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Sunday, December 23, 2012

From hot, to cold, to hot again ...

Returning from Mexico, we arrived back in Nacogdoches for a quick turn around and suitcase content change. Need a little more clothing and a little different as we decided to take our promised trip up to Canada. Only this time, we drove - Danny wanted to see Ontario and had visions of hanging a right for awhile before turning around and going left from the border of Ontario and Minnesota. Finally convinced him that it wasn't a good idea - too cold and possibly too much snow.

So our "Circumnavigate N America, somewhat" trip started in Nacogdoches, TX where our carro-casa is stored. In it are all our possessions and we needed a few of them to complete this journey. Oh, how about a couple of sleeping bags, emergency blankets, fleece blankets, sweaters, etc. One must be prepared when traveling the north country.
 This is more a flight type routing but it gives the idea. As for miles, I will have to look on the oil sticker as we had the oil changed before we left. Danny tells me that it very close to 8000 miles!

We had Thanksgiving in Tulsa with Alf and Stacey which was a great visit. The sun shone and the temperatures were warm. Good for walking and hiking. Turkey dinner was scrump-deli-icious and we needed the walk to wear it off. :)  

The sunshine continued with us until we got to Kansas City. Suddenly the temps started to drop and we saw remnants of snowfall. A little ice on the side roads but the highways were clear. This cold weather and clear skies followed us until we left the freeway in Minnesota to head over to International Falls. The roads became treacherous and the snow continued to fall. 

Add to that the fact that I had caught a violent case of flu which made my stomach roil and heave despite the peppermint that I was taking. The going was slow and when the trucks would pass you entered a "Whiteout" atmosphere for a few minutes. Stopping in the first town, Virginia, and I fell into bed. Don't remember much after that but I gather Danny came and went as the afternoon led into the evening.
Next, International Falls or FrostBite Falls of Rocky and Bullwinkle fame. The whole reason for our coming this way - Danny has always wanted to see the area and quoted Rocky and Bullwinkle as we came into town. Of course, had to look for a sign and the only one we could find was ...
Yikes, I have to get the photos from the big camera ...





We had a fabulous lunch here and of course, per our usual, we toured the town, finding all sorts of interesting things - a great church (yes I know, another one?) and even a Smokey the Bear Park with a bigger than life statue of Smokey the Bear with his winter sports paraphernalia. 
Onward into Canada. The sun continues to shine for at least another 50 miles, then it is gone, replaced by that white stuff again. We had snow falling, trucks passing, and occasional black ice to contend with but we managed to get to Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada that evening.
In Winnipeg the next morning, we take a driving tour of the downtown as we looked for the Manitoba Museum. All my life I have heard that the coldest place "on earth" has to be the corner of Portage and Main in Winnipeg. Yup, I can agree, if not, at least for this day. The wind whips around the buildings and corners and up and down the 4 meeting streets and without the proper gear, it is indeed the "coldest place on earth". The museum turned out to be absolutely fabulous and I would recommend it for anyone in the vicinity. We spent 4 hours there seeing only 1 section (the history of Manitoba) and definitely could have spent days.

With skies overcast, winds blowing and the possibility of more snow, we left Winnipeg in the late afternoon, getting only as far as Brandon, where the snow, cold and darkness forced us to a stop. Sure doesn't look like the old Brandon that I knew.! :)

Of course, the next day turned out to be more of the same - this time with rare periods of sunshine. Driving through the flats of the Prairies we were surprised to see young people out in the fields "kite snowboarding." A great way to get in some fun times when there are no mountains within an easy days drive. The scenery was magically and almost enchanted looking. Beautiful is such a mundane word to use, but what other is there?




We slip and slid into Edmonton where we parked for a few days to visit with my parents - after all, this was the original purpose for this trip. It was good to see them again and we had a wonderful time. Was able to get all the shopping done so that I will not need to mail anything this year. They are both doing well in the general scheme of things - they are getting on in years as we all are. I now realize that I didn't even get a photo of them.

From Edmonton, we took a fast trip down to Butte, MO via Lethbridge where we stopped for the night. Cold but little snow until we hit the mountains north of Butte. Then we had a slow down because of snow and ice. Once in town, it was actually much more pleasant in temps going from a mere 27 up to 47 within an hour and a half.

 mid afternoon


As we drove south, it got warmer and warmer. Wow, Las Vegas. Walking around in the evening with only a light cover over a t-shirt. What could be better. Still not hot, but still warmer than what we had been experiencing. Our time in Las Vegas is mainly a time for good food and people watching. Shows are an exception when one can get tickets that afternoon for that evening. We couldn't this time for the shows that we were interested in. Still like to wander the fancy shopping in the various hotels.

