leave on a
road trip to
In stage 2 of this year's travel odyssey, I will fly to
I will attempt to write a blog again this year, but fully anticipate that the updates will be less frequent than in years past. This will probably come as a relief to most of my readers. I do not carry a laptop and there are fewer internet centers in the USA. It is too time consuming to search for internet access in public libraries along the way. In Mexico, most of my time will be spent navigating the transportation system and finding hotels. On stops of several days, at the cities I mentioned previously, it will probably be more convenient to update the blog.
January 17, 2009 – from Orlando, Florida
Brrrrr! This is one cold spell that cannot be out run, although Sadie (my S80 bears the name given her by the manufacturer) and I tried valiantly. We left Lewes, DE, with thick frost on the windows and headed south early Thursday morning. With the outside temperature displayed on a gauge on the dashboard, it was an easy decision to forego the meandering, so I pointed Sadie south and kept driving. We spent more than 10 hours together, not even stopping for lunch, except for a bag of beef jerky and a Yoohoo, and reached Myrtle Beach, SC, at 6:00 p.m.
They were wailing about the cold on Myrtle Beach TV with temps expected to drop into the low twenties overnight. Sadie and I shook off the early morning 24 degree chill and headed south once more. During the day, the temps rose to the upper 40's, still not warm enough for me, so we persisted for nine hours until we reached St. Augustine, FL. Surprise, when I went for dinner the subject was the heavy frost warning overnight and the horrendously low temps. It was 29 degrees by morning.
Sadie shivered a bit when I started her, but we headed south to Schim's friend's house in suburban Orlando where the high temperature was scheduled to reach the mid 60's today and may barely have reached freezing overnight. This is more like it. I will never take route 17 South again. I tired of the changing speed limits, stop signs, and traffic signals, although there was more to see than on route 95. I drove through Ridgeland, Georgia, 10 miles under the 35 mph speed limit - my way of thumbing my nose at the town's police department which had unfairly ticketed me the last time I passed this way. I still didn't breathe too easily until I was five or ten miles south of town. They should be ashamed of themselves. The changing speed limits, here 50, there 35, oops it's now 25, then 40 or 45 mph made for a tiring journey. The interstates are starting to look more attractive.
Schim and MJ took me to their local Elks Club for lunch and we relived old times together. I will spend a couple of days here before heading south to even warmer climes. It is wonderful not to have to worry about the freezing weather, although it is frigid in the eyes of the locals. I am in touch with a golfing buddy of mine who winters here in Orlando and we are considering going to a 50's sock hop with them this evening. There is a multitude of ways to stay active in Florida. I will stay in touch where possible.
January 20, 2008 – From Miami, Florida
After enjoying a few days of 70+ degree weather, both in Orlando and here in Miami, the cold temps have found me again in south Florida. Seems like tonight will fall into the mid-40 degree zone here in Miami, the coldest weather they have experienced in the last six years. But, give me a break, I heard a wind chill warning for south Florida today: from 11:00 p.m. to 10:00 a.m., the weather folks are warning that the wind chill may be from 35 to 40 degrees. I'm terrified! After hearing and experiencing the single digit numbers up north, though, I guess I can handle a dangerous wind chill like the forecast threatens.
I stayed two days with Schim and his significant other, MJ, in Orlando and she is a marvelous hostess, displaying fantastic southern hospitality - though MJ is originally from Wisconsin. Schim was his usual self, counting his pennies, but making a fantastic breakfast for me each day. MJ was sorry to see me go, but Schim couldn't wait to get me out the door. I always enjoy seeing MJ and it was even good to see Schim again to relive previous trips to Spain, Costa Rica, Argentina, and Chile.
I then traveled south down the center of the state on route 27, brushing closely by Lake Okeechobee which surprised me by the high levees which contain the water, but detract from the view of the lake. Actually, I never saw water as I passed by miles of levees. I arrived in Miami, right smack in the wrong section of town because I remembered a race track near the house of my nephew. Turns out I headed for Hialeah in a bad section of the city and my nephew's abode is not far from Gulfstream Park. I got into town by 4:00 p.m., but it was 6:30 until I met my nephew at his house. I didn't have his cell phone number, so I attempted to find it simply by the address. It appears that not many people know where my nephew lives, which may be good for him. The temperatures have been in the low 70's during the day, but have fallen quickly tonight. Perhaps, the meteorologists will be right with their forecast and the cold breezes will have found me again.
Just in case, I will head further south tomorrow morning when the high temperatures are supposed to remain in the upper 50's. It has to be warmer in Key West, where my friend has informed me he has a room in which I can lay my head for a few days. I'll let you know how the warm air feels.
January 22, 2009 – From Key West, FL
No matter how many times I make the trip (yesterday was the fifth for me), I marvel at the drive through the keys. Blue skies, turquoise water, pelicans skimming the waves, and boats everywhere. Yesterday, because of the wind and the chill in the air, the boats were all on trailers or in marinas. It mattered not, the drive was gorgeous and the chill didn't reach me inside Sadie. It was 42 when I left Miami at 10:00 a.m., but by the time I reached Key West at 3:00 p.m. the thermometer read 59 degrees. The locals were freezing. "The coldest weather in several years," they mumbled through their blue lips. With all the beautiful scenery and temperatures at home in the teens and twenties, it didn't seem all that bad to me. I endured.
I stayed last night with the friend of a friend, but it turned out that my host, Tim, and I had been in the Jaycees together many years ago. We had a great time reliving old times. He has lived here for 23 years and is an independent contractor who is married to the longtime manager of the famous Sloppy Joe's nightclub. Reta and Tim invited us to a wake held at Sloppy Joe's for a longtime resident of Key West who was Reta's mentor at the famous pub. Many local characters attended and at least a dozen Ernest Hemingway look-a-likes were in the crowd, since Sloppy Joe's hosts the annual look-a-like contest every year. Drinks were free and the people-watching was world class. My friend and I had a great time and Tim met us later for the best sushi dinner I have ever enjoyed. There is nothing like seeing a place with a local.
For those who think that I am mooching my way through Florida, fear not. I have been making it a point of buying dinner once or twice for each of my hosts. Most hotels in Key West would have been cheaper than last night's sushi check.
Today's high temperature will be about 61 degrees, but better things are on the way. Tomorrow is forecast to be in the low 70's, so I may just hang around a while. My friend and I would like to do a little fishing and Tim is a local expert, having owned a marina which he sold a couple of years back. I'll be sure to let you know how they are biting. Stay warm.
January 24, 2009 - From Key West, FL
I have rarely done laundry in a public laundromat; actually, I have rarely done laundry, except for the occasional sink full of socks and unmentionables while on the road. I know that I have never done laundry in a laundromat while chickens and roosters strutted cockily through the aisles. That is what I did this morning, however. I finished the process in under an hour while consuming a cubano mixto sandwich (mixed meat) and a Cuban coffee for breakfast.
The roosters are famous Key West inhabitants, offspring of Cuban cockfighters of the past. These were three beautiful birds with golden head feathers and red combs, proudly controlling the three less-beautiful hens that accompanied their partners everywhere.
