Saturday, November 21, 2020
Saturday, November 07, 2020
Tuesday, November 03, 2020
It's a beautiful country, but not without it's problems. Nothing made this more clear than when we first crossed the borfer into Nuevo Laredo at 6am. We cleared the bridge and headed down to get our travel documents and pay the car deposit (A fee to make sure I bring the car back instead of selling it in Mexico) and we were approached at the first traffic light by two guys in a car who began shouting that we were lost and should follow them because "dangerous". Well I'd done my homework and knew where I was going and it wasn't that way. We told them we'd follow them and then when they pulled out to guide us, I turned the other way and dove down the ramp to the banjercito where I needed to be. As we passed behind the car I noticed it had no tags. Nope, not suspicious at all. Later on we watched on a travel page for people driving in Mexico and heard how several other people had been roadblocked and stopped by these guys and others, even in broad daylight. One person posted a video that showed three cars blocking him in--two in front and one behind--and pretty sure that the car we dodged was one of them. I'm guessing we crossed over before the bad guys had their shit together and we got through otherwise unmolested. Still, I was missing my trusty sidearm and thinking about how had we been armed and similarly waylaid, we could likely have broken that ambush by unassing the car and taking the fight to them instead of sitting there waiting to be robbed. High alert down to Monterrey, but once past there, we were pretty safe save for the odd rogue cop.
Monday, October 26, 2020
Road travel here can be an adventure, especially down south and away from tourist areas and commercial (truck) routes. The smart thing to do is stay on the toll highways as they're well-maintained, reasonably safe, and have plenty of services, even though they are forever stopping you at tollbooths to hit you up for more tolls. But when going to places less traveled, that's not always ab option, so the other day saw us on a mountain two-lanes highway that was all hills and curves and few guardrails, and your speed is kept to an absolute minimum by countless topes, aka, "sleeping policemen" or "speed bumps from hell". Now these pernicious obstructions, if gathered together in one place, likely would have been sufficient to have kept the Allies off the Normandy beaches in 1944. But here in Mexico they are spread out so much that they only slow everyone's travel to a glacial crawl and provide full employment for auto repair shops. These topes require you to come to a near stop to cross every one, unless you're driving '69 Charger with a rebel flag on the roof, in which case you'd be in heaven. Taken with any speed, they will bottom out your shocks, scrape your frame, and rearrange the contents of your car. And they are everywhere. Some are maked with signed, some are painted, and others are just raised asphalt the color of the road and invisible until you're on top of them unless you're smart enough to follow another car and watch it bob up and down on them. Topes, plus generally poor roads, turned a hundred mile drive the other day into a near six-hour trial, keeping us down to an average pace of just less than 20mph. Fun. And no shoulders, either. go off to either side and you're in a deep ditch or down the side of a mountain in deep jungle brush. There are no real passing lanes, but Mexicans don't seem to care. They pass on hills, curves on into the face of oncoming traffic and everyone just avoids each other when three cars meet on a two-lane road.
Kids in Mexico.
Kids are everywhere, and they beg like crazy. Many want to sell you things and mob your car when you slow for topes in front of their houses. (I suspect some of these topes were put in by residents for just this reason.) At places where you stop for sights or gas, they descend on you. One girl hit us up selling pieces of quartz. Useless, but she was young and cross-eyed and I felt sorry for her and gave her four coins totalling the requested amount. She very quickly swapped out a couple of them for lower denomination coins and demanded the "correct" amount. Little hustler. I'll bet her eyes weren't really crossed either.
Sometimes the kids will team up and hold a rope across the road when you approach, bringing you to a stop so they can offer you fruit or just try to extract their own "toll". It's cute the first couple of times but it gets old fast and I did see one Mexican SUV blast right through one, yanking the rope out of their hands and dragging it down the road. It's dangerous to be a roadside bandit kid in Mexico.
