Thursday, July 31, 2008

Low Cost Mexican Housing - Casas de Interes Social


Some people have asked what low-income Mexicans do for housing. Buying a piece of land and building a little at a time has been the normal way in the past. However, today many more Mexicans are formally employed and have greater access to credit. Fonavit is one of the options many worker have when it comes to home loans.
Fonavit is similar to FHA loans. It is a one-time loan where the worker has to earn points from working. This is accumulative just like Social Security credits. Once credits are earned, they can be combined with a spouses and a loan of up to 500,000 pesos can be obtained. This applies to all Mexicans and is a program guaranteed by the federal government. Some middle and upper class workers use this loan in combination with a standard home loan from a bank paying a lower fixed-interest rate with no loan amount limit depending on income.

So what happens if you only earn 300 dollars a month? If you are formally employed and registered with social security, you are entitled to a home loan. What do you get for that kind of money? Here is the list, it is meager, very small but is a starter home and it is a decent shelter. The house is complete in terms of windows, doors, bathroom and floor tile. There are no kitchen cabinets or appliances.

Imperial Home Plan (located on the outskirts of Monterrey) Priced at 20,000 dollars

•1 story

•18ft by 45ft lot

•460 sq ft of construction

•1 bedroom

•1 tv room

•1 complete bath •living room/dining room •kitchen •parking area •outside laundry area•Small grassy area

This has a double-edged sword. One, it brings some semblance of organization to city planning and provides dignified living conditions forcing rules for construction and building materials. The other side is that it creates high-density areas. These areas can become conflictive as young couples have children and become teenagers. My first house here 20 some odd years ago was interes social, but it was a lower-middle class one bedroom and added a second bedroom, purchased the empty corner lot next door to make a big yard. It was a nice neighborhood and we are still friends with some of our ex-neighbors. Some can be very nice and the price ranges, home styles, levels of living run from 20,000 dollars up to 50,000 dollars which can be very nice and even gated communities. The only problem, at least in the expensive Monterrey area is the small lot size leading to high density.

Also, you can imagine, the living space would be or is very difficult for two adults and two children at least on the lower end of the spectrum.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Patty's Under Diagnosis

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I headed off for the Nissan dealer this morning. Arrived at 7:25 and they opened right on time at 7:30. I was sixth in line and it took about forty minutes to get me registered and checked in. They will have a diagnostic done and call me around 11 a.m.

So what is my little secret from yesterday. About two months ago, Patty was had the same problem. My mechanic messed with it for over two weeks and finally told me the problem was the MAF sensor. He showed me the invoice from Nissan where he bought the part and the price of 3950 pesos. I had no idea what a MAF was and he replaced it and it worked great. Now that I know what this sensor is and where it is, my suspicion is that he showed me an invoice and returned the new part and either cleaned the sensor or installed a used one.

If the MAF is the problem, Nissan can tell me if the part was new and purchased from them. If it isn't I will register a complaint with PROFECO (Mexican BBB) and get my money back. I hate being ripped off by a mechanic. On the other hand, if I wanted to rv it would be pretty hard using a couple of horses to pull the Funfinder, now wouldn't it?

Today I need to start a search for plane tickets. My nephew who is also my godson, is getting married on Sept. 14 in Kansas City. He has lived in Germany for over 15 years now. I see him every two or three years. He's a good guy and we love him to pieces.

Patty Update

Just left the dealer. It is the MAF sensor. I called the other mechanic and he said for me to bring it back and he would fix it. I did find a sensor for 145 dollars on the Internet with a one year warranty. Let's see what happens.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

It's All In The "MAF"

After working with the Pathfinder for a day and knowing that the problem exists in the MAF sensor, it is time to take Patty to the dealer for a diagnostic. I have my reasons for going to the dealer which I may explain later if I am right about something, humm, that's a little secret I'll hold. I cleaned the MAF with a special electronic spray, I used rubbing alcohol on Q-Tips to clean the small diodes and there is a slight improvement but not sufficient.

I have checked all possible sources for the chip, used and new and the dealer is the only choice left. Ebay didn't even have one. The dealer price is around 4000 pesos. The price you pay for driving an old car.

So I decided to clean Patty up for the trip to the dealer tomorrow morning. I vacuumed out all of the trip dirt, the whole trip whizzed through my mind as I opened and closed doors and put seats up and down. Wow, this last month has really been something. I know for you fulltimers or retirees that can come and go as you like it probably isn't anything. This was my first month-long vacation in my adult life.

