Monday, August 29, 2011

Planning The Next Trip

It was a somber weekend.  Most people were attempting just to digest what had happened and where do we go next with all of this.  There was a peaceful gathering in the main plaza in Monterrey showing solidarity but most wondering what would actually come out of it.  52 people lost their lives last Thursday, 3500 reinforcements have been sent in, the government is looking for the casino owners to get them to accept responsibility.  News day and night covers the story but in the end, everyone is dancing around the issue.  Paying extorsion to criminal gangs in exchange for security.  No one has attempted to even mention it but we all know the truth.  The culprits have been captured but not identified and the government has not released the news although the speculation points at their capture.  You've seen it on CNN, Fox, and your local stations.

We're home now and spent most of the weekend doing nothing.  We never left the house.  The cats hung around too and pretty much we looked at each other for three days.  One thing that is high on the list is widening the gate,  the trailer just doesn't fit.  It's in the driveway but this has to take priority.

We are planning a trip to San Antonio but I want to wait until Kevin and Ruth pass through on their way south.  We will spend a week or two in Texas and return home.   We will be traveling to Morelia the end of October and then staying around Mexico City for November and the first two weeks of December before returning to SMA.  I have found a couple of rv parks around the Big Tamal and I am investigating La Marqueza which lies between D.F. and Toluca, high in the mountains, pine trees and easy access to the city.

The next three days I will be teaching a course at a local university and that will take my mind off of things.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Three Days of Mourning

I  will not be posting again until next Monday.  Please put an end to this suffering, don't use drugs.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Home Sweet Home

What a great trip we had.  If I could say anything to anyone doubting wether or not to rv in Mexico, don´t give it a second thought.  You don't need to boondock, there are plenty of parks and places to visit.  We boondocked in San Luis Potosi, Guanajuato, Jalisco and Coahuila.   We couldn´t have felt safer in any of the places we were.   Of the two nights we boondocked in SMA, the second night we were woken up by a knocking noise on the side of the trailer only to find out it was a mare and its colt.

The trip home was uneventful.   We planned on staying at Hotel Imperial in Saltillo but decided we could find a great boondocking spot somewhere in the mountain overpass on the 57 about 30 kms south of Saltillo.  We pretty much know the area as Juan taught there over a thousand years ago :).  We took the exit to Los Lirios and headed to town.  About 7 kms before the town, we saw a place that rented cabins.  Sounded good to us to ask if we could spend the night for a fee without services.  The woman in charge said she had to call the office.   When she returned she said it would be 350 pesos.  Without a second word we both said, "adios".   The next ranch the farmer was loading a trailer with apples.  We asked him if he knew of a place nearby.  "Sure, why not park here".  I offered to pay and he was practically insulted.  He said he wouldn´t hear of it.  He also gave us some of his delicious apples and we talked for a bit about his English studies in Kentucky when he was a kid.  Mexicans are so friendly.  

When we left this morning we passed him on the road out to Hwy 57.  We exchanged lights and a wave.  Two minutes later he was on the cellphone asking if everything went alright.  What kind of country do I live in where people care so much about others?  The majority are good people and the small percentage that are causing us this tremendous headache are real crumbs.

How would I rate our trip of the last two months?  The best trip ever.  Beats the heck out of Hawaii.  I would have to say that rving in Australia or Chile might beat this trip.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

SMA Botanical Gardens

We drove all over the place yesterday looking at possible rv spots.  Some good, some not so good.   All the places are beautiful no doubt as they are outside the city limits on right on the edge.  

We went to the Mega store to resolve some issues it seems some people have with the store and its manager.  Turns out there is no problem and the store is being run as it should.  There is a lot of tension between foreigners here and the store, not all or a lot but a few.  The manager gave us a tour of the store, showed us his health and sanitation records, awards and offered to do whatever he could to make his customers happy.

Dinner for my birthday was at Pegaso Restaurant.  We ate there with all the group from La Siesta two years ago.  A great dinner and conversation.   We always meet new people and had a wonderful time.  We also went by La Siesta yesterday only to find it closed and bulldozed.  The new store is a Sam's that will go up but apparently the seller and the buyer have run into some problems.

We spent the night here at the Botanical Gardens.  Peaceful, quiet, using battery power.  I figured out why the inverter was always beeping.  The outlet for the 12V behind the television is a cheap ass piece of equipment.  I had some alligator clips with me so I went out and hooked it up directly to the batteries and ran an extension cord through the kitchen window.  We didn't do without a thing the last two nights.

