EL QUENTO de la CHEWY

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Aztlan Map by Kristi Rose / www.photographybyKristiRose.webs.com

Aztlan Map by Kristi Rose / www.photographybyKristiRose.webs.com

The Story of Chewie Part Three Crossing The Border with his gringo sidekicks and Meztiso compais

I began this rock climber saga on the dirt road heading into El Gran Trono Blanco, the Baja, California, big wall, a trip I took with my closest friends many years ago. We did a grade V but needed the help of a local — Chewie — to both get us to the Great White Throne, and then up the route (Chewbacca is a fine alpinist). Berlioz Symphonie Fantastique comes to mind thinking about this dome, our adventures there, and then our journey north across La Linea. Five movements, five chapters in this long, hearty, musical drama. We, Dan and I plus Joe, also our Wookiee friend, were the four amigos. At our campfire after our big wall ascent, Chewie explained he would be guiding a group of compensinos across the U.S. / Mexican Border into Estados Unidos in a few days. He wanted us to go with him, to experience this right of passage. Since our truck was Joe's, he would be our mule and pick us up on the American side at a predetermined locale only he and Chewie knew. Part two of this tall tale was the beginning of our expedition north. We were now human javelinas. On our walk to el norte we often thought about Joe and his adventures. I will try to explain below both our travelogues with a sense of humor yet seriousness. For our south-of-the-border friends this trek is no joke, and dangerous as climbing a first ascent on, well, El Gran Tron Blanca, with exfoliation and rockfall, rattlesnakes at our feet, and the federales on our felonious heels. When we began our trek, Chewie reminded us, "There are no clocks in the desert, only the sun and the moon and the zodiac." Times and days will blend into a fuzzy time line. Only Joe and his party have any sense of chronology and that was a decade or so ago! Hard to recollect the flow of a week. I'll try. We left Joe on the dirt road heading to El Gran, at the fork in the road. With a wink and a nod he was down el paseo in a cloud of brick red and dirty yellow dust. La Rumorosa gas and fajita stop off Baja Hwy. 2 would be his next stop. Where'd he go? Joe: "I backtracked to Hwy. 2 and La Rumorosa, fueled up, ate a burrito and washed it down with Tecate beer." (Joe) "In drove a mini van and out poured three lovely gals who were to my climbers spirit kindred. We hooked up immediately. Little Susan with dark hair, hands about as big as spider monkey paws and a gaze that looked deep into your soul; Laury with Hispanic features, tall and skinny; and Cj (Cj is the way she would write her initials, this was her handle (Name? I never found out). Cj seemed to be the ramrod of this outfit but all three were like sisters who loved each other. They were down to explore the dome. I offered them some beer and chips and told them briefly of my trip and my pals, our separation and reason why, my layover for a few days, and how difficult the road is to find the way through. We all shared a few more cervezas and my bladder could hold no more filtered pilsner. I went off to the banyo. Returning they invited me to guide them in. How could I turn this deal down?"

