Archive for March, 2010

Tequila!

Posted on March 30, 2010 by 3 Comments

The first bout of touristista has happened. We’re about 8 weeks into our Mexican journey and it was bound to hit one of us. Poor Bode. It’s mostly fever, but the little guy has been a trouper. We sat in a hotel with wifi for the day, but learned that many major online video sites do not allow viewers from Mexico. No cartoons today. Oh well, at least we had some movies.

Like any good mother, I left the boys in the hotel room while I headed out to tour the Jose Cuervo distillery and take photos. I felt a tinge of guilt as I headed out the door just as Bode  got up and headed for the bathroom for the 10th time.

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The entire town has a patina and every other store around the main square is a tequila shop.  I toured the museo de tequila, and then coughed up the 105 pesos for the Jose Cuervo tour.

I was the only person on the English language tour, and had 3 guides to torment with my questions. We’ve been on several vineyard and brewery tours, but this was by far my favorite. Perhaps it was the 3 tastes and a margarita they included in the tour. Perhaps it was just the solo respite from a 4 year-old’s gastroenteritis issues.

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The heart of the agave plant (not a cactus) is cooked in a huge oven for 38 hours, cooled for another 9 and then taken by hand to the press. The pulpy stuff is used as compost and donated to artisans for things like  paper making. The rest is the good stuff. The ‘heart’ of the plant can be eaten like sugar cane, but it is much sweeter. I swiped a couple extra pieces for the boys.

After it’s distilled twice, it is 50% alcohol, and a bit rough.They water it down a bit for consumption. If it’s gold tequila, it’s got other additives and is best for mixing drinks, not drinking straight. The good stuff is put into oak barrels for a while; Reposado for 2-11 months, Añejo (Aged) for over a year, and Extra Anejo for over 3 years. Extra Añejo is the really good stuff.

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After the tour, they drop you off at the bar for 2-for-1 margaritas. I love supporting the local economy here.

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When I came out of the distillery there was some sort of spring celebration going on. All the kids were in costumes, so I ran back to the hotel to get Bode. He was fast asleep, poor thing. Luckily, the stuff I picked up for him at the pharmacy worked wonders and he was much better by morning.

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Small Towns and Big Volcanoes

Posted on March 28, 2010 by 10 Comments

The next day we wandered around  the town above the lake. Laundry, internet and a few awesome roadside gorditas. I believe this town is the Mayberry of Mexico.

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On the road again, we decided it was time for more volcanoes. We headed for Volcan Ceboruco, just outside of the town of Jala. Amazingly, there are 20 miles of cobblestone road that lead up to the top of the mountain and down into the fuming crater. Can you image working on a 20 mile cobblestone road to the top of a volcano? After a few wrong turns (not many sings out here) and miles and miles of agave fields, we finally made it to the top.

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We didn’t see a single person the entire trip and the drive was really nice. After climbing 6000 ft, we descending into the cinder cone and checked out the steam vents. The inside of the cinder cone is more like a meadow and you can drive all over. Its pretty, quiet and much cooler than the valley far below.

Since it was just us and the crickets, we thought about boondocking right here for the evening but realized we drove all the way up with very few supplies. Next time. Back down the cobblestone. We saw about 20 of these long-nosed, ring-tailed creatures cross the path in front of us, but we didn’t know what they were. After a bit of research, we think they are coati.

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Onward we went, realizing later that we passed another time zone and considered a camping spot that was listed as “near” Magdalena. Nice town, where riding horseback was as common as driving a car. Unfortunately, the campsite was another hour in the wrong direction, so we opted to get a hotel at our real destination just 20 miles away. After a very long day in Red Beard, we celebrated dinner in Tequila!

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Also, we’ve been asked to write a summary of our trip so far for a Spanish language magazine. We’ve written it and can translate it via Google translate, but would appreciate if a native Spanish speaker out there could edit it for us. Just let us know…

Also, the Guayabitos show for VolksBrothers TV aired over the weekend on Sky TV all over Mexico. Our interview is somewhere in there. It’s not too bad. Do I really sound like that?

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Generosity and Tranquility

Posted on March 26, 2010 by 5 Comments

To me, the most amazing thing about this adventure is the true kindness of complete strangers.  We’ve met so many incredible people along our journey and this week was as good as any. More new friends in Guayabitos.

I stopped Sam on the street on Saturday afternoon because she was carrying some Volkswagen promo stuff, and I was desperate to get information about the show.  Thankfully, she spoke English and was able to give us some basic information about the show, with the helpful caution…’if they say 5pm, it will most likely be about 7.’

