May 31, 2008

The upstate New York experience: green, green, green

VALOIS, New York, USA - The Admiral and I experienced our first real rain last night, the first since we left California last December for Mexico.

Not a drop fell in our part of coastal Mexico while we were there and it was so extraordinary last night that I stood outside at 5 a.m. for a few minutes, letting the rain pelt me. Yes, I now am sneezing, slightly, from the cold and wet, but it was worth it.

I have never been to our Seneca Lake house this early in the spring season. The reward for coming in now is that everything is in bloom, flowers, trees and weeds, too. (Please pass the kleenex, would you?) But because it is early, I have been able to get a closer look at various projects (unobstructed by brush) and figured out what I hope is some easier ways to accomplish things. More on rebuilding our cliffside path to the lake in another blog.

Sideyard
Plants blooming all around the house

The nicest experience in coming back this year was how good things are. The house had been cleaned before we arrived (and was really clean) the yard had been raked and mowed (and looked like a golf course), even the outside of the house looked a little cleaner. My work cleaning and organizing the tools paid off the first time I went looking for my various rakes and shovels and other implements and they were hanging up - right where I left them.

Un milagro, as we say in Mexico.

One thing that really stood out was how good the guest cabin looked after being painted by our friend Brad last summer. The cabin cleanup has been my worst nightmare every summer, as it would be gross on the outside and equally problematic on the inside.

This season, I just go up and sit on the little patio and listen to birds.

Seneca Lake cabin
Seneca Lake cabin new paint job survived the winter

Next on the list is finding a summer car for the house - the white Buick has been sold and the rental car is waaay too expensive to keep for more than a week or so.

But why do all the reasonably priced cars and trucks for sales have to be Ford motor products?

!Madre mia! (another Mexican expression.)

May 28, 2008

Back in the USSA - surviving culture shock

PHOENIX, Arizona, USA - I always make some gaffe at the immigration counter coming back into the U.S., sometimes humorous, sometimes close-to-ugly.

So it wasn't much of a surprise today that I forgot to list the Admiral on our customs form and got mildly chewed out by the female immigration agent who checked our passports - even asking what I had bought that was worth $25 in Mexico.

Strike one.

An hour later, we found our way to a Chili's Restaurant in the Sky Harbor airport after our Phoenix amigos Jim and Pam Carr said they couldn't make it for dinner. :-(

At Chili's, I decided to order a nice glass of cold white wine, which the server said was fine, except I had to show him some photo identification to be served alcohol. My identification. Considering how far from 21 I am, it seemed, well somewhat absurb - especially considering that only a few hours ago we were living in a nation whose alcohol laws are so loose, it's hard to determine if any really exist.

But to make the young waiter happy, I flipped open my wallet, but that wasn't good enough, of course. "Sorry sir," he said. "You need to take your ID out of the plastic.

Strike two.

And a few minutes ago - after taking off my shoes, my belt, putting my glasses and change into separate little dishes - I tossed my backpack onto the conveyor belt to be X-rayed, but with my computer and video camera inside.

Strike three.

At least this time, the TSA agents didn't do an entire explosives test on the camera (as they did once in Sacramento). Instead, they simply pulled out the offending electronics and ran everything through. Very civilized, indeed.

Now, my shoes back on and tied, my stomach full and my bags repacked, I will have to see how well I fare with the flight attendants on our red-eye, cross-country flight to Philadelphia in a couple of hours. I never seem to get my tray table closed and my seat in the upright condition quick enough for the attendants, male or female.

Remember the friendly skies?

Phoenix Sky Harbor
Phoenix's Sky Harbor

Full disclosure: Croc was from Australia, not Mexico

PUERTO VALLARTA, Jalisco, Mexico - After I posted two days ago about going through my photos from the winter in Mexico, I received a couple of enquiries about the croc photo. (I also received a number of comments about the gratuitous bikini shot, but that's another matter.)

I wrote that I was including some photos - including the crocodile - in the slide show for those folks who have already decided that Mexico is too dangerous for them.

