Posts Tagged With: mexico

Rules to Travel By….

gas-strike

 

As you may have heard, there is a gasoline strike in Mexico. And based on some media reports, it has gotten quite dodgy in places. Yesterday, after ten wonderful days at our place in Playa de Estero, Baja Norte, my wife (Tammy) and I headed home to Lake Arrowhead, SoCal. Continue reading

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Lessons from the Road: One Good Turn Deserves Another

gecko2

Sometimes the stars and moon line up just right and the perfect adventure unfolds. An adventure that can never quit be repeated and is fondly remembered for the rest of your life. That was the case back in the late 80s when a group of us camping in Playa de Estero decided to head further south, down the Baja Peninsula, to the legendary fishing holes surrounding Abreojos. Continue reading

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The Fear of Giving?

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My good blogging friend, Dawnliz, posted some great insights on giving, or more importantly, the fact that we don’t give because of our fear of giving to “fake charities or cons.” This reminded me of an incident that happen on one of my adventures in the state of Chiapas, Mexico. I felt compelled to share this story during the holiday season.

Many years ago while motorcycling through Mexico toward the Guatemala border I came down with the famous intestinal malady know as Montezuma’s Revenge. I was incapacitated to say the least. I held up in a small pension slowly getting sicker. After several days the innkeeper, a kind lady, took pity on me and procured a doctor who sent me to a pharmacy just down the street.

I was weak, shivering from chills in spite of the tropical heat. I paid little attention to my surroundings as I fixated on my goal of reaching the pharmacist and the medicine that the doctor assured me would put me right. After a brief wait and a few pesos, I slowly made my way back towards the bed and toilet of my room. I really wasn’t sure I could negotiate the block or so on account of my light headiness and weakening body.

I had only made it a few steps when a campesino stopped me and asked for 38 pesos. My first reaction was to ignore him as I was in need a toilet and wasn’t sure I would make it back to my room. But there was something odd about him requesting an exact amount, 38 pesos. Further, there was an anxious strain in his voice that seemed urgent.

As I stopped to engaged the man, my mind ran the tape that he was coning me and that besides losing a few pesos I was going to lose something more embarrassing before I reached the toilet in my room. He told me he lived on a rancho near by and that his daughter had disenteria, dysentery. I decided that even if he was making this up, he had taken the time to put together a proper story that was filled wth emotion and even some technical words. In short, I decided he had earned the 38 pesos. I gave the man a 50 peso note. I was so intent on making it back to my room, I never noticed if he entered the pharmacy.

Over the next few days I was able to return to the world of solid foods and cold beer again. Finally, I felt ready to travel and gassed up my moto and began packing. I had all but forgotten the little Indian and his urgent request. Just as I was making ready to point my moto further south, the campesino came running down the narrow cobblestone street waving something in his hand. I immediately thought he was going to put the touch on me again and ready myself for a quick escape.

Something quit amazing happened instead. The little man handed me the change from the 50 pesos and insisted that I go with him to the Pharmacy. He almost dragged me there. It was there with has family waiting to greet me, I learned that his daughter was improving and that according to the Pharmacist the medicine had saved her life. I was stunned that the price of a lunch had saved a life.

I still have the picture of his family standing in front of tiny thatched house beside the river. I still carry the small medallion of Guadalupe his wife gave me in my tank bag. In this holiday season we can lose the spirit by worrying about who is deserving our kindness and who is not. In many villages down South, there is a belief that beggars provide us with the opportunity to follow Christ’s sentiment. That it is better to give than to receive, and that giving will bring us good fortune as we have done His work.

I know, in my travels throughout the world, it has for me.

Merry Christmas!

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I’m Back!… Or the Two Brains of a Writer…Or Is It Just Me?

A year ago I was well along to finishing the sequel to Almost Human when I got a phone call.

Little did I know the winding path I would follow or how much I would learn about how the two parts of my brain work when it comes to writing. The Superintendent of a school district I had consulted for had an emergency and he wanted me to come back and help put things right. I agreed to come back for a few months. Those few months stretched to a year. It was then I realized that this school district didn’t hire consultants, it took hostages! I found myself beginning the second year.

I had been asked to take over a struggling school and reestablish leadership. This kind of work is administrative and political. It requires long hours and lots of paperwork interspersed with workplace and small town politics. Much of my time was spent in hard conversations with students, staff, parents and district administrators–politics.

