Getting to Know Puerto Penasco, Mexico

This adventure of mine starts in Puerto Penasco – also known as Rocky Point, Mexico.  It is a border town and located about 4 hours from Phoenix, Arizona, U.S.A.  It is referred to as Phoenix’s beach.  The town is full of people from Arizona.  It is a desert situated on the shores of the Sea of Cortez.  I guess that makes it an oasis.  I remember learning about deserts and oases (had to google the plural form) in grade 4.  I can actually picture my drawing of an oasis in my notebook. 

I am here on a work exchange – room and board in exchange for helping with the family’s AirBnb business.  I am responsible for some online editing and some property management.  My exchange is with the sister of a close friend of mine in Canada.   

I arrived here in mid November – the same weekend as the famous Rocky Point Bike Rally.  During the rally the population almost doubles with over 10,000 bikes and 60,000 tourists I am told.  My host and I were selling tequila with a friend of hers to raise money for a children’s charity.  I made a few new friends and also heard lots of rock music. This is the beginning of the winter or off season.  The water is cooling down and only the bravest are swimming now.

The weather is not hot but it is also not humid and the sun is bright and warms up the air every afternoon. The temperature is usually in the mid twenties in the afternoon and night lows around 10 celcius.   There are small trees with bright and beautiful flowers but a lot of this town dusty, dirty and impoverished.  It is the reality of a Mexican border town.

There a few very posh developments here with huge homes that are mostly owned by Americans.  There are condominium developments too.  I attended a brunch that was a fundraising event in one of those areas – about 75 mostly American women paying $20 USD for brunch and bidding on silent auction items and raffles to raise money for a women’s shelter in Puerto Penasco. One item went for over $600.

I am living in the old part of the town on a dusty unpaved road that leads to the beach. The street is about 1.5 kilometres long. I make this walk a few times a day often bringing the family dog, Cilantro.  There are many dogs in every house and they come out to greet me as I walk – barking loudly and running towards me.  Many, many Chihuahuas. Actually one of my new friends adopted a little one before returning to the states.  Meet Lara.

Often Cilantro (the house dog where I am staying, will block the barking neighbour dogs from getting to me or distract them.  He is such a sweet, quiet fellow – I love him.  The only time I hear him bark is when a stranger is around the property at night and he also howls at the whistle of the train as it crosses through the town around 2a.m. every night.  A- woooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

There isn’t much to do here especially in the off-season.  There are a few bars, many restaurants, an American legion and not much else.  I don’t enjoy spending time in bars and I am not one to eat out that often.  That is for both financial and health reasons.  I heard there is a bingo game in a bar somewhere. (not interested in that either).  I was thinking of volunteering to tutor English in the women’s shelter but now I am leaving early so I won’t be able to.

I’ve eaten out only a few times.  This week I had the enormous Wednesday special at the German KaufeeHaus.  It was very good – salad, ham steak on a bed of creamy sauerkraut, a German sausage and meatball with a big helping of mashed potatoes along with two thick slices of homemade rye bread twith sage in it.  Too much food but the change I needed from Mexican cuisine and my own home cooking.  The price was a very reasonable 165 pesos which is less than $10 in both US and Canadian currency.  They have a huge breakfast menu as well with so many kinds of omelettes. It would take you an hour to choose one, I think.

Bryan’s Sports Bar is another popular place that has specials on different days and on Thursday there is a pasta special and a drink for $5 USD.  I ate there on my first night in town.  We arrived at 9pm and went directly to Bryan’s for a quick meal.  I had linguine and shrimp in an Alfredo sauce. Yummmm. This  is a shrimp town and shrimp is easy to find and will run you about 100 pesos for a half kilo.  It’s fresh and big and absolutely delicious.  I cooked some the first week I was here and promise to do that a few more times before I leave.

There are several big, luxurious hotels in town but I honestly have not been to any so I am not able to give an opinion.  There are many AirBnb listings and I have been helping with 10 of them.  I really can recommend the properties owned and operated by my hosts Rita and Tommy.  They are clean and well kept and offer good value for your $$$.  Check out the many options on AirBnb or on the website Welcome to Go2 Rocky Point or click  here.

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How to Discover a New Town

I’ve been in Puerta Penasco for over 2 weeks .  It’s time for me to discover this town – figure out on my own how to get around and how to direct our guests in the AirBnb properties.

