Thursday, December 9, 2010

A little Feliz Navidad, a lot of Merry Christmas

This is our year of firsts. The first time we drove the Baja, our first hurricane season (thankfully we dodged the hurricane bullet this year), our first summer (stunningly hot), our first Thanksgiving (which we were lucky enough to spend with our friends, Carol, Al, Sue and Tom) and our first Christmas holiday season, which is currently under way – in an understated Mexican kind of way.

It’s a different sort of holiday season for us with the only real sign of Christmas the appearance of a vendor selling Christmas lights on Salvatierra past El Pescador and a very small Christmas tree lot under a tent on the road into town. What has been very nice, though, is a total lack of the Christmas hysteria that pervades the holiday season north of the border. I stopped buying into the holiday shopping frenzy years ago, so the more relaxed and much less commercial feel to the holidays here in Loreto suits me just fine.

But I have to admit that it’s been hard to get into the holiday spirit with the temperatures hovering just under 80 degrees and the palm trees swaying in the breeze. Not that I’m complaining. The weather has been incredibly wonderful. But it does put a damper on the old holiday spirit when you’re wearing flip-flops and sweating like a pig while you put up the traditional Christmas tree. In our case that would be the traditionally fake Christmas tree I load up with lights and lots of ornaments (which always leave me feeling misty-eyed with memories of Christmases past) every year while tunelessly humming old standards like “Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer” or that Burl Ives classic “Holly Jolly Christmas.” I’ve always loved Burl Ives’ rendition of that song, even though he always kind of gave me the creeps. Go figure.

To be honest, I had to force myself to put the tree up this year. I kept coming up with excuses not to do it, which is something I’ve never done before. I’ve always been one of those people who puts up the tree as soon as the Thanksgiving dishes are done. But not this year.

Maybe it was because of the weather or maybe because I knew I wouldn’t be with my family this holiday season. Whatever the reason, I was about to go treeless for the first time in my life when it occurred to me that George and I have to make new holiday traditions here in Mexico to add to the old tried and true traditions we brought with us from the States. Just like we brought (at my insistence) this oversized piece of fake evergreen nostalgia that I put the finishing touches on today. And it’s beautiful, even if does look more than a little out of place in our casa here in Mexico.

I’m already feeling more Christmassy and I expect that feeling will grow warmer and brighter as I take in the Christmas traditions here in Loreto. There’s the day of wrapping Christmas presents at the Internado School and the Christmas Carol Mexican Songs Contest for elementary and junior high kids outside the Mission. This Sunday is the Caritas Christmas bazaar – the same charitable organization that Drew McNabb wrote so poignantly about in his blog, Living Loreto, last week. Those events along with our own traditions – luminarias, green chile stew, posole and making gifts of cookies and candies - are sure to make this a Christmas season to remember.

This year we’ve got just a little bit of the new Feliz Navidad with a lot of the old Merry Christmas. But that ratio is sure to change over the coming years. And that will be a good thing.

Our morning constitutional

The advent of cooler temperatures this fall was a welcome change from the brutal temperatures we endured well into October and it made the prospect of long morning walks much more tempting. So now George and I usually start walking as soon as our morning dose of caffeine kicks in. Most days we try to remember to bring along our little point and shoot as our walks have gotten a lot more interesting with all the Paseo road work.

Crews are busy building a rock retaining wall on the west side of the Paseo right across from our casa. The work is going faster than we thought it would, but we do feel sorry for our neighbor, Tim, whose casa is only a few short feet from all that work.

He seems pretty OK with all the noise, but was initially concerned his house might fall into the street after bulldozers scraped away a good chunk of the embankment.

Our side of the Paseo was being compacted this morning which resulted in a whole lotta shakin' going on inside our casa! Looks like paving will start on our side very soon.

After all the activity in Agua Viva this morning, we were surprised to find it all quiet on the southern front down in Founder’s with only a very few workers finishing up curbs.

Rumor has it that paving will start very soon on the Avenida from the southern entrance east to the Paseo and spiffy, new round-about.

We were very surprised to see the recently renovated Inn pool drained and being worked on.

There was no sign of Inn manager Peter Maxwell, so we don’t know why the work is being done. We’ll post as soon as we find out!

All that Paseo work is interesting, but the best part of our morning walks is the opportunity to take in the beauty of this area. Even after all these months, the incredible panorama of the sea and the mountains never fails to take my breath away and remind me how very lucky we really are. At least for a short while I can forget the dust and the noise which is the current reality here in Agua Viva and comfort myself with the knowledge that this too shall pass...

This Great Blue Heron looked as though he was an official sentry of the golf course along the back nine.

While walking along the estuary, we spied these beautiful fish.

Another great day in Loreto Bay. And now it's time to go hit some little white balls!

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Show road is better than no road

There are mutterings here in Loreto Bay that the improvements to the Paseo and south entrance road are mere window dressing. That what Homex is doing is just for show - a cosmetic face-lift to our roads, so to speak. And to that I can only say: Are you kidding me?!

It’s been years – long, dusty, bumpy, uncomfortable years – since anything good has been done to those roads and now that Homex is actually doing something (and footing the bill without asking us to chip in which is what most of us expected) they’re being criticized (by only a few, I hope) for not doing enough.

Hello? Do you live here or visit here regularly. The idea that we will have drivable roads free of dirt, gravel and potholes in the very near future is truly cause for celebration. We were eating dirt here even before Re:Play tore up parts of the Paseo before getting the boot almost two years ago.

Some have taken umbrage over the fact that Homex did not consult with our HOA before beginning the road work. The fact of the matter is they were only required to consult with the owner of the road – Fonatur – before proceeding. Sure, it would have been a nice gesture for Homex to have reached out to the HOA before the work began, or even after the work began, but they didn’t. So what? We’re still getting a new road with very nice new curbs. And that’s something I was beginning to think I’d never see in my lifetime.

