Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Arriving HOME . . .

We'd reached Redding, California and decided to stay, rather than push a day that was aggravated by strong headwinds and side gusts. We nested in a Starbucks parking lot after shopping at the nearby Trader Joes. And slept well.

You could feel it in the air when I woke up . . . we were goin' home today!!! I even skipped some of my exercises to get us on the road quickly. But the day emotionally spiked with an early, disarming sound. CRASH - SCREECH - CRUNCH - THUD ! ! ! I jumped up to throw open the curtain of the RV to see what was crashing thru things. Way on the other side of the parking lot, was a vehicle careening over, thru and across all the small concrete islands, then, down the landscaped hill to the street, slamming into the asphalt and continuing across the lanes, smashing into the front of an apartment building on the other side of the street. Oh MY WORD!!!! When I finished my yoga, I walked over to see how the clean up was going with all the police, ambulance and tow trucks. One lady, apparently the one who's apartment now had a giant hole in the wall was out front wrapped in her bed quilt. These situations always pop me back into gratitude. Thankful it wasn't me and prayerful for those involved to learn the highest lesson from their experience. Made me think even more, "get me home, get me home".

Leaving Redding in the pale mornin' fog soon warmed to hazy California sunshine. The classic cows dotting the green fields in front of the white ranch/farm houses made me smile. Farther and farther up Highway 5, the fields change from cows to olive trees and, then we start to see key hallmarks of our "home" getting closer. This was the first shot where I could clearly make out Mt. Shasta . . . see it w-a-a-a-a-y in the distance? Soon, we began climbing, passing Lake Shasta, who's water level was up from when we'd left in November.

We are seriously approaching the Oregon border when we get a close-up view of snow capped Mt. Shasta. I can feel excitement growing! Around another corner I see the Crag Rocks off to the left, poking into the sky surrounded by lush evergreens and cloud fluff. Once over the Siskiyou Pass, with it''s clear roads and blue sky, strewn with white clouds, I could just take "home". The pale, moist haze hung over the barns and wide spans of grazing meadows around Ashland.

At Exit 24, we pull off to unhitch the RV and the vehicle. I'll drive the car home and Roland can just back the RV safely into it's spot next to the house. I'm tailing the RV shooting photos and smilin' at the familiar. Those giant Golden Poppies int the South Stage Vineyards are the fine craftsmanship (or would that be craftwomanship?) of local Jacksonville Cheryl Garcia (http://greatmetalwork.com/). As we meander into the green corner of the Rogue Valley where Jacksonville is nestled, you can see the old Jacksonville red brick high school in the distance. Still trailing Roland in the RV, we breathe in our hometown . . . with all it's historic charm . . . and turn left up Third Street. At the first "Bump" sign we stop, I pause as Roland backs in, then, I pull in to his right. Engines off. We are HOME!!!

Following some basic unloading, the afternoon brings sunshine and I snap a shot of our precious abode. How can I thank you for following my travels and supporting this adventure from the comfortable chairs in your cozy homes? I had so many friends, new and, more 'seasoned', who have sent me love and trusted in our safe return. I thank you all, because your energy was absolutely with me. I'm humbled . . . and home. :)

A Palm Springs Sleep Leading to a Los Banos Reunion

From Marana in Arizona, we have plans to stay in Palm Springs. We head out early across the l-o-o-o-o-n-n-n-g-g-g desert trek. This is the most agonizing drive just because of it's emptiness. I did try to appreciate the simple, subtle changes of mountain colors, the "Desert Fox" museum and the abstract pattern of these way past dead palm trees that had tried to make in the arid, brutal landscape, but failed. Leaving the desert we catch a view of the mountains above Palm Springs (burrr) and the GPS directs us to our RV "resort" (not quite certain what helped it qualify for "resort) in uneventful Palm Springs. If feels odd seeing this opulent, exaggerated lifestyle present in this area after the stark desert and the unencumbered culture in Mexico. I was uncomfortable . . .

In the crisp morn we pass the quiet, but majestic Wind Energy generating wind mills and several even "wave" greetings. The path thru the Los Angeles area is so very active, populated with people and stores and cars and a dull haze gazing down to the LA area. Up and up and up we grind heading over the "Grapevine". I'm pleased to head finally downhill but am astonished to see the haze down in the agricultural valley, darker than LA!! But as we moved onto the languid green valley, we could see it was fog and it burned off. Boy, was I relieved!

The gradual ebb and change of the California landscape is delicious. We moved from citrus to nuts to cherry trees and I love watching the variety. Our evening destination has "become" Los Banos. With the aid of the internet and Facebook, I've caught a note from a dear friend of ours who we've not seen in probably eight years or so. She offered up meeting somewhere as we traveled thru if it worked for us. Thank goodness she gave us her phone, because we were able to arrange the exact restaurant meeting spot in Los Banos. She was willing to drive the foggy and windy road up Pacheco Pass over Highway 152 to meet us! What a sweet reunion we had . . . dinner was invisible (sorry the practice of "being totally with the food you eat" went out the window) but conversation was lively and peppered with laughter!!

We waved g'bye to our friend and returned to our friendly Walmart lot for our last "sleep" before we arrive home to our own bed. G'nite all . . . zzzzzzzzzzzzZZZZZZZZZZ . . .

Monday, January 24, 2011

Crossing the Border . . . and on to Marana

The dark night still swirls with the night fog when we get up to do morning stretches, breakfast and leave by 6am. Our hope it to get to the border crossing before mid-day heat and when our energy levels are ready for whatever the inspections require. Squeaking and bumping along (see that "tope" speed bump there?), we sneak out from our RV campsite and hit the road.

The only other large Mexico city we pass thru is Hermosillo, proceeded by a smaller "Navajo". I was still a bit confused at seeing this great example of Native Indian graphic when we were leaving Hermosillo rather than, "Navajo" (which is actually a city where the Navajo Indians had settled). Also, along this stretch of highway we saw more and more small shrines which became more and more elaborate. This sweet lil' one was probably one of the most complex we saw. The number of trucks seemed to increase too, just look at this "corral" of semi-trucks we found ourselves in, at a stop light in Hermosillo. It can be quite intimidating - at least for me - my testosterone levels aren't the highest!!

So, after miles of "topes" and watching out for wild dogs at each gas station . . . we finally approach the US Border crossing. It's near 1pm and there's a fair line at the crossing, trucks are direction-ed off to the far right. When we get to the guard, we present our passports, they ask if we have any plants, dirt, seeds, meat, or animals. We hand them the papers for Cody (he had to have a health exam by a Mexican Vet before we reach the crossing) and for some reason (who knows) they move us into a parking lot for further inspection. A gentle guard comes aboard, greets Cody and peeks into some of our drawers and closet. Finally, he gives us the "Ok" to proceed across into the US and off we go!! This was so much easier than I'd envisioned . . . I imagined them going thru all our belongings, asking to declare how much and what we'd purchased in Mexico. Nope . . . none of that.

We do stop in Nogales to pick up some groceries and then, back on Interstate 10 towards Tuscon. This is familiar territory from before and we know the Marana Walmart lot that will be our bedroom for the evening. We pull into the lot around 3pm, ready for a nice long walk. I'm in search of a Post Office, as several Coloradoians in the San Carlos RV Park had given me letters to post for them and I had a completed 5x7 inch entry for my "Traveling Conversations" artist comittment to mail too. Just less than a block to our right, we find the Post Office and send the envelopes off. For our internet connection we sit in front of the nearby Starbucks, sipping our favorite "Chai" teas and watching the pinkness of desert sunsets take over the sky.

After dinner our evening walk around the lot is playful and comfortable. Roland sites an interesting visual pun with the street lights as the near full moon positioned itself, just like a third light bulb on the pole. With a sigh of relief, we nest into our Arizona bed . . . already feeling closer to the reality of being home in our Oregon nest.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Leaving Los Mochias and Clumsily into San Carlos

I won't share with you any lovely visuals of our drive to, arrival nor the stay in the Los Mochias Sam's/Walmart parking lot. I did experience a slight level of discomfort as we'd as the security guards about the appropriateness of staying over night in their lot . . . them with no English and us with . . . well, less that proficient Spanish.

Then, added to that, Roland was out side the RV and a fellow walks up. Now Roland is amiable as the fellow inquires about polishing up the front RV light plexiglass covers (part of our problem with the dim driving lights, remember?). With some bargaining, Ro get him down to a reasonable price and in conversation, finds out he was exported from the US because the attempted killing someone. Swell, the fellow even knows the death row inmate who'd moved into Buddhist beliefs and whose book we'd been reading ("Finding Freedom", by Jarvis Mathews). I'm not excited about attracting ex-prison friends . . . but "we're all the same inside", right, I'm thinking. Anyway, we make it thru the night and are up early to head out. But, in the inner valleys, the winter mornings offer fog to feel your way thru.

Once the fog lifts, the burst thru sunny and clear. The countyside, as I've mentioned, now that we are in the State of Sonora, has little agriculture and we begin seeing more and more cattle. Some who are herded right along the highway . . . hopefully with well behaved and obedient animals. We wind thru some mountains and veer back over towards the coast for our next evenings lodging.

