Monday, April 16, 2012

Just Chillin' in Puerto Penasco

As I was writing this, it was Sunday morning, and life at the Playa Bonita RV park here in Puerto Penasco, Mexico, is peaceful.  The view to my right is endless sparkling blue water.  The view to my left is endless dunes of sand.  There is a quiet busyness all around.  Industrious Mexicans by the score are hard at work washing RVs and vehicles of every size and make.  All in all it's just plain nice.

While I pecked away at the computer, Terry washed our SUV.  He was silently eyed up by the nearby Mexicans busy at work, and you could see the united wonder at why he would tackle this job himself.  Loco Gringo.  However, he quickly redeemed himself when he began negotiations on a paint job for our motorhome.  

We last stayed in Puerto Penasco in December, 2008.  It served as the launching point of our first Mexican RVing experiences.  I remember being a little frightened initially, not knowing what to expect of camping in Mexico.  How safe it would be.  What amenities there were.

The park was very busy then, as we stayed over the Christmas holidays. I was quickly impressed with the beauty of the beach, the low key, easygoing lifestyle, and the fabulous seafood that was literally delivered to your doorstep.  However, our time here was short, and the weather was not perfect, so we didn't venture out too much and were unable to get a real feel for Puerto Penasco and area.  I was happy to return and delve a little more into this area.

There is a strong contingency of "Norte-Americano regulars", who come down to Puerto Penasco, or Rocky Point, at various times of the year.  Right now the RV park is at about 25% occupancy, and a number of these regular are still here.  Many will return home in May.  A few people live here year round.  Some of these regulars have been coming to Rocky Point for over 30 years.  They are an invaluable resource, as they are more than happy to share with you the best places to eat, shop, fish and more.  They know who is the most qualified local when it comes to painting or repairing your rig, and who to purchase shrimp from at the best price (it cost us $8.00 for a pound of fabulous shrimp that fed the two of us amply). 

The beach out front of the park is lovely, and stretches out for miles in either direction.  Perfect for walking, running and beachcombing.  It is particularly nice when the tide is out, and the area is known for its impressive tidal swings.

Sunday is a very popular beach day with locals.  Families and groups of young people fill the beach at one end of the bay, and there are many shopping stalls, seafood kiosks and the odd mariachi band or two.  Even the horses are laid back on Sunday.

The weather here initially has been a bit shaky.  While it has been in the low to mid 20's, the wind we experienced in December, 2008 returned for a few nights.  One night it blew and rocked the motorhome violently.  I felt extremely sorry for the two groups camping in a tiny Boler trailer and a tent trailer.  We are parked off the water, and if our 40' rig was shaking I can only imagine the experience they went through parking right along the waterfront.

This too shall pass, and we are expecting hot weather ahead.  Our plans are to visit Cholla Bay, El Golfo de Santa Clara, and the Pinacate Reserve and Biosphere.  Terry would like to try scuba diving down here, and I'm hoping that we can visit Bird Island to do so, where I will attempt to snorkel with the seals and sea lions. We'll be golfing at the Peninsula Golf Course later this week with friends who are coming down, and plan to get in a few more rounds at other courses nearby.

 We've tried a few restaurants and seaside bars, and will continue to do so.   All have been great so far.

A month will pass quickly.  I'll keep you posted.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Hiking the San Tan Mountains

When we bought our place in Carefree Resort at Glennifer Lake, Alberta, one of the clinchers for us was the access to the terrific trail system that wound along the waterway through the resort.  We have made much use of this trail and appreciate the scenery as the trees along it change from summer green to stunningly beautiful fall colors.

The same thing is holding true for our winter home in the San Tan Valley of Arizona.  We are an incredible 10 minutes away from the most amazing hiking trails that are located in the San Tan Mountain Regional Park.

With over 10,000 acres of Sonoran desert landscape, the park trails offer a multitude of options in terms of trail length, difficulty and elevation gain.  There are virtually hikes for people of all ages and abilities.  The popularity of this park is a testament to this.

We have hiked and run the trails of the park for the past three years.  Any time we have company we include a hike as a "must do" activity.  It has been the gathering place of family and friends, and we've all enjoyed the time exploring the beauty of the desert - both during the day as well as participating in the park's popular full moon hike.

