The Journey to Casa Madera – I said I wanted A cat!

March 7, 2012 – We had to go to Costco the other day to pick up new glasses and supplies for Casa Madera Bed and Breakfast.  It’s funny, a year ago our supplies at Costco generally involved items we could not buy anywhere else and were limited to foods and wine with the purchase every 6 weeks of dog food for Alexa.

We never bought cat food at Costco.  Zorro was fussy and Costco did not carry Whiskas, the only brand he would eat.  The other problem was the large bag would probably go rancid before Zorro would eat it all.

Zorro, the coolest cat I know.

Now for the first 6 months we had him we did buy the cat litter at Costco but we soon found that he stopped using the litter box and used the jungle.  Typical male, the whole world was his bathroom.

We did not complain about that aspect of Zorro’s existence as it was one less item to clean up and 20 bucks we did not need to spend every 8 weeks or so.  Oh how things have changed…..

July 8, 2011 – My annual trip home to Alberta to see my kids, Allison and Brendan and my granddaughter, Elizabeth.  Always a joyous event to see the kids and to spend time with them.  As always when I go home in the summer my brother Alan, his son Jonathan, Brendan and I journey out into the foothills of Alberta to go fishing.

Well that’s what we call it anyway.  Many would wonder if we actually do any fishing as we rarely come home with any fish but do come home with a fair amount of empties.

This year we made a change to the trip due to high water levels where we normally go and headed out to Jarvis Lake outside of Hinton and spent the weekend camping with Heather’s brother, Neil and her brother-in-law, Denis.  The fishing was no different from normal and we were still having a good time.

It was on Friday afternoon while we were sitting around shooting the bull and enjoying the sun when Neil while checking his Facebook said “hey you have 4 more cats”.  Oops I was not supposed to tell you that.

Lluvia the one and only female

Cats??  What do mean I have 4 more cats???  I can’t wait to hear how Heather could get 4 cats.  I had only been gone for 4 days!

Esperanzo - The Union Leader

It seems that the night before it was absolutely pouring rain as it is apt to do in Nuevo Vallarta in rainy season when Heather heard Alexa making strange noises and pawing at the garage door.  When she went down to investigate she saw a little paw coming under the door.

Blanco - trouble with a capital T!

Now a lot of people at that point would have ignored it and went back upstairs.  However, Heather is not like a lot of people.  She opened the door and into the garage ran 3 kittens.  Well this was a bit of a shock, especially for someone who never wanted a cat.  They were all over her and Alexa.  It was then she made that fatal mistake…..she took them upstairs.

Dulce - he is "special"

Kittens are cute.  Even when they are ugly, they are still cute so I understand the pull to protect them.

It was raining, hard.  This brought Zorro home.  He was not impressed to see the little things in his house so this was a problem.  Heather put them into the library where the door could be closed, added some litter to Zorro’s litter box and gave them food and water while the big mean adult male sat outside the door and tried to figure out how he would get in to deal with them once and for all.

The next morning a girl who would walk a couple of dogs for her neighbour yelled up that she saw something strange over on the other side of our neighbours house.  Heather went down so she could show her what it was.  And there laying in the sodden dirt was one very wet and looking dead black kitten.  Apparently there were 4 kittens not 3.

The kitten was covered in muck, flies and eggs.  Apparently it was dead.  Heather went back to the house and called the Vet.  He said to try a little food around its nose and see if it responds.  He was already coming out to have a look at them and deflea them but it would be an hour or so before he got there.

Heather did as suggested and went down with some wet cat food on her finger and waved it in front of the kitten’s nose.  CHOMP.  The kitten was very much alive but weak.  However it still managed to break the skin and cause a little bleeding.  So Heather picked it up and brought it to the house.

Kitty armour

The Vet examined the kittens and made sure they were good to go.  Heather made a trip to Mezcales to see the Doctor about her finger.  He told Heather that if the kitten dies it has to be brought in to be tested for rabies being as it bit her…..great, just what she needs.

Needless to say I was interested to see these little additions to the household when I arrived home a week later but I still did not want them.  I love cats but one cat was enough, we did not need any more.  Heather had been trying to give them away or find a shelter for them but the only one that might be able to take them wanted a $100.00 US a kitten.  400 bucks!  I don’t think so!  However, looking back…that would have been cheap!

It was two days before I arrived home that Heather made the largest mistake.  She named them.  Blanco, Esperanzo, Dulce and Lluvia.  They should have been known as 1, 2, 3 & 4, not real names.  Nope they had names.  I knew at that point that we now have 5 cats.  One whose main goal in life was to kill the other 4.

We still tried to find someone to take the cats.  No luck.  2 weeks after I got home Heather headed to Alberta for 2 weeks.  I put up posters, I posted on Craigslist.  I put them on various Yahoo group boards.  One phone call.  They wanted a fluffy cat.  Something these weren’t.  Why they would want a long-haired cat in Mexico I will never understand but its their furniture.

When I was not trying to give the kittens away, I was running interference, as was Alexa.  It became her duty to protect the kittens from that dastardly Zorro.  It was entertaining watch though I must admit I was getting tired of constantly keeping the kittens in the library when Zorro was in the house which became more frequent as he stalked the kits.

There were no takers on the kittens even after we had them sterilized and they got their shots.  All that happened was they wormed their way into our hearts.  That and they were great fun to watch.

It was early October and the break through was coming.  Zorro was becoming more tolerant.  He still had to be watched but more time was going by when they were all together before he attacked one.   It was apparent that in about a week the worse would be over and they should all be able to live in peace.  He was starting to play with them and it was not all aggressive, we could hardly wait.

If you are going to be around me you must be clean!

It was a couple of days after that when Zorro did not come home.  We called for him constantly but nothing.  He always answered when he was within earshot.  There was no trace of him anywhere.  Last time I saw  him he was walking across the downstairs hallway by the pool with a lizard hanging out of his mouth, his favourite non Whiskas snack.  We don’t know and never will know what happened to him.  It still makes me sad.  He was a really cool cat and we miss him a lot.

We miss you more than you can imagine!

Now we have 4 cats.  They are growing like weeds and are no end of entertainment though I have to say I never thought a king size bed would be too small!

Are you sure we can't go up there?

The standard Costco shopping trip now consists of: a big bag of cat litter(every 2 weeks), a big bag of cat food(every 3 weeks), a big bag of dog food (every 6 weeks) and maybe some cheese….to go with our whine…..

You know, you kids are really starting to piss me off....

The Journey to Casa Madera – Just where the heck did 2011 go?

December 31, 2011 – It is another beautiful morning in Nuevo Vallarta at Casa Madera Bed and Breakfast.  The sun is coming up over the mountains, no clouds and a lovely 18 degrees.  It is sooooooo boring.  Everyday the same thing.  No clouds, sunshine, beautiful temperatures and an afternoon breeze off the bay.  Do I miss that old Alberta standard, “Don’t like the weather, wait 10 minutes”, not a chance!

