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.

Our Missing Neighbor

Xico, Veracuz, Mexico: Here in the Hood we are saddened that our neighbor Emilio Cortes is missing. We have lived next-door to one another for 9 years. We watched his daughter grow up.

MISSING!

 

Emilio has always been pleasant and a gentle man. He always greets me with Don John como esta? As he says this he extends his hand. We shake the gentle Mexican shake (Mexican men do not try and out squeeze the hand of the greeter like U.S. men – perhaps they are more secure in their strength?)

Thirteen days ago Emilio told his family he was going out for a little while. He has not returned. He has no history of this kind of behavior.

It should be noted Emilio has had a drinking problem over the years. It is possible he laid down somewhere and or was very inebriated to the point of having a memory problem?

Of course the family has checked with police, hospitals, dry-out hospices and known places he might frequent.

We want Emilio back home with his family.  PLEASE if you have any information contact us here or see the phone numbers on the flier enclosed.

A better photo of Emilio –

Emilio in 2012

PLEASE CONTACT US IF YOU HAVE SEEN THIS MAN

  Stay Tuned!

Moto Review

We have not checked in on our Cruise Azul motor scooter for a while. Also have not reported that we sold our beloved Burgman 650 Suzuki scooter in New Mexico a month ago. It was impossible to get the Burgman in Mexico for a reasonable import fee.

For those that have not been here for these many years – six years ago come October we purchased our 2008 blue motor scooter (better known as Cruise Azul). It is a Chinese knock-off of a Honda 150 cc moto – however built with lesser quality in China as opposed to the more refined Japanese manufacturers – Suzuki, Yamaha and Honda for example.

That October we tossed the numbers around – We could buy FOUR China dolls for one of Honda’s finest. As is often the case, we opted for the cheap route – we would see how it goes. We bought two scooters at Chedraui grocery store in Coatepec. We bargained for a 1000 peso discount (each) buying two – an acquaintance came in with us. We each paid $950 USD out the door. Now we are six years down the road and about 5000 miles later. Not counting maintenance (regular or otherwise) that works out to about $14.00 a month – pretty cheap transportation.

Of course we only ride it 6 months out of the year – but even $28 a month is not bad for reliable transportation.

Did I just write ‘reliable?’ OK well there is some debate on that. With less than 5,000 total miles we have replaced and repaired: new front fork bearing; new battery; new brakes (twice –don’t ask); new brake cable; new starter motor; frame to motor bolt; new rear tire; some wiring problems and as of today a new clutch assembly.

This after doing a recommended 20 + point improvement and care set-up upon purchase. This included changing all hoses and tubes; change spark plug, solder some wiring connections, changing fuel filter assembly, modifying the exhaust system and the air intake box etc. Tear down to tighten and inspect bolts and belt etc.

It should be noted parts are more expensive in Mexico – labor much less as compared to the U.S. In Mexico we have never registered (not required) our 149 cc scooter – so a saving there as well as no insurance cost.

Cruise Azul Circa October 2008

We know a local (here in Xico) mechanic we like.  He is competent and slightly expensive (Mexican expensive). More on this later.

Cruise Azul in the shop yesterday

A little history: Cruise Azul has never left us stranded (mostly). We have had two INCIDENTS: twice we laid the scooter down stopped or nearly so, mostly due to sand.  On one of those spills I had bruised ribs and a scuffed ankle. Anita hobbled on crutches for two weeks (in fairness she has weak ankles). We are fully recovered (except for Senora Calypso’s ankle).

We drove 120 miles one day on Cruise Azul – a lot for a little scooter – sore butts later – not recommended. A scooter here is very handy when parking is difficult to find as well as economical fuel and maintenance as compared to driving a car. It also is a bit dangerous as compared to a car – all factors to consider.

Cruise Azul in particular has a large ‘landing’ space for groceries as well as a nice large box under the seat and ours came with an additional rear stuffing box large enough to hold a helmet or a bag or so of groceries (it has since been replaced with a new one). We could transport 3 bags of groceries or haul a 20 liter bottle of water and more. The design of our scooter is such that it really carries a lot – even more we think than the large 650 cc Suzuki Burgman – the key being a flat floor between the seat and front fork assembly.