Last night was a fantastic treat! I had dinner and stayed the night (well, at least until 9:00 p.m when the music ended) at B.O.'s Fish Market. The market is a shack that is open only on Fridays and Saturdays and a favorite of locals and tourists alike. Barry Cuda, a boogie-woogie piano player extraordinaire, led his trio with trumpet and drums through delightful blues and honky-tonk numbers. Barry surfs his piano on wheels down the street every Friday and wows the crowds with his sometimes bawdy ballads. A limited menu of seafood is available, along with beer or wine. I had a great time with a group of locals and tourists with whom I shared a table. My friends moved along to another bar early in the evening, but I stayed on enthralled with the music. One of the most famous honky-tonk piano players in the world, Bob Seeley, dropped in on Barry and treated every body with three fantastic numbers. At one time there were six hands playing piano to the thrill of the crowd.
Today is warm and sunny and I walked the length of Duvall Street in shorts and tee-shirt, basking in the sun and observing the antics of the cruise passengers that two ships disgorged onto the island. I can't sense that economic times are tough from the numbers of tourists and the money being spent. There must be a recession somewhere else. Actually, the real estate market in Key West has been badly hit. Many properties display "for sale" signs and nothing is moving, according to Tim who is trying to sell a big property of his own.
I need to catch a few more rays. Stay warm!
January 26, 2009
The return trip through the
This morning, I walked the winding, South Beach promenade beside the wide, white-sand beach lapped by white-crested, turquoise waves for a couple of miles, then back famous Ocean Drive to where Sadie was parked in the public library lot ($1.25/hr.). There was no problem with boredom while walking. I saw many topless sunbathers, but disappointingly they were all male - sorry guys, no topless women during my stroll. There was still plenty to observe: the beautiful art deco hotels in every hue of pastel paint, people walking dogs of all breeds, the scantily-attired exercisers and beachgoers, the beautiful people (jet-setters, no doubt) dining al fresco along Ocean Drive, and the fancy cars cruising the loop with drivers trying desperately to attract attention. It was a thoroughly enjoyable hour of exercise, although warm at 77 degrees in the spectacular sunshine. This is why I come south in the winter time.
I had a late lunch of sushi and Japanese noodle soup in tiny "Tokyo Box" Restaurant on
A couple more nights here and I'll head back toward
January 29, 2009 - From Orlando, FL
Talk about coincidences: several years ago when I last visited my nephew (on my way to Brazil), the Philadelphia 76ers were in town playing the Miami Heat. My nephew, a huge Philadelphia sports team fan, was interested and, though I have little interest in the NBA, we went to the game. I enjoyed the experience. This time, the Philadelphia Flyers were playing the Florida Panthers in an NHL hockey game. My nephew and I both were ice hockey goalies a few years back (OK, more than a few for me), so we went to what turned out to be a very exciting game. Two trips to Miami and two professional sporting events with Philadelphia teams, now that is a coincidence
The next morning, with my nephew and his wife both at work, I packed my bags and headed west through Alligator Alley (route 41 for those following on a map) and enjoyed a beautiful ride through the Everglades. Many fishermen were plying the stream along the road and I knew the water had to be full of fish, since thousands of waterfowl were also fishing the stream. Egrets, heron, and many other unidentified birds were wading and working for their lunch as I cruised by at 55 to 60 mph. The traffic was very light and I made as quick a trip, and far more scenic, to Naples as I could have made on Interstate 75.
I had lunch at the city dock in Naples and stood ten minutes in the parking lot facing the sun, enjoying the 82 degree temperature, knowing that folks back home were enduring another ice and snow storm. I then cruised the beautiful downtown area, marveling at the gorgeous architecture and the pedestrian traffic.
I intended to spend the night in Naples, but then had the notion that I could still make it to Clearwater, spring training home of my beloved Phillies, and see the site where spring training would begin in a week or so. This was not to be, however. My cell phone rang and there was Schim wanting to know when I would be arriving at his house. I was not going to drive that far, but when he whined that he was preparing dinner and had a glass of red wine waiting for me, I told him that I would give it a shot. The poor guy is very lonely and being a sympathetic friend, I pressed onward. I took route 75 north, then Route 4 east and made great time until I reached Orlando. There a nine mile traffic jam slowed my progress and by the time I reached Shim's, he was outside pacing back and forth across the street. It was sad to see. I must admit that he prepared a great dinner of rigatoni and mussels in vodka sauce, so the drive was worth it. This morning he seems quite cheered by my presence. I always stand ready to help a friend. Today, we will tour the town of Mount Dora and the downtown Orlando area. I think Schim wants me to talk him into making the second part of my winter odyssey to Mexico, but that means I would have him around for weeks on end. What sacrifices I make.
February 8, 2009 – From Pennsylvania
I have been remiss in updating the web page, leaving my readers hanging. Thousands must believe that I am still in Orlando visiting Schim. Suffice it to say that I left Schim in the dust, venturing to a couple of places he recommended despite the fact that he hasn't visited them. Before I departed, I played golf at the Palm Course at Disney with a friend from home who spends most of the winter in Florida. That was a great experience, though I played like I hadn't touched a club in five months, which is true. Actually, shooting 93 on a new course on a breezy day with wet fairways wasn't all that bad.
I left Orlando (Schim was weepy at my departure) and headed to Tarpon Springs in search of a Greek meal. Tarpon Springs is where the Greek sponge divers settled and there are many fine Greek restaurants lining the waterway. A late dinner overlooking the water gave me time to reflect on the wonderful hospitality shown by my friends in Florida. Schim and his significant other, MJ, were fantastic, providing room and sharing meals and drinks. My nephew and his wife in Miami were very welcoming and I got to know them even better during my five day stay (two down and three on the way back). Reta and Tim were exceptionally hospitable during my two days with them in Key West. I especially enjoyed the meal prepared by Tim and two other male house guests from my hometown - an antipasto salad, fantastic, homemade guacamole, and grouper teriyaki with delicious herbed rice. I even enjoyed washing the dishes to contribute to the feast.
I left Tarpon Springs after only one night and headed north on the Gulf Coast to Cedar Key, where Schim heard there was a touch of old Florida. I had been disappointed with the development in Florida, concrete, blacktop, and traffic everywhere, so Schim suggested Cedar Key. I loved it! Cedar Key is basically a fishing village with bait shops, crab shacks, a small marina, a beautiful, concrete, fishing pier, a couple of restaurants, one small grocery store, and a couple of very small hotels. I took a room in an RV campground which had eight, beautifully appointed small rooms which were immaculately clean.
I found one local establishment, generously called a sports bar, open on Sunday and watched half of the Super Bowl there. This was not a non-smoking establishment, so at half-time I retired to my room and watched the Steelers finish off the Cardinals. I might have stayed another day, because the sun was warm on the fishing pier where I watched fisherman catching sheephead - beautiful, heavy, silver fish with bold black stripes. Some were probably as large as five pounds and the anglers told me they were delicious. When I awoke the following morning, however, it was raining and I decided not to sit in my room reading during an all day rain. I got breakfast at the local's favorite breakfast spot and was able to order sheephead with my eggs and grits. The fishermen were right, the fish was delicious, although I would have preferred them grilled rather than fried.
