Saturday, March 22, 2008

“Cause Effect: Guest Blogger Questions The Premise

6-0 (dear!)approaches. It's a good thing because I've learned there are many other points of view. While I may not embrace all ideas, I'll quote Joni Mitchell from my fave song of all times, Blue, "Everyone is saying that hell's the hippest way to go. Well I don't think so, but I'll take a look around it though."

My American bloodlines run deep and I pray that we continue to respect freedom of speech and honor our Constitution. (Yes, I even qualify to be a Daughter of The American Revolution.) So give let's give a welcome to Jay Pelzer(another 6-0 person) as he has allowed me to enter his thoughts into the blogosphere.

Let me hear your battle cries or applause.
Charmaine, Your Santa Fe Mother Blogger.

PS: If you can't get your comments up on my blog, email me at and I'll put them up for you.

After a painful, "disappoint me with the lack of common sense" review of Cause Effect, it scares me to think that these people actually get to vote.

I admire the actions being taken by the people involved with children, AIDs, MS, etc. But the whackos like the guy in Episode 1, Part 1 thinking that he is "protecting the planet." He and the guy in Episode 4, Part 2 are on some kind of an ego trip. They actually think that mankind has more effect on the planet than does God's plan ... whatever it is. I still want someone to tell me what SUV's and air conditioners the cavemen were using to end the Ice Age.

Scientists have taken ice core samples from both polar ice caps that go back over 200,000 years. From the densities of the ice they can tell what the earth's temperatures were. The atmospheric gases were trapped at the time of freezing the ice. And what did they discover? Well, there have been times that CO2 and temperatures rose. There were times that CO2 rose and temperatures fell. There were times that CO2 fell and temperatures rose. There were times that CO2 fell and temperatures fell.

If all the cars and trucks in the USA were taken off the road tomorrow, CO2 emissions (worldwide) would drop by less than 1%. Based on the fact that only 0.0392 % of the atmosphere is made up of CO2, climate-wise ain't nothing going to happen. But just think of the economic disaster that would happen if we were to force only 10% of vehicle traffic off the road. (Which would be a 0.0000392% change in CO2.) This is ridiculous! And just where is Al Whore now that scientists are predicting a major drop in the earth's temperatures due to solar activity changes? Heck, he's out counting the money he made off of idiots with his "Inconvenient Truth" crap.

While I am on my rant, let me touch on one more issue—petroleum--that's oil. (Mind you, these are thoughts from a guy with a 158 IQ, an Air Force Academy education, A Master's Degree from the Air Force Institute of Technology and who does a lot of research on issues of the day items.) Right now we have Hillary Clinton bombasting about "record profits" for oil companies. Let's put a little perspective on that idea. The oil companies are paying record prices for oil which is being sold at record levels of demand. So, their "record profits" amount to a meager 9.2% return on investment. If that drops by about 0.4%, people are going to pull their money out of this average return investment. Won't bother people like you and me who can afford $7 to $8 a gallon gas when the companies disappear. But there are a lot of people who MUST buy gas to get to work. And I am not going to take the time to look up his name again, but there was one of the Clinton advisors today who was cited as saying that 44% of all retirement account holders (401K's etc.) have an investment in oil.

Estimates reach to over 100 BILLION barrels of oil in the ANWAR. Can you imagine what simply pumping out 2 million barrels a day would do to lower gas prices? What about 4 million barrels? How much would that reduce the price that Iran and Hugo Chavez get for oil? How much would it reduce their sales of oil? And, as for the "pristine" conditions of the ANWAR that would be hampered, the area is water most of the year. There is NO logical reason to not drill there. You have the nuts who think that producing more oil will stall efforts to come up with alternative fuels. That's ignorant thinking. Everyone knows we have to change eventually. It's like people who want the government to mandate fuel mileage standards. What idiot doesn't understand that the car companies are already trying to produce the most efficient vehicles they can so they can beat their competitors? Heck, if government mandates work, why not have Congress mandate that all cars get 100 miles per gallon?

OK. Wrote too much. Aren't you glad I couldn't fit this onto your blog? LOL


Saturday, March 15, 2008

Where Once Gray Whales Were Slaughtered--Peace Reigns In San Ignacio Lagoon

Our four-vehicle caravan bounced along the 2-hour Baja dirt road to San Ignacio Lagoon where Captain Melville Scammon first led six whaling vessels in 1860. Scammon and other whaling captains risked the narrow and shallow water passage into the lagoon, where for centuries, gray whales safely bore their young. The ensuing whale slaughter initiated the near extinction of the Pacific Gray Whale.

