Wednesday, September 30, 2009

A Drive Down the Baja Peninsula

We're back! You didn'teven know we left didja? We took a quick trip to Oregon to visit family, go to the doc and buy a pickup to drive back down.Everything went well. Donna's brother-in-law Mike, was given a nice retirement party by his kids. My mom

celebrated her 79th birthday but I don't know if it was her first time. We had a barbecue at my sister and bro-in-law's house. All kids and most of the grandkids were there. We were missing 2 of my 3 boys, Bob and Wayne.

My 18 year old tore up a knee playing basketball and is still on crutches but we managed to have a good time together.

The weather was GREAT. Didn't rain for the week we were there. In fact, it was pretty hot a couple of days.

We started back down the Baja Monday morning, crossing the border at Tecate around 10 AM or so. I had a couple of motorcycles in the back of the pickup to deliver for a friend and some clothing articles for an orphanage just south of Santa Rosalia at the little village of San Lucas. There is a store there and the orphanage is right across the side street, on the right side of the highway..

The young man who inspected our vehicle was very efficient and cordial. He checked all the numbers on the motor bikes to make sure they matched with the documents I had. He asked me if the clothing was new or used. I knew it was a trick question but I figured I had a 50% chance of answering right so I said "used." He then told me that he couldn't allow me to carry the used articles of clothing across the border because of the flu. I then quickly said, "I meant new!" He laughed and ignored me even though I assured him that they had been washed thoroughly. After verifying that the bikes were ok, he sent us on our way but with a warning that next time, he wouldn't allow the clothes. By the way, if you take stuff like quads or bikes, always take something to prove that you have a legal right to possess the item. I met some kids once in Cabo that had their motorbike confiscated because they couldn't prove that they owned it. The police allowed them to have the documents faxed down but it was quite a time-consuming hassle.

This is the second time we have crossed at Tecate and I doubt I'll ever cross in Tijuana again. At Tecate there's less traffic and once you cross, you're in the country. I admit that driving along the coast south of Tijuana is one of the nicest drives anywhere but I really hate the traffic and delays etc associated with Tijuana. And you save like 6 bucks because you don't have to pay the tolls!! Woo Hoo!!! (I've been hanging with my friends from Monterrey again, could you tell?)

After you cross through the inspection, the road is fairly well marked; follow the signs to the highway that will take you to Ensenada. The drive down to Ensenada is pleasant. You'll pass through small villages, grape fields and wineries. There's construction on the highway between Tecate and Ensenada but they've built a nice bypass and you're not left waiting for 2 hours behind a flagman.

The road from Tecate ends at the highway to Ensenada. Turn left towards Ensenada, you'll drive for a bit before you are actually in the city. There's a marked truck route but stay on the road that says "zona touristica" or something similar. When you see that there are 3 lanes, stay in the middle lane. Take a left on Gral Agustin Sangines. Across the intersection is "Club Vegas", on the right is the navel base, you can't miss it. Stay in the right lane, watch for stop signs! There's like hidden stop signs. You'll pass the hospital IMSS, go through one light then turn right at the second light. There's a big sign at the corner that says "Soriana and Home Depot." Now you're cool. Drive south. A few minutes south will be a Costco on the left and a shopping center on the right if you need stuff or fast food. You are now on the main highway headed South.

South of Ensenada you will be passing through lots of small towns. The highway is also the main thoroughfare that the locals use. So you might creep along at 30 to 40 mph for quite a ways. Be ready for it and don't get impatient. If there's lots of locals going slow, go slow with them. There's a couple of places that have "speed trap" written all over them. There's another place south of Ensenda that also has road construction and a bypass road. The locals if they're in a hurry, will try and pass you in the dust, on a corner, wherever. Let 'em pass. Just make sure and give yourself enough space in front that they can squeeze back in when a Metro bus appears suddenly in the dust cloud.

When we drove through the wine country at Santo Tomas, there was a pretty good smoke cloud that looked like a brush fire in the hills behind the L.A. Cetto vineyard. I don't think it was threatening any homes; we didn't see any emergency equipment.

You don't have to worry about gasoline until you get to el Rosario. Fill up there just before Mama Espinoza's restaurant. From there, the next gas stop is at Cataviña but it's not a Pemex; it's a guy with 5 gallon cans of gas and you'll pay dearly if you forget to gas up in el Rosario. It's a good photo op though. After Cataviña, the next gas is just a few miles before Guerrero Negro.

