The tropical paradise on Mexico’s Pacific coast that’s not Puerto Vallarta or Acapulco
When I think of an authentic Mexican getaway, I immediately start with the food: fresh ceviche, guacamole, and fish tacos. When I think of an ideal beach vacation, I think of a tropical climate with warm water, coconut palm trees, and soft sand. And when I think of great service, I think of raising a flag on my beachside palapa to signal I’m ready for another margarita and having it delivered moments later. But there’s only one place I know that has all three: Zihuatenejo.
In mentioning to friends that I’m headed to Zihuatenejo, Mexico, for a vacation, they either don’t know where it is or have only heard the name from Shawshank Redemption. It’s the place Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman escape to — quite literally — in the denouement of the 1994 film. I’ve been visiting Zihua, as it’s known, with my wife for more than a decade. Our destination wedding took place there in 2003 on Playa la Ropa, the main beach on Zihuatenejo Bay, in front of what was then Hotel Villa del Sol.
This small luxury beach resort with 46 rooms and a picture-perfect infinity pool has changed ownership twice since then. It became The Tides and is now the Viceroy Zihuatenejo. During this same period, my wife would give birth to our two children, now five and eight. I’d write a book and found a VC-backed software company. The United States would fight two different wars in the Middle East, elect its first black president, and go through the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. And yet through all of this, the Viceroy Zihuatenejo changed only in name. The rooms, the vibe, the menu, the service, and several members of the staff are just as they were in the late ’90s and early ’00s. Which makes sense, because it’s not possible to improve on perfection. [Read more →]
The second annual #ChefsCycle ride to benefit No Kid Hungry sets the stage for a new cause-based cycling franchise
I’m in a paceline with Chefs Jason Roberts and Jeff Mahin on the Pacific Coast Highway, rolling through Malibu, California. We’re spinning along at 30 mph, riding in a narrow sleuth between weekend traffic on our left and a blur of of parked cars and surf boards to the right. This is the final stretch of a 100-mile ride that started in Santa Barbara earlier in the day and is about to end in Santa Monica. And although we have two more days and another 200 miles to go, ultimately ending up in San Diego, you wouldn’t know it from the pace. Roberts and Mahin are dropping the hammer to support a great cause…and to put the hurt on me.
For its second year, #ChefsCycle features East- and West-Coast versions, which go from New York City to Washington D.C. and Santa Barbara to San Diego respectfully for a grand total of about 600 miles. Roberts and Mahin are joined by a couple dozen other chefs who, combined, are raising more than $330,000 for No Kid Hungry. This translates into roughly three million meals. No Kid Hungry (NKH) is a campaign of national anti-hunger organization Share Our Strength, which has grown exponentially over the past five years. Unlike so many health and environmental causes, the goal of NKH is readily achievable with resources alone.
Which is to say it doesn’t require a moonshot or scientific breakthrough to get food to children in need. It goes without saying that the children of the world’s wealthiest nation should not suffer from malnutrition. Still, according to NKH, one in five kids in the U.S. will face hunger this year. This is why NKH has been partnering with America’s chefs and restaurants for nearly 30 years to support its cause. It’s a natural fit. By the same token, it’s rather perverse that Type 2 diabetes, largely the result of obesity, has reached epidemic proportions among children. So it’s also about providing healthy food and, if Roberts has his way, a dash of fitness.
Reducing stress and discomfort on cycling “touch points” will make you to go farther faster
Road cycling is synonymous with suffering. We relish the pain. It’s one of life’s great dichotomies, where something that hurts so bad can feel so good. But through all the suffering on century rides and beyond-category climbs, we also want to be as comfortable as possible. Which is to say that despite the burning in our legs and lungs, there’s no reason our hands, feet, and butt should be tortured. Saddle sores, foot cramps, and numbness are not what we signed up for. That’s a different type of pain. It’s real pain, the stuff we avoid or else take drugs to mitigate. Pain and suffering are two different things in the world of cycling.
So I set out to find a number of ways to optimize these touch points and maximize comfort.