I’m not sure why there are still some people who think Homex is our developer because they are not. Homex bought the Inn at Loreto Bay and the golf course and they are the developer for the second phase of Agua Viva. They also bought the Posadas and a few dozen lots in the first phase of Agua Viva, but they are not the developer for Founder’s or the first AV. Unfortunately, we’re still stuck with those unsavory shadow-people who front for Citigroup in the form of TSD and Alvarez & Marsal.

I’m sure it’s true that Homex decided to refinish our roads because it was in their best interest to do so. It would be awfully hard to sell in AV II with the rest of the development looking like little Baghdad. That decision may have been self-serving, but it certainly serves our interests too. So lighten up, sit back and prepare to enjoy a pothole free drive through lovely Loreto Bay!

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pavimentación de la parte tres

Communication is often spotty and slow to make the rounds here in Loreto Bay (not so with rumors, though, they fly like lightning), so we thought we’d pass on the most current, sort of official news on what Homex plans for the Paseo.

Following is an email from Jorge with Associa -as written - outlining plans for the Paseo (with a focus on Agua Viva as this is the report he sent to the AV reps):

“I visited the area yesterday and there are not works done in our Sub regimes or master area, they are working only in Paseo now ( as you know is a Fonatur area ), I had a conversation this morning with the engineer in charge from Homex, his name is Ignacio Arias, he confirmed they will only be doing paving on Paseo and they will also start doing retaining walls on Sub Regimes K and L facing Paseo (Which I think is great ), they will raise the level of Paseo by around AV 281 to allow the rain to run part towards the canal and part towards SR I, they will run a pipe ( that will be the only job done in one of our Sub regimes ) towards the area to launch kayaks (between AV 34 and AV 101 ) to drain rain water there. He had talk to Miguel (note: Beck engineer in charge of the infrastructure installation) and he told me he got great information from him, I got a set of plans from Miguel before he left for some days to mainland showing on that area water, propane, fiber optic and electricity infrastructure running through that area, they should not have problems, I asked him if he has any doubts he should wait for Miguel as he will come back tomorrow.

“He also told me they will not scrape any more streets (he is proposing a small area in front of the Haciendas buildings, but he is waiting for approval) and that all of the Paseo (both sides) will get a coat of asphalt, there are only two areas that they will not touch, that is from FN 363 to 402 and the “dry arroyo” area ( in front of hotel in E2 area ), but the rest he said it will look like new both sides from tennis center to Hotel.”

Like most of what we get in the way of news, some of this needs to be clarified. And some of it – especially that last paragraph – will not come as welcome news to some Founder’s home owners.

It’s good news that retaining walls will be built along the embankments in subs K and L here in Agua Viva, but bad news for us that our part of that crumbling and rapidly eroding embankment will not be a part of that project as we’re not right on the Paseo.

We were pleasantly surprised, though, to learn that Homex does plan to address the drainage problems on the Paseo and the kayak launch area in the southern part of Sub-Regime I.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Paving update!

This morning heavy trucks moved into Agua Viva (by the bat cave) and began tearing up the paving on the Paseo going north. Right in front of our casa, as a matter of fact. At first we thought trenches were being dug for utility lines, but as the morning progressed we saw that the entire lane on the beach side of the Paseo was being dug up.

During a scheduled meeting with Jorge of Associa this morning, George learned that the work was being done to prepare the road for paving. Talk about a shock!

Yesterday I mentioned in my first paving post that we'd probably find out about paving in AV when it actually started happening and all I can say is I sure hit the nail on the head on that one!

The original plan for the Paseo called for the road from the north end of our phase to right in front of our AV220 to be raised by four or five feet. It's obvious that plan has been scrapped, but who cares! We're going to have fresh new asphalt in the very near future! And maybe they're planning on doing something about the drainage problems on that part of the Paseo before the paving gets under way. Only time will tell.

Regardless, this is great news for those of us who own homes in Agua Viva and particularly good news for those very few of us who live here full-time or months at a time. As all of us who own here know, the dust situation just keeps going from bad to worse, but at least now we'll be able to drive into AV without kicking up a dust storm.

Jorge also confirmed this morning that Homex did, indeed, buy the Posadas. Loreto Bay has suddenly turned into a very happening place!!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Paving the way

Excitement is in the air in Loreto Bay, along with diesel fumes and lots of noise after work suddenly (and apparently without notice) began recently on much-needed road improvements in our development.

The work is said to be a joint effort between Homex and Fonatur to grade and pave the south entrance to Loreto Bay and the Paseo (the main road through the development) from the hotel to the Posadas, across from the golf club.

The question mark hanging over this good news is whether the work will continue north on the Paseo from the Founder’s Neighborhood to our beleaguered piece of paradise here in Agua Viva. There’s been no word yet, but odds are we’ll find out when it actually happens and not before.

Work hit a snag, though, when a water line broke, according to one Founder’s home owner, who said some fiber optic lines were also damaged as a result of the road work. As soon as those utilities are repaired, workers will begin paving. For now, crews are busy building curbs on the south entrance road and continuing to grade the Paseo. As I was taking photos this morning a home owner walking by asked, "Is your water out too?" We are often without water in Agua Viva, so we hear that question too often, but not today! The water outage was only in Founder's.

The road work is great news, but like a lot here in Mexico there are always more questions than answers.

Will Agua Viva see new asphalt?
Will embankments along the south entrance be stabilized?
Will the Paseo get new curbs, too?

Whatever the answers we’re happy that something so vital and positive is finally happening.

And if the work does stop in Founder’s, leaving those of us here in Agua Viva spinning our wheels in the dust, the one question I won’t ask is “why.” We’ve learned that’s the most frustrating question anyone can ask here in Mexico…

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Making our house a home

After months of typical procrastination, George and I finally filled the pots we purchased last spring with flowers, plants and palms to adorn our roof terrace. It’s transformed our bare terrace into a more inviting space where we can relax and entertain in the cooler months ahead.

We searched high and low for the perfect plants and finally settled on several that were not what we’d initially discussed, but they ended up being perfect. That’s Mexico for you. It’s all about improvising and making due and enjoying the end result.

Jose with Vivero Santa Anita helped us make our choices, which consist of a bird of paradise, a large and small palm, bougainvillea, gardenias, desert roses (my favorites) and small flowering plants. He also supplied the skill and labor in installing the irrigation system we brought down from the States this summer.