We have money from the Burgman sale burning a hole in our pockets! What to buy now? We are again weighing the advantages and not of Chinese versus Japanese (or even German). We are also considering a 4-wheeler to get to-and-from our Rancho up in the mountains.  We would lose some parking advantages as well as needing increased storage area and perhaps more safety issues driving one of those on our Mexican highways. Also have thoughts about a rack on the back of the Jetta that would allow us to transport a scooter to and from Puerto and Xico – that would give us full time usage instead of 6 months per year.

In the meantime the scooter is in the shop: Oil and change; new clutch assembly, installed; throw in 4 Jetta sparkplugs we brought from the U.S.  Oh yeah – we asked the mechanic if he knew where we could get our plugs changed – right here was the answer – cool! His total bill for parts and labor – $1400 pesos or about $110.00 U.S.D.  Not bad ;-)

No fancy motorcycle stand in this garage!

I explained with Anita’s help that I was having a clutch problem – he went right to it.

The automatic clutch assembly is the round protrusion on the side of the rear wheel – attached by belt to a pulley of sorts that is on the crankshaft

We are good to go for another ??? miles. What to buy or do next? Lots to think about regarding two-wheel transportation (or even four). Stay Tuned!

Making Radio Waves

My little corner workstation – Ursulo Galvan, Xico, Veracruz, MX this foggy Sunday morning.

We are getting better with the radios.  I am after all an electronic engineer by education (and much practical experience I might add). The radios to which I refer are ones used to relay Internet connections.  We had a dandy installation between John and Jane’s place (recall the robber’s tienda they lived in across the way a couple of kilometers).

But alas those fun loving, persevering victims, enchanting fellow seniors  and good friends have escaped the house of ladones bounty, moving to safer digs in Coatepec. So we chopped a few sections out of our very tall bamboo mast; lowering the radio to communicate within the Hood and voila we garnered a connection with ease.

Tancho who reads and writes from a mountaintop in Pátzcuaro  turned us on to the possibilities of radioing Internet long distances (in excess of 5 miles). As communication possibilities develop the radios eventually become unnecessary – but before Internet comes to your neighborhood  they are a wonderful thing.

The catch for the Calypso Couple is having to maintain “mainstream” local internet connections at locations wherein we reside for 6 months or less only.  The service providers demand contracts and ongoing connections.  If there is one operating condition in the process of multiple abodes that irritates it is having to pay for ongoing services we do not use. So listen up all you potential part time expats – some of that can be foiled.

We pay for continued water and trash service as well as electric connections in three houses (not counting our storage warehouse in Capitan, New Mexico. You can see the problem – multiple Internet connections really add up and contribute to our services frustrations – hence the radios here in Xico.  We retired their need in Puerto securing a shared connection with our next door neighbors. By the way when we are at our New Mexico casa our neighbor and friend George allows us a logon – ah George he is a terrific fellow in so many ways.

The point here is there are alternative methods to being strapped with ongoing service requirements. It just takes some Yankee ingenuity and friends.

Last night we watched our Cruz Azul soccer team play to a tie on HD television (free air no less). Being connected to the rest of the world makes living outside of the United States a more comfortable situation – rest assured.

We are settling in. Yesterday was the annual Capilla at the top of the drive celebration.  The weather did not cooperate. It was a small and mostly peaceful event (smaller and more peaceful than previous years).

It is cold and foggy this Sunday morning. I will go read my electronic copy of yesterday’s Washington Post and maybe flip through the electronic June Esquire magazine until my Guapa Señora rises. Life is Good – Stay Tuned!

Life Update

We had planned on heading to Xico, Veracruz (our other home) two Sundays past. Recalling our return to Xico last year, it was cold and rainy leaving us wishing we had stayed in Puerto longer. So we cancelled the early departure and will remain here until the 27th – two weeks longer than originally planned.  Follow the sun – the Calypso’s path.

Our Beach Across from Hotel Santa Fe in Puerto Escondido

Jane, half of our friends John and Jane who are living near Xico wrote spontaneously the other day, “Burrr! you two are lucky you did not come back yet”

Because we were nearly packed up to leave we are living a bit awkwardly, not wanting to unpack. Will try and plan this better next year.  In the meantime we are laying low as the town is FULL of tourist enjoying our fair pueblito.