Today, the lagoon is a World Heritage site, and gray whales have reclaimed their sanctuary. Now with limited permits, one can visit the lagoon and experience—up close and personal—the majesty of these creatures.

Your vessel is an 18-foot wooden fishing boat, a panga. It’s similar to a dory. It was in one of these pangas where in 1972, Pachico Mayoral, a local fisherman, was approached by a gray whale. Surprised by the whale’s lack of aggression and its insistence, Pachico reached his hand out to the whale. The whale moved in closer and allowed the fisherman to touch it. Of course this was a heck of a whale story back at the lagoon’s village. However, word made its way out of the secluded village and curious visitors began arriving to experience this new relationship between human and whales.

Pachico’s Eco Tours led our adventure. Eight of us filled one panga and six filled the other. Our respective captains opened their outboards. We navigated the salty swells to the whale nursery. Dolphins skipped along the nursery’s perimeter. Our captain whistled and they came closer. He spoke fluent dolphin.

The far away expelled water plumes that I fervently watch for from our coastal home will NEVER match the first expelled air and water by a 30-foot cow less than 10-feet from our panga. A full show of fluke signaled her deep dive. “Okay, I’m good,” announced Clif who was oddly silent the entire panga ride. “If I see nothing else,” he added, “I’m happy.”

Hands splashed the nursery water. “Here baby, here baby,” beckoned the seasoned lagoon visitors. My camera clicked and clicked. (In the mid-1980’s I wrote and photographed a whale watch report for the LA Times, the Sacramento Bee and the Fresno Bee. Unfortunately, I photographed more water than whale.) My 2008 digital camera has a half-second delay—a lifetime when shooting nature in action. {Check out the amazing video at the end of this blog}

The San Ignacio Lagoon whales were all around us. We watched them breech, spyhop, and swim close by, but none chose a visit to our panga. When lunchtime arrived, our captain made waves thru the placid and clear lagoon to a sandy shoreline. Here Jesus Mayoral, Pachico’s son, answered the billion questions we asked while munching on homemade burritos and cold soda.

“Let’s see what we can find out there now,” Jesus said, as he and the other panga captains took us back to the nursery. Our captain took a different route. Now the water was choppy and windblown. Dolphins signaled our closeness to the whales. The captain silenced his outboard and began scooping and tossing water into the distance. A 40-foot cow surfaced. She was so close that when she spouted, her wet exhale showered my face and shoulders. She eyed the panga, grunted, and her 15-foot, 1.5-ton calf followed suit. Here baby, here, baby beseeched like a prayer. My tears at the nearness of these two made photographing their closeness impossible.

The pair circled our boat, swam under the boat and touched the bottom of our boat. Finally, curiosity brought the calf alongside. Hands reached out to let him know that mutual inquisitiveness was aboard along with our desire to connect. I gave up my photo quest. No longer did I know if I was star board or port side. To touch that one-ton creature erased my boat safety knowledge. But, alas, he came to where my hand reached for him. He raised his steel grey back and my right hand was able to run the course of his spine.

What did it feel like? Rubbery. Soft. Cool. Magnificent. Like the evening prior when I uncontrollably shook and was unable to identify the spot that was touched, so it happened again with this dream-like whale encounter.

My writer friend, David Wagstaff, has told me time after time, “Char, you are such the earth mother.” I guess I am. Whether my hands are in the dirt, or skimming the salty seas, I’m in a peaceful place that not even a church can match. Touching and sensing the little guy I called “Skippy” (little being relative to his multi-ton mother) will be a challenging emotion to match and jumped far ahead of anything I experienced before.

Amazingly Friendly Whale, San Ignacio Lagoon, Baja, Mexico - AOL Video

More Information About Whales and The Tour

Photo credits: Pachico Mayoral, Pachico's Eco Tours; Panga Load, Charmaine Coimbra; Spouting Whale, Fred Heinecke; Spyhop, Charmaine Coimbra; Splashing for Whales, Charmaine Coimbra; Skippy 1, Charmaine Coimbra; Skippy 2, Fred Heinecke.

