Turning roosters into hens…

Volunteering is ALWAYS a great idea…

And my choice this year was for Isla Animals. I’m an animal LOVER, so it was a no brainer. I started months before my trip by creating a unique vinyl sticker dedicated towards Islaholics and their purchase of them would directly benefit the clinic on Isla.

Here’s the sticker.

And here are the names of the generous donors who participated by their purchase. (Please forgive any mis-spelled names.)

Matthew Garrity
Theresa Gebber
Tracey Gazdik
Lisa Bassett
John Pasnau
Robert O’Hare
Dawn Baxter
Roanne Edmundson
Judith Arnold
BizTech, LLC
Linda Weiss
Terri Huffstetler
David Ross
Deborah Mason
Angelique Carslile
Connie Harris
Brad Peek
Wesley Montemayor
Jon Knight
Kelly Johnston
Paula Ruetz
Amy Moe
Sid Morris
Jill Johnston-Murphy
Penny Deming
James Marias
Dave Rhinehart
Scott Vogt
Eileen Regn

I have owned “pound puppies” all my life. I get it.

All of them have been chipped and neutered. Typically, you take your pup to the vet, drop him or her off, come back later in the day and thanks to the magic of time lapse, your pup is now safe and you can rest assured you have done the responsible thing.

In Mexico, the process is the same, however, you become much, MUCH more involved in the well-being and caring for all animals needing attention. Ever seen the TV series, “M*A*S*H*”?

So, being weak-stomached in matters of health, well, more specifically, blood, after introducing myself to Alison Sawyer, Dr. Jonas from Canada and Dr. Arturo from Cancun, I laid back and observed for a bit. I figured, “Hey, I can bathe ANY dog, so that’s what I’ll so. Yeah.”

Several volunteers were a lot closer over the surgical table and saw me, well, standing there, doing nothing. So, I became the volunteer photographer. Of them, assisting. Which meant, getting closer to the procedure.

Awkward. How is it going to look when an American volunteer passes out on the floor while vets are performing procedures inches away? Would they merely grab my legs and drag me into “recovery” with the other ball less dogs? Step over and around me while performing their task? Or throw water on me AFTER drawing with sharpies all over my face?

Suck it up.

I didn’t pass out!

I hung in there!

I actually moved closer, like a timid street puppy, to see the actual procedure.

Just when I was able to keep breakfast down, I heard someone ask for help in recovery.

Here’s where I met the “recovery king”, Bundy. Who, coincidentally, is the “Bundy” of “Trina and Bundy” of CARM.

This guy knows his stuff.

He taught me how to care for an animal during this short window of anesthesia.

Ticks. Ticks, TICKS. Everywhere. Clean the ears, check the gums, extubate them. Remove the catheter. Clean the new wound.

I’ve never seen animal come out of anesthesia. It’s…awkward to watch as each animal awakens differently…some “head nod”, while others lift their heads repeatedly in a motion which appears as if they are actually looking in the direction of where their um, manhood once was.

After they are reviewed and appear semi-conscious, they are taken to an area where volunteers or even their owners can sit with and love on them to ease them back to reality. Shortly after that, they are sent home with any necessary meds and printed instructions in the event any additional attention is needed.

Mango café provided lunch and nearly 12 hours later, more than 25 animals had been cared for. The goal for the week is 30 per day.

It’s a long day and laborious task that needs to occur more often as the results are clearly benefitting the animals, their owners, and the island which we all know and love so much.

My challenge to all reading this is, DO SOMETHING besides simply enjoy your vacation. Give back. Make a difference. There are plenty of opportunities for everyone to make an impact. It matters not where you live, it only matters that you do.

Thank you Isla Animals.

 

The wheels on the bus…

Oh yeahhhhh…they do go ’round and ’round.

So, Penny, Sweet Pea, Rachel, Amanda and I have been chasing the party bus for like, DAYS. You remember the party bus. It was cruising past my place a few nights ago and I chased it but he never stop for me. I figured it out with a little help from my friends.

Sweet Pea coordinated the outing but FIRST, we drink! At Soggy Peso. Have you ever been to this place? I have. It’s a hangout very popular with many gringos and industry employees.

Penny was in a hurry to get to El Patio, so she dropped me off at the Peso where the party had already started! I mean, COME ON! Nobody waited for me…I know…it’s not always ABOUT. ME.

So, order up some drinks and catch up…

And like a shot from a cannon Sweet Pea (Penny’s General Manager at The Joint), blasts us out of the Peso to the pick up point for the party bus. Oh yeah. “The Bus.”

Have you seen this thing?

It’s…Frankenstein on wheels.

With a 20 million watt sound system and 3 gazillion blinking LED lights.

You don’t have fin on this thing, GTFO of LIFE.

BUT, before we can board, Sweet Pea needs to make a “candy run”. And we also need mas tequila. Or at least…some tequila.

WTF?

A 5 pound bag of hard candy that WE, get to THROW at people as we pass by…and they LOVE IT!

Even Policia Municipal waits for the flying cavities.

So, of course, we GOTTA sit up front, up top. because, YOLO.

This bus fires up like a ’68 Chevy Camaro with a muffler disease and we are off.

We’re going to cruise the entire island.

And throw candy. And drink. And party like it’s 1999!

Oh. That last part was lame.  But the rest, was definitely not.

If you can always remember and never forget the fun you had when you were a kid and repeat it every day, I think you’ll agree living can be so much more “worth it”.

Take a vacation. Let yourself be a kid again. Forget about whatever anyone might say or think…this is the ONLY life each of us gets. And I’m not wasting mine.

Grab a camera and have some fun learning about Mexico and..Isla.

Try it.

LOOK at things differently…once you start doing so, you’ll start laughing more, then appreciating the beautiful simplistic life afforded here. It may also help you appreciate what you do have “back home”. This then, is the essence of Isla’s magic.

A party is where you make it and whom you make it with.

The chico is carrying home lunch…

8th tee box…for Texans.

I don’t even have the words…(You can find THIS and SO much more at “The Crazy Store.”) It’s totally worth the trip!

The “official greeter” when you exit the ferry terminal.

Uh, the “rotation issue” again…anyway, read closely the “Horarios”…everything here is on “MST”.

In the end, there are few things that really matter…one, is that you do.

Simple lunch quest turned “un” simple?

OK…We’re on the cusp of “high season” here on isla.

I’ve not been here during this season so it’s all new to me.

What I do know is lunch can be a bit of a challenge…at least finding a place to get it can be…

Remembering what days, what times each of your fav’s or the ones you want to try are open. Even then, like red stop signs, signals and children wearing helmets on motos, I find that information is more of a suggestion of when they’ll be open.

I wanted to try the burger at BoBo’s…have been trying for a few day now…Sid and I drove by it last night…CLOSED. BUT, open Wednesday at 11:00 am…perfect…lunch tomorrow is set.

I’ll even give them an hour grace period…I hop on the bike and hoof it to BoBo’s at noon…guess what…CLOSED.

Time to grab a coldie and go cool down on the beach and create Plan “B”.

Relaxing on a super soft, beautiful beach with bright blue skies, cool breezes, the sun on your face and Mexico’s gift of cerveza…does not suck.

My beer, on an empty stomach, is finished and plan “B” has arrived.

I’d like a slice, some knots and…another icy cold one for my efforts. Oscars.

Pedal, pedal, pedal.

I grab a seat on those gigantic seats carved from tree bases and request my favorite, Sol.

I look at the menu…panic just grabbed the empty seat next to me and smiles.

I motion the waitress over.

I ask her about what I’d like…she sheepishly points at the upper left hand corner of the menu…”Abierto 5 pm to 11 pm.”

I mumbled something that starts with an “F” and ends with a “K”.

“Firetruck.”

