I finally arrived in San Diego about 6pm or so, and met up with my friend Lynn. I had known Lynn from back home, and she had just moved to San Diego to start work on her PhD. We spent a little time catching up, and then headed out for sushi with her roommate and then the 3 of us went out to a bar called Moondoggies. While at Moondoggies, I started striking up conversations with strangers as I've been known to do. I started talking with a couple who claimed to be cousins, but looked awfully close to be cousins. Perhaps they're from West Virginia. Anywhoo... They were pretty cool folk, and when I told them I was headed to Costa Rica, they said they were headed there too. I asked how they were getting there (because at this point, I was still car-less other than my little Neon rental, and a free car to be picked up soon). They said they were headed there by boat. I immediately asked if I could join, or at least stowaway. They told me they worked aboard a 140 foot mega-yacht, and were in no position to offer anyone a ride. But they gave me the name of the staffing service that they used, and told me I could try getting a similar job through them.
Monday couldnt come soon enough, I was so excited. When it came, I made an appointment to go down and see the staffing lady. She was, unfortunately, almost no help at all. As much as I tried to convey to her that I wanted to learn more about the basics of getting one of these jobs, she kept on drilling in the high-level stuff which was no use to me. I just wanted to find work on a boat going south, regardless of pay. She gave me a newspaper which covered the mega-yacht industry, which was by far more helpful. I left my name and info with her in case anything turned up, but it sounded doubtful. One thing she did mention was that I'd need a passport, and as mine had been in the truck, I'd now need to get a new one. So later that day, I went to the post office and filed for a new one, which will take 5 weeks unless you can prove a need for having it sooner, such as an airline ticket with a leave date which is almost right away. So, I have 5 more weeks in the US before I can think about leaving. To be honest, this didnt bother me that much. I had been so gung-ho about driving solo in to Mexico and beyond, but I'd run in to several people who told me driving solo is about the only unsafe thing you can do down there. To add to it, my Mom was getting more uneasy of the idea, which made me re-think it. Thats part of the reason I started looking in to the boats. Also, I figured I'd see if I could find a co-pilot to go down there with me, and if I couldn't, I'd just take a bus or plane, which to work out what I was going to do, 5 weeks waiting for a passport was no big deal.
After looking around on the docks for leads on jobs (which is how it was done in Alaska, but not so much here), I remembered one of the descriptions of the hostels in the guide book saying it was a place where people looking for yacht jobs stayed, which is always a good way to make contacts. So I decided to check it out. Added to the fact that Lynn was busy with school work and had other visitors in the following weekend, I thought if I was going to stay in San Diego another couple of days, a hostel might be better.
Little did I know that the Banana Bungalow would be one of the crowning jewels of my trip. I walked in and found myself right in the middle of a beach party. I checked in and walked on to the back deck, which overlooked the ocean. Man, oh man. This bit of super-prime real estate was the home of a $20-a-night hostel. As I'm talking to a couple people on the deck, someone comes up and asks me if I want to chip in $5 for a keg tonight. I'm in heaven. Then someone asks me if I'd like to chip in $5 for rainbow trout and marinated chicken with mash potatoes on the side, all-you-can-eat home cooked meal. Does it get any better?
Every night at the Bungalow was like this. Chillin during the day at a beach-side resort, wild parties on the deck at night. All the time, the homeless beach-bums known as 'tweekers' or 'wall creatures' (like the one on the chopper) would entertain us with antics and fights, occasionally asking us for beers, which they knew they werent supposed to do, and sometimes we'd give it to them, which we knew we wernt supposed to do. They were a crazy bunch. I mentioned once that the only thing that really separates those on that side of the Bungalow fence with us was about $20. Even that wasnt so much the case with all the people at the Bungalow. There were about 20 employees, who cleaned bathrooms and did other chores in exchange for free rent. It seemed like half the people staying there were employees. Everyone who goes to the Bungalow seems to stay there longer than they planned - I was no exception. There was one lead on a boat that I did find there, and that was a boat that was headed to Panama leaving in January. I talked to the owner, and he said he'd consider giving me a position, but had to wait on last years crew to see if they planned on returning or not. Eric also said he might be interested in joining me on my trip to Costa Rica if I drive.
It seemed like the party would never end, and I almost felt like staying forever. But I had told Drea I would meet up with her this week and pick up the car. I told her it would either be Wednesday or Thursday, so today being Wedenesday, I decided to check out of the Hostel and head to LA to return the rental car. No sooner had I checked out than Eric asked me ifI wanted to go to Tijuana for the day. "Yeah, hang on a minute, let me check back in."
We rounded up a group of 5, including CJ and a couple girls from Australia, to head to Tijuana for the day to see the city and get some of those famous cheap Coronas and Tequilas. CJ was one of the more chill people I met at the Bunglaow. We hung out just about every day that I was there. He was in San Deigo enjoying the west coast before heading to the Philipenes in November. Getting to Tijuana from San Diego was pretty easy -only took about an hour. Walking over the border was equally as easy. If someone wanted to escape to Mexico, it'd be pretty darned easy. Obviously, the reverse is usually the case. Tijuana was just like I expected. Slightly impovershed, and being right on the border, you can expect to be accosted by every vendor, bar owner and beggar as you walk through town. Being caucasion, you're their best target for some cash. We walked around for a bit and were peddled every trinket imaginable, until we finally decided to head in to resturant for something to eat. No sooner were we in there than a bartender came up behind me, threw a towel around my neck, tilted my head back and started pouring in Tequila. Despite the force-fed Tequila, we didnt get rowdy or wild. We were there more just to check the city out for the day. It was a fun day trip.
