Cutting Up

Moving on from some controversy surrounding the Whole Foods chain. I sat down to detail the experience relative to my second birthday gift – a Stihl chain saw. At about 850 words and nowhere near the end of the tale I abandoned that effort.

Happy Birthday To Me

Let me just make a couple salient points:

Whatever you are buying in the U.S may be available in Mexico.  It may have the identical model number and yet the Mexican version is old(er) and dated. Be cautious of items that have a letter after a model number. For example: Stihl chainsaw Model MS 211 or MS 211c or STIHL MS 211 C-BE Mini Boss® Chainsaw with Easy2Start & Picco Duro 3 etc. Mexico seems to be lacking in subtext in this regard; later this could become quite important. Like when parts are required or even service.

Half Way Down

Bottom line – If you decide to buy the newest model of some item, be aware that you may not find that model in Mexico and thus could be without support or parts being available in Mexico. There are MANY Stihl Dealerships in Mexico; and there are many models not supported by the Mexican outlets.

Nothing But A Wood Lot

It is all too common for Mexican sales force to take advantage of a foreigner. Of course this is a common thread in other countries including the U.S.

We ended up with a damaged chain due to a defective bar. A defective bar ruined two chains. The dealership’s’ total inventory. They sent us off after three visits with a working saw and a dulled bad chain.

We tried to buy a replacement rather than arguing. As stated they had no stock. So off we went to Xalapa – a larger dealership – where we purchased two chains and two sharpening files. We explained what happened in Coatepec at their counterpart’s store. This included the additional fact that our new saw returned to the dealer came back empty of gas and oil when it had been delivered full. This as well as having an extremely dulled chain.

Suffice it to write the experience with the second gift was less than satisfying. But we did fell the tree.

It All Comes Down To This

We had several neighbors come by asking for the wood knowing we do not burn wood here. It was offered to our worker – so already spoken for.

Life is good in Mexico – but it does not come without cost. Use caution, double check EVERYTHING and by all means be kind and patient. You will not gain any ground here by outshouting or displaying great aggravation – this is not the Mexican way and will be used as an excuse to dismiss you and ‘your kind’.

We are off to Rancho del Cielo, with its grand views, to cut away some growth that is obscuring that view. Looking forward to getting away from the Presidential campaign at that sequester location. More soon. Stay Tuned!

The Pressures On


The other day Kim, a Blogger friend, and I had a lively commentary going regarding Whole Foods chain – sometimes called “Whole Paycheck’ according to Kim.

And this in the news:

“Whole Foods said that it’s cutting 1,500 jobs.”

The grocery store chain said this represents 1.6% of its workforce

The company said it was conducting the cuts to “invest in technology upgrades while improving its cost structure.” The cost structure (as in sky high pricing) was part of our discussion; and obviously the thoughts of others and me have not gone unnoticed by Whole Foods Corporate.

“This summer the stock had plunged 40% over the last six months as the company missed analyst forecasts for sales and profit. That’s partly because the company, which is jokingly called Whole Paycheck, has slashed prices to shed its image of being too expensive.”

From these reports one might assume Whole Foods will recover with a more competitive spirit. On the other hand cutting the labor force and apparently demoting employees to accommodate the changes rather than lowering the CEO’s take home pay is harsh.  Labor invariably loses ;-(

In this light I received a handy technology upgrade and labor saving device for my birthday, two actually.

For years we have hired out folks to help clean the green from our lives. Do not get me wrong – the Calypso Couple is TOTALLY GREEN save the humidity spawned algae, moss and  green mold that is pervasive in our areas here in Mexico.  Suffice it to say we are in the tropical zone and not the arid parts of Mexico.

The key to minimizing the problem is air flow.

Our decking at the Rancho for example is about 700 square feet of Mexican tile which goes green and black quickly. The walls surrounding our Casita are stained black as well as the cement walk ways, our stationary Lance camper is covered in mold etc.

Mold loves leather by the way – so shoes, jackets, hats and bags also gather the moss – ugh! You get the idea.

I am somewhat embarrassed to say the other day when complaining about all this to our friend and chef extraordinaire Guadalupe at Restaurant Acamalin, she reported using a small pressure washer to get rid of deck mold – a light went off in my head. “Of course – a pressure washer!”

Now I have a humongous Honda power washer in our garage. However the garage is in New Mexico – oops.

