We spent most of our first day at the beach far away from it, solving the most quotidian problems. One of the really annoying things about owning a timeshare is the laissez-faire attitude of the other owners. We’ve always tried to make our place a little bit better, they seem driven to destroy whatever we try to do. While partnerships like this are always Socialist by nature – people invest in stuff and then submit for shared reimbursement – we’ve always just invested and born the cost, figuring it was more important to just make the place nice while we’re there. The problem is the destruction that takes place between our visits.

For example, a couple of years ago we brought down 4 lamps. Two by the bed, one on an end table and a standing lamp in the corner. As of today, one remained, the others having gone off “somewhere.” In the case of the end table lamp, it’s okay because the end table is gone too. I eventually found two lamps of a different generation shoved up in the back of the closet, one with the cord ripped out and the other missing the thumbscrew used to adjust its position. So our goal for the day was solving a) the missing thumbscrew, b) finding a lampshade, c) buying some bulbs, and d) re-wiring the unwired lamp.

D) was solved quickly, even before we left with only the tools I had at my disposal. A) and b) required a trip to Mexican Home Depot. America’s second-favorite home repair store isn’t quite the same down here. For one thing, they have a really nice parking lot that has covers over cool parking spaces that have decorative bricks with grass growing in them. The downside is that that they lack a lot of the basics. One year I planned to replace the swagged lamp over the kitchen table so off we went for a hook and some chain. After an extensive search, I finally mustered the courage to inquire in Spanish and was told, “Sorry, you’ll have to go to a hardware store.” “But we’re in a hardware store” was my first thought, mumbled only under my breath in the spirit of international diplomacy. Today though I was sure we’d do fine since hardware is hardware, right? Actually, no, it’s not.

C) buying some bulbs was easy enough. I found a 4-pack for a reasonable price and buoyed by our success, we went off to the little hardware corner where you can find nuts and bolts. What I needed was a little nut to go on the end of a piece of threaded rod. I figured finding an actual decorative thumbscrew to replace the missing one was going to be impossible so I planned instead to just find a nut and a washer to permanently hold the parts in place. Amazingly the little guide that helps you determine the size of the nut or screw you need was right there on the wall and I was able to immediately determine that I needed an M5 metric nut. I’ll admit for a moment I was tempted to steal the little M5 example on the chart because it was exactly what I needed. I even gave it a little push to see if I could work it free, but it was firmly held in place, thus denying my darker motivations. Now it was just a matter of finding the right drawer with the right parts. And color us amazed that here, in a metric country, all that we could find was every English-standard nut and bolt packaged in America with Chinese-made pieces and parts. After 15 minutes of searching, and just when I was about to find an American version that I could cross-thread into place with a pair of Vise-Grips, MLW said “look over here” and lo, she’d found a cabinet full of metric nuts. Five minutes later we were the proud owners of a bag of M5 lock-tight bolts and a box of LED bulbs. Lampshades though? Forget it. On to Walmart.

Like Mexican Home Depot, Mexican Walmart isn’t exactly like American Walmart. The store is laid out the same, at least initially, with produce and groceries on your left as you walk in the “grocery” side of the store. That’s pretty much where the similarities end, however, because then it’s motorcycles, scooters, stoves and refrigerators and a whole bunch of other things you’d never find in our store. We were initially distracted by a big panettone and Belgian chocolate Christmas display but regained our wits and went looking for the lamps. Failure again, not a lampshade to found and even the lamps themselves were not particularly inspiring so out the door, back to the car and on to the San Carlos thrift store where we found an almost acceptable solution for 50 pesos. The result of our travels – a), b), and c) neatly resolved.

We’d heard several stories about recent storms on the beach and our first walk confirmed the gist of them – lots of missing sand, exposed rock and a complete reconfiguration of the entrance to the estero down at the end of the strand. I’ve been taking photos of this beach here for 25 years, and the changes are sometimes subtle and other times striking. Today was the latter – big changes to the shape of things – the width of the beach, the layout of the sandbars and everything in general. We were told that the storm brought rain and wind for 4 straight days, and seeing how things were now, I’m not doubting that fact. It was quite interesting seeing what nature had wrought. Having a quarter-century perspective on it makes it all that much more interesting to look at.

The nightly tradition here is to park yourself on the seawall and wait for the sunset. They’re always good, and every day (at least in our case) pretty much leads to that conclusion. Sometimes they’re mild, sometimes they’re striking, sometimes they’re breathtaking. On this night, somewhere between striking and breathtaking. We sit and watch and chat with the fellow watchers and once it gets dark, it’s off to find some food. On this night, tacos beckoned.

JJ’s is the place of choice here in San Carlos. There are a lot of options along the main drag, but his place is just a touch nicer and JJ himself is such a character that there really is no other option. On this Saturday night the place was hopping – live music brings in the geriatric crowd for a festive night of drinking and dancing. We’re always greeted as regulars even though we only darken his door one time each year. The waitress asks “How many fish tacos?” and the busser brings MLW a small bowl of limes as her reputation for bathing her portion in lime juice is apparently part of the local lore. A couple of beers, three tacos each and some dancing to a band that can only play fast and even faster versions of a Norteña one-step and our trip out to dinner turns into a great evening, presided over by a pair of Donald Trump piñatas glowering down on the patrons from the rafters in the corner.

Today was a no-pressure day. No problems to solve, nothing to do but a slow drive around town admiring the sudden boom in local construction, another fantastic sunset and dinner out at our favorite fish place, home of creative menu choices and margaritas that come in giant bowls and a nice outside table overlooking the nighttime ocean.