Saturday, October 30, 2010

Getting Things Ready

The picture above is the Monterrey - Laredo autopista going over Mamulique. It has always intrigued me or at least for the last 25 years. If you take the Columbia Hwy 1 you can access a small campground on the other side. But that's another story.

This week I was working again in Sabinas Hidalgo. It is about 90 miles north and I drove back and forth everyday. You think I would be tired after working and having to drive two hours or more to get home depending on traffic in Monterrey and the new "mega checkpoint" they have set up in front of the Monterrey Municipal Airport in Escobedo just north of the metro area.

I believe we have come to a decision to hire someone to bring the new rv from Indiana to Houston or San Antonio where it will wait for us until Christmas when we start our vacation and possibly the time in which we import it permanently into Mexico. I did the numbers and by the time I get new tires for the truck, gas, lodging, food and tolls, it just made more sense to have it delivered. In fact, it actually saves money. We have a holiday coming up on the 15th so we can make arrangements to pick it up in Houston around that time and spend a night or two out on the road before dropping it off in San Antonio. We are really excited and can't wait. I still have some details to workout such as choosing the company (although they have all made bids), temporary insurance, u.s. insurance while it is in San Antonio, etc. A lot for me to handle as we live here and doing this stuff long distance is not easy. Apart from that I feel like an ignoramus these days working with people in English. I just feel I lose the words or how to ask the questions and they answer me like I'm off or something.

My task tonight and tomorrow is to prepare for my trip on Monday to Guatemala. I wish I could stay longer but it is a work trip and there are things to get done here. We can always go back and I am hoping with our rv someday. I will be taking pictures and reporting from Guatemala City starting on Monday afternoon.

On Wednesday, I saw a caravan of five rvs heading south on hwy 85. So far so good on reports of people crossing the border and getting to their destinations. We heard from PJ and Claudia and I hope we can meet up with them if not rving at least for a couple of days.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fruitful Gatherings - Oremos Por Mexico

Yesterday we took a drive into town for a fantastically well-organized prayer meeting. It took place in front of the Governors Palace at the Macroplaza. 20,000 people from all faiths gathered to pray for peace in Mexico. I have to think that many from the Catholic faith did not participate as it was mostly evangelically driven and here in Mexico Catholics stick pretty much to themselves.

I was truly impressed. I am not too fond of organized religion but I do consider myself a very spiritual person. That is another blog post and one that I pretty much keep to myself unless we are having a discussion with other people. It is one of my favorite topics and I like to share my beliefs. They are quite a bit different.

What I liked was that there were lots of teenagers from all walks of life, or here in Mexico many different classes. I would rather see them with their hands raised believing in something that later in life they make other decisions about their belief system then to have them out doing drugs and getting involved in gangs. Once they are grown they do whatever they want but at least have a good running start at life.

There was lots of live music, government officials who spoke about morals and values and the need for more of "at home" education. Also, to remind us that we too are part of the problem as well as part of the solution to which I agree wholeheartedly.

We left our car at the multi-level parking at the convention center and took the boat on the riverwalk 3.7 kms meandering along the route watching families with their kids enjoying a Saturday afternoon. It was actually picture perfect. Going back to the car we took the boat again but with the most spectacular view of a full moon. The sky was clear, the stars were out and I really thought that I was a true idiot to not take the camera. Then next full moon is November 19th I believe and I want to return to take that boat ride at night and video tape the whole thing.

This weekend was work time. I had promised myself that last year was my last year to rake leaves. Well, the house hasnt sold yet and here I am. Well, the good thing is that if we dont sell the house soon at least we have a new rv to get out once and awhile.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Juan Williams Is Angry At NPR

This is not rv or Mexico related but:

A sad situation and one that just shows us that money comes before ethics. Juan Williams worked for NPR for years and was a feature on my friend Bill O'Rielly's The Spin Zone (tongue in cheek).

Now Juan has taken the defensive. He actually brought some common sense reasoning to Fox and Bill O and it created a somewhat middle ground.

He lost a fan here and probably more. He is now out to bring NPR down and I think he will have the backing and the support to at least shake things up. As an rver and road driver, I thrive on the availability of NPR affiliates and the great relief they bring from the lies that are told by the far right.

It looks like this is a win for Bill, Glen and Rush. What a shame. Credibility is not what it used to be. On tonight's Fox show, Juan played the interview between Bill and NPR where Bill said, "so this ends the interview". We weren't allowed to see NPR's response. This is typical of Fox News and Bill O'Rielly.

BTW, to be able to respond in one Bill's infamous polling questions, you need to become a member to be able to vote. That throws the poll right out the window.

