Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A rude awakening

When construction first started on our cluster, George and I were surprised - and pleased - that our Casa Encantada looked to be on the fast track for completion. While our neighbors lamented the lack of progress on their homes, we watched in amazement as our home began to take shape.

But that was then and the this is now part isn't looking too good.

While our neighbors' homes shoot up, our home hasn't seen any significant progress since August. So little progress, in fact, that we didn't even receive a progress report from TCC this month. Bummer!

Of course, we're happy for our cluster neighbors and we share in their excitement as walls go up and ceilings go in. We're keeping our spirits up by telling ourselves there must be a method to the construction madness we're witnessing in Loreto Bay. Maybe work has stopped on our home so that the other homes in our cluster can catch up. That theory makes sense if the plan is to coordinate the cluster work so that crews are all working on the same phase of construction such as plastering, finishing, etc.

But, who knows? All we do know at this point is that there won't be much progress to see on our home when we get off the cruise ship in Loreto on December 17. But there has been real headway made on our cluster as a whole, the Paseo and amenities in Founder's, so it should be a good, albeit brief, visit.

Another recent setback experienced by some home owners - including us - was news that an offer to receive a discount from LB/Re:Play by paying off our homes early was rescinded shortly after being made.

An email was sent out to qualifying home owners (those who had made timely or early payments) on Nov. 19 detailing the terms of the offer. Although no guarantees of an early completion date were given, the deal would have saved us a good bit money and would have helped LB/Re:Play with their cash flow problems.

Unfortunately, just two days later news broke of Citigroup's financial problems and the offer was put on hold. And then yesterday the offer was officially rescinded in an email from Re:Play's Bill Green, who didn't offer any specifics as to why.

The end result of the non-offer is that we're left scratching our heads, wondering if our investment in Loreto Bay is secure. For the most part, we believe it is because the project is too far along now to simply abandon. It will be interesting to see how things shake out in the next year of so.

And don't even get me started on the Marriott project next door! I'll save that for another blog.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

A different perspective

While having lunch one day at Augie's during the last home owner event, George and I spent an entertaining hour watching - and snapping photos - as tenders ferried cruise passengers from the MS Ryndam into Loreto.

We saw lots of those cruisers wandering around town that day, most looking lost and confused. Not surprising as Loreto hasn't (yet) geared up for that kind of tourist influx.

The sight of that large ship anchored outside Loreto led us to wonder what it would be like to cruise the Sea of Cortez and see the area from a new and different perspective. How fun, we said to each other. Even though the ship only spends a day in Loreto, we could rent a car and zip out to Loreto Bay to view the progress on our Encantada. We could have a leisurely lunch poolside at the Inn and even have enough time to track down Hector or Jesus to get the latest scoop on construction. We'd be able to spend the day in La Paz checking out furniture stores, art galleries and other shopping venues. We'd even get to spend some time in Cabo being hectored by condo salesmen. Who could resist?

Not us, that's for sure. We got home and booked a 10-day Mexican cruise on the aforementioned MS Ryndam scheduled to depart San Diego December 11.

Since just about everything in Baja shuts down during the holidays, we're not sure we'll be able to actually track down anyone from LB during our shore time in Loreto, but we will be able to take lots of photos, which we'll post here upon our return.

Merry Christmas to us! And to all of you, too!

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

A call for Customer Service 101

George and I have been on such a high since visiting Loreto last month. Being able to see firsthand the progress on our Casa Encantada was an incredible experience. In just four short months we saw our lot transformed from a dusty, barren patch of ground to the beginnings of a real home with walls and ceilings. It was so exciting to see our home take shape and to share in the excitement of other home owners during the Agua Viva tour.

All that excitement created a little flicker of hope that the information flow from Loreto Bay to home owners just might be improving. Unfortunately, that is not the case as evidenced by an email we received this evening from Loreto Bay and a transcript of Kaz’s most recent podcast on Nopolo News.

This latest email from Loreto Bay proudly claims to be providing accurate and up-to-date information and photos of the construction progress on our casa. Not even close. The construction “update” didn’t even include the progress we saw while in Loreto and the photos only showed our neighbors’ homes in a shot apparently taken from the tower of our house.

What gives? If this is the new and improved product being offered by customer service then we’re all in trouble.

Making matters worse was the latest podcast transcript on Nopolo News. I didn’t have a blood pressure cuff handy today when George read Kaz’s transcript, but judging by his demeanor, I’m sure it shot up a few points! (Click on Nopolo News under Blog List)

The responses from LB’s marketing rep Stacy to legitimate questions were unsatisfactory to say the least. When asked about providing more pertinent information in the monthly (not quite) newsletter, Stacy responded by asking which newsletter… Hello? How many newsletters are there anyway? Her responses were generally snarky and unresponsive (see response to management attending home owner event), something we’ve noticed whenever marketing responds on the official home owner site.

We understand that management may not have all the answers – or any answers for that matter. Instead of being defensive, why not try a little courteous honesty? “Sorry, we don’t have the answer right now, but we’ll work on finding out for you.” That’s what we heard from Jesus with customer service down in Loreto and it works. It generates goodwill and patience. The problem is that there is no customer service consistency within LBC. A crash course in the fundamentals of customer service is desperately needed for everyone - from top to bottom - in LB/Replay.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Rumors take wing

Why is it that bad news from Loreto Bay always seems to hit on the weekend when there's no recourse but to wait until Monday to start making calls?

Last evening was a perfect case in point with the post on the official homeowner site saying that particle board and laminate cabinets are being installed in Agua Viva homes.

Upon reading the post from a full-time homeowner George immediately went through our contract to find out what exactly is specified. Of course, nothing was exactly specified other than lower cabinets are solid alder wood. Not very reassuring.

So we ended the weekend on a fretful note (George in particular who worried that maybe Replay was going to be making changes without informing homeowners) wondering if the cabinets would - as the homeowner posted - look like something that belongs in a mobile home.

First thing this morning, George called Village Homes Coordinator Jesus Perez to resolve the issue. And thankfully, Jesus did just that by noting that what the homeowner saw was a sub-structure of particle board and laminate over which the solid wood cabinets will be placed, adding that the sub-structure is being used to protect against humidity. Ultimately, Jesus said, the cabinets will look like those in Founder's.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Tying up loose ends

Our mosquito bites are starting to fade, along with that wonderful sense of calm that envelopes us every time we visit Loreto. It's back to reality here in Albuquerque, which makes it the perfect time to revisit our visit and tie up some of the loose ends left in previous blogs.

The question of whether homes in Agua Viva will be permachinked was put to rest with the news that all homes will receive that finish on doors, window frames and even pergolas. This news came via homeowners who met with a top Beck representative during their visit.

This is good news for two reasons: The cost of having an outside contractor apply permachink to a Nueva Chica can run has high as $2,300. And after witnessing the damage to outside wood while walking through the Founder's Neighborhood, it became clear that applying permachink is a necessity, not just an option.

During that same walk we noticed a good bit of rust on iron work, so we're hoping a new finish for the iron is also in the works for Agua Viva homes. Otherwise we'll most definitely be applying some kind of rust inhibitor to the iron railings on our stairs. And we'll be mighty glad we didn't opt for even more iron work.

As for fears that construction has slowed to a mere crawl, take heart... During our visit we saw workers - often many workers - toiling away, not only on the Paseo project but throughout the development.

Work on our cluster - and many others - was going strong during our entire visit. The stairs were poured and re-bar set for the tower on our home, while two of our neighbors went from bare dirt to poured slabs, with walls going up quickly on one lot. Great news for us and our neighbors and proof that although work on homes may have shifted into a lower gear due to work on the Paseo, it's still going strong.

It's possible that activity was pumped up for the benefit of those attending the homeowner event (a few jokes to that effect were somewhat nervously made), but the news that Beck is planning on delivering some 26 homes by the end of the year seems to belie that line of thinking. We hope.

In other news, we learned that Loreto's Farmer's Market is still being held on Sundays, but we never found out why it was changed from Saturday to Sunday.

Our dining adventures continued with a farewell dinner at Domingo's (located on the main road into town), where we enjoyed fabulous steaks in a beautiful outdoor setting. Domingo's is now one of our favorites, which makes us wonder why the concierge at the Inn discouraged us from dining there during our visit in April. Hmmmm.

Another good choice was Islas for breakfast where we experienced incredible huevos rancheros (that's high praise, indeed, considering we're from New Mexico where that dish has evolved into high art) in a bright, airy, charming setting. But for me, the pièce de résistance was dinner at Mediterraneo where the sea bass with spinach atop angel hair pasta is heavenly! As always, everywhere we dined the wait staff was charming and the service great.

While I've been writing this, George received an e-mail from LBC with an even bigger incentive for people to buy a Casita Cortez - a $50,000 rebate, in addition to all furnishings, free Explorer Club membership and no HOA fees for two years. The same rebate is being offered for a two-bedroom condo at Posado Sur and for Founder's custom home site 515. Yow! That kinda hurts!

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dengue Fever alert

Hurricane Norbert may have taken it easy on Loreto Bay, but the heavy rains that fell during the storm left standing water throughout the development - a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes.

