Sorry, but this is about as good a picture we could get from the rear of a bouncing bus.  After a somewhat harrowing ride along a rutted narrow dirt road, we eventually reached the paved main road, paid off our scout, and began the long uneventful ride home.  HAH!!  No way, José!

After a short time on the road, we noticed the passengers behind us moving past us to open seats near the front of the bus.  Within seconds, we knew why.  The toilet in the rear of the bus contained an accumulation of “stuff” which was beginning to make itself known.

My Bride, always eager to help out, went to the bathroom and reappeared in a flash with an “I’m about to barf” look on her face and a report that the toilet would not flush.  So, off she trekked through the first class section to the front of the bus to “speak” with the driver.  He only spoke Spanish and she had some difficulty conveying our plight.  After what seemed an eternity she re-entered the bathroom and still was unable to flush the toilet.  The odor by this time was throat burning and eye watering.

Again she headed off to “speak” with the driver.  This time she took a Spanish fluent accomplice, Rosie, wife of a San Carlos restaurateur, with her.  They had learned that it was a simple matter of the driver turning on the power to the electric toilet and the bathroom door being completely closed for the toilet to flush.  Back to the bathroom went Kalyn and Rosie, one stayed outside while the other went in.  YUK!!!  After much swearing in a variety of languages, including Cantonese and Tlinget, as well as kicking the bejesus out of the toilet and bathroom door, the toilet flushed.  Success!!!! 

Both women returned to their seats amid cheers and the laying of rose petals in their path.  The odor began to dissipate and we once more were capable of breathing without the use of the drop down oxygen masks. 

Within minutes after the toilet fiasco, the interior of our bus began to experience man-made global warming and quickly reached sauna-like temperatures.  Once again my Bride, with her faithful interpreter in tow, accosted our driver.  I really was beginning to feel sorry for the guy about now.  After a lot of animated conversation which I’m not certain is translatable in either English or Spanish, the driver discovered that he had inadvertently turned off the air conditioner when he turned on the toilet.

With both air conditioner and toilet back in operation, the odor eventually diminished to the point that the bus smelled no worse than my 14-year old grandson’s room and the temperature dropped back down to the point that it was no longer suitable to mushroom farming.

With no further interruptions or inconveniences, we enjoyed an idyllic drive back to San Carlos where we re-united our Alamos stuff with the stuff we left behind.  I could almost swear that there was an inaudible sigh as we comingled our underwear, socks and t-shirts back among their brethren and closed the bureau drawer.

Want to hear about more stuff?  Check out
George Carlin.

Folks have been telling us for years that we should write a book.  Well, with these 2 episodes of “Stuff” coming one on the heels of the other, I believe that we have published our first novella.  Enjoy it cuz it’s as close to a real book you’ll ever see out of us. (My brother-in-law is relieved to hear this, I’m sure.)

See y’all next time folks!  Hugs, CC and Zook

Imagine a kid trying to knock apples out of a tree on the left, out of frame, and 3 menacing bandidos at the end of the street preparing to draw their pistolas…Clint draws and fires… BANG! BANG! BANG! ... apples fall to the ground and bad guys vanish into the woodwork!  Whew!  Now that was close!

Of course those days are long gone and we are left with a little village where your siesta will not be interrupted by some idiot blasting apples out of your trees…

Wandering through the village of Alamos you will, at times, feel like you have stepped into one of those old Clint Eastwood spaghetti westerns…

There are two items of import I would draw your attention to in this picture: the Mardi Gras beads we brought have now been dispensed amongst our fellow travelers and we have a bottle of Zimmerman Diesel Dan wine which Jerry smuggled to dinner, cleverly concealed in his shorts.  He was a big hit with the ladies during the time he walked from his room to our table…not so much anymore.  There is only so much gourmet food and exotic wine we simple folk can endure and it was important that we get back to our meager roots as quickly as possible.  The Diesel Dan provided a gateway for the voyage home but my Bride is still struggling with the return trip back to reality.

On Tuesday morning we enjoyed a leisurely breakfast and attempted to stuff all our stuff back into the 2 bags we had brought it in.  Fortunately, we had given away all of the beads and most of the bracelets and necklaces we had brought with us.  Still, I had to sit on the sports bag while Zook struggled to close the zipper.  The backpack was no longer closable so we Gorilla taped it shut.

While awaiting the arrival of our bus, my Bride discovered a hummingbird nest complete with an egg.  For a sense of perspective, a hummingbird egg is about the size of a pea or a small jellybean and the new hatchling weighs approximately 0.6 of a gram, or about one third the weight of a dime…

But just in case that guy in the sarape should ever ride into town again, we’re ready for him…

The furniture, paintings, tapestry and statuary are unique to each room.  And for those occasional cold nights you even have your own fireplace…

Those Mardi Gras beads are NOT a part of the hotel supplied décor, so don’t expect them if you stay here.  Actually, Jamie Alcantar, the hotel’s GM wanted some for her kids and she just may be happy to give you some by the time you arrive just to get them out of her house.

