Mezzanine in Tulum

Jan 29, 2008

We had a nice weekend all around. On Saturday we kicked around and decided to head down to this public access beach which is off the Federal Highway towards Tulum. It was a nice day and there were only a couple of families enjoying the beach there... so different from the beach clubs in Playa.

We brought a cooler and I had just gotten a copy of "Notes on a Scandal" (I super highly recommend this book), so we just set up shop and enjoyed the sun. Hans went snorkeling right off the beach and I just sat there and read.

By about 5 we were starting to get hungry so we headed on down to Tulum and out to the beach. When we reached the T in the road, we decided to make a left- we usually make a right- because someone had mentioned to us that we should try Mezzanine. As you approach you'll recognize it by the two solar panels and the two wind turbines sticking up off of a palapa roof.

After a quick stop to check out the pricing on kite surfing lessons (special pricing for locals- woo hoo!), we headed out on the beach. The sun was just getting ready to set, so we snapped a pic.

And then we headed up the steps to Mezzanine. It started nice- they were very attentive and told us to pick a seat. So we picked a table at the top of the stairs with a nice view of the beach. The bus boy came over and gave us silverware and menus and then we started to wait.

And wait.

And wait.

About 20 minutes later we were really ready to have a couple drinks or even just some water. The waiters had been bustling around visiting all the tables except ours. In order to get to the kitchen or the bar they had to walk past our table, so it's not like we were hiding in some corner.

Finally, Hans flagged down a waiter, who was visibly irritated by having to come over.

"We've been waiting here for 25 minutes. Do you know who our waiter is?" he asked.

"Yes," responded the waiter.

"Is it you?" Hans asked.

"Yes," responded the waiter.

"Ok, great, can we order?"

"Yes."

After flagging the waiter down and putting in our order, the service was much better. I had a nice glass of Chilean wine and we ordered the chicken satay as a starter. The food is Thai inspired. I had a yummy shrimp salad with a very spicy dressing and Hans had beef red curry.

The view was really quite lovely, so we decided to check out what they had for dessert. We ordered a slice of the Key Lime Pie. It was very pretty, but VERY sweet. This southern girl likes her Key Lime Pie to be tart. Nevertheless, we didn't leave any on the plate.

All in all, the food was alright. The service was fine once we finally got the ball rolling. I don't know if I'd make another special trip just for Mezzanine, but the beaches in Tulum are definitely worth the trek. Mezzanine came highly recommended, I'd say it's a nice place to take a date, but not my favorite.

The Case of Chico vs. Possum

Jan 28, 2008

Your Honor, in the case of Chico the dog versus Possum, I would like to present the facts of the case as we understand them.

The defendant, Chico, as shown in exhibit A, pleads not guilty by means of temporary insanity brought on by a natural urge and instinct. Here, your honor, is exhibit A:


I'd like to begin with exhibit B, the location of the incident.

The family was assembled by the pool for a BBQ with a couple friends when Chico began to stare, rather intently, into the bushes by the pool house. In an action reminiscent of the time he bounded across the yard and tried to consume a baby rabbit whole and without chewing, he jumped into the bushes and started munching voraciously on something.

Due to the time of night, approximately 10PM, there wasn't sufficient light to immediately identify exactly whom had been the victim of this attack. Immediately the family jumped to the conclusion that it had been one of the neighbors cats and they started to feel ill at the prospect of having to explain to the neighbors (in Spanish) that their dog had killed the neighbor's cat.

Upon closer inspection, it appeared that the victim was not, indeed, a cat, but rather a zarigueya, or possum (also known, I believe, as a laquache). After many sighs of relief that it was not one of the family's favorite feline friends, conversation ensued on what should be done on the part of the possom to either heal him or hasten his death.

After reviewing the possum throughly with a flashlight, it was determined that the possum might be ok with the exception of a little bite mark on its forehead. The family decided to give the possum a little privacy, so he could compose himself, and to address the possum situation in 1/2 an hour, once they were able to see if he was able to move.

After about 2 minutes of privacy, the frightened possum gathered himself together and managed to run off, therefore answering the family's question as to whether or not his back had been broken. It appeared that aside from a bite mark on his head, the possum had escaped unscathed.

The defendant was then relegated to the apartment where he was isolated from the fun of the family BBQ for fear that he might actually catch one of the neighbor's cats.

We feel that his punishment has been sufficient for his crime, as evidenced by the remorseful cries we heard coming from the apartment and are requesting that he be allowed to attend further BBQs with more vigilance on the part of his chaperons, who promise to keep him on a leash at future BBQs and to monitor his behavior.

