ray ban
 
PAT & CAT SPIN TALES OF THE TRAIL
 
 
Cycling in Mexico

Over the Mountains, through the pines and cold thin air that seem so not Mexican. Then, out onto the desert and the real Mexico. The people have been wonderful. We feel so at home and so safe. Not one incident or even a tense moment. Well there were tense moments about the roads and traffic. In fact these moments have us changing plans a couple of times. In this issue of our journal you can take a ride in a yacht, see a whale then ride the famous Train up to the Copper Canyon. And, you’ll meet lots of new friends along the way. So, you READ, we RIDE!

SEE YA IN SAN DIEGO!

Mexico City to Los Moshis, Mexico
December 19, 2005 to January 29, 2006

December 19, 2005
Bus Ride to Toluca

Slow start, Last wonderful Breakfast Buffet. So cold on the deck that everyone took seating inside. We had to wait. We called Salvador but he doesn’t do short runs in his car. With bikes and bags in the lobby we fought the Taxi drivers but they wouldn’t take us and our things in one car. So, the Hotel arranged a van.

While waiting we struck up a conversation with Terry & Kathy. They’re from Waterloo, Ontario, Canada and here in Mexico for 3 months. Escaping the cold, they’ll take a bus out this morning for Acapulco. They’ve rented a house there.

One of the guys from the Hotel shared our expensive ride to the bus station. Good deal for him. Got a man with hand truck to take bags and one bike I carried the other. My right arm is really getting worse. That darned torn rotator cuff really acts up in the cold and its cold here again, today.

It was right at 12:00 noon when we got to the counter. The lady hurriedly wrote out the ticket and had us hustle to make the bus. We threw the bikes and bags under, got in and seated just as the driver put her in reverse and began his trip.

Funny, we sat on the sunny side and Cat who had been shivering began to sweat. They have no AC and the gal in front of us closed the window. We moved across the aisle and opened ours. The cool air felt good.

Its only 64 Ks from Mexico City to Toluca but the trip took 1 ½ hours. Traffic, the traffic Cat has dreaded and the reason for our bus ride, lived up to its reputation. It was bumper to bumper until we got to the Autopista. Then, a pleasant ride through hills covered with pines and little settlements. It’s almost all City along the road, to Toluca like driving from LA to Oxnard on the Freeway with the exception of those few pines.

Once in Toluca it was bumper to bumper buses. It took 20 minutes to slowly wiggle through the mess. The bus dropped us, bag and baggage, at the far end of the Station. The driver pointed to the traffic jam in the bus bays and indicated he was backing out.

Cat went searching for info and a Stevedore. I began slowly moving our things taking 2 bags down the walkway then back a couple times for more, then bikes. By the time she returned without help I had progressed 2/3s of the way. She had visited the nearby Hotel and found that it was not too good. In fact they recommended that we go into the Center as it will be easier to get out on the bikes, tomorrow. She didn’t see any of the fellows with carts? We did one more move then I gave up and went looking for help.

I got a guy, thankfully he was ambitious and insisted on taking all bags and both bikes. Then the hassle with Taxi Drivers. They ganged up on us and insisted that we’d have to take 2 cars at a cost of 100 Pesos, $10 for a 4 Ks ride? We walked away and had our fellow follow. He unloaded at a wide spot just as a Taxi pulled in. He got out, looked at our baggage and said, “Hotel San Francisco, si, Cinco Pesos”. Nice guy, he even helped get the bikes in the trunk and bags in his back seat. Cat and I sat together in the front passenger seat. Cramped, yes, but we felt that we’d beaten them at their own game.

Another hassle, the girl says that the rooms are 600 Pesos, our Guide Book says 490. She looks at it and says, “Esta 2004”. We argue, Cat looks at the room and a Jr. Suite. The room is too small for the bikes. She now wants 700 Pesos. I tried to bargain, she dropped to 680 and held. I tried to use the book again, she looked over at a guy hovering nearby. I suggested that we should pay 600 for the larger room, he nodded she started filling out the paperwork.

Have to take the bikes up 6 floors on their back wheels but the room is quite nice. A genuine King Size bed. It is now 2:30 PM and we’re hungry. I’m really tired, too. May be the altitude? It is 2,600 meters here, or about 8,500 feet. I found CNN in English but there’s no picture? An old amphibious passenger plane bound for Bimini has crashed and that’s all they’re reporting. Oh they do have a little on our Pres. Bush and his spying on US Citizens but just debate and accusations. Wonder how they’ll treat us once our Cuba story hits the Internet?
Colorful Toluca Toluca More Toluca

Cat let me rest while she went for food. She came back and I was dozing. We ate a huge hamburger, well not exactly a hamburger, it had a hamburger paddy and ham and hot dogs and cheese and tomatoes. Really great tasting and so big we couldn’t finish them. Definitely headed for a case of heartburn! .

We showered as the sun set and the cold really set in. Cat is shivering again. The hot shower helped.

We went to the Restaurant. It’s a high glass roof area that you can see from the glass elevator as you descend. Once there, it is cold as a Well Diggers You Know What. We looked at the menu, thinking soup. The waiter suggested the specialty, a rice and veggie number. He even agreed to bring it to the room. We went back up and settled into the TV and a movie.

As promised, the soup was great and the movie was okay. We both dozed off, I awoke at 11:00 PM, took Cats glasses off and turned off the lights.

December 20, 2005
Taluca to Villa Victoria
51 Kilometers
Ramon’s Pickup to San Felipe 63 Kilometers

Toluca CathedralBreakfast in the cold Restaurant. Pretty good food. Down the elevator one bike at a time, pay the bill and out the door into the cold by 9:30 AM. First piece of business, find the highway. A guy unloading a truck told us to go 2 blocks then left. At 2 blocks we asked a Policeman and he said that we should keep going up to the Autopista. We do like the idea but know that there are no stops and we can’t make the distance. So, we took the left and cycled past the Square. As I shot a photo of the Cathedral I found the key to our Hotel room in my pocket. Darn, we decided to go on and call them.

Strange, the people at the Hotel told us to keep the key? We think we’ll have to keep an eye on the credit card statement to make sure that they didn’t charge us for it.

Onward, and it’s cold. We have our sweats and regular pants on along with short sleeve and long sleeve t-shirts. Our long sleeve dress shirts and our jackets. Cat even had to put her rain jacket on for a while. We look like bums but looks mean little when you’re cold.
Corn Into the Hills Fighting cocks
Turkeys & Chicks    

The road is hilly and narrow road. A truck followed closely by a bus ran us off, into the grass and rocks. Dangerous, we cycled into Villa Victoria and had a soft drink. The woman there tells us that the road ahead remains narrow, hilly and dangerous. Well that’s what we think she was trying to say? We pushed across and tried to flag a bus down. The driver indicated that they could take our bikes but we would need to take them apart. As we stood contemplating our options a guy called out, “Do you need help”?

Ramon is from Chicago, back visiting his family here. He and his wife and 2 year old daughter drove down. He has a pickup truck and offered to drive us over the hill. He too says that we shouldn’t cycle. He agreed to take us for enough to cover his fuel cost. We bought in!

Ramon is one of the lucky Mexicans, his Mother is from here in Michoacan State. His Dad was born in the USA. He and most of his family live and work in Chicago. He tries to get his 1 month vacation every year at this time to escape the cold. In fact he and his wife have 2 pickup trucks. They drive them down, sell them for a profit and fly back home. Great idea and it pays for the trip.

Ramon pulled up in Zitacuaro at the tourist office. I went in with him and listened as he spoke with the young girl. She recommended a Hotel 9 Ks down the road in San Felipe. There are Hotels in Zitacuaro but Ramon says that they’re not very nice. He sort of indicated that they might be party places, you know, places where women sell their selves. So we passed through and on through and to the western outskirts of San Felipe.

RamonRamon came inside and translated. The Monarch Inn does have a room at 450 Pesos. It seemed high but they wouldn’t negotiate and I think Ramon was tiring of us. So, we off loaded the bikes, paid up and watched as he waved goodbye. A very nice guy.

The sun set and cold set in. We were freezing. They don’t have any heat, not even a space heater. Then the really bad news, no hot water. I stormed to the front desk and complained. The Clerk said that they would start the heater and we’d have hot in 10 minutes. We waited, no hot. Another trip to the desk and this time he came clean. They had run out of gas and have sent someone to get some. We had to wait until after 8:00 PM.

After showering we had a glass of wine and I went to see if they had heat in the Restaurant. No! So, we ordered dinner in the room. The steam from the shower and our body heat was bringing the room to bearable. The food was great, Cat ate while under the covers. A couple of Comedies on TV and it was lights out. Time to huddle.

December 21, 2005
San Felipe to Hidalgo
50 Kilometers

Though we awoke at 6:30 AM it was still dark out. We lay in and watched TV until the sun began to stream in at 7:30. It is actually freezing out. The wet sidewalk is glassy looking.

Chatted with Werner from Germany as we ate breakfast in the cold dining room. He’s here trying to escape the cold and driving all of Mexico. He just kept saying that Mexico is a “Huge Place”. He’s comparing it to Germany but we agree. This is a big country and we’re seeing a lot of it from our bicycle seats. Today he will head toward Cancun. We didn’t try to tell him how long it’s taken us to get here but did wonder at the speed of his travel. Does he see anything? Is he enjoying his rapid paced journey or just trying to get through it? Hey, he is traveling and it may be the kind of travel that he likes.

Pushing out of the drive at our now usual 9:30 AM departure we were pleased to find a shoulder marked with the protective white line. Decked out in most of our clothing, we rode up into more pine forests. They didn’t last long, the green turned brown and we’re back in a desert complete with Joshua Trees. There must be an abundance of ground water in the valley because it is being farmed. However the surrounding hills remain arid and brown.

Pushing out of the drive we were pleased to find a shoulder marked with the protective white line. Decked out in most of our clothing, we rode up into more pine forests. They didn’t last long, the green turned brown and we’re back in a desert complete with Joshua Trees. There must be an abundance of ground water in the valley because it is being farmed. However the surrounding hills remain arid and brown.
Hillside Farms Joshua Virgin
Stairway to Heaven Hillside Corn Pesticide
Plowin’ Road Below Christmas Cemetery
Joshua Bikes & Cactus Flora
Corn Stalks Tractor  

Banditos? A Change of Plans!

Stopped for hamburgers and a guy here warned us that the road ahead to Morelia is mountainous, narrow and there are Banditos lurking along it. That was all Cat needed to hear, that and the fact that there’s no place to stay along the route. No service stations, no restaurants and most of all, no Policia to ward off the bad guys. So, we will alter our plan and go north to Zinapecuaro then take the Autopisto.

Ciudad de Hidalgo is close by, we cycled in and stopped at the Super Mercado for water and wine. The Clerk there told us that the best place to stay is Hotel Romo. Its 2 blocks then off to the right.

The room’s on the 3rd floor. They had us leave the bikes in the garage behind a partition. They guarantee that they’ll be safe. Carrying the bags was real work. Again, no heat in the room. We did get a hot shower.

An Invitation From David & Eileen

There’s an Internet Cafe nearby. David and Eileen, friends from a bike trip I took in 1986 have found us on the Internet and invited us to come stay with them for Christmas. That really sounds good but we estimate the best we can do is December 26. Eileen e-mailed back and pressed for us to catch a ride or they will come pick us up so that we will be with them at Christmas. I weakened, and e-mailed that we’d be there one way or the other.

The Restaurant at Hotel Romo is closed? We had to go out to find dinner. The girl recommended La Estancia, 3 blocks away. It was so cold walking that Cat almost lost her appetite. Good food but small portions.

December 22, 2005
Hildago to Zinapecuaro
61 Kilometers

Met our first California License plate in Mexico, a family from Salinas here on vacation. They have family living here and they want to see the butterflies. Annual migration of the Monarchs is in full swing. We will miss them even though they’ve come from as far away as Michigan. Some of them do come south through California every year, too.

The morning is an up and over experience in hills. It has been so cold and we have no cold weather clothing so we have been layering up with most of the cloths we have. Cat puts her sweat pants on over her bike shorts. I have my old raggedy cargo pants with the legs zipped on. We both wear long sleeve t-shirts over our cycling jerseys and our wind breakers on top of that. Not cozy warm but it keeps the chills away until the sun hits high enough to drive the temp up to tolerable. Not the best cycling weather but good for the pine trees. Then, we begin disrobing, must be an interesting sight to passing motorists.
Bike Bums Mtn Bikin’ Heliconia
Shrine Looking Back Orange Church
Turkeys & Shrine Big Pines Ornate

Stopped at a little store for food, they aren’t cooking to day so I had raspberry cookies and Cat ate her first chocolate cupcakes in decades. The store owner spoke English, he had lived and worked in the States for 6 years.

Lagoon de CuitzcoZinapecuaro From there it was a down hill run toward the Laguna de Cuitzeo to the cross road that angles off to the west toward Morelia. There, it became an 8 or 9 K up and down into Zinapecuaro.

Asking on the street, we were directed to Hotel Casa Del Sol. A wonderful looking place on the exterior and the common areas are decorated in Mexican beauty. The girl says they have hot water and it’s only 250 Pesos. The problem, the room is on the 3rd floor again. So we lugged and tugged, then stored the bikes in the rear laundry room.

We must have run 20 gallons of water waiting for the hot to reach us. Finally I went down the 3 flights and complained. The girl went to the rooftop, lit the water heater and promised hot in Cinco Minutos. 5, 10, 15 minutes, no hot? I got her again, I went with her but we couldn’t make the water heater fire up? Maybe out of gas?

She suggested moving to a different room but the only one we could find with warm water had 2 double beds and she wanted 450 Pesos. It was getting late, we decided to skip the shower. Asking her to call for Pizza, she came back and told us that the Pizza place was closed.

We set off looking for a restaurant and found the Pizza place with doors open and a line of people waiting for piping hot Pizza. I checked Interne while Cat stood in the line and got our Pizza. We took it back to the room and once again, it was dinner was an under covers affair.

December 23, 2005
Zinapecuaro to La Barca
52 Kilometers on Bike
150 Kilometers in the Policia Pickup Truck.

Heavy ArmamentBreakfast at a small Café as the town began to wake up. A heavily armed group of Policia came by looking more like Rebels than the Law.

