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~ Chapter Seventeen ~
I started tinkering with the prop at daybreak, but soon realized that the fittings to hold the prop onto the shaft did not fit. Major adjustments were necessary, and I did not have the knowledge or tools to get it all to work. As the margaritas and beer from the night before wore off, I realized that sometime the previous evening Captain Mike had introduced me to the bartender at the Serenidad, Alejandro. Mike had mentioned that, in addition to being the best darn bartender this side of Guaymas, Alejandro was also a very good outboard motor mechanic. It seemed logical that I should try to contact him about my prop problem.
I headed over to the front desk of the Serenidad Hotel and asked the gentleman at the front desk if he happened to have Alejandro's home phone number. He seemed willing to give me the number, but wanted to run it past the boss just to be sure. He called Diana, Don's daughter, who said it would be no problem giving me the number. Calling him early on Sunday morning seemed to be a risky move, but if I asked with extreme care he might understand my situation. Indeed he was home, and said he'd be happy to drop by the hotel to meet me in a little bit. I had traveled to Mexico enough to know that 'in a little bit' could mean almost anything, and within 2 hours he showed up and shook my hand. We walked the 100 yards from the hotel to the river's edge and he got to work on the Yamaha 40 outboard in a jiffy. Soon he figured out how to make it all work, and said he'd meet me back at the Serinidad bar at 4:00 p.m. when he started work that afternoon, with the finished project.
My mood had quickly turned from apprehensive to optimistic, and even though I had not planned on spending a whole day in Mulege, I thought it would be a good time to become reacquainted with one of the most unique towns in all of Baja. But first it was time to fill up the boat with gas.
Looking at my fuel needs for my next leg of my trip to Punta Sanfrancisquito, I knew I had to fill up all of my tanks. I poured the remaining gas from my auxiliary 5 gallon cans into the main tank, and then proceeded to make my first of 2 runs to the Pemex station. Diana Johnson had suggested I head for the newer station south of town which was actually a closer walk from the Serenidad Hotel than the one in town. Although the walk to the station with empty cans was a snap, I dreaded the walk back when they were full. I didn't need to worry. A Gringo in a white open-topped Volkswagen Thing saw my plight, pulled over and offered me a ride. He took me and my loaded cans all the way to the Vaka Viti. I had even better luck with the next gas run. As I was just beginning my walk to the gas station a local Mexican pulled up and offered me a ride. The car was barely running and many parts were missing inside and out. It looked like it had been hit by a meteor. But somehow he kept it running, and took me to and from the gas station in record time. I put 10 liters of gas in his car at the gas station to thank him, and he was very happy to accept. Full of gas and ready for a morning departure it was time to explore the town.
I walked 2 miles along the shady dirt road on the south side of the calm river, all the way to the quaint town square. I sat on a park bench and watched 3 kids playing on a very noisy swing set. My attention was soon drawn to a young couple attempting to use a Mexican telephone. It's not really a difficult thing to do, but some basic knowledge of the system is necessary. As the drama continued I felt an obligation to help them out.
Walking over to introduce myself I volunteered to help them make their call. Jerimy and Laura were appreciative and soon they had completed the call to the young woman's parents to let them know she was okay. After the call they came by to thank me and talk. They were from Crested Butte, Colorado, and had come to Mulege on a last minute whim. I was only mildly surprised when they informed me that they were staying in their car, as I had slept in my car several times in the past when visiting Baja. And besides, who was I to talk? I was sleeping on the exposed deck of a small boat.
What really got my attention was when they informed me that they also lived in their car back home in Crested Butte, Colorado. Housing had gotten expensive in Crested Butte, they said, and living in the car allowed them the opportunity to get by with very little need for money. There were times when it got pretty cold, and that's when they planned their road trips. They occasionally worked when they needed money for food and gas, but the jobs were always short, lasting just long enough to put away enough money to get them by for a few more weeks. Soon they thanked me again and left, and I sat there thinking about all of the different choices we human beings make as we trudge our way through our time on this spinning planet. It's a crazy world, and there are plenty of ways to fill in the time between life and death.
Soon I ran into a local gentleman who I had seen once before in Mulege. He could often be seen walking slowly through town, using his rugged walking stick to help him along. This guy's pace made a sloth look fast, but it was obvious from his stooped posture that he was very old. In the past I had never asked him how old he actually was. This trip I had the time and the nerve to approach him, and to say "hola". He spoke no English, but he seemed to understand when I asked him how old he was. "Cien anos y poquito mas" he replied, indicating that he was a tad past 100 years old. Over a century old and still cruising the main drag looking for chicks. You gotta admire a guy like that.
It was time to head back to the Serenidad to meet Alejandro for a progress report. While I was waiting for him at the hotel I ran into a couple I had met in Bahia Concepcion a few days earlier. Jeff and Jenny were from Hermosa Beach, California, about 10 minutes from my home in Torrance. They were on Margarita Patrol poolside and I decided to give them a little professional help. The discussion centered around the large turtle they lost a few days ago in Bahia Concepcion, and they couldn't figure out how it got out of their car. It was indeed hard to picture a 14 inch turtle crawling out of the window of a Toyota Camery, but there was no other solution. As the sun slipped behind the mountains we gradually wrapped up the party, and soon Alejandro checked in for work.
He rolled into the hotel bar area and we walked over to put on the prop. It fit like a glove and I was totally stoked. Now I was really all set for a morning departure! In typical Mexican fashion Alejandro refused to quote me a price for his efforts. I told him I would catch up with him at the bar later on and figure it out.
I had a wonderful dinner at the hotel restaurant, and eventually wandered over to the bar to square up with my favorite mechanic. And I had a plan that would save my limited cash flow situation and still treat Alejandro right. I had brought several cameras along on this trip, including a nice Pentax with a zoom lens. I asked Alejandro if he would prefer cash or the camera, and he fell in love with the camera immediately. Seems the payment made us both happy, and soon I was walking down the runway headed for the river and a good night's sleep in the Vaka Viti.