Thursday, January 29, 2009

Mexican Insurance

On our trip in December to Veracruz, we hit a bit hole thanks to my lack of attention. With the Durango, we can now drive a million miles per hour and not know that there is a casita behind us. We damaged both black and grey tanks and when we got home, I damaged both the stabilizer jacks entering the road where we live.

So today the adjuster came and tomorrow we will have a resolution. I am hoping that it will be the following: take the trailer to San Antonio this weekend and have it repaired and AXA will reimburse me.

They want me to take it to a place that repairs tractor-trailers. I told them that the tanks are special order and we need an RV specialist to do the work.

I will update you tomorrow or Saturday on the resolution.

Rv.Net Snowbird Rally Rio Grande Valley

Wow, what a week. I am making up for my great life in Mexico by working my old buns off. I have been on the road since Sunday and won't finish until I get to San Antonio on Saturday. Good though, I have work and am happy for that. We are now 99% debt free and have one more bill to pay. A great feeling. After that, God willing, we will sell the house and be fully retired.
I had the greatest opportunity of my life on Monday. I was invited to give a presentation on rving in Mexico at the Rv.Net Rally in the Rio Grande Valley. I know I said I would post some pictures and I do have them. I just can't find my cable. I think I left it in a hotel in Sinaloa. Anyway, I will do it this weekend.
I had a great time putting faces to user names on the Rv.Net. It was fantastic. I have been a member since 2004 but have only met a few couples and I have been fortunate to make long-term friends and we do keep in touch.
I believe that most of the people there have no interest in Mexico, but there were some that really showed an some spark and came up to me after the presentation and said how excited they were to know that the opportunity exists.
I have to admit that I haven't given a presentation to Americans or native English speakers in over 20 years since I left the states and I was a bit nervous. Also, I seemed to grasp for words that I now not normally use in English. It was a challenge but I am hoping to do it again sometime next year but with my friends from Mexican Immigration and the Aduana Mexicana. I may just have a seminar this year in November at the convention center in South Padre Island.
Dreams really do come true and one of mine is to show rvers all about Mexico!
BTW, some of the comments posted recently are very interesting. I hope that John will contact me and we can make arrangements for them to visit Mexico. I would love to give them a tour.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Sad Sad Day. . . .

Sitting here in the Culiacan airport waiting for my early flight home and I decided to enjoy my Sunday morning newsletter. I have read for years every Sunday even though now it arrives in my mailbox on Saturday. I save it as Sunday is my free day to do and eat what I want.
Every week Chuck publishes a survey on his newsletter. This morning I was reading the results of his survey from last Sunday. The question was, "Will you watch or attend the Presidential Inauguration?"
The response was more than 60% NO! I am shocked. I am more shocked by the comments left by some of the 1570 voters. Hatred, anger, disgust and pure out and out racism.
No wonder most of the world hates us. I am so sick I could just cry. Whatever happened to the greatest country on Earth? I ask myself, what will happen next.
The civil war, the civil rights movement, Vietnam, and all the rest were just a waste of time. Not too many people have changed over the last 250 years. It is a sad, sad day for me. I have lost my faith in my fellow man. It had been dwindling for years, but now I know the reality in which we live.
Sorry for posting this, but it is rv related as the survey was given to rvers. What ashame. I thought we were a different breed but I guess not. If you have a chance to read Chuck's newletter, check the survey for last week. It is a real eye opener.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Topolobampo, Sinaloa

Finally I am getting around to posting my visit to Topolobampo just to the West of Los Mochis. I am back, by the way, in Los Mochis until tomorrow. I will work here tomorrow morning and then take off for Culiacan to spend the night so that I can catch an earlier flight home on Sunday getting to the house around noon.

I am off to McAllen, TX on Monday morning for the Snowbird Rally, hoping to inform people there about rving in Mexico. Cool!