By Saturday, Oct. 18, of our visit mosquitoes had made their presence known throughout the development, prompting a mad dash to the Farmacia for insect repellent.

Now, Baja California Sur health authorities have issued a state-wide alert due to an outbreak of dengue fever. According to a release from Jim Gries in BCS, there have been 338 cases confirmed so far this year with over 10 percent of the hemorrhagic variety. He advises eliminating standing water and using strong insect repellent and sleeping nets. Those who experience a high fever, severe headache and aching in joints and muscles, should seek medical advice and should use acetaminophen not aspirin.

For more information: http://www.oem. com.mx/elsudcali forniano/ notas/n904109. htm
http://www.cdc. gov/ncidod/ dvbid/dengue/

Monday, October 20, 2008

Food, glorious food...

During our last visit in April, we expanded our horizons by renting a car during our stay at the Inn. Being mobile allowed us to explore Loreto and all it has too offer, so when we planned this visit we knew a car was a must.

We've been able to branch out culinary-wise by visiting many area eateries and following is our take on some of those we've visited so far:

Mexico Lindo y que Rico is a small restaurant off Benito Juarez and well worth a visit. We had dinner there one evening with some fellow homeowners and we were all pleasantly surprised. The food was inexpensive but well prepared and the fish in foil I ordered was heavenly. The other diners seemed quite happy with their selections, too. In addition to the good food, we were treated to an evening of entertainment courtesy of a waiter (who could have been the proprietor, we just don't know). He was a wonderful guitar player (as a former professional guitarist and performer even George was impressed) and singer and we had a great time. And the margaritas were muy bueno!

We also tried Cafe Ole (located just down from the Hotel Flores) for the first time and loved the Huevos y Jamon - and the speedy service. During each of our two breakfast visits we saw a table of what appeared to be older ex-pats, but we didn't try to find out as they looked occupied with their food and conversation.

Another great place for breakfast or lunch is Augie's on the Malecon. Great American-style breakfast and even better fish tacos for lunch. The food has always been good during our visits but it's the view that's spectacular. The day after we arrived here we sat in Augie's with fish tacos, two cold cervezas and a view of the Holland Amercia cruise ship that disgorged passengers into Loreto all day. Sadly, it didn't seem any of the tourists were making their way down to Augie's end of the Malecon. Definitely their loss.

Yesterday we made our first trip to Puerto Escondido with some fellow homeowners. It was a short ride but memorable for the incredible scenery - the Sea of Cortez on one side and the mountains close by on the other (so close, in fact, we witnessed a small rock slide as we were taking photos after stopping at a pull-out). It was just spectacular as was the view of the harbor itself. Some lovely boats were docked close-in but the really great marina building was mostly deserted. The facility has a small convenience-type store, laundromat, great restrooms (always a plus), Porto Bello restaurant and even a small lap pool and hot tub on the top floor. Very impressive. Porto Bello was a lovely little place, very modern and trendy looking but not what we were looking for that day. We stayed and had some cold cervezas but then decided to head out elsewhere.

We made our way back toward Loreto Bay and stopped at tiny Vista al Mar, which was much more in keeping with our collective mood. The informal restaurant - not entirely enclosed - is located just shy of the shore line and serves up some terrific seafood. The restaurant was packed with locals and a large table of sportsmen from north of the border. Children played on the toys that were scattered between the restaurant and the water, while their families watched on. George and I had clam and scallops ranchero, while our companions had fish filet, fish tacos and clams on the half shell. All served with cold cervezas, of course, and all delicious. We've also heard that getting from the Inn to the restaurant by kayak is doable.

There are several more restaurants to talk about and we'll do so in a later post as it's almost dinner time again!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Replay rep a no-show at homeowner event

We were disappointed - but not surprised - when the homeowner event concluded last night without someone from Replay/LBC making an appearance. We had hoped - and were told by Replay's Bill Green - that someone would be on hand to update homeowners on the development's progress/plans.

There's been so much conflicting information floating around during this event that such an appearance would have been helpful.

Here's what we don't know:

* Will Agua Viva homes be permachinked?
* Who is supplying doors and window frames for the homes in Agua Viva? Is it a local company - West Coast Mill Works - or are the individual contractors buying them independently?
* Are home warranties being honored if the homeowner doesn't sign up with property management?
* What will be the cost (if any) of membership in the Cortez Explorer's Club? Replay says we'll all know the answer by the end of this month. Here's hoping.

All in all, it was helpful to meet with other homeowners even though those encounters often evolved into a form of group therapy. The bottom line is that no one seems to know what's going on. We do know, though, that those who have taken possession of their homes are - for the most part- ecstatic. As I'm sure we will be too.

We should all continue to share as much information as possible. In an effort to further that end I've added a link in 'my blog list' for Alan Axelrod's blog. Alan is responsible, along with his son and a friend, for the very helpful and informative book "Best Guide Loreto." His blog is terrific!

For those of you out there who have been dreading the day that motorized craft such as jet skis hits the scene here, we've got bad news... That day has arrived. The appearance of the dreaded jet ski was mentioned by several homeowners during last night's farewell dinner (which was quite nice!) but not in a happy way.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Odds and ends from Loreto

Thursday night's welcome reception for homeowners was held in the Vista Del Mar suite on the third floor of the Inn. Great views, great food and drink and the chance to meet homeowners who had just arrived that afternoon. Just a rough guesstimate that 30 or so were in attendance.

Speaking of the views, the rains that have fallen this summer have changed the look of the countryside. What was brown scrub during our visit in April is now lush green undergrowth everywhere you look. The downfall to all the rain that fell last week during Norbert's visit is that the Sea of Cortez is churning up a lot of debris, which makes snorkeling difficult. We're hoping the sea will calm down soon so we can get in some snorkeling before we leave.

Friday morning we attended the vendor-sponsored continental breakfast in the courtyard of a Founder's neighborhood across from the Inn. Vendors included Casa Mesquite, ADWA, Road 9 and Property Management. Dahlgren & Duck and Vivero Los Cabos (the new landscaping company) had not arrived by the time we left. It was an informal get-together where homeowners could learn more about what the preferred vendors offer, but not as informative as we would have liked, especially with two of the planned vendors being no-shows.

However, we were happy to see ADWA's wide selection of window coverings and, for the most part, we've heard good things about them on the official homeowner site. Initially, we thought we'd just order in the states and bring coverings down when we move, but the ballpark price range for our Encantada quoted by Adrian seems like a pretty good deal and a lot less hassle for us. Something else to think about.

On the downside, we learned from Jesus, who's with customer service, that homes in Agua Viva may not be permachinked after all. According to Jesus, window frames and doors will have some kind of stain that's good for six or seven months, but that's it. He did say, though, that he wasn't absolutely sure about this info and promised to get back to us. If true, this is a real disappointment especially after seeing the condition of some window frames and doors during a walk through Founder's on our first day here. The damage was extensive after just a few short years. There's a lot of discussion and information on permachink on the official homeowner site.

Friday afternoon, homeowners were offered the opportunity to view their homes on a customer service guided tour. It was fun to see other people's homes, especially those that are near completion. Some of the new exterior colors are nice, others a bit too vibrant! But once all the homes in a cluster are completed I'm sure all those colors will mesh nicely.

We were delighted to discover that the steps to our tower had been poured since our first visit to the site Wednesday. When work crews are on site they work fast, but there seems to be a lot of hopscotching from house to house.

The estuary near our cluster (38) has had a good bit of rock wall collapse as a result of all the rain or just poor construction, we're not sure. It will take a lot of work to re-do those areas. We're not sure if other estuaries have experienced the same problem. And we're wondering about the homes that will be built alongside the estuary... will flooding be a problem when severe storms move through?

Tonight is the farewell clambake and we've got our fingers crossed that someone from LBC/Replay will make an appearance and offer up some information. If that happens, I'll be sure to post tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Hola from Loreto!

There's something about Loreto... George and I felt it the first time we laid eyes on this place just over a year ago. And we felt it again - just as strongly - even before we touched ground Tuesday afternoon.

As the plane banked over the Sea of Cortez and the little town of Loreto came into view below us, we knew we'd made the right decision in staking our future here. And it was obvious from the excited voices around us that others on the plane felt the same way. That sense of camaraderie was evident in the exchanges we shared with fellow homeowners at the airport and here at the Inn.

It's been so great to meet our future neighbors, some that we already know through e-mails and others we're just getting to know. And we're expecting to get acquainted with even more during the welcome reception here at the Inn Thursday.

As for concrete news, here goes... Workers are still toiling away on homes in Agua Viva, but there aren't as many workers as in months past. I'll go into this more in another post, but it is important to note that work continues. A lot of manpower is being expended in improving the road to the southern entrance and nearby along the Paseo. There is also some very nice flagstone paving going in along the west side of the Paseo (it meanders quite nicely)in the Founder's Neighborhood, of course.

George and I were able to see our home Wednesday and it was really something to behold. I have to admit that I got quite choked up when I saw our Encantada - and I think George did too, he just hid it better! Workers were busy fitting re-bar for the stairs to our tower and we assume the tower will go up shortly. I thanked them profusely and only regret that I can't bake some cookies for them while we're here!

