On top of the rock

On top of the rock
Our Cliff

Monday, August 30, 2010

Retro’s Fabulous Adventure

This is what Retro knows. He knows me and Maurice. He knows he does not like water and stays away from the surf. He loves sand crabs and chases them and playfully flips them into the air when he catches one. Well, at least HE thinks it is playful. I am sure the sand crab disagrees.

Some things alarm him. He barks when the electricians drive up in the morning. He never barks at any of the other workers; only the electricians. We thought it was something in their truck that made him bark until one day they came in a different vehicle and Retro still barked like crazy. Hmmmm.. Retro knows the beach and on occasion will see another person there. When that happens he stops...stares...and stays away. He has ridden in the truck to go to the vet but he usually is just at home. Sometimes he is in his cage, but usually he is roaming free since he never ventures far.

One day, before sunrise, without his breakfast or walk, we load him into the back seat of the pick up truck. To say he did not want to get inside is an understatement. We had to carry the 50+ pound guy and put him in. He shook for a while, even though his favorite toys were in the back. For 8 hours we drove in the car. We stopped to try to get him to drink water, or go to the bathroom. Nothing. NOW all he wanted to do was be back inside the truck for fear of being left behind…and also so we would remove the leash, which is NEVER has on. For three days there and back, he rode in the truck like this.

I will not bore you with all my cute little “parent” type stories, but these are the things that Retro experienced on this trip that he never knew existed.

At our hotel there was air conditioning. That was nice, but he would not go into the stairwells or elevators. That sure was fun to work with since we were on the 2nd floor!

He did not like the people everywhere.

Grass. He was scared to death of grass and when it was wet with “morning dew” you could not drag him anywhere near it. We had to find dirt or he would not go to the bathroom.

Traffic. Cars frightened him. The highways in San Diego almost gave him a heart attack.

On “Dogs Beach” in San Diego his head was almost spinning off his shoulders. He does not like other dogs, let alone a beach full of them. To us he was funny, but he was really scared so we are bad parents.

Our hotel was by the airport. The planes flying overhead were new to him. Church bells, sirens, horns beeping, bicyclists, motor cycles, babies crying, the commuter train...all freaked him out.

The funniest was when we turned on the TV in room. He stared at the screen and hid behind me. He would peak his head out and growl and then go back behind me and hide. We laughed so hard. He was not smiling. It was a good reminder to us as to why we do not have TV!!

O.K. Maurice just reminded me of the MOST funniest. We were in a large store looking for our Kawasaki Mule. There was a sign the read “Dog Friendly. Feel free to bring them inside the cool showroom.” Great idea! I go get Retro out of the truck and walk him towards the showroom. As the large, motion triggered doors flew open Retro instantly froze!! He then panicked and broke away from me and ran back and jumped into the truck. There was not a chance on earth of getting him into the air conditioned store. He actually stiffened up and could not be lifted or carried. He was not going anywhere near that place.

All things we take for granted or never think about were new to him. It also reminded me and Maurice how simple our life is. We are all back here now, easily slipping back into our life without traffic, airplanes and television. The only thing I wish for is a little bit of that air conditioning...oh, yes..!..that was nice...

Friday, August 27, 2010


My word it has been a crazy couple of weeks!!! I can hardly remember the last posting I did but I know it seems to me like we have lived a couple of life times since then. No one will probably even read this entry because you all gave up on me!! Just in case you are still with me, here is a quick synopsis of the last two weeks.

Maurice, Retro and I drove to San Diego. This 1000 mile or 1600 kilometer trip started out with Keith, Sharon and their dog Dusty. We caravanned first to Mulege, which is about 8 hours away. We chose this spot as our first stop so we could partake in the Hotel Serinidad’s famous Saturday night pig roast; a 43 year old tradition. But after three e-mails, confirming that they were in fact having the pig roast in hot hot hot August, when it is easily 100 degrees on the east side of the Baja, they did not have a real pig roast. As we sat in their swimming pool, sipping margaritas in water so hot it was like a large bathtub, we took it all in stride. They still served us pork; we were just not sure where it came from. It certainly was not from a “pig roast”. I sure had a great suggestion in that idea!!!

We took three days to drive to Tijuana, where we waited at the border for a crazy amount of time and learned lesson number 57 of the trip…never cross into the US on a Monday morning from Tijuana. There we went our separate ways as The Sheldon’s headed to their Vegas home, and us to do our shopping in San Diego.

