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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

TRAVEL TIPS: Paying for Your Trip

While there are a select few people who get their travel paid for them, I'm not one of them (but I'm willing to change that - Ed) and chances are neither are you. So where do we come up with the money to travel with?

First, you need to know how much your trip will cost. There are two approaches you can take with this. We use both, depending on how much we want to go to a particular location or how much we want to spend on a trip.

If you know where you want to go, you need to know how much it will cost to go there. You can research how much your destination will cost using travel sites like, Kayak, and Expedia where you can get a pretty good ballpark estimation of how much it will cost for your airfare and lodging. You can also look up rental car rates there too, if needed.

Be sure to include an estimate of how much food will cost and how much your hotel will feed you, if at all. If you're driving, figure out your gas mileage and calculate that too.

Once you have that amount, add at least 10% to that to cover any incidentals along the way, total it all up and that's how much you'll need to save.

Figure out when you want to go, how many weeks away from now it is, and divide that number by the cost of the trip. That's how much you'll need to sock away each week. Do that, and you'll have enough to go when the time comes.

The other way to figure out how much it will cost is to set aside a certain amount each week, say $50 and then decide when you want to go, let's say 6 months from now. 26 weeks of $50 will get you $1,300. 

When the time gets near, find out where you can go for that amount and plan your trip to somewhere you can afford (don't think that amount is too little either...we did a week in the Dominican, all-inclusive including air, for less than $1,200 per person).

Some people will say they don't have the discipline to put aside that set amount of money each week. That's need some discipline to travel successfully anyway so why not start with the money? If you don't think there's any money to save, try skipping one Starbucks latte and an extra value meal each week...there's $10 right there and it's going to be healthier too.

OK, let's think of some other strategies...

Does your employer use Direct Deposit? Many employers that use Direct Deposit allow you to not only automatically deposit the money to your bank account, but also a few other accounts as well. For example, if you work for the U.S. Government, you can set up your deposit to be split up to as many as three accounts so let's say 80% can go into your main checking account, 10% into a household expense account, and another 10% into a vacation account.

Now you're saving up your vacation money without even thinking about it.

If you can't take advantage of this, talk to your bank or credit union. Many will allow automatic transfers into separate savings accounts that can be used the same way.

However you pay for your vacation, I strongly urge you not to charge it.  Save up for it, don't end up paying for it long after it's over.

Other ways to help pay for travel, or at least soak up some of the costs is to use reward credit/debit cards and to join loyalty programs. 

Travel rewards cards earn points for each dollar spent that can be cashed in for things like airfare and hotels. Be sure to read the fine print, however, because many of these cards charge a lot of fees for it. Here are some recommended cards:

We don't travel by air a whole lot, so we prefer a cash back card that pays you a certain percentage rebate for each use. Our favorite is the Costco Citi Visa card that racks up several hundred dollars a year for use in everyday use including 4% for gas, 3% for travel and restaurants, 2% for purchases at Costco, and 1% for everything else (our cash back is paying for this year's spring trip).  Some other recommended rewards cards are listed here:

Hotel loyalty programs are also good to earn free room stays. Find a chain you like, join the club, and start racking up the points. We use Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, a lesser extent...Choice Hotels.  By joining the loyalty program, which is completely free, we not only get points for free stays (and get at least a free night in a hotel each year), we also get some added perks at the hotel just by being a member such as upgraded rooms or late check-outs.

These are all tips to help you accumulate the money you need to afford a vacation.  It's actually not too hard to do. Figure a price, save an amount each week till you reach it, use rewards and loyalty programs to help you accumulate free travel and lodging, and off you go.

Copyright 2012 - Darryl Musick (updated 2017)
All Rights Reserved

Monday, March 20, 2017

Two Restaurants a Day, Eating Across Morro Bay

Check out Part One and Part Two of this report...

Yep, it's only two. That's our meal plan on most trips. We find we can get by just fine eating only breakfast and a late lunch/early dinner. We don't go hungry and we save some money by not eating that third meal. A stop at the local Walgreen's for some in-room snacks and drinks comes in handy for evening relaxing and snacking when the bug hits, though.

Probably our favorite thing to do here in Morro Bay is to eat, so let's take a look at the choices we made along the way.

