June 28, 2007

Boats and thunderstorms and falling trees, Oh my!

VALOIS, New York, USA - The last few days have been filled with boating, getting my shoulders stretched by Amanda Smith-Socaris (the anonymous physical therapist from the last posting) and almost - note almost - becoming a victim of lightning in a wind storm that rocked the entire state.

But first, the good news.

The Admiral and I are the proud owners of a 20-foot FloteBote, which on Tuesday we used all up and down the lake, stopping at lots of docks, ending up at John & Ruth Bills' dock well after dark Tuesday to tie the barge, er, yacht up.

Lady Louise
Lady Louise at rest next to our dock

The boat was brought over from neighboring Keuka Lake on a trailer about 1 p.m. Tuesday and for the rest of the day we did a classic Seneca Lake tour with the Admiral and I, Ruth Bills, and Roger & Nancy Beardslee aboard. We would motor a few miles. Stop at a dock. Drink a beer. Use the restroom. And then repeat.

So I was pretty exhausted Wednesday morning, when I had to make it down the lake to see my physical therapist who is actually making some progress on my shoulder. I'm even trying to do all the exercises she has given me.

But the weather forecast Wednesday morning warned of afternoon thunderstorms, which on all these upstate New York Lakes have to be taken pretty seriously.

So after my stretching session, the Admiral, Ruth Bills, Ruth's dog Carbon and I motored the Lady Louise (that name is subject to change, by the way) up the lake past cousin Roger's house where we picked up some heavy pipes and a large maul to pound them into the lake bottom to make a secure mooring for the boat.

Had we started that project about two hours earlier, life would have been a lot less stressful and I might have a little more adrenalin today.

Storm tree
Tree on lakeside path, knocked down by 60 mph winds

We had barely arrived at our dock when the first peals of thunder rolled over the lake, not nearly as charming as when you read about them in some Washington Irving novel. It was too late to get serious about setting metal posts in the bottom of the lake - standing waist-deep in water, holding onto a metal pipe and swinging a lead sledge hammer is not recommended to do when lightning strikes are imminent. (Not to mention, they are not on my exercise list for physical therapy.)

But I was able to set one post close to shore, throw out the stern anchor and tie the boat six ways to Sunday against the dock, hoping that the storm would come from the southwest (as predicted), which would blow the boat away from the dock and away from any real danger.

And it did just that!

Except that it was only for the first 15 minutes of heavy rain, lightning and wind.

Suddenly, the rain let up, the wind clocked around and, as the French say, Voila! The strongest winds I have ever experienced on Seneca Lake came roaring out of the northwest, blowing out screen frames on our porch and dropping the big tree in the photo above.

And the Lady Louise?

Well, she survived with barely a scratch, though it was obvious that the boat did ride up on the dock a couple of times. But before the storm had completely abated, cousin Roger showed up with more lines and together (with the Admiral) we pounded in a proper set of pipes into the lake bottom to hold the ship. It is now tied with six lines and has one anchor out the back.

It seems ironic that we have crossed many hundreds of miles of open ocean aboard Sabbatical, been in crashing storms and wild seas and then nearly lose a boat to a summer thunderstorm on a lake.

Just goes to show that Mother Nature has a great sense of humor.

June 23, 2007

On the trail of a boat for Seneca Lake

PENN YAN, New York, USA - We went in search of boats again today, returning to Penn Yan to look at a 20-foot FloteBote we had heard about a day ago.

The vessel, named Lady Jane for the moment, is in good shape with a relatively unused 35 horsepower Mercury outboard hanging off the stern. We took along John Bills (better known as The Bear) to take a look at the pontoon boat and engine. John has been navigating the waters of Seneca Lake (and many other lakes around here) for years and we knew he could spot a good boat.

He declared the FloteBote Lady Jane a sound vessel. Now it remains to be seen if the owners will take our offer.

Float Bote launch
The Bear overseas the launch of the pontoon boat

After we got the vessel in the water, the mechanic started the engine so we could see how it ran. It sounded great, giving out huge plumes of smoke at first from the oil sprayed in cylinders to store the engine for the cold Northeastern winters.

Unfortunately, our plans for a test ride went astray. The cold winter had frozen the steering cable quite firmly and if we go ahead with the purchase, we will be asking the former owner to cough up the dough for a new cable - and probably general servicing of the engine.