Today we have a couple more places to see and then we will be heading home.  We may spend the night here and head out tomorrow.  I am teaching a course next Monday so we need to be home by Friday.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Found The Perfect Spot In Dolores Hidalgo

What a great travel day.  We took the autopista and spent a fortune.  I voted libre but lost, 3 to 1.  Two cats, one human.  Wonderful highways all the way.  We took the turn through Guanajuato (city) and wound up driving over the mountains to Dolores Hidalgo.   Now that was a great adventure and we will do it again but will spend the night in the mountains.  We were hoping to stay at the university here but were denied.  New director.   No problem.  We are parked behind Protección Civil and the city building.  With the bicenitenial celebration last year, they installed free wifi everywhere.  You can´t beat this boondocking spot not to mention the security.

Tomorrow we hit SMA, about an hour from here.   I am emailing my contacts  tonight to see if we can meet and look at boondocking options. 


SMA or Bust

Sunday morning and we are packed and ready to go.  Some minor glitches.   I went to dump the tanks and realized that the drain in the ground was overflowing.   Stopped up I guess.  Why do they call it black water?  It's not really black.   When we payed for our stay yesterday Andres wouldn't accept our debit card.  He said he needed to pay the workers.   Hmmmm?  So we went to get cash from one of the thousands of ATMs in Guadalajara.   Came back and asked for a receipt.  All we got was a piece of paper with a hand written note.   Another, Hmmmm??  I needed an invoice for tax purposes as I am working on the road and the stay or part of it is deductible on my Mexican taxes.    I can imagine what's up with that.  Some rvers of which there are three, said the price was 250 pesos a day.  We negociated that considerably and also got a free night to boot.  Another big hmmmm??

Last night we were presented with two tickets to the folkloric dance group of Guadalajara.   The event celebrated Senior's day on October 1st.  This was the opening event.  Juan had been in contact with the director of the group and visited a rehearsal the other night.  That is when he invited us.   Too funny, we got to the theater and it was open seating.  There is loge seating as well as the main floor.  We wanted the main floor.  Saying we were given the tickets by the director got us the best seats in the house but some jeers from old bags waiting to get in.  They said, "he's not a senior".  I told them I was 55 and that quieted them down.   That is a hint because someone has a birthday on Monday. 

One last thing.  We enjoyed our stay here in Guadalajara.   A well-organized city with many projects in the works.  It is a pain in the butt for those that live here but it will all be done soon and you can already see the results.  One thing I like is that it is very easy to move around the city.   We have had nothing but a great experience.   The Tapatios are wonderful people and treated us very kindly to say the least.   No horn honking, no pushing, and it appears there is a huge middle class here which makes it an even nicer town.  Good food, great restaurants and the main plaza at night is a joy to hang out in.  Kind of like Oaxaca.   I would live here but it is way too big, Mexico's second largest city. 

I'm sure we will be back in the next year.  The rv park is very nice in terms of the location.  It is quiet, peaceful and a lot of people live here full time but in apartments and small houses.  I still don't understand how things work and I wanted to ask someone but here it appears everyone stays to themselves.   Good shopping near by, easy access on and off the highway.   However, it is obvious this place has a short life and thus no investment in the park, rv sites, or infrastructure.   Very sad but a reality of life.  

San Miguel here we come.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Day Trip To Tequila

What a beautiful drive we took to Tequila.  We left at 9:30 and it took all of about an hour.  We paid for the autopista but that was a mistake.  Not in good condition and on the way home we took the libre.  Much more scenic and in very good condition.  We passed field after field of beautiful blue agave.

Fantastic views on the way to town from the main highway not to mention good roads.
Agave fields.

As we pulled into Tequila you could tell it was a Pueblo Magico. Very tourist oriented, well-maintained, and had that international flair about it. We asked a transito where to park and he directed us to a public lot right in front of the plaza. 10 pesos per hour. We headed directly for the presidencia municipal and the registro civil to see what we could find on Juan's mother. We weren't really prepared as this was all after thought since leaving Monterrey in July. They couldn't help us but directed us next door to the tourism office. The local historian works there and she drilled us with questions. She really knows her stuff. However, we ran into a major glitch. When she asked what year Juan's mother was born, she said it was not an easy task. That was the period of the Cristeros, and they destroyed public records as well as church baptismal records. Some had been salvaged but it looked like a dead end. The Cristeros War of 1926 to 1929 was an uprising against the Mexican government of the time, set off by religious persecution of Christians especially Catholics.

