Category Archives: Roadtrip

Dispatches From South America – Do Ecuadorans Sleep?

So far Ecuador is proving to be a fascinating country, and Quito…a fascinating city. As I had hoped, our taking an apartment in the city’s ‘Centro Historico’ (the old city) was the right decision. It’s giving us a much more intense and rewarding introduction to Quito. Of course, being the only ‘Gueros’ (‘fair ones’) on the streets in the old city, is a little unnerving.

And another thing: Between the roosters crowing at all hours of the night and… “What the hell was that? Canon fire!?” How do Ecuadorans sleep? I am reliably informed that the booming explosions are part of the religious parades this time of year, but at 5:30 am!?

More ‘Dispatches From South America’

Thanks for Nothing

As I prepare to expatriate for a bit, I’ve found that living on the cheap is really…not so cheap. Even though I’m currently crashing with my parents and my apartment in South America is already paid for, there are still a whole slew of expenses that I just can’t get away from, most of which provide little or no value.

Cell Phones — Sure AT&T would love to help us cut the cost of our expensive plan…since their service is essentially useless in South America, but put the whole thing on hold? Not a chance,”…we’re not Netflix, you know”. The best they will do is cut our rate plan to the minimum and eliminate some of the ancillary charges, but we’re still paying $60+ per month, and for that we don’t even have voice mail.

Car Insurance — If you’ve ever lived without a car, you know that insurance companies don’t give a cr*p whether or not you been with them since you had pimples. Terminate your policy—even for a month—and you lose ‘continuity of coverage’. Lose continuity of coverage and your rates go through the roof. Now I have no choice, though my car won’t see pavement anytime in the next 3 months, I’m still going to pay $180 just in case the garage caves in.

Medical Insurance — Lost my job back in March; sporadic work since then; COBRA is too expensive, but I still need coverage of some kind. Since I’m traveling outside of my new home state, no policy I can get will do any more than help me cover an emergency, and then only after I fork out $20,000. And for that privilege, I’m going to have to cough up $170.00/month.

About the only recurring cost I have that actually provides some value is the rental on my storage locker. Yes indeed! 150 square feet at the best price per square foot ratio you can find in the Bay Area. Hey!? Perhaps I should move back to Sodom by the Sea and live in my storage locker. It’s climate-controlled and all of my stuff is already there.

América el Hermoso

There was a time, when I was a wee tadpole, when a drive across West Texas or New Mexico meant some talk radio, some fire and brimstone preaching, some country music, and some mariachi.  In fact, on the long drive between my parents home and UT Austin (where I did my undergraduate), I learned to love mariachi because, of those crummy choices on the AM dial, mariachi was the least objectionable

Now…a drive across northern New Mexico while listening to the FM dial has a totally different feel.  One in five stations is evangelical Christian radio, and the other 4?  A mixture of traditional mariachi, Tejana, and talk radio…IN SPANISH!

The southern border of the United States is no longer the Rio Grand, south of Tuscon, or any such thing.  It’s a whole hell of a lot further north, and all those arrogant ‘English First’ nuts better start learning Spanish, because bilingualism is coming for us all…whether we like it or not.

Rules Car

You can’t have a road trip without a car. So some weeks before we took off, the Frogette and I acquired a new set of wheels.

We figured that, with Saab still not sure that it’ll be a company in a year, we could get a sweet deal. And so we picked up a used 9-3 Sportcombi—Swedish for “wagon” I suppose—at a rock-bottom price. Now I’ve never owned a “luxury” car, and though this thing probably doesn’t compare to your average BMW, it really does have all the bells and whistles. It also has more indicators than a Space Shuttle, more beeps than R2D2, and one additional thing: RULES!

No starting the car when it’s not in park…and your foot’s on the brake. No fog lights (front or rear) unless your headlights are on. (Daytime running-lights are not good enough.) Want more AC…or heat? No problem, but every chance it gets the Saab gets it puts the system back into “auto” mode. No shutting off the headlights period. This car will warn you when you’re going too fast, get too close to a pedestrian (…or a car, or a post, or your garage door…even when it’s open), get too close to empty, unlatch your seat belt, leave a light on, window open, or parking brake un-engaged.

Definitely the Swedes think they’ve got a better way: Socialistic paternalism embodied in a car.

Kvatch, to the bat yurt!

“…Gotham is in trouble.”

Words I never thought I’d utter, but yes it’s true.  You have to understand I consider myself a fairly outdoorsy girl.  I hike, and I love nature, so I thought, “Let’s go to Yosemite and rent a yurt.” Sounds good in theory.  It’s a large, round Mongolian tent filled with all the conveniences of home.  Well, that and BATS!!!  There were 2 bats happily occupying our yurt last night.  We spent 40 minutes chasing them out (and ducking and covering), but found sleep eluded us after that.  Had to change hotels today because at heart I’m just not “bat ready”.