Our hotel, the 456 Embarcadero, has a small breakfast bar. The continental choices are slim pickin's but you can add a waffle from the DIY waffle iron in the room. Not bad but we can do better...

Blue Sky Bistro makes some delicious omelets with good coffee and pancakes in a wharf location over the bay. It's within walking distance to the hotel so we come here for our first breakfast. It's a bit chilly, plus the outside deck is full, so we gladly take a table in the warm dining room where we can take in the bay view.

It's raining the next day, so we pile into the van (thank God for the hotel's covered parking) and head out. At the other end of the waterfront, the Coffee Pot restaurant is only open for breakfast and lunch. It dishes out some very good and hearty American morning cuisine. You'll love the biscuits and gravy, large helpings of eggs, pancakes, French toast, and the ever-full coffee cup.

As All-American as this restaurant seems, it's run by Lu Chi Fa, a refugee from China who escaped into Hong Kong as a child of 12. He has written a book about his harrowing life there, his escape, and the life he found here in America called Double Luck.

One of my favorite lunches in this town is to have a custom cut beef dip sandwich from the Hofbrau, which sits right over the water The large prime rib is on the counter and you can tell the carver just how you want it cut. Get some fries, chowder, or some great German potato salad to go with it.

Don't forget to get a large mug of Hofbrau beer to wash it down with.

Back at the Blue Sky Bistro, it's dinner and wine during Happy Hour while watching this year's very exciting Rose Bowl game. Letty has a delectable mahi mahi platter while Tim and I dig into some burgers and fries.

The next day, it's back to Giovanni's take out window where we had some great fish 'n chips a few days ago. Tonight, we nosh on some great calimari on the adjacent outdoor deck batting away the agressive sparrows and seagulls.

Our last night here, I promised Letty a nice seafood dinner which is delivered by the Great American Fish Company right next to the dock where they take advantage of the local fishing fleet's catch to have some very fresh fish.

She has a seafood stew that she pronounces just heavenly, Tim has some more fish 'n chips, while I get a burger cooked on their mesquite grill.

It's all very nice and kept us well fed while we were in this little bayside town.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Saturday, March 18, 2017

The Cocktail Hour - Classic Margarita

Have a drink with us! (video)

After the week is over, the work week has finish, and the chores are done, we like to spend some time on Sunday afternoon to just relax with a drink on the patio while we watch for birds and wildlife in the hills behind our house...this is our "cocktail hour."

This will be a new feature on the blog, occasionally showing you what we're drinking this week and how to make it yourself.  We'll start off with one of the classics - the margarita.

There are a few stories of how the margarita was invented.  Myself, I like to think this is the true story...Rita Hayworth, who originally went by the name of Margarita Cansino, was drinking with friends down in Mexico at the Halfway House bar.  It is called the Halfway House because it is halfway between Tijuana and Ensenada.  She asked the bartender to make her something with tequila so she wouldn't have to put up with the harshness of the shot so he made up the drink with lime juice, triple sec, and tequila with salt on the rim of the glass and named the drink after her.  We used to have drinks at the Halfway House and hear the bartender tell us the story (another local invention is the Cesar Salad, created at the Hotel Cesar in Tijuana) but we haven't been there in over 25 years.  The restaurant dates back to the beginning of the 20th century and is still there, still serving margaritas and more.

Here is our version of this classic drink.  Note that we serve it on the intended.   This is not the travesty that is a blended (or frozen) margarita.

Ingredients (for two drinks)
2 oz. Tequlia (get a good tequila that's labeled "100% puro de agave")
1 oz. Grand Marnier, Cointreau, or triple sec (the first two will have a very positive effect on the taste)
splash of brandy or cognac
1 lime
4-5 oz. sweet and sour mix (our two favorite brands are Tavern and Finest Call)
kosher salt.

Put salt in shallow bowl or spread out on plate.  Slice the lime into two halves.  Run the open lime around the rim of the glass so that there is a fine sheen of lime juice on it (use a margarita glass, a cocktail glass, or an old fashioned glass if you have nothing else).  Fill a cocktail shaker about 1/3 full with ice, crushed would be preferable.  We use half liter glass shaker.  Take one of the lime halves and squeeze the juice into the shaker.  Put in the rest of your liquid ingredients, putting in the sweet and sour last and filling to the top.  Put the lid on the shaker and shake.  Fill the glasses about 2/3 full with ice and strain the drink into them.


