Shortly before I left the ranch in San Telmo, I made my second trip to Bahia de Los Angeles. My brother Tommy and our brother-in-law, John Wilson, had purchased an old Army Jeep. They stopped at the house in Chula Vista, on their way to the Bay. I decided to go with them, in my pickup. We stopped at the Ranch and picked up our father, Tom, along with some camp gear.
The "improved " road extended only a few miles below San Quintin. From there south, it was still rather rough, but better than it was in 1937. Just south of San Augustine I must have been pushing too hard, and was aware of hitting something very solid with the left front wheel. The truck was still moving in a normal fashion, so I didnít stop to inspect it. When we stopped for the night at Rancho Santa Inez, I took a good look at the front wheel. Obviously, something was very wrong! We took the wheel off, and found that the spindle was broken nearly all the way through. We searched the Abandoned Vehicle Graveyard for something that would fit, but to no avail. Now what do we do? It would have been foolish to think we could nurse the pickup any farther. It was a miracle that it got as far as it did!
The plan that we came up with was to flag down a northbound truck, give the driver a list of what we needed, give him money to buy the parts and something for his trouble, and have him bring them on his return trip. Actually, it may have been the owner of the ranch that made this suggestion. He knew most of the drivers, as they stopped for meals at his ranch. John was a Ford dealer in Fillmore, CA, so he knew pretty well what the cost was going to be. Soon enough, we made our arrangement with a trucker.
Early the next morning we all piled into the Jeep, along with the barest essentials of camping gear, and headed for L.A. Bay. We also took the broken part, in hopes of finding a welder when we got to the Bay. The rest of the trip south was uneventful, other than that we were quite cramped in the Jeep.
The most direct route to the Bay was somewhat different than in 1937. Fifteen or more miles north of Punta Prieta, there was a road that went through what we called the Valley of the Giants. It was home to many extra large Cardon cacti, thus the name. After passing by the abandoned Desengano Mine, this road joined the older road from Punta Prieta.
Things at the Bay had changed considerably from our 1937 trip. At that time the little village was inhabited by people working in the nearby mine, or mines. The only exceptions were the Chinese merchant that ran the little store, and two fishermen that had come up from Loreto. By 1953 the Bay had become somewhat of a tourist destination. Well, not really tourists, but dedicated sports fishermen. Ontaro Diaz and his wife had built and operated several facilities to meet the needs of these visitors. They had a store, restaurant, and some rooms for rent. There were several boats at anchor, one or more of which were available for rent, with boatman.
There was also a geographical change. In 1937 there was no beach whatsoever on the east side of the round, red hill at the south end of the bay. This time there was enough beach to accommodate a road, and, I believe, some small houses.
Our first order of business was to ask about a welder. Mamma Diaz sent us to a small, open-air Ramada, where we found a crude welding shop. The man expressed some doubts, but said he would do the best he could. Tommy and I both had some welding experience, and we had serious doubts! We had noticed that the flux on the welding rods was falling off, due to too much exposure to damp ocean air, I suppose. Anyway, we left him to do his thing, and we made arrangements for a boat for the next day.
I have very little memory of how long we stayed at the Bay, or where we stayed, or what kind of fish we caught. I only remember retrieving our welded spindle, and thinking that it looked O.K. In the late afternoon of our last day we drove down to the south-east corner of the bay to make camp. The north wind was blowing rather hard, kicking up waves a foot or two high. Where those waves were breaking on the beach, there were dozens of large fish jumping out of the water. Someone identified them as Rooster Fish. So, we got out some tackle to try to catch some of them. In order to be able to cast into the area where the fish were we waded out into the water. Suddenly, John started yelling, and hobbling back to shore. A Sting Ray had stung him!
We quickly stuffed everything back in the Jeep, and drove back to the village. Mamma Diaz was able to give John a couple of pain pills, Codiene, I think. He took one that night and the other in the morning. We slept in one of her rooms that night, and took off for home early the next morning.
Arriving at Santa Inez, we found that there was no new spindle waiting for us. So we quickly put the welded one back on the PU and put the wheel and tire back on. So far, so good. When we let the jack down and put some weight on the wheel, the whole assembly fell off! What a revolting development! We had to quickly come up with Plan C. John was still in lots of pain, and needed to be where he could get some help. So he and Tom would drive straight through to Ensenada in the Jeep, leaving me and Tommy to bring the pickup later. Before leaving Ensenada, Tom would make certain that the new parts were on their way south. That meant that Tommy and I would have at the very least two days of waiting. What to do while waiting? We came up with another plan. We arranged for the owner of the ranch to take us on an overnight trip to go hunting for Bighorn Sheep, in the mountains to the east. Of course, it was against the law to shoot Bighorn, but we figured that the odds of a game warden catching us in that wilderness was about a million to one.
The next morning we set off to the east on three saddle mules and a pack mule. As I remember it, the terrain was rather flat, rising gently as we rode east. At some point we turned north, riding over a high ridge, then dropping down into an arroyo. We camped near the remains of the old Mission Santa Maria. Where there was a small stream of water, we found hoof prints, confirming the presence of the Bighorn Sheep. These prints were not very fresh, indicating that the sheep were somewhere else. The next day we rode farther east, where our guide thought we had the best chance to see the sheep. We came to a cone shaped mountain on our right. We tied our mules, and set off on foot to scour this mountain, top to bottom. The guide said that he would make a large loop around the bottom, and suggested that each of us make a loop higher up. It was not easy going, and as the day got warmer, both Tommy and I started going higher on the mountain, making our loops shorter. Eventually, we ended up at the top, having completed no more than half a loop. There we used binoculars to scan the mountain, some of the cliffs dropping precipitously to the shore of the Gulf, and Bahia San Luis Gonzaga. Thank goodness, we saw nary hide nor hair of the Bighorn. We were disappointed at the time, but surely we would feel badly today had we bagged a Bighorn.
When we got back to Santa Ynez, we found our new spindle waiting for us. We put the PU back together, and were ready to travel. When we got back to Ensenada, we learned that John got some medical treatment there, then drove on home, where he got more treatment. He had no lasting effects from his ordeal.
Allís well that ends well
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