So last weekend we were off to the beach at Topo. Man was I surprised. The road is fantastic and the whole area one of the cleanest tourist places I have ever seen. We took a detour to see the ferry but security wouldn't let us take pictures. So you can see no pictures but they are building a new terminal building and dock for the ferry.
We arrived at the beach only to find there is a place to park your rv. I would assume you could overnight there as there is security. The beach is beautiful and the sand wonderful. I know I promote the East coast but hey, I never said I didn't like the West coast. We ate seafood starting out with ceviche made with squid, octopuss, raw and cooked shrimp.

While we were there we were entertained by a trio of guys that play very good music as well as the bass player who rides his cello. It is a real kick to see their act and I guess they are well known at the beach. They were in high demand while we were there.

The beach is a great place to be during sundown. We usually get the sunrises on the East coast but there is really something special about the sun setting.

This is a shot of the restaurant where we ate on the beach. There are many and this one has tables down on the sand.

I saw this couple on the beach embracing during a romantic moment.

Wow, what I would give to be able to rv on the West coast. There is no doubt the beaches are great. The downside is the cold water, great to look at but not for swimming. So the East coast is good for that in the Winter.

As you approach the beach before crossing the bridge there is a huge bat cave. The bats come out at dusk. Be sure to cover your head.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Lost Photo Op Of The Year

You've seen my photos that I take from the air. I love the mountain shots and wonder how to get there and go where most people if no one has ever physically gone. The question being, "what's really down there?".
On my flight from Monterrey to Hermosillo last Thursday at 15:15 in the afternoon proved to be a real eye opener. I have been traveling for work since I was 19 years old. At least two weeks a month on average. I have seen many interesting and strange things and events. I have been in near-crash landings, fits of exteme turbulence, fire in the cabin and even a burned out generator. But I have never, to my knowledge, seen or experienced a near miss. Until now!

I had the camera in my lap as I had been taking photos along the route. All of a sudden I saw a private jet pass by my window at about 300 feet out and 100 feet up. As far as I am aware, that is way to close for comfort. The jet was white with orange and yellow stripes and when you can see the silhouettes of heads in the windows, I think you are too close. As the jet passed by, I froze and could hear my head tell me, "take a picture, take a picture". It just didn't happen. I am so disappointed with myself.

Anyway, here is what I did see on the trip. As small as our planet is, it is the only one I'll ever know and I think it is really a great piece of work.

Here are some pictures as we arrived during sunset into Los Mochis.

Los Mochis Airport

From the airport I took a taxi to downtown Los Mochis. I stayed at the recently remodeled Santa Anita Hotel. It is very nice and I enjoyed my three nights there. I had the opportunity to get out during the afternoons, went to the gym nearby in the mornings, and on Saturday I had the chance to get to the beach in Topolabampo.
Los Mochis was founded by Benjamin Franklin Johnston who was an American, along with a group of socialists looking for utopia. A sugar cane processing plant was established and still exists and operates today over 100 years later. The city has some interesting characteristics which make it a great place to live. One of them is the city plan which is still be used today. All of the city is built the grid system, the steets are all concrete, and city planning codes are still in use.
The Chepe train from Chihuahua makes it final stop here in Los Mochis and there happened to be a group of Americans at the hotel who had spent the night and were heading back on the train. So this can be a great place to catch the train if you are at the beach with your rv.
The beach is 20 minutes from downtown and is one of the cleanest areas I have seen in Mexico. I'll post my report on the beach and the great food tomorrow.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Off To Los Mochis

Taking a flight this afternoon to Los Mochis, Sinaloa. I will be there until Sunday even though I finish my work on Saturday around 1 p.m. There are no flights until Sunday.

If anyone is nearby in an rv park and would like a visit, I could find my way there. I may have a car.

Monday, January 12, 2009

A Different Type of SnowBird

We didn't take the trailer to McAllen for the rv show. It wasn't worth the time or effort to pay the extra tolls and gas not to mention the hassle of crossing the border and going through an exhaustive revision.

When it is an overnighter in McAllen I like to stay at the Drury Suites which is right on Hwy 83 and Sixth Street. It is next to the Olive Garden and convenient to all shopping there along the highway from Pharr to Mission. The comfort is wonderful, the suites are very nice and the service is always good.