I drove to Gainsville, through the University of Florida to see the home of the Florida Gators and watched students traveling to classes while attempting to stay dry in the steady rain. I pointed Sadie north on Interstate 75 (I had experienced enough two-lane roads) and didn't stop, except for an occasional roadside rest break, until I reached Macon, GA. An overnight there at a Motel 6 and I headed for Atlanta to see Stone Mountain, GA, a tourist attraction I had never seen. I can officially report that that is what it was - a stone mountain. A huge chunk of granite, rising surprisingly and almost devoid of trees from the relatively flat surrounding countryside. I paid the $8.00 admission fee to drive close enough to see the relatively unimpressive confederate generals on horseback carved into the mountain.
Sadie and I turned our attention to exiting GA, passing through South and North Carolina, and getting to interstate 81, heading northeast. We pushed on until almost dusk, when at the top of Fancy Gap in the Appalachians, a snow shower caused almost white-out conditions. In ten miles, the snow stopped completely, but on the top of the next mountain it started again and, with temperatures below freezing, started accumulating on the highway. I tried to reach Roanoke, VA, in the hopes that I wouldn't face drifting snow in the morning, but I tired at about 7:00 p.m. after following a salt truck for an hour and called it a night in Salem, VA. An evening meal, a heavy night's sleep for an exhausted body, and I headed home the following morning, arriving around 3:00 p.m.
It was an interesting trip, although the frigid temps on my arrival home made me wonder about my sanity in driving north two days ahead of schedule. I also learned that my son and grandchildren have postponed their trip home from Europe due to the trying economic conditions his company is facing. They will return during their Easter break instead. Seems I could have gone on one of my extended winter adventures after all, instead of the two shorter trips I planned.
I will remain home for another nine days, then head to Mexico. After much urging and dire warnings by family and friends, I have done serious research on the dangers of traveling through Mexico. Currently, the drug violence is pretty unpredictable, so I have decided to restructure my trip. I am now planning to fly to Houston, then on to San Jose del Cabo on the Baja. After a few days in San Jose, where I will make time to visit famous Cabo San Lucas and soak up some sun, I will take a bus to La Paz where I will spend a few weeks. I could change my mind and remain in San Jose longer if I find inexpensive lodging and the town is as interesting as I expect. I promise to update more regularly in Mexico where internet cafes are much more accessible.....
February 18, 2009 - From San Jose del Cabo, Mexico
Hola!! Now this is more like it!! The temperature must be 80 degrees and a little humid, but with a gorgeous breeze that made the long flight worth the trip. This small town, little sister to the more famous Cabo San Lucas thirty or so miles to the west, still retains the flavor of old Mexico while having a tourist population still a little too large for me. I plan on visiting Cabo San Lucas for the first time tomorrow morning and I am expecting high rise hotels, tourist traps everywhere, and way too much glitz for me.
I arrived right on time in the Los Cabos airport last night at 8:05 p.m., expecting to land in the last rays of daylight, but it was pitch black when the wheels of the small jet (sixty passenger capacity) gently kissed the runway after a two hour and fifty minute flight from Houston. A fifteen minute, ten dollar, taxi ride to downtown San Jose del Cabo and I was deposited by the cabbie at a hotel that several people, including the cabbie, told me was inexpensive, clean, and nice. It was probably all of those things, but it was also closed for renovations. So there I stood in the pitch black, with no reservations, no taxi, looking for an inexpensive hotel. I tried three different ones in my meandering around the town’s central plaza, but all appeared to rent rooms by the hour to ladies working the area and were too seedy for my tastes. I stopped a couple of gringo ladies (a husband was on the other side of the street) and inquired about their hotel. They were staying in a "Boutique Hotel" (their terminology) called Tropicana which was just around the corner. I know the term "boutique hotel" meant expensive, but as 10:00 p.m. was rapidly approaching, I opted to pay the extra dinero and took a boutique room in the boutique hotel. It cost me $119, but I figured I would wait until daylight to find a less expensive place to lay my head. Since there is a two hour time difference from home, my body was feeling a trifle weary after a full day’s travels and 18 hours without sleep, except for the hour long, Xanax-induced nap on the first leg of my journey.
I awoke bright and early after a great night’s sleep, had a great shower, and consumed the boutique continental breakfast that came with the room. A plate with five different sliced tropical fruits, a glass of orange juice, toast, and unlimited coffee made for a great start to the day. I hailed a cab parked in front of the hotel and told him my dilemma, needing a cheaper place to lay my head. He took me to six or eight different hotels, including two near the beach and marina fifteen minutes away. I selected the Yuca Inn which is very basic, but close to the central plaza, where I negotiated a price of about $165 for seven night’s stay. A boutique hotel it ain’t, but the price is right, the people are friendly, and the shower has hot water all the time. What a deal!
As usual, I am finding the pace problematic. It takes a while to slow down to the turtle’s pace in these tropical locales, but I am up to the task. I was thinking about heading to Cabo San Lucas today, but came to my senses in time to put it off until mañana. I plan to spend a week reducing my stress level and slowing things down here in San Jose del Cabo, before heading north. The current plan will take me to Todos Santos on the Pacific Coast, halfway to La Paz, one of my favorite places in Mexico. Todos Santos is the home of the original Hotel California and is reputed to make the best margaritas in the world. I feel a responsibility to my readers to sample a few of those and report my findings. Adios!
February 20, 2009
Each day is an adventure wherever you awaken and yesterday didn’t disappoint on the Baja. I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast in a cafeteria bordering the square, joined by a retired, park ranger from
About yesterday, after checking my emails, I caught a school bus look-a-like at the town square and took it about a mile and a half up the hill to Highway 1, where I waited for another bus headed for Cabo San Lucas. It is amazing how patient you become while sitting under a bus shade waiting for the next bus. You have to shed typical American impatience and it is helpful to adopt the demeanor of the locals waiting beside you. I did that pretty well.
I entered a standing-room-only bus, mostly full of locals heading to work, but with a generous sprinkling of tourists on board. I stood most of the 45 minute ride, but as people were dropped off at resorts along the way, some seats opened and I moved to the very last seat on the bus, but actually sat in the center between the two seats on either side of the rear platform. There was no cushion on my seat, actually it wasn’t a seat, but it felt good after standing so long. Shortly after sitting, the bus made another stop and a large, young Mexican man, weighing at least 300 pounds, and carrying a large duffel bag moved to the rear in preparation for exiting at the next stop. Suddenly, with the bus at highway speed, the man appeared to fall down with his head almost hitting my knee. He appeared to fall strangely and I finally noticed that he had fallen through an access panel in the floor onto the bus' rear-end with the universal joint spinning rapidly around his feet. I saw the universal spinning as three of us pulled him out of the floor while he pushed with his arms. He had a series of parallel grease marks on his jeans, stained by the spinning universal joint, but miraculously escaped any injury. I think the young man’s weight helped cause him to fall through the plate, but I think it was his girth that kept him from plunging completely through the hole. The bus was old, had no floor covering left on the floors, but I had failed to look down as I took my seat earlier. I might have suffered the same fate and not been as lucky. The man sitting next to me, a native Mexican now a
Cabo San Lucas was just as I had envisioned, although condensed in a smaller area than expected. McDonald’s, the Hard Rock Cafe, Señor Frog, and a host of familiar chains dotted the main street around the marina area. I strolled the marina and settled on a table at La Galeria, where I had lunch of ceviche, saltines, and lemonade at the inflated price of ten dollars. I enjoyed the people watching and further enjoyed a stroll down one side of the giant marina full of boats of every kind. The side I strolled was lined with local craftsmen selling their wares and I was even given a coupon by a lovely lady who said her studio had the loveliest massage therapists in town. I took the coupon but passed on the massage.
