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


US State Capitols: Salem, Oregon

Visited July 21, 2018

We had fun walking around the capitol.

Oregon’s capital has always been in Salem but the current building is not the first capitol. It makes sense with all the trees in Oregon that the capitol would be made out of wood, but as history has proven that is not always a wise move as fires has twice burned down the capitol building. The latest version was finished in the 1938. A more modern building the white marble building will hopefully last longer than it’s predecessors. We didn’t have much time to visit the Oregon State Capitol and it wasn’t open when we went. We did have a chance to walk around the area and found the neighborhood to be very nice. One one side is a little park with whimsical statues dedicated to music and on another side is Willamette college.

The park outside the capitol has some fun whimsical statues.

The Circuit Rider statue is dedicated the pioneer ministers that rode the west and helped settle Oregon.

When we visited the Oregon State Capitol it was under refurbishment.

In 1935 the original state capitol was burned down in 1935, the only thing that remained was the brick columns.

The current capitol was built in 1938.

I don’t know why but I find it funny how many Springfields there are in the USA.

Willamette University was founded by Protestant missionary Jason Lee in 1842.


US State Capitols: Sacramento, California

Outside the capitol.

Visited July 20, 2018

When California was part of Mexico, the capital of what was known as Alta California was in Monterey. In 1849 California declared itself a free and independent nation. At that time Sacramento drafted it’s first city charter. In 1850, when California became part of the United States, Sacramento was incorporated as the first city of the State of California.

Sacramento became the Capitol of California in 1854. There was a major flood in 1861 that forced the California legislative session to move to San Francisco for one session but that was temporary for the year. Things are always in flux in California. For a long time the governor lived in the Governor’s Palace and then he didn’t, and now he does again. Not to mention the fact that the Sacramento capitol has been the background of many historic moments such as the Black Panthers, the grape strike lead by Cesar Chavez, and the assassination attempt on President Ford.

Today the history of Sacramento continues. There are many things to do in Sacramento and see. Some of our favorite things to do is to visit the Railroad Museum and this last time we were at the capitol we just walked around the grounds to see all the many shops.

The Crest movie theater.

Bravo Farms is a little roadside attraction. Nothing in particular about it but I like visiting them all and seeing how quirky they can get.

As the lavish staircase shows, California is a very rich state.

Little known fact, the CHP (California Highway Patrol) is the state guard for California. At the capitol they trade their motorcycles in for horses.

In 1967 Nancy Reagan declared the Governors Mansion a “rat trap”. It wasn’t until 2015 that the Governor would again live in the Governors Mansion.

The Governors office.

Little kids love bacteria bear, look him up he even has a twitter account (

Each county has a display board in the capitol. It is interesting to see what each county showcases.

Since 1883 this marble statue of Queen Isabella conceding Columbus’ request has sat in the state retonda.

capitol dome

Old Treasurers room

The most famous governor of California was probably President Reagan.

Outside the capitol.

Not a great selfie but we tried out best.

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament







































Springfield, Illinois (Part of Travel Goal #4)

Front this railroad station Abraham Lincoln gave his last speech to Springfield.

We collect National Park cancellation stamps when we travel within the USA. On the way out from Springfield, Ilinois Denise asked if I could get a quick stamp from the old railway station in Springfield.

I went to the railroad station and the door was closed but the hours on the door said they were open and so was the door so I let myself in. Once inside the historic depot I noticed no one was there so I walked briefly around the depot looking for the stamp and found it at the ticket booth. It was while I was getting the stamp ready I hear this voice…

“Hello”, said the voice.

“Hello,” I replied. Must be a park ranger I thought.

“How are you doing?”

“Good, I just came to get a stamp and then I will be on my way”

“I am going to miss you dearly.”

Wow, this place must not get many visitors.

“I am now on my way to Washington DC.”

What is this guy talking about?! I went to the next room from where I heard the voice. It was at that point that I came face to face with a video projection of an actor portraying Abraham Lincoln, giving Springfield a farewell speech from the station (sadly he never came back). And that is my story on how I had a conversation with Lincoln. I am happy to say Lincoln was a kind host and I was able to get my stamp and continue on my way.

Abraham Lincoln is an interesting character in history because he is so well loved that he is claimed by so many places. He was born in Hodgenville, KY in a simple log cabin, but as an adult he clearly made Springfield, Illinois his hometown.

Lincoln’s home is a modest home but it is yellow, which in the 1800’s was a very expensive color.

