Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Catching Up

Crap! If you know anything about cribbage you will be able to see that I just lost another game to Linda. We were very close as we rounded the corner to Fourth Street and then, well the cards tell it all. We have been playing crib for quite some time, I am not the best at the game but Linda, man, she learned young and has kept the edge. When the cards are going her way she is hard to beat. If the cards are not hot for her, then she pegs and points her way around the board. She is usually in striking distance at the end of every game and usually wins. Yesterday she came back and beat me by one on the last card played. I hung my head and, once again, admitted defeat.

Below you will find pictures from the rest of the day. I placed comments on all of them and if you roll your cursor over them you can read the pop-up.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Burch's Arrive

Today is Beth’s last day in Melaque. It is always a quiet time on the day friends depart, it is sad to see them go. Beth’s taxi arrived exactly on time and we hugged good by. We will see her again sometime this year. Maybe someday we can travel down to Florida and visit; she lives in an area we have always wanted to explore.

Within an hour or so of Beth driving off in her taxi, we were in the pool playing volleyball. The games are getting very competitive and we are able to keep long rallies going before a point is scored. Pool volleyball has some very fun rules that you have to learn to play well. First and foremost, “don’t set”. Setting just throws everything off and everyone just smacks the ball over the net anyway. Then if you hit the ball into the net, you can hit it again if you can. That means you can hit the net as many time as you want to gain control of the ball to either pass it (this is usually done out of desperation because passing is basically setting and you know about that) or bump it over the net. By now you understand that there are as many hits allowed per side as you need, until you get it over the net or it goes out of play. No double hitting is allowed. If a ball comes to you and you hit it straight up in the air and only you are around to hit it again, that is legal only if you use your head. You can use your head to hit it as many times in a row as you wish. The head rule was set because it if funny to watch someone acting like a seal to get the ball over the net. Finally, if a ball hits the pool edge or back line and bounces into the pool you can hit it back over the net and keep it in play. You got all that? Good, now you can play pool volleyball.

As we played Bill and Teri Burch arrived and Linda went over and got them orientated to the house. We sat outside and had chips and homemade salsa while we answered their questions and talked about their flights in. Everyone got ready and we watched the sun set and then walked into town for dinner. We introduced them to street tacos by going to Pedro’s on taco row. After we ate we walked the plaza, had sweet snacks and then went home to bed.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Day Friends and Fun

Christmas Eve in Mexico is a festive time where families gather and celebrate. It is not unusual to see a car parked across the road on the end of one block with a second car blocking the other end, keeping traffic out of the family gathering. Usually a piñata hangs in the street out front of the party waiting to be demolished by the children. Music plays at full volume, people sit and chat, and it is a time for family and friends to be together.

We walked the streets down to a restaurant called Ava for our pre Christmas dinner. There were very few visitors seated, one couple was dancing to the rhythms of the one man band. We ordered our meal and sat enjoying the night.

About halfway through the meal a large local man came into the restaurant selling roses. The owner of Ava met him at the door and escorted him around the place giving a rose to each and every of the women present. Linda and Beth were excited to get the little gesture and thanked the owner as he smiled and walked away.
Dinner was very good; the music was about as good as a one man band from Melaque could be. As we walked home fireworks and music filled the warm air, another Christmas Eve in Melaque was ending.

On Christmas Eve, Art our next door neighbor, invited us to their traditional holiday breakfast and white elephant gift exchange. Prior to going to dinner we walked down town and tried to purchase gifts for the event. Every shop we approached was closed or rushing to close so that everyone could get home to the evening festivities. We bought a few bags to cover our gifts, bought some candy, and then walked home to find extra fillers for the gift bags.

