December 31, 2008

A dog named 'Lucky' joins our family in Arroyo Seco

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - On the last day of the year, we adopted a La Manzanilla street dog and have moved him to what has become the Arroyo Seco Doggy Spa, at least until he recovers from a short life of abuse and neglect.

Our amigo in La Manzanilla, Julie, who with her husband Rusty runs a huge save-the-animals project called Cisco's Amigos, found the pooch for us, provided us with the medicines he would need and eventually hooked us up with the Mexican family that had adopted 'Lucky' temporarily, at least until some family like us took him in.

Lucky?

That was the name the vet gave him: Lucky to have been adopted.

Lucky mug shot
Lucky while getting a bath

Lucky, our friend Julia told us, is a labrador retriever for the most part. But even a casual glance at the shape of the head tells you that while Lucky might have a pint or two of lab in him, this boy probably has strong ties to the Rottweiler family.

Grrrrrrr.....

Still, as we want Lucky to be a watchdog for the property, that's fine, provided he doesn't eat our amigos Chena and Chon's tiny dogs.

Or any of the neighbors' kids.

Grrrrrrr.....

Lucky in the tub
Lucky getting his bath at the veternarians


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In addition to getting a pooch, we came back to the property today and were pleasantly surprised by activity on three fronts: The ramada was being moved over the new trailer, the bathrooms are being plumbed and the tile guy showed up late in the day and will start first thing tomorrow to lay out the tile.

First thing?

I am not getting up early to make sure everything is set for him. I did that already today and he didn't show until 4 p.m.

It was amazing today to watch the guys working entirely by hand, lifting and toting and digging and eventually hauling big guayabito wood posts around and setting them into the ground.

The rumor on the property - which we have now dubbed The Pink Flamingo - is that the ramada project will be finished in a couple of days.

Another Arroyo Seco milagro - if it happens.

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December 30, 2008

A visit to the swamp in La Manzanilla with Kayak Dave

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - The Admiral and I took a tour of the mangroves in La Manzanilla last evening, the same mangrove swamp that is home to about 250 crocodiles, a protected species.

I suppose they need some protection from poachers, but they seem quite large enough to take care of themselves.

Croc in swamp
Croc resting in the sun in La Manzanilla

The purpose of the tour was not to look for crocs, though we saw two during the tour. The tour was to get a look at the abundant bird life and other critters that make their homes in the swamp area, just a few hundred yards from the beach, where people have been building some huge McMansions, a few getting into trouble with the authorities for encroaching on the federal zone.

We saw at least a dozen different types of birds, big and small, and a couple of iguanas I swear I recognize from a Japanese horror movie I saw a few years ago.

Birds in the trees
Waiting for sunset - and the gringos to leave

The tour was led by a fellow we call Kayak Dave. Last year, he sold off his kayak touring business and moved to Wyoming, only to get second thoughts about that move. (Smart guy...) He came back to La Manzanilla and now offers these swamp/birding tours in large skiffs that are paddled. No outboard motors to make noise there.

Dave was also formerly the owner of a restaurant now known as Cafe Risa, the cafe purchased by Tia, Toby and Macy Richardson last spring. They labor each day keeping up with an increasing demand for cinammon rolls and good coffee and food.

We were accompanied by our Arroyo Seco neighbors Randy and Karen, and also Nate and Beth, formerly of Harrisburg, PA, now La Manzanilla residents until sometime in March.

Into the swamp
Kayak Dave in the back of his boat

Perhaps the most amazing part of the tour - besides the birds, the crocs and the knowledgable narrative from Dave - was that the swamp was virtually mosquito free. Yup, no mosquitos.

And we paddled through right at sunset, the normal time when I get chewed up. I did have enough 'Off' bug repellent on for the entire boat, but apparently there isn't much standing water to give the bugs a place to lay eggs and hatch.

Croc ahead
Croc to the left

December 28, 2008

On the trail of the perfect wave in Arroyo Seco

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - While the surf guides for the two beaches in Arroyo Seco say that surfing isn't all that great at either Playa Chica or Playa Grande, they must have been written by people who have never visited the place, or who want to keep others out.

