Help a Researcher Out: Identify These Musicians

My grandmother, Irene, was beyond surprised when she realized she had a granddaughter who was interested in her family’s history. Her parents had a museum that began in their home and later required construction of a larger building to house the exhibits. Most of the collection was sold to another local museum before I was able to get in on the action but she did retain several items of interest.

Some of my earliest memories involved playing with literal museum pieces from the pioneer days on the prairie. I learned how to do a lot of basic activities of daily life using those pieces. Irene had a set of irons in various sizes for pressing different sizes of fabric. So the one you would use to iron bedding would be different from the one for a child’s dress. I remember her showing me how to heat the iron over the fireplace. She gave me some linen handkerchiefs to practice with and despite being as careful as a grade schooler could be, I burned my hand. That led to a First Aid lesson on current burn remedies as well as the methods used by pioneers and how she saw things evolve throughout her life.

Irene was a practical person and she made notes when I expressed interest in a particular photo or piece of china. She made sure I took those items with me when I left for college and I’ve been dragging them around for nearly 30 years. One of those cherished items was a photo of Irene at four years of age with her sister, her grandmother, and her uncle’s girlfriend. I only knew the girlfriend’s first and last names and that she was from California. Her name was relatively common and I didn’t think I stood a snowball’s chance in Hell of ever learning anything more about her.

I began a newspaper search for the girlfriend and was overwhelmed by the number of results found. Then I saw one that listed the correct name with the middle initial V and thought if only I could be so lucky. So I looked into this person with the middle name Veronica and I’ll be damned if it wasn’t her.

Veronica’s father was a retired railroad official who took a job in Long Beach as Vice President for a startup brokerage. He was also an original trustee for the brand-new and totally badass all co-op Sovereign Apartments, where he owned a large flat. The family came from Kansas and lived in Kansas City for a while before moving to California. One of Veronica’s sisters married a well-known Kansas City musician and composer and I recently learned the sister was a musician herself. Now I know how Veronica met my grandmother’s uncle.

The late teens and early 1920s were huge for people in the Kansas City entertainment scene moving to the Los Angeles area. Dr. E M. Hiner was a dentist and celebrated bandleader who had a successful music school and was tight with John Philip Sousa. Dr. Hiner moved to LA in 1919 and ultimately founded the music department at what is now UCLA. His former home on Figueroa Street is included in a tour of historic properties and there is a bandshell dedicated to Hiner and Sousa in a park across the street.

Irene’s uncle moved to LA at the same time as Veronica and her family in 1920. Veronica’s brother-in-law had his own orchestra which was featured in “La Fiesta” at the Million Dollar Theatre. By 1932, he was playing in the RKO Hillstreet Theater Orchestra. As the Great Depression progressed, he found steady work as a WPA musician. His nephew was a Hollywood radio performer who later became an insurance adjuster and convicted jewel thief. I know Irene’s uncle played professionally in the LA area but that’s about all I know. Many of the American Federation of Musicians Local No. 47’s records were destroyed by fire around 1970 so I may never learn more about his career.

For now, I have this band photo taken by Hollywood photographer Albert Witzel.

Although I can make a couple guesses, the only person I can identify with certainty is the gentleman in the back row, third from left. Help me ID any of the others and I’ll buy you a beer…or twelve.

I’ll up the ante if you correctly identify this car.

I don’t think I ask for much but this is turning into the brickiest of brick walls. It really shouldn’t be such a problem. After all, it’s only been 100 years.

Help me out, people. I’ve reached out to nearly everyone I can think of and haven’t received many replies. I’m starting to run out of ideas.

Spouse Resides At: Unknown, But I Have Heard He Died

This was supposed to be a very straightforward project: A book about a ragtime-era trombonist who played with the best musicians of his time. An artist who lived in his famous father’s shadow and whose story has been forgotten. You know how things snowball when you have an old house and think you’re *just* going to change the showerhead? Here I am underneath the house, replacing the entire foundation.

My musician was engaged to a famous florist. The wedding was set and his mother had prepared a room for them at the family home. His mother and brother devised a scheme to pull him away from the fast lifestyle of a professional musician, which worried them both. The brothers would build a theater (dedicated to their father) and the musician would manage it. Instead, the musician learned the florist was cheating on him and called the whole thing off. He secured a letter of introduction from a local orchestra director and left for Los Angeles to play music, leaving his older brother responsible for the theater.

