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. 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 and those interested in participating or just listening in to the podcast can go to

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.