Monday, January 31, 2011

Looks Like We Have a Date - Now We Need A Plan

We had a family meeting Saturday night.   The decision was made to cut off all work effective July 8th, the last day of the school year.   I will try to pack as many work trips into the next few months as possible.  

We decided that selling the house would be a great thing financially but not very probably for now.  We may promote it in the next months once the leaves have returned to the trees (they started already) and the grass turns green.  The remodeling should begin sometime in the next week and we have the estimates and the contractors.  
The new rv will be imported on the 14th of this month and parked here in the driveway while I get it ready for small weekend side trips.  Some mods will have to be made including the addition of solar for our boondocking trips.

The time has come and we both agree.  That is the most important.  Now for the plan.  We kind of have something sketched out but I need to work some more on it.   Money is not an issue in terms of counting pennies but we need to be careful at the same time.   I always prefer the side of caution and if there is something leftover, well, we can do something extra.  We need to experiment with leaving the house alone in the hands of a worker that would come once a week and cut the grass and clean the pool.  Securing the house is another issue, the rule here is that if it isn't tied down it will walk away.

As far as the travel part, we want to do some Mexico travel first.   However, the New Mexico state park system really offers the biggest bang for the buck.   Annual campground/rv site pass which includes water and site with electric an additional 4 dollars a day.   In Mexico, I need to find some other options.  The least amount is the best amount.  We don't care much to hang around an rv park but like to explore, hike, go to the beach, etc.   Internet access is important but not a must and we can always find a cibercafe here in Mexico on just about every corner and in every small town.  We can't afford to stay at La Siesta at 7000 pesos a month, so that would never work.  Boondocking is still on the board but the "where" is the big issue.  The state of Tamaulipas is out for now, we received warnings from local and state officials over the weekend.  Such a shame.  We do have the memories though.

I'm thinking seriously about university campuses and finding private property for a reasonable price.  The 3500 peso a month range is about max and we may include church and school grounds as well so we could reduce the budget even more.  

Many things to work on.  Can we turn off and on our cable, internet and phone service or reduce them to the minimums at will as well as car insurance for the VW, looking for liability only while it sits in the driveway which should cover theft.   I have my work cut out for me, but it's fun work.  

Any suggestions would be appreciated.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Maybe This Is What We Should Do

After reading about Hillary's visit this week and the news that the U.S. has been training us how to manage gangs (boy, that's a laugh and a half) I think this is what we should do:

The current strategy is to attack the bad guys.  Gun'em down, try and break them up.  Four years now and it isn't stopping them.  36,000 bad guys, police and military dead, 112 innocent people caught up in the crossfire.

Make an agreement with the different groups allowing each of them their routes to the U.S.  Each to his own limiting the battles amongst themselves.  With their routes to the border, no one will stop them under the condition that the leave the population at large alone.  Once they get there:

Let the U.S. deal with the problem.  It appears they have the know how, the money, the technology, hardware and military to fix it.  Afterall, they are the end customer.  I'm so happy they have so much freedom with guns and drugs that it doesn't affect them but tears the rest of the world apart.

I've had it with all this and so has everyone else around here.   It has to come to an end.  Let's go back to the way things were when we just turned our heads and looked the other way.  Since our neighbors to the north have all the answers on how to cure the world's ills they can end it.  Maybe, just maybe, they'll get serious and do something about "their" problems.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Undoing What Others Have Done

Sounds pretty profound but it's not.  We had some cracked floor tiles on the porch after the abuse received from Hurricane Alex.  I am tired of waiting for a response from the insurance and I am tired of waiting for people to come and do things around here.  If you want it done, you do it yourself.  A guy came last week to help me out.   He ended up leaving.   I pay him a good daily wage and sometimes more depending on the amount of work and difficulty of it.   
He asked me how much I was going to pay, and I told him that he would receive the usual.  He shook his head and said that wouldn't be enough.  So I started to negociate with him and then the truth came out.  He had received an expensive watch a couple of years back from an uncle who had passed away.  He pawned the watch at Christmas to buy gifts.  (pawning belongings is a national pastime here in Mexico, so much so it is part of Mexican movies from as far back as the forties, in fact, they have a national pawn society and encourage people to pawn things).  So he said that he would have to charge me more.  I asked how much more and he said what he needed to get the watch out of the pawn shop.  I told him to drop dead and he walked away.   Too bad.  I have been good to this guy for years, paying him extra, helping him find additional work, talking to him about going back to school (never finished secondary), managing his money, and more.   