An 8 Ks climb out of town, even had to push some of it. Our legs were shaky and we were tired by the time we topped out. The Autopista isn’t flat as its been described but rather a continuous flow of ups and downs even though we’re along the shore of the Laguna de Cuitzeo. It too was a struggle. We stopped at 2:00 PM with only 54 of the expected 103 Ks completed.
Cactus Lagoon Blue Church
Snake in Grass Shades of Titicaca Reed Channel
Lagoon Reeds Reeds & Birds Fisherman
Corn Shocks Reeds Lagoon
Bull on Hill Salamanca  

The La Barca Express

We’re both very tired. We sat in the sun and ate our left over pizza with a Gatorade. We know that we will have to take a bus or catch a ride in order to make it to David and Eileen’s in Ajijic by Christmas day. I decided that this would be a good time to do just that. Cat removed water bottles and sacked them with the helmets while I took the handlebar bags off. The first pickup along was a white Policia truck. The pulled up, asked our need then agreed to let us throw the bikes on top of their load of fencing wire and ride with them to La Barca.

We got the bikes on top the fencing then the 4 of us, Jose the driver and Jorge the Commandante, all jammed into the cab. Cat sat on my lap, the cab is so small that her head hit the top every time Jose hit a bump. He drove way over the speed limit like only a Cop can, at times hitting 150 Ks per hour. (93 MPH). Hated the speed but it did make the discomfort time less. The 150 Ks didn’t exactly fly by but we were flying.

Jose & JorgeThey dropped us at the outskirts of La Barca near a great looking Hotel. Unfortunately the Hotel Restaurant is closed and they have no Internet. So, we cycled on into the Center.

The nice girl there had mentioned Hotel Santa Monica. It looks like a 1950s Motel. They have a room in fact every room seems to be available. The sign tells us that they have a special, Monday through Friday the room with breakfast for 2 people is only 200 Pesos. ($20) Of course the recommend a room for 270 and say that on Friday they don’t include breakfast because that will be Saturday. Cat looked at the Bait Room and we did as they suggested, took the one for 270. Strange, they don’t have a key, they want us to lock the room when we go to dinner then come to them and they’ll unlock when we return.

A quiet, heavy set, effeminate guy came when we complained that the water was cold. He told us to wait 5 minutes. We did and lo, the water was hot and the shower very refreshing.

Roasted Garbanzos

Walking to town, we looked for a sit down restaurant. We did find an Internet shop to send and receive from. A guy on the corner was selling hot green pods. We asked, they explained that they’re Garbanzo Beans. He insisted that we take a bag full of them. They reminded us of The soy beans, Adamame, that they serve in Japanese Restaurants.
Coco & Jugo Proud Grandpa Garbanzos

Bro & Sis TacosNo real restaurant, several recommended the little stand on the corner and a seat on the curb. We’d seen a little store front so returned and found a Sister and Brother operating out of a trailer stand inside the little room. Good tacos, we tried several kinds. 

Walked back in the dark street with no fear. Mexico is an easy place to like. .

 

December 24, 2005
La Barca to Ajijic
50 Kilometers on Bike
50 Ks with David in his ‘84’ Ford

Up and out but cold as heck. The road remains wide with a shoulder but we’ve come back to steeper hills. Trundling along we stopped and called to let David and Eileen know that we feel we will ride right up to their door. Eileen surprised us, David is already on the way to meet us. Slightly disappointed we rode on then into hills and began to wonder where the heck he was. We really are tired. The upside of the ride is that we got our first sighting of Lake Chapala.
Horses in Corn Tequila Pot Peddler
Copper Lake Chapala  

Cat yelled, “A brown Ford pickup just passed”. Then it pulled over and there was David, looking as young as ever though almost 20 years have passed since last seeing him. We loaded the bikes and caught up on each other as he drove to Ajijic. We did stop at a store and pick up a nice bottle of Chilean white to prime the celebration tonight.

It's David

It was old home week at David and Eileen’s new home. They are so welcoming and genuinely happy to see us, to meet Cat and to make us feel at home.

Hungry, we went to a local favorite Super Burrito, for Burritos and Quesadillas then back to fantastic, hot showers.

A quiet afternoon, exploring each others pasts then David cooked spaghetti for dinner. Really feels like home with home cookin’.

Our Hosts are going to an annual event and invited us along. The locals put on living Nativity Scenes. It was a cold night but we got passed that and thoroughly enjoyed being there. A very local Christmas festivity.
Eileen & Indian Eskimos Locals
Colonial Africans Mexican
Alter    

Pacha MamaOld HouseOn the walk back we stopped into David and Eileen’s old home. It’s For Sale now and they wanted to straighten it up for a showing. A unique place, we must come back during day light. Then a wonderful piece of wall art caught my attention, Pacha Mama.

The bed in the guest room is soft and inviting. The duvet is necessary. Though it’s warmer during the day here, the night air has a chilling bite to it.

 

Sunday, December 25, 2005
Christmas Day

Christmas SunriseNew HouseThe joy of a beautiful sunrise on this Christmas day. I used to love to see sunsets but now its sunrises. Sort of ghoulish but the wonder of them makes me wonder how many more I’ll see. The lawn was crunchy, I thought it was frost? David and Eileen swear that it only got down to 50 degrees.

Breakfast of fruit, toast and coffee. Don’t want to complain but they only drink Decaf and we need that little caffeine kick in the morning.

Eileen & DavidParty Time, they have guests coming for late lunch so we got involved with the cleaning and preparations. I wiped the patio chairs clean then swept the deck. Cat helped with dishes and cooking.

Guests began to arrive at 2:00 PM. It was cool and a tiny wind from the west enhanced the slight chill. Divided into two tables, we only got the chance to meet and talk with the couples at our table. All are ex-pats, from the states or England, most retired and living here full time.
Guests Guys Xmas Feast
Xmas Feast    

Holiday Party

Big cleanup then we snacked on leftovers.

David and Eileen have unlimited Internet Access, good for us. Cat spent time reviewing and answering.

They also have unlimited telephone access via Internet to the US. We called Cat’s Mom and Dad, Daughter Steph and the grandkids. A very good Christmas gift for them.

December 26, 2005
A Long Walk Around Ajijic

Second SunriseUp early, I was privileged to enjoy yet another wonderful sunrise. Chef David made waffles and real coffee. Yes, tired of the near coffee, the decaf, we added a bag of real fresh ground coffee to their cupboard. Breakfast is a good time to spend talking, reminiscing.

courtyardLiving RoomDavid was off to do volunteer work at the Little Theatre. We walked with Eileen, into Ajijic and took a tour of their other home. When they first found Ajijic they wanted to live in town, surrounded with the local people and lifestyle. The house is a wonderful Mexican Courtyard style residence. It is right in the middle of town. Eileen told us that the charm of life here was tainted at first by a neighbor’s pesky rooster that crowed incessantly then, the vacant building next door got a new tenant. So they now had a Rooster that started crowing at 3:00 AM and a Bar that offered the good life until 3:00 AM every night.

Roof TopBanoThe house is really well designed and decorated. Tile work of Mexican craftsmen in bright colors. Every room looks out onto the Courtyard. Also, an outside stairway leads to a little crows nest seating area and another to a studio. A true artist’s home. Too bad about the Rooster and Bar. They had avoided the typical Gringo houses when searching but now realized that there is value in a fenced community with Covenants and Conditions on the Title that disallow keeping chickens or running a bar. Eileen picked up oranges form the tree and tidied up the place, they’re offering it for sale and their Agent is holding Open House this afternoon.

It’s a 40 minute walk down the road, 40 minutes to the Theatre. I took photos and we enjoyed just soaking up the local scene as we sauntered. David was there with another guy working on the set for the upcoming production, The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild. .

Little TheatreThe 4 of us rode back into Ajijic and enjoyed lunch together. Garlic shrimp for Cat and broiled fish for me. Eileen has just started a diet so her meal was pretty sparse. David had meat.

VaquerosThe Pueblo Ajijic sort of reminds us of Ojai, California. An artsy town where horses can still be seen trotting down the main street. And, the people are so friendly, both Gringos and locals. We are beginning to think that Gringos out number locals 2 to 1? 

More Internet then we called several of our family members. A real surprise for them. Especially Cat’s Mom and our adopted Mom, Celeste in Scottsdale, Arizona. The Grandkids were sort of detached, playing with their Christmas gifts? Patrick did spend quite a bit of time chatting with me. He is the middle child and definitely the gifted one. He’s in the GATE program at school. Timothy who was only 10 years old when we left now speaks in a man's baritone voice. Aubrie chattered about her friends and Christmas presents then turned the phone over to Steph. The little family is growing up. When we hung up we vowed to spend more time whit them when we get back.

David led the way, we walked to a Taqueria and loaded up on Tacos and Quesadillas. Carried them back up the hill and sat outside as the sun set in the west. Eileen worked around us sticking with her diet. We gorged ourselves on Mexican Food, the REAL THING.

December 27, 2005
Pat & Cat’s 8th Wedding Anniversary
A Lazy Day at David & Eileen’s

A leisurely breakfast and table talk. These few days with David and Eileen have been extremely relaxing for us. Aside from the Cold mornings and evenings that keep Cat wrapped in a blanket it’s been a truly Joyous Holiday Season for us. And now, we celebrate 8 years of wedded bliss with them.

PoolsideI spent time playing catch up on the journal pages. Cat worked on out address list. Time passes so quickly. We had lunch near the pool. The sun was almost too warm. The food, too was almost too good. The company, well that goes with out saying.

EntryDining RoomThe photos of the old house were so interesting that I took time photographing the interior of the house. They still have ongoing projects like the guest bathroom that’s in the midst of installation of tile, a new sink and hardware. Today Chuy, their gardener and handyman, is hanging new ceramic exterior lights. He has also been scraping and painting the wrought iron railings. Seemingly a never ending job which is good for Chuy and his family.

Living RoomDrivewayCat and I went walking into town to check on the time and cost of the bus to Guadalajara. Amazing, the buses leave hourly and the cost is only 35 Pesos ($3.50 US) just as David had thought. We sought out the bakery and bought 3 small cakes, Carrot, Apple and German Chocolate for our Anniversary Celebration. Peter, the owner of the shop became interested in the map on Cat’s jacket and we talked about travel. He and his wife own 3 shops here. They started making and selling jewelry on the sidewalk then expanded to a small shop that served sandwiches. Business is good but he’s beginning to dream of getting away. They’ve traveled in India and he wants to walk across the entire Sub-Continent. Sounds like a tough trip to us. He thinks they’ll be ready to get out of business and into the adventure in about 5 years. We told him that we’d dreamed of our Odyssey for several years before actually setting off.
Overload Church Street Shrine

Oh, lest we forget, we also picked up a couple of bottles of Chardonnay.

Anniversary ToastAnniversary CoupleEileen had a bottle of Champagne to start the evening. We toasted to our continued happiness, long loves and lives for the 4 of us. They insisted on taking us out to dinner at one of their favorite places, Enrique’s.

A Double Anniversary Celebration

Rob & Patsi Very good food and terrific conversation with wonderful friends. A couple we’d met at the Christmas Party, Rob and Patsi from San Diego were seated nearby. As they were leaving they mentioned that today is their Anniversary. Imagine, 2 couples with the same Anniversary but the real uniqueness isn’t just in the day but the years, too. Our weddings were on the same day in 1979, 8 years ago, today.

They’re extreme tennis players and when Eileen asked about his health we learned we had another event in the past that links us. Rob, like Cat, has had a heart attack. And like Cat, he didn’t let his slow him down, either. He was back on the Tennis Court as soon as his Doctor allowed.

December 28, 2005
Headed for Guad, Lori & Dave

Nuts & Candy Breakfast with David and Eileen then we loaded clothing and essentials into the black bag usually mounted on the rear of Cat’s bike and walked down into Ajijic Pueblo. The bus ride costs 35 pesos each. (About $3.50) We sat in the Restaurant across from the tiny Autobus Station and ate lunch. Watched the very skillful proprietress work the tables. She sat with a guy (we learned he was 78 years young) and talked with him as though he was her Father, even took a piece of food off his plate to taste. He told us that he’s been living here 19 years, Used to go back home every year but this is home now, he hasn’t been to the States for more than 3 years.

Decided that since we have the time we would take a taxi to the Super Mini and buy wine for tonight. Amazing how we can sometimes justify a $3.00 Taxi ride when wine is involved. The bus stops there, too. Cat made the trip to the store as I guarded our bags and watched for the bus.

The 2:30PM departure arrived at the stop at 2:35 and we were off to Guadalajara. Clinging to the lake shore, it first backtracks to Chapala then veers off to the left into the mountains. The scenery is all desert. Beautiful homes cling to the cliffs above. It’s reminiscent of Palm Springs with a huge lake.

The Airport is on this Southern side of Guadalajara. The bus doesn’t actually stop there, we had to get out then make a mad dash across the 6 lanes, resting and gathering courage in the median along with a local gal. Once across she became our guide and led us the 1 ½ Ks to the terminal. It was 4:00 PM when we entered. The air conditioned space felt great. I had a Starbucks Iced Cappuccino and we sat in their area, adjacent to the Burger King. Starbucks and Burger King, we’re really getting close to home now.

The Kids Are HERE!

The Mexicana Airlines plane delivered Lori and Dave, “on time”. What a wonderful hugging and talking re-union after 3 ½ years. A taxi into town with their big bag on the roof rack, straight to Hotel San Francisco. The rooms were something less than the Guide Book had suggested. Lori and Cat went shopping for a better place wile Dave and I stood the watch and caught up on the things and the events of each others lives. A young guy working here suggested that he had better rooms for us. When the ladies returned they took a look and decided to stay here, even though the rooms are just off the kitchen.

New ShoesLest we forget, Lori and Dave brought a care package. They say they’re Mules, referring to people who carry drug across the border. No drugs but the wild looking Nikes they brought might have been tagged for taxes if mailed. However, there was no larceny involved, they just don’t have shoes larger than size 10 here in Mexico. At least none that we‘ve found and we have shopped around.

Dave & LoriA very happy hour in our room then off to a Taco Stand that Cat and Lori had seen on their room search. They allowed us our wine, the food was perfect, Mexican fare, Tacos and Gringas. Gringas? You remember that wonderful shaved pork on flour tortillas with cheese and pineapple filling that we discovered in Mexico City!

The rooms are cold and noisy. Sleep didn’t come easily and was sporadic.

December 29, 2005
Exploring Hotels and Guadalajara

Our room was cold as ice and noisy, too. The bar crowd noise died down about 3:00 AM then the breakfast crowd noise commenced at 6:00. We decided that we had to find a new place this morning. The best thing about the San Francisco was breakfast. Though not included it was a bargains at 65 Pesos for a full buffet.

