Sunday, June 28, 2009

Retention and Soffocation

I have several complexes. I hate leaving a place dirty. I know I'll never see the person again but I feel I need to leave a good impression. One of those times is the hotel room. This morning I had some difficulty getting out of the hotel on time to get to the airport because I had to clean up my room. I like to put all the dirty towels together, pick up, and empty all the trash cans into one. It comes from an old habit when I worked as a "maid" in Seqouia Natl Park right out of high school. I was surprised by the way people left their rooms. Pigs I tell you. And the things we found, I won't mention them here, we are all adults and probably know from experience, hearsay or just plain ole imagination.

The other problem is breathing. My biggest fear. I don't have anxiety attacks or anything like that, but very humid hot air makes me feel like I can't breath. That's how I felt this morning when I left Los Mochis. But don't worry, I've never had an attack or put on a show, I can control it quite well. (am I a nut or what!)

So here I am in Ensenada. I got to the airport, took the bus down the coast (buses leave directly from the airport), checked into my hotel and did some sight seeing. A cruise ship left this afternoon. It was fun watching and waving to all the people. I had shrimp for dinner.

Lots to show and talk about but I have lots of time this week. I'm free everyday until three in the afternoon. This is a wierd place, I haven't been here as a tourist since 1975. Amazing the changes. It is beautiful though and the coast is just wonderful. I can't for us to rving around here.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Good Food in Sinaloa

Traveling along the Mexican coast line you can always find good food. I'm sure lots of you have your favorite places to eat including fine restaurants, palapas and taco stands along the avenues. Here in Los Mochis, El Farallon is an icon. It just happens to be two blocks from my hotel and I went there last night for dinner. The place is very elegant, the prices middle of the road (120 pesos), and the service excellent. I wish now I had taken more photos of the interior.

I ordered camarones con salsa chipotle. They were quite spicy, very flavorful and served with rice and steamed vegetables. You can see the plate of totopos or tostadas with salsa in the background which I finally had to tell the waiter to take away. To help keep the fire down, I had a chilled glass of chardonnay and passed on the desert.

It now looks like I will be here until Sunday morning. My reservations were changed and I will arrive in Tijuana around 1 p.m. and then head out for Ensenada. Tomorrow a group of teachers has invited me to lunch at the beach in Topolobampo. Ceviche and cold beer will be on the menu and I will show you Los Alamos numero 21 which we pass on the highway to the beach. A little surprise.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Los Mochis To Ensenada 2009

I came to Los Mochis today only to find out that I will be spending the next week in Ensenada. Sounds great to me! I can eat some of those great fish tacos and look up some old haunts. When I lived in San Diego my brother and I would go to Ensendada all the time. I will fly into Tijuana and take a bus down to Ensenada. I hope it is daylight, I love that coast highway drive.

Today was an exceptional day for flying. We headed out at 7 a.m. for Guadalajara. Take a look at this mountain formation. Fantastic!

Here is the Guadalajara Airport.

After I arrived in Los Mochis, I took a nap. Then I headed for the mall to have lunch. It is so hot and humid outside I needed to find a cool place to walk around for awhile. I had a pretty good salad and then did some clothes shopping. Wow, a first for me. I was told I needed some new clothes :).

Came back to the room to hear the sad news about Michael Jackson. I was really stunned. I just couldn't believe it. On top of the news about Farrah Fawcett and Ed McMahon. I dreamt the other night that Jerry Lewis had died. I guess you just never know what will happen.

Get out there and rv and don't waste any time.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Is This What A Last Meal Feels Like?

I think I mentioned that I bought some ribeyes at La Laguna Carniceria, famous for Coahuilan beef. I was a bit skeptical as I have seen hundreds of businessmen carrying those little frozen boxes of beef on the plane back to Monterrey.
Guess again, they're right! We started up our little 12 inch grill and cooked up two of the eight ribeyes we bought. Just like budda. So soft you could cut it with a fork. I used a steak knife but it was so tender, so delicious, flavorful, juicy. Well, you get the idea.

Here it is served up with some fresh brocoli, mushrooms and garlic bread. A glass of red wine to help in the digestive process.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Get Out And See Mexico

I'm hoping that some of my trips will encourage rvers to get out and travel Mexico this winter. By that I mean, drop that rig, take a bus and see some places you may not go with your rv. Side trips are fun and can break the monotony of those six months or the daily routine.
Buses are cheap, executive service is fantastic and you can literally leave the driving to someone else. This last trip to Los Mochis, I returned by bus to Culiacan (225 kms) to spend the night and catch an earlier flight back to Monterrey. The bus was 175 pesos, taxis back and forth were 40 pesos each, and you can find all kinds of hotels at every price and comfort level imaginable.

