March 30, 2012

Welcome back to the USSA - and a norovirus

SACRAMENTO, California, USSA - Adm. Fox and I had a relatively easy set of flights from Mexico to Sacramento with only the usual speed bumps caused by such travels.

Our checked bags made it through, Adm. Fox's purse (left at a security checkpoint) was retrieved in time to make the plane and after a slight dustup with the rental car, we were on our way.

But somewhere in the last 48-hours, probably here in Sacramento, I managed to contract a stomach flu - a nasty little bastard called a norovirus - which has been almost epidemic in this part of Northern California for months.

Lucky me.

But in a way, it is a lucky me, because we are staying with Dr. Pam, who, along with her amiga MaryJo, knew all about what was going on with me and advised Adm. Fox how to deal with my various symptoms and what she could do to avoid catching this 24-hour bug.

I won't go into detail, but let's just say, I could give Linda Blair (from the Exorcist) a run for her money in a projectile-vomiting contest.

Gawd that was awful.

Twenty-four hours after the onset of the symptoms, I am on the road to recovering, sipping an anti-viral fruit drink (Xango) downing gallons of tea and ginger ale, and planning which couch I will take my first nap of the day on.

Tomorrow I'll get back on my non-scheduled schedule.
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March 27, 2012

Heading back to the USSA today

PUERTO VALLARTA, Jalisco, Mexico - Adm. Fox and I are sitting the PV airport waiting for our flight to Phoenix.

After being dropped off by Capt. Bob O'Hara, we did the FM3/Immigration Cha-Cha this morning, a side effect of having our renewable visas as semi-permanent residents. It took longer than usual, but we made it to the gate with plenty of time to pay some airport prices for a quick lunch.

Our trip today will take us eventually to Sacramento where we will be staying with Dr. Pam and Steve for two weeks at their great house on 46th Street - the same place where we spent the fall and our last semester teaching.

No swimming in their salt water pool now, I'm sure... but we got plenty of swimming in during the last few weeks while staying at Bahia del Sol, a condo within walking distance of Paradise Village. The best part, perhaps, is that we were able to walk on the beach every day and visit with Sasha Fox.

Sacramento means visiting with daughter Anne and granddaughters Samantha and Kamryn, too.

We had plenty of fun with granddaughter Sasha the past two weeks - even as late as yesterday when Grandma Sylvia did some art projects.

I am hearing that John Denver song in my head (made famous by Peter, Paul and Mary) so it must be time to head to the gate.

'All my bags are packed, I'm ready to go...'

More from the friendly skies, later.
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March 24, 2012

Day three of the Banderas Bay Regatta starts soon

PARADISE VILLAGE, Nuevo Vallarta, Nayarit - Admiral Fox and I will be heading out to La Cruz in a couple of hours to jump aboard the sailing vessel Lotus to crew in the third and final race of the 20th Banderas Bay Regatta.

Adm. Fox had been benched in the first two races because of her bad cold (which had turned to pneumonia) but says she is up to the task in this last race.

In the first race Thursday, Lotus blew a fitting on the boom vang and we had to retire from the course. The winds were around 25 knots with harder gusts - perfect conditions for the boat, apparently not so perfect for the boom vang.

In Friday's race the winds were light and while we made it around the course in a timely fashion, lighter boats that could point higher whupped us firmly.

The race organizers changed the courses and many other details of how the races are actually run. The jury is out about the changes, but at the finish line yesterday we had about 20 boats all close-tacking right in front of each other trying to end the race.

We had several close calls and there was a lot of shouting in English, Spanish and French.

Below are some photos from the opening day parade before the first race.

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March 18, 2012

A non-Sasha Sunday, but the ocean still beckons

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico - Granddaughter Sasha Fox spent a good chunk of her Saturday with us, playing in the sand with a new, 18-month-old amigo named Noah and swimming in the pool.

I couldn't get her interested in boogie-boarding, which is understandable. The ocean water is actually pretty cold right now. Really cold if you are not quite four-years-old.

But we had a surprise visitor - Sasha's Tia Cherie, of the couple Cherie and Greg. And Cherie is even better known because of her website, Where's Cherie.

It's kind of like Where's Waldo, but a lot more interesting, given Cherie's world-traveling tendencies.

Cherie documents her travels and Saturday's visit was no different. Sasha posed for a dozen photo before she went back to her mother.

Today has been a much slower day - maybe it's recovering from trying to keep up with Sasha.

