Being that I’m away from Mazatlán for a while I rely on my security system to keep an eye on my little apartment. I have two types of cameras monitoring the apartment – a Blink camera outside my entry and one on the roof. Inside the apartment I have a Canary Pro.
The reason for two systems is that I preferred the options of the Blink system for the outdoor cameras, and those of the Canary Pro for indoors. In addition to a camera, the Canary Pro tells me the air quality, temperature, humidity, and also has a microphone/speaker in case I needed to use it to speak with someone in the apartment. Note that the newer Blink cameras also have microphones/speakers so communication is available with them as well. I have the older mute model!
I have the camera on the roof because the previous owner of my apartment told me that he had trouble with roof jumpers stealing the lid to the tinaco. His solution was to screw the lid into place – which has worked pretty well. I have the Blink camera pointed at the tinaco to catch both the lid stealing roof jumpers, and my petty neighbor who thinks it’s great fun for him to turn off the water to my tinaco. I’ve caught him doing it once but didn’t say anything as that would let him know the camera is there. One day he might do something worse, and I’d like to have a recording of it.
The Blink cameras are small, weatherproof, run on batteries (which last a good year), and have excellent resolution.
Both of the systems work with Amazon Echo, and have apps for iPhone and Android. I recently purchased an Amazon Echo Show, and am impressed with the ability to see each of my cameras in Mazatlán with a simple voice command.
All of the cameras require an internet connection, and the Blink cameras require a hub. The Blink hub also requires an electrical outlet, as does the Canary Pro, so placement of each will be limited to areas where you have power.
I’ve had these systems for a few years now, and am extremely happy with them. Occasionally the Canary Pro will believe I’m away and will then send me alerts saying it has detected someone – but other than that it’s been reliable and worry free. The Blink is prone to activate when it rains hard, so I just temporarily disable them during the downpours in summer.
If you’re interested, here are links to each product. These are direct links – I don’t get a kickback if you buy!
I can now cross off one trip down the Pacific Coast of México! I started in Mazatlán, so I still have the coastal cities in Baja California and Baja California Sur plus those along the Sea of Cortez. I also didn’t hit Huatulco or Salina Cruz, so I didn’t go all the way to the southern border. I’ll leave those for another adventure!
Started the trip in Mazatlán and rode a bus to Puerto Vallarta. I’ve been going to Puerto Vallarta for 10 years now, so I didn’t take too many pictures. And this trip I played it lazy and stayed around the hotel. I own a timeshare week at the Lindo Mar, which is in Conchas Chinas – South of Puerto Vallarta proper. Just a few minute cab ride to get to town, but far enough out to enjoy a little peace and quiet. They also have deadly margaritas which they offer at half off during their two daily happy hours! It was a nice relaxing week.
The week came to a close all too quickly, and I was off on another bus to Manzanillo! This was my first time in Manzanillo and I found it to be very nice. Quiet, not a lot of tourists, and VERY dusty. I’m talking REALLY dusty. Not swirling dust devils in the streets, but the kind that gets under doors and windows and keeps you just a little gritty all the time. And all through this trip, the weather hovered between 80 f. and 90 f., with a ‘feels like’ of 10 degrees more. October/November is supposed to be the time of year the coast cools down. Someone forgot to flip the switch this year! Manzanillo was a nice area, but I think I may not have found the nice beaches. I did have some really good food though! Would I go back? Maybe, but it wouldn’t be first on my list.
Hopped on another bus and made my way to Zihuatanejo. I had never been there either – but here I would go back to. Very pretty. Big enough for some nice restaurants, small enough to be quaint. I think they get too many tourists though because the prices were Puerto Vallarta high. Reasonable if you’re used to the USA/Canada, but not really if you live in Mazatlán. Still, it is very pretty here and there are always lower cost options if you wander from the tourist areas. I did a little, but not much. I did do a little happy dance when I found a restaurant that specialized in chamorros (pork knuckle)!
And now it’s time for … another bus! I’ll say that the long haul buses in México are typically very nice. More room than an airplane, and considerably less expensive. If you have an INAPAM/INSEN card, you can routinely get a half price ticket too. The thing to watch for is the air conditioning. Some bus drivers like to blast it – so I always bring a blanket with me and am sure to wear jeans and a warm shirt.