I found the "Giggling Marlin" the most creative bar/restaurant name; it had a huge, artificial, grinning marlin protruding from the front of the establishment, the smile full of monstrous, humanoid teeth. When I forward a few pictures, I think you will find it creative, as well. "Cabo Wabo" was probably my second favorite and with names like that I think you get the feel for Cabo San Lucas. This is a party town!!! Wahoo!! If they ever stop serving cerveza and tequila, this town will close down, but in the meantime, I’ll bet the wild nightlife is something to behold. I was on the bus heading home by , pretty confident that I had selected the more preferable Cabo (cape) in which to spend a week. It is comforting to know that, if I ever get the urge to party and can stay awake that long, the festivities are only 45 minutes away.
Dinner was spent at a classy boutique hotel bar across the street from my Yuca Inn ($23/night). I thought it would be a bargain, since they served a complimentary tapa with each, carefully-measured drink. I had three, small, carefully-measured glasses of wine and three tapas and the bill was $30 (dollars). Oops, I’ll have to rethink that approach to dinner tonight. I had great conversations at the beautiful bar, however, with people from
As I walked down the dock, a guy approaching me greeted me like we were old friends. It turns out it was the guy from
I showed up at on the gorgeous new docks, built for the fishermen who owned the beach rights by the developer who is building a golf course, a marina, and pricey housing nearby. I was ready to go. It was an exciting, busy place at dawn with fishermen, captains, mates, gulls, mergansers, loons, egrets, and many, almost-tame pelicans completing the busy, early morning picture. The guy from
We started out running wide-open along the shore, about 200 yards beyond the breaking waves, in the 26 foot super panga which had an old, 90-horse Mercury moving us right along. Then, about two miles from the mouth of the inlet we had exited, but still only a few hundred yards off-shore, an alarm went off on the motor and in a couple of minutes the motor quit. Carlos changed batteries (the backup was hidden under one of the seats), but neither turned the motor over enough to get it started. So, we fished. Nothing biting for an hour or so, then a boat happened by and tried to help us. Nothing doing, but they had a cell phone and loaned it to us so that Carlos could call the boat owner’s wife (the owner himself was captaining another of his seven pangas). "No problema," the wife would come to get us, but like the guy from
We battled the birds for our bait (live sardinas that cost me $20 on the dock) for quite a while. The gulls would take the bait as it floated away from the boat (no sinkers on the line) and, if the bait went below the gulls' diving capabilities, the loons would dive and take the bait off. I hooked my first strike and Carlos soon caught the second. Mine had a wingspan of about five feet (a pelican) and Carlos’s gull was smaller, but meaner when we got him along side the boat. Carlos finally belted a loon really hard in the middle of the back with the shark beater and that seemed to discourage the critters. All of a sudden, Carlos hooked a dorado and handed me the rod. It took me about 20 minutes to land the 20 - 30 pound, purple and yellow fluorescently-gorgeous creature. Carlos said, "You have your dinner!" I was thrilled.
We fished far too closely for me with our sputtering motor around a pile of rocks with sizeable waves crashing over them, but we picked up six or seven groupers weighing one or two pounds while the engine idled smoothly. I also caught a fish Carlos described as a "woman," but I never learned what it was called in English. He said it was delicious, though, and threw it under the forward seat. I also caught a small pompano which Carlos said was his favorite eating fish - a great fighter, too, for its size and I would have released it, but Carlos threw it in the cooler (no ice, but I guess it was cooler in there). I was in seventh heaven, enjoying all of the action until Carlos decided to move back closer to the shore away from those dangerous rocks to try to pick up a few sierra (which turned out to be spanish mackerel). Before we got to the intended fishing grounds, the motor quit again - big time! We were going to wash ashore; it seemed inevitable. For a while it appeared that we would crash into another pile of rocks that was being bashed by breakers, so Carlos and I paddled like crazy. I used the bailing-bucket/urinal/plastic, half- bottle to paddle and Carlos paddled like crazy with the five gallon bait bucket normally used to dump sea water on the live bait swimming on the forward floor of the boat. We barely got by the rocks, but the motor still wouldn’t start. I started preparing for the beaching.
I took out my under-pants wallet and tied it inside my floating fishing hat, purchased last year to fight off the South African sun. I put my wallet, camera, and cash in the top pocket of the backpack I brought along to hold my shirt and jacket after the morning chill wore off. I was hoping to at least keep the top of the backpack dry by abandoning ship in water shallow enough to protect the valuables. I was ready to go over the side. Carlos stripped off his shirt and jeans, leaving him in a pair of gym shorts and as ready as I was to abandon ship. There was a real danger of the boat rolling over in the pounding surf. A huge swell, not quite breaking at the top, lifted us up and we floated sideways over it - whew. We started paddling like crazy to turn the boat bow-first to ride the next wave when all of a sudden another boat headed for us after being waved down by the few strollers walking the long, beautiful beach. I would seriously estimate that we were no more than three to five minutes from washing ashore when we were rescued. Heaven only knows whether we would have gone in bow first or flipped over when a breaker hit us broadside, because we were having little effect turning the boat with our paddling. I figured we were going to roll.
Of course, the first boat there also had no ropes and no paddles to lend us, but they did come along side, hold our starboard side, and back us away from the dangerous breakers. Then, another boat from our marina approached, had a rope, and started to slowly tow us toward port. Carlos baited a hook for me while we were being towed and said, "Let’s fish." We were being towed at perfect trolling speed and two or three minutes later, there it was - a strike on my rod. I hooked a rooster fish while being towed ashore! I am not creative enough to make this stuff up. I hooked, then caught, after another 20-minute fight, a rooster fish (a special, full-of-fight, hard-to-catch trophy) while we were being towed. Amazing, amazing, amazing!! The tow boat dropped our rope and started fishing, too, as did another boat in our area and both of them hooked a rooster fish, although only one of them boated it. Mine was considerably bigger, however.
After the rooster fish episode, the boat from our marina gave us a spare battery (our original and the backup were apparently both dead) and the motor started, but sputtered the rest of the way back. I would estimate that we were without power half of the time we were fishing. But, get this - we had the biggest dorado and the biggest rooster fish caught that day. We also caught more fish than most other boats with more fishermen aboard. Everybody was checking our catch, tourists were taking pictures, and I acted the part of a proud, yet humble fisherman. I was just pleased to have reached the marina safely. Only two, relatively small, yellow-fin tuna were caught all day, any fewer than the day prior. I tipped Carlos $25 and the guy who cleaned my fish $10, so my trip cost $205, counting the sardinas. Worth every penny and, wait, I have pictures to prove every word of this - the catch, the towing, the nearby beach, etc. I almost didn’t believe the event as it was unfolding myself, so I snapped photos at every break in the action.
I’m not sure my heart can take any more excitement like this: the guy falling through the bus floor, the almost beaching of the boat, and the dorado and rooster fish. Whoa, baby!!