The defendant shows a clear ability to coexist with furry friends of the feline persuasion as evidenced by exhibit C, a photo of the defendant and his former roommate, Sandy.

When questioned about Chico's nature, Sandy offered this statement: "Meow."

Soy Leyenda

Jan 22, 2008

Last night we met up with a few friends and went to see Soy Leyenda (I AM LEGEND) at the theater in Centro Maya. We had never been inside the mall and were surprised that it's just like a mall in Anywheresville, USA. We didn't walk around much because we didn't have much time to spare before the movie, but we'll definitely be back in the dead of the summer just to enjoy their air conditioning if for nothing else!

The theaters are NICE and NEW! They're stadium style with chairs that have springy hinges and arms that can be up or down. Aside from the sound being even louder than they keep it in the US (which I thought was impossible- I used to bring ear plugs to theaters in Jersey), the movie watching experience was pretty good. Also- we got ripped off at the ticket counter, so watch out. We had no idea how much a ticket costs- apparently they're $47 pesos and we had a two for one coupon and he charged us $147... We figured it out later so next time we'll know and be on top of it.

Now, as for Soy Leyenda... this is a movie I would never have seen in the US because (a) it's an action film and I'm more of the foreign and indie film type, and (b) it has Will Smith in it. However, we're new in town, so when someone invites you to go to a movie, you go... we're trying to meet people, you know? So, let me say that Soy Leyenda was actually a pretty good movie. It was scarier than I thought it would be and Will Smith was actually (for once) not annoying in this movie.

I'm not a big fan of scary movies, so this one wasn't exactly relaxing to watch- who knew it was actually scary? But what made it even scarier was the unexplained rumbling that would go on while he was wondering about deserted New York City. Finally, about half way through the movie I asked Hans, "But what is that rumbling that's always happening?" and he said "It's the movie next door." That was helpful.

Finally, the opening 5 minutes or so are really cool for someone who used to work in NYC. They start with the NYC shots with a pan over where the Lincoln Tunnel lets out into NYC and there are tons of cars there and the water has risen up, it's interesting. Then they go down and show the Flatiron Building (my old 'hood) and then Union Square subway station where all the skaters and BMXers used to hang out and then Washington Square Park. It's cool.

My verdict: If you live in Mexico and are unlikely to get any arthouse movies, this one it worth seeing. In fact, the next movie that I had no plans of seeing in the US that I think I'll be seeing here is American Gangster... it's coming soon to the theaters at Centro Maya.

Coffee Cafe

Jan 21, 2008

Up on the north end of 5th Ave, off to the right and a little back in this new-ish condo complex lies the Coffee Cafe. I have walked past it 100 times without going in, and we had met Robert, the owner, around town, so we finally decided to stop in.

The space is REALLY nice! We chose to sit outside because we had brought Chico, even though they said we could bring the dog inside if we wanted. It was a nice night, so we sat out and listened to the cool techno music that Robert was mixing.

Not only was the atmosphere nice, but they also had good coffee and we ordered a slice of Apple Pie a la mode and it was really tasty, too.

They have free wireless internet and two community computers that you can use for free to check your email or surf the web. They also had a few tvs that were playing movies (I don't know if they had sound because we were outside).

We'll definitely go back, and according to this review from Playa Maya News, they'll be serving wine soon, which is great for me. We like to go to La Hora Feliz because I can get a glass of wine and hubby can get a cappuccino and we can sit there and people watch and play cribbage (no we're not senior citizens and we still play cribbage). ;)

Our Drive to Mexico

Jan 18, 2008

So I made a little video with iMovie. I've been using a Mac for 9 years now and have never made a move with iMovie.

A couple notes about the video- I forgot to do a screen announcing Campeche state, Yucatan State and Quintana Roo, but we have SO much video to get off the video camera that there's going to be a "real" video coming. This is just a compilation of pictures and video that we shot with the little Sony point-and-shoot. Some of the photos don't stay on the screen very long, but I couldn't figure out how to change that after I'd already added them to the timeline.

Anyway, here it is:



Oh- and the music is "Me Gustas Tu" by Kiko Menendez

Pacifico

Jan 17, 2008


Just wanted to add that tonight I had my first Pacifico beer. I had grown fond of Victoria (not to be confused with VB from Australia), but the restaurant we went to tonight had Pacifico instead. Having read Paul and Nancy's blog and their mention of Pacifico, I was keen to try it. I just didn't know where you could get it. My verdict? Tasty.