Where was I.  Oh, so now I have been chipping away at floor tile.  Very slowly.  Why so slowly you might ask?  Because the d-----bag who built the house, the previous owner, attempted to cut corners.  Instead of putting down grout to set the floor tiles on the porch, they poured the cement and then laid the tile before the cement dried.   What a b---- it has been to remove just 12 tiles without breaking any of the surrounding ones.  I tried all the tips from YouTube videos on removing tiles but none worked and then I discovered why.  

It keeps me busy and with all the banging and chiseling it release any frustrations I may have.   You have seen the before and by weeks end you will see the replaced tiles. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

My Lifelong Idol Is Gone

A sad day for me.   I grew up with Jack sitting in front of the tv with my mom.  As a kid growing up, I was the youngest for awhile.  My mom was busy cooking, cleaning and preparing meals for 11 people at the time.  But lunchtime was lunchtime.  She would prepare herself a dish of cottage cheese and tomato slices or pinapple chunks and sit down with me to watch the show.  We would get out some canned goods, set up a chair in the living room and do some of the exercises.   It was more watching than exercising, afterall, it was lunchtime.   

Turns out I had some things in common with Jack.  He was a sugar addict as a kid.   Me too!  Mom made me butter and sugar sandwiches.  I was the baby and she gave me what I wanted.  Needless to say, sugar or not, I had all my teeth capped by age seven.

As the years went by, I kept my eye on ole Jack.  He pulled boats, barges and trains and what I liked the most was that he was always in shape.   I have followed his advice on vitamin supplements, juicing (it comes and goes sometimes depending on the year), and I exercise daily.  I hope I am granted the overall health to live not as long as Jack, but with the same quality of life as Jack.

Thanks buddy!

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Getting Ready For a Remodel

I'm now in the search for workers who can start with lowering the ceilings in the bedrooms.  One of the major issues will be moving the minisplit in one bedroom.  The drain tube runs over the bathroom ceiling and it can't be lowered anymore from its current position.  One option is to use the minisplit in the spare bedroom which now has a window unit that is up high on the wall and with the lower ceiling renders itself useless.  That means I need to buy a new unit for our bedroom.  It has always been oversized so we can find a smaller 3/4 ton that is more effecient.

After the ceilings are in I want to fix any cracks and put up new stucco on the walls.  In the rest of the house, new stucco as well as wood baseboard moldings.  A family member works for a window manufacturer.  Depending on price, we may replace the bedroom windows with dual pane and pvc frames.  
I find all of this motivating.  Apart from bringing the trailer down, it feels like lots of good things are happening.  I spoke with my brother who is in Maui for the winter.  He is selling his condo in cold Kansas City and they make their new digs in Maui permanent.  I was moping about how some of our plans seem dashed at least for now.  He wrote back saying he understood the feeling but make the best of whatever things are.  Very true.   I live in a nice house in the country with a swimming pool and neighbors who never come to there homes.  Even if they did, there are only ten neighbors.  For most people this place is a dream.   

We drove down to Allende yesterday.   We took a look at our property and discussed what we would like to build and how we want it situated on the property.   They are making some major changes there in terms of the major street we live off of there and it looks like a nice community is popping up.  We may have bought there at the right time.  Not everything is gloom and doom and  even if it were it isn't fair to myself to become part of it.   I have to find my way of living in it and move around it.  

It appears that rvers are safe and not being affected in their movements around the country.  As soon as we get that trailer here we are on the road.  I'm just a bit put out by constant reminders of how great the weather is south of here by the likes of Les (The Journey of a Lifetime)  Kevin and Ruth (Travels With Kevin and Ruth) and our friends in Merida, Jonna and Mimi (Blah . . . Blah . . .  Blah . . . Ginger).  Les will be taking a ferry across the Sea of Cortez in February to the pennisula or Baja California.  I've been checking the ferries that travel back and forth.  What a cool adventure!  Kevin and Ruth have been snorkeling for the last couple of weeks and relaxing on the beaches near Huatulco.  I also receive a newsletter from La PeƱita Rv Park and it looks like everyone is having fun but us.  