Sometime before I die, I will read the memoirs of Juan Williams and his regrets to give into a 2 million dollar contract instead of sticking to his morals and values.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Walmarting In Monterrey

Someone on the mentioned the 14 Walmart stores we have in the Monterrey Metro area. I can assure you that they are not fenced but they do have guards and some have controlled parking. The issue of boondocking in the metro area is not about safety it is about the stores that you can actually access with a motorhome/toad or a travel trailer/fifth wheel. Because of the truck routes that are available, there are only three possible Walmarts that would be good for boondocking. Also, you would want to stick to those stores that are 24 hour as there would be more traffic in terms of shoppers, employees and suppliers.

Here is my list and what I know about the locations in terms of safety:

Walmart Plaza Centrika is a new store in a revitalized area that is and used to be industrial. It is on the truck route and I highly recommend it. It has controlled parking and is part of a huge shopping center with food court and is surrounded by new gated communities. It is part of a revitalization program where they have moved factories out to the new industrial parks of which we have 57. I was there today, btw, and it is very nice. It has three Chinese restaurants.


Walmart Miguel Aleman is also on the truck route and has easy connects to the Autopista from Reynosa as well as Saltillo. It has probably the largest parking facility of any of the Walmarts and is easy in and out access. I cann0t say if they have installed controlled parking. You will be paying by the hour and the rates run between 4 and 6 pesos an hour. So if you overnight at a Walmart in the Monterrey Metro area, expect to pay around 75 pesos to spend the night. This Walmart is also close to other shopping, a VIPs restaurant (you will find one at each Walmart), and across the street is a Chinese food palace that charges 75 pesos, food troughs are lined up and cover Chinese, American, Mexican, and Deep-Friedian foods.


This last Walmart, Walmart Las Torres, is on the truck route leading you out of Monterrey to the south on hwy 85 heading to my house and down to Linares, N.L. and Ciudad Victoria, Tamps. In Linares, there is a Soriana on the highway that is good for shopping before leaving on the road and you can park there for a couple of hours. I wouldnt park there at night though. At the Las Torres Walmart location, there were two shootings this year. Both were targeted towards lookouts (halcones) that were parked under a tree. I wouldnt worry about that, it hasnt affected business or foot traffic of which there is a lot. This Walmart is well-stocked, has a food court including McDonalds, a car wash and a Sams. An rvers truck was stolen there three years ago, but that is another story. There are guards and they too are installing controlled parking.


Here is the webpage for the Walmart locations by state in Mexico and each one has a clickable map: Walmart Mexico Locations

I am surprised at the number of Walmarts and their affiliates here in Mexico. Mexico loves Walmart. They pay their sales tax monthly.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Sorry, I Can't Keep A Secret

As I have told you before, I am a real research bug. It can work both ways though. I searched and searched for a travel trailer. Everything I came up with was always not what we wanted but I really wanted an rv, if that makes any sense. In other words, whatever it would take we would have an rv for Christmas. My "favorites" link is full of rvs we checked, called on, even looked at in person on our trips to Texas.

Over the weekend I made the remark that I regretted selling the 18ft as we would still have something to travel in and not be stuck at home. I was then "regañado" (given the ole shaking finger) and I got back on the internet to see if there were any of the particular model we had in mind still available. They were only made for one model year and very few were made. I believe there are only six used ones available. When someone has something in mind, it is best to follow through with their wishes.

Well, I got on the internet and found what I thought was an internet scam. I sent the email, received a response and checked the name on the internet. What I found was that the person I was corresponding with was a regional sales manager for a manufacturer. I won't give the whole story away but we found what we were looking for at a price we could afford. We will now be rving in December somewhere around the 20th.

I have to admit, we or I will be driving for at least three days to get our dream retirement rv. For most of you it is "just a travel trailer". For us, it is so spacious, luxurious and most of all fits our budget, the length and weight are perfect too! I figure I'll be taking off somewhere around November 10th sometime after my work trip to Guatemala. It has all the bells and whistles we would have never even thought of purchasing.

I don't know as of yet, what we will do with the rv. We may just keep it at our house in San Antonio for a while before importing it into Mexico. However, what good would an rv do me sitting in Texas after our Christmas trip.

It now appears that things are in motion, in terms of retirement. I received an offer from a Mexican wholesaler on our 40ft travel trailer this afternoon. I am meeting with a real estate agent this week. Are we on a roll?

May I present our Funfinder 230DX:

Our first mod, adding shower doors.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Taking Risks

This week I had the opportunity to work out of town. For three days I drove to Sabinas Hidalgo which is located between Nuevo Laredo and Monterrey. What a wonderful three days. We are entering my favorite time of year, the weather is cooling off, the rains are passing and it's nothing but clear skies.

Everyday I would take off on this 2 hour trip north. Once I left the north side of Monterrey and entered the autopista, my mood changed completely. I was no longer worried, I felt free and sense of euphoria. The hills are so green and to see the desert floor filled with mesquite, yucca and cactus. The two mountain passes that take you from Monterrey north are breathtaking this time of year.

