Monthly Archives: September 2010

Day 8: The Scooters of Oaxaca

A few days ago, I gave you a taste of the motor­cy­cle scene here in Oax­a­ca, at least those that are pressed into worka­day ser­vice. Today we look at scoot­ers here in Oax­a­ca, a species per­haps even more numer­ous than the work­ing motor­cy­cle.

Frist off: in the above-men­tioned dri­v­el, I men­tioned that every man­u­fac­tur­er here in Mex­i­co has a copy, with greater or less­er fideli­ty, of the ubiq­ui­tous Hon­da CG-125 Car­go, and then failed to pro­vide a pic­ture of such. So here­with, over­sight reme­died, the Hon­da CG-125, in Domi­noes deliv­ery regalia:

Hon­da Car­go

Now with the scoot­ers. Actu­al­ly we’ll start with a sub-species of scoot­er, the step-through. The most com­mon type scene around Oax­a­ca is the Ita­li­ka, a par­tic­u­lar­ly rough exam­ple I found on Inde­pen­de­cia this morn­ing:

Ita­li­ka Step-through

There are, of course, the Hon­da 90 and 110cc units in abun­dance, here seen in per­son­al trans­port form:

Hon­da Step-through

and the local-made copies, ita­likas, i believe. We see them here again, press-ganged into ser­vice of the evil Domi­noes:

Deliv­ery Vehi­cles

and now for some­thing com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent, before we get to the con­ven­tion­al scoot­ers, is a WTF moment. I have no earth­ly idea what ser­vice this lit­tle beast­ie per­forms, but it’s here near the Zoco­lo every day, and it’s back tires are worn smooth, from on-road use, i pre­sume:

who knows?

A fair­ly large local user of scoot­ers as trans­port are the police. Here we see two of Oaxaca’s finest arriv­ing at the sta­tion aboard their fire-breath­ing Hon­da Elite 125:

Hon­da Elite 125

Anoth­er pop­u­lar brand of local­ly-made scoot­er is the Ven­to, here seen trans­port­ing a local busi­ness­man on his dai­ly errands:


but some of the local folks have a more fine­ly honed sense of style and are will­ing to part with the seri­ous dough (by local stan­dards) to show it off. To wit, a clas­sic Ves­pa:


in con­trast to the clas­sic ves­pa above, here we see an old­er scoot­er, logos (and gloss) long since lost to the rav­ages of time and blaz­ing sun. I think this is an old­er Ita­li­ka:

Old Ita­li­ka

Speak­ing of fine­ly honed sense of style, this gent obvi­ous­ly has it goin’ on: newish ita­li­ka 150 scoot, board shorts, UNAM Pumas shirt, shades, beis­bol cap, and iPod:

Which brings us to a few scoots that are obvi­ous­ly objects of some enthu­si­as­tic focus of their own­ers. First we have the Rizla Gilera, com­plete with LeoVince pipe and RaceTech stick­ers:

And then a pair of mex­i­can car­bel­la Kon­cepts:

and in the “ideas above it’s sta­tion depart­ment”, the Ita­li­ka that wants to a Kawasa­ki when it grows up:

And to fin­ish off, it’s not a scoot­er, but it gives a great idea of the demands that these folks put on their trans­porta­tion on a reg­u­lar basis. Car? who needs a stinkin’ car?

well, that wraps it up for today. We’ll see what tomor­row brings. Keep the rub­ber side down and keep those feet up!

Day 7 — In Which There Are Very Old Churches

Well, there we were, on vaca­tion, tak­ing a cou­ple of days off for fire­works and parades. But that’s all over and only the con­fet­ti and red, white, and green bunting are left. So it was time to get mov­ing again.

Out to the Mix­te­ca. Once the cen­ter of cochineal pro­duc­tion and the Span­ish Empire’s new world eco­nom­ic engine. Now a sleepy agri­cul­tur­al back­wa­ter.  The last time we were out here it was Feb or Mar — the height of the dry sea­son. The hills were spec­tac­u­lar­ly red. Now it’s Sep­tem­ber and the end of the rainy sea­son. every­thing is green and grow­ing.

kinda like the columbia valley

broad val­ley, low clouds

We start­ed with the old­est and largest of the colo­nial church­es. Yan­huit­lan.

really big

look­ing up the stairs at the main door

There has been a lot going on in the church. Inte­ri­or restora­tions, roof repair, stonework.
The huge retablo are being moved away from the walls and restored from the back out.

work in progress

three of many

Some of the details are inspir­ing. Like this nat­ty fel­low.

fine looking fellow

nice clothes on this gen­tle­man

Much of the stone work is repairs — done in such a way as to pre­serve as much of the exist­ing work as can be saved and them adding new work that looks like the orig­i­nal would have 450 years ago.