Before we tavel on to Guerrero Negro, I want to mention Doña Anita Grosso de Espinoza: "Mama" Espinoza. I only met her once but I know from the old Baja rats that have traveled the peninsula for decades that she is a very special lady. Before you go, do a web search on "Mama Espinoza." You'll be amazed at the references to her. She was born around 1908 or so, opened the restaurant in the 30's and has entertained guests since. I didn't see her this trip and honestly don't know if she has passed on or not. By the way, the restaurant has good food and I normally stop there to eat. There's a hotel next door that has wireless internet.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

How to Learn Spanish

I hate to beat this to death but I can’t believe I spent almost a quarter century in Alaska freezing every winter: wearing fuzzy boots and earmuffs, fishing through a little hole in the ice and running around in short sleeves when it warmed clear up to -20. I’m still not used to the idea that I can walk around in shorts and a loud flowery shirt here in Baja Sur almost every day of the year. It seems like such a huge change of lifestyle but as I told you in an earlier post, there are a lot of similarities: Both states are tourist destinations that are famous for their fishing, both are remotely located in relation to their parent countries, both were settled early on by missionaries, both were whaling destinations and the list goes on. Both are still “frontier living” no matter how you slice it. Oh, and did I mention the futility of expecting an Alaskan OR a Mexican to arrive anywhere on time?

I guess it’s because of the similarities that I adapted so quickly to life here on the Baja. That plus I already knew all the drills. We used to have the same conversations back in Alaska. “Hey ya wanna go fishing this weekend? The girls are all going to Anchorage to go shopping for ukuleles or something.” Here in los Cabos you simply substitute La Paz for Anchorage.

Another fact of life for us pioneers is the communication systems. Somebody will say something like, “The phone system here sucks.” I smugly reply, “You think this is bad? We had a ten party line in Alaska!” Or I hear, “I really wish we could have regular TV.” Then I start some long boring commentary about the fact that there were no live TV broadcasts in Alaska so they used to send TV to us on tape. The tapes went to Anchorage then to Fairbanks so the “daily” news was actually 2 days late. Football was 2 weeks late, and we got Christmas specials clear into March and …………..
My friends have quit complaining to me.

While the similarities are almost predictable; the differences quickly reveal themselves in the culture and language. The true locals of los Cabos who call themselves “Choyeros” have a polite, indirect and non-confrontational style that we Americans don’t appreciate. We are frequently considered rude because of our direct, get-to-the-point style and we can unknowingly cause our own trouble because of this. For example let’s say the neighbor’s dog eats all your chickens. We (American persons) would immediately confront the neighbor, stomp our feet, call the cops, demand that the dog be destroyed and sue for compensation. A Mexican person whose chickens have been killed might greet the neighbor, inquire about the health of his family and casually comment, “It seems that my chickens have tempted your poor dog beyond his ability to resist killing them. Oh and by the way, I can put fresh feathers in your pillows for a good price.”

I owned a bakery here for several years. My baker, bless his heart, understood how we Americans are. I would walk into the bakery, jump directly into my command mode and tell him that I want this and that and tomorrow he needs to do the other thing. He would listen and nod his head and when I finally wound down he would smile and say, “Fine, and you?”

Is that subtle or what?

So then I did a quick rewind and we would inquire about each others’ families back to about 4 generations, their children, grandchildren and Bessie the cow before continuing with work. It was a beautiful thing.

Language is a whole ‘nother issue. I’ve tried to learn to speak acceptable Spanish but so far haven’t really succeeded. I got desperate enough to tell my Pentecostal friend I wanted to go to church with him so I get the gift of tongues in Spanish. He said, “It doesn’t work that way” and graciously left off the “you idiot” at the end of his sentence. I’ve been here 10 years: watching my Spanish improve is like watching evolution.

On the flip side of this coin, I know Mexicans who have lived in the U.S. for a couple of years and speak great English. They say they learn by watching TV. That’s almost scary. Of course when my Mexican friends bring it to my attention, I insist that the reason they learn English more quickly is because English is much easier to learn! That always starts an argument that I ultimately lose because my Spanish isn’t good enough to argue effectively.

