Friday, January 16, 2015


January 7, 2014

I had planned to attend the party with the kids from the orphanage at 15:00, but snagged a crew position on the race boat, Wings, and was disappointed to discover that I needed to be there at 15:00, since the race start was at 16:00.  Wings is a Peterson Serendipity 43, an older flush decked race boat with two cockpits.  My duty for the day was to mind the running backs, which put me in the aft cockpit with the owner/helmsman, Fred.  We had a crew of ten, which was more than we really needed, but enough that Fred and Judy should always have sufficient crew if some of us couldn’t make a given race.

We went out and sailed around a bit before the start to get a feel for the boat and working together.  A mother and baby humpback whale surfaced within a hundred feet of the boat.  We shouldn’t have been that close to them, but nobody told the whales that.  They appeared completely relaxed in our presence.  There wasn’t much wind.  Four boats showed up for the race.  The two cruising boats got a five minute head start and then we started with Blue, a J 160 that soon left us behind.  We sailed upwind until we got bored with the lack of wind and decided to withdraw, turn around, and practice gybing the spinnaker.  We accomplished that remarkably well for an untried crew and the skipper was pleased with us and optimistic about the coming season of racing.

We got back just about dinnertime.  I ran into Don (who had just returned from a trip back to LA for the holidays) and his friends, Peter and Leslie, as I headed into town.  We decided to go to the Red Chairs taco stand next door to Philo’s for dinner.  Like most of the taco vendors, they didn’t open until 19:00, so we had to kill about twenty minutes.  Fortunately, I just happened to have four beers in my bag that the owners of Wings wouldn’t let me contribute.  We sat, drinking beer and chatting, until they started to serve.  Our meals were very tasty, especially the tacos adobado.

After dinner, we headed over to Anna Banana's to listen to their live music.  Nick, who had played a couple of numbers at Greg and Jen’s party, was the featured act, but the opening act drove us away after one beer.  We were all tired.  Apparently, things really got rolling later, but I had turned into a pumpkin long before then.

January 8, 2014

Thursday was a blessedly free day.  I didn’t have to go anywhere or do anything.  I spent the day studying languages and guitar and completed my blog post for the week.  It was very relaxing and I enjoyed myself immensely.  After dinner, I walked down to the marina to watch Into the Storm in the marina amphitheater.  It was a beautiful starry night and never got the slightest bit chilly.  The marina deli served hot dogs, sandwiches and drinks.  There was a good crowd of cruisers and I was happy to see a number of local families, as well.    The movie was in English with Spanish subtitles so that everyone could enjoy it.  As poor as my hearing was, I was glad for the subtitles, too.

After the movie, I stopped at the Marisol Market to buy produce.  They get shipments on Thursdays and Sundays and are open until 22:00 so that people can buy fruits and vegetables.  I had been hearing about this market for two seasons, but they had closed up before I got there.  I did manage to buy some tomatoes, bananas and a head of romaine lettuce that wasn’t too limp.  I wanted salad fixings because Don, Peter and Leslie were coming over for dinner on Sunday.

January 9, 2014

I got up very early because I wanted to run before going on a trip to the old mining town of San Sebastian.  It was barely light by the time I returned from running around the marina and was downright dark on the way down.  The steep cobblestones were downright treacherous in the dark and I had to pick my way down rather slowly.

Road to San Sebastian
Our tour guide, April from Wave House, met us at PV sailing.  For political reasons, she was not allowed to drive her van onto the marina property.  April was an American who had lived in the Puerto Vallarta area since 1985 and had obtained her Mexican citizenship and was actually a licensed tour guide.  She had a very comfortable full sized Toyota van.  Used as I was to traveling in a minivan with up to 23 people in Chiapas, eight of us in that big van seemed positively luxurious.  We even had seat belts.  We drove into Puerto Vallarta and then took the road to Las Palmas through Ixtapa to Estancia, where we turned off onto the road for San Sebastian.  The road climbed steeply through a rare deciduous rainforest (only rainy during the rainy season) and eventually climbed into a forest of oaks and white pines.  There were thunderheads over the mountains and the sky looked quite dramatic.

Hacienda Jalisco
Silver was discovered in San Sebastian in the late 16th century and was mined there continuously until the revolution.  By the late 19th century, the mining operations were owned by multinational corporations.  When the revolution started, the foreigners managing the mines got nervous and left.  During the heyday of San Sebastian, there were seven large haciendas processing silver ore and five more smaller ones.  The town once had 20,000 inhabitants.  After the revolution, it was nearly abandoned and the population dropped to 200 people.  About ten years ago, the road to San Sebastian was finally paved and a bridge built to span the Mascota River.  Since then, tourism had revived San Sebastian to some extent and there were about 900 people living there.

