Long Newcomer Trip Report 2/2021 Part One

PuroPelicano

Junior Member
I had been thinking about going to Puerto Penasco for a year or so, but don’t like long car rides. However, we had business in Phoenix last month, so I decided we should continue on and check the place out. We are in our mid 60’s and my husband is Mexican, so we know a few places in Mexico and I have been going there now for 40 years. My expectations were not very high what with COVID issues, and the fact that physically I am not very mobile. Our first decision was where we would stay; I wanted to bring my 13 year old puggle with me as she is too old and fragile for the kennel now, so my choices were cut drastically. Only one or two hotels allow dogs, and one condo complex, but that complex was too large and had too much walking distance to the sea/beach for me to manage. We did not want to get ourselves into a situation where we were isolated either, since safety is a prime concern. After much research, I ended up renting a beach townhouse called Mar y Sol at El Mirador for 4 days through VRBO. After I paid, the property manager sent me the lock box code via email and directions to the property.

We drove down on a Saturday from Phoenix in our 2010 pickup truck with Nevada plates and a tonneau top, so nobody could see what was in the bed. The dog rode in the back of the crew cab in her doggie sling, which is like a hammock which stretches across the jump seats. Traffic was light, the weather was nice, and it was a quite interesting drive. We stopped for gas at the Ajo Shell station; I want to give a shout out to them, they had clean bathrooms, groceries, ice, water, propane and a car wash.

We approached the border at about 2 pm. I had read a lot of this blog to prepare for the trip, so I was expecting a big to-do. There was only one lane open to enter Mexico, and the border agent asked where we were going and what we had in the back of the truck. My husband asked the agent if he wanted to us to open the back and he said yes. My husband got out, opened the back, the guy took a quick look (the dog’s kennel was right in front) and waved us on. I had downloaded a tourist card for myself, and had my dog’s papers, but he never saw the dog or gave us an opportunity to present any other papers. I heard there was a place (the SENESICA office) to present your dog for clearance (as there is in airports) but I didn’t see it and my husband just said, we’re driving through, let’s not ask for trouble. So the dog and I entered as undocumented aliens (husband is still a citizen of Mexico, and we have never heard of the Mexican government giving a Mexican citizen’s alien spouse a problem, so we were not too worried).

Mindful of the Sonoyta speed traps this blog has told us about, we crept along at about 23 miles per hour through town, husband driving. We came to a wide spot in the road with a stop sign, and with puppies, vegetables, and other items for sale strewn about the roadside. We pulled to a full stop at the stop sign, and a cop in a tee shirt with “POLICIA” and a star on it was standing there. He tapped on my window, and I unrolled it and chirpily said “buenos dias.” The cop asked us in English, “Do you speak Spanish?” My husband said in English, “yess, a leetle.” The cop looked a little confused and then said in Spanish, “you need to obey our laws and stop when there is a stop sign.” My husband replied in English, “I am stopped.” The cop looked a little shocked, seemingly had nothing more to say and waved us on. We laughed but though that was really pretty shady; he obviously knew we were the wrong people to pick on, because we would have wasted his entire day with bullshit and the dog and I would have been stricken with geriatric medical emergency theatrics to ruin his day. So we continued on, at a snail’s pace, and noticed a few beat up Sonoyta cop cars not-so-cleverly hidden, lying in wait for victims confused by the kilometer speed signs. I must agree with other posters here that a dash cam, even a non-working one, would be a helpful tool to keep these cops in check. But most importantly, FOLLOW THE RULES and don’t give them the opportunity. We saw them hiding on the way back, too.
 

PuroPelicano

Junior Member
Part 2
I have travelled to many places in Mexico as well as the Caribbean and Europe with my trusty Samsung phone and Tmobile service. So after we got through Sonoyta and picked up our pace, I set to retrieving the email on my phone with the directions to the beach house and the lock box code. To my horror, I discovered there was NO service!!! None! Nothing, no welcome to TelMex message, just blank airwaves. I went into my settings and searched for networks, and as the miles went by, I got a Telmex network which would not allow me to access it, and then an AT&T network once we hit P, which I also could not access. I was beside myself and kicking myself for not having copied down the information earlier. Without the lockbox code we could not get into the beach house, and although I had downloaded the reservation confirmation to show at the Mexican border, the confirmation did not contain a contact phone number.

I knew the house was near El Mirador Hotel, so we went there, and told the very kind security guard about my predicament. She squirted me with hand sanitizer and led me into the reception area, where the young man very very graciously took my phone and connected it to the hotel’s wifi for me, and then I was able to download my email. Forty years of traveling to Mexico and the kindness and humanity of the people I’ve met remains unchanged. What nice decent people they are! The young man invited me to sit and stay for awhile, because I was a bit agitated. I thanked him and declined, and left totally ashamed, because he would not let me speak Spanish. He assisted me in flawless English. And this was the case for the next four days we spent in P. Not one Mexican would allow me to speak Spanish, they all spoke beautiful English.

