<% if bolDeveloper then response.write "DEVELOPMENT MACHINE

" %> Proyecto Laguna de Sanchez <% StartTable %>

Raising the Bar

© 2009 Anthony J. Garot
Edits by C. Brian Smith

Protagonists

Don Arburn
Dale Barnard
Jen Foote
Tone Garot
Erick Gonzalez Montell
Ben Hutchins
Carrie Hutchins
Goni Iskali
Ramona Josefczyk
Jim "Crash" Kennedy
Roger Moore
Kathleen O'Connor
Ashland Rutherford
Barbara Rutherford
Drew Rutherford
Kevin Rutherford
Ron Rutherford
Ann Scott
Jane Slater
Ben Tobin
Matt Turner
Steve Yochum
Carol Zokaites
Joe Zokaites

Introduction

I have entitled this trip report "Raising the Bar" because never before have I been on a caving expedition quite like this one.  The number of participants superseded any previous trip's count; and the launch of a new website devoted specifically to this project helped to organize and disseminate information in a way nonpareil to any other trip I have attended.

This particular trip to Laguna de Sanchez was quite possibly the most fun caving adventure that I've experienced.  We started with 12 people and then upped it to 24, making this trip the largest Jim "Crash" Kennedy has thus far arranged to this area.  The camaraderie was palpable.  We had a huge campfire every night, and the local wine—vino manzana—flowed freely.  I personally got to dig two days in a row (and digging is perhaps my favorite aspect of caving), and I bolted and dropped into an amazing, albeit noisome, room.  In two words: bad air.  According to Jim, the group found eight new caves and mapped 16.  The meals were huge and delicious.  Thanksgiving dinner with the landowner and his family brought the count to a whopping 36.  We had fun trying to speak to them in Spanish since English was not an option for them.  We also had a movie night, a slide show, and even an '80s dance party—all in the middle of Nowhere, Mexico.  Despite sometimes inclement weather conditions, I had the time of my life.

There were two other Mexico trips over this same Thanksgiving break, either of which I would have liked to attend. Although I cannot guess how much fun those other trips were, I believe that I made the right choice choosing this trip.

2009 Nov 19 Thursday

A lot of the fun of a trip with Jim Kennedy is the pre- and post- trip activities.  Although our plan was to leave Saturday morning, I drove the six hours from Sanderson, TX to Austin, TX two days early.  Doing so gave me time to meet my boss and a colleague for lunch at 2:30 p.m.  Knowing that there was a small get-together later that evening, I ate a light lunch.  Then I headed to La Casa de Kennedy for cooked aoudad, killed and cleaned in a previous adventure with Jim.  Vico cooked it; I ate it; life was good.

2009 Nov 20 Friday

The day started with the pre-trip errand of buying bulk groceries.  Carol Zokaites, a Virginia caver, was like a kid in a candy store, enjoying the contemplation of meals by quantity and size.  I picked up Ramona Josefczyk from the airport, holding up the requisite "Princess Caver" sign so she would know her driver.  Steve Yochum arrived by car from Fort Collins, Colorado.  Later that evening, Jane Slater arrived from Cincinnati, Ohio.  La Casa de Kennedy was becoming full.

While Jim was in a meeting at Bat Conservation International, Ann Scott called to say she was coming to pick up Ramona to bring her to San Antonio.  Huh?  What?  I must have missed that memo.  Since Jim was out of reach, we decided to ship a bunch of the bulk food and my cave pack with Ann instead of Ramona.  We got to keep her!

2009 Nov 21 Saturday - Departure

It was an early morning.  People started getting up around 6 or 6:30 a.m.  Matt arrived soon after to load up his black 2WD truck with gear.  Our two vehicles, loaded with gear and people, soon departed; we were on the road by about 7:30 a.m.  Matt took the Virginians—Joe and Carol Zochaites—and Steve Yochumn.  Jim's Tahoe, named Yeti, took Jim, me, Ramona, and Jane.  Don Arburn, Anne Scott, Kathleen O' Connor, and Roger Moore drove in Moby—Don Arburn's white truck.  If you have never seen Don's truck, it is large. Don's truck can hold five people comfortably, including gear.  Don's truck is so large that there are smaller trucks orbiting it in geosynchronous orbit. Yes, Don has a big truck.  Team Moby left a little earlier than our group from San Antonio.

