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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.

Surprise!

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?