You had to be there....

Tonight, when we were walking home from dinner, we passed a bunch of guys hanging out on the corner. One guy turned to us and said in Spanish, "Nice dog, it's a labrador?"

I said, "Thanks, yeah."

He said, "Do you want to breed him?"

I said, "He can't."

He said, "What?"

So I lifted his tail, which happened to be facing in the guy's direction and said, "He can't," with a laugh.

The guy made a little shocked sound and started laughing. Pretty funny interaction for a couple gringos and a Mexican... you had to be there...

Ahhhh, Telmex.

Jan 15, 2008

Apparently the phone line that exists in our apartment is owned by the guy who owned the apartment before the current owner. How do I know this? We went to the Telmex office to improve the speed of our DSL by upping the service and it seems that we can't do that without a piece of paper from the owner previous to the current owner stating that we can change his service.

So I emailed the owner and she said to tell them that he never gave her that paper and that she doesn't know how to contact him. This is the second time we've been over to Telmex to talk to them about it. They said, no problem, just get 6 months of receipts that say that the current owner has been paying the bill and we can change it to her name.

Well, the current owner was living in Belgium for the last year and is now in Khazakstan, so it's not like she has been here paying it. It was being paid by the last renters.

We think we'll try Cablemas next. This is going so easily! ;) Actually, right now we have cable lines, but no cable. We're going to work on getting the piece of paper that says we live here and then we're going to get cable set up as a back up in case the DSL goes down. (We're neurotic like that, and we need it to work for work).

On a happy note, I found a Spanish tutor. I met with her for an hour tonight and just talked about all sorts of stuff. We're going to meet twice a week and talk for an hour each time.

Apropos of Nothing...

Jan 14, 2008

Before we left for Mexico we wanted to set up systems that back up our computers in case they got stolen while we're here. Theft is a real problem in Playa del Carmen (you should see the number of pawn shops here...) so we wanted to be prepared. Our work is on the computer, so it's the loss of data that would be a problem more than the loss of the physical computer. Plus, we brought laptops, which are portable, you know, by definition.

So anyway, we decided to back up and remove any data from old or closed projects and then remove that info from our 'puters. Then we subscribed to Mozy. Let me just take this opportunity to say that I love Mozy.

If I leave my computer on overnight it backs up the files and folders I selected. It's awesome. It's not a file archive, meaning, if I erase a folder on my computer, when Mozy backs up it will erase the same folder from it's server. Basically it's a snapshot of what my computer looks like today. So, if someone stole my computer I could get another one, install the software I need and then download the data from Mozy and be back in business.

The first time it backed up it took a couple days to upload all the stuff I wanted to back up (took Hans 7 days), but last night it backed up 15 GB worth of data in 4.5 hours, while I slept. It's just awesome.

Mexico or Bust: Now with Pictures!

Jan 13, 2008

Alright, if Fned can update her blog with pictures, I guess I can, too. The photos from the first part of Mexico (and my new favorite state, Veracruz) are all on Hans' computer because we had to make room on the camera for new ones, so these are the latest updates from what was on the camera. Here are the posts that were updated:


Tampico to Veracruz (more pics to come)

Veracruz to Campeche

Notes on Driving to Mexico

Notes on Driving to Mexico

Here are some things that I would recommend to anyone who is driving to Mexico, some of them we did and some of them we just wish we had done.

1. Stop in Texas and buy some food for traveling. We bought a big box of granola bars that were really lifesavers when we couldn't find a breakfast place in Tampico. We also bought bread and PB and J so we could make sandwiches. We found that we passed lots of cute restaurants where we're sure the food was delicious, it just was never at the times that we were hungry. When we were hungry we were often in the middle of nowhere.



2. Buy a few gallons of drinking water so you can refill your bottle along the way.

3. Bring your GPS. Even though it doesn't have the streets in the various cities, it did show the main highways and the direction you're driving. The main highway goes in to most of the large cities (I think Merida was the only exception here) and is generally poorly marked or not marked at all. It can get very confusing. We used the GPS to tell us where the highway was in relation to us so we could make the appropriate turns and get back on it.

4. Bring hand sanitizer or baby wipes. We had oranges that we were peeling and then had to ride with sticky hands until the next bathroom stop.

