Friday February 1st – Finished packing for our month long vacation trip back to the USA. We boarded our plane that night at 10pm.
Saturday February 2nd – We had a layover in Miami and this was the first time we’ve been back in the USA since September 11th. I immediately noticed the National Guards in the camouflage fatigues with machine guns, just a little unnerving. The flight to California was another 5.5 hours, ugh! We arrived in San Francisco and called mom to come pick us up at the airport, she only lives 10 minutes away and was there quickly with her boyfriend Al. Being wintertime, it was pretty cold in San Francisco and I was happy to get into the car. This is the first time we’ve met Al and he seems to be a great guy. Al asked us if we wanted lunch and took us to a favorite restaurant of theirs in the east bay. This is the first time I’ve been back to California in a year and it’s kind of like culture shock, they just keep building and building and the traffic seemed as congested as ever. I’m sure we have bad traffic problems in Buenos Aires, just like every city in the world, but because we don’t have a car, we don’t see it.
That night we went over to my sister Cindy’s condo for a BBQ dinner. My niece Nina was there with her son Ryan and also my other sister, Phyllis. Lots of hugs and kissing and getting caught up on old times.
Phyllis, Cindy and Ron
Sunday February 3rd – We start Sunday morning with a great Chinese dim sum breakfast! Boy I love this stuff!
Ron, mom, Al and PPM Nina, Ryan and Cindy
Then onto my 40th birthday dinner at Celia’s Mexican restaurant.
Previously, Ron and Cindy had corresponded via email to plan a birthday party for me. I really hate being the center of attention but we thought that since we were only in California for one week that it would be a good way to see a lot of our friends all at once by having a dinner at a local restaurant. The only problem with the date they picked was that it was the same day as the Super Bowl. Luckily, the bar in the restaurant had a TV playing the Super Bowl so those that were dying to see what was going on would get up from the table every now and then to check on the progress of the game.
We had quite a good turnout of friends, including Dana & Manuel, Ron’s daughter Cindy and husband Scott, and his other daughter Sally and her boyfriend Tom, Paul, my friend from Xerox, Mary Chin, cousin Janet, Vince, Al and my family. It was a great time and we all walked over to Cindy’s house afterwards to continue the party.
Monday February 4th – We went to have our 2001 taxes done. We’ve been going to the same tax guy for years, Jim Monnie, http://www.btbtax.com/ Jim’s been doing our taxes for over 10 years and has heard us talk about our dreams and ideas over the years. We always seem to present him with a few challenges, this year they installed a new tax return system and he’s been fighting with learning the ins and outs. It was nice to get caught up with him and get our taxes taken care of, mostly!
Next we stopped off at our financial advisor, David Cooper <mailto:David.A.Cooper@aexp.com> (who we highly recommend). We went over our finances and got a clean bill of health for the state of things. Although the stock market has stalled the last 2 years, we’re still spending below our budget so we have time to wait for the market to recover before having to tap into reserves. It was also good to chat with David, ask about Trish his wife, and get caught up on things.
Tuesday February 5th – Ron and I really wanted to buy a new laptop and digital camera while we were in the USA. After the peso devaluation in Argentina all the exports had gone up tremendously in price and most stores have stopped stocking expensive foreign products, probably because if they don’t sell them they’ll be stuck with them. So we took a trip to the electronics superstore “Frys”. Frys is great IF you know what you want, if you don’t know what you want you’re in trouble. Most of the employees are 18 year old kids who don’t seem to be very well trained on the products they’re trying to sell you (this is putting it KINDLY!). I had done some surfing on the internet to find reviews of good brands of laptops and digital cameras that fit our needs. We checked out the laptops and of course the kid salesmen was trying to sell me a totally different model I didn’t want, I guess the commission was higher on that model. Then we headed for the camera department. This is a totally daunting experience, I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say that they have over 100 models of digital cameras on display, but their lack of useful information posted by the camera makes it impossible to compare them if you don’t have an idea of what you want before hand.
After a few hours Ron and I left the store feeling like kids on Christmas Eve, we just couldn’t wait to get home and open our new toys!
