Knott’s Christmas 2018

This year we have definitely taken advantage of our Cedar Fair Platinum Pass. The cost for the pass with three meal plans and three drink plans was $984.54. That is a lot of money (but less than some other theme park chains we know), but considering we went to 7 different parks (in two countries and 4 states) for a total of 26 times our per cost visit was only $39 a visit (or $13 per person).

The way the meal plan works is that we get two meals per theme park included (4 hrs. apart) and the drink plan provides unlimited soda fountain drinks every 15 minutes. It makes a great way to pre-plan your visit and not have to worry about every costs once you are in the park. Although, there is always dessert! Luckily platinum pass-holders get an extra 20% off on food and merchandise.

We are a little theme parked out now but we did want to get out at least one more time and that is why we went this last Saturday to Knott’s Berry farm. Knott’s in November, December, and part of January is known as Knott’s Merry Christmas. Like many theme parks there are special decorations, live shows, and new attractions. Our family favorite is Merry Christmas Snoopy at the Charles Schultz Theater, which is a ice skating show.

Knott’s in December is crowded due to many free entrances that are given. Veterans, First Responders, and Toys-For-Tots donors all get in for free in December. Not to mention many companies sponsor events at Knott’s in December as well. We did get into all the shows we wanted to, but for the Merry Christmas Snoopy show we had to wait the length of one show because the first show was out of seating. Most of the rides were in the 40 min – 1 hr. wait time range.



A Dole Whip (pineapple ice cream) at Knott’s is $4.99

The Merry Christmas Snoopy show is very unique.

Krazy Kirk and the Hillbillies is a fun time at the Birdcage Theater

“It’s The Merriest Christmas Show Ever, Charlie Brown” at the Calico Mine Stage.

AJ and John on the wooden roller coaster Ghostrider.

Mexican State Capitals: Xelapa, Veracruz

The plaza of Veracruz.

With a natural opening in the middle of a formidable mountain range Veracruz Mexico has been a very strategic city for as long as humans have inhabited the area, which is a long time! It was in Veracruz, Mexico that Hernan Cortez met Montezuma in 1519 and Europeans started to conquer the Americas.

Veracruz is a city that has been attacked many times. The Olmecs in about 1300 BC, the Huastecos in about 600 BC, the Totonacas in time of Christ, the Aztecs in the 1100s, the Spanish in 1519, the Independents in 1810, the French in 1838, the United States in 1847, the French again in 1861, the United States in 1914, and the Narcos in the 1990s. Not to mention endless pirate raids over millennium. It is not surprising to see that the Spanish developed a system of fortifications, Baluarte Santiago and San Juan de Ulua are two important ones open to the public. Also, the Mexican Navy has it’s headquarters and a very nice museum in the city.

While visiting the Aquarium and having a special encounter with pinguins, we confirmed our tour with Tours y Tickets ( for an all day tour of the capital city of Xelapa along with cities and towns on the outskirts of Veracruz.

Due to the fact that Veracruz is so susptible to attacks it makes since to to have the capital high up in the mountain city of Xelapa. While visiting Xelapa we were able to see the Hacienda del Lencero, which was the home to General Santa Ana, he was a General and President of Mexico who is known for losing half of Mexico to the United States. In the city center is the Governor’s Palace with colonial architecture and many murals. The city center also has a cathedral with the remains of Rafael Guízar Valencia, who was a Catholic Bishop that was recently named the Saint of the Poor (if you go to the tomb expect people to beg for money). On the way out we visited the Xelapa Anthropology museum, the second most important anthropology museum in Mexico featuring an exhaustive display of the Olmec civilization, including seven giant Olmec heads.

On the way out of Xelapa we visited Coatepec, which is known for all the coffee that they grow in the region. We don’t drink coffee, so that was not so interesting to us, but back in Veracruz we made a point to visit the Gran Cafe de la Parroquia, the oldest cafe in the Americas (established 1705). We had some hot chocolate, listened to the marimba music, and enjoyed the flamboyant way in which they served cafe con leche (coffee with milk).

The last part of our tour was Xico in which we learned about Veracruz mole and hiked to two waterfalls. Veracruz mole is different because unlike in Puebla where they use it to drown chicken, in Veracruz it becomes a sauce for enchiladas. It is very distinctive in flavor.

Our hotel for the three nights we were in Veracruz was the Hotel Mocambo. The Hotel Mocambo is a grand old hotel that was built in the 1940s and was known for once hosting many Mexican celebrities. It is beautiful, but unfortunately, it has not been up kept maybe as well as it should have been. It is also a little outside the city center, but we were OK with that because it had the bonus of being right across the street from the Veracruz Temple, where we were the first American patrons seen in over two years (as said by the Utah Senior Missionaries). Despite minor setbacks, at $48 a night the price was right. The hotel had great views looking over an almost unpopulated beach, included breakfast, and included WIFI. The people in Veracruz were so kind.

