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Rock n Roll Hoochi Koo

in Bucerias Mexico

Bucerias - February 27

Here's The Plan: Our friends, Jeff and Teri, purchased a home in Bucerias, Mexico last October. Jeff was the keyboard player in the band that I have been playing in for the past several years. He has dreamed of snowbirding it down in the Puerto Vallarta area for years, and he now is living his dream. Within two weeks of moving down to Bucerias, Jeff found a couple of solo gigs. He plays drum and bass tracks from his iPad while he sings and plays his keyboards live. It works out great; however, it sounds even better, at least in my view, with a live guitar player added to the mix.

 

So, we were invited to Mexico to play some duo gigs for March, and we jumped on the idea. After a couple of weeks of packing and planning and a month of polar vortexes and blizzards in Wisconsin, it was finally time to head for Margaritas and sunshine. The 10-day forecast shows full sun and 80º every day. Boring? Not on your life!

 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019. The drive down to Chicago was uneventful. We reached the Quality Inn O’Hare around 5 pm. Our flight boards at 6:25 am so we will spend the night at Quality Inn just a few miles from the airport.

 

Our bags are ready and loaded with maps, public transportation info, and tons of day trip ideas to visit beaches, islands, jungle hiking trails, and mountain villages. Oh yeah, and two gigs a week at a couple of beach bars. 

Nayarit - February 27

Tarralta 1 in Bucerias Mexico

Wednesday, February 27, 2019. We gave up sleeping at 2:30 am after a restless night. Usually, I can sleep well past 8 or even much later. However, when I need to get up very early for an important appointment or an early flight, my internal alarm clock goes off all night long.

 

Quality Inn O’Hare runs 24/7 shuttles to the airport, and we caught the 4 am shuttle. At the ticket counter, we discovered that American Airlines charges $30 extra for each checked bag to Mexico. This charge surprised us because we weren’t charged for a checked bag to Spain last fall. We found out flights to Europe includes one checked bag free, fights to Asia includes two checked bags free, but flights to Mexico have no free checked bags. 

 

We discussed my guitar with the ticket agent. All the web articles that I read frowned on baggage checking guitars.  Supposedly, guitars are allowed in the cabin if there is room in the overhead bins. Boarding early helps because you can find empty overhead bins easier. The worst case scenario is having to gate check your guitar. Gate checking requires far less baggage handling then baggage checking. No problem as the ticket agent agreed and allowed me to take the guitar to the gate.

 

With our Global Entry status, our tickets are automatically assigned Pre-Check status. This is awesome as it makes going through security checks a cinch. The lines are short and you don’t have to remove your liquids or laptops. I had no problems going through security with the guitar.

 

Boarding was on-time at 6:25 am. The gate agent called the flight attendants on the plane to ask if there was room in the front closet for my guitar and there was. The plane left the gate early, the flight was routine, and we landed 40 minutes early on this glorious hot Mexico morning. 

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Jeff and Teri picked us up at the airport, and within 20 minutes we arrived at their house at Tarralta 1, a gated community in Bucerias, a small town on the northern arm of the huge Bay of Banderas. We got the tour of the house and met a zillion friendly neighbors. 

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Nayarit

Rock n Roll at Buzzo's in Bucerias Mexico

The 10-day forecast mentioned above was correct - it is gloriously hot and sunny. The first thing to go was the long pants. I won’t see them again until we return home. Before we knew it, it was 4 pm and time to take the band equipment to Buzzo's Seafood Restaurant for my first Mexican gig. Buzzo's is a medium-sized bar and restaurant with a beautiful beachfront. Jeff introduced me to a bunch of the regulars that hang out as we set up.

 

This first gig doesn’t pay much, but all the drinks and snacks are free - and the drinks did flow. It was wonderful reuniting with my amp; Jeff had brought it down with him back in October. It never sounded so good. The first set went smooth, and we nailed it. We got a little too cocky and tried some new tunes that we had never played together. Most worked out well, but a few were rocky. Still, I call the evening a success. Wiping the smile off my face was hard. 

 

I love these baby boomer gig hours. First of all, these gigs are only 3 hours long, and this gig was 6 pm to 9 pm. The highlight of the night, besides the playing, was the unbelievable sunset over the beach as we were playing. The bar is mainly a roof over a floor with the back completely open to the ocean. We set up in the back - NICE!

FEB 27 Band/Buzzo's

Rock n Roll at Buzzos in Bucerias Mexico

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After the gig, we met up with Wanda and Teri at the Drunken Duck, the hippest bar in town to hear an excellent band called the Gecko Band. The band played a lot of standards like Mustang Sally and Funky Music. Plus anything ’60s and the retired rockers only got wilder. The Drunken Duck was packed with wild customers dancing on the dance floor and the bar all night. No kidding, I said “wild seniors,” and that isn’t an oxymoron. Bucerias is Spring Break for Boomers that lasts for six months.

On our way back to the house we stopped off at a taco cart for a boatload of tacos and salad tostadas to take back to the house. They did not disappoint. Included with our order were little baggies of terrific sauces. My favorite sauce was a cucumber sauce that blended very well with the Picante sauce. I am in love with taco stands in Bucerias.

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Nayarit - March 1

Rock n Roll in the Bay of Banderas

Bay of Banderas - Mar 1

Thursday, March 1, 2019. We got up a little earlier today, but not much. The roosters started to announce the new day around 5 am, but we quickly fell back to sleep. It was a slow morning of coffee and reliving the highlights of yesterday. Jeff and I rehearsed for an hour or so and then it was off to the beach.

 

It is just a 15-minute walk to the nearly pure-white sandy beach in front of Bucerias. The Bay of Banderas wraps the ocean in a half-moon shaped hug which offers a lot of pounding-wave protection. The wind has to be at just the perfect angle to produce the big ones, and sometimes it does happen. 

 

We set up in front of Dugarel Play’s, one of a line of bar and restaurants on the beach.  Margaritas, beef nachos, and chicken enchiladas were fun and delicious foods to eat in front of a spectacular ocean view. Of course, there was the endless line of walking vendors that approach from the beach with armfuls of products to sell as you comfortably sit on the beach.

 

Wanda has been eyeing Teri’s little Mexican purse that is not only colorful but has a handy pocket for her cellphone. Teri promised that a vendor with those purses would show up. Sure enough, and almost on cue, a lady sporting all sorts of colorful bags and purses materialized. Wanda, not a strong bargainer, did manage, with Teri’s help, to get the price down to $180 Pesos ($10 USD).

 

Buying something from one vendor only salivates the other vendor, so it was time to hit the water for some vendor relief. Although, I must say, after having experienced the insanely tenacious street vendors in Morocco, these folks were quiet, polite and respectful. A simple "No gracias" was respected.

 

The ocean bay was gentle today and a perfect temperature. I usually run into the water at full speed and then dive in as opposed to the excruciating slow one-inch-at-a-time method.  Unfortunately, as I was running into the water, I clumsily stubbed my left big toe and flopped in the shallow water too early. It did provide a funny spectacle for Jeff, Teri, and Wanda but I badly jammed my big toe.  

 

Wanda and I spent a good hour in the water enjoying its warmth and gentle wave action. There were a couple of kite surfers racing across the bay. The sky was cloudless; the sun was radiately warm without the harsh heat; the breeze was cooling but not strong enough to kick up the sand - a perfect beach day.

Beach at Bucerias

The plan for today was to swim then walk around Bucerias and photograph the streets and shops, but my big toe was killing me. Instead, when we had enough sun for two Midwesterners who just left 7" of snow just day's earlier, we walked the block and a half to visit a couple of Teri and Jeff's buddies they met since arriving as new "MexPats" October 2018.

 

Best Burgers in Bucerias. Meet Oliver, and Michelle (see above below), a very friendly husband and wife team and owners of Las Famosas Burgers, a corner burger bistro. Not very Mexican names for two very Mexican people. They are also next-door-neighbors. We caught a margarita there. Jeff reports that their burgers are great and they serve the best fries in Bucerias.  

A couple of doors down we stopped off at the “You Can’t Beat Our Meats” shop. Actually, that is their slogan. The name of the shop is Lighthouse Specialty Foods. This is a little shop with attitude that sells wonderful smoked meats and fish. Ray, the proprietor, is a Canadian expat that made Jeff and I charter members of the LMFAO, which stands for something like Lesbian Men For Audacious Organisms. I may have that a bit off, but that does give a little insight into Ray’s personality. He has a plastic table and chair set with a sun umbrella out front of the shop. He sits with friends sipping a beer while waiting for customers. 

 

One guy named Bryce, was his beer mate that day. Bryce had an interesting story. He had been homeless in Idaho for 2 1/2 years before he heard that he could live quite well on his Social Security Disability in Mexico. Six months ago he arrived at Puerto Vallarta and soon settled down in Bucerias. He needs extensive dental work and is getting that taken care at a substantially reduced price in Bucerias and claims that he is living quite comfortably and fully enjoying life. 

 

We sampled some smoked bacon that beat any bacon I have ever tasted - thick tender meat, no fat, and natural smoke flavor (not chemically induced). Then we sampled some wonderful lightly smoked pastrami, which Teri bought for a pool party we are going to tomorrow.


Bucerias was hosting a Vegan Festival and we were planning on checking it out but my toe was throbbing. We returned to the house where I downed a bunch of Anacin aspirin tablets. Teri graciously made a batch of very authentic tacos (yes, I spelled it correctly this time).

 

Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo in Drunken Duck

After another couple of aspirins, we went to the Drunken Duck at 9 pm to hear a band that Jeff plays with occasionally called The Crazy Boys with Andra. Andra is a tiny cute spark-plug of an entertainer. She is a young snowbird from Vancouver. Andra sings with bands in Vancouver over the summer and then spends winters in the Puerto area fronting bands here. Along with a strong voice, that doesn’t make sense coming out of a dinky little 50-pound frame; she is an energetic front-girl for the band. 

 

The bass player was just as hot as the Gecko Band’s bass player. The drummer was terrific, and the two made a tight rhythm section. The band was rounded out with the guitar player’s wife on the keyboards. 

 

I have made three interesting observations regarding bar-bands in Mexico:

  1. Bucerias has some excellent rock musicians. Two years ago, we didn’t see any decent groups in Puerto Vallarta. Last year in the Yucatan we heard some world-class traditional Mexican bands, but the rock bands were not good. Bucerias seems to have hogged all the good rock players. 

  2. These guys can get a ton of full, rich and balanced tones out the crappiest equipment imaginable. 

  3. The musicians are all very friendly. Jeff has networked his way into the music scene and every musician he has introduced me to have been very cool.

 

Again, the Drunken Duck was hopping with “wild retirees,” drinking and spending money like water. That place is a goldmine. After two sets, including Jeff sitting in playing the Stone’s “Miss You,” we went home.

Nayarit - March 2

Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo in Bucerias Mexico

Bucerias - March 2

Saturday, March 2, 2019. Another day in paradise. We woke to a spectacular bright clear day promising lots of warmth. Sadly, the pool party got canceled, but my toe was feeling much better. Jeff and I rehearsed for a bit; Tanya, the neighbor, stopped by and we discussed day trips; Jeff, Wanda, and I drove into town, and before you knew it, it was afternoon. It was time to try out the toe. I wanted to walk the town of Bucerias from one end to the other. So, with my toe bravely leading the way, Wanda and I broke away from the mothership. 

Bucerias is bisected by Hwy 200 with half of the town on the flat ocean side and the other half on a hill overlooking the ocean. Jeff and Teri live in a beautiful gated subdivision. Most of the homes are white, which shows off all the flowering bushes, mostly red but also some oranges, yellows, and whites. These bushes pump out the flowers, maybe three flowers for every green leaf. Behind their house is the manicured subdivision park. The 3rd level open deck also has a roof, and it is a favorite spot. A gentle ocean breeze together with a third-story sky view furnished with a variety of hanging hammocks makes this spot an ideal place to lounge during the mornings.

After leaving the gated subdivision, you enter the oldest and dustiest part of town. The streets are rough cobblestone, or maybe better described as cobble rock. Down one road, turn left down another street, lands you in a small commercial area with a couple of tiny grocery stores, a taco cart, a bar or two, and the fish market where Teri purchased those delicious Mahi Mahi fish fillets freshly cut to her specifications. Jeff tells me the taco cart is a good one, so we made a mental note to try it out later on. 

 

At the main road, Hwy 200, we found the bus stops. We were surprised to see not only a parade of buses but also several collectivos all going to Punta Mita. We hadn’t seen collectivos in the Puerto area before. They are van-taxis that carry passengers on a particular route, much like a small bus. Collectivos are cheap and only leave when the seats are full. Last year when we were in the Yucatan, collectivos were our “go-to” mode of transportation to the various towns around the bigger cities. 

Once across the highway, we enter the now familiar bar and restaurant area where all the bands play. This neighborhood is laid back with Haight-Ashbury stylings only dustier. It is the thumping heart of Bucerias, and where all the expats flock. North of this area is a common medium-upscale condo area. It is nicely taken care of with lush foliage, small, modest high rises, and plenty of elbow room between buildings.
 

We walked back south on the clean-white beach lined with restaurants and bars, after restaurant and bar, all sporting that same Mexican-tourist charm - not Miami ritzy and not Miami garish.​

Smack in the middle of town is the central plaza, a colorful and lush open area circled with shops slightly more upscale but still fun. One of my favorite shops was the Tequila Pharmacy, an excellent name for a shop of “all-things” Tequila. We treated ourselves to paletas, only the tastiest frozen-fruit dessert on a stick. Wand and I split a strawberry with large chunks of strawberries a creamy coconut paleta with dates and nuts.

South of the plaza is an extensive outdoor Mexican souvenir market. These are mom-and-pop booths jammed with all kinds of colorful Mexican souvenir stuff. It is all under tarps, so it feels pleasantly cool for being so crowded. The market leads to the Bucerias Kissing Bridge, a narrow walking bridge with solid cement side rails painted with a brightly colored mural.

Once across the Kissing Bridge, the northern, more artsy section of town starts. The Main Street, Lazaro Cardenas, is just one block off the ocean beach. The Lazaro area is more upscale shops and residences with well-landscaped yards. The shops, restaurants, and condos are tightly gated. We walked as far as we were allowed before running into a couple of large gated-condo complexes. So we circled back toward the central plaza, walking down a different street. 

At the plaza, we were lured to a table under an awning where delicious grilling scents of taco vendors tugged at our appetites. We ordered one giant beef burrito and one giant pork burrito, a Modelo Negra beer and a bottle of water for $140 Pesos ($7.18 USD). 

We wandered around the band area of town and caught another band playing at a bar called Jax, just two doors from the Drunken Duck, where yet another live band was setting up. Bucerias is classic rock’n’roll haven. 

 

On our way back to Tarralto 1, we sat at the bus stop to check out which busses were passing by and how often and were surprised with how many and how often buses and van-taxis stopped by. Buses in Mexico usually have their routes in large print directly on the windshield. Most seemed to be going from Puerto Vallarta to Punta de Mita and back. Others were ATM buses going to Sayulita and one Pacifico bus that went much farther north. 

 

A nightcap with our hosts, Jeff, and Teri with a light snack of Cape Cod chips and an incredible dip from Ray’s “Beat your Meat” market made for another enjoyable day in Mexico.

Nayarit - March 3

Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo at La Cruz

La Cruz - March 3

Sunday, March 3, 2019. Today was La Cruz market day. Jeff needed to get some homemade artisan pasta, and in La Cruz, there is a vendor that makes it fresh. Jeff piqued our interest to go along describing a market at the marina located on the waterfront with several musical acts tossed into the mix. Wanda and I love going to markets, and this sounded interesting.​

La Cruz is a sleepy little town just north of Bucerias. We arrived at the market-at-the-marina around 10:45 am as it was just opening up. The setting was as I visualized a market-on-the-waterfront-by-a-marina would be. 

This market was a high-end artisan market on the waterfront that catered to yachters and expats. All the food vendors sold homemade gourmet goods like specialty tamales, bread and pastries, hand smoked meats, exotic cheeses, natural spices. The artists showed off their gorgeous canvas paintings and beautiful metal sculptures. Clothing vendors displayed the light, airy, and cheerful clothing expected in paradise,  a glass blower performed his art, and beautiful handcrafted jewelry was everywhere. 

The best band at the market was an incredible traditional Mexican-guitar band with an adorable little girl in her traditional Spanish-laced dress, performing Mexican folk dancing. Another Mexican band with a Flamenco-style guitar sound was also outstanding. Unfortunately, they were having all kinds of feedback problems. Amplifying acoustic instruments is always tricky. 

It is the food we discover in markets that we enjoy the most. We started with a hand-squeezed half-tangerine, half-orange juice. It was incredibly fresh and sweet, but the real fun was watching the vendor squeezing oranges with an old fashion hand squeezer frantically trying to keep up with the orders. Jeff enjoyed freshly made shrimp Jambalaya. Wanda found the Tamal Gourmet stand and ordered a standard pork tamale as well as a portobello mushroom tamale. Both were good, but the portobello was incredible. Who would have thought up a portobello-mushroom tamale? Only an artisan tamale maker!  We topped it all off with a cute little mushroom and cheese mini-tart from another vendor and left the market-on-the-waterfront pleasantly stuffed. 

