Thursday, December 30, 2010

Galveston Island

We arrived here yesterday at 4p.m. after driving hours in a hard downpour through Houston. The new rv tows like a charm and we had no problems whatsoever. I was a bit apprehensive at first but after getting it out on the highway it was back to normal. I really don't notice much difference between the old travel trailer and the new one.

As we pulled into the park, Croft and Norma were waiting. We got the space right next to them and got set up in a jiffy. Everything is working great so far and the small bugs have been worked out. The bedroom slide was not extended completely in San Antonio. There just wasn't enough room to do that. Now, wow, we have a lot of space.

Last night we hung out next door and had a few drinks. Tonight we went for dinner at a great seafood restaurant called Shrimp and Stuff. Fun time had by all. We came back and sat outside for a drink but it is too cold and there is the ocean breeze. We called it an early night and we are in the bedroom surfing and watching tv.

Tomorrow night is the big party here at the rv park. I'm debating whether or not I should wear one of those funky cardboard hats, you know, the metallic blue or green ones?

My greetings go out to Kevin and Ruth, John and Angela, Bill and Mo, and Bill and Sharon. Thanks for visiting and becoming friends.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Merry Christmas Everybody!

I haven't been posting as we have no internet access the place we are staying. I am at the gym and they have given me access for today. All is well and we are getting ready for our trek to the Gulf coast to see Croft and Norma.

We have received lots of emails and greeting from rvers all over the U.S. and Mexico and many comments on the blog as well. So thanks to everyone for remembering us and I hope we meet up soon and get this awful problem in Mexico resolved so we can all feel good about rving here again.

I got a great message from James and Barbara, they were in our notorious Christmas group last year. It was good to hear from them as well as Les who has been having a great time in Mexico. I need to send a special hello to Croft and Norma, P.J. and Claudia, Mimi and Jonna and my friend the Pie Lady Bethie. She is a good gal and I only met her in person once but she really made an impression on me.

As I think of more I will post them, I hate leaving anyone out. My family never reads the blog so I send them raspberries for Christmas. I do have one loyal sister who reads it occasionally and to her I send a big hug.

So, Merry Christmas to all!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Some Things Are Just Better In Mexico

Not having internet at home is a PIA here in the U.S. I have to go to a FedEx office and they charge an arm and a leg. Right now I am at 12 minutes and the charge is almost three dollars. Ridiculous. In Mexico you can check your email or use internet on just about every corner and the cost is five or ten pesos for half an hour or hour.

The unfriendliness of people is another thing. God forbid you make a comment to someone in the store about traffic, weather or prices of products and they look at you like you have invaded their space. BTW, never do like we do and rub a kid's head sitting in a grocery cart, all hell will break loose.

Speaking of prices, wow, the price of food here is outrageous. I may just lose some weight while I'm here. Key to a good budget is eat less.

More later in hopes we get the internet going at home. The rv is working beautifully, the cats shorted out the bedroom slide. They got underneath it and fiddled with something. I took it all apart and put it back together. Blew a fuse in the process. All working now.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

I Love The Funfinder

Sorry but I am at a FedEx office. The rv park has no internet. I told my friend Sam that I can't rate his driveway with a five star until he gets internet :). I am looking for a two wire modem today. I need internet.
Got here just fine yesterday. The drive was fast but the border traffic stank. Took me over an hour. They wanted to ding me for telling them the SUV is mine when it is in Juan's name. Here in Mexico you can't have more than one name on the title or registration. I showed them the insurance with both names. They said they couldn't see the truck on their computer. It takes pictures of every crossing and attaches it to your passport number. I said we always cross at McAllen and haven't used the truck at the border for a couple of years because of the security problem. They let me pass.
I stopped counting the paisanos that passed me on the highway in Mexico. After 15 minutes I counted 50 and it was just non-stop after that. Too many people coming I don't care what the media says. Also, the ole King of Kino is at it again. He says Mexico tourism is down. Au contraire. Mexico tourism is up 17 to 20 % for the year. Americans aren't the only ones who travel to Canada. Europeans, especially Eastern Europeans flock to the Yucatan and other beach areas during the winter to escape the harshness of their winters. So how can I prove this? Check the immigration website. It shows all the tourist visas issued by month and year. It is so obvious. But, some people talk out of their rear ends. I prefer the facts. I may just take the time to do a write up and post it in hopes the King gets his feathers ruffled.
Back to the rv now. I need to get the LP gas tanks set up. Some things didn't get done as promised from the factory. Who cares. I am off the ground and sleepin on wheels.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

I'm Ready To Roll

The suv is packed with all our trailer stuff. The cat carriers are loaded, cat box, and my music to occupy my time. I am headed out for San Antonio first thing in the morning. I am shooting to arrive in SAT around 2 p.m.

