May 3, 2008


February 27, 2008

Well, I made it to the Ake’ ruins, on Sunday. Though the day was very hot (91 degrees with 38% humidity), and precious little shade was available, the birding was pretty good. Here’s the list. Roadside hawk, Couch’s kingbird, grayish saltator, golden fronted woodpecker, Yucatan woodpecker, ladder-backed woodpecker, melodious blackbird, great black hawk, spot breasted wren, blue grey gnatcatcher, yucatan flycatcher, great crested flycatcher, social flycatcher, boat billed flycatcher, great kiskadee, barred antshrike, cave swallow, vaux’s swift, summer tanager, grey catbird, masked tityra, squirrel cuckoo, and scores of the usual suspects, tropical mockingbirds, white winged doves and ruddy ground doves. Great tailed grackles and groove billed anis were notably absent. On the way home I stopped for water and a snack, stepped outside into a very small patch of shade beside a building and was treated to a pair of green jays, my first sighting ever. One of these days I’m going to record the birds I saw on my trip to Sisal two weeks ago. At the moment I can’t lay my hands on the list, but I know it’s here somewhere.

In the plant department: “Tropical Trees of Mexico”says there are two varieties of Pseudobombax elipticum, one with white stamens and one whose stamens are striking pink. It’s the white one down the street. I passed a pink one at an abandoned hacienda on the way home. The area is lousy with abandoned haciendas, due to the very rapid demise of the sisal industry upon the arrival of nylon rope. It’s a shame, because sisal is a much higher quality rope in my opinion. I read recently, that the large acreages planted to sisal helped to desertify this area, due to lack of foliage. Since the near extinction of that industry, trees are beginning to re-occupy the land and , theoretically, rainfall will increase. There is a (barely) functioning sisal mill (at an abandoned hacienda) practically right inside the Ake’ ruins. Carambola vine. My own name. It’s a plant I saw only twice the entire time we were in Belize. Strolling through the ruins on Sunday I saw dozens of them. Both the fruits I saw in Belize, reminded me of an iguana head. Pointed on one end and rounded on the other, with three flattened (squeezed together skin) ridges along the length. The ones here have many ridges and somewhat resemble starfruit, in shape only. I saw no leaves, but the vines are covered thickly with 1 cm long needles. I chose not to touch them. In Belize, I was told not to even touch the fruit, as it irritates the skin and makes it intensely itchy. I found a dry one on the ground and opened it up–looked like a milkweed pod. Aesclepius? Help me out here if you can. As the days pass here, it becomes more and more apparent that Roystonea regis, the flamboyant tree, much prefers a drier climate. There are many many very large trees here. I saw a craboo tree blooming this morning. Orange and yellow flowers on the same raceme. Very pretty. African tulip trees have been blooming for a couple weeks, anyway, and the aroma of orange jasmine (which also grows into a quite large tree) filled the air as I pedaled through Eklum puebla. For future reference; when biking to Tixkokob, take the Tixpehual turn-off, for a much quieter road.

There is a very tiny puebla around the ruins. As I started back, I stopped for a soft drink at a combination small market/restaurant. They only had Pepsi products. I can’t remember the last time I had a Pepsi–they don’t exist in Belize. Coca Cola has that market sewed up. Coca Cola is the Dean Witter of Belize. Back in Tixkokob, a small town famous for hammock making, but more importantly for it’s lack of restaurants, I found a rather flashy one, called “En Poco de Todo”,( a little of everything).  I had an order of salbutes, three small fried corn tortillas, topped with shredded cabbage and carrots, pink onion slices, shredded chicken and a slice of avocado. Their home made ‘mexicana’ sauce was very tasty, but watch out! for the picante.

I saw two snakes on this trip, both of them squashed on the road. The first was less than a foot long, and had alternating bands of coral and black. The second was grey with brown globs down its back, and only slightly longer.

I’m going to try and mix in some cenote trips in the coming weeks, as we continue into the dry season and the days become hotter and drier. It would be nice to cool off in a cenote before heading back to town. The Ake’ ruins are southeast of Merida. I had a short bit of headwind in the stretch between Eklum and the ruins, and had a mild tailwind most of the way home. And I needed it.  It was VERY hot out at 3:30.



May 3, 2008

I had an old VW bug once. It was a ’63, and I had it in it’s final days, the mid 80s. The engine on that bug was so worn that I had to crawl under it and work on it EVERY time I drove it. That means I’d crawl under it before I drove to town and after I arrived in town; before I drove home and after I arrived home. One headlight pointed straight up and the other straight down.

