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Vega … The ‘Circle V’ Unbroken

December 15th, 2018 · Tags: Cities · Music



When I was a young kid and then continuing on through the teen years, I was led to believe — particularly from the coaches who were so crucial in our development, body and soul — that my hometown Vega, Texas was much more special than all the other special, tiny, farm towns throughout Texas … especially in the rugged Texas Panhandle … The “Real Texas,” I like to call it.




There are many memories, but one stands out.  I think it was in eighth grade that Coach Hubbart told us, frankly, that he had other job offers before he accepted the position as an assistant coach in Vega, and moved his family there.  I will never forget what he said was the telltale factor in his decision process.  He said he visited the dressing rooms and also the restrooms of several of the schools he was considering.  He said the VHS restrooms were the only ones where the boys’ “stalls” were not covered in filthy, vulgar, hateful graffiti.  VHS … that’s Vega High School, not “Vega’s Hair’s Short!” as I used to jest.  I digress …

It was true …  a very quaint and unassuming, yet wonderful place, with special people.

We were taught that we were special and we knew it.  Not in a conceited way, but in a wholesome way, we bought into the mantra. As students at VHS, we were expected to behave better and hold one another accountable to a higher standard.

We did.


That’s not to say that we didn’t raise a little hell on the weekends too at our weekly hangout, the parking lot of The Oldham County Courthouse, as a steady flow of trucks and cars slipped by, on their way from the southern United States to the northern, giving us hints of what else there was out there … but come Monday morning, we were back in class — not skipping — listening to every word the teachers said … answering “yes sir” and “no ma’am” … 

… But also on a weekend, we might have been helping the science teacher construct his own energy-efficient house … 

… Mowing widows’ yards for free, when truth-be-told we could have used the few bucks to buy a cherry lime at Joe’s Vega Drugstore …

… And then on game day, sitting in the football stands or the basketball bleachers to support our team athletes — whether it be a 7th grade girls basketball game officiated by our own Coach Miller in a black/white striped shirt and jeans — somewhat unbiased — even though his daughter was the star point guard in the same game …

… Or following the 1973 football team in the state championship … or whatever.  … Or the 1967 squad that went as far as a B School could go in those days … Regional, but no state championship match offered.

(Of course the same was true for Vega’s 1999 Texas Girls state championship basketball team … although I didn’t get to witness that  … I only know my niece was a star 3-point specialist … 🙂

Vega supports one another.


There’s so much I could tell you about Vega … that would just sound like crap, if you hadn’t experienced it and witnessed that it is really a very special place … even though it just looks like a one-horse place where a few gas stations circled the big grain elevator in a burst of 1940s economic boon on Old Route 66, paving the way for little more than the evolution of the convenience stores of the future.


You had to have been there to see the 1960s Daydreamers  garage band belt out the hits of the day, at the sockhop inside the old basketball gym, or a dance at The Legion Hall or the high school cafeteria … Amazing to sit and think how much culture and outside influence we all gleaned from the performances of a group of farm boys and small town merchants’ sons who played for that generation.  Thanks John Paul, Johnny, Gayle, Ron and Junior!


Interesting that tiny Vega’s Daydreamers had such a flair for the most hip music from all over the map, back in the day … I don’t remember the band ever playing country, as one might have expected.   They were all about that rock ’n’ roll thing (beyond The Beatles) …  The San Francisco/West Coast sound — The Beau Brummels’ “Try Just A Little” and “Still In Love With You Baby” and The Kingsmen’s “Louie, Louie”; Dallas’ Sam The Sham & The Pharaohs’ “Wooly Bully”; an Indiana-like version of “Hang On” Sloopy” like The McCoys’ rendition (with a young Rick Derringer);  … Neil Diamond’s “Solitaire Man” (once a rocker from Brooklyn); Stax Records staples like Sam & Dave’s “Hold On, I’m Coming”; Wilson Pickett’s “In The Midnight Hour” (Atlantic Records); some British Invasion greats like Them’s “G-L-O-R-I-A,” or The Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimmee Some Lovin” (Steve Winwood); the garage band mainstay “Wipe Out” based on any number of surf bands’ drum solos and Fender riffs … and one of my favorite’s “Not Your Steppin Stone” by Paul Revere & The Raiders, or perhaps like the more successful version by The Monkees. Magical times … so influential … so many great memories.

So although there was that rock/roll injection … Vega is all about wholesome America … and Texas … in the purest form … as demonstrated when the crowd stands at attention, hats over their hearts as the empty-saddle horse is led through the annual parade to honor townspeople who passed during the year … the temperament evidenced by the 1979 boys state champion basketball team — tagged “The Happy Days Kids” known for clean cut appearance and for helping opposing players up off the floor if they fell, yet totally destroying them on the scoreboard.



You might not have lived something like the Vega experience … If you never saw the editor of the newspaper and your own pastor get in a heated shouting match from opposite dugouts about the strategic significance of a rain delay of a Little League baseball game on a very rare, rainy summer night … if you didn’t witness farmers in pickup trucks and  a few volunteer EMTs rush to the scene when a tiny school bus was forced to pull over on the side of Old Route 66 because of an anhydrous ammonia fertilizer tank leak at the edge of town … or if you haven’t seen cowboys travel all over the county to help inoculate every single horse for free, to battle some equine outbreak … or witnessed an entire community brought to its knees over the tragic loss of a teenage football player … or seen a small-town boy wow the state competition with his oral rendition of “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” … Or loved to sit in the high school auditorium, once a year, to see farmers and teachers come together to stage respectable presentations of theater classics at the PTA Plays … or witnessed rival towns and different denominations show up to support each other’s fall banquets and other church fundraisers … or my favorite … if you have never seen every person in town at sporting events … especially back when cars/pickups were still allowed to circle the football field or baseball diamond to watch the events … and honk like hell when The Vega Longhorns scored six, or The Vega Giants scored a run.


There wasn’t anyone in the town who didn’t get a shot of adrenaline and perhaps a tear in the eye when a maverick band teacher, Ms. Briscoe, fired up the teams and fans with her impressive, but tiny high school band’s fiery, uptempo instrumental version of “The Circle Be Unbroken.”

“I was standing by my window,

On one cold and cloudy day

When I saw that hearse come rolling

For to carry my mother away

Will the circle be unbroken

By and by, lord, by and by

There’s a better home a-waiting

In the sky, lord, in the sky”


“Good honk!” … to borrow an expression coined by an old Vega friend’s dad.  Ha … not being a country music fan, I never knew Johnny Cash’s “The Circle Be Unbroken” was a funeral song.  Well … regardless, it sure fired up our young men in black on the gridiron … I digress.

Well … you probably just don’t know what I am talking about.

For me and many others, Vega is a circle.  Not the “circle of trust” that Robert DeNiro initiated his future son-in-law into in “Meet The Fockers.”  In Vega, that circle is the tie that binds.  So what better name for the private family space in Vega, for the “Glass Sisters’” family get togethers on old Route 66?  They call their special place “The Circle.”






That’s The Circle I want to focus on.  It was the site of a recent get-together in Vega.  Ha … they even did a Hummer hay ride in the freezing cold for me.  More me?!?  For the first time in my life, I was the honored guest, and ha … it suited me well, I like to joke.  Ha … I cherished that treatment, even though truth be known, it may or may not have been a send off … due to my cancer diagnosis.  Ha … Let’s hope it can become an annual event instead …  But joking aside, this is serious stuff …  Forty years after I hit the ground running after high school graduation and bolted to bigger places, Vega welcomed me back as if I had been there all along.



I can’t believe the kindness and generosity at this point in my life.  When I was young and “chompin at the bit” I left pretty much as soon as I could.  I didn’t know what I had or for that matter what I wanted.  Someday I will return … return to the origin.  That’s a circle.

Know what I sayin?


Fool At The Wheel – Bilingual Tale Of Man’s Inhumanity To Motorcycles

October 28th, 2018 · Tags: Cities · Politics


Recently, I had a conversation with my older brother’s classmate, back in our hometown.  And despite several years difference in our ages, in conversation we learned that we both pull the same stunt.  When we want our English-speaking friends and co-workers to mistakenly think that we are bilingual, we rapid-fire recite a little poem that we were assigned to memorize decades ago in Español class … back in high school.  Ha!  It fools everyone because it sounds legit and verdad.