Davey and I waited while Cat and Lori shopped Hotels. They found Hotel Fenix then we all walked, Dave pulled their suitcase and I our bags. The place is so much nicer, a few dollars more but worth it.

Once ensconced, we set out to explore. The Plaza and area around it is picturesque and full of Holiday Spirit. Guadalajara here, takes on a very European feeling. Guadalajara is a huge City, the second largest in Mexico where more than 4,000,000 people live.
Carriage & Church Cathedral Holiday Décor
Liberty    

Hot GlassMaking GlassHow can we pass a visit to Tlaquepaque, the name alone has a certain allure to it. We rode the local bus across town to this separate City of another ½ million people. Tlaquepaque is known for several artisan items, the first we visited was a glass factory. They were making decorative bottles, taking molten glass out of the furnace and dropping it into molds. Pretty interesting and the staff there seemed to be just as interested in us.

Glowing Glass

Other artists create Ceramics, Bronze Figures and Embroidery other Fabrics and Metal items. We didn’t visit any other studios but the streets are full of little shops full of items from artists from all over Mexico.

Corner FountainTinoWe stumbled upon Casa Tequila, a tasting room for a small distillery. They produce El Baron and Guitarron Tequila. The presentation about the process was really interesting. We knew that Agave, the plant related to Sisal, is the source but always thought they used the juice of the leaves. A real learning experience and a head start on tomorrow’s trip to Tequila.

Lunch at a collection of restaurants with a stage in the center. Mexican food and music, a real treat. Oh yes, we did have margaritas, too.

 
Door & Art Pat & Don Xmas Door
Wheeee Bici Buddy Colorful Carriage
Guad Street Municipal  

Back to the Hotel and a rest. The kids are a little jet lagged and we’re just tired. A little TV then it was time for Happy Hour. A glass of wine and discussion about dinner. There’s a place down the street where people line up starting early in the day. We brought our own bottle of wine as they have no white. After standing in line for half an hour we were seated and told that we would have to drink their wine? A short argument then we gathered our things and walked. There’s a nice looking Taquieria just across the street. No line but the food turns out to be wonderful, and, they had no problem with us bringing our own wine.

December 30, 2005
The Tequila Express

We’d decided to walk and look for Breakfast because the Buffet costs 90 Pesos, abut $9.00 per person. I protested, I hate to walk on an empty stomach. The best surprise of the day, the waiter told us that yes, Men pay 90 Pesos, but Women only 65? Averaged out, a very good deal.

The bus for a tour of Tequila leaves at 10:00 AM at a nearby corner. It’s cool in the shade this morning and the line for tickets is in the shade. The girls had to stand in the sun while Dave and bought. Interesting, a guy had approached us before we got to the line and offered tickets? He was very persistent until we got to the Tourist Office Booth then he disappeared? Was he trying to sell nothing of value?

On ‘d’ BusLast on but there was plenty of room on the big bus. Bernice, our Guide, began explaining the day and pointed out buildings and parks as we exited Guadalajara. Her voice screeched and hurt our ears until she got the speaker system adjusted, then it became a very pleasant and informative drive.

First stop, a Jose Cuervo Agave farm. Bernice did a good job of detailing the process as a young farmer dug one of the plants up, cut the leaves off and trimmed the pineapple. The video we saw yesterday was now confirmed in living color.

 
Bernice & Baby Cutting Agave Cleaning
Agave Azul Agave Azul too  

Machete

Up Rooting

Cleaning

Split the Agave

The town of Tequila is as picturesque as any little Town of Vineyards in wine regions. It centers around a Plaza like most towns here but actually the center is the Jose Cuervo Distillery. The facility is sparkling clean and doesn’t smell of Tequila. The way they cook the Agave gives off a sort of sweet odor almost like candy cooking. They invited us to taste the cooked plant. It has a sweet flavor similar to a candied yam to me.
Palmdale Family Cholula Spices Old Process
Ride em’ Jose Old Bottle Table Setting
Cuervo Cuervo Truck Agave Lady
Old Distilling Agave Lady Agave Ax
Agave Agave Oven Stainless
Cooked Agave Oven #9 Cookin’
Fermentation Dave Copper Tanks Jose Cuervo
Distilling Crew    

Part of the tour is into the Cellar. Much like a Wine Cave, this place is storage for some of the old and rare Tequilas and a table reserved for friends and the family of Cuervo. A group of people, apparently friends, were seated inside the iron cage that protects rare. The speaker warned us not to take pictures. I thought he meant there so I went around the corner and took one of the aging barrels with signatures of dignitaries and friends on them. The speaker stopped and yelled, “Who is taking pictures”? Well, I apologized but kept the pic and now you can see it, too.
Bus Tequila Science Mural
Tequila Cave Illegal Photo  

After we’d soaked up the knowledge we sat in the shade and soaked up a margarita.
Street Scene Church Church & Angel
Church    

Back on the Bus and off to the included lunch at a hilltop Restaurant. Pretty good food accompanied by a tiny margarita. That one went down so easily that we ordered a pitcher. Even got a picture of the Agave fields below.

La Cofradia is a Micro Distillery. The grounds are like many a small Winery in Sonoma. A pond full of ducks, old wagons with barrels aboard and lots of surrounding fields of Agave. Even a cellar and tasting room, too. Bernice poured plentiful sips of the different Tequila’s they produce at La Cofradia.
Tequila Landscape Pond Duck
Tequileria Bernice Pours La Cofradia
La Cofradia Agave Azul Cofradia Express
Cactus & Agave    

Next, the long ride back to Guad. Though it’s only a little over 50 kilometers, it felt longer due to the rush hour traffic. At one point a car cut in front of the bus then stopped suddenly. Almost more suddenly than the bus could. The driver slammed on the brakes, we were almost thrown out of the seats. Bernice had the driver drop us at the Galeria Shopping Center.

Fun to see Dave and Lori look in awe at the Wal-Mart and how it. We got a few items to take back to Ajijic and wine of course.

We had such a good time at the Taquieria last night that we went looking for another. Just down the street, a little hole in the wall place beckoned. Great food and fun with the kids.

December 31, 2005
New Years Eve

Another good start at the Buffet trough then off to explore. Back around the Plaza de Armas and Plaza de la Revolution then down the Pedestrian Way to the Plaza Tepatia and an interesting display of permanent sculptures. On the way back we heard a strange, almost eerie sound. Like a high pitched violin playing a classical tune. It was a fellow with only one arm playing a leaf. Yes, an ordinary leaf and he knew how to do it. What a treat, and unlike so many, this handicapped guy isn’t begging, he’s a musician.
Nap Time Mass Vallarta
Courtyard Grim Cathedral
Chips Xmas Past Girl in Fountain
Colorful Courtyard Food Lions
Spire Fountain Colors for Kids
Phantom Xmas Boys Leaf Music
Beatriz    

Mass

Classical Leaf

In the Palacio de Gubierno we found the huge mural of Miguel Hidalgo angrily bearing a torch while the masses toil at his feet. Another upstairs is former Congress Hall. While roaming the halls we came upon a Bride and Groom posing for pictures in this historic place.
Arches Bride & Groom Hidalgo
Hidalgo, too Marble Liberty

Nude Women and the Tequila Affect

Our next adventure, a Taxi Ride to Zona Rosa. Fairly disappointing, the driver dropped us at an unknown restaurant. Probably his cousin’s place? We paid him then walked down the sidewalk, to his dismay. After walking several blocks we came upon the 2 places we’d asked the Cabbie about. Santo Coyote is a huge, wandering, mostly outdoor Restaurant. Waterfalls rocks and grass between Palapas. Eddie, our waiter is a joy. He worked for several years in Seattle and is planning on a return to own and manage an IHOP, yes International House of Pancakes. He told us that the nude women in the Mural of Adam & Eve are purported to start moving after you drink one bottle of Tequila. When you finish your second bottle they come down off the wall and join you.
Mexico’s 100th Santo Coyote Hog Leg
Women in Waiting    

All the food was very good but Dave’s Hog Leg was memorable. We went back to the rooms and rested while digesting, sat on the bed and talked. This is real quality time with family.

Happy New YearNone of us are hungry, wonder why? At 9:00 PM we were struck by a sweet tooth attack. Cat and Lori went seeking ice cream. The store with those wonderful buckets of 33 flavors was closed. We waited out the New Year and stuffed ourselves with ice cream sandwiches. The ball dropped, it was a New Year. A moment of hugs and hoopla then, too tired to continue the celebration, we hugged again and got our first good nights sleep in ‘06’.

2006

Sunday, January 1, 2006
A Bright New Year

Our third morning at the Buffet and we ran into Mike, Ann, Mark and Cindy from Ajijic. They came in to see Harry Potter on the big screen then spent the night.

A Family Gift, For Christmas

Hugo, the Bellman asked where we were going then told us that he’d spent Christmas with a friend on the shores of Lake Chapala. A guy who’s been coming to Mexico for the past 2 years and staying at Hotel Fenix has been shopping for a home. He bought this year and invited Hugo and family down for the holiday. His Mother in Law was disappointed and told them that they had given the guy a great present at her expense, “A Family”.

A Taxi to Bus Station, a 40 minute wait then off to Ajijic.

The Taxi Lori and Cat found at the Plaza had failing clutches. It lurched and roared up the hill and through the gate of David and Eileen’s Community. The Gate Guard told the driver to take us to a neighbor’s home where they were having a New Years Party.

Our driver honked, David & Eileen came down and led the way to their place.

Well Tequila Leads to a Check Checkup

David drove us into Chapala. We walked the crowded Malecon then snacked. David and the ladies drank a beer, Dave and I had Margaritas. Did they use Don Luis White Tequila as we’d ordered? Had another to split and watched as the bartender constructed it. He made a big point of showing us the bottle. This one was definitely smoother, the first may have just been tequila from the well?

Then, the check. First, they charged us for an extra beer and an orange drink. Then when they straightened that out we asked them to split the bill between our Visa Card and Dave and Lori’s. Cat and Lori presented their cards and as they were signing Cat noticed that they had charged the entire bill on Lori’s card and half again on ours. They hovered around, even seemed halfway apologetic. A mistake? Maybe but 3 compounded errors?
Lake Chapala Ship & Shore Water Plants
Pier Pressure    

Pizza PalsEileen’s Homemade Pizza for dinner then we watched their slides of past trips. This is a part of the reason that I asked David and Eileen to have us back with the kids. It’s good for them to see others who step out, even over the edge looking for life and experiences.

January 2, 2006
At Home in Ajijic

A Day With David and Eileen

Breakfast at Danny’s Café with Dave & Lori, just the 4 of us. We walked down to the lake then the entire tiny town of Ajijic. Then took a bus to the other end of town on a wine run. I was already hungry, so a great sandwich while the others watched.
Art & Culture Chapala Stork Little Light House
Tulip Lady Society The Good Book
Red Burst    

Ajijic GangBack on the hilltop in the late afternoon, we just relaxed and enjoyed each other, the 6 of us. Then we sat out on the patio and enjoyed the beauty of this place. Five of us sipped wine as the sun dipped below the western mountains. Eileen has begun a killer diet that doesn’t allow wine. Her New Years resolution.

Dinner out, our treat. We went to a local Restaurant that specializes in sea food. Eileen’s diet will allow fish. Another evening of good food and good times.

January 3, 2006
Ajijic to Puerto Vallarta

Good Bye to Lori and Dave A long Bus Ride to Puerto Vallarta

Group Hugm jtThanks to Eileen we had a nice breakfast together and thanks to David, we were soon on the road to the Guadalajara Airport. A bit of emotion, a group hug then Lori and Dave disappeared inside and David drove on. He has insisted on driving us all the way to the Bus Station. A quick hug for him and we ran to the ETN desk. The bus is sitting, ready to roll. It’s a 5 ½ hour ride so Cat hustled to get sandwiches while I got the bags aboard. While loading I learned that ETN provides sandwiches and soft drinks. So, we had an abundance of food. Lucky, too, we were seated in the front seat. Oh, there is no view they have a curtain over the window ahead but there is extra leg room.

The first portion of the trip is on the road we will soon be pedaling. There are some hills in our future.

It was after dark when the bus left the Highway and bounced through the bumpy dirt streets to the Station. After collecting our bags we found a telephone and struggled trying to find a Hotel. Three calls, three tough Spanglish lessons and we got one. Then a taxi. There is a guy near the door who shepherded us out to one that already had a guy in side. A friend of the driver? No, he too is a passenger. They do a shared cab here. He’s from Canada, comes here very year to escape the cold.

The Hotel Emprador looks a little seedy. We checked in got to the room and thought we’d probably look for another place tomorrow.

Dinner, we walked down the street to an Italian Restaurant. Ordered a Pizza and waited, and waited, and waited. Too late to really enjoy it, we did a take away and ate in the room. After closer inspection, we kind of like the room and this neighborhood. We have a King Sized Bed, a lightly furnished living room and a kitchen on the deck overlooking the beach.

January 4, 2006
Pat’s Mom & Dad’s Birthdays
A Walk to Aura’s

Vallarta BeachBreakfast, there’s a little Coffee place around the corner. It caught our eye last night. The locals were there jus like those that hang at Starbucks back home. The locals are there again this morning, so many that we decided to pass and move to the next place. It doesn’t have the ambience or number of hanger-oners but fewer smokers and step in, step up and order. I walked to a little store and got bananas. This is the life. Balmy weather, real coffee and great people watching.

Vallarta Beach

Puerto Vallarta has a huge Gay population both full time and vacationers. Interesting, almost like being the only white faces in Africa, we are often the only hetero-sexual couple and the Coffee Place is an example. Our take on Gays, most are quite normal folks, just doing their best to do the best they can with what they have to work with. In fact we talked about that as we walked up and over the hills looking for Aura’s place The question we’ve come up with is, “Ever heard of straight bashing? Ever heard of a group of Heterophobics beating up a straight person”?

Aura & Franklin, San Francisco-Lisbon-Puerto Vallarta

Aura, our friend from San Francisco is here with her sister. You remember, she and husband Franklin had us stay with them when we cycled the first leg of our Odyssey. Then they flew into Lisbon, Portugal and we spent a week together. Finding her was difficult, she just had directions to the corner nearest the house they’ve rented. We asked a woman about Dos Senoras desde California and she instantly knew who we were looking for. Up to the top of the hill and the push of a doorbell brought the building manager. He rang their bell then let himself in to check. Bad news, nobody home.

