Monday, December 26, 2022

The Radish Festival - Oaxaca 2022

La Noche de Rábanos (or Night of the Radishes) is a traditional contest that takes place every December 23 in the town square of Oaxaca. It starts at three in the afternoon with the assembly of an exhibition that starts at five and the display of radish figures entered in the contest.

We went early while they were still setting up.  The stands are lined up around the perimeter of the plaza with an elevated walkway.  There is a fence that cordons off the walkway.  The lines start forming early and can go on for blocks.  It is truly an amazing event.  Some of the radishes weigh several pounds and are carved into various designs and the scenes displayed are all quite different but many have a religious theme.

In 1897, the municipal president of the city of Oaxaca, held the first contest. The purpose was to measure the progress of floriculture and horticulture in the area. They used the stalls of the Christmas Eve market.

This was my favorite!  It is a representation of all the popular places around Oaxaca City.  The detail is incredible.  As they are setting up and during the event, the artists are busy spraying water and constantly rearranging their radishes. 

There were three winners and the first place won 30,000 or $1,500 USD.  After, of course, we were hungry and thirsty from all the walking and gawking so we found a place to sit down for dinner.  Actually, it was a light snack.  Good grief, we have been eating now for five days!  It's been good but time to go home on Tuesday and settle back into our eating and drinking routines.  A lot of Christmas cheer has been had.

More to come.  We took a day trip today.  It was really nice to get out of the city and visit a small town with some history and of course followed by another "light snack".

Saturday, December 24, 2022

Christmas In Oaxaca

We took off for Oaxaca Tuesday morning.  There are no Ubers around where we live in the campo.  We took a nice travel bus from our house to the edge of town for 38 pesos each.  We ordered an Uber at the Soriana which was just two minutes away.  Nice car, is a great driver, and is interesting to talk to.  A young guy 24 years old studying engineering at the state university.  He has a small tech business developing platforms for sales and marketing.   A true go-getter that doesn't mind putting in the hours to gain in the long run. 

Considering the traffic, we arrived in about 45 minutes and Uber gave us a discount from the original price because the driver took a shorter route.  369 pesos versus 740 for a taxi from our house.  You know my take on using taxis with platforms and the advantages for the driver, the passenger, and the government.  We had an hour and 15-minute delay but with holidays and airport construction we were happy.  Retired and not in a hurry, people-watching, and a snack to start off the trip were good enough for us.  We purposely paid a bit more for the trip to 1) fly direct to Oaxaca and 2) avoid a stopover at the new dictator's airport.  I refuse to use it.  

We arrived on schedule making up air time.  The plane is not the most comfortable but for two hours no pain no gain.  I hope flights to Europe have better seats.  We wore masks the whole flight as did others.  Covid is on the rise and in parts of Mexico, like in Monterrey, masks are becoming mandatory again.

We had a great Airbnb the first night.  A great setup with a wonderful roof terrace.  It was so quiet and we had a nice dinner out.  We shared a plate of five different mushrooms all stuffed with different fillings from cheese to creamed eggplant and a couple of cocktails.  It was two blocks away and very reasonable.  The streets were packed with families and tourists from all parts.  Festive lights, Christmas cheer, and a place that is very well maintained.  Good foods on every corner, ice creams, tamales, fire dancers, singers, and musicians.  A great start for a week-long holiday.  We had a change in our reservation which we had made a couple of months ago.  With that we also changed our Airbnb and lost one night but the owner had this apartment available only a block away.  

Paula, Jerry, Sal, and Barb arrived the next day and we've been out and about since.  As the days pass I will be posting more.  We are planning some side trips out of town but there is so much to see and being together, the conversations and laughter are good enough for us.  

We planned the week here which coincided with the 50th-anniversary party and also the Festival de Rabanos   (Radish Festival).  I post this weekend about the festival but in short, it is a competition for radish growers.  They take radishes and carve them into Christmas and religious scenes.  Very detailed and a truly huge event here in Oaxaca.  

We are on the go everyday and it lasts until midnight.  I'm pooped already and we still have four more days to go.  Stay tuned, I have some wonderful Christmas photos to share.

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

Boondockers Stop By For A Visit

I'm behind on posting this.  We are now in Oaxaca arriving yesterday.  The weather here is fantastic and the Christmas spirit is truly alive.  I wasn't in the mood but that changed the minute I got off of the plane.

