I decided to include one more chapter in this book mainly because I want to do something a little different here. In the previous chapters, my stories only included small portions of my trips which involved the mistakes or mishaps. In this chapter, I am going to narrate an entire dive weekend trip to California. I am doing this to help illustrate several of the points that I have made previously in this book.
At this time in my life I was heavily into scuba diving and I was making five to six road trips a year to go diving in the San Diego area. I usually just plan on diving one day which means I usually get 3 to 4 dives in. However, on this particular occasion I got a little greedy and scheduled day dives on two different boats. I figured that I had the time off I might as well dive two days and get in as many dives as I could.
My second wife did not really enjoy cold water diving even though she had all the gear. So I ended up making the trip by myself. Because I was diving on the same day of my road trip I had to leave my house at midnight. It definitely made for a long day. After the dive was over, my plan was to book a hotel as early as possible in San Diego so I could call it an early night. I made it to the dive boat with plenty of time to spare. I quickly loaded up all my gear and set my tank up with my BC and weights and strapped it in place along the gunwales. I stowed away my empty dive bag and went in the cabin to wait for the boat to pull out of the harbor.
I was really intrigued by my Saturday dive because we were planning on diving someplace I had not dived before. But due to the seas being a little heavy they changed their plans at the last minute and they opted to dive on the Yukon which I had already dove on several occasions. When we arrived at the wreck conditions were far from optimal. However, they decided to go on with the dive anyway and tied onto to the last down line on the wreck. There are six downlines going to the wreck which means that six boats can drop divers off at a time. We were the only ones attached to the wreck that morning. So that has to tell you something about the conditions anyway mainly because even though the Yukon was a challenging dive it was very popular. There was always at least a couple of boats diving it at any time. When they were all ready, they gave us instructions to grab the down line immediately because the currents were a little strong.
They neglected to say how strong they really were. I, with no little trepidation, jumped into the water and immediately turned around to grab the line only to find I was 20 feet behind the boat already. Well, I swam my ass off to get back to the boat. The only thing that happened was that I got further and further away from the boat. I tried to swim out of the current by cutting crossways but this current was just too wide and I was unable to make any headway. It is here that I want to make a little comment on the gear I was wearing. Because my dive was fairly early in the spring, the water was pretty cold so I had opted to wear my dry suit. I also had my camera with two strobes attached to my BC. I was thusly far from being streamlined. I was like a brick floating in the water. I finally got the attention of the dive master on the boat. Of course, since this was a day dive the boat was on the smallish side, so they had no chase boat to pick me up with. They, therefore threw me a line with a buoy attached to it, however, the line was far too short. So a rescue swimmer jumped off the back of the boat to come and help me. When he got to the end of the line, he had to let go of it. I was thinking great, now at least, I will have company when I float to Alaska. But I, however, was pleasantly surprised since he was more streamlined than me. He was actually able to make some headway against the current and was able to get me back to the safety line trailing behind the boat. When we both had a secure grip on the line they started pulling us back in. I don’t know who was doing the pulling because we just seemed to hydroplane across the water.
By the time I got back to the boat, I was exhausted not too mention they had already cut the dive short because of the unsafe conditions. I guess, they didn’t want to pick up divers all over the Pacific. Because of all the time they lost by changing dive locations, they ended the diving for the day. Well, so much for my first day. Since a weather front was coming in, I decided to not risk diving Sunday so I decided to call off my diving plans. You may remember my dive instructor saying not to feel bad about calling a dive, well, that’s what I essentially was doing. So, now what do I do? Well, I always said to have a backup plan, right? Well, my backup plan was to visit the Salton Sea and to continue on through Joshua Tree NP and then back home. In retrospect, I am not sure why I opted to take Highway 8 instead of CA-78 but that is what I did. I spent the night in El Centro and took CA-86 up to the Salton Sea the next day.
There is a US Border Patrol Station on the CA-86. I, however, was not cognizant of this fact, so it was with some surprise that I came up to. I figured no problem, I have no drugs on board. The only reason that I think I had a problem because I used to buy salads at Costco that contained packets of poppy seed dressing. We had even had eaten those salads on picnics. You know what, those border guards can be real assholes and they have no sense of humor nor imagination either. I spent an hour at that station. I was driving my pickup truck with my topper. In the back of the truck I had all my scuba gear including two steel dive tanks. You would have thought that I was going to blow something up with all this gear or that they were packed with drugs, I don’t know which. I told them what had happened with my diving and, of course, they thought my story was unlikely. You could tell that they did not believe me even though all my gear was wet from Saturday’s aborted dive.
They even made me partially open the tank valves so that I could show them that there was indeed compressed air in them and not drugs. It didn’t matter that I told them I was a an ICU nurse and was totally against drugs. They were not interested in anything I had to say. I guess they could not understand why anyone would choose to visit the Salton Sea. They had the drug dog climb into the back of my truck and stomp all over everything in there. They even let him go through my cab in the front as well. What pissed me off the most is that his damn big paws crushed the Twinkies that I had left on my center console. Of course, they did not find any drugs in my truck. I actually think they were disappointed. Maybe they were bored? There wasn’t exactly a lot of people on this road.
They still were not done with me because I hadn’t been violated yet. I say this because I was now subjected to the most invasive pat down I have ever had in my life. You know what, I never did get any flowers. When they finally finished feeling me up they did finally give up. All they did was just look at me and say I could go. They never said why they were giving me such a hard time. I did not even have tattoos on my face. What the hell?! Like I mentioned earlier, I think it was that damn poppy seed dressing. On the way out of the station, I happened to notice a map showing the Salton Sea. It was only then that I realized how close I actually was to the Mexican border. That shouldn’t have mattered, I was still in the US and I had never even went into Mexico. Maybe they thought I had picked up the drugs from the Cartel or something? Who in the hells knows, I will never give them a second chance. My ass is just too cute.
Most people would just have beat feet and immediately drove home. Well, you know what…I am just too damn stubborn. I did not take the actions of the border guards personally. I know that they were just doing their jobs. Though they really did carry things a little too far. I thought for sure that they were going to do a cavity search. Though the woman border guard was kind of cute maybe I would have enjoyed it if she did it, LOL. Just joking.
While I was a little disappointed in the Salton Sea, I did get some cool pictures there. My photos weren’t too bad at Joshua Tree NP either, so it wasn’t a total wash. I actually really liked the park so I decided to go back with my wife to spend some more time there. I did, however, lose $200.00 for the two days of diving that I either did not enjoy or do at all.
So what lessons can you learn from my weekend trip? First, you need to know when to call a dive, always go with your gut. Second, never lose your temper when dealing with border guards no matter how obnoxious they are. Third, always have a back up plan because you never know when your original plans will turn to shit. Also make sure that you have enough money to cover the extra expenses required to cover your revised plans. One more thing, don’t take CA-86 along the Mexican border to the Salton Sea. If you want to see it which I really don’t know why you would, you should drive to it from the north and then go back out the way you came in. You really need to avoid the US Border Patrol Station. If you do like cavity searches and decide to take the southern route despite my warnings, for God’s sake hide your damn Twinkies!