by Jim Foreman
Travis T. Taylor III stepped from the back door of the church and shaded his eyes against the bright sunlight. He didn't know what a person was supposed to do after being left standing at the altar, but one thing for sure, he wanted to be away from there before his parents, friends and especially the TV reporters with their stupid questions could get to him.
Just around the corner of the church, the stretch limo stood waiting to take he and Daphnie to the reception at the country club. He opened the back door, stepped in and told the driver, "Let's get out of here!"
"Shouldn't we wait for Mrs. Taylor?" asked the driver.
"It would be one hell of a long wait," replied Travis. "Just get moving."
The driver pulled across the rear parking lot of the church and onto a side street. He pressed the button on the intercom and asked, "Any place in particular, Sir?"
Travis thought a moment and replied, "Take me to San Francisco International Airport. Go to the Taylor Hangar on the executive side of the field."
His grandfather had insisted that, instead of leaving on their honeymoon on a commercial airliner, they take the company's Saberliner for their trip to Acapulco. Their bags were already aboard and it was fueled and ready for the flight.
Travis slumped into the leather seat and brooded about what had just happened. The Limo drifted past Candlestick Park where the 49ers had ended another losing season and onto the Bayshore Freeway. The runways of San Francisco International were laid out on land which had been created by dumping mud dredged up from the bottom of the bay. When the limo stopped at the door of the flight operations office, Travis was out before the driver had a chance to open the door for him. "Shall I wait for you, Sir?" asked the driver.
"You're done for the day as far as I'm concerned," said Travis. "If anyone should ask, don't tell anyone where you dropped me off."
When Travis walked into the flight office, Ray Norman, Taylor's chief pilot, was busy putting his JepCharts into their proper slots in his flight bag. He looked up in surprise and said, "I didn't think that you were supposed to be here for another four hours."
"Plans change," replied Travis. "How soon can you get us off the ground?"
"Let me see if I can advance our flight plan," said Ray as he picked up the phone and dialed a number. After a quick conversation with the FAA Flight Service, he told Travis, "We can be wheels up in twenty minutes. Will Mrs. Taylor be here by then."
"Unless you are talking about my Mother, then there is no Mrs. Taylor. I'll be your only passenger on this flight."
They walked into the hangar where Chuck Sipes, the co-pilot, was making last minute checks of the plane. As he motioned for the big hangar doors to be slid open, Ray asked, "Should I ask about Daphnie or is it better that I don't?"
"Might as well tell you now, Ray. No use in making you wait for the news to come down through the company grapevine," replied Travis. "It turns out that Daphnie is as queer as a three dollar bill and at the last minute, she decided to run off with that Judy Clark instead of getting married. That's probably the only smart thing that woman ever did. Unload her bags and move mine inside the cabin where I can get at them. I'm ready to go when you are."
The Saberliner pounded down the runway. Chuck called off the numbers, even though Ray was far ahead of him, but that is what co-pilots are for, "VR, and all green," he reported.
Ray eased back on the control column, the nose of the Saberliner lifted and the sound of wheels slapping against expansion joints the runway ceased. "Gear up, flaps for cruise-climb," said Ray.
Chuck flipped the gear switch and moved the flap lever to the position which would allow them to fly at the most efficient speed while climbing. With a soft whirring of electric motors, the wheels folded and clunked into the wells and the airplane pointed its nose toward their assigned altitude. Ray had missed his estimated time off by less than thirty seconds.
Travis slumped into a seat and watched the landscape fall away. The cabin speaker came on and Ray said, "Flight Level 240 is all that I could get on such short notice, but we will be able to go on up to a better altitude as soon as we get handed off to LAX."
When they reached their assigned altitude and were in level flight, Travis opened one of his bags and took out a pair of trousers, a sport shirt and comfortable shoes. Then he removed the tuxedo, wadded it into a bundle and tossed it onto a back seat. When he was dressed, he pulled the bottle of champagne, which was waiting in a bucket of ice for the happy couple, popped the cork and poured himself a glass. He held it up and said, "Well. here's to Daphnie the lesbian. May she and Judy live happily ever after."