The work was done quickly and efficiently – busting yet another myth about Mexico and we’re happy, even thrilled with the end result. The world beyond our walls may be dusty, barren and dotted with abandoned homes, but we’ve taken another step in creating a more lush and colorful world within the confines of our home.

Our new plants, along with the two little hummingbirds that flit and flutter through our space every day, are helping make our lovely house here in Agua Viva a real home. The final touch to our rooftop oasis are the rope lights that George and our wonderful friend Terry put up today around the pergola posts.

They add an incredible ambiance to our space

that invites good conversation with all the great friends we’ve made here in our little piece of paradise.

Viva Mexico!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Hummingbird hijinks

Sundays are always special days here in Agua Viva and that’s because it’s the one full day of the week that’s quiet. No heavy trucks rumbling up and down the Paseo, no construction workers making construction noises, no loud radios and even louder cars. But today was special for another reason – we had visitors!

Earlier this week we finally put up one of the hummingbird feeders we bought in the States this summer and our efforts were rewarded this morning with the arrival of two of the little chirping, humming charmers.

All morning long they swooped through our courtyard, putting on quite a show as they dipped and dove and hovered before making their way to the feeder. They were curious and unafraid, even flying into the living room a couple of times before buzzing right out again. They were very friendly and seemed totally at ease around human-types.

I’m not sure what type of hummers they were as a quick Google search didn’t help identify them, but they were dark green with some darker shading. The only thing I do know is they are not Xantus’s hummingbirds, which are the endemic hummingbird in this part of the Baja, characterized by a distinctive cinnamon color on its breast and a red beak, both of which were lacking on our new feathered friends.

Whatever their name, the birds were a joy to watch and a nice addition to the frog that has been living in our courtyard for several months now. Or maybe he’s a toad. Or maybe he’s a she! It’s hard to tell with toad/frogs. Whatever he/she is, I’ve named him/her Sparky. Not really appropriate for his/her temperament (a bit withdrawn and quiet), but I do like the sound of it. And Sparky is still hanging out here, so it must sound good to him/her too. And if those two little hummers keep coming back, I’ll try to come up with equally inappropriate names for them as well.

All in all, today was perfect. In the morning we enjoyed the nature found inside our courtyard walls, while the afternoon was spent enjoying the broader palette of nature found at the beach. And did I mention the weather?! Perfection! The temperature was in the low 80s with a slight breeze, all under clear blue skies. It simply doesn’t get any better than today.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

"Without bread all is misery"

There is much to love about Mexican cuisine (George and I should know as we love it just a little too much). From salsa and guacamole to chile rellenos and chicken mole, the food here in Loreto (and the whole of Mexico) is not just good, it's great. But sadly, there is one glaring exception to that awesomeness and that would be bread, or more specifically, loaf bread.

Julia Child once said, "How can a nation be great if its bread tastes like Kleenex?" Truer words were never spoken. That handy paper product is exactly what Bimbo bread tastes like to me. Yuk!
Before anyone takes me to task for dissing all Mexican bread, I will freely admit that most of the commercial loaf bread sold in the States is awful too (just not as awful as Bimbo bread, the most awful of them all). The difference is that in the States we can get some good commercially-produced bread, but that kind of bread can't be found in a 200-mile radius of Loreto. And believe me, we've looked.

My doughy complaint lies strictly with commercial breads like Bimbo, so it should be noted that the local panaderías here in town offer some decent bread, it's just not my cup of tea. And speaking of tea, who can deny the joy of a thick slice of fresh, warm bread slathered in butter and/or jam accompanied by that fine beverage? Not me, that's for sure, and not Frank McCourt who wrote in his best-selling memoir "Angela's Ashes" that "...after the egg is there anything in the world lovlier than fresh warm bread and a mug of sweet golden tea?" No, Mr. McCourt, there is not!

All this complaining is just a prelude to the announcement (drum roll, please!) that there is a new bakery in town and the bread is as good as any artisan bread north of the border.

Pan Oli recently opened two doors down from Dali Gourmet (which re-opened this week after a summer break) and although they didn't have much to offer when I stopped by yesterday, they did have some rolls and very nice round loaves of fresh bread.

We went back to snap a photo and stock up on some fresh bread when we happened to bump into another Agua Viva home owner who had just discovered the new bakery. He, too, was thrilled at this new addition to the Loreto business community.

Today we went back and bought some ciabatta bread, focaccia and a cinnamon roll for George, as those little treats are his absolute favorites. We haven't yet tried the focaccia, but the rest was awesome. They also offer different types of rolls and pastries and will open a small restaurant in the coming months.

When you're next in Loreto, be sure to stop by this new bakery. It's well worth a visit.

Note: The quote that acts as a headline for this post is from a British journalist, William Cobbett (1763?-1835). He was a smart man.

Thursday, September 30, 2010

If this don't beat all!

Following is a letter we received from TSD (Trust for Sustainable Development) Loreto Partners, the company used by Citigroup to manage the Loreto Bay development, which they then used to hide behind after they decided to stop construction in June 2009. Since abandoning the Loreto Bay project, TSD has been nothing more than a shell company - stripped of assets and acting as a dummy company to shield Citigroup from litigation and public scrutiny. But before we get to the letter, I've got a few things to say...

A brief history should explain this situation: This is the company that left us with unfinished homes and no idea if we'd ever be able to recoup the MILLIONS of dollars we'd all sunk into this project. This same company is now very upset that people have decided to seek redress for those losses in a court of law. Wow, the nerve!

These folks also stole money from home owners in the amount of $1.3 million for infrastructure work that was never started. This work was signed off on by representatives of TSD who knew the work was not done. But what nerve for home owners to call them on it! (And, of course, special thanks go to Stewart Title International for being a party to that theft.)

So now they're upset that home owners are fighting back? How dare those of us who were left high and dry show some totally righteous anger and seek legal counsel!

It's just incredibly surreal to hear them whine about how badly the abandoned home owners have treated them. These folks are the real deal when it comes to crazy.