Magically in sync, without hesitation, she and I went into an impromptu West Texas, Tex-Mex gringo rap version of the silly verse.  It translates: “I have three friends, very strong and loyal … these are my friends, a burro and two dogs” … blah blah … nonsense, yet effective:)

Well, coincidentally, on another recent trip to Vega, Texas, for a big old class reunion — who did I run into — other than señor Thompson, the teacher who taught us the poem?  I told the mentor the story of how at least two of his students were still getting mileage out of the poem, to impress our non-Spanish-speaking friends.

And of course I had to show him the fruit of his labor, and I rattled off the poem.  “A-minus” if I don’t say so myself.  Ha … what a proud moment that must have been for the retired professor … to see that he had taught us such a valuable life skill … no seriously, I think he scored it in the win column, since we knew every line so many years later … LOL.

“yo tengo tres amigos

muy fieles y muy buenos …”

yada yada … I wonder if that is where ZZ Top got the name for their old “Tres Amigos” LP … no wait, scratch that … it was “Tres Hombres” … I digress …

That little poetry review was the weekend of one of the best free barbecues in the world — The Oldham County Roundup — and also the weekend of a great 40-year reunion of several Mighty Longhorn classes from Vega, up in the Texas Panhandle.  It also was just about the time this blogger found out there is a serious health challenge ahead of me … More on that at a later date … I digress …



But … the week in question for this tale also marked my first long ride on a motorcycle again, after having been run over and “spit out” by a “distracted driver” back on April 4, by TCU in Fort Worth.  So, this ride from Fort Worth to Vega and back was pretty much the maiden voyage of a replacement bike, a brand new 2017 Triumph Thunderbird light touring bike. Needless to say, I was protective of the bright/shiny low mileage machine, but I was doubly concerned about all the lunatics on the highway who although they may have peace/love/socialism bumperstickers on their tiny, politically correct cars … at the drop of a hat, they will endanger any and all lives on the road  … either through nonchalance, or stupidity or both.  In summary … I was not feeling good do to unknown health reasons, at that point.  I had a brand new bike that I would like to keep.  And I still had aches/pains from the previous mauling by a careless driver.


2014 Thunderbird

So …

After old home week, I was cruising back toward Fort Worth, making pretty good time on one of my alternative routes through Lubbock and on to Crosbyton, Benjamin and Seymour, Texas and other farm towns.  It’s U.S. 82 … the only way I can remember that number is because one of my brothers wore 82 in football … I digress …


There really are some awesome, panoramic views of ranches and a bit of canyonland/bluffs, interwoven with the cotton farms and wind turbines back that way …  Including the storied Four Sixes Ranch. 

Four Sixes Ranch

To that point, it had been a wonderful ride on the bike, communing with nature, without too many hate cars on the road.  If you know this road, 82, you have probably seen the huge, brand new barbecue joint, around Benjamin, I think it is.  I pulled over.  Pretty good … not like a Texas Hill Country BBQ institution … but pretty good.


2017 Thunderbird

Facial hair dipped in sauce, it was back on the road, and soon the sparse traffic started to pick up, obviously signaling the Metroplex was getting within range.  The road was not only more crowded, it was two-lane. Another sign we were approaching bigger populations — the drivers became much more erratic — a combination of non-caring and untrained.  The cars started doing that “lemming thing,” where they bunch up in one lane, packed in as tight as they can, no matter the speed to increase the hazard … as if “sniffing each others’ tails” will magically get them somewhere faster.  Luckily, on the bike, I was #10 in a 10-vehicle pack, so I had the option of following at a reasonable, safe distance.

You know what happened next.  Number 11 showed up, a small, beat-up, cheaper Asian make of vehicle, sporting one temporary spare tire mounted on the front and worn … driving way too fast for the situation and the car’s condition … and their dubious driving skills.  Of course they started riding my tail, as if that would nudge me closer to the other nine cars blocking my path, in the strand at least a mile ahead of us.  I was pretty polite the first four to five times I tapped the brakes, keeping an eye out, in the event that they thought that was their opportunity to go all “April 4th” over the top of me.  They of course took my safety warning as a challenge, rather than a common sense safety thing.  After the fifth or sixth love tap on the brakes and me even turning to motion for them to back off, they decided they would pass me quickly and risk the lives of me and the oncoming traffic on the two-lane as well, so that they could strategically become car #10, rather than car #11 in the 11-car traffic jam.

Kent don’t play that shit:)

I sped up, and pulled closer to the car jam, as it moved above 65-70 m.p.h., and because I knew they were idiots, I also moved over a little toward the paved shoulder of the two-lane.  IF I had to, I would pass the car in front of me on the shoulder, to protect myself … shielding me and the Triumph.

Kent is big into safety.  Kent will protect himself from people who don’t give a flip about other human lives.  Kent is licensed to do so, as is his constitutional right.

So, as the beat-up car full of derelicts of other demographic groups pulled up beside me, I “goosed” the throttle and I kind of did the “Old West Gun Smoke Thing.”  You remember how every armed civilian in the Old West would move their vest, or jacket, or shirt tail, when they thought they might be about to use their piece (as a last resort)?  Kent did that.

I won’t lie.  I assumed it would not be necessary to even touch my weapon and I didn’t.  But I was not going to get caught looking, so to speak.  I drove with one hand, and reached back to move my shirt tail and better expose the pistol holster in the back of my belt.  It was not coincidence that I did this just as the moron-mobile gave it its best shot to pass me, and failed.

Bless their liberal hearts, they seemed to be petrified and backed off finally, after logical, polite gestures had failed to penetrate  their force field of stupidy.

Magically, as if the heavens wanted to help me make my point, there was finally a break in the oncoming traffic.  Without trying much at all, the Triumph jumped into the newly open lane and flew by all of the cars still jockeying for position in the pointless scrum.  I tend to haul ass in such situations and put as much distance as possible between me and the chromosomally challenged.  I was gone!  One of the cars might have broken out of the pack, way way back behind me.  The idiots that were trying to kill me were stuck at the bottom of the food chain where they belonged.  More open road, and more casual and scenic riding for me, from then on.  Just a good, safe, comfortable pace, with no four-wheeled weapons around me.

And then …

Somewhere between the memorably named Megargel and Olney, Texas on 114, as I veered off to the southeast closer to Fort Worth, I saw a red and blue light show in the oval shaped rear-view mirrors of the Triumph.  Interesting … the limelight seemed to be focused on me.  I pulled over safely, but quickly and again, exercising common sense, I didn’t make any sudden moves.  I sat still in the saddle, hands on the handlebars and watched the Texas State Trooper pull to a stop behind me.  Compliant — as everyone should be as a peace officer approaches for goodness sake — I sat tight.  As the patrol car stopped, no doors opened.  Instead, I heard the loudspeaker of the unit, 

“Sir.  Remain still … And sir … do you have a gun?”

I remained cool, but a huge grin was probably visible to the lawman, side-to-side in my mirrors.  (We all know what happened, don’t we?)

 “Yes sir, I do have a gun in a holster in the small of my back.  And yes sir, I have a permit to carry, in my wallet.”

The trooper instructed me to remove the weapon and set it on the rear seat behind me, without turning around.  I complied, again as everyone should.  He then approached and picked up the piece and complimented me on the Kimber .45.  He said we could all relax now that that piece of business was out of the way.  And he was very polite, setting me at ease, and I said, “They called me in, didn’t they,” and I smiled and laughed … probably rolled my eyes a little.

After looking at my license and permit, he said, “Mr. Pingel, did you pull your weapon and wave it at the occupants of a car, about twenty miles back?”

“No sir.  I did not.  However, I was followed unsafely by a car, that tried to pass me in limited space, with nowhere to go, with a line of traffic in front of me.  “So,” I explained, “I didn’t know if I would have to defend myself, based on their erratic behavior, and I pulled my shirt tail up to make my weapon more readily accessible.”

He laughed.

“I didn’t think so,” he said, and he explained that the complaintants were reluctant to give a name when they called in the bogus report.  He added that,  “I guarantee you if there was anything to their story, they would be parked about 50 yards back there laughing and heckling you.”

We discussed whether or not there was any point in filing a complaint for a false police report.  Probably not worth the effort or paperwork.

He told me to be careful, shook my hand and I offered that I would be more careful of erratic cars with liberal bumper stickers, and just chill out.  And I thanked him for his service.

The trooper smiled, waved and said “Know what I sayin?”

Todo el mundo canta, y yo canto tambien.

An AirBnB Brings New Kicks … Station 66

October 8th, 2018 · Tags: Arts · Cities · Hotels · Uncategorized · Wi-Fi

Route 66


My story began in Vega, Texas … where “what stayed in Vega, happened in Vega,” I love to say.

