Category Archives: tijuana

Blogging and San Diego

I haven’t been blogging much here, but I’ve been doing a ton of blogging over at BeerNBikes.com Durango, CO (and the surrounding Four Corners area) is an awesome place for both craft beer fans and cyclists.

I still read up on things happening in San Diego every once in a while, especially all the wonderful beer being made.

I saw this post on Draft Mag’s blog about the SDCityBeat Festival Of Beer coming up in May, and their summary of San Diego pretty much sums things up for me:

Occasionally, we consider moving to San Diego. It’s warm. All the time. It’s beautiful. All the time. The people are attractive. All the time. Honestly, what’s not to like? Then you visit, however, and realize it’s essentially a city devoid of culture, unless you consider being a stop on the way to Tijuana an important cultural experience. We don’t.

They do have good things to say about the CityBeat Festival of Beers though.

Tijuana Doorways

Photos by Kinsee Morlan

Ogre

Lines

Rocks

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Some Thoughts on the US-Mexico Border

The REAL ID Act allows the Department of Homeland Security to disregard all environmental laws to protect our borders. I don’t think they’ve started filling in the canyon on the border near the Tijuana Estuary yet, something that will cause all sorts of environmental problems with run off, erosion and effect plenty of birds, but it’s in the works.

Today I just read a story about the DHS using the REAL ID Act to start building roads in designated wilderness east of San Diego in preparation of building the triple border fence. Wilderness designation is supposed to keep the land free of human influence, a road and border fence are definitely human influence. A couple of years ago a border patrol spokesman said the area wouldn’t need fencing because the rugged land was fence enough, but apparently something has changed and they’re going ahead with it anyways.

One of my favorite things about much of the designated wilderness areas east of San Diego on the border are that they’re not wilderness for humans. There are few trails, few natural wonders for people to visit, but plenty of wide open space for the environment to be left alone. What wilderness designation was meant for. But no longer for the Otay Mountain Wilderness Area.

The blog post linked above (and here it is again in case you missed it, because I think it’s important to get the word out) is the first mention of this I’ve seen. Nothing in the newspapers, no other press. The DHS is doing a lot of stuff with very little public input.

Nortec Collective: Brown Bike video

Nortec Collective just posted the video for Brown Bike by Bostich+Fussible, one of my favorite Nortec songs. The video is awesomely hip.

Sadly I still haven’t gone on a Tijuana bike ride. Maybe I’ll hook up with these folks soon.

TJ Beer – Cerveza Tijuana: The Video

You already read the story, now you can watch the video:

Vodpod videos no longer available.

TJ Beer – Cerveza Tijuana

It’s pretty obvious that Craft brewing is a big deal in San Diego, with plenty of microbreweries in town you can find quality non-mainstream beer at nearly every liquor and grocery store. Despite how close geographically San Diego and Tijuana are, the craft beer craze hasn’t caught on south of the border, Tecate still owns this town. When I got to a bar I’m happy if they have Bohemia Obscura. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a beer tap down here, everywhere you go its bottles or cans. But that’s not to say that Tijuana is totally devoid of craft breweries.

Yesterday we stopped by La Cervecería Tijuana, the only Microbrewery in the city. Located just a few miles south of the famous Avenida Revolucion, Cerveza Tijuana brews six lagers and has Tavern attached with views of the brewery. We went hoping to get a tour of the brewery and see a bit of the brewing process in addition to sampling beer, but were told that they were shut down for the holidays, so we grabbed a seat and got down to sampling.

We were immediately offered a sample platter of all six beers for $5 US. When they came out the server identified each for us and arranged them in lightest to darkest sampling order.

  • Tijuana Light
  • Bronca
  • Guera
  • Brava
  • Morena
  • Bufadora

I typically don’t like lagers as much as stronger more hoppy ales, but I was excited to give these a try. Tijuana Light was far too light for me, better than Tecate but nothing I’d drink again. Bronca is the unfiltered version of Guera. I liked the Bronca a bit better, but neither really impressed me. Brava was a bit better, but still lacking a lot of hops. It was very malty, almost like eating a slice of bread. Morena was the one TJ Beer I’d tasted before, I found a six pack at the grocery store and gave it a shot, it is a darker lager, but has a sweet aftertaste which I didn’t like too much. Bufadora the last, is the heaviest of the lot, it had an amber color with quite a bit of head. It is the newest beer, not even on their promo material yet. It was also my favorite. It had a bit more flavor to it.

To compare TJ Beer to all my favorites in San Diego is unfair. Sure I’ll take most SD beers over TJ Beer every time, but when compared to the rest of the beers I can buy down here, Tecate, Bohemia, Sol and imports such as Miller and Coors Lite, I’ll take Tijuana Brewery every time. And just because they’re not my favorite, doesn’t mean they’re not good, they’ve won some awards.