En route, a rope holding the tarp on Matt's truck snapped causing some gear to come off.  Everything was reclaimed except the toilet paper and a shovel.  Apparently, the toilet paper exploded on the road, possibly causing a white-out!

Crossing the border, all vehicles met at the Módulo CIITEV to get our visas, car permits, and to exchange money.  We met Team Moby (Don's group) there, said our hellos to them, took obligatory pictures of the Mexican flag, and handled our paperwork.  This ritual is the same basic one everyone goes through when visiting Mexico.  Fortune smiled upon me in the form of quick lines, but Matt apparently caught a slow line when getting his vehicle permit.  Overall, the timing was not too bad.

 

Dr. Ann Scott taking photo of Mexican flag in a surprisingly clean truck window.


The three vehicles tried to caravan from then on.  The first order of business was lunch: seven chickens and multiple Cokes for 700 pesos.   At first, the price seemed a bit high, but $54 USD for 12 people really wasn't too outrageous.  That's $4.52 per person for delicious chicken barbecued right in front of us.

On the road again, we eventually reached Monterrey, the capital city of Nuevo León and third largest city in the country.  As this was Matt's first experience in Mexico, he was not used to aggressive Mexican driving; and Monterrey is known to be horrible even for the inhabitants.  It was time for Matt to cut his teeth.  Use of hand-held FRS radios helped keep us together.

 

Driving through Monterrey is no treat.


We eventually arrived at the H.E.B. in Monterrey to meet Erick Gonzalez, who had picked up Jen Foote at the Monterrey airport.  Erick owns a bar in town near "Filósofos Park" next to "Tecnológico de Monterrey Campus Monterrey."  The plan: he would be joining us the next day; he would pick up Jen from the airport, then head over.  Unfortunately, issues at work prevented this arrangement. Through cell phone coordination, we were able to meet Erick and Jen at H.E.B. to pick her up there rather than the more inconvenient airport.  While people were stretching their legs and saying their hellos, I procured three bottles of tequila inside H.E.B.

It was dark before we hit the limestone cliff walls at the pass.  We stopped for a few minutes to look around, but, alas, we didn't see much.  Arriving at Laguna de Sanchez, we stopped to pick up vino manzana and a few necessary perishables for the trip.

As luck would have it, a wrong turn took us through a quick jaunt into the lagoon orchards . . . which we usually do in daylight!  After a bit of creative driving, we finally made it to camp.

When we got to camp, we noticed a lot of "firewood" had been cut and was sitting around the old mud fire ring.  My first order of business was to move the fire ring out of the mud area.  The "muddy fire pit" game was old hat.  As it was getting cold, I finished up the new fire ring, quickly grabbed my tent, found a level spot, and then pitched it.  I was tired, so I lay down for a bit.  Do you know that I actually dozed off?  Later Jim, Ramona, and Jane came by to find me. My mistake was getting up; I went to the fire, laughed, drank, and had a good old time chattering about nonsense. I paid for it the next morning.

The camp layout was different this trip because of the larger count of cavers.  The kitchen was positioned under a screen tent.  Two bathroom pits had been dug by the landowner, seemingly for a large party of people.  This was somewhat amusing considering that Don had built a toilet box specifically for this trip.  In the past, we simply ducked under the fence with a rock hammer, paper, and a promise.  A few ill positioned tarps, providing a hint of privacy, completed the bathroom arrangement.

2009 Nov 22 Sunday

I woke up early and knew I was going to have a rough day.  What is the saying?  "For every ounce of pleasure, there is a pound of pain."  Since no one else was yet awake, I put in my earplugs and decided to go back to sleep.  My first realization of the morning was that I wasn't being inundated by jejenes!  If you are unfamiliar with jejenes, they are nasty blood-thirsty creatures spawned from Hell.  While the bite of the jején is virtually unnoticeable, it spits a protein into its prey as it bites, the antibody of which causes red welts to appear on the skin. These inflammations are accompanied by a fierce itch that can last for several days; for this reason, I wear long-sleeved shirts while in Mexico.  I later found out that the jejenes were around; it was just that the numbers were far fewer than the previous few trips.  (I only received two bites the whole trip; poor Jane got over a dozen!)

