Sunday, February 28, 2010

Reader Questions - New RV - Real de Catorce

If I weren't so lazy I would set up a real webpage where you could find all the places we have boondocked along with information such as gps coordinates. Someday. I think I am waiting for someone to help me.

Bob asked about the leak we had in our rv on the trip to Florida. First off, I tend to over-exagerate in a crisis. Fortunately, I haven't had too many of those in my life. I think I can count them on one hand. I sealed the trailer well, found the source of the main leak. A second appeared during the torrential downpours across the Gulf states. One was a screw at the top of the trailer that holds the side molding into place. It was never sealed from the factory. I found it over a year ago but unfortunately, I didn't use the right kind of silicone hence the reappearance. The second leak was around the front window. Shadow Cruisers and I guess all travel trailers with a front window need to be sealed regularly to avoid these problems.

No more leak but we weren't able to sell the trailer in the U.S. as the title was surrendered during the export process to Mexico. I went to both Florida and Texas and both were a no go. So we brought it home, cleaned it up and it is for sale. All with the idea that the new owner will know the history of our trailer. Six years old and I feel safe to guess we have traveled over 35,000 miles in it and it is a good sturdy entry level travel trailer. In fact, it amazes us how well it has held together if you could have seen where we have taken it. No road is too bad for us to cover. Yesterday, a very interested party came to look at it and they will be back today. They loved it.

So what about the new trailer? We have our sights set on a Funfinder 230DS which I showed the floor plan for. It is 24ft long, has a living room slide and a bedroom slide and weighs in at 4000lbs. We can tow up to 8800lbs with the Dodge 5.7 Hemi. The problem is that they only made a few of these units and they are scattered all over the place. Apparently the tongue weight was high in comparison to the overall weight limiting the idea of "light" towing. I have researched the internet to death looking at other options but we always come back to this unit. So expect a trip from us to Calendaria, Penn. if such a place exists.

Wayne has asked some interesting questions about Real de Catorce (click on the link). We were there after the no-tell event at the La Siesta Rv Park at Christmas. This is a real jewel and needs to be explored by any Mexico rver. You can't get an rv into the tunnel, not only is it low in some spots, but rocks jut out from the sides without notice. We parked in front of a small plaza just meters from the entrance to the tunnel. There is no traffic at night so it is very quiet. Also, as you get to the top of the mountain, there is a road to the left where buses park. It is ideal for overnighting and there really isn't any limit on the size of your rv. The only rig I would take to Real de Catorce through the tunnel would be a pop up truck camper. (this is really a great rig for boondocking, secured and closed when you're not around and it can go anywhere with out worry of tree limbs, low bridges, etc. and Chalet makes a hard-sided popup). Even the tourist buses are special made for the tunnel. As you can see in the pictures on the link above, the roofs are very low and even then it scared the pants off of me as I could practically feel the jagged edges of the tunnel brushing my face as we went through.

But once on the other side, you can walk and eat and take pictures and eat, oops, I said eat twice.

Friday, February 26, 2010

News Del Dia!

What a day! I stopped eating and drinking anything but water last night at 6 p.m. This morning, bright and early I showered and headed to the cardiologist for my yearly checkup. First I took the Pointer to the dealer for it's 15,000 km checkup and headed across to the other side of town to Hospital San Jose.

I checked in, gave all my stats and off I went for blood work, EKG and the stress test. The whole event took about four hours. In between being moved from one place to another, I was sent to the Platinum Room where I was able to watch the news, have a juice or two and relax while waiting.

All good news. Yes, I am a bit hypertensive and I will wear a halter for the second time in two years for 24 hours. If the machine says I'm hypertensive I will start medication. The best news though is that my heart muscle is strong and the doctor was very happy with my overall strength and fitness. Heart disease runs in my family so this was another year of good news. The doctor did say I gained a couple of kilos. I tried to explain that it happened in San Miguel de Allende and he asked for more details. I told him, "what happened at the La Siesta Hotel and RV Park stays at La Siesta". At least that was the deal with the group we were with. Mums the word.

Wayne posted a comment yesterday about the photo at the header of my blog. This place is very special to me. I posted about it before and you can do a search for it up above in the search box. Viejo Padilla, Tamaulipas was a small town along the edge of what is now Big Bass or the reservoir Presa Vicente Guerrero. The town was resettled 15 kms away and is now called Nuevo Padilla. A beautiful new town that looks like a small American town with a grid layout and houses built out of block, each 150 sq meters on a 500 sq meter lot all with pitched roofs.

When we first discovered the old town we were looking for an entrance to the lake. The first try we ended up on the landing strip and a boat ramp. Not for us. We stopped for gas and they told us about the road. As we approached I thought we had found an old hacienda. We walked around for days checking what was left of the houses, the town square, the building in the picture above and more. Turns out, the building was a primary school built in the 30s. It is truly a find and a real boondocking spot. You can hide far from the road and park on top of a house's foundation which is just about as level as you can get.

Rv.Net and Rving In Mexico

Boy does the b.s. fly on that forum. People are so easy to jump on the wagon. One small comment today about having a bank account debited at an ATM and taking a month for the credit and now all banks in Mexico are suspect even by Mexicans.

As if the same shit doesn't happen everywhere else in the world, well it doesn't. Well, I can tell you first hand that all the bad shit that happens in the world only in Mexico. (tongue in cheek)

And I don't appreciate people using the word "indian" in capital letters to describe indigenous people because they happen to have a conflict with the government and it is affecting a couple of foreigners. They write the word "indian" in capital letters on purpose and it is discrimination. You would think that people who come from a country where racial discrimination "isn't" supposed to exist would have more respect for native peoples in a land where they are welcome foreigners. What a load of . . . . . .

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why I Like Texas State Parks Brazos Bend - Lake Casa Blanca

In the past I have commented about the day use fees that state parks charge. I don't agree with charging overnighters a day use fee in addition to a full-hookup site. There are annual passes and in the case of Texas it is 60 dollars for day use and that fee includes all the persons at the same site. So why without the pass do they charge for each individual? Questions that will always go unanswered. I also think that state parks should go primitive sites only no generators. That is or was the purpose of the state parks was to provide a natural environment for camping and enjoying the great outdoors. If they did that more people would rely on solar.

Here we are at Brazos Bend which is located outside of Houston, Tx. The park is far off the beaten path and has tons of wildlife, alligators included, and tall pines.

At Lake Casa Blanca, you have a great place to stay before crossing the border into Mexico or your return trip. The park is located on the East side of Laredo on the outskirts of town. There are shops and supermarkets nearby to stock up before leaving. The lake is quiet at night as many people come during the day for boating and fishing. The sites are spaced a bit closer than most but much more room than an rv park. There are lots of areas for walking and picnicing. The rangers said that weekends with good weather and Semana Santa are times you want to avoid because of the crowds. The sunset and night views are fantastic and many sites are located along the waters edge or within a few feet.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

26 Days Rving In The U.S.

What an experience. We traveled through five states, covered thousands of kilometers and stayed in rv parks, Walmarts, and state parks. It was a lot of fun and I have so many thoughts about the whole experience that I'm not sure where to start.

I can say it is good to be home, and by that I don't mean my house. I'm ready to stock the rv and take off again. Crossing the border into Mexico I felt like I was back in my own environment, my own skin. I guess after so many years it grows on you. It was exciting to be met by people crossing the bridge that greet you with a smile, a wave and ask you politely for your papers and documents. With pleasure I pulled over and open the rv for an inspection. I told the guy he could look wherever he wanted with complete confindence. He said the military would want to inspect it too, but after a few minutes they said it was no problem and off we went to the 26th kilometer.

We laughed for a few minutes when I said, "oh look, trash on the ground, broken down cars, transito waiting with baited breath, it's so good to be back home". Of course I was only kidding but we laughed our asses off with that one. I actually looked forward to crossing the 26km, seeing aduana, military and immigration in uniform. They are really nice guys who don't have a grudge or bone to pick with someone because they decided to change countries. We got a red light and were pulled over for inspection. It turned into a conversation about rvs and what type to buy, what year and make. The aduanero was fascinated by the subject and got another red light customer and waved us on.

Mexico is definitely a different place with different rules but it's the place I call home. We can park anywhere we want, we don't have so many rules or at least they aren't enforced unless it is to the advantage of someone else. Most of all, there are people, lots of people and there are people everywhere. Walking down the street, riding on buses, filling markets and stores. There is life and it's active, dynamic and you have someone to talk to whenever you want. In the states everyone seems to stay inside their work or house watching t.v., playing video games. When was the last time the kid next door walked down to the corner and got on a bus? A country like the U.S. that produces more pollution than any other and most of it comes from cars and they spend all their time trying to find solutions to reduce pollution. Take a bus, walk, ride a bike. Of course I believe that if you do that it is considered low class. I couldn't imagine visiting my siblings and arriving to their house after taking the bus. It would be like, "what's wrong? where's your car? are you okay?".

I remember living in San Antonio in my first house back in the eighties. I lived on that block for a year and a half and the neighbors would come and go, pulling in and out of their homes with their electric garage door openers and a quick but insecure wave of the hand. Even though in Mexico we are living with some violence, people aren't afraid of each other. I guess in the U.S. it is a "mind your own business" society.

I realize we have our problems and some pretty big ones now. In the U.S., it all seems money oriented. After that depressing experience in New Orleans a change of scenery puts things into perspective. I felt so bad trying to have a good time when all that was around us seems to be in a constant state of implosion, decay both moral and physical, crime running rampant, insecurity, the list goes on. How did people forget New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina? I still want to know the answer to the big question: Where are the monies allocated by the Feds to Katrina victims, reconstruction, FEMA trailers, etc. ? Don't you want to know? If that were Mexico it would smacked with the label of corruption.

It was hard to find someone to talk to, even get a smile from someone. I had my sourpuss radar on most of the trip and the results were depressing. In our rv park in Naples we weren't received very well. I hate being snobbed when I give someone a smile and a hello. I did find some solace in the laundry room one day when a woman about my age struck up a conversation with me saying it was because of our age more than anything else. There was almost an envy of some sort from these people. Questions like; "are you old enough to be here?", "you're not going to make noise all night, are you?", "how can you be retired, you're too young". They referred to us as "those two guys". Is that like Two Guys From Italy?

I had a hard time not touching people or talking to babies in grocery carts. In the U.S. you just don't do those things. In Mexico, not doing those thing offends people. Everyone seems so self-absorbed, wrapped up in their getting somewhere or buying something. I can't imagine not saying hello or good morning to someone and them literally not responding. It doesn't happen here.

It was a big relief when we were in northern Florida where one can get into a state park with some luck. You see, in Florida, snowbirds book the parks 13 months in advance. I was able to find one site in a state park near Ft. Meyers for March 2011 only to find out it was a tent site. They have a system which keeps the parks booked. Florida doesn't care, the revenue streams in but the same groups take over the parks year after year. To each his own, but a state park is a place where you appreciate and commune with nature, not hunker down for the winter in your rv. Go to an rv park if that's what you are looking for.

Coming into Texas was a relaxing part of our trip. First off, to hear people speaking Spanish, finding a good stateside taco even if it was TexMex, and a bit more of friendliness. Texas and Nuevo Leon have many things in common and one of them was or is the desire to secede from their respective republics. We found two state parks, Brazos Bend outside of Houston, and Lake Casa Blanca just on the edge of Laredo. I've always had a hard-on with Texas state parks and their day fees but that can always be overcome with an annual pass. But what comes with it is a campsite at a reasonable price, a clean park with limitations on how long someone can stay so that everyone gets a chance to enjoy the park. Sure, there will always be that one person who knows how to massage the system.

In Brazo Bend I saw tons of wildlife. P.J. and Claudia, the DutchDuo would have a heyday shooting photographs of wildlife in Texas state parks. On a short walk yesterday morning I saw tons of cardinals, two ibis, five dear, and a brown spotted owl. The camping spots are spaced far apart and you are in a natural setting. This place is far from civilization and very, very quiet. So quiet, as I was walking flocks of birds flew low over my head and for the first time I actually heard the wind flowing over and through their wings. It was almost surreal.

My decision has been made. We might venture north now and then, but if we do I will only stay in state parks or wildlife refuges, forests, etc. and stay in one place for a period of time. No more rv resorts and always on the lookout for lots of free boondocking spots. Apart from that, we will rv in Mexico. Open beaches, moutain roads that get us into a tight spot now and then, and the freedom that one can only experience in Mexico. Regional foods, a small town festival or running into a wedding or quinceñera. Finding that one unique niche that the media, big business or maddening crowds always seem to ruin for good. I love sitting outside my rv at night, maybe in front of the town square watching it come to life as the lights begin to glow, people come out of the corners and cracks of side streets and buildings, a man selling cotton candy and candy apples, a taco stand with tree trunk chopping block and the owner calls out to you as you walk by. Boondocking on that open beach where there are no people, no signs with rules telling me when and where to be, the smell of leña burning into coals and only the sound of the waves. That's my Mexico. For better or worse, here's where I'll stay.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Time For Mardi Gras

The weather warmed up a bit yesterday and the sun was shining. The wind was blowing but not quite as hard. We were going to take a bus downtown to avoid the traffic but on the advice of the rv park owner, we took our car and drove down to the French Market.

We had no problems at all and parked in a practically empty parking lot that charges by the hour. We stayed from 11 to 3:30 and the charge was 25 dollars, a lot less than the 40 we paid the other night. Everything and everybody has a Mardi Gras price.

We found our way around the French Quarter and made it to Canal Street just in time for a parade that was passing by.

It was really fun watching the people getting crazy and grabbing for the beads. People started drinking early in the morning or were still partying from the night before. We saw all kinds of crazy outfits, some were very creative and some were just plain ole silly. One that was really good and I couldn't get the shot was a guy with a baseball around him and a giant screw on top. Screwball! Get it! That was a good one.

We had a light snack at the Subway splitting a 6 inch veggie without cheese. I am back to my old diet again hoping to take off a few pounds before I start my 6 city tour in March.

Lured to Harrah's again, we played a few bucks for a couple of hours and decided to head home. By the time we got home and took a nap it was time for happy hour and dinner.

We watched "No Country For Old Men" with Tommy Lee Jones. Greaet movie.

Staying another day here in New Orleans will help us avoid the big storm passing through South Texas tomorrow and we have decided to get a massage today while we are in the French Quarter.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Too Cold For Mardi Gras

Yesterday was windy and freezing outside. I did laundry and some work on the computer. We decided to take a drive over to a new Walmart to do some shopping. It is located in Chalmette about 15 minutes from where we were. There was very little traffic and we got there without any trouble.

The new store is very big but it looks like a warehouse inside and there really isn't much of a selection. Everything seems much less expensive than anywhere else we have shopped in the states. Even gasoline is cheap here at 2.39 a gallon.

On the way home, I reset the gps. Tom took us on a long tour of city. We weren't lost but we sure got an eye opener of New Orleans. It appears that the area we went through suffered severe flooding and wind damage. So many homes boarded up or demolished. Some have attempted to rebuild but there is nothing around them. Lots of empty lots overgrown with weeds, sidewalks that have disappeared into the sand and grown over as well. The streets are caved in, crooked, broken into pieces.

Lots of cheap construction has gone up, I am guessing to fill an urgent need. Yet, at night thousands come from all around for the Mardi Gras. They say this has been a good time for the economy but you know it is a temporary injection that only lasts a couple of weeks. Most of the jobs in tourism are always minimum wage.

