Monday, December 31, 2012

Ex-Pats, Who Do We Think We Are?

A debate goes on in San Miguel de Allende about whether a McDonald's should be built.  A group of ex-pats there seem to think it is their duty to boycott or ban the restaurant chain or keep it from coming to the city.  Hmmm.
I ask you, "who do we think we are?"  We can move into someone else's country and dictate what should or shouldn't be allowed.  Funny, a Starbuck's sits on the corner of the "jardin" or main square and it is packed with Mexicans.  It appears Mexicans seem to prefer to have a Starbuck's in "their town". 
We love San Miguel de Allende and visit at least four times a year.  In fact, we love it so much that we would like to someday buy some land in Guanajuato.  We couldn't live in San Miguel because there are just too many ex-pats who seem to want to strut their stuff around the city.  
Just to give you an idea of how life is there, and please take this with a grain of salt for those who live there and enjoy the city and culture for what it is, Americans move there and then complain about why they can't sell english muffins at the local Mega store.  We have many friends who live in SMA and we respect their views and don't seem to fall into the category above.
There has also been recent talk about banning the local cable company because they no longer offer a PBS feed.  Can you imagine?  In case you don't quite get my view on all this let me give an example of a typical person living in SMA.  (I'm going to get slaughtered on this one).
Tall, white, silver dyed hair with bangs and medium length hair that is swept under, a big floppy hat, black slacks with wide bell bottoms,  carrying a "red de plastico" (plaid tote bag for groceries) a Spanish book in one hand, and some type of cape.   If you go into the local Mega, there is a lot of pointing going on and scowling because the employees don't speak English.  Funny though, there are quite a few French and Russian classes going on instead of focusing on the native language of the country.
Some there seem to think that they make the economy.  In reality that just isn't so.  As I have found out recently, due to changes in Mexican immigration laws and the new income requirements, many ex-pats are pretty much living on the low in Mexico because their incomes just won't make it in their home countries.  Sure, there are all kinds of stories and there is nothing wrong with having a low income but don't tell me that if it weren't for "us" SMA wouldn't survive.  
Remember this, we live in Mexico and we are guests.  If you want the right to vote and change things, become a Mexican.  Now you might say that in the U.S. everyone, legal, illegal, resident, etc. seems to have a voice that is very true.  Go live there, but this is Mexico.  Mexicans want what everyone else in the world would like to have; a home, a good job, flat screen television, a car, well you get the point.  To do this, they need jobs.  If you expect Mexicans in SMA to continue to carry baskets on their heads and clean your houses for 50 pesos a day you have it all wrong.  There is a strong and growing economy and Mexicans are part of it.  With or without us, Mexico and SMA will survive.  

Sunday, December 30, 2012

Christmas Week Highlights

We didn't have internet for the last couple of days, but Sal and Barb did some miracle work and we are back in business.  Not a big deal, we have so many things to do around this part of the woods and that keeps us on the go.
This was our campfire on Christmas night.   Sal helped me haul out the chimenia and some firewood and we all gathered and had our Christmas cheer.  These clay chimneys are really great.  They put out a lot of heat and all the smoke goes up and out and not around.

On Friday we went to Concepcion de Buenos Aires to see the waterfall.  Kevin and Ruth had been there before and showed us the way.  We took to cars out there and found ourselves on a 5 km stretch of dirt road.  Good road nevertheless and we arrived to the cascada.   We walked down and took pictures and then we ate in the restaurant they have there.   Good food but don't ever eat there, the woman over charges.  We got her to reduce the rate but she wasn't happy.  Too bad.

Here's Juan up underneath the waterfall.  It is truly a beautiful place as you can see from the picture above.  The wind rushes through the mountains and you can feel the heat of the sun as it warms your body (that is for those of you who are sitting in the snow right now).

After our hike and lunch we continued on to the town of Buenos Aires.  It is truly a gem nestled in the mountains of Jalisco.   I have talked about how nice the town of Valle de Juarez is and Buenos Aires is a mixture of that and Mazamitla.  It actually looks like a Hollywood set.   The people are friendly and warm and during the holiday many come from the U.S. to visit family.  You here kids in the plaza speaking in English.   The hotel in the main square is very nice and costs 150 pesos a night for two persons.

On the night of the 28th, Juan took a shot of the moon.   We have no need for outdoor lighting here this week.   Mother Nature has provided nicely with clear skies and a moonlit nights.
40 years later I can still fill my glass.   We went to visit a farm where they have 15 cows.   We all had a glass of pajarete.  Pajarete is a small amount of sugar covered with cane alcohol and then mixed with chocolate and milk straight from the utter.
On our trips into Valle de Juarez, we can't help but stop and admire the views of the town.  Here we are at the malecon.   The lake extends for a couple of kilometers.  You can see pelicans, egrets, herons and ducks on the water as well as fishermen in their boats.

None other than the famous Kevin and Ruth from Travels with Kevin and Ruth.  They have come to Valle de Juarez many times.  They will be traveling to Morelia this next week leaving Sherman their motorhome until they return.  Nice people, Kevin helps me a lot with rv stuff and Ruth is a great cook.  Fun people to hang around with.
Other good friends of ours, Croft and Norma.  They are parked next to us for another week.   Croft has a blog too, Croft's Mexico.   We have known each other for some years now.  Great people.  Croft shares his CNN feed with us.  We don't watch much tv but I do like the news in the mornings and evenings.  We all went out for enchiladas last night, five couples.   A great time had by all.

I told our neighbors Jerry and Paula we would pick them up at 7 a.m. for Sunday mass.  I guess he took me seriously and I caught him at 7 a.m. climbing up the ladder on his rig to wash the roof. 