Smokey start
A smokey start

Before we got to the site of the FloteBote, we did go by and look at a neat looking runabout which has a nice looking 50-hp Mercury on the back of it. It passed the Bear test, too, and we are considering purchasing it as a go-fast boat for those days when we don't want to laze down the lake on pontoons. You can't have too many boats around here, particularly as the season is very short for boating (8-10 weeks, max) and the mechanics usually have a three to four week backlog of motors to fix.

Hmm... Maybe we should consider a third boat and motor...

Penn Yan boat
Penn Yan ski boat

Penn Yan 2
The Admiral and Bear the check the engine

June 22, 2007

A day of marvels, mostly of the unexpected kind

VALOIS, New York, USA - After crashing into bed last night - and watching the final episode of The Sopranos (more on that in another blog) - we awoke to the sound of the garbage man picking up stuff at the house this morning.

A good sound, except that I had neglected to pull out the two filled-to-overflowing cans last night, cans filled with substances so vile we risked an EPA sanction (or would have under former administrations).

So I was totally depressed when we heard him leaving, thinking that the reeking contents of the two cans would be with us for another week.

But I underestimated the service offered by Frank's Disposal, the Cayuta Lake company we hire every summer for 8-10 weeks to haul our basura.

When I went out into the driveway, the cans had been emptied, even though they were far from the corner of the lot where they were supposed to be.

No mas basura
No mas basura

For the past few summers, I usually trot out to have a good country jaw session with the fellow who drives the truck. We talk fishing, tractors, children and the weather. Religion, politics and gun control policies are not on the agenda. I'll be sure to thank him next week - and will set the alarm clock for his arrival.

The other nice surprise was getting in to see a physical therapist in Watkins Glen, a young woman who has great sympathy for old guys with frozen shoulders, but who also set out a regimen that she thinks will help me get more flexible.

Each time she twisted my arms during the exam, she apologized - then twisted even more.

Still, she seemed to know what was going on, what would help, and understood perfectly that like most patients, I would do about one-third of what she told me to.

But when I got her sheet of exercises to do - complete with her hand-drawn stick figures, I knew I had found the right person. Now I just need to get cracking on those exercises, at least some of them.

Exercise notes
Exercise notes

June 21, 2007

A new Isuzu trooper, a boat in the works and what else?

VALOIS, New York, USA - The adventures of retirement continue to be, well, adventuresome.

Six hours before we left for New York, we closed the deal on the purchase of a 1997 Isuzu Trooper, a nicely kept 4-wheel drive vehicle which we hope will serve us well in Mexico for many years. It is a blue version of the wheels that both son Dustin and Dustin's amiga Cami drive. Ours was driven by a school teacher (I am NOT kidding) and would seem to be a great rig for 4-wheeling around our beach property and La Manzanilla, where fording a river is a common occurence.

The new Troopy in the the family
The latest Trooper to join the fleet of family vehicles.

Our original plan was to buy a 4-wheel drive unit here in New York and drive it to California. But after a little reflection on that plan - and the 15 mpg average that many 4-wheel drive vehicles get - we decided buying the California car made sense. Sort of. At least as much sense as ever buying a 15 mpg vehicle makes in a $3.50 per gallon world.

When we get back to Sacramento in late August (very late August, given that we don't start teaching until the day after Labor Day), we will sell our much-loved Prius, a car that not only gets 50 mpg, but has a carpool lane sticker that is transferable to the new owner. Selling the Prius should not be a problem.

But because we are sans 4-wheel drive car here, we had to put some energy into the Lake House Buick, a mid-1990s vehicle that was owned by the Admiral's late mother, Louise (a retired schoolteacher). This year the car started great, but the brake fluid poured out more quickly than a milkshake at a Dairy Queen, so the car was dispatched down to Watkins Glen to the shop from which it was purchased, where, I learned today, that it can be repaired - and with a new set of tires on the rear - for about $200.

Upstate New York comes as close to rivaling Mexico in its bargains as anyplace I know.

Buick in for repairs
Buick heads to the repair shop

The fun part of the day (not counting the weeding, scraping wallpaper or taking apart the dishwasher) was going to look for a lake boat so we can have some on-the-water transport this year. Last year we used the Bud Boat, but its engine gave it up in August - as in really gave it up - and we decided that rather than buy a new engine for it, we would start over.

