Cosala, a “Magical Village”

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 30-12-2008

 We felt acclimated enough to Mexico to head off on our own for a new day trip, Cosala.  This is a town high up in the Sierra Madre mountains.  The drive took us up into the mountains and we were warned as we left the RV park to watch out for “people who drive like drunken NY city taxi cab drivers!” Now that’s a pretty picture!  As we drove through the small towns, little children came running out to our van selling various homemade goodies.   They were all selling the exact same thing and all pushed their way into our van window.  We bought a couple of packages of these yummy sweet treats and felt bad we didn’t buy the whole lot! 

The town of Cosala is indeed “magical” as it is filled with beautiful buildings and paved with stone.  We walked throughout the town  and had a wonderful lunch at a restaurant where we sat on the second floor, overlooking the town plaza.  The sidewalks were perched high above street level which lead us to wonder if the town gets flooded from time to time.  After a walk through the town, we all enjoyed a cool ice cream before heading back “home”.

Colonial Town of El Quelite

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 27-12-2008

The next day, we were informed of a group trek to a small historical and colonial town, about an hour from our RV park. We opted to join the caravan and were so happy we did. Andrew came with us as the girls just wanted to gel out in the RV. The RV park is like a big neighborhood and we felt safe leaving them on their own with big watch dog Hobie. The town of El Queite was as beautiful as can be. . .full of bright colored buildings, bougainvillea vines and cozy little eateries. We took a stroll around the cobblestone streets and ate at a yummy shaded little restaurant, nestled among the trees.  Andrew spotted a HUGH iguana and watched as it scurried up a big old tree.  A day well spent! 

Our trek to Mazatlan and Celestino RV park

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 26-12-2008

Our next destination was Mazatlan, a whopping 430 miles south. Ken studied various websites and it seemed we could make the trek in 7 ½ hours. So we decided to go for it and drive it in one day. This plan would have worked well except for the fact that it was the Sunday before Christmas and thousands of Mexican/Americans were heading down south for the holidays along with us. We took the toll roads whenever available and these toll plazas are plentiful. Instead of moving swiftly through these toll plazas, it took us over an HOUR at some of them due to the high volume of travelers. It was like following Santa and his sleigh full of presents from the states. Each car and truck was packed to the HILT (and I mean UP and OVER the top) with bikes, remote control cars and just about anything else they could stuff into their small spaces, living little breathing room for passengers. The lines were so long at the tolls that people were getting out of their cars to stretch and chat with people in other vehicles. It was something else!

Obviously our hopes for a 7 ½ hour trek evaporated and we found ourselves driving PAST sunset, something we really didn’t want to do. As we closed in on Mazatlan, we missed the turn for the toll road (me bad!) and headed onto the “libre” road (free road). Oh my gosh. It was like someone turned off the lights (and I mean our headlights weren’t helping much either) and put us onto a road with craters. People were freely walking across the highway and we knew we weren’t in Kansas anymore! Ken managed to make his way over to a turn lane and we did a big U turn, heading quickly back to the toll road. It was a disarming experience and we now know, first hand, why everyone tells us to stay on the toll road, at least at night!

When we hopped back on the toll road, I was a very vigilant co pilot for the rest of the way. When we finally reach KM 78 (the exit for the RV park), we were SO happy. It was so darn dark (where is that moonlight when you need it!?) and we manuvered off the DIRT off ramp, driving through the very small town of Celestino and past a very festive event.  Seemed some twin girls (we were later to find out their identities) were celebrating their 15thbirthday, a big event in Mexico. After we passed the party and turned onto the 2.3 KM dirt road to our RV park. We arrived about 8PM and we were immediately greeted by several people. They were SO friendly and helpful and we really appreciated a kind English speaking face after the 13 hour haul. They helped us get settled and we all fell asleep quickly!

When we awoke, we knew we had reached paradise. We had NO idea of our surroundings, having arrived in the dark. People from the various camp spots came out to greet us and we felt like we were home. Ken and I walked down to the beach with our coffee mugs, something which would become our morning routine. The kids were so happy to reach a beach with water warm enough to swim in. We all just laid around all day on the sand, happy to have made a safe journey to this heavenly place.

