WP_20150629_17_27_39_ProAfter years of travelling to Disney, we have come to the conclusion that the mid-day at Disney is just not worth it. As such, we skipped it this trip. On our New year’s trip this year, we stayed at a nearby hotel (Annabel Hotel), but still a fair walking distance. We were going to stay at the Disneyland Hotel, but decided to try the Grand Californian as a test. Being so close meant that our room was literally as close to the park as some of the rides. There was not reason not to stop back in the room, or swing by the pool, so that’s what we did.

We hit the park early each day. Right at opening, or taking advantage of the “Early Hour”. We found that at opening, the parks were really empty, and didn’t start to really fill up until around 11:30. At that point, we started working our way back to the hotel, usually hitting the pool by 12:30 or so (sneaking in an extra ride on the way back). We didn’t return until 4:30 or 5pm. Once the parades started, that took people away from rides and the lines were ok again. The later we stayed, the better the lines were.

Naturally, we hit all our big favorites, Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, Haunted Mansion. For whatever reason, this trip Yulia started really liking the stronger rides. She’s never been a big Roller Coaster person, but she got really excited for Space Mountain, and Matterhorn, and we even got her to try California Screamin’ (in her case, this was aptly named).  She went on The Tower of Terror as well. A small amount of screaming may have happened there as well. I’m not sure why she suddenly started enjoying these types of rides, but we all had fun.

The weather was hot, so that made spending the afternoons resting or in the pool make even more sense. There’s actually a lot of shade in the Disney parks, but you cook out in the heat, and it just stops being fun pretty quick.

We even took time out to go to Tom Sawyer’s island, which is now “Pirates Lair” because America is full of Illiterate motherfuckers. That had more shade, and tunnels that Yulia and Sasha used to see if they could get me stuck or hit my head. (Final Score: Fake Rock – 6, Mark – 0).

On one of the days we tried for a dinner at our favorite place, the Golden Vine Winery, but by the time we had walked there the place was booked. The checking desk called around, and found that there was some space over at the new Carthay Circle. This was part of the remodel of the front of California adventure, (the whole remodel they did turned out great) and was designed after the theater where Snow White was played the first time. We had been to the bar there, but never the full restaurant. We ran over, and after a short wait, were taken to a table.

This wasn’t a regular park restaurant, this was really, really nice. There were  a few small special occasion rooms off the main room, and there were quite a few folks (not everyone) who were actually dressed for dinner. They had a very good wine selection, and from the menu we could see that this appeared to be an attempt at real fine dining. Our server confirmed this when we talked with her. This was a bit of an experiment, and the park wanted to see if some real upscale food would work in the park. We took her recommendation for wine, which was surprisingly good as it was Californian (usually too hot) and from the winery belonging to a Disney director. The food was all top-notch, if not a bit over spiced, like they were trying just a bit too hard. We were pleased in any case, and I’m glad to see Disney keep trying with the food in the parks. It has made a huge jump in quality over the years, and I’d rather they try too hard and learn than go back to hotdogs and nachos.

For our last night, we came back to the park extra late to catch two shows: The new Electric Parade, and the Main Fireworks.

I have always loved the Electric Parade. The original show was from the 70’s, and I remember seeing it as a kid with my grandparents. It went away for a long time, then about 10 years ago, it came back for a while. But it was the same show. it was cool, but the music and floats were a bit dated. Light bulb dresses on the princesses. Weird electronica music. A float for the movie Pete’s Dragon. (if you don’t remember Pete’s Dragon, then you are just like 90% of the visitors who kept asking “who the hell is the kid on the dragon?”) Shortly after we saw it with Sasha, they stopped the parade again.

They have a new electric parade now, and we were excited to see what changed. As it turned out, everything. Every float was new, from all the new rides and cartoons. much more advanced and larger as well. All new music, but I could hear that they sampled the music of the original parade in some sections. It was a nice callout to the old parade. Towards the end of the parade, I recognized just a few of the old floats that they snuck in, a callout to those of us who remember the old parade. We loved it.

Once the parade passed, we were told to move into Main street to watch the fireworks. This year is the 60th anniversary of Disneyland, so they had a bunch of “Diamond” things about, and the Fireworks show also got a special treatment. When the show started, Lights went down all along Main Street. Then once the first few displays went off, projected lighting lit up the Castle, and main street. Scenes to match the theme and music were projected, chimney sweeps danced for Mary Poppins, fake Snowflakes fell from the sky for Frozen, Finding Nemo had a giant Nemo fly past the Castle, all while the Fireworks grew bigger and bigger. The whole show was bigger end wilder effects before a huge fireworks finale. It really was the best display we had ever seen. We were literally stunned. When it finished, we cheered with the whole crowd for a while, before people started heading out. We moved back into the park to get in just a few last rides before it all closed.

We ended up leaving right at midnight, when the park closed. It was nice to have a short walk back to the room.

WP_20150627_19_09_20_ProWe opted to haul our own bags so we could leave the boat early. Most folks didn’t seem to care. Presumably they had a plane to catch later in the day, and weren’t in any rush. We were on our way to hit the beach, or at least a beach town for a few hours, then check in at Disney. In all honesty, the departure from the boat was amazingly fast. Carnival really fixed the system for getting off the boat. Once our deck was called, the lines were so fast that we basically walked non-stop through the ship, off the ramp and right to passport control. I don’t think it took us more than 20 minutes. We were back to our car and on the highway in no time.

Yulia had the idea for us to spend a few hours beach time in LA after my sister (who lived in LA for a few years) berated us for not doing so. Several times. Finally, we got the hint, and put it into our plans. Originally we were going to go to Huntington beach. Yulia spent some time there during a Gymnastics event a few years ago, and thought it was beautiful, with cool stores and a wide, sandy beachfront. But once off the ship, our first thoughts were getting some breakfast. Sasha was checking her phone, and found that there was an Urth Café in Laguna Beach. That was around a 20 minute drive, but seemed like a good idea. Sasha and I hit an Urth Café last time we were in LA for a dance competition, and while being pretty trendy, they actually make fantastic food. They also had really, really good coffee, which we were dying for after the ship’s coffee from the last week.

The drive down the coast was really amazing. each small coastal neighborhood was a little different, with flavors of industrial, hippie, and big money mixed together. We were surprised by the number of small islands and canals along the shore. From the big maps, you don’t really see this. Each inlet was packed with marinas and boats, and with homes lining the canals with their own docks. I would love to take time to explore these areas in a boat, but that would have to be another trip.

We pulled into Laguna Beach, and the GPS told us where to turn to find the Urth Café. We pulled up to find it surrounded by a chain link fence, with an “Opening Soon! – Now hiring” sign on it. It was about half complete. Apparently, they updated their website just a bit early. That was a realm bummer, but we could see the main town waterfront just down the hill from us, so we drove over there to see if something else was open.

The Laguna Beach downtown was surrounded by hills, with the beach spilling out into the ocean in front of it. We parked by the beach, and started walking around to find a place. All the stores were funky little boutiques and galleries. After wandering the back streets a bit, we turned onto the main street, which went up the hill to some cliff side restaurants and a little art market. We found a breakfast joint, and finally had some really good coffee. The food was great too. Sasha had some good eggs, Yulia and I had yogurt and fruit. Just a light breakfast overall.

We walked around the street a bit and went to the art market. The stuff for sale was cool, but the view from the market was amazing. You could look down from here to see the beach curve away from town, turning into rocks as the hill rose up on the other side of town. People were swimming, surfing and walking the entire length. We had another great view from the Wyland Gallery next door. (Wyland is that guy who paints whale and sea murals all over the world. Beautiful, but I think they all look exactly the same. But hey, it’s art) The patio at the gallery had one of those standing telescopes, so we could look through and get a closeup of the seabirds out on the rocks, and the surfers waiting for waves.

