Wednesday, April 30, 2014


As I wrote in an earlier edition of West of Denver, several weeks ago the wife and I ventured south of the border for a week of sunny relaxation. It had been some years since we had been to the Yucatan and we were looking forward to seeing some familiar sights. The minute that we arrived there we realized that those familiar sights were probably no longer in existence.

Driving south from Cancun, Mexico it was impossible to not notice the changes that have occurred in the past 20 years. First of all, the Cancun airport, once a modest single terminal building, now occupies three terminals. There are now non-stop flights from London, believe it or not. The two-lane road south of Cancun is now a four-lane highway. Once a sleepy little town boasting a lone phone booth in the town square, Playa Del Carmen is now a major metropolis featuring Wal-Mart and Sam's Club. The highway at Playa Del Carmen is a flyover designed to avoid the in-town traffic. Development of the tourist areas stretches as far south as Tulum and beyond. High-end golf resorts now occupy the land that was once a pristine jungle. All the while, motorists driving south are bombarded with billboards and signs proclaiming the unspoiled Yucatan and its beautiful beaches.

Four hours south of Cancun we finally exited the tourist areas and got back to the roots of the Yucatan. It happened around the town of Limones where all signs of tourism suddenly disappeared and dense jungle occupied our view on both sides of the bumpy two-lane road. Colorful birds were abundant and the occasional iguana caught our eye. On the sides of the road there were occasional fruit stands with smiling vendors anxious to make a sale before the end of the day. This was the Yucatan as we remembered it.

Soon, our five and one-half hour drive was over and we had arrived in Xcalak. The road through town was a dirt road and there seemed to be an ever-present dog or two sleeping in the middle of the main street. When the rare motorist drove through town they politely drove around them so as not to disturb a good nap.

In town there were several eating places, filled with eclectic groups of people with the occasional canine or feline visitor searching for a misplaced scrap of food. If you left your table for even the shortest of time, a small bird was quick to fly in and grab a bite of your tortilla and fly away to enjoy its winnings.

The nearest gas station to Xcalak is 40 miles away. Thre are two small Mom and Pop stores in town whose supplies are intermittent at best. Similarly, electricity regularly disappears and reappears. The locals aren't too concerned about this as that's the way it has always been; nice to have big deal if it's gone for a while.

There are several places to stay in Xcalak, none of which is particularly elegant. The bugs can be pesky but no one seems to complain about them. The ocean and the reef systems are quite beautiful and unspoiled. Unlike several hours north of Xcalak, there were no wave runners, parachutes, hang gliders or beach vendors. One day we saw a lone wind surfer; that was the extent of the "action" that we saw on the beach.

In all, it's a pretty boring place. And we loved every minute of it.

If you are looking for a real Mexico experience, I would encourage you to visit Xcalak. Although it is likely to change over time, for the present at least, it remains a wonderful vestige of what the Yucatan once was.

Readers, enjoy your day.

Monday, April 7, 2014


One cannot help but read the barrage of headlines in the media and on the Internet about the ideal time for workers to retire. All of them (which is to say I have never seen one that varied from this) deal with how much money one needs. I have seen ones that vary from $500,000 to $2,500,000.

How can something with this much variability have any degree of accuracy? The fact is that it does not and most of these articles are pure crap. Could it be a dastardly plot to keep the working schmucks of the world tethered to their jobs? Hmmmm.

I am writing this because the wife announced last week that she wanted to retire...soon...very soon. Thoughts of spending endless sunny days with my beloved wife danced through my head. Of long walks with our dog. Of enjoying many sunsets while sipping a fine wine.

The thought of money never crossed my mind.

The fact is that people should retire not when they have enough money but when they are sick of working. In fact, virtually every retired person that I know has told me the same story and, with limited variability, I hear the same phrase: "I retired because I was sick of the crap."

To that I say "bravo"; it is refreshing to see people take control of their lives.

So, to the dear wife I say: let's spend endless sunny days together and take long walks with the dog and, lastly, let's enjoy many sunsets while sipping a fine wine.

Let's make it cheap boxed wine; it's all we can afford.

Readers, enjoy your day.