Friday, January 30, 2015

Southern Baja: Part 10

The decision was made to leave with enough time for us to surf on the way back north. We also wanted to have enough days to break up the long drive. So we settled on a three day run which makes for an easy first day, a longer second day and a hell-day for the third and final part of the journey. Admittedly, the trip is faster and easier if you take the western route but I can't stand the stretch of road from San Quentin to Tijuana there's just too much congestion, too many buses and it's just an ugly part of Baja. In the future, I think a four day return trip with a final overnight in San Felipe might be the way to go.

We all said our goodbyes to the point, from here north the water would just get colder and colder.

Luke said his goodbyes too- he and his dad, Matt Wilson and little Vida (see her sitting there?) would leave the day after us and our plan was to meet up at the Sea of Cortez at our favorite campsite. Lucky for Luke, Matt and myself there was a little southern hemisphere swell in the water. That last day of stand up paddlesurfing was a great one for me, I paddled up the point to the little left wedge on the opposite side of the long right hander and snagged some fun, chest-high runners.

I spent the rest of the afternoon getting CON KSO in running mode. We carry a twenty gallon water tank aboard CON KSO and guess who won the honor of filling it up? Yep, that's me, bucket by bucket. Check out the custom funnel. Good thing I had the foresight to drill a fill hole in the bed platform- next time I'll build a filling funnel with a tube that reaches all the way out the door. The girls were thankful, that water feeds our on-demand propane hotwater heater and that means nice hot showers all the way home.

I pulled Rancho Payaso's gate closed and turned on the closed circuit security camera system. The Peanut would be safe and sound. We're already planning our return!

It was a gray day when we drove down our dirt road and really put the rubber to the road.

As we headed north, the weather improved. The small system that had come with the south swell had a high pressure bubble behind it that promised north-east (offshore) winds and blue bird clear skies. We had planned to stop at the big left point but once we got moving, the girls had that "let's get home to endless hot showers" look in their eyes and so I went right past the road in. Bummer- I keep second guessing that decision because from the highway I could see the coast out there looking clean, tranquil and beautiful. Ughhhh- I'll be thinking about that missed opportunity for the next year. Here's our campsite for the night, it's a nice, small spot with a small restaurant serving Baja's best margarita, really.

We missed Matt, Luke and Vida. We thought we might see them in our rearview mirror catching us on the road. When that didn't happen we began to have our doubts that we''d really hook up with him (I thought he would've hit the left point). It was a great and happy surprise then to wake up and see his truck parked next to ours. Matt's my favorite Baja travel partner, he's done the drive so many times and spent so much time down here that he knows all the cool spots for just about anything you'd want: Need some great pancakes? Ask Matt. Need a real cup of coffee? He knows where the good stuff is. Need some birria? You know the answer.
So, with our merry little caravan complete, we decided we would haul ass to the little right point that we scored on the way down south. That was until Matt told us he wanted to go to prison. And so we did.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Southern Baja: Part 9

And then everything kind of just slowed down, and blended together into weeks of surfing, swimming, reading, snorkeling, riding, drinking, eating and laughing. We'd sleep at the Peanut, cook breakfast at the beach, set out the solar panel,  deploy the awning, go for a paddle or maybe read a little bit, take a nice warm water swim and hang out. The surf was tiny for about five days and I guess if that was the focus of your trip you might be really bummed. Not me, there were other things to do and as you know, "Life is what you make it"- so I was busy finding ways to have fun, which wasn't hard to do.

