guess you get used to it, but after a long day, you look forward to that shower and instead, there’s only cold water…it gets old.

 

I was going on-and-on to a friend.  He just smiled then said, “Our house never has hot water.”

 

“Never? “

 

“Not ever. “

 

“How do you shower?  Cook?  Wash clothes?”

 

“Nunca. Never, Jonathan. And sometime no electricity either.”  He shrugged and smiled.

 

“You get used to it.”

 

End of conversation. I shut up.  You take something for granted and you just assume that everyone has it.

 

Reality check and you say a little prayer of gratitude.

 

Oh…by the way, Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

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SHOPPING FOR ONE

 

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SHOPPING FOR ONE IN MEXICO

Originally Published the Week of Sept. 24, 2018 in Western Outdoor Publications

 

The times they are a-changing.

 

Jilly just sent me down to our corner mercado a few blocks away to pick up some things for home.  It’s your usual typical Mexican neighborhood market.

 

All the basics are there.  Meat, milk, tortillas, fruits and veggies.  They might not have 30 different kinds of mayonnaise or mustard like back in the U.S. but, they’ve got 3 or 4 to get you by.

 

But, little-by-little, I’m noticing some real changes in the aisles and shelves.  And it’s indicative of the changing culture and tastes of the locals.

 

Gluten-free tortillas?

Lactose free almond milk?

Non-GMO organic parmesan and cheddar cheese?

Basil…mint leaves…portabello mushrooms?

 

Are you kidding me?  But yea.  How long until there’s a sushi counter?

 

Back-in-the-day, I remember having to “smuggle” in stuff like ordinary cheese…Polish sausage…mushrooms…steaks…wasabi for sashime…Jimmy Dean breakfast sausage…bottles of wine!

 

All the things you couldn’t get back then and craved.  All of us would bring things down for our friends and neighbors too.  Everyone got a turn at being the “burro.”

 

Personally, I would bury the treasure deep in my luggage or ice chest.  Always put it under your underwear.  No custom inspector ever goes below the lair of underwear!

 

Or put a layer of women’s hygiene products over it.  It worked every time.  Inspectors stopped digging immediately! You’d watch them rustle around but when they hit the layer of underwear or sanitary pads…they’d look up at you.  Smile.  Close your luggage or ice chest and move onto the next person.

 

Of course, this was all pre-911.

 

But nowadays, you don’t have to bury booty in your luggage.  You can find almost anything.  It’s a little pricier, but when you really have to have extra virgin olive oil…well…

 

It’s a far cry from my first “shopping experience” more than 20 years ago, when I moved to a little pueblo south of the East Cape.  It was really not much more than a concrete block house on a dirt road.

 

The owners lived in the back.  A kids bicycle was propped against an outer wall. I had to step over the family dog who could care less except for his siesta.

 

But, it had a sun-faded sign that said, “Mini-Super San Juanita”and there weren’t many other choices.

 

Bare concrete floors housed some shelves and tables while some lightbulbs strung from the ceiling provided light in the windowless room.

 

Crates and 5-gallon buckets on a table held the fruit and vegetables of the day in varying degrees of ripeness.  Especially in the hot Baja climate.

 

Six potatoes…several dozen tomatoes…3 or 4 bunches of rather dark bananas…1/2 a bucket of white onions…5 heads of soft lettuce.  No worries about an artificial waxy “sheen” on the apples.  There was a soft layer of dust on everything.

 

A cold case held the really important stuff.  Of course, lots of Coke and bottles and cans of Tecate beer.  Plus lots of other sugary soft drinks.

 

Another cold case had cold cuts and some varying types of cheese and meats. The the only ones I could identify were hot dogs.

 

Not to say the meat was bad.  As I found out over the months, it was actually not too bad at all.  But, just at that moment I certainly couldn’t identify it as it was wrapped in plastic wrap with no labels.  The flickering light in the case also glowed over a couple flats of eggs.

