Web editor Jon Lloyd usually spends the holidays with family and friends in Minnesota. This year, he's trying something different in Cabo San Lucas, where his plans are to never make plans. He will be on holiday Thursday, Dec. 25 to Sunday, Dec. 28.
Tuesday, Dec. 23, 10:41 p.m.
My vacations are usually opportunities to wear a winter coat and see family members and friends in Minnesota. There's not much relaxing in that window between the time my plane lands and the time my parents wave good-bye from the other side of the security area at Minneapolis-St. Paul International. They refuse to leave the airport until their only child has his shoes back on his feet and his Macbook in its case.
And that's going to happen later this month, but on Monday I booked a flight and hotel for Thursday in Cabo San Lucas. It felt like impulsively grabbing a pack of Jack Links beef jerky and breath mints in the checkout aisle at Von's.
It wasn't even my idea. When my boss heard my parents wouldn't be able to visit for Christmas, she said, "You should go to Cabo. What's the matter with you? You have to go."
It seemed wrong of me not to go. I asked a co-worker who had been there if she had any advice.
"Just do it!" she wrote. Then she droned on about how I'd NEVER find a good deal this late in the game.
"Whatever. I'll show her," I thought.
And I did -- after a brief affair with a trip to Ireland, I'd found my flight-hotel package to Cabo. It felt good to hit the Submit Payment Information button less than 20 minutes after first considering the idea.
It's a relief to know I don't have to be anywhere or do anything, except sweep through the 3-ounce bottle bins at Target and let Mom know I'd be at the very end of the Baja Peninsula for Christmas. Worrying is something she views as an obligation.
"It sounds like fun! But be careful," she said with the kind of up-then-down inflection necessary when using "fun" and "careful" in the same breath.
With that off the list, I rolled around in the slop of freedom that an up-to-date passport brings and visited Lonely Planet's Web site, AskMen.com and something called CaboBabes.com to learn about wherever it is I'm going. The latter turned out to be a booking agency for bachelor parties, and not a very good one.
Wednesday, Dec. 24, 9:08 a.m.
Here are some phrases I've seen used to describe the place at which I'm staying.
"Secluded, great views... could use some updating."
"Charming, but could use an update."
"Nice blend of old and new, more old."
Those are user reviews from sites like TripAdvisor.com written by the small segment of the population compelled to find something wrong with everything and share their thoughts with everyone. Once I learn how to light the kerosene lantern and attach the bellows to my coal-fueled clothing iron, I'll be fine.
It is secluded. The only sign of activity in the 360-degree image tour of the beach is what looks like a discarded beach towel.
AskMen.com is where I found a three-day itinerary that will be a loose framework -- not a plan. It seems about right, minus the golfing. I like to golf, but right now one guy is saying to his two golfing buddies on the tee box, "Man, I just hope some dope traveling by himself doesn't ask to join our threesome."
And his two buddies are nodding and saying, "Yeah, who does that?"
Thursday, Dec. 25, 7:56 a.m.
SkyHarbor Airport, Gate B12: You'd think I would have been upset to hear that my flight to Phoenix was delayed and that I'd been bumped to another flight. I was, until smiley Julia at the US Airways ticket counter said, "I'm going to put you on an earlier flight in First Class. Sound good?"
Go ahead Julia, do what you must.
The most noticeable advantage was the armrest. It was designed to accommodate Popeye-sized forearms. That meant plenty of room for my forearm and the forearm of Steve, from Long Beach. Steve's flight to El Paso was scheduled for Wednesday night, but he learned upon leaving home that it had been canceled.
"So I did the only thing I could do -- I popped a bottle of wine," Steve said. Steve also popped a bottle of wine a few weeks ago when his BlackBerry Storm got "buggy," and he plans to pop a bottle of wine later today with his son, whom he hasn't seen for a year.
As expected, the only thing on the road this morning during the drive from Silver Lake to the FlyAway bus stop at Union Station was rain. It was obvious I was headed the opposite direction than my bus mates; they wore gray and black wool coats and scarves, I have a v-neck shirt with sunglasses hanging from the collar.
San Jose del Cabo, 4:18 p.m.: My shuttle driver liked to tell stories, mostly about his visits to Home Depot, Costco and his favorite, Dairy Queen. It's a 45-minute drive from the airport, and sitting three across in the front -- this wasn't a bench seat, by the way -- was a nice way to meet new people, like Debbie, who's going to visit a friend who is "kind of a millionaire."
Cabo San Lucas, 5:36 p.m.: I can throw a rock from my balcony into the ocean. The Sea of Cortez is just around the corner. This about as close as I'll get at this location -- I've been warned by three people to stay out of the water. The lady at the front desk grabbed a map and emphatically scribbled, "NO SWIM," marking the spot with a big X.
Friday, Dec. 26, 7:51 a.m.
The user reviews were accurate -- this hotel is secluded. There's a mile walk and a rocky hill separating me from Cabo Wabo, el Squid Roe and the rest of Christmas night. There were lots of knuckle bumps, girlfriends threatening to break up with their boyfriends, two Lakers fans demanding a recitation of Pau Gasol's beat-down of Boston, a group of 17 thirsty Nebraskans, and one guy in a gorilla suit -- just going about his business.
It's another reason to ask why I bought that Comical Cow costume at Halloween Town in Burbank instead of the gorilla suit.
This Marco Polo match has grown lopsided and predictable, so I'm lacing my running shoes for a walk to a beach on the other side of the marina.
But first I'm taking a closer look at this surf that has everyone worked up. The sand feels like walking on a big bowl of Grape Nuts. Now that I'm face-to-face with the water, I get it: the ocean isn't making waves, it just heaves itself in and out and sideways, and ties itself in foamy knots. Nasty.