The rv is calling me and I will be sleeping in it tomorrow night. I also have the electric blanket.

My only concern is the prison break in Nuevo Laredo yesterday where 141 inmates were allowed to escape.

I will update tomorrow when I arrive. Juan will be up on Friday via bus. Finally, all things have come together.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Our Christmas Posada 2010

This year I decided that I was tired of smokey, alcohol-filled family gatherings where the men went one way and the women the other usually taking care of the kids and doing all the cooking. Also, we have spent so much of this year working with the new programs in education and preaching the glories of civics and ethics. It was time to show it instead of just talk about it. Even though this is Mexico, it too is now all about cellphones, IPods, laptops, internet and worst of all, Facebook.

I took it upon myself to organize a family posada. The posada is reenacting Mary and Joseph's quest for shelter in Bethlehem. I started by making a list of all the family. Juan had to help me because when we had finished we realized his father and mother (QEPD) had created a family of 114 people. Boy, had I taken on too big of an event or what!

The idea was to keep it simple. I purchased everything to make cheese burgers, charro beans, potatoe chips and all the fixings. We rented a Santa suit for the kids and I proceeded to make 60 individual bags of candy. I ordered a sheet cake for 100 people and Juan created two raffles; one for the kids and one for the adults. We printed copies of the posada and picked up enough candles for the group.

Time for the big party and it all went off without a hitch. It took a bit to get things going as it was a Friday night and only one week before Christmas so traffic in this city recovering from the worst hurricane in 100 years was a mess. As people showed up they heard Christmas music instead of loud cumbias playing and overtaking the conversations. Kids dressed for the party began to play in the patio at Nelly and Norma's house. They have two townhouses together with a large front patio more than big enough for all of us.

Couples shared past experiences and the burgers were on the grill. As the clock ticked and the crowd began to grow it was time to put have the group out on the street and start the posada. Candles were lit, the two groups were formed and we began singing. As we asked for shelter for the night we were soon received and accepted to come through the gates. Cheers and clapping were heard, it was obvious the Christmas spirit had been found. I knew we were on the right track.

We had tables and chairs set up with bright red table clothes dressed with all the coutremont including the bowl of sliced jalepeños to top off those tasty burgers. Everyone dug in and began to eat and the conversations settled down. Just when we thought "what could be next" we heard a Ho Ho Ho at the gate and lo and behold there he was. Decked out in bright red and his white, flowing white beard. It was really him and the kids moved toward the gates in amazement. Santa did come just like I knew he would.

The kids went nuts as well as the adults. One by one they sat on Santa's lap as he asked them what they wanted for Christmas. The Christmas music sounded in the background and bags of dulces were given to each and everyone.

The gift for the adults was a baby Jesus to put in the nativity. Each of the women read a card that had a description of Christmas and only one card read at the end, "and here, I will stay with you".

It was a good time had by all.

Friday, December 17, 2010

When Traveling To Mexico With Your Pet

I took the cats to the vet today and asked about the new requirements for bringing pets to Mexico. I know this is a controversial issue as some people get stopped and others don't. In our case, crossing into the U.S. they have asked for our pet papers twice in 25 years. Returning to Mexico they have asked for them once.

So take the information directly from the government webpage which is translated (loosely) into English:


Thursday, December 16, 2010

It's Almost Time To . . . . .

Get that rv on the road. Yippie! Looks like I may take off on my own with the cats on Sunday so I can get the trailer ready, hooked up and taken for a test run. We will then stay in San Antonio for Christmas and then head down to meet up with Croft and Norma and whoever else will be around them. Depending on where we end up for New Year's we will meander our way back to the border and do the importation of the trailer.

We received good news today from the manufacturer. They had the list price on the invoice with the discount they gave us. We would have had to pay 0n that amount. I called the factory and they have decided that they can invoice us for the actual amount paid. Wow, that will make it even better for us. I still don't know if it will fit through the gates once we get it home but that will be dealt with then. It will only give me the excuse to sleep in the trailer at night.

