16 September, 2020

Happy Méxican Independence Day!

I’ve spoken to a few people about the train, El Chepe. Most tell me that a trip is on their bucket list. Some tell me that they’ve never heard of it. Very few have ridden the train. So here’s a little information from my experience (next video by mexicodesconocido) …

In June of 2017 I took a trip on El Chepe. When I took my trip, El Chepe was travelling from Los Mochis, Sinaloa to Chihuahua, Chihuahua. It appears from their website (https://chepe.mx/) that they are now only going as far as Creel, and not Chihuahua. Hopefully this is just a temporary change as Chihuahua was a nice city and allowed me to just do a one way trip. I started by flying to El Paso, then taking a bus to Chihuahua. You can do the same thing, and then take a bus from Chihuahua to Creel – but it wouldn’t be as fun!

México’s version of the USA’s Grand Canyon, Las Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon) is four times bigger. And it’s greener! And it has an adventure park! And hotels on the rim! AND it has the last passenger train in México to take you there! There’s even a new class of travel that’s pretty swanky! Ok … let me tell you a little about my stops.

Creel, Chihuahua – a fun little mountain town. There are several attractions here that you would consider when deciding where you wanted to stop on your journey. I stayed here for two days and saw the Valle de los Monjes (Valley of the Monks), Lago Arareko (Lake Arareko), and La Cascada de Cusarare (Cusarare Falls). I missed seeing Basaseachi Falls, but I need to have something for the next trip, don’t I! The stone formations in the Valley of the Monks were spectacular! Here’s a little video (by Postandfly) to give you an idea:

Divisadero, Chihuahua – This is where the best views of the canyon are, and also where the adventure park is! There are two not so cheap hotels on the rim of the canyon. The Hotel Mirador has balconies overlooking the canyon, while the Hotel Barrancas del Cobre requires you to leave your room and take a dozen steps. I stayed in the Hotel Barrancas del Cobre. It was rustic, and they serve meals on a set schedule. When the train is in (just up the walkway), there are food vendors galore on the platform. Do yourself a favor and stock up with something to snack on later! The adventure park has several activities. There’s a Zip Rider where you sit in a harness; there’s a 7 segment zip line with 2 LONG suspension bridges; a gondola; and there’s a rock climbing/hiking option. They also have a restaurant with a section of the floor made of glass (put the booties on first)! Here’s a good YouTube video from The Way We Saw It

El Fuerte, Sinaloa – There’s not a whole lot to do in El Fuerte, but it was a nice stop. The Posada del Hidalgo Hotel is very nice (the steep stone walkway is VERY slippery when wet – be advised to go around the corner, up the hill, and enter from the side). They tout the hotel as being the home of el Zorro – fact, or fiction? Lol. They say they have a little el Zorro show in the evenings, but sadly they weren’t doing them when I was there. Street food in El Fuerte, around the hotel, is excellent. Be sure not to miss getting a bowl of birria de chivo! Oh, and the name of the town, El Fuerte, means The Fort. There’s a fort you can visit – it’s right across the street from the hotel I stayed in.

Los Mochis, Sinaloa – This is the end of the line for El Chepe. I used the time to get a little sleep before getting a taxi to the bus station for the ride to Mazatlán. There are several things to see in Los Mochis – next time I’ll stay longer and explore!

I highly recommend that you take this trip. If it’s on your bucket list, just do it and cross it off! With the new Clase Premera option on the train, you should have a very nice trip indeed. And the views of Copper Canyon from Divisadero are just amazing. You can book a tour (talk to Christian with Mazatlán Open Air (https://www.facebook.com/openaircab) or save a few dollars and do it on your own. Either way, it’s a great experience! I know I’ll be doing it again!

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11 September, 2020

The time is drawing near for elections in the United States of America. Please take a moment to verify you are registered to vote in your home state, and request an absentee ballot if you need one. Some states have their voter’s pamphlet online now – so give that a look to see what measures and offices you’ll be voting for.

And if you need assistance finding your state’s voters information website – pop over to vote.org and look it up!

Now for a reminder of sunsets in Mazatlán …

Mazatlán Sunset
Mazatlán Sunset
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31 August, 2020

I think I’m done with las changueras (shrimp ladies). Most of the year their product is frozen anyway, and even if I get to them in late morning I find I HAVE to cook the shrimp that day, or toss it out. I’m originally from the Pacific Northwest. We don’t have fresh shrimp – but we do know our seafood. When their shrimp is still cold in their big tubs it looks/smells fine – but the minute it warms up, plan on a stinky apartment! And that’s not how fresh shrimp should introduce themselves to your place.