A good friend (Mexican, his Spanish is excellent..) finally came right out and told me to my face that my Spanish was terrible and that I needed to do something. I indignantly told him in my best whiny voice how I had taken two classes and that half of my Mexican customers and all my American customers at the café speak English to me so how could I practice more and that it’s harder for older people to learn and bla,bla,bla….. He held up his hand to stop me from continuing with any more lame excuses and said:
“Listen my friend, all you have to do is find a nice Mexican girlfriend and you will learn Spanish quickly.”

How about that?

The idea weaved around in my brain for bit while my little voice offered a running commentary: each piece of advice contradicting the last. Finally I casually mentioned my friend’s advice to my wife Donna. She got downright offended! She said, “That was a mean thing for him to say to you” and then she said, “I think your Spanish is excellent.”

Isn’t she the best………

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


There's another storm out there but it looks like it's going to go away to the West. The name made me pay attention; we had a storm named Marty about 5 years ago that was a little destructive. We'll get some more rain from this bad boy which will probably be fine. The area has turned green everywhere. What a welcome change. It's so green now that when there are rain clouds over the mountains, you can imagine that we live on a real tropical island like Hawaii.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Baja Legends

Before there were expensive hotels and 873 ways to spend money in los Cabos, the peninsula was made up of a few sleepy little fishing villages. These little towns had grown up over a few hundred years of foreign traders traveling from Europe to the Far East and back. San Jose was a major water stop for the ships returning from China and beyond and became a favorite spot for pirates and privateers to lay in wait for a prize. As the Spanish missionaries worked to spread their faith, missions were established all the way up the Baja. Whaling ships were active for several decades in the waters around the Baja peninsula but the whalers took their oil back to New England and left nothing behind. The pearl industry changed La Paz into a small city but after the pearls were gone, the city became quiet for many years.

Then in the 1940’s, over 400 years after the Spaniards found the Baja, things changed. Somehow a few adventurous souls (with way too much time on their hands) discovered that the Baja Peninsula had the most amazing fishing they had ever seen. Guys like Bing Crosby and John Wayne to name a couple of them. As they spent more time here the need for services became more apparent. Rustic hotels were built with landing strips that could handle small planes. Places like the Rancho Buena Vista which was started in the mid 50's. Later the money started pouring in so the rich could enjoy Baja along with the rest of us. Of course after there was money here the folks that figure out ways to get some of it followed along. That is in a nutshell how we got from there to here. We've gone full circle: the pirates have returned. Read this in your best Johnny Depp pirate voice: "Take all you can get, give nothin' back. Arrrrrr"

Also during these last 70 years or so, Baja was discovered by another type of person: the Adventurer. These were the people that had no interest in financial gain from the Baja but found the land completely enchanting. There were many but one I’ll tell you about is Jimmy Smith.

I met this character at my café several years ago. There was this fellow sitting outside dressed in coveralls, sporting a handlebar mustache and smoking like each one might be his last. When I saw him I thought, “Here’s a guy with a story” and I wanted to know what it was. After introductions we started chatting aimlessly and got to know each other a bit. My instincts were correct; he was as interesting as he looked. I learned that he lived in Los Barriles and I hoped I would have another chance to hear more of his story.

It turned out that he had to visit the bank next to my Café occasionally and he would come in for coffee. I took time whenever he was there to visit and was never disappointed. As a natural course of events we told each other how we came to be in the Baja and he told me the most amazing story about how he met his wife. I won’t re-tell his story here but go HERE to read it. Even if you don’t have a single romantic bone in your body, you’ll come away wanting to propose to your wife all over again.

According to everything I know, Jimmy started traveling the Baja in 1953 on a Triumph Motorcycle. There were few actual roads back then: more like connecting trails between ranches, arroyos and wilderness. He stopped in San Ignacio for gas and rest for a few days. This turned out to be a major event in his life as he met his future bride there. (READ the STORY!!)

Later on, Jimmy started coming down in a small airplane, eventually married Guadalupe and became a resident of Baja California Sur. His exploits include finishing 2nd place in the first Baja 1000, doing “airvacs” in his bushplane and insulting Erle Stanley Gardner who was a famous author back in the day. In fact, Jimmy referred to him as FA which I assume stands for "Famous Author." I can't for the life of me imagine what else it could mean. After the "incident" it was told that "FA" was furious and refused to call Jimmy by his name instead addressing him by the nickname, "Grinning Gargoyle."