 Checking records at  the church rectory.

At the end of the conversation we exchanged emails and as much information as possible along with a list of details we need to find once we return to Monterrey. After, she sent us over to the church records department. They did have records for 1927 - 1930, but no luck on baptismal records. It was worth a try and we didn't walk away empty handed. Juan got to feel a bit of his roots being in his mother's hometown and we did find a couple of people in the phone book but we decided to wait until we here from the historian. BTW, the historian is responsible for the opening of a tequila museum in San Antonio, Tx. A very knowledgeable woman.

Well, I need to rewrite this portion of the post because this damn keypad or mouse goes all over the place and I end up deleting stuff,  argh.   Anwyay, we headed out for the market which is behind the cathedral.   Again, lots of good food to choose from and the prices are right.  Food is so inexpensive in Mexico one could eat out all three meals a day and still save money.   We stopped at this place and had the special; milanesa de res (chicken fried steak) with rice, french fries, a wonderful tossed salad with dressing, a quesadilla and tortillas.   All that for 50 pesos.  

That was a good lunch but we needed some type of digestivo.  Hmmm, tequila would do the trick.  All the distillers have their shops around town and we went to a couple for tasting.   We also picked up a couple of bottles for home and as gifts.   We passed on the tours because they charge 120 to 150 pesos.   Way too much for someone who wants me to buy their product.   For that price we got some very good añejo tequila.

Someone making a selection!

Jose Cuervo y yo!

All in all it was a fun day, a little disappointing but this was our first try at finding the birth records of Juan's mom. The drive was great, it was easy driving there and you can also take a bus. Well worth it. In fact, we would like to stay there sometime. There is a wonderful hotel on the main plaza. We saw the rooms, new rooms with air conditioning, cable, and wifi for 500 pesos a night.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Lots Of Good News - And Pictures

Starting off with the good news of the day, the Tourism Secretary from D.F. announced that 90% of tourists surveyed between January and July of this year say they felt safe and had no problems moving around Mexico.  In fact, Bill and Dot Bell are in D.F. this week renting an apartment for 200 dollars and their reports are excellent.  It appears they are having a great time and who wouldn't.  It's only the largest and oldest city in the Americas with something for everyone.

I mentioned that I stopped by the Mega yesterday.  Mega now gives you cash back from your debit or credit card, along with Walmart I can now eliminate that pesky 30 peso transaction fee.

Today we are taking a day trip to Tequila.   Yes, where the famous and controversial drink comes from.  Many say it has medicinal purposes and science claims it doesn't.  Oh, what do they know.  I drink the stuff before bed and sleep like a baby.   Actually, we are going to do some genealogy.  Juan's mother was born in Tequila in 1930.   She died when Juan was a kid and he has always wanted to know more.   Not much is known about her family as she left for Monterrey as a young woman.  I hope we find some documentation as I know it would mean a lot to him.  Tissues please!

Now before the pictures, a small commentary.  The Pope is visiting Madrid soon.  So the church has set up 200 portable confessionaries so that pilgrims can cleanse their souls before seeing the man.  I don't know about you but I bathe regularly.   Wouldn't you do the same with your soul?   I just think it's odd that if you are a believer you would wait so long.   I used to go as a  kid, I never confessed the truth.  It was always about not eating my green beans and hitting my little brother.

Our site in the back where caravans park.  

One of the many new public works projects going on in Gdl.

A shot of the cathedral downtown.

The recently remodeled theater of the city.

The tacos de canasta, 5 for 12 pesos.

This place has good food, plus the woman with the scarf is very friendly and gives good tourism tips.  This is in the main market downtown.

 Some carbs for a good nap in the afternoon, best served with cold milk!

A monument to our heroic sons.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Running Errands

I took off this morning with the truck to run some errands.  There is so much here it boggles the mind.  I went to Office Depot first to print some documents and then scan them.  Scanning costs too much, 15 pesos per page, so I will wait until I find an internet cafe.  

From there I went to the bank to pay my taxes, took all of five minutes.  I also need a copy of a bank statement which they printed out for me no charge.  I walked next door to BlockBuster and picked up to wild films for tonight and tomorrow.  One is about a Mennonite in Mexico who falls for a local woman, taboo.  The other is about three Spaniards who witness a murder and years later end up in prison.  I'm too lazy to get up and get the titles but after I see them I am sure I will want to share them.