 

Shelves had the usual staples.  Some cans of soups and sauces and vegetables.  Soap and shampoo.  Spam and of course, cups of Maruchan noodles.  And lots of candy and junk food.

 

Insofar as I lived 10 miles outside of the little village down a dirt road, I picked what I needed and proceeded to the register where a smiling lady (presumably Juanita ?) helped me out.

 

I needed something from the chilled meat counter.

 

That’s when I think I made her day.

 

I asked for eggs.

 

She said “How many, Senor?”

 

“A dozen, por favor.”

 

“Verdad?  Really? More than one?” She perked up.

“Uh… por favor. Claro!  Sure!”  

 

She explained to me that most people only buy 2 or 3 at a time.  She rang it up.

 

I also wanted some of that wrapped cheese too.

 

She handed me one slice.  And rang it up.  One slice.

 

I wanted the whole pack please!

 

Another big smile.  Cha-ching.  She rang up 10 slices of yellow cheese.

 

I also wanted to buy some hot dogs.  She went back to the case.  Took a knife.  Cut it open and pulled out…ONE hot dog.  Cold and wet!

 

I smiled back as she handed it to me on a piece of wax paper.

 

Uh…hmm…” Todos por favor.” 

“All of them. Can I have the whole pack of hot dogs?”

 

“Claro, senor! Of course!”

 

Seeing the bemused confusion on my face, she explained that most folks can only afford one hot dog…maybe one egg or two…a slice of cheese…even one cigarette or just one beer at a time.

 

I pretty much cut her inventory in half!

 

But, I think I made her day when I said that I also needed some paper.  I had eyed a stack of stationery behind the counter that included…you guessed it…individual pens…pencils…erasers and a ream of paper.

 

She picked up the ream and pulled out…one sheet! A single piece of paper.

 

I told her that I needed about 50 sheets!  It was her eyes that got wide this time.  She meticulously counted out…25…26…27… 28…

 

Fifty sheets of paper and put them in a zip lock bag for me and rang it up.

 

“Adios, Senor, come back soon!”

 

I walked out the door into the bright dusty sunshine with two bags of groceries that would hopefully hold me for a week.

 

I un-wrapped one slice of cheese and one cold hot dog and started to munch.

 

With a smile, I stepped over the sleeping dog.  Who still couldn’t care less.

 

That’s my story!

signature June '18 two 1

Jonathan
______________
Jonathan Roldan has been writing the Baja Column in Western Outdoor News since 2004. Along with his wife and fishing buddy, Jilly, they own and run the Tailhunter International Fishing Fleet in La Paz, Baja, Mexico http://www.tailhunter.com. They also run their Tailhunter Restaurant Bar on the famous La Paz Malecon waterfront. If you’d like to contact him directly, his e-mail is: jonathan@tailhunter.com
Or drop by the restaurant to say hi. It’s right on the beach!
_____________
Jonathan Roldan’s
Tailhunter International

Website:
http://www.tailhunter-international.com

Mexico Office: Tailhunter International, 755 Paseo Obregon, La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico

U.S. Mailing Address: Tailhunter International, 8030 La Mesa Blvd. #178, La Mesa CA 91942

Phones:
from USA : 626-638-3383
from Mexico: 044-612-14-17863
.

Tailhunter Weekly Fishing Report: http://fishreport.jonathanroldan.com/

Tailhunter YouTube Video Channel:
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBLvdHL_p4-OAu3HfiVzW0g

“When your life finally flashes before your eyes, you will have only moments to regret all the things in life you never had the courage to try.”

 

 

 

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Old-Car-Mexico

PLEASE STEAL MY CAR!

Originally published the Week of Aug. 11, 2018 in Western Outdoor Publications

So, this morning, I was checking out my “new car” here in La Paz. Proudly, I might add.

You see, unlike back in the states, where everyone has several vehicles in their driveway, in Mexico where most people do NOT own even a bicycle or depend on two legs or public transportation, we have a car. One car.

