Puerto Vallarta Without the Booze Cruise



Oblivion. A place we intend to or unintendedly meet on any Puerto Vallarta booze cruise. I met it unintendedly. I did it to stave off contextually onset depression. The plastic bathtub boat us and as many others could be shoved in. The subpar continental restaurant. The scuba spot occupied by at least 85 hundred (accurate count) other “tour group” bathtub boats. This was not a place to see fish, but rather the fat, pink wiggling bait of thousands of fleshy limbs. The waterfall. Oh. Sorry. The waterfall wasn’t the depressing part itself. It was the way there. A mud path, where horses were being unvoluntarily pulled, topped by unamused, drunken camera clicking, sombreroed tourists, passing through electricless towns, where kids hobbies included obligatory begging for money from the insensitive kings and queens for an all inclusive week getaway, riding atop their slave horses.

Let me suggest an alternative, a few things that I don’t usually see on the Puerto Vallarta to do list, which I think make for a more cultured, different experience.



Walking Around Beyond the Malecon…

If your not at the beach, The Malecon is the PLACE to be in if you’re a tourist in PV. It has everything you could ever want: street performers, art, food, hawkers, gawkers, walkers, lots of exposed skin steaming out of the open faced bars and clubs that line the boardwalk. It’s a no brainer and super close to the hotels, so there is no way of getting lost. In a way, it’s the epitome of John Huston’s Mexico, a theme park like Americanized Mexico, manageable, accessible, rife with stereotypes and panchos and sumbraros. So keep walking, go beyond the Malecon, beyond the Senior Frogs, beyond the Yellow Brick Road. Get a map of the city, a good map of the city, even BETTER a digital map and just wander. Don’t set a destination, don’t route a course, just explore.

random neighborhood

random neighborhood

On my random walk I found a beautifully ornate and peacefully silent Church, just North West of the Malecon, found a lovely Mexican Candy store and a place that made fresh tortillas, the old school way. Yes, numerous people have been/seen/ate at these places, but for myself, they’re not in the guidebooks, they’re not on the tourist radar, so when I happen upon them, it feels as if I have made a triumphant discover, a discovery you can tell people about later, but more so, a discovery that you can experience. Some of these findings may not be a SIGHT, but could just be a place of everyday business, a residential area, a school, something. Just like Alice in wonderland – If you walk long enough, you’ll get somewhere and if your not too concerned about what that somewhere entails, then your in good hands in Puerto Vallarta, with small surprises around every corner. There’s a desire to find the “real” _____________ (country name). I am not sure exactly what that fully means ever, but I feel that you have a better chance of finding authenticity outside of the marketed, consumer based downtown hub.

Galleria Dante

Galleria Dante

Exploring the Art Galleries

This is an activity that many partake in, but can be a great way to traverse the city, see art and see all the wonderful places in between. The city is full of amazing art and amazing artists, with many contemporary galleries displaying everything from installations, to mixed media, to everything in between. The Dante Galleria on Basillio Badilio is a wonderful cluttered art space, that is both in doors and outdoors and claims to be the biggest gallery in the city. Your eyes dart too and fro, trying to take everything in, an impossible task, as there are so many unique pieces, from the pop culture influence origami paintings of Emilio Rama, hiding behind the ceremonial garbed metal, stone and wood statues of Oscar Zamarripa.

More of Galleria Dante

More of Galleria Dante

Galeria Contempo has some funky up and comers, while the Sergio Bustamante gallery and jewelry store, with the artist’s signature long faced figures (which are even on the door handles to the store), is a great place to not only see, but also own some pretty amazing functional art. And that’s just the tip of the paintbrush or pen or whatever medium you wish to work in. There are also a lot of places with folk art, though, personally, I am not a BIG fan of beading, tiles or simple cut wood carved masks (though the gallery with the masks, of which the name escapes me, is in a REALLY cool building that was an old colonial house, one of the few originals still up).

Torta numiness

Torta numiness

Trying a Local Restaurant

If your at an all inclusive or the hotel zone, it’s easy to simply pop into a tourist filled eatery and indulge on fare that is made particularly to suit your tastes. But why not get out of your comfort zone and, for that matter, the tourist zone, and try eating at a small, family run hole in the wall, with an assortment of mismatched tables and chairs, maybe a football match, blaring on a fuzzy, old school television set, the smell of food and sweat, both pungent and thrillingly aromatic filling your nostril with fear and curiosity. Sure, at these joints, the menus might not be sprawling or in English, but with a little Spanish or some fancy gestures, I’m sure you’ll be eating something super yummy, with the owners more than happy to take your money (support the local, local economy) as well as your kind praises. On Calle Jacarendas, at a restaurant that was, I believe, entitled something “Dolphins”, I had the best mole I have ever had, period. This restaurant is not in a guidebook, not even on a blog. It’s there and serves the local populous, good, affordable sustenance.

Squid and wine sauce.

Squid and wine sauce.