I returned to the Yuca Inn with two bags of filets (I gave most of the grouper and pompano away), but what can I do with all of this fish? I asked Yuca (the hotel manager’s nickname) who would cook it for me and he pointed upstairs to a palapa-covered (thatched roof) restaurant I had walked underneath each evening when I left for dinner. Believe it or not, the Parisian-trained chef was thrilled to grill it for me for lunch and provided a salad and garlic mashed potatoes to go with it. When I asked for the check, the only thing on the bill was for a coke and a bottle of water. I gave them $10 dollars for their efforts, which they attempted to decline, but I insisted. Of course, I left the rest of the mahi-mahi (dorado) with them and there was a profit to be made, but what generosity and warmth they showed me.
Before I knew it, a group of young (in their 20's and 30's) people started gathering in the tiny restaurant. These youngsters were handsome folks, a few Americans, but mostly Mexicans, and 3/4 of them were girls (beautiful all). It seems they heard I was there, still unshaven, but showered after the fishing, and they gathered to meet and greet me. Right, that is the first stretching-of-truth in today's update. They were actually gathering for an African dance class next door, which was complete with drums. After befriending them (I love beautiful things), I went and watched the dance for about five minutes, but my heart was having trouble with the excitement of it all and I left and headed to the internet center. Everybody - chef, waiter, pretty girls and handsome guys - invited me to come back that night to have a few (very inexpensive) drinks with them. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. They mentioned that it was a community that gathered there and they took me in. The evening group had many fewer young ladies, although all had eyes for me, of course. We were joined by two young Italian men who were accompanied by a beautiful, blonde, Croatian, young lady. The Italians were off-road racers and race organizers and were checking out the Baja before heading for
I wonder if it was the one day growth of beard that attracted all the ladies? Hasta luego!
It has come to this after little more than a week on the Baja: a couple of hours reading and returning emails at the internet center, reading cheap, though very marketable, used, coverless, detective novels three or four hours a day, and dawdling over meals practicing my atrophied Spanish language skills on poor, but friendly wait staff. There is not a lot of excitement on the Baja as I know it. Of course, were I to spend a little cash and rent a mode of transportation: car, four-wheeler, scooter, or bicycle, I would improve my options. But, that is not the point of this winter's adventure. Especially in these economic conditions, it is important to reduce spending and still enjoy the change in culture. While it is a trifle boring, I am suffering through the boredom in daytime temperatures of 80 degrees that begin with morning lows in the 70's, while the home folks celebrate the 50-degree, high temperature forecast for this weekend.
I had another birthday yesterday, spent as described above with no celebration, but the numbers are getting such that little fanfare is warranted. Perhaps, I should check Mexican plastic surgeons for facelifts and liposuction, but somehow I take pride in every wrinkle and the now-shrinking love-handles. Ah, yes, with the conservation of wealth comes the natural restriction of caloric intake. If only I could increase the exercise regimen, the inches would certainly fade away more rapidly. Alas, I am still suffering from a metatarsal problem on one foot, so walking exercise is only possible every other day. If only I had the temerity, on the off-days I would head in my bathing suit for the pool in the hotel where I stayed during my first night in town, but I am not angling for spending time in a Mexican jail for theft of services. They are working on the pool in my tiny hotel, but even when it is finished, I would need to swim 1,000 laps to get a workout. At least I will be able to escape the afternoon heat by lolling in the deep end, rather than reading those cheap novels under the ceiling fan in my room.
I probably should describe my room a little better. It is of decent size with all of the class and qualities of most
The bathroom is not the smallest that I have endured (nothing could be smaller than in
That pretty well describes my humble abode where I have signed on for five more days, awaiting any visitors from the
February 28, 2009 - From San Jose del Cabo, Mexico
Who knew that Sammy Hagar, a musician formerly with the rock group Van Halen, started the Cabo Wabo nightclub?? And furthermore, who cared? All I vaguely knew about Van Halen was that a guy with that last name and the first name Eddie had married a gorgeous, young Hollywood starlet (Valerie Bertinelli). I didn't associate that band with the Cabo Wabo Cantina in San Lucas and I had never heard of a tequila by the same name, also started by front-man Hagar whose name was completely unfamiliar. My eldest son and my daughter both recognized the significance of the name, however, and called it to my attention. It is amazing how travel broadens one's knowledge base! My daughter requested a Cabo Wabo tee-shirt, so I headed back on the buses for another ride into Cabo San Lucas yesterday. I carefully stepped over the floor access panels when the bus was rolling and experienced no dangerous events during the trip there and back, although my bus-mates and I were serenaded by a talented musician and singer who was seemingly doing God's work. He played a guitar and the harmonica that was on a brace around his neck and sang at least one song that sounded like a Christian song. He also sang La Bamba and a couple other songs quite well and I was surprised at how many of my rather poor bus-mates joined me in contributing to his cause, whatever it was.
I had another ceviche for lunch in the marina in Cabo San Lucas and was again put-off by the shills outside every establishment trying to lure customers inside, whether for lunch, a margarita, to look at silver jewelry, or whatever. I was right in my first impression of San Lucas; it was way too glitzy and touristy for me. I did see a new drink advertised on the wall of one bar, however. It was called a Mamarita, so called because it was the "mother of all margaritas." It was a 40-ounce beverage featuring mucha tequila. I took a photo of the Mamarita sign and, now realizing its significance, also snapped a few photos at the Cabo Wabo Cantina. I will send them along in the next batch of pictures.
Last evening, I visited the little overhead restaurant at my hotel and the chef and bartender wanted to know where I had been. I must not have stopped in the night before and they noticed. I met a wonderful young couple from Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada last night and we had a delightful conversation. She is a nurse and he a mortgage broker and they travel to Los Cabos pretty regularly with their three, young children. They were alone last night, so we had time to chat. Dave and Bobbi Jo were drinking a Michelada, a drink of which I had never heard. It is one-third lemon and tomato juice, salt, pepper, soy sauce, Tabasco, and two-thirds beer. I tasted Dave's drink and the combination effectively killed the taste of beer which I abhor. Dave also mentioned that in Alberta many people drink a Clam Eye as their beverage of choice. That's half Clamato juice, half beer, which would probably also kill the taste of beer for me.
Rafy, the handsome, young, Mexican bartender, let me taste a tamarind, vodka martini he had mixed for others and it tasted pretty good, so I had a couple of those while we were talking. It didn't surprise me that folks from Alberta would escape their winters whenever possible, but I have never visited that part of Canada, so I need to get that on my calendar soon. If Dave and Bobbie Jo are any indication, the people are amazingly friendly. Adios!
March 3, 2009 – From Todos Santos, Mexico
The bus ride to Todos Santos took an hour and a half as expected, but the level of comfort in the bus was not up to typical first class bus standards in
Hotel California is a beautiful place. I took several pictures of the hotel which I will send with the next batch of photos, but they wanted $119/night for a single. When I reacted negatively to the price, the owner, a Canadian woman who was working the front desk, said, "If you are looking for something a little cheaper, the hotel across the street has rooms for 400 pesos." Now, that is being responsive to a client's needs! She invited me to dine later at her hotel and I ran with her suggestion. The hotel across the street, situated above and around a laundry, had a room much nicer than that in which I stayed in
Reception at the hotel was in the laundry and while I was there I priced having my laundry done. I won't find any more convenient laundry service, that's for certain. I dropped off my laundry bag, which was becoming increasingly full, and they promised that I would have it back in the morning. The price was a little more than $5.00, but if I would let them do the darks with the whites, I could have gotten it done for less than $3.00. I decided to splurge and have the darks done separately - big spender.