Your rig is safe in the rv park, you don't have to worry about getting around, driving in unknown territory, and once and for all your rving dreams can really come true. Hey, we all need a break from home once in awhile. Just my 2 cents on that topic.

Saturday night in Culiacan, I took a 40 peso taxi from the Microtel to the mall. They have a large cinema with 12 screens. I made a huge mistake and saw Star Trek. What a disappointment. What lousy acting, what terrible makeup or lack there of. I guess makeup is out now in Hollywood. These young guys and gals have really bad skin. The guy who plays Capt. Kirk really needs to use quite a bit.

I had some pasta at Italianni's with a glass of red wine before the show. Very good.

The next morning I got up, went to the gym at the hotel, had a quick bite at the continental breakfast. BTW, they have great coffee. I had three cups that morning. Then I took the hotel shuttle to the airport where I waited about 30 minutes before getting on the plane. I never get there early. I try to get there 30 to 40 minutes before the flight. These are small flights, not international and I check on bag and always have my boarding pass in advance.

On this particular flight we had great mountain views at 30,000ft. We landed in Monterrey at 11:30 a.m. I walked to the baggage claim, got my bag, went to the taxi counter and bought my ticket (a whopping 350 pesos, only in Monterrey, criminal). My taxi was waiting, a 2009 Chrysler Charger. The driver and I talked about the upcoming elections and all the commercials on TV. The elections have really turned into a marketing circus.

I came home to some friends who had spent the night to see AbbaMania near the house. They said it was a huge concert and every had a great time.
The edge of Monterrey meets farmland.

Mountain views from on high.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Acrylic Nails and the Microtel - Culiacan

I'll get to the acrylic nails in a minute. Today I finished the course in Los Mochis. I will return again next week to do the rest of the course as well as the exam. I stayed at the Santa Anita and everyday I went to the gym. It is a good 12 block walk or run and then an hour workout. That's all the time I have because I have to set up my equipment and get things organized.

Last night I had dinner at Canton, an excellent Chinese restaurant in Los Mochis. I ordered "nido" (the nest) which is a small amount of noodles with brocoli, cauliflour, carrots, celery, chicken and shrimp. It was deeeeelllllliiiiiiccccciiiiioooouuussss! If you like Chinese food, Sinaloa is the place in Mexico to have it.

I went back to my hotel and spent the night playing on the internet checking all my rv groups and watching the news, not to mention the two cocktails I had.

This morning I headed back to the gym at 7 a.m. for an hour workout and then back to the hotel for checkout and off to the school where I was teaching the course. We finished at 1 p.m. and the supervisor gave me a ride to the bus depot (sounds like an old expression). I waited for about 30 minutes for the bus to Culiacan and off we went. Three hours just like they told me and it cost 175 pesos. I watched an excellent movie with Kevin Bacon, took a one hour nap and then watched the scenary. Sorry but I didn't have a window seat and couldn't take any pictures.

Once we arrived in Culiacan off I went by taxi to the Microtel. Rooms are small but well appointed and they have everything; internet, cable, breakfast, business center, jacuzzi, and free shuttle service wherever you want to go.

How about those acrylic nails? I checked into my room, set the temperature setting on the air conditioner and it started to make a funny sound. Also, I couldn't get an internet signal so I went to the front desk and they gave me a broadband cable (if that's what you call it in English?). I mentioned the fact that the a/c was making a funny sound and if they could send someone from maintenance. They agreed and asked me to use the business center until they fixed the problem. Ten minutes later the maintenance man comes to the business center and says, " we found an acrylic nail in the a/c turbine and it was just sitting there spinning around". I have been around this world too long, and have stayed in more hotels in the last 35 years of work than I dare to count to even ask how that nail got in the air conditioner.

Care to guess?