We have had good recommendations and yearnings too, to try out staying at Guaymas, just a little down from San Carlos, where we'd stayed on the Sea of Cortez on our way down. One of our friends had suggested this great old hotel on the beach, quiet and romantic she'd said. That was our aim . . . but unfortunately, our internet connection for specific directions hadn't gotten to her in time so, we were sort of aimlessly wandering past the sparkling juts of land on the coast. But we got to the city of Guaymas, finding it much larger and more sophisticated (lots of references with Native motifs) than we'd expected.

Since, once again, we are now 45 feet long and don't want to chance getting stuck in small beach navigation, we opt to continue driving up the coast and return to San Carlos. We weren't disappointed, sliding into the RV space we knew we could just quietly slither out at early hours without disturbing all the others still sleeping. I was dedicated to getting a blog post up and cleaning the RV some (between the Cody fir, the road dust and the sand now added - I just had to vaccuum and sweep - and most of you know how much I love cleaning!!). So that's what I did while Ro and Cody went for a dip.

Following dinner, we all took a relaxing walk way down into town where we'd not ventured before. We noticed the early fog, turning pink and sneaking in along the peninsula and savored a pair of pelicans taking turns diving for dinner. Loud "Creedence Clearwater Revival" music was blaring out of the local bar/eatery, "Froggy's" and we walked in pace to the beat. Very nice homes/condos lined the arterial road we followed, again, many for sale or rent. Once we'd turned around and headed back to the RV campsites, we were reminded of the beautiful, glowing full moon watching our moves.

I'm resistant to head in to go to bed for our early rising . . . it's so warm and lovely out. But soon, logic swallows up my romancing and we all nest in for the night. Early travel is more palatable with the alluring motivation that - - tomorrow we will cross over the Border, finally back in the US!!!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

A Beach Day at the Isla de la Piedra, before Departure

Thank goodness, Roland has many skills. Beyond being a retired, skilled electrical contractor, he's incredibly handy with fixing . . . well, just about anything. So he took to solving the PT Cruiser's towing challenge (remember, the brake line had pulled thru the front bumper?) actually, lying in bed the night we arrived! And by Sunday morn, he was going to fix it by borrowing some materials, buying some from neighboring RVers and - POOF - by noon, he'd repaired it himself and called off the next day's mechanic visit!

While he's been working vigilantly, I've been inside the RV working in my journal. But out the front windows I've watching this lil' RV park function and the actual little functioning village it is here within itself. I watched the "water" delivery man come thru, then the fellow selling various plants and finally, the truck with all the fresh veggies and fruits you could possibly want for the day. It all made me smile.

So we had the rest of the day to recuperate on the beach. Down the beach we strolled, catching the locals at their usual activities. Some rent horses on the beach, others offer boat rides in the bay and restaurants readying for lunch and evening meals. When we walked to the end of the bay we went over the road leading farther out the landing, only to see a water taxi across the water way to the bigger part of Mazatlan. We decided to have an early dinner on the beach and during the time waiting for our final check, we were, of course, visited by many beach vendors. Well, there was one lovely Mexican woman offering up hand embroidered works and we fell in love with one blouse. But finding we didn't bring enough denaro to pay what she wanted (we did bargain with her!) we hurriedly walked back to the RV to get her remaining balance. And, soft hearted Roland . . . even gave her more for walking all that way down the beach with us!! We'd heard there was an entire village, Isla de la Piedra, and took the car for a spin into that village, finding very confusing street layout in which we proceeded to get lost but, DID see some charming parts too!

We're nestled in our cozy RV early, ready to get a "reasonably" good nights sleep and be off early in the morn. I'm up before the sun and we pull out just as the sun is coming up. To save the wear on the hitch, I'm driving the PT Cruiser, Ro the RV. I'm lovin' the images as the sun streams thru the fog. This gentleman on his bicycle heading into town was "classic" and g'thing I was driving slow . . . I snapped the photo! After we arrived back on asphalt, Roland hooks up the PT Crusier behind our RV and you can see how filthy it's gotten just with the drive out those bumpy 8.5 miles. But finally, we are on our happy way . . . destined for Los Mochias and their Walmart parking lot.

Adios . . . til the next internet connection . . .

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Leaving Ajijic, Heading Homeward

It is a bitter sweet time . . . time for us to depart Ajijic, Mexico and head back to our Oregon home. The two months we'd planned have lapsed and although Roland is ready to stay, I have some wonderful commitments to return and continue. So we've spent the last few days, re-organizing the cupboards (padding glass and then, placing dividers or in boxes other loose items) and taking down the patio canopy. And finally all our connecting lines, electric, water and waste.