From the start, my creative writing ceased replaced by dry reports and number crunching. The flow of my new novel, More Than Human, had disappeared. My characters had faded and had left me. I suspected that this was partly because my routine as a writer had been interrupted. But I soon realized on the days I could jump back into my routine, that I was dry and blocked from getting back into the world I had created. Something was going on in me as a writer that was more than just an interruption of my routine.

It seemed the more I immersed myself in the day-to-day work as a school administrator, the more distant and resistant my characters became. Their world faded from me. The flow I feel, as a writer, when my story is revealing itself was frozen. I was shut out, block.

Yet, I could write pages of reports about attendance, discipline, mission statements, grant proposals and the like. I could be absolutely creative and articulate in the art of expository persuasion but it seemed at the expense of my novel.

Like in a good story that requires conflict and climax, my life took a turn at the closing of that first year. I needed a surgery that would require several months of recovery away from work, a painful recovery. During that recovery, I found that removed from the politics and problem solving, my creative juices began to flow again. It was though I was able to switch back to another compartment of my brain where all of my characters and the world they lived in had been patiently waiting. The flow came back in spite of the physical therapy and pain that was my reality. I could write again. In fact, I had to write again. There was an unexplainable sense of urgency while I wrote.

As I healed from my surgery, I began slowly returning to the work of the school district and finally back my office. I was dry again. I realized that my novel would have to wait until I could tap into that other place in my brain that kept the world I had created safe and waiting. But what if I wasn’t there when I returned? What if I couldn’t find that place again? This was my mindset as I entered year two of this consulting gig.

My mom who had always supported my efforts as a writer advised me to quit the job and return to what was really important to me and made me happy. Writing. She cautioned me not to waste time in endeavors that did not truly satisfy me and move me forward in living life’s grand adventure. Life is fleeting and you don’t want to reach the end with any regrets. Mom loved hearing about my adventures and loved a good story.

I felt trapped and entered a very dark place. For the first time in my life I did not find joy in what I was doing. I found myself going through the motions at work and dreaded continuing. I needed out. I needed to find my voice again.

The climax to this little drama came when sadly my mom unexpectedly passed away. I took a leave from work to help care for my dad and the rest of our family. My mom must be smiling somewhere up there. In spite of the grief and pain, I found myself writing again. My characters all came back. It was than that I realized that I couldn’t take for granted that they would aways be there. I resigned, and as though to reward me, my characters and this story came back. In fact, it is so vivid that it is writing itself.

What I’ve learned from this little journey is that we can never take the creative process for granted. It can be fleeting and ethereal. I believe for me, there are two parts of my brain. One is were my writing patiently waits but I can never be sure for how long. This time, I was lucky. My characters were patient and kind to me. They waited.

I’m back writing and adventure traveling on my motorcycle. My office is now were my heart and moto take me. Im confident that More Than Human will be done soon as I am writing and traveling again; seeking life’s wild adventure as I write and think best on two wheels.

Thanks mom. I love you.

2012-11-03 11.37.51

Ready to head out for an adventure in Baja.

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Lessons Learned From Writing My First Novel – Almost Human

What happens when the line between ape and man is blurred?

The full cover of the book.

I was in Baja last week and met a reader who told me he was writing a book. He paused and continued by lamenting that he had been writing it for many years and it was not anywhere near completion. I’ve met many writers who are in this same predicament. They’re writing or “gathering” but not any closer to finishing their book–their dream. Believe me I sympathize, I was in the same situation from many years.

Here’s a few strategies I’ve learned from writing Almost Human. First, and foremost, write the ending. I had been writing this book for years and my novel just kept growing. My editor and teacher, Kathryn Lynn Davis, after reading several chapters asked me, “How does the novel end?” When I couldn’t tell her, she gave me the single most important piece of advice that helped me finish my book! “Don’t send me another chapter until you’ve written the ending.” It took me several chapters to accomplish this but once I did, I had a road map to line up my plot development and character arcs. So, after many years of writing on and off, I finished the novel in the next six months! While this may not work for every novelist, it worked for me.

I set myself a goal to write three pages a day no matter what. Very often, on a particularly productive day, those three pages flowed and grew to twenty or more. But most importantly,  I wrote every day because that’s what we do, writers-write!

Also, I did very little editing as I wrote. I didn’t try to get my narrative perfect at the expense of the flow. I wrote and filled it out later. Sometimes as a warm up before my three pages.

