Golf can be serious business or great fun. Tournaments make it more so, either way we look at it. So let’s look at one of my favorite events for us non-professionals, the Mesquite Amateur Golf Tournament.
Let’s dive right in to the basics of: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. Let’s add How to the mix. So, let’s take our Hydeout on a little adventure in reality.
I would hope that every serious golfer has taken the opportunity to give competitive golf a try. It’s not for everyone, I know. But, if it fits your personality, your golf game, or just your sense of adventure, I would urge you to give it a go!
If you’re reading this, you are already a good candidate. And, no, we don’t all have to be serious, we just want to have fun, too. So, nobody should feel left out! Everyone is welcome.
There are different divisions for different age groups as well as varying handicap levels, and for both men and women competitors.
The Mesquite Amateur, I think, is one of the premier stroke play events where amateurs can tee it up with competition from all over the United States, and elsewhere. The event is now in its 13th year, and still going strong.
It was started in 2003 in Mesquite, Nevada by Mesquite Gaming. The first tournament had 400 golfers in 12 flights competing for the overall title. This year, 2016, the event had 486 participants spread over 16 flights in 5 divisions or age brackets, Men 49 and under, Senior Men 50 to age 59, Super Senior Men age 60 to 69, Master 70 and older, and three Women’s divisions bracketed by handicap.
This is a 54 hole, individual stroke play event played over a different course each of 3 days. The top finishers of each flight go on to an additional final round at a selected venue to compete for the overall title of the Mesquite Amateur.
The last of May and first part of June is the schedule for the Mesquite Amateur. It usually starts after Memorial Day, with Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday rounds forming the competition. The low players from each flight then are invited to play in the Championship round on Friday of that week.
One of the reasons we enjoy this tournament is the climate. It is DRY. It is desert golf.
We have been to the World Amateur in the Myrtle Beach area several times. I love that tournament, too, but I have never played there yet without being rained on at least once during the week. I have said it before: “I am not a mudder”. I have played in rain before and will again, I’m sure. But my preference is for sunshine and a dry golf course. If nothing else, Mesquite offers that.
It also offers a laid back atmosphere. Though all the amenities of a larger city are present, it has a small town feel, an intimacy that is welcoming. So, non-golfers who might be accompanying their mates, take heart. There are other things to see and do in Mesquite!
The current course venues are:
- CasaBlanca Golf Club
- The Palms Golf Club
- Falcon Ridge Golf Course
- The Canyons course at Oasis Golf Club
- The Palmer course at Oasis Golf Club
- Conestoga Golf Club
- Coyote Springs Golf Club in Coyote Springs, Nevada.
Each of these venues is probably tougher than average, with plenty of desert landscape to view, and to dodge, and avoid for the benefit of your score. They are not pushovers, by any stretch of the imagination.
The evening events, which include a catered dinner developed and prepared by area chefs and served buffet style, are held in the CasaBlanca Events Center adjacent to the CasaBlanca Resort. Other participating hotels are Virgin River Hotel Casino and Eureka Casino Resort.
Mesquite is located approximately 80 miles east of Las Vegas. That close proximity to a major airport enables many to fly in, rent a vehicle and get there with minimal problems or challenges.
Many from California or Arizona drive there. We tried that last year, but, the 18 or 19 hour drive from Missouri was not in the plans this year.
We stayed in a condo for the week that is situated nearby to the Event Center. That has worked out well for us for the last two years. The above mentioned hotels also offer special rates to tournament participants.
- It’s fun; we create a playground for entertainment at every course or tournament we compete.
- It’s nerve racking, because we always want to do our best, even when conditions are not what we are used to.
- It’s exciting; playing against other people can ramp up our expectations or our demons.
- It’s educational; we learn how to cope. We learn how we react in different situations and among other competitors. We can learn from our mistakes as well as our successes.
There’s nothing like a little competition to get the blood flowing and the adrenaline pumping. At times, there’s nothing better. At other times, leisure is the name of the game. I get it!
But, when honest competition is available, we think there’s nothing comparable. Whether it’s the club championship or any other stroke, or match play event, a contest is a contest. And competition brings out the real you! I didn’t say the best you; I said the real you. And only you get to decide who the real you is!