As for the Tavern, I loved it. The food was typical pub fare, with a bit of a Mexican twist, and the space itself was perfect. Wood paneling everywhere, dark but not too dark, loud but not too loud. It wasn’t crowded, in fact we were one of only three couples in the place, but it was early, too late for lunch too early for dinner and TJ isn’t attracting a lot of tourists these days.

According to their website, you can find TJ Beers at a lot of liquor stores in San Diego as well as some Costco stores.

The Union-Tribune did a story on Mexican beers mentioning TJ Beer a few years ago. And here is Beeradvocate’s page on TJ Beer, where you can read reviews by some real beer snobs.

UPDATE: We made a movie of our trip to the brewery! You can see it here.

A Rainy Weekend

The weekend was rainy and mellow.

We watched a handful of movies; The Triplets of Belleville and Paris, je t’aime. I fell asleep watching No Country for Old Men and I half watched The Darjeeling Limited.

I finally finished The English Major by Jim Harrison, I really enjoyed it but it took me far too long to read.

While grocery shopping I found this:

Havana Club

Havana Club

I couldn’t resist. Even though the weather wasn’t right for it, I made a Lime Daquiri (rumored to be Hemingway’s favorite drink) as soon as I got home.

At the store we also got some tomatillo’s so I decided to make some salsa. It was surprisingly easy to make delicious fresh tasting salsa. With all this good salsa we needed something to eat it with, so I made a giant plate of nacho’s (which proved to be too much food).

Nachos

Nachos

Tecate, A Magical Place

Me outside the Tecate Brewery, photo by Kinsee Morlan

Me outside the Tecate Brewery, photo by Kinsee Morlan

I drink a lot of Tecate beer, they seem to have a monopoly of some sorts in Mexico. But Tecate is a lot more than just a beer. The town of Tecate — where the beer is made — is a small border town about 45 minutes east of Tijuana. As it was pointed out to me this weekend, Tecate, unlike many border towns, is a Mexican border town, rather than an American border town. There is a Tecate, USA just north of the border, but it exists because of Tecate, Mexico, the town just south of the border, not the other way around.

Before recently I had only been to Tecate once. We drove down from San Diego, parked on the US side of the border and walked across. The central part of the town, the plaza and the brewery are within a five minute walk from the border, which makes it really convenient for tourists to get around. The first time I went a few years ago the brewery was closed by the time we got there but we spent some time wandering around town, took in the wonderful plaza in the center of town and had some cheap Mexican food.

Five years ago or so, an English teacher I had at Grossmont college recommended I read a book called Enchiladas, Rice and Beans by a writer named Daniel Reveles. I picked up a copy and read it, it’s short stories about people in Tecate. Daniel Reveles I learned retired to Tecate after working in Hollywood and started writing books. The stories usually follow one or two characters around Tecate and tell stories about the people and the place. They have a bit of mysticism, but are rarely impossible tales that couldn’t really happen.

After I moved to Tijuana a few months ago I started thinking about this book again. Tijuana is nothing like Tecate, the only thing they have in common is that they’re both on the border with the US. Tijuana has about 1.5 million people, it’s a real city. Tecate has about 150,000 people, it just barely qualifies as a large town. I looked up Daniel Reveles and found a story about him from a few years ago in the Union Tribune, I saw that he has released a couple books since Enchiladas, Rice and Beans which was his first.

Last week I picked up a copy of his second book, Salsa and Chips at the library and started reading it. As far as I can remember it’s much like the first book. Short stories about the people in the town of Tecate. Saturday morning Kinsee and I woke up and decided to drive out to Tecate and try to find Daniel Reveles. If his stories could be believed we assumed we would be able to find him wandering through the plaza on a Saturday afternoon, having a drink at Bar Diana or maybe dining at La Fonda restaurant. After a lazy morning and a late start we hit the road to Tecate. There are two ways to get to Tecate from Tijuana, a toll road that costs $75MX, about $6US, each way and a free road that is slower, farther out of the way, and presumably more dangerous. I’ve heard stories that often times the pavement just disappears and one finds them self driving on gravel, that speeding trucks don’t always mind the yellow divider line in the road, and that if you get a flat you might not be able to find a shoulder to pull over on for a while.

In order to save time after our late start we decided to take the toll road, but when I missed the turn off and we saw a sign telling us the free road was just ahead we decided not to backtrack and take the free road. We drove through the outskirts of southeastern Tijuana, the farther we got from the center, the more poverty there was. The neighborhoods and houses reminded me of Salvador Brazil, but without the beautiful beach on the other side of the road. After about twenty minutes we were out of town and cruising along the road. While passing the municipal dump we saw smoke rising from the ground, Kinsee tells me it was methane from the cows.

