January 31, 2008

The midwest feast comes to Palapa Joe's - meat loaf

PALAPA JOE'S RESTAURANT, La Manzanilla, Jalisco, Mexico - A couple of nights ago I got a 911 call from Admiral Fox, perched on a bar stool at Palapa Joe's next to local bon vivant Jane 'I-Don't-Do-Real-Estate' Gorby, who said that it was 'meat loaf' night at the restaurant, the first in many months.

I was right in the middle of making plans to go with amiga Tia, her daughter Macy, and a contingent of parents and kids to release some baby turtles out in the surf, plans I abandoned in favor of meat loaf, mashed potatoes and Cuba Libres. (It turned out the turtle expedition was moved to another night anyway. These ethical choices are murder.)

Meat loaf isn't exactly the fare people associate with this small Mexican pueblo - exactly why it is such a hit when it makes it to the menu. Kimberly, co-owner of the restaurant with her husband Willy, had the meat to make a meat loaf in her freezer and decided to bring it out (and cook it up fresh) when she heard me in the Santana Real Estate office the day before, wistfully mentioning that I missed the meat loaf prepared by Corti Brothers in Sacramento, a fairly regular item on the FitzFox menu when we are in that zip code.

meat loaf and potatoes
A feast of taste, and of calories beyond counting

My first encounter with meat loaf - waaaaay too many years ago to admit here - was when my college girlfriend fixed one for us, but misread the recipe and instead of using bread crumbs in the mix, used regular bread. The bread soaked up every drop of grease from the ground beef, making it arguably the heaviest meat loaf ever baked in a small pan. It was delicious, but I still remember the weight in my stomach for about two days.

The words meat loaf also always bring back my first drive into the city of Napa in California, after coming from Jamestown, New York in a blue VW van.

Cruising down Jefferson Boulevard, I saw a big sign in a window of a shop that said:

Meat Loaf - $3.99
Hot Tuna - $4.99

We turned in, hungry, only to see that we were in front of the Jefferson Boulevard Music Store, where, indeed, they were selling Meat Loaf and Hot Tuna.

Meat Loaf - the singer
Meat Loaf

Hot Tuna
Hot Tuna

At Palapa Joe's this week, there was no mistaking it was meat loaf, the food, and the music was lovely Spanish tunes.

January 29, 2008

Taking the La Manzanilla, Arroyo Seco tour with friends

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - We spent a fun day Sunday, showing off Arroyo Seco (and Tenacatita and La Manzanilla) to our still-cruising amigos, Dan & Lorraine Olsen and Phil & Nora McCaleb.

Phil & Nora are on their way back from Central America to the U.S.; Dan & Lorraine are heading south to Central America.

The Admiral and I are staying right here. For now. OK, at least that's today's plan.

We showed the cruisers our newest property in Arroyo Seco, an 800-square meter lot right in downtown, if downtown is the right word for a pueblo of 300 year-round residents. But during the season, a lot of people come through the place headed to the excellent surfing beaches.

Good surfing at Arroyo Seco
Lots of room for more surfers

Waiting for the surfers
Waiting for the surfers

Three amigas at Arroyo Seco north beach
Nora, Sylvia and Lorraine at Arroyo Seco's north beach

The lot is already walled in (good for security), has power and water, and is flat enough that members of the Flat Earth Society would feel comfortable holding a convention here.

We doubt we will use the property as a convention site, but the lot has plenty of business possibilities as well as just a nice spot to build a house. Like another lot we thought we had purchased, this one benefits from the cool ocean breezes.

Arroyo Seco lot
Downtown Arroyo Seco

After the Arroyo Seco drive through, we went to the beach at Tenacatita where I went boogie boarding again, this time with much less good result. A big wave picked me up and slammed me head-first into the hardpacked sand, then pushed me across the beach (underwater, of course) for about 10 feet.


The women at our beachside table told me some people pay a lot of money for the kind of skin peel I got. I could have lived quite nicely without it - or the neck pain I have had for two days.