But after re-reading this self-serving piece of garbage, we should thank Mr. Embree C. "Chuck" Bedsole for one of the funniest letters we've ever read, because this has to be a joke.

Let's recap: This is the company that abandoned construction, tore up the only road through the project leaving it a pot-holed, barely passable nightmare, absconded with our $1.3 million in utility infrastructure money, left Mexican contractors and workers unpaid, left a huge local tax and utility debt unpaid, who never bothered to communicate with home owners in any kind of meaningful way after leaving us high and dry and they're upset with us? See what I mean? It's gotta be a joke.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Dear Homeowners,

As you know, TSD Loreto Partners S. en C. por A. de C.V. (“TSD” or the “Company”) has been diligently working with its secured lenders, FONATUR, local and state government authorities, federal tax authorities, contractors, homeowners, Beck Construction, and unsecured creditors to try to secure new funds and develop a reasonable plan to provide continuity to Loreto Bay (the “Project”) as a whole. Unfortunately, the Company has not been able to secure sufficient funds to continue the development of the Project as originally envisioned.

During this process, many homeowners have not met their obligations, creditors have exercised their contractual and legal rights and Company assets have been subject to liens and foreclosure actions. Nonetheless, the Company has used its limited resources to work with creditors to reach agreements on substantial reductions in the amount of their legal claims, and to work with homeowners who defaulted on their contracts prior to June 6, 2009 to arrange payment programs. The balance of our resources have been committed to defending claims from third-parties who have attempted to take an unfair advantage of the current situation based on false, unfounded or misleading claims.

TSD understands that despite the significant efforts expended by the Company to achieve the best outcome for the overall Project, not every homeowner has been or will be satisfied with these results or with TSD’s responses to their inquiries regarding the status of the Project or his or her individual unit. Even though TSD has tried to resolve many of the issues for which TSD is legally responsible and to keep the lines of communication open on these issues, TSD cannot resolve the remaining outstanding issues to the homeowners’ complete satisfaction, regardless of how many times or in how many different forms the issues are presented. Nonetheless, TSD believes that it has responded candidly to all issues raised by homeowners when and where possible.

Finally, there has been much speculation regarding the purchase of certain assets of the Project by Homex and the relationship between Homex and TSD. To set the record straight and avoid future misunderstandings, TSD has no contractual or legal relationship with Homex. An affiliate of Homex is the owner of certain assets of the Project that were previously owned by the Company and foreclosed by TSD’s creditors. TSD, in its efforts to assure the continuity of the Project, is cooperating with and providing information to Homex as required even though this acquisition of assets by Homex did not create any legal or economic relationship between TSD and Homex. TSD continues to be a separate and independent entity solely responsible for its obligations and prepared to defend its rights against third-parties that continue to try to affect TSD’s interests, including defending against those homeowners that have opted to initiate a harassing and defamatory battle against TSD’s and its officers based on false, unfounded or misleading claims.

It is unfortunate that the Project, as originally envisioned by TSD will not be achieved; however, we believe the foundation has been set out for future development companies to make Loreto Bay a destination homeowners may enjoy.

Best Regards,

TSD Loreto Partners S. en C. por A. de C.V.
By: Embree C. “Chuck” Bedsole, as attorney-in-fact.

But just in case this self-serving piece of garbage isn't a joke: Bring it on, Mr. Embree C. "Chuck" Bedsole! And best regards to you, too.

On second thought, though, the joke is on Mr. Bedsole and company because Agua Viva home owners have left them far behind. Sorry, guys, but you're ancient history at this point. We picked up the pieces and made something good from the mess you left behind. It wasn't easy and it wasn't fun, but we have a community now that has nothing to do with Citigroup or TSD. We did it without your help and in spite of your hindrance. Good for us. Now go away and leave us alone!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A mixed blessing

Yesterday’s rain was a real blessing here in Loreto Bay and the surrounding area. The mountains and landscape have taken on a soft green glow that we haven’t seen all summer, or for that matter, since we moved here. It’s an amazing transformation that seemed to take place almost instantaneously.
It’s a blessing, too, for the scrawny livestock that have had slim pickings alongside the highway for the past few months. Now they’ll have something green and tasty to eat. Thank God! It’s such a pitiful sight to see the cattle, goats and horses foraging in the dirt and rocks alongside the highway. At least now there’s some greenery poking up through the scrabble.

The downside to the rain is the mess it makes of the road - the Paseo - in front of our home. We’re on the north end of Agua Viva, which is one of the lowest points of the Paseo. So we’re left with a totally flooded road even though we only got about an inch of rain (I’m averaging the guesstimates we’ve heard). The problem with the road is serious for all concerned. How can the new owners expect to sell homes when the main road through the project is in such bad repair? Any prospective buyer would be taken aback to see the road when it’s dry. When it’s wet, it’s a nightmare.

We’ve heard via the LB grapevine that Homex knows they’ll have to do something about the Paseo. It’s a shame the main thoroughfare through the development ever got in this shape in the first place. Shame on Citigroup, Re:Play, TSD and all those responsible for the road conditions here in Loreto Bay. Here’s hoping Homex steps up to the plate and takes care of this problem soon.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Every little bit helps

George and I have lived through many firsts since moving to Loreto Bay last February, but today was the first time we've seen real rain since we got here. Yippee!
We missed the big four-inch downpour in August as we were on our six-week 'Adventure in Gringolandia' tour. That particular storm wreaked some havoc with our casa in the form of leaks in the ceiling of the upstairs master bedroom. But the good news was that the repairs were all completed before we arrived home and from what we've heard, the rest of the new homes in AV fared better than we did. We were lucky that we had such a good property manager in Robert Ortola. He and Donella did a fantastic job looking after our house and cleaning up after the workers left.

Today's rain has managed to tamp down the dirt (another big Yippee!!) and it's possible we may see more precipitation in the next couple of days thanks to Tropical Storm Georgette (click on the weather widgit on the right side of this page for more weather info).