After the market, we stopped off at The Green Tomato, a rooftop bar also in La Cruz. Jeff’s friends, The Crazy Boys Band, were playing a weekly gig with just the bass, drums, and guitar. What an amazingly full sound for being a 3-piece band. Even more impressive was their gutsy song selection like Hotel California that has a zillion guitar parts and the guitar player was able to distill all that down to one guitar, and it worked. 

When we got back to the house, it was time to get ready for our Sunday gig at the Rhythm and Blues bar. Equipment was loaded up, and Jeff again found a parking spot just across the street from the bar. The bar is tiny, so most of the patrons sit outside on the sidewalk table and chairs.  That's where we set up, partly on the sidewalk and partly on the road. 

 

Once set up, the bar manager treated us to beers, and the owner’s sister-in-law fed us an excellent pork tamale and a Mexican lentil soup to die for. 7 pm rolled around, and it was time to start playing.

 

Things started well, with the crowd taking up all the sidewalk tables and politely clapping. By the middle of the set, all were dancing in the street. No, the street was not cordoned off for just walking traffic. Not here in Mexico. Luckily, not many cars tried to drive down the road. Jeff slowly pumped up the volume as the liquor-fueled patrons gyrated to all the tunes. They couldn’t get enough of 60s stuff;  Mr. Tambourine Man, Bus Stop, Beatles (anything), and Heart Full Of Soul.  I figured it was 60s music for people in their sixties. The tips dropped into the tip bucket, beers and tequila shots kept arriving. We had so much fun that we played the whole three hours with only one short break for the night. 

 

Tequila shots in Mexico are pretty strong. The shot glasses are six inches tall, and always filled to the brim and are equivalent to about three US shots. Full of after-the-gig-tequila-glow, it was nearly 1 am before Jeff and I completed assessing and reassessing every note played this evening. 

MAR 3 Band/Rythm

The end of the line is at a park just a block from the ocean in the middle of the Old Town hotels on Pino Suarez street. The hotels in this section have done an excellent job of keeping a fun, simple Mexican attractiveness. They are modest in size and decorated with odd but funny themes. Our first order of business was to find the two bus stops for the buses running further south. One bus goes to Mismaloya and Boca de Tomatlan. Mismaloya is where we can hire a panga, or water taxi, to take us snorkeling at the Roca Los Arcos, two small rock islands about a kilometer offshore that are supposed to be a good snorkeling spot. Boca is the beginning of a jungle and hidden beach trail. We found that the bus stop on the corner of Constitution and Basilio Badillo. 

Nayarit - March 4

Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo at Puerto Vallarta

Puerto Vallata - March 4

Monday, March 4, 2019. Today, Wanda and I decided to learn the bus system going south. We walked the three blocks to the bus stand and immediately saw what we thought was a collectivo to Puerto Vallarta. However, the driver informed us that is was not a collectivo but a taxi, which translates to “more expensive.” OK, I guess we were wrong about collectivos in Puerto Vallarta, there aren’t any - Sad

However, the very next bus to arrive was the Puerto Vallarta bus. We already knew these northern route buses only go as far as the Hotel Zone of Puerto, which is still quite a ways from Puerto's El Centro and Old Town areas. We weren’t entirely sure where to make the transfer to the city buses but we hopped in to try our luck anyway. The cost was 20 pesos ($1.10 US) each. Unlike the beautiful modern Yucatan buses, the Narayit busses have wear-and-tear. We don't mind and actually find it to be part of our transportation exploration.

Beach at Puerto Vallarta

We stayed on the bus to the end of the line, which put us in Las Glorias, a neighborhood in the Hotel Zone just south of the airport. Right behind our bus was the next coach to Puerto Vallarta's city center. This bus was 10 pesos each ($10 Pesos or $.51 cents USD). The city bus system, as far as we could figure out, has Centro buses and Tunnel buses. Both go from the Hotel Zone to the same spot in the Old Town area of Puerto Vallarta but take different routes. The Centro buses take various routes through the commercial areas just off the ocean resulting in more stops. The Tunnel bus takes a back bypass that has a tunnel. 

Once at the Hotel Zone, there is another division. Some buses continue running parallel to the ocean to the big Walmart. Some go all the way to the airport. The other route from the Hotel Zone goes deeper inland to a variety of subdivisions. 

Our bus was a Centro bus, and we banged our way south towards Old Town. Two years ago when we visited Puerto Vallarta, all the city buses were short beat-up Mercedes buses with manual transmissions. The cobble rock streets take a toll on their vehicles, and these buses get more than their share of abuse. I had read that Puerto Vallarta was replacing these venerable old Mercedes buses with new ones. Indeed, our bus was one of those new buses. They weren’t Mercedes but Mexican made Dina buses. I never heard of that manufacturer. The driver hammered his way down the streets without mercy but with an automatic transmission.

Next, we looked for the bus to El Tuito and the Botanical Gardens. Both are must-sees according to our planning research. The Gardens were built by an Englishman and is some 65 acres with several different bio-ecologies. El Tuito is a bit farther down the road and is supposed to be another charming Mexican town. We found the bus stop just as the bus was disembarking at the corner of Venustiano Carranza and Aquacate. We asked a Canadian couple that got off about their trip to the Gardens and they recommended it was worth the visit. The bus fare was $30 Pesos ($1.54 USD) to the Gardens. I would guess that its approximately $40 Pesos ($2.05 USD)  to El Tuito. ​

With that figured out, it was time to roam Puerto Vallarta and compare to our previous visit. Not much had changed in the two years except a few new buses. 

 

We walked 7 miles according to Wanda’s Fit Bit, wandering Old Town and El Centro. Once you get about three blocks from the ocean, the real Puerto Vallarta shows up, and it is a very nice city. The mom and pop shops, restaurants, and food carts are appealing. Right after finding our southern bus stops, we bought a giant liter-sized container of hand squeezed orange juice. I felt terrible for the young lady squeezing away to fill the giant cup. The orange nectar was even better than the market juice we had yesterday. You can’t get this sweet OJ anywhere else. Even in Spain, where they grow the famous Valencia oranges, just doesn’t compare. But in Spain, they use mechanical squeezers at the vending booths. Maybe that’s where they go wrong!

Kiddie-corner to the OJ vendor’s cart was a couple of taco carts. We each ordered two soft shell tacos. These were pretty tiny flour tortillas piled with shredded meat and grilled veggies. Each taco came with two tortillas stacked on top of each other. 

 

There was the usual scrumptious selection of sauces. I have learned to sample each sauce before adding them on my tacos. I love hot sauces and can take a fair amount of heat. But some of these sauces are vicious. With those, I drip a few drops here and there on my taco. The milder sauces I pour on. A taco is best when it drips down your arms as you eat it. However, this brings up the subject of Mexican napkins. I wrote about this last year when we were in the Yucatan. Mexicans serve wonderful, but very sloppy foods (for gringos), and then provide the thinnest napkins ever made. (We did learn that paper products are imported and therefore expensive.)

 

While we were eating our meat tacos in bliss, we noticed that the matriarch cook behind the table was picking the meat out of a fully cooked skull. Hmmmmm, interesting. Oh well, it was delicious, so both Wanda and I concentrated on the tacos and sauces that were bursting with flavors.

From the breezy ocean walkway through several El Centro neighborhoods, we saw a lot of unique and fun decors. There were very few poor areas in this section of the city but very clean and very colorful. We come across a street that was being re-paved, and it cracked me up.  They handset a couple of long narrow straight lines. The lines were the only order to the paving process. The space between the lines is filled with more rocks. The result is a wheel-bearing — shock-killing road. The city must get a kickback from the auto repair businesses. I guess that it is a cheap way to pave.

Around 4:30 pm we returned to the beach. There was a sweet spot about 200 feet wide where the waves were crashing, and I couldn’t pass that up. We got in only to discover that there were some hidden rocks in that stretch, so we didn’t go very far out or do anybody surfing. Consequently, we stayed mostly in the shore area where the sand was all stirred up in the surf, filling every body crack with sand. Still, it was glorious and refreshing. 

Beach at Puerto Vallarta 2

For supper, we sought out a shrimp burrito cart that we fondly remembered two years ago. We found it! We were surprised to discover the same mom-and-pop owners were also there. It turns out this couple has worked the burrito cart for 15 years. 

 

The gentleman whipped us up an especially giant burrito full of grilled shrimp, shaved carrots and zucchini, cheese, lettuce, and a secret sauce.  Two years ago it cost 90 pesos. This year our 2019 shrimp burrito cost $110  Pesos  ($5.64 USD). 

 

The burrito cart was located two blocks from the main bus stop. The buses are continually coming and going and often get jammed up along the block. They don’t stay long, so you have to decipher what is written on their windshield quickly. We were looking for either a Centro or Tunnel bus that stopped at Walmart. We found a Centro bus to Walmart almost immediately and got on. It took about 25 minutes to bang our way on a winding route through the city to reach Walmart. 