The florist raced to the train station in her night clothes, arriving just as his train was preparing to leave. She pleaded her case but his decision had been made. He left for California and continued his career until about 1940. His only involvement with the family theater was playing in the orchestra from time to time.

So about this florist…

I was hoping to document when and where they met as well as whether or not the other man was merely a fling or something more permanent. She was interviewed many times over the course of nearly five decades in the floral industry and appeared regularly in O. O. McIntyre’s columns. Details about her childhood and early career were published by numerous outlets and for the most part, I can’t verify any of them. What I can verify is a whole bunch of scandalous drama that sure didn’t make it into her New York Times obituary.

Her mother was charged in district court with conducting a house of prostitution. Three years later, the mother’s rooming house was raided by police who suspected she was selling liquor. That’s apparently not all she was selling. Statutory charges were brought against two men aged 50 and 27 in relation to the florist’s 14-year-old sister, who told police the 50-year-old married man had been making monthly visits to her for the past fourteen months. She said he “gave her money and bought her clothing.” The mother told police she thought the man had “a fatherly interest” in the girl. The mother also said her 14-year-old daughter was engaged to the 27-year-old divorced man, who lived in their home. Despite the girl telling police she had met this man only two months prior to his arrest, the judge was told the two “had been engaged for some time.” The same day, the mother signed off on a marriage license between her 14-year-old daughter and this 27-year-old clothing salesman, effectively ending the statutory case.

I looked into the 50-year-old with “fatherly interest” in teenage girls and hoo boy, what a story! He came from a *very* wealthy family and preferred the company of much younger females until the day he died. When he was in his seventies, he shot the husband of a 21-year-old woman he tried to coerce into stripping and dancing for him. This occurred at his home while his wife was in the hospital. He paid the man $8,000 to cover hospital bills but the criminal case was dropped after almost a year of delays. After his wife died, he married a 20-year-old waitress. He was 76 and the young woman divorced him less than five months later, claiming he started drinking at three o’clock in the morning and bragged about affairs with other women.

The florist lied about her marital status on a passport application and was caught by State Department employees who gave her “fatherly advice regarding making an admission of swearing falsely.” In those days, there was a space for female applicants to list the name, address, place of birth, and immigration status of either their father or husband because obviously women needed men to take responsibility for them. So she had declared she was single but was found to be a divorcee. On her corrected application, she listed her spouse’s stage name and wrote “unknown, but I have heard he died” on the address line. Notarized affidavits from people testifying to her identity and her husband’s US citizenship followed. She explained that “she has never seen a divorce decree for the fact that in some Southern State her husband divorced her, but that she never received an official notice from the court.” He remarried and she apparently then heard from friends that he died. Spoiler Alert: He didn’t die until 1954.

I haven’t been able to get my hands on divorce decrees from Husbands One and Two but she was subsequently twice widowed so she must have figured it out somehow. Speaking of figuring things out, the florist’s younger sister couldn’t decide on a husband or which name to use. I thought I would track down relatives to see if anyone has documents, photos, or correspondence tying the florist to the musician. Neither woman had children and both had four husbands. It was a tradition in their family to give children two middle names. The sister used a few variations of her first name on official documents and on her fourth marriage license, skipped her first name altogether in favor of her two middle names along with her maiden name. The state death index, however, shows her given name. Why so shady?

The florist stated in interviews the name of her hometown along with the year she graduated high school and a story about her mother buying her a car to distract her from her obsession with going to Los Angeles to become an actress. I can’t find one record substantiating any of it. She said she used money she unexpectedly inherited from an uncle in England to start her floral business. I’m not finding that either but I do have information about her articles of incorporation and all changes made to the corporate entity until it was dissolved after her death.

The mother’s probate documents and those from her much older second husband are wild. I can’t imagine what his seven children were thinking when they learned he officially made her an heiress and declared his intent to marry her only two months after their own mother died. 