Overall though, the people are friendly, everyone has something for sale, and it's easy to get around if you even try to speak their language. Violent crime is low and the only time I've ever felt uneasy is when I'm approaching one of the countless police or military roadblocks, which are everywhere. Most of the Federale force has been disbanded and replaced with a new army civil guard of sorts in an effort to stamp out corruption, and the new guys seem a lot more professional and less inclined to shake you down, but the local cops are always bad news. I've noticed that the police or soldiers who wear clean, neat uniforms and keep their kit and weapons clean and well-organized are just about their business and never a problem, but the unshaven slob in the unkempt partial uniform is always going to have his hand out. Just keep a few pesos handy to pay them and move on; it's not worth arguing and attracting more of them. Cameras do seem to scare this lot off because they can get fired for this but don't let the military guys see you taking their pictures. Since they fight the narcos, they don't like being identified even by touristas.
Loving this place but looking forward to being back in the land of What-a-burger by the end of this week.
Tuesday, October 20, 2020
The other night we were walking the Playa Norte in Ciudad del Carmen and we saw this small outdoor restaurant out towards the beach. All the others in the area were closed and this one was closed too but still had some people at one table even though the lights were off. We walked up and asked where we could get two beers because we just wanted a drink and the waitress went in the darkened kitchen and brought us two, telling us that we could not leave with them. She let us sit at a table there, at which point, Guadeloupe, a wonderful woman at the occupied table, came over and began talking to us in broken English, which was about as bad as our Spanish. She wanted to try to converse with us and we obliged. Next thing we know, she asks us if we want food and summoned the waitress over take our order. “Shrimp or fish?” She asks. “Yes!” We reply. So she goes over to a cooler, pulls out a whole fish, and takes it into the kitchen, returning shortly with two plates, one having probably the best shrimp I’ve ever had in my life, and the other holding that same fish, still whole but now wonderfully seasoned and fried.
We thought Guadeloupe owned the place or the waitress was her daughter by the way she was calling the shots but when I asked her it turned out that she’s just a regular customer who has pull enough to get this girl to open up the kitchen again and prepare a huge meal past closing time. She and her husband talked with us while we waited on the food, and we were almost family by the time the dinner came. And we sat there and ate this incredible food under the stars, the only two customers on this beach patio. And this is why I’m loving Mexico. These people, policia notwithstanding, are often wonderful.
And yes, we tipped very well indeed.
Monday, October 19, 2020
In Merida, Mexico now. Got in last night. Been busy eating phenomenal food, seeing majestic natural and incredible historic sights, and being shaken down by local police, one of whom actually took my credit card and charged if 4800 pesos ($256 USD) after telling me that he'd keep my license and tow our car if I didn't pay. I already called my bank to stop that charge. And when he saw my friend Beth Anne filming him, he ran around to her side and demanded her phone, but she was finally able to convince him that she hadn't filmed him while still retaining her phone. Of course it meant deleting the video...sigh. And then the very next toll booth, another one ran across multiple lanes of traffic to get to us and hit us up again, but he settled for $20 US. It was pretty clear that someone had called him and told him to watch for us so I went off the toll roads for a bit to try to break that cycle. There will be an official complaint filed of course but I'm sure that it will go nowhere.
Here’s pyramids at Teotihuacan, built about 400 years BC. It’s a massive complex covering over two miles beautiful work, but hordes of vendors in there trying to see you everything imaginable and they block your path, follow you or approach as soon as you stop to look at something. Still, beautiful and awesome to contemplate the man-hours required to do all this just to please Quetzalcoatl, some serpent sun god.
Spent that night in Veracruz and had terrific steak tacos and beer while enjoying live music in the Zocalo, or city square. Our hotel looked down on that square so we got to enjoy the music all night but it was good
They are taking COVID seriously here social distancing and masking are required and most every place you go into they check your temperature and make you sanitize your hands and shoes. Masks are mandatory even outside. They’re trying.
I do love this country I just wish they’d get their corruption problem and the cartel gangs under control this country has the GDP to become truly first world and take care of their people and infrastructure but So much of it all gets siphoned off by the crooks in and outside of government.