California Condor. Photo coutesy of wikipedia.org

California Condor. Photo coutesy of wikipedia.org

Our Chewie Expedition, on the other hand, we were in the desert chaparral way over our heads, miles into California but Chewie would not tell us precisely where. We had daily objectives, no map, only a verbal well discussed plan. We knew landmarks and not much more, until we arrived at a road such as U.S. Hwy. 8, or a Border Patrol potential ambush. Chewie was a professional guide, whether rock climbing or leading this desert patrol. Safety and care for each participant was paramount. We had among us me and Dan, Chewie's relatives picked up at the end of the dirt road, Martin', Ultima, and niece Gabby, plus three Mexicans — Mestizos, Juan, Pedro, and Tony, abandoned by their coyote guides on course (hope the guides are eaten by coyotes!). We were well hydrated (we had extra water just in case we ran into another party out of H20), in good shape, still had a huge bag of chocolate covered coffee beans (our luxury) and chili's, and we examined our feet daily for blisters. Like a car on the highway, a flat tire and you stop, a serious blister in a group like ours and we stop or are hobbled and then prone to being lassoed by The Law. We were traveling like ghosts across the cactus, silent running. Only the condor we saw soaring high above us knew our whereabouts. Where was Joe and how was he faring? "Sue decided to jump in with me and I told Cj, driving the van, "We'll stop at the major fork in the road, twenty or so miles." Off we went. Susan asked about us three gringos and I gave her the lowdown on each compadre. When I explained Preston, Sue stopped me. "Sacramento State University, geography major, Camp Winthers near Lake Tahoe?" (Preston ran a wilderness program called Operation Challenge at the camp above Lake. Tahoe and Soda Springs, and in winter a back country ski program). It turned out Susan knew Pres from many years previous. A sly grin turned her lips and face into nostalgia and something more. Her eyes sparkled in a mischievous way. Soon we were at the camp site Chewie and us used, a Joshua Tree like beautiful environment without the crowds. Bueno." As Joe put it, he was at his best behavior but the chicas didn't care, they were rock climbers and granite solid people of the earth. "We made ready for the evening just like Chewie and we did, I suppose I had become a little Wookiee. We didn't have his human skull for El Dia de los Muertos (the calaveras for the November Day of the Dead celebration), or his homemade tequila, actually mescal, but we had camaraderie and mucho cerveza. Laury and Cj were the cooks (chicken strips and tortillas, picante sauce and onions, more taco chips and salsa). Sue the comic, was the master of ad lib and improv. She brought her mandolin, playing David Grissman bluegrass licks. I was answering questions and giving beta about The Stone we would climb the next day. We? The three amigas hinted hard they wanted to do it themselves. OK by me, but could I help them to the bottom of the wall, to the start of the first pitch? Sure. Chewie would of said the four of us were developing a sense of simpatico, in sympathy or cooperative living. One for all and all for one. They laughed at the name of the route: VW, Virgin Whore, V (5.9). Dan and I were in virgin territory going across, under, over, through and being smacked in the face by some of the toughest terrain and shrubs we had ever experienced. Dan: "Preston my brother taught me the climbing game. He is as gutsy as anybody but at that moment we were running from La Migra he was scared shitless. When we gave the border cops the ditch my friend let his bowls go. I silently howled." Daniel and I, though from El Otto La do, were part of our famila. Chewie would tell us over and over, Una fatsa una ratsa, one face one race. To our jaguar we were all La Raza, The Race, in Atzlan country (southwest U.S.) the mythical origin / home of the Aztecs. One face, one race, the human race. Our race was to get to safety, way point to way point and be at peace.

Joe slept in peace in the back of his truck. "I dreamed of my friends, how were they, what adventures must they be up to? I am an early riser so I got the camp fire ignited and water boiling at first light. Cj joined me with a bag of coffee beans freshly ground. A French Press and voila! a brew fit for our fine company. Susan stumbled in next, mandolin not far away. Cj put a cup of steaming coffee in front of Laury's nose ("Laury rarely gets up before ten!", Sue). Sweetie (their nickname for Laury) came awake about as fast as any human can move. Huevos Rancheros and more taco chips and salsa, then we were ready to shove off. I led them down and the November morning was glorious, temps in the 50's at this six thousand foot terrain of a weird mix of pines and xeric species of cactus, palms, and yucca. Cj said later she had never been on such a isolated climb."

Photo by Nathaniel Walker

Photo by Nathaniel Walker

Isolated climb! What about us? We were in the Devil's half acre, the most hostile land I had ever been part of, horizontal or vertical. Even in this fall season rattlesnakes buzzed in the bushes, one viper struck between Ultima's feet, and we saw way too many scorpions and thumb size centipedes for my liking. Then early one morning we sensed death, smelled the putrid odor and tasted the hovering microscopic rotting flesh of human decomposition. Chewie: "It makes me sick to death coming upon one of my country men or women's dead body in the mal pais." Our company stopped in our tracks and we knew without talking what needed to be done. We were all braceros now, lending a hand. Gabby and Ultima prayed silently as the rest of us prepared the grave. I need not detail this funeral other than to say, all of us were struck by Chewie — now our pastor — and the gentle way he handled the grisly bones. These were sacred bones. This was church in the rocky desert twenty miles from any civilization or priest. Joseph led his girl friends to their touchstone. He stayed at the base of the climb for the first three pitches, then said adios. Can a mountain brook run uphill? According to Jose', it can. Joe, "These girls were fluid." Reminds me of the quote by 1970's rock star, Molly Higgins, "I love the way I feel, elegant, strong, sure as a cat, and fast." Joe: "Mi amigas and I hooked up near dark and we walked back to camp. Their tale of the climb was stupendous, absorbing, and I wanted to share their rope. Sue thought she saw a condor high overhead. Our dinner was simple, left overs, quesodillas and beer, chips and salsa. The fireside chat led well into the early morning. Much of our conversation was about Preston and Dan, Chewie and his family heading into what I thought would be the Abomination of Desolation written about in the Bible. A terrible jungle of thorns and serpents. And here I was surrounded by lovely mujares who were real and really nice. So nice they wanted to be part of my American rendezvous with the Chewie gang. Sue went so far as saying she would continue to be my sidekick. I went off by myself to think about this turn of events. Would Chewie approve of my decision to add three more to our army? Chewy, what would you do?" After Chewie and us interned Juanita Doe, we all fell silent and sort of went in separate directions, even if only in our heads staying shoulder to elbow in our huddle to stay out of airplane or helicopter site. I could tell Chewie was worried yet confident — not on this planet. He came back to earth and said, "I think Joe is bueno, and maybe he will bring muy linda muchachas with him when we meet." Huh? He pulled out our bottle of tequila, and we drank a toast to life. No lie, looking back on this inspiration, our gato was an empath. Gabby agreed with her uncle, and Ultima put the cap on the bottle. Christ, I was in the midst of a family of psychics! What was Joe up to?