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Nayarit - March 5

Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo at Punta de Mita

Punta de Mita - March 5

Tuesday, March 5, 2019. After a lazy morning, we all took off for Punta de Mita around 11 am. Punta de Mita is a small town at the very tip of the northern arm of the Bay of Banderas. It is about 15 miles from Bucerias. It turned out to be an easy drive on a modern highway.

 

The Punta de Mita area is experiencing a bit of controversy. A big chunk of the beautiful peninsula was bought up by developers and cordoned off for the exclusive use of high-end hotel complex customers. There are Jack -Nickolas-designed golf courses and $1000 a night gated-hotel compounds. I have read that the locals are not happy and worked to make some changes.


The town itself is small. The section along the road on the outskirts of town is poor and run down. We passed a weird church in the shape of a giant old sailing ship just before entering the town. After a google search, we discovered it is the Light of the World Church, a controversial evangelical church that is said to be sort of a cult with mob ties.

The town itself is divided into two parts: 

1) An upper section on a hill overlooking the ocean. There are some nice uniquely designed, but modest houses, perched on the hill. There is also a small commercial area. 

2) The lower section down on the oceanfront is the touristy single-street-shopping-strip that parallels the beach where the shops specifically cater to the hotel-guests with some medium scale restaurants and small shops. 

Beach La Lancha

There is a roundabout just as you enter the town where tour vendors approach the vehicle to describe their particular boat/adventure tours to the Islands and the Hidden Beach. About 3 or 4 miles offshore is the Isles Las Tres Marietas National Park consisting of a small beautiful archipelago, with whale watching opportunities and fine snorkeling. 

 

The main attraction is the Hidden Beach you have to swim to. The island used to be a naval bombardment practice site. Apparently, the bombing shaped the hidden beach to look something like a crater lake with a rock arch at the opening. The islands were eventually made into a park and the tourist boats poured in. The fragile Hidden Beach area eventually got overrun by tourists so the national park service now limits the number of people that can enter. 

 

There are still tons of tour operators from all over the Bay of Banderas that go out to the islands, however, the boats at Punta de Mita are supposed to be the cheapest because they are the closest to the islands. Since this is something we want to do in the near future, we talked to a couple of the operators
 

The best deal I could find was $500 Pesos per person ($25 USD), plus $85 Pesos ($4.40 USD) for the national park fee, which is waived if you are over 60 years old. The hitch is that you have to wait until the boat fills up before they go out and the boat holds a minimum of 8 people. You can, however, rent a whole boat for $2500 Pesos ($129 USD) and go whenever you want. If you can get a bunch of buddies lined up, that would work out well. Eight people would be just a little over $300 Pesos each ($15.49 USD). 

 

The trip is 2 1/2 hours long and includes snorkeling, whale watching, and touring around the island preserve. To add the Hidden Beach, you must make reservations at least three days in advance and pay an extra $1700 Pesos ($87 USD), which I believe is mostly national park fees. It adds about 1/2 hour to the tour. The beach does look stunning, but $1700 Pesos ($87 USD) for a 1/2 hour swim seems steep. But here’s another funny thing. The national park doesn’t allow anyone over 60 years access to the Hidden Beach because you have to swim to the beach. They use the age of 60 to determine stamina. However, the boat guide laughed and said that the boaters determine age by “eye-balling” you. So, to get the $85 Pesos ($4.39 USD) senior discount they “eye-ball” you to be over 60. Then to enter the Hidden Beach, they “eye-ball” you to be under 60. He looked at me and said I’d pass on both accounts. 

Next, I checked out Playa Anclote, the public beach in front of the town of Punta de Mita. It was small, gravely and rocky. It wasn’t very good for the typical kind of beachcombing and swimming, but I could see several snorkelers exploring an area that made me wish that I had brought my snorkel gear. We’ll be back to try snorkeling another time.

Beach at Punta de Mita

As we were assessing the restaurants, I saw one tiny stand, a hidden restaurant serving the locals and area workers.  The food looked great so we sat down and ordered fish tacos with a side of refried beans. Instead of three tacos; one for Jeff, Wanda, and myself, the language barrier ended up giving us three tacos each. A small snack became a meal, but what a great meal. The fish tacos were lined up in a row on the plate and then smothered with a sauce, melted cheese plus a white crumbly cheese, lettuce, and a large dollop of sour cream. 

With the refried beans and a blend of hot and medium sauces added to the top, it was a scrumptious but messy (for me) meal who has to get by with too-thin Mexican napkins. The bill was a whopping $60 Pesos each ($3.35 USD) and that included a large glass of iced guava.

I had heard about Playa La Lancha, and it was confirmed by Jeff’s neighbor, Thania, that this remote beach does have a bit of history. Developers wanted to make it exclusive to their clientele and did so for a while. The locals spoke up and the beach was returned to public use. It is located about 4 miles before you reach Punta de Mita. There is a dusty parking lot and a sign pointing out the path to the beach. The narrow path is a 10-minute walk along a fence demarking a hotel complex that is under construction. The entrance to the path was guarded by some official looking guys. They might have been security guards for the complex under construction or maybe local officials. We couldn’t tell, but they were friendly and waved us in. 

 

The walk was medium difficulty with lots of tree roots and branches that required high-stepping and makes it a bit difficult to carry a lot of stuff like coolers and chairs. But it was worth it. Playa La Lancha is one of those off-the-beaten-path gems that are fun to find.

Beach La Lancha 1

Running parallel to the ocean are beautiful wind-carved sandstone cliffs. There are large black rock formations that plunge into the water contrasting with the white sand and blue water. 

 

Wanda brought her small “Icorer” brand sun tent. It’s a light nylon hoop tent that sets itself up just by tossing it up in the air. The breeze wanted to turn it into a kite but the stakes, once in place, kept it secure. Jeff and Teri brought their folding chairs and a big colorful blanket.

 

It was time to get wet. The first area we picked had beautiful sand and water so clear you could see every grain of sand and every fish in proximity. A juvenile porcupine fish (without the spines protruding from their bodies) had no fear chasing us around the shallow waters. Later we found out they just like to be fed. There were even more fish in the rockier bottom areas and would probably be a good snorkeling area for next time.

 

I found a small area of sand that seemed to bypass the rocks and started to walk farther out. Suddenly, I stepped on something that gave me a wallop of a sting. As I waited for the poison to crawl up my leg and turn it black, Wanda made a Google search for possible responsible critters.  The article assured us that my leg wouldn't fall off and most importantly it was not worth stopping our day at the beach. We figured out that I must have stepped on a small stingray. Fortunately, it took about 1 1/2 hours for the sting to go away. Walking it off seemed to work the best. My poor feet were getting smacked around pretty good this trip.

 

The same article also gives suggestions to those new-to-the-Sea-of-Cortez beaches; stay in an area of the beach that is populated. The sea critters want to bury themselves under the sand to stay alive where the waters are quiet. Fortunately for swimmers, where there is a crowd, the little critters will scatter away. The next best suggestion is to shuffle your way through the sand to scatter the stingrays vs stepping directly on top of a hiding stingray. It is called the Stingray Shuffle.​

Beach La Lancha 2

Later, a group of surfers and families showed up and set up in a different section of the beach.  This part of the beach was the most beautiful stretch of swimming beach anywhere. The sand bottom was spectacularly firm and flat as far out as you could go. Here the surf was bigger and crashed wonderfully over us. My foot started to feel normal again. It was a magical place to swim and play.

 

Sadly, it was time to go. It had been two years since we folded up Wanda's sun tent. Once you know the trick, it is easy, but we completely forgot the method. We twisted and folded and twisted and folded and just barely got it stuffed back into the stuff sack all mangled up. Back at the house, Wanda Googled up a YouTube video, and we relearned the trick. The last time we used the sun tent was in Tulum, Mexico. A ferocious storm quickly brewed and we had to fold it up just as the torrential rains started. Although we knew the trick back then, today we were out of practice. The wind and rain certainly didn’t help. Before our next beach outing, we do a quick youtube review.

 

Jeff topped off the evening by cooking his signature chicken pasta with a white Alfredo sauce using the fresh spinach pasta he bought at the La Cruz market. Teri pitched in by grilling the chicken. The meal was world-class. 

Sayulita - March 7

Nayarit - March 7

Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo at Sayulita

Thursday, March 7, 2019. The first order of business was returning to Buzzos to look for my iPad. We didn’t know when they opened so we set out at 10 am. It was closed, but the cleaning crew was there and let us in. To my relief and ecstatic delight, it was sitting on the bar right next to where I was set up to play last night - right next to the tequila barrel, which may be the reason why I forgot it.