Wednesday February 6th – The hour of expected doom had arrived! Before we left California and moved to Buenos Aires, Ron and I had rented a storage unit in the city of Hollister to store our personal belongings. Hollister is about 1.5 hours south of where we lived in Mountain View. We found that by going this far south we were able to save quite a bit on the monthly storage rate. Originally, we had been carefully packing the storage unit and leaving aisles to the rear so that we could retrieve things if we needed. As the time came for us to depart to Argentina, we ran out of time and at the last minute we commandeered an empty unit next to ours. We basically just threw the stuff in the second unit, put a lock on it, signed a check, and then slipped it under the manager’s door with a note that said, “We’ll be back in a year!”
Now we were returning to Hollister! As we drove south on 101 I could feel the bile building in the back of my throat, the apprehension of what was to come, the dread of what might be!
Driving through California's central valley towards our storage units in Hollister!
I thought that we were going to have to take EVERYTHING out of the two storage units and repack it all in one larger unit. I convinced Ron ahead of time (with the threat of a baseball bat) that we were going to hire a truck and 4 guys to do this, we WERE NOT going to do this ourselves. There just wasn’t enough time for us to do the job ourselves and I didn’t want to go through the pain and agony that I remember the first time we moved the things there. Ron wanted to just repack the first unit a little, using up the aisle space we had originally created and trying to get everything into one unit without moving everything. I loved this idea and the thought that we may not have to move everything AGAIN, but really doubted it would all fit.
It was late afternoon when we got to the storage units and I told Ron, “We’re not moving anything tonight, I just want to open up the units and take a look at the contents and try and visualize things and see if it’s feasible.” We opened up both units and my heart sank, it looked truly impossible that we could get it all into one unit and done in 2 days.
Unit number 1 Unit number 2, doesn't it look totally full already??
We searched through the wreckage as we had previously made a list of items that we wanted to take back with us, the high tech wine bottle opener being the top priority on the list! We found what we wanted and just looked at the mess for awhile. We then returned to the motel room we rented and had a glass of wine. We had stored some of our red wine in the storage unit, and using our high tech wine bottle opener we opened a bottle and cheered, “To life!” as we do every night at dinner. We pulled out the new laptop and played with it as we got ready for dinner. Hollister is a pretty small town and I had previously spied a yuppie restaurant that I wanted to try called “The Vault”, it’s housed in a previous bank building and looked really cool. We arrived, and it was more of a family style, country yuppie restaurant, but we still had a great meal and a great bottle of local California wine.
Thursday February 7th – We awoke, expecting to tackle the storage units. Ron said, “I’ve been dreaming about this all night and I know exactly how we’re going to repack everything into one unit!” I had my doubts, but we got started. Unbelievably we actually finished around 4pm and we even had room to spare in the original unit (not much though). I was ecstatic that this task was completed and again I felt like a kid on Christmas morning, the relief was incredible. We slapped a lock on the door, smiled in satisfaction at each other and said, “We’ll never see THAT stuff again!” Now all we have to do is pay them yearly for God only knows how long. It’s probably more economical to get rid of it all, but you know how it is, you think you really NEED all that stuff. And if and when we return to the USA we’ll have everything we need to setup a house again, that is if it’s not all rotten and moldy by then! Visions of “Silence of the Lambs” came into my head, remember that movie? Where they had that old storage unit where they guy had paid 15 years in advance, locked it up and forgotten everything!
We got home early enough to take mom and Al out to dinner. We wanted to thank them for using my mom’s apartment and their cars. We walked to a local restaurant that we really liked and Ron and I got martinis before dinner, it was heaven!
Friday February 8th – We visited our friends, Paul and Donna, and their 1.5 year old son Tyler at their home in Ben Lomond in the Santa Cruz mountains. Donna made a wonderful pasta dish for dinner as we chatted and caught up on each other’s lives.
Saturday February 9th – We left for Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. The trip is only about 3.5 hours, which compared with Argentina to California seemed like a ˝ hour flight. We checked in, threw on our bathing suits and headed for the pool!
Our first night there we had a fantastic sunset!
Sunday February 10th – One of the reasons to visit Puerto Vallarta was to see a friend we hadn’t seen in 13 years. We had met Frank walking on the beach in Puerto Vallarta in 1989. Since then we had kept in touch with letters and postcards and in the last few years, via email. Frank bought an apartment in P.V. with 4 other friends several years ago and he’s able to live in P.V. for a few months each year. We called and setup a time to meet him and he remembered the place we went together when we first met, unbelievable! It was a restaurant / hotel that has a great view of the P.V. bay from the roof patio area. Seeing Frank was great, it was like we just saw him yesterday!
