Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Sunday December 27 - Peña de Bernal

Sunday we took a drive out to see Peña de Bernal which is "said" to be one of the worlds tallest monoliths. More on that later. The drive seemed to take forever, the highways were fantastic and the pueblo de Bernal is something I have never seen. Similar to Salamanca and Queretaro, it has a unique flare and is very warm to tourists. The place was swarming with activity when we arrived and began our climb up the monolith.

Les was the one who suggested we all go out for the climb and I was a bit hesitant. He had mentioned that in his research it was about a 3 hour climb up and down. Sounded like to much for me but being a good sport Juan coaxed me into it.

Three cars went out and three of us climbed the monolith. I have to say, you really don't climb to the top of the rock but to a summit on one side. To get to the top you can see climbers with ropes, spikes and hammers working their way up the side. You can also see markers of those that have fallen off in an attempt to reach the top.

The altitude in general is high enough that your lungs really get a good workout. We started the climb along with a rash of other people mostly families and with gusto. As we continued our way up we were fortunate enough to have to wait to let people pass. That gave us an opportunity to catch our breath. The views of the town as well as the far off distances are amazing. I wish I had known about this place before, we would have come when it wasn't so crowded.

As we got to the top, we took a break before heading down and talked with other climbers and joking about how out of shape we are. There was a little weiner dog named Jagger who didn't seem to have any problems at all. It must of been the fact that he has four feet instead of two and he is low to the ground.

Having only had a small breakfast early in the morning we started to build up an appetite. The closer we got the more I could smell good things. Near the parking area there were swarms of tourists and lots of snack food. We opted to wait and find a nice restaurant. We got into town and Les took off to buy some scarves for his girlfriend and we headed to the nearest restaurant, El Mezquite. More food than I needed but remembering my childhood, I had to clean up my plate or send it off to India.

After lunch we all met up and started our journey back to SMA. Got home and everyone was waiting for us to go out for dinner to our favorite place, El Pegazo. More on that later. Too many photos to post.

Monday, December 28, 2009

This is a Saturday post, I had HTML problems and threw my laptop out the window. Most of it is glued back together and the others in the campground donated duct tape and encouragement. So, I will be posting daily again.

Friday we walked around town. First stop on Christmas Day was a small breakfast. We weren't feeling very lucky, everywhere we went they were closed. Only a few lonely souls walking to work and others not sure of their destination. Then it happened. As we walked past a doorway to a small house we could smell fried corn tortillas and we knew it was for us. The small sign above said, La Tonita. There in the entryway were three women. One was working over a wood fired comal, another shredded chicken for the enchiladas and tacos and another sat nearby enjoying this fine fare. It was simple food meant for simple people and that is exactly what we were looking for. Three crispy tacos filled with fresh cooked beans, smothered in a fried mixture of lettuce, onion, potatoes and carrots and topped with a mean green salsa capable of curing anything that had taken place the night before.

After that we walked over to the main plaza just in time to hear the Christmas Day bells ringing. We made a twenty second video which I attempted to email to our families but it turned out to be too heavy of a file. A small crowd was had gathered in the plaza recounting the events of the previous day. In Mexico, Noche Buena is the big Christmas celebration unlike Christmas Day in the U.S. I took the time to have a ten peso shoe shine and off we went looking for two great restaurants that we wanted to scope out for the coming week; La Buganbilia y El Pegaso.

Later in the day we went to the movies to see "Avatar". Typical American movie, lots of noise, action and special effects. The only thing I got out of the movie was when one of the marines said, "first we make them our enemy and then we have a reason to kill them". A lot of corn for the price of a ticket. But we went and it was a fun outing.

Later that night Croft and Norma put out a big spread and we all got together for a potluck. We all had too much to eat and drink and the next day we were all pretty quiet. I got a haircut for 30 pesos and a hot breakfast with coffee included for 35 pesos. You can't beat that. We also started back to the gym and there are many here is SMA.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas Eve Celebration San Miguel de Allende

Our potluck at the rv park in town was a big success. Yes Jonna, you should consider firing up the Lazy Daze and taking a winter trip. Lots of people showed up, I don't have an official count but there must have been 35 to 40 people, mostly rvers. We had turkey, chicken, Juan's excellent green beans with bacon and potatoes, a wonderful focaccia bread, a very tasty rasberry cobbler made by a guy who works in Kings Canyon (I'm terrible with names, shame on me). We talked about everything from rving to politics and culture. Some of the rvers are heading to South America. One couple plans a 3 year trip leaving on Sunday for Argentina. Can you imagine what that will be like! A dream come true. Others may head to Australia to rv the outback.

Here's a picture of (left to right) Terry, Les, Journey of a Lifetime blogger, Claudia from the Netherlands and another neighbor from La Siesta.

Here's Juan with Mike and Terry Church, Rolling Homes Press having a chat and a glass of wine.

Being the rv nut that I am I had to find all the owners and ask for a tour. These lovely ladies from Quebec have a Class B van that they custom designed. Very practical and roomy. They are lots of fun and what I am learning is that I may have to start taking French lessons.

Croft's wife Norma Croft's Mexico Blog sharing a good time with me. Today, Norma is getting us all together for a potluck at their place.

A Merry Christmas to Wandering Willy who is somewhere outside Mexico City!

Finally, Merry Christmas to everyone, friends, family, and all the rvers who are in Mexico!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

The Road To San Miguel de Allende

We left the house right on schedule at 7:30. As you can see the gypsy was one happy camper. We drove through Monterrey taking the truck route. Very simple coming from our house south of Monterrey on Hwy 85. Head north on 85, take Revolución as you near Constitución you will see the big red Holiday Inn. The exit on the right before crossing the bridge says, "Morones Prieto". Take it right and as you enter Morones Prieto take the first or second turn around and head north. That takes you all the way to the Autopista Saltillo which is a real chulada.