Aussie croc
Actually, an Aussie croc

So, for those Mexico and La Manzanilla readers who wondered if this creature was spotted lunging out of the lagoon behind Valentina's, the answer is no. It's a photo of a Queensland, Australia croc, the kind that will chase you down the beach and will make you into a snack. If you ever walk by the croc preserve in La Manzanilla in the company an Australian from the state of Queensland, take note of how fast they leave the area.

Below is a photo of one of our more staid La Manzanilla crocodiles, coming up to the fence to be fed by tourists, arguably a very bad idea I am told by the Admiral. This fellow, or one of his many compadres in the murky water, did snatch a 50-60 pound dog for lunch very recently.

Croc 3
La Manzanilla crocodile, waiting for tourists

For the record, however, the gratuitous bikini shot was taken at Tenacatita, not Australia.

May 26, 2008

Checking out the photo album from the last few weeks

PUERTO VALLARTA, Jalisco, Mexico - As the Admiral and I get ready to launch for the wilds of upstate New York in two days, I've been going through the 1,000 or so photos I took since December to make several slide shows.

With different audiences, different slides, of course.

For my beer-drinking-boating-fishing-sailing-motorcycle-riding buddies, I'm pulling together some of the gratuitous bikini shots I took to be part of their slide show.

Tying up loose ends on bikini
Tying up loose ends

For those folks I want to be sure to come visit, I have a huge collection of stuff like this:

Zephryus at Sunset
Sunset from La Manzanilla's beach

And for the people who have already told me how Mexico really isn't a place for them, do I really drink the water?, etc... Well, I throw in a few slides like these:

Aussie croc
Crocodile looking for lunch

A pissed-off scorpion
One pissed-off scorpion

Still, going over the last 30 or so shots has made me nostalgic already for Arroyo Seco and La Manzanilla. One photo I had forgotten about was taken at the vivero last week where we went with Arroyo Seco amigos Chena and Chon to buy 8 palm trees and at least 16 bougainvillea plants. Oh, and a lime tree and some kind of shade tree that Chon said wasn't too big of a mess when the leaves start to fall.

It was hot. Damn hot. But Chena came equipped with some bumbershoots (that a nod to my British readers, Marcia and Rick Hein) from her truck that I suspect both belong to Chena's daughters, though perhaps, not.

Chon and I toughed it out with our baseball caps on. I don't know about Chon, but I got my 14th or 15th sunburn of the season that morning. And my dermatologist is going to be less-than-pleased.

Girls at the vivero
Girls at the vivero

I took some other photos of practical things, too, like barbecues.

When we return in the fall, it is highly unlikely we will do much food preparation inside the Grey Goose Express, but a nice outdoor cooking area, with or without propane would be very handy, and a lot cooler for the chefs.

I saw the setup below on the beach near Valentina's in La Manzanilla.

Outdoor barbecue
Simple cookstove

But even that seems sooooo sophisticated when you consider how one of the workmen at Arroyo Seco cooked his lunch every afternoon when not pitching tiles up on the roof to the guys building our palapa.

He declined even a plastic chair to sit in most days, preferring to feel the earth, I suppose. And his lunch always smelled fantastic cooking.

Barbecue, too
Not available at Home Depot

The last week also featured a visit by the Admiral's cousin and her partner, as well as their California amigos Randy and Karen. The foursome visited La Manzanilla in January, fell in love with the place (of course) and came back for another visit and to scout about to see if they could afford to buy a piece of the paradise.

As the photo below shows, they fit pretty well into the lifestyle.

Walk on the beach
Walk on the beach

May 25, 2008

Adios Arroyo Seco and La Manzanilla - hello New York

PUERTO VALLARTA, Jalisco, Mexico - The Admiral and I said a very sad goodbye to La Manzanilla and Arroyo Seco today, sad because after more than 5 months here, we realized that this area really has become home.

And who wants to leave home, even if it is to go to a lake in upstate New York to watch one of your children get married.