Our goal was to get bedding and linens for the casitas, finalize our solar and order what we needed, and buy a UTV...a utility vehicle so we can bring our guests up to Arriba de la Roca on our beautiful stone cart path. I also had a list of things I wanted to pick up while I was back in “civilization”.

5 days in San Diego resulted in a truck load of linens, all the fabric for our cushions that will be put on our outdoor benches, (thank you Laurie!!) lots of fun stuff from Walgreens and Target, an order for Maurice’s solar system, a trailer - to replace the one stolen from Maurice in our shipment of goods here, and a Kawasaki Mule with only 200 hours on it. We were thrilled! We did great!! The best part though, was that we got to spend most evenings with my dear friend Laurie, (who I first met when I lived in San Diego back in the mid-70’s) and her husband Claus. They were so helpful to us! Claus is a contractor and took Maurice around to all the best places for “man stuff”. (Claus owns CWLonning Construction and in almost every picture of Maurice since he has moved to Mexcio he has one of Claus’ company shirts on!) Our friends advised and helped us with everything we needed to do. They even gave us a care basket for our hotel room! Every time I get to see Laurie I am reminded why we have remained friends for over 35 years. Every time I leave her there is a large hole in my heart.

Since we came back pulling the trailer, with our Mule, and a truck filled with the things we bought, we planned to do the trip back in two days, with only one sleep over. To drive 12 hours in the Baja is a lot. The road is narrow and it weaves back and forth across the Sierra de la Laguna mountains in such a way that you really need to pay close attention at all times. We knew if we switched drivers often enough we could do it. Day one we drove 12 hours and stayed in Guerro Negro at a place we had stayed when we did this drive 5 years ago. We were tired, but this plan was working well for us. Late morning of day two we stopped at a restaurant we had been at 5 years before. It is on the Sea of Cortez, in a cove, and we thought we could get a bite to eat and let Retro run without a leash. This was something he had not been able to do, as he was relegated to the back seat of the truck. We had some shrimp tacos, ran the dog around and as we were leaving I was getting water and ice for him since it was so hot I wanted to keep his water cool. Even though the heat was stifling but we did not use the air conditioning because we were pulling so much weight through the mountains. We pulled out of the place at 11:38 am. I was driving. When we got to Loretto, about an hour and a half later, we knew we needed gas. Loretto is a pretty big town yet they only had one gas station on the highway. When we realized that we had passed the only station we decided not to turn and go back. We calculate we could made it to Insurgentise, which was another hour or so away.

No, this is not what you think. We did not run out of gas. What did happen though was about 30 kilometers from CIUDAD INSURGENTES I thought to myself, “I hope we have enough pesos for gas or we will have to find a bank.” To use a credit card is a huge disadvantage with the exchange rates etc. Also many stations do not take them. So since I carry the money I go to grab my purse to check, but I can not find it. I ask Maurice if he saw my purse. No. He did not see my purse. Where is it?? We stopped, we search...then logic hits me. It has to be back at the restaurant we left at 11:38am. I had been so focused on the dog and his water I forgot it! It is now 2:15 and we are almost out of gas. We can’t turn around to go back for it before we continue to drive to CIUDAD INSURGENTES, fill up and then had back. UN-FRICKIN-BELEIVABLE!!!! Could I be stupider!!!???? I am sure my husband did not think so...but he was kind and did not say this. The place we stopped certainly did not have a phone to check, nor did it even have a name that we could recall.

To make matters worse, we get to the gas station with no pesos. Maurice fills up and tries to pay with a credit card. Card #1 has expired. Card #2 has an electronic code you have to enter to use it and Maurice can not remember it. Card #3 has not been activated so it can not be used and lastly his American Express expired in July. Thank heavens he found a $100 US bill that they gladly took at the worst rate of exchange ever!

So with a full gas tank we drive back to get my purse, which, by the way, Maurice does not think for a minute is there. He thinks that if I really did leave it there someone took it...although he does not believe I left it there. He thinks I set it on the truck and it flew off.