Admiral Fox and I went by the Catholic Mass at the new (new to us) Paradise Village Church, then drove to La Cruz to check out the markets there.

What a tourist town La Cruz has turned into. And with a big sailing regatta in town, the marina was packed.

Now back at the condo, it looks like it's time to take up some boogie-boarding again. It's part of my training regimen for Wednesday's Banderas Bay Regatta.

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March 17, 2012

Back to the beach for Boogie Board II - the sequel

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico - Besides being St. Patrick's Day, today is also kid's day here with Sasha Fox expected to make another appearance at 10 a.m. and a amiga is bringing her lad by to swim in the ocean and pool.

And if the waves cooperate, I will see if I can convince Sasha to join me in the shallow waves for some boogie-boarding.

Two days ago, she declined, preferring to build sand castles and draw in the soft sand at the water's edge.

She did climb on a boogie board in the swimming pool and paddle around - a good first effort.

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March 15, 2012

An art walk to benefit the turtles takes over the complex

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico - The music blaring out of the speakers was vintage Roy Orbison, the Beach Boys, Van Morrison and some melodious sprinklings of Madonna. Oh! And there was some Mexican tunes, too.

It was the annual art walk to benefit the turtle protection program here, held on the grounds of the Bahia del Sol condos where we are spending two weeks.

It was noisy, but fun.

There was even a French baker in residence, selling bread, croissants (of course), and assorted pastries so rich, you gain weight by simply looking at them for too long.

At the same time, out in Banderas Bay, a sailboat race was underway, reminding the Admiral and I that we needed to get back our training regimen.

This afternoon we expect to have Sasha Fox visiting and, if she wants, I will be taking her out to boogie board for the first time.

It is my first time of the season, so we'll see how it goes.

Bahia del Sol has a great sandy beach, but also a very nice (and warm) swimming pool.

If the waves are too intimidating for Senorita Fox to boogie board, we'll spend our time in the pool.

I tried it out yesterday and it's even warm enough for Admiral Fox to swim in.

Time to get back to training.

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March 14, 2012

In training for the Banderas Bay Regatta next week

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico - The Admiral and I started our training regimen today for the Banderas Bay Regatta which begins one week from today (Wednesday).

We took a long walk on the beach, swam in the pool, drank only one beer with lunch and one margarita with dinner.

The sacrifices we make to get into shape.

Of course it could be argued that a week is hardly enough time to get into shape for anything, let alone a major sailboat event like this with probably 50+ boats entered and lots of people who actually know what they are doing.

Well, we have a week and after watching the new movie about Sarah Palin, all things are possible.

Watch the HBO special on Sarah Palin called 'Game Change' to see how she prepped and almost made it to VP of the United States. Um, actually that's not a good example, but watch it anyway. What a piece of work that woman is.

In the meantime, we will do our best to get ready so we can help Captain Clarence and Sharon aboard Lotus to a victory. Rounding out the crew will be three-time BBR Lotus crew Laura and a newcomer to Team Lotus, Rhinehart, Laura's amigo.

By next week we will be tan, fit and rested, just like Richard Nixon was in his election campaign.

Oops, another bad example...

But we will be ready anyway.

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March 13, 2012

Road-widening project underway near new Costalegre airport

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - Admiral Fox and I rolled out of Arroyo Seco Monday, headed to Puerto Vallarta for a short stay - and to participate in the Banderas Bay Regatta next week.

But before we left Sunday, we quizzed some of the Arroyo Seco folks who seem the most knowledgeable about the road, lagoon and marina projects people are talking about.

On the Arroyo Seco beach, where it abuts the El Tecuan property, there are orange survey stakes in place, possibly indicating the site of a road.

But it was the news about when this supposed project(s) would take place that was the most interesting.

According to one Arroyo Seco village leader, the government is going great guns to get the airport north of Chamela operational. That is supposed to be phase one, he said. Second, the work on the lagoon, possibly linking it to the waterways leading all the way to Tenacatita. Third, the marina project will be done.

That was all spinning through my mind when we came past the airstrip on our way north.

Out in the middle of the wilderness (but within a few kilometers of the new airstrip), earth moving equipment is turning Highway 200 into a four-lane highway.

No, I am not kidding.

The construction zone is several kilometers long and they are working fast. I didn't see any signs of a new mall going in, so I suppose it is to serve the new airport.

My question is, what would they name an airport out there? Costalegre International?

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March 10, 2012

Ahoy! Welcome to Marina Arroyo Seco... really

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - A few weeks ago, graders, tractors, dump trucks and pieces of huge earthmoving equipment descended on the dirt and gravel road leading into the village.

After years of government promises, the 3-kilometer road from Highway 200 into beautiful downtown Arroyo Seco is being paved.

If I didn't see it happening, I wouldn't believe it, either.

But this week I received some other news either much more exciting or quite depressing, depending on your perspective.

It appears a master plan for El Tecuan, just south of Arroyo Seco, is about to be implemented, a plan that will include construction of a marina at the extreme south end of Arroyo Seco's Playa Grande in what is now a natural lagoon filled with birds and fish.

Playa Grande is the Arroyo Seco beach dotted with about a dozen and a half houses and now home to three excellent seafood restaurants, by the way.


About a quarter mile past the last house there is a huge land outcropping which provides a great natural breakwater. And apparently that will be where the plans show the entrance to the marina will be. The marina will be built specifically to allow for ocean-going yachts to berth there, using the lagoon behind it as the actual place to moor vessels.

I use the word 'apparently' because this all comes third hand. A village amigo talked with an Arroyo Seco resident who attended a meeting in the Chamela area about a week ago at which state and local government officials announced a plan for a major development in the area of the old Tecuan Hotel and along the beach. Part of that meeting was to get the various stakeholders: ejido members, fishing cooperativa people, and everybody else, to sign documents assigning a variety of rights to the developers and the development so that things could get rolling.

Some folks apparently declined, because they didn't agree and/or the formula for sharing the benefits of such a project wasn't favorable enough.

Note the 'apparently' there. How that will shake out is way beyond my pay grade to analyze.

Besides the resort or hotel or whatever development - and the marina - the plan calls for opening up and deepening the lagoon and waterway that runs from Arroyo Seco to Tenacatita. According to the person at the meeting, La Veina (the river flowing into the anchorage where many yachts hang out) will be dredged, too, to allow for people to boat along an inside passage from Arroyo Seco to Tenacatita Bay.

The Mexican environmental agencies might have something to say about that.




And how this relates to Tenacatita is anybody's guess. The beach and much of the land formerly occupied by Mexicans and gringos (many with federal titles) is still in the grip of the Guadalajara developer who seized the area at gunpoint and still holds it hostage like East Germany before the Berlin Wall fell.

I haven't seen the actual plans for the development and marina, though they have been described to me in great detail and are the talk of the town. It could be that when we return in November of this year, not only will we speeding in on a new paved road, we will head out to the beach and perhaps see even more earthmoving equipment dredging the lagoon, building breakwaters and perhaps putting a light atop the land outcropping as a navigational beacon.

And down the El Tecuan beach, some big hotel/resort/development will be going in.


The irony is great for Admiral Fox and I.

We sold our 48-foot sailboat Sabbatical six years ago and decided to stay on shore, choosing this small, agricultural village as our home. We have a four-wheel Honda quad (with a trailer for beach toys or cargo), a motorcycle, two bicycles and a palapa/hacienda-style house right in el centro.

And inspired by Rick, June and Lyle of La Manzanilla, we have even been considering putting in a small garden next fall.

In the terminology of people who travel the world aboard sailboats, we 'swallowed the hook (anchor)' when we moved to land.

Now there might be a harbor with space for boats the size of Sabbatical within walking distance of my house.

If they build the marina quick enough, I might just buy another boat. Though this time, I think a panga would make more sense. Or at least as much sense as buying any boat that will spend its life in saltwater does.

Or, perhaps it's time to launch the Arroyo Seco Yacht Club.

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March 7, 2012

Getting in a last few beach days in Arroyo Seco

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - With most projects (except for packing) all done, Adm. Fox and I have been getting in several days of beach time. Of course, when we get to Nuevo Vallarta, we will be living in a condo on the beach.

So what's your question?

Monday morning we headed out to Playa Grande shortly after first light to check on things, then in the evening, Playa Chica for the sunset.

Both were fabulous.

At Playa Grande, the owner of the building we call the 'hotel' was there and we had a nice conversation with him about his plans for the place.

Among other things is installing a new fence in the front of the building and possibly upgrading the swimming pool. He might also visit us in New York when he heads to the U.S. this summer while he is working.

THIS WEEKEND we also took delivery on a new table for the Pink Flamingo - and what a table it is!

The unit is 3 meters long by 1 meter wide and is constructed of solid wood.