But, when you want to play real golf against real golfers in a competitive situation, whether the outcome is for a prize or prestige or just for fun, tournament golf is the name of the game.
Relaxation and renewal is why we always bring our Hydeout when we travel. We try to follow the time honored and well documented formula of: FAR, food, activity, rest. In our personal lingo that would translate to: EGS or eat, golf, sleep. That may a little simplistic for some, but it does cover all the parameters of necessity for human growth.
Just how big a hypocrite are you, anyway? Or me too, for that matter?
I used to believe that I could look at my golf handicap and then look at others and say to myself (and hopefully, only to myself): “mine is as right as I can make it; theirs may or may not be.”
I now know that I was mostly wrong. I guess you could have called me a handicap snob, for a while, anyway. Oh, I still have doubts once in a great while about the veracity of the handicaps of some people I compete against.
But, there’s more to the story. Isn’t there always?
I’m going to go out on a limb here. I admit this: I used to think that my golf handicap was totally and brutally honest. I counted each and every stroke for every round of golf I played. I recorded (and still do) every score, using Equitable Stroke Control as per GHIN guidelines.
What’s not to like about that? That’s what the USGA expects! Right? Right!
But, the truth is: that’s not always how we always play. Is it?
I play the ball as it lies, or “down”, as called for in the Rules of Golf, quite often, most of the time, actually. But there are a few groups I play with that use what is referred to as “winter rules” all the time. I play with a few golfers that have never not “noodled” the ball, or rolled it, or whatever you call it where you live. Some people just call it cheating.
We do play for money; it’s not much, I admit. It’s definitely not enough to warrant reporting to the IRS, either wins or losses. But who wants to put themselves at a disadvantage while competing for stakes, even if it’s just who buys the beer?
Oh, one could take the high road and always play strictly by the Rules of Golf, regardless of what others did or regardless of any competitive disadvantage, but that would go somewhat against human nature. I mean, and I repeat, who wants to give everyone else an edge in any sort of competition, even a so-called friendly game? So, we do what everyone else does.
And that brings us back to accurate handicaps.
I learned a while back that the USGA, while still adhering to, and administering the Golf Handicap Information Network (GHIN) guidelines, determines handicaps not recorded strictly by the Rules of Golf to be inaccurate.
That is to say that what I once thought was almost above reproach, was in fact, incorrect in the eyes of the USGA. I guess I never really thought about it that closely. But scores could really be off a little by giving one’s self an improved lie once in a while.
I can almost hear some purists in my head saying: “you mean you actually move the ball and think that’s okay?” “You don’t think that’s cheating?”
So, there’s the first reason handicaps may or may not be as accurate as they could be. Yours or mine. People do move the ball around from time to time, whether you want them to or not.
The second that comes to mind is the handicaps that are inaccurate due to incomplete or selective posting.
This reason has two components, really. Some people have artificially high handicaps. They post only the highest of scores and clearly “forget” to post those rounds when they shoot a low score. Sandbaggers are in their element here, of course. Artificially high handicaps are in the clear majority in the artificial numbers game.
The ones who have artificially low handicaps are clearly in the minority, and for good reason. That practice does them no good, whether they know it or not. The only benefit is to their ego; that can be a costly ego trip (to somebody).
I once played a 2 man better ball match with a blind draw for partners. I drew a partner who claimed to be “a four”. He did not break 100, and probably couldn’t without benefit of an eraser. He wasn’t even embarrassed; he just cited excuse after excuse for his high score.
I was not upset at his play; he actually tried quite hard to shoot his best. I was rankled, instead because his artificially low handicap was far outside of his ability. He was only hurting his own chances for success (and mine, somewhat).
There are obviously more than two reasons for an inaccurate handicap. They may include:
- Not using Equitable Stroke Control (ESC) when posting
- Not turning in scores for unfinished rounds where at least 14 holes were played. (there is a way to record that score using GHIN allocated strokes)
- Thinking 9 hole rounds cannot be recorded
- Not recording tournament rounds
- Not recording rounds played away from your home course
The list goes on.
And I have not even mentioned “gimme” putts (You know, the ones people give you when you aren’t even involved in match play). How many of those strokes go by the wayside?