But a careful regime of M&Ms (margaritas and Motrin) seems to be getting me back in shape to tackle the waves again.

In the meantime, here's another one of those sunset videos...

January 26, 2008

Kayaking, sailing and taking a ride on a 'quad' Monday

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - The day was a total outside adventure, starting with the normal chores (sweeping the house, raking the yard and cleaning up the cat crap - I really have to stop feeding those cats). The chores were followed by kayaking, hours of sailing, and capped with an offer to try out a 'quad' ATV on Monday. (All right!!!!!)

And yes, I have a tinge of red from sunburn, but not bad. I've been pretty careful and even used some sunscreen today. (Did you read that Dr. Silva? Sunscreen...)

The kayaking was to get from shore out to my friend Tom's Santana 21 sailboat, tied to a mooring a couple of hundred yards out in the bay. I haven't been kayaking in over a year, but hey, how hard is it?

Hard enough.

I took four big waves over the bow as I went out through the surf and any hope I had of arriving dry at Tom's boat went with it. Unfortunately, just yesterday, I also had a long conversation with my friend Mario (a wildlife biologist) about the likelihood of there being sharks in the Tenacatita Bay.

Unlikely he said, but possible. So I was looking over my shoulder into the clear water quite bit as I paddled out - and back to the beach hours later.

Kayak and great white shark
What you don't want to see behind you while kayaking

Tom and I had a great sail back and forth across the bay, ending our sojourn after about two hours when my sunscreen began to lose it effectiveness - and I remembered that I left a garden hose running, watering several palm trees in the yard that were dying of thirst. By the time I got home (an hour later) the hose was not dripping at all. Turns out that some parts of town just lose water pressure at certain times of the day.

Que lastima. But we had enough water in our water tank for me to rinse off the saltwater dousings I had taken.

At home, I had an email from my La Manzanilla amiga named Tia, who roars around town on a great-looking 'quad' ATV, usually with her daughter hanging on tight on the back. Tia checked out the poll with this blog and said I should definitely try out a quad before deciding between a motorscooter and buying a quad.

Monday, I'll be sporting around town on Tia's quad, after we have coffee. (And also some instruction on how to 'quad' about...)

"Get your motor running, way out on the highway..."

The photo below was chosen to show what a 'quad' looks like. The young lady in the photo is totally incidental to the illustration.

Girl on quad in mud
Girl on quad - stuck in the mud

January 25, 2008

La Manzanilla days of video, dancing and boogie-boarding

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - The days are still a blur here - I move my ukulele from one corner of the house to another, rarely opening the case. And good grief, the other two members of The Four Headlamps will be arriving in just a month - with an appearance at Palapa Joe's already in the works.

But, procrastination about music aside, it was fun the last few days, starting with a video project at the local elementary school.

A local outfit called the La Catalina Foundation sponsors folkloric dance classes and asked me to shoot some video to go along with a grant application that will be submitted shortly. At the session I shot, it was definitely a practice run, but some of the children are already pretty good.

A full-dress recital is set for February 23 in the main part of town, (in case you happen to be here). The students will be wearing traditional Mexican garb and shoes and most the town will be turning out to see it.

Michael sets up camera
Setting up for filming

Dancers getting into the swing

Now I have about 30 minutes of video - and 60 still photos shot by the Admiral - to edit and condense into a 4-5 minute video.

So what's on tap for Saturday? No, no video editing...

Tomorrow, I am going sailing with my friend Tom on his Santana 21. (I'll edit much better if I have been able to get some rest and recreation.) Tom is itching to get out on the water and, well, so am I.

There's always Sunday to edit video. Or Monday. Or Tuesday. This is the nation that made the word manana famous, after all.

Today the Admiral didn't have to trundle down the hill to Santana Real Estate to help out and so instead we drove out to the beach at Tenacatita where I had my favorite beach-side lunch of rollo de mar and, along with my amigo Mario, made a serious dent in the supply of Pacifico beer at the Fiesta Mexicana restaurant.

After watching numerous people in kayaks lose it in the mid-sized surf, Mario and I grabbed boogie boards and went out for a dozen or more runs.

It was great fun.

!!!!! Cow-a-bunga !!!!!

January 23, 2008

Weather is warming, water seems colder, (que lastima)

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - The weather has started warming up - should hit nearly 88 degrees tomorrow at the top, but the water seems colder! When I swam today, it was, well, chilly.

Ok, I don't expect sympathy.

However, in response to the most recent blog poll, I will add boogie boarding to my daily regimen of exercise - provided the waves can give me a good ride. If I had my board today, I would be picking sand out of my teeth.

Great waves!

And there's good news on the visitor front - cousin Ruth (Ruth Bills of Seneca Lake where the temps have been hovering in the low teens) and Sanders & Pat Lamont, who live in Camp Connell, CA, where the snow is falling like crazy right now and the temperatures? Well.... Both have said they are coming to visit in the coming weeks to escape the frigid weather.

We have smart amigos.

I'll be ready with the Margarita XPress Tour Bus to pick them up when they arrive at the Manzanillo aeropuerto.

This evening we walked the beach and saw a sailboat anchored right by the town - and also saw a nice Appaloosa galloping, getting some exercise in the sand.

Not your average suburban events.

January 22, 2008

Getting the fleet ready for sailing/boating season

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - While one of our three vessels has already tasted salt water, all three have sat for most of the month here gathering dust.

Lots of dust.

So today, in anticipation of visits by cousin Ruth Bills, followed by amigos Sanders & Pat Lamont, followed by ???, I cleaned up all three boats, evicting all spiders and bugs of indeterminate lineage.

I had cleaned all three of the craft very well in Sacramento before loading them on top of the Grey Goose Express, so the job wasn't all that onerous - except for being careful that the stray scorpion hadn't taken up residence, hoping for an aquatic future life.

Fleet nearly ready for launching
Fleet ready for test launch

Astute readers will notice that the rowing/sailing dinghy appears to have one helluva brown smear on its side. Never fear, that is the fiberglass patch put on by Sabbatical Chief Engineer Scott Noble (and enhanced by me). Before painting the entire boat with shiney white marine paint, I decided to field test (in this case, ocean test) the boat in the bay in front of Santana Real Estate before I put the sail up and head out for ports beyond.

I also need to get my new friend Tom to fabricate a new centerboard. The centerboard, I believe, is safely stored in Sacramento.

Once completely repaired and equipped - and with a six pack of Pacifico beer stored safely - the Captain's Gig will be ready for what I hope is a triumphant return to the bay.

And the kayaks will be a blast, too - especially in the lagoon where the cocodrilos live.


January 21, 2008

Finally a day (OK, an hour) swimming at the beach

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - After a whirlwind weekend at Puerto Vallarta, we tried to have a more normal day back here in the pueblo, catching up on lots of details that got dropped like proverbial hot rocks when we had to leave last week.

Our morning walk has become a ritual and every day we take almost the same route, getting nods and hello from most of the Spanish-speaking residents along our path.

This morning we stopped for a few minutes at the bridge near downtown (downtown!) where someone had tethered a mare and foal to graze on the long grass. In other parts of our walk, we always see flocks of chickens and the occasional goat, all enjoying the free range - and food. No snakes or scorpions, so far.

Horses of courses
Feeding by the bridge

Today marked the first time since we arrived Christmas Day that I actually took a swim in the ocean right off the beach.

A real swim!

I drank a ceremonial Modelo beer, then dashed into the water where I swam (ok, mostly floated around) for about 45 minutes. And I have a slight sunburn to prove it.

The beach is almost deserted now, the exception being a few gringos and gringas staying in beachside houses. In the evenings, local teenagers come out to play soccer in the sand.

Stroll on the beach
Citizens enjoying the beach

During the evening walk, we always keep marching until sundown and were treated with a fabulous sundown - and also a fabulous moonrise, both shown below.

Better than MTV any day.

Sunset on Tenacatita Bay
Sunset on Tenacatita Bay

Moon & Palms
Moonrise over the palm trees at Tenacatita

January 19, 2008

Yes, I want my wine-in-a-cup-to-go, por favor

NUEVO VALLARTA, Jalisco, Mexico - In the U.S. I seldom carry a camera, unless it's on some news assignment where I might get to snap a quick photo of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger or some other would-be luminary.

Here in Mexico, I carry both a still camera and my Flip video unit because you just never know what you are going to see.

Yesterday's ass-in-a-truck probably being an excellent example of that.

But in traveling around the Paradise Village roadways yesterday, we followed the truck below which was moving chairs from one end of the resort to the next, using some of the staff in lieu of lines to keep the chairs from scattering from one end of the resort to the next.

They almost lost it on one sharp corner, but made it to the storage area without dropping a single piece of furniture. Too bad, too, because the chairs would have looked great on our patio in La Manzanilla.

Big curve ahead - Cuidado!
Big curve ahead - cuidado!

But that evening, the importance of having cameras handy was demonstrated even more when we stopped to get a pizza to go at a place called Guido's.

Yup, Guido's.

While we were waiting for our pizza and calzone to be cooked, the Admiral had a quick agua mineral con limon while I sipped a glass of Chilean merlot. But both waist-busting delicacies came out of the kitchen quickly and so I had barely touched my wine.

No problema, the red-haired gringa lady at the bar said. She pour my wine into a styrofoam to-go cup - all quite legal in Mexico.

The Admiral took a short video of my wine going into the to-go cup, which no doubt will make an appearance on her blog sometime.


Wine-in-a-cup-to-go, please
Wine-in-a-cup-to-go, please

January 18, 2008

When it hits 70 degrees here - it is winter, seriously!

NUEVO VALLARTA, Jalisco, Mexico - The weather here is an average of 10 degrees colder than just 140 miles down the road in La Manzanilla where we hang our sombreros these days.

But today, when it didn't quite break 70 degrees until early afternoon, most of the natives around here looked more like they lived in the Midwest than at the same latitude as Hawaii.

Still, I even got into the swing by wearing a t-shirt with another shirt over the top to keep warm.

Did I give up wearing shorts in favor of long trou? No way. If I didn't give up wearing shorts in Sacramento - where it was below freezing some of the morning just before we head south in December - I certainly would not here.

Not yet.

We spent the day running errands around town, but took time out last night to go to the Vallarta Yacht Club and have a Cuba Libre on the deck, watching some of the boats come and go.

Just two years ago Sabbatical was moored close enough to the club that you could yell down from the yacht club deck to the boat.

Here's a short video of the view:

January 17, 2008

'There's an ass in the back of my truck'

NUEVO VALLARTA, Jalisco, Mexico - We made a quick run up to Puerto Vallarta today for a two-day visit with Camelia (Dustin's girlfriend) while Dustin is out of town, down in Zihuatenejo working on a boat called 'Nervous Wreck.'

Puerto Vallarta is about three hours away, but it takes almost another hour to get through the city and out to Nuevo Vallarta where Dustin & Cami live in a neat house with their pooch Max.

Max greeted us wildly today - we hadn't seen him since we were here for a Cami's birthday party a few weeks ago.

The trip up is getting almost routine - we have our favorite Pemex (gasoline) station (out of two on the trip) and even have figured out how to split up the driving chores. I drive the switchbacks and mountainous areas outside Puerto Vallarta (because I get car sick pretty easily) and Sylvia drives the flatlands where she can put the pedal down hard and drive fast.

And she does drive hard and fast. The joke is if I drive the whole trip, it's a four-hour deal. If Sylvia drives, it's three.

We always see interesting stuff - today a pheasant almost crash landed on our windshield.

But as we pulled out of La Manzanilla this morning, we saw a truck at the tire repair shop where I got my flat tire fixed last week with a real ass in the back.

Check the video.

January 16, 2008

The early morning walk, the koffee klatch and cats

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - The predicted rain has disappeared but so has the humidity that made seeing in the distance less-than-perfect. (Less-than-perfect, that's illegal here isn't it?). So on the stroll Wednesday, we got a wonderful view of the southeast corner of Tenacatita Bay and our amigo Tom's refurbished Santana 21 sailboat, bobbing on a mooring.

Tom is a very handy carpenter & fix-it guy who retired some years back and has been building his home, one concrete block at a time.

It's a gorgeous casa. And from his deck, he sees his boat.


Tom's sailboat in Tenacatita Bay
A view of Tom's Santana 21

At El Girasol, the local coffee and breakfast spot for many people, we caught up with Tia Richardson and her young daughter having the last of their breakfast. Tia sports around town on a powerful-looking quad and was arranging for a beach day for a number of the young girls. Most of the girls do some version of home-schooling and you can practically hear the crackle of their intelligence when they talk.

I ordered my usual - a cup of black tea - and was stunned when I was served a huge cup of Earl Grey. Earl Grey! Here in La Manzanilla! Captain Picard would be quite at home at El Girasol.

Koffee Klatch in La Manzanilla
Koffee (and tea) Klatch

But we had an unwelcome surprise when we returned to our house, aka Casa Lupita.

The two cats who have adopted us - in return for the food we give them - have decided that the sand driveway (where we walk into the house) is an absolutely perfect spot to take a crap.

I knew that two days ago, when I spent a hour scouting cat crap around the yard, shoveling it and then burying it by the banana tree.

But today, they had covered up a couple of little piles - making mini-sand dunes - which I did not discover until it was firmly smeared on the bottom of my waffle-soled work shoes.

As the French say, Merde!

Our not-too-tame cats in La Manzanilla
Not-all-that civilized pets

We might need to rethink the cat food thing.

January 15, 2008

A wild surf and a very tame sunset (no green flash)

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - We walked on the beach in front of town last night - part of that routine thing to get exercise and appreciate this place - and were greeted with some of largest surf I've seen on this shore. Had it not been sundown, I would have run back up to the house and grabbed my boogie board.

It's the kind of surf that keeps many of the cruisers anchored across the bay from coming to town in their dinghies - the landings can be dangerous. I helped many amigos out of the surf here (and in other anchorages) when the waves flipped their boats.

The years that we were cruising Sabbatical here in Tenacatita Bay, we would pull anchor, sail over to town and drop the hook right in front of the swimming beach, then brave the surf, usually making several trips in with the people who caught a ride to town with us from the anchorage.

We never had a serious mishap in those landings, though plenty of salt water found its way into the dinghy. Getting out through the surf was also challenging, but never quite as dangerous.

Now there is a small tienda over closer to the cruisers and it is rare that they make their way across the bay.

The sunset last night was spectacular, too, as noted in the video below, along with a look at the waves.

Establishing some routines for life in La Manzanilla

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - With just the two of us at Casa Lupita now, we are establishing routines as we go from vacation mode to retirement mode.

Make that sort-of retirement mode.

The Admiral has started doing some consulting work for Santana Realty (office organization, preparing informational materials, etc...). I'm still banging on the keyboard with one writing contract. I'm avoiding finishing it right now by doing this blog.

The routines mostly revolve around getting in two walks per day - one first thing before it gets hot. That one so far has meant some aerobics climbing the hills. In the evening, when the Admiral finishes up her work, we take a stroll on the beach to make sure the sun goes down properly.

Both walks are good for the health and good reminders of what a beautiful place we picked to live this winter.

My other routines include sweeping the house (a must), raking the yard (almost a must) and reorganizing the stuff we brought down that has gone from disorganized to chaotic (a cultural imperative).

I'm avoiding that right now, too.

