Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Victoria RV Park - Return to Monterrey

After we had washed the rig and eaten shrimp at La Playa, we went back to the rv park for a nap. There was another rig now in the park. After waking up we went for a walk to take a look around the park. There is a big palapa in the back that I guess was used gatherings by the caravans. The palapa is in good condition but is now used for housing junk and cars. Same thing goes with the row of rooms that used to be rented on one side of the park. They too are filled with stuff and in disrepair. I mention these things as this park is a good park, it is in a valuable location in terms of heading South and its distance to the border. It would be great if someone who knows the owner can convince her that the potential is still there but the park needs a good clean up and some paint as well as a better rate than 22 dollars a night, not to scare anyone off. First basic work would be a repair of the bathrooms and replacement of the rotted window frames for some new aluminum ones, and a new sidewalk in front of the bathrooms.

Personally, I would fence off the one entrance and road that is associated with the locales that she rents and remodel the rooms for rent. That would make a separate business from the rv park and it would segregate the ugly view of that area from the grassy rv park.

While we walked around we met the other couple with the rig. This was a real treat for two reasons. One, the Ellis' are a cool couple who have traveled Mexico for 25 years, and second because they have a 1978 Explorer Class B that is a rig to die for. Not that I talk a lot, but I found a way to convince them to show us the rig this morning before taking off. What a piece of work in all senses of the word. This Class B has a full wetbath, dinette, a bedroom that can be closed off from the rest of the cabin and a wall closet with sliding doors and drawers down below. This rig has over 300,000 miles on it and just received an engine rebuild.

Before heading out this morning I took a picture of a clean rig and a view of the park.

During the trip we paid for fuel with credit cards 100% of the time. We never had to look for a station as the first one we would stop at accepted cards. Some wouldn't take American Express but accepted Visa/MasterCard and debit cards. The ride home was a good one as I love traveling Hwy 85 North.

It is my territory and I love the mountain views.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Emerald Coast to Ciudad Victoria

Being a wise guy, we were looking for a way to beat the clock around Tampico. It had been raining all day since we had pulled out of the rv park at Trailer Park de Alba. It was a great ride and I enjoy driving in the rain, afterall it wasn't a storm or hurricane. We listened to Astrud Gilberto and Chris Botte on CDs and had a great conversation recalling our time in Veracruz and all the great things we had learned about San Rafael and of course the new friends we made on this trip.

We attempted a new bypass and it got us right back to the same one we had come down on. From there we cut across to Hwy 70 hoping to take Ebano exit to Estacion Manuel and then on the the toll highway to Ciudad Victoria. Surprise!

We exited at Ebano and started down the road to Estacion Manuel. So far so good, paved with quite a few topes. Then the road came to an end. It was obvious construction was going on but halted for the holidays. We flagged down an oncoming truck and he said the road improved considerably after we passed the bridge. We passed the "said" bridge and many more after that. What we didn't ask the guy was if the road turned back into a highway. It didn't for another 2 hours as we traversed a dirt road that had once been paved and completely stripped filled with potholes. Two hours later we arrived in Estacion Manuel. Amen for that brother.

We went to visit the police to ask if we could stay somewhere for the night and they directed us to the municipal gym. We parked outside under a lampost and spent quite a relaxing evening.

Needless to say, happy hour lasted a bit longer than usual. I had passed my usual 6 hours of driving time and put in more like 8.5 hours. Way too much for me.

Well, what's done is done.

This morning we headed out for the road to Ciudad Victoria. The sun began to shine and we knew we were off for a great day. It really has been. It was a short 150 kms but we got to Victoria and easily found the rv park. We met Rosie and she got us checked in.

The park is nice as an rv park goes. It has no pool and no internet but the bathrooms and showers are nice. It has seen better days and I think they would just clear all the old crap laying around the place out of there it would look like any other run of the mill rv park in the U.S.

We first took the rv to the car wash and they accepted us. We backed in as they washed the rv and then we returned later to do the Durango. This car wash is two blocks away from the rv park and they charged us 20 pesos per lineal meter. They did a great job.
We also found a wonderful seafood restaurant nearby called La Playa. Leaving the Victoria RV Park, turn right and go to the first light turn right and head up the hill. It is on the left side of the street. Inexpensive lunch specials and great shrimp cocktails.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tecolutla Here We Come!

