Wonderful summers

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Shot this afternoon between one rainfall and the next. Nice and cool.

AT SOME POINT in the 1980s, my last wife and I found ourselves a few miles north of Guanajuato, up near the silver mines, staying in a new hotel just across the way from an old church. We hadn’t been able to find a hotel downtown due to arriving late on a Friday night. Everywhere was booked up with Mexico City people.

It was August, and we’d arrived from Houston or maybe it was New Orleans. I don’t remember, but it doesn’t matter because both are sweat holes in the summertime. The next morning, I walked out of that hotel and was gobsmacked.

It was August and about 50 degrees! A wonderful experience for a fellow who’d spent most of his life in the American southeast, sweating through summers.

And loathing every second of it.

Flash forward to today. It’s raining outside as I write this, Thursday evening. It’s not August but July, but in Houston and New Orleans, there’s no difference. You suffer.

It’s 67 degrees outside, though it feels even cooler.

When I moved over the border two decades back, I brought two pairs of khaki shorts, the sort you might find on Crocodile Dundee. I’ve never worn them, and they live deep in the closet. On second thought, I believe I have worn them a few times, but never at home. I’ve worn them at the beach in Zihuatanejo, just 3.5 hours away.

You’ll die of sweat there in summer, and we always go in summer.

Though the beach is just 3.5 hours away, the weather is not the same due to altitude. The pants I wear here are Rider jeans, every day, no exception. I own lots of them.

Riders feel fine in our cool summers, and they work equally well in winter with thermal long johns beneath. Riders are versatile, all-weather trousers.

During Houston summers, I often wore long pants of khaki to the newsroom, topped off with Hawaiian floral shirts of rayon. My job did not require interaction with the public, so I was often the most colorful fellow in the office.

Reporters sported ties, and so did ambitious editors. But I went Hawaiian.

Swearing off San Miguel

YEARS AGO a friend said we were in a rut, that the two of us rarely did anything different and new. He was correct.

He was referring to travel, but the accusation likely was accurate in other life activities. I attribute it mostly to age. I used to enjoy travel far more than I do now.

I wonder if I’m becoming as big a fuddy-duddy as was my father all his life. He thought if you’ve seen one city you’ve seen them all. He didn’t want to go anywhere. Of course, that’s ridiculous. There’s a huge difference, for instance, between Houston and nearby New Orleans and even San Antonio, Texas.

I’ve never been to Omaha, but I bet it’s quite a switch from San Francisco.

I was sitting in the central plaza of Mérida years ago, or was it Puebla? I recall looking around and thinking that I could be sitting in the plaza of any Mexican colonial city. Why did I blow airfare and hotel costs to come here?

Colonial Mexican cities are indeed quite similar.

But I have decided to branch out a bit, travel-wise. Not to do it more often, but to go to new places. Part of this change is the decision to never, ever visit the silly city of San Miguel de Allende again. Never, never, never.

It had become a habit, a pattern, on deciding to get off the mountaintop for a spell, to go either to Zihuatanejo on the Pacific Coast or to San Miguel de Allende. They are about the same distance from the Hacienda, but in opposite directions. We were in a rut. Didn’t really give much thought to other options.

With rare exceptions, when we travel we drive. We don’t fly. If memory serves, the last time we flew anywhere, it was to Mérida in 2013, just a year after we flew to Havana for our 10th anniversary. Both jaunts were on Interjet, a nice airline, by the way.

I’m not going to swear off Zihuatanejo because a beach is a beach, and it’s the nearest beach. We’ve gone to Zihua so often, however, that it’s getting a bit ho-hum.  And you’ll sweat your ass off. We haven’t been there in three years.

But we’re swearing off San Miguel. No more. Enough is enough. In spite of having some great restaurants, places you don’t easily find elsewhere in Mexico, it’s just a laughable town inhabited by some Mexicans and lots of goofy Gringos who parade around in funny clothing. It’s amusing at first, but that wears off.

I’m making a list of new places to visit. We’ll be driving, and they are either one day or two days away. We’ll spend one night en route for those two-day spots.