Politics and Margaritas Don’t Mix

So, we walked back to our Hotel and called Lauri, Cat’s closest friend since 2nd grade and her husband, Paul. No answer there either. Thinking they must be at the pool we grabbed a cab. The note on their door confirmed, “At the Pool”.

Though we’re ill prepared for swimming and taking sun, good friends sounds real good. They’re here with one of Paul’s oldest school pals, Jerry and his wife Debbie. We sat in the shade and just enjoyed re-acquainting. They had lunch, we just ate a salad. We’ve been avoiding lettuce but it just looked too good to pass. Lauri has her cell phone so she and Cat took seats near the pool and called their friend, Lisa in Seattle. A real treat for Cat.
Lauri & Cat Vallarta Gang Calling Lisa

The afternoon moved toward evening and the Rose Bowl Game, USC vs. Texas as the sun moved down toward the Pacific. Dinner on the deck with the game on TV. Though Paul and I share a very similar background in Real Estate my thinking has changed some. We sipped Margies and talked Politics. Not a good mixture. When we got into Private Property Rights, the underpinnings of Realtors in California I talked of Zimbabwe. I reminded Paul, “You can say that the Rhodesians lost their Property Rights when Robert Mogabe and his friends won the civil war but then, their ancestors had owned all this property for 10s of thousands of years just 150 years earlier”. That didn’t go over well so I mentioned how the Palestinians seemed to have lost their Private Property Rights to Israel just a short 50 or so years ago. This brought Paul to his feet, he snapped at me and stomped off to the Restroom. We knew it was time to go. By the way, the game was gong Paul’s way. He had bet on Texas. (Paul and I talked later and have agreed Margies and Politics definitely don’t mix.)

We stood and watched a band play and revelers dancing and walking up and down the beach below our room. This place is one big happy party.

January 5, 2006
Another Day in PV, Another Walk to Aura’s

A Walk Along the Malecon

Back to the Coffee Shops, there were fewer locals in the first place so we took a seat. The coffee is similar but the pastries are much better. Some of the regulars drifted in and the cloud of smoke thickened a bit but all in all, good.

We walked the streets of PV and took pictures. It is a city full of photogenic places and memories for us. Cat and I came here in on a getaway in 1999. We did the tourist things that we like to do, you know dinner out and a few glasses of wine. We saw the sights and then rented bicycles. A trip to the top of a mountain, no less. So far out that w could take a skinny dip in a pond on a cold little creek. A great memory.
Vallarta Creek Tourist Things Pescador
Braiding Plaza Band Pigeons
Vallarta Iglesia Dolphin Surfrider
Para Sail Out to Sea Vallarta Beach

Vallarta Music

The streets feel familiar and we like that . Lunch at a nice Restaurant on the Malecon. Plenty of photo ops as we walked.

A taxi ride back to Aura’s all to no avail. I have made contact with Montezuma, again. Feeling pretty bad, we opted for dinner in. Cat went down to the Restaurant and ordered soup. She enjoyed TV, we ate soup and I stayed close to the toilet.

January 6, 2006
Puerto Vallarta to Ajijic
Long Bus Rides to Ajijic

Breakfast at the Coffee place with bananas bought nearby. A Taxi to the Bus Terminal and we arrived just 5 minutes before the departure of the 10:05 AM bus. We rushed through the terminal and made it. Perfect, we thought we’d have to wait until 11:30. This means we may make it back to Ajijic by wine time.

Sandwich and soft drink in hand we boarded and found our mid cabin seats. Another English language movie but we found it hard to stay attentive.

We did get a good look at the hilly section of the road from PV to the highway. Then we watched and knew that we’d do this same ride slowly, next week.

The Taxi Drivers at the Bus Station were pretty aggressive. They offered a ride to the Old Station for $10 US then reduced to $8. A guy near the door quietly suggested that we could take the bus for less than 10 Pesos each. Another Taxi Driver got in our faces as we looked for the Bus Stop. He offered a ride all the way to Ajijic for 350 Pesos. ($35 US) We told him that we’d decided to take the bus. Our total cost on the bus will be less than $5 US each.

The local bus was tough. Hard plastic seats and a really bumpy ride. A woman sort of adopted us and helped us find the stop and directions down the street to the Station.

The Bus to Ajijic was standing, idling and waiting for us. Tickets and aboard then of, over the hill. This was a direct flight, they avoided the stop in Chapala and dropped us on the Main Street of Ajijic by 430 PM.

A Taxi ride to David and Eileen’s only to find Chuy working in the carport. David and Eileen have gone to the movies in Guadalajara and won’t be back until later. It was cold, windy and I was feeling terrible. I at in the pickup truck while Cat talked with Chuy. She asked about getting inside and at first he told her he couldn’t. Then as she shivered he softened and told her to wait. He went up on the roof and down through a skylight. He asked us not to tell David and Eileen. Hope they don’t read this.

We settled back in, Cat opened a bottle of wine when just as our hosts arrived. They weren’t surprised to see us inside, the said, “So, you found the key under the mat”? No, we hadn’t taken time to check our e-mails and they had sent one telling us where to find the key.

Once again, I have been afflicted with Montezuma’s Revenge. Diarrhea and the chills had me huddled down on the couch under a blanket. David insisted that he make rice for me. It was pretty bland but then, that’s what it takes to kick The Montezuma.

I went to bed early. They had a light dinner then sat and talked.

January 7, 2006
A Sick Day in Ajijic
Getting Over Montezuma’s Revenge

I knew when I awoke that leaving today wouldn’t be a good idea. I wrapped in the blanket again and took the seat on the couch watching CNN News until the others began to stir. Cat was disappointed, David and Eileen understanding. We will spend this day here, healing me.

Light breakfast for me, David cooked poached eggs with toast. The normal for the others.

The entire day was just hanging around. Cat did lots of e-mail cleansing. She also spent much of the afternoon re-working the bags.

Our HostsLunch and dinner at David and Eileen’s Canteen. 

To bed early for me, we will leave tomorrow, one way or the other. The others stayed up, talked and watched TV.

 

 

Sunday, January 8, 2006
Ajijic to Outskirts of Guad
73 Kilometers

Big hugs and promises to see each other again soon then we rode down the bumpy, rocky road into the Pueblo. Breakfast at Danny’s Café. I had poached eggs and toast. Cat enjoyed a real Mexican treat.

A cool but sunny morning and we were off, on the road, again. There is a bicycle path along the road most of the length of the Lake. It undulates in shallow ups and downs into Jocotepec. There’s a festival going on here, at this village at the west end of Lake Chapala. We made our way through the streets filled with booths of food and games then around the corner at the church. A soft drink on the curb watching others watch us then, back on the bikes. Highway 39 takes a turn to the right and up. There is little room for cyclists, luckily there are few cars and trucks.
Ciclo Pista Wild Californian Church & Square

At the cross road where we joined Highway 80 we sat in the shade and drank one of the Gatorade’s we have on board. A group of local people came by. Dressed in western wear, they looked us over and we did the same with them.

View A Service Station with Mini Mart had sandwiches. I had one after a much needed trip to the toilet. Cat is feeling fine and anxious to keep going. I feel weak and tired.

The road is becoming a nightmare. Traffic flows past at horrendous speed and close to us. Then as the traffic thickened the nightmare took a new and more dangerous dimension. Road construction, a pipeline being buried along our side left us pushing at times. Loose dirt and dust added to the danger.

A Night in the Sexo Hotel

Wal-Mart and Applebee’s signs caught our attention. Then across the busy highway, a Hotel. I convinced Cat that we needed to stop or at least, I did. The push across was at least as dangerous as cycling. 6 lanes full of speeding cars, buses and trucks. A median strip that made us slow down while jumping over the curb into the safety zone.

The Hotel is gorgeous, obviously a SEXO HOTEL but gorgeous. For 350 Pesos ($35 US) we have a suite upstairs over our private garage. As hot as the room is, the shower water is cold. What a turn off that must be for lovers?

Spit baths then we dressed warm and hustled back across to Applebees Restaurant. Imagine, an Applebees here in Guadalajara. Sure we have one in Oxnard but it brought back memories of our first encounter with the chain.

Applebee’s in Rome

Applebee’s in Rome? Yes, Rome, Georgia is where we first encountered the Chain. Daughter Stephanie and her brood was living there. They had little or no money. Her then husband, whose name we won’t mention, was between jobs, again. Our treat, what’s your favorite place? They chose Applebee’s. We don’t know if there were others, we thought it was a local place. The kids, Timothy and Patrick were a handful which left little or no time to enjoy the food.

The food at Applebee’s in Guadalajara was sort of dry and bland. Maybe my run in with Montezuma has something to do with that. Cat liked hers.

The assumption that we’d be awake half the night with the banging doors, moans and groans would hamper sleep was incorrect.

January 9, 2006
Pooped Out in Guad 15 Kilometers

The rumble in the night wasn’t from comings and goings of clientele, it was my stomach. Up and about fairly early, we dodged and ducked traffic to get back across to Applebee’s. We reminisced about that first meal and how the chain has spread across the US and now into other countries. The food was okay at best but then, nothing tastes very good to me and my souring stomach.

Horse PowerAfter another “take your life in your own hands” dash through the heavy traffic we decided that we would ride back to an underpass rather than try to push into the stream. Loaded and ready we pushed the button, the garage was suddenly flooded with sunlight and we were off. Out the gate of the Sexo Hotel onto the busy Highway and back almost 1 K to the underpass. Road work made the ride even more difficult. Dust swirled from the speeding traffic.

Slow going and my slowly sinking feeling of nausea ground us to a stop just 15 Ks out. The traffic on Highway Vallarta was so thick and the off ramps so difficult that we decided to stop and find a Hotel. A guy working outside at a Plumbing place tried to understand then tried to help. Failing he called inside and a nice young girl came out. Between then they decided that the best would be to loop around to the Street where we’d seen Costco and we’d find Hotels there. The first one was expensive, wouldn’t allow the bikes in the room and had no space to store them. They recommended a place, Nuevo Guadalajara, just down the street.

A Motel but they have a restaurant and the room is clean. I began taking Cipro 3 days ago but it doesn’t seem to be making a difference. We settled in and I hit the bed. We had room service deliver soup then Cat used our computer on wireless (Yes this little place has wireless Internet connect.) to check e-mails and let the family know where we are and why we’re holed up.

Room Service for dinner and TV. No CNN but American Network and movies in English with subtitles.

January 10, 2006
A Day With Doctor Rebecca, Mary and Louisa

A night of light sleep interrupted by quick trips to the toilet. I still have full blown diarrhea.

By 8:00 AM we decided to see a Doctor. Cat spoke with our new pal Gerardo. He suggested a Clinic and thought they’d speak English there. We caught a taxi and he told the driver where to take us. Somehow, in translation the Taxi Driver took us to a different place. It’s near the Hotel so we figured it would work.

Real San Jose Hospital is new. The staff helpful but only a young girl, Louisa in admitting, speaks English. We struggled until getting the point across that I wanted a stool and blood test. They got the blood then I got one of my all too numerous urges and we had testing materials. They suggested coming back in 2 hours for the results.

Another Taxi ride then Breakfast, I had 2 soft boiled eggs to settle things. We watched the Judge Alito Nomination Hearings until Cat was too bored to continue. She took the pictures of the Cancun to Mexico City journal to a little Postal Center to send to Wally.

I rested and did a little typing. When Cat returned we waked to Pollo Pepe, a chicken restaurant across the highway. Not an easy walk, we had to go 4 blocks up then back to get across. The food was pretty good, my stomach is feeling better, just from the visit we assume?

Tests Say I’m NORMAL?

Back at the Hotel, I grabbed a taxi back to the Hospital and Cat walked to Costco. The tests are both negative. No amoeba or virus, just run of the mill diarrhea. Well, I may not feel that much better but do feel confident to move on, tomorrow.

I grabbed a taxi and had him drop me at Costco. A sweep of the aisles and no Cat? Across the street to Wal-Mart and no Cat there either. I bought a medication that Dr. Rebecca had prescribed and walked back to the Hotel. Cat had tried to buy things at Costco but they claimed that our card has expired and wanted her to buy a membership. She ended up the big Mega Market across the Highway. Our paths may have crossed but we didn’t see each other.

Another evening meal on the bed. Room service and TV. I took one of the new pills and almost immediately felt terrible. It seemed to stick in my throat.

A little TV then bed.

January 11, 2006
Guadalajara to Magdalena
82 Kilometers

GerardoGerardo has helped us a lot, he was so interested that we had to have a picture. He lived in San Diego for 8 years. Has ex-wife and 2 kids. They moved to Los Angeles.

Terrible traffic the first 22 Ks then it thinned. Hills, long slow pulls but we rode ‘em’ all. Slowly of course.

Stopped at the overlook of Tequila and ate our sandwiches. A couple and friend stopped and chatted as they enjoyed the view. Then Jose Luis & Janet pulled in, stretched and enjoyed the view then turned their attention to us. He came over with a bag of fruit and insisted that we have some for strength. He lived in Colorado for 4 years, loved it, did lots of skiing. People are so kind and these are some of the very nice ones.
Santa Sofia Hillside Herd Bat Mountain
Autumn Colors Climb Tequila
Tequila Tequila Jose Luiz & Janet

Opals and A Walking Stick

FarmerIWalking Stickt is generally down from the Tequila Overlook but there are some pretty good upward pulls left for us. We rolled up onto the Autopista and studied the lay of the land. Magdalena stretches along the Autopista but the turnoff is 2 Ks above it? Knowing how this works most of the time, we took the cutoff. Trying for a short cut we pushed into the median and weeds only to realize that it wouldn’t work. Then, as we got back on track I noticed a weed stuck to my front pannier. Wait, is it a weed? It’s moving, walking, its a walking stick. We got a picture then set it back into the weeds.

The turn off was the right thing to do, we passed a Hotel that looked pretty good but we chose to roll to the center. A couple of Police in a pickup suggested the place we passed is the best, the #2 is Opalo, just around the corner.

The name Hotel Opalo means Opal, the stone that makes this little town famous, but it’s no Gem. The rooms are in a courtyard, ours, #5, behind a metal door, bleak and cold as heck. After prompting, a guy did come and get hot water flowing to the shower. Hey, rudimentary toilet with shower head that sprays across the entire bathroom but what should we expect for 190 Pesos or about $19 US.