In the past two days, the Admiral and I have spent time out on the beach, watching the surfers, including nephew Nate Schwartz and our amiga Laura Warner, a Spanish teacher from Calgary who we hope will be coming back later this winter.

Surfer chick Laura
Surfer Laura heads out for a run

Laura and Nate were given some surfing lessons by our amigo Julian, a part-time resident of the rancho who surfs, fishes and enjoys life along with his brother Max. When they aren't in Arroyo Seco, Julian and Max live in their native France, earning enough Euros to come back each winter.

We purchased two surfboards from Julian, who threw in the lessons as part of the deal - and he hadn't even met our amiga Laura yet.

Laura, Max, Julian and Sylvia
Laura, Max, Julian and Sylvia at a fiesta in Arroyo Seco

The surf lessons went well, though we did learn from local surfers that the waves at both beaches can be very dangerous and that whether surfing, boogie boarding, or swimming, you have to beware of the power of the waves.

I wish I had talked with them about that before I took a header into the sand, body surfing on my back.

Yes, now I know, don't try to body surf on your back.

Below is a short video of Nate and Laura in one of their earliest attempts.

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December 25, 2008

A quiet Christmas Eve in Puerto Vallarta

PUERTO VALLARTA, Jalisco, Mexico - The mimosas are being poured as I write this and Christmas Eve is a memory.

Little Sasha Fox - four months old today - was the star of the evening, of course, wearing her special Santa suit, until it got a little too warm for her. Her eyes were beginning to glass over from the camera flashes by the time we got down to opening presents under the tree.

Sasha Fox
Sasha with her mom, Cami

Later in the evening, Sasha got a present that is a little advanced for her, a book of family photos and narrative put together by Grandmother/Admiral Fox. The book has photos of the whole family and scanned copies of many family documents. Sasha's mom and dad said it will become part of Sasha's growing library of books.

Cami and Dustin look at family history
Cami and Dustin look at the family history

And the Admiral and I got special presents from Dustin and Cami, too - signs for the Arroyo Seco property that lock in the flamingo theme as well as announcing the names of the residents.

Sylvia and sign
The Pink Flamingo sign

December 24, 2008

A blur of activity since arriving in Arroyo Seco Saturday

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - We arrived last week in Arroyo Seco, only to find that we had landed on the first day of a two-day fiesta, an affair that included a lot of eating, a real-deal cowboy rodeo, and lots of delicious comida.

Within 24 hours, we had purchased a Honda ATV - a 500 cc affair that is at least 100 cc's bigger than what I had thought we would buy. You could call it an opportunity buy. Our amigo Nino had bought it new only a few months ago and decided that he had stretched his budget way too thin,

We fattened the budget back up for him, while emptying ours.

And so far we have roared all over the village and up and down the beaches with a lot more adventures to come. I've had it up to 40 mph and I bet it will do 60.

On the new quad
Beth, Sylvia and Nate on the new quad

Nephew Nate Schwartz and his mom Beth are wintering in La Manzanilla - in our old house, Casa Lupita, learning Spanish, swimming, and generally loving that they are not in Harrisburg, PA for the foul weather there. Nate - the rumor has it - might be getting some surf lessons for Christmas from us, on a new surfboard we bought from a French surfer who lives in our village during the winters. Surfer Julian said he would throw in the surf lessons with the board.

There's talk I might even climb on this beginner's surfboard and see if these old legs (and balance) can get me to ride a few waves without ending up in the orthopedist or physical therapists' offices.

Moving the trailer
Moving the trailer

When we arrived in Arroyo Seco, we slid the trailer close to where we wanted it, but the final touch required either a lot of muscle - or some serious equipment. And as luck would have it, our friend Nino - the same Nino from whom we bought the Honda - came over with a backhoe and within an hour, the Grey Goose Express II was right where the Admiral wanted it.

Leveling the unit will be another process, but I am working on that.

One big ass snake
One big-ass snake

I lost track of the number of mosquito bites I have gotten since arriving. And today, while getting ready to drive to son Dustin's in Puerto Vallarta, I managed to get a spider bite on my leg that is actually quite hot to touch. If it was a tire on a car, I would worry about the tire exploding.

But I am happy that the bites and stings have been limited to various insects.

