Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Easy day. Josh has breakfast with a friend and we have a 4-hour run to Laredo, the gastronomic armpit of the nation. Restaurant reviews say things like "For Laredo, it ain't bad." We end up in a generic Asian place with 10-foot high buried warriors guarding the entrance. The margarita comes in a 1-quart glass, and the food ain't bad... for Laredo.


Texas is big. I know, y'all know that. But it's hard to understand how big until you drive across it. Mile upon mile of scrub and tumbleweed, punctuated by the occasional barbecue shack. And we went across Route 10, which is down at the bottom of the state where it's narrow!

Brush with the Texas Rangers (or some kind if cop-- my inner 10-year-old likes the concept of a Texas Ranger). I was doing 87 in an 80 (!) mile zone when I saw blinking lights in the mirror. The cop said that since I was only doing 87, he was only going give me a warning. We celebrated my narrow escape with brisket sandwiches at one of the fifty best barbecue joints in Texas.

Then we got to the Border Patrol checkpoint. NOTE-- this is NOT at the border, and we won't be crossing the border for several hundred miles. It's just I-10 that goes NEAR the border. All vehicles must stop and the passengers must show ID. And the guy with the dog walks past the car. And the dog stops and points his nose at the car. And the agent says "Sir, I need you to park your car over there." And two guys in fatigues politely ask us to get out of the car and tell us not to put our hands in our pockets. Then they explain that we have been stopped because the dog is interested in our car, and the dog is only interested in concealed humans and drugs. "I guess there aren't any people in there," he says, pointing his chin at the trunk of the VW. Meanwhile the dog has climbed into the car. "So do you have any narcotics, amphetamines, cocaine, crack, marijuana?" We shake our heads no. Then the dog jumps out of the car and the handler says "Clear" and the other guy in fatigues looks lightly disappointed and says "OK, you can go."

Can a dog catch a cold?

Finally, we arrive in Austin too late to hear any music. Instead, we sing Karaoke in a (mercifully) empty bar and go to sleep.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Today's goal-- get through Arizona without spending a dime in the state. To avoid having to buy lunch in the meanest state in the union, we decided on a substantial breakfast in California. We shared a 6-egg omelet and left about a third. Some very large people had breakfast next to us.

Drove past miles of wind generators near Palm Springs, then through Joshua Tree National Park.

The desert was not in bloom. The desert has never been in bloom when I have been there. I think it's a myth.

We filled the tank just before crossing into Arizona and we almost made it. But not quite. 20 miles from New Mexico the gauge was below empty and we were forced to spend $5 in Arizona.

Wonderful Mexican dinner in Lordsburg, NM, and a much nicer hotel with a hottub!
Day 1 (Friday)-- Off to an early start (4 PM) from San Francisco, so only got as far as Ontario, CA (just east of LA).

Driving four hours down the Imperial Valley gives new meaning to California as the breadbasket of the country. Endless acres of almond trees in bloom, orange trees filled with fruit, cattle, sheep and unknown green stuff. Stopped in a fruit stand full of tangelos, sweet, sweet oranges, sweet lemons, grapefruit, cashews and pistachios.

Ontario obviously a Destination City, because there was no room at the Inn (or the Lodge or the Suites). Finally found a Motel 6. Worst dump I've ever stayed in. The ice machine was out of order and we were forced to drink our tequila neat. Intermittent internet was additional hardship.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Gangs of San Miguel

This is a personal blog we set up for our trip to San Miguel. Nobody will ever read it, so we felt OK blatantly ripping off the title from this guy, whom people do read. In fact, we're so confident he won't get bent out of shape, we'll also steal the meat of his post, "Top Ten Most Dangerous Things in San Miguel." (If we're wrong, we'll mollify him with tequila.)

Our anonymous blogger wrote the following in response to some over-blown traveler advisory warning panicky gringos away from the placid town....

Danger 10 The Bridge or Road to Mega

If you eat you will eventually have to go to Mega to buy American food staples – balsamic vinegar and Dijon Mustard.
If you go by taxi then you have no danger.
If you walk there, then you are faced with a life and death decision.
Do I walk up the stairs and along the bridge or do I dash across the road when there is a break in the traffic?
It is a choice between a heart attack and being hit by a car?

Danger 9 – Buying Chicken from Pollo Felix on Wednesday

Every Wednesday Pollo Felix sells one and a half chickens for the price of one chicken. The line-ups are huge.
The danger is the half chicken – sometimes you get the wrong part.

Danger 8 – The Wrong Conversation

San Miguel is a bit liberal so you must be very careful when you talk to expats. Most are Democrats and the Republicans haven’t organized themselves as of yet as they can’t seem to find each other.
So never never say you like Fox News. If you do no one will speak to you again.

Danger 7 Walking the Streets

The sidewalks in San Miguel are about one foot wide.
Two people can not pass each other unless one steps into the street. (See Danger 4).
So when walking on the sidewalks you are constantly faced with a showdown between you and the person walking towards you. Either you go on the street or they do?
But the real danger are the telephone poles in the non World Heritage Places. The telephone poles have been buried in the World Heritage parts of San Miguel but in other places you are faced with a death defying situation
Can I squeeze through the space or must I walk on the street?

Danger 6 -Petting Zoos or not

Many tourist believe San Miguel is a giant petting zoo.

These are not petting burros but working burros.
Touch them at your peril.
Danger 5 – Happy Hour Downsides

Every bar and restaurant in San Miguel offers some form ofHappy Hour.
There are several dangers here.
The first one is drunken seniors. Nothing is worse than a drunken granddaddy who thinks he is 21 again.
The second danger is mistaking the children’s play area in Parque Juarez and an exercise area late at night

Danger 4 Topes and Cobblestone

Get in a taxi in a San Miguel and within minute you will hit a taxi and hear your wine bottles rattling the trunk and your head hitting the top of the cab.
Never put your wine bottles in the trunk.
The second danger here are the cobblestones.
They make San Miguel quaint but they are hell to walk on.
Everywhere you look there are fallen seniors all over the roads who have tripped on a cobblestone.

Danger 3 – Mistaking commonly found items for Art

San Miguel is full of artists.
A lot of art is weird.
Using commonly found objects is big here.
So this is either a urinal or an art installation.
Using it inappropriately may lead to severe consequences.

Danger 2 – Choosing the Wrong Bench

If you come to San Miguel, then every day you sit in the Jardin on the Iron Benches for at least 2 hours.
Choose carefully where you sit as other tourists will want to talk to you.
You may experience interesting conversation or two hours of ailments and what is wrong with the world or how much magic your benchmate has experienced in the last day.

Danger 1 – Bienes Raices

Bienes Raices means Real Estate Agents
These evil shops put pictures of house for sale in San Miguel.
Look but never, never go inside because once you do will end up buying a house in 2 days.