My point is that New Orleans hasn't come back and from the looks of things it probably never will. Where did all the money go that the government promised? Where is Mayor Nagin and what is he doing? FEMA was a disaster. There is no need for me to post any pictures as they are the same ones we saw when this whole mess started. Can you imagine high rise buildings still sitting vacant in downtown areas, boarded up and forgotten? What has happened to this country? Somebody took it in the shorts on this one and if I were a taxpayer in the good ole U.S. of A, (and I am) I would be severly pissed.

People say not to go out at night, keep your cars empty and don't show any money. Sad, sad situation. We still plan to go down to the French Quarter today to do some sightseeing. However, we are leaving tomorrow. Too much trouble and traffic at night, too many people out drunk on the streets and a sadness that can't help but keep you from having a good time knowing what has gone on here and what won't happen in the near future.

Monday, February 15, 2010

New Orleans - Mardi Gras - Depressed Areas

We made it to New Orleans and found a small rv park with only 40 sites. We are packed in like sardines but we are here for the Mardi Gras. However, it is cold and windy and parking downtown is between 40 and 60 dollars. Taking the bus is an option but the cold is keeping me from going outside. I am doing laundry now and even here it's cold.

We headed down to the French Quarter last night and sat in traffic most of the time. Finally arriving at Harrah's we had a nice dinner at Bambu. A delicious salmon sushi, stir fried veggies and rice. A bottle of wine to go with it and it made for a great evening. We walked around Fulton, Canal and Bourbon but the crowds were overwhelming. Don't get me wrong, it seems like a lot of fun but I am not into crowds and lots of noise.

Penny slots are always my attraction. Free drinks and great entertainment as we watched people take cash advances on their credit cards.

Driving into New Orleans from the I-10 was a depressing experience. It just doesn't look like the city will ever be the same. Crime is up, construction is almost non-existent and you see a lot of people who are just flat out broke. Most houses have not had any repairs done to them, abandoned and forgotten.

No matter where you are at you can always enjoy a sunset. Here we were sitting on the freeway whe we saw this one.

More later.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Last Martini

Thursday night was a real closer to a great 10 days in Naples. We went out with my brother and sister-in-law and friends from their condo to a place in Naples called The Blue Martini. Wow, what a martini. They have a list of over 25 different martinis apart from whatever type you want to order along with a menu of appetizers all at half price from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. I actually danced for the first time in years. We had a blast.

Friday morning we said goodbye to our neighbors at Club Naples and headed out for Suwannee State Park in northern Florida. It rained most of the day but the drive was great. I enjoy listening to NPR radio. In the evening the rain stopped and we spent the night inside as it was around 38 degrees. The heater ran most of the night but the good ole electric blanket really did the trick. If you don't have one get one. It is like a drug.

We took off this morning but not before meeting the neighbors. We met Wayne who has a Cignet travel trailer from the 70s (correct me on the spelling of the TT name). It is really cool. Wayne is a retired over-the-road driver who travels by himself and said he has a big interest in visiting mexico. I told him to check out the blog and keep in touch.

We ended the day at the Rainbow Plantation in Summerdale, Al. This is an Escapee's rv park very near the border of Alabama and Florida. We asked for a boondocking site but it is so cold I was afraid we would run out of battery power. We moved to a full hookup site and we don't have to worry.

Tomorrow we head to New Orleans for Mardi Gras. All the good sites are taken in the French Quarter area, imagine, 190 dollars a night. I think we will start checking Slidell and then go as near to New Orleans as possible. We have a short drive tomorrow so we have all day to look for a place.

We came across this Airstream American 345 at a rest stop near the Alabama border. I think this is from the mid to late 80s. That is a really nice rig.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Now Comes The Cold!

More rain late yesterday followed by cold weather down in the 40s. Not bad though, no snow and below freezing temperatures.

We went to the Collier County Museum yesterday and we were in luck. Not only did we tour the museum but there is also an exhibition of Clyde Butcher photography. He is a well-known Everglades photographer.

The information at the museum gives you a good history of the area, the Everglades, its people and culture. The museum and the information is very well designed and done.