We tracked one down via Google and a thick Truper Tool catalog supplied by one of our Ferretería amigos (hardware store friend). In Spanish it is a “hidrolavadora de alta presión” by the way.

We still consigned some labor from a friend in the Hood to do most of the operating of our snazzy orange washer (the remover of the new black in this case).

About the Size of R2D2

The results of this device were substantially grand. What took two people an entire day to remove just the growth on our Lance camper was reduced to two laboring with machine for two hours – wow!

The small pressure washer works!

Now we have set out to remove green/black staining on our perimeter walls – gunk that has been accumulating for more than 10 years.

BEFORE on left AFTER on right

I should suggest that the pressure washers are slightly less dough in the U.S. – buy there and bring one down if you have room (in your car – it will not accommodate carry-on luggage at a bulky 40 plus pounds. We bought locally (more on this next time) in Coatepec for about twenty-five  dollars U.S. more than what it was up there – hardly worth the hassle of driving one down when it takes the space of at least one guitar ;-)

This device definitely goes on our “Things That Work” list. Moving this way – get one!

Next time – birthday item two. Stay Tuned!

The Love Affair Continues

…With cheese. Sabado (Saturday) we made another cheese run. Discovered yet another terrific cheese at Fredrica’s table.

It should be noted that Fredrica and us go way back. We had been buying her cheese for a few years, then in August of 2009 Anita and I interviewed and photographed her and her kitchen facility for Global Post News. Cook’s tour photos below are interspersed from that interview with current photos gleaned from her Facebook location.

Fredrica is from Italy. She usually has a broad smile on her face and always is gracious and full of energy on the subject of cheese. Fredrica explained the procedure to make ricotta to Anita armed with pen and paper. We came away ready to make some. We did. We are here to tell you it is not an easy process – we continue to buy the finished product from Fredrica.

Fredrica In her kitchen during our 2009 interview.

Aging wonderfully!

Anita takes notes on the art of making ricotta.


Muscle required.

Big pots, timing and knowledge – ingredients for successful ricotta.

Ricotta pure!


Then there are the harder cheeses – yum!

Fredrica’s business continues to grow. Terra Terra

Now a name, lectures, demonstrations and product appearing all around our tri-cities Lucky us!

The picture says it all – well the taste REALLY says it all.


It is aging.

Labels and packaging.

We are a lucky lot to have this growing business right under our noses here in Xalapa-Coatepec-Xico. Do not leave our area without treating yourself.

Stay Tuned!



To Brie or Not to Brie

I am a cheese fan – mi esposa is not. She is most gracious at serving and accommodating my cheese passion. I would like to think I am as considerate – but we will let that go for now.

We recently bought some pretty fine Mexican manufactured brie cheese from Superama (a high end Walmart). Brie can be hard to find or we would reduce the reasons to contribute to Walmart – do not get me started on the Walton’s.

Yesterday the cupboard was bare of fromage – so off to the Coatepec Saturday market for a late breakfast and C H E E S E.

Six years ago we reported on the Coatepec Bio Regional Organic Market. You can see some photos and read that story HERE. I recommend reading.

Not sure if it goes by the same title, but the same vendors more or less and products appear just around the corner to the left of the southwest end of the park. It is a one way street – so you cannot turn left – park on the main drag of the park and walk or go around some long blocks to get back.

If it is Saturday – make it to the Coatepec park and ask anybody – you will find it. We have friends and acquaintances that go back nearly ten years. Folks are still selling their wares on Saturday – some of the items and food stuff can not be found anywhere else in our area.

The market has grown considerably over the years since my last report.  I will let the pictures tell the rest of the story:

Anita pauses at the entry to visit with our friend Margarita

A small section of a very large room

Plants abound. In the distance CHEESE

Tortilla cozys cozy on up to a CHEESE vendor

C H E E S E!

We order 200 grams of the ricotta with chives – yum!

200 grams packed in a banana leaf

Food is prepared on the spot

REAL chocolate

35 pesos for a loaf of designer baked bread

We spotted our silversmith amigo across the room (in foreground)


Silversmith’s esposa man’s the display table

Anita orders a silver music staff earring for me – sweet!

Vendors are pretty laid-back ;-)

You will not go home empty handed – so much stuff

Worth a Saturday visit. Later we had brunch across from the park.

As one ages like fine wine and some cheeses, the body begins to dictate what one will eat rather than controlled by the desires of one’s taste buds. So enjoy your favorite foods now because one day they may not be welcome.

