Archive for October, 2010

San Blas, Nayarit

The sand spit in the picture above is the world’s longest surf break. With the enough size, the right direction swell and the right tide it breaks across the bay for 1.7 kilometers. Crazy. Right now… not so much. We had hoped to be in San Blas about a month earlier and score some of the famously long lefts. The other thing that San Blas is famous for, bugs; specifically Jejenes (sand flies) are not in such short supply. They’d be tolerable if the wave was firing, especially since the full hook-up site we are in behind the Paraiso Miramar Hotel is killer.

We did meet some cool travelers from Washington. Fred and Laurie are off to some property they own in Sayulita to try to convert it to an ecolodge style commune. Pretty cool stuff. We had dinner and drank a few beers with them and they fed us breakfast this morning. It sounds like they will be our neighbors in Sayulita as well so that’ll be fun.

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We can’t win…

Natalie is finally feeling better. Nothing mechanical or electric broke down on the car today. I’m a bit worried that we may have fried one of the batteries though because its not taking a complete charge. Minor compared to our normal woes. The stereo worked the whole way, the AC worked 95% of the time but we may need to get a freon refill on the AC unit because it isn’t very cold.

We had a mishap of another kind on the road today though. The bike rack on the rear spare tire broke. We hit a bump and the screws cleaved right off. Awesome. Hollywood racks is getting a nasty gram from me. Luckily I have a pretty sophisticated cable lock for the bikes and that held them partially on. The rear tire of my cyclocross bike dragged on the ground for a few miles before the tool booth operator informed us of our problem. By that time the road had ruined the tire and the tube and possible the wheel. Hopefully we might be able to get it fixed in Sayulita or Puerto Vallarta.

Also, our brand new SteriPen has decided to quit working and our also brand new 5 gallon water cube leaks. So basically all the Aztec Gods are aligned against us but yet we push on.

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Beach Driving, Take II

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The last couple days we’ve been on Isla de la Piedras I’ve been helping out Warren (the RV park manager) with the internet and a few various related computer tasks to help him get ready for the influx of snowbirds. He and his wife Joyce have been really sweet and taken good care of us; making sure we get a chance to buy produce, water and assorted sundries off the delivery truck. Joyce made Natalie chicken soup when she was sick and they fed us dinner last night along with another couple that had just arrived. Dinners that don’t involve the camp stove or boiling water for dishes are much appreciated these days.

The RVers that arrived yesterday are a retired couple from Western Washington. They have a big bus that is converted into an RV. They had broken down earlier in the day but managed to get it jumped and made it down the road to the island. Barely. Well, sort of made it. They got just inside the gate and the rig broke down, sound familiar.

I hadn’t realized they were having issues until about an hour after they’re arrival or I’d have gone over and offered my now slightly higher than amateur mechanical skills much earlier. When I did wander over it was like deja vu on steriods; battery cables, volt meters, charge controllers all laying askew in various conditions. The van has a multitude of very weird custom wiring, but it is no match for this behemoth. Giant military batteries, a slew of golf cart “house” batteries, crazy charge regulators, multiple alternators, it was quite the scene. I wish I had the camera.

After a while it was determined that the giant alternator that you need to be less than 100lbs to get to and change had died and that one of the starter batteries had accompanied it into the afterlife. Well, I just so happened to have an extra marine deep cycle battery in a box on the roof. Ron Talbot and I had drilled holes and meticulously glued nuts into the box so it could be screwed to the rack and would be rather difficult to remove and steal. Check off the difficult to remove part. About 30 minutes later I had the battery off the roof and we had it in the bus/RV. She roared to life. 750 cold crank amps of pure diesel power. That got her out of the park drive way and into the assigned spot, time for a good helping of tequila for me.

It felt good to finally be able to help someone else out on this trip, be it computer issues or auto repairs it was a welcomed change to be on the other side for once. And with that, I hope that there are no more blog posts about auto repair. On to San Blas today as the surf here has gone lake-like, check the spot a little later for our locale.

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The Return of Ramon

Yesterday Ramon returned to work on the van. He brought with him a new high-output alternator (130 amps), our old alternator re-jiggered to 90 amps instead of 70 – don’t ask me how; hopefully we never have to install it, a new voltage regulator, new wiring clips for the dash ac unit, and a whole slew of new style fuses and wires. He sent Gilberto back to Mazatlan for a whole set of new belts as well.

Roughly six hours and a variety of tests and changes later, Ramon had bypassed much of the original fuse box and the very shady custom wiring attached to it in favor of new style plug fuses, installed the new alternator and regulator, rewired the air conditioner, changed all of the belts, and bypassed one of the solenoids. “Catorce Voltios!!!” Ramon shouted as Gilberto gave it a little gas, he followed it up with a small little dance to the mariachis music emanating from the cruise ship entertainment at the restaurant next door.

Ramon has guaranteed that we will have no electrical problems all the way to Panama. He said after that we are on our own. I asked if he was going to drive to Honduras when we broke down to fix it to make good on his guarantee? He said only labor and parts were covered on his guarantee and that travel would be extra but he’d be happy to come to Honduras on our dime. I’m sure he would.

Neto and I celebrated with a long board session. The waves weren’t so good but he told me of some spots further south to check out. I gave him some wax as it is prohibitively expensive here (US$6/bar) and I promised to send him some supplies from the US so he can finish shaping his 13 year old daughter’s surf board.

