February 23, 2013

Tonga talk and parachute jumping all in one afternoon

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico - Adm. Fox and I gave a talk/slide/video presentation Friday at the Vallarta Yacht Club to a group of folks about to sail across the Pacific Ocean to the South Seas.

They are self-named "Puddle Jumpers" a pretty understated sobriquet, considering they might be at sea for 30 days jumping the Pacific puddle.

Video of the pie eating (throwing!) contest
Still, there was lot of excitement in the group, as they watched our show about our visit to Tonga last September.

We went to Tonga - Vava'u specifically - to watch, photograph, video and participate in the 4th Regatta Vava'u, a week-long celebration of sailing, culture and Tonga itself. We had a great time - much of it already described in earlier blogs. But reliving it Friday has us already scheming how to get back for Regatta Vava'u V this fall.

A Regatta Vava'u shirt from Tropical Tease
The islands sold themselves easily to this group of cruisers, many of whom only know for sure they are leaving in a week or two. When they get to the South Pacific, they have a vast number of places - and a vast ocean to explore. But it sounded like at least a half-dozen boat captains are leaning towards a Tonga stopover. And one young woman - a registered nurse - said she was interested in maybe spending six months there.

At the end of our hour-long talk, we gave away a number of items from Tropical Tease, a clothing shop on the main drag in Neiafu. Owner Cindy Russell makes arguably the finest T-shirts and other clothing I have ever bought and worn. Her Tonga Dirt Shirts are famous here in Vallarta among the cruisers.

At the end of this blog is a video we produced this fall, parts of which are in the videos we showed the cruisers.

There's Daddy!!!!!
Photography can be dangerous
After the presentation, we scurried over to the beach at Nuevo Vallarta in front of the Hard Rock Cafe where a group called SkyDiveMex has been doing parachuting jumping all week, often taking tandem rides with some of my amigos here at Bahia del Sol.

We watched some of the folks jump a little before sunset. A second group never got jump - it just got too dark.

But just as the last few jumpers were coming down, one of them collided with a photographer on staff with the group. He took his bloodied head in stride, even grinning for Adm. Fox's camera as he left the landing site.

 Below is a video of that crash.

Here's a trailer for Regatta Vava'u IV - the movie...

February 6, 2013

Hitching a ride on Richard Branson's SpaceShipOne

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico - I have had a great run in the news-journalism-writing business, starting at the Napa Register newspaper in Napa, Calif. and now with the Finger Lakes Times in Geneva, New York.

In Napa, I was hired just as I graduated from college and spent a summer writing obituaries, chasing firetrucks and generally dealing with all the stories that the veteran reporters didn't want to touch. With the daily Finger Lakes Times, I write a once-a-week column on the topic of my choice. The freedom to do that is awesome.

In between these two bracketing media experiences, I worked at six newspapers in a variety of editing/writing capacities, almost always with fun people. Fun or not, they were always interesting. Thanks to Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and few other social media outfits, I have reconnected with many of those fun/interesting people.

Just yesterday, after I posted a story about entrepreneur Richard Branson, a former colleague told me about the time her husband - also a journalist -  had interviewed Branson. She was kind enough to send along this photo.

The fellow interviewing Branson is Dave Koenig, who, along with his wife Darlene Bryant, worked with me at the Chico Enterprise-Record back in 1981. Gawd that was a long time ago. I came in as news editor, Dave was a reporter and I was lucky enough to get Darlene to move from reporting to copy editing. She was an excellent copy editor.

My experience at that newspaper - because the publisher was, to put it kindly, a difficult man - wasn't all that good, except for interacting with people like Dave and Darlene.

How difficult was that publisher? Well, my first day on the job, before I had even met the staff of about 25 people, he gave me the names of five people he wanted me to fire - that day. I declined, saying I needed time to evaluate everybody before any action was taken. I am still surprised to this day I kept my job for the five months that I did before I joined the faculty at Chico State University.

But, all that nostalgia aside, my big question for Dave Koenig is this:

Can he get me a complimentary ride on Branson's Virgin Galactic SpaceShipOne? I don't get seasick anymore. Promise!

February 3, 2013

A concert on the Nuevo Vallarta beach - with Latin rock star Juanes

NUEVO VALLARTA, Nayarit, Mexico - Practically every flat surface around Nuevo Vallarta and Puerto Vallarta was plastered with a poster contained the mug of Juanes, a Latin rock star who brings in fans from all over wherever he plays. This is a holiday weekend in Mexico and his concert was part of the celebrations.

Juanes - related to Antonio Banderas?
Juanes a huge star around the world, with his Unplugged tour getting five Grammy nominations. Our amiga Laura McCartney caught his act in Madrid. Yes, the Madrid, as in Madrid, Spain.

But back to the beach here.

The concert was held in an open area next to the Hardrock Hotel (yes, it's a hotel). It was supposed to start at 8 p.m. But, being Mexico, the crowd didn't even get very restive until about 9:30 p.m. when Juanes jumped up on stage and started a rockin' show.

The security guards said they expected a paid attendance of about 5,000. It was hard for Adm. Sylvia Fox and I to get a good look at the crowd. We attended the concert sitting on the beach side (read: Free) where we were joined by about a hundred gringos and vacationing Mexicanos.

And we had our own huge Jumbotron right in front of us. (Huge Jumbotron? Is that an oxymoron?)

Here's a link to Road Trip Zumba in which Sylvia talks about Juanes and the concert. She had a great time at the concert, even doing a few Zumba steps as she listened.


At one point the staff who run the beach area where we were squatting came by and starting asking people if we were staying with them - generally being kind of obnoxious. After he hassled a couple of people (me included), a hired security guard (with a .45 caliber automatic on his hip) chatted with the staff fellow and he disappeared back into the building.

It was reminiscent of our days in San Diego when we would go by dinghy to Humphrey's By the Bay and listen to the concerts there. We heard the Righteous Brothers, Arlo Guthrie, Judy Collins - even Joan Baez, among others.

Here's a short video of some of the concert - from the beach perspective: