Saturday, July 5, 2014

Everyone loves Arthur.

It's summer time and that means the chance for some tropical storms.  Arthur came to life about July 2nd and by the 4th it had developed into a hurricane.  We got some fun waves for three days.

It was a lot of fun and the water was warm.  Nice to see friends out having a good time.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Smile, you're in paradise.

There are some real advantages in getting older.  Like being retired.  My daily routine is dependent upon the surf, tides, winds and temperature.  Some mornings I'll hang out at the house and enjoy a relaxing breakfast with my girlfriend.  Other days I'm down at the beach at the crack of dawn.  Life is good for me.  The surf here in northern Florida will always surprise you.  What I find the most surprising is how often we have off shore breezes.  Sometimes it's just in the morning and other times it's all day.  Today for example, we had off shore in the morning and light on shore in the afternoon.  I really love living at the beach.  It's just a 5 minute walk to the beach for a surf check.  That keeps me in the loop and helps me score more waves.  Plus it's fun to hang out with some fellow surfers.
One of the other good things about Florida surf is the warm water.  Since the middle of April I haven't had to wear a wet suit.  The water feels good and staying out for a couple hours isn't a problem.  It's only going to get warmer and will stay comfortable until mid or late October.  There are times when the surf is small and weak.  On those days I longboard it, SUP it or just do some projects around the house.  There are lots of times when the surf is small but, if you know the right sandbars waves can be had.  Of course you'll have to paddle out a little before of after low tide.  Anyways, I'm able to get in enough surfing here that I don't feel the need to travel somewhere else.  In the summer I do like to make a trip up to North Carolina.  I don't feel the need to leave the states and all the comforts I've become use to.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Feels like Summer.

It was a beautiful day here in Ormond by the Sea, FL.  We've been having fun waves for the past 3 days.  Who says, Florida doesn't get surf.  It's really nice not to wear a full wet suit anymore.  There were some guys skinning it, but it's a little too cool for that.  The thing that made surfing so enjoyable today was the off shore breeze.
It's suppose to be more of the same tomorrow.  There were lots of guys out, but the beach is fairly long with lots of sandbars.  It doesn't get crowded.  Almost all the guys are friendly anyways.  Some of them have been surfing here for more than 40 years, so yeah they got it wired.  Thanks to my girlfriend Julie for the picture.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

3/13/14......Got up early with the intention of beating the high tide and the ensuing backwash due to the big surf and the moon.   Little tough paddling out with set waves in the 6-8 foot range.  I did a late takeoff attempt and got jacked up....  ate it and my board slammed my face across the nose and eye...double barrel bloody nose and a couple cuts.    This was is just one of countless injuries local surfers have endured primarily due to the SANDAG Beach Replenishment Project that was done in 2012.   The engineers piled huge amounts of sand on our beaches and it created a steep ledge which causes horrendous backwash in high tide conditions.  Just a word of caution to other beach communities to get involved before any sand projects begin that destroy prime surf spots and take years to recover.   Ok I'm over my rant ..... today was a picture perfect South California surf day and I'm stoked !   Aloha ! 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Aloha from South San Diego

Just got done with the morning session...decent size sets, overhead plus, also lots of paddling as there is a bit of current...for those that do not know me, I am Ron, I am retired and live in Imperial Beach ,two blocks from the ocean..I have a side rack for my bicycle and it is a 3 minute ride to my favorite break....this is my third winter here in IB and it has been really good..I have developed the habit of counting my waves everyday and filling out a wave log 2013, I rode 5800 friend dubbed me The Count Of IB...I hope to get into discussions with fellow older surfers who still have the stoke on physical and mental issues we encounter on a daily basis....thanks for reading, I'll check back soon, have a great day folks....Stoked Ron

Monday, March 10, 2014

Road to Retiring- Final Day 12

Sunrise at Esterillos
Up in the morning and a session down at La Sirena, the Mermaid, which is this pretty cool sculpture in the water at Esterillos.  The sun is just rising and I realize you can see the sunrise and sunset on the same beach due to the coastlines curve and the Equator.  Theres a small collection of SUP surfers and regular surfers out. People are anxious to buy fish straight off the fish boats and a trio of horses runs along the beach. There's an odd bird with some sort of big red goiter throat thing flying overhead.

