Nova Scotia Surf Trip

Our travels through Nova Scotia were lacking the excitement we frequently had while traveling Central and South America. For example: the border crossings were quick and anxiety free, the vegetables were all recognizable, and police corruption as well as food poisoning were not daily concerns. In fact, the only trouble I seemed to get into was when I made a goofy turn into a deli and a local hooligan honked his horn at me. With that being said, I will not bore you with a cliche trip overview .

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On the other hand, We did get to experience some great surf during the first East Coast hurricane swell of the season. In fact, Nova Scotia has an excellent variety of waves up and down their rocky coast. We were very lucky to have witnessed some of Canada’s best waves working so nicely. Like most surf trips, especially trips on the Atlantic Coast, luck is something that will always come in handy.

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Living the Good Life: Driving Mexico’s Pacific Coast

The following story was recently published on The Inertia. You can read it below, or click here to check it out on theinertia.com.

For almost 20 hours, we trudged through the night’s dark sea. We left the brown desert of Southern Baja and arrived in Mazatlán, Mexico, the only gringos aboard a ship filled with drunken truckers who stood beside their rigs.

We felt comfortable aboard the vessel alongside the truckers; they were mostly old timers and family men. Colorful pictures faded from the desert sun–religious figures, naked women, photos of loved ones–plastered the walls inside their rigs. The ship’s diesel burned through the night while the stars made their way across a clear sky, the air cool against our skin. Exposed to outer space that shone from above, knocked out in a tequila-induced slumber, we slept through the night. The song of burning diesel was soothing while we were in our little tent on the roof of our truck.

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After we were dropped off by the ship deep on the Mexico coast, we began heading south in our truck. No specific destination and no timeline; the feeling of total freedom was as distracting as it was overwhelming. There was always a cloud of smoke as we blazed down the camino–fires burned constantly on the sides of the road, filling the air with a cloudy familiar smell. It was the smell of chicken being cooked, fueled by burning wood in an old oil drum cut in half on the side of the road in Mexico. It was the smell of life on the road. It was the smell of being free.

An offshore breeze blew through the tent. It was hard to sleep because the ground was rumbling. Close by, heavy waves crashed the Mexican sandbar until dawn. The chilly morning quickly warmed us up. Like a piece of steak marinating before it gets cooked, we embraced the cool morning before getting roasted. The mid-day heat forces shady naps. It is a dry heat; it hasn’t rained in months.

The military and police presence was strong on the major highways, but in some of the villages and more remote spots we were on our own. On the flip side, there are the other guys. They’re the guys wearing nice street clothes with neatly combed hair. Bullet proof vests, hand guns wedged in their belt, shotguns casually leaned on their shoulders. Several clean cut men just relaxed in their truck or strolled down the beach. While the afternoon scorch melted the sand, they also liked to sip a cerveza in the shade, watching the waves crash on the shore. I walked past their truck after a session, board under my arm, and they spoke to me in Spanish. “How are the waves,” they asked. I told them they were good.”Buenas olas.” They were not cops, nor were they military. They left us alone, and we tried not to stare.

Three months in Mexico and we camped every night. Countless waves satisfied, just like the cheap street food. Young kids wandered through camp selling freshly picked papayas. We were invited to a Christmas Eve dinner at a local place in the village. The party was filled with just as many surfers as locals–perfect strangers breaking bread and sharing the familiarity of a holiday dinner. The clock struck midnight and time suddenly stopped; everyone embraced one an other with open arms. Fisherman, farmers, surfers, children, drunks, degenerates, Europeans, Americans, and travelers all tipped their mugs and wished a “feliz navidad.” A stout older gent, a complete stranger, hugged me and smiled. His face told a story, nostalgic of another year passing by. So far from home, I felt right at home.

The palm trees danced from the afternoon wind as I scoured the ground for fallen coconuts. With some help from my trusty machete, I learned how to drink the water from the shell. Coconut water quenches your thirst, like a swing from a machete just feels good to do. I drank the sweet water and remembered how much coconut water costs back in the States.

Siesta time beachside. As I enjoyed a rest between sessions, a middle-aged Texan, as loud as he was irritating, tried to sell me ecstasy in the desolate grassy camp. I brushed off this madcap and resumed my catnap. My dog did not like him and let out a low growl. He threatened my dog’s life and disappeared into the heat. One day, the jaded Texas tourist will get his. So I simply watched the ocean and waited for the breeze.

The life of a traveler is a simple life. It’s a good life. While moving from place to place, you have few priorities: keep your things safe, spend your money frugally, see how long you can go, and surf as much as you can. Live an interesting life while owning as little as possible. Some may say its the easy life, but it’s not the life for everyone.