 

Two years ago we took a bus from Puerto Vallarta to the small city of Sayulita and fell in love with it. We have been hearing that Sayulita is the “hot” spot, which translates to getting commercialized and expensive. Still, we had to go and see for ourselves.

 

I remember that the bus ride from Puerto was pretty long. From Bucerias, however, it was a short 20 minutes and cost a mere $25 Pesos each ($1.40 USD). The first thing we noticed was the brand new modern bus station. We also noticed a lot more hustle and bustle all around us.

 

The walk along Revolución street into town revealed lots of construction. Money is indeed pouring into Sayulita. But the downtown’s delightful character remains. All the open air bars, restaurants, and shops, with their bright murals,` brings a smile to our faces as we remember our first trip to this hippie-style community on the beach.

 

Sayulita is a big surfer town, so the crowd is young. However, Sayulita is catering to the older pensionistas as evidenced by streets filled with golf carts up and down the town. Sayulita is in a small bay, and the southern arm of the bay is one spectacular new multi-million dollar villa after another and ends at an exclusive hotel mega-complex. Money has reached Sayulita.

Beach at Sayulita

There are still many more modest areas in the Mexican sections of town. It is there that we found the most creative and delicioso paletas yet. Mine was a silky-smooth-creamy mix of different fruit chunks including papayas, dates, raisins, melons, strawberries, and others I couldn’t identify.

It is the beach that is the main draw for us. Being a surfer beach means good waves, and we love waves. We first set up our towel under the shade of a palm tree at the back fringes of the beach. The temperature was so perfect in the shade we fell asleep in the cool breeze only to wake up wondering where we were. 

Once awake, it was time to burn calories body-blocking waves. The ocean temperature is deceptive. At first touch, it feels chilly and for me requires the get-wet-quick method to run and dive into. In just a few seconds it becomes the perfect temperature - warmish, but wet and refreshing in the hot sun. The waves were a bit gentler than we remembered, but there was the occasional rogue wave that allowed us to body surf all-the-way to the shore. We stayed, playing in the surf for an hour and a half - simply glorious. 

There must be 20 buses an hour going between Puerto and Sayulita, so we waited about 10 seconds for a bus. When we were dropped off at Bucerias, we decided to try the burgers at Michelle and Oliver’s restaurant La Famosas Burgers.

La Famosas Burgers offer a dozen different burgers, and we choose The Believer; sirloin burger, bacon, lettuce, tomato, and a terrific jalapeño sauce that wasn’t overpoweringly hot. It was as good as any burger we’ve had anywhere. Several orders of fries later, we can tell you they, too, were scrumptious. Because of the Wi-Fi and the pleasant atmosphere at the restaurant, we stuck around for a while working on our journals.

Nayarit - March 8

Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo at San Pancho

San Pancho - March 8

It is the beach that is the main draw for us. Being a surfer beach means good waves, and we love waves. We first set up our towel under the shade of a palm tree at the back fringes of the beach. The temperature was so perfect in the shade we fell asleep in the cool breeze only to wake up wondering where we were. 

Friday, March 8, 2019. We got up and out the door reasonably early and headed to La Famosas Burgers for a slow and relaxing breakfast and use their fast Wi-Fi for a morning of journaling. One order of Mexican style scrambled eggs with diced tomatoes, peppers, and onions and one omelet with ham, mushrooms, cheese, peppers, onions, and spinach. Both were wonderful, and both came with hash browns, toast, and jam. A few coffees and a caffeine buzz to go was just what we needed to start our walking tour of San Pancho today.

 

We were going by bus to San Fransisco, also known as San Pancho by the local community, located north of Sayulita. We waited and waited for the San Pancho bus at the bus station. An hour later and it seemed like 50 Sayulita and Punta de Mita buses later, we were getting worried. A nice Mexican lady at the bus stop reassured us that the San Pancho bus would be coming by and she would stay with us to make sure we didn’t miss it. 

 

Within five minutes, the bus with San Pancho spelled out on its windshield slowed down. Our Mexican Bus-Angel quickly haled the bus to a stop, confirmed it would drop us off at San Pancho and directed us to board. Although we did not know each other's languages, the barrier was insignificant. The ride was $40 Pesos ($2.20 USD) each. 

The San Pancho bus dropped us off at the intersection of the highway and San Pancho’s main street. The walk into town to reach the beach is almost 1 mile (1 kilometer). The walk is a fun walk along the central road with several sidewalk shops/boutiques to distract you along the way. One street cart vendor caught our eye selling Yaca fruit in large liter-sized containers. The vendor gave us a sample, and both of us had the same look of “surprise yum.” We immediately bought a container for fun-walking food. From the outside, the Yaca fruit looks like a prickly watermelon. Inside are wedge-sized, orange-colored fleshy pods. It tastes something like a cross between sweet cantaloupe and guava fruit. The texture is firm and chewy like gummy bears. By the time we reached the beach our container of Yaca fruit was close to empty.

 

Beach at San Pancho

The closer we got to the beach, the more upscale the stores and restaurants became. The beach itself was spectacular. The so-called “Mayan Riviera” from Cancun to Tulum in the Yucatan, with its white-sugar beaches and terrific surf, does earn its “Riviera” nickname. The state of Nayarit, from Bucerias north to San Blas, has been dubbed “Riviera Nayarit” and deservedly so. The beaches are world-class. The sand is a perfect texture. The surf packs a decent punch. The sand bottom is silky smooth and firm. The water temperature is ideal. Our list of new favorite beaches in Mexico is growing: Bucerias, Playa La Lancha, Sayulita, and now San Pancho. 

Spain and Portugal's beaches require daily combing using a tractor dragging a big rake to keep the beaches clear of seaweed and other natural debris that washes ashore. That’s not necessary for the Mexican beaches we have visited so far. What does wash ashore and glistens in the crashing surf and beaconing beaches of Mexico are tiny flecks of gold. A quick search informed us that the gold specks are pyrite washed down from the mountains. Pyrite from Hidalgo Mexico 2.68inch. 

We rented a couple of chairs under an umbrella with a small table for $250  Pesos ($13.90 USD) for the entire day. The chairs were perfectly placed with a front row view 20 feet from the shore. At many beaches, if you buy a drink or get an appetizer from the nearby open-air bar, the umbrella setups are free. Once settled in, it was time to hit the waves. The surf was even better today than yesterday at Sayulita. We spent the entire afternoon swimming and getting beat-up by the waves under a brilliant blue sky with a temperature of 84 Fahrenheit on a lustrous sugar beach - retirement is grand!

Around 4:30 pm we left the beach and started to zig-zag our way around the small town of San Pancho. There is a small upper-class area, a modest middle-class neighborhood, and a couple of underdeveloped regions. The main square is large and very festive with a huge roofed shelter, lots of families picnicking, music blaring, and cart vendors. After a ton of zig-zagging, we got lost and needed directions to find the main street to catch the bus back to Bucerias.

The bus back to Bucerias was $35 Pesos each ($1.82 USD) for the return trip in an older air-conditioned Pacifico bus with a movie playing on two little screens. The trip back to Bucerias only took about 15 minutes. 

After a quick shower, we walked to Buzzos Bar to hear The MexPat's Band with Jeff sitting in for keyboards. The Mexpat's band lost their bass player and initially asked Jeff to cover by playing bass on the keyboards. Jeff would have done it, but he wasn’t keen on the idea. The band leader picked up on Jeff’s reluctance and came up with an interesting solution. The guitar player switched to bass, they found an old buddy to play guitar, and Jeff got to play keyboards. There's always a plan B.

 

Unfortunately, it didn’t quite work out. Without any rehearsing, the song structure suffered that night. These guys want to include Jeff in a band for next year. As a keyboard musician, Jeff will have plenty of opportunities to play as much as he wants and as long as he wants in Bucerias, Mexico. 

 

Wanda and I walked back to the house while Jeff packed up. Unbeknownst to us, Jeff and Teri stopped off at the taco cart just around the corner from their gated complex and bought a bunch of large quesadillas for a midnight snack. They were terrific — another excellent street cart meal.

MAR 8 Band/Buzzo's
San Pancho The MexPats March 7 18.jpeg

Nayarit - March 9

Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo at Playa Destiladeras

Playa Destiladeras - March 9

Jeff and Teri’s neighbor, Thania, has been urging us all to go to Playa Destiladeras, a beach between La Cruz and Punta de Mita. At 11 am, we packed up the car with beach stuff, picked up Thania and her wonderful 9-year old daughter, Isabella, and drove approximately twelve miles to explore a new beach. We took the old highway towards Punta de Mita because it follows along the coastline. This old highway, while being a narrow-twisting-curvy road, provides gorgeous ocean vistas.

