Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Day Trip To Cinncinati

We worked out a trip to Cincinnati yesterday afternoon to visit with my oldest niece Christine and her husband Chris. I had almost decided not to go down there as time is very limited here in Ohio and lots of things to do and people to see.

Good thing we went. It was so nice to see my family. It turned out to be a mini-reunion not only with my niece's family in their lovely home but my nephew Mike and his wife Jeanne along with my neice Lisa and her two kids. I am so blessed to have such a lovely family. My brothers and sisters have created beautiful people and my great-neices and nephews are growing up quickly with some already out of the university.

My neice fixed a delicious dinner of talapia served with pasta and asparaghus. We had way too much wine and a couple of cocktails before dinner. With the idea of going to a local hotel we opted to crash at her house. This was a first for us, staying at our neice's house. Her husband has a real hand in remodeling and they have done a great job on their home.
Mike and Lisa used to be little rug rats, now with careers and kids of their own I am starting to feel the age factor creeping up on me. I am so proud of my family.

Black Tank Repair Update

I received an email stating that the travel trailer is ready and waiting in San Antonio. I will be there next week in hopes that the repair meets my expectations. I am just a bit worried that they had to substitute the tanks and they may be too low to the ground.

With that news, I am wondering if I should take a trip across the South to Naples to visit my oldest brother and his wife. If anyone has any suggestions for cool places to stay along the way, feel free to post a comment. Should I go there, I would take a week going and a week coming back.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Ada, Ohio Day Two

I recovered nicely from my stressful trip from Mexico to Ohio. It really is a beautiful place here and Winter, even though it is cold, is really something to see. I couldn't imagine not having grown up in Midwest Winters, sledding, shoveling snow and keeping warm inside the house. Being from a family of ten, we always found ways to take advantage of the snow. We even trapped rabbits for pets and did some hunting although I was never really fond of that.

Yesterday was a busy one. I met a lot of the staff in the arts department, went to a practice run of Mexican folkloric dance and did quite a bit of eating. Why can't we just get together over a glass of water?

As I mentioned the other day, I am staying at The Inn at ONU. It is a very beautiful hotel and pays close attention to the details. They have treated me like royalty and have done a great job both in terms of service but also meals. Here is my room: We had a birthday party for Juan at El Campo. I told you that yesterday. Here is the group.

Again, last night, we went to Christine's new house. She bought her house here in Ada two years ago. Actually she built it. It is really something and she is one the nicest persons I have ever met.

There is also the wonderful scenery around Ada. The weather has been pretty stable around 16F at night and 25F during the day. It is warming up this week with highs around 45F with rain on Thursday. But, I know why I live in Mexico.

Monday, February 23, 2009

From Mexico to Ohio

Now I know why "snowbirds" exist. I left Mexico yesterday morning (Sunday) and went into a culture shock. First was the travel from the Mexico to the U.S. I chose American Airlines as they fly into Columbus, about 80 miles from Ada and Ohio Northern University. The flight was great into Dallas except for the sexual harrassment I received on the plane. That's right, I was groped by a female flight attendant.

The story goes like this. We took off from Monterrey at 6:20 a.m. Everyone on the plane was asleep. The cabin was dark except for the overhead reading light that I used to read the newspaper. People around me were drooling on their sleeves, bobbing motionless heads, and sudden jerking motions along with soft snores from nearby passengers. I saw the flight attendants preparing our beverages on the cart and thought a coffee would be good. I saw one of the flight attendants coming down the aisle with a ceramic mug and assumed she was taking it to her co-worker in the rear cabin. She walked by and I didn't look up. On her way back down the aisle to first class, I felt a hand run down from my shoulder to my chest. It really startled me as she came up from behind me. She started to ask me if I would like a cup of joe and continued massaging my chest. I didn't know what to say other than, "sure, coffee sounds good". She went back up front, I'm sitting in shock realizing I had just been accosted. I don't think it was intentional, but had it been a reverse gender situation, it could have been a big deal.