He started writing at some point and his book “The Grinning Gargoyle Spills the Beans” is a classic read. It’s full of great personal stories including the story of meeting and marrying his wife. If you can’t find a copy, contact me.

The last couple of times I saw him at the cafe, he was carrying on about an abandoned motorhome, and overdue rent and going to jail. If I can ever piece it all together, I'll post the story.

Jimmy died a few years ago but his memory lives on. I hope he wasn’t the last of his breed.

Follow these links for good reading about and by Jimmy.
Aticle by Gene Kira
This one by Gene was written after Jimmy's death
Baja Racing News article, includes The Courtship of Guadalupe
A letter from Jimmy to author Daniel Ford about Harvey Greelaw
The Buena Vista Volunteer Fire Department by Jimmy
Pelona the Cow by Jimmy

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Left-Turn Signal

Now instead of driving poorly in Alaska, I drive poorly in Baja Sur. And I LIKE it. Everybody runs stop signs. Little old ladies, 12 year old kids, cops, everybody. In fact running stop signs has evolved into an art-form. You approach a 4-way stop at regular driving speed and don't even consider hitting the brakes until you see another car already in the intersection because he rolled into it a split-second before you. I'm thinking that there may have been ice here at one time.

I got an inkling that I wasn’t driving in Kansas anymore during my first trip down the Baja Peninsula. I was stuck behind a slowpoke in a curvy section of hills and had been creeping along for several miles. I was so completely over having to follow this guy. In fact I was darned close to hyperventilating when I came around a corner and there ahead of me was a little straight stretch. In a microsecond I did the mental math and knew I could pass. The Hallelujah Chorus started playing in my head and all my frustrations were throwing each other high 5's. Just as I was mashing the gas and yelling “YEEEE HA!” the guy in front of me turned his left blinker on. Talk about your basic mood change! We're out here in the middle of Nowheresville, BCS, Mexico and this guy is turning left? I don’t see no stinking left turn. I breathed in a paper bag that I keep under the seat for such emergencies. Then I realized that since the guy was going to turn he would be out of my way. So I backed off a bit and waited for him to turn. “Why he no turn?” said my inner voice. The voice had a point. So I re-did the calculus and I realized that we were getting closer and closer to the point of no return: me not being able to pass. He didn’t turn, still didn’t turn, not turning still and I couldn't see a place for him to turn. Then: he DIDN’T TURN! Instead, He turned OFF his blinker and continued on his way.

Are you kidding me? What kind of sick joke is that? This poor guy is being followed by a crazed Americano who watches too much TV and owns guns. Dude! Are you sure you want to play road rage games??? Finally I was able to pass after a few more curves. As I passed, I saw that the driver was an ancient Mexican farmer who was concentrating on his driving so hard that I couldn’t even imagine he would do turn-signal jokes. Finally after a similar scenario replayed itself a few times while traveling south, I realized that the drivers were trying to signal me that the road was clear and probably safe to pass. Go figure. I take back all that verbal abuse and those hand signals. Please forgive me. Ok stay mad then. I said I was sorry for crying out loud.

Listen up: when they give you the left blinker, sometimes they are telling you what to do, not letting you know what they are doing. Hmmmm. Bass ackwards from what I was taught but hey, I have at least half a brain; I can learn the system. As I continued down the Baja, I checked my theory a few times and sure enough it worked.