In the early chapters, childhood was spent watching sports teams at the school, hours upon hours — when I wasn’t watching Fall’s fading light obscure the fast-moving shadow of a school bus, over country roads, sorghum fields and ranch-land pasture.  Dreaming of being a Vega Longhorn was all that any boy or girl could want.

Flash forward a few years, and journalism became my passion.

No accident, my story continued near Vega, on “Old Route 66” … “The Mother Road.”  When I launched the coast-to-coast “Wi-Fi Guy Blog,” back in 2003, the storied highway seemed the perfect jumping off point.  So the predecessor of The PingWi-Fi blog was launched with a press conference at The Cadillac Ranch — the world-famous monument to Route 66, Americana and the the road that goes on forever.

Moving forward further, The PingWi-Fi blog has maintained that roadtrip through 48 states, a U.S. Territory and several countries on a few continents.  I haven’t been everywhere, but “I’ve been ’round.”  And I stayed in/have written about some interesting places along the way — among the more memorable:  a trembling hotel during a New Zealand earthquake aftershock … a hostel full of recently released criminals in a half-way house situation in Salt Lake City … a rickety, no-air room above a motorcycle bar in Thailand … a few of the nicest hotels in New York, Washington, D.C., San Francisco … Las Vegas.  Pretty interesting, fun times. However …

However, it was back to my tiny Vega that the  PingWi-Fi blog encountered one of the most creative, comfortable, nostalgic settings … an airbnb in fact.

Station 66

There’s more history … Vega has a few miles of old Route 66 that form its spine — east & west, of course — right down the middle of town.  The hamlet is  just 13 miles from the geographic center of R66 too.   For us homegrown “Vegans,” farming will always be the soul, but the lifeblood once was Route 66 and its ability to support art deco gas stations that dotted the route.  A few empty gas stations remain — mere lifeless storage buildings now.  One rustic old station has been repurposed into the most charming little authentic Mexican restaurant called “Roosters.”  As much as I love the welded, rusted and painted bird sculpture ready to crow at the front of the cafe, Roosters is not “me primo.”

My all-time favorite is Station 66 … perhaps the best creatively designed, most interesting lodging that has every supported this pumpkin-shaped head at night.  Outside, I think this old gas station is probably a work in progress, thanks to some 1970s-era remodeling … but inside!  Station 66 is the cleanest place I have experienced, as well.  The Wi-Fi rocks.  The tallest building in Oldham County is across the street … a grain elevator … gotcha.




The game room area is spacious, with many windows that overlook the old road, but also there are shades to block out “bustling” Vega.  Everywhere, the place is decorated with memorabilia, keepsakes, and nostalgia pieces that could probably “earn their keep” if placed over at the Milburn-Price Culture Museum.  The M-PCM is just a mile beyond the town’s  main intersection, the confluence of Old Route 66 and U.S. 385 (a border-to-border route, running north/south”) … the intersection that once earned Vega, Texas the moniker, “Crossroads Of The Nation” … albeit an ambitious slogan, to say the least.

Milburn-Price Culture Museum

Sidenote: When I was a child, my best friend’s father managed the very Phillips 66 filling station that was housed in this airbnb structure … a half-century ago.  To complete that little nostalgic twist —  through the sometimes friendly networking that can occur on Facebook — that old friend and I re-united at a class reunion the day before PingW-F hit the Station … after decades.  I wonder what my buddy Robby would think of the airbnb after all these years. Inside Station 66, there is a very nice touch where the interior design incorporates the old, original steel pipe railing that once protected the outer structure on slippery, icy, snowy Texas Panhandle winter days … like the one on which I last remember my dad filling up the pick up truck with Robby’s dad’s fuel …  I digress …

Station 66 is just fun.  It’s obvious the owner has poured their heart and soul into making a wonderful escape … a happiest place — one that whispers stories of the old highway into your ear, as you drift off at night … no doubt, dreaming of hopping in an old ragtop ’54 Chevy Corvette and heading to Hollywood to be discovered … zzzzzz.

r-a-g-t-o-p … ragtop

And then if you awake still sporting such dreams of celebrity, you may cast yourself in some bigger-than-life, make-believe Cowboy Western.  A closet inside Station 66 is stocked to the brim with everything cowboy … pearl snap western shirts, cowboy hats, bandanas … everything this wanna-be buckaroo could ask for to complete the perfect www (wild wild west) selfie.

Cowboy Up


Although I was solo while bunked at ST66, it fits more. Station 66 accommodates up to six guests, with one master bedroom and four beds total  … you choose bunkmates. 

And I think management tries to keep the shenanigans to a minimum for appearances’ sake, and/or the historic preservation of the place … but I might have pulled some strings while there and therefore hosted  a worldwide first on Old Route 66.


Despite a traditional old-home week (class reunion) and the best free barbecue in the world at The Oldham County Roundup, PingWi-Fi staged the world’s very first Rüt66 kava tasting at Station 66 … kava, a South Pacific social drink acquired from Texas’ first kava bar — SquareRüt Kava Bar, from Austin, Texas.



Ha .. the word play … Route & Rüt  … I could resist it not.  So 10-12 other long-tall Texans and I bellied away from the bar for once and gathered around a traditional wooden serving bowl, filled with the exotic, earthy traditional drink of Tonga, Vanuatu and other islands beyond Texas  … Made perfect sense to me … actually, I had been telling my buddies about kava since the first bar opened in Austin a few years back … so, we did some hard core cultural exchange that day …  starting each round with me — the kavabarkeep — teaching everyone the traditional kava toast for prosperity or whatever, “BULA!”

Ha … Little did we know the recent sory of the toast “Bula!”:

Bula Trademark

Such audacity, claiming a South Pacific word as a trademark … I digress …

Lastly, as it has been sung over campfires for a hundred years — “The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas …” So, the excellent backyard of Station 66 was put to use later … as this old cowhand stretched out under the Milky Way, flat on the back, on the patio, enjoying a sky full of stars … a Panhandle sky like no other.

Know what I sayin?

Pinging The Pyramid Of The Sun – Teotihuacan

September 4th, 2018 · Tags: Arts · Cities


After a quick jaunt back to Texas, I returned to “The Dirty Gig” in Mexico and then on the first opportunity headed straight for The Pyramid of the Sun, an hour northeast of Mexico City.  IF I had a bucket list, Teotihuacan would be there.  But who takes the credit for it making the list? Well … we still don’t know.  The Aztecs — “johnies-come-lately” — followed the builders’ culture by a thousand years. Some, mysterious, fluorishing culture built the structure — the third largest pyramid from the ancient world.  Regardless of its origin, the site is one of three dozen UNESCO  World Heritage Sites immediately beyond our southern border.  And the pyramid was in the heart of a vibrant civilization … one of the largest cities in North America at that time.

Pyramid Wikipedia


Pyramid Of The Sun

The three hour-drive from Celaya, my home base in Mexico, was perfect — modern highway all the way, and “a great place to get some thinkin done” as Phish would say … my term for mental notes for a blog.  (The nickel-and-diming or “peso-ing” — I should say — at checkpoints for the multiple toll roads was well worth it for the smooth, safe travel.  I spent about $50 U.S. to and from my destination.)

A first thought: about an hour out of Celaya, the countryside of Mexico became much more lush and pleasing to the eye, than any other part of the interior I had seen.  Already, on previous road trips I have been impressed by the scenery.  It got better.  Much better.  The road to Mexico City and all the surrounding mountains seemed every bit as lush and green and beautiful as the Southern Island of New Zealand.  I kid you not.  That’s pretty green.  … Both places feature green carpets of thick grass, tailor made for herds of sheep.  Interesting, I didn’t see many along the Mexico drive this day, but everywhere along the way were ancient livestock pens — three- or four-feet, seemingly ancient stone walls dividing the pastures into subsets.

Here’s some more about the destination:

National Geographic Notes

You know I am going to critique the ancient site for its lack of Wi-Fi.  Done deal … Moving on …

But what the site lacked in commercial Wi-Fi hotspots, it made up for in trinkets, artisan crafts, souvenirs and people watching.

But this monument!


‘El Jefe’ y The Pyramid Of The Moon in the distance

It took about 30 minutes to walk from the parking lot, through the Avenue Of The Dead, up and over terraces and raised walkways to the base of the large pyramid.  All along the way there were woven, textile creations of multi-colored Mexican serape blankets, lace table cloths proudly displaying the Mexico seal, and onyx stone carved into chess pieces … and my favorite … the jaguar noise maker.  I was remiss in not buying several jaguars for the young children of my friends … a payback for something, well deserved I am sure … because the handcrafted devices do let out one realistic, jungle-cat-like growl.  Oh how my friends would have grown tired of that … I digress …  Or why didn’t I get an ocarina or set of “Andes flutes?”