Our neighbor's homes are also coming along nicely. Michael and Terri, your walls are up and looks like a ceiling is close to a reality in your Bohemia. We'll send photos of your place soon!

Speaking of cluster neighbors, we had a great dinner with Penny and Bill Davis (AV222) in town Wednesday night. I was surprised to learn this is Bill's first visit to Loreto. He works overseas and has left all this business in the capable hands of his wife.

We're on our way to the Welcome Reception and I'm sure there'll be much more to report tomorrow. In fact, I know there will as I've left out lots of info... more to come!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Loreto bound!

George and I leave for Loreto early tomorrow morning for a nine-day visit that includes the much-anticipated homeowner event. We're very excited about seeing the progress on our home and we'll be taking lots of photos of our home, cluster and anything at all that offers a photo op.

During our visit, we plan on posting to this blog with any news of import regarding Loreto Bay, Loreto and the other planned resorts coming to the area. We'll also try to do a few restaurant reviews, including the new place at Puerto Escondido which we've heard good things about. In addition, we'll be checking out some of the businesses in Loreto, including plant nurseries, furniture stores, Dali Gourment and any other stores that look interesting. And we'll be writing about those too.

We're really looking forward to this trip, but not just for the reasons mentioned above. This will be our first real opportunity to meet a bunch of fellow homeowners and that's just so cool.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Norbert damage extensive

Although Hurricane Norbert hit the western side of Baja as a category 2 storm, the impact on Loreto was minimal, according to Lynn Hamman of Loreto.

"It rained a lot (but not that much according to recent storms I've been through) and we didn't lose power. City water went out for a while for some areas but overall it was not that big of a storm. Some areas (maybe south of Loreto) may have experienced more extreme weather," said Lynn in her update.

In a later update, Lynn said radio reports indicate that 95 percent of the homes in Magdalena Bay and outskirts are completely destroyed. San Carlos, Constitution and Insurgentes are still out of power.

Also, in Loreto the search continues for one person from Colonia Miramar who is presumed lost in the waters of Miramar Arroyo.

"A man trying to cross the Miramar creek has been reported as missing after the current swept him away," the authorities in Loreto, one of the municipalities Norbert tore through, said. This according to a Yahoo News story.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Podcast debut a first for homeowners

An interesting experiment in bringing Loreto Bay homeowners together to share information took place this evening during a podcast hosted by Richard "Kaz" Kasmier, a Loreto Bay homeowner in northern California.

The podcast format allows for people to listen to and/or participate in conversations via real time streaming audio. In addition, messages can also be posted to the site during the podcast.

Kaz, who has also launched a new Web site, Nopolo News!, started the informal chat by asking those online and on the phone about their reactions to Michael Coyle's letter to homeowners updating Replay's plans and the progress of the development.

He noted that he had attempted to get Michael Coyle to participate in the debut podcast but Coyle ultimately bowed out and offered a PR representative in his stead. Unfortunately, that substitute also fell through, which left Kaz to moderate without a guest. However, his previous radio experience was in evidence as he adroitly dealt with the flow of conversation as it moved from topic to topic.

Those participating agreed that the communication flow from Replay/LBC to homeowners needs improvement, with Kaz noting that information seems to trickle down from homeowner to homeowner, not a very effective means of communication.

There was also discussion of Bill Doyle and the update he sent to homeowners about a week before Replay's official response. One caller noted that many homeowners were unjustly angry at Bill for disseminating the information. Other callers agreed that Bill shouldn't be blamed as the messenger. As a side note, George and I were both worried about the position Bill was putting himself in by releasing his update. We thought - and rightly so it turns out - that some folks might very well blame the messenger. It is our opinion that Replay is at fault for not providing regular, detailed accountings of the progress of the development.

Discussion also focused on the status of Hurricane Norbert and exactly what LBC property management is doing to prepare for the storm's landfall Saturday morning. And what homeowners should do to prepare for storms during hurricane season. One suggestion was to stow patio furniture and outdoor items inside when the home is not in use. It was interesting to see a post appear online from a listener while this conversation was taking place, informing that Norbert has been downgraded a bit with winds now below 100 mph. A good example of how effective this format can be.

A good deal of talk also centered around the proposed Cortez Explorer's Club (what homeowners previously knew as the "beach club") and just what homeowners can expect in the way of amenities and fees. At this point, however, nothing is known.

George also participated in the online phone chat (while I listened in another room and took notes) relating his conversation with Bill Green about Replay's plans for the development.

Participants also spoke extensively about the airline situation into Loreto, with a couple of callers noting that Alaska Air is increasing flights into Loreto, along with thoughts on how to drive other airlines to Loreto.

George and I both think the format is a good way to get information out to homeowners, but it's obvious that it's going to be something of a problem to control the flow of information. All in all, though, it was a good start and Kaz deserves our thanks for taking on the task of hosting and coordinating the podcast.

The Web site can be found at http://www.nopolonews.com and those interested in participating or just listening in to the podcast can go to http://www.talkshoe.com

Norbert landfall expected in San Carlos

It's not looking good for Loreto as Hurricane Norbert bears down on the Baja coast. The National Hurricane Center is projecting landfall on the Baja coast within the next 72 hours. (For details click on the weather gizmo located on the right-hand side of this page.)

An e-mail update from Lynn Hamman in Loreto states, "Hurricane Norbert is now a Category 3 ... soon to be a 4 but making landfall as a 2. Unfortunately, it looks like its going to make landfall just south of San Carlos (unless it changes) and then visiting us in Loreto."

A posting on the official homeowner site says the National Hurricane Center considers this a major hurricane and warns it could reach category 4 status.

"It is expected to approach Loreto from the west which usually means we will receive some protection from the winds from the mountains. Heavy rain is anticipated," says LBC's Caitlin in the notice.

"We are monitoring this storm closely and will begin preparations Wednesday. Please do not call or email personnel on the ground in Loreto as they will likely be unable to respond through the duration of the storm," she adds.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A storm is brewing...

For the past few days, George and I have been fooling around with the blog trying to update the look (and to make up for the fact we haven't had anything to write about!). One of the new features we added was the weather gizmo, which turns out to be a good addition as another hurricane is heading for Baja just in time for the homeowner weekend!

The National Weather Service shows Hurricane Norbert following a projected path across Baja between Cabo and La Paz. But, of course, those projections can change quickly. Storm Track

As for news on the homeowner weekend set for next week, George talked to Rebecca with Hospitality yesterday and found out that some 50 homeowners have signed up for the weekend's events so far. With that many homeowners in attendance the weekend is bound to be a success regardless of the weather.

Another bit of good news is that remodeling of the hotel pool won't begin until after the event. Good news for Herzon and Chacho in that they won't have to contend with a back beat of jackhammers during their poolside performances.

The only sour note in all this is the outrageously high cost set by LBC for the handful of events. George and I made our plans more than two months ago and we were able to get a great flight/hotel deal for our nine-day stay through Alaska Airlines. Not so great a deal from LBC, though, when paying for the get-togethers in "ala carte" form.

Considering how badly LBC handled the first on, then off, then on-again ultimately downsized event, we didn't expect to be gouged on the cost.

We just keep reminding ourselves that it's worth it if only because we'll be able to meet so many of our fellow homeowners.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Better late than never

It took a while, but we finally received Michael Coyle's latest update after posting a query on the official homeowner site the day after the update was e-mailed to (some) homeowners. The response was prompt and courteous, but the update itself was something of a letdown, albeit a very attractively presented letdown.

Specifically, the release didn't provide much in the way of substance regarding construction timetables or information on Citigroup's plan to sell its interest. We were happy to read, however, that Replay remains committed to the concept of sustainability and will focus on that aspect of the development in its marketing campaign. And we both liked the new logo featuring the whale cartouche. Simple yet expressive of the area.

More importantly, though, George finally connected with Replay's Bill Green later in the day after first placing a call to LBC Tuesday in an effort to get information on the status of construction of our home and the development in general. Like many others, we've been more than a little concerned about making our next payment - a biggie - without some feedback from the powers that be. (It's worth noting that we've never - at least to date - withheld a payment.)

That conversation ended up being much more fruitful than the e-mail update.

After first reiterating Replay and Citigroup's commitment to the project, Bill said the most important new development (which was not discussed in the update) is Fontaur's (Mexico's tourism arm) pledge to spend $60 million in the Loreto region. Those funds along with money from the other developments planned in the area are sure to bring improvements to the community and region.

As for Citigroup, said Bill, its involvement has paid off because the project is much better off today than it was a year ago. Now, Citigroup, along with Replay, is trying to determine the value of the development. To that end, a Mexican firm has been called in to help evaluate the project. Ideally, Bill said, Replay would like to own the whole project.

On the home construction end, Bill acknowledged there is a definite slow down as efforts are now focused on the Paseo improvements and the Cortez Explorer's Club. Although he couldn't give us any kind of timetable on completion of our home, he did say construction would continue at the current slower pace.