We ended our stay in La Manzanilla by staying a week with Kate Fisher at her lovely home on the bay, taking a week of 'vacation.' Her downstairs apartments are exactly what you want if you stay on the beach. We considered asking her to adopt us so we would never have to leave.

We figured she would decline to adopt us, but she did say we can come back in November.

In Arroyo Seco, we ended our stay (and months-long adventure) by getting within days of completing all our projects on our downtown lot. Saddest of all was saying goodbye to our vecinos (neighbors) and good friends Chena and Chon who have helped us so much in understanding Arroyo Seco. They were the first people we met there and the last people we said goodbye to today.

Muy triste.

The highlight of what turned out to be a very busy week was throwing a fiesta for the workers (and other Arroyo Seco and La Manzanilla amigos) who have helped so much to get the buildings and structures going.

Food prep in Arroyo Seco
Getting the food ready for the fiesta at Chena's

A fiesta is just a big party, right?

Well, sort of. We had seven kilos of arrachera, a four-kilo bucket of ceviche, a huge salad, tortillas, chips, shrimp a la diablo and so many other kinds of food and eats on a big serving table I really can't remember them all.

The memory lapse might also be linked to the eight cases of beer that were consumed, along with a bottle of tequila. I didn't drink it all personally, but reportedly I did my share.

All the food was prepared in Chena and Chon's Arroyo Seco kitchen, right across the street from our new palapa. People pitched in and in less than two hours, a feast was ready for the 30 or so people at the fiesta.

Guys on the step
Relaxing after la comida

Tequila on the table
Serious about the tequila

Fiesta table
Fiesta table

After a few days here in Puerto Vallarta, we will head out to fly via US Airways to Seneca Lake, where we have a wedding to get ready for in mid-June, a pontoon boat to relaunch (The Spirit of Louise) and at least a dozen wineries to visit to get just the right vino for the wedding fiesta.

We could sure use Chena and Chon's expertise to help out with the fiesta there.

Chon and Chena
Chon and Chena at una quinceanara in Arroyo Seco

Adios, La Manzanilla y Arroyo Seco, regresamos en Noviembre.

May 21, 2008

One cost of living in paradise: crocodiles for neighbors

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - Paradise does come with some costs, a fact I was reminded of last night after talking with someone about how many scorpions they killed this month - and when I discovered that a beach dog we had semi-adopted (along with a half-dozen other people) was eaten by a crocodile.

Yup, snatched right in front of a witness, a now traumatized witness.

The La Manzanilla message board has been buzzing with comments about the incident, and I suspect people with pooches are going to keep them a little closer when passing the lagoon where some of the crocs lounge in the sun.
  • Message Board link


  • Croc 2
    A La Manzanilla resident

    The crocs around La Manzanilla have always seemed, well, so placid. Many times I've walked within 100 feet of the critters when passing the lagoon where it is close to the ocean.

    I think going to increase that zone of safety by another 50 feet. (Hmmm... make that another 100 feet.)

    I haven't heard of any attacks on people, but I would suspect a small child might look tempting to a hungry crocodile.

    I hope I'm wrong.

    Last year I watched several dozen tourists go wading out into the surf to get a better look at a small crocodile as it swam in the ocean before being captured.

    Even a small crocodile probably has pretty big teeth.

    Croc capture
    Croc capture on the beach

    May 19, 2008

    Water gets warm just in time for our vacation

    LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - It might seem odd to people who don't live here in Mexico (or anyone else, I suppose), but, well, we decided to go on vacation this week.

    What the *&%$*$%#$**^&((?????????

    For months, we have been running up and down the Highway 200, looking at property, negotiating with builders and construction guys, signing papers at the notario, getting a phone, changing the electrical service into our name for one property and, and, and.

    By the way, changing the electrical service took two days and a half dozen legal documents, including flashing our Mexican visas (also know as FM3). We now get to pay the bill.

    Wahoo!

    So today, I am on vacation and as part of that, I went swimming and discovered that the water in the bay is warm. Warm as in maybe 80-plus degrees. Amazing, because a week ago I didn't want to wade. I went swimming twice already and if I wasn't so skittish about swimming in the dark, I would take a plunge tonight before bed.