5. Speaking of oranges, buy oranges in Veracruz. yum.

6. Bring earplugs or ask for an interior-facing room. You never know when your room is going to face the exterior of the building and it can be really noisy at night. We barely slept in Tlalcoltapan where we got a room without A/C (it was cool there). The rooms with A/C face the courtyard. The ones without face the street.

7. Bring extra car stuff: tire patch or plug kit (there are tire repair shops but you never know where you'll be with a flat and AAA isn't gonna come get you), replacement bulbs for all your exterior bulbs (turn signals, headlights, etc.), a set of belts, a tire pump or canned air, Windex (you're going to kill lots of bugs- we were killing big ones like dragonflys).

8. Bring your camera or video camera. We shot a lot of stuff, it's really pretty.

I'm sure there's more, but that's all I can think of off the top of my head for now.

Lost in Translation

Well, my Spanish has been coming along. It's proven to be pretty useful while getting our life set up here. Here's a short list of negotiations I've done in the last few days:

1. We went to the safe store and bought a safe and I negotiated that, although I was a little caught up when she asked us if we wanted a factura or a simple receipt. I had no idea what a factura is. Apparently it's like an invoice or some sort of specified receipt that you use to write the item off on your taxes if you are filing with the Mexican government. In the US you just use your simple receipt to write it off.

2. We needed to get shower heads so I asked the guy at Wal-Mart "Do you have, I'm not sure of the correct word in Spanish, but the 'head' for the shower?" He laughed but pointed us towards the regaderas. I have no idea if what I asked for had a double meaning, but at least we left with a shower head!

4. Hans wanted to start an account with this family that runs a scuba tank filling operation outside of Playa on the way down towards the cenotes. He uses a rebreather, so he needs pure oxygen in one tank and regular air in the other. Between not being that familiar with the vocabulary around tank fills and her telling me all the metric measurements I got a little lost. Then I turn to Hans and start telling him what she said, at which point she says in perfect English, "No, that's not it, I said...."

Hmm- that's odd.

Jan 11, 2008

When I lived in NJ I had a friend who lived in the East Village in Manhattan. She told me that when she was looking for apartments she saw one that she really liked, it was small, but cute and seemed perfect. Then her friend pointed out that the apartment didn't have a sink. No sink at all, not in the kitchen or in the bathroom.

We noticed last night that our kitchen doesn't have an oven. Luckily, the only things I really ever bake are pork chops and cookies. Not being able to make cookies might be a good thing...

Great Song Lyrics

Jan 10, 2008

This is one verse from the song "Vegas" by Sara Bareilles, slightly modified by me to be a little more relevant...

Gonna sell rent my house and cross the border
'Cause somebody told me dreams live in Mexico
Gonna sell rent my house I got to lose ten pounds
And cross the border
And make sweet love upon the white sandy shore.

Taken totally out of context of the song, it sounds lovely!

Veracruz to Campeche

We left from Tlalcoltapan a little later than we would have liked, at around 9am. We headed south on 175 to the toll road to Villahermosa. 175 south took us through seriously the heart of Mexican farming lands and little town after little town. I don't think they see too many gringos in those parts because people were seriously staring at us.



Once we hit 145, the toll road, we zoomed along to Villahermosa. The toll roads in Mexico are excellent and you're able to make up quite a bit of the time you lose between Tampico and Veracruz by driving like a maniac (Hans' specialty).




They grow serious amounts of sugar cane in Tabasco. This was like 1/32 of the trucks we saw loaded down like this.


You mess with the bull, you get the horns.



Villahermosa isn't so hermosa (beautiful), so we just went through it and headed on. We made it to Campeche, another UNESCO world heritage site, by 5:30 or so. Campeche is really nice. It's a walled city with everything inside the wall being a beautiful, colonial-style building. We stayed in the old town inside the wall.



Apparently Campeche had a major problem with pirates since its inception. Spain kept ignoring their problems until all the various pirate bands put aside their disagreements and banded together to attack the city, killing a large portion of the population. Spain finally decided that maybe they should help their poor, floundering colony out and build a wall around it. After they built the wall, everything got a lot safer for the poor residents of Campeche.



Anyway, we stayed at the Hotel Francis Drake, which was the nicest and coincidently, the priciest, of the hotels that we stayed in on the trip.

Tampico to Veracruz

Jan 9, 2008

After we drove all over creation in Tampico and over about 100 of their, must be, 500 bridges, we finally settled on the MonteCarlo hotel in town. The nice thing about it was that we could pull our car into their covered parking with a guard watching it and leave it there. We had to leave Chico in the car. Since we crossed the border we haven't been able to find any dog friendly hotels. It got to the point where we stopped even asking and just assumed he'd sleep in the car (which also let us feel better about leaving stuff in the truck).