I also did a walk through of the Home Depot.  All these places are on the same stretch of Lopez Mateos.  I could have walked as well as driven or even taken the bus.  I am always on the look out for LED light bulbs.  They carry a wide assortment for regular bulb sockets at home like table lamps.  I paid 29 dollars for one in San Antonio in December.  Here they are super duper bulbs and cost 700 pesos.  Not sure why, but I am going to check it out.  

I parked the car on the way back and went over to Mega to get some fresh baked bread for dinner tonight.  This Mega has wonderful bread; multi-grain, centano black, wheat with nut flour, linseed, and several more.  We have tried the ones above and they are pretty good.  Small loaves for 11 pesos.   They have a wide selection of produce including star fruit, kiwi, asparagus, ginger root, bean and soy sprouts.  There is more but it was pretty crowded.  

A correction to my critique of the park here.  One thing for sure, the people who work here are very nice.  The main building is like early 50s architecture and many of the furnishings, lights and fireplace look original.  It would make for a great restoration project.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Trip To El Centro - Guadalajara

Took off early this morning and got on the bus from the rv park to downtown.  Cost six pesos and was a very good bus.  Total time from point A to B was 45 minutes.   Traffic is a mess especially staying on the lateral all the way. 

We went to El Mercado Corona.   Talk about a Mexican food eater's paradise.  We walked for 20 minutes trying to decide where to eat.  We settled on breakfast and I had huevos rancheros for 27 pesos.  Delicious served with a glass of hot milk and Nescafe, my favorite treat.  Of course when we finished we turned the corner down another aisle and I found my favorite, tacos de canasta, 5 for 12 pesos.   My god, get me out of here.

We were on the search for 12 hats and 12 hand fans for a dance group in Monterrey.   The hat search was exhausting as we were getting nowhere.    We took off to the other market nearby, Mercado San Juan de Dios, a pirate's paradise if you get my drift.  I wouldn't buy anything there.   We did stumble onto a shop that sold fans and it was a good luck find.   Before we bought them we made a call home to find out that the hats had been found in Monterrey and we were good to go on the fans.

I got my shoes shined while we were in the main plaza too.  They were filthy but I have had a hard time finding a shoe shine stand in the last two months.  We also ducked into the recently remodeled Teartro de Degollado.  Beautiful.   We walked all over the place and had a ball.  We took pics with the cell phone so we need to figure out how to download them.   We've never done it with Juan's cell phone.

We went to the bank to make a deposit for the guy who is keeping the quinta in order, took all of 5 minutes.   The downtown area was saturated with shoppers, tourists from all over the world, venders selling just about anything imaginable.  Mexico is so easy.  You can't bitch about not having a job.  Buy a box of gum, some scouring pads on sell, cheap toys, and spread a blanket on the ground.   You are now in business.  I don't necessarily agree with it but it beats hearing people complain about not having any money.

So coming back we had to take two buses.   The first one took us to the periferico where we got off.  I was pretty beat so we took a taxi for 50 pesos the rest of the way,  all the way to our site.   A good nap and now it must be time for some refreshment.   If we can get the pictures downloaded I will post them tomorrow.  Hey, Guadalajara is fun!

Monday, August 15, 2011

My Take On Mexican Rv Parks

I guess today I have too much free time on my hands.  I went for my shopping trip to Mega and CostCo.  There is so much to buy but I'm a looker not a buyer.  I got my medicine at Mega.  CostCo carries it but not the right mix and tablet size.  On my way back I had plenty of time to stroll through the rv park.  The real issue here is not maintaining the park.  It is obvious that the city is growing and this area is middle to upper class and more people are looking for housing than ever before.  With a stable and growing econony, mortgage loan options have never been better for Mexico.  It appears to me that this place will soon be on the auction block or at least a good portion of it.

We went to the office today to negociate the rate and see what was up.  Run down, disorganized, papers in stacks all around the room and most discerning was the lack of a computer.   I know some people would say that this is Mexico and "oh, how neat".  Not. 

Apart from the obvious chopping block that this park is headed for, it is a matter of poor management, culture which dictates we will suck as much out of it as possible and return as little as we can, lack of annual investment programs for beautification and maintenance.  Imagine how low the cost is on a per site basis.  In a year's time you could repair, and upgade 12 to 24 sites with 50 amp service, wifi, and cable.  Snowbirds would be happy to pay $400 per month with metered electric to be in Guadalajara in the winter time.   At a five month average stay that would bring in $50,000 dollars not to mention all the other sites that  $18 to $25 per pay night.  It just boggles my mind to think of the money that must pour through this place.  The advantage is that they already own the land and property taxes are so low in Mexico it isn't even worth collecting.  I've said before we pay only 120 dollars a year on a house that if it were in Texas we would be paying 6950 dollars.