We ran some errands in town this morning and were treated to a brief deluge while we were at Gustavo's checking out his new offerings. If you haven't been to his store in a while, plan on a trip as he's got some really great new furniture and accessories.

We also had brunch at the new Gourmet Guaycura Restaurant on the Malecon by Augie's. In fact, it's in the same second floor location that Augie's restaurant used to be.

It's one of our favorite spots on the Malecon and we're glad to see that space being used again. The restaurant has some really nice touches like orchids in vases on the tables, nice color schemes, great background music (Spanish guitar instrumentals of Beatles tunes. Awesome!) and one of the best views on the Malecon. And the food was great!

It looks like Loreto proper got more rain than we did here in Nopolo this morning, but right now it's coming down pretty steadily here at home. Wish I had a rain gauge!

We'll keep you posted on any significant developments.

In other good news:

When we left here on August 4 work was just beginning on the improvements at the Inn.

We were very surprised and pleased to see that the pool work was done and other cosmetic touchs could be seen throughout the grounds, including some new contrasting paint and really nice new palapas and outdoor restaurant furniture.

The changes have succeeded in making the Inn look a lot more alive and vibrant.

The evening we got back the Inn was hosting a Viva! Mexico fiesta in honor of Independence Day with dinner on the beach (ala the old Loreto Bay sales events), a scrumptious buffet, music and even fireworks. There looked to be about 40 or so joining in the festivities. Talk about a nice homecoming!

All those changes can be credited to the Inn's new manager, Peter Maxwell. Ironically, Peter, a native of Britain with an impressive resume in the hotel industry, was responsible for getting the original Inn - the Camino Real Hotel - going back about eight or nine years ago.

Peter (one of those managers that jumps right in no matter how small the task and how often do you see that anymore?) told us that for now Homex is taking baby steps in getting the Inn back in shape. That's obvious with the pool which could look better, but we're not complaining. The improvements are real and the whole ambience of the place has changed for the better. So congrats to Peter and his staff.

As for the outdoor dining area that was being demolished before we left, Peter said that renovation is on hold due to a lack of funds. But on the plus side, 90 of the rooms have gotten a facelift.

And we were very happy to see the fitness room full of equipment again. We did hear that some of the equipment isn't working, but hey, some of it is! That's good news for us as we managed to gain a good bit of weight while we were in the states. Sometimes it feels like we ate our way up the West Coast!

On a totally inane note, I was relieved to see that our resident frog (or maybe he's a toad) was still here when we got home last week. He's no friendlier than he was before we left, but it's still good to see him hopping around the courtyard every night.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Something to get excited about - finally!

It’s been a long wait, but tonight we saw real progress being made here in Loreto Bay. Almost a dozen workers were busy tearing out the old tile in the hotel swimming pool and it was a wonderful sight to see.

When we moved here last February, seagulls had taken over the pool at the Inn and it was looking very shabby. Just a few weeks later Homex met with local officials and word leaked that they had indeed bought the hotel and golf course. We’ve all been waiting these many long months to see what Homex has planned and it’s looking pretty darn good.

The main swimming pool is being refurbished and in just one day the workers had accomplished a lot. New walls were going up and the old tile was being torn out and hauled away. As we made our way to the pool restaurant this evening, we also saw surveyors working on the hotel grounds and a large crew tearing down the pergola over the old outdoor restaurant just north of the pool.

Our waiter told us the pool restaurant and bar will be closing as soon as renovations are completed on the former outdoor dining area, which he said would take about a week. We've learned to be a little skeptical when we hear something will only take a week. So now we just add a month or two onto any guesstimate and we're usually not far off. But no matter how long it takes, this is an encouraging and welcome sign.

The pool restaurant will probably re-open once the pool renovation is complete. This information is all per our waiter, who seemed very excited about the work taking place. And so are we!

No news, though, about the former fitness center, which was housed in the building adjoining the restaurant. That space was turned into a dining room, but we never saw anyone actually eating there. Maybe the new restaurant, which will feature a new chef and offerings like Mexican specialties and lobster, will have both indoor and outdoor dining.

It’s incredibly nice to see these signs of life at the Inn and we look forward to many more exciting changes.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Hot fun in the summertime

It’s all about the ebb and flow here in Loreto Bay, from the tides of the Sea of Cortez to the home owners who fly in for a few days and then fly back out. Our lives here have a rhythm that seems to hinge on the ebb and flow.

The weather dictates our own ebb and flow and right now at 98 degrees we're definitely in the ebb phase because we've been heading indoors as much as possible. And that means we spend a lot of time trying to find things to entertain or amuse ourselves.

Today I broke out one of the 1,000 piece jigsaw puzzles we brought down with us, but too many of the pieces matched the color of our dining room table so I threw in the towel pretty quickly. Hey, you try finding brown puzzle pieces on a copper-top dining table!

George persevered with the puzzle for a little longer than me, but eventually he drifted away from the table, too, and we both settled down for some Web surfing. It was while I was going through my usual sites that I came across an interesting article about a Web site called ‘I Write Like.’ The site asks you to submit several paragraphs of your writing for analysis and then in mere nanoseconds tells you which famous author you write like.

I took a few paragraphs from one of my blogs and ‘lo and behold the ‘analyzer’ spit back the name Margaret Mitchell. Yes, the very same Margaret Mitchell who wrote that epic Southern novel “Gone with the Wind.” I was surprised to say the least. Sure, I have more than a little Southern in me, but Margaret Mitchell? Sure, we both started our journalism careers in Georgia, but Margaret Mitchell? I just don’t see any similarity in writing style at all. I’d like to think there is, after all she wrote one of the best-selling novels of all time, but I’m thinking not.

Reading a little further into the article I discovered that Margaret Atwood (one of my favorite writers and another Margaret... can that be a coincidence?) had some of her writing analyzed and was told she writes like none other than Stephen King. Yeah, right.

OK, so the ‘I Write Like’ site still has a few bugs (if Ms. Atwood and I are any indication), but it was a fun way to spend some time here in hot and steamy Loreto Bay.

