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“How We Rolled Rumbled and Stumbled”

 

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Road trips where you wrote you own captions and every curve there was something unexpected!

“HOW WE ROLLED RUMBLED AND STUMBLED”

Originally Published in Western Outdoor News the Week of January, 6, 2014

Driving the Baja…

 

There was a time not long ago when I actually had the time to drive up and down the Baja Transpeninsular Highway. Time was not “of the essence” and even with cheap flights, gas was still so cheap it was more economical to drive.

 

These were the days several decades before there were regular convenience stores and Pemex gas stations dotting the landscape.

 

Yes, the Transpeninsular was a relative Mexican engineering marvel for its day. Officially called Federal Highway 1, it was quite a feat.

 

Being in the U.S. we take highways for granted and few who visit Baja today remember what it was like before the highway. Even those first years after its completion in 1973 were a bit rugged.

 

Highway 1 dotted-dashed-scurried-and-ribboned the entire 1,000-mile length of the Baja corridor from Tijuana to Cabo San Lucas. No doubt, to have one solid-length of pavement was a vast improvement over the previous road(s) which required the abilities of a world-class off-road driver and a vehicle that was about as indestructible as an Abrams tank.

 

Even in its completed state, it was politely called a “highway” sporting just two lanes. Laughingly and affectionately, it was called a “leveled goat trail” by its fans who still saw it as a vast improvement.

 

But, the word “solid” is relative. Like so much in Mexico. “Pavement” has many meanings!

 

There were sometimes more detours around missing parts of pavement than actual pavement. That meant forays into the nearby desert.

Potholes stretched for miles and trying to navigate in-around-and-out of them was like trying to dash through a minefield.

 

Sooner or later, the odds were you’d get rocked. The Spanish word for “pothole” is “Hoyo” (OY-yo)…as in OH-no! Which is what you said as your suspension or axle suddenly groaned in agony as it slammed into crater after crater. And you hoped you still had an oil pan.

 

But, so many of us drove the trek regularly, and looked forward to it. It was an adventure of adventures. It was almost a rite of passage to tell someone, “Dude, I just DROVE the Baja.” You didn’t “drive TO Baja.” You didn’t “TRAVEL to Baja.”

 

You proclaimed your coolness and told folks, you “DROVE the Baja.” It was sorta like “riding the Banzai Pipeline.” Or “running with the bulls.” Or “scuba diving with sharks.”

 

Instant cred. Very high on the “neato scale.”  At least a 9 in the ooh-aaa factor.   A bucket list things for guys.

 

Yup…Us cooler dudes, “DROVE the Baja.” Back in the day, the coolest of the cool folks declared they “SURVIVED the Baja” because that was always a pre-cursor to a good story, too! Driving the Baja was one thing.  “Surviving the Baja” meant that a good tale was to follow.

 

The “survivors” brought back great stories and tall tales of roadside frontier adventure. There were flat tires…busted fan belts and axles and green unfiltered gas bought from a guy with a 50-gallon drum and a handpump.

 

How about those swarming mosquitos and flies? Sunburn…hangovers…stalling in sand-filled arroyos and waking up in strange places. And what’s a good story if it didn’t include Montezuma’s revenge… a hurricane… a sandstorm or the occasional ill-advised romantic liason?

 

But, there were also golden gems of deserted white sand beaches and glorious crimson sunrises…mouth watering handmade roadside tacos… ferocious fish that had never seen a hook… perfect thick-lipped waves that had never been surfed…friendly warm people…icy beers and barbecued lobster eaten with fingers and campfires under carpets of stars.

 

And always, there was one more dirt road off the beaten path that beckoned to be explored…begged to be explored. Every adventure started with the words…”We decided to pull off the highway…” Or “We stopped in for just one small tequila…” Or, “I was eating a greasy taco and my eyes locked on this pretty girl…”

 

Federal One has become bigger, better and safer after all these years. There are still stretches of the wild Mexican frontier that go for miles. But, you’ll see more gas station. More convenience stores. RV parks and hotels too.