Silver Smelting Oven
Our first stop was the Hacienda Jalisco.  Once a large silver refinery, it was abandoned after the revolution (1910-1917) and stood empty until the 1960s when an American bought it and turned it into a hotel.  Before the road was paved, San Sebastian was really only accessible by airplane and Hollywood celebrities used to vacation there.  Today, it is a museum and bed and breakfast.  All of the mining equipment was hauled off for scrap during the years it was abandoned, but the brick ovens when the ore was cooked remain, although the once 200 foot high chimney had been plundered for its bricks.

From the Hacienda Jalisco, we continued into the town proper and stopped at La Quinta Mary, a coffee coop where we sampled the local coffee while listening to the shrieking of two rainbow macaws.  San Sebastian had a very temperate climate and elevation (4200’) that allowed them to grow almost anything.  We saw peach, citrus, avocado, coffee and banana trees.  The homes had gardens that were a riot of edible and ornamental plants.  Most farmers grew at least some coffee and sold the beans to the coop.
Coffee Roaster at La Quinta Mary

Old Jail in San Sebastian
                                                                                      We ate lunch at a family style restaurant where we were served quesadillas, rice, beans, machaca (a hash of shredded beef and eggs), tortillas and chicken in a tasty red mole.  Our meal included agua de pina (a refreshing drink made from pineapple and water) and the price was 110 pesos, which wasn’t bad for such a nice meal.  After lunch, we walked around the town center.  The plaza was undergoing renovation and there were open trenches which made navigation difficult.  We visited a coffee shop located in the former company store and the old jail, where drunks are still confined from time to time.

The Plaza in San Sebastian
San Sebastian Neighborhood
After exploring the town, we got back in the van and drove as far as we could up towards the mines.  Eventually, we were forced to park the van and walk the last half mile or so up the hill.  We passed a number of mine entrances and finally stopped at the Santa Gertrudis mine.  For an operation that had once employed so many people, the mines were surprisingly small.  The tunnels were so small that the taller members of our party had to duck and so narrow that the ore had been carried out in slings before being loaded onto mule drawn wagons to be taken to the haciendas for processing.  The ore from the Santa Gertrudis mine had been processed at Hacienda Jalisco.  Many of the mine entrances had been overgrown with fig tree roots until they looked more like hobbit holes that mine shafts.  We walked into the Santa Gertrudis mine for about 80 meters until the tunnel ended in a collapse.  Until recently, the mine had extended all the way through to the other side of the mountain.  
Santa Gertrudis Mine Entrance
After exploring the mine, we walked back down to the van and drove straight back to La Cruz.  It was dinnertime by then, so I just walked back up the hill and ate leftover chicken wings and beans for dinner.  By the time I studied languages for an hour, chatted with Scott and practiced the guitar for a bit, I barely had time to watch an episode of The Walking Dead on Netflix before it was time to go to sleep.  I was tired.  My fitbit said I had covered 11.3 miles for the day.

January 10, 2014

I got up and forced myself to do 18 push-ups, 80 sit-ups and 80 air squats.  That woke me up, so I showered, listened to the net, and made breakfast.  I had just enough time to get my language study in before it was time to head down to the marina to go racing on Wings.  I arrived at 11:00 and we pulled away from the dock by 11:30.  The starting line was in Nuevo Vallarta, so it took us nearly an hour to motor over there.  As someone who has been on a lot of race boats, the skipper, Fred, warned me that he reserved the right to ask me to do anything and asked me to keep an eye out for things that seemed amiss.
Heading Out to Race on Wings

The start was delayed and there were two classes starting ahead of us, so we didn’t actually start until after 13:00.  Our first leg was a short one to weather, so I attended to the running backstays.   Next, we reached all the way to La Cruz.  A reach was not the best point of sail for Wings and we had a tough time in relation to the other boats.  We couldn’t carry a spinnaker when we first rounded the La Cruz mark, but we eventually worked our way high enough that we were able to fly the chute the rest of the way to the Puerto Vallarta sea buoy.  We raised the jib, rounded the mark and doused the chute like we’d been doing it on that boat for years and charged up to the weather mark, preparing to hoist a second chute at the mark.  The second chute didn’t go up quite as smoothly.  We got it tangled in the bag, but got it up without too much delay, although we snapped a Fastex buckle.  I dived below to catch the chute after we crossed the finish line and pull the loose fabric in through the hatch once the chute was dropped.  We hadn’t won, but we were pleased with our performance as a crew and had a pleasant sail back to La Cruz while we enjoyed cold beers and sorted and stowed sails and lines.  It had been a gorgeous day with decent wind.  At times we had reached a speed of nearly eight knots.  We were happy.