Before long, Travis felt the nose of the Saberliner rise again as it began its climb to a higher altitude. When they were level at the new altitude, he could look off to the right and see the Pacific Ocean, while to the east lay what is known as the High Desert area of California.
Travis opened the door to the flight deck of the Saberliner. Ray sat in the left seat and Chuck was in the right. The center of the instrument panel was filled with a half dozen matched pairs of engine gauges, each one with a needle resting within a green arc. In front of Ray were the latest, state of the art, flight and navigation instruments, duplicated to a lesser degree in front of Chuck. The ship was equipped with state of the art global navigation equipment which would allow it to be flown around the world as easily as from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
Ray had come to Taylor Enterprises as their chief pilot after leaving the Navy, where he had become an ace in both Korea and Viet Nam. He didn't just fly an airplane, he played it the way a musician plays a violin. The violin has no frets to show the musician where to place his fingers. He must be able to depress the strings in the precise location by instinct and knowing the exact note which will be produced. Ray flew an airplane in the same manner, by feel and knowing what is going to happen, long before it does.
"Where are we?" Travis asked, looking through windshield at the rugged landscape which stretched ahead as far as he could see.
"Coming up on the Baja border, the Mexicali VOR is Twenty DME right over the nose," replied Ray.
"So that is Baja. That's where they have the Baja 1000 races, isn't it?" asked Travis.
"Sure is," replied Ray with a smile. "I drove in the first Baja 1000 in 1969, rolled the car into a canyon just south of El Rosario, came out without a scratch. I've driven in four more races since then and did a lot better in each of those."
"Did you win?" asked Travis.
"Sixty-third for my class was best that I ever did," replied Ray. "Out of more than four hundred in my class, I suppose that isn't bad. I considered it to be quite an accomplishment just to finish the thing."
"What's down there?" asked Travis.
"Not much," replied Ray. "Just some small towns and lots of rocks and sand for a thousand miles between Ensenada and La Paz, but the most beautiful place I've ever seen."
"That's all? I have heard that lots of people go there during the winter."
"Since the paved highway opened in 1973, allowing people to drive all the way to the tip, millions of people have gone there," replied Ray.
"Why do they go if it is such a desolate place?"
"The winters are very mild and Baja has some great fishing, especially on the Sea of Cortez side. Down around the southern tip, what they now call Los Cabos, they have the world's best Marlin fishing."
"Los Cabos, is that the name of the town there?" asked Travis.
"There are several towns around the tip with Cabo in their names, but none actually called Los Cabos. The big airport there just recently changed its name to Los Cabos International."
"How are the hotels there?" asked Travis.
"Some are equal to the best that we have in the states, but when I'm there, I like to stay in the smaller ones." Ray opened his flight bag and pulled out a magazine. He thumbed through it for a few seconds and handed it to Travis. "Here's what the bay at Cabo San Lucas looks like."
Travis looked at the ad for a few seconds and asked, "Can you land this thing there? It sounds like just the place for me to hide out for a few weeks to escape the reporters who are bound to start sniffing around after that fiasco at the wedding."
"No problem," replied Ray. "Soon as we hit the Santa Rosalia VOR and they hand me off to Mazatlan FIR, I'll change the flight plan from Acapulco to Los Cabos International."
The DME counted the miles down to Santa Rosalia. As the TO-FROM flag flipped on the navigation instrument, the right wing dipped and the nose swung to a new heading. The cockpit speaker came on in halting English, "Saberliner One Tango Tango, contact Mazatlan, One Thirty-Two point Eight Five."
"Gracias, One Tango Tango going to Thirty-Two point Eight Five," replied Ray in perfect Spanish.
"Buenos Tardes," answered the Tijuana high altitude controller.
"Mazatlan, Saberliner One Tango Tango with you at Three Niner Zero, request change of destination," Ray reported to the new controller.
Travis stood in the door to the cockpit while Ray swung out over the ocean and began his approach to runway 34 at Los Cabos International. The place didn't have the appearance one would expect for an international airport, just one long runway and a few buildings off to one side. He took his seat and fastened his seatbelt only seconds before the Saberliner's tires kissed the pavement.