The good thing about the new autopista Saltillo is that if you are coming from Laredo or Reynosa you just stay on Hwy 40 and as you exit the ring of Monterrey you have the option of "libre" or "cuota". Excellent highway, no curves and as smooth as silk. Another big advantage is that it takes you to the Hwy 57 exit and if not directly to Monclova bypassing Saltillo. Another job well done.

We drove all day stopping for gas and a quick bite to eat. The roads were packed with holiday travelers coming from the U.S. and northern Mexico. All the toll booths were filled with employees directing traffic, giving out directions to confused travelers like ourselves.

We passed the exit for Dolores Hidalgo and continued south on Hwy 57 taking the Celaya exit. This takes you directly to SMA and just a couple kms from La Siesta RV Park. As we pulled into the park, just in time I might add, happy hour was taking place over at Croft and Norma's place. A crowd of about eight people all with their wine glasses held high. We got settled and had quite an evening. Today we head over to the other park in town for a potluck where Les and Mike and Terry Church are staying.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Almost Ready To Go!

I didn't arrive home from Mexicali until 9:30 Saturday night. Relaxing but long was the day. I was fortunate enough to stay at a nice hotel, the Crown Plaza, which has a fantastic gym and very comfortable rooms. I was able to sleep in, work out, have breakfast and then surf the net before leaving for the airport at 12:30.

Sunday I spent most of the day hanging around taking short naps. Later Sunday evening we went to a memorial mass for Juan's dad who passed away five years ago.

Today was rush, rush, rush. I had to turn in my invoices to the publisher so I might get paid the second week of January. I cleaned the house, worked outside in the trailer, and had some help raking the leaves. All the painting I had planned to do got done. So I am a happy camper. I also drove to Allende to check on our place there before leaving town.

Tomorrow we might take off before noon for San Miguel de Allende, if not first thing bright and early on Wednesday. I can't wait to see everyone who is there and meet those I haven't met in person but on the internet.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Big Changes In Tijuana

I found this article on the Associated Press. There is a conscience and it is in the air in Mexico.

Tijuana's drug war focuses on policeBehind every crime is a corrupt cop.

That's Public Safety Chief Julian Leyzaola's mantra as he storms Tijuana with its most aggressive police reform to date, a mix of counterterrorism and community policing. If it works, it could be a model for other hotspots and a huge breakthrough in a drug war in Mexico that has taken more than 14,000 lives in the last three years.

But the job is as monumental as turning around Al Capone's Chicago. Cops in this border city and many others nationwide now serve as the eyes and ears of drug lords. And those who fight the cartels often end up dead.

The Associated Press followed Leyzaola for eight months as he rallied troops, consoled officers' widows and appealed to jaded residents for support. The AP joined commanders and officers on patrol, at target practice and in training classes, tracking firsthand Leyzaola's intended reforms.

Leyzaola, 49, joined Tijuana police in 2007, after 25 years in the army and stints running Baja California's state prisons and police. A year ago, he became head of the largest police force in Baja, where 90 percent of officers surveyed last year failed federal security checks.

"Listen well," the retired military officer says with his trademark certitude. "No delinquent can survive without help from the authorities. If you do not clean up the police, you will never get rid of drug trafficking."


The march to recapture the city starts in early 2009 and expands to a new district every three months. The plan is to end in 2011 in the east, the city's most violent section, where Teodoro "El Teo" Garcia Simental wages a vicious campaign to take over Tijuana's drug trade.

Leyzaola draws his strategy from many sources, including French counterterrorism operations in Algeria in the 1950s and Colombia's war against its cartels in the '90s. He has $7 million in federal funding this year.

The plan for each district: Make a slew of arrests. Then replace beat cops with officers who pass intensive background checks and put in former military officers as commanders. They patrol small areas in new pickup trucks and are responsible for whatever happens in their area.

First up is downtown Tijuana.


Felipe Gandara, 37, is one of 400 Tijuana officers who passed the new training and background checks for downtown. In March, he begins by introducing himself at every bank, foreign-exchange business and restaurant.

"It's important to lose your anonymity," Leyzaola says. "I believe police abused their positions because no one knew who they were."

Gandara likes Leyzaola's approach.

"It was a complete change, a lot more responsibility," Gandara says. "Every crime is your responsibility."

Victor de la Cruz, the former Air Force officer appointed to oversee the launch, estimates a 40 percent increase in people reporting crimes in little more than a month.


The same month, Leyzaola's bodyguard of 18 months, Ricardo Omar Medina, is among 130 officers caught in an anti-corruption spree.

Medina receives a call late one March night to report to Leyzaola at 8 a.m. for a new radio. When he arrives, his boss demands his vest, badge and other equipment.

"I've lost trust in you," Leyzaola tells him.

About 250 were fired or pressured to resign. When Leyzaola suspects cops are dirty, he puts them on patrol in the palm trees outside police headquarters — a job that humiliates most into quitting.

According to court documents, one of the officers arrested in March said he got $500 a month from El Teo's gang to keep streets clear of cops during murders and kidnappings. If he refused, his family would be killed. Another officer said he was paid $300 to $500 each time he released criminals at El Teo's command.

Leyzaola likes confronting them personally — in his office, at their stations, even on patrol. He sometimes drives them himself to the army barracks, where they are held.

Families of the officers come forward immediately with allegations of torture — electrocuted genitals, near-suffocation, severe beatings Leyzaola says he is not responsible for what happened to officers in army custody.


