Sunday, February 28, 2010

Del Borracho - a good time was had by all!

Del Borracho (which can be loosely translated as The Drunkard) is a roadside saloon located just off the highway, a few kilometres south of the town of Loreto, enroute to the Loreto Bay development where the San Javier road joins Mexican #1. This weekend they held the annual Harley Owners Rally from Cabo to Loreto with Del Boracho hosting the wrap-up party.

This establishment consists of a collection of wood frame buildings that have been completed over the past several years including the main bar and restaurant with an adjoining patio that covers twice the area of the enclosed building, four little “casitas” that are being developed for overnight accommodation, as well as the owners two storey home a large garage and several smaller outbuildings.

The story behind the owners of Del Boracho is likely even more interesting than the place. Mike and Chole built up the entire operation from bare land within the last 3 or 4 years. Mike had experience in construction and had the lumber shipped down here to build all of the structures, frame buildings being uncommon here due to the lack of, and cost of, lumber. The main building has an open beam ceiling, large windows which can be opened to catch cooling breezes, a bar across the length of one wall, a couple of pool tables, seating for about 50 around a dozen tables and a counter where you order your meal, behind which is a small but efficient short-order kitchen. The walls (and parts of the ceiling) are gradually being covered with photos and memorabilia, like is common in many such watering holes, but here these things are not generic decor, ordered from some wholesale “atmosphere supplier”, but rather real things about real people some of whom may actually be there in the restaurant on any given day.

For instance, there are wedding photos of the owners, Mike and Chole, on Mike’s Harley at the Las Vegas drive-thru wedding chapel, there are also pictures from Mike’s career as a movie extra, in character as a Biker, as well as the multi-million dollar yacht that he managed for the owner. Motor memorabilia factors large in the decor, with autographs from many Baja 1000 drivers and riders, as well as window decals from just about every group that travels the Baja for fun and or profit. The numerous TVs around the room are usually tuned to the SPEED channel and some form of race seems to be going on constantly.

Within this little kingdom, Chole reigns as the Queen of the kitchen. As you stand in line at the counter waiting to place your food order you can usually see Chole busy at the grill with several helpers turning out plates full of some of the best “fast food” available anywhere in the southern Baja – my particular favourite is the “Guapo” (beautiful) burger, a generous meat patty with fresh tomatoes, onions, lettuce and a side of “papas fritas” – the best burger I have eaten in Mexico. But they have lots of other delicious choices on the menu, like the chicken Caesar salad served on a half Romaine lettuce, or Eggs Benedict for brunch.

The focus on motorsports goes well beyond the memorabilia on the walls and the races on TV. Mike owns a full rail dragster, which he keeps in the oversized garage along with a classic dune buggy racer along with several other assorted vehicles and, of course, his Harley! So it is not surprising that the saloon was the venue for the second annual Cabo to Loreto Harley owners rally, and you can’t have Bikers partying without music.

Del Boracho hosts several smaller music events during the winter season, bringing in local bands for late afternoon – early evening gigs. But this weekend was a much larger event, with a couple of hundred in attendance. They had built a stage for the performers in the parking lot and had a great sound system set up. Dozens of tables and stacks of chairs were spread out around the stage in the gravel lot surrounding the bar and the shaded patio area was packed with people enjoying the BBQ platters that they had just lined up for. For 70 pesos (a little over $5.00 US) you got a choice of potato salad, coleslaw, spaghetti, green salad, and baked beans with BBQ chicken and Aracharra (or skirt) steak and cans of beer or draft were available at 15 pesos.

I would estimate that the crowd of a couple of hundred people were divided more or less equally between the bikers, many of whom had travelled over 300 miles north from Cabo and local residents from in and around Loreto with a large contingent from Loreto Bay. The combined crowd was a feast for people watching with old and young, biker and not, Mexican and ex-pats – and a great time was had by all!

The music was loud and proud with several local bands as well as some talent from as far as Cabo. One of my favourites was Hammerhead, a local Loreto “boy band” that features several teenage players who are the sons of one of the Loreto bands. Of this group, the drummer is a crowd favourite, at 14 years old his drum kit is often the lead instrument and his partners can rip out a classic rock repertoire, most of which dates back decades before any of them were born.

They party started about 2:00 pm and the food line started about an hour later and there was a steady stream of hungry “hombres” for several hours. When the buffet food was gone the beer kept flowing and an independent hot-dog stand opened for business and kept the people well fuelled for the rest of the evening. I always say, that you can rate the party by the number of “Porta-Pottys” and this was a four star event, providing some welcome alternatives to the never-ending line up at the permanent facilities.