As part of Juan's Spring project at the University of Ohio, he wanted to take some souvenirs from this region of Mexico to share with his co-workers and students. We asked around the area here in Casitas and San Rafael to see where we could buy in quantity but at a better price. Most people recommended we drive to Xalapa which is about a three hour drive.

We stopped first here in Casitas for gas at the local Pemex. BTW, they too accept credit cards. Talking to the attendant he recommended we drive up to Tecolutla. He was almost sure we would have a wide variety of souvenires to choose from plus great prices. Tecolutla here we come!

Off we went heading towards Zamora and the infamous toll bridge. The toll is only 18 pesos and the bridge is a good one. After heading North and crossing the bridge we went to downtown Zamora and along the river. As we exited Zamora the road took us right to Tecolutla. 15 minutes approx.

As we entered the town we asked to women along the road where we could find souvenirs. They said we had to go all the way downtown. With my glass always half full, I thought for sure this was going to be an adventure. Not! It was about five blocks down the road.

Paradise. Not only can you find souvenirs in abundance, but you can find seafood of all kinds at very affordable prices. Complete breakfast of enchiladas with eggs, beans, bread, juice and coffee for 35 pesos. 2 pesos for a piece of pan dulce. Excellent! The beach is a wonderful place too with lots of vendors, palapas and great waves for the avid swimmer.

Ask me about hotels. Leave your rig for a couple of days and head to Tecolutla. Hotels range from 200 to 300 pesos, all with air conditioning, small but very modern and most have a pool and restaurant. You can sit in a sidewalk restaurant and drink beer or have a coffee Veracruzano and watch the lazy day pass by you or go shopping and spend the day at the beach or around the well-appointed pools at the small hotels.

Juan asked this little volador if he could have his picture taken with him. The kid said he could but also asked for some "cooperacion".

I highly recommend this place at least for a day stop.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Tamiahua. Veracruz to Costa Esmeralda & Trailer Park de Alba "Yuri"

As I said yesterday, we arrived safely to Trailer Park de Alba. We met up with Bill and Sharon and they introduced us to all the other rvers in the park. Sorry if you view the blog and you are staying at the park, but I don't remember names very well and it takes me awhile to remember. Mike is the caretaker and is doing a good job of trying to get the place into shape. Edgar and his wife are from Austria and they have a motorhome that they leave in Florida when they are not in the states. We even found a couple here with a Trailmanor, surprising to us as we used to own two different Trailmanor models.

On Christmas Eve we all gathered for a Christmas dinner. I need to apologize to everyone, we ate and after a short conversation we took off for bed. It had been a long day driving and I was pretty pooped so we should have stayed and helped clean up.

We had a fresh baked ham, turkey, mash potatoes and gravy, salads and all the trimmings. Edgar made some of the best pototoe salad and swedish meatballs. They were good and as you will see in the photo not much left to eat after we devoured the plate. The same thing goes with Sharon's deviled eggs. Excellent, popping them into my mouth one at a time. We had some wonderful deserts too! Bill and Bev brought "blonde brownies". I stashed two away for our nap the next day with a glass of cold milk.
The park is nice and located next to Neptuno. I will say that Neptuno has made some great strides in maintenance and repairs. The place looks great and the rv spots are immaculate and the park overall is well-groomed. I would encourage people to consider it also. Both are nice and have pools along with a wide-open beach. Hook ups are good. Even though many are saying it is only 15 amp or less, we have had no problems running our 7700 btu Polar Cub roof air in the afternoons during downtime.
Casitas is close by, 4 kms and from there you can visit San Rafael which has all the stores you need to go shopping for groceries, fresh baked goods, hardware stores, and some wonderful little restaurants. Shrimp abound here and a good cocktail will run you 35 pesos.

We have been here before but this trip I could stay on for some time and work in the rv park and be quite content.

