A Walk On The Wild Side
October 21, 2000
The wall of the tent pressed hard against his face. He turned on his side and it folded over him like a blanket. He lay there for a few minutes waking up, stretching, then opened his free eye and looked around. It was full daylight. The tent was lying down to about two and a half feet in height at the center, which was pretty much over his wife. Sand sifted through the ventilation surface above her, forming a small drift across her sleeping bag and another on the floor between them. It sifted into her hair and powdered her face.
"What'dya think, my love?"
She stirred, opened her eyes, and sat up abruptly, dusting her face. She smiled her characteristically broad smile.
"It's morning", she observed; "how do you feel?"
"Pretty good," he responded, stretching again under the burden of the tent. "Maybe a sore muscle or two from yesterday."
He was referring to their unpacking the jeep the previous afternoon and the effect of such effort. After all, they weren't spring chickens anymore. It had been the only way to extract the vehicle from the sand pocket he had inadvertently pulled into as they arrived. They'd worked at it for a couple of hours, lowering tire pressure incrementally. At 12 pounds they had stopped, put their hand shovels away, and unpacked the equipment -- two five gallon cans of gasoline, ten gallons of water, a full spare tire, a 120 pound ice chest, and various other of the heavier supplies -- about 1500 pounds in all. Then, after extracting the vehicle under its own power, they had carried it all some 15 yards through deep sand and put it away again before resting weary calves and slugging down a couple of cool beers.
She scratched her head, unzipped the screen door as best she could in its folded condition, and stepped out into an upright world.
"You hungry?" she called over the wind.
"Ravenously!" he responded enthusiastically.
She opened the jeep hatch and pulled out the collapsed stove stand, spread the legs, and planted it in the sand a few feet away. Digging in the jeep again, she retrieved the gas stove. Returning to their kitchen in the making, she picked up the stand, which had blown over, planted it once again firmly in the sand, and placed the stove on top. Then, after fetching the propane bottle, she did it all a third time before he arrived with rope and stakes.
A veteran camper, she deftly ignited the stove with a single match despite the wind, broke a couple of eggs into the frying pan, and made ready to adjust the flame, watching for the first signs of a sizzle. Nothing. With the valve already wide open, she was forced to construct a foil shield to keep the wind from so thoroughly penetrating the heating area. Still the two eggs returned a cold, lidless stare for several minutes more before slowly giving in to the gentle heat. The ordeal, including ham and hash browns, took 90 minutes, but neither of them minded. When she lovingly lay the banquet-quality breakfast before him, he devoured it greedily despite a certain amount of unavoidable grit brought into the recipe by the wind.
During their second cup of coffee they agreed that it made reasonable sense to explore the beach below them for an area relatively clear of blowing sand. Subsequently, a narrow strip was found a couple of hundred feet to the north and just above the tide line, directly opposite a large shallow tide pool which they hoped would remain until it was retaken by the surf some ten hours later. They set about moving their living essentials, largely by hand. Despite the substantial work and time involved, it proved to be worth the bother. They even got the sun shade erected via strategic staking after breaking one old rope, but elected to wait until later in the day to attempt such an operation with the tent, which they left staked to the ground to accumulate the inevitable drifts of sand until evening.
It was mid-afternoon and time to relax. She pulled a cot and sleeping mat from the rear compartment of the jeep, unfolded the cot with one hand by thrusting it into the wind with a twist of the wrist, and pinning it to the sand with her knee, held the mat beneath her and stretched out, feet into the wind.
He righted a chair and sat down next to the bare table, unable to put down the beer he had opened for fear of it leaving the table. He sat for half an hour or so, enjoying the complete solitude and the whistling wind, now and then standing to get a better view of something down the beach, or just to brush the accumulated grit from his clothing. Each time he sat down required the extra effort of picking up and reopening the collapsed chair, which steadfastly refused to stand on its own. But he really didn't mind; the temperature was perfect and the lonely panorama stretched endlessly before them was peaceful in a tumultuous world, and exquisitely satisfying.
Suddenly he noticed a solitary vehicle slowly picking its way down the beach at water's edge. After a few minutes, the pickup came to a stop about five feet in front of him and inches from the tide. The driver smiled broadly.
"Nice place you got here."
It was a couple of gringos out for an afternoon drive. The wide grins on their faces confirmed the Corona Extras they held in their hands. He noticed the driver's right index finger was wrapped tightly with several layers of duct tape.
"It'll do", he responded.
"Good place to get away", the driver observed.
"Where you from?" He took a long swig on his Corona.
"You come down through Yuma?"
"Naw, Puerto Peņasco."
"Puerto Peņasco?" he questioned dubiously; "How'd you get here?"
"Road along the tracks; makes a bee-line for the beach this side of the bay."
"You took that road? You're a real bad dude, huh?"
"Gets rid of the riffraff." He spat an accumulation of grit.
"How far is that?"
"About 70 miles - three to six hours depending on the road."
The driver took another long swig.
"Disappears after a blow."
"You goin' home that way?"
