Saturday, May 31, 2008

Temapache, Veracruz

So many places to boondock coming down the East coast from Laredo, McAllen and Brownsville areas. Last week I talked a little bit about Viejo Padilla, Tamps. Heading further South down the Hwy 101 passing Tampico is Temapache, Veracruz. Veracruz is a beautiful state with wonderful beaches, historic cities and cool mountain ranges. Leaving Tampico, Temapache is right on the highway 150kms South and just 45kms North of Tuxpan (Tuxpam).

We were returning from a Christmas trip along the Emerald Coast when we stumbled across this small town and were looking for a place to spend the night. This area is just entering the tropical zone so you can see a mixture of forest and tropical plants mixed together. The route through here is shaded and green with a winding road that limits the speed of large rigs and buses so it can make driving a pleasure. But wait, watch out for those topes, they can be planted just about anywhere. That's why I like to stay behind someone so they can give me a heads up as I see their car bounce or float over the tope.

As you pass through Temapache, you can't miss the ominous church sitting along side of the road. We pulled in and asked if this was a good weigh station for the night and the response was to pull up alongside the church.

Churches in Mexico are a real experience especially in small towns as it has its own local flavor. This church was really into homemade statues, dressed in clothes with real hair, beards, etc. It was a quiet night and we were far enough off the road that we didn't hear much of anything. We did spend quite a bit of time touring the church. Not to many people live out this way so we didn't have much contact with the locals.

Electrical Work Completed In Allende

The electrician finished the install from the street to the house. Man did he do a great job. The downside is that I didn't take my camera out there to get shots so until Monday is when I will go again. He installed the box at the street entrance, ran the cable underground, put a register halfway down the lot for future use and put up a post with a box and connection inside for the trailer. All I need to do now is go to the CFE on Monday morning and pay for the contract. I think it is around 20 dollars and they say can take up to seven days but I am a very convincing person and we are only a town of a few thousand people. This is great news and to top it off as I am typing this a woman just called and is interested in the house. What a great day!

Golden rules, there are so many. I like this one, "love thy neighbor as thyself". What a simple idea that really goes a long way. Have a great weekend.

Friday, May 30, 2008


Wow, it's been a long week and what has made it that way is the heat. We were in the 100s and now in the mid 90s. It can really take it out of you. Also, I have been running around quite a bit getting things done on the new property. Again today, I need to the gym, go to my classes, repair the air conditioner in the Funfinder and see that the electrictian finishes the job today in Allende.

I hope to finish about 3 this afternoon and then it is relaxation after that. I really believe that if I were retired I would be on the go all the time and I think that's exactly how I would want it.

With all that has gone on this week it is important to keep an open eye around me to the great things that make it worthwhile, like these pics in town of the mountains. How lucky we are to live in middle of all this. A constant reminder of nature and how we need to appreciate it and take good care of it.

I made it out to the Funfinder today to check the A/C. Two of the four inch screws that hold the air onto the roof have come lose but I can't figure out how to get the interior cover off to get to the screws. I have posted a message on the Yahoo Shadow Cruiser group where I am sure to get an answer.
While I was on my way back from the trailer I realized that I haven't shared a ride on our new Metro line. So next week I am making it a point to go on a ride. It is really something. We have above ground and underground lines that connect and it now goes from the North all the way to the South of the city. It is clean, efficient, safe and inexpensive. As we say here, "es una chulada".

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Electrical Install
I'm meeting with the electrician at 11:30 to work out a deal for the cabling and installation. He has quoted me a price just for labor and a price for labor and materials. I think I will buy the materials as I can shop around and get a better price. He lives in Allende and would probably buy his material there. I already priced the cable in both Monterrey and Allende. For 100 meters the difference is about 50 dollars, multiply that by 3 sets and that is a small savings. I won't be going out of my way to purchase the materials either. Let's see what he says. I will report back this afternoon.

I took the photo above this morning coming from the Plaza Purisima. The monument is of Diego Montemayor who founded Monterrey over 450 years ago. I wonder what he say when he came? Surely not what's on the hill in the picture :) But, it was a beautiful shot of the mountains so I thought I would pass it on.