Wow, a firm bed, an air conditioner on a timer, fully tiled floors throughout, and four-channel TV reception, albeit all in Spanish. This is luxurious. I had lunch at the Hotel California, pretty full at with tourists from many lands. I heard Italian and French spoken and people nearby spoke with a British accent. This hotel is an international icon; the Eagles really put it on the map. The food was good, too, but I ate a little heavy for lunch with shrimp and scallop tagliatelle in a
When I returned to the Hotel California for dinner a little after , the place was very dark, but I wanted to try one of the famous margaritas, so I entered. Only candles were lit in the place and I thought it strange, only to find out that they had a major electrical problem on which were frantically working. The margarita was, absolutely, the worst margarita that I have had in
After breakfast this morning at an almost-American, coffee shop around the corner from my hotel, I wandered the beautiful, old, little town of
I should have learned by now not to brag about having good luck. Nothing will change your luck quicker than talking about how good things have been breaking for you and that certainly was the case with me in Todos Santos yesterday. I know that you were expecting an evaluation of the best restaurant in all of Mexico, Santa Fe, but that was not to be. I booked another night at the clean little ¨motel¨ across the street from Hotel California, then decided to find the Santa Fe Restaurant, so that I wouldn't have to struggle finding it at dinner time. It was easy to find, but so was the sign on the door that said, "Closed Martes," and sure enough, it was Tuesday. Not wanting to admit that my life is centered around food, I decided to eat in the consensus, second-best restaurant, "Los Adobes," and not stay over another night to try the Santa Fe. "Los Adobes" was beautiful, with the most beautiful desert garden I think that I have ever seen, and the ceviche (raw fish cooked in lime juice) was delicious, but I wasn't really hungry so I ate nothing else.
I have another confession: I am tired of margaritas! I was never a big fan of the drink, but the bad one at the Hotel California did the trick. I am usually a red wine drinker, but in the winter time I indulge in an occasional Crown Royal and water. I did see Crown Royal bottles in San Jose, but only succumbed one time. It just doesn’t feel right drinking Crown Royal when the temperature is 90 degrees. If I don't drink either of those drinks, I am pretty much an “umbrella drink” aficionado and last night I drank two, yes two, piña coladas, although they were served with a straw, so there was no umbrella. It was a great relief to not force a margarita.
That is not all the bad luck, however. I had a great bus ride to La Paz, where I had driven before on a previous venture down the Baja, where I planned to find the small hotel in which I had stayed on my last visit to town. Bus seats were free choice, not assigned, for the 75-minute ride and I jumped in the front seat across from the driver to watch the Sonoran Desert pass by. There was an American movie with Spanish subtitles playing on the TV overhead as I entered, but I was interested in the view. The seat locked upright, this bus was air-conditioned, and the ride went very smoothly. I even took a few photos of the desert, especially of the Spanish language road signs urging the use of seat belts, cautioning against throwing trash, and keeping the left lane (most of the ride was on a four-lane highway) for passing only. When driving in foreign countries, it is important to learn what the road signs say. I'll share some of those photos with you when I find a place to copy a disc for me. I seem to enjoy trying to decipher the message.
I found the Malecon (seaside promenade) easily from the bus terminal and headed in the right direction toward my hotel. I wasn't at all confident that it was the right direction while I walked, however, but finally, after about 15-minutes of hiking with my backpack and pulling my suitcase, there it was - the street I remembered from before. The hotel was right where I remembered it, but quaint, it ain’t! The last time I stayed there I remembered how quaint and inexpensive the place was, with a TV in the common area and basic rooms in hallways deep in the bowels of the hotel, surrounding the inner courtyard. At $27/night, the place was still inexpensive, but nothing has been done in maintenance since I was here last and the place was barely tolerable five years ago. The desk clerk showed me a room for under $20, but I wouldn't have stayed there on a bet, what with mildew or mold much in evidence on one of the walls. The room he showed me for $27 had been renovated, which made it more expensive. Renovated??? Three walls have been painted with a gloss paint and there is some mildew on the other wall, probably explaining why they didn't paint it, and it is so dingy even I can't stay there for any length of time and that is saying something. I took the "renovated" room, however, so that I had a place to keep my bags while I looked for other quarters. After stopping in three hotels, I found a place closer to the heart of the Malecon's tourist area, only a half-block from the beach, but it was more expensive. The room has two beds, a single and double, a balcony, and some decent lighting, all for $30/night. OK, things did not happen exactly as planned, but I will spend tonight in the dingy room and move tomorrow to the new digs. The past 24-hours weren't my most fortunate, but all things have worked out and La Paz is as beautiful as I remembered. I am now at the beach. I can stroll the Malecon for more than a mile, gaze upon the turquoise water, and watch the sailboats dance upon the waves. I will call this home for at least 10 days. Hasta luego!
March 6, 2009 - From La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico
Mold everywhere!! While I made it through the night in the dingy room I had rented to secure my backpack and suitcase while I searched for better quarters, I wouldn't want to sleep there again. The sheets were so thin and threadbare that I felt itchy all night, thinking how close my body was to those who had slept there before me. The morning shower was no better! I looked up as the morning light that came in the small ventilation window helped to brighten the dark bathroom, enabling me to see a cloud of black, ugly, growing mold on the ceiling above the shower. This was really gross. The water was hot, the pressure and flow of water great, but the huge, growing cloud of black mold prevented me from feeling clean, even after the shower. I couldn't get out of that place soon enough.
My new room is much cleaner with no mold evident, well, only the tiniest of dark specks on the ceiling of the shower, a place I will now check before renting any room anywhere. My room is on the fourth floor in a building with no elevator, so there is a built-in exercise program at work while I stay here. The sheets on the bed are wonderfully full and clean, there is a TV set with four Spanish channels, and life is good. It would be better if I had some kind of reading light to help while I am reading, but I brought a small, book, reading light that will get me through to slumber land most nights.
Huitlacoche. I said huitlacoche. No, the proper response is not “Gesundheit!” For those of you who watch the travel channel, you will recognize huitlacoche as the black mold that grows on corn here in Mexico, considered a delicacy by top chefs. I had risotto last night with octopus and huitlacoche, the first time I had seen the unusual ingredient on a menu. I thought that the octopus dominated the dish, so I can't really tell you exactly what huitlacoche tastes like, but it made the dish black, almost like my favorite foreign dish - squid or octopus in its ink. I'll continue to scan menus looking for another taste of the stuff, so I can more accurately describe its taste. Hang in there with me - mold is everywhere.
By the way, before I forget, if you are planning a trip to Todos Santos, I do not recommend staying in the Hotel California. I'm certain it is nice, but after exploring the town, I recommend The Todos Santos Inn with rooms starting at $165 and suites somewhat higher. I didn't stay there, because my lengthy stays prohibit expenditures that grand, but if you check their website, www.todossantosinn.com, you will see pictures of the small hotel, six rooms, I think, which should convince you of the beauty of the place.