Maintaining an old bike is a somewhat related venture. If it gets ridden a lot, it needs a lot of maintenance. Tires pumped up and repaired, brakes adjusted, shifters adjusted. Spokes tightened and loosened to keep the wheels spinning true. That seat that just won’t stay tight. Many people, especially those who don’t ride , don’t realize the extent to which one is tied to that old bike. Kind of like the relationship one has with a dog. You need to spend a lot of time together to remain on good terms. Not so much with a dog, as they are advanced beings. In 53 years of dogs, I can’t remember one instance where my dog got angry with me. Dogs are aware of a lot more than humans give them credit for. They’re ahead of us, karmically, in every respect. We humans are oh so self-centered. When we finish our human trials, re-incarnationally speaking, we likely come back as dogs. Not so bicycles. We probably never come back as bicycles.

When I was attending City College in Sacramento, CA back in the mid seventies, I rode my 10 speed 14 miles every day, going to and from school. Hardly a day went by that I wasn’t working on it at lunch time so I could then ride it back home. On weekends, I might ride it 50 miles. I was a runner in those days too. My cardiovascular system was in top shape in those days. I could play frisbee for hours on end without tiring, amazing those around me.

foiled again

March 24, 2008

I just got back from the bike shop. The salesman looked at my old crank and his mouth fell open. He looked at the date stamped into it. 1990. That’s more than 10 years old, said he. Almost 20 was my reply. He then went on to inform me that cranksets have evolved over the years, and I would likely find nothing anywhere in Mexico that would solve my problem. He suggested checking around at the smaller shops for older stock. he also suggested ebay, and as an afterthought, suggested that I might be able to find something in Belize, after I’d mentioned having come from there. So I asked what he had in the way of new bikes. Nothing that interested me. As I was walking out, I asked if he had any folding bikes. He pointed to a 6 speed Dahon. I became interested, but the $300 price tag was daunting. I continue to try and find a way to rationalize that purchase though.

So I rode back home, my newly painted gold frame hanging around my neck. Trying to figure a way out. I went online and searched Bike Nashbar. Through the magic of their live chat, I was directed to just the crankset I need, and at an astonishing $40. I wrote to my friend Reg in Detroit, who will be arriving here on the 23rd. We’ll see if he can carry it down with him. In the mean time I continue to dream of that Dahon.

1o days later.  I don’t know by what accident this one didn’t get published when it should have.

Another cold day

March 24, 2008

Another cold and rainy day. We’re to have a high of 73 today. Frigid. After lunch, I’m going to take the clunker out for a ride. It’s great weather for that. The Lysiloma trees are blooming, and at the same time dropping seeds from the last time. The dry pods clatter loudly in the wind. Avocadoes are blooming, not yet blooming and setting fruit all over town. I saw my first carambola tree this morning. Mangoes are setting fruit, ripening fruit and dropping overripe fruit. Golden rain trees (Cassia fistula, and while we’re on the subject of Cassia, I also saw some C. alata and C. grandis blooming in the past few days) are ripening seeds by the bundle.  I saw one branch of one tree with blooms on it.  Those Cassia grandis (bukut in Belize) are dwarfed both in stature and in the size of the flower.  Guanacaste trees around town are loaded up with green pods. Tamarind trees appear to be constantly full of ripe fruit. I heard red lored parrots calling a couple days ago, as I was out riding to or from the Merida Mens Club breakfast. Everywhere I go, I find myself to be the youngest one, by a good many years. I guess most folks don’t retire at 49. Fewer still at 23.

The whole city is virtually shut down, for the two weeks around Easter. Everybody goes to the beach where, I hear, things are really hopping.


March 24, 2008

I’ve been sick with a head cold these past few days. While resting in the outside hammock this afternoon, I first observed the black vultures soaring overhead. I truly admire the flight skills which have been bestowed upon the vultures of the world. Someday I’d like to try it. Next, while absently gazing around the yard, I thought I saw a bloom on the bribri tree. Getting up to check it out, I realized that it was indeed a clump of blooms. But different from any bribri bloom I’ve seen in the past. This one looks more like the bloom of a wild cherry, rather than the white puff that I’ve seen on all previous bribris. I’ll check out my Mexico tree guide and see if I can identify it. And ultimately, I’ll await the fruit. The fruit will tell the tale.  Clearly this tree is not a bribri.  We were confused by the winged petioles.  I will await the fruit.