Over on the other side of town Anita’s brother is packing up to head to the States for two months. Sadly he and his mate have decided to leave Puerto Escondido after living here a year and a half. Brother-in-law’s daughter is with child. Grand-parenting is calling, giving him the desire to live closer to Las Vegas and daughter. He will be missed.  We enjoyed having family across town.

We have been shopping online for guitars (yes – more than one). At 67 we have decided to revisit an old hobby with more time to devote to it – time will surely be needed. Author, Malcolm Gladwell says that it takes roughly ten thousand hours of practice to achieve mastery in a field. Ten thousand regardless of one’s possible inherent talent. We are shooting for something less than being a master at guitar playing.

Willie Nelson’s Classic 1969 Martin “Trigger”

Gladwell studied the lives of extremely successful people to find out how they achieved success. In the early 1990s, a team of psychologists in Berlin studied violin students. Specifically, they studied their practice habits in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. All of the subjects were asked this question: “Over the course of your entire career, ever since you first picked up the violin, how many hours have you practiced?”

All of the violinists had begun playing at roughly five years of age with similar practice times. However, at age eight, practice times began to diverge. By age twenty, the elite performers averaged more than 10,000 hours of practice each, while the less able performers had only 4,000 hours of practice.

The elite had more than double the practice hours of the less capable performers.

Natural Talent: Not Important is claimed.  

This suits me ;-)

I called upon my calculator which revealed 10,000 hours practicing 4 hours a day is nearly 7 years’ time – ouch! Let’s just work on being able to scratch out Neil Young’s “Old Man” as a goal.

“Old man take a look at my life
I’m a lot like you
I need someone to love me
The whole day through
Ah, one look in my eyes
And you can tell that’s true…”

I leave you with this appropriate cartoon about Jimi Hendrix shopping for guitars (he did not have Amazon, Ebay or any other computer shopping place)

Peace – Stay Tuned!

Tragedy in the Hood

 

Back in 2008 we wrote about the December 12th Virgen Celebration in colonial Ursulo Galvan, in Xico, Veracruz.  We have noted in the past few years spending October through April here in Puerto is a different experience from our time living in Ursulo Galvan. There are not the heavy Catholic overtones of Xico. The religion of surfing trumps Catholicism here in the hidden port.

However all the Catholic hormones of religiosity are accompanied by some serious drinking testosterone of some of the hombres of the Hood. In 2008 we wrote this about some of the local Xico borrachos during the December 12th Celebration:

“Before noon the crowds already started to gather – front row seats were expensive; if one considers the fact time is money. Libations were being ingested even before the clock struck twelve noon – the early inebriated being a symbol of defiance and stubbornness towards all things rational – the social lubricant packaged in spent 32 ounce plastic soda bottles.  The mixture within its chief ingredient being agua ardiente  – sweetened straight alcohol. In the stores they call it Liquor de Cana – in the Hood it is caña or agua ardiente; when not around my Gonzo Compadres, I call it sugar with pure grain alcohol. In the Hood it can be purchased in gallon plastic containers for about 30 pesos….

Police and ambulance vehicles were just behind the ten deep crowds. Inside the rails were the machos and borrachos. Mostly clown like shabby little fellows whose job at this time was to entertain or so they thought. They staggered around as if they were bulls themselves, scraping the ground with a defiant foot, rebelliously rubbing empty 32 once soda containers against the pavement and pulling off their shirts to use as toreador capes. Occasionally a couple hombres would help a third from falling – a sign of their undying camaraderie.  You knew some of these fellows were not going to leave that ‘arena’ unscathed whether the bulls showed up or not.”

 

This December 12th it was the innocent that were not all going to go home safely.

With a pickup truck as his weapon of choice a 22 year old drunken kid smashed through the barrier assembled to keep the bulls contained within a few corridored blocks.

In the mayhem that ensued two women were injured and a 65 year old Xico man was killed. One bull was hit as well.

The fellow managed to avoid capture and headed off to the pueblo Coatepec, some five miles away. In the meantime it is reported about 40 men with rocks and machetes had formed a lynching party and were in hot pursuit.

Lucky, I suppose you could call it, the young drunk was apprehended by Coatepec Policia. Most likely saving his life.