Friday, June 19, 2009

Air and Bus Fares

Most of my flights are reserved at last minute. Why? The company usually waits to do it even though I let them know in advance. I receive the frequent flyer miles when I can remember traveling for the company in the U.S. and they took our miles and used them for executives' upgrades.
Los Mochis is a premium destination because it is a small town and there just aren't many flights. This trip ran 5300 pesos round trip just the air fare.
The executive bus from Monterrey to Torreon was 440 pesos round trip. A real deal, it is nice to let someone else do the driving.
I will post my fares on my upcoming trips as well as some of the past as I keep copies of all my trips.
Buses are really a fun experience in Mexico. There is so much competition that the prices are low and the quality of service above most other countries standards.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Back From Torreon and Off To Los Mochis

Came back from Torreon yesterday (Wednesday) after my event at the university. I left the campus at 14:10 and arrived at the bus terminal at 14:20. When I got up to the counter the agent said they had a "primera" leaving at three. Wow, good news. But then she said that I could still catch the "ejecutivo" at 14:30. Even better! Much more comfortable as you can see in the picture below. First class cabin, large comfortable seats, overhead bins, individual lighting, air vents, head phones for movies and three music stations. Plus, you get a sack lunch; sandwich, chips and a drink.

I had heard on the radio in the taxi that there were two "bloqeos" on the highways leaving Torreon. The counter agent said she wasn't sure. Well, you can see that they were there but the Federal Police had them moved and only blocking one lane on each side. I guess people are fed up with "my rights" and don't want to tolerate this b.s. I say, "get a job, go to work". If you can't get one, go to school, it's free. No more hand outs.

Off we went out into the desert. It is a cruel place, but very beautiful. If you pass through here before April, it is really a trip. Great weather at night, cold in fact, and the mountain views and starry nights are worth the stop.

The new autopista from Monterrey to Saltillo is really taking off. They are probably at 50% completion and hoping for early 2010. They have bridges up, overpasses, tunnels, and on and off ramps paved. It really looks nice.

This morning I left for Los Mochis. Many flights here have been hacked so I had to leave at 7 a.m. instead of the usual and comfortable 3 p.m. flight. We had a stop over in Guadalajara where I had a light breakfast and then back on the plane to Los Mochis.

I will take pics around here tomorrow and this weekend. I will leave here on Saturday afternoon via bus to Culiacan where I will spend the night so I can arrive home earlier on Sunday. BTW, in Torreon they have excellent beef. I picked up eight rib eye and we will have one on Sunday. Can't wait.

Here we are on the plane from Guadalajara to Los Mochis.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

On The Road To Torreon

Took off this morning for Torreon. Without a second car I decided to take the bus. I left the house at 8:20. I caught the bus at 8:30 from the house to the bus station.

It took about 40 minutes as I was on the express bus. Once there, I looked for a bus line that was of good quality and also had "primera" or "ejecutivo" service. I found the Coahuilenses line that got me out of Monterrey on the 9:30 bus. I spent quite a good time talking with the bus driver. There were only four passengers on the bus to Saltillo. In Saltillo I bought a sandwich and a diet Coke before we took off again after about 5 minutes (11:30).

The driver talked mostly about his job and some of his most interesting experiences. For starters, his bus has a Mercedes engine. He says he gets 8.5 miles to a gallon and a tank can get him from Reynosa (McAllen, TX) to Ciudad Juarez (El Paso, TX).
View from my front row seat.

Bus interior, nice restroom, hot water, soap, towels. Two in route movies.

Our bus with a Mercedes Benz engine.

One thing I didn't know, is that he has to have an anti-doping test everytime he comes to work. So, he says he can't have anything alcohol for three days before going back to his shift. He makes about 1200 dollars (after tax) a month plus benefits and bonuses.

He claims the company takes pretty good care of him. This year however, his profit sharing benefit was very small, apparently the company is having hard times and ridership is down.

The route we took from Saltillo to Torreon is part of the Ruta 2010 and part of the crosscountry route that will run from Tampico to Mazatlan. There is a lot of road work being done to accomdate the route. Mostly road widening and bridge work. You can also see a lot of work going on, on the new autopista from Monterrey to Saltillo.

Imagine boondocking out here in the desert with all the stars!

We arrived in Torreon at 2:00 p.m. safe and sound. I caught a taxi to the Holiday Inn Express and took a nap. Quite disappointing, I brought my swimsuit because I know they have a great pool here. As I got on the elevator to go to my room I saw the maintenance man out there checking the flow rate as they were draining the pool. Bummer!

Took my nap ( I always manage to get my nap in before 3 p.m.) and then went across the street to the Soriana shopping center. I found a great place in the food court and ordered some Lebanese food for dinner with some red wine.

