Thursday, November 24, 2011

A Happy Thanksgiving, indeed!

Just in time for Thanksgiving and the holiday season our little part of Agua Viva is coming alive with colorful plants. I honestly doubted whether this would ever happen – that’s how beaten down we’d become here on our side of Loreto Bay. It was such a tremendous struggle just to get our homes built that it seemed that’s all we’d ever have – our homes perched on dry, dusty land.

But as the photos attest, that pessimism was totally misplaced. The walkways are progressing rapidly on both sides of the Paseo now – not just in our sub-regime. And with the addition of bougainvillea, hibiscus and a variety of other colorful plants and trees we’re that much closer to feeling like a real community.

There are still obstacles to overcome, but if we put aside our differences and stop the petty bickering and infighting, we can become one united community. Not a resort, but a village of like-minded people who want nothing more than to enjoy this beautiful place and our beautiful homes. Here’s hoping…

And here's hoping your Thanksgiving is as happy as ours!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Yippee, yahoo and hurray!

If you’d told me a few years ago I’d be thrilled to be getting a walkway outside my door, I’m sure I’d have scratched my head and said “Huh?” But that was then and this is now and WOW! To say George and I are thrilled is to say the very least. Not only do we have a walkway going in, we also have a beautifully built retaining wall and stairs – be still my heart.

No more slogging, slipping and sliding through dust and dirt up an embankment to our front door. No more wondering what might happen to said embankment and our casa if a hurricane hit. This is a big deal for us, our neighbors and the community as a whole. Because even though the line of demarcation between the Founder’s Neighborhood and our own Agua Viva is geographically distinct, we are all part of Loreto Bay. So when our property values go up with the construction of beautiful new walkways, the property values in Founder’s also get a little boost. We’re all in this together – sort of.

The sort-of comes into play because we’ve taken on the burden of completing our walkways here in Sub-regime I all by ourselves. Through the efforts of our rep and committee members (disclosure: George is the rep for our sub-regime), we’re completing our area with funds left over from the last assessment imposed on our home owners. We’re doing this in spite of the fact that half the home owners (including individuals, contractors and our less than shining knights, Homex) did not pay and left the rest of us holding the bag and assuming complete financial responsibility for our part of Agua Viva. Shame on you guys, by the way!

I really can’t say enough about what our rep and committee did for us here in Sub I. They worked tirelessly (well, OK, they did get tired) for months to bring all this together with the help of Associa, including Jorge and project engineer Eduardo. They were able to negotiate a favorable contract with one of the best landscaping contractors around and we’re now seeing the reality of all that very hard work. And all of this is being done without any additional expense to the home owners who have already paid much more than their fair share.

So thanks, Terry, Tom, Mike, Nick, Julie, Bradley, Penny, Rich and Ed. And how can I forget George?! As the man on the ground here in Loreto Bay, he’s all HOA, all the time and he’s put in more hours than most people do in a regular full-time job. It should come as no surprise to anyone that I simply can’t wait for his year to be up in February (let me throw in another Yippee! here). In fact, I’m insisting that his involvement cease and desist on that date. Hey, we’re supposed to be retired and that new boat needs cleaning!

What’s happened here in Sub I is a perfect example of determined home owners making a difference in their community. So to each and every person who helped make this a reality – thank you very much.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The name says it all

And the name is Poco Loco, which aptly describes our boat buying experience, because both George and I went a little crazy during the whole process.

Our adventure started with a boat show in San Diego and ended – after much nail biting, anxiety and trepidation – with an awesome boat. It took almost two months of searching from San Diego to Newport Beach until we finally settled on our 37-foot Cruisers Yacht and she’s everything we wanted in a boat.

But the adventure wouldn’t really begin until we got our Poco Loco to Puerto Escondido, so we contracted with a shipping company, crossed our fingers and hoped like hell that all would go well. The Poco Loco was trucked from San Diego to the mainland of Mexico and put onboard the ferry in Mazatlan for the trip to La Paz. (If you’ve ever driven down Baja’s Transpeninsular Highway 1 you’ll understand why the shippers took the route they did.) Then it was back on the highway for the remaining 200 miles from La Paz to Loreto. Talk about stressful! But she finally arrived – with only some minor damage and lots of dirt – at Puerto Escondido. I’ll never forget our first sight of her on a trailer outside the marina with a pair of boxer shorts and a towel waving from the stern as we drove up. (See photo above!) It was awesome.