Finish the beer, kick panic in the nuts and hop back on the seat and pedal…need a Plan “C”.

I remembered a Facebook posting for a restaurant I passed a few miles back. It opened last year right after we left. I noticed the windows were open when I pedaled past, so, it becomes my new, and last hope before scrapping the whole idea until dinner.

“Please. Please. Please be open”, wails my stomach.

I step in.

I ask the server if she’s open.

She looks at the clock over our head. It reads 2:10.

She smiles and says, “yes”.

As do I.

I ordered the Arracherra burrito with corn plates.

They make these little desert sized plates from masa, fry them, and serve your beans and rice in them. The beans are the BEST I have ever eaten. “Why?” You ask?

They are infused with the perfect amount of shredded pork. Not so much as to cause un-necessary chewing, but just enough to let you know, “Surprise!”

Once you consume the rice and beans, you can eat the plates!

And they are delicious.

The burrito was very tasty as well. Crisp lettuce, just enough juicy steak, slices of soft Mexican cheese, rolled up then toasted.

It looks like this.

The ONLY thing I would suggest, and it’s just me, is. I feel the presentation lacks some…pizzazz…Perhaps some sprinkling of a red and green garnish would break up the brilliant white quite nice…just an after thought that takes nothing away from the deliciousness at all.

 

Some interesting observations in, and about Merida.

Again…a picture says a thousand words, so with little commentary, I will let those I took that I found amusing or interesting show, rather than tell.

I find great pleasure in “getting lost”. Meaning, instead of flip-flops, it’s Nike running shoes. Then I simply pick a random direction and walk…until the streets are no longer brick pavers, few, if any street signs exist to tell me where I am, I can no longer hear the heart-pulsing thump of street music and the scenery…changes.

If you think about this, it will be a “light bulb” moment for you.

Take the city you live in now.

Go to the center of it; that’s usually the area for tourism. Look around, listen.

Now, start walking until the things you saw and heard, disappear.

You are most likely now in a neighborhood where the people who work in tourism, et al, live.

This my friends is where you’ll actually be able to experience the culture of the city; IMHO, the culture of any city, lies in its occupants.

It’s a very old but cosmopolitan and progressive, pro-citizen city. She feels very much like her far away younger cousin, New York City. With similar named streets all going one way, then another to horse drawn carriages in central park to live theater. She’s almost like a Las Vegas casino in that, once you’re in, you’re going to find it difficult to get out.

But, hey, if you’re having a great time, why think about leaving at all.

All in all, I loved Merida. I will visit again and this time, lengthen my stay.

(Again, despite of uploading pics in the proper format and position, WordPress has a current glich…sorry.)

USA knows these as “Foot Lockers”.

“Uh, dude, you’re chicken, is hanging out.”

If you need a job, they post them at the government center mall.

April 14. Can someone PLEASE get me this for my birthday?

Yup. He’s cleaning the streets.

Look closely…at his chair. It’s an office chair…guess that means he’s open for business.

Even Mexico rushes the holidays…

THIS, is why there is a high season on Isla.

Medical center…check out the prices for some of the services…

I know it’s difficult to gauge their size in a pic, but, they are the size of a Nerf football!

Globally, Merida is a top producer of Hammocks.

I saw the BIGGEST selection of cookware and SIZES of it all in this one, singular location.

Again. Look closely. THOSE black “dots”, are bees. INSIDE the case!

He has NO ARMS. He drives with components of his face.

Typical Meztizan woman.

In the park? Need power? No problem…

All the power outlets in the usual places full? No problem amigo! We fix it for you!

WiFi is free for public use.

In every corner of the square, you’ll find shoe shine stops…people in Merida have very shiny shoes.

Old meets new.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday night in Merida…

Is like, EDC (Electric Daisy Carnival) Mexicana style.

