Mexico and Arizona
On Thursday, March 1, 1990, I flew to San Diego where Alley and Don met me and took me
to a restaurant near the airport. Henry joined us there and a hired van took the four of us across
border to the Tijuana airport. We waited there for a couple of hours (during which I bought a
of good Anejo rum) and then got an Aero California flight to the airport that serves La Paz and
San Lucas at the southern tip of Baja California. The Hotel Finisterra is on a hillside above the
waterfront, and has excellent views of the harbor to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the West.
occasion we saw whales from the hotel, and the main bar is called the "Whale Watchers' Bar."
beach on the Pacific side is steep, and the water fifty yards offshore is deep enough for whales on
their way to or from the Sea of Cortez. Part of the price one pays for this hotel on a hillside is
numbers of stairs and no elevators. Alley's knees are in even worse shape than mine, and this part
did not appeal much to her, but she got around with just enough difficulty to justify her
Alice, Don, Henry, and Manly,
Friday was spent walking around town near the waterfront, admiring the new construction,
including a large condominium adjacent to the harbor. Various young men tried to lure us into
building to look at condo units, but we resisted, partly because none of us wants a condo in Cabo
Lucas and partly because none of us wants a condo anywhere that a storm could throw a sailboat
one's window. Saturday was the fishing trip when my video camera got drenched with salt
we saw no fish, one small whale and one dolphin. On Sunday we took a glass bottomed boat to
tip of Baja California (maybe half a mile from the waterfront, and on the way back were left at a
beach that is within a hundred yards of the tip. Henry and I put on snorkeling gear and swam
offshore 25 or 50 yards to the base of a pinnacle that rises like a stone shaft. (I sent a postcard
showing this shaft to Luigi and have just measured it according to the scale of a pelican in the
picture; the pinnacle is 11 pelicans high). There were many fish about, including wrasses, tangs
cigar fish. The beach was very nice and extended all the way across the State of Baja California,
which at that point is about a hundred yards wide.
The glass bottomed boats make a regular trip about every fifteen minutes (except when you want
-- then it's every half hour), so there was no trouble getting back to the waterfront and lunch at
Galleon Restaurant. I recommend this restaurant if you're ever in Cabo San Lucas; we had two
dinners and one lunch there. In the afternoon Henry went for a horseback ride with a guide who,
seeing his short hair, asked Henry if he was with the DEA. Henry said no, he drove a truck for
Henry had previously let the rest of us know that he was not to be identified as a member of the
Border Patrol as it might cause someone to want to beat him up.
On Monday we got an 8:00 A.M. flight back to Tijuana where a hired van took us to Ramona.
Going through customs and immigration took about an hour because we were behind a
Bus and the U.S. officials seemed suspicious of all the passengers. Don has done a lot of
of his garden, and it now occupies almost all the flat land on the Soules' lot. He showed me
of the House that Whit has bought near East Troy, Wisconsin and where Alley and Don hope to
spend considerable time in the summers after they sell their present house. In the winters they
to live in a small condominium within a few miles of Ramona. Tuesday was spent driving around
mountains near Ramona, admiring the scenery. Wednesday morning Alley, Don and I drove to
airport at San Diego where they were to meet Winslow and Oehme later and I rented a car to
to Phoenix. En route I stopped at El Centro and got Henry to show me the area in and to the
of Calexico where he patrols. He seems to enjoy his work and particularly likes tracking aliens
through the desert. This area is in the Imperial Valley, and where there is no irrigation a person
without water can be expected to last about 16 hours. We got back to Henry's trailer in El Centro
shortly before Patty returned from her beautician's school. She had hoped to get a job in El
when they moved there as she had been a department manager of a store in Ramona, but she does
not speak Spanish and 95 percent of the people in El Centro do.
That night I spent at the Shiloh Hotel in Yuma, Arizona, where they have superb pecan pie.
I told the waitress, "Not only is this the best pecan pie I have even eaten, it is the best anything
ever eaten." On Thursday I drove through the desert to Phoenix, stopping en route at Bard,
California, and the Imperial Dam on the Colorado River. This area grows lots of dates, and I
a package of the largest I've ever seen. They are very good.