These two communications, the latter in particular, have gone a long way toward easing our concerns about the development. A little communication goes a long way.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A bumpy ride

The feeling George and I have had the past couple of days as Congress stumbles and financial markets tumble (a bit of an uptick today, thank goodness) is akin to the sensation of getting on one of those awful amusement park rides that flip you, spin you and turn you upside down. The result is pretty much the same in that you're nauseated and you've lost all the money in your pockets by the time the ride is over.

In an attempt to distract ourselves from all these financial woes, we've been trying to guess where all these new resorts being reported on the Stark's site will be built.

We knew something was up with the news that Replay was resurfacing and upgrading the south entrance to Loreto Bay. And we suspected that was due in part to the new resort going in where the now-defunct Whale's Inn stands across from the tennis courts off the main entrance to LB.

We'd also heard that our former LB sales associate Laurie Sanborn was a part of that project, and today we learned she is joined by another former LB sales associate, Mark Codiroli, who gives the low down on the planned J.W. Marriott resort in an open letter on the Stark's site, which can be accessed by clicking on StarkSilverCreek at the bottom of this page.

In addition, The Villa Group, which has a proven track record in Cabo, Puerto Vallarta and Cancun, is planning four resorts in the Loreto area, one of which will be located at Ensenada Blanca, near the eco-resort Danzante, which has been on the market for some months now. A post on bajanomad.com states that The Villa Group tried to buy Danzante but the deal fell through. However, anything I read on that site is taken with a hefty grain of salt. Those who post there are particularly nasty about our development in Loreto Bay. Why, we don't know. But that kind of animosity makes me suspicious...

On the plus side, it's wonderful news that two major players such as Marriott and The Villa Group are moving forward with plans for high-end resorts in our own backyard no less. That can only bode well for the Villages of Loreto Bay.

On a local note (thanks to Lynn Hamman and her Yahoo group updates) is news that the La Palapa restaurant in Loreto burned down last week but the owner plans to re-open in 16 days with or without a roof! George and I and friends enjoyed a very entertaining dinner there last April so we're really happy they'll be open during our visit in a couple of weeks.

And on a personal note, thanks to our cluster neighbors Michael and Terri McMahon for the title of this post, which I co-opted from one of their e-mails because it's so very apropos of everything that's going on!

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

A work in progress demands work

For the most part, it appears that Loreto Bay homeowners are responding to The Construction Coach's recent update outlining Loreto Bay's cash flow problems with support for the project and Replay. However, many are questioning why Replay hasn't spoken directly to homeowners on these problems. Two days later we are still being met with silence from that quarter.

George and I both believe in this development and naturally want it to succeed. We join those who have offered their support for the project and Replay. These are tough times not just in Loreto, but across this continent, and it's important to maintain a positive attitude.

It's also important, as I noted two days ago, to be well-informed about the obstacles, delays and problems we are all facing with our homes in Loreto Bay.

A lot of what Bill Doyle said in his update makes sense. Some of it though, not so much. Although we understand the need for making a good first impression, we just aren't sure that a dramatic slow down of construction on homes in Agua Viva is going to create a good impression for potential home buyers.

It's great that the finishing touches in Founder's Neighborhood are being given priority. There's no doubt that a newly paved road from the highway into LB will reflect well on the development. As will the lovely walkways between homes and renovation of the hotel pool and bar.

But, to us, those work trucks and all that construction equipment along the Paseo aren't junky at all. They are proof positive that Loreto Bay is a hustling, bustling growing development. Now that's making a good impression.

Loreto Bay is a work in progress. Sure it would be nice to keep the dust and noise to a minimum, but nothing says success and growth like construction activity.

We're just not sure that slowing construction to a crawl is a good way to impress visitors to Loreto Bay. Instead of preparing lots for the next phase of Agua Viva, why not finish what's already been started? A finished phase indicates success. Rebar protruding from unfinished homes does not.

As I was finishing this post, George received our latest TCC update showing very little work (only one percent) done since last month. At least we have walls up, which means we'll have something to look at when we're down for the homeowner weekend!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Why re-invent the wheel?

One aspect of Replay's revamped strategic management plan that puzzles us is the contention that sales at Loreto Bay have been stagnant for almost a year because of the focus on construction.

As George asked, "Why?"

Why would the focus on construction take away from the focus on sales? Aren't these two totally separate functions?

As we noted in a previous blog, it appears that sales stagnated because the new strategy was haphazard and lacking in continuity.

When we bought our Casa Encantada in October 2007 the sales strategy was clear and effective. We weren't left to find our way to Loreto on our own. Then find our way to the hotel. Then wander aimlessly while trying to find a sales associate who might or might not be able to find us a model home to view. That's exactly what happened to a friend of ours who ultimately decided not to buy. He was turned off by the lack of attention. And if that had happened to us, we would have been turned off too.

The previous strategy of sales events appears to have worked quite well as hundreds of us did buy. The marketing materials including the Web site were impressive and detailed. The sales events were exciting and effective because the customer was the focus. We had one point of contact - our sales associate - who looked after our concerns and needs. That focus changed when potential buyers were shuttled from one sales associate to another - whoever happened to be "on duty" that day.

Another factor that is missing from the new sales pitch is the emphasis on sustainability and the uniqueness of the community. That was a huge draw for many of us. And still is to this day.

It may be true that Replay has inherited a slew of "skeletons in the closet" but the old sales approach isn't one of them. So why re-invent the wheel?

(This post was written last night after further reflection on Replay's new strategy for boosting cash flow. As we continue to process Bill Doyle's update, I'm sure we'll have more to say on this new turn of events.)

Information please...

The near collapse and subsequent U.S. government bailouts of some of the biggest financials players in the world today will affect all of us in some way or another whether it's our investment portfolios or our investment properties. And today we learn from The Construction Coach - not Replay or Loreto Bay Company - that times are only going to get tougher in regards to our investment in the Villages of Loreto Bay.

Things do not look good.

Citigroup is pulling out and has listed the project for sale. However, Replay appears to be in it for the long haul, which according to TCC is good news for all of us.

In TCC's monthly update (which all homeowners using their services should have received via e-mail today) Bill Doyle calls for calm and patience. It's hard to disagree with that advice, but the real problem here is that it's TCC giving us this bad news and not Replay.

Homeowners are getting panicky, but not without good reason. Will potential home buyers even be able to get financing? How about those who've already signed on the dotted line? And what of the financial investment many of us have already made?

We just don't know yet.

Bill is right that we should all take a deep breath and look at the project long-term. He's right that Replay has revitalized and refocused the project.

What we're not so sure he's right about is his call for homeowner investors to back off and "let Replay and LBC do what they have to do."

"Every time they have to stop what they are doing to answer e-mails, phone calls, long demanding letters, or threats of lawsuits, it distracts from the focus of getting the project back on track."

While we agree with that advice in spirit, we do not agree in practice. The problem all along has been that we have not been able to get information - on even the simplest matter - from LBC. This lack of communication has been incredibly frustrating for many of us. If communication between Replay/LBC and homeowners was better there wouldn't be so many "distractions" for Replay.

As homeowner investors, we need information in order to make informed decisions and LBC/Replay hasn't and isn't providing us with that information.

George and I genuinely appreciate Bill Doyle giving us this information. It couldn't have been easy to write this latest update and we admire him, his wife and partners for delivering this bad news and encouraging us all to hang in there.

But Replay should have been the bearer of these bad tidings, not TCC.

If Replay wants our continued support and financial investment then THEY need to invest in us by providing us with honest, up-to-date information - the good, the bad and the ugly.

We, along with many others, have sunk a big chunk of change in this project, and we deserve to be better informed. We need reassurance that our investment is secure and we need that reassurance from those in charge of the project. As investors we should be demanding this.

One option that just might work would be to have a homeowner liaison, or multiples of such, to aid in the flow of information from Replay to homeowners. Any comments?

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hooray for Hollywood

George and I just finished watching the episode of HGTV's House Hunters International featuring the homes of the Villages of Loreto Bay and if you missed it that's a shame, because it was a real hoot!

It was a lot of fun to see the development as it was a couple of years ago. At least that was our best guesstimate on when much of this episode was filmed. However, there were some scenes that were obviously shot much later after the buyer's home was completed and they had moved in. George thought he saw some perform walls which means some of those final shots took place not too long ago.

And it was great to see Laurie Sanborn, who was our sales associate when we bought in October 2007, as she showed the prospective buyers, Ann and Doug Brown of Carlsbad, Calif., a Casa Alta model at the beginning of the episode.

The Browns, who now make LB their full-time home with their two children, were also featured in an article on Loreto Bay that appeared in the NY Times on March 7, 2008.

The very charming and photogenic couple finally decided on a Casa Aquaria - a three bedroom, three bath model - after seeing the Casa Alta (quite a spacious floor plan and one that George and I only ruled out because of the rental space on the first floor) and a Casa Encantada that looked suspiciously like Joel Sherman's lovely home with the fabulous pool and other custom features.

Even though the program appeared to be entirely staged, it was a very enjoyable half hour and one we'll probably view whenever we feel the need for a Loreto fix. The views and homes are just as gorgeous on television (especially if you have HD) as they are in person.

