There is a scene in the movie Animal House where our heroes enter a bar, not knowing their are no white people in the bar. As they come through the door, the music stops and all heads swivel to look at them. In La Cruz there is a bar on the second floor of building about a block from where the much loved, much missed Huanacaxtle Bar and Cafe currently sits empty. I would frequently walk by this bar and want to go in, but replay the scene from Animal House in my mind replacing the dancers and band in Animal House with dour Hombres nursing Tequila at the bar. Granted I have no logical reason for this vision since I’m not sure I’ve even seen one dour hombre in La Cruz, let alone enough to fill the bar.
I recently found myself wandering the streets for La Cruz with a group of people that I was not, by a pretty good margin, the largest person in. It suddenly struck me as a good time to try out this bar – at least if my vision came true we could back out gracefully while presenting enough humans mass to hopefully deter more action than a glare from my envisioned moustachioed hombres. So up the stairs we all went, and traipsed in mass through the door to… and empty bar and a bartender happy to see a group of customers. A couple ballenas (1 liter bottles of beer) were purchased, the men migrated to the free pool table and the women to the jukebox which prompter started cranking out loud dance music. Our only company was a local youth who joined in our inaugural pool game. Despite his having a rather interesting take on some of our established pool rules and a language barrier trying to understand his rules, we still won and took over the table. Our group had a great time, playing pool, teaching the bartender how to make Kamikazes and dancing to the American music we could find on the jukebox. And not one dour hombre in sight.
One of my fellow cruisers used the phrase “cruise by numbers” recently. It is easy to do. We all have the same guide books, except for the odd cruiser who doesn’t have Sean and Heather’s Sea of Cortez and Pacific Mexico books. So we all know about the same anchorages, the same establishements, the same attractions. It is easy to follow the flow, the trip down the Baja, La Paz, across to the mainland then down to Banderas Bay and to parts south. Admittidely it then gets a bet more varied with boats sailing for the South Pacific, continuining south to Panama or swinging back up for time in Mexico. But for the first few months of the season there is a pretty established route for cruisers. Sometimes I wonder how the businesses not in the guide books survive. Maybe the inclusion of Philo’s here in La Cruz explains how they stay in business despite lousy food, high prices and bad service.
Yet the best experiences seem to be trying someplace new or walking around town exploring on our own. Or taking a chance on something, such as the concert Jenn and I bought tickets to at the airport when she flew in for a visit over the holidays. We figured it was a low risk, 200 pesos (about 15 dollars) for a ticket. We arrived at the theater to find it clean, modern with (gasp) reasonably priced concessions. It wouldn’t be Mexico with out the show starting 45 minutes after the time printed on the ticket, but that extra time allowed us to move from our seats three quarters of the way to the back of the theater to 8 rows back from the stage. And we were treated to an extravaganza. While the group consisted of a violinist and keyboard player, the supporting cast included dancers in vary degrees of elaborate costumes, a contortionist, and at the end a full mariachis band joining in on stage. All in all an amazing show for a bargain price, the only downside being some minor and somewhat puzzling sound issues. How a country that can blast techno dance music outside a clothing store at volumes that make night clubs jealous would have issues with a full sound system at their disposal just makes no sense. And honestly, the issues were minor and actually more amusing for the above reason than distracting.
(Sorry – cell phone pics I didn’t think to take my camera)
So now I’m on the off the beaten path bandwagon. Not that ever been a full on cruiser by numbers, and though out my world travels I’ve tried to seek out a different experience when possible. But these recent events have reminded me to try to push the boundaries. My next step? Eating in one of the local restaurants that look more like you are walking into someones house then into a restaurant. Not that there aren’t challenges, like actually knowing about off the beaten path places. Or even when you do find one, such as the Michelada artist here in La Cruz that moved from a cart outside the store to his own storefront. I’ve purchased many a Michelada from him as his business is handily located right next to the bus stop. But it wasn’t till a couple days ago that I realized you could buy a Michelada with a stack of cucumbers and shrimp placed gracefully on the lid around the straw. Yes, my good friends will point out I don’t eat shrimp, but my point is even though I was off the beaten path by buying Micheladas at this spot, I never dreamed there was more possibilities. One more reminder to learn more Spanish. It makes me wonder what else exists that I don’t know about (and yes, I’m sure there is plenty smart ass).
And sometimes the path is beaten for a reason – at my suggestion a group of us went to Marina Vallarta with our boats for a couple nights to locate us closer to downtown for New Years eve. The malecon is supposed to be packed with revelers and fireworks are detonated around the bay. However… in hindsight I realized I haven’t talked to anyone that has been into Marina Vallarta. It is in the guide book so I just kinda assumed it was a good place to go. And while it worked out there were some adventures, such as being radioed on my way in by Paul on Unleashed who informed me there was a boat in the slip I had been assigned by the marina via email. At least the new slip they gave me had cleats on the dock, unlike the first slip Palleran tried to tie up at. And at least the finger pier of the slip I was in didn’t break, like the second slip Palleran went too. And luckily no one fell off the broken dock, since I was spouting off about how there were no crocodiles in the marina until I spotted a crocodile in the marina. And if we had fallen in and been lucky enough to get out unscathed by the crocodile (unlikely in my mind) the water on the dock would have to suffice for cleaning up since the showers were being remodeled and were as such, unavailable. But here is the secret to off the beaten path, espeically when it goes wrong. A good attitude. We had a great time, laughed at the issues and didn’t let them, or the torrential rain the accompanied the various visitors from Seattle ruin our fun. In fact, we probably had more fun. So thanks to our visitors Jason, Julia and Jenn, and the crews of Unleashed, Pallaren and Lokia to making the best of my poorly researched suggestion to head to Marina Vallarta, and for keeping a positive attitude through all the rain (probably didn’t hurt we’re all from the Pacific Northwest) and providing a great holiday week. Here is hoping to more uncharted adventures with all of these people in the future.