So a happy event turned dark. The community dance was cancelled and Ursulo Galvan, a community of about 2000 souls went into mourning.

A couple of years ago, just down the road from our beach casa along the street that parallels the beach, in the early evening, Anita and I were on a walk. As if out of a ‘Fast and Furious’ film a drunken man child with his truck came roaring down the roadway veering side to road side crashing into parked cars at breakneck speed. We literally dove for cover watching in shock as the fool and his truck finally met head on with a local bus. A two block run that terrified beach goers. It was surreal.

Even as the reckless truck forged forward side swiping vehicles, a group of men on foot were in chase. After passing us the truck collided with the front of a package store tearing off the front door and continuing on. When the truck came to rest as a hood ornament to the big city bus the angry men and even a few women pulled the borracho from the steaming vehicle and proceeded to beat him until the police interceded. Justice is often swift here in Mexico

Fortunately no one was injured that day. But there had been beach goers returning to vehicles and others walking to local restaurants, some with children that could just as easily have been seriously injured or killed.

Firewater and the natives are often a deadly mixture here in Mexico. Of course this is not limited to our Country. Nor is danger only lurking here in Mexico. During this same week in the wild west of Colorado a kid brandishing a shotgun, stormed a school looking for an irritating librarian.

It is crazy out there. We can all only hope we are never in one of those wrong places to be at the time. It is hard to say how this terrible event in our Hood might affect future Virgen Block Parties. Hug your kids, your parents and your grandparents tonight knowing they are safe from another wild week in America. Stay Tuned!

Taking the High Road

The Calypsos finally made it up to the Rancho yesterday.

We have a casa in the mountains above Xico, Veracruz. The views are spectacular.

A bit of the Southern Panorama

We would describe our Rancho in real estate terms as follows:

1250 square feet under roof three story casa plus decks and more; 3 Bedroom;  separate two station compost toilet building; semi-protected shower and bath area; catch water tanks and pump system; large RV Carport parking; one hectare property sloping to the south and bordered by a wonderful clean river.  The casa comes with a spectacular view of Xico and Mount Orizaba and within the property perimeter are views of the towns of Xico to the south, Xalapa to the northeast, Coatepec to the east and Teocelo to the southeast. The river can be heard the 700 feet from the casa and will lull you to sleep at night. You will wake up to Mount Orizaba filling your room.

Just 2.75 miles between the two Yellow Push-Pins 

A Bend in the Rio that fronts Rancho del Cielo’s  Southern Border

Close-up of those Incredible Pink Flowers

Because the last two miles of road getting there is little more than a burro path we do not visit as much as we would like – it is a glorious spot to rest and relax (from the stresses of retirement and such ;-)

A new improved road which cuts off a mile of the bad road is partially completed. When and if that road is ever completed visiting will be made easier by a great measure. In the mean time we have the BIG White Ford Truck. It is four wheel drive and a behemoth of a vehicle – although the very long wheel base makes for quite a roller coaster ride getting up and down; the Rancho sits a minimum of a thousand feet higher than Xico.

Yesterday we brought help. Our oft used handy-man Stephen and his Aunt took the ride up with us to help with the yard and house work – our principal mission.

Tia Cleaning

Stephen Clears Some Tall Grass 

After 6 Years We Have Access to Our Carport

A Long Wheel Base Makes for a Wild Ride Up and Down the Mountain

We managed a pretty good dent in recovery of the land and casa – but a lot of work remains. We plan on staying put here in Xico until the place is ship shape. Although it is already starting to get cold at night – especially now that the incessant rains have subsided. The clear skies help reduce the air temperature – burr.

2 Meter Wall Holds Back Earth in an Artful Way

Every Piece Cut to Fit – Moss is Added

Someone recently wrote in a comment, “The more I read of you, by you, the more I’m convinced you deserve all the bounty that these years in Mexico have brought you.

What a nice thing to write. The casa we call Rancho del Cielo (Ranch in the Clouds) is a spectacular place to live part time. Deserve it or not, we consider ourselves lucky to be able to visit such a special spot.

The first photos of the work in progress. Next time KITCHENS.

Stay Tuned!

Getting It from Both Sides

In Norse mythology, Thor is a hammer-wielding god associated with thunder, lightning, storms, and such malevolent weather.

