The sounds of travel: What to listen to when road trippin’ in the USA

Blue sky, open road.Here at Gadling we’ll be highlighting some of our favorite sounds from the road and giving you a sample of each — maybe you’ll find the same inspiration that we did, but at the very least, hopefully you’ll think that they’re good songs. Got a favorite of your own? Leave it in the comments below and we’ll post it at the end of the series.

“Do you like American music?
I like American music.
Don’t you like American music?
Baby-yyyyyy…”

–The Violent Femmes, American Music

For those who are gearing up to travel the vast roadways of America by car, we have here a list of appropriate music to make you feel relaxed, at peace with the road, and good’n American. Though you may be traveling for the holidays, we’ll exclude holiday music. You’ll hear it at every gas station.

The obvious first choice for pulling out of the driveway is America by Simon and Garfunkel:


Even the street on which you live looks a little more ripe with possibility when that song plays.


Once you head out into the amber waves of grain and the fruited plains, it’s a great time for expansive music like that from accidentally Canadian Joni Mitchell. I recommend Urge for Going, Heijira, and You Turn Me On, I’m a Radio. And those are just a couple of her travel-themed hits.

Going through the purple mountains’ majesty? Forests? (Yeah, “America the Beautiful” totally skipped the forests.) Try the soundtrack to Field of Dreams, composed by James Horner. It will fill you with wonder. Here, watch somebody on YouTube play The Drive Home. Want lyrics?

Next, get out some Bob Dylan and play Tangled Up in Blue. Make sure you dig through your classic rock collection. Especially as you pass through strange towns and cities, The Eagles, Guns and Roses, Jimi Hendrix, and Journey all take on a strange, retro-poignance.

Lastly, though it’s downright un-American, The Beatles are great for road trips. Everyone sings along, and if you’re really up in arms about the Britishness, you can get the soundtrack to Across the Universe with all the new covers.

Drive safe!

Click here for previous Sounds of Travel.

A Few Tips for Speaking Spanish in Mexico

“I’m done.” I said in Spanish as I smiled and looked at our waitress, “Muchas gracias!”, I continued, beaming at my Spanish prowess. She smiled back — actually she looked like she was struggling to hold in laughter when I realized my error — I had just told her I was done like DEAD. Ack! The embarrassment of the situation got me, I smiled sheepishly and dragged Tom to the exit to make a quick escape.

When traveling in a foreign country it is important (and so much more fun!) to try speaking the language — even just the tiniest effort can make all the difference. So far the Mexicans seem to be pretty encouraging, they happily smile and nod while we stumble through our limited Spanish. They even are nice enough to pretend that we are making sense!

When you are learning a new language you are going to make a lot of mistakes, that it just the way it goes and, of course, the only way to learn is to make a few errors. However, there are some things that would be nice to know before you start chatting away in another language.

Here are a few tips for Mexican Spanish that you might want to keep in mind to prevent awkward speaking situations:


ME ME ME
This first person pronoun ( “Yo” which means “I”) is often over-used by beginners. If you end up “Yo-yo ing” too much it starts to sound very vain and self-centered. “I this and I that…” starts to sound like ” Me, me ME!” to Mexican ears. Since verbs, when conjugated correctly, implicitly hold who is speaking, try to drop pronouns as they are not necessary. Children are taught at a very young age to drop the “Yo” pronoun and travelers should too.

I want….
A verb that is picked up very quickly by travelers is “querer” which means to want. “Yo quiero” (or just “Quiero”) translates to “I want…”, a very useful phrase except for the that fact that when used it actually translates to quite a blunt request. A better and more polite term to use is “Quisiera….” (Kee-See-EH-Rah) which means “I would like…”. This term is extremely useful and is viewed by the Mexicans as a much more polite.

The dangers of asking for dairy products…who knew?

Mexico has a TON of sexual innuendos. A lot of them seem to focus on the male anatomy. “Leche”, milk in Spanish, is a slang term for semen. If you need to purchase milk do NOT say “Tiene leche?” ( Do you have milk?) or you are sure to hear giggles erupt around you. To prevent this type of embarrassment the best way to ask is to say, “Is there milk?” (Hay leche? which is pronounced Ahee Lay-Chay). There is the same type of situation for eggs, known as “huevos”, which can refer to testicles (ah…machismo culture at its finest). You’ll sometimes hear little old ladies ask for “blanquillos” (little white ones) instead of using this offensive term.