The threats start on April 24, broadcast over Tijuana's old police radios that drug traffickers routinely commandeer: If Leyzaola doesn't resign, cops will die.

Three days later, Officer Luis Izquierdo, Gandara's former partner and mentor, is on the night shift, patrolling the San Diego border with three other cops. He walks into a convenience store just as a caravan of black SUVs drives by. Men get out of the vehicles and pump Izquierdo and three others with more than 200 bullets.

The police scanners hum with a "narcocorrido," or a drug ballad. Three more officers go down in synchronized attacks across the city.

Gandara picks up the radio traffic and calls his wife.

"Luis is dead," he says.

She calls Izquierdo's wife to break the news: Seven officers killed in 45 minutes.

It is the department's deadliest day.


The next day, Leyzaola stops the community policing, less than two months into the program. His officers are too exposed. They turn to patrolling large areas in convoys of as many as six trucks.

The department's 2,000 officers get two-week courses on securing crime scenes, surveilling suspects and other basic policing techniques.


The tip comes in early June: Drug trafficker Filiberto Parra Ramos — wanted for killing two federal agents and for his role in one of Tijuana's deadliest shootouts — is spotted in Playas de Tijuana. The army already is out looking.

Leyzaola joins the massive search for him.

After a false alarm, Parra is cornered at a shopping center near the airport. Leyzaola personally makes the arrest — nabbing one of El Teo's top assassins without firing a single shot.

The hits ramp up in July.

The body of Officer Geronimo Calderon, pumped with bullets, is left with a note: "If you don't resign, Leisaola (sic), I'm going to kill 5 x week."

That night, a Tijuana cop survives an assassination attempt as he stands unarmed outside a grocery store. An officer dies in drive-by shooting the next day while guarding a Mexican Red Cross center, and a third is killed five days later in an ambush.


By September, funerals are part of Leyzaola's routine.

Leyzaola is also quietly campaigning to keep his job after his boss, Mayor Jorge Ramos, is forced out by term limits in December 2010.

"We're really only in our first year," he says. "In two years, Tijuana will see a real difference."


After the September killings, Leyzaola moves his campaign to Playas de Tijuana three months earlier than scheduled.

The district gets new radios and 58 new Ford F250s. They had 14 patrol vehicles before.

All over the city, cops are scared. They routinely patrol with their rifles drawn.

Officer Mario Pena, who worked the district where Izquierdo died, stops wearing his uniform to work and alternates his routes home. He quits meeting officers for coffee on the job, stops socializing with them on weekends for fear they will be recognized and gunned down.

But he says the killings are a sign that Leyzaola is succeeding.

"We are finishing off the mafia," he says.

El Teo has other plans.


By the end of September, the Mexican army gets another tip: U.S. authorities say a weapons purchase north of the border indicates a plot is afoot to kill Leyzaola.

The intelligence leads soldiers in October to a Tijuana shoe shop, where they arrest Edgar Zuniga, one of El Teo's men. Zuniga leads them to a ranch on the eastern outskirts, where the assassins' vehicles are being painted in camouflage to trick Leyzaola as they approach.

The plan calls for 12 men to approach Leyzaola in a fake military convoy as one takes him out with a .50-caliber rifle. The execution would be videotaped, set to a narcocorrido and posted on the Internet.

Soldiers surprise the planners Oct. 31 in a shootout at the ranch, arresting 13 suspects. They seize more than 3,400 bullets, plus the camouflaged vehicles.

The foiled hit had been personally ordered by El Teo for Nov. 1.


In Leyzaola's first year as public safety director, 32 officers died, more than in the previous five years total. Dozens went to jail and the department shrunk from about 2,200 to 2,000 — forcing him to extend patrol shifts from eight to 12 hours.

His community policing plan is still on hold.

But Leyzaola already is looking to next year, planning to hire 150 new officers, send 50 at a time to train with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department and issue new bulletproof vests, each backed by a manufacturer's $50 million guarantee. He hopes to restart community policing early in 2010.

He avoids speculating on what would have happened if the plot had gone through. Leyzaola is a man who only moves forward.

"God protects me," he says.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wine Country Ensenada

We finished early today and I had a chance to drive through wine country here in Ensenada. We visited three but only one was open for tours. The drive from Ensenada is very relaxing and as you climb the hills you start to see the vineyards. Some are well-known labels and others not. I didn't taste any wines as I had to travel from Ensenada to Mexicali where I am right now to catch my flight tomorrow afternoon to get back to Monterrey. I just arrived to the Crown Plaza so will have a bite to eat and then watch some television.

The exit from the main highway in Ensenada to Wine Country

Out of all the Mexican wines I have ever tasted, there are two that I like the most. One is La Cetto. There cabernet sauvignon is excellent.

El Parral Hotel and Winery

Bibayoff was on our tour but it was a smaller vineyard and their prices were very high. Their tasting was only five dollars which included four wines but I wasn't impressed. Good wine doesn't have to be expensive unless they have extremely high production costs.

In the end, I want to go back when I have time to visit each winery, take a complete tour and do the tasting. If we have the rv, it is a good way to drink a little and then rest for a while.

My second favorite wine after La Cetto is California red wine, comes in a simple tetra one liter presentation is sells for 25 pesos. Great table wine. I have never been to France, but Juan has and he says their daily table wine is cheap and very very good.

After our short tour, we returned to Ensenada and I bought my ticket to head to Mexicali. The trip to Mexicali is long as it goes over the mountains and there is also a 10 to 15 km stretch that is under construction. This part is between Ensenada and Tecate. No highway, they removed all the pavement. There is lots of activity but I guess I don't understand why they didn't do it in parts. It took us more than 45 minutes. Not too bad, but drive slow.