It was a slow day overall; people headed out around 2 p.m. for a bit of caving and ridge walking.  I stayed back at camp, nursed my hangover, and kept Roger company.  Roger had decided to remain behind to "keep an eye out" and acclimate to the altitude.

During these few hours of daylight, Matt, Crash, and Jane ridge walked and tagged caves.  The tagging of caves was a new concept initiated this trip.  Jim had procured blue, anodized aluminum tags that we nailed into trees nearby significant, or potentially significant, Karst features.  The quantity of known caves and features was becoming too large to manage.  GPS Waypoints taken at these features were averaged until the error was between 3 to 5 meters of accuracy.

Folks started coming back shortly before dark.  Ann and I made guacamole that was, if I say so myself, divine.  Carol started cooking chicken and mole.  People assembled around the camp fire to keep warm and discuss lofty topics.  We typically had a huge bonfire each night, nearly wiping out a tree per night.  Downed wood was plentiful in this area.

 

Typical fire we had each evening.

2009 Nov 23 Monday

On this day I led a group into Cueva Culo de Pollo, a cave found on the previous trip by Jim, Devra, and me.  At that time, we knew the cave to have a large drop, the extent of which was unknown because we ran out of bolts.  Team "Chicken Butt" consisted of me, Steve, Joe, and Jen.  Jen began to feel ill after the initial entrance survey and did not continue past the keyhole.  For rigging, we used a natural initial point; then Steve commenced to bolt a hanger directly above the pit.  Unfortunately, the hammer drill battery was drained after only two inches of depth!  Unfortunate indeed, now our day was nearly done.

Before leaving, however, our sketcher, Joe, tried to fit through the keyhole just to see if he would be coming back the next day when batteries might be fresher.  After some maneuvers you might see in a yoga class, Joe's final assessment: he was just too big.  Steve took over sketching just past the keyhole to mop up the point right above the pit where he drilled.

As team "Chicken Butt" finished up and headed toward the entrance, I heard thunder.  What?!  That sound reminded me that I had left my tent fly open—oh no!  The rain proceeded to come down, and then came harder and harder.  Then came hail chunks which were about 8mm or better.  As our group descended the hill, we overtook Jim's group who were also headed down.  Jim decided to take the merged groups to El Infierno for a peek, but my thoughts were only of my potentially disastrous tent.  I walked back with a feeling of foreboding doom.  The time must have been approximately 2:00 p.m.  Don's group had already returned back to camp only moments before I arrived.  It turns out that although my tent was sloppy, it was salvageable.  I used a rag to remove the excess water; then, later that evening, I dried my sleeping bag near the fire.  That helped my mood considerably.

Ramona later found out that her tent leaked.  Oh, no!

Gerardo, the landowner, walked by the campsite accompanied with two relatives who spoke some English.  It was conveyed to me that we should not burn the "chairs" around the campsite.  Ooops!  Not long after, Jim returned with the El Infierno group.  Then Jim grabbed a chainsaw to decimate a fallen tree.  Matt, Joe, and I loaded the fire wood onto Matt's truck.  Jim cut several chair-sized logs as replacements for the "chairs" Gerardo wanted saved.  He also cut several larger logs for use in making a rich and robust camp fire experience.

Dinner was costillas, ribs cooked over the fire.  Corn and baked potatoes finished the ensemble.  The salt on the potatoes was a little heavy, but the rosemary was a nice touch.

