Revolutionary travel with intent to foment a coup
Updated: May 9
MY NEXT BIG JOB
Working hard in my law office in Gig Harbor, I let my mind wander about my next big career. After thorough review, I concluded that a job as a benign dictator of a small Central American country seemed like my best next opportunity!
After all, I am completely fluent in English and Spanish, an experienced lawyer, my wife’s family has key connections in Guatemala, and I am of an age at which I can command respect — either through age, my legal skills, my humor, or if all else fails, by hiring mercenary soldiers.
I also know the United States keeps some jets in Tucson — to supply my new fledgling air force — that later I could return to the U.S. government after negotiating an aid package!
I could tell by my thought pattern that I was onto something big. An additional thought is that my duties in a smaller country would not be many and I could write ads to promote tourism! With the possible career change in mind, my wife and I made plans to check out the possibilities.
In my research I became fascinated by Belize. Good location, varied topography, English language (many people speak Spanish also), scuba diving and fishing! On the other hand, with my wife’s connections in Guatemala (generations of lawyers — sorry), I thought maybe it would be easier to take over in that country.
I did not make my plans generally known. I only let it be known that my wife and I would fly our bright red 1947 Bonanza from Tacoma to Central America — ostensibly to celebrate my birthday by snorkeling or scuba diving.
Getting the plane to Central America from Tacoma took superior planning worthy of a dictator wannabe. First we had to fly to Arizona. The skill test included fog in Tacoma, bad coastal weather, a long flight over the Rockies to Arizona at high altitude with dangerous 1,000-foot downdrafts and a serious carbon monoxide leak through the heating system into the cabin. Our oxygen masks that we wore due to our high altitude might have saved our lives.
With ATC (air traffic control) clearing our way into Scottsdale and the fire department waiting for us, our secret mission was not very secret from the start. Our aircraft, the only none turbine on the line, and the only one that was red — all the others were white, increased our notoriety. Landmark Aviation did a good job at fixing the problem at reasonable cost.
My hope after our initial notoriety was to make a surreptitious flight to Central America. It was impossible. A USA airline passenger information manifest had to be filed, the Mexican APIS manifest had to be filed, an international flight plan was required along with a discrete transponder code, aircraft documents, insurance card, pilot’s license and medical, blah blah: we were identified.
My cover was that I was a travel writer trying to promote Mexico and Central America. Using my cover I was not over scrutinized by south of the border officials as long as my briefcase I carried had all of the required documents including an infinite number of General Declarations. When all failed, I resorted to telling the officials I was an aging hippie on a quest to find nirvana — and everyone told me where to find it. They forgot about my threat as a possible revolutionary.
Another threat to my plans was travel south of the border. Except for the coasts, Mexico is ALL mountains. Big mountains. At 18,000 feet over Chihuahua, skimming the top of a snow storm in our normally aspirated (carburetored) Bonanza, I considered giving up my political ambitions.
Finally we returned to the coast and flew to Guaymas to meet my old friend Rev. Manuel Cruz of the Church of God. A direct flight from Tucson to Guaymas would have taken us 1.5 hours. It took us 4 hours to get there. We had a GREAT steak dinner at El Oeste Steak House restaurant with Manuel and his wife, Mary. We were garnering prayer support. I was beginning to feel I needed the help of the armies of heaven just to get to Central America.
REVOLUTIONARY TRAVEL DATA
The international airport in Belize City closes completely at 6 p.m. We arrived at 5:30 p.m. a day later than our one day only landing permit allowed (it took a full extra day in Tucson to get everything ready for the flights — government stuff). We arrived JUST as every employee was walking toward the doors with their stuff. We were not welcomed. They were very angry and treated us horribly and took forever to clear us into the country.
Our last hope of “getting lost” and “off the grid” failed and when we finally did get through the maze of irritated customs and immigration authorities the taxis had all left.
Fortunately a security guard at the then deserted airport had a cell phone and finally a taxi came. My first job as revolutionary dictator of any country will be to fire and put into dungeons all the rude customs and immigration authorities.
Belize City is OK. If you want to know more, Google it. Oh yeah, in the city stay at the Best Western. It’s the best downtown place, but not on the water. The Black Orchid resort on the river outside of town was superb. Big river, crocks, good food, nice big room, nice people. It seemed scary but wasn’t. It would make a great dictator’s retreat. I was beginning to think that I had found my future life. The pool was nice, few bugs. We found the resort on our cell phone Wi-Fi connection through Expedia.