Select, entire streets in centro are barricaded allowing bars and restaurants to double even triple, their capacity. They simply spill out into the street in front of their place with tables and chairs and voila! THEN, it gets interesting…every bar hires musicians…at first, you’ll be chillin’ when the group at your place begins, then you hear another behind you, then another to the left and before you know it, you’ve got to get up and sample them all.

Before I got to get my flip-flop groove on, I stepped into the cathedral on my way, and discovered there was a wedding ceremony in progress. Since the place didn’t fall down around me, I decided to take a seat and enjoy it.

 

Dinner in Merida.

When I was in the maze of driving looking for my hotel, I passed a restaurant/bar called “Amaro’s”. It looked really cool and Cuban.

It just so happens to be down the street so I head over.

I’m not very hungry, but I could use a drink. I walk in and am greeted then seated.

I read the menu, but the interesting part is on the back page.

It tells the story of where we are actually at. We are in the original home built and live in by Don Andres Quintana Roo. That’s right! THE name now has a face.

I ask the waiter if what I am reading is true and he affirms. He motions, “Uno momentito”. And scurries away. When he returns, he hands me a tourist magazine opened to the page telling the story.

I order a simple Caprese and two Cubre Libre’s and start reading.

I’m steeped in history a lot deeper than I realized.

 

 

Off to Merida! Otherwise known as, “Driving in Mexico 101.”

I’ve heard a lot of stories about how fabulous this 19th century is. Steeped in culture, history and modern enough to please even the most discerning foreign traveler. So much so, many have made Merida their permanent home.

Here we come to the driving part, again. It’s such an anomaly in my mind. Adhering to the universal color red, as in octagonal “Alto” signs, or traffic signals, doesn’t appear to be mandatory. Rather, it’s more of a, suggestion.

That fact alone will best serve you to never forget, even when you clearly have the right of way.

Getting from Holbox to Merida Cuota was easy. Just a reverse of what I did to get here in the first place. Since I do have to pass through Valladolid, I’m going to make a quick stop for lunch at Cenote Xkeken, just outside the city limits. Jill and I visited the cenote last year and she fell in love with the family that sets up a lunch stand just outside the entrance of it. As you stroll to the entrance to the cenote, they melodically pitch lunch to you…”Pok Chuk Maya amigos.”

I was happy to be once again greeted by the father, “Edgar”, who when asked, did not remember me. I didn’t think he would. I have just the thing to jar his memory. I told him I would be right back. I huffed it back to the car and retrieved my laptop.

I returned and set it up on a table and turned it on. While it booted up, a small crowd gathered around us as if they had just been introduced to fire.

Once booted, I opened my photo albums and selected the one I needed. Once the photos started loading, it was pure Christmas. Seeing themselves with us on a piece of technology I doubt they will ever have, blew their minds. At once, I was back in the family, and their beaming smiles and giggles of delight made for an awesome welcoming.

Time for some of that outrageous pok chuk, some salsa, corn tortillas made right before my eyes and a spicy black bean soup that let’s you know who’s boss.

Between m our rudimentary exchange of Spanglish, once they discovered I was on my way to Merida, but made this specific stop for lunch, you’d think I just returned their lost puppy.

It is those simple acknowledgements of gratitude which I have forgotten in my daily life, and I believe the big guy upstairs knows that which is why I was sent their once again. He used them to remind me of what I was taught, but had forgotten. Gracias Edgar.

Next up…the road to Merida.

What in the hell have I done now?

Honestly. From Valladolid to Merida is about 162 km. At 80 mph, about an hour and a half. On the cuota, no sweat. Except for one minor issue. Freeway signs. Although they are placed at the right locations to advise you, they’re not, how shall I say, “complete”.

I’m just outside the city limits of Valladolid when I see the “Merida Cuota” directional. Sweet!

As I arrive to the obvious convergence of freeways, I see all directions…except mine. I think, “Shit. I passed it somewhere.” And make a u-turn at my first opportunity. I am now back at the city limits of Valladolid where if you make a right turn, you can go to Merida, however, on the “libre”. (Hitting every pueblo that ever existed with the friendly reminders of speed reduction via those nasty, unpainted, sometimes surprising, “topes”; speed bumps.