Arriving on time into Dallas, we were ushered into the immigration holding pool. Officers were just arriving as it was the first international arrival of the morning. Men in dark blue suits began to usher us up to form lines in front of the windows. As I approached the agent, he yelled at me to stop. Then came the fireball. He began a screaming match with one of the men in blue, accusing him of not following orders and allowing people to form lines in front of his window. I stayed quiet knowing this guy "really wore his uniform". My luck turned good as the officer behind him opened his window and asked me to approach. With caution I took out my documents and he asked me why I had marked "food" on my import ticket. I told him I had some "cheese". He commented that he thought I might have seeds or something of that sort. He stamped my ticket and told me to enjoy the cheese. I went on to the baggage carousel and picked up my suitcase laden with canned chilis and bottles of salsa for Juan.

Forming the line to have my documents and bags reviewed, I was given the okay to leave the immigration tank. On up the escalators I went thinking "this is too easy". As I got to the top we had to form yet another line to pass the TSA inspection. No carpet to rest my cold feet on as I took off all electonics, metals, belts, shoes, etc. along with disassembling my carry on of its laptop and gear. I passed the trays through the metal detector and began to wait. "We know that we don't say anything or upset our friends in uniforms". The woman sitting behind the belt was doodling on her latex glove with a pen. She finally realized that someone had come to upset her moring and she gave the belt some electicity and off went my things. "Uh oh". "What's in the shopping bag?". "Cheese". "Oh no, we don't allow cheese on the plane. You have to check it". "Immigration said that it was okay". "Well, this ain't Immgration, this is TSA". "How am I supposed to know?". "Check the website". "You can put it in your suitcase that you are checking, "if" you can retrieve it". Well, it was gone and so went the cheese. I told her, "I can't check the website". "Why not?". "Cuz we don't have internet in Mexico, so there".

I will be posting about the cold and snow over the next few days and I am soliciting ideas for travel in March and April.

The travel trailer is still at Texas RV Supply and has no tanks. I told them so but they insist they are on their way.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Hitting The Road In March

It looks like I will have the month of March free. Spring Break, what a great time to travel. I have some things I want to do that have been on my list for quite some time. Here are a few:

1) rent a Hi-Lo travel trailer. I want to see if it is one of several viable options for our future boondocking experiences

2) I have always dreamed of having a motorhome. Having been raised to believe it is good to be the black sheep, I usually fall for the out-of-the-ordinary. This one would be a stop in New Mexico to check out a Siena motorhome. Siena was onced called the Flounder. The company continues and has recently added a new 35 ft model to its fleet of one floor plan. It is the only motorhome built with home appliances; refrigerator, range and oven, dishwasher, trash compactor and washer-dryer. A motorhome isnt in the short-term plan but you never know what the future holds.

3) I also want to see what is new with the XL line of Chalet A-frames. The XL models come with a dormer over either the bathroom or the kitchen depending on layout.

4) A trip out to West Texas would be nice staying at Lake Amistad for a night or two and then heading out to Big Bend looking for a spot at Chisos Basin. We did that over two years ago.

I could go on but the list is so long. There is just so much I have on my "to do" list and I will have to have a plan and pick and choose. I would also like to retrace my steps on Texas Hwy 385 that runs North and South to the edge of Colorado. That was a trip over four years ago when I had just brought the new trailer back to Monterrey weeks before the trip. That was fun.
So I guess what I am saying is that I have a month to myself to hit the road and just do whatever comes to mind. I need to check tomorrow and see how the tank replacement is coming along on the Shadow Cruiser. I think after all my dreaming, I will put in a new vinyl floor, replace the throw rug and reupholster the swivel chairs. That will hold my wanderlust for a new rig for another year or two.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

CFE - The System Really Does Work

On this post I had talked about the outrageous amount we were paying for electricity. The electric company said we were above average usage for the area in which we lived (duhhhhhhh) and that put us in the DAC rate, or to say "you're screwed and we are charging you the highest rate possible". The solution, according to the CFE, was to reduce usage for six months and the rate would drop.
Well, we drained the pool for the Winter, decided not to use the minisplits for heating, replaced all the lights in and outside with either flourescent lighting or heavy duty LEDs. Anything with a heating element; blow dryer, microwave, coffeemaker, etc. was used but with extreme care. While we were gone for extended days, we turned off all power strips, ceiling fans, and used timers for nightime lighting to say there was someone home. I also reduced the size of the lights outside the gates to 15 watts as they use a sensor and flourescents won't work well and burn out quickly.
I am happy to report that our bill went from 3500 pesos, to 1775 pesos and now we are down to the new rate (Amen, Haleluya, kiss the ground) came in at 355 KwHs for two months, from December 8th through February 9th, for a total price of 448 pesos. That's from 3 pesos per KwH to 1.34 pesos per KwH.
Now, comes the hard part. How do we run the pool and use the air conditioner at night during the Summer months? We may be elgible for a Summer subsidized rate now that we are within the range. Next week I will visit the CFE and talk with an engineer about how to manage my power and to see what I need to do to tie solar into the grid now that it has been approved for Mexico.