The Mermaid

OK SUP surfers.  You can catch waves easier but that doesn't give you the right to take more than your fair share.  2 nice shots of John getting snaked!

An OK wave this morning.  Not the best, but still way better than most days in Florida!

After the session we return to Hotel La Weird and pack up, throwing away lots of junk we dont need anymore and giving extra shampoo and other little items to the guys working here at the hotel this morning.

The guy at the desk brings us a giant plate of bread and cantaloupe and we eat that, musing that usually there are eggs but this is great this morning.  But wait. Here come the eggs, sausage, rice and beans too.  Too much food for me.  The sausages are cheap but they taste a lot like hot dogs so not a fan.

Uneventful drive to Santa Ana and we gratefully find Kevins house easily.  No time to waste at 10:15 AM, David drives us to the Police Academy in San Jose for our finger printing.  A guy out front takes our passport type photos and prints them off on a small printer X 6. We get in line after showing ID and David checks us in so we can wait in chairs outside the fingerprinting. They call us in and we wait in more chairs.  Its very musical chairs.  One person gets up, and everyone stands and moves over a chair.

The office looks exactly like youd think.  Dingy, paint peeling, old computer consoles and reams of paper stacked everywhere.  John is called and is being helped by some guy and then Im called and get a very unhappy looking, stern young woman.  Who speaks no English.  She doesnt like one of my answers on my sheet my permanent address.  A relocation company will provide this since we arent living here yet.  We get David to translate and its cleared up to her unsmiling satisfaction.  Finished, slowly, with the computer and then with what she needs to write on my card, Im sent in for fingerprints.  The old fashion way with ink.  Its a mess! Outside wheres theres a rough sink with water and soap but no towels, LOL.  Ah CR!  We are done and David is very pleased with how fast this has gone.  On a Monday one can wait half the day.  We are in and out in 1 hour and 15 minutes.

David gives us a driving tour of Escazu.  There is a state of the art, soccer stadium that seats 37000,  that the people of Taiwan gifted CR with as well as the bridge at the top of the Nicoya peninsula where it joins the mainland.  Theres also a mall, MultiPlaz, that has every high-end store imaginable. 

We go back to the house and share a beer with Kevin and David and then decide to go check out Art Depot- a place in Escazu where they actually have art supplies.  Its fairly well stocked plus they are even moving this next month to a larger store, and they will put items that are bought online on the local buses to outlying areas for a very reasonable rate.   But we decide to take Kevins advice too and load up and bring many things with us.  A used gas Bar B Q in CR can be sold for around $500.  Many things will be worth it to take and then sell once we get here to help defray the cost of the move.

Still some time to burn and we go to a high-end gallery.  Theres some beautiful work all by Latin American artists and it always inspires. But we understand that we need to turn our car in by 7 PM and dont want to drive in the dark so we head to the airport. 

HUGE FAIL.  John thinks he knows the way but the GPS is insisting that we are going the wrong way.  Why the hell we would trust this damn thing I dont know and I claim the responsibility for arguing that we need to follow the GPS as the rental car place is actually programmed in.  Literally a drive that should have been 30 minutes, maybe 45, turns into over 2 ½ hours of inner city driving- including waiting at one intersection for over 45 minutes to get back on a highway while a huge bottle neck crawled along. We stop to fill the gas up- that should have been about $20 but this extra driving climbs that to $35.  John gets directions and we turn off the GPS.  We finally find the rental place and we are FURIOUS!  The first GPS mistake was human error due to the guy putting the settings in to avoid toll roads.  But we cleared all that and this is just unconscionable.  The attendant at Adobe is not sympathetic to our complaint and shrugs saying too bad we didnt report it sooner on our trip or they wouldve refunded it but we can still report it to customer service with a phone number he gives us.  We also find out we couldve brought the car back all the way till 10 PM.  Arrrgghh. We didnt stop to eat because of the supposed time crunch.