 

It’s just not the same anymore. You climb on a plane in the U.S. You ride the sterilized tube through the air and maybe see a bit of dessert or ocean below. You exit into an air-conditioned terminal with a thousand other people.

 

The biggest adventure and closest brush with danger is running the gamut of airport vendors trying to rent you a car or get you on a time-share trip.

 

“Free fishing trip, Senor? Just need two hours of your time for a small presentation.”

“Eh amigo, do you need a taxi?”

“Discount snorkel trip for you and your family?”

 

The height of your anxiety and adrenaline level is wondering if your luggage will get searched by duty inspectors at the airport.

 

You remember that undeclared bottle of Jack Daniels hidden in your boxer shorts.   Your wife thinks they inspectors will pull out her lingerie in front of everyone.   Blood pressure zooms.

 

Or major panic. Now that you’re through customs, you can’t find the shuttle driver who was supposed to meet you at the terminal. Whew…there he is. He was hidden behind all those other shuttle drivers!

 

Man, that was stressful!   Gonna have a double margarita at the pool bar as soon as I dump this stuff in the room.

 

It’s just not the same anymore. And neither are the good stories.

 

“The room service didn’t have cheesecake…” is a lot different from

 

“Did I tell you about the time these Mexican fishermen with lobsters came to our campsite and wanted to trade for a 6 pack of Budweiser? And one guy had a guitar…and my buddy Dave pulled out a bottle of Cuervo?”

 

“Man…let me tell you…”

 

Editor’s Note:  Jonathan and Jill Roldan of Tailhunter International Sportfishing (www.tailhunter-international.com) in La Paz make the Mex 1 run often. They are at their first show of the year for them, at the ISE show in Sacramento that starts Wednesday at Cal Expo, with stops in Long Beach and Del Mar on the SoCal schedule.

That’s our story!

Jonathan signature

 

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 riplipboy@tailhunter-international.com  or drop by the restaurant to say hi!

______________

Jonathan Roldan’s

Tailhunter International

 

TAILHUNTER FISHING FLEET #1 Rated on Trip Advisor

TAILHUNTER RESTAURANT BAR #1 Rated in La Paz on Trip Advisor

 

Now follow us on FACEBOOK TOO

 

Website: www.tailhunter-international.com

U.S. Office: 8030 La Mesa, Suite #178, La Mesa CA  91942

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

Phones:

from USA : 626-638-3383

from Mexico: 044-612-14-17863

.

Tailhunter Weekly Fishing Report:

http://fishreport.jonathanroldan.com/

Tailhunter YouTube Videos:

http://www.youtube.com/user/pangapirate

“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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ODILE’s ORDEAL and THE AFTERWRATH

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He’s not lamenting a messed up fishing vacation. Many of those who had the least, lost the most. (Photo from British news) 

ODILE’s ORDEAL AND AFTERWRATH

Originally published the week of Sept. 30, 2015 in Western Outdoor News

When I wrote my last column two weeks ago about making the best out’ve your situation if your vacation gets slammed by a hurricane or other natural disaster, I had no idea. As I wrote that piece, it was your typical sunny Baja day on the beach. As I closed out, it was just starting to get a little cloudy. Rain drops were starting to fall.

 

I used that to underscore how quickly things can change. Especially in Baja. Especially in this el Nino year.

 

I was just trying to get my column out. Put some words together. I had no clue just how fast things would change. How fast life itself would change.

 

The “bit of rain” was part of a weather cell we had been watching half-heartedly watching for several days.  It was just another ho-hum rainfall that started our way with a roar, but like a dozen others this season, we expected it would eventually bend out to the Pacific Ocean. We might get a “little afternoon precipitation.”

 

It was an understatement of historic proportions.

 

In the span of less than 12 hours the storm did the unexpected and put Baja right in it’s crosshairs.   By midnight, Sunday the 14th, Hurricane Odile had turned into the largest and most powerful hurricane ever to hit Baja.

 

It slammed into Baja with Category 3 and 4 strength winds including gusts up to 140-150 miles and hour. By comparison, Hurricane Sandy that devastated the East Coast in 2012, had winds of “only” 115 miles and hour.