 

Thank goodness Thania was with us because we would have never found the beach. It is away from any town or village and without signage. We pulled into a nondescript dusty open parking lot. There was a gate made of rope across the entrance driveway.  A parking attendant jumped out of nowhere and asked for a donation. We gave him 20 pesos and he pointed to a parking spot. This was funny because the parking lot was a large open sandlot with only a handful of cars and lots of parking spots. Not overly impressive so far, but we couldn’t see the beach from the back of the parking lot where our assigned parking spot was.

 

When we reached the path to the beach from the parking lot, this absolutely beautiful palm-tree and lush green-space opened up to a sugar white beach and blue waters. It was stunning. There were a couple of modest, nicely maintained, white open-bar buildings and bathroom facilities. Then a there were four or five rows of the usual chair and umbrella combinations in front of the open-bars. Off to either side was a wide expanse of empty lustrous golden beach.

 

Thania promised big waves and she delivered. The waves were crashing like thunderclaps. I couldn't get my clothes off fast enough to run to the ocean water, except a fruit-plate vendor came by and Wanda insisted on getting one. The fruit-plate had cut-up pineapple, watermelon, oranges, jicama, cucumbers, and a lime wedge to spritz on the cucumbers. The watermelons are at perfect ripeness right now and they are super sweet as are the oranges. The jicama is a strange fruit. It is a lot like watercress - white, crunchy, and no discernible flavor. Lime sprinkled over cucumber with a dash of chili seasoning is Teri’s rave favorite. I love it too. However, without the chili seasoning, we had to settle with just the lime. 

PlayaDestiladeras March 9 4.jpeg

We quickly set-up the towels, Wanda’s sun-tent, mowed down the fruit plate to hasten things up so we could get to the water. The ocean waves on Playa Destiladerias were the biggest yet on this vacation. The sand bottom was firm, flat, and held no surprises. Jeff brought a boogie board to try out. I found there is a real trick to boogie-boarding with several failed attempts before I finally got a good ride all the way to shore. The best I could figure is that you have to start your push ahead of the wave a lot sooner than with body surfing. Also, you have to aim the front of the board at a down-angle. This seemed counterintuitive to me. I wanted to aim it at an up-angle. 

 

Enter Isabella, the Boogie-Board Queen. After two practice attempts, she was off to riding wave after wave all the way to dry land every time. I consoled myself by thinking that the board was too short and was sized for kids. A longer board would be better for adults - yeah, that’s the ticket.

Playa Destiladeras March 9.jpg

On the drive to the beach, Jeff and I stopped at a gas station convenience store to get some beer for Jeff’s little cooler. We bought a six-pack of Sol Beer. After a fair amount of sun and fun at the beach, Jeff, Thania, and I cracked open a Sol. The beer seemed off - watery and no flavor. But it was cold and liquid. It really bugged me until I decided to examine the can more closely. I noticed the word “CERO”. Hmmm, that looked a lot like “ZERO”. I looked closer and saw “46 calorias". That looked a lot like “46 calories”. I was starting to get the picture. Sure enough, in teeny-tiny letters, I saw “no alcoholico”. I showed Jeff and Thania and we all cracked up. A quick trip to the open-air bar to get a few Pacifico beers with some chips and freshly-made guacamole dip made for a good day.

 

Before leaving, Jeff and I jumped in for one more wave-bashing swim. Just when we got to chest deep water, a series of five rogue waves bashed us instead. They were giant mountains of moving water that resulted in me getting uncontrollably tossed and turned underwater until I could find my footing. It was a glorious way to end the day Playa Destiladeras. 

 

Back at the house, Teri put together a gourmet Chicken Parmesan dinner with red tomato sauce and the rest of Jeff’s artisan pasta. Wow, it is sweet to me us today. Isabella and Thania stayed over for dinner and evening drinks. They are terrific company and wonderful neighbors. They both speak excellent English and Thania loves to correct my Spanish pronunciation.

 

Another wonderful day in paradise.

Bucerias - MAR 10

Nayarit - March 10

Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo at Rythm & Blues Cafe & Lounge

Sunday, March 10, 2019. Today Wanda is resting from the sun to work on the website while  Jeff and I prepare for our gig tonight. This heat and humidity take a toll on guitar strings. I broke one at Buzzos while playing and I hardly ever break strings on a band gig.

Jeff's birthday is on Tuesday. We went to his favorite licoreria (liquor store), El Coyul, to stock up for the deck party. While there, Jeff also purchased his birthday present, a bottle of Herradura Tequila. This tequila is an expensive sip-grade tequila recommended by the shop owner. The shop is basically a garage with the garage-style door opened to the street. I noticed that the prices were lower than at the La Comer mega discount store. To celebrate his birthday early,  we took a small American-size shot glass to taste. It is indeed sip-grade tequila; ultra smooth, clean tasting tequila that needs to be savored slowly.

SOME ODDS AND ENDS

FULL-SERVICE GAS STATIONS: Occasionally in Spain, when we drove up to a gas station, an attendant would come out and fill the tank. However, they were slow in getting out to the car, and we’d already had the process started. The attendant would take over and finish the job. 

 

But when Jeff pulls into a gas station here in Mexico, a brigade of attendants are on it. It’s like a time warp back to the ’50s when we had prompt, full-service gas stations. They wash the windows, check the oil, check the tire pressure if asked, etc. Of course, they are doing all this for tips. Mexico runs on tips.

ITALIKA: About 90% of the motorbikes and ATV’s down here are Italika. They are manufactured near Mexico City. With the cobble-rock streets being what they are, all the bikes down here are dirt bikes. ATV’s are ridden everywhere in the towns. Apparently, they are street legal in Mexico. ATV’s and UTV’s have great suspensions, and I wager they give a smoother ride than cars do.

DEPARTMENT STORES: Many of the big box department stores have an interesting mix of products. For instance, the Elektra store stocks electronics, clothing, appliances, bicycles, furniture, tires, dirt bikes, and ATVs and much more. 

VENDORS: Like in the Yucatan, we noticed that there are about 30 products sold by the local vendors: silver jewelry, purses, belts, colorful dresses, shawls, and all sorts of small souvenir items. I wonder who makes this stuff? Is it one big mega-vendor distributor that all these vendors buy from? Do the vendors pick out which niche they want or does the distributor assign the vendors to their niche product? 

HUICHOLES ART: There is one authentic locally made art form. Huicholes are indigenous people in this area - Jalisco and Nayarit. They create intricate bead designs. In San Pancho, I saw an animal skull ingeniously covered in a bead design that wasn’t creepy at all. It miraculously turned the skull into a real work of art.

SO MANY RESTAURANTS: One wonders how so many restaurants can make it. There are godzillions of quaint unique little restaurants and each is a gem.

 

SEATBELTS AND PICKUP TRUCKS: Supposedly, Mexico has strict seatbelt laws, but ironically it is okay for people to ride in the back of pickup trucks. You see it all the time. I remember as a kid, I used to ride in a trailer when my dad would haul stuff and loved it.

 

TRAVEL CLOTHES: Last night, Wanda hand washed a few shirts and shorts. Her goal is to find a few easily laundered, quick-drying clothes so when we travel extreme-light with only 3 outfits each, we can just hand wash every evening before bed. Wanda prefers to handwash mostly because she is extremely skin sensitive to many products and mostly because we don't want to spend any time looking for and sitting at lavenderias. 

 

She has experimented with lots of clothing materials and is always searching for light-weight, quick-drying, wrinkle-resistant, antimicrobial, and odor absorbent materials that work well for long city walks or mountain trail hikes. For me, believe it or not, Carhartt makes a great light-weight quick-dry T-shirt with a pocket. They are actually labeled “Fast Dry.” I also have a few quick-dry board shorts I am checking out. 

T-shirts, however, are a pain when swimming. Once sweaty from humidity, or wet after swimming, T-shirts are hard to take off and put on. A light-weight, short sleeve shirt is the best. I found one short sleeve shirt from Patagonia that has snaps and two pockets. Decent sized pockets are nice for maps when roaming the streets or to hold my lens cap when I shoot photos with my big camera. The snaps are great for quickly getting the shirt off and getting me into the water fast. I love everything about the shirt except it isn’t quick-dry. I will continue to look for the perfect quick-dry shirt for our travels.

 

We wear Darn Tough socks that are light-weight, quick dry, anti-microbial socks that come with a lifetime warranty.  We walked approximately 350 miles while in Spain and Portugal for 60 days. The same socks are getting a workout here in Mexico. That's a lot of miles on 3 pairs of socks where the heels haven't blown out. They are proving to be Darn Tough.

MAR 10 Band/Rythm

At 4 pm it was time to head to the Rhythm & Blues Cafe & Lounge for our Wednesday evening gig. Paul, the Bar Manager, lights up when we arrive. He gives us the star treatment; Do you need anything? Do you want anything? We receive free beers and tequila shots delivered to the bandstand about every 5th song. It's great!

At the break, I had a plate of Sopes, compliments of Rythm Blues Cafe & Lounge. Now, Wanda and I had Sopes in the Yucatan last year. They were good, but these Sopes are incredible. A Sope starts with a small, but extra thick corn tortilla that is actually kind of flakey as well as crunchy. The outside edge is even thicker like a pizza crust. Meat, veggies, and cheese are piled on top to form a conical mountain. A white sauce tops it off. The food in the Puerto Vallarta area is especially tasty.
 

The crowd was responsive, but they waited until the 2nd set to pour out into the street to dance. It was our best gig so far. We hit all the right notes, and Jeff’s RCF sound system just thumped away. All the local musicians and bar owners recognize the quality of his system. It was another great night in Bucerias Mexico.

Nayarit - March 11

Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo Pool Party

Bucerias - MAR 11

Monday, March 11, 2019. Jeff and Teri plan to have a small second-story pool built at their house. The architect, Ernesto, who is going to design and build the pool, invited us to their gated-community for a pool party. Ernesto’s wife, Maria, a fun, outgoing lady,  is a realtor. Thania, Jeff and Teri 's neighbor., introduced them.  The other day, Ernesto stopped by the house with a cool 3D presentation of the pool. Part of the reason for the pool party was to have Ernesto present his latest plan. Ideally, Jeff and Teri would like to start the pool construction after they return to Wisconsin and miss the dusty building.

 

Before going to the pool party, we all had a slow, lazy morning. The other day, the band needed another slow song, so Jeff learned a great mellotron part for the song, "Night’s In White Satin," and downloaded a nice track for it. I googled the exchange rate for pesos, and it was up to $19.41 Pesos / $1 USD and made a bank run. The bank gave me $18.26 Pesos / $1 USD. It was a good time to exchange $500 USD for $9546.54 Pesos. That should last the rest of the month. The best rate I found in Puerto was $17.40 USD / $1 USD  which was bad. The rest of the morning Jeff putzed around the house. Teri cut up a bucket of fresh fruit - blueberries, musk melon, strawberries, pineapple, and mango to take to the pool party.

Ernesto and Maria live in a gated community with a community pool and a papaya tree growing in their patio (photo above). The pool is located in a beautiful green park in the middle of the community with a shelter of picnic tables and public bathrooms. Unfortunately, the pool party fizzled before it even got started. Maria, being a realtor got called out for a showing, Thania and Isabella bailed because it is semester exam week and Isabella had to finish studying for a big history exam, Ernesto was working on the pool plans, and clouds rolled in for our first overcast sky. Ernesto did make us margaritas and showed Jeff and Teri his latest proposal, which was different from the last plan Teri and Jeff described, but very creative and innovative. 

We left early and went to the central plaza in Bucerias. Wanda found a summer dress in the outdoor market, and Teri whittled down the price from $300 Pesos to $180 Pesos ($10 USD). We all ended up at "The Fat Boy" Mariscos El Gordo, a beachside restaurant just off the central plaza. 

A terrific mariachi band played for 30 minutes at a nearby table. The standup bass player thumped away, the guitar player was strumming pretty chords on a 10-string guitar, the accordion player incorporated some zydeco licks, and the vocal harmonies were tight.

We overate on shrimp tacos, shrimp fajitas, steak fajitas, chicken fajitas, nachos, guacamole, all kinds of salsas, and drinks. It was a lot of food, and we took our merry time, watching the sunset. A terrific mariachi band played for 30 minutes at a nearby table. 

Mar 11 PoolParty6.jpg
Jeff's Birthday - MAR 12

Nayarit - March 12

Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo Birthday Party

MAR 12 - Bucerias 7.jpeg
MAR 12 - Bucerias 4.jpeg

When I'm Sixty-Four

 

When I get older losing my hair
Many years from now
Will you still be sending me a Valentine
Birthday greetings bottle of wine
If I'd been out till quarter to three
Would you lock the door
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four

 

You'll be older too
And if you say the word
I could stay with you
I could be handy, mending a fuse
When your lights have gone
You can knit a sweater by the fireside
Sunday mornings go for a ride
Doing the garden, digging the weeds
Who could ask for more
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four

Every summer we can rent a cottage
In the Isle of Wight, if it's not too dear
We shall scrimp and save
Grandchildren on your knee
Vera, Chuck, and Dave
Send me a postcard, drop me a line
Stating point of view
Indicate precisely what you mean to say
Yours sincerely, wasting away
Give me your answer, fill in a form

Mine for evermore
Will you still need me, will you still feed me
When I'm sixty-four

Tuesday, March 12, 2019. Today, Jeff enters his last year before being an official “senior.” 

 

We started the day running around picking up last minute stuff for Jeff’s party. A slow leak has plagued Jeff's drivers-side back tire. It has been losing 6 or 7 pounds of air every three days. When the low tire light came on again during our errands, he pulled into the Car Doctor, his favorite mechanic located on the main drag, just a block from the La Comer and Megastore. They took the tire off and, sure enough, the tire had picked up a good-sized screw. They tried to plug the tire, but there was a crack running from the puncture. The plug worked on the hole but not the crack - he still had a slow leak. We googled up a nearby Michelin tire store and hurried over before the tire went flat. 

 

On their drive down to Mexico, the car’s bearings wore out. Being new in Bucerias, Jeff asked around and settled on The Car Doctor. The owner speaks English, and Jeff reports that he did a professional job at a very fair price. Locating a competent, honest mechanic in a foreign county was a godsend. Jeff had planned to replace the tires before returning to Wisconsin as they were due, now he is just replacing them a few weeks sooner than expected. 

 

While Jeff waited at the tire shop, Wanda and I went for a walk. We were on a mission. We needed to find the Pacifico bus stop. Pacifico goes to Rincon de Guayabitos, and we plan on going up there on Thursday. 

 

We had noticed that there is a tiny bus station across the street from the main church on the corner of Hwy 200 and Alfredo V Bonfil. We stopped in there first. It turned out to be the bus stop for Vallarta+ buses. They go to Guadalajara. They directed us to the Pacifico stop just a few doors north. to the building that had “Pacifico” painted on the side. The building was closed, but I noticed a lady standing next to the building. She confirmed that this was the bus stop for Pacifico and that it does run up to Guayabitos. Armed with that info, we roamed around town for another hour and a half. 

 

At 4 pm it was time to return to the house to get ready for Jeff’s big birthday evening. Teri made reservations at Mezzogiorno’s, a top-notch Italian restaurant on the beach. Thania and Isabella joined us for dinner. The food was amazing. Wanda had Futti de Mare Cremaschi, black pasta with a variety of seafood, in a tasty sauce. It included giant grilled shrimp, a variety of grilled fish, and squid embedded in a ring of pasta. The squid-in-the-pasta was good. I had ravioli with goat cheese and black olives. 

Back at the house, the party quickly got going. Jeff started off making his signature banana margaritas, which are insanely better than they sound. Guests poured in. Just about everyone that Jeff and Teri invited showed up. There was the German couple from across the street; Oliver and Michelle of Las Famosas Burger Bistro; Ernesto (the pool developer/engineer), his wife, Maria and their son, Alex; Brett and his wife, both Canadians and fans of Jeff’s music performances; the Canadian couple next door, their Mexican neighbor next door, and Thania and Isabella. Alex and Isabella are the same age and entertained themselves watching Spanish cartoons on the big screen TV. There was English, Spanish, and German words flying around the deck party on the third level.  An authentic MexPat party.

MAR 13 Band/Buzzo's

Nayarit - March 13

Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo at Buzzo's 

Wednesday, March 13, 2019. Last night’s birthday cheer slowed the morning. At 10:45 am Wanda and I took off to find breakfast. Just as we left the house we ran into Brian, from last night’s party. He recommended Karen’s Place, a bistro on the beach in the artsy section of Bucerias, south of the Kissing Bridge. On the way, we walked past the Pacifico bus building. It was closed, but we saw a Pacifico bus drive by and out to the main highway heading north. That was a good sign. 

The artsy section of Bucerias is nice. The art shops have beautiful canvas paintings and sculptures, and small restaurants that are cute and delightful - the big money section of Bucerias. The mansions and compounds are impressive, but perhaps a bit shameful taking up the best oceanfront in contrast to the neediness witnessed in the way-back streets.   We do give back to the local area that provides us with so much pleasure during the month March by eating out, tipping well and Wanda purchases a few clothing items that she feels are light-weight and travelable.

We found a small clean beachfront restaurant with great service, Karen’s Place, and enjoyed their Mexican huevos. Like the other day at the Burger Bistro, we got scrambled eggs with ham, diced red peppers, and tomatoes. Added to it was a side-helping of refried beans and nacho chips in a terrific tomato sauce. Stirred all together with Picante sauce poured on top made a spectacular Mexican morning. Topped off with great coffee, and a beach vista to-die-for made for a most enjoyable and utterly relaxing way to start a Boomer Day in Mexico.

We roamed the way-back sections of Bucerias. The contrasts between the mansions and impoverished areas are still stark. ​At 3 pm we returned to the house to pack the band equipment in the car. An hour later, Jeff and I were ready to perform at Buzzo's once again.

After four wild and packed gigs, Buzzo's started with a sparse crowd, and it stayed that way. However, Ed was there the whole night. Actually, Ed was there all day too. Ed is a fixture at Buzzos. He is from Florida, and he lost his wife several years ago. His new home seems to be the center table at Buzzo's. He never moves, doesn’t speak unless he is spoken to, and sips beer all day and evening long. Today was his birthday. Somehow the bar found out and brought him a big wedge of cake and a margarita. He looked embarrassed. Ed gave us a $100 Peso tip. We love Ed.

 

I stayed away from the tequila barrel and only had two Pacifico beers. With so few patrons, Jeff and I tried all kinds of new songs. It was a paid rehearsal. Well, paid isn’t wholly accurate. I don’t know what the bar owner gave Jeff.  Still, we loved it - we are musicians.

Beach - Guayabitos

Nayarit - March 14

Rock n Roll Hoochie Koo at Guayabitos 

Thursday, March 14, 2019. “On the road again. Goin’ places that I’ve never been.” 

Our early morning started at 7 am and out the door by 7:45 am. To our absolute surprise and delight, we found the Pacifico bus building open - a small bus depot with a waiting room and benches. I asked the attendant what the hours were for the bus depot. He said from 6 am to 5 pm. That’s impossible as we have never seen it open before, but no sense in arguing the point. Two round trip tickets to Guayabitos cost us  $240 Pesos each ($13 USD) and an hour's ride north along the ocean.

 

Just north of San Pancho the jungle turned lush green and stunning. The movie playing on the bus was some Fast and Furious iteration, dubbed in Spanish. It was fun watching Van Diesel and The Rock talking in a poorly-synced, higher-than-normal-pitched, Spanish. The trip took 55 minutes, and we were dropped off on the intersection of Hwy 200 and the main drag, the same drop off as San Pancho. 

There is money in Guayabitos. It is a quaint, clean resort town with a variety of local hotels. I had read about the coconut bread that is unique to Guayabitos. Many vendors were selling these unique caramelized coconut balls that we hadn’t seen anywhere else.  I assumed that they are what the coconut bread buzz was all about. There are sinful. We also bought a slice of moist white coconut cake infused with tequila - also wicked.

 

The first thing we did was walk up to the next town of La Penita de Jaltemba. It is the biggest city in this little bay with a population of 20,000. I had read that it holds a big market on Thursdays. We walked a winding residential road about 2 kilometers north before the street petered out in front of a dark muddy river with a sign warning of crocodiles and narrow swinging footbridge, called the Freedom Bridge, that crossed the river. That put us in the outskirts of La Penita. 

Several blocks farther we came across the vibrant downtown. The market was huge. We purchased a liter-sized container of fresh sweet, succulent figs along with a few dried mango and kiwi fruits.  

 

Also at the mega-market, a few native Huicholes had tables displaying their beadwork. With a bowl full of beads on their laps, they made up designs on the spot working on various bead works as they monitored the table. 

 

The market was as huge as advertised, but the La Cruz market was far more artisan-based, especially the food vendors and traditional Mexican musical groups. Still, it was fun to roam through the kaleidoscope of colors, smiles and taco smells.
 

The beaches in both La Penita and Guayabitos are fine, but a notch below the Bucerias-to-San Pancho “Riviera” standards. After an ultra-creamy strawberry yogurt paleta, it was time to head back to Guayabitos to find a panga (motorboat taxi) out to Coral Island. We inquired around and got enough hand gesture directions to find the colectivo stand where colectivos run up and down the coast between La Penita and Lo De Marcos. $12 Pesos each ($.65 USD) got us a ride to Guayabitos. The taxi cabs and colectivos are both white, and the colectivos could be labeled either colectivo or taxi. However, I did find out that all white vans are colectivos, no matter how they are marked. They run about every 20 minutes. 

 

The colectivo dropped us off one block off the beach. On the beach, I found a panga tour boat that wanted $350 Pesos ($19.40 USD) each, for a round trip to Coral Island, plus a small boat tour around the bay. That seemed a bit pricey, so we continued on and found a round trip ride to Coral Island for $250 Pesos each ($13.80 USD) and paid on-the-spot. However, when the vendor radioed his boat, he couldn’t get a response. Undaunted, he merely put us on the first boat that was charging $350 Pesos. So we ended up with most of the boat tour anyway.

 

Coral Island is a small round rock about 2 kilometers offshore. It is known for its snorkeling opportunities. Here is where the day started to go south for me. The first thing that hit me was that I forgot to pack our snorkel gear. We have masks with our eye prescriptions and great high tech snorkels. Perhaps my disappointment in my forgetfulness distracted me because when I hopped out of the boat, I smashed my little toe on my left foot. The boat dock is a floating deck with a gangplank that freerolls on the deck, as the waves oscillate the platform. My little toe got rolled over by the gangplank. Yeowza! That hurt. What is with my left foot? It is the foot that I stubbed my big toe on, and the foot that got stung by the stingray. 

 

Anyway, Coral Island has a tiny rocky beach, and I hobbled to a row of shaded table and chairs on the beach, which we paid $100 Pesos ($5.24 USD) to rent for the day. Every swimmer on the beach had snorkel gear, and they sure looked like they were enjoying themselves watching the fish playing around the rocks and coral. Eventually, we went into the water to refresh. We had to wear water-booties which was hard for me to put over my throbbing little toe, but essential for the rockiness. We saw some hazy outlines of gorgeous bright yellow fish buzz by us, and I watched an excited dad point out a mess of fish to his young daughter.

 

On the boat ride back to Guayabitos, we went around the tiny Crab Island next to Coral Island. Crab Island was aptly named. The island was alive with black and bright red crabs, side-stepping on the rocks.  The boat continued down the coast to Los Ayala, a small village just around a peninsula, south of Guayibitos. We were told by several people, including Jeff’s neighbor, Diana, that this beach is the best “playa” in this area. It did look inviting from the boat. 

As we were backing into the boat’s assigned parking spot, just off the shoreline back at Guayabitos, a rogue wave washed completely over the boat, drenching everyone. Luckily, I saw the wave-surge at the very last micro-second, and miraculously, got my camera and iPad out of the way. I think I used the passenger’s back, in front of me, as a shield.

 

 

 

Beach - Coral Island

Putting on my, now drenched shoes, was a chore with my bum foot. We followed the south shore to a group of open-air beach restaurants. We settled on the imaginatively named “Restaurant Bar La Playa.” What the restaurant lacked in name imagination, it more than made up for in delicious food. We ordered a bowl of shrimp soup and a plate of grilled white fish with rice and salad. The shrimp soup was excellent with tons of whole shrimp. Oddly though, the shrimp wasn’t peeled. We had to take the shrimp out of the soup to peel. The grilled fish was spectacular. It had a subtle, clean and fresh flavor and came with a mountain of hot tortillas in a basket. I love to blend everything in a tortilla and mix and match various sauces. We walked away delightfully stuffed.
 

It was time to check out the recommended Los Ayala beach. We hailed down the colectivo and went south to the next town. In the colectivo, a Canadian expat told me about a hidden beach just south of the Los Ayala beach. Expats are excellent sources of local info, and his tip was right on. First of all, the Los Ayala beach was very nice with fewer people and smooth sand. On the southern fringe of that beach is a path through a lush green jungle. It isn’t too far, about the same distance that we walked to reach Playa La Lancha, a few days earlier. The little isolated beach that the path opens up to is a beautiful tropical gem - white sand and turquoise surf. 

 

It was getting late, so we made our way back to the colectivo, and hailed it down. Back at Guayabitos, we walked the little ways to the Pacifico bus stop. At the bus stop, we met an outgoing young Mexican couple. They asked if this was the bus stop and in my ridiculous Spanglish, told them it was. They didn’t understand Spanish - what?!?!. It turned out that they were 100% Americans from California, and just started visiting Mexico for their anniversary for the last two years. Talk about pre-judging, eh?

 

The return trip only took 45 minutes. I limped back to the house and watched Netflix for the rest of the evening. Oh yeah, Teri made some incredible stroganoff, and we sampled some. Wow!

Beach - Los Ayala