appealing in it's honesty

some new, some old

Yan­huit­lan was once the cen­ter of the Dominican’s pow­er and the church prob­a­bly seem more in scale 400 years ago.  But now Yan­huit­lan is a farm­ing vil­lage and the church looks like a UFO hangar dropped into the mid­dle of Iowa.

image what it must have looked like when the valley was bustling

the biggest build­ing for 50 miles (or so)

We took a lit­tle dri­ve out of the vil­lage to find a spot to take that pic­ture. We met a cou­ple of charm­ing folks who were pleased to make some new friends. Even if we were a lit­tle odd. (And not Catholic, but Nico, who is, was hap­py to accept their gift of a mila­gro.)

reminder of a special saint's celebration

we seem to make peo­ple gig­gle uncon­trol­lably

We talked a lit­tle about the weath­er and a lit­tle about where we were from and a bit about the bean crop. Jim took this pic­ture of their farm yard from the top of the hill.

home and farm buildings

small farm­ster­ad and hill­side plant­i­ngs

We moved fur­ther out from Oax­a­ca to Coixt­lahuac and anoth­er church that is near­ly as old. This church is small­er and in much more fre­quent con­tem­po­rary use.

lovely yard

approach­ing the church from the main street

The inte­ri­or is still bright­ly paint­ed. This is part of the arch­way around the entrance to a side chapel.

a small part of the arch­way

Oth­er parts of the clois­ter haven’t fared as well as the main church but there is restora­tion work in progress.


no paint yet — just per­fect­ly smooth plas­ter and restored win­dows

This stair­way was fea­tured in a PSA for the fed­er­al arche­ol­o­gy and his­to­ry insti­tute.

Oaxaca Day 3: the utility motorcycles

There are a lot of motor­cy­cles in Oax­a­ca, and the vast major­i­ty are work­ing motor­cy­cles, not recre­ation­al rides. Here are a few of the bikes I spot­ted today, includ­ing a few brands you prob­a­bly haven’t seen in the US.

Every man­u­fac­tur­er rep­re­sent­ed in Mex­i­co has a 125 sin­gle, they are the work­hors­es of the city couri­er and deliv­ery rid­er scene here. This lit­tle blue Bajaj ‘Wind 125’ is a rel­a­tive­ly new a clean exam­ple:


And these are Vento’s DS-styled work­horse, called the ‘work­man’:


Saw this blue BMW whizz by today and what a bit sur­prised; BMW’s are not a com­mon sight here in oax­a­ca, this is an expen­sive motor­cy­cle here:


Obvi­ous­ly this Ven­to 200 cruis­er has aspi­ra­tions above it’s cur­rent lot in life:

stick­ers are cheap here.

Here’s some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent, a Suzu­ki TS185 two-stroke, with a lit­tle added style via a cus­tom tank paint job:


This is Yamaha’s lit­tle 125, called a Pul­sar, I think. This par­tic­u­lar one appears to have been draft­ed into gov­er­ment ser­vice:


This is one of the local­ly man­u­fac­tured knock-offs of the Hon­da CG125 car­go:


and this is anoth­er of the local knock-offs. This par­tic­u­lar exam­ple is pret­ty typ­i­cal of the con­di­tion you see on the street. If you look care­ful­ly, you’ll see that it has no bezel or glass over the instru­ments any longer.
Obvi­ous­ly, Hon­da real­ly hit the nail on the head with the CG125, every­one makes a copy now!


And this is the pin­na­cle of local­ly made bikes, an Ita­li­ka EX200. a 200cc air-cooled sin­gle, wrapped in swoopy body­work and snazzy exhaust cans!


well, that’s all for today, folks. might not be a post tomor­row, as it’s Inde­pen­dence day down here, and we’ll be down­town tomor­row evening for the fire­works and cel­e­brat­ing! Viva Mex­i­co!

enjoy, y’all!

Day 3 — Marching Bands and Plants

Oof. It was late last night and I post­ed this entry to the wrong blog. So here it is about 12 hours late.

For break­fast this morn­ing we had march­ing bands. One of the largest of the local high schools had their parade to the zoco­lo in hon­or of the Bicen­ten­ni­al.

First there was a bit of a pro­fes­sion­al band (bor­ing) and then the school ban­ner.

Moises Saenz Garza

Moi­ses Saenz Garza High­school

Fol­lowed by the school’s drum corps…

they love drums here


… and then the stu­dent body. Loose­ly orga­nized, and very hap­py to wave and say hel­lo and make fun­ny faces at the folks peer­ing out of the Casa’s front door.

peace to you too

smiles and hel­los for every­one

The bulk of the day was tak­en up with a tour of the botan­i­cal gar­dens at San­to Domin­go. Jardín Etnobotáni­co de Oax­a­ca.