Again, I am a boondocker and not good for rv parks.  However, I do like the convenience of the place, its location and it is kind of far out.  I could easily become a fan of rv parks if they were like our state parks in Nuevo Leon or Hacienda Contreras.  

Just my little rant for the day.  But man, would I give anything for the opportunity to give an rv park a try.  Maybe we should go explore Veracruz.  De Alba Rv Park was leased space, so there must be more of it.

P.S.  We have wi-fi here at the office or activity room.  We found the guy who sells wi-fi but we are too far away from his site to get a good signal.  I am going to Radio Shack tomorrow to see if we can find a hawking device.

Busy Day Here In Guadalajara

Juan is off for his meeting.  As I said, we drove out there yesterday to find the place.  An easy drive and I'm sure he won't have any issues getting there today.

The office has been closed here all weekend.   Today we pay the bill and discuss the rates.  On the webpage it says 18 dollars but the they told us when we arrived 25.   So the office manager gets here at 10 a.m. and we'll see what he says. 

I'm off to Mega and CostCo to find my blood pressure medicine and to check with local vets on some medicine for Kevin and Ruth's dog, Whiskey.   Whiskey requires some special meds and I hope I get lucky and find them today.  I hate buying clothes but I need to start looking for some new shirts.  Geez, I wonder what color I'll find?  The worst case is I can always color them as long as they are cotton.

I wanted to mention a great gizmo that I am sure most of you more educated wine drinkers are aware of.  When we were at the Hacienda, Dave and Valerie showed us their wine aerator.  A wonderful thing that will bring any wine to life.   Barb asked me several times what we wanted from the states and I told her nothing except the aerator.   Well, to my surprise, they gave us one as a gift.  It is from the Sharper Image and we used it last night for the first time.   I can't believe we lived without it this long.  Here is what it looks like:

This one is two pieces.  The top sits on the glass as you pour the wine in.  The bottom is a holder so you can set in down on the table without making a mess.  I don't have a lot of gizmos but this is a keeper.  Another good one is a heat-resistant spatula.  Thanks Sal and Barb for a great gift.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Made It To Guadalajara

Chatting with Sal and Barb the day we left Hacienda Contreras

We came down the mountainn about 9:30 yesterday morning and made it to the Walmart on Lopez Mateoes.  There, some  friends met us and invited us to an afternoon of food fest at their house.  They were hoping our trailer would fit in their patio but the ramp was too high and we were about to scrape bottom.
Delicious huaraches in the making and ready to eat.

We headed out afterwards to San Jose del Tajo Rv Park right across from the Walmart.  Easy to find easy to get into but it should be called San Jose de Dumpo.  Old and run down, it has seen better days.  As usual, lack of maintenace.  Weeds growing out of the cracks inside the swimming pool, lots of tiles missing, curbs broken from time and tree roots.  Everything here is made of brick and if not covered with cement the brick deteriorates overtime.  Landscaping is out of control althouth the grass is cut.  We like our site, it is under some trees and well located.   This is why we like boondocking so much.  Speaking of that,  for my birthday this month I want to buy a big inverter to hard wire into our system so all our outlets are live.  Maybe Kevin can give me a hand with that  when they come down next month.
I just woke up from my nap and have to say it is quiet here in the park.  There was  a party on the other side of the park but I didn't hear anything until I woke up at 6:30 this morning.  We also took a drive around the periferico to the education department where Juan has his meeting.  It was easy getting there and the signs around Guadalajara seem to be well-marked.   It has turned out to be a lovely day and it is about time for happy hour.  The winds are picking up and you can hear the thunder.   Rain should be along any minute.

For Sal and Barb, and those that might want to save time taking the bus up the mountain to Mazamitla, I recommend you come out here to this part of town to Parador Palomar.  As I said a couple of weeks ago, it is a makeshift bus stop with people selling bus tickets and food.   It is located on Lopez Mateos across from the Mormon temple south of the Walmart.   You save about two and half hours from the central de autobuses.  Well worth the taxi ride.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Time To Move On

Sal and Barb came home yesterday around 6 p.m.  Their dog Nico was happy to see them and went running after their rv as they pulled through the park.  Well, it looks like our time here is finished.  It has been a blast and an experience we will never forget.  Let's hope we get to do it again, it was worth every minute.  It kind of gave us a taste of workcamping as well as being owners of a park.  

