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Page 4: (Sayulita, Mexico)
La Vida Cheapo, AARP Continued….

By Barry Golson, March-April 2004
AARP Magazine

Sayulita_Mexico_Retirement_AARPPACIFIC COAST
We won't tarry long in Puerto Vallarta here because we didn't tarry long there. Guidebooks extol its blend of old-Mexican charm and jet-set beach glamour. There's a large, active American retirement community in Puerto Vallarta, an international airport 20 minutes from downtown, and plenty of the amenities that spring up around a modern resort. Still, there's a touch of Las Vegas to Puerto Vallarta. It's a matter of taste, I suppose, but after four days we decide to move up the coast, where we hear life is a little less frantic.

We wander some 25 miles north of Puerto Vallarta to the village of San Francisco, known to locals as San Pancho. There, we are the guests of Bill Kirkwood and Barbara Hart-Kirkwood.

Ex-Silicon Valley fast trackers who'd vacationed in the region for two decades, Bill, 54, and Barbara, 52, moved permanently to San Pancho two years ago along with another couple, their close friends John Levens, 56, and Judi MacGregor-Levens, 55. Together, the couples built Casa Obelisco, a striking 5,300-square-foot open-terrace Mediterranean house with a mosaic dome perched above a splendid beach. The two families live in separate wings and this year began to rent out extra bedrooms as a bed-and-breakfast. While there, Thia and I luxuriate in the canopied beds, checking our shoes in the morning for scorpions.

Bill and Barbara's tales about house building, making new friends, and adapting to Mexico's what-will-be mentality are upbeat and cheery. But outspoken Barbara, the kind of gal who'd give you the straight dope about anything (including her "terrific" $3,500 face-lift in Mexico), faults a "certain lawlessness" in her adopted country. Though they always feel personally safe, she says, fighting the mordida (bribes) system is useless. Despite ostensible reforms under President Vicente Fox, traffic cops must still be paid off. "Taxes are absurdly low, and so is a policeman's pay," Barbara explains. "How else can they make ends meet?"

They say many friends come to visit, look at properties, and get the itch. "Then, at the last minute, they back down," says Barbara while fixing an adios sunset drink for us on their rooftop. "Why? Fear of the unknown. In the States, you know there's always a fix; here, it's often fix-it-yourself. You've got to have that spirit."

Which brings us to the final leg of our own quest. A couple of miles south of San Pancho, 40 minutes north of Puerto Vallarta, lies the village of Sayulita, estimated population 1,500. Thia and I stumble upon it while in search of an early breakfast one Sunday morning during our stay at Casa Obelisco.

At first, Sayulita seems a slightly grungy place, with no paved roads and with chickens and dogs running loose. But strolling down to its gently curved beach, sitting down to watch pelicans dive-bomb for their breakfast in the surf, we know we've found someplace special. The village, ringed by soft hills, has no traffic lights, paved roads, or ATMs—and just one grocery store worthy of the name. (There are, however, three Internet cafés.)

mexico_retirement_AARPWe quickly get advice from fellow beachcombers: "You have to go to Rollie's." We are directed past the little town plaza near the beach, up a dirt street just past the butcher shop. Across the street, beneath a plain awning, is Rollie's, the town's leading breakfast establishment. The place is packed, and there's a line out the door.

Proprietor Rollie Dick, a crinkly-eyed gent of 64, runs the short-order grill; his wife, Jeanne, 59, waits on tables. From time to time Rollie strolls out to sing for the patrons and waltz a delighted lady customer around the tables.

The amateur-theater ham from Salinas, California, is Sayulita's biggest booster and its gringo godfather. After closing time at noon, in the Dicks' apartment above the restaurant, Rollie explains how a retired school principal (Rollie) and a teacher (Jeanne) landed in this tiny town beside the Pacific.

It happened, he says, while they were on a vacation five years ago. They fell in love with Sayulita, and before leaving, Rollie asked the woman they were staying with to contact them if a property that matched their limited resources came on the market. Like so many others approaching retirement, Rollie had toyed with the idea of opening a restaurant. When word came that a building was available in Sayulita, the Dicks decided to take the chance.

The Dicks paid $50,000 in cash for a three-story building with a welding shop on the ground floor that Rollie converted into the restaurant. "You had to have vision," he says. "Plus, property taxes are only $32 a year." He lived there for nearly two years on his own, understanding little Spanish, waiting for Jeanne to retire and join him.

AARP_Retire_in_Sayulita_Mexico_Pacific_CoastLater in the afternoon, on a stroll through town, Rollie expands on How Things Are Done Down Here. "There is, absolutely, a mentality here of living in the now, not worrying too much about the future. And you know what? It's wonderful! We made the decision that we were going to live here as guests of Mexico and do things their way."

The next day, Thia and I go looking for a piece of land of our own in Sayulita.

True, we set out merely to chronicle our journey, not to put down a stake. We're not retiring yet. But what can I say? We found a lovely little parcel above the village. We paid cash for it and got some papers in return.

Will we build there? Will we become expatriates? Will it all turn out all right? That's another story.

Pacific Coast Villages scorecard
Looks 9;
Charm 10 (those sunsets!);
Culture 0;
Shopping 1 (but both villages are within 30 miles of Puerto Vallarta);
Medical facilities 2 (but again, there's Puerto Vallarta);
Other Americans 7 (laid-back, quirky);
Wow factor—that surf, for beginners and hot dogs alike.
Thia's review: "Ideally, it would be four months here, four in San Miguel, four in New England."
Barry's review: "Three words—que sera, sera."
Barry Golson is the former executive editor of Playboy and TV Guide and former editor-in-chief of Yahoo! Internet Life.

Next: Joel’s Comments and Review of the AARP Mexico Retirement Article, "La Vida Cheapo"

Article Links
Page 1: Retire in Guadalajara, Mexico
Page 2: Retire to Lake Chapala & Ajijic
Page 3: San Miguel de Allende Retirement
Page 4: Live in Mexican Pacific Coast
Page 5: Joel’s Review & Comments

Back to the first page: Guadalajara, Mexico Retirement, AARP Magazine, "La Vida Cheapo"

Page 4 of 5

 Source:  http://www.aarpmagazine.org/travel/Articles/a2004-01-21-mag-mexico.html



Casa Preciosa Side Bar Notes:

Chester Allen a writer for the The Olympian recently did an article about Sayulita, a surfers paradise on the Mexican Pacific ocean.


Consider visiting Lake Chapala if you are thinking about retirement in Mexico

Casa Preciosa is situated on the north shores of Lake Chapala, Mexico and is available for adventurous travels that want the comforts of ome. Take a look at what this Ajijic Vacation Rental Home has to offer.