At 9:30 am the next morning everyone gathered for the exchange. Art set out the rules, Mary wrote down the numbers and put them in a hat and everyone drew the picking order for the action. As the gifts started to be unwrapped, Linda and I knew that this group’s idea of white elephant gifts was far different from Danbo’s annual gift exchange. The gifts being uncovered were definitely more than $10.00 and no one except the Bennett’s had wrapped re-gift items from around the house.
The exchange went for over an hour. Art received a small statue of a red devil with upside-down butterfly wings, and a rather large penis. This item was definitely the perfect gift for Art. Larry ended up with a Huichol Indian carved and painted rooster, which was the most sought after item. Linda and I received a very cool carved lizard, and a giraffe made by the Huichol. Beth ended the party with a carved fish of the same variety. So looking back at the exchange, we came away with some very wonderful gifts, and a little bit of white elephant guilt. Next year, if invited back, we will have stellar gifts for our part of the event!

Once the giving was over the table was set for a glorious breakfast of fruit, egg casserole and pastries. We ate and talked, looking forward to the annual Christmas day volleyball match.

With evening just around the corner we packed up our backpacks and walked over to La Paloma to Don and Caroline’s place for dinner. We brought with us everything we could to supplement the cooking of the Chulo, our prize catch from the days prior.

As we arrived we were introduced to Jackie and Grant Lake, two teachers who were from Vancouver Island BC. They were staying at La Ploma, a in one of the rooms next door. We talked as we started the BBQ, prepared the fish and set the rest of the items on the table. Our menu tonight included: smoked salmon (from Larry), smoked salmon spread, shrimp ceviche, fish ceviche, rotisserie chicken, bread, cold slaw, rice, roasted onions, and of course, Chulo.

The Chulo was marinated in Italian dressing and we placed it on the grill. When served the flavor was wonderful. The smoke from the Mexican charcoal, the delicate fish flavor and the dressing all mixed to provide a meal that was beyond description. We ate and talked into the night. I can actually say I would be hard pressed to find a more delicious meal anywhere.

I hated for the day to come to an end, but everyone was very tired from all the festivities. We gathered our leftovers and walked back to #1 Reforma , went to bed and dreamed about how fortunate we were to be able to be here.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Day By Day

I'll give you a run down on what an average vacation day in the life of Dean Bennett is like. First you get up at about 7:00 am and make coffee and enjoy an item that you purchased the night before from the doughnut man. Once that is taken care of and you have all you personal care duties finished, you head out for a walk or bike ride. For example today we rode to the malicon to the northwest located at the end of Melaque.

Then at about 10:00 am we hear the call and play about an hour of pool volleyball over at the neighbors. By that time we have lunch and read a bit. At about 2:00 pm, the town shuts down for siesta and we either take a nap or work on our blogs.

The town starts to wake up about 4:00 pm, but we play an afternoon game of volleyball and then get ready to go out for the evening. At about 6:00 pm, the sun sets and everyone meets on the beach to watch the day come to a close.

We wander into town for dinner and to walk the plaza watching people. The evening ends with a trip to the store or a stop at the doughnut man, we return home and go to bed.

That is the usual day here, but we also toss in longer bike rides to the near by towns, some fishing, going to the market, shopping or maybe traveling by bus to an out-lying town. We never seam to just sit around and the days go by very fast.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Si Chula, No Dorado

We had about six hits today when we went fishing. Caught two Chula and the rest of the strikes were possible Dorado. One of the strikes was confirmed a Dorado because it came out of the water. A day out on the ocean is always a fun day. We saw dolphins, sea turtles, and three gray whales. I got some nice video of the grays but since the cable I brought for the camera did not fit, we will have to wait till I get back and create a documentary.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Just Two Photos

We had dinner tonight at Molcajetes. I had the Orange Chicken and it was wonderful. It was like eating a Thai dish.

The sunset shows the hole in the rock spit in the North entrance of the bay. Great sunsets come every night here on the beach in Melaque.

Bicycle Freedom

After volleyball today I took my bike and rode into town and up to the main highway. It is all business up in that area. Everything is truck and auto repair, furniture manufacturing and a few places to eat.

It is a real challenge to get across all four of the lanes. The main highway almost always has frontage roads that parallel them. The frontage roads have about the same amount of traffic as the highway, but it moves slower. When you approach the area you think that you need to use the Frogger approach to crossing the lanes. Move forward to the median, wait, cross highway, wait, cross frontage road, score points. What you really have to do is to flow with the traffic of the frontage road and move to the median, then cross the traffic of the highway and flow right into the traffic of the frontage road. That is the main approach if the roads are real busy. That approach causes you to kind of ride in a half circle but it gets you across the traffic. The other way is to wait and launch. You find and opening and then rocket out and try to make it across without damage.

