Monday, June 30, 2008
We are in a drought just like the rest of the area and the great state of Texas. However, I put out the sprinklers, did a little dance and the next thing I knew, it was raining. A hard one for about 15 minutes. We may be blessed with another just like it later tonight or tomorrow.
This made me so happy I decided to fix myself a cocktail and enjoy the last few minutes of the water. Here is a picture of the valuable juice, rain that is!
Sunday, June 29, 2008
We left San Antonio right on schedule, 07:52 in the morning. Stopped to fill up with gas, boy, that one hurt. 50 dollars barely gave us 3/4 of a tank. My sympathies.
As we get on the I-35 South, we see flashing lights and a TX-Dot truck slowing down traffic but he was parked after the exit on the right. We thought it must have been an accident. We waited in line wondering why they didn't divert traffic at the exit. Cars and trucks backed up, people became frustrated, someone went on ahead to find out what was happening. They were stringing a cable across all six lanes. Not a big deal had they diverted traffic. Take a look at the mess, it cost us a half an hour and we violated the law like everyone else.
If anybody could screw something up it would be TX-Dot. If you are a snowbird and live in the Rio Grande Valley in the Winter, you know that Hwy 83 has been under construction for over 12 years at least, and some parts are abandoned. Loop 410 and the 281 interchange are a billion dollar nightmare. Overpasses that are over 100 feet high, a giant band aid for a project that was not well-planned over 30 years ago. And who pays the price? Tax payers, drivers, tourists, the list goes on.
Apart from that rant, here are photos of the Texas Toll 255 that exits from the I-35 South just North of Laredo, TX. This exit takes you directly to the Columbia Bridge and on to Monterrey, Saltillo and all points South. This is Exit 24.
Turn right at the top of the overpass.
This is the toll plaza for Texas Toll 255, the minimum cost is $2 dollars for a vehicle.
Here we are approaching the border bridge. You can see the orange tops on the U.S. side and the Mexican side where you choose the lane for "declaring" merchandise, and "not declaring" merchandise. We got the green light, but "our" boys in green on the Mexican side, asked us to stop for a quick revision of our vehicle. Very nice guys, doing a very good job trying to keep Mexico safe.
I got my "entrada" from Migracion. As a Mexican resident, I can only be out of the country 140 days a year and I have to ask for permission to leave and enter the country so that they can keep track of my days out of the pais. We continued on to Hwy 85 to Monterrey. Here is the "caseta de cobro" toll plaza, between Laredo and Monterrey and the current toll costs.
This week will be busy preparing for the four-week vacation. I hope people will be interested in boondocking in our great state of Nuevo Leon.
As the famous Red Skelton would say, "good night, and may God bless".
Saturday, June 28, 2008
Stayed at a nice hotel here San Antonio, not top drawer but close to the rent house and shopping. I need to get some filters for the central heat and air system. The tenant has forwarded mail to me for months. Lots to catch up on. Most of it junk mail.
I am looking for a Robot pool vacuum and some Atwood jacks for the travel trailer to put on the front. It will help to stablize the front end. Need to get ready for the big trip tour of Nuevo Leon.
Will be posting pics of the house, hotel and shopping during the day.
Got the shopping done. Stopped at Home Depot and Lowe's for a/c air filters. I needed to buy a year's supply as the filter needs to be changed every month. Neither store carried the size I needed and said they could special order. Went to WallyWorld and there they were. Did some vitamin shopping as well although I think Costco Mexico has very similar prices now. Also picked up some new bathroom throw rugs that were worn out and needed replacing. I wanted to buy the pool vacuum and went to Leslie's but I was not convinced by the information I received and decided to keep wait on that.
Tonight I am fixing dinner, pasta with pesto and some small filet mignon on the grill with a salad and a bottle of wine. Taking off tomorronw at 8 a.m. for Monterrey, my work here is done.