It’s a privilege. It’s independence.

In the times when we were without a car or our car was “in the shop” it puts a real crimp in the lifestyle. Try running several businesses from several locations without transportation.

Imagine your own lifestyle if you had no car. It’s a pain in the rumble seat that we often take for granted.

Anyway, our new ride is a dandy.

It’s ONLY 16-years-old.

It’s a Honda CRV. The sun has taken most of its’ paint. Tires look like they still have a bit of tread on it. Three hubcaps. One blinker light broken.

The after-market radio doesn’t fit. It is held into the dashboard with two metal shims wedged into the sides of the radio to keep it from falling into the dark void behind the dashboard.

The A/C barely whispers and it tries hard to lower the ambient temperature. But, the windows do roll down. Not always a given.

And the car runs. Sort of. It over-heats on hills and long drives. Might need a new radiator. Or not. We just won’t take long drives over hills!

In 23 years here, I’ve had 4 cars. I’ve never had a new one. No 4WD desert beast. No fancy SUV. Just basic Baja transportation.

New cars are expensive. New cars get beat up by the desert, sand, salt and water. Baja roads take their toll. It carries fishing gear, ice chests, groceries for the restaurant and so much more. Every day.

So, we keep it simple.

We got the car from a guy. Who knows a guy. Who knows a local police officer. Who knows a guy that imports old cars from the U.S. Cash only. It may or may not have papers.

If you ever want to know where old American cars and trucks go when even the used-car dealer doesn’t want them, look to Mexico. Or cars that get written off by insurance companies after disaster like Hurricane Katrina where all the vehicle get submerged…well…they’re all down here!

So, we buy our car from wherever. Whomever.

One of my cars only had 3 seats in it. And two windows didn’t work. Another only 2 doors that worked and had two different colored carpets in it.

Our last vehicle was 12 years ago.

It was purchased from a guy who desperately needed to leave town! Like RIGHT NOW! He already had a ticket for the ferry boat to mainland Mexico and said ultimately he needed to get to Guatemala.

So, he had to sell the car TODAY!  Please!  Not tomorrow!  Young kid who looked like someone might be after him. He wanted 8 grand.

The car was an ancient Range Rover.

It actually had papers, but without time to inspect it and only time to test drive it around the block, I told him no way I’d pay 8 grand. He pleaded. He had no choice. The ferry boat was leaving in a few hours.

We went back and forth. I got him down to $1500! From 8 grand. At that point, my wife said, not to take further advantage of the situation. He gratefully took the money…and ran!

And that’s how we get our cars.

We take them to “Fernando the Mechanic” who jury-rigs all the taxi drivers in town and can get cars running with duct tape and baling wire. He can make anything run for pesos and a case of beer.

He works out’ve his house. Little dead-end road near the arroyo. His wife runs a beauty salon in their living room. Fernando has the rest of the house. All the dogs in the neighborhood hang out there and the taxi drivers drink beer while they all visit and Fernando fixes their cars.

And off we go. Bouncing, creaking and rambling along.

And whenever something happens, Fernando can usually fix it.

Hehehehe…Sometimes we register it. Sometimes not.

You see the DMV down here is sometimes open. Sometimes not. You can wait for days. Sometimes you can wait months for registrations or license plates. So, lots of people drive illegally.

The cops know it’s tough to go through the DMV. So they’re pretty lenient most of the time. Live and let live.

So, we take our cars and use them! No coddling. Our cars are true Baja Burros.

When something, breaks, we call Fernando.

When the time comes and there’s simply no fixing our car any longer or not worth it, we literally ask someone to steal it!

We sometime just leave it where it had its last gasp or we get it to some back street corner.

We leave the keys in it. Doors unlocked. Windows down.

And it’s always gone the next day! SURPRISE! Hehehehe…

Some poor schmuck found a way to make it run or towed it. Or he used donkeys to haul it away! And now it’s HIS problem! Someone else thought they could make it run again. God bless ‘em.