The day before I left, there was an attempt on the town's mayor. People said to be careful and watchout. I danced and sang in the car, I stopped and picked up a coffee and a sandwich, and in each town I stopped in people were living their lives regardless of what was happening. Sure they watch their backs more closely but to see people on horseback riding by the OXXO and Pemex and people waving and saying hello. That's what it is all about for me.

When I arrived the first day I had instructions to report to a particular office. I went in and no one knew anything about my project. But they didn't blow me off either. They took me around practically by the hand asking where, how and when. They got me connected and they all knew each other.

My second day upon arrival, I found a package on my desk with homemade empanadas de calabaza, coffee, and all the equipment and air conditioning up and running. Day two they brought me a kilo of local avocados, the kind that you eat with the skin on. They told me to bring my rv next time and they would make accommodations for me to park in a secure area with electricity, water and access to wifi.

What a terrific place. Teachers came from small towns nearby and surprised that I had already rved to their towns and knew some of the colorful locals. They were happy that I could shrug off the dark and blackened attitude that many people have today and their fear of getting out and traveling. Of course they warned me of what to look out for and to not be out late at night especially on the highway.

We are ready to get back on the road and I have received many discreet emails asking where to go and what to look out for. These next couple of months will be a test and we will see what happens. We need to live our lives and make the best of it. Go for the gusto.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Installing More LEDs

I finally got around to changing out some lights and installing some LEDs over the kitchen sink. Three years ago we installed some spots. They were too hot and too bright and it consumed 120 watts. The LEDs I installed consume 2.5W apiece for a total of 7.5 watts. That's quite a savings, 112.5 watts to be exact. Imagine how much energy that consumes. I am posting this as I just got our bill for the August/September billing period. The total with tax came to 1100 pesos for the two months or $88 dollars. I was getting worried as the first two weeks of September got quite hot and I was using the air conditioning in the late afternoons.

Without the flash and the ceiling lights off.

Cool weather is slowly arriving and soon it will be cold every night. I love it. Of course what is the meaning of cold? For me it is 15C. That is comfortable weather. I found a chimney sweep and hope to have him out soon to clean out the chimney and install a damper. Never had one and the wood burns way too fast. I hope he can do it.

I spoke to my brother from Idaho today. He saw me on Skype and gave me a ring. He asked me how things were going here. I told him that we had spent Saturday night in Monterrey as we went to a quinceñera. When we arrived home we had no electricity. I asked my neighbor who was returning from the OXXO on the corner and she explained that the CFE crew was repairing the line. Next day I found out that one of the quintas about 300 meters up the road had been rented out. The discussions got heated, guns were pulled (big ones) and they chased each other in their cars up to the highway where the shootout occured. One guy was killed and he crashed into a light pole taking down the line.

He asked me what I thought. I told him it was like the wild wild west here. Not much different than the late 80s and early 90s in the U.S. when gang wars were the thing but ours are from the 21st century and on steroids.

I know I have told the story before, but it happened in front of my house in an upscale neighborhood in San Antonio, if any of you know the city, Almos Park is the second richest area in the city. A gang decided to get revenge, drove by with several cars filled with armed gang members and literally left my neighbor's son, on the ground with his insides "out". So is all this really new? In the U.S., 1,100,000 car thefts, 38,000 home invasions and 16,000 murders for 2009. Different cultures and different ways to handle it. Just get ready to duck!

We have decided that we are going on with our lives and we will take the necessary precautions. Look out rving world, we may be back sooner than you think!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Mexican Court System and Lawsuits

Although it is true that lawsuits are not common in Mexico, and thank god for that, you can file a lawsuit for any "frivolous" thing you want and for any amount. I'm not sure where people get the idea that here you are on your own. A Mexican court and judge will hear any trial put before them.

Mexicans have been suing each other since the revolution. In fact, I am getting ready to sue my insurance company if they deny my flood claim. How about them apples?

So many rumors are spread with very little fact. Even those who are well-traveled or live in Mexico are sometimes the farthest from reality as they stick to what they know; hanging around with their own kind, living in American compounds, American associations, etc. I'm not saying that's a bad thing but it doesn't really give you a good feel for another country when you live like that. Just listen to those who have lived overseas working for a U.S. company or the government, their comments are far from factual.

Also, Baja is representative of the whole republic. Remember that the population of all of the Baja Sur is only 551,000 versus a total population of 103,000,000.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

A Moment of Silence

A moment of silence for Lucy Quintanilla who was murdered yesterday in a shooting in the center of Monterrey. An innocent bystander who was on the phone with her boyfriend at the time. A student from the UANL in the Facultad de Artes Visuales, loved by her fellow students and family. Descansa en paz mujer, recordaba por su sonrisa. Una lástima, una joven, en el inicio de su vida, en su ultimo minuto de vida hablaba con su novio (rest in peace, remembered for her smile, just in the beginning of her life, in her last minute on this Earth she spoke to her boyfriend).