Tim, Frank and Pete
Tim, Frank and Pete
We had a fantastic sunset and then went downstairs for dinner and flaming Mexican coffees for dessert!
Love those flaming coffees!
Tuesday February 12th – Frank picked us up and took us over to show us his condo. It was truly spectacular, right on the beach with the pound of the surf about 75 feet away. Frank made some guacamole as Tim, Ron and I had beers on the patio.
We then drove into town where Frank introduced us to his friend Harriet who is a real estate agent in P.V. Ron and I have always loved P.V. the best and had toyed with the idea of buying a condo there that we could spend a few months each year. We agreed with Harriet that we could go out with her on Thursday to look at a few places for sale.
Wednesday February 13th – We picked up some friends of Frank who work on the Carnival cruise ship “Sea Princess” which was in town for that day. Vicki, Karen and Debbie were dealers at the card tables and Jason repaired the slot machines. Frank and Mary Ann drove us to a bed and breakfast place about 40 miles north of P.V. It was gorgeous and remote from the hustle and bustle of P.V.! The owner had built 6 luxury rooms with an all inclusive package for the room and three gourmet meals a day. Frank sometimes takes friends there to enjoy the pool and have lunch and it was really beautiful. We walked along the beach, then had drinks by the pool and then a fantastic lunch.
Thursday February 14th – We met up with Harriet and looked at a few condos for sale. We thought we would only use it a few months a year and then we’d try and rent it out for the rest of the time. With this in mind, we thought we should get something right in town so it would be close to all the action. We looked at several places right on the beach, the local economy is slightly depressed at the moment so there were no fantastic bargains, but prices seemed reasonable. We left Harriet and headed for a bar for a drink to talk things over and see if we really wanted to make this kind of investment. It seems crazy, but it really depends on how easy it is to get our cats back and forth between P.V. and Bs.As. If we would spend 3 months there, I wouldn’t want to leave my cats with someone for that amount of time. I hate to alter my life based on my cats, but…, well…, I have to!
We then stopped at Mary Ann’s martini bar which was PACKED! It’s a tiny little place but she seems to be doing a great business. We then headed to a restaurant that Frank recommended. There were 3 tables on the sidewalk and we were waiting in line to get in. The two other couples in front of us waiting didn’t want to eat on the sidewalk so we got a table in about 10 minutes. I kind of like to eat outside because of all the people watching you get to do. Of course it can be annoying with lots of vendors who try and sell you things and little kids with gum. I gave a young girl a USA dollar bill and she wanted to give me the whole box of gum, I told her I just wanted a few! Another great meal!
Friday February 15th – We met Keith and Edward for lunch. They had previously visited us in Buenos Aires when they were doing a cruise from Chile to Buenos Aires.
Edward, Pete and Keith Ron in front of the Marina
Saturday February 16th – Our week in P.V. came to a quick close and we headed off for Cabo San Lucas. We needed to fly to Guadalajara first and then onto Cabo. The P.V. airport is very modern and they have shuttle buses that take you out to the plane, we boarded the bus and it pulled about 30 feet away to a small aircraft. Ron laughed, “That’s our plane??” I told him not to be too loud or he would insult the pilot. There was no stewardess, no toilet, and in fact no one checked that we had our seatbelts on! It was a quick 45 minute flight to Guadalajara where we boarded a regular sized plane for our trip to Cabo.
We had a café in the Guadalajara airport
We checked in at the Westin resort between Cabo and San Jose del Cabo. This resort is extremely plush, I love it. We again threw our bags into the room, put on suits and headed for the pool. Much to our horror we discovered that they did NOT have a happy hour! GASP!
The hotel part of the complex A view from our balcony!
We took the shuttle into the smaller town of San Jose del Cabo and visited a restaurant that we’ve been to in the previous two years. They’ve expanded the restaurant and now have a back outside eating area which was very cool. In the past we sat on the front balcony overlooking the street where they had a birdcage with two canaries that would sing. We asked the waiter about the canaries and he said that their cage blew down in the hurricane and that the cat from next door got them. Then he went on to say that he bought 2 more but that they must have been wild because they basically killed each other in the cage. He decided not to try and get any more canaries!
Pete getting ready for dinner! Where's my margarita??