I don’t have to haul it. I don’t have to junk it!

We never report it. Sometimes it’s not registered so no big deal.

I’ve seen one or two of our cars from time-to-time around town.

One old mini-van was in someone’s yard up on blocks being used as a dog house. Another was stopped on the side of the road with the hood up and the guy was pouring water into the radiator.

And I just smile. Glad someone was able to use it.

We find another car and start over.

Life in Mexico!

That’s my story!

signature June '18 two 1

Jonathan

______________

Jonathan Roldan has been writing the Baja Column in Western Outdoor News since 2004.  Along with his wife and fishing buddy, Jilly, they own and run the Tailhunter International Fishing Fleet in La Paz, Baja, Mexico  www.tailhunter-international.com.  They also run their Tailhunter Restaurant Bar on the famous La Paz malecon waterfront.  If you’d like to contact him directly, his e-mail is: jonathan@tailhunter.com

Or drop by the restaurant to say hi.  It’s right on the La Paz waterfront!

_____________

 


Jonathan Roldan’s
Tailhunter International


Website: 

www.tailhunter-international.com

Mexico Office: Tailhunter International, 755 Paseo Obregon, La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico
U.S. Mailing Address:  Tailhunter International, 8030 La Mesa Blvd. #178, La Mesa CA  91942

Phones:
from USA : 626-638-3383
from Mexico: 044-612-14-17863
.

Tailhunter Weekly Fishing Report:  http://fishreport.jonathanroldan.com/

Tailhunter YouTube Video Channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBLvdHL_p4-OAu3HfiVzW0g


“When your life finally flashes before your eyes, you will have only moments to regret all the things in life you never had the courage to try.”

 

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WHEN NOTHING WAS EVERYTHING

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WHEN NOTHING WAS EVERYTHING

Originally Published the Week of Aug 28, 2018 in Western Outdoor Publications

Back in the day, I used to teach fishing seminars and give fishing classes at the venerable old Hotel Las Arenas east of La Paz and about 30 miles north of the East Cape.  Sitting on a small hill on about 9 miles of beach, it looked right across at Cerralvo Island.

 

It’s been closed for many years now, but it was a gem.

 

Some sprocket guys from Europe in skinny tight black pants and “Flock of Seagulls” bleached-gel haircuts bought it to turn into a Club Med or something (“We don’t want ‘stinky fishermen’ in our hotel!” they told me.), but it never got off the ground.  LOL.

 

I’m glad it didn’t.  The old girl was too good for that indignity.

 

The last 10 miles were on a dirt road. As the hotel was built on the reverse slope of a hill facing the sea, you never saw the hotel until you came over that last rise.

 

And suddenly you were there!

 

What a place.  Old Mexico.

 

An oasis of two long white 2 story buildings nestled in the palm trees with curved tile roofs.  An administrative building where Patricia, the manager checked you in; assigned rooms and gave you the fishing schedule.  (She loved getting a bottle of red wine!) And a dining hall, bar and the swimming pool.

 

Carry your own bags, Senor.

 

You know how hotels have marquee signs that tell you all the amenities they offer?  (pool…cable TV…etc.)

 

The wooden sign for the Hotel Las Arenas would have been funny.

 

“Welcome to the Hotel!” 

No designer beds. No laundry. No in-room coffee maker or hair dryer.  No TV.  No ice machine.  No phones.  No room-service.  No spa.  No Air.

 

What else did you need?

 

You kept the windows open and let the breeze blow through.

 

The hotel had thick old walls that held out the Baja heat and cool tile floors you could lie on after a long day of hot fishing.  The tiles would simply pull the heat out’ve your body while a tired overhead ceiling fan bumped and whirred.

 

But, the hotel had the three most important things in a hotel back then.  It had a bar.

 

It had a great bartender who had a mighty arsenal of all the drinks he could concoct.  And Gabriel had a great memory. He not only knew everyone’s name he could remember your favorite drinks.