And it’s been awesome ever since. We spent many hours cleaning (something experienced boaters have told us we'd better get used to) and having her prepped for a life on the Sea of Cortez and finally this past week we were seaworthy and ready for a spin.

We were lucky to have our good friends, Tom and Sue and her cousins, Helen and Pam, on our inaugural voyage. It was a perfect day, sunny and warm with just a little bit of choppiness, but Captain George handled the swells like a seasoned pro.

People are always asking us what it’s like living in paradise. In many ways, it is paradise here, but for us it’s home and all that comes with living a life anywhere. In other words, it’s not a vacation for us and it can be tiresome living here. The heat is oppressive in the summer and it’s hard not to miss super-clean, super-stocked supermarkets and the convenience of malls and big box stores. And let’s not forget movie theaters!

But with the addition of Poco Loco we get to take advantage of the most wonderful part of living Loreto – the beautiful, magical, life-affirming Sea of Cortez. And that makes up for the lack of all of the aforementioned and more. So maybe we haven’t gone a little crazy after all. Maybe this is the sanest thing we ever did!

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Signs, signs, everywhere a sign…

Signs and banners are popping up all over Loreto Bay, bringing a welcome touch of color along with a sense of optimism for the future of our little community. Maybe there’s hope after all! Heck, we’ve got a paved main road, two new restaurants with a third on the way (Beinvenidos, Bajaja Deli Bar & Grill!) and signs of progress in the newest phase of Agua Viva with construction of four new homes by Homex.

The improvements have been slow in coming but they are coming. There are welcoming billboard-type signs at the south entrance to the development and just north of us where Homex workers are busy putting up the new model homes in the second phase of Agua Viva.

The Paseo through Loreto Bay now has festive banners pointing the way to Loreto Baja Golf Course (formerly known as the Loreto Bay Golf Course, which sounds lots better than the new name as far as I’m concerned) and the Loreto Baja model homes, while the south road has banners guiding visitors to the Inn at Loreto Bay.

And speaking of the Inn, the bell tower is now adorned with very attractive lettering on both the front and back sides. The pool at the Inn is also looking much better after a much-needed cleaning this past week. It had gotten so murky in the past few weeks we'd quit swimming there, opting for the hotter but cleaner community pool across the Paseo.

Homex has also been touching up the paving on the Paseo that was gouged and crumbling from cars driving on the fresh pavement last winter. The little things really do mean a lot, so thanks (again) Homex!

All of these improvements are a hopeful sign for the future of Loreto Bay and Loreto Baja. And unlike the song referenced in the title, these signs aren't "blockin' the scenery, breakin' my mind." They're improving the scenery, for sure.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Backstage pass Loreto style

One of the perks of living with a musician is getting that prized backstage pass. And now that George is part of the almost famous, soon-to-be legendary trio that’s wowing audiences from Puerto Escondido to Nopolo that backstage pass has even more cache.

What started as three guys with guitars and a desire to play music has evolved into a tight trio with a dedicated fan base that has reached beyond the borders of Loreto Bay. (This is where George told me my prose might be a bit on the biased side – OK, his actual words were “over the top,” but that doesn’t mean it isn’t true.)

Steve, Rich and George (pictured below left to right) are Los Beach Dogs and they have become more than just a trio of musicians here in Loreto Bay. At the risk of sounding over the top (again), they have helped our beleaguered community come together through music.

When they first started playing together the fate of our part of the development, Agua Viva, was still in doubt and the whole development was at a virtual standstill. Would we survive Citigroup’s abandonment? Could we build something from the rubble that surrounded us? Home owners were cautiously optimistic, but the outlook was grim.

