Singing the Praises – Puebla, Mexico

moe. is a band (and, yes, that’s how the band name is spelled). Their songs are clever and catchy and courageous–much like the five band members themselves. This has made moe. very popular among smart folks who like to dance and smile, like our super friend Jenn Ritchie who is great at both dancing and smiling (among other things).


As followers of the Trans-Americas Journey know, we miss the live music scene we left behind when we left NYC in 2006. Out here on the road we get a fix of our favorites by listening to the Jam On channel on XM Satellite Radio. That’s where we heard one of moe.’s latest songs which is called Puebla. As we listened to the song we started wondering: is this a song about Puebla the actual city or does the band mean pueblo as in the Spanish word for any old village?

Our friend Jenn took our question straight to the band and here’s what moe. guitarist Al Schnier had to say:

“Puebla the song is about the victory in the town of Puebla in 1862 during the Franco-Mexican War.  It was a small, but significant, battle in which the outnumbered Mexicans gained some much needed momentum over French invaders and it took place in the town of  Puebla on May 5th. In the US we drink Coronas after work and have taco day at school to celebrate Cinco de Mayo, but  I was reading about Cinco De Mayo and I was intrigued by the real story of Puebla.”

As we leave the city of Puebla after nine days of sampling mole and crunching on grasshoppers and enjoying Chile en Nogada and seeing awesome hotels (Casona de la China Poblana, La Purificadora, Casa Reyna), going to cooking school at Mesón Sacristía de la Compañía, touring museums, seeing tons of Talavera tile, catching fleeting glimpses of the nearly 18,000 foot high still-active Popocatepetl volcano (David, we need more of your pronunciation lessons!) and tasting some very special Mexican wines it seems like an appropriate time to share moe.’s take on the town and the seminal battle in Puebla.

Listen to: moe. – Puebla (Recorded in the Sirius/XM studios on 7/6/10)



This is not the first time moe. has sung the praises of Mexico. Here’s another infectious moe. ditty about Al’s real life 21st birthday adventure in Mexico. Which leads us to one “moe.” question for the band: Isn’t it time for a south of the border tour?

Listen to: moe. – Mexico (From the live album, Dr. Stan’s Prescription Volume 1)


Buy moe. CDs or download moe. music OR download track from Mexico

Oh, did we mention that Al’s side project (sadly, momentarily on hold) is called Al & The Transamericans? Yeah, kismet.



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On Horseback Through History – Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco, Mexico

This post is part 2 of 5 in the series Lagos de Moreno, Mexico

The Mexican state of Jalisco claims to be the birthplace of a few pretty important cornerstones of Mexican culture including Mariachi music and tequila. A lesser known contribution, which can be traced back to Jalisco, is the charro or Mexican cowboy.

Charros and charreadas (Mexican rodeos, which we’ll take you to in an upcoming Lagos de Moreno post) pre-date cowboys and rodeos in the US. It’s true. The unique riding skills and equipment here in Mexico evolved in the 1500s after necessary amendments were made to the riding styles imported when the Spanish invaded (some of their techniques and gear proved a little too prissy for the cattle and the terrain the average charro faces).

Ready to ride in front of beautiful Hacienda Sepulveda.

Charro riding techniques and the western riding techniques that we’re taught in the US are similar in a lot of ways. However, there are differences and though they’re subtle, they’re important–as we quickly learned (sometimes the hard way) when we spent a few days horseback riding around Lagos de Moreno.

1. The horn on the saddle is enormous–think dessert plate. We’ll tell you why in an upcoming trip to the charreada.
2. It’s all in the legs–reining in Mexico is an exquisitely delicate affair. Some riders hold the specially-knotted and weighted reins simply by hooking one finger through them. Uusually the pinky. This was the biggest shift for us since we’re used to horses trained to neck rein fairly heavily.

The Camino Real snakes through the Lagos de Moreno area (and much of Mexico). Sections of this historic road still make great trails.

The terrain and trails we rode on were just as old and different as the reining. Cactus, stone walls, small fields, more cactus, some mesquite, a creek, then more desert. Sometimes we were actually riding on sections of the original Camino Real which was unexpectedly thrilling.

Karen parking her horse during a lunch stop at Hacienda La Labor.

Our destinations were steeped in history too. Each day we set off from either El Ahito, or Hacienda Sepulveda bound for a different hacienda where we met the occupants and enjoyed a long delicious home-cooked lunch and a tour of the generations-old houses. Some were elegant. Some were fortress like. Some had elaborate private chapels. Some were only half-inhabitable. Some contained a museum’s worth of charro history and accessories. All of them were fascinating.