 

And it had ice.

 

No craft beer.  They had Corona, Pacifico and Modelo.  They were cold and that’s all that mattered.

 

It had an old tile pool that was just deep enough to reach your shoulders.  Any deeper and your beer would get wet.  No one swam. That would have been bad form.

 

Everyone just sort of bobbed with a beer bottle in hand.  It wasn’t a swimming pool.  It was a bobbing pool.  A dozen fishermen with a Corona-buzz would have laughed you out’ve the pool if you started actually swimming.

 

No menu.  It was whatever the great kitchen staff cooked.  But it was always fresh and no one complained and always centered around homemade Mexican dishes the Mexican moms in the back whipped up.
Tacos…enchiladas…bistec ranchero…ceviche…guacamole…fresh fish and salsas… You have not eaten until you’ve had a Mexican mom cook for you!

 

You could always smell the fresh tortillas, chorizo and other spices across the compound.

 

Three hearty meals a day.  If you missed it, you waited until the next one.  It was always communal and a great social event.  No one missed!

 

Breakfast was early because everyone wanted to get going fishing.  Lunch was a bag carried down to the waiting pangas on the beach along with ice and your fishing gear.  Those were exciting mornings.

 

Dinners were always fun and lively after a long fun day of fishing.

 

You definitely did not skip dinner which was always followed by bull-sessions around the pool or back on your room balcony to watch the sunset over the ocean.

 

The lights of the hotel would wink on while the setting sun painted the Baja twilight.

 

With no TV’s and in the halcyon days before laptops, ipads and smartphones, people actually talked.  After a day of fishing; a full happy tummy and some sipping tequila nothing better than fun conversation among fishing friends.

 

No one retreated to isolation unless it was to sleep or read a good book.

 

With nothing else around, darkness would come quickly.

 

But the ambience always held the congeniality of a campground as ambient laughter or the sweet smell of someone’s cigar wafted through the evening.

 

Like all fishing trips, mornings would come early.  Sometimes too early.

 

With no alarm clocks in the rooms or cell phones to set a wake-up, one of the staff would knock on your door about 4:30 a.m.  to tell you to come down for breakfast.

 

One evening, I had just gone to bed.  Having about 20 anglers there at the hotel taking one of my seminars, I was beat.

 

When you’re tired, the nights go quickly.  It seemed like I had just gone into deep sleep when I got the wake-up knock on my door.

 

I opened the door and Salvador, the night manager told me it was time to get up.  It was still dark.  Of course.

 

So, I sleepily went around from room to room and woke everyone up as was my habit when I had a group.  I then went back to my own room to get ready for the day and get down to breakfast so we could get to the boats.

 

It was then, Salvador came running frantically up to my room.  In a panic. It wasn’t 4:30 in the morning.  It was only 2 a.m.!!!!

 

Salvador’s battery-operated clock in his office had stopped.

 

Guys were already coming down with fishing gear…bleary eyes…and looking for the coffee pot.  If anyone had actually looked at their wrist watches, they’d have figured something was wrong.  But no one questioned the wake-up!

 

He and I crazily had to run around to all the room to tell everyone they could go back to bed!  We also had to tell the hotel staff as well, as they had already started cooking breakfast! Turn off the ovens and stoves! Put the eggs back in the frig.

 

There was a little grumbling and a few choice words were thrown my way, but everyone was more than happy to go back to bed.  Me included.

 

I can’t imagine that happening these days at a Hilton or a Wyndham Hotel.

 

Old Baja, back in the day.  You really had nothing, but you had everything.

Thats my story!

signature June '18 two 1

Jonathan

______________

Jonathan Roldan has been writing the Baja Column in Western Outdoor News since 2004.  Along with his wife and fishing buddy, Jilly, they own and run the Tailhunter International Fishing Fleet in La Paz, Baja, Mexico  www.tailhunter-international.com.  They also run their Tailhunter Restaurant Bar on the famous La Paz malecon waterfront.  If you’d like to contact him directly, his e-mail is: jonathan@tailhunter.com

Or drop by the restaurant to say hi.  It’s right on the La Paz waterfront!