Found a bottle of Mexican Wine, took it to Lupitas for dinner. Carne Asada, a flat thin piece of meat that they pounded to tenderize. It’s served floating in soupy bean juice and a glob of rice Mexicano. Sorry if it we made it sound bad, it was great. So much meat that we asked them to hold it and make sandwiches for us tomorrow when we come for breakfast. .

January 12, 2006
Magdalena to Ixtlan del Rio
52 Kilometers

Breakfast, eggs floating in bean juice, great. Very tasty bacon, too. Cat had huevos revueltos, scrambled mine were sunny side up or, suave as they say in Spanish.
Hotel Opalo Opals Mexican Opals
History Opal  

On the road by 9:00 AM, we decided to back track and you know how we hate that! A couple of guys sitting on the curb suggested that we could take a short cut to the Autopista but we’d have to lift the bikes over the barbed wire fence. So, back track it is.
Cow Town Horse in Water Desert Cattle

The first 20 Ks after getting back on are flat. Then a gentle up through foothills for another 12 or so. A huge down that numbed our braking hands and we were sure that we’d be sleeping in Tepic tonight. Then, as suddenly as it turned down we were struggling up. Big ups, that left the old road looking like a tiny ribbon with toy trucks and buses streaming along it.
Tequila & Tree Cacti Cacti & corn

New Highway OstrichLunch at the top of the hill. Our left over steak sandwiches were great with Gatorade. Clouds covered the sky and the wind cooled enough to send Cat scurrying for her jacket.

Finally it’s a down hill run. As usual, we still had to pedal and even push a few times but at last, we had Ixtlan del Rio in our sights. Worry is the root of all evil, we have been concerned for 3 days about having to ride 13 Ks off the Autopista, into this town. Now, we find that the map is wrong, the town lies just 2ks off and it’s all down hill.

Two girls on a Motor Scooter sort of led us to Hotel Plaza. The sign says 4 stars, that must be on a scale of 1 to 10. Hey, the room’s large, on the ground floor and has 2 beds. We can keep the bikes inside and the shower’s HOT. And, the TV has dozens of Channels, no CNN in English but, plenty to watch.

We walked the streets and Voila, found a bottle of Castillo de Diablo, life is so good.

We do have American Network, a connection with CBS on TV. So we get several English language programs including headline news. Also, Sony and a couple of others. So we sipped a glass of Diablo and watched.

The girls at the desk told us of a Restaurant down the street. It is quite nice looking and the menu looks even better. We both ordered Fideo Soup and a grilled steak. All in all, very good. They even had tasty flour tortillas.

Back and ready for bed by 9:00 PM. A little TV then lights out. Tomorrow is the kind of day that will require a good nights rest.

January 13, 2006
Ixtlan del Rio to Tepic
83 Kilometers

Up late but and early start due to a time change. Noticed that the clock in the Restaurant said 7:00 AM. My watch said 8:00, the Desk Clerk confirmed that it’s 7:00 and the time changed when we crossed into Nayarit State yesterday. So, an early start and we need it. The climb out of town was nominal compared to the first real hill. A slow crawler for more than 10 Ks.
Lookin’ Back Agave Valley Below
Climbers    

Ah, as usual after climbing, a fast 3 Ks down then damn, another long slow crawl. It was lunch time by the time we slowly pulled into Mirador De Joya, an overlook of the valley below. We sat and ate our ham and cheese sandwiches that the Restaurant had made for us. Pretty soupy, pretty good, juice running down our arms.
Volcano Volcano Ridges
La Joya Green, Green Landscape
Gatorade Stop    

Another Bat MountainCrawling onward, we were even forced to walk a time or two. Our legs are starting to go. Just when we thought we may have to thrown in the towel, stick out our thumbs and hook a ride, we crested the hill looked down, down into the valley. The last 20 Ks are a wonderful downhill swoop, into Tepic.

The Highway is the Main Street. Traffic was in rush hour mode, lots of honking and cutting in and out, just what we needed after this trying day.

Hotel Palomas looked good from across the street. Cat’s call and she was ready to lie down, this is it.

A nice room, Cable TV and they also have Internet included. Nothing like a hot shower after a hard days work.

Dinner in the Restaurant. The servers are dressed in western attire. Steak night and we can use a good steak.

It didn’t take much TV to lull us into dreamland. A tough day, a good day.

January 14, 2006
A Day of Rest in Tepic

Slow beginnings, Buffet Breakfast. then off to the laundry. Cat went, I headed back to the room to type but the gals were already cleaning. I ran, well slogged to catch up with Cat. A good laundry deal, 35 Pesos, $3.50 for most of what we own.

We shopped and bought water and a strange bottle of Chilean Wine at the Ley Store. Back to Las Palomas and the room was still unmade. I started typing while Cat hit the “Included Internet”.

The gal came to make up the room. We told the Desk before Breakfast that we were staying tonight. They forgot to tell housekeeping. So, I joined Cat at the big machine and watched here work the messages.

Typing got boring so I did some Internet while Cat watched TV then we ate the left over Pizza for lunch.

Back for the laundry at 6:00 PM. A stop at Wal Mart and we found a roast chicken and other accoutrements for dinner in. Good food and a good movie.

Sunday, January 15, 2006
Tepic to Mazatlan
44 Kilometers Via Bicycle
250 Kilometers Reynaldo’s Truck and Rapido Bus

Up early and anxious to go, we packed then hit the Buffet. First in the Restaurant, it is now decorated with Super Heroes balloons and other kid things. The Manager says that today is “Family” day. Same good bill of fare, we both ate too much fruit including the banana we brought to the party.

Yellow FlowerI hit the Internet and got a few messages off, Cat pulled the bikes outside. We pushed across the street and began the ride at 8:30 AM. Quiet Sunday morning, little traffic. The street began to pitch up and down. The ups were sometimes steep. It took us 40 minutes to make the 10 Ks to Carretara 15. A climb away from Tepic then we were on the Autopista. Not as well defined or free of cross traffic as usual but 2 lanes in each direction with a wide shoulder. However, the shoulder is full of loose rock, glass and steel belted tire shreds.

We finally gave up on the shoulder, jumped up the 8 inch asphalt bump and began to wheel down hill. It isn’t all down, in fact we even had to push up one stiff rise. Screaming downward we came upon a truck on its side. They tried to make the corner with too much downhill speed. Made us hold the brake levers even tighter, looking for control.

A Look at Death and Dismemberment

CRASHAt 34 Ks out the 4 lane divided highway ended and traffic was funneled into a narrow 2 way, 2 lane. The first burst of traffic passing was pretty patient with us until a bus tried to get pass. He swung out slightly then realized he was headed for a head on crash. He quickly pulled back and came so close Cat was forced from the road. I stood my ground but actually felt it almost touch the hair on my arm, which by the way, was standing straight out. I too had to jump into the rocks and dirt. When I looked back Cat was signaling, you know the hand slashing the throat move that indicates “Cut”. She is adamant, we will not cycle here. I stood for a long time, thinking, hoping for an epiphany, a sign or idea about continuing. In the end, I had to agree. Even if our “Death and Dismemberment” clauses are effective on our insurance, we don’t want to die or be dismembered.

So, se stood and held our hands out, asking for a ride. Reynaldo pulled up on his big white Pickup and helped us load the bikes into the back. Cat and I crouched next to them and he drove like the wind. Though he and Father-in-Law Peter are from Tepic they’re going to visit relatives in Santiago Ixcuintla. They agree that cycling on the Carretara is like suicide. Though Santiago is 7 Ks off the highway they feel w would be safer if we take a bus to Mazatlan. I queried them about the shoulder of the road, “Will it get wider”? They again agreed, “No, it’s like this all the way to Mazatlan”.

Reynaldo & PeterReynaldo and Peter dropped us across from the Bus Station. We shook hands, traded addresses then they were off and we pushed inside. First a soft drink, we’re both dry. Then Cat went to the window to get info for the bus trip. Oops, this is the wrong station, they only go back to Tepic or south to Puerto Vallarta. Its a few blocks up the street to the correct Station. We rode.

Not really a Station, just a tiny store front, a desk and little else including staff. A couple of gals waiting for a taxi told us that the next bus leaves fro Mazatlan at 4:00 PM. Then we saw the sign painted near the door. As we sat drinking our soda the 12:00 PM bus left. So, a 3 ½ hour wait. We ate our left over chicken with cheese and bread bought at Wal-Mart. Pretty good.

Cat bought a telephone card and struggled to make it work. A father and son helped her, they showed her how to call using a different area code. She couldn’t reach our first choice so booked us at a place called Hotel Sands.

At 3:00 a young girl came in. After a very tough time translating we learned that the bus will be in at 3:30. She wants us to buy our tickets now but Cat refuses. She wants to make sure that we can get the bikes aboard. The big, noisy bus pulled up across the street at 3:15. Cat looked then I went across and the driver pointed to the guy sweeping trash off the bus into the street. He opened the side door and indicated that we should lay the bikes inside. Easier said than down. I had to struggle but finally got mine in the larger bay with Cat’s help. Then we had to loosen the handlebars and remove one of her front bags to get hers into the smaller space.

As we finished our struggle the Cleaning Guy began loading bags of fresh oysters around the my bike. The smell good now, hope they still do in 5 ½ hours!

The bus pulled out, actually backed out, down the street then around and up the highway. I was able to keep an eye on the road most of the way. Reynaldo was really right, there is no space for a bike. The bus makes several scheduled stops and as many middle of now where drops and pickups, too.

The fiery sunset left us in the dark before 6:00 PM. We opened a bottle of white and did our best to enjoy the ride and Happy Hour.

Last stop, 8:45 PM. As we off loaded a drama of lost baggage exploded. The driver offered the young couple money but they refused. I set about getting the bikes out as they argued. Cat’s was very unruly with the front wheel and handlebars loosened from each other. I had to drag mine through the Oyster Juice. Should smell very seafoodish by tomorrow.

The drivers took time from the ongoing dilemma to point the way to the Malecon and Hotel Sands. A 4 block walk, a couple of asks and we were at the door. They have 2 levels of rooms. We thought at first that they were talking about 375 Peso rooms without views. The woman pointed down the stairs to a basement looking place. She really discouraged us saying that the rooms were dark with only small windows. Cat looked at one room but I hated being just above the ramp to the underground parking. The next one was filled with the smell of smoke. The gal was getting tired of us, we took the one above the parking lot.

The room is just okay. They do have CNN and lots of other English language stations but, no hot water? We ran it and ran it and called and called to no avail. They sent a guy to work on it and we ordered dinner. Too late for eating but we need food. Fish for me, pasta for the Cat.

Hot water was not to be. We slipped under the covers and watched 60 Minutes. Cat dozed off then so did I. When I awoke it was after midnight and the TV was blaring.

January 16, 2006
A Change of Venue Hotel Sands to The Melville Suites
5 Kilometers

Up fairly early, we decided to walk into the Old Town for Breakfast and in the hope of finding a nicer place to stay. It’s overcast and cool.
La Playa Fountain For Rent
Cathedral    

Breakfast in Viejo Mazatlan. A sidewalk Café with several Gringos already in attendance. A group of cyclist, 4 older guys from Canada were eating and chatting when another couple asked about the food. We heard them say they’re from San Francisco so when they decided to take a seat nearby we struck up a conversation.

John & SharonJohn and Sharon are actually from Santa Cruz. They’re spending several weeks just hanging around here in Mexico. They drove down the Baja and offered some ideas of places they liked. John is a Property Manager but mainly takes care of his own places. Sharon’s job was outsourced to India so she drew her unemployment while trying to find work then they decided to get by on what they have and travel.

The waiter told Cat where the Hotel we were heading toward is located then almost insisted that we stop to see The Hotel Melville just down the street.

The place is wonderful. The room they took us to was wonderful, too. We went no further, this will be our new home in Mazatlan. The Manager even told us how to catch a bus back to the Sands.

Cat went in and checked the place while I watched our things. She loved it, we’ll stay here. As we started to enter a guy, Gene, came out and greeted us. He sells a sort of Time Share and asked us to spend a few minutes hearing his program. We were struggling, trying to think of ways to get out of it when a couple, Grant and Conny saved us. They’re from Edmonton, Canada and they insisted that we’d love The Melville. Gene went back out to the street to light up his cigarette.
Business Man Fishing Fleet Pelican King
Tres Islas Carnival Couple & dolphin
3 Rocks El Diablo Lady of Mazatlan
Castle Melville  

Grant & ConnyThe room is really nice and the Manager agreed to his price, without tax. When we add in what Grant and Conny say is a great breakfast it’s a fine deal. The room is large, the bed a sort of canopy with decorative net that looks like mosquito netting. We got the bikes in then went for a walk.

Who the Heck is Herman Melville?

Hotel Melville is located in Old Mazatlan but near the Malecon and several interesting neighborhoods. By the way, who is Herman Melville, anyway? Well he spent time here back in 1844. did he stay in this Hotel? Probably not as it was a Convent back then but he is a well known author. His most famous work? Moby Dick!

What a beautiful day for a walk and what wonderful sights to enjoy and photograph. Both if us have been here some years ago. Neither of us remember much about the place.

A Jeep Becomes a Submarine?

It was about 25 years ago that I first visited Mazatlan. We stayed in a Condo north of town and watched in wonder as jeeps drove back and forth on the sand. I had to try it so we rented one and drove to a long stretch of beach where several others were racing back and forth. A I drove into the sand the front wheels sank. We scoured the area and found palm fronds and boards to get through the dry sand. The more we moved forward the deeper the wheels went into the sand. Finally we couldn’t move forward or back. A young guy came by and indicated I sign language that the tide was coming in and the jeep would soon be under water.

We walked back to the Condo and I called the Rental Company. Though I urged them to send a tow truck, they had 4 young guys in a jeep pick me up. After struggling for 6 hours they gave up and we drove into town for beers and a truck. The truck got as close as possible then realized that the cable was too short. Again, I tried to get them to drive back and get more cable. Back to town and on the way we came across a huge snake with a rabbit in its mouth. One of the Jeep boys jumped out and beat the snake until it released the rabbit. He threw it on my feet and explained that his family will eat it, not the Boa Constrictor. More beer and a cable then back to see that the Jeep was now submerged in the surging surf. It was 2:00 AM when they finally pulled it free.

The Car Rental Company was adamant that I must pay for the Jeep. When I discovered that they had removed the drive shaft to the front wheels they reduced the cost to $500. I put it on our American Express and promptly filed a protest. After several weeks the Rental Company’s parent in the US sent an apology, refunded the $500 and even gave us $100 for all the trouble we’d experienced. A Happy Ending to an interesting event.