We passed the snake, shown in the photo above, on the road into Arroyo Seco two days ago. Although it looks ferocious, this particular specimen is dead, the victim of a motor vehicle on the road. Still, when we use the Honda ATV on jungle adventures, I think I will be careful of anything hanging down from tree branches.

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December 20, 2008

In Arroyo Seco, Mexico after 8 days - and 2020 miles

LA MANZANILLA, Jalisco, Mexico - We pulled in to the compound in Arroyo Seco at noon today, eight days after leaving the fog of Sacramento and crossing 2020 miles of California, Arizona and finally Mexico.

The Grey Goose Express II is safe, parked almost where it will be finally, and the shower/bathroom project has been started - barely.

The day we left Sacramento, the fog was down on the deck and it took hours to get out of our apartment, put the last items into storage and finally load the trailer.

We left Sacramento at 1:30 p.m.

Fog in Sacramento
Sacramento fog, the day we left

On the way to the trailer
The load we packed into the trailer just before we headed south

This posting is coming from Palapa Joe's where we just had lunch and now have to zoom back out to Arroyo Seco where today is the first of a two-day fiesta to celebrate the founding of the town.

Cervezas ahead?

More on the rest of the trip down - with our Canadian RV amigos - tomorrow.

Land yachts just south of the border
Our first overnight spot, well south of Nogales

December 2, 2008

Back in the USSA after a great time in Mexico

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The flights back from Puerto Vallarta to Sacramento (via Salt Lake City) were relatively uneventful, except for a teeth-jarring, drop-from-the-sky landing on the SMF tarmac as we arrived home. Maybe the co-pilot was getting in some landing time.

He or she needs some practice.

Temperature when we left Puerto Vallarta: 85 and with a touch of humidity.

Temperature when we arrived in Sacramento: 48 with pea-soup ground fog.

Jaysus.

Our brief days in La Manzanilla and Arroyo Seco (with pit stops in Puerto Vallarta on either end) are kind of a blur, but contained lots of family time, lots of swimming, and three meetings with our amigo Arturo who promises to have the new bathrooms and showers built before we go back at Christmas. He promised!

Oh, and there was an open-mic performance at Palapa Joe's, too, Saturday night. I'm afraid to look at the video that our amigo Pam shot of the Admiral and I playing four tunes, me on the ukulele, the Admiral on her violin.

Really afraid.

View from the hill in Arroyo Seco
View of our palapa and ramada in 'downtown' Arroyo Seco

One of the most striking things about this trip was how green and lush everything was.

When we left last May, the land was as brown as California in a hot summer. Now, as evidenced in the photo, all the trees and plants are green and growing, though it won't be green too long before they lose that vibrancy. It hasn't rained in a month and won't until next July.

The other thing that was more vibrant were the insects. In a hike around the hills - to get the photo above as well as look at some property for sale - I managed to get chewed on by something that must carry a pretty heavy-duty neurotoxin. Besides the tangerine-sized swelling behind both my knees where I had a series of bites, I had a little trouble feeling my toes the next day.

I think long pants are in order for hiking from now on.

Dylan with Qwee-Qwee
Dylan with new friend, Qwee-Qwee

We spent much our time out in Arroyo Seco, where our amigos Chena and Chon have taken care of things on the property in our absence. Since May, this industrious couple has opened a tienda across the street that sells an assortment of non-food items. And in the evenings, they open up a street-side restaurant next to that, selling steamed tacos that are a hit with the villagers.

While we didn't get to sample the tacos, Chena did make a dinner for us one evening that was delicious, a chicken stew that she seemed to cook in about 20 minutes. With home-cooked tortillas, of course.

Son Dylan, a pretty good chef himself, helped in the cocina that afternoon, but also made a new friend - one of Chena and Chon's pooches, a Chihuahua named Qwee-Qwee.

What a crocodile?
Teaching a crocodile to sit-up

The La Manzanilla crocodiles were quite placid while we were there, though the lagoon in which they live spills out almost into the bay. Their somnolent attitudes might be because the water in the lagoon is quite deep from earlier rains and the critters are staying in deeper water.

Critters? That word seems a little weak for describing these behemoths.

But I did run across the photo above taken in Queensland, Australia of a fellow having a close encounter with a pretty large specimen.

I guess I shouldn't complain about my bug bites.