There was no better time for a little music and that’s what the guys provided. Hesitantly at first, but after just a few informal gigs they started to come together (in the immortal words of the immortal Beatles) and home owners throughout Loreto Bay were hooked.

They started playing acoustic gigs on rooftop terraces throughout Loreto Bay and over time word spread and the terraces couldn’t accommodate the crowds. So there was a plugged-in courtyard concert in Founder’s that drew some 100+ home owners. The Dogs expanded their set list and started playing charity events (all of their performances are gratis in accordance with Mexican law). Then they played at Loreto Fest a couple of months ago, the big annual fund-raising bash at Puerto Escondido, and their fan base expanded and hit the floor dancing!

Each of the Dogs brings something unique to the trio and they bring out the musical best in each other.

Steve's intricate guitar licks add an extra dimension to the tunes, while showcasing his jazz roots. When he's not working and playing in Loreto Bay, he's working and playing with a jazz combo in Northern California.

Although Rich spent his formative years as an endodontist (root canal guy) in Minnesota, he has a real knack for penning tunes that totally capture the essense of living Loreto. Whether sweetly sentimental or wildly hilarious, his tunes are big crowd pleasers that all of us here can identify with.

And then there's George, who spent 20 years on the road as a solo musician/performer, and who can still wow a crowd with his expressive voice and commanding stage presence (he's going to absolutely hate that description, but I speak the truth!). And how about those mouth harps he wails on!

Last night it was an informal, mellow gathering to celebrate the completion of a neighbor's garden, but the result is always the same no matter the venue. The music brings us all closer together. The music makes us more of a community.

Gracias Beach Dogs!

Monday, April 11, 2011


Since George and I moved to Loreto more than a year ago we’ve been inundated with questions about life here south of the border. Some of the questions are downright silly and some have merit, but there are a few that keep cropping up, just screaming to be addressed, so here goes!

“What made you decide to move to another country?” This is a legitimate question and deserves a thoughtful and measured response... I sure wish I had one. Truth is we were up for a big adventure and after trolling the Internet for possible retirement locations we happened upon a Web site for Loreto Bay that struck a chord with us. The site was filled with photos of a beautiful place – a desert landscape we were familiar with being from New Mexico with the added bonus of being near water. The views are of dramatic mountains to the west and the sparkling Sea of Cortez to the east. It was a no-brainer. Bottom line is we were seduced by a Web site, which only goes to show the power of really good marketing.

“What do you do all day?” This one is harder. When this question has been posed (which is often), I’ve always stumbled and tried to rely on my wit and that hasn’t always worked, which should come as no surprise to anyone who knows me. My typical response used to be something along the line of “a whole lotta nothing.” So much for my wit. It’s actually hard to describe what we do all day. We putter, we talk, we walk, we ride bikes, we hook up with friends, we lollygag and we shoot the breeze with anyone and everyone, in short, we have a great time. We enjoy the scenery, the people, the food and the lifestyle. Hey, it’s retirement! But after an unfortunate encounter with someone who persisted in pressing me for a different response (and how weird is that?!), a friend told me the best response is to simply say that we enjoy life. (Thanks, Robert!)

“Aren’t you afraid of the drug violence in Mexico?” No. Although the news north of the border is full of dire predictions about the fate of gringos in Mexico, the reality is that we had more to fear from drugs and crime in Albuquerque or most anywhere else in the States than we do here. Just for clarification, the vast majority of drug violence takes place on the U.S./Mexican border, which is 700 miles north of Loreto. Enough said.

“What do you eat?” Food. Really, really good food without the additives, hormones, antibiotics, refined sugars and other icky things that are staples in the States. So, what do you eat?

“Isn’t the language barrier a problem?” It should be but it isn’t. The people here are more than willing to help us with their language. We stumble and fumble and they smile and help us along. And the really cool thing is that they enjoy helping us understand their language.

“Don’t you miss the States?” No, we don’t, with the exception of family, friends and Costco. OK, I really miss Target, too, but that’s it.

