Tag: Mexico

This Island of Disappointment

CocoCay_BahamasOne day into the vacations, and we’re supposed to spend our daylight on Royal Caribbean’s privately owned island. Instead, we dock at the Island of Disappointment.

If you’re from the Pacific Northwest, you understand there are places with such a name. Cape Disappointment for one. So named because Lewis and Clark didn’t find the harbor they were hoping to discover.

In the case of this cruise, the swells and winds made taking tenders ashore too dangerous. And we all want a cruise line who values our safety above everything else.

Except me. I wanted to go parasailing.

Lesson Learned

I should have went parasailing in Mexico. Sure, it would have left my oldest son all alone at the resort. Sure, I loved lounging by the pool and reading a book.


But, while the sunny poolside isn’t always available, the book is. Parasailing above tropical waterways, on the other hand, is a limited time opportunity.

On the cruise, we were told, “If you see something you love, buy it.”

Yeah, well, maybe if I won that billion dollar Powerball pot. Otherwise, my lesson is more usable in real life.

Take the opportunity that presents itself.

I’m sure another chance at parasailing over aquamarine seas of glass will come again. Although, I don’t know when. Not when the next vacations are for family and then Italy. Unless parasailing is available off the coast of the boot-shaped peninsula.

Another cruise might be in the works. Or a return to Hawaii. Mexico is likely to happen only as a stop on a cruise, I think.

When the window of opportunity cracks open, plunge through.

Replacement Activity

It wasn’t a pretty day. I did mention wind and swells renamed the island Disappointment, right?

We sat on deck for a short time. And wandered.

The cruise director hurriedly threw together a full day of entertainment – sort of entertaining.

But when you’re imagining sailing high above clear water and gazing into the depths, what else can measure up?

They were quick to credit our account. Great. That meant we shouldn’t owe much for our gratuities and the few on-board purchases.

It didn’t cause my heart to swell with delight.

Count this lesson learned. The next time parasailing is an option, I will say yes.

The Island of Disappointment isn’t a place to visit – especially not on vacation.

Zip lining Adventure

When we traveled to Mexico, I had only two three items on my wish list. It should be easy enough to satisfy three small things, right? And zip lining topped the list.

Okay, it was second on the list.

The list:

  1. Bask in the sunshine
  2. Zip-line
  3. Sunset cruise

Fortunately, everyone shared my adventurous spirit. And there was a discount (of $30 per person), so I took that as a sign from Heaven (Aren’t coupons God’s express permission to purchase an item?)

After a fair amount of grumbling from the kids about having to wake up early, we settled on a day and time. A bus would pick us up at 8:15 and transport us to our adventure. It would start at 9 am and end around noon.

The only instructions we received ahead of time: wear tennis shoes and comfortable clothes. No one told us we would have to leave our cameras behind. After all, the main reason I wanted my husband to have a Go-Pro was to catch this action on film.

Instead, we have still photos taken by the “guides” (and purchased for no small amount) and only our brain’s recollection for moving pictures. So, I’ll do my best to share that here.

IMG_0452The guides were a hoot-and-a-half. By the end of the day, I wondered how many times every day they repeated the same quips. You can be sure a portion of our gratuity was thanks to their delightful acting skills.

Our adventure included ten zip lines and rappelling down a 180-foot rock wall (which was optional). Honestly, the chance to rappel is what made me choose this company over the one with “the longest zip line in Mexico.”

First we needed the gear. This involved an attractive liner tied over our hair under an equally attractive helmet. Most important was the web belt with the solid ropes to clip onto the pulley (which we carried for the next two hours) and zip line.

The safety briefing and instructions spotlighted the silly sides of four of the six guides going with us on this adventure. Can you really get a class in how to ride your pulley with the line is not even six feet long? “Shortest zip-line ever” is my title for it.

DSC_9592The reason for the solid walking shoes became immediately evident. We wound up a narrow rocky trail to a short metal wire spanning maybe 50 feet.

“Lie back and scream like you’re happy.”

Yep. Those were the man’s exact instructions. He may have mentioned something about keeping your knees bent to your chest and not straightening your legs unless you wanted your ankles broken like Kathy Bates’ prisoner in Misery.