For all the primary source documents I have been able to locate, there are still gaping holes in these women’s histories. I’ve spent hundreds of hours searching, reading, calling, and emailing but I am no closer to discovering a single shred of evidence proving the florist and the musician ever met. It makes me wonder if they ever did meet. Maybe he told his family a story to get them off his back and then it ran its course. Maybe it did happen and he destroyed all evidence in a fit of drunken rage. I really have no idea. What I do know is by the time I’m finally ready to write this thing, I will have enough material to fill five books.

Can We All Agree That Working in an Office Really Sucks?

In the halcyon days of pre-pandemic employment, I was thought a lunatic for requesting to work from home. It was as if the current working arrangement for millions of Americans weren’t a modern invention. There’s this assumption that if you’re at home, you’re lounging around in front of the TV. Excuse me but I’m from Kansas, where working from home often means 12 to 16-hour days.

You want to know what kills my productivity? People. Commuting. Also, people.

There’s this nonfiction book I’ve been trying to write since the early 1990s. The information I needed should have been right in front of me but it wasn’t. It turns out the problem with researching someone who should have been well-known but wasn’t is that people have no idea they even existed. Go figure.

In the early aughts, I used the limited information I had to search every single person, place, and thing I could think of on the internet. Digitization of historical documents was in its infancy, however, so I mostly wound up frustrated and discouraged. The only solution at that time involved a lot of travel, which meant a lot of time away from work during a time when that wasn’t an option. Hiring professional researchers also wasn’t an option so the project ended up in a filing cabinet that was ultimately moved into storage.

I thought for several years I was just like everyone else who is “writing a book.” Even if I could get motivated to finish the damn thing, it isn’t a very interesting story. I’m not a writer. No one cares about this subject. Leave it alone.

Then 2019 happened: I sold my beige stucco box in a suburban HOA. I left a job that was an exercise in futility. I packed up my dogs and headed to Mexico. Burnout is real.

It took a while to decompress and rediscover the art of working for myself. By mid-2020, the world was locked down right as I was ready to pick up my research. As soon as I got back to Tucson this February, I was all about getting those records out of storage and I’ve been obsessed ever since.

Going back to work in a traditional employer/employee scenario seemed like the logical next step but I just couldn’t do it. After researching electoral college talking points for a live hit on my porch overlooking the ocean, you cannot make me sit in a cubicle and tell me I’m not allowed to keep my cell phone on my desk. Tell that shit to a 20-year-old.

Instead, I started a C-Corp and decided to live that freelance life. I could do Human Resources consulting but a little part of my soul just died while typing this sentence. COVID-era HR work literally makes me want to stab myself in the eye with a ballpoint pen. After a few months of working on-site for a client, I’ve pretty much settled on remote-only 4eva.

The past couple years have proven it’s the work environment that kills my creativity and motivation. After 9 hours in the office plus, I dunno, another 45 minutes of commuting time, I’m done with the thinking. The last thing I want to do is break out my laptop and do more work, especially if it involves any kind of focused problem solving. On the flip side, I was up until after 3 am the other night because I had found some really interesting information and couldn’t put it down. The dog got me up at 5:15 for walkies and I was back at it as soon as we got home.

Why work at some meaningless, soul-crushing job reporting to incompetent, narcissistic asshats when you can spend your time getting paid to do something that doesn’t suck? Find a way to monetize the things you enjoy. Check out various freelance platforms; not all of them take a big chunk of your pay. You can create a gig for just about anything and don’t have to leave your house, unless you’re into that sort of thing.

Speaking of which, I’m available for the next few weeks if anyone needs a researcher or copy editor. I only charge for my time when accessing subscription databases I already use. Any documents I have to order are billed at my cost. A 24-hour turnaround is usually possible if it’s a simple request. If you want me to compile your entire family tree, that’s another story. I can also provide suggestions if you’ve hit a brick wall with your own research.

Click here to send me a message. I can either reply with a link to a Fiverr gig or we can work something out directly. My rates are super reasonable…unless you expect me to leave the house. That obviously costs extra.

Will I go to Hell if I Leave a Steaming Pile of Shit on My Neighbor’s Doorstep?

I don’t “like people.” I’m not a “people person.” It has been said that I am April Ludgate in the flesh. If you didn’t watch Parks and Recreation, then perhaps you remember the part Ally Sheedy played in The Breakfast Club. It’s also been about 25 years since I’ve lived in an apartment so I forgot about the dynamics. And because of dogs and aging backs, I thought a first-floor situation made sense.

So we have this neighbor directly above us. He appears to have an outdoor job and it’s summer in Tucson so he gets up at around 4:10 to 4:15 am every morning. It literally sounds like he’s up there doing CrossFit. The floor joists squeak like he’s about to land in my lap. He’s always dropping things on the floor and slamming drawers. It’s obnoxious as hell. He finally leaves at around 5:15. One morning, my thought process included two options: I was either poking a hole in the ceiling while making my point or taking my boy for an early-morning jaunt.

Since realizing I don’t have to be chained to a cubicle in order to work, my schedule has become super manageable. I work onsite for a client for a few hours in the middle of the day. This gives me the flexibility to work with the bf on our own projects and not be dominated by the clock. I can make this ass-crack-of-dawn thing work. Trying to be positive here!

I was immediately struck by how different the neighborhood felt in the early morning hours. The air smelled different to Sherman and he showed extreme interest in objects he typically ignores. That particular morning, a convenience store about a mile down the road was taped off with officers gathering evidence in the parking lot. The red and blue lights looked so pretty in the barely pre-dawn light…not at all jarring as in full darkness. Another mile or so into our route, a fire truck and ambulance with lights on hit the sirens as soon as they exited the neighborhood.

CrossFit Neighbor’s wakeup time is just a few minutes early for my comfort zone. Like, I can see but not well enough to guide Sherman around broken glass with confidence but the temperature is glorious. June is the worst month of the year in Tucson. So even when we had a week of 117-degree highs, we could do three miles and not die. Some mornings, we were lucky enough to pass by the park and golf course just after the sprinklers ran and the wind was just right so we got that extra cool breeze.

That first morning especially, I wished I had my phone to capture the images but in this neighborhood, I don’t carry anything of value. There are increasing numbers of homeless sleeping along our route and in the park we pass by. The storm drains and washes are extremely unsafe during monsoon season so folks move to higher ground until things dry out again. One morning, we passed by a man asleep on the sidewalk. Having just been rudely awakened by CrossFit Neighbor, I tried to get by him as quietly as possible. As we came back around on our way home, he said “good morning” to Sherman. I’ll take that guy over people who make a wide arc around dogs every day of the week and twice on Tuesday.

I’ve been noticing an awful lot of real life lately. There was a woman sitting on the side of a road heading toward the Tucson Mountains with her back against a guard rail the Monday after we lost Lulu. No shoes, knees up, head in hands. For a moment, I considered stopping but my frame of mind was likely just as bad considering what had transpired the day before.

The very next morning, closer to the mountains, I glanced at a pickup parked on the shoulder with the hood up and the driver making a call. When I drove by again that afternoon, the truck was still there with its hood up but the driver was gone. The following morning, I was passed by a Pima County Sheriff Department truck with a dog kennel on the back… lights on and hauling ass. The deputy stopped behind that parked pickup with the hood up, joining another PCSD vehicle. The addition of the K9 unit made me worry the driver never reached his destination.

Similar things have undoubtedly been going on around me all along and I’ve just been blissfully oblivious. I wonder why I’m noticing them now. Has the volume increased exponentially or has my perspective changed?

That first morning, Sherman and I returned home before the sun had fully risen. CrossFit Neighbor had already left for work. Flipping the script, I was able to lie down and go back to sleep.

Thanks for the wake-up call, asshole. Hope you enjoyed your day.

Lulu Belle Plott, Dies at 12

Lulu Belle Plott, beloved hound about town, died in her mother’s arms at a hospital in Tucson, Arizona on May 16, 2021. According to the emergency veterinarian, the cause was unknown. She was 12.

“Honey Lulu” was skilled at telling time, a lover of rolling in snow, lap warmer, runner, explorer, hard booper, sushi eater, reluctant parade walker, serial bone thief, mesquite pod addict, rabbit hunter, rope puller, face licker, and all around drama queen.

Although socially awkward, she had a lot to say. Ms. Plott had strong pupinions about plain Greek yogurt, sky booms, and memory foam pillows.

She lived by a simple motto: “Life is best slept between two pillows or two humans.”

