and Cathy McArthur on
the Road 2005: 5
Saturday, January 29, started clear and chilly. After breakfast, Bill and Cathy walked the 4 miles to Spanish class. Bill felt increasingly sick as the day wore on. We stopped for a kilogram of Chiapas coffee beans on the way back to El Mirador. Bill shuffled along very slowly on the way back and barely made it. He had a fever and spent much of the afternoon sleeping. Cathy called Katie, Bill, and Alex on the laptop. Everyone was doing OK, but poor Stacey was trapped in Pueblo, CO by a combination of snow there and a bad ice storm in Atlanta. The rest of our group went to dinner in Guaymas. Bill felt a little better and ate a normal dinner in the rig. Regardless of how Bill feels, our caravan is moving out on Monday.
Sunday was windy again. Bill felt a lot better, even after a long struggle adding air to the tires. The last time that we added air was in Georgia when our mechanical engineer son-in-law Tom took charge of the operation. This time we had mechanical engineer Larry to help and to supply a robust air compressor. It was still a tough job because of the configuration of the valves, but Bill was able to bring each of the 6 tires to 65 psi. We took the rig out of the campground to gas up and to buy some groceries. When we got back in the campground, we went with Larry and Nancy to Jack's Snax to get pizzas for lunch. Then, at 3:00 PM we all met in Paul and Martha's rig for a pre-travel meeting. We decided to change CB channels from 13 to 12. Also we went over the log that Bill found on the Internet for traveling from San Carlos to El Fuerte. After the meeting, Paul and Martha served us hot apple pie and home made ice cream. We saw Mark from Ocean Camp walking around the campground and invited him to join us for a while. After the meeting broke up, we all had lots of work to do to break camp. The wind didn't help. We talked with Alex after the baby shower for Katie. We also tried to call Katie, but got an error message from PC_Call and Bill had to email technical support. Dinner in our rig was chiles relleno from the "fruit man" whose supply truck spends hours every day but Sunday in the campground.
Our caravan (nicknamed "Fearless Foursome") got underway shortly after 7:00 AM on Monday. The rising sun cast a beautiful glow on the mountains as we bid "Hasta Luego" to San Carlos. We had a smooth drive to El Fuerte, led by Larry and Nancy. There were many Cara Caras sitting on cactus and flying near the road during the last 30 miles of the route. We arrived at the El Fuerte RV Park at about 2:00 PM. We met the owner, William Franklin Trimble (Wild Bill), and found that we could pay for the site ($135 for 7 nights) and the Copper Canyon tour ($718 for two) by check. After setting up camp, Bill, Cathy, Martha, and Paul walked into town and explored it. We found it to be a town of some charm, but with the characteristic dust and stray dogs found in small-town Mexico. We found a couple of restaurants that would be appropriate for dinner. We returned to the campground around 5:30 PM. At 6:15 PM we got organized into a couple of vehicles and headed downtown for dinner. We ate at El Meson General which we had scouted out in the afternoon. At that time, Bill had asked about the "Filete de Pescado Flameado" (flamed fish filet) and found that it was flamed in a white wine sauce. Bill ordered it and was surprised, when it arrived, that there was cheese on the inside of the rolled filet (no hay problema) and the roll was covered with lots of flamed bacon (hay grande problema). It's funny how meat turns up in the strangest places. After dinner, we had a bit of excitement trying to rediscover our RV Park in the dark. Larry said that he would accept check or cash for the night tour of El Fuerte.
On Tuesday, we spent a long morning walking the streets of El Fuerte and shopping in the market and numerous small tiendas along the two main commercial streets. There was a parade of high school students and teachers marching around the center of town. We thought that it was a demonstration in support of higher pay for the teachers. We had to buy items in several shops because of the high degree of their specialization. In the market, we browsed around a fruit and vegetable shop that had such ugly stuff that Bill called it the "Second Hand Fruit Store." We finally walked back to the campground laden with several bags of goods. After lunch, Bill, Cathy, Martha, and Paul walked for about 3 miles toward the train station. We got as far as a cemetery past the airport before turning back. The afternoon was very warm, but we had no complaints. Afterward, we talked with fellow campers about the route to Mazatlan. Then we packed for our trip to Copper Canyon.
Wednesday we began our trip with a taxi pickup at 7:30 AM at the campground. We rode to the El Fuerte railroad station and waited for a somewhat late train to Los Barrancas (The Canyons). The day was bright and beautiful and the scenery was spectacular. We had seen the special "Train Ride in the Sky" many times and now got to view it all in person. The condition of the railroad bed varied, so we crawled sometimes and went faster, but not fast at other times. We were met at the train station and shuttled the short distance to our hotel, "Hotel Mansion Tarahumara". By this time we had already seen several Tarahumara women and children peddling baskets, trinkets, and other items. Bill was very cynical about the origin of the items for sale and thought that they were trucked in from a city to the north (more about this later). We checked in with our hostess Maria to our individual bungalows and then our guide Victor took us on a walk around the Copper Canyon rim near the hotel and down to a couple of Indian huts where more stuff was for sale. The canyon was almost as awesome as the Grand Canyon, but lacked the vivid colors. We had expected it to be cold at our altitude of 7700 feet and we were correct. Most of us wore 4 layers of clothing for the entire stay. We had dinner in a very large, lodge-like dining room after enjoying complimentary margaritas in front of a huge roaring fireplace on the mezzanine. The room could fit 150 people, but we were pretty much alone in the room for dinner. Maria told us that a large group and a couple of smaller groups were coming the next day. Our cabins had gas heaters which had a lot of hard work to do to keep us warm during a cold night.
On Thursday, we had breakfast in the hotel dining room at 8:00 AM. There was a heavy frost on the stone paths and vehicles in the parking lot. We had choices of various meats, eggs, and pancakes. Biscuits and toast accompanied the meals. Victor loaded us on a small bus with bald tires and gasoline and exhaust fumes on board at about 9:30 AM. He took us on an extensive tour of the rim of the Copper Canyon, stopping at several places where we had the opportunity to purchase stuff from the Tarahumara Indians. We ate a box lunch in an area of interesting stone formations. Bill was still skeptical about native handicrafts until we explored the town of Creel for an hour and he found a women sewing a tortilla cozy. Bill had told Nancy that if he found someone actually making an item, he would buy it at face value with no bargaining, so he bought the tortilla cozy. At our last stop of the day at the spectacular Divisadero Hotel, Bill saw a women making a grass basket and bought one like it. Inside the hotel, the guests are treated to a view almost identical to that of the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. When we returned for dinner, we found the dining room filled with other guests; what a difference a day makes. We had a buffet dinner because of the large number of diners.
Friday morning brought snow, sleet, rain, and fog. We had a breakfast buffet around 8:30 AM. Victor was game to take us on another tour of the rim in the rain and fog, so we gamely followed along, in spite of Larry's "Risk and Reward" assessment. The canyon presented a very interesting look with wisps of fog hanging and blowing. It was very chilly in the wet wind. At one stop, we saw an Indian family climb a ladder out of the canyon with a bag full of baskets and other goods. Later, Bill saw the woman weaving a basket with her nearly frozen fingers and went over to buy 3 of the baskets for slightly more than she was asking. It was hard to imagine worse working conditions; she had a baby on her back and an uncomfortable son standing next to her as she worked. Bill lost his skepticism on this cold, foggy morning. Victor brought us back to the hotel so that we could check out and eat a buffet lunch. Then he drove us to the train station and let us stay on the bus as it rained outdoors until our train arrived at 2:40 PM. The ride back down the canyon had its own beauty due to the many waterfalls that were spawned by the rainy day. The spotty fog also added to the exotic look. We arrived back at the El Fuerte station shortly after 9:00 PM and were met by our cabs for the ride back to the campground. Bill and Cathy simply ate cheese and crackers for dinner. During the night we had lots of hard rain and some thunder and lightning.
Saturday morning began with some hard rain. We lifted weights and found the sun shining when we were through. We rode in to El Fuerte with Larry and Nancy and did some shopping for supplies. We returned to the campground for lunch. Cathy did the laundry while Bill rode with Larry over the first 10 miles of Monday's route to check it out. Later, Bill and Larry and Nancy returned to El Fuerte. Bill had discovered that his dedicated server was down again and submitted a maintenance ticket. Larry and Nancy picked up roasted chicken for themselves, Cathy, and Melva and Anne Marie.