It was over before I got the “Geronimo” out of my mouth. (That’s my happy yell. It’s named after an attraction at the OKC theme park.)

I don’t think my heart had time to pick up its speed.

We walked up a longer path to the first “real” zip line. After all, we have to get up high if we want it to be exciting. In the end, I think my heart rate was elevated more by the hiking than the all-too-brief zips along the wires.

My oldest zipping along - having a good time
My oldest zipping along – having a good time

It was fun. I enjoyed watching my kids having a blast, but it wasn’t the thrill ride I was expecting. Maybe it’s because we were never more than 500 feet above the ground. Or that the longest ride was 1500 feet and it took less than 30 seconds to complete.

The best part for me came after all but two zip lines had been conquered. Yes, the 180-foot rappel.

I tried indoor rock climbing once. Mostly because I wanted to rappel. I enjoyed the climbing, but zinging down the smoking rope brought the biggest smile to my face.

My drill sergeant would have been proud. I didn’t even balk when I backed over the edge of the platform (the scariest moment atop Victory Tower). The guy on the ground did his job belaying me a bit too well, so I didn’t get to fly down like I hoped.

Could my smile get any wider?
Could my smile get any wider?

From the platform, there was about forty feet where the wall was too far beneath to reach. So I spent some time dangling with nothing to push off from.

“Release your left hand,” the guide kept telling me.

It was released, but my belayer wasn’t letting me move. See? There’s no danger involved in this sport.

I was smiling at the bottom. The last zip line was a race – my husband won – and anti-climactic after the wall.

I was the only one asking if I could go again. What’s wrong with those people who didn’t do it? I should have been allowed to take their place, right?

If you’re afraid of heights, that’s not a big deal. You don’t have to look down when you zip line. You’re lying on your back.

If you can look around though, you’ll get a great view of whatever’s beneath you. For about five seconds. Because then the ride’s over.

So the next time you’re watching the Amazing Race and thinking, “That would be so scary” as they zip line a few thousand feet, don’t.

It might be a rush – or a thrill – but being dropped from a hundred feet with only a bungee cord to stop you is much more frightening.

Have you been zip lining? Bungee jumping? What is the scariest thing you’ve done? What is something you thought would be scary that turned out to be nothing?

When the pressure is too much

In an earlier post, I mentioned the pressure to buy-in to a timeshare in Cabo San Lucas. Unfortunately, it isn’t the only pressure we encountered in our sojourn south of the border. And something has to give when the pressure is too much.

At our resort, there are evening performances and themed buffets on a nightly basis. It sounds like a good deal. $29 per person for an all-you-can-eat buffet: prime rib, pasta, salads, fruits and desserts.

A stage show of “Broadway Musicals” is included with your meal. Dinner and a show for $29? Honey, we’re not in Vegas anymore.

On goes the paper wristband (which is a thing because it came with other activities, too). As she’s slapping the colorful accessory to our wrist, the hostess says, “It’s an open bar. Do you wish to purchase all-you-can-drink for $14 per person?”

“No thank you.”

And that should be the end of the discussion, right? Beverages shouldn’t be a topic for concern among the myriad employees in this restaurant.

Another hostess takes us to a table. Do we want to be close to the stage? We’re okay near the back (I’m afraid the blast of the speakers might give me a headache).

They’re all so polite. She’s pulling out the chairs for the women. And talking in barely accented English.

“Jose will be your server, but I can take your drink order.” (Sounds reasonable so far. And then the other shoe drops.) “I highly recommend the all-you-can-drink option. Only $14 per person.”

We have a reasonable explanation for our refusal of this option. We don’t drink alcohol, so we’ll pass. Sure, it includes soda and water, too. It is ALL you can drink, right?

And still we say: No, thank you.

The server appears. She hands him our drink order – five sodas and one bottle of water (no gas – oh, that’s Germany).

The first words out of dear Jose’s mouth: “Amigos, I suggest you purchase the all-you-can-drink option. It will save you money.”