Your humble scribe made his way back home about 7:00 pm, but the party went on for hours afterwards with more bands keeping the entertainment going well into the night. But the party didn’t end last night – today there were to be drag races somewhere into the desert which would be, no doubt, well attended by many of the same people, if somewhat the worse for wear. I did not attend these races, partly so that I could prepare this week’s posting, and also I had a higher priority the Gold Medal Hockey Game this afternoon – which, as many of you probably saw, CANADA WON! Breaking the Gold Medal record for any hosting nation in the history of the Winter Olympics! GO CANADA GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

So, this week was all about friends and strangers coming together in a celebration of good food, music, cold beer, sunshine and moonshine (it was a full moon, go figure) with everyone from grandparents to grand kids, bikers and snowbirds, Mexicans and every nationality of visitor who was lucky enough to be sharing a perfect afternoon together – this was a day to remember, “Living Loreto”.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Olympic Contrasts

This past week marked the beginning of the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games. As a proud Canadian, a fan of winter sports in general, and a long time resident of a previous Olympic City, Calgary, I feel connections on several levels to this event.

However, this is the first time I have been out of the country for the broadcast of the games and, needless to say, it is a very different experience living here in Mexico while a significant part of the world is watching the daily drama unfold on their TVs. - which brings me to one of those differences; TV programming. As I mentioned at the beginning of last week’s Blog, the community video feed here in Loreto Bay is provided through the Mexican Satellite Broadcast monopoly holder Sky TV and we receive a “package” of channels from Sky through the Internet/Phone/Video Supplier that controls the fibre optic lines into each home in the development.

Unfortunately, since we do not receive any of the major North American network channels, we do not get dedicated Olympic coverage, just occasional “Headline” reports on news channels like CNN. Having spent a good part of the past three years living here, I was familiar with the limitations of the video service available, and that we would not be getting Olympic coverage from that source.

After looking into the matter last summer I opted for one of the two solutions available for watching North American programming while living here. Before I left Calgary last Fall, I purchased a “Slingbox” and a dedicated PVR (Personal Video Recorder) and I arranged to “share” a cable feed and internet connection with someone living there. The Slingbox technology is simple to explain – the piece of hardware is about the size of an average hardcover book and it sits on top of either a PVR or satellite receiver. With this box connected to power, the cable or satellite feed and an internet connection it can control the TV receiver in exactly the same way as is normally done with a remote control from the sofa in the same room as the TV. However, in this case the control is coming from my computer here in Mexico through the internet, and the resulting program signal is sent back through the internet to my computer where I can watch the TV program of my choice which originated back in Calgary. It then remains a simple step to connect my computer to the TV monitor here in Mexico and, (voila!) Canadian Olympic coverage on my TV here in Mexico.

The “downside” of this solution is that the quality of the signal I receive depends on the bandwidth available for my internet connection, which is determined by how many others sharing that internet connection are also streaming a video feed. In other words, the more people here in Loreto Bay, using the same internet connection, that are watching their own Slingbox system back home, the slower the transmission is. When you are watching TV through the internet, a slow connection speed results a blurred picture and, in extreme cases pauses and break-ups in the audio. Not the best things if you are watching fast paced sports coverage like hockey or downhill skiing!

The other option would be to bring a satellite receiver and dish that is registered in the US or Canada down here and pull down your own satellite signal direct to your TV here. This would give you just as high quality a signal as you would enjoy with the same equipment back home, with none of the shared bandwidth limitations I describe above. Unfortunately, this solution comes with it’s own problems. The first of which is that it is illegal to receive satellite TV signals here in Mexico, unless through the Sky TV monopoly. It is also against the letter of the Condominium Regime’s rules and regulations for this development to have satellite dishes visible from the ground level of the house. If you choose to ignore or circumvent these issues, you are still left with the problem of how to get the cable carrying the signal from the dish to your TV receiver through several feet of concrete and adobe block walls and ceilings. In spite of these “problems”, suffice to say, there are a few determined Home Owners who have managed to get their own satellite signal into their homes and they are able to enjoy the Olympic fruits of their efforts. By the way, it should be said, that a fair percentage of the ex-pat population here and elsewhere in Mexico use this method to receive their TV programming. As an interesting side bar to this, apparently Canadian satellite dishes are the most popular, due to the better signal that they receive in this area. So, by whatever means, it is possible, with some effort and planning, to get coverage of these games down here – which sets up the somewhat bizarre situation of watching winter sports live in mid-summer conditions.

