Sunday, July 24, 2016

Excellent Dinner And . . . A Dog Bit Me!

The nice neighbor's dog bit me yesterday on my way to the showers.   He apologized and shortened the dog's leash.   He has his vaccination papers and all.  I guess I scared the dog.  I went to Similares for a 35 peso exam.  He gave me antibiotics.  I then went to the Centro de Salud where I have my universal healthcare and the gave me a tetanus shot no charge.  Took all of five minutes in and out.

We went out for dinner last night.  A great Italian restaurant on the way to Dolores Hidalgo just 15 minutes from the center of San Miguel de Allende.

Gotta run!  We take Little Bit to the cattery in about 30 minutes but I need some breakfast.  We then catch the bus to Mexico City at 3 p.m.  Our hotel is four blocks from the office.  We don't need to be there until 11:30 tomorrow morning.  

Thursday, July 21, 2016

When You Don't Fit In

I've never really fit in.  This picture is another example.  I can wear the suit but it's just not me!

It's really quite interesting how life is.  I spent almost a month boondocking.  As you know, I moved here to the rv park because of the storms coming and the fact that we need to leave the rv somewhere while we go to a meeting.  I feel like I've been a bad boy and I'm being punished being locked up in this weird environment.   

The funny part is that it's hard to restructure the brain.  I had difficulties reaching the electric outlet even though I had calculated the distance based on the best spot.  I tried different things to no avail.  The neighbors on both sides aren't here this weekend.  That's a good thing.  So I came back inside and pondered my options.  I saw my beloved extension cord but thought, " if I use the extension cord I won't be able to hookup the electric blanket".  Why not you might ask?  Because I was thinking I was still on solar.   I swear, I have become so addicted to being off grid that I could do this forever.  The solar works so well.   I would make some upgrades but other than that I have had an absolutely incredible few weeks boondocking.

However, the impending storm looms overhead and not being very level I didn't want to take on water through the bottom of the front door.   Did I mention that I took the door jam across the bottom apart only to find out it had never had any sealant of any kind?  Unbelievable.  The rv industry is highly unregulated.  That is fixed now and it was well-tested during the other nights storm.  Funny, a tree next to the bedroom slide started to grow onto the rv.  I had to move the rv forward a bit with the slide halfway out.

Another thing is the internet.  I have become used to using my Telcel USB stick that now with a connection, I'm still thinking "conserve the megabytes".   I'm free to use the internet signal but the mindset has changed.   I'll get used to it shortly.  BTW, the best sites I have found that consume the least amount of megas are FaceBook and Rv.Net.   Rv.Net I can read all night and it uses very little bandwidth.  

Well, I'm settled now and waiting for the big reunion tomorrow night.   Can't wait.  We have dinner planned at an Italian restaurant here on the road to Dolores for Saturday night.  

A lot has changed at home.   All good but we're back to, "it's time to move on".   

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Big Storm - Time To Move

A huge storm is heading into southern and central Mexico this week.  Mexico City has already had severe flooding along with other states.  Guanajuato is next.   The winds are picking up and will hit 40 kms per hour by tomorrow night.  The forecast keeps changing but it looks like torrential rains by this weekend.

I think I will put off the move to the San Ramon Rv Park until Thursday afternoon.  I went by today to check.  It's summer so they have room although there were three rigs parked there.  No special discounts.  I guess not when you're the only game in town.  That's okay, we have to move anyway while we are in Mexico City.   What the heck, I've been lucky for the last three weeks being parked here at the botanical gardens.   Tanks are probably starting to burst anyway.

It's been fun.  The rains have been almost everyday making it hard to get out and do much hiking in the canyon.  Warnings have been out since the middle of last week about hiking, walking and driving.  The showers are isolated and seem to hit at anytime making it difficult.  

Anyway, we're looking forward to Friday and the rest of the summer trip.   I can't wait.  

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Tourist weekend SMA

A pretty exciting weekend.  I had my farewell party for the kids at school.  Some of the mothers brought tostadas, flautas, pollo con nopal, sandwiches, and I brought the cake.  We had music and played musical chairs as well as a game where you tie a balloon aroun your ankle and chase each other trying to pop the balloon.  I forgot the name.  A good time had by all and I’m sorry to see it over.  I think I got more pleasure out of it than the kids.

Saturday morning I got up early and as usual headed to the gym.  I’ve decided this last week to go later in the morning.   Less people and the body builders are not there to groan and grunt.  I don’t need to get out of bed everyday at 5 a.m. and get going.  What?  Could this be a lifestyle change?