It may be tough to remember everything all the time. Everyone will forget something, sometime. And, it’s not only easy, but okay, to excuse ignorance of proper procedures most of the time. This is supposed to be a friendly game. Right?
But, it’s harder to accept when there is a purposeful avoidance of having an accurate, honest-as-can-be handicap. I just wish we all had one. Don’t you?
Why worry about this? The question does come up once in a while. My humble opinion is that as we travel, whether it is to another country, state or city, our handicap goes where we go, along with all our other baggage (pun intended). Shouldn’t our Hydeout be worry free?
“There’s three on and two out in the bottom of the ninth. The pitcher is ready, the count is full, and we have a rookie at the plate with a chance to give the home crowd a huge thrill if… ”
I grew up playing baseball. When I went to that land of make-believe, or whatever you want to call it, to pretend my performance would make a difference in the outcome, that was the sport of choice. That was where I lived. My heroes were all Major League ball players: Stan Musial, Curt Flood, Ken Boyer, Luis Aparicio, Bob Gibson, Ernie Banks, Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle. Yes, that dates me!
Whether I actually I stood at the plate, or hit fungoes or grounders to my friends in a pick-up game, thoughts of future prowess were always in the back of my mind. What little kid didn’t think of making the big play, getting the big hit, winning the game, or “bringing home the bacon” for the pure pleasure of the feelings we got when we focused on doing our very best!
My baseball playing days are long over.
I play golf for fun and recreation now. And, most importantly, golf is now my sport of competition! Golf is also a part of the reason for this blog. It has become that much a part of what we do. I know! This is personal; this is not purely meant for the blog-o-sphere. This just helps to explain why we do what we do.
I learned to play golf somewhat when I was a teenager. I played a few times with friends using either borrowed clubs, or later, clubs my long-absent father left for my brothers and I to share. I didn’t learn much, about golf anyway.
When my father’s hand-me-down clubs were stolen, when I was about eighteen, I didn’t bother replacing them. First, I couldn’t afford to do that. Second, golf wasn’t that important to me to even try to replace them.
I did not even try to play golf again until I was 35 years old. An inspecting engineer on a job I was working on became a good friend. He was, and is, an avid golfer. He loaned me a set of clubs to use to get started again in the game of golf. The game engulfed me with a fervor not felt for a very long time. I will forever owe him a debt of gratitude, not once, but twice!
At that time in my life I also hunted and fished in much of my spare time. When I added golf to my leisure activities, spare time became even more precious, and busy. There I was with work, a wife, two kids, hunting, fishing, golf… My wife gave me an ultimatum: one of them had to go. Much as I wanted to consider all the possibilities, that was not the time for jokes.
My friend, the engineer, used to problem solving, said: “I not only have another option, I have another extra set of clubs for her. Invite her to play with my wife and I, then you both can join us this weekend for a round.”
Up until that time, I had never found another sport that my wife enjoyed other than water skiing. At that, she was very good! In the almost 45 years we have been married, I have never seen her fall when there wasn’t an outside influence, like an inexperienced driver or an unexpected appearance of another boat in the way.
Baseball and softball were out. I still have her hand me things rather than toss or throw them to me. Unabashed, I keep reminding her she throws like a girl. We tried tennis, my second sport of choice in high school; wrestling was my first choice.
Nope! That wasn’t going to work either.
Okay! Golf it is! She accepted the invitation and the challenge.
I won’t tell you her score, though I do remember it to the very last stroke, but I will say that when she connected on every third or fourth, or even fifth shot, and it sailed down the middle of the fairway, she was bitten! She was hooked! The golf bug had a hold. Her comment, upon finishing, was: “I can do this! I liked this.” Thanks, Friend! A lifetime of couples golf awaited!
That was 1985.
Greene Hills Country Club, in Willard, Missouri, which had just expanded from a 9 hole course to 18 holes in September of 1985 was the venue for our first ever tournament experience. In October of that year we played in their “Cat and Dog” scramble. Thank goodness for the kind couple with whom we were paired. They were saints. They “awwed”; we laughed. They laughed; we cried. We shot 99 in a couples scramble. We placed dead-ass last. Yet, we managed to have a lot of fun. The very next year we joined that club.
