Sunday, April 17, 2005

Favorite Gadgets #3 - The All-in-One Printer

We needed a new printer for our laptops before we left. Virtually by accident (not via careful research) we wound up with an HP All-in-One printer/scanner/copier.

The model we chose also has slots for reading digital memory cards like the ones used in the majority of digital cameras. We had just recently made that plunge as well with the purchase of Fuji Finepix cameras for each of us (different models).

So, what was originally sought to simply replace our old black and white printer, is now performing these additional functions:
a) A high speed card reader that easily transmits our photos from our cameras to our computer (with no battery drain on the cameras batteries)
b)A copier that has been very useful for making extra copies of our port clearance papers (you need 5-6); copies of charts and guides borrowed from other cruisers.
c)A scanner for making archival, back-up copies of important documents and certificates
d)A color printer that can print color photos and business/boat cards, etc. as well as normal black and white pages

This may well be old had to many of you, but perhaps not to everyone, especially those of us who live on boats. And boaters, because of space limitations, love gadgets that can perform multiple useful functions. This HP printer/scanner/copier is one of those kinds of gadgets. And thanks to competition, it cost the same or less than our old black and white Canon printer that could do nothing else. It is about the size of a bread box and cost about $140.

Sunday, April 03, 2005

Puerto Vallarta So Far

First let us say that it is not our fault if our blogs have appeared out of chronological order. For some reason, one of them went off into the far reaches of the internet and didn*t arrive at the blog site until several days later.

We have been enjoying the heck out of Puerto Vallarta. This is our third time here (1991 & 1994).

We went on our first horseback ride since Kay broke her leg on a ride in Eureka six months ago. No spills, no broken bones this time, which is not as easy as it sounds because it was in some ways a rather technical ride as we crossed a small river 15 times with slippery round stones. There were also places with gaps so narrow between large boulders that the horses had to carefully thread their way through one hoof at a time. It was a beautiful ride up a mountain canyon. Kay rode the same mare, Kaluha, that she rode 11 years ago.

Our next adventure was a two-day trip to Guadalajara, a city of 8 million people. By bus or car it is about a 5-hour drive inland and up hill. Guadalajara, like Denver, is about a mile high. We stopped at the town of Tequila for lunch and then toured the Herradura distillery, one of the better Tequila brands. We got to see how the 8-year old agave plants are harvested and cut down to just their buds, which are then roasted and smashed to separate the sweet, starchy juice from the fibers. They use the fibers to make rope and beautiful lace table cloths.

We drank (yes, WE) *virgin* tequila right from the vat before it is diluted or aged. At that point it is 57% alcohol--yikes, what a throat-burner! We then tasted the various ages and colors of tequila such as blanco, repesado and anejo. All tequilas are manufactured in Jalisco state, although not all of the distilleries are in the town of Tequila. The fields of agave plant are everywhere and a beautiful shade of blue.

We arrived in Guadalajara just in time to check into the Hotel Cervantes and get ready for dinner. The place recommended by our guide, Alfreda, La Fonda de San Miguel, was great--an old nun*s convent that had been converted. The central courtyard had been roofed over giving the place a very high ceiling. The food was excellent and we were entertained by singers and dancers performing traditional Mexican songs and dances.

The next day we toured some beautiful cathedrals and stopped at one of the Jalisco state capital buildings. We were already quite impressed with our tour guide, Alfreda, a Canadian ex-pat. She knew all about tequila, cathedrals, and facts and figures about Mexico and Guadalajara. But where she really impressed us was at the state congress building. While we sat in the balcony, she used the murals on the ceiling to give us 45-minute condensed history lesson from the Spanish conquest all the way to the political machinations of the current 3-party system. The names Hidalgo, Juarez, Maximillion, Villa and Fox (just to cite a few) are no longer just names to us.

We closed out our second day with a short side trip to the suburb of Tlaquepaque (tla-kay-pa-kay). A large part of the business section of this town is an artists colony made up of two long crossing streets with art shops side by side. Besides shopping, we had a great lunch at a restaurant called The Patio, and were entertained by a contemporary singing group as well as a traditional Mariachi band--except that it was an all-female Mariachi band, and of course they played the song that Maximillion requested before he was executed by Benito Juarez (just showing off our history lesson).

We took a slightly different route back to Puerto Vallarta and the scenery from the bus was fantastic. Many passengers, including us, were trying to take pictures through the windows.

A few days after we returned from Guadalajara, we were ready for another adventure--a jungle canopy tour. These tours originated in Costa Rica and have been adopted here. We took a Mercedes troop transport (no kidding) up into the flanks of the Sierra Madre mountains to the jungle canopy tour headquarters. The basic idea is that you go 70 to 90 feet up into a tree and then go from tree to tree on zip lines. Zip lines are vinyl-coated, high-strength ropes. Each person on the tour is in a crotch-cramping harness with a bunch of climbing rigging attached, including a double-pulley arrangement that allows you to ZIP from one tree to another. To brake, if needed, your gloved hand on the zip-line does the trick--usually. At one point our send-off guide said we wouldn*t need to break on this particular span because it was a relatively shallow angle. So Kay didn*t brake. The receiving guide at the other end was distracted helping another guest. Kay came in fast, hit the fail-safe shock absorber and bounced about 15 feet back up the line. She had to pull herself hand over hand to get back to the platform.

The scariest part of the canopy tour was not riding the zip lines it was the two places where we had to cross these narrow, wobbly suspension bridges made out of one-foot wide plastic grates. Our safety lines were clipped on to another safety line running parallel to the bridge but it was too low to hang on to for balance so you just had to walk across--about 20 feet in one case--while you were swaying 70 feet above the ground. Not surprisingly, they have to lower people down to the ground every day who find out that they can*t do it once they get up there.

Despite Kay*s initial fears, and Steve*s developing mid-tour fears, we both made it and had a blast. By the way, the reason our guide was distracted when Kay bounced off the tree may have had something to do with the fact that the rest our group was made up of high-school cheerleaders from Michigan.

In between these adventures we have been keeping busy with a few boat projects, going into town for movies (Robots, Hitch, etc.), and just plain goofing off. More to follow.