Here is a picture of my latest home improvement or DIY.   I purchased this in a Goodwill store in San Antonio over Christmas for a heavy price of $3.99 light bulbs included.  I put it on a dimmer and it adds a bit of ambiance to the entryway.

My final comment of the day, "get out there and travel, be it by car, bus, plane or rv".

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Tourism Was Up For 2010

Good news for Mexico. Tourism soared again and Mexico received 22 million visitors. That's a lot of people dropping a lot of money to the tune of 11.3 billion dollars. That's right, dollars.

Included in those numbers are any persons crossing the border and requesting a tourist visa as well as those that fly into the country from other destinations. Cancun and the state of Quintana Roo are still the most desired destinations followed by Mexico City and then Guadalajara.

Rvers are really a drop in the bucket and all this hype about whether to travel in Mexico or not keeps a lot of people busy. I for one have decided we will continue enjoying our country the best we can.

In fact, one of my brothers who takes a yearly vacation in Mexico has invited us to Loreto in April. It looks inviting and we may just fly over there for a week.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

I Blew My Stack

Today I had a meeting with our local mayor. Yes, you might think that based on the 60 Minutes report and the latest news out of Monterrey that I would have second thoughts. No, I don't. I arrived on time for the meeting and waiting 45 minutes. I kept pressuring the secretary until finally they passed me on to the "Secretario", or the mayor's assistant. I know the assistant. We worked out together at the gym where I went in Monterrey for a couple of years. Nice guy but now part of the bureaucracy.

We bantered back and forth about the problems on the road where I lived. I outlined all the times that I have visited the mayor's office, people I have spoken to, lack of services, and the fact that I have been with this project for 10 years. Getting the road paved is my ulitmate goal. However, I would settle just to have the road graded and and material put down to eliminate the problems with messy mud during rainy periods.

I was getting the run around and finally I let him have it. My hand came down so hard on his desk that he backed away in his chair. I think at that point I got his attention. I told him if I had to I would go to my local district representative and senator or to the governor's office if that is what I have to do to get some results. I also reminded him of the fact that I pay the property tax and car taxes every year in the first two weeks of the year. This money goes directly into the city coffer.

He went as far as to remind me that after Hurricane Alex, they were waiting for the monies from Fonden (Mexico's FEMA). Well, I reminded him that that was the same bullshit answer that I received in 2005 after Hurricane Emily and nothing came out of that either except multiple visits to the city offices, frustration and personal expense.

He picked up the phone and scheduled me an appointment for tomorrow morning with the new director of public works. I will give him a ration of my b.s. too if he starts to yank my chain. I am also considering privatizing our half of the road making an agreement with the neighbors to put up an entrance and an automated gate. We receive no services from the city that including trash pickup, water or sewage, street repair (obviously) or anything else. That will be my next point of attack.

We have decided that the house will probably not sell anytime soon due to the reputation our little town has gained over the last year. So I have made the commitment to get this done.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Remind Where I Live?

Last night the thermometer fell below 0C. This is crazy. The temperature at noon today is hovering around 3C. I just came back from Santiago. I stopped by to ask the gas LP man to come by the house. The two cylinders are running low and I don't want to be without heat tonight. I also stopped for a haircut. Town is pretty much desolate, everyone is hiding inside to escape the cold.

I had a space heater going here in the bedroom. The gas heat doesn't reach the bedrooms. Stupid me. The space heater is 1500W and never shuts off. The minisplit on the wall is 1200W and has a thermostat turning itself on and off. I have it set at 20C and with the electric blanket on and the cats by my side I am keeping warm. Saturday it will reach a high of 10C, geez, I can't wait.

So, is this really Mexico? Les is in SMA playing tennis and enjoying the sunshine. Jonna and Mimi are in the Yucatan and the temps are 30C. I must be missing something. Could someone remind me where I live? I can't figure it out based on this weather.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Part 2, 60 Minutes - Santiago, N.L.