The Aloha Deck was open for business, specializing in whale watching, coffee drinking and sunbathing- also perfect for beer drinking and sunset cocktails.
We brought all kinds of toys. Dakotah loved the 3 meter stunt kite- she was really good at flying it and had fun dive bombing German tourists.
Of course, there were tons of flatwater paddling opportunities. When the surf is small this is an easy launch. When it's cranking you've got to time it just right or your going to pay.
Here's the general idea, set out your chair, set out your umbrella and get your beers frosty- it's gonna be a long day at the office.
My favorite way to start the day was breakfast on the beach. We'd be up at dawn and on the beach right in the middle of sunrise. I'd chop up some pasilla peppers, potatoes, onions and some spam- those would hit the griddle to get all crispy. Next, I'd scramble a half dozen eggs into the mix and BAM... breakfast on the beach- the BEST place to eat it.
Fin quiver. Bring everything you've got because it will probably all get used.
Some mornings, I couldn't get the girls up and out of CON KSO early enough for a dawn patrol surf check. On those days I'd set off on the surf exploration satellite vehicle. Here's the beginning of my morning commute.
Sometimes I'd get stuck in a traffic jam on the way to the point.
And most of the time it was flat. I wasn't bummed- the ride to the beach was super fun and I knew that another great beach day hanging out with friends was just around the corner.
Like I said, the days started to blend together and I eventually got to the point where I didn't even know what day it was. This is a state of enlightenment it means that I've let go of the concept of time. Too bad it doesn't work the other way around. Indeed, time had not let go of me and Father Time had plans for me. All too soon we had to confront the reality of the trip back to the states with the knowledge that every mile north would bring us to cooler temperatures and more crowded places. Fortunately, the adventure isn't over until you pull into your driveway and I knew we'd be stopping along the way so with a little melancholy feeling in the air we closed up the Peanut, packed up CON KSO and pointed our bumper north. Home was calling.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Southern Baja: Part 8

We drove away from the big left charged up for even warmer water down the peninsula. In addition, the girls were feeling that homing instinct, they knew our home base was close and they were ready to set up a permanent camp. So after a great Christmas day surf session, we wrapped up CON KSO's camping gear and pointed the rig back toward the Baja highway, slow and low (air pressure that is) was the call and we made it safely back to the road into La Paz. A quick air up with the Powertank and we were on our way to my little piece of paradise further south.

It's tough to find my spot. First, just past the s-curve which is after the big arroyo, take your first right past Rancho SiComoNo. This is that first right.
Drive up the dirt road for about a quarter of a mile and when you see our water tank pull out your key and let yourself into the property.
Here's my lock, hope you know the combination.
The land is about as big as a football field, so we have a dirt road that leads back into the bush...
The stuff can be thorny- and you may scratch up your vehicle or puncture your flip/flop so watch your step.
This is what you're looking for- The Peanut!
We backed CON KSO up into the Peanut's docking station.
The Peanut is almost completely open air- here's a shot of the kitchen with running water, smooth cement counters and the best views you could ever want.
The end of the road: CON KSO docked to the Peanut and the surf exploration moto, ready to go.
We run a solar panel into CON KSO to power our bumping stereo and our 12v refrigerator (the 12v ARB 'fridge and the Powertank were two awesome additions to our offroad equipment roster- I highly recommend both of them).
Here's our ARB refrigerator on the custom built platform that I banged together in about twenty minutes.
That's right, -13 degrees celcius- more than cold enough to make ice cubes for your bloody mary.

Or keep your beer icy cold- we didn't buy a single bag or block of ice for the whole three week trip.
The Peanut is a great place to tuck out of the wind and sun and it gives you a nice view of the ocean just down the road. I used it update my journal and while I was there I did a little CAD designing...
Here's the CAD rendering of the bano that we hope to have finished by next winter... we shall see. The girls thought a flushing toilet would make the rancho just perfect.
The Peanut's beer drinking steps.
CON KSO's docking station allows us to tap the propane in CON KSO for the kitchen.
Board rack at the Peanut. I brought too many boards- next time it will be a 12' stando for small days and fishing and my all purpose 9'0.... and my boogie board..... and my fins.... and my handplane.
With the Peanut all set up for an extended stay, we gathered up our beach toys, put CON KSO into 4x4 Low Range and headed down to see what mother ocean had waiting for us.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Southern Baja: Part 7

Evidently, I had been a good boy- the surf was chest to head high, the wind was offshore and the water was crystal clear. At daybreak, I was out there!