But it sounds the same!
Many Spanish words sound very similar to English words which makes it easy to improvise and try out a word that sounds like it should be correct in Spanish. It is great to get in there and try, in fact, that is what you should be doing — but a word of caution. Words that sound similar can have totally different meanings in Spanish than in English. For example in English we say “I’m embarrassed”. “Embarazada” in Spanish means that you are pregnant. A rather large difference there, right?

Fumbling and messing up are all part of the learning process but sometimes it is much nicer to have a heads up before you stick your foot in your mouth!

“No Wrong Turns” chronicles Kelsey and her husband’s road trip — in real time — from Canada to the southern tip of South America in their trusty red VW Golf named Marlin.

Dengue Fever on the Rise in Mexico

The other night we were sitting with a friend enjoying a few Pacificos when he asked if he could turn the fan on to keep the mosquitoes away. As one who always get bitten by these bloodsucking irritants, I was more than happy for the fan to keep me bite-free. As he clicked the fan on, our friend casually mentioned that with the rainy season comes dengue fever, which is not too dangerous,”unless you get Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever (DHF)…”

Excuse me? The what?

Before we left on this trip we went to the travel clinic to get the necessary shots as well as the medications we might need. As we will be traveling through high-risk malaria areas we stocked up on anti-malarials and brought along a good supply of bug spray. I figured malaria, not dengue fever, would be our biggest health risk. Truth be told, I have never been too concerned with dengue. I know that it can make you quite ill, I know there are no drugs to treat it but what I didn’t realize was that you can potentially die from it.

Dengue fever is transmitted through female Aedes mosquitoes. They feed on an infected person and then, after an 8 to 10 day incubation period, they are able to pass on this illness for the rest of their lives. Dengue hemorrhagic fever is a much more serious version of dengue. It occurs as a result of complications and, with liver enlargement, circulatory failure and convulsions as part of its repertoire, it is potentially fatal.

Scary…right?

Dengue fever is on the rise in Mexico, Central America and South America according to the World Health Organisation. Since we are planning to spend a significant amount of time in Latin America I did some research and found out that in Mexico alone dengue hemorrhagic fever accounts for one out of every four cases of dengue fever compared to seven years ago when it was one of out fifty. This indicates that DHF is rapidly becoming a serious travel health issue. As if travelers don’t have enough to worry about with malaria and other infectious diseases, here is one that you just have to suffer through if you are unlucky enough to become infected.

So what do you have to look forward to if you contract this mosquito-borne illness?

Symptoms

Dengue fever is characterized by:

  • a flu-like feeling
  • fever
  • headache
  • joint ache
  • nausea / vomiting
  • swollen lymph nodes
  • decreased appetite

Dengue hemorrhagic fever include the above symptoms as well as:

  • a sudden rise in temperature
  • irritability
  • restlessness
  • extreme sweating
  • a shock-like state
  • bleeding may start to occur under the skin or in little pinpricks
  • rash

Treatment
As I mentioned there is no treatment for either dengue fever or the more severe DHF. Dengue fever should subside after the fever breaks. Tylenol as well as lots of liquids (to prevent dehydration) are recommended to ease discomfort. Should symptoms worsen, the patient needs to receive medical attention immediately as this illness can be fatal. DHF is best treated by medical professionals who have experience with this condition if possible.

Prevention
Prevention really is the key . If the mosquitoes don’t bite you, you will remain dengue-free!

  • Wear light-colored clothing to cover up bare skin especially at dawn and dusk when the “skeeters” are more likely to be out looking for a meal
  • Use repellent with 10% to 30% DEET (some people say this is worse for you…I say pick your poison. I’d rather take my chances with DEET than end up with a potentially life-threatening sickness)
  • Pay attention to the climate as rainy season is mosquito breeding season
  • Bring a mosquito net to protect yourself when sleeping
  • Mosquito coils! These are the best if you find yourself in a room infested with mosquitoes. (There are health reports claiming these coils are dangerous to your health so protect yourself by ensuring good ventilation when you use them.)
  • Some say taking Vitamin B will make you less attractive to these bloodsuckers but there is no scientific proof to back this up

Immunizations
Currently, the WHO is working towards finding a vaccine but at the present time none are available though it seems two potential vaccines have progressed to a stage where they may soon be tested.

The moral of this story is that dengue fever is on the rise in Mexico and in the rest of Latin America. It does pose a serious risk for travelers and, though, many health organizations are working towards solving the problem, it would be a wise idea to pack the bug-repellent (kid’s repellents tend be less harsh) and a good quality mosquito net before you set off on a Latin American adventure.