For our third night in Belize we returned to the airport and flew out to the Cayes — the off-shore islands. Our mistake was to return to the airport: we should have taken the boat.
The Belize City airport was still impossible and difficult to get all the approvals, etc. etc. needed to go. It was so bad that later I called Jim Parker, owner of Caribbean Sky Adventures, who confirmed that Belize had an attitude issue.
The 20-minute flight to Ambergris Caye was over the shallow Caribbean waters in our 95-degree cabin. My mind turned to air-conditioning. All the younger folk in Belize City told us to go to Caye Caulker, NOT San Pedro on Ambergris. Good advice.
We inspected San Pedro from the air and went over to Caye Caulker (located next to Leonardo DiCapprio’s private island). There was a four passenger Tropic Air Cessna 172 “airliner” on the tarmac, we parked our Bonanza next to it. Two-plane airport. The young guy at Tropic said to leave the plane and no one would mess with it. We left it for a couple of nights and no one messed with it. I thought fear and respect for our mission was spreading.
A POTENTIAL NEW REPUBLIC
Back packers, revolutionary types, fugitives from the IRS, old hippies, artists, pretty women and lots of scuba divers make up the people of Caye Caulker. The streets are sand, the cars are golf carts, everything is flat, you can walk most everywhere bare footed and the restaurants will serve you in a bathing suit without a shirt or shoes. I decided right there that I would foment revolution on the island and we would succeed from Belize and be our own country. For food there are lots of fish, not much in green veggies, but we can import them!
The problem was that everyone appeared to be either too content or too stoned to pay any attention. My revolution didn’t get off the ground so I smoked Cuban cigars and after hanging out on the beach we went on a six-person snorkeling trip with a couple of Japanese kids, one of which got his silver colored Gopro too close to the water.
It was snatched off his wrist by a big Tarpon fish who thought it was another fish. The other passengers, a German man and woman — recent graduates from Medical School, were conversational. The rest of the time we drank coffee, ate good food and chilled out. I bought two cool oil paintings. One for the house, one for my office conference room. So much for a revolution. You can see the frustration on my face in the photo taken at Paradiso Café.
In spite of my disappointment in my failed revolution on Caye Caulker, we enjoyed ourselves immensely. My wife, Susane, got along with the owner of the Chinese restaurant where we ate. She was nice, I had her permission to use it for the initial headquarters of my government — should it have gotten off the ground.
ANOTHER CHANCE FOR REVOLUTION
We returned to Belize City, spent two hours doing paperwork and finally got cleared out to Guatemala City. After Belize I wondered what was ahead of me in Guatemala, even more so since my insurance company only reluctantly insured the plane (insurance is required by Guatemala).
First comment: Guatemala has high volcanos everywhere. Flying into Guatemala City at 14,000 or so feet, our oxygen tank went prematurely dry and we had to dodge volcanos. Bummer. I was reconsidering my job choice.
My fears about the Guatemalan officials were unfounded. Guatemala City was the model of efficiency. There was a general aviation terminal with airport officials, customs, immigration and the police all in the same small building. After being inspected, sniffed by dogs, we were welcomed into the country.
A landing permit was required, but it authorized us to land at any time during a 10-day period. I could see that Guatemala offered possibilities in efficiency that Belize lacked. Guatemala City is modern, big and very crowded with cars.
My wife’s sister picked us up and drove us one hour to her home 15 miles away. The next day was spent with my wife’s aunt, and nieces and nephews — business people, lawyers and the like. Good looking, nice, professional and part of the system, my revolutionary plans fell flat with them. They got nowhere. My wife’s family were part of the “system.”
Antigua, the old city in Guatemala, is beautiful and was lit up with Christmas lights, free Christmas concerts in the Plaza, and marvelous decorations. The Spanish Colonial city was 15th century, clean, safe and altogether enjoyable, even with relatives!
Also went to Lake Titilan a couple of hours away — an indigenous area with a tourist lake attraction.
I got over my disappointment in my failed revolution quickly and by the last night in the Barceló business hotel near the airport I was re-thinking my plan, especially after going down to dinner and looking at all the people in business suits or uniforms. I concluded that wearing a uniform or suit would be a very high price to be the Head of State.
Also, the time for “cool” revolutionary garb seemed to have ended. Years ago I could have aligned myself with Fidel and worn a cool beret. So finally, and in mild annoyance, we flew back to Gig Harbor and with mixed emotions went back to work.
I will write about my next big deal. Maybe an Internet company specializing in faux revolutionary garb to wear on vacation so my customers could forget that in two weeks they had to be back at work!