The trinkets were only a few bucks.  I think the lace tablecloth was twenty bucks … and I was happy to hear that the vendors would not only barter, they would also shout out the U.S. dollar values, based on the latest exchange rate, I suppose … especially if the potential shopper looked like some gringo arse.  Yes … they do the math, so to speak.  A Mayan thing, I suppose.

And of course, luck of the draw, as I got in line and climbed the steps to the top of the ancient altar, the kid just in front of me and one behind me also was the new owner of their very own, annoying little jaguar noise-maker. Ha … they were cool souvenirs … but every step on the climb up the side of a 25-story structure … really!?!



Compared to my previous to excursions in Mexico, once again the pyramid offered world-class people watching, very much a mixture of Mexicans, South Americans, Europeans and many Americans.  Ha … and a very interesting study of human nature.  For instance, did you know that people who huff/puff and gasp to climb a centuries-old pyramid, will still try to cut in front of you at every opportunity?  Ha … I should have gotten one of those jaguar toys to express my disappointment in human nature … grow-l-l-l-l-l-l-l-l!

But, instead I cut them slack for their excitement, and threw no one off the side of the ancient sacrificial shrine … Rather, I passed the time with chitchat among those who looked to be, and usually were English-speaking.  The best tip I learned through hearsay, was to try the hot air balloon tour over the site, early in the morning.   Mental note for next time …

Second best tip of the day came from the dude at the front desk of my hotel.  “Don’t forget sunscreen!”  I think the altitude of Teotihuacan is about 2,000 feet higher than Celaya, and by the time you scale the pyramid, well … SPF 30+ is about right … Mustn’t get a blistery souvenir from the Pyramid of the Sunburn.


Moon Pyramid

Most PingWF readers know that this blog gives away free t-shirts via Facebook … asking friends to post photos in said shirts, from cool places … anywhere.  Well, a Facebook group from my universidad does the same.  So, being a homer, I wore a bright red Texas Tech shirt overlooking the Avenue of the Dead, holding my hands up in #gunsup fashion, as is the Texas Tech tradition … and now the Texas Tech Teotihuacan tradition.  Well I’ll be … that crazy human nature thing … the same ones trying to cut in line all the way up the pyramid also tried to steal my 15 minutes of fame … and photobombed me high atop the pyramid.  I knew I should have thrown them off … 


Or better yet.  I could make it look like an accident.  You see, I had everything I needed to pull off the perfect crime.  High atop the pyramid, hundreds of feet about the landing area, where historians tell us that human sacrifices plummeted to a gory finish … I had a banana in my backpack.  After I washed the potasium-hoarding fruit down with a bottle of water … all I had to do was “accidentally” discard the peel and let slapstick take over.  Can you imagine? … People slipping and tripping, and falling over the edge … all due to an errant banana peel.  Kind of like “Seinfeld” meets National Geographic … I digress …

Anyway … I enjoyed the banana for its comic relief and the nutrients it provided for my dehydrating body.  But I much more enjoyed the view of the countryside.  The sight below was pretty impressive … a now more huge throng ascending the pyramid … hundred and hundreds of people sitting and selfie-ing atop the structure.  The huge-in-its-own-right, but smaller Pyramid of the Moon, across the way …  A mere satellite of the main attraction. 

It was just another silly daydream.  But, as I ended my tour and headed down to the avenue below, I chuckled at the bottom.  Thousands of others, and I, had just climbed hundreds and hundreds of steep, narrow, ancient stone steps with only a few safety rails and orange caution fences here and there … But when we got to the bottom, the base of the ancient structure, what did I see!?! Ha … one tiny part of the stone wall, just a few feet above the level ground, had a strip of yellow caution tape attached. Ha.  “Safety last,” I quipped.  Why the caution tape at the bottom?  OH Wait … Maybe this was the drop zone, where falling bodies tend to return to rest.  I was only halfway serious … but I moved over a bit, all the same.


Last pointer for those who intend on visiting Teotihuacan … pay attention when you park.  Believe me, you will be so excited when you first arrive, as you see this ancient marvel looming above nearby … and you will park and you will take off.  To your surprise, you will later learn there are several parking lots … None of which are visible to the others.  So, thank goodness your parking pass has a lot number on it … And thank goodness some of the staff speak English.  You might want to brush up on your “Donde esta el numero uno ‘park-ay?’”  On the way in, I never noticed more than one parking lot.  Now on the way out, I toured several … Looking for a non-descript, white rental car … clutching the key fob and tweaking it, trying to get a peep out of one of the hundreds of cars in the lot … 

IF only there had been some distinguishing feature about MY parking lot.  OH wait.  There was a little somethin-somethin.  About 50 feet from where I parked was the Mayan version of a Tilt-a-Whirl … or maybe, more like a May(an) Pole …   To the side of the parking lot, was this 30-feet pole, brightly decorated with streamers and noise makers … and oh yes … six or seven brightly dressed, totally native-garbed-out dudes, swinging through the air, dangling by one foot, caught up in a tether.  So how was I to find THE parking lot? … Well, there’s that.

Know what I sayin?


Mexican Wi-Fi Revolution Continues — On To Guanajuato

August 25th, 2018 · Tags: Arts · Cities · Politics · Wi-Fi

Sometimes things just fall into place. For instance, when this blogger visited San Miguel de Allende a couple of weeks back, it seemed like the coolest place on the planet. However, now that I’ve seen Guanajuato City, the state capitol … I may like it even better. So glad the order worked out like it did.

Both cities, San Miguel and Guanajuato offer a cityscape of architectural “eye candy” most noticeably in the centuries-old cathedrals and colonial-era plazas. But San Miguel has a modern feel to it … the vibe from all the American and European ex-patriots living there. But, Guanajuato is “old world.”


Even the old market in the heart of downtown Guanajuato — Mercado de Hildago — is an architectural showpiece, at least on the outside. Inside the market has much the same flavor as the border cities I have visited. Everything is for sale in there. Raw, whole chicken hang dressed out in booths next to vendors pushing woven textiles and onyx chess sets and my favorite, wrestling masks and wrestling mask t-shirts.


Mercado Hildago

Somehow I had the good fortune to park about a block from the market, albeit I had to back up up a steep hill in my tiny rental and hit one heck of a tight parallel parking spot. Hey … I did take driver’s ed. class in Vega … I digress … So the spot was pretty measly and also rare. I saw several drivers who wanted it, but passed on by when the saw the dimensions. So fun to back up with one foot on the accelerator to climb the hill and the other foot on the brake to keep from rolling forward into the tiny car in front of me. Done.

As I have learned to do over the years, especially in foreign travels, I took several photos of the rental car itself and the license plate (they all look alike), as well as the street signs at the nearest intersection. IF my feeble memory failed me, I trusted my iPhone and my GPS … despite cell phone issues earlier in the trip.

On this day, the cell phone/GPS had steered me to the heart of Guanajuato, but it was touch and go. The old, old city is divided and circled by rough, bumpy-but-scenic cobble stone streets just about as wide as the two side mirrors on a nondescript rental car. Even more interesting, there are one-lane, long tunnels through the side of the mountain, everywhere. I think I drove the right direction through every one I encountered, but it was iffy at times. No head ons = scored a win.

And about that GPS … I am pretty sure the navigation app in my phone just kinda said “The hell with it.” With no apparent logic, the electronic voice instructed me to go up a hill and through a mountain tunnel, turn around, come down the mountain, through another tunnel, through a neighborhood, along a scenic overlook, and then kind of right back through all those same steps … or so it seemed. Somehow, after 15 minutes of roadway confusion, I saw the downtown plaza and cathedrals and parked.


Cafe En Route

The road to Guanajuato from Celaya (my operational base during this Mexico “Dirty Gig” project) was longer than the drive to San Miguel a week earlier … and more mundane, but oh so worth the extra effort. “Mundane” after a shaky start, that is. About 15 miles out of Celaya, I was zooming along (at the speed limit) when I noticed several cars in front of me turning on their hazard blinkers. THAT is one of the smartest things I have seen drivers do in Mexico. The more alert drivers realize, with all of the insane drivers around them — drivers who have no regard for any other human lives … drivers who are just trying to survive day-to-day “fo they ownseffs” — someone is very likely going to rear-end someone when traffic slows down abruptly or comes to a sudden stop for a wreck or traffic jam. More noticeable than my usual tap-tap-tap on the brakes to flash and alert the drivers behind me. I like it. I followed suit and turned those flashers on, baby, and watched as the less alert drivers approached from the rear … all too quickly.