Friday, March 17, 2017

Away from the Bay: Morro Bay, California

Check out Part One of this report...

After dinner, I take a stroll uptown to get some snacks for the room as Letty and Tim head back to the motel. Morro Bay's downtown district runs along Morro Bay Boulevard and Harbor Street up on a bluff above the waterfront.

It's quiet and cold. Most of the stores are closed but soon I hear some music. This isn't a radio but sounds live. Nothing nearby suggests there's a concert or club open.

I keep walking and, as I walk by the music store, it gets louder. I peek through the door and see a band the back of the store (see pic at top).

Watch the Video!

In the morning, the three of us walk back up to the downtown area to shop and explore. While Letty seeks out bargains in one of the several thrift shops up here, Tim and I wander back over to that music store.

It's a tight fit but we get Tim and his chair in and carefully find a route through the crowded aisles of guitars, cables, drums, mics, and sheet music. I tell the guy behind the counter of hearing the band last night.

"Yeah? What'd you think?"

"You guys sounded good."

"Thanks, what's your name?"

Tim and I introduce ourselves, he says he's Ed.  That would be Ed Frawley, owner of the store and guitar player of the band I saw last night. The store is Central Coast Music on the corner of Morro Bay Boulevard and Monterey.

The band is called Deep Blue and they were tuning up for a CD release party at The Siren, a nightclub around the corner that was just about to open up. This used to be one of the town's classic, working-man bars called Happy Jacks.

Ed also tells us that someone found the original neon sign from Happy Jacks, which will be restored and hung on the wall in the new place.

I hear a guitar upstairs. Upstairs? I didn't know this place had a second story. I step back and look up to see what looks like an old projection booth and look in the back of the store...yes, that looks like a stage.  I ask Ed about it and he tells me that this used to be the town's vaudeville theater dating back to the early 20th century.

Ed gives Tim a slight bent maestro's baton and I buy him a harmonica and we say our goodbyes.

A curiosity shop across the street is having a going out of business sale, so we meet Letty there and grab a few cheap goodies before hitting a nearby leather shop, where she buys a remnant piece to take home and work on.

Going back down the hill, she spies some more thrift shops so Tim and I hit the bar on the corner, where she'll meet us when shes's done. This is Legends, which used to be the old Circle Inn.

Grabbing a couple of beers, Tim and I munch on the free popcorn while we make friends with our neighbors along the bar. There's also a window cut into the wall in the back of the room where the pizza parlor next door will sell you a pie, pass it through the opening, and you can enjoy with your libation.

This is a true locals we ask about a good place for dinner along the waterfront, they are a bit dismissive as in "that's for the tourists," but we do get some good recommendations from them and have a friendly good time while waiting for Letty.

She eventually shows up, we have one more drink, then head back down the hill for dinner.

We'll talk about all the good places to eat in the next installment. See you then!

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

CEREBRAL PALSY STORIES: The "Timmy Wheels" Big3-0/DirtyThirty Milestone Birthday Celebration-Entering The Prime Years Of My Life

As most of you may have seen from a while back, I recently celebrated a big milestone birthday when I turned 30 years old on February 10 of this year.

Some people that I know of who are from the older generations of folks such as the Baby Boomers or those from Generation X or Y sometimes refer to it as the "Big 3-0." Those of us from who are from the Millennial Generation have started referring to our 30th birthday as the "Dirty 30" birthday.

Before I go on, I must point out that in my family since there are only three of us (my parents and I), we usually don't do too much to celebrate it and make a big deal out of it whenever one of us has a birthday coming up. Usually we just look at it as we're just another year older and wiser.

During most years, we usually don't do anything too big. Most of the time we just go out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants. Since I turned the "Big 3-0" this year however, my Family and I decided to make an exception to mark the extra special occasion.

As I mentioned before on my own personal Facebook Page, I had originally wanted to see either a Los Angeles Kings or Los Angeles Clippers game at Staples Center in Downtown Los Angeles since I am a such a big sports fan, but since my birthday this year just so happened to coincide with the Grammy Awards ceremony that took place on February 12, we had to come up with a Plan B.