My body has practically frozen up on me. I haven't been to the gym since Friday. Shame on me. Now I know why people moan and groan. Get out there and exercise, move, lift weights, run and walk. Stretch your butts off, take a pilates class or ride a bike. Tomorrow I go to the gym here at the hotel.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Today I Blew It :(

I decided to go to the gym later than usual today. Started out beautifully. As I approached the city of Monterrey there was road construction up ahead. Didn't know they were working. All of a sudden, coming around the curve at 85 kph, there it was. A 4 ft by 4ft electronic sign sitting right in the middle of the left lane. I braked and swerved to the right but it was too late. The new VW Pointer is now in the shop.
But wait, as I hit the sign, the metal base it was on flew across the median strip and hit a pick up head on. I got out, running towards the other car, and thank the Almighty, no one was hurt. The driver was taking his two kids to school when the base hit his front end. Had it been a smaller car I would hate to think what the outcome would have been. Only damage was his grill and a headlight.
The adjusters arrived and we started the paperwork. Thanks to Juan for saving the day. Being that the car was new, we had insurance but not the policy in hand. He was at the gym and I couldn't reach him. I called his youngest brother who drove over to the gym and got Juan on his way to the accident. He called our agent (new agent for me and new carrier) and they gave the adjuster all the information he needed.
Just as things were going good, here comes my best friends. TRANSITO! They came over to the grassy median and we exchanged greetings and hand shakes and then the b.s. started. First off, I had damaged a sign and they didn't know who the owner was; city, federal highways, SCT, etc. No one could be found. They said they would have to take the car to the pound as I was responsible for the damage. I knew where this was headed and so do you. I pulled the adjuster aside and said, "under no circumstances will I pay any money, only a ticket". He shook his head knowing this was going to be difficult.
Here comes the engineer from the construction site (a new bridge going up). "Hey, who did this to my sign?" I confessed and he asked if I had insurance and of course I said yes. I said to him, "where were the flagmen and the orange cones?" He looked up the highway and said, "right there. They have been there the whole time". Not true. Even the other car involved said no one was there and there were no cones. Had they been there they would be dead as I would have run over them and their little conitos.
So now restitution can be paid for the sign and transito is happy. Oh, but wait! Now there is damage to the pavement. "Siguen a poner trabas" (they keep putting up obstacles so they threaten to take my car). No way on this one. He showed me the damage to the road, a six ince scratch in the pavement and says they will take the car to the pound and we will have to have someone from public works give us an estimate on damages and repairs to the six inch scratch. I pulled the adjuster aside again and said there is no way I am paying a bribe.
Finally, transito gave in, accepted that they would release the car to the dealer for repair that minute. He signaled to the tow truck driver to wait for a release form from my adjuster.
Lesson: never give in. I refuse to pay, I never have and never will. Yes, I have some advantages that I speak Spanish and know the transit laws. Worst case, however, is that they could have taken the car to the pound. I would have paid the ticket, paid for the vehicle release and tow and off I would be all the wiser.
What is the downside of all this? My poor car! I will try to get pics tomorrow afternoon at the dealer. Fortunately, it is all parts replacement and no damage to the frame, wheels or engine. I need a new hood, headlight, front bumper, side mirrow and a new tail light.
I know it is just a minor accident but we have worked very hard for what we have. I feel bad that it is brand new and I wrecked it. Yes, I am very hard on myself, always have been.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

When Is It Too Hot?

Today we hit 100 degrees. I was working out in the yard putting down some dirt and sod in bare areas and where they repaired the leak to the pool. I really worked up a sweat plus I gave the dog a bath. More on that in a minute.

So here I am downloading some pictures to post and I thought I would check the forcast since it is so hot. Today is nothing, Friday 113, Saturday 111, and Sunday a real relief giver the temperature will drop to 108. The heat isn't so bad, it is being stuck in the house with the air conditioner running. Not my lifestyle at all. Well, as I said the other day, we need to not be here in the summer starting next year.

Thank goodness for the pool. After working in the yard, doing the laundry and using the solar clothes dryer, giving the dog a bath, I decided it was time to get in the water and it was a welcome retreat. I guess I am complaining about nothing.

I also am having a big glass of this:

You won't see a picture of the dog. Right before her bath I discovered she devoured three perfectly good garden hoses. I found one last night and blamed it on the lawn mower and the gardner. But this afternoon sent me through the roof, she chewed holes in the other two hoses. So now "Friend" is in the dog house, well, actually she is resting under the trailer.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Then and Now - A Dog's Tale

As you might well remember, I found Friend on the road on her last days of life. The vet said she had about two days left and I decided to revive her. She was a mess, dehydrated, malnurished, mange and skin fungus.