Try it yourself at

Saturday, July 3, 2010

The walls come tumbling down

Apparently Homex officials were less than pleased with the look of their two model homes after a tour of the homes during the recent Homex confab held at the Inn of Loreto Bay. No word on what took place during the meeting, but shortly after the bigwigs left town workers started tearing down walls and those odd square dome-y things perched on the tops of the homes. As far as we’re concerned, this can only be considered an improvement and a smart move on the part of Homex. But it does beg the question: What were they thinking when they approved those architectural plans?!

Closer to home, some contractors have started removing the security fencing and cleaning up the construction mess from around the clusters. Although we did hear from some home owners living a bit farther south that the gates around their homes had been put back up to prevent damage to exposed wires.

Another sign that things are picking up in Loreto Bay is the trimming of the palm trees along the Paseo. Crews were out all last week cutting off the dead fronds, making the trees appear much healthier and happier. I’ve often wondered, though, how these trees manage to survive with virtually no water. Although Fonatur regularly waters the palms in Nopolo, north of Loreto Bay, I’ve yet to see any watering on our end of the Paseo.

On another note, we found a surprising guest in our courtyard this evening – a little frog. We can’t imagine how it got into the courtyard or where it came from but it was nice to see. Maybe it’ll take up residence in our fountain, but if that’s the case it will have to fight off the birds that regularly stop by to take a quick dip.

And speaking of critters, one of our Founder's neighbors took us out on his beautiful boat earlier this week and we came upon two separate pods of incredible dolphins. It was our first sighting of dolphins and they put on quite a spectacular show, leaping and diving alongside the boat. Our host and his captain, Chino, went out of their way to give us this wonderful experience. Chino got out his binoculars and called other boats to find out if there were any dolphins in the area. And boy, did we hit the jackpot! First we came upon a group of large grey bottlenose dolphins and just minutes later a much larger group of smaller dolphins, both near Puerto Escondido. Without a doubt, it was the very best day we've had since we moved to Loreto Bay.

We had another first a couple of days ago - sprinkles of rain! It's the first time we've seen any precipitation since we arrived. It was very short-lived but it was still rain!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Lazy daze

A friend pointed out to me yesterday that I've been remiss in not posting the news that George and I moved into our completed home a month ago. Considering the fact that the whole point of this blog was to share our Loreto Bay construction journey from start to finish, she's right. So for the record I'd like to announce that our Casa de Nuevos Suenos is finally a reality. From top to bottom our home is a thing of beauty. And other than a few minor glitches like a broken water heater (we're in our third day of no hot water) and a leaky dishwasher, we're very happy with our home.

The problem I have in putting fingers to keyboard can be summed up by the title of this post. Since moving permanently to Loreto Bay four months ago, I often find myself lost in a lazy daze. Life here in Loreto Bay moves at a much slower pace. Each day flows seamlessly into the next, so much so that I find myself surprised that an entire week has passed. It’s a peaceful lifestyle and one I've grown to love. The days are full, although not very exciting. I read (too much probably), I putter around the house, I complain about the heat, the dust, dirt and construction noise, I lay on the beach and read some more and generally indulge in the kind of indolent, non-productive behavior reserved for lazy no-counts (like me) or the fabulously wealthy. Although George indulges in the same kind of laziness, he's also very involved in our Condo Sub-Regime and spends part of every day on emails and condo regime business.

Apart from all that lolling around, the most rewarding part of living here are the people we meet, and so far we've met and enjoyed the company of many fellow home owners. Shortly after moving into our home we hosted a roof-top party for our Agua Viva neighbors and a few of our Founder's neighbors. It was so much fun to share (and show off!) our home with fellow home owners and we were very gratified that more than 30 of our neighbors showed up for our bash. Everyone brought something to share so the food and drink was outstanding and I don't think I'm far off the mark here when I say a good time was had by all.

We also spend at least two or three nights a week meeting friends and neighbors for dinner or drinks and getting together for the weekly "music night" wherein George and other musicians in the community meet to play music and have a good time.

In short, we are very lucky and we know it.

On the other hand, the least rewarding aspect of life here in Agua Viva is the uncertainty about our phase of the development and the increasing costs we’re all being asked to pay. Sometimes these problems seem so overwhelming we aren't sure if our dream of a completed and viable community will ever become a reality. Our biggest fear is that some home owners may become so disillusioned they decide to throw in the towel. All I can say is please don’t! The only way we can make this work is to come together as a community of like-minded people. And for the most part, we are like-minded. Most of us bought into the vision of a sustainable community and that is still a work in progress. We need everyone to remain committed to the dream of Loreto Bay or we’re doomed to failure. And we’ve sure come too far for that to happen.

In its own humble, dusty way, Loreto Bay is a paradise, but a paradise with some thorns. It's up to those of us who care about this place to make sure those thorns are pruned, so that the vision we all bought into can be realized.

To mark the beginning of this new chapter George and I have decided to rename our home and our blog Casa del Milagro, because it is most certainly a miracle that it exists! Look for future postings about life here in Agua Viva, which I’ll try to generate with more consistency.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Be careful what you wish for...

For many months now home owners in Loreto Bay have been hoping for a buyer to step in and save the day. We’ve known for some time – unofficially – that the buyer is Homex, a Mexican company that previously specialized in low-income housing in Mexico, but is now embarking on an ambitious resort-building plan across Mexico.

Then several weeks ago we noticed a flurry of construction activity north of AV and we learned – unofficially again - that part of their resort-building plan includes constructing 803 units of apartments, townhomes and garage homes in the area just north of Agua Viva, with the first two model homes to be completed by May 25 (we’ll believe that when we see it, but they have made a lot of progress as seen in the photo above). That area was always slated to be a part of Loreto Bay, but now it appears it will be a separate community, apart from both Agua Viva and the Founder’s Neighborhood. And according to the site plans, this project will also include several pools and a beach club for those residents use only.

So to sum up, the only thing we know at this point is that we are not being invited to Homex’s party. We won’t have pool or beach club privileges and we didn’t even get this news firsthand. Instead, we got it via a “pass it along, por favor” from a Homex rep to a Loreto Bay home owner. That’s offensive and too reminiscent of Re:Play’s style of re:laying news through a third party.