George Orwell said, “A human being is primarily a bag for putting food into; the other functions and faculties may be more godlike, but in point of time they come afterwards. A man dies and is buried, and all his words and actions are forgotten, but the food he has eaten lives after him in the sound or rotten bones of his children. I think it could be plausibly argued that changes of diet are more important than changes of dynasty or even of religion….Yet it is curious how seldom the all-importance of food is recognized. You see statues everywhere to politicians, poets, bishops, but none to cooks or bacon-curers or market gardeners.”

If you are in Coatepec or nearby on any Saturday visit the Market.  Stay Tuned!

Machete Review
Not the Film

The other night we were watching an old television series on Anthony Bourdain’s Cook’s Tour series video (circa 2001-2002). “A Cook’s Tour – S01E16 – Puebla Where Good Cooks Come From.” We had not seen it. You can watch it on the Internet (HERE). The episode before it was also fun to watch, S01E15 “Tamales and Iguana, Oaxacan Style”.

In the Puebla episode Bourdain is relegated to killing a turkey for a Mexican fiesta. He appears on camera with a good size machete to perform the deed. After the traditional shot of mescal poured down the bird’s gullet. Bourdain explains, “Eddie’s wife has to step in and show me the proper technique. Proving, once again, women are really in charge here.” Cut away to Eddie and Tony plucking the bird. Perhaps this was a first, seeing a television chef wielding a machete in the course of preparing a meal?

Chef Anthony Bourdain with the BIG blade.

NOB, dare I suggest most chefs around the world, even tool guys do not necessarily understand the finer points of the machete. It took years for me to gather valid and confirmed information on the subject.  A couple of misleading points are that length and heft make it better – not so. It is more a matter of choosing the right tool for the job.

The long blades will wear an arm down when using a machete in the coffee finca for example. Gardeners tend to use shorter blades and must continually keep a sharp edge going. The blade is typically 32.5 to 45 centimeters (12.8 to 17.7 in) long and usually under 3 millimeters (0 .12 in) thick.

I found the most valuable information from talking with campesinos (peasant farmers/field workers). These hombres are using the machete daily and are often seen sporting them on their hip well after the work day has been completed. They are worn like a badge of distinction. The campesinos are a proud lot, usually common laborers to semi-skilled.

Many people in the rural regions own machetes to clear the constant overgrowth of jungle bush. In the recent drug cartel wars of the Mexico region, many homicides and decapitations are suspected of being committed with machetes or similar tools.

I have witnessed the taking down of some very large trees with nothing more than a hand-wielded machete. I have also seen them used to cut cement block pieces to right length.

The machete is occasionally provided with a simple cord loop as a sort of lanyard, and a canvas scabbard—although in the regions we live machetes are valuable tools, the users may make or buy a decorative leather scabbard to protect them and make them readily available. Often machetes are passed down from father to son. At the same time these are not expensive blades, most often under ten U.S. dollars. Often the scabbards are more expensive than the blades.

Back in February of 2014 we wrote a profile on very expensive (relatively) machetes and fancy scabbards made in a little town north of Puerto Escondido (Nopala, Oaxaca).

We brought this one home.

Not long ago a friend who is a local campesino and occasional helper to the Calypso Couple showed me his coveted blade given to him by his father. This was no decorative fancy schmancy cutter. This was the real deal. I asked if I could see (hold) the tool. It had a solid feel yet not heavy to the hand and arm. It bore the scares of many years of use and yet the blades edge was shiny as the day, no – better than, it was new.

I went to my bucket container that holds my several blades.

My small collection of machetes.

My friend picked each up and “knocked” on them at various points along the blade. Some had a ring to them others not. When he came to a dull sounding blade he smiled, sized it up checking both sides, “This is a good one.”

Then he knocked his knuckles against his own blade. It too had a dull sound as compared to some of the others.

I suggested if he had time we scoot into Coatepec where he knew the place to buy a proper machete and perhaps a new scabbard.

We Came Home with This Beauty

The maker of my new blade is in Colombia. Gavilan machetes are manufactured by Incolma whose tradition began in 1787.  ”Gavalin machetes are recognized worldwide as top quality machetes with the best steels”.

Here is a video opinion – Warning this guy is scary -

Here is a lesson from a Gringo -

Gavalin machetes have a solid feel and hold their edge well.  The GI SPEC 18” machetes is one of the best we’ve seen.