Up ahead, just a few feet from an overpass was a bright red mass of carnage showing from under a blanket in the roadway, and several cars pulled to the side of the road … and lots of police who had the main thoroughfare shut down. Sadly, I am pretty sure someone fell or jumped from the bridge and was done in — in the most horrific way — by the traffic. So sad. We detoured to a tiny side road, but kept moving.

To Mexico’s credit … even though every, every intersection is crazy … most of the drivers have learned to take turns. No … no one stops at any of the four stop signs at a four-way stop … but as they keep moving, driven by some unwritten law … it works, most of the time. I digress …

Just as I had noticed on the road to San Miguel, once again bicyclists on modern lightweight touring bikes were attacking the highways. But my favorite cyclists in Mexico are the riders of necessity. Daily I saw guys riding in the dark, without lights, on dangerous two-lane, decrepit roadways … before sunrise … just happy to be on their way to a job where they made a living. Immediately, I saw more of these utility riders all over Guanajuato with various customizations … a bicycle with a built-on sun shade here, a half-bike half-frozen treat cart there … and my favorite the old guy with a special basket on the handle bars for his tools, and an open A-frame ladder somehow attached to his bike, and straddling him, forming a triangle over his head as he rode. You do what you have to do … Oh … that was an “escalara on una bicicleta” for those translating along at home …



After leaving my little car, I toured the market first and moved on. The next thing I saw was a little step down to a side entrance of some sort of church. Actually, it was the humble side entrance to a marvelous cathedral … but that was not readily apparent from the outside. … Kind of like the door to slip in to services, if you’re habitually late. And where the side vestibule joined the main aisle was one of several interior domes built into the structure. This little side dome must have been known for its acoustics, because one of the most heavenly little choirs I have ever heard was using that spot to amplify their voices.

There were probably 10 singers in the group — all dressed in decorative, knee-length white robes with colorful sashes — a few boys-choir types, an older gentleman or two, a couple of women and some young girls, as well. The perfect combination and variety of vocal ranges created one of the sweetest, most pure sounds I have ever heard. Heavenly. Darn it. They stopped, put on dark shades and all went outside for a cigarette break before I could record them with my iPhone. Well … kidding … but they did go on break.


I beat it back to the streets from that side door, walked around, and re-entered the big door of the cathedral. OH … the decorative, artistically carved doors of this city! The church, in all its splendor, might not have been as impressive as some of the basilicas in Rome … but it was close. So ornate … the mixture of craftsmanship and expensive materials to illustrate God’s holiness … or the wealth of the church, depending on with whom you discuss this.



6 Stunning Sacred Places of Guanajuato

Like San Miguel, Guanajuato was filled with tourists and sightseers and people watchers … and shoppers … but not the American/European ex-patriots of San Miguel. Guanajuato streets, cathedrals and plazas were overflowing with visitors, but they were the home-grown variety … and me … and two French girls studying abroad at some nearby business college. I can’t tell you how much I stood out with my goofy, long hair … even more than usual. But people were nice and seemed to either appreciate or find humor in my attempts at broken Español.


El Gente y Cacti

After walking in circles for a few hours and snapping selfies and postcard-esque photos here and there, I tackled my one real objective in Guanajuato. From my brief Internet research of the city, the one attraction I wanted to see — beyond the cathedrals, plazas and architecture — was the Diego Rivera museum, in the former home of perhaps the first- or second-most famous Mexican artist. If you have been reading along, previously this blog noted the ever-present image of another Mexican artist … Frida Kahlo. She and her iconic image are everywhere in Mexico.

Frida ‘n’ Me

Well, if you don’t know … Frida was married to Diego Rivera, although she wore the eyebrows in the family. (I can’t resist … just can’t get over her trademark unibrow … with all respect …) Rivera, a painter, is known primarily for his murals in cities throughout Mexico and the U.S.A. as well … and for his communist doctrine … Well … I like his art, anyway.

Diego Rivera

The museum is fairly easy to find, just a few blocks from the market, and it’s perfect distance on foot, located in a somewhat non-descript multi-level structure … perfect for a multi-tiered gallery with a central courtyard awash in natural light. Guests walk through and see a collection of family portraits and furniture that must have been the way things were during Diego days … and then also little patios and hallways and even a miniature theater featuring the artist’s work. Pretty cool.

But now Wi-Fi for guests … ahem!

Ha … the moment you walk through the doors visitors are instructed that no photographicos will be taken. Hey … I follow the rules (for the most part), even though I had my Nikon dangling from my neck. But, I suppose I must have looked like some long-haired rule breaker. EVERY time I turned a corner, this one museum docent was lurking in the shadows … following me … watching me … seemingly just daring me to take a photo. Ha … I showed her.



I slipped around a corner, and with my mouth imitated the recognizable “cha-kik” sound of a 35 mm camera firing off a round. She popped around the corner, following the sound, and found me smiling at her … empty handed … and I made the sound again. “Cha-kik!” “Gotcha!” No translation was needed. We both laughed.


My last stop in Guanajuato should have been my first. What I mean … if you visit, I would highly recommend driving up the mountain overlooking the city and park on the streets near the huge statue that towers above, and avoid the congested streets “abajo.” High up on the mountain is El Monumento al Pipila. It is huge … a statue dedicated to Pipila, a native miner who was killed after taking up arms against the Mexican government in a revolt. Mexico does love a good revolutionary.


While the statue is impressive and draws in a huge crowd of selfie-seekers, a dude dressed like the Grim Reaper to spice up your selfie … a family celebrating a quinciñera (a young woman’s introduction to society, so to speak) or two … and just every type of people … It is all about the view. Magnifico!



Is there anything more beautiful in Latin culture than the multi-colored pastels and also bright, bright vibrant colors of stucco and plaster buildings … all displayed so perfectly, in all directions. Flower-like purples, flaming shades of orange, cactus green, sunrise yellow … every imaginable variation of sky blue and ocean blue too …



There is a very inexpensive monorail/elevator lift for transport up the mountain, requiring only a short wait on line. It was that very line where I met a young man who became my only Peruvian/Iowa Hawkeye friend, now living in and loving Mexico. Nice guy. Ha … as we discussed our alma maters, he was quick to tell me he has learned to love American football more than futbol. Didn’t see that coming …


Street Vendor, Burros

So anywho … you can park up there, sightsee and shoot a few panoramic, colorful shots of Guanajuato and then casually ride the lift down the mountain, and sightsee away.

Know what I sayin?

San Miguel de Allende — Ciudad Muy Bueno

August 16th, 2018 · Tags: Arts · Cities · Coffee Shops · Uncategorized · Wi-Fi


Many times I question my decision to do The Dirty Gig to fund my travel.  But as I headed north of Celaya, Mexico to San Miguel de Allende, Mexico I was convinced that doing disaster recovery work is worth it for the travel.

San Miguel has never been on my radar before, and yet Conde Nast Traveler selected it as the numbero uno city in the world a few years ago.  I’d say I got pretty lucky in coming to this part of Mexico, oddly enough, to work on robot computer controls at an automotive factory, damaged in a flood.


San Miguel de Allende

So … the first day off, I headed north.  Immediately, as I headed out of Celaya the land seemed to take on an agrarian beauty ….  rolling hills with low mountains in the background, corn and other crops nearing harvest … and after another fifteen minutes of driving, the countryside transformed to wine country, with vineyards on both sides of the road.  There between the rows of grapevines was the first new, well-paved rode I have encountered in this part of Mexico.  A strategic tourism ploy, I am sure.  There were many hardcore bicyclists out on the road too, attacking the foothills.  Impressive.


Everywhere else in Mexico the roads are in serious decay, except for the ever-present speed bumps.  Motorists really have to pay attention to keep from knocking out the front end of their rental car.  The chug holes seem to be the antithesis of the speed bumps … pretty much the same size, in the 180-degree opposite.  Based on the driving skills of some of the commuters I have seen, the speed bumps may be the smartest thing going here.  The only time people slow down.  Ha … there is always a funny sign to alert folks that a speedbump is near.  It looks kind of like an abstract, dark set of boobs on a yellow background.  The first time I saw the sign, I thought I was approaching some swinging beach.