We later met her partner Mark, who makes custom dune buggies at Buggies del Barrio in La Penita, the town just north of Guayabitas. Very cool folks, and Mark even offered to help us tune up Red Beard, an offer we eagerly took.

Brian and Carole stopped by Red Beard at the show and heard our story. They offered us a camping spot at their ‘Little Rig’ RV park that night, another offer we couldn’t pass up, especially as we were meeting Mark for the tune up just a mile away in the morning.

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Little did we know what a beautiful and serene place they have.  They are pretty much closed for the season and Semana Santos is coming up. We had the place to ourselves! The snowbird season is essentially over and the beaches have been returned to the Mexicans.

Brian and Carole live on Vancouver Island 6 months a year as required to be covered by the Canadian health insurance. The other 6 months (maybe longer shhh!) they have their own piece of paradise here on the Pacific coast.  They share their land with up to 6 small campers and they even reserve the best beach-side spot for small wanderers like us. I don’t think they have a website, but if you are in the area we highly recommend Little Rig RV Park #1!

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As much as we’d like to have lingered, we had a date with Sam and Mark to tune up Red Beard. We really tested Mark’s goodwill as he spent 2 hours in the blazing sun trying to figure out our ongoing issues. In the end, there were new plug wires, new plugs, the electronic ignition was back in, and the carb was tweaked some more. We just replaced the wires and plugs last week, but we’ll give it a go. In the end, Red Beard was running much better. Thanks Mark! I’m a little worried about Jason’s new found love of dune buggies though.

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We decided to test the bus out by heading up into the mountains to Laguna Santa Maria del Oro, a volcanic crater lake in a beautiful mountain setting. It was described in our guidebook as idyllic and it didn’t disappoint.

The bus climbed the mountains well, but now stalls when we press the brake. It’s always something.

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We camped at a little park right on the lake and again we were the only people around. There are a few small restaurants on the lake and they were all empty too. The most surprising thing? Jason sharing his whole fried fish with Bode (head and all,) and Bode saying “give me some more of that good stuff!”

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Premier Lugar

Posted on March 25, 2010 by 12 Comments

Sunday morning we packed up the bus and headed over to the show. The main street to the town square was closed and we took a detour and started following all the other VWs. They must know where to go.

By the time we got close, we realized we were in line to register and we couldn’t really turn around. Oh well, at least we would get a good place to park and a T-shirt, we thought. And, it’s a good thing we washed the bus.

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We were directed through big crowds right into the center of the town square. We did get a good parking spot next to all the other buses, but it was clear that there was no way we were leaving until it was all completely over. Oh well. A good excuse to test out the solar-powered fridge (it worked great!)

The show was fun. There were more Safaris (Things) than I have ever seen in one place and they were all in stellar condition. Of course, tons and tons of Vochos (Bugs) of all variations. Massive sound systems was a common theme. Lot’s of custom cars, a swap meet and tons of VW lovers everywhere. There was no discriminating here and there were plenty of water-cooled VW’s too. If you wanted to show off your customized Jetta, there was a place for you too.

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One guy (Juan) drove his water-cooled VW taxi 10 hours from Mexico City and entered it in the show. A regular taxi – not a show car fake taxi – just a taxi that he drives every day. If there was a category for it, I hope he won.

There weren’t too many trailer queens (there were some) and it was mostly just regular folks showing off their cars. This was their one car that they drive every day and love. It makes for a different atmosphere and probably more fun than a bunch of guys obsessing over obscure VW manufacturing minutia or trying to keep people from leaving fingerprints on their show car. Of course, there was probably some of that too, but it was all in Spanish.

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We just hung out all day and met some great folks and made more contacts in Mexico. We managed to communicate with just about everyone, but we really need to learn more Spanish. We were also interviewed for a Guadalajara TV show. If anyone sees it on TV or finds it online, please let us know. The minute the interview ended, I couldn’t remember anything I said. I hope it wasn’t too bad.

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Late in the afternoon, we were still hanging around and talking to some folks when someone came running up to us. “You won! You won! Go! Go! Go!”  There was a guy talking on the P.A. the whole time, but we couldn’t understand any of it. Not knowing what to do (and having everything we own in the car) we asked the people we just met to watch our stuff and ran up to the gazebo. On the way, I passed Alfredo from PV who was on his was to find us too.

First place for Westfalia!

Another guy we met, Juan (another Juan,) leaned over and told me to stick around a while longer. A bit later I thought I heard my name again and something about driving all over the Americas. I looked around dumbfounded and was waved up on stage again.

First place in “Especial!”

I couldn’t really understand what the special category was, but I’m guessing it was for driving the farthest to get to the show or craziest trip or something like that.