    I'll swim manana, when it's daylight.

    Ukulele jam in Puerto Vallarta
    Music jam in Puerto Vallarta

    We did take a quick trip to Puerto Vallarta (very quick, up one day and back the next) squeezing in a couple of medical appointments, a trip to Costco and a music performance at the Vallarta Yacht Club.

    We were sans two members of our group (The Four Headlamps), but played with amigos Judy and Bob Lyon (of the cruising sailboat Lyon Around) and a handful of other amateur musicians.

    We played 14 songs and at the end, got a very nice round of polite applause.

    Sometimes you get lucky.

    Sylvia with Devani
    The Admiral holds Devani

    After our trip to the Manzanillo emergency room with our amiga Irma and her about-to-deliver daughter Mimi a week ago, we kept checking back at Mimi's house, expecting to see Mimi and her daughter each day. But because of some complications, she stayed for several days, though now both are at home and both Mimi and her daughter Devani are looking great.

    Sylvia and I have gone by several times to bounce the little lass (Devani, not Mimi), who seems to be gaining weight day by day.

    By the way, what exactly are los padrinos, anyway?

    Kids on a moto
    Kids on a moto

    Out in Arroyo Seco, our palapa frame is up, the ramada frame is up, the bodega is ready for a roof and the septic tank only needs its cover and a little plumbing to be ready for, well, you know.

    When we were out visiting our amigos Sunday, we watched our neighbor's daughter - who is probably eight years old - zipping around the rancho on dad's moto with a few of her amigos. It reminded me that soon the Admiral will be back in the land of strict rules and where having an open container of beer in a car will land the driver in jail and stepping in front of the yellow line near a bus driver is cause for getting ejected off the bus.

    Staying off buses will be easy, but the beer?

    Que lastima.

    May 12, 2008

    A great Sunday afternoon barbecues - without crocodiles

    RANCHO CUIXMALA, Jalisco, Mexico - The Admiral and I went to a barbecue Sunday afternoon just a few miles up the road from our Arroyo Seco project, invited by our same amigas who had us out to ride horses several days before.

    These Sunday afternoon get-togethers - of family and friends - around Arroyo Seco seem to happen every week. Sometimes people gather on the beach, sometimes other spots. It's all family oriented with kids and dogs part of the mix.

    This fiesta was held next to the same laguna where our horseback guide Jose warned me of crocodiles in the water. And the children at the barbecue/fiesta made great fun every time I walked near the water, warning me not to get too close.

    Each time I went to the water to take a photo or two, they made great growling sounds behind me, though I'm not sure crocodiles actually growl. Chomp? Yes.

    The chef at work at Cuixmala bbq
    The chef at work

    We had a delicious potluck-style meal. But the food highlight was clearly the lamb, chicken, beef and chorizo, all cooked over an open fire.

    In the U.S., the amount of carne cooked probably would have required several of those massive stainless steel barbecues that look like leftover equipment from one of the Apollo space missions. Here a few logs, a grate and a spit sufficed.

    The party was an interesting mix of languages, too, with Spanish, English and French spoken interchangeably. And one fellow there was from Japan, who is quite fluent in Spanish.

    I really have to get more serious in my study of Spanish.

    Here's a brief video of the chef at work. He said in his native Argentina, this is how barbecues are routinely done.

    video

    May 10, 2008

    Riding horses around the wilds of el Rancho Cuixmala

    RANCHO CUIXMALA, Jalisco, Mexico - We spent a few hours Friday morning riding horses around the famous Rancho Cuixmala, about five miles from Arroyo Seco.

    We had been invited to come out and ride by our amiga, Mercedes, who with her sister, brother and mother run the huge organic farming and ranch which borders the Cuixmala River. They have five horses, two of which galloped around the pasture when we went by. I couldn't tell if they were wishing they were out on patrol with us, or making fun of their compadres with the humans perched stiffly on their backs.