Mike & Dave

We suggested to Grant and Conny that we have dinner together. They have a dinner date with a couple that had been in the room adjacent to there’s since they got here. So, we made it a 6 some. Grant and Conny had mentioned that the couple seemed to spend most of their time I the room, watching TV and smoking. Surprise, when we met in the Courtyard the couple was 2 guys, Mike and Dave. They’ve been together for more than 20 years. We had a wonderful time, they’re jovial, almost outspoken and interested in everything. After dinner we walked to an apartment that a woman friend is moving in to. They just wanted to show us how much apartment $500 US per month would buy here.
Lady & Lute Dolorosa Strange
Mike, Dave, Conny & Grant    

January 17, 2006
Ferry Tickets to La Paz

FordThe breakfast isn’t great but then, we’ve been on a high fat diet. With tickets on the Ferry as our objective we set off again this morning on a long walk through Viejo Mazatlan. There are some very nice residential neighborhoods, one of which we walked to last night with Mike and Dave to the apartment. 

The Port seems to be in a lazy mode today. A few trucks moving around and 1 Ferry loading. The Company we thought would be best, Sematur, is now defunct. The office is full of old papers and trash. Baja Ferries office is open but doesn’t look much better than the other. They wouldn’t sell tickets until tomorrow?

On the way back we went searching for the Mexican Immigration Office. We need to extend our Visas. A sit and wait then the gal at the desk explained the process and handed us a sheaf of paper work. They want us to go to a bank, pay the money then get copies of every page of our Passports. What a terrible system? We took the papers and advice then decided to move on, find another office later and see if this maze is the norm or just this gal’s idea of fun.

Lunch at a place in what Cat calls the Gringo Zone, a row of restaurants with outside seating and seats full of folks from the North.

Back at Melville Grant and Conny invited us to join them in their room for wine. They’ve been keeping our white in their refrigerator. Of course we ended up having dinner, again. Tacos, steak and soup. Great food with a great couple.

A little TV then off to bed.

January 18, 2006
Boat to La Paz, 4:00 PM

Mardi Gras GirlsThe Hotel is really busy this morning. A group has moved in for breakfast. They appear to be writers here for a conference. There is also a group of locals preparing for Carnival, the local Mardi Gras party coming in February. Our waitress got the orders all screwed up. We started to complain then decided it wasn’t worth it. Conny and Grant joined us and we talked lives and loves. Cat is pushing Grant to pop the question. He’s nervous, he’s 20 years older and has grown kids. We told them of my sordid past and how Cat’s family warned her not to marry me. Age difference and too much past baggage. However, it seems to be working out?

Cliff Divers and a Morning With Grant & Conny

Cliff DiverDuring the discussion we talked about the Cliff Divers. They’re mentioned in our guide book but we haven’t been able to even find the place they purportedly dive from. Grant and Conny know the place and have gone several times but never seen any divers. So, we set off for the Rock. As if divined, the Divers were on the rock and bus loads of tourists knew it. We were part of a crowd. The first guy dove so quickly that we didn’t have time for a picture. The second struck a pose for photos. Then I captured the daring leap on video. The most dangerous part of the dive seems to be getting back through the heavy surf to the shore.

Cliff Diver

Canopy Bed Back at Melville, Cat went shopping for wine and water. During her absence Grant & Conny said goodbye to me, I hurried to the room to get our camera but when I got back curbside they were gone. Well, they were nervous and wanted to give themselves plenty of time to get to the airport.

 

Boredom then Boarding

Bikes & boat They kindly allowed us a late, 2:00 PM checkout. Within 10 minutes we had cycled into the Port. No line, no waiting at the ticket window. So, by 2:15 we were standing near the gaping open mouth of the Ferry, waiting to load. The guy in charge told us that it would be at least 1 ½ hours before our turn to cross the gangplank.

Us & Oscar While we waited a young guy, Oscar, rode up on a Freestyle Bicycle. His dream is to go Pro in Freestyle Cycling. He’s competed in several shows and won a couple of events. He works construction but is off for a 2 week vacation at home.

Finally, after all trucks and cars had passed us by we were allowed to board. Strapping the bikes against the bulkhead, we only removed the cameras and computer. Our ticket includes a cabin. Oscar will sleep in a seat in the Salon. He bid us goodbye and we carried our things up the 3 flights and down the corridor. Our cabin is pretty simple, bunk beds but does have a private toilet.

As we pushed off and the boat started to rock & roll Cat immediately felt the quease of seasickness. We walked the deck but it’s so cold in the wind that we couldn’t stay outside for long. I admit to being queasy but Cat is on the verge of full blown sick.
Pongas & Cruiser Mazatlan Isla de Piedra (Stone Island)
Out of Maz Maz Light House Looking Back
Tall Ship Gull on green Maz Malecon

Adios Mazatlan

Greg and Dramamine

As we stood in line for dinner the guy behind us, Greg, struck up a conversation. He’s from Philadelphia, worked as a Chemist with Dupont but has retired, early. Cat began to turn green as we chatted. He suggested that he has an extra Dramamine. We took our plates to a quiet place in an adjacent space. Greg, who had gone to his cabin for the pill, came back and sat with us. Cat took the it then the 3 of us talked travel talk. He has been around, mostly here, Central and South America. Really a kind and caring guy.

Back in our little green cellblock, we went directly to the bunks. The pill kicked in and Cat slept like a kitten.

January 19, 2006
Pichilingue to La Paz
23 Kilometers
A Day in La Paz

We awoke to a bright sunny day and calm seas. A quick stroll about the deck then in line for breakfast. Almost the same food as dinner, we did get a tiny handful of scrambled eggs and some dry bread. They have no juice and coffee costs extra, 10 Pesos for a cup. We splurged. Greg stopped again and I got his picture.
Greg Sunrise Baja coast
Pichilingue    

JorgeCat’s nervous about the roads and convinced me that we should get a ride into la Paz. A pickup truck pulled up when we waved. Jorge is form Cabo, headed home from a Baby Furniture shopping spree in Mazatlan. We shifted his load, put the Car Seat in side, stacked the parts of the crib and put the rocking chair on top of them. With all that, we could only get one bike in. AS we struggled I asked, girl or boy and he proudly said, “Boy”. I asked how old he is and Jorge said, “He’s not born yet”. So, they’re getting ready for the big event. We gave up, pulled Cat’s bike down and thanked Jorge for the effort and taking time with us. He works at Palmilla Resort and has for several years.

So, having failed and not seeing any other possibilities, we set of cycling into la Paz. Yes, there are some narrow spots and when trucks pass its close but, a beautiful ride. Sunny and warm, the hills didn’t slow us down. Within an hour and a half we were on the beautiful Malecon cycling beachfront.
Hola Baja Baja Ferries La Paz Malecon

Seeking cost effective lodging proves difficult here. We tried several places, some that were just bad and some that were full. While shopping we came upon the Immigration Office. There’s a line of people looking for Visa extensions or an FM3, a more permanent type of Visa. I asked a couple if you can work here if you get one, like a Green Card in the US. They didn’t know, they’re retired but a guy in line turned and said that there are 2 kinds, the one he needs is to be able to work and it’s harder to get.

The man at the counter tried to discourage Cat, suggested that we get them later, but she stood her ground. Then he conferred with his fellow officers and the group decided to issue here. The sent us to a bank where we paid the 210 Pesos each. ($21 US) Then back and in line again where they took a copy of the front page of our Passports then stamped the Visas and our passports. A total of 30 minutes including standing in line time.

A young couple, Sam from the US and Tamar from England spoke with us, asked about if we were cycling here. Nice kids, they’ve been traveling for the past 10 years. This is the dream we all have in our youth. Wait, my dream was just to travel around the US, somehow they eclipsed that by miles and a decade? They are heading south seeking sun and fun. They waved goodbye and promised to stay in touch via e-mail.
Sam & Tamar Paper Hat & Boat Back Packers Dream

We gave up on Hotel shopping and went back to one we’d passed on because of price, Hotel Perla. A pretty nice room with good bath. They did allow bikes in the room and have CNN on their Satellite

Starving by now and hungry for home cooking we had lunch at Burger King. Next a walk to the Bus Station. The gal was nice but told us that we’d have to take the bikes apart. We thought abut that then asked a different bus company, Executijo. The girl said that they have a large bus and could take the bikes and bags. We trusted he but delayed buying tickets until we see the bus. There are several departures daily and she told us we’d get on tomorrow.

Adios Carlos ‘n Charlie’s

La Paz SunsetBack for hot showers and a rest then dinner time. Carlos ‘n Charlie’s is famous worldwide. We walked in and took a table. The waiter handed us menus then rushed away. The food is pretty high priced but this is the famous Carlos ‘n Charlie’s so we were sort of prepared. Then the big question, wine. The waiter brought their list, the only white they have is Cerrito Sauvignon Blanc. We have tried it and most of the other Mexican wines and found them just so-so. And, they want 380 Pesos, $38 for a mediocre wine. We asked about bringing our own bottle and he had to check with the Manager. He returned and told us that they have a corkage fee of 150 Pesos. ($15) We said, Adios.

Back to Hotel Perla, the Restaurant down allowed us our wine at no cost and served a darned good steak for me and shrimp for the Cat. Both of us had backed potato and steamed veggies on the side. All very good and for less than C ‘n C’s.

A little TV then sleep in a bed that isn’t on the move.

January 20, 2006
Bus to Cabo San Lucas
That Was No Warning, That Was a Threat!

The included breakfast is just OJ, toast and coffee. As we savored a couple and young guy seated nearby got up to leave then stopped at our table. The older guy asked, “What are your jackets about”? At first we joked and told them they’re designed to keep trucks and buses off our backs. Then told them that we’re cycling around the world. “I thought so”, he sort of snorted. “You people are dangerous, we run an RV Caravan. We see people like you all the time”. We were heartened to hear that others are cycling the Baja on Highway 1. We asked if there are lots of cyclist and he scowled, then snarled, only seen one this year”.

Then came the threat, “We come up an hill and you’re there, you’ll probably wave us around but we can’t see ahead. We start past and there’s a big truck coming. Who do you think we’ll choose to hit, you or the truck”?

“We won’t wave you by”, I said. “We’ll wave for you to slow down until we hit the top”.

“That won’t work either, we don’t slow down”, he snorted as they walked out the door.

Oh Boy, did that ever help Cat’s confidence.

We pulled the bikes out, stood them on end down the elevator then rode off to the bus station. Another great feature of Executijo, they have computers available for passengers. We checked e-mail and found directions to Capt Bob and Chris’s house. The Executijo Bus pulled in, a porter helped me put them under, bag and baggage and we were off to Cabo.

The front 2 seats have a great view and we got em’. The road is very narrow which Cat pointed out many times during the 2 hour ride. Visions of an angry RVers like our pal this morning danced in her head. They played a Steve Martin movie during the trip. Helped to wile away the hours. We pulled into the Cabo Terminal at 1:15 PM, on time. They have computers at this end, too. Another message from Capt. Bob and Chris with slightly more specific directions. .

The Cabo That We Don’t Recognize Hijo de Pescador

Both Cat and I have been here in Cabo before but not together. My first trip was way back in 1978. There was this paved highway but it was only a 2 lane road and the other streets were all dirt. There was one t-shirt shop, a guy from LA had just opened. The big deal was a freezer, the Grocery Store had just received a freezer. The really big deal was TV Dinners. There was a line waiting to buy and try. We met a young local guy with his wife at the beach. He took me along as he spear fished for their dinner. We bought a t-shirt for his son and had the LA guy iron on letters, “Hijo de Pescador”, son of the Fisherman. He was so excited that, after he thanked us he ran all the way home. This place has changed as much as that baby who is now 29 years old must have by now. Wonder if they still live here?

Meeting New Friends, Bob & Chris

So we set off down unfamiliar streets in a slightly familiar setting. The e-mail from Bob and Chris though more specific still left us wondering. So we wandered up the hill to the Pemex Station and asked. They sent us back down and around. Then up another hill and ask at a Real Estate Sales Office. Back down, a backtrack on the highway then the dirt road they’d described. The very reason we climbed two hills. Fear of dirt.

At last, we rode through the gates and into their neighborhood. A strange and different project, originally built as an RV Park with drive through parking ports. Once built and sold everything began to change. Almost everyone has built the port into a home. We found Bob & Chris’s place and it’s the epitome of add on and reconstruction. Now a 2 story with master suite up and a bedroom for us, down.

We rang and Chris answered. Though we’ve only met on the Internet she looked and felt familiar to us. Bob was out walking and looking for us. He came back in and we sat at the counter in their very modern kitchen and chatted as Chris made chili, deviled eggs and lemon pies for the afternoon Happy Hour.

We hit the shower then dressed for the festivities. Long sleeves and long pants, this desert where these birds flock together is cold tonight. Obviously not as cold as the coop they’ve flown, but cold.

Happy HourThe neighbors, most of whom are snow birds, flock together every Friday evening near the pool Everybody knows everybody, most have owned here for years. There is a small problem with the Home Owners Association that is the main topic of conversation. Hungry, we ate and listened.

Bob & Chris are great hosts, the best is, they go to bed early.

January 21, 2006
A Day in Cabo with Capt. Bob & Chris

Bob’s jeep is in the shop. He says that they told him he could pick it up Monday but he knows better. The mechanics, like most other people here, work all week and half day on Saturday. Then they party until late Sunday. Many of them fail to make it to work on Monday so not much work gets done. However, Bob says that if he fails to go in Monday they won’t have it ready by Tuesday. A priority system?

A Tijuana Taxi to Lenny’s

Bob & ChrisThey borrowed The Tijuana Taxi, a Volkswagen with a unique paint job from friendly neighbors then it was off to Lenny’s Café for breakfast. We laughed because when they told us we were going to Lenny’s we thought it was a play off the old ad for Denny’s Restaurants back home. Not so, Lenny’s is a stack it deep and sell it cheap kind of place. Very popular with locals and tourists alike. Maybe because they serve more and a better food than Denny’s?

The Dream Catcher Dream

You have probably wondered, how did Pat & Cat meet Capt. Bob and Chris? Well, its that old Internet magic once again. Cat’s cousin was very wrapped up in the re-election of George W and sending out pretty harsh e-mails. I sent a note suggesting Tolerance to his list and Chris answered, sort of defending him. In the exchanges we learned that Capt. Bob and Chris are adventurers, too.