I don’t want any of that, so I once again think, “Shit. I must have passed it. Again.” So once again I make a u-turn and head back towards the invisible off ramp called “Merida Cuota”.

As I was just here, I’m now paying more attention. I see the same signs for Valladolid, Cancun and Izamal. But NO Merida!

WTF?

So, I think, “Well. Maybe it’s at another crossing on the way to Cancun.”

At this point, I’m also thinking if I go too far, I may as well scrap Merida altogether and hit Cancun for the night.

Ha ha! That option would be fruitless as I have driven all the way around the entire city of Valladolid, which due to the abundance of gigantic foliage cannot be seen, and well, hello Valladolid. Fail.

So, since I’m back where I started, nearly an hour later, and it’s only like 2:00, I make the decision to press on and take the free road to Merida because I KNOW where that one is! Here then, is my chaotic un-scenic drive around Valladolid…HINT:(Izamal IS the Cuota to Merida.)

Speed limits. As a courtesy drivers are reminded to wear their seat belts, turn on their lights, radar is in use and obey the speed limits. As with any long stretch of rural highway, speeds are at a maximum. In Mexico’s case on this stretch, it’s 110km, or about 70mph.

So, I push it up to that number when, like a racing crotch rocket on methane passes you, a small SUV appears in my rear view and isn’t slowing down. And like the snap of your fingers, as quickly as he appeared, disappears in the distance in front of me.

So, I look around. I see no reason why I can’t do the same. So I do…120km…130km…150km…Hello? Did you forget where you are? Third world country? Deserted road? 155 km…160 km…I hold that until the fun stops with yet another pueblo and…topes…

I’ve now caught up with Speedy Gonzalez due to them, and we’re three cars behind a tour bus. No matter. Speedy uses the opposing lane to make his pass and he’s off again. I cringed at the feat as I didn’t see the oncoming scrap metal truck. He squeeked through without room for another coat of paint.

Seriously. The driving habits of Mexicans makes me wonder – “Why are there none of them in NASCAR?” With these finely-tuned exhibitions of feat and daring, they would totally rule.

Shortly, we arrive in Chichen Itza. I always thought this was merely another location of Mayan ruins. I was mistaken. It reminds me of Barstow, Ca. A sleepy little town providing accommodations for the weary traveler who wants something to see. Hotels, restaurants, shopping areas…I think it’s worth spending a day to explore, but perhaps, next time.

Shortly, the libre road meets the cuota road and signs tell me Merida is about 30 miles away. Soon, I’ll be where my day expects me to be.

Merida. I have a map and so far it’s been pretty reliable. So far.

The streets are numbers a lot like NYC. Excpet, when you’re driving on the correct street looking for calle 60, and you see the numbers are progressing…40, 42, 44…you think, “It’s working!”

Then, the surprise.

Calle 18, 16, 14…

WTF?

Not Valladolid again. If that’s what you thought I was thinking, you’d be right.

I back track and am now where the freeway meets the calle I need. No. 59.

I begin again, and it starts again.

I’m reminded of the old saying about “Insanity.”

“Doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result each time.”

So, I choose to follow the same path until I feel a turn is the right thing to do.

Ever make one of those?

Once you do it, you realize…”This can’t be good.”

And there’s NOWHERE to turn around…and it keeps getting a little worse with each roll of the tires.

Fortunately I pop out on the same street I started on, but this time, I turn right. It feels a little better, but not quite right. I need to be headed into the center of town, but I’m in an industrial district. I press on. Soon, I am rewarded and cursed.

And, here is the maddening path taken just for kicks…

I am now in the Centro, but, so is everyone else!

Now it gets really confusing. Street numbers are all over the board and a once straight street now winds its’ way through a maze of manufacturing then garment then upscale boutiques. It feels a lot like at any moment, the running of the bulls will begin.

