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Mexico musings

December 14, 2010
Baja 008

How tall?

Some might remember seeing ads for the National Pen Company on TV and in magazines in the 70’s. Well, around the early 1980’s, in a business promotion, they reportedly gave their retailers a choice between a free diamond ring or a “free” plot of land in Baja Mexico, septic included. Well, as you might guess, loads of people showed up to claim their plot in the middle of the desert and insure that a septic system was truly installed and never have returned. But quite a few thought this a real nice and affordable place to spend a winter. National Pen had bought the land from native Mexican families and was offered as a ranch style development. It was later bought by an American entrepeneur and further developed and so began the wing and a prayer of what is now El Dorado Ranch Resort. It took off like gang busters and now has over two thousand homes, of which the largest solar community in North America exists. We’re in the solar area and one thing I can say is it sure is nice as far as lack of light pollution. No street lights, big offensive security lights, or plush lit up homes and the stars are fantastic every night. People just live more simply when they only have the sun to power their life. It’s refreshing, resourceful, quiet and simple. Even the electric developed area has only modest lighting and affords people year round tenure(you just can’t hardly make it through a summer without air conditioning) for those who just can’t bear to leave. Although, some boast of larger solar arrays and battery banks that allow them to run AC for one room in the summer. It’s attracted all sorts of people, with one thing in common, a love for Baja Mexico.

“Victoria”,as we’ve aptly named it, is a sun faded, sky blue, 1987 Ford LTD Crown Victoria. “Top of the Line” in its day. IN ITS DAY. If anyone remembers this wonderful beast, they’ll remember that its hood is as long as the rest of the car, is incredibly comfy, has tons of power, which in turn is inversely related to its gas mileage, can hold six or more bodies in the trunk (handy when attending the drive in movie) and handles like a moderate sized watercraft… like driving in pudding. Gone are the amenities. Who needs blinkers and windows that actually go up and down anyway? It goes, and more importantly, it stops! The radio works and keeps that trumpeted Spanish music flowing. Hey, we are unnoticable(is that a word?) in this car. To some degree, Mexico still exhibits a bygone era, the 80’s era. Lets face it, LA it ain’t and there are quite a few “beaters” shall we say in Mexico, and we’re glad to be one of em. We cruise in this ship and we want to change our name to Hickmonez. We’re grateful to Bill for its use. I’m not sure how we’d have made this life transition without it.

Baja 013San Felipe lays claim to the birthplace of the Fish Taco. Good for us, because we’re big fans. On our first foray into the city, we walked the beach front malecon, surveying all the choices. We didn’t want the ritzy or colorful tourist eatery, we wanted the back alley, the best and the cheapest. We settled in a door propped open and sandwiched between two merchants selling colorful blankets, large sombreros and Baja 1000 T shirts. It had no sign and would have been easy to miss except to the local or diligent searcher. It had three or four plastic tables and a long bar in front of a large commercial stove and some prep tables and a fridge. After ordering we watched the cook pull a three and half foot hammerhead shark from a bloody water bucket out the open back door and fillet off pieces and toss them into his popping skillet. Served up with fresh cabbage, white sauce, and pico de gallo on a corn tortilla and that mornings catch was the best taco so far. A buck a piece.

The famous Baja 1000 came through during our second week in town. You could see the dust trails from individual racers in the foothills of the mountains to our southwest, and racers could be heard, one by one, heading south, into the wee hours of the night. You’ve never seen so many hot rod VW beetles, and tricked out dune buggies and trucks in one place, mostly in front of the beer store.

Mexico does take some getting used to. Well, that part is easy really because the pace is very…. not lacadaisical, because the Mexicans here work hard and long hours but it’s relaxed. There is no real concept of days of the week. Most all places are open everyday, if they are run by Mexicans, and people play all the time like it’s the weekend. Of course, this community is mostly retirees, people who’ve checked out of American society and those who can “work” to their liking, but it does make for a run on days. We learned quickly that “manana” doesn’t neccesarily mean tomorrow, just not today. Also, when you get directions, always take the car, never walk. Even if it’s said to be only a couple of blocks.