Friday, June 27, 2008
On the road to San Antonio this morning. It is 5:30 a.m. and we should be on the pavement by 6 a.m. Sunny skies and hot today so better to get a head start. This is a quick two-day run as we need to be back here on Sunday afternoon. The Funfinder won't be going on this trip, not enough time and too much trouble crossing into the U.S. to make worthwhile.
I will be posting this afternoon on the road conditions as well as border crossing. I haven't been for almost a year and will see what the passport and visa situation is.
Last evening I washed and waxed the car, cleaned the pool and will cover it now until we get back to reduce the amount of water evaporation.
Here In San Antonio
Made it here around 1:30 this afternoon. The ride was great. We stopped along the way between Monterrey and Laredo to buy our U.S. insurance and to get a bite to eat.
The rest stop is huge. It has a Domino's, Subway, Mexican food buffet and a Church's chicken. There is a gas station and a Circle K convenience store and a new hotel. We bought our insurance, $18 (u.s.) for the weekend and then looked for some breakfast tacos. We know this place well and the food is expensive. It's the only game in town. An order of quesadillas and beans was 60 pesos. We left. As we got in the car the manager came out and asked us why we didn't stay. I told him it was too expensive for what it was. Mostly business travelers eat there and the company pays or vacationers. We aren't either. So off we went, paid for the autopista and continued on. The road is in excellent condition and worth the 178 pesos including road insurance.As we got close to the border we stopped to fill up and found a taco stand. You can see the pump price of 7.53 pesos. The gas attendant said they have been busy with scalpers coming from the U.S. buying 300 gallons three or four times a day and selling it on the U.S. side at double or more the price for diesel. Sickening. It costs Mexican tax payers a lot to subsidize the diesel fuel.We bought tacos from this taco stand and ate them in the car.
At the Colombia Bridge, I went into to Mexican Immigration to ask for my exit visa for the weekend. To my surprise was my friend Pilar who is an immigration agent. I know her from the office in Monterrey. I used to teach one of the delegates, Dr. Sada Tamez who later transferred to Cancun. We chatted for awhile and her boss, Gabi came out to have their picture taken. Pilar will be stationed at the border for the next two months. Agents from the home office in Monterrey report to the border for shift duty. She is staying with a friend's family in Anahuac which is a town nearby. I always encourage folks to use this bridge.
Taking the I-35 South, just North of Laredo is the Texas Toll 255 which takes you directly to the bridge. Using this bridge (which belongs to Nuevo Leon) takes you around both Laredo, TX and Nuevo Laredo, Tamps saving you time, trouble and hassles. Trust me on this one.For all the bad rap Mexico gets, you will walk away with a different attitude crossing in Columbia with our nice people from Nuevo Leon. Viva Los Regios!
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
I can guarantee you that I will have no free time when I am retired. I can think of so many things to do. Most of them have to do with maintenance.
Today the bug man came to fumigate the yard and the house. He uses a bio-safe product that I can't pronounce. It keeps the critters mostly from crossing the line. He does the perimeter of the house, the inside and the yard including the bamboo.
Today I am taking the truck in for a tune up and buying new rear shocks. I may take off for San Antonio this weekend, work permitting.
I also have a dentist appointment to be fitted with my new removable bridge. After that I have class.
The pool needs vacuuming also. Not a hard job but by the time I get home it will be well over 100 degrees.
Speaking of high temps, the bears are literally coming out of the woods. They find about two a day around here, trap them and take them back to the higher altitudes. We need rain. I won't doubt that we will see bears on our trip starting July 7th.
ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN - Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
Tuesday, June 24, 2008
As I mentioned the other day, I need to get off my duff and start planning our route. I want to build some flexibility into but still have some idea of where we are off to. So today I got out the map and started checking roads, most of which I am familiar with, and checking the 51 municipios we are going to visit. I doubt we will be able to take the Funfinder into Monterrey. There are San Nicolás de los Garza, General Escobedo, San Pedro Garza García, Santiago, Guadalupe, Juárez, Santa Catarina, García. The smaller ones I think we can get through with the trailer but the biggies will need a permit to take the trailer to the main plaza and I don't think I have the energy to do it. These guys can be real dinks and even with the permit they are still going to stop us. Funny law, no trailers. A trailer is a trailer is a trailer. But if I had a motorhome nothing would be said as long as I leave the TOAD behind somewhere, or had a Class C. I won't win that battle. Still trying though.