Back in Celaya, the streets are a hodgepodge of disrepair, mixed in with a few street hustlers, here and there.  Some are pretty  creative.  For instance, if you park at Wal-Mart, a covey of bucket-carrying cleaning guys will surround your car and insist on washing it for a few hundred pesos.   Elsewhere, I have seen a teenage girl juggling in an intersection, hoping to make coin between green lights.  There have also been ambitious-looking father and daughter acrobat teams doing “up-on-my-shoulders” tricks for change.

But my favorite panhandler?  Remember the world-class potholes I mentioned?  The other day I drove past a young man, weathered and thin, but sporting a beaming smile.  He had a shovel on the side of the road and was shoveling gravel and some hot asphalt from heaven knows where … and had taken it upon himself to fill in potholes.  Will pave for food.  Very creative, and so mutually beneficial.  People were funding his endeavor.

So, anywho … the roads to San Miguel improved along the way.  Then when I hit the scenic, historic city, the streets retrogressed a couple of hundred years … shrinking down to one small lane between multiple-story buildings, paved with seemingly ancient cobblestone.


As luck would have it, following sporadic instructions from a finicky GPS (again), I wasted no time in heading down a one-way street the wrong way.  It wasn’t busy, and cars were parked on both sides, turned every direction … so I wouldn’t have noticed my infraction, had it not been for the police officer chasing on foot behind my rental car.  Thank goodness I saw him and I didn’t see any night stick pounding on my window.  I pulled over and apologized profusely in broken Spanish, and yes … played the “Stupid Gringo” card — or SGC.  He was quick to recognize my stupidity was sincere and was merciful, allowing me to turn around.  Nice guy.


The next road I took led me high above the downtown plaza, to a scenic overlook.  There was parking there, and I snatched it up.  No sooner had I climbed out of my tiny rental, that a family beside me asked me to take a tourist shot for them.  What a great icebreaker, these cell phone cameras.  My new friends are from Guatemala, and were all too happy to tell me about their beautiful land and live volcanos as we shot tourist shots.

I think the older women were sisters on vacation, and they had their young niece with them.  She served as interpreter for the group and accordingly earned herself a PingWi-Fi t-shirt.  Very nice people.  Two minutes later and a couple from Texas stopped me to chit chat.  Friendly place.

It was about a mile downhill from my parking spot to the main plaza.  Oh my … the bells of the magnificent cathedral were sounding off in the distance below as I hiked down the narrow sidewalk.

Just as I notice a strange pipe sticking out of an old two story building, an unknown liquid shot out of it onto the sidewalk and street below, narrowly missing a couple of pedestrians and a car as well.  Kinda unusual.

Everywhere there is old adobe-like brick, stucco, vibrant colors and rooftop gardens … a great walk.  The city is surrounded by mountains and it is a hike up the hills.

After circling the plaza a few times, I started peeking inside the surround shops and galleries.

Everywhere, there are dolls and statues and posters of the eyebrowed one — Mexico’s favorite artist, Magdalena Carmen Frida Kahlo y Calderon.




Frida y pollo

Just a little off the square was some sort of reception facility, and I saw a group of people sitting around the second-floor inner courtyard.  At first glance, I thought the people sitting in rows of chairs were in a church service, as they watched some speaker on a television screen.  Soon, I found out that the people were watching an address by a visitor to the Guanajuato International Film Festival or #GIFF.

I looked for t-shirts but saw none, but the film festival poster was pretty interesting, so I inquired.  It wasn’t for sale, but they said they would give me one … and … in fact, the poster designer “was right over there.”  He gave me a poster, and how could I resist getting the artist’s autograph on the piece.


In addition, I met the executive director of the festival, Sarah Hoch from Kansas, a 40-year ex-patriot American.  Nice people.  Good luck with the film festival in the future. (San Mighel de Allende is in the state of Guanajuato.)  The festival features events in two cities, San Miguel de Allende and Guanajuato Capital.

Sarah Hoch, executive director


GIFF Film Festival

With my new film festival poster, signed sealed and delivered, so to speak, wrapped up and protected in two venti Starbucks cups, I moved on.  Funny, Starbucks would only give me one cup … ha … I had to fish a second cup out of the trash bin … but I washed it.  I digress …


On a more positive note, so far, Starbucks Wi-Fi here in Mexico has outperformed my own Starbucks — one of the swankiest new stores in Fort Worth’s ritzy Clearfork area … just sayin.


Ha … I also wandered/stumbled into the filmmakers lounge somewhat by accident.  So tempting to engorge on free food … too bad I am on a diet.  Oh the pastries!


In an ongoing quest for THE perfected Mexican souvenir t-shirt.  So far, I am undecided, but tall of the wrestling mask t-shirts are calling my name.  We’ll see …


As I had heard, San Miguel is full of ex-patriot Americans and former Europeans as well.  So there is something really familiar about the place, despite its colonial period charm … cathedrals, plazas, street vendors juxtaposed with nice boutiques and fine restaurants.  I wondered into one cool restaurant and ordered the almond crusted trout (with a side order of molé sauce, which raised an eyebrow or two).  Pretty delicious and the presentation did not disappoint.  The filleted trout was buried in almonds, up to the neck.  Do fish have necks?  Anyway, up to the … oh, up to the gills, I should say.  And at that point was the fish’s cute little head still attached.


Starbucks in San Miguel was a happening place, overlooking the most interesting sculpture in town, a favorite selfie destination, judging by the lines of people shooting photos in front of some winged, archangel type

Did your mom ever tell you not to play with your food.  Ha … she wouldnt if it still had a head.  I stuck the fishhead on the top of my water bottle throughout dinner, twisting it off every time I took a swig.  Stupid gringo!


Ha … then about three quarters through the meal, I looked down and to my horror found out I had been walking all over the plazas of San Miguel with my fly open.  Stupid Gringo.  No I know how the  ex-patriots who came up and introduced themselves knew that I am an American, right off the bat.  This ugly American set the bar pretty high.  So embarrassed.

Know what I sayin?

GPS — Gringo Peso Shortage In Mexico Wi-Fi Travel

July 16th, 2018 · Tags: Airports · Cities · Coffee Shops · Wi-Fi

Welcome to Mexico. Unlike just about every one of my friends, I had never been to the true resort areas of Mexico, merely some border cities. Still haven’t …

However, today I woke up in the heart of Mexico, three hours northwest of Mexico City in the cuidad de Celaya. Celaya has all the traditional “South of the Border” flair you would expect — cathedrals built in the 1500s, and indigenous mummies interned slightly prior to that, for example.

But there’s also a modern, one-world kinda vibe here, rocking to the tune of Japanese and American investment — automobile plants, and the Western retailers/hotels that follow hot on that money trail.

This morning’s activities — a field trip to the local health clinic for immunization against diphtheria (I think) and tetanus. I explained that I just had a tetanus immunization on April 4th to combat bad juju from one of the puncture wounds from a motorcycle mishap. My employer said without documentation, I would have to go under the needle again. Ha … I pleaded “Well, could you at least use the same point of entry from the previous needling, since it has barely sealed up from “the other day.” They were not amused.

Yesterday was a trip. Very similar to my introduction to Puerto Rican culture a few months back, we landed and hopped in a rental car and only a few miles down the road encountered spotty or non-existent cell phone coverage … or phone company handoff issues … definitely technology lost in the translation.

That was a problem. Not only did we lack cell coverage, by the same token … no GPS service. So, despite the fact my co-pilot and I had four phones between us, we had no navigational assistance. Ha … for foreshadowing, the last night in the U.S., I had called up Google Maps and looked at the route. And, even though I “knew” we would have GPS, I saved a screen capture of the Google Maps route “just in case.” So, in effect, on drive day we at least had a digital photo of a map, although it was not interactive. Sounds old-school, right? IF I ever use this as a contingency again … note to self … drill down to get a little more detail on the map.

Also learned … exchange some dollars for pesos as soon as you land. We learned the hard way that tollroad booth guards in the interior of Mexico are not as excited about U.S. dollars as their counterparts along the border.

As we drove west of of Querataro International Airport, Highway 45/450 was easy enough to see on the picture of a map, but our exit for the town of Celaya was not. We kind of just missed the Celaya turnoff and our hotel there. We traveled another 50 kilometers or so, before we knew something was wrong. Lo and behold, at that very point, cell coverage kicked in and I quickly made an impassioned plea to my girl SIRI and she gave me — in a not-so-loving voice — the directions to The Hampton Inn. Good girl. We had reservations at a Hampton Inn. However … not just any Hampton Inn. We headed for the hotel SIRI found, anyway. Thinking, if nothing else, we could use the mission-critical Wi-Fi there. Nope. That hotel was not our hotel. Furthermore, we had a slight language barrier — despite my good marks in Ol’ Señor Thompson’s Spanish class in high school. The hotel crew really couldn’t tell us how to get to the Hampton back in Celaya. All of this was complicated by the minor fact that the address we were given for the hotel was incorrect. It’s the little things.

