Our palapa in the Mexican jungle

KR suited up for battle at Ralphs. I think this was our first excursion to a store. Because we were so young looking, we were shuffled to the front of the line.

Karen and I can’t remember the last time we spent four months together in one place.  Reason — I don’t think we ever have.  For the most recent five years we’ve taken at least 20 trips each and every year.  To almost every continent, by plane, train, ship, motorcycle, RV, car, Tuk-Tuk or any other means available (remember the camels in Egypt and Mongolia?)

It’s been a bit of cold turkey on the travel front.  I tell Karen that we were better together when we were on the road.  Better moods, a chirpiness in her voice, something new every day, meeting strangers that became good, if temporary friends, not having to worry about the mundane things of life and — of course — we’re both addicted to the “What’s around the corner?” disease.

We’ve learn to be “better” together in one place  in a 600 square foot loft in downtown Los Angeles, which we used to refer to fondly as “Factory Place”.   The fondness started to wear off in Month Two.  We were forced, literally, to adapt.  Karen likes to have the TV on all day, which doesn’t really work when I’m on a zoom call six feet away.   Answer:  ear phone plugged into the TV.  I didn’t really have a home office.  Answer:  carve out space in the closet (literally).  I needed a “Zoom Studio,” since I was doing Zoom calls all day, and no one wants to look at a closet as a backdrop (although I’ve seen worse, a lot worse:)  Answer:  Get a bookcase, a rack and some mounted posters to hang in front of the clothes.  Voila: a studio.  Not surprisingly, KR and I are on different biorhythms:  I’m early to bed and early to rise; KR is the opposite.  Answer:  lots of ear plugs and rubber soled shoes.

Corner Office view its not. Instead, its the view of an alley from my Man Closet Office.

NGIN’s business has picked up.  We’re zooming with our members more often (we have 30 members in 14 countries) and we’re getting more calls from cities to help them build out their innovation ecosystems.  All of this is done in front of a Zoom screen, looking out on the alley between Factory Place buildings.  I’m writing more business articles and doing more videos.  I’m starting to watch my social media audience of all things.  These are strange times, indeed.

Evening cocktail sitting in the patio of a closed neighborhood restaurant

A lot of good things happened during our four month stay in our shoebox of an apartment. First, I’ve never eaten better in my life as KR had little else to focus on and we had great meal after great meal.  I shattered my belief that you have to go to the gym to workout.  I started running on our empty streets in place of the treadmill.  Much better. I used the stairs to our second floor as a built in StairMaster. Record: 55 times up 15 steps.  Weights were easy — there are thousands of videos on YouTube to choose from.

We got to know our neighborhood much better as we took Bogart and Squirt for long walks around the Arts District’s warehouses, historic buildings, closed restaurants/bars, and cold storage units.  We barely needed masks as there were few people in a part of the city  that is pretty busy during “normal”  times, but few people actually live here.  We got in the habit of having an eventing cocktail sitting in the patio of one of said closed restaurants.  It was good.

For about two months, and then things …

It rapidly went downhill for KR first.  She’s a passionate, knowledgable, extremely curious gardener.   A couple of pots in front of our door didn’t cut it, no matter how many times I offered to build a garden bench (don’t laugh, I wouldn’t have built it, of course, I would have bought one).   Her day job, that as InnKeeper of our BNB in Puerto Vallarta came to a screeching stop.  Since we weren’t there, it was hard to supervise decorating or repair projects from afar.

Formal dress for a Zoom business meeting

It went downhill for me as well.  We had to cancel our long-planned motorcycle trip to Africa.  We couldn’t even go on shorter trips.  All my races from Formula One to MotoGP were cancelled.  Bars closed.  Restaurants closed.  It got boring wearing shorts and flip flops to work every day.

We needed to do something.  We’d been wanting to get south to PV since early April, but could we get across the border,  could we gas, could we get all the vehicle permits required, is it safe to go anywhere?  We hesitated for about two and a half months.

On June 25th, all four of us climbed into Thor and started the drive south.  We took four days rather than our usual three.  We “camped” in a parking lot in Yuma and on the street in downtown Mazatlan on the way.  Result?   No problems at the border, in fact it was probably the easiest crossing we’ve had. They’d completed a long stretch of the main highway,15D, that has been under repair for the last several years, so the highway was better than ever.  It’s now been a couple of years since they eliminated Pemex’s monopoly, so we could find Shell and Chevon stations all the way down and for once we could use credit cards.  We rolled into PV on a Sunday night, parked the RV in a storage lot outside of town, and by 9PM that night we were having cocktails on the observation deck.

We’ve been in Puerto Vallarta for four weeks now and its a whole new ball game.  As in Wow!