Veracruz is a Mexican tourist town, which is a lot different than an American tourist town in Mexico. The difference is things are laid back, there is no up selling going on, and all the prices were very apparent. It is so less stressful than one of those all inclusive’s where I always end up feeling like a walking wallet.


When we went to the border it was right after President Trump decided to “enhance” the border by adding barbwire, but interestingly it was added to the US side, not the Mexican side.

Carne Asada Torda in Tijuana, $2.50 USD.

Hotel Aquarius, Tijuana, Mexico

Heavy mist in Mexico City delayed planes in all of Mexico for several hours.

The view every morning from our hotel.

Hotel Mocambo eggs and chilaquiles.

The Veracruz Aquarium entrance.

Denise pointing out our location.

Denise and AJ playing with the penguins.

AJ enjoyed his homemade ice cream more than the abalone shell art.

Fort Balluarte Santiago

Fort San Juan de Ullua

50,000 cars a day are shipped to Europe from Veracruz.

For San Juan de Ullua also was a prison for political prisoners.

It was interesting to see the coral that was used in the cement for the fort.

Agustin Lara is a musical legend in Mexico.

Maria Felix is the most famous Mexican actress of all time. Her look is haunting.

In the naval museum, you learn of Mexico’s first recorded naval battle of 1521.

The plaza of the Naval Museum.

AJ got his roast turkey for Thanksgiving.

Denise and John cheated and got pozole.

The plaza of Veracruz.

The Veracruz Temple

Picadas, kind of like a Veracruz tope.

Volvovanes, a light pastry ham and cheese breakfast.

The Mexican Navy’s headquarters are in Veracruz.

Pico de Orizaba is the highest point of all of Mexico.

Hacienda del Lencero, the retreat of Santa Ana.

The very rare Flor de Cana (cane flower).

Santa Ana’s buggies.

Our tour van.

A 50 ton Olmec head.

A Olmec Child.

The Governor’s Palace of Xelapa, Veracruz

The murals of the governors palace.

The Hymn of Veracruz.

The Governor’s ceremonial room.

The Xelapa Cathedral.

The Bishop Rafael Guizar Valencia was recently named a Catholic saint.

Nothing beats fresh salsa and a warm handmade tortilla with butter.

In Veracruz mole is used as a sauce to cover enchiladas.

They called this a appetizer.

The waterfalls of Xico.

The Monja Waterfalls.

La Gran Cafe de la Parroquia.

The Veracruz nightlife is full of lights, music, and dancing.

A last view of the Veracruz beach.

One last torta to go.

AJ making friends with the penguins.

Our tour guide Martin was great.

Mexican State Capitals: Tepic, Nayarit

The Lazy Man’s History of the European Conquest of the Mexican West Coast
So the year is 1527. It is seven years after Hernan Cortez conquers the Aztecs and declares the area New Spain. Hernan Cortez is getting rich. The King is getting worried so he replaces Hernan Cortez as the Viceroy of New Spain. Hernan Cortez says “no problem, I didn’t want to stay here anyway” and starts moving north.
The King says you “No, you gotta stay in Cuernavaca.”
Hernan Cortez responds, “I can’t hear you! I am on the other side of the planet…”
Repeating history he goes to the West coast, turns all the Native Americans into slaves and conveniently declares the area New Galicia (Nueva Galicia), a new automous kingdom inside of New Spain.
The King sighs, I imagine shakes his head, and says “well, I guess we will have to organize this…” and appoints a guy named Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán to be the new Viceroy.
Nuño Beltrán de Guzmán surprisingly turns out to be worse than Cortez (with is actually saying a lot). Guzmán kills so many people that he is taken in chains back to Spain to answer for treason. A new Viceroy is appointed. Peace is established by breaking up the new kingdom into a few states and Nayarit is born.

Nayarit the Forgotten State
The state of Nayarit in the 16th century becomes super important. The Spanish are making new routes to California in the North and the Philippines in the West and the west coast town of Tepic becomes the central hub a growing number of West coast port towns. For almost three hundred years the area grows and gets rich and then in 1810 Mexicans decide they are done with the Spanish and war breaks out. The Spanish try to use the western state of Nayarit to make a comeback (think like the British and the war of 1812, but this time it is Spain and Mexico). Mexico is not having it and destroys the ports on the West coast, Spain is not coming back. Then the new government of Mexico largely ignored the region and the area slowly evolved a major fishing industry.

Tepic Today
Today Tepic is a known as a colonial city with a very distinct musical sound. The almost national anthem, La Son De La Negra was inspired in Tepic after a tragic fire at a textile factory killed the writer’s wife.
Nayarit was one of the last states to become part of the Mexican Republic, establishing statehood in 1917. This was due to the Revolutionary War, where the locals demanded more of their centralized government in Mexico.
The town is small but there is still lots to see with the plaza, a large market, and municipal palace built in the 50s.




Tepic Airport is the smallest International Airport I have ever seen.

The muse of the Son De La Negra, Albina Luna Perez

If you look closely you can see some baby owls.

Giant Trees grow in the ruins of the textile plant.

Here after the Mexican Revolution Nayarit was declared a free state in 1917.





Free Arts Day on Grand Avenue / MOCA LA / Little Toykyo

Saturdays is usually a free day for me, I was supposed to go to the Franchise Exposition Fair in downtown LA but some church stuff came up so I wasn’t able get out at 8 am when the morning train from Riverside goes to LA so I missed the exposition fair.

By the time I got done with my church duties it was late morning, almost afternoon. Having missed the bus but determined to do something “fun” for the weekend Denise was kind (after I took her and AJ to Sundowners) to take me to the Fontana train station where I was able to catch an afternoon train to LA.

I knew getting on the train there was no way I was going to be able to go to the fair on time so I did a quick Internet search on my phone and found out that all the museums on Grand Avenue were having a Free Arts day. This is the good thing about Los Angeles, there is always something going on. So I got off at the Grand Station, walked up the hill to Grand Avenue and explored the Free Arts Day.

I was late for most of the festivities but one cool thing about Free Arts Day was that all the museums on Grand Avenue was free. I have been to most of the museums on Grand Avenue but I haven’t been to the MOCA. Normally, the MOCA (Museum of Contemporary Art) LA is not free. It usually costs $15 unless you are a member, but they do have some free hours on Thursdays.

The MOCA in LA is actually a network of three museums. The museum at Grand Avenue is the headquarters and there are other locations at the Geffen Center (warehouse district) and the Pacific Design Center (in West Hollywood). The location on Grand Avenue has a permanent collection and a rotating temporary exhibit. The temporary exhibit that I saw was called One Day at a Time Manny Farber and Termite Art.

I have to say that I am not the biggest fan of modern art but it is fun to go exploring. After visiting the museum I took the funicular down the hill and walked over to the Bradbury Building. This time it was actually open. It was a cool building but it was kind of crowded. They only let visitors on the first floor. A bit over hyped in my opinion but how could you not visit the oldest commercial building in Los Angeles.

After exploring I took the metro to Little Tokyo where I was able to find a okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake). This store specialized in Hiroshima style okonomiyaki, which is pancake, cabbage,noodles, pork, and assorted vegetables. It cost about $16 and was HUGE, but it was fast Sunday (starts on Saturday afternoon) so I figured I could handle it. After my huge lunch I finished the day looking at anime (Japanese cartoon) figures. I was then able to take the 7 pm train back to Riverside where Denise picked me up.

Food carts are all over LA but they have gotten really expensive. Gotta pay for the parking I guess.

The line to get in wasn’t too bad. No bags or food allowed inside.

A painting by Oldenburg on permanent exhibition.

Modern art always makes you wonder if it is art or a kindergarten experiment.

They let you get really close to the art at the MOCA. The paintings of Mark Rothko dare you to get lost in them.

Congratulations Maryland PD, your auctioned off bikes have now become modern art. That or the MOCA has a great side business going on EBay.

This was kind of a funny exhibit. It was all the roadrunner cartoons, but without any violence, all that was left was very tranquil desert scenes.

It probably should have said “I will not write another boring blog post” but I did it anyway.

I present you with the ultimate Christmas tree topper.

This art piece by Lorna Simpson was at first glance very boring. It was of a lady going to the office for 31 one days, one month. Though I found myself very mesmerized for some random reason.

This sign was a total red herring. I didn’t get it. It said “The End” but I didn’t understand of what. It wasn’t the end to the exhibition as you can see there was more art down the hall.

Getting up close to this mandala painting by Jennifer Guidi you can see the very intricate paint strokes.

Normally the MOCA costs $15 but there are many free days.

Hiroshima style Okonomiyaki (Japanese Pancake)

Lanterns at the Japanese Village at Little Tokyo.

Basically you could afford to rent my condo for a year for what this Voltron figure costs.

Discovering Tlateloco

Tlateloco has always fascinated me as a place in which you can get a physical representation of how civilization is constantly evolving. From a young age my father always indoctrinated the idea that Mexico was the birthplace of one of the original civilizations. Having been born on the USA/Mexico border, I feel like I am very sensitive to the concept of being in the middle of things. Civilization to me is a constantly evolving thing. The idea of a civilization to me is not a static thing. Things do not come from nothingness they have stories, they have pasts, they are also in the future, and all of this blends together and becomes a now. This now is often hard to perceive but sometimes there are places that are more evident than others. Tlateloco on the hand is an exact representation of how civilizations can merge and even though the result looks like a clash of cultures, it is really just a merging of those cultures.

Last Saturday we had a brief visit to Mexico visit my Dad. During our brief visit I was able to walk the area of Tlateloco and get some video (as well as an ice cream cone!). It inspired me to write a brief essay on the topic. I wrote out those thoughts and made a small video. Hope you are at the very least entertained.