I’m still work­ing on get­ting all the pic­tures sort­ed out. There will be a nice big gallery of them lat­er this week. But for now here are a hand­ful to give you a feel for the gar­den and its plants.

The tour starts with a dis­cus­sion of the native food plants. The tri­umvi­rate of squash, beans, and corn. These are squash plants.

squash growing in the foreground

squash, beans, and corn

In the back­ground are bunch­es of the large marigolds that dec­o­rate the altars at Muer­tos. I am death­ly aller­gic to them.

This lit­tle red flower on the oth­er hand doesn’t make me sneeze. It’s a dahlia. Seri­ous­ly. All those fan­cy gar­den flow­ers (Hi Elise!) have been bred from one lit­tle red flower.

awfully nice for a single

the orig­i­nal dahlia

Of the com­mon trees in Oax­a­ca the one that I can always iden­ti­fy with­out a doubt is the pochote. But when you’re look­ing at some­thing with points like this…


unmis­tak­able thorns

The gar­dens are locat­ed behind the build­ings of the Monastery of San­to Domin­go. The church’s walls pro­vide a back­drop for the large col­lec­tion of dry eco-sys­tem plants.

straight lines

typ­i­cal water chan­nel

Maguey cac­tus. The source of mescal/tequilla. Also just plain pret­ty.


As we were leav­ing the gar­dens and head­ing toward lunch we ran into anoth­er march­ing band. This one was fol­lowed by dancers.

dancing ladies!

the flow­ers are par­tic­u­lar­ly nice

Mean­while Jim would like you to know that he is hard at work cat­a­loging the var­i­ous motor trans­port options in the area. Today, I think it’s work­ing bikes.

Oaxaca, Day 2: Parque Paseo Juarez de Llano

Today was much more ener­getic than yes­ter­day, we decid­ed to walk up to Juarez Par­que, on the oth­er side of cen­tral Oax­a­ca. Accord­ing to lara’s lit­tle pedome­ter, we walked 6 miles today. On the way, we found a won­der­ful lit­tle cof­fee shop, called Black Cof­fee Gallery. a won­der­ful space with good cof­fee, lots of light, and good latte’s. we’ll go back.

An old lamp post in the park, with a riot of flow­ers in the back­ground.

an old lamp post and flow­ers in Par­que Paseo Juarez de Llano

We spot­ted this cat walk­ing around in the park, and thought for a moment that it was fer­al. Then this gen­tle­man picked it up, and it became obvi­ous that it’s a pet cat. Bone­less, appar­ent­ly.

a guy takes his cat for a walk in the park

Heard this BMW pull up to a stop­light, think­ing to myself that it didn’t sound like every oth­er lit­tle buzz-bomb run­ning around town. Glanc­ing over, sure enough! A clas­sic toast­er-tank air­head, appar­ent­ly still being rid­den dai­ly.
a classic old BMW, still in daily use

It appears that the local police depart­ment got a bunch of new bikes this year; wee-stroms this time, instead of the nor­mal hon­da or yama­ha 250’s. It was pret­ty com­i­cal some­times to see two cops, dou­ble-up on a hon­da 250, try­ing to make it up the hills!

the local police have some new bikes this year

There’s not a lot of graf­fi­ti around town this year, but there are a few pieces with some col­or and style. Here’s one that real­ly caught my eye.

some col­or­ful graf­fit­ti in oax­a­ca

Lara has also put up some pic­tures today. you can see there at Ms. Shoes blog.

Tomor­row; a tour of the botan­i­cal gar­dens, and a pho­to sur­vey of the motor­cy­cles of Oax­a­ca streets. At least that’s the think­ing, plans and con­tact with real­i­ty and all that!

ciao, ami­gos!
black­dog Con­tin­ue read­ing

September trip to Oaxaca, Mexico

Well, yes, strict­ly speak­ing it isn’t a motor­cy­cle trip. But this is my pic­ture blog, so you get my Mex­i­co trip here too! enjoy!

We trav­elled yes­ter­day (up at 5am, final­ly here at the casa at around 8pm our time), so today we slacked. Walked to the Zoca­lo and had cap­pu­ci­nos and bought news­pa­pers, then had a nice nap. Around 5 we wan­dered out to take some pic­tures, me with the 18 – 105mm on the D70, and Lara try­ing out her new 12 – 24mm wide angle. Here are a few of mine. I’ll put a link at the bot­tom to Lara’s cho­sen ones from today.

Lara doesn’t care too much for this pic­ture below, but I like the col­or and geom­e­try, so in it goes.

This stair­well runs down the hill, through a bunch of mar­ket stalls. I always love see­ing the geom­e­try here, this pho­to cap­tures a tiny bit of it.