After what I thought was far too short of a drive, we arrived on the outskirts of Tecate. We parked near the plaza and walked to the brewery. We found the gates locked, the attendant told us they were closed. But then when we pointed out that the sign said they weren’t closed yet he let us in, they were however done giving tours for the day. We got to look around the garden and drank our complimentary beer. While drinking we got to talking to the guy at the bar. I told him this was my second time coming and that both times I didn’t make it in time for the tour, he gave us his email address and told us to let him know next we’re coming and he’ll schedule a special tour.

We walked back to the plaza and just wander through. Small restaurants line one side with tables outside. One of the first thing I noticed was white people. In Tijuana it’s very rare to see any other white people, tourism is nearly nonexistent. But in Tecate there were plenty of Americans walking around eating and shopping. It’s obvious the plaza is a social focal point of the town. There were families with kids running around playing, teenagers that appeared to be on dates, old men playing chess, as well as vendors selling anything you could want, everything from cowboy hats and leather products to cotton candy.

While wandering around the plaza we stopped to watch the old men playing chess, looking for Daniel Reveles, wondering if he still looked the same as the picture on the jacket of his latest book. A man of about 60 sitting on a bench asked us if we were enjoying our time in Tecate. We got to talking to him, in Tijuana I would have assumed he wanted to sell us something, but this man just wanted to talk, wanted to make sure we were enjoying ourselves and finding everything we were looking for. He made sure we had gone to the brewery and recommended the bakery down the street. He told us that he’s lived all of the US, everywhere from Florida to Alaska, but retired to Tecate because it’s cheaper and life moves at a slower pace. He told us where Bar Diana was, and admitted he didn’t know a restaurant called La Fonda. He asked another old man: “Jarocho, Sabes el restaurante La Fonda?” The man thought for a moment and then gave directions in Spanish. “I don’t know it,” he tells us, “but my friend says it’s two blocks up the street.” We thank him and as we’re walking away tell him we’re actually looking for Daniel Reveles. He doesn’t recognize the name at first, but then tells us he knows who he is, that he often sits in the plaza, but he hasn’t seen him yet today. I start to think to myself that it was silly to think we’d be able to just show up in town and magically find Daniel Reveles, that he’d be just hanging out in the plaza or drinking in the bar. But I’m consoled by the conversation with this man, that he was nice and friendly and wanted to talk with us. Even if we don’t find the author it won’t be a wasted trip to Tecate.

Walking into Bar Diana, a bar that the man in the plaza described as “A small, family bar”, its small, with only a few people inside. Looking over at the three men to my left I think I recognize the one in the middle. It’s been about five years, but I’m pretty sure that’s my old english teacher, the teacher that introduced me to Daniel Reveles’s books. We sit down at the bar and Kinsee asks the bartender about Daniel Reveles. He says he knows him, but hasn’t seen him yet today. The next thing I know one of the men beside me is saying to his friend, “They’re looking for Reveles.” I look over and say hi, and introduce myself and confirm that this is indeed my old English teacher from five years ago. He’s there with two friends and colleagues of his, also from the English department at Grossmont College. Introductions are made and the next thing I know the bartender is handing Kinsee the telephone. After a few minutes she rejoins us and tells me Daniel Reveles will meet us here in a few hours.

We drink beer and tequila and chat while watching both American football and European football on the televisions above the bar. A group of musicians come in and we’re told that the guitar player is a character in one of Daniel’s stories. After a while the English teachers leave to have some dinner, telling us they’ll be at a restaurant next door if we’d like to join them. After a few minutes an older man walks in the door and the bartender seats him next to us. Daniel Reveles introduces himself to us and orders a tequila straight, with limes on the side. We talk for a while, about Tecate, about his life experiences that brought him to Tecate to be a writer of English language fiction. He tells us he names his books after food because the short stories are like a combination plate, with a little bit of everything. After talking a while longer we tell him his friends, the english teachers, are next door and were looking for him. Soon we all migrate the the restaurant and I hear the story of how the English teachers from Grossmont college discovered Daniel Reveles at an old bookstore out in Rancho San Diego (a bookstore I used to frequent some years ago, run by an amazingly nice woman, which is gone now). I heard some more stories and soon it was time for them all to leave.

Before leaving town Kinsee and I stopped by the plaza again. It was dark now but just as lively as it was in mid afternoon. Kids were still running around playing, people were singing and dancing around the gazebo. After taking in the scene for a little while we head back to the car. It was dark and we were tired so I decide to take the toll road home. It was quite a bit faster, but a lot more expensive, although the free road at night might be a bit hard to navigate.

I walked away thinking Tecate is just as mystical and magical as the stories Daniel tells in his books.