We got together with other campers who were here this week and celebrated Sal and Barb's return.  We had a few drinks and ate some super good tacos that our neighbor Chato made.  We were all inside the fifth wheel rental nice and warm and chatted up a storm.

Today we went into Mazamitla and got hair cuts.  After, we headed for the market for one last delicious lunch that cost us all of 65 pesos for both.  We went to the plaza and met the computer guy to make some minor adjustments to my laptop and then headed back to the rv park. Poured cats and dogs on the way back and I am sorry to say we won't be seeing this kind of storm at home.  We need the rain. 

Tonight we got together with Sal and Barb in their beautiful fifth wheel and had daquries made with some really sweet strawberries they had picked up on the way home.  Had a few good laughs and conversation. 

Tomorrow we start packing up and getting the Funfinder ready for our return trip.  Saturday we head to Guadalajara for a few days to do some research and then head out to SMA.   As much as I love Mexican food and pan dulce I can't wait to stop by the Canadian bakery in SMA to get a loaf or two of multi-grain bread.  Yummy!

Reading the recent news on BorderLandBeat,  I'm not in any hurry to go home.  It won't be long after returning that we will be on the road again, can't wait.  Feeling a bit  farklempt.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Looking For A Winter Rv Spot In San MIguel de Allende?

I'm sure the owner of La Siesta in SMA is laughing all the way to the bank since he sold his hotel and rv park.  However, he has left some snowbird rvers on the street this winter.

I posted on the that we were looking for a place for a couple of weeks in december and Les, MexicoKid, recommended I join a Yahoo group for SMA.  I did and have received a ton of emails from people offering solutions.  Many have land or a spot available and are willing to rent this winter.  Most of the places offer no services but there are a lot of self-contained rvers out there willing to live on solar and battery for a couple of weeks so that they can enjoy all that SMA offers.

We will be stopping by San Miguel de Allende next week to check out the options we have received and I will report in hopes that there are people interested in coming down this year.  Most of the places are between town and Atotonilco, about 15 minutes away.  Bus service from there is available so this could work out.

More on this later.  Hacienda Contreras has company, a family has come to rent a unit and stay for a couple of days.   They are great people and we had quite a fun happy hour last night with warm fire in the chimney.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Saturday Is Market Day In Valle de Juarez

Yesterday we headed to the local market in Valle de Juearez.   Remember we went to the market last Monday in Mazamitla where we met Oscar, a guy who repairs laptops and downloads programs, etc.  He travels the markets in the area and said he would be in Valle.  I needed some updates for the laptop and he was going to perform them. 

We got there about 10 a.m. just in time to scarf down some of the local delights.  We had the delicious tacos you see below.  Puffy and filled with mashed potatoes and cheese.  I smothered them with lectuce, salsa and cilantro.  They were to die for.  Hey, what the heck.  We do all our own cooking and eat right plus we are at the gym five days a week.  Yes, I am justifying my endulgences.

The market was just opening up and people setting up their stands.

As we finished munching on the tacos, our friend came by to work on the laptops.  In a town of 3000 it isn't hard to find someone you are looking for.

One last stop on our trek through the market.  Tortillas made with green corn.  She said they were healthier and so we believed her.   Yummy!

Oscar downloaded our programs, although it took a couple of hours.  That gave us time to walk around and find more things like fresh pan dulce for Sunday breakfast.   Strangers also approached me to chat for a while.   That happens to me a lot :).

We are finishing up this week as Sal and Barb return.  We will most likely take off on Saturday or Sunday and head for Guadalajara where we will visit a couple of schools.  From there, we are checking out some sites in San Miguel for our winter stay.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Sunrise At Hacienda Contreras

I can't help but be so lazy.  We got up at 5:20 this morning and were at the the gym by 7.  Had a great workout and came home and slept for another hour.  Of course I had two quick tacos I made with a glass of milk.

Time flies here on the ranch.  If you don't have a plan the day just seems to pass right by you.  Like now, it is already lunchtime and we are still looking at each other.  Before you know it, it will be happy hour.  Seems like we got here yesterday and now Sal and Barb will be back in a few days.  How sad, it has been a blast. 