So here we are going to the manager's happy hour. We saw quite a large group of retirees in the bar area and having a great time. As we got in line to get a drink I engaged in a conversation with a woman and her husband. They are snowbirds but use the Drury Suites across the Southwest to spend their Winters. They came down from the cold North and they say for them it is worth the money.

They pay around 2400 dollars a month and this is what they get:

two-room suite

fully equipped kitchen

maid service

two 42 inch flat screen tvs


1 hour long distance daily

two meals (breakfast and dinner)

three drinks during happy hour (full bar)




shuttle services

pets allowed in rooms

They said they are not rvers and prefer the hotel. They can move around the warm climate areas wherever there are Drury Suites. I took a couple of pictures to give you an idea.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

RV Show Rio Grande Valley 2009

We headed out Saturday morning bright and early leaving the house around 7:15. We stopped to fill up with gas and pickup a hot chocolate and bread for the road. It got pretty foggy along the way and we had to slow down a bit even though I was in a rush to get to the show. We saw one accident where a Jetta had spun out off of the road. The highway patrol had already arrived along with the tow truck. No one was hurt so that was a good thing..

We crossed the border without a hitch. The border guard asked us where we were going and we told him the rv show. He was all jazzed and said he wanted to go too. He had been wanting to buy and I told him now was the time. Some motorhomes are getting discounts as high as 50%. That conversation got us through without a longer revision. Hey, afterall, I was hot to trot to get to that rv show.

As we entered the fairgrounds you could see all the rvs and park models lined up. The event center sits in the middle with rvs on each side and another area set aside for the vendors.
Here are my three picks from the show and I will explain a little bit why. First pick for boondocking is this Phoenix Cruiser. We had seen this in previous years but the prices were way to high. This year we saw a price reduction of over $20K. The Phoenix Cruiser is a low profile Class B+. We go places that have low trees and low bridges sometimes and we can't have a very tall rig.
The interior provides more space than what we have today in the trailer but without the added length of the combination TV and TT. The bath is in the back and very good sized shower. The best part is the twin bed section that can be closed off from the front of the cabin. I am an early riser and I could go up front and do my thing without disturbing the SO. The kitchen is adequate and just about equal to what we have now. I don't care much for the little loveseat but hey, that can always be changed. Overall, it gets a 9.8.

Second pick was an Open Range travel trailer. We loved the length of 33ft but a dry weight of under 7000 lbs. plus the open space in the living/dining/kitchen area. I am more into living area than anything else. This would be good as a part-time rv for us as I doubt we will ever fulltime. This rig gets a 10. Maybe someday (sigh).

The third pick would be the Presidential Suite from Holiday Rambler. Gracious fulltime living but not at an affordable price. This guy runs between $88K - $110K MSRP. But it really is like home and I liked the solid construction as well as the design and use of colors. It feels light and airy as well as open. This is a sharp fifth wheel and I have a feeling they are taking the place of Teton Homes that recently closed their doors. This one gets a 9. The bath is extremely large as is the bedroom.

The vendors were out in force hawking their wares. Everything from clothes to rv supplies as well as rv park lots and parks for snowbirds.

Couldn't Believe My Eyes - Caravan Soliel

We are just returning from McAllen and the rv show. We stopped just outside of Cadereyta to get the newspaper and a coffee. Lo and behold, there in the gas station, was a caravan. My first ever that I have seen in my life. It was amazing to see all these rvs lined up buying fuel. Most were Class B; Roadtreks and Rialtas. It was really something. We spoke to one woman who said they were on their way to Ixtapa.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Stranger Knocks At The Door

This little girl has been appearing up and down the road for the last two weeks. I didn't know who she belonged to but I figured she just liked to explore.

She came to my house today and I think she told me her name was Candy. Turns out my wonderful neighbors had too many dogs so they just turned them loose. She is a loveable dog and at least I will have her fixed this week so she won't be abused by other dogs. She sure is a pretty dog and she would make a nice pet.