I was fortunate to be invited to join a writers’ group that included several published authors led by a creative and insightful leader/author. The feedback and advice on how to to improve as a writer and navigate the publishing world was priceless. Just make sure it is a good group that truely critiques your work–no matter how painful. The goal is to become a better writer not participate in a mutal admiration support group. These writers were honest and skilled. I am very grateful.

And finally, I work hard at trying to live a life worth writing about. This can be referred to as “gathering” or “research,” I call it just having fun living life’s adventure. I feel drawing from our experiences makes our work ring true and gives it credibility.

I know while this worked for me and certainly is not exhaustive, it may not work for every writer. I wrote this because of how often I’m asked by readers how I managed to finish my novel.

Oh, it helps to have a worldclass, New York Times Bestselling author as your editor.  Thank you Kathryn Lynn Davis!

Autographed copies of Almost Human can be purchased directly from the author.

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Shipping and handling listed in PayPal is for the USA (excluding Alaska and Hawaii). International shipping will vary.  

For information on book readings, signings and sparkling discussions go the my Amazon Author Page.

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The One Armed Cookbook: Halibut on a Cedar Plank

halibut on cedar

Halibut on a Cedar Plank

If you thought you only cook salmon on a cedar plank, you’re wrong. We had planks down South one time but no salmon. So we decided to use halibut, which we had lots of and a new recipe was born. And we’ve loved it ever since!

First you need a plank. You can buy planks that cost more that then the fish is worth if you go to a BBQ store or you can make your own and save lots of pesos.

We live in the mountains where cedar is abundant. You just cut a dry cedar log to length and split it into less than 1” planks. Or you can go to any DYI box store and buy cedar fencing. Cut it into about 8” lengths and you’re in business. Make sure the wood has not been treated with anything. You’re pretty safe with cedar. It usually isn’t. But ask someone at the store if you’re unsure. The ¾” thickness that most fencing planks come in is perfect. You can actually use them more than once.

So now you have a plank cut to a length that fits your filet(s). The next step is to soak it in water for about an 30 minutes. You can add apple juice, homebrew, wine or whatever to give some interesting aromas and taste if you like.

Ingredients:

Filets of halibut, lemon, brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic and a little olive oil.

 Steps:

Lightly rub the filets with a little olive oil.

Sprinkle filets with brown sugar, chopped garlic, salt and pepper to taste.

Slice a half lemon and lay slices on top of the filets. Save a little to serve with the filets.

Place the plank on a hot grill and let set covered for about 10 minutes before you put the fish on.

Now place the filets on the plank(s) and cook until it flakes but is still moist, depending on the thickness about 15 or 20 minutes. You just need to watch it and not drink and talk with your friends; unless you’re a woman as they’re capable of doing more than one task at a time.

It is important to close the cover of the BBQ to get the benefits of the cedar smoke.

When you savor this delicate dish with it’s cedar smoked flavor, you will cry and believe that life is splendid.

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Weekly Lessons From the Road: Fresh Chicken Enchiladas

Boy with Chickens

Fresh Chicken Enchiladas!

As I write this, I’m sitting in my favorite coffee shop in the world, Hotshots in Lake Arrowhead, CA. And believe me, I’ve been to my share around the world and all pale to this gem in the mountains of Southern California.

When my dish came I was reminded of another time I ordered chicken. I had been riding a 2nd Class bus for days after crossing the Guatemalan border into Mexico. I knew this was going to be an adventure when I saw the sign on the bus driver’s visor that read, “Jesuscristo Mi Copiloto—Jesus Christ is my Copilot.” Above the inscription hung a collection of crucifixes and crosses and a picture of Christ ascending into the heavens.

As we wound through the first mountains that evening, I noticed the bus driver was turning his headlights off when passing on blind curves. He explained to me that this allowed him to see the lights of oncoming vehicles. He laughed when I suggested that another vehicle could be doing the same thing and pointed to the sign. I retired to the back of the bus with some campesinos and shared my flask.

As the trip progressed, I contracted dysentery requiring the bus driver to make frequent stops. Ultimately, the patience of the driver and the passengers was at an end and I found myself in Vera Cruz recuperating. A kind lady hotelier and a local pharmacist eventually put me right, which is another story.

I knew I was on the mend when I had the overwhelming craving for fresh chicken enchiladas, Vera Cruz style. My hostess told me of a local restaurant in her neighborhood that made the best in the city. She laughed and assured me they would be really fresh.