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Afro-Mexico

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So we decided to drive to Punta Maldonado, in Guerrero, Mexico. It’s only steps from the Oaxaca border. Punta Maldonado is an old African settlement on the South coast of Mexico, most of the decedents are derived from escaped African slaves. This area holds the record for the highest population of Afro-Mexicans in the entire country. Punta Maldonado was recommended to us by an older Canadian gent named David, who has apparently spent several years traveling around Mexico. Today Punta Maldonado remains an out of the way fishing village on a dead end road. Tourism is non existent, locals only, mostly fisherman and their families. Our caravan consisted of Sara, Lupe and I in our truck, followed by George and Rachel in their VW Vanagon.

We spent our previous days on touristy beaches, we fought for waves amongst surfers from around the globe. Although the swell was small, the crowds were not. The holidays just past, leaving the crowds still intact. All the “cool guy” surfer types still marched the beaches and lingered in the water. The “cool guy” is just an attitude. These types are all very serious, they are everywhere, aggressively fighting for a wave no matter how small the surf may be. They wont make eye contact with you because you are the enemy, the rival wave rider. You say hello to break the tension, but they usually just sneer and grind their teeth at your salutation. We decided to get away from this nonsense.

As we swiftly drove down the dead end highway, the sun was to set at any moment. We did not want to drive at night because the roads in Mexico are complete shit. Just when you think the pavement looks fresh, a piece of the road will be missing. Where does it go? its like the devil comes down with a giant spoon and launches a section of the road into the ocean. Sometimes half of an entire lane will have washed away, leaving a dried up water slide big enough for your truck to be sucked into the bowls of a Mexican canyon. These holes in the road come with no warning, no sign, no traffic cone to prevent sudden death. Sometimes there will be a rock roughly the size of a human head, painted white, only a few feet before the hole to warn its potential victims. Driving conservatively, in daylight is something to take seriously.

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The sun had just set when we arrived in the town. It was a typical Mexican beach strewn with panga boats and palapas. Large palapas, covering loads of plastic furniture displaying fading beer logos on their backrests. The road that ran parallel with the beach was lined up with a few open air restaurants. The village’s tienda blasted merengue music while skinny shirtless men painted in tattoos and fishing scars played cards and gambled. They eyed and sneered us up and down as we slowly rolled by. They were not used to people like us coming into their village.

At this point in our travels we did not mind the eyes and sneers. Eyes and sneers are everywhere we go, in the USA, Mexico, family dinners back home, everywhere.

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We were approached by some restaurant employees, almost forcing us to eat at their place. Quickly without warning they approached our crew, forcefully, they said they would make us all dinner. It was almost impossible to refuse. I wanted to make my own dinner because I’m cheap, but the rest of my party accepted the meal. I ordered what I always ordered, a whole fried fish with a side of plantains. I sucked the bones dry, and just left the spine connecting the head to the tail. When I was finished I looked at the meatless fish in the eye, and sneered.

I parked our truck on the beach while George and Rachel parked alongside the restaurant, Their van could not drive through the thick sand. Personally, I liked to be away from the lights, where I could sit on the tailgate and drink, while I watched the stars and listened to the waves. This came to be a ritual. Just starring into space not thinking about, or doing anything specific. Just drinking in the dark, alone, while Sara and Lupe the dog slept. I would take in the smells and sounds of a place I would never return to again.

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In the morning when we saw George and Rachel, they said their was a fire in this middle of the night at the restaurant, right next to their van. The heat and smoke woke them up. They did not know how the fire started, but it grew quick, it almost burned the whole place down. George put it out with his extinguisher and went back to bed. In the morning George explained to the restaurant owners what had happened, but they did not seem to care or acknowledge the charred debris on the side of their building. Maybe they did not know what he was trying to say. The language barrier was always an issue.

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Mid-morning we were approached by a fisherman, stocky with a thick neck, squinty eyes like I was shining a light in his face, his baseball cap was clean and and had a NY emblem on the front. He was probably the same age as us, mid 30’s. He spoke excellent English but had a very raspy voice. He introduced himself as Roberto, His voice sounded like he was gargling rocks. He asked us “how did you find this place, no one ever comes here.” He was friendly, he claimed he used to live somewhere in the Carolinas, USA. He then said, “My friends warned me not to talk to you. they think you are all very angry and miserable people, they said I should not talk to you.” He claimed that he told his friends to “fuck off,” and he came over out of spite and curiosity. I do not know what gave his friends this impression of us. I was simply drinking coffee on my tailgate, enjoying the sun.