The scenery was fantastic.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ensenada - A Ship Comes Into Port

I was able to go to the gym this morning at the Coral Resort and Marina. A friend has a membership there and invited me. A very nice hotel and a wonderful gym. While I was there I saw a cruise ship pass by. At the time I didn't give it much thought.

After we left the course at the university we stopped by the bank. 50 people in front of me waiting with their number. I entered at 425 and I was number 475. The waiting time on my ticket was 164 minutes. What? I was able to make my payment and get of the bank in less than 15 minutes. All the cashier windows were open and everyone was working at their best.

As we got close to the strip, there were crowds of vendors and people everywhere. Then it struck me that this was because of the ship coming in. Since I arrived on Sunday, the streets were empty and it was cold outside. Not a soul in sight. When the ship comes into port, it has to stop in Ensenada to register in Mexico, they sound their arrival and like ants, vendors come rolling up the streets with their carts and souvenirs. An amazing sight. Of course, some crazy tourist had started a fight in front of a club and as we passed they had the street blocked and the police had arrived to straighten things out. A crowd had drawn but by the time I had gotten to my room to drop off my stuff and return it was all over.

Later I had a sandwich at Subway and off I went to take pictures of the cruise ship and the harbor below.

Ensenada is a great place to visit for a couple days before heading south. There are rv parks everywhere, a Walmart to spend the night as well as a Costco. City buses cost 6 pesos. Last night I took the bus over to the MacroPlaza mall to walk around and have dinner. Buses in Ensenada are actually used car rental shuttle buses that are in tip top shape. There is no cord or bell to let the driver know where you want to get off. Since it isn't a big bus, you just speak up and say "baja" or indicate where up ahead you want off.

Most people know that the food in Baja is great. Fish tacos, shrimp dishes and ice cold beer. Tomorrow I am inviting the program supervisor out for lunch and we are having seafood. I'll make sure I get a shot of what we eat.

Animal Cruelty - Thousands of exotic animals found overcrowded

On a sad note, if you haven't seen it on the news, 30,000 exotic animals, reptiles and birds were found in a warehouse in Arlington, Tx. Many of them dead or in very bad shape. Yes, that is the number up to now and they are counting, 30,000. The company had employees working there and there is now an arrest warrant for the owner.

We just had Friend fixed yesterday. I found her in April, almost dead. Revived her and got her home. The vet said I needed to wait before he could fix her as she needed to gain weight. Well she did when she escaped from the quinta and got pregnant. The pups all have good homes now and she won't be having any more babes.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ensenada - Day 2

I wasn't able to find another gym other than the one I went to last July here in Ensenada. So this morning I went running along the beach. Cold and a bit windy, I work a jacket, sweats and gloves. Not a soul in sight until I was on my way back to the hotel. Rush hour traffic, as much as you can call it that in Ensenada.

Today is session two of the "diplomado" I am teaching. The view that stands in front of me is a huge distraction.

We are using the facilities of a private university, CETYS. Wonderful facilities and they have three campus' here in Baja Norte.

We are in the library which is filled with books. Later this week I am listing the universities that are here in Ensenada along with their cost. There are around ten public and private.

I am fortunate that the group of 75 I am working with are all well-trained teachers, dynamic, energenic and very good English speakers.

Ciudad Inteligente - Monterrey - One of the World's Smartest Cities

Monterrey made number 4 on Forbe's list of the World's Smartest Cities!

Over the past few decades Monterrey as emerged from relative obscurity into a major industrial and engineering city. The city of 3.5 million 57 industrial parks, specializing in everything from chemicals and cement to telecommunications and industrial machinery. Monterrey and its surrounding state, Nuevo Leon, boast a per-capita GDP roughly twice that of the rest of Mexico.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Change In The Blog

I've made the decision to become more involved in my blog. It was originally intended to serve the needs of rvers and to throw in an occasional story about life in Mexico. All that is changing and it seems that I may be writing more on the side of living in Mexico as there are 1.5 million Americans living fulltime in Mexico as well as all the other foreigners from other countries.
As an rv addict, I will continue to share my rving adventures as they should increase starting this December.
One of the reasons I have made this decision is that there seems to be much disinformation about the country I now call home. I would like to share my point of view as well as dispell some or many of the misconceptions people have of Mexico. If I could accomplish one thing it would be to show that we need not be pitied. Mexicans are intelligent, understanding and hard-working people. We have many cultural differences and that may be the barrier between us.
I would like to remove this feeling of humility, charity and sympathy and convert that to working together to improve conditions so that Mexico can become competitive, rich and no longer looked down upon as the part of North America still considered "third world".
I realize I may lose some readers in my new direction but I hope to gain new readers and supporters along the way. I hope you stayed tuned and that we can all benefit from the change.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Monterrey to Mexicala and Beyond!

Wow, what a day! I left the house this morning around 10 a.m. The fog wasn't going to let up, or at least that's what I thought. Got into town and it was a beautiful sunny day. Picked up a taxi at the Walmart and headed off for the airport.

I always strike up a conversation with taxi drivers. Very interesting folks. This guy was talking about how lazy kids are today and how they want everything handed to them. He then told me his story how his parents lived in Houston. He has his residency and studied for nine months at a community college. He became a refrigeration and a/c repairman. He says he does both the taxi and the a/c repair and lives a good life. He had worked in Houston for ten years but had a bad car accident that did some damage to his leg so driving is a good occupation. I reminded him that since he had worked legally and was a resident that he should check his social security account and see what he is eligible for at age 62.

Caught my flight to Mexicali, three and a half hours. A quick stop over in Hermosillo for re-fueling.