 A daily routine in the RV park was to gather at the gazebo area to watch the sunset over the ocean each evening.  The sunset was a great excuse for a happy hour and we fully embraced this new routine! The people at this RV park, many of whom are Canadians, are some of the neatest people we have ever met. . .very friendly, open and just good people. Anyone willing to make the trek and step outside their comfort zone to head south the Mexico interests us and we find all these wonderful people to be very engaging.  Many have lived in other countries, including Africa and have travelled to places such as Thailand and Panama. 

We were all quite excited about the idea of spending Christmas in Mexico.  Poohnut was concerned how Santa would find us but I assured her that, when I mailed her Christmas wish list, I informed Santa of our address for delivery.  We opened the doors of the advent calendar each night and each night the kids found a piece of chocolate.  As Christmas approached, the doors included notes with a clue where to find a little present in the RV.  It was a lot of fun. 

While we were still in the States, the kids each spent $10 of their  own money to buy little presents for the children in Mexico.  On Christmas eve day, we set out to the small town of Celestino in search for recipients of these gifts.  We found many children running throughout the dirt streets.  Our kids each wore a Santa hat and jumped out when they saw a child.  One little boy, about 4 years old, was SO happy and RAN back to show his mother.  So cute!    There were more children than presents so we came back to the RV searching for other goodies to hand out.  It was great for the kids to see that not everyone has an IPOD and that many have VERY little.  They also saw that these children were very happy, showing them that “stuff” isn’t where happiness is found. 

The kids made a beautiful gingerbread house and it was amazing they didn’t eat all the parts.  It was tempting!   We watched the Santa tracker on the internet and the kids went to sleep on Christmas eve with visions of sugar cane dancing in their heads!

We awoke Christmas morning to find the stockings filled to the brim and a big white bag outside, tied with a red ribbon.  Oh the excitement and joy!!  The unwrapping process was paced nicely as the kids each wanted to open one present at a time (unlike the mayhem of years gone by!).  They got lots of fun things, including games for their various techno gadgets and other fun stuff.

At 2PM, we all walked down to the gazebo on the beach for a Christmas pot luck.   We bought a big yummy ham in the States and Ken prepared it nicely for the potluck.  There was so many delicious dishes and the kids were in food heaven!  Nikki exclaimed, “This is the best Christmas ever!” which really warmed my heart.  This, from the girl who also speaks of moving back into a “stick house”  on a weekly basis.  Her actions speak louder than her words! 

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night! 

San Carlos

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 21-12-2008

 We visited San Carlos a couple years ago and fell in love with the town. The visit was a bit marred by Ken’s flu though (boy was he sick!).  We had rented a big house on the beach which was fun but just too much darn work to keep clean. We much prefer our 350 sq ft accommodations! When we left, we knew we just had to come back one day! Who knew at that point we would return as part of a two year RV trip!?  We sure didn’t!   

We arrived in San Carlos in time to watch the sunset, glass of wine in hand. Our RV Park, the El Mirador, was THE RV park a couple years ago and voted one of the best RV parks in Mexico. Seems a gentleman bought the property 18 months ago, with great aspirations of building condominiums. The complete down turn in the real estate market in the states has also affected Mexico and he had to put his dreams on hold due to lack of demand. The word hasn’t really gotten out that this RV park was open again so we were one of about 8 rigs in the whole park. SO nice to have that much room around us! Very relaxing.

Our camp spot was up high and we had a view of the beautiful marina. We were a short walk from a lovely cove. Ken and Andrew built the kayak and spent a day cruising around the cove and beyond. We took some great walks to the marina and up and down the beach in front of all the funky beach houses.  Lots of time spent just decompressing after a busy month and a half. 

Andrew was so excited to fish again and one morning, he caught an octopus.  This was a first!  He pulled (and peeled) it in, with the help of some of the construction workers nearby. Ken cooked it up and he and Andrew crewed away on it for lunch. Just a bit too “interesting” for the girls and me.

 

We stayed in San Carlos for a whole week which was a great introduction to the Mexican lifestyle, ours for the next 3 months.
Our next destination. . .Mazatlan!  

 

 

Border Crossing into Mexico

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 14-12-2008

We departed Tucson in the wee hours of the morning, en route for the Mexican border. The night was blustery and we didn’t sleep well, anticipating a 5AM wake up call! We all woke up quickly though and scurried about efficiently, breakfast burritos in hand.