I also waxed Patty and put ArmorAll on all the tires and trim. I think she still looks pretty good. I sent my brother Bob an email and told him about Patty and he said, "you squeak!". Yes, cheap with some things and extravagant with others. As For The Blog

I have been pondering on the blog and how to manage it to keep people coming. One thing I know is that good readership depends on happy readers. My goal is to start posting in the morning and the afternoon. Nothing worse that clicking on a blog and there is no update. Hang in there with me, I want to show you what Mexico is all about and how things work, so my daily adventures will be more focused.
Rose Nyland said, "my uncle could squeeze a nickel until the buffalo pooped". Touché!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Boondocking Nuevo Leon - What I Liked and Disliked

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Now that the trip is over, I have had some time to reflect about the trip here in Nuevo Leon, how our rig worked out, tourism and a bunch of other stuff. A lot of it all boils down to the adventure and going where you want and when you want.

First though, the rig. Most of the big parks;

  • El Sabinal, Cerralvo, N.L.
  • La Turbina, Sabinas Hidalgo, N.L.
  • Cañon de Ojo de Agua, Bustamante, N.L.
  • El Cuchillo, China, N.L.
  • El Salto, Zaragoza, N.L.

are not too restrictive in size of rvs. The last one in Zaragoza would require a rig with total length less than 36ft (like the autobuses that go to the park). The rest are easy access and all located within less than two hours of the border.

As for the other towns in which we traveled in the North, I believe there is no limitation as long as the rver doesn't mind staying off the main road or parking on the hidden side of the plaza, all of this with permission of course.

Regarding the size of the Funfinder, at 18ft it is comfortable for two, but with the cat carrier and cat box, it takes some maneuvering once in awhile. Overall it was great and I think we could travel a couple of months that way. With retirement coming though, I have been scouting around and have come up with two options. The first would be the Funfinder 210WBS, a 21ft model with a sofa slideout. For where I like to go and be able to do a turn around on a quiet two-lane highway that is about all the length we could manage. The slideout would give more room plus a walk around bed or even better, twin beds. I also have come up with my wish list for the retirement part-time rig:

no roof air conditioner (its noisy, drones and vibrates the trailer, we even swapped it out from a 13.5 to an 8000 btu)
4 deep cycle batteries
solar panels
satelite dish for tv and internet
a small slideout (210 wbs)
water system that allows grey to flush toilet
reflectix insulation liner under outer skin (that shiny silver bubble wrap, we use it now on our windows in both winter and summer, it is a real energy saver)
trailer shocks
no inside furniture, we'll buy our own (no dinette booth)
no curtains, we'll buy our own
3000W inverter hard wired
window unit air built into a cabinet maximum 8000 btus

I mentioned the use of a window unit air conditioner in a cabinet because when we had the first Trailmanor that thing was quiet, cool, added no height to the trailer, easily replaceable and just plain convenient. I am still tempted to have a hole cut in the back of the Funfinder and use up that worthless cabinet space at the bottom of the wardrobe. It would fit just right. I couldn't do that job myself I would need someone who is a professional (any recommendations).

Another issue with boondocking that we came across in some areas was the lack of gas stations and banks. The money issue we can handle. Buying fuel from a tank or a barrel leaves a bit to be desired. I can imagine some of the risk one runs when doing that. This is not to say that stations are in abundance, they are. However, some very rural areas just don't have the demand yet. Also, the Pathfinder has a small tank that limits us to around 225 miles per tank pulling the trailer. I guess buying a truck with a larger tank especially diesel would work out well considering the price of fuel here (diesel is 2.2o us per gallon).

The upside to boondocking that we have found to be true in Mexico is you can park just about anywhere. In all these years we have never encountered a problem unless you might consider a noisy music playing couple. Apart from that no attacks, no robberies, no scary knocks on the door at night while sleeping. I'm going to say it, it just doesn't happen here.

Setting Up A Website?

On this trip I really had fun sharing all these great places we visited and I hope that it has been useful as well as entertaining. A website would help to organize all of this stuff and I have been kicking the idea around. I know the maps may not be very useful, but heck, some of the roads on the map appear but without highway numbers. You get to the turn off and then you see that it is Hwy 9 but its just not on the map.

Also, when I do a search for boondocking in Mexico, my blog comes up. I get a few hits from other countries in the Middle East, Europe and Asia, but I think they are searching for other stuff. So I'm out there but the funny thing is, I get very few hits after almost 4 months. I'm not just looking for hits although the Adsense would make it worth my while. I want to spread the information. Okay, maybe boondocking in Mexico isn't generating a lot of interest but I need to boost readership.

Why Boondock in Mexico?