Acapulco is the next stop, and has replaced Puerto Vallarta as my favorite vacation destination. Don’t get me wrong, Puerto Vallarta is a great place to vacation – but Acapulco has the mystique of the 50’s / 60’s jet setters and Rat Pack gang. Plus there are some amazing beaches (Barra de Coyuca), as well as the cliff divers I remember seeing featured on the 1968 Olympics and subsequent Wide World of Sports intros. I have a timeshare in South Lake Tahoe where I get a week every other year – and if I trade it for Acapulco, I can get a week EVERY year. That works for me! I’ve been to Acapulco twice now, and stayed both times at the Playa Suites. Directly across the street is a really good (price and quality) taco place that has four tasty tacos al pastor con queso for 65 pesos. Not bad for a prime tourist area spot! I noticed this year that they’ve banned the horses for the horse drawn carriages. Instead, they have these little ATV looking things pulling them. Not nearly as fun, but then the horses aren’t working on hot streets.
I’ve wanted to visit Puerto Escondido for a while now. I like surfing, and this is one spot in México famous for it. Well, I should say I like to watch surfing! My balance isn’t what it was, and when it was what it was, it wasn’t all that good! Still fun to watch, and I realized that everyone is telling the truth when they say Oaxaca has the best food in México. Don’t tell Mazatlán! Even the little places on the unpaved roads had amazing food! And not out of line price-wise. There were some palapas on the beach that charged $300 pesos (~$15 usd) to sit at, but it applied to food and drink. Not bad for four hours of wave watching, cerveza drinking, and botana consumption! This was the only leg of my trip I grabbed a plane, and ONLY because the bus line bumped my departure time forward by 12 hours. I would have arrived at 1 am, missed out on an evening in town, and then had to sit and wait for my hostel to open. No thanks. I popped for the flight!
At the end of my stay I hopped on a plane and flew to Seattle, with a 5 hour stop in Guadalajara. I learned a good lesson there – do not relax in the waiting area and nap for a few minutes if you have left items on a nearby seat – even if there’s no one around! I’d purchased a couple of things in the airport, and sat the bag and my baseball cap on a seat. When I looked around I saw a charging station just a few seats away, moved over to it with my backpack (but not the bag/cap), then closed my eyes for a moment and when I woke up, the cap and bag were gone! I really didn’t mean to nap, but it’d been a long day. Security got involved, and then a woman who had been sitting nearby told the guard that she saw the cleaning crew throw my stuff in the garbage! Just as my flight was boarding, another security guard ran up with my bag and a now wet cap (I didn’t ask, but one of the first things I did when I got to Seattle was wash it)!
I think I counted my trip as 26 days. It certainly feels like I’ve been away from Mazatlán for at least that! Hopefully I can take care of winterizing the house in Seattle and doing a few errands and get back home soon!
And before I end, I will address the Covid-19 situation as I saw it. First, the buses weren’t full, and everyone was wearing their masks. While I’m sure they don’t have hepa filters like the airlines say they do, I felt it was pretty low risk. Every bus terminal had someone taking temperatures and sanitizer gel was widely available. Same at the airports – but they went one step further and required you log into a government health website and answer a questionnaire. The website for one of the bus companies said they wanted that too – but then never asked for the proof.
All of the people working in the restaurants, hotels, shops, etc. were wearing masks. In Mazatlán, Zihuatanejo, and Manzanillo between 50 and 60 percent of the tourists and locals out and about were wearing masks properly and social distancing. In Puerto Vallarta and Puerto Escondido I’d say MAYBE 10 percent were. It was the reason I stayed at my timeshare in Puerto Vallarta most of the time. Surprisingly, in Acapulco at least 90 percent were doing the right thing! I saw a handful of people without masks – otherwise, if they weren’t eating/drinking or swimming – they had masks, and were wearing them properly! Just reinforced my decision to move Acapulco up to ‘favorite’ vacation spot!
And now back to your regularly scheduled programming! I’m quarantining myself for 2 weeks. Made one quick run to the grocery store, and to pick up license tabs for my car … but I have the bulk of the groceries being delivered next week, and don’t plan on going anywhere. Honestly, I can use the vacation from the vacation!
Recently there have been two things I’ve learned that have surprised me.
The first is “b de burro ó v de vaca”. Evidently all of my Spanish teachers have neglected to tell me that ‘b’ and ‘v’ are pronounced exactly the same (with the ‘b’ sound). They even have a little saying about it, “b de burro ó v de vaca”! Dropping the ‘v’ sound at this stage is going to be difficult, but I’ll work on it! Honestly Spanish teachers, you can’t just say this?
The second is more concerning. I’ve been told off by someone who refused to believe her nose is connected to her lungs. She’s putting travel videos out on youtube and never wears her mask over her nose. When I asked her about it I got pounced on from all sides. From someone who took basic anatomy, let me remind everyone – your nose IS connected to your lungs, just like your mouth is. You might as well just throw your mask in the trash if you aren’t going to wear it properly. No, you aren’t only spreading any virus you may have only when you cough or sneeze. If you want proof – put on a pair of glasses and don’t seal your mask properly. See the fog on your glasses? I rest my case.
Then today I had posted about seeing only 10-15% of people walking the malecón in Puerto Vallarta wearing masks. Two people asked me, quite seriously, why people outside would need to be wearing a mask. This is exactly the reason we’re still dealing with this! You wear a mask because you can’t always be 6 or more feet from everyone else. Turn a corner – someone’s there. Kids run around you. Someone walks out of a store you’re passing. It’s unavoidable. You wear a mask any time there are other people in the same area. It’s courtesy AND safety. And the scientists are still undecided if 6 feet is enough. Just do it and maybe we can get through this a little faster.
On a lighter note, everyone on my bus from Mazatlán to Puerto Vallarta was wearing a mask. Most, but not all, of the staff at the bus station were – but it looked like they were all issued masks just a little too big for them. They were all constantly repositioning them. The overnight bus was a tad faster, but there wasn’t a stop for burritos. That part was sad. Being too dark to see the twists and turns on a road with no shoulders was not sad!
Here’s a picture of the cove at my timeshare in Puerto Vallarta! Enjoy!
Growing up in the 1960’s, we did what many other families in the USA at that time did, and took summer vacations by car. Every other year we would travel to my parent’s family homes in Birmingham, Alabama and Storm Lake, Iowa – using a different route each time and stopping at the national parks, landmarks, oddities, etc. that we encountered along the way. We stayed at Holiday Inns along the way because my sister insisted on a motel with a pool, and they always had one. In all the trips we made, we hit most of the States. New England States and Florida were about the only places we didn’t drive through at one time or another.
Being in the South, and having a father FROM the South, I was introduced to BBQ at an early age. I’m not talking two hour roasted brisket that was basted with sauce. Oh no, this was the real deal where the meat was slow cooked in a pit – sauce applied only when serving. And pulled pork sandwiches had to have slaw. It’s a Birmingham, or maybe just a Bob Sykes BBQ, thing (https://bobsykes.com/).
In the following years, I explored a lot of the United States – by car, plane, and train. I’ve tried BBQ in many locations with pork, beef, and chicken. During my years in Seattle, I found a total of ONE good BBQ joint – Manna Smoked BBQ on Holman Road and Greenwood Ave.
Here in Mazatlán there was a BBQ place where, I think, La Traditional de Olas Altas (https://www.facebook.com/LaTradicionaldeOlasAltas) is now. It was there four or five years ago. I went once with some friends. The food was ok, but nothing to write home about and two of my party got sick later that night. We didn’t go back, and the place closed shortly afterwards.
Rub BBQ delivers. To Centro. To my apartment. Yes, sireeeee. And my google translated messenger missives and their attempt at a little English actually worked and I got what I ordered and in only 35 minutes! One chamorro ahumado. One Rub Burger. Two sides of chorizo. I wanted to try a variety, as well as the chamorro. It was a lot of food so I didn’t order a side of ribs (if I’m translating correctly, it appears they have beef ribs as well as pork). Here’s what I got …
The meat has a lighter smoke than I prefer, but you can taste it and it’s flavorful. The sausages are meaty, no gristle, and at 20 pesos each – are a bargain. The chamorro – three hours I didn’t have to cook! While I prefer MY chamorros, these are a close second. And I didn’t have to cook it three hours! The star of the show however, is the Rub Burger. There’s a ton of meat in there! Along with onion rings! And the meat appears to be a mix of rib meat, chorizo, and maybe even some chamorro! I thought it was pulled pork – but it’s not. And that’s not a bad thing! I will say, if they had slaw to put on it, it would have almost been perfect! Do be careful when eating the burger as I found a rib bone in mine. Their BBQ sauce is about the same flavor profile as KC Masterpiece. Not a bad commercial sauce at all. And while the papas were a tad limp by the time they arrived, they were really tasty. The corn isn’t the typical white corn with no flavor. It wasn’t inherently very sweet, but I think they boiled it in sugar water – which helped a lot! Bottom line is a solid 7.5 or 8 out of 10. A little more smoke and some slaw and they’d definitely get a 9. A vinegar based BBQ sauce and they’d get a 10 from me! I started eating around 5 pm, and I’m not sick now at 11 pm – so I think they passed the quality check!