Take a chance, find a restaurant full of locals, which is a sure bet that it’s pretty good. Not all local restaurants can be classified as “hole-in-the-walls” either. Chenan2 Restaurant, which was a blog recommended place, is a family owned establishment, where the chef, who was formally a painter, decided to pick up cooking, after his mother passed. His work is both on the plates and on the walls of this medium sized restaurant. The sala, guac and chips were pretty on point, but it was my main meal, grilled octopus in a white wine sauce that blew me away with a lovely, rich flavor palette of salty butter goodness, with a slight and desired tang. Num Num Num! If I hadn’t gotten severe stomach poisoning (a story unto itself), I would have eaten at many more wonderful places throughout PV, because, rest assure, there are many.

Fish and shrimp tacos.

Fish and shrimp tacos.

Planning Your Own Taco Tour

There are some great professional guided taco tours that I have heard about in PV and saw several of them while I was on my own taco tour. Due to budgetary restrictions, an official taco tour was not in the cards, but that doesn’t mean a unofficial tour wasn’t possible. So how did I know where to go? Well how about I give you a link of a map that I used:


It’s a good starting point that you can add to for future trips!

Church of Talpa De Allende

Church of Talpa De Allende

Visiting Outlying Towns

PV started off as a small fishing village that expanded due to the influx of tourists flocking to see the place made famous by John Huston’s films, so a lot of the culture is geared towards that market and presenting it in it’s most big and bold forms. For something more intimate and what many would consider more authentic Jalisco culture, one has to leave the city.

The issue with leaving the city is….where do you go? There are many options out there, such as Bucerias, a small fishing/artist community, but many of them too, are overrun with tourists and have lost a bit of their charm (not all of it, just a bit!). It all depends what you are interested in. For me, I was interested in culture and history, not beaches and booze. By doing a few google searches I found Talpa De Allende, a former silver mining town that has an important church for Christian pilgrimage and Mascota, a old colonial town. After searching online for tours, we decided to go with Vallarta Adventures, who we actually got connected with by a tourist agency on the beach. Now, usually I would travel via public transit bus, but I was with my father, so I thought to give him a little more ease by taking a tour. And what a wonderful tour it was! We were fed a continental breakfast right at the door of the tour. Once we got on the bus, Alfonzo, our knowledgeable guide started to tell us information of what we were seeing out the windows, as well as the history of the area. You had a question, Alfonzo had a very well articulate answer. The tour wasn’t your regular SEE THE SITES tour. “This tour will attempt to give you a glimpse into the REAL Mexico”, Alfonzo, as if reading my mind, told the four of us on the bus as we were leaving the hustle and bustle of PV, “and it’s not for everyone”. He shared with us that he liked that the tours were small, so that they could talk more, rather than him simply lecturing and spewing out facts.

Mascota door

Mascota door

In Mascota, we visited a practical application high school, where students learned to farm and make cheese and raise animals. We saw the unfinished cathedral, ate fresh baked cookies and hot chocolate in a local’s house and hung out in the town square for a bit, along with men conversing on benches, sporting big cowboy hats, getting their shoes blackened and shined.

Milk from Mascota's practical high school

Milk from Mascota’s practical high school

In Talpa, we saw how guava roll candies are made, along to Rompope, an eggnog like alcohol, that tricks you into finishing off the whole bottle on a school night (true story). We were given time to walk around the town centre, where I purchased a taco-press, engraving the wood with “Tacotim!” (it was suppose to be “Tacotime!”, but that’s what I get for trying to get a Mexican engraver to write in a foreign language), as well as visiting the much venerated church, that was packed to the brim for services, complete with Mariachi Band. Our lunch was taken back in Mascota, before we returned along the mountainous, lush green, roadway that took us back to PV. An amazing day-trip, which really felt like I saw and partook in something really special, that not everyone bothers to see.

Again, my idea of a good time might be slightly different than yours. But who knows? Some of those likes might sink up and you’ll find value in this post. If not…hope you liked my word choice and the pretty pictures. Ditto for those who are interested in what I am interested in as well, when it comes to travel, at least!

Again, if you ever have any questions about what you see or have seen, suggestions, ideas for Each Mile and the BIG trip in 2017 (World Cycle Tour – Vancouver, Canada to Beijing China), let me know! Or just comment, hate it? like it? Care very little for it?

Hammocks are cool.

Hammocks are cool.





A Stigmatized World: A Different Bicycle Tour

Time. In a rare moment of space on this planet, I feel I have an infinite amount of it, to tinker, traverse, dance, digress, and deviate; the breadth of possibilities are stars in a multitude of galaxies. My planned departure date for my world tour is Spring 2017, but the planning process has been underway for sometime now. It isn’t simply about the logistics, the financial spreadsheets, different colored tape I must cross, or figuring what high tech gear I can attach to my two-wheeled pachyderm. For me, the main thing to ponder, being that the world cannot be hugged, sniffed and tasted in one lifetime, where would lil’ ol’ me and my house on a bicycle go? And a quintessential component of that question is: why was I doing this?

That sounds like a very motherly inquiry, which is ultimately a method of finding lacking logic in my dreams and thus attempting to dissuade me from partaking in such an insane, immature and dangerous undertaking. But that’s not the angle I wish to discuss, as I can simply answer that with:

“ Ah ma! It makes me happy. And my happiness is insane, immature and dangerous. Period.”