And there's that V-shaped ripple looking for something to lock onto ... I could feel the water's fingers wrap around my feet and ankles when I stood for a picture. The guy who took it had some encouraging words:
"Yeah, we were out here about 10 years ago and got towed under. Almost drowned."
His wife giggled as if he was telling me about the day he proposed to her.
I guess that was before the bright red signs that say DANGER-RIPTIDE in block lettering and two languages.
The cobwebs are gone after an icy shower. The stall was designed for couples and possibly a few close friends. It is the size of a horse trailer. I can walk at a moderate pace from one side to the other.
My fishing boat reservation is set for 6 am. Saturday. Prior to this, I landed a bullhead once on some lake in Minnesota.
The water taxi took me to Lovers Beach. That's where that rocky arch you see in travel guides is located. It's only steps from my hotel, but blocked by an enormous rock. And we've already covered the issues with swimming there.
One side of the beach is the Sea of Cortez, the other is ocean.
Now I'm at some place called The Mango Deck at Medano Beach, where today's protein intake will be covered -- we're waiting on nachos with steak and chicken enchiladas.
There is a man running around in a Sancho Claus sombrero and pistols in a holster around his waist. Everyone is hugging him.
I came back to my room around 5 and heard a party boat blasting Credence Clearwater Revival's "Have You Ever Seen The Rain?" My dad used to listen to them on a record player.
It looked like we would see the rain; the boat was headed toward a massive dark cloud bank. But it passed, saving me a visit to the umbrella shop.
I'm about to eat sushi -- I know, but it's a matter of convenience -- then heading back downhill to wherever ...
I'm up and ready to meet Jesus Cota and his fishing boat at the Hacienda Dock. This is surprising because I set my alarm for 5:55 p.m. I woke up by accident.
My teeth are chattering, my fingers are blue, and every muscle in the core of my body is clenched. It doesn't matter -- I'm back on land and exhilerated.
Instead of catching a fish, my focus was to stay in the boat. It was violent -- choppy and windy. It started going pear-shaped early on when we hit a wave and my chair became unbolted from the deck. I watched the boat below as I rose in the air. It hurt when I landed on my shoulder, but I was relieved that I'd landed on the boat instead of in the water.
The broken chair meant I'd have to sit up front, where I served as a water and wind screen for my pilot, Oliver. Jesus never showed. There were points at which I would have doubled what I paid if we could just end it immediately.
Then the sun's heat finally broke through and the boat stopped slamming. We'd made it to deeper, but less choppy water. I was encouraged to see Oliver stand up and stretch like a cat after a nap. We were on gentle rolling waves.
The other boats nearby were at least twice the size of ours. Oliver set three lines, and it wasn't long until he sprang to one and yelled, "Amigo! Aqui!" We had something. After the trip out, anything less than a sexy mermaid or Shakira was going to be a letdown.
It turned out to be the monster from the Alien movies. It didn't fight much. It seemed as though it was trying to jump aboard and join us. I was going to release it, but that plan came to a gruesome end when Oliver drove a large hook through its head.
"Dorado! Mahi mahi!"
One was enough. We turned back as Oliver admitted we probably shouldn't be out this far in the first place. Oh, Oliver, live a little.
On the way back, I was an overmatched boxer content to just take punches and finish the bout. I focused on a fixed point on the horizon to fend off the nausea.
"You guys were out there in that?" yelled some guy from the dock.
I let Oliver keep the dorado. He earned it.
I'm planted for the afternoon at the pool. It looks out on the portion of ocean that took me way out of my comfort zone.
In hindsight, part of the problem was keeping track of my bag, which contained everything I need to get home -- passport, money, credit card, debit card, customs form, BlackBerry, and a big green can of cocoa roast almonds. It was at the back of the boat, getting soaked and sliding from one side to the other.
I expected to be kicking back, typing BB messages and popping almonds, just waiting for the rod to bow.
On my way out for my last walk into town, one of the employees who helped me with my bags when I arrived stopped me, "Senor Lloyd, did you see the little fox running around here?"
He mistook surprised for hysterical, extended his arms and said, "Oh, no, no, you don't have to worry. I don't think he is dangerous."
Probably not. You don't hear about many fox attacks. But this would be an ideal place to stage one.
My point is, the staff members at this place are great. They not only remember your name, but what you planned for the day. The two front desk workers wanted to know everything about the fishing fiasco.
"You're lucky to catch one your first time."
They were like two baseball managers trying to help a struggling pitcher re-focus.
Sunday, Dec. 28, 7:25 a.m.
I'm having breakfast and watching the fishing boats speed past the shoreline.
Bob Long, of Scottsdale, Ariz., told me all about a marlin he caught last year. It took 90 minutes and two people to haul it in.
"But dorados are nice. Nice color."
He was taking a subtle jab at my fish.
The shuttle driver is showing no regard for posted speed limits, stop signs or the stacked canon balls used as speed bumps. It's a 40-minute ride on a four-lane road with a dirt center divider.
And I'm now done looking down at my BlackBerry to type because this guy is doing 125 kph in a 75 kph zone. He's driving this VW van like it's an R32. No seatmates up front this time, so I'm sliding on the seat.
He just topped 135 kph on a downhill.
Monday, Dec. 29, 9:27 a.m. -- Burbank
I know I had a good vacation because I forgot whether the security doors at work open in or out. I wrote down my login information because I knew I'd forget that -- I forget that after a weekend in Silver Lake.
And there's more good news -- it's up to 30 degrees at my next stop, Minneapolis. That's not terrible for Dec. 29.