We found a late 1970s Mark Twain (no kidding a boat named Mark Twain - Sam Clemens probably wants to puke) that has a 40 hp Mercury on it. But the owner and broker want $2,50o dollars - a little steep, if my reading of Craig's List prices for local boats is accurate.

A few miles down the road, we found what we think could be our next Seneca Lake Boat - a 20-foot pontoon boat, complete with a 35 hp Mercury. These are the ultimate party boats, plus, with a enough horsepower, can actually get up on plane, Waterskiing is probably out of the question, but considering that tomorrow I have my first appointment with a new physical therapist to work on my shoulders, waterskiing should probably not be much of a consideration.

Boat possibility
One possibility. but a little small

The boat pictured above is actually only 14-feet long - really too small for any serious partying, er, I mean navigating. But the same broker shown here telling Admiral Fox about this unit is busy getting a 20-foot version ready for show. And we are ready to take a quick test spin when it is ready. If it works out, it might be in the water and ready for Dan and Lorraine Olsen's visit next week. I know Captain Dan will help me figure out the navigational possibilities for this, our latest of boats.

On our way home from looking at the pontoon boat, we spotted another small runabout - this one costing about $1,200 - with a nice-looking, late-model 50 hp Mercury outboard attached.

Perhaps we should buy both, and have a spare engine to swap back and forth.

Not the worst idea I have had today.

June 16, 2007

Driving the highways and the crashways of Mexico

CABO CORRIENTES, Jalisco, Mexico - The day we left La Manzanilla for our return trip to Puerto Vallarta the rain clouds gathered over the mountains and the humidity soared - along with the temperature.

But until we got fairly close to Puerto Vallarta, not too much rain fell, though it was enough that we saw more than a few small accidents and two big ones to which I wager the rain contributed some.

One accident, fairly close to PV, was a truck rollover, a small Nissan not unlike the one I have in my driveway in Sacramento. We came by moments after the mishap and the young men seemed to have survived ok - if a little bit dazed by the experience.

Roadside wreck
Rollover near Puerto Vallarta

But about a half-hour earlier, we had one of those highway moments.

We had been driving near a town called Chamela when a large propane truck (Soni-Gas) passed us on a curve, doing about 70 - as in 70 miles per hour, not kilometers per hour.

It was terrifying because we knew that if an oncoming car or truck had come at him, he would have simply started moving over, which would have put our Pepsi Can, er, I mean Nissan Platina, right into the ditch.

But sometimes karma is more obvious that other times, like in the photo below.

Soni-Gas rollover
Soni-Gas truck on its side - the karma of a speeder?

Yup...the same truck that went careening past us, apparently took a curve just a little too fast for the wet roads and rolled over onto its side. The driver was standing out chatting with a passerby when we zoomed around the corner, and no one seemed too concerned.

That lack of concern is hard to read in Mexico, because the nation seems to be largely unconcerned about a lot of things (one of its charms). I like to believe they were unconcerned because the tanker was empty and not full of volatile gas.

At least I hope so.

June 15, 2007

Gearing up for the next leg of the summer's adventures

SACRAMENTO, Calif. USA - The days here are longer than in Mexico. We were up at 6 a.m. (SIX a.m.) and evenings wear on quite late too, thanks to more daylight hours.

But that doesn't mean anything more gets done.

My lengthy list of todo items got longer yesterday as the next deadline (Monday at 8 p.m.) looms for us to pick up a US Airways flight from Sacramento to New York.

Ahhhh. US Airways.

Over the years, I have flown US Airways and America West many, many times. I used to joke about being stuck flying the worst and next-to-worst airlines.

Then they merged. And, as the saying goes, sometimes the sum is greater than the parts. I won't bother to talk about their ticketing policies, Soviet-like fare structure, or baggage handling system.

What prompts this early morning mini-rant was our flight from Phoenix to Sacramento, the last leg of the trip returning from Puerto Vallarta. The Admiral and I approached the plane with our carryon luggage. I steered a small rollerbag with my computer bag atop it so that only one shoulder was in pain; the Admiral carried my guitar and her violin - and her small shoulder purse. Usually I tot my computer bag and guitar.

As we approached, the eyebrows shot up on the flight attendant and a gate agent. Oh no... You have too many carryon bags, mam the gate agent said... (And the Admiral just loves it when a 20-year-old with a bad haircut calls her mam...)