That’s when the van driver, who spoke some English offered to lead us back on track. I thought, “Man … you do know how far back we have to drive?” He said, “no problemo” … It was on his way to the casa. (Do you like how I pepper the dialogue with some lingo authentico, here and there?) So we hopped back in our ever-so-tiny rental car and expected the wrong-Hampton courtesy van to pull in front of us.


The Good Samaritan driver was actually a Good Samaritan rider. He whipped in front of us on a small adventure bike motorcycle … a bike that had seen better days. But then, one should never question the vehicle of their deliverance, right? My new best friend in Mexico — BFIM — sped onto the dusty, crowded, busy street in front of us … fearless. Immediately I noted two things: You meet the nicest people on motorcycles! And, man I liked his motorcycle helmet. It was cap-like, with a brim in front … very much like the small/cool hard hats that workers wear on the job in Asia. His headgear also had an elastic band down around his chin to hold it in place. As we inched up close to the biker at an ALTO sign, the truth was revealed to me. I saw the small insignia of Major League Baseball on the back of the solid blue helmet. He was wearing a souvenir helmet from a game! Safety First!:)

So picture my companion and I cruising through a dusty suburb of Salamanca, Mexico … of course … dodging potholes, wild dogs, bakery cart vendors … amidst the madre-y-padre fruit stands, and the faded-but-colorful, stucco, two-story buildings and bars and cinder block shanties — most of which sported a half-dilapidated Coca-Cola painted logo, flaking off … We were on a mission. Ever see Harrison Ford and Willem Dafoe in the CIA thriller “Clear And Present Danger” where the good guys’ motorcade had a motorcycle escort through village streets … and there are bad guys with rocket-propelled grenade launchers on top of their shoulders, lining the rooftops … for a Latin American ambush. Ha … we looked like that, as we proceeded with our motorcycle escort through the backroads of Mexico.

Not bad … only a few hours in country, and PingWi-Fi has a motorcycle escort … I digress …

There are motorcycles everywhere, sometimes sporting a family of four, in transit … in the same reckless style seen on the other side of the globe.

I stopped to shoot a photo of one guy and his Lucky motorcycle, as he inflated the tire with a hand pump.  Big day for handpumps.  I also witnessed a little bicyle cart vendor stop in a major intersection to air up his tire.  Guess if you need air, you need air.  Traffic be damned!  I digress …

Later, driving around, but getting close to our destination, we found ourselves at an impasse in a tiny, shady looking urban area. A long freight train had the gall to block our misguided path. And just as we stopped, some pedestrian positioned himself in front of us and a car pulled up close behind us. We were kind of trapped. What a perfect scenario to separate this American fool from his pesos. But, this time luck favored PingWi-Fi. No trouble.

Then finally, we got a cell signal, called a coworker who sent us the correct coordinates for the hotel. It seemed so simple after all the hassles. But, we did see some Mexico beyond our comfort zones.

Hours late, we checked into the brand new Celaya Hampton Inn. It’s nice … I have stayed in many hotels throughout the States with lesser accommodations. Best of all, the Wi-Fi is killing it at The Hampton so far.


After check in, it was when I peered out of my third-floor window that I saw the most unexpected sight in Mexico so far. Background: on our drive though heaven-knows-where earlier, we had seen some very Latin-specific, modern, colorful condos that looks like jumbled, erratic, modern/modular structures — all the same … same same … hundreds of them … very much more of an architectural statement than just a place for Mexican yuppies to live. Well … now, behind my hotel was yet another take on “cubism” just outside my window. Behind the Hampton was a new, large food court under the big top of some industrial-strength awning. The big top of this “Arabe Comida” place was not that unusual. But the underlying structure was assembled with stacked up, repurposed metal storage vaults — Conexes or Mobile Mini storage units. Very cool. Within the encampment were Mexican eateries, Asia delicacies and more.

Asian. There is a decidedly Asian influx here … most apparent on my Asian-manufactured television in my room. First I was a little surprised there are absolutely zero U.S. channels in the offering. The programming is 95 percent Latin American programming … with one Japanese channel mixed in. Ha … after watching Hispanic programming long enough to recognize that Ol’ Señor Thompson must have graded too lenient in my escuela Spanish classes … I flipped over to the Asian programming. That was when I discovered the rock ’n’ roll tour de fems that is Band Maid. Band Maid is apparently very hot in Japan … a girl-group, five or six strong, all young, hot, leggy, Asian women playing searing guitars, screaming out repetitious English lyrics, and banging out precision rhythms … all dressed in somewhat scanty French Maid costumes. Oh … I also caught some pretty intense sumo wrestling on the channel too.

Man I love cultural exchange.

Meanwhile … as we wait on standby to get into and work at a local automobile factory — The Dirty Gig that brings me to Mexico — I made a beeline to one of three Starbucks within striking distance. Thank goodness … my phones are playing nice on Mexico’s cellular grid now … so no more problems for now. Starbucks crisis averted. Found it.


Starbucks — fully Wi-Fi equipped, thanks to Cisco/Meraki Wi-Fi … Get this … the Wi-Fi here in Celaya, Mexico (in what many consider to be a “Third World” country) is better than the Wi-Fi back home at “my Bux” — a beautiful new cafe in a multi-million — if not billion-dollar development — in Fort Worth, Texas … in the ritzy, glitzy Clearfork area. However … things are still bigger in Texas and the other states … Here in Celaya, I ordered a “venti” black tea and received what we call a “grande” back home. Sounds like some exchange rate issue. But soon, I had squatting rights atop one of only four easy chairs in the joint. Mi coffee shop es su coffee shop. Another minor issue with Starbucks Wi-Fi in Mexico. Apparently NAFTA doesn’t work for Pandora. “No streaming for you Gringo!”

Know what I sayin?

One Of The Best Wi-Fi Hotspots In Austin, Texas

July 13th, 2018 · Tags: Cities · Wi-Fi

Sometimes, you just gotta have Wi-Fi and kava kava. Put your chill mask on. #ATX

The Weird Science Of The ‘Like’ – #SocialMedia

July 6th, 2018 · Tags: Arts · Satire




“There is more to life than making apparently obvious observations”

– Jerry Seinfeld


Before this blog is read, Facebook, Instagram, Google+, etc., will have reworked something new into their social media blueprints for world domination (just when we thought we had this whole thing figured out.) But we play right along …

How has this happened? Why has social media taken over the world? I suppose lots of people still talk on the cell phone, at least they do when they are in a quiet restaurant or coffee shop where it is considered to be gauche. (Are gauchos ever gauche? … I digress …) But most people I see are finger typing away, or dictating spoken word into their cell and letting the device figure it out.

For me, it’s a natural thing. I think faster and convey the message more efficiently if my fingers are involved in communicating … you know writing, not “shooting the bird.” But everyone else — lawyers to sanitation workers to computer network engineers and pastry chefs and cowboys are also pounding out the letters right there beside the writers of the world.

Of course I have a theory. All about social media and “The Science of ‘The Like.’”

Social media is that elusive fountain of youth. Texting appeals to our inner adolescent. Remember passing notes in class, back when kids used paper? I think texting is like that. Just as, back in the day, a clever multiple-choice note scribbled on a folded piece of paper was the way to catch someone’s attention, now a clever text speaks volumes. It’s relatively private, delivered on a need-to-know basis, ha … unless you really screw up. Thank goodness there is no teacher/monitor to snatch up our texts and read them aloud …

Yep. Social media …the texting part anyway … it’s like passing notes in schools for the new millennium!

OR … option two … social media posting is of course total competition … whoever gets the most red numbers wins.

Imagine a scenario where “the provider” in a household comes home to their spouse, after a long day at a social media agency. “Man, I crafted two thousand tweets, instagrammed fifty-seven pics and added a dozen “my stories” for clients and only got twenty ‘red numbers’ all day.” Long day.

Remember when “like” was just a meaningless word at the beginning of a hipster’s sentence? As in, “Like dude, you totally overshot the putting area with that approach shot with your flying disk.”

Like is so much more, now. Likes are the currency, the riches, the spoils, the plunder of social media. So The PingWi-Fi research team has put together an account of the things we’ve observed — techniques, strategies, trends and the like.