Here’s a copy of their current menu. Expect it to have changed if you’re reading this post several months/years down the road! Give them a shout and give them a try!
The countdown is on. Three days until I break my ‘Quédate en Casa’ (stay at home) and venture out into the world again. I’m feeling a little conflicted about doing it, but it’s either go stir crazy in the apartment and lose a chunk of $$$ from not using my timeshares, or venture out for a month and practice my social distancing and hand washing!
So I’ll be riding the bus system from Mazatlán to Puerto Vallarta, where I’ll be at my timeshare for a week. Then I’m off on another bus just a bit down the coast to Manzanillo. I’ll be staying a couple of days in a hostel where I booked a private room. Then another bus to Zihuatanejo for a few more days in a private room at a hostel. Next I’ll be at a timeshare room in Acapulco for a week. Then off to Puerto Escondido for a few more days, again in a private room at a hostel. After that, I’m off to Seattle where I swear I’m going to work on getting my house sold! Realistically, I’m expecting to be away from Mazatlán until March or so.
I used Amazon.com.mx to stock up on some KN-95 (they meet Chinese medical specs, not USA) masks which I’ll use on the trip. I’ll admit, they fit better and are much less steamy than my fabric ones.
Other than the exposure on the buses (my biggest concern), I’ll be sticking to my usual travel routine of a lot of walking around very few people. I’ll make sure I eat in open air restaurants, and find a beach chair off, away from the other people.
Speaking of the buses, it appears some of them (all of them?) are doing the health questionnaire like the airlines are. There’s a form online, but it doesn’t work, so I downloaded it as a pdf and just filled in one for each bus I’ll be taking. They want to know where you’ve been in the 14 days prior, and if you’re feeling ill.
Tonight we had a typical summer thunderstorm. Lightning, thunder, and poured down rain. I’m sure the usual streets flooded! And it lasted for a little over an hour! Not too many of these during our summer this year, so it was nice to have one before I leave!
Ok, in parting I’ll give you two of my favorite sources of México news. First is Flipboard. They have a ‘México’ option for a tab, and pull a wide variety of news stories pertaining to México. Next is ‘Mexico News Daily’ (https://mexiconewsdaily.com/). This is the one ‘newspaper’ that I pay to read. The mix of fluff to hard news is about 50/50 – and they don’t shy away from commenting on political items, or hiding the cartel activity.
Wish me luck on a successful exploration of México’s Pacific Coast without any problems!
After watching most of the US Presidential debates last night on television, I required a beach day! I again walked to the Embarcadero Playa Sur, so I could social distance. I went at 9:30 am, and was one of three passengers on the panga going over and the only one coming back. Hand sanitizer applied after I got off the boat. I was the ONLY customer at Lety’s from 9:45 am until 11:45 am, if you don’t count the flies that are always an issue in summer!
It was a beautiful day on La Isla de la Piedra. My weather app said it was 93 f. when I left, and “feels like” was over 100 f. It was HOT, but there was a very nice breeze on the beach and the water was just a tad cooler than bath water.
There were a few dozen people on the beach by the time I left, but I think about a third of them were vendors. Summer national tourists are definitely gone; and the people working remotely, and with kids learning over Zoom haven’t yet figured out they could be doing it from a Mazatlán beach! All of the vendors I saw were wearing masks, but virtually none of the tourists were. It was concerning. On the way over to La Isla de la Piedra, my panga captain told one of the other two passengers that she needed to put her mask on (she did, no questions or complaints).