We are hosts for Boondockers Welcome and Harvest Host.  We received a request from Greg and Duwan to stay for a couple of nights.  They were such great guests they stayed another day.  They are full-time van dwellers and have done a wonderful job of outfitting their rig.  I wish we could have traded!  

They were interested in a tour of Cola de Caballo and the town of Santiago.   They are well-traveled and are ex-sailors having had a sailboat they used off the coast of Florida.  We shared several happy hours and went out to La Anfora Italian restaurant for dinner.  

In Santiago, Christmas is in full swing.  Lots of decorations, festivities, events and snow!  We were shocked when it started snowing.  Well, artificially.  

We hope Greg and Duwan come back on their way out of Mexico or stop by anytime in the near future.   

Saturday, December 3, 2022

First Happy Hour At The New House - And Good News!

Since my last post, we have returned back to Monterrey.  It was a busy week with rvers and traveling to Matehuala and San Miguel de Allende.  

We received the furniture we had ordered along with some other odds and ends we brought.  With rvers in town, we invited everyone for a happy hour.  It was a success and a chance for friends to see the house.  

The king-size bed we ordered came with two twin bases.  Those went up the stairs easily.  The delivery guys said they wouldn't bend the mattress as it could void the warranty should something happen.  So with thick ropes in tow, they hoisted it up from the patio and onto the roof.  From there, it went down the stairs easily.  They were relieved and we were happy.   It does fit in the bedroom with a little room to spare but not by much.  We are now ready to have guests when we are in town.

Some other good news as well.  This week I received my Mexican social security pension.  With it came four months of retroactive pay and a one-month Christmas bonus!  All the paperwork snafus this year and the additional payments I made for four years to increase my benefit have paid off.  I can say that I am fully retired with two pensions, Medicare and IMSS medical as well.  I believe it is time to celebrate a little.  

OTOH, Juan should be in the same position come the middle of January.  He was off of work with a permit for two months which we took advantage of but has to return to school until December 16th.  There are no classes so they sit around and use the internet and prepare semester grades.  

We are so looking forward to our trip to Oaxaca.  We had planned on driving to avoid the use of the military airport outside Mexico City.  We were lucky though and changed our departure and return dates by one day.  With that, we were able to find non-stop round-trip tickets.  I can see the trip to Spain slowly materializing.   We'll need backpacks and some other items for that trip and what better time to prepare for that than now.

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Happy Birthday! In Memory Of Tioga and George!

"Tioga & George travel the roads of the west searching for adventure"

Today, November 27th would have been George's 85th birthday.  He was the greatest boondocker ever.  If I hadn't stumbled across his blog we would have missed out on so much.  He hardly missed a day posting on his blog and told us all the good, the bad and the ugly.  He shared some of his best boondocking spots, this favorite meals, movies, and more.  He suffered the tragic loss of his son David.  Everyday I looked forward to reading his adventures.  Quirky and off on his on adventure he was the man. In my eyes, he was a good man.  As I have said before, we only communicated via email and some of you were lucky enough to meet him in person.  We miss you George!

Happy Birthday and keep boondocking wherever you are!

Saturday, November 26, 2022

A Stopover In Matehuala

The day before we headed out for Matehuala we took the group up to the Cola de Caballo waterfall.  It is a national park with pavered walkways, palapas, and grills.  It's a short hike and very easy to do although there are steps in certain parts.  Even though we are still recovering from a drought, the water is slowly returning and coming down from the mountains.  It has also been rainy and cloudy for the last week.  The week before the sun was shining and it was blue skies.  I guess I hadn't looked far enough into the forecast but we still would have gotten together.  After the waterfalls, we drove into Santiago to take a look around the pueblo magico.   
Off we went for downtown Monterrey.  The fog was so heavy we couldn't see the tops of the 40-floor buildings.  We did manage to show the group quite a bit but it was quick.  They were only staying for two nights.  We had lunch at Los Frijoles.  Quite an interesting place to say the least.  They have a huge property in the middle of downtown that includes the restaurant, secured parking, antique cars that have been refurbished and memorabilia.  Margaritas and chile relleños.
We took off around 8:30 in the morning.  You can see that the road was still quite muddy and it had rained the night before.  It was a real bummer to have to bring them up and down the road with their rigs but they seemed to have fun getting each rig backed into the driveway.  Actually, no one had any issues and the one that we thought would be a problem was Barb and Sal's class A.  Only 26ft long but it is tall and wide.  Sal backed it in on the first try.  

We made several stops on the way to Linares before crossing the mountains.  One needed propane, another diesel, and one wanted to pick up some carne seca (machacado) in the town of Congregación Calles which is known for its beef and jerky production. 

As we approached Linares, the skies opened up and the fog faded away.  Everyone had the opportunity to see these magnificent drive-through mountains.  Curving back and forth, a few small rock slides had taken place over the last week and clean-up crews were out doing their job.  We made a pit stop in  Iturbide which is not quite half the way across, got a cup of coffee and a potty break and off we went passing Galeana and down the other side to San Roberto and Hwy 57.  They said the drive was beautiful and took lots of pictures.
We arrived at Las Palmas Hotel and Rv Park famous to rvers in Mexico traveling south and north.  We usually stay across the street at the Oasis Hotel which has one rv slot and only charges 150 pesos per day with electricity and water. 


After a day's drive who doesn't like a nice happy hour!  We took a quick nap first and then got together in the RV section for a drink or two before heading to the restaurant.   We never seem to have any fun.  We reminisced about past rv trips, stops at Las Palmas but most of all the rvers who weren't here on the trip and those that have passed on.  Some rvers will probably never return since Covid.  It just doesn't seem as likely.   Baja though seems to keep a steady stream of rvers going.

I went to get a bag of ice from the restaurant and there is some remodeling going on in the lobby.  They keep this 1950s hotel in pretty good shape.  As I passed to the bar I noticed a small events room with plush seating and a huge table.  I asked if we could use it for our party of eight and they said sure.  It worked out well and we had two waiters and a private bathroom attached.  We had a delicious dinner and then told a few stories before turning in.

Everyone stayed an extra day but we headed on to SMA to do some things to the house.  Today is Saturday and we are celebrating Thanksgiving with a turkey dinner at our friend Barbara's house.  I have the turkey in the oven but this one is a Butterball not a live one like in a previous Thanksgiving at Hacienda Contreras.  I hope everyone is enjoying the Thanksgiving holiday.

I'm thankful for one thing.  That I am here today.  Juan is healthy and back on board.  

Thursday, November 24, 2022

Heading South With The Caravan

We were off to an early start.  We were up and getting things together and before we knew it the rvers were lined up on the road.  Anxious to get going we headed out and to the south.  It was a fun day with many stops to do different things, purchase gas or LP, get a coffee or make lunch.

We arrived in Matehuala around 3 p.m. Everyone got situated before a nap followed by a quick happy hour and dinner at the hotel restaurant.  They gave us a private room and excellent service.  We had a blast and everyone had a story to tell.  

We will leave ahead of the group tomorrow to meet for an appointment at noon.  Thanksgiving dinner will be at our friend Barbara's on Saturday.  I will post more in the next day or two as there are lots of pictures to share. 

Saturday, November 19, 2022

Rvers Are Coming - This Is Going To Be Great
It's been a long time, but rvers are returning to Mexico after the pandemic. In droves?  That I don't know.  However, we have been getting ready for guests coming this week. 

We belong to Harvest Hosts and an ever had scheduled to come but the day before their arrival they had emailed me and said they had made a calendar mistake and wanted to come that day.  Unfortunately, I didn't see the email till early afternoon.  I had been out running errands.  So this is important.  I purposely gave him my cellphone number and said it was a Mexican number.  He said he tried calling but the call would never go through.  

It's essential to understand how to dial in Mexico.  It can be a lifesaver when you are in trouble, broken down alongside of the road, or worse.   Using a Mexican phone and dialing 800 numbers you need to have extra time on your phone apart from the package you have purchased.  For example, I don't use a monthly plan that is charged to a credit card.  I use Telcel Amigo and I pay 200 pesos per month.  It comes with plenty of extra data should I need it for wifi but I still need to have at least 20 pesos on the phone for 800 calls.  We missed each other and they headed on to Saltillo.  Too bad.  I even emailed him back with the house number and the way to dial depending on whether it was a U.S. or Mexican plan.