For starters, you can't beat the fuel prices, food prices, repair prices and the boondocking is free. Also as I stated above, it's safe. Trolling along the coasts of Mexico stopping at just about any beach you want exploring hidden and unknown areas with all the historic, archaeological and cultural finds. Sorry, I'm gonna be on the road every chance I get.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Nuevo Leon - The Scenic Route

Unfortunately, the highway numbers don't appear on my or on the Guia Roji with the exception of major roads. On the map below (click it to enlarge), I have marked the three-week trip in black, the scenic route in red, and the by-pass from Reynosa, Cadereyta to Allende and then down the Hwy85.
The scenic route is from Santiago or Allende, to Linares. Linares to Iturbide, to Galeana, and on to San Roberto. From San Roberto you can connect to Hwy 57 South to Matahuala and San Luis Potosi or Hwy 57 North to Saltillo.

This is the road we took from Aramberri to San Roberto. Because of the truck problem we tried to avoid the 7000ft climb. It was much flatter with less curves, although it turned out the truck seemed to do better on the climbs afterall.

From San Roberto, the scenic route, which we took part of on the way to Zaragoza, truly is a worthwhile drive. From Linares over the mountains to San Roberto is only about a 2.5 hour drive. Lots of winding curves on a newly repaved and upgraded two-lane highway. If you are going to Saltillo and know the Hwy 40 route already, this is an alternative. BTW, construction has started on an autopista from Monterrey to Saltillo cut straight to avoid the curves that have proved so dangerous over the years.

What's Up On The Swimming Pool

Turns out the worker didn't come last Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. Here in Monterrey they closed some businesses and schools because of the hurricane. He said he didn't know if it would rain or not. What was my mistake? Being the nice guy I am, I gave him some money up front. "Cuando el gato no está, los ratones hacen fiesta" (when the cat's away, the mice will play). So he came yesterday and almost had it all cleaned up. He said he would come today but I knew that it being Sunday it wouldn't happen. So I got in there this morning and scrubbed it down with acid, cleaned it up and emptied out all the crud at the bottom. I used a 15 dollar pump from a swamp cooler connected to a garden hose to get out the last of the water on the bottom. I just need to brush it down with chlorine this afternoon.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Home Safe and Sound!

A bad contact to a sensor kept us from continuing the trip. I couldn't find but two mechanics in the boonies and one did a good job of getting us home. His name is Armando, a teacher in Aramberri. After finding out I was a teacher, he took a look at the car, wired the contact to the sensor. He called it a "mexicanada". He charged us 15 pesos for 45 minutes of work. He refused the other moneywe offered him. It worked and we got home, some cutting out on hills but Patty the Pathfinder did her job and got us over the mountains.

So back to Zaragoza. I will learn new things the rest of my life. I have always preached about the availability of ATM machines in Mexico. Aramberri, Zaragoza, Dr. Arroyo and Mier y Noriego have no banks and as I stated yesterday, Aramberri and Zaragoza have no gas stations. Lots of politics involved in all of that but I won't go there. As for banks, we were low on money thinking Zaragoza would at least have an ATM. So I asked Prof. Armando while he was working on the car what people do. If you get a check, you take a bus 150 miles to the nearest bank. Everyone in town pays in cash so their mattresses are stuffed. However, I knew there had to be something. The local Western Union office, also known as TeleCom, will give you cash from your debit or credit card. We took out 3000 pesos and the charge was 11.99 pesos. We were on the road.

Here are some pics of the waterfalls and the park at El Salto, Zaragoza, Nuevo Leon.

I'm updating yesterday's blog with the missing pics I couldn't load so you may want to scroll down.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Dolly Poops Out - El Salto and the Waterfalls

L0ts going on today. Some personal and philosophical stuff too. Yesterday was great. We hiked around the mountains, took pictures and just listened to the water.
We also spent some time in town visiting the local museum and gift shop where the owner has written a book about the small pueblos around Zaragoza. She is very interesting and full of information.

The park is really something. On a cleanliness scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the highest, we rank this park as a 9.8. A few small pieces of litter, but I base that on kids playing in the falls and water watching a cup float down to see where it goes, things like that. It is also very quiet at night, just the roar of the falls nearby.

There are lots of plants and flowers to see. This morning we saw a black squirrel, not common in these parts. Orchids are popular but not blooming this time of year.
One thing to be aware of, there is not a gas station in Aramberri or Zaragoza. You buy gas from the hardware stores that have a large tank and dispense like a station pump but at a price of 8 pesos a liter. Fill up before getting to Aramberri.