They bought the Dream Catcher and are living a DREAM. She’s a 68 foot, over all, Westbay Sonship and she’s a beauty. Oh she wasn’t a beauty when they bought her but they’ve transformed her. Like me, Capt. Bob has never served in the Military. His background, like mine, is business but his business is a great deal more hands on than the one that occupied my career. His company in California served the Air and Aerospace industries. Some sort of Alloy Bonding thing that I didn’t quite understand. Airplane and Space Shuttle parts is the best I can say. He has retired now and his kids are running the Company. His background and mechanical understanding can be seen in the many details of this boat. Not a one man show, Chris redecorated the interior and it’s as pristine as the rest of the craft.

Casting OffThe sun is bright and out of the wind, it’s nice and warm. Cat and I just got out of the way and watched two tried and true hands weigh anchor. Well they didn’t have an anchor down but it does take a real team effort to move this monster.

Out of the harbor we cruised down coast then across the open sea and followed a pod of whales. Cat was as excited as a school girl, this is the first time in all her boating experience, that she’s spotted whales. For me the thrill was watching Capt. Bob set the course and allow the boat to steer herself. Out almost to the open Pacific to spot the old lighthouse then back along the coast. They pointed out a unique home with swimming pool below a deck, clinging to the cliffs. It has a window so that you get the spectacular view even when under water.
Cat @ Controls Takin’ Her Out Schooner
Cabo Cabo Coast El Arco
Lighthouse Gray Whale Old Lighthouse
Pool With View Sol y Mar Rocks and Parasail
Rock & Beach    

Of all Cabo’s features, the arch at the end of land, has to be the most recognized. Yes, this is the end of land, Finis Terra like the name of the Hotel above. The tip of the Baja where the Pacific meets the Sea of Cortez. What a day this has been, sun and fun and great new friends. By the way, Dream Catcher is their home much of the year. They are planning on sailing up coast to Ventura County later this year. We have volunteered to try to find live aboard dockage for her.
Arch & Parasail P & C & Arch Bob, Chris & Arch
Readying to Tie Up Dream Catcher  

Capt. Bob’s Fix Back at the house, we relaxed, used the computer to check and answer e-mails and continued getting to know each other. I have had a rattle and found it when starting to load rear bags. I’ve got a screw loose, well many have told me that but it was Bob who discovered the culprit. He set about tightening but the tired old screw broke off as he gently turned it. No problem for an Alloy man. He has the tools so was able to tap the old screw out of the braised on rack mount and rethread it. Boy is it good to have friends in the know or what?

We offered to take us all out for dinner. Then Cat and Chris decided to cook instead. Well, its Chris’s kitchen so she did most of the cooking. We mostly sipped wine and watched.

Pillow Talk and A New Plan

A relaxing hour talking while watching extreme stunts on their big screen TV. Much of the conversation was an urging to give up the plan to cycle Highway 1 up the Baja. Form the time we arrived, and at the Happy Hour, we’ve been listening to horror stories about accidents and deaths on the road.

With all this advice in mind and an extremely worried Cat we went to bed and talked. She wants to take a bus north rather than cycle. Since today’s sighting she’s really interested in visiting the bays where the Whales bear their young. I would love to experience that, too but I came to cycle. This is a cycling adventure. Alas, a compromise, we decided that we’d bus back to La Paz, Ferry back to the Mexican Mainland and cycle up the coast of the Sea of Cortez, across the northern frontier of Baja California and enter California at Tijuana as originally planned.

Neither this new plan nor sleep came easily.

January 22, 2006
Bus Back to La Paz

Our going away gift from Capt. Bob and Chris was a breakfast of biscuits and gravy. Oh Chris cooked eggs and sausage for us even though they avoid these things in their diet.

Gibo HouseWe got the bikes loaded, took pictures then hugged and made promises to meet again in California later this year then rode away.

The streets of Cabo are busy and the traffic not very forgiving. It’s a different day today weather wise, too. Cool, cloudy and windy. We rolled into the Station then had to wait. We’d just missed the 10:00 AM bus and the next bus out is 11:15 AM. We invested the free time in the included Internet access.

Though we got the front seats again the film was in Spanish. Time past sort of slowly but we spent it reading about the Ferry to Topolobampo and places along the Cortez Coast. We decided that a ride on the famous Ferrocarril Chihuahua al Pacifico AKA the Copper Canyon Train will be a good replacement for swimming with whales.

Mike & Cheri Back on solid ground we made the rounds of La Paz Hotels again, searching for a better deal. And, once again we gave in and headed for the Perla. Pushing down the sidewalk we were approached by a couple asking about our jackets and journey. Mike and Cheri are sailboat cruisers, here from San Diego, California. They sailed down last year and left the boat in storage while they took care of business. They’re back and headed south, soon. They’re waiting for a part to be shipped before disembarking. We talked of dinner and will get together via e-mail.

Another Burger King chicken sandwich lunch the up the elevator from parking and into our new, oceanfront room at Perla. Cat walked the main looking for a dinner spot while I sat up shop and typed journal pages.

We ended up at the Hacienda, a local place full of kids running around having fun and good smells. They offer Japanese, Chinese and steaks. I chose the steak and it was Chow Mien for Cat.

A stop at the Internet Café and we found a message from 2 guys cycling the Baja. Their descriptive only confirmed Cat’s conviction not to cycle it and bolstered her feeling for the new plan.

January 23, 2006
A Walk then Sails in the Sunset of La Paz

Pelican CrewMike & CheriThinking of the days when we are back home and working to keep an exercise program in place we set off on a walk to Mike and Cheri’s Boat. Another cool but sunny day. It’s a 3 K walk and we hoofed it pretty fast. They’re tied up inside and no way to reach them. We’d sent an e-mail last night but no way to know if they’ve received it. So we stood at the gate of their dock and yelled out their names. Voila, they heard us and Mike jogged down the dock to let us in. A couple of pictures and a little travel talk then we headed back, driven by hunger. We did make a date for dinner, tonight.

The Malecon is a fantastic place to walk, jog or cycle and it’s well used. Breakfast, the usual bread and water, awe you know what we mean, coffee and bread. They add OJ and we added bananas so a fair start after a fast walk.

Most of my day was spent placing pictures in the new journal pages. I have dedicated these days in La Paz to finishing this chapter. Cat found an info center. They have some maps of Baja but nothing on the Mainland. She brought Tortas and we ate on our deck overlooking the sea. We also connected with wireless and checked messages. Cool but tolerable when not in the wind.

Cat got her hair cut, really cut. Cute but she’s feels a little conspicuous. I like it and decided to get mine cut, too. We walked to the shop but the gal was busy and asked me to return at 3:00 PM.

Back to the computer for me, Cat watched a little TV and read abut Copper Canyon.

Cocktails on the Fantail

Aboard With Mike and CheriCheri called and asked if we would come to the boat for cocktails. They have decided to cast off in the morning, have the part sent to Puerto Vallarta. So, no time for dinner but they want to get together. We took a Taxi out at 5:30 PM, sat on the deck and sipped and talked as the Baja sun sank over the yard arm. They are extremely interesting. Had a Boat Accessories business but sold it. They love birds, in fact part of the reason they left the boat here last fall was because their bird was sick. Mike called it their child replacement. It died and still they grieve. They told us of a friendly goose, part of a pair that fell out of the flock formation last fall and stayed the winter here. Some hungry local killed the Gander but she has taken up permanent residency and visits them every morning.

We had such a good time that we overstayed our welcome, leaving them little time for packing. A Taxi back into town, to Café Milano. Pasta, good pasta then back to Perla and bed. .

January 24, 2006
A Cold Day in La Paz

Another walk along the Malecon. It’s cold and slightly windy this morning. The Continental Breakfast was just the same Continental fare but the waiter was a jewel.

I went back to work on the journal while Cat explored la Paz. When she came back we took a Taxi to Camera store. I’ve been worried, the lens is a little loose and we noticed that there are some small screws missing. Jorge the expert at La Paz Photo looked it over and suggested returning it to the factory. We explained our journey so that he’d know that wouldn’t work. He replaced the missing screws, took them from another camera. What a nice young guy!

La Paz Logo5th Avenue CoffeeWe had taken a Taxi up and the guy waited. He gave us a pretty good round trip fare. He dropped us at the Cathedral on the Plaza. Our quest is to find a map of the Mainland that has roads and distances marked. As we walked and asked a gal from San Francisco came past and pointed out the Book Store. She has just returned this morning from a visit with the whales. Though Cat was a bit melancholy about missing them she has now agreed to ride the other side. We bought a map book of Mexico. The decision is now final, we’ll take the Ferry to Topolobampo and cycle up the coast of the mainland. It will be safer, a little more boring but we’ll have wide shoulders to keep the Trucks and Buses at bay.

Lunch in, Burger King chicken sandwiches.

Finally, I finished the Cancun to Mexico City Journal and e-mailed it to Wally. I went back to the shop and got my hair haircut, not a buzz but a scissor cut with a little style. .

Dinner in sounds good so we walked to a recommended Pizza Parlor. Got the order in the waited and waited. Somehow they forgot us hence an hour wait.

Pizza on the bed and Larry King Live.

January 25, 2006
A Long Boat Day
23 Kilometers

A short walk on the Malecon. Breakfast down, the usual coffee and bread with a OJ thrown in. We picked up supplemental bananas yesterday.
Condo & Plane Row of Pilings  La Paz
La Paz Beach Clean Sweep Daily Harvest

A hurried packing flurry then we were off at 11:15 AM to the boat. Wind, that is in our faces was blowing pretty hard as we rolled down the Malecon. The ride back isn’t exactly a carbon copy of the ride in we took last week. The divided highway outbound takes a turn for the up. A fairly steep climb tested our legs.

Swiss Cheese CliffMarine Green Human nature, a large oil tanker came up from behind on a hill. He swung wide then back quickly to avoid oncoming traffic. Almost swept me off the road. Then, he crested the hill and pulled over with several other trucks. I waved as we passed. What was he thinking?

At the boat before 1:00, we parked in the shade. Cat went for a cola then we sat and ate our left over pizza.

The boat loads under and above. They signaled for us to go into the under area at 2:30. The ship is larger than the one we came over on. Seating in a salon area with big screen TV. Seated, Cat went to check on food. Bad news, they only serve from 3:00 to 4:00 PM? Wonder who thought that one up? Definitely not from a customers perspective.

A Blind Woman and Her Labrador?

Rae & De De Cat mentioned that she’d seen a blind woman with Seeing Eye dog when she walked the deck. When I walked I met the gal, Rae and her dog, De De. She’s not blind and De De doesn’t lead her. She’s from Sonoma, traveling alone. Well she does have De De to talk with. She rescued the dog from the pound, it was found in a dumpster and the staff called her Dumpster Dog or D. D. for short. She says that they’ve changed it to Diva Dog. Typically dogs must stay in the car or, as in their case, the Winnie Minnie. (Miniature Winnebago Motor home) It is getting cold and windy out here.

We watched a movie then at 6:00 PM went to the Restaurant. They have no food, there are those little Styrofoam cups of noodles in the small store but it’s closed? Hot dogs at the bar but not until 8:00 PM.

Cat made a toilet call then went to see if we could get Rae anything. She’s moved inside, near the stairwell, after a big negotiating session with the crew. De De is almost snoozing. Rae gave her 10 mg of valium to calm her. Lots of kids hang around wanting to pet her. Rae needed to use the Bano so Cat took over doggie sitting.

No Wienies, Noodles Only

Then when the little store opened we bought her an ice cream cone. At 8:00 the Bar Tender told us that there are no “Wienies”. So, we bought the Cup ‘o’ Noodles and that was dinner, accompanied by a bottle of Diablo Chardonnay.

It was 9:30 and dark as pitch when we tied up at Topolobamba. Once we were unlocked and re-loaded we rolled into the stream of trucks using their headlights to lead us into town. The Hotel was easy to find. We’d just checked in and gotten to the room when Rae knocked at the door. She will use our parking place as a comp spot tonight.

They charged us 100 Pesos deposit for the key and TV remote. The Security Guard came in to show us how to use the remote. It didn’t work, well it worked but the TV has no working channels. We finally asked him to give it up.

The light outside shines through the window and right into my face. I took a picture off the wall, sat it on a folded towel and blocked the window. Another light shines onto the bed from above the door. No cure for that one, just had to sleep at an angle.

January 26, 2006
Topolobampo to Moshi
25 Kilometers

Rae knocked on our door at 7:15 AM. We were up but not quite ready. Dressed, we left the packing for later and joined her. Breakfast and talk. She writes and does fabric art. Her 32 boys are grown, she spent 11 years in Peru funning a program for Street Kids. There she adopted a young girl who is now 25 and has just completed college. She began her career as a Real Estate Agent but has now move into Nursing.

GitanaOrlando & JuanOrlando from Colorado and Juan form Juarez, Mexico took a picture of us in front of the Minnie that Rae calls Gitana. (Her e-mail address is Gitana, too. Gitana means Gypsy and it seems to fit her. I told her that our life is a new and exciting day, every day but it’s also contains and equal number of goodbye’s. We agreed that, as the Russians say, it’s not goodbye but, “Until we meet again”.

TopolobampoThe 23 K ride to Moshi is flat and desert scene. We fought a headwind all the way. Mike and Cheri had warned us that we’d struggle against Los Vientos del Norte and this is our first day of it.

AracelyThe Center of town is off the Highway to the let. As we cycled a car pulled up, the driver a woman, Aracely, got out and started taking our picture as we rode toward her. She’s photographer and reporter for a local Newspaper. After a short interview she recommended the Best Western and Corintios Hotels and gave us directions.

A 9:15 start and we arrived in Moshi at 11:00. Our first stop, the Best Western Hotel didn’t work for us.$115 US. We found Hotel Corintios in the Lonely Planet and just down the street 2 blocks. A much better deal, $77 includes continental breakfast and Internet access.

A walk around town included stops at Flamingo Travel where we bought tickets for a ride on the Ferrocarril (Railroad) Chihuahua al Pacifico into the Barranca Del Cobre. (Copper Canyon) We’ll stay overnight in Creel maybe 2 nights, and take a tour of the canyon. The Railway ride according to Readers Digest is “The most dramatic train ride in the western hemisphere. We’ll try to give you a good report.

Almost as importantly, we found the Cava and good deals on our favorite white.