Suffice it to say, we have traveled - on US Airways - with the same entourage of luggage at least a half dozen times in the last year with nary a peep. But the flight attendant and gate agent on this plane (who were looking each passenger over more carefully than the TSA agents had) were adamant. One of the 'five' items would be checked.

The small roller bag, once emptied of the laptop computer it carried and a couple of other items you wouldn't want the luggage monkeys to break, went into the hold. And it survived the bouncing around with the other cargo and was disgorged from the baggage belt in Sacramento.

But Jaysus!

So for the next trip, we are going to be sure to have the requisite two carryons per person, though I am toying with the idea of carrying a set of nesting bags on, taking them apart in flight.

We could get on the plane with two carryons each - and get off with four each.

This has possibilities.

June 14, 2007

A direct link to Flickr.com photo page

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - As I was posting several photos to Flickr.com for use later today in blogging - including a couple of spectacular vehicle accidents on the highway between La Manzanilla and Puerto Vallarta - I decided to add a direct link to the photo pages.

The photos posted at
  • Michael's photo page

  • are all the photos I post, not just the ones which show up in the blog. The link is also listed to the left, just above Santana Real Estate's link.

    For fans of gratuitous bikini shots, this is where the archives are.

    More later on the great-carryon-debacle in Phoenix we experienced Tuesday. It was US Airways at its best, so to speak.

    June 11, 2007

    Time to evict the mosquitos and no-see-ums from the land

    TENACATITA, Jalisco, Mexico - A trip to the building site for Casa Admiral Sunday made it very clear that we need to clear the property of its vegatation as we move ahead with building plans.

    We had a great rainstorm Saturday (more like a monsoon, it seemed), which must have prompted a new hatch of buglets, so when we emerged from the car early in the morning, it was like being confronted by hundreds of paraparazzi - except these have little stingers, not flashbulbs.

    Our amigo (and soon-to-be contractor) Arturo Gomez will be bulldozing the property next week and putting up some fencing, so the bug population will have to find other quarters. (Rest easy, however, the coconut palm trees will be spared the blade...)

    Land for Casa Admiral
    The land for Casa Admiral

    The property is actually the grassy area beyond me in this photo. The two stakes mark the boundary towards the beach. The new grass sprouted up in less than a week and while it looks like a golf course from a distance, it is actually some kind of beach thistle that has more spikes than Sid Vicious.


    Still, after battling the bugs - and going back and forth as to where our nearly three story casita will be sited - we are ready to get started with the next phases of the Great-House-Construction Project.

    More on those house plans later when I can wrestle the sketchbook away from the Admiral to take a photo of what she has proposed.

    Today is our last day in La Manzanilla until perhaps December (though we may make an intermediate trip to get things started on the house in the fall). Tonight we will be back in Puerto Vallarta at Casa Dustin & Cami for a couple of days before heading back to Sacramento, where we have 3.5 days on the ground before flying to Seneca Lake.


    June 9, 2007

    An even bigger bargain than what had been thought

    LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - Admiral Fox corrected me after reading yesterday's entry.

    That Anne Klein bathing suit she found at the La Manzanilla square - part of a truckload of clothes for men, women & children brought in from neighboring Barra de Navidad - would cost $80 retail in the U.S., not $50 as I said.

    She scooped it up for 80 pesos, a little more than $7 U.S.

    Sylvia shops at La Manzanilla 'Nordstrom's'
    Shopping at La Manzanilla's town square

    June 8, 2007

    Nordstroms? Macys? Ann Taylor? Time to move over

    LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - The Admiral and I were on our way back from a forced march around the high ridges of town looking at house designs when we happened upon a clothing market going on in the town square.

    Move over Nordstroms, these guys are serious.

    After looking through a few racks of clothes, the Admiral found a bathing suit she liked - a one-piece affair she declined to model for this entry. I found numerous bikinis that I thought were perfect for her, too, but she went with her choice. Que lastima.

    She is now the proud owner of an Anne Klein bathing suit - for about $7.30 U.S. (80 pesos).

    Yup, $7.30 - and had we wanted to haggle, I bet we could have gotten the suit for 70 pesos.

    Move over Nordstrom's
    Clothing on the square

    The truck arrives every Friday morning early and stays until mid-afternoon. As they loaded up at the end of the day, it looked like they had sold about half their wares. The same bathing suit, I understand, would cost at least $35 - maybe $50 - at a standard U.S. shop.