“Don’t you get bored?” Are you kidding?? We live on the Sea of Cortez, which means we have access to water, water sports, wildlife including beautiful birds of all kinds, colorful fish, playful dolphins, swimming, snorkeling, kayaking, boating, sunny days, incredible sunrises and sunsets and beautiful vistas. That one is definitely a no-brainer.

“What happens if you get sick?” We have gotten sick and we went to the hospital here in town, we were treated and it was an eye-opening experience in that it was totally unlike going to the doctor or hospital in the States. We waited all of two minutes before we were seen by a competent doctor. We were escorted into an examination room by the doctor (not a nurse or receptionist who, in the States, leaves us in the room to wait another 45 minutes before seeing the doctor) where he asked us about our problem (it was a tummy thing) and then proceeded to order tests. We returned with the requested test results (which we picked up the same day) and after reviewing and explaining the test results, the doctor wrote out a couple of prescriptions. We were charged nothing for the consultation and the doctor’s time. Zip, zero, nada. The tests cost the equivalent of $18 USD each and the prescriptions were about the same. And we recovered from this common intestinal problem after a few days of treatment. All in all, it was like visiting the family doctor 50 years ago. No paperwork, no hassle and no wait.

Any more questions?

Saturday, April 2, 2011

A year, a month, a week and a day

I’m taking some poetic license with the headline, but I am close when describing how long George and I have lived in Loreto Bay. It seems like a good time to do a ‘year in review ‘ kind of thing that is so popular in the newspaper business, which is where I spent my formative years. So this is what we’ve learned over the past year, month, week and day…

Never make a major decision (or any kind of decision, for that matter) after two margaritas. Just say no! Sure, it seems like a good idea at the time, but the next morning can be painful! But, truth be told, even though it’s been a strange, convoluted and sometimes painful journey to get to where we are today, we’d still drink the margaritas and make the same decision.

Because we love it here in Loreto Bay. Our home is beautiful, our surroundings are awesome and I can’t imagine living anywhere else in the world. But it’s been hard. We’re still waiting for sidewalks, landscaping and all those things we took for granted in the States. And we may continue waiting for quite some time. Our feet are always dirty from slogging through the dust and silt that awaits us outside our front door. We get cranky and talk endlessly about the problems that face us.


We have forged friendships that will be a large part of our lives until we die. (You know who you are! Love you, mean it!) We’ve made the best of a difficult situation, which has strengthened us and made us better people. We’re a part of a community of people (see reference above to wonderful friends) who want to make this place a vibrant, welcoming and inclusive place.

We wake up every morning to the sound of birds chirping and the knowledge that we live in a special place. We can take our morning coffee to the tower and (as long as we don't look down to see the mess that is still a part of the scenery) see the panorama of the Sea of Cortez. And we have a paved Paseo (thank you Homex) to ride our bikes on. We have two new restaurants in the development and another on the way. Life is good and getting better.

We’re actively working to become a part of the larger community of Loreto. We take Spanish classes in town, courtesy of Senor Jesus Jacques, and although we struggle with the language, we are trying. We love to participate in the events in town, like the Optimist Club Spaghetti Dinner we attended this afternoon with friends. Maybe we’re not doing enough, but we’re trying and we’ll get better at it over time.

Tomorrow we’re off to La Paz for a few days for shopping and loafing and kicking back. How lucky are we? Very damn lucky.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Road Warriors

Paving on the main thoroughfare through Loreto Bay has been going fast and furious for a week now and the results are amazing. (Forgive my movie references; it’s just that I’m giddy from the smell of tar and asphalt!) Almost all of the Paseo through the Founder’s Neighborhood is paved and it looks like all or most of Agua Viva will be paved by the end of the week, as workers have been hard at it all day and even into the night. Strangely enough, last night we could hear heavy trucks rumbling up and down the Paseo in front of our house, but there were no lights on the vehicles or lights in the road. Kinda scary!

Word is that Homex has put the rush on for the big meeting between company officials and Loreto Bay home owners, which is slated for Friday. The big day will include some kind of ribbon-cutting ceremony for the Paseo, as well as a parade of golf carts and bicycles (only in Mexico!), then dinner and a Q&A with Homex bigwigs.

