December 29, 2010

A fast panga ride, whales and visit to a palapa, in Yelapa

YELAPA, Jalisco, Mexico - A ride across Banderas Bay in a fast panga is always fun, more so when the destination is the seaside village of Yelapa, south of Puerto Vallarta.

The area is accessible almost exclusively by boat. There is a road, of sorts,  but it is only for the truly brave, driving a vehicle with an excellent suspension.

The trip was to check in with Adm. Fox's cousin Lynn, who is there with her amiga Suzanne for a few weeks before they head south to La Manzanilla. Along for the adventure with us was Laura (with the pooch, Princessa Mia, of course) and Christina.

Sylvia's cousin and Suzanne are vacationing in a cliff-side home that is drop-dead gorgeous and has only one drawback that I know of: scorpions.

Scorpions I have known
Scorpions where they belong - in a case

Last season, the couple killed about 23 of the little buggers during a short stay in Yelapa - that's 20 more than I killed in our five-months in Arroyo Seco. And I think the three I killed is waaaaay too many.

Nasty stinging things aside, Yelapa is still as magical a place as it was when I first saw it in 2000 when Admiral Fox and I chartered a panga to take us there for the day.

It's changed a lot - more houses, more tourists, even some upscale development, it seems. But the water is just as nice. And it has a couple of restaurants, too - besides the tourist traps that the tour boats frequent.

Some years back, with Karson Swedberg in tow, we sat on the beach there sipping Pacifico beer and postulated that what Yelapa needed was a good local brewery. The fresh water there, we thought, would make excellent brews.

And the motto for the beer? Yelapa - ya love it.

OK,  but it seemed sooooo clever at the time.

The Yacht Club in Yelapa
The trip out and back was fabulous, too, with many whale sightings on the way south, then a close - and I mean very close - encounter with a manta ray on the way home.

Our driver, Gus, knew exactly how to pull the boat close to the action without being too intrusive.

Here's a few photos of the expedition - and a short video of a Manta named Ray...

Traveling to Yelapa
Laura, Princessa Mia, Gus, and Christina
on the way to Yelapa

Whales tail too
How close is that whale?

San Francisco Sailboat
San Francisco sailboat
anchored in Yelapa

December 27, 2010

Settled in Nuevo Vallarta home, but Arroyo Seco beckons

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico - Life in Nuevo Vallarta has become as close to routine as life allows here, with most mornings dedicated to exercise (swimming), some writing (blogs and other screeds), planning out of the day (where should we eat lunch?), followed by, well, more exercise, more writing and more planning.

In the past few weeks, we have made a foray south to Arroyo Seco and La Manzanilla, gone whale watching with Roger and Di Frizzelle on their 47-foot yacht, Di's Dream, ran enough errands to run through $100 in gasoline - and helped Dustin get his new home set up here, a home in which we live, too.

How many 30-year-olds do you know whose parents move in with them?

The turnabout is fair play, however, as Adm. Fox and I are helping Dustin find his footing amid the domestic upheaval of separation that too many people reading this have gone through. Divorce is not any prettier among the palm trees.

Still, times are good and getting better day by day.

Di and Sylvia
Di and Sylvia on whale watch patrol

Infinity pool at resort north of La Cruz
Infinity pool at resort north of La Cruz

Last week we went to a fabulous resort north of La Cruz for the afternoon, where I sipped the best Pina Colada I ever had. And yes, the second one was as good as the first. The place has three infinity pools, each spilling over into the next one.

We only got as far as pool number two for swimming, though Dustin said that ocean waves out front were fine for swimming and/or boogie boarding.

On Christmas Day, we had breakfast with the Frizzelles and Dustin at nearby Paradise Village, then retired to the beach for a family tradition - an Christmas afternoon of boogie boarding and margaritas on the sand.
Sylvia and Dustin Christmas Day, 2010
Sylvia and Dustin at breakfast, Christmas 2010

I opted for a Pina Colada during the course of the afternoon, instead of a margarita. Perhaps that will be a new family tradition, too.

How was the boogie boarding? Fabuloso... Just fabuloso.

Towards midafternoon, Santa Claus arrived on the beach, too - in great style - landing via parasailer. Very classy.

Santa on Beach in Paradise Village Dec
Santa Claus on Paradise Village Beach

Water sports
Life at the beach

Our next adventure will be to head back to Arroyo Seco in a few days with amigas Laura and Christina from Canada. They are staying at Casa Dustin right now and will be spending the winter in Barra de Navidad.

We will also be checking out the situation at Tenacatita, the site of a beachside 'picnic' today that was put together to draw attention of the seizure of the property August 4 - and the eviction of nearly 800 residents. It's a mess. Here's a recent blog on the situation: Beach picnic/protest

New Year's Eve looks like it will be in Arroyo Seco or La Manzanilla at Palapa Joes for Admiral Fox and I.

Hoo-boy! Can you say, Cuba Libre?

December 20, 2010

Online, offline, Internet here, there and everywhere

NUEVO VALLARTA, NAYARIT, Mexico - The on-again, off-again, Finnegan of Internet service has been wreaking havoc on posting here and on the Tenacatita Bay Bugle (Tenacatita Bay Bugle link).

On the other hand, it has made it possible to ignore the keyboard, swim and generally enjoy the balmy weather that is Mexico this time of the year.

Admiral Fox and I made a quick foray to Arroyo Seco, where we opened up the place, which had been spit shined by our village amigos Chena and Chon. Somehow in our brief stay of a few days (which included runs to La Manzanilla and Melaque for food, gasoline and more dinero) we neglected to take any photos of the Pink Flamingo, though I did take a short video out on Playa Chica.