In Search of San Ignacio’s Friendly Grey Whales

Ride ‘em Cowboy: A Wild Cabo San Lucas to Loreto Flight


When the other nine passengers made the Sign of the Cross as we boarded the single-prop Aero Calafia, Loreto-bound flight, I recited my own silent prayer.

Refreshments (bottled water in a plastic ice chest) were noted in Spanglish by our captain, who became our caballero riding a wild bull over the windy currents of lower Baja California. After a few sideways air slides and a dozen dips and resumptions of altitude, our cowboy/captain looked back at us and I gave him the thumbs up, claiming, "El toro, el toro!" The other passengers exhaled. El Capitan flew his bird onto the Loreto landing strip as easily as an osprey landing in its nest.

"The problem is, we have no cars to rent," explained the agent who was leaving in a brand new 4 x 4 Chevy truck as we pulled into the Budget Car Rental site in Loreto. My platinum credit card was in hand and the glint caught his eye. "Well," he reassessed, "it is possible that I can rent you this truck." Knowing that we had 4-hours on a Mexican highway followed by 2-hours on an ill-spoken dirt road ahead, the bargaining for the truck began.

The agent said it was new, I said it has Budget Rents Trucks all over it, he said but it has only a 100 miles, and I countered with I'll be advertising your business all over this state. We met in the middle, and Clif and I headed across the Baja peninsula in search of friendly grey whales.

Alemany Class of ’66 Returns

Former high school classmate, Ken Meddock
and his wife, Sandy, initiated this entire Baja adventure when he sent out an email titled "Whale Trip" sometime last spring. It was an open invitation a year in advance. I didn't know Ken in high school, but I did know about the whales of San Ignacio. "Keep me on the list," I immediately emailed back.

He did. In September he followed up with more details. On Sept. 20, 2007, I reserved our time for a February 2008 San Ignacio escapade.

Meanwhile back in Santa Fe, the business, the holidays, the family, etc., consumed time faster than playing solitaire on the computer. February was here, and like I did back in 1966, I hurried through my homework at the last possible minute, booked a flight-miles trip to Cabo San Lucas through US Airways and figured I'd punt the rest of the details when I got there. I had a zero idea of how we would get to San Ignacio, or even how far away it is from Cabo. Besides, I reasoned, I spent years making my way in, out and between mainland Mexico as a single mom with two little girls. Baja for just myself and spouse at the wise age of 59 should be a piece of cake. God bless my spouse for his patience and trust. He says I freewheel.

The village of San Ignagio is lovely and more to our taste than the grand hotels along the CSL beaches (where people who should NEVER, EVER, wear bathing suits in public—like myself—do and even worse, flauntingly). The whales we wanted to see are beautiful, unlike my corn-fed fellow citizens wandering thru the warm resort swimming pools drinking cerveza y cerveza and NEVER leaving the water.

The quaint Desert Inn Hotel in San Ignacio seemed to attract a different crowd: journalists on an assignment for the Smithsonian; a gaggle of chain-smoking Germans; bikers, and some Alemany High School (AHS) graduates and their family and friends.

Now, Ken recently jumped into an email sandbox of opinionated and fun AHSers who have inspired or fueled some of my blogs. Another AHS '66 sandboxer, Frank Bonacorsso, AKA Lamont Cranston of the Shadow Knows blog at left his Hawaiian haven to also seek these legendary whales.

I never knew Frank in high school either. But when we all met face to face in the hotel cantina, we chatted like old time friends. So many emotions rose to the surface within my psyche, that when the night ended, I returned to our double-bed room and shook as if I were freezing. “Clif, move over. We’re snuggling all night.” As always, he held me until I fell sound asleep.

Dear readers, the next edition will land you right in the middle of a whale nursery. This remains one of the most incredible experiences of my life. Pictured with me, from left, Ken Meddock and Frank Bonacorsso.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

I Wished That The Local Vultures Were As Charming As The Nearby Pelicans.

"Want a breakfast margarita?" Clif teased.

"No, but I do want to find the farmacia," I replied

Warm sun blessed, we reintroduced our bodies to summer clothes and sandals, and then wandered the San Jose Del Cabo streets. We found the Mega Store which included a full pharmacy. Twenty steps inside we heard "May I help you find something?" in rehearsed broken-English.