“No Wrong Turns”
chronicles Kelsey and her husband’s road trip — in real time — from Canada to the southern tip of South America in their trusty red VW Golf named Marlin.

UPDATE: Reader Mollyn suggests that Tylenol may not be as safe as simple Ibuprofen. Please check with your doctor before self-medicating, especially if you think you have Dengue Fever!

Try the Fish Taco: Baja’s Favorite Food

Maybe it’s just me, but the first time I heard the words “fish” and “taco” together I felt rather nauseous. But, the ol’ fish taco is definitely Baja’s favorite and most famous meal — be it breakfast, lunch or dinner. Just about everywhere you look there is a taco stand accompanied by a sign with a happy looking cartoon fish encouraging you to come over and try this local specialty.

The customs officer who helped us with our paperwork in Tijuana was the first person to mention the fish taco. In fact, he recommended that we eat as much fish as we could in the Baja. I don’t mind fish but it seems like a risky food to consume at an outdoor stand…really how long can shrimp sit in the sun before it becomes a hazard to someone’s health?

Rumored to be a creation of Japanese fishermen, this meal was the word on everyone’s lips by the time we reached Southern Baja. “Try the fish taco” was pretty much a daily occurrence. Usually, I am game to try most foods but for some reason I pictured this dish as a soggy taco with undercooked fish coated in a slimy sauce. I hadn’t even seen a fish taco in actuality but already this figment of my imagination had turned my stomach against it. Soon, though, curiosity got the better of me and I wanted to see whether the fish taco was any good — so I came up with a plan. This well-devised plan was to get my husband Tom to try one and let me know how it was.
I caved once I saw that the fish was deep-fried. We ordered and sat down to enjoy this famous Baja treat. I finally understood what the hype was all about — it was absolutely delicious. If you visit Baja California Sur, eating a fish taco should be on your list of things to do.

“Tacos de pescados” (fish tacos) consist of your choice of fish or shrimp deep friend then wrapped in a flour or corn tortilla. A dollop (or smothering, depends on what your prefer) of mayo is added and then it is up to you to choose from all the fixings. Your choices include: red onion, three or four types of salsa, coleslaw, cabbage, guacamole, and cucumber. Top it all off with the juice from a freshly squeezed lime and you are are ready to experience the best food in the Baja.

A few things to keep in mind:

Eat on the Street
The best “tacos de pescados” are found at the small stands located on the corners of busy streets or tucked away in the middle of town. It might be dusty with only one plastic table to sit at and no ambiance whatsoever but these little vendors can create a meal that will put any five star restaurant to shame.

Pile up your Plate and Save Your Pesos
You can load up your plate with as much of the fixings as you want — it’s not only allowed it’s expected! The first time we ate at a taco stand we tried a little of everything, then we looked around and noticed that everyone had their plates piled high. This is a great way to save money traveling since fish tacos cost around $1.25 US (12.5 pesos) each. Get two and create a great meal that will see you through most of the day.

Eat Right Away

You have to eat them right away while they are piping hot — deep-fried anything doesn’t taste very good even twenty minutes later.

The Spice Factor
The green salsa tends to be way hotter than red salsa.

Get Messy
And, finally, eating a fish taco is a messy process. The taco falls apart, juices will run down your arms–if you haven’t used at least four napkins during this meal you might have missed the beauty of the fish taco.

“No Wrong Turns” chronicles Kelsey and her husband’s road trip — in real time — from Canada to the southern tip of South America in their trusty red VW Golf named Marlin.

No Wrong Turns: Accommodations and Restaurants in Todos Santos

Todos Santos, the little town I mentioned in my last post, offers a quiet escape from the typical vacation destination of Cabo San Lucas. This small town is home to a mix of Mexicans, artists, surfers and ex-pats and offers some of the best surfing in the Baja. Pair that with great places to eat, interesting galleries, beautiful beaches and cheap beer and you have a pretty perfect vacation spot.

To get here you will need to fly into the San Jose Del Cabo Airport and either rent a car or hire a taxi. It is more cost efficient to rent a car and the SJD airport has numerous car rental agencies to choose from. The highway from Cabo San Lucas to Todos Santos is apparently the most dangerous road in Mexico, so make sure you are prepared to focus on the journey ahead. If you are tired after your flight, spend a night in Cabo San Lucas and head out the next day refreshed and ready to enter the madness that is Mexican driving.

