After another wild summer in the states I am finally back home aboard Downtime.
The summer of 2014 was just slightly less hectic that the previous and like last year I found myself traveling countless miles across the states.
I left the boat safely secured in Ocean View Marina again this year, a small marina which is located on Samal Island just a few miles south of the city of Davao on Mindanao Island, Philippines.
I booked my flight home with high hopes of sitting on the top deck of a 747, something I have had on my bucket list for quite some time. My first flight like many flights these days departed Davao for Manila slightly late and sadly just late enough for me to miss my connection in manila and consequently being able to sit in seat 16J on the top deck of that big east bound 747.
United made up for it by getting me a 1st class seat on a ANA flight with the fully flat reclining seats and very good food and fine looking flight attendants.
We touched down in San Francisco on our second approach 12 long hours later after one of the few go abound flights (missed landings) I had ever been on. From here it was just one last short flight south to San Diego where I was picked up by my younger son Parker and his wife Briana. A few hours later we were at Parkers house back in the small town of San Jacinto where I spent my teenage years. No big surprise that the word for the next day was “Jetlag”.
I was nice to spend a few days with my Daughter Cass and Parker back in the small town I had not lived in since I was their age. Later in the week we headed down to Glamis Sand Dunes a place only the insane go to in the summer time because the heat is up in the triple digits by 10 am. We unloaded the Wildcat and 4 wheelers at daybreak for a quick ride before going a few more miles to the Colorado River in Palo Verde for some wakeboarding fun.
The endless sand dunes in Glamis go on for miles in every direction and we were having a blast racing across them. It was strange to be out there and have no other traffic but the rising temperatures were the reason for that.
We went on one last ride and 15 minutes after Parker told me that I was the only one he felt confident to let drive his $20K side by side Arctic Cat Wildcat because I was one of the few people he knew with enough money to fix it, not necessarily for the fact that I was such a great driver then I crashed.
Funny, I had just asked Bri how my driving was and she gave me the thumbs up and said I was much crazier driver than Parker. Suddenly the Wildcat flew over a ridge and into a hole, Parker found Briana and me hanging upside down by the seat belts after making a wrong turn. Thankfully nothing was hurt but my pride and a few very expensive parts on the Wildcat. The next problem was to get this damaged machine out of the dunes with a blown rear CV joint and a folded up front A-Arm.
Parker and Bri went to find help on the 4 wheeler and left me with the wildcat and a small bottle of water. After an hour of baking in the sun I was thinking that was not such a good idea as the temperatures crept closer to the century mark and shade was nowhere to be found. Thankfully we had a GPS and he was able find me out in a place where all the dunes look the same.
Luckily the found some other heat loving dune riders out there who ironically they were off duty firemen from san Diego and with a job like theirs they did not mind the heat. One guy had a lifted F-250 diesel with huge sand tires and he simply drove out there as if floating over the sand and towed us back in.
At this point jumping in the river sounded pretty good and after being stranded in the desert for hours and then getting lost for a frustrating 45 minutes on our way to Tony’s. After stopping and asking for directions we finally found our way to my friend Tony’s camp in Cibola. Funny how we have been become so dependent on cell phones and GPS that we no longer even have a map in the car and find ourselves totally lost when they do not work? Cibola is a small community of desert lovers on the lower Colorado River and a place where you rarely get cell phone reception.
The weekend at the river was fun and relaxing but I all to quickly found my first week in the states had already flown by and found myself sitting on yet another plane, this time heading to Kansas on Tuesday morning.
I hopped into a rental car in OKC because my experience in the past flying Great Lakes Airlines into Liberal had just a 50% chance of getting me there. I drove north in Toyota Hybrid getting 37 MPG in some of the coolest weather I had ever experienced in all my 20 years of living in the Midwest. I rolled into Liberal 3 hours later in 70 degree drizzling weather. The previous years of drought were finally over and the crops were looking good from the recent rains.