A young couple with three kids in tow stayed two nights in the park. Ned and Tessa have a Lazy Dazes Class C and Tessa has been touring Mexico and parts of Central America with the kids. Ned comes to visit when he can get away from work. Here are the kids on their way out of the park this morning playing with the park's adopted dogs. They are heading back to the states now. I bet the kids have a trip of a lifetime to remember.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Barra Del Tordo, Tamps - Tamiahua, Veracruz

Entrance to Tamiahua, Veracruz

Brian, I saw your comment but cannot email you. Send me an email at the above address. I have some information for you and would also like to ask you a question.

We made great time from Barra Del Tordo but we had left so late in the morning that we didn't arrive to Tamiahua until 5 in the afternoon. The roads were good all the way and it looks like a lot of work has been done on the road in Veracruz. We accidentally ended up on the bypass around Tampico. We are accustomed to passing over the big bridge over the canal but we could see it in the distance as we passed by on the bypass. Many people have said that they get stopped by transito on the bypass. We passed many transito but we had no problems. We never get stopped, I guess it is our Mexican plates.

As we arrived to Naranjos, we took the left turn to Tamiahua. The signs are well-marked and it is a good road turned bad turned good again. This road is not for big rigs, caution. We found later that there is a road coming from Tuxpan North to Tamiahua which is much better suited for big rigs.
Sunrise at Tamiahua

In Tamiahua, a fishing town and home of "mariscos" we found everyone to be very friendly regardless of the looks on their faces. So much so that we felt very welcomed there. We went to Tamiahua to stay on the beach side crossing the canal that runs between it and the mainland. A bit of a disappointment as the "chalan" or ferry couldn't take our rig as it sat too low in the back and couldn't make it up the ramp.
We stayed along the canal in front of the hotel and we enjoyed the evening. It is very quiet at night and no passersby. We walked around town for an hour, checked our email at one of the many cibercafes. The next morning, Wednesday, we got up early and went into town but the internet cafes didn't open until ten. We headed out but not before buying empanadas de cameron and some others made from cooked milk, not leche quemada. By the way, you can now enjoy the beach at Tamiahua, the bridge you see in the background will be finished on the 28th of December.
If we are still in the neighborhood, we may go back for a look see. Below is the city of Tuxpan. Just follow the signs to keep heading South.

The road started off with quite a bit of pot holes, but we eneded up the day on very good freshly paved roads. We arrived to Trailer Park de Alba in the early afternoon to a friendly group of rvers and spent the evening with a Christmas Eve potluck and great conversation. More on all that tomorrow except to say this stretch of Veracruz, the Emerald Coast, is really a treat.

One interesting point I came up with on this trip is, "follow the signs" do not follow your logic. When you accept this, it will work beautifully for you. Throw out the compass!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Monterrey to Barra Del Tordo, Tamps

Finally got on the road Monday around 9:30 after stopping at the bank to pay bills and picking up some tacos. You can't head down a Mexican highway without some tacos.

The weather was cold and rainy. We left the house at 2C and arrived at Barra Del Tordo at 18C. Sunny skies and a beautiful beach.

We got lost for about 5 minutes as we always do. Follow the signs, don't follow your logic. Signs win out!

The roads were good and very light traffic all the way. One thing that has changed on this trip is a new law for Mexican taxpayers like me. To deduct my fuel expense, I now have to pay with a credit card or debit card and make sure it is noted on the invoice. So, as always, no problems paying with credit cards. Every station we have stopped at accepts CCs.

Got to the beach and took a short nap. Got up and had a snack of Mennonite cheese and hard sausage, and a cocktail. We watched the old version of Great Expectations. As tired as I was, we finished the whole movie.

Today we are in Aldama at a restaurant with great wi-fi. Updating the blog, checking emails and have a quick bite before heading out. The goal is the Trailer Park de Alba but we may not make it until tomorrow for the pot luck.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

It Tows Like Butter!

Went for the trailer today. Got there and put the WDH in the slot and guess what? It was now too long for the new hitch they put on. They made the slot shorter to accomodate the spare tire. Now what do we do?? Well, thanks to very lax city planning, there was a guy down the street that makes wrought iron window protectors, gates, etc. He wacked off a half inch and it fit right in.

Hooked up the hitch, lights, action and off I went. Juan followed behind all the way home, about 60 kms. Man it felt good to see that trailer behind me. The Durango tows like a dream. It has so much power and the ride with the trailer is as smooth as butter. Really!