  • Rancho Cuixmala

  • Mercedes drives the tractor
    Mercedes and her brother on one of their tractors

    As it has been probably 40 years since I climbed on a horse, I was more than a little apprehensive about the whole expedition. Ironically, the last animal I climbed on the back of (in a pasture in western New York) was a pretty tired old fellow named inappropriately Lightning.

    So, in a nice bit of symmetry, the much-younger (and still spirited) horse I rode at Rancho Cuixmala is also named Lightning - at least that's what I was told. Mercedes sister Ana told me to be sure to 'let him know who is the boss.' Good advice, except I had very little idea how to do it, but the Admiral clued me in quickly.

    The Admiral owned horses years ago and had her steed well under control the whole ride. For her it has been only 20 years or so since she rode a horse. A mere moment...

    The ranch is stunning and we rode through trees and fields with all manner of plant and animal life - most of which I couldn't readily identify. Our guide Jose pointed out that the large laguna on the rancho contains crocodiles.

    And at one point, a family of coatimundi ran across the path right in front of us.

    My horse barely took notice, preferring to munch the weeds while we stopped to let the family cross the trail.

    Riding through the trees
    Riding through the trees

    By the end of the ride, I had gotten the hang of how to steer Lightning (it has been 40 years) and I realized that the horse really prefers a nice canter to plodding along like a stereotypical stable beast. We did a few bursts of speed, but the bouncing will take some getting used to for me.

    More horseback riding lies ahead, we hope, even in the wilds of upstate New York at Seneca Lake where we will be in just a few short weeks.

    The Admiral had so much fun she said suggested we get a horse to trot around in Arroyo Seco, or out at Rancho Cuixmala.

    I suggested a burro instead - kind of a low-budget horse and certainly picaresque. I didn't get a very favorable response.

    video

    May 9, 2008

    Learning the language via the immersion process

    EMILIANO ZAPATA, Jalisco, Mexico - It was during lunch Friday that I realized I am living with the poster child for why immersion in a language works so well, when compared to classroom learning.

    The Admiral and I were discussing our earlier horseback ride around Ranch Cuixmala (more on that in another blog when I can sit down for a longer period of time to write about it) and I realized that as I was chatting in Spanish, she could understand nearly every word I said.

    And earlier in the day, she had asked a question in Spanish of our horseback riding guide using a full sentence, her first since we moved here in December.

    Madre mia!

    Sylvia at Emiliano Zapata taco stand
    Admiral at taco shoppe in Emiliano Zapata

    I started my study of Spanish in the mid-1980s when I was lucky enough to land a spot with a team of five faculty going to Spain on a Fulbright. We had to give our lectures there entirely in Spanish, even though one month prior to leaving, none of us spoke a word of Spanish.

    The question and answer sessions were pretty hilarious.

    Since then, I have studied Spanish on and off (OK, mostly off) trying to memorize phrases, verbs and vocabulary, but it has only been in the last five months that I have been comfortable speaking Spanish.

    The Admiral on the other hand had no prior experience with Spanish but clearly has a ear for it already. Next winter and spring the majority of our time will be spent in Arroyo Seco where Spanish rules completely.

    Given the speed at which she is learning, maybe the Admiral will be able to translate for me.

    Fishing hole for Scott Noble
    Fishing spot in la laguna

    In our travels back from the horseback riding expedition we drove a back road past El Tecuan where a huge, mostly freshwater lagoon borders the sand dunes. The birds and wildlife back there were incredible and we found a half-dozen interesting fishing holes that I hope to show to Scott Noble when he makes his next foray south. Sadly, that probably won't be until Christmas next year.

    The fish were so close to shore it seemed as if you could almost walk out and just grab them - which I was quite tempted to try.

    Then I remembered what two French amigos from Arroyo Seco had mentioned to me a few weeks ago about that laguna: There are crocodiles in the water there. Max and Julian know it's true because they ran into a couple of crocs while they were doing some snorkeling.

    I think I'll stick to rod-and-reel fishing for now.

    Crocodile
    Croc in La Manzanilla

    May 8, 2008

    Waiting for a phone call - a baby on the way soon?

    LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - We are sleeping with the telephone close by the bed tonight, as the daughter of our amiga Irma is within days (maybe hours, maybe minutes) of delivering a baby girl.

    And because the young lady and Irma don't have a car, if they suddenly have to get to the hospital tonight, they will be calling us for a quick hour's drive to Manzanillo, where the baby is to be delivered.

    I've been waiting for the chance since December to go screaming down Highway 200 at 90 mph in the Trooper. My Ipod already has Born To Be Wild loaded to play on the trip.

    Get your motor runnin'
    Way out on the highway,
    Lookin for adventure,
    And whatever comes it will...


    If the baby should decide to be born during the daylight hours, there are some other folks who have said they will take to the roads to get mom to the hospital.

    3 Amigas
    Three amigas

    Irma and her daughter and husband only have a few family members around here. They came to La Manzanilla from Ensenada (on the Baja peninsula) several months ago and have been scratching out a living in town. But the soon-to-be-born baby and mother have been declared healthy by doctors and we are fast becoming adopted grandparents.

    Watch for some baby pix in the next few days.

    Sylvia, horse and cowboy
    Sylvia with a young cowboy and his steed

    The past two days we have been in Arroyo Seco for most daylight hours, watching the progress on all our projects and visiting with folks. Sylvia discovered the young caballero in the photo above with his horse. The horse is in a small pasture right behind our lot and his owner is very proud of the animal and let Sylvia get close enough to pet the horse.

    Tomorrow, Sylvia and I will be saddling up on a couple of horses ourselves near Arroyo Seco for a ride around a rancho.

    It will be the first time in more than 40 years since I climbed on the back of a horse, though I have been practicing an old Gene Autry song for some months on the ukulele that would seem to fit tomorrow's activities.

    I'm back in the saddle again,
    Out where a friend is a friend,
    Where the longhorn cattle feed,
    On the lowly jimson weed,
    I'm back in the saddle again.

    We'll see what key I'm singing in after bouncing on a hard saddle for a couple of hours.

    La-la-la-la-la-la-la...

    Or maybe...

    Ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow-ow.....

    Sylvia in middle of her palapa
    Sylvia in the middle of palapa construction

    May 7, 2008

    A look at Tenacatita and a preview of a wedding

    TENACATITA, Jalisco, Mexico - After spending a lot of time out in Arroyo Seco the past few weeks, we opted to check out our beach property in Tenacatita - the property that launched this entire adventure about 18 months ago.

    We bought the lot there without much hesitation but since discovering Arroyo Seco, have put most of the construction and site plans at the beach on hold.

    Our neighbor (and amiga), Nancy boosted our interest this week when she met us at a vivero (a plant nursery) to check out the 35 trees she is planning to plant around her adjacent lot.

    Yes, 35 trees.

    We opted for just seven trees along the edge while we plan our palapa and other buildings for next season.

    Tenacatita lot cleared
    Our lot - and Nancy's in Tenacatita

    Nancy and Sylvia decide on trees
    Nancy and Sylvia planning where to put palm trees

    While we there checking out where to place trees, a car pulled up and out popped a soon-to-be bride and groom along with a couple of photographers and their assorted cameras and gear.

    The rocks in front of our properties apparently are sought out as a place for photo shoots for weddings and others who are seeking exotic-looking backdrops.

    I have to remember to alert my friend Mario - arriving back in Tenacatita in a few weeks - to keep his eyes out for any cars or photo trucks bearing the familiar Playboy symbol this summer.

    Just in case.

    Wedding photos - walking
    Walking through the sand

    Wedding photos
    For the wedding album

    May 6, 2008

    La Manzanilla beach comes back alive with tourists

    LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - The May 1 holiday, combined with a long weekend for most Mexican citizens, produced a bumper crop of folks at the beach this past weekend.

    And the tour buses started arriving again over the weekend, bringing families with lots of children to enjoy the ever-warming waters.

    We did have some spots of red tide come in, but it was limited and didn't seem to keep anyone from enjoying the water.