Yesterday I was talking to Larry about driving in Mexico and he had a great tip that I would have never thought about. Larry's rule of thumb is that you never yield to pedestrians or bikes, because they do not expect you to do so. When you yield, they don't know what to do and it causes all sorts of problems. In the States, you yield to walkers and everyone around you understands that you are doing so and they all make decisions accordingly. Here no one is expecting it and so if you do, then all hell breaks out. Put your civilized people friendly manners away and just drive!

Monday, December 21, 2009


This evening we walked down to Don and Caroline's at La Paloma and visited their casa. They have a very nice apartment that includes an enclosed bedroom and an outdoor kitchen. We talked for a while but our ultimate goal was to have tacos at Pedro's on taco row.

At Pedro's we all ordered various items, but the one item that drew the most acclaim was the Gringa. A Gringa is two flower tortillas filled with the meat of your choice, cheese and pineapple. It was delicious! I had a Gringa and two chorizo tacos. We were able to feed five of us plus our sodas for about $16.00.

After dinner we wandered around the square, bought bakery items from the doughnut man and ended with a warm churro. There could not be a better way to end a very eventful day.

Short Days, But Not For Long

Today is the shortest day of the year, which means that each day from here on out is about two minutes longer! The Winter Solstice is a time of ritualistic observance for many cultues. I looked it up to see what we can expect here in Mexico, but found that only the Maya culture saw this time as special, it was thought to be a dangerous time in which there were no divisions between the mortal and immortal worlds. About the only thing I read that this culture did during this time, was they tried not to leave their houses, and they didn't comb their hair. So I think we probably will have a quiet night in Melaque.

We sat out on the beach last night and watched the sun go down. There is a natural hole in the rock outcropping that forms the Northwest part of the bay. As the sun sets, you can see the hole fill with light and because the sun moves to the west and lowers on the horizon it fills the rock hole giving you a bright eye effect. This time of year provides the perfect alignment of sun, horizon and hole; the effect is very cool.

This morning Linda and I went for an 11 mile ride on our bikes. We wound through the small towns that lay across the main highway. One of our volleyball buddy's, Bob, gave us directions on how to get over there and how to find an unused highway that was built and then abandoned. He explained everything twice to us, but we both lost track of the directions after he said "go across the highway, towards the big rock, turn left down and alley, then left again and then go through a town and go right then left..." We actually found the abandoned highway at about mile five. It is very strange to see the road that no one uses! It looks like they drive on it a bit, but we only saw one car parked on the side of the road and we could see quite a ways down it. I think it was build to allow traffic to go around Melaque, but I can't figure why it is not used. We returned to our beach house after about 2 hours, arriving just in time to play vollyball in the morning session.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

A New Found Freedom

The power went out about five times last night and each time a different alarm went off in our house. I spent the night waking up and tramping around the house. The first time without a flash light, I smacked everything possible, it wasn’t a pretty sight.

Morning arrived and the power still was not on so we sat around the place till about 11:00 am and then went over for some volleyball. It was a good group and we had quite the workout. When we returned the power was back to normal, well normal for Mexico.

When we finished the three of us walked down to the bike rental shop. It is where The Rental Bike Baron of Costalegre does business and Linda and I rented bikes for the next week. Beth walked back to the house while Linda and I glided over the cobble stone streets trying out our new swifter source of transportation. I have visions of riding throughout the country side of Melaque, San Patricio and the Villa Obregon. The Baron was a very nice fellow and gave us some tips that he has written called Protocols for Safe and Secure Biking in Mexico. I really enjoyed the part on right-of –way on roads and highways; you can read for yourself.