Me, the English Teachers, and Daniel Reveles, photo by Kinsee Morlan

Me, Tony Ding, Homer Lusk, Daniel Reveles and Joe Medina, photo by Kinsee Morlan

Lucha Libre in Tijuana

Last Friday night we went to a Lucha Libre wrestling match in Tijuana. I know very little about Mexican wrestling, but really wanted to check out a match.

We got to the Auditorium pretty early and bought tickets. General admission tickets were 150 Pesos, about $11.50US at the current exchange rate, but as we approached the window a man offered to sell us his tickets. He said his wife was sick so they couldn’t go. He had two front row tickets that he was willing to sell for about half price, just a little more than two general admission tickets. We asked the ticket sellers to verify they were good and bought them.

With some time to kill we went to Carnitas Uruapan, a restaurant across the street. We got some chips and salsa. When I ordered a beer they brought me two, Kinsee pointed out the “Cerveza 2×1” sign hanging on the wall, at the right time it seems like everything in TJ is two for one. We ate some delicious nopales and then went back to the auditorium.On our way back we saw these fans who were more than happy to pose for a picture.

We didn’t realize how close the front row was, until we sat down. We were right there about 5 feet from the ring. We got some beers, 20 Pesos, about $1.50US, sadly not two for one, and waited for the match to start. I don’t think either of us really knew what to expect. This guy was my favorite. He walked around the ring making sure the cables were taut before the match, and then stayed on the sides making sure nothing went wrong the entire time. He seemed like the only person involved that wasn’t an actor.

The first match was two on two and one of the guys wasn’t wearing a mask. I never figured out how they decide to wear masks or not, but at one point in one of the later matches one guy tried to take another’s mask off. Aside from the masks Mexican wrestling doesn’t seem that much different than American professional wrestling. It was silly but fun.

The second match brought out an older guy in white chinos. He seemed to be the Vince McMahon of TJ wrestling — everything he did was over dramatic.

I think the second match was four on four. As the night went on the wrestlers got bigger and better. At one point a guy was thrown into the flimsy railing right in front of us. As they came over you could smell the sweat and mildew of their clothes. It was really disgusting.

A lot of the matches involved silly slapstick humor that the crowd would eat up (myself included). My favorite part of the night was when someone was being pinned and another wrestler held the referee’s hand so he couldn’t count him out. The entire crowd made this laughing noise that (whether he does it or not) I can picture Bumblebee Man on The Simpsons making. It’s not quite a full laugh, but obvious that the person making it is amused.

During the last match one wrestler got thrown over the fence near us and they started fighting and hitting each other with chairs right there. Then someone in the crowd got up and started fighting, it was obvious it was setup, but pretty funny and the crowed loved it.

Speaking of the crowd, there was a man about 10 seats away from us, also in the front row, that was really into it. He would yell at the wrestlers and the ref when he disagreed with what was going on. He would show his approval for things they did. I couldn’t tell if he was somehow involved with it, or if he was just a really excited fan.

It was fun and entertaining. I don’t know how often I’ll go back to Lucha matches, but definetely something to see once.

Minor league soccer and Tequila in Tijuana

Sunday afternoon we drove over to the Hipodromo to see the Xoloitzcuintles game. They’re the Tijuana team in Mexico’s Primera A league, a minor league of sorts — although teams can be promoted from Primera A to the Primera Division, the major leagues, if they do well enough. They currently play in a small fairly primitive stadium, but they’re building a new stadium which will hold about 30,000 people, and if Mexico wins their bid for the World Cup in 2018 there’s a chance some games could be played in TJ.

We got there a bit late, missing both of the Xoloitzcuintles goals. They played well in the first half, but Leon A.C. played well in the second half, scoring two goals and leaving the game in a tie. Even though Tijuana didn’t win we had a great time drinking beer with chimoy and chili pepper around the rim of the cup, chatting with vendors who tried to tell us the meat he was selling was greyhound from the dog track next door, and watching the amazing half time show with a mechanical bull rolled onto the middle of the field.

After the game we went over to the casino and watched a dog race before heading downtown to the Tequila festival. I’ve been wanting to try some different tequilas for a while now, to find out which I like and what prices they should be in Mexico. We got to taste about twenty tequilas and one mezcal. I found that I liked them a lot more than I expected I would. And a lot more than when I’ve taken Cuervo shots in the past.

My friends made me pose with the cheerleaders.

My friends made me pose with the cheerleaders.

One of my favorite things about futbol games is the cheering, song-singing fans.

One of my favorite things about futbol games is the cheering, song-singing fans.

At halftime the mascot rode the mechanical bull

At halftime the mascot rode the mechanical bull

This is a real life xoloitzquintle

This is a real life xoloitzquintle

I want this t-shirt

I want this t-shirt

The stadium theyre building.

The stadium they're building.