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On a Mission

Typically when we are traveling and trying to get from one distant place from another we like to drive a day, get settled in, look around at our new surroundings for a bit, and then spend two nights so we have one full non-travel day.

That is what we are doing with another day in Parral, Chihuahua.  I like to have a mission every non-travel day, at least one thing that I want to accomplish or see that will take a bit of research to find.  It’s a rare day when we don’t have at least some little adventure, and frequently, okay… usually, I get distracted and go off on one or more side missions.  I never understood what was so funny about the Family Circus cartoon by Bil Keene, where little Billy couldn’t go straight to do anything.  He and I have a lot in common!

Today’s mission was to find a good map of Mexico.  Sounds easy right…  Not everyone in Mexico is using smart phones with Google Maps, so it seemed like it should be fairly easy.  For us to get around, we have been relying heavily on Google Maps, but we also have 3 other paper maps of varying age, scale and usefulness (or uselessness).  In case you didn’t know, you can download maps from Google Maps to your phone or tablet for use offline.  That comes in handy when there is no cell coverage or internet which is frequently the case on the road here in Mexico.

Maps.Me is a great app that Ky had been using and I just downloaded it too. Maps for entire countries can be downloaded with it in contrast to relatively small areas on Google Maps. Both he and I really like maps though, and just as sometimes you want the feel of a real book in your hands, a real paper map is a pleasure.

On our way to look for a map, we stopped to visit Alvarado Palace, the home to a silver mine magnate,    It belonged to Pedro Alvarado who owned the silver mine called “La Palmilla.” He was rich enough to made an offer to the president of Mexico to pay the national external debt of Mexico. It is now a museum and cultural center, and much of it has been preserved with the original European-made furniture. We were not allowed to take interior room photos, but the courtyard shows how beautiful the home was.  Pedro Alvarado was very good friends with Pancho Villa, the revolutionary, who was killed in this town and who is buried here.  Pancho Villa was known for robbing the rich and giving to the poor (in addition to keeping much for himself). Because of his respect for, and friendship with Alvarado, who also did many good deeds for the poor, the mine owner’s home was never at risk from Villa.

We had an excellent tour guide who only spoke Spanish, so I’m guessing that most of what I just told you is correct 😉  Our Spanish is definitely improving, but there are still big gaps.  People are really generally very nice about my poor grammar, and they go out of their way to understand you if you try to use what you know. They also happily use any English they may know to get a bit of practice.

Having a mission forces me to practice my Spanish and it gives me an excuse to talk to strangers, which as my kids will attest, I love to do. It drives them a little crazy (and moms just love to do that to their kids!)

While hunting for our map, Ky noticed this on the back of a car, and pointed it out to me:

It became a new part of the mission – I wanted to find it.  We thought we could look for it on the way to finding a map!  This one turned out to be a dead end.  It makes me sad to see so little general aviation here in Mexico, but more on that will be in another post.

While looking for the above school (and not finding it),  I was curious about this one, so I asked Ky to make a u-turn and I hopped out of the Trusty Yukon at the Technical School to have a look around.  That man puts up with a lot!

The Technical School wasn’t open for their spring semester yet, so I just poked around and had the place to myself.  It looks like a pretty good option for a technical education, and it would be fun to return when there are students around. They offer subjects such as architecture, electrical, mechanical and civil engineering and computer science.  Parral seems to be a fairly prosperous, industrious place and good educations come in handy wherever one lives.

After asking locals where we might find maps and trying out four different places, including a Pemex gas station, 2 paper stores, and one book store, we were beginning to think that we might get skunked.  When we stopped for gas at another Pemex/Oxxo and asked, we were happy to find that they carried Mexico and Chihuahua maps – yay!  People in Mexico must just have very good sense of direction or they just don’t go anywhere, because it seems that hardly anyone needs or uses maps.

Overall, we have enjoyed this medium sized, Spanish and French influenced town.  It is quite a bit different from other Mexican towns in size and ambiance.  It is a busy place in the day and at night they roll up the streets and it is utterly quiet.  Our hotel right in the middle of town made for a good viewing spot.  Don’t come through town on a motorcycle with no helmet, or as we saw several times, the police will stop you and write you a ticket – you’ve been warned!

Not even the busiest time of day, but plenty of traffic.


All rolled up for the night.


We’ll be on the move again tomorrow.  Until then…

Pigs & Hugs!

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