Take a Break from Winter - Valley News Live - KVLY/KXJB - Fargo/Grand Forks

Update: Take a Break from Winter

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FARGO, N.D.-As we "took a break from winter" Monday night, we caught up with a few valley snowbirds spending part of their winter in the Pacific coastal city of Zihuatanejo, Mexico. Tuesday night, we continued our tour, with Valley News Team reporter Neil Carlson taking us 20 miles north to Troncones, where a Grand Forks native has retired.

More and more Americans are building retirement homes along the Pacific Ocean and its beautiful beaches. In fact, Trip Advisor has called Troncones "one of the top vacation destinations on the planet." Grand Forks native Ernie Mrachek calls it "home."

Mrachek grew up in Grand Forks and spent his career installing ceramic tile around the Duluth area. Following a trip to Mexico in the late '90s, Mrachek and his brother built some rental homes. Today, he spends his retirement managing them.

By Mrachek's estimation, "an average couple could live [in Troncones], comfortably, in a decent place to live for $1,500 a month."

Ron Thone is one of Mrachek's neighbors in Mexico, and a fellow northern native who has made a life in Troncones.

"That winter it was like 60 below, not counting wind chill," Thone recalls. "So, I said, 'The hell with this, I'm out of here.' My sister happened to call me and said, 'Hey I'm going to Mexico looking for property, come on along.' So, I did."

So, now while it's the dead of winter in the Valley, Mracheck and his neighbors spend their days in the warm sunshine of Mexico.

Contact Ernie Mrachek:

 Ph# 52 755 553 2879

 Cell phone: 521 755 558 3672

E Mail: reservations@casasgregorio.com

Trip Advisor Guide to Area: http://www.tripadvisor.com/Tourism-g445057-Troncones_Pacific_Coast-Vacations.html

FARGO, N.D.-Monday and Tuesday, Valley News Live invites you to take a break from winter.

While many valley snowbirds flock to Arizona, Texas, or Florida during our long, cold winter months, other folks head much farther south. Valley News Team  reporter Neil Carlson takes us down 2,000 miles to Mexico's Pacific coast.

Folks from all over the planet gather in Zihuatanejo, Mexico, during the winter months, where the dry season just about guarantees hot and sunny weather.

Mark Ala worked at the Grand Forks Housing Authority for years. Now, he and wife Kris have made the trip to Zihuatanejo an annual event.

"The weather is fabulous," Ala smiles, gesturing about at a white sandy beach half-shaded by palm trees. "It's always 85 to 90 degrees, everyday. I think I've been here 12 years. It misted twice for half an hour during all the times we were here. It never rains."

Bemidji State graduate Mike Forsberg agrees, it's all about the weather.

"The consistently dependable weather," Forsberg adds. "I like the heat. I like the sun."

The bay calms the waves of the open Pacific Ocean, making it kid- and pet-friendly, and if you like to do anything on the water, it's all here. Of course, you can also just sit back in your beach chair, watch, and relax.

If you want a hotel on the water, you'll want to stay on La Ropa Beach, where the price for a beachfront hotel room ranges from $80 to $150 per night-however, if you're lucky enough to have one of those North Dakota oil wells in your backyard, you might spend as much as $1,400 per night for a suite at the Viceroy Hotel, where many movie stars have stayed over the years.

Viceroy Hotel general manager Martin Kipping proudly points out the many amenities his hotel has to offer: "We do have, on request, a mayordomo, or a butler service. There is a beach front palapa with a hanging bed, which is included in the services as well."

In downtown Zihuatanejo, U.S. and Canadian sports fans gather daily to keep up-to-date on their favorite teams. The area is worth exploring, with hundreds of shops, boutiques, bars and restaurants, and a night life that lasts until morning. Downtown hotels are cheaper, too, going for as low as $30 to $60 per night-but for most folks, regardless of accommodations, the trip to Zihuatanejo is all about taking a break from winter.

"Go get wet, and then dry off. Go get wet again and wait for happy hour," Karen Katzung says, explaining her daily routine. "Watch the sunset, and then go out to dinner. That's pretty much it."

Even if you can't make the trip, you must admit: it's a nice thought on a cold winter day.


 Security: Mexico's border with the United States and some Mexican States are dangerous, because of drug wars. However, Zihuatanejo, which is located in the State of Guerro is in a tourist zone. It is heavily protected by Federal troops. I've been there nearly 20 times and I've never felt threatened or insecure.

  Simply take the same precautions you would in any big American city. Do not walk the beaches at night and stay in lighted areas downtown.

Traveling Around:  Do not rent a car. Everything is very close together. Taxi's are everywhere and only cost $4.00 a trip.

  When you leave the airport, taxi drivers will ask $30-$40 for your trip to downtown or hotel you may have booked on the beach. You can pay it or walk out across the parking lot to the left and just past the airport gate. Buses arrive every 15 minutes and will take you downtown for less than $1.00. If you don't know where to go from downtown, spend another $4 for a taxi.

Where to Stay: If you're a first time traveler to Zihuatanejo, I would recommend the "Villa Mexicana Hotel". It's located on the beach and reasonably priced.  Taxis are right there to take you downtown for $4 or take a 20-minute walk.

  If you're more adventurous and want to save some money, simply walk around downtown, until you find a hotel you like. You do not need to book ahead.

  I've stayed at the "Hotel Susy" a couple of times. It's not fancy, but it's clean, air conditioned with T.V. and downtown, next to all the action.

Phone Hotel Susy: 1-800-702-8579


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