When you hold a machete manufactured by Incolma, you feel that you the legacy, and tradition of many generations.


So after all these years we have cut through the stories and legends to find the real deal for you – now you know.  Stay Tuned!


Life in Perspective

About Perspective….


Saturday last we had lunch with John and Jane. We count ourselves lucky to have developed a friendship with them. John approached us here on the Blog a few years ago having stumbled on it while Googling info on the Xalapa area. He also found a common thread – we both worked for Capitol Records. He as an artist and me, well I wore several hats – none of which were entertaining.

You might imagine that people making music for a LIVING are at least a bit eccentric – John and I surely not exceptions. But what an interesting fellow. And lest we mistakenly narrow the stage lights John’s wife Jane is no shrinking violet – an attorney who still dabbles (I think once an attorney they always have at least a hand in the flame? It should be noted Jane manages all this with more than a hint of purple hair – she is cool. Truly an amazing couple.

Somehow John and Jane manage to be super busy involved in many things that we simply could not keep up with. Thus the opportunities to get together with them are far and few between.

When our lives align with the stars in a manner that connects the four of us up – well – the chatter cannot be stifled. One must wait their turn. And so it goes story after story catching up. And none of the reports are mundane I assure you. Even a hanging and a death by gunfire were in the reports – yikes!

But there was one poignant story I should share. It has a happy ending unlike the aforementioned bulletins; and for this we are ever grateful.

A few months back John and Jane were returning to their home outside of Coatepec here in Mexico from a walk with the dog. John describes his state shortly before arriving back at home as suddenly feeling unusual, weak and perhaps a little disoriented from what seemed like a physical alert or change.

They stopped a couple of times, but apparently he was not gaining on the changes – they advanced – an ache in his arm and across his chest – probably a tightening (I am guessing).  When they got home John chose to lie down and see where things were headed from there – still no comfort. They decided to call a doctor. They drove into town. Their report was no faith in the ambulance service here – which we found disturbing since we are always donating to those people – but I digress.

I am sure you have guessed by now as was confirmed by the doctor, John was having a heart attack. Here is an otherwise flaco hombre that gets reasonable doses of exercise. Does not drink or smoke etc. Not what you would call a candidate for a heart attack at all – but there you are.

From the doctor’s office to a large hospital facility in Xalapa with a note in Spanish from his doctor explaining his condition. He was immediately attended to and within an hour he had instant relief by way of a stent inserted in an artery in his thigh and scooted to a vessel blockage near the heart.

John was not gassed under. He reported that he understood in Spanish when the two docs shared that “it was open” in Spanish. His condition immediately remarkably improved. All the pieces had fallen together in such a way to address the problem quickly. The report is other than a small scared tissue area there is no heart damage. Whew!

John and Jane agreed that if this had happened in the U.S. he probably would not have had as good of outcome. The staff and doctors were very professional. They described the hospital as setup with all the latest equipment for such a situation.

The bill was $5,500 usd and they do accept credit cards ;-) We are so happy our friend is still with us. He continues to monitor and adhere to dietary and whatever modifications (again I think he did not have any bad habits prior to all this).

So we were caught up on all the big stuff – but as Jane suggested we have to get together for chapter two soon. People you care about can put it all in perspective. Life is Good and Stay Tuned!

Bearing Fruit

Today we had a wonderful 12 mile drive on the scooter which included brunch in Coatepec and then a visit to our local market. I am not particularly adept at clipping and using coupons for marketing.  Add to the fact that my command of the Spanish language is marginal at best. Our local (in both locations) super market chain is Chedraui; a very large conglomerate.  They have a number of ways to present a sale or benefit for being a regular customer.

Avocadoes are a life’s blood food in the Calypso household. The price of the emerald green globes has been one of the measuring devices for cost-of-living in Mexico. In the good ol’ days we could buy a pound of avocadoes for about 40 cents on a good day. Individual avocadoes were sometimes under 25 cents (U.S.) for a medium large Hass. This when U.S. health food stores might be marketing the same hass avocado for $2.00 usd.

About a Kilo of Hass Avocados

Today a pound of good looking medium large Hass ‘cados are 53 cents usd. That is under 24 cents usd per avocado.

That ladies and gentlemen is as good as it gets. And lest we forget I was able to use a coupon valued at 12.25 pesos. So one kilo or 2.2 pound or 5/6 medium large avocados cost 6.65 pesos or about 40 cents usd. That is a bargain!