This will be the first time that Homex officials have met with home owners since they bought into the project early last year. We’re told the meeting will include an overview of their plans for the development, which will most likely focus on the second phase of Agua Viva, but those plans will have an impact on all of Loreto Bay.

We’re hoping for some good news from Homex and will share it with you this weekend!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Fits and starts

It’s feast or famine here in Loreto Bay, especially concerning work on paving the Paseo. Last week Homex kicked it into high gear, with asphalt finally making its way north into Agua Viva. But today it’s once again quiet with no road crews in sight.

The fits and starts are frustrating, but now that actual resurfacing has happened on our end of Loreto Bay I feel more confident that we’ll be inhaling the sweet smell of tar and oil even further north in the near future.

It’s never a good idea to try to pin a date on the completion of improvements, but we’re thinking another couple of months and the road will be done. Or mostly done. Maybe.

In other news, we learned that Homex won’t just be selling off the 60-plus lots they bought in our phase of Agua Viva. Instead, they've decided to build on the lots they sell. That’s good news as it indicates they’re in it for the long haul and it gives them more of an incentive to make our phase of the project as attractive as possible. Like all else here, we’ll just have to wait to see how things unfold.

Monday, January 24, 2011

The sound of silence

Ever since the end of the holiday season (no matter how you measure it that season has been over for some time now), we’ve been waiting for the sounds of paving and road work to once again fill the air here in Loreto Bay, particularly in the Founder's Neighborhood which has been awaiting asphalt since long before the holiday break. But it’s the sound of silence that continues to dominate, with only the occasional caw of a gull to break the monotony.

Homex started this project with a colossal amount of energy and speed that has dwindled over the past few weeks to a few workers here in AV finishing up the curbing and retaining walls. The only completed and paved portions of road after all this time are the south entrance from Highway 1 to the Paseo and then the short stretch to the Inn and a couple of other very short branches.

Even just a couple of weeks ago Agua Viva was abuzz with road construction activity, but now work is at a virtual standstill. The two photos below were taken from our roof tower at about 2:30 p.m. today. As you can see, there's a whole lotta nothing going on.

So what gives?

The most persistent rumor is that work has stopped because the paving contractor has not been paid by Homex and he’s holding out until he gets some cold, hard pesos.

I, for one, don’t blame him, if it’s true he hasn’t been paid in months. It seems unlikely that any small company could go months without an infusion of capital, while still having to meet overhead and pay employees. Why should a small Mexican contractor have to carry a behemoth like Homex for months at a time? Considering how many local contractors got ripped off by the old Loreto Bay Company, it’s a wonder anyone will do business out here at all. So if this rumor is indeed fact, then Homex should do the right thing and pay the contractor. Let’s get this show on the road, for crying out loud!!

Another whisper on the wind says Homex has stopped work because the bigwigs are mulling the possibility of asking home owners to ante up and share the cost of paving the Paseo. This particular scenario doesn’t make sense at all. Homex hasn’t allowed any home owner input regarding the layout and paving, so it’s hard to imagine they’d have their hand out for help at this point in the project. This isn’t some rinky-dink company we’re talking about here. Homex is one of the largest companies in Mexico, so it would seem safe to assume they’re not crazy. Then again, this is Mexico...

Maybe work will resume tomorrow or maybe it won’t. Maybe they ran out of asphalt like they did before the holidays or maybe we’ll never know what caused the work stoppage. Whatever the reason, we hope Homex pays up, gears up and finishes up this project before we’re all too old to enjoy a new road!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Unplugged in Loreto Bay

Saturday our Internet and phone went out here in Loreto Bay. Everything went kaput. But we weren’t alone because the entire development suffered the same fate. It was excruciating that first day. Initially, all I could think was "What if something happens out there in that other world, that world of family and friends and news in the States? How will we know what’s going on?"

Sunday morning dawned and still no Internet and no Vonage phone… Holy crap! I can’t read Frank Rich in the New York Times! I can’t read the New York Times period or Huff Post or emails or call my son in New Mexico as I do every Sunday! How will I spend my day?? What the hell is going on?