My partner (or rather ex-partner now that I have retired) Tim Pickrell persuaded Sarah Blake,
the former finance director of the University of Arizona, to arrange a tour for herself, Tim, his
and me through the environs of the Biosphere II project east of Tucson on Friday. We were
by the wife of the director and saw the structure, mostly completed but for the glazing, and the
greenhouses where they are testing plants and livestock to be put in the project when it is
The structure covers two and a half acres and will provide a sealed environment in which eight
are to live for two years with no material of any sort (not even air) being allowed to go in or out.
purpose is to gain experience that will be needed to establish viable colonies on such places as the
Moon or Mars. Biosphere II will include four different types of environment: rain forest,
marsh and saltwater ocean. It will also house living accommodations and a food growing area.
food growing techniques include several that depend on interaction of plants and animals, such as
rice paddy in which a floating weed like duckweed grows and is eaten by fish that fertilize the rice
with their excrement -- this is an old Chinese practice I believe.
That evening the Phoenix office of Chapman and Cutler gave a party for me in a private dining
room of Garcia's Mexican restaurant. As the party was informal, I wore the T-shirt Shaw gave
a few years ago bearing the legend, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." There were
about 20 people at the party, some personnel of Chapman and Cutler but mostly people with
I had worked on bond issues for the City of Phoenix over the last 30 years. Most are now retired,
though the current Finance Director of the City did show up. As a retirement present they gave
a pair of spurs which I promptly put on despite the lack of cowboy boots. Later I mentioned to
that I may have been the first man ever to walk into the lobby of the new Ritz Carlton in Phoenix
wearing spurs; Tim said, "Well, maybe, but there may have been some Texans who beat you to
Saturday it rained; I drove about a mile to Squaw Peak Park and walked up a hill as far as I
chose to, and then returned well dampened and read a book for the rest of the day. On Sunday
American Grand Prix automobile race was run in downtown Phoenix and I attended the party in
Chapman and Cutler office on the 11th floor of one of the buildings adjacent to the course. They
a bunch of T-shorts made up to celebrate the event, bearing the words "Chapman and Cutler Race
Team, Phoenix, 1990" on the front with an appropriate design. The T-shirts were given to staff
guests as a promotional effort; mine was distinguished because the office manager had pinned a
tie on it. The race was a pleasant diversion from the party, which was attended by about 200
The noise at street-level was likened by a newspaper article to that of a rock concert or a jet
taking off, but it was not bad on the 11th floor. When I went down to the street for a few
I wore the earplugs that I wear when firing a shotgun and had no inclination to take them out until
I went back upstairs. At one point I timed how long it took one of the racing cars to go a city
it was two seconds.
After the race I drove north 120 miles to Sedona, mostly through dark and rain, to visit Herb
and Marge Hansen. He is the former partner with whom I used to make wine. They live in a nice
roomy house with only electric heaters and a couple of woodburning stoves for warmth. On all
are magnificent red cliffs and hills, and the desert is less arid than around Phoenix, with small
trees instead of creosote bush. It is still desert, however, with lots of prickly pear and other cacti
coyotes that I heard during the night and whose fresh droppings were on the driveway in the
Herb took me to an old Indian ruin in the afternoon somewhere west of Sedona. It is not widely
known, but nevertheless there was a party of two families and a guide who talked incessantly.
ruins resembled Montezuma's Castle that we saw several years ago on our way to the Grand
made of stone and clinging to the rock face of a cliff under an overhang; but this ruin was where
could get to it easily and wander about, observing the sizes and shapes of the various rooms and
marveling at the petroglyphs, one of which looked like a cross between an alligator and a
On Tuesday I drove to Scottsdale to meet Kirk Johnson, the broker at Smith Barney's office
in that city. I've been using him for several years, talking to him at least once a month, but we'd
met face to face before. He is good-looking, about 6 feet tall, polite and helpful and knows his
business well. I also met his secretary who is one of the prettiest young women I've seen, with
of freckles. After that I drove to the Phoenix airport and took an afternoon plane to Chicago.