While I was back in Calgary over the Christmas holidays, I received a gift of a pair of red mittens with the Olympic logo on the outside and (cleverly) a white maple leaf appliqu̩ on the palm area Рmaking a mini flag banner with each hand of these mitts. They were one of the most in-demand gifts this year in Canada, with the official clothing supplier going through millions and millions of pair during the pre-Christmas shopping season. Many of you, who are watching the crowd scenes during these games will be familiar with them, it seems that almost every other person is wearing a pair!

So these mitts returned with me to Mexico after Christmas and, without access to other Olympic paraphernalia, they have become part of my wardrobe while watching my somewhat blurry TV coverage. Doing so, I have discovered an unexpected benefit to wearing these mittens while I watch the games – my hand doesn’t get wet and cold from the condensation on the outside of the beer can I am often holding! Go Canada Go – Ehhh?

It has also been a reality check of sorts, talking to my Mexican friends and colleagues, who have little or no interest or awareness of the “unfolding drama” that is taking place in an environment of ice and snow (with intermittent rain!) thousands of miles north of here. It’s a timely example of how TV shapes our interests and priorities – because I have access to this North American signal I am wrapped up in the day to day drama and apparently consequential significance of round robin hockey match-ups, or who fell during their double axel jump. While most of the Mexicans I know, and almost all of the Home Owners who live here without that access, are more or less blissfully ignorant of the “sturm und drang” taking place around the Olympic cauldron in Vancouver.

As much as I am enjoying following the coverage of this event, I am also glad that it is limited to two weeks – because it is a distraction from all of the sensual beauty of living here. Particularly now, as we notice the temperatures rising again after a month or so of “cooler” weather and the daytime highs are reaching the higher 70’s and at night the heavier “winter weight” covers are being pulled back and a light blanket is once again enough.

Yes, it will be nice to refocus on the beauty of the sunrises over Coronado Island, the perfect blue cloudless sky, the gentle breezes and sparkling clear nights full of stars. After all the excitement has died down, the Olympic flame has been extinguished, and the fans all over the world have returned to their regular routines – we here in Loreto will still be living in this “Gold Medal” location. Being able to watch world events from afar, while enjoying pristine isolation and a perfect climate in one of the most beautiful places in that world, it doesn’t get much better than “Living Loreto!”

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bowling in Loreto

Before I begin this weeks Blog, I promised a homeowner/neighbor of mine that I would post the following links to several channels available on the Road9 service here in Loreto Bay:



AXN (May have to change from Argentina to Mexico for area you are in.)


For those of you who are not Homeowners here, the significance of this information may be lost. But if you try to watch our local Video feed from the sole supplier to the development, a company called Road9, you will appreciate that these links means that you can go the broadcaster's website and download a guide to upcoming programing. You see, although we can get about 40 channels and some of them have good content, we have no timetable with the Video feed so most of the time we have no idea when things are on what channel. Sounds like a simple thing, perhaps, but until you try to live with it you can't appreciate how frustrating that can become.

Public service completed, now back to the Blog:

Last Sunday was an iconic day in the cultural calendar for a large part of North America – Superbowl! With the large ex-pat population in places like Loreto it was celebrated here as well, all be it in a somewhat lower key manner than common north of the border.

But earlier in the day there was another event, that while modest by comparison, held potentially greater significance for our growing community here in Loreto Bay. Last week I wrote about the opening of the new Community Center, and on this past Sunday the committee setting up the facility held the first of three Open Houses to introduce the space to Home Owners, many of whom are here for the Condominium Sub-Regime Annual Meetings being held this month.

Different than these condo meetings, which are also being held in the center, the Open Houses are an opportunity for the people who live here, or are currently visiting, to meet new or old friends and neighbours (from all over the development, not just in their sub-regime) and begin the community building process in a relaxed and convivial atmosphere. People were invited to drop in between 2:00 and 4:00 pm, BYOB, and snacks would be provided. The timing of this was planned so as not to interfere with “the Big Game” and by mid-afternoon there were about two dozen people in attendance.

Mingling and visiting was the main order of business, and some of the talk focused on future plans for the space. I noticed that the bookshelves, that had been bare a week earlier, were filling up with donated books and discs, puzzles and games. There was a donation box near the entrance that contained an impressive pile of bills, mainly 500 peso notes, which had been collected from those in attendance. There was another donation, represented by a handwritten note, which represented the generous pledge of a 52” flat panel TV monitor from a Home Owner to the Center, making for a very impressive total as a show of support for the future of the space.