We lost a fur friend this week. 15 years ago we were at our friend's house. Juan saw a small dachshund get hit by a car. He became Little Bit with a bad front foot who spent his life with a great family and overcame his severe limp. He carried that damaged leg around all those years and never complained. He brought all of us a lot of good times and he loved to sit on my lap. I begged to take him rving but he suffered from car sickness. The last time we were in San Antonio he was so feeble that his tail was crooked from arthritis and he couldn't get very far without falling over. Well, now he's with Gum, Timber, Gingi, Maggie, Scarlet and Chester chasing squirrels and sniffing and licking each other. I know they are waiting for us and we are anxious to meet up with them again.

On another topic, my good friend Carlos Slim has done it again. Since 1996 he has paid the bail for almost 84,000 prisoners who have committed petty crimes and are first time offenders. The bail is around 500 dollars per person and this year he is paying for 8000 people. If it weren't for someone paying the bail these people would spend years in prison or local jails. For me, it is a good thing.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Sorry, I'm Glad It's Them Instead of Me

Oh the humanity! I love snow. I love it so much I asked my brother in Cincinnati to go outside and take pictures. Now that I've seen it, I remember why I also hate it so much. The cold that runs through your bones, never being able to get your feet warm, that mushy slush that becomes what we used to call mashed potatoes and gravy and sticks to your car eating away at the paint and the metal. Oh did I mention how I made my school and spending money? Oh yes, shoveling snow. Pushing that shovel, and to keep my hands warm I would balance that shovel handle just above my groin and then, wang, I would hit a crack in the sidewalk. Ouch!

I am certain of why I live in Mexico. I am not found of extreme heat either but I will take that over what's in these photos any day.

Snowbirds rejoice and those that have chosen to live in Mexico get down and kiss the ground you are standing on.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Difference Between Day and Night

It was a bit discomforting when they asked me if I would be willing to work in Reynosa on Friday. I thought about it for a moment and then said I could do it but only if I took the bus. I jokingly asked them to send me a helmet and bullet proof vest. They laughed on the other end of the line in Mexico City as they have little to no idea of what I was talking about. It seems as if "parts" of the country are in siege and the rest of the republic is at peace and preparing for Christmas. One other misleading fact that I would like to clear up is that the drug war is not about the general population, it is between cartels themselves and the cartels and the military. What you have seen in places such as Mier where the city was temporarily left abandoned, was not because the cartels were after the local citizens, they were fighting each other (I won't mention cartel names here) and were using the town as a target range for their activities. Once well rooted, it seems it is hard to get them out. That brings out the new strategy of the military; to get there before they do. Also, the cartels are now coming up with some sofisticated equipment such as the pope mobile. You can search that one on line if you wish.

So here I am contemplating what I had agreed to do and decided things would be okay. A day passed and it got even better when I made the decision I would drive myself. Afterall, it is a toll highway, Christmas season and the fact that they have beefed up patrols. Thursday rolls around and my the publisher's rep from Monterrey rings me up and makes me an offer. "Why don't I take you, we can visit another university while we are there and then we can justify spending the night?". I was wondering why I would want to spend the night to just turn around and come back home when she said, "Then, we can go shopping in McAllen". Ah yes, being a Regiomontano we love to "McAllear" as we say. Go shopping in McAllen. "Alright, I'm game". I mean afterall, I am in the market for a new laptop or netbook as my laptop is now in two operable pieces.

The drive there was peaceful enough and we didn't even give it a thought. The subject of the drug war came up as it is now "pan del día". That conversation didn't last long either and before we knew it we were making our shopping lists and a list of stores we wanted to visit. Cars passed us at about 160 kph, and we tooled along at 120. We stopped for a potty break, a coffee and arrived in Reynosa before we knew it. The city is changing so much. The construction boom has hit the border and there is an infusion of monies for public works projects to improve the image of the city. New gated communities going up, commercial centers and so on. We stopped at Applebees (I would have preferred tacos on the street but the company needs a factura which they would never have) and we had a pretty commercial, lousy, plastic picture perfect meal.

On to the school and traffic is at its normal hum, oh the smell of diesel in border cities. They really know how to follow that American dream with all that old beat up shit the U.S. does everything in their power to unload on other countries. Yes, the U.S. mandates upgrading school buses every few years only so that they can be tossed across the border to be used for city buses in Reynosa. I guess that imaginary line in the sky keeps the belching diesel out of the skies of McAllen and the Rio Grande Valley.