Today the weather is a perfect 78 F; sunny with just a hint of a breeze. I am going to go make some guacamole and listen to some Jackson Browne. Life is good!

Stay Tuned!

Settling In

After a long trip (2.5 months in this case) it takes a bit to settle in. Today Saturday is our 6th day back. We have accomplished getting all systems working. The kitchen functions as usual, although our 30 year old microwave is officially dead. Back in that day our top of the line Panasonic convection microwave was about $700.usd. As I remember this included a week of cooking lessons,  They are more compact and less expensive these days.  We are on the lookout.

I have managed to play five of my six guitars. I have been on a drop D tuning jag. I like the chords that work with that different tuning. My goto guitar is turning from my Taylor 214ce to my newest guitar; a Martin Custom GC DSR. A modest priced Martin that is as far as I can tell one of the best bang for the buck guitars around; as was the Taylor 214.

Simple yet lovely she has nice lines. The guitar is my first all solid wood acoustic. Top is Sitka Spruce. Sides and bottom are East Indian Rosewood with a Rosewood fret board and bridge. I am now in the camp of believers that all solid wood guitars are better than anything with laminated sides and bottom. The sustain on the Martin is quite remarkable. This particular one rivaled all competition until the $5,0000 usd class and up guitars were compared. Color me a happy Martin owner (my second – recently sold my Martin Backpacker).

In other local news the recently devalued peso is presenting some low prices on grocery items. One has to wonder if this is a temporary blip or will the peso never see less than 16 exchanged for one U.S. dollar?

I had to brag to my Capitan, NM neighbor about the price of a 12 pack of Corona beers (George’s drink of choice there). We were paying around $14 usd PLUS tax NOB. Yesterday we bought a 12 pack in Coatepec for $7.43 usd out the door – wow! Avocados which have been on a wicked increase in the last year seem to have settled at a whopping 30 pesos a kilo – but the pain is lessened by the 16 plus pesos to the dollar or $1.87 a kilo (85 cents usd per pound). This works out to about 38 cents usd for a medium large Hass.

One of our choice specialty foods that is just so much better than anything less is maple syrup. In the U.S. the Calypso Couple had resigned themselves to paying 6.50 to 8.50 usd for a rather small bottle – but it was just a necessary expense. We avoided the 18 to 20 dollars usd exchange cost here in Mexico. I mean that is just too much money when pancake syrup costs more than Grand Marnier.

Out the door our yesterday grocery purchases totaled 900 pesos. We came home thinking that seemed high – until we converted that to U.S. dollars coming out to about $52 usd. That equated to not a bad haul and a darn sight better than what it all would have tallied north of the border. Food is still a bargain here in Mexico as was our 300 peso ($18.75 usd) Mexican hotel room the other night.

This is a good time to visit Mexico and even a better time to be living here. Come on down the water is fine (5 gallon garaphon of clean filtered water for 10 pesos (63 cents usd).  Stay Tuned!

Viva Puerto Magazine
Viva Batman Italika

In the what-have-we-been-up-to department: Well mostly living LARGE in the Mexican Beach Colony known here about as La Punta (The Point). This is a community within the Puerto Escondido city that is located at the southeast end of Puerto Escondido. It is in fact at a point at the southern end of the about 5 miles crescent cut into the southern coastline of Mexico. You can see it from Space.  We cannot hide even though our name would lead one to believe we are hidden – far from it.

We coined our very clever house Casa La Punta Es! (Our House IS the Point) I know…you have to first entertain yourself before you can do that to others – what is it, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.”?

In the news a new tome of Viva Puerto Magazine (and E’Zine) is on newsstands and many public locations around Puerto. It is also available right here by just clicking the link HERE.

Our community is lucky to have such a professionally produced and information packed periodical. It comes out every two months during our high season. The editor in chief is a friend of ours. This revelation should in no way taint our promoting her mag – really we are being quite objective when we praise it. There is also a supplement insert that is produced every month keeping us all informed of what bands and other sources of entertainment our happening in our fair community; again a most useful contribution – thank you Barbara.

Please take the time to checkout Viva Puerto. There is something for everyone in there – even if you are land locked in say, Las Vegas, Nevada or Poughkeepsie, New York ;-)

We have now owned our Italika scooter GS150 (still un-named) for one month as of yesterday. Our first scheduled service was then or 500 kilometers whichever came first.  We were just nudging 400 KM, but felt plenty ready to get the fluids changed. During manufacturing there can be small to tiny metal fragments that should not be swirling around in the lubricants. We have already had an unscheduled visit to replace the turn signal flasher.