We reached the border crossing at about 7:30AM and crossed without incident, heading to KM 21. KM21 is where everyone entering Mexico gets their tourist visas. We REALLY thought we planned well, arriving at 8AM in the morning. After all, who would be crazy enough to get up that early? Well, about 150 people are that crazy! We didn’t anticipate that all the Mexican/Americans from Arizona and California would be hitting the border for the holidays!

We entered this long line up with hopes it would move quickly and efficiently.  THREE hours later, we emerged and were back on the road, headed to San Carlos. To add to this endeavor was the fact it was a mere 50 degrees and windy. We were hoping for WARMTH when we reached Mexico but that would have to wait for our stops further south.

Ken printed these very detailed road logs for our trip from KM21 to San Carlos. One of the main reasons behind using these logs was to determine where all the “topes” were located. Topes are big speed bumps and they are commonly not marked well. Hitting one at 55 MPH in a 30,000 RV is a lot like smashing your face into a block of cement. Not fun, not fun at all! I was the copilot, informing Ken of all the twists and turns and of course, the location of each tope. We made a stop for lunch at a fabulous little outdoor taco stand (99% are outdoor) which was located in front of the prison. We picked this particular spot as it was easy to park the big rig in front. After yummy carne asada tacos and fresh coconut juice, we hopped on the “cuota” road (toll road) for our final destination for the day.

 

Back to Anthem AZ (where it all started!)

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 14-12-2008

We left El Centro CA on Highway 8, en route for the beautiful regional park near the town of Cave Creek AZ.    We were so excited to stay at this wonderful county RV park.   We have driven by this area many times  and now we got the chance to “live” there for 10 days!  You could feel the excitement mounting for the kids as we approached the area where they have so many friends.  We started off our first full day at the DENTIST of all places, not too exciting for the kids but at least we all have good clean teeth!  Later in the day, we took all the kids to the back of their school (Diamond Canyon in Anthem) and, along with Hobie, waited for the bell to ring and all the kids to come streaming out of school!  It was overwhelming, to say the least, to see so many friends ALL at once!  Andrew spent the night with good buddy, Austen,  as well as the next THREE nights as Austen was taking off for Disney World and the two of them wanted to spend as much time together as possible! 

The visit involved, for the most part, being a taxi driver to and fro Anthem, usually twice a day.  The kids loved it though and we knew they needed to reconnect with their roots!  Andrew is a mere 12 years old and has already lived in CA, IL, South America, IN, NY, AZ and is now a gypsy on the road.  With all these moves, he considers AZ to be his home town, having spent the last three years of his life there and having made so many good friends.   I think the same applies to Nikki and Lauren.  I took Lauren to the park in front of the school one day and some of her old Girl Scout buddies joined us for a play date.  It was great to sit and chat with Carolyn, Karen and Natalie and have the girls run around together again.  Lauren had a wonderful reunion with her best buddy, Natalia, and they hugged so much.  It was really adorable to see them together, after all the e-mails and calls over the last 6 months.  Lauren also spent the day with her good buddy Paityn, watching a Christmas play and just giggling together like old times.   Nikki had a great time with her good buddies Tori, Peyton and Mirah.  She wanted to spend hours with other buddies too but it just couldn’t happen, at least this time!  She did get to practice with her old soccer team one evening which was really fun!  Nikki still has good kick in her! 

One afternoon, Lauren was invited by Mrs. Olson (her second grade teacher from Diamond Canyon) to meet her class.  Mrs. Olson’s students each wrote a letter to Lauren, asking her about her favorite things.  Lauren wrote back, responding to all their questions with the most common one being, “What is your favorite kind of pizza!”  Lauren got to finally meet her penpals and the students were all SO full of questions and excited to meet her too.  It was such fun to watch Lauren command the room and to answer so many thought provoking questions!  Thanks to Mrs. Olson for making this happen! 