As we pulled up to the university students were coming and going as this last week was make up exams. The place was the hub of hustle and bustle at an academic level. I met with a group of ten teachers and we started the presentation. I hope they adopt our new book it is a real winner. Competence based bringing back old-fashioned values, civics and ethics.

We dropped by another school to drop off some materials, greeted the coordinator who was too busy to talk as she was in a rush to deliver grades to the dean. Some very big campuses exist in Reynosa even though most of these people could study in McAllen they prefer to stay on their own turf.

The rest is history as we crossed into that never neverland of consumerism. Boy can Americans shop. How much crap can you buy? We went to ToysRUs, BabysRUs (that made me laugh as half the people have them without planning and then they make a store to comfort you by buying things to make the kid comfortable and happy), Walmart, not once but three times, Academy, Sports Something or Other, and on and on into ad nauseum. We crossed the border twice, once on Friday afternoon and then again on Saturday.

The gist of this story (and people say I talk to much) is that when we crossed into Reynosa Friday night, it was almost midnight. The bright lights of the border bridge and the aduana, the Mexican military checking vehicles only to pull into Reynosa to find it a ghost town. The difference from day to night was amazing. It was so spooky I tried to convince my friend to run the red lights instead of just sitting there. Cars kept their distance, there was definitely a sense of fear running between the drivers on the road. No pedestrians to be found. We traveled almost to the exit of Reynosa as we stayed in the new hotel zone. The hotels were booked with holiday shoppers but it was lights out when we arrived. Pitch dark. I guess we have surrendered in some way to the criminal element. Reynosa is a border town. The descriptive says it all, "border town". Reynosa, for fear of the cartels and their activities, have chased away the tradition of the weekend "rol" or cruising that has been done by teenagers from the RGV and Reynosa for decades. Taco stands were full of weekend drinkers filling their gut to absorb some of that wonderful Mexican tequila and the plazas were once full of families out to buy those sticky red candied apples where you only eat the candy part because you know the apple is rotten, cotton candy, balloons and just a lot of Mexican noise that had been enjoyed by all. However, rats only travel at night, and they have eaten through the fabric of this city doing what they do best; terrorism.

I have always believed the way to win the battle you must face them head on. By that I mean take to the streets at night and carry on with our daily activities and routines. Form neighborhood watch groups and have weekly "know your neighbor" get togethers. Fear nothing, stand up to them without aggression.

It now appears, at least in some parts of Mexico, we are following in the footsteps of the U.S. Don't get to know your neighbor, stay inside the house playing video games, bury your head in the sand and just hope that someday things will get better. Oh the humanity.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The 16 Most Dangerous Points On Mexican Highways

First, I apologize for not posting this sooner. It will be interesting to who has already driven these highways only to tell us they had a ball driving them and that the scenery is fantastic and I hope that is what we hear.

I found this list in the El Norte newspaper on Sunday, November 21, 2010. The Policia Federal has established 16 high-risk points for transporters as well as drivers in general.

Sinaloa Hwy 80
  • Los Mochis - Toll booth Cuatro Caminos
  • Culiacán - La Reforma
  • Los Mochis - Limites de Sonora
Queretero Hwy 70
  • Libramiento Noreste
  • San Gil - Palo Alto (San Juan del Rio)
Zacatecas Hwy 34
  • Rio Grande - Limites San Luis Potosí
Puebla Hwy 32
  • Amozoc - Quecholac
Tlaxcala Hwy 29
  • Huamantla - Cuapiaxtla
Veracruz Hwy 85
  • Villa Aldama - Xalapa
  • Nautla - Emilio Carranza
  • Coatzacoalcos - Limites Tabasco
Durango Hwy 24
  • Entronque La Presa - El Vergel
Guerrero Hwy 23
  • Chilpancingo - Puente Solidaridad
  • Las Salinas - Tecpan de Galeana
Hidalgo Hwy 13
  • Puente Julián Villagran - La Aduana (Ixmiquilpan)
Three other areas I'm not listing are in the D.F. metro area in Estado de Mexico, Morelia and the Big Tamal. The associated risk is set at roughly 30% although some of these areas have not had reported incidences which may mean there have been issues that have gone unreported.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

I Don't Know Why But . . .

Some people just really know how to push my buttons. I promised myself I wouldn't post on the Mexico forum on I did pretty good going a full year. Then, one thread really yanked my chain.