Heidi, one of the committee members, welcomed those in attendance, spoke briefly about the plans for activities in the future, and acknowledged the people who had taken the initiative to get the Center off the ground. After expressing appreciation for the substantial donations that had been received that day she made an appeal for continued support, in cash or in kind, as we were starting from bare walls and needed everything from coffee cups to toilet paper – or the funds to buy them.

At the end of the afternoon as this get-together wrapped up, people broke into groups and many headed off to enjoy the football game that was about to begin. I met up with some Home Owners who were going into town to watch the game at La Mission Hotel in town. Parking was unusually tight on the Malacon in front of the Hotel, but we found a spot in the next block and as we walked through the impressive Lobby area we heard the strains of the National Anthem coming from above, perfect timing! We made our way upstairs to the mezzanine, where the bar and dining room had been rearranged with a total of 8 large screen TVs. After paying 335 pesos ($25 US) and receiving a wristband we found a couple of tables near one of the screens and settled in for the game.

The wristband gave us choice of a dark or light beer, in unlimited quantities, and a
series of snacks like chips, popcorn, natchos and salsa that were replenished frequently. The mezzanine area continued to fill up as the first quarter began and
soon there were about 100 partiers focused on the screens scattered around the room. There were even TV monitors outside on the large patios overlooking the Malacon and shoreline across the street, providing a wonderful place to get away from the crowd and get some fresh air, without missing a moment of the game.

After the halftime show (Roger Daltry looked remarkably youthful, considering he has to be pushing 60!) I made my way out to another patio area, overlooking the large courtyard pool that the hotel wraps around, and found a complimentary buffet line with fresh French fries and a grill cooking hamburgers and hot dogs with all the trimmings. After helping myself to a plate of food, I made my way back to our table and spread the word about where to find the “eats”.

Later on, during the game, I wandered around the room taking some of the pictures you see here and saying hello to friends and neighbours, all of whom appeared to be having a good time! As I was doing so, the thought occurred to me that if I was back in Calgary (where I have lived for 40 years) watching this game in a bar I probably wouldn’t have known anyone in the bar, other than the people who I had come with. However here in Loreto, 4,000 km from Calgary, two thirds of the way down the Baja peninsula, I knew people at almost every table, at least to nod hello to, and that is one of the things I love about living here!

So last week we entered a new phase of community building, with Home Owners affirming relationships and making new acquaintances with their neighbours – generously donating to help build resources for the new heart of the community, and sharing the positive energy with other people who love living here. This week I also participated in a sport/entertainment ritual, shared with over a hundred people, many of whom I knew, in a beautiful setting on the waterfront of a 300 year old town hidden away on the Baja peninsula. Sharing good times with good people – and feeling that this is where I belong – that is one of the best parts of “Living Loreto”!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Paseo Additions = Progress

Earlier this winter I wrote about the opening of Evan and Julie’s Convenience Store, called Baja On Site, located on the Paseo in the space that was originally the Farmacia. At that time this was the first new commercial enterprise to have opened in the Loreto Bay Development in some time, and the only one catering to the day to day needs of the residents here. Since then, their store has become a real fixture on the main street of the community – from first thing in the morning, when hot coffee and fresh doughnuts are available, throughout the day as there is a more or less steady stream of people in and out of the store, picking up snacks and staples, a cold drink, loaf of bread, a missing ingredient, or just stopping by to say “Hola”. During the day there are often people sitting at tables and chairs out front using their computers at the WiFi hotspot Evan has set up in the store, and as the afternoon passes it’s not uncommon to see a group of neighbours standing around in front of the store visiting, while they enjoy a cold beer or soda – the store has even become our substitute for a local Pub.

This week marked the occupation of two more commercial spaces on the Paseo. The Loreto Bay Community Center opened across the street from Evan and Julie’s store in #306, on the ground floor of an “Alta” model. Camille Kelly, one of the longest term residents here in Loreto Bay, deserves much of the credit for getting this space opened for the benefit of all Home Owners. Within our Master Condominium Regime budget, there were funds available for the rental of the space and the utilities and for the hiring of a staff person to operate the space. But it took Camille’s vision and determination to move through the red tape and formalities and get the place up and running for the benefit of all the Home Owners here in Loreto Bay.