(after which, she threatens me with her own death if I pursue this trip, for which I respond: “I dare you”, calling her bluff)

This is the internalized why. Now, there are a plethora of personal reasons to answer that posed pontification that are strictly selfish: Why? Well, to explore the external and internal landscape (myself), to meet up with similar and different folks from around the planet and do random activities with them, to eat squirming bugs and other living creatures with my hands, to jump off high, rocky outcrops into my own growing reflecting in deep, green oceans; that sort of fare that excites and invigorates my body and soul like the eternal blast of a cold, thick streamed, shower. In fact, most reasons for doing anything have a selfish component to them. Even the most pious, beatified person gets something out of his projected piety: a smile, salvation, high fives, a really great parking spot. Yet a feature of this personal motivation to do a trip of this magnitude, at least in feeling, feels that it will contribute to the greater world and people’s understanding of it. I have already explained that I would like this to be an interactive cycling trip, where you, the reader and online user make suggestions that become the overarching itinerary for this trip, creating a multifaceted, multi-angled travelogue about boundless and sustainable wanderlust, while also spotlighting the inevitable trials and tribulations that go along with cycle touring. Yet, there is also another component, something less obvious about creating such a comprehensive “guide” that goes beyond highlighting your favorite spot to sit or take photos of Orca Whales.

Some people think Africa is a country. Not plural countries, but a singular, unified country, possibly autonomously ruled by an imposing figure, consistently adorned in military garb that is weighed down by a breastful of shiny metals. A different variation of this ignorance, and possibly a more sinister and prejudice conceptualization of Africa, is that a person knows that Africa is a continent and is made up of several, separate countries, but that it’s okay to refer to all of them as Africa, because they are all pretty much the same, in appearance, unruliness and “barbarism”. They then, if you are unlucky to be within earshot of them, list off some really crude and insulting generalizations of “Africa” and “Africans”. These generalizations are not just perpetuated by uneducated people (many “uneducated, a term I hate in itself, people know better), who are disconnected from the rest of the world outside of their small, pocket communities. There are educated people who believe these images, who preach these images, who pass down these images and this frankly stupid stereotypical terribly misinformed view to their children, and so on and so forth, until an external interjection is made. And it’s not the fault of any one person or source. In the media, I am constantly being bombarded with news programming that summarizes parts of the globe as good or bad, creating detrimental binaries and boxy categories and simple equations of people. Muslim = terrorist. Chinese = Communist. North Korean = Crazy. It drives me up the wall and through the ceiling to be constantly labeled and mislabeled and have others be subjected to the same treatment, rather than being seen as individuals who make choices on their own accord, separate of some sort of abstract grouping.

What can I do to change this? Well, I can NOT think like that and tell others to NOT think like that, empowering myself and others to take charge to seek out information to debunk these oversimplification of human beings, of race, of nations. Yet the scope of this plea, personally, reverberates as does a soapbox preacher’s sermon in the rain during rush hour. I could take something I love, such as cycling and promote the stigmatized and segregated places of what should be a positive, unified global community. So that’s what I am going to do! I am going to bike to places that aren’t generally mentioned in guidebooks or travel shows, visit, and where I can, with the real people, individuals who smile when they are excited and cry buckets when they are exhausted and feel a spectrum of things and do a lot of other things that aren’t black or white, but are multicolored, things that we don’t associate with that part of the world, because it’s easier for me and others to see the world as black and white, and in summaries and in concise definitions. I will blog about these people, each one as an entity, a palette unto themselves. I will blog about religions and cultures that don’t automatically make you a terrorist, or evil if you are part of them and that it is only the ignorance others have about them, and the exoticism and foreignness of them from our comfy, Western perspective, that promulgates those stereotypes.

This bike trip, as selfish as it will be, will hopefully inspire people to travel to these places or at least open a dialogue where silence existed prior. Highlight the beauty of culture, of working people, of alleyways, of hole in the walls, of personal Taj Mahals or Great Walls, of speech patterns, of echoing laughter, of devout prayer, of mid-morning motorcycle rides through endless rice paddies. And with that, my selfish pleasure, hopefully becomes your selfish pleasure, and selfish desire to travel, to explore, to rethink, to reconsider what adjectives you associate with people, to burn the strict definitions into a blazing pyre of cindering divisions and ashing and embering delusion, that we, unified and courageous, will dance, dance revolution around, holding hands, seeing hands as hands that we want to grasp, to hold, to understand.

Wide Eyed Prague – First Time Living Abroad

Looking back to when I first got my taste of travel in 2008, I couldn’t have guessed the lifetime commitment I would make to cycling around the globe, seeing, smelling, tasting, spontaneously dancing in so many amazing, unique, exhilarating places. I thought I would share some of those first images, re-saturated and re-edited for your viewing pleasure. The first batch of photos come from that first trip. I had the lucky fortune of being invited to perform at play in Brno, Czech Republic, a place, that prior to being invited to this festival, I had no idea existed. After traveling around the Czech Republic, I landed a four month contract in Prague, teaching English.

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