I’ve gone on several walks in a variety of directions (don’t ask how far I get) but I now have a much better sense of where I am and where many of the main streets are.  I started driving this past weekend.  In Mexico you can purchase a car insurance on your driver’s licence for $90 USD that gives you liability insurance on any vehicle that you drive.

Walking to town

This isn’t my first rodeo.  I’ve worked and lived in Greece and Israel/Palestine. I’ve had to learn my way around Haifa, Jerusalem, Tel Aviv and the West Bank.  Also in Greece in Athens, Pireaus, Aghios Nickolas and other places on the island of Crete.  I often travel on my own with poor language skills.  It’s an adventure that I truly love.

So now here I am in Mexico – in this small town of Puerta Penasco with a population of just over 60,000. Puerto Peñasco, also known as Rocky Point, is a Mexican fishing and resort city on the Sea of Cortez. It’s known for the dune-backed Sandy Beach and Bahía la Choya’s tidal pools.  Neither of which I have seen yet.  I am looking forward to whale and dolphin watching.

For the past week, I’ve walked to the beach about a kilometre from the house and from there a little to the left and the right along the sand. The rest of the time I have been in a vehicle with someone else driving and it’s really hard for me to get a sense of where we’re going.  I have to go on my own and get lost a few times. I don’t have data on my mobile phone so I need to get directions for where I am going before I leave the house.  I now have a little tourist map in my bag. 

How do you discover a new environment?

How to Travel for Free: Believe!

There are many companies across North America that pay a person to drive a vehicle long distances.  There are thousands of snow birds in the north heading south for the winter.  What’s a snow bird?  A person (usually a senior) who wants out of the snow for a portion of the winter months.  Canadians tend to head down south around the first of November and head back sometime in April.  In Canada, we can only be out of our province for a maximum of 6 months to maintain our health insurance.  I’m away for 4 months this trip which will leave another 2 months for later in the year.

The company I chose to drive for was Toronto Drive-Away.  They’ve been around for a very long time and my brother has driven cars to Florida for them many times so I knew they were legitimate and dependable. Ken, John and Jean will treat you kindly, professionally and with a friendly respect.  It took a week to receive my payment but when I called to follow up, I was told that there were 700 drivers to be paid.  That tells me that this is thriving business.  I had to pick up my car in Barrie and I was given a $250 bonus.  It was not convenient to get there and took a lot of my day but in the end the extra money was awesome.  I received a total of $650 for driving and was reimbursed for all the gas.  I saved my receipts and had them scanned and sent off to the company the next day.

The car was great – a 2018 Honda CRV that had only 1500 kilometres on it and had only been off the lot for a week.  That new car smell was still there!  Mmmm.  I memorized the  licence plate number.  I stayed in hotels for 2 nights.  I had promised to drop the car off at a parking lot with shuttle service near the Fort Myers airport.  It was so easy since the couple came on the shuttle and I took it back to the airport.  The owner did a quick walk around inspection of the car as I had done when I picked it up.  I  had booked a flight on Southwest Airlines at 6pm.  We exchanged the car at around noon.  I was almost an hour late.  I had given myself an hour to get to the airport (only a 17 minute journey according to google maps) but I got caught in traffic because of a horrific 3 car pile up.  It was a mess!!  One of them was a state trouper vehicle.  You can read about it here.

Honda CRV
Honda 2018 CRV that I drove to Florida

3 car accident
Florida Highway Patrol trooper, driver he was helping on I-75 hit in Lee crash

The drive took me 3 days.  I tried to reach Athens, Georgia the first day but after 11 hours in the car, I was exhausted.  I had driven through rain in Ontario and New York state and even a bit of snow in West Virginia.  I left before dawn and it was not only dark but raining from Toronto to the Peace bridge at Buffalo. When you cross the bridge for Toronto Drive-away, you must follow the truck lane.  The look of surprise on the Custom Officer’s face was hilarious.  “Are you a commercial vehicle?” “Yes, I am bringing this car into the US,” I replied.  “Ok, give me your papers.”  I handed him the entire stack including my passport.  The papers included the list of everything packed by the owners in the trunk, a copy of both their passports, copies of the car insurance and registration and the contract between me and the couple as well as a manifesto with a bar code. The whole process took me about 20 minutes.  I had to park and go inside the building, hand my papers to another officer and wait for my name to be called.  I was on my way very quickly.  Easy peasy!

