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Tuesday, November 12, 2002

AHop, Skip, and a Jump

I’m not exactly the most detail-oriented guy in the world but it would have been nice to know what flight I was looking for. As I was leaving Seattle I noticed that I had deleted the e-mail that carried this vital information. I was fairly sure that I had the right day.

The airport of Guanajuato isn’t very big. There is only one screen of arrivals, which made it easy to figure out which flight was the one I wanted. I had a beer at the bar overlooking the airstrip and watched a few planes land. An American Airlines flight from Dallas touched down and I saw my brother and nephew walking to the terminal.

From the airport it is about 140 kilometers from where we are staying in San Miguel de Allende. I had rented a little Nissan sedan that had plenty of power on the flats. As we made our way out of the plateau and back into the mountains, and with three people in the small car, it was obvious I wouldn’t be doing much passing on these narrow, vertiginous roads. Of course, that didn’t prevent the other drivers from taking some rather breathtaking chances on these goat paths without guardrails. I think they use the movie Road Warriors as a drivers training film down here.

Once we passed through the city of Guanajuato we had the road almost to ourselves and, even driving, I was able to enjoy the beautiful late afternoon. My nephew grew up speaking Spanish in Spain, but it has been a few years since he has used this language as anything other than a subject in school. I stopped at a restaurant along the highway to get a quick bite to eat and give the kid a chance to use some Spanish.

We were only a couple minutes away from San Miguel where we were planning on going out for a big dinner. I ordered one item on the menu for us all to split. The young girl brought out a large ceramic bowl of chorizo, a basket of tortillas, and a big dish of various condiments with three different types of salsa. This one dish turned out to be a meal for the three of us.

Although this area is well into the tropics at about the 21rst parallel, the high altitude keeps the temperature at a comfortable level even in the summer months, as long as you are in the shade.

The city of San Miguel de Allende sits at an altitude of 6,400 feet. I can’t say that I can even feel the difference from the change from sea level in Seattle to here. The car’s fuel injection had a harder time with the altitude than my cardio-vascular system. I’ll notice the change more when I return home and have my first, hard bike ride.

I don’t worry that the altitude will affect me adversely but I worry that I will eat myself to death. I have been here three days and I’ve already eaten twice my weight in tortillas alone. Influenced by my nephew, I actually had some sort of attack that could only be cured by eating an ice cream cone—I normally never eat sweets. I have to watch myself because these days the airlines make big people buy two seats.

San Miguel is a beautiful colonial city that was declared a national monument in 1926. There are no traffic lights, gaudy florescent signs, or any new construction in the city. What it does have is lots of construction dating from back to its conception in 1542. All of the streets are cobblestone and there seems to be a cathedral on every corner. San Miguel is also host to a sizeable ex-pat community of artists and retirees from the U.S. and Canada who live here for the excellent climate and the historic charm—the same reason I’m here.

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