George and I groused and grumbled about Road9, the carrier that keeps us in touch with the outside world. Then we left for the Farmer’s Market as we do every Sunday. We saw other Loreto Bay home owners and compared notes about our isolation. "When will this end," we asked each other. We were all dismayed, but we’d had no word on how or why our lifeline was shutdown and for how long we’d have to be incommunicado. Agony!

When we got back from the Farmer’s Market there was still no phone service or Internet. We had to adjust because we had to rethink our whole day. And we did. I made waffles and bacon and fresh squeezed OJ for brunch. And we talked. Gasp! We talked instead of reading the news on the Internet and then groaning over what we were reading. We didn’t agonize over Tea Party insanity or Sarah Palin’s latest outrageous Tweet. We talked about the things that make up our day. Imagine that! And then we spent the day reading books. Good books that we always seem too willing to put aside, opting instead to read the mostly depressing news that keeps us tethered to the "real" world.

We went to bed that night wondering what the heck was going on and we awoke Monday morning to more of the same. No phone, no Internet. We shrugged and talked idly of the rumors that were circulating. Road9 has gone out of business we heard. They’ve walked away and we’ll never have Internet again. They’re upgrading to wireless. They’re being forced out by TelMex. You name it, we heard it. More shrugs. Oh well. Hey! Let’s read some more. Let’s go for a walk to see those jelly fish we heard about this morning. Let's talk.

Imagine that!

My thoughts kept going to the those hardy souls who moved down here before the advent of the Internet and Vonage or Skype phones. How the hell did they manage?! Weren’t they worried about staying in touch with family and friends? But you know what? They managed. They lived their lives and stayed in touch however they could.

Tuesday was more of the same, but it was easier to tolerate. More talking, more reading, a trip into town for Spanish lessons and a chance to check our email. Oh well.

This morning we woke to discover that Internet service had been restored. Although a large part of me was thrilled, a smaller part of me was not.

Imagine that.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

That George is one lucky guy!

Life is all about the milestone markers. When we’re young those milestones have a triumphal feel. “Hey, I got my driver’s license!” “ I can vote this year!”
“Let’s go get a drink, I’m finally legal!”

But as we get older, those milestones sometimes feel more like millstones around our neck. Our bones start aching, our joints start creaking and wrinkles pop up in all manner of strange places. When those things start to happen the passing years become a lot less exciting. Let’s face it, once you hit a certain age birthdays can be downright depressing.

George marked one of those milestones this week when he turned 60 – a very youthful 60, I’d like to add. But his milestone took on the feel of one of those youthful triumphal moments thanks to two friends here in Agua Viva. The two Tracys (one a home owner, the other a friend of her’s who visits regularly) decided it would be fun to celebrate George’s last day as a 59-year-old by preparing a pre-birthday meal before they left for home the next day.

We were greeted at the door of Tracy’s casa with the news that lobster and steak would be served, as well as baked potatoes, salad and fresh bread from Loreto’s newest (and best) bakery. My first thought was “Great!” my next was “How am I ever going to top this!”

Watching the two Tracys in action was like watching a synchronized Olympic event. They displayed a combination of gracious hospitality and intensity of purpose that was a sight to behold. The drinks were divine (massive quantities of vodka paired with cucumber and mint, yum!), the conversation was entertaining and the meal was superb, including an excellent wine Tracy 2 decided she'd like to share with us. But the highlight of the evening was watching these two friends as they worked in tandem to prepare the meal. They were so in synch it was almost scary. How’d they do that?! They shrugged off the compliments and went out of their way to make George feel special. And they succeeded. What guy on the verge of 60 wouldn’t be thrilled to have two good-looking young women cooking up a storm for him?

Thanks Tracy and Tracy for making George’s coulda been a millstone into a very fun milestone. You two are the best!

But that wasn’t the end to the 60th birthday festivities. A bunch of friends came over last night to help us celebrate and both of his birthday parties have me thinking that maybe turning 60 isn’t so bad after all…