It’s impossible to describe the bliss in going from 600 sq. ft. to 5,400 sf. ft.  For instance, more often than not, I have to yell “Karen, where are you, up or down?” from my office on the third floor.  Each direction offers gardens and all sorts of projects that KR is working on. Simultaneously of course:)

This time at our home is different from all the others.  This isn’t a vacation.  And there are no guests coming, forcing us to migrate to Thor to wait their stay out.   Since we are in middle of three NGIN projects (Riverside, Australia and India),  I couldn’t afford to miss a step during the relocation.  .  Finding reliable, high(er) speed in the El Centro part of Vallarta required getting two 5G lines in the house; one for the first two floors, one specifically to my office on the third.  Since its hot and muggy (87 with 60-ish humidity)in Vallarta, I had to close off and then air condition my office.  Result is that I have a fully functional office for the first time south of the border.   It’s good, very good.

Is it safe in Mexico?  Normally, people ask us this because of the drug cartels.  Now it’s COVID.  Here’s a comparison of relevant data:

Someone once said, “There are three types of lies:  lies, damn lies and statistics!” So, you can make your own conclusions about where its safest.

But the real question is:  “Is it safe anywhere?”  Not any place I can afford.  California is on the verge of a roll back of openness and are some of the other states with significant spikes.  When will this end?  Answer:  we don’t know.

We’re here for the duration.

Here’s what the Lock Down looked like north and south of the border.

 

We were off the coast of Phuket, Thailand right before we flew into the COVID crisis in LA.

Dulling the boredom. KR stocks up on every form of dope before we head south. “Sweet Flower” pot store was pretty sweet and only two blocks from our apartment.

Zoom session on a Sunday with Peter and Cindy.  Corona and tequila shots.  Good times.

Fake News reported the Corona Beer  company was shutting down their plant. 7:00AM next morning I filled the Jag with the best beer with the worst name.

We bought so much stuff at our first Ralphs shopping trip  that we had to put the top down in order to fit it all in: )

Even the Dos Diablos were going stir crazy. A romp around the parking lot had to be a substitute for the beach

 

 

 

 

 

Peter, Cindy, Karen and I dressed for dinner in a pop up burger place in the Arts District

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We went on a picnic with Teri, Steve, Jenny, Bogart, and Squirt.

Bogart helps with the drive as we start south. I’m taking a meeting on the phone.  The larger than normal stomach is an optical illusion caused by the seat belt: )

Thor in the parking lot for a stay over in Yuma. Calm on the outside…

while on the inside, KR is looking where we put the dope on the trip south: )

This is KR the next day: ) Bogart is always there in case Karen needs some help.

My office. A lot better than a desk in a closet, overlooking an alley.

Construction begins almost immediately

We put a sign on the door that was pretty effective. Don’t come into the house without a mask or you’ll end up like the guy in the picture: )

Just an everyday dinner on the top deck: ) The large piece of glass leaning on the side is the only one of four to survive a BIG storm. More on that in a minute.

The neighborhood is pretty much the same except there seems to be a lot more young kids. Homework is done most afternoons on the sidewalk across from our house.

This is what a typical summer PV storm looks like as it gathers late afternoon.

This is what it looks like from the bedroom when it gets going. Winds are so strong that roofs are blown off, furniture gets blown to the street below, and the dogs stay under the bed.

Normal, everyday sunset. It never gets boring.

Local artist painted a portrait of the Dos Diablos over the winter

Bill and Maryann kept us company for the first couple of weeks, then deserted us for the North.

The summer is off season in Vallarta as its hot and humid. Yet, that doesn’t make it any less beautiful. Notice beach is closed.

Walking the dogs around the neighborhood a slightly different experience now.

All things considered, we’re happy campers.  We’ll be here for a while.

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Just to show you that a day at the beach is not all that its suppose to be, here FW is in the process of painting the whole damn palapa so our soon-to-arrive rental guests can live the Palapa Life.  This was a banner repair trip as I repaired the refrigerator, painted and painted, got the hot water heater to work, hung mosquito nets, and replaced the shower faucets.  Oh, and I conferred with my engineering expert (thanks Bill!) to supervise the rebuilding of the solar system.

 

I don’t have much of a life in Los Angeles if one defines life as something other than

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New office at LACI is purposeful as is life in LA

work.  This is not a complaint, just a fact.  LA is primarily for LACI and anything else needs to be fitted into the creases.  Mexico is the reverse for me, it’s about living, not making a living, and I spend most of each December and part of January in Puerto Vallarta with The Boss of Corona and her best friend, Squirt.  This post is what its like to go back home to Mexico and hang for a month.