The market place is typical, perhaps larger than most. We bought crackers and bananas.

Cat went shopping for money and water then spent the rest of the afternoon doing Internet things. I sat up the computer and began writing journal pages.

Dinner down the street at

January 27, 2006
Copper Canyon Train

Up at 4:30 AM, before the wake up call. The Hotel had the night Manager put together a Continental Breakfast. Really very nice including fruit, juice, muffins and coffee.

The Taxi was there exactly on time, 5:15. The Train Station is only 10 minutes away. It’s as dark as midnight. There is a crowd of RVer’s waiting at the door to the track. The train pulled up and at 5:45 they let the crowd flow in. We have reserved seating so we just waited out the herd. At exactly 6:00 the car lurched and we were off, into the darkness.

Little houses on the wrong side of the track line both sides. The train moved slowly beyond the City and the scenery slowly became farmland. Rows of crops on flat land were now back lighted by an orange glow. As the sun rose over the distant hills the plants became native, brush and cactus. The powerful engine takes the grade with ease.
Chepe Route Conductor Shack Near Track

The RV group, Fantasy Tours, all went to breakfast at 7:30. A couple of older guys tried to join them but were turned back, a closed sign on the door must mean that the staff has reached maximum output? There are 3 couples and a single gal seated nearby. As the RV Caravan began to flow out we moved in. The only seats available were in the last booth across from Corky and Rosy, a couple who are employed by Fantasy Tours. Really nice people, they’re from Arkansas and have traveled extensively in the US and Canada. The couple across vacated before our food arrived so we made a move. Cory & Rosy were leaving and the table is stacked with menus and left over food the crew has been nibbling on. Good breakfast, eggs, bacon, juice and toast. Coffee of course.

SidingMotor Home ExpressBy now we have made our first stop, Fuerte, and picked up several more people. They took seats around us and Cat immediately got acquainted with Carolyn. She just met the 3 couples at the lot where they all parked. From Vancouver, Canada, she’s on her own in a VW Westphalia Van. She is full of great stories of travel. She and her ex-husband ferried sail boats to Southeast Asia, Australia and New Zealand for several years. She also taught and was a Nutritionist hired by school boards all over the world, even Malawi, Africa. Boy did she and Cat have lots of stories to share. Carolyn just met the other 3 couples as they parked last night. There is a strong camaraderie

We’re climbing now and the scenery is changing to thicker brush and Cactus. The first landmark is the longest of the 36 bridges we’ll cross today. It is pretty anti climatic actually, just a concrete and steel bridge over a small river. My video expertise was challenged and not up to par. A long train of flatbed cars with RV’s chained on and the occupants sitting in them. A strange but perhaps interesting way to se the canyon? Looks dangerous to us.

About the Ferrocarril

By noon the real climb had started and we were into the 36 tunnel section of the ride. There is a corner called El Lazo (The Loop) where the train actually loops over itself. It winds back and forth as it climbs up the steep hillsides. Inside one of the longer tunnels it makes a 180 degree turn. Construction on this giant dream began in 1957, the year I graduated from high school. A 5 year project, the first train finally making the climb over the mountain, up from the shore of the Sea of Cortez, through the Copper Canyon, over the western Sierra Madre mountains then down to Chihuahua. We see ore cars so assume that there actually is Copper being mined and shipped. Readers Digest calls it “The most dramatic train ride in the western hemisphere”.
Butte Logo Rocks & Road
El Lazo 3 Levels Ranchito
Siding Homes on Rails Tied Down
Carolyn    

The Tarahumara

By 3:30 PM we knew we’d reached Tarahumara land. These hardy Native American tribesmen known for their long distance running ability are called Raramuri, “The People of the swiftly running feet”. Women come to the windows and doorways of the train offering baskets made of pine needles and other grasses. It’s cold up here and they look underdressed. Many wear only rope bound sandals exposing their feet. A little book we have says that some still live in caves as they have for more than 400 years. It looks like a tough life. The Railroad was a boon to them, bringing tourism. They seem to work hard and sell little?
Tarahumara Woman Basket Sales Conductor

At the pueblo El Divisadero the train stops for 15 minutes allowing time to take a few pictures of the Canyon and see more of the Tarahumara vending their wares. The people remind us or Bolivians. Barefoot little kids with snotty noses wander past with hands extended. We did give a young girl a few coins to pose. Our friends, the 3 couples and Carolyn left us, they will find a Hotel room here. We sort of wished that we hadn’t booked a place, we would have liked getting to know them better.
Cat n’ Tracks Artisans Canyon
Canyon Canyon Canyon
Rim Shot Please Buy In To Tunnel

Canyon Rim

More winding track more bridges and tunnels then at 5:30 and dusk we finally arrived at Creel. A guy in a beat up Chevy Suburban with a sign, Best Western, on the dash board, motioned to us. The Hotel, Lodge at Creel is a BW. It looks like a Ski Lodge, even a fire in the big fireplace of the lobby. The room was cold as ice. The driver now turned Bellman tried to show us how the fireplace works. He left us to experiment on our own, it’s a gas log stove. We had it going for sometime and felt that it would never heat the room when we finally read the instructions. After it warms up there is a fan to turn on. Once we got that going it did begin to cut the chill, a bit.

More good news for us, they have CNN and a high speed Internet hookup. We shivered through Happy Hour and struggle with the Internet connection. Antonio, the Desk Manager brought a replacement cable but the results didn’t change. He went back to his office and called to tell us that the system is down.

Off through night air so cold that our breaths hung before us in a cloud of fog. We snagged a table near the fireplace and they served us a bottle of Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. Cat had seen it on the Wine List earlier and was surprised that it’s only 90 Pesos. ($9.00)

It was roast pork for both of us with baked potatoes and steamed veggies. Really very good food in a cozy fireside atmosphere. Then came the check and a dispute. They charged us 150 Pesos for the wine. Cat complained so they led her to the computer which confirmed their price. However, she remembered seeing it on the List, found it and pointed that out. This created a real dilemma. Antonio finally called the Manager out to referee. He pouted, pointed then finally gave up and gave in.

Worth mentioning, during the meal a Tarahumara Mom, Dad and son held items of local art and fabric up for the group behind us to see. They were even less interested than we in buying. Our excuse of no room didn’t fit them? We likened the Tarahumara effort to Cat selling CDs when the band played. Some crowds just don’t buy, almost seem bothered by the sales pitch. We hope that they meet a more receptive audience tomorrow.

The room is warmer, the news on CNN the same but the Internet connection was up and running. After checking messages and letting our families know that we are okay we jumped into bed and huddled.

January 28, 2006
Back to Los Mochi’s

A quandary, our original plan was to stay another night and take a tour into the Canyon. Now, we’re both tired from a near sleepless night in this cold high altitude. Our noses are stuffy and Cat has a headache. Stay or go? We’re going.

The water was so cold that we began to think we were destined to another shower-less day. Then, slowly it grew warmer then hot. Good showers then a real shock. When we stepped out the door the ground was white. Thick frost covered the steps, the banister and the ground. It motivated us to hustle to the restaurant. Though they had no fire the room was half full of people and fairly warm. Turns out the group is with Elder Hostel, a tour that concentrates on the people, art and culture of locals. They have already been exposed and purchased a lot of Tarahumara art.

The sky was blue, the sun brilliant. As the temp rose we decided to take a little walk around town. A one street burg, Creel reminds us of Ushuaia, the southern most City in the world. Lots of power wires, dust and cold air. We did take pictures of several local scenes and some wall art.
Main St. Creel Colors of Creel Wall Art
Wall Art Creel Shack & Track
Tarahumara    

The Albany, Oregon Connection

Jim & Linda A couple we’d seen at the Hotel, Jim and Linda, approached us as we walked and said that they have jackets like ours. We thought they were RVer's so I told Linda that they are cycling jackets. Of course she knew that, they’re cyclists. Jim is almost fanatical about cycle touring. He’s ridden across the US and wants to take it a step farther. Then another small world connection, they live in Albany Oregon just 9 miles from Sis & Bro-in-Law, Joan and Bill. Jim even worked at Wa Ching where Bill worked until he took medical retirement. He doesn’t remember Bill but then, 15 years is a long time ago.

Elder KidsCola BreakWe and a couple we saw at dinner were whisked back to the Station in the Suburban at 11:00 AM. The Elders boarded an old school bus, I called them Elder Kids.

Hilltop JesusArrival The train was only a few minutes late, we and the Elders hustled aboard and took seats. They only have 3 cars connected and herded us into just one. At Divisadero we were disappointed not to see our friends. The couple we rode with from the Hotel are taking 3 days so departed here. We took a few pictures then jumped back aboard as the whistle blew.

Mpeg 051 El Chepe

Our Elder Hostel friends began gathering bags just a few Ks further down the track. They departed at Posada Barranca. We were waving to them then realized that the 3 couples and Carolyn were boarding. As they move down the aisle the Conductor asked them to sit right behind us. It was like old home day. They found that the Hotel at Divisadero was fully booked. A call and the Hotel Mansion Tarahumara, also known as El Castillo, the Castle. They were bubbling over with enthusiasm about the place. About the same price we paid in Creel but the dinner and breakfast were both feasts. And, they were taken on a guided hiking tour of part of the canyon.
Little Lake Laundry In the Pines
Rock Formations Canyon Peddlers Logs
Contamination? Walking Man Working Family
Mom & Daughter Basket Weavers  

Bob, Shirley, Carolyn, Cheryl, Jim, John & Bell We talked a lot. The thing they have in common? They all have converted buses, not RVs but busses that were once used to haul passengers. They seem to take pride in the huge number of miles the machines had already been driven when they bought them. Jim and Cheryl are from Crooked River Ranch, Oregon. He is a retired Electrical Engineer and does re-wiring and all electrical things on converting buses. She was Editor for a Bus Conversion Magazine. Bob and Shirley from Sumner, Washington both work for the County Government but he’s a mechanic. John and Bell are from Sacramento, California. He’s an Orthodontist and she does the office work. They say that they’re just along for the ride. Cat suggested that they should do Dental work for the group. John and I talked cars. He has 2 1940 Fords, one, a convertible, is under now under construction. He is interested in seeing our pictures of Cuba’s old beauties. Bob used to build and race boats and dragsters. They all put a lot of themselves into their Buses.

The One That Dies With---

Shirley and I chatted about life. She says that their philosophy is, “Follow your Dreams”. It brought to mind my feelings about life. You remember, “In my 30s the name of the game was The One Who Dies With the Most Money Wins”! Then, in my 40s, “With the Most Toys”. In my 50s, “The Most Experiences”, my 60s “the Most Friends”. Well as we talked I thought, “How cool to have a Hobby that fits. They made the money to build the Toys and now they use them for experiences and making friends.

Our lunch was a quesadilla and left over pork with a shared coke.

Later, Jim and Cheryl and we joined John and Bob in the club car. They drank beers while we sipped wine.

All to soon they all departed at El Fuerte. Handshakes and hugs then they were off to their new adventures and we settled back into training. Another 2 hours of training.

The Price of Free Enterprise

A short hassle with a Taxi driver. He already had a couple on board and was selling the other 2 seats? He insisted that the price is 40 Pesos per person, an amazing 160 Pesos or $16 US for a 5 Ks ride. We argued that we’d only paid 70 Pesos coming to the Station. He wouldn’t listen so we yanked our bags out and went shopping. Another Taxi, another argument. The driver quoted 120 Pesos? We told him our 70 Pesos story, he said okay but he wanted to get another passenger. We sat a few minutes then he finally closed the doors and drove to town.

At Hotel Corintios we found the couple that had been in the first Taxi we had loaded our bags into. They had paid 50 Pesos to get to the Station but were tired and wanted to get back. Then another couple we’d seen on the train came in. They too had a sad Taxi story. They’d just paid 100 Pesos. It is free enterprise but free enterprise and language barriers can be very irritating, at times. Especially when it’s dark and there are only 3 taxi’s available. .

It was 9:30 by the time we got our bags to the room only to hear the Disco next door booming through the wall. A call and a change of rooms then down for a bowl of soup. The waiter, again was great. He got us hot soup, lots of toast and allowed us to open our own bottle of wine. Perfect!

January 29, 2006
Re-Grouping in Los Mochi’s
Training is Tough Duty

We awoke and it only took a couple of moments to decide that we needed a day of rest. Turns out that riding a train can be as tiring as riding a bike. It was cold so we huddled under the covers. One of our favorite TV Shows is Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood. Hit the remote and turned to CBS only to find Judge Judy. Then it was Judge Joe. These fake Court Room dramas are almost as boring as watching Jerry Springer or World Wrestling.

Down for breakfast, our final bread and water. Our favorite waiter isn’t the same guy from last night. He was great and we owe him a tip since we had no change. This young guy was great, too. He served fruit, juice, toast and coffee.

Big NewsThe gal at the desk was excited when she saw us. She rushed in and handed us a Newspaper in the midst of a shower of Spanish words. We got the point, Aracely’s article has made the news. There we are in living black and white, cycling into town. Big news in a small town.

For me, there’s a new segment of the journal waiting to get started. Forever behind and sometimes almost too much of a chore but, when we publish and get messages from you, its all worth it. Cat did Internet then picked up chicken sandwiches at KFC. We moved our chair out onto the deck and got another chair from a room being aired. Must look strange to the staff and other guests but, sitting on the 2nd floor walkway was preferable to the cold, cold room.

She took a hike to the Mercado for CDs. We’ll need them for pictures along our new last leg of this journey. She spent her afternoon repacking and getting the bags ready to ride.

Dinner down, they put an English language movie on for us. Food was good, movie was so-so.

Cat got some disturbing news today. Her friend Anne from Seattle had successfully fought colon cancer but sent a note today telling that is has re-occurred, in her lungs. She is up beat and says they have a new treatment but it put Cat into a mild funk.

A little TV and bed.

Last Leg of a GRAND JOURNEY

Oh My Gosh, After almost 4 years we are nearing the end of one Odyssey and the beginning of another. We’re on track for a March 4th Border Crossing from Tijuana, Mexico into California near San Diego. Our Families, the ones we left behind, the ones that have worried and waited, will be there. We’re nervous abut what lies ahead but love the fact that they are solidly behind us. So, stay tuned while we cross the Sonora Desert, loop along the Border and head north to home. The Last Leg of a GRAND JOURNEY!

And The Mileage Is?
This leg adds only 641 Ks or 397 Miles
So, The Totals Look Like This
34,364 Kilometers, 21,305 Miles