December 31, 2007

Getting out and walking on the beach with Max

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - The Admiral woke me just before 7 a.m. and announced that we really needed to start a routine of walking in the morning and getting some exercise. Since we settled in, it's been a lot of work (unpacking and setting up) but physical exercise hasn't been a priority.

I agreed, reluctantly, but wished I hadn't had that last glass of red wine (or was it two?) right before retiring last night.

But a half-hour later, I was up and about, hiking boots on and ready for the beach.

Yes, I shook the boots carefully before putting them on. No scorpions, thank you very much.

We took along Max the guard dog, who we knew would like some free-running time on the sand. And because it was early, there weren't many people (or dogs) yet out-and-about. Max doesn't walk comfortably on the leash (Who can blame him?) but we were a little unsure what he might do between our house and the beach where we would pass by at least a dozen wandering chickens in our travels.

We returned without ruffling any feathers, of either fowl or people.

December 30, 2007

A few leisurely hours at Admiralty Beach

TENACATITA, Jalisco, Mexico - With Dustin, Cami and Max (their well-behaved pooch) along for the ride, the Admiral and I drove the Trooper out to Admiralty Beach (where our beach lot is) for our first actual go-to-the-beach day since arriving in Mexico a few days before Christmas.

Given that we expect to be living here until late May - or early June - it didn't seem like there was a cultural imperative to get sunburned too quickly.

It was a drop-dead gorgeous day, even nicer that it has been. Humidity was low and the sun was shining brightly - very little haze. The surf was its usual state: huge. Swimming at this beach is only for those wanting to tempt fate.

On the way in, we saw that someone had marked a foot-deep pothole with a unique marker:

Tire tope
The tire makes the spot

Had we hit the pothole at 50 mph, we might be sitting in a tire shop right now, not at home, full of beach-imbibed beer and waiting for neighborhood guests to show up for cocktails. We are going to talk about all the normal stuff, good restaurants, best recipe for margaritas and how to keep scorpions out of the house.

We learned today that the former occupant of this house was stung by a scorpion and nearly died.

Nearly died.

But she wasn't at this house when it happened - she was in another part of the pueblo.

This first visit to the beach also gave me a chance to check out swim wear styles again. They haven't changed a lot since last June.

Testing the waters
Testing the waters

Fishing with bikinis
Waiting for the big fish

One of our soon-to-be neighbors roared up on his quad, giving me a bright idea for the next beach-house accessory that I might need for Casa Admiral.

Hell, it might be fun just to have one of those things here in La Manzanilla to bomb around on.

Neighbor Dave
Neighbor Dave (on the quad) with son Dustin

With VHF radio, now we are fully wired for communication

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - Son Dustin came bearing gifts Saturday - a VHF radio and an antenna which he installed this morning.

And already we have been in contact with some sailboats out in the anchorage, including Tumbleweed, whose captain and admiral (Dave and Mollie, respectively) are on their way north to Puerto Vallarta where we expect to catch up with them in a few days. We knew them in Zihuatenejo several years back when we all worked on Sailfest.

That's another story.

The radio was the final comm link. We also have internet access, a Vonage phone (with a Sacramento area code), and two Mexican cell phones.

The Mexican cell phones, by the way, are actually cheaper in some ways than their American counterparts, though dialing can be complicated.

Here's our new radio and antenna:

December 29, 2007

Open microphone night at Palapa Joe's an experience

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - The Admiral and I - along with Dustin & Cami and Mario & Sharon (Mario and Sharon are the current occupants of the Grey Goose Express on the beach in Tenacatita) went to the open mic night at Palapa Joe's Restaurant & Cantina tonight, a short stroll down the hill from our casa. It's the local gringo hangout, has free wireless, excellent food and is the social hub of the town. At least for gringos.

Dinner (and the heavily poured Cuba Libres) was great and by the time emcee Jane Gorby arrived, the place was filled to capacity and we were glad to have a table. Jane usually does her own standup piece - the Seven Dirty Words George Carlin made famous years ago. But Jane does them in Spanish.

I will never see a Chi-Chi's Restaurant again and not laugh.

We toyed with the idea of the Admiral and I doing a violin-ukulele duet of some kind, but because we have barely had time to play at all, we decided we would wait for our debut when the other two members of the Four Headlamps arrive sometime soon, we hope. Our lamps are lit and ready.

The entertainment included a few bawdy songs, some poetry, a joke that I am still trying to fully understand (it was told by a Canadian woman) and ultimately a ukulele player.

A ukulele!

The fellow with the uke pointed out up front that his was a $20, off-the-shelf plastic ukulele. And he sounded pretty good, playing a Jim Morrison tune. He was accompanied on the drums, adding a nice touch.

Perhaps the Four Headlamps needs to add some percussion units, too.

Anyone want to take up the tambourine?

Grey Goose Express in new home at Admiralty Beach

TENACATITA, Jalisco, Mexico - My early optimism about parking the Grey Goose Express in our driveway here at Casa Lupita in La Manzanilla evaporated quickly when it was obvious the rig would not be able to fit in through the gate.

If there was no house across the street, sure. But the geometry said no and so the Goose sat on the street Christmas Day while we unloaded everything into our rented casa.

The next day, we went out to the beach to visit friends Mario and Sharon from Oregon whose home was supposed to be finished by now, but is still a work-in-progress. And Sharon was done with camping on the beach - sans toilet and shower. They had been living in a small tent for about five days while the workmen poured concrete and generally did workmen-like stuff.

So we offered our amigos use of the Goose until we can set up our lot with a palapa (for shade) a tank for water and septic tank, for, well, septic stuff.

Getting it into the place was a trick, however, as the sand is very soft around their house and I did not want to get the Trooper mired up to the axles with sand.

So I backed the trailer the 200 yards or so, up to the shady spot. No problema ... Really!

On the way driving there, the Admiral faced a bigger problem when she reached into her purse and a scorpion crawled out.

I have never seen her speechless before.

December 28, 2007

Colleague from Sacramento drops into La Manzanilla

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - We spent most of the day getting our Internet connection hooked up at the house, alternately taking turns waiting at home or going down to the pueblo.

And mid-afternoon our CSU, Sacramento colleague Diego Bonilla showed up. Diego has been on sabbatical for a semester and is going back into the classroom this fall.


Diego took a tour of the crocodile swamp (on banks, not in the swamp). We also spent some quality time at Palapa Joe's Restaurant, about 200 yards from the couch where I am writing. Diego's chorizo quesadillas looked soooo good, I think I might have to have some for dinner tonight.

Here's a short video of Diego at Palapa Joe's and an art gallery we pass every day on the way up and down the hill to our casa.

DAYS THREE & FOUR - Going into Mexico

PHOENIX, Arizona, USA - We left the Carr Resort and Spa appreciably lighter, making our way south to a small town named Green Valley, Arizona where the median age is 75.

That's right - median age.

The RV park we stayed at for two nights requires that all guests be 55 or older and there were no bikinis around the swimming pool.