In the afternoon I had big plans.  There was a gourmet food fest going on and everyone was talking about it.  It was in the local newspaper, a poster at the gym, even on social media here in SMA.   I thought it would be fun tasting different types of food and rubbing noses with a few people.  A friend from the gym sent me a link to the invitation.  First off, the good ole gps sent me one direction.  That wasn’t it.   The webpage was sketchy anyway so I stopped to ask.  Turns out it was right here on the highway to Queretaro about 6 miles away at a resort hotel.  The place was packed.  I pulled up and the guy said that valet parking was 20 pesos.  Sounds reasonable to me.   He asked if I had my ticket yet.  I told him no and asked how much it was.  500 pesos.  Que?  I turned around and headed home.  Sorry, I would have still had to buy drinks.   I opted instead for a great dinner of a pork chop, steamed broccoli and cheese pureed potatoes with a glass of wine.

This morning, no gym.  I watched a great program that was dated from 2008.  It was about the German woman who actually won half the battle over the lands surrounding the pyramid I went to at Cañada de la Virgin.  She was one of the local land owners and apparently there were plans to make it into a super tourist attraction complete with hotel, restaurant and shops.  She was able to get it stopped so that it is now an anthropological site.   Glad I have the television for this local station and news as well.

Off I went on my walk and I will just say I left at 9 a.m. and got back to the botanical gardens at 2:30 this afternoon.  I love watching tourists.  I’ll do it with pictures.

El Mercado Centro a few blocks from the Jardin.  Much better produce than the weekend and Tuesday market on the road to Queretaro and even better than Soriana or Mega.

Down the street from the mercado is this nice plaza where the locals hang out.  

As I was sitting in the Jardin this morning have an OXXO coffee for 14 pesos (Starbucks is double), I saw this group of kids, about thirty of them.  They were on a tour.  Sad to say, one of them came over by me and starting shouting, internet, internet.  Needless to say, they all rushed over and pulled out their cell phones.  End of the tour.

This makes for a great stroll through time.  In the Choperia near the Jardin are very interesting photos of San Miguel dating about to 1870.  Great to see the then and now and how few things have really changed in the historical center of town.

I had a small sandwich for my walk in the morning but by the time I was heading home up the hill I ran out of steam.  Midway, I hopped on the bus and went to the Sunday market.  I found these great enchiladas.  The nap after was priceless.

So, Juan arrives on Friday night.   We will move to San Ramon and keep the trailer there until we get back from Mexico City on Tuesday.   I found a great cattery on the road to Atotonilco called Creature Comforts.  Little Bit will be very happy there.  I was not expecting to find this type of place.  More on that later.  Can't wait for our trip to Zacatecas, Organ Pipes Natl Park and Durango.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Concrete Houses

A new neighborhood is going up just a few blocks from the botanical garden.  It will be a gated community with prices from 3 million to 5 million pesos.  They are working frantically to get the perimeter walls up so that when people come to few the plans they have an idea of what things will look like. 

I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a concrete house built in Mexico.  Here in the south they use bricks that are made with wooden molds and fired in ovens where they burn just about anything including plastics.  Most of that practice though is coming to an end. 

Concrete block houses are labor intensive as well as a huge waste of materials.   I know, we built a house in Monterrey.  It was three stories and 390 sq meters.  It’s quite impressive to watch the construction.  The walls go up fairly quickly.   We watched the construction day by day thinking, wow, these guys really work fast.  Then came the big shock of shocks.  They began doing the wiring and the plumbing.   The walls and roof are on and it looks great.  A bit sloppy because they are going to cover the outside with a cement finish.   Then it began, all new to me.  They started chiseling through all of that newly set concrete block that we paid good money for.   They chisel canals for the electrical and plumbing.   The plumbing for the drains and water were already set when they did the foundation.   All those good blocks being destroyed.  

Then they began to plaster the walls.   They say good yeseros (yeso is plaster and the plasterer is the yesero) work best when smoking pot.   I wasn’t happy about visiting and smelling pot but hey, that’s what they do and I stayed out of the way.   The plaster is spread on the walls and then leveled.  They use a plumb line and it looks great.   For every kilo of yeso, about ¼  gets thrown out the window.  They scrap and level and once the excess hits the floor it can’t be used.  And don’t let anyone tell you that termites don’t work on concrete houses.  They do!  The plaster is mixed in big wooden tubs that have been used for years.  Scrapping and slopping around the mixture causes wood fibers to get into the job.  We had termites.  They have to drill holes in the walls and floors and inject the poison.
Today there are many alternatives to block.  New cement materials that make what we call thermal blocks that are better for insulation.  Concrete houses have an insulation factor of about an R -5.  The only true insulation is the Styrofoam blocks that go into the ceilings to reduce the weight.  They have even developed a cement block that is translucent and light can pass through it.  They look like cloudy ice cubes. 

At the end of this story, the workers up the street are finishing the outside walls of the gated community.  They have beautiful columns that are made from brick.   There are also mechanized brick companies but those bricks are made for aesthetic exterior use.  After the bricks went up, they covered them with a rough cement.  Once that dried, they chipped away at the cement to put a finished coat of cement (more wasted cement).   The decorative bottoms and tops went on which required chipping off the two coats they just put on.  Well, you get the idea.

