pixel

Baja Fever
By Greg Niemann

Boy Detectives on a Baja Beach

By Greg Niemann

Annex Baja

"There’s another one," said Fritz, pointing to the sand in his authoritative manner that came with being the oldest kid in the family.

Indeed it was, another 2-3 foot long indentation in the sand where the stolen fishing rods had been dragged by the thieves.

"For sure they went this way," I answered, recognizing the obvious sign.

It was 1947 and I was only eight years old. My 12-year-old brother was a smarter, wiser, more sophisticated grown-up. At least he was to me.

But we were in this caper together, and this was not a game. We were hot on the trail of the family’s stolen fishing rods. And the signs were leading us up the beach from our camp to the small fishing village of Ensenada.

Each summer our whole family, Papa, Mama, and whomever of the eventual nine kids were born by then, spent two blissful weeks camping in the sand dunes at the mouth of an arroyo upon whose banks a slaughterhouse once stood. This out-of-the-way location was then about two miles south of the town center. In later years the environs of the city of Ensenada grew to include our camping site. In recent attempts to find the site, I concluded that we were near where the current Cueva de los Tigres restaurant now stands.

We had the sandy draw to ourselves and camped under an old weathered palapa, the only shelter in the area. At the time we didn’t even have a tent and Mama used boxes for a table and makeshift kitchen.

A privy was dug in a nearby sand dune; the ocean was our family room (this was in the days before anyone had TV anyway). For the bedroom, we merely rolled the sleeping bags out, all in a row, in the sandy area next to the palapa. The millions of stars not visible from urban Los Angeles and lull of crashing waves provided us with the evening entertainment as we drifted off to sleep.

Days were spent swimming, riding waves, beachcombing, exploring, playing "King of the Mountain" on the sandy hills and occasionally getting stuck by the tiny spines of the cholla cactus.

Mexican kids often joined us to play, just mysteriously appearing out of nowhere. At least I never figured out where home was to them. Unknown to us, we must have been watched by others too, older and malevolent, but they kept their distance during the day.

Annex Baja

Our extended Mexican family

We enjoyed the local kids. Despite a language barrier, Francisco, Juan, Lupita and the others became part of our extended family and we learned from each other. We learned about the animals and plants, the shells and the tides. We taught words to each other. An important phrase for us was “Como se dice en Español?” which translates “How do you say this in Spanish?”

Another pastime was helping my dad and older brother catch fish. Our family was poor and the fish became an integral part of our summer diet.

Earlier my resourceful brother had handcrafted two long surf fishing rods. With permission from a woman who had a bamboo grove down the street from our Northeast Los Angeles home, he had selected two long and straight bamboo shoots.

My dad bought the metal eyes and reel holders, thread, and thick colored twine. Then Fritz spent many hours sanding and staining the rods, meticulously tying on the eyes and cramp-ons with the heavy thread. One rod had yellow and blue wrapping and the other red and blue. Both had thicker royal blue twine wrapped around the handle base. My dad then bought a couple of reels and we were in business. (As testimony to their durability, my brother recently presented me with one of the rods and I still have it – almost 70 years later.)

We caught fish daily. I say “we” because sometimes my sisters and I would take turns fishing, usually to relieve Fritz and Papa. Sometimes we’d actually be holding the rods when something hit. It was a thrill I’ve never forgotten and still enjoy.

We mostly caught perch, corvina and halibut. We also caught stingrays and shovelnose sharks. We kids became expert at digging up sand crabs for bait. Fishing became an important part of each day.

That is, until the night the rods were stolen!

At night the reels were removed and put in the old family ’36 Oldsmobile, and the fishing rods were laid to rest alongside the family for which they provided sustenance. Papa would carefully place the rods down next to his sleeping bag, in the narrow space between his and the next bag in line.

Annex Baja

Stolen from under our noses

Then one morning we awoke to discover them gone, stolen right out from under our noses while we slept.

My brother is one determined individual. Especially when it comes to one of his hard-earned possessions. After all the excitement died down, Fritz grabbed me and said, "Come on. It looks like the tracks go this way."

We walked down to the beach and saw two sets of footprints in the damp sand taking off to the north, towards town. Occasionally there was a depression or gouge in the sand near the prints. We decided that the prints had to belong to the thieves because apparently they sometimes allowed the rods to drag in the sand, thus making the depressions. Fritz and I decided to pursue them.

This was thrilling. We were the Hardy Boys out on a great adventure. We were going to nab the culprits. Who cared if we didn’t have a weapon or a plan? We were determined.

Our minds conjured up the worst type of villains as we hastened up the beach. The tide was coming in and in a few places the prints were obliterated altogether only to reappear farther up. We moved quickly while there was still the trace.

Folks who know present-day Ensenada have to imagine that in 1947 it was just a small fishing village. Thus, when the tracks left the beach it was easy for us to see where they were headed. At the time there were a number of deep sea fishing shops along what is now the tourist shopping street of Boulevard Lazaro Cardenas. Fishermen arriving in town used to head straight to one of those shops to book trips and buy and rent equipment. The outfitters still in business have since moved to the newer fishing piers.