    Crowds are back
    The people are back to the beach

    Lifeguards patrol
    Lifeguards trudge along the shore

    The beach this past week has also had some very high tides, prompting our amigo Tom to run down to check on a friend's boat, tied all the way up to the railing of his house on the beach. And down by the jardin, the waves breached the sand-dune beach front, filling the lagoon and arroyo that leads back to Martine's restaurant.

    It made walking along the beach very interesting.

    Water breaches the beachfront in La Manzanilla
    Water breaches the sand dune by the jardin

    Looking at small crocodile in La Manzanilla
    Watching the crocodile swim under the bridge

    While tides were rising in La Manzanilla, Arroyo Seco's water pump went out, leaving the rancho sans agua. The town water guy came around Monday and every town customer to kick in 100 pesos (about $9 U.S.) to get the pump fixed. Talking with residents, I asked why there wasn't a spare pump and got a lesson in the basic economics of the village: Pumps are just too expensive.

    Our worker guys solved the problem by trucking water in from a nearby town so work continued. And to thank them for their continued work - right through the holiday weekend - we threw a small fiesta at the worksite Monday, complete with food and beverages. The beverages slowed the work down for a few hours.

    OK, the beer and tequila pretty much halted the project for the rest of the day. But it was great fun and today the guys are back on the job (with headaches, possibly) and by mid-week, it's possible the posts for both the ramada and the palapa will be in place.

    Can the roofs be far behind?

    Worker fiesta in Arroyo Seco
    La fiesta in Arroyo Seco

    Down in the fosa, doing the foundation
    Building the septic tank

    Foundation for bodega
    Foundation for the bodega

    May 3, 2008

    Work crews hitting warp speeds at Arroyo Seco

    ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - What a difference a few days - and having a heavy equipment operator return from a stateside vacation - can make on a construction project.

    The Admiral and I stopped by Arroyo Seco on our way back from Puerto Vallarta Wednesday and while progress was evident, it was short of what we had thought might be done. Amazing how much your imagination can boost the amount of work you think can be done is a short time.

    But by the time we went back Friday afternoon, we were blown away at how much had been accomplished. The wall surrounding the property is done. The foundation for the bodega is in process. The holes have been dug for the poles for a big ramada over the trailer and - most impressive - there a huge hole in the middle of the property for the fosa septica (septic tank).

    Michael in the fosa
    Michael down in the hole for the fosa

    In good part, the projects leaped ahead because our neighbor Javier came back from the U.S. and fired up his excavation equipment, saving Arturo and his workers days of digging by hand. The work is still labor intensive - stacks of bricks to be placed by the maestro, bags and bags of concrete to be mixed - but with the holes dug, now its time for construction.

    Bodega foundation at Arroyo Seco
    Arturo and the maestro work on the foundation for the bodega

    Back wall at Arroyo Seco
    Finishing touches on the back wall

    One last-minute change - part of some suggestions from amigo Rusty (a retired architect from Grass Valley, Calif.) - was to put in a gate at the back of the property so we would have access from both streets. It will be used for whatever hacienda/house we put in the back next season. It also creates another gate project for our neighbor Chon, who said he is on the case and will put it together quickly.

    Back gate at Arroyo Seco
    Admiral peers around through the back gate

    In the meantime, perhaps the biggest milagro (miracle) is that our worker guys are pushing forward while most of Mexico is taking a long weekend. Thursday was a national holiday and so is today and Monday. Sunday, of course, is a day of rest no matter what. Later today, we are taking out the makings for a fiesta for the crew to thank them for making us a priority.

    The celebrations around here are pretty intense and in Cihuatlan Friday (about 20 miles away), we managed to drive right into the middle of a huge parade and fiesta on our way to do some shopping for a La Manzailla amiga who is about to give birth to a baby girl.

    The whole city turned out to watch the parade.

    Parade in Cihuatlan

    Tractor
    Tractor float

    Queen candidate on hood
    Queen candidate on a pickup

    Queen candidate
    Queen candidate

    Sombrero
    Somber sombero

    Dancing down the street
    College students dancing to the beat