It has been quite some time since I posted a new entry to this blog and for my regular readers I apologize but I just could not decide what to write about.  A bit of writers block maybe, who knows.  Either way, it is time so I thought I would review the year and see where that takes us.

2011 was our first year of operation and like most new entities it was anything but spectacular.  Heather and I made a commitment to ourselves that we would grow this project organically without a big splash so we knew it will not happen overnight. It would all rely on us, success or failure.  Nothing like pressure.  Especially for me, an introvert, relying on my sparkling personality was not going to be easy!

It was with great trepidation that I went to the airport on January 6, 2011 to pick up Doug and Linda from Leamington, Ontario.  Our first guests staying longer than one night.  To say Heather and I were a bit nervous was an understatement.

We were terrified!  What if they don’t like my cooking, or the way the pressure pump comes on for no reason.  There were a multitude of things that were running through our heads and to top it off my old boss from Peace Hills Insurance and his wife, Bob and Susan were due to arrive 90 minutes after Doug and Linda.  Yikes!

My fears quickly dissipated as I saw Doug and Linda come through the arrivals gate.  It was not hard to pick them out as Doug had broken his leg 10 days before he came down, so I pretty sure the guy in the wheelchair with the full leg cast was my guest.  When they arrived at the house they could not say enough good things about it.  Their comments helped relieve a lot of the pressure we were feeling.

When Bob and Susan travel they always stay in bed and breakfasts’ so the nice comments from Doug and Linda aside, the litmus test was going to be the b and b pros!

We could not have asked for nicer guests to cut our teeth with.  Our fears were alleviated and everybody had a great time.  It was a sad day for Heather and I when they all went home.

Susan, Heather and I with that Vallarta specialty Pescado Zarandeado, quite simply the best fish you will ever eat!

Both couples are returning to stay with us again this year so we cannot ask for any more validation than that.

Heather and I have been in Mexico now for 3 full years and we learn or see something new almost every week.  Some of that knowledge comes from locals and some comes from tourists who have been coming here for years.  Either way, we are like sponges and take what we learn to try to give people the best time they can have with things they may never have done before.

In February we were visited by Don and Charlotte from Niagara Falls, Ontario.  Friends we met when we were still living in the Condo.  We had a great visit with them and look forward to seeing them again this year when they arrive in Puerto Vallarta.

March brought my son, Brendan, down for his 21st birthday with his buddy Ray.  They were quickly followed by Heather’s Aunt, Danny.  It was with the 3 of them that we ventured out into the wilderness to find a set of hot springs armed with directions that said, “take a left at the big road and keep left at the fork”.  Talk about a wing and a prayer.

However we got there and it was well worth the effort.  While rustic, the hot pools were spectacular and now on our list of regular places to visit.

Now this is life!

April was a busy month as Heather’s brother, Kevin and family arrived for 10 days.  A great time was had by all, though I think they really enjoyed the two days that Heather and I were away in Ajijic.

They really enjoyed having our dog Alexa to watch over them and keep the safe.  Alexa rarely sleeps outside at night but she did while we were away.  In front of the door to the kids room, nothing was getting by her there.  Of course they did have to figure out how she was getting out of the yard and following them when the went to the beach.  Only dog I know that weighs 60 pounds and can balance on a 5 and a half-foot high fence that is 4 inches wide while nosing her way through the barbed wire….

May was a very quiet month until the beautiful pine tree outside our yard came down on the roof of the car just as we were about to leave for Guadalajara.  I covered that in the post , “Julio we told you the tree had to come down“, so I will not go over that again.

June was spent trying to get a few things done outside before the rains began.  Mainly redoing the roof.  We had done it the year before but one of the workers working on our kitchen renovation in the winter had been trying to straighten a concrete cage by banging against the roof.  Needless to say the rubber seal did not stand up to the sharp wire edges.

I also took this time to try to paint the mirador.  Now that was work.  The mirador is basically a 2 storey structure on our roof.  While a great idea just for the view, it is virtually impossible to paint.    I think the only way to actually paint it properly would be with scaffolding or hanging off the structure by a rope.  Something that I am just not prepared to do nor let anybody else do though I suspect I could find a lot of volunteers if the price was right!

July I went back to Edmonton for a couple of weeks to remind myself how cold it is even in July.  As usual the weather sucked but seeing my family and friends was great.  How life was to change though as I was sitting around a camp fire with my brother, Al, my son, Brendan, and my brothers in law, Neil and Denis.  Neil had his iPhone out and was on Facebook when he said, “I just saw this post from Heather about finding 4 kittens at your doorstep.  Oops, I was not supposed to tell you!”

4 kittens.  It was a few days before I could actually ask Heather about these kittens.  She advised that yes, we do in fact have 4 kittens but they are cute we should have no problem giving them away.

4 of them, always looking for trouble!

As you can tell they are still here!

On September 2nd Lorne and Heather came down to celebrate their anniversary.  We had a great time while they were here but the highlight was taco night at Cessa’s.  A friend of our introduced us to his stand a few months previous and it has become a regular stopping point for us on the weekends.   I have eaten a lot of tacos in the last few years but there is no doubt, his are the best!  Their short visit was an absolute hoot and as before we were sorry to see them go home.

In October I was washing tile on the main floor prior to putting a new seal coat on it when Zorro went by with a lizard in his mouth.  It turned out to be the last time I saw him as he never came home again.  We don’t know what happened to him and never will I suspect but we miss him terribly and hope that maybe he just ran off on a great adventure.

Zorro taking command of Alexa as usual

In November we were joined by Keith, Sherry and Jordan who spent a few days with us before moving to the Rui Palace for a wedding.  Again we got to do the tourist thing, hanging out on beaches, going for tacos and then trying to find churros.  We love it!

December brought the Christmas season and we always have to go downtown to watch the processions to the main cathedral.  The dancing, the music, the bells and street food make it such an enjoyable night.  We loved being able to share it with my brother Larry this year. If you are ever thinking of coming down here or will be here between December 1st and 12th, you must take these in.

Yesterday I was faced with that trepidation again.  Two new guests we had never met were about to be picked up at the airport.  Dave and Shelly from Yakima.  As usual my fears were for no good reason and we had a lovely visit with them last night.

Tonight they are cooking us dinner and we will ring in the New Year on the beach watching the fireworks from around the bay. It will be a great time.

I love being a tourist in my town especially one with so much to offer.

To those that helped make this year special we thank you and for everybody….

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

FELIZ AÑO NUEVO!

Happy New Year from both of us

The Journey to Casa Madera – What do you mean there is a Hurricane out there!

October 10, 2011 – Heather and I are sitting on our kitchen balcony this morning at Casa Madera Bed and Breakfast in Nuevo Vallarta enjoying our coffee wondering what the next 3 days will hold.  5 days ago a small disturbance formed out in the Pacific Ocean that over the days developed into a Category 3 Hurricane, Jova.

Puerto Vallarta has been threatened before this year but nothing has come close.   Jova has been listed as a potential direct hit for our beautiful part of the world now for 3 days.  Late yesterday that changed and it will probably hit land 150 miles down the coast near Manzanillo which is great for us but not so much for the poor people in Manzanillo and surrounding area.

When Heather and I moved here 3 years ago we knew that the area always had the potential for Hurricanes but it is rare for a Hurricane to hit land on the Pacific East Coast.  It does happen but not like the East Coast of Mexico or the United State and Canada.   However we are from Northern Alberta where you never knew when a Tornado might make an appearance so really what was the difference.  That and you just cannot let something limit you like weather or other natural events.  So we moved anyway.

This has been the closest we have been to having to deal with tropical weather.  Since we have been here we have dealt with a glancing blow from a tropical storm which hit Mazatlan and another that came in for 30 minutes (which we both slept through), downed trees and took off some roofs in Bucerias but otherwise nothing. Yes there is odd good storm during rainy season but nothing worse than Alberta would see.

We know the power that these storms punch but somehow I am disappointed that it is not going to hit us.  I don’t know why.  Is it the power of nature that I really wanted to see first hand?  Or did I want to see how the house stood up to it?  Either way, it is idiotic!

The storm was upgraded last night to a Category 3 Hurricane which would be devastating.  Major storm surge, houses damaged, trees blown down and a large amount of flooding.  You just cannot wish that on the other residents in the area, many who have no insurance on their belongings that they worked hard to obtain.  Not to mention that our deductible is 20% of any hurricane loss so do I really want to spend $8,000.00 if we suffer $40,000.00 in damage?

But that is only money and really money does not mean anything in the grand scheme of things.  Life is what it is all about.  A hurricane at this point in time would be bad for Puerto Vallarta and the Riviera Nayarit.  The Pan American Games are about to start in Guadalajara this week with a couple of events taking place in our fair city.   The City of Puerto Vallarta just spent a ton of money rebuilding the jewel of the city, the Malecon, which is due to open this week with the games.  I would hate to see all of those pesos go to waste, especially considering that high season is only 4 weeks away.

This is a tourist area.  It thrives on tourist dollars.  All of our Canadian and American friends who live here year round make their living off of tourists as we do too.  None of us can afford to have a hurricane take that season away.  But that is just us.  The infringers, the expats, the ones who really don’t belong.

The real damage would be to our Mexican hosts who let us live here.  People whose entire year rests on the next 6 months.  A major hurricane would wipe out families.  Some kids would not be able to afford to go to school.  Families would be struggling to put food on the table.   Lives would change and not for the better.

The country is already struggling thanks to the American and Canadian media and their reporting on what happens here.  I will not deny that there are areas in Mexico that are not particularly safe however, most tourist areas and cities are very secure and a pleasure to be in and see.  Heather and I feel safer here than we did travelling through the United States to get here.

While I will admit to trepidation when we crossed the border in a car 3 years ago that was mainly due to language and not knowing the customs.  In most places we stopped on the way down we were treated with respect and joy for being there.  That does not stop.  Whether we are driving in the middle of nowhere or in major centres, people are happy to see us and share their food and culture with us.  I would hate to see that change.

Though is it is currently pouring with rain, I am looking forward to spending a great day with some Canadian friends at Blakes Sports Bar to watch the Edmonton Eskimos beat the crap out of the Saskatchewan Roughriders.  In reality who wins does not matter.  The fact is we got to spend the day with friends and all of us will be hopeful that nothing develops out of this hurricane.  If not for us but for the people who grew up in this great country.

I have only one message to say, don’t believe everything you read in the papers or hear on the 5:00, 6:00 or 7:00 newscast.  Mexico is truly a great place, the people will love you, feed you well and make sure your cerveza is cold.  But most of all you will be making sure that our Mexican hosts can eat.  They are good people and they deserve it.

So on Canadian Thanksgiving Day I am thankful that I have two healthy children, a healthy granddaughter, a grandson on the way and many, many Mexican friends who have allowed me to partake in their customs, their way of life and helped me to discover the joy of being myself.

This is truly a great place and Hurricane Jova, where ever you hit, YOU CANNOT CHANGE IT!

The Journey to Casa Madera – Replacing The Palapa

September 24, 2011 – It’s hot, very hot today at Casa Madera Bed & Breakfast in Nuevo Vallarta.  32 degrees with humidity so it feels like 39.  You move, you sweat.  It’s that simple. You cannot escape it unless you lock yourself in the house with your air conditioner on.  We don’t use the air conditioning so we pay the price.

Yes, the price.  The average September day is a 3 shirt day.  You wear one until it gets too heavy and you put on another.  I had never had to stop typing to dry my keyboard in Alberta.  Who knew that fingertips sweated!

That’s just the way it is in late summer in Vallarta.  While our friends in Northern Alberta are trying to protect their tomato’s from frost, we are just trying to stay dry.

Heather and I spend a lot of time on our kitchen patio because of the breeze coming off the ocean or mountains but later in the day as the sun comes around it just is not the place to be.   It is then we head downstairs to relax under the palapa.

The Palapa.  Who knew that a whole bunch of grass that was not cut into fairways or greens would be so inviting.  But it is.  It is shady and cool when the sun is beating down.  It keeps the rain out when it is in torrential downpour mode.  It is a natural roofing material whose price does not go up because maybe half the town needs a new one due to a hail storm like an asphalt shingle.

We have since found out that a Palapa is made from the dried palms that are used in churchs throughout the world on Palm Sunday.

It’s beautiful and we think it is one of the most becoming features of our Bed and Breakfast.  It is our favourite place to serve our guests breakfast.  It was not always like that….

December 20, 2009 – Heather and I are sitting under the palapa enjoying a Corona while surveying the lower floor and deciding what we should do with what.  It has been a long day what with doing insurance work in the morning and doing demolition in the back room in the afternoon.  There was a small breeze coming off the ocean which was rattling the grass in the palapa and causing a great deal of it to fall on our heads!

I don't think this will keep the rain out anymore!

There was no denying the fact that the palapa had to be replaced.  Now!  It was falling down around us so we vowed the next day we would look into getting it replaced.

Three company’s came out to quote on the job with 2 of them being the same price and one being way too high.  The last man who came out to quote, Angel, walked into the area where the palapa was and you could tell that as far as he was concerned, he was going to rebuild this palapa.  He looked at it and asked if we wanted dimension lumberor rustic.  Same price either way.  We said rustic.  He said, give me $20,000.00 pesos and we will start tomorrow. We replied we will pay you the deposit when you arrive.

Glad it's him and not me!

Angel (pronounced Anhel) was the a typical Mexican cowboy.  Long and lanky he weighed maybe 120 pounds if he was lucky.  Looked to be about 60 but who knows.

At 9:00 am the next day the truck pulled up and out jumped about 5 young guys who immediately started tearing down the old palapa.  The grass was crumbling in their hands as they moved up the 2 x 4’s that were the trusses for the main support system.  These guys had no fear, it was something to see.  A good many of the 2 x 4’s were rotten after being exposed to the elements for a good many years.

Bare feet!

That day they removed everything and cleaned up the site.  Angel came by to pick up the deposit and said he would be back in a day or two with the grass.

Looks just a little different

2 days later, a Sunday morning, Heather and I were up on the roof enjoying our coffee when a truck full of palapa grass pulled up in the driveway.  For the next 45 minutes they dumped the grass on the patio along with some tree trunks which were obviously the rustic supports.

The first truck load of grass with the support poles.

We chatted a few minutes when they were done in Spanish and our take was they would be back in the morning to start.

Angel is sitting on the lower beam

And back they were.   They were preparing the trees for use.  The tree bark had been removed but they needed to be ground and cleaned for use.  So for two days we listened to the sound of the hand grinder going up and down these logs.

The next day the whole crew arrived and started to build the support system.  It was fascinating to watch these skinny guys and the old man toss these logs around.  Heather and I would be lucky if we could lift an end of one. They were tossing them around like they were toothpicks.

Once the south side supports were up they started weaving the grass.  It was amazing watching them do this.  Taking a piece of grass and weaving it over the cross member.  The worker would do a whole row and then go along with pruning shears clipping the edges to make sure they were even.

One side done!

It is like watching performance art, except it makes sense and you get a reliable product at the end.  However, the work takes time.  Something neither Heather or I ever realized.  It took a lot longer to do than we ever imagined it would.

Almost finished!

It was about 10 days into construction when Angel told us he had got a job to do a very large palapa for a hotel in Yelapa.  A small village only accessible by boat from Puerto Vallarta.  The size of the palapa escapes me now but we worked it out based on the amount of grass that he needed that it was worth $30,000.00 us dollars.

And everything had to be transported by boat.  We referred to it as the Yelapa Palapa…

Now that's a nice palapa!

It took just over 3 weeks start to finish for our palapa to be completed.  It is beautiful.  It provides shade when you want it.  It keeps out the rain so you can sit in comfort while it is pouring outside.  And most importantly, it has fans installed that help keep you cool when its 35 degrees outside in the shade….

We have the fans now we just need the Corona!

The Journey to Casa Madera – The tale of Oswaldo

September 2011 – It’s a hot one today at Casa Madera Bed and Breakfast in Nuevo Vallarta.  35 degrees with a humidex of about 42.  We have not had a good cooling rain for two weeks.  Very unusual for that to happen in rainy season.  Due to the heat there was not much going on today but trying not to sweat!

Labour day weekend was a treat.  Casa Madera was visited by friends from Lacombe, Alberta to celebrate their 24th anniversary.  It was a great weekend and too short a visit.  We are happy they enjoyed their tour of “our Mexico“.

It’s during these visits that our memories go back to what this house looked like when we bought it and how far we have come in less than 2 years.  The house was a mess.  Plants were overgrown everywhere.  The woodwork was termite infested, the fixtures were old and everything was in general disrepair.  All this with two people who were office workers and one who spent virtually every waking summer moment on the golf course…..

December 2009 – We have been in the house for about 10 days.  Still feeling our way around and trying to figure out what to do and how to do it.  We were working on tearing out the kitchen and rotten woodwork in the back room.  It was a long process as screws had to come out to get things apart.  Most had been in place for 20 years in a humid environment which made them just a tad rusty.

It was frustrating.  We thought that we finally had the last screw or nail and then when the unit still would not move we would find 6 more.  It seemed to take us forever just get the counter and the kitchen cabinets out let alone the rotten pine wall unit. If we were having  this much difficulty in the first room how hard were the next two going to be?

Kitchen and Wall unit in Room number 1

We were up to our necks in rotten wood when our friend Bill came by to see how we were doing.  He had a man working at his house building a pizza oven and patio area and he was just about done so he thought maybe we would be interested in having him come to work for us.  He could do tile, concrete and other general construction work.  He would come for 2500 pesos a week and lunch everyday.

Heather and I thought this over for at least a nanosecond and said sure.  Oswaldo would start on Thursday as he had one more day at Bill’s.

Thursday came and Oswaldo showed up at the appointed hour.  We went through the house and showed him what was going on and what we wanted to do.  The first order of business for him was to repair our outside wall where there was giant hole as neither Heather or I had ever mixed concrete in our lives.

Hole in the wall

Oswaldo looked at the hole, did some calculations and said we needed to get materials so off to the store we went.  He ordered what he needed and said they would deliver it in a couple of hours.

Back at the house Oswaldo asked whether we would like him to work on the tear out.  Sure I said.  He asked a very important question, “are you keeping anything”?  No.  In the space of the next 30 minutes he had the wall unit that Heather and I worked so patiently on for two days in a pile outside of the house.  Who cares about screws, just rip the thing out I can deal with the screws later.

Room number 2 after the removal of it's wall unit

From there he was into the bathroom ripping out the sink, the vanity, the toilet, and the shower doors.  He was done it all by the time the materials for the wall showed up.

After the demolition of the shower in room number 1

It was at that point when Heather and I realized how far in over our heads we were and boy did we feel like idiots.

With the materials there Oswaldo started on the wall.  He could only do a little at a time as the mortar had to set before more weight could be added on top of it so he started on the second bedroom.  He completed the tear out in that room while working on the wall and moved into the third bedroom.

By the time the wall was complete and stuccoed he had completed the tear out in all three rooms.   Two and a half days.  Heather and I spent 2 days in room number 1 and were not done when he joined us!

2 Days of Oswaldo, hole fixed and just needs paint

Monday morning came and Oswaldo was wondering what we wanted him to do today.  We decided to start on the kitchen in the first bedroom.  Heather and I had made up our minds that the kitchens would be Mexican without a stick of wood in sight so concrete had to be mixed, forms had to made and we needed to show him where everything would go.

It was a demanding task keeping up with him.  While a great worker, he was not a great planner so there were many times when he came upstairs and said I need this or that before I can go on.  This meant I spent a lot time going to the store to get more supplies.

It got to the point where I was always greeted by name at El Guero (our local hardware store).  If Heather was with me, I am not sure they really noticed.  They were only interested in the guy who kept buying tile, glue, grout, toilets, faucets, shower heads, and anything else they had on what seemed like a daily basis for a while.  Every person who worked there would break away from what they were doing to say hi, how are you Kevin?  I have to admit, I liked it!

The New Shower in room number 1

Oswaldo did great work.  He built all of our kitchens in our guest rooms, rebuilt all of the bathrooms and did a spectacular job.  I thought they looked great then and I still do.

The finished kitchen in room number 1 and the bathroom sink, all Oswaldo's handiwork

He was a god send to us.  He had his quirks and at times he drove us absolutely nuts but  his work ethic and the quality of his work was great.

We look back it now and realize that without him we would have been screwed.  We had no idea of what we were getting into or how to fix it and were ripe for the picking.  Thanks to him we were not picked.  He handled our problems, sometimes well, sometimes not so much but we learned from it.

After 5 months Heather and I realized that it was time for us to start doing things for ourselves and taking ownership of our house.  We owe Oswaldo a ton and I hate to think of where we would be if he had not come into our lives.  Thank you.

Oswaldo standing beside his first finished kitchen in room number 1

 

 

The Journey to Casa Madera – We have the house….what the heck do we do now?

August 25, 2011 – I am enjoying coffee this morning on our balcony at Casa Madera Bed and Breakfast in Nuevo Vallarta surveying our front yard and trying to remember what it looked like 20 ago when we moved in.  It is difficult as we have made so many changes over that time.  New iron fence, a few more plants, grass; they all contribute to fogging the memory.  It has been an amazing 20 months since we signed the papers and took over the stewardship of this house.  It was a few more months until we really took ownership of our home….months

December 9, 2009 – We are sitting in the office of Notario #4 with our realtor, the listing realtor, the mortgage company representative and the Notario’s assistant.  Our search is at an end.  After months of looking, making an offer and then waiting for all of the paperwork to be completed we are about to sign the final papers.  We were excited but also a little terrified!

Signing the papers. Are those smiles of joy or trepidation?

We were about to take on a project that neither one of us had ever thought about 4 years previous.  We wanted a house that could be used as a Bed and Breakfast and we found it.  It was perfect.  All the guest rooms would be separate from the main dwelling so no one actually had to walk through our living space to get to their room.  The pool was right by the guest rooms.  The rooms had front and back doors.  It looks like the house was designed specifically for this purpose.

After many explanations of the various documents, many photos & many signatures, the deed was done.  The keys were handed over and we went to look at our new abode.

The house that would become Casa Madera

Everybody feels something different when they walk through the front door of their new home for the first time.  For some it is the elation of having a house for the first time.  A house to raise a family in and build their lives together.  For us it was different.

It was the feeling of incredible terror!  We had just walked into a 3,000 square foot mass of concrete that needed some serious upgrading before we could even hope to get our dream up and running.  However, it was now ours.  Two people who had spent the last 20 odd years working in Insurance.  Heather, a gamer who would try anything in a home handyperson kind of way and me, who is anything but a handy kind of guy.  We spent that first 30 minutes looking at our castle and realizing we were about to be taken on the ride of our lives.

Over the next 3 days we moved all of our stuff into the house.  Now all of our stuff is kind of a liberal term.  We moved down with the Toyota Rav 4 filled to the brim but that was all we brought with us.  I still cannot believe it took 3 days to move everything in but apparently we had bought a lot in a year.

Before we could set anything up or put anything away the house had to be cleaned.  It was filthy.  So after buying new brooms, mops and cleaning supplies we went to work.

A rare sight, me with a mop!

The second day our new bed was delivered so we spent our first night in the house.  That was more than a little different.  We had been living in the interior courtyard of a condo complex where you might hear a cat meowing after dark but that was it.  We spent the first night and a few more after that going “what the hell was that?”  Some noises were easy to identify, crickets, frogs, the odd cow but there were others that just defied description.  We don’t notice those anymore.

After getting everything moved in and put away it was time to try to figure out what we were going to do and how we were going to do it.  We would sit under the palapa and just stare at everything.  We had no clue of what to do or where to start.

Tearing out the kitchen in room number 1

Do we deal with the green pool first?  Do we deal with a bedroom?  We just had no idea.

The pool, what a lovely colour

It was few days before we started to work out a plan.  The bedrooms had to be demolished.  The woodwork was termite ridden and rotten.  The rooms were dark and dirty.  The bathrooms were disgusting.  They needed a complete overhaul but nothing could be done until we had ripped everything out.

So we started with our back room.  It had a full kitchen which was at least 20 years old and looked 40.  So I started taking out the kitchen while Heather started on the wall unit.  It was difficult figuring out how they had everything installed and removing screws that had been in place for many, many years but it started to come together.

Bathroom sink and vanity

For 3 days we worked on this room.  It was hot and dirty work but we did feel a sense of accomplishment when we were finished.  The problem then was what do we do with it?

The first bedroom after the kitchen tear out

It was that day a friend of ours came by and said he had a fellow working at his house building his wood fired pizza oven.  He was almost finished with and he wondered if we would consider taking him on.  He did concrete and tile work.  He could do other things too but we would need to make sure he knew what we wanted. We needed somebody to help us with this so we said yes.

And thus began the tale the Oswaldo…..

House hunting, frustration in any language!

Over the last couple of weeks we have been diligently working on improving Casa Madera.   When we bought the house, it needed work.  A lot of work.  But there were reasons we chose this house over the others we looked at and it was while I was painting our bedroom I started to think about some of the houses we looked a couple of years ago.

January 2009 – The condo was up for sale and attracting some interest.  This meant we should get our butts in gear and find a house that would be suitable for a bed and breakfast.  We called our friend and exclusive realtor, William Michael from Vallarta Escapes.  He knew what we wanted and set about to see what he could find in a reasonable price range that would meet our needs.

It was about a week later that he some houses to show us.  So off we went with the typical excitement you have when you are looking for a new house.  We were stoked!

Well we came down from that pretty fast.  Our problem was we were not really sure where we wanted to live.  We thought we wanted to live in Puerto Vallarta so that is where the houses that he had for us to see were located.  The first house was located back behind Fluvial which is a new district.  It was nice house but it was a little far away from all the tourist amenities which was going to be a problem.  That and there was just not enough room for a pool which had become a must have for me.

Sometimes pool's come in a variety of colours!

After the first day of looking Heather and I decided that we needed to make up our mind where we want to live.   Puerto Vallarta, Bucerias, Nuevo Vallarta, La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Sayulita?  There were many choices so we started driving out to various areas just to try to get a feel for everything that they each had to offer.

Bucerias is a nice town.  It has all the services you would want and a great beach.  Ok, lets look there.

La Cruz de Huanacaxtle was small fishing village that had started to grow up with large condo projects and had an interesting feel to it.  We thought we could look there too.

Nuevo Vallarta was a planned residential tourist community that gave us a Beverly Hills feel when we drove into.  We decided that we can look there but we were not sure about it.

Sayulita is a great town.  To me it had a sixties California feel to it.  A surfing beach, great waves that still allow you to swim.  It’s drawback was it was on the other side of the mountain.  We will think about it but it was just too far out for me.

That left us Puerto Vallarta.  The reason we moved here.  We loved the town.  Friendly people, all the services.  It is great.

After all the discussion between to the two us we told William Michael our preferences.  He did his best to come up with something that would meet our needs and make us happy.

The next house was a 3 storey affair next to the Rio Cuale in Old Town.  It was a nice place.  Currently being operated as a small hotel and doing reasonably well.  The rooms all had some kitchen facilities, they were comfortable and the house had a great view but there was just no room for a pool.  We decided to keep it in mind but I really wanted a pool.

Shade and sun at the same time!

There were many that day, some worth looking at, some not so much.  Some out of our price league but fun to look at anyhow.

The next day we went out we went to see a house in Bucerias which we quite liked but again there was just no room for a pool.  The other thing we found odd about Bucerias is that most of the houses were two bedrooms.   At least those were the ones which were for sale.

From there we went to La Cruz de Huanacaxtle where there were two houses to see.  One was definitely a fixer upper according to William Micheal.  We walked into the house which was a one storey and it had the oddest feature.   A knee-high rock built into the floor.  WTF?  No one could tell us why it was there.  The house was being lived in at the time.  It was not finished.  No bedroom doors or jambs, just curtains.  They had not sprayed the house for bugs in a while as we were stepping over cockroaches to get into the house.  It was when we walked into the kitchen that William Michael calmly told us to step to the right as there was one coming right for us.  We both take direction well so we did and watch it stroll on by.

From there we went to a house which was actually set up for and being run as a bed and breakfast.  It was a nice place but was located across the street from the Sonic Gas propane station which played a whistle and shouted gas every few minutes.  We liked the house but not the location.

After 3 months of frustration of trying to find a house & setting up a pre-approved mortgage we were getting a little jaded.  It was a that point that William Michael reminded us that we had yet to look in Nuevo Vallarta.  Ok, let’s go see what Beverly Hills south has to offer.

Nice houses, that is what it has to offer.  Every house we looked at was gorgeous.  Immaculately kept, nice grounds.  They were beautiful.  Unfortunately they also had a nice price tag to go along with all that great stuff.  We were not going to denied though.  After 5 months in Puerto Vallarta we thought that living out in Nuevo might not be that bad.  It will be quiet and it really is not that far out from town.

It was then that he took us to what would become Casa Madera.  Wow.  It was perfect!  3 bedrooms downstairs with their own doors and livable space on the second floor for us.  A pool!  A nice size pool and a hot tub!  Man how could we be so lucky! And at a great price too.

However, we were still not sold on Nuevo Vallarta so we did not do anything that day.  We did talk about the house a lot though.  So we talked to our mortgage broker to make sure it would fit into our budget and he discussed it with the bank.  After a few days he came back and said that yes it would work.

We let it sit for a while because we were not going to rush into this one.  We did once already and were let down.  A couple of weeks went by and we decided we needed to look at it again.

The second viewing was not as good.  We then saw all the warts that the house had.  It needed a lot of work.  The bedrooms were going to have to be gutted.  The palapa over the garage was shot as was the one just outside of the kitchen.  And the kitchen, crap it was awful.  Well, now we are going to have to rethink this.

I have a screwdriver, we can fix it!

Again we discussed and discussed.  Can we do the repairs that it needs within a reasonable budget amount.  Especially since we are such handy kind of people.  Eventually it came down to one thing.  It was a perfect house for what we wanted to do.

So we jumped with both feet.  And then the fun began…..

Just think Steve Austin, you can rebuild it! Hopefully it won't cost you 6 million

Julio, We Told You the Tree had to Come DOWN!

May 27, 2011 – It has been quite the eventful day here at Casa Madera Bed and Breakfast in Nuevo Vallarta.  We have a mirador or in english a lookout tower.  We have always wondered why.  The view is spectacular but really it performs no other use and we are really not sure how they got it built anyway as it seems to break every rule the homeowner’s association has.

Mirador up at the top and the TREE!

The previous owners of the house which became Casa Madera had not kept the maintenance which has required a fair amount of work on our part but that is a story for another day.  Today we are talking about the mirador.  It was in severe need of painting probably about 4 years ago.  It was also something that Heather and I debated about for quite a while.  Do we really want to keep it?  What do we do with it.  Either way it needed paint.

How the heck are we going to do that?  At the top it is 4 stories high.  There are areas that will probably require scaffolding.  Where are we going to get that?  There are areas that are not the easiest to reach even with scaffolding.  Either way we had to do something about it.

So today I had nothing better to do that would pay me money so I decided to paint it.  It was a good idea at the time.  It was cloudy and not too hot so I set up gear and went to work.  What a pain in the butt.  The stucco covering is streaked with gaps that make it extremely difficult to fill with paint.  Oh well it is not perfect but I did the best I could with a pole that could reach 18 feet.

The problem is the sun came out so after 3 hours I had to pack it in.  I had drunk 5 16 ounce glasses of water and a liter is rehydrating liquid (not sport drinks but actual medicinal rehydrater) and was dying up there.  I was half done so I was reasonably happy with what I saw and cleaned everything up.

The rest of the day was to be spent lounging in the pool with a cold beer and a good book.  That was going to be after we went to the print shop to print off a letter for the homeowners association about things that needed to be done to the lot next door and the farm land behind us as we have some tree issues.

I got myself cleaned up and ready to go but Heather was still tweaking the letter so she was not ready.  I sat myself down at the computer to deal with my email and check twitter and Facebook.  About 4 minutes in to that I heard an odd noise.  I did not think much about it as we hear lots of odd noises throughout the day with the various work that goes on throughout the neighbourhood during the day.  I kept reviewing the days events on the computer.

It was then I heard a much louder odd noise that sounded like a crack and then the sound of crumpling metal and breaking glass.  That was enough to get me out of my seat.  I made the 3 steps to the balcony to see the pine tree that we had asked the agricultural engineer from the Homeowner’s association to remove 3 weeks ago lying overtop of our Jeep Grand Cherokee.

ouch!

We were heading to Guadalajara for 5 days to do some shopping, some sightseeing and reconnect with our friend Marco who is living there.  Well so much for that.  Glass was all over the ground, I could see the roof was caved in, we were not going anywhere.

So while Heather called the Homeowner’s association I emailed the hotel, the kennel for the cat, the friends who were taking the dog and Marco to tell them that fate is not allowing us to travel tomorrow.

Once Heather was done with the Homeowner’s association we called our insurance broker, Juan Pablo.  I explained our problem and he said I needed to call the company in my best Spanish and he would call the adjuster and let him know what was happening.