“Right-of-way rules in Mexico are based on size. At the top of this road chain are the monster double trailer semi-trucks that haul dangerous cargo like propane or gasoline. At the other extreme end is the poor hapless lizard that relies on the compassion of all wheeled vehicles to make it across the road. Somewhere in the lower middle we find ourselves, cyclist’s out and about exploring Mexico. Of all wheeled modes of transportations, we are at the bottom, below semi’s, busses trucks, cars, 3 or 4 wheel ATV’s, motorcycles, and scooters. Then again, we are above anything on the road that does not ride on wheels. So, pedestrians, burros, dogs and the like beware. When out and about you should always realize that Mexican drivers and pedestrians rely on you to understand your relationship to them and expect you to act accordingly. If you think the car turning in front of you will yield to you, you are going to get in an accident. If a cow walks into your path, you have the right to plow into it but you, not the cow is going to suffer the consequences. It is called common sense folks and use it or you will lose it.” By: The Rental Bike Baron of Costalegre

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Friends Arrived Today

This afternoon the Gonzaga Bulldogs took on the Duke Blue Devils in New York City. We found the station on our TV at the house and tuned in to see the very end of the Fighting Irish and the Bruins game on CBS. We were all excited, Linda and Beth made drinks, I opened a beer and we settled in for the fun. The first game ended they went to a commercial and when they returned they had a roller derby game on! What!!!! No Zags! We were bummed. Beth and I scrambled for our computers, but the best we could do was a live update site. We watched it update until the dogs were getting beat down. I guess we were meant to watch roller derby after all.

Don and Caroline arrived this afternoon. It was great to see them! They wandered up to the front of the house at about 4:00 pm and we sat and talked for about an hour. We made some plans to get together and then they went back to LaPloma to get settled in.

We walked into town and had a wonderful meal. I had Flautas con Pollo and dos Tacos al Pastor. I sure wish I could figure out why the food tastes so good down here. My meal of four Flautas and two tacos cost me about $3 and I was very full. You have got to love the fact that you can fill up on wonderful food for less than $5.

After dinner we went to the plaza and walked around a bit. I spotted our old friend Buzz and chatted with him for a bit. I know I have said this before, but seeing Buzz always makes my trip seem right and complete. He is such a nice person and I worry about him every year. He is getting very old, but he is sure looking healthy and happy.

I took the picture of the hibiscus on our walk during the afternoon. It was such a bright yellow flower growing beside the rood I just had to capture its color.

Night & Day

Beth arrived last night and we went out to dinner at one of the little places by the plaza. We did some shopping and then walked back to the place and went to bed. Yes, quite a big night, but Beth had traveled all day and we had played volleyball twice.

We slept OK up until about 5 AM when all the power in Melaque and Barra went out. It's funny how quiet it gets with no power, and it is even funnier how the quiet wakes you up. I could not go back to sleep so I got up and read, Linda went for a run, and Beth slept on.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Release, Don't Catch

Last night we went out to dinner with Larry, Maggie, Lola and Hank to one of the restaurants down on the far end of the beach. When we arrived we noticed a crowd of people gathered on the shoreline taking pictures and generally looking at the sand. This intrigued us. I thought that someone had caught a large fish and everyone had gathered to see the trophy. Linda caught the attention of a couple who were just returning from that area and asked what was happening. The couple said that we were in the midst of a turtle release.

Linda and Hank walked down to the waters edge and witnessed the release of baby sea turtles. We were told that the little guys are released only at night so that they have a better chance of survival. They place them on the shore facing away from the ocean and the critters smell the salt water and turn, heading out to their new life. Linda took several photos while I looked at the menu, obviously I decided against the tortuous soup.

We had a wonderful meal, almost everyone ordered some form of camarons. I had the Camarons Melaque and they were fantastic. Just about the time we sat down Maggie started feeling bad. She made it all the way through the meal, she ate very little of her dinner, and then we had to leave and get her home. We all felt bad about her quick illness, but today she was feeling much better.

We woke up this morning and played our usual pool volleyball. I use the digital video recorder to tape some of the action. Once I returned to the place I found that I grabbed the wrong cable for the camera so I can not upload any of the video. This will give me something to look for in town. Wahoo, a true test of Linda's Spanish skills!