Since all the home teams that call Staples Center home were on the road at the time, we decided to look up the schedule of the Ontario Reign, the minor league hockey affiliate of the Los Angeles Kings. Well it just so happened that we were in luck because the Reign were scheduled to play a home game against the San Diego Gulls on the night of my birthday. Bingo! The perfect Plan B was in place for my big 30th Birthday celebration.

So we made the most out of going to a minor league hockey game in Ontario rather than in Los Angeles. While there, my birthday dinner consisted of one tray serving of chicken nuggets with ranch dipping sauce and a side of fries from the nearest concessions stand next to our seating section. Overall, the chicken nuggets and fries were very good and were also much better than the hot dogs that my Mom and Dad got for themselves.

In terms of what happened during the hockey game itself there were a couple of fights broke out between a few players from both teams which is pretty routine and normal for a hockey game. Heck I think that if you go to a hockey game and a fight or two doesn't break out, then you have not been to a "real" hockey game. Watching the fights happening in real time while being at the game in person was pretty exciting and it also provided quite an adrenaline rush. Out of all the things I did or saw on my 30th birthday, watching the fights in the hockey game will probably go down as the "dirtiest" thing that I witnessed during that weekend.

The only bad part about the game was how it ended. The Reign lost to the Gulls by a final score of 4 to 1. Oh well. At least we all had fun at the game even though the home team lost that night.

Of course no birthday celebration of any kind would be complete without a nice and delicious cake to enjoy. During the week leading up to my birthday this year, my Mom Letty kept herself busy throughout the day by putting together the finishing touches on my Mothers circus animal cookie cake with pink strawberry flavored frosting. To say that the cake was really sweet would be an understatement.

That cake was so sweet in terms of how it tasted that it took my Mom, my Dad and I a couple of weeks to finish the whole thing. We probably could have finished it a lot sooner than that if it hadn't tasted so sweet. My dad could not have as much of the cake as compared to my Mom and I because he has this little nasty and annoying disease called Diabetes. So he now has to be extra careful to watch what he eats because his blood sugar levels can go up or down depending on what he eats throughout a given day or week.

When taking into consideration all the excitement and enjoyment that comes from going to a minor league and having more than enough cake to eat as described above, you would probably think that that would already be more than enough for a fairly complete 30th Birthday celebration.

Well for the most part it is but I don't want to finish a Cerebral Palsy Stories post like without also saying a big Thank You with much love and gratitude from me to all my friends on Facebook (from high school, college and other places in between), and elsewhere who took the time to send more Happy Birthday wishes and greetings than I could count my way last month. I read through all of them and I am extremely grateful and appreciative of all the love and support that you all have given me over the last 30 years and counting of my life. Looking ahead to the future, here's a toast to enjoying the continued blessings of what this thing called Life has to offer as I enter the so-called "Over-The-Hill" phase and what is still to come my way during the prime years of my single life on wheels.

Tim Musick
Copyright 2017
All Rights Reserved.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Back to the Bay: Morro Bay, California

With hotel prices climbing by the minute (a hundred dollar room at a medium demand location is a bargain these days), it's even harder to find a good deal in a beautiful ocean setting.

You can still get a decent deal at beautiful Morro Bay on California's Central Coast but those days seem to be numbered with it's neighbors...including the inland San Luis Obispo...are charging more. Up to 2 or 3 times more for similar rooms.

There are quaint, retro motels "up on the hill," about a block or two from the waterfront where you can get clean, basic rooms for that $100 per night or maybe even a few dollars less. Some these lodgings are very nice and most have at least one accessible room, though it's hard to find one in these old motels that will sleep more than two people.

At the other end of the scale are super-luxurious suites, like the one over the water at the Estero Inn going for over $300 per night.

We're settling somewhere in the middle at 456 Embarcadero Inn, where the accessible 2-queen bed room with fireplace and bay views that sit only across a small street from our window goes for about $150 - $190 per night, depending on the dates.

It's got very two, very comfortable beds with thick blankets and comforter for those cold, Central coast nights. A gas fireplace, in the wall under the flat-screen TV, adds just enough warmth so that we don't have to use the heater and we can even open the door to let in the cool air and hear the sea lions barking in the distance.