We arrive back at 6:10pm! 6 hours and 20 minutes after we left! The woman is thrilled to see us as she was so worried about how to find us and get me back my purse. Everything was in place and all this stupidly cost us was 6 hours and 20 minutes, about $50 in gas and it forced us to rent a hotel room since you can not drive when it is dark on these roads, unless you have a death wish. We don’t. Our only option for sleeping was back in Loretto so we trekked back to Loretto, left the main road and drove into the town, (saw many gas stations along the way) found a great hotel, probably 50 years old, had a wonderful meal and discovered a memorable place. My grandfather used to come down from California and fish in Loretto 50 years ago...maybe he stayed at this same hotel....who knows. It turned out well. We were happy, although I now know for the rest of my life I will hear, “Where is your purse?” That’s O.K. he earned that right!!

Now we are back. Back to pink terracing, that should have been beige, back to our lovely pathway that is too small for the Kawasaki Mule we bought, and back to Hurricane season. One is working its way to us…Frank is its name. It is hot and windy but it is now predicted that Frank will probably miss us.

My sister Lynda and her husband Scott are here now for 5 days. They have been touring around and it is fun to have them here. Tomorrow they are going on an ATV tour but I will stay here and water the palms since it looks like Frank is skirting around us so we will not get rain. They leave on Saturday and Maurice and I still have to buy more flooring and tiles so we will head to Cabo. We are trying color number 3 for the outside of our house as we just can’t get it right. This time we will not have them paint three sides of a building before we decide we do not like it!! We might as well just put pesos directly in the fire instead!

See how many lifetimes we had lived in the past two weeks…and I am only touching the surface. If this posting had been done properly you would have so many more details and stories. Why haven’t I posted?? My “mother board” crashed on my 11 month new computer. Lynda will take it back to the US for me so Gateway can replace it under warranty. As of now I am using Maurice’s computer. It is after midnight…he is snoring. I am sweating to death so I thought I would sneak on his computer so tomorrow I can post an update.

Why haven’t I mentioned Retro through all these travel stories?? He deserves a posting all his own…that will be coming the next night I sneak out of bed.

Stay tuned for Retro’s Fabulous Adventure.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

102 steps!!

For the last three weeks the major focus of most of the workers has been the terracing. As of yesterday they have put in 102 steps, all connected with pisas (floors) and planters and supported by retaining walls. This whole area of development has certainly changed the look of the cliff, but we are trying to keep it as natural as possible by adding stone facing. They of course have had to break the solid granite away to be able to put in all the terracing and steps. They have one jack hammer and lots of picks, pick axes and shovels. So like almost everything else all of this has been done basically by hand.

Here are a few different views of some of the steps and retaining walls.We now have to figure out a way to light 102 steps so when our guests are wandering around they can do it safely!We still have one other area to finish with terracing, but this will only add maybe 10 or 12 more steps.

This week they also laid down the cement flooring for the area that will be our outdoor kitchen. We call it an outdoor kitchen but it will consist of a grill, frig, sink and a burner. Certainly not a whole kitchen, but it will still be perfect for our needs and very convenient.

The most exciting thing though this week is that they started our fire pit.We are perching it at the edge of the cliff and the views down from there are spectacular.We will put two built in benches on each side of the pit and it will be raised up about 3 feet. I imagine people just sitting there, even without the fire, because the views of the waves on the rocks below will be incomparable.

This week we have also had them put a window in a bathroom, where there was none.We chose not to put one here to begin with because it faced the back wall of our bedroom. When they started to put in the shower we realized how dark and hot it was so we had them knock out the wall. Everyday we are making it up as we go along. One of our biggest dilemmas, beside, tiles, floor, paint colors etc. has been how to finish the bar and the fireplace. Both of these are huge parts of our main room (which we have to name yet) and we could not decide on what to do. We finally found some white flat rock (we really wanted large round stones but could not find them) and decided to put this white rock inside the bar.Now that they are doing it we are not sure we made the right choice, but it is kind of late now. I woke up the other night in a panic thinking, “Now what are we going to do with the fireplace??!!” It is only 6 feet from this white rocked bar!! I drove to Cabo that day and brought home a bunch of samples. I think we decided on a multi-colored slate. Gees this is hard!!!! Now what floor do we put in to compliment all this stuff.

Well we are plugging along here and for the most part happy with what we are doing. We second guess ourselves often but then we have a cerveza and say to each other….everything is great! Two more months and we will be bringing in the furniture...OMG!!! That will fly by before we know it! Gotta go! Got things to do!