EcoTour Matacanes

Cueva de Murcielagos

Presa de la Boca

Cola de Caballo (Horsetail Falls)

Iglesia San Francisco in the Plaza Principal

Now everyone knows the major part of the story, has seen where I live and what we have been up against. It is interesting though. In our state of Nuevo Leon we have 51 municipalities Santiago being one of the biggest. When something happens in our municipio, they say X event took place in Santiago today. Well, that is a broad brush that covers a lot of area. We live 5 minutes by car to the main plaza. We have never heard a shot fired, seen any violence or action.

We still consider Santiago a quiet place to live and many people are still moving from the city to our area. As much as we like it here, we are planning to move further south to Allende and hope that this year will be the year to move on.

If you haven't been here, it is a beautiful place with many attractions; waterfalls, lakes, mountain climbing, ecotours and more. I love the place and will always be attached to it in some way.

We are paying for the sins of others and looks like we will do so for quite some time. Now that this "business" has moved to the U.S. maybe it will get some attention on that side of the border and someone will sit up and take note.

I see a major implosion and an end to itself, it may take awhile but it will come. In the meantime, come and visit and see all the beautiful places in the photos above.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

60 Minutes Report - Santiago, N.L.

I hope everyone can tune in tonight to see the following report on my town of Santiago, N.L. and what we have been dealing with. I don't have a clue what the content will be but I am sure it will be interesting.

Byron Pitts reports on the murder of the mayor of a Mexican city, where powerful drug gangs seem to be giving authorities a choice of "silver or lead" - join us and we will pay you or don't and we'll kill you. Sunday, Jan. 9, 7 p.m. ET/PT.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Family Members Go Solar

I can't believe it finally happened. My brother-in-law in Reno has talked about solar for years. We have shared information, talked for hours, played with the numbers and more. This is our dream for our new house when we get around to building it.

Congratulations to these guys. I have asked my bro-in-law to set up a blog so that he can give us a day by day account of the installation, initial start up and monitoring the system. Apparently they will receive credits from the electric company that they can sell at auction. I need to get more information but that is pretty much what I understand.

Isn't this cool? Somebody I know finally took the leap. Good going guys.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Back here at the ranch. We made it home safely and without any SUV problems. The house was a little dusty and the neighbor's hand was here cleaning and getting the pool up to par.

We crossed the border with truck load of stuff. They told us we would have to have the trailer empty to do the importation when we go back. Not a big deal though, I had only taken the necessities when I went three weeks ago. My oh my how time flies. I wish we were still in Galveston.

At both the bridge crossing and the southern check point we got green lights. Zoomed on into Monterrey and missed the lunchtime rush hour.

I'm getting cleaned up now and will take the truck to the Tavasi Rv Repair and have them redo the wiring harness. BTW, there is a storage next to the rv park where we stayed and they only charge 25 dollars for the rest of the month. All in all, things worked out well. Croft asked me how much the alternator repair was, 210 dollars including labor.

Can't wait to get the rv here in Mexico. I am hoping we can make it to SMA before the winter crowd takes off in March.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Not A Happy Camper

Not a good afternoon. We spent the morning visiting agencias aduanales in Reynosa. We crossed around 10 a.m. parking our car on the U.S. side and walking as the agencies are on the first street. We got the information we wanted and we were prepared to pay. The tax is around 22%.
Walked back across without a hitch and decided to check out the U.S. office for one of the agencias aduanales to see if their trailer yard was secure enough for us to spend the night before doing the importation.
Guess what! The SUV came to a complete stop. The battery was dead. We got a jump from a car that was in a convenience store parking lot and we took off. The dashboard went crazy. Lights of all kinds came on and all the needles started going crazy. We crapped out again on a major highway, Military Ave. We got another jump that got us into the parking lot of a convenience store. All I can say at this point is, I love Mexico. No one would help us, no telephone directory, no idea of where or how to get a tow truck. Some people told us point blank they wouldn't give us a jump. It was a mess. Finally, I saw a guy looking at me getting gas. I walked over to his truck and he asked me what was wrong. He called a friend of his and he showed up in 30 minutes, diagnosed the problem and we started to work. BTW, both of these guys were Mexicans.
Turns out the mechanic who redid our connector did exactly what I asked him not to do the day before yesterday. He asked me, "You don't have trailer lights connected here?". I told him we did and that it worked great just the way it was wired and to replace same for same. Well, turns out he did just the opposite. He wired the brake lights on the truck to the connector and god knows what else. The battery was drained and it fried the alternator. So we had to replace the alternator and now we can't take the trailer home.
We need to have the truck checked by the rv store in Monterrey, Remolques Tavasi. We have decided to leave the trailer here at the park or in storage, take the truck home and get the wiring harness fixed the way it was, and then return to do the importation.
I am really pissed. Is this worthy of a small claims suit? All our expenses, the travel back and forth to Monterrey, the storage fees, etc.? What say you? I have posted a poll on the top right asking for a "yes" or a "no". Please take the time to answer it. Thanks.