_____________

 


Jonathan Roldan’s
Tailhunter International


Website: 

www.tailhunter-international.com

Mexico Office: Tailhunter International, 755 Paseo Obregon, La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico
U.S. Mailing Address:  Tailhunter International, 8030 La Mesa Blvd. #178, La Mesa CA  91942

Phones:
from USA : 626-638-3383
from Mexico: 044-612-14-17863
.

Tailhunter Weekly Fishing Report:  http://fishreport.jonathanroldan.com/

Tailhunter YouTube Video Channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBLvdHL_p4-OAu3HfiVzW0g


“When your life finally flashes before your eyes, you will have only moments to regret all the things in life you never had the courage to try.”

 

 

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Everything But the Kitchen Sink

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Everything But the Kitchen Sink

Originally Published the Week of June 28, 2018 in Western Outdoor Publications

In my last column I chatted about some “hacks” to get your best airline flights if you’re coming down here. Given that summer vacations and fishing trips are now upon us, here’s some suggestions about actually packing for the adventure.

There used to be the times when I would personally bring down two rod tubes and 8-14 rods and reel set ups. I remember the days of 70-100 quart ice chests too. What was I thinking?

Those days are long past. My old back can’t haul those anymore. My tolerance of running through crowded airports or standing in line has diminished as well.

Besides that, airlines charge a mortgage; a small farm animal; and first-born child for being over-weight…over-sized…over-long…Holy Moly!

Fortunately, over that years, I’ve discovered that I can get by with carrying a lot less.

Sure, there’s the inclination to bring all your toys. The latest reels, rods, lures and gadgets. But chat with whomever you are booking with.

What do you REALLY need? And perhaps more importantly, what will you actually use?

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A perfect example is lead.

I’ve had guys bring down a couple of pounds of lead. In a whole year here in La Paz, I MIGHT use 6 total oz. of lead. That’s it! If they had asked me ahead of time, I would have told them.

If fishing with a partner, do each of you honestly need 8 trolling feathers per person? Or a giant 3-pound filler spool of 60-pound test line? Or 10 casting irons each?

 

I don’t know about you, but that’s too much to carry and my buddies and I can share without taking up all that space and dead weight.

Same with coolers. Figure out how much you really want to take home or need to take home. An empty 40-quart ice chest, with nothing in it but air, weighs 8-10 pounds.

If it has wheels, it weighs 12-18 pounds. If it’s one of those 5-day coolers, it weighs even more. If your airline weight limit is 50 pounds, that doesn’t leave much room for frozen fish.

For most of you, you’ll be home in a few hours the same day you leave Mexico so your fish only has to stay solid for that long.

Seriously, consider the lighter more efficient soft-sided coolers. Or one cooler for two of you.

I’m not talking about the flimsy ones you bring ice-cream home from the market. Yeti and other companies make some nice soft ones, but they’re really pricey. I’ve found that American Outdoors, Nor Chill and others make some awesome soft-coolers for a fraction of the price. They don’t weigh much and I’ve had stuff stay frozen for as long as 3 days in ours.

And just a word of common sense. While TSA and other security measures are not as relatively drastic as post 911, there are certain things you still should not try to carry-on into the plane.

I’ve had folks incredulous that they were separated from machetes, Leathermen multi-tools, fillet knives, bait harness needles, lures and hooks. Look, if it’s sharp pack it in your suitcase. Don’t bring it aboard. On year, I had a guy try to bring his own portable anchor. FAIL.

Also, Mexico inspectors are a lot less forgiving than TSA. Whether I agree with them or not, I’ve been or seen folks relieved of tactical flashlights, masking tape, fingernail clips and dikes. Be forewarned.

For actually packing, there’s a few tricks to lighten the load.

Try rolling your clothes instead of folding them. You’ll fit more and your clothes will have less tendency to wrinkle. Although I really don’t care if my fishing shorts and shirts are wrinkled! Inside a roll is a nice place to keep fragile things too.

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I’ve had a lot of guys and gals over the years, buy cheap t-shirts at the swap meet or outlets. Two bucks apiece or something.

They wear them once and then leave them in their rooms upon departure. Grateful cleaning staff loves finding barely used items. And for you…That much less to bring home.

By the way, if you are bringing stinky clothes and shoes home, toss a dryer sheet into them and it’ll help relieve the smell.  Also, a cheap shower cap works great for smelly shoes and flip-flops.

Also, do you really need the family-sized shampoo or toothpaste? Hand lotion or sunscreen? If you’re only here a few days, do the math.

Bring the travel size or, buy it here when you hit the markets. You have to stock up on beer anyway, right?

There was a time when you really needed to bring whatever you’d need. There was no guarantee that you’d find whatever you’d forgotten in the local stores.

But, for the most part now, everything from toothbrushes and shaving razors to your favorite flower-fragrance shampoo is available here in Baja. The markets contain things you would never have thought of even 10 years ago like craft beers, Japanese wasabi; gourmet cheese and Angus beef; imported wines and fancy mineral waters.

COSTCO, Sam’s Club, Walmart, Home Depot plus good Mexican chain stores are everywhere. You can even get a hot dog while you shop.

I don’t know what happened to the “frontera” (frontier), but this isn’t your daddy’s Baja no more! You can get almost anything. Beyond that, you probably didn’t need anyway.

So pack light and save the extra room for bringing back fish fillets!

That’s my story!

signature June '18 two 1

Jonathan

______________

Jonathan Roldan has been writing the Baja Column in Western Outdoor News since 2004.  Along with his wife and fishing buddy, Jilly, they own and run the Tailhunter International Fishing Fleet in La Paz, Baja, Mexico  www.tailhunter-international.com.  They also run their Tailhunter Restaurant Bar on the famous La Paz malecon waterfront.  If you’d like to contact him directly, his e-mail is: jonathan@tailhunter.com

Or drop by the restaurant to say hi.  It’s right on the La Paz waterfront!

_____________

 


Jonathan Roldan’s
Tailhunter International


Website: 

www.tailhunter-international.com

Mexico Office: Tailhunter International, 755 Paseo Obregon, La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico
U.S. Mailing Address:  Tailhunter International, 8030 La Mesa Blvd. #178, La Mesa CA  91942

Phones:
from USA : 626-638-3383
from Mexico: 044-612-14-17863
.

Tailhunter Weekly Fishing Report:  http://fishreport.jonathanroldan.com/

Tailhunter YouTube Video Channel:

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCBLvdHL_p4-OAu3HfiVzW0g


“When your life finally flashes before your eyes, you will have only moments to regret all the things in life you never had the courage to try.”

 

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FLYING LIKE A BOSS

Originally Published the Week of June 20, 2018 in Western Outdoor Publications

Summer vacation is upon us and I thought I’d share some travel tips if you’re planning on coming down to Baja or traveling into Mexico.  After almost 25 years of running trips here and thousands of clients, we’ve accumulated some things that might make your planning a trip a little less frantic and stressful.

 

My wife, Jill is quite the travel ninja for booking travel.

 

So, credit-where-credit is due, a good many of these are her tips.  In addition to living here in Baja, we also travel extensively.  We also fly extensively and (for better-or-worse) spend over 300 days a year in hotel rooms!

 

For flights, Jill starts looking and comparing prices right away.  Don’t bust your chops and stress by waiting until the last minute.  She starts looking.  She does not necessarily purchase.  This is her starting point.

 

Travel experts say you should be ready, however, to purchase anytime from 50-52 days out from your trip.  That’s the most likely time to find the lower prices.

 

You waited? The WORST time is 3-7 days out.

