A Fireside Chat?

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Happy Sixtieth Mom & Dad

Sixty Years . . . Remarkable Couple Celebrates Anniversary!

There’s fireworks again tonight and Lizzie and Cayden are here cowering at my feet convinced that it is a storm.

Every night, periodically during most days and almost without exception, in the pre-dawn hours there is fireworks. I can’t keep up with identifying the celebrations and it seems like the Mexican people can’t either. When ever I ask about the fireworks someone is bound to say: Si fuegos artificiales! . . . Translation: Yes. Fireworks! That’s not an answer to my question of course but it’s nice to know that both parties are discussing the same subject.

I’ve just been explaining to Cayden and Lizzie that tonight’s fireworks must be to celebrate their “grandparent’s” sixtieth anniversary. That’s right. Today Howard and Jean Miller, my parents, have been married for sixty years.

Love one another and you will be happy. It's as simple and as difficult as that. ~Michael Leunig

Let’s not oversimplify Mr. Leuing. Love is a thin blanket on a cold night when the furnace has quit and the kids are sick. Love will not help you to discover a way to keep the car running or the cupboards filled between paydays. Love is often left in the dust when there are disagreements over: money, kids, in-laws . . .

But love for all that it is touted and celebrated with hearts and flowers, with songs and sighs and batting eyes, I believe it to be like a strong rope whose individual fibers are partnership, mutual respect, trust, tenacity, inspiration, creativity, imagination, humor and a host of attributes that are intricately bound and wrapped so that as it is woven its strength will be enough to bind together two people who have agreed to share their lives come what may.

A sixtieth anniversary is such an incredible and rare event that it honors the very notion of love. So Mom and Dad: the fireworks are still booming here and Cath and I are cheering, toasting your achievement and apart from all of that we are trying to peel the dogs off of us for despite the fact that we have decided that on this day the Mexican fireworks should be in your honor, Cayden and Lizzie still hate the sound of thunder!
I love you.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Message to Mom & Dad & Betty & Joe

The spider is dead!

Just when we had planned to buy him a collar and leash and start walking him with the girls, Cath discovered him leering at her from a new hiding place.

As she was putting the vacuum cleaner away yesterday she moved the laundry hamper further over to make room and viola: THERE HE WAS.

She didn't have time to plug in the vacuum again but the mop was at hand and after nearly two weeks of cat and mouse SHE GOT HIM.

I would have taken a picture to post but it was too gruesome. By the time Cath was finished with him he looked like a used SOS pad so I didn't bother.

Our Daily Constitution

I think that we are adapting fairly well although there are still some lessons to be learned along the road to assimilation.


There are no sidewalks in Roca Azul; there are cobblestone roads hemmed in by some sort of grass/weed areas on either side. When it rains, as it did last night, due to the uneven nature of the roads, you are going to get some fairly significant puddles which eventually give way to some amazing mud holes.

This afternoon at about four we loaded up the dogs, two in strollers and two walking, and we set out for our daily walk in the park. We decided to take the long way, walking several streets out of our way, so that we all would get maximum exercise.

About a block from home there is a fenced yard that holds in four barking, Husky like dogs. We usually avoid that place because these animals are big enough and strong enough to jump the fence if they take a notion to, but today we were in one of those “devil may care” frames of mind and ignoring all reason we walked past the Husky yard and as predicted the Husky look-a-likes came snarling and charging at the fence. In our haste to put some distance between them and us we managed to drag our two walking dogs through a couple of healthy mud puddles and at the same time nearly swamped the strollers.

Ordinarily there is not a lot of traffic in Roca Azul; but today for some reason it seemed that there were at least a dozen cars or trucks that passed us as we headed for the entrance to the park. Each time a vehicle passed we would do our best to get off of the road and onto the grass border but it wasn’t long before we realized that as the volume of mud on our shoes and on the wheels of the strollers increased, our traction decreased and it wasn’t long before we were really having to put some muscle into the job of getting the strollers on the grass verge, not to mention the work out we were getting trying to pull our feet from the suction grip that the mud had on our shoes.

By the time we reached the park Cath’s black clogs looked like platforms with pontoons while my own tennis shoes resembled those patio tiles that are shaped like feet and they weighed about the same. Oh well, the park has interlocking stone and a lovely walkway and recognizing that the mud was sure to dry and fall away, we pressed on.

Did I mention that the park has these wonderful pine trees? I don’t know what they are but the needles are soft and about twelve inches long and the walkways have piles of these needles that have been shed by the trees plus millions of miniature pinecones.

At some point I noticed that Lizzie was limping due to a build up of little pine cones between her toes. They were jammed in there pretty good with the mud but I managed to pick them out and at the same time remove the pine needles that had attached themselves to the back of her heels and were following her like streamers from bicycle handles.

Eventually we left the park to walk back home through the mud holes. In front of our house and to the right, we have a Guava tree (everyone here seems to have at least one) that drops a ton of fruit on a daily basis. Guavas look like green apples and are about the same size as golf balls but unlike green apples, Guava has the resistance of bananas so when you step on them (something that is unavoidable) they tend to slide you sideways.

Today the Guava that didn’t squash under foot, simply attached themselves in whole form to the mud, the pine needles and the cones. When we got in the dogs all needed foot baths and it took Cath an hour in the driveway to hose the clay off of the carriage wheels. As for our shoes: we are not likely to be wearing them again as they seem to have turned into adobe bird’s nests.

A Walk in the Park

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The Nanny!

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Wednesday, October 8, 2008

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The Long and Winding Road

I know that it’s been awhile but since our arrival in Roca Azul it has been very hectic with unpacking and trying to get organized. We’re not there yet but we have made some progress in the last week.

I guess I left off with us leaving a campsite in a very rural part of Missouri which turned out to have some of the most beautiful, tree lined stretches, of highway right into Arkansas before we finally hit Texas.

As we crossed the Mississippi I was reminded, in some small way, why I had wanted to make this trek by motor home rather than flying. To be honest that is the only way we could have done it with the four dogs, but the Huck Finn in me made the lure of the open road, in a six wheeled “raft”, irresistible.

I loved The Adventures of Tom Sawyer; the kid was an irascible scamp but it was Huckleberry Finn who always set me to dreaming. Growing up on the lake and having access to a neighbor’s raft probably had something to do with my vision of packing a stick with some string and a fishing hook (I don’t even eat fish) and setting off on the neighbor’s raft for an unlimited adventure. In reality I knew that I would have to be home and in the house by dark but in my heart I was always half way across Lake Huron with the wind at my back.

I have to say though that the thoughts of endless days with only a stick, string, a fishing hook and the same old underwear day after day no longer holds the same appeal. Now I am quite content to have a full kitchen, comfortable beds, air conditioning, a television and a lap top at the ready for any voyage of more than a day. Oh! And I must not forget: having a shower and hot water keeps the otherwise pungency of canned humanity at an acceptable level while traveling along the road in what is essentially a well equipped tin can. I have gotten soft in my old age!

But don’t let my reference to “Gertie” as a tin can fool you; she was quite a work horse when the going got tough while lost in the Serria Madres for two days. But I’ll get to that later. First I have to comment on the Mexican border crossing. A NIGHTMARE of un-rivaled proportions to be sure!

After spending the night in Lake Casa Blanca in Laredo, Texas, which is by far the most beautiful campsite that we ran into along the way, we set out for the border at first light and immediately got lost. After about forty minutes of heading in the opposite direction on a very rural road, with “Wrong way” at the wheel, we finally found some recently flooded and mudded ruts on the side of the road which afforded us the narrowest of margins to turn around and head back to Laredo.

Needless to say we were about two hours later than planned when it came time to drive across that short bridge to Nuevo Laredo and into the quagmire that is their border crossing and descent into officialdumb (and no, that is not a spelling mistake although I might have made it two words official dumb).

I won’t bore you with the details but initially we were pointed in the right direction (just follow the “blue signs”) by men with guns and no English, to ask for “permission” to bring in our vehicles. Half an hour later, after snailing our way through streets no wider than a bowling lane and loaded with people selling things and shouting and of course hundreds of blue signs in Spanish, we boarded a young bandit named Jessie (pronounced Yessie) who had been running alongside our vehicle shouting directions.

Jessie helped us negotiate the streets until we were finally ensconced in a parking lot for “Dinky Toys” outside the Department of Immigration. Yessie kept pounding his chest and saying: “It’s Ok. I help you”. A true humanitarian; it cost us about eighty bucks to eventually offload Jessie after registering our vehicles and setting out for the next checkpoint where the price of importing our own stuff was the lions share of five hundred dollars U.S. but then, FINALLY, after five hours of chaos, we were on our way.

It took two days of driving through the mountains which wasn’t bad until we missed our exit to a toll road and ended up competing with long distance haulers for inches of cliff side, with drop aways the depth of the Grand Canyon. I don’t recall ever being so terrified. From my side of the vehicle there was no side of the road and from Cath’s side the perspective wasn’t much better. Thank goodness for her driving prowess; if she were not such a competent driver I’m thinking that we would have a final understanding of a descent into hell and have ended up sitting with our maps and GPS at the bottom of some valley picking cactus needles out of our sorry butts.

. . . Well Stanley . . . isn’t this a fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into?
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Get Over Here Toto! I think we've left Kansas!

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Vehicle Registration, Mexico

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This is MY Giraffe and I don't want it Packed!


Soon to be Our Home on Wheels