March 13, 2008

I don’t know what it might be like in your locality, but here in Merida, if you are between the ages of 14 and 24, you just DO NOT go out in public without your earbuds in place. Now I suppose that some of those earbuds are simply that–they’re not connected to anything playing music. But they ARE a significant part of the uniform, and woe be to the joven who is seen without them. I’ve noticed, also, that a single earbud is permitted as long as the cell phone is lodged in the other ear. This past Saturday night, by some odd conjunction of the god particle(s), I was present at the opening, down the street, of The Catherwood Museum, where hang Frederick’s original drawings, and at least one large painting. The single young woman I saw there was wearing her earbuds. I guess, in case she was seen by anyone in the know. I asked her what she was listening to, at the food table, but didn’t understand her answer.

The camera down at the park appears to be in need of having it’s medication adjusted. Wild mood swings, whereby at times, it is pointing straight up in the air, only to swing violently back down and around, as if attempting to give the impression of an aerobatics routine to whomever next views the tape.

sanding and painting continued

March 13, 2008

On the way home from school, I again stopped by the bike shop to check out their colors; there really isn’t much in the way of selection. I saw nothing I liked enough, but just as I was leaving, a pale gold caught my eye. I decided to cogitate on it. When I got back to Santiago, I went into our favorite hardware store, La Alegria, to check their colors again, and to buy some solder for the continuing shower repair in Connie’s bathroom. They had a gold, with a hint of olive mixed in. At least that’s what the cap indicated. The label said “rich gold”. I bought it. It’s very bright, in direct sunlight, but much more subdued in shade. I’ll try to keep it in the shade. I intend to finish the gold coats this morning; then do a couple of clearcoats this afternoon. If I can get it down to the bike shop tomorrow, to get the new crankset and bottom bracket, then it looks good for riding on Sunday again.

sanding and painting

March 12, 2008

I put the first coat of primer on the fork, on Saturday. I have to say I was disappointed to find the paint was grey, even though the cap was distinctly black. I wanted to see how it looked in flat black, because that’s the way I’d like to paint the whole bike. A couple years ago, Giant Bicycles had a comfort bike, a Cypress, I believe with a matte black finish which was wildly popular, so much so that I had to settle for a grey/black combo on mine. Black, in the past few years, has made a significant move to replace green as my favorite color for a vehicle. I’ve been considering adding a highlight or two in a dark sage green, in an effort to avoid going overboard in the black department. Also because I think it would look nice.

casual observations

March 12, 2008

I was walking down the street, near my home today, and as I approached the park and the elementary school, I noticed what appeared to be a Tesla coil hidden in the cupola of the school. My eyes being already drawn upward, I also noticed what appeared to be a hawk sitting on a rather tall pole. As I approached, it became clear that it was in fact a camera. And it was moving! Someone was evidently actively monitoring that intersection. A man was walking at a right angle to me as we both approached the corner, and as he reached the corner, the camera moved decidedly down to apparently point right at him. I’ll continue to monitor that camera.

not biking

March 10, 2008

Well it finally happened. I knew it was coming for some months now (maybe a year or so? But in southern Belize I had to just put it out of my mind). The crankset on my old Giant Prodigy finally bit the dust, after 16 years of good service, and one year of poor service. I’ve been telling myself for some time now, that when it finally does give out, I’m going to tear the bike down and paint it. I began sanding the fork the day before yesterday. That fork had been in need of repair for at least a year, probably more like two or three. But again, being in southern Belize, a proper repair was out of the question, so I limped along with it with what was available. So here in Merida I was able to purchase the replacement brake mount, which had broken off long ago. I went out one day earlier this week, intending to carry it around until I found a welder who could fix it. My first stop was the transmission shop two doors down. Fidel and I got into his tiny black Hyundai Atos and drove around the block to his friend’s welding shop, on calle 74, I think. The man expertly removed the old one, using a hacksaw and a grinder, and skillfully put the new one on in it’s place. Even earlier in the week, I’d gone to the big bike shop down on calle 63, at 52, and bought a new road crankset, and then later in the day, a bottom bracket. The bottom bracket doesn’t fit, and so I won’t be able to use that crankset either. I’ve decided to get it painted, and then carry the frame down to the shop, probably in a taxi, and get it fitted with the proper bottom bracket and crankset. Meantime I’m getting around on my flea market bike, a one speed with hand brakes and knobby tires.

I discovered the flawed crankset as I was setting out for my weekly ride this past Sunday. So I went to the flea market instead, and found two nice short sleeved sport shirts, for 45 pesos total. Then I rode around town a few hours in order to get some exercise, as well as learn my way around some. I can (and do) ride for hours inside the city limits, having no idea how to get to where I’m trying to go.

This morning, after class, I’m meeting Connie at a special session the US consulate is throwing, in part, for voter registration.