Eugene! Eureka!

The alternate title for this post might be “all puppy all the time.”

We’re home!

We had a terrific weekend reconnecting with family in the Bay Area and introducing them to Penelope. Doug, our youngest, is working with Sarah’s brother in Marin County, doing construction and remodeling.

Doug and Puppy

Doug and Puppy

Niece Ella played with Penny, as did two or three of her friends, as much as they possibly could. Three just-pre-teen girls can love a puppy a whole lot! And a puppy can absorb a lot of loving.

Ella’s dog Watson, a large chocolate lab, was the best dog uncle imaginable. He thumped his tail and the puppy attacked it. If he sat still, she attacked his ears or his nose. If her puppy teeth got too bad, he growled, which may have taught her some manners.

Ella and Penny

Ella and Penny

Watson and Penny play tug of war

Watson and Penny play tug of war

Cabin and puppy Feb 13 002

Then we had a few days in the mountains introducing Penelope to snow and to our middle boy Alexi, who is wintering in a summer recreational cabin in the Sierra.

Puppy Claws

Puppy Claws


She came with us on our walks; she has the advantage that she skips over the crust. I generally break through.

Alexi and Penny

Alexi and Penny


When Penny got tired and cold, Alexi carried her home in his jacket.

When they both got tired and cold they sat on Sarah’s lap in front of the fire.

Sarah, Alexi and puppy

Sarah, Alexi and puppy

It was a bittersweet visit to the Sierra cabin, as one of the siblings who inherited it now wants her share in cash, so it looks as if the cabin will have to be sold. We are saying fond farewells to one of the most beautiful places we know.

We have been taken out of our context of privilege, shaken around a bit and now we are back. What next?
Having braved the Internet we’ve learned that blogging is actually sort of easy, even for the technologically impaired elderly. What a delight to have been able to share parts of this trip with you all and receive your support.
We are very blessed.

We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

T. S. Eliot
Little Gidding V

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Marin County

Travel in the US is different than in Guatemala or Mexico; we keep noticing that.  We stayed with some snowbirding friends in an RV park in Arizona, where we fed utterly cute animals at a petting zoo: the lorikeets are particularly attractive, nothing beats the fuzzy donkeys for sheer cuteness, the deer slobber, and the Boer goats have the softest lips. 

Sarah with Lorikeets

Sarah with Lorikeets


After purchasing my official Geezer Card at Joshua Tree National Park (Hoorah!  I am an official Old Person!) we eventually picked up our new puppy near Bakersfield.

 

 

Penelope

Penelope

Sarah meets Penelope Sarah meets Penelope

She is making the trip north both more challenging and more fun. She sleeps in the passenger foot well, a magic puppy crate. Every time the door is opened the scenery is totally new!
Across California, stopping at lovely if a bit cold Carrazo Plain again, through San Luis Obispo and up the coast. We visited a beach inhabited by elephant seals, in the nursing and caring for young season; they make an amazing noise.

Elephant Seals

Elephant Seals


We spent a night in Big Basin State Park, the first state redwood park and by some reckonings the oldest California state park. (Yosemite was owned by the state at one time but certainly is not a state park now. Should it be counted as the oldest?) It was a little dark and not actually really warm, but a night of worshiping redwoods is worth a little difficulty. A warm fire is wonderful if you can get it going.
Camping in Big Basin under redwoods

Camping in Big Basin under redwoods


We also spent a night at a terrific county park outside San Jose, where an owl hooted nearby for hours in the pre-dawn and a coyote yapped at us firmly and angrily a little later, as if we were intruders. Once again, at both these parks, we were the only campers present.
We are visiting family in the Bay Area now, with plans to head up to the Tahoe area to visit our middle boy and then, later next week, to turn north again for the final push.

Arizona

The Beatles said it best: Back in the US, Back in the US …

Before the border, though, we spent a night at an old hacienda made into a lovely hotel by the addition of comfortable beds and bathrooms, with the original doors and windows, very nicely done. We unexpectedly found a large stained glass window in the garden.