I started driving each day around 5am but I really don’t enjoy driving in the dark.  I think in the future I will plan to stay over night in hotels and to drive only from dawn to dusk – 8 to 10 hours a day especially if I am the sole driver.  I will go to sleep a bit later and get up and enjoy a relaxing cup of coffee and breakfast before hitting the road.  The hours in the dark, I found myself driving under the speed limit with my shoulders tense as I managed the unfamiliar highways.  The other problem, of course, is the blinding sun early in the morning.

However, the majority of my trip had clear roads, sunny skies, and no traffic delays. I love sirius radio – I found a channel with Beatles music, a 60’s channel, a 70’s channel, one called Bridge – singing at the top of my lungs with no critics or anyone to annoy – heaven!!!!!!!!!!!! When I reached the Florida state line, I stopped for a break, a free cup of grapefruit juice and a short conversation with a nice man who took my photo.

Florida Travel Centre
Florida welcome travel centre for a cup of free grapefruit juice and a moment in the warm air

I also have to mention the torrential rains just as I was exiting I-75 to Fort Myers.  I couldn’t see anything and slowed my speed to 45 kilometres per hour – the other cars were doing the same but it was a frightening period as I took the first exit and pulled into the parking lot of a business.  When it calmed down, I got back on I-75 to the exit for my hotel.  I recommend using hotwire to get some amazing hotel deals at the last minute.

After checking in, I went to the nearest grocery store to get a few things for my dinner and breakfast and lunch the next day.  Grocery stores are great for rotisserie chicken and premade vegetable and/or fruit salads.  I added a mini baguette and a bottle of seltzer water to my fruits and vegetables and I had 3 healthy meals for less than $20.

This is a great way to travel but it’s not for the faint of heart.  Put on your big girl pants and hit the open road!  Tell me what you think!

On Route to Mexcio: Must Love Horses

 

My only full day in Athens, Georgia included a visit from the farrier.  A farrier is a specialist in equine hoof care, including the trimming and balancing of horses’ hooves and the placing of shoes on their hooves, if necessary.  I was fascinated at his work having never seen a horses hoof up close and had no idea what trimming or putting on horse shoes would entail.  I was also fascinated and appalled at his running racist commentary – a view into southern, conservative America.  Quite an education for me. It was election day in the USA and I didn’t remind him or encourage him to vote.  Erev, my mentor in no way reflects this type of thinking – she is an amazing woman with the most generous spirit I have ever witnessed.  She is a champion mounted archer. How cool is that!?!?!?!?!?

Erev
Erev on a galloping horse

I haven’t been on or even near horses since I was a teenager.  I love horses and dogs and this new adventure has me surrounded by both.  My host in Mexico has horses in Phoenix and in Puerta Penasco.  I visited with Erev in Athens, Georgia for a few days on route to Mexico and we spent a half day with her horses.

I spent a morning in Phoenix at the ranch observing Jorge training 3 of the 4 horses.  Jorge is a volunteer from Spain staying in Phoenix for a while as he travels in the United States.  He is a real horse whisperer and it was fascinating to watch him.  He spoke gently in a soothing, soft voice to the horses.  He continually explained to me what he was doing and why.  It was mesmerizing to watch and a lesson for sure in patience.

horse training.jpg
Volunteer from Spain, Jorge training horse

Why all this talk and time with horses?  Many of you may know that I am studying now to become a Kohenet, a Hebrew Priestess.   This past spring my cohort and I were initiated and this summer we will be ordained.  I am very excited about the whole process. Kohenet is a training program in spiritual leadership for women on a Jewish path. It is also a movement, a sisterhood, and a network of communities. It is creating a paradigm of earth-based, embodied, feminist, Judaism. I am now working with a Kohenet mentor who uses horses and archery to teach energy-work.  The archery helps with my ability to concentrate and to focus.  Horses are known for their incredible sensitivity.After a day in Phoenix my host drove me to Puerto Penasco in Mexico.  It is a small fishing village located on the Sea of Cortes in Mexico. Commonly referred to by American visitors as Rocky Point, this small fishing town has blossomed into a popular modern day vacation destination. Rocky Point is a little over 60 miles from the USA border which makes the seaside city a popular drive to destination by visitors from the USA.  It is here that I will be managing 10 AirBnb properties.  Check it out.

Sandra Laya Puerta Penasco
SandraLaya in Las Conchas, Puerta Penasco, Mexico

 

 

Quite the Adventure: My Bags are Packed and I’m Ready to Go.