Lazy Lizard Saloon. Photo courtesy of David Sweetland

Lazy Lizard Saloon. Photo courtesy of David Sweetland

(Joe) "The three gals were in agreement, they were going to be part of this overland ride!" Oh, gawd. And Sue would continue to ride shotgun in my truck. We planned it this way: Suzy and I would head out to east west Baja Hwy. 2 and turn east and cross the border at San Luis / Yuma, Arizona. We wanted to see the Colorado River, and how much aqua had been drained off for southern Cal irrigation. Cj and Laury would cross over at Mexicali. Why split up? I don't remember, I think it had something to do with Cj and Sweetie wanting to be alone, simple as that. We would meet up first in a little town called Ocotillo just across the border on the east west Hwy 8 at the Lazy Lizard Saloon. We had a time in mind for hook up. Synchronize our watches! Remember, back then there was no cell phones. Time to get a move on. Dan and I did not know it then but we were heading toward Ocotillo, Coyote Wells and Carizzo Mountain, all just across the border and all famous for illegal transients, drug trafficking, and La Migra. Sort of a convergence zone for all sorts of mayhem. And we were by now bone tired and fully aware of our criminality. We were in the whole definition of the word, fugitives in our own country, aiding and abetting human beings trying to get to their promised land. A possible prison sentence waited for our capture. Chewie reminded us again we were javelinas, ghosts hoofing along invisible goat trails rarely used by humans, but The Hunter was always looking for us. A coyote crossed our paths. Chewie, "Coyote es siempre fuera. Coyote es siempre hambre." We would not be rabbits in a little wolves jaw. When you have as your guide a St. Christopher type, patron saint of travelers and those in desperate situations, all we had to do is follow our leader. The Chewie Patrol was coming up on Hwy. 8 near, not knowing it, the hook up point for Joe and now the muchachas, at nearly the same time. This was no coincidence, Chewie and Joe had arranged this, as a Go-to-Plan B if Chewie needed a bail out or Joe's help. Hwy. 8 and the culvert. Our midnight escape, Chewie whispered, would be quick as a cat's silent run, with a bit of a diversion to attract any police attention, away from us. Chewie had us wait under the shrubs putting on our burlap sacks that smelled fishy, they came from the Ensenada, Baja, fish processing plant (we asked Chewie what those funny looking serapes were for!). Before he snuck off, he said he'd be gone an hour or so. He took Dan. Dan: "Chewie said, Listo? then adios to the group and we were off. Our mission he did not explain until we reached a field of dried weeds and grass about a half mile away, cars and trucks and asphalt within rock throwing distance. Chewie and I gathered a bunch of dry weeds and twigs, some rotten clothes abandoned by other crossers, lined up a ten yard shallow trench full of this kindling, and lit it with his lighter. "Chingala, Daniel, ariba, Ariba," he mouthed and we high tailed it in the moonless night." Chewie's plan was simple, draw attention to the side-of-the highway blaze as we slithered away in the opposite direction. The inferno was a hugely successful distraction. Chewie was a magician, no, a Don Juan Yaqui type sorcerer right out of the Carlos Castenada novel, who knew the way.