A few years and many lessons later I was driving North towards Todos Santos just at sunset. As I came over a little rise, there was a car in front of me with the left blinker on. I went through my checklist: Left blinker on and driving on a straight stretch? Yes. Is there a car coming? Yes. This meant that maybe this was a real left turn signal or the driver was bored and wanted to see if I could avoid the ensuing head-on crash when I tried to pass. So I followed patiently for several miles. The car didn’t turn left so I decided that it was a false blinker and really didn’t mean anything. I waited until I saw a safe stretch with no oncoming traffic and started to pass. As I pulled even with the other car, the driver turned left off the highway. She was completely and blissfully unaware of my very existence as I was about to run into her car! Well at least she gave me plenty of notice, no? I hit the brakes hard and turned left with her, hoping that we could both make the turn. While my little voice was screaming, “Mo brake!!! mo brake!!!,” we exited the highway: she driving nonchalantly and I standing on the brake pedal and crying out for God to save me. After spinning a couple of circles, crashing through the dirt and cactus and a couple of fences, my car slid to a stop. I squinted through the billowing cloud of the man-made dirt storm. As I watched, the woman in the other car casually drove away into the beautiful red skies while the left blinker could still be seen glowing through the little clouds of dust that streamed from her tires. She was looking straight ahead, smiling and totally unconcerned that my poor cleaning lady was not going to be happy with the contents of my boxers.

Is there a lesson buried somewhere in this? Maybe.

If you drive in Baja California Sur, you will eventually encounter a left blinker that even the owner of the blinker doesn't know its purpose. You MUST approach every left blinker with deep suspicion and mistrust. If the car in front of you has its left blinker on, it might mean he's turning left. It may mean he wants you to pass. It could mean that he's drunk and is using his emergency flashers to warn everyone about his condition but the right blinker is burned out. What it most likely means is that Paco is tone-deaf and his wife isn’t in the car nagging him to turn it off.

So now I’m looking for an old car, something like a '59 Cadillac with those cool fins. I want to cut off the back two feet or so and hang it on the wall. I'll wire the left blinker to operate continuously.

Friends will come over and see the classic rear-end of a Cadillac on the wall and say “Hey that’s cool, but why is the left blinker on?”

“Oh that. It means the same thing as it does out on Highway One here in Baja: Absolutely nothing.”

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Dr Marvin! I scooped!! I'm a scooper!!! I scoop!!!!

Hey. I'm not braggin' but.... (If I'm not braggin' why's there a "but") I just wanted you fine folks of bloggerage to know that I got my first scoop. NOBODY carried the Palmilla fire story. You know what that means??!!! Do you understand the significance???? Actually it means that the fire story was so unimportant as to go unnoticed by everybody but me. 'sob'

Left Blinker: Prolog

I said earlier in the blog that I was going to tell you about left-turn indicators. Let me give you a little background first.

I'm an ok driver. I try to drive the way "they" drive wherever I am. I hate it but when I pass through L.A., I go just as fast as the slowest guy: 85. In Boston, they honk with the middle finger of their left hand. In Idaho, I wave at every car that passes.

What's bad is that when I DO get pulled over, I'm a lousy excuse-maker. I think I've actually improved in the area of excuses since I've been down here in the Baja but read my post titled "Give 'im FI' DOLLA"! in the August archive and make up your own mind.

Once I got stopped in Oregon for sliding through a stop sign. I saw him in the mirror and thought to myself, "Well looks like I'm getting a ticket." Then my little voice came to the rescue and said, "Jus' esplain him about driving to the ice." Hey now there's an idea. No cop in his right mind would listen to such nonsense but why not try? I pulled over, the policeman approached and asked if I had noticed the stop sign. As I handed him my Alaska license I explained, “Sorry about the stop sign sir but I’ve been driving on ice up in Alaska for years; if you come to a complete stop up there, you might not get going again until spring.” He gave me "the look" (YOU know the look? Yeah, I thought so....) for my efforts, went to his car and called in my license. When he returned he said, “I gotta let you go. I have NEVER heard that one before. It might win me the pool today".

Pool winner for the day? Heck, I bet I got overall winner for the week.

to be continued....

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Culture Clash

I love living in Baja Sur. The beaches are the best ever, the people are generally great and the pace of living suits me. I can walk out my front door almost every day of the year in shorts and flip-flops. I suppose after living in Alaska for almost a quarter century, good weather seems important to me. It's not all bougainvillea and honey though. I hit a speed bump too hard just about every day.

The locals here seem happy for the most part. I think one of the reasons is because they have developed a thought process that doesn't allow them to get bogged down in irrelevant details. They are able to hold one thought in a row for more than a few milliseconds unlike their counterparts to the North. A friend calls this ability the "linear thought process." One of the manifestations of the linear thought process is that the users of said process don't clutter up their minds with a lot of unnecessary ideas thereby avoiding needless confusion and worry.