I have been planning this trip for quite sometime now and it has just come to fruition. The dream was a winter out of the snow and somewhere near salt water, sand and sunshine.  I am only semi-retired and not independently wealthy so there was a financial challenge to overcome.  Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm…..how to have it all????

I questioned my friends and acquaintances, scoured websites, and sent my prayers out to the Universe.  I’ve been very intrigued with the concept of Workaway. Take a look at  their website – so many opportunities around the world.  In the end, I found an opportunity through a good friend of my mine with her sister in Mexico.  For the next 4 months, I will be volunteering in Rocky Point, Mexico helping with their AirBnb business.  Check it out here.

The first hurdle was to get there without spending a lot of money.  Travelling across the USA for free.  There had to be a way.  I found it with Toronto Drive-Away Service.  I applied online in September and heard back from them promptly.  Early in October they gave me my assignment.  I drove a brand new Honda CRV to Fort Myers, Florida for a couple of elderly snow birds.

Honda CRV

It was a great adventure – driving across country on my own with the radio cranked high singing to the Beatles and a variety of 60’s music and other pop era’s.  Yowza!!!  This is not for the faint of heart.  I hit every type of weather – lots of rain on and off, snow in West Virginia for a few kilometers, bright and blinding sunshine and then absolutely torrential rain on I-75 just a half hour from my hotel.  It was terrifying as traffic slowed to nothing and no one could see.  I quickly exited the highway and waited it out in a parking lot.

I drove 12 hours on day one and spent the night at the Holiday Inn Suites in Beckley, West Virginia that I easily booked on Hotwire and left a 5 star review on Yelp.    I slept well and was up and on my way to Athens, Georgia very early the next morning.  I arrived there 6 hours later.  I spent a lovely day with my friend and mentor, left my luggage and drove another 12 hours to Fort Myers the next morning. Spent the night at the Hyatt Suites, met the couple (whose car I was) delivering at an airport shuttle office, took the shuttle over to Southwest’s Terminal and flew to Athens an hour and half later.  Read my reviews of the Hyatt Suites and Southwest Airlines on Yelp.

Choosing what to pack and how to limit my luggage took lots of my brain power.  I need warm clothes for the drive down and for my stay in March in Connecticut, boots and water shoes, clothes for being around the stables and clothes for fun, clothes for meeting clients………….I love my clothes.  I had to limit myself to luggage I could manage solo and also the limitations of the airlines.

Bags are packed

I know this is the time for me – time to get healthier, face my fears head on, ramp up the adventure meter and experience something new everyday.  There’s no stopping me now.

Feedback Brett and Katherine

Brett & Katherine

We could not have picked a nicer, funnier and more professional officiant for our wedding! We got married in August 2018 at the Toronto Hunt Club by Sandra Ruch and from the first phone call, we could tell that she was going to be wonderful. She understood exactly what we wanted and gave us plenty of options and accommodated our asks. She was sweet, charming and engaging and the ceremony went off without a hitch. We received a lot of positive affirmations from our guests who absolutely loved Sandra and we’re so happy she could be a part of our special day! She’s a fantastic officiant and still the best I’ve seen (even though we might be biased!)

Feedback Jaclyn and James

Jaclyn & James

We are beyond happy that we chose Sandra Ruch to be the officiant for our wedding! Sandra gave us many options for our wedding ceremony which we really appreciated since we were having a culturally blended wedding and we weren’t sure where to start. It was nice to put our ceremony together and choose what we did/didn’t want. Sandra is so warm and loving, she has a such a great spirit. We could really feel that she was so happy for us on our special day. She kept us calm with our spirits high. Jaclyn & James Aug 25th, 2018

Feedback Jesse and Diana

Jesse & Diana

Sandra Ruch is a lovely and warm person and a professional when it comes to wedding officiating. She conducted our official signing and was present for our first look, while our officiator facilitated the ceremony. She communicated everything with us in advance and completed everything quickly and efficiently. We are happy to recommend her services to other couples. Jesse and Diana August 12th, 2018

Feeback – Ali and Sarah

Ali & Sarah

Sandra was kind and very patient with us on what can be a stressful day to plan. As well, she was prompt and responsive in communications leading up to our day. She also does signings only – in our case we had a spiritual leader to our ceremony, while Sandra took care of the legal signing. I *highly* recommend Sandra! [Aug 5th, 2018]