This gas may be the problem with the truck. It is stalling and cutting out, it could be the sensor problem I had several months back. We found a mechanic and will leave it there this afternoon. Wish me luck. Depending on the outcome, we may try to limp back home tomorrow. There is nothing with in 200 miles of here that would have a dealer or a major mechanic shop.

On another note, I have made the decision not to do the writing project. Although I started the sample to be submitted I decided it is no longer my passion. The publisher has been very good to me though, for 15 years I worked as a free lance consultant and traveled the Amercas and Carribean. I cant complain about the work, travel or the money.

Now though, my passion is rving and showing people Mexico. Im sure many of knew the reason for the blog was to see if there were any interest in small orientation caravans. In other words, meeting up in Laredo at an rv park, spending the night going over papers and general Mexico information. The next day crossing the border at Columbia and helping everyone with permits and inspections. From there it would be one of many destinations to give newbees a taste of Mexico highways, gas stations and the like and staying at one of the many northern locations around Monterrey or to the south. Do some sightseeing, a nice dinner out and then everyone could go on their way the next day down the East coast, Saltillo or South to Queretaro and all other points. Just a dream right now.

On A Sad Note

One of my favorite TV personalities passed away on Tuesday. Estelle Getty, better known as Sophia on The Golden Girls. I have watched her every night for the last 20 years, either on TV, recorded VHS or the syndicated DVDs series I bought two years ago. I am only missing a couple of episodes. RIP.

A Bit of Reflection

This morning before breakfast I went for a hike up the mountain following the waterfalls to the spring where most of the water has its origin. On the way, I found this bench where I sat for quite a long time thinking about all that is happening, has happened and what the future holds.
As I sat there, I saw a leaf break loose from its branch and slowly float down to the water where it was whisked away by the current. I thought a lot about that little leaf, and as corny as it may sound, that leaf, my friend the little seed in the stryofoam cup where the plant goes up and the roots go down, and those little white mice, they all die and so do we. There is a process though that makes it all worthwhile. Im not hooked on dying although it is the end result and we too take our place somewhere in the picture whether it be as plant food for a giant oak tree or to be remembered for some great feat or pitiful disaster.

So what is the part that most people dont seem to get? I see so many people walking around the falls as if they are a separate entity from all of this. Its like going to the zoo and looking into the cages. When was the last time most of these people went for a walk, sat somewhere and contemplated the true meaning of all this. That they too are a part of nature and the bigger picture, it isnt just about us. As a forum member posted one day (Ill never understand it) that God put all of this here for us to use up, and when its all gone then we will all go to heaven. Lord help us!

Sorry for the lack of picutes and some punctuation but the internet is a bit slow here. I will keep you posted on what is going on.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Zaragoza, Parque El Salto - Otra Chulada

Hi everyone! Yesterday was a straight drive to Zaragoza. Looks like Dolly is now a category 2 hurricane and will hit the north of Nuevo Leon Thursday morning with 40 mph winds and 3 -5 inches of rain. I received an advisory from the American Consulate this morning (Im a volunteer warden).

The drive was great, we first stopped off to check the house in Allende. Everything there is fine and lots of good news. As we were coming down the main road to the house there were about 10 surveyors on the road. I asked them what the plan was and they said they didnt know. I get to the house and the property manager says that they sold what was going to be the second phase of the development to a university and they are widening the road. Good news for me. I thought they were going to build a highway through there. A university is a good neighbor for us.

We headed to Linares and stopped at the Soriana which is at a crossroads with the scenic route through the mountains via Iturbide, Galeana, Aramberri and on into Zaragoza. We stocked up on groceries and in the parking lot was a new Jayco fiver with new 350 from Canada. The guy said hi and that was about it, looks like he wasnt interested in knowing us. We gassed up and in the parking lot of the gas station was a Travco motorhome. The owner of the gas station had just bought it. May not be a big deal for most but for me, being an rv nut, this was a real sight to see here.

Lots of wAfter that we headed West across the mountains to Iturbide. This is truly a scenic route through the mountains. You will love it, windy and curvy but you climb pretty quickly to about 7000ft.

We entered Iturbide where we stopped at the presidencia and asked about local watering holes and things to see. It is a small town but what was great was getting out of the car and feeling a difference of about 15 degrees F.

The woman said it was 12C the night before. Im in heaven with cool mountain air. I went to the plaza to sit for awhile. No wonder people hang out in the plazas. Being a talker, I could strike up a conversation with just about anyone. It was very peaceful and like most small towns, practically empty.

