Mobil- a great gift for every little girls room

Wednesday night our friends decided to thow us a farewell dinner at their new house. One last time we had an opportunity to admire the views of San Miguel together, sipping a margarita on their roof top. Of course we had a great time! Great food, great space and the most important- awesome company.

I decided to thank them for their generous gesture by making a mobil from recycled materials for their daughter Helena.

Materials used:

  • a small branch
  • toilet paper tubes
  • spray paint
  • glue
  • string
  • ribbon
  • pencil
  • ruler

 

The most labour intensive part is to make the flowers. You need to flatten all the tubes and mark 1 cm increments. Cut where you marked, you should get 7 or 8 petals from each roll. Glue them together, each flower takes about 6 petals to make.

Once they are all ready and dry, you can spray paint them on both sides. You could also use brush but it is going to take much longer. Spray paint your branch also and let dry.

The assembly:

Cut your string however you like it, I cut mine different lenghts because I like it to be slightly assymetrical.

Make holes in the opposite petals of the flowers and attch the strings. Once you have desired number of flowers on strings tie them to your painted branch.

Now all that needs to be done is attaching the ribbon on the opposite ends of the branch and hanging up on the ceiling. It is so light that it turnes with the slightest air movement:-) Happy mobil making!

 

Trek Updates

We haven’t had many chances to update our whereabouts lately.

I wrote about San Blas and Celestino, but those places are long forgotten. We had another two stops in Mexico. One in Las Glorias, near Los Mochis, where we had an opportunity for a three days camping experience, almost right on the beach in a real nice Mexican resort (Mr. Moro). The price was right, the amenities solid, the sunsets beautiful, the only one problem were… motorists on the beach. In Mexico, the new rich get their pick-ups, ATV’s and other loud nonsense vehicles and race along the coast. You’ve got to be real careful, as the traffic resembles that of Livonia’s peak hours on the Big Tree Road – i.e. a vehicle every few seconds, which is not enough to call it a jam, but enough to make you look twice before crossing the street. Mexicans enjoy much greater personal freedom and liberties than people in the United States or other “first world” countries, but some don’t seem to realize the responsibilities that come with it. In Celestino, the ATV owners turned the beach into a race track, oblivious to the fact that it is a habitat of many creatures, including the endangered sea turtles. Not to mention, pissing the home owners off big time. Their properties value doesn’t appreciate as fast as if it would, if the amateur races weren’t that popular.

The other place we visited along the coast was San Carlos, near Guaymas, a little south from Hermosillo. Nice town, but has long lost it’s Mexican feel. It’s an All American Pacific resort town, where all signs are in English. Everything is twice as expensive as in Central Mexico, but the relative closeness to the US border attracts a lot of snow birds from Canada and US southern states of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. Apparently for people living closer to the border, the US travel warnings are not as scary…

The next stop should have been the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, but when we crossed the border in Lukeville, we were very disappointed to find out that the border region is lacking the basic amenities and food supplies we were in need for. The park is right past the border, so is the campground. However, any sensible stores are only 40 miles north. We had to rethink that idea. Do we really want to stay at a very remote park in the middle of the dessert to enjoy amazing star gazing, and… add 80 miles to our trek or we continue on to Phoenix. We chose the later…

We arrived in Phoenix late at night and stayed one night at the Estrella Mountain Regional Park, south of town and then moved to Lake Pleasant, in it’s north part. The views were wonderful, but the temperatures were killing us. From 8.00 AM to sunset, the heat pouring from the sky made us feel like living on a frying pan. Unbearable, we thought, pack our gear and moved on.

On Saturday night we arrived in Grand Canyon and that’s were we spent the last few days. Pictures aren’t ready yet (not uploaded), therefore you’ll have to wait a bit for us to truly catch up on our updates.

The next stops will be Bryce and Zion, then we’ll continue west towards Las Vegas, Death Valley and Yosemite.