So Long Patti - End of an Era

The best SUV we have ever had. Yesteray a woman bought Patti the Pathfinder for a pretty good price. The Pathfinder gave us 250,000 miles and over 50,000 towing miles with both a Trailmanor and the Shadow Cruiser.

The woman's husband wanted to take it to a mechanic and we did. He ran all the tests for compression, suspension, the computer tests, etc. We were there for over two hours. Test drives by the whole family and in the end they got a good deal. People here really know how to negociate and so do I. It was a win win situation.
We sure had a lot of good times in Patti and I won't forget what great service that truck gave us.

So long Patti!

Month of March

Looks like I have the month of March free. Yippeee! I will most likely hit the road for a couple of weeks but I still can't decide where I want to go. I need something new and so I am thumbing through the map book.
On the 22nd of February I am heading out for Ohio for four days visiting Ohio Northern University where Juan will be working through May. Gee whiz, I can't wait to return to that wonderful snow and below freezing temperatures!
So come March, my posting will increase. These last weeks the education department has been working me like a dog, good money, short hours but it really crimps my style.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Black Tank Repair

Bill added a comment the other day about whether I had found a solution to my black tank fix. I went to the Evaluation Center for AXA Insurance here in Monterrey last week. They agreed to reimburse me for the damages if I were to get them fixed in San Antonio. There was no repair facility here in Monterrey so they agreed.
I went to San Antonio last Saturday. It was a great trip and I really didn't want to go there with the trailer. The road was calling me and I wanted to head West on Hwy 90. But, life is life and we all have things to do.
I got the two estimates, one for 1400 dollars and one from Camping World for 2049 dollars. The insurance opted for the 1400 and I am happy they did. It is just three blocks from my rent house in SAT.
I had checked with Cruiser RV and they told me the tanks were made by AmeriCart which sold off part of their production to Weave something or other. They are now out of business. Americart says they no longer make my tanks but the Texas RV Supply says they got a replacement for both.
I went ahead and dropped the trailer their today and lets see what come out of it. Worse case is I have my trailer in storage for free until I return to SAT on March 1st.
San Antonio
I guess I have lived in Mexico for too long now. I no longer feel at home in San Antonio. It is a beautiful city but just too crazy for me. Right, wierd coming from a guy who lives in a Mexican city with over 4 million people. But anyway, the traffic, the lack of courtesy, lack of overall friendliness is just too overwhelming for me. I don't like being mistreated when I go to spend my money somewhere and mostly when I find some new technology that I don't understand and people get impatient with me, like those silly little machines at checkout that you swipe your card through. What is that all about anyway? What is the cashier supposed to do? Afterall, they get pretty good money for not greeting me and asking me if I found everything I was looking for. When I tell them "no", they shrug their shoulders and ask me to use the electronic pen instead of my greasy fingertip.
We did eat at a great Middle Eastern restaurant called Pasha on the Northside of town. I believe it is on Babcock and Bluemel just off the I-10. I went with my friends Sam and Barbara. The food was out of this world. Service was a 1o but no alcohol is served there.
I sent a package to Ohio and UPS charged me 113 dollars for two-day service. Wow, I should start a messenger service. What a deal!!!!!
What surprised me this morning was the price I paid at Taco Cabana for a barbacoa taco and a bean burrito with a small coffee. $5.49! I guess I am spoiled by good food and good prices.
Anyway, I have been rubbed the wrong way today and so I will remain a grouch the rest of the night. After a vodka on the rocks and a melatonine I will sleep like a baby and forget all about the cruel world in which I live.
Tomorrow, back to rving and boondocking!