Traveling with pets is a big responsibility and we have really enjoyed our pets in the past. Problem is, I get too attached and it becomes more like a child. The cats are great and they pretty much take care of themselves. I like their independence and they too make great travelers.

We'll see how this all turns out. I guess she could be an indoor/outdoor dog. She likes to bark alot so that's a good sign for that.

Property Taxes In Mexico

Talk about a guilt trip. Every year it is the same thing. I don't live in a mansion but I do think it is a nice house with a pool. I paid the property tax today, all 140 dollars worth. It truly is disgusting because one wonders why things are not always as nice as they could be here in this country. Well, right off the bat, property tax is the enemy. That comes out to .015 percent. In San Antonio the average property tax rate is 2.78 percent.
I also paid the property tax in Allende. Although it has no construction the tax was a whopping 62 dollars. Amazing. Another piece of the puzzle!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

The Rosca - Dia de Los Reyes Magos

Last night the kids put their shoes outside in hopes the Three Kings would leave toys in them. How they fit that bicycle in those little shoes I'll never know.

Today I went into town to pay the property tax and the car plates for 2009, back to that in a minute. There was a table that circled the entire plaza with women and children all around. The famous "rosca" or round cake was on the table. In Monterrey they had one continous circular cake more than 600 meters long.

Across the street in front of the cathedral was a stage with the Nativity behind it. On the stage were the Three Kings and they were announcing that the person who found the baby Jesus would win a prize. There were three white baby Jesus and one solid gold. The solid gold would get the biggest and best of the prizes. Our illustrious mayor (I say that tongue in cheek) was on hand to monitor the activities. So now you know the secret of the rosca. In Mexican homes, the person who finds the baby Jesus has to have a party on February 2nd to celebrate Dia de Candelaria.

Even today at the gym, the first week back we celebrated Three Kings day. But it wasn't with a whole wheat version or low-fat either. It was a gas! I selected my slice very carefully and did not get the little doll that was inside.

After I went to Allende, the new town where we will live sometime in the future (if and when the house sells). The street to the neighborhood from the highway is paved but has quite a few potholes. I went to the presidencia to see if something could be done about it. I met the person in charge of public works and he said, "consider it done this next week". It would be a breath of fresh air if it happens compared to where I live now. I have fought six years with the current city administration over our road and have won some of the battles but not the big one. Moving to Allende may bring some pleasant surprises.

I stopped by the house in Allende and took some pics. The forty foot trailer has a manual thermostat and I want to change it out. I took a picture to post on the to see what is recommended to put in a digital. Also, I took pics of the locks on both the front sliding doors and the back bedroom door. I went by the locksmith to see if he could change them out and key them alike. We didn't get a key to the front door so we have to enter through the back. He may go out tomorrow.
Presidencia Municipal Allende

Tomorrow will be an interesting day.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Sitting In My RV