BTW...Did you know there are 58,903,685 shades of white paint??? O.K. I exaggerate, but try to pick an off white paint color!! Do you want one that has tan tones, pink tones, yellow tones, brown tones, beige tones, azure tones...well you understand my dilemma...today I am off to the paint store...

Monday, August 2, 2010

Marvelously Memorable Mexican Meals

In my opinion there are three things that can contribute to a memorable meal. There is the food of course; there are the people who share the food, and then there is the environment in which these people enjoy their meal.

In the last week Maurice and I have had two such memorable meals. The first one occurred 5 days ago. We were invited for a “surprise” dinner at Keith and Sharon’s house. Now surprise can mean many things. It can be defined as a surprise because of the food that is served, or because there is a surprise guest, pet, musician, specialty costumes...well you get the idea. Our surprise far surpassed any of the things we could have imagined. When we got to Keith and Sharon’s we looked out their front window, and there on the beach, all alone, with no one around, sat a table, umbrella and four chairs.
Since they live a mile up the beach from us, we share the same isolated stretch of playa. This evening, like always, the beach was totally empty…. except for our table and chairs. Down we all excitedly scurried, to dine, on a lovely lace table cloth, and to enjoy our first ever, dinner on the beach!! Maurice and I had talked about doing this, but we never had. Our friends gave us a wonderful surprise! The evening was spectacular and the sunset was perfect. Talk about living a dream. When we have guests at Arriba de la Roca we will certainly have to offer a special evening like this. There is nothing like dining on an isolated beach, sipping wine with good friends and watching the sun set over the Pacific Ocean. Nothing at all!

Marvelously Memorable Mexican Meals, part two, occurred on Saturday, when we had our next surprise. Our guys work here Tuesday through Saturday. On Saturday they usually quit about 3 so they can start the hour or more drive back to their homes. While I was out watering the palms on Saturday...our first REALLY REALLY hot day, a couple of the guys were whistling and motioning something. I yelled to Maurice that I thought they need more water pumped up since they are making a lot of cement for our terracing. When he came and saw them he decided they needed him to come up there...so he went. 10 minutes later he returned down to me and told me to grab my camera, they had a surprise.

One of the local fishermen had caught a rooster fish. It was huge! It was easily 5 feet long. Everyone was so excited it was almost like they had caught it themselves! They told Maurice the fisherman wanted 300 pesos for it, which is about $24. Maurice asked, “And what am I going to do with that???!!” So the guys said they would cook it on the spot. They proceeded to make a shopping list and sent him to the store while I finished watering the palms.

The list, which I will translate as best I can, was:

1 kilo limes FYI Kilo = 2.2 lbs
1 ½ kilo tomatoes
1/2 kilo poblano pepper
1 kilo onion
1 bote salt
2 pimentos
½ kilo ham
½ kilo cheese
2 latas of mushrooms
1 bote soy sauce
½ kilo hot peppers
2 rolls of aluminum foil
2 bags oregano
4 pound of butter
4 bags of charcoal
4 kilo of tortillas

With the exception of the foil,used to wrap the fish, the charcoal and the tortilla’s which were eaten with the fish, all the ingredients were used to stuff this huge rooster fish. It was then wrapped in foil, surrounded by re-bar and wire- kind of like a cage, and placed on top of blocks and cooked for ½ hour on each side.

The pictures tell the stories of our marvelously memorable Mexican meals. The workers did not leave until 5 on Saturday. Maurice even bought beer which was a first. It was a grand day. The left over fish, of which there was very little, was taken to someone’s house, to make soup we thought, and everyone left feeling like we all shared a very special meal together.

This is a picture of where the fishermen fish from. This photo is taken from our cliff, where the fish was being cooked. If you look at the top left corner of the picture, where the top of the ridge is, and follow the ridge down you will see a large rock in the water, after this there is a smaller rock and then a smaller one yet. If you zoom in, and cut across from this smaller rock to the base of the ridge you will see fishermen fishing. They climb all the way down the cliff to fish here. It happens daily and we love watching it. I am sure the locals have been fishing from beneath Arriba de la Roca for decades. You will all love watching it happen. Maybe we will get lucky and be able to cook a rooster fish, over some concrete blocks, for you when you are here.