We took our last evening walk along the long, tree-lined Careterra with the quiet arterial of nice homes. Some we'd watched progress of remodels or made friends of different small businesses along the route. One of our favorite is a little cafe with yummy "coffee ice cream" for Roland and they've even personalized my double "Chai tea" drink with cinammon-y foam.

Roland has especially become attached to our horses, the mom and baby, we early on befriended. Each night he'd bring them carrots and tonight as a special g'bye, he brought their favorite, an apple. When I caught up to him, the horse had already eaten the apple and Roland had tears rolling down his cheek. He told me how he'd told her it was their "last treat, that we were leaving" and after the apple, she'd given his nose a g'bye nuzzle, turned, and walk away. I love his gentle "animal heart"!

Early the next mornin' we are up and breakfasted. In order to drive out of our snug lil' RV pad, we have had to request neighbors in the street don't park adjacent to the gate and have our two casita friends to move their cars out at 6:45am. Our dear neighbor, Michael, followed us up to the place where we were to hitch the RV to the car and got this fun shot before we pulled out.

We were told about this short cut up an newly developed by-pass that would avoid the city of Jocotepec. It takes you up above the road leading around Lake Chapala and offered us this lovely view of the sunrise coming up over the water! We'd driven this route before . . . only to find the road is complete, until you get to the bridge where you'd drive over and then merge onto the highway below. The road just stops, bluntly, just where a bridge would start ~ no signs! Roland checked out the construction road off to the right, steep, rocky and bumpy ~ and thinks the RV will travel down it fine. Me? I'm walkin'!!! Cody and I waited at the bottom of the vertical incline. Watching was not as bad as the ride I'm sure . . . but he did make it!

Once on Mexico's Highway 15D (love "D", it's the toll road, but beautifully maintained for the most part and safe) the trip's a breeze. We meander back up thru Guadalajara (but the west end, less pollution and traffic) and over the big mountains north. I'd forgotten how lovely the checker board agriculture fields just outside of Tepic were, one field sugar cane, the other another different green. Then the fields start alternating with corn as we near Mazatlan, and we begin looking out for our evening's planned lodging.

After having such a harrowing experience in Mazatlan coming down, we'd wanted to have our "ducks more in a row" if that is possible in Mexico travel. So we'd emailed and gotten both a confirmation and a map from an RV park, "Tres Amigos", just south of the city of Mazatlan on the beach. We took the turn off just after Villa Union, heading toward the airport. After a couple other turns noted on the map, we make our last turn onto an eight and a half mile stretch (not noted on the map was the fact that it was . . . ) of wash-board dirt and rock road. It was a miserable road, but we stiffed it out gritting our teeth for 45 minutes. When we finally reach "Tres Amigos" someone stops us quick, telling us the car we are towing's front wheels aren't turning in the deep sand!! So we have to disconnect the car which gives Roland a chance to see that the special brake system on the towed vehicle has pulled thru the front bumper and our license plate. So now, when we find a mechanic to fix that, he can't arrive til Monday. Ok, at least we may stop vibrating from the road by that time!

We get hooked up, change to beach clothes and head to the salt water to rejuvenate! We locate a local eatery on the beach and settle in for a light meal. Calmed from the "thrill" of the drive, we saunter back from dinner and had timed it just right to catch is beautiful sunset.

We nest in to read for awhile before bed, pleased at the quiet and distant breaking of the waves. Suddenly, we hear "uno, dos, tres" over a loud sound system. The new flash is - - that there's a dancing/live music facility just 50 yards down from us - - and it is Saturday night! Oh well, we've mastered going to sleep with roosters, firecrackers and Om-pah bands nearby . . . what's a little dance music?

G'nite for now . . . our travels continue . . .

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"Dia del los Reyes"

As we were returning to Ajijic from our trip to Mazamitla, we'd seen these signs at bakeries "Rosca de Reyes". Out of curiosity, we stopped to inquire and Roland came back to the car with this colorful wreath of bread! Now you know, we'd had an early dinner already, so dessert was still a possibility. When we arrived back to the RV with our "Rosca de Reyes" in hand we had to Google the occasion to find it's true meaning!

Apparently the Spaniards brought with them the "Epiphany" celebration, or Three Kings Day. It commemorates January 6th as the day the three wise men or kings made it to bring the baby Jesus his gifts.