I wanted to share the experience with you, so put together a short video from our hike yesterday along the San Tan Trail, a 6+ mile hike that gives you panoramic views of the valley, the scenic ridges and the Saguaro forest.  Enjoy - and next time you're in the Phoenix area plan on taking in some incredible hiking.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Beautiful Baja

There is something incredibly beautiful about the sharp contrast of desert landscape meeting azure blue waters that roll across endless white sand beaches.  This is the Baja.

When we first began talking about driving our motorhome down to Mexico three years ago, the Baja was an area that I was drawn to.   Unfortunately,  stories of the narrow, rough roads and long stretches of nothing had us instead traveling south through the mainland and away from the Baja.  So when the opportunity opened up for Terry and I to fly down and stay with friends, we jumped on it.  I wasn't disappointed.

Now, coming from Phoenix, a mere 2-hour flight away, we wondered if there would be any significant differences in weather.  Things were already heating up quite nicely there.  We were pleasantly surprised, however, to step off the plane and be greeted with the heat we were hoping for, and the bonus of a more humid climate (60-70% humidity vs. 35% in Arizona). Like Arizona, however, the Baja desert climate also brings cooler evenings and the mandatory sweaters!

The first leg of our journey had us staying with friends in their palatial condo, which was located within the beautifully landscaped grounds of the Esperanza Resort near Cabo San Lucas.

They had made arrangements for a car to pick us up at the airport, so we relaxed and enjoyed our first views of the region.  We quickly noted the impressive state of the highway, and the modern buildings and new retail structures, including high end auto dealerships, that we saw along the way.

The 2012 G20 Summit is being hosted in Los Cabos.  We drove by the construction site of the massive new conference centre that is being built to accommodate the event.  The summit is being held in June, and based on what we saw, they have a lot of work to do to meet that construction deadline!

After arriving at the condo, we finalized a shopping list, and headed into the Costco in Cabo to pick up our supplies for the week.  As we have found in our travels, Costcos are virtually the same everywhere with only some small differences.  For example, we were surprised to find that - in Cabo, Mexico of all places - Costco didn't stock salsa.

So, after filling the larder, we settled in for a week of sun and relaxation.

Our 2nd floor condo opened out to an expansive view of the Sea of Cortez, which provided endless opportunities for whale and cruise ship watching - both of which we saw quite a few of during the week.


With facilities like these, we enjoyed leisure-filled days of lazing by our (seemingly) private pool and hot tub ....

Exploring the lush grounds and (attempting) a challenging yoga class in their lovely studio ....

Jogging the trail and paths through the resort ....

Taking turns preparing some fabulous group meals ...

Terry's niece Jocelyn was competing in the Canadian Junior Women's Curling championship while we were there, and with the final game being televised on TSN, we absolutely wanted to locate a sports bar in Cabo with a Canadian satellite feed so we could watch.

Our buddy Adrian picked us up and drove us to the Tanga Tanga Sports Bar in Cabo, where we were finally able to pick up the game from the 7th end, and soon had half the bar cheering on Team Alberta for the win!

We spent one afternoon exploring Cabo San Lucas, wandering along the pier to check out the beautiful boats of all shapes and sizes, and shopping for vanilla in the markets.  And of course a trip into Cabo isn't complete without a visit to the Cabo Wabo Cantina!

Great margaritas, but no sighting of Sammy Hagar :(

We also spent one afternoon at Chileno Bay, which is a popular snorkeling spot.

Surprisingly, the beach was not overly crowded.  A good number of tour boats pulled in throughout the day and discharged their crowds of tourists into the water.  Fortunately, they limited their time to the water only, and left the beach to us.  

The water was colder than I had hoped, so was quite happy that we brought wetsuits for this purpose.  We braved the chill and enjoyed our time snorkeling.  We were also treated to a number of whale sightings not too far off shore.

The time quickly passed, and we had to bid adieu to our buddies, and to the lovely condo.  Thanks to Jon and Mary, Kevin and Tomoko for a lovely time, complete with sun, fun, great conversations, wonderful meals and lots of laughs.

On to the next portion of our journey - San Jose del Cabo.  Our buddy Adrian picked us up, and off we headed to the Posada Real, which would be our home for the next 3 nights.