Sunday February 17th through Friday February 22nd - Didn’t do much but lay by the pool and read. There is a big Jacuzzi bathtub in the bedroom of our condo so we took several “Mr. Bubble” baths.
Saturday February 23rd – Our lazy week at the Westin came to and end and we took a taxi into Cabo to our Plaza Las Glorias timeshare. There we were to meet my sister Cindy and her boyfriend Viktor. We waited for them in the lobby of the hotel because they were coming in on a later flight, a big bus pulled up and there was my sister and V coming off the bus with beers in their hands. Big hugs went around and once again we went upstairs, changed into swimsuits and headed for the pool. Do you notice a recurring theme here?
That night we headed to “Poncho’s” for dinner.
This is a great place that we’ve been back to year after year. When we were there with our friends Carol and Leo a few years back, they ordered a shot of expensive tequila for $25 from their extensive tequila selection, instead Ron and I tried their rattlesnake tequila for $5 a shot. After dinner I offered to buy everyone a shot of rattlesnake tequila and everyone was tipsy enough to agree. The waiter brought over the beaker of tequila with the rattlesnake in it, the sign read, “Rattlesnake Tequila, Old Indian remedy for arthritis & kidney problems” After we drank the shot, Ron said, “I can see without my glasses, it’s also good for curing bad eyesight!”
We walked around town a little to walk off our dinner meal when Cindy entered a jewelry store. Ron and I waited outside till Cindy came and pulled us inside. Seemed Cindy found a ring she liked that was priced at $2,600 USA, she had bargained him down to $800 USA and once they all agreed on a price he was giving shots to everyone. Mexico, gotta love a place where jewelry stores give you shots of tequila and free beers! I looked around and found a nice bracelet that I liked for Ron. Of course another sale brought on more shots of tequila.
Monday February 25th – We went to the activities desk to get some discounted tickets for things to do. It turns out that the Plaza Las Glorias has sold all of their timeshare units so the activities desk no longer gives out discounts for activities, it is now, you guessed it, another way to get you to see a timeshare at a DIFFERENT hotel. We debated if it would be worth it to sit through a timeshare presentation and I figured we could save $175 dollars on the activities we wanted to do so we thought it would be worth it and scheduled it for Tuesday morning.
Tuesday February 26th – We sat through the presentation and scheduled the activities we wanted to do. We took the shuttle over to the beach area and sat in some lounge chairs to enjoy the sun and some margaritas. There were lots of vendors selling things on the beach and it was distracting to read because you were bothered every 30 seconds with someone trying to sell you something, so I just put down my book and enjoyed people watching. Did I mention that they have 2 for 1 drinks all day?? They had some signs that said, “No gracias” that you could put in the sand by your chair, thinking that this would stop vendors from bugging you every 30 seconds. I don’t think the signs worked.
After a few drinks Cindy started buying stuff, one silver vendor had a slim, narrow silver bracelet and Cindy said, “If you can get that over my hand and onto my wrist, I’ll buy it!” The vendor then snapped it apart and put it on her wrist, she thought it was one piece and didn’t come apart, another sale! Some vendors were selling temporary henna tattoos and Cindy told Viktor he should get one, after that Cindy got a flower design tattoo on her back and I got a leopard on my bicep. I saw one guy who had a “No gracias” sign tattooed on his back!
The sun finally went down and it was time to stumble home, we missed the last shuttle to the hotel so we were going to have to walk. Cindy didn’t want to walk all the way home and a water taxi offered her a ride home so she jumped right in. We were all laughing as she goes sailing by, but then I thought, “Gee, I hope they don’t attack her!” It took us about 40 minutes to walk home and Cindy was waiting for us safe and sound!
Cindy sailing back to the hotel as we walk!
Wednesday February 27th – Viktor and I rented ATVs to go on the Lighthouse Beach tour. We did this in the past with Carol and Leo and had a ball. Cindy and Ron didn’t want to go so it was just the two of us. We drove through the town on the ATVs and then stopped at a bar out in the middle of nowhere to have a drink, this is Mexico after all! After having a beer we headed to the Lighthouse and the sand dunes for some racing around.
When we got back we found Ron and Cindy having margaritas by the pool.
And another great night on the town!
A Favorite Place!
