Welcome kind reader. At this point in the story, in the spring of 2008, Bruce and Mary are contemplating their next move toward the goal of owning the Ramblin Rose B&B, on the Mexican Gulf Coast, just outside the little fishing village of Chuburna.
View of the Gulf Coast from the Ramblin Rose Deck
We are settled into our comfy one bedroom apartment in downtown Mérida and having cocktails on our tiny patio fronting busy Calle 59. With our transition to Mérida complete I turn my attention to the Ramblin Rose. I ask Mary, “Well what do you think?” Mary surprises me by saying, “I really want that B&B.” We’d been so busy with our move into the city and getting an orientation to our city lives that this is really the first chance we’ve had to talk about possibly pursuing the purchase of the Ramblin Rose B&B.
“Really?” I respond. “Yes, it would be so cool to have the kids down, and Neil and Kevin and Rosie and it’s small enough that we wouldn’t be in over our heads.”
I certainly agree, this whole idea of owning a small hotel or B&B in México has been my baby from the start and I was glad to hear that Mary, although always supportive of this idea, was now so enthusiastic. We start putting pen to paper and we come up with an offer that we feel we can afford. Dan, the Ramblin Rose owner, had made it clear on our last visit that he would entertain offers involving owner financing.
I quickly call Dan and he is glad to hear from us. He says it would be great to have us over to talk details, tomorrow morning.
We are up early the next day to hoof it over to the Progreso bus terminal where we hop the 8:30am Chuburna bus. Just outside Mérida we leave the super highway to meander through seemingly a hundred tiny pueblos on our way to the Ramblin Rose. At one point we find ourselves playing chicken with a car coming right at us on this 1 ½ lane tarred road with no shoulder. I figure it must be some stupid gringo or Canuck but I see just as our bus veers at the last second, that it is a local, looking right at us. I get slapped by some low jungle brush through the open window and spend the next several minutes picking twigs out of my tank top. Thankfully the rest of our 90 minute, 35 kilometer journey is uneventful.
We are greeted at the inn by a cheerful Dan and we re-familiarize ourselves with the place. It is just as we remember it. We quiz Dan again on the book of business. He explains again, that it is hard to say, he hasn’t yet completed a full year, but he assures us that he was quite busy with local clients last summer. With his new website in place, he tells us that the winter business is growing as well. We rehash the cost of utilities and other overhead and then Harriet, Dan’s wife, joins us for a tour of the area in Dan’s extended cab Chevy pickup.
We cruise down Chuburna’s main street to the far side of town and then onto a dirt road to a secluded beach area where Dan has heard rumors that a major hotel chain is building a beach resort. Then Dan takes us to a ria inlet that is great for fishing, right off the ruined bridge abutments. I get a little turned around but then I get my bearings as we come back into town by the baseball field. I am surprised to hear that town team baseball is big here.
We’re bouncing along the beach road towards the B&B again as Dan points out two colorful, renovated houses on the beach that belong to a couple of Canadians who enjoy some very positive cash flow renting them out as vacation properties. I ask if his experience is similar to ours, that Canadians want to talk about sex all the time. He says these two Canucks happen to be gay but yes, he was just at a party where the Canadian hostess could talk of nothing else, in between beers. Crazy Canadians.
I see the time is approaching 1:00 when our bus to Mérida is due at the bus stop in town. Dan is happy to whisk us there and while we wait in his air conditioned cab for the bus, I make our proposal. Dan and Harriet listen intently as I explain our offer. The offer is full price for the Ramblin Rose, in exchange for only 25% down and owner financing with monthly interest-only payments and a five year balloon. I hold my breath to see if he’ll dismiss it out of hand but instead he simply nods his head and says, “I’ll get back to you tomorrow, but if we do this deal I want to close by June 1st.” As it is April 1st today, I don’t see any difficulty and I’m pretty excited by his response, “Sure, no problema!” I blurt out.
Right then the bus rounds the corner and pulls over. We say our farewells and exit the truck for the bus.
The bus ride back to Mérida takes no time at all as Mary and I are giddy with the idea of actually owning a B&B in México. We both agree that it is plain that Dan will accept our offer.
The sun is setting as we are enjoying cervezas on our little patio fronting Calle 59. We are having fun with the idea of running the Ramblin Rose but then I start having buyer’s remorse even though we haven’t actually bought the place, yet. We start doing the mental calculations for the expense involved in furnishing the Spartan-like units, installing TVs, DVD players, and mini-fridges for each room, and the cost of converting the room off the kitchen into a fourth unit. And I realize that I have not, until now, even considered the closing costs. We do the rough math and it seems that we will be dangerously close to the absolute minimum bank balance comfort zone that we had established for ourselves before we set forth on our escape to México.
But then we have a couple more beers and talk excitedly of how near we are to our dream of serving cocktails with little umbrellas to our guests, relatives, and friends, on the deck of our own Mexican B&B while watching the sun set into the Gulf of México. On this pleasant picture we hit the hay.
It’s 3am and I am having the first panic attack of my life. I wake Mary up and I let it all hang out. This is a pipe dream, we don’t have enough money and we’ve made this mistake before. I remind Mary of the joke the banker told us shortly before he shuttered our Minnesota restaurant, years ago, “Know how to make a little money in the hospitality business?” “Start with a lot!” he finished. We both realize with crystal clarity that we have been drunk with the romantic idea of running a B&B catering to our kids and friends, grinning slyly as our whole network cheered us on with a few friends actually becoming a little jealous of us. We suddenly realize, now, that we came down here to escape, not to have another heart attack trying to crack a nut relying upon people walking through the door of our highly leveraged business.
I wait until the decent hour of nine before calling Dan. Naturally before I can say anything he gushes that he accepts our offer and already has his English speaking attorney working on the paper work. Dan, to his credit shows great restraint in refraining from the use of any four letter words when I renege on our offer.
As I hang up our $10 Mexican cell phone I say to Mary, “I feel like we just dodged a bullet.” But it does take us months to finally cure ourselves of this most addictive dream: owning a Mexican B&B.
Thanks for visiting, gentle reader. What’s with these two, anyhow? They have the lucky chance, with their meager resources, to own their own B&B and now they just walk away. Well, as you may have already guessed, the title to the next post is, “Now What?” Bruce appreciates all comments and will respond in “real time”.