My coworker Fumi, handed me a bottle of hot sauce and said, “write a post and this bottle is yours.” At first I thought that it would be a waste of my time, then I tasted the sauce. It was sweet to the tongue with lasting warmth (that’s what she said). I read the bottle, “chipotle hot sauce with a hint of chocolate.”
This sparked a memory. When I was still in high school, I went on a surf trip to scorpion bay. For those of you who are new to Baja California surf spots, scorpion bay is approximately 1000 miles south of San Diego (not necessarily as the crow flies). It holds the record for one of the world’s longest right hand waves. On the right swell and tide, this wave will connect five VERY long point breaks.
The trip was a learning experience and much like the sauce, was not what we expected. I traveled in my friend’s 1998 Tahoe with two other friends. We all lied to our parents about the depth into Mexico that we planned to travel. One of my friends actually told his parents that we were going to be at a surf camp in San Diego for the week. We all brought random items with us into the great unknown like rope, mace, and duct tape because we were trying to be responsible. We read all the Baja surf books that promised us warm waters and ruined suspension systems in our 4X4. The possible outcomes were as hard for us to wrap our minds around as our future career paths.
But let’s hear more about the sauce. The image on the bottle of peeling right hand waves does not do scorpion bay justice. Every time I dipped my finger into the bottle to get a taste I am continually impressed (that’s what she said). It is sweet like a chipotle should be but with some serious heat that could qualify it as a real hot sauce.
In getting back to the story, we popped five tires, broke one shock, one ball joint, and pretty much completely tore out the transmission. Most of these problems happened on the miles of washboard roads that will make a meal out of any car. We were driving down the road when the shock gave out in the 113 degree heat. From my vantage point (the front passenger side) it just looked like the wheel caved in on the car and just gave up. We got out of the car and left my friend Warren to wait for help as Dave and I continued down the road on foot to the next town. Baja Cali is really a lot of nothing and in our travels we found that sometimes the next town might be 50 miles away. As I walked with Dave, Warren sat back and dialed everyone he knew on his cell phone. Of course there was no reception for hundreds of miles. As Dave and I walked down the road under the stress of the heat and defeat, we screamed at each other. We said things we did not mean. We said things that we would not forget. Just at the height of our feud, a gold tundra pulled up and Warren Popped out of the back. The occupants were a family of surfers from Santa Barbara. They gave us a ride into town and dropped us off at the mechanic.
Why is the mechanic significant?
He was the only man who would decide our fate. He was the man that fixed the Tahoe for the cost of parts. He was the man who drove 3 hours to the next town that had our part in stock (while we were surfing). He was the man who took all of our ATM cards to the nearest ATM (100 miles away) to pull out only the amount of money that we asked, to pay him for his services and get home.
We were in a tough spot and he made our trip turn from a nightmare, to a story of a lifetime.
The one break that I didn’t mention was when we were driving all the way home in one day. It took us 24 straight hours to get from scorpion bay to my friend’s doorstep so that we were not late back from our surf trip to “San Diego.” In those 24 hours we drove in shifts. During my shift we were on paved ground, thinking that the danger was over. We had never been off road-ing before so we did not know to tighten the lug nuts periodically. As I was driving a conservative 75 miles per hour I hear a loud crash followed by a grinding noise. It was the front left tire that had thrown from the car, stripping the lug nuts forever. As we eventually screeched to a halt, the sun was setting, we were low on gas and were already numb to panic from our previous “Tahoe/Road malfunctions”. We simply worked through the night with great initiative and confidence. Had we become men?
We “barrowed” lug nuts from the 4 other tires, tightened them all down, and took a snail’s pace for home all through the night. I remember weighing out the other possible situations that night and being so thankful for the outcome. We could have run out of gas completely. We could have lost the wheel on a cliff pass. The sun could have gone down a little earlier. This trip taught me many things. Mexicans outside of border towns are some of the warmest, most trustworthy people on the planet.