Monday, December 1, 2003

Log 15 - Inland Mexico by RV and Train. Final Boat Preparations for Cruising

This log covers October 15th to November 30th, 2003 where we head inland to take in Mexico's Copper Canyon at Creel.  Then it's back to s/v Tioga for final preparations for our next cruising season.  

Saturday, October 18th, 2003 - Virgin de Guadalupe

After dropping off an RV full of boat supplies at Tioga, we headed south and inland with the RV for a couple of weeks.  We passed this shrine along the way, which we found out to be one of many shrines in Mexico of the Virgin of Guadalupe.  In 1531, the Virgin Mary appeared to Juan Diego, an Aztec peasant just north of Mexico City.   Subsequently, devotion to the Virgin among the indigenous spread rapidly, and within six years 9 million Indians had been baptized as Catholics in central Mexico.  As the patron saint of Mexico, the Virgin of Guadalupe is revered by millions of Mexicans.

Massive shrine while driving. 

Saturday, October 18th - Alamos Centro and Taco Stands

Our first destination inland was the beautiful colonial town of Alamos.  In the late 1700s, it was the supply and cultural center of this once rich silver mining area.  Today, many of the impressive colonial homes and other buildings have been restored.  The town square or Zocalo is always the center of activity and we're in search of yet another great taco!

Alamos taco stand

Monday, October 20th - Tortilla Machine

Poking around Alamos's narrow cobblestone streets, we stuck our heads in this business' door and watched as they made wheat tortillas.

One of many ways to make tortillas

Monday, October 20th - Casa de Maria Felix, Alamos

Many homes in Alamos with traditional interior courtyards have been beautifully restored and are available for viewing.  We stumbled across this one, now owned by a Canadian women from Vancouver.   Now operated as an Inn, it turns out to be the birthplace of Maria Felix, Mexico's most famous and fibrant actress.  Our host told us how late one night last April the shutters banged for 3 hours with no explanation.  The next morning, she learnt that Maria had died that previous night.  Try Casa de Maria Felix for an unique getaway!

Casa de Maria Felix

Just Pretty Pictures

Colonial colors

Simply a beautiful place to explore. 

Tuesday, October 21st - Estudientes Musica (Students)

Mexicans take music very seriously and it is a most noble profession.  These students performed at a nearby hotel and were so good we bought their CD.  The age range in the group is from 12 to 27 and it is, in a sense, an apprenticeship of learning.  Though they were all very talented, the young man playing the tambourine did amazing things with such a simple instrument, it was literally flying with his fingers!

Music students perform in a hotel courtyard

Friday, October 24th - Ferromex to Creel

After Alamos, the next stop for us was the town of El Fuerte, where we left the RV and caught the Chihuahua-Pacific train, which runs deep through some of the most rugged and scenic terrain in the country, connecting Los Mochis on the Gulf of California to the state of Chihuahua. Also known as the Copper Canyon railway, the line has 39 bridges and 86 tunnels along its 655 km (407 mi) route.  Our destination was the old mining town of Creel, a popular base from which to explore the Copper Canyon.  On the train, we were able to walk between cars and stop to view the sights while standing outdoors.  Talk about your 'Old Western' movie feeling!

Catching the Copper Canyon Express!

Friday, October 24th - The Copper Canyon

Covering an area four times the size of Arizona's Grand Canyon, the Barrancas del Cobre region is spectacular.   While the Grand Canyon is the result of downcutting by a single river through a region of massive uplift, the Copper Canyon is the work of many rivers cutting through the craggy, forested mountains creating a series of five interlocking canyons, covered in snow during winter and exploding with color during the rainy summers.

Barrancas del Cobre

Saturday, October 25th - Town of Creel

High amid the stunning peaks and gorges of the Sierra Madres, lies our destination, the small village of Creel.  For the two nights we spent here, we stayed at Margarita's Casa, somewhat of a convergence zone for international backpackers.  It was a neat experience mingling with the many young travelers.  It reminded us of our trip to Europe in 1984/85.

Town of Creel

Lack of infrastructure makes the area difficult to explore without a vehicle.  Through Margarita's, we arranged a tour into the countryside, winding down some of the countless dirt roads that connect the remote corners of the vast canyons and catching some great views.  Fifty thousand Tarahumara Indians still live in the mountains surrounding Creel, living the old way as they have done for thousands of years.  We see their huts and corn fields often.  Theirs' was never a big civilization like the Aztecs or Mayans but they managed to ward off all the Spanish incursions until well into the 20th century.

Winding road with views.

Copper Canyon vista

It's a long way down.

Sunday, October 26th - Return to Tioga II

Well the trip to Creel and the Copper Canyon was quick, but we have a long 8-hour train ride back to El Fuerte and the RV.  All in all, we're glad we made the excursion.  Thankfully, we made a taxi reservation before we left and our driver, Alahondra, is waiting at the station for us when we return late in the evening, tired and cold after a long journey.   The next day, we leave El Fuerte and head back to San Carlos and the boat.

Chihuahua Pacific Railway

Friday, October 31st - Boo!

Not knowing if we'd find pumpkins in Mexico, we bought a couple before leaving Tucson.

On the big day, we carve them to the sounds of  spooky music CDs before we trick or treat with three other cruising families in a local neighborhood.  In Mexico, this day is El Dia de Los Muertos; The Day of the Dead.  It's followed by All Souls' Day to commemorate the deceased so they might "rest in peace."  Popular belief states that on the Day of the Dead, the spirits of the dead return to commune with the living.  Families leave offerings for these spirits, attend fiestas dressed in costumes, and clean or decorate the graves of deceased family members.  It's a very important Mexican holiday.

Our second Halloween abroad

November - getting the boat ready for another season

Well, enough for play. The month of November was an incredible amount of work for us.  In addition to unloading the RV and getting it ready to sell, we had to haul Tioga out for new bottom paint and to raise her waterline.  Then we had a number of storage projects to complete, provisions to put away, repairs to make, drop the RV in Tucson, etc. We don't know where the time went, but when it's all done, we're feeling good about Tioga, our home.

Taking care of business below the (new higher) waterline

Tioga goes back in the water. 

6:48am Saturday, November 15th - Yellowtail Jack

Sometimes, when you're working so hard on getting the boat back together, you forget where you are.  Here, Joel & Chris take time to do some early morning fishing, trolling off a nearby rocky point.

Early mornin' fishin'

Joel and a fellow cruise

Joel went out fishing pretty much every morning with a local cruiser on the dock.  Here he and Gerrit display his latest catch.  Our freezer is now full with these great tasting yellowtail jacks that Joel managed to catch every time!

Our freezer is officially full!

Friday, November 28th - Leaving Tomorrow

Well, that's the end of this log.   Chris made it safely back from Tucson, after dropping the RV at a consignment lot.   From a hill overlooking the marina where Tioga sat for the last four months, we ponder the upcoming cruising season and are excited to get going.  We've got 4000 miles to do this season, through Central America including a transit of the Panama Canal, then up to Florida.  Perhaps another year from now we'll be in Europe.  Time will tell.

Marina Real, San Carlos, Mexico

 Stay-tuned for Log 16 and Christmas in Zihuatanejo.

Monday, October 20, 2003

Log 14 - Southbound Through the Western USA with Tioga II

This blog covers September 11th to October 14th, 2003 as we depart Canada and travel south through the State of Washington and out to and down the Oregon Coast.  From there we visit the California Redwoods,  Napa wine country, Yosemite, Ancient Bristlecone Pines, Las Vegas, and back to Tucson before returning to Mexico.

September 11, 2003 - Good-bye Canada

After almost two months visiting friends and family in Canada, it was time to head south again.  This is the marina in Victoria, BC where it all began over a year ago as we  departed from here to set us up for our offshore passage to San Francisco.

Victoria harbor.
Sunday, September 14th - Seattle, Washington

We are glad to arrive in Seattle and have a terrific week-end with friends from s/v Chaika, a family we met last year cruising.  They are now back on the ground after their year cruising and were kind enough to show us some of their favourite spots in Seattle.  Here, we all marvel at the colourful bouquets in the downtown market.

Gerrit, Sheila, Joan & Katherine at the Seattle Market

Thursday, September 18th - The forest just west of Portland, Oregon!

Our next stop takes us to Portland to visit another cruising family we met last year from the s/v Swallow.  They too are now back on the ground again and busy with the family business.   Pam and Peter manage forested lands west of Portland.  The trees are harvested in a sustainable manner that has earned the family awards for responsible timber management. This day, Peter needed to  locate and map a creek that cuts across their property so we head out to help.  After an enjoyable day foraging the river banks, we have a tea in this little cabin on the property.
Peter and Pam - s/v Swallow

Saturday, September 20th - The Oregon Coast -  Back to the Ocean!

It is great to be back at the ocean again and the sand dunes are a real treat! The drive down the Oregon coast has given us a much different perspective than we experienced last year as we sailed down it!  It is very rugged.  No wonder we stayed as far off it as possible in our boat!  As we watch and listen to the waves crashing on the rocks, we joke about how your perspective can change dramatically depending upon where you are. Last year it would have terrified us to be anywhere near this rocky, unforgiving coast. One person's paradise is another's nightmare!!
Gerrit and Joel run wild and free!

Monday, September 22nd - Sand Rails for Sheila's birthday

The sand dunes along the Oregon coast were very unique, like none we had ever seen before.  We hired a driver and a sand rail and went for the ride of our lives.  Our driver was great as we would literally drive across vertical surfaces and then scream along at high speeds, up one dune and down the next.  He freaked us all out as we flew to the top of a 300' high dune only to fake we could not quite make it and rolled us backwards the whole way down as fast as we came up!    Talk about your heart stopping ride.
Our family sand railing in the dunes of Oregon.
Mexico had a number of hurricanes this year, including two that hit the popular cruising location of La Paz near the south end of the the Baja Peninsula.  The first, Ignacio, (shown here over La Paz) put a couple of boats on the beach.  The second, Marty, devastated the area on September 22, including Marina de La Paz where 80 boats were sunk or damaged and the marina destroyed.  Marty continued up the Sea of Cortez and hit near San Carlos, where our boat was stored for the hurricane season.  Luckily, our pre-departure preparations had been thorough and our boat only sustained minor scratches.   However, a number of other boats weren't so fortunate. Hurricanes are a fact of life and we must plan our cruise accordingly such that we clear the hurricane zones every July through October.
Hurricane Ignacio - The eye of the storm.

Friday, September 26th - Redwood National Park, California

Redwood National Park was created in 1968 to protect the world's tallest living trees, which at that time were being feverishly harvested.   There are 3 state parks within the national park boundaries, which form a World Heritage Site.  We spent  time in the Prairie Creek State Park and thoroughly enjoyed the fragrant hikes among these beauties
Gerrit, Joel and Chris

Friday, September 26th - A walk in the tall Redwoods

Trying to take pictures in a forest such as this does not do any justice whatsoever to the real grandeur of ones' surroundings.  These giant Coast Redwoods grow to nearly 370' tall, and can live up to 2000 years, though average 500-700 years, grow to 22 feet in diameter and encase themselves in bark that is 12" thick.  The forest's mild, moist climate assures abundant and diverse wildlife.
Joel, Sheila and the Giant Redwoods.
A seriously big tree. 

Thursday, October 2nd - Welcome to Yosemite National Park

Yosemite National Park embraces a great track of scenic wildlands set aside in 1890 to preserve a portion of the Sierra Nevada that stretches along California's eastern flank.  We arrived just before a weekend to just barely grab a campsite in this largely reservation-only park.
Yosemite...home of El Capitan and Half Dome

After our arrival, we rented bikes as it's easy to cover ground in the valley with paved trails and little elevation changes.  We managed to see much more than our legs would have seen. We all really enjoyed being back on a bike and began to chat about the bike we'd have once done our boating trip.
Great day exploring on bikes.
Yosemite Valley is a great example of a glacier-carved canyon.  The dramatic scale of its waterfalls, rounded domes, massive monoliths, and towering cliffs has inspired painters, photographers, and millions of visitors (including us!).  Shown here, El Capitan's sheer walls attract experienced rock climbers from around the globe.   It takes about three days and nights to scale the vertical rock face. We strain to see the climbers as small dots with our naked eye and then get closer looks through the binoculars. With the binoculars, we can literally see the colorful canvas of the beds a hiker would sleep in right there on the side of the mountain!!
El Capitan.

Friday, October 3rd - Tuolumne Grove of Giant Sequoias

Also within Yosemite park boundaries are a number of Giant Sequoias groves.  The largest of all living things, these towering trees have endured for thousands of years.  Though not quite as tall as Coast Redwoods, their bases are almost double at up to 40', and they live to 3200 years.
Joel, Gerrit and Sheila

Saturday, October 4th - TIOGA Pass

As we departed Yosemite, we just had to take the scenic Tioga Road through Yosemite's high country, passing by sparkling lakes, colorful meadows, sluffing domes, and lofty peaks.  At this location, Tioga Pass, the road crosses the Sierra Nevada's crest at 9945' and we begin a steep decent (6000') down a road cut into sheer mountain faces toward the deserts of Nevada.  After quite a few cool nights,  we begin to feel the desert heat rising up into the foothills.
Tioga Pass!

Sunday, October 5th - The Trees that Rewrote History - Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest, CA.

Standing as ancient sentinels high atop the White Mountains of the Inyo National Forest at nearly 11,000 feet, the Great Basin Bristlecone Pines rank as the oldest trees in the world and have immense scientific importance, as well as cultural and scenic value. There are many trees in this area 4000 years of age and still growing!  Look up dedrochronology.  From these trees, scientists have assembled a continuous tree-ring chronology extending nearly 10,000 years that has been instrumental in correctly calibrating faulty radio-carbon (C-14) dating.  As a result, some artifacts discovered in Europe have been redated to a 1000 years or more older than previously thought hence historians have had to reinterpret the order of events throughout the Mediterranean and European areas.
Ancient BristleConePines

Monday, October 6th - And now for something completely unnatural...Las Vegas!  

What a place.  Bright neon lights shine through the night in Las Vegas advertising casinos, hotels, clubs, bars, and other businesses. Las Vegas was a small town until gangster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel changed the city’s character forever by constructing its first lavish hotel-casino in 1945, the Flamingo.  With plenty to offer non-gambling tourists and pleasant temperatures, we all had a great time.
The Mirage Volcano - Las Vegas
Slot machines. Though kids aren't allowed to loiter in the hotel casinos, they can pass through.   Chris quickly demonstrated to the boys how these machines 'ate money'.  He would drop a coin in, push the spin button, grimace, drop-in another coin, push and grimace, ...
Slot machines.

Friday, October 10th - Lake Havasu City, Arizona

A couple of hours south of Vegas on Arizona's Colorado River we stopped for the night at Lake Havasu City, whose claim-to-fame is their purchase of the London Bridge from the city of London in 1968 for $2.5 million.  It took another 3 years and $4.5 million to transport and rebuild the bridge at this location.
The original London Bridge.

Saturday, October 11th - the Loop is Completed - Tucson AZ Again

104 days later, we cross our outbound track and return to our initial US staging ground of Tucson.   Tucson is significant to us as it's the last major stop before re-entering Mexico and we still have a number of items on our lists to purchase.  This picture shows a typical front-yard in Arizona, where home-owners here are as proud of their cacti as others are of their flower-beds.
A typical Tucson yard.

Tuesday, October 14th - Back in Mexico!

Well, we made it back into Mexico, RV loaded with supplies and boat parts for another cruising season.  Our plan now is to make a quick stop at the boat to drop some things off, then go inland for a couple of weeks.
Nogoles, Mexico
Stay tuned for Log 15 where we visit some old colonial sights and take a train to Creel in the heart of the Copper Canyon.

Tuesday, September 16, 2003

Log 13 - Family & Friends in Canada

This blog covers from July 18th - September 11th where we have a great time visiting and reconnecting with  family and friends.  From Calgary, to the family farm, Edmonton and out to the west coast, so nice to see everyone.

Saturday, July 19th - Back on Brooklyn Crescent - Calgary, Alberta

Well, back in Canada and it didn't take very long to start catching up with friends.   Mike, an avid Volkswagen nut, is delighted with his new Christmas tree ornament.   It's from Puerto Vallarta, Mexico where he and his family visited us last Christmas.
Mike, Chris and Funtz

Sunday, July 20th - A surprise get together!! - Calgary, Alberta

Though caught slightly off guard, this surprise get together allows us to visit with many people at once.  The kids pick up right where they left off!
Chantelle, Sylvanna, Erin, Randy, Melanie, Jeremy, Jacob, Joel and Matti

Tuesday, July 22nd - Alberta Children's Hospital - Calgary, Alberta

Gerrit's check up with his endocrinologist, Dr. Trussell, allows us the opportunity to catch up with his diabetic team.  We should have been scheduled for the last appointment rather than the first as we apparently put them behind schedule for the entire day!
Joel, Sheila, Gerrit, Dr. Trussell and Chris

Wednesday, July 23rd - Glenmore Reservoir Race Night - Calgary, Alberta

A tradition when we lived in Calgary was Wednesday night racing.  Though the winds were light tonight, we wouldn't have missed it!
Sheila and Joel crew for s/v Reggae

Joel, Sheldon, Graham and Gerrit have a great time. 
Tuesday, July 29th The Winter Club Pool - we have so many friends to try and see...our life is busier than ever fitting them all in. 

Strathmore Stampede stands.
Saturday, August 2nd, 2003 Strathmore Chuck Wagon races - we always used to enjoy these races and since we missed the famous Calgary Stampede, Strathmore is a close second where we see all the regular racers including Kelly Sutherland.  

Thursday, August 7th - The Linde Farm - Breton, Alberta

We are all very excited to arrive at 'The Farm'.  Grandma Linde enjoys a long over due hug from Joel.
Joel, Grandma Linde, Gerrit
The farm is in full swing and we enjoy the fresh produce we pick from the garden.  Rookie, the farm dog has been missed a lot too.
Harvesting grandma's garden.

Sunday, August 10th - Gymkana - Breton, Alberta

Cousins Dylan and Leonard, belong to the local gymkana club.  We are able to watch them compete and enjoy slipping into the western scene once again.
Leonard, Joel, Dylan and Gerrit

Monday, August 11th - Johnson Farm - Breton, Alberta

Gerrit's horse 'Pilsner' and Joel's horse 'Chubby' enjoy a rub down after a great ride.
Gerrit with Pilsner and Joel with Chubby.

Thursday, August 14th - The Linde Farm - Drayton Valley, Alberta

A hot dog roast and one too many root beers on Uncle Wayne and Aunt Kathy's farm.
Leonard, Gerrit, Joel and Dylan

Saturday, August 16th -Fringe Festival - Edmonton, Alberta

We often frequented this great festival when we lived in Edmonton years ago, so it was a nice treat to relive some past memories along with Chris' sister Erika and family.
Chris, Gerrit, Megan, Jackie, Erika, Joel and Nicolas

Sunday, August 24th - Sleep Over in the RV - Calgary, Alberta

Joel's friend Randy, along with Gerrit's friend Christopher, slept over for a night in the RV...what a party!
Joel, Randy, Christopher and Gerrit

Thursday, August 28th - Blackberry picking - Victoria, BC.

Our arrival to Grandma and Granddad Richards, overlaps the end of a visit from Chris' sister Erika and family.  We enjoy some nice time together and were very glad to find it was blackberry season.
Erika and Grandma Richards
It is cousin Jackie's birthday so the blackberries go to great use....Blackberry Pie. 
Gerrit, Megan, Grandma Richards, Joel, Jackie & Nick

Thursday, September 11th - Victoria, BC.

Prior to catching the ferry off Vancouver Island and heading south into the US again, we have breakfast with John Gray, our Auto Control Medical contact for Gerrit's insulin pump supplies.
Joel, Gerrit and John Gray

Thursday, September 11th - Peace Arch at the Canada / USA border crossing.

We were concerned that crossing the border on the second anniversary of 9/11 would result in long line ups.  There were none.  But that didn't stop a full inspection and interrogation from the US border guards.  Maybe it was the Canadian citizens living on a boat in Mexico, driving an Arizona registered vehicle that had accidentally proceeded through the Nexus Only Lane (express lane for vehicles previously cleared) that caused them distress.  All we know is they kept mumbling, "Nexus Violator, Nexus Violator" and getting us to repeat over and over again what we have been doing over the last year.
The Peace Arch
Well that is a very quick summary of the great time spent home in Canada.  Catch our next update in Log 14 as we head south, back to Tioga in Mexico, via the western states of the USA.