The Posada Real is a modest all-inclusive resort situated along hotel strip in San Jose del Cabo.  Our plan included breakfast and drinks.  It is a smaller resort; low-key but a comfortable stay.  

The beach there is incredible - miles and miles and miles and miles of walking in either direction.  It reminded us quite a bit of the Bay of Banderas in Bucerias.  However, the sand here is brilliant white, compared to the golden beaches of the mainland.

There was minimal swimming; you could hear the crashing of the waves from as far back as our room.  However, walking along the hard packed sand was wonderful.  We strolled as far as the Estuary, a marshy fresh water lagoon that is home to hundreds of tropical and migratory birds, reptiles, and other assorted wild life.

We managed to fit in a run from our hotel and around the estuary one day.  It is a popular area for walkers and runners, as well as bird watchers.

One of the reasons for our visit was to spend some time with our good buddies, Brenda and Adrian.  We first met them on our RV travels three years ago, and have kept in contact ever since.  

Brenda and Adrian spent a good portion of the winter down in San Jose del Cabo last year, and made the decision to extend their visit to a full year.  They arrived in October of 2011, and have not regretted their decision to make this their home.  San Jose del Cabo is proving to be a safe haven, with a great climate, good amenities, and lots to do and see. They are renting a lovely condo located along a golf course, and have settled in to home.

Cabo is more recognized as an American haunt, while San Jose del Cabo, its more "sleepy" neighbour, is preferred by Canadians. This was backed up by the large number of B.C. license plates we noticed.

San Jose del Cabo is a quaint little town, filled with art galleries and restaurants of all shapes, sizes, and genre.  While Cabo is the place to go for your night life, San Jose del Cabo is the place to find your culture.  Artisans abound, and word is this elegant little town is a place in which they find their muse.

The local eateries are great, and prices vary from very inexpensive, local style Mexican food, to the more upscale.  You can easily find your rooftop hangouts which serve $1 beer all day. 

Grocery shopping is wonderful, with access to an amazing Mega store, Walmart and more, and the nearest Costco is closeby in Cabo san Lucas.  Prices are comparable to home.

Brenda and Adrian introduced us to their little rescue dog, Olivia.  They rescued her from the streets of Los Barilles, and had her placed in a rescue society waiting for a forever home.  While we were there they were babysitting, as her foster parent was away for a few days.  She is a wonderful little dog - very bright and obedient, and would make a lovely pet.  Thought about it for a few minutes, but realized my cats would never forgive me ......

A couple of weeks after we returned to Arizona, Brenda sent an e-mail advising us that Olivia had found a new home in Calgary, Alberta.  We're hoping she has a wonderful life, and can make the transition from Baja beaches to snowy prairies!

The highlight of our trip, however, was our ATV excursion.   With access to miles of beach that run along the coastline forever, Brenda and Adrian realized that an investment in ATVs was a terrific way to explore the region.  They regularly venture out for short day trips up the coast, and have taken extended trips up to Los Barriles.

We joined Adrian (and Olivia!) for a day trip up to Los Zacatitos, a beach side community along the East Cape.  It was amazing - stunningly beautiful deserted beaches and unique rock formations.  We saw so many whales we stopped counting.  And the most wonderful thing was seeing the whales without the omnipresent flotilla of whale watching boats.  

We roared up the beach, stopping for the occasional beer break and to admire the vista, and the odd palatial residence (entirely off the grid). 

Of course we had to stop at the (only) restaurant/bar in Los Zacatitos for lunch and a few margaritas, and to chat with some of the locals.  Los Zacatitos is a very small community, but home to a number of incredibly beautiful houses. 

It was a perfect day, and I would love to travel even further up the coast next time.

Sadly, our time had come to an end.  There were so many places that I would like to have seen - Los Barriles, La Paz, Todos Santos, Loreto.  Based on our experience here, we'd gladly come back, and possibly for an extended visit of 1-2 months.  We toured some potential housings opportunities, and were impressed with the weather, scenery, shopping, activities, and overall ambiance.  Thanks so much to Brenda and Adrian for their great tour guiding!

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Exploring San Jose Del Cabo, Mexico!