Like drawing a large connected circle, each turn brings me closer to where I need to be until, by some miracle, I see my hotel. Hotel Reforma. Right in the center of the city.

Problem is, streets are all one-way with NO PARKING.

I pass my hotel. Because the tour bus behind me like to see my face when he nudges me.

I now have to figure out how to get back to here, all on one-way streets, AND find the “free parking” advertised.

This time, I am going to do what every other car does when they need to go into a store or restaurant.

Park right in front of it with my emergency flashers on.

So, I do.

Man, you should HEAR the horns when I exit the car.

I go inside and ask the receptionist where to park. He points toward the front of the hotel…“over there.”

I’m speechless.

He shows me a map of a public parking structure a block away. He tells me to bring him the ticket and he will stamp it.

Sigh.

Back in the car. One-way streets seeking the garage.

Fortunately it was easy to find as I had seen it my first time around.

Once back in the hotel, I’m checked in and taken to my room.

Clean, cozy and a shower.

Next up…take a walk.

Up and at ‘em.

It’s early November, but it feels like July. The sun is warm, but the breeze is cool. I feel like some breakfast, but not a traditional one. I feel like…a smoothie.

I know right? Given where I’m at, the old saying, “shit in one hand, wish in the other…” could never be truer. But, as an eternal optimist, I’m walking.

It doesn’t take long before I strike gold. “Rosi”. Near the pier with a beach view, and, dare I say, NO MOSCOS!

This is a beautiful mother and probably, grandmother. The type of Mexican mother who, if you were one of hers, you KNEW you were one of hers. Her contagious smile and cheerful demeanor are all the invite I need to have a seat and look at her menu.

What do I see? The sign said “Licuados”, but like George Lopez says, “I dint belee it.”

She smiles at me and asks if I’d like it with or without coconut water.

She brings it over and sets it in front of me. I’m sitting comfortably, not swatting, and with a view towards Cuba. This smoothie looks exactly like it tastes. Outrageous.

Not five minutes later she begins to tell me she has the best breakfast on the island, then motions “Hold on.”

She walks to the couple seated behind me who were just serves, then picks up each of their plates and brings them to me as if they were one of her grandchildren.

“Chilequilles. Juevos Mexicana, y juevos Americano”.

Thank God that at that precise moment, I didn’t have the need to swat at a mosco.

All I could do was smile, then turn around and look at the couple and exude my apology and appreciation. Their smile told me they understood.

Time to collect some sand for my souvenirs.

I didn’t stroll the entire beachline, but probably ¾ of it. The sand here is chock full of sea shells. So much so that when walking over them in your flip flops, each step makes the same sound as stepping on bubble wrap.

In fact, I see no sand I’m familiar with. I’m familiar with sand that is soft to the touch, and comfortable to spend an entire day lying on with nothing but a towel. This sand is packed hard, which explains the abundance of beach lounges and pads.

The water? Meh. Not attractive enough to lure me into it. I’m a color guy when it comes to water. Clear to deep blue or turquoise is my hot button.

Hey. I’m spoiled. Growing up in SoCal and being an admitted “IslaHolic” has made me a bit of a snob I suppose. Which is ok…because I know what I like. And I gravitate towards those things in my life.

I take a stroll onto the dock when I see a couple of fishermen. As I look at them and a moored dingy, they approach and ask if I want to go out on the boat…(pretty sure that’s what my elementary understanding of rapid fire Spanish told me they said.)

“It won’t be long…just three hours tour.” As they point, “out there.” I looked at their boat, as you are now…

Where have I heard this before?

Ah, yes. “No gracias Gilligan.”

Photos are a great way to tell a story, so, here are some to tell you the story of my trip to Isla Holbox.

Got Moscos? No worries…just light a fire in your restaurant.

In case you’ve always wondered, mermaids are created off the coast of Holbox.

Ya think?