Thursday February 28th – We headed to the beach again and this time we did a parasailing trip. Ron decided to sit this one out and it was just Cindy, V and I. They took us out to the boat on a water taxi, the last time I did this they would take off from a raft platform in the water but now they have boats with little platforms on the back with a winch. You strap on a harness, sit down, they buckle you in and start letting out the rope. It’s really easy and THE VIEW!!!!! It was so beautiful I was screaming at the top of my lungs! Next was Cindy’s turn as we let her UP UP UP. When she got down I was saying, “Wasn’t that just fantastic? Wasn’t that just awesome!” and she was like, “I was freaking out, my hands are shaking so bad I can’t stand up!” What a sissy!
That night Viktor wanted to go to the “Giggling Marlin”, this is one of those crazy places that’s loud and filled with drunk college students. We entered and the waiter asked, “How many?”, to which Viktor replied, “I want to be hung up by my heals and do a shot of tequila!”, to which the waiter said, “Right this way, your table awaits!” We sat down and almost instantly a guy appeared with Jell-O tequila shots. Viktor did 2 and then they put the big sombrero hat on Cindy’s head, they tried to make her swallow it, but she tried to chew it instead, it was pretty funny! Everyone is going, “Just swallow it!” and she’s like, “NO!”
Who turned off the lights?
Then it came time for Viktor’s turn in the block and tackle. They have it setup so it looks like the Marlin has caught the person and is hanging them upside down. Aren’t vacations great?
V gets a shot of tequila!
After that they asked for volunteers from the audience. Now this is NOT the place you want to volunteer to do ANYTHING, Viktor immediately raised his hand. They picked 7 REALLY TALL and big guys and one runt, then they explained they were going to have a musical chairs contest. I could just imagine the bodies flying and heads cracking on the floor tile. Luckily no bones were broken, Viktor was the second one knocked out of the contest and the little runt lasted until the last 3 guys were left. He must have been quick! The winner was then told that the prize was for 2 women from the audience to do a lap dance for him and the crowd would pick the best dancer. The best dancer would get six free beers for her prize. The first girl got up and she was mortified as she struggled to dance, the announcer stopped the music and asked her if she wanted to sit down and she said YES, greatly relieved. Next he asked for another volunteer from the audience and two equally beautiful and big busted girls volunteered, so instead of 2 lap dances the guy would get 3! They asked him, “Are you married?” and he meekly responded, “Yes”, then they asked him, “Is your wife here?” and he meekly responded, “No”, so the announcer says, “GOOD, let’s party!” All three girls got up and did a really good lap dance show, it was hilarious and the crowd was going wild. Afterwards the guy asked if he could just sit there for awhile before returning to his chair!
Friday March 1st – Our last full day in Cabo and we scheduled a snorkel trip on the “Jungle Cruise” boat. This is a Catamaran with plastic leaves attached to it and decorated in a jungle theme. Ron and I had gone on this boat before and it was a blast. As we were sailing out of the Marina we saw a similar snorkel catamaran coming back into the Marina. The music was blaring and everyone seemed drunk as they danced and shouted about the deck, the lady next to me said, “Oh no, is that what we’re going to look like when we come back?”, and I said, “Oh YES!” We started down the coast and they came around and started giving us drinks. Last time we did this trip they only gave us alcohol AFTER people snorkeled, probably safely assuming that one should not go in the water, and then go UNDER the water while intoxicated. Things were more relaxed this trip and they came around with drinks right away! I noticed a big drum on the counter of the bar and asked, “What’s that?” to which the deck hand said, “Jungle Juice.” “What’s in it?” I asked, “Everything!” was the response. We all ordered a “Jungle Juice”! The boat went for about an hour until we reached Santa Maria bay, a nice place we’ve snorkeled before. By then we were pretty tipsy but V, Ron and I donned our snorkel gear and jumped overboard. Cindy stayed on board and flirted with the guy who was taking photos to sell of the trip. The snorkeling was great and afterwards they served a plate of rice and nachos along with more Jungle Juice for the trip home.
Sure enough, as we sailed into the Marina, the music was blaring and we were all drunk, hooting and hollering! What a great trip!
Say good night Gracie!
Saturday March 2nd – After a final breakfast we returned back to California and mom and Al picked us up at the airport. It’s amazing how fast 3 weeks can go by!
Al and mom treated us to dinner at a local restaurant that we walked to. It was a great seafood place and I was able to order crab cakes, one of the things I wanted to get before returning to Argentina.