Lulu Plott was born in Texas in 2009. She moved to Kansas with her family soon after and was abandoned as a young pup. She suffered homelessness and food insecurity prior to being adopted by a concerned neighbor.

Despite her troubled beginnings, Ms. Plott was a well-traveled hound.

She moved to Arizona in 2012 and quickly adapted to desert life. After living in Todos Santos, Baja California Sur, Mexico for more than a year, Ms. Plott recently returned to the famous retirement community of Tucson, Arizona. She also made trips to California, Nevada, Utah, and Idaho.

Lulu graduated from Obedience School at the Dodge City Kennel Club in Dodge City, Kansas in 2010. She was a member of the Gourmet Feces of the Week Club, Hole Digger Society of America, and Arizona Gecko Hunters Club, and was a loyal fan of Paw and Order. 

After retiring from her career as a hall monitor, she volunteered as a running partner, food taste tester, and emotional support dog.

Ms. Plott is survived by her pawrents, Ann and Andrew as well as her brother, Sherman, of the home; grandpawrents in Dodge City, Kansas; cousins in Arizona, Kansas, and Nebraska. She was preceded in death by brothers Rommel and Patton; cousins Lola Sophia Maria Theresa, Leonard Suzanne, Louie, Enzo Romeo, and Esther May.

There will be no public visitation, as cremation has taken place. The family suggests donations to support veterinarians in crisis.

Returning to the US: Back in the Dirty T

I arrived in Rexburg, Idaho at the end of January without a winter coat. That’s how my year was going. Then I learned there wasn’t really a place for the dogs: No securely fenced area for them to go off-leash and they weren’t even supposed to be in the house. It was beyond cold outside and them sleeping in an outbuilding alone in a strange place just wasn’t going to happen so we were able to negotiate main floor privileges. The bedrooms were all upstairs so we ended up on a sofa sleeper. Sherman was pupset and refused to poop.

Sherman also failed to understand why he wasn’t allowed to chase deer through pastures.

We were there just over three (very long) weeks and pretty much every day was exactly like that: The housing picture, the jobs picture, the weather picture…all bleak. I had forgotten about rural Idaho’s paved country roads being really shitty for walking dogs.

Lulu also didn’t enjoy the lack of freedom but at least she could scratch her back.

Literally every single thing I needed to do was a fucking struggle: Laundry, dishes, bathing, heat, you name it.  If you know me, you can imagine my mood. Due to reasons I still don’t fully understand, we ended up in a goddamned RV in the middle of winter with two big dogs and basically frozen everything.

The dogs were afraid of the sounds associated with de-winterization. They took refuge on my lap.

Ice Station Zebra was clearly not a viable solution for any of us. It was important that we experience it firsthand to know that area, while beautiful, isn’t the right spot. We both wanted to be in the warm sunshine so we made plans to head back to Arizona. Finding suitable housing close to human and canine recreation spots was super simple. The extreme difference in level of difficulty just reinforced my opinion that this was the right move. I couldn’t get loaded up fast enough.

The morning we (finally) left Idaho, I was dragged to the ground *hard* by my dogs bolting out of the RV to fight an obese chocolate lab. Because rural people still do not believe in confining their dogs. Thanks a lot, dicks. It wouldn’t be a road trip without a mechanical delay so we spent an extra night in Green River, Utah waiting for a new serpentine belt and roller for the truck. Under normal circumstances, I would have wanted to stop near Moab for some hiking but I was seriously so done with all of this shit that we just powered through the rest of the drive.

We arrived in Tucson late on February 24, making it a 40-day trip covering more than 3,000 miles. Both dogs immediately pooped in the bark park and suddenly all was right with the world once again.

Click the links below to see how we got to this point.

Returning to the US: Who Doesn’t Love a 1,000 Mile Detour?

Returning to the US: Motocross Heaven and the Tow of Shame

Returning to the US: He Literally Thought I Was Dead

Returning to the US: Sherman, I Just Really Need You to Poop

Returning to the US: Leaving Todos Santos

Returning to the US: First the Why

Returning to the US: Who Doesn’t Love a 1,000 Mile Detour?