I only hope someday, that her classmates and boyfriend talk about this experience as part of Mexico's dark history. A violent, cruel, evil time in our history, attributed to those millions of selfish people who continue to consume drugs in the U.S. not knowing the damage, pain and hurt they have caused the rest of the world, especially my Mexico.

(To this day, no one has been able to explain how 40,000,000,000 dollars worth of drugs makes its way into the "greatest" country in the world every year, with the largest most technologically advanced military, more money than most countries will see in their history. A country that attempts (and always fails) to tell the rest of the world how to live their lives but has no control over its own population. It's sickening.)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Fall Is In The Works

Fall is in the works and so are my chores here around the quinta. Today I took off the screens and washed the protector bars, windows, and cleaned out any cobwebs. I'm not finished yet but I did get the most difficult parts out of the way. I can't use a hose as it really isn't of any value, a bucket with soap and water with some vinegar to get the water stains off the windows (the sprinklers sometimes hit the windows with hard well water) and to clean the bars on the windows. After 25 years, I can't imagine living in a house without bars on the windows.

You know, there are two things that scare me; clowns and people who whistle. Not the "whistle while you work kind", but that scary warbling kind. There is a guy who lives about 2 kms from here and his mother lives around the corner. He reminds me of Boo Radley from To Kill A Mockingbird. He wears a camouflage duck hunting cap and whistles all the way down the road. Spooky to say the least. So here I am, with the front gates open, standing on a ladder when Boo comes by. He thinks I can't see him. He stands in front of the gates for a minute watching me but I can see him in the reflection of the window. Chills were running up my spine.

This kind of work gives me time to think. The weather is changing, dark clouds hover overhead, their is just a bit of a breeze and the smell of burning leaves is in the air. It reminds me of a time more than 35 years ago. I worked part-time after school in a clock repair shop. It was called Thompson's in Kansas City. A strange job to say the least. We worked in an old house in the basement. The first floor was the showroom and counter filled with grandfather clocks, wall clocks and time pieces of all types. We dealt a lot with antique clocks. My job was cleaning them as they came in, tightening wheels and being the time keeper. Talk about time going by slowly. Oh so slowly. Now that I look back it was a cool job but at the time I just couldn't take it. There were three clockmakers. One was ready to retire and had returned from a trip to Hawaii. That fall he invited me out to his house to rake leaves. It was a day just like today.

I still have bad feelings about that job. You see, I left the job after six months. It was still two weeks later and I hadn't told my dad. I was looking feverishly for a new job, it was after school anyway, not like I was going to starve without it. So here we are at dinner one night and my dad says, "I stopped by Thompson's today to walk you home". That's all he said to me. To this day I feel like I really let him down. We talked about it years later but I carry that with me to this day. He was a real wiener at times but now that I am older, I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. To this day, Juan calls me the human clock. I can tell you the time almost to the minute. BTW, I never wear a watch.

Tomorrow I will finish the windows and then move on to the next task; touch up the bars with paint and clean the front gates using my rv brush. I need to attempt a tile removal tomorrow and the roof on the corner shed needs tile on the roof.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Things That I Did Today

First off, the Mexican stock market hit an all time high of 34,200 although it closed at 34,040 a second record closing for the year. The dollar closed at 12.14/12.69. I guess life goes on. We went to a birthday party on Saturday. Juan said it looks like nobody cares anymore. We will just carry on with life and not let things stop us.

So today I went to Allende. I had a skirt made out of block put around the trailer last year. It needed a touch up of paint. While I was painting two guys from the vidriera (glass shop) came by to change out a broken window on the slide out.

I also am pushing to get an answer on our insurance claim for the house. If they aren't going to pay I want to get the work started. We stopped by Lowe's (we now have two in Monterrey) to see what Dremel tools they carry. I want to cut the grout around a couple of cracked floor tiles we have. I saw a DIY video on YouTube that shows how it is done but I'm not sure what tool wheel to buy. I found some that are for metal thinking those might work. What do you think?

I also picked up the king size bedspread from the cleaners. The place I used to take it, Suprema in Monterrey, now charges 258 pesos which was a big increase from last year. I decided to do some shopping around. Believe it or not, we have a dry cleaners here in our little town and they washed it for 100 pesos. As I have said before, everything in Monterrey is double.

Anyway, the trailer is in very good condition and I think we will sell it. ¨Things have changed and I really thought we would have sold the house by now and moved out there. We keep pluggin' along but we don't use the trailer. It's time to let someone have it that can really use it. Too bad we don't have a HD diesel pickup, but 40ft is a lot to pull around.

As a p.s., keep George in mind. He's a good man and needs lots of support right now. Send him some energy.