After a bit more walking we headed back to the car. We drove out the main road towards I-5, and it began to rain. Yes, California is in a drought, we come from Seattle, and it rains. It always rains on us when we are on vacation. No exceptions. This wasn’t too hard of rain, and we figured that it would wash off some of the dead bugs that were littering our car. So it was welcome.

A short ride later, we were on the freeway, and heading north towards Disney. It has actually been a long time since we came to Disney from the south, So I had to pay attention since I didn’t know these ramps as well. It was all well marked, and since we were a carpool, we bypassed much of the I-5 traffic on the way. The ramp dropped us into the neighborhood just before Disney, and since we had stayed near here for New Years, I knew how to navigate to the right gate to get us to the hotel. We were staying this time at the Disney Grand Californian, which is the big and fancy hotel on the Disney Resort, and the only one we hadn’t stayed at before. We were only here for 3 nights, so we thought we would give it a shot. This hotel actually connects to the Californian Adventure park, so we will see if the short walk into the park is worth the cost.

Thankfully, there was a hotel laundry so we could get everything clean, we were pretty grimy after all this time on the boat. Our room seemed huge after staying in the boat cabin for a week. A shower, a rest, and changed into clean clothes, we headed into Downtown Disney to see if anything  was new. It was pretty much the same as the last time we were here (only 6 months ago). After a walk around, we fond space at the New Orleans restaurant just across from House of Blues. It was super busy, but as a party of 3, we were easy to find space for (all the other groups were huge, and waiting in an insane line). We were seated on the second floor balcony, with a view of Disney. A Jazz duet was playing next to us. Nice way to wind down the day.

WP_20150625_14_23_35_ProThe last two days of our cruise were at sea. After three days of getting up early for shore excursions we were looking forward to sleeping in and resting. Naturally, we got a 5:45am wake up call by mistake.


We made up the time at the pool, where we spent almost all of our time. Sasha was working on a tan and resting. Yulia had a book that she was reading all week – she never likes to read, but this had her hooked. It was from the author of Gone Girl, and had murder, poverty, nasty characters – she loved it. I might check it our after Sasha gets it. I’ve been working on SevenEves by Neal Stevenson (as an audiobook) and it has been fantastic. It is typical Heavy written Sci Fi from Neal, with an extra layer of disaster space opera to boot. On our second day at sea I listened to it until midnight.

They had a Zumba party by the pool at one point, and Yulia did that. Naturally, she was better than the instructor. Everyone who danced got Carnival Medals on a red, white, and blue ribbon. Neat.

Sasha did a Disney Trivia contest, which had some seriously obscure questions.  She didn’t win, but she got one of the cool little medals for participating.

I went to the bar and got a beer.

When we took our Alaskan cruise, we went to a lot of the shows, partially because it was pretty cold on deck. Here we hadn’t bothered, so we decided to get at least one show in. It was the R&B Love show, and sounded great. Yulia had met one of the performers at another of the dance events on board, and he told we that she had to see the show. So we went. The theater on the ship had a Phantom of the Opera theme, and was gorgeous. We were excited to see the show, and found pretty nice seats near the stage to one side. I love Blues and Funk, so I was jazzed up as well. Sadly, while the dance was great, the singing was – not so much. The women were great, but the men simply didn’t have the range, or the soul frankly, to sing R&B. The show was good, but it was way outside their abilities. Bummer. Maybe we should have gone to the 80’s hits show.

At the end of our final day, we went to the Serenity deck, which was over 21, and brought Sasha. It was pretty cool out, we were back in Californian ocean weather. The staff manning the deck were cool with Sasha being there, most of the 23 year olds were loud and annoying, and Sasha was quiet and mature. We got a wicker day bed for Sasha to rest in, and we grabbed a bottle of wine and two lounges. That was really all we needed.

We would be glad to disembark tomorrow. We were off to the beach and Disney for the next week.

P1030267The difference between Puerto Vallarta and Mazatlan was striking. We walked down the gangway out of the ship to a beautiful green plaza, with Mariachi players, and mini bird sanctuary, and lush greens all around. We braved the gauntlet of photography, where ship photographers have you pose with parrots, pirates, and whatever they can find as you exit the ship. We found out tour guide right away, and she moved us over to the correct waiting area as she waited for the rest of our tour.