What does "courtesy" really mean? Question of the day! Enjoy!

I met with René the electrician. A very nice guy who I thought was much older talking to him on the phone. We went over the install, made a list of materials and decided to go with an aluminum cable gauge #2. This particular cable comes already wrapped with all three cables together. He is installing a register halfway down the side of the lot for future use. I am waiting for a call back around 8 p.m. to see if he is starting tomorrow. I am really excited as we can power up everything without the generator. Also, I am going to have him check out the electric water heater. It works on gas but nothing happens on AC. Also, I am still working with Dometic as the refrigerator in the Keystone Hornet is part of the recall. They seem reluctant to send a repair kit when there is no rv dealer to install it. If anyone has any information on this please let me know. I have been told by Dometic not to use the refrigerator on either electric or LP until the recall fix has been completed. Here is the post for the meter that divides the lots and in the background you can see the trench where the cable will be laid.

You may not be able to see it, but I can see the new gate, the ranch style fence, driveway and deck that will be built soon.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Programa Oportunidades de Mexico

(Don't forget to vote in the poll on the right of the page)

This was in the news yesterday and worth sharing. With the ever increasing costs of grains and other food stuffs, the Mexican government has taken action to increase the amount of money allotted to Mexico's poorest 5 million families. The subsidy has now been increased to between 535 pesos and 650 per month per family. This money is a direct deposit to those families who qualify. This is in addition to free medical services and job opportunities as well as other services.

Some of the benefits from this program which was started in 1997 are:

24% increase in primary and secondary enrollment
85% increase in high school or what we call estudios superiores which can include technical job training
23% decrease in drop out rates for these 5,ooo,ooo families
20% less sick days for both children in school and adults in the workplace
22% improvement of intake of proteins and fresh produce

How is the money distributed and how are do the families qualify? Via bi-monthly (every two months) certification by social workers The mother or a female caretaker receives the money and services directly Mobile units that go to areas to deliver the funds and services when banks and services are not available in the area The amount of benefits increases depending on the advancement of the children in school.

A quick breakdown of the funds in dollar terms per month:

$16 per family for food
$11-$69 scholarship per student
$300 dollars in a savings account (yearly) for students who continue their studies above secondary
$23 per adult over age seventy that is part of one of the families (to care for elders at home) $0 for basic health care.

This may not seem like a large sum of money, but with a work program in place plus the incentives above Mexico is making great strives in reducing poverty or the effects of poverty. 16 dollars or 170 pesos a month buys a lot of milk, eggs, tortillas, beans and rice considering they also receive subsidies on the basic food stuffs. For example, milk is distributed by a government program called Liconsa and milk is sold for 4 pesos a liter. It barely covers the cost of production but the saving is passed on to the families. I brought this up because many people wonder what we are doing to help indigenous and rural peoples of Mexico. The government realizes that education is the only exit from these problems but will not fall into a "welfare state" program require that families meet standards and continue their children's educations.

Road Construction Hwy 85

There are four bridges being built this next year on Hwy 85 from Monterrey to my house. These bridges are actually overpasses. One is already complete and the one pictured below just began less than two months ago. Why is this so interesting? In the past, any type of government construction would take literally years to complete, be poorly constructed using low-grade materials. In the last 10 years we have been using the Fast-Track system, qualifying builders, materials and designs via bids and contests. Sure we had them in the past but corruption played a huge role in the process.

They are building this overpass one side at a time to keep traffic flowing and I will attempt to update the picture every week so that we can see just how long it takes for this project to be completed.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Viejo Padilla, Tamps

(If you haven't take the poll on the right side of this page, please do)

Viejo Padilla, Tamps is located along and in Presa Vicente Guerrero also known as Big Bass Lake famous as a fishing spot for sportsmen. Viejo Padilla is located 40 kms Northeast of Ciudad Victoria. VP has a long history. It was actually the original capitol of the state of Tamaulipas. When the reservoir was enlarged, Viejo Padilla was in its path. The federal and state government decided to move the town 15 kms East along the main highway. Nuevo Padilla is a very modern town that was well-planned with a grid system for streets. Each family received a large lot along with a 150 sq mt home. The houses appear like American style homes but are made of cement and block.