Later that evening, around 10:00 p.m. or so, Ron Rutherford arrived with his family.  The red dirt road was slippery as snot due to rain.  Ron's vehicle right-rear tire nearly was in Cueva de Los Baños.  He was rightly worried.  A group of the guys headed over in trucks to assist.  Don Arburn's truck was the tool of choice (actually, Don's truck is often the tool of choice).  Using approximately 75 feet of combined tow-straps, chain, and rope, the pulling commenced.  Ron's truck went forward but also slid to the right.  If it wasn't for the forward component, there would have been some extremely unhappy folks.  Finally, Ron's vehicle was out of danger.  Crisis assuaged.

 

Ron Rutherford’s truck was safe.


The foul weather changed the dynamic of the trip.  The slippery roads to Laguna de Sanchez meant no restocking of supplies.  Although we were chock full of food, those who drank beer found the supply limited.

The music switched to 80's fare, and a dance party soon ensued.  Jen said she was starting to feel better; I hoped she would be able to cave soon.

2009 Nov 24 Tuesday

Team "Chicken Butt" needed a sketcher because Joe didn't fit through the keyhole in Cueva Culo de Pollo.  First, I recruited Ramona who was then supplanted by Ron Rutherford.  The group of the day was, therefore, me, Steve, Jen, Ron Rutherford, and Ron's son, Drew.

Steve decided to enlarge the keyhole a bit, then passed through and completed the bolt started the previous day.  He used Ron's hammer drill.  This time, the bit went into the limestone like a hot knife through butter.  After securing the hanger and rope, Steve rappelled down the pit.  After some deliberation, a rope pad was put in place, and he continued further down.  A particularly jagged and nasty section concerned Steve, so he sat on a ledge, "Steve's Ledge," while I dropped down to take a look.  I brought Ron's potent hammer drill with me, just in case.  I decided to put in a rebelay bolt for one final drop into a vast room.  The oxygen was scarce, the hammer drill was heavy, and I was in an awkward position hanging by a thread.  This was just cause for heavy breathing on my part as I made short order of the task at hand. 

Below me, the floor looked a long way down, and I would have sworn that the rope didn't actually touch bottom (it did).  The total rope length was 50m, by the way.  I was already breathing with effort, and since I didn't have a lot of experience with bad air conditions, I decided to let Ron take the lead.  I ascended back up the rope, past Steve, all the way to the rigging point near the keyhole.  Ron then carefully rappelled down the drop using a lighter to test the air, and made it to the bottom without difficulty.  He stated that the air was tolerable, so Steve joined him to assist with the survey.  My plan was to wait up top until they were done.

Jen, who was just up at the keyhole, and I had a chat.  She decided that she didn't wish to go down.  Instead, she took Drew to look for caves, then back to camp.  Fifteen minutes later, I became bored.  I yelled down to see if it was safe for me to come down.  It was, and I descended.

The big room was cool!  It was decorated and even appeared to continue; though no one was willing to go further because of the lack of oxygen.  Ron continued sketching while Steve and I took photos.  Eventually Ron neared completion, and since he was getting a headache, Steve began his ascent up the rope.  Positioning the single rope pad proved to be futile.  It was tied and retied back into position, but the rope moved to a different position once Steve got higher.  Eventually the Steve and Ron were out; then I ascended derigging as I went.  I left one hanger in the cave because of lack of wrench.  Oh well.

 

Chicken Butt Cave was nicely decorated.

The three of us got back to camp late, around 7:30 p.m.  At this time, it was dark, and, unfortunately, it was raining again.  Within the cloud canopy that enveloped us, large drops formed from condensation on tree branches, making it seem to rain even when the rain stopped.  A dinner of Mac-n-Cheese blended with canned chicken was already piping hot.  Way better than Beanie Weenies!  Jim and Joe ran out to us with bowls of the steaming, delicious victuals for us.  

After dinner, I helped coordinate the washing of dishes and after-meal cleanup.  There was a huge drum of water on the stove—way more than was necessary for the dishes.  We started with the normal amount of heated water to wash, then 15 minutes later used the rest as the rinse water.  Perhaps 30 minutes after that, Ron came by to collect the heated water he requested to clean his family from poison ivy.  Apologies Ron, but we missed that memo . . . .