The problem begins when users of the "non-linear thought process,” whom we call Americans, attempt to translate their non-linear thoughts to the store clerk who uses the "linear thought process." In the non-linear thought process, we Americans randomly make a lot of assumptions based on what we think of as common life experiences.

For example, my youngest son and I were waiting at the airport one day. Micah was hungry and suggested we get some nachos. I said “great idea.” Then I remembered where we were and asked him to go check the price first. I watched as he walked over to the snack counter and asked the price. He hurried back to tell me, “They only cost 10 pesos, dad. It’s a deal!” “Great, get me some too,” I answered, and handed him 20 pesos. I watched again as he hustled through the non-crowded airport to the nacho man. My mouth had already started watering by the time he returned. He walked up and handed me my 20 back. “Hey what’s up. Where’s my nachos?” I asked.

“They don’t have any.” was his answer.

Jimena leaves destruction in her path

Jimena was nice enough to bypass us with her wind and fury but she picked up more water on her way north and has inundated a path through Baja from San Carlos to Santa Rosalia and beyond. Check "The Baja Pony Express" site for stories and photos.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Spanish: Lesson One

As I mentioned before, I owned a coffee shop/bakery in San Jose del Cabo for several years. We had Mexican employees of course and our place became very popular with the local Mexican residents. You can imagine that I was trying to improve my speaking skills quickly.

If you've never lived in a foreign country and tried to learn the language, the first thing you need to know is that you can't always translate the words and expect the same meaning. Naturally the culture of the country affects the significance of the words and phrases. For example, the word "stupid" in English is pretty harmless. We will say "That's really stupid" and mean that something was frustrating or planned poorly or something. Down here, the same word is a HUGE insult. "Stupid" here means like you're an uneducated backwoods hick Indian that eats snakes and donkey dung and makes human sacrifices. Or something like that. Trust me, don't even use the word out loud unless you know who you are talking to and they know you. After having a few people like clerks and secretaries look at me like I was the most rudest human being in the world, I asked some questions and got straightened out!

Another thing that happens here is that we English speakers have a tendency to guess at words. Maybe we hear a conversation with familiar sounding words and hey! we're not Stupid for crying out loud! So we store up a couple of words for the right moment and then spring 'em on the poor unsuspecting Mexican who gives you the "look." (You'll know it when you see it)

Here's a couple of examples from Yours Truly who has bludgeoned the local dialect unrecognizable. Take the English word "embarrassed." I heard a word said in a sentence that had to be "embarrassed." It is the Spanish word, "embarasada." Sounds right, right? So after I told a Mexican friend that I was "embarasada" about something, he laughed and "How far along are you? Embarasada means pregnant." So far, not too embarrassing. Another word is "exitado." Sounds like "excited" no? Well yes, excited but in a sexual way. I misused that one too. It gets worse. This one is like WAY embarrassing. I used to confuse 3 words: miedo (fear), marido (husband) and mierda (the worser word for poop.) I was trying to ask an employee "How was her husband." Guess what I asked her. I didn't realize my error until I saw the "look." It was a doozy.

I will say with all gratitude that Mexican people are extremely forgiving when it comes to language. If you give it your best shot, normally a Mexican will go out of their way to help you communicate. It's a beautiful thing.

Hurricane Jimena again

I received an email today claiming that Jimena has done terrific damage from landfall to Santa Rosalia. One report stated that the Mulege river crested over the bridge. If that's true then those folks are suffering. If any of you have contacts or web links, please let me know.


Thursday, September 3, 2009

Palmilla photos

I couldn't stand to leave you with depressing fire photos so here's some nice ones to look at.

Agua at the One and Only: the aftermath

I received a couple of photos anonymously of the aftermath of the fire. They speak for themselves. I'm sure the Market Restaurant will be able to handle the extra traffic. If you were planning on staying at the One and Only Palmilla I wouldn't change plans because of the fire.

Correction to the Palmilla story

Thanks to an anonymous comment by a reader, my history has been corrected.

And I quote:

"The fire was in 'Aqua' is the new restaurant with the beautiful Palapas. The other restaurant that was remodelled is called 'Market', formerly known as restaurant 'C' which is the remodelled original Palmilla Hotel Restaurant."

So there you have it. This person sounds like they know what they are talking about so I won't go too far to verify the comment. I'm sure they are probably connected to the Palmilla somehow. (I used to go visit a friend there years ago who was I believe the head sous-chef at the time. I won't tell you his name but his initials were Jim Wallace. Great guy, married a lovely local girl and has been moving up in the high-end restaurant world ever since. Somewhere along the line my age and poor memory has clouded the picture.)

Thanks "Anonymous." I appreciate it.

One and Only Palmilla Fire Update

I can't add much about the fire except that it sounds like a faulty electrical device was the cause. According to the people I talked to, the dining area and the display kitchen were hardest hit. In my estimation, the repairs will take at least a month so for you Agua fans out there, sorry. I already told you my culinary preferences so I can't even offer you a good alternative. I DO however know where the best taco stands are!!

The Palmilla is literally the cornerstone of Los Cabos tourism, with over fifty years of tradition. (She's rated a DIAMOND which is actually higher than 5 Stars.) The official name change to “The One&Only Palmilla,” came after the purchase by the Kirschner group in 2002. The hotel was remodeled immediately and was extensive, time consuming and the cost was estimated at $90,000,000 (yep, 90 million.) AND by the way, the location along the Southern coast of Baja California Sur is pretty much as nice as you're going to get.

Somehow I was left off the guest list and didn't actually attend but I heard that the grand re-opening was attended by personalities such as: Tom Cruise, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta Jones, and hundreds of other famous musicians, politicians, diplomats, sultans, kings and wealthy folks from around the world. Why would all these people take time out of their incredibly busy schedules to spend the night in a nice hotel? Because the grand re-opening was timed to throw an exclusive 50th birthday party celebration for John Travolta. Why else!

I don't see a lot of TV but it was covered by the entertainment channels and a big deal for weeks. The birthday cake alone (valued at $50,000 dollars) was created by one of the most famous pastry chefs in the world, and a star in the world of culinary arts. I've seen pictures: the cake was replica of one of Sr. Travolta's airplanes. Incredible.

So if ya got a little dough to spare, the One and Only is the place to go. Trust me on this.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Fire at the Palmilla!

I heard earlier from two different sources who wish to remain anonymous that there was a severe fire in the Agua restaurant at the Palmilla hotel early this morning. Agua is located in the "original" Palmilla restaurant site. When the hotel changed hands several years ago, the basic restaurant was remodeled and the name "Agua" was added. I've only eaten there a couple of times but the food was amazing. (I'm more of a $10 pizza guy than a $300 lobster dinner guy but I promise you that I can tell the difference.) I'm pretty sure that even in these trying times, the owners of the Palmilla can afford to rebuild the restaurant but how long it will take is anybody's guess. My sympathies go out to the employees who will be laid off until the repairs are made.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Near Miss

My old boss called a close call a "near miss." Seems to me that a "near hit" is more accurate. So I would say we survived a near hit. The evil Lady Jimena has passed the Los Cabos area and is continuing on the same path towards the middle of the Baja Peninsula. She has lost some intensity too which should cheer up the folks in her path. By the way, the screenshot above was taken from the Weather Underground site. Highly recommended. There is a lot of weather information there.

As for us, we needed the rain. I'm pretty sure all of Baja Sur will end up with a good soaking from this storm. It is always the prettiest in the fall after a storm. The whole countryside transforms into a lush, green paradise like you see in the movies. We rarely get much rain from October through July anywhere but the mountains.

So much for this particular hurricane. I'll get back to the mudane, everyday, boring stuff.

We're still safe.......

So far, so good. Jimena is still tracking N by NW and looks like landfall will be on a sparsely populated area near Constitucion. There's a nice little town named "San Carlos" nearby where we go clam digging. If Lady Jimena continues her present course, the residents of San Carlos will be hit hard. Here in Los Barriles, we will no doubt have a LOT of rain but the wind velocity will be considerably lower than near the eye.

We came to the restaurant this morning. (In case you're not a regular reader, my wife Donna opened a diner-style restaurant 3 years ago in Los Barriles.) We only had 2 employees show this morning but Donna and I and our nuera (quick, to the bablefish Batman)are here prepping food as well as possible. It's amateur hour at the Roadrunner Cafe!!!! Outside it's raining steadily; sometimes more, sometimes less.