So if VP was flooded 40 years ago what is left? Over the years, the water subsided and took on its current level. Out of the water or ashes so to speak rose the oldest part of the town which included the main plaza, the original church built in 1745 and the primary school which was erected in the 1940s under Ex-Presidente Miguel Aleman and also named after him. When we first stumbled on to VP, we were looking for a place to spend the night along the reservoir but didn't have much luck so we decided to move on. As we reached Nuevo Padilla, we stopped to fill up with gas and asked about a boondocking spot. That was when we were told about VP. When we first arrived there, we thought the school may have been an ex-hacienda not knowing anything about the town at the time. Since then we have returned many times.
During the day, depending on the weather, you will find fishermen catching fish for sale. Based on the name, yes, the bass are big, juicy and delicious and priced just right. They will even clean them for you. The boat ramp is 200 meters away and I encourage any rver who is a boater or fishing enthusiast to give this place a try if you are heading South for the Winter or along the East coast for vacation.In the evenings, people (of which there are very few of them) return to Nuevo Padilla. The sun begins to set over the water and on windy days you can here the waves as they lap onto the shore. The great thing about boondocking in VP is that they tore down the houses to remove valuable materials when the town was moved. But guess what is left? The foundations of the houses around the plaza which make it an ideal rv park in the wilderness. We have never had to level our TT yet. You can literally park anywhere you want including the plaza area. We have spent 90% of the time there completely alone at night. You can setup the grill, run the generator or do pretty much as you like.If you do a search on YouTube for Viejo Padillo, a young guy named Hector has done two video clips in Spanish of the history of VP.
How to get to Viejo Padilla from Reynosa: this is the easiest route taking Hwy 90 to the 180/101 South or Hwy 40 t0 Matamoros and then heading Soutn on 180/101. When you arrive to Nuevo Padilla continue South for 12 Kms. Turn left at the billboard with the big fish. This is the road to Viejo Padilla. This road is 15 kms long and ends in the water of the resevoir so you can't miss the place.
From Laredo: take Hwy 40 across to Matamoros and take the 180/101 to Nuevo Padilla continuing on 12 kms turning left at the billboard with the big fish and driving 15kms to the town of VP.
This makes an excellent first night stop after crossing the border and you are guaranteed an excellent nights rest.
Live today like there is no other, peace to all!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Quinceañera (Sweet 16 Party)

(New poll question, thanks for your participation)

Last night I attended an ex-neighbor's (Juan and Luisa) daughter's quinceañera or sweet sixteen party. Here it takes place when the girl is 15. Norma invited about 200 guests and the event took place at Cerveceria, the big brewery here in Monterrey. They have facilities for employees such as a sports facility, classrooms for dance, handy crafts, cooking classes, etc. These are provided for the employees who work in the brewery. This salon can be rented out to employees for nominal fee and another neighbor, Javier, works there and was able to get the place for them. As you can see by the pictures, it was quite an event. Juan works as a supervisor for the Metro subway line and Luisa works as an assistant in an office. All the old neighborhood came and we decided to have a get together here at the house this summer.

There was a show, dinner and a dance.Norma and her dad!Wow, some fancy cake. I wonder what her wedding will be like. Stopped by the Police

That's right, stopped by the cops on the way home. As we passed through downtown, there was an "anti-alcoholica" which stops all drivers and tests for alcohol levels. The process is easy, they ask you how much you have to drink, you blow into a detector and if it registers you need to pull over, show license and registration and take a test. Our driver had a .017 reading and had to take a test. The test is similar to the initial test in the car. First you give your vitals, they read you the procedure for testing. The driver walked away with aliento alcolico, slight alcohol on his breath. After the procedure you fill out a survey asking how you were treated by the police and the test center. People from Human Rights are there as well as a citizen's group to make sure there is no funny business. The system works great. We appreciate their efforts to help keep the streets safe from drunk drivers.