So the plan was to take off tomorrow, but since there's no rush in more I think we will wait until Monday but early, like around 7 a.m. That should get us down the coast quite a ways. We have been invited to a Christmas Eve potluck at Trailer Park de Alba. That is the goal.

Tomorrow I will finish cleaning up the yard a bit and getting the trailer loaded. Can't leave home unless everything is in order. Old habits die hard.

Also, in January we will head to Mercedes, Tx for the annual RGV RV Show the 8th through the 10th. I think we will have tee-shirts made that say, "QTLA".

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Christmas Vacation - Posadas
Finally, I am making some progress. Yesterday they installed the hitch. Today I took the Pathfinder in to have them take off the brake controller and then went back with the Durango to reinstall it. Looks great and all systems work in terms of no electrical issues. Tomorrow I will attach the trailer and check all the lights. I can't wait. Sunday we are on the road to Barra del Tordo and spend at least one or two days. Then on to Veracruz.

I took the picture in the dark. I had wanted to take it before leaving the shop. BTW, the place that did the work is called T-Rent-T and the owner is Gerardo Tavasci, their website is They manufacture all types of trailer for towing ATVs, taco stands, and even custom-made trailers. He carries a large stock of rv parks including air conditioners, roof vents, all things related to towing, break controllers, light replacements, black, grey and fresh water tanks, and so on. They do great work and if you are in a pinch while in Mexico they can send you a part. I just realized you can't see anything. I'll try to take it again tomorrow.

Being it is Christmas time, posadas abound. Today I was invited to an elementary school for their posada. Lots of music, dancing and food. It was a good time had by all.

I now have Thursday and Friday to prepare for the trip. I really prefer a day before the trip just to go over everything and get some rest. I am so looking forward to this trip and sharing all the things we find along the way. I will attempt to report everyday as long as ciber cafes are available.

Monday, December 15, 2008

A Sad Day

Tried to save a dog today. I saw her on the grassy divider on the highway as I was attempting to return to the bank to cash a check. I've said before that I attempt to pull dogs off the highway that have been hit so they don't get completely destroyed by passing cars and trucks. I got to her and saw she was breathing and bundled her up and off we went to my vet about 15 minutes down the road.
I petted her and assured her we would get help and she would be fine. We got to the vet and he went right to work. She had a broken leg, several broken vertebrae and internal bleeding. He recommended we put her down and I said go ahead.
I held her as he gave her a tranquilizer to settle her down a bit. She was pretty much out of it but I just couldn't leave her alone. After about 10 minutes he gave her the final death knell. I held her tight as he injected her and she winced a bit. Then she started having a heart attack, I just did the best I could and after about 15 long seconds she went on.
I just couldn't leave her out there in the cold to die alone and this wasn't the ending I was hoping for. Now she is out of pain and off with other furkids running around in some imaginary meadow.
I miss my two furkids; Gum and Tasha. They were good kids!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

RV.Net and Censorship

I am an avid fan of the Rv.Net but I am really getting hacked off at the moderation of the forums. If you are going to delete the message, you have the responsibility to send a system-generated message to let me know you are deleting it. If not, I as an owner of my own blog can call that, "chicken shit". Affinity Group makes a ton of money off of that forum thanks to all the rvers who participate. It is not up to a moderator to push buttons without some sort of internet etiquette. I can't blame the moderators but those that are over them.
This is all about bread and butter. And that, "is my final word".

Being An Early Bird

My good friend wonders what I am doing up at 6 a.m. As the product of a 10 child family, we had lots of discipline. The trumpet sounded every morning of year no matter whether it was a snow day, weekend or holiday. Chores had to be done.

It is a habit I have never been able to break. Even if I stay up until midnight, I will still be up by 6 a.m. at the latest. My normal wake up hour without an alarm is around 4:30 - 5:00 a.m. But don't worry if we're parked next to you. I sneak out early with my coffee and go for a walk or a run. How else would I capture the moon on camera!

Early to bed and early to rise, but if we are around a campfire or rv setting you will have wished I was in bed. If you don't know, you soon will . . . .

Dental Care In Mexico

There seems to be some myths about dental care in Mexico. Mexican dentists are well-known for their skills and craftsmanship as well as their lower prices. It is only logical that their prices are lower as the insurance industry has not infected this country like the U.S.
A good cleaning runs under 25 dollars with the current exchange rate. Crowns, bridges, root canals can be expensive in the U.S. but much less expensive here and you can do it as you are rving here in the Winter. Many people who live along the border cross into Mexico everyday to have their dental work done.
Having first-hand experience in dental care I can vouche for the quality and price. I was born with bad teeth. I had all my teeth capped at age 7. From then on it has been a losing battle and one that I have dreaded all of my life. However, knowing that my teeth would always be in conflict I found a good Mexican dentist who was honest and not just out to make a peso.
My first experience was in 1985 when my San Antonio dentist told me I needed to permanent bridges. The cost at the time was 1600 dollars a piece. My wonderful insurance policy only covered the first 1000 dollars per year after deductible. That meant I had to have one done and then wait a year. I came to Mexico. Juan's brother is a dentist. He said he would do two removable bridges for 250 dollars. He said it would actually save my teeth as they would have to
destroy the surrounding teeth to make the permanent bridges. After I got home with my new dental pieces that saved me a couple of thousands of dollars, I contacted my insurance company just for kicks. They offered to reimburse me for the 250 dollars.
Since that experience I have relied solely on Mexican dentists. Think of all the Americans who cannot afford dental care because they have no insurance. I have noticed over the years that more Americans have teeth missing than ever before. This has always been true in undeveloped countries.
The myth I would like to dispell is that Mexican dentists do not use lead in their fillings. First, it is against the law and second, if that were true, people would be dropping like flies from lead poisoning.
Some dentists will use cheaper materials. Again, as I always say, KNOW BEFORE YOU GO. As with one permanent bridge I had put it, on the advice of a friend in the U.S. who is a retired dentist, I paid extra for pure gold under the porcelain. I have had that bridge for five years and the gum tissue hugs that bridge. It works beautifully and looks very natural. You get what you pay for. Be a good consumer.
And do you really believe that if you get your dental work done in Mexico and go back to show your American dentist that he is going to say, "good on ya". Don't hold your breath, he is protecting his business.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Full Moon - 12/12/2008

Went out this morning at 6 a.m. and took this wonderful photo of the full moon. I hope to take some more tonight.
Looks like I have everything under control now with my wallet theft. As I said, it really didn't bother me. It is the inconvenience of recuperating all my stuff. I now have to keep an eye on my credit and make sure no one steals my identity.
It's time for Christmas. My favorite time of year. I have so many good memories of all my Christmas'. Even the ones I have spent alone. This year we're not putting up a tree at home. Since we will be on the Emerald Coast for the holiday we will have our tree in the trailer and lights outside.
We will probably go to midnight mass in Las Casitas. So many memories. Remember the big bulb Christmas lights? Now they don't seem so big, but when I was a kid and I was under the tree they seemed huge. My mom used to put angel hair around the lights. It was so powerful. Even with ten kids, Santa never forgot us. I remember my dad rattling the chains in the heating ducts of the house to tell us Santa was on his way. I didn't know then of course that it was him. I really did picture a big guy with a red nose and white beard down there in the bowels of our furnace trying to find a way into the house. I'll see if I can drum up some old Christmas pics.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Laredo Trip - Some Thoughts and Photos

Some day, be it 50 or 100 years, this will be a national park and monument. Isn't it beautiful!

Now that I am back home, I have had time to collect some of my stuff that was stolen and think about what has happened. First off, some great pics of the trip. I love the drive from Laredo to Monterrey. I have watched it change considerable and yet remain the same over the last 25 years. Man, how time flies. That was almost half of my life. BTW, I used to drive this route every weekend for more than three years. I convinced my boss at the time to let me use my vacation time in increments of three-day weekends.

This guy doesn't seem to need papers to cross the border!

Crossing Mamulique

Today I recouped my driver's license, tax ID card and my CostCo pass. Amazing how things change. When I got my ID in Texas it was a depressing experience. The office was small (there are only three in San Antonio), old and dirty. Lots of papers stacked on people's desks. No order of any kind and lots of cell phones ringing. In contrast, our Tesoreria is located in a mall. We have more than 15 offices around town. The mall office is all glass, clean, modern and the best part is, you get your license in less than 15 minutes. I had my electric bill as proof of residence, my Tax ID number, and a copy of my passport. I got in line with more than 35 people at 10 a.m. and had my picture and finger prints taken, the eye test, and signed as an organ donor. They have printers that print your chip embedded license and I was out of ther at exactly 10:21 a.m. Above and beyond all that, I was treated like royalty.

I then went over to the SAT office, Hacienda or Lolita, the Mexican version of ole Uncle Sugar. I thought for sure this would be a burocratic experience for sure. I walked in, talked to the information desk and was directed to the second floor. I walked into an internet cafe of sorts and waited 5 minutes. A clerk called my number and I told him my story. He checked my passport and driver's license and in less than 2 minutes I walked out with my new tax ID so that I can pay my taxes in the bank next week. No waiting, no "you'll receive it in three or four weeks". Instant gratification.
I also believe it was easier for me in Mexico than the U.S. because I know this system and I know my way around. Unfortunately, in the U.S. I feel a bit out of place and not very knowledable.

I had a great time in San Antonio and my friend Sam was a huge help. I didn't want to drive my car without a license and he was happy to be my chofer. We go back a long way and spent most of the weekend laughing our tails off. I did feel a bit depressed as it is hard to talk to people in public. People seem distant versus here in Mexico. Here I can strike up a conversation with just about anyone. At the jury duty on Monday, there were 400 people in the room. No one said a word. At first I was excited to be there and see what this was all about, but after 15 minutes I asked to be dismissed. I knew I couldn't sit there and not talk to anyone. I tried but to my left and right there wasn't much response. Excellent opportunity to take a sourpuss survey!

I bought a new Acer laptop at Best Buy. I thought it was a bargain and I love the keyboard. It is curved and the keys are very soft to the touch, more like a typewriter for those that can relate. I grew up on a manual typewriter. First order of business is to get rid of the McAfee software. Boy that stuff is a pain in the ass. I also hate my laptop dictating to me what I should or shouldn't do. Next order of business is to turn off all that stuff too!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Head Cold Continues

This cold seems to be a clinger. It is now in week two. Everyone I have talked to says it really hangs around. The buzzing subsides after the first week, your body feels like it's back on Earth but the liquid production continues. I have had good days and bad days. I'm not taking anything but today I will buy something to dry me up at least temporarily. My nose is red and that makes me look like I tip the bottle.

If you've got it, hang in there, it does get better and it will, like all else come to an end.

Stolen Wallet Update

The wheels of justice move very slowly in the U.S. I filed a police report and they said to give them 7 to 10 working days to get the report in the system. Okay.

In the meantime, they suggested I go to the stores where the thefts took place and ask for the surveillance video and then call the police to ask for the tapes. That doesn't happen. Liability. Two of the stores said that they couldn't do it without a subpoena. So I will stop playing Sam Slade and let the U.S. handle their crime problems.

It was interesting how fast these guys can work a credit card scam. And the garbage they bought. All grocery stores, gas stations, pizza places and movie rentals. Is there a pattern here, and all the stores are the same chain. Thanks to HEB's policy of trusting the customer there are never credit card or ID checks.

One interesting point is that the store manager said the liability issue is way out of hand. For example, if they chased a shoplifter out of the store and across the street and the shoplifter was hit by a car they would be liable for injury or death to the criminal.

My final comment as I have let all of this go seeing it was my fault; you made your bed now lie in it will hold true to me. I am a happy camper living in Mexico. It may have its faults but it doesn't put up with a lot of bullshit from people.

Juan did the same thing before we went on vacation in July. Loaded groceries into the truck at the local HEB in Monterrey and pushed the cart back into the store. Just like me, five minutes later, he went back for the wallet and it was gone. The big difference; we went to the store manager and he summoned the security group. They began scanning the videos, we found the guy on tape taking the wallet. We called the police, they arrived, found the wallet thrown away without the cash but retrieved the credit cards. Now that is how you handle justice. They guy is on a local wanted list.

Here had to call in, at my leisure, the report. Even though this would be a very easy case to solve and probably an inside job from a store employee and a young one at that, the credit card company will absorb the thefts, the police will never do anything about it, our lives will be impacted with higher credit card charges and interest rates, the evil-doers will continue to pollute the planet and I am now victim number 71,000 here in San Antonio.

Good day!

Monday, December 8, 2008

San Antonio Trip - Stolen Wallet

Lots to report about my trip up here. Unfortunately, yesterday my wallet was lifted while shopping in San Antonio. As I finished reporting everything to the credit card companies, the thieves got away with more than 1000 dollars.

I am off to get my Texas ID. I have no driver's license now so I have to wait until I get home. I will be here another day or two and will upload my pictures and adventures.

Believe it or not, the head cold I had is finally subsiding. Almost two weeks, it was awful.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

Home From Chihuahua - Sick In Bed

First off, I want to shout out to Judy who posted a comment saying she is a new Funfinder owner and member of our Yahoo Funfinder Group. You'll love your Funfinder!

Made it home safe and sound last night from Chihuahua. The AeroMexico Connect flight was an Embraer 145. We hit quite a bit of turbulence and it just happened to start at the same time as the onboard snack service. We finally got a quick drink so I had my happy hour starter.

I have been fighting a cold all week, it seemed to just hang around without ever developing full blown. Well, now it's here and I my head feels like a swollen balloon. Good thing I am on vacation now until the end of January. Yes, I am on a two-month vacation.

First comes jury duty in San Antonio. I have opted not to take the Funfinder as my neighbor in San Antonio and best friend insisted I stay at their house. So I will give the Durango a real workout before our rv trip to Veracruz. I tested the mpg last week and came out much better than I thought, 19.73. That included some city driving. So I feel much better driving it although I have learned that fast starts are a real gas drinker and I have learned to drive it by the rmps not the mph.

One of the nice things about working with teachers is that they always give me gifts. Here is a pic of some the goodies I received while in Chihuahua.

I always try to interject my feelings about the environment via rving and camping. I used an example during the course about littering. I said that if you buy a product, you also buy the packaging. So if you buy a bag of chips you are the owner of the bag and you keep it with you until you find a place to put it. Sure enough, a teacher pulled out her bag of tricks and showed us her recycling project. Take a look.

Coin purse made of chip bags, and a handbag made of flip tops from aluminum cans.

Another purse made from potatoe chip bags.

This is the teacher who made the products. Every time I turned around, she had on another disguise. She was a real hoot. That's what makes a great English teacher.

If anyone is interesting in crossing the border around the 9th or 10th of December at the Columbia Bridge outside of Laredo, I will be heading back from San Antonio and would be glad to help you with your crossing and on to all points South. Just let me know via email and we can set something up. I know the people in Immigration and the rest of the permit process I can help with the Spanish. Being that I cross the opposite way, I know some but not alot of the process. At least I could be there for moral support and Spanish.

Save yourself some time and make three copies of everything. That will save you time. Remember, you can pay with credit card.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Hidalgo de Parral - Chihuahua

Just returning from Parral to Chihuahua. It is Wednesday evening and the bus ride was fast. It was a new bus, first class, and we literally flew to Chihuahua. If I could have a motorhome like that bus I would be one happy rving dude. That thing floated in the air, the ride was smooth and I felt like I was sitting on my sofa at home.

I finished the course this afternoon around 2 p.m. The teachers took a practice TKT test and then the coordinator invited me to lunch at her house. We had fideo with beans, queso con rajas, and a delicious pastel de carne (meatloaf). Her husband opened a very good bottle of red wine and we had a grand time. Mexicans are such wonderful people, to open their home to me and feed me and offer me to stay there whenever I want. Really something.

Here are some pictures of the group. These teachers are not obligated to take this certification course. Although they know it will help them in the future, they come from all over the state. We had teachers from Jimenez, Parral, Goachocí, Tonachí, just to name a few. They ride on the bus for hours to be there. They are really a fun-spirited group and I am glad they made it to the course. Here they are taking a practice test.

Last night I had the opportunity to go downtown. A 20 peso taxi ride took me the main plaza. The downtown area of Parral is very posh with nice shops. If I had more time I would have bought a cappuchino and done some window shopping. It looks like a great town for retirees and rvers.

I would encourage rvers to take side trips whenever possible taking advantage of the modern and convenient bus system that exists in Mexico. No need to make a reservation, just walk into the bus terminal and find the carrier that has the best class service and departure time.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Work Trip To Chihuahua

I'm a real busy beaver this last couple of weeks. This week I am working in Chihuahua City as well as Hidalgo del Parral which is 215 kms south. We have come through here on two trips. One was on the way to Las Vegas where we stopped here for gas and to head North to Chihuahua and on up to Douglas, AZ and the second time was our trip to Creel and the Copper Canyon. We went from Parral to Guachochí. Beautiful country.

However, this trip is via air and I have to say for someone who is under 5'7" and having spent most of my life looking up it is a pleasure to look down upon the Earth and see what it all looks like from afar.

I had most of Monday to get things ready for the trip. As usual it was a last minute change in plans. I was supposed to be working in Monterrey with new teachers for the English program in the state of Nuevo Leon.

I caught my flight at 5:15 pm. Things are so much easier today then they were 25 or 30 years ago. Now, I tell them what flight I want, what hotel, and in 15 minutes I receive my confirmation. I head to the airport and everything is ready. No waiting around, it is a quick click on the print key and I am off for the airplane. Plus, the beauty of national flights in Mexico is no two hour check in. Here I got to the airport 45 minutes before and still had time to get a bite to eat. Now that is service.

I took several pictures again from the air. I just love the mountain shots. So much of the Earth still seems pretty much inaccessible.

Once I arrived at the airport in Chihuahua, I caught a taxi for the Central de Autobuses or as they call it here Camionera. I bought my ticket and was off in less than 30 minutes. They did change buses twice before take off but before anyone had boarded.

On the bus we watched the movie Collateral Damage with the governor of California. I sipped on a vodka on the rocks that I had prepared before departure, listened to Astrud Gilberto and snacked on peanuts from the plane. It was a nice ride at night as you can reallly see the stars at night in the desert.

Arrrived in Parral around 9:45 pm and walked the two blocks from the bus station to the hotel. Very nice modern place considering this is only a town of about 150,000 people. There are no name brand stores or restaurants here. But, I did have a 400 gram ribeye for dinner/lunch and you won't believe the price. 90 pesos. With the current exchange rate that is steal and it included all the trimmings.

Tomorrow I will head back to Chihuahua to work there until Saturday afternoon. During my stay I am going to drive out to the RV park outside of town and take some pics. We stayed there once, very nice place with a pool but all alone. I passed it on my way to Parral but it was too dark to get a picture.

This should be my last week of work for this year so I can start preparing for our trip to the Emerald Coast in Veracruz. Yippie!!!!!!

Thursday, November 20, 2008

20 de Noviembre - Revolution Day

Today is the actual Día de la Revolución. So I went to a primary school to see the event as well as my friend Juan's official retirement.
It was quite an afternoon with singing, dancing and seeing lots of little ones do their best at recreating the Mexican Revolution.

There were lots of speeches, a great carne asada for the special guest, family and friends. I was thinking that I should have taken the pictures in black and white and we would have never known exactly what year the event was held in. One thing that is amazing about this culture is that they celebrate the most important dates in history with true vigor. They stick to tradition and even though they attempt to update it and bring it into the new millinium, some things just don't change.

Juan has been a folkloric dancer now for over 40 years and performed at the event. Recounting memories brought lots of tears all around and it was as if time flashed before us.
Juan's first assignment as a teacher was in a one-room school house high up in the Sierra. So high in fact, that after taking a three-hour bus ride, he had to walk or take a horse the rest of the way. I have been there and it is truly an amazing place with the most accomodating people in the world. On one specific trip, we arrived at 8000 feet and as we passed down the road the word spread quickly that "el maestro Juan Manuel" was coming. Keep in mind the houses are .5 kms apart. As we neared the end of the road there was a gathering of people all fighting to have "El Maestro" come to their house. Towards the end of the day, we were invited to eat freshly killed goat and "fritada" with homemade tortillas. Afterwards, they offered us their beds to take a nap before heading down the mountain. I will never forget that day, it seems as if it were yesterday. For all the bad we hear, I have a million good stories.

I guess it's true, our lives are but a spark in the universe. Get the most you can out of every day.