The bathroom has a tub with fold-down transfer bench and grab bars.  The only problems with this room are that the bars at the toilet and tub are not where Tim would like them for grabbing and the thin walls let the noises of your neighbors seep through easily.

Luckily, our neighbors for this trip were pretty quiet after bed time.  I did let the manager know that hanging some acoustic panels on the walls could help this, however. He agreed to look into it and, after dealing with the very attentive staff during the week, I think he meant it.

Another good thing about the hotel, as you can gather from it's name, is that it's right on the Embarcadero...Morro Bay's waterfront street and wharf.  It's a simple walk right out the front of the hotel.

In fact, I timed the walk from our the south end of the the power plant (the only thing that mars the view here) on the north end. Less than five minutes.  In between, you have just about everything you came to Morro Bay for...the restaurants, bars, shops, aquarium, and the bay views where otters float by on their backs, seagulls screech above and ever-present sea lions bark and gripe at everything that floats by.

Across the street and up a block, we have breakfast at the Blue Sky Bistro having some solid omelets and pancakes with a view of the iconic Morro Rock. If you come to Morro Bay, you get to know the Rock.  It may be only in one spot but it's also everywhere.  The ancient volcanic plug juts out of the ocean, a rigid guardian over the small town.

No matter where you are around here, chances are you're gonna see the rock.  I can't seem to find any pictures we took where it doesn't sit in the background, like some stranger coming by to photobomb every shot you take.

That's okay, though, because it's reassuring to see it. It anchors you when the going gets tough, just like it does with the waters and sand that surround it. It's the comforting sight when you're traveling down the coast and know that you're back on track when you see it poking through the fog.

Morro Bay just isn't Morro Bay without it.

With my meandering thoughts about the rock over, we finish our meal and head on down the wharf. Construction here and there means that a few sections are blocked but when it's not under construction, most of the over-water path is wheelchair accessible and is also public access even when it cuts through a private business. You'll see signs on restaurant patios or even within some enclosed business spaces, too, reminding you (and them) that anyone can transit through to admire the view.

When we're hungry later, some clam chowder, fish and chips, and hot dogs from the take out windows at Giovanni's really hits the spot. It's cheap and very, very good plus the views from the deck are outstanding. We make a mental mark to come to this little seafood shack at the north end of town again before we leave.

On our way back to the hotel, we stop at Rose's Bar, which sits over the water behind expansive windows where we can have an aperitif at the completely wheelchair accessible bar shaped like a boat's prow.

The views of the rock are amazing.

Stay tuned for more, including a new video.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2017 - All Rights Reserved

Saturday, March 11, 2017

THE COCKTAIL HOUR: Tequila Tasting with the Tios

Rudy, one of the bartenders in our "Southern California's Top Three Margaritas" video, told me this is his favorite Cocktail Hour video. For Rudy - Ed

Welcome to a very special Cocktail Hour here on The World on Wheels. We’re on the road for today’s episode, crossing the border into Mexico and bringing some premium tequilas back for our own little tasting party. As you may know from previous cocktail hours, I’m a big fan of the blue agave spirits.

With us today is Heliodoro, Hector, and Lupe…our aunt and uncles from my wife’s side of the family. The two uncles are pretty serious tequila connoisseurs, and I take their opinions and recommendations seriously when I’m looking for good tequila.

With that, it’s on to the tasting which you can watch in the video above. In the morning, we crossed over into Mexico at Los Algodones, which is about 7 miles west of Yuma, Arizona. We acquired around $300 worth of tequila, all but one of which I would consider premium or ultra-premium. Each person is allowed to bring back 1 liter, so the little bottles you see in the video were taken to add to our 750ml bottles to get as close to the limit as possible.

Back across the border, we had our tasting session at our hotel, the La Fuente Inn and Suites in Yuma. Here are our opinions on each of the tequilas…

Corralejo Reposado – This is made in Guanajato by Hacienda Corralejo. You usually see this in oversize blue bottles at your local liquor store. It’s not bad, definitely better that Cuervo Gold or the supermarket generics, and has a pretty good agave flavor. There is a tinge of harshness to the taste that keeps it from being a truly premium spirit. It’s along the lines of Cazadores…a good, solid tequila that is a superb mixer and a decent shot maker if you cut the taste with lime and salt. That right there is my line in the sand between a really good tequila and a superb tequila…premium tequilas need no help from limes, salt, etc. to be enjoyed. They taste too good by themselves to be adulterated by other ingredients.