Really? Maybe we are misunderstanding and it is $14 for all six of us to drink as much soda and water as we want. So, we do what reasonable people do: seek clarification. $14 for all of us. No, $14 per person.

Now it’s time to calculate. Let’s do the math; at $4 per non-alcoholic drink, we would each need to drink 3.5 drinks to make this the promised “good deal.”

We’re just not that thirsty. So our answer: No thank you.

And the sales pitch continues. Really? We’re being pressured to buy the all-you-can-drink add-on to our buffet?

In the end, I realize the pressure is to save our server the headache of keeping track of our drinks. We aren’t a difficult tab. Only two people get second drinks. In the end, our drink bill is $21.

Anyone care to do another round of math? $14 times 6 people equals an amazing $84. We spent $21 (in part because three people in our party staged a non-drink protest; the sales pitch apparently dampened their thirst for Coca-Cola products).

At this point, we had to raise our voices. Strenuous refusal was required to end this lengthy discussion concerning pairing bottomless drinks with our buffet.

Don’t give in to the pressure, friends. It will cost you $63.

What situations have you faced where the pressure became too much?

Five things you learn to hate about international trave

Travel Meme

Everyone wants to be Marco Polo and discover the wider world around them. It’s a big place, this international playground. Travelling the world it real living.

Or not.

Like everything else in this life – travelling internationally is not all it’s touted to be.


We live in a digital world, don’t we? It’s a smaller place in light of the World Wide Web and the connectibility of computers, smart phones and tablets.

And then there’s Mexico.

“Si. We have Wi-Fi.”

For a price. But, hey, we can use four devices for $30 for three days. No limitations on time. We’ll get our money’s worth with the six of us swapping around to keep our Facebook friends in the loop.

Or not.

“That user ID is taken. Choose another.”

So I can pay the $30 again? What happened to this whole four devices promise? Apparently, something was lost in translation.

Or they just want to collect another fee.

Disclaimer: My iPad happily connected to WiFi in Amsterdam and Munich.

Doritos are not Doritos

I don’t even like Doritos. But my kids do. And something I like even less than flavored chips of any kind? Listening to my sons complain about the “spicy nacho-cheese Doritos.”

We bought them at Costco. They said “queso” flavored. Upon closer examination – outside the store and after the bag is torn asunder – there is a picture of a jalapeno beside the hunk of cheese.

And it’s not just the Doritos. The milk tastes funny. The margarine stinks. There’s no Mountain Dew to be had this far south (in restaurants). Life will never be the same now that all these foods have been defiled.


VISA is where you want to be. Master Card makes its way. American Express defies the American borders. Discover? No, no Discover.

I thought Cortes discovered Mexico in the sixteenth century. In Cabo, I’ve found an Un-Discovered country.

And of course, that’s the only credit card I brought. That and my Visa-branded debit cards. Which work, but there’s only so much money in my checking account. And since I can’t access the Internet, there will be no online transfers to cover my fun and food while I’m vacationing in this no-man’s land.

Disclaimer: I had no troubles using Discover in Germany.

Make it All Inclusive

First, it’s the total coverage insurance for the rental car. We reserved with this particular company because their prices were so much less.

Because they conveniently didn’t mention that full coverage car insurance would be required to drive their vehicle off the lot. To the tune of half again the price to rent the ugly white minivan for a week.

At the resort, they offer a lovely bracelet. $90 per person per day and all meals and drinks are included in your stay. Yes, it’s all-inclusive. You can even visit restaurants at our sister resorts.

I’m pretty sure we can eat for less than $540 per day, don’t you? Do people really buy this thing? We saw the bracelets adorning people’s arms, so yes, they do.

On a smaller scale, let’s talk about a buffet. It sounds like a good deal. $29 per person for an all-you-can-eat buffet – prime rib, pasta, salads, fruits and desserts.

We arrive at the appointed time. The hostess says, “It’s an open bar. Do you wish to purchase all-you-can-drink for $14 per person?”

“No thank you.”

Another hostess leads our group to a table. Again, the all-you-can drink option is highly recommended. We don’t drink alcohol, so we pass. After all, how expensive can a few sodas and bottles of water be?