So we found our beach house, just right next door to El Mirador, and we were able to open the lockbox and get in. There was a garage, which allowed us to drive the pick up in, and close the door and unload without anyone seeing, and without the dog being able to escape. There was a washer and dryer in the garage, and everything smelled of Fabuloso cleaner. The beach house was really great, super clean and very well equipped. It was right on the freshly raked sand, with the ocean just a few steps away. The kitchen had high quality pots and pans, even a rolling pin, and a dishwasher. The place had talavera sinks and tiles, a fireplace, 2 bedrooms and two bathrooms, a patio with a bar and outdoor shower, and a sofa bed, recliner and large screen TV. There was also a nice dining area, with a wine rack which contained bottles of wine and bottles of tequila for purchase. It was very secure, and had a rolladen window which came down over the beach picture window for night time security.

So we settled in with cocktails and snacks we had brought, and enjoyed the gorgeous view and the lovely weather. I was still concerned about not having any phone service, but having spent the entire drive from Sonoyta trying to connect without success, I gave it up for the night. We decided to return to EL Mirador hotel for dinner because they had been so nice, but when we walked over, we were told there was no bar or dining room open. So we drove down to Hotel Granada al Mar with its Pitaya palapa bar. The Granada is a very Mexican family style hotel, right on the sand, and I had thought about staying there, but was glad we did not, because we have been isolated since March due to COVID and social distancing at this rustic place would be pretty hard. The bar was very cool, with a fireplace and live music. We ordered drinks and some tacos. The place was not very full and seemed to have a lot of retired Jimmy Buffet fans on a budget, wearing masks on their chins and dancing spastically while avoiding the several dogs that roamed the sandy floor. People were hanging around, coming too close without thinking. I am not usually up tight, but I really have been trying to stay well, so after eating, we left, and went back to the beach house.
 

PuroPelicano

Junior Member
Part 3
We turned on the TV…and there was nothing. It was a smart tv with Netflix and all that, and there was supposed to be internet wifi, and so I had brought my laptop, with some property listings and other places we wanted to check out while in Puerto Penasco. But none of it worked. I had no phone number to call the property manager, who only had given an email contact, and no phone service even if I could call. I am not going to lie, not having any phone service, no TV, no way to contact the property manager and no internet service really harshed my mellow. I put my useless phone on the charger and we went to bed. Unfortunately the bed was small, just a double bed, and very uncomfortable, and detracted greatly from the otherwise wonderfulness of the beach house.

The next morning I was awake at 6:30 and in excruciating pain from the bed. It was still dark out, but I made coffee and hobbled outside to wait for the sun to rise. It was beautiful and quiet. As the sun rose, fish started jumping and birds started swooping around. It was gorgeous.

I checked my phone and was shocked to find a text message from Tmobile telling me to call a number in New Mexico for details about my service. Even though there was no service, somehow that number did work and I spent a half hour with them getting all my settings reset and eventually got both internet and telephone service back. So then, I was able to email the property manager to say there was no TV service or wifi available in the house. He quite promptly emailed back, telling me there was no cable TV, it was all internet or free TV. However, none of the channels worked and I emailed him back to tell him. I did trouble shooting, and it said the wireless system was all connected but the download speed was “poor” and at 0 MBT since December 5, 2020. Further attempts at connection demanded a password. The manager began a very frustrating email correspondence trail telling me it had worked the weekend before when he had been there, and no password was needed, but the password was on the router. It was about 30 words and characters and was a pain to keep inputting, and though I did as he said it never worked. He then told me to try connecting on my laptop, then my cell phone. It never worked. I asked him to call me, since all this email communication without a laptop on my tiny phone was exhausting, but he would not. Instead, he emailed and said he would call the service provider and look into the problem. Then he emailed again and told me I would have to call the Mexican service provider to troubleshoot, and gave me an 800 number and the account number. I did not think I should have to spend my short vacation trying to get internet and TV restored to someone else’s property, and I figured the manager would think I wouldn’t call, because I wouldn’t be able to communicate with them in Spanish. But I can speak Spanish, and I called. But the Mexican toll free number would not work on my phone, and even using various prefixes the call would not go through. After 3 days of back and forth, I took another look at the message the TV screen kept giving when I tried to connect…that everything was connected but that there was no download of data since December 5. It occurred to me that since this was now February, and the last time data had been downloaded was December 5 (so the manager was lying that it had worked the previous weekend), perhaps the bill had not been paid. I raised that possibility with the manager, who rather indignantly emailed again to assure me the bill was paid. But he assisted me no further, and we never had TV or internet service as promised. My conclusion: the bill was not paid and the manager wasted my time gaslighting me.