This show should go a long way toward piquing people's interest in Loreto Bay.

Visa red tape unraveled

Since starting our research on living in Mexico more than a year ago, George and I have come across some conflicting information on the requirements for an FM-3 visa (to retire in Mexico). Mostly minor differences but we decided our best bet was to visit the Mexican Consulate here in Albuquerque to get some definitive answers. And, we did.

Our consular contact, Francisco, provided us with a list of requirements that are simple and easily fulfilled.

1. Passport valid for at least one year.
2. Two photos (passport size, front view without glasses).
3. Proof of income of at least $1,000 monthly for the applicant and $500 for each additional person or dependent. This should be a formal letter (not three, six or 12 months worth of bank statements as we've previously read) from Social Security or the authority issuing the retirement funds. The letter should specify the amount of money and how often payment is received (only the amount required above... As Francisco put it - we don't need to know how much money you have in your bank account, only that you have the required amount).
4. Proof of ownership or lease of property in Mexico.
5. Formal letter requesting the Visa and explaining in detail reasons for moving to Mexico.

Francisco also told us that the whole process would only take between four and six days. There is also no longer a requirement that one has to cross the border within a certain number of days to "activate" the FM-3. According to Francisco, all we need to do is report to the Immigration office in Loreto after we arrive in Mexico.

Our next big hurdle is the Menage de Casa, which we'll also do through the consulate here. From what we've read online, the Menage de Casa process can get very confusing. Time to stock up on the Ginkgo Biloba!!

Friday, September 12, 2008

The skies get friendlier

Alaska Air will be increasing seat capacity on some flights to Loreto in early November, according to a new posting on Loreto Bay's official homeowner site.

"We are delighted to inform you that our partner, Alaska Air, will be increasing their seat capacity to Loreto from Los Angeles beginning Friday, November 9, 2008. They will be adding a Friday flight to the schedule and fly a 70 seat CRJ (regional jet) on Tuesdays and Fridays, and increase capacity to a 136 seat 737 Jetliner on Sundays and Thursdays," writes Jana on the home page.

This is welcome news for Loreto Bay homeowners and visitors alike, and, with luck, signals a turnaround in flights to Loreto.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

A new day dawns!

Good news! Loreto Bay management has finally gotten rid of those old juice cans and string they've been using to communicate and replaced them with a new newfangled system - the Internet!

All kidding aside though, this change is very good news for Loreto Bay homeowners as the new e-mail information requests being proposed by LB will go a long way toward keeping us better informed on the progress of our individual casas and the development as a whole.

According to the e-mail from Hector Morales Du Solier, customer Services senior manager, "To improve the accuracy and tracking of information, we will be using a new software program called In Site Logistics. To help us assist you, please email your Request for Information (RFI) form to customerservices@loretobay.com. Upon receipt of your email, one of the Customer Service team members will submit it to the appropriate department and the form will be used to track each item through completion. Please allow one week for a response from our team."

The only problem we can see with this new method is that it appears the form must be printed to be filled out and then scanned and e-mailed back to LB. Not a problem for those who are a little more computer savvy, but some folks might not have those capabilities. However those skills can always be learned.

Anything will be an improvement, as we never did hear from our account manager on a question we posed months ago.

More good news in that it appears Loreto dodged a bullet as Tropical Storm Lowell was downgraded to a Tropical Depression leaving some rain but little in the way of winds. According to the Loreto Community Update provided by Lynn Hamman early this morning: "Tropical Depression Lowell is now off the coast of Cabo. Loreto did receive a lot of rain yesterday late afternoon and at night... nothing as anticipated. Power and water are still on and I haven't heard of any major problems. There is a lot of standing water in town on the non-paved streets."

As I noted in a previous post, Lynn's community updates are a godsend and anyone can sign up to receive them. Just e-mail Loreto_Community@yahoogroups.com to become a member of the group.

George also discovered this morning that the cluster maps are back on the official LB homeowner site under Resources and new photos were posted under Development Progress.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Mixed bag of news

About the only good news relating to Loreto Bay in recent days is the return of Nellie Hutchison's blog after a summer-long hiatus.

Where in the World is Nellie? has been a good source of information on a variety of topics, especially businesses and services in Loreto. We welcome Nellie's return to the blogging world and look forward to future posts.

On the downside is the news that air service to Loreto will be suffering yet another blow when Aeromexico cancels its Phoenix to Hermosilla to Loreto flight effective Sept. 12, according to an LB homeowner posting on the Loreto Bay Community Web site. When we checked with Aeromexico, flights on that route were available after Sept. 12, but not in October. This puzzling decision (the barrel price for oil has gone down in the past month and wouldn't Aeromexico have access to much less expensive Mexican fuel anyway?) means there will now be only three weekly flights between Los Angeles and Loreto, according to the Alaska Airlines Web site. This isn't just inconvenient, it's downright scary! We hope this move is only temporary.

And let's hope TCC's Bill Doyle was kidding when he posted today on Loreto Bay Community that he'll be possibly closing up shop in three and a half years. He and Laurie have been a godsend to home buyers smart enough to use their services. It's not an exaggeration to say that those services are an absolute necessity considering the lack of assistance and information coming from Loreto Bay management. This isn't terrible news in the short term, but we do feel sorry for future home buyers if TCC isn't around.

Not to be too pessimistic, it's worth noting that progress is being made on the Cluster 9 pool, which looks to be quite a nice size (and already full of water courtesy of TS Julio) judging by the photo that was posted by Bill Doyle on the Loreto Bay Community site, which can be accessed here under Links of Interest.

And on the same site, the Sustainability Guy has an interesting post about the installation of bat houses around the golf course for some 1,800 bats who can each eat 400-600 mosquitos an hour. Apparently the little buggers are having a field day in Loreto and Loreto Bay with all the new ponds that popped up after Julio passed through the area.

Just as an aside, helpful postings on the Loreto Bay Community site have picked up in the past week or so. That's nice for all of us who search - often in vain - for information on Loreto and Loreto Bay.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Paseo to get a lift

George and I have been so focused on preparing for our move to Loreto (in six months or so, but there’s a lot to do!) we almost forgot some good news that came our way last week.

Last year we were told the Paseo along our stretch of Agua Viva was going to be raised by as much as five feet. Initially, we weren’t sure we liked that idea because it would put the road almost level with our Encantada, which would mean more road noise for us, as well as our cluster neighbors. But the change in management brought so many other changes we weren’t too concerned.

The one thing we were counting on that was in the original plans for our phase of Agua Viva was a foot path through the golf course to the beach for easy access. However, a new map of our phase of Agua Viva did not show such a foot path. That’s a concern for everyone in our phase because without it we wouldn’t have easy access to the beach. Not good.

We couldn’t get a definitive answer on either of those concerns so George tracked down the person who might just know: Aristides (Ari) Cota, director of engineering and land development for LB.

Ari responded to George’s e-mail within 24 hours (a first in our dealings with LB!) with good news on both counts.

The road along our stretch of the Paseo IS going to be raised, but only by about three feet. The sidewalk will be raised another foot or two, but that still puts our casa above the fray, so to speak. And we all have the added benefit of a new, pothole-free road! It will be interesting to see how the road looks after those changes.

Ari also indicated that the planned foot path across the golf course to the beach is still in the works. Very good news for everyone in our phase! Ari promised to e-mail us a copy of the plans as soon as he has them in hand. And when he does, we’ll post them here on the blog.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Home owner blues

Once again I was on the road traveling (this time in Philadelphia) when George called last week with the news that Loreto Bay management is looking to stimulate home sales by dramatically discounting properties and offering an array of costly incentives to prospective buyers.

After learning that such drastic measures are being taken to jump start sales, George (who is a very successful Realtor here in Albuquerque with extensive marketing experience) called LB and spoke with Scott Montell, legal counsel for Loreto Bay, regarding the new pricing policy.

According to Mr. Montell, sales have been very sluggish over the past year and the company is looking to turn those lagging sales around with “screaming" deals which include free membership in the planned beach club, free home furnishings, free condominium regime fees for two years and NO closing costs. We understand the need for incentives and even welcome them because more home sales are good for everyone. Given the current state of the real estate market, we don't even object to properties being discounted by a bit. But we do have a problem with our properties being drastically discounted. The new prices on estuary lots are a good example of this 'slash and burn' discounting.

These drastic measures beg the question: "Is something amiss in Loreto Bay?" And is that really the impression marketing should present to prospective buyers?

It’s important to remember that sales and marketing have been on the back burner for the past year, in part due to the ownership transition, but mainly because the focus has been on a push to catch up with construction of existing sales and development amenities. The marketing during this time has been lackluster at best.

As an example, George and I introduced a prospective buyer (a good friend of ours) to the sales department this past spring during a visit to Loreto Bay and they never followed-up from Loreto Bay or Scottsdale. And this friend was seriously interested in buying. We were embarrassed and he was turned off.