The server appears. “Amigos, I suggest you purchase the all-you-can-drink option. It will save you money. Only $14.”

No thank you.

And the sales pitch continues. Really? We’re being pressured to buy the all-you-can-drink add-on to our buffet?

We thought “no” meant the same thing in every language. My Spanish is rusty, but I’m positive that “no” means no as surely as “si” means yes. Why is this drink thing such an issue? (More on this in another post.)

Disclaimer: We never felt any all-you-can-drink pressure in Europe.

Traffic Laws (or Lack thereof)

In my world, a solid line should be treated as a wall. It’s a barrier. Don’t cross it unless you want to smash your fender (or worse).

A solid line to the right of the traveling lanes is supposed to be a shoulder. The only reason you drive onto that portion of the road is because your car is broke. Or there are flashing red and blue lights behind you. Or you need to stop and take that call.

In Mexico, I have no idea what a solid line to the right means. A solid line in the center of the highway appears to mean “don’t pass” (thus, my wall imagery still works).

What I consider the side of the road appeared to be a merge lane. Vehicles traveled in it as if it was just another part intended for vehicular travel.

No need to pull over there if your car broke. Just put on your hazards. Maybe stick a friend behind your heap of immobility to wave his hat so passing traffic would swerve around the hunk in the far left lane or even the right lane. The “merging” lane? No, that was no place to put an immovable object. It might get rammed by people trying to get up to speed from the strangely un-exit-like exits (and entrances).

Lack of signage is another issue which makes international driving problematic. The fact it’s in a foreign language would offer an opportunity to decipher the proper direction.

In fact, rules of any sort appear to be something akin to the Pirate Code. If they exist, they’re there as more of a guideline than anything multiple parties operating motor vehicles will adhere to all at once.

World traveling? Great, but it has a down side. This short list of five detestable things is obviously not exhaustive.

What is your experience? What other negatives have you experienced while traveling internationally?

Timeshare Vultures

Turkey Vultures (Cathartes aura) Preflight Warmup

Sparkling aquamarine waters lap hungrily at the coarse beige sands of Cabo San Lucas. Quite an incongruous locale for vultures. Unsuspecting first-time visitors incite a feeding frenzy among the seemingly innumerable masses of timeshare salespeople.

If you’ve never flown into Los Cabos airport, you have no point of reference for the scavenger-like feel created by the flock of well-groomed marketers descending upon the innocent. It’s worse than being circled by sharks.

“Don’t talk to anyone,” my friends warned us. “They will say they can help you, but it will cost you hours in a timeshare presentation.”

Even inside the airport at the stand clearly marked “Taxi”, the carnivorous salespeople are after blood. Or make that money. Lots of it. More than $40,000 – and we’re not talking pesos here.

We reached the rental car company van and believe we’re saved. It’s an island of refuge from the sea of bottom-feeders. Until you step out at the rental agency’s headquarters.

That good-looking guy chatting you up about where to go for shopping and activities? Yep, he really wants to corner you for hours and badger you into purchasing a timeshare. Points or weeks, I don’t really know. I don’t want to find out. I just came here for the sunshine, to escape the constant dreariness of Oregon in December.

Mexico-6706 - Black Vulture (large is good)

Whew! You make it out of there without agreeing to listen to a “short” spiel. We must be home free. We have our $2.30 for the toll road. Things are looking up.

We pull into the well-groomed grounds of what appears to be an enormous Spanish hacienda. Arches, pink stucco, marble floors and a Christmas tree to rival the one adorning the Macy float greet you. Shoulders relax and you can imagine the kiss of equatorial sunshine on your face.

This nice lady, Elisa, she’s a hotel representative, your personal concierge. I must be an imbecile! She’s the front man for the evil timeshare mobsters.

“We’d like to invite you to breakfast tomorrow. It’s a beautiful buffet and afterward, you’ll take a 90-minute tour of our sister property. In return, we’ll give you a fabulous Gold card which guarantees you discounts of 15% or more on all your food and activities.”

Save money? Do I really need to hear more? The kids will sleep until 11. We’ll be back from the 90-minute deal by 10:30 at the latest. Why not?

