Sunday, April 28, 2013

Mina Dolores, Chihuahua

Hello everyone, good evening.  Well as promised in a status update earlier this week (last week?), I have decided that I want to start writing my blog again.  I thought about it and instead of starting a new blog I'm going to resume this one, with the goal of trying to recapture some of the sense of wonder and enthusiasm for life I had during that period.  I plan to post a mix of current events/trips, as well as picking up where I left off on the Spain travel blog to show everyone the pictures I have from the trips I never got around to documenting.  So it will be a very disjointed adventure, timeline-wise.  Of course I had lots of plans about the last iteration as well so we'll see how often I write in here this time.  OK intro over, if I think of anything else I will add it in another post later.  On to our latest exciting voyage!

This past week I traveled to the Dolores mine in Chihuahua, Mexico.  This opportunity was found by my colleague Alec, who also accompanied me on the trip.  Alec is a go-getter and this particular sales opportunity is very attractive to Modular because the mine has already paid a deposit and agreed to install one of our competitor's systems, but since they agreed to meet with us we figured we had a chance to go down and change their minds.  Unfortunately the mine is located in a very remote area and can only be accessed by privately chartered planes (there are roads, but apparently they are dangerous and unpaved - the danger isn't because of the lack of pavement though, but from the bad dudes who tend to roam this part of Mexico) which fly to and from the mine on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings.  So even though we really only needed a few hours of these gentlemen's time, we had to pass two days at the site.  On Tuesday morning I flew from Tucson to Phoenix to meet up with Alec, and then caught the only daily flight down to Hermosillo, where we spent the night before getting on the mine planes at 6:30 on Wednesday morning.  Before we did that though, we checking into our Holiday Inn and got a restaurant recommendation for La Siesta, at a hotel down the street.

La Siesta is nothing to look at from the outside, but based on our fellow diners it appears to be the Chili's of Hermosillo, in that it is "where business is done."  We got a couple of Indio cervezas and perused the menu before deciding on a 1.142 KILOGRAM (probably like, a lot of pounds) steak platter that also came with ribs, nachos, beans, guacamole, bread, and probably other stuff I'm forgetting.  The waiter assured us that it wouldn't be weird for two men to share, so we ordered that sucker "medio cocido" and began our eager wait.  Well of course anyone with a passing knowledge of the metric system can imagine that this was way too much food, so after eating probably less than half we waddled back to the hotel to prepare to get up and to the airport by 5 AM.  Picture break!

The view from my room.  If you're ever staying at the Holiday Inn in Hermosillo, try not to get a room in the back building that faces the neighborhood behind; there's a lot of barking dogs. 

Only part of our 500 peso feast at La Siesta, a delicious and decadent experience. 

We knew our flight was leaving from the General Aviation terminal instead of the Commercial terminal the next morning, but I wanted to play it safe so at my insistence a taxi was waiting at 5 AM to take us back to the airport.  Unfortunately for Alec, this wasn't necessary, as we were the only people sitting in that building for about an hour.  Pilots started arriving and preparing their small planes, which I assumed they used to commute somewhere, while we kept an eye on a jet parked on the tarmac that had 5 windows on each side, which we figured had about 10 seats and was probably the mine plane.  We were wrong.  After passing through "security" and 10 feet later walking out the door onto the pavement, one of the pilots we saw earlier told us to follow him, and he led us to his little Cessna (actually he led Alec to one and me to another; there were six people going to the mine that day so they had sent two planes).  Each plane had three rows of two seats, but the back two seats were used to luggage.  My pilot told the other two passengers in our plane to get in the middle row, while holding his seat forward like you have to do in a 2 door car, and then I climbed into the co-pilot's seat.  Alec and I both agreed that we were glad we didn't know about the size of these planes in advance, as it would have given us a lot more time to get worried.  The flight was pretty uneventful otherwise; I watched the gauges the whole time and our speed never went above 130 knots, and when I got a little motion sick I stared at the gauge that shows whether or not the plane is level, since I couldn't see the horizon out the front of the plane.

Here's my ride, basked in the Sonoran sunrise

The view from my seat.  I was very careful not to touch ANYTHING, but I did have to move my knees occasionally for the pilot to flip some switches.  There were also foot pedals I wanted to make sure I didn't interfere with, so I kept my feet tucked under my seat for the whole hour.