THe weath­er here today was unset­tled, so we had inter­est­ing skies. This is look­ing south­west over the Church of Soledad, just a few blocks from the casa.

we had inter­est­ing sky today.

here is a link to Lara’s blog post for today:
Ms. Shoes

more tomor­row, I think we’re going to walk up to Par­que Jardin and shoot pho­tos. stay cool, cats!


Day 1 — In Which We Slack

The first day here in Oax­a­ca is always a lit­tle slow.  I’ve been beat­en up by the air­lines, the alti­tude change is more than 5000 ft, and there’s the nec­es­sary trips for sup­plies (beer.) Lead­ing to not doing much.

A brief after­noon stroll to try out the new lens was all the ambi­tion I could muster.

We first stopped at the church of Soledad. One of my favorite land­marks.

dramatic clouds

a stormy look­ing sky, but it didn’t rain

Then turned around on looked up the street and made a cou­ple of test shots of the new 12 – 24mm and the kit lens (18 – 150mm) that I’ve been using for the last two years.

With the old kit lens — which is still my go-to lens for any­thing that doesn’t require big zoom. Get­ting the wide shot here push­es the lens a lit­tle too far.

taken with an 18-105mm Nikor kit lens

every­thing bends a lit­tle at the edges.

But the new lens takes this sort of back-against-the-wall and hope it all fits in the frame stuff in stride.

taken with a 12-24mm aspherical lens

that’s bet­ter, the walls are straight.

A few blocks lat­er it allowed me to cap­ture this nov­el screeen with­out hav­ing to shot at an angle. Those bright bits are the mesh shop­ping bags that you see by the dozens in the mar­kets every day.

those used to be shopping bags

pret­ty sub­stitue for tarps

Sun­day is a slow day here. A few hours lat­er the Zoco­lo will be packed with strolling fam­i­lies and the local band, but this ear­ly in the after­noon there’s just not much hap­pen­ing.

what? no double parked cars? must be sunday.

slow sun­day

Though a hint of the evening’s crowds is here in this line­up of ham­burg­er and hot dog carts on their way to the cen­ter of the town.

on parade

the ham­burg­er and hot dog carts mov­ing toward the zoco­lo

I spent my time play­ing with a new lens — but Jim was work­ing hard and got some great images. You can see them on his own blog — obser­va­tions. Ignore the chimp­ing pho­tog­ra­ph­er. le sigh.

New Glass

We spent a lit­tle time down at the expen­sive toy store ear­li­er this week­end. We came away with two new-to-us lens­es.

The first is rather dull — it’s a straight across replace­ment for the 70 – 300 that we already had. The new one has VR, Nikon’s image stabilization/vibration reduc­tion pack­age. The longer the lens the more I appre­ci­ate VR.

The sec­ond lens is a bit more inter­est­ing. A 12 – 14 f4 aspher­i­cal. (Tok­i­na.) We bought it because I want a wider lens for get­ting good shots of the crowd­ed nar­row streets and aisles in Mex­i­co. So that I can get things like these pic­tures of the road to the farm.

heading down the road

our road

I’m con­sid­er­ing using this one on the new Black­dog and Mag­pie web­site design. Doing some thing with a ver­ti­cal image on the left side rather than the total­ly pre­dictable head­er image.

the road outta here

look­ing down the road from the pas­ture

If you know my back­yard well you’ll be able to see the amount of squash­ing in this pic­ture. It’s actu­al­ly a long way from the rock pile to the edge of the saw buck. You can also tell that the hood doesn’t fit  per­fect­ly and that at 12mm there’s some inter­fer­ence with the edges of the image. Oh well, I’ll have to see what I can do about it.

the rock pile never gets smaller

the back side of the work yard

The oth­er rea­son for get­ting a nice fat round lens is to be able to take good land­scape pic­tures. Admit­ted­ly about the only thing we have around there this fall is green but it’s nice crisp detailed green.

green and lush even in late summer

why yes, we have a few ferns

And some more green things.

shiny leaves

more foliage, up close this time

But best of all is the abil­i­ty to get close and shal­low on those days when the lilies look good but the patio fur­ni­ture is a lit­tle dingy.

that's hot

the last of the Stargaz­er lilies for this year

In this morning’s exper­i­ment­ing I found that the cam­era con­sis­tent­ly over expos­es shots if I let it have too much say in the expo­sure, espe­cial­ly if I let it choose a shut­ter speed. A lit­tle care in shoot­ing and a  lit­tle nudge in Light­room and I get those love­ly water drops on the lily… hap­py.

This time next week I’ll be writ­ing the first of the posts from Oax­a­ca and the Mex­i­can bicen­ten­ni­al cel­e­bra­tions. Can’t wait!