In 1839, Springfield had become the new capital of Illinois. In 1842 Springfield was a growing city and was a perfect setting for Lincoln to set up a law practice. Him and Mary were not poor but they did not have a lot of money either. The story goes that when Lincoln arrived he asked the local shopkeeper how much bed sheets were and when he was told they were $17 he had to buy them on credit from his profits as lawyer.

Lincoln’s practice went well and he was soon able to pay off his debit and in 1843 for $1,500 he was able buy a house and a small plot of land. Lincoln’s home started out modest and as his prestidge grew so did the house. Mary Todd Lincoln employed help but she really liked to cook so she had a very nice stove (even though the kitchen itself was small). The highlight of the house was seeing Lincoln’s desk. I can only imagine all the idea he had there.

Unfortunately, Abraham Lincoln never made it back to Springfield alive. After being assassinated, there was a very solemn funeral train back to Springfield in which Lincoln was laid in state at the capitol building and then at the Oak Ridge cemetery in a huge memorial tomb.

The gold inside Lincoln’s tomb was donated by California.

The Lincoln tomb is an impressive structure that features on the outside scenes from the civil war and on the inside impressive amounts of granite and marble. In the first room you will find the model sculpture that is featured at the Lincoln Monument in Washington DC. The dome in the first room is made of palladium which is supposedly one of the more durable metals on the planet. In the burial chamber you will find a big tombstone, which 10 ft. under is buried Abraham Lincoln. They had to bury Abraham Lincoln under 10 ft. of concrete to prevent grave robbers. Also in the burial chambers is the crypts of Mary Todd Lincoln, and three of Lincoln’s four sons, Edward, Willie, and Tad. There is a memorial to the eldest, Robert Todd Lincoln, who is buried at Arlington National Cemetery, which is interesting because if you look close they made a mistake on his birth year and had to correct it (he was born in 1843).  If the tomb looks bigger than it should be it is. It was meant to be a tomb big enough for all of the Lincoln family, but most of the Lincoln family chose to be buried elsewhere so they wouldn’t be overshadowed by President Lincoln’s memory.

Visited: July 3, 2018

The trip to Springfield, Illinois was part of my travel goals. To see all my goals please visit 

Lincoln’s home is a modest home but it is yellow, which in the 1800’s was a very expensive color.

Lincoln’s bed is modest, it is also noticeable that he had a separate room from his wife.

Lincoln’s desk. I also thought the carpet was very decorative.

Mary’s stove.

Lincoln is eternally in front of the capital building.

I thought it funny that the “cornerstone” was not actually attached to the building.

Inside the capitol.

Springfield dome.

The Springfield Capitol was built with modest funds, which meant they didn’t have money for fancy wood or stone, so they painted everything to make it look fancy.

Front this railroad station Abraham Lincoln gave his last speech to Springfield.

One of the local foods I found was Cracklins, fried chicken skin. It was OK, but I prefer pork grinds.

The gold inside Lincoln’s tomb was donated by California.

If you look close you can see they changed the year from 44 to 43, even though Robert Todd Lincoln was not buried in Springfield.

Outside the Lincoln tomb it shows scenes from the civil war.

There is a tradition that you are supposed to touch Lincoln’s nose. Not sure why, but it is really shiny from all the touching.

Tried White Castle, the oldest fast food restaurant in the USA. Only available in the east coast.

Guanajuato, Mexico: City of Mines, Music, Muses, and Mummies.

The thing about Mexico that any visitor who travels any distance will soon find the diversity that is embedded in the country. Due to the fact that Mexico is a cradle of an original civilization and thus millennium in age this is inevitable. The modern mixes with the ancient, colors collide, and food mixes in new ways never imagined. Then there is Guanajuato.

So, we arrived in Guanajuato in the very early dawn of the morning. Mexico is not really a morning country. If you want to see silence wake up in any city of Mexico really early and you will find yourself soon by yourself. Maybe if your lucky you might find a rooster, but even the chickens sleep in late in Mexico. We say this to say to let you know that when we arrived no one was there to greet us. Luckily there were a few taxis in operation and we were able to get a ride into downtown. We told the taxi we weren’t exactly sure where we wanted to go but wanted to go downtown. I had heard that there was a funicular in town and I figured that was a good place to start. He must have looked at me pointed and then looked at my T-Shirt because the next thing I knew we were at the San Diego Church.