Hacienda Hotel El Fuerte. stained glass window

Hacienda Hotel El Fuerte. stained glass window


At San Carlos we were back in serious Gringoville; it is a retirement community for escapees from winter. We enjoyed the decorated tree at a small fishing area.
Tree at San Carlos

Tree at San Carlos


We stopped again in Santa Ana, where Edgar and Anna run a small RV stop, perfect for first and last night south of the border. They are getting to be of “mayor edad,” but are the most friendly and hospitable people you can imagine. Edgar gave us a Chevrolet hubcap to replace the one we lost in Guatemala.
Edgar gave us a hubcap

Edgar gave us a hubcap


Crossing the border was uneventful, though three officers had to check under our bed and they seemed insistent that we might have undeclared meat or produce (are you sure you don’t have a couple of potatoes left over?) that we could give them. The border station itself looks very expensive, lacks the slightest sign of “Welcome to the USA,” substituting notices about the penalties for assaulting a federal officer, for smuggling currency, for failing to declare pork products, and so on, and has some significantly unfriendly looking dogs.
It has been cold. There was snow in northern Sonora and southern Arizona, but we had a lovely Arizona sunset our first night here.
Arizona Sunset

Arizona Sunset


Today we took a hike among the cactus. The desert is (slightly) green after recent rain and snow, and the flowers should be terrific in a month.
Saguaro Hike

Saguaro Hike

El Fuerte

Morelia was beautiful, reminding us of Queretaro. Both are of an age and a type. Historic Morelia is made largely of a rosy stone that gives the old streets a glow.

Street in historic centro of Morelia

Street in historic centro of Morelia


We have started retracing our earlier route; I find it interesting to see the same things with different eyes. We are more experienced in Mexico than a few months ago.

We visited Isla Janitzio, a tourist island off Patzcuaro. It is a hilly island perhaps faintly suggestive of Greece, with an enormous statue of the revolutionary hero Morales on the top.

Janitizio topped by the giant statue

Janitizio topped by the giant statue

One can climb up inside the statue, perhaps faintly reminiscent of the Statue of Liberty?, even up a narrow spiral staircase to the top of the arm.

Looking down inside the statue

We saw a wedding reception with probably two hundred people seated at long tables, and watched three men trying to set up the sound system.

Power for the reception music

Power for the reception music

We met a couple from Eugene who spend several months every winter in the campground where we stayed in Patzcuaro.
Then back to Villa Corona, but there wasn’t a circus. The warm swimming pools, heated by hot springs, were even more appreciated this time, I think. Back to the same trailer park in Mazatlan, where we visited with a couple from Pacific City Oregon who spend about six months there every year and who are trying to find homes for their litter of (mostly) fox terrier, “rescued”-mom, puppies. (They threatened to hide some in our car.) We are picking up our puppy in Southern California in a week.

Our new puppy

Our new puppy

We have had a few more adventures turning down roads that might, but in fact don’t, lead to where we want to go. We are getting much better at these adventures. We have driven through dozens of gamma ray detectors, doubtless funded by US anti-drug money. What do gamma ray detectors detect? (And don’t say “gamma rays.” That isn’t helpful.) At a vegetable inspection today (like California), Sarah said we had no fruit, but we had candy, and held up the package. The inspector said, “Me regale uno?” so of course we did. That was the cheapest propina (tip) yet.

We have learned that the maps, even the much-recommended Guia Roji (Red Guide) should be considered suggestions or improvisations or hypothetical. And we have learned that sometimes you can’t get where you want to go unless you have been there and know how to do it. We wanted to turn off of the major beltway/southern bypass around Guadelajara onto the major highway that leads toward Puerto Vallerta or, eventually, to Nogales on the US border. These are not small roads. As far as we can tell, you cannot make a left turn to do that, nor is there an exit with a cloverleaf. What you do it keep driving until you are pretty sure you have missed the turn, then take a “retorno” or make a U turn across the median, and come back and make the right turn, which is clearly signed.
We can tell we are back in the north of Mexico. We see lots more US license plates, and some of them are even valid for 2013. (Many are on cars that were imported and stay here, presumably without local papers, certainly with really old California or Texas plates.) We talk with more people who have lived in the US and speak some English. And we are seeing wheat tortillas advertised on the streets. In Guatemala, people trimmed the vegetation on the sides of the road with machetes. In Belize, they used gas powered weed whackers carried with a strap over the shoulder. In the south of Mexico they seemed to have newer hand carried weed cutters. Today a crew was cutting the vegetation with a tractor.
Last night at the beach, the restaurant people moved some tables and had us pull the car inside the fence, under the roof, for the night. You can just see the car in this picture I think.

Camping spot at Playa Ceuta

Camping spot at Playa Ceuta

We waded, lounged on the sand in the sun, had dinner at the restaurant pictured, and enjoyed a terrific sunset.
Sunset at Ceuta Beach

Sunset at Ceuta Beach

Our lunch restaurant today had a Brown Swiss cow head mounted above the bar. It reminds me of a Tom Lehrer song:
“I went and shot the maximum the game laws would allow,
Two game wardens, seven hunters, and a cow.”