If you’re going stir crazy, I would say that a trip to La Isla de la Piedra would probably be pretty low risk, covid-19 wise. And the vendors would love to see you. If you go early and leave early you will avoid any potential crowds and still have a few hours to sit back, relax, and enjoy the surf.
Here’s a little reminder of what La Isla de la Piedra looks like …
I’ve had comments that I’m never in any of my photos – hence the last image! And the chickens just continue to confound me. That street is fairly busy, and yet they don’t become dinner! Every time I walk past that house, they’re still alive and clucking!
To keep you entertained while you’re trying to stay home as much as possible, I previously posted several television series that I thought were especially good. Well, Netflix has recently added some more and they are visually stunning, the content is informative and fun, and they’re about my favorite thing (yes, traveling is my second favorite thing) – FOOD!
Taco Chronicles, Season 2 : Dear baby jicama, you’ve done it again! Tears fill my eyes as my belly aches for a late night taco suadero, or a taco de birria con un vaso de jugo! Please, baby jicama, take my hand and lead me to a taqueria! Fortunately for me, I have several places that deliver 🙂 The tacos de birria at El Mono are excellent and they’re only a few blocks from me. The only sadness is that they close early! Audio in Spanish with English subtitles.
Street Food, Asia : The producers of the Street Food series (as well as Taco Chronicles) are video story telling gods. They have the ability to combine the storytelling of ‘Humans of New York’ with stunning videography, amazing locations, and food you swear you can almost smell through your screen. These mini-documentaries will not only feed your craving for food ideas, but your connection with humanity as well.
Street Food, Latin America : Take your love of Méxican food and expand it! Even if you don’t like documentaries – watch this series. Even if food isn’t your passion – watch this series. I’m not joking when I say all of these are simply stunning. There’s something for everyone in each episode. Laughter, heartbreak, and a ton of hard work and sweat – watch as their stories are told and your eyes are filled with incredible landscapes and foods that will never see the light of a diet.
Ok, there you have it! Each mini-series is long enough to cover a lot of ground, but not take a lot of time to watch. I will say though, they’re highly addicting and you might end up binge watching a whole series in a weekend! And even better is that if you’re dieting you won’t gain a single pound!!!!! Enjoy! Wash your hands! Wear your mask (properly)! Social Distance! Eat street food!
I’ve spoken to a few people about the train, El Chepe. Most tell me that a trip is on their bucket list. Some tell me that they’ve never heard of it. Very few have ridden the train. So here’s a little information from my experience (next video by mexicodesconocido) …
In June of 2017 I took a trip on El Chepe. When I took my trip, El Chepe was travelling from Los Mochis, Sinaloa to Chihuahua, Chihuahua. It appears from their website (https://chepe.mx/) that they are now only going as far as Creel, and not Chihuahua. Hopefully this is just a temporary change as Chihuahua was a nice city and allowed me to just do a one way trip. I started by flying to El Paso, then taking a bus to Chihuahua. You can do the same thing, and then take a bus from Chihuahua to Creel – but it wouldn’t be as fun!
México’s version of the USA’s Grand Canyon, Las Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon) is four times bigger. And it’s greener! And it has an adventure park! And hotels on the rim! AND it has the last passenger train in México to take you there! There’s even a new class of travel that’s pretty swanky! Ok … let me tell you a little about my stops.
