A lot of people and books have recommended to us that we make sure we can travel together amicably before embarking on such a lengthy journey. Probably half a dozen people have told me about friendships, which while strong at home, scarcely survived as little as a week on the road. To that end, I felt we should take a short test trip before we committed ourselves to anything as far the real trip goes. The idea originally was that we just take a weekend and go somewhere, but I kept wanting to make more and more trying in order for it to be a realistic test. We had to leave country and go somewhere where we had as little command of the language as possible. I would have really liked to go where we had none, but there aren't a lot of feasible weekend trips in that category, so we settled on Mexico. Also, since we won't be taking a car, we should take the bus, and so forth. We ended up travelling 1000 miles by bus in a little over 72 hours, due south in the middle of the summer to Ciudad Chihuahua.
The city doesn't see a lot of tourists as a general rule, but I imagine that they see almost none during the summer. The week before it had been 108 degrees, but it was a merciful 5-10 degrees cooler. Even so, it was brutal outdoors from 11am-6pm, which is a little long for a siesta. We could withstand the heat for up to 2 hours before we had to retreat to the hotel room. The air conditioning was loud, but for $15 bucks for both of us in the center of town, it was hard to beat.
There are actually a number of monuments and museums in the city, but we missed all the museums, and stumbled upon the monuments mostly by accident, so there are no pictures. The best was probably a giant bronze angel of victory atop a stone pillar at least 60 feet high, which is impressive, but means that the statue itself is best viewed in binoculars from atop a neighboring building. My favorite was essentially a glorified staircase. Theoretically, it lead up to a viewing platform, from which one can view the city(but not the statue, ironically) but for some reason it was encased in plexiglass which is rapidly becoming opaque. The architecture itself was very Soviet Brutalism meets Parking Structure although it had some kind of artificial waterfall tacked onto one side in such a way that it too could not be seen. Possibly the worst work of civic improvement ever.
We also we to the "Name of God Grottoes" which turned out, despite the name to be just plain old caves. The upside was that the state government has seen fit to blast an extremely convenient and easy route through all the most interesting parts of the cave. You can get much closer than is probably prudent to the rock formations, unlike most caves I've been in. Also unlike most caves it was approximately 90 degrees and 150% humidity inside. I don't recall earth science too well, but I'm pretty sure they told me it was also pleasantly cool underground. The experience of slowly melting in an eerie subterranean setting was very Dantean, which is to say hellish, but pleasantly so. Really Hell's not all that bad when you know you're allowed out for a cold Fanta in half an hour.
Our other notable experience was trying to find a decent bar/club. The guide book had some interesting suggestions, which we tried. The first failed to have music at all. The second was located in a reconstructed colonial mansion and promised live music, which it delivered. We entered the cool, tiled interior to the sounds of jazzy yucatecan guitar, sat down, and ordered some margaritas. No sooner had this occurred than the guitarist began to sing--The Piano Man! In English! Needless to say the moment was ruined. Next door we found a dance club called Latin, which we assumed would offer Latin Dancing, but instead catered to 14-19 year old fans of industrial music. I guess Latin has a slightly different connotation in Spanish than in English. I'm sure that the young people of Chihuahua must have some place to congregate, but our guide book clearly had no indication of where and it was too late to start asking around, so we had a few beers at a 'pub'(feat. Corona and Cafe Tacuba) and went to bed.
Overall, the trip was fairly interesting. I can't say I recommend Chihuahua in June, but I would certainly rank it as 'mostly harmless.' The bus trip is mind numbing and your traveling companions are likely to be somewhat disgruntled immigrants who make the trip on a monthly basis. If you're lucky a tiny animated man in an ill-fitting suit will try to sell you a book about how eating enough fruit cures diabetes, acne, and cancer(in that order) on the trip and the bus driver will start a new movie rather than leaving "Supercop 880" on repeat.
As far the test went, we(somewhat disappointingly) failed to kill each other, drive each other insane or(as far as I know, snore, so it looks like the trip can continue as planned. The incredulous attitude of everyone we encountered has left me with some questions about precisely why we're doing this, but I think it's wearing off.