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Mexicans & Mormons
January 04, 2009

DAY 1: Sunday DECEMBER 21st

- Woke up very early, 3:40AM, and were on the road by 4AM. The car was showing an outside temperature of -34C. Very dark, and I don't think we saw a single car on the road for hours.

- Got lost in Lethbridge. Stopped for lunch in Butte. Listened to 'The Kite Runner' on CD.

- Rolled into Ogden, Utah about 14 hours after leaving Calgary, and purchased our discount tickets for Park City, The Canyons, and Snowbird.

- Headed to Park City, and met Carol Potter, who showed us our condo for the next few days. Great location.

- Went to Squatters for dinner, and were excited to try their interesting sounding beers (Polygamy Porter anyone?) but were disappointed to find they lacked taste, and seemed really watery. Dinner was average.

- Bought lunch for the next few days at Albertsons.

DAY 2: Monday DECEMBER 22nd

- Woke up, excited to try Park City. Caught the bus just down the road from our condo. It was fairly windy, but it snowed all day, eventually recording 15 inches that day. Park City was more of a hill than a mountain, and we thought it would be bigger, but to be fair, only half of it was open, as this was their first big snow dump of the year.

- Took the snow bus home, after taking a free city tour by grabbing the wrong bus. Eventually we made it back to the condo though, and I had a nap after a long day of snowboarding. Taking a walk along main street, I snagged my 'Polygamy Porter' beer glass that I coveted, and we grabbed a pizza at DaVanzas to take home. Tried to find the Sundance Film Festival theater, to discover that they use a variety of theatres, but I think the one you see in all the ads is the Egyptian Theater, which we passed by.

DAY 3: Tuesday DECEMBER 23rd

- Today we would be skiing at The Canyons. We had to take a mini-gondola to the regular sized gondola which took us to the base. The Canyons was a nice resort, although the wind was trying to ruin our day again. The snow was pretty decent, as it had snowed all night, but The Canyons wasn't completely open yet either. All in all though, had a great day, and would definitely go back.

- After coming home from the Canyons, we packed up at the condo, and headed towards Salt Lake City, which despite being only about 30 miles way, took an hour with all the traffic. In SLC, we had reserved a room at the historic Armstrong Mansion B&B. After finally finding the correct entrance, we settled into our tiny room and unwound.

- We had dinner at the legendary Red Iguana, some of the best Mexican food that you will find anywhere. You're virtually guaranteed a 30 minute wait outside in the Utah cold for a table, but they provide heaters to keep you warm. The food is definitely worth the wait, and the enchiladas were delicious.

- Headed back to the B&B to play Chinese checkers.

DAY 4: Wednesday DECEMBER 24th

- For our last day of skiing in Utah we had chosen Snowbird, just east of SLC in the Cottonwoods. Snowbird was more of a mountain (as opposed to a hill) than we had imagined. Once again, the bloody wind tried it's best to make things miserable, but we thoroughly enjoyed Snowbird, offering plenty of vertical and some great snow. Would definitely go back, if only to try the ski tunnel, which was closed that day.

- After Snowbird we went for a Christmas Eve dinner at the Whole Foods supermarket, where you can buy your meals and eat them in the upstairs cafeteria. The Whole Foods in SLC wasn't nearly as large as the one in Portland.

- Heading back to the B&B, we grabbed our skates and headed for the Temple Square area, the 3 blocks or so of downtown SLC that the Mormons call home base, including the Tabernacle and giant office tower. The Temple Square area certainly is impressive, especially during Christmas, because they've adorned literally every branch of every tree with Christmas lights, making it a festive place to walk around.

- After Temple Square we headed to the only outdoor skating rink in SLC, which was, like the square, surrouned with lights. It was actually a very nice setting, and the rink was freshly zambonied, but apparently nobody else wanted to skate on Christmas Eve, because we were the only ones using it, until a bored security guard told us it was closed.

- Heading back to the B&B, we brought our presents from friends & family (which we had hauled down in the car) and placed them under the large tree in the B&B's living room. With the fireplace crackling, we opened our gifts, and did our best to recreate Christmas away from our families.

DAY 5: Thursday, DECEMBER 25th

- Woke up, ate our Christmas breakfast in the B&B's breakfast nook, and headed for the airport. Got a little lost, but found our way to the Park & Jet, where would be leaving our car. We managed to take off just before a storm was about to hit SLC that afternoon. Next stop, Mexico!

- 3 hours later we landed in Los Cabos, Mexico, where the temperature was approximately 30C warmer than Salt Lake, and nearly 60C warmer than when we left home. We had a little trouble at the airport, because we weren't sure of the exact address of our destination, but eventually they let us through.

- To greet us at the airport was Mick, an Australian who has lived everywhere, but now calls Los Cabos home. With a freshly stocked cooler full of Pacifico beer in the back, we hopped in the SUV and headed towards our home for the week.

- And what a home. We would have been glad to stay about anywhere in Mexico, but I don't think either of us were expecting a large mansion overlooking the Sea of Cortez complete with pool, hot tub, fountains, security checkpoints (2), satellite TV, and a housekeeper to keep everything tidy. We settled into the 'casita', the lower part of the mansion, a house all unto itself.

- That night, after everyone else had arrived, we had 'Christmas dinner', which consisted of fish or chicken tacos and rum/pineapple drinks.

DAY 6: Friday, DECEMBER 26th

- Lazed around. Went to the grocery store to pick up a few things.

- Headed into San Jose del Cabo for dinner at 'Tequilas'. A little pricey, but good food, nice garden setting atmosphere, and it took more than a few passes of the bill around the table to get the pesos/dollar/tax/gratuity confusion sorted.

- Walked to the town square in San Jose del Cabo, a nice little place, the word quaint comes to mind, a far cry from the touristy mayhem of Cabo San Lucas.

- Came home and made some slush margaritas in the Osterizer blender, a blender I was becoming more impressed with each and every drink.

DAY 7: Saturday, DECEMBER 27th

- Lazed around. Checked out the roof-top hot tub, which had panoramic views of the ocean and Los Cabos area.

DAY 8: Sunday, DECEMBER 28th

- Woke up very early, as today we were heading out to do some sport fishing off the coast of Los Cabos. The seas were a little rough, at least for a land-lubber like me, and I did my best to ignore the nauseous feeling building up inside me.

- We passed by the famous Cabo San Lucas arch that everyone loves to photograph, and bought some bait. We wanted mackerel for bait, but had to settle for some other small fish. With the bait ready, we headed for the famed 'Golden Gate' area, where manta rays, seals, dolphins, whales, and marlin come to co-exist.

- I think of all the sea life we saw, which included occasional whale sightings, I think the manta rays were the most interesting. I didn't realize that they performed acrobatic jumps out of the water, spinning and somersaulting up to 3 or 4 times before smacking their bodies down on the water with a loud clap. It was even more entertaining when groups of them would do this simultaneously. I eventually had to Google why they do this, and a variety of reasons were given: courtship display, ridding themselves from parasites, evading predators, communicating with other mantas, or just for the fun of it. From watching them, it seemed to be the last option.

- Eventually, one of the girls on the boat had a bite on her line. It turned out to be a 5 foot 70 pound Mako Shark. After a long battle, she reeled it in, and one of the deckhands quickly filleted it into dinner for us. It certainly was exciting to watch man (or woman) vs beast of the ocean.

- Later on in the day, another girl snagged a marlin on her line, which looked to be of the 150lb+ variety. After what looked to be an excruciating and tiring battle, and just as she was about to reel him onboard, the line caught the edge of the boat and snapped.

- On the way home, I think all 11 of us on the boat were asleep, tired from a long day of sun and fish battling. That night we barbecued up the shark, which was delicious, and whipped up some more frozen margaritas.

DAY 9: Monday, DECEMBER 29th

- Lazed around.

- Took the 'RAZR' for a spin, a wonderfully fast dune-buggy, perfect for cruising around on the isolated miles of beachfront right in front of the house.

- Headed for a village called Santiago, and to the Caņon de La Zorra, for a short hike, to check out an interesting waterfall.

- More hot tubbing. More margaritas.

DAY 10: Tuesday, DECEMBER 30th

- Instead of lazing around, decided to try an early morning swim in the pool, definitely something that requires a lot more work to do at home.

- Lazed around. Had Heuvos Rancheros for breakfast. Went into San Jose del Cabo again, this time during the day. Mostly just touristy shops around the square, ie jewelery I would never buy, and pottery/crafts I would never buy. Had a cerveza, bought some 'cactus candy', tried on a sombrero, and that was about all she wrote.

- Made some declicious enchiladas & spanish rice for dinner, and non-fried deep fried ice cream for dessert.

DAY 11: Wednesday, DECEMBER 31st

- Last day of 2008. Went swimming again in the morning, gonna miss that at home. Made some 'egg-in-a-frame' for breakfast. Lazed around.

- That afternoon we took the RAZR down to the beach, played some frisbee, and watched the Manta Rays flipping out of the water.

- Came home and had fish tacos for dinner, and watched the Team Canada juniors beat USA. Then we watched the Flames beat the Oilers, so all in all, a succesful night of hockey.

- New Year's eve was pretty tame (which rhymes with lame), since many people went boating, and were too tired to even stay up for midnight. The 3 of us that did though, were able to watch 3 or 4 different sets of fireworks being launched from San Jose and Cabo San Lucas at the stroke of midnight.

DAY 12: Thursday, January 1st

- Our last day in Mexico. Went for my last dip in the pool, and packed up our bags for the flight back to Utah.

- Said our goodbyes and hopped on the plane bound for Salt Lake. Landed. It wasn't as cold as it could be, but still a 25C swing back towards freezing.

- Headed for the Quality Inn. It was no Victorian mansion, but it was clean and had free breakfast, can't ask for much more.

- We had dinner at the Red Iguana again, this time we had chimichangas, which were again, delicious. We were given a free appetizer for the 'terrible inconvenience' of switching tables (I'll move seats all night long if you keep giving me free food). The appetizer itself (Rajas Chile Something Con Queso) was a meal, and tasty as well.

DAY 13: Friday, January 2nd

- Woke up and headed for West Yellowstone.

- Arrived at the Lazy G. Managed to get our car stuck in the snow within minutes of arriving. If you don't have a snowmobile on the back of your truck's trailer in West Yellowstone in Winter, well, you just plain look like you don't belong. The buzzing of snowmobiles runs rampant through the air all around town.

- Walked over to the IMAX theater, about the only source of entertainment in town this time of year. We watched, appropriately enough, a movie about Yellowstone. Always nice to be reminded you're sleeping on top of a ticking geological time bomb.

- Went for dinner at 'Petes Pizza & Pasta'. One half of the pizza was decent, the other was on the border between dangerously crispy and burned.

DAY 14: Saturday, January 3rd

- Woke up, didn't have much for breakfast, and headed out on the snowy roads towards Big Sky. Big Sky mountain is a ski resort we've always wanted to try, but it's just out of reach of a weekend getaway, so this was a good opportunity to try it on our way home.

- We were a little disappointed in the mountain. I hope the unbelievably cold temperatures (-40 with windchill) or lack of snow didn't sway our opinion, because these are factors the mountain can't really control. We were more disappointed in the lack of intermediate/intermediate-advanced skiing on the hill. Most of the runs didn't seem that exciting. Maybe we just weren't good enough for the double-black diamond runs, which may be where the appeal of Big Sky lies. The other downside is the ticket price, $79 USD, which is the most I've ever paid for a day of skiing anywhere. For that price, I think I was just hoping for a whole lot more. But at least we've tried it now, although I don't think we'll be in a rush to go back.

- After escaping the deep freeze of Big Sky, we headed to Bozeman, where we were staying at the Microtel, a $50 hotel, but hey, free-wifi and breakfast, no complaints here. For dinner we had pizza from the Mackenzie River Company, which we had tried on a previous trip to Whitefish. We also picked up some huckleberry beer, which seems to only be sold in Montana. Armed with pizza & beer, we watched the Team Canada juniors on a feed via the laptop, as they scored a miraculous 5-seconds-to-go goal against Russia to force it into a shootout, which they won. A game for the ages.

DAY 15: Sunday, January 4th

Hard to believe it's only been two weeks since we left, it seems like longer, maybe because our travel involved 3 countries, 4 states, and a 60 degree range of weather.

This was my first Christmas away from family, and you definitely can't recreate the Christmas magic away from home no matter how hard you try. But a few margaritas can help.