On to Yuma where we stayed with friends and visited others. Tried to get in to see the dentist but it was not to be. Funny how all these offices book so far ahead when there isn't an emergency. The thing is, that normally people are always in one place and can make these long range appointments. As for us, we only come in occasionally and never know the exact time when we are going to be somewhere. Of course, if we could get an appointment for a specific day on relatively short notice, we would make sure we would be there, but not 3-4 months in the future. Guess we will be looking for a new dentist.

Yuma is but a short distance from DFW but for us, it is never a short trip. This time we went through Truth or Consequences, New Mexico to visit with friends that we hadn't seen since before going into PC. it was good to visit with them and they have a great parking spot both for the winter, on the butte overlooking the lake, and in the summer, in the mountains where it remains cool. Depending on our plans we might be back for a while in the new year.

Then a decision to head over to the mountains to see if we could get a spot for new years. Cloudcroft, NM, hoe to skiing and a great lodge that offers both winter and summer activities. Crossing the plateau going south, before the turnoff into the moutains, we had ferocious cross winds. Strong enough that we had run ins with flying Christmas Tree-sized sagebrush that were determined to wrap themselves around the car. When they did, they scratched up the front but more importantly, obliterated your driving view. Quite dangerous at the moment and necessitated a stop to peel it off. Of course when I tried to get a video, only small flew across the road. Exciting happenings on this trip for sure.

Onward into Dallas, a steady drive without mishap or excitement. Here we lighted for a couple of days to get some shopping and mundane business things done as well as visit with Danny's family. Danny was able to meet with a friend and had a good morning visiting. I was able to work on a project that I hope to accomplish for later in 2013 while he was out.

And today? Well it was 77degreesF as we left Dallas for Nacogdoches. The sun was too bright to be able to see the computer screen as we drove - I had planned on writing this as we drove. Instead, I knit on the socks for Danny! Yes, Danny I can make socks when I need or want to! ALso have some wool for a sweater but that is for another day and travel event.

Throughout our travels, when I wasn't looking around, driving or dozing, I worked on a couple of needlework projects. Miss Cleo was completed in Edmonton and continued to work her magic. The Patchwork Santa was completed on the road somewhere between Butte and Las Vegas and is now ready for quilting and the designing of a lap quilt to accompany him. The last was the tablecloth that will take forever, I am afraid, to complete. All in all, a good use of my time between admiring the views and conversing and planning, if I do say so myself.

 Miss Cleo wasn't very happy about being confined to the backseat the whole trip.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Zacatecas

Our next stop, Zacatecas, another of the colonial/silver cities nestled in amongst the mountains. Never pre-determine what something is going to be. I was expecting another city like what we had experienced in Morelia and Guanajuato. It was and it wasn't. Here it was more architecturally invigorating and far less activities oriented. We saw very little in the way of free cultural events but then we were only there for 3 days.

We took a local bus in from the bus station rather than a taxi this time. Very easy, very cheap and an interesting ride through the new and the old. Our bus driver was obviously babysitting as his young daughter stood at the front of the bus, looking very bored. She was braiding and unbraiding a strand of her hair. 

Our hostal was located somewhere behind the cathedral. Where? We sure couldn't tell from the online directions. So we stopped the Tourist Police and the two women actually walked us to it. We would never have found it through the various twists and turns and yes, in behind the cathedral, through a connecting walkway.

 with a very unusual altar although the rest was typical
 and towers built many years apart

A day trip was in order here and we opted to go to Guadalupe, a suburb yet an independent city, on the outskirts of Zacatecas and on the Camino Real de Tierra Adentro. Yes, the same road that went all the way to Santa Fe, NM, USA and which took somewhere around 1 1/2 years to travel it's length. Again the bus trip was easy, well easy after we finally found the bus stop. After many turns, many streets and multiple questions for directions, with a stop here and there, we finally found it.  Danny trying one of the local venders of honey mead along the route
Here we toured the one and only major tourist site - the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  This is not only a cathedral but a museum. Unfortunately, after we had paid our entrance fee, we discovered that various parts of the multi-focal museum were closed. We did however, get to see the fabulous murals depicting St Francis of Assisi's life 
as well as the cathedral itself.
 is this not reminiscent of the various missions in the US?
 wouldn't this make a wonderful quilting motif?