It’s surprising how quickly comfortable being home in PV is, even after 11 months of being away.  Well, its not quite immediate as it usually takes KR a couple of days to get use to me being around and for me to put away my CEO ways.  After this initial roughness though, it starts being as smooth as a cold Corona (the beer, not the house) on a hot day.

First thing is the house.   I would never have believed that 6200 feet of house would be comfy, but it is.  Corona just flows right.  We spend most of the time in the master with forays to the pool and top deck.  The kitchen and dining room are usually for breakfast and entertaining.  Most other meals are taken in bed or eaten out.

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Command Central: our bedroom

Our bedroom is really Operations Central.  It’s on the third floor, with a balcony that I often wonder onto to check out the neighborhood or look at the skies or take in all the various water craft zooming along the beach.  Size matters when it comes to TV’s and we have a large “smart” TV in the room. (let’s not go into how useful a Smart TV is with a dumb owner).  KR usually has the TV on 24/7.

I’ve also slid a small desk into the corner next to the window overlooking the Bay of Banderas and do all my work here.  There are very few better views around, especially for an “office.” I spend 80% of my day there, hitting the keyboards, gazing on the street below, taking a Skype call, or swiveling the chair around to catch Wolf Blitzer giving yet another perspective on the 14th Republican debate.  Squirt provides the other source of constant entertainment.

KR does most of her B&B administrative work in bed as well, so

KR in her happiest state — muddy.

having the three of us in the bedroom as headquarters works well.  Very well.  Beyond our bedroom door looms two irresistible lures.  At least twice a day I walk out the door, take five steps, and jump into the pool.  Swim around, take in the view, listen to the cacophony of neighborhood sounds, and then hit the rays.  KR can’t resist the 3rd floor garden that surrounds the Pool Deck.  She’s always been a gardener and having three gardens (1st, 3rd, and 4th floors) and more planters than I can count means multiple chances to get covered in mud.  This is a good thing.

Here’s a question for you:  When was the last time you walked down your street, talked to your neighbors, watched kids play, and then stopped in the local grocery store to buy some food for lunch?  In LA, my answer is never, and I’m not just speaking about the Factory Lofts in downtown LA.  My answer would be the same for the Hollywood house.

In Puerto Vallarta, it happens every day, usually more than once.  This isn’t by accident as we purposely moved into a “mixed” (read Gringos and Canadians along side Mexicans) neighborhood in the hills of PV.  Our neighborhood consists of the small street in front of our house (Corona) and the two cross streets (Miramar and Metamoris) which happen to be the only ways up/down the El Centro Hills.  This accounts for lots of street activity most days and most times of each day.  And since most Mexicans around us live in something less than 6000 sq ft., they spend their free time sitting outside their houses on the porches or curbs.

Last night was typical.  We went out the front door and started walking downhill toward the Malecon (boardwalk) to get something to eat.  Karen dropped off some discarded clothes to the very extended family next door.  Eduardo, the father and someone who I’ve taken tequila shots with at 2 in the morning, commented that I was looking a little gordo (fat) and I should keep eating so they could get more of my non-fitting clothes.  We all laughed out loud.

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To hear and see jazz, one has to be at the club later than 7:30PM:)

We found a new place to eat on the Malecon, the Jazz Foundation, which had so-so food, great music, cold beer and really nice waiters who helped us map out our next trip.  Walking up the hill on the way home, we bumped into a neighbor we’d met a year or so ago and invited him back for a cocktail.

These encounters happen every day here.

Noise is a controversial subject in our house and among our neighbors.   Up the street there are a group of kids, mostly in their late teens or early twenties, that think there’s nothing better to crank up the boom box at all times of day or night.  A couple of neighbors have called the police to complain, which generated a visit from the local police only to find out the primary source of the noise was…. an off duty policeman!  The music keeps on playing giving us a dose of Mexican justice on a local level.

The young children next door play soccer in the street below us.  Most Mexican cars make the Iron Duke look like a limo and announce their passing through their non existent mufflers.  Roosters crow too early even for farmers, of which there are none that I’ve seen.  Three blocks away the church bells ring at intervals that I can’t figure.

Noise, of course, is a two edged sword.  It’s annoying and interuptive and … well…life affirming as well.  This is a vibrant neighborhood in which life is visible and audible to all.