We kids had been in town before. In fact, we had sometimes joined other Mexican kids who used to hang out at the old pier. When the full boats came in with exuberant, high spirited fishermen, we used to line up and ask them for fish.

"Pescado," we’d say, looking imploringly at the fishermen, even though many were Americans. I was that incongruous blond kid in the crowd who would also sometimes be rewarded with a large fish I could proudly take back to camp.

Annex Baja

Tracks led to shops

We didn’t go to the pier this day. The tracks led to the row of fishing shops.

We walked along the one main street in front of the shops, noticing that many rods were displayed in racks in front. It was the third shop where our hearts stared beating a little faster. There they were, Fritz’s custom rods, one with blue and yellow wrapping, and the other with blue and red, in a rack by the door.

"Let’s grab ‘em," I said.

"No," countered a more conservative Fritz. "They’ll just say we’re stealing them and we could go to jail. What about that?"

"Well they stole ‘em first," I said wanting a more swift justice.

"We better get Papa," advised Fritz.

So we hurried back to camp and related excitedly that we had found the missing rods. Papa and Fritz then jumped into the Oldsmobile and sped off up the sandy arroyo and headed to town. I was devastated when it was determined that I was too young to go.

At the shop, instead of a hostile confrontation it turned out that the owner was a big, gregarious friendly Mexican whose immense stomach strained his shirt. His natural smile turned to a frown as he listened with apathy to the tale of the stolen fishing rods.

He was a far better representative of the warmth of the Baja people than those who dared enter our camp. He snatched the rods out of the holders and returned them with profuse apologies, saying that he had just bought them from some young guys that morning. Annex Baja

My dad expressed concern that the shop owner would be out the money.

"No problema, Señor. This is a small town. I’ve seen those guys before and figured they were up to no good. I’ll see them again and they’ll be sorry," he countered.

When my dad and brother returned from town with the rods and the good news, I sulked and refused to share in their joy.

Finally I cried out, “I can track the thieves down and solve the crime, but I’m too young to go and get the fishing rods. I shoulda just taken them when I was there.”

Maybe I should have, but then we wouldn’t have met the owner, another caring Baja character who quickly became a friend of our family and remained so for years.


About Greg

Greg Niemann is the author of Baja Fever, Baja Legends, Palm Springs Legends, Las Vegas Legends, and Big Brown: The Untold Story of UPS. Visit Greg's website.

4.7 93 Reviews
  • user logo
    Benjamin Driebe
    From logo

    Absolutely fantastic, I already forgot her name because I have a terrible memory but the woman that helped me on the phone was wonderful,...

  • user logo
    richard carr
    From logo

    fast replies and great price!

  • user logo
    Juan Zuniga
    From logo

    I just would like to know if you guys are going to update the fastpass direction any soon, during the month of January the lane changed to...

  • user logo
    Richard Schweiger
    From logo

    Very professional, very helpful, great policy, I couldn't be happier with Baja Mexican Insurance, the friendly smiles and ease of it all in...

  • user logo
    Ryan Frisby
    From logo

    We use them every time we travel to Mexico. Luckily we have not needed their services yet but getting insurance through them is quick and...

  • user logo
    Jan Muhammad
    From logo

    I need a tourist visa for maxico I'm from pakistan help me sir

  • user logo
    Tracy Moore
    From logo

    Very easy, quick, and professional

  • user logo
    robert kepper
    From logo

    They are very good . There website doesn't show you need a title to bring a vehicle across the border.I was stopped and told I had to...

  • user logo
    Edilver Martinez
    From logo

    Our go to Baja car insurance, everytime we take a visit down south . Usually it's for a day trip either for a quick getaway with the family...

  • user logo
    Daniel Markofsky
    From logo

    Third time working with Baja Bound and they made it easy! Thanks!

  • user logo
    Steve Bender
    From logo

    Have never needed to use the insurance fortunately but the website always works great. Can buy a policy in about a minute.

  • user logo
    Jose Paez
    From logo

    Had a great experience getting insurance at Baja Bound, before I always stoped at the border to purchase my insurance, not anymore. By the...

  • user logo
    JUSTINE SERRANO
    From logo

    I purchased insurance through them & CHUBB for our trip to San Felipe. Unfortunately, we had to cancel due to our vehicle having an oil...

  • user logo
    Christian Minor
    From logo

    Team were on point, provided inside information, prices were great and they had my proposal already in the system when I called back....

  • user logo
    Joey Digiovanni
    From logo

    Easy to work with 😉. Always courteous and helpful

  • user logo
    George
    From logo

    Excellent customer service

  • user logo
    Kellye Pummill
    From logo

    Fast and easy!

  • user logo
    Jennifer Toups
    From logo

    Baja Bound is and has been my go to Mexico insurance company. The website is extremely easy to use, keeps all your info for a quick...

  • user logo
    Cesar Lopez
    From logo

    Very convenient, great price !!

  • user logo
    Louis Schneidman
    From logo

    I had an awesome experience with Baja Bound. Family owned and highly personal, top notch customer service. I have total peace of mind...