1921 – Next is a trinity from 1921, another distiller from Guanajato. First is the plata, or silver, tequila. Plata is not aged. Just distilled and bottled. Right off the bat we can tell there is a big jump in quality from the Corallejo. Smooth. Great agave flavor. No harshness at all. An excellent, premium silver.

The 1921 Reposado – reposado is Spanish for rested. A reposado usually means that the tequila has been aged in wooden barrels for at least 6 months. 1921’s version is another smooth entry but the wooden aging overtakes the agave flavor a bit. It’s really good but not quite as good as the silver.

1921’s Añejo – aged at least a year – picks up where the reposado left off. Many añejos are aged in old whiskey barrels and the result is an overtone of whiskey flavor along with the agave. Some distillers are masters at this blending of flavors, others not so much. 1921 is a master at this. It’s one of the best añejos out there. This morning when we were tasting samples, we had a taste of Hacienda de la Plata añejo. It wasn’t bad. Then we had a taste of Hacienda de la Plata ultra añejo, which is aged for several years instead of one. It was very delicious and $56 a bottle. The 1921 añejo has an almost identical taste to the ultra añejo but is $30 less per bottle (note, these are Mexican prices – they are much higher in the States). This is where the difference in experience comes in. Nice, deep agave flavor with just a hint of whiskey hovering around your palate.

The guys will take a little break from tasting here so the women can try a tast of 1921’s delicious tequila crème. Think Bailey’s Irish Crème and you get an idea of what this tastes like. Letty and Lupe both like it and it tastes just like Bailey’s with just a hint of agave overtones. I’ve had this before, and if you’re in the mood for a sweet, chocolaty, coffee tasting drink, this is very good. Would make an excellent Irish coffee.

The guys will now taste another ultra-premium añejo by Degollado. Made in the town of the same name, south of Guadalajara in Jalisco, this is really rare in the States. An online search showed only one ABC store in North Carolina that sometimes stocks this. Bottles on EBay go for north of $150. In Mexico, I grabbed a bottle for $26. This is another ultra-smooth añejo with a bit of stronger whiskey influence than the 1921. I like it, as do the other guys.

We’ve got one more to taste tonight. As the sky darkens, I bring out one more bottle. This time, it’s the white and blue porcelain bottle of Clase Azul Reposado. Made in the highlands, north of Guadalajara, this is truly a special tequila. Smooth, deep agave taste, a slight hint of syrup. As incredible as the taste of this tequila is, the aftertaste lingers with a sweet, almost amaretto, taste on your lips and tongue. What a truly fantastic tequila.

We saved the very best for the last of a stellar lineup of tequilas. What about the calories, you may be asking (since we’re focusing on healthier, lower calorie drinks this year)? Each shot of tequila (1 ounce) has 69 calories. Since these tequilas are made for savoring, you can have three shots over an evening, slowly enjoying the warmth and taste, for only 207 calories.

Copyright 2010 – Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Friday, March 10, 2017

Ensenada After Dark

Mexico turns into a different place after dark. Check out this video as we go in search of some street food after the sun goes down.

We find a taco shack at the edge of an empty lot doing big business.

It's where we find this taco de al pastor.

Also, here's where you can find all of our Ensenada reports, photos, and videos (link below)...

The World on Wheels Visits Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.


Monday, March 6, 2017

A Rare Family Treat in Baja - San Quintin and Ensenada

See our previous chapters here...Part 1Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4 of this report.

After a fun-filled and relaxing day at Bahia de San Quintin, we're relaxing in our room at the Mission Inn in Vicente Guerrero when my wife announces that her brother just posted on Facebook that he, his wife, and their two kids are at Estero Beach Hotel in Ensenada.

While we'd had some other plans, mostly of the shopping variety, for tomorrow, this changes things.

The wife and kids live in Mexicali so it's a rare day when we get to see them. I haven't seen the boy for five years and I've never met the girl.

We quickly rehash the itinerary. Third night at the Mission Inn is cancelled and a quick call to Estero Beach gets us a reservation for tomorrow night.

Bags are repacked and we bed down to get rested up for our impromptu family reunion the next day.