There’s a shop down on Avenida Emilio Barragán near the Jumapam office and the embarcadero to La Isla de la Piedra (the embarcadero to get you to the town on Stone Island, not the tourist embarcadero) that doesn’t thaw their product and let it sit out for hours/days(?). Of course, they’re more expensive than the shrimp ladies, and not nearly as fun, AND I have to walk through La Ciudad Perdida (the lost city) to get there – but I’m going to say adios to the shrimp ladies and either just buy at the mercado or make the trek through the lost city.

The reason for my latest shrimp purchase is that I’ve been wanting a shrimp chile relleno for a long time. I can’t seem to find them anywhere so making my own appears to be my only option. If you’re from North of the Border you likely think all rellenos are stuffed with cheese and that’s it. Oh no! How boring! You can put whatever you want inside your relleno, and believe me – you’ll be doing the happy dance of relleno delight!

So three poblano peppers – roasted and peeled, then dried as well as I could get them. Slit made and the seeds removed. Rice cooked. Cheese grated. Shrimp steamed. Méxican salsa (onion, jalapeño, tomato) made – no cilantro, I didn’t have any. Flour, salt, pepper, and finally – two eggs. Used the last of my oil to put a shallow layer in my skillet.

Season the flour and dredge the peppers. Stuff with a mixture of the shrimp, rice, cheese, and salsa. Close the peppers with toothpicks. Whip up the eggs and dip the flour coated peppers into the egg to coat (spoon some on top) and then place in the skillet to cook. Flip when done and cook on the other side. Remove to a paper towel lined plate.

I enjoyed mine with just some additional salsa, but you can make a salsa roja, salsa verde, or even molé! So many ways to enjoy. And don’t waste the leftover egg – when you’re done frying the chile’s, throw the remaining egg mixture into the skillet and make yourself a little shrimp egg roll!

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25 August, 2020

Got another email from the US State Department.  This one has a lot of voting information, and links to useful sites.  In case you aren’t getting updates from them and need the info, here you go …

Only 70 Days Left 

U.S. Citizens:  It is time to register to vote for the 2020 General Election. 

Registering to vote and submitting an absentee ballot is fast, easy, and can be done from anywhere in the world.  The Federal Voting Assistance Program (FVAP) website has state by state instructions and the contact information for each election office.  You can complete the Federal Post Card Application (FPCA), print a U.S. postage-paid envelope, and review the FVAP links page for other useful resources.  

If your state requires the FPCA or another paper form, you can send it to your local election officials through international mail, a professional courier service, or a U.S. Mission to Mexico facility.  For additional instructions, please visit our voting webpage.   

Please complete your registration and absentee ballot request as soon as possible.  We recommend U.S. citizens living overseas complete FPCAs each year, including 2020. 

U.S. citizens abroad should send a new FPCA each year so they receive an absentee ballot for all federal elections within that calendar year.  By submitting a new FPCA each year, voters can also ensure their contact information is up-to-date with their local election offices. 

For more information, including contact information for voting assistance officials at the Embassy and consulates, please visit the U.S. Mission to Mexico’s voting webpage and FVAP.gov

Remember, your vote counts!  

Assistance:  

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22 August, 2020

When I was considering the move to México I came up with a plan. First, get someplace to live and use as a home-base for a little traveling. Second, travel around México and see this part of the continent. There were some thirds, fourths, and so on – but I want to discuss my idea to travel around México in this post.

In the mid-1960’s I visited Tijuana. I’ll say it wasn’t the most pleasant day trip, and was the reason I didn’t go back to México until I took a Méxican Riviera cruise for my Aunt’s 97th birthday. Puerto Vallarta was jungle and beautiful. The marina area of Cabo San Lucas was clean and sparkly. Mazatlán wasn’t like anyplace I’d been to in the USA! Ok, maybe I DID like México! So, I bought my timeshare in Mazatlán. After two years I bought my timeshare in Puerto Vallarta. Then I researched other places to go. Often my flight to/from Puerto Vallarta was routed through México City – pyramids in Teotihuacan are just an hour away! So I added a few days to my next Puerto Vallarta trip and went to Teotihuacan (I’ve been back a few more times too)! I’ve taken the bus a couple of times from Mazatlán to Puerto Vallarta – I can tell you that the ride through Nayarit is beautiful. I planned a guided tour to Guadalajara, and then when a hurricane was headed Mazatlán’s way, I skedaddled there on my own to check it out before the tour. The tour took me to Tlaquepaque, Tonalá, and Tequila as well. I’ve bussed to Durango for two days. I’ve even ridden El Chepé from Chihuahua to Los Mochis, with stops in Creel, Divisadero, El Fuerte, and Los Mochis. Las Barrancas del Cobre (Copper Canyon) is amazing! I spent June of 2019 in México City just wandering around and exploring. I’ve been to both Acapulco and Barra de Coyuca in Guerrero.

So my original plan of traveling around México included a trip down the Pacific Coast. It’s time for that to happen. My timeshare in Puerto Vallarta is booked for a week in mid-October. From there I’m going to Manzanillo for a few days. Then on to Zihuatanejo for a few more days. Another week in Acapulco, and then I’ll wrap things up with a few days in Puerto Escondido. Buses will get me from one place to another. I think Puerto Escondido will be far enough south, so I’m skipping Huatulco. Next will be the Yucatan, Campeche, Veracruz, and maybe Tampico. Then I’ll hit some of the interior towns. I fully intend on keeping that guy with the scythe so busy trying to find me that he gets dizzy and decides I’m too much trouble!

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21 August, 2020

Not much to report from Mazatlán! Hot. Humid. Occasional rain. It’s summer!

On my last walk I noticed that the green vbike bicycles were gone from the malecón. Not sure if the Mayor made good his statement that he was going to get rid of them, or if they’re just off being serviced/???. Will have to keep an eye out and keep updated! You would think he’d want them – they’re expanding the bicycle lane on the Avenida del Mar. More proof that government doesn’t always make sense, no matter what country you’re in!

My gas ran out faster than normal, but I’ve been expecting it for a couple of weeks. When I got up this morning there was a Gaspasa truck parked at the corner and I *almost* ran down and bought a new cylinder. I should have because when I went to cook dinner there was nada! Only took them a half hour to arrive after I called so I’m back in business AND have cooked and eaten dinner! Just a little side note – if you live on anything but the ground floor as I do, please be sure to tip your gas delivery person. I have 35 steps to my apartment and there’s a few with an overhang that people two inches taller than I am bump their head into. Those cylinders are heavy, and even more so when you have to duck to avoid smashing your head and the tank! I usually round the bill up to the next hundred pesos and then throw another hundred in. Gets them a torta and a beer and the extra five/six bucks is well worth it to me.

I’m in week five of a diet. There was a time that I was almost 60 lbs. heavier than I am now, and I’d already shaved over 50 of it off a few years back. I’d told myself that my new weight was fine, but I was still experiencing the occasional thighs rubbing together just from walking, shoulders jiggling when using stairs, and extra belly padding. It’s been a good 17 years since I’ve been below 140 lbs. but I’m there again – and only have three more pounds to go to hit my goal of 135! The news reports about Covid-19 have been saying that being overweight is a big risk factor, and that also prompted me to go on the wagon again.

If you’re overweight and would like the one diet proven time and time again to work, here it is … Eat fewer calories than you burn. Ok, yes, that’s a little simple. First you need to calculate your ‘resting metabolic rate’. This is the amount of calories that you burn just by being alive. There are several websites that will calculate this number for you. Once you have that number, subtract 500. That gives you the number of calories you can eat in a day to lose a pound of fat in a week. It’s always shockingly low. Then you need to track the calories of EVERY single thing you put into your mouth. You don’t turn this in to anyone, it’s private – so don’t cheat. Weigh yourself once a week, on the same day and keep track. If you don’t lose, or if you’re losing more it means your resting metabolic rate calculation was off – make an adjustment to your daily calorie allowance and keep going. As you progress you’re going to be needing less calories a day to stay alive, so you’ll have to drop your daily calorie allowance every once in a while.

You want a low and slow weight loss as this allows you to get a good understanding of calories in food and modifies your eating behavior. For example, broccoli is under 10 calories an ounce. Beans are surprisingly high in calories. Oil is crazy high – it really pays to use a spray oil to minimize the amount you need to cook.

Ok, off my weight loss soapbox! Have a good weekend and take a little time to enjoy the … videos of Mazatlán you find on YouTube!

YouTube video by Mazatleco.com

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8 August, 2020

Just a short post for those who aren’t in Mazatlán, but wish they were!

From my walk yesterday. I was almost out of both mushroom soy sauce and gochujang so a trip to Toyo was in order. If you haven’t been, Toyo is on the last block of Benito Juarez, right before it ends at the Avenida del Mar. While they don’t have all foods Asian, they have a decent selection. So, if you are in need of some rice wine vinegar, or the aforementioned mushroom soy sauce, hit them up!

It was over 90 f. yesterday, but there was a really nice breeze along the malecon between Playa del Norte and Olas Altas. Very few people until I hit the clavadistas – where one of them was jumping! Here are a few pictures …

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4 August, 2020

Today’s topic: ‘Safety in Mazatlán’. In my experience, this could also be titled, ‘Safety in México’. This seems to be the number one question of people thinking of visiting or moving here. I avoid it because there is NO place that’s totally safe. The city you currently live in isn’t totally safe – you just know what areas to avoid to minimize your risk. That should be the question people ask, but never is. So, here are some of the safety issues in Mazatlán that you should be aware of and be on the watch for when you visit. I’m assuming you aren’t in the drug trade, so we can skip the whole cartel thing and just cover things that will affect you!

The first pervasive safety issue doesn’t usually affect me at all. I’m 5′ 4″ tall – a typical height around here. Taller people would be well warned to always be on the lookout for low hanging air conditioner cages! Hard to see from a distance, and cause nasty head injuries! These mainly affect those who like to walk while using their phone. Owch! Shorter people should still be on the lookout for them though – there’s a rare low-straggler!

Air Conditioner Cage
Air conditioner cage – Head injury waiting to happen to tall people!

Not the best example, but this shows the lack of sidewalk height regulations! Little Step, Big Step, Slanted Driveway, Another Step! Thought step aerobics was a thing of the past? Not in México! Sometimes the differences are very small, and those that don’t pay very close attention quickly find themselves with a fairly expensive ride to the hospital to set a broken bone. Please believe me when I say this is a TOP FIVE cause of injury to tourists here.

Sidewalk Height
Sidewalk Height

People seem to think that the sidewalks are theirs to ‘improve’ as they see fit – even if the improvements prevent people from using the sidewalk! Sometimes it’s the CITY doing the improvements!

Utility access covers are rarely flush with the sidewalk, and are typically made from 1/4″ thick (or less) cement. Many have foot shaped holes in them, so in addition to tripping on them, you have to be careful not to fall through one! I just avoid stepping on them at all.

Utility Access
Utility Access

Then there are the cracks, wet sidewalks, and utility pole support wires – which, like air conditioner cages, are very difficult to see … but these will bite you someplace a tad lower than your head! Especially debilitating for guys – and embarrassing for either sex when walked into in public! And water on the sidewalk – each homeowner pretty much decides what materials are going to be used for the sidewalk in front of their home. Some have pretty, shiny, tiles – that are slippery as crap when wet. And wet means water was on it sometime in the last week!

And last, because we were just speaking of crap …. there’s the animal waste! While this will only ruin a pair of shoes and probably not cause you injury, it is a sidewalk hazard one has to look out for!

Animal Waste
Animal Waste

That wraps up the episode on Safety in Mazatlán! Please, be aware when you’re walking! Don’t scan ahead more than 1/4 block. Those pole support wires are REALLY hard to see in the sun, and tiny differences in sidewalk height will give you unwanted memories of your time here! When you see water on the sidewalk tell yourself it’s going to be slippery! And now nod your head because you know why so many people walk in the streets!

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3 August, 2020

I’m sharing a Facebook post by Sinaloa en Linea because, unfortunately, it accurately depicts the current situation with people wearing masks and social distancing. If you look at the pictures closely, you’ll notice many people WITH masks, aren’t wearing them; or they aren’t wearing them properly. Yep. There’s a reason why México is right behind the USA and Brazil.

The New Normal by Sinaloa en Linea

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17 July, 2020

The second kitchen store is a block away, almost at the corner of Azueta and Zaragoza. It’s more kitchen-ie, but many of their products are plastic. They had a variety of tortilla presses in various sizes and had metal, plastic, and wood. Termites would love the wood, so that was a no. Metal only came in JUMBO size, and a strange oval shape (someone tell me what that’s for!). So plastic it is! 140 pesos/$7 usd. More than I think a plastic tortilla press is worth, but I’ll be quiet. I also bought four small ceramic ramekins for the same price.

Then I walked the block to El Pechugón Mazatlán! A half chicken and order of potatoes were $80 pesos/$4 usd. Take another year off my life expectancy!

I figured I’d already been bad, so I walked to the Suaves – Malvavisco Cubierto de Coco. CEA factory and bought a bag of malvaviscos de coco (coconut marshmallows). I’m not a huge marshmallow fan, but these are REALLY good, and when you can get them fresh from the factory – well … 22 pesos/$1.10 usd well spent.

While I did walk past Marisqueria El Changuirongo and avoided the temptation of a liter of ceviche, I was waylaid by the Panadería Don Ramon. Two empanadas de piña waved to me from the display window and I gave in to temptation! 18 pesos/$0.90 usd for the two. Cheaper than the beach vendors!

So now I’m home, wet from neck to waist from sweating in the heat (not from the brief rain). One empanada gone, as is a drumstick and wing from the chicken. Whoever made the chicken today put extra seasonings on it. It is extremely tasty. Remember, if you’re in Mazatlán El Pechugon delivers! I don’t know about their locations in other cities – you’ll have to check (there are a couple of them in Puerto Vallarta. I know some of you also go there, so heads up!).

Ok, time for a little rest before I study for my weekly iTalki (https://www.italki.com/i/6HEbGG?hl=en-us) Spanish lesson. Didn’t seem to find time for it all week! I might just fess up to not studying and ask for a q & a session.

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