Seriously though,  we will be going to the Sierra del Tigre to do some hiking tomorrow.   We will take off early so we can get a head start.   We need to figure out where we will go next.  Kevin and Ruth made a recommendation we are following up on, and from there we will head back to Monterrey for a couple of weeks before heading out again.   

So this is what being retired is like, hmmmm.  It grows on you. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Living In A Small Town

First off, I want to congratulate Tioga and George on his blog.  Today George hit 6,000,000 visitors to his blog.

Just a few minutes ago, a guy came to pick up an ID that his worker left last week.  He had come to take a bulldozer that was here on the land.  We didn't know the guy so we asked several questions and made him leave his ID.  On Tuesday of this week, another guy came to cut the grass.  I gave him the third degree because I didn't know him.  Living in a big city I guess has affected my trust of people in general.  Makes me feel bad.  People here are good people, innocent to some of the things in the big city.  They all know each other, their families and share their daily lives.   When the guy finished cutting grass I explained to him why I had been so indifferent and he said he could tell I was not very trusting of him.  I apologized and we shook hands.   I feel like a heel but at the same time, with all that has been going on I have to admit I have become distrusting of others.

I woke up this morning and after watching the news and drinking a delicious cup of VIPs coffee we bought in Sahuayo, I realized it hadn't rained here for three days.  We had had lots of sunshine and warm weather.  As I got into the car to go to the gym, the rain began.  So much for that theory.

I finished my editing project yesterday.  We will be going to Mazamitla to have it sent via courier to Mexico City.  There is a Chinese restaurant along the highway there and I am hoping we can try it out.

After that, if the rain continues, it will be downtime with a movie or a book. 

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Day Trip To Mazamitla

Yesterday I started work on my editing project.   I have dedicated X number of hours per day to getting the job done.  I have a deadline of Friday to get it off via Estafeta (overnight carrier) to Mexico City for the following Monday.   It has gone extremely well and I have had a few doubts which are cleared up via email. 

We decided to take the afternoon and go sightseeing in Mazamitla.  There is a street market there on Mondays and it was a real winner.  They sell just about everything from farm equipment, new clothes, used clothes, groceries, fresh produce, tortillas, fresh-baked pizza to a guy who will download software on the spot for next to nothing.

We walked the complete market and munched on a slice of fresh-baked pizza that came out of an oven heated by a nearby tank of LP gas.  Crunchy crust, lots of sauce and cheese, not to mention pineapple, ham and chorizo for an astounding price of only 13 pesos.   It was one of the best pizzas we have ever eaten.   As we strolled along we looked at things we don't see at home.  As we walked we got even hungier; fresh fried chicharron, tostadas with ham, beans and cheese, fresh cut fruit cups, mangos on a stick, gelatin on a stick shaped like a cone in multi-colors and sparkles.   There was another pizza place at the end and the woman was selling the slice at 12 pesos.  We had to try it and we split one slice.

After the market we drove a couple of blocks to the main plaza and found a place to park.  You can see by the pictures this is a great place to be a tourist.  They cater to everyone and there is a little something to make everyone happy.   There are small cafes that sell coffees and lattes, mexican food, pizza, borrego on a wood-stoked oven, to mention a few.

Here I was last Friday returning to the bus station in Mazamitla.

This was our Sunday dinner.  A delicious steak cooked on the grill.  We had been aging the meat for a couple of weeks.  That was the best steak I have had in years not to mention the company.

Okay, here we are entering the market.  How convenient that there is a liquor store right there!  They sell some good Mexican wines and the prices are not much higher than in the big city.

Viva Mexico!

This guy got a new hat at the market!

This is the main plaza.  A beautiful place to hang out.  Pine trees, cool breezes and lots of quiet.

The stone cobbled streets of Mazamitla.

The market midway.  You can see the word "internet" in the corner of the picture on the orange sign, this is the guy who downloads software.  Secure your router, I didn't know it but you can buy a generic password for entering a secured server or router.  Yikes!

Finally, we make it to lunch.  One of the many family restaurants.  Here you chose what you wanted and as much as you wanted for 40 pesos plus drinks which include brand sodas.

Monday, August 1, 2011

No Shame

By Tim Johnson
McClatchy Newspapers

MEXICO CITY — While a gunrunning sting known as Fast and Furious is drawing criticism in Congress for losing track of weapons that were smuggled into Mexico, Mexicans say the controversy only confirms their conviction that the U.S. gun industry profits off of bloodshed south of the border.

