mexico

but it's a dry heat

It turns out that Mexico, specifically Mexico along the gulf coast, is a little more humid than Denver. And I mean a little in the way that I would prefer some sort of caramel cheesecake a little more than I would like to have day old bread (which if you know anything of my weakness for caramel means it was really damp in Mexico and bone dry back home). I’ve never lived in a really humid area of the country and I’ve been in Colorado for almost 8 years now, so it isn’t like I’m used to things being damp. When we got to the resort, we did think it smelled musty, and the fact that paper always felt a little wet and our gum had a horrible time.

I’m used to gum being borderline crisp when unwrapped to the point that you can almost snap it rather than bend it. Along the coast, the gum was borderline mushy instead – it kind of reminded me of chewing on some rather thick mucus, kind of like you just blew your nose into your mouth, only mint flavored.

And no, mint flavored snot still doesn’t sound good.

My hair got a little curlier even though it was pretty short and Rhiannon’s hair went pretty much completely straight. My skin got really clear and we didn’t use hardly any lotion at all. Rhiannon has since realized the major drawback to not needing lotion on her feet is that she would actually have to ask me to rub them with no pretenses. Currently, she can say “My feet are dry, would rub lotion on them?” rather than “I have no need of lotion but will you rub my feet anyway?” Honestly, I still would, but it does sound better the first way.

While I did enjoy the humidity, I wouldn’t want to live in quite that extreme. I already sweat pretty easily, but any time I perspire walking down a flight of stairs, I begin to question what type of cardiovascular shape I’m in. Also, I don’t like still feeling damp from a shower two hours after I attempted to dry off.

I guess for now I’ll stick with Denver and its dripping 10% relative humidity today.

trip report

Relaxing Yeah, it’s been a week… I’m still recovering. I’m still wishing I was on the beach.

Every time Rhiannon and I go on a trip that involves leaving early in the morning. We always have great plans about how were going to pack before the night before. And it never happens. This trip was no exception.

Around 6 hours before we needed to leave the house, we were still going over how many pairs of shoes someone should bring and if someone else had all the electronic equipment that they wanted. (Um… I’ll leave you to figure who is who in that description.)

Another issue that came up during packing was taking our cell phones to a foreign country and the fact that maybe the cell phone company might like us to do that so they can charge a gallon of gas and 2% of your firstborn’s soul to make a phone call. Rhiannon had planned on catching up on some phone calls while laying on the beach, really to make people jealous more than anything, so she did her best to get all the calling as we were boarding the plane to leave the country.

Last Minute Calls

When we got to Mexico, we had to declare what we were bringing into the country and clear customs. They do random bag checks as you go through. When you walk up to the customs agent, you push a little button and “random” light blinks green or red. If it’s red, put your bags on the table and open them up, thank you very much. I was taking pictures of everything as we went through – I guess you’re not really suppose to try and document a trip through security and I was told to put the camera away or lose it. That combined with the fact the four people in front of us got green lights and I wasn’t really surprised when we lit up red.

We got through without any further incident and found our shuttle driver outside the airport. We didn’t stay in Cancun itself, but rather Playa del Carmen around 40 miles to the south. Sometimes, compared to North Dakota, I think the traffic in Denver is bad, but at least I am fairly confident that people will follow the lane markings. In Mexico, it seems like it’s more of a suggestion really. Drive fast, slow, on mopeds and military jeeps, just kind of wherever you think you need to be. Our driver was a little on the slow and cautious side of things, and for that, we tipped well.

Resort

We stayed at an all-inclusive resort, which basically means after you check in, it could be a free stay if you don’t leave. Drinks, food, mini-bar, everything is paid for. This is both good and bad – it feels cheap, but could leave to over-consumption. When a beer or glass of wine costs the same as a glass of water…

At least we have fun... Just hand over your money 5th Ave Pier

And of course, there was no shortage of opportunity to pay extra. The resort had people selling jewelry and carvings for sale to the tourists that support the place. In the picture above, you can note Tyler and I perhaps taking advantage of the fact that beer costs the same as water and Rhiannon and Amanda shopping the background. The other common event was people who want to take pictures of you and sell you the pictures later. Take a picture with a lizard, with a monkey, with a parrot, have your picture on a tequila bottle, in a frame, of you in raft… We bought one, but after the tenth or twentieth time it got old. Until we realized that it’s possible to take a picture of a picture. Ethical? Questionable at best, but then, we didn’t ask to have the picture taken in the first place.

Photo of a Photo - Tubing

We did take one tour out to a natural water park where fresh and salt water mix. We tubed, snorkeled, and passed on the opportunity to swim with dolphins for only $140 each. (We also passed on the tour guide’s offer to swim with the bus driver for only $5 each, but that is a different story.)

In the afternoon, we visited Mayan ruins in Tulum along the coast. Rhiannon teaches a unit on the Mayan, so we’re still trying to figure out a way to deduct the whole trip as a business expense for tax purposes next year (and if the IRS is reading, I’m joking). (Probably).

Tulum - Mayan Ruins

Mostly, the trip was a chance to get away and stop thinking about real life for a little while. We relaxed on the beach, saw the sights, and visited town.

Yes, there that many types of tequila Mode of Transport

Will we go back? Maybe. We have some other places we’d like to visit first and we’ll wait and see what happens with travel prices and our personal lives in the next few years. Still, it’s pretty hard to find things not to like when you can watch the sun come up over the Gulf. Assuming of course, you managed to lay off the free beer the night before.

Sunrise on the Gulf

a long way home

Before we left, I thought for sure that I would be dying to post something about how much fun we were having in Mexico and look at the beach and water, how exciting. It turns out that once actually in Mexico, I’d much rather experience it than right about it. That, and it would have cost money to get on the internet and the wireless connection didn’t reach all the way to beach or even our room for that matter. I know, my life seems horribly difficult with those types of issues to deal with. It ranks right up there with trying to decide if I would rather have a margarita or pina colada brought to me as I lay by a pool in the Caribbean sun.

I’m still in a little bit of denial that I’m no longer in Mexico and I’m hoping if I talk about the trip home, it will help a little. (I realize this is backwards, talking about coming back before I even tell you about the vacation itself, but bear with me. I’ll get there.)

When we were looking at return flights to get back to Denver, we had a few options. One of those options got us back into the airport a little before 2pm local time on Sunday and this sounded like a great idea. We could have some time to relax at home and get things up and running again before taking on the work week Monday morning.

Cancun is on Central time, so we actually gained an hour in traveling. A layover in Dallas to clear customs and we flew out in the morning at 7:30 am. That sounded fine – it would get us up and going in the morning. So, we booked it.

If you account for two hours before the flight and an hour to drive to Cancun from where we were staying, that 7:30 am flight means leaving the hotel at 4:30 am. That doesn’t sound so fine anymore. Let’s face it – when a large part of your vacation involves making sure you wake up to turn over so you don’t sunburn your back from lying out too long, the concept of 4:30 in the morning just doesn’t seem possible. It’s like a bad dream or a nasty rumor. 4:30 in the morning means you had a late night out – all-night parties will still be going for at least another hour at that point.

When we flew in, we only had transportation arranged for the trip down to our hotel. Four of us flew down together and we returned as couples separately. The website reservations don’t really allow for that so we went with a one-way transfer and ended up filling out a little card in the van and paying cash for our return trip.

Run that back in your head once or twice – we filled out a little card that asked someone to pick us up at a hotel at 4:30 in the morning and handed over cash in a foreign country. All I could think as we carried our bags out to the front desk was that I really don’t want to pay a taxi to drive us to airport. Outside the front door in the dark was a van and the same driver we had on the way down, waiting for us. That guy is ok in my book.

We got to the airport, checked in, grabbed some breakfast, got on a plane, and flew to Dallas. No problemo. In order to clear customs, they give your checked luggage back to you in a special section of the airport. We showed a man our passports, he welcomed us back into the country, and we proceeded in an orderly fashion to the luggage carousel and waited.

And waited.

When the two Indian guys who watch that section of the airport get up and look at the information on the screens and talk excitedly in a language you can’t even pick up separate words from, there is a good bet something is off. And when a garbled voice comes over the intercom and tells you that the luggage is delayed because the cargo door of the airplane is stuck, something is very wrong. And our bags finally started coming.

We grabbed our luggage and took it through customs. I had my form stating I was bringing approximately nothing back that we didn’t take with and I hadn’t been around animals and I’m not a fruit smuggler. The man looked at us, asked if we had all our luggage, and waived us through. That’s how honest and trustworthy we look.

We handed off our bags together to a guy by a conveyor belt and went to security to get back into the airport. In Denver, they glance at your boarding pass and ID and wave you through. Dallas is a little tighter – a man at a podium took our passports and boarding passes. He examined a few pages with a black light and looked at all the dates. He looked at the pictures and looked at us and back at the pictures and back at us. He highlighted some information on the boarding passes and checked everything one final time before we were passed through. I thought the security line was going to take five minutes. It took more like 40. I didn't feel any safer.

So with 25 minutes left of an almost two hour layover, we needed to get to our gate. Luckily, it was nowhere near the security checkpoint and we had some walking to do. Good thing I looked at a map of the airport before we got in and knew that if we walked to the right and kept going long enough we would get a skyway to another concourse that would take us right to the gate. And that skyway was located just through the bathroom at the back of a dead-end hallway. There was no skyway in the direction I chose.

So we backtracked. Fast.

Rhiannon was wearing her oh-so-cute and really-not-good-for-walking-fast flip-flops and had a look on her face that said she was somewhere between wanting to hurt me and wanting to collapse if only her calf wasn’t so close to cramping up. We made it at least three whole minutes before they closed the doors to the plane. No problem.

Back in Denver (I never realized how nice it is to be in a familiar airport), we walked to the baggage claim area. Rhiannon’s bag was the third one up and we grabbed it. And waited. And I made a joke how it figures that when you have two bags, one is always first and one is always last. Ha ha.

And we waited. People around us were collecting their all their luggage and leaving the area. Rhiannon went to get some food and I stayed to wait for the last bag. Then the bags stopped coming up to the conveyor and there were only six people left standing around. When a man with an airline uniform came and found out we were all waiting for bags from the same flight, he nodded, looked at the information board, and asked us all to come to an office.

Later, Rhiannon mentioned as we backed out she saw a cart with bags on it sitting beside the plane. My bag was dropped off at our house around 9:30 last night, approximately 19 hours after it left the hotel yesterday morning. At least I got a complimentary can of Ginger Ale and an in-flight movie. It got left sitting on the tarmac.

Welcome home.

that will teach me not to procrastinate

If you don’t talk to us on a regular basis, you may not be aware that Rhiannon and I have a little trip to Mexico planned coming up. Mexico, all-inclusive resort, the beach, and maybe some Mayan ruins if we are really feeling ambitious. Yep. Should be fun. Especially now that I will be able to go for sure. When I was in high school, I had the opportunity to go to France as part of a class trip over the summer. This occurred in 1998. I had just turned 16 and wasn’t it cool that this passport thingy lasts for 10 years? Who in their right mind would ever be 26 in the first place anyway?

Hi.

Fast forward 9 years, 11 months later, to the next time that naive former 16 year old decides to do some international traveling just a year after the U.S. put the smack down on going south and coming back. Originally, Rhiannon and I had been discussing going to Europe in June, so she went ahead and got a passport last fall. But me? No. I just had to renew mine sometime. Of course I’ll get around to that. And then that vacation dissolved amidst some other plans and the horrid dollar-to-Euro exchange rate.

But still, no worries, because we had a place to stay in Hawaii for free. Vacation it up. And that fell through. Ok, Rhiannon and I got together with Tyler and his girlfriend and discussed some plans – we’re going to Mexico. (I need a new passport). Around April. (My passport is good until May – hooray!!) And at the time all this was decided, I still had plenty of time to send in my renewal, but how cool is it that I didn’t have to. I could put it off. I am a pro at putting it off. Why do today what can be languish on a to-do list tomorrow? That’s one of my many mottos anyway. It’s also the biggest reason my watch battery has been dead for over two months. Seriously – I can wait, I won’t bother me.

So I went through life, occasionally pausing in my days to do my “I’m-going-Mexico- and-I-don’t-need-a-new-passport” dance. And then I was reading a what-to-do checklist for traveling outside the country when there at the bottom, it said “Make sure you have 6 valid months on your passport for after your planned travel dates.”

Um, what?

So I started researching – some places said “YES OF COURSE YOU NEED A LONG VALID PASSPORT” and some places were all “It’s still 2007, right? Bring your photo ID.” Not. Helpful.

So I called the Mexican Embassy in Washington, D.C. They said I should probably get it renewed. The Embassy. Probably. I might be ok without it. Not reassuring at all.

So I got some pictures done in a shirt color I wouldn’t have picked (who wears a white shirt on a light background?) and sent off my one good passport in an envelope to somewhere out on the east coast with a big check and an expedited application form along side. 8 days (real days, not business) I had a new passport in my hand, complete with bad picture and everything.

I’m going to Mexico.

And the bad picture? Maybe I’ll give it another go in 9 years, 11 months.