As I got off the plane I headed for the baggage claim. We went through a military check in the airport and after we were finished a big surprise! All 150 passengers from two flights were escorted out of the airport, lined up, with our bags in front of us, and they passed the K-nine unit through, then formed another line and they checked all our bags again. Oh the times we live in. Well, you know, we asked for it. We've dug this pit and now we have to find some way out of it. BTW, I won't discuss this particular problem on my blog (please).

I met my boss for lunch at Rincon Don Poncho in Mexicali. Excellent Chinese food in the northwest of Mexico. We had a good chat and off I went for the bus station. Excellent service with two good movies, one in English and the other dubbed in Español. We drove the famous highway La Rumorosa. It was dark so I didn't see much but going home next Saturday I hope to get some good pics.

Just arriving an hour ago to the Hotel El Cid in Ensenada, the weather is cold (thank you Jonna) and no one is on the streets. Seeing it is cold I went out to purchase a bottled beverage made from distilled grains to warm my old bones up.

Roc commented about my retiring. Sure, you bet, done deal, it happened. But, I can't turn down trips where they pay me well to do what I love (working with teachers) and I get free vacations out of it at the same time. This week I will be free after 2 p.m. each day. That gives me time for a quick nap and then some sightseeing. I may take in a movie one night this week too.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

The Strangest Thing

I drove into town yesterday to pick up some things for my trip. Tomorrow I'll be flying to Mexicali to meet a co-worker and then on to Ensenada for the week. I will be teaching a course to 75 teachers before the holiday vacation.

As I was leaving CostCo, a guy walked by and turned around and looked at me several times. Usually it is a teacher who has taken a course with me, been in a seminar, or an ex-student from one of the companies in Monterrey.

I started to ask him if I he knew me when he said, "excuse me, do you have a blog about camping and living in Mexico?". That's weird. We chatted for a bit to only find out that he used to own a small restaurant right around the corner from my house on the lake. It is a small world.

Now that I am traveling to Ensenada, I will have to do double time when I return next weekend. We are hitting the road no matter what and San Miguel de Allende here we come.

I don't know what happened to sunny Mexico. The weather in Baja California and specifically Ensenada will be between 65 daytime and 42 in the evenings and even some rainy days. I am packing some warm clothes to go running along the beach in the mornings. You may remember I was in Ensenada in July of this year. Here is are links to that week with some great photos:

Ensenada July 2, 2009 Ensenada July 3, 2009

One of the things that I have had a hard time finding in Mexico is a product to feed our septic tank. I usually buy a box or two of Reckitt Benckiser Rid X. This works really well for us. Our septic tank is a combination tank/filter system. I have seen a liquid product before here in Monterrey but can no longer find it. If anyone who lives here knows about it, please drop me a line.

I need to start packing for tomorrow. It will be a long day. I will be posting along my trip this week if anyone is interested in visiting Ensenada, Mexicali or Tijuana.

Friday, December 11, 2009

The Cost of Electricity In Mexico

I just received our electric bill from the CFE (Comision Federal de Electricidad). Here, more so than in other countries the game of what you pay is based on how much you consume and knowing what the limits are.
Billing cycles in Mexico are bi-montly (every two months) except for three areas located in the Monterrey-Metro area where the billing is monthly. Supposedly the monthly billing cyle is a test phase but it has been in that stage now for 13 years that I know of.
So how does it work? The CFE allows the consumer three basic service levels; basic (the first 150 kwh), intermediate (the second set of 150kwh), excedente (which is over the first three hundred kwh) and then you are pretty much screwed. Exceed 799 kwh and you will be put into the highest rate scale and remain there for six months during which you must maintain less than the 799kwh.
What is the pricing?
Basic (first 150kwh) .05 cents U.S.
Intermediat151 to 300 kwh) .09 cents U.S.
Excedente (301 to 799kwh) .17 cents U.S.
DAC (800kwh and over) .23 cents U.S.
Imagine running a household on 400kwh per month? Not an easy task. What we did was change all our interior lights to compact fluorescent light bulbs, LED spots on the porch, living room ceiling and some interior table lamps. We also changed out the well pump to a newer more efficient motor and put a timer on the pool. Although the recommended filter use on a pool is eight hours a day, we run ours for one hour. Now that winter is here, I run the filter twice a week and that seems to keep it clean along with heavy chlorination.
We use gas LP in tanks to heat the house. LP has its cost but it is easier to control usage and you pay in advance.
In our new house (somewhere in the near future) we want to use solar as much as possible. I have been doing my reading on solar panels, energy storage, and inverters. I know it is a huge investment up front, but I doubt we will ever see a decrease around the world in the cost of electricity.
Our electric company does help out by selling compact fluorescents and offering discounts on high efficiency air conditioners and giving you the opportunity to pay for them over six months via your electric bill.
So how do our prices compare to yours?

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Road Work - When Push Comes To Shove

Beautiful sunrise at Quinta Aruanda!

It took a lot of effort on my part. I didn't want to get my neighbors involved. They don't actually live here, they visit on weekends or once in awhile. The road had gotten worse over the last year to the point where it was just about impossible to navigate because of potholes. I was a bit embarrassed over this last weekend when we had company from Canada.

I had been to the "presidencia" of our local municipality many times over the last three years. I sweet talked, I danced, just about anything that would help to get our road fixed. I know it will not be paved in my lifetime and that I really don't care. But please make it easy to navigate and appealing to those who come to visit.
My requests were always met with a "yes" and that it wouldn't be long. Well, in April I had just about had it and I shot off my big mouth. In a nice way, I explained that I had waited three years during the current administration to get some action and that nothing was happening. I then told the secretary that I would come back again with the newspaper reporter and the television action line reporter. I never did. Why? Our municipio is not part of the greater metro area. We are at the bottom of the list when it comes to news so I knew we wouldn't get much attention and besides that, in these times, I would have hated to p--- off a politician.