Photo by Dierk Sittner

Photo by Dierk Sittner

We would skirt Carrizo Mountain, travel through the Fish Creek Mountains heading north along a cabrone trail that Chewie knew like the city avenue I live on. Our next way point, Chewbacca told us, would be a long day away with many many La Migra searching for us. Keep the serapes on. (note: back when we were mujados crossing this great desert river of sand and dry washes, there were far less La Migra agents patrolling our sector, no ground or motion sensing radar, few tracking dogs, yet The Law was out there looking) Joe: "Sue and I, Cj and Laury said our good bye at La Rumorosa, both heading east, and stayed within eye sight until the Mexicali border crossing. Adios mi amigas. Sue and I kept on, now on Baja Hwy. 8. By mid afternoon we were at the Yuma Border Crossing and the Colorado River, just a small stream. The Imperial Valley agriculture sure has a thirst for this muddy river, irrigation canals went everywhere. Good for America, bad for Mexico." "South of The Border with Arizona, the Cocopa Tribe that a hundred years ago enjoyed a rich river delta ecosystem at the Gulf of California, now see a trickle float by. Sad but true. We were back in El Norte, hung out in Yuma for a few hours, then turned west on U.S. Hwy. 8 then 98, the road that parallels the border. Crossers - cruzandos — scurried across the highway, La Migra was racing back and forth catching some (statistic, one of five undocumented aliens make it across La Frontera, the line or fence). A family of javelinas also shuttled across. We drove through, stopping periodically to sight see and study the botany — Sue is a naturalist and ethnobotanist. By late night we were listening to Art Bell and Coast to Coast on the AM dial and nearing the junction with Hwy. 8. We saw in the distance a glow — a brush fire! I figured this was a Chewie trick and we were within spitting distance of our friends." Weird how close we can be to loved ones and not touch them. "When Sue and I slowly crossed the burn area, I saw a few odd side-of-the-road trinkets such as small piece of rope on a road sign, a tire propped up on a fence, and a tattered shirt on a cactus. Any three of these pieces of litter might of told me Chewie had come before and the family was all right." Chewie and Danny returned from their inferno. Dan had the brush he used to swipe away their tracks. Dan had watched Gabby and the Mexicans from Veracruz sweep out our trail so often he was now an expert at this disappearing act. All of us every day heard or saw other parties clanking along making ruckus or leaving behind tell tales of their passage. We did not let them know our presence unless Chewie sensed a medical problem or their lack of water. Our guide would say, watch them walk and see what kind of shape they are in. One time we observed a small group with children and Chewie plus one of our Veracruz team took two gallons out of our pack and raced on ahead on a parallel and convergent course. Chewbacca, "I knew the little ones had urin the color of tea, no good for the kidneys."Our ape man dropped off the aqua fria, granola bars, swiped out their tracks, and vamoose, came back. We could hear the group praising God and gulping the elixir of life.

Joe: "We drove on to Ocotillo and our hook up with Cj and Sweetie. No problemo, yet. Both our autos were running well, we had plenty of food and water, and now the four of us were reunited and feeling good about our plan, so far. We thought of camping in the parking lot of the saloon, but there was non stop commotion so we drove on to Agua Caliente Hot Springs, and a well needed bath. We were dirty, I cannot imagine how grimy Preston and his gang were. Naked we slid into this world, near naked we slid into the warm pool. The next day we would meet up with a friend from my days at Summit Expeditions now Summit Adventure. Wolf taught outdoor environmental education in Julian, or Alpine, or thereabouts. Breakfast at first light with El Lobo is a no holds bared feast of gastronomical enjoyment. As is his custom, before we ate, we thought about our friends on current expeditions. Then came freshly ground coffee, eggs and bacon, three different types of toast, . . . What was Preston and Dan eating? We four determined to treat our Wookiee friends when we reconnected like Wolf served us." Sweetie, "We'll make them fresh salsa!" What we could not determine, unless Chewie had his empathic ears on, and he never told us anyway, was how Joe was doing and where he was. We knew there would be a few cross over points in both our journeys, but left it at that. We were too busy trying not to be found. When La Migra came close, and they did daily, we hunkered down and became the ground, or the mesquite we hid under. We were as dirty as the sandy clay soil and didn't care, it was part of our camouflage. Like coming off a big wall, grunge was our attire. When we had to drop our load of poop we buried it, we packed out all our trash including empty one gallon milk / water jugs. None of us smoked tobacco so we left no scent. We were one with the earth, in simpatico.