It had somehow already been a year since I had been to the dairies’ but it did not feel like it at all much time had passed. The small town of Liberal still looked the same and the Wednesday night golf had a few new faces playing but it just did not feel the same. Thankfully the milk business was recovering and having a good year with feed prices finally getting back to normal with the promise of continues showers to finish off the crops.
I spent what seemed like a very long week in Kansas but unlike Dorothy and Toto in the Wizard of Oz I did not find myself saying “there is no place like home”. With the house that I raised the kids in long sold and gone and all three of my kids living in different states this left only the cows binging me back, but after 20 years of dealing with cows the appeal has long since faded.
With my first and only week of work under my belt I hopped a plane to New Orleans to go fishing with my good friend Jeff at J-Bar Lodge in Buras, LA. The Mississippi delta is one of my most favorite places on earth and fishing with Jeff a guy who can find Redfish most any day of the week makes it just that much more enjoyable.
I had the pleasure of riding in his brand new 25 foot center console Blue Wave with a big 300 HP Yamaha on the back. This equipment is a far cry from back in the day when we took out the 19 footer with the 100 HP Evenrude. We put over 200 miles on the boat that week finding fish and telling the old fish stories were still bringing on the laughs. Jokingly I would be casting of the front of the boat while fishing was slow, and say Jeff, when fishing is slow it was all about presentation, presentation, presentation… (which was mostly all crap) but then wham I would get a strike and we would start laughing all over again.
At one point we were crossing a huge bay and saw a few fish feeding on shrimp we slowed the boat and the next three casts landed three 10 pound Red’s, awesome presentation I would say!
It is always a good time staying at the J-Bar Lodge and listening to Lyn, (Jeff’s Dad) tell stories of cattle ranching in west Texas but the week of fishing was already over and my next destination would take me north to Springfield and visiting my brother Todd and his family at his lake house on Table Rock Lake.
I checked my ticket before heading to the airport something I have learned to do after showing up on the wrong day once, amazed I found had done it again! Somehow Tuesday and Thursday got mixed up but for a mere $650 I could change the flight! I passed on that and hopped in a rental car and toured Louisiana and Mississippi for the next 5 hours and drove to Springfield for under $150.
Luckily I was well rested by the time I got to the lake because standing in my little brothers shadow can be exhausting! We spent two days at the lake wakeboarding and enjoying his amazing lake house before hopping in a plane flying north back to Nebraska.
My oldest son had been living with Todd for that past few months going through some life changing growing pains. He is learning the dairy business after discovering life in sunny So. California is not always that sunny. Todd puts the people he trains to work for him through a tough training program that teaches all aspects of the business and it all starts on the bottom with walking many miles bringing the cows to the barn. It was good to spend time with Pete Jr. and talk about his new goals in life. I was proud to hear that by December he would be manager of one of these 4500 cow milk making machines.
Todd had a little project for his handy man brother and we spent the next afternoon bonding and building a chicken coop for his wife Mandy, a project I think he was waiting for me to show up for to help finish. It was fun but I told him that those are some lucky chickens because it was the last coop I would ever build!
Tuesday we walked the east of his two dairies outside of Columbus and put a few quick paced miles walking around with rubber boots on. (More work) Wednesday we hopped back on his plane and flew to Wisconsin to his other farm that his Son TJ manages. I had enough of rubber boots and cow $@$ and I chose to spent the next two days visiting with my Dad.
We hopped back in the plane and flew home Thursday and finished off the chicken coop, repacked our bag’s, had a nice dinner with the family and flew out the next morning to Las Vegas where he would drive his race car in the Vegas to Reno off road race, a grueling 500 mile off road parts smasher. The end result was Racecar 0, Rocks 1. Apparently hitting rocks at 100 mph knock brake calipers clean off a race car!
After an exciting weekend of racing I drove the rental car we had picked up in Vegas 350 miles back to California back to my son Parker’s town. Parker was all packed and I was ready to help move him and a trailer full of stuff all the way back to Wisconsin 2300 miles to the east! Parker would start his own training at Todd’s dairy in Wisconsin working with his cousin TJ.