    Earlier in the morning I had to buy 4 AA batteries for my camera and went into a tienda clutching my wallet and hoping to get out for $5-$6 U.S.

    The four Eveready Long-Lifes cost me a total of 20 pesos - about $1.80 U.S.

    I'm beginning to actually believe that retiring down here is a good deal - and not just because of the sun and surf.

    Coconut milk - cold
    Getting a cold coconut milk to go

    In our travels about town during the afternoon, we stopped at a roadside stand and had a coconut milk, basically just what you get when you open up a coconut. It was another one of those bargains - a half liter for 5 pesos (45 cents U.S.). We were nervous at first. (Ok, I was nervous at first) in case the coconut had been added to unfiltered (read: unpotable) water. But the woman selling said it was natural complete... So, cheers...

    In poking about an empty house, we did come upon one of those critters that reside in tropical Mexico, critters you really don't want to run into. This one was definitely dead, though we made note not to put our hands anywhere in the house where we couldn't see clearly. These and some other little bad-news insects and crawly things are why people fumigate on a regular schedule.

    Things that go sting in the night
    Dead scorpion

    It's on to neighboring Barra de Navidad tonight for dinner (perhaps at Ramone's, a favorite), a visit to the ATM and a stop at the petrol station to fill up the last Hoover.

    Did I mention that regular gasoline sells for about $2.60 a gallon (U.S.) in Mexico?

    Didn't think so.
  • Mexico gasoline prices

  • June 7, 2007

    On the road again: Another tale of the Tsuru

    PUERTO VALLARTA, Jalisco, Mexico - The Admiral and I had to make a fast trip up to Puerto Vallarta for the Admiral to sign some papers for her FM3 - a renewable, year-long visa that lets you stay in Mexico indefinitely.

    Our attorney came to Dustin's house with the papers Tuesday night about 9 p.m., apologizing for being 10 minutes late. (Yes, our attorney came to the house with the papers. Yes, he apologized for being 10 minutes late.)

    Sylvia signs docs
    Sylvia signs her FM3 documents

    Note the clever product placement in the photo for son Dustin's business: Fox Marine.

    The trip to Puerto Vallarta was quite uneventful - 2.5 hours of zooming, only a few brushes with death where people passed on curves.

    But when we went to leave, things got more interesting.

    On our first foray south to La Manzanilla last week, we started out in Dustin's girlfriend Cami's VW bug, but lost a brake assembly and ended up renting a Tsuru - most frequently referred to in these missives as the Mighty Tsuru.

    Well, the Mighty Tsuru must has been exposed to some Mexican Kryptonite while in Puerto Vallarta because as we started out of town to come back south, the engine started making that knocking, death-rattle sound that bodes poorly for getting anywhere in any automobile, Mighty or not.

    We drove a little way through city traffic listening to the knock - hoping it would go away - and finally decided getting stuck somewhere on the lonely 200-kilometer highway between Puerto Vallarta and La Manzanilla would not be much fun. An adventure, sure. But a week into retirement, I'm getting adventured out.

    The people at Gecko Car Rentals in Bucerias seemed less-than-surprised at our plight and told us to bring the Hoover back in and they would simply give us a new car.

    The new Hoover
    The latest of our cars

    I did overhear the workers talking (in Spanish) about the car we returned, something about 'oh yeah, I think that one has a bad injector.' Hmmm...

    But the new vehicle is a rocket and we made the return trip sans incident - except for a misreading of the speedometer by me. I didn't have reading glasses on and the mark that I thought was 100 kph (the speed limit is 70 kph on most of the road) was actually the 120 kph mark.

    No wonder the tires were squealing on those switchbacks.


    June 5, 2007

    The smell of Coppertone brings back the memories

    LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - In a world awash in suncreens - Aveen, Hawaiian Tropic, Bain de Soleil or Banana Boat, just to name a few - it is the smell of Coppertone that brings back memories of water skiing and beaches and growing up. Retirement gives you time to think about a lot of these things, obviously.

    I'm sure Coppertone is still sold in the states, but is so, well not de riguer with the sunscreenistas.

    In Mexico, I think it might be the number-one, best-selling brand.