Well, he's gone now and three weeks ago I went and started my song and dance all over again. This time I was met with open arms and the Secretario had someone take me back to our street to show them what I wanted. He told me up front that the budget is slim (next to nothing I'm sure) and that they would do what they could with the equipment available.

They came, they saw and they left. I called them every now and then and the "promise" of sending the maquina was just around the corner. This is the beginning of week three and I was about ready to do the second half of my show. I called my contact and politely explained that my trust in them was running thin and I wouldn't want to have to go back to the "presidencia" and let them know what was not happening. "No, no señor, mañana va la maquina a su calle con el topografo". (don't worry mr. chris, tomorrow I am sending the bulldozer and the topographer to your street). I thought, "yeah, right".
Bright and early this morning the bulldozer was sitting there and when I came home this afternoon this is what I found.

Now we wait for the . . . . . . rest of the story!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Snowbirds Are Heading South

Snowbirds are starting their treks south to Mexico for the cold winter months. We had the pleasure of having John and Angela here over the weekend. The weather was the pits, near freezing, raining and cold.

John and Angela's on-board GPS found our house out in the sticks without any problem. They did pass up our road but called while I was outside. As I came in the house I heard the phone but picked it up too late. I heard their message saying they were nearby and were going to make a second pass so I hopped in the car and went out to the highway looking for an rv. Up the road about one kilometer I saw them. I honked and flagged them down and it was nothing but a fun weekend after that.

We went up to the waterfalls, walked around Santiago our little Pueblo Magico. We also went to Monterrey and toured the history museum and had lunch in a nice little restaurant along the riverwalk called San Luiscito's.

Saturday we did some shopping at the HEB in town and had a great seafood lunch here in Los Cavazos at Don Arturo's.

Nights were spent over happy hour and lots of good conversation about Mexico, Spanish and rving. John and Angela have a lot of knowledge regarding rvs and solar so I picked their brain.

They were parked out front in the driveway where we have 30 amp service and water.

Anyone coming down looking for posada can drop me an email. We will be on the road for a couple of weeks in December but will be here off and on throughout January and February.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

New Poll - Please Vote!

There is a new poll on the right side of the screen. Please vote, it is anonymous. I'm just curious how many people are actually living or visiting Mexico at this time. Thanks!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Debate Over Food Prices In Mexico

Over on the forum there is a debate over food prices in Mexico. My personal opinion, after returning from a weekend in San Antonio, prices are much cheaper here. Many people say that the price of tortilla is now 12 pesos per kilo or more. That is the official price allowed by law in tortillerias. However, like any good shopper, you need to get out of your neighborhood and go the market or the supermarket on the Dia del Mercado. This is usually on Tuesday in Mexico. All the good produce is on display, leader prices are all over the store to attract customers. In all supermarket chains the price leaders are corn tortillas which are now 5.82 pesos per kilo, along with rice, beans, eggs, chile, tomatoe and onion.

You can also check prices on line via Profeco (Mexico's Better Business Bureau). Below is the link. Click on the major city nearest you and start shopping. You will find all the prices by product and by store, the most expensive and the cheapest. This link in the Profeco page is called, ¿Quien Es Quien? (Who's Who?).

Also, if you live in a major city or close by, you can do your grocery shopping on line. Soriana has an online shopping site where you can elect all your shopping needs from fresh meats, produce, drinks and cleaning supplies. I have found that their Soriana brand or generic does not appear in the lists. You have two options; delivery or you pick up the order later. Here is their site and you can also check prices on line: Click on Tienda Virtual Soriana.

I did some quick shopping this morning at HEB, they too have on line shopping. HEB stores are located in the Monterrey Metro area, Reynosa, Leon, Tampico, San Luis Potosi, Matamoros, Saltillo, and now in Piedras Negras.

This is what I found on sale at HEB; bananas .22 lb., zuchinni squash .49 lb., white onions .38 lb., golden apples .58 lb., chicken thighs .35 lb., Hill Country Fare Ham (HEB brand) 2.49 lb, fresh shrimp 2.99 lb.

If you are buying off a truck that passes through the rv park, be leary of quality and most of all price because the owner usually buys at a supermarket on sale and hikes up the prices. Very common practice. People from around here buy at CostCo in bulk and then resell the products at a higher markup in their small neighborhood stores.

BTW, OXXO convenience stores now prices their products that you would buy in a supermarket competitively with those of HEB and Soriana.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving! Off We Go!

The season has started. Here in Mexico it's business as usual although you can find turkeys and all the fixing in the supermarkets.

We head off for San Antonio in just a bit and will celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow with friends. It will be a casual affair, we are all wearing pajamas for dinner.

In Kansas City this is a special day that brings back memories. The lighting of the Country Club Plaza. One of my brothers lives on hill overlooking the area and will have a spectacular view of this evenings events.

Although I come off as a bit of a grouch I am a soft-hearted person and the holidays really choke me up. I miss all nine of my brothers and sisters and am happy I have such a large family. I can choose who I like and don't like :). Seriously though, mom used to really put on the spread and always waited anxiously for as many of us to show as could based on circumstances. And we did! She made a mean pot of mashed potatoes and turkey gravy not to mention the bird basting in the oven. I sure miss mom and dad but the memories are forever.