I also did a bit of taxi driving for my OWN sake!  I had a wonderful time with my dear friend Darcy.  Even with all the hours we spent together, I still don’t think we finished saying all the words we had stored up!  Darcy and her husband, Troy, came to our RV one night and we enjoyed chatting away while eating some yummy Thai food and sitting next to a blazing fire.  Carrie and I had a wonderful day which started with a latte at a new ritzy hotel in Scottsdale. Carrie always knows just THE place to go!!  She has an unofficial degree in tourism!  Jill and I had a wonderful morning at Cave Creek, sipping coffee and inspiring each other’s creative endeavors.   I could have stayed a few extra weeks just to spend more time with these three gals and other friends who I hold dear in AZ.   If I were to say what I miss most about travelling around in an RV, it would be time with my girlfriends!  But when I do see them along with my wonderful sister Robin, our time is so special and we really focus on reconnecting.

In an effort to see as many friends as possible in our limited time in AZ, we had a BBQ near our campground where Ken grilled up some yummy carnitas tacos and all brought accompanying dishes.  The day was warm (in comparison to the days to come) and we loved seeing so many wonderful faces!  With the holidays fast approaching, it was a challenge to see all the people we wished we could have seen.  There is always next year when we trek through AZ again en route north to Alaska!! 

On our last day, we went to our storage facility to bring a bunch of stuff we didn’t really need (REALLY thought we would have used it 6 months ago!) and to take out a few necessities for Mexico, such as the kayak and the boogie board!  It was somewhat strange to look in and see all my old “stuff”.  I felt oddly detached from it as everything I need is in my RV.  REALLY!  I didn’t think I would feel that way but alas I do!!  (Ken is thrilled as he has been a minimalist for years!)  We did a lot of shopping for food items we didn’t think we could find in Mexico and hit the road for Tucson, our final stop before entering the border on Sunday. 

We stayed at Beaudry RV’s “Resort” campground in Tucson for two nights, doing our last minute preparations for Mexico.  Ken found a FANTASTIC used book store where we all picked up some fun books and magazines for our endless days of sitting on the beach in Mexico!  The night before our departure was OH SO WINDY and we felt like we would take off into the wind like the cow in the movie “Twister”.  But we awoke with our RV in tack and hit the road for Mexico in the dark cool hours of the early morning.

“Oh, oh Mexico, seems so hot I forgot to go home. . .” la la la!  Mexico, here we come!   

Southern California

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Posted by whalerho | Posted in Uncategorized | Posted on 02-12-2008

We left Morro Bay on route to the area where both Ken and I were born and raised.  The day was warm and breezy and the sky was bright blue.  The Santa Ana winds were still dominating the weather pattern.  We feared we would not be able to take the wonderful San Marcos Pass from San Luis Obispo to Santa Barbara because of the fires earlier in the month.   Many people in the exclusive Montecito area lost there beautiful houses but the fireman worked very hard, against dry hot conditions and the fires were out when we took off on our trek.   

On our way south, we stopped at two of my favorite places.  When I was in my 20s, I visited Pea Soup Anderson’s in Buelton.  Ken also ate the fabulous soup once but can’t recall when the culinary experienced happened.  It was really fun to take the kids to Pea Soup Anderson’s as they all love soup.  It was JUST how I remember it all those years ago.  We all ordered soup and it was fantastic!!  The color of pea soup has something to be desired but the taste makes up for it! 

Next stop, Solvang, for some cookies.  Solvang is my second favorite stop along this route!  The kid’s eyes were glazed over, looking at all the different cookie options but we finally decided on a dozen and hit the road, en route for Lake Cachuma.   Ken and I have driven by Lake Cachuma all our lives but neither of us ever stopped.  It’s a beautiful lake, set among beautiful rolling hills as far as the eye can see and packed full with campers in the summer months.  We arrived and had acres of open space around our RV.  We took walks to the lake and watched the stars at night.  I can’t wait to stop here for more than a night sometime!

We arrived in Simi Valley at the home of Kurt and the boys in the early evening.  Kurt is the wonderful man who was married to my sweet sister Gretchen.  He has done a great job raising Ryan (16) Kyle and Weston (both 13) and we wish we could see them more often.  They all looked so much more mature (guess my kids must look older too!) and we had fun hanging out with them.  The next morning, we took the RV in for it’s warranty work and check up and stayed in Kurt’s house for a few nights.  It was strange not having our “house” with us!  Kurt treated us to a delicious dinner at his restaurant, Baja Grill and Cantina.  The salsa is to die for!!  Kurt has turned this restaurant into a favorite for many in his town of Wood Ranch. 