As we sat in the plaza it all came back to me. We had talked about the best place being Zaragoza to buy homemade flour tortillas. But lo and behold, there on the corner was the place that looked like the tortilleria but was a restaurant. We went there to ask if there was a place nearby that sold flour tortillas. The owner started to send us down the block when he mentioned that the restaurant used to be the flour tortilleria. He showed us where we could buy this delicious treat which I had for breakfast this morning (only 1 tortilla).

Continuing up the mountains we set our goal on Zaragoza. We passed lots of moutains, open fields, and lots of green, green, green. One great thing about the rural wilderness is you see little to no trash and zero pollution.

One thing though on this route, watch out for animals wondering the highway. We passed cows that literally dared us to cross their path, horses in herds, and lots of donkeys. Makes you wonder why that stupid chicken tried to cross the road besides just getting to the other side.

As we approached Zaragoza, the stress was lifting off my shoulders again as I saw nothing but beautiful things. People and nature at a pace that made even me want to stop and get off. Quick, where is my hammock!

We made our way into Aramberri. Not unfriendly, but they could have been nicer. The streets are narrow but hey, tour buses pass through here you can get your 36ft motorhome in here too! Take off the TOAD first. We made it without any problem. The only tricky spot along the route is in between Aramberri and Zaragoza, 2 kms of very sharp turns and narrow road. Big trucks passed us with ease as I crinched behind the wheel.

We entered Zaragoza and headed straight through town asking along the way to make sure we had the correct route. Remember, you can always stop somewhere as you enter a town, take a taxi to scout out the route to make sure you wont have any problems. We turned left at the plaza and right again and that took us up the mountain to the park. Prices have gone up to 130 pesos for camping. You get a lot of scenery, fresh air and quiet for that price. There are palapas with cement countertops, a kitchen sink with running water (city) so you can fill your fresh tank. They have wonderful bathrooms and showers. Showers are with lots of hot water and cost 10 pesos. I opted to shower in the trailer.

We took a quick stroll before dark, watched the sunset and headed to our palapa for a well-deserved cocktail of my choice. The sound of the waterfalls in incredible. They are everywhere. Also, because this state park is a concession, the concession owner has a trout farm and takes advantage of the waters. The fish are at your disposal to either catch, or you can choose the one you want for dinner, cut, cleaned and ready to grill.

Tomorrow I will post pictures of the town and the waterfalls. The plant and animal life is abundant here especially if you are into bird watching.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hitting the Road With Dolly In Tow

Heading out in about 10 minutes. Clear skies and cool temps this morning but it looks like Dolly is going to follow us, at least with heavy rains. They say by tonight it will start raining and 95% probability tomorrow and Thursday. I checked the forecast for the southern most part of Nuevo Leon, Zaragoza, thinking we could escape some of the downpour but the forecast is the same. Who cares, the rubber is going to hit the road come hell or high water, literally.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Worst Than I Thought - Black Tank Crack

I have been able to fix just about everything we banged, pulled, kicked and hit but I discovered this morning that the black tank problem is not a pipe that had been knocked loose. The tank was hit from the underside where the drain pipe exits the tank cracking the tank pipe opening almost all the way around. Take a look:

I just came back from the hardware store and bought some "plastilina". Don't know what you call it in English but it is like putty and when you get it hot and roll it out it creates a patch that when dries is supposed to work wonders.

I also reasd on the EternaBond website that their product is good for cracks in water tanks. I may order some when we return if this doesnt hold.

On a "lighter" note, yesterday was Día Libre. Remember, I can eat whatever I want. So as you can see, I had empalmes (two corn tortillas filled with beef and beans) fried with two eggs and salsa, served with beans, potatoes with cayenne pepper and avocado. That was really delicious.

It looks like this guy has really become accustomed to the good life. She was a real jewel on the trip, never complained, played in the car and the trailer.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Wow, What A Workout!

Decided to stop be lazy and get off my duff. This last year we had an ant problem in the trailer. These are the big ants and they were eating the styrofoam insulation. We fixed the problem and the insulation snow stopped falling in the closet. That was last year. On this trip, I saw a couple of the big ants. So today I set off a bomb in the trailer. First I disconnected the batteries, unplugged the trailer and turned off the gas. After, I opened it up to air out.
After my nap, I washed the linens and bedspread as well as the seat cushion covers. I vacuumed, scrubbed the floor, and cleaned the rugs. We are ready to roll again on Tuesday morning.
Also, while we were gone, I shut off the pool filter and just let the pool go. The evaporation rate is extreme here with 100 degree heat. A guy will be working this next week redoing the grout and giving it a good acid bath. I will take pics tomorrow, today the pool looks awful. I'll never do that again.
Word of advice from my sister; "It's five o'clock somewhere". Time for a cool cold cocktail!