I’ve been fortunate enough to win a few awards for miscellaneous forgettable things over the years, but never… never have I gotten to pose with scantily-clad women after receiving an award.

I will remember this one for a long time!

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Guayabitos

Posted on March 24, 2010 by 4 Comments

We continued to back-track and headed north to Rincon de Guayabitos. Aside from hearing good things about the town, we’d been told my multiple people that we had to go to the big VW show.

Guayabitos is a pretty cool place and not your normal gringo vacation destination. It’s a normal Mexican vacation destination. That’s what makes it so cool. It’s built up for tourism, but mostly for weekenders from Guadalajara and other inland cities. Each weekend they come from all over Mexico and take the place over. During the week, you’ve got it to yourself.

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We found a beach-side hotel that let us camp in their parking lot and use their facilities. This place was oozing with old-school charm and long-faded grandeur. We were camped just a few steps from a tranquil pool and a few more steps to a completely packed beach. Starting on Friday afternoon and throughout the weekend, the beach was absolutely filled to capacity and everyone was having a good time.

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There were still tons of vendors on the beach, but this time they were selling practical necessities instead of the PV tourist junk. Coco frio? Si si. Fish on a stick? Bueno. Giant blow-up floaty things? Bode wanted one, but maybe next time.

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By the time Saturday afternoon rolled around, we were done with the beach and went a few blocks into town to check out the festivities. We heard the show started at 5 pm. At 5, we heard that 5 really meant 8 and that it was just a big cruise and street party.

By early evening, most every block had vintage VW’s parked up and down it and people were all over the streets. There was a wedding that afternoon and I had to wonder if the bride was aware of her timing. No word on whether or not she left in a VW limo, but I doubt it. It was a big production with a huge reception on the beach that night with multiple bands, a Jumbotron(?) and fireworks. If you’re interested, the bridesmaids wore orange and red.

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We wandered the streets and talked to all sorts of nice folks and found out that the actual show started at 9 am Sunday morning. We figured that really meant 11.

The streets kept getting packed and the cruise started. I don’t know if it’s a regular Saturday night thing or not, but all sorts of other custom cars showed up too. Low-riders with hydraulics and neon and such. Most people seemed to stick to the sidewalks and cheered when a VW drove by and jeered when any non-VW drove by. It was pretty funny and all good-spirited.

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Later, the burn outs and testosterone-stroking started and we took it as our cue to leave. It was about 9 pm that night, and we could tell things might start to get out of hand. Safety wasn’t really an issue so much as just not wanting to be around so many people that had been drinking in the sun all day. There are only so many things we’re ready to explain to a four year old.

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We learned all sorts of other stuff that night.

If you drive a dune buggy or any sort of vehicle with large tires, you absolutely MUST park with one tire over the curb. This is essential to promote your coolness.

Those bikini girls you see in car magazines draped all over the cars? They seem to be walking around for hire. They have a handler and everything. We have no idea what it costs, but Angela was the first to suggest we should hire them for some photos with Red Beard. We didn’t.

You can comfortably fit 7 guys in a VW Thing (Safari.)

You think a VW bug is small? You can make it WAY smaller.

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Sayulita Part Dos

Posted on March 23, 2010 by 11 Comments

Because locating our package and hitting the Mega took most of the day, we headed just out of PV and back into Sayulita for the night. We found a campsite next to the beach and parked near 3 other VW buses. Two had been there for 4 months, one of them just a week.

Everyone was a surfer and everyone had little kids. Surfing 2 or 3 sets a day and raising the fam in a beach-side campground. Quite a life. Of course, these folks were from… Canada. They were all just a few weeks from heading back and resuming their normal lives. They will all be back next winter.

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The sites were just back from the beach in the jungle. Every night you could hear the strangest noises coming from the place – mostly birds but I’m not sure what else. You could also hear the chorus of dogs. Then, there was the insomniac rooster that started up at 4am.

Jason installed the solar panel and Red Beard has gone green. He had no drill or electricity, but was able to put mounting holes in the pop-top with a screwdriver and lots of patience. He went to the local hardware store for some bolts and washers and they had four of them – total. And they were rusty. We bought them. By afternoon, it was mounted on the bus and he took extra pleasure in using the solar panel to charge the battery to run the soldering iron to wire it up.

Problem was, by the time he completely finished installing it, it was late afternoon and the 2nd battery died soon after. No cold fridge tonight either.

On three occasions, someone walked by and commented on the color of our bus. “Duuuude, that’s soooo red! That color is amaaaazing, I’ve never seen anything sooooo red!” I don’t think we’ve had anyone specifically comment on the extreme redness of our bus, but it’s consummate colorfulness got three people’s attention today. They have the good stuff here in Sayulita.

