Flora, Fauna and Rocks

It’s been a while since I felt like I had much to say. I spent most of last week dealing with the closing of my house in Albuquerque. Not much to say about it except it’s done, thankfully. It’s kind of bittersweet for me. I really loved that house. Do I have any regrets? Heck no!

It’s been pretty hot and humid here the past week. Yuck. But, the plants are loving it. Here are some pictures I took around the neighborhood and our yard.

 

A popular pastime around here is rock stacking. Looks like some skill is involved, and possibly some Super Glue.

 

Here is a picture of our very small backyard, the site of our future swimming pool.

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The sellers of this house left behind some interesting yard art. I think they were all made at ceramics classes at the Club Deportivo.

 

Here is a picture of the front of the house they are building across the street from us. It’s kind of starting to look like a house.

new house

We were invited to James 60th birthday party last week. It was at the Palapa Griega, a restaurant on the beach. The Dudes, a popular local band, was playing loudly so it was hard to have a conversation. Crowded, noisy restaurants seem to be a popular venue for parties here. Not exactly our cup of tea, but we had fun anyway.

The Dudes

The Dudes

I wanted to share this picture of Gringo Pete’s Condo/Hotel new paint job. I think he needs to hire a proofreader for his painters.

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Adios Queridos Amigos

Late Friday evening we bid Larry and Anita hasta luego. We enjoyed fun filled days with them, and, thanks to Larry’s bonus adventure ambulance ride to the local rescue center Don and I now know medical help is minutes away. Big thanks also to Anita for her drill sergeant ways, and endless energy. Our house is in much better shape for her efforts. We made several trips to the Rescate Thrift Store to donate all of the unwanted items the sellers left behind. Now we have plenty of room to buy replacements for all of the items we left in Albuquerque about which we often reminisce. 😦

Don made a quick trip to Phoenix to pick up stuff we couldn’t fit in the U Haul when we moved. Our friend, Tracy, kindly stored it for us. Knowing that we would be heading to Phoenix soon I ordered some rugs on line, and had them shipped to Tracy’s. Now we need to buy some furniture to put on them. The dining table we inherited has a glass top which, of course, is always covered in fingerprints, etc. Why anyone would ever buy a glass top table of any sort is beyond me. I’m hoping to find a big, round, copper top table to replace it, but will settle for a pretty wood table.

We also bought some kayaks! They are just like the ones our friends in Florida, Joanna and Mark, have. We had so much fun using them when we visited Jo and Mark last year. They are really cool since you pedal instead of paddle. Woo hoo, can’t wait to try them out.

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Now we are wondering who will be brave enough to visit us next?

The Journey Home, or 12 Hours? What Happened?

It’s sad that I won’t be able to see the house being built across the street get completed, but at least I got one mystery solved before departing. All cement and mortar is mixed in either a wheelbarrow by hand, or in a small electric powered mixer. They were working on the second floor and were ready to pour the concrete slab, and I was wondering how they were going to do it. Option 1 would be to use the power mixer, sitting on the ground, and pour the mixed concrete into either 5 gallon buckets (their favorite measuring devices), or to fill wheelbarrows and walk them up a wooden plank to the second floor. Option 2 would be to muscle the electric mixer up to the second floor and hand carry the ingredients in buckets up the plank where they would be mixed, and poured directly into the forms. I was pleasantly surprised the next day to see two giant cement trucks, and a huge concrete pumper parked outside. It took less than two hours to pour and hand finish all the concrete for the second floor. The following day work resumed mixing mortar in wheelbarrows and hand building the brick walls.

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Valerie

Valerie, the seat thief.