LONG time no post .....

For those of you wondering why the long lapse between postings, I made the decision that, as we have been primarily "stationed" between our home at Carefree Resort in Alberta (mid-June to mid-October), our house in San Tan Valley, Arizona (mid-October to mid-April), and RVing/boating on Vancouver Island (mid-April - early June), and not doing a lot of road/day tripping, that I would suspend my travel blogging.  Too many uneventful days to write about.

However ...

Yesterday we made a last minute decision to take a short (10-day) trip to San Jose del Cabo, Mexico.  Buddies of ours are traveling down there and kindly invited us to stay with them.  We took them up on the offer, and are looking forward to exploring an area of Mexico that we have never traveled to.

This also gives us the chance to spend some time with other good friends of ours who have made the decision to live fulltime down there. We'd like to see just what Cabo has to offer.  Is it a potential retirement locale for us or just a vacation getaway?

I'll try to post frequently, will take a lot of pictures and video and do as much exploring as possible.  We're looking forward to views of the Sea of Cortez, whale watching, Mexican food, and of course the margaritas!

Stay tuned.  We arrive Friday, February 10th.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Boat "Camping"

It had to come.  Our days on Vancouver Island are quickly drawing to a close.  While the weather has been uncooperative here, I am somewhat comforted to know that most places across the country are experiencing similar inclement weather. Please God, we'll be good.  Let us have a summer ...

When we arrived on the island we had hoped to take the boat for an extended tour up island.  With the weather being so miserable at the start of our stay, this kept getting pushed further and further down the road.  The crunch soon came, and we realized we had better take what little time we had and take the boat out for a couple of days.  The weather was even going to cooperate for us.

So, we dropped the three cats off at my sister's house for safekeeping, packed up the boat and headed out on Thursday afternoon.  

Here's a couple of shots of the marina where the boat is housed.  There are a few spectacular boats kept here amongst the more modest.

And our boat, the River.

We putted out in search of adventure and to take in the amazing West Coast scenery.  Spot the eagle?

How about the ubiquitous seals on the rocks?

The houses along the waterfront in Sidney are stunning.  The sad truth is that we couldn't even afford this little "fixer-upper" situated on the water!

Our destination for the night was Pender Island.  Along the way we passed the aptly-named Piers Island.

As we neared Salt Spring Island, we noticed a cluster of whale watching tour boats nearby.  Bonus!  We spied the killer whales and moved in closer.  As we approached, a small craft met us.  It turned out to be a Sound Watch boat.  Their role is to monitor the whale watching (both formal and informal) boats, and to educate them on protocol around this marine life.

He informed us that we had come upon three transient killer whales; an adult female and two young whales.  The transient whales do not feed on salmon, which is the food of choice for the whale pods indigenous to that area, but instead prefer to snack on seals.  We were advised on how close we could get to the whales.

It was a rare treat to see whales.  We spent a bit of time watching them and snapping many pictures before both we and the whales left the area and went our separate ways.

We arrived at Bedwell Harbour around 4:00 that afternoon, and checked into our boat slip at the Poet's Cove Resort & Spa Marina.  What a fabulous spot!  World class facility with a great restaurant, pub, pool, hot tub, spa, hotel and guest cottages. 

We tied up and promptly wandered the resort taking in the view.  Feeling peckish, we enjoyed a pitcher of beer on the sunny patio and ordered an early supper.

Noting that the pool and hot tub were amazingly free of any guests, we took advantage of the momentary lull and enjoyed a hot tub and beverage.

This was followed by a spectacular sunset.  

We raised our wine glasses and saluted the day.

Day two - off to Victoria Harbour.  After a picture-perfect cruise the day before, we were quite surprised to find that the swells were much rougher than what we were used to.  Items on the counter and stored on the bed were rapidly and unceremoniously making their way to the floor.  Panic on my part, and much scrambling to get everything secured while Terry captained the boat.  I did not particularly care for this part of the journey.

As we neared Victoria Harbour, we came upon the Van Isle 360 International Yacht Race participants.  This is a sailboat race around Vancouver Island.  Quite an impressive sight.

We docked at the Coast Victoria Hotel.  Nice dock, and we had access to all of their amenities, including the pool and hot tub.