While we were looking for a hotel we kept passing this one lovers hotel in town. They had nice, pull in garages in the heart of town, which was appealing. We both knew what type of hotel it was (plus there were a lot of stained glass windows depicting romantic scenes), but we figured we could get a private garage, so why not?

We went in and asked for a room. Turns out that the private garages are for hourly use only. I guess it doesn't pay for them to rent it out for the whole night when they could be making so much more... Anyway, they wouldn't rent it to us, so we ended up at the Montecarlo.

The next morning we were looking for something for breakfast and I swear that nothing was open for a quick breakfast. I just wasn't ready for a breakfast taco. So we stopped in to a little bakery to ask about breakfast items. She didn't have anything but made us a couple cafe americanos and then gave us (on the house) two pieces of Budin, which was like a bread pudding with raisins in it and orange slices on top. It was SUPER sweet, but yummy.

So we headed out from Tampico for Veracruz. The roads are supposed to be really bad between the two, but we didn't run into anything major. There were a couple pot holes here and there, but nothing like what people had prepared us for. Also- let's just say that Veracruz has beautiful views and lush countrysides on lock down. It's possibly the most beautiful place I have seen. Unbelievable mountains jutting up here and there with the amazing Gulf of Mexico on the other side. Add to that orange orchards and lush farms, it was amazing.

About half way to Veracruz, between Poza Rica and Veracruz there's a series of beach-side resort towns. The one where we stopped was called Casitas. BEAUTIFUL. If they weren't about 5 hours from Tampico I would say to stay there on your first night in Mexico and skip Tampico. Unfortunately they're too far from the border to reach on the first day but not far enough from Tampico to be a stopping place for the second day (if you have a limited amount of time you can be on the road, like us). I'd like to go back as a regular vacation some time.

We made it to Veracruz by about 5pm and, since Hans really doesn't like the large cities here (well, after Tampico, at least), we decided to push on a little farther because we had read about Tlalcoltapan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To get there we had to break one of our cardinal rules of driving in Mexico- don't drive after night. We pulled in around 7:30 and got a hotel right off the main square (the zocalo). It's a charming town with a magnificent zocalo. It's the type of place I imagined when I was reading Love in the Time of Cholera. The main gazebo in the middle of the park in made from beautiful wrought iron work painted white and surrounding the park are multitudes of benches in a similar style. The sidewalks are made of marble and there are lots of artfully laid walkways. It's a really lovely place.

*

*

In addition to the park in the zocalo, there are two churches that are quite beautiful and the whole town seems to be made of colonial era buildings that have been restored and painted bright, pastel hues (is that an oxymoron?).

We slept, rather fitfully, through the night because we chose to get a room with a fan and no A/C. It wasn't hot at all in the room, in fact, it was nice and cool. What kept us awake was that the rooms without A/C are on the exterior of the building, so we had all sorts of street noise all night long. Several times we got up to peek off the balcony to see what was making the noise.

The next morning we were off to Campeche.

* A note about the pictures: hubby got the "good" camera out and shot several lovely shots of the zocalo, will post them when I get my grubby little hands on his nice camera. Also- hubby "helpfully" downloaded the images off the camera prior to Tlalcotalpan, so I'll have to get them off his computer.

Estamos Aqui en Playa!

Well, we made it! We pulled into town today at around 1pm. We visited for a while with our friends, Angela and Pietro while we waited for our realtor contact to get the keys ready for our new apartment.

We're in the apartment now, but there are some problems with it. It's next to construction (from what I understand, everything in Playa is next to construction), which hubby thinks will bother him all day. It also has some issues like no shower heads and small stuff. We're going to email the owner to see if we can sort some of it out.

The rest of the drive was really nice. I'll fill you all in later as Hans, Chico and I are headed out the door to grab some dinner. Basically, we stopped in Tlalcotalpan (I think that's the spelling) on the second night. It's a small UNESCO world heritage site. Then we made it to Campeche the third night and today we went from Campeche to Playa. Unfortunately, we didn't even drive through Merida, we just bypassed it, so we'll have to go back for another visit.

Anyway, I'll fill you in on the details later, but suffice it to say, we're all here in one piece and so far enjoying Mexico!

Hola desde Tampico

Jan 6, 2008

Well, we left Austin yesterday at about 1pm and made it to Brownsville by 8 (we took some scenic routes to view the Texas hill country). Our verdict on south east Texas is FLAT. It's flat, like really, really flat.

This morning we got up early and crossed the border. We had to wait a little while for the temporary car importation office to open, but once it opened we were outta there in about 20 minutes. Luckily, we got a green light right at the first customs check point so we didn't have to pull over and let them inspect our truck. 25 miles down the road we also got a green light so we proceeded as normal.

Let me take this opportunity to say that north east Mexico is gorgeous! There are rolling hills with beautiful, expansive views of the Sierra Madres to the right. The whole thing reminded me of being out west in the US- something like Sedona, but no red rock.

The roads between Matamoros (the Mexico side of the border) and Tampico were excellent except for a couple spots where the highway became a dirt road because they're paving the new 180 South.

We pulled into Tampico and drove around getting our bearings and looking for a hotel. We ended up getting a Guia Roji- a Mexican atlas. Then Hans decided that we should drive out of Tampico on the other side to see what hotels are on the other side. I was and am a steadfast believer of taking other people's advice when they've been there before, and they had said to stop in Tampico. Of course, it was a little early when we got there, but people said stop in Tampico, so that's what I wanted to do.

After we crossed the Tampico Bridge and paid the toll, we discovered that it was approximately 200 KM to the next large town. Hans conceded to turn around and go back to Tampico for the night. So we paid the toll for the bridge and returned.

I am exhausted. Perhaps I'll write more later about how we went into the hotel that is rented hourly for lovers and asked for a room, but right now I think I'll take a shower and go to bed.

Tomorrow we're heading for Veracruz.

Just liked this sign

Jan 5, 2008

I forgot to post this yesterday. It's from the bathroom at Maria's Taco Xpress.

Still in Austin

Yesterday we spent the day getting some work done, returning calls and emails. We also went to a couple computer stores to see what could be done about Hans' broken computer. Ultimately, we decided to just rebuild his computer and not buy anything new for it.

For dinner we went to the Salt Lick, which is also an Austin institution. It's about 17 miles outside of Austin in what they call the Hill Country.

When you walk in there's a huge BBQ pit where they're smoking ribs, beef brisket and sausage.

They serve you family-style, so we got a large (all-you-can-eat) platter of ribs, brisket and sausage as well as potato salad, slaw, baked beans, pickles, onions, bread and jalapenos. It was ALOT of food, but very good. We finished up with some blackberry and peach cobbler with ice cream. mmm.

After dinner we went to Cabelas. It's an outdoor store that we don't have in NJ. This particular one was HUGE! We just went in to see what it was and we're glad we did. It was basically like a Zoo.... well, a zoo where all the animals are dead and preserved by talented taxidermists. We walked around and got way too many pictures of dead animals.

They had a big mountain in the middle of the store with animals native to the US. Then they had an Africa room and a Big Game room. They also had an aquarium and one of those carnival-style games where you put a couple quarters in the machine and you can shoot a variety of things (like the guy who you shoot and he plays the piano). I think it's called a shooting gallery.




We've decided to cross the border at Brownsville/Matamoros because it puts us right on the highway we want to be on in Mexico. If we cross at McAllen or Los Indios we have to then drive east to get to 180, so we're just going to cross at Brownsville. We also did a little more research about it since we've been here and it looks like we'll have to take Chico to a vet in Brownsville because they require that the health certificate from the vet not be older than 72 hours. We got our records and health certificates for Chico before we left NJ, so they're too old. We're planning on heading for Browsville some time this afternoon.

CHICO UPDATE:
ChiChi has been hanging out doing nothing. We've taken him on several walks and he's now discovered that he doesn't like to step on the ant hills here in Texas. We're not sure if he stepped on one and got bitten or what, but he has decided to give the a wide berth.

The Real World: Austin

Jan 4, 2008

Well, we made it to Austin yesterday. Let's just say that Arkansas is flat. Flat. Flat. That's it. Ok- maybe it's got some rolling hills, but it's basically flat and brown, and yesterday it was also cold. Here's a sample:



We did pass Little Rock and saw the skyline in the distance. I think we might have gotten a little of it on video. We also passed Hope, Arkansas, the birthplace of our fine former president, Bill Clinton.

Then we passed into Texas and stopped in Mount Pleasant, I think, and had some absolutely delicious BBQ (what? It's Texas, dude! You have to have BBQ!). The place was called Blalock BBQ and it has been there 28 years. Mmmm... today we're trying The Saltlick for dinner, which is supposed to be an Austin tradition, so we'll report on that later.

Anyway, we passed Dallas, which is quite big and has a pretty skyline. Then we headed to Waco and down to Austin. We got in around 5:30.

I'm a closet Country music fan (I guess it's not surprising given my North Carolina roots), but the funny thing is that, I guess by association, my husband has started liking Country music. There are no Country radio stations in NYC and the only one that you can get in Northern NJ is from Pennsylvania and the signal dies out just before you get to the town where our house is, so usually I listen to iTunes radio for my Country fix. Let's just say that Texas rocks for Country stations and they seem to have huge playlists! We've been getting our fill of the radio because we don't know what we'll get radio-wise once we cross the border.



Anyway, we met up with our friend, Jeff, when we got to Austin and went to dinner. He lives in this super cute neighborhood where all the houses are old and have been renovated and painted funky colors. Lots of them have tin roofs and some have random sculptures in front. It reminds me of Seattle, but with better weather. All in all, I have decided that I could definitely live in Austin. It's very hip and funky. In fact, I think that it might be the perfect location for my sister and brother-in-law, although it's not close to family... it has the type of vibe that they like- hip, funky, artsy and hippie.



Last night when we went to get our hotel room we went over to the La Quinta Inn and as we drove in we saw a bunch of homies hanging out in front of one of the rooms. Right away we were suspicious... then we got our room key and as we were unloading the truck Hans saw a drug deal happen and this guy walked by pocketing his score. Then I walked over to the room we had rented and just pushed the door open without a key. The wood around the door jam had been busted and the metal thing that the door closes into was missing a screw, so it swung freely and allowed the door to be opened without a key or even turning the knob! So Hans was like, "We're not staying here." When we went to return the keys and tell the front desk guy we weren't staying there and that the door was broken he acted pissed off and didn't even offer us a new room or say anything about the door. Our guess is that he put us in that room because he saw our full SUV and he must have been in on it. Anyway- we moved over to the Clarion and it's all feeling a lot safer. Word to the wise, check the doors!

So we went to another Austin institution this morning for breakfast, Maria's Taco Express. Here's a photo of me and Hans in front of Maria's.



Another interesting thing that happened this morning is that Hans' PC got the blue screen of death. It had been acting funny the last few days and a couple days ago it got the blue screen of death for the first time. This morning it got the screen and it wouldn't start up. Luckily, we're still in Texas, so he's working on getting it working again, but we might stop by Frye's and get a back up PC for him. We already own two other (older) mac's for me if my computer tanks, but Hans doesn't have a backup if his tanks.

We've decided to stay in Austin one more night to settle the computer issue.

One thing I'm surprised about about Texas is that there really aren't many signs in Spanish anywhere. I know we're not near the border, but NJ isn't near the border either and there are TONS of signs in Spanish. Of course, when we crossed the border and I commented on that Hans told me that they had passed a law in Texas a couple years ago that it was illegal to have anything in Spanish on any signs. He said it was in an effort to maintain English here. So about 4 hours later when we finally passed our first billboard in Spanish and I said, "Look! There's one in Spanish!" he said, "I'm surprised they haven't been fined yet!" and then he started laughing because he was lying the whole time about the Spanish thing. You know, I've been married to him for coming up on 7 years and I usually know when he's BSing, but sometimes....

SPECIAL CHICO UPDATE:

It was special requested by my mother-in-law that we provide Chico updates. He's been riding along with us, doing what he does usually, sleeping. Every time we stop we take him out for a pee break and sometimes run him up and down the block so he can get a little exercise. He seems to be doing fine. Yesterday we took him on a nice walk in the park here in Austin near Jeff's house. We didn't bring his kennel and he really feels more secure when he is in his kennel while we're out, so lately he's been cowering a little when we get back to the room and he hasn't been with us. We immediately check to see if he peed on the carpet or what, but it seems that if he's really doing anything wrong it's probably that he's been up on the bed while we've been out and he knows he's not allowed on the furniture.

Photos from Tennessee

Jan 3, 2008

Here's Graceland. We couldn't get a solid picture of it because we had to place the camera on top of the car to see it and it was too cold to shut the car off!


Here's the bridge across the Mississippi in Memphis.


Some river boats on the Mississippi.


And finally, our ride in front of the Mississippi.