If you’ve made it this far on this long and maybe uninteresting read, you wondering why I wrote this.  I’m sitting here waiting for the plumber to come and fix the toilet.  So if and when we build our final destination, we are using the narrowest block and putting metal framing, insulation and sheet rock on the inside.  

Monday, July 11, 2016

Slight Itinerary Change - D.F.

Right now it's raining like crazy.  Typical afternoon shower to bring the temperature down to 14C.  I love saying that.  At home it's been a constant 40C.

Juan has reservation for a flight on Friday evening to Leon.   I got my agenda for the work I'll be doing in Mexico City the week of August the 8th.  Publishers are notorious for last minute changes and I got one today.  They want all of us in D.F. on the evening of the 24th for dinner and training on the 25th and 26th.   I started to respond to say, "sorry, but I have plans".  The money for the week of the 8th is really good plus my hotel and airline points.  I decided to wait and talk to Juan .  I sent him a message and just when he was calling me he received an invitation to join our consulting team.

Looks like we will have to find a place for the trailer for two days and a kennel for Little Bit.   I know that Flamingos Hotel doesn't take rvs anymore but what we really need is just a place to store it.  I was thinking about the rv park outside of Queretaro north of Juriquilla but I think Kevin said it had turned into a dump.  I wonder how safe it is?  Hmm.  Dilemma.

Other than that, it's been a perfect day with lots of activity including a $2.80 haircut that turned out really nice.  Better than the guy at home who cuts my hair.

Any ideas or suggestions for our trip.  I guess we could leave it here at San Ramon and the cat at a SMA kennel.  We can't drive to D.F. though and I hate taking a five hour bus drive because we will have to return on Tuesday night with us getting to the rv park at midnight.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Archaeological Site - Cañada de la Virgin

This is supposed to be a vacation but it felt like a regular work week.  Too many errands and running back and forth.  I decided yesterday that the weekend would be for me.   Apart from that, the botanical garden is having a 25th anniversary celebration this weekend.   It started out with a bang, literally.  Fireworks this afternoon were perfect for waking me from a great nap.   Not a complaint but just the way it is.   I am participating in some of the events tonight and tomorrow. 

So all these years we have been coming to San Miguel de Allende I never knew that there were archaeological ruins nearby.   In fact, today I learned there are over 1200 in the state of Guanajuato alone but only five have been completely restored and open to the public.
Cañada de la Virgen (the name has nothing to do with the site itself other than the fact that this is the current day name for the area) is located 30 miles from SMA heading towards the city of Guanajuato.  What a beautiful drive.  The highway heads toward Celaya and then cuts right going by the far end of the presa.  

Signs clearly mark the way and before I knew it I was parking at their visitor´s center.  Very well done.  I thought I would drive to the ruins and just walk around.  They have scheduled tours that leave every two hours.  I took the 11 a.m. tour.

Comfortable tour vans took us 8 kms to the site.   We got off and walked a kilometer up over the hill.   On the walk we stopped halfway at a covered area where the tour guide began telling us about the area.  The pyramids were built in 540 A.D. and the site was abandon like so many others around the year 900 due to the supposed drought that covered much of Mexico at the time.

As we continued up and over the hill there it was.   An excellent restoration that is constantly being maintained.   To keep the blocks together and in place they use the original mixture of baba from cactus (the slimy juice and I saw workers making it, they don’t by agave juice from health stores), cal or gypsum and rich black top soil.  The top soil is on one side of the pyramid.  This dirt was what covered the mound over the last 1000 years from wind, rain and dust.  

The foundations of rooms surround the main pyramid where the royalty lived.   Of the 15 tombs they have uncovered there is no sign of human sacrifice.   One interesting detail is that those they did discover were all missing their feet and no one has found any remains of those feet.  Yikes!

The detail of the main room on top of the pyramid still has some of the original painting on the wall.  It is now under conservation.  The site wasn’t discovered until 1985 and the land was owned by a German woman who refused to give it up.   Finally, the government used imminent domain to obtain it paying her for the land.   Since the 1800s and the advent of haciendas in the area the site has been pretty much looted although they have managed to find many artifacts. 

As I looked out over the plains I tried to envision what life would have been like.   As all other archaeological sites we have visited in Mexico the realization is the same.  Over the last couple of thousand years we haven’t changed much.  We still live in square houses with doors, windows and roofs.  This site even has a system of water canals. 


The tour came to an end and the two hours were way too short.  Cost of the tour was 39 pesos for the guide and the ride.  It made for a great day outing.   Tomorrow is Sunday and market day so I will have to juggle the events here along with that.  Fireworks here at the botanical garden will start at 6 a.m. so I will probably be up if not that will be my alarm.  A long walk down to the centro and then up the hill to eat something delicious at the market.  I’m already thinking about next weekend.