Trophy Head

Trophy Head

It is going to be difficult to return to rain, clouds, darkness, and cold. It rained today in El Fuerte, Sinaloa, perhaps trying to get us used to going home. We are looking forward to warm friends to make it worthwhile.

Morelia

Cuidad de Carmen, Campeche, was previously known as Tris, the pirate island.  It was the refuge from which English, and Dutch pirates raided Caribbean shipping and towns with near-impunity.   Tabasco is wet, green, humid, hot and full of egrets. The road to Villa Hermosa crosses rivers, bayous, backwaters, streams, flooded fields with belly-deep cattle, and generally looks like (is) a tropical delta.  This was the center of Olmec civilization, the first in meso-America.  Giant Olmec heads were moved to a park in Villa Hermosa decades ago from their original site at La Venta when petroleum exploration and development, the number on

Sarah watches 3000 year old man emerge from cave

Sarah watches 3000 year old man emerge from cave

e obvious economic driver of these Gulf states (Halliburton and Schlumberger trucks and offices), seemed to require that they be moved. 
Each one is at least 5 feet tall and 3000 years old

Each one is at least 5 feet tall and 3000 years old

Mayan ruins at Comalcualco were built of brick on top of mounds of packed mud, all covered with stucco, as there are no rocks.  They are beautiful but oddly reminiscent of a Victorian English folly, a pretend pyramid built of red brick.  The bricks were made with designs (animals, human figures, etc.) and then laid with the designs facing inward. Only hypotheses as to why.

Sarah checking the brick pyramid

Sarah checking the brick pyramid

 

Tabascan churches are striking: colorful and idiosyncratiC. They say that Tabasco was never really properly converted due to a dispute between two missionary orders, so it developed more or less on its own. We liked San Miguelito, with St. Michael slaying a dragon above the entrance. 

San Miguelito, Tabascan church

San Miguelito, Tabascan church

Tabasco likes color

Tabasco likes color

Tabasco Torre

Tabasco Torre

I was taken by the presence of a turkey in the crèche.  If there was one big miracle why not smaller ones on the side, such as a turkey in Bethlehem in year 0?

We found Orizaba more of less by accident when it was time to stop our hurry northward, and it is a lovely and untouristed town.  The present Municipal Palace has (yet another revolutionary and depressing) Orozco mural from the 1920s, in what was once a series of  schools.  The old Municipal Palace is an Iron Building (Edificio de Hierro) designed by Eiffel and used as the Belgian Exhibit at a late 19th century Paris International Exhibition.  It was taken apart, shipped in several vessels to Mexico, and put back together in Orizaba, a la Erector set. 

The Iron House

The Iron House

Detail of Orozco mural

Detail of Orozco mural

Anangueo is Butterfly Town.  It was a mining town until a drop in the market price of silver caused the closure of the mines, throwing everyone out of work.  The town is beautiful and obviously there was money there when the buildings were built.  Now it is the gateway to El Rosasario, one of the winter refuges of the Monarch butterfly.  We saw uncountable millions hanging on the trees, looking from a distance like giant wasps nests, gazillions of Monarchs hanging together for warmth.  It was warm enough, barely, for us to appreciate how amazing it must be in later February and March when the butterflies fly off in orange clouds.

Monarch on Sarah

Monarch on Sarah

A mass of wintering  Monarchs

A mass of wintering Monarchs

Not far away is a valley with hot springs.  We found the only place that seems to be open all year, and had the most delightfully sulphurous green-watered hot soak.  Ahh.  We drove through more of the pine-clad, oak-punctuated green hills of Michoacan, one of the loveliest states in Mexico (along with Oaxaca, Chiapas, Campeche, and a few others).  

Campeche

Campeche is the southwest corner of the Yucatan Peninsula, so we have traveled some since I last wrote. I flew from Cancun to Wichita to celebrate my parents’ 189th birthdays with them. My dad just turned 95 and my mom 94; all three of my brothers and I were there to celebrate.
I left Sarah in Mexico; while I grasshoppered in Kansas she took Spanish classes in Playa del Carmen and then sat on the International House terrace later, messing around on the computer, reading her novel in Spanish, doing her homework, and watching the passing tourists in their various traje (native dress). Tulum had Christmas giraffes on their main street.