A Brief History of Tlateloco

On February 10th 2009 Mexican archeologists discovered a mass grave of forty-nine human skeletons. All laid out in in neat lines and rows on their backs, with their arms crossed, wrapped in maguey leaves. Who were they people? Why did they die? The first clues came from the bodies themselves. Studying the bones scientists were able to identify that the bodies consisted of 45 young adults, two children, a teenager, and an elderly man who was wearing a ring that signified a higher status. Most of the young men were tall and several had broken bones that had healed, characteristics of warriors. Further research of the bones revealed that they had died somewhere between 1500 to 1545. The remains of a last battle that would mark the end of an era of a culture that was born in the Americas.1

Tlateloco finds it birth in 1337 by a group of Aztecs who where not happy with what was happening in Tenochtitlan, which was at the time a growing Aztec capital.  It is said that an eagle flew from the main temple known as Templo Mayor and landed on mountain of sand known as a Xaltelolco, this was taken a sign from the heavens and the name would eventually become Tlateloco.2

The location located on the edge of the lake Texoco proved to be very fertile ground. The inhabitants learned first how to fish but then quickly moved on to agriculture. An abundance of crops mingled with a strategic location made Tlateloco a center of commerce. Besides the building of another Templo Mayor, just like Tenochtitlan, Tlateloco was known for it’s grand market place.

Like two sisters Tenochtitlan and Tlateloco grew right next to each other. Unfortunately, just like most children there was growing pains. In 1426, what could easily be called a civil war started between the two cities. This war ends in the year 1428 with the triple alliance of Tenochtitlan, Itzcoatl, and Azacapotzalco.3

Firmly with in the arms of the united Aztec empire it would be the market of Tlateloco that would drive the economy of the Aztec empire. Having conquered the entire region were able to bring in exotic goods from throughout the continent. It is estimated that between 20,000 and 60,000 people were in the market daily. The troops of Spanish Conquest arrived to Tlateloco in the year 1519 and described the market by saying “We turned to look at the great marketplace and the crowds of people that were in it, some buying and others selling, so that the murmur and hum of their voices and words that they used could be he heard more than a league off. Some of the soldiers among us who had been in many parts of the world, in Constantinople, and all over Italy, and in Rome, said that so large a marketplace and so full of people, and so well regulated and arranged; they had never seen before.”4

The coming of the Spanish soldiers marked the end of the Aztec empire. By 1520 the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan had fallen to Spanish hands. Moctezuma II was killed and Cuauhtémoc was elected tlatoani (main king). Cuauhtémoc and his troops made their last stand in Tlateloco, where it was said that even women took part in the battle. On August 13, 1521 Cuauhtemoc was captured while crossing Lake Texcoco. According to Spanish texts Cuauhtemoc on being capture requested Cortez take his knife and “strike me dead immediately.” Hernan Cortez refused stating, “You have defended your capital like a brave warrior…A Spaniard knows how to respect valor, even in an enemy.” In 1525, after years of torture Cuauhtemoc was hung and decapitated. With his death so ended the Aztec empire.5

The Spanish Conquerors decided that Tenochtitlan, the old Aztec capital would become the capital of Nueva Espana (aka New Spain) and Tlateloco would become the new Indian capital. Once again two cities, growing up together, but with very separate outlooks. To mark the dominance of the new regime, the market was transformed into a school called El Colegio de La Santa Cruz. The school was immediately started after the fall of the Aztec empire to help train the sons and daughters of nobility about the Spanish way of life. It was said by the Spanish soldiers that a vision of St. James rallied them to victory and so later in 1610 a temple to the Apostle James (Santiago in Spanish) was built. Dominant on the interior of the church is a painting of the Conqueror Christopher Columbus. Perhaps the school’s most famous pupil was Juan Diego. Juan Diego was a native convert to the Catholic church, who converted to Christianity in 1524. Inside the chapel you can see the baptistry font in it is said he was baptized. It would be a few years after his wife’s death in 1531, when he was said to have seen the Virgin Mary, known in Mexico as the Virgin de Guadalupe.6

Educating the natives proved to be less profitable than building a new Spanish colony and Tlateloco was soon converted to a cemetery. Mexico eventually gained independence from Spain in 1810. By that time Tlateloco and it’s past a great market was largely forgotten. The school and neighboring cemetery had been transformed into a Federal prison. By far Tlateloco’s most famous prisoner was Pancho Villa who on December 26, 1912 escaped by dressing up as a doctor.7