I made the switch to Selle SMP two years ago, and it was like going from a 1979 Pinto to a 2015 Lexus. I immediately outfitted each of my bikes accordingly — both road and mountain — because there’s no going back. The unique SMP design provides a cradle of comfort and performance, eliminating numbness while offering ideal riding positions for steep climbs, flat-out time trials, and everything else in-between. I prefer the mid-wide Lite 209, which is generously padded, but there’s a model to suit any body type or riding style.
Going from a standard bar to the Metron is like going from straight to parabolic skis. It feels right. It feels like it was designed with the specific demands of road cycling in mind, such that it elevates both performance and comfort. I initially sought a bar with a flat platform on top to spread out the pressure on my hands. This is a key feature of the Metron, for sure, but the top bar also has a slight rise, which relieves lower-back stress on long stretches, and a 10-degree forward bend, which is a more ergonomic hand position. Finally, there is a flat section behind the brake hoods that provides a more cradled hand position.
The North Shore of snowboarding is inspiring, unforgiving, and the best riding on the planet
The helicopter buries its skids into a knife ridge no wider than a snowboard is long. This first attempt marks the landing zone high up in Alaska’s Chilkat Range, north of Haines, Alaska, and not far from the Canadian border. The pilot makes a second attempt to establish the L-Z, but the ridge isn’t cooperating. Instead, he opts for a toe-in landing, which means the bird is essentially hovering as the five of us carefully climb out onto said ridge.
It’s early April. I’m here with two friends, David “Scotty” Scott and Chris “Geeb” Guibert. We’ve been matched up with a solo Swiss rider, Gabe, to make a foursome. We’re lead by Gabe Gioffre, the lead guide for Alaska Heliskiing, one of the very first outfits to establish AK as the global Mecca of skiing and snowboarding. It doesn’t get much bigger or heavier or more devout than this.
To one side of the ridge is a 50-degree face that immediately cliffs out. The run we’re contemplating on the other side starts at about 45 degrees and then exits into a big bowl. Swiss Gabe is first to drop it. He straight-lines the face and hops off a small feature as he enters the bowl. At that moment, an avalanche releases upslope to his left. It’s about 50 yards across and a foot or so deep. With great deft, he navigates laterally across the slide to safety on a higher slope outside the slide path. We all watch in semi-terrified amazement as the avalanche rumbles down the bowl and comes to a rest. Now it’s our turn.
Optimizing a brand’s locations for search, discovery, and traffic — both online and in the real world
There has never been more ways to find a Starbucks. You can go to the store locator on the website. Chances are, it will be the mobile version, because that’s how local search happens more often than not.
Or you could use the Google Maps, Apple Maps, or Bing Maps apps. You could check Yelp, Foursquare, Facebook (Places), or the newest local discovery app, Vurb. If you’re over 50, then your car’s navigation system is also an option. What’s more, you might just type “coffee shop” into a search engine and see what comes up — could be a Starbucks but more likely it’s a neighborhood cafe.
This challenge for brands like Starbucks…and Bank of America and Target and McDonald’s and H&R Block and Verizon — any brand with hundreds or thousands of locations — boils down to two things: search and discovery. How easy is it for consumers to find the restaurant, the store, the branch, the office? That’s search. And how likely is one to find a particular store over another when searching the category? That’s discovery. All of which drives foot traffic, web traffic, and ultimately sales. Managing this at scale is no small task. Given how fragmented the local search ecosystem has become, brands face a nearly impossible challenge in getting this right.
What I’m describing here is broadly known as local SEO i.e. search engine optimization for physical locations. What are the benefits and ROI? Not only does it mitigate lost traffic and sales that would otherwise go to competitors, but if you do this right, it will generate incremental sales by owning premium real estate on the mobile devices of today’s consumer.
One thing is for certain. Tackling this challenge requires technology. It requires a software platform designed to automate the bulk of local SEO. It also requires the human touch to truly excel in this space. If you’re looking to win in local SEO, the solution must combine the best of both worlds: technology and services.
With that in mind, following are the five steps to nailing local SEO: