Sunday, August 30, 2009

Day Trip To Reynosa

I'm writing this from the rv. It's Sunday morning and the rv is still in the driveway and I am having coffee and watching the news. Hey, this is good enough for me. We didn't get to go anywhere as we had an emergency in Reynosa and we headed out early Saturday morning. A good friend lost her mother and we went to the funeral. Wow, this is really getting scary. I also received an email from my brother in Idaho. My niece-in-law lost her father on Friday and our blogging friend Beth, "The World Needs More Pie" lost her husband last week. Beth is a sweet gal and had lived for a spell in Saltillo while her husband worked on building the Dodge Hemi plant. It has just been a hard two weeks all the way around.
Anyway, the highway from Monterrey to Reynosa is in excellent condition. We passed through Cadereyta which is 35 kms from here. Apparently they had quite a downpour but it never touched Monterrey or Santiago. It was a beautiful drive as we left before 8 a.m. in the morning. The traditional military checkpoint (reten) was closed and we just passed through. As we pulled into Reynosa we stopped to get the car washed. Wow, as I have said before, everything here in Monterrey is more expensive. The car wash was 35 pesos and here in Monterrey good luck getting a wash for less than 65 pesos. This guy worked his butt off and got it all cleaned up. He got a good tip.
Off to the funeral home which wasn't far away from where we were. We visited until two in the afternoon and then headed back home. We took a break from funeraling and went to El Papalote for lunch. It is a Mexican franchise and the food is great. We split potatoe skins supreme and two tacos de arrechera.
Got home around 5 p.m., traffic was a mess here in town. The soccer game was on at 5 and there was a big accident involving a tractor trailer and a bus on the way out here to the house. Got home safe and sound, took a nap, and well you know the rest of the story.
Reynosa is growing by leaps and bounds and is slowly shedding its reputation as a border town in all senses of the word. New gated-neighborhoods going up, shopping centers, restaurants and movie theaters. Transito keeps at bay and they don't seem to hassle many people. They say most of the investment in Reynosa is coming from Monterrey.
It appears to have rained a bit last night. We are waiting for the big one coming off the coasts bringing us our first heavy rains from hurricane season. Rocmoc has posted about Jimena and it does look like it may come all the way up to Arizona and into our area. I don't wish bad things on people but we really need the rain, Northern Mexico is dry as a bone.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Health Care Reform JMHO

First off, rving news. We will be taking the trailer out this weekend. Just heading south an hour or two, no big deal but my wheels are spinning and I need to get out of here. Enough watering the grass and home maintenance. A never ending affair.

Now on to the big news. Wow, it has been one hellacious week pouring over the news on health care reform. It wasn't all that long ago that everyone in the U.S. was hollering and screaming about insurance companies and their high rates, abuse, and failure to pay for the big stuff. That was under Bush. So now the we have swung the other way and the same people who pissed and moaned about their high cost of health care, averaging 600 dollars a month, have either gone to Medicare and don't give a rat's behind or they are against the health care reform just because it is a democratic president who has come up with a plan.

What a huge embarrassment as the world watches Americans' antics on television via the town hall meetings. I'm ashamed of their actions. Bill O'Rielly, Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh almost vigilantes attacking the government and attempting to spur a revolution. And don't think it couldn't happen! I believe rogue is the correct term for those three characters. If American Muslims were doing what those three are, they would be lynched and convicted of conspiring to overthrow the government.

If you remember correctly, GW had a health care plan that only covered 10 million uninsured at a cost of $102 billion over the next decade. That was in 2004. Now the number of uninsured Americans is at 40 million. Not taking into account rising healthcare costs and inflation that would be a total of 408 billion over ten years. Add to that the president's enactment of a Medicare prescription drug package as his signature health achievement. In monetary terms, the new policy -- was estimated to cost $564 billion over 10 years. Wow, now that is starting to total up and yet people are bitching about the added cost of Obama's healthcare plan. So it appears that in either case the cost of a healthcare plan comes out to about the same.

What about the abuse instituted by the insurance industry. Is it true that you can only buy health insurance from a company within your home state? That because of this competition doesn't exist in the insurance industry? As my good friend Jan Deaton died 8 years ago because she couldn't afford insurance. At a party she showed us a baseball size tumor that was under her armpit. She gave up, no one would help her until it was too late. She ended up with the tumor removed at our urging and some help from the American Cancer Society. Too late though, the cancer had spread throughout her body and she died in her sleep a short time after. My friend Sam who needed a pace maker implant. Insurance said no to the 75,000 dollar cost for the year so his physician offered to make him a cash deal of 40,000 dollars. What is that all about?

In Mexico we have a social system and some of you may be familiar with it. It has its good, bad and then the ugly. Most of the ugly is from a system that is run by a union that now promises its employees 130% of their salary as pension income. You run the numbers, it won't last, it can't. On the other hand the big abuser in our IMSS system is the population. We use the system as a doctor's office. The kid gets the sniffles and we take them to the hospital. The system if clogged, overrun and all those people traipsing through the hospitals takes its toll on the buildings and maitnenance. It was never intended for that. On the other hand, a good friend of ours has cervical cancer. I saw her medications and treatment. One medication alone has a cost of 2500 dollars a month, she pays nothing. They even deliver oxygen to her house which she now uses daily. Her battle is nearing its end but she has been made comfortable and had the option to continue to fight or quit. She opted to fight.

Juan had knee surgery a few years back. Not life threatening but needed a laser machine to perform the deed. He waited six months until they were able to gather 10 patients for the same surgery. The machine was delivered from Mexico City and all surgeries were performed in less than two days and btw, it was a complete success.

What is the healthcare plan really about? Saving the lives of Americans, reducing the abuse of the insurance industry and make the U.S. a stronger and happier place? I believe it is. We are talking about quality of life. The U.S. had a lot of money at one time. It doesn't any longer and when it did everything seemed to go amuck. Now we are left with a huge population addicted to drugs, addicted to disability payments, and a system that does not make people responsible for their actions; obesity, smoking induced lung diseases, diabetes, and the list goes on.

To end this, as I know many of you don't like the idea of reading someone's political opinion, we need to work together for a better life. That may require for some of us to give in a little, make a small sacrifice for the betterment of the rest. Let's not be selfish. Stop saying, "I earned mine and I'm going to get all I have coming to me". Be careful, that expression could come back to bite us in the ass in the near future. JMHO

Saturday, August 22, 2009

It Only Happens Once A Year

I got up early this morning and headed to the gym. Before leaving the house though, I was awaken to "Las MaƱanitas" and a birthday cake. Yes, another year has gone by and I am a year older. I would hope a year wiser too!
I sure don't feel this old but hey, I've never been a good judge of age. I have to admit that I have a wonderful life. If anyone could love life as much as I do it's me. I'm glad my mom and dad didn't stop at eight children and went on to have me and my little brother.
That's why I'm so anxious to get on the rv road. I don't want to miss out on anything. Luck has always been on my side and I have traveled for my work all my life. I know a bit about the American continent thanks to those travels in addition to my own. Once you get a taste for what is out there it becomes an addiction. I can see why so many of our rver friends just keep rving. It gets in your blood.
I did have a slight scare yesterday. I got up in the morning and saw an owl in the front yard. He hung around all day. Even when I went out last night to see the great rain that finally fell, there he was staring me right in the eyes. I took this as a death omen along with the fact that for the last year, no matter where I am or what I do, the clock, calendar, workout machines, digital read outs all seemed to say 822. It was really getting on my nerves.
Well, let's see if I am still here tomorrow.

Friday, August 21, 2009

10 Year Permit

Fall is coming and many questions will be coming up about rv travel in Mexico. One of those questions is permits required for vehicles and persons. On the Rv.Net, our friend Mike (Turtle Toad) has done an excellent job with his FAQs post that he has recently updated
Not quite as complicated as it sounds, it is just a matter of being prepared. My comment though is regarding the 10 year permit. The 10 year permit was originally intended for Mexicans living and working in the U.S. who would be traveling back and forth with some frequency. This permit was extended a few years back to cover all vehicles requiring a TIP (temporary import permit). Generally, permits are for one year and are cancelled upon exit from Mexico.
I discourage rvers from asking for the 10 year permit for two reasons:
  • availability to return permit before it expires
  • change of vehicle before returning to Mexico for another trip

You must physically return or cancel the permit before the 10 years expires. So what if you decide while back in your native digs to buy a new vehicle?

There is a form that you can fill out and mail in along with your permit paperwork and sticker but it is a lengthy process and very difficult to track. In the meantime, you cannot take out another permit with your passport until it has been cancelled. The Mexican Aduana now has a very sophisticated system which will track this information. The only other way around it, that I can think of, is apply for a new passport as the system is passport number driven. Unless you know that you will be selling your vehicle in your native country before leaving Mexico, I really discourage this 10 year permit. Besides, you have to stop to get your visa anyway, so while you are there get your 1 year permit.

Also, should you be here for the winter and would like to fly back to the U.S., by law you must take your car to an Aduana office where it is impounded until your return. Many people don't do this and if it were my motorhome, I sure as heck wouldn't take the risk of losing it or paying stiff fines for not following the rules.

What generally happens in the case of an accident, insurance issues, aduana, and permits is that many people don't realize how strict the law is. Once they have a problem, they sour on Mexico travel and then Mexico has a bad rap.

Follow the rules for a safe, fun and enjoyable memory of your Mexico travels. Better safe than sorry.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Before My Sister Spills The Beans

What can I say about a funeral. The truth is, it was quite a celebration and the whole town showed up. Some touching moments were when all the cars couldn't fit into the cemetary for the burial. Also, a family that worked for my BIL were giving paying their respects at the church and talking to my sister. They had their three kids in tow and as they turned around to walk to the back of the church, the smallest, about 3 years old, yelled out "bye Ceci, bye Galen". Oh the innocence of youth. Isn't it wonderful.
As for spilling the beans. My sister Dorothy and I were returning to Kansas City from Chilicothe on Monday. We did some things around my sister's house before we left. It had been a long weekend and we were both tired. I wanted a coffee and she was thirsty so we decided to drive halfway and then stop.
We found a McDonald's and I pulled off on the exit. I have to tell you I haven't been to a drive-thru in years. We were pulling in as we discussed what drink we would order. I rolled down the window and started to give my order to a McDonald's trash can. We both cracked up laughing (which we really needed) and as sharp as a tack I turned to my sister and said, "Oh Magoo, you've done it again"!
Some pictures to come in the next few days of my journey to Kansas City. Peace.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

My Trip Through The Mountains Of Oaxaca

I apologize for not blogging for quite a few days. I got so wrapped up in being home and doing work around the quinta and in Allende I pretty much put it off. Now I am in Kansas City and have taken today as a rest day. I am in a nice hotel on the Country Club Plaza which is a nice area of town if you get a chance to look it up. I have just about everything I want here and I got up early and out for breakfast fighting a huge downpour and windstorm. It was wonderful to feel the cool, wet air as we haven't had either in such a long time at home.

So here I was in Oaxaca and as you could see by the pictures of the mountain roads it was a scary ride at 100 kms or more per hour. I guess I need to let people know I don't do that anymore being in my 50s and wanting to see my 90s. I saw many things that I had never seen before. The mountains of Oaxaca are beautiful, the food is a delight and the people the nicest in the world.

I passed through the area known as La Ventosa. This is along the Isthmus and the winds spin the turbines and create that ever addictive energy that we all crave whether we are on 110 or out in the middle of nowhere and want to use our rvs to the fullest.

The above pics make me proud to know that Mexico is taking steps to help save the environment and yet I doubt we will see electric cars any day soon as we rely so heavily on petroleum sales to the U.S.

One of the great things about my trip was that we always stayed in very nice hotels. In these smaller towns the hotels are not abundant but are very accesible for any budget. We didn't stay´in any of the hotels paying over 55 dollars a night. Take a look:

Resort hotel in Puerto Escondido, there is more info about this hotel below.

Hotel Calli in Tehuantepec, Oaxaca.

Each of the campuses we visited were very nice. They belong to the COBAO state system of secondary and high schools. In many of the towns, Spanish is a second language as Zapoteco and Mixteco are their native languages. That makes English language learning their third language. It makes for an interesting classroom. I had a teacher in my presentation whose native language is Zapoteco. She comes from the mountains and teaches English. She has never studied in the U.S. and her English is impeccable. She loves her job and also loves preserving her culture and language.

Country life up in the mountains. Their homes are simple but beautiful.

Since I like to escape from reality, this would be the spot. Build a cabin in the mountains, equip it with solar and satelite internet and tv. The mountain views are spectacular.

We headed down to the coast stopping in Huatulco for lunch. Huatulco isnt what I had expected although it is luxurious, laid back and the seafood the best.

Unfortunately, I was on a work trip so it was "eat lunch and lets go". Off we went down the highway and headed for Puerto Escondido. Now this is a place I could stay for a couple of weeks. I know there are some rvers that hang out here along the coast and in fact I think Linda from Canada bought a condo in this area. I was pleasantly surprised when we arrived. Beautiful beaches, lots of surfers from all over the world and that wonderful friendliness of Mexicans.

We spent the night right on the beach at the Hotel Santa Fe. Nice hotel, small resort type, wonderful rooms and service. The beach areas here are broken up into several tourist zones based on the geography of the coast. So our little part of the beach has a boardwalk that is about half a mile long and filled with restaurants, surf shops and coffee shops. Food prices are relatively inexpensive. A nice Mexican breakfast with coffee is less than 55 pesos. You cant beat that.

After working at the school we headed back to Oaxaca via the mountains. Man was that a nice drive. I had become accustomed to the roads and the fast driving. We stopped for lunch at a small restaurant at about the 6000 ft level. It was an open air restaurant with a palm roof. We had tasajo which is a very thin piece of beef that is lightly fried in spices, a bit salty, served with a bowl of black beans, queso seco, and giant homemade corn tortillas (fresh ground corn). Including the soda it was 40 pesos. I ate like a king.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

My BIL Passed Away Yesterday

I'm saddened and shocked. My BIL died yesterday morning. He had suffered from liver cancer and was just recently diagnosed. A long story made short, my teenage pal and sister married young. The first time around for almost 30 years.

She finally let go and lost a lot in the process. It made her a better woman, a stronger woman and a woman I admire. A couple of years passed and she met Galen. A man a few years older than her, but a real jewel. He loved her, held her hand a lot, treated her like she deserved, almost as if he was making up for all that she had missed out on.

I saw him last year at this time at a family wedding. We always talked about getting together as they had an rv and we could travel together as soon as we retired. Yes, I know, and please don't remind me. Do it now. I was reminded of that just this last week as the same sister answered an email I had sent to my remaining 8 siblings. I had hinted at a family reunion and how it would be nice for us all to be together. My sister answered saying we should look at everyday as a blessing and take advantage of it. She must have known in her heart what was coming.

I love my sister very much. We grew up together and as I entered my adolescense she was by my side for some of those years. She's a good egg. I can't wait to see her in hopes I can attempt to make it all better.

Galen, thanks for loving my sister so much and taking such good care of her. You made a her a very happy person.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Oaxaca to Tuxtepec, Oax 2009

I don't have a lot to show you about the ride through the mountains from Oaxaca City to Tuxtepec. However, I can tell you I would do it again but at a much slower pace. We are on business and in a company car and the rep drives 1000 miles per minute. When you're behind the wheel you don't feel the curves. As a passenger at that speed it is wise to take a couple of Dramamin. I didn't and by the time we had passed four hours on this winding road at elevations of up to 7500ft I wasn't feeling like lunch anytime soon.

We went through fog, rain, and ice cold tempertures. It was beautiful. Giant ferns, elephant ear and Tarzan type vines.

We arrived in Tuxtepec safe and sound, had a drink and hit the hay for our work on Monday. Teachers are craving for new information, methodology and techniques to use in the classroom and most amazing they are interested in my course on personal finance.
I will post Tuesday's trip from Tuxtepec to Tehuantepec tomorrow.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Monte Alban Oaxaca 2009

I'm writing from my hotel in Tuxtepec, Oaxaca. A small town close to the border of Veracruz. Yesterday was a trying day but also one filled with excitement and amazement. I arrived in Oaxaca after taking the 6 a.m. flight from Monterrey on the infamous VivaAerobus airlines. The service on board is great and the flight on time but the ground crew is a real piece of work.

The sales rep picked me up at the airport and whisked me off on a tour of Monte Alban. It was barely 8 a.m. but it was the best time to tour the ruins. No one was there and we had the place to ourselves at least for the first hour. We walked around the grounds wondering just what these people were up to over 1000 years ago. They have left us a legacy that we will continue to ponder over the ages, or maybe until they "return".

The highway up the mountain from Oaxaca is an excellent wide two laner that allows plenty of room for rvs and motorhomes although if you are staying at an rv park you would probably want to leave the rv behind and take a tour bus or your own vehicle. All of the buildings are marked as well as the museum pieces and they are in English, Spanish and Danibaan which is now Zapotecan. You will enjoy the tours and there are also tour guides in many languages as well as English.

Please beam me up!!!!

After we finished Monte Alban, and I need to go back to spend a day there to really take advantage of it, we went into Oaxaca for breakfast at the Quinta Real Hotel. This used to be a convent of cloistered nuns built back in the 1642, taken over by a private school in the late 1800s and then by the government in the 1970s. Quinta Real purchased the property and did a complete restoration.

The original "lavadero" where the nuns washed their clothes.

The service is the best and the buffet well-worth the money.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Back Home From San Antonio
I haven't been posting this week. It was a long one. After we returned from SMA I took off on Sunday for San Antonio. I made the decision to help out a friend by doing a "Clean Sweep" intervention. Well, it wasn't really an intervention but we did have a garage sale, sold quite a bit, and cleaned out a bedroom and recarpeted it.

Also, I visited my accountant and we had enough deductions that this year we had zero tax to pay. The tenant who rents the house is a good guy and we came to some agreements to finish out this year. The air conditioner was working overtime as the coil was dirty. All things considered, their bill has been 150 dollars a month running the a/c day and night and with the thermostat set at 70 at night. The neighbors have bills averaging 235 to 350 a month.

I spent most of the week cleaning, throwing away and selling. I was at Gold's Gym everyday in the early a.m. I met a woman who is 94, drives her car to the gym and takes aerobics classes. Now that is an inspiration. A side note to fulltimers, there is a gym everywhere. If you are into boondocking, get a membership at a national chain that is open 24 hours a day and you have a free place to spend the night, workout, sauna, swim and shower. You can't beat that.

My personal observations were that there are lots of people without work and in need of money. I took a carload of books to Half Price Books and it took almost two hours to review what I had taken in. Apartments are vacant, houses are empty, and lots of people asking for money. Sad situation.

If you haven't read the, I got a ticket for speeding in Nuevo Laredo. The cop had me on radar and I followed him to the OXXO convenience store to pay the ticket. All legit, and I have my receipt and ticket to show I paid the fine. What a great system. Do we have that in the states?

Here is a picture I took on the way home about halfway between Laredo and Monterrey. I will find a way to get there someday!

Tomorrow morning I take off for a five city tour of Oaxaca promoting a new book for the publisher. I will attempt to post daily.