The next day, I headed to LA to return the rental car. Drea was kind enough to pick me up there as she had friends she needed to meet up with there. As we drove back to San Clemente, we talked about everything ranging from cars to theories on life. I don't often meet people who really share the same views as I do on most of those topics, but it really was amazing how similar our views were on so many things. As it was getting late, I decided to head out the next day, which would also allow us time to surf in the morning, which is why we intended to keep in touch in the first place. The next day, I got my butt on a surfboard after having not been on one for 17 years. Even back then, it was only a handful of times I was on one in Australia. I can't say I did good, but for as little as I remembered, I did ok. But the thing is, I really did enjoy it a lot. I just loved being out there on the waves, despite the fact I was the only guy out there without a wetsiut.
After surfing, I got my first glimpse at this new machine. It was incredible. I had really expected a clunker, but it turned out to be a fantastic car in really nice shape. After seeing it, I nearly didnt want to accept it. I almost felt that I couldn't take such a car. Furthermore, when she had told me she would be giving it to me, she had said that when I get rid of it, I had to pass it on for free to someone who needed a car, and similarly, they would do the same and so on and so on. While I felt comfortable doing this with a clunker, I now knew that it would be that much harder to find the next someone who would pass it on without getting greedy. Greed is strong force to fight. If I passed on a $300 car to someone for free, I could be reasonably sure they'd do the same, but with a much more valuable car, it might be more tempting for someone down the line to break the cycle. In any case, I was immensely grateful, and vowed to do my best to find an honest individual to pass it on to.
I changed the lower radiator hose, as Drea had changed the upper a few days earlier and said the lower could use replacing, and then I was on my way back to San Diego.
I think I went back to San Diego because I was still uncertain about what I was going to do, and it was a safe place which I knew that I liked. I had planned on driving back across the country in October, but that was flying by, and I wasnt as interested in doing now that it was cold. In many ways, I'm getting aggravated with myself not being able to figure out exactly what the hell I want to do.
Before I left San Diego, I went and titled the car in my mane. I have never seen a state so easy to title a car in. I barely needed an address. I titled a California car in California with a Virginia licence. How easy can you get? Dave told me that when you apply for a licence, it asks for your address, but also says that if you're homeless, to put the nearest cross streets. Only in California.
I had planned on visiting a freind of mine in Aspen, so I decided to head there for a little while to take some time to think about things. I hung out a few more days in San Diego, but new rules against throwing big parties during the week made it that much easier to decide to move on when I did. One of my most favorite bands, 311, was playing a free concert at the University of San Diego so we rounded up about a dozen of us to go. I had listened to 311's live CD a couple years back the summer I bought my favorite car, and it brought back some awesome memories!! Later that night, several of us went out to try to find a hippie drum circle down on a beach which was supposed to take place every full moon. Well, I guess we got our calendars wrong, as it wasnt the night we went down there, and ended up walking about 3-4 miles trying to find it.
I decided to make a stop in Vegas to break up the trip to Aspen, which otherwise would have been 16 hours. I had wanted to see my friend Brian when I was in Vegas last time, but ended up not bringing my phone charger and couldnt get in touch with him. This time I got to hang out for a couple of days and catch up. We went out to the local hotspots, rather than the famous or trendy ones, which was nice to see that side of Vegas. One night we went out, there was police tape outside of Brains apartment complex preventing us from turning left. When we came back, the tape was still there, making us go all the way around the block. When we asked why it was there, the officer told us 'there was a fatal, and the officers are still taking pictures.' As we drove around, I saw the stretcher with the body in the body bag on it. That actually impacted me pretty hard. I had never seen a murder scene before, or someone in a body bag. It was very weird to look at that bag knowing just hours earlier, that person was just living life as he or she probably always did. People always say, "you could go at any moment", usually followed by some reference about being hit by a bus or a falling piano. But when you actually see those words in action, it really makes you think about them. It re-affirmed two things for me. One, I'm glad Im making this trip, and living my dream, and second, death can happen you anywhere. My feelings of thinking that Mexico and Central America not being safe are in my head, but it could just as easily be Vegas.
I had a great day driving through the canyons of Utah, with the one exception of hitting a 121-mile stretch of road with no gas stations, no telephones, no cities, and no cell phone towers. Nothing. And I hit it with just about half a tank of gas. My warning light went on with 38 miles to go, and to the best of my calculations, I made it in to the station on fumes. Gas woes aside, I made it to Aspen about 10pm. I was pissed off as I got jipped out of my extra hour of daylight savings, as I had crossed a time zone on the same day that the clocks went back.
I made it to the house my friend is house-sitting for. Basically, the family that owns this house likes to have someone there year-round to take care of all the upkeep, so they don't have to worry about things being out of service when they arrive. I cant say much about the house or my even my friends name for privacy reasons, but suffice to say this is probably the most magnificent house I have ever been inside in my life. The owners are kind enough to let my friend have visitors as myself over from time to time.
Aspen itself is a really cool little town. Its very quaint, but a bit posh and expensive. All the same, it has a great vibe, and lots of really incredible nightlife. The first 20 people I met or so told me how they had come for a weekend and ended up staying for years now. I wondered in the back of my head if that could happen to me as well.