I have two items on today's agenda - finding a bookstore and traveling by bus to a famous beach 15 miles outside the city. I feel no pressure to accomplish both of those tasks, but they are my goals for today. This can be such a stressful existence. Hasta luego!
March 9, 2009 - From La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico
Tecolote, a famous beach nine kilometers outside of
It took about 45 minutes to reach Tecolote, the last stop on the route. The water was stunningly beautiful and the beach two to three miles long. Un-commercialized except for two, small, palm-covered restaurants and an equally-coiffed tour center, the beach was primitive and breathtakingly gorgeous. The sun was hot, but there was a nice breeze that enticed me to remove my shirt to give my torso a few rays for the first time since I entered
Tecolote's tour center offers a tempting, five-hour snorkeling trip to the island a few miles off the coast. The $35 trip includes all the equipment for snorkeling, a shore lunch, and hopefully a ride back to the beach. After my problems with the fishing motor on my previous water experience, I have grown a tad cynical, I guess. I will try to tan my body a little more, and then head back to Tecolote to do some snorkeling. People have told me that the snorkeling is world class.
Three hours later, I returned on the next bus back to town and prepared for my evening dining experience. I walked about six blocks for dinner, alone on unlit streets with which I was unfamiliar, recognizing the danger that lurked every step of the way. I was frightened much of the trip, aware that each step could result in a catastrophe. Oh, I wasn't concerned about mugging, being held up, or kidnapped off the street; I was worried about the unlit, uneven sidewalks, and random curbing. The real threat was in breaking or spraining an ankle. There are steps in the middle of sidewalks, missing concrete sections, curb drop-offs that are as much as two feet high, and pot-holes everywhere. Obviously, there are no building codes or zoning laws in
I have two new friends in town: Hugo and Rainbow. They don't know one another, but are local characters that make each day a little more interesting. Hugo owns a fishing boat (he says) and wants to take me fishing. He also explained that he had a good trip last time out, catching three large yellowtails, several groupers, including one very large one, and a couple of red snapper. I negotiated with Hugo about the price and am down to about $135. I think if I wait a day or two longer, however, I can get a better price. Hugo invited me to lunch yesterday, which I thought nice until I realized that I was picking up the check. What a con artist. He spent 25 years in
My other new friend is Rainbow Hawk, a fixture in
Over the weekend, I found a Farmacia that burned a disc for me, putting my photos in a format that I can forward. I will do so after I finish this update and include photos of Hugo and Rainbow. Look for them in a couple of days after my webmaster edits, resizes, and whatever else she does to create the slideshows. Stay tuned. Hasta luego!
March 11, 2009 - From La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico
Believe it or not, it rained yesterday morning. Only for a few minutes and just a drizzle, it was just enough to wet the street. This was the first rain I have seen in the Baja since my arrival in mid-February. The sun came back out shortly after the sprinkle, so I guess the rain is over for another long spell in the desert. After the rain, I sat with Hugo in the sunshine on a Malecon bench and took off my shirt for a couple minutes. His friend, Pablo, age 72, also sat on the bench and we had a nice chat, mostly about pretty girls. I noticed that Pablo had a shattered lens in his glasses and asked why he didn't have them repaired. He said that they want 300 pesos ($20) to put a new lens in and he didn't have the money. Having worn glasses all my life, until January when cataract surgery corrected my vision, I really identified with what Pablo has to tolerate every day with a shattered lens. I told him that I would go with him after lunch and buy him a lens. It was only $20 and I would get to see the immediate effect of my donation, unlike many other donations one makes these days. It made me feel good to offer, which wasn't really a surprise. I can't fix the world, but maybe I can help a few folks along the way.
After lunch, Pablo and I headed toward the center of
On the way back to the Malecon, Pablo took me to a market where we strolled the aisles looking at the fresh meats, poultry, fish, fruits, and vegetables. I will return there today to take a few photos, especially of the pigs heads so proudly displayed in the meat cases.
I had lunch at Carlos and Charlie's, my first visit to this establishment made famous in
Last night, I had dinner in a delightful restaurant and talked with Nancy, a former teacher and court reporter from
March 12, 2009 - From La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico
CLOSED: GONE FISHING IN THE SEA OF CORTEZ!
Tune in tomorrow for the results.
March 13, 2009 - From La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico
Officially we weren't shut out on the fishing trip, if one wants to count the 30 eight-inch-long mackerel that we pulled onboard. Once, I reeled in a mackerel on each of the seven shad-dart type lures (no bait) attached to the line on our single rod. Surprise, almost nothing was as Hugo said it would be on the trip he offered me at the much discounted rate of $65. He told me that I would accompany a German couple who were going snorkeling and that while they were snorkeling he and I would get away for three hours of fishing.
Hugo owns no boat! He knows somebody with a boat, though, and when Hugo can get a commitment to charter said boat, the boat shows up and, no doubt, Hugo gets a commission. Hugo did not accompany us on the trip, merely waving adios from the beach as we departed at I should have known by the time of departure that few fish would be caught, since fishermen left at in
The trip was worth every penny of the $65. We rode along the shore about 45 minutes, looking for a place where Alexander might shoot a film (he has written two screen plays and shot two feature films), and entered a bay called Maralanda, which has a unique rock, shaped like a mushroom. I got a photo. As we left the bay, we saw and were surrounded by a huge number of dolphins, many swimming directly under our 26 foot panga (boat). There may have been as many as 100 dolphins in the pod and we were all delighted with the up-close experience and photos we took of these intelligent creatures.
Later, on the way home after only about 40 minutes of unsuccessful attempts to catch sardinas for bait on the shad-dart lures, we spotted several sea lions surfacing near our boat. Jaime, the young captain, stopped the boat and dropped the line with the seven shad-dart lures. He hooked four mackerel, only good for marlin bait and not for eating. He then handed me the rod and told me to fish. I hooked seven mackerel on the first attempt, then six more on each of the next two tries. I then dropped the line, hooked some more, and handed the rod to Alexander. He had never caught a fish in his life and in his first attempt reeled in five small mackerel. He seemed genuinely thrilled. I asked Jaime to do the same for
March 16, 2009 - From La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico
For those of you who think me crazy for my winters of traveling the world alone during the past eleven years, let me introduce you to Crazy Larry. Larry, a former Safeway check-out clerk, retired at age 52 four years ago, after 36 years with the company. Once married for six months at a young age, Larry is a confirmed bachelor, living in northern
I met Larry at the computer center and ran into him again when he was talking to Rainbow, our mutual friend. Larry has rented an apartment in
Larry reported the next day that he got home at after having danced a couple more times with Norma, unable to fend off her enthusiasm. Sunday, I helped Rainbow celebrate his 64th birthday by buying him breakfast. He is completely dependent on the largesse of others, but seems completely happy with his existence. Feliz Cumpleaños, Rainbow. Hasta luego!
March 18, 2009 - From La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico
Menudo! Larry accompanied me to the market on Monday. He was shopping for groceries, since he cooks most of his own meals in his apartment, and I was there to take some photos. I hope to send the next batch of photos sometime today, so they should appear tomorrow if all goes well.