I hadn’t eaten since breakfast, so was in a hurry to get home and eat something, although I did stop at Philo’s to buy tickets for the upcoming Luna Rumba concert.  My friend, Cara, was arriving the day of the concert and wanted to go.  I got tickets and made a dinner reservation so that we would be assured of good seats.  Then I hustled up the hill to make dinner and spend the evening chatting with Scott, playing the guitar and writing.  Scott’s nonagenarian stepfather’s health had failed rather suddenly and he had just been put into hospice.  His 90 year old mother had been very ill with the flu, simultaneously, and Scott thought he would need to travel to Iowa to be with them.  We discussed whether or not I should come, too, but Scott didn’t think they needed me, also.  The internet often made me feel very close to people at home, but that situation made me feel very far away.  It would take me a day or two to get there, even if I were in a rush.   
January 11, 2014

Farmers' Market Booty
Sunday was the one day of the week with no 8:30 radio net and I used that as an excuse to sleep later than usual and, hence, usually did not run on Sundays.  I got up at 8:00 or so and had a nice leisurely morning.  I needed bread to make bruschetta for dinner, so I wandered down to the farmers’ market to pick up a fresh baguette.  I was very fond of the cucumber, kiwi, lime juice sold by the juice vendor at the end of the jetty, so I fought my way through the exceptionally large crowd to get a cup of refreshing juice and then picked up some strawberries and the bread before heading home.  The strawberries never lasted long, so I cleaned and froze them, right away.  Frozen strawberries make better smoothies (or strawberry margaritas), anyway.

Don and his friend, Leslie, were coming for dinner, so I needed to make a trip to the Mega for groceries, which seemed to be my Sunday routine.  I took a collectivo up there.  Those of us who live in California have long wondered why people  get killed trying to run across Highway 5 to avoid the immigration checkpoint in Oceanside.  I can tell you why.  In Mexico, we ran across the highway all the time.  I did it every time I went to the Walmart because the bus stops on the wrong side of the road.      There is actually a very nice pedestrian walkway across the highway at the Mega, but no one used it (except me.)  The bus stopped a block short of the overpass so that people could run across the highway before the safety fence began.
The Mega

After returning from the Mega, I barely had time to do my daily language lessons and a quick online guitar lesson before it was time to start cooking dinner.  I did not have an oven or toaster, so I fried the pieces of bread in olive oil to crisp them.  I diced the tomatoes and added olive oil and some of my Tuscan spice mix, plus a dash of Huichol hot sauce to give them a kick since we were, after all, in Mexico.  Don and Leslie arrived just as I was making the salad.  We mixed up a batch of margaritas (Lime Tang mixed double strength makes dandy margarita mix.) and I finished the salad, constructed the bruschette and sautéed Tuscan chicken cutlets while we drank and munched on pistachios.  It was a simple meal, but was different than the usual fare and was well received.  Leslie had brought some homemade rice pudding for dessert and we enjoyed that with fresh pears.  The evening flew by and it was 22:00 before we knew it and time to say goodnight.

January 12, 2014

Sonja's Laundry
There was nothing more exciting to me than a beautiful day with absolutely no obligations.    I rose about 6:30 and went for a run.  The clouds that had been ruining by sunrises had departed and it was a gorgeous dawn, turning the water a liquid copper and silhouetting the boats and mountains against the vivid sky.  I was back in plenty of time to complete my morning routine in time to enjoy me coffee while listening to the net.  With Scott in Iowa, we were now in the same time zone.     I was sorry to hear that his stepfather had passed the previous evening.  He was in his late 90’s and had been healthy until his last ten days or so, so it was comforting to know he had had a good life and been at peace with the process of leaving it.  Still, he would be missed.

After the net, I took my laundry down the hill to Sonja’s and then came back to enjoy a day of studying and playing the guitar.  After a brief nap, I drank a small glass of diet coke to energize myself.  The trouble with getting up early to run was that I often didn’t get more than about six hours of sleep and would start dropping off in the afternoon.  I didn’t want to waste any of my precious day sleeping.    I spent a fabulous day studying languages, playing the guitar and making another crayon drawing.  For dinner, I made strips of steak with a guajillo chile sauce.  It was a perfect day.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         
January 13, 2014

Tuesday was almost a repeat of Monday.  I spent some time cleaning the house, but mostly just enjoyed myself after doing 85 sit-ups and 85 squats.


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