Saturday, March 15, 2008

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.

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