If you think this series is tedious, you should have been on the road with us! Let’s fast-forward a bit:

Aaron somehow forgot to order the tire and then delivery was delayed twice due to a winter storm so we were stuck in the RV with the dogs for a total of 9 ½ days. That was awesome. We left Ocotillo Wells on January 28 and I had another blowout (driver’s rear) just east of Twentynine Palms. A normal person would wonder what the hell kind of shape they were in for this to keep happening. The tread was still good on the remaining three. AARON CHECKED THEM. So back on the donut I went.

We just happened to need fuel when we made our way to Amboy, California. This place has an amazing history and an ongoing lack of potable water. As such, the café is only a gift shop and there are no working restrooms. This is exactly the kind of place I could spend an entire day exploring so it really sucked that we were so pressed for time. Here are a few pics I was able to grab while we tried to get the dogs to potty.

Kelso is another town I would have loved to photograph but we just couldn’t stop.

Kelso Depot courtesy Andrew Stack

We spent the night at a hotel adjacent to a casino in Mesquite, Nevada and hoo-boy, was that an experience. We’ve all seen some sad walks of shame but these were like rock bottom. I had all three tires replaced the next morning and the bf asked the tire guy his thoughts about whether the Mighty Dodge would make it all the way to Idaho with its four bald, mismatched tires. I think he gave it 50-50 odds.

We then attempted to power through Utah but were stopped by heavy, wet snow in Nephi. The truck was hydroplaning on basically anything wet for obvious reasons so we thought it best to take no chances. The place we stayed looked normal on the outside but our first assigned room had water dripping through the ceiling. I guess the pet annex doesn’t get the same level of maintenance.

So we FINALLY made it to our destination in Southeast Idaho on Saturday, January 30…more than two weeks after leaving Todos Santos. We had driven more than 2,000 miles and I rolled about 520 of them on that stupid donut. The dogs and I were so happy to get out of the Jeep and finally get settled again…but were we???

Click the links below to see how we got to this point.

Returning to the US: Motocross Heaven and the Tow of Shame

Returning to the US: He Literally Thought I Was Dead

Returning to the US: Sherman, I Just Really Need You to Poop

Returning to the US: Leaving Todos Santos

Returning to the US: First the Why

Returning to the US: Motocross Heaven and the Tow of Shame

We finally crossed the border at Mexicali East on Monday, January 18, 2021 at about 11:15 am. The dogs and I were waved right through without even being asked for their health certificates. The Joad Family truck was obviously referred for secondary inspection so I drove to a gas station adjacent to the crossing and waited. The bf was allowed to drive through the X-ray machine, which saved a ton of time. He fully expected to unload the entire truck.

We brought a laptop up from Mexico for some friends so we stopped in El Centro to ship the package and grab lunch. I wasn’t prepared for such a culture shock. It didn’t seem like I had been gone that long or maybe it was just being in California but I definitely felt out of place.

The same friends have an RV in the desert near Ocotillo Wells so we headed there to take a breather and hang out while my tire was replaced. By this point, I had driven approximately 350 miles on my spare. Totally fine, y’all. Our friends have a terrific fenced area for their very large dogs allowing Sherman to finally, literally, take a load off.

The RV park has a motocross track and it’s surrounded by trails. Lulu was predictably unimpressed by the off-road engines, but she was especially annoyed by a woman riding an old Honda two-stroke three-wheeler. The bf, who used to race motocross, thinks two-strokes sound like music but I only hear chainsaws on wheels. The track was deserted during the week so we used it to walk the dogs.

The next day, we drove both vehicles to Borrego Springs to fuel up and then dropped off my tire. We went to a coffee shop for lunch and Wi-Fi since there was no connection at the RV.

The coffee was good but not *that* good.

My Jeep died when we tried to leave and it made a weird electrical sound when I tried to restart it. I called the shop where we dropped the tire to see if they could send someone over but I was told they don’t do anything offsite. He gave me the number for a tow truck but that’s how people who haven’t lived in Mexico handle things.

Because the fence at the RV is short and the ground is soft, the dogs were with us when all of this was going down. There wasn’t anything in the truck that we could use to tow my Jeep back to the shop so we walked the dogs over to a NAPA and bought a tow strap. The way things had been going, I figured we would probably run into this type of situation again.

We stumbled on to a bank of chargers during our walk. All of them were out of service.