As new details of the U.S. undercover operation emerged last week in congressional hearings in Washington, a broad array of Mexicans said the scandal simply underscores the ease with which brutal crime gangs obtain large quantities of assault weapons from U.S. gun shops near the border.

Fast and Furious — the code name given by the Justice Department's Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms to its gun-smuggling investigation — allowed an estimated 2,000 weapons to enter Mexico unobstructed. That, however, accounts for only one-tenth of the weapons found at Mexican crime scenes in recent years that originated in the United States, according to available statistics.

The bureau's acting director, Kenneth Melson, wrote in a recent letter to Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., that of the 29,284 weapons recovered in Mexico in 2009 and 2010 and submitted for tracing, 20,504, or 70 percent, came from the United States.

"All of the available evidence shows that the weapons come from the U.S.," said Sergio Aguayo, an academic and newspaper columnist.

Mexicans have been closely following revelations about Fast and Furious. A congressional report made public last week said that on at least 48 occasions, Mexican investigators found Fast and Furious weapons at crime scenes. At hearings last week, it was revealed that one U.S. buyer obtained more than 700 firearms for the Sinaloa Cartel, believed to be Mexico's most powerful crime group.

The revelations have evinced an I-told-you-so attitude here about the role U.S.-based weapons play in Mexico's drug violence, and reinforced long-held Mexican beliefs that the gun trade retains a powerful sway over U.S. political life. Mexican commentators see the Fast and Furious political brouhaha — with no similar discussion of how to stop the flow of powerful weapons to the cartels — as a sign of that.

"It kind of reinforces the perception that U.S. policy in general is to support arms dealers around the world," said Ana Maria Salazar, a former Pentagon official who now is a security consultant in the Mexican capital.

Salazar said Mexicans see a double standard in Fast and Furious, in which U.S. agents allowed weapons to "walk" across the border in their quest to take down a major weapons trafficking ring even as it became apparent the guns were turning up at crimes.

"Would the United States have done this type of operation, for example, in Afghanistan knowing that there was a likelihood those guns would kill American soldiers? They would've never done it," she said.

Aguayo went further, saying the operation revealed "underlying racism."

"U.S. society and the U.S. government don't care about Mexican lives," he said. "I have studied U.S. foreign policy. One American life is worth more than 50,000 Mexican lives. This case is another ingredient in a cultural attitude of contempt toward Mexicans."

Pinning down the extent of illegal weapons trafficking from the United States to Mexico is a controversial endeavor. Advocates of tougher restrictions on U.S. gun sales say Mexican criminal gangs shop for most of their weapons in the United States. U.S. gun advocates say that's untrue.

New evidence continues to arise, however, that Mexican crime groups, whose battles over drug routes and other criminal activities have claimed 40,000 lives since 2006, shop north of the Rio Grande for their firepower. Their favored firearms are variants of the AK-47 and AR-15 assault weapons, legally available at U.S. gun shops near the border.

In a video released earlier this month, a Mexican army defector who allegedly rose to become No. 3 in the brutal and powerful syndicate known as Los Zetas was asked by a police interrogator where Los Zetas obtain their weapons.

"From the United States," Jesus Rejon Aguilar, who was arrested by Mexican authorities on July 4, told his off-camera questioner. "All weapons come from the U.S."

Arturo Zamora Jimenez, a legislator from the once-ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party, made it clear in a telephone interview that he understands that many Americans firmly believe that their guns can protect against tyranny, and that they have the right to own and purchase them under the 2nd Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

But he said lax U.S. gun laws are priming violence in Mexico.

"We know that the manufacture and sale of guns is a major economic activity for the people of the United States," he said. "But when these guns are used by rival organized crime groups abroad, the situation really changes because they are used in crimes that affect the lives and property of many people."

How much the Mexican government knew about the Fast and Furious operation remains unclear. Alejandro Poire, the top security spokesman for Mexican President Felipe Calderon, insisted last week that his government was not aware of the operation.

"If we had known about it, it would have been stopped," Poire told reporters.

But the federal Attorney General's office acknowledged that it had been informed of aspects of Fast and Furious.

"This gives you an idea of the lack of coordination within the Mexican government as well," said Javier Oliva, a national security expert at the National Autonomous University.

Opposition legislators are pressing for a further accounting of how much Calderon's government knew.
"It is lamentable that with the weapons brought into the country through this operation, there are thousands of dead Mexicans and the federal government can't give an explanation of its responsibility," said Dolores Padierna Luna, the secretary general of the leftist Democratic Revolutionary Party.