"Chuck will unload your luggage and help get you through customs while I close our flight plan with the tower. Do you want me to stick around or file for a return?" asked Ray.
"I don't know how long I'll be staying here, so you can go on back. Don't tell anyone except my folks where you dropped me," replied Travis. "I'll call when I'm ready for you to come back after me."
"The Aduana and Immigration offices are right over here, Mister Taylor," said Chuck. "It won't take but a minute or two."
"How far is it to town?" asked Travis.
"Only about five miles to San Jose del Cabo and another twenty to Cabo San Lucas," replied Chuck.
"While I'm going through customs, get me a room at the best hotel down here and rent a car for me to drive. I'd like to drive around and see some of the country before I check in at the hotel."
As Travis walked from the customs and immigration offices, Chuck approached and said, "You are registered at the Hotel Cabo San Lucas and your baggage is already loaded into their van. The best car that I could rent for you is a Volkswagen built in Mexico. It looks like a Rabbit but in Mexico, it is called the Atlantic."
Travis drove into the town of San Jose del Cabo, which was just coming back to life after siesta. He realized that he was very hungry so he stopped in for a late lunch in a small restaurant just off the plaza. "Just think," he said to himself, "I was supposed to have eaten lunch at the San Francisco Country Club with good old queer Daphnie sitting by my side. She runs off with Judy and I dine alone in a place that I never heard of. Talk about how things can change."
Travis was just leaving the town of San Jose del Cabo when he was almost clipped by a jacked up red pickup as it turned into the Pemex station. "Texas tags," he said to himself. "It would be just my luck to be in driving along in a foreign country and get run over by some Texan in his pickup truck."
Not far out of town he passed two large RV Parks and a propane station. A sign informed him, "Cabo San Lucas, 31 Kilometers".
Travis hadn't traveled more than a few miles toward Cabo San Lucas before the engine of the car began to make strange noises and it slowed to a crawl. Finally, it refused to move any more and the engine would only gasp and belch black smoke.
He couldn't see any buildings around, but there was a narrow, rocky road which led off toward the beach. "That probably goes to a house where someone has a phone or can give me a ride," he thought to himself as he locked the car and began walking toward the beach.
Travis had walked about a quarter mile when the road turned toward a small grove of palm trees. As he came closer, he could see an old pickup truck parked beside an overhead camper which was now sitting on the ground. It was propped up with stones under one side to make it more or less level. There was a palm thatched cover attached to the end of the camper and extending out several feet. As he walked toward the camper, a big black dog jumped up from where it had been sleeping in the shade and came running toward him. It was holding his ears erect, growling and showing his teeth. Travis stopped instantly and the dog did likewise. They stood there in silence with about ten feet of space separating them.
In the shade of the cover, Travis could see a bearded figure sitting in a dilapidated old green recliner chair. The stuffing was poking out of various holes in the plastic covering and the seat sagged from long use. The man looked just like the hippies who had made the Haight-Asbury section of San Francisco their home during the 1960s, except that he was considerably older than most of them had been.
"Hello," called Travis. "May I come in?"
"Just stand still right where you are and Blackie will let you know if you can or not," replied the man. "He is a much better judge of people than I am, so I let him make those decisions."
Blackie suddenly lowered his ears, turned his tail toward Travis and trotted back to where he had been sleeping in the shade. "Blackie says that you can come in now," said the hippie.
Travis walked up to the hippie and held out his hand. "I'm glad to see you," he said. "My name is Travis T. Taylor and my car broke down up on the road. Could I use your phone to call the auto rental place or would it be possible for you to take me to the Hotel Cabo San Lucas in your pickup truck?"
"You from San Francisco?" asked the hippie.
"Well, as a matter of fact, yes, I am from San Francisco, but how did you know?"
"And you got an old man who is a big shot lawyer by the name of T. Thornton Taylor?" continued the hippie.
"Actually, he's my grandfather, but how do you know so much about me?" asked Travis.