I decided I was strong enough to walk and could use the evening air. As I made my way through the narrow streets it began to rain, slowing my progress. Finally, I saw the little place down an alley and quickened my pace to get out of the weather.

I was about halfway, when a young man sprinted past me chased by a rotund policeman; huffing and puffing, pistol drawn. I had just enough time to dodge into an alcove as he began firing. After a several shots he bent over trying to catch his breath. The young man disappeared into the mist. The policeman and I went to dinner.

Inside was so steamy that you couldn’t see out the windows. My newfound friend and I were the only customers, so took seats near the kitchen. The policeman validated that the enchiladas were the best in town. The waitress was a short, little firebrand that stood tapping her foot impatiently as she waited for our orders.

I asked her if the chicken was fresh before I ordered. She laughed, as though to a private joke and assured me I wouldn’t find fresher. Right after she entered the kitchen with our orders, a small boy darted through it’s swinging doors, past us, disappearing outside. I quizzically looked at the policeman but he just shrugged assuring me all was normal. Of course, I took that with a grain-of-salt as this was the same man who minutes before had been shooting at someone out front.

Now, in Mexico you wait for your meal. It takes time and nothing happens very quickly. But usually it’s worth it. Dinner is a social event that should be savored. But this dinner was really taking a long time. Just as I was about to call the waitress over, the boy returned with a chicken under each arm and disappeared into the kitchen. Seconds later we heard squawking and the chopping of what sounded like a cleaver followed by silence; except for subdued laughter and the rattling of pots.

After about half-and-hour, we had the freshest and most savory chicken enchiladas I’ve ever tasted to this day. And I made a few lifelong friends that have enriched my world ever since, but, as I said before, that’s another story.

The road to the freshest chicken enchiladas you’ve ever tasted, can be a long and unpredictable one, but, as in life, the rewards can be great.

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Almost Human is almost ready but fishing is getting in the way!

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My agent just sent the galleys for my new novel, Almost Human. I’m in Mexico right now so will have to review them when I get back from fishing and adventuring. Choices are difficult in this fast paced life!… Actually, the novel will have to wait for a little while. At least until I have finished fishing and drinking homebrew and shine with my buddy Steve Parks. 🙂 Choices, choices…. Oh, did I mention my good friend, Casey Whitesell did the original art for the front cover? The art department at the publisher loved it and she’s a local RIM mountain girl. Can hardly wait to thank her.

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Baja Bound!

Bahia de los angeles, campo gecko

In a few days, I’m headed to baja for a couple weeks because someone has to keep an eye on things 🙂 …. I entered the 101st. Airborne, jump school on April 23,1967, Fort Benning, Georgia..After that, was–well, after that. .So I like to be somewhere that I feel I earned….. You know what I’m talking about Johnnie Griffitts and  John H. Bogacki … We made it and are still going on… The only easy day was yesterday and yesterday was a …….

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Weekly Recipe From The One-Arm Cookbook: Chili Mac

Okay, here is a staple for all of us who have been adventuring in Baja over the years. This is a dish you truly can prepare while sipping a beer in one hand. We always carry a couple of pounds of macaroni and a several cans of chili just in case. And we’ve gotten so use to preparing this while setting up camp that everyone complains if we don’t! In fact, our children have been known to ask for it when we’re settled and could cook anything.

You cook this after a long day of traveling overland trying to get unlost. You finally have found the beach you’ve heard about and its getting dark. So, chili mac comes to the rescue. You can cook it in minutes while your sipping a beer and setting up camp.

I apologize in advance to my foodie friends and bloggers I follow. But when in Baja, necessity is the mother of all invention. 

Here’s all you need: a little salt, 4 cans of chili (8oz.) and a 1 pound of macaroni to serve about 5 or 6 hungry adventurers.

Chili Mac ingredients

Chili Mac Ingredients

Steps:

Boil 4 quarts of water (salt to taste) or use sea water.

Heat cans of chili – or if you want to get really gourmet, use homemade you already prepared.

Dump the 1 pound bag of macaroni into to the boiling water. Bring back to boil and stir occasionally. Mac should be ready in about 6 to 8 minutes depending of altitude.

When the mac is soft to your taste, pour the water off. If you’re on a moto you probably didn’t bring a colander so use a lid; or we’ve even been known to use a flip flop when desperate.

When the chili is warm, mix both together and enjoy.

It will replinish you and give you enough energy to finish setting up.

Tomorrow, you can go out and catch a real meal!

Chili Mac

Chili Mac – All you need is a cerveza.

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