Menudo is a delicious soup made of tripe (beef stomach lining) and hominy in a light tomato broth. Larry put me on to this soup at one of the small kitchens set up beside the market. They serve white menudo and red menudo, but Larry likes the red, although he has never tried the white. We ordered the soup, then added chopped, fresh cilantro, chopped onions, chili peppers, and salsa on our own from the condiment tray placed on our table. The soup, a hearty entire meal with the accompanying tortillas, was $2.00. Larry has been eating menudo often during his six-month trek around
March 20, 2009 - From La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico
I always say that traveling alone makes you reach out to locals and other travelers, but sometimes, the other travelers just reach out to you. That is what happened yesterday when I went to lunch at the great, local, seafood place I discovered across the street from the Malecon and the beach. I took an outside table, ordered a drink, and ordered from the extensive menu after struggling with the many options. For what I thought would be an interesting appetizer, I settled on steamed, chocolate clams, although the waiter urged me to eat them "pura" (raw). Having experienced the wonderful cramps and trips to the baño that often accompany raw seafood in third world countries, I told him that, "no, I want them cooked." The descriptive name comes from the brown, chocolate-like, color of the clam's shell. The three that I was served were large, wrapped in aluminum foil, and stuffed with chopped clam, tomato, onion, a little bacon, and cilantro. They were scrumptious! They were also all that I would have needed for lunch, but no, I had also ordered a fish filet stuffed with shrimp. The stuffing included several small shrimp and chopped lettuce, purple cabbage, onions, tomatoes, cilantro, and melted cheese. It was even better than the chocolate clams, but was a huge portion. I forced the entire meal, but felt bad later from the volume of food and didn't eat again the rest of the day. I will definitely try to replicate that meal at home, however.
The traveler who reached out to me, Lloyd from
Lloyd had driven down to
March 23, 2009 - From La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico
Sunday, I marched in a parade! In
I spent the weekend accompanying Crazy Larry on bar crawls through parts of
The first thing the guitarist did when he got the guitar back was to retune it, but he gave up and picked up his back-up guitar. A couple of songs later, he picked up Larry's guitar, retuned it again, and started to play, apparently satisfied that he had gotten it back in playing condition. With this band, the tuning was unimportant, they were that bad, but I was sufficiently embarrassed that the gringos had stopped the music that I waved goodbye to Larry and the waitress and ambled the three blocks home. I haven't seen Larry today, but I can hardly wait to hear his version of the scene that I witnessed. I don't call him Crazy Larry for nothing. Hasta luego!
March 25, 2009 - From La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico
Jorge, who was busing tables at the Bismark seafood restaurant the other night while I dined, had a story that is all too common among working Mexican folks. His parents emigrated to the
I am in the final week of this year's adventure and making plans to have my laundry done one last time before packing for the flight home. The process involves throwing or giving away old clothes (Crazy Larry is already the recipient of two of my favorite, but shrinking Hawaiian shirts). I need to pack souvenirs and supplies one final time before next Tuesday's departure on Continental Air to
March 27, 2009 - From La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico
As we speak, my laundry is being done for the final time before heading home. That means that this afternoon will be spent packing my suitcase for the trip, keeping travel clothes accessible while allowing for a couple of days in San Jose del Cabo. It is not an easy exercise and requires some pretty sophisticated planning. Since I have absolutely nothing else to do the rest of the day, I am probably up to the task.
Yesterday, I had even fewer responsibilities, so I got into a couple of wonderful philosophical/political discussions with Rainbow Hawk and Fred, a Canadian phone company retiree who has lived in
Last night, Crazy Larry and I went to dinner and stopped in a relatively new restaurant, not the one we intended. We selected the place solely because of Fabiana, the beautiful, 22 year old waitress who greeted us as we passed. We were the only customers in the place, so we got Fabiana’s undivided attention. We were both enthralled with the young lady. It was a fusion restaurant and our dinners were excellent. They had no bar, so the chef ran to the grocery store and bought a bottle of wine for me and a Dos Equus cerveza for Larry. The price was just what it would have cost at the store, so the drinks were very reasonable, the bottle even cheaper than two glasses of wine I had consumed the night before. I drank my couple of glasses of wine and carried the remainder back to the restaurant beside my hotel where we sit daily for our discussions. They brought me a glass for my wine, even though the restaurant sells wine, and made no fuss at all about me carrying in my own beverage. I only drank half a glass and gave the rest to the waiter who was most appreciative. We have become very good friends with the wait staff at the restaurant and are constantly teasing one another in Spanglish, a combination of both languages. It is the kind of relationship that one only develops when one stays in a location for a long time. The relationship both Larry and I enjoy with the staff at this restaurant is not one that can be developed in a week.
Apparently remembering my trip to Rio de Janeiro, a reader has written me wondering why so many of my photos are men, going so far as to accuse me of a tilt in my sexual preferences - tongue in cheek, I hope. Such is not the case, but I don’t really tally the gender of my photo subjects. Today, however, I will send the last of my photos from the Baja. Suffice it to say, there will be no question about my sexual preference after these photos. I spent last evening taking photos of every willing female, including the lovely Fabiana. Hasta luego!
March 30, 2009 - From San Jose del Cabo, Baja Sur, Mexico
The Tropic of Cancer. That was the answer to many a geography question I posed on tests for my students quite a few years ago and yesterday my bus crossed that imaginary line of latitude in the mountains of the great Sonoran Desert on the Baja south of La Paz. It was a scenic and restful three-hour trip from
For much of the way the two-lane road wasn't bad, but when the road sign warned "carretera sinuoso" (winding road), it was an accurate description of the road ahead. We crossed relatively high mountains, although there were many higher ones nearby, on the switchback ribbon of highway with numerous signs warning of "curva peligrosa" (dangerous curve). But, the driver handled the curves safely and, despite the fact that I am a nervous rider in such situations, I only leaned into turns on a couple of occasions. I can't imagine living in the desert with so much brown and so little other color, except for the pockets of greenery in the valleys where there is enough water to sustain palm trees and other green vegetation, but the desert has its own beauty. Great saguaro cactuses dotted the dry landscape and dry creek beds that carry off the occasional showers were much in evidence. It was an interesting ride. Roadwork was being done for about five miles just north of
If you are looking for an isolated beach vacation, try Los Barriles (I have seen it spelled with both one "L" and two). About two hours south of
The Yuca Inn was full, so my friend, Yuca, had obtained a room for me at Señor Mañana, a small hotel two doors away that Yuca sold off a few years back. The bigger hotel was too much work for him. Yuca informed me one Sunday that he had to get up off his hammock two times that day, a far too busy day. He lies in his hammock behind the small registration desk adjacent to his bedroom, watching television, and only arises when duty calls or Lola, his British bulldog, needs a walk. Yuca is down to three rooms rented on a daily basis and three rented monthly to locals and all were full last night. That is work enough for Yuca and, surprisingly, I understand. I leave for home tomorrow and haven't negotiated a price for the room in which I slept last night, but these things take time. I'm certain that Señor Mañana's rooms will be under $30/night, which means that in the six weeks that I have been here, I have only paid more than $32 for one night's lodging - my first night on the Baja when I arrived after dark.
It has been a very successful and restful trip! I have enjoyed great weather, one day of sensational fishing experiences, another boat ride with German author Alexander Ziebell and his wife,
I will be traveling with my family to
place may be as safe an international travel destination
as one can find, especially in San Jose del Cabo and
are many beautiful young ladies in
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