Saturday, November 16, 2019

Dos Palmas Life: My Truth

I've been asked often by people "up north" what it's like where we live. Some have only been to developed resorts or timeshares in Mexico, some had traveled around Mexico long ago. Most seem leery of the bad press. Kino Bay, Sonora, Mexico is a sleepy, poor fishing village, a 5 hour drive to Tucson.

Dos Palmas is the name of our small community 10 miles north of Kino Bay. It's a neighborhood of mostly retired Americans and Canadians, maybe 12 homes, a number of seasonal RVs, and assorted temporary workers. It's in a gorgeous valley between rocky hills, and about a mile uphill from the beach. Where the desert meets the sea.

The 2 palms are dead now

Upper Dos Palmas
Santa Rosa Estuary. Margot Wholey, photographer. Labels are mine.

 There's good fishing.

Les, Jim, Jaap, and Ron with Yellowtails

Ron and Don (and Calvin) with Yellowtails
Ron, Buddha, and Jack with a Grouper

We have electricity unless it rains, propane tanks for hot water and stoves. There's a water cistern at the top of the hill, gravity-fed by old PVC piping to the lots that haven't put in their own cisterns yet, and prone to frequent breakage. This year, the water is SWEET water, i.e. not salty, but we still use purchased bottled water for drinking.

Most homeowners have septic tanks, some have simple buried barrels with holes in them. For that reason I've never been tempted to grow my own tomatoes here...

The roads are dirt/sand and adequate, except annually after the hurricane season. Then you need 4WD or we have to pull you out.

After the rain
6 inch deep arroyo in driveway after the rain

There is no cell tower, therefore no cell phone service. REPEAT! NO CELL SERVICE. However, some of us have US satellite internet with cell phone plans that include wifi calling. Others use Magic Jack or Skype calling. Some just drive to the top of the hill until they get a cell signal, some can get a signal down on the beach. Some pirate other people's wifi. US satellite internet is unavailable for new owners unless someone dies or leaves. The newer US systems won't work here any more, and the Mexico satellite plans are prohibitively expensive. Some residents have satellite TV, either US DirecTV, DISH, or the Mexico Star satellite.

It's quiet here. If a car goes by, we hear it and see the dust cloud so we know where it's going. There's a gate that some want to keep closed to keep out riff-raff, but it's not locked so we do get riff-raff. And banditos, unless you have dogs and neighbors, are home, and don't leave pawnable items outside overnight.

We get along well. Some are joiners, some reclusive. Almost all are older, 65-80. We get together a few times a year for a bonfire, a birthday, a holiday feast. Some go out to eat regularly as a group. There are groups with frequent Happy Hour gatherings, shared dinners, or fishing trips. It can be a bit clique-ish. If you want to be hermit-like, you can be.

Big group at Pancho's

Girls' birthday lunch

The weather is mostly ideal, although summers are brutally hot and humid. But not very many are here summers, and we just stay inside in the AC. Winters are balmy-breezy days and cool nights. The dawns and sunsets are euphoric.

On my roof

We get bugs. NoSeeUms, scorpions, tarantulas, mosquitos, ticks, flies. Rattlesnakes galore. Mice. There are chemicals for most of those.

Tarantula on my couch
Ron, NoSeeUm bites

Sofia, snakebite
Ron, giant scorpion

The upkeep of owning a place in the sun is onerous at times. The sun rots plastic, paint, tires, and clotheslines. The blowing sand and coursing water re-routes our roads, yards, driveways.

We're too far from a hospital for emergency care. A heart attack or severe stroke is probably a deal-breaker here. 90 minutes away is state-of-the-art CIMA hospital in Hermosillo (affiliated with Baylor in Texas). There's an AED (defibrillator) on my enclosed porch. We do have a Red Cross clinic and ambulance available. IF they have gas in the rig...I took a neighbor to the clinic once. He needed IV fluids and I had to run to the drug store to buy the IV tubing and run it back.