No week would be complete without visits to Walmart, Costco, Home Depot, the bank, Office Max and the assorted stores needed to keep a Gringo’s Mexican households running and in order.  I’m not ashamed to admit, I’ve become a Kirkland Man, wearing Costco underwear and “dinner” shorts & shirts, drinking Kirkland wine and vodka, BBQing Kirkland ribs, and eating Kirkland ice cream (the Vanilla is the best ice cream yet created on this earth:)

Of course, not all is fun and games when you’re a B&W innkeeper.  We have a staff to supervise, which KR keeps me away from, that includes a property manager, a maid, a pool guy, a carpenter, a handyman, an electrician and plumber.  And this is just for Corona, as there’s a whole ‘nother crew for Little Big Sur.  There are walls to paint, solar systems to repair, pool pumps to maintain, windows to fix, and…. on and on and on.  Is there no rest for the weary?  Don’t answer that:)  Yet, I had it easy compared to this young man who went out to LBS to rebuild our solar system.  It’s worth it to read his report:)

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Finally, let’s talk money.  Living in Mexico, even a tourist town like PV, is relatively inexpensive and getting more so every month.  When KR and I started coming to PV, the dollar was worth 10 pesos.  Last year around this time it was worth about 13 pesos.  Today, the dollar is worth 17+ pesos, which is a very good thing if you’re a Gringo, less so if you’re a Mexican.  Certain things remain expensive:  gasoline is $3.20/gallon, electricity ranges from $200/2 months to $900/2 months depending on the use of A/C, and anything imported will have a duty of between 14-140% tacked on.  Labor, food, rent, property taxes and such remain incredibly low, which is why this place continues to grow as a gringo/Canadian hang out during good and bad times.  Please don’t tell anyone how good this is, we have enough folks here already:)

Well, that’s my report on life as a pseudo Mexican.

Mas Margaritas por favor!

This news just in!  Karen has become so successful as an innkeeper that we don’t have a place to stay during the next six days.  True to form, KR threw some things in the Iron Duke, made sure Squirt was comfy, and said, “Let’s head south!”  Uh, what about a reservation or some place to head to?  Over rated, I guess.

Here’s what everything looks like in pictures.

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Mean streets. KR, Squirt and I were walking up a street and Squirt barks at a dog, then quickly retreats as said dog chases Squirt. Quicker than you can say, “What the F?” a giant-sized cat flies out the door with claws and teeth bared, jumping on KR, resulting in a 45 minute street-side emergency medical help session by the cat’s owner.  Squirt hid in the bushes during the entire episode

 

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Neighbor gets his house painted. Not sure I’d want to walk on the home made scaffolding.

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I have my own worries, though, as the carpenter works on one of KR’s many “improvement” projects, this one on the pool deck

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Rain or shine, kids gotta play. Five minutes after the rain, the game continues

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LACI Mexico headquarters. Don’t know where Addis Ababa in Ethiopia is? Just take a look at the world map as desk top:)

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A crime and protest of passion. A 19 year old girl was murdered by her x-boyfriend down the street from us. A couple of days later there were 120+ people holding a demonstration demanding justice for Lupita. Sound familiar? Big difference from the U.S., though, the boyfriend was still on the loose at last report.

 

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We look at the memorial created for Lupita

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Later that night, we happened across this sign at a marriage ceremony on the beach down the block from our house.

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KR says as innkeeper, she’s a captive to Corona

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Everyone is getting into the festive season

 

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Christmas eve dinner with the other PV orphans 🙂

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Kids next door sing carols with a microphone and big-as-a-room speakers

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Best part of Xmas Eve was going next door to Eduardo and Carmen’s house for pig’s ears, nose and feet all cooked in a festive broth. It helped to wash it down with a Corona

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The party picks up steam on the Malecon

We await the water taxi to Chonchos and LBS

We await the water taxi to Chonchos and LBS

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Job #1 in the jungle is to feed Her Man. KR scrambles up some lunch as

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I assume Position A. It’s been pretty stormy the last couple of weeks

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Stormy night, some music and appropriate refreshments

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The best part of any LBS trip are the spontaneous dinner parties that happen. Here, Bill, Karen, Keith, FW Rick and Maryann chow down

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The deck is ready

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and so is the Living Room

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Kitchen is spotless

 

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Some things don’t change, like the view

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Fancy new sign courtesy of Maryann probably sets expectations too high

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Los Chonchos is getting popular.  Gaggle of incoming and outgoing guests awaiting the return of the water taxi

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This is what I had in mind when we drove south in the Iron Duke — Costa Careyes, a very very very upscale resort way south of PV. Hey why not? We had both properties rented out!

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We almost ended up here, but it too was full:)

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An “eco resort” was promised at the end of this road. If one counts a resort that’s being overtaken by Mother Nature, then its truth in advertising:)

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We found a hotel with an alluring sign (on the tree)

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But all’s well that ends well. KR with drink and squirt in front of our room, all for about $45USD

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We stop at a small beach town, Melaque, about one hour north of Manzanillo. Great beaches and cheap rooms, not a bad way to bring in the New Year