"Si, follow me," answered the Mega Store employee.

We chatted in Spanglish—where are you from? You have a childrens?—blah, blah, blah. Approaching the pharmacy, he asked, "Well, amigos, how would you like 100 American dollars—free? I can also get you a free dinner, cruise…"

"Gracias, senor," I interrupted. "I just want my prescription.

"Then I get you 150 American dollars…"

"No, gracias, senor…"

"But you get free money, and a dinner cruise worth another 200 American dollars, and…"

"No! Gracias, senor. We are tired and want nothing but the view from our hotel and…"

"You don't want free money?" he insisted.

"There's no such thing as free money."

"But senorita," he continued his bottomless pitch.

"No! We are not interested."

He continued and then God intervened with a radio call. "Excuso. I'll meet you when you are finish," he noted as he headed to a cashier in need.

And I'll lose 20-pounds tomorrow at the all you can eat buffet at our all inclusive hotel, I self muttered.

It was Valentine's Day and we spent what was left as long-time lovers should: bask in the sun, walk the beach, watch the people, have wine with lunch, and spend the evening watching a cabaret of dancers as dinner was served. "Would you like more red wine?" asked our waiter as the dancers changed costumes. Of course. And where's the chocolate?

We slept like babies unaware that a vultures' roost, so removed from their natural state of retreat, that they were ready to pick still living flesh from us.

Royal Solaris Hotel--AKA Vulture Headquarters

At exactly 8 a.m., our telephone rang. "Buenas dias, Senora Coimbra. I call to remind you of our 9 a.m. appointment today. Please meet us in the lobby."

Clif grumbled. "Think freebies," I recollected for him.

A Spanish princess greeted our lobby arrival. "Buena dias, senor y senorita.
Follow me, please.

When I saw one meeting room crowded with folks like us a bad feeling crept through my bones. Uniformed men stood in front of our only way out.

Have you ever watched a vintage black and white film: Hypnotic jungle drums rumble in the distance; an unsuspecting—yet intrigued—American wanders dangerously close. Hungry eyes hidden inside dark and dense foliage, lustfully watch. Suddenly, the blonde American in her white safari pants and shirt is trapped, and then yanked into a nest of starving cannibals while vultures soar overhead and the drums maniacally beat.

Enter handsome young Aldo with his 20 very personal questions. How much do you make? How many children? What are their names? Do you travel often?

Not fond of such questions, I made up answers: Millions of dollars, twelve children, Matthew, Luke, John, etc. This is our first trip away from the multitudes.

What really gave us the willies was the placement of us pigeons to Aldo, who directly faced an aging brood of vultures perched along a wall. Really—it was that obvious.

"Aldo, let's cut to the chase," I interrupted his prodding, "How much for the
time share?"

"Oh, no, no senora, this is not a time share? It is a partial full ownership…."

"Aldo, I'd say that a 'partial full ownership' is an oxymoron if ever there was an oxymoron."

His face contorted. I think what he heard was "you are a moron." Then from rear perch, one of the senior vultures sniffed for dead meat and soared to our table. "Aldo, take them to breakfast," he hissed. Now it was my turn to ask Aldo 20 personal questions. He got the picture and suggested, "Just go back and act like you are listening. You're done in 30 minutes, and then enjoy your gifts."

Back to the dumping ground, Aldo went through the numbers. Within 10 minutes another vulture left his perch hungry for fresh carrion. He reviewed Aldo's paperwork and grunted out an even better number to become a partial full owner of nothing. "Sorry, we are not interested," Clif insisted. Not good enough. A more aggressive vulture rocketed off his perch to swoop in and kill the meat himself. That was #6 vulture, named Ignacio.

The veins in Clif's neck showed his quickening pulse and his blue eyes searched for soft flesh to pierce. A wise vulture would leave. Ignacio was not wise. After some hostile exchanges, the Coimbras were escorted from the poisoned nest, handed our freebies, and then escorted to the elevator. Ignacio went in for easier kill

We tangoed the night away on our Cabo sunset dinner cruise, watched whales swim by and marveled at the geological beauty of San Andreas faulting that separates the Pacific Ocean from the Sea of Cortez.


This is the second installment of our Baja adventures. Inside a Mexican single engine Cessna, we began our trek toward reuniting with Alemany 66ers and a glorious encounter with grey whales.