We ran the stereo for a good six hours last night; a feat that had been impossible previously with our electrical issues. Thus I have moved slowly back into the “cautiously optimistic” camp and ready to depart for points further south. Unfortunately Natalie has become very ill. While I gradually recovered from my intestinal gremlins, Natalie’s have become progressively nastier to the point where she can no longer keep anything down or in. During the whole car repair saga she moaned from the confines of the bedroom.

We’ve named all the sections of the car – the bed is the bedroom, the floor between the front seats and the bed, including the passenger seat – when turned around, is the living room. The drivers seat is the driving room (I bet none of you readers have a driving room in your house!), and the screened in patio/awning outdoor area is divided between the kitchen and the dining room. Casita viajera.

So we are stuck in Mazatlan/Isla de la Piedras for at least one more day. We’ll be here until she feels mostly better as the medical care here is as good as we’d be able to find for a good stretch. Luckily the surf is acceptable. The morning high tide has some shoulder to head high racers and the rest of the day has fun, 50 yard, long board cruisers, lefts and rights.

Also it seems the wifi may get fixed today as well. The Infinitum repair guy was here stringing some new lines. It appears that the problem was that lightening had struck the utility pole (er… palm tree) during the last big storm and fired the wires. So perhaps I’ll have internet from the comfort of the dining room rather than the vacant dirt lot down the way that I’ve been using as my local hotspot.

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The Return of Neto

Neto showed up today around 3:00 with a friend of his who was also a shaper, Julio. They worked on the board for a while but the came with the news that Ramon had just that afternoon found the right alternator and wouldn’t be by until tomorrow around 10. So we sit in Mazatlan (Isla de la Piedras) for another night. We are getting restless. Unfortunately, there is no internet in the park either. It has been down since before we got here. The park manager Warren tried to get it running but it’s going to be a bit. There is a restaurant down the beach with free wifi so we are going to try to poach it and make a few calls. We are pretty anxious to get out of here to San Blas and then Sayulita/PV.

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Caballo, Banana, Caballo?

The writing in this post that is in strikethough is commented out because it turns out that it is potentially false. It appears that Eli (Elijah Aaron) is a wanted felon in San Diego County. He was convicted of felony assault on a cohabitant or spouse and spent time in jail for that conviction. In addition he has some additional drug related arrests.

It appears that his real reason for being in Mexico is that he may have skipped bail for a felony assault charge and fled to Mazatlan where he has family who owns and operates a sailing charter, the Patricia Belle. It is unclear whether the felony assault charge is for the original conviction or for a subsequent charge, you can view the warrant here.

Copied in full is the additional email I received from the commenter below:

All I can tell you is that he jumped bailed and ran to Mexico.  The girl he was with before me, he fractured her face and he was sent to prison.  He has spent most of his adult life behind bars for drugs and violence.  He spent a lot of time in isolation while in Prison for fighting other inmates.   Anyhow If u look up the San Diego Sheriff Warrant Website google search you can look up his name Elijah Aaron.   He has been on the run for several years now.  His Mom owns Patricia Belle she helped him and still does. He does not own Easy Turf he worked with me as a demostrator promoting Turf at Fairs etc.   He is one hek of a con man and is very dangerous.  I have a permanet scar on my eye from him and yes I was an idiot for getting involved.

We finally found Benji’s Pizza, its all the way down at the end of the point. It is run by a really gregarious gringo – Eli, that is about our age, married into the family and now runs the spot as a half restaurant / half hostel hangout. He invited us down and we spent last night eating some delicious shrimp pizza and chatting about life in San Diego.

Turns out Eli is from San Diego, originally Coronado, and lived in North Park for a spell while getting his international business degree from San Diego State. Eli had a hand in starting Easy Turf – San Diegans will recognize the name from the Ladanian Tomlinson commercials that ran locally.

Eli met a Latina Mexican girl, got married, had a baby, and cashed it all in for the expat restaurateur lifestyle on the island. He seemed a really genuine guy that was truly happy. He invited us to come camp for free at the restaurant and had we an alternator in the van we’d probably have taken him up on it. We were stoked to get to spend some time with him.

Eli’s story isn’t too unique though. We also met a guy named Gary who runs a restaurant/bar a few steps from the RV Park. Gary is also married to a local and has two bilingual kids that apparently spend some time in the states. Gary gave us a tour of the hotel he built. Stone Island Gardens is a set of really nice, unique, American quality, units with killer views a few steps from the sand. Super reasonable too. If you or someone you know wants a Mazatlan vacae, I highly recommend checking it out. There is great surf on the island, easy access to Mazatlan, and a quaint little fishing village feel, what more could you want?

We seemed to have met all the characters on the island; it’s a pretty small community so it wasn’t that hard – my favorite is a ~14 year old kid named Ian, who “grew up” in San Bernardino but lives here full time now. He seems to be related to about everyone that actually owns something on the island – either he is a total blowhard or will be the Patron of the Island before he is 30. It’s a cool little spot to spend some time. One of the downsides though is that Isla de la Piedras has become a cruise ship stop. Not that there is anything wrong with cruise ships or their patrons, but the restaurant adjacent to the park, next to which we are parked, caters almost exclusively to the ships. They offer horseback rides as well as rides on the inflatable banana towed behind the boat. The incessant announcement over the load speaker of Caballo! Banana! is enough to drive anyone batty. Luckily they are done by 3:00.

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