We  hosted a happy hour for Tammy and Tom, who drove in from Sooke, and then strolled down to downtown Victoria for supper at the Bard and Banker.

Up the next morning for a quick hot tub, and then a relaxing trip back to Sidney.  What a great trip!  Next year we'll plan on a longer excursion.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Just Another Glamorous Day ......

Strange thing.  I've noticed that, after posting any references to the weather we experienced in Arizona this winter on my Facebook page, I typically received a number of very negative comments from folks back home.  You might even construe some of them as thinly veiled death threats ........  Weird. 

This post should make you feel a little bit better.  Here's how the last couple of days have gone for us .....

The day finally comes, and we have to go back to Canada.  We begin to experience the roller coaster of emotions associated with dealing with this.  And so begins the grieving process ...

Stage One:  Shock and Denial
How could the time fly so quickly!!  As we have been actively following the weather back home - both in Alberta and Vancouver Island - we are quite aghast that we have to tear ourselves away from the glorious weather that seems to be getting even better day-by-day here in Arizona, and make a trek back to what appears to be a continuous downpour, gloomy skies and a wardrobe of rubber boots and rain gear.  And that's on Vancouver Island!  We'd literally die if we had to travel back to the endless winter wonderland that Alberta has experienced!

And how the hell am I going to fit all of my stuff into that damn motorhome!???

Stage Two:  Pain and Guilt
The process of moving out of the house and into the motor home is extremely painful for me.  Terry, ever the martyr, is actually looking forward to it  Sick bastard.

We experience some guilt in feeling so sorry for ourselves - after all, we've had six months away from the horror of a Canadian winter, haven't we? We're not bad people for enjoying this lifestyle, are we?  We put in our time, didn't we?

Stage Three:  Anger and Bargaining
Anger - how can the U.S. government be so mean and force us from our home??  We're good people!  We're contributing to the local economy for God's sake!!

Stage Four:  Depression, Reflection
As we make what seems like 5 millions steps between the house and the motor home with our arms loaded to the point of straining, and as the packing up process takes three days instead of the two we had planned, I reflect on all of the things I wanted to do this winter that I didn't.  All those hikes I meant to take.  Those malls I wanted to check out.  The last trip to Mesa Market that I needed to do.  Sigh.

Stage Five:  Acceptance
The house is finally emptied of our belongings and cleaned.  We've reached the point of the inevitable - we're really going to leave here and start the drive home.

So hand in hand we turn the lock on the front door, walk away from the house, and enter the motorhome.  Then the real fun starts ...


Problem #1 - during the pack up process, for no reason half of the interior lights in the motorhome quit working.  Great.  Terry spends hours and hours troubleshooting the problem.  And of course the wiring in a motorhome is a complete guessing game.  Without access to a wiring diagram it is nearly impossible to pinpoint the problem.

The Lord must have taken pity on us as, just as mysteriously as they quit working, the lights began working again.  Guess they'll save the next round of malfunctioning for another really inappropriate time.  The only good thing is that Terry did ultimately identify the problem, and assures me it can solve this problem should it arise again.

Problem #2 - The pop-out in the bedroom breaks down.  The pop-out is pulled in and out by two timing belts that operate by gears.  One of the timing belts break.  Luckily, Terry is able to manually assist the sole timing belt and pull the slide in.  This will require a few stops to locate a replacement belt and the time to install it.  Crap.

Problem #3 - Our Motosat satellite dish is having major issues.  As a result, we were forced to travel to the delightful town of Quartzite, AZ (where the dishes were installed two years ago) to have it checked out.  And of course, within 5 minutes they deliver the wonderful news that we will have to drive to Salt Lake City, Utah, to have the Motosat people work on it.  Nice.

Now that we are travelling under a deadline, it became imperative that we schedule an appointment with the Motosat technicians right away.  It's an 8-hour drive from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City.  Terry calls Motosat and they advise him that "it is supposed to rain on Wednesday, and due to safety concerns, they are unable to go up on the roof of our motorhome to take down the satellite dish".  To which Terry responded that he would be more than happy to take on that task himself if that would work!

In order to identify the dish model etc., Terry had to put the dish up.  Once up, it decided to give up the ghost and would not stow itself away.  This prompted (and sped up) the inevitable removal of the dish from the roof of the motorhome.