The Seashell Cantina (Pickle Soup and Cocoa on the menu)

The Seashell Cantina (Pickle Soup and Cocoa on the menu)

Mexico is in constant flux, like shifting sands, and what may have been there yesterday may be closed today, actually two miles away, moved or doesn’t exist at all anymore. Take the car.
We saw a car accident in town. Two fellas backed into one another at a fairly slow speed. Neither got out, or looked up really. They both just considered it one of life’s positive stops in traffic and each went on his way. No fuss.

Cam’s spanish continues to improve, mine not so much. I’m studying pretty hard. The other day I referred to Cam as my grandfather, then my grandmother and quickly noticing my err, I then may or may not have called her genitals. Much work still needed. That reminds me, I made a turn the wrong way down a one way street last week in town. An oncoming motorist honked his horn and signaled that it was a one way street. So what did I do, not speaking the langauge? I let out my best “sorry” in a spanish accent, rolling the r’s for better understanding you see. And did what you should when trying to bridge a language barrier, said it as loud as I could, almost hollering as if he were deaf and that might make him understand that i truly was sorry. He looked as if he’d been hit in the face with a pie. I’m still the joke of my family for this one.

Less than five years ago I suspect, San Felipe was quite a bustling tourist town. Now the hotels are empty, some even stand partially built, tar paper ripped in the wind, developments and condos left like skeletons. Shame. It is very nice and safe here, and the culture and people are nothing less than a friendly, smiling treat. People who’ve come here for years say the worst thing that ever comes to San Felipe is too many gringos.

The Chili Pepper Restaurant

The Chili Pepper Restaurant

As I’ve said before, we love the desert. The sand is coarse and bright, splattered with mica, like fools gold sparkling in the sun. It’s beautiful sand, and the coarseness makes it easier to live in. Meaning it doesn’t stick to everything and end up coating your floor and in your beds. It’s also great for digging, if you actually don’t need to be digging a hole. Which is good, for me anyways, cause the kids have taken to diggin holes everywhere, or “papa traps” as they’re called.
The house has never really been lived in for any long stretch so we aren’t staying in it just yet.

Spiders and scorpions won’t permit it. We’re still living in Belle for the time being, which is just fine. Having this much space and the nice weather make it easy. We have a dish station outside, cooking by solar as much as we can and showering outside with solar showers(have to get that done before the sun goes down). The first few weeks have been spent mostly learning our way and getting things in order. We now have internet at the house, so we don’t have to leave for access. We’ve spent a lot of time cleaning the grounds and outbuildings, assessing whats here and

what we need, and I’ve done some solar upgrades. The first project will be getting a usable hot water shower and replacing the sunbeaten and leaking water supply pipes from the above ground cistern. We’ll also clear the house out and start cleaning to get the pests out. We want to feel comfortable so we’ll get it debugged and clean first.

El Dorado Staff Christmas Party

Piwi entertaining the kids

A most wonderful thing happened. I got invited to play soccer(futbol) with the employees of the ranch(all local Mexicans). After playing with some of the guys during kids activities I asked if the adults ever get together for a game. I thought they were blowing me off when they said sure and they’d let me know, but they weren’t. They invited me onto their team and I got to play in a five on five tournament with six teams. This was like a dream come true for me, to get to play in a country where futbol IS the national sport. And I must try and call it futbol, cause lets face it, if any sport whose actions should determine its name, it wins, hands down. Besides, it was called futbol many, many years before any other was. Enough said. There were a good forty to fifty players there and I was the only non Spanish speaking anglo player to be found, and I’d wager that my english wasn’t the best in the lot either. I was nervous as hell. I knew my skills, at their best, probably didn’t make me much better than their worst, and yet I was in heaven. It had been two years since my last real futbol. Have fun and try not to get embarrassed too bad, I thought. The play was dazzling. I went through the day wishing I had a replay button. Even the heavy set guys, who might not look athletic or in shape have fluid, effortless skills. Moving a round ball up and down the field is just second nature to them by the time they’re adults.

El Dorado Staff Christmas Party

The kids lining up to see Santa - MJ&H were invited to join in and did right after this photo

My team did o.k, winning two of four games. For me, the embarrassing moments were less than a handful and there were quite a few good plays, I held my own. It was a blast and I was honored to have been invited. My team wore the colors of Mexico, green jerseys with red and white accents. It felt good just to wear something so associated with the game. I tossed the jersey back to them after play was done, they said, “it’s yours, a gift, and you’ll need it for the next tournament.”