The night we arrived, I managed to drive down a dead end street and while turning around, I knocked off a tail-light cover and did some other minor trailer-hitch farbles, which (along with serious fatigue) suggested a full day of rest... We didn't really rest, but the pool (even sans bikinis), a quiet dinner and not moving 500 miles in a day made us ready the next day to cross the border.

We crossed at Nogales, a border town that the people in the RV park spoke very dismissively - kind of like people in San Diego speak about Tijuana. We went the truck route and avoided all of the downtown traffic and, according to some new Canadian amigos, Jim & Pat, it was about as quiet as the border ever gets.

Customs did board the Grey Goose and searched for whatever customs searches for. But we were let through with a simple wave of the hand and we were on our way.

That night we spent in a Pemex service station parking lot, shadowed by the 40-foot motorhome driving by our Canadian friends. The Pemex lots are informal rest stops all along the highway and although a little noisy, very safe. On the other side of Jim & Pat's motorhome, a Mexican family pitched a small tents and slept with their three kids - after cooking dinner on a campfire.

I guess they don't worry about scorpions crawling into the tents.

December 27, 2007

DAYS TWO & THREE - Swooping into Phoenix in an overloaded Grey Goose Express

PHOENIX, Arizona, USA - After our first night on the road, we swooshed into Phoenix on Day Two, headed for the Carr Resort in South Phoenix.

Day Two driving was less stressful and as we crossed the Arizona border, the cost of a gallon of gasoline along Interstate 10 went from $3.15 in California to $2.69 in Arizona.

Yup, $3.15 in California to $2.69 in Arizona.

But then, on the advice of brother Dan Schwartz, we pulled into a truck stop and weighed the Trooper and Grey Goose Express together to see if we still had a weight issue.

The Grey Goose Express came in at a trim 4,300 pounds (a full 100 pounds under the total axle weight allowable.) The truck came in at 5,800 pounds.


The total package, (according to the book for the truck) could not exceed 9,600 pounds. That explained why the transmission was getting a tad warm, particularly on hills.

Fixing the Grey Goose weight problem
Fixing the Grey Goose weight problem

So the next morning (Day Three) we spent about two hours unloading everything in the Grey Goose - and the Trooper - weighing things, and then making weighty decisions about what had to stay behind. It was sort of a modern-day version of the pioneers offloading Ma's piano to make it over Donner Summit.

Several cases of wine, a dozen of cans of varnish and chemicals, numerous books, chain (no kidding, I was taking 30 pounds of chain, 40 pounds of weights (for exercising) and a lot of other miscellaneous stuff got left behind, dropping the overage to about 200 pounds.

We decided we would eat our way through the canned food as quickly as possible.

But those decisions were ignored the first night of our visit, during which we imbibed enough Grey Goose and fine wine that I jumped out of a 104-degree hot tub and into the 58-degree swimming pool. Luckily, the Flip video was inside and so my last swim of 2007 in the U.S. was not captured on film.

Oh, and while I write this, Casa Lupita is airing out after the fumigator arrived early this morning to spray to keep out any and all scorpions.

The video below is from Day Two:

December 26, 2007

On the ground in La Manzanilla - Grey Goose Express made it

TENACATITA, Jalisco, Mexico - The Grey Goose Express pulled into La Manzanilla Christmas Day at about 3 p.m., after a 2,039 mile trip from Sacramento.

It took us nearly five hours to drive the last 130 miles - 25 mph over many of the long hills (both up and down). But the Goose made it fine, and along the way we even found a spot to dump our blackwater tank.

In the U.S., this is no big deal, but here there aren't public dumps and the private RV parks are hard to get in to. So in Chamela (an hour north of our new house) we pulled into an RV park owned by a half-deaf gringo named Harry who directed me to a tiny spot mid-park and said 'you can drop your load there.'

That's what he said. I can't make this stuff up.

We arrived at Casa Lupita (our rented house) and attempted to park the Goose in the driveway as planned but were foiled by some ugly geometry. There was a house across the street where I really needed to drive, in order to make the angle to push the Goose up into what is a very nice, wide, driveway.

But the story has a happy ending.

Our friends Mario and Sharon - building their beach house a few lots down from us - ran into some construction snags and instead of living in a plush beach house, were camped in a tiny tent, using the sand dunes as rest rooms and wondering why they ever started the project. The workers are busy, but it's not exactly what they had in mind.

So we dropped off the Grey Goose on their property this afternoon, giving them a nice spot to live. And this weekend which they are off on trip, we will likely head out to the Goose and spend the night - our first on that stretch of beach.

More tomorrow on the scorpion the Admiral found in her purse - as we drove down the highway, Grey Goose in tow.

Not something you want in your handbag

December 24, 2007

DAY ONE - Leaving Sacramento for points south

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - We left Sacramento one day later than anticipated, but at least partially rested for the seven days ahead.

Our amigos Pat and Sanders Lamont convinced us to spend one more night in town and so we did just that, having dinner at Vallejo's, our favorite Mexican restaurant in Sacramento. (Dinner at a Mexican restaurant on the night before beginning a 2,000 mile trip to Mexico? Si.)

We said our farewells and were on the road by 8 a.m., zooming out of the neighborhood we called home for the last few years, getting on Interstate 5 with a heavily loaded trailer and Isuzu Trooper, bouncing our way along for about two hours (I mean seriously bouncing) until we pulled into a truck stop in Westly where I had the air in the tires checked and we weighed the trailer.

I knew we were still pretty far from Mexico when the 'attendants' at the truck stop charged me $15 U.S. to check all eight tires and put some air in.

dollars. Madre mia.

But the biggest surprise came when we weighed the trailer and found it was about 200 pounds over the maximum weigh for the two axles. Ouch!

Visions of bending axles in the middle of the Mojave Desert filled my head, so we pulled into the first RV park we could find and dumped all of the tanks - fresh water, grey water and the best of all, the black water. Being new to the RV sport, I didn't have any of the proper hoses aboard and had to rely on an RV angel to help out. He also pointed out that we were carrying way too much weight in the front of the trailer.

All of that threw us way behind my intended schedule but because the Admiral took over the helm, we ended up well past Los Angeles by 10 p.m. that night, overnighting in a truck stop with diesels running on both sides of us.

I didn't hear a thing that night, nor have a single dream I remember.

The nightmare came the next day when we were on the outskirts of Phoenix and we weighed both the Trooper and the trailer together.

We found out we needed a serious Atkins-Pritikin-Jenny Craig-South Beach-Weight Watchers program for the Trooper and the trailer.

More in the next blog on how we shed 500 pounds in two hours at the Jim & Pam Carr Resort in south Phoenix.

December 23, 2007

Prelude to liftoff - the Grey Goose Express adventure

SACRAMENTO, California, USA - The days before we left the U.S. are a blur of packing, saying goodbye, followed by more packing and more goodbyes.

In the last days we packed up the entire house, went our for dinner with friends and realized that we had waited waaaaay too long to handle the final details of such of move. Besides packing the list had 27 items on it (shut off the cable tv, the newspaper, change phone messages, got to the safe deposit box, and, and, and...)

Our deadline day was when two house cleaners were set to arrive at 8:30 a.m. - by which time the house had to be empty so they could do a serious deep cleaning.

It wasn't. Merde!