In 1960 Mexican President Lopez Mateos would accidentally rediscover Tlateloco by proposing a new housing development. In breaking ground for this new project, artifacts were found immediately and so and archeological dig was initiated in the plaza surrounding the Templo Santiago church. It would be the mix of the Aztec ruins, the Spanish Church and the one hundred modern 1960s apartment buildings from which the area would get it’s new name La Plaza de Las Tres Culturas (Three Cultures Plaza). In 1968 It would be in this plaza in 1968 that students protesting during the 1968 Olympic games in Mexico City would be massacred by federal troops. In 1985 Tlatelco was once again in the news as two apartment buildings collapsed and many others damaged. In the two minutes in which the earthquake rocked Mexico City 80,000 housing units were instantly destroyed.8


Today the Plaza of the Tres Culturas is a place of easy going neighborhood. It is a place where over 100,000 still live and go about their daily life. It is also a place of history. A place that despite seemingly being swallowed up by the city, still demands to be remembered. It is like voices of the unknown dead still speak to the living and ask to be remembered.

  2. Matos Moctezuma, Eduardo, “Breve historia de Tlatelolco”, Arqueología Mexicana, núm. 89, pp. 28-33.
  7. Katz, Friedrich, “The Life and Times of Pancho Villa”, 1998
  8. Richman and Diaz Cortez, “Mexico’s 1968 Massacre: What Really Happened?”, 2008



Visiting 10 Amusement Parks in One Year

Last December as a Christmas gift to the family we got three Cedar Fair Platinum passes. We had a Gold pass (only good for Knott’s and Soak City) three years prior and combined it with the dining pass. We went so many times on our prior pass that it came out to less than $20 a visit.

This year the three platinum passes, plus two drink passes (this lets you get a soda every 15 minutes, and the dining plan (you get two park meals every 4 hours apart) cost us $984.54. This is a lot, but less than one Disney Signature pass and it also includes a 20% discount on all purchases, parking, and no blackout days (except Christmas when they close).

The Cedar Fair Platinum pass lets you go in to any park owned by the company. The company owns and operates twelve amusement parks, two outdoor water parks, and one indoor water park. Most of the parks are on the East coast. Although Knott’s Berry Farm and California’s Great America in California are two fun parks on the West coast.

When we were planning for this year, we were already planing to visit amusement parks. We had planned a trip to Florida to visit Universal Studios and Islands of Adventure. We also added to that a trip to Volcano Bay (a Universal Water Park). We did that in April and I have to say that Universal Studios is a class way above Cedar Fair in quality. In fact, in many areas (in particular the Harry Potter lands), they are a strong competitor to Disney (who is #1 for amusement parks).

Except for maybe Cedar Point, which is the Roller Coaster capitol of the world, no one usually travels just to visit a Cedar Fair Park. Most of the rides at a Cedar Fair park are the same. Each park usually has one or two unique rides, but you will find the same rides at many of the parks. Cedar Fair has done a great job in buying some very classic properties like Knott’s (which was the First Theme Park in the USA) and California’s Great America (which used to be owned by Paramount Studios) and continue on the legacies they left behind.

Having pre-paid food, drinks, and parking makes things very easy. Knott’s Berry Farm is the closest Cedar Fair park to us. It takes about 30 minutes for us to get there from our house. Having everything included has spoiled us in that we have been known to go often to Knott’s ride like one or two rides, or maybe see a show, have dinner and then leave. Many times we have been in the park for less than an hour. The last time we had all season dining it was very limited to just hamburgers, hot dogs, and fries (they always give you too much fries, but now they have opened up the options. Now you can still get the hamburgers and hot dogs, but you can also get BBQ, corn on the cob, crazy fries, Mexican food, and gourmet salads. The variety is an excellent value. No sit down waiter places, but still lots of options.

Having the Platinum passes helped us get out there and see a bit more of America and it even got us out of the country when we went to Canada’s Wonderland. I had always wanted to go to Canada, but never really seemed to find a reason to go, but now that we had the pass it became a goal.

Here are the amusement parks we have visited this year:
Knott’s Berry Farm (Buena Park, CA) 1/5/18
Universal Studios Florida (Orlando, CA) 4/2/18
Islands of Adventure (Orlando, CA) 4/3/18
Volcano Bay (Orlando, CA) 4/5/18
Michigans’s Adventure (Muskegon, MI) 7/4/18
Canada’s Wonderland (Toronto, ON) 7/6/18
Cedar Point (Sandusky, OH) 7/9/18
Kings Island (Cincinnati, OH) 7/10/18
Soak City (Buena Park, CA) 7/14/18
California’s Great America (Santa Clara, CA) 9/1/18

Entrance to California’s Great America.

Gold Striker is a great example of a wooden rollercoaster.

AJ marvels at the fountains and carousel at California’s Great America.

A sample of what a meal at a Cedar Fair park looks like. That red Coca Cola cup is what you get every 15 minutes with the drink plan.

The Extreme Elevation Show at California’s Great America.

The Family at Great America.

Denise on the Eagles Nest ride at Great America.

John on the Berserker at Great America. A common fair ride.

Volcano Bay at Orlando Florida.

The family about to enter Universal Studios Florida.

AJ on Railblazer. A brand new roller coaster where you are on top of the single rail.

Swan boats at Michigan’s Adventure.

Shivering Timbers at Michigan’s Adventure.

The Leaky Cauldron at Universal Studios.

AJ and Denise get ready for a day at Knott’s

Kings Island in Cincinnati had great chili.

Jurassic Park the Ride at Islands of Adventure.

Our Flying Cupboard at Hogwart’s Castle.

Yeah this happened a lot on our adventures.

Diagon Alley at Universal.

Canada’s Wonderland had a cliff diving show.

The Beast is the longest roller coaster I have ever been on, it is like 7 minutes long.

The Patriot swings you around at California’s Great America

All Cedar Fair parks have adopted the Peanuts as their mascots.

Sky Buckets at Cedar Point.

The Banshee is a themed roller coaster at Kings Island.

Mass Effect is a 4D theater show at California’s Great America.

Mexican State Capitols: Mexicali, Baja California Norte

The state capitol building in Mexicali. Baja California Norte became a state in 1952.

Visited: August 18-19, 2018

As a state Baja California Norte is a relatively new state, having been admitted in 1959. Before that it was known as a territory. The first traces of humans date back as far as 11,000 years ago. Europeans first came to the area in 1539. It was Jesuit priests who came to the area for the purpose of establishing Catholic missions that brought about significant developments to the area. There are some very densely populated areas of Baja California Norte, but the majority of the state still looks like a territory, this is because the majority of the state is part of

An inside view of our hotel room.

what is known as the Sonoran desert.

In our never ending quest to visit state capitols we found ourselves with some extra time and about $100 budget, so we decided to visit Mexicali the capitol of Baja California Norte. $100 dollars doesn’t seem like much for a two day visit but it is amazing what you can do for that much money.

The first thing you need to do is find a place to stay. Like every city in the world this can be a big variable. If you want, you can find a 5 star hotel with a pool and fancy restaurants, in Mexicali this will set you back about $80 a night. We don’t mind so much about those things and  weren’t really interested in going swimming so scaled it back to a two star hotel. For $38 a night we got the Hotel Azteca De Oro. A simple hotel, beds functional, a block from the main street and shopping, weak wifi, cable TV, and included breakfast (2 meals per room).

Huevos Ahogados, a new CalMex dish born in Mexicali.

Chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican breakfast.

Speaking of the free breakfast I have a funny story…So I went out on a walk in the morning and told my family to meet me at the restaurant. I was 15 minutes late and I asked my mom if she needed help ordering. She told me “no, the waiter knows what I want.” OK, I thought, made my order and ten minutes later the food came out. The food come and my mom says “this is not what I ordered”. I ask “what did you order?” “Eggs with avocado”, she replies. I ask the waiter, “What she order?” “Huevos Ahogados.” (drowned eggs). Spanish lesson for the day, avocado sounds a lot like ahogado (drowned) in Spanish. they basically were eggs drowned in tomato salsa. Almost like a soup. Denise tried the Huevos Ahogados, she said she liked them, I really don’t like tomatoes so I avoid them. So the chef asked me if egg soup is a thing in the USA, I explained it was not, but maybe we just discovered a new CalMex dish.

All this food was supposedly for two people.

For things to do Mexicali can be a bit of a challenge. In the 20s Mexicali gained a reputation for being a safe haven from the Prohibition and to a certain extent it still is as there are some night clubs and bars in the Centro Historico (historical center), but for the most part Mexicali is just a urban city. Which is funny because just over the border the USA side is very agricultural, which makes the different very contrasting. That said Mexicali that caters for tourists. It is just a city doing it’s thing and seems to be OK without the gringos messing it up. Which is nice, because like other Mexican cities I have been to there was no begging and heavy selling, not to say there isn’t people selling things, it just isn’t aggressive. You can go to park, restaurant, etc. and just sit and enjoy life go by with everyone else. That said it was a challenge to find “things to do” but we did find two different things. El Museo Del Sol (the Museum of the Sun) and el Bosque de la Cuidad (the City Forest).

A map showing the park facilities.

The first place we went to visit was el Bosque de la Cuidad. This is a city park/zoo/aviary/water park. The cost for admission was $15 pesos (about .75 cents) for parking and $20 pesos (about a dollar) for tickets. The name Bosque de la Cuidad means “City Forest” and it lives up to the name as the venue is quite big. The first part of the park is a playground and aviary where there are literally hundreds of different types of birds. There is also an indoor aviary you can walk through that AJ and I called “Poop Village”, it was clean but be warned hundreds of birds flying over you, stuff happens. To the back of the park is a little zoo complete with lions, tigers, and jaguars. Hey it’s Mexico, but if it makes you feel better they have bears too. There is a giant lake in which the locals try their luck at catching catfish to eat for their picnics with families. After walking around the park I quickly realized I hadn’t gotten any where close to seeing all the park but they had a little train that circled the park for $25 pesos (about $1.20 USD). The park is REALLY big, if you go take the train, you’ll see what I mean.

