Mexico and Madison


One of the best places on any college campus: the terrace of the Wisconsin [Student] Union, on the shore of Lake Mendota, Madison

Travel in the last quarter began four days after returning from the north of Sweden.  On Wednesday, October 5, I flew to DFW and on to Chihuahua, Mexico, my fifth visit to a booming city that now counts a million residents.  My academic hosts, Laura and Monica from the Universidad de La Salle, a Catholic (Christian Brothers) institution with 15 campuses throughout Mexico, picked me up at the airport.  We headed to dinner at Las Faenas, a pleasant taqueria I got to know on my last visit, in December 2015.  Pilar, one of their faculty friends, joined us, as did a student, Santiago, who helped organize the visit.  We had some tacos and a nice chat, and they dropped me at my hotel, literally across the highway.

I knew the visit would be short and busy, and we got started early the next morning.  The main event that day was a student conference at the university (known as ULSA), and at breakfast I met a very interesting fellow speaker, Mario Arvizu.  Originally from a small city in Chihuahua state, he now lives in the capital and makes a living with his voice, narrating TV commercials and dubbing Spanish into Hollywood films (he was the penguin voice in the animated “Madagascar”).  We had a nice, but too short yak before I peeled off to give a press briefing related to my presentation the next day, sponsored by EVM, an association of sales and marketing people.  About fifteen media folks showed up, and I told them a little about the talk (my “Ten Things” preso), and answered questions.  The first three were all about the prospects of Donald Trump, who I simply called the evil man with the orange hair.  They were clearly worried, and with good reason, given his racist remarks about Mexicans, his desire to dismantle NAFTA, and more.  Ugh.


One datapoint for a booming Chihuhua: new condo across from my hotel

At about 9:45, we headed up the hill to ULSA, and I was able to hear the last part of Mario’s talk, and an interesting presentation from another fellow on corporate social responsibility.  Then it was my turn, noon to 1:30, and it went well.  Big audience, more than 300 students.  Afterward, bunches of students wanted to get a photo with me, and I was glad to oblige.  Lots of fun.



Mario Arvizu, urging students to follow their dreams

Two students drove me back to the hotel.  It was well past lunchtime, so I ambled a block to Barriga, an agreeable restaurant I also visited in December, for a big plate of chiles rellenos and a Coke.  Time for a quick nap, did some consulting work, and at six met Lester, a former student I met in Chihuahua in 2013.  We headed into town for a couple of beers at La Antigua Paz, a wonderful old-school bar.  Lester now works for a company that makes airline seat covers and cushions, so we yakked a lot about aviation.  Great fellow.


Advice outside a bar



Where are we?  Home Depot, Chihuahua.  The volume of U.S. retailers and restaurants in the neighborhood attests to the merging of economies and societies.


Lester at the bar


Musicians at La Antigua Paz

Up at dawn the next morning, back to ULSA for the EVM presentation, more than 200 people, another big deal.  Great to meet lots of wonderful people, hardworking, sincere.  The orange-haired man has no clue.  An EVM official, Raimundo, drove me to the airport for a noon flight, a few hours in DFW, a delay, home at 12:30 a.m.  A lot crammed into 2.5 days.



The view from Universidad la Salle


Home for less than 36 hours, then back to National Airport, west to Chicago, and north 109 miles to one of my fave places, Madison, and my tenth consecutive visit to the University of Wisconsin.


It’s been awhile since this geographer posted some views from above; here, the shrinking steelmaking landscape of Gary, Indiana; below, the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory in Batavia, Illinois, with the circular accelerator clearly visible from above.


Grabbed a bit of biking in the fitness center, washed up, and headed by city bus to Oakwood, a retirement complex on the west side of town, to visit one of my Ph.D. advisers, Professor John Fraser Hart, and his wife Meredith.  Now in their 90s but still vital, we had a nice visit, and an ample Sunday dinner in the dining room.  A nice visit, a small way to recognize a man who helped me improve my writing skills, something that has served me throughout my career.  It was good to see them.  Back at Union South, the second presidential debate was underway, students jeering at Orange Hair.


Up way before dawn Monday morning, onto the fitness-center bike, then to breakfast with my UW host, a wonderful fellow, Jan Heide.  We got caught up over eggs and coffee, walked to the business school, and I delivered two back-to-back lectures to his first-year MBA students.  In previous years I was done at noon, but instead of heading back to the hotel I walked two blocks to Science Hall, a massive, red-brick Victorian building that has been home to the university’s highly regarded Geography Department for decades.  A couple of years ago I made contact with the department chair, Lisa, and offered to give a talk; in 2016 it happened, an informal lunchtime yak with eight students about job prospects in applied geography.  It was my first preso in a geography department in 31 years!


Samples of student work from the Introduction to Cartography class; when I taught that course at Minnesota in 1978-79, we only used India ink and paper!

Picked up a two-wheeler from Madison’s bikeshare system ($6 for 24 hours), rode back to the hotel, took off my suit, ate two pieces of cold pizza from the geographers, and grabbed a quick nap.  At three I got back on the red bike and started a series of short rides (if each ride is under 30 minutes it’s free) around Madison.  I know the city pretty well now, so zoomed around familiar parts of town – the shores of lakes Mendota and Monona, around campus, and more.



On the shore of Lake Mendota, aboard the BCycle shared bike

At five I rode over to the Wisconsin Memorial (student) Union and their wonderful, recently enlarged terrace on Lake Mendota, for a beer.  Had a nice T-t-S with a Turkish grad student at the University of Kansas, working on a Ph.D. in astrophysics.  He’s studying the collision of galaxies, out there 5.5 billion light-years.  Whew, rarefied stuff.  Back on earth, we talked about recent developments in his homeland, Syria, job prospects, and more.  A nice yak.  At six I met Jan for dinner at Dotty Dumpling’s Dowry, a famous burger joint.  More good chatter.  Then back to the hotel and a hard sleep.  Thirty miles on bikes, three talks, plumb wore out.


Penny, a Welsh Springer Spaniel; UW is studying a canine disease similar to MS in people; because it only affects male dogs of this breed, females like Penny are available for adoption

Tuesday morning was up and on the fitness bike, then breakfast with Dan Smith, former dairy farmer and great guy.  Rode the red shared bike around town a bit, circling the wonderful state capitol and stopping to buy a red UW T-shirt.  Just after noon I delivered a talk to undergrad HR students, then biked over to the Babcock Hall Dairy Store for a liquid lunch: large chocolate malt from university-made ice cream – in America’s Dairyland, UW plays a major role in improving the science of cows and all the good things they give us.  I raised my glass to those marvelous animals!  Finished the visit with a second talk to undergrads, headed to the hotel, took a short nap, and worked a bit.



The Babcock Hall ice-cream plant


No lake view, but still pleasant: the terrace at Union South; the colorful metal chairs and tables are a UW union tradition

At 5:30, I ambled downstairs, grabbed a beer and sat on the terrace of Union South – a pleasant place, but not on the lake like the main student union.  Read stuff on my iPhone, and at 6:40 met Jan and Maria Heide for dinner.  We motored across town to Sardine, right on Lake Monona, for a colossal dinner and nice yak.  They are fine people.

Up in the morning dark, out to the airport, and flew home via Chicago, dogs out for a good walk by noon.

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