So Admiral Fox and I fought room-to-room, corridor-to-corridor, and doorway-to-doorway, just ahead of vacuum cleaners, mops and other implements of destruction, loading things into the little red Nissan truck, the Grey Goose Express and some into the garage for later storing in the Troupey.

It was way beyond crazy.

But that night Sanders and Pat Lamont (the other two members of The Four Headlamps) arrived to reclaim their house (in which we have lived for the past two years, or is it three?) and we went our for a nice dinner (another one) at a neighborhood restaurant where Sanders and I had Grey Goose drinks (what else?) to celebrate our departure the following day.

But the following day we didn't leave as planned.

That's for tomorrow's episode: 10,000 pounds in a 9,000 pound bucket.

Safe in Puerto Vallarta - 1900 miles (and adventures) later

NUEVO VALLARTA, Jalisco, Mexico - We arrived safely at Dustin & Cami's casa Saturday at about 6 p.m. after an overnight stay in Mazatlan and a visit with Captain Dan Olsen and his admiral, Lorraine.

We made it sans major problems, though we did drop a torsion bar driving through Hermosillo right in the middle of a busy street, backed into a fence and lost a tail light (found it later) and hit some topes (speed bumps) going a wee bit too fast.

Like the airlines say: Be careful opening overhead bins, some things may shift in flight.

I'll post more about the entire seven-day trip later - right now my internet connection is about to disappear, I believe.

Grey Goose in Nuevo Vallarta
Grey Goose Express at Dustin's house in Nuevo

We will be here until Christmas morning when the Grey Goose Express will make its last passage (for now) to La Manzanilla where Dustin says the driveway is wide enough - by a foot or so - to back the trailer in.

But that's days from now.

December 12, 2007

Staying ahead of the wave on our way to Mexico

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - We are in the final days of countdown before we leave for Mexico, the house almost emptied and the Grey Goose Express getting more packed by the hour.

Today the Admiral and both woke up at 3 a.m. and by 4:30 gave up, got up, and got back to tasks.

When I can't sleep, that really says something about the stress level.

Complicating matters slightly has been selling a few pieces of furniture: the desk at which I am writing this blog and an exercise bike I bought to help me recover from knee surgery last year. The bike was sold last night and today a family is coming to look at the desk. If they don't buy it, it will find its way to storage. Or as we call it, stowage.

One mantra this week has been - and remains - just ride the wave and go with it.

Oh, the other is: breathe.

Look behind you!
Ride the wave, but don't look behind you

December 9, 2007

Rooftop storage - probably not recommended, but....

LAND PARK, SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Today's big project turned into, well, a big project. What I had projected to be a one-hour start to finish enterprise turned into about 3 hours.

But tonight the two kayaks, the Captain's Gig (the 10-foot sailing dinghy), oars, paddles, masts and an assorted collection of other stuff is neatly (ok, not too neatly) tied on the top of the 25-foot Aerolite trailer in anticipation of a Friday liftoff for the Grey Goose Express.

The trailer is only about 8 feet off the ground, but the way it shakes when walking on the roof... Let's just say my fear of heights came back for a brief time. How did I ever climb the sailboat mast? Oh. Yeah. I didn't. I sent someone else up all the time.

Still, after about a dozen trips up and down on the ladder, I was feeling pretty cocky, too cocky it seems as I nearly slipped off the edge.

The Admiral would not be amused if I broke my leg a few days before we have to drive 1600 miles.

I ended up making one trip to the hardware store to pick up some extra line, a few 's' hooks and a giant bungee cord all to secure the fleet on the rooftop. You can never have enough bungee chords.

December 8, 2007

To start a yacht club, exactly what do you need?

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - When I started a freelance writing & consulting business in the 1980s, I discovered all you really needed was two things: a really nice-looking briefcase and some well-done business cards.

In 2007, I think it would be necessary to add a really fast laptop computer and a web page.

But what about starting a yacht club? And a yacht club in Mexico on the shores of Tenacatita Bay?

The Admiral and I have toyed with the idea since last January when we bought our oceanfront lot, fully intending on making a part of the property into a yacht club for cruisers passing through. (Our travel trailer, being loaded as I write this, is likely to be the temporary clubhouse.)

And while we have vacillated over web pages, designs for burgees and various other yacht club appurtences, the Admiral today took the first step, shown in the photo below.

Tenacatita Bay Yacht Club
License plate frame - going on sale soon

We are toying with the notion of showing up in La Manzanilla with a box of these license plate frames and bringing them to an organizational meeting - at Palapa Joe's no doubt.

We might also offer them for sale online - via the yet-to-be-built web page, of course.

More on all this, once we leave the 95819 U.S. zip code and head south and east.

Mariposa ole!

December 7, 2007

Generator on board the Grey Goose Express

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - I made the last major purchase before we head out one week from today on our way to Mexico.

In fact, at this time next Friday, I think we will be well on our way down Interstate 5, headed for San Diego as our first stop. (Gulp...) That is unless we decide to do something else. (Us? Come on!)

The last major purchase (that I know of, anyway) was a 2kw Honda gasoline generator, a relatively light little unit (50 pounds) that starts with one pull and is sooooo quiet that it hardly noticeable. It will run everything on the trailer except the big box air conditioner on the roof. That would require the equivalent of two of the generators I bought today.

So, I'll buy a few extra electric fans and we can swim often.

Saturday is the day allocated to finishing the Captain's Gig repairs, started so well by Chief Engineer Scott Noble and being finished not-quite-so-well by me. But between Scotty's excellent fiberglass work and my thorough use of Marine Tex, the rig ought to survive.

When we hoist it to put it on top of the trailer, I'll know a lot more about how strong the repairs are.

Oh! And the Grey Goose Express you are wondering? What's that all about?

One of the stops will be in Phoenix at the Jim & Pam Carr Resort, Spa and Trailer Park where the drink du jour is a vodka collins made with Grey Goose vodka. As these cocktails are not on the approved drink list in California, I am going to take the opportunity to hoist a few with my amigos Jim and Pam Carr. Just a few. Honest.

I hoisted some ice tea earlier today with daughter Anne and granddaughter Kami when we went out for lunch. I can't wait to be able to buy that little one milkshakes, et al.

If you have had enough grandkid videos, skip this one. (But if not, well, Kami is soooo cute, you won't want to miss it.)

December 2, 2007

Up the mountain for a day of food, friends and songs

MURPHYS, Calif., USA - We took a much-needed break from our packing and planning endeavors this past weekend, zooming up the hill to Camp Connell to visit friends Sanders and Pat Lamont at their cabin. (Cabin? It's a castle....)

It was also a good test run for the Trooper, which has lived most of its life in the flatlands and not been challenged much by hills. When we leave for Mexico in 11 days (Jaysus! 11 days?) there will be plenty of hills - and a 3, 500-pound travel trailer dragging behind. (Whoops, I forgot about the two cases of beer & the two cases of wine. Better add 75 pounds to the total.)

No trip to Camp Connell is complete without a visit to the Lube Room, a local tavern where we had dinner Friday night. (Would you like a hamburger, a hamburger and fries or a hamburger and onion rings?)