Having just begun this project, the list is short:

  1. Guadalajara. Oddly, we are a bit closer to Guadalajara, Mexico’s second city, than we are to Mexico City. Yet we’ve been to Mexico City a thousand times, and I’ve not been to Guadalajara in 17 years, and just briefly then. My child bride and I have never been there together.
  2. Xilitla, San Luis Potosí. This idea came from one of The Moon‘s frequent visitors, Peggy Langdon. She went to Xilitla once, and I saw her mention of it on Facebook. There’s a place called Las Pozos in Xilitla. I want to see that.
  3. Zacatecas. I’ve been there just once, many years ago. It’s my wife’s favorite Mexican city, and she’s been to most of the biggies. She’s visited every state save one, Quintana Roo. She racked up those trips as a result of her 14 years working as a civil engineer for the federal highway department. She loves Zacatecas, and we can visit Aguascalientes at the same time. Trivia Department: Zacatecas is Mexico’s northernmost Colonial city.
  4. Tequila, Jalísco. This idea came from Steve Cotton who visited there recently. It looks like a fun place. This would be a two-day drive. We’d likely overnight in the Gringo-infested town of Ajijic or nearby. Ajijic, like the aforementioned San Miguel de Allende, is always good for eye-rolling.

That’s the entire list for now. I’m open to suggestions. New places would have to be within a two-day drive. My ideal one-day drive is six hours max. More than six hours turns a drive into an ordeal in my book.

Don’t suggest places that require planes. If I get on a plane, I’m going to Colombia, not to the other side of Mexico.

As for San Miguel, I wish you well, amigos. Try to get on without me. I won’t miss you, but thanks for the hilarity you’ve provided through the years.

Change of scenery

I SPENT MOST of my life before age 55 in hot zones. Southwest Georgia, northeast Florida, south Louisiana and east Texas.

I know sweat, and I don’t like it one bit.

So when I leaped off the treadmill, I opted for a big — very big — change of scenery not only in moving to Mexico but in settling atop an ever-cool mountain.

We  live 7,200 feet above the faraway sea — the Pacific Ocean — and we enjoy cool weather year-round. It can get a bit stuffy in the afternoons and early evenings of springtime, but it’s a small price to pay for the other 98 percent of the year.

Sometimes we like to visit a beach, and almost invariably we go to Zihuatanejo, which is about three hours from the Hacienda down a smooth autopista* past mango and avocado trees and high mountain lakes.

That’s our favorite beach, La Ropa, in the video.

If the urge to visit a throbbing megalopolis strikes, it’s about four hours, also on a smooth autopista, to Mexico City, or three hours in the other direction to Guadalajara.

If I don’t want to fight the traffic or teeming mobs of Mexico City, but I do want a wider variety of restaurants than we have here on the mountaintop, it’s less than a three-hour drive northeast to San Miguel de Allende.

Also on, of course, a smooth autopista.

In San Miguel, we now overnight at the Hotel Quinta Loreto right downtown, wonderfully located, not elegant but quite comfy, and a big room costs about $38 these days.**

The fabulous Café MuRo is less than a block away.

Sure, you have to elbow aside hordes of Gringos in San Miguel, both those who live there so they don’t have to learn Spanish and tourists who flock there for the same reason.

But that’s a minor distraction.

Then we return to the cool mountain air.

Changes of scenery are available in every direction.

It’s dang sweet.

* * * *

* An autopista is a fast-traveling toll highway. The tolls, which can be a bit high, keep the riffraff away.

** Including tax!

Living easy

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LET’S LOOK at how, with a little luck and a bit of forethought, you can leave your old life behind and start anew.

Pay off those bills, chuck those worries, say adiós to the folks who are always annoying you, pack your bags, get on a plane and fly over the southern border.

You know you want to.

Here are some photos that illustrate what you can do with effort and a little cash, less than you might think.

First, there are flowers. The top photo was taken in our yard a couple of years ago. The rains are just getting started, and soon we´ll have this view again. The golden datura outside the bedroom window sent sweet smells to us just last night.

Only lunatics want to live on a Mexican beach because it’s often hot and buggy, a situation somewhat like those folks who always annoyed you. But the beach is great for a visit.

And then you head back to the cool mountains.

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This photo was taken a few years ago. That’s my child bride in a  pool in Zihuatanejo, just a 3.5-hour drive down an autopista from the Hacienda.

This is living easy, and you can do it too. I know you want to.

Pack your bags and wave adiós.

Do it before you die.