Merry Christmas!
For a couple of early hours, it was just me and these two guys. The two buddies were camping out of a Toyota Previa fan, surfing weird boards, playing guitar and basically establishing themselves as the kings of their world. We shared waves and smiles, they chose to surf way up the point and here they are paddling back from a couple of long ones. Myself, I'm kind of sneaky, when someone wants the top of the point, I know there are great waves going unridden further down the point- so that's where I went.
Right out in front of our little campsite- open and empty.
I've been traumatized by my mom. Every Christmas she would play a couple Christmas albums and I can't shake two of those songs from my head. One is "Blue Christmas" by Elvis, the back up singers make the weirdest cooing sound on that track. I hate it. The other album had all kinds of wacky songs on it- wacky meaning traumatic. The leader of that hideous hit parade was a gem called something like, "All I want for Christmas (is my two front teeth)". I remember the cover of that album (some kid who was a hybrid cross between Alfred E. Newman and Opey wearing a jaunty Christmas cap with his mouth open to show his bright new chompers.... just thinking about it makes me feel all dirty inside). So, appropriately on Christmas morning this little refrain played through my skull again and again..."All I want for Christmas is my full wrap around, my full wrap around... and I would wish you Merry Christmas!"
Of course, to complete a perfect morning (which also included a delicious spam and egg breakfast prepared by Dakotah and a mug of hot black coffee waiting for me at the campsite) there were some gifts, all from my dog Lilly, waiting for us/me.
I was stoked, what a great way to spend Christmas! In fact, spending Christmas Eve around a beautiful beach campfire and surfing Christmas morning is my idea of a perfect Christmas. Well, I was also given a sweet new coffee mug- covered with pictures of West Highland White Terriers (my girl Lilly is a Westy) which blew this year's Christmas's ranking into the stratosphere; it's the small things I tell you, that's what matters. The surf might not have been on the all-time-perfection meter but I was mind-blown at the clean little wrappers peeling down the point- and flying over the cobbles on water that looked like liquid glass- it was enough for me. I've said it before, "life is what you make it", a mantra I know to be true.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Southern Baja: Part 6

We stayed at that beautiful right point for two days before we decided to make a run for some warmer water. CON KSO packs up quickly so we broke camp and made a dash south. At Bahia Concepcion, on the Sea of Cortez, we ran out of steam and daylight. I'm not a fan of running the Baja highway at night, when shadows in the road might actually be a thousand pounds of steer flesh, a living tope (spanish word for speedbump) that could kill you. So it was here that the Fellowship of the Surf broke up, we pulled into a little hidey hole/campsite and the boys powered through the night. 

The next morning we hit the road and in a few hours we arrived at the road to my favorite wave in Baja.

The gateway to a beautiful left point; goofy footers dream.

Once again, when facing a torture-road, air down your tires. I bought these Staun deflators before the trip and I'm a huge fan of them. Instead of squatting down with a little twig or rock and spending twenty minutes dropping the pressure in all four BFGs you can screw these on each wheel, walk away and it's over in five minutes.
Halfway into the surfspot we came across something abandoned on the road by our gentle, northern neighbors.
A broken axle. This camper was meant to live at the weekend KOA campground now it will rot and rust in the Baja sun, another gringo discard in the beautiful desert. Air down, save your axles. By the way, the trailer had a set of propane bottles and a battery box on it when we went past- the next day it was stripped bare.
Before surfing, I brought the girls down to the bottom of the point. The water was warm, the beach was sandy- and we should have known this would happen. Bang, stingray hit! Poor Kotah, she got hit the instant the water was deeper than her ankle. Evidently, after talking to some friends at the point, the beach was carpeted with the little beasties- three people in their camp had been hit. Ouch.
I got some water heated up on CON KSO's stove and we stewed her foot in the hot water. This hurts- both the hot water and the rhythmic tsunami surges of pain that come from the stingray venom. Kotah took it like a champ.
Kotah rebounded after an hour or so and decided to recuperate on CON KSO's upper deck, The Aloha Deck. It was a beautiful evening, clear and warm. It was going to be a perfect night for Santa to navigate his stealth-sleigh around the globe. I built a fire that burned hot and fragrant and after the girls went to sleep, I cracked the first beer of the six that I would drink that night (thank you surf-neighbor Joules for those Christmas beers), stared into the fire and thought about my life. I think Herbie Fletcher said, "Life's a trip, pack your bags". I thought those words did a great job of summing up my current cosmic station. I was content, it was a good time to be
I'm not sure what time I pulled the ripcord and crawled into CON KSO's comfy camper but it was Christmas Eve and I was ready to wake up to whatever surf-Santa might decide to bring me. Little did I know that I had been on his "Nice" list because the next morning was a great one.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Southern Baja: Part 5