Then Saturday we wandered the streets of Murphys, the small mountain town where the Lamont's daughter Ruth, son-in-law Brian and grandchildren Delaney and Connor live.

Ruth & Brian and Co. moved to the hills (3,000-foot elevation) from the SF suburb of Pleasanton and now are the proud owners of an eight-acre ranch that has a fabulous house on it.

They scored big time with the place. But what a contrast! Suburban Pleasanton is, well, very suburban. At the secluded Murphys' house (a half-mile up a one-lane road), Brian watched a bear saunter by his home-office window the other morning.

And they get regular visits from a bobcat. Just ask any of their surviving chickens.

In our travels we also visited a gift shop where we found what might be the perfect musical accessory - a wooden pig you run a stick over to get some music.

We may need to get a whole set for the band we are putting together, The Four Headlamps. More on the band in a future posting.

Musical pig
With an oink, oink, here and an oink, oink there ...

December 1, 2007

Having a cold beer, with a boa constrictor

CAMP CONNELL, Calif., USA - A group of politically active students from Humboldt State University traveled to Sacramento Friday, meeting with state dignitaries to lobby on behalf of their college - and to get some reform in the entire university system.

A system several of them labelled as corrupt.

No argument here.

I wouldn't count myself as a dignitary, but because I presided over the Faculty Senate vote last year, in which the vast majority of faculty said they had no confidence in our campus president, they asked me to join them for a discussion of tactics.

They had met earlier in the day with the Lieutenant Governor and various state officials but were still full of questions when we all met at the Fox & Goose tavern.

Yup, same tavern we went to earlier in the week to listen to Irish music.

My blood pressure did go up a few points in reliving last year's election and contentious time, but it was interesting to see how earnest this group was - and how puzzled they are that the designated adults are making such a hash of their university.

I sat next to Jessica - one of the leaders - and it wasn't until we were getting ready to head off to Camp Connell to visit Sanders and Pat Lamont that Admiral Fox noticed the head of a snake sticking out of the shirt of my neighbor.

A snake?

A snake!

It turns out that the critter is Jessica's pet, a boa constrictor that goes everywhere with her.

The one scene I wish I had filmed was the look on the bartender's face when Jessica walked up and ordered a drink.

Here's Jessica, her slithery amigo, and a clip of our visit to Camp Connell.

November 28, 2007

An night of Irish music at a real pub - in Sacramento

FOX & GOOSE PUBLIK HOUSE, Sacramento, Calif., USA - The Admiral and I passed a pleasant - if all too quick - evening at a local pub last night where local musicians gather to play some Irish music.

The Admiral has attended this gathering a few times and this time I went along to check it out.

Any place where a gorgeous Irish woman bartender smiles and says: What can I git for ya darlin' ? gets my vote.

There was great music, great food, great beer (Harp's, of course) and great company.

I didn't drag along my newest musical acquisition - an eight-string ukulele with a small amplifier. I can't play any Irish tunes yet and I didn't think a rousing chorus of Chuck Berry's My Ding-A-Ling would fit in.

November 23, 2007

Preparing the sailing dinghy for a return to Mexico

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - My much loved - and much-used - sailing dinghy was in the Land Park boatyard & repair shop today, getting fixed so it will be ready to challenge the waters of Tenacatita Bay in only about a month.

The 10-foot craft, nicknamed the Captain's Gig when it was a tender to Sabbatical in our cruising days, was badly banged up on the trip back from Puerto Vallarta two years ago. The damage was sufficient enough that a local fiberglass repair shop told me to simply buy a new hull and forget about repairs.

The manufacturer, however, said that was pure poppycock and that it should be repaired. (Actually, I believe they said it was total bullshit, but did not offer to repair it themselves.)

So today Sabbatical's retired Chief Engineer, Scott Noble, came over with sanders, cutters, vacuums, air compressors and other instruments of mass construction and began the restoration project.

I did a lot of watching, punctuated by mixing up fiberglass to put into the various cracks and crevices through which copious amounts of water most certainly would come in without the repairs.

The whole job will take a few days with the drying time needed for the fiberglass, sanding, and eventually, a coat of paint. Now that I've seen how the Chief Engineer did it, I'll attempt to fix a couple of other areas that are less critical.

When it's done, the repaired Captain's Gig should look like this.

Captain's Gig
A sistership under sail in Puget Sound

In between mixing resin and activator - and handing tools to Scott - I shot the video below:

November 22, 2007

A day of Thanksgiving, even without Manhattans

LAND PARK, Sacramento, Calif., USA - What was looking like an extremely quiet Thanksgiving broke wide open mid-morning with the arrival of son Dylan today - and then nephew Alex Schwartz, shortly thereafter.

The Admiral and I had planned on it being just the two of us - both quite immersed in packing and getting ready for our Mexico sojourn - when Dylan called from his Berkeley digs and said he would like to join the family fete.

And because he is heavy into cycling now, he called his cousin Alex (who lives in Davis, Calif. a half-dozen miles away) so they could do a Turkey Day bicycle ride. Alex could not stay for dinner - he and his lady friend were hosting her father... but we almost talked him into it.

All the years I was growing up in Lakewood, New York, the unmistakeable signal of Thanksgiving was the appearance of pitchers of Manhattan cocktails, concocted by my Uncle, Howie McAvoy. These lethal drinks were sooooo potent that one was plenty, two had you singing Good Night Irene at the top of your lungs and three, well, three usually meant lots of aspirin the next day.

For Howie, more than one meant a reoccurence of his gout.

Everyone in the family had a least a sip of a drink - sometimes more. It was one of the few times of the year that my grandmother would wear a big grin on her face.

Manhattan, served straight up

Howie's recipe was 3 parts blended whiskey, two parts sweet vermouth, a dash of bitters and a few drops of Maraschino cherry juice. The ingredients were mixed together in a pitcher, poured over ice, and then poured into a stylish cocktail glass.

What a drink.

I've laid off the things for nearly 20 years, preferring wine. But one of these Thanksgivings, I think I'll break out the bottle of Four Roses whiskey and some sweet vermouth and toast to Uncle Howie and the hundreds of others I have introduced to the McAvoy Manhattan over the years.

Might be worth risking some gout.

Here's today's video episode of the cycling adventures and our modest dinner:

November 21, 2007

Bicycles, violins and ukuleles all in one day

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - In the countdown to Turkey Day, we had Anne, Samantha and Kamryn visit today for lunch and the surprise of the day (maybe month) was the just the day before, Samantha had taken her first solo on her bicycle.

And today she couldn't wait to grab ahold of the bike we keep at our Land Park casa.

After a bit of inflation for both tires, she hopped on and rode back and forth to show off her newfound skill.

I'll bet next summer she doesn't wait around for her Mom to take her to visit friends.

But right after that bit of transportation-related excitement, Admiral Fox and I transited to the studio where our music teacher, Bill Trainor, put us through an hour's worth of lessons on how to make the violin and ukulele sound good together.

It might take more than one hour's worth of lessons.

Still, it was fun and with even the little bit of instruction and suggestions, it looks like we will be able to stand up at open mic night in Mexico at Palapa Joes and not embarrass ourselves.

Not too much anyway.

One issue that arose immediately is that my ukulele just doesn't have the horsepower to play very loud, at least compared to a violin. So tomorrow I will be in search of a new ukulele (possibly an eight-string) that is wired for an amplier. And, of course, that means the purchase of an amplifier, too - a small one, but still - an amp!

Our Mexico-bound travel trailer is starting to fill up quick.

November 15, 2007

A musical day with daughter and two granddaughters

RANCHO CORDOVA, Calif., USA - With a pile of student papers to be graded just above my knees - and a 'to-do' list that rivals in number of items on the list Dwight D. Eisenhower had the week preceding June 6, 1944 - I opted to do the only sane thing I could think of today: Go have lunch with daughter Anne and new granddaughter Kamryn Lynn Allen.

Kamryn doesn't talk much yet. OK, she doesn't talk at all. But she can be very expressive.

Very expressive.

The bonus was that Granddaughter No. 1 got out of school early today and so on our way back from a lunch at a local restaurant, we picked her up and headed back to daughter Anne's casa where Samantha quickly dragged out her flute and put on a concert.

It was amazing to watch the same fingers that are so proficient at winging a softball through the air work so delicately on the flute.

We hope that next week - when Samantha is off school completely - she will come over to our house and we can have a jam session. At least as much of a jam session as you can have with a flute, a violin and a ukulele.

I wonder if Samantha knows "It's Five O'Clock Somewhere" by Alan Jackson & Jimmy Buffet?

Today's concert

We found crew for our voyage to Mexico in December

LAND PARK, Sacramento, Calif., USA - It's a long way from our driveway here in Land Park to Tenacatita (about 1650 miles, I guesstimate) but the Admiral found the perfect crew member & pet to take along with us on our trek south and east.

He should also be relatively amusing - and/or annoying - once we hit the beach in Mexico, especially once his Spanish improves.

November 10, 2007

Procrastination Version 11.10.2007

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - I will blame it on the rain, though there is plenty to do here inside the house.

But after attending an all-day conference yesterday - on how to better teach our undergrads to learn about new media and technology - well, I am sort of worn out.

Too much input.

So, instead of working on my writing today, grading, packing, or, or, or... I did managed to slap together a quick compendium from last weekend, starting with leaving to take the trailer into the shop for wheel bearings and brakes and ending with, well, you'll have to look at the video for that scene.


My only regret is that I didn't take any video of Scott Noble and I taste-testing some margaritas last week. They were dy-no-mite.

November 2, 2007

A day 'off' the list - is this what retirement could be?

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The day began by hightailing it over the trailer shop with the new Aerolite trailer in tow, getting there in time for the service guys to grab it for a full safety checkup. (I also learned how to dump the poop tank - muy importante, amigos, muy importante...)

All of my night-before worries about driving through traffic - and whether Troupey the Isuzu Trooper's had the ability to stop the 2,800 pound payload at stoplights were unnecessary. In downtown traffic, I found people moved over (waaaay over, thank you very much) as I appoached, some moved over faster than others, particularly if they were driving a really expensive car.

The trailer now gets to live in the shop for a few days while the brakes and bearings are gone over quite thoroughly. I'll be about $700 poorer sometime next week when I go pick it up, but happy to know that it will have electric brakes that actually, well, work.

It didn't have any brakes to speak of, according to Dan the mechanic.

But the best part of the day was completely ignoring my todo list. (OK, I confess, taking the trailer out to the shop was item No. 1. but that was it, honest!) Instead, I went about the day like, well, a retiree, spending my time having lunch with my daughter and two granddaughters (video is below, of course), dropping by the Post Office, a quick stop at Trader Joes (for medicinal and ceremonial wine) capped by nearly two hours on the computer searching for ukulele music.

Granddaughter Samantha is learning to play the flute and so I madly grabbed songs that I thought she might like to learn to play, with me doing a comedy act on my uke. Plus, I found a handful of songs that the Admiral and I can probably play together, too.

The Admiral, by the way, has launched her own blog - not content to let my missives stand as the only record of what we are up to.

Here's the link - and she's already posting video!

  • Admiral's Log

  • Here's a short video of the lunch bunch at a local Applebee's restaurant:

    November 1, 2007

    New travel trailer leaves the space dock for first voyage

    LAND PARK, SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The lights were working, the electric brakes still offline, but the new travel trailer - which could end up as the Tenacatita Bay Yacht Club's first building in just two months - left the driveway today for the first time, proudly dragged behind Troupey, our Isuzu Trooper bought last summer.

    The first dicey moment came when I realized that I didn't have a bolt small enough to slide through the locking mechanism of the trailer hitch. Good thing I have spent the last 45 years working with lines on boats. I tied a tight hitch across the mechanism and called it good. (I also made sure the safety chains were on tight, too...)

    The driveway posed a challenge going out (and in) because the jackstand hangs down slightly, managing to dig up a little concrete as it passed over. But the trailer pulled out easily and for about a half-hour, we tooled around the neighborhood, down onto a couple of main streets and then back home for the real test - getting back into the narrow driveway.

    I didn't get any applause when I finally got the trailer back in, but I did get several thumbs up from neighbors who were out raking leaves and watching me go back and forth, back and forth, trying to get the trailer lined up perfectly in the narrow driveway.

    With the maiden voyage behind me, I'll be a little more confident tomorrow morning when I take the trailer out to a service center to get the wheel bearings and trailer brakes checked out. Oh, and I'll be buying a couple of new batteries, too. The golf cart batteries that power the lights and water pump are the originals that came with the trailer when it was first sold 10 years ago.

    It's a tribute to the Trojan Battery Company that these old T-105, 6-volt batteries still have any power left at all.

    Here's a short video of the voyage:

    October 23, 2007

    Logical progressions don't always seem so logical

    CARMICHAEL, Calif. USA - The move to Mexico in seven weeks away and suddenly all the dominoes are falling: What do we take with us? Are we going to build a house? When will be actually start packing?

    The questions didn't get answered over the weekend, but after wrestling with these three conundrums, we bought a travel trailer.

    A travel trailer?

    Yes, a towable land yacht (sort of) that is big enough for us to carry all of the things we wanted to take to Mexico with us as well as provide a ready-to-use beach house while we ponder the real house we want to build.

    A travel trailer?

    For two months I scoured the want ads for a utility trailer to haul kayaks, a rowing/sailing dinghy, household stuff, computers & electronics and, of course, clothes. (Clothes aren't that big a deal, given the climate.)

    But every cargo-only trailer I looked at was either several thousand dollars - or so beat I would not drive it across town, let alone 1700 miles to La Manzanilla.

    I was about to simply drive the Trooper south with whatever we could cram in when we saw a new-to-the-market small travel trailer, manufactured by Thor Industries, that we realized could double as a cargo trailer and temporary beach house. They are light, well thought out (like a boat) and easily towed. But the downside is they are also very expensive - as in the $20,000 range.

    That's way beyond what I would pay for an aluminum box to sit on beach, 12 feet above sea level.

    But a concept was born - buy a travel trailer.

    A travel trailer.