Arroyo Seco express to Dustin's
The trip was short because we went through various lockers in both trailers and the bodega to pull out items Dustin (and us) want/need in his new poolside casa.

Last night we barbecued steaks - only the third time our barbecue has been pressed into service since Arroyo Seco friends Jim and Vickie dragged it all the way from Texas for us.

What also came north was about six huge bags of dirty laundry, currently simmering in six washing machines in the laundromat here at Paradise Village.

Actually there are two more sacks sitting on the floor, too, but after dragging it all in, running back to the truck for the soap, buying the tokens for the machine, et al, I decided to take a break and head to the Vallarta Yacht Club for hydration.

Back at the house, Adm. Fox is patiently waiting for TelMex to arrive to hook up the telephone so we have reliable (?) internet service at Casa Dustin. He has been waiting for two weeks, with postponement after postponement.

And so it should come as no surprise that Sunday - when we left for four hours - someone showed up to install the phone. A Sunday. In Mexico.

Good grief.

But now, it's back to the washers. Arriba!

Sunset in La Manzanilla (at Figaro's restaurant) Friday night

December 12, 2010

In Mexico for the winter: Swimming pool, cerveza, beaches ahead

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico - It took two days of travel, but Admiral Fox and I are safely ensconced at son Dustin's new casa, looking at the pool and plotting a day that includes a trip to the beach and a potluck dinner at the Vallarta Yacht Club.

Ah, Mexico!

Pool at Dustin's new casa in Nuevo Vallarta
 The trip began with a US Airways farble at 6 a.m. A lightbulb was out over one of the emergency doors and because there was no replacement bulb in the airport, the flight was delayed until about 10 a.m.

And so that meant instead of a 6:30 a.m. flight to Phoenix, followed by a 10 a.m. flight to Vallarta and arrival at 1:30 p.m., we spent a leisurely morning in the Sacramento airport - and eventually an overnight at a Courtyard Hotel on the edge of Phoenix's Sky Harbor.

As part of this trip south, we had to purchase one additional suitcase to carry all the assorted paraphernalia, clothes, and gifts we wanted to bring. But another black suitcase seemed, well, soooooo pedestrian.

Pink suitcase ready for loading in Sacramento
And so two days before liftoff, Admiral Fox went on the search and found a shocking pink suitcase at a Marshal's store that is bright enough that you might consider wearing sunglasses when you look at it.

The suitcase did yeoman service for the entire trip, each time popping off the conveyor belt, signaling the arrival of the three checked bags.

We knew the suitcase was going to make it to Phoenix, because we saw it being loaded in Sacramento.

Today we are already set to do some serious pool time, (serious pool time?), maybe head to the beach to make sure the sand is still there, and later tonight, we will go to the Vallarta Yacht Club for a potluck dinner.

The yacht club should be humming with cruisers and folks we know from other seasons down here.

And Arroyo Seco? That's on tap for later in the week after we sort out all the details of telephones, internet modems and various other details that make life in Mexico muy divertido...

A view of the coast north of Puerto Vallarta

December 5, 2010

Back in the air, heading back to Sacramento from snow country

NEW YORK, New York, USA - The Admiral and I are sitting in JFK International Airport, getting ready for the third leg of our travels today, a cross-country Jet Blue flight that will get us home to Sacramento late this evening - and to our warm casa with Pam and Steve.

The day started with swirling snow in Ithaca, New York where we stayed overnight with brother David's special amiga, Caren. I was a little groggy as we departed after a great dinner party the night before, but not so groggy that I didn't notice it was snowing pretty hard while David drove us to the Syracuse Airport, an hour and a half from Ithaca.

In Ithaca, NY, Dec. 5, 2010 - brrrrrrrrrrr
We breezed in without issue, however, until the Admiral got held up at the security gate and was given the choice of either one of those new TSA pat downs, or taking some other form of transit to Sacramento.

The Admiral was not amused and will likely vent her wrath on how ludicrousness of what passes for security when she writes in her own blog.

The overall trip was a success, however, on several levels (pat downs aside).

And among the things accomplished was getting some video broadcast on WENY, Elmira, New York. I braved the cold and shot the Christmas parade for the station, which used some clips in their evening newscast the same night.

More on what the other levels of success were will show up in another blog.

Below are two videos.

One is of our trip to Syracuse, and the airport snowplows busy at work. The second is a TSA ukulele video. It's pretty fun, but for now, I am not sharing it with the Admiral.

December 2, 2010

End-of-the-semester shuffle starts for this year's Mexico adventures

SACRAMENTO, Calif., USA - The last term papers and projects have been turned in, graded and returned, leaving only the avalanche of portfolios from my students, compilations of their work from the entire semester - kind of an academic legal brief as to why the student should get a good grade.

When those portfolios all show up early next week, it's time for me to dig through the pile and assign grades - a process that usually takes me right up until the day we leave for Mexico.

With four full classes, it looks about the same this year, too.

What is different about this year is that because we have been the guests of Steve and Pam, the packing up transition is less problematic - and less traumatic. When we get close to departure day, we live within two miles of our storage unit.

And even at that, we have very little to even stick into storage, thanks to Pam and Steve's letting us stay in their nicely furnished guest quarters.

I think I will be able to get everything in a single pickup truck load - and that's using my Nissan with a camper shell.

As the temperatures in Sacramento have started dropping down to the freezing level at night - and warming up into the high 40s during the day - those warm days at the beaches in Arroyo Seco and La Manzanilla are the stuff that dreams are made of.

And in this case, dreams set to come true.

Just a 100 or so portfolios stand in my way.

La Manzanilla beach