Now, what goes up must also come down .....  The damn satellite dish weighs about 100-150 lbs.  In order to get it down from the roof Terry had to fashion a harness of sorts using a nylon ratchet strap and slowly lower it to the ground via a ladder.  My role in this fiasco was to stabilize it and assist it to the ground while Terry held the bulk of the weight from the top of the motorhome.

I tried to help - I really did.  However, it ended up with a lot of screaming and yelling - something along the lines of being afraid of getting killed or crushed or something.  A park resident, hearing the commotion, came running over to assist - fully believing that I was indeed being killed by Terry.  Embarrassing.

With the satellite dish finely safely stowed in the back of the car, I turned my attention to the chore of getting ready to leave the park.

As you all know, we have three cats joining us on this magical journey.  All three are of the same mindset when it comes to the drive - they hate it, but no choice in the matter.  Molly, however, fares the worst of the bunch as she experiences motion sickness, and inevitably throws up within 20 minutes into the trip.  ALWAYS a treat for all of us.

After experiencing that special treat yet again yesterday, we vowed to stop at the first pharmacy in Las Vegas and purchase some Dramamine for her.  No more motion sickness for Molly!

Sounded so good .....

I split one of the pills in half, and went about the process of shoving that pill down her throat.  No sir.  She is fighting, I am losing the battle.  Terry joins in.  Molly bites Terry.  Still no pill.  Finally, it wasn't pretty, but we got it down her.

Next thing we know - we observe Molly drooling and foaming at the mouth like a rabid dog!  Foam was pouring out of her mouth!  I chase her around the motorhome, and spend the next 15 minutes wiping the never ending stream of drool and foam from her mouth.  Worse than the exorcist!

We left the park at 12:30 en route to Salt Lake City.  Pray for us.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Day 7 – Wednesday, June 9, 2010 Silva Bay, Galiano Island to Ganges Harbour, Salt Spring Island

The whole boat was woken up by an alarm that was first unidentifiable.  Terry had promised to set his alarm for 7:00 a.m. so us girls could shower early and so we could travel through the narrows while the tide was favorable.  However, the unidentifiable alarm went off at 4:30 a.m.  Terry and I scrambled around thinking it was his alarm.  Turns out that it was the boat radio which we had not turned off the night before.

One last check of the crab trap, only to yield a starfish.  We set off around 8:00 a.m.

Not long into the day’s travel we experienced our first water disaster.  The sink stopper was in place, and shortly after we left the dock, the cutting board must have fallen off the counter and hit the sink tap, turning it on.  Water filled the sink and over flowed for some time before Carol went down to the galley and discovered it.  All of the lower cupboards were filled with water, so each of them had to be emptied and the water drained out.  Fun.

The wind was finally decent, so we had our first real taste of sailing, with much tacking back and forth and the boat leaning sharply.  This was great fun but didn’t make for good standing, walking or keeping anything on the counters in the galley!

In addition to the wind, the weather was decidedly cooler.  We could actually see our breath early in our travels that day.  It was dark, dreary and we experienced some rain.

Our planned stop for the night was at the government docks in Ganges Harbour, Salt Spring Island.  This was the most inexpensive docking fees we had experienced on the trip – only $0.80/foot vs. $1.30/foot at Silva Bay.

Plans included watching the hockey game, so it was another night off for the galley wenches.  Ever the optimist, Terry again set the crab trap in hopes of catching an elusive crab.

We met friends of our crewmates, John & Monica, who were also spending the night at the dock in their sailboat.  Carol and I hit the stores, but as it was near closing time were only able to wander into a few.

John and Monica had us all over to their lovely Catalina sailboat for happy hour.  We then met at the Oyster Market Pub for supper and to watch the hockey game.  After the game, John took us on a hike through the “gut” of downtown Ganges to show us the route to the washroom/shower facilities for those of us staying on the government dock.  Very strange that we would have to traipse through the middle of downtown in our “jammies” in pursuit of a shower in the morning!

On the way back to the boat we were lured into a little restaurant by the dock, where we imbibed in après dinner drinks and listened to live music.  Then back to the boat for a last game of dice and bed.