My (fearless?) pilot.  I didn't get his name, but he didn't offer it either.  So I pretended to take a picture of the scenery off to the left to get this picture.  Smooth.

Dolores Mine (International?) Airport (gravel strip in the middle of nowhere)

Downtown at the mine camp, only a 30 minute van ride on dirt roads to get to the pit.  We had a second floor room, one single bed and a set of bunk beds.  Other than dormitories, the camp has a dining hall and a gym.

Well as you can see from that last photo we got to the camp and our room was assigned, and then we took a van ride out to the offices to meet with our contacts.  We chatted briefly with the Director of Technologies but we wanted to organize meetings with the Mine Manager and the Maintenance Director, who had very busy schedules.  So we were shown to a vacant office and told we would be contacted when needed.  Unfortunately we couldn't get any face time for the rest of that day so after breaking for lunch in the office lunch room and then getting a mine tour in the late afternoon, we got the vans back to the camp for the evening.  There wasn't much to do there so we had dinner in the dining hall and then I watched Breaking Bad on my laptop until bed.  I'm gonna take a mid-paragraph sidebar to apologize for the deteriorating quality of narration at this point but I'll chalk that up to getting back on the blogging horse, which is making this whole week trip kind of difficult to slog through.  Anyway, Thursday at the mine was pretty similar to Wednesday; we got up at 5 and had breakfast, then caught the vans at 6:30 to the offices.  We got to do our presentation for the Mine Manager at 8:30 for about an hour and a half and both he and the other attendees seemed fairly receptive, so we're going to be compiling a detailed proposal to send to them later next week.  But after the presentation we were back to our "office" to pass the day on other things, before wrapping up at the end of the day with our primary contact and going back to the camp for dinner.  The planes back to Hermosillo leave at 8:30, which is right after they arrive bringing in the new mine visitors, so the next morning we did the dining hall routine and then caught one back for our transfer to Phoenix.  We met a guy from Freeport McMoran at the Hermosillo airport who also ended up sitting next to me on the flight to Phoenix, and he turned out to be friends with Dr. White, the founder of Modular, so I mostly discussed that for 45 minutes instead of reading the latest issue of Historia y Vida (a history magazine from Spain that I used to buy when I lived there, that I try to pick up everytime I'm in Mexico).  Finally, when we landed in Phoenix at 1 I waited around in the airport until about 5:30, when Beth and Nick picked me up to go to a Coyotes NHL hockey game with a bunch of other friends.  I passed those four hours eating ahi tuna tacos and drinking rum and cokes, and then watching more episodes of Breaking Bad.  So here are the pics illustrating the remainder of this journey.

Here's a view of part of Dolores Mine from the designated viewpoint

The mine is in the middle of the Sierra Madre, a very rugged and beautiful mountain range that runs through most of Mexico.  These are some cliffs formed by the nearby river that you can see from most parts of the mine.

A typical dining hall meal - spaghetti, picadillo (ground beef and peppers), and a ham and cheese sandwich, with watermelon and horchata

Our office in the mine administration building, complete with our safety vests and man purses

Alec and I having a blast in the back of the Cessna on the return flight to Hermosillo

This informative photo shows the souvenir shotglass that I had just drained of the free sample of the Bacanora (local version of tequila) that you can see in the background.  Yes this was around 9:30 in the morning and yes, Bacanora is even less pleasant to drink than actual tequila at that hour (but don't ask me why I know that)

These are my delicious seared ahi tuna (one of my favorite animal products, as Beth can attest) tacos at Chelsea's Kitchen in the Phoenix airport

Finally here is the view of the ice from our seats at the Phoenix Coyotes game

OK everyone, thanks for sticking with me if you made it to the end of this entry.  Next week I'm going to Toronto for the CIM conference, so I'll take some pictures there too.  And again, I also intend to write some updates of what I remember of the remainders of my European travels, so be on the look out for those too.


  1. I've been patiently waiting at least 2 years for some more blog posts. Good stuff - very informative. Keep 'em coming.

  2. Hey Patrick,

    Excellent blog. The mine looks fascinating and what a great experience to get way off the beaten track! Your story of flying in the plane reminded me that I, too, have had the hair-raising pleasure of flying in the co-pilot's seat of a tiny plane. Private flight from Detroit to Mackinac Island; 7 people plus pilot; me in co-pilot seat; driving rainstorm (no kidding); and then I saw the water bubbling in through the tiny, but leaky, windshield, onto the massive instrument panel. Good times!