Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Hill Country of Texas

June 28, 2009
We had the good fortune of our friends Kenny and Kathy’s offering us their Hill Country ranch near Junction, Texas. After acclimating to the Texas heat we visited San Antonio for a couple of days, New Braunsfel, and Georgetown seeing long-time friends along the way. Bruce and I ate at one of our favorite TexMex food chains, Pappasitos and stuffed ourselves.

BBQ in Blanco, Texas.

Eating-wise it seems I have discovered BBQ, blackberry cobbler and Texas ice tea. When we lived in Texas I rarely ate BBQ (only at Bruce’s request) and now it seems I can’t get enough, same with the ice tea.

Gravel roads on ranch property.

Meanwhile, we returned to the ranch for a week of total relaxation of reading and indulging in watching the Wimbledon Championships. There are no cars, no air traffic noise just the viewing of exotic game roaming during morning and evening walks, the Milkyway and Hill Country scenery: total peace and quiet. I would call this Texas Heaven.

You can't help but appreciate the outrageous Texas Pride.

After pigging-out at Pappasitos we walked along the famous San Antonio Riverwalk, we found it lovely but very crowded. This, and the Alamo, is the most frequented spot in San Antonio.

Llano, Texas memorializes WWI heroes.

Our good friends John and Sharon Kelley, we've sailed across the gulf a couple of times in their 52' Endeavor, Ariel Star.

Walking around Fredericksburg we found ourselves at an old Lutheran Church, unlike the churches in Mexico, the doors were closed to the public.

My girlfriends of 25 years...wow, we're ageless!

Everythang is big in Texas.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Somewhere in West Texas

June 19, 2009

The great thing about traveling via roadway is you get to see the topography change out your window: the evolutionary changes of certain plants and the subtle progression of territorial formations. Also the economy: certain areas produce certain things depending on the local resources; this is the case for Mexico, Guatemala and the US. We see wealthy and prosperous communities and the fallen and downtrodden that at one time had prosperity. In the US it seems the smaller towns are becoming sparser.

We have recently learned it is a much “greener” lifestyle to live in a populated area as oppose to the countryside. Supposedly, city dwellers have less of a carbon foot print. In cities, resources are funneled to support a larger populous compared to resources being diverted to homes outside a metropolis as it would take more piping, laying of electrical lines, cutting of roads, and land occupation. In the city less space is taken up to house people and the countryside is left alone to support whatever flora and fauna that may still exist. However, the ideal situation would be to have a self-contained home non-dependent on any community resource divergence….kinda like the Chiapaneca indigenous…humm..to hard of a life for us. What we would do without electricity, potable water and internet?

Before returning to the States I thought it would be easy to know where we wanted to live. The Mexican lifestyle (at least in Oaxaca and Chiapas) seems much healthier in terms of fresh food, having to be alert while driving, being in places that promote walking more than riding and forcing habitual conservation as a way of life. Electricity is outrageously expensive and tap water is not safe for consumption and in some areas you never know when a pipe may break or a bribed official may cut off the water. The Mexican culture promotes politeness, family closeness, a naturally strong work ethic starting from birth (resulting in independence), and the cleanest floors I’ve ever seen in my life. For the American-born, the Mexicans teach you patience…..albeit unintentionally. Vive Mexico!!

However, upon our return to the US I see the simple things in our country as a luxury: wide, smooth, well-maintained and well-signage roads, stop lights you don’t have to guess at and water…..sweet-potable-tap-water. I will never buy bottled water again…..unless I’m in Florida (tap water grows algae in a matter of hours). The roads are litter free, doors open automatically, bikes are for recreation and we haven’t seen a car yet that is older than 20 years (unless it’s spruced up). However, the over consumption and wastefulness is mind-boggling. Life seems easy in US. USA!! USA!!

Carlsbad Cavern decorations.

Traveling eastward we stopped at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. For any child or family this is a must see, as is the Grand Canyon. The USA’s National Parks are a fabulous recreational resource and they are here for the people of the world….beats Disney World hands down…es mas economico, tambien.

We ended up staying in Ozona, Texas on our way to the Hill Country. This West Texas town is off I-10 and has 3 hotels, the cheapest being Travelodge - $77 USDs. Compared to Mexico, this place is a dive for the price, but it beats sleeping in van in oppressive humidity. A good night’s sleep has it’s price.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Life in the Southwest

June 16, 2009

The more we explore Tucson, the more we like it. This area has so much to offer: hiking, biking, excellent tennis clubs, golfing, easily accessible national and state parks, Mt. Lemmon's pine forest which offers skiing in the winter (I'll believe it when I see it). If you want to get in shape and enjoy the outdoors doing so, this is the place to be. The one negative is the relentless sun...although my PNW friends would disagree. The dry heat is surprisingly tolerable as long as you're in the shade with a fan, but to stand or sit in the sun can be life-threatening: immediate by heat stroke or delayed by skin cancer. The intensity makes you run for shade. Hence the best parts of the day are before 9am and after 5pm. For a city of 1 mil (in the area) it is amazingly quiet and their street lights seem muted. This is a sleepy desert town and most residents appreciate the colorful sunset displays as noted by the prevalence of patios.

While hiking we saw 2 giant jack rabbits, they had to be at least 1.5 ft tall, I thought they were kangaroos.

Tomorrow we head to Texas to check out the Hill Country around San Antonio, a year of traveling has us longing for a place to settle....unsure of when and where....Mexico or the US?

Skeletal remains of Saguaro cactus.

Cool Mt Lemmon, at 9,000 feet, is one a hour drive from the hot desert floor.

Desert lizards are everywhere.

Short, strenuous trail gives beautiful city

Arizona National Golf Course in the foothills. One of Bruce's favorite golf courses

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Tucson Time

June 6, 2009

On our way from Flagstaff to Tucson with a stop in Sedona for a hike in the Red Rocks and BBQ lunch. Sedona is a beautiful city and obviously very affluent. It reminded us of Aspen. Porsches, Jaguars and Mercedes everywhere...and huge houses on huge lots. Many tourists here and the streets were very crowded. No recession here.

We hiked the 5-mile, Brin Mesa trail along with a couple of other trails that equated into a loop which was quite a treat. A moderately difficult trail, it wound through the forests, buttes and mesas northwest of Sedona. The red rock formations and desert shrubbery really adds to the place's uniqueness, plus the 4k foot elevation keeps the temps down a bit. It's easy to see why this is such a desirable place to live.

Back in Tucson, we settled into a casita at the La Posada Inn on Oracle. Very nice place to live for a couple of weeks. Small, private backyard that overlooks a par-3 golf course and rabbits, squirrels and birds everywhere.

Surprisingly, we have been talking about possibly buying a house here. I have always loved Tucson but Pat has had reservations about the sun and heat. My master plan to lure her into wanting to move here seems to be working. Home prices have been beat up pretty bad in Arizona. I suspect the prices will be even better next summer.

This morning we hiked to the 7 Falls in the Sabino Canyon Park; 8 miles of a moderate and beautiful hike through Bear Canyon and saguaro cacti. Pictures are better than words.....

Photo right: large birds' nest in fuzzy cactus.