Touring the city, we saw a multitude of different, yet similar architecture as well as statues:
 compare this theatre with the one in Guanajuato

 

 love the locally mined pink stone

 flying buttresses but with a twist - some of these have been filled in to make extra rooms in a now defunct church.







 this aqueduct had flying buttresses attached to it as well.
 the city water tap was actually at the base of this statue. Now, what did that guide say about the significance of the stance of the horse? I can't remember!

 many examples of what is called Mexican Baroque


 modern art in the park

 and what would a "Silver City" be without a silver mine? Zacatecas, like Guanajuato, has a mine right within the confines of the city and we thought that we could walk to it as the map indicated only a few streets away. Yes, well, that was true if only we had realized that only the major streets were on the map and that the area that we were going to was all uphill.  And when we found ourselves where we wanted to go, we had to turn around and go down many flights to get to the mine.
 a museum and a tour in a non-working mine

  tour transportation

 old miner greeting the visitors - rub his belly for good luck they say (sounds a lot like what you do with Buddha)

There were many dioramas telling the story 

 down in the mine

 and they weren't shy about displaying the bad along with the good.
But the most amazing thing was what else was there, down in the mine - a discotheque with a glass (?plexiglass) floor over an open mining shaft/pit and a "conjugal room" rented by the hour with a bed carved out of the rock.

Food - have I talked about food yet? Oh yes, I mentioned the walking tacos but ... here in Zacatecas we probably had the best gourmet meal that we have had since Europe. The restaurant was a small one, tucked away on a side street, with food to die for. Lucky Luciano's is a feast for the eyes as well as for the taste buds. Juan, the chef, was trained in Belgium and he brought that continental flair back with him. He originally worked out of the Cancun restaurant, going all over the world but has now come home to stay in Zacatecas. As for the eyes, there is more than the wonder of the food - Juan has been collecting art from around the world and has hung it all in his restaurant. Every conceivable inch is covered.


This was not one of my favorite cities but I can't tell you why. Will Querétaro (I am having a very hard time pronouncing this) be different? We shall see ...

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Guanajuato


We move on …

Our next stop in our fast and furious tour of the Silver Cities/Colonial Cities is Guanajuato and we get there again by bus – our favourite mode of transportation - a 4hr ride. Once we arrived our taxi driver spoke excellent English and lived 8 years in Chicago. He returned to his home town because all he did in America was "go to work, go home, got work, etc and on Sunday washed clothes and shopped for groceries." Yup, he has it pegged right. The only difference is that some have to do it, others choose to do it.

Guanajuato, a colorful vibrant city set amongst the mountains,
 up and down the mountains

 colorful

 every usable inch 

is a Historic/Colonial City (part of the Silver Cities designation) within a modern city with definite boundaries between the two. It is nestled in a river valley amongst the mountains with major silver mines being it's claim to fame. The most amazing thing to me is the history of the river. The river ran right through town in a tunnel and one year it flooded the tunnel and up into the town to the height of 8 feet. The residents of the city, being minors and innovative, decided to do something about it. They dug another tunnel below the first tunnel and rerouted the river, leaving the original tunnel dry. They now have a road tunnel system under the city with areas designated for parking. The river continues to run under the city in the 2nd, deeper tunnel with only minor flooding one time into the original tunnel to a depth of 3 feet that lasted only a few hours. 

As well as being the seat of the fight for independence in the early 1800s, it is also an university town. The town hosting 5 universities and close to 23000 students living here. They live, play and go to school within the historic part of town where our hotel/hostal is located. When we arrived at the hotel what a surprise we had waiting for us - not a room but an actual apartment/suite. Very bright and cosy and roomy.



 our bedroom

all for the price of a room with a bathroom!

But there is always a downside to everything -- and here was no different. Our bedroom wall was backing up to the backside of a bar/club that had live blasting music from 3pm to 3am at least. So we ended up moving to the honeymoon suite - all pink and fussy. 


Guanjuato is an university town and we were staying within the historical local which is also the university local. The liveliness and busy-ness of this environment was awesome. No matter where you would go there would be something happening. Free concerts in the plaza, 

free examples of the Tunas and their unique brand of dress and music, 
statues in every open space, 
cultural events,  Theater,
dancing, 
walkway and callejons,  and of course the churches on what seemed like every corner. 

This was also Don Quixote and Diego Rivera country.  
And then there was a tram to transport you up the mountainside to the statue of Father Miquel Hildago, the Father of Mexican Independence. (He torched the gates to allow entry)  
Imagine our surprise to find walking tacos: a little different than those we experienced on RAGBRAI. These ones had chips, large, local niblets of corn, a form of sour cream, white cheese, juice of one whole lime, nacho cheese, and chili pepper or any combinations of the a/m ingredients.  
And of course, the ever present Starbucks.

One evening we were walking through various small streets and came across a square that had dancing in it. The difference here is that they are all Tercera Edad (senior citizens) and boy could some of them move. Found out later that they actually had lessons every Friday night and that some were going to enter a dance competition in Mexico City in the new year. In the video, the couple on the right (black and white striped shirt): the woman has had a stroke and her partner had all the bouncy moves and no hesitation in dancing with her.