In the Desert the Beasts Come Out at Night

They say you learn something new every day…..or night in this case. We were woken up in the middle of the night by noise coming from the grabage containers. Rackoons, we thought who else… in rare cases bears, coyotes or maybe bobcats… We were quite astonished to clearly distinguish the sound of hooves on the pavement. Puzzled we looked outside to find donkeys passing by our tent. Yes, in Arizona there are hords of wild DONKEYS roaming through the trash:-0 And there was a big pile of poop to prove it in the morning:-)

Mexico City

Sitting at San Carlos’ oceanside, getting ready to leave the country, I’m realizing how many posts from our travels around this country remain unwritten to this day. I think I wanted to make them special, just as the places we visited, but in the influx of activities, they just remained forgotten. We’ve got the pictures uploaded to Picasa, so it would be a great shame if I didn’t at least post them.

So chronologically, after visiting Cholula and Teotihuacan, we arrived at Mexico’s capital. Obviously we’ve been warned about odd and even days driving allowances, speed kidnappings, pickpockets and thousands of other dangers in Mexico City. Fortunately, we’ve been spared any of them. We found a nice, inexpensive, little hotel in downtown and used it as a base for our unlawful escapades throughout the city.

I have to admit, driving in Mexico City is no fun, especially downtown where it is easy to get stuck in traffic jams on the narrow one way streets. But with a little imagination and vigor, you can easily maneuver your way out of almost any trouble. Driving in Mexico, just like driving in any large city is about concentration and… charisma. You just need to be less of a gentleman and remember that the traffic speeds are much slower than on a highway…

During our stay, we had just about enough time to visit El Zocalo, the city’s main square with Templo Mayor (remains of an old Aztec temple), Palacio Nacional (presidential palace, full of shiny objects and decorated with Diego Riviera’s murals) and the Cathedral, then took a subway to the Bosque de Chapultepec, where we took a long walk in the park, but also visited the Museum of Anthropology (the Maya “calendar” anyone?) and Papalote Museo Del Nino (a cross over between a movie theather, planetarium, museum of science, museum of play and a huge playground). Following my wife’s “strong suggestion”, we also spent a few hours in Casa Azul, the house where Frida Kahlo used to live with her husband Diego Riviera (and for some time also with Leon Trotsky).

We’ve only seen a small fraction of all the tourist attractions Mexico City has to offer. In order to visit all of them, we would need not three days, but probably three years… I think we will need to come back for more!

Around The World in Soccer Mom Mobile

Following our emergency evacuation from San Blas, in the middle of Semana Santa, we headed north along the coast of Sea of Cortez. About four hours later, we arrived in Celestino, a small fishing village right off route 15D. Quite surprisingly, there were several campgrounds, right on the beach and we were lucky enough not to settle in the first one we’ve came across. Celestino RV park, owned and operated by Chris and Marissa is a US style gravel campground, offering all hookups, electric service, clean bathrooms with hot water showers at the lowest price we’ve seen so far. We decided to stay for three nights, especially as we only needed to pay for two…

Celestino RV Park doesn’t have much to offer in terms of tourist attractions. It’s just a gravel beach front lot with amazing sunsets and very decent star gazing opportunities. Doesn’t have a pool, not even an Internet connection, just the bare necessities for motorized campers. What it does provide is peace and quiet. Even in the midst of Semana Santa, all park guests are in their coaches right after sunset, all you can hear at night is just the sound of waves crushing on shore and you wake up in the morning to the singing concerto of exotic birds flying all over colorful bushes and palm trees bordering the campground.

When we arrived Chris, the owner welcomed us at the entrance. Hearing that we are from Poland, he mentioned that a couple from the Czech Republic pulled in the day before. We found them without problem and parked right next to their shiny, fully armored Toyota Land Cruiser, covered in maps of the World and hand written marks showing the route they’ve covered. Our neighbors started in Europe and after conquering the African off roads shipped the car to Southern America, where starting from Cape Horn were already more than half way to Alaska. From there, they plan to continue their trek through Russia back home. Their vehicle, rather plain in terms of modern day technology, looked quite impressive with weld-on aluminium containers, roof-top spare tires, stainless steel plates covering the hood and countless devices mounted all over the car. Our dusty, soccer-mom mobile wasn’t quite a match.

That made me think how ill equipped we really were for this journey. We did fairly well in the States where the National and State Parks provide all amenities to weekend camping warriors like us. Every camp site has a fire place, a picnic table, water and electric hookups, sometimes a grill and even wi-fi internet coverage. There are laundry facilities, clean bathrooms, hot showers and camp stores if you run out of supplies. In Mexico, most campgrounds offer just the basics: mostly run down, incomplete and not very clean toilets, showers with occasionally warm’ish water and… that’s about it. Those handy propane bottles fueling our camp lights and portable stove are not available in Mexico, so our cooking abilities are severely impaired. Even a morning cup of coffee becomes quite a challenge and turns into an hour long hunt for a nearby coffee shop (usually ends up on a gas station). Our portable cooler doubles as a picnic table, even though it really gets messy when we forget to pull something out of it ahead of time.

Despite being on the road for quite a while now and spending considerable amounts of time putting up and folding down the tent, we still didn’t quite figure out the routine. Somehow, on the travel days, we can’t seem to get our act together quickly enough to cover some distance in the daylight. Usually we can’t leave the campground before noon. True to our motto, we sleep longer, then struggle for a shot of caffeine, mess around with breakfast, clean after ourselves, dress up and eventually start packing. And even though we’ve done it hundreds of times already, some of us are still standing clueless faced with the complexity of few poles and a piece of fabric.

How did we make it so far…?

Semana Santa

Semana Santa, the Holy Week preceding Easter, the Mexican Spring Break is one of the more fiestive periods in Mexican calendar. We have been warned, that most Mexicans from the interior of the country will join the Occupy movement declaring all beaches and coastal areas free from boredom and liberated from any rules. Despite spending five months in San Miguel de Allende, a city which knows how to party, we truly didn’t expect what we were about to experience…

We arrived in San Blas on Monday, which gave us couple of fairly calm, although painfully aware of mosquitoes days to explore the town. Ignorant of it’s history and past importance for the entire western hemisphere, we thought San Blas is just one of many small, sleepy coastal communities like many in this part of Mexico. At that time, we didn’t realize that San Blas was the first, once fairly large, very powerful and influential port on the Sea of Cortez. In fact, if it wasn’t for the Mexican naval base, we wouldn’t have known that there was a port at all! The fishermen in their little boats with outboard engines account for about the whole maritime traffic in this area. Inhabited today by roughly ten thousand people, it’s hard to imagine, this community was once several times larger and under the orders of the Spanish crown, ruled this part of the World.

We used the time before arrival of hordes of Mexican party-goers to discover the town. This actually took us only few minutes – there isn’t much beyond the main square and a few blocks in either direction. The time saved on sightseeing, we spent relaxing on the beach, taking surfing lessons and exploring miles of sand dunes.

On Wednesday, the amok started. Our campground, empty when we arrived, quickly flooded with hundreds of people. Most of them arriving in groups of twenty or more – usually in just one or two vehicles. The small family of iguanas, who lived in the bathrooms got quickly evicted and the palace has been conquered by Mexican women getting ready for their night on town. And I mean the entire night, not just a lousy evening, but literally the whole night. After dusk, the entire downtown area has been turned into an open air disco, with people drinking, dancing and (unfortunately) singing until dawn, at which time the party moved from downtown to the beach, where continued uninterupted until the following dusk. Then the cycle started anew. For five days in a row, the town, the beach, the campground were all ruled by forces of chaos and the Mexican fraction of the Occupy movement. I doubt if there is any affiliation…

Seeing the amount of people on the beach, we decided to escape the crowds. Fortunately, in a nearby village of La Tabera, there is a small farm of cayman crocodiles, a perfect attraction for the underage members of our crew. They loved the ride on the river in a small motor boat, seeing all kinds of wildlife was just a minor addition and didn’t really affect the experience. In fact, the most interesting part of a visit to a crocodile farm, filled with huge caymans, a jaguar and a few other, exotic species was… feeding the fish. Even the pond with crystal clear water and a tree branch swing couldn’t compete.

Two nights of passive partying was about all we could handle. On Friday morning we packed our stuff and kissed the midget mosquitoes goodbye. I’m sure we won’t miss them, even if we were to painfully remember them for several more days.