My mom in front of the IMAX theater, the IMAX theater is basically a really big screen movie theater that makes you feel like you are in the movie.

Mexicali is hot, when we were there the high of the day was 110 degrees (43 C). After walking around the city park in the heat we were starting to melt and needed a place to escape. So in a kind of ironic move we went to El Museo del Sol, the “Museum of the Sun”. Despite the hot name, the museum was indoor and had air conditioning, which was just what we needed. The Museo del Sol is a children’s museum and is filled with a bunch of different hands on science experiments. It also has a IMAX theater where we saw a presentation on the National Parks. It was fun film but it was kind of funny being in Mexico watching a video extolling the virtues of the National Parks system. Cost for the museum and the show is $5 but talking to the ticket guy he told me of a family package that costs $325 pesos (about $17) and was good for 4 people.

After the museum we needed to head back to the USA but we were hungry. Luckily in Mexico that is never a problem. Mexico is a poor country, people live in really poor conditions, but hunger is not one of those conditions. When it comes to food in Mexicali, things get a little different. When one thinks Mexican food, one thinks tortillas, beans, and rice. Mexicali does have those things but they are not quite prepared the way you would expect them. Mexicali in the early 1900s saw a lot of Chinese immigrants. The Chinese came to to the Americas to build the railways system, but the United States went through one of it’s many waves of anti-immigration and many Chinese people decided to go to Mexico. The largest congregation of Chinese immigrants in Mexico is in Mexicali. Due to that fact there are a lot of establishments that cater to Chinese tastes, the foremost being Chinese restaurants. Mexican Chinese food is a an awesome experience. I like Chinese food, but mix Asian and Mexican spices and you get a mix your mouth will never forget. Two dishes that exemplify this was the Chinese medley and the chipotle Shrimp. The Chinese medley was like a Chinese vegetable dish but in addition to things like snow peas it had other vegetables like corn and squash. The chipotle Shrimp was like sweet and sour shrimp gut the spicy start had a taste of deep smoked chilies. Warning, the serving sizes are huge. We got there and they had these combo plates that were priced per person. We had four in our party so I ordered four portions. The waiter quickly shut that down, he told me he was going to just order us two. I thought that was strange, the price per portion was $200 pesos (about $10 USD), I let him know that we had enough money, he said to trust him so we did. He was right, I am so glad we only ordered for two, I can’t even think of what it would have been like if we had ordered for 4 people.

Traveling back to the USA it is important to note that there are two border crossings in Mexicali, East and West. Both crossings have Sentri and standard crossing, but only the East crossing has ReadyLane. If you have a passport card go to the East crossing, it is a lot faster than going through the standard crossing. My only other advise is other than answering questions please do not talk to the border crossing officials. Even if you take an extra 30 seconds, that is going to get compounded into the line and delay everyone else waiting. In our case the heat and idling was a bit too much for the car we were driving. We got across the border OK but had to stop at the gas station directly across the border because the coolant was overheating.

If your in Mexico and don’t know where to go but need some decent Mexican food, go to a Sanborns.

My mom got the signature dish, enchiladas suizas. Denise got tostadas ligeras. I think this time the tostadas won.

The Mexicali bullring.

An outside view of our hotel room.

An inside view of our hotel room.

The start of Paseo de los Heroes. Where many Mexican heroes are honored.

Josefa Dominguez was a Mexican insurgent who fought for Mexican Independence.

The obelisk is dedicated to the conquistadors who came to Mexicali in about 1536.

The state capitol building in Mexicali. Baja California Norte became a state in 1952.

AJ ready for his free French toast breakfast.

Chilaquiles is a traditional Mexican breakfast.

Huevos Ahogados, a new CalMex dish born in Mexicali.

Mexicali is a pretty city, but there is poverty.

The entrance to the Bosque de la Cuidad.

One of the many peacocks roaming the park.

A map showing the park facilities.

AJ checking out some long horn steers.

I found it hilarious that the lion cage was right next to the caribou cage.

The hyena was very interested in AJ.

The sign says “Hasta La Proxima Sobrevivientes” (Till next time survivors). Which was interesting considering the condition of the bridge.

The walk through aviary AJ and I named Bird Poop Village.

The train operators were very nice to us to let us ride even though there were not many riders.

This picture helps show how big the park was. The lake is on the other side of the park.

The entrance to the Museo del Sol.

AJ climbing on of the many hands on exhibits.

AJ reenacts his version of Han in carbonite.

Denise demonstrates a bed of nails.

My mom in front of the IMAX theater, the IMAX theater is basically a really big screen movie theater that makes you feel like you are in the movie.

The Pekin Restaurant was a different environment being in Mexico.

All this food was supposedly for two people.

The chipotle shrimp embodies the cross of Mexican and Chinese cuisine.

The signs heading back into the USA can be confusing, make sure you have a good map.


State Capitols: Indianapolis, Indiana

As the name implies, the name of the state of Indiana came from the many Native American tribes that once inhabited the area. Originally formed as territory lands for Native Americans that were relocated from the east, new treaties pushed the inhabitants into new lands and the state of Indiana was formed in 1816.

The first capitol was in Corydon but was two small. To save money they eventually moved the capitol to an old courthouse, but that again was too small. The Federal government donated some land to the state capitol was moved to Indianapolis. The first capitol in Indianapolis was very grandiose. It was best known for one of very many funeral ceremonies for President Abraham Lincoln. That building however was not well maintained and so was condemned (because the ceiling fell down), so it was demolished in 1877.

Indianapolis is very proud of it’s civil war heritage.

The current building was started in 1880 and the construction was overseen by Civil War general turned civil engineer, Thomas A. Morris. The general was very efficient in his duties and built the building for $200,000 under budget. Finished in 1888, the building houses the governor’s office, the state congress, and the state supreme court. With the very long wings it kind of has a cathedral like look to it.

The city of Indianapolis seemed to be a very calm city. Although the city gets very excited if you talk about fast cars or football.

Visited: July 11, 2018

Almost like you could be in church.

Welcome to Indiana.

Coming into Indianapolis you can see the long Lucas Oil Stadium home to the Colts.

Learning from past mistakes renovation is now constant at the Indiana State capitol building

The stain glass dome of the Indianapolis State Capitol.

The long hallways give kind of a cathedral feeling.

Office of the Indianapolis Governor.

Indiana Senate Chamber

Looking out from the capitol.

Scottish Rite Cathedral

State Capitols: Lansing, Michigan

Austin Blair was known as the Civil War Governor and was a firm opponent to slavery.

Michigan got it’s start on July 13th, 1787, when the Second Continental Congress created the Northwest Territory. Almost instantly there were lots of land disputes and in 1803 Ohio was formed and in 1805 Michigan became it’s own territory. Michigan immediately wanted to become a state but the land disputes prevented it from the application.

During the war of 1812, Detroit, which was the territorial seat got occupied by British forces, but the militia fought back and soon regained the territory. After the war the idea of statehood intensified. In 1835 Michigan formed a state government in Detroit without Congressional approval. Part of the problem was land disputes with Michigan’s neighbor Ohio. The land disputes came to a head when the two state militias took up arms against each other in what was known as the Toledo War. At the heart of the matter was the city of Toledo. Ohio won the fight, and as condition for entering the Union, Michigan was forced to cede Toledo, but did get a strip of and that was won in the war in 1812, and so Michigan became a state of two land masses.

Another concession given was that the capitol of Michigan had to move. Congress did not want the state capitol getting run over again by the British so they mandated that Michigan move their capitol to a safer location. Detroit of course protested but eventually relented and the first construction of a state capitol building began in 1847 in Lansing.

The current capitol building was built in 1872. It was a bit of a scandal because the architect, Elijah E. Myers was from Springfield, Illinois, and everyone thought that it must be a kickback having a out of state architect. The thing about it was that he actually built the building within budget and thinking of what happened to some buildings during the Civil War, it became one of the first fireproofed buildings in the nation by using fire resistant materials such as glass, steel, and stone.

Visited: July 5, 2018

The Coamerica building is one of the oldest buildings in Lansing.

Up in the dome of the capitol.

Senate chambers.

There are tours of the capitol or you can do what I did and do a self-guided tour.

Govenor’s ceremonial office.

The battle flag room with a steel and glass floor.

The view up to the capitol.

Columbus, Ohio

The Ohio State Capitol looks a bit unfinished without a dome.

Ohio achieved statehood and like any new state had to make a lot of decisions. One of course being where to put their new capitol. Like all state legislatures Ohio couldn’t decide on where it should go. There was a lot of back and forth but in the end they decided to compromise somewhere in the middle, literately in the middle, and thus Columbus became the capitol of Ohio.

We spent a lot of time on our road trip in Ohio, but Columbus was kind of a stopover to other things so we didn’t have much time to really stay in the capitol. It was Tuesday, July 10, 2018 that we visited Columbus, Ohio. It was early in the morning and our schedule had us going to a theme park that same day so we weren’t able to go inside, we did however see some interesting things on the outside.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the Ohio State Capitol is the lack of a dome. The building is Greek revival (like many state capitols) and has a tube cylinder shape in the middle but then it just stops. The locals I saw told me they call it the “Chinese hat” because that is kind of what it looks like.

Visited: July 10, 2018

The old post office building now owned by Bricker & Eckler LLP.

In front of the state capitol.

Monument dedicated to the Civil war.

Columbus is the 14th most populus city in the US at 879,170 citizens.

Side view of the state capitol