TBT - (1970) "The Altamula"

The little island community of Utila, Honduras, only had two vehicles in 1970. Not that there was much in the way of roads anyway. Maybe two to three miles all together.

For this town of 1,800 souls it was wheelbarrows and strong backs that moved most of the freight from the boats, sand and gravel for construction, and delivered drinking water from the Colomico Well to their homes. The two vehicles with four wheels focused on passengers to and from the airport.

In San Pedro Sula I found a small Austrian military vehicle that the locals called the Altamula (high mule). The all wheel drive vehicle looked perfect for going anywhere horses could navigate on the island, so my brother and I put it on Alfred Ponce's boat and took it to Utila.

The first night we had it on the island we parked it outside the 'Bucket of Blood Bar' and commenced to celebrate what we hoped would be another business opportunity, now that we had this vehicle for hauling freight and water. As the night progressed and as we were joined by many others for the celebration, well - we all got pretty plastered.

Late that night when the bar closed we invited our fellow revelers to join us for a little joy ride. We did not want the party to end. No one else was on the streets - the town's power plant and most of the town's people had been put to sleep a couple hours previous to our escapade, not that we gave it much thought at this point.

What a time we had! The main road through town followed the bay and was a little over a mile in length - stretching from the coral landing strip on the beach in the east to a little past the Methodist Church in the west. The hard packed sand road had a half dozen domed concrete culverts for rain to runoff into the bay and every time we went over one the vehicle would leave the ground and we would lose a few passengers. Then on the airport gravel runway I would do a few donuts and lose anyone not really hanging on to the vehicle hard. For what seemed like hours we raced back and forth through town - people flying off and then jumping back on when the opportunity presented its self.

A fun time was had by all - or so we thought until the next day when I was hit with a punishing hangover, and worse yet - an officer of the court escorted my brother and I to the cabildo (city hall). Police Chief Theodore politely told us that the ruckus we created that night generated a great many complaints by people rudely awaked from their normally peaceful sleep. The Chief was not that upset with us - but to prove that we had been properly reprimanded, he said we would have to pay a 15 Limpera fine ($7.50US).

After paying the fine, making our apologies and reassurances it would never happen again - I just had to ask to make sure: "Mr. Theodore, has anyone ever paid a 'drunken driving' fine before on Utila?".

"No Mr. Brian."

Sometimes it feels good to know you were the first - even if it doesn't count for much.