So have you ever wondered where people work when they write blogs, or participate in forums and post nasty mean messages like I do? Well, here is where my work station is at home. It is in the spare bedroom. I crawl in here on weekends at 5 a.m. and on Sunday read my RvTravel.com newsletter. It comes on Saturday but I save it for Sunday morning coffee.
Rene the Electrician Comes to Visit
There's more than one way to skin a cat. I'm tired of paying my high electric bills. So I talked to Rene and we have decided to put in "my own" transformer. I already did the calculation with the CFE and I would save 110 dollars a month while almost doubling my usage. I will own the transformer and can sell it or take it with when we move. He is putting together an estimate and I will have to fill out an application for the CFE so they can approve it. All I have to say at this time is, "So there".
Monday, June 23, 2008
Trying to post all day, now I am having problems with pictures. Sorry.
What do dung beetles have to do with living in Mexico and boondocking? Directly, not very much and at the same time quite a bit.
Yesterday, some friends came by with their three kids and spent the afternoon. The kids spent most of the time in the pool. It has been over 100F for the last three weeks and there is little if no sign of rain. As the kids were playing in the pool, wasps and dragonflies would take a dip as they were looking for some refreshment. The kids began to scream and worry about being eaten by the awful creatures. I told them to grab the net and scoop them out. Fine, now everyone wanted to grab the net but that's as story of discipline. As the bugs are coming out so do the screams of "kill them, kill them". I told them you don't need to kill them, they won't hurt you and least of all are they looking to eat you.
This morning, I was reading a wonderful article in the June 9th, 2008 issue of Newsweek titled, "Praise the Humble Dung Beetle". A truly amazing creature that we could never live without. Nature has provided for everything, literally. They take care of all the excrement of the world. They roll it, tenderize it, bury it, and make it into harmless matter that fertilizes the soil. Just like us, everything returns to the Earth. Include in this mix, all the other invertebrates that do the work we could never do much less would want to but we are always on the kill.
Read the article if you can. Nature is a truly amazing thing and as I said, it has taken care of everything if we would just leave our gritty little hands out of the mix. So for rving and boondocking, they love my grey water and my yucky black water so long as it doesn't have any harmful chemicals.
Viva la Dung Beetle!
I passed by the bridge today and took a shot. Like busy beavers building a dam these guys are working 24/7. The walls of the overpass are at the level of the bridge and fill has been done. Now it looks like the bridge top, rebar and cement will be poured. Take a look.The rain just doesn't want to fall. The sky has looked like this for three days. It did sprinkle a bit yesterday but that was about it. Maybe it's too hot?
Summer Vacation Schedule
We will be taking off on July 7th touring the state and reporting to you from every possible town that has an Internet cafe. Return date will be August 4th. This is the longest vacation I have ever had since I was a kid. Stay tuned.
Sunday, June 22, 2008
After having spent 1o years living and working San Antonio, a city with a 68% Hispanic population, I thought I knew everything about being Mexican and learning the language. Wow, it was a real culture shock. There is a big difference being a tourist and resident, living in a small Mexican town, big city or rving around the country and living in an American enclave. None are bad and none are better. After twenty years here, I have a whole different attitude.
For most Gringos, living the Mexican dream is white beaches, blue waters, and Margaritaville. It exists but it isn't a reality.
When it comes to living in Mexico, language is a big barrier. Imagine my grandfather when he first immigrated to the U.S., coming from a small farming community in what is now Yugoslavia. It was harder then than now, I think.
My first months here I was always by someone's side to help me get through the day. My work was easy to some extent because teaching English everyone had to comply with my rules. But out on the big streets of Monterrey, life takes on another scarier side. I do run into people at the Mailboxes, Etc. where I have my gringo mailbox and these people have come to Mexico with a large multinational company, have the good life as everything is paid for but they don't have any concept of Mexican lifestyle or culture. In some cases it isn't there desire. They live well, work easily and are treated like a gringo. But it must be a hard life not being able to strike up a conversation with any Joe on the street or get what you really want as a consumer. Learning Spanish fluently for me, was the biggest advantage in terms of work, leisure activities and all-around good living in Mexico.
Life in Mexico has been good to me. I have my "family" and friends although somewhat limited. That could be too because I enjoy my solitude. If I hadn't come to Mexico, I would have never been able to learn Spanish in a cultural sense, had the job opportunities which brought me travel and fame (within the English teaching arena in Central and South America) and the ability to rv in Mexico. (To my Mexican students, that is how you use a conditional statement).
I don't have my oil changed at a Grease Monkey, eat in franchise restaurants, or drink frozen margaritas, nor patronize places with English-speaking staff. I have been to CostCo four times (checking new solar products) in the last month and haven't bought a thing yet. Don't know what all the hoopla is about bulk buying and American products. I guess I have been here so long that I am accustomed to Mexican food products, Mexican wines, Mexican cheeses, even though the label isn't in French it is still pretty good to us.
There are upsides and downsides. Upsides, hey, I work 4 hours a day, I live in a nice house which we worked hard for and have wonderful neighbors. Most people here in the community know me, say hello and treat me with respect. I have made some friends along the way and some enemies too, but that's all in a days work. I don't pay 4 dollars a gallon for gas, I don't have to drive across a continent to go rving in Mexico because I am already here, and finding good Mexican food is a snap!
Downside to being a gringo; people think I have a lot of money, like to "try" and charge me more, think I won't understand them, and only go into deep conversations when no one else is around. The other day I went to the car wash and I was speaking to the car wash attendant (obviously in Spanish) and he said to me, "do you speak Spanish", I responded, "no, but your French is very good!
The Wind Blew It Away!
Last night around 6 p.m. a long awaited rain storm came leaving little water but a lot of strong wind. So strong that it took most of the patio furniture and the palapa away. We were able to salvage the patio furniture but the palapa got away.
Friday, June 20, 2008
Just as in anywhere in the world, the U.S., Canada and even Mexico, there is a new experience around every corner. We have run into so many interesting places and things over the years just by making a wrong turn or deciding it's time to stop driving for the day.
That was the case of Aquismón in San Luis Potosi. Aquismón is located (99º01’ longitude West and 21º37’ latitude North) about 300 kms from the capitol city. The Aquismón turn off from Hwy 85 is well-marked and about 3 kms from the highway.
Aquismón is one of the few Mexican towns given the title Pueblo Magico. Small it may be, but it has a main plaza, is a county seat and sports a tourist center off the main plaza. It is a place filled with indigenous color and culture. It is the only place where I have found a woman with native dress and headdress sitting in front of a computer at a cybercafe.We went to the tourist center but it closes at three in the afternoon. So we took a stroll around the square and started to ask questions. Of course every knew we had pulled in with a travel trailer so we were easily identified. We stopped at one shop where two teenage brothers were working and it was mostly shrugging of shoulders. But thanks to my father's genes I can strike up a conversation with just about anyone. Sure enough, the older of the two opened up and told us there was a "parque recreativo" nearby, 8 kms down the road. (I keep talking about the parque recreativos, there is usually one in every town at it is a picnic area if not more for the locals and is usually built around a water spot of some sorts. So off we went down the road. The first 500 meters were potholed and muddy and we almost turned back. But then it got really good.Once there, we found a river that sprouts from a thermal water spring. Further up the road from our campsite we found the spring and a whole lot of warm water where you can hang out and float around all day under the shade. The rig looks pretty dirty but we had been on the road for over 10 days and in and out of rain, forest and jungle.We stayed one night and spent the day sitting in the water, watching people, a trip into town and a great order of tamales potosinos made by the local women.The wet ground and muddy roads kept us from visiting one well-known spot in Aquismón, Sótano de las Golondrinas (swallow's cave). Sótano is actually basement. The swallows, thousands of them, exit in the morning and return in the evening. There are extreme sports, such as spelunking, climbing, etc., with certified and experienced guides. We will go back to this spot. I have a beautiful video I want to post of the morning with all the birds and the water, I hope it works.
ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN - Live a balanced life - learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work every day some.
I have faith in our President, Felipe Calderón however I have to differ with him on the long term effects of freezing food prices on 150 basic items until January 2009. First off, how can there be 150 basic food items? My thinking in basic, is eggs, tortillas, rice, beans, etc.
The masses will only get more upset in January 2009 when they have to face reality. Better to teach people how to shop, to economize, change bad eating habits and improve health. It never happens that way though.
My recommendations to my friends here are shop on line for best prices at supermarkets. This information is available through Profeco (BBB) by city and then by product it gives detailed pricing including leader products that may be priced below market to encourage shoppers. I have still found tortillas at 5.80 pesos a kilo. Mexicans are used to buying from the corner store (big ripoff) or shopping at only one store. Most supermarket chains are now located within easy distance of one another.
Also, eat in season. Because of the Samonella scare in the U.S., tomatoes are now on sale at 25 cents a pound (u.s.). Great time to stock up, do some canning, make salsas, stewed tomatoes, etc. Guaranteed, packaged tomatoe products will also drop for a short time to avoid product expiration.
Change eating habits. Everyone knows the dangers of frying foods in cheap oils. Stop frying and start grilling and baking. Eat less carbohydrates that convert into simple sugars that promote the fatal diseases easily avoidable, obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Thursday, June 19, 2008
The driver took us back to the square and we pondered our choices. We then went back to the tourist office and talked to the police. We asked if we could park in front of the school. The answer is always yes. We told them we were teachers on vacation and all agreed. We set up and took off for the pyramids.
When we arrived at the pyramid, the same guy who said we couldn't stay over night, started following us around and he carried a large manila envelope. We thought his job was to make sure we didn't disturb anything. After a few minutes we asked him some questions about Tamohi and its origins. Then it all came out. He started to pull the blueprints, drawings and photos of the ruins. He explained in detail the discovery and excavation and how the place was at one time private property and the owner had known for many years the ruins were on his land. The last photo he pulled out was a picture of himself excavating a tomb of a priest back in 1981. He was the original archeologist who was sent by the government to excavate and chart the site, he has stayed there ever since and is the expert archeologist in Tamohi. He gave us an excellent tour and one we will never forget. We have visited many larger ruins in Mexico but these are just as excited and many times more accessible.
Back in town for the evening, the police stopped by. Knowing we were teachers, he sent for the school's PTA president who came by around 7 p.m. and offered us an electric hookup. It was great, we had a nice chat and then went in for happy hour and after a walk in the plaza where an art fair was taking place.
Customs and culture are so different here and people very open and accepting. I think of a time we have ever been asked to move on or were not allowed to stay in or around a town.
I don't have the other laptop handy with the town pics but I will add those on Saturday.
If you have any questions about Tamuin, SLP or any other boondocking spot please feel free to drop me an email.
ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED IN KINDERGARTEN - Put things back where you found them.