Once we were even met on the trail by the hacienda owner on horseback bearing a bottle of tequila and glasses so we could all sip on a pre-lunch amuse-bouche as we rode the final distance to the hacienda. To call it civilized is an understatement.

The food and the entertainment were both excellent during lunch in the extremely European dining room at Hacienda La Labor.

This aint jump rope. After lunch, intricate traditional charro rope work is expertly demonstrated by the grandsons of Don Jesus (in the background), Mexican cattleman extraordinaire and owner of Hacienda La Labor.

Karen, always happiest on a horse.

Most days we were in the saddle for about six hours. However, one very long day (with a particularly languid lunch) turned into eight hours and we ended up riding back to Hacienda Sepulveda  in the dark.  And you thought the heavy elk-skin chaps (made by Lena Kissling) and stiff wide-brimmed hats were were wearing were just for show! Nope. Those were the only things between us and an invisible world of eye-gouging, skin-tearing thorns as we rode in the dark through a tightly-packed forest of cactus the size of trees. If this doesn’t teach you to trust your horse (and vice versa) we’re not sure what will.

Days in the saddle are sometimes long but we loved every minute and didn't mind when we returned well after dark one night. Though riding through a tightly-packed forest of cactus the size of trees in the dark was a new experience.

Riding through the signature scrub and cactus that cover the hills and mesas around Lagos de Moreno.

Now’s a good time to mention one additional important difference between the way we’re used to riding in the US and the way people ride in Mexico: spurs. Every rider wears them. We’ve never seen anyone in Mexico kick their horse but we have seen a lot of judicious use of gentle spurs to get big results. A pair of spurs might have helped Karen urge her horse out of a drinking hole before good old Cheese Face (forever more known as Shit Face) decided to lay down with her still on top furiously trying to send a meaningful message to the horse with her spur-less boots.

Karen looking a bit perturbed after her horse tried to roll her in a watering hole.

One of the horses enjoys a sunny rest while we enjoy lunch at Hacienda San Cayetano.



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Hacienda Heaven – Lagos de Moreno, Jalisco, Mexico

This post is part 1 of 5 in the series Lagos de Moreno, Mexico

It’s a travel truth that applies even to lifers like us: The more you travel the more likely you are to find the place that makes you want to stop traveling and stay for a while. Or forever. For us, Lagos de Moreno in Jalisco may be that place.

Over the next five posts we’ll do our best to convey the appeal of this sleepy, dusty, little-visited spot in central Mexico. Is it the people? Is it the history? Is it the desert? Is it the horses? Is it the horsemen (and women)? Is it the haciendas? Is it the pride? Is it the tequila? Is it the fact that there’s not a single word about Lagos de Moreno in our guide book?

We start our little Lagos de Moreno-arama in the very first place we saw with the very first people we met when we first visited Lagos in 2009. What was meant to be a brief stay turned into almost three weeks thanks to the hospitality, peacefulness, wisdom and grace of Jorge “Pancho” Serrano Zermeno and Lena Kissling and Hacienda El Ahito. We’ve been drawn back to Lagos de Moreno since that first visit and every time it gets harder and harder to leave. Here’s why.

Hacienda El Ahito was built many generations ago by Pancho's ancestors and has been in his family ever since.

El Ahito is not one of those luxuriously restored haciendas (we’ll get to some of those in upcoming Lagos de Moreno posts). The floors tilt a bit, the hinges creek, the paint peels. But it all adds up to a laid back, artistic style that brings to mind cowboy hippies, if such things existed.

El Ahito is also a working hacienda where registered Charolaise and Simmental cattle and registered Appaloosa horses are raised. It’s also Pancho and Lena’s home and home to an aging caretaker and his family members who have lived on this piece of Mexico for their entire lives. Nothing happens on the sprawling, cactus-covered El Ahito ranch without one of them knowing about it. It is as if the dust and the lake and the fences and the mesquite are connected to each of them.

Hey Pancho, move your ass!

Unless he’s in trouble (a frequent condition) no one calls Jorge  by his real name, preferring to stick with Pancho. It’s a  nickname he picked up in Wyoming where he spent a few years working on the Willow Creek Ranch and where he met Lena, who had left her native Switzerland to go work at the guest ranch.

We’ll let you know as soon as the devilishly “imaginative” Pancho tells us the real story behind his nickname. For now, just believe us when we tell you that it’s fitting.

That's why he's called Pancho and you're not.

In late 2005 Pancho and Lena packed up their favorite horses and made a road trip that impresses even us: they drove thousands of miles in December from Wyoming to central Mexico pulling horse trailers.

Once back home at El Ahito Pancho and Lena started building their dream and now they welcome guests and take riders from around the world into the wonderful landscapes of Jalisco. In the process they also bring them into the world of El Ahito, teaching you how to ride more like a Mexican charro (cowboy)–which is surprisingly different from the western riding we’re taught in the US–and how to slow down and appreciate, well, everything including the fact that you still can’t persuade your horse to move sideways along a gate so you can open and close it without dismounting.

Lena and Karen pushin' cows.

Pancho grabs a little escapee from the roundup.

Fittingly, the word ahito means satisfaction and as long as you’re drawing breath you should be able to find it here. It’s in Lena’s delicious scrambled eggs mixed with bits of luscious mango and chiles. It’s in the way their dog Max is dying for you to throw him a stick, then can’t seem to find it even though its right under his nose. It’s in the daily fashion show put on by the hacienda’s peacocks, including a few stately albinos. It’s in the way Pancho uses one of his many enormous hand-crafted pocket knives to slice the most delicate slivers of his beloved firey peppers before laying them onto hunks of pineapple and watching (with a Cheshire Cat grin on his face) as you pop it into your mouth. It’s in the sound of Lena and Pancho’s leather working tools as they whoosh and thump through the Zen-y stages of elegantly hand-tooling belts and handbags and bridles and saddles and chaps (leave room in your luggage).

At El Ahito, what’s normal is extraordinary. If you want to go see for yourself shoot Pancho and Lena an email at indianboymx at yahoo.com (allow some time for a response, they’ve both got far better things to do than check their email). We’re also working on a web site for them, so be on the lookout for that as well.

Hacienda El Ahito translates as house of satisfaction and it lives up to the name.

Long tall cowboys. Believe it or not, that's us.



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Goodbye, Guadalajara

All told we’ve now spent more than three months in and around Guadalajara and, as we prepare to finally move on, we wanted to share a few of heartfelt and (we hope) helpful observations about Mexico’s second largest city.

The Zócalo is anchored by the Guadalajara Cathedral or Catedral de la Asunción de María Santísima.


Best fish tacos: Taco Fish on La Paz. Yeah, 16 pesos is a whole lot to pay for a taco in Mexico, but this street spot slings expertly fried fish and shrimp tacos with all the fixin’s. The crowd speaks for itself. Warning: unless you’re an NFL quarterback (Go Saints!) do NOT order more than two. They’re huge as well as delicious.

Best old-guy bar: Molacho. There’s no sign. Go to the corner of Alcalde and Juan Manuel right in downtown and take the stairs off Juan Manuel up to the bar which is on the second floor above the Farmacias Guadalajara on the corner. What you’ll get is old guys galore (including one playing a baby grand piano, if you’re lucky) plus botanas (free bar snacks) galore, including tacos and tostadas and even soup. People rave about a place called Cantina La Fuente, but we found it to be too big and not very welcoming. Plus, there’s no baby grand piano and no botanas.


Palacio de Gobierno in Guadalajara, one of the few historic buildings left standing in the city.


Most disturbing corporate mascot: The Farmacias Similares guy. Okay, this is a national chain of pharmacies and you see them all over Mexico. However, there seemed to be even more of them than usual in Guadalajara–all with some poor guy dressed up like the chain’s perpetually smiling fake pharmacist mascot prancing around out front. There’s just something about this guy that makes us want to whack him in the head…

This kid likes the ubiquitous Farmacias Similares mascot way more than we do.


Best market and best market vendor: In Guadalajara the impressively massive Mercado Libertad gets all the attention and it MUST be visited. But our favorite go-to market (as in we went there every single day for lunch and sometimes later for dinner too) was the comparatively tiny Mercado Corona. Great food vendors (from tacos to seafood to carnitas) and the second floor is full of stalls selling potions and lotions and sprays meant to fix anything that might possibly be wrong with your life. Want more success at work? Pick up a can of Call Client, whose label proclaims that it contains “Genuine Spray.” Got problems with gossipy friends or a chatty-Cathy spouse? Both are easily handled by a product called “Shut Your Mouth.” Even better than that is our favorite market vendor, the perpetually happy man who runs a small health-food/juice bar stand on the market’s first floor. Not only did he make the best aguas frescas (water infused with fresh fruit) we’ve had in Mexico, he always spent time to help us with our Spanish too. tip: mix strawberry (fresa) with lime (limon).

