Wednesday, January 31, 2007

I'm doing a little better today with respect to allowing time for my journal. I came up here to the internet spot about half an hour ago, got involved in e-mailing, finally decided I had better write something before I get too hungry to think.

Someone came around this morning, selling lobster. I stood frowning in the doorway, muttering "I've never cooked a lobster. I don't know how to cook a lobster. You want a lobster? You´re on your own." while R bought some lobster. Fortunately this lobster (these three lobsters, but they're awfully small) have been killed and cleaned, so they probably won't be too hard to deal with. I just didn´t want to murder the poor things myself.

After my morning coffee, I went down to the water for a dip, but the ocean wasn't nearly as warm as I expected, so I chickened out. Then, maybe an hour and a half ago, I got brave again and went down there, wearing water shoes and carrying my bright blue noodle. R came along. I got in up to my knees and just about gave up, because it still felt cold, and there is really quite a strong current flowing from north to south. I didn't want to end up downtown in a swimsuit. I persevered, though, and once I was in (I got swamped), it wasn't bad, and after a few minutes it was actually quite comfortable. R put on his fins and came in too. While he swam around, I got my cardio workout by walking waist deep toward the north, against the undertow, past the hotel next door. Then I would swim back to where I started, which was much easier. Now I feel terribly virtuous.

Just before we got out, R swam out to where the breakers start, and he walked on water, or appeared to. As you walk out from shore the water gets up to about shoulder height on me, after which there´s a trench that I couldn´t get past without fins, and then you´re standing on a sand bar and the water doesn´t even come up to your knees. Very impressive to watch.

I spent the rest of the morning working on my mother´s biography. Now it´s time for lunch and a quiet read. R was talking about a cycle ride later this afternoon, so if that happens I´ll likely tag along.

As you can see, there´s not a lot of excitement here today, but the relaxation gauge is at FULL.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Typing quickly here - I seem to have a little trouble fitting my life into my provider's 9am-3pm framework. R and I sat out on the beach last night to watch the sun go down. Very impressive. The beach is so long that we had two different shows going on at once. To our left is the city of Mazatlan. The rays of the setting sun caught the windows of the taller buildings, so the city was glowing. As we scanned toward the right, the sky was lit with shades of blue and green. It had been cloudy all day, and now the western sky was still full of clouds. Cirrus, maybe? Not sure. Wide, flat clouds with sunlight filtering through in between them. Then there was the sun itself, at about 1 o'clock, all reds and corals and pinks and yellows, and to its right were more of those clouds. R said they looked like a river of fire, a lava flow. They did.

This morning I woke up shortly after sunrise and went down to the beach again. I was too late to watch the sunrise itself, but it was still mighty pretty out there. I took a half hour walk, then went home and made coffee.

After breakfast, we caught a bus downtown to the Gigante market, which is in a mall with the Office Depot. I bought some business cards, and then we stocked up on groceries. By the time we finished shopping, my back had almost recovered from the bus ride. That thing had neither springs nor shocks, I'm sure. What a miserable ride! When we came out of the Gigante, we saw one of the little golf carts that taxi people around, so we asked the driver how much it would cost us to get home. 80 pesos. Deal. His name turned out to be Hector, and he's a complete sweetheart. We got his card, so that if we decide to go downtown again we can call him.

We put the groceries away, and I was reaching for my swimsuit before the cupboard doors closed. Unfortunately the tide is low now, so the water wasn't as warm as it was this morning, but we went swimming anyway. R stepped on a small ray and went Ooooo! but either it wasn't a sting ray or he was just lucky. It just squirmed. I kept my feet off the ground, swam for a few minutes, came in because I realized my internet time was running low. So. Gotta go now!

Monday, January 29, 2007

11 a.m. I am sitting on the patio at Mar-a-Villas, shaded by our awning and by the bamboo, but today there is no need for a shade. The sky is overcast, and I’ve been expecting it to rain since we got up this morning. So far, though, there hasn’t been a drop. When we pulled in here, R went to hook up and discovered that there was no water coming out of the spigot by our rig. I went next door and asked, rather apprehensively, whether they usually have water here. I was told that the pump had gone on the fritz the night before, but that yes, they usually have water. Much relieved, I turned to go home, and just then the man I had asked turned the water on at his place, and it ran perfectly. I came back to the rig and reported that all was well. We now have water, the hydro is hooked up, our table and chairs are set up outside, the Canadian flag is fluttering in the breeze, and we are thoroughly at home.

Within half an hour of our arrival, both the water truck and the veggie truck had come through the park. I asked the veggie man for chile verde, and he pointed at some bell peppers. Excuse me? He assured me he would have some proper chiles tomorrow.

There are no iguanas today, probably because of the lack of sunshine, but there are doves, and there is a lovely bougainvillea right across from us. Our next-door neighbour on the right is a man from B.C. who has a very friendly golden Lab named Rocky.

We took a long walk on the beach - right up to the top, where there is a rock face. Somebody has painted the words Playa Bruja on the rock, along with a picture of a surfer. If I remember correctly, bruja means witch, so R promptly renamed it Witchipoo Beach. If we walk in the other direction, it appears that we can walk all the way downtown without leaving the beach.

The Englishman at the other park turned out to be Ian, a very kind man who gave us afternoon tea and played me a Charlotte Church album. He has promised to come over here for a visit.

Meanwhile, I’ve discovered the secret to the internet. There’s a fellow in the park who has a wireless network. He charges 100 pesos a week ($10ish) for access. I carried laptop and chair up to his trailer, only to find that he isn’t at home. When he comes back, I’ll give him his $100 and send this away. Watch. That’s when it will start to rain. His trailer isn’t actually very far from our place, so maybe, with luck, the signal is strong enough to use here. The laptop is detecting four different networks, all requiring keys, but I’m not sure which one is his. If I could sit here on the patio and play online, I would be a very happy camper indeed. All digits crossed, here.

The internet man came home. I paid for a week's service, which I can only use (ordinarily) from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., which means I can't be on for Skype this week - but I'll keep posting, and if anybody is Skyping while I'm here, they should please yell.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

January 28, 2007. Happy, happy day! R booked in here at Las Jaibas for one more night, just as insurance, then went for a cycle ride while I settled in. Along the way he met a man who took him to see a couple of nearby parks. The first park didn’t appeal to him, but the second one did, so he came back here, and we rode out together. We went to a little place called Mar-a-Villas RV Park. It is located quite near here, but a little farther from downtown, from the hotels, from the noise.

It was love at first sight. We reserved a spot for a week, starting tomorrow, in spite of the fact that wi-fi there is very problematic (more problematic than here, I gather). We’ll be in spot #16, which R chose because it’s shaded by bamboo. There is one coconut palm that overhangs our site, but Alfredo, the owner, removed all the coconuts at the beginning of the season, so we can safely sit out on the patio and watch the iguanas in the trees. They apparently come out around 10 o’clock in the morning, when the sun gets high enough for really good basking. After we had reserved our spot, we introduced ourselves to our next-door neighbours, Ellie and Gus, who are from the Netherlands but spend part of the year here, part in the U.S., part in Europe on their sailboat. Then we tried to leave, but we got to talking with some more people, and that was when R spotted the two iguanas in the palm tree right over their RV. Everyone enjoyed watching our excitement. I guess the sight of two iguanas doesn’t set any hearts racing there. Often there are 16 or 18 of them in sight at once.

We did our homework. Yes, you can sometimes get internet if you carry your laptop out to the front of the park. (Our spot is “downstairs” in the back of the park, near Alfredo’s house, far from the street.) Yes, somebody comes through every day with bottled water. Yes, a vegetable truck comes in two or three times a week. We spotted for ourselves the fact that if we walk through Alfredo’s courtyard, we come directly out on the long, sandy beach. My official photographer will be making a record of all this for sharing – if I can ever figure out how to upload the clips.

Speaking of the beach, we rode our bikes down the road a couple of blocks, then turned right and rode down to the beach. We locked the bikes, took off our shoes, and tested the water. It’s swimmable!

Suddenly Mazatlan is a different place entirely.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Still January 27, 2007. It’s now 5:40 p.m., and we’re in Mazatlan, for better or worse. We left Huatabampito at just after 8 o’clock this morning. We didn’t stop except for gas, toll booths, and driver changes, and we got in here about half an hour ago.