Apart from the cold front that has moved in, life is settling back to normal here at the ranch. It will be 46F tonight, a bit too cold for my blood.
I've come out here to the trailer to watch the local news and the heater in this small TT really works well. I enjoy my time out here. Even though it is parked in the driveway, I feel like I am on the road. Maybe I am a gypsy. My grandparents came from Austria-Hungary at that time and I have read many books about gypsies and am fascinated by their lives.
Today I had an interesting banking experience. In the month of January, the state of Nuevo Leon gives us a 15% discount if we pay our property tax and car tags before the end of the month. I ordered my checks from the bank but my branch is far, far away and I have run out. I opted to stop at the ATM and take out the cash. I put in the card and nothing happened. After about 3 minutes, the transaction cancelled itself saying it was too much time in process. I thought maybe the amount I had asked for was not available or the denominations of bills was not sufficient. So, I tried again with a different amount and the same thing. I headed down the road to town and tried another ATM and it said I had exceeded my limit. What??????
I headed back home to check my account on line and to my surprise it had made the two withdrawals but the first one had automatically been reversed. I went to the bank near my house and they put me in contact with the 800 number that resolves these issues. I reported it and they gave me a case number. By the time I got back home, the second transaction also had been reversed. Pretty good, huh?
So here I sit in the trailer and I am thinking about what mods I can do for this year. The first one is to install a digital thermostat. Not only here but in the 40 ft trailer also. Change the flooring, all 40 some odd square feet. Hey, I did the half bath in the house, why can't I do this one. The closet is abysmal in that it has a huge space in the bottom and we toss our shoes in there. When you want to reclaim a pair, it is a nightmare. If I had my way and the money, I would close off the bottom of the closet and open a hole in the outside of the trailer and install the small window unit we use there. One of the Trailmanors we owned had a cabinet air. It was the "coolest thing". With the cabinet air, it doesn't stick out of the trailer but is enclosed with a vent cover outside. The unit stays enclosed but with a drain pan underneath. Trailmanor doesn't use them anymore as they changed the construction to support a roof air on all units in the front part of the trailer.
Saturday morning we head out bright and early for the RV show in Mercedes, Tx. If you don't know, Mercedes is one of the many small towns that runs the RGV corridor. I can't wait to see what they have. I may print tee-shirts for us that say, "LivingBoondockingMexico". So if you see us be sure to say "hey".
So while you all are tucked away in your rvs reading this, I am too. Just as long as I don't look out the window I will continue to think I am along the Emerald Coast.
Have a good one!

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Mexican Medical Care - Meds In Mexico

Here is an interesting article from NPR. I was wondering if blog readers could send me a list of meds that they take so that I can do a price survey here in Mexico at chain pharmacies as well as WalMart and CostCo. Send your information to blog email address. I will publish the results by the end of the month.

Mexican Hospitals Aim To Attract More Americans
Jason Beaubien/NPR

Weekend Edition Saturday, January 3, 2009 · As many Americans struggle to pay for health care or health insurance, hospitals in Mexico are expanding in hopes of attracting more patients from north of the border — in addition, a rapidly growing industry is marketing "medical tourism" to Americans.
Hospitals in Tijuana — just a half-hour's drive from San Diego — can do many medical procedures for half or one-third the cost in the U.S.
Grupo Angeles is the largest private hospital network in Latin America. Its hospital in Tijuana is a modern six-story building. Its glass lobby accented with orange looks like it could be the set for a soap opera.
Carlos Zavala Ruiz, the business director for Hospital Angeles Tijuana, says this facility opened three years ago.
"As you can see, all the equipment is just brand new," he says.
Right now, about 50 percent of this hospital's business comes from north of the border. Americans mainly come for elective surgeries, like hip and knee replacements, laser eye surgery and plastic surgery.
The greatest number come for treatments for extreme obesity. Hospital Angeles offers gastric bypass surgeries; it inserts gastric sleeves and installs lap bands.
Zavala says the cost of these procedures in Tijuana is just a fraction of what they cost in the U.S. For example, a lap-band surgery in the U.S. costs $16,000 to $18,000, Zavala says; in Tijuana, it costs around $7,000.
He says his overhead is far less than in a U.S. hospital. Wages are also far lower. A nurse just a few miles north in California might earn $70,000 a year; a starting nurse here earns $6,000 a year.
Zavala says the potential for growth in treating Americans is huge. Grupo Angeles plans to open 12 more hospitals in Mexico during the next five years. Much of this growth is to cater to international clients.
Miriam Gray, a nurse from Wisconsin, is recovering in a private room at Hospital Angeles after gastric bypass surgery.
"I'd like to lose probably 125 pounds, which is a lot, but I'd like to," she says.
Gray has a body mass index of 42, which puts her in the extremely obese category. After years of failed diets, she hopes gastric bypass surgery will finally help her to lose weight. She flew from Wisconsin to San Diego, where a driver from the hospital met her and brought her here. Gray, who doesn't speak Spanish, says the entire procedure has gone more smoothly than she expected.
"I was checked in, had my blood withdrawn, X-ray — all within about an hour," she says. "I know that that is impossible in the U.S. I work in hospitals. It just doesn't happen that fast."
Gray paid $12,000 for this operation — about one-third of what she says it would have cost back home in Wisconsin.
The medical tourism industry has been around for a while. Costa Rica has marketed its hospitals to foreigners for years. Even Cuba has a bustling business selling health care procedures to Canadians and Europeans.
But these arrangements have generally involved a single person paying for a single procedure abroad. Now, there's a movement to offer cut-rate health plans that provide traditional health care, but some big-ticket benefits may only be offered outside the country. Blue Cross and Blue Shield of South Carolina last year set up an affiliate to offer benefits abroad.
Some U.S. doctors are raising concerns about the quality of care being offered offshore and about the logistics of dealing with complications during or after the procedure.
In an effort to protect patients, the American Medical Association for the first time this year issued medical tourism guidelines.
Terry White with Bridge Health International is marketing health plans to businesses in which some of the procedures are only available in Thailand, Costa Rica or Mexico. White says participation in these plans should be voluntary.
"The patient shouldn't be forced to go to an international destination because their plan only offers surgery in Mexico, or something like that," he says.
What he's offering, he says, is health care coverage that can save both consumers and employers significant amounts of money. He says this needs to be about empowered health care consumers, who are able to make choices that have an economic impact with the assurance that they are getting good quality when they go someplace.
Like Zavala at Hospital Angeles in Tijuana, White sees a huge potential market for international health care — particularly during an economic downturn.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Emerald Coast - Jicaltepec