Meanwhile, what’s with replacing the little red numbers on my Facebook app. with dorky little Taco Bell-shaped notifications? Yah, what’s with the red bells? … bells hell … I implore you FB. Keep those red numbers coming … I digress …

As scorekeeping goes, I rather like what Instagram does to get my attention when I have just scored a point — a floating red number hovering over a white heart, with a red-dot footnote. In my opinion, Instagram “kicks out the jams ‘expletive’” when it comes to showing your most recent scores.

Of course it’s not just Facebook. We all look for our daily numbers on FB, Twitter, Instagram … Snapchat too, I presume.

Whoever has the most red number totals at the end of life wins. Period (or you’d think).

Perhaps the most manipulative of all, some people may strategically stay off of FB for a while, then post the most uninteresting thing and get 300 “likes” due to their absence/fondness quotient or AFQ.

Sometimes, there’s no rationale for why one post “had roast beef and another had none.” The haves/have nots of likedom. For instance, maybe you climb a mountain in Timbuktu and plant your great grandmother’s shawl and the family Bible that her great great grandmother brought over on the Mayflower high upon the peak … and the photo you post gets a mere 25 likes from your 2,700 friends.

Meanwhile …

Alice posts her 567th photo of Boots The Cat sleeping, and her 2,700 friends “like” the candid shot 750 times, and share it with their friends 335 times. (You look immediately to see who the dumb asses are that you count as mutual friends, don’t you? … Just sayin.)

Where’s the rhyme and reason?



What’s the deal? How does this popularity-vs.-merit algorithm thing work? To get loads of “likes” does one just need a better deodorant? Does one need to post more puppies? Is one — shall we say —a little too “outspoken” on Facebook, affecting their scores?

But, even if a person overposts every day, by keeping their nose to the grindstone and pounding out 300 posts in four days — with only a few “likes” — they can get just as many total as a more tasteful poster … And at the end of the day … it is all about quantity, right?

Maybe some of this is making sense … Then out of left field, suddenly the red numbers are just not what they once were. Now Facebook adds in what I call diluted numbers. I am starting to see red numbers on my scorecard when certain friends merely “scratch their head online,” or so it seems. “I didn’t do anything to deserve that red number. I don’t take charity!” Come on Facebook. Don’t devalue the red numbers, like some third-world krugerrand.

And besides the scoring … whatever it is that has fueled the popularity of social media … there are so many new rules of etiquette and questions of acceptable behavior … and many grey areas … even strategies … with many important decisions before we just rush in hully gully and start throwing our “likes” around like an NFL player “making it rain” at The Kentucky Derby with hundred dollar bills from their latest bonus.

Let’s talk about the flip side of collecting red numbers. The act of doling out the red numbers — the liking and therefore making someone’s social media stock go up. It is the equivalent of your vote — in a yes-or-abstain format. How selective are you when you like? Do you practice discretion at all?

Don’t get me off on a pure “like” compared to a mouth gape, a red face or a heart “like” …

Do you sometimes just see the source and/or the topic and “like” something without reading it? And have you seen some of the poorly written crap that people on both sides of the polarized, politicized world “like” and share when they see a rough version of one of their speaking points? And how about politicians … for two hundred years, politicians knew to kiss babies at political rallies. If politicians would post and tweet pictures of kissing babies these days, it would be a better world — but they would also probably be arrested by some pop-up lynch mob.

Are there certain friends who can do no wrong, so they get a near-automatic “like,” no matter what they post? Conversely, are there people who couldn’t squeeze a “like” out of you with a vise?

Would you admit it if you had fallen into a “like” stampede, lemming-“liking” along with the trend and hitting whatever else, whoever else “likes?” And what about when you notice a friend has already beaten you to the cheese? Repeatedly? Is there a point where you have to stop “liking” things in their wake? How long before the friend and others think you have become a “rubber stamp” liker? “If Janey likes it, then Kent likes it …

Some just jump into the 10K “like” posts, just to feel part of a group, I suppose. But what does it accomplish?

Are you one to take the “liker’s leap” … Maybe you see a post that is somewhat questionable, but you kind of like it. Do you boldly jump out ahead of the herd and “like” a post that has been up for a while, but has no skins on the wall yet, so to speak?

Do you ever suffer from “liker’s remorse?” … changed your mind about what a friend said, but waited to take back your “like.” Be careful with, but also realize the power in friend “liking.” IF you want to curry favor with your friends, you need to get in the game early and “like” their post when they have only a few “likes.” They will see you, early on, when you like your friend’s soon-to-be-viral post … like in a pyramid scheme, if you get in early, it’s good to be you. Once your friend has big numbers, your “like” gets lost in the shuffle, and you get very little friend points. Another way to think of it — “‘Like’ low, sell out high” — liking a friends post early to be seen by said friend, but removing after the numbers swell because you actually thought their post was silly.

Have you completely lost your soul to the red numbers games of social media? Do you find yourself calling out numbers like at a dice game, when you are looking to see how many red numbers you have … “Come on five. Come on five.” The “like.” The social barometer … isn’t it fun? Do you wake in the middle of the night to look at your phone for little red numbers beside your name on Facebook. It’s so addictive … competitive … perhaps Pavlovian. And fun!

Wouldn’t it be nice if there were a primer, to de-mystify the social media magic that is “The Like!?!” Well, here’s some of that, but also some telltale signs you may have a problem with the red numbers or that you have gone astray …

For openers, I give you the “breakup like.” It’s when two people are no longer in love, but they continue to dole out friendship, “moved-on likes” to be civil. P-LEEEEEEase!

Do you donate “likes” to worthy causes … or on the other hand, do you ever stop short of “liking” because the item is so popular already? “Hey they have 27K likes already, they certainly don’t need mine. I will go find some other well-deserving post who could use a helping hand.

Yep. I confess. I have been guilty of the sympathy “like,” because no one else has “liked” a friend’s post … But also, I’ve done the empathy “like” because whatever is described in the post, has happened to me.

Social media prods us “be the first to like.” Yes, now that’s when you feel a sense of accomplishment, when you are the first to like a video of a poodle doing laps in a jacuzzi.

Being first is big. But there are other red numbers that I find more interesting. NumberSpotting — jump on the “like” button if you can be the No. 500 “like” … ha … Example: my college recently was #10 on the 10th day of the year … YES! I was “like” number 1010 and I would have been really mad if someone had got in the mix to remove a like and erase my claim to somewhat-greatness. I hit the button with glee when I see I am about to be someone’s 500th “like” on a post. Nice, round, number milestones are important, so I jump on those opportunities … and usually, I will also post that “I am 500.”

OH ha … I was reading another post about Texas Tech in the College World Series, and happened to notice that my “like” tallied number 806, for the Red Raiders. You bet your arse, they heard about it in Lubbockland that I was number 8-0-6 … as in “THE 8-0-6” … the territorial nickname for the school, based on the area code, yo. Be on the lookout for those obscure numbers too.

Slightly related, what do you call this? Does it deserve a name? Maybe “stepping on someone’s line?” Has this happened to you? When you get in a thread where people are contributing one-liners or their best pun … and so, you’ve racked your brain and finally you post a really good pun. Then, as soon as you post, you realize you have not read all of the previous posts, including the three times your joke came up previously. Hate that. No choice but to delete in shame.

So many new phenomena in social media. This one — one of my friend’s term — is borrowed from other walks of life. It’s “the death announcer” — you know that person who always calls you up when a not-so-close friend has passed. “I got it. I got it. And I gotta report it,” as one of TV’s Sweathogs used to say. The social media equivalent of “the death announcer” has to be the people racing to be the first to post that some obscure or even a big celebrity has kicked the bucket. “Funny … just last week, I didn’t care about that actor in the least … then I realized, that by dying, they could get me lots of red numbers!”

As with the “death announcer,” there are so many new things derived from social media. Have you experience a brush with virtual fame yet, in the most insignificant way? I first learned of this euphoric feeling after I saw a small terrier roaming the streets and temporarily sniffing around my backyard. He got away before I could corral the little fellow … but later when I saw the little vagabond on the “social hood” site, NextDoor … I felt just like I had won the lottery and met a celebrity. Yet another wonder of social media.

Final word on “Likes” — “beware The Beastmaster!,” I always say. I refuse to like anything — even if it were the cure for cancer — if there were already “665 likes.”

Know what I sayin?

The 10-Year Anniversary Approaches

July 2nd, 2018 · Tags: Arts · Wi-Fi