Oh foolish, foolish Americano! You’ve been stabbed in the thigh, near the femoral artery with the gilded knife of anesthesia. You feel no pain.

Until you can’t even enjoy the buffet breakfast because the lovely Adrianna is quizzing you about your vacation habits.

“You own a timeshare. What are your biggest complaints about it?”

Next time, I swear I’m going to say, “I can’t ever use it without being hounded about buying more time.” Forget about not getting reservations where I want at the time I want (number one complaint, apparently).

I want to vacation without being circled by carrion-eaters.

Adrianna smiles and promises she will be finished with her tour in 90 minutes or less. I should have started the timer on my smart phone. Even after 15 years as a timeshare owner, I still believe this fabrication.

She did finish before the time limit. The penthouse was jaw-dropping, but I’ll never be able to afford to rent it. Or if I finally save up enough points, all the weeks will be booked for three years solid. And yet, I imagine myself entertaining my editor or agent while the Sea of Cortez sings in the background.

“This is my teammate, Lisa.” And the lovely Adrianna disappears, handing us over to the drooling pack of hyenas without a backward glance.

“We’re buying a house.” This is our legitimate – and truthful (not that these people understand anything about honesty) – excuse.

It sounds good. We’re considering trading our current membership on seven Mexican resorts and Interval International Chairman-level exchange privileges.

But, we’re buying a house. “Amigos. We don’t take social security numbers. It won’t appear on your credit report.”

Except there’s no way we’re paying 12 percent on any amount for even three months. Refinancing in the states will show up on the credit report and undo all of the progress we’ve made in the loan process thus far.

So our friend Lisa passes us off to a young blonde thing who wants to “make sure we were treated right.” And she presents a different, less costly plan for buying into the resort.

Really? We’re still smiling at the end of this, but we’re beginning to feel the pressure. The hungry snouts are pressing against our calves. The slavering beasts make my forehead bead with sweat.

Black Vulture

And smiling Fernando, “I can’t sit as long as senora is standing” proceeds with an offer that will just guarantee that in a year we can come back and get the same pricing for this unbelievable vacation spot. Doesn’t no mean no – even in Spanish?

He actually does let us rate our experience before he tries to give us this “final offer.” If he would’ve asked afterwards, the scores would not have been above 5.

“We’ll get your incentives,” he says, still pretending to be a polite boy who cares about us. The proverbial crow in sparrow wings we discover as Pedro enters the room.

How about six weeks free? How about eight weeks anywhere in the world? We’ll knock the price down even more and double the point value and give you eighteen months to consider our offer.


What about ten weeks? No sane person would turn down such an offer. Surely you can afford $1,000.


And finally, we exit the den of thieves. “This lovely lady will get your discount card and you’ll be on your way.”

It’s another ruse. The prices highlighted in yellow are good only if you book the events right at this moment. If you walk out the door, you will lose this incredible discount. We are traveling with four other people and haven’t discussed our schedule.

“I will give you six tickets on that sunset dinner cruise free if you take a taxi over to the Pacific side and view our resort.”


turkey vulture

Yes, it’s another red-headed vulture staring us down with beady eyes. We pretend not to hear her offer of free taxi rides and additional discounts.

Do these people think we came to sunny Cabo in December to sit inside and listen to presentations the entire time? Maybe they’re as misguided as we were.

We book our dinner cruise (for my birthday) and run away. Is it my imagination or do I feel hot breath on the back of my neck?

There’s no escort out of the labyrinth into which we’ve been lead. But I see the sunlight. Soon we find the sparkling waters and make a break for the beach.

Time 12:30. Elapsed time spent on this 90-minute tour: 4 hours. I should feel lucky. A couple who bought, spent four-and-a-half hours with the flock of buzzards.

Three hours lounging sea-side with a book and a bottle of water, surrounded by my family, almost redeems the day. Almost.

Hopefully, I’ve learned my lesson. The timeshare vultures are all around you in Cabo.

Trust no one – especially if they smile and offer to help you.

Mexico in Pictures

We took several hundred photos while in Mexico. Some I will share with you when I do a series of posts about some of our experiences (come back next year to see these).

Hope you enjoy this brief tour!