Another great place to spend the day is in the town of Jicaltepec. Getting there is the best part of the trip. Jicaltepec is located across the river from San Rafael but getting there can take awhile if you don't know the route. Ask in town for directions. Keep your eyes open for the sign as it is partially hidden behind a banana plant and about 25 meters down the road. A bus also goes to the river crossing several times a day so you can pick it up in San Rafael.

Park the car and the boat driver will see you and come across. The cost is 10 pesos for the ride. We paid the 10 pesos for four people so I assume the cost is 2.50 per person.

The French, upon arrival to Veracruz attempted to grow several crops in the area settling in Jicaltepec and forming the first vanilla plantations in the area.

Another footprint left by the French in this area was their dedication to roof tile production. You can see many examples up close in the museum in San Rafael but on a grander scale in Jicaltepec. All the roof tops are covered with these French roof tiles made of clay as well as the French architecture that dominates the town. In fact, there are pictures in the museum looking across the river to Jicaltepec and those buildings are still standing today.

It is a very quiet town and the people very friendly. It is just a nice place to go for a stroll and grab a bite to eat wondering what life was like when the French were a major influence on the area.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Emerald Coast - San Rafael

Living along the Emerald Coast offers more than just the beach and lazy days. There are lots of things to see and do and they are all nearby or within a short distance. Las Casitas sits just 4.5 kms from the rv parks and is a small drive through town but has excellent opportunites for seafood restaurants including Marie's. There are places to buy short list goods, fix a flat, mecanics, etc.

San Rafael seems to be the closest place of choice as it has a small supermarket and you can find just about everything there. It has dry goods, a salchichoneria, meat counter, good vegetables and a bakery. As I mentioned in another post, the French has a huge influence on this area. In fact, as we were having Sunday breakfast in town at El Sotano a family that still was very much French came in, kids in tow. For a moment we thought we were in France.

We had breakfast with Bill and Sharon that morning. El Sotano (the basement) has a downstairs dining area along the river. It was a beautiful morning and we had the local tradition for breakfast. Pambazos are an inflated tortilla that you put eggs in salsa, beans, cheese, cream and salsa on top to your liking.

I saw my first Wilson's Warbler there, it was flying around the restaurant.

Another hot spot is to visit the local museum and discover the history of San Rafael. Our guide for the day was the local historian who is doing his Master's on the local history and the French influence. It was a great tour and we would have never been able to learn that on our own. He is leaving to do field work but has assured us that his fill-in will be able to do the job.
The museum is located across from the clock tower as you enter town.

All the artifacts are from the townspeople.

A sample of a vanilla field sits alongside the museum.