The scene was classic tourism. A bunch of Americans on the corner with a bunch of bags in tow. Being Mexico we were promptly approached by a tour guide. We had no idea what we wanted to do, but he said he had a tour that was leaving soon that was 4 hours long. It was only 150 pesos (about $7.25 USD) and we said why not?! So we that we soon packed into a white van with 10 total strangers. Sounds like the begining of a kidnapping story but here I am writting this blog so it couldn’t have been that bad.

The van was packed but we did learn a lot of things about Guanajuato. Guanajuato is a very old city. It was an ancient Aztec city that means “city of frogs.” You’d think with a name like that we would have seen lots of frogs but it is nothing like that. Apparently the city got it’s name when the Aztecs looked at a bunch of rocks in a valley and said they looked like frogs. They figured it was the goddess of frogs protecting them and so the name stuck. I saw the rocks they kind of look like frogs, I guess it works.

Speaking of rocks Guanajuato is a ancient mining town. Even before the Spanish arrived the locals were mining copper and silver from the surrounding mountains. Of course you know what happened when the Spanish found out about that. Mines, mines everywhere. At one point there were over 4,000 of them. We went to the oldest one called La Valencia and the second oldest one called Bocamina San Ramon. At La Valencia there was not much to look at, but at Bocamina San Ramon they let you go down an old mine shaft which was pretty cool. All I can say is I am really glad I was not a miner in the 1500s. They dug for 5 days at a time in the dark and if the debts were inherited to your heirs (luckily my ancestors were not Mexican miners). Needless to say the life expectancy was not long. Today there are only three mines in operation and surprisingly they are owned by Canadians.

More plentiful than abandoned mines in Guanajuato is music. Music is the rhythm of life in Mexico and Guanajuato takes that to a whole other level. Music in Guanajuato has been going on for several millennium. Whether it is the beat of the drum, the twang of a guitar, or a trumpet sounding music is everywhere. It is in the plaza, it is on the streets, it is in the restaurants. My favorite singers were the wandering minstrels dressed in medieval garb. It was like going right back to 1600s and Shakespeare’s bards had come out to make life merry. They play, they dance, and it is joyous.

With the music in the air it is no coincidence that the arts flourish in Guanajuato. The colors are everywhere. The streets tunnel and wind and inspire the mind. In fact there are 3,200 what they call “callejones”, little street ways that can only be accessed by walking. The most popular of which is called “El Callejon del Beso” where lovers can climb up to two balconies and kiss from each side. All of them have names. My favorite was the one called “Salsipuedes” (get out if you can), if your big like me you have to suck in your gut a bit to get through that one (it has the record for the narrowest alleyway). It was in this enviroment that world renown muralist Diego Rivera was born.  His childhood home has been preserved and is now a museum. Also, it should be know that the people of Guanajuato are big fans of Miguel de Cervantes. The most popular character of Cervantes was Don Quixote, put there are many others. The have a museum and festival entirely dedicated to his works and the playhouses often stage productions of his works.

In Guanajuato there is a mummy mine. To understand why this is you need to understand two things: how burials in Mexico work and the water. In Mexico cemetery plots are not bought for all time, they are bought in 7 years increments. If you have a trust set up or your family renews the contract, all is well, you rest in peace. If the seven years come up and no one pays, they dig your body up and your are cremated, that is that. Regarding the water, there is a phrase that says “it must be something in the water.” In Guanajuato it really is all about what is in the water. As mentioned before, there are many mines in Guanajuato, thus it is not hard to see why the water naturally has a lot of minerals in it. If you live in Guanajuato long enough these minerals will get in your bloodstream and when you die, you will not rot, you will be preserved and become a mummy. And if this happens and your family doesn’t pay for you, you will be put in a museum in Guanajuato and people will pay to see you forever and ever. Kind of strange at first glance, but it is a small Mexican reminder to that life is short and it is to be lived.

Do describe Guanajuato in just words does it an injustice. It is really a place that needs to be felt, it is a moment of time and space that comes and then it is gone. If only to sit in the Union Plaza underneath the trees and slowly watch the sun set while the children play in the gazebo. The music will come to your ears, the smell of the food will come to your nose, you will feel the air around you and you will feel alive for a moment and then the moment will be gone, but it will be there for another such time, because as they say in Guanajuato, “don’t worry the mummies are not going anywhere.”

The day was long, we got back to the bus station late. We ended up taking an overnight bus to Mexico City. $40 for the three of us to take a 6 hour bus ride.