My wife and I have definitely enjoyed playing golf since that time, much of our play in competitive formats. As we continued to improve somewhat, we played both individual and couples tournaments whenever they were convenient and it was within our budget. We both happen to be very competitive, even with each other. We used to play matches to decide who would wash dishes, or who would cook.
The various venues where we have competed have been all over the place, intentionally. We do like variety!
We have both competed in the Springfield City Championships; she still does. I quit after I realized how much of a “good-ole-boy” system the men’s competition was. Rules didn’t matter; all that mattered was how connected one was! BS to that.
We competed in the couples event at Grand National in Opelika, Alabama for about 9 years. That event was started by Golf Digest, and was a premier event for couples, and still is, but the schedule is somewhat awkward. The timing of the tournament revolves around the football schedule of Auburn University. Tough competition there! So, it was hard to plan ahead for that one.
One tournament that is easy to plan for but not necessarily easy to commit to is the Myrtle Beach World Amateur, formerly the DuPont World Am, formerly the PGA Superstore World Am… You get the drift. Don’t get me wrong! It’s a great event, probably the foremost in its class, or genre. There are still some 3,000 to 4,000 golfers that compete there each year on approximately 60 golf courses for 72 holes of competition. Wow! Only trouble is, the schedule calls for the tournament to be played the week before Labor Day. That’s rainy season in the Carolinas; some would say it’s even the beginning of hurricane season.
I’m not a mudder! I do not enjoy playing in the rain. I have played there 4 times and have yet to play a tournament without getting wet. Though the golf was good and the competition worthwhile, knowingly scheduling golf in the rain was not my idea of fun!
We tried golf in the desert. We liked it, and still do! That’s one reason we have competed a few times in the Mesquite Amateur. Similar, but smaller than the World Am, it offers the same scope of experience, only drier.
Golf, for us, is almost a necessity! It is a diversion; it is lifestyle; it is a passion. It is also a Hydeout.
We have continually enjoyed taking our golf clubs whenever possible when we travel, to extend our experience in golf adventure to other states and even other countries.
So, as we continue to search for different venues, different experiences in the world of golf, we would ask you to read along and share our love of the game.
Keep it in the short grass!
That, in a nutshell, is one of the first things I heard after the word “welcome”.
Recently, Linda and I took our Hydeout to Denver for a 3-day conference she was invited to attend. After checking into Woolley’s Classic Suites and taking advantage of their complementary happy hour, she and I got a text from her mentor to join them in the hospitality room set up for the Travel Agents Alliance Group, or TAAG.
When Linda started helping her mentor, Theresa Masterson, several years ago, it was to do research and to assist with wedding shows on a part time basis. Destination weddings and honeymoons are a large niche of the travel industry, and can be a lot of work. Their business was, at the time, affiliated with an umbrella company that had many franchises that could pool together and get better deals on travel packages for their clientele. When that company dissolved, there was still a need for support for the individual agents and companies that were left somewhat adrift. Hence, TAAG was established by co-founders Janet Ash and Elly Sterlacci, to replicate the benefits of the previous umbrella company without the negative ties some would remember.
During our welcome introductions a gentleman asked if I was going to participate in the meetings. Unsure of my agenda, my answer was going to be pretty much noncommittal. Before I could express my doubts, however, I was invited to join him and others to hang out, away from the busy workshop schedule.
I already knew that I would be welcome to attend the meetings along with my spouse, but I didn’t know if my attendance would be a bonus or a burden. And here I was offered an alternative.
It was also pointed out, quite literally, that my badge had me labeled as a TAAG-along. Well, okay!
In one respect I was already in unofficial tag-along mode since this whole trip was for Linda‘s business needs. But, now there was another agenda, quite flexible, and very laid back, to consider. I’m in!
I actually attended the morning session for about an hour and two short presentations from vendors representing resort groups. It was very informative, but my presence was redundant. Linda could handle this quite well without me in the way. The plan now was to meet the TAAG-alongs at noon.
Our first stop was Firehouse Station #26. That was both the name and location of a local craft brewery. Outdoor seating fit our needs, and the weather cooperated nicely. Some of the more “experienced” spouses spoke of the perks and dividends that might be earned by the agents through various vendors when waging a successful seasonal campaign. Discussion was good; so was the beer.
Next up was Lowry Beer Garden, located adjacent to the old Lowry Air Force Base. This craft brewery had indoor and outdoor seating, as well. Some more mellow conversation was accompanied by a more mellow brew, for me, at least. A nice apricot and wheat beer was a nice way to end our outing.
The evening agenda started with an adventure in TAAG-team-building. The entire group of agents and spouses went to Epic Escape Games. Divided into 6 groups of 6 or 7 members each, we were led to our assigned room, locked in and invited to solve games and puzzles to unlock the mystery and the exit door. We had a 60 minute time limit for the task. It definitely took teamwork and different modes of thinking and working together to figure out the “keys” necessary to escape. Our group was successful in getting out with about 6 minutes to spare. As the proof is in the pictures, you can see it was a tough task!
Whether a group actually escaped or not, it was still a good exercise to “people watch”, before and after (there definitely wasn’t time during the escape!). I must admit I’m often guilty of that; it’s probably part of being a bit of an introvert. It was both entertaining and educational to see who favored results and who was more focused on the process. Maybe I’m slightly nerdy that way, but it was interesting to experience.
There are many adjectives one could use to describe TAAG. The word inclusive would have to be near the top of the list. The fact that all of the activities were open for attendance by agents and spouses alike was proof of that.
Tonight’s entertainment exercise was the Escape Game; the next evening would be a wine tasting we would all attend. Both events were followed by dinners sponsored by various vendors. Let me say that the vendors were excellent hosts who appreciated the business ties they were cementing, because the food was outstanding and each dinner venue was unique. It’s not often I’m offered roast bison for a meal choice. And, yes, it was delicious!
Saturday’s outing with the TAAG-alongs was at a local golf course, Buffalo Run, which suited me perfectly, even though I didn’t come totally prepared. I joined Ron M., Glen Couch and Sean Ash, Janet’s husband and a pilot, in a game of Robins (short for round-robin partners match) for nine holes of fun. My only regret was my usual: I didn’t have my own clubs this time, either. Thank you TAAG-alongs for sharing!
Buffalo Run Golf Course
To recap, this long weekend was a fun, productive adventure with fun and productive people. We are excited to have met this group of dedicated travel entrepreneurs. We learned about TAAG. We got excited again about the many ways and places we could travel and help others do the same. And we look forward to hearing about your travels and wish list, too!
Mahalo and Aloha!
By the time January of 2015 rolled around, we decided to finally make a long-awaited visit to Panama to scope out the area for a variety of reasons: writing several articles for different types of publications, including this blog; possible relocation for home and/or business, or at least, a 6-month reprieve from Midwest weather; and to check out some new golf courses. We were hoping to visit for at least a week on this initial venture; we could only manage to schedule our stay for 8 days.
Panama City is a large bustling metropolis with all the amenities of a big city. Fine dining, theaters, museums, hotels, and visitor centers are spread among the buildings that house one of Panama’s biggest industries: banking. With all the goods and services that make their way through the Canal each and every day, money and banking is both a lucrative and necessary part of their economy. There is something here for everyone if you have the time and inclination to look.
They also have every bit of the traffic one would expect in a city this size. The decision to drive a rental car instead of depending on public transportation was one we questioned from the very first night. I quickly learned that my somewhat lacking skills in Spanish were compounded by a navigator that knew even less than I (I studied Latin and Spanish in high school; she studied French). But, if there’s one thing we have learned over the years, it’s this: vacation is not vacation without at least one U-turn.
Upon leaving the airport, with fairly detailed verbal instructions from the very helpful car rental agent, we proceeded to make our first (of many) U-turns, or as they refer to them on signs by the roadway, “retorno”. The second U-turn, unfortunately observed by Policia Nationale, was another of the many adventures we would look forward to. Let me just say that we were not ticketed, as we could have been, and I remain grateful to the Policia Nationale for their prudence when dealing with gringos, even when language barriers exist (especially if they want us to return as expats).
We finally found our way to the Hotel Riu, a very nice venue in the heart of the city, and our temporary abode. Once we became somewhat acclimated to our location, we realized how very convenient it was to many of the things we had planned. Didn’t we do well? (Here’s where I try not to hurt my arm… patting myself on the back).