It was hot here, but right away you could see that this was a very different climate from Cabo and Mazatlan. This was jungle. The hills were covered in lush, green trees, not the desert scrub we saw in our last two stops. The air was not desert dry, but not overly humid either. We had a tour today that was a multi stop tour on a Unimog, to a Botanical Garden, Local Town, roadside bakery, Hacienda for lunch, Petroglyphs, and naturally, a Tequila Distillery tour. You simply can’t go without a Distillery tour, it just wouldn’t be Cricket.

Once the rest of the tour group got off the ship, we all followed our guide towards the bus area. She went past the busses, and over to the smaller docks of the marina. A couple of big, Zodiac boats were there. She pointed at the nearest one and told us to load up. The tour apparently started in the South Bay area, and we were going there by boat. We loaded up, put on life jackets, and the boat pulled out and took off across the bay. The weather was clear, and waves were low, so it was a fantastic ride. As we pulled out from the city, the green hills came closer, with cliffs going straight into the water in areas, others with sandy beaches spreading out in crescents dotted with umbrellas. Homes and restaurants were in the hillsides, and became sparser and more extravagant as we got further.

We turned into a bay, and the homes turned from wealthy gringos to working locals in an instant. This was Boca, a local fishing village, and where we got loaded onto our Unimogs for the ride. It was a beautiful location, we had landed at a small dock, but the bay was a sandy beach all around, with little concrete homes and a fleet of small boats at anchor or beached. It was really a little paradise, without all the fake tourist crap around. No one ran up to us selling anything, they were busy, the tourists were just passing through. Yulia almost fell off the dock twice as she looked around, completely blown away. (apparently, safety rails are a insult to machismo, and strictly prohibited)

We were taken straight to the Unimogs, with the chance for a bathroom break. If you haven’t seen one, a Unimog is a lot like the German Troop carrier from Raiders of the Lost Ark. In fact, it is a German Troop carrier from WWII, so technically it’s exactly like that, but since they were made by Mercedes Benz, they last forever, and have been in use as Farm vehicles ever since. Ours were bright yellow, and had a nifty safari vibe, and a great gasoline smell.

We loaded up, and started our loud and shaky ride out of Boca. There were a couple of Unimogs in our tour, we had the main guide we met at the dock in ours, and her name was Rubi. She had apparently had 16 cups of coffee this morning as she was REALLY HAPPY AND EXCITED ABOUT EVERYTHING. But we could also see that she wanted us to enjoy the tour, so we were looking forward to a good tour.

We stopped at the petrogylphs first. We had climbed up the hills for quite a while, and while the back of the Unimog had a canvas top, the sides were open and kept us cool. The instant we stopped, it was hot. The first thing Rubi did was pass around bottles of water and a wet hand towel, which was our “air conditioning”. These were both useful right away. We had pulled off into a private field, with a few farm buildings around and the obligatory burro. We walked through the middle of this to some large rocks fenced off from the farming areas. As we approached, we could see patterns in the rocks, and Rubi went up to start explaining them. These had apparently come from a nomadic group that had farmed and lived in this area during certain growing seasons, and these marked the good areas to be with traditional signs and symbols. There were Owls, symbols for water, a simple calendar, and of particular note, and four-petaled flower. This was notable because this flower symbol has remained in use in Mexican imagery until the present. It can be found on the peso, in artwork, and notable, on the Christian image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Another example of traditional pagan imagery coopted into Christianity. We would see this again in our church tour.

Our next stop was the Botanical Gardens. We had a half hour to walk around and see the plants, and the amazing view down the valley. This had apparently been started as a preserve for local naturally growing orchids, which get picked and sold by locals as they are very valuable. Now it is really stunning, with conservatories on the top of the hill, and a sweeping vista to the valley below. We were given lemongrass tea to drink and cool down. I ended up getting some bug spray, as the higher into the mountains we went, the bugs and flies got thicker. Lots of butterflies were also about, drinking from water spilling out of the central fountain, scattered along the ground. As you walked through the area, they would take flight, circle around your head, then land back where they were. it was a pretty cool effect. Sasha spent her time trying to get them to land on her hand. Eventually, she succeeded, and was ecstatic. We loaded back up and took off in a cloud of dust and gasoline fumes.

Once on the road, Rubi opened a cooler of drinks and made sure that we weren’t too thirsty, or sober. I immediately snapped up a beer, and a beer/squirt “shandy” that Yulia and Sasha split. The rest of our crew in the Unimog reluctantly took a few beers for the guys, while their wives looked on judgmentally. We’ve travelled to Mexico quite a few times, but I’ve never run across people, on a tour to a distillery, who drank so reluctantly. The Amish we saw last year were more fun. Fine. More beer for me. I had two more.

We pulled over to a roadside bread stand. Rubi had been pointing out that part of the theme of this tour was to visit real life in Mexico. Not “Golden” areas but real life. Both the bread stop and town visit were real, local people. The fishing village where we landed was where Rubi’s family had a house. The distillery was in the town where her grandmother lived. The whole staff of the tour company were part of these communities. This wasn’t just about driving a bunch of gringos around, They wanted us to love what they loved about Mexico. So far, it was pretty hard not to.

Rubi gave us a great description of the types of simple traditional bread made by the family running the stand. These were simple flour and water breads, sometimes with berry or chocolate fillings. They even did a ham, cheese, and jalapeno bread, which Rubi mentioned was the “Rubi Special”. We got a look around, and were shown how they mixed and made the loaves, and cooked them in a old fashioned clay oven. Looking at the oven, it took a minute before I realized that it wasn’t a portable clay oven, but was carved out of the hillside itself. This Pretty much defined traditional cooking. We bought a few of the rolls, and they were amazing. The “Rubi Special” was excellent. Yulia and I agreed that this was turning into an amazing tour.

Another windy drive up the hill and we were in Tuito. Everything was lush and green around here. The Unimog dropped us off on one side of the town, and we all started to walk along the street. We were just taking a tour towards the central plaza. Along the way we were introduced to how the local schools and clinic worked. We met some kids who just finished the Morning school session. and afternoon session would start later. The two sessions matched the work schedules of the parents. Kids were out enjoying Mexican Shave Ice, (either Berry or Tamarind today). We tried fresh Passion Fruit from a local vendor (awesome), and saw Mango and Coffee trees in local yards. The plaza was the oldest part of town, and we got the tour of the city hall, the local church, and how everything had been built, changed, and rebuilt over the years. Rubi took her time to point out that this was very typical for Mexico, which was the point.

We also went to the local graveyard, for a talk about the Day of the Dead. The celebration happens the day after the Catholic All Saint’s Day, but isn’t a Catholic holiday at all. It is literally a party in the graveyard, a celebration with the spirits of dead family and loved ones. Shrines are made at home for the departed, meals planned, and the celebration goes as long as a week in some areas. Here it is typically just for the day. We Took time to walk the graves. As we left, Rubi reminded up to brush off the spirits and tell them to stay here. Probably good advice.

From there we rode to a local family who ran a woodcarving business. They primarily worked with protected red hardwoods, which were beautiful, but you need a special license to gather (you can only use pre-fallen trees). The son of the family works the off season in Alaska on a crab boat to finance things. He had a Sitka shirt on when we arrived. They served up a few cheese tacos (made with a local cheese similar to Oaxacan cheese, they were small, but really good) as we looked around the place, and the son made Racida, a tequila moonshine, which Was given to me and the retired navy guy in our group. he seemed to want to drink, but his schoolteacher wife kept pushing him not to. She was nice, but talked to everyone like they were in 1st grade. It got really damn annoying. We both fired down the Racida, it was a bit rough, and required an extra cheese taco to keep in place.  Shortly after that, he commented, “all my back pain is gone” and was interested in more as his wife looked on in horror.

Back in the Unimog, I stuck to water for a bit to dilute out the moonshine, and we started our trip back down the hills, pulling into the Hacienda that was located pretty close to the gardens we were at earlier. This place was a small riverside hotel and organic farm, and lunch was setup for us here. We were amazed at how much drink and food was on this tour. They had chicken, cactus, a local Mole sauce, Guacamole, cold zucchini, and some drinks. As usual, nobody drank but us. Damn gringos.

After eating we walked about the grounds, saw a mother goose guiding her goslings around as Sasha made cute squealing noises at them trying to take pictures. The girls cooled off by the river a bit, saw a avocado tree that wasn’t ripe yet, then we found a lychee tree that was fully ripe. All the fruit that was in easy reach was already picked. I looked around a bit, and found some that were in *my* reach (at 6’5”, I have a small advantage in fruit stealing – insert note about permission and forgiveness here). Once Yulia and Sasha were munching on one, Rubi came over and was thrilled that we could get some down, as they were just falling and rotting at this point. I asked her if she wanted some as well, and the nodded while saying, “I never said that”. So I pulled down a whole bunch and handed them around to any of our crew that wanted any. Which was the navy guy, Yulia and Sasha, and Rubi. I gave Rubi a  handful, and she was pretty pleased.

Our last stop was the tequila distillery. we pulled off the main road and another small town, and went up another hill on a side road. This was Rubi’s grandmas town. The distillery was close to the top of the hill, and had a sign out front. at the bottom of the sign it read, “The only distillery on this hill.” They were right about that. +2 points for being funny. As we parked, Rubi told us that this area was used for the filming of the Schwarzenegger film “Predator”, and that the Helicopter used for filming was our front of the distillery. It was left in the jungle after filming, and the remaining frame was brought here after moving around to people over the years. If you had never seen one, this is what a non sequiter looked like in physical form.

Inside the distillery, and very nice guy with a beard shaved into a very thin, staircase shape across his chin (Mexican Hipster? No clue) gave us the tour. At this point I could do these in my sleep. What was different was this was all new. They place at Mazatlan we saw was an older distillery being revived and modernized. These guys started new, and the quality showed it. We went through a full vertical tasting – 3 regular tequilas, plus three tequila liquors. It was just Me, Yulia, Sasha, and the navy guy. Even though the shots were just small taster shots, these folks went on a distillery tour, and wouldn’t try any tequila. Damn Gringos. We gave Sasha permission to try it as well, we thought drinking with us is always better than behind our back, and these were some pretty small shots.

In the end, these guys made some really great tequila. I ended up buying a bottle of their Repisado. From there we drove all the way back to the Cruise Terminal in the Unimog. Rubi pointed out local city sights as we went.  This included her Grandmother who we passed as we left the Distillery town, she was in the local shop. Further down, we passed the filming location for Night of the Iguana, with Ava Gardner and Richard Burton from 1964.

Despite the rest of the Americans on our tour being complete deadwood, this was amazing. Rubi loved her city, and it showed in her passion for the tour. We couldn’t help but feel the same. I love the desert climate of Cabo, but it doesn’t compare to the rich jungle and city we found in Puerto Vallarta. The sea, sand, and jungle all came together here. We spent over 8 hours driving around the hills, and barely even touched the town.

We can’t wait to come back.

WP_20150623_14_31_29_ProWe got our clocks wrong and woke up a fucking hour early in Mazatlan.

We went up for breakfast and found a bunch of other people there as well. Looks like others made the same mistake, and the buffet lines weren’t fully open yet. We grabbed what we could, and  watched the ship enter the Mazatlan harbor. The harbor was really amazing, mostly industrial, but grouped areas for fishing boats, local tour boats, and a general marina. I’ve read a couple of books from people who retired to buy a sailboat, and then cruise the pacific. Looking at a harbor like this, I can really see the appeal. But then I think of the damage we just saw to the Cabo Marina, and you have the flip side, Tropical beauty is balanced with tropical storms. The ocean is a dangerous place.