We have a final breakfast at the hotel restaurant, shower up (which will come in handy for what's ahead), check out, and hit the road.

On the way down, Letty saw a guy selling copper pots on the side of the road. I said we could stop and take a look on the way back if he was still there.  He was so I have to honor my promise.

She checks out the dozens on display and shows me the pot she wants and tells me the guy wants $180 US for it. I start back towards the car.  She tells the guy that I won't spend that much money.   He drops the price to $120. I show him the $80 I have in my wallet and tell him he can have that for the pot because that's all I have.

Deal. Now just to find a spot in the van for a rather large copper pot.

We chat with the guy for a few more minutes before continuing on to Estero Beach, which is nearby. 

After checking in, we find our room is just three doors down from Letty's brother's room. It's large and the hotel has been upgraded since we've last been here.  A spacious room with two queen beds, flat screen with a whole lot more than the three, barely perceptible channels we had last time, and the same patio with the great ocean view.

Families come together on our patio. Tim, my brother-in-law, and I kill a bottle of tequila together while chatting in the ocean breeze.

My nephew and niece are two very sweet kids with the girl being a little more of an extrovert than the boy.  I take them over to the nearby beach.

Between their very basic grasp on English and my similar skills in Spanish, I'm able to at least teach them the joys of building sand castles.

We spend the rest of the day just catching up on the patio before having up to a great steak dinner at the adjacent restaurant and calling it a night.

In the morning, I go to take a shower but when I turn the spigot all the way on, nothing comes out. I call the office but there's no answer.  It's about a quarter mile walk to the office so I wait a bit.

After about an hour, the phone rings. It's the front office apologizing that there's no water. There won't be until noon, they say. I'll be out by then, I say.  

"How about a free breakfast on us?" 

"Won't the restaurant need water too?" I ask.

Probably, the lady at the counter admits. I ask for a room discount which they are not too keen to give.

Hanging up, I thank God that I took one last shower in San Quintin, along with Tim taking one too, so we can get by if we needed to.  A half hour later, two water trucks arrive to fill up the hotel's cisterns. Water is now available and all talk of discounts are off the table.

With that, it's one more plate of chilaquiles in the restaurant and it's off to endure the border crossing back into the states.  It's a complete pain but at least today it only takes us 68 minutes to cross compared to the almost three hours of our last trip.

That's it for this trip into Mexico. For us, and you, this will wrap up our Month of Mexico.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved

Photos copyright 2015 - Letty Musick
All Rights Reserved

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Cocktail Hour - Daiquiri

Hemingway's favorite drink.  

Watch the Video!

Originated in Cuba and named after Playa Daiquiri near Santiago.  Although popularized by the El Foridita Bar in Havana, it was invented at Venus Bar in Santiago by Jennings Cox, an American mining engineer.  Supposedly, the bar ran out of gin but had a lot of rums, limes, and sugar...three things that are in abundance in Cuba.

Besides Hemingway, the drink became popular during World War II as rum was one of the few commodities that was not rationed.  This week, we present it in it's historical incarnation.  It's not blended, flavored in any extra way, and served just as Ernie would have had it.

In the video, we cheated just a little by using coconut infused rum for extra flavor and putting the finished product in an old fashioned glass on the rocks.  The coconut rum was used because I'd tried the recipe before and never got it right...I was intimidated.  The glass was because Tim can't use a cocktail glass.

Be assured, however, that after filming we did try the original recipe with cocktail glasses and it came out fantastic. That recipe is the one on this page.  Turns out the key is to not be shy with the lime juice.  Enjoy!

DAIQUIRI (two drinks)
3 ounces white rum
2 ounces simple syrup
3 key limes

Fill a cocktail shaker half full with crushed ice.  Cut the limes in half.  Squeeze the juice of all the limes into the shaker.  Put the rum and simple syrup in the shaker.  Cover and shake.  Strain into two cocktail glasses.

-Darryl and Tim
Daiquiri photo courtesy of Wikimedia
Aaron Gustafon under CC-BY-SA license

Friday, March 3, 2017

Bajo en Baja: San Quintin, Baja California, Mexico

See our previous chapters here...Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3.

It's morning in San Quintin. Actually, Vicente Guerrero, the city right next to San Quintin. That where the Mission Inn, our hotel, is.  There are two here. This one with two accessible rooms with its English spelling and another one on a nearby beach, Mision Inn (notice the Spanish spelling) that is not accessible.