Once you arrive in Todos Santos, you will find that there are numerous places to stay as well as some truly great places to eat. Be advised that most of Baja California Sur has been affected by the influx of foreign money, so prices are higher than those found in mainland Mexico but they are less expensive that Cabo. That being said, depending on the time of year you travel, here you might be able to negotiate lower room costs, especially if you are planning on a longer-term stay.

Where to Stay: Short -Term
Don’t be surprised to find the hotels in Todos Santos starting at about $45US a night for pretty basic accommodations. The Maria Bonita Hotel, located at the corner of Colegio Militar and Hidalgo, offers clean rooms with hot showers for around $50US per night. The couple who manage the hotel are very friendly and will happily encourage all of your Spanish speaking attempts. Be warned this hotel is located on a main street so it can be quite loud at night. There also happens to be a laundromat below the hotel which also contributes to the noise by running at all hours of the day and night.

Hotel California….nope it’s not the one from the Eagles song though the rumors about it have run rampant in the past few years. This hotel, found on Calle Juarez, was one of the first hotels in Todos Santos and is now, after upgrades, renovations and an ownership change, one of the busiest hotels here with a full restaurant, bar and its own souvenir shop. This hotel tends to be full of people just off of tourist buses and the staff expects to be tipped well.

Sole Caliente is located near La Pastora beach and provides a quiet and relaxing atmosphere for those looking to get away. Run by a very amicable Italian guy named Alberto, you can expect a warm welcome and a very peaceful stay. It is worth knowing that the beach this accommodation is located by is not safe to swim in, but it is the perfect spot to whale watch during the months of March and April. Getting here is a little bit tricky to explain as there are not too many road signs out this way — email the management for detailed instructions.

Where to Stay: Long -Term
If you are looking for a mellow place to spend anywhere from a few weeks to maybe even a few months, you should definitely look into the local vacation rentals. This little town is full of them! Fully-furnished homes complete with kitchens are a great way to save money when you are traveling. Cooking for yourself lets you try your hand at creating local dishes, and with all the cheap produce around you can’t go wrong. Alternatively, if you have a bit of time, it is worth coming into to town and asking around. There is usually someone looking to rent their place out while they go home for a visit. If you are reliable and trustworthy, you’ll most likely be able to negotiate a good price. Good places to start looking or asking around are El Tecolote bookstore or Cafe Felix which are both located on Calle Juarez, the main street.

Where to Eat
Main Street Taco Stand
Please tell me you love tacos! If you do, head to the main street to the large taco stand beside the El Tecolote bookstore and dig into tacos de carne asada, burritos and the cholesterol increaser papas rellenas (Mexican stuffed potatoes). This place can feed two people for less than $8US. Unfortunately of you want to drink you will have to pick up your own beer elsewhere as they don’t serve alcohol. Be careful what you say when you eat here, the owner is fluent in English though he chooses not to speak it.

Café Todos Santos
Delicious dishes, both American and Mexican, are served at this long-standing eating establishment. Meals are a bit pricier compared to other places but the large portions make up for this. Coffee aficionados will be more than pleased to walk into this café and find a strong espresso awaiting them. They also have an amazing selection of baked goods — the banana bread is my personal favorite. To get a good cup of coffee or stop in for a mea,l take a left on Topete and then a right onto Calle Centenario to find this cafe. One thing to note: the servers at this restaurant are notoriously bad. That’s just the way it is according to the locals — you get great food but poor service. To be honest the food at the Café Todos Santos is worth it, if you can deal with the lackluster service.

Il Giardino
Ok, so it is not Mexican cuisine but if you love pizza then you will love this little restaurant. Run by an Italian family, you can enjoy oven-fired pizzas, pastas, salads and other entrees all of which can be paired with a wine from their wine list. Pizzas cost about $12 US but they can easily feed two people or, if you are starving, add an appetizer and call it an even $25 US for the both of you. This Italian eatery is located on Calle Degollado about three blocks past the Pemex station.

There are many more great hotels and restaurants to experience in Todos Santos — this is a mere sampling of what this pueblo has to offer. It is pretty amazing when such a small town has so many great hotels and restaurants….maybe that is why some people come here and never ever leave.

Next Up: What to do in Todos Santos

“No Wrong Turns”
chronicl
es Kelsey and her husband’s road trip — in real time — from Canada to the southern tip of South America in their trusty red VW Golf named Marlin.