Archive for June, 2016

Transformers and Transformations

When we left Downtown Denver this last time in early April, we jumped in a car and drove to the Oregon Coast to visit our friend Jerry for a couple of weeks. And there, we are literally on the coast. It is a place conducive to watching the wind and rain, reading a book, doing work on a book proposal, catching up on articles long stored for reading on the computer, marveling at the waves and tides, browsing the Internet, engaging in intelligent discussions often long into the night, walking the beach and watching the wind and rain. It is beautiful.

So, this last week in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, an event occurred that reminded me of a similar event from our last visit to Oregon.

Back at Jerry’s on the coast, a loud pop late one afternoon signaled a blown transformer just up the pole across from Jerry’s driveway. (I always blame squirrels.) Now, it’s a bit remote there. A few miles south of town. On a smaller co-op power system. Not many neighbors around. And, it was raining. But, a phone call (over the land line) brought the cavalry and, before too very long, three hi-lifter trucks were on scene, along with a new part, six or seven guys with long poles and insulated gloves, squirrel removal bags and a good attitude. We were only offline for about 90 minutes, both electrical and wifi.

Rogue, fittingly, is a fixture on the Oregon Coast. A good beach walk away. And, such good beer!

Rogue, fittingly, is a fixture on the Oregon Coast. A good beach walk away. And, such good beer!

Terrific service. Efficient. Responsive. Nice people. We had lights again and we could check to make sure that Jerry’s house had not moved any closer to the coast than it already had. Good. Then, it started to rain again.

I had not thought much about that event for some time, other than a lingering remorse for the squirrel. But, last Wednesday night, ’round about midnight, in La Cruz, part of the electricity went off. The part that powered the air conditioning units that we depend on to keep the temperature and humidity “sleepable” at night. It seemed like other things…like lights and fans…we’re still running. With the overhead fan turning, we managed eventually to get some more sleep, hoping for the best by morning. But, at eight in the morning, all the rest of the electricity went out, as did any way to get water, save for the large bottle of drinking water in the kitchen.

We waited, somewhat patiently, and waited some more. I could, at least, make coffee in the Bialetti on the gas range. Then, I ventured out to find out what was happening…or not. The building we are in is long and low, facing the ocean, with probably about 90 units. Most of those are second, or vacation, homes, primarily unoccupied at this time of year. And, of course, there are a few full time residents. The property is extremely well maintained, with an on-site staff, security and management. Yes, they were on the case.

I ran into the building manager, Paco, who was huddled with a team from the federal power entity, CFE. They concluded that during the night, an unusually large electrical surge traveled through the La Cruz grid and randomly selected the three major transformers for our building as a grounding place…ruining the transformers. How could I argue that? This will take time. Later in the morning, Paco suggested it could take well into the next day. No power. No water. Not so cool. Three 6,000 pound transformers had to be found and brought to replace the dead ones. A very big project in my mind.

And, I really had no perception of how good this CFE might be. We started to discuss the possibility of packing up and moving overnight to a nearby hotel in Bucerias, just a few kilometers away. But, by afternoon, the cavalry had arrived with trucks and lifts and guys in protective, hot suits…and parts. It still looked like an ominous project, and it was. We went to the bar at the fish market to think things over.

Electrical guys at work. Three of these. Threes tons each.

Electrical guys at work. Three of these. Threes tons each.

At 6:30, we returned to check the status, and then likely move for the night. The trucks were moving the last of the three transformer replacements (I have no idea where they could have come from) from their truck, over the wall, down to the parking level and in position to move into the hook-up place. Paco said all would be back on in “2 hours”. We could do that. After all, a property manager had brought more water, both potable for drinking and non-potable to keep the flush option open, and, I had just enough ice left to chill some beer. We could make this. (The gelato in the freezer had long gone soft by noon and begged to be consumed then, for lunch. Yes, we have our own way of “roughing it”.)

2 hours. We watched the clock and, periodically, wandered down to watch the work. At precisely 1 hour and 55 minutes after Paco gave his prediction, all the power came on. Lights, fans, fridge, coolers, and water. CFE had come through and ended this over 20 hour ordeal. They deserved, received and appreciated our thanks and “ole’s”. Life went on.

CFE is the second largest company in Mexico, just behind PEMEX, owned and operated by the federal government. Comision Federal de Electricidad employs over 80,000 people and is the electrical source for the country’s power and service. They are well liked. We are told that last year, when the devastatingly powerful hurricane Patricia came ashore just south of Puerto Vallarta, a caravan of over 100 CFE trucks and crews rolled through town immediately to go and restore all service. These guys are good.

Life is different here. And, that’s a good thing. Yes, they have transformers at hand, and transformations, in Mexico and in Oregon. And, they both seemed to have better outcomes than Xcel digging up the street again and again in Downtown Denver. Oh, and by the way, after all the power came back that evening last week, it started to rain.image

Friday Morning Board Meeting at the Marina in La Cruz Huanacaxtle

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At La Cruz…5 Fridays, 5 Mexican Restaurants and a Couple of Familiar Songs!