Friday evening we made our final trip to Guaymas to catch the bus back to Phoenix. The bus, pretty much loaded to capacity, departed at 11:30 pm, right on time for the nine or so hour trip back to the states. Our first glitch was finding a lady named Valerie sitting in my seat. Not to be rude, we tried to sit someplace else, but there weren’t many empty seats. Fortunately, Valerie realized she was in the wrong seat and graciously relinquished it. Being totally hyped for the journey home, I immediately fell asleep and one and a half hours later totally missed our first stop at Hermosillo. Two hours later we encountered some type of security checkpoint in Benjamin Hill/Santa Ana. I was still in a near catatonic state, drooling, drowsy, and the bus was so dark that I thought we were waiting for a train to pass. I kept nodding off and coming around, thinking “this is a really long train”. We had been stopped for over two hours before I realized we were waiting to go through our first check point. With only a few lanes open, everybody was jockeying to get their position in line. When out turn finally arrived, we got off for ten minutes while they searched the bus and X-rayed our luggage, then back on the road.

The next stop came at the Mexican side of Nogales where we got a 20 minute beak while the bus was washed down to keep unwanted bugs and seeds from entering the states. It was snack time, so I scanned the snack bar for anything I recognized, or even wanted to eat. I spotted a pile of Coyotas, a traditional treat consisting of brown sugar sandwiched between two sugar cookies. I had earlier sampled a Coyota while waiting with Don at the Chevy dealer in Guaymas. It was IMG-20170610-WA0004filled with honey, so I assumed they all contained honey. As we approached the Coyota stand, I was dumb struck like a goat staring at a new fence when I saw the variety of fillings they put into their Coyotas. Everything being in Spanish, I recognized some as ham and beef, but the majority contained a variety of mystery fillings. I had just watched a lady choose a bag labeled “cajeta” for her children, so figured they had the best chance of being sweet, so I also grabbed a bag.   As it turns out, cajeta is Spanish for caramel, so I dodged a potential gag attack with that one. Anita, behind me in line, wanted a cup of coffee, so she was given a cup of hot water, powdered creamer and a pouch of instant coffee. I guess it was OK since she also avoided a gag attack.

At that check point, a guy came on board and began explaining to the locals, what they were about to encounter at the next checkpoint, the dreaded US border. He gave a 30 minute speech and at first we had no idea what he was saying since it was all in Spanish, but it gradually sank in when he mimed a pat-down, and body cavity search as he was explaining what to expect at the next stop, plus the lady (Karla) in front of us spoke English, and gave us a recap of the whole thing. There were always people on the bus who spoke English, and were friendly and willing to help. At the US border in Nogales, we once again departed the bus, and formed a line with all our bags placed in a line in front of us. The border guards produced a cute golden retriever that proceeded to sniff the baggage. He periodically stopped, placed his paw on the bag, and waited for the officer to asked who owned the bag, what was inside it, and if it could be opened. Each time, the canine got a doggie treat. After several false alarms, we began thinking the dog was just picking stuff at random to get a treat. He did spend a large amount of time sniffing a child’s backpack containing goodies. Good thing I had left my Coyotas on the bus, or they may have ended up inside a golden retriever. Passing the sniff test, we picked up our bags, and headed through customs. This was the first time in our whole trip where we were asked to show passports. We were then asked the usual questions; “Where were you visiting in Mexico?” Reply; “San Carlos” (truth).”Did you buy anything?” Reply; “No”. (lie). We bought a few trinkets for friends back in the states, and I could have just easily waved my hand, and said “These are not the trinkets you are looking for”. Next came another X-ray machine where we exited the building into the United States. We had made it. Back home with no more delays all the way to Phoenix. At least that was what we thought, but NO! The Department of Transportation decided to do their version of a pat down. They tested everything on the bus, brakes, lights, horn, wipers, will it start, will it stop, will it go forward, will it go backwards. Then they drove over a maintenance pit and gave the undercarriage a hernia exam. In total, it took approximately 45 minutes. At this point we just looked at all these delays as “getting our money’s worth.” One more hour to Tucson, five minute stop, and two hours to Phoenix. In total, our nine hour trip took about 13 hours.

On our final trip, we met many friendly people who helped us with the language barrier, including my seat thief Valerie, a convention scheduler named Karla, Lorraine who lives San Carlos, and some dude from Mazatlan headed to Seattle. Snacks on the return trip consisted of a bag-o-chips, uno bottle of water, and a chewy goodie bar, not quite as good as the trip down, but still nice to have. All and all this excitement only cost a total of 220 US dollars for the both of us. Keep in mind everything that could happen did happen, such as the rare DOT examination, so most trips back to the states will most likely be less exciting. Anita and I will definitely do it again, a good time was had by all.

moonrise

Moonrise over San Carlos.

 

The Reports of My Death Are Greatly Exaggerated!

Life down here has been quite pleasant. The house overlooks the 14th hole of the local golf course. Not being a golfer, I can only conjecture on the accuracy of the following events. The green appears to be in pretty good condition, the fairway is in fair condition, until it gradually fades out and turns to mostly dirt. The rest of the course consists of what I will refer to as “the rough”, which is where most of the balls go. It is a pleasure to watch the “golfers” tee off then spend the next 10 minutes scouring the rocks and bushes for their balls. Based on the success of finding your own ball in all the carnage, I am guessing that they end up finding someone else’s, decide that it is a better drive than theirs, and sneak it back onto the fairway. Unfortunately their house is out of ear shot, so I miss most of the colorful commentary.

One day we journeyed to Empalme, a nearby town, to do some quality shopping at the local flea market. Between the four of us, we had an extensive shopping list that no self respecting home owner should be without — a dustpan, cast iron skillet, binoculars, and a jig saw. We scored everything except the saw, so procured a few other unnecessary items to make up for it.

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The following day we chartered a boat to do some deep-sea fishing. With an empty ice chest and a basket full of hope and good cheer we boarded the En Sueno. We were all like Ralphie in “A Christmas Story” waiting to see Santa, smiles plastered across our faces and knowing the fish would all but jump into the boat until our cooler could hold no more. The ocean was great, with waves just high enough to make for a cheap carnival ride, the sky blue, dolphins swimming along with the boat, and fish nowhere to be seen. We think we might have hooked a sailfish (pez vela), but the nasty booger just ate our bait and swam someplace else to digest. By the end of the day we departed En Sueno with happy memories, semi-established sea legs, and an empty ice chest.

The major incident, and thus the name for this segment of the blog, is my (Larry’s) near death experience. As some of you may know, 20 months ago I had open-heart surgery to replace some leaky valves. I literally went in for a valve job. Because of an abnormally slow heartbeat, I also had a pacemaker implanted to make sure my pulse rate never drops below 60. That said, now for the rest of the story.

I had been feeling a little tired lately, but thought it was all the snorkeling, shopping, and alcohol consumption. I laid down for a small power nap and was awakened by Anita saying, “you look like shit”, or something of that nature. I was laying in a pool of sweat unable to figure out where I was, so Sue immediately called the local EMT’s, to haul my ass to the Rescate, a community supported clinic. My sugar level had dropped to 43 (I think you become a zombie at 40) and my oxygen level was 81 (you become a zombie at 70). As soon as they hooked me up to oxygen I began improving. I was in the clinic for about two hours, on oxygen and an IV to replace the fluids I had left pooled in the sheets back at the house. The doc said everything that had just happened was all due to low oxygen levels. I am pretty sure his discharge orders were to no longer do any strenuous activities, such as cleaning and other household chores. One important thing to mention at this point is the quality of Mexico’s healthcare. Although it quite often takes days for workers to show up for scheduled appointments, it literally took five (5, cinco, half of 10) minutes for the ambulance to arrive at our doorstep. The care provided was quick and professional. The only drawback was the attending doctor was out shopping at Home Depot in Guaymas when he got the call, but was only minutes away from the clinic. The doctor, who spoke excellent English, and actually had a sense of humor, was not only a physician, but a surgeon as well, so he had a profound understanding of pacemakers and heart issues. He compared me to a ’49 Studebaker; old, still running, but hard to get spare parts for. The clinic has no billing guidelines, so you just give donations for services rendered, possibly live chickens, mothers-in-law, pesos, or whatnot.

Larry and Anita’s Mexican Adventure (continued)

After finally arriving at Guaymas, we were met by Sue, our personal chauffeur who gracefully whisked us away to their luscious casa, complete with a casita downstairs for guests, and/or maid, and chef workers such as ourselves. The first night we went to Tortugas for some scrumptious sea bass and cervezas, or as we say in the States, fish and beer. The second night we went to the Soggy Peso on the beach where we had snacks and beer while watching tourists playing a local skill game of “hang the ring” where they swing a small ring hanging on a string so that it catches on a nail sticking out of a wooden post. It was fun to watch, and even more fun to chastise and harass the participants.

We have discovered an abundance of exciting activities in San Carlos. Why just the other day the mailman drove by, apparently a rare event, and then we saw a golfer trying to “play through” a small heard of horses on the 14th hole. It doesn’t get more exciting than that.

There is a house under construction across the road from Don and Sue’s place. I am amazed at how they build with virtually no power tools using adobe, plaster, and concrete. It might be cost effective, but it takes about a year to get a house built. When completed, the house can withstand anything Mother Nature can toss at it, including a nuke accidentally dropped by a passing inattentive pilot.

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We have been snorkeling every other day. The waters are marvelous, warm 78°, very clear, and full of fish. We might look like beached whales floundering in the shallows with our butt white bottoms sticking out of the water, but the fish apparently don’t care, and there is virtually nobody on the shore to critique our snorkeling skills.

One night we had dinner at JJ’s Tacos. His motto is “Who Cares?” He sells a variety of T-shirts printed with questionable mottos, and loves to gab with his customers, always ending his conversations with “Who Cares?”, unless you can’t afford the check.

Getting things done down here can be questionable. “I will be there in ten minutes” means “I may be there today, but more likely tomorrow.” We went to the Chevy dealer to get a registration sticker for Don’s newly purchased Chevy Colorado, and it took over two hours to get the sticker printed. At least the salesperson spoke English and loved to tell stories, so the time whizzed by, only seeming like three hours instead of two. We have learned that in Mexico patience is not only a virtue, it’s a requirement. But who cares?

Helpful Houseguests

We have been keeping busy with our visitors, Larry and Anita, the past few days. For those of you who know Anita it should be no surprise that she has managed to organize our kitchen, my sewing room, and thanks to a bit of Anita’s whip cracking, we can now get both of our vehicles into the garage. We greatly appreciate her help!

During our organizing efforts we began speculating that the sellers might be hoarders since they left so much broken and useless stuff behind. We did make some interesting discoveries like a bag full of sunglasses, many of which were pretty cool.

sunglasses

The hot tub is now out of the foyer, and in it’s intended location on the patio. We have heard that the sellers want to buy it back if we don’t want it. Since most of the stuff they have left behind doesn’t work we may take them up on it.

hot tub

It hasn’t been all work, though. We’ve been to the Soggy Peso and Tortuga’s, a local restaurant owned by an ex-pat Frenchman, where we had some delicious sea bass. One evening we went to JJ’s Tacos. JJ is a local success story. He started out selling his tacos at a roadside stand, and now has his own restaurant. He is quite a character. When you lament about eating or drinking too much he will ask you “Who cares?”  so, of course, you eat and drink some more. One of the more interesting items on his menu is the Donkey which is a very large burrito you can get stuffed with chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, or any combination of these. In addition to the carne/seafood stuffings, they add tomatoes, avocados, and “sheese.” If you are really hungry you can get a Super Donkey which is frighteningly large. Don has managed to eat one of these several times, and they almost always takes him out for a day or two. — Will we ever learn? —  In addition to food JJ sells all kinds of fun piñatas, and t-shirts that say things like “Your pants say yoga, but your butt says tacos.”

Friday night we invited a few of our new friends over to party with us, and to meet Larry and Anita. Anita was a huge help with the party prep. She made some delicious bacon wrapped chicken appetizers, carnitas, and chicken fajitas. I rounded out the menu with guacamole and chocolate chip cookies. A good time was had by all.

party

 

Larry and Anita’s Great Mexican Adventure

Being adventurous types, we decided to test the Mexican bus system by using it to visit our friends in San Carlos, Mexico, departing from Phoenix, Arizona.

What we expected:

A rusty old clunker that used to be a hearse snatched from the grave moments before being consumed by a junkyard car crusher, smoking like it’s primary fuel source is recycled 30 weight motor oil, and smelling like they forgot to remove it’s final passenger.  A 450 pound driver, wearing a sombrero that barely fits through the door, with a mouth with at least one gold and one missing tooth, a five o’clock shadow that passed five o’clock about ten days ago, a total English vocabulary consisting of “Badges? We don’t need no stinking badges!”, and a cargo consisting of “locals” of various ages and walks of life bearing live chickens, baskets of mystery meat and questionable produce.

What we found:

businside busState of the art climate controlled modern 40 passenger bus built by Volvo, built-in entertainment  screens in each fully reclinable and comfortable seat, a clean courteous, bilingual driver, dual his/hers restrooms, and a free lunch for the road.  The trip was very pleasant and smooth, and since we departed around 11:20 pm, we slept through most of the nine hour trip.

Noteworthy events:

We stopped at the border in Nogales, AZ to go through customs, which consisted of departing the bus, placing luggage on an x-ray machine, then getting back on the bus. It took about ten minutes which was kind of let down since I was looking forward to a border patrol body cavity search (BPBCS).  We  made one more stop just prior to entering Hermosillo, Mexico for a “spot check” for whatever illegal stuff might be on the bus.  The road is under construction, so there is a lot of lane changing through various work zones, and I chose one of those lane changes to try out the restroom.  Because of the vehicle movement, it is recommended that all passengers, men and women alike, be seated to “take care of business.” Just as I was in the middle of dropping my pants prior to making the moon landing, the bus began a series of radical lane changes.  My head slammed into the door, causing it to pop open, revealing me standing there with my pants half way down.  Fortunately there were only nine passengers on the bus and no one was looking my way.   At no time were we ever asked to show our passports or fill out any paperwork during the trip.

All in all the, trip down was quite pleasant and very cost effective.  U.S. seniors get a discount fare of $45 one-way, with regular folks paying $80 one-way.  I say U.S. seniors because on the U.S. side you need to be 62 years old, but in Mexico you are a senior at 60, so if you are between 60 and 65, your return trip would be cheaper than the trip down.

Bye Bye Chauffeur Service

After enjoying months of being driven around by Don I decided it was time to get my own car. I tried driving his Tacoma a few weeks ago when I wanted to go to a Thursday morning breakfast, and he had to take his new truck somewhere. It did not go well. The Tacoma is a stick with a challenging clutch, and our driveway is steep, and narrow with a sharp curve. After several attempts I gave up when I nearly took out the corner of the house and the right side of the truck. The episode made me get serious about car shopping. Since Don had a fairly good car buying experience at the Chevy dealer in Guaymas I decided to get a Chevy as well. I ended up getting a Trax. It’s a cute little car that wasn’t very expensive, came with free insurance for a year, and gets good gas mileage. Gas is over $6/gallon here so this important. It’s fun to drive, and most importantly, I think I can navigate our driveway with doing damage to the house or car.

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My new car.

Guest Blog Tomorrow!

Our friends Larry and Anita will be arriving in Guaymas tomorrow at 7 AM, after an eight hour bus ride from Phoenix. Larry has agreed to do a guest blog about their experience. Stay tuned!

Pool Party

Last Sunday we were invited to James and Diane’s house for a swim and a BBQ. James is one of Don’s golf buddies, and I met Diane at one of the Thursday morning breakfast gatherings. They moved to San Carlos from California about a year ago once the house they were building was finished. James bought their seaside lot several years ago. They built a small casita to stay in while their house was being built, which took about a year. What a house! What a view! Here are some pics:

We are only slightly envious of the view.

Carbone

We met Carbone, a handsome, blue pitbull, who James and Diane recently rescued from the Tucson Humane Society. Carbone is about one year old so he will get even bigger. He has a perfect #1 on his chest.

He’s a very friendly fellow, at least to people. He doesn’t go into the pool, but he likes to interact with those in the pool.

We had a great time. We are going to have to start entertaining a bit so we don’t get a moocher reputation. Next week our friends Larry and Anita are coming from Albuquerque for a visit. We’ll do a trial run of our Mexican hosting skills on them.