    Coppertone girl
    Original Coppertone girl ad

    As a teenager and then as a lifeguard at the beach in Lakewood, New York, it seems that Coppertone was about the only sunscreen to be had, though many beachgoers slathered themselves in Coopertone suntan oil, a slimey concoction that came off and left and oil slick on the water when people jumped in to go swimming. The blue sheen on the water looked so similar to gasoline that we sometimes had to doublecheck to make sure the swimmers weren't paddling through 85 octane lake water.

    The modern Coppertone sunscreens are available right up to 50 SPF (and maybe more). It's a big seller at la farmacias here.

    But one thing the company has not changed is the aroma, which I find difficult to describe. The Admiral would prefer I apply almost any other sunscreen but through some odd quirk, I find that Coppertone keeps me from burning the absolute best of any of the sunscreens I've used over the years.

    Plus, whenever I put some on I remember a tall blonde girl who used to come to Lakewood Beach every day all summer whose nickname was The Blue Max after the swimsuit she wore nearly every day, driving the male lifeguards crazy and the female lifeguards to trot out their most-catty remarks.

    The Blue Max would be in her mid-50s now, thinking about retiring herself.

    I better go put on some Coppertone to erase that thought.

    Greek Coppertone ad
    Coppertone Ad, 2007, in Greece

    June 4, 2007

    No more red tide on the beach but lots of dead critters

    LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - The red tide we spotted yesterday disappeared very quickly (didn't dare interfere with our vacation & retirement, no doubt), but a stroll down the nearly deserted beach today showed that the tide had its way with lots of wildlife.

    The biggest single group that seems to have been pushed out of the sea are jellyfish, not my favorite sea life certainly. You could barely walk 10 feet without seeing these dinner-plate sized animals washed up. In a few cases, like the one below, the jellyfish was still breathing. Or whatever jellyfish do to stay alive.

    Take me to your leader
    Call 911, it's still breathing!

    The beach also had quite a dead few puffer fish, fish so ugly I decided not to post any photos here. What little fishing I did - when we had Sabbatical anchored here a couple of years ago - I almost always pulled up one of these, and then had to get out the long-nosed pliers to try to get the hook look. They are covered with sharp spines and pain to get off the hook.

    The one bit of deceased wildlife that took me by surprise was seeing a dead lobster. I guess I knew the bay had them, but I haven't see them for sale at the fish cooperative. (Note to captain: They are not caught by net or line and tackle like fish, therefore, why would they be for sale at a fish cooperative?)

    Lobster anyone?
    Lobster for sale - cheap

    My quick tour of the beach, taken while Admiral Fox is off on a shopping expedition with Joan Santana in Manzanillo, also turned up yet another possibility in the house design competition. The Admiral and I have vacillated between beach house, beach casita, no-house (just a motor home) and building a swimming pool with a bath house & kitchen next to it, calling that enough.

    So now, thanks to some campers just down the beach, we have one more design to consider.

    Tropical geodesic dome
    A tropical geodesic dome

    A cartoon that you need to be a baby boomer to appreciate

    BOSTON, Mass., USA - My sister Evelyn, a Bostonian (actually she lives in Lowell most recently I think) passed along this cartoon this morning, which fits nicely into the space theme of this most recently created blog.

    To the Moon, Alice
    Ralph finally did it...

    I watched The Honeymooners many nights when I was growing up in Brooklyn. We had a black & white Zenith television and I remember seeing Jackie Gleason, Art Carney and the rest of the cast doing their seemingly hysterical skits. I also watched the Ed Sullivan show on that TV, once sitting through George Hamilton sing "Sitting on the dock of the Bay."

    Some television programming was painful to watch. Some things haven't changed that much in all these years.

    Perhaps ironically, many TV shows from the 1950s and 1960s are still being shown on TV here in Mexico. While we had dinner last night, I believe I heard the strains of the opening music to The Andy Griffith show coming from the next table where a family was huddled around the set, watching intently and laughing.

    But I haven't met any Mexican boys named Opie, been introduced to anyone named Tia Bea or been stopped on the highway by anyone named Barney Fife - not just yet.

    June 3, 2007

    The 45 peso dinner - and why we love Mexico so much

    LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - The Admiral and I just returned from dinner at a streetside restaurant adjacent to la iglesia (the Catholic Church) at which we had dinner for the equivalent of about $4 U.S.

    Yup, $4 U.S.

    Last night, our dinner was about $4.50, but that's because we had four tacos, instead of three. Our drink order was the same - one Pacifico and an agua mineral.