The incidence of poison ivy wasn't bad the prior trip because it still hadn't grown back since the forest fire.  This trip, however, poison ivy reared its ugly head.  Carol Zokaites got the worst batch; Matt probably got the second worst; and luckily, I only got a small dose.

Most people went to bed early because of the cold, damp, dark evening.  Me, Jane, Jen, and Steve decided to watch a movie in Jim's Tahoe off of my laptop.  The movie selected: Army of Darkness.  At intermission, Jen and Steve ducked out.

2009 Nov 25 Wednesday

The rain seemed to have stopped, but camp was still in the cloud cover.  I was not entirely enthused about these bleak conditions.  Since most of my gear was dry, though, I made due.

My team today consisted of me, Joe, Jen, and Jane.  Everyone's name started with a "J".  Well, sort of.  We surveyed two caves: Cueva de Llano Sumidero (Field Drain Cave) and a new cave called La Cueva de Muchos Adversarios (Cave of Many Nemeses).  Then we did a fun "sport" trip through Cueva Tres Luces (Cave of Three Lights).  These were all within about 300m of our campsite.  The weather was somewhat cold outside the caves, but at least the rain had stopped.

Field Drain Cave was a simple cave that went in a few meters, and then turned left into a tight passage plugged with a log.  Using a strap, I was able to haul the log out.  I then squeezed into the passage where the log had been to look around.  Jane accidentally shifted a rock which dropped down and hit me directly in a muscle of my upper back.  Fortunately, this baseball-sized rock didn't hit a bone.  The thud knocked the wind out of me.  I crawled out of the cave, not feeling quite right.  I drank some water, ate a granola bar, walked around a bit, but I still didn't feel quite right for perhaps 30 minutes.  I was even slightly nauseous.  Light shock?  Perhaps.  Thankfully, the strange feeling abated, and I was back in the game.  Game on!

Cave of Jane's Nemeses was named in honor of the abundance of gnats flying around the entrance.  I often enlisted Jane's assistance when scouting new caves—she's small.  Usually enthusiastic, Jane wasn't too pleased with this cave.  She went into the cave, came out, and declared that the infernal pests were everywhere throughout.  I pulled my hood over my head, then went inside to assess the insect population density.  I soon realized that the volume of gnats dissipated quickly once I turned off my headlamp.  Thus, our group decided to survey the cave.

Cueva Tres Luces required some exposed climbing, which is primarily the reason it was so much fun.  Jane had been in the cave before, so she became our de facto guide.  We had a lot of fun exploring the cave, taking pictures, and otherwise enjoying the afternoon.

A hot, plentiful, and delicious dinner of spaghetti and meatballs was nearly prepared when our group arrived back at camp.  Earlier, the San Marcos cavers had arrived.  Due to road conditions, they hired a truck at Laguna de Sanchez to take them down the treacherous road for 300 pesos (about $23.25 USD).  They left their truck in Laguna de Sanchez at the edge of town.

2009 Nov 26 Thursday - Thanksgiving

Today there were three teams: a large team assembled to drop El Infierno, a 55m drop; the San Marcos team went to survey Pino del Oso #2; and I led lead team "Dig Dug" up the hill to dig.

Team "Dig Dug" consisted of Matt, me, Kathleen, and Ramona.  Our objective was to push La Cueva de la Vaca Púrpura (Purple Cow) and La Cueva de Más Cencerro (More Cowbell).  Other holes we dug were icing on the cake.

Purple Cow turned out to be just a simple chimney down about 10 meters, measured in Tone-lengths.  It continued down and diagonally as a narrow fissure crack—humanly impassable. 

More Cowbell showed more promise.  Kathleen and I alternated attempts to pry a wedged rock out of obvious passage.  The rock was below, at foot level, and none of the tools we brought quite reached it.  This elusive rock taunted us by shifting to and fro, but it simply would not drop.  Kathleen's tenacity was noteworthy, and since there was only room for one, I looked for other digging options.

I pulled rocks out of a likely possibility and found obvious cave passage below!  Woo hoo!  I passed the baton to Matt who continued excavating approximately one ton of rock.  Matt wanted to call it El Toño Baño, and that's exactly what we did.  When Matt pointed out that Tone's Bathroom was "filthy and filled with stuff," I was less sure of the compliment.