Thursday, October 15, 2020
Pemex gas station on 57D north of San Luis Potosí Attendant pumps 360 pesos worth of gas I give him a 500 peso bill. He shows me change of two 50 and two 20 bills, folds them together and hands them to me. I thank him, tip him, then park to go in the store and realize that I only gave 90 pesos now. He palmed one of the 50’s. I walk back over to where he was and he’s gone but the other attendant who was with him is there. I say “Mas dinero” (More money) and without even asking me how much or why, he steps around the pump to where his partner had ducked and returns with a 50 peso bill and a big grin. They were both in on it and treated it like a game when I caught on and went back. Ah, Mexico...
Wednesday, October 14, 2020
Tuesday, October 06, 2020
So I awaken a night back because I hear a rustling in the kitchen, and a chomping noise. I know that sound--it's a dog eating something. But I haven't fed the dog anything at 0134hrs so clearly something is amiss.
My initial suspect is Murphy, because he's the main food thief. (Merida's giving him a run for his title but she's on the bed with me, a perfect alibi.) I get ip and head for the kitchen and I hear a loud CLANG! followed by the thump of something hitting a wall. What the hell? And here comes Murphy from behind me. It's not him! I turn on the kitchen light and it's Belle. Apparently she opened the pantry door, which doesn't shut well because this house was put up shoddily post-Katrina, and she made a run at the open bag of food for the porch cats. Now she's got her head stuck in the cat food bag and she's stumbling around the kitchen, tripping over her metal dish and banging into the wall. She shakes it off as I get in there and looks at me like "Uh....I can explain."
Murphy would never do this. He's a food-stealing ninja dog who will take things off the counter while I'm in the next room and I'll never hear him do it; He's that good. Merida just takes unapologetically and makes a ton of racket doing it because three-legged dogs are not stealthy but she's too small to get into these bags. But Belle...usually above suspicion because she's the "good" dog and clumsy enough that she still trips over this bowl--or most anything else on the floor--after almost a decade. I swear that dog could trip over smoke and she's forever stumbling over the water bowl that no one else trips over, usually turning the kitchen into a lake in the process. Murphy never trips over the water bowl. Merida fell face-first into it once when adjusting to her new three-legged normal (I shouldn't have laughed but I did) and even I have been known to kick that bowl a time or two in the dark, but Belle hits it about once a week on average and she shows no sign of stopping.
These dogs are lucky I love them...and I'm luckier that they love me.
Tuesday, September 29, 2020
Bye. Don't let the door hit you.
But you don't get those whole states; you get the parts that voted for you.
- You get Detroit, Pontiac and Flint but Michigan is otherwise red.
- You get Chicago and the rest of Illinois stays in America. (You can have Gary, Indiana, too though.)
- Milwaukee and Madison are yours judging by the poverty and ceaseless demands for more free stuff but the rest of Wisconsin works and pays taxes and belongs to America.
- Enjoy Minneapolis too. You made that mess but the rest of the state is still good people, aka: Red-state Americans.
- The Northeast has never been loyal to America as far back as our war of Independence when they still traded with the British. (I think they reprovisioned German U-Boats in World War Two as well.) Keep those with our compliments, especially as all the coal for the power grid comes from us.
- California is only blue from San Francisco down the coast to Los Angeles and San Diego so you can have that because frankly we don't want them anyway. We will of course be pulling all of our military out so get ready to your new Mexican overlords. (We've let them know that we're no longer interested in retaining New Mexico as well. Hasta la Vista, Cucarachas!)
- Oregon is solid red except for Portland and Eugene, and you've ruined those so you're not getting out of here without taking them with you.
- Hell, take Seattle too and good riddance to the lot of you.
But poke so much as one blue-dyed head up over the Sierra Nevadas and we're cutting the water from the Rockies right off. Oh--we'll be sending you a few dozen trainloads of Boulderites and other hippie freaks out of the once-great state of Colorado too, because we're making Colorado great again and we can't do that with liberals in it.
Donald J. Trump, President.