Smartest urban quirk: the walking/running man.Guadalajara is Mexico’s second largest city (after the vastly more-huge Mexico City) and it runs remarkably smoothly thanks to a whole host of tools and rules that keep even the sometimes congested downtown under control. One such tool is liberal installation of fabulous crosswalk lights that now only countdown the number of seconds that you have left to cross the street but also displays a moving human who speeds up its pace as the seconds tick away. If nothing else, this walking/running man made us smile every morning on our way to Spanish language school. Mexico City could learn a lesson here.



Best totally different places to see live music: Casa  Bariachi and On the Rocks. Guadalajarans (aka Tapatios) love their live music–from traditional Mariachi (which Tapatios will claim was invented in Guadalajara) to modern rock. Our favorite place to see massive mariachi bands with a rotating cast of sit-in starts is Casa Bariachi, an enormous festive place that is almost always packed with tables full of Mexican families or Mexican women on a raucous (tequila-fueled) ladies’ night out. It’s unbeatable. For live rock we stumbled upon a place called On the Rocks which is run by a gregarious guy named Isaac who makes sure the waitresses are smiley and speedy and the bands (which usually play covers of US and European rock songs in English and in Spanish) are of high quality. His own band performs on Wednesday nights.

Most confusing moment: trying to figure out when/where the futbol (soccer) games were. Guadalajarans, like most Mexicans, are crazy for soccer. Here the two top teams are Chivas and the Liones Negros. We were understandably anxious to see one or both teams play, but our initial research on their official team web sites and the local sports pages left us totally confused about where and when the teams were playing. We even asked friends with much better Spanish than ours to do the same. None of us could figure it out. When we finally did get the hang of how to know which team was the home team and, therefore, where the  game was taking place we’d already missed a bunch of matched. We never did get to a game…

Most uninhibited fountain: Along a pedestrian mall in downtown Guadalajara is a fountain. That’s not the the remarkable part. The remarkable part is that the fountain consists of a group of small boys cast in bronze, all of them peeing into the center of the fountain. It’s called the “kids peeing” fountain.

Yep. This is a fountain full of bronze boys peeing.


Greatest family ever: the Delgadillo/Sanchez/Hellyer clan. The generosity, help, support and overall wonderfulness of every single member of this family not only made our time in Guadalajara immeasurably easier and more enjoyable but also added to our understanding of one of the greatest things about Mexico in general: the generosity and pride of the people. We literally can’t thank them enough for feeding us and letting us stay with them and putting up with our rickety Spanish and making us feel like we were part of the family. We look forward to continuing the friendships we started in the Guadalajara area long after we’ve moved on.

Karen is all ears sitting on one of the whimsical sculptures by Alejandro Colunga in Plaza Tapatía in front of the mural-filled Hospicio Cabañas.


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Blues & Brews – Telluride, CO (Day 1)

This post is part 1 of 3 in the series Telluride Blues & Brews


We are so lucky. Not only do we get to drive around and see all kinds of beautiful places and beautiful people but every once in a while there’s beautiful music too. Beautiful places, people and music were in abundant supply at the 16th annual Telluride Blues & Brews Festival and we spent three blissful days enjoying all three PLUS the chance to hang out with old friends from New York (hi Dino and Ali). Bonus!

Historic downtown Telluride

Historic downtown Telluride.

No doubt the town of Telluride has changed a lot over the years and today its mining-town past sometimes takes a back seat to its fancy-town present. However, the gorgeous mountains that pen Telluride into its scenic box canyon remain unchanged: just plain gorgeous and a fantastic backdrop for an outdoor festival.

Telluride Town Park makes for one of the most beautiful festival sites anywhere.

Telluride Town Park makes for one of the most beautiful festival sites anywhere.

Another great thing about the Telluride Blues & Brews Festival is the fact that it maxes out at around 6,000 people which means you can always get to the front of the stage if you want to. We spent most of our time up front checking out a lot of bands that were new to us.

Jason Ricci and New Blood was a new band to us and we were blown away.

Jason Ricci and New Blood was a new band to us and we were blown away.

Karen enjoy's some music. As Dino said, "Somebody fill her glass." (photo courtesey of Dino Perucci)

Karen enjoying the blues but her brew is sadly empty. As Dino said, “Somebody fill her glass!” (photo courtesy of Dino Perrucci)

Otis Taylor's African Orchestra also kicked butt.

Otis Taylor’s African Orchestra also kicked butt. Bassist Cassie Taylor was a badass stand out.

Some of the tasty beer selection. It is the Blues & Brews Fest after all.

Some of the tasty beer selection. It is the Blues & Brews Fest after all.