Trip Tic - Nuevo Leon

Let's see if this map helps to show the places we have visited. A couple of places don't appear on the map and some are shown by number around the Metropolitan area of Monterrey. These numbers are shown in the box on the left with their corresponding municipio. We started at Santiago to Cadereyta, China, General Bravo, Dr. Coss, Los Aldamas, failed attempt to reach Los Herreras, Los Ramones, Cerralvo, General Treviño, Agualeguas, Vallecillo, Sabinas Hidalgo, Villaldama, Bustamante, Lampazos, Salinas Victoria, Abasolo, Carmen, Hidalgo, Mina, Escobedo, Monterrey, and back to Santiago.

BTW, the truck route through Monterrey has been completely repaved and is a great route to go right through town to the South of the city and on to Santiago, Allende, Linares, and Ciudad Victoria, Tamps. I highly recommend it. I can give details if anyone is interested.

What Is It About Poverty?

After being on the road for two weeks and now taking a weekend break before heading out, I have time to reflect a bit about where we have been, what we have done, and all the things that I have seen.
I had a good work friend some 25 years ago, her name was Kay Platt from San Antonio. She was a great gal who married a guy named Ronnie. They set up house, had what we all thought was a perfect marriage. Kay was a perfectionist at just about everything and I prided her in that. Her house was a joy to visit. It was always clean and smelled so fresh. That was when potpourri was so popular and she had it everywhere. The only thing about Kay was that in her short life, she knew nothing outside of San Antonio, literally. She had never flown on a plane, ridden a train or had gone as far as Garden Ridge which is maybe 10 miles North of San Antonio.
One day she said to me, "you know, I admire you. You are always going somewhere". I told her she should think about a trip. She said there was no possible way that she could ever get on a plane much less leave her house for a weekend. One day, she took me up on the offer but only after pushing a million zillion Las Vegas brochures down on her desk. We boarded a Southwest flight, oh the look on her face was priceless. To make this part of the story short, they loved the trip. Not much after that, she found her way. She divorced that cheating, worthless, no good bum of a husband and started a new career. I haven't seen her since then and word is she is happily married and prefers the limelight. I just hope she met a guy who keeps her on the go.
So this brings me to all the small towns we have passed through and to date there are about 23 municipios and a slew of even smaller ejidos and congregaciones. You see people lounging around the plazas, some people sitting behind the counters in their stores and shops, some sense of economic activity and bit of hustle and bustle. But there seems to be a certain malaise that drones on and on. In these parts, most people move to Monterrey or they go to the states. They don't necessarily forget their roots, hey a Mexican is a Mexican for life I don't care what papers they carry. But you know one thing, they send money home and sometimes they visit or they move back and seem to think that's it.
Yet I see so much more opportunity for all of these places. On the other hand, and this is where I am going, people find it easy to look around them and be complacent with their surroundings. There is so much workable land, government programs that literally close for lack of takers. Lack of self-iniciative after so many years of bad government. That has all passed us but we seem to be stagnated in the mire and muck of those awful years. I truly believe that many human beings think that this is how life is supposed to be. We live in a society that thrives on sacrifice and suffering. People who think that everything about themselves and their country is bad and everything North of the border is paradise. And here I am, some little old gringo that studied English in Mexico and I think life just couldn't get any better, although it continues to everyday.
Maybe I am seeing this from a different angle. I see towns that show life and luster but are just sitting in the box with the top closed gathering dust. I see so much hope, work, livelihood and opportunity. What are these local mayors thinking? Is it all about greed and politics?
Tourism is a great industry. Unfortunately, in our great state of Nuevo Leon, it is very low on the totem pole. I have received so many emails from people who have thanked me for showing what a great town they came from. Came from? Go home again, bring something back to your community, some of that great worldly knowledge that you have picked up from outside, but please check the bad habits you have picked at the door when you reenter Mexico.
Just like my friend Kay, some of us just never think there is anything else beyond the end of the road there up on the corner, or where the street meets the highway. There is more out there, and that "out there" can be brought back to make home even better than it was before.
I'm already working on a letter for our great governor Natividad Gonzalez in hopes that tourism, energy, and a little hard work will help to keep these great places alive and open doors to others here as well as those that take that chance to come and explore.
Have a great Sunday, I need to wash the Funfinder and get her ready for two more weeks of fun. This next part gets exciting as we will be visiting cool mountain ranges, waterfalls and lakes.
Love yourself!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Posada El Potrero Chico - Hidalgo, Nuevo Leon

I want to share Posada El Potrero Chico for a couple of reasons. Luis the owner, has always been extremely good to us and has gone out of his way on a couple of occasions. As I said the other day, he made special accomodations for us but allowing us to stay in a new addition to his campground and also cut the grass and fixed the fence so we could pass from one side to the other.
Luis runs a campground that caters to mountain climbers. His facilities are some of the best around the Monterrey area. In addition to tenting sites, he also has a small hotel and some casitas that he rents. As you know, being in a small trailer sometimes can be challenging, and the opportunity to get out to do some of your chores makes it a relief. At Posada El Potrero Chico, they have a laundry, a kitchen which is open 24 hours with sinks, stoves and refrigerators for campers to use in a communal fashion, a covered palapa for eating and working.