One custom we tend to pack up and take with us wherever we go…or live…is our weekly Friday night out. Usually a couple of cold beers in an interesting place followed by a dinner I would be unlikely to cook at home. When in LoDo, and the weather is good, we often occupy part of the deck at the Wynkoop. From there it’s an easy stroll to Mangiamo Pronto for some fine pasta. Or, to D’Corazon for Downtown Denver’s best Mexican food and arguably the best value in a Margarita. I have never understood why anyone would go anywhere else Downtown for Mexican food.

Living in Mexico presents a different kind of Friday night, especially in tiny La Cruz de Huanacaxtle. By definition, every restaurant here is, in fact, a Mexican restaurant. And, there are plenty of them open, even in this quiet season. You may even find yourself here sometime and you will be hungry.

So, here’s how our first five Fridays in La Cruz have gone. Five restaurants, here in Mexico and, not surprisingly in La Cruz, specializing in seafood.

When we first arrived, Restaurant Week was under way in the Bay of Banderas. It has that familiar Restaurant Week format of a limited menu with app, main and dessert at a fixed price per person. About 50 restaurants n the area participated.

Major difference though is the price. Two levels. Either 229 pesos per person, or, at some places, 349 pesos per person. That’s either about $12US or about $19US for each diner. That’s a good start!

And, to our delight, one of the participating places was in La Cruz. Three blocks away. Next to our fresh fish market. Oso’s Oyster Bar was cool and breezy that first Friday in La Cruz. The beer was cold. The service terrific. Tasty views. And a meal of very well-prepared mahi-mahi which began with an app choice between Fresh Tuna Tartare, Shrimp Mango Aquachile, or Charbroiled Oysters. It ended with a house made chocolate lava cake. 229 pesos each.

The next Friday, we found ourselves in the “middle of town” at the friendly Restaurant La Glorieta de Enrique. Seafood again, of course. Grilled shrimp and a creamy shrimp stuffed avocado salad. That’s where we learned we could get take-away Gelato, which we have done every Sunday since for Sunday dinners. And, it’s the home of that strange local talking bird, Ditto. He doesn’t say much.

Friday number three found us crossing the highway to meet the affable Raul. He greeted us with “We have a bar and we have a kitchen. This is your home.” It was Xocalatl by Roberto’s, a popular destination for Bay Area vacationers. That night, though, we shared the restaurant and Raul with just one other table. No skimping on the food though. It was excellent.

Frascati Restaurante is back closer to home. In the low season, they move up to the airy top level above the La Cruz Yacht Club. Out near the end of the Malecon outlining the Marina. Beautiful views of boats and lights and mountains and towns lining the bay. Mario took good care of us. Ostensibly Italian, the menu had some interesting pasta specialties and fish preparations. You could get a pizza there, too, and we are likely to return to do that. I highly recommend the house special margarita made with some cucumber juice and served in a glass rimmed with Tajin, my new favorite seasoning made up of salt, chile and lime. Goes with absolutely everything!

And, the fifth Friday found us back at the town center, sitting and well served (not over-served) under a big ceiling fan, attended to by Joaquin. Langosta Diez La Cruz fills a large attractive space with a prominent view of the La Cruz cross. There was also a good look at some Marine Federales going by in a truck and two bulls riding past the open windows, circling the cross and cruising by again.

All of these places have been good, and very reasonable. Every waiter has been extremely friendly and professional. And, every one appreciates that we speak some of their language. No doubt, each speaks better English than I speak Spanish, but you can sense their attention to helping you with words. They smile and concur when we say, “Practicamos Espanol.” We try.

Walking home last Friday took us past two bars with bands…and “crowds” as it were. The first place, The Octopus’s Garden featured a band doing a respectable cover of the Doobie Brothers’ ” Listen to the Music”. Then, as darkness was setting in, closer to home, the bar across the fields and across the highway rang with the sounds of George Harrison’s “Something”.

Fridays have been something in La Cruz. We plan to get back to every place we have already tried. Plus a couple more. Practicamos mucho!

Seen in the Crow’s Nest this morning at the Marina in La Cruz. On duty! Off tomorrow!

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The Rainy Season Arrived Yesterday in the Bay of Banderas. Right on Time!

Read any guidebook about this area of Mexico. Ask any wag. Put it to any pundit. Or, just talk to the people who live here. There is a rainy season.

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Looks like Rain!

And, the overall consensus is that it starts in mid-June and lasts until early October. We’ll stick around for that last part, too. But, the start was exactly as promised!

Early in the morning, Wednesday, June 15, thunder and lightening followed by a full half inch of rain. First rain in the month we have been here. Rainy season. Right on time.

And, just for good measure, there was another storm later in the day complete with sound effects and a terrific light show visible all over the bay. The forecast today is for more rain tonight. Then, more Friday evening, probably again on Saturday.

But, the air cools off and the mornings are likely sunny. The streets get a little cleaner and the beer tastes just as good. Takes the edge off the day. So, the Rainy Season in the Puerto Vallarta region has begun.

The other figure everyone knows is that they average 110 centimeters of rain in the rainy season. That’s just more than 43″. Only 42″ more to go!

Rush hour in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle usually includes a chicken or two crossing the road. We are not sure why.

Photo: Diane Huntress

Photo: Diane Huntress

Our Color Choice for the Weekend. What’s Yours?

Photo taken by standing in the Pacific Ocean!

Photo taken by standing in the Pacific Ocean!