Surf! Finally. After creeping through the beautiful, yet tortuous Baja 4x4 track we popped out into a clearing right next to the paved Baja highway. I hooked up CON KSO's CO2 air up system and blasted some carbon dioxide into the 33" BFGs that the old girl sports. I also filled up Matt's tires and when all was ready, we carefully merged onto the highway and, once again, beat feet for the next campsite. We knew there was a swell in the water, we knew it was maxing out some spots so we decided to head to one of our favorite protected points. The spot offers both a great, secluded campsite and a nice little wave in the lee of a classic Baja point.

Our first surf campsite is one of my favorite spots in Baja, 4x4 is a necessity since to get to the campsite you need to drive the beach, power over a sand dune and descend a very rocky little hill. Here we are tucked into the lee of that little point and, yes, that's a really, really fun little bowling righthander in our faces.

The campsite is up on a low bluff right in front of the wave. Getting down to the beach is easy and paddling out is even easier since the entry is completely sand- shuffle your feet because warm water and sand means stingrays. Check out the 4X4 AstroVan in the distance, cool rig- that's a guy who showed up with his wife, two year old and his dog on the last night we were there. Cool people and they brought firewood too!

The motos were great to have at this spot. There were plenty of fun roads to zip around on and at low tide riding across the big, flat beach was a blast. There's also a small town nearby and we used my DRZ400 with rack to pick up 8 gallons of water, some cold beers and some ice cream- what more do you need? Another plus was using the bikes for surf exploration. In that one little area, there were at least four really fun, point break waves within a 10 to 15 minute moto ride. It's definitely a wave rich region when there's swell in the water.
Here's a fun right point that's ten minutes, by moto, from camp. There were two guys out the first time we looked at it and zero guys out the last time we checked in.
Here's another spot that's close by- looking fun at hightide, no takers.
You will need a 4x4, high clearance vehicle- check out how sharp those rocks are- gnarly! And, hard to see, but on the left side of the road down, there's a pretty good drop off that you have to be careful to put your left wheels directly onto. If you mess up you could bottom out onto the rock and tear open the soft bits under your vehicle. CON KSO handled it but I have to say, it was a little tense coming up that with the moto trailer on the rig.
Heading out and heading south. There is another way out that bypasses driving on the beach (at high tide, beach driving is impossible) but the sand is very soft so be prepared to air down and keep the vehicle rolling- throttle control is key.
The surf was so consistent and fun that we ended up setting up camp for a couple of days. The water was warm, it must have been in the low seventies (I trunked it) and the surf, on the first day, was beefy. I followed Matt's lead and pulled out the big 12' stando (Boga, El Rey- perhaps one of the first ones) and paddled up to the rock that marks the take off spot. The wave at the point is practically tailor made for stando surfing. The take off requires a sprint effort to force yourself over the ledge right next to the marker rock.

It's not a high-stakes takeoff but you have to be comfortable with putting yourself right next to something hard and barnacle covered, if you sat off the rock, you'd probably miss the wave since the wave's energy focused itself on that little patch of water. Once in, the wave stood up, on low tide a barrel is possible, and then uncoiled itself down the point. On a solid set wave, two or three off the bottom, off the top hits were possible (well as much of a "hit" as was possible with 12' of board under your feet). The juicy take off section then bent around with the point where the face was totally sheltered from the wind. The result was about two hundred yards of emerald green wall- not grinding and pitching but just a fun, walled up section that allowed a 12' board to gather itself up and run.

If you haven't felt the free flight of 12' of rail you should dust off your old big boy of a board and give it a shot. Seared onto my hard drive is one particular wave where I wrapped two, four acre long, wrap around cutbacks (huge leg workout) that set me up for that jade green, chest high inside wall section. I remember just putting all that board into the perfect little hook point of the wave and then just standing there feeling the warm sun on my bare shoulders, watching the sand run underneath me and just gathering up all the happy data points that I could; what a wave, what day, what a place to be!