There are large bathrooms with showers and lots of hot water. They are very clean tiled units. Also, he has excellent WiFi. We were outside the campground in terms of boundaries and were able to use the Internet from our trailer.

Two new things coming up at Posada El Potrero Chico are a new swimming pool with (big) and the possibility of an rv park. Luis says they will start off slow and build their way up. As a primitive campsite, we paid 55 pesos per person. I don't know what he will charge in the future when they set up the rv sites with electric and water. It is wise to make a reservation. Here is the link to his website: .

Honda 2000

I can't help but say a little about the Honda 2000 I bought back in July 2006. This little machine really does the job. Before buying it, I had a pretty good idea that it wouldn't run the monster sitting on the roof. Why would they put a 13,500 btu air conditioner on a small 18ft trailer? It's cheaper. I swapped it out for a Polar Cub at around 8000 btus and the Honda runs it just fine. However, some things didn't change. The droning sound and the vibration on the roof, same we had with the Trailmanor, plus it turns the trailer into a refrigerator that you just can't set at a comfortable generator.

The Funfinder has a big window on the side at the end of the bed. I made a plastic cut out to put in the window held by clips, and a shelf that hangs right on the window ledge. I have never refined it so it looks a little cha chi but hey, it works. I wouldn't hook it up in a top drawer rv park but in the middle of nowhere on a 100 degree afternoon, I could give a ----!

I plugged in a 5000 btu window unit and the results were phenomenal. First, no more noise or vibration. Second, the cooling size is just right. The Honda has two settings, normal and economy. With the switch on economy, the window unit will run on one tank of gas (an incredible 1.1 gallons) for 12 to 14 hours. Gasoline costs 7.53 pesos per liter at 3.8 liters to the gallon, this thing is a worthwhile investment. Also, because the draw is only 520W, the generator never revs up, it burps for a second when the compressor comes on. I built a heavy duty extension cord so I can hide the generator to reduce the noise although it is a very quiet unit. I plug the a/c directly into the generator and if the trailer needs a charge I plug it in also in the second outlet.

One thing I would do differently; the air conditioner I bought doesn't have flow vents that move up and down. This can make it a bit cold at night as the air blows across the bed.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Mina, N.L. & Petroglyphs of Boca del Potrerillo

Just arrived back to the house in Monterrey this afternoon. I couldn't help but stop by since we will be heading South on Sunday or Monday morning. Good thing I did. The Gardener has a key to the gate and I asked him to make a copy and hide it. He did. But, he thought we would be gone four weeks. So when I made the surprise stop home, I found the key but the grass hadn't been cut, at least this week. I guess he was passing by and saw the gate open and when I woke up from my nap he is here now cutting, trimming and watering. Call me I-Spy! BTW, I had him put down some fertilizer two weeks ago, Monsanto Water something or other, and it really made a great difference. Yard pics tomorrow.

Yesterday took us to Mina. The name says it all. Mina was a mining town, now crawling at a snail's pace but with some interesting changes.

Several sponsors came together and formed the local museum. It is interesting in local lore and history. However, what one would expect from a tiny town is not what we found. We found a museum well-laid out, using technology to save energy and with a sense of self-pride. The most interesting are two family trees that cover local families from 1500 to date. Amazing for someone like me who can only trace their family back to their great-grandparents and even that is somewhat shady. Mina Museum also has a wonderful restaurant with delicious Mexican dishes and very affordable prices.

But one of the main reasons for the trip was to visit the petroglyphs at Boca del Potrerillo. As most history goes, these glyphs date back thousands of years and written or drawn by several tribes in the area. We drove from Mina North 15 kms and then took a left where the sign is posted. It is exactly 4.5 kms to the petroglyphs. At the visitor's center, there is plenty of information and pictures about the history surrounding the area. You are invited to follow the trails, a walk of about 500 meters, through the rocks. Obviously, there are thousands of petroglyphs, over 4000 but the area within the center supposedly has the most detailed although we did see some outside the fencing that looked pretty interesting to us.