 

Those, like us with a fishing operation in La Paz, or have businesses that are affected by weather or happen to watch weather, had at least a bit of time to get ready. Get the batteries and water. Tape the windows. Get the rain gear. Tie and chain things down. Pull our boats onto dry ground.

 

Most of Baja was not ready.   It was the weekend. It was the start of the 4-day Independence Day weekend festivities, the largest biggest holiday in the country.   Folks were in a big-time party mode.   Most government officials and civil workers were long gone. Thousands of tourists had no idea either.

It was pretty bad. You’ve probably seen the photos or watched the news. It’s hard to describe if you’ve never been in one. It’s like being inside a vacuum cleaner. It’s THAT loud. But add the glass breaking. Trees snapping. Our ceiling collapsed. Things shattering. It’s difficult to talk. To think.

 

This was my 10th big one and they are never the same. Like some perverse amusement park ride you know will end, it’s fascination, panic, awe, self-preservation and terror roller-coastering with each blast of wind.

 

And then it passes. It whimpers; runs outta steam; and moves on.  And you sigh. And you exhale and like little Hobbits you gingerly creep out with everyone else into the light.

 

But, it’s not over.

 

In reality, it’s just starting.

 

The destruction is devastating. It looks like Godzilla danced on the town. Phone poles snapped in half. Giant old trees uprooted. Entire walls of buildings simply missing. Boats and yachts sunk or blown to dry land. Not a single window unbroken. Cars upended. Power lines draped limply across roads. Entire neighborhoods destroyed.   Roads and bridges submerged.   Hotels collapsed.

 

More than 30,000 tourists stranded with no immediate resources to handle them. An equal number of residents homeless.

 

And no water. No power. No electricity. No phones. Gasoline runs out. The brand new airport looks like it took an artillery barrage. It no longer exists.

 

Like being no a deserted island. No way out. No way in. No way to call home…or anyone else. No supplies.

 

One day post storm, it was shock and disbelief. Day two, it’s assessment.

 

By day 3, it was starting to get ugly. Tensions rising. Tourists are now ramping up the panic. Tourists and residents alike hit realization. And it’s nasty and ugly and scary.

 

The vacation has been trashed. The novelty has worn off. The margarita bar has been blown to Mazatlan. The fishing boats are sunk. And there’s no water, showers, food.   Everyone is sleeping on the floor.

 

And worse…there’s no communications. Off the grid. That is especially terrifying . In a world where everyone has their nose stuck in a smart-phone, it’s the stone age. No way to notify family and relatives. No access to news. Still no way off the island. No airport. No planes.

In the cities, the afterwrath is worse.

 

Wholescale looting erupts. And it’s not just the dad trying to get some milk and tortillas for the family. Mobs break down windows, doors and metal barriers. Some gleefully. Large scale jubilant Christmas looting.

 

The big chain stores are attacked and emptied by the hordes. TV’s…clothes…exercise equipment…alcohol. If it’s not nailed down, it’s gone. Fighting breaks out. Police and law enforcement, already strained with the disaster are powerless. Rioters barricade streets so police cannot interfere. They don’t. They can’t.

 

In the neighborhoods, more looting. Assaults. Rape. Gangs roam the streets with machetes and arms. Neighbors set up their own security to protect their neighborhoods with guns, rocks and re-bar. Carjackings take palce. Fires are set to illuminate the dark. Neighbors dress in white to set themselves off from the bad guys.

 

Families fight off looters from the roof with bricks and chunks of concrete. One group beats back several assaults from gangs attempting to breach their walls by using sticks, rocks and baseball bats against knives and clubs.

 

Gunfire can be heard in the darkened streets at night. As one escaped resident told me, “It was medieval and primal. Complete lawlessness.”

 

The army finally rolls in and things quiet down.

 

Two weeks post-storm, the recovery is remarkable. The government, the phone and power companies; constructions companies and many others are still working around-the-clock to get going. The phoenix rises.

 

They said the airport in Cabo would be out for the rest of the year. By the time you are reading this, some limited flights might already be working. The La Paz Airport is already open.