I'm thankful for all my 50 some odd years and I wouldn't change a thing. My life in Mexico has been rich, filled with wonderful experiences that I can cherish for a lifetime. I am also very thankful for my SO who has been by my side all these years and tolerated my quirks and wierd ideas on how I think the world should turn. I have been gifted with good health and rotten teeth but I will find my way to chew through Thanksgiving dinner anyway. Oh the wonders of modern dentistry!

And thanks to all the people who share my blog and I hope have enjoyed reading it over the years. I know it has run pretty slow in the last months but will pick up again in December as we head out on our trip to San Miguel de Allende.

A special Thanksgiving wish to my friend Patricia in California, my sister Dorothy who loves me a lot, and my two cats Little Bit and Missy.

Monday, November 23, 2009

I Accomplished Another Thing Today!

Got another part of my list done today. The guys came to clean the three carpets, living room furniture and the dining room chairs. They took everything outside on the patio so when they were done it would dry. They finished around noon and said things should be ready to bring in around 4 p.m. I went into town to send my honorarios to the publisher. Before I left, even though it was before 2 p.m., I just didn't like the idea of leaving everything outside (thinking about the cats, etc.). I put my butt to work and got everything back in order before leaving. When I returned home at 3 p.m. I was caught in the middle of a downpour that hasn't stopped and it is now 7 p.m. I called Juan and he says it is dry as a bone in Monterrey. Imagine that, 20 kms away and not a drop of rain. I bet the pool filled at least 4 cms in this time.
Tomorrow they start work on the road and I am really excited about that. Also, if it isn't raining, a construction worker will come to fix some cracks in the backyard wall so that I can paint. More on that later.
The cleaning today cost 900 pesos or $68 (u.s.).
There's lots of talk on the about the cost of rving in Mexico. I think it runs the gamut. Just like fulltimers in the U.S., from 500 dollars to 5000 dollars a month. Our expenses are fixed and very low including insurance for all things, home, cars, rv, and medical. I don't think I could afford to return to the U.S.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Travel Trailer Makeover Underway

I got the chairs back and they look brand spankin' new. With the new throw rugs the trailer looks more open and light. Lots left to do though. We are headed to San Antonio on Thursday for Thanksgiving and we will buy a new bedspread. I still haven't decided what to do with the curtains, I want to remove the color and make them a dark beige, but some people have said they may be a poly fiber and not work well. I still plan on taking a piece and trying it anyway. Worse case is I find something that matches the rest and have them made.

The chairs are beige although with the curtains as they are they look more like a light green. Tomorrow I will check the water heater and furnace to make sure they are working properly. I am also in the search for a radiant heater, I'm tired of the sound of the furnace.

The time is drawing closer and I am getting more excited to hit the road. If we were going to spend more time in San Antonio we would take the trailer with us, but for three days with all the things happening at the border, it just isn't worth it.
Oops! I left my drink on the table in the picture.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Only The Good Die Young
Over the weekend an 18 year old kid from Veracruz was hit by a drunk driver from Germany just up the road from our house. We saw the news and I knew then it was Rolando, a member of our gym. Rolando came to this area from Veracruz to earn money to go to school. He wanted to be a professional chef. His boss said he was a hard worker and had great aspirations.

I saw him at the gym in the mornings. He was a shy type of guy, "penoso" we say here. You could tell he was from Veracruz not only by his appearance but by his mannerisms and actions. He was quiet, didn't bother anyone and kept to himself.

The sad part for me was that I always wanted to talk to him. But here, you don't just walk up to someone and strike up a conversation. I didn¡t want anyone to get the wrong impression. Now it's too late.

A good guy who would have grown up to make a fine Mexican. His family came for the body and took him back to his home in Veracruz. I'll bet they are very proud of him. Q.E.P.D. Rolando.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Getting My Projects Done

The chairs came back yesterday fromt the upholsterer and we had the wiring fixed under the trailer that the dogs had chewed up. Pups are gone now, all to good homes. The momma dog is still in need of a new home though.

Juan found a handyman who came and fixed the wiring on the trailer and also fixed the hot water heater. We leave it on pilot during the hot summer months and solar energy kicks in as the sun hits the water heater all day long. We have warm to hot water all summer. Now with the cold nights coming that isn't true. I thought the problem was with the pilot so I cleaned all the orifices and still it wouldn't ignite. The handyman disassembled the regulator and found it was clogged with spider nests and bugs. That did the trick. Three hours work on both the heater and the trailer, total cost 350 pesos.

I got the well painted that sits in the front yard and I will start painting the front gate and wall this week. I met with the new Secretario de Ayutamiento this week at the mayor's office. They sent out a crew to evaluate our road and hopefully they will start work this week.

We are narrowing down our trip for December. Looks like the Mexico destination is San Miguel de Allende. From there we will head north across the border to San Antonio for the big RV show January 7th. After, we will fly to Naples, Fl. to spend a week relaxing in the warm sun.

Today is Sunday and we are headed to the all-you-can-eat breakfast buffet, 3.99 per person. Eggs just the way I like it. Then we are heading to Monterrey to do some grocery shopping and find a new bedspread for the trailer.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Lots Of Activity

Things are started to happen and I am in high gear. I've been working on the trailer makeover and doing some minor repairs cleaning out the burner on the water heater and the refrigerator. The trailer is five years old and still in good shape. We did have a small leak in the front that I was able to find and stop but the damage, little as it is, was already done. Our next rv will get a leak test before leaving the dealer. This was a quality control issue, a small spot on top where a screw hold the side trim in place was not caulked. Water trickled down the front side and settled in a middle corner spot. If you press on it you can feel it. It is about six inches square.
I also have a list of house things to get done before we leave; have the living room furniture and carpets cleaned, paint the underside of the overhang of the house in front, paint the base of the house (trim) and the front needs a touch up, paint the front wall of the quinta and the gates, paint the top metal plate on the well. I also need to patch up the sheet rock around the bases of the columns on the front of the house and put up a gutter.