Christmas giraffe in Tulum

Christmas giraffe in Tulum


After Kansas and Spanish school we set out, finding Cenote Yokdzonot, which the women of the village had organized as a cooperatively run swimming area with restaurant and camping.
Cenote--beautiful swimming hole

Cenote–beautiful swimming hole

We went to Chichen Itza early, as soon as it opened, which was a smart move since we got to enjoy the ruins before the crowds (serious crowds) and heat really arrived.
Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza

We found more Maya ruins and the largest church in the Yucatan, built by a zealous bishop on top of the platform of a Mayan temple, using many of the stones from the pyramid. The size of the church grounds shows how big those pyramids really are. The town of Ixamal used to have twelve of them. I’m surprised there are any rocks left in the fields.
We climbed what is left of Kinich Kak Mo

We climbed what is left of Kinich Kak Mo


And so Merida, a lovely colonial city. It reminds both of us of Oaxaca, another historic relaxed city that we both enjoyed, only warmer. South down the coast to Celestun, one of our favorite places so far. It is a casual small town on the ocean, not on the way to anything. Some words for my amigos de aves (bird watching friends): flamingos!
Flamingos! and one white pelican

Flamingos! and one white pelican

magnificant frigate birds! (At least I think so. I don’t see anything else in the book they could possibly be.) melodious blackbird, orange oriole, gray necked wood rail, cinnamon hummingbird, tropical kingbird, a bunch of ibises, ladder backed woodpecker, and a lot of other birds that we also see at home. Our boat stopped at a fresh-water “ojo” or “eye” of the jungle, among the mangroves. The man selling snacks said there are no crocodiles there, so of course it was perfectly safe for a dip.
Sarah takes a dip in the ojo de selva

Sarah in the ojo de selva


We could see how people arrive in a town like Celestun intending to stay for a day or two and don’t get around to leaving. Somehow in our relaxed state we bought another hammock.
And on to Campeche, the capital of the state of Campeche, at the southwest corner of the Yucatan Peninsula. Pirates were plentiful along this coast and the town was once walled. When it cooled a bit we walked along the very rebuilt remains of the fortifications, watched colored fountains that danced to music and a most Mexican espectaculo of Campeche’s history heavily romanticized and acted to more colored lights on Campeche’s bastions.

Tulum

We are back in Mexico. Although his was not exactly like our trip, I want to quote Stephens on his return to Mexico after a year in Guatemala during a civil war.
“An immense weight was removed from our minds, and we welcomed each other to Mexico. Coming in from the desolate frontier, it opened upon us like an old, long-settled, civilized, quiet, and well-governed country.” Stephens, Incidents of Travel in Central America, Chiapas, and Yucatan (1842).
Stephens entered Guatemala from the Atlantic and entered Mexico in Chiapas, not far from where we left Mexico and entered Guatemala. We felt much the same way when we left Guatemala and entered Belize, and then Mexico: we were entering a civilized and well-governed country. In Belize, we immediately noted not only that English is the official language, but that services at the border are arranged for facility, to move people from one station to another in an organized fashion, and staffed adequately. This has to be a legacy of the Brits, along with cricket and tea.

Who but Belize would put all that in one ministry?

Who but Belize would put all that in one ministry?


In Guatemala, I was served “coffee” which I could see right through, to the bottom of the cup. In Belize I was told the coffee was not hot, but the tea is always ready. Now back in Mexico, where they put the Nescafe bottle on the table and serve a cup of hot water; cafe a su gusto.
Breakfast in Chetumal: dominoes and as much instant coffee as I want

Breakfast in Chetumal: dominoes and as much instant coffee as I want


In Belize we immediately noticed much better roads, more diversity (lots of Chinese restaurants and stores, along with others), more black faces, cricket fields, and generally a Caribbean atmosphere, with colorfully painted clapboard houses raised on stilts. We found our “inn” in Belize City and were welcomed by very friendly and outgoing hosts, in what looked just like another house in the neighborhood but had been adapted to hotel use. We walked up and down in Belize City for Christmas Eve, and went to Caye Caulker for sun and sand on Christmas Day.
Christmas Day on Caye Caulker

Christmas Day on Caye Caulker


In Belize, just about everything closes on Sunday, and everything is closed on Christmas Day. A very few places, mainly small groceries, are open on Boxing Day. So touristing on Cay Caulker was our best option. We snorkeled, communed with the fishies, petted rays and sharks, and celebrated the 7th Principle.
Traveling at leisure, we entered Mexico on the 27th. We have walked a bunch more Mayan ruins,
At Kohunlich

At Kohunlich


visited a manatee,
Manatee

Manatee


seen Spanish chapels and Spanish forts and Mayan chapels, been to a good Maya Museum, and cooled off in a very Mexican balneareo at which we were the only foreigners.
Stela replica from Chetumal

Stela replica from Chetumal


Cooling off at the balneareo

Cooling off at the balneareo


Our campsite on Lago Bacalero was more or less a tropical paradise.
Sunrise from our campsite

Sunrise from our campsite


And now we are in Tulum, in Touristlandia for the next ten days or so, until we get through Cancun and out the eastern side.