Camille also started raising funds and soliciting donations of furniture and fixtures that will make the space useful and provide new and exciting opportunities for activities that will add greatly to the living experience for everyone here. One of the first uses of this space is for the series of Home Owners Association sub-regime annual meetings that started this week and will take place several times a week for the rest of the month. Now that the space is in operation, a Community Center Volunteer Committee has been formed with over a dozen members and planning is underway for the further development of the facility and organizing more activities that will take place there in the future.

Members of this committee are present at each of the sub-regime meetings, giving them access to the many Home Owners who are here to attend, and they will be spreading the word about the Center and what the space will be available for. They will also be continuing to solicit more donations and support so that the space can be equipped with the necessary materials and supplies for full operations. I encourage any interested Home Owner to contact Camille to offer your support of cash or “in kind” donations of the many things that are required. In Mexico you can reach her cell at 044-613-118-3918 and her email is: .

In addition to the sub-regime meetings, one of the first “fun” activities to be launched in the Center are “Zumba” classes three times a week. Not personally being involved in the classes, I gather Zumba is a sort of “Jazzercize” aerobic workout that involves music and a high energy workout that has proved to be popular, with over a dozen people showing up for the first session. Other activities and services that are planned for the Center include; a lending library of books, videos, CDs, games, toys and puzzles, lectures, Spanish classes, along with arts and crafts, and children’s activities, with opportunities for other special events and social activities. In that vein, the Committee has planned a series of Open Houses each Sunday this month, starting this Sunday between 2 and 4 pm (in deference to the Superbowl telecast) and the following two Sundays, the 14th and 21st, from 4 till 6 pm. Everyone who will be in Loreto Bay this month is welcome, BYOB and some snacks will be provided – this will provide a great opportunity for us to meet and greet our neighbours and I am sure that new and exciting uses for the space will evolve from these get-togethers for the benefit of us all.

The other new enterprise that has opened on the Paseo this week is the permanent offices for Nellie Hutchison’s two businesses; Dorado Properties and Baja BOSS. Dorado Properties is the sole Real Estate broker for all the re-sale residential properties currently available here in Loreto Bay, and Baja BOSS is one of the main Property Management providers for the development. This new office, located just south of the “T” intersection on the south entrance to Loreto Bay, is the second one Nellie has opened this winter. I wrote previously about the in-town office of Dorado that opened in November on the central plaza, to serve the Real Estate market in and around the town, and now there is the office in Loreto Bay which will focus exclusively on listings in this development.

After months of operating in temporary accommodations and Open Houses, the opening of these beautifully decorated offices marks a major step in establishing Dorado and Baja BOSS as an important part of the future of the Loreto Bay development. There are two full-time staff assisting Nellie with the administration of these businesses. Veronica, previously from the back office of the INN at Loreto Bay, now manages the Property Management team that takes care of well over 100 Loreto Bay homes providing maintenance, repairs, and tax and utility payments among a myriad of other services. Rosario, who ran the Loreto Bay Realty offices prior to their closing, now assists Nellie with managing the growing Dorado Properties Real Estate operation (with over 50 resale listings in Loreto Bay) and provides myself and Ariel Klein, the Buyers Agents, with administrative support.

This past week was our first in the new offices and I am enjoying the experience of working out of a permanent office, after over a year of sitting Open Houses. Having all of the operations of these two businesses under one roof has already made a big difference in our day to day operations and I am also enjoying the simple pleasure of having other people around while I am at work during the day. One of the big changes that has resulted from working out of these offices is that I am now working full days, rather than my past routine of mornings only in the Open Houses. If the traffic that came through the office this week is any indication, having an official presence in a professional office situation will have a significant impact on our exposure and the potential business that will generate.

The offices are now staffed and operating from 8:00 am to 5:00 pm (or later) 5 days a week and Saturday mornings. At most times during the day either I or Ariel will be available in the office to assist prospective buyers and home owners with their Real Estate interests, and I plan to continue to do Open Houses throughout the Founders Neighborhood with information about times and location available at the office. However, in addition to these business operations, I know that Nellie has designed the space as an important community contact center as well, and we look forward to, and welcome, Home Owners and Visitors alike dropping in for a visit, a cup of coffee, or just to find out what is (or isn’t ) going on in our growing community.

So that’s a big week in Loreto Bay, with the opening of two new spaces on the Paseo. One dedicated to building a sense of community and enriching our lives here with a venue for any and all special interests, and another, that will provide service and expertise, improving the experience of current Home Owners and opening the door to Prospective Buyers who want to share in the dreams we all have for the future of this wonderful place. It is through these developments and progress that the intangible community evolves and becomes stronger, adding life to the beautiful buildings that surround us, this is one of the most important parts of “Living Loreto”.