Mexico (again!)

Mexico. Was. Awesome.

Here are some of my favorite memories: We ate ALOT of cheese, bread (smothered in Mexico’s amazing herb butter) and drank alot of Americanos. We saw some of the most gorgeous sunsets I have ever seen in a city. We walked nearly 16 miles in one day. We put Kerrin’s Spanish (and my Spanglish) to use because NO ONE spoke English. We wandered into random festivals and open markets (I’m pretty sure Mexicans just party everyday). We visited every cathedral and museum we walked by. We watched maggots eat a book. We had tea at a place blasting head-banging music (this was not pleasant). We hiked to the top of a pyramid and drank 7-UP to ease my altitude sickness. We decided we were moving to Mexico. We decided against this idea.

Enjoy the photos. I’m excited to be a Sheldon.

P.S.

I posted ALOT more photos of Mexico City and Puebla on my personal blog.

Mexico!

I recently got married to a pretty lil thang named Elaine. I love her so. To celebrate, we took a honeymoon warm-up trip (the real one is in January) to a little place I like to call Mexico. We visited Mexico City and Puebla, both beautiful towns with lots of great architecture, surrounding mountains, color, and vibrancy. We strongly, strongly recommend Puebla, as it is one of our favorite cities ever. Really beautiful.

Check out some photos of the places I just mentioned in the paragraph above:

On The (Side of the) Road In Argentina

It was to be a relaxing, inexpensive vacation. We used Tim’s frequent flier miles for two free tickets to Buenos Aires, Argentina then rented a car to see the countryside, to drive to Ibera National Park for a couple of days of watching the incredible variety of wildlife found in the park, and then to fulfill a life list item of Janet’s – to see the incredible Iguazu Falls. We would cap off the trip with a couple of days seeing the sights of Buenos Aires before flying back home. Our trip didn’t quite turn out as planned.

If you were reading our story in a literature class, there would be much discussion about foreshadowing beginning with the conversation between Janet and her seat mate on the flight to Argentina who questioned us about our trip, asking if we speak Spanish. When we replied we did not, he just shook his head, and said, “that could be a challenge”. We replied we like adventure and he just shook his head with a smile. Omen #1. Next was the $6000 security deposit the rental company wanted to charge to our credit card which was never mentioned when I made the reservation. Omen #2. We ended up purchasing Argentinian auto insurance to get around the deposit and headed to our rental car – a Fiat Sienna. Omen #3. When Tim went to start the car, it hesitated on the initial turn over. Omen #4. But it started right up on the second attempt so we filled the car with gas and were on our way!

Our first day was a six-hour drive to Santa Fe where I had made a reservation at the local Holiday Inn. (Travel tip: When traveling to a foreign country, securing a room the first night, usually, alleviates a lot of stress.) When we were about 4 hours outside of Buenos Aires, we had to go through the town of Rosario which included a lot of stop and go driving. The car began to jerk, sputter and bog down. Eventually we sputtered into a Supermercado where it completely died. Note: My seatmate was right, no one in Argentina speaks English – no one. This made for some really interesting initial “conversations” with the super market staff trying to get help. We did eventually, miraculously, find an English speaker who was kind enough to help us resolve our problem.

Tim called the insurance company and with help from our interpreter, a tow truck eventually showed up. The driver spent some time under the hood and then declared our car, “perfecto”. He drove around the parking lot to prove the effectiveness of his work and we were on our way again. Two hours later with only a couple of sputterings, we arrived at our hotel. By now it was late and we were hungry. Having been advised by the front desk that walking to a nearby restaurant probably wouldn’t be safe, we ate a very mediocre meal in the hotel restaurant. This was not the beginning of the restful vacation I had hoped for.

To make a long (very long) story short, over the next couple of days we drove north, putting more and more kilometers between us and the Europcar rental desk in Buenos Aires. After several hours of driving, the car would begin to sputter and jerk and we would pull over for a while until the car cooled down and we would then begin again. We kept hoping to make it to the next “larger” tourist town where we were sure it would be easier to find help. It wasn’t. The car got worse with each kilometer so with the help of google translator on Tim’s phone, we found a mechanic who hooked up our car to a computer and declared we had been putting in the wrong gasoline. Relieved, we drove around the town using up our gas until we were able to refill the tank with the correct gas. Argentian gas stations run out of gas quite regularly – we were lucky the correct gas was to arrive in a few hours.

Believing better performance from our car was assured, the next day we headed on but the car just continued to get worse. Two hours away from Iguazu Falls, it would go no farther. We pulled into the town of San Ignacio. It was here we decided our car would never make it over the mountains to Iguazu and we called again for help. Tim spent hours on the phone trying to secure help. Whether we talked to the insurance company or the rental car agency, they would say they would check on it and call us back – in 10 minutes. They didn’t – ever. We finally called the concierge at the Marriott in Buenos Aires to intercede on our behalf. He called us back with the news that we were suppose to have had the tow truck in Rosario take us back to the Europcar office in Buenos Aires to switch cars and because we hadn’t, we either had to bring the car back OR be charged to have the rental company tow the car back to BA for $1 US per kilometer for each of the well over 1000 kilometers we were now away AND for the charges to fix the car because we obviously broke it. It was, after all, “perfecto” in Rosario.

After many frustrated tears (Janet), we decide to try to drive the car back. Janet kissed the dream of seeing the falls good-bye and climbed into the car. We then drove south for two days. We would drive awhile and then stop for longer and longer periods of time on the side of the road. Finally the engine light would not turn off and the car would barely go. Having no options, Tim used our most trusty companions, the iPhone and google translator, to arrange a local tow truck to drive us the remaining 500 kilometers back to the Buenos Aires for $800 US and 7 1/2 hours in the cab of an Argentinian tow truck. Occasionally using the translator and Janet’s six weeks, one evening a week, of community college adult enrichment classes in Spanish, we carried on a conversation with our sleepy driver just trying to make it back to the rental desk alive. We finally pulled into the airport parking lot, relieved our “adventure” was at an end.

Unfortunately, it was not quite over. There was no one at the Europcar desk. We called their downtown office and found them surprised we had returned early. They promised to send someone to get the keys. Two hours later no one had arrived. On a return call, we were told to put the keys under the mat and leave the doors open. Right, this should turn out well. We realized we would most likely rot in the airport before anyone actually showed up for the keys so we did what they told us to do and caught a cab to the BA Marriott.

We spent three days in Buenos Aires – I would describe BA as a glamorous ’30’s movie starlet but it is now 1995. The architecture was at one time gorgeous. Almost every street we visited had beautiful buildings. But now everything is tired, graffiti covered, and tense. We did spend two wonderful days with the parents of a friend who took us to a marvelous, old world coffee shop followed by a driving tour of the city, and later for a wonderful steak lunch at a beautiful tucked away restaurant. The next day we were welcomed to a party at their neighbor’s home where each person there did their best to make us feel welcome and included.

Despite all, Argentina is a gorgeous country. We found kind people throughout the country willing to tackle the language challenge to help us. The Jesuit missions ruins we visited were amazing. The bar and the restaurant in the Buenos Aires Marriott are two of the most romantic rooms I have ever been in and we had memorable, delicious meals in each of them, including one for Tim’s birthday. The bartender was so passionate about his job, it made being in that gorgeous room even more enjoyable. And Argentina’s Malbec is now my (Janet’s) favorite wine.

No doubt about it, Argentina threw down the gauntlet on this trip. Argentina won the first round but we will be back and we will win round two. Argentina just has too much to offer to give up on it and not return. But first we have to pay the phone bill and next time, we’ll take the bus.

Duathlon 3.0 – aka the birth of a new type of language that engages the reader in order to explain the intricacies of human body movement and the usurping of the body by the evil called FATIGUE and what causes it.

A duathlon is dual in nature. Sometimes, it is running; other times, it is biking. Half the time, it is fun; the other half of the time, it is not fun (in fact, its downright torturous). It is about participating but, more importantly, no matter who tells you differently, it is about winning. I win sometimes, and sometimes (see: all times) I do not win. So that’s how it goes. That’s a duathlon in a nutshell.

Let’s review that very short paragraph. A DUATHLON IS:

  1. RUNNING!
  2. BIKING!

Now, part 3 is the tricky part. Because, while it is true that a duathlon is both running and biking, it is also a third thing. A DUATHLON ALSO IS:

  1. MORE RUNNING!

Indeed. Well put second number (1). If you noticed, number 1 is very similar to the second number 1, insofar that they are both RUNNING!. However, there is a slight difference between the two, despite the fact that the two words I have written down (referring to: RUNNING!) are very similar to one another. The difference is in time, that nonstop, abstract idea that no one has been able to see, manipulate, or hold. In the first RUNNING!, the time is usually shorter than the second RUNNING!, despite the fact that the “distance” is the same. Let’s review the key terms:

  1. RUNNING! – This is an activity (something you do, often for fun) that involves moving your legs (hopefully) faster than you normally would when walking.
  2. Time – As we discussed in the previous paragraph, “Time” is an abstract (existing only as a thought or idea, not as a concrete object) measuring tool for the passage of our lives. Time is constant and never changes speed, though certain activities seem (appear) to make  “Time” go faster or slower. (for more on this idea, go play video games for an hour followed by an hour of sitting and staring at the wall).
  3. Distance – Like the aforementioned “Time”, “Distance” is also a measuring tool, but instead of being abstract, “Distance” is more easily understood as the collection of space between two different objects (for example a tree and another, completely different tree).

Now, back on track. So, a duathlon consists of two different RUNNING! segments, with the second RUNNING! segment being equal to the first in “distance” but unequal to the first in “Time”. There is a perfectly good explanation for this, despite the fact that on the surface, there would seem to be no plausible explanation at all. However, there is. The explanation is two fold:

  1. BIKING!
  2. FATIGUE!

Biking (often called cycling by true bikers (cyclists)) is an activity that requires a human being to use both of their legs, often at the same time, to pump small pedals that turn a large circular, jagged edge circle with a chain attached to it. This chain then turns a separate, but related, circle with jagged edges, which, when enough force is provided by the human being’s legs onto the pedals, a much larger wheel with a rubber exterior to turn. This propels the bike forward. In case you missed the main idea here, it is that a single human being is responsible for propelling himself forward on a wheeled contraption. An effort that often causes, you guessed it, FATIGUE!.

FATIGUE! is a phenomenon not unlike the feeling you have before bedtime that many people call “The Sleepies”. While “The Sleepies” are often annoying and dangerous, they are different from FATIGUE! and should not be confused with one another. It is possible to have “The Sleepies” and not have FATIGUE!, and vice-versa. However, the similarity between the two is that they make normal body functions more difficult and strenuous. “The Sleepies” often affect the human being’s ability to concentrate on certain tasks, such as reading a book or doing a crossword. As you can see from these examples, “The Sleepies” most often affects the mental capacity of the inflicted. However, FATIGUE! usually affects the physical ability of the inflicted, which often leads to dangerous, and possibly deadly, side effects. (since we have come across the two words now, we shall point out the difference between “effect” and “affect”. Quite simply, “effect” is a noun, and “affect” is a verb. You can’t effect someone, but you can have the wrong effect. In contrast, punching someone in the face may very well affect their beauty, and such side effects could include drowsiness and a runny nose).

Word connection:

  • RUNNING! takes a human being through “Distance” and also takes up “Time”, which is often followed by BIKING! which, though fun, causes a serious condition named FATIGUE! and it too takes up “Time” while allowing the human being to cover vast “Distances”. Then the human being, while experiencing FATIGUE!, has to once again partake in the act of RUNNING! where the “Distance” is exactly the same as the first time they went RUNNING! but it tends to take up more “Time” because of the aforementioned FATIGUE!

Get it?

So now you understand why my second RUNNING time is much slower than my first RUNNING time.

Also, I got 2nd in my age group and 16th overall (someone got disqualified). Enjoy! (Head shots by Lindsay)

Phoenix!

After the Christmas celebrations, the Sheldon/Schluterman clan flew to the Camelback Resort in Phoenix, AZ for some fun family time.  The resort gave us a gorgeous suite of rooms.  This was looking to be a great vacation.

Day One was all you hope for when you fly half way across the country to escape the winter – 65 degrees and sunny.  Thanks to Accuweather, we knew this weather wouldn’t last so we immediately went outside to sit in the sun and swim in our private (!) pool.  Ahhh….fabulous.

Our Pool

On Day Two the younger crew got in a run in the morning before the rain came.  Once the rain began, we headed for the movie theater to see The King’s Speech.  It was a great movie, highly recommended by our entire family.  When we returned, Lauren, Alexis and Janet all went to a cooking demonstration on making guacamole – just to see how they make it in the southwest.  They really enjoyed the free samples served with sangria.  Yum!  The men all went to play some tennis.  Later we had a great dinner at Ritas, one of the resort’s restaurants.

On Day Three we decided while the weather was still cold and a bit rainy to head once again to the movies.  Three movies were seen: Black Swan, given an average rating of 8 by the viewers, The Fighter, given an average score of 8.5 by its viewers, and True Grit, given 5.5 by its one viewer.  All in all a good morning at the movies.  We then split up with one bunch headed back to the resort to play some tennis (the men) or take a nap (Alexis).  The second bunch headed off to Target to buy sweatshirts….brrrr……it’s cold here!……and resupply the kitchen.  As our suite has a great kitchen we have chosen to eat most of our breakfasts and lunches in the room.  Though today after the movie we went to a little French cafe run by a husband and wife from Paris for some quiche, paninis and salads.  Really yummy and of course, we had to bring home some of the freshly made Parisian desserts.  Driving home we experienced a rare occurence in Phoenix – snow!  So much for escaping winter!

Camelback Mountain

We returned to the room to relax, read, and play some fierce games of chess.  We also took a short hike up Mummy Mountain behind the hotel as the sun had come out and we wanted to see the view.  It was quite beautiful.

Mummy Mountain

We went into old Scottsdale today for dinner to Franks and Lupas – an old time Mexican restaurant with delicious food and fabulous margaritas!  Then back to the room for a game of Spades and some games of chess.