 

Matt tossing rocks like they were pebbles.


Ramona had found a dig location down the hill and wanted my opinion.  I was a bit skeptical, but her enthusiasm warranted some effort.  I recommended that she get Kathleen and Matt to assist.  My idea was that Kathleen would go head first, and Matt and I could lift her back out once she looked around.  While Ramona was gone, I brutally smashed several limestone fins out of the way.  With a little more cleanup, we wouldn't have to do the Kathleen-hoist after all.  Once Matt finished the cleanup, and I removed one boulder, Kathleen easily maneuvered into the hole.  Unfortunately, my initial assessment was correct: the hole didn't do anything.  Foo.

After a few hours of wielding hammers and pry bars, we were getting tired.  It was Thanksgiving, so we wrapped up early and started back toward camp.  Along the way, we tagged and recorded waypoints for a few more features.  The day was tiring, but satisfying . . . even if we didn't break into major cave passage.  Matt and I plan to return on another trip with wedges and feathers to remove a few irritants, especially in El Toño Baño.

That night Erick showed up with much needed cerveza as well as some pork and chicken soup dishes.  Being a holiday, and always wanting to keep good landowner relations, an invite had been extended to the land owner and his family to join us for dinner.  Gerardo, Gloria, the three girls, and two of the boys showed up.  Alan, the nephew, and Edsgar, the son were unable to make it due to chores.  None of Gerardo's family speaks English which I think created a slight initial awkwardness.  Later, the Rutherford boys and Gerardo's kids tried to converse through Dale Barnard and Kathleen.  Carol mentioned to me that she had a nice time earlier in the day trying to communicate with Cynthia and one of the younger girls.

The feast was deep-fried turkey, baked honey-glazed ham, mushroom stuffing, garlic mashed potatoes, and asparagus in butter sauce.  Although we had 34 people, there were still plenty of leftovers.  Unfortunately, leftovers were of little use because of the sheer volume of food that we brought.  Therefore, leftovers were typically thrown over the fence to the pigs.

Misfortune hit me when a terrible headache vexed me.  Since I was physically exhausted from digging all day, I went to my tent to lie down.  I woke about 1.5 hours later feeling much better.  It was probably just a muscle tension headache due to smashing rocks.  I got up, put on an extra coat, and then went to sit around the campfire again.

2009 Nov 27 Friday

Matt enlisted me to take a look at Hoyo Encantador (Lovely Hole).  He had reported that it blew considerable air, and in the cool weather, vapor.  Jane joined us making a group of three.

We hiked the 660 m from camp over rocky terrain.  The hole didn't need to be rigged at all, and after a bit of cleanup, I sent Jane inside to take a look.  Over the course of the day, we pushed the cave some 10 feet.  We used Jane's bat bag (actually Jim's) to haul dirt and rock out of the hole.  We found a herbivore skull as we continued.  We made a fun crew.  We had tunes, we had laughs, and we pushed cave; what could be better?

 

Jane Slater models a herbivore skull.


Jen and Kathleen showed up after a few hours from dropping El Infierno.  Jen went into the pit to take a look, and then apparently she started to dig.  Tap, tap, tap . . . ouch!  She soon emerged saying that a rock dislodged and hit her in the mouth.  Later, Ron and Drew came by to take a peek inside.

Since this was the last day of the trip, we finished early to eat dinner and to start the chore of packing.  After dinner, Jim and I took care of the finances, which I had been tracking in an Excel spreadsheet.  This was my first caving trip with a NetBook.  I found the NetBook to be useful for taking trip notes, doing the finances, and even watching movies.  While Jim and I worked out the financial details, Ramona and Steve sifted through more than 6 GB of collected images to prepare a slide show.  They whittled down the count to a little more than 200.  The projector was run from Ron's 500 Watt inverter connected to an extra truck battery brought specifically for inverter use.  Nice!  I cannot speak for everyone, but I enjoyed reminiscing and seeing what other people had been doing during the trip.

