I left Parral pretty early, at least for me. I had a long day ahead of me, since my next destination (Zacatecas) was pretty far away – almost 400 miles. I didn’t want to pull up short, because all of the options of where to stay were pretty poor. The roads were as nice as the day before, and it’s getting to be higher, which makes it cooler. As a matter of fact, a lot of the time, at speed, I’m cool, sometimes to the point of chilly. If I stop, say in traffic or whatever, I bake. All the more reason to keep moving. I’d trade that for the hellious weather I had outside of Juarez.
The road to Zacatecas was great, mia dios (my god), the toll were expensive. Entering the city, I had an idea of where to stay, so I stayed to the north end and drove around. When I thought I’d found the hotel, and was turning around to see what kind of parking they had, some guy is running down the street towards me., He’s telling me to park in the lobby of the hotel. Score!! The BMW has a real tall first gear, so it’s hard to feather it up, say, the side of a six inch curb, especially with traffic coming and people stopping in the street while I try this stunt. It was pretty hairy, but I made it, only to find four other motorcycles inside. I was in the right place. The rooms were cheap, and the guys that run the place (the family owns the block, and have for decades) were very pro motorcycle. One of the brothers, Fredrico had spent some time in Canada, and spoke fantastic English. If you’re in Zacatecas, an not on a motorcycle, I’d recommend this place very highly (James) If you’re on a motorcycle, it’s the only place to go. The first room they showed me was (I think) 160 pesos, or about $14.50. It was a small room, and I have a lot of crap, so I asked for a double. It was 200 pesos, or $18/US. I decided to stay for two night because it was a great deal, and I need to kill some time before I get to Oaxacan. Here is his contact information..
Fredrico Ruiz De Esparra Casas
Hostal Plaza Del Carmen
Av. Juarez No. 222
Zacatecas, Zac., Mex
Having found a place to stay and a shower, I went out to see the city as it started getting dark. One thing I really like about Mexico is the density. A lot of people live in the city center, and walk everywhere. Because of that, you can find anything you can imagine in these old city centers. Zacatecas was, hundreds of years ago, the mining capital in Mexico. There are a lot of old building, and a lot of neat things to see. It’s high (2500 Meters 7750 feet), so I found my heart beating faster when I was standing still (that was when I noticed it, I’m sure it happened at other times too, but I was doing stuff so I didn’t notice.) I’ve spent the last 10 days over 5000 ft, so one of these days, I’m going to get use to it. It’s cooler, but it’s also closer to the sun, so you sunburn easier. My neck has had a very hard time on this trip. On my motorcycle, it’s always exposed, and the neck of my jacket rubs the suntan lotion off. Once a redneck, always a redneck, eh? Everybody was very friendly, I think. Not speaking spanish, it’s hard to be sure. Even if they weren’t Zacatecas is my favorite town so far.
There were several interesting churches and museums. I was able to take some great pictures of the church and the city. This trip is fast becoming about photography more than about travel. I’m OK with that. I had some kids ask me if I was a photographer. I had to say no, but I told ’em about the motorcycle, and they all thought I was cool. Cause I am. I needed to do a couple of things online, such as check up on my class information, upload some of my trip narratives and make sure the internet was still there. I wanted to use my laptop, which should be a piece of cake. I found an internet cafe running linux, and asked the guy if it was OK to bring my laptop and hook it up. He said “Sure!” Well, being a dumbass, I forgot to write down his address. I had other things to do in the city,such as get money, a 3 prong to 2 prong power adapter (JA – take note.) and see about motorcycle insurance. After doing a lot of these, and walking all over the city for hours taking pictures, I decided it was time to get my laptop hooked up. I go to the hotel, swap the camera for the laptop, and try to find this internet cafe. I must have walked all over the city trying every internet cafe I could find before I found right place. At each of these other (otro in spanish) internet cafes, I found I couldn’t get it working. A couple of generalizations. All the internet cafes run windows 98 ( one had XP), and they all run WINS, microsofts crippled DNS replacement. And, for running these places, they didn’t know much about setting this stuff up. I imagine one guy running around giving tech support for all these cafes, which would explain the odd and widespread configuration. There were a few bright spots, but they couldn’t help. Some of it must have been the language barrier, but almost no one knew I needed DNS. DNS – it’s as basic as it gets. The second to the last cafe, I found a guy who knew the guy running linux in his interntet cafe. Money!! Got there, hooked in, and all was good. The best part – there were two. He had a fast connection, and he didn’t care that I used VOIP (skype ) – a notorious bandwidth hog. Oh, and he spoke english. I was able to call Peggy, Dewey (my father) and Radney (my uncle.) Regretfully, I was only able to talk to any one of them for a short period of time before he closed up shop. I was able to get a couple worth of days stuff posted, and make sure I’m not bankrupt yet, so it was a good day.
It’s now getting dark close to 8 p.m., which is a bit of a shock to the system. I’m used to the long Seattle summer days. Now, the days are shorter, even in Seattle, and I”m closer to the equator, where they are shorter still. I missed the lovely light of dusk, since I was in the internet cafe, so I went to a basic cafe for a chicken dinner. It was pretty tasty, and darned cheap – $7 with tip, a beer and a filling meal. Dinner has taken on an interesting turn. First, no tap water. So a lot of places that means beer or soda. I don’t drink soda at night (Caffine (sp?) ) and don’t like carbonated bottled water, so that usually means beer. I haven’t drank beer for a long time in Seattle, prefering vodka or tequila (it’s less filling.) But with every meal, I think – is this the one that’s going to do it? By it, I mean the type of thing that happened to Mike, my cousin, and Louis, a good friend. They both were brought down hard eating the wrong things. Granted, I eat a LOT of bad things, so my stomachs probably used to more than those pantywaist, but still, I feel like I’m cursing myself. I just hope it happens in a hotel, not on my bike in the middle of nowhere. I don’t think Mike could have made it to the next town if he was on a motorcycle. Especially with all that vibrating. Then again, if he was on a bike, I think he would have just ended his life.
One of the things I did during the day was get a calling card, and a SIM for my cell phone. That’s right, I can use my cell phone in Mexico. I don’t really speak spanish, so I can’t really call anybody and try and solve this problem, which is a big one. It’s damned expensive using the cell phone. I got a 200 pesos card, which gives me 260 minutes (supposedly.) I had Peg call me, and the phone cut out in probably 20 minutes. I haven’t the slightest idea why, but I hope to find out soon. If I was calling her, I could understand, but she’s calling me. I’m just not going to use it until Oaxcan, where I can get some help solving this problem. Finding the SIM card was interesting. The first guy selling the SIM spoke perfect english (went to Santa Fe, NM to work construction, now owns a phone shop), but he couldn’t get the SIM activated. He wanted 230 pesos for the SIM and 100 pesos for 100 minutes. Both appear to be the going rate. After my third trip to this guy, I went to another shop. A pretty woman with here young daughter beside her. She couldn’t speak a word of english, and quoted me the same prices, but she managed to get the SIM activated, and added the 100 minutes to my card for me. She then only charged me for the 100 pesos/100 minute card. I left, and thought – did she just do the math wrong? After spending a couple of hours wandering around the city, I found her again, and asked her if I owed her more money. She said the SIM was gratis (free, I think.) I really appreciated it, but didn’t know how to tell her. I am glad I found her, because short changing a single mother running her own small business is not the kind of guy I am. So the phone works great, but it’s a lot more expensive than I thought. I guess I need to figure out how to do this cheaply.
As far as telecommunications go, Skype is the way to go. I called Peg, Dewey and Radney, from skype to a land line. The sound quality was good, but not great. Calling Peggy from skype to skype, the quality was noticeably better. And that’s with my expensive, crappy but portable headphones, and Pegs’ cheap but not portable and fantastic quality headphones. Looking at the mail I downloaded on Tuesday night, I noticed I needed to fax my signature to the spanish language school before they could “really” sign me up. So I had to go back online. Once the internet cafe opened up, I made the calls, forwarded the mail, etc., and everything worked great. As I was leaving, I started talking to the guy that owns the place, and he was asking me about skype. His friend had a daughter in Spain, so we called her on Skype. It worked great. It cost about 1.7 cents a minute to place a call from skype to a land line from many places in the world. Mexico is .08 cent a minute. Telmex charges, I think about 40 cent a minute. I told him he should install it on all his systems, and advertise calls to the US for 15 cent a minute, and pocket the difference. Everybody but Telmex wins. His address..
Av. Hidalgo 340
Tel. 92 42648
One of the cooler things I did in Zacatecas was visit a mine (Mina El Eden.) It was pretty cool, even though a lot of blood went into it. According to my Rough Guide, up to 8 men a day were dying at the height of production. The entire tour was in Spanish, which I couldn’t follow. A nice lady took it on herself to explain some of the cooler parts to me. Being under the ground in this mine was, with a little imagination, like being in the mines of Moria.