We made it to McAllen yesterday around 4 p.m. The weather here is great, no wind and the sun is shining. An expected 80 degrees today.
Yesterday we took back roads from Galveston to McAllen. It was a great trip and we passed lots of beautiful sights. Too bad we are always in a hurry. TomTom really let us down on several occasions yesterday. All of a sudden he had a brain fart and we were told to turn left at the next road. We were still miles from our next turn. He would recalculate only after we reprogramed him. Don't know if it is a TomTom thing or just us.
We arrived at the Circle T Rv Park off of Inspiration and the Hwy 83. We had come here as far back as 10 years ago. We really liked it. We haven't been here for two years and there has been a change in management. No credit cards, only checks and cash. This is a snowbird park. Wierd isn't it! On top of that, there is no wifi. They have two computers in the game room and if you want wifi you have to contract it by paying per day, week or month. 30 bucks a month. That's a real bummer. I would pack up and go but we are only here for two nights and we will be crossing back and forth to Reynosa getting paperwork and figuring out what we need to do to import the Funfinder.
I will have to say that our Canadian neighbors are great as usual. They came out to greet us as we pulled in. The rest are a bunch of old sourpusses.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Head'm Up Move'm Out

It was a plot in the making. We are leaving today. The sun decided to shine and the wind stopped.

Last night was a real trip. What started out as snacks initiated by Norma at 4 p.m. turned into an all nighter. I'm just waking up and I can't believe we were up until 1 a.m. OMG! We had sooooo much fun that I wish we were staying through April. However, we need to get our rv imported into Mexico so we are now headed to McAllen.

If only I had someone to hook everything up and drive us today, I know I will be hurting later.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

How I Spent New Year's Eve!

We started out yesterday going to the gym bright and early. There was no other choice, I had gone to bed Thursday night early because everyone had partied hard without me the night before that. I thought, "what a bummer". I mean really, right under my bedroom window. I'm over it now but it must have been something I was wearing that did it.

Croft and Norma invited us to go down to The Strand and walk around. In the downtown area they have a strange parking system although functional I guess. The curbs are marked with numbers and on each section there is a computer with a solar panel attached and you pay the machine for the time you want. Make sure you have dollar bills in good condition. Norma fought for a minute or two getting the machine to take the money.

The Strand is something between New Orleans and San Francisco. There are lots of good restaurants, coffee shops, souvenir stores and a couple of museums to visit. The architecture is beautiful and we took lots of photos.

Came home after stopping for an incredible burger at Michael's on SeaWall Dr. We took a long nap to get ready for the big event and then Juan prepared our dish that we took. He copied Claudia's recipe from last year, burrito rolls made with swiss cheese, ham, beans, salsa and some freshly made flour tortillas.

We got to the party room and there was a ton of food. Some homemade, others had brought party trays. It was all good food and we hung around the food and margarita bar for quite a while getting our fill of not only food but plenty of b.s. too!

Quite a few people came and as usual there were the party duds and the opposite extreme; the loud group. I happened to be part of the latter. We had a really super good time and it didn't end there. Croft kept pushing for a fire and there is a cool little fire ring on the property. We gathered a group of eight and headed out there for some more New Year's cheer. We got the fire going in the wind with a lot of lighter fluid and some coaxing from Juan's contribution of three small pieces of kindling. We made some new friends last night and a good time was had by all.

Happy New Year! Like always, this one will be better. We will stay here until Monday and then we head to Laredo or McAllen to see what our options are for importing the trailer back to Mexico. I believe we will still be doing some boondocking. It can't be avoided.

And one last photo of 2010 that was a winner: