March 29, 2008

Well, there's fresh water on the beach lot at Tenacatita

TENACATITA, Jalisco, Mexico - Progress on the beach lot at Tenacatita is moving ahead quickly - now that the season is ending, of course.

The Admiral and I spent a few hours out on the beach today, watching the well diggers working, tapping into some water right under our property. An aquifer of 'sweet water' - that still has a slightly salty tinge to it - is all along the beach properties, they said. And true to their word, they found agua within an hour of digging.

After going down about six feet, they struck the water. By 4 p.m. that had put the metal casing in and set it up so we can pull water out as soon as I purchase a submersible pump.

Clear water
No, it's water, not Coke

I have to get the water tested, but I believe in its present state, it could work to water plants anyway. And perhaps with some kind of filter, be used for other household (non-drinking) uses.

Here's video of what well-drilling on the beach in Mexico looks like:

Last night the Admiral and I visited with former Rentalor Jane Gorby on the grounds of her La Manzanilla estate, checking to ensure that she is not sad and missing her old job too much. Retirees sometimes have a very tough time adjusting to all the new-found freedom: Being able to sleep in every day, not having to be places at a certain time, eating whenever hunger strikes, etc...

Jane seems to be holding up just fine.

Campari & soda with Jane the ex-rentalor
Jane and the Captain toast freedom with Campari & soda

March 28, 2008

La Manzanilla 'jardin' has a mascot croc living nearby

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - The town square, referred to as the jardin by year-round residents, is the hub of life here with merchants, kids bouncing on trampolines, food vendors that set up with plastic tables, people selling recorded music, and families strolling. It's more lively at night, but almost anytime of the day, there's something going on.

And at its westerly edge is Tenacatita Bay and a small arroyo that during summer roars with mountain rain water out into the ocean, a seasonal river that actually knocked out a footbridge and did some serious damage to the small walkway last year.

Sidewalk with serious issues
A sidewalk with issues

This sidewalk - or what is left of it - is a good reminder to everyone that in Mexico, it's reallllllly important to watch where you step. I tiptoed over some of the broken sidewalk yesterday, remembering that if I fell and got hurt, it was my problem, not the city or the owners of the property.

What a novel concept! Watch where you're going.

What had me tiptoeing around was that I had heard there was a crocodile living in the swamp area there, a shallow pool that runs back close to the famous Martin's Restaurant, the site of many dinner and lunches with friends since the Admiral and I first came to La Manzanilla eight years ago.

Famous Martin's Restaurant
Martin's Restaurant, a block off the square

Martin's has grown from a one-man operation into a full-fledged place, though you still get very personal service from Martin. If he personally mixes your margarita, one is probably plenty for most folks.

But while I was gazing at the ocean and the arroyo, I noticed what I thought was a log drifting across the water. Then I realized that the log was actually going against the wind.

Young croc swimming
Young croc heading for a spot to catch some rays

Young croc near Martin's Restaurant
On the mudflats, getting warmed up

This little fellow is about a meter long and a teenage boy tried for awhile to snare him with a broomhandle and a piece of clothesline, while standing safely up on the concrete.

What exactly he would have done with the croc, had he caught him, would have been very interesting to watch, from a distance.

I'll check out the jardin later today to see if any intrepid teenage crocodile hunters are at work. This expedition cries out for the video camera.

March 27, 2008

Gridlock in La Manzanilla - and another retirement party

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - I don't drive all that fast (ok, not any faster than my Mexican amigos around here) but I was moving pretty fast a couple of days ago, headed up the mountain to meet someone, when I rounded a gravel-road corner and found this fellow standing in the middle of the road.

Gridlock on La Manzanilla road
Who has the right of way here?

I tooted my horn to get him to move, but he didn't budge. In fact, he came up and rested his head on the hood of the car briefly. Even when I got out of the car, he didn't move, until I gave him a loud cowboy yell (Yee-haw!). Then he ambled off, leading me slowly for about a quarter mile before wandering off into a ravine. I'll have to brush up on my Spanish for Horses.

The next day, on my way out to Tenacatita, to check on the beach lots (and Mario & Sharon's casa) I rounded another corner a little too fast, only to be greeted by several horses, blithely wandering across Highway 200, the major north-south artery for this entire coastal area.

I don't want to think about what would happen if I had a Trooper-Palomino collision.

Horses in the road
Highway horses

But things haven't been all horse stories.

Wednesday night we had the official Jane Gorby retirement party at Palapa Joe's, with Jane's former employer, Joan Santana as hostess. Joan sprang for the whole party - drinks, more pizzas than a hungry crowd could eat, and a beautiful cake that everyone managed to chomp on, despite being full of pizza.

The retirement cake
The retirement cake

There were no long speechs (whew!) just a few toasts and one rendition on the ukulele of "Jane Gorby has finally retired." The three Cuba Libres I had didn't help much with hitting the right chords, but because most everyone else had sloshed pretty good, too, I got away with it.

Jane & Jesse
Jane & Jesse

Official retirement party
The party table at Palapa Joe's

March 22, 2008

End of an era in La Manzanilla - Jane Gorby retires

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - It was Jane Gorby's final day at work today at Santana Realty where she has earned an international reputation as The Rentalor - more feared than The Terminator - if you wanted a nice spot on the beach here in high season.

And who doesn't?

We stopped by the Santana office right at 6 p.m. on the main drag of town to capture Jane's last employed moments before she walked down the street for an impromptu retirement soiree at Coco Loco's.

Something slightly more formal has been rumored for Wednesday night at Palapa Joe's (which was closed tonight, we were soooo sad). If that happens, I will pull out my ukulele for a quick number I wrote called, "Jane Gorby Has Finally Retired..." I wrote a couple of other songs, too, that might find their way onto the playlist, all depending on how many Cuba Libres I have before we get to that part of the program.


Jane was definitely Jane after her last day at work - two quick margaritas, a couple of smokes and two pieces of excellent pizza all made for a great party with a few amigos.

Her immediate plans for retirement: To do nothing. Nada, zip, zilch...

Sounds like a great plan... Wish I had thought of it...

March 19, 2008

Semana Santa cranks up with people - and accidents

Accident on Highway 200
Accident at La Manzanilla entrance

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - The Semana Santa crowds have started showing up en masse, with many busloads of people coming to town, and the huge buses negotiating streets more suited to small pickup trucks than 40-foot long buses. Watching them taking corners - without taking out buildings - is worth the trip down the hill.

The highways have already started to have their share of accidents, too. This morning, on my way to Arroyo Seco, I was greeted with the scene above right at the entrance to the pueblo. It didn't look like anyone was seriously hurt, but several families have just had their holidays pretty well ruined. And people on the highways are driving fast, even by Mexican standards.

Croc & dolphins
A life-like crocodile joins the dolphins at La Manzanilla entrada

At the same (and only) entrance, the city folks have just installed a new sculpture to add to the dolphins. I don't know just yet who actually created it, though a local artist who goes by the sobriquet Apache is a likely suspect. Crews were painting it today. What color? Crocodile Gray, of course. Check your newest box of Crayola Crayons.

Closer to town, one measure of how many people - and cars - are here was the installation of a traffic cop in front of Santana Realty. A traffic cop! In La Manzanilla. Say it ain't so.

But there he was, whistle in hand, even crossing pedestrians. I took the photo below as the Admiral was making her daily commute into the office.

Traffic cop in La Manzanilla
Traffic cop deals with gridlock in La Manzanilla

But the biggest impact in town is really out on the beach, where the hundreds of people of two days ago is growing daily and will reach several thousand, I'm told by local folks. And the entrepreneurial spirit is alive in well in town and on the beach. Ice cream vendors, people selling jewelry, food, churros (they are so good, they should be controlled substance), and in one booth, micheladas, a beer served in a cup over ice, with some lime juice thrown in.

They are quite delicious, but can you imagine a bunch of young guys erecting a palapa on a U.S. beach - any U.S. beach - and selling beer?

Not without a liquor license and an environmental impact report on how much the palm fronds in the palapa would interfere with the life cycle of the indigenous hermit crabs.

Micheladas - not lemonade
Not selling lemonade

March 17, 2008

Semana Santa (Easter Week) comes to La Manzanilla

La Manzanilla beach going north
La Manzanilla beach looking north

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - Perhaps it is because I grew up going to Coney Island and Jones Beach in New York, but the scene above, hundreds of Mexican families enjoying the beach, actually seems more normal than the virtually deserted stretches of sand I have become use to here for most of the year. OK - deserted stretches of sand I enjoy.

Welcome to Semana Santa, or as it is referred to by many people here, Semana Loco.

Carloads and busloads of Mexican families are arriving and setting up camp on the beach, in yards, alongside the highway - any place there is a flat spot. On my way back from Tenacatita, two days ago, I passed two teenage Mexican girls carrying backpacks who were hitchhiking to La Manzanilla. By the time I had passed them and realized I should give them a lift, two truckloads of Mexican fellows were vying for the chance to give them a ride to the beach.