We've come simply for the proposition "what if we kept driving past Ensenada? What would we find?"
Watch the Video!

San Quintin is the next town of any size south of Ensenada. It's around three hours driving time further down from that large, port city.

Baja travel guides note that this is the last chance for a few hundred miles to access major services for drivers on Mexico's Transpeninsular Highway like gas, car service, ATM, supermarkets, and decent lodging.

While the town is sizeable, it's not large. The highway is the only paved road in town.  It's a dusty, muddy, and basic place. I have to wonder why they even have car washes here like the somewhat inapprotriately named business we see across the street from the PEMEX gas station above.

The town is nice. There's no drunken tourists clogging the streets or drug cartels shooting it out in the background. It's main business is farming...this is the tomato capital of the world with thousands and thousands of red fruit ripening to send north to supermarkets on the other side of the border.

Just because there are few, if any, tourists around doesn't mean there is nothing to see.  Strapping Tim in tight, we head west down an unpaved dirt and gravel road. Signs say we have three miles to go.  After a very bumpy few minutes, another says two miles to go.  Tim's complaining mightily about the beating he and his chair are taking when we see another sign..."Yeah!! You made it!"

Finally, we pull up to the bay where a gentleman waving a flag directs us into a small parking lot. We find nowhere to park with a wheelchair van so we go back out, explain it to him, and he puts us in a spot right next to the boat ramp where there's also a wheelchair ramp to access the facilities.

We're at Bahia de San Quintin and the Molino Viejo (old mill) restaurant and bar. At the top of the bay, you'll find this large restaurant, larger bar, an ocean front plaza to relax it, boat ramp, parking, small history museum, fish cleaning sink, a couple of spartan motels, and another restaurant and bar next door.

The plan is just to spend the afternoon exploring, eating, drinking, talking to people, and unwinding.

A small flea market is set up between the restaurant and neighboring Old Mill Hotel. Letty goes browsing there while Tim and I set up at a waterfront table and enjoy a bag of chips and some Mexican Coke.

Dozens of pelicans fly around, dive bombing unfortunate anchovies, and pose for pictures on the pilings. I walk over to a rock-protected depression at the narrow neck of the bay where kids are pulling in fish and clams.

This used to be a large wheat mill. An English company was granted a concession to grow and mill wheat in the area.  Remains of the millworks litter the area. Ships were loaded with flour and sent out to the world.

Now, it's a sleepy but beautiful little fishing village where fisherman line up at the boat ramp to head out to the abundant waters. At 3:00, the boats come back in where loads of large fish are taken to be cleaned at the sink.

We visit with the manager of the Old Mill Hotel and she shows us one of the four accessible rooms here.  It's a large room with a large bathroom. A queen size bed shares the space with a twin bed giving plenty of room for 3 people. I imagine there'd be plenty of room for a roll-in bed if needed also. The shower is big and barrier-free. It is a very accessible room.

Beyond that, however, it's not much. No TV (but that would be a feature, not a bug for some people) and no air conditioning. Here in the fall and winter, that's not a big deal but those hot Baja summers would present a challenge even if it is on the ocean.

Outside is a nice sized patio with a large fireplace and grill. At around $40 per room per night, this would be an ideal place for a family reunion or get-together. I'm already planning one in my mind...

We go back to the Molino Viejo and have a few drinks...Tim and Letty with their Pina Coladas while I try the Cadillac margarita.  After, we visit the small museum next door.

Dioramas depict the areas history while a few artifacts, such as a mammoth tooth and some native tools, illustrate a more ancient history.

Over across the driveway, we find the remains of a boat on the beach, another little plaza, and some informational signs about the bay. Tim and I go to the water at the edge of the boat ramp to get our toes and wheels wet.

We end the day having dinner back at the restaurant, filling up on steak, burgers, and fish before bumping our way back to town and the Mission Inn. It's delicious food and very budget friendly. Where else will you get a great ribeye steak dinner with all the trimmings for less than $15 these days?

Tomorrow, we have more plans for San Quintin but those will be interrupted for a more important mission. Stay tuned for that.

Copyright 2015 - Darryl Musick
All Rights Reserved