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Today I was scheduled for a cleaning and checkup. I went to visit my dentist Adrian. He is your typical Mexican dentist. He has his office (consultorio) in a neighborhood and he caters to the people who lives there. He also has a technician who helps him in his laboratory. He makes dental pieces for other dentists and the university. He also teaches several classes there. I have watched him grow over the years as a dentist. His office is equipped with the latest in dental technology including a computer that shows you what he is doing and what the problems are. Today he cleaned my teeth for 250 pesos, less than 25 dollars. He discovered a resin filling that had cracked and decay was underway. So he decided to change it out. Wow, that was another 300 pesos and the tooth is as good as new. He will be replacing my removable bridge with a better product. The one I have now cracked and was done at another clinic that was recommending an implant. Adrian says implants are "iffy" and can have problems later on depending on the bone density. That is my problem, I have lost some bone tissue. He says better to use a removable Valplast product for now and we can always do the implant later.The heat here in Monterrey continues to be in the 100s. Hot is hot and the pool isn't as refreshing as it was. Looks like I need a weekend mountain getaway!
All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten: And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first word you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.
Monday, June 16, 2008
This morning I drove down to Allende (17 miles south from Los Cavazos) and stopped in to see my friends at the CFE. !Que decepción! I had gone Saturday to the new quinta only to discover that the meter had not been installed. Today they said it is pre-assigned and ready for installation this afternoon. I have the 071 number to call but I wanted to go in person. Better results. Let's see what happens.You may not be able to read the sign, but it is the entrance to Allende on the highway. The sign says, "Allende Es Tu Casa", and they mean it. Nicest people in the world. Everyone waves (better put I wave at everyone ;)) and they always say hello. Below the sign is a speed check sign to let you know your speed limit. This is a 50km per hour zone on the Hwy85 and about 500 meters further up is a speed trap. They have cones up so it isn't a big surprise.
All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten by Robert Fulghum
Have you ever read this book? It is a wonderful tool that I have used for many years in my work giving seminars and conferences.
There is quite a list of things that one learns in kindergarten that gives you the basics for life. I think I'll post a new one everyday this wee and next:
Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Styrofoam cup: the roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
Sunday, June 15, 2008
What a great day to celebrate. Here is to all the fathers around the world, have a Happy Father's Day! I have lots of brothers, brother-in-laws, nephews and nephews-in-law who are great dads and they have done a wonderful job of raising their kids. They are also good providers and fun to be around when we have family reunions. I am truly blessed to have such a wonderful family.
Can you identify this animal?
This picture was taken about four years ago at the very top of Cerro de la Silla (Saddleback Mountain) by a friend who is an avid hiker. He had been on an all day hike up the mountain when fog rolled in. I haven't found anything on this critter. If you have any clues, pls post a comment or send me an email.
Today we will have a party here at the quinta for friends and family to celebrate Día del Padre with a pool party and carne asada.
Saturday, June 14, 2008
Got up early this morning and headed in to El Cercado for tacos at Mundo's. Delicious, two jalapeño de queso, one picadillo, one, desebrada, and one huevo con chorizo.
After that I went south to Allende. I hadn't been there all week and wanted to see if they had installed the electric meter. Big disappointment. I'll have to go to the CFE on Monday. They told me last week they had a shortage of 22oV meters, so maybe that was the problem. As they say, "the squeaky wheel gets the oil". Looks like I'll be squeaky on Monday.
I headed back to El Cercado and saw the house below for sale on the mountain. Never hurts to look around and this is a nice place. It has a view of the mountains as well as the lake. The house is 350 mts construction and 3000 mts of land. Asking price is 2.5 million pesos but it has been for sale for quite some time so there is always room for negotiation. Great retirement get away. The worker lives there by himself, has the run of the place plus he gets a 1200 pesos a week. Sign me up!
I also have had a headlight problem for the last month. First, the light was loose, so I would jiggle it in the mornings. That worked for awhile, then it burned the socket. I put that off for the last week as I only drive in the dark in the morning and there is no traffic. Today I found a mecanico electrico in El Cercado. What do you think this project cost me considering the dealer said I would have to replace the whole wiring harness? 80 pesos for parts and labor. Granted, this guy isn't running a spic and span workshop but it did the job.After that I went around the corner to our Subway/Church's/Domino's Pizza and used a 2 for 1 coupon and got two 15cm subs and a tea. Which I will enjoy right now if you'll excuse me.
Remember, "in the end, only kindness matters".