TECATE, MEXICO: BONDING AT RANCHO LA PUERTA
by Roberta Sotonoff
You might find her on a treadmill, at Morning Stretch, Pilates, Fitball or at a water exercise. Ninety-three year-old Constance Wachs loves to exercise. It gives her a chance to meet young people.
"I don't want to become a tree," she often tells daughter, Marcia Dam, who has accompanied her to Rancho La Puerta, the chic spa in Tecate, Mexico.
"Marcia motivates me," says Connie. "She made me go to Nepal when I was 76. We trekked for 10 days."
Rancho La Puerta gives both mother and daughter, who live about 1,000 miles apart from each other, a chance to spend quality time together. They both love it.
Located just over the border south of San Diego, the spa is perfect for mother-daughter bonding. For me the bonding begins at the San Diego airport, when my two very different daughters and I join a busload of fitness wannabees and pamper-hopefuls. The bus winds through the mountains to the secluded spa just South of the Border, arriving just in time for lunch.
Beano is showcased at the buffet where every bit of food is marked with fat grams and calories. After lunch it's time to explore the area, sign up for spa treatments and skim the class schedule. There are a diversity of spa treatments and an unending variety of exercise classes, hikes and workshops for every taste and fitness level. And with evening programs and lectures that range from sexuality to travelogues, movies and bingo, there is never a dull moment.
Winding paths, hilly terrain and fragrant desert flora envelope each villa with privacy. Once settled in ours, my daughter Caryn, slips into her running clothes and makes her way to the trail. A nutritionist by training and an exercise junkie by choice, we couch potatoes often find her annoying.
"I want to get up early every morning, eat right, and exercise all day," she tells me.
On the other hand, Jamie, my older daughter, has brought a stash of contraband, - Diet Pepsi, Milky Ways, Chex Mix, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Doritos. Her plan to sleep in every day totally disgusts Caryn.
At dinner, Jamie believes she will die of starvation and obsesses about her stash. A huge portion of beets and a sweet potato casserole causes her to lament, "I am sick. I need a doctor."
Still we get her up and dressed for a 6:00 a.m. hike. The fragrance of blooming desert flowers permeates the switchback trails of Mount Kuchumaa. Later our days are overflowing with activities for mind, body and spirit, while stomachs are filled with fiber, water and an endless variety of beans. At three-quarters past the hour, when the ranch resembles a college campus, we are among the guests scurrying to yet another class.
Caryn, who always opts for cardiac-intensive exercise, gets us involved in circuit training.
Then there's belly dancing class. My klutzy skills come to the forefront as I get twisted and trip over the veils. Lisa Ireland, a woman with my similar skills, participates in the class with her teenage daughter, Kate.
Kate, looks at our tangled veils and says, "I am having a 'she's not my mother moment.'"
After exercising they can be found in one of the health centers enjoying delicious spa offerings like the Spring Shower and Seaweed Wrap. Being painted with seaweed and wrapped like a piece of sushi might feel strange, but when the therapist cleanses the green gook with a six-headed shower, you will swear you have reached Nirvana. Another heavenly treatment is the spa's Hot Riverstone Massage. A hint of pressure and warmth does wonders for sore muscles.
The spa week brings my daughters and me closer together. Troubles seem less serious when there is someone to listen, offer advice and share a communal hug.
Laughter has always been an antidote for us. We explore such classes as Inner Journey, which we decide is the perfect vehicle for someone who wants to travel and not leave home, meditation and the meditation dinner.
A ninety-minute silent dinner is quite a test for three silly ladies. An iffy moment occurs when Caryn spells out "hi" with her silverware. We almost lose it when one participant, who shuts his eyes and meditates after every bite, has his unfinished plate removed by the waiter.
Though the meditation dinner obviously is not for us, twenty-minute meditation is. We plan to incorporate it into our stress-filled lives.
Our mother-daughter event strengthens our ties. Spending time on neutral ground like a spa helps to solidify and heal even shaky mother-daughter relationships. Beano aside, Rancho La Puerta is a blast.
Ranch La Puerta offers free shuttle service from the San Diego Airport. Programs run from Saturday to Saturday. Low season summer rates begin at US$1839 per person per week and include all classes, meals, special programs and use of facilities. Spa treatments are extra.
For more on Rancho la Puerta: www.rancholapuerta.com