Hola desde Hazen, AK


Well, we made it to Arkansas last night. We started in Virginia yesterday morning and managed to drive the entire length of Tennessee. We got to Memphis around 7pm local time and, of course, Graceland was closed. We still stopped and took some pictures with the gates and of the house and stuff, but we didn't get to tour it or anything.

Then we drove into downtown Memphis to eat dinner at the Rendezvous, which is famous for their Memphis-style dry-rubbed ribs. Unfortunately, they were closed. Downtown Memphis was like a ghost town! Most places were closed, which was weird for a Wednesday night.

Then we headed to the edge of town where the Mississippi River is and took pictures for about 1/2 an hour. More like, Hans took pictures while I sat in the car and looked because it was literally like 25 degrees. That's what you get when you have a husband who is obsessed with photography and camera equipment. He even got the tripod out so he could get a good picture of the bridge that crosses the river there at Memphis.

Today we have about 8 hours of driving, mostly through Texas, to get to Austin. We're both pretty stoked about seeing Texas from the ground. I've only ever flown in.

Here are some photos from my little point-n-shoot digital. I'll post some nice ones that Hans took with the fancy camera later. I couldn't get any good ones of Graceland because my flash kept going off and so we switched to the good camera.





Hola desde Troutville, VA

Jan 2, 2008

Yesterday we got a late start. We had to take my car to my father-in-law because it didn't get sold before we left and he offered to sell it for us. Once we got there, we had a TON of paperwork to do before we could head out. When we finally got on the road we had to head down to Toms River to see some friends and we hung out with their baby who was born 2 months premature. We got to see her leave the hospital, which was pretty cool. So when we finally got on the road to head towards Mexico it was 5pm.

No worries, we drove until midnight last night, which put us in Troutville, VA. Not much happening at this exit off the highway. There's a Comfort Inn (which had wonderful showers and a nice bed and I slept like a log), a Waffle House and a couple other hotels. We're going to grab something at the free continental breakfast and head out.

Our route today should send us down to Tennessee and then across from Knoxville to Memphis. We're going to try to at least swing by Graceland and get a pic while we're in Memphis and maybe taste some of their world-famous BBQ. You can't skip Memphis when your dad is McElvis!

From there we'll cross into Arkansas. Remember that musical Big River and that song "Arkansas"? Yeah, well I can't get it out of my head. From Arkansas we'll cross right into Texas and then who knows how long it will take us to get from the Texas border to Austin, but we'll see.

We're not sure how far we'll get today, but we'll probably do like yesterday and stop when we get tired. I guess that's all for now!

Happy New Year, Time to Head for Mexico!

Jan 1, 2008

We're leaving today to begin our journey to Mexico. It turns out that I think we will have that apartment with the green pool. The owner got in touch with us and we're in the process of figuring out how we'll do that. The best part is that she's leaving the internet and phone on and in her name, so we just go pay her bill. That means we'll have internet as soon as we get there.

We had a leaving party on the 29th that was wonderful! We had about 30 good friends show up to wish us off. Man, I'm going to miss Hoboken. I have so many great friends that really make it a pleasure to live up here.






One thing I won't miss is the weather. This morning we woke up to 34 degrees and rainy. It's just New Jersey's way of reminding us why we want to move to Mexico...

Bye New York:


Bye New Jersey:


Last night we emptied out the house, it's so bizarre. The place looks lovely. We got the hardwoods redone and the carpets steam cleaned and it's ready to go for our tenant. We threw away so much stuff, it's not even funny, but now all our worldly possessions fit in a 10'x10' storage unit and our Toyota 4Runner. We can even still see out the rear view mirror.

Our Stuff:


Our Ride:


So our plan this morning is to head to Tom's River, NJ to see our friends' newborn baby and then we're heading south west. We're going to see how far we get today. The real goal is to get to Austin, TX by Thursday. We're going to hang out there for a day with our friend Jeff and then it's off to Mexico.

We're planning on crossing the border at McAllen, Texas. We've been told that if you cross at Nuevo Laredo there's more of a likelihood that they'll want to take everything out of your car and search it and you might be there for several hours. We've heard that the smaller the border town, the easier the crossing, so McAllen it is. It's about a 5 hour drive from Austin.

I'm getting out the video camera so we can document the trip, so I'll post some video here probably after we get there and I've had time to edit it.

Hooray! We're outta here- I never thought this day would come! Last night I had a sort of freak out moment where I wondered if we were totally nuts to do this (the answer is yes, but we're doing it anyway...) Wish us luck! I'll update the blog when we get to our various stopping locations