We worked with her giving her mega doses of vitamins, high protein food, baths to eliminate the skin fungus every three days and little by little she came back to life. As you can see, she has a full coat now, her legs and tail were bare as well as her back and they are completely covered. She needs a good grooming now. But what breed is she? Does anybody know?

She's started to take on a life of her own. Friend has found her spot on the porch where she sleeps and eats but spends her days lounging around the front yard. I believe she has found a refuge from the bad life she had had before. Abused for sure, she is happy but very suspicious of what may come her way. When I took her picture today she didn't want to come out into the yard for fear of the camera and what I wanted to do.

When we come home though, and open the gate, she comes galloping towards us wagging her tail and smiling. She's so passive and sweet, never barks but on the one occasion when a dog came in the yard. She makes some funny sounds though when she's happy!

I like Friend and I'm glad she's happy here, at least I hope.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Got One! Pointer 2009

After an exhaustive search we finally found a car for city driving. It has taken several weeks but the search is over.

As you may know, here in Mexico there are many "sorteos" or raffles for cars, houses, condominiums, VCRs, televisions and irons. The most popular in the country is the Sorteo Tec which is sponsored by the Tecnological de Monterrey, one of the most prestigious universities in the Americas. The idea is to raise money for the school or organization as well as scholarship programs. Caritas is another institution that helps people who have no financial resources for operations, prothesis, food, shelter and clothing.

Most people who win the sorteo win a mansion (in the case of the Tec) plus around 300,000 dollars to maintain the house. Plus there are usually two other houses and a condo for the 2nd and 3rd prized and the list goes downward from cars to irons. In the case of cars, many people sell them for a much lower price than the market value.

Well, I found one. A 2009 Volkswagen Pointer 4 door hatch back with air conditioning and power steering. All I will say is that I bought it for about 38% below list price and in Mexico there is little negociation on new car sales like in the states. A very good deal and I have had three Volkswagen products in my life; bug, GTI and a Jetta. We almost bought a Chevrolet Optra but you just can't compare the two manufacturers in terms of quality and comfort. Just the sound of
closing the doors, trunk and hood make all the difference.

The car came new from the dealer and had 56 kms on it. It already has it's tenecia and plates paid.

Monday, June 1, 2009

To Tampico And Back

I haven't posted in a week now. For some reason, I just stopped using the internet. I guess I had abused it and got a bit tired of being tied to my laptop and my email. Also, I have been on an intensive search for a small four-banger to use for errands and around town. I have seen some nice stuff and some real junk. My limit is a 2007 or 2008, Volkswagen, Nissan or Peugot. The search continues and today I found another good possibility and will have the diagnostic run tomorrow at the dealer.

So last Saturday I went to Tampico for a regional teacher's convention. I gave one talk in the afternoon but it was a long day as I went in the morning and returned at night. The commuter flights here in Mexico aren't as abundant and frequent as they used to be. Aerolitoral was absorbed by it's parent comany Aeromexico and MexConnect was born from that. All MexConnect flights are Embraer 145s which carry 50 passengers. I left at 10:20 in the morning and arrived back home to the house at midnight. Because of the lack of flights to smaller cities, I had to fly to Mexico City at 7:30 p.m. and then on to Monterrey.

Very few people were on the plane.

I got my favorite seat up front by the cockpit. More to see and do from there and excuse to walk the length of the plane to go to the bathroom. From here I can see what the pilots are doing, say hello and talk with the flight attendant during takeoff and landing. Plus I always get served first!
Although Tampico is a well-known city, their airport is very small. They have a couple flights from the U.S.

Airstrip can handle 737s.

The event in Tampico was the Regional Mextesol (TESOL Mexico). It was a good sized group and in the talk I had about 75 teachers. Here they are listening to my introduction given by one of the Mextesol committee members.

As I said earlier, I had to fly back home via Mexico. I had the great fortune of flying there with my friend and co-worker Andreina. She lives in Mexico City so we had drinks on the plane and we each went our way.

During takeoff from Monterrey I was able to get a shot of about 1/6 of the enormous metropolis.

I didn't get a picture, but I can tell you the lunch I had was fantastic. We went out for seafood and I ate cameron. Delicious.

When I got home I was able to catch the last five minutes of SNL before hitting the hay.