    And no, we didn't pay a fortune for our 1996 Aerolite (in the video below). Admiral Fox always gets a great deal and did so on this unit... Of course, now I need to head down to Camper World for all those accessories and then there is the issue of a Honda generator, and, oh, how about one of those outside awnings and....

    October 20, 2007

    A trip to downtown Napa takes us to memory lane, too

    NAPA, Calif. USA - Our friends Mary Jo and Peter - of Healdsburg, Calif, Cape Cod, Mass, & Costa Rica - met us in downtown Napa at Joe's Restaurant on the river for a lunch & catch-up on everybody's lives session Saturday.

    I haven't been to Napa in probably 25 years, though it was at the Napa Register newspaper that I got my start in journalism. A good portion of the war stories I tell in class have to do with that newspaper, the wildman editor I worked for (John Shields) and what it was like to be 25 and know absolutely nothing about the business. (I graduated with a degree in English, but got an advanced education in what a reporter needed to know - in about two weeks from Shields.)

    Napa Register building
    Napa Register - still in the same downtown building..

    Mary Jo & Peter are packing their bags right now to head to Cape Cod to spend the winter. Yes, the winter. On Cape Cod. Yes, the same Cape Cod where thousands of tourists flock every summer to vacation.

    Every summer.

    It seems that Mary Jo & Peter have never spent a winter in the Northeast and decided it would be, well, fun.

    We'll check in with them in February, when they haven't seen the sun for, oh, maybe a month, to see how the fun is going.

    They still own several hundred acres of land in Costa Rica where at one time we thought we would sail Sabbatical and anchor off the beach. We even had plans of opening a sailing school right there near Domincal, until I read up that in order to import our boat into Costa Rica, we would have to pay a 100 percent duty on it. That's 100 percent of the value of the boat. Ouch.

    That plan got scuttled but Mary Jo & Peter did build a nice house that they barely visit, Costa Rica being waaaaay far away from the U.S. by any mode of travel.

    They were intrigued with the tale of our traveling hot tub, however and also viewed a lot of our Mexico photos. Peter has built houses on the beaches of Sanibel Island and had some advice on how deep to plant the pilings for our house - eight feet below the sand and eight feet above.

    The entire Napa riverfront is being redeveloped with a riverwalk planned and large retaining walls in place to fight the flooding that hits nearly every winter. The restaurant where we ate was a first-class pub and crowded even late in the afternoon when we departed, full of amber ale and cheeseburgers.

    Napa River view from Joe's
    Napa River view from Joe's upstairs deck

    October 15, 2007

    Friends drop by and check out the new Flip Video

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - Our friends Dan & Lorraine Olsen dropped by this afternoon to say adios on their way south to hook back up with their sailboat, docked in Mazatlan, a pleasant place Sabbatical stayed several times - once for an entire summer.

    We talked about travel plans - they are headed south on their boat, possibly as far as Ecuador this year.

    We, of course, are headed not quite that far south - just La Manzanilla by Chrismas, where the Olsens say they might be if things work out.

    In boating jargon, 'if things works out' really means, We Have No Freakin' Idea, But Would Like To.

    But we showed them out latest video toy and insisted that they pick a up Flip video unit for their next travels.

    And here they are:

    October 14, 2007

    Getting Sabbatical ready for the South Pacific

    ALAMEDA, Calif., USA - So many things to do and so little time. But that's hardly something that's unique to the Admiral and I.

    Still, we need lists to tell us which lists we need to refer to to do what projects and when.

    Make any sense? If it does, please explain it to me.

    Saturday was turned over to getting down to Sabbatical to give new owner/former owner Don Tiffin another helping hand as he readies the ship for departure to the South Pacific - his eventual goal. Don keeps his actual cruising plans tightly under wraps but it's clear he will likely get back to Australia sometime, where his other boat (up for sale) sits on a buoy.

    Saturday's activities showed that the boat is closing in on being ready - we have gotten to the point of readying the wood and steel for the voyage. Both need to be protected from the salt water which is sooooo corrosive.

    But I was pleased to see that the engine room - which I help dismantle a few weeks ago - seems back together enough so the boat can move if need be.

    Here's a short video from yesterday:

    Last night, after stretching our muscles and crimping our butts (almost four hours in the car to drive down and drive back) we had a great dinner with former Sabbatical Chief Engineer Scott Noble and his wife, soon-to-be Counselor Jennifer.

    We talked Mexico and Scott's plans for adding a marine division to his carpet cleaning company... And, of course, I shot a few seconds of video of Scott.

    'NobleCarpetCleaners.Com' anyone?

    October 13, 2007

    Launching more songs on the ukulele

    LAND PARK, SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The addition of a new set of Bose earphones has opened up hearing songs sooooo much better than with the earphones that came with my Ipod, which are hooked into the computer while I work - or write blogs.

    Bose earphones
    A late birthday present

    And what they have also done is let me hear songs a much more clearly to see if they are possibilities for the ukulele.

    Since discovering the Circle of 5ths, I have been busy transposing songs so my fingers can wrap around the adjusted chords.

    Get ready for some Sonny & Cher songs, lots of Garth Brooks, one Allan Jackson song, but no Barry Manilow, yet. (Thank God, you are thinking. I know.)

    But in keeping with my most likely musical performances - heavy on comedy, a little short on real music - I ran across a neat ditty by rock legend Chuck Berry that I have added to my repertoire.

    Chuck Berry
    Chuck Berry

    Nope, it's not Maybelline, though that's a possibility.

    It My Ding-A-Ling, a three-chord song that has, well, pretty funny lyrics.

    The chording part is easy, remembering the lyrics is a lot harder.

    But the fun part about the song is that when sung in public, it seems like audiences love to sing the chorus.

    Here's a short version, in case you want to practice:

    My Ding-A-Ling-A-Ling

    When I was a little biddy boy
    My grandma bought me a cute little toy
    Two Silver bells on a string
    She told me it was my ding-a-ling-a-ling

    My Ding-A-Ling My Ding-A-Ling won't you play with My Ding-A-Ling
    My Ding-A-Ling My Ding-A-Ling won't you play with My Ding-A-Ling

    When I was little boy In Grammar school
    Always went by the very best rule
    But Evertime the bell would ring
    You'd catch me playing with my ding-a-ling

    Once while climbing the garden wall,
    Slipped and fell had a very bad fall
    I fell so hard I heard birds sing,
    But I held on to My ding-a-ling

    Once while swimming cross turtle creek
    Man them snappers right at my feet
    Sure was hard swimming cross that thing
    with both hands holding my dingaling

    Now this here song it ain't so bad
    Prettiest little song that you ever had
    And those of you who will not sing
    must be playing with your on Ding-a-ling

    October 8, 2007

    If this video posting works, we have a winner for sure

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. USA - A student intern at the California Newspaper Publisher's Association - who is actually pretty shy so I won't post here name here (yet) figured out the error of my ways in trying to post videos from the new Flip videocam to this blog.

    If the silly one below works, well, we'll keep the camera - and the one supposed to arrive in tomorrow's mail!

    Cross those fingers, por favor.