After completing the tow of shame back to the shop, we had to move a bunch of shit from the front seat of the truck into the backseat of the Jeep so there would be room for the dogs and me. We never imagined the Mighty Dodge would survive the trip, let alone save the day once again.

Wednesday morning, Aaron at the shop called to say he had to order a tire and it would arrive the next day. My alternator had failed (hence the electrical sound) so that also had to be ordered. We settled in and awaited his call to let us know it was ready.

Click the links below to see how we got to this point.

Returning to the US: He Literally Thought I Was Dead

Returning to the US: Sherman, I Just Really Need You to Poop

Returning to the US: Leaving Todos Santos

Returning to the US: First the Why

Returning to the US: He Literally Thought I Was Dead

We woke up Sunday morning in Guerrero Negro feeling better all the way around. The little place with the kickass breakfast burritos on Highway 1 just north of the Baja California state line was closed (Sunday!) but no matter. We were, as they say, cooking with gas.
Here’s the thing about roads in Mexico: Conditions vary wildly. For example, Highway 19 between Cabo and La Paz could easily be in Arizona, minus the phenomenal ocean views. In addition to being four lanes, it’s smooth and constantly maintained with wide lanes and shoulders. Hwy 1 is not like that. You can’t just set the cruise and enjoy the drive because it crisscrosses the peninsula a few times to get around the mountains. It’s a very narrow road without any shoulders (or guardrails) at all in most spots. There are quite a few very steep grades so you’ll be tooling along and then have a semi truck come barreling around a curve halfway in your lane with nowhere to go. There’s an area just like that a few miles before the junction with Highway 5, the newly completed road running along the Sea of Cortez. The windows were cracked for the dogs to sniff unfamiliar air. We were making good time and I was listening to The Very Best of The Cars. We had just cleared a very sharp curve with an extremely steep drop-off and two big ‘ole trucks across the center line and descended into a valley when my Jeep dinged at me. Initially, I thought it was the check engine light that was upset again but no…it was a low tire. The tire pressure system in my Jeep soothes my OCD because it shows the exact pressure in each tire and chimes at 25 PSI. I looked down and saw the rear passenger tire pressure dropping quickly so I hollered at the bf on the radio but got no response. As I slowed down, I was honking and flashing my brights but he just kept driving. Somehow, this happened at the perfect spot with a wide area for me to pull over away from the road. I knew we were very close to the Hwy 5 turn off and figured he would notice I was no longer behind him by the time he got there. My phone had zero bars of service but I sent a quick message to my mom, thinking it would send eventually. The tire was toast and my only option was to wait. It seemed like a good time to let the dogs stretch their legs and grab some water. A few minutes later, I saw the Mighty Dodge hauling ass in our direction. His first words were “I thought you were dead!” He went on to describe the scenario he imagined: My dogs and I were dead at the bottom of a canyon after being forced off the road by one of those trucks. There may have been some bargaining with a higher power. After realizing I was gone, he noticed his radio was turned off. It seems the battery drained because the USB port in the Mighty Dodge failed to charge it. So he really had no idea where he had lost me. Accessing the spare tire in this particular Jeep model is a giant pain in the ass when it’s loaded. Remember the Cherokees that had the FULL SIZE spare on the driver’s side of the cargo area? Ahhh…the good ‘ole days.  After unloading everything I had masterfully fit in the back, he changed the tire and we were back in action. I sent my mom another message to let her know we were on the move.
Photo courtesy Andrew Stack
So there I was rolling through Baja on a donut with the check engine light flashing and beeping at me at random intervals. There was no chance of dealing with the tire in Mexico because it was Sunday and we didn’t want my battery to get stolen. Yep…that’s a thing. We stopped in San Felipe for fuel and food. The gas station attendant actually complimented my Spanish, which was hilarious because my Spanish is virtually nonexistent. Despite the delay, we still felt like we could cross the border that night.
We passed through a final military checkpoint without any issues and made good time the rest of the way to Mexicali.
We arrived in Mexicali before dark and stopped at McDonald’s to double check directions to the border crossings. As I watched the Mighty Dodge make the left turn, I noticed the front driver’s side tire was flat. Are you fucking kidding me right now? Initially, the truck only needed to make it to Baja where it was to be discarded. That it had survived to this point was a fucking miracle. It has needed an alignment for, I dunno, forever so the tires are being directly worn. A failure like this was obviously only a matter of when but it had already been a long day.
Photo courtesy Andrew Stack
We parked across the street from McD’s in a residential area and discussed our next move. It was pretty obvious we wouldn’t be crossing the border until Monday. We saw a sign that looked like it could be a hotel so I stayed with the dogs and vehicles while the bf took a walk to size up our options. He chatted up a couple ladies outside a pizza/barbecue place and one of them called her nephew or whatever who said he could be at our location in a few minutes. He showed up shortly after with his girlfriend and advised he had a guy who could help. He called the guy who said he would be there in 45 minutes. We grabbed some food and right on time, this 20-something dude rolled up in an S-10 pickup with all kinds of tools and equipment in the back. He took one look at that tire and we knew it was jacked even by Mexican standards. It was clear he would have to remove the tire and take it to his shop to switch it out. He wasn’t sure if he had a tire that would fit and the bf told him it could be a used one and it really only needed to make it across the border. The kid seemed dubious, which is always concerning in Mexico. Usually, it’s the other way around. About another hour later, he came back with a different tire on the rim. It doesn’t even come close to matching the other (also mismatched) tires and wasn’t even technically the correct size but it worked. Fifty bucks later, we went in search of lodging since the Mexicali East border crossing had closed for the night. It may have made sense to just use the main crossing but those guys were dicks when we crossed southbound so we decided to get a room and use the East crossing in the morning. Mexicali is confusing in the dark but we only drove around for an extra hour or so…it was totally fine. Click the links below to see how we got to this point. Returning to the US: Sherman, I Just Really Need You to Poop Returning to the US: Leaving Todos Santos Returning to the US: First the Why