I want to wake up to this view every morning
I want to wake up to this view every morning








Cruise ships made regular stops to the harbor by our resort
Cruise ships made regular stops to the harbor by our resort
Fun and games after the sun has set
Fun and games after the sun has set













Sometimes strangers lead you to the best places
Sometimes strangers lead you to the best places
Our family saying "Adios" to Mexico
Our family saying “Adios” to Mexico


Merry Christmas, friends!

Happy Birthday – from Cabo


“Happy birthday to me” *smiling and humming*

On this day in 19-something, my mother gave birth to me at St. John’s Hospital in Longview, WA. When my parents took me home a few days later, it was in a Christmas stocking.

My birthday has been shoved into the Christmas rush of parties, baking, family gatherings and shopping parades ever since.

This year? I’m in Cabo San Lucas for my birthday.

The sky is azure and the golden sun feels sweet kissing my winter-white skin. Everyone knows I’m a tourist. Hopefully, they can’t guess my age.

In truth, as I wrote this, the sun was shining outside my office window. The thermometer struggled to top 40 degrees. My hands turned purple and couldn’t melt an ice cube.

At the first of the month I gave my five reasons for skipping the whole Christmas season this year. Planning this trip to Mexico was part of my plan to disassociate myself with memories that made me sad.

Is it working? I’ll have to get back to you on that.

hope-youre-enjoyingAm I relaxing? On the beach or by the pool, I am quite comfortable in the tropical sunlight.

Tomorrow, I have to fly back to Portland. If it’s anything like other trips to sunny regions, it may be snowing when we get to the airport.

The one wearing shorts and shivering? That would be me – trying to hang on to my happy birthday memories just a little bit longer.

Maybe they didn’t sing you “Happy Birthday” in Cabo, but what is your favorite birthday memory?

All I Want for Christmas

All I want for Christmas is to skip the whole thing.

I’m not looking forward to it. At all. I have reasons. Darn good ones too. So why don’t you hear me out before you label me “Scrooge” and move on?

Reason #1

Last year my mother was in the hospital at Christmas. This year – she’s in Heaven.

While that’s great for her, it leaves a pretty large hole in our family. If you knew my mother, you would understand that her shoes might have appeared small, but they are impossibly unfillable.

Just like I cried through Mother’s Day, I have to face my first Christmas without my mom. It’s not easy. They say people are more depressed at Christmas than any other time of the year. And I can see it.

It’s a time built around memories. Sometimes memories hurt. Grief cuts like a knife.

This is the biggest reason I vote for skipping directly from December 23rd to December 26th this year. I have others…

Reason #2

Things are changing in the old Hughson household.

This year, Christmas morning will be different. Next year, it will be different again. I’m the one who instituted a host of Christmas morning traditions. Same breakfast. Same cocoa. Same reading of Luke 2.

Change is great. It is inevitable. It is not for Christmas.

Reason #3

I am going to Mexico for a week and return home on December 20th.

This is great news for my sun-loving psyche.

This is horrible news for the traditional holiday baking plans. I am not planning to decorate my house – must keep it staged for prospective buyers for one thing. Who will water the tree while we’re gone? Why do I want to expend energy decorating when I’ll be gone for a week?

Reason #4

I get sick of all the hype and materialism. I’ve posted about that subject in the past.

Christmas is about two things in my world: Jesus and family. None of that needs a Black Friday for shopping explosions and excellent deals. I’m happy to sit around singing carols and playing games while with my family. Who wants to fight the crowds to find the perfect gift only to realize – there is no such thing?

Reason #5

Everything gets topsy-turvy in my daily schedule once December arrives.

I just want to lock myself away with my computer and finish writing something. I want to check off my writing goals and reach that pedestal of published bliss.

Yes, I’m out of touch with reality. This could be why I write fantasy novels.

No one is going to fast forward past the next few weeks. I don’t want to miss a moment of the family vacation in Mexico.

I might want to skip Christmas, but it won’t happen. As the Grinch found out,

“He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!”

I guess there’s no chance for me to actually skip Christmas, is there? In that case, all I want for Christmas is … a happy day with my family.