Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Keep it running

so due to plane delays and the sort, the group from the States didn't all show up until around 11:00 PM on Thursday. I threw their luggage into my truck, reminiscent of Guadalajara, picked up a fellow guide, and was promptly pulled over by the police. Their claim was that I was driving with my lights off. Right. So they were confiscating my license and telling me that I'd have to go to the HQ the next day to pay some sort of fine and get my license back. That sounded like a grand time, to continue driving for another 4 hours with no license of which to speak - and my flight was leaving in 6 hours...

So we took care of it on the side of the road - $10. Up to the mountains I drove. I returned to Monterrey at 4:00 in the morning, with almost 2 hours before my taxi to the airport - as compared to the 15 minutes from the week before.

No sleep and I continued my streak of sleeping before taking off and waking up on the descent, got to hear people complain about the hassle of flying standby on the Friday of Memorial Day Weekend in Dallas/Fort Worth Int'l. Delayed, I showed up in Bethesda, MD, greeted by tables of endless Blue crab and a couple pounds of Old Bay.

A few hours of sleep and Charley and I spent some time maintaining sanity through humor directed at the expense of others while the girls of the wedding got shoes and other unmentionables. 40 minutes and we were off to the rehearsal dinner. They thought there was no rehearsal involved, so I noted that then it would just be called Dinner.

A few hours of sleep and I was wearing a kippah and sweating in the humidity of the wedding. Apparently enough time has passed and it is now possible to find a Dixie Land Jazz Band, so I foxtrotted the afternoon and evening away.

A few hours of sleep and the buffet. A few hours of sleep and the remaining crew went to a diner where anything that you could imagine, and things that you couldn't imagine can all be ordered. My favorite on the menu was the Tropical Health Salad, which was Jell-O, cottage cheese and a few fruits on a bed of greens. There was an unknown Greek meat dish that joined us on our adventure at Dave & Buster's, an adult version of Chuck-E-Cheese. After we were forcefully asked to leave, the unknown dish was hidden to grow legs and haunt the establishment.

A few hours of sleep and back to Mexico. Back to hanging out in trees tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


Last year I was helping to teach a canyoneering course in Cedar City, UT. This year I played some Diddy Kong Racing (at which I am horrible) and messed around with a plastic chair and a big rubber band.

Friday, May 18, 2007

más ligero

So you board a bus on the American side of the border. But it's really already Mexico, because you better learn some Spanish quickly, as nobody's speaking English anymore. You cross the border and enter customs. Everyone sends their baggage through a machine and then waits in line to push a button below what looks like a traffic light. If the light is green when you press the button, back on the bus you go. If it is red, the customs agent goes through your bag. Guess which color I got. The agent asked why my bag was wet. I told him that I had been out in the rain and pointed outside. Mexico says, "Gracias, Sr. Gringo Obvio."

The bus ride was a hoot. It had been a while since I'd had the chance to see Weekend at Bernie's.

After arriving in Monterrey, Edgar picked me up in his car. A belt had snapped on the engine, so the battery was not recharging. A few miles from the office, the windshield wipers stopped working and the car eventually stalled. In a rainy rush hour, I got to push his car across a couple of lanes to where we could park it. Mexico says, "Bienvenido, le hemos estado esperando."

Chasing Cars

...with a land yacht. Room for 14 hitchhikers to keep me company

1450 miles, two days, and I'm back at the border of the 3rd world. I drove through the devastation that is still Hurricane Katrina. NO is coming back; but, the uninhabited, skeletons of buildings with "HELP" spray painted on the roofs give a saddening reminder.

One hitchhiker had left the hometown of Jerry Falwell, which seemed appropriate. on his way back to West Texas. He had plenty of stories to tell of the people that had picked him up on the initial trip East, including one Vietnam vet driving to go have both of his legs amputated from injuries incurred almost 30 years ago - shadow effects of a war.

Just forget the world.

Sunday, May 13, 2007


I need someone to ride in a 4x4 lifted 15-passenger van from near Charlotte, NC, to Laredo, TX, and onward down to Monterrey. The current offer is an all-expense paid trip from Charlotte, including meals and a free plane ticket back to wherever you're living. The only catch is that you need to leave around this Wednesday.

Any takers?

Shop Smart, Shop:

[UPDATE: The Beast is on the road, somewhere in Southern Mississippi. Out of the way Eco-Compact Cars!]

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Guadalajara, Guadalajara!

~10 hours South, past the Tropic of Cancer, across more desert, Chuy and I reached the 2nd largest city in Mexico, Guadalajara, the "Silicon Valley of Mexico." Perhaps it's the professions of those there as compared to the industrial Monterrey, but the drivers were somewhat nicer. The learned skill of driving in Monterrey (more on this some other time) seemed to irk many of Guadalajara's inhabitants, but it proved just as effective there.

The next day, the gringos arrived at the airport. We drove way out of our way on our journey to Tecolotlan, but I at least got to eat some tequila ice cream. When we reached Tecolotlan, we were greeted at the town hall by the mayor and the director of the park service. The gringos went to bed, while the Mexicans and I stayed up as you do. We happened to run into the mayor, who proudly proceeded to tell us of the wonders of the dark side of his town. Truly a once in a lifetime experience to have a beer with a mayor while he explicates about everything that would be illegal in the States and then have him pick up the tab. They really threw out the red carpet for us...

Over the next four days, I descended four canyons, with drops up to 100m with some friends in the ACA.

Some gorgeous waterfalls, alot of poison ivy and jejen (biting ferocious nasty little chingaros), and not nearly enough sleep is the general gist.

But the park service shuttled us to the entrance and picked us up at the exits of the canyons everyday (Try to get that to happen in the States. The park rangers said this was completely normal.) The birthplace of mariachi is right around the corner from Tecolotlan, so the second to last night there was the expected party, with a true mariachi band to boot.

By the way, due to my constant consumption of salsas and a couple of other factors, my status has now been elevated to Mexi-gringo.

After some wonderfully, elegantly complicated logistical problems, the gringos got on their planes safely. A few remained, rented a car, and followed Chuy and me in my truck to Tequila, the birthplace, of, well...


So off to Cuervo Mundo! The most magical tour of all time, filled with the education of the art of producing and consuming tequila.

[The feeble culture of Cinco de Mayo debauchery in the United States does not impart any knowledge of the craft, except for, perhaps, the experience of waking up soaked in someone else's urine. Cinco de Mayo is any normal day here. People don't go to work or school, but the day has not become a Corona Holiday.]

So, quickly:

-Tequila came to exist when the European knowledge of yeast fermentation and distillation met with the agave wine that the natives had been drinking for centuries.
-The agave requires about 7 years to mature for harvest.
-Approximately 6kg of agave yields 1L of tequila.
-The agave is first cut down to its core (the pineapple)
-It is then burned to enhance the production of the sugars used in fermentation.
-Following fermentation, the product is distilled twice to enhance its purity. At this point it contains approximately 55% alcohol. At this point it is 'consumable.'
-The tequila at this point is clear. It can be watered down to ~45% and sold, or it may be aged.
-Different aging processes (container, time) change the qualities of the beverage. In general, the longer the aging process, the smoother the tequila, but the flavor and spiciness changes as well.
-The general tequila used for mixing was produced by sugars which 51% originate from the agave. Who knows where the remaining sugars come from.
-100% agave tequila should never be mixed. If you have friends that insist on doing so, please remove them from your address book.
-The name tequila can only be applied to the beverage if it is cultivated in a limited number of areas, all centered around the state of Jalisco.
-Finally, for an extremely nice bottle of tequila, you could spend well over $100. Or you can go down the road to where you buy it in jugs and get 5L for about $20.

Well, back in Monterrey. Back to working on the canopy tour tomorrow...