  • user logo
    Phil Noble
    From logo

    If you’re looking for Mexican Insurance that you can trust and feel good about while traveling in Mexico, you’ve found the right place....

  • user logo
    Jeff Bunker
    From logo

    Great coverage options . Price buy and print policy , very quick and easy , highly recommend them when driving in Mexico

  • user logo
    Burrell DeVine
    From logo

    Easy to navigate and very competitively priced! I had to call in and add an additional day, they couldn't have been any more pleasant to...

  • user logo
    Nereyda Torres
    From logo

    Me gusta la asuguranza porque la puedes comprar por un dia y te asegura en Mexico por el tiempo que vas ya sea hasta por mes (Translated...

  • user logo
    james whitmer
    From logo

    Best insurance I've had so far

  • user logo
    Rail1riders
    From logo

    Quick, easy, well designed website and not just for Baja. Good rates for temporal residente gringos. We’re not living in Jalisco. Printed...

  • user logo
    Matt B
    From logo

    I always use Baja Bound to source my insurance while traveling to Mexico. Fortunately, I have not had to file any claims. I do appreciate...

  • user logo
    Refugio I. Rochin
    From logo

    Excellent online and by direct phone. Spanish and English with proven response to questions. Website is very informative about driving in...

  • user logo
    Kelly Carney
    From logo

    Yara is very helpful and explains everything. Love working with companies like this.

  • user logo
    Slumdog Gump
    From logo

    Changed some money. Good rate and friendly people.

  • user logo
    Jeff G
    From logo

    Went down to TJ June 11 2020 No problems going into TJ but the way back was a ordeal 6 hours in line to get back into the USA but no...

  • user logo
    don letson
    From logo

    Great renewal process, if only south Dakota would do the same for car registration.

  • user logo
    len buckholtz
    From logo

    SIMPLE, STRAIGHTFORWARD. OLD GUYS LIKE THAT. WILL DEFINITELY USE IN 6 MONTHS IF STILL RUNNING AROUND THE WILDS OF BAJA.

  • user logo
    Susana Judd
    From logo

    Easy, quick and fair prices. Easy to deal with if needed.

  • user logo
    Seismic Waterfinder
    From logo

    Very excellent service, needed insurance for Mexico, price was fair. The custumer service rep was Yara

  • user logo
    Nicolas Dervé
    From logo

    Very good ans very fast. We hope all will ben good if we need it.

  • user logo
    Blake Glassco
    From logo

    I will never drive south of the border without Baja Bound in my center console. I was in an accident a couple hours south of Ensenada and...

  • user logo
    JohnPaul Gemelli
    From logo

    Baja Bound could not have made it an easier ... also, I made a mistake and called them having to leave a message ... but, they called back...

  • user logo
    Jeff Brandt
    From logo

    so far so good, however I have read good things about them

  • user logo
    Sengoz N
    From logo

    SERIOUS.

  • user logo
    Kenneth Trass
    From logo

    Getting a policy was simple, Provided more than provider for price comparison.

  • user logo
    Esther Valencia
    From logo

    Super easy to purchase just the coverage you need when crossing the border in your own car. I especially appreciate the fact that I was...

  • user logo
    Larry Cottingham
    From logo

    Great service, very helpful people there.

  • user logo
    Luis Cortes
    From logo

    Easiest way to purchase insurance when traveling to Mexico. I have used their service for the last 7 years and it only gets easier and...

  • user logo
    j dougher ty
    From logo

    EZ Peasy insurance purchase. Great service every time I've used them. Had to cancel one time when my travel plans went away - no problem....

  • user logo
    Paul Niehouse
    From logo

    Extremely easy to acquire a policy. Many options available. Reasonable rates.

  • user logo
    Colin
    From logo

    Super-easy and instant. Very happy with initial purchase.

  • user logo
    Howard M Elster
    From logo

    2nd year with Chubb. No problems

  • user logo
    Cyndee Congrove
    From logo

    Great customer service, quick, friendly staff helpfully answered all questions, very patient with my learning curve on a new product. Would...

  • user logo
    Art Eugenio
    From logo

    I've had Baja Bound insurance for more that ten years now with thousands of miles logged in Baja. Fortunately, I've only had one fender...

  • user logo
    Gabe Matthews
    From logo

    Where do i start..... you dont know you have good insurance until you have to actually use it. I have had Baja Bound INS for over 5 years...

  • user logo
    keith berkley
    From logo

    Been going to baja for 45 years. This is best insurance company i have come accross.

  • user logo
    Ryan Perkio
    From logo

    I have been using BajaBound Insurance for 15 years - multiple trips per year. Their website is easy, their coverage is great, and the...

  • user logo
    RaMon McBride
    From logo

    I have not had any claims thus far so rating is based on ease of purchase.

  • user logo
    Larry French
    From logo

    By far the best service for Mex insurance in Baja. They are personally there for you if you have problems south of the border.

  • user logo
    Tudor Thomas
    From logo

    Baja Bound makes buying insurance for going south of the border as easy as it gets. The website is the easiest I have used and the staff...