We just don't understand why it's necessary to deeply depreciate properties before there has been a coordinated and aggressive marketing campaign. The proposed strategy means those hoping to resell will be hard pressed to recoup their investment for possibly years, while having to compete with LB’s new construction pricing and incentives. We as homeowners are being asked to accept that our properties may be worth a lot less than we paid for them, at least for the immediate future. We also worry that present owners will be picking up the tab for new owners who will not be paying the monthly homeowner association fees (or condominium regime fees) for two years, as well as beach club fees.

At the very least, LB should be helping present owners acquire financing so they do not lose their homes. Recent posts on the official homeowner site show that many home buyers are getting little or no help from LB in acquiring financing. In addition, some home buyers are facing up to $40,000 in closing costs and mortgage fees. All of us gave large down payments back when the credit markets were not so tight and equity in our homes was higher. Now when construction is starting, financing seems more difficult to obtain and LB is still charging late penalties. Come on LB, show a little loyalty!

We all want LB to succeed. After all, we are Loreto Bay’s best marketing agents. Ideally, we hope management rethinks so aggressively devaluing properties in Loreto Bay as that can only hurt those of us who bought in good faith, persevered through the many down times and remain committed to the original vision of Loreto Bay.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Musings via Mulege

Thanks to some friends here in Albuquerque, George and I were able yesterday to meet and visit with an American couple who live most of the year in Mulege, about an hour and a half north of Loreto.

The couple, who has lived in Mulege for the past couple of years, are obviously enjoying their retirement south of the border. Their enthusiasm for Mulege and Mexico as a whole was apparent as they described their lives in the sleepy little village (population about 3,500) where one of the social highlights of the year is the annual pig race and pig calling contest.

Over the course of a few hours visiting with this friendly and entertaining couple, we got some great advice and gained some valuable insight into the people of Baja California Sur.

On the practical side, we learned that it's best to apply for an FM3 Visa in Loreto rather than through a Mexican Consulate here in the States. The reason given was two-fold: Requirements even for a visa can vary from region to region and immigration officials have been known to take offense when a visa comes from outside their jurisdiction.

We also learned that one of the worst - at least in our Mulege friends' opinion - Web sources for information about Baja is bajanomad.com, a site that George and I have visited on a number of occasions. They said the site's chat room is rife with misinformation about the Baja, especially relating to crime, which they said is virtually non-existent outside the border areas and, when it does occur, generally falls into the petty theft category.

As for the practice of "mordida" that many on the bajanomad.com site claim is rampant throughout the Baja, our new friends (who also lived for a time in northern Baja about an hour south of San Diego) said their only experience with being asked for a "courtesy" payment came from a city police officer in Tijuana. Although that practice is not uncommon when dealing with city police, they said that it is almost unheard of when dealing with the Mexican equivalent of our state police. In fact, they said, visiting Americans are causing a problem by not paying traffic citations before leaving Mexico. All those travelers "skipping out" on their fines has led Mexican authorities to require immediate payment in cash for any traffic violation. And that can be something of a problem if the ticketed driver is short on cash and the banks are closed!

Since mail delivery is sketchy at best in the Baja, people in Mulege send outgoing mail back to the States to be mailed courtesy of anyone headed in that direction, while goods ordered on the Internet in Mulege are delivered to U.S. homes until arrangements can be made for pickup. Sounds like a good plan to us and one we hope is - or will be - in place in Loreto!

But the most valuable information our new friends gave us related to the cultural differences between our two countries. Too many Americans, they said, expect things to operate in Mexico like they do in the states and that's just not the case. An example, they said, was when they picked out upholstery for their new sofa in one pattern but received the finished product in a different but similar pattern. Those kinds of minor changes are common, they said, and it's best to learn to go with the flow.

They also spoke of the courtesy and kindness of their new Mexican friends, who value good manners and think cursing is vulgar and common, especially when in mixed company. And isn't that a nice thought!

The recurring theme in what this engaging couple had to say was that if you're willing to get involved, you'll be rewarded with a sense of community and sharing that makes all the little hassles worthwhile. And that sounds good to us, too!

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Agua segura?

Recent postings on Loreto Bay's official homeowner site have called into question the means by which homeowners are warned of unsafe water quality in the development. This issue was first raised in early July by a homeowner whose trip to Loreto Bay was ruined due to a severe case of "Montezuma's revenge." The homeowner also leveled a heap of criticism on LB management for not informing homeowners when there is a problem with the quality of water. And rightly so. In that homeowner's case, residents had been warned of bacteria in the water just a few weeks prior, but they were not warned upon their arrival.

LB's marketing department responded to the complaints and concerns by outlining the measures that are taken to keep the water safe and to inform homeowners and hotel guests of any potential water problem by issuing a Boil Water Advisory, which is handed out to resident homeowners and hotel guests. However, based on more recent postings, those advisories aren't reaching some homeowners.

The most troubling part of LB's response was the section that said the town of Loreto is notified and asked to increase the amount of chlorine in the water supply when LB's monthly independent water testing indicates the water does not meet minimum California water standards. (This response and the other responses referenced can be found on the Community Bulletin Board under Environment on the official homeowner site.)

OK, sounds good. LB seems to be doing its part in informing the proper authorities when the water quality dips below minimum standards. But no mention was made about how quickly Loreto's water authority - SAPAL - responds to those requests for increased chlorination.

It appears there are two problems here: First, LB is not doing enough to warn visiting homeowners and hotel guests about possible unsafe drinking water. And secondly, unless LB knows that SAPAL takes immediate action when notified that water quality falls below minimum California standards, they should inform homeowners and guests at the same time they inform SAPAL.

LB acknowledged in its July 11 response that some residents apparently hadn't "noticed" the posted Boil Water Advisories in a timely manner, so they were considering other ways to effectively inform homeowners when a Water Advisory is in effect. They proposed including "posting the Advisory in prominent locations within the Villages and Hotel, and broadcasting the Advisory on Loreto Bay's Television channel."

But apparently those additional measures haven't been implemented, or so say the most recent homeowner postings.

A few questions come to mind about this issue... Why not post those advisories on the official homeowner Web site right under the weather box, as suggested by one homeowner? And why not post them as soon as LB is aware that the water does not meet the minimum requirements? Should we all - as suggested by another homeowner - buy water purification drops for cleaning and soaking fruits and vegetables? Or should we consider a full-scale water purification system for our casa, as proposed by yet another homeowner?

It would be nice to hear an in-depth response from LB on this issue. And we invite homeowners to weigh in on this topic as well!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Livin' Avenida la Marina!

A 10-day business trip to northern California - beautiful Sonoma and Napa, along with less lovely Oakland - kept me too busy to blog, and then once home a lack of news on the Loreto front kept my fingers quiet for a few days. But then George happened upon a map showing what our street address will be in Loreto Bay.

Our Casa de Nuevos Suenos will be located at 220 Avenida la Marina, on the corner of Paseo Mision de Loreto and Avenida la Marina. The shared courtyard for our Cluster 38 has an even more enchanting name - Pasaje Agua Mansa - or Tame Water Passage in English, named no doubt for the nearby estuary. But we were surprised that Avenida la Marina translates to "reconciled navy," at least according to Yahoo! Babel Fish, which has become our quick Internet resource for basic Spanish to English translations. That translation had us both scratching our heads, so George went to Google and came up with a translation that means "navy avenue." Hmmm. Maybe a Spanish speaker out there can help us with this one! But that minor confusion doesn't alter the fact that learning these names just adds to the excitement we're feeling as work progresses on our casa. That progress is very evident in the photo above sent to us yesterday by Penny. (Thanks again, Penny!)The view shown is from lot 222 looking at the back of our casa 220.

Of course, we already knew addresses had been designated, but it was a nice surprise to discover the map indicating our street address on the Stark Silver Creek Web site. To see a map, click on "Agua Viva map" and once there just zoom in to get a better view.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Fast and furious

The news from and about Loreto and Loreto Bay seems to be coming fast and furious these days, which dovetails nicely with the rapid pace of construction on our Casa Encantada and many other homes in Agua Viva.

Just this morning we received a long and fairly detailed e-mail report from Michael Coyle about progress development including the sprucing up (that's putting it mildly) of the Paseo, plans for the beach club (with word due out this fall about membership rates, etc.), air service, marketing, hotel renovations and more.

The most surprising news involved the closing of LB's Scottsdale, Ariz., office and a relocation of staff - those able and willing - to Loreto. This will be a major plus for homeowners and future homeowners. It will be much easier to drop in and conduct business - or just visit - if the offices are in Loreto. And it will make selling the development a lot easier with a permanent staff on site.

All this good news followed closely on the heels of an e-mail George and I received from our account manager yesterday, which included even more current photos of our construction showing the beginnings of a ceiling on the first floor. And it looks from the photos as though construction on the other homes in our cluster is also progressing nicely. Like I said earlier, fast and furious.

If you haven't already opened that e-mail from Michael Coyle, do it now! Lots of news and even an artist's rendering of plans - artist rendering - for the Paseo including a bell tower, lots of foliage and a lovely meandering walkway alongside the thoroughfare. And don't forget to check out LB's revamped Web site while you're at it.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

La Mision on the Malecon

During our visit to Loreto last April, George and I noticed some impressive construction along the Malecon that we thought were condos. Not so. Thanks to e-mails from our future neighbors Michael and Terri McMahon and Penny Davis, we learned today that it will be a lovely and very elegant hotel - La Mision.

According to the hotel's Web site - http://lamisionloreto-px.trvlclick.com/ - the facility is set to open in November and will feature 70 "sumptuous" rooms including two three-bedroom penthouse suites, three two-bedroom suites, and 65 deluxe standard rooms. Oddly, though, there is no mention that the rooms overlooking the Malecon will have a wonderful view of the Sea of Cortes, Loreto's most famous attribute. However, there is mention of many other amenties including at least two restaurants and a spa.

If the hotel lives up to the description and photos on the Web site, it will certainly be the most elegant place to stay in Loreto.

The news is good for a variety of reasons not least of which is that a hotel of this calibre is bound to heighten interest in Loreto thereby increasing demand for airline service to the area. Being named a hot spot with some of the world's sexiest beaches doesn't hurt in that effort either.

The only sour note in all this news is that Loreto is bound to change as more people discover what those of us who have bought in Loreto Bay already know: Loreto is quite simply a place of incomparable beauty and serenity. Here's hoping that never changes.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Hello Walls!

Just yesterday, I responded to one of our cluster neighbor's e-mails by saying I hoped all those perform walls that had been stacked on their lot had finally made it to our lot. And lo and behold, George and I got proof that that's the case late this afternoon.

We have walls!

In just six short weeks, we've gone from a dusty patch of ground with only a faded outline to indicate our future home to a poured foundation with walls. More proof that Beck and compadres are moving at a very good clip.

For those of you who still haven't decided whether to use the services of The Construction Coach (who provided the photos of our walls, along with a detailed progress report for our AV 220), we highly recommend it. In addition to a detailed monthly progress report, they also put out a general - but very comprehensive - update on progress throughout the development every month or two, along with tips on everything ranging from preventing sewer "stink" to protecting your furniture. Their services are well worth the money and they are very nice people to boot.

After re-reading their May update, I noticed they recommended signing up to receive e-mail updates from Lynn Hamman. I found out about this yahoo group on my own some time back and promptly signed up. It's a great way to keep updated about all things Loreto from the monthly ladies birthday luncheon to a list of must-have phone numbers. It really is a terrific service and there's no cost to sign up. I generally get about five or six e-mails a week with items of interest. The e-mail address is lynnhamman@yahoo.com

I also recommend signing up for the Dali Gourmet yahoo group which offers a listing of weekly specials from the store (most items are bulk, which works if there are those of us who'd like to share the cost and divvy up the goodies) and even recipes! The e-mail is daligourmetloreto@yahoogroups.com

A final note to our future neighbors: Take heart fellow Cluster 38'ers - if our walls are up, yours are soon to follow!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The good news keeps on coming

By now, LB homeowners should have received more glad tidings - as we did - in the form of an e-mail from LB's Condominium Services which was sent "to share exciting news..."

And the news is exciting, indeed. There should/could be nearly 100 homes completed and turned over to homeowners (mostly Founder's we're thinking) in October and November. Wow. For all of us who've waited with bated breath and crossed fingers - and even a sense of "this is NEVER going to happen" - this is very good news. Because our homes are going to be built, they are going to be beautiful and this is going to happen in the near future. Wow again.

The new LB management may not be good at conveying information, but they appear to be quite adept at organizing and building.

LB must be on a roll, because they also managed to correct the confusing post of 7/21 regarding the resurrected October homeowner weekend. The post indicates that seats on the 10/16 flight to Loreto with a Sunday return are all booked; however, there are still seats available - according to one homeowner's posting - if homeowners' plan on arriving early and leaving later. That's what George and I did early on and it appears as though booking a longer visit is still an option.

On the home front here in Albuquerque, we finally, finally, finally, made a decision on a sofa, loveseat and chair. They are Natuzzi leather and just beautiful! Looks like we're on a roll, too.

Monday, July 21, 2008

A welcome change of heart

After a weekend of disappointed and angry posts regarding the cancellation of the October homeowners event, Loreto Bay has finally responded, and in a positive way! Good news for the many homeowners who booked flights for that weekend.

George and I are very glad that LB has decided to go ahead with the event, which is bound to be a success even in an abbreviated form, if the many posts are any indication. This is a good first step from LB and we look forward to hearing specific details about their plans for the weekend in the coming days.

We've read quite a bit about what other homeowners would like from the weekend, but here are our thoughts... First, and definitely foremost, we'd like to hear from Michael Coyle. Our schedules - and location here in New Mexico - kept us from attending the homeowner forums set up by LB this past winter and spring on the West Coast and in Canada. So we're anxious to hear firsthand from the "Big Dog" about progress in Loreto Bay and plans for the future of the development.

Our biggest concern and complaint about LB to date has been the lack of communication. LB doesn't keep homeowners updated about new developments or changes in plan and we rarely get a call back or even an acknowledgement of an e-mail. We're generally not big complainers, but the white noise coming from LB can be more than a little frustrating.

Hearing from Michael or a competent surrogate would go a long way toward alleviating some of our concerns. In my mind, it's all about generating goodwill. Michael's appearance that weekend would generate a whole lot of goodwill for the two of us and for many others, we suspect.

Secondly, we'd like full access to the development. And by that I mean tours, visits to homes near completion and under construction, etc. Agua Viva differs from the Founder's Neighborhood in many ways and we'd like to see those differences firsthand. Most of us have already seen - and envied - Founder's, but now it's time to see our own homes!

Last, by not least, we'd really like to meet our LB neighbors. Whether Founder's or Agua Viva, we're all a part of a special vision and community and for that reason alone, we should all definitely meet.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Loreto a hookup hideaway?

Just in time to ease tensions caused by the cancellation of the October homeowner’s event comes a news item posted on the official homeowner site naming Loreto as having some of the sexiest beaches in the world. That’s right, Loreto is now the perfect spot for hot young singles to mix and mingle. Get it while you can!

The vision many of us have of Loreto as a charming, sleepy little fishing town is being revised. It’s now, according to concierge.com, tops on the list for sexy twenty-somethings looking to hook-up and hideaway. “It’s still the kind of place where you might meet a mysterious brunette at a beachside watering hole who’s happy to share her tequila – but not her last name,” states writer Jason H. Harper.

Although Mr. Harper is a little vague about the hookup potential offered by Loreto, he does claim there’s always trouble to be found if you know where to look. Hmmm. Maybe George and I are just too old because trouble is something we try really hard to avoid.

He is right about one thing though. Loreto does have beautiful and pristine beaches and water. And to give him credit, he does applaud the grandeur of the landscape “of this as yet unadulterated area of Baja…” Which concierge.com is obviously looking to adulterate.

George and I had a good laugh over the news item, but it does give one pause… Is that the future for Loreto? Will the beaches be cluttered with sexy singles looking for hookups? Will we be tripping over hot young bodies on our way to snorkel, kayak and golf? Is a Senor Frog’s cantina in the works??

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Curses - foiled again!

Last October after George and I got over the initial shock, excitement and stress of buying a home in Loreto Bay, our first thought was "When's the next homeowner event?" We bugged our customer care rep throughout the winter months with that refrain. But we kept getting the same "I don't know" answer. So we decided to go ahead and plan a trip for April after being told - countless times - that a homeowners' event just wasn't in the works any time soon. So imagine our chagrin when we learned of the June event shortly after our trip in April. We were disappointed. But that disappointment is nothing compared to our anger at the news this evening that the October event - for which we've already made reservations and plans - has been canceled due to limited flights to Loreto.


No one from Loreto bothered to ask us - or to our knowledge any other homeowners - if we'd/they'd secured reservations for the event. We did. We also rearranged our work schedules and inconvenienced employers and co-workers in order to attend this much anticipated event. And now we're told we get to repeat that performance once the new homeowner event details are released. The problem is that we will now suffer airline penalties for changing our plans. And I'm sure there are many others in the same boat.

Shame on you, Loreto Bay! Do right by your homeowners and schedule a second event for those who are unable to attend the June event. Because the fact of the matter is that the airlines aren't planning on reinstating those lost flights until next summer!

If there are any other homeowners out there with an opinion, please let us know.

P.S. We also sent an e-mail to Renee at Loreto Bay expressing the above sentiments.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Loreto Bay has a new look on the Web

Replay, the company that took over operation and construction at Loreto Bay last year, has launched a new Website: http://www.exploreloretobay.com, which boasts a new home offering, the Casita Cortes, priced at $325,000 for 1,090 square feet. The site states that with each home purchase, membership to the exclusive Cortes Explorers Club is included with amenities ranging from a restaurant, to four private bars, to a 16,000 square foot pool complex and more. Hmmm. Does this mean exclusive membership also applies to those who've already purchased homes? Guess we'll find out sometime soon.

The new site also has a new logo - which sadly lacks the charm of the original logo - new photos (George and I are both wondering where these were shot as we don't recognize the area) and another new addition to the development, Estate Lots, which will be located in a gated enclave with direct beach access from each home's front door. These sound like the other end of the spectrum from the less-expensive casitas described above.

We'll be anxious to hear more about these new offerings and amenities!