Now to the airport on the shuttle and to wait for HOURS until they will even take our luggage.  This is the other bad Spirit deal. Odd flight times. But, this is the first time Ive been to the airport and havent had to collect money for the exit fee for some poor fool who doesnt know it costs $29 each to exit the country.  2 AM finally rolls along and we load the plane and take off.  We get in at 5:55 AM exhausted but also excited that this trip has had pretty good outcome for our future move.

-As of this writing 3/10/14, the police apostille did finally arrive in Santa Ana.  Its being translated and the formal filing will happen this week.
-We DID contact Adobe about the GPS woes- the airport one really being the worst- and they gladly refunded the $109 that the GPS rental cost.  They assured us that customer service is of utmost concern and were very sorry that this occurred.  We were happy with their decision.  The Holiday Inn refund also came through, though I still find that ordeal pretty unsatisfactory and will NOT book there again. 

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Road to Retiring- Day 11


Last full vacation day in Costa Rica.   And what an interesting day too.  We get up and pack before breakfast, sad that our schedule wont include the waterfalls here.  We get some fruit and toast plus eggs for breakfast plus really good coffee- its Costa Rica after all.  John also adds beans and rice- a staple here. An iguana nested in a tree watches us eat.  
Off to Jaco to see this real estate agent.  We do get stopped by police about 5 minutes from town.  They check our passports, drivers license thoroughly and then send us on our way.  They really are being strict about the 3 months on tourist visits and drivers license

NOTE:  Even though we now have a paper that states we are in process of residency that allows us to stay without the 3 month run for the border- it does not apply to drivers licenses.  This is a result of the many DUI dirt bags that obtained CR licenses and then used them in the US when their driving privileges in the States were revoked.

In Jaco- which is large and a tad seedy around the edges but much nicer than Tamarindo oddly enough- we see Janelle and her Canadian associate Stephanie.  We give them our info and Janelle is not worried about finding an Esterillos Oeste property if we should choose to settle there.  More info- like the fact that Panama requires a return air ticket and proof of owning $500 in cash for any one doing the border run for perpetual tourist or drivers license purposes but theres a travel agent in Jaco who will book a flight that is paid for, and then upon return cancels the flight and refunds all for a $10 fee.  Smart marketing as she probably gets more business from the folk that way.

We finish and try to pop into Theatro Jaco to see the theatre space where we hear they are teaching kids classes and also presenting plays in English, but they were busy so we couldnt see it.  Back towards Esterillos checking out some very rocky points that are surf spots but the tide will be better at sunset so we decide to try to find this micro brewery that is near Parrita that we read about in Trip Advisor.  If you are not a member of Trip Advisor you should be.  Its free and theres great forums and reviews by real people. 

We read that this brewery, PerroVida, serves beer at the entrance to Rainmaker Park so with no other information on location other than its between Parrita and Quepos, 7 KM off the Costanera Highway, we take a stab at turning up the dirt road marked Rainmaker plus Paintball Park.  Dirt road that runs along palm plantations starts to climb uphill where we pass little towns- defined by a soccer field, a bar, a school and a church.  Period.  We later learn that all a small community has to do is build a school and they get funding from the government. 

We find the big arch gate to Rainmaker Park after passing the Paintball Park. Theres two small white buildings on either side, then parking area leading up to a big ad theres a big open air lodge.  We see a Perro Vida sign in the lodge- the micro brewery we are searching for.   A cute gal with dreads asks if she can help and we say we are looking for PerroVida and she says Well you found us.  Thats right here.  She pours us frosty mugs of their dark beer, Black Betty, and it is amazing.  True this may be because weve been only drinking the local stuff, Imperial, that is pretty weak and lacks flavors, but this stuff is incredible.  They are cooking castado lunch there for the hikers that are due back any minute and a Tico cook tells us it is $5 per person, serve yourself.  Its rice con pollo, beans, cabbage salad and cooked squash plus lemonade.  We pay the money and eat up, chatting to the returning hikers and the beer mistress Kaitlyn.  Turns out the $5 includes the beer and we marvel at a food bargain!