 

La Paz is 95% back on the grid. Most of the city is cleaning up and back to normal but dealing with the huge influx of refugees. Cabo is 15% on the grid. Some hotels are actually back in business if somewhat limited.

 

Cell phones were not supposed to work for a month. They were back online in about a week.

But, it’s not over yet. Far from it. Odile’s “ordeal” continues on so many levels.

Many of those who had the least, lost the most. Or everything. The poorer areas, if not destroyed, have not been high on the list to restore services.  It’s alot more than “my vacation got screwed” or “I never got to catch a fish”  or  “I went two days without a hot shower.”

Much more…

 

Many still have no water. Electricity is a flashlight at best. Or a candle. Food is scarce and many are in residences missing a roof…doors…windows…a wall. As one told me, “My family of 3 shares two buckets of water in the dark to wash, drink and cook.”

 

From others, “I have had no hot food in two weeks.  Several days there was no food.”

 

“We sleep in the doorway because there is no light.  By the doorway there is light from outside because we lost our doors.  It is also cooler. But now the mosquitos come.”

“Our barrio (neighborhood) has yet to see a repair truck or anyone.  They fix the tourist areas, but in two weeks we still have no electricity or water.  We are forgotten. ”

Many businesses will never recover. If it was tourist related, there’s no tourists. If the building got blown away, there’s no insurance. It doesn’t matter if your family ran it for 2 generations.   And there’s no “bailout” programs here in Mexico.

 

Odile shattered more than just some hotels and vacations. The most powerful storm ever to hit Baja indeed.

 

That’s my story

Jonathan signature

 

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 riplipboy@tailhunter-international.com  or drop by the restaurant to say hi!

______________

Jonathan Roldan’s

Tailhunter International

 

TAILHUNTER FISHING FLEET #1 Rated on Trip Advisor

TAILHUNTER RESTAURANT BAR #1 Rated in La Paz on Trip Advisor

 

Now follow us on FACEBOOK TOO

 

Website: www.tailhunter-international.com

U.S. Office: 8030 La Mesa, Suite #178, La Mesa CA  91942

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

Phones:

from USA : 626-638-3383

from Mexico: 044-612-14-17863

.

Tailhunter Weekly Fishing Report:

http://fishreport.jonathanroldan.com/

Tailhunter YouTube Videos:

http://www.youtube.com/user/pangapirate

“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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BILLFISH 101

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BILLFISH 101

Originally Published the Week of Sept. 2, 2014 in Western Outdoor News

There are probably few places in the world where you have a better chance of hooking that billfish you’ve always wanted than the waters in the lower Sea of Cortez and the southern Baja Peninsula.

 

These “glamour” fish include both sailfish and marlin which are drawn to these waters by a number of variables. The landmass itself drops off quickly into deep water trenches that bring cool upwellings and nutrients from the abyss. These, in turn are the food source for the baitfish which attract all manners of gamefish to these waters.

 

Sitting at the apex of the foodchain the big billfish can attain sizes up to half-a-ton. At the lower end are the smaller sailfish. In ascending order (and size) come the striped marlin, black marlin and then blue marlin as the largest of the hunters.

 

Not only do they feed on the small baitfish like sardines, caballitos, jacks, mackerel and others. But, they feed in the middle of the food column as well regularly dining on the other predators such as tuna, bonito, dorado and other bluewater species. Basically, if it can fit in it’s mouth, it’s a possible meal.

 

So, if marlin are on your bucket list, like anything else, it’s all about “WWH” (WHEN? WHERE? HOW?).

 

Generally speaking, warmer months are better. But even then, that is not always the case. Every place is different.

 

Around Cabo, striped marlin have been known to “ball-up” in abundance just off the Pacific Coast between Bahia Magdalena and Cabo San Lucas. This takes place from November to January.

 

It’s a bit of a run from Cabo and it can be rough because it’s winter, but you can also catch a boat from several spots around Bahia Magdalena, but not many. Most anglers run up from Cabo.

 

It’s a long run, but the fishing can be incredible. It is not unheard of to hook and release dozens of marlin PER DAY! Again, food is the key. The marlin are there feeding on the huge schools of mackerel.