    Yet another test of movie uploads

    October 7, 2007

    One video post and already we are starting to FLIP

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The video added to yesterday's blog triggered a certain receptiveness to the new technology that ended with not one, but two new video cameras in the media arsenal of Captain's Blog and From Where I Sit - not to mention Writing for Money, the Class of '66 and the Tenacatita Bay Bugle.

    But I digress.

    After viewing the video of both granddaughters posted Saturday and pondering how I could use video more, we wandered into Costco this morning on our weekly food run and there it was: A Flip video camera, a small camera that is as simple as anything I have seen on the market, small and easy to use - and very inexpensive, too.

    Flip video
    Flip video camera

    Naturally, we bought one and after playing with the unit for about an hour at home, we decided that we needed to upgrade one notch to the next version.

    Flip ultra
    Flip Ultra - more bells & whistles

    The software is in this $109 camera (Costco's price). It normally retails for $119. The upgraded version - already in the mail on its way to our house, I believe - is about another $50 but has just enough additional memory and features to make it worth having.

    So, what-the-hell? Video?

    Since making the decision to move to Mexico for part of every year, I have been in search of the lightest gear possible: lightest computer, lightest camera, lightest video gear, lightest bag to carry all of the aforementioned - and light clothes, of course.

    I know that while we are planning on building a beach house, the same wanderlust that kept us pulling up anchor will have us crashing all over rural Mexico in our Isuzu Trooper, exploring riverbeds and climbing the occasional mountain.

    I'm still in search of a lighter computer, but this new Flip camera might be the ticket for both video and stills, just the thing for a Backpack Journalist exploring Mexico. More on that concept another time.

    Here's the link to the Flip camera site:
  • Flip cameras

  • And here's a short clip taken with the camera we bought this morning which is unedited - if it works at all - because there seems to be a snafu in the software!

    Was the camera too good to be true?


    Que lastima!

    So, after many attempts at getting the blogsite to run the video, I have given up (as of 6:10 p.m. Sunday...)

    But you can see the first Flip attempt here on YouTube

  • YouTube debut with Flip camera
  • October 6, 2007

    At the soccer field with TWO granddaughters

    GOLD RIVER, Sacramento, Calif. USA - The Admiral and I were a little late (ok, it was halftime) for Samantha Rose Allen's soccer match today, but it was a gorgeous fall day and a great family day at that.

    Samantha's baby sister - Kamryn Lynn Allen - was there, too, while mom Anne tried to watch the game and the baby, too.

    Kamryn was a month-old Friday and already is holding her head up and showing signs of being a strong little critter. Yes, thank you very much, I am a proud granddad.

    We took both cameras to collect some video and stills of this newest addition to the clan and also to see if I can make the video function of this blog work. If I can, it should appear right below this...

    In case the video doesn't work as planned, we did shoot about 40 photos of Kamryn and Samantha, though Samantha is such a dervish that getting her to stand still long enough to get a good photo is almost impossible.

    Still, I caught her from a distance in these two shots.

    Sami - finally not running

    Sami with soccer ball
    Practicing a little volleyball

    And you have been waiting for these two shots: the proud grandparents:

    Kamryn with Michael
    Michael clutching Kamryn

    Kamryn on shoulder II
    On Sylvia's shoulder

    October 5, 2007

    Will the Puffin make a return to the Admiral's fleet?

    SAN FRANCISCO, Calif., USA - As preparations for Mexico get more serious by the day, the debate has shifted to considering buying a trailerable sailboat and loading it with all of the stuff that won't fit in Troupey (our Isuzu Trooper) for the trip down.

    Originally, the idea was to buy an enclosed cargo trailer (still a possibility) but a prospect that is equally enticing would be to haul a small sailboat on a trailer - such as a Laser - and load that trailer with our kayaks, small rowboat and other equipment for the trip down. We don't really need a cargo trailer in Mexico, but a sailboat is another matter.

    But what sailboat and what trailer?

    We have a line on a nice Laser (a very fast, very light boat) and several other slightly larger, heavier units, too. But none are exactly what I am looking for, so every day I spend a few minutes on Craigslist looking for boats.
  • Craigslist

  • And then late last night, I found the Puffin.

    puffin 1
    The Puffin at the dock

    The Puffin was son Dustin Fox's boat about 10 years ago - a neat little 17-foot British Leisurecraft that is as good a sailboat as any sailor could ever want. It's twin-keel system makes it soooo stable that it was as comfortable as our former 40-foot sailboat on San Francisco Bay.

    The Puffin was sold when Dustin went on to other interests but the boat always stuck in my memory, largely because it was such a good sailboat and also because maintaining 17 feet, versus 40 feet (or 48 feet in the case of the recently sold Sabbatical) is a relative breeze.

    And now the boat is back up for sale, having been through two owners and the Sea Scouts. The current owner bought it from the Sea Scouts and is ready to part with the ship. The downside is that the boat has no trailer and no outboard any longer.

    Still, what could a flatbed trailer cost? What could an outboard cost? What price can you put on having a great daysailer in the warm waters of Mexico?

    It might be worth it to have the Puffin scooting around Tenacatita Bay and perhaps up in Banderas Bay, too, where Dustin now lives.

    puffin 3
    Puffin's interior - sleeps two, or three really good friends

    puffin 4
    Puffin's cockpit

    October 2, 2007

    There's hope on the horizon for the ukulele yet

    LAND PARK, Sacramento, Calif. USA - Today ukulele lesson introduced the piece of the puzzle that might finally let me make the last leap to playing some of the songs I want to - in a key that I can actually wrap my cranky fingers around.

    My uke teacher, who also is helping Adm. Fox with the violin, showed me something called the Circle of Fifths. (No, it has nothing to do with bottles of either Grey Goose Vodka or Jim Beam, though both are sometimes useful musical accessories when singing.)

    This circle is a representation of musical notes and makes it easy (easy being a relative term) to shift all the chords in a song. In my case, in my struggles with Two Pina Coladas, it makes it possible to avoid the use of a B-flat note, which my fingers just do not like and, in fact, refuse to play.

    With the shift of a few notes, however, that B-flat magically is now an F - a chord I can hit without even looking at the strings.

    Watch out Garth, I'm movin' up.

    Circle of Fifths diagram

    Now I have to go back and look at the other songs I've been avoiding on the uke, most of them with a D chord, which I have found impossible to play.

    It could be that House of the Rising Sun guitar/ukulele throwdown in San Miguel de Allende in Mexico might happen this year after all.