I suspect I am butchering the spelling here, but the lumber to make it came from a local tree called a mojote. A local carpenter made the table from a huge mojote that was felled by Hurricane Jova last fall.

He has more raw materials to work with this year than in the last 10, he says.

The table seats 10 comfortably and can squeeze 12 around it I am sure. It was so heavy (because the wood is still wet) that it took four of us to lift it out of the truck. And it was still a strain on our backs.

The Admiral is calling - we are off to Playa Chica to catch another sunset.

Hasta pasta.

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March 4, 2012

Countdown to Puerto Vallarta - and California and NY - begins

ARROYO SECO, Jalisco, Mexico - We leave in about a week for Puerto Vallarta for a two-week stay in some nice digs alongside Banderas Bay and where we will also probably spend more than a few days with granddaughter Sasha Fox.

I am taking several boogie boards with us so that Sasha and I and her grandmother can challenge the surf there while we wait for the start of the Banderas Bay regatta. I am not sure if Sasha has taken up boogie boarding yet. But she is three years old. Time is wasting.

Besides packing up the Pink Flamingo for the season, Adm. Fox and I have continued our Arroyo Seco adventures and explorations. Friday we went to visit the private school at Cuitzmala, just north of us, where we met with amiga Sandrine who teaches French and art there.

She will be going back to France for two months this summer, then back to Mexico sometime in August. Presently, the school has about 15 students - and five teachers.

Yes, five teachers. I like the odds.

We also stopped by at Sandrine's house, where her amigo Julian is busy retrofitting the Grey Goose Express.

We sold him the trailer earlier this spring which he hauled to Cuitzmala to work on. He started with little projects, tinkering around the edges to fix things. Then he took out the table and bed.

By the time we saw it Friday, well, the photos say how much work he has ahead of him.

When the trailer is finished, it will be moved to Julian and Sandrine's property about a block from us here in Arroyo Seco. Julian is already building a workshop and bodega - and eventually a ramada.

Today (Sunday) looks like another day on the beach, but only if the cool offshore wind stops blowing. It is overcast and if I was in New York, I would be pulling things under cover in anticipation of a rainstorm.

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March 1, 2012

Cows on the road, sailboats racing on the water

AGUA CALIENTE, Jalisco, Mexico - Admiral Fox and I ran (actually drove) into La Manzanilla Wednesday for the annual La Manzanilla Cup sailboat race, an annual affair of local sailors that has caught the local imagination and draws a fair crowd to cheer the half-dozen or so vessels participating.

Getting into La Manzanilla proved interesting.

Just as we were coming through Agua Caliente, a little hamlet six or seven kilometers south of us, a cowboy was wildly waving an orange flag as we rounded a corner.

We were greeted with a herd of cattle heading south, with the herd stretched out across half a kilometer.

They weren't going to the La Manzanilla Cup, or if they were, they got there too late.

I've driven in many traffic-congested cities. But weaving in and out of a herd of cattle on Mexico Highway 200 seemed almost as challenging as the cows and bulls changed lanes more often than Los Angeles commuters.

Still, it was fun and we didn't run over a single cow pie passing the herd.

WHILE ADMIRAL FOX taught Zumba in La Manzanilla, I ran (actually drove) to Melaque to the Intercam office. Intercam cashes American checks and is infinitely easier than using a Mexican bank. Easier if your account is active, I discovered.

While I waited alone in the outside lobby for the paperwork to be processed, the Cihuatlan Police pulled up, and with their guns drawn came into the office. It seems the silent alarm had been triggered and they thought there was a robbery in progress.

I must have looked pretty harmless because they just asked me if I had seen any robbers. They did look pretty curiously at my iPad.


The race had been planned for Monday, but a lack of wind forced postponement. But Wednesday the captains met, plotted a race course and then took to the water while members of the press retired to Cato's beachside restaurant for lunch and libations.

Before Wednesday's race, the new La Manzanilla Cup was unveiled at the press table, a very fancy trophy which perhaps is why the racing was so fierce that afternoon.

THE RACE WAS A FAST ONE, with good winds all around the course.

But in a grand finale that had everyone on their feet, one boat had an unintentional grounding after it had finished the race.

A swell caught the boat right at the surf line, pushing it into shallow water where it bobbed for about 15 minutes until a local restaurateur went out in a panga and pulled it free of the sand.

No one was hurt, thought the collective adrenaline level spiked for the two-man sailboat crew, the people helping rescue the boat, and the people on the beach.

The first two photos are the boat aground, the third just after it was freed with the panga nearby.

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