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Roberto talked our ears off. He had stories of living in the USA, making a lot of money as some sort of private driver, a private taxi of sorts. Roberto said, “I was making so much money, over $1200 a week, cash.” not to bad for an illegal immigrant, I thought. He said he became an alcoholic and drug addict, spending all his money on cocaine. “I did so much cocaine, I spent all my money, and the cocaine messed up my throat, thats why my voice sounds like this.” Ahhh, I though, that explains that. Roberto then explained how during a New Years celebration, a week earlier, him and his friends were drunk, shooting guns in the air, celebrating. One of his drunk friends had a gun in his waistband and drunkly fell over, triggering the gun to fire, sending a fatal shot through his friends body. His friend left behind a wife and two young daughters.

Interrupting Roberto’s story, Lupe the dog bolts after a beach cat. Sending sand in the air, the cat heads straight towards an open air kitchen. The kitchen was filled with half a dozen chubby old Mexican women. They cooked with massive crusted pots over large flames. Meat, beans, broth, everything stewing, smoking. The cat jumps on the stove, diving through the flames and the food. Im frantically chasing Lupe, but my speed is no match. Im yelling, chasing my dog, causing a scene, it was a bit of a spectacle. Lupe chases the cat through the kitchen, jumping on the counter, bolting through the fire. The Mexican women are screaming waving there hands in the air. They were scared of my dog. I ran in the kitchen and grab Lupe by the collar, apologized to all the women, not making much eye contact due to the embarrassment. I dragged Lupe back to camp. We decided maybe we should hit the road sooner than later.

We spent less than 24 hours in Punta Maldonado. It was just another stop on the Pan-American highway. Although the town claims to be Afro-Mexican, the people looked more Mexican than African. Roberto looked Mexican, everything looked Mexican. Come to think of it, Im not 100% sure we were in the right place. It doesn’t really matter. It was just another day on the road.

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How to eat a 3 year old pizza…

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The expiration date on the pizza crust was more that 3 years past. I spotted the Boboli in the back of the freezer, tainted with frost and freezer burn, it looked more like the iceman. The placement between a bag of P.F. Changs stir fry and a half eaten sack of tater tots caused the pizza crust to deform. It’s shape was closer to that of a taco shell, than a pizza. The pizza crust was older than my nephew, I was unsure If I should eat it.

Once defrosted, I examined the crust, prodding it, smelling it, studying it closely. It appeared unscathed. I also found some Boboli pizza sauce in the depths of the cabinet, with a similar expiration date as the crust. They must have been purchased during the same shopping trip, over three years ago. They were a team, partners in crime, like a Bonnie and Clyde.

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When we were traveling, I was always surprised I did not get food poisoning, or even a little sick at any point. I would eat street food from most any individual, no matter how deranged the vendor or the food appeared. My stomach seems bullet proof. Now back in the states, I figured, “How bad could the expired Boboli pizza crust and sauce be.” Like Ted Williams, it’s been in a deep freeze for several years.

To top it off, I used Mexican cheese that expired two years prior, which I also found in the freezer. I’ve been eating the expired cheese all week, so that already proved safe.

Another thing I’ve learned, when eating questionable food, its a good idea to chase the food with liquor. The strong alcohol content will kill whatever bacteria lurks within your meal. So during this Boboli challenge I kept a bottle of vodka within arms reach, strictly for safety reasons.

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I sliced up some mushrooms and used them as a topping. I then accidentally overcooked the pizza, but I figured it was for the best. After sprinkling some pre-grated parmesan cheese (not expired) on top of the pie, it was finally ready to eat. I dove right in, bite bite, vodka, bite, sip of beer and so fourth.

The combination of alcohol and expired food left me feeling drunk, full (I ate the whole pie) and a tad uneasy. It was most likely placebo, from overthinking the situation. Next thing I know, its morning, Im fully clothed on the couch with the tv still on, dazed and confused, feeling like Marty McFly upon his final return back to 1985. The experiment proved successful, Im ready for the next challenge.

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Taco 2 unleashed

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Here sits the new Taco parked across 2 handicapped parking spaces. Although this was not my first choice for a 1st generation Toyota 4runner it’s what I happened to find. The overcast clouds are as blue as the paint job, and the money I put into it so far is almost what I paid for it. The frame is straight and the rust is very minimal. The inside needs to be cleaned, I’m just waiting for a warmer day so the Armor All doesn’t freeze. Right now its solid and needs nothing major except a catchy nickname, any suggestions? I can only hope one day it takes us to Mexico.

New tires, water pump, timing belt, timing belt pulley & seals, head gasket, crankshaft seal, oil change and new floor mats from Kmart.

1989 Toyota 4runner

6 cyl automatic

3.0 L

127,000 miles

Holla!

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LIFE ON THE ROAD

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