Friday, July 4, 2008

The good and the bad in Baja news

Since first learning of the Villages of Loreto Bay a year ago, George and I have spent an inordinate amount of time searching the Internet for news of the development and the surrounding area. It's an addiction and a cure isn't likely until we move down there next winter! For the most part, the news is positive and such is the case with a recent article that appeared on the http://www.mexconnect.com/ site.

Written by English-born Tony Burton, who specializes in covering ecotourism and natural history in Mexico, the article is a generally favorable look at the Villages and appears to have been penned this past winter. Here's the link:

The only inaccuracy we could find in the story was the reference indicating that construction on the wind turbine project is set to begin this year. According to David Veniot's recent sustainability update posted on the official Loreto Bay homeowner's site on June 20, that project is still on hold.

Otherwise, it's another positive look at Loreto Bay. And it's got some nice photos, too.

We came across the mexconnect site early on in our searches and have found it to be a very useful site loaded with lots of relevant info, including a series of articles on different types of Mexican visas and what's necessary to obtain them. The site offers a one-week free trial and membership at only $30 a year thereafter.

As a former newspaper editor and reporter, I also keep tabs on Baja through The Gringo Gazette, two different English-language newspapers, one of which covers northern Baja, while the other focuses on southern Baja. Although there has been some coverage of the Loreto area, the middle part of Baja isn't a priority for either of these publications. For that reason, I haven't bothered to subscribe to either one but some articles are available online without paying a subscription fee.

The northern version, which doesn't appear to be published on a regular basis, has lots of scary news about border problems, specifically the ongoing drug wars between Mexican police and drug lords. Larger border towns, including Rosarito, Juarez (across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas) and Tijuana are particular trouble spots.

On a personal note, I'm reluctant to continue having dental work done across the border after recent events in tiny Palomas, a short walk across the border from equally tiny Columbus, New Mexico. For the past year, I've been making the four-hour drive there for dental work and I've been very pleased with the results and the cost. But since the first of the year, there has been an explosion of drug-related murders in Palomas. It's hard to believe Mexican drug lords are concentrating their efforts in such remote outposts, but just last Monday three men in a car were shot to death in downtown Palomas, with a total of 30 killed in drug-related violence since the first of the year. And for a town the size of Palomas, that's a staggering number.

On a more positive note, the Mexican government has stepped up efforts to curb the violence in border towns by sending in Army troops and federal police and the U.S. is looking for ways to help in the effort.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Slab happy

George and I were thrilled to see the slab for our Encantada has been poured and it looks as if the perform walls may go up soon! I'm sure all of our future neighbors are as excited as we are. (We're still not sure if our account manager is aware construction has started as we haven't yet received that return call promised more than three weeks ago.)

But our excitement has been tempered somewhat by the news that now Continental Airlines has suspended its Loreto route (Houston to Loreto) until May 2009. This follows Delta's suspension of service and some cutbacks by Alaska Air, specifically smaller planes servicing the route.

There are a number of posts on Loreto Bay's official homeowner's site expressing a good deal of concern about the situation. A group of homeowners from Ohio are more than a little concerned, as well as homeowners from Austin, Texas, as this cutback means a lot more air time getting to their homes.

However, one recent bright spot is a post by Sue Morganroth (AV39), a Seattle travel agent, who offers hope with the observation that Loreto should remain a viable destination because of Loreto Bay and the Villa Group development planned to the south. But she also suggests that folks should book early on Alaska/Horizon Air's 70-seat flights, especially for upcoming holiday travel.

As Sue notes, though, it is time for Loreto Bay management to speak to this issue. It is definitely generating a lot of unease among homeowners.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Agua Viva is coming to life

Always hungry for news of construction progress in Agua Viva, George and I were happy to receive an e-mail today from Penny Davis, our future cluster neighbor to the east (AV222), which contained a YouTube video of the work under way.

The video shows considerable progress on homes on the west side of the Paseo, as well as on the estuaries on both sides of the street. Although our AV220 lot can't be seen, we were delighted to see so much progress in the general area.

But check out the good news for yourself by clicking on the video at the top of this page. Many thanks to videographer Al Graichen, who owns a home in the Founder's Neighborhood with his wife, Tanni.

Penny has promised to take lots of photos during the Fun in the Sun event in Loreto later this week, and if anyone else has any photos or videos to share, we'd love to see them!

George and I won't be in Loreto this week as we made a trip in April, but we're looking forward to the next homeowner's event set for October. Although with the news today of Delta canceling all flights to Loreto and Horizon canceling Friday flights beginning in August, it may not be quite as easy getting to Loreto anymore. It seems strange to us that Delta would drop the LAX to Loreto route permanently, considering the traffic we've seen in and out of that little airport.

Friday, June 20, 2008

A groundbreaking surprise

Imagine our surprise last night when we received our first bill via e-mail from The Construction Coach. "Hey, wait a minute!" we said. Why would we receive a monthly progress report bill when construction hasn't even started yet? Our account manager told us just last week that construction wasn't set to begin "maybe" until the end of July. She was going to check on that a week and a half ago and get back to us but we're still waiting for that phone call.

As it turns out, that phone call confirming our start date no longer matters, because construction has indeed started!

Along with an actual photo (!) of the work in progress, TCC sent a detailed progress report and timeline for construction. When the reality of the situation set in, George and I both let out a whoop and then got quiet... OMG, it's really happening.

Questions remain, however. How is it our account manager didn't know construction had already begun? Can we feel confident in the information we get from LBC? Will we ever get that call from our account manager? Only time will tell. In the meantime, George and I have a lot of planning to do.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Go electric!

One of the main reasons George and I made the decision to build in Loreto Bay was the company's commitment to sustainability and "green" living. Although we've had some concerns about the level of that commitment since the development changed hands, we're certainly determined to do our part. Along with organic household cleaners, recycling efforts and going organic whenever possible with our food and clothing, it'll be pedal power or electricity that keeps us moving in Loreto Bay.

Several weeks ago we took possession of our eGo electric scooters and we've been having a great time "scootering" around town ever since. We recently scootered downtown (about five miles roundtrip) to a "Green" concert featuring Keb Mo - one of our favorite blues performer. Many of those in attendance were full of questions about our scooters. Where did we get them? What kind of range do they have? Hey, can I sit on one?? In fact, everywhere we go people honk, wave and ask lots of questions. It's gratifying to know that people are so interested in going green, but not surprising considering the rising price of gasoline. Here in Albuquerque it's at a high of $3.87 a gallon. And we're luckier than most as we've yet to go over $4 a gallon.

We decided to look into electric transportation after seeing a Loreto Bay sales rep zipping around the hotel on his little scooter. Wow! It was fast, quiet and looked like a lot of fun. Once we got home, George got busy researching electric vehicles on the Internet and eventually came across eGO vehicles and their eGO cycle2 which is pictured with this post. The cycle is equipped with lots of safety features including head and tail lights, turn signals and rear view mirrors. We also opted for the alarm system which lets owners know if someone has tried to move the cycle. The alarm first declares: "You are too close to the vehicle, please move away." Then it gets more insistent by proclaiming: "I have been tampered with, I have been tampered with!!" All quite loudly. We're actually more concerned about the possibility of theft here in Albuquerque. Not so much in Loreto.

The scooters have a range of a little more than 20 miles in the "Go Far" mode, which allows the rider to go farther at a maximum speed of around 20 mph, while the "Go Fast" mode allows a higher speed - about 25 mph - by sacrificing some range. We generally use the "Go Far" mode and stay off main roads using smaller surface streets. Bottom line: We love them!

We're both very pleased with the scooters and can't wait to try them out in Loreto Bay.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Life's a blast

Orange Blast, that is. We got word this past week that our pleas for an exterior color change from Baked Clay (a lovely color, but not our first choice or even second or third) were taken to heart by LBC and we'll now have our second choice, Orange Blast. We headed to Sherwin-Williams upon getting the news, bought a sample size of the color and promptly painted an old brick. Within an hour the paint had dried revealing a wonderful warm pale yellow with slight orange overtones. We're delighted with the change because darker colors absorb heat, not good for us since we plan on spending most of the year in our Casa Encantada.

On a not so happy note, our construction start date may have been pushed back from the end of June until the end of July. We're hoping to find out for certain within the next week. Unfortunately, we've discovered that the information flow from LBC tends to run like molasses in January, regardless of the season! We like our account manager, but the lack of acknowledgement to our e-mails or phone calls can be quite frustrating. We're hoping for better communication in the near future!

George and I are still going back on forth on our furniture options. We've read some informative posts about furniture shopping in Baja and we've also talked to Joel Sherman at Casa Mesquite on a number of occasions. Our problem is that we've got some family antiques on George's side that are quite lovely and we'd like to incorporate them into our home. We also bought a fabulous copper dining table from a small American-owned company headquartered just north of Mexico City. We'd like an eclectic feel to our home and any suggestions on furniture makers in Mexico would be greatly appreciated. Specifically, we're going to need wardrobes and accent pieces. Unfortunately, Joel indicated that he wouldn't be able to fill orders for individual items.

Next up is news on our totally cool electric scooters!