Tahquitz. Photo by Bruce Willey / brucewilley.typepad.com

Tahquitz. Photo by Bruce Willey / brucewilley.typepad.com

Joe knew about where we would be, and where he could play. "After our meal with Wolf, we laid a California map out on the hood of my truck and being geographers figured the time needed to drive up to Idlywild and Tahquitz for a few climbs. Simple plan. One short stop in the middle: the other Ocotillo Wells on Hwy 78. I wouldn't say why. But Sue sensed it. All had been going well up 'til now, then hell fell in on us. "Sue got sick as we drove. Not food poisoning, rather a case of . . . nerves? A sense of foreboding about our other crew?" The Chewie mob was still walking north but I could tell in our body languages something was going to change. Ain't it strange how we don't know what is ahead but the premonition tells us exactly?

Artwork at Carizzo Gorge, near Ocotillo. Photo courtesy of Desert Don

Artwork at Carizzo Gorge, near Ocotillo. Photo courtesy of Desert Don

My mentor in all things outdoor from Sacramento State University, prof Joel Moore, used to say in different ways, go out there — up there — with a plan when you can but always adapt to the landscape like a lizard on granodiorite, be ready to adjust to changing weather like the birds, and if necessary ad lib when the shit hits the fan. We were somewhere up near The Narrows pass on Hwy. 78 in the Borrego Mountains. Our next cross road would be S 22 about fifteen miles north. Knowing the border patrol had eyes in the skies, we had our best lookouts always scanning the sky dome. If we paid attention our ears saw much further away than our vision. What we could not see was the camouflaged patrolman on a hill with high powered binoculars eyeballing us like a deer hunter gauging the range on a buck through his telescope. This is what we assumed happened: We had been painted, at least he saw a few of our heads as we walked in a crouch. It was mid morning and we knew not what was coming. S 22 was soon a boulevard trap and we were the pedestrians going to get pinched. In our herk and jerk silent running we kept low in the waist high scrub oak and manzanita, always wary of surprise and ambush. But even an army scout in the best special forces team can miss the enemy. Our nine person patrol came up on the road and stayed in hiding. We had no idea of the enemy ranger sniping for our planned crossing. No cars passed by. But high up we heard the silver throated gas hawk purr, then the white tailed 'copter kite flapping his wings with a thunk thunk thunk in the nearby distance. Chewie held up his hand, we crouched. He turned and looked each of us in the eyes in turn, and kissed his St. Christopher medal hanging from his neck. Oh shit. The jaquar backed up, turned us around, and said in a low voice, "Chingala." I don't do well in desperate situations, at first. Neither does Dan. But as climbers and back country skiers adapted to the landscape, we are forced at times to adjust to hazardous situations. We backtracked into the chaparral so as to avoid the trap Chewie sensed, brushing out our tracks. Chewie got us in a huddle and explained our situation. We would split up and he would take the point as a rabbit being chased by the hounds. He took the three Mexicans and the four of them went for the run of their lives. Like Geronimo and his Apache warriors out foxing the American Army, into the white eyes terrain they ventured. We could not see them cross the highway but knew that is what they did. Our next objective was to bush whack around in a semi circle east and continue south of Hwy. 78 toward Ocotillo Wells. The country western song put it this way, "You start walking your way and I'll start walking mine, we'll meet in the middle . . ." Dan and I and our troop were to go to the proximity of Ocotillo and the Iron Door Saloon and wait and see while Chewie and his team went north and east and back to Ocotillo. A secondary hook up would be in Salton City in three days. Chewie was very good at estimating distances, times, knew this part of California very well. A nearly twenty mile circumference, Chewie going one way, we going the other. We'd done this trick before, we could do it again.

The helicopter was now overhead, actually over the road where the Chewie herd had bolted across. The plane was also in sight. Chewie had the idea that the La Migra sniper was not prepared to send in the ground troops too quickly, hence his escape into the underbrush. For Pedro's sake, La Migra always wants to catch dozens of illegals to pad their daily quotas, Chewie was four. My group became javelinas again and began the detour. Gabby took the lead. Our problem was none of us knew where the hell we were going other than making a half day circle without a map. Ever done that before with the police on your butt? We were on a high stakes cross country marathon and if we lost the race we would have to pay The Man and Martin' Ultima, and Gabby, maybe the three Mestizos would would become deportee.