Impressions of the road from Huatabampito to Hwy. 15: very flat, growing more and more verdant; mountains in the far distance cut out of grey construction paper; in front of them, a mist that softened the landscape almost up to the peaks, but not quite. Old women walking beside the road, towels draped over their heads against the sun. More old women, wearing babushkas. Horses, the ubiquitous dogs, one burro. More goats. I enjoyed this road. The countryside reminded me of parts of California. Then we got to Hwy. 15 and drove south through Los Mochis, Guasave, Culiacan, and on to Mazatlan. We noted that as we drove south, the highway got better and better. The distant mountains turned out to be not all that mountainous, and when we got to them we found they were covered in vegetation – not just cactus, but trees and bushes. All in all, I enjoyed today’s drive.

Then we arrived. I missed the exit north of Mazatlan that apparently would have brought us directly to the area where all the RV parks are, so I had to drive all the way through Mazatlan (an unenviable experience) to get to the road marked Playas (beaches), go to the north end of town – I think – then turn around at a roundabout and head back down the road until I saw a sign that read RV. That was it. I pulled in. They say they can put us up at least for tonight, and maybe longer if somebody that’s here now leaves tomorrow morning. This place is called “Las Jaibas”, and it isn’t mentioned in our guidebook. It costs $20 US per night, full hookup, wi-fi – except the wi-fi isn’t working very well, so I’ll have to take the laptop up to the office to put this entry into my journal.

We spent a fortune in tolls to get here today, so we really should stick around for a week or so to make it worthwhile, but I have a feeling it’s going to be difficult. When push comes to shove, I think we’re more “sit on the beach, feed the stray dogs, watch the dolphins” sorts than “sit six feet from your neighbours and listen to them get noisily drunk” types. It’s been a while since we were last quite this crowded, and there’s a woman across the way who has one of those laughs. You know the one – the brain-splitting cross between a whoop and a screech that just makes you want to punch some(body)thing. When we arrived, the manager had to come running from one of the sites to look after us. He explained that it was happy hour and they were all trying to get a little happy. So maybe this will all settle down in another hour or so, when everybody gets sleepy. Calm down, I say. Breathe.

R is actually adjusting a little better than I am. There’s an Englishman – a Londoner – two rigs down from us, so R is going off to have a chat with him. R also went for a bike ride while I was cooking dinner. He discovered that there is a bigger, more spacious RV park right next door, so if I had just kept driving a few feet farther, I might not be experiencing quite this strong an attack of culture shock. Apparently there are other RV parks within cycling distance, so we’ll be going for a bike ride first thing in the morning to check them out. Checkout time here isn’t until noon, so we will have plenty of time to look around.

If we can find a bit of calm here in Mazatlan and settle in for a few days, I really would like to take a bus downtown and see some of what there is to see. Our guidebook mentions an aquarium, a museum, and a very good public market. Also, there’s a hotel that I want to photograph for my sister. It was built by a relative of hers by marriage. See? I’m feeling better already.

January 27, 2007, still in Huatabampito - This morning is cool but sunny and bright. Huatabampito has one big advantage. We watched the sun set at one end of the beach, then watched it rise at the other. The sunrise palette was very Santa Fe, and now that the sun is up we can see all sorts of dolphins. I think I’ll take my morning coffee outside. We won’t be here for long, so I should enjoy the view.

January 26, 2007 – El Mirador RV Park, Playa Huatabampito, Sonora. We really did plan on getting to Playa Las Glorias near Los Mochis, but we were slow getting started this morning, and then we went into Guaymas to shop at the Ley, and it soon became clear that we weren’t going to get anywhere near Las Glorias before dark. R saw a sign on Hwy. 15 advertising this RV park, so we turned right off the highway at Navajoa and found our way down here.

Along the way, we saw a few horses tied here and there along the side of the road, and even one by the edge of a field, harnessed to a cart. There was a woman in layers of bright clothing, loading produce into the cart. At another place, herd of goats browsed next to the highway (where the grass is always greener, insists R). There were moments when we both thought we had wandered off on the wrong road, so we asked directions and we asked directions, and at about 4:30 this afternoon, all of a sudden we were here. The park is right on the beach (right on the beach. The rig is full of sand ;>). There is a hotel beside it (five rooms) with a restaurant and bar. Our $18 beachfront site came with electricity, sewer, city water that isn’t working, and a free drink at the bar. We passed on the drink and went for a walk on the beach right at sunset. It was very lovely, if a little cool.

Our next-door neighbour Jim introduced us to his wife, Carol, and their sixteen-year old Chihuahua, and also to Liz, the extremely friendly black dog that they found in Arizona two years ago. Liz has the coldest, wettest nose in all of dogdom, and she’s a leaner. Then Jim went inside his rig and brought out Ritah, a four-week old spaniel(?) puppy who was rescued from the surf a couple of days ago by another couple staying at the park. Jim and Carol adopted her instantly and took on the job of bottle feeding her. They figure somebody had just thrown her into the sea, that being the all-too-common fate of female puppies around here. Jim told us that the two rather pretty strays that were hanging around were nice dogs. They didn’t want to be touched, and they weren’t keen on little kids, but other than that they were fine. He was right. A third soon joined them. The three could even be from the same litter. They’re maybe a year old, if that. When we had had our walk, R took some leftover chicken out to feed the three strays. Later, while he was out talking to another neighbour, I found some sausages in the fridge and gave each of the dogs a bit. Now we’re both inside, and we can hear them playing out on the beach.

I washed the dishes and was getting ready to close the curtains when I realized that the sunset we had thought was over wasn’t, really. The sun had gone below the horizon, and most of the sky was pretty dark, but the colour on the western horizon was a very beautiful deep coral. I turned off the lights and sat in the dark, watching the coral until it was gone.

Well, I haven’t heard anybody yelling “Hey, the water’s working!” So we will probably be out of here tomorrow. We have enough water to manage tonight, but not enough for an extended stay. It’s about six hundred kilometers from here to Mazatlan, so if we want to get there tomorrow, we’ll have to leave early.

By the way, Jim also told us that another couple had just been through, traveling north from Las Glorias (where we were trying to go), and they said it was great, except they were covered with sand flea bites. Whew. Saved by our own slowness.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

I will try to come back here after our walk on the beach, but I want to mention this now, in case I forget later. I sat down at the laptop, heard a noise, and looked over to see a hummingbird flying right in the door. Oh, no! I didn't dare move, lest I scare him - but he soon sussed out the situation and turned back. How cool is that?

I've been shopping for lots of groceries to see us through, in case we really like the place where we're heading tomorrow, and in case there are no markets within cycling distance of it. I've repackaged bacon and chicken breasts and frozen them, have to defrost the sausages a bit before I can repackage them. I've filled the fruit/vegetable bowl so full, I'm sure it will topple right over when we start to move, so I guess all the tomatoes, pears, bananas, cucumbers, limes will have to go into the sink in the morning. The poblano and Anaheim chiles will be roasted and put into the fridge. I amazed all the other shoppers by managing to put almost all the stuff I bought into my panniers, including a couple of liters of orange juice and a big container of yoghurt. One bag ended up on top of the carrier, bungeed into place, and I carried R's loaf of Bimbo bread up at the handlebars. I was pretty impressed, myself.

You know how you find something on the web that you really like, and you bookmark it, and then you forget what it was called, or you can't find it in that endless string of bookmarks at the top of the page? Kazim has been raving about a site - where you can put and organize all your bookmarks. I tried it out, and I think I really like it. You may want to take a look over there. My own page is at I'm trying to gather all my favourite links there, and in the process I'm finding things I had forgotten I had. I guess that's the point.

....So here I am, long after coming back from the beach. There was really only one point of interest about the walk (for anybody who wasn't actually there, enjoying the sunshine). On the way back, a dog followed me home. She was a new mother, from the looks of things, and rather a cutie, but her tail was between her legs. She wasn't being aggressive, just persistent - and there was that tail. :>( I came inside the rig and closed the door, feeling guilty. I think I'm producing some sort of pheromones.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

I'm developing the habit of making a journal entry fairly early in the day, as soon as I can wrest control of the computer from the hands of my web-entranced husband, :>) and before the network collapses for the night. I'm not sure what happens, but Internet in the Evening doesn't seem to be on the menu here.