It's kind of an annual Mexican Woodstock, sans the late Jimmy Hendrix, and it's going on in virtually every Mexican coastal city and town.

La Manzanilla beach going south
La Manzanilla beach looking south

The local gringos gird for this event like upstate New Yorkers get ready for a snowstorm. Stock up on food, water, and figure that you are not going to leave your house for days on end. Some leave town entirely and head for the interior - where all the beach-going Mexicans have just left. (And many of them rent out their La Manzanilla homes for a good price...)

I toured the beach area this afternoon and met only one other gringo - a very confused-looking Canadian fellow searching for the beachfront condo he had rented, not knowing that most of the state of Jalisco was going to arrive and was already cooking carne asada and fish on his doorstep.

But good grief, everyone else looked like they were having a great time, with soccer balls flying left and right and even kitesurfers putting on a show.

Sail surfing
Kite surfing in 30 mph winds

Grabbing some rays
Working on a sunburn, er, tan

I had planned to go to neighboring Melaque today - it is St. Patrick's Day, after all - but was warned against going near the city. Melaque's patron saint is St. Patrick (San Patricio) himself and the city apparently becomes so jammed with people, cars, tequila and people dancing in the streets, it's impossible to get around.

Sure sounds like fun to me, but I'm blogging instead.


But on the way home from the beach I went by the lagoon to see if the crocs were celebrating - or perhaps salivating - at the prospect of several thousand naive tourists on the beach, some of whom were wading in the end of the crocodile swamp near a local restaurant to cool off.

Not a good idea, considering how many people have been throwing food into that area for the crocs.

Crocodile is partied out
Waiting for just the right tourist

March 16, 2008

A blur of activity and very little blogging done

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - The last week or so was a blur of activity and while plenty of photos were shot, not much was done in the way of blogging.

I did post a couple of things to From Where I Sit and to the Class of '66.

One major development was the construction of the road on our beach lot, though because it is Semana Santa (Easter Week), the next step of putting in a septic system and water will be delayed. Still, being able to drive out onto the lot - and not have to deal with sand spurs sticking in my socks - is great.

Driveway to beach

Pad for trailer
Pad for trailer and palapa roof

But the days have not been all roadwork and driveways and property.

We spent several nice days at the beach (and around Melaque and Barra de Navidad) with Pat & Sanders Lamont, who left earlier this week to go back to their mountain retreat in California, where they report the snow is melting.


Pat & Sanders
Pat & Sanders Lamont - their last night on the beach in Melaque

And now that we have spent more time out on Admiralty Beach, we are beginning to see more possibilities for a beach residence - even if it only the Grey Goose Express with a palapa.

Wave on!
Admiralty Beach wave rolls in

March 7, 2008

Crocs and Costco - on the road to Puerto Vallarta

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico - The past three days have been filled with, well, I won't exactly say, adventure, but...

Wednesday night, we had a farewell dinner with our friend Mario who was leaving his almost completed beach house to return to Portland, Oregon. Mario has been the occupant of the Grey Goose Express which will probably be moved in the next week or so to our beach lot - about a quarter mile away. And we will also be house sitting Mario's casa (a few days a week) for the next couple of months until he and his wife Sharon return in June. (Thanks Mario! Thanks Sharon!)

Mario and pooch
Mario and his beach dog watch the sunset

That night Mario, the Admiral and I and Pat & Sanders all went to a tiny taqueria in Rebalsito, a nearby village. The restaurant was next door to a local billard parlor and was kept busy with orders to go, put in my young guys carrying pool cues. The food, cooked on a grill right in the center of the place was very good. And the bill came to about $15 U.S. for the five of us (including several cervezas).

The next day we hit the road for Puerto Vallarta to do some paperwork for Sylvia and also to see son Dustin - and a brand-new Costco.

Yup, a Costco.

Puerto Vallarta Costco
Inside the new Costco in Puerto Vallarta

We reverted to U.S. consumers for a brief time, loading the cart with stuff we just can't get to the south. I threw in a bottle of rum - certainly available in La Manzanilla - and a case of Coca-Cola so that we can have Cuba Libres at the house as well as at Palapa Joes. Sylvia bought an Ipod speaker system that had to be returned today. While the store is in good shape, the return policies - and system - need a little fine tuning.