This is a small gazebo garden in back of the museum, they have a large walk that takes through all of the native flora of Florida.

My brother and I in front of the museum. He happened to receive a call from another sibling who is wintering on Maui. We had a chat and some good laughs on the phone.

Dinners and happy hours continue on a regular basis and tonight we are going the Waterfront with my brother and his wife to celebrate their birthdays. That should be a real humdinger.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Day At The Beach

Listening to the news over the last few days I am happy to be here in Florida with some rain and 75F degree weather. The blanket of snow that is covering the Mid-Atlantic doesn't appeal much to me or the other rvers here at the Club Naples Resort. We are out and about in shorts, riding bikes, enjoying happy hours and barbeques.

We got off to the beach and spent a couple of hours there. It was a bit overcast and windy but nevertheless to have our toes in the whites sands of Naples was a real treat. We ate some snacks, walked around and talked for a while before heading back to my brother's house for lunch.

After a nap we got together for dinner and my sister-in-law prepared a meal fit for a retired Mexican king. Pot roast, green bean casserole, croissants, salad and fine bottle of merlot. Neighbors Steve and Kay dropped by for dinner and drinks and we got home around 10:30. A good time had by all.

Today is Sunday and we fixed a Mexican breakfast. Lazy it will be as we head over to Wally World for a bit, do a little shopping and read the paper. Maybe tonight we will get together for a shrimp boil. I extended our stay here by a few days and may even make it another week.

Florida's Cluster F...!

This project at the intersection of Immakole and the I-75 has been underway since I was here last March. Coming home from my brother's house the other night, traffic was backed up for half a mile and the cops with their lights running were sitting in their cars blocking the on ramp.

The funny part is the detour they set up. As you can see in the photo's above, the barricades are rented from a guy named Bob and they are all over the place. The detour takes you north on the freeway for 3.6 miles and then you have to turn around and head south which is where you wanted to go to begin with.

So what happened to Bob and his barricades on the detour turnaround at the next exit? There are none. Instead, after you figure out what they want you to do there is a teeny tiny little sign about 2ft by 2ft that says "DETOUR".

I guess all states suffer from the infamous DOT. I wonder if this will be the same when we return next year. All I can say is, I want to get in the business of renting "detour signs" to the Florida Dept of Transportation. Looks like Bob is making some good money with his barrels. Okay, I'm finished.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

The Sun Finally Shines Over Florida

Yesterday the sun came out in the afternoon. Today it has been sunny and warm all day. We went to the Corkscrew Swamp for an outing with second graders. My brother volunteers there on Tuesdays and we met up with him in the morning. Our gps is working like a charm and it took us there without any problem.

We started the tour with a group of five students and led them around the swamp. First came an educational class that included dipping into the pond and pulling out whatever creatures they could find to indentify. They matched them up with pictures on display. Then they went on to look at insects, reptiles and spiders reading about there habits. They had to take a short test to see if they could remember what they had read and some fun facts.

My brother Bob telling tall tales to the kids about the swamp.

Off we went on a walk into the swamp ending up on the boardwalk. We saw many colorful birds, plants and small wildlife. The kids had a ball and so did we.

This rat snake walked right out in front of us as we were getting ready to go home.

Later in the evening we went over to my brother's condo and had a few drinks before heading out for a great dinner at Pincher's. The seafood was delicious and so was the wine.

Today we did some grocery shopping and right now I am waiting for the clothes to finish drying. I'm sitting in the clubhouse watching them set up for pizza and salad night.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Arrived In Naples

A pretty good day. We arrived in Naples at 6 p.m. We slept in late until 7 a.m. We got the estimate of repairing the Funfinder, the repair equals it's value. We found a new 2008 Funfinder 230DS with dual slides that weighs in at 4400 lbs. Has everything we want. We like the price and are still in negociations. I am a little concerned about the length at 24 feet for the Durango. The weight is less than 4400 lbs so that is not an issue.

If anyone has any comments let me know. Here is the website for this model. We have the Durango Hemi rated at 8800 lbs.

Funfinder 230DS