This Epiphany rings a bell for me (and possibly to several other precious friends) because many years ago the seven or eight of us would do our regular Christmas with others. But save this special date on our calendars for us to gather and exchange time, gifts, possibly a hike and inevitably, a meal. So I could see the bread relevance here right away :)

So, back to the Mexican tradition . . . this beautifully decorated wreath is not only delicious, but it holds a hidden treasure. Somewhere in the bread is a lil' baby Jesus, symbolizing "a safe place where Jesus could be born") and the knife which cuts the bread shows the extreme danger that was involved with keeping Jesus hidden from King Herad.

We of course, launch into the eating part of the celebration and Roland convinces me to fourths, giving big portions away to our hostess, our two casita friends and the crazy but sweet gentleman who lives across the street from us (remember the mild mannered fellow who had the campfire out front his house on Christmas Eve?). This leaves us dessert now and a bit saved for future.

The other part of the tradition that goes along with this is, that the person who ends up with the baby Jesus in their serving, must host a party on February 2nd, with all current attendees as guests, to tie up the final celebration of Christmas with tamales and hot chocolate.

We wrap up the gift portions in clear wrap and launch into our slices, served with yummy vanilla soy milk. I'm munching away, taking conscious bits with my fork, so as not to chomp down on Jesus, should he be in my slice. "SSSSSSSssscrunch", I hear a strange sound with the penetration of my next fork . . . and - tah dah - yep, there he is, "lil' plastic Jesus".

He held still, even upside down, while I took photos for you guys to see. And now, I'm eyeing how to put him in my journal . . . he is kinda thick headed tho. And it will probably have to wait til we are safely home in Oregon anyway (since we leave here this Saturday, early) . . . but, now I need to have a tamale/hot chocolate party on February 2nd.

Anyone want to come?

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Our Trip to Manzamitla

This delightful side trip, probably the last of our "discovery" visits before we head homeward, turned out to be one of our very best . . . Mazamitla!!! This settling up in the higher mountains south of Lake Chapala, has a strong German influence and nests among conifers and evergreens. I was having visions of my Colorado forests and feeling very excited.

The 2 hour drive took us first thru Jocotepec at the west end of the lake then, east past a speckling of small towns and finally south up into the hills. Most of the undulating terrain is dried foliage and dusty . . . but we began climbing futher and further . . . and I began seeing green. First a sprinkling of evergreens and then rolling hillside of green grass. Quite lovely since we are in the winter dry season down at lake altitude. And wood, I repeat w-o-o-d, that grainy, earthy stuff trees are made of, I began to see wood. I didn't realize how I'd missed seeing, feeling it.

We parked in the wide, rock lined streets and began sampling this tourist oriented village. The town square with it's white facaded church and wooden gazebo was charming, clean. The two story store fronts bordering the square had wood rails and wooden doors. One of the adjacent blocks was a pedestrian walkway and offered nurseries or potted flowering plants.

Shortly, we decided to have a late lunch and skip dinner (who knew when we'd get home) and poked our head into a short corridor of a restaurant. It opened into a sunlit patio, with tables and a bar (don't you love the actual cowboy boots as a planter on the bar?), then adjacent rooms with more seating and the kitchen. A young man came to take our order and made the best "limenade" to quench our thirst. Look at the size of the glasses! Another treat we keep running into is the size of the poinsettias here in Mexico. I'm used to the tiny ones that you can "perhaps" get to blossoms next Christmas if you're lucky. But here, look at the size of the bush behind our table here. Yes, it's a poinsettia!! Lunch was interesting, I'll say, my favorite part was the "limenade". But our server had lived in Michigan for several months and we all tried one another's language, with spurts of laughter inbetween.

The remainder of the afternoon, we wandered the opposite side of town, more westerly. They are doing major improvement in the street and plumbing of the city so many streets were in chaos. But we poked into the sides and interior of the large church and noticed the remaining Christmas decorations still up in streets and in buildings. It was interesting that rather than the traditional red and green holiday colors, in Mazamitla, their colors were pale blue and pink. And just before we board for our drive home we partake in a rich cup of coffee in the cozy, wood-lined cafe that gave us a view of the square and the distant church facade. As we are leaving town, again we get a shot of the strong German influence here in this quaint mountain community.

Winding back down the highway towards Lake Chapala, we get a clear view of the wide, narrow water. As we turn west, along the perimeter of the lake to travel thru the small villages there, we hit a detour. Now we never really did find out what the detour was for, but it took us off the main road down the streets of San Luis Souyatlan, past their town square and domed church. Again, we turned along the lake, traveling along the town park and locals fishing. Truly, the flavor of life along more removed villages along the lake.

It had been a full, luscious day ~ we talked of taking an extended stay over in the differing flavor of Mazamitla next time we are here.

But the day is still young and, after all, it IS "Dia del Reyes". Stay tuned for the experience of another of Mexico's fascinating traditions.