"Like to, but we'll head up through Santa Clara. Faster."
"Well, hope we haven't bothered you too much. We're just out for a drive. Thought we'd check out the far end."
He raised his hand in silence as the pickup crawled away, still following the surf.
His wife sat up, the mat flipping against her side empowered by unseen forces.
"I guess they won't be going far in that direction", she mused.
She stood up, inverted cot and mat on the sand to prevent its blowing away, and retrieved a can of juice from the ice chest. On returning, the reverse operation was more complicated with a juice in one hand, but she somehow managed to accomplish the task without an over-display of effort. Reclined on one elbow, she popped the lid, took a sip, and carefully ejected the grit which had already accumulated on the surface of the wet can.
Meanwhile the vehicle, which had disappeared around the shallow point about half a mile down, now reappeared beneath the low bluff that signaled the end of the arm of land behind Pothole Beach which sticks perilously into the gigantic bay, protecting thousands of acres of ice plant laden inter-tidal flats and shallow waterways. Minutes later, it was back, stopping this time on the upper side of the couple's camp. Shutting off their engine, the pair leisurely disembarked, stretching, latest round of Coronas in hand.
He stood up once again to meet them.
"Went far as we could. Open water beyond that bluff."
The driver pointed to where the couple had watched them covering the final distance beneath the bluff.
"Bahia de Adair."
"Just wanted to comment again on your location. . ."
"Yeah; like I said, it eliminates the gringos."
He studied the duct-taped finger and realized the driver's beer hand, indeed his whole arm, was swollen to where it had the surrealistic appearance of Popeye's. The hand, in fact, looked to be four inches thick through the palm.
"What happened to your arm?"
He held it up for a few seconds, framing his response; but his buddy beat him to it.
"What kind of snake?"
"Sidewinder. Teasing it. Definitely had it coming."
"You seen a doctor?"
"Naw. Late yesterday; didn't wanna spoil my vacation."
"You may be sorry."
"Never knew anyone snake-bit. So far, doesn't seem that bad; hasn't gone past my chest. Hey, you guys need anything -- gas, beer?"
"Naw, got it all - gas, water, beer, food . . . and of course spare parts."
"Especially beer, right? Gotta have plenty of that!"
Tipping his Corona for a final gulp, he swung the empty over his shoulder and into the pickup bed in a single motion.
"You got it."
"Ok, then. We're down from San Diego. Friend's cabin at the fifteen mile settlement out of El Golfo. Look us up."
He swung the pickup door wide and got in, his buddy following suit. They popped a couple of fresh Coronas and started the engine. A hand was again dutifully raised as the vehicle pulled away. The couple watched until it disappeared around the point to the north.
"Looks like they made it across the estuary before the tide cut 'em off", he remarked to his wife, confirming they once again shared Pothole Beach with no one but Srs. Burgos1 y Viento.
Turning again to tasks of living, the couple untied the sunshade and pulled it from the framework, amide much flapping and snapping. He folded it and put it away while she prepared sardine sandwiches, which they devoured as if it was their last supper. Then it was time to put up the tent, if that was going to happen before dark. They set about completing the stake and rope harness that would provide the necessary support beyond that provided by the original fiberglass rods, to keep it upright against the wind. Once it was in place, erecting the tent within the harness was relatively easy; but confirming prior apprehensions, it tore badly in three places. They attempted the customary corrective measures, graduating from safety pins to needle and thread to twine, and finally to duct tape and additional ropes. But, alas, the tent was old and had been doomed from the beginning by its own flimsy modern material. On hands and knees, with shoulders pressed hard against the horizontal walls, they pushed back drifting sand in a final thrust, groping the interior to recover their remaining possessions, and then unceremoniously gave it up to Mother Nature. Within a month or two, there would be nothing left of the man-made wonder but a few rotting fibers in some scattered bird nests along the crest of this lonely coastline, and in a few months more, nothing.
No matter; it was their last day on the beach, and they now busied themselves until bedtime packing for an early morning departure. They would need to be underway at 5:00 AM in order to successfully negotiate the channel that lay between them and the 35 miles of deep sand that separated them from civilization.
At bedtime they placed their cots on the beach under a canopy of developing clouds backlighted by approaching lightning. Well away from their vehicle, where the wind blew straight and free of eddies, they stretched out, feet thrust into the shifting sands, and fell asleep to the distant laugh of a lone coyote. That night in the cocoons of their sleeping bags, the couple slept a deep, satisfying sleep, far removed from the pressures and perils of the city.
October 21, 2000
1Seņior Alberto Burgos, former address unknown, was buried in the dunes off Pothole Beach in May of 2000. In his 95 years of life he was a grand spouse, father, friend & companion, according to the plaque at the base of the white thirty foot steel cross erected in his honor. His spirit now cavorts freely among the dunes and tide pools of the area, an honorable and fitting end for a life devoted to the freedom and solitude of the remote Mexican playa. Ref Excursions: 10/19/2000.
Copyright (c) 2000-2011
Larry K. Fox
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