To say we have had a lot of rain in the last week or so would be putting it mildly. In short Thor is putting the hammer down on us!

When we moved to Mexico we had given little thought to weather extremes. It appeared that living 45 miles from the Gulf of Mexico that that would keep us high and dry – too far inland for weather extremes – wrong.

First we found ourselves travelling back and forth between Colorado and Xico during hurricane season. On occasions the roads were virtually impossible to travel on. Then in the aftermath of hurricane seasons the road conditions were abominable. We learned to modify our travel schedules to minimize, not eliminate, problems.

We knew going in that there would be a lot of rainfall in the Xalapa-Coatepec-Xico area – but damn! There is a lot of rainfall in this area. During the many fall and winter soakings we decided to go further south buying property in the beach town of Puerto Escondido. We heard stories about long time ago earthquakes and hurricanes but had our schedules to where we would not be in Puerto during, well the hurricane season anyway.

One must face the fact that living three blocks from any ocean’s edge can be hazardous.

You might recall a year ago we were sweating out a huge forest fire near our adobe casita in Capitan, New Mexico and at the same time worrying from afar (here in Xico actually) about Hurricane Carlotta which made landing in our neighborhood in Puerto.

The fire licked the edge of Capitan and during our recent visit we saw the huge amount of burnt terrain all around – but our casa was safe – saved. Carlotta hoisted a neighbor’s patio onto the edge of our beach house’s roof coming to settle in the backyard. Our next-door neighbors lost their entire roof (and had their car stolen from their driveway the night after the hurricane). So once again we dodged the bullets.

This year we were thinking lightning does not strike in the same place (literally in Capitan) and gross weather conditions would happen places other than ours – well we got ahead of ourselves on that one.

The U.S. Embassy today, September 15, 2013, released a warning regarding:
HURRICANE INGRID AND TROPICAL STORM MANUEL

This is being issued to alert U.S. citizens residing and traveling in Mexico that the National Hurricane Center (NHC), www.nhc.noaa.gov/, has issued a warning for Hurricane Ingrid, currently located in the Gulf of Mexico on the eastern coast of Mexico near the states of Tamaulipas and Veracruz… Ingrid is expected to make landfall Monday on the coasts north of Veracruz and south of Tamaulipas. From there, Ingrid is expected to move inland towards San Luis Potosi. Ingrid is expected to produce torrential rains of 10 to 15 inches over a large part of eastern Mexico. Isolated amounts of 25 inches of rain are also possible. These rains are likely to result in life-threatening flash floods and mud slides, especially in regions of mountainous terrain… people residing in the coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico and areas in eastern Mexico take precautions against the effects of rain, strong winds, and large and destructive waves.

 

Separately, the Government of Mexico has issued a tropical storm watch for Tropical Storm Manuel. Currently, Manuel is moving towards the southwestern coast of Mexico and is likely to make landfall late on Sept. 15. Manuel is expected to produce torrential rains of 5 to 15 inches in the states of Guerrero, Michoacán, Colima, Jalisco, Nayarit, Zacatecas, Guanajuato, Queretaro, Mexico State, Distrito Federal, Morelos, and Oaxaca. Isolated amounts of 25 inches of rain are also possible. These rains are likely to result in life-threatening flash floods and mud slides, especially in regions of mountainous terrain…people residing in the above-mentioned states take precautions against the effects of rain, strong winds, and large and destructive waves.

U.S. citizens should monitor local radio, local media, and the National Weather Service and Servicio Meteorológico Nacional to stay aware of area weather developments. Minor tropical storms can develop into hurricanes very quickly, limiting the time available for a safe evacuation. Travelers should apprise family and friends of their whereabouts and remain in close contact with hotel staff and/or local officials for evacuation instructions in a weather emergency.

In the aftermath of some previous storms, U.S. citizens traveling abroad have encountered uncomfortable and often dangerous conditions that have lasted for several days while awaiting transportation back to the United States. In the past, many U.S. citizens have been forced to delay travel due to infrastructure damage to airports and limited flight availability. Roads were also washed out or obstructed by debris, adversely affecting access to airports and land routes out of affected areas. Reports of looting and sporadic violence in the aftermath of natural disasters are not uncommon. Security personnel may not be readily available to assist at all times. In the event of a hurricane, travelers should be aware that they may not be able to depart the area for 24-48 hours or longer.