"At one time I thought your grandfather was the worst son of a bitch that ever lived, even considered killing him. Then after sitting here watching the ocean for a while, I figured out that he did me the greatest favor of my life," said the hippie. "He fired my ass before I even had a chance to go to work. If he hadn't canned me, I'd probably still be wasting my life at Golden Gate College, fighting the rat race, growing old and grading insipid papers written by dumb, rich snots like you."
"You were a professor at Golden Gate?" asked Travis in surprise.
"Never really taught there. I was hired and supposed to have started teaching in the Psychology Department the same year that you were coming in as a Freshman, but old man Taylor had me fired."
"This is certainly a small world, isn't it," said Travis.
"Yes it is; and getting too damn small by the way that I look at it. I come all the way down here to get away from people like you and your grandfather, but you still come along and hunt me up."
"I apologize for bothering you, but back to my original problem," said Travis. "Could I use your phone?"
"That's the trouble with rich people like you; pushing, shoving and striving all the time, always chasing after that elusive dollar. You think that you have to have a phone with half a dozen buttons on it in order to live. I haven't heard a phone ring in six years and have enjoyed every minute of it. Why don't you just pull up a box, sit down and take a load off those expensive shoes of yours. You'll live a hell of a lot longer if you just relax and let the world flow by at its own pace."
Travis moved a wooden box that was laying by the camper, into the shade and sat down. "What do you do here?" he asked.
"You might say that I'm doing it right now," replied the hippie.
"I mean what do you do for a living?" asked Travis.
"I grow a few vegetables and have a couple lime trees in my garden. I also grow a little pot back up the arroyo and drink whatever I can afford. My disability check from the army isn't due for a few more days, so right now, I'm down to drinking Cien Fuegos and lime juice."
"What is the world is that?" asked Travis.
"Cien Fuegos means a hundred fires. It's almost pure alcohol, but it costs less than a buck for a liter," replied the hippie. "Care for a shooter?"
"Thanks, but I think that I'll pass. But, could you give me a ride to the hotel in your pickup truck?"
"There you go again," said the hippie. "You may be sitting down but you ain't letting yourself unwind a bit. Lighten up and relax. Watch the waves roll across the ocean and listen to the surf. That will do a better job of curing whatever ails the mind than all the doctors in the world."
"I'd really like to get on to the hotel and I'll gladly pay you whatever you feel is proper if you would take me there in your truck," replied Travis.
"The pickup doesn't run, or at least this part of it doesn't. I loaned the motor out of it to a friend to use in his boat. Sure you won't have a shooter. It's not too bad when you mix it with some lime juice and water. I don't have any ice."
"How do you get to town to buy groceries and things that you need," asked Travis.
"I have friends who come by occasionally and take me into town or pick up things that I need. The only time that I really have to go is when my Army check comes in at the post office. I usually buy all the booze and groceries that I will need for a month when I pick up my check. Then, there is Lupita Morales, a widow who lives with a married daughter just around that point of land. She brings me a stack of tortillas every time that she gets horny, which is usually once or twice a week. She keeps me happy and I keep her happy; works out just fine for both of us.
"You appear to be a well-educated man, so why are you wasting your life in a place like this?" asked Travis.
"It all depends on what you consider to be a waste of time," replied Tom. "You and your kind get ulcers, fighting and clawing at one another in the business world for fifty weeks a year just to get enough money to afford to spend two weeks doing what I do all year. Now, you tell me which one of us is wasting their time."
Travis thought that at least that he could be sociable, so he agreed to have a drink with the hippie. The hippie picked up a glass, dumped out a few ants which were crawling around inside it and poured in a shot of clear liquid from a bottle he pulled from a hole in the arm of his dilapidated chair. He handed the glass and a lime to Travis and said, "Lime squeezer is laying there on the table. Add how ever much water as you like from that jug."
Travis squeezed half of the lime into the glass with the Cien Fuegos and poured in about an equal amount of water. He raised the glass to the hippie and said, "Cheers". He took a good size slug from the glass and almost lost his breath.
"See why it is called Cien Fuegos, it really lights your fire," said the hippie. "It isn't too bad once you've managed to get the first two or three swallows down."