Is this a "trilobite"?

You wonder what these drawings really mean. Maybe mom and dad sent the kids out to play and told them to go paint a rock, and they did! This guy was out in the sun and changing colors. As we chased him down he changed to this. It was almost as if he was posing.
And people don't believe that others have visited Earth. Puhleeezeeeee!
Since I will be home tomorrow and getting ready for our adventure to the South, I will post information about our place in Potrero Chico. It is worth reading as well as visiting. Our hosts have great plans for the place and it is already a wonderful respite after your first day crossing the border. Lots of great stuff there.

Also, a short report about how our Honda 2000 has been doing. I love that machine, one of my best investments. Have a good one!

Thought for the day, "Never ask for more than you yourself can give".

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bustamante to Hidalgo (Potrero Chico) Day 10

A bit sad already. The time is flying by, but I guess so is life. Take as much as you can when you have the opportunity. We are just movin' on down the road. I know I haven't posted a map yet, but we have never been more than two hours away from the house and I feel like I am thousands of miles away in nowhere. There is so much to see in such a short span of time. No wonder Tioga and George never travel more than 50 miles a day. Smart man.

We packed up yesterday after spending two nights in Bustamante. We stopped into town for a few minutes to update the blog and say goodbye to our friends Felipe and Lorena and to return the CD Felipe lent me that had the great pictures of the Grutas de Bustamante. I downloaded the CD for future reference. I can't wait for the caves to reopen so we can take the tour. We headed for four different municipios on the route; Salinas Victoria, El Carmen, Abasolo and then Hidalgo.

Two things I have learned on this trip. One, never talk bad about anyone. If you think I am joking try it sometime. Move from town to town only to find out that everyone is a primo (cousin) of somebody. Family trees are so closely related in small towns you get a real sense of history as well as how humankind spreads. More on family trees tomorrow. Second, I always thought that Salinas Victoria was a dumpy town and that people were medio-gruñon (grouchy bastards). I based that on people I had met over the years in Monterrey who had come from this dusty god-forsaken place. What I found out was that not everyone is the same. We went to the municipio and met a lovely young woman who was excited to tell us about her little place in the world.
She gave us several different brochures in both Spanish and English and gave us the run down on where to go. One place we passed on the way is a place that has fascinated me for years, Mamolique. Mamolique is a mountain pass on the road to Laredo and I have gone over it for years wondering how to get there. Now I know the route. They offer camping and a small lake there via a paved road.

The road today was more rural than most passing a lot of farms and fields. I felt like I was passing through rural Texas or Missouri. It was a relaxing drive and I set the cruise control on 50. With a destination in mind, Potrero Chico, we stopped briefly in El Carmen and went on to Abasolo. On the road to El Carmen we passed this everlasting symbol. Now you know why we are buying our own substation from the CFE. I advise anyone living here to do the same, a worthwhile investment.
El Carmen was very quiet. We found a woman in the plaza selling snacks. She said these days not many people come around except on the weekends when they return from Monterrey. Great, I don't want to be on the road in a small town on weekends. Imagine all the kids with nothing to do. I am a very quiet person.

When we arrived to Abasolo, it was a bit depressing. Abandoned for the most part, there was a bus in the plaza with a group of braceros, men who had worked in the U.S. under a guest worker program in the 40s, 50s and 60s who never received their pension that was promised to them from the U.S. and gather together and take trips to the border to try and resolve their issues. You know I am a real Mexico supporter, but this place was dirty and dumpy. I couldn't wait to leave.

We finally got to another jewel of this great state, Hidalgo, Nuevo Leon which is home to Potrero Chico. This is a famous moutain climbing destination for climbers from all over the world. We decided to stay with our friend Luis at the Posada Potrero Chico. You can see by the sign it is a tourist friendly destination.
They are considering the possibility of opening an rv section to their hotel and campground. He showed us the area where they will do the rv park, and we talked about all the opportunities. He had the gardener cut the grass in this area so we could park for two nights. The cost is 55 pesos per person in the camping area.
Today the weather is cool and a nice breeze. We went for a walk, talked to the police about boondocking in the park which they agreed to. They said they would radio "central" and let them know if we decided to stay. There is a big palapa, big enough to put a trailer in with a concrete pad. But, when we got there, some guys had taken it over and were drinking and listening to music. The park closes at 7 p.m. but we didn't want to wait it out, nap time was calling.

Our site, a night shot with the moon, a full one is coming Friday night, and my morning coffee this morning. Finally thoughts, I'm getting old.