Our first sight-seeing and research trip was, of course, to the Panama Canal. What U.S. citizen wouldn’t want to see that? Because we are baby boomers, we studied that in social studies and history courses enough that it was a no-brainer to get that out of the way early. It was definitely a worthwhile venture.
We didn’t get any pictures, unfortunately, of the construction of the new wider canal adjacent to these locks. This feature will assist Panama and the users of this seaway tremendously. The traffic going both ways was severely backed up with ships waiting to go through. And, with the wider locks being constructed, the larger super-size tankers and cruise ships will be able to utilize the canal for the first time.
When we left home I made a conscious decision to not take my golf clubs because this trip was supposed to be for exploration and research rather than purely enjoyment. Silly me! She, of course, took hers because, being practical, you’re allowed 2 checked bags on most International flights, and she has a hard time with rental clubs not fitting her properly. My decision cost me dearly because I though we might play once while we were there. No! It was more than once, and of course, I paid for rental clubs each and every time we did research at a golf course. Needless to say, I regretted my decision to leave my clubs at home every time she reminded me (which was fairly often, and fairly well deserved)!
Summit Golf Club
After our visit to the locks at Miraflores, Summit Golf Club was our first golf stop. It’s a very old course, built in the 1930’s, for Americans who lived and worked at the Canal Zone during that time. It’s situated about half way between the locks at Miraflores and those at Pedro Miguel. Green fees were $90 USD (United States Dollars). I always think golf is overpriced in Mexico and Central America. Usually, I believe courses would receive much more play and make just as much money if prices were lowered somewhat. But, they didn’t ask me. Oh, well … at least it’s consistent.
Tree lined and somewhat hilly, the course was a fairly traditional design, but not overly memorable. There weren’t many blind shots, always a good thing. Most of the trouble, such as bunkers and water, were fairly visible, which is always comforting even when the shot required may not be.
Since there aren’t as quite as many Americans there now because Panama now completely controls the canal, and has since December 31, 1999, and obviously employs native Panamanians, this course sees much less play than it once did. I thought it pretty obvious when I looked at their web site and noticed that nobody had updated it since 2010. The course, however, was maintained pretty well, but, not in primo condition according to our (or my) standards for American courses. We both played a rather mediocre round; of course, my excuse is rental clubs. What else would you expect?
Our next adventure was to explore the area around Coronado, about an hour’s drive from Panama City, “up” the coast, or west, if you pay attention to things like maps. This is the area that locals refer to as the “dry arc”, where there is actually less rainfall than other areas of this country, and plenty of nice beaches to draw people in. Plenty of ex-pats call this area home for this simple reason.
We’d heard nice things about Coronado and wanted to check it out as a possible landing spot, and because we knew there were enough golf courses in the vicinity to appeal to our curiosity. So, we did!
And we all know that driving around, gawking, and trying to not get lost is thirsty work. We found ourselves near the beach in the little village near Playa Farallon. Finding an establishment named “Woody’s” let us know we were in the right spot.
Upon entering, the first thing I noticed were about 6 televisions playing, and 5 of them had on a hockey game. Of course, we found out that Woody was from Canada, and this had been his place. Woody had passed on, but his legacy, in the form of this bar and grill, is still a place to find ex-pats and other friendly people, many of them Canadians like Rob B. and his wife, who enlightened us with tales of living in Panama as an ex-pat and sharing the local history. Actually, Rob chatted while his wife painted decorative lettering on the walls as a favor to the owners.
They did let us know of a “meet & greet” happening the next day at a local restaurant called Picasso’s, where many gathered once a week to chat informally with others who had moved here from afar.
Even though it would mean another hour’s drive back and forth from Panama City, we figured it would be worth it. Certainly we could squeeze in a round of golf before going to Picasso Community Happy Hour, too.
That took place at the Coronado Golf and Beach club in Playa Coronado just a few kilometers away. This Tom Fazio designed course was definitely to my liking. I’m a fan of his layouts! This one did not disappoint. It was long, but fair, for men and women alike, and thoroughly enjoyable.