    In the meantime, consider practicing these lyrics so you can sing along:

    Two Pina Coladas
    By Garth Brooks

    I was feelin’ the blues
    I was watching the news
    When this fella came on the TV

    He said I’m tellin’ you
    That science has proven
    That heartaches are healed by the sea

    That got me goin’
    Without even knowin’
    I packed right up and drove down

    Now I’m on a roll
    And I swear to my soul
    Tonight I’m gonna paint this town


    So bring me two pina coladas
    One for each hand
    Let’s set sail with Captin Morgan
    And never leave dry land

    Troubles I forgot ‘em
    I buried ‘em in the sand
    So bring me two pina coladas
    She said good-bye to her good timin’ man

    Oh now I’ve gotta say
    That the wind and the waves
    And the moon winkin’ down at me

    Eases my mind
    By leavin’ behind
    The heartaches that love often brings

    Now I’ve got a smile
    That goes on for miles
    With no inclination to roam

    I’ve gotta say
    That I think I’ve gotta stay
    ‘Cause this is feelin’ more and more like home


    So bring me two pina coladas
    One for each hand
    Let’s set sail with Captin Morgan
    And never leave dry land

    Troubles I forgot ‘em
    I buried ‘em in the sand
    So bring me two pina coladas
    She said good-bye to her good timin’ man

    September 27, 2007

    Mexico countdown whizzing by, almost time to pack

    SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The fall days - and crossed-off dates on the calendar - are going by frightfully fast, as Mexico lies ahead and our plans are almost as unsettled as if we were still piloting a cruising sailboat, unsure where to anchor or dock.

    We know, for sure, that we will be living in La Manzanilla, in a rented house called Casa Lupita, for at least a few months this spring, while Admiral Fox does some work for Santana Realty and we try to get our house project off the ground. The house is providing some challenges, such as, what kind of house should we build?

    And me? I intend on boogie-boarding, fishing in the surf, practicing the ukulele, doing some writing (ok, maybe a lot), and making sure my name is on a barstool at Palapa Joe's, the joint right across the street from Santana Realty.

    Uno mas Cuba libre, por favor? See, my Spanish is coming back already. And my ukulele teacher promises I'll be able to play Two Pina Coladas by the time I get settled in on that stool.

    Yup, after resisting taking lessons, I have been studying and getting serious (as serious as you can get about a ukulele). I already have four different somewhat off-color versions of Popeye the Sailor Man memorized - and several more in the works. "He's strong to the finish, cause..."

    Casa Lupita gate and entrance
    Casa Lupita galley area

    Complicating matters this fall has how much fun we had in New York this summer - and how much we took to the community. Complicating? Yes. Living in three places for the next few years is going to be tricky: Sacramento (where the money is), New York (where the lake house and the Spirit of Louise pontoon boat are) and Tenacatita, Mexico (where the best weather, best beaches, best tequila, best gratuitious bikini photos ... oh, never mind).

    The Admiral and I would love to cut it down to two places, but which two? And when?

    Bay in front of La Manzanilla
    A view of La Manzanilla

    And complicating things more is that we hope to lock up our second piece of property this spring, the small lot overlooking the pueblo of Arroyo Seco. That's the spot I would like to build a small house - a writer's retreat, sort of. Good complications all...

    That hillside lot is only a short distance from the beach, a quick trip if I buy the small Honda motorbike I have my eye on, perfect for the packed sand road/trail that leads to one of the best surfing beaches along the entire Costa Alegre.


    Michael with neighbor
    Michael with an Arroyo Seco neighbor

    September 12, 2007

    Back in the classroom and back at the keyboard

    SACRAMENTO, Calif. USA - The dominant feature of my in-home office right now is a Mexico countdown calendar, which already has an impressive number of Xs on it as September slips away and we look at the much cooler days of October. Today, it looks like the temperature will barely crest 80 degrees after a couple of weeks of close to 100,

    Already, my vow to wear shorts and sandals until I leave for Mexico in mid-December is looking like it will be test of mind over temperature.

    Marking off the days

    There is a certain shock in being back in the classroom for four classes - two basic newswriting classes, a magazine writing class and a column writing class (a class I haven't taught since about 2000). But compared to the political battles of last year (leading to a vote of no confidence in the university president) the questions of undergraduates about news values and how to pursue their research for stories is a welcome relief.

    The fun thing about being in the classroom, is finding out what's new with these students. A writing group last night told me that the hot new college-age trend for recreation is - are you ready? - board games.

    Board games?

    Yup, Scrabble topped the list, but there were some others. Parker Brothers rule!

    Of course, the lunacy in other areas is hard to avoid. At a small lake, three hours north of town the Department of Fish & Game is poisoning the water to rid the lake of Northern Pike - a non-native fish that somehow showed up there 10 years ago and which has resisted an earlier attempt at poisoning. This one will cost $16 million and kill everything in the lake.

    Yup, $16 million - and then the DFG will spent God-knows-how-much on restocking the lake with trout.

    Unwanted fish, apparently

    The return to Sacramento has also meant a return to some of the foulest air in the United States. (I believe Sacramento is ranked as having the 10th worst air in the nation, even fouler than Los Angeles.) The only good news in that is that in the fall, the cool air at night drops all the pollution down to the ground. The bad news is a freshly washed car is covered with silt, dust and half-burn hydrocarbon every morning.

    That's ok though, I suppose, because I need the stretching exercise, washing the cars a lot.

    How many weeks until we move to Mexico?

    September 9, 2007

    The summer closes out with a party and air flight

    VALOIS, New York, USA - The long, not-so-hot summer at Seneca Lake closed out just before Labor Day weekend with a flurry of close-the-house projects, including putting the Spirit of Louise on her trailer and then taking the ship to Morgan Marine in Penn Yan for service and storage.

    The Admiral took her first solo voyage on the boat, running her down the lake from the house to the Smith Park launch ramp where we slid the trailer in the water and voila (!) we were ready.

    True to form, the Admiral used a steady, if heavy, hand on the throttle and beat me driving to the launch ramp in brother-in-law Dan's truck.

    Spirit of Louise ready for storage
    Spirit of Louise ready for the trip to storage.

    That same night, we sojourned all the way up the hill from the main house for a cocktail party, open-house at the cabin, which our friend Brad has been fixing up all summer. The place looked great, the food and beverages were also very noteworthy and the strategically placed tiki torches filled with citronella kept all but the nastiest and largest of mosquitos from landing and biting.

    For the record, I only got two mosquito bites that evening, waaaaay below average for me being outside at dusk.

    Part of the evening's festivities included an hour's concert by Brad and cousin Brett Beardslee. The booming sound coming out of the amplifiers proved that the electricity service to the cabin can handle a pretty big load.

    Brad & Brett jam II
    Brett and Brad jam for the relatives

    And so it was with heavy hearts a couple of days later that we flew out of Syracuse, winging our way back to Sacramento for, gasp, the beginning of the fall semester and teaching.

    But before we cleared the runway at JFK airport in New York, we got to witness a minidrama for about a half-hour, as a airliner about to land was waved off at the last minute, its landing gear not locked properly.

    The runways were all cleared and many of the planes (including our Jet Blue airbus) were pinned to the spot while the plane circled a few times before attempting another landing.

    The plane came down fine, but it increased the number of drinks I had on the flight from JFK to Sacramento exponentially. That's my story, anyway. And I have the empty little bottles to prove it.

    JKF landing problems
    Landing problems

    Just before landing, I noticed on the tv screen (all Jet Blue flights have televisions in the seats) that there was a company contest for the best photo taken from a Jet Blue flight.

    I doubt it's a winner, but here's my entry, which would win me a roundtrip flight anywhere Jet Blue flies.

    Reno at night
    Reno at night

    NEXT: Back in the classroom and back in the smog