I guess I don't know why it is so hard for people to accept the truth about things. In this case it was about ULSD fuel. Of course, someone had to call it American fuel. Why does everything have to belong to the good ole U.S. of A? Well, ULSD doesn't belong to the U.S., it has been produced in Europe since 1992, a long time before the U.S. every decided to refine it and make it mandatory. Actually, the U.S. is way behind Europe and Asia in many things. And that's another thing that hacks me off. People like to refer to the U.S. as America. Ask people in Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Guatemala, Ecuador, Costa Rica, Panama, and many other countries on the American continent if they are Americans. They will all answer yes.

So then, this guy has the balls to refute in a very sarcastic and cynical tone my conversation with an external Pemex consultant on my flight to Bogotá. The Ccnsultant confirmed what was true. Mexico sells ULSD at the stations on my list. He also verified that the person who sends me the list is a trustworthy source. I don't mind criticism or anyone who wants to challenge a claim, but the condescending tone is what burns my butt.

All I wanted to do is present the facts. One thing that is very hard to find on the Rv.Net is facts. Most people post information based on "a" personal experience and that becomes the norm or they just talk out of their rear ends.

I'm over it now and this will be the end of it. I'm not a hot head but I mean really. We have some fantastic sources, foreigners who live in Mexico fulltime and who have not just personal experience to share but facts that most people can't get riding around in an rv a couple of months a year. However, it is information that would be useful to rvers as they make their treks south.

That's another one that gets my goat, banking and credit/debit card use. What better source than people who live and bank in Mexico and use their credit/debit card for everything from gas to groceries and do all our banking online. Back a few years, the Comandante of Kino swore that ATMs were not available in Mexico. Sure, his Mexico, that little dirt devil of a town he hails as his Mexico. Now, years later he says ATMs are all over Mexico. I tried to tell people but they would have rather believed an rver who rarely ventures a couple of hundred kms south of the border versus someone who travels for their job in Mexico and couldnt survive without ATMs.

I'll never win the battle and their ignorance can't be changed as they have their minds made up that only in the U.S. could things work so great and be so wonderful. Makes you wonder why they come to Mexico and then want to talk it down the rest of the year.

Friday, December 3, 2010

A Day In Cali

We took off from Bogota early Wednesday morning. The airport was packed, many flights had been delayed due to heavy rains. We werent late but we would have gotten there earlier had we known what was going on. We went around to the Avianca office and told them we were on the next flight to Cali and they took us right away assigning our seats and passes.

After all that they offered us each 200.000 pesos, about 100 dollars to take the next flight. We opted for that and I offered the pass to my coworker. I dont know when Ill be back to Colombia much less fly Avianca. The pass is transferable so it was a good thing. He is a nice guy and can visit his family in Cartegena and only have to pay the taxes. Avianca has updated their fleet and most are now Airbus 320s. All seats have monitors for television, music, headphones and USB connection. Pretty cool.

The trip from the Cali airport to town was a scenic trip. Lush, green and warm. The highways are wonderful six lane toll roads.

Cali is under construction and you can see the changes. Being tropical and concrete, it needs lots of maintenance to keep the humidity and the green at bay.

New metro stations taking place of the tradional buses with the guy hanging out the door luring riders.

Posh hotel zone and shopping.

Torre de Cali Hotel and Landmark

The hotel was standard and I was hoping for a better stay. It was a one nighter so I got over it. People are friendly and the city is a hub of activity. John posted a comment wanting to know about the food. I have put it off all week but the food is bland. Im not into jungle roots, bananas and the rest is mostly Italian food. I do like the coffee and varieties of breads. Good breads are hard to find in Mexico although we did find the gold mine in SMA. I could live nicely in Colombia on fresh fruit, breads and their deep rich coffees.

I had time to walk up to Colina de San Antonio which was not far from my hotel. There is a chapel on the hill, a wonderful park and lookout as well as a few vendors selling jewelry and an excellent shop across the street which sells Colombian artesanias. I bought some bracelets and a shawl for a friend. I didnt carry the camera. As I left the hotel the security grabbed me and warned me not to carry it. They said a cell phone camera was the only way to go. Robbery and theft are big in Colombia at least in major cities.

Constant checks by police, armed guards and dogs in just about every place we went. You get used to it and it becomes pan del dia.

Tomorrow about my long trip home and a magenta moment.