Coronado Golf Club
Being here in January, I didn’t think twice about the somewhat brown look of the grass. At home most warm weather grass was dormant, so it looked natural to me. During our round the club pro drove out to chat with us, which I found surprising anyway, but they were not overly busy. He apologized for the condition of the course because it was the dry season; everything was not as green as it would be in a few more months! Heck, it was January; it was about 85 degrees; I was wearing shorts; I was playing golf on a really good course. Please, you have no need to apologize!
The short drive to Picasso’s allowed us to get a great parking spot and a table before the crowd arrived. And it did become a crowd. Many people were here to meet with friends; it was definitely a social event for most. Some were here to work, we found. Linda and I looked at each other with raised eyebrows when one gentleman let us know he was available if we wanted to look at real estate while were here. Yeah, and I’ve got a bridge in Arizona I’d like to sell cheap, too.
After he left us alone, a kind man came over and asked if we could chat. He warned us of our previous visitor. We thanked him for letting us know that not everyone who was here came for the food, the ambiance and good company. Niceties concluded, we enjoyed a fun evening of music and good conversation.
Time for a Hydeout
After 4 days in Panama, and several trips driving, sightseeing, golfing, fine dining and generally being on the go, we decided to take a little break for pure relaxation and a little research. Every trip needs one of those, and we call it a Hydeout. We wanted to visit one or more of the Pearl Islands (Isla de Las Perlas). So, we did!
We took a water taxi in the form of Ferry Las Perlas, which, at the time, cost $95 each USD, round trip for the approximately one hour fifteen minute ride each way to Isla Saboga. If $95 sounds a bit high, let me explain; also included are use of equipment on the island such as kayaks, snorkel gear, the lounge facilities, chairs, hammocks, and best of all, lunch and drinks, to include beer and wine. Spirits and mixed drinks would be extra, of course, if desired, but, hey… not bad. And, most of all, it was exactly the type of relaxation we were looking for.
The ferry must have been on “island time” or we were just anxious to get started. When we did leave we enjoyed a pleasant ride to our destination. The large ferry passed us off to a smaller shuttle to get us to shore because there was no dock or landing. We really were beaching the craft to climb out and wade ashore. Good thing we were forewarned and dressed for the beach; this just made it seem more rustic. We were glad we were looking for natural and quiet rather than looking for a five-star experience.
Baby whale bones overlooking the sea at the Beach Club, Isla Saboga
Back to the City
Returning to Panama City served as a reminder, to me, at least, that travel in other countries should make one aware at all times. Not all public transportation rates are published or depend on meters. Our taxi ride to the ferry point in the morning was a very reasonable $3 fare from our hotel. Failing to ask or negotiate with the cab driver returning us to our hotel was my mistake. This driver wanted $7 for the same trip. The morning driver received a very nice tip. That’s all I’ll say about that.
When in Panama City, it’s almost a requirement to visit Casco Viejo. This quaint old town area is as colorful as the native dress. There are quite a few street vendors who wear their vividly colored attire. Historic to its core, it is home now to many hotels and restaurants that cater to tourists and locals alike.
One eatery that stands out to us is a tapas bar called Tantalo’s located in the Tantalo Hotel. Everything on the menu looked and sounded great. Additionally, our waiter gave us great advice. We enjoyed three different dishes over the course of the evening, finishing with an after dinner beverage at the roof-top bar. Linda tried the house specialty, the Zen-Jito, and voted it a sure winner. Since we ate at our normal dinner time, we were still ahead of most of the night life and the crowd. As we were leaving, the roof-top bar was filling up nicely; they were set to party with views of the city skyline at their fingertips. Next time we are in Panama we will make it a point to visit Tantalo’s again, without a doubt.
One more trip to the area near Playa Farallon on our last full day there took us to Mantaraya Golf Course. As a semi-private venue, it also welcomes membership to the club for a fairly reasonable annual fee. The many condos and the nearby hotel pretty much guarantee a number of players available for continued viability. The course was a fairly open layout with few trees, but plenty of bunkers to keep things exciting. It was a fitting end to our time in Panama.
Since we didn’t get to do all we had hoped, there will be a return trip. Next time perhaps we will fly to David and visit the western portions and mountain areas as well as the beaches near there. We are definitely looking forward to our next visit!