Wednesday, February 28, 2007


Yesterday was our longest driving day ever: 365 miles from San Carlos, Sonora, MX to Bisbee, Arizona, USA, 7 hours and 26 minutes of driving. It was planned - we left San Carlos very early (for us) and kept the pedal to the metal. We wanted to cross the border no later than 2 pm, believing that the crowd would be smaller.

We got a huge surprise at the border. Last year, at this same crossing, three of the six lanes held northbound traffic (very heavy), and the other three lanes held southbound traffic (very light). At that time, we drove northbound in a southbound traffic lane to maneuver past the crush of trucks waiting to cross the border. It was nerve-racking, and neither of us looked forward to a repeat.

Big change this year: the southbound lane had been changed to northbound, for autos (which, amazingly, includes us, regardless of size, since we are not a commercial vehicle). For you readers still in Mexico, you can see this lane in the photo - it is the one we are in. We cruised on down the big hill to the border station, staying the in the far left lane the entire time. From the time we hit the end of the line until the time the agricultural inspector exited the motorhome and we were on our way was barely 30 minutes. Fantastic! I'm not sure whether it is their new setup, or that fact that we hit the border at 1 pm (opposed to 4:30 pm last year), but it was SO MUCH easier.

We took Hwy 82 out of Nogales, through Patagonia (were we stopped for lunch at the Home Plate Restaurant) , hung a right through Sierra Vista, and were in our site in at Queen Mine RV Park in Bisbee by late afternoon. Our friends Jan and Barry Kessler are here, and made us a delicious South Beach dinner. We've got the phones turned back on, one phone call got the TV satellite working, and the computer/internet aircard is running... yes, we are back in the US of A.

Monday, February 26, 2007


When we arrived in San Carlos, our "usual" RV park, Totonaka, was FULL, with RV's in every space and lining the roadway in what they call their "pull-through" spaces (meaning that, instead of backing into an actual space, you park along the side of the cobbled roadway that runs from the front of the park to the back with your slides either extended over the sidewalk or jutting out into the road at the mercy of rigs moving around the tight confines of the park).

Rather than go onto a waiting list, we decided to drive out to the other end of San Carlos, to the cadillac of Mexican RV parks, El Mirador. This is a new park, with 30 amp outlets, good water pressure, sewers, and several channels of US cable TV. The sites are HUGE, with great views and concrete patios.

This is our site at El Mirador. Look at all that space! Unlike busy, crowded, friendly Totonaka, El Mirador is quiet, roomy, beautiful and friendly. Another plus, which wasn't obvious until night time: the lighting is very subdued - none of the bright streetlamps on poles that are so common in RV parks everywhere.

Besides the spacious individual sites and modern utilities, the amenities at El Mirador are a cut above standard, too. Here is the swimming pool and hot tub - resort quality - though it is too cool here now to use them! We came planning to stay one night, but it is so pleasant, and the weather in the US sounds so cold and miserable, we will try to extend our stay for one more day.

Sunday, February 25, 2007


Last year, we spent a couple of weeks in Alamos, an old mining town set at 1,400 feet in the mountains of Sonora, Mexico. We had arranged to take 2 weeks of Spanish classes there, and loved the charm of the colonial town.

After leaving Mazatlan, we headed back to Alamos for just a few days to see if we enjoyed it as much as we remembered.

Oh, yes!

The drive east from Mex-15, the main highway, was a great surprise. For one thing, all the highway construction that made last year's drive a terrifying challenge for a big rig has been completed. The new road is smooth, two lanes with with four foot wide shoulders... absolutely wonderful.

Also unlike last year, Alamos this year had an average amount of rain, and the blooming flowers and trees were living proof of the wet weather. The top photo shows the gorgeous Amapa trees blooming throughout the foothills, and Alamos was ablaze with blossoms.

Alamos is a town of colonial architecture, arched verandas, ancient cobbled streets, hidden gardens, and friendly people. The street in the second photo is said to be one of the oldest in Alamos, leading to the cathedral and main plaza.

This building houses our favorite restaurant in Alamos, rather off the beaten tourist path. It is named Dona Lola's, but everyone who knows of it calls it Cokie's - I think that is the name of the cook. This appears to be the family home, with a large and crowded kitchen, one good sized room for dining, and a door that leads from the dining room to the living quarters in the back.

This trip, we ate at Cokie's both nights - the Pescado al Mojo de Ajo (Fish with Garlic Sauce) can't be beat. I think the price was 50 or 55 pesos ($5 or $5.50 US) - it had gone up about 50 cents from last year, but the restaurant had upgraded from disposable dishes and plastic cutlery to china and silverware.