Iron Door Bar, Ocotillo Wells, Hwy 78. Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org

Iron Door Bar, Ocotillo Wells, Hwy 78. Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org

Joe: "We were in the Ocotillo saloon dirt parking lot just hanging out. Sue was bummed but could not diagnose her lethargy. I walked into the bar to leave the gals alone and who should side up to me but Chewie! Understand, our best Mexican friend had a green card, a social security card, and California drivers license. He was legit, yet he hid in plan site. He would not stay long, just enough to drink a beer, tell me about their dangerous situation, and that if stayed long enough Dan and Pres would come by. I'm telling you, this gato is a magician. Chewie looked out the window and smiled, "Muy linda Jose'! Adios." The jaguar was gone." (Joe) "I went back outside and told the gals Chewie and his family was in good shape considering they were being chased by The Law and Dan and Pres were yet to hook up. We waited. Within two hours my two compadres walked into the bar. I told my Chiquitas I better side up to my pals alone. They agreed, and I saw Sue brighten up." "Dan and Pres were at the counter so I just saddled up on the next stool and ordered a Bud. We smiled at one another like Cheshire cats, shook hands, and nodded. When you are this close, a grunt or click of the teeth can speak volumes." "I passed on the Chewie message, shook hands again, and said adios." "Sue saw me and my grin and said, "Time to get to Idylwild and climb!" Dan and I returned to our family in the bush, told them of our rendezvous. Ultima said a prayer and Gabby asked as any good future mother to be would, "Are they well? La Migra are chasing them? When would we meet up?" Chewie told me to head north and east and he would find us. Don't look for him. Sure enough, at a small dry wash Dan saw a tell tale broken twig as a marker and within a minute the invisible javelinas silently appeared and we were together again. And yes, we hugged one another.

How do you catch javelinas? First you have to see them. Trapping them is nearly impossible. Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org

How do you catch javelinas? First you have to see them. Trapping them is nearly impossible. Photo courtesy of wikipedia.org

We continued cross country toward the town of Salton Springs. It was here our journey took a rather strange and planned vacation. "The gals and I drove on to the town of Idylwild for a quick flight up Suicide Rock / Weeping Wall: Serpintine and Ten Carrot Gold, if I recollect right. By evening we were back at our cars and heading off Mt. San Jacinto for Joshua Tree. J. Tree the city. I explained at a gas stop this would be our layover and meet up town for the Chewie mob. We arrived at dusk, rented a certain motel as Chewie instructed, way in the back, and proceeded to drank beer. We relaxed and went in our different directions to get our bearings. We got back together for dinner at a local Mexican joint, bought more beer, and returned to our casa to wait. The Australian movie, Walkabout, was on TV. A bloody real drama about two white Aussie youth, a teenage sister and her ten year old brother lost in the outback of the desert, soon to die. No water, no food. Up saunters an aboriginal youth on his right of passage manhood walkabout. He hydrates them from his stash of liquid, feeds them monitor lizards clubbed in the head and thrown in the fire, leads them to safety and teaches them by example about his culture and religious beliefs along the way. This is what Chewie did for us." Chewie led us via a circuitous route to a small rancho with about a half dozen horses in a coral. We went to the barn and Chewie said, "Bienvinidos." We had come to our safe house. Chewie told us to relax, there was a bathroom in the barn with shower and a hundred gallons of hot water, clean clothes, and a phone! I'm here to let you know we had reached Nervana and were thanking our savior Chewie. The owner of the rancho kept secret but brought us mucho salsa and chips (when you've eaten little, replenish your stomachs with little at first), a case of Dos Equis, and orange juice. We would stay a day. To sleep on hay bales after what we had been through was the finest bed in the finest five star hotel in the world. Next morning we had coffee, more orange juice, breakfast borritos and chillis, and mucho laughter. It was here the mestizo trio would leave us as they found a pick up driver for their next journey. We greeted their departure with trepidation and cheer. Adios mi amigos, Vios con Dios! The Chewie familia was alone again, waiting for our ride. (Joe) "Susan upon waking said, "I want to climb Illusion Dweller! Eat your biscuits and let's be off!"

Joshua-Tree-National-Park_200_25280

For those of you not familiar with Joshua Tree rock climbs, Illusion Dweller is probably the finest 5.10 steep trad face / finger crack climb in the western hemisphere. We weren't going to climb without a plan, and the discussion was to get up this five star pitch, hang out as I told them we would probably be ahead of our amigos schedule, BUT I needed to be at the hotel phone or in contact with the manager, just in case. Plan settled, one climb would do it. One for all, all for one, and we meant all for our Chewie family." Early morning Chewie made a phone call, I think to a motel, then he was singing a song about three mojados crossing the Rio Grande when the owner of the ranch started boarding a few of her horses into a long trailer that had a separate sleeping quarters in the front half. Horses set to go, hay aboard, Chewie said, "Listo!?" We got into the sleeper and off we drove toward Palm Springs! I'll keep my story here short but fun. We were now on vacation protected by gringo saints who were also in simpatico and willing to risk prison to set us free. The American vaqueros passed us on in this city of the stars, in broad daylight, to a limousine. Chewie, "Why not sneak out in the best disguise possible?" We drove the limo all the way to the Motel 6 in Joshua Tree. Late afternoon, Joe: "Our climb went smooth as a brook flowing upstream. On the drive back Sue was picking Grissman tunes and singing to beat the band. We all knew without words we would soon connect with a conspiracy that was hatched by Chewie, Dan, Joe, and I around a campfire at El Gran Trono Blanco just a week ago. The tension in the air was full of Ozone but there was no lightening bolts, just anticipation." Chewie, "Our trip was near completion but not over yet. Looking out the tinted windows of our limo, I did see several INS green and white SUV's but knew we were in a sanctuary. I also knew Joe had done a primo job on his end. Dios was good to us." Chewie was the conductor of the fantastic symphony, this phoenix of a man put together an orchestra of people so diverse only God could of done better. Our story, or music, was not yet over. Our gato had the finale to perform!! Joe: "We got back to our hotel at dusk, had already bought the fixings for homemade salsa, beer, fruits, yogurt, and the gals had got extra towels for our room. We were watching the news and up drove the limousine. We had already discussed what to do, just open the door and step back. The black sedane opened a side puerta and out walked the Chewie groupo clean and well dressed ready for a party. We hugged like seeing lost loved family for the first time in ten years. He said their hand off would be soon."

Cj: "When Preston saw Susan his face turned from happy and exhausted to shell shocked and confused. Sue went right up to him, eyes like lazers peering into his soul. She pushed him and said, "You bastard, what a lame brain stunt you played on me back then." The whole room stood at attention. Preston, "I was so imbarrased and ashamed all I could do was look down, I was afraid to say I'm sorry." Sue, "I then hugged and kissed the hell out him. My one time best friend was forgiven." The room applauded and Chewie led the cheer. We finished off the tequila and opened the Dos Equis. Our reunion was short lived. We ate a fiest of love and Joe pulled out a small bottle of tequila he had purchased. Salud! Within an hour of their arrival Marin's family ride had come to wisk them off. And an hour later Chewie's "taxi driver" from El Gran Trono Blanco to the end of the cul de sac at the beginning of our oddysey drove up in the same car. Without much more than a hug and goodbye, Our Mexican friend was gone.

Soaring Condor. Photo coutesy of wikipedia.org

Soaring Condor. Photo coutesy of wikipedia.org

We had done it. Chewie. His family. The three Mestizo's. Dan and Preston. Joe and the gals Cj, Susan, and Laury. Corazon in Spanish means heart. We had shared heart. Our journey was no illusion. No matter how you feel about the whole undocumented alien problem on the U.S. Mexican Border, we had a once in a lifetime chance to practise cultural anthropology and the natural history of people in the desert better than any university classroom. We traveled across some hundred miles of zona seca or the dry zone, helping a few migrants get together with family in El Norte (see the movie). During our trip we had seen what looked like to me like a condor. Susan had seen this bird of prey also. In the Flight of the Phoenix myth, the "condor" is burned up on the alter and the next generation, with an increase in confidence goes into another life. Chewie is a Phoenix. We Californians got touched by the flame. The gals who came in later, well, you'll have to ask them their opinion of my thoughts here. In Aztec mythology, the condor was ruler of the upper world and a symbol of power, able to take human prayers to heaven. There is a saying in Mexico and far down into South America, that when the Eagle of the north meets the Condor of the South, healing will occur. Go in peace. P.S. I ain't done with Chewie. He came out of the bush when we said hello, and he left in a taxi when we gringos said goodbye. But Chewie had the last word, saying, "I'll see you vatos again."