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We pretty much stuck to the beach and campsite this time. We took Bode out boogie boarding, which he loves.  He squealed and laughed the whole way. He’d yell “My wave! My wave!” before riding in and yelling “Cowabunga!” After a good tumble, he’d pop up and yell “Wipe Out!” and flash a hang-loose sign.

The waves were breaking in waist-deep water (ours), so Jason would get him on a wave and I’d have to catch him. Usually no problem, but several times he was a little far from me and I’d just jump on the board with him to slow it down.

I think we have a surfer in the making, if only he’d get that swimming thing down pat. By the way, if anyone has any suggestions on teaching a kid to swim, let me know. He kicks, he flails arms, he sinks. He doesn’t seem to mind, he loves the water…he’s just not getting the concept of staying on top of it.

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We headed out the next day and visited the very quiet town of San Francisco, just north of Sayulita. Horses parked on the streets, very few tourists and a beautiful beach. We might come back here some day, but we had to get moving on to Guayabitos to meet some folks and go see some vochos.

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Finally Moving

Posted on March 22, 2010 by 2 Comments

After several days of getting our bus ready to roll again, I finally had some time to sit back and relax and take a look around. We were getting restless after being in this spot for only a few days, but we were surrounded by people who had no intention of going anywhere anytime soon. The thing that struck me funny was the vehicles they were driving. Most of them are just retirement homes on wheels, but the names of these things suggest something completely different. Most of them suggest some sort of adventurous activity, but in reality most everyone was just sitting parked.

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A few of them, like The Surveyor made sense.  Just looking around. The Pursuit is a logical one too – a follower – but not really something worth labeling. The Scottsdale, The Journey, The Chateau.  All boring and logical. Yawn.

The Fun Finder sounded good. I could drive something called The Fun Finder.

Others could be downright tawdry. The Pleasure Way? The Cougar? Watch out for these folks.

Then there was The Bounder. This guy spent the afternoon bounding around trying to set up his satellite dish. The Sprinter? Please.

Why can’t these things have more honest names like The Sit and Read? The Sedentary. How about The Park and Rest?

But, I digress.

One more thing I noticed was that coconuts are seeds. I have a pretty keen interest in plants (Life’s a garden – dig it) but I had never considered that a tree might sprout from a coconut.

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Anyway, we’re done and moving on.

On our way out of town, we stopped at a big store to pick up some supplies. A few minutes later, Jamison pulls up beside us to check out Red Beard. He’s driving a ’93 water cooled Mexican VW combi. Looks like a bus and acts like a bus, but it has a radiator in front. I have no idea what’s in the rear and I don’t want to know.

He bought the thing here in PV for $500 USD and had to tow it out of a swamp. He spent another $1000 USD getting it running and then spent the last 6 months driving to Costa Rica and back.

He’s a kite-surfing instructor and spent some time teaching along the way, but like so many others, ran out of cash and is heading home. He came back to PV to teach here,where he had some connections, but got death threats and a rock through his windshield from a loco competitor. The local police and the US authorities told him he wasn’t safe here and they couldn’t do much about it. His girlfriend already headed back to Wisconsin, so it was an easy choice.

An interesting part of his story was that he got in an accident in Nicaragua. Accidents down here are big deals. Anyway, it wasn’t his fault and he wanted to file a claim with the other driver’s insurance. Part of the deal is that the police have to hold the vehicle until the claim is paid. It took a month, and they slept in the bus at the police station the entire time. Both he and the police were amazed when they actually got a few hundred bucks after a month of waiting for their claim, and best of all he had a free and safe place to stay right next to a big lake in Nicaragua the whole time.

It’s for sale here in PV and I can connect you if you want to pick up where he left off.

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The best part of our day was successfully getting our package. Finally.

We made calls. Lot’s of calls, with no luck. Finally, we were persistent enough to get someone else to make the calls for us… and it worked. Where was it? Sitting in post office in a town 20 miles away. Just sitting there the whole time. No notice or anything. I’m not sure how the system works here, but it did kind of work – just not like we expected.

I saw that everyone coming and going from this post office was on a motorcycle with saddlebags. Our package was just too big for anyone to take on their bike… and apparently they don’t notify you either. I guess you’re just supposed to go looking for it.

The package? We pre-spent our now-missing Google Ad money on a solar panel. Once we got down south of La Paz, we just couldn’t keep the fridge running long enough for it to be useful. Solar panels are oddly expensive here, so we bought one online and had it shipped.

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Filed Under: Jalisco

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