California may be renowned for their giant sequoia trees but who would have ever guessed that one of those cutesy little ficus trees like you have in your living room could ever grow large enough to swallow a palm tree…

In addition to the previous oddity, a large collection of other stately trees, flowering plants and statuary inhabit the grounds offering photographic opportunities too numerous to adequately capture in a narrative abbreviated such as this, so we’ll whet your appetite with a few of our favorites…

It was an amazingly entertaining sight to witness my Bride delicately balanced on the edge of a chair with camera extended while leaning over a railing into the nest as a pissed off mama hummingbird flew ever tightening circles around her head.  I was laughing so hard that I forgot we had brought a backup camera.  Damn!

The bus ride back to San Carlos was an adventure in itself. 

As we made our way to the main highway along the back streets of Alamos, we suddenly came to a spot where OUR road was under construction and there was no detour.  Our driver had to make a 27-point turn to get our bus headed back from whence we came to another road which really wasn’t designed for anything much larger than an ox cart.  Before long we were nose-to-nose on a one lane road with an armored car.

Our driver attempted to make a left turn onto an even narrower road but an assortment of concrete abutments, trees and power poles gave us only one way out: forward.  One of the armored car guards got out, complete with shotgun, and guided the armored car off to the side of the road so we could pass…baaarely.  The way Shotgun Dude was watching us I believe he thought we were a busload of gringo bandidos that required a bus to tote all our stolen stuff around.

The next dilemma we faced was the narrow dirt road with which the driver wasn’t familiar.  Here again, fortune smiled upon us, and provided a pony mounted Indian scout to guide us through.  Okay, he was really a Mexican kid on a bicycle…

There is absolutely nothing so reassuring as a 14-year old kid carrying an assault rifle through the crowded streets of a small town.  I think the older guy just may be his father.

After a day of exploring Alamos and loading up shopping bags with everything from silver to jamoncilla (a sweet concoction of milk, sugar and cinnamon), we staggered back to the hotel for dinner and the evening performance of Mark Mulligan and a local Mexican musician, Ramon Alcantar, Jamie’s husband…

Well, on reflection, there was one exception…

“We’re back!”  I’ll always remember those words once spoken by the Buffalo Bills Quarterback, Jim Kelly, as they returned to the Superbowl for the fourth consecutive time…and then went on to lose it for the fourth consecutive time.  By their third appearance I had grown to really HATE the Buffalo Bills only because I just knew that the outcome of the game was predestined with their appearance. Hopefully, you folks don’t feel that same way about another Update following so closely on the heels of the previous one.

I am often asked just what the process is for putting one of these things together and my answer is always pretty much the same, “There is no process.  I simply put pen to paper, so to speak, and hope for the best.”  The entire diatribe is as much a surprise to me when it’s completed as it is to someone who is reading it for the first time. 

And with that we’ll continue Part 2 of “Stuff.”  This Update and the last are loosely organized around a central theme: stuff.  Remember, it is “loosely organized.”

While visiting San Carlos, our buddy, Mark Mulligan, decided to take his act on the road and organized a 4-hour bus trip to the colonial pueblo of Alamos in the Sierra Madre foothills.  The town was founded by Coronado after the discovery of silver in the area in the latter 1600’s.  The silver is long gone but the surviving community offers a side of Mexico seldom seen by folks heading south for the sunshine and beaches for which Mexico is famous.  Here you will find a thriving community comprised of history, art and architecture and a Mexican population that is not represented by the hustlers, beggars and scammers you encounter in border towns and beachside communities.  The folks in Alamos are friendly, helpful and extremely proud of their community and heritage. 

We arrived in a 2-bus caravan on a bright and sunny Sunday afternoon at the Hacienda de los Santos hotel.  Our bus was actually too large to negotiate the narrow streets (remember this, it will come in handy later) which were originally engineered for horse-drawn carts, so we walked the last block to the hotel while a pickup was dispatched to transport our luggage.  Yep, we had luggage!

After learning of the bus trip, our next order of business was deciding which of our stuff we should take.  A 2-night trip required 3-days worth of shorts, socks, t-shirts and underwear as well as whatever medications, sun block and beauty and bath products we deemed “essential.”  All this we were able to cram into our large sport bag.  And then…it was Mardis Gras weekend, so we needed beads, lots of beads, to hand out to whoever looked in need among our fellow touristas, hotel employees and local town folk.  We also absolutely needed 2 cameras, Zook’s Kindle, and an assortment of Turk’s head bracelets and breast cancer awareness necklaces to similarly distribute.  This required the addition of our backpack.  And so we boarded the bus with a sports bag, backpack and a large camera in a separate carry-on bag.  As we left our hotel room in San Carlos with all this stuff, I took one last glance backward and the room did not look like anything was missing!

The
Hacienda de los Santos is, without exception, the most beautiful hotel we have ever stayed in…

 Stuff - Part 2                                                               March 20, 2014

And, of course, we shared a table with those pesky Zimmermans and our new besties, Bill and Kat Poole…

I just can’t seem to get away from this guy.  He follows me absolutely everywhere and hasn’t once picked up a bar tab.  Did you notice those beads?

The hotel is comprised of several different properties which were purchased as ruins and turned into a stunning collection of flowers and shrubs, trees, fountains and artwork as well as guest rooms which are all remarkably different from each other and yet adhere to the central theme of old Mexico.  This was our room…