Next trip must include the hike as we learn it takes a few hours and includes more animal life than can be seen in Manual Antonio by far and a swim in waterfalls.  Its $20 for the guided hike and the lunch- WITH BEER.  Its $15 to wander the park on your own ($4 for Nationales).  Kyle, the brew master, and wife Kaitlyn are raising three boys in the small white house at the entrance and brewing beer in the other building.  We are offered a tour.  Oh yes, please.

Its a very small Mom and Pop.  Kaitlyn keeps saying they are humble.  Humble schmumble.  This is really good beer and one taste at the brew house of the Mastiff, Black Bettys Bigger Badder Brother, and I could just pitch a tent right here for our retirement.  Kyle tells us they lucked out on an estate sale for the vats and equipment and they use natural spring water from the rainforest.  If youre planning a trip- skip Manuel Antonio tours and just go here.  You wont be sorry!

I sleep all the way back to Esterillos.  There is some serious alcohol content in that brew!  We get a room at the weird empty Walt Paraiso for the night when theres nothing available down by the beach except for a very suspect room at La Serena.  

Down to the beach for a late afternoon session.  Im not much of a reef surfer so I decide to just snap pictures.  There is a local with his baby surfing and its the seriously cutest thing Ive ever seen! 

Towards the end of the session, a guy comes up to me and says hi and wonders about who Im with.  I point at John and he says Man, that guy can surf.  Where are you from?  

We chat until John comes out and talk some more.  His name is Rich and hes a chiropractor from the California Bay area.  He tells us to eat at Los Almendros that night, arguably the best restaurant in town. 

This is no lie!  We each order a fish special and they run $12 and $11 each.  Tons of food and really interesting Caribbean/Costa fusion.  Rich joins us for part of the meal and we also see the other folk we have met in this quaint town. He is sold on this surf break and town and though we like it, its not our favorite surf.

That night at our weird deserted hotel which is apparently under re-construction, John isnt happy about the door not having a double lock so he shoves some of the rickety furniture and TV in front of the door.  This is such a nice property but its just odd.  I hope the remodel gives it new life and a new vibe.  Needless to say, its a rickety night of sleep to accompany the state of the furniture.  Tomorrow we get fingerprinted in San Jose. 

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Road to Retiring- Days 9 and 10

Surfers at Quepos harbor. 
This was our down day.  Im really tired from 3 hours of sleep and John is a little surf bummed I think.  Or maybe its missing Santa Teresa and our disappointment with this area. We have seen some Titi monkey action around the hotel, but for Manuel Antonio its been pretty slim on wildlife. We drive around and see other surf spots around Quepos and its dismal in comparison.  Plus we are warned not once, not twice, but three times at three different places to be careful of the car break-ins that are notorious in this area. As if we needed more to say no to this stretch of Costa Rica for us. 

We are not going to go further south and stay in Dominical as planned, having canceled plans to see any real estate here.  We discuss driving to Arenal for 2 nights, and even a brief discussion as to the practicality of going back to Santa Teresa for two days.  We decide both are too far and too much time and John finds an eco-lodge in Parrita online that is about 30 minutes north of us towards San Jose. We book for one night and then we will decide what to do next.

Breakfast, pool time, packing, trying to catch monkeys on film and ready to leave at 11:00 AM check out.  We notice right away as we are driving that not 15 minutes north of Quepos theres a quiet, finca attitude in the little towns.  They are cleaner, better kept homes and yards and agriculture is the focus, not tourism. We drive through Parrita, mentally marking where we need to come back to for this evening, but we really want to see if theres some more surf spots of interest in this area.  We drive down a dirt road that says Walt Paraiso that is another hotel that we can stay at in Esterillos Oeste for one night.  Its large with OK looking rooms, pool, pool tables, big open grass areas for soccer and such and reasonably priced.  And its deserted.  Weird for such a large hotel by the beach. 

