Monday, February 22, 2010

Overlooking Juarez

We are at the Wal-Mart adjacent to the Cielo Vista Mall, in El Paso, Texas (map). This is a very familiar stop for us, as we have stayed here at least three times before.

We like this stop because it is easy on and off from I-10, has an Olive Garden, a complete mall, and a multiplex theater all a short walk away, and the store is a giant and well-stocked Super Center. While the freeway noise here is a bit loud, and the parking lot lights and adjacent mall sign are bright, it also has the advantage of a great panoramic view of Ciudad Juarez across the river; we are parked on a bluff at least 30' or so above I-10, and a good 200' or more above the valley floor. On a clear evening such as last night, one can see the lights of the entire city of Juarez.

The down side of being in a major city with all the attendant light pollution is that there is not much to see in the sky. I did not even bother to try to spot Endeavour on it's approach to Florida last night, although I suspect we might have caught some of the streak if it deorbited to Kennedy on orbit 218, had we still been someplace very dark.

We arrived fairly early in the afternoon, and decided to spend part of the afternoon shopping next door at the mall. Wow, what a zoo; I had forgotten what El Paso is like on a Sunday afternoon, as thousands of Chihuahuans pour across the border to shop US-style. That, of course, is one of the reasons why this Wal-Mart is so large and well-stocked, and probably a big part of what is keeping the Cielo Vista mall thriving in an otherwise down economy. The mall was packed, and it made for good people-watching. The mall is also very hip about social media: its large, flashing sign invites readers to follow the mall on Facebook or Twitter. In addition to myriad signs in Spanish, a sure way to know you are at the border is the presence of waste baskets next to the commodes in public rest rooms.

We both made out well on our shopping excursions. Long-time readers know we don't buy much, with a one-in, one-out philosophy here aboard Odyssey. Louise needed some new scarves, and got a steal at Dillards on super clearance. I desperately needed casual shoes, and found a nice pair of Nunn-Bush on sale at Penneys. The shoes they replaced were so badly worn out that I simply handed them back over the counter to the salesman for disposal along with the box from the new ones, and wore my new shoes out of the store. We also both got 15-minute "chair" massages, although we had to wait nearly half an hour for them due to the crowds.

We were just wrapping up with my shoe purchase when we heard the announcement that the mall would be closing in 15 minutes, at 6pm. We raced out the door and over to Olive Garden, knowing that the place would fill up just as soon as the mall closed. We scored an immediate table in the bar, even though the wait in the dining room was already a half hour. By the time we finished eating, it was standing room only in the waiting area and out the door.

We needed a whole list of items here at Wal-Mart, but prudence dictated we wait until this morning; as packed as the mall was, Wal-Mart would be absolute chaos. Even jockeying over here to our preferred parking spot had been a challenge when we arrived. Good choice; in stark contrast, the store was nearly empty this morning, and we sailed through every department and even check-out.

One of my purchases today was some synthetic 5w-40 motor oil. The air compressor has been starting hard, which has been impacting other things on board the bus. That would include the wireless router, which appears to be sensitive to the slight voltage drop. In researching possible causes, I found that below 50°, I am supposed to be using synthetic 5W-50 oil, yet the oil we've been using is ISO-100, which translates to about SAE-30. Really I should get non-detergent oil made for the purpose, but it is nearly impossible to find. Several folks have reported good results with the synthetic motor oil, and if it cures the hard starting, I'll take my chances with the detergent, at least until I can find the right stuff.

In a few minutes we will head to Las Cruces and the Goodyear dealer there.


  1. We had awesome sonic booms here in Orlando. Thought of you guys :)

  2. Saw your tweet about the booms... they are impressive, aren't they? Even if we had dark skies, seeing anything in Texas would have been a long shot; on orbit 218 the ground track had them come in over central Mexico.

    Been following your sailboat postings. We should compare notes next time we meet.

  3. Hey guys!! I passed you on the I-10 here in El Paso about 2 days ago!! I was so amazed with your Bus that I let you pass me to admire the Bus one more time. Then I passed you again to put my truck right in front on you trying to figure out who was the Bus manufacturer. I read "Neoplan" on the grill and as soon as I got in my house, here in ELP, I look for "Neoplan Odyssey" in my browser. I was even more amazed to find out that I just met with you guys on the road. You're now my inspiration to do what always have wanted to do some day. I would like to have had the opportunity to meet you guys. Have a safe trip!!



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