On a sad note, Don Eugenio Garza Laguera passed away yesterday. He was an important business man who was responsible for the growth of Monterrey including Cerveceria and he helped to expand and promote the Tecnologico de Monterrey University to 32 campuses throughout Mexico and Latin America. His funeral will be held today here in the city.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Lazy Saturday

With the heat hovering around 104F yesterday and again today there isn't too much sense in doing a whole lot of activity. I did go to Allende yesterday and we still haven't installed the electric yet. I used a 5000 btu air conditioner in the living room yesterday afternoon and closed off both bedrooms. It worked great. Even better, after I went to the movies and came home I opened up the bedroom too and that little a/c kept the whole house cool. I am using the Honda 2000 and it ran last night for 9 hours on one gallon of gas. Not bad considering the compressor probably never shut off. It even got a little cold during the night. The temp this morning was 82F outside and when I went to bed at 11pm it was still 89F. I did try to run the rooftop air on the Honda shutting down everything else but it just isn't big enough. The contractor is supposed to contact me this weekend to do the electric install.

I did get a picture of the underneath after it was lifted off the ground with blocks and railroad ties. It may not be that pretty to look at now, but once the deck is up and painted it will take on a whole different look.

The workers did some landscaping and cut the grass this last week and it is starting to shape up. I am still working on the design for the driveway and the front of the property, a nice wall and a gate of some kind.

After I took the pictures I showered up, closed up the trailer and disconnected the battery. I forgot to do that last week and it was dead yesterday. Now it is all charged up. The slides are really something. For those of you who have always had slides it may not be a luxury, but for me it really makes a home out of the space. I headed for home around 9 a.m. only to find this guy getting ready for a bath by the pool. Beautiful colors.

I guess I'll hang out in the living room today and take a dip in the pool now and then.Enjoy your Saturday and if you are in a hot place, stay cool!

Friday, May 23, 2008

Una Comida Bajo La Sombra

Today is Friday and there will be a lunch in my backyard. I forgot to order the tables and chairs. My neighbor in front used to rent them but quit the business. So I went up to Los Cavazos and asked another neighbor who has a restaurant and she gave me the name of the place. I found Bonanza in El Cercado and the people are just great. They said they were very busy because it was the weekend but they would be glad to accomodate me. People here are so generous and friendly it is unbelievable. They delivered the tables and chairs about an hour ago. It will be hot today but I have the air conditioning on inside the house just in case. The table decorations and the food have not arrived yet but everything is under way.On my way back from El Cercado where I rented the equipment, I couldn't help myself and stopped by this taco stand along the highway. I pass it all the time and thought I would give it a try. I ordered two jalepeño de queso (little chile rellenos), one machacado con huevo (dried beef cooked with eggs) and a spicy desebrada (shredded beef) and, a diet coke. How convenient!This weekend at Presa de la Boca lake near my house, there are canoeing competitions. These are all adolescents and they are doing their practice runs today. Pretty interesting, looks like something I could do or at least could have done as a youngster.The lake offers boat rides, horse rides, and there is a string of seafood restaurants. When my friends Geoff and Sandy were here we ate there. Do you remember that? Business will be packed tomorrow for the weekend as people will be looking to escape the city heat. You can see the restaurants and they are gearing up for tomorrow.Later today, I will go to Allende to spend the night and test the air conditioning system in the trailer. I also need to see that the workers are doing their job.
Have a wonderful weekend, I hope the best yet. Be nice to your neighbor, you never know when you may need a favor.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

"Shock"ing News

That's right, "shock"ing news. I purchased two new rearend shocks yesterday at AutoZone. I took them to the mechanic today and he says they may be the right ones according to AutoZone but the are to wide and will rub against the underside and eventually break. So I went back to AutoZone and they said that's what the system says and they have nothing else to offer me (lo que está aquí es todo lo que hay). Boy, I have heard that a hundred times. So the mechanic offered to find a set and called a short time later. He said he had found a pair and that the price was the same as AutoZone. Great! I will be there at 12:30 this afternoon.

I stepped out to wash the car and when I came back there was a message on my cell phone that said the driver went to the warehouse to pick them up and they must have had an inventory error. Now what? The search continues.

As for San Antonio, I am deciding not to leave today or tomorrow. I have some things pending with my accountant which I decided I can mail and one of my renters needs to sign a contract. That too I can mail. Here's why:

Gasoline on the Mexican side 2 tanks 90 dollars
Gasoline on the U.S. side 2 tanks 160 dollars
Toll highway roundtrip 60 dollars

Add that up and it comes to $310 dollars plus the cost of running around and eating out, I can't justify it. Airfares are out, best round trip is $550 dollars and that is a non-stop so I could drive there in the same time it would take me to drive to the airport, take the plane, the lay over and then get to San Antonio.

With the price of gasoline now in the U.S. I think travel will be confined to Mexico.

Today it will hit 102 degrees F. Not much I can do out in the yard but I will go swimming for sure. I will eave you with a picture of the front yard I took this morning before leaving for work.
"Just what are we going to do?"

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

La Cruzeta

La cruzeta has saved me and many a traveler over the years. A four-way tire iron comes in handy whenever I see some poor guy on the side of the road trying to change a flat. I'm not very mechanically inclined but there is one thing I can do and that is change a tire. I saw these guys on the highway this morning and had to turn around to see if they needed help. Sure enough, la cruzeta came to their aid. A lesson taught to me as a kid. Thanks dad!

I wanted to show you where I work everyday but I'm not allowed to take photos as it is a high-security area. I did snap a shot while waiting for the light at the entrance but it's not very good.

One great shot this morning was taken in "La del Valle" also known as "la colonia" where the money is. As I was driving down the street I realized that here is another great view that most people take for granted. This view is called "la M" (m-eh). You can see the "M" shape in the mountain ridge. This is part of the Chipinque National Park. The road winds its way up the mountain and at the entrance to the park is a visitor's center and a natural history museum as well as a restaurant. It is the weekend hangout for hikers, walkers, runners and bicyclists. The view of the city from on top is beautiful. Sorry, no camping or rvs yet.

Last night I was cleaning the pool after a wind storm came through. I was making all kinds of noise when I realized that this little guy was watching me the whole time. I could also see the cat looking out the window and licking his chops. He stayed there until I finished cleaning the pool and went for a dip. A well-deserved happy hour I might add!

Do think it is a tough day today? I did when I got up this morning. All that changed when a good friend told me she has breat cancer and will have two tumors removed and start chemo next week. I appreciate today, I hope you do to . . . .

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

I Live In A Great Place!

I'm very lucky to have landed here in Northern Mexico. Not only did make a decent living over the years but I also live in a beautiful place.
This morning I had a class cancellation and so I went to the gym later than usual. Wow, what a difference driving into town. The mountains take on a different view with the rising and passing of the sun.
I've been a busy beaver this morning. Taking advantage of the free time, I left the gym and headed for the new place in Allende. I had the workers dig the trench for the underground cabling and cut the grass. I also checked on the new trailer to see that everything was okay inside. If all goes well, some construction may begin as early as the next two weeks. You can see the worker on the tractor cutting the grass.
On the way back to the quinta I stopped to get my ears lowered. It took about 45 minutes but was worth the wait. I am contemplating on a trip to San Antonio this Thursday or Friday and don't want to wait until I get back to get a haircut.
I also took some pics of the new neighborhood in Monterrey I mentioned yesterday.The place is called Antigua and you can see the starting price of 3,800,000 in pesos. Incredible. No yard to speak of, just a small patio area.
Carpe Diem, sieze the day! It looks like a good one!

Monday, May 19, 2008

¿Ciudad Vertical? HighRise City?

Monterrey has been growing at a steady pace. There is more construction going on than you can shake a stick at. Home prices are soaring and there is a good reason why. Monterrey is surrounded by mountains and we can only go so far up them. Land and home construction is out of sight so people are turning towards high rise apartments. These aren't cheap either. The ones in the pictures below are $250,000 to $350,000 and that's in dollars. I know you may not believe me so tomorrow I will post a new neighborhood that has two-story homes starting at $380,000 dollars with a view no one would die for.

However, there is a saving grace for any retiree who would want to spend six months or more here living in the big city. In the top four neighborhoods, you can still find rentals ranging from 300-500 dollars a month. Very nice 1 and 2 bedroom units, some are houses that have been converted in to apartments or a retired couple that has turned their second floor into an apartment for additional pension income.
Transportation has improved so much over the years. We now have air-conditioned buses on all the routes and they are packed. They cost one peso more but in the summer everyone uses them as well as the cold and rainy season when it gets down to a shivering 40F degrees :).

Monterrey is a great city to visit as well as to live. It runs the gamut from traditional street markets to posh shopping malls and the prices can be the same. A typical "comida corrida" set meal of the day, can run as little as 25 pesos or eat at Chili's, Subway, or any other chain restaurant. So many tours to take, trips to Chipinque Natl Park which is right in the middle of the city or a trip out to the countryside where I live to experience Cola de Caballo (Horsetail Falls) a boat ride on the lake, fish dinner, or a trip up to the mountains at over 7000 ft.
As a side note, we are in the full moon phase. I took a picture last night. Pretty cool don't you think?

More ON LEDs
As you know by now, I am becoming a real fan of LED bulbs. Hard to find here but I did run into a spot light version over the weekend at Walmart. I have three spots across the front of the house under the porch but I never turn them on except when company comes for the effect. They consume a ton of energy even with a dimmer switch. I brought these home and put them in. 1 Watt for each 18 LED spot. I can also use the dimmer with them so you can imagine, as low as .5 Watts for all three. You tell me if you think they do a good job? I took the picture in the dark so you may want to click on the photo to enlarge it.

Watch over someone today because someone is always watching over you!

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Barra Del Tordo, Tamaulipas

Quite a few people are already talking about their plans to travel in Mexico this next Winter. Putting aside the high gas prices, it is hard to say no to an annual pilgrimage that includes amazing sunsets, warm Winter nights and that cold Mexican beer. I also realize that a lot of Snowbirds or RVers in Mexico appreciate the conveniences of rv parks (for what they are worth) as well as the camaraderie that goes along with rving.

However, as an avid boondocker, I really prefer places that bring me solitude. It may be attributed to the fact that I am still a working stiff and confined to daily routines such as work, yard work, home maintenance, running errands, just to name a few.

Well, my dream of long-term rving would be to escape from the noise and the crowds or at least be able to hide away all the route. I have found several places along the East coast that would make for great Winter stops as you head down to the Emerald Coast or even further to Paa Mul.

One of my favorite and most talked about spots is Barra Del Tordo, Tamaulipas.Talk about easy to find, great roads, no people and a beach that you will most likely have to yourself. We have stayed here frequently as it is a beach trip close to home for us. Believe it or not, in terms of rving, South Padre Island is the closest beach but the border crossing with a Mexican rv has become a nightmare. But that's another story.
Getting there is simple. It is 420Kms from Reynosa to Barra. Coming from Reynosa you can take the 97 South to the 180/101 all the way to Aldama and then take the 34km road to the beach, signs lead the way to Barra from Aldama and everyone will be glad to help you should you need directions.
From Matamoros/Brownsville, (you can also cut across from Reynosa on Hwy40 to Matamoros) you take the 180/101 coast route and this is more direct and a better highway versus the Reynosa 97South. Again, this takes you right to Aldama. BTW, Aldama is the municipality for Barra Del Tordo.
The other route would be the autopista Hwy85 from Reynosa via Monterrey and cutting over to the 180/101 at Ciudad Victoria.
Once you arrive at the beach you will find a large gravel/sand parking area on your left.On the right side is a series of palapas with asadores (barbecue grills). These palapas have cement picnic tables, are right along the beach and have a light and a 110 connection. There is also an outlet that will run most of your 110 needs except air conditioning. In the Winter, if the power isn't on, the caretaker will be glad to hit the switch.
There is a river that flows to the ocean and it is within walking distance. The views are spectacular and bird watching is great in this area. There is a tour company that will take you up the river to do the watching.Most of the time for us though, it is pure R&R. It is a good place for running on the beach, reading, or a great sunset and happy hour.If you need to check your internet, it is a short 34Kms to Aldama and you will find a full range of services, gas stations, grocery stores, liquor stores, hardware stores and internet cafes. Most internet cafes charge 5 pesos an hour.