 

As the year ends, the stripers start to migrate south and around the tip of Baja and with each proceeding month start to move further and further north up into the Sea of Cortez.

 

So, while Cabo can see marlin year-round, the East Cape, La Paz, and to a lesser degree Loreto and cities north will see the billfish from spring to fall. But, not much in the cooler months.

 

So, pick your times carefully. Summer and fall are predominately the best opportunities to get into billfish in all areas.   Also waters are warm and seas tend to be calmer.

 

As for location…

 

To that end, generally speaking, the further south you go, the better. Although billfish can be caught in a multitude of spots in Southern Baja, you have a better shot at them in Cabo San Lucas, San Jose del Cabo and East Cape (Los Barriles and that area) than say Mulege or Santa Rosalia, although billfish are not out’ve the question in those great areas.

 

(No disrespect for northern areas which have their own spectacular fishing and their own particular claims to angling fame and shots at species not usually seen in some of the southern cities, e.g. yellowtail!)

 

Regarding fishing methods, there are a number of ways.

 

Be prepared to cover some water. So, a larger, faster boat might be preferred since these are rangy fish always looking for sources of food and capable of moving great distances very quickly.

 

Since you want to cover some water, trolling lures has been effective world-wide, especially, if you’re trying to locate fish.   If you’re in an area such as the East Cape or Cabo where the fish can be quite far, then a cruiser would surely be more comfortable, especially in Cabo which faces the open ocean.

 

However, that doesn’t mean you ALWAYS need a cruiser. Areas such as Loreto and La Paz do very well catching billfish using pangas insofar as fish are much closer to shore and the areas are less subject to big waves and rough seas.

 

Another method is to slow troll larger live or dead baits such as smaller bonito, larger mackerel and even small tuna properly rigged and dragged behind the boats.   There’s an old rule about “big fis-big baits” and you’ll be surprised how a huge bait that seems impossible to eat suddenly entices a big billfish to bite it!

 

One of my favorite methods is to simply troll a lure or dead bait behind the boat that has no hooks. This is a “teaser” method and requires that someone always keep an eye on the troll lines.

 

When a big billfish comes slashing at the teaser, another lighter rig with a live bait is then cast to the billfish. The live bait has a hook in it and the billfish will break off from the teaser and jump on the live bait.   Battling a big marlin or sail on this lighter live bait tackle can be incredible sport!

 

This same casting method can be used on a “sight-fish.” Basically, keeping a sharp eye on the water until a billfish is seen on the surface. Using some bit of stealth and a steady hand on the wheel, the boat is maneuvered so that a live bait can be properly cast directly in front of the fish…hopefully resulting in a big hookup!

 

Whatever you do, consider “CPR…Catch Photo Release” before you go fishing. Decide that you are going to release your billfish BEFORE you’re in the heat of battle. No matter what your captain tells you. Let him know that you plan to release your billfish and that his tips are NOT dependent on him killing the fish.

 

Try to keep the fish in the water to release it. Bringing the fish aboard not only damages the slime protection on it’s skin, but without the negative buoyancy of the water, internal organs can also be damaged by hauling it into the boat no matter how well intended.

 

Get as good a photos as possible then release it. All the best taxidermists now do fiberglass mounts that are incredible. All they need are a good photo or, in many case, not even that. All they need is an estimation of size to make that perfect keepsake trophy for your den!

That’s our story!

Jonathan signature

 

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 riplipboy@tailhunter-international.com  or drop by the restaurant to say hi!

______________

Jonathan Roldan’s

Tailhunter International

 

TAILHUNTER FISHING FLEET #1 Rated on Trip Advisor

TAILHUNTER RESTAURANT BAR #1 Rated in La Paz on Trip Advisor

 

Now follow us on FACEBOOK TOO

 

Website: www.tailhunter-international.com

U.S. Office: 8030 La Mesa, Suite #178, La Mesa CA  91942

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

Phones:

from USA : 626-638-3383

from Mexico: 044-612-14-17863

.

Tailhunter Weekly Fishing Report:

http://fishreport.jonathanroldan.com/

Tailhunter YouTube Videos:

http://www.youtube.com/user/pangapirate

“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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