 

Be prepared to pay a premium if you sat on your hands.  That’s when there’s just a few seats left.  The airlines can jack the prices knowing they’ll be able to sell those seats. . . to someone like you!

 

In our experience, the most crowded flights are Fridays to fly out and Sundays to fly back.  For obvious reasons.  It’s the weekend.  It’s a resort area.  Everyone needs to be back to work by Monday.

 

Sunday is also the most expensive day to fly.

 

When I would fly in and out’ve Cabo, I had a neat trick.

 

I used to plan flying out of Cabo on Sundays in the middle of the crowds. However, I  would tell my office in Califorania that they might not see me until Tuesday or Wednesday.

 

On Sundays, I’d go to the Cabo Airport and check the lines.  If the flight was full, I’d offer the airline people to give up my seat.  For a price!

 

They were always happy and I would usually walk away with one or two free hotel nights; vouchers for meals; AND…free vouchers to fly again ANYTIME!!!

 

Sometimes, I’d do it again on Monday when I returned to the airport and SCORE again if the flight was over booked!

 

There was a time, back-in-the-day, where I had a handful of free vouchers to use and didn’t actually pay for a flight for a good 4 or 5 years!   All from selling my ticket back to the airlines.

 

Friends who run travel agencies told me that Tuesdays are the best day to actually push the button and purchase tickets.  If you can, night flights are the cheapest flights of the day.

 

Another little “hack,” if-you-will, that my wife discovered is how to best use your accumulated travel points.

 

Do NOT waste all those precious points to buy your ticket.  If you do that, the airlines always applies it to the highest price tickets they sell.  It’s a waste.

 

What she does is purchase the cheapest ticket she can find online or on the phone.  If possible, she’ll use the airline credit card so we get travel points.  PLUS, there’s sometimes a discount PLUS, if it’s an airline like Alaska, the companion fare is discounted.

 

Then, Jill will use the points to UPGRADE us to first class to go in style and live large.  Yes, I believe I will have another glass (not a plastic cup) of champagne!

 

Sure, the seats and perks are nicer up in the forward cabins, although I’d much prefer the burgers and cheese plate back in economy over the foo-foo food they sometimes serve in first class.  But, for me, the best part is that first class also has better baggage allowances.

 

Often you get one or two free bags or at least they will often discount your extra luggage.  That’s well worth it when you’ve got fishing gear, rods, SCUBA gear, etc.

 

It might just be me, but I think they also handle the 1st class baggage better too.  But another little tip is that I get some of those stickers that say “FRAGILE” and I put those on every piece of luggage.

 

It couldn’t hurt.  At least, I hope to makes the baggage handler think twice before he shot-puts my suitcase or tackle box across the tarmac.

That’s my story!

signature June '18 two 1

Jonathan

______________

Jonathan Roldan has been writing the Baja Column in Western Outdoor News since 2004.  Along with his wife and fishing buddy, Jilly, they own and run the Tailhunter International Fishing Fleet in La Paz, Baja, Mexico  www.tailhunter.com.  They also run their Tailhunter Restaurant Bar on the famous La Paz malecon waterfront.  If you’d like to contact him directly, his e-mail is: jonathan@tailhunter.com

Or drop by the restaurant to say hi.  It’s right on the La Paz waterfront!

_____________ 

 
Jonathan Roldan’s
Tailhunter International


Website: 
www.tailhunter-international.com

Mexico Office: Tailhunter International, 755 Paseo Obregon, La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico


U.S. Mailing Address:  Tailhunter International, 8030 La Mesa Blvd. #178, La Mesa CA  91942
 

Phones: 
from USA : 626-638-3383
from Mexico: 044-612-14-17863
.

Tailhunter Weekly Fishing Report:  http://fishreport.jonathanroldan.com/

Tailhunter YouTube Video Channel:

“When your life finally flashes before your eyes, you will have only moments to regret all the things in life you never had the courage to try.”

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