Any rvers looking for free hookups in exchange for some handyman work?

I'm a little upset with the amount of emails I have been receiving since the incident at Ft. Hood. They all range from Christianity versus Islam to Obama speaking in Arabic quoting the Quran. Add all the b.s. going on in the U.S., not an example for the world to follow. All it does is feed terrorists.

I'm still convinced it is time to take care of our continent first, then worry about the rest of the world. Enough said.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Started Preparing the Trailer for December 2009

Finally, I see some action. I took the chairs out of the trailer and took them to be reupholstered. They are two swivel rockers that we purchased from an ex-Trailmanor owner. They fit beautifully in the Funfinder. I am having them done in a beige textured fabric. They will be ready on Thursday. The cost is 1100 pesos or 82 dollars including new foam cushions, etc. Is that a good price?
I am washing all the throw rugs as we don't have carpet, reorganizing the cabinets, and doing a general cleaning. I've checked all the systems; furnace, water heater, batteries, refrigerator and I need to repair a cable underneath that the dog got ahold of.
For those that are good at curtains, we have great curtains but they are butt ugly. They are a dark green and some kind of tie-dye deal. So, I am a RIT man. I dye just about everything from my black shirts to bathroom rugs. This looks like a tough job because if I screw it up I am screwed. I am thinking about using the RIT color remover first, and then dye them in a darker beige color and then buy a new bedspread. If anyone has RIT experience, let me know what you think.
As for the road, the destination is unknown. Where is everyone going to be? I would like to receive some feedback as it would be nice to hookup with some of you while we are on the road in Mexico as well as Texas.
We may take a short four-day weekend with the trailer to San Antonio for Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

No Transit Officials In Monterrey

This is day five and the streets are empty of transit officials. Last week, our new mayor made the decision to remove all 1,100 transit police from duty. They are undergoing a series of five types of psychological exams. During this time the official has the right to resign with full benefits if they so desire. If they are found inept or corrupt they will be let go without any benefits whatsoever.
The plan may change as they are concerned that those who are corrupt could become involved in illicit activities. They may be give lesser city jobs to avoid involvement in other activities.
So who's watching the streets of Monterrey? The new policia municipal. There are 185 patrol cars that have been awarded to those outstanding police men and women who have served the community with a clean record. We have had no major issue that they haven't been able to handle.
The new transit officials or those who remain, will be offered a better salary, additional training and benefits.
One major change that has taken place is that your vehicle cannot be taken away for a traffic violation. You can pay your fine at the local transit office or an OXXO convenience store.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Great Fire of 2009 - Los Cavazos

It was a big one. Fire trucks came from Santiago, Allende, Montemorelos and beyond. It doesn't look like much but it took out 12 furniture businesses who dedicate their work to making rustic furniture. It started sometime early morning on Saturday. I heard the sirens at 5 a.m. but thought it was an accident on the highway. When I left for Monterrey at 7 a.m. there was still lots of smoke and burning embers. At that time, no one knew the extent of the damage.

Estimates have it at 6 million pesos between the 12 stores, most of whom make their own furniture. None had insurance althouI'vegh insurance in Mexico is cheap. About 1000 pesos per year per 500,000 pesos of value; building and contents. Some of the owners blame the lack of fire hydrants but you can't spread to much blame for lack of city services when we really don't live near a city and most of the owners are probably not registered and thus don't pay any taxes.

Local government has already promised very-low interest loans to help rebuild and get store owners and employees going again. We have a new mayor and he is a real go-getter.

Dental Work

I'm in the process of replacing two crowns. I've had them for over 12 years and they were ready for a change. My local dentist is charging 3600 pesos or 275 dollars for the two crowns and three office visits. He gives great injections and it wears off by the time I get out of the office. I hate the injections with a passion. I'm a happy patient. So is that a good price for two crowns?

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Day of the Dead - Halloween

Halloween has reached it peak here in Monterrey. Apart from our traditional Day of the Dead where we visit the cemetary, clean up the graves and have a bite to eat with the dead, trick or treating is really the rage.

As we were coming home from Santiago last night we saw many trick or treaters out on the streets knocking on doors and screaming, "Queremos Halloween". Kids dressed as their favorite super hereos, brides, scary figures gathered their candy and headed home only to take the advice of local physicians on how to handle the candy to avoid contact with the H1N1.

In the plaza of Santiago, we did a quick walk around the plaza to see the advance of the remodeling project. The walkways are being replaced with hand-laid stones and it is coming along beautifully albeit quite slowly.
The church in the main plaza of Santiago, N.L.

Day of the Dead display in the main plaza. Notice the shoes and boots!

At the Secretaria de Educacion (the state education department) an altar was set up to honor the Mexican tradition of Day of the Dead. As you can see by the pictures below, the tradition is strong as ever and yesterday as well as today the cemetaries are packed with families bringing food, drink and flowers to the graves of their loved ones.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fall Is Upon Us

I clipped the last rose from the garden for this year. The trees are weeping and the leaves appear to be turning. The pool needs less maintenance as the sun shines very little now. We have had lots of cool nights and cloudy days along with our share of rain.

December nears and the thoughts of driving down the road looking for adventure is on the horizon.

We spent a four-day weekend at the Mextesol convention which was here in Monterrey. Over two thousand English teachers showed up for the event. We had lots of seminars, talks, plenaries, book exhibitions and many, many parties. It was really a lot of fun. Next year we are heading to the event in Cancun.
My friend Andreina giving a talk at the convention.

And who's this dapper guy acting as the MC for the Convention?