This last photo is from the large, extremely crowded and showy cemetery, a nice walk from the RV park we call home in Alamos.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007


Today is our last full day in Mazatlan, and we have a busy agenda…

...a bit of shopping…

…a photo op for our neighbor, a Top Gun fan, who couldn’t pass up a photo after hearing Odel’s story of parachuting to safety…

...and a last long walk on the beach...

On Thursday, we take off to head north. We plan to spend a couple nights in Alamos and are not likely to have internet access there; it may be several days before you see any updates on the blog.

Monday, February 19, 2007


We did it - we participated in Carnaval and survived.

Crowds, music, vendors, floats, dancers, and the Queen of the Carnaval - it was every inch the spectacle I imagined. We had a perfect perch, three stories about Avenida del Mar, on the balcony of the apartment owned by Odel’s golfing buddies.

As amazing as the floats were, my favorite part was watching the people. This series of photos shows the buildup from the time we arrived (around 5 pm) until the arrival of the parade (around 8:30 pm). It looked like all 400,000 people in Mazatlan came to see the show!

After the parade ended, the streets were packed with people. We walked back to the intersection where we could catch the bus - it was a sea of cars, busses packed to overflowing, and pedestrians filling all the spaces in between. It was a beautiful, balmy night, so we walked along with the crowd, gradually making our way to the Zona Dorada, where we knew the taxis and pulmonias would be awaiting anyone who could afford personal transport.

We saw Miss International USA tramping along with the rest of us in her red sequined gown, glittering tiara, and gold, spike-heeled shoes. We saw band members, and costumed dance troupes heading back to their staging areas. We saw little kids, families with strollers. Everyone was energized, happy, enjoying the night.

After about a mile of walking, traffic thinned and we caught a pulmonia back to the RV park.

We’ve done the Carnaval.

Sunday, February 18, 2007


WOW. Our first experience with Mazatlan’s Carnaval was great fun. One funny, totally Mexican, note: The big music stages and entertainment were set up along the street adjacent to the beach. Gates one block removed were staffed by a large police presence; you needed a 20 peso ticket to enter.

The ticket gate for women was to the left side of the street, and we simply showed our tickets and walked on into the restricted area. Men went to the right side, where they showed a ticket, placed their hands on the building wall, spread their feet, and were frisked - thoroughly. Coming from a country where grandmas and infants are likely to be searched before boarding a plane, we were open-mouthed at this security breach.

Becky, this was the scene along Olas Altas, a block from the Casa, around 8:30 pm.


After we visited our new friends Carole and Kinnie to see the apartment they purchased this year, we strolled around the neighborhood and had a bite of dinner.
Centro Historico was crowded, but not crushing. The balmy night was perfect for people watching.

By the time there was no longer room to maneuver, we were safely above the madhouse on the rooftop of Casa de Leyendas.
The fireworks were everything we expected, huge, booming, fabulous, and so close we were brushing glittering debris off our shoulders.


For us, the end of the fireworks at midnight marked the end of the evening, but for many it was just the beginning of a street party that would last until 5 am. We headed away from the beach to find transportation home, against the flow of couples, groups of teenagers, three generation families with infants and toddlers… most heading towards the throbbing music coming from the beach, others eating hot dogs or tacos, many wearing masks, crowns, jester hats, flashing lights. Everyone smiling, happy, strolling, holding hands, nuzzling.

We walked back to the cathedral, where we eventually found a pulmonia, the open-air, golf-cart like vehicle that tears around Mazatlan day and night. We hopped aboard, and I took this photo as our pulmonia and this one leapfrogged each other in the heavy traffic.

Saturday, February 17, 2007


Becky, Jeanie and Ray all seemed surprised by the size of Mazatlan, surprised that it is a big city. It IS big - the population is set at 400,000. Coming into Mazatlan via cruise ship bypasses the impoverished edges of the city, but the half hour ride from the airport approaches through the least appealing outskirts.

In Mexico, “least appealing” is very unappealing - housing that we would define as slums, huge amounts of litter, apparently deserted and decaying buildings, piles of rubble. Factories and agricultural burning sometimes drape a heavy pall of smoke in the air. The evident poverty can be disturbing.

Mazatlan doesn’t exist for or because of tourists - although there are many, and in fact an entire large section devoted solely to visitors who want to enjoy the climate and the beach for a week-long vacation, eating food not too different from what they know (Burger King, McDonalds, DQ franchises all thrive in the “Golden Zone”) returning home with plenty of inexpensive souvenirs. But the fact that it is a big city, independent of tourism, makes it so much more interesting than a seaside village to us - we don’t have to rely on our imaginations for entertainment!