Our experience with Batman Italika Service Center continues to be great. While it is just a honeymoon at this point – wow it has been such a pleasure as compared to our service history in Coatepec with our Cruise Azul Zanetti 150 scooter. These folks are the real deal. Attentive, knowledgeable and quick response are fitting adjectives to go along with friendly and understanding.

“Understanding”? I am the first to admit I am NOT the easiest customer to deal with. Oh I am always friendly and slow to anger, but I am also demanding and cruising around with just enough knowledge to be dangerous.

To wit: For our first scheduled warranty service visit we brought our own lubricants. Rest assured this raised some eyebrows in the very professional garage. I peeked in as customers are not allowed in the service area, as is typical of warranty dealerships. I was happy to see one employee and then another actually READ the bottle of Valvoline 100% synthetic motorcycle racing oil. In fairness they do change oil with an equal standard mineral oil (read high quality), but I am a stickler for the slight edge I perceive getting from synthetic oil. They being designed for race engines at a cost near double more conventional oils. I have been using ONLY synthetic oil in my vehicles for years and the motors have never let me down. Our six year old Zanetti scooter engine is as tight and responsive as the day we bought it – maybe even better.

I also brought some very high quality gear oil. The changing of gear oil is not part of their standard routine at this juncture of warranty service. I explained I would like the gear oil changed anyway using the same logic as the need for an early quick change of the motor oil.

The service guys explained the level of gearbox oil was fine. Anita explained that her husband would prefer it be changed – if that is OK. They were totally accommodating and did not charge extra for the unscheduled additional service – in fact they deducted the retail cost of their engine oil as they used mine – Pretty darn accommodating I would say.

Our Italika Service Center Even Gives Riding Lessons

Without sounding sexist did I mention that our first and main contact at the service center is very pretty. OK maybe this is not PC, but facts are facts. Not only is Pricilla lovely but she is very knowledgeable. She makes us feel like we are special customer, but I am guessing it is pretty much standard operating procedure to be great. And in fairness her father (also good looking) is equally attentive and responsive. In his off time he is very much involved with off-road motorcycling (On Any Sunday), always a good sign that motorcycles are his passion.

Priscilla Signs A New Rider Up – Batman Italika Service Center

We were in and out in about an hour. Service included a wash (I did bring it in clean by the way). If you are considering a moto in Puerto – realize having these people in the Hood is a great advantage. Also they explained that they service all kinds of motorcycles – so Yamaha, Suzuki, Honda and even Harley owners do not let all the Italika signs divert you from a great place to get your ride attended to.

Some new restaurants have opened in Puerto – look for some reviews soon!

Stay Tuned!

Make the Sale No Matter What
In Mexico – No Way

Mexico has so much a different character in so many ways. Often they are subtle or not recognized unless you are a veteran expat here. A couple of examples:

We are still reeling from a conversation with an Ursulo Galvan resident (our Hood in Xico, Veracruz). While even the propane trucks include the dangers of burning plastic in their musical announcement on their trucks scouring the Hood to sell bottled gas, there are still those that start their wood fires with plastic bottles to catch the wood ablaze. The fumes from those burning plastic bottles are HIGHLY toxic.

We reminded a neighbor of this danger to not only themselves but their innocent children and grandchildren only to be told, “We Mexicans are used to dying young and do not care about the dangers of burning plastic.” Sadly fatalistic. It is a bit startling to we First World-ers to hear such flippant irrational thinking.

Then this yesterday – We have been scooter shopping with non-toxic dollars burning a hole in our pocket from having sold our Suzuki Burgman 650 a few months ago in Capitan (New Mexico). Actually we started the new scooter search in Xico even lining up possible buyers for our 2008 Cruz Azul scooter to perhaps update our ride in Xico.