Creel, Chihuahua – a fun little mountain town. There are several attractions here that you would consider when deciding where you wanted to stop on your journey. I stayed here for two days and saw the Valle de los Monjes (Valley of the Monks), Lago Arareko (Lake Arareko), and La Cascada de Cusarare (Cusarare Falls). I missed seeing Basaseachi Falls, but I need to have something for the next trip, don’t I! The stone formations in the Valley of the Monks were spectacular! Here’s a little video (by Postandfly) to give you an idea:
Divisadero, Chihuahua – This is where the best views of the canyon are, and also where the adventure park is! There are two not so cheap hotels on the rim of the canyon. The Hotel Mirador has balconies overlooking the canyon, while the Hotel Barrancas del Cobre requires you to leave your room and take a dozen steps. I stayed in the Hotel Barrancas del Cobre. It was rustic, and they serve meals on a set schedule. When the train is in (just up the walkway), there are food vendors galore on the platform. Do yourself a favor and stock up with something to snack on later! The adventure park has several activities. There’s a Zip Rider where you sit in a harness; there’s a 7 segment zip line with 2 LONG suspension bridges; a gondola; and there’s a rock climbing/hiking option. They also have a restaurant with a section of the floor made of glass (put the booties on first)! Here’s a good YouTube video from The Way We Saw It …
El Fuerte, Sinaloa – There’s not a whole lot to do in El Fuerte, but it was a nice stop. The Posada del Hidalgo Hotel is very nice (the steep stone walkway is VERY slippery when wet – be advised to go around the corner, up the hill, and enter from the side). They tout the hotel as being the home of el Zorro – fact, or fiction? Lol. They say they have a little el Zorro show in the evenings, but sadly they weren’t doing them when I was there. Street food in El Fuerte, around the hotel, is excellent. Be sure not to miss getting a bowl of birria de chivo! Oh, and the name of the town, El Fuerte, means The Fort. There’s a fort you can visit – it’s right across the street from the hotel I stayed in.
Los Mochis, Sinaloa – This is the end of the line for El Chepe. I used the time to get a little sleep before getting a taxi to the bus station for the ride to Mazatlán. There are several things to see in Los Mochis – next time I’ll stay longer and explore!
I highly recommend that you take this trip. If it’s on your bucket list, just do it and cross it off! With the new Clase Premera option on the train, you should have a very nice trip indeed. And the views of Copper Canyon from Divisadero are just amazing. You can book a tour (talk to Christian with Mazatlán Open Air (https://www.facebook.com/openaircab) or save a few dollars and do it on your own. Either way, it’s a great experience! I know I’ll be doing it again!
The time is drawing near for elections in the United States of America. Please take a moment to verify you are registered to vote in your home state, and request an absentee ballot if you need one. Some states have their voter’s pamphlet online now – so give that a look to see what measures and offices you’ll be voting for.
And if you need assistance finding your state’s voters information website – pop over to vote.org and look it up!
I think I’m done with las changueras (shrimp ladies). Most of the year their product is frozen anyway, and even if I get to them in late morning I find I HAVE to cook the shrimp that day, or toss it out. I’m originally from the Pacific Northwest. We don’t have fresh shrimp – but we do know our seafood. When their shrimp is still cold in their big tubs it looks/smells fine – but the minute it warms up, plan on a stinky apartment! And that’s not how fresh shrimp should introduce themselves to your place.
There’s a shop down on Avenida Emilio Barragán near the Jumapam office and the embarcadero to La Isla de la Piedra (the embarcadero to get you to the town on Stone Island, not the tourist embarcadero) that doesn’t thaw their product and let it sit out for hours/days(?). Of course, they’re more expensive than the shrimp ladies, and not nearly as fun, AND I have to walk through La Ciudad Perdida (the lost city) to get there – but I’m going to say adios to the shrimp ladies and either just buy at the mercado or make the trek through the lost city.
The reason for my latest shrimp purchase is that I’ve been wanting a shrimp chile relleno for a long time. I can’t seem to find them anywhere so making my own appears to be my only option. If you’re from North of the Border you likely think all rellenos are stuffed with cheese and that’s it. Oh no! How boring! You can put whatever you want inside your relleno, and believe me – you’ll be doing the happy dance of relleno delight!
So three poblano peppers – roasted and peeled, then dried as well as I could get them. Slit made and the seeds removed. Rice cooked. Cheese grated. Shrimp steamed. Méxican salsa (onion, jalapeño, tomato) made – no cilantro, I didn’t have any. Flour, salt, pepper, and finally – two eggs. Used the last of my oil to put a shallow layer in my skillet.
Season the flour and dredge the peppers. Stuff with a mixture of the shrimp, rice, cheese, and salsa. Close the peppers with toothpicks. Whip up the eggs and dip the flour coated peppers into the egg to coat (spoon some on top) and then place in the skillet to cook. Flip when done and cook on the other side. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.
I enjoyed mine with just some additional salsa, but you can make a salsa roja, salsa verde, or even molé! So many ways to enjoy. And don’t waste the leftover egg – when you’re done frying the chile’s, throw the remaining egg mixture into the skillet and make yourself a little shrimp egg roll!