2009 Nov 28 Saturday - Return To USA

Erick and Jen departed camp first because her flight out of Monterrey was at 1:45 p.m.  The rest of us broke camp and packed trucks.  I knew that Matt was dreading the drive because of how slippery the mud had been.  Don's truck, Moby, had battery trouble requiring two vehicles to jump start.

Our first stop was to Gerardo's home to offer him excess food and supplies that we didn't use during the trip.  We took a tour of his place to see piglets, kids (both types!), and other livestock.  We said our goodbyes then headed toward Laguna de Sanchez.  Caesar, Gerardo's son, joined us for the ride.  He would eventually walk back home on his own.

 

Jane Slater with a kid.


Reaching the town of Laguna de Sanchez, we first dropped off the San Marcos folks at their vehicle.  Then we stopped to buy a few snacks and consumables to take home.  Since the weather was much nicer than during the previous week, we looked around a bit, took a few pictures, and otherwise enjoyed the town.  The rain had prevented us from a tourist visit or lunch, and I must admit that I missed that.

Continuing down the mountain, Ramona and Jane jumped atop Yeti (Jim's Tahoe) for a roof ride through breathtaking limestone scenery.  We stopped at El Cercado to collect the deposit on beer bottles and toss the garbage from the trip.

Our motley caravan stopped for lunch in the town of Los Cavazos, a tourist trap some 16 miles south of Monterrey.  Los Cavazos specializes in furniture, art, knickknacks, etc.  Our sizable group dined at an all-you-can-eat buffet for 40 pesos, plus 13 pesos per drink (with tip, about $5.50 USD).  I found the buffet to be most agreeable!  After lunch, the groups fragmented such that only Jim's and Matt's vehicles remained.  Before departing Los Cavasos, we scoped out several of the stores.  My sister-in-law loves these sorts of consumer items, so I dutifully snapped many photos.  Las tiendas!

Continuing with our journey, the two vehicles arrived in Monterrey where we took a detour to visit the "Lov Pub," the restaurant/bar owned by Erick Gonzalez; remember that he had left camp earlier this same morning.  The pub was just off of the ITESM Campus Monterrey, which meant difficult parking.  The restaurant wasn't actually open for business at this time; we were a private party of friends.  I had no idea what to expect. The place was actually mellow, relaxed, and subdued.  We chilled for a bit before continuing our journey home.

 

The Lov Pub in Monterrey, Nuevo León, Mexico.

Driving through Monterrey is always tricky, which is a nice way of saying that it's a bitch.  Jim previously mentioned to me that the locals also find it difficult to get around.  The traffic is heavy, and the roads follow no regular or discernible patterns.  Often you are upon a street sign too late to take the correct turn.  Hand-held FRS radios helped keep Matt attached to us, but they were not enough.  Matt went through a yellow light, which he later said did indeed turn red.  Matt didn't want to lose us in this crazy city.  A police officer on motorcycle pulled the black pickup over.  We tried to tell him via radio not to give up his license, but it was too late.  We then heard via radio that they were being directed to court.  Since there was no interpreter, another officer soon arrived.  While this scene was unfolding, Jim tried to turn around to meet with Matt in the horrendous Monterrey traffic.  The end result: Joe and Carol paid the cops 750 pesos (just shy of $60) as a bribe, which later was split among the group.  This was just the cost of travel in Mexico.  As we turned around, the same cop tried to pull us over.  Jim just ignored him, which worked surprisingly well!  Jim stated "make them work for it."  True that.  We met up with Matt at the next Pemex where we all took a moment to calm down.

Later, we heard that both Ron and Don were also extorted by the Mexican "law" at the bridge before the border.  Although I have been extorted before in Mexico, this occurrence was the first for me in Nuevo León.

We arrived home late.

Summary

According to Jim, our group mapped 16 caves, including about eight new ones found on this trip.  We placed anodized aluminum tags on more than 70 cave entrances and Karst features.  GPS waypoints and track logs were abundant.

The general consensus was that the trip was good.  Congratulations to Jim "Crash" Kennedy for pulling off an amazing adventure.

<% EndTable %>