I felt very bad for the people of P. They have obviously all been severely affected economically by the COVID situation. There were a lot of places closed and small businesses which look abandoned. Vendors tried very hard to make a sale, but never took on the aggressive hard edge that you feel in the Caribbean. Everyone was kind, polite, helpful and just wonderful in general.
 

PuroPelicano

Junior Member
Part 4
There were some places we decided to check out. First, the Oyster Farm nearest town, on the road to Las Conchas. We found it with no difficulty, and there, the best oysters my husband has ever had could be bought for six dollars a dozen (I am not a fan), freshly plucked from the oyster beds just for him. We went out to Cholla Bay, which ended up being a lot more picturesque than I expected. We stopped for a meal at Cholla Bay Oyster House; there were just a few customers and we were able to eat outside. I felt that things were up to sanitary standards there and we enjoyed ourselves and the ambiance. The food was pretty good but this is the off season and we went in the early afternoon, so we didn’t expect a full on gourmet experience.

We also hit the Malecon, which was very quiet, and ate a meal at the Point, which was actually deserted…we were the only ones dining there. Again, we chose to sit outside, and our silverware and napkins came in sealed plastic bags. We felt that cleanliness efforts were in evidence and effective. Our food was very good and our waiter attentive and very nice. One evening, we hit Manny’s, which really is a nice place. It too was quiet, but it must really shake, rattle and roll during the high season. We had good food and service there, too, and felt they were doing their best to keep things sanitary. We didn’t have the time to hit any of the so-called fancy places, and it was the off season, but I get the impression that apart from fresh seafood, P is not really a foodie town. Now as for the fresh seafood, we went to the Avenue where the fish is sold out of coolers, and bought all kinds of seafood in massive amounts to take home, and to cook at the beach house. We got some delicious fish filets of what they called lengua, along with shrimp, scallops, some large clam type of things, whole fish and octopus. It really was extraordinary, and extraordinarily good.

We checked out Playa Hermosa, which was a series of contradictions…it was beautiful, but it’s messy and rather sinister looking upon the approach, and then you are funneled into a sanitation tent and then allowed to go downhill to the best beach around. There are some empty lots there, but nothing seemingly for sale. We didn’t see too much evidence of “vice” in P but I think maybe Playa Hermosa might be the place to find it…

I really wanted to get out and talk to people to get a good handle on things, but I didn’t, because I wanted to keep socially distant. I dreaded the drive back to home in Las Vegas, but the trip was quick and uneventful. So now, I am thinking what a great place Puerto Penasco is, considering how near it is to Las Vegas, and how convenient. When I got home I had an email from the manager of the beach house saying he was sorry about the TV internet situation and if I returned he would give me a free night. It’s a real shame, that beach house could have been a 10 out of 10, but for the manager’s gaslighting and the horrible bed. But Puerto Penasco? Even during this time of pestilence and economic disaster? I give it 10 out of 10 for effort, natural beauty and nice decent people. We will come back soon.
 

Jungle Jim

Well Known Member
The horror of it all. I feel so sorry for you. No TV? Shocking to say the least! No smart phone? Even worse!

We will be down there at our place in El Mirador for a few days next week. I'll get those lazy bad Mezzican boys back in line.

JJ
 

PuroPelicano

Junior Member
So the location on the sand really caught my fancy, am thinking about own Mirador beach house...what's it like at peak time? Loud music, lots of folks all over the place drunk and disorderly with unruly dogs, late night parties, trash everywhere the next day? Do armed Marines patrol the beaches like they do in Mazatlan? Do you stay away?
 

CheddarBob

Well Known Member
It only took us 2 visits to know we wanted to be in PP. Sold in Phoenix bought in Las Conchas. And that folks is why we travel 2500 miles to get to our house in paradise. Now if the border would only open.
 

JayT

Active Member
Forum Supporter
Pelicano - The jury is still out whether Mirador will resume its place as party central in Puerto Penasco, the way it was years ago. Most of the year, it is very quiet in the Mirador area. You'll see increased traffic during Spring Break and Semana Santa, but nothing like it used to be. Manny's has done a nice job reopening after a substantial investment and remodel and injecting some new energy into the area. I agree with your assessment of the Pitaya bar about "Jimmy Buffet fans on a budget." Pitaya used to be the main spot in the Mirador in the 80s. Regarding armed patrols on the beaches, you'll see them occassionally but not very often.
 

MIRAMAR

Well Known Member
Cheddar, the border is open. We've been going down the past year, no problem. Once the health border opened in September, the town was open.
 

CheddarBob

Well Known Member
Cheddar, the border is open. We've been going down the past year, no problem. Once the health border opened in September, the town was open.
The American land borders are closed to Canadians crossing back into United States. We can fly into Phoenix drive to PP crossing at Lukville. Getting back to Phoenix to fly back not possible border closed.
 
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