We finally docked, and looked for our tour guide. We had tickets for a zip line tour, and tequila tasting. (not necessarily in that order)

The Mazatlan Terminal is an industrial Dock. The ship was surrounded with shipping containers and flatbed railcars. It wasn’t real pretty, but it made it easy to find the tour guides, as there were the only ones on the dock. We got loaded on a bus, and found out our driver was names Jesus. This meant we got to look forward to a full day of “Thank you Jesus” and “Jesus is your pilot” jokes all day at no extra charge. Nifty.

The guide gave us a tour of Mazatlan along the waterfront on our way out to the place. Mazatlan itself isn’t a bad place, but it is seriously industrial. We were actually handed out a pickpocket warning before leaving the boat. That really meant you had no choice but to buy a tour here. there just wasn’t a nearby walking town. After a drive, we went through the “Golden Zone”, so named because this had all the casinos and bars where tourists were shaken down for all their gold. In all honesty, the small sidewalk taco and shrimp joints in Cabo were far more appealing than the snazzy discos and tourist bars here in Mazatlan. I was glad we were heading out of town.

Our guide explained that we were headed to what was originally, over 100 years ago, a farm that was supposed to be a winery. Naturally, the wine didn’t work, so they changed over to a tequila distillery. That closed in ‘48, and repoened 19 years ago. Apparently they had three distilleries on site originally, but now only one is running. the rest of the land is being converted over to Zip Lines, ATV’s, and other outdoor activities. Now the combination of Zip lines and Tequila made more sense.

At the base of the zip line course, we were given a briefing of how to hold your hands, what parts of your equipment not to touch, how to slow down, and how to pull yourself up the line if you don’t get enough momentum to make it all the way. The quality of the equipment and cables was top notch, so I wasn’t all that nervous. Yulia had done a great zip line course in Guatemala, and was excited to do this with us this time. Once all buckled in our harnesses, we boarded some surplus German Troop carrier and were hauled up the mountain on the most beat up trail I have seen. Sasha commented that this is like the Indiana Jones ride in Disneyland, and she was right, these things bounced everywhere, and we all had a great gas smell after leaving the truck. We got to hike up the rest of the way, swatting away insects the size of sparrows.

At the start of the course, our carabineers were buckled into a safety line to guide us to the start point, we got a final review, and we were sent on our way. It was a blast! At the next station, someone would unclip you, put you on a new safety line, and repeat the process. The only real downside was that the course was pretty crowded, they brought two buses in at once, so we had to wait in the heat at each platform until the next one cleared. Fortunately, there were water stations every few platforms, we were sweating like crazy. The final platform was up in a treehouse, and to get down they would clip your carabineer in and do an assisted rappel straight down. The light girls would get dropped really fast, but I was too big to do that. I had the same issues with the zip lines, my weight made it tough to get just the right speed. I’d be just making it over, or way too fast. Twice I had to pull myself the last few feet hand over hand.

Once out of the tree we hiked back and got out of our gear. They gave us a quick snack of some cheese Quesadillas, and an apple. Sure enough, I checked the apple and it was from Washington. Go figure.

We then rode over to the Distillery.

I’ve been on enough Tequila distillery tours that I cold probably start giving the tours. But almost anything you do in Mexico includes a free Tequila tasting or tour now, and I‘m not one to break with tradition! The distillery itself was a neat little family place. We ended up paying more attention to the Burro and the lizards running around, at least until the tasting started. We got the first shot for free. We brought one over for Sasha to try as well. The Blanco was actually very smooth and clean, and she didn’t argue with drinking with her parents.

I’m a pretty firm believer that teens will do what they want, and I’d rather they do it where I can see and control. That and we figured the alcohol would kill anything in the water or food that might disagree with her stomach. I also wated to make sure my stomach was alright, so bought three more shots.