Three rvers traveling together will be arriving this week.  We can't wait and we have a great happy hour planned for their arrival and a day of touring the waterfalls and a quick trip to Monterrey.  After that, we will all head to Matehuala for the night.  We won't be taking our RV though.  After Matehuala we will all be heading to San Miguel de Allende. 

On our part, we will be receiving furniture we have ordered on the Buen Fin weekend plan.  Buen Fin as many of you recall is a four-day shopping spree with participating merchants who offer steep discounts on just about everything including cars and new homes.  This time of year, most northern travel to the U.S. border cities to take advantage of Thanksgiving shopping.  The idea was started back in 2011 to promote shopping from national merchants in the northern region and encourage people to buy locally and not from the U.S.  It took off and is such a big thing that it is now a national program.

We purchased bedroom furniture and other items for the second bedroom and also have found some bargains already this week here in Monterrey as many will offer you the Buen Fin price as an incentive to "buy now", and we did.

This will be fun and hopefully a return to normality.  It will be good to see everyone again and reminisce about all the great rving adventures we have had.

Monday, November 14, 2022

The Fight For Democracy
Sunday the 13th of November was an important day here in Mexico.  Thousands in major cities all around the country, Spain, Costa Rica and the U.S. marched for democratic freedom in Mexico.  The current administration would like to eliminate the autonomous electoral organization known as INE or the national electoral institute.  

As you know, Mexico's past and present has been filled with corruption.  Electoral corruption came to an end in 1986.  How did that happen?  In that year, in Chihuahua, state elections were held.  During that election, ballot box stuffing took place.  It was so severe that Mexicans challenged the elections.  They were told they could take all the ballot boxes in the state and count vote by vote.  The government at the time, and an important person who now controls the CFE (national electric company) doubted anyone would want to take the time to do that as in the past.

On that day the challenge was met.  Mexicans took to the streets in mass.  They counted all the votes to find out that the socialist government had stuffed more votes (165 for every 100 legitimate votes) than the number of voters in the state.  That year the INE was formed and has protected all of the elections since.  

That institution is in danger of extinction today.  The current federal administration would like to dismember the institution claiming it is corrupt although he was legitimately elected by the people and the election was monitored by this institution.  Also, he claims that the institution costs too much money.  

As you can see in the graph it simply is not true.  This graph compares the cost of the institution with current federal projects many of which have been deemed overscale, over cost, and projects that will provide no significant change for the country.  

On Sunday Mexicans took to the streets.  In Monterrey alone it is estimated that 25,000 people marched.  

Obviously, Mexico City had the largest turnout.

The response this morning in the daily presidential broadcast was and I quote, "A strip tease by the conservatives".   Unbelievable.  

You might ask why and how this concerns me.  My freedom and my rights as a permanent resident could as well be at stake.  Whatever the presidential party votes on, they will surely win.  Immigration laws are now changing daily and so are national reforms that are affecting the way we live, work, and play.  The rules are changing and I refer back to my grandparents who were immigrants from what is today Croatia.  He said every day things were changing.  But it was small stuff that didn't seem to affect the general population.  All of a sudden, one day, we woke up in a fascist state and we were trapped.

Saturday, October 29, 2022

Hike To Presita El Pretil - San Marcos de Begoña
I haven't posted yet about Aguascalientes although it was a fun two days.  I will put up some pictures soon.  When we arrived to SMA, the skies were clear and the weather was warm during the day.  Kind of tired from the drive from Aguascalientes, we stayed home and went to bed early.  The next day we decided to go for a hike.  I am attempting to locate small towns nearby to visit.  We did that last month.

I took a look at the map and saw a town called San Marcos de Begoña.  It is 16km from SMA on the road to Queretaro.  What caught my eye was Happy Valley.  It appeared to be a trail and we decided to go for it.  Sometimes a little town like that may not even be a town but just a collection of small homes with vegetable gardens or a couple of farm animals.  

We hopped in the car and took off.  Not really, we watched the news and had coffee and a shower.  We arrived 15 minutes later only to find some very rocky dirt roads.  We followed Maps which sometimes can be misleading, and it was.  We finally stumbled across the placita where there is a kiosk and a small park.  It had been inaugurated in 2019.  

There was a woman talking on her cell phone and it appeared she was going to sell something. How did I know?  There was a kindergarten next door so it was obvious she would be selling food.  We asked her how we could find the small press or reservoir and she shrugged us off.  Bitter woman! 

Across the road was the local church.  The gate was locked so we couldn't go in.  Juan jumped on the wall to take the picture.  One thing we have noticed more and more over the years is that many of these churches are locked and have no access unless there is an event.  A sign of the times as there are fewer local police and patrols and crime has more than doubled.  

Juan set Google Maps in walking mode and off we went.  We passed a lot of small homes, most very rustic and others that were large and under construction and some abandoned.  We passed horses, burros and egrets which were looking for seeds in the excrement from the animals.  We knew then that the water was nearby.  It was quiet and we didn't see people but the Maps app didn't seem to be taking us anywhere so instinct kicked it.  It had been foggy earlier in the morning we could see fog or in reality, steam rising and we headed toward it. 

Sure enough, we found what we had come for.  There are many very good pics of the dam on the internet.   I'm still looking for information on the construction and how old it is.  It is three-tiered and the water goes over the top.

There is a walkway on the side down below.  We would have had to come from the other side and walk through the canyon.  We'll save that for another day now that we know where we are going.  

We had several appointments for minor repairs and the installation of lights. Later in the day, we took off for a walk into SMA looking for some steel wool.  Not easy to find and I didn't have any success.  Not only is it steel wool but the fine grade 0000.  I want to use it on the car and SUV windshields and also to clean the stainless steel kitchen sink.

Since so many ex-pats walk around with their noses in the air or their heads buried in the calles empedradas (rock roads), I decided to always look at passersby and smile.  A woman was coming down the street and she looked at me and I gave her a big smile.  She had a scowl on her mug and I said to Juan, "sourpuss".  He turned around and said to me, "and she looked at you and thought, "cheerful bastard".   

Sunday, October 23, 2022

San Luis Potosi Historic Center
We love history and we enjoy museums.  It is interesting to see and read about things that are related to our daily lives.  We find Mexican history in every part of our daily lives.  The names of the streets we live on and drive on, places we have traveled to and walked some of the same paths.  Entering homes of historic figures; religious, political, artistic, and famous writers and poets.  

San Luis Potosi was one of the most important then territories and now states that helped to shape Mexico.  San Luis Potosi is famous for mining, cattle production, and agriculture.  Many of the viceroys were sent from Spain to Mexico to settle and tame the wild.  Not so nice to hear today but certainly helped to shape the Mexico we know today both good and bad.  

María Francisca de la Gándara y Cardona de Calleja was the last virriena from old Spain.  The end of the line for Spanish royalty who ruled Mexico for two hundred years in the northern part of the country.  What is interesting about this painting and most of those from this era is that there were three painters involved.  The original portrait painter who did the face and the hands, the official, who painted the clothing and background, and the apprentice who mixed paints and prepared the canvas.

One of the most painted images in Mexico is the Virgin.  In this area of the country, it is the Virgin of Los Dolores.

Teatro de la Paz -  Theater of the city.  Built in 1889.

Each side of the kiosk in the main plaza has a name inscribed along the top.  On the left side of the picture is the name Julian Carrillo.  He was an early 20th-century composer who was responsible for discovering the 13th chord.  Centuries had gone by in composing before this discovery was made.  When we lived in Monterrey with lived on the street with his name.

This is the interior of the Templo de Nuestra Señora del Carmen is part of a 16th-century convent that, during the time of Independence (1810) was invaded by revolutionary rebels who commandeered the convent and the church.  The altar is covered in gold leaf.

On one side of the church is another altar that contains life-size statues of the seven archangels Michael, Raphael, Jophiel, Gabriel, Zadkiel, Chamuel and Uriel.

In the city center is a 900-acre park, Tangamanga, a former Hacienda.  We spent most of Saturday morning walking around the park.  There were bicyclists in mass, a 5K run, runners, and families enjoying the fresh air.  There is no sale of food or drinks.  The park is pristine, covered in a forest of trees and flowers.  

While we were there, they were sponsoring a flu vaccination drive.  We got our shot and off to the market we went.