We took an afternoon to hit the mall with one of my good buddies from long ago (we worked at Taco Bell together when we were 16!) , Sandy and her (great at gymnastics and cheerleading) daughter Emma.  Nikki and Emma have formed a great bond, even though they see each other just once a year.  We had such fun chatting away at the mall and having a yummy dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.  I am so happy we have stayed friends for so many years – is it 20 years yet??! 

 We took a day to visit Ken’s mom in Los Angeles.  She is being well taken care of in a Japanese nursing home.  We wheeled her outside to the beautiful deck and the kids showed her, town by town and state by state, the pictures of our journey.  “Tun” (the kids nickname for her) lite up when the kids sat with her and stroked her hands.  They are so kind and gentle with her and I know it makes a difference for her when we are there. 

After a few days in Simi Valley and with most repairs taken care of, we headed to San Clemente in Orange County.  We used this campground as our home base to visit with my sister’s family and all friends back in Dana Point and Newport Beach.  The state campground was wonderful and had some great walking paths through the hills.  Poohnut and I took a very special mother and daughter walk one day and she talked all about things going on in that cute young brain of hers. 

On Sunday, my dear friend Julie (who I have know since I was 9 years old and we both had crushes on Bobby Sherman) brought her beau, Don, to our RV so we could met this great guy.  It was obvious that they are both very happy with each other’s company and it was great to just hang out and talk with them.  Julie and I have been through everything together and we were each other’s date for our High School Grad Night.  It was great to meet a guy who is worthy of her! 

I had a wonderful shopping day with my dear friend Beth.  Beth and I go way back as well – back 27 years!  Beth has always been one of my favorite girlfriends to shop with and shop we did.  We hit South Coast Plaza, did lunch, and just had a wonderful time being together.  It was a day very reminiscent of years gone by.  I look forward to doing it again soon! 

We planned this trip so we could celebrate Thanksgiving with my sister Robin, her husband Steve, their son Paul and my mom.  It was so great just having our house across the street to their house!  We could just pop over to change our clothes and go to sleep at night.  Convenient for all of us!  Thanksgiving dinner was SOOOOO good and Robin was the cook extraordinaire.  Everything was super yummy.  We had such a good time sitting and relaxing, enjoying being together after not seeing each other often enough.  Steve’s dad, Mac, joined us as well.  This guy is amazing.  He is 91 years old and is the SAME in all ways as when he was in his 60s.  He is so darn witty and funny and just a joy to have around.   We returned to the RV late that evening, with our tummies filled to the brim!

The next morning, we decided to join the hoards of other consumers and hit the mall!!  It was just the girls (you couldn’t pay Ken or Steve enough to go to the mall on Black Friday) and we had a blast!  Nikki has wanted to pierce her ears for many years and we decided to get it done!  It was Rob’s Christmas present to her God daughter.  Nikki convinced ME to also get my ears pierced so we both left Claire’s with “diamond” studs and feeling more girly than when we arrived. 

On Friday night, we went over to Rich and Mary’s house (Ken and Rich have been friends since High School) and enjoyed a great time with the two of them, their kids Katie and Dan and our other two friends Jeannie and “Captain Brian”.   We ate wings and jalapeno poppers.  The kids had so much fun with the Liwinski clan that Mary invited them to spend the night.  How could we refuse?!  Rob, Mom and I woke up the next day and had a really special time in Laguna Beach, just leisurely walking around this wonderful beach town.  It was oddly quiet, perhaps because of the economy? 

My nephew, Paul, just started college this year.  He is going to San Diego State.  We were so happy to get to take him back to his dorm and get to have him show us around his new digs!  Paul sat in the front seat (my “queen of the road” seat) and chatted away with Ken.  Paul is so busy these days it was great to have him hostage in our RV so we could grill his brain about his new life.  We took a tour of his dorm room (who knew they we OH SO SMALL!) and then took off for downtown San Diego for sushi!  Such fun!

That night, we camped at a very glamorous truck stop in El Centro!  Hey, it was great as we were so darn tired and we felt nicely tucked in between two giant rigs!  The next morning, in the bright warm bask of the sun we took of for Anthem Arizona, where this whole trip started! 

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