It’s clear that Homex is not anxious to start any kind of dialogue with Loreto Bay home owners. While we’ve been waiting anxiously for news, they’ve been very industriously getting all their ducks in a row with nary a word to us.

But that won’t deter us from asking questions and demanding answers. We’ve been shut out of any conversation for years now, first with Loreto Bay Company, then Citigroup and its minions, which include TSD/Loreto, Re:Play, Alvarez & Marsal and Cushman & Wakefield. This is really getting tiresome.

In an effort to get the ball rolling on a list of questions for our new homies at Homex here goes:

What are your plans for the estuaries? Your site plan notes lakes not estuaries. Do we take that to mean these will remain stagnant, mosquito-breeding algae-filled ponds?

What are your plans for the Paseo and embankments? Will you work with Fonatur to pave and beautify the road leading into Loreto Bay from your development?

What do you plan on calling your development? Since you will not be a part of the Loreto Bay project, we hope you’ve come up with a different name.

Although this is not a question for Homex to answer, it is one on the minds of every home owner in Agua Viva: How much more are Agua Viva home owners going to have to shell out to have even the semblance of a real community? Back to Homex with three remaining questions: Will you help us at all? What exactly are your intentions regarding our phase of the development? And why haven’t you reached out to us yet?

The very fact that Homex hasn’t offered any official acknowledgement of the purchase and their plans does not bode well for us, especially those of us in Agua Viva, which looks more like a bombed out area in Baghdad than a high-priced development in the Baja.

Maybe we should have been a little more specific about what we were wishing for in a buyer…

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

There's no place like home

The last day of our trip to Loreto was mostly uneventful. We checked out of the Malarrimo Hotel (decent and even charming in a bare bones kind of way, but overpriced for what you get) in Guerrero Negro early in the morning and headed south.

The landscape had flattened out, making driving easier and less stressful.
We stopped for gas and headed out with a sense of excitement knowing that an end to our road trip was finally in sight.

Other than getting stuck for a half hour or so behind a huge piece of machinery that took up both lanes of the highway (we think it was an electric sub-station maybe), we didn’t have any real excitement until we hit the fifth of the six military checkpoints on our journey.

As soon as we stopped and put the window down, the soldier who motioned us to a stop very impatiently and abruptly ordered us out of the car. This was unexpected based on our previous experiences, but we quickly got of the car and stood off to the side so he and his fellow soldiers could search the car. We kept smiling while they poked and prodded our belongings and didn’t expect any trouble as we weren’t trying to hide anything.

The soldier who’d ordered us out of the car was going through a big straw bag I had packed with odds and ends, one being a new LED mini-flashlight that George had bought me expressly for the trip. He pulled the flashlight out of the bag and grinning he asked, “Is this for me?” He was looking right at me and I just shrugged and said, “If you say so.” He didn’t like that answer and asked again. As uneasy as I was, I wasn’t going to give him permission to steal from me, so I said the same thing again. It was an uncomfortable few moments and I’m not sure I responded the way I should have. But George and I both kept our demeanor neutral and polite, so maybe that’s what counts in the end.

Maybe he was just bored and decided to have a little fun bullying the gringos. Whatever the case, he gave up or lost interest and tossed the light back into the bag looking annoyed. But he did let us continue on our journey and we were more than relieved to pull away.

The incident was minor, but definitely disconcerting as it was the only unpleasant exchange we’d had during the whole trip.

As we neared Santa Rosalia, we groaned as we saw more mountains in the distance, but it was exciting to be so near the Sea of Cortez for the first time in our trip. We’d read a little about Santa Rosalia but were still surprised by the town, which was hilly with narrow and hard to navigate streets.

We stopped for a quick lunch and hit the road again. By this time, we were both very anxious to reach our destination, so other than slowing for views of the beautiful bays south of Mulege and one final military checkpoint, we weren’t going to stop unless absolutely necessary!

That final military checkpoint more than made up for the bully at the previous stop. The soldier who motioned us to stop asked where we were from and where we were headed and when I told him we were from New Mexico he looked puzzled until I said, “Nuevo Mexico.” He laughed then and very sweetly motioned us to leave.

The rest of the trip seemed to take forever. That last hour was agony, but finally we reached Loreto.

Hallelujah! We were home.

Next up: Getting our bearings and a nasty case of the flu

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Dangerous curves and tsunami alerts

The most notable thing about our drive from Ensenada to Loreto was the one thing that we’ve never seen mentioned in all the blogs and Web posts we’ve read about the drive and that is how much mountain driving is involved. There’s a lot of it and it comes with all the curves and switchbacks you expect in that terrain. Don’t expect to make very good time.

Our day started with a light mist, which rapidly progressed to a steady downpour by the time we’d checked out of our hotel and made our way to Home Depot. We were helped with our shopping by a sales associate who spoke very good English and was eager to warn us of the impending tsunamis up and down the Baja coast. This was the morning of the big Chilean earthquake and the threat of tsunamis had been issued from Mexico all the way to the Pacific Northwest.

“Just the Pacific side?” we asked. “Oh, no”, he said, “on the Sea of Cortez, too!” Armed with that dire prediction (which turned out to be unfounded for both coasts), we set out for Guerrero Negro in the rain. And it rained, and rained and rained for a very long time that first day. The mountains were beautiful even in the rain, but we moved at a snail’s pace through the mountain passes and it looked like we’d have to stop in Catavina for the night, instead of Guerrero Negro.

By the time we reached Catavina, it was about an hour or two from dark so we decided we should spend the night at the Desert Inn. It had finally stopped raining an hour or so before we got there, but still it was windy and chilly when we stopped at the motel. I should also mention that you could miss Catavina if you happened to blink.

We went into the hotel for a pit stop and to decide if we’d stay or press on. That decision was made easy when it appeared there was no electricity and the staff was less than helpful. No one even asked if they could help us. I had to go back to the car for a flashlight to find my way to the restroom!