One of the ancient water fountains.

AJ enjoying the view of Guanajuato

The oldest mine is the La Valencia mine.

The University of Guanajuato was founded in 1732.

The local transport company hosted the parade.

This tunnel shows the many layers of Guanajuato. The bottom arch is from the 16th century, the red bricks are from the 17th century, and the top is 18th century.

The sweet potato seller’s chimney sounds like a steamboat whistle.

Frog like mobiles roam the streets.

This mine shop was interesting but I was not interesting in bringing home rocks.

The local singers lead a community sing a long.

San Ramon mine established 1549.

The air shaft to the San Ramon mine.

The legend of San Ramon says if you offer him a key, he will lock up the mouth of those gossiping about you.

The mine hacienda was beautiful.

The alleyway “Salsipuedes” is so small you can miss it easily.

Mother Mary out for a Saturday stroll.

Hanging out in a plaza is classic Mexico.

The gazebo at Plaza La Union.

A canopy of tree hides the local plaza.

A view up to the Pipila monument.

Pipila is a hero of Mexican Independence.

In front of the opera house.

The opera house.

In Mexico death is not feared, it is embraced and is part of life.

AJ did not appreciate the music at lunch.

Prices are quite reasonable. The exchange rate was 20 MXN to 1 USD.

Some paintings by Jose Para exploring the idea of the imperialism of Maximillian.

The inquisition museum was a bit gruesome but it was part of Mexico.

The inquisition museum started when a guy bought a hacienda and found a hidden dungeon in the basement.

The granary/fort is a important part of Mexican history. It was the first battle win in the Mexican Independence war.

The locals in full plummage.

Enchiladas Mineras are chicken enchiladas with potatoes that was the specialty of the region.

Me and Diego looking for a taxi.

An early sketch by Diego Rivera.

Diego’s childhood kitchen.

At Diego’s house.

A sketch showing Hernan Cortez suffering from syphilis was used in the Mexican National Palace.

Diego Rivera liked communism but he was a big capitalist when it came to selling his artwork.

The devil parades his showcase of sins dancing.

We saw a wedding reception at the mine.

AJ and Denise made it out of the mine, a little red in the face, but they made it.

A view of the San Diego Church

Finished the day with a chocolate milkshake.

Chalk art.

Monument to Miguel Cervantes.

Want to stay at a real castle, it is a hotel in Mexico.

The Callejon del Beso

Down in the mine.

The end of the first mine shaft was 90 meters (300 ft.) down.

Before there were steps, the miners would go down in notched tree trunks with bags of rocks on their back.

A map of the mine. We went to the first landing.

We left our bags at this hotel for $30 pesos.

I think this was a bachelor party, there was a lot of singing and drinking going on.

In Mexico not living well is feared, not death.

Pre-Dawn ETN Public Bus in Mexico

Omnibus de Mexico is one of hundreds of bus companies. As you can see you can travel anywhere in Mexico and then some by bus.

It is 4 AM in Aguascalientes and we need to continue on our way to Mexico City. We have two more days to get there and the distance is about 8 hrs. of driving on Mexican roads. We know nothing about driving in central Mexico so we opt for the public bus.

When most Westerners think about the public bus they probably think Greyhound. Greyhound will get you to where you need to go, but in an era of cheap flights there is no reason to take the long distance bus in the USA. That is, unless you just don’t like taking long times to get to a place and want to spend the same amount of money as it would have been to fly. Not to mention the quality of the bus is going to be sketchy, the people and the bus. Greyhound buses recently added wifi but that is as far as the amenities go.

Mexico is a different ball game. Long distance bus travel is one place where Mexico has the USA beat. The buses are cheap, big, and come with lots of amenities.

AJ kicking his feet up with his goodie bag.

When you buy your ticket you get to select your seat. I suggest you don’t buy it in the back, it can get a bit bumpy. Also don’t buy the first two rows or you will be listening to driver cumbia music your entire trip. I like the middle rows the best.

Many of the lines have their own special waiting rooms where you will find free wifi (as will many of the buses). Upon boarding you will be asked what kind of drink you want and be given a pastries and some cookies. If you go on a very long trip you will be given a small sandwich.

On the bus you will find plenty of legroom, an entertainment center, and charging ports.

So if you need (or want) to experience some intercity travel in Mexico you may want to kick your feet up and let the Mexicans do the driving.

The countryside view from the bus is often amazing.

The buses are really big.