We continue down to the town of Esterillos Oeste and it ends right on the beach.  Theres a lot of wrecked buildings right on the beach and we learn later that a tropical storm with tornados did great damage here 2 years back and the road to recovery is slow. The waves are pretty closed out right here at this time of day but its a nice beach with a really interesting reef break at the far north end.  We decide to keep driving around a bit and as we go back towards the main road a different way we see a whole neighborhood of some very nice houses.  We drive past the unmanned gate house and start looking at these homes which look a lot like what youd see in Laguna Beach.  Several are for rent or sale, more are occupied.  As we drive out with telephone numbers written down for real estate agents, we pass a car with some Gringos and ask about the neighborhood.  They tell us to turn around and follow them as one of them will be renting her house out soon.

Roxanne is a stunning woman from New York, a writer for CNN and now writing history books.  She built this Costa Rica get away to write in and get away from the hustle and bustle.  She shows us her 2 bedroom house with 2 bathrooms, laundry room, modern granite kitchen, open beam ceilings.  These homes are very nice.  She has also done an outdoor kitchen in the driveway area with Bar-B-Q, sink and prep area.

She tells us of the neighbohood, that it is a very close knit, warm and inviting ex-pat community.  Theres a woman in her 80s who started a volunteer lifeguard training program and the local ex-pats help raise money to pay Ticos to be lifeguards.  Lots of community involvement in education and childrens programs too.  Owners in The Hills as it is called, also pay a fee for the security guards who patrol randomly during the day and man the gate house all night.  She will putting her house up for brent for 6 months or so before she comes back for an extended stay again.  Theres also some other places for sale and rent and she gives us the real estate agent who handles the whole neighborhood.  We give her a call and plan to meet her in the morning at 10 AM in nearby Jaco.

Roxanne recommends a motel in town, Hotel Rancho Coral and we drive down to check it out.  We meet a couple from Miami who are there with their Dad who is a major paddleboard surfer.  The motel is right on the beach, no pool but hammocks, outdoor bar, family feel.  They unfortunately have no rooms tomorrow night, though we can check back.  We decide to surf here.  I go right out front and the closed out waves are not nearly as long and forgiving as up north on the peninsula.  John goes to the reef break and actually gets some decent surf in.  We shower at their outdoor shower and decide its time to look for the lodge we are staying at.  You do not want to drive at night here.

Back to Parrita and then up a dirt road.  Our GPS actually finds the place and its a LONG bumpy road for over 40 minutes to the Eco-Lodge Carlisa Paraiso.  The lobby is cool with a big open area and veranda overlooking the rain forest.  

They also do an animal rescue and forest care program with international volunteers.  We are given a suite instead of just a room, same price,  and we drive down the dirt road to our room.  Its rustic and a trifle worn with a big room with bed type of sofa, a sofa bed, TV, desk, refrigerator, separate bedroom and bathroom.  A whole family could stay here for sure. We hike down the road further to see if we can make it to their waterfalls by dark.  We pass the orchid gardens, animal rescue and stables.  If I stayed here again id take the horseback ride to the upper falls.  We cant make it to the falls before dark but we do feed crackers from Ceviche Miguel to several parrots.

Back up to the lobby for dinner. Guests are sort of a captive audience for meals here. Theres a ping pong table- a nice one- in a room off the lobby and we ask for paddles and balls- which are also nice and new.  John destroys me in three games but I do get some shots in that he comments have nice spin.  Dinner at the lodge we get no menus with prices. We order bottled water, a pumpkin cream soup and an odd potato salad with fish in it.  We have entrees with a white fish and beef fajitas served with rice and an odd puree that we are told is potatoes with lemon.  The plates lacked green.  In the morning we will find out that the waters were $3 each and together with the food- and 23% taxes and service- it will have cost close to $40.  Too much for that quality I can tell you!

Tomorrow we meet with The Hills real estate agent in Jaco and we will surf the Esterillos break again.