Oh Boy!

Both Puerto and Xico are getting swamped with rain right now and a short time ago this from our local Forum (TomZap) in Puerto:

“Puerto Water System Down Due to [Flooding]”

A member of our board translated this from a city engineer:

“The entire potable water service [the water that comes through the pipes] for the city of Puerto Escondido and the colonias will be temporarily suspended due to the flooding of the Colotepec River, it was announced last night by Santiago Aguilar, administrator of the State Water System. The flood water entered the wells and damaged the electrical grid that serves the pumps. The extent of the damage is not yet known, but we may be without water for some days.”

Here I am thinking: So much rain there is no water – what irony – but seriously not atypical.

We are buttoning down the hatches here waiting for Ingrid and Manuel to show up.

We are in a safe place and in no danger. And we are staying put.

Oh – and HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY MEXICO! – please Stay Tuned!

 

Mick Jagger and a Pick-up Band

The situation: You pay to see the Rolling Stones and get Mick Jaggar with a pick-up band. That is what happened to us last night. Well, sort of….

John and Jane had invited us to join them once again at Cafe Alandalus in Coatepec. The band, Los Sonex, was one they had been looking forward to hearing ever since their arrival in the Xalapa area. John and Jane know their Jarocho Music; and our musical tastes run very parallel.

Some Los Sonex Band Members

After the great performance we were treated to last week – how could we not join in the fun? We signed on immediately.

We were graciously picked-up at our Casita door at 9 PM sharp.

The evening started with a strange twist. John had made reservations as the joint, Café Alandalus, operates pretty much at full seating capacity; especially with top name Jarocho bands in the offing.

At the door we were greeted by the owner who would seat us. But, before that he advised us in no uncertain terms that we had not purchased enough drinks and/or food last week – huh?

Last time we had ponied up the 80 pesos each cover charge and had a round of drinks while watching an extended set. I busily took a lot of photos (90 plus). We had been seated in the front.

Now the owner by memory proceeded to itemize what we had ordered last week – wow! He explained that they expected a higher billing total for the seating of four ring side. We assured him we would make great effort to spend more money. Not convinced I suppose, he seated us at the back of the room. Grrrr! Perhaps we had to prove our mettle to gain better seating again in the future?

Understand that the room probably seats 80; at that El Jefe managed to focus on us remembering we four cheapskates from the week before.  I do believe we were the only gringos on the scene last week?

While embarrassing to be dressed down by a club owner, we were not to be deterred from our optimism about seeing Los Sonex; and we did not want to be banished for lack of buying libations or comida from a venue that was sure to have more great music in the future.

Last week we had characterized the 80 peso cover charge as CHEAP! Obviously it was and there was more to it. Truly there were better and more tactful ways of letting potentially regular customers know the management’s desire for you to give up a few more pesos. Or here is an idea: charge an entertainment cover charge and a minimum of two drinks or whatever to get your point across a bit more subtly. Our spirits and anticipation of more fine entertainment remained intact.

Two guitar players, a bass player and an electric violin player took positions on the smallish stage. There were no percussionists which we had seen in several uTube performances by Los Sonex. Even more disappointing was ilan Bar Lavi was amongst the missing; he being an excellent lead guitar player and terrific vocalist.

Here is the band we were expecting – worth a watch!

The stage ensemble had bass duties assumed by what we had seen as a rhythm guitar player on uTube. Early on I remarked to John that the bass player seemed to not be on the same page as the rest of the players – hmm.

We were treated to some fancy footwork from the occasional appearance of a female dancer and from the lead hombre who pounded out the flamenco beats with all the vigor of José Greco. The dancers were unexpected and helped ease the pain of the incomplete banda.

The musical performance was just OK – certainly less than we expected. Bands are regularly changing personnel – but scaling back on players and altering key personnel is likely to disappoint.

Where WERE these Guys!

I Hope You are Watching These – Wow!

We stayed for two abbreviated sets, ending with a bill about 40% greater than our previous visit; trusting we will be allowed back – we will of course bring fat gringo wallets stuffed with pesos – No hay gringos baratos! Stay Tuned!