Dos Palmas isn't for everyone. Nearly perfect for me, though. I have both internet and TV satellites, wifi calling through my ATT phone plan, my own water supply, a real septic tank, AC, dependable vehicles,  an ATV, a dog, and neighbors. I'm not a joiner, quite reclusive and quiet. I drink gin and watch the sunrises, sunsets, storm clouds. I have Netflix, Acorn, Hulu, Amazon, Britbox, and a craft room. We built a guesthouse for family who rarely-to-never visit. I go dust and vacuum it sometimes, and the bi-weekly poker game is played there.

Guesthouse above garage, left, my house right.

Poker game in my guesthouse

Kino locals appreciate our influx of trade, and are courteous and helpful. While largely poor (not enough work for them), they are hard workers and I employ several sporadically to regularly for jobs I don't want to do. We often get charged "gringo prices". Still far less than what we'd pay in the US. A very thorough hand car wash is $5. Inside, too.

Gas and diesel cost more. Produce is abundant and fresh, as is seafood. You can live pretty well here on only Social Security. Hermosillo has Costco, Walmart, Home Depot, everything.

Kino Bay has 2 parts, Old Kino and New Kino. Old Kino is older, poorer, livelier. Eateries and little bodegas every block, sometimes several. There are near-ghetto-like area on the edges without utilities. Starving street dogs, but better than it used to be: there's a vet that does spay/neuters with subsidized help through the Kino Bay Spay Neuter Association. There's an ATM inside the police station that usually works, and a couple at the gas station that sometimes do.

New Kino is a several mile swath of newer white homes, condos, and apartments along the bay. Several restaurants, a few beer stores and bodegas, and the Finisterra Marina at the end. Can be crowded on weekends.

New Kino

Club Deportivo is there, a membership club. From their website: "Club Deportivo offers Rescue One, the only 24/7 rescue service of its kind in Mexico. The club also offers a social life, connection, security and information." Lots of activities, desert golf course, full bar, lending library. Everything they have or do can be found here CLICK

Now for some more of MY truth.

Not fond of Club Deportivo generally. More clique-ish than even Dos Palmas, actually a bit snooty. I do the annual Halloween party (I usually win), donate pieces to their annual big art auction, and donate/use the library. I help in the kitchen only when forced to, as "Dos Palmas" usually puts on one breakfast and one dinner yearly. This last breakfast I got away with cutting up melons and making toast. My husband likes it for the fishing networking and the Friday night Happy Hours. I think it's pricey for what I get out of it ($100 per person annually), but do it to support the Rescue One marine rescue service.

I rarely go to New Kino. I usually need more than the few bodegas there stock. There's a back road to Old Kino that bypasses the beach and you can drive fast. Grocery shopping requires several shops. A few have butcher counters, some have more produce, shrimp and crab at the pier, beer and liquor at certain bodegas. We do have some gringo friends that live in New Kino, but we see them at restaurants/gatherings often enough. 

Things generally are way different this year. My husband fell and broke his hip last winter, and it apparently severed the nerves that make the leg work. Has to wear a leg brace, uses a cane, SHOULD use his walker but refuses, and he falls nearly daily. I'm shouldering a whole lot more than I used to, and have to rely on my friends here to help me with things. They're very kind. It was a perfect example of the medical care I was talking about earlier: way too much of an emergency to drive him 5 hours to Tucson. Drove him to Hermosillo, had a total hip replacement the next day. Had to pay $9000 US to get out. His VA insurance won't cover it because MEXICO. So consider that. Going to be looking at those "fly-you-out-of-there" plans.

It's become not a big deal to run up to Tucson overnight. VA doctor appointments nearly monthly. I order groceries online at Fry's for pickup. Don't even have to get out of the car. They have groceries here, but not diet tonic water, dog biscuits, decent hot dogs, Jif, real Ritz crackers, Folgers, paper plates, real canned corn, salted butter, pastrami, and dill pickles. Other than those, I've adapted to what's here. Oh, and the brand of cat food Luther likes THIS month...

I think a general truth for me is this: This place is perfect when newly retired and still able-bodied. Few more considerations with medical issues. Great for joiners or hermits. No snow. I couldn't do it without my satellite TV and internet. Or my friends.

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