We rode out to the airport today- a fine ride, I thought. When we got there, we turned left down a packed dirt landing strip, toward the horse that had just wandered over - from where? I didn't see a farm. Anyway, we cycled down the runway, admired the horse. He had a brown head and hind quarters, and a tiny, English-sized saddle of brown, and the rest of him was white. He was very attractive. "What colour brown is that?" I said to R, thinking ahead to when I would want to describe the horse in my journal. "Horsey brown". There you go.

We turned left again at the other end of the runway, explored a couple of streets neither of us had seen before. We found a very settled RV park that seems to operate rather like a condominium development, and a little neighbourhood of tiny concrete houses. I turned around there and started back up the road, heard loud barking behind me, found myself being chased down the road by an angry dog. I pedaled very, very fast, screaming and yelling "Not another bloody dog!" He wasn't fast enough to catch me. Heh. When he had given up and gone home, I slowed down and enjoyed the scenery. There were orange trees, lemon trees, key lime, and even grapefruit trees heavy with fruit, Christmas cactus, prickly pear - it's amazing what you'll find when you get off the main street and explore the inside of a town. There were signs pointing to a canyon, but one of our turns took us away from it. Maybe tomorrow we can check that out, after I do the laundry. Tomorrow night is our last night in San Carlos, and the washers here work very well, so I plan to take advantage.

I lay down this afternoon to take a little nap, woke up to the voice of the man who comes through the park every day selling - well, yelling, NEWSPAPERS!!!

....While I was writing, R came to the door, said he was going for a walk on the beach. I went with him. We walked south, enjoying the warmth. R saw a flock of pelicans having a beach party farther down, so we went to investigate. There must have been a school of tiny fish very close to shore, because there was standing room only. We watched the pelicans belly flopping in the shallow water, then R called "Dolphin - there!" I looked, and it surfaced again. Soon there were dolphins all over the place - some only thirty feet from shore - doing a lovely synchronized swimming routine. I finally decided to sit down on the beach and enjoy the show, but the show was moving north, so we followed it. Eventually the dolphins went on their way, but the pelicans, gulls, terns, all the winged denizens of this part of the gulf kept right on fishing. R laughed at a brown bird with a long, straight bill that swam along with its head under the water, searching, searching like a librarian hunting for a misplaced volume. I had to stop and change course to avoid running right into a pelican that stood on the beach, completely oblivious of my presence. We met a couple of couples walking on the beach, and R recited the pelican poem for them.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

I went online this morning and found an e-mail from DIL. It included a video of lovely granddaughter at something called a gymboree, crawling! That's what we get for going away. Apparently she is also pulling herself up to a standing position, so I bet she will be walking by the time we get back.

DIL also talked about making a dish with fish, coconut milk, green chiles, Indian spices... Then and there I decided what we're having for dinner tonight. I have almost all the ingredients she mentioned, bet I can fake the Indian spices with a little bit of Vindaloo paste. Thanks, J.

We cycled out toward the marina again this morning, but turned off and went toward what I had thought was another section of downtown. It turned out that the road came to a dead end at this place: Looked expensive, it did. It seems that the part of San Carlos where we're staying is pretty well all there is to the downtown.

Later, R went for a bike ride by himself, took an Albertan neighbour's advice that he ride out to the (disused) airport. He said it was about a three mile ride at a gentle upgrade, then a great coast back down to the main road. I went out to try it, got to the place where I should turn off the main road, heard my cell phone alarm go off. Aaaargh. Time to take my antibiotic. Turned around. Rode home. Oh, well. Mañana. Better planning. Hey! I've just figured out that I can cut and paste things like ñ from the Alt Codes page, without having to use the codes. I still haven't figured out why the laptop won't recognize them.

We did go to Tony's truck today, so the salsa emergency is over. Phew.

That's all the news from San Carlos.

Monday, January 22, 2007

The sun is shining, but it's only 15 degrees outside. I'm sure it was warmer an hour ago, when we were cycling back from the marina. We went out to get some exercise, check out the pelicans, buy some groceries. I found the little stall where two women make tortillas by hand and sell them for 25 pesos a kilo. That's a lot more expensive than the tortillas I bought in Kino, but they're very good. I came home and ate two of them for my lunch, with refried beans and the last of my pico de gallo. Tony's truck wasn't in its place today, so I didn't get to buy tomatoes - the ones at the supermarket were icky, at least by comparison to those that Tony carries - so I'm salsaless in San Carlos until tomorrow.

The day started out in disconcerting fashion. I slept in, didn't get up until 8:30, and it took me about three hours to get myself going. I think I really do need a little dawnshine to start my day right. I was absolutely snarly until we went for our cycle ride. While I sulked indoors, the gas man showed up and filled our tank, the water man turned up immediately thereafter to deliver our 5 gals. of drinking water, I could hear R outside talking to the delivery men and the neighbours, and I just wasn't up to dealing with any of it. I'm much happier now that I've had some exercise and fresh air. Tomorrow I will go back to my regular schedule.

I think I overheard the man with the retriever puppy say to R that he would let him take the dog for a walk before they leave. R said he appreciated the offer, but didn't think it would be a good idea. If there were some sort of accident, he would feel terrible, but also he didn't think the puppy should be encouraged to go with just anybody. Good points. That must have been hard for him.

Did I mention that R's word processor did a somersault last week and landed on its head (like me in Texas!) but wasn't wearing a helmet? Poor old dinosaur. Although R has become a websurfer on this trip, it seems he isn't going to be doing much writing now that the dinosaur is dead, or so he says. We just had a little lesson in typing on the laptop. I showed him how to open a Word document and how to save it; then he composed and sent an e-mail. He didn't enjoy any of the experience, as far as I could tell. Part of the problem, I'm sure, was that I've forgotten how awkward it all is when you're just starting; I take it for granted, so I'm crappy at teaching it. I should keep in mind how I feel when somebody tries to expand my computer horizons. Aaaaaaaaack! I told R he should type something in his test document and send one e-mail every day for the next couple of weeks, so that he remembers what to do. He said when we get back into the U.S. he will look for a new word processor. Yes, I said, but in the meantime...

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Yesterday was one of those days when nothing really happens, but it leaves a smile on your face nonetheless. There was a thunderstorm during the night, so when we got up, all our outdoor furniture was sodden. We put it in the sunshine to dry. I took a walk back toward Guaymas, as far as the bike path/sidewalk went. I didn’t feel adventurous enough to go any farther. R went for a bike ride. Later, the two of us biked up to Tony’s truck so I could buy garlic and ginger for our fish dinner. Of course, I ended up buying more than that – extra chiles, because you can never have too many, a bag of wonderfully soft and juicy dates, a couple of tamales con elote. (corn tamales – my favourite. R’s attempt at Mexican Food Appreciation hasn’t yet embraced the tamale.) We were going to go for a walk on the beach when the tide went out, but somehow that didn’t happen. R spent some time with the neighbours. I roasted the chiles I had bought. We both enjoyed watching the 4 month old Golden Retriever that another neighbour was trying to train. I talked to my younger sister on Skype, told her how amazing it is that when I’m on holiday, my day is so full, I have trouble fitting everything in – but I’m not doing anything, right? Somewhere along the line, my internet connection went south. I guess I should no longer say “my” internet connection, because R has well and truly discovered the internet. We get to experience withdrawal symptoms together.

This morning, while R is doing his morning cycle patrol, and while I wait for a chance to post this, I’m getting some things done around the rig. Among other things, I opened the awning - with great difficulty. After the other night’s storm, I figured it would need airing out. Everything on it – every lever, every knob – seemed to have seized. We really must make a point of opening the awning frequently, even when we haven’t settled in somewhere. Otherwise it gets very sulky. R has returned now and suggested we give the awning’s controls a good dousing with WD-40. There. See? Another chore. So little time, so many things to do. I do love this.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Now for something completely different. We stayed last night at Mirador RV Park, not our idea of a place to spend any time, as I think I told you. This morning we drove back into town and checked into Totonaka RV Park, a horse of an entirely different colour. It's a bustling little village of a park - full of Canadians, by the way. I remarked to one fellow that I wondered whether anyone was left up in B.C. He replied, "Why would they be?" which makes me think the weather hasn't improved back home. We booked in for one night, changed our minds and paid for a week.

San Carlos has lots of interesting shops, and it has Tony, who sells everything from steaks, Italian sausages and tamales to pineapple and Microdyn (for washing vegetables) from the back of his truck a few blocks from here. The truck can't possibly hold it all, so he sets up a sort of mini-market around it, using cafeteria tables, ice chests. He's sort of like Bahia Kino's Martin, but on a much grander scale. He even sells homemade banana bread and tortillas.

I decided that 'twas better to be safe, and all that. I got the address of the local doctor, Dr. Canale, and walked to his office. I told him how long it had really been since my last tetanus booster, and he said I should get boosted again. I waited a few minutes, read from Barbara Kingsolver's Animal Dreams, which I found on his bookshelf. Dr. Canale isn't nearly as cute as Dr. Duran, but he speaks excellent English and his taste in literature is impeccable.

When he had given me my shot, the doctor said that the dog would have to be kept on a leash for fourteen days. I said fat chance. I explained the situation. He said that if the dog gets hit by a truck and killed or disappears, I'll have to have the rabies shots. I e-mailed my friend in Kino and passed that tidbit on.

After that I walked down the street and bought a bathing suit. That was my act of optimism for the day.

The only problem we're having here at Totonaka is with things electronic. We haven't been able to get the cable working (no great loss), and the wireless has been hopeless. They gave me a password for each of their two networks, and I couldn't get either one to work. I carried the laptop back to the office and the fellow could make it work in there. I still couldn't make it work at home. On my second return to the office, I found out that the password had been changed, apparently since we booked in. I still couldn't get the one I'm supposed to use at the rv to work, but I could use the default network in the clubhouse, so that's where I'm sitting. The crowd in here has shrunk to two of us, which probably means that the managers have got the other network working now. If I don't book onto Skype while we're here, that's why. I will come in here every day and check e-mail, tell you what's happening, if anything.

Oh yes - this is where all the pelicans are. For some reason there were none in Bahia Kino this time, whereas last year the place was filthy with pelicans!

And oh yes - the sun came out here today. See Sandra do her happy dance! I saw a newspaper here that warned that the temperature was going to go down again, but I prefer to stay in denial as long as possible.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

San Carlos, Sonora. We left home between 9 and 10 a.m., stopped first at Kino Viejo for gas and to mail a letter. Then I drove to Calle Doce, where we stopped to visit the bicycle shop. As we pulled into the parking lot next to the store, I first noticed a pharmacy with an amusing sign. It was called Farmacia Similar, and it claimed to sell "the same things, but cheaper". I was still smiling at that when a dog appeared in my field of vision. He was so thin that his ribs stood out, and his head hung as if he hadn't the strength to hold it up. He was drooling. He wandered off behind the buildings. When we came back, having managed to get a patch kit but no inner tubes (the shop didn't have the right sizes), the dog had wandered into the parking lot again, but he was keeping his distance, staggering. I think that if I had had a gun, I would have been tempted to put him out of his obvious misery. He was so far gone, there was nothing we could do for him, and we drove away, but we were both very quiet.

I drove for the next hour or so. We turned onto a road that offered a shortcut to San Carlos. After about six or seven kilometers, we encountered a construction zone. It was only eight kilometers long, so we kept going. At some point I stopped and let R drive. Altogether, the road - construction zone or no - was pretty awful. It did have its moments, though. We saw another dog - a little Jack Russell type obviously cared for, collared, well-fed - skipping around. I couldn't figure out where he could have come from. R said he was probably attracted to a female somewhere, and might have run for miles....Then there was the cowpoke. We had to slow down to a crawl because there was a herd of cattle wandering around on both sides of the road. The adults were sensible about getting out of our way, but the young ones were obviously not streetwise. As we were making our way slowly through the crowd of annoyed calves, a man appeared on horseback. He was about 50 meters off the road. He wore a 5 gallon hat and was twirling a lasso.

Eventually the awful road came to an end where it met the main highway (15) to Guaymas. Much relieved, we drove on to the San Carlos exit, then down a secondary road lined with palm trees, right through the pretty town of San Carlos. We saw one of the RV parks that we wanted to check out, but passed it by, following the signs for Mirador RV Park, which has the reputation of being the best RV park in San Carlos. (R says it's supposed to be the best in N. America, but that's just absurd.) What it is, is the farthest RV park out from the centre of town - six miles? There's nothing out here except the RV park, as far as I can see. There are hills around us, and a lovely harbour out there somewhere, but that's it. No shops. No nothing. Fortunately, we have plenty of food on board, so we'll be fine here for the night, but I certainly wouldn't want to spend an entire holiday here. Maybe the park's reputation springs from the fact that it offers U.S. cable TV. Eight channels. I'd rather have a real town to explore.

I'm making a note here just to aid my failing mind. I called my doctor's office this morning and heard that my last tetanus booster was 6 1/2 years ago, not the three I was guessing. The woman who gave me the information said that losing track of such things goes along with the grey hair. I checked online and saw that usually you get a booster if you have a dirty wound and it's been five years - but this wound is really clean, so I'm not going to worry about it. So - for the record - my last tetanus booster was in July of 2000. Sheesh.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Every day a new adventure. Today R and I finally caught up with J & D, a couple we met here last year - lovely people - and we went to their house for tea. J played his clarinet for us. (He is very good. This was the first time we had heard him play.) It turned out that they know the man who owns the dog that bit me, and they say he probably has had his dogs vaccinated. They got me the number for the clinic in Kino Viejo, and I asked the park office manager to call for me, to determine whether or not I should go in. The answer was yes, so I hitched a ride into Kino Viejo and went to see the very handsome young Doctor Duran, who examined my injury, told me it looked good, gave me a prescription for an antibiotic. He wanted to give me a tetanus shot, but I told him I had had one within the last three years or so. Throughout the interview, the doctor apologized for his English, said he had learned it from television and it wasn't very good - but actually it was good.

When we drove by the place where I was attacked, I pointed the house out. Both dogs were still loose, but the one that didn't bite me was now wearing a collar.

What struck me as I was riding through Kino Viejo is that there is a great comfort in having a place where, as you travel, you can stop and feel at home. Kino is like that for me. I know where to go to buy tortillas, where the fish market is - and which vendor is the most dependable. As of this trip, I know where to get my bike fixed - not that it stays fixed, but that's another story. I know where the clinic is, and I know that if nobody is at the front of the clinic, you go around to the back door and knock really hard. Most of all, I know that there are people here who will smile when they see us, welcome us back, be our friends.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

I don't know. It almost seems I shouldn't go on holidays. Last year, I fell off my bike and landed first on my head, then in hospital. This time, this morning, I took a walk down Calle del Mar because the temperature had finally reached 18C, the sun was shining, and I sorely needed some exercise. I left home at 11:15 a.m., walked for about 20 minutes up the street toward Kino Viejo, passed one of many houses, heard a scuffling and barking, turned to see a dog bearing down on me - a black and tan, mostly tan, hound obviously intent on attacking me. Before I could do anything about it, not that there was much I could do, the dog bit a hole in my right calf.

Just then a garbage truck came along, and two men leapt out of the truck to come to my aid. They frightened the dog off, and then they hollered the house's occupant out.

There was a comic moment in which I stood talking to this man. It went like this:

S: Habla Vd. ingles?

Man: (silent, hangdog expression)

S: Hablas ingles, senor?

Man: Huh?

S: Do you speak English?

Man: Yeah.

S: Your dog just bit me.

Man: Where?

I showed him my leg, complete with puncture wound and blood. He asked (with a southern American drawl) whether I wanted to go to a doctor and have it looked at. I told him I wanted assurance that I wasn't going to catch rabies. Had his dog had its rabies shot?

Man: Which one?

S: Which one what?

Man: Which dog? I got two.

S: I have no idea which one. I only saw one. Do you mean one of them has had its shots and the other one hasn't? (I'm beginning to panic now.)

Man: No, they both got their shots - over in Hermosillo. They's both healthy dogs.

At that point the two dogs noticed what was going on, and they both came out barking. The man shooed them back in. The dogs didn't look at all alike, and I told him which dog had bitten me.

Man: Never had no problem like this before.

So I came home and R cleaned the wound for me, put some antibiotic ointment on it, bandaged it. Once in a while he double checks to see that it isn't inflamed. I don't know what else a doctor could do, short of putting me through rabies shots. I would like to believe the man who told me his dogs had had their shots, but the dogs weren't wearing any collars, thus no tags, and I don't know quite how to handle the situation. I have never been bitten before. I almost wish that the dog in question were an infamous cur that had bitten half the people on the street. I could count heads to make sure everybody it bit had survived. The fact that - at least according to its owner - this is unusual behaviour on its part is worrisome. I certainly did nothing to provoke the attack.

Anyway, that pretty well put an end to my adventures for the day. The water men finally showed up, so I've been consoling myself with green tea. The shrimp man came around again, as well, this time selling the great big prawns for 150 pesos a kilo. He didn't even tell me that this was the last day for prawns. He's slipping. We had fish and prawns and zucchini and noodles for dinner.

Monday, January 15, 2007

I missed a day. Sorry about that. Yesterday was a little strange. I slept in (until 8 a.m.!), then walked up the mountain*, carrying the camcorder. I took some footage of the osprey nests and their inhabitants, then proceeded up the hill. I stopped about 50 feet from the top and turned around so that my feet pointed downward at about a 45 degree angle. That was as high as I felt safe in climbing, given the terrain. I took some truly lousy film of the view toward Kino, toward Baja California, toward my feet. The ground up there is like crumbling brick, the drop to rocks and water is precipitous, and the wind was blowing, so I was not feeling very adventurous. On the way back down the hill, with the camcorder tucked in its case, I took a step forward and SPLAT! Out went my feet. Down went my bum. My hands were slightly scraped and my dignity was decidedly compromised, but the camera was unharmed. I was very glad that I hadn't gotten brave up at the cliff's edge.

I walked back into our village just in time to see Martin, the vegetable man, drive out of the park. Oh no. I ran down the street yelling Martin! Martin! Fortunately, he was stopping anyway, in front of a home just up the street. I panted up to his truck and started shopping for green chiles, potatoes, cilantro, tomatoes, apples, limes (oh, yes! limes. I'd been craving them.). R came up beside the truck and asked Martin to wait, said he'd be right back with some money. "Hola," I said, surprising him. He hadn't seen me standing there, and he was ready to do the vegetable shopping on his own. He added some tangerines to the haul, we paid our $65 (that's pesos, not dollars. The symbols are the same. Very confusing when you're doing business at the border) and we went home.

Back at the RV, R informed me that my front tire was flat again. I decided to go inside and ignore that problem.

I got out my handy little bottle of Microdyn and washed the fruit and vegetables. I roasted two of the green chiles, put them in a plastic bag to steam while I chopped tomatoes, cilantro, onion for pico de gallo. Then I peeled the chiles under cold water, chopped one of them into the pico de gallo, put the other into a frying pan with cooked beans and some more onion, producing the loveliest mixture to eat with my tortillas, which I warmed over the open flame. I carried everything to the table and had a feast. R said I adapt very well to different types of food. I said what do you mean? This is my native cuisine! R is adapting, though. He's eating tortillas now, doesn't even seem to be pining for sliced bread.

After dinner we played Scrabble, then Skip-Bo. What happened in between lunch and dinner, I honestly don't know. I think I went into some sort of blue funk because my bicycle was kaput.

This morning I suggested that we go all the way into Hermosillo because there were things like Wal-Mart there where, surely, we could find inner tubes and patch kits. We boarded the bus at 9:45 a.m. 131pesos for the two of us to get to Hermosillo. They were playing a movie called Two for the Money with Al Pacino and Matthew McConaughey. The dialogue was in English. I watched it for an hour or so, until we got to Calle Doce, which is about halfway to Hermosillo. At that point a young man - a teenager - got onto the bus, grabbed the remote, and changed the language to Spanish. Fair enough. R and I were probably the only Anglophones on the bus(there were only seven people on board for the first half of the trip, including the driver and the man who seems to ride shotgun), and I had been surprised to hear English. Also, the movie was rather predictable. I kept watching, and had no problem keeping track of the plot.

As we pulled out of the Calle Doce bus station after about a 10-15 minute layover, R said "There's a bicycle shop right there by the bus station."

We arrived in Hermosillo just before noon, asked the driver when we could catch a bus back. Once an hour. Uh-huh. When? Oh. On the half hour. Ah. Thank you.

We went to Wal-Mart. They didn't have any bicycle accessories. We wandered around the mall, bought an extension cord, a roasted chicken, a few other items. Famished, I bought a couple of corn tamales at a stand in the hallway. They tasted wonderful. R bought a slice of pizza. The long and the short of it is, we didn't find anything with which to fix my bike.

So we went back to the bus stop at 1:20 p.m. to wait for the bus. A man with a nice smile talked to me a little. He looked familiar. Buses came and buses went, but ours didn't show up until nearly 2 p.m. That was much better than the hour and a half we waited for it last year, when apparently the bus we wanted went roaring by while another bus was loading. Never mind, we were aboard. As it was last year going back to Kino, this bus was standing room only. We moved toward the back, and I saw the man I had spoken to. He was sitting at the back of the bus, waving at me. He had saved me a seat. I made my way back there and sat beside him, and as I sat down I realized that he was - at least I think he was - the same man who gave me his seat last year. We chatted as amiably as people who don't share a language can. A young man on the other side of him (we were on the long bench seat at the very back) joined in. Between conversations, I watched the same movie I had watched in the morning, this time all in Spanish. Matthew McConaughey still had great teeth.

When we got to Calle Doce, I considered making my way through the crowd, getting off, running over to the bike store, buying a patch kit, and coming back, but (1) I didn't want to lose my seat, and (2) Given that the bus was very late, I didn't know whether it would be hanging about - so I didn't. I could have. We must have been there at least 10 minutes.

We are seriously considering putting my bike up on the back of the rig and leaving it there until we drive out on the 18th. I'll just take walks, if this wind ever lets up - or I could stay inside where it's warm, making and eating Mexican delights, watching for Martin's truck to turn up.

*I use the term 'mountain' very loosely. It's really only a big hill.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

I'm cheating here, because I need a nap. I posted this to one of the boards I frequent, and decided that I really don't need to type it all twice - so, AM, you've already read this entry!

R and I were going to cycle into Kino Viejo today to buy fish and tortillas, but it didn't work out that way. When I went outside, I discovered that my bike had a flat front tire, victim of a thorn that folks around here call a goat head. It's small, but it's mighty. It has two points, and either one of them will pierce a bicycle tire with ease. Apparently they've been known to pierce automobile tires.

(Is this where I back up and tell you that before we left Canada, I said "Don't you think we should go to Canadian Tire and get some spare tubes, and maybe a patch kit or three?" I was outvoted - did I think there were no bike repair shops where we were going, or what? OK. That was when I should have put myself in Ignore Mode, but I didn't.)

So. This morning we went looking for a bike repair place within walking distance. Nope. We inquired at the park office. There's a place in Kino Viejo. It's on Calle Puerto Vallarta, about two blocks from the park. R was feeling a little out of sorts anyway, so I left him here, caught the bus (6 pesos) to Kino Viejo, got off at Puerto Vallarta, and carried my bicycle wheel down and down and down the street, long past the paved part, until I was almost out of town again. Finally I found the little shop. There was a big gate, and I could see a man working on a bike way inside, beyond the fig tree. I called out, and he let me in. I sat comfortably in a plastic chair and watched the antics of a chihuahua, a Mexican hairless, something that looked like a chihuahua/pug cross, and a big yeller dog. A couple of pigeons joined the party at one point, but they didn't stay long.

There were actually four holes in the inner tube. The gentleman replaced the tube, installed the new one and filled it with air. Fifty pesos ($5-ish). I thanked him and headed for the tortilleria on Guaymas Street where I had been planning to go in the first place. I bought a kilo of tortillas, inquired about the bus back to Kino Nuevo. Could I catch it right out front? Yes - in an hour. So off I went, wheel in hand, walking to the fish market at the bottom of Padre Eusebio Kino Boulevard. I bought two kilos of some sort of filleted fish packed in lots of ice, shoved that bag into my backpack, put the bag of tortillas on top of it, grabbed my wheel and the book I could no longer put in the backpack for fear it would get wet, and headed for the little market where I shopped last year. There I bought a few bananas, a couple of green chiles, and a bag of cooked beans to eat with the tortillas. Definitely trudging, I went back to the tortilleria and waited for the bus, which turned up in about fifteen minutes.

An old hand now, I had my six pesos ready. This time there was a sorry-looking spaghetti mop propped by the door of the bus and a pile of newspapers wrapped with string next to the driver's seat, so getting me, my wheel, the book, and the now-bulging backpack onto the bus was a chore, but I did it, and I had a great trip home, resting my back, listening to the local radio station. When the driver let me off - right in front of the park - I staggered proudly home with my booty.

The upside of all this is that I now know where I can get my bike fixed in Kino Viejo. The downside is that the gentleman at the shop didn't have any extra tubes to sell me. When we go through Hermosillo, I think we had better hunt some up.

Friday, January 12, 2007

I awoke this morning to the sound of a bird singing. I couldn't remember which bird made that sound, and when I went outside, he had gone. I started the day by sweeping the patio, setting up the outside table and chairs, sweeping and mopping the RV floor, putting the water jug outside. R hung clothesline at both ends of our palapa - dual purpose line. We can dry towels on them or hang whatever - towels, rugs - as sunshades. Then he went to the office and registered us for a week here. We were going to change sites, but this morning we decided that we're in pretty good shape right here at #30, so here we will stay.

While I worked around the rig, R went off to have his shower. He spoke to S, who was our closest neighbour last year. He also saw Freeway, the cat we befriended - she was sort of a time-share cat. We had to give her back when we left, but we had great fun with her.

When we had showered and finished setting up, S dropped over for a cup of coffee. The queen's Annus Horribilis had nothing on S's past year. When we last saw her, she and her husband were leaving Kino early because her back was giving her a lot of trouble. It still is. Then her husband was diagnosed with cancer of the larynx. The cancer was successfully removed, but it left so much scar tissue that he hasn't been able to eat since last May. S has to feed him some sort of formula through a tube that projects from his stomach. She is taking meds for the pain in her knee. She needs a knee replacement, but doesn't dare get it because then she won't be able to look after her husband. Meanwhile, their 39-year old son died of a heart attack in October, leaving a wife and three children. Then, in December, S's younger sister died suddenly. S said to me, "You shouldn't have to bury your children. That's a big mistake in God's plan." Then, eyes turned skyward, she said "I'm sorry to question you, but..." She said she's here in Kino hiding from God. I bit my tongue so hard, it hurt. They have put their trailer here up for sale, so this 27th year in Kino will presumably be their last.

After S left I checked my e-mail, found I had a letter from one of my sisters filling in some details of our mother's life before I was born. It occurs to me that this mini-biography is going to be a harder, more painful job than I thought.

I walked over to L's house and, as I feared, she has gone to Hermosillo. The grandchild hasn't been born yet, but daughter has a doctor's appointment today, and we all await word.

I've taken a brief walk on the beach, gone to the store for bread, spent some time gazing at the palm trees. Now I'm sitting out on the patio to write, because R has been using the kitchen table to hold his great big gigantic dinosaur of a word processor. He's starting work on a book that he has been planning for some time. Hooray! On the other hand, I say "has been using" because suddenly he's not there any longer. Somebody just came by and invited him to go play bocce. They needed a fourth - so off he went. I said I would go cheer him on when I finished here. I am so glad that he brought his machine and is starting to write. It's been too long.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Home at last - in Kino Bay RV Park.

We left Ajo, AZ at 9 o'clock this morning, and we didn't stop for anything except business at the border and more business at the real border 26 kms farther down the road. When we crossed the official border, the guard asked us where we were going and we told him we were going basically everywhere in Mexico, so he told us to get our vehicle permit and visas at the check point 26 kms down the highway, and he waved us on our way.

When we got to the place the guard had described, another guard pulled us aside and told us to go to the immigration office. There, a very nice officer took one look at me and asked whether I spoke a little Spanish. Well, sort of. Good, then I might be able to help him. My job was to help him explain to a couple of Canadians why their cell phone wasn't working. They were trying to sort out a document problem, and their cell phone was like the one I used to have. Once across the Mexican border, it went into limbo and refused to come out. Eventually these folks, who were from Red Deer, Alberta, managed to set in motion the business of having their documents faxed down from Canada. It was a team effort.

Once that was taken care of, the same man took our information, gave us our visas, and sent us next door to get the vehicle permit. That involved waiting in line, being told by another man that we needed photocopies of the vehicle registration plus R's driving licence and passport - which we could obtain at the restaurant on the other side of the highway. We walked over there and waited while the lady behind the counter finished cooking and serving someone's lunch. Then she made the requisite copies and we walked back across the road, where a young lady sat down at her computer and entered all the information we gave her, took our $49.50 U.S., and gave us our Mexican vehicle registration. That didn't take care of the $22 each for our 6-month visas, so I asked her to take that money too, lest we forget. She did that, and she duly stamped our visas to prove we had paid for them. All this took over an hour - but the vehicle registration is good for 10 years.

The rest of the trip was unremarkable, if long. We quickly reacquainted ourselves with the Mexican road signs (Slow down – fasten your seat belt – don’t drive when you’re tired - don’t throw garbage - don’t molest the signs – picky, picky, picky!) The Sonoran Desert is as stunning as always, Hermosillo is no fun at all to drive through, and because of the delay at the immigration office, we drove straight into the setting sun again when we turned right at Hermosillo and headed for Bahia Kino. What was wonderful was that we actually knew where we were going, so that when the sun finally set, driving down the Kino road in the dark wasn’t a problem. Actually, it was a dream. The last time we were here, that road was under construction and it was a nightmarish trip. This time, we had a brand-new road with reflectors to guide us. Piece of cake. The office was closed when we got here, so we have pulled into any old spot for the night. In the morning we will go register and tell them where we really want to park. Already, one of the neighbours has come over to say he remembers us and to pass on some of the park gossip.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

January 9, 2007

Ajo, AZ. We drove from Kingman today after stopping in at K-Mart for some supplies. We arrived here in Ajo at 5 pm, marked our spot (#5 in the RV park behind La Siesta Motel - the same place we stayed last year), and drove to the local IGA, where we bought a roasted chicken for dinner. It's now not long after 6 pm, and we've already wolfed half the chicken - plus cole slaw and zucchini and corn. R is outside, trying to figure out how to connect the television cable when there are two male fittings. I'm inside the RV, drinking my green tea with jasmine, grumbling a little because there is no wi-fi here (how soon we become spoiled). Never mind. I'll do what I did in Nevada - post to Word for the next two nights, then copy the postings into my blog. I know there is wi-fi in Bahía Kino, and we will be there on the 11th.

The palette changed again today, growing more golden as we got closer to Phoenix. Then we turned south at Surprise, AZ. The first surprise was that the freeway exit came and went so fast, I missed it and had to turn around at the next intersection. The second surprise was that the pale desert was interrupted by fields of cabbage and maybe spinach- something very green, in any event. It was a bit of a shock. Things went back to normal soon, though, and we noticed that there was a real desert sky - sharp, clear blue with stripes of high cirrus cloud. There was one cloud that was larger than the rest, and it sported a rainbow - not a big arc, just a kind of wash on the cloud itself. Joshua trees by the hundreds appeared beside the highway, then palo verde and cholla, organ pipe cactus and saguaro, and I knew we had finally found our way to the desert. Just south of Gila Bend a new colour appeared. Do you remember the crayon called "burnt sienna"? Whoever decided to put that colour in the Crayola box had been to Gila Bend. There is a short, tough grass that grows in clumps along the roadside there, and it's just that shade. While I was looking at the burnt sienna and smelling crayons, I saw a Marian shrine at the side of the road, decorated with a shining silver garland and red Christmas ornaments.

It was a pleasure to arrive in Ajo and know exactly where we wanted to stay. It was a kind of homecoming, only briefly spoiled by the "No Vacancy" sign taped to the motel's office door. I went in anyway and asked whether there were any vacancies in the RV park, and there were. Two of them, and we only needed one! Phew.

January 10, 2007

Robin found a splitter this morning, so Fox News invaded the RV, announcing disasters and discussing the O'Donnell/Trump feud in excited voices. The weather channel showed pictures of wind damage on Whidbey Island, WA, making me worry about near and dear ones. Look after yourselves, folks.

It would be mean of me to mention the weather here, wouldn't it?

One of our neighbours at the park came over and re-introduced himself. He was here last year, vacationing more or less on the same schedule. He comes from Surrey, B.C. That just added to the sense of homecoming.

R bought the Mexican car insurance this morning, so we're all set to cross the border tomorrow. We have visions of Bahía Kino dancing in our heads. Meanwhile, there's that long bike ride from the library back to the park. I have to get into training for my tortilla runs in Kino.

Monday, January 08, 2007

We're in Kingman, AZ for the night, at the KOA. I'll post the journal from the last - what is it? three nights, I think.

January 5, 2007

We found out what the big mess on the highway at Reno was all about. A tractor-trailer had jackknifed on the road and brought all the traffic to a halt. We waited to leave Reno until the sun had heated the road, and we encountered very little ice along the way, at least on the road itself. We stopped for gas and R nearly froze to death standing at the pump in gale-force wind. The plan was to go to Death Valley today, but we didn’t quite make it. When we got to Beatty, NV, we saw an otherwise unimpressive RV park advertising a free mineral bath, and given the shape my back is in, that was too good an offer to resist. Besides, R had had to do most of the driving, so he was ready to stop as well. Along the road we saw the Ponderosa pines of yesterday give way to agave and brittlebush, and though the temperature barely topped the freezing mark even this far south, at least we are no longer driving past fields of snow. At one point we saw a raven fly across the road. Right afterward, we slowed down for an approaching wide vehicle, just in time for a coyote to run across the road in front of us. No roadrunner, just the coyote and the raven. Those have to be signs of something good to come, don’t they? We have both had more than enough of winter.

January 6, 2007

Stopping at Bailey’s RV Park turned out to be a very good idea. Last night the wind was fierce, and the temperature was below freezing, so we didn’t even attempt to check out the hot spring, which would have involved a stroll up the hill and possibly being blown into the next county and found frozen to a Joshua tree. Instead, we sat in the motor home, rocking in the wind, playing Scrabble until it was time to sleep, by which time the wind had died down some.

This morning we went exploring. Although the temperature was still -2C, there was no wind, so we felt brave. We went to the park office, a faded orange and white Dodge Jamboree camper parked at the base of the hill at the back of the park. Someone has painted RV OFFICE in red along the top of the camper. In case you miss that, there is a cheerful red and yellow wooden sign planted in front of the vehicle. It also reads RV OFFICE, but with the word WELCOME below it in white on a blue background. Beside the camper is a small wooden bench, atop which sit three keys attached to numbered wooden blocks. The keys open the doors to three different mineral baths. There are also three rocks to weigh the keys down, lest they also end up pasted to a distant Joshua tree, so if you go looking for a key and it isn’t there, you know that that pool is in use. If it is there, and you take it, you can be assured that you will have that particular pool to yourself.

I had pictured the spring looking something like the original one at Fairmont – a long, narrow bathtub hollowed out of the rock, with a surface like sandpaper. It isn’t that way at all. We went to #1, said to be the mid-temperature pool. We crossed a wooden bridge over a reed-filled stream – a ditch, really, which drains the hot water that gushes from a pipe below the baths. On the other side of the bridge we followed a hard dirt path up to building #1, climbed the steps to the porch, unlocked a brown wooden door, and found ourselves in a rather dank concrete block vestibule with benches along two walls and hooks on which to hang our clothing. R was way ahead of me. He was in the water while I was still dithering, and I heard him call “You’re going to love this!” Steam billowed into the vestibule. I undressed and walked over to the doorway, then down four steps into water that was deliciously warm – just teetering, for the first few seconds, on the edge of being too warm. The pool takes up the whole room, which is about 8x12 feet. The concrete walls give way to natural rock and gravel at the bottom, and at the top to a corrugated steel roof vented to allow steam to escape. We splashed and floated and stretched our aching muscles until we were thoroughly relaxed, and then we came back to The Turtle to have breakfast and head for Death Valley. Before we left the park, R reserved our spot for tonight and paid in advance. One visit to the spring just wasn’t going to be enough.

At 3 o’clock in the afternoon, I was sitting on top of a sand dune – but five hours earlier, we were already in Death Valley, more than 3000 feet below where we slept last night. We drove to Furnace Springs, where the Visitor Centre is, and where you pay your $20/vehicle admission fee (good for a week). We took the bicycles down from their rack for the first time on this trip, R cleaned them, and then we set off to explore. We visited Furnace Creek Ranch, which boasts a restaurant, saloon, golf course, stables, tennis courts, a post office, and a museum devoted to the history of mining in the valley. I decided I would like to send a post card to England, so we cycled back to the motor home. While I was writing, R pointed out two roadrunners strolling around in the parking lot. When I rode back to the post office on my own to mail the card, I had to move slowly, because a coyote was ambling across the road in front of me and he refused to be hurried. I guess he hadn’t noticed the roadrunners.

Our next cycle ride took us to a campground that reminded us of the state park at Lake Havasu. Taking the back way out, we found ourselves at the Visitor Centre again, so we decided to drive the motor home to Stovepipe Wells, to revisit the sand dunes where we walked two years ago.

Half an hour later, I left R sitting on a dune with the camera while I clambered on ahead. The temperature had risen to about 16C. I wore jeans and a t-shirt, hiking shoes and my water bottle belt. A couple of dunes away, I sat down and began to write in my notebook. I had tears in my eyes, overwhelmed once again by this place. Writing that postcard earlier in the day, I had said that R and I both love being in the desert, that there is a wonderful silence about it, not just for the ears but for the eyes as well. Now, sitting quietly alone, I realized that this particular place isn’t really silent. There is a quiet hum, almost a sigh, here. I listened to the hum, I watched the play of light and shadow on the distant dunes and hills, and I wrote “I feel like a pilgrim.”

January 7, 2007

On the way home from Death Valley yesterday, we stopped in bustling downtown Beatty at a shop that advertised Really Good Jerky. I didn’t want any jerky, but they also advertised desert honey, so I went in. I was allowed to taste the buckwheat, clover, and sage honey, and one that was called Gus & Nancy’s Really Good 100% Honey. That is the one I bought. It has a very rich taste that reminds me of Lyle’s Golden Syrup, and it is extremely thick. I have no idea what the bees fed on, but I’m going to go in and ask when we come back here on the way home from Mexico. It’s probably a “once around the apiary” special. I also bought a jar of Sicilian olives stuffed with garlic (delicious) and a bag of pistachios. We’ve got to get out of this place!

As I was leaving the shop, the proprietor – whose name is Ron, not Gus – asked me whether I had ever seen the mushroom on a $1 bill. Can’t say that I had. So he showed me. He folded the bill one way, then another, until the picture of George Washington was transformed into a picture of a mushroom. Very cool, I said. Had I ever see 9/11 on a $20? Rather apprehensively, I said no, I hadn’t. There ensued another flurry of folding that produced a semblance of the Twin Towers on one side, and the U.S. Capitol Building on the other. Hmmm, I said. I liked the mushroom better. Ron agreed. He asked whether we were staying in Beatty, and I told him we were at Bailey’s. His face brightened. “You’re at the hot spring? That’s great. You’re very lucky to be staying there.” He described our park manager as being a very spiritual man, a very good man, and asked me to send his regards – “Tell him Ron and Marcie said hello!” When we got home to Bailey’s, I passed his message on, and the manager responded by singing Ron’s praises in return. If you’re going to live in a small town, it should be like this one.

When the time came for our visit to the spring last night, we went back to #1, but on the way home we stopped in for a look at #3. It turned out to be even better than #1. We estimate you could get thirty people in that pool if you wanted to do such a silly thing. There is no vestibule – you walk in the door and the pool is there, on your left. There are benches and hooks along the wall on your right. The water is a little cooler than in #1, like a warm bath. I was standing by the wall as R walked down the mesh stairs, fully clothed, to check out the water temperature. Suddenly he cried out “Ooh- that water is so clear, I walked right into it!” I’m afraid I laughed (Bad wife!). I apologized, but I laughed, just the same. Then we walked back home, one of us sloshing a little, and propped R’s right shoe up to dry.

We played cards, and the wind rocked the RV again. It was like being on a ship at sea. Fortunately, things calmed down again before bedtime.

Today we drove back to Death Valley, but this time we headed straight for the dunes. I sat on a dune and wrote and read and met a couple of red ants. R went for a walk in the other direction and met a lizard. I rode my bike to the general store in Stovepipe Wells and back – twice. When it was time to leave, R started out 15 minutes early on his bike, and I went to pick him up. I had just about got to him when I was flagged down by a man who had (Why?) driven his car off the road and got stuck in the sand. He was from Ontario. I told him I would be back as soon as possible, drove on, picked R up, and told him the situation. We went back, tied the car to our back bumper (this is the royal We. It was really R that did it.) and pulled the fellow out. I did drive the RV for this part. As we were trying to help, another car came along, and those people stayed in case they were needed. Then the police came along, and they helped. A fine time was had by all, and the very embarrassed Ontarian went on his way. He was looking for the sand dunes, and I told him where they were. I hope he didn’t try to drive on them.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

After all that trouble with the internet last night, I suddenly had all the bandwidth I wanted, so I proceeded to upload my journal. I noticed this morning, though, that my firewall had been turned off. Hmmph. I don't remember doing that.

It's now about 11 o'clock on the 4th, and we are in the Shamrock RV Park in Reno, Nevada. We slept in until 7:30 this morning, so we didn't leave Yreka until 9:00 a.m. I drove the first part of the day, then we stopped at the Shasta Lake rest stop for our first on-the-road breakfast of this holiday (we ate in a restaurant yesterday morning) - I cooked veggie sausage patties, soft-boiled eggs, potatoes and peas left over from last night, sourdough toast with marmalade, and tea. While we were at the rest stop I went to use the public washroom, and there I met a lovely woman who turned out to be driving the semi parked near us. She told me that she had been awakened by a state trooper in Oregon, who advised her she had better chain up and get moving. She was somewhere the other side of Ashland at the time. Hearing her story, I was very glad we had pushed so hard and made it to Yreka!

At the rest stop there were ravens - huge, glossy blue-black, beautiful ravens strutting around in the parking lot. As we pulled out of the rest stop, I commented to R that I was feeling utterly content. A bit later, I think I saw a couple of jays disappear among the trees, but I wasn't quick enough to identify them properly. We also saw a squirrel and a couple of deer. As we moved southward, the deep green of the Pacific Northwest treescape grew greyer, and the olive tones I associate with California became more common. We even saw a few palm trees.

We didn't want to go all the way to Bakersfield before turning eastward, because that would add a full day to our journey to the Mexican border - so we turned east on Highway 44 near Redding. We stopped at Shingletown for fuel, and I saw that there was a post office - so we stopped to mail F's birthday card, which I had forgotten to drop off as we left home. I put the card down in front of the postmaster and asked for the price of postage to Canada. He told me, but also said I had to readdress the card in block letters. I asked why, but he had no idea. I even had to reprint the name. That is the rule for all mail gong to Canada. I assured him that we can read script up there, in case he had wondered (I think he had), and we both laughed. Who makes up these rules?

We (R and I, not the postmaster and I) climbed up to nearly 6,000 feet before descending toward Susansville where, we thought, we would be at a more comfortable elevation. Unfortunately, that was not the case. When we got to Susansville, having encountered some snow but nothing too worrisome, we found that we were still up well over 4,000 feet, and it was still snowing. Determined, we kept driving towards Reno, but it soon became apparent that we were driving into a blizzard. At 3:00 o'clock we stopped at yet another rest stop, this one on Hwy. 395. We pulled in between two tractor-trailers, one of them full of hay. I figured it would be warmer in there than out in the open. I made curried chicken and rice, and used the oven (our furnace du jour) to bake apples with raisins and brown sugar. We whiled away the hours playing rummy, reading, writing, and wondering what the night held in store. I made custard to serve over the baked apples. We resigned ourselves to spending the night there, running the oven to keep warm.

Well, that seemed to be the plan until we actually tried to go to sleep. Both our truckish neighbours abandoned us at some point, more trucks came and went, and traffic seemed to be moving okay on the highway, so instead of going to sleep, we set out again at 9:00 p.m. and drove on what had become clear roads, all the way to Reno. Suddenly there was no sand or salt on the road, the temperature was well below freezing, and a huge pile-up had occurred on the freeway, so we were diverted onto Exit 71. We had been planning to go to the KOA at the Hilton, but there was something called Shamrock RV Park a mile down the road on which we now found ourselves, so here we are. The office was closed, so we followed the instructions and parked in Slot F3. There was no sign informing us of the price, but our camping book lists the park as $28/night at this time of year. It's only a year out of date, so the charge shouldn't be too much of a shock. I'm voting to stay here an extra day to let the weather resolve itself and to give us a chance to rest, but I have a feeling we will be heading out before noon.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

We left home yesterday before noon, ran some last-minute errands, got into the line-up at Duke Point for the 12:45 p.m. boat. We were about fourth from the last vehicle to get into the line-up, and the guy behind us said we might well not get on. My, what an auspicious beginning to a holiday. We sat patiently and waited – and we got on. We were the last vehicle allowed to board, although there was a lot of space behind us on the bottom deck. My theory is that there were so many timber trucks on board, the boat was heavier than usual.

We arrived in sunny! Vancouver at 3 p.m., but it was at least 5 p.m. before we got across the border. We were held up by a particularly unpleasant Customs officer who asked where we were moving to. Moving?

“We’re not moving, I replied. “We’re vacationing – in Mexico.

“Oh. Where are you moving from?”

“We’ve come from Nanaimo, B.C.”

“What have you got with you?”

“Ummmm. We have a motor home full of stuff. What do you want to know about?”

“Do you have any food?”

Now you must understand that at no point during this exchange did our interrogator crack a smile. In retrospect, I wonder if he just hates RVers. Anyway,

“Yes, we have food.”

“What kind?”

“Again, we have all sorts of food. What kind of food are you worried about?”

I really should have just answered his questions completely, starting with “Underpants, bras, socks, shorts, jeans, shirts…then soy milk, evaporated milk, rice, coffee, tea…..” but I didn’t. I was too stunned to be a smartass. That’s probably just as well, though, isn’t it?

“Beef. Do you have any beef?”

Beef? Well, yes, but it’s cooked.

“Beef. Do you have any fruit?”

“Washington Braeburn apples.”

“Fruit. Take the orange paper and go inside.”

When we got into the office, we were greeted by a much friendlier man who nonetheless went out to the RV and stole half a dozen cans of Campbell’s Vegetable Beef Soup, four potatoes, two yams, and half a package of snap peas. It turned out that the snap peas were Chinese and therefore suspect, and the yams and potatoes bore no stamp of origin. The soup, of course, contained beef. They didn’t care about the pork, chicken, or eggs, and they let us keep the apples because they believed me when I told them (truthfully) that they were from Washington.

The man in the office said to me as I was leaving, “I hope I’m the worst person you meet on your vacation.” I assured him he wasn’t, and bit my tongue to keep from saying that the idiot at the booth was the worst.

After all that, we drove for hours. We tried twice to go to an RV park (two RV parks, that is), but they were impossible to find in the dark, so we ended up sleeping at a rest stop south of Olympia, Washington. We were very glad to stop, and we slept quite well.

January 3, 2007 – Yreka, California. We arrived here at 5:30 p.m., having been on the road since 6:30 this morning. We heard several rumours of snow to come, so we thought it best to drive as long as possible, hoping to get beyond the storm. We had rain and rain and more rain, but no snow as yet. On the other hand, the night is young. I didn’t realize we had wi-fi here at first, but when I plugged the computer in to write my journal, I was informed that there was internet available. I logged in, turned on Skype, got as far as calling J. in Nanaimo to tell her how far we had gotten, talked to her for a few minutes…and suddenly we were cut off, and now I can’t get back onto the internet. I’m not sure whether it is the storm that caused the problem (It’s now blowing up a gale out there) or whether I wasn’t supposed to have access to that network in the first place, and somebody noticed. Whatever it was, I’m now cut off again, so I’ll save this and post it another time.

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