The credit card had a workout buying fuel with 8 miles to the gallon but I would not have missed spending the week with Parker for the world. We took a few detours stopping in Kansas, and then back to Nebraska. The next stop was Inwood, Iowa to see my sister and her family and then a quick 60 miles out of the way to see an old friend and neighbor in Ames. After 4 days on the road we finally arrived in Clinton Wisconsin after driving through a 12 hour long rainstorm.
Two more days with Dad and I was west bound heading back to Kansas in a plane I just found out I owned part of! The cow business must be good!
I don’t know how many miles I traveled during those few months but it was way too many and I found myself looking for the light at the end of the tunnel. One more week long stop through Kansas and I would be on my way back to the boat, indirectly of course…
Everyone asks at some point how it is possible for me to do all this traveling and still have the cows. Well there is just one way this would ever be possible and that is Brian Hemann. Brian and I have been partners in the dairies for the last 14 years and I think he enjoys the big business part of it all as much as I do sailing.
The Mexico surprise has popped up the last few years and this year’s destination was Puerto Vallarta. If you remember last year it was the Baja 1000 that my brother asked me to come along and race with him. Puerto is a place where my new friend Deborah who will be sailing with me this season had lived a few years ago. She thought since she was heading west from France she should stop and see her old friends and dogs on her way to the boat. She asked if I would like to come and I thought “why not”? One more plane ticket change was not going to hurt at this point. I wound up changing that flight 3 times by the time I got back….
Being my first time in Puerto Vallarta other than a quick drive through to a Club Med many years ago, I was ready for some Mexican style adventure and relaxation. We got online for a rental car and found the unbelievable rate of $5 a day! I knew this was bogus and when it was all said and done it turned into $25 a day for decent car after insurance and other fee’s. We used Alamo and upon returning the car they tried to stick us with a damage claim for a scratch that was on the underside of the bumper! They had taken pictures of almost every angle of the car before we left so I asked to see the one of the bottom of the bumper. I played this game before and insisted on talking to the manager and sorting this out now. Lucky for us they missed taking that angle and I walked out the door saying “I will Remember the Alamo”!!
We had found a few places to stay on RBO and the first was a guest house right on the beach that had tree house feel to it, being built in the jungle on the side of a hill surrounded by trees and overlooking the ocean. The main house was just below and had 3 bedrooms and was located right on the beach.
We had some great pictures of Mexico that all got stole in the back packs in Hawaii so that is a bummer but here is a few we did find.
The next place we stayed was up the road in San Pancho, was our favorite of the 4 places we stayed. This condo was part of a three unit complex with the main house on the top level and two other units down the hill towards the beach. We stayed in the middle unit which had a nice outdoor kitchen, a huge air conditioned king size master suite and a semi-outdoor bathroom that had a giant 60 foot tree growing out the middle of it. It felt like you were showering in the jungle with wood rails set in one wall instead of windows that gave you a view of the ocean. Each unit had its own pool and on the first night we experience a powerful thunderstorm and watched it poor rain while the sky lit up with lightning. 500 yards down the beach was the small fishing/surf town of San Pancho and there were two nice restaurants where you ordered your margarita and meal with your toes in the sand. On our walk back to the condo we saw a green turtle crawling out of the ocean to lay her eggs. There was a group of people that were waiting until the turtle was done and then move in to dig up the eggs and place them to a fenced off sanctuary so they would be protected.
The last place we stayed was a 2 room condo in town. The location was good if there is such a thing in town? (no Beach out the back door) but it was much nicer than staying in some resort. After 4 days of city life we went back up the coast to a small resort closer to Deb’s surf break and dogs in a small town of Bucerias.
After a relaxing two weeks in Mexico and we were ready for the last stop, a stop we hoped would be as relaxing as Mexico in Hawaii but that will have to be for another story.
Next post will bring us to Hawaii were the adventure continues!
Util then, Peace Capt. Pedro