But everything we’d read said “DO NOT DRIVE AFTER DARK!” We talked about it and decided that a little night driving would be OK. And it was. But don’t do this if you don’t have to! It was scary and stressful. We did make it to Guerrero Negro, but it was a long couple of hours.

As for stopping for gas, believe everything you’ve ever read about it! Fill up every chance you get. A map we’d gotten at the Ensenada visitor center indicated that Catavina had a Pemex station so we didn’t stop in El Rosario (I think that was the town), even though George wanted to. “Oh, no,” I said. “We’ve got plenty of gas until we get to Catavina.”

And we did, but it turns out that the Pemex station in Catavina is closed! I’m not certain it’s ever even been open, because it sure didn’t look like it.

We still had enough gas to make it to Guerrero Negro (probably), but not wanting to take any chances, George pulled over to get a few gallons from the guy selling gas out of cans by the side of the road. I can always count on George for the smart moves.

By the time we reached Guerrero Negro, we’d already gone through four military checkpoints (there were a total of six from the border to Loreto) and we’d had no problem whatsoever. The soldiers were civil and we hadn’t been searched or questioned beyond, “Where are you going?” and “Where are you from?” We weren’t particularly worried about the checkpoints because we look like exactly what we are – a couple of American geezers who are no threat to anyone! And we weren’t carrying contraband or anything that could be considered suspicious so we felt safe.

Next up: A Mexican bully and home at last!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A different kind of border problem

Crossing the border at San Ysidro was surprisingly easy… which makes it that much harder to figure out how we could have screwed up and missed the Immigration Office!

Traffic was very light into Tijuana and we were in the very far left “nothing to declare” lane. We got a green light and sailed on through feeling pretty darned pleased with how the day was going so far.

What we didn’t expect, though, was how confusing and crammed in all the official offices were on the far RIGHT of the crossing, which meant we’d have to cross several lanes of traffic in the space of a very short block to make it over there. And to make matters worse, we couldn’t make out where the office was in the jumble of buildings. After the problems we’d already encountered, this glitch seemed like small potatoes, so we decided to keep on going and try our luck further along.

We crossed at San Ysidro because we didn’t want to do any driving in Tijuana proper and that route allows easy access to the toll road that skirts the city. The signs to the toll road were easy to read, we had a good map and we simply followed all the arrows to Rosarito, Ensenada and the toll road, which was easy to drive.

Once on the toll road we stopped at an official pull-off area and it was there we learned we’d need to stop at the Immigration Office in Ensenada and pay a fine for not having our FM3s stamped in Tijuana. Luckily, the lady who helped us was able to supply a hand-drawn map of where Immigration was located and she was right on the money!

The drive to Ensenada was mountainous and lovely, except for the scores of partially-completed hotels and developments all along the way. A depressing sight and a reminder of how bad things could have been for Agua Viva home owners without Beck and Stan Barton. The drive took the expected hour and a half, maybe more as we were being very cautious about the speed limit.

The Immigration Office was near the harbor and very near a brand new visitor center, which we took advantage of after having our papers stamped and paying $5 each for the oversight. It was only around 3:30 p.m., but George started having back spasms (the stress we’d been under would do it to anyone), so we decided to stop at the Posada el Rey Sol in the downtown area. It was a charming place, reasonably priced with interior parking that looked and felt very secure.

It’s evident how hard a hit northern Baja has taken with the downturn in the economy, as well as the drug violence along the border. There were almost no people out and about and it was a very nice downtown tourist area which should have been filled with vacationers. We didn’t have to wait for a table on that particular Friday night. Ensenada is an especially pretty town (at least in that area) and we hope things pick up for the businesses there soon.

We stopped by Costco that evening and had fun roaming the aisles and noting the differences between a Mexican and U.S. store. It had a lot of the same stuff our Costco in Albuquerque carries, but the size of the store was smaller, with the food area significantly smaller.

There was a Home Depot across the street, but we decided to try our luck there in the morning and that ended up being a big mistake!

Next up: Will it be a wash-out?

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Mangled Menaje and more

The big day finally arrived on Monday, Feb. 22. Our house had closed a few days earlier and we were ready to hit the road after packing up our household goods into a 26-foot Penske truck. We went through the checklist and all was well. We had our FM3s, as well as our approved Menaje de Casa, the list of household items to be moved by our shipper, Victor Diaz, to Loreto Bay. We breathed a big sigh of relief and headed out early in the afternoon for San Diego, where our goods would be transferred to Victor and his truck.

But that relief was short-lived because we found out from Victor that evening, well into our trip to San Diego, that our Menaje de Casa was invalid. Our consulate had failed to stamp every page of our inventory, which meant it had to be fixed fast.
We couldn’t go back to Albuquerque, so we decided to try our luck with the Mexican Consulate once we arrived in San Diego.

What ensued was a stressful mess! George drove the moving truck into downtown San Diego with me following in our SUV. We found the consulate, but where the heck were we going to park that behemoth downtown? We traded vehicles after finding a parking space for the SUV near the consulate. For the next half hour, I drove that Penske truck around downtown looking for a place to park while George was in the consulate. I finally came upon a large parking lot near the harbor and gratefully pulled in, even though the sign expressly forbade oversized trucks. For more than an hour I waited to hear from George and when he finally did call, the news was not good. The consulate could not help us. We had to get our Menaje de Casa fixed by the consulate in Albuquerque.

The rest of that day is a blur. We made our way to a motel and started making phone calls. The end result (after a FedEx mistake that lost our overnight letter to the consulate in Albuquerque) was that our consulate was able to FedEx stamped copies of our Menaje de Casa to us, but not before we spent two stress-filled days waiting in a Travelodge off I-5.

With double and triple stamped papers in hand, we delivered the documents to our broker/shipper but learned they wouldn’t be able to ship our goods until Wednesday. Undaunted we crossed the border (as well as our fingers) at San Ysidro about 1 p.m. Friday, Feb. 26. And thanks to the generosity of our friends and future neighbors, Karen and Terry Stepp, we had a place to stay in Loreto until our belongings arrived – their beautiful new house in Agua Viva.

Next up: Trip tips and driving dilemmas!