Carnaval is underway in Mazatlan, and tonight we will have our first experience with it. The opening salvo of fireworks is scheduled at 10:30 tonight: the Ship-To-Shore display, shot back and forth from a ship to the shore at Olas Altas, the old town section of Mazatlan. This commemorates the French attack on Mazatlan in the 1800's, repelled by cannon fire from a small group on shore.

We will be viewing the fireworks from the B&B where Becky stayed, and have been warned to arrive by 6 pm because the crowd will be so large later that it would be difficult to get through. For a couple hours, we will be visiting a couple we just met who moved into an apartment around the corner from the B&B on February 1st. I’m looking forward to seeing it.

This photo is my favorite of the dozen or so huge figures that are put up around town for Carnaval.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007


Fresh fish in Mexico is delicious and cheap, and seafood is one of the few foods that can cross the border without being confiscated. Before we leave, we like to stock up, vacuum seal it, and bring it back to the US. Wednesday morning we rose early for a trip to the fish stall at the mercado. Odel and the fish seller had a good time joking about how handsome they are while I took this picture. Final tally: 3 kilos of filleted fish, about 6.5 pounds, for around $28 USD. Odel's great fish stew is on the menu tonight.


Jeanie and Ray arrived on their GIANT cruise ship yesterday, the day before Valentine’s Day. They held hands, kissed, smiled, and generally acted like newlyweds the entire time… the proximity to Valentine’s Day, the romance of the cruise, or??? They were, as always, so much fun!

We had planned what we hoped would be the perfect one-day “Fall in Love with Mazatlan” tour. We picked them up at the cruise ship terminal and headed out of town to the foothills. Our first stop was the village of La Noria, known for its leatherwork. Jeanie and I both bought new belts: Ray and Odel bought wallets. Next thing we knew, Ray was involved in deep conversation (in Spanish) with one of the leatherworkers, busy crafting a gorgeous saddle.

While Jeanie explained to us that, yes, they are going to sell the ranch and travel, they will no longer have horses… Ray learned that he could have a custom-made saddle in three days, for just $400. The look on his face, the satisfied smile - Jeanie said maybe they will have to pull both the 5th wheel and a horse trailer. Before he could finalize a deal, we set off for our next stop, El Quelite.

There we went back to the same restaurant we enjoyed before (when we toured the tequila factory with our friends from the RV park). Jeanie and I both had Carne Asada, the best beef I have EVER had, eating every last bite (and remember, she has been eating gourmet meals non-stop during the cruise).

We ate in the garden, surrounded by huge trees, with caged and wild birds squawking, talking, and chirping, and a very large iguana shaking a nearby tree. As we oooohhhh-ed and aaaaahhhhh-ed, the waiter said, “Oh, the baby dinosaur (he pronounced it deenosaur); wait until you see its mother”, and laughed. Pretty funny.

After our early lunch, we came back to Las Jaibas, to our house, so Jeanie and Ray could see what the RV facilities are like in Mazatlan. A quick walk to the beach, then we hopped on the bus. It is the best way to get around, and a good way to see a lot of the city. We got off near Mazatlan Viejo, old town, because you can’t leave Mazatlan without seeing this beautiful area. We lounged around the plaza on a bench, took in the scenery, then caught a pulmonia (a taxi that is more like a golf cart) back to the Muelle Touristica, the tourist wharf where the cruise ship docked.

We had an excellent day. I’m pretty sure they would like to some back to spend more time in Mazatlan… and we might consider a cruise!

Monday, February 12, 2007


Back in the days when we were employed homeowners, I had a never-ending mental to-do list. No matter how much I got done, the list was always there, and usually very long.

Even after we began our travels, the list never went away. I always had something I felt I needed to be doing - usually several “somethings” still on the list - and I began to believe the list was a part of my internal workings that would never go away.

We have been in Mexico for a month, and in Mazatlan, not moving Scoopy, for three weeks. Yesterday, walking on the beach, I realized that the list is gone!

The afternoon was sunny and warm, with a tropical breeze rustling the palm fronds, and the edges of the waves running over my bare feet. I felt that great childhood sensation, always so difficult to recapture, when the day seems to stretch on endlessly, with no thought of what needs to be done next. We have been traveling for almost 4 years… guess I finally got everything done.

Saturday, February 10, 2007


This morning, like every other morning in Mazatlan, the sound of chirping crickets woke me up… and the same sound will lull me to sleep tonight. In the far background, morning and night, is the muted crash of the waves on the beach a block away - similar in tone to the distant drone of a freeway, but psychologically totally opposite.

Here, it is difficult to remember that it is winter! Shorts and sleeveless shirts are now my uniform, and afternoons are best spent in the shade.

As always, our days continue to revolve around food, for both sustenance and entertainment. The new little “restaurant” (plastic tables and chairs on a dirt patch under a temporary awning, served by a mobile kitchen) here, Holy Frijole, is a huge hit with everyone on the north end of Mazatlan. To prepare for a day that usually includes a lot of walking, we eat a huge breakfast there several times a week, and have adopted the Mexican habit of eating our largest meal around 2 pm.

In-home cooking has dwindled to a light meal in the evening, and even that is easily sidetracked: last night’s salmon disappeared into the refrigerator when the empanada/tamale vendors arrived around 5 pm with hot, flaky, chicken-and-chile turnovers.

Yesterday we introduced some of our neighbors here in the park to our favorite seafood restaurant, El Memin. The draw is superb seafood and low prices. There is absolutely none of the ambiance of the lovely, elegant, tile-floored seaside restaurants catering to vacationers - just incredibly fresh seafood in a boisterous, fast-paced, totally Mexican dining hall in a shopping center. Shrimp or fish in garlic sauce, crab ceviche, Odel’s favorite fried shrimp… it all costs half of what it costs elsewhere, and is twice as tasty.

Monday, February 5, 2007


We went for a walk along the Malecon this morning and saw something we had missed before,
this ususual salt water swimming pool (lower left side of this photo).

This is a closup of the pool, which is replenished with (very cool) salt water each time a wave breaks over the side of the pool. Different, no?


I HAVE to post this for our friends and family members in southeastern AZ:
Truly Nolan in Mazatlan!


My friend Becky came to visit from Sacramento for four busy days. We scoured Mazatlan Viejo for souvenirs, visited the Mercado, took a day trip up into the mountains and , of course, spent time on the beach.

Here is Becky, trying to make a decision in one of our favorite shops.

Becky stayed in a BEAUTIFUL bed and breakfast, Casa de Leyendas, one block from the beach in the old part of Mazatlan. This is definitely a GREAT place to stay; the owners, Sharon and Glen, are wonderful hosts, the location is excellent, and everyone feels at home there. I spent one night there with her; this was the view at sunset from one of the numerous little balconies.


Laurie and Becky on yet another beautiful afternoon at la playa.


Becky brought a friend, Jake. He closely resembles a gingerbread man, and belongs to Isaiah, Becky’s nephew. Isaiah and his classmates created these “travelers” to be sent on visits to faraway places, so Jake came along with Becky.

Our delightful mission was to show Jake a good time in Mazatlan, record it in photos, and return Jake to Isaiah with a photo journal of his travels. Don’t you wish you were Jake?


We took a day trip up into the mountains to the town of Copala. This is one of the three restaurants there, all of which claim to make the best banana-coconut cream pie. We had our pie at one of the other restaurants - it was so-so. :(

This is Copala's church. Like many of the towns in the Sierra Madre, Copala was originally a silver mining town, founded a couple hundred years ago. Now they appear to make most of their income from tourists, but retain a VERY rural feel.

Here are Odel and I in Copala.

Thursday, February 1, 2007


Isn't this a classic photo from Mexico?

Yesterday we did a little day trip from Mazatlan up into the nearby mountains to visit a couple of the nearby villages, El Quelite and La Noria. We caravanned with several other English-speaking couples (mostly Canadians), and Odel and I got to ride along as passengers for a change. How relaxing!

This is a shot of the front of the restaurant where we ate in El Quelite, and where I had the very best beef I have tasted in my life. Sonora, the state just north of us is widely known for beef, and that is where it came from.

El Quelite had its start as a silver mining town, so has the wonderful old architectural style of arched doorways, long, shaded porches and flower-bedecked interior courtyards. It is completely charming.


This is the tequila distillery in La Noria, Sinaloa, Mexico.

La Noria is known for leathercraft (they make most of the saddles for the Sinaloan cowboys) AND for their tequila distillery. We paid a visit yesterday, had a little self-guided tour, then moved to the tasting bar.

The experience was not dissimilar to visiting a wine-tasting room in California, except that you salt your hand and follow up each swallow of tequila with a big bite of lime! Our entire group participated, and most of us left with an expensive bottle of alcohol.

The things like look like giant pineapples are the hearts of the blue agave, the plants in the other photo. The "leaves" are chopped off (producing the hearts), the hearts are cooked and distilled, and we enjoy the end result.