As the kids and I strolled the outdoor vendors market this past weekend, where Cam has her Healing Arts booth, we took in the view of the Sea of Cortez, the vendors selling fresh tamales, shrimp tacos,produce, fruits and mexican blankets, surrounded by cactus and the warm morning air and sun of the Baja desert, and the sound of “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” coming from a vendors stand. Well no, it’s not, actually, we all thought.

El Dorado Staff Christmas Party

Santa Claus arrived in a red helicopter and the kids chased his golf cart

We spent Christmas last year in the swamps of Louisiana and I don’t think we could feel further away from them and all their water, trees and animals this year than being in the Mexican desert. Mexico does love its Christmas so we’re really excited for this one, and the chance to experience some new traditions. Has anyone ever heard, “don’t drink the egg nog”?
We were lucky enough to get invited to the employee christmas party here at the ranch. There are over two hundred employees so it’s quite a large affair. For me, the term fiesta has always conjured up images of grand parties; music, food, drink, people dancing, kids running and laughing, activities of all sorts. This was all that. Fiesta in every sense of the word. There were three different food vendors, drinks, an MC with four senoritas to keep the kids going the whole day, a band, young music acts, three jumpy houses, mechanical bull, tug of war for all ages, raffles for the employees, Santa Claus arriving in a red helicopter and giving out presents for the what must have been a hundred kids, and cotton candy. It really was all about the kids though. But you know, show them a good time and the parents have a good time. I’ve never seen an employee christmas party quite like it. The kids played hard all day, made friends, and hardly used any spoken language. What an experience for us all. Feliz Navidad!

El Dorado Staff Christmas Party

Mario Claus and his elves handing out personal gifts to each child

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. MomE permalink
    December 14, 2010 11:15 pm

    Oh, Trent, I feel like you have just given me a gift, the gift of a visit. What fun and what a life!

  2. Dave and Jane permalink
    December 15, 2010 4:05 am

    Reading your article was an eye opener! The football tournament, Kids at the Christmas party chasing Santa’s golf cart, scorpions and assorted critters in the house, the beautiful description of living in a quiet solar world. When are you putting this in a book?

  3. Chris permalink
    December 16, 2010 4:28 pm

    Trent—you had me rolling with the…”I’d wager that my english wasn’t the best in the lot either.” Looks like you guys are still having a fabulous time…Merry Christmas & Happy New Year! 🙂

    • December 29, 2010 6:46 pm

      Well, you know how fine my english is. Good to hear from you, and yes things are wonderful. We’ve landed in a place that fits more of our desired criteria for wintering than any other we’ve encountered. We feel blessed. Hope you and yours are well and had a great Christmas. Happy new year! Hello to everyone.

  4. Angie H permalink
    December 20, 2010 3:56 am

    Trent,
    How absolutely amazing your life is these days. I have enjoyed reading the blogs from both you and your wife. She seems like a pretty cool person. I must say that you are living the life I would most love to live. I hope all is well with you and congrats on such a beautiful family and such an amazing outlook on life. Stay safe and enjoy each experience you encounter along the way. God Bless

    • December 29, 2010 6:57 pm

      Thanks for reaching out Angie. I must admit, I had to search to figure out who you were, been such a long time. A few years ago we began dreaming of what we’d really like our life to be, and then started making little changes at first, then bigger, and bigger. Constantly manifesting in our minds what we wanted for us. Not real conventional choices, but we wouldn’t change a thing and we feel so fortunate. Hope you are doing well yourself and life is all you desire it to be. Take care and good to hear from you. Trent

  5. December 27, 2010 11:07 pm

    Welcome to San Felipe and El Dorado! We have a little casita in the solar section over by the south boundary and will be coming down from California in February for a few weeks, I look forward to taking your classes.

    • December 27, 2010 11:17 pm

      Mita, looks like we’re neighbors – we’re in the solar section, two altos south of Los Medanos Sur. See you in a few weeks! From your blog, it looks like we’ll have some fun things in common….

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