Pedaling Toward Fifty:
Mari Pintkowski has been busy writing a book about a bicycle trip her husband, Lou, took when he was turning 50, more than 10 years ago, and wanted to insert a chapter for your critique. What do you think? Is this something you want to know more about?
May 25, 2002, Lou and I gathered together with our friends and family on the beach in Galveston, Texas, where we released live butterflies as a symbol of a new beginning, and shared the vows we wrote to one another. The sea and the world around us has been a passion for us as a couple, so we concluded our ceremony with an exchange of "gifts of nature" and these words, while all the while one of the released butterflies sat perched on Lou’s shirt pocket over his heart.
"Lou, you came softly and slowly into my life. Because you love me, I see with new eyes and hear with new ears. I delight in every day and in every adventure we share. I want to give you a gift of nature, a piece of beach glass. It is a symbol of how my life has changed. We, like the beautiful colored glass, are tumbled by the waves, rubbed together on the sand, bleached in the sun and our edges smoothed out by the abrasion and pleasure of being together."
"Moe, our love grew slowly; it started with a true friendship and blossomed to what it is today. Your love gives me strength and courage as we face our future together with optimism and joy. I want to give you a gift from the sea found on beaches we have traveled on together. It is a symbol of my love for you."
The wedding celebration continued for the rest of the week before we returned home to begin our life as a newly married couple. We took with us a bundle of memories tucked into our wedding album to remind us of this commitment to one another.
One evening when we were finishing up our day, Lou asked, "Hey Moe, do you mind if I take one of the wedding photos and add it to my white plastic box of memories?" I nodded, and was delighted now to be a part of Lou's life treasures placed neatly away in the back of the upstairs closet. Little did I know that this box of treasures would be pulled out again so soon and packed up when we sold the house and moved to Mexico a few months later.
From the day Lou pedaled off from my arms in Steamboat Springs, Colorado on his two-and-a-half-month-long bike journey, he knew he wanted to show me the beauty that abounds in the West and along the Puget Sound in particular.
I arrived home one sunny summer day to the joyous announcement that Lou could not wait any longer to take me to the Pacific Northwest to relive a portion of his bicycle journey. "I couldn’t resist Moe; I found a good deal and booked two tickets for Seattle. We won’t need to buy a travel guide, we'll use my journals."
Bubbling over with excitement, I responded, "When should I start packing?" During the next month, life as a married couple was filled with conversations that included our hopes and dreams for the future. From one of our earliest back-door-tour trips to Costa Rica, we had talked about buying property south of the border and creating some sort of small tourist-related business that we could carve out a living from and immerse ourselves in a more peaceful, affordable lifestyle of retirement than we knew was possible in Vail, Colorado, where we called home. "Do you think this dream will ever become a reality?" I asked one evening, as we sat beside the fire pit on the sandy beach Lou had created in our garden in Vail.
"Moe, if we are really serious about this dream, then we can start now to look for a location. I have been reading that the Australian government is offering tax breaks to people who will settle and start businesses in Tasmania. It is an island, and you do have your Australian-Durack relatives who live near Perth that you want to meet, so what do you think of this idea?"
I know my face was projecting a bit of a grimace when he looked to me for a response. "I'm excited that you want to actually explore this dream, but I was imagining a location a bit closer to home."
I continued, "I only have one daughter, and one day she and Rich may have children and I know I don’t want to be SO far away. Maybe we could begin our search in Mexico?" Lou took the lead and began to research the possibilities in the Yucatan Peninsula of Mexico, where we had vacationed often the last few years. This vision began to develop into a plan that just might grow into what both of us had in mind for the next chapter of our lives.
"Hey Moe, perhaps it is time to begin the search for a piece of property on which to build this dream. I think we need to postpone the trip to the Pacific Northwest and follow the momentum that seems to be growing with our idea to retire south of the border."
I knew how much Lou wanted to share a piece of his past with me by backtracking on the same roads he traveled in 1995, but agreed with him that the other option felt like a priority.
We did find that piece of paradise on Tulum beach, only one mile south of the unforgettable Tulum ruins. One year later, we sold our house and closed one door of our life in the ski resort of Vail, Colorado and drove south to Mexico in a used Suburban pulling a trailer with 4,000 pounds of our belongings that we could either not sell, give away or bear to part with. This adventurous move to the Riviera Maya proved to be a roller coaster ride. We documented the journey along what we called "the Mariposa Trail" and I transcribed the journals and eventually published the book, Embarking on the Mariposa Trail, spilling all the secrets we had uncovered on our journey.
Over the next few years, our dream of owning and operating a B&B south of the border became a reality. We learned a lesson about dreams that if you let go of one, you just might find a better one waiting for you around a corner. This is exactly what happened when we realized we could not get permits to build what we wanted on the beach; perhaps the jungle, just a few miles inland, would provide just such an oasis for this shift in thinking. We found a buyer for the beach lot and expanded our property that we were living on in a small Mayan pueblo, Macario Gomez, only 12 miles from the popular tourist Mecca of Tulum.
At La Selva Mariposa, the jungle butterfly, we slowly added a room or two at a time and built up a reputation as an "elegant boutique hotel that is operated by a couple from Colorado (us) who share a passion for their new home and the surrounding countryside."
Lou and I blossomed under the gentle guidance of the mariposas (butterflies) that frequented our waterfalls, cenote-style pools and gardens, lush with tropical plants and flowers. We often reflected on these familiar words, "In order to be happy, one needs three important things: something to do, someone to love, and something to look forward to."
We had each other and we were never at a loss for something to do. Lou's carpentry and design skills expanded in this environment, abundant in tropical hard wood, natural limestone, eager laborers and unlimited time. Lou and his crew of Mayan workers finished the fourth suite with its own pool and waterfall at La Selva Mariposa, and it was fit for a Mayan king. Each piece of limestone was hand-hewn and carefully put in place. The detail on the casita was inspired by the ancient architects who created the ruined cities of Ek Balam, Tulum and Cobá. The art that was incorporated in both the interior and exterior of the three-room suite was carved by a Mayan, Regulo, from the nearby pueblo of Manuel Antonio. Lou had a vision for each room in the suite and the final results, furnished with textiles from our road trips in Mexico, were spectacular.
You might have thought that Lou would now stop to rest, but there was always one more creative idea to bring to fruition; like the spa, waterfall, and bubbling-reflection stream that connected the spa to the magnificent Chichén Itzá waterfall and pond in front of our house.
Were our days of travel over now that we were Inn Keepers of a successful B&B, and had a grandchild living in Colorado? Was wanderlust a thing of the past?
Neither of us wanted to admit that we were getting older and were settling into this paradise in the jungle with ease and comfort, but Jamison Coda still sat beside Lou's workshop reminding us daily of his long past adventure to the Pacific Northwest and our plans to one day return.
Mari Pintkowski and her husband, Lou, operate their B&B, La Selva Mariposa, located near Tulum. To read more about their adventure, order Embarking on the Mariposa Trail on www.amazon.com.
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