I know we never used air conditioning but it would nice to be able to close the window every once and a while!

My best Spanish is just like my best French so I deferred the call to Heather who is better at it than I am.  She did the report and we went back outside to survey the damage.

While we were on the phone the Tourist Police drove by doing their usual rounds.  They slowed a bit and had quite the look at the car but did not stop.  I found it quite funny when a second set came through about 5 minutes later and again slowed to get a good look but did not stop.  What, were they thinking it was a new accessory?

The best was when the school bus driver brought the boy from down the street home after school.  He dropped the boy off and was coming back, he slowed to an absolute crawl…and then stopped about 30 feet past the house and I am pretty sure got out his phone to take a picture.  He could have backed up we really would not have cared!

It was about 5 minutes later the workers from the Homeowners association showed up.  Looked at the tree and started cutting.  They were then faced with the task of how to get it off the car without damaging the garage door or the palapa.  That was when the insurance adjuster showed up.

The insurance adjuster showed up!  One hour after the tree had fallen the adjuster was at our house.  I was involved in insurance claims for 20 years when Heather and I started this odessy and we always strived for excellent customer service but this was something else!

He looked at the Jeep and told me what was going to happen.  Did I have the policy?  I explained it was in the car as we have been told to do.  Until they moved the tree I could not get it at it.  It was then the workers motioned us over to get the tree out of the way.

One guy on the front end loader and two Fibba (homeowner’s association) workers and the adjuster were on the tree.  They lifted it up enough for me to get into the Jeep and back it out in the street.

No, the Christmas tree should be centered on the roof!

The Fibba men started cutting the rest of the tree up while the adjuster and I looked over the mangled vehicle.  He announced it could be repaired!  Damn.  In Canada it would have been a write off for sure which would have made us both happy.

This is a problem with low labour rates ( we like them everywhere else, our problem I guess).  Oh well.  He wrote the appraisal sheet, told me where to take it.  They would order the parts and it would be repaired, I only had to pay my deductible.  5% of the value of the vehicle.

So tomorrow we will take the car to the repair shop, they can see the appraisal, order the parts and the car will be repaired.

The interesting point in the entire dissertation is that the tree fell at 3:00 pm this afternoon.  The tree was cut and in a pile by our house and the repair order was done by the adjuster by 4:30 pm.

90 minutes.  Unbelievable.  I love this country!

The Quest to get a Mexican Driver’s License

When we arrived in Puerto Vallarta to start the quest of finding a house that would be suitable to turn into Casa Madera Bed & Breakfast we were driving a brand new Toyota Rav 4.  We loved that vehicle.  It was great to drive, good on gas and the air conditioning worked which was a BIG plus for those of us trying to get accustomed to warmer weather.

Unfortunately the fact that a good many of the roads are cobblestone caused us to think that this was not the place to have a new vehicle so we decided to drive it back to Canada in August 2009 and sell it while we were visiting family.  It hurt to sell it but it was for the best.

When we returned to Puerto Vallarta at the beginning of September we set about looking for a vehicle.  That was lots of fun as the main car dealers do not sell a lot of Semi-Nuevos as they call them here.  This meant that we were forced to go to the used car lots which was always so much fun in Canada.  Well its double the fun here when your Spanish is limited.

We did eventually find 1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee that we could live with at a reasonable price and did the deal.  The car dealer was gracious enough to send his wife with us when we went to go register it and that was a good thing as the original bill of sale was written on a form that was 2 days past its valid dates of use.  This meant they had to procure another bill of sale that was valid before the state would transfer ownership of the car.  Without the sellers wife, we would have had nothing but frustration.

While there we saw that the driver’s license bureau was right across the hall.  Now we had noticed that driving in Mexico was unique at best but we figured they all had to have driver’s licenses, didn’t they?  So we asked our helper about getting Mexican driver’s licenses.

We wandered across the hall and spoke to the receptionist who said to come back at 4:00 that afternoon for the test.  Our helper said that we would take a written test and then an actual driving test!  Cripes, I had not taken a practical drivers test since I was 16, neither had Heather.  Well that will be fun.  Sure hope the examiner speaks english!

We arrived at 4:00 and were ushered into the room at the back and told to take seats.  We did and more people arrived so soon we were sitting with about 20 other people, all Mexicans, of ages from 16 to 35.

The instruction welcomed us and then proceeded to lecture us in Spanish for 90 minutes on the rules of road.  Heather and I looked at each other and laughed silently…RULES!  Get out-of-town.  There are no rules.  The only rule we could see that when the light phase was about to change from red to green someone was going to be honking at the front vehicles to get their collective butts in gear and get moving.

Apparently though, there are rules.  The driver must wear a seat belt.  You must not follow the vehicle ahead of you too close.  Speeding kills. etc.  All rules we knew from driving for 35 years.

This lecture took place in Spanish, of course, but we both found that we were able to understand a good part of what the officer was saying.  It became totally apparent that we did because he looked at Heather and asked her how long she had been driving.  35 years she responded and he looked to me for an answer to the same question.  I repeated the same answer and on he went through the room getting answers like 1, 2 or 5 years throughout most of the room.  He then said that because of the two people in the front row, gesturing to Heather and I, that no one would have to take the practical driving test because we brought the class average up to 15 years driving experience!  You have to be kidding me!  It was a little shocking but neither one of us was upset about not having to take a practical exam.

It was then he told us to come back tomorrow after 9:30 and do the written test.

We arrived right at the appointed time and got checked in.  The instructor from the night before motioned me over to the computer and gave me a demonstration on how the system works.  I had 20 questions to answer.  He did not tell me what the fail mark was  but during the course of the demonstration he answered the first question for me.  I wondered if it was my sparkling blue eyes or the fact that sitting in my hands was a Spanish/English dictionary.

We had been told that the test was in Spanish but we would be allowed a translation dictionary for help.  So there I was, facing my first real question that I had to answer and looking up words like there was no tomorrow.  We had taken 3 semesters of Spanish but you only learn so much and we found that out in spades.

After about 3 minutes I thought I had a grasp on what the question was about and then looked at the answers.  I caught a break as the answer was obvious even in a different language.  On to question 3.  I was rifling through the dictionary like my life depended on it.  And really it did.  What good are you at 51 when you cannot pass a drivers test after driving for 35 years?

After answering question 3 I was reading question 4 when I sensed a presence beside me.  It was a security guard.  I looked up at him and he said in English, “Do you understand Spanish?”  I replied that I could understand a little and words I did not know I was looking up and so far things were going ok.  I thought that was a little odd that he would come in and talk to me while I was working on the exam but quickly forgot about it.

For 35 minutes I flipped pages, tried to figure out words and gave what I could not get my best guess.  The people there were quite amused with the gringo trying to do this test.

I finished the test and called the instructor over who came over and scored the exam.  The look on his face when 90% came up was priceless.  Of course I could not stop beaming!

At that point it was quick, he took my picture and printed off my secure license right there.  No need to wait 15 days for it show up like in a Canadian province that I know.

They had a lot of people waiting to take this test and they had two computers.  After they got Heather sat down at the one I had been working on they put a 16-year-old boy at the other computer.  Heather was working diligently at her test and completed it faster than me and passed it as well.  It was a happy day for both of us!

And then we ran into a glitch.  The computer they were printing Heather’s license on froze.  The license would not print so they told us to wait while they called someone.  We were hanging around the door waiting when the sister of the boy at the other computer asked Heather what she put for this particular question.  WTF??  You don’t ask someone what they put for an answer on an exam question???

Heather went over and looked at the question figuring what the hell, the woman who acted as a proctor was sitting right there and did not bat an eye when the woman asked Heather for help.  Heather said “I put C”.  It was then that the proctor piped and said (without a word of a lie), “That is not the right answer, it is B”.  huh….You mean we could have asked you for help!  Give me a break!

I cannot speak for Heather but for 35 minutes I sweated over that test.  The Old Spice was working hard keeping me fresh during that time and my brain was tired.  What really irritates me is it did not need to be!  For a small fee, it turns out the security guard would have written test for both of us and we would have walked away as fresh as a daisy with no problems what so ever.  And from what we understand now many people we know have taken the small fee route which worked for them but I can tell all of you this.  They don’t have the sense of pride and accomplishment that Heather and I did walking out of the Motor Vehicles office, getting into our car and driving to Victor’s for a Corona and a shot to celebrate.

Where is Home Hardware when you really need it?

May 16, 2011 – It’s another spectacular day at Casa Madera Bed & Breakfast in Nuevo Vallarta!  I never get tired of saying that.  I don’t know why.  Is it the weather?  The fact that the sun shines virtually every day?  The fact that the air temperature is at least 28C (82.4 F for those who follow the real temperature)  for 8 months of the year? Possibly, but I really think it is because we just having too much fun!

I am not now, nor have ever been what one would call “a handy kind of guy”.  My friends never invited me over to help fix something, build a deck or help with any other home improvement project.  Realistically I was eternally grateful for the fact that I had no idea what most particular tools were called.

Unfortunately since moving to Puerto Vallarta this has changed.  Since we bought the house which would become Casa Madera, it has changed even more.  It became necessary to learn what this tool is called and what it did.  This may seem like a simple concept for many people out there.  But imagine having to learn the English name and then figuring out what the heck it is called in Spanish.  It is entertaining for all, us who are trying to figure it all out and the poor guy behind the counter who is trying to decipher what spanish word we are trying to say.

Over the last few days Heather has been painting furniture to add colour to the rooms.  We decided that we really liked the Mexican painted furniture that we had seen around but being as we are inherently cheap did not want to pay what they wanted for it.  So we decided to paint it ourselves.

Unfinished Headboard

We went to the Berel paint store in Mezcales and explained to them what we wanted to do (in Spanish) and they set about putting together the best paint for the job.  We go to this store a lot since moving into Casa Madera so they know us now and are very good about taking the time to deal with the two home improvement rookies.  They have helped us immensely over the last year.

It does get easier every time we go to the paint, hardware, or plumbing store.  We have learned what to ask for and when to ask for help on how to use a particular item.  Those who work behind those counters have been great.  However it does remind of the first time I needed to go to plumbing store in Puerto Vallarta.

Heather painting the headboard

February 2009 – As usual we got up in the morning, made some coffee and headed for the beach to sit and enjoy the view.  We are still pinching ourselves everyday.  It is not cold, there is no snow and no threat of a winter storm warning.  Every day it is the same.  Sunny and warm.  Some might call that boring but I just call them jealous.

We only stay out there for 30 – 45 minutes as we do have work to do and like to get it done early so we can enjoy the rest of the day.  We return to the condo and find out that a water main let go and we have no water.  It will be a couple of hours before it will be fixed.  Oh well late showers today, no big deal.

It was then that Heather said, “you should fix the shower taps while the water is off”.  We had one tap that dripped continually.  We had already paid once to have it repaired which apparently did not work.  It was time to take it into our own hands.

We had looked at trying to fix this ourselves before but could not find a water shut off for the condo.  We saw the water main breaking as a good omen so I quickly grabbed my 3 tools, screwdriver, crescent wrench, vise grips and proceeded to take apart the taps to get at the “seat” of the tap.

We had decided it was the seat that had worn out over time and was no longer sealing allowing water to leak through.

I grabbed the piece and ran across the street to Groupo Amutio to see if they had a part.  I asked them in my best Spanglish and showed them what I was looking for.  The one man in the store who spoke English told me I would have to go to a plumbing store.  He told me that the closest one was 3 blocks away and how to get to it.

I took off towards the plumbing store and got there in record time for an old fat guy.  I showed them what I had and tried to make myself understood.  He looked at the piece and went to see what he had.  After about 10 minutes of going through every bag he had he finally said something in Spanish that I did not understand.  Luckily there was a man there who spoke English who said that the part is too old you will have to replace the whole thing.

Okay, I will take not one but two.  I might as well replace both while I have the chance.  It was then that I realized that I did not have enough money.  I had just put some pesos in my pocket and ran out the door.  I had left my wallet at home.  So, I told to hold those items there and I will be right back.

Off I ran back to the condo.   Ran in, got some more money and ran back.  This took about 15 minutes.  Now I was getting worried.  The water was off but really how long is it going to take them to fix this pipe.  I had nothing in the taps to stop the flow of water should the water come back on.  This was causing me great concern!

I made it back to the store picked the parts and ran back to the condo to get the repairs done.  I got the parts ready and reinstalled them in the way I took the out or so I thought.  I put the handles back on and gave them a test.  The water was still off but I could see that the handles were not moving the same as before.  They had way too much play, that and they were turning the wrong way.

The finished headboard

I took them apart again and tried to figure out what I had done wrong.  Good luck with that.  Where was Shell Busey when you needed him? For 20 minutes I sweated over the taps and finally thought I had it figured out.  I put in the hot water stem, put on the handle and it moved the way it should have so I did the same with the cold.

Just as I was starting to put the nut on to hold the cold water stem in the pipe the maintenance people pressurized the water system.  Muddy water was spraying everywhere!  I kept working the nut and finally the spraying water subsided. Heather was killing herself at the bathroom door.  I was totally soaked and covered with muddy water.

Between guffaws I managed to get the handle on the cold water tap and everything worked properly.  Water came out where it was supposed to, turned off when it was supposed to.  I had managed to replace the tap stems.  I was rather impressed with myself.

I figured I was already wet I might as well have a shower.  As I was drying off I looked up at the shower head.  Drip, drip, drip……