But here at the beach we were decidedly wanting a scooter to run around as gas is almost $4 usd a gallon here in Mexico and no end to the rising monthly increases. The truth also is we are lifelong die hard cyclists even taking into account the added dangers of two-wheeling– I suppose not totally different than the Hood-ites logic lacking excuse for burning plastic. I have no defense for adding the danger of riding a motor scooter on the dangerous Mexican highways. I certainly don’t ride bi-wheelers with a willingness to die young (too late for me who turns 68 in a few days ;-)

ANYHOW…yesterday we were getting down to the finals. All decisions made: Honda; Suzuki; Yamaha; Italika; how many cc’s is enough; Japanese or Chinese/Korean or even Mexican motonetas; color; model etc. The winner came up Italika which is now a fully made Mexico product. Early Italika motorcycles were designed jointly with Hyosung of South Korea and assembled using parts shipped from South Korea and China.

All current models, however, are of Mexican design and origin. So yes we went with the homegrown machine (Mexican flag proudly waved here!). Italika maintains a motorcycle factory and parts warehouse in Toluca, Mexico, near Mexico City and commands nearly seventy percent of the entire motorcycle market here in Mexico.

We want the slightly upscale version of our Chinese Cruz Azul which came to us as a 150cc Zenetti scooter. The new Italika will have better lights, sturdier wheels etc. And oh the lovely rich Rojo color will be easy to see and perhaps add just a little bit of an added visibility safety factor.

A Shiny New Italika GS150

We had narrowed the source of our new ride down to two retailers. There is a total Italika store a few blocks up from Chedraui supermarket. Then there is the infamous Elektra super store. We had visited both. Mexico having no restrictions on price fixing or any fair trade laws to speak of enables Italika to demand fixed prices on their vehicles – meaning you will be quoted the same price everywhere.

Kind of like Pemex gas which is the same price throughout Mexico we noted the same retail price and basically the same Sales in all Italika sales outlets. That just left deciding who we liked better as a company and perhaps some individual salesperson that caught our liking.

It should be noted there was a three day ten percent discount sale going on this particular weekend; no doubt end of the model year ‘blowout”. But it did make time of the essence now that we knew exactly what we wanted.

We liked the visibility of Elektra with its many outlets (Coatepec, Veracruz and Puerto Escondido, Oaxaca included). “Grupo Elektra is Latin America‘s leading specialty retailer and financial services company, serving the mass market by providing consumer credit.” A HUGE company. And we had hooked up with Herman the local salesman who was a very nice and helpful fellow.

But alas we had a bit of a “Walmart” like beef with Elektra in that they GOUGE the proletariat with HUGE interest rates. All day long people are lined up like cattle going to slaughter at their bank-teller-window like area in all their stores. This to pay their weekly payments that usually doubles the cost of a new refrigerator, stove, computer, television or motorcycle etc. This does not set well with us –

So off we went to the Italica store to buy our scooter.

A Still better deal this Weekend! 10% OFF RETAIL! $15,749 Pesos

Two days before the exact model was on the showroom floor there at Italica. But no more. The preceding day someone bought it while we were still ‘thinking’.   O.K. we will order one – the details and price having all been agreed upon. It should be noted that while unit and price being equal another advantage of the Italika store was an added included full face helmet – we have helmets but currently are moving them between Veracruz and Oaxaca – so a new helmet was an added enticement. This was not offered in our negotiations with Elektra.

A problem arose. The manager at Italika (called in during negotiations) refused to place an order. He explained it is not workable in their system. They needed a VIN number to write up a sale – huh? “You are refusing our placing an order! We are here with cash…right now. We will pay full price and gladly wait until you get our scooter in house.”

“No, we cannot alter the policy”

We were incredulous. You are honestly turning away our business because of this detail?  You could not write this up and leave the VIN number line open until our scooter arrives or even get a number of the one you will receive?” Nothing doing. Even after a real threat of marching over to Elektra and placing an order. Elektra also were sold out of our desired model, but had no problem ordering. We had established this with Herman only the day before.

So we left in a huff and drove a mile up the road to Elektra across from the Mercado. We waited while Herman closed a deal on a buy on time Toshiba laptop. Herman had advised us that he is there 12 hours a day six days a week! Unconscionable interest contracts and slave driver labor policies – grrrr.

We explained the ‘free’ helmet addition over at the Italika store. Herman fussed around on a computer at the sales table and came up with the same deal – “Write it up amigo!”

We could not believe the casual refusal to make a sale over at the Italika store. We have often encountered this attitude here in Mexico. Take it or leave it is so different than the sale-at-all-costs NOB sales approach.

Deal done! We will show off our new scooter when it arrives early next week (Happy Birthday to me!). Stay Tuned for more Amerika/Mexican differences reported right here.