Friday, May 29, 2009

Payson, AZ, the Grand Canyon and Bright Angel Trail

May 29, 2009

We decided to leave Tucson for a quick trip to the Grand Canyon. On the way we stopped for the night in Payson, AZ. That part of Arizona is where the high desert and the forest meet. They call it the Rim Country because of the beautiful rock formation of the high plateau. The weather was cool so we decided to camp at Payson RV Campground. One strange thing about Payson in the 24/7 Elvis radio station. I mean, Elvis' music is good but not 24/7 good.

The next morning we headed for the GC not knowing if we would get a campsite inside the park. We shouldn't have worried because it was not as busy as we've seen it in the past. The main reason we traveled to the GC was to hike the Bright Angel Trail.

Anyone who has done that hike knows it is tough. We hike the 4.6 miles, 3,000 ft elevation change, down to Indian Gardens campground and had breakfast (yogurt & bananas) then hike back up to the top. We lucked out this time with cloud cover. It can get brutally hot down in the canyon and make the trip back up almost unbearable. We were at the trailhead at 5am. It took us 2 hours to hike down, then a 20 minute breakfast, then 2 hours 40 minutes to the top. Much better than last time.

I wanted to get my revenge on the trail. In 1992 we hiked the BA Trail and it almost killed me. Pat handled it well, but it was very hot and I struggled the last couple of miles. When we finished we headed for the McDonalds where I happily paid $3 for ice cream cone. I would've paid a $100. I slept for the rest of the day.

Looking down on to the Bright Angel trail.

We have been to the GC 4 times and each time we can't believe how breathtaking it is.

Sunrise in the canyon.

Pictures can never do the Canyon justice, to experience it's enormity and beauty you have to see it for yourself.

We staying are in Flagstaff tonight. Technology is wonderful. We pull into a town and find a coffee shop and internet connection...then I use Priceline or some other website to book a hotel room cheap...we put the address into our GPS...then a few minutes later pull up to the hotel and get our room.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Back in the States

May 25, 2009

San Carlos, Sonora has mostly American boating community.

We crossed into Arizona at the Nogales, Mexico frontera on May 23rd but we actually felt that we were in the USA at least 450 miles south of the border. It is amazing how the United States culture has spread into Mexico. Culiacan and San Carlos are like any American town. In fact there were many more foreigners in San Carlos than native Mexicans. The price of food and lodging were increasing accordingly the closer we got to the border. Restaurants were even charging sales tax on the bills. We never saw tax charged in southern Mexico.

This sign was posted along the Mexican hwy, the hassle zone began just inside the US.

Of course we were searched by US Customs. I thought it interesting that as we were being searched, car after car of Mexicans were streaming into the US. I guess we looked like big time drug dealers. These customs guys were not a very happy group. Apparently they didn't care for their line of profession much. On the other hand, the Mexican customs were pretty much non- existent. We checked the van out of Mexico with no problem but when it came time to turn in our tourist visas there was no one there. We found out later that this is not unusual at the Nogales border crossing. Now we have to find a way to let the Mexicans know that we have indeed left their wonderful ends up being more difficult than we thought.

We made our way to the La Posada Inn in Tucson. I have stayed here many times with my golf buddies and it is still my favorite. While in Tucson we went to the Mexican Consulate to ask how we go about returning our tourist visas and they told us to drive back to the border....yeah, right...that's Mexico.......even the Mexicans have told us they are not the most efficient when it comes to government duties.

Arizona is a beautiful state and the desert is one of my favorite places to be. Even Pat is starting to like it!

Flora and fauna of the desert.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

North along the Mexican Pacific Coast.

May 20, 2009

We left Puerto Escondido Monday morning after saying goodbye to Maclovia. She is the housekeeper at Bill and Mel's house in PE where we stayed. She took very good care of us and it was sad to leave her. Pat would fix all 3 of us breakfast each morning and Mac would help Pat with her Spanish while we enjoyed the meal out at the pool.

Our goal was to make it to Puerto Vallarta ASAP since we had already traveled that part of highway 200. It took us 2 days of hard driving to go the 850 miles to Vallarta. Other than the very curvy or "sinuouso" road the only real problem was going through Acapulco. What a mess! Even with our street level GPS we got off track. After a 30 minute detour we were finally on our way.

Almost all Mexican pueblos have a central iglesia and they are the most beautiful buildings in town.

That first day we made it to Zihuatanejo just before dark and stayed in a great little hotel, Hotel Rosalinda. Well worth the $400 pesos after a 11 hour, 400 mile drive.

The next morning we were up early and on our way on the 450 mile drive to Bucerias. This town is just north of Vallarta. We easily made our way through the bustling town of Puerto Vallarta using the tunnel route which avoids the seaside road which is always a nightmare late in the day. My buddy, Jay, had showed me the way through a few years ago on a golf trip to PV. Thanks, bud.

In Bucerias we stayed at the small Hotel Cactus Inn. Bucerias has a fair-sized Gringo community and the prices reflect it. It seems the closer we get to the USA the higher the prices are.

Now we can take it a little easier on the remaing 1,000 miles to the border.

Sayulita beach.
This morning we drove through the seaside towns of Punta Mita and Sayulita. Pat and I had spent a few days in Sayulita a few years ago and it has definitely grown since then. It's not the quaint town that we once knew and after spending 30 minutes walking around the city center we were ready to move on.

Cattle rustlers slowed us down a little...pero es no problema.

We drove the 50 or so miles to San Blas, Nayarit where we found a nice room at the Hotelita Casa de las Cocadas. It is very hot and humid here so an air conditioned room was "necessitamos". We also met a beach restaurant owner, Armando, and decided to have dinner at his place on the beach. His dining room was open air palapa with sand floor and chairs, tables and hammocks. Great meal of garlic shrimp and fish tacos. Pat had a michelado and I had my usual 12 peso Corona.
The best garlic shrimp ever!

The bummer is the basketball game is not on the cable here tonight. But we'll make do.

Bruce and his new friend.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Heading north on Monday

May 15, 2009

Where's Jose? Man climbs up coconut tree 40 feet - no safety harness - to cut down the coconuts. High risk tasks are commonplace.

Our stay in Puerto Escondido (and all of Mexico for that matter) has exceeded our expectations. Mexico has so much to offer the minimalist: healthy inexpensive food, kind hardworking people, inexpensive housing, incredible vistas and a non-hurried lifestyle. On the flip side, they don't have the infrastructure the US has: consistent garbage trucks, even sidewalks, smooth roads, cheap electricity (it's 3 times higher here than in the US) and potable tap water. These are things the simpleton can adjust to rather the good outweighs the bad.

Fresh papaya, mango, canalope, bananas, and fresh squeezed orange juice every morning for Brucelee (his Mexican nickname), Mac - the housekeeper - and myself. Mac bring us the honey from her bees and mango from trees.

We do miss rich dark chocolate, sharp chedder cheese and cheap imports. All things considered, there is SO much to love about Mexico and if more Americans knew of the lifestyle that can be had here there probably would be a major migration south.

Our Visas expire in 12 days and we must head back to the US after being south of the border for 8 months. There is no doubt we'll be back.

No dress code, nino wears inner-tube.