The Journey Isn’t Over Until It’s Over

We are out of San Miguel de Allende and on our way back to reality, looking for a job, exploring different options. That however, does not mean the adventure is over. The way I look at it, we are starting yet another episode of this Family Sabbatical Road Trip. Tonight I’m sitting at a picnic table at Los Cocos, a campsite in San Blas, small coastal town in Riviera Nayarit. In the rare and very short moments of truce, between treacherous attacks of some kind of midget mosquitoes, I find just enough clarity in my mind to realize that excluding our European episode, this surfer’s paradise is probably the most distant from Rochester during our trek. We are far from home and it took us nine months to get here. Granted, five of them we’ve spent grounded in the most picturesque of Mexico’s colonial towns, but it means it will still take another four before we truly get back. And we don’t plan on taking the shortest route either…

As much as I liked it in San Miguel de Allende, I think I’m also the most content that finally we are moving (…and we’re grooving) again. We started to feel very comfortable there, so before we got too attached, we decided to hit the road.  We left on Friday heading south towards Ixtapa and the first stop was… Roca Azul, a little dated resort in the town of Jocotepec, on the west coast of Lake Chapala, about 20 miles south from the outskirts of Guadalajara. Because of a failed arrangement, at the last moment we decided to skip the beach resort town and head directly West instead. Well, I guess this blog isn’t called Wanderlust for no reason…

We stayed in Jocotepec for three nights, enjoying the pools, getting re-adjusted to sleeping in a tent and making friends with a very nice family from Puebla. We liked it there and despite fairly low temperatures at night, got some decent rest – must be the fresh air, coupled with the tranquility of the neighborhood. That’s a welcome change from the constant fiestas of San Miguel.

From there we kept on pushing West, all the way to the Pacific Ocean. We arrived in San Blas on Monday afternoon, planning to stay for two nights and escape the Semana Santa (Easter Week) craziness using a ferry from Mazatlan to La Paz on Baja California. The plan backfired, when we tried to make a reservation for the Sea of Cortez crossing. There are two companies (that we know of) that offer the service – Baja Ferries and Ferry TMC. The first one is an overpriced tourist carrier, the second is a freight shipping company that can accommodate some tourists at significantly lower rates. Unfortunately Ferry TMC doesn’t allow young children on board, and Baja Ferries is booked until mid next week anyway. Since we need to leave Mexico in about two weeks, it means that we’ll have to skip Baja and instead head north towards US border in Nogales.

A little disappointing, for us who already failed once, 12 years ago trying to get from Baja to mainland Mexico, and for the kids who were thrilled about the idea of a sea passage. But that isn’t necessarily all bad news. After traversing Baja we were planning on a “side trip” back East to Grand Canyon, Zion, Brice, Las Vegas, etc… before returning to California and continuing north to Oregon before turning east on the final descent to Rochester. Skipping Baja means going straight up to Arizona, saving a fair amount of money on gas and the ferry tolls. Money which converts to additional weeks in Yosemite or Yellowstone. Baja can wait – maybe when the kids get a bit older we will do the peninsula on motorcycles…. and maybe we’ll finally get to cross the Sea of Cortez on a ferry…

That’s why today, we decided to extend our stay in Riviera Nayarit for a few extra days. We don’t need to hurry anymore, there is no “train” to catch, we will be beach bums again. We can relax on the beach, take a few surfing lessons, eat marlins, langustas and other seafood treasures at bargain prices. The beach is much nicer then Costa Esmeralda, although nowhere near as beatiful as Riviera Maya. Los Cocos has free WiFi Internet, so I can spend nights drawing maps of our future adventures (or these boring updates). Agnieszka and kids are sound asleep, only midget mosquitoes, giant iguanas and chihuahua size cockroaches keep me company. From a distance I can hear that San Blas has officially kicked off Semana Santa festivities. The whole town is singing aloud (and not necessarily clear)…

So, to paraphrase Yogi Berra’s words: The journey isn’t over until it’s over! Take it with a grin of salt..;-)

Las Puertas de San Miguel

Architecture of San Miguel de Allende is stunning. There are several gems that form the ambiance of this beautiful town. Amongst them libraries, government buildings, restaurantes, hotels, houses and churches of course. Most are colonial style with neoclassical and neo-gothic details. Combining all that with cobblestone streets an achitectual jewel was born, loved by tourists but impossible to walk on in high hills:-)

When I got to San Miguel de Allende, the focus of my camera was on doors. Some old, labouriosly carved of wood, others simple made of metal or intricately decorated, all very beautiful, eye catching and tempting setting the tone for what’s inside. This gallery is 5 moths old, patiently waiting to be published, I finally decided it is the right time. To say goodbye to georgeus San Miguel that will stay in my heart forever:-)