    The restaurant is owned and run by a Mexican family, the members of which pitch in and cook and serve. The girls, in their late teens, aren't thrilled at being waitresses, but seem faintly amused at my attempts to flirt with them in Spanish. At least I hope what I hear them saying back and forth is amusement.

    There is no menu - you simply tell them what kind of taco or quesadilla or whatever - and they bring it. No wine served, but beer and soft drinks and the ever popular, agua mineral (carbonated water).

    There are plenty of upscale gringo restaurants in town, where the same meal would cost $20 U.S. or more for basically the same fare. Plus, you have to listen to loud gringos talk about how their real estate investments are going or how the Mexicans they hired aren't working fast enough on their new, gazillion-dollar homes.

    Que lastima.

    But most telling this evening was when a little boy (un niño) spilled a glass of Coca-Cola across the table. His father only glanced at him - no placating 'Oh, it's all right," and no quick angry disciplinary backhands. It was simple. He spilled the Coke, he cleaned it up, sort of. No big deal.

    Another day of retirement, another 45 pesos spent on food.

    Ah, Mexico... The adventure continues mañana.

    June 2, 2007

    A cross posting with the blog, From Where I Sit

    LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - The first full day in La Manzanilla has been a blur, best remembered by some of the photos I took, wandering around these now-familar streets (and beaches) from our other visits since 1999.

    Shortly after tea this morning, we made our first foray downtown (ok, it has one main street) to una farmacia, where we picked up some sunscreen (left safely at home) and then hit my favorite tienda (Lidia's) for some vegetables to make some gazpacho soup, a good thing to have around when the temperature is 81 at 7 a.m. and the humidity hovering at 85 percent.

    But we did stop by to see one of the fixtures of downtown, the La Manzanilla version of Jamba Juice, which today was offering strawberry drinks, made with fresh strawberries blended right there.

    Jamba Juice, La Manzanilla style
    Jamba Juice outlet in La Manzanilla

    We have stopped there many times over the years, though never in June. Other visits it's been fresh oranges that made up most of what was in her drinks.

    With the temperature only getting hotter by each hour, we took to the beach, along with a lot of out-of-town folks who came in by bus. The ice cream vendor walking up and down the beach with his cart looked worn out by the end of the day.

    Ice cream on the beach
    What kind of ice cream do you want?

    Buried in sand
    Buried by his friends

    The water temperature - fueled no doubt by the hot days and almost-hot nights - is probably in the low 80s now, just perfect for swimming. We found out we missed an ocean phenomenon called the 'Red Tide' which refers to foul water that kills fish, not an invasion of pro-Castro forces making a beach assault. The Red Tide killed enough fish last week that the town had a big cleanup effort to haul off all the stinking fish carcasses. Otherwise, La Manzanilla would probably be empty today.

    But today - our third day of retirement - was definitely a swimming day, with more planned for the balance of the time we are here when our snorkel gear (forgotten at son Dustin's casa in Puerto Vallarta) arrives with friends Mario and Sharon.

    Entering the 80-degree water
    Tip-toe into the warm water

    Beach talk
    After the swim

    Retirement blog seems like the thing to do

    STARDATE 2007.06.02 - The most amazing ideas pop into your head when you don't have to get up and go to work, like calling a blog 'Captain's Blog' and using it as a vehicle to talk about retirement adventures.

    So far, our retirement adventures don't seem a great deal different than our normal chaotic lives, but we'll see.

    After all this is only day three of the adventure that will continue until... well, let's not go there.

    My favorite two Star Trek captain's are James T. Kirk and Jean-Luc Picard, numbers one and two respectively in the series.

    James T. Kirk

    Jean Luc Picard
    Jean-Luc Picard

    Kirk I appreciated for his whimsy, courage and willingness to admit being wrong. And he was wrong a lot. Ask Ensign Savik.

    Picard I appreciate for his courage and attention to duty and for giving me one of the best lines I've ever heard about when it's time to stand and fight.

    "They invade our space, and we fall back.
    They assimilate countless worlds, and we fall back.
    Not again. Not this time.
    The line must be drawn here!
    This far, no farther!"

    All that fight talk seems pretty far away, as this is written on the planet Earth, in the northern hemisphere but in a temperate climate with friendly natives.

    We'll see what tomorrow's adventures bring.