In another nod to the Americanization of Puerto Vallarta, we had lunch at a Chili's restaurant, located in the swankest mall I have seen in Mexico. In fact, the department store (called Liverpool) really gives any Nordstrom's a good run for its money - all of it.

But while I have eaten in many Chili's restaurant's in the U.S., I've never eaten at one with this view:

View from Chili's in Puerto Vallarta
View from Chili's in Puerto Vallarta

But you are still wondering about the crocodile reference, right?

The day before we left for Puerto Vallarta, Sanders and I had walked down the beach about a mile and came back along a road that skirts the crocodile swamp and the mangroves. The area is unfenced and crocs sometimes crawl up on the bank and sun themselves. Smart animals, even if they don't use sunscreen.

Very few people actually walk right next to the water there.

Regardless, we walked up to the water's edge where we had to turn to get back to the beach, only to see a croc give us a hairy eyeball and slide off into the water. (OK, crocs don't have hairy eyeballs. But he did look at us.)

I think we will not walk that road at night, no matter how bright our flashlight is.

Croc swims away
Disturbed from his nap...

March 5, 2008

Road construction at Tenacatita Beach - hurray!

TENACATITA, Jalisco, Mexico - Construction on the road leading to our beach lot began this week, with great progress made already by an impressive bulldozer taking out everything in its way. At one point, we ran for the car when we realized we were in its path.

The construction crew had to cut through a guard rail and bring the road down off the highway - a much simpler process in Mexico than the U.S.

By late Tuesday, the bulldozer was approaching our lot and by tonight, I expect the hard-pack to be done so we can drive in legally. (In the past, we've had to cross several lots on an unofficial roadway.)

Progress on Tenacatita Road
Progress on the road

Entrance to Tenacatita property

Captain Sanders Lamont and I also spent some time walking the lot and decided to put the driveway on the south side, a logical spot (we think) and running all the way to the far end of the property where there is a natural flat spot with a view of the ocean that is killer. If plans work out (this is Mexico), the Grey Goose Express could be parked on the lot within a few weeks, with a nice palapa/ramada shading it.

Pat on Admiralty Beach
Pat Lamont on Admiralty beach

The beginning of the road project called for a celebration, of course, and so we scurried over to the Fiesta Americana restaurant where the rollo de mar and shrimp were delicious, as usual. We also saw some crabs crawling along the beach that were obviously not intimidated by the fact that their cousins were being boiled, fried and steamed on a few yards away.

Crabby on the beach

March 2, 2008

The feeding of the crocodiles in La Manzanilla

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - We spent a quiet Sunday, recovering from the rigors of our performance the night before at Palapa Joe's as The Four Headlamps singing the Rodney Carrington hit, "I Think I'm Dancin' With A Man."

But late in the day, after stopping to see our Canadian friends Lynn and Doug (Eh?) down on the beach, we came home via the edge of a swamp that is home to some very large crocodiles.

The swamp abuts the end of town and local kids (and tourists, OK...) take great pleasure in throwing food into the swamp for the crocs to grab.

Being married to a Florida girl (Sanibel Island) who grew up around alligators, I know that feeding these animals is a reallllly bad idea. After awhile, they equate people with food. And if you run out of fish to throw to them? Well... watch the video and think about meeting one of these guys if you fall out of your kayak in the swamp.

Or in the ocean, where they sometimes go, if they get bored in the confines of the swamp

But we witnessed kids pitching of fish to the crocs today anyway.

animals. Or are they reptiles?

The Four Headlamps debut in La Manzanilla

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - When I turned 55, I set three goals that I wanted to achieve before I pull up - or actually have pulled up over me - a dirt blanket, as my amigo Michael Scott of Chico State says.

In no particular order, the three things were: Become fluent in a foreign language, learn to play a musical instument, and finish one of the novels I have started.

Last night, playing the ukulele in front of a bar full of people with my amigos in The Four Headlamps, I'm there with the musical-instrument goal.
  • The Four Headlamps

  • I have a looooong way to go before I will consider that I am any good on the uke, but playing in public was a big deal because it's one thing to sit at home and test your musical abilities, another to test your tonsils in public.

    We chose a funny song, "I Think I'm Dancin' With A Man," which went over pretty well, even with my delivery being a little soft.

    And the other goals? Well, my Spanish is improving poco a poco and it's possible I'll start hacking away on one of the books again soon.

    Or maybe a start a new tome, about a retired college professor who loves Cuba Libres and hangs out on the beach.