Clouds did not diminish the beauty of the stage surrounded by fall-colored Aspens.

Clouds did not diminish the beauty of the stage surrounded by Aspens just coming into fall colors.

Seasoned Blues & Brews goers know that the key to staying comfortable all day in the changing mountain weather is to layer up. In the course of just one day festival goers went from shorts and t-shirts to fleece and waterproof jackets as the weather swung between gorgeous sunshine to rain.

Jackie Greene

Jackie Greene.

Joe Cocker, the headliner for Day 1 was in perfect form.

Joe Cocker, the headliner for Day 1, was in perfect form.

The first night of the festival was anchored by Joe Cocker who lives not far from Telluride with his wife who co-runs the Cocker Kids’ Foundation. He may not perform much anymore and he may be 65-years-old but his performance proved that there’s still plenty of Mad Dog left in him.

Joe Cocker, a resident of nearby Crawford, still has chops.

Joe Cocker, a resident of nearby Crawford, still has chops.

It’s both a blessing and a curse to go into the same business as a famous parent, however, Lukas Nelson (son of Willie) delivered his very own brand of rocking blues that showed a talent all his own, dipping into many musical pots including Neil Young, Jimi Hendrix and The Beatles.

Lucas Nelson (son of Willie) and the Promise of Real played a night show at the Sheridan Opera House.

Lukas Nelson (son of Willie) and the Promise of the Real played a night show at the lovely and intimate Sheridan Opera House.

Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real


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Did You Miss Us?

You’re right. We were headed south, as in south of Mexico City. But then stuff changed (surprise) and we had to head north again. For the past three months (but who’s counting?) on a forced pit stop in California, so our posts have been few and far between. However, we had our reasons.

First, we needed to fix damage done to our truck after a taxi hit us a few months ago in Mexico and that turned out to be more of a fight than we expected, but hardly worth blogging about (we like you too much to subject you to the drama that ultimately unfolded). Suffice to say, we are NOT fans of GNP insurance and the profoundly incompetent “foreign client service” our claim received. That means you, Mr. Solis.

We also spent a lot of time working on new business ideas in an attempt to generate some funds to keep our Trans-Americas Journey rolling along. Most of you know about the time and energy we put into our video application and follow up hustling to try and land a Really Goode Job–a six month gig as social media wine country lifestyle correspondents for Murphy-Goode Winery.

When that didn’t go our way we decided to harness the knowledge, confidence and ideas we gained during the MG process to create our own social media marketing consulting business for wineries in the Paso Robles area. And, so, Paso Winos was born. Reception to our services was good but slow and we simply couldn’t hang around for the additional months needed to really get clients on board–though we are eternally grateful to those wineries and wine folks who got what we were trying to do right off the bat and supported us (talking ’bout you Meg at Alta Colina, Terry and Marissa at Clautiere, Ryan at Wine for Water and the Paso Wine Centre and Brandy and crew at Donati Family Vineyard).

We still have a very exciting iron in the fire (hint) and we hope to have some great news shortly. In  the meantime, we’re back on the road and our first destination is a doozie: Havasu Falls!

We’ve hiked into the Grand Canyon from both the South and North rims of Grand Canyon National Park, but we’ve never explored the canyon in the Havasu Falls area. Owned and managed by the Havasupai tribe, the area is famous for its blue/green water (the word Havasu means  blue green water). The beauty of the area is legendary and in high demand, however, the tribe limits the number of camping permits it issues each day so it’s tough to get in.

We got in for three nights and we can’t wait to see the area. Devastating floods hit the area in August of 2008, nearly killing some hikers and radically changing the landscape and water flow, so we’ll let you know how it is once we manage to hike back out.

After Havasu we are returning to our beloved Telluride, Colorado and checking into the Mountain Lodge for a few days so we can take in the Blues & Brews music festival.  Buddy Guy! Bonnie Raitt! Joe Cocker! Anders Osborne! Plus a chance to see our friends music photographers Dino Perucci and Allison Murphy.

From Telluride we’re planning an excellent Colorado adventure including Colorado Wine Country (who knew?), the Bar Lazy J ranch for some epic-sounding horseback riding, Valhalla cabin to hang with our very own nordic goddess (hi Marca!) and enjoy two nights (count ’em) of Galactic live at the Fox theater in Boulder. Toss in some 4-wheel driving around Ouray/Silverton and Ute Mountain and Hovenweep in Mesa Verde Country and you’ve got a great month.

After that? Two words for you: Copper Canyon! Then we promise it’s all South from there.

It’s sure nice to be back where we belong.

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