Here's a short video of the Admiral on her morning commute from Casa Lupita to Santana Real Estate.

January 14, 2008

The tire is back on and 'Spike' is in custody

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - Among the many jobs I had to do today was get the Trooper's flat tire fixed.

And after that, of course, I had to put the tire back on the truck. In the states, I would have called Triple AAA and had a tow truck lift the car up and slap it back on.

But flat tires are a way of life here and I realized that I better get reasonably proficient at such tasks. I also need to upgrade my tool box and emergency repair kits.

I stopped at the first "llantera" I saw on the main drag coming into town and a nice young man popped the tire onto his equipment and had me in and out in a half-hour.

And the charge for that speedy service was 40 pesos - or about $3.67 in U.S. dollars.

I can't make this stuff up: $3.67.

Can you imagine walking into a Big O Tire in the states and getting a flat fixed for less than the price of glass of house wine? (OK, you can tell how low I go on the house wines...)

The shop is a combination tire repair stop, gasoline station (in 20-liter jugs) and in the back is the house of the family. The mom remembered me from yesterday when I stopped by seeing if the shop was abierto, but it was closed. Sundays are a big deal in this country and while from an American viewpoint it's might seem a pain in the ass (like when you have a flat tire), I find it very nice.

At least so far.

Tire fixed and back on the Trooper
Tire fixed and spare back on the Trooper

The spike that flattened the Trooper
The spike that stopped the Trooper

In the meantime, I met a fellow in town named Tom who built a huge house with his wife Mary Jo and loves to work with wood. He also knows a lot about fiberglass work.

He rebuilt a Santana 21 sailboat (bobbing on a mooring right off the beach) and has agreed to help me with the last of the repairs on the Captain's Gig. The repairs done by Chief Engineer Scott Noble to the 10-foot sailing dinghy look great and we only need a few final pieces - and a new centerboard - before I will be sailing across Tenacatita Bay in search of whales.

Whales? Yup.

Tonight the Admiral and I walked the beach and watched a pod of maybe four or five whales put on a wild show, breaching, slapping their tails on the surface and in one astounding moment, jumping entirely out of the water.

When the whale's bodies hit the water, it was like cracks of thunder, probably a mile away.

Now I have to get the Captain's Gig back out on the water.

Whale ho!

January 13, 2008

Breakfast, flat tires and a mermaid on the shore

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - Dylan's last day on the beach began with a death march, er, long walk, around the upper reaches of La Manzanilla, followed by a fabulous breakfast of chilaquiles, eggs and refried beans at a small restaurant on the main street in town.

The restaurant is, like so many here, a family affair, with grandmom cooking tortillas on a grill, daughter cooking the food inside and grandchildren all over the place.

A very serene morning, until we came home.

Flat tire
Flat tire slowed us down

The left rear tire was flat - not just low - flat. And so, just like weeks before when son Dustin had to fix his leaking radiator, we pulled out the jack, got the spare ready and changed the tire. Upon inspection, we could see that we picked up a collosal-sized spike, probably out at one of the many construction sites we have visited in the past few days.

Luckily, the spare tire was full of air and with Dylan's help, we were back in business within a half hour. (He had special incentive to get it fixed - we were taking him to the airport a few hours later.)

Monday, the tire will go to a village tire shop for repair and then, most likely, I will be putting the repaired tire back on myself.

We dropped Dylan off in Manzanillo at the airport so he could fly back to the U.S., bought groceries for a week at a store called Comercial (the total was about $80 U.S.) and returned just in time to walk on the beach, catch a sunset - and see a mermaid on the sand.

Dylan Fox & Mom at Manzanillo Aeropuerto
Dylan and Mom at Manzanillo aeropuerto

Here's a short video. The mermaid is at the end.

January 12, 2008

At home with beer at Palapa Joe's and abejas on the street

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - It is so odd to live in a village and wake up to the sound of roosters crowing every morning - but still have access to the world's news via the Internet.

Of course, who wants to look at Mitt Romney's mug any morning? But lately he's been there. Perhaps not much longer if I read the election results correctly.

On the other hand, down here where surfers get sunburns, it is fun to see what's going on out at Mavericks, where surfers might get a case of hypothermia, instead.

solo surf
At Maverick's, where the waves are in control

A wave like the one in the photo above might be seen around here - but only in the summer with a hurricane waiting behind it.

The Admiral and I took another Death March, er, I mean walking tour, of some of the higher elevation properties this morning, ending up down at sea level in the village where we stopped to buy a half-kilo of fresh-cooked tortillas (45 cents), vegetables, fruit, bread and cat food at a small tienda ($1.80) -- and some freshly squeezed grapefruit and orange juice from a juice stand (90 cents).

Cat food? Yes, a couple of neighborhood cats have adopted us and are waiting outside the front door every morning. So far, they haven't started howling for food before dawn.

That's next. I've had a lot of cats.

Tonight is Dylan's last night with us before flying back to his high-finance job in the Bay Area. On tap is a send-off dinner at Martine's Restaurant, where the margaritas are superb (read: industrial strength) and the food rivals anything in San Francisco.

A full report on that tomorrow, depending on the strength of the tonight's cocktails.

January 11, 2008

Around the towns of La Manzanilla & Arroyo Seco

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - We closed out the visit of Randy & Karen and Lynn & Suzanne with a look at a nice, close-to-town house with a fantastic view of the bay from both the living room downstairs (and also from the rooftop) that could easily hold a palapa, and possibly living quarters.

I liked the place because it was a short walk down the hill to the town square - about 250 yards.

View from rooftop
View from the roof top

Lynn & Suzanne
Lynn & Suzanne in the kitchen

After looking at that casa, we retired to Palapa Joes (Where else?) for lunch and several cervezas while the gang of four debated the relative merits of the house - and its sticker price. It seems like a good deal and besides, if they buy it, the Admiral and I can always bunk with them when in La Manzanilla.

Dulci, Lynn & Suzanne's dog, stayed out of the conversations for the most part, but did try to sneak a sip out of the drink in front of her several times. She eyed my hamburger and fries, too.

Dulci & margarita
Dulci & the margarita

But the next day, while the four amigos and pooch headed to Puerto Vallarta, we went out on our own to revisit Arroyo Seco, where we bought a hillside lot last year, only to find out that the lot didn't exactly belong to the fellow with whom we were negotiating.

It's a little more complicated than that, but suffice it to say, we still love the town, and while there ran into four dudes from Santa Cruz, Calif. who were staying at nearby Tenacatita in a hotel and had come to Arroyo Seco to surf.

Dudes? Yes, these guys would definitely fall into the category of surfer dudes.

The waves weren't as large as what they were looking for, but impressed me. Of course, I am a boogie-board kind of surfer.

Arroyo Seco is a few miles north of the Tenacatita Bay property we have and is a real-deal Mexican pueblo. There is only one gringo living there currently - a surfer dude, of course - who goes by the sobriquet "Spiderman."

Seco surf
Arroyo Seco's north beach

Arroyo Seco surfers
Santa Cruz surf dudes

We met up with the famous Joe Santana there, who walked us around some of the hillsides to check out the views.


January 8, 2008

A night at Palapa Joe's and downtown La Manzanilla

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - We thought we were going to head over to Barra de Navidad tonight - after a day at Tenacatita beach and also even more real estate wanderings by our amigos.

But after the crew had a couple of margaritas at Palapa Joe's - and the captain had two Cuba Libres - the evening changed from a drive over the mountain to a walk down the street to a local, family owned taqueria where seven of us had dinner for 180 pesos.

That's about $16 U.S.

Among us we had four beers, one mineral water and about 19 tacos.

Stomachs full, wallets not-too-empty, we are ready for a day of snorkeling tomorrow...

January 7, 2008

On the real estate tour in La Manzanilla & Tenacatita

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - What was originally billed as a day of snorkeling and eating fish rolls at Tenacatita turned into a five-hour real estate tour around town and out to our property on the Pacific.

We were showing the area to four amigos, all of whom are serious about buying some land and/or a house here.

We saw some great places.

And yes, we saw a couple that are tempting us, too.

After the tour, we did make it to the Tenacatita Beach for beer and rollo de mar, plus a visit to give amigo Mario some fishing supplies I picked up in Puerto Vallarta. Mario is living in the Grey Goose Express with his wife Sharon and loving it, as the house building continues.

Drinking margaritas and buying necklaces

In addition to seeing some interesting lots and houses, we also had close enounters with some large mammals - a horse at one house and an entire herd of Brahma cattle at another.

The Brahmas (or is it Brahmins?) were walking down the main highway in La Rosa, but decided to detour as we drove through in the Trooper.

January 5, 2008

They paved Paradise and put up a parking lot

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico - We have spent two fun-filled days here at Dustin and Cami's house, including a birthday party for Cami last night.

We've had so much fun, it seems we will stay over one more day to rest up for the three-hour drive south, back to La Manzanilla.

But things have really changed since we first came to Paradise Village in 2000.

Beach access now is severely limited. Marina prices are more than twice what they were when we brought Sabbatical south, and instead of being waaaaay outside of all civilization, this area is now full of condos, timeshares, golf courses and even a new Mega, a huge grocery store to serve all these people. We even shopped at a Home Depot yesterday to get some items for the house.

La Manzanilla and Tenacatita seem quite quaint by comparison.

Below is a short video of us eating at a restaurant in Tenacatita, Sylvia and Cami just before the party and the Admiral getting in some violin practice - before going for a 2-hour massage.

January 2, 2008

A New Year's Day exercise in automotive repair

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - Son Dustin and his girlfriend Cami were headed back to Puerto Vallarta mid-day when we noticed that the driveway was filling with fluid as soon as he started the engine.

In the U.S., that becomes: Oh crap! Call AAA.

In Mexico, that becomes: Oh crap? Have any wrenches, Dad?

For about an hour, Dustin (with minor assistance from me) removed the radiator, found the leak and patched it with some two-part epoxy we got from a local everything repair shop, where the owner was rearranging huge piles of metal on his New Year's Day.

Two-part epoxy to fix a leaking radiator? Hey, come on, it's Mexico.

Radiator reinstalled, Dustin and Cami headed off happily and made it almost to Puerto Vallarta before the patch started leaking. But - preparedness being muy important down here - he had about 8 liters of water along, with which he was able to use to nurse his Trooper to his Nuevo Vallarta home.

Yes, there are three Troopers in the family: ours, Dustin's and Cami's.

While Dustin was pouring water into his car in the afternoon, we drove to the Manzanillo airport (45 minutes from our driveway) to pick up son, Dylan, who was coming in from San Francisco. The airport is very civilized, with an upstairs bar that overlooks the tarmac where all passengers walk in.

We sipped Indio beer while Dylan got off the plane and worked his way through customs.

January 1, 2008

New Year's Eve party rocks (?) with the Tango

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - The Admiral and I, along with Dustin & Cami (and our neighbor, Canadian artist Carol Lopez) went to a New Year's Eve party at a rooftop palapa, part of a dance studio that recently opened.

And it was, well, pretty wild.

There were probably 150 people there and the dance instructors kept everyone out on the floor most of the evening. Dinner was a Mexican potluck affair featuring a dozen different dishes. Perhaps surprisingly, no Alka-Seltzer needed today.

Mothers brought young children, too, all of whom joined in the dancing (and eating).

But I have to lay off these Chilean wines for awhile (though my Spanish seems to improve when I drink enough of it).

The party was a nice, soft-landing re-introduction to the town which it seems is becoming something of an artist's colony. Now if I only had an art...

Here's a short video of the happenings last night.