After this the bus drove us back, and dropped us in the terminal plaza, which we didn’t see on the way out. There was a shuttle from the street to the end of the pier, through the containers and Railway, and these shuttles drove from a little shopping and dining plaza. The shops were pretty standard, but we found a great taco stand, and we were hungry. That went well with a few light Coronas (Mexican Gatorade as I call it). The place even had a live DJ playing music for everyone waiting for the last possible minute before getting back on the ship.

We were tired and smelly at this point. The rest of the evening was cleaning up, getting some food, and setting our clocks correctly so we could actually sleep before our tour in Puerto Vallarta.

WP_20150622_12_38_42_ProWe headed down to breakfast after walking up. All our shore gear was ready in the room. We had tours planned in the other two stops on this cruise, but we saved  Cabo for a day at the beach. As we looked out from our table at breakfast we could see dolphins jumping in the ships wake. They did this for a solid 15 minutes before we rounded the bend into the Cabo Harbor. When you see something like that, it’s hard to look away. These are some amazing animals, and it is different to see them in the wild instead of in a tank. We kept looking out at the waves even after they were gone.

We have been to Cabo enough times now that we can find our way around without too much trouble, our only worry was that the place had been hit with a storm last year, and we weren’t sure if the places we liked were damaged. As it turned out, when we took the tender into the marina from the ship, we saw the worst of the damage. The old fish packing plant, which was already in a state of disrepair, was collapsed in the middle. Lots of the docks in the marina were new, and we could see old docks tied up in piles, they had obviously been torn loose in the big storm. But once in town, everything looked normal. Likely those repairs were faster than rebuilding the marina. Lots of boat slips were empty compared to the last time we were here. I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of boats were damaged as well.

We walked the edge of the marina and were accosted by the usual suspects – fishing guides, glass bottom boat tours, water taxis, etc. We were as friendly as we could be, but kept walking past. It was really hot. There isn’t an awful lot of shade on the marina walk, so we set our first stop at a small plaza we knew that had some good shops and a Starbucks. We really didn’t want coffee, but they had WiFi so we could post a picture or two and check mail.

Our next stop was a flea market in the neighborhood behind Cabo Wabo. We hit this market last time, and Yulia knew the stall of some silver sellers that had some pretty good bracelets and such. Yulia used to live in Turkey, so any chance for full on bargaining was welcome. She haggled with the vendor for a while, and we walked away with a nice silver bracelet and a spiral ring. They weren’t super cheap, but pretty fair prices. So it was a good deal all round.

We started walking around the bay, took a shortcut (read as: air conditioning) through the mall at the end of the marina, and went over the hill to Mango Deck. This constituted the remainder of our plan for the day, aside from ordering drinks. Mango Deck is a tourist party bar with a great beach and reasonable drinks. It also has a lot of shady umbrellas – this was critical.

I sat down and immediately ordered a bucket of Dos Equis. Yulia had a Margarita, and Sasha had a Virgin Pina Colada. They went to swim, I sat on my ass. Mango Deck also has an excellent kitchen, we asked the waiter what was freshest, and had some terrific tacos, guacamole, and ceviche. The girls returned from their swim, and we watched the drunken college students go through a beer drinking contest against the staff (the staff won), and then the obligatory booty shakin’ contest. All the hot girls came up, but most of them moved like the Tin Man with fake boobs. They brought some guy up as a judge, sprayed him with beer, and after much booty review, he settled down to two. It came down to a skinny Latino girl (now available with Shakira hips!), and an older heavier woman. She came up as a joke, but she could actually dance and shake. Of course, lots of parts kept shaking after she stopped dancing, so she may have had an unfair advantage. The crowd broke the tie in favor of the skinny girl, and everyone drank.

Yulia grabbed a vendor off the beach and we had two fresh mangos on a stick. These were insanely fresh and ripe. You simply can’t get tropical fruit like that in Seattle. Eventually, I hit the bottom of my bucket of beer, and we started walking back up the beach, and not as straight a line as we came.

By the time we got back to the tender, we realized that Local time and Boat time were different. We were an hour early. Dammit. We got on and headed back anyways. We would get our clocks straight so we didn’t make this mistake in Mazatlan.