Returning to the US: Sherman, I Just Really Need You to Poop

The dogs are amazingly adept at keeping me on a tight schedule. I began imploring them to take care of what I considered urgent business before first light.

While their lack of concern for my agenda did allow me to catch a beautiful sunrise, I was extremely worried about the status of Sherman’s colon. Dog moms know the poops occur shortly after each meal. He hadn’t done anything in nearly 24 hours and we had a long day ahead of us. Anyone who has had a dog do a whoopsie in a vehicle prefers to avoid any such emergency going forward.

Both dogs were still afraid of getting too close to the water. There were also other people walking dogs, which is always a distraction and they both wanted that stupid dead mouse. I wasn’t having a lot of luck.

As promised, the hot water was restored by the time we returned to the room. While I waited for the bf to finish showering, I noticed a Loreto Municipal Police truck on the beach.

I had forgotten the beach was supposed to be closed again due to the COVID numbers. It appeared the police took canine constitutionals much more seriously than violent crime because they were very quick to clear the area. I’m not saying Mexican police are corrupt but…wait, that’s exactly what I’m saying.

Mission-focused as always, I skipped breakfast to continue pleading for potties because I could always have a protein bar from my lunch pail on the road.

Not far from the hotel, I asked on the radio if the bf could check his mirrors for anything wobbly on my Jeep because it felt like the wheels were going to fall off at low speed. He said everything looked fine. We inspected all four wheels when we stopped for fuel and they really did look okay. I have a history of breaking shocks and struts on this vehicle so I thought maybe the Baja roads had finished wrecking my suspension.

The truck was pulled aside at the second military checkpoint for a cursory inspection. I was asked to step out of the Jeep and a guy just took a quick peek in the back after seeing the dogs. While the truck was being looked at, I parked near a restroom where some entrepreneurs were charging five pesos per person and *once again* tried to get Sherman’s bowels moving. There was a Belgian Malinois barking in a checkpoint kennel and my boy had no intention of relaxing any part of his body.

In order to avoid additional night driving, back pain, and stress we decided to stay at the Halfway Inn just outside Guerrero Negro again. They’re super accommodating with regard to both people and pets. The food is good and I had luck getting the dogs to do their potties during our previous stay. It’s not the nicest place but it’s cheap and clean.

We grabbed dinner at the hotel bar and crashed out early. The idea was to make the next day a marathon and cross at Mexicali Sunday night. Little did we know…

Click the links below to see how we got to this point.

Returning to the US: Leaving Todos Santos

Returning to the US: First the Why

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