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Fallacies About Mexico

I know you would probably prefer to see photos from the last two days of our adventures but I really have the need to share some thoughts about Mexico.  I have been reading information disseminated by some Mexico blogs and forums and it is simply not true or misconstrued.  
Why does this happen in the first place?   Don't get me wrong and don't think I have anything up on anyone who lives or travels here.  However, that being said, some rvers and ex-pats live in an isolated Mexico.  That is to say they never travel, work or live in major cities of Mexico, pay no taxes, utilities, construct or remodel their homes on their own.  This leaves a lot of  information about Mexico hanging in the air and their misinformation based on their experiences.
Let's start with worker pay.  I know I have written about this before but it is worth repeating.   In Mexico we have a minimum wage structure.   There are three minimum wages scales based on areas of the country where people live.   No one in Mexico makes 64 pesos a day.   Not true.   Mexicans at all levels and positions are paid in multiples of minimum wages.   For example, construction workers make four minimum wages a day or 1280 pesos a week.   This is after tax.  In fact, anyone who makes less than 5000 pesos a month pays no income tax.  In addition to their pay, all Mexicans who are registered (social security number) are by law required to receive a Christmas bonus, Social Security pension, medical attention for themselves, spouse, children and any other family dependent living in their house, utilidades (profit sharing), despensa (food coupons based on their income), one time fixed rate home loan, a subsidy of 50,000 pesos for buying that home.  There are more goodies that each employee receives.
Education:  Primary education is free in Mexico.  There is a quota that is charged by the PTA in each school to help maintain the building and the grounds.  The government supplies the building, furniture, and teachers.  The rest is left to the PTA.   Electricity is provided free to all schools in Mexico public or private including high schools and universities.   Scholarships are available in large numbers for all reasons including lack of resources to those students with special needs as well as those living with family members other than parents.  High school runs around 14 dollars a month and state universities 230 dollars a semester.   Uniforms and school supplies are subsidized by the state and federal government and books are provided at no cost to primary and secondary students.
Someone mentioned that cigarettes are 3 pesos a piece and workers only make 64 pesos a day.   In Mexico, some small corner stores sell cigarros sueltos or individual cigarettes.  Why?  Some people like a smoke now and then and don't have the need to buy a whole pack.  Why three pesos per cigarette?  It is what the market will bear.  In general though, if smoking is really important to you, some cigarettes can be had for as low as 20 pesos a pack.
Businesses and self-employed pay taxes monthly via internet only.  No manual forms exist and payments are made in any bank at no charge. 
Utilities, credit cards, money transfers can all be paid in banks, online, and in the case of Telmex and the CFE they also have ATM machines to make payments with cash and return change.
Tax deductions for gasoline can only be made if a credit or debit card is used for payment so many gas stations now accept credit cards.  Trust me, truckers don't carry 10,000 pesos in cash with them to fill their tanks on their routes.   Some say that Canadian cards don't work well in Mexico and that may well be true.  We use Mexican and American without any issue.  All Pemex stations are franchises and are not owned and operated by the government.  That was an issue that went on in the forums in San Miguel de Allende for over two months before I could prove that the major gas station was owned by the guy in the big house behind it.   National oil company that gives franchises to individual owners.   That is why we now have convenience stores with gas stations.
Speaking of convenience stores, 7 Elevens located in 9 Mexican states, now accept bank deposits, pay utility bill payements, credit card payments, buy cell phone service, Mexican pay pal, send money transfers and purchase insurance for U.S. travel by buying a scratch card depending on the number of days you want from 1 day to 3 months. (all of which can be done in dollars as well as pesos)
ATMs in Mexico also dispense U.S. dollars.  Banorte banks in Mexico have 4000 ATMS of which 1100 dispense U.S. dollars and Mexican pesos.  Checking bank websites will show lists of ATM locations and which ones offer dollars.
There is so much to share and I hope this clears things up for some people.  I also hope that no one is offended by this post but I felt it was important.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Christmas Dinner Hacienda Contreras

Christmas Eve was a success here in Haciena.   The whole park showed up along with Sal and Barb's kids, and Sal's mother and sister.  There was more than enough food.  We had tamales made by some of the rvers here along with, ranchero beans, turkey, gravy, mashed potatoes, cold cut plate with cheeses, deviled eggs, salad, excellent cheese dip with chips, stuffed tomatoes, cranberry sauce, the best turkey dressing ever, fish kabobs, chicharron, goulash, and a myriad of desserts.

Here is "Tomas" as he came out of the oven.

A group picture of all the rvers and family.

The best part was after the dinner and drinks.  Some of us moved to Croft and Normas' and continued the Christmas cheer until midnight.  We probably kept the rest of the park up.  Brian says he took Tillie (their dog) for a walk and could hear the laughter.   It was truly a great evening.  Not to mention the fact that if we didn't live next door I would have never made it home.
This was Christmas day in the morning.  Quiet, no movement, and a great time to go for a walk around Hacienda Contreras.  Santa did show up.  Cassie, Derek and Theresas' daughter received several gifts from Santa including her dream gift which was a set of dinosuars.  I need to take a picture of her.  She is a real cutie and smart as a whip.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Anniversary Party And The Bird

Yesterday was Sal and Barb's 40th wedding anniversary.  We all went to Mazamitla for dinner to celebrate.  Two of their daughters and a son-in-law are here until the 27th and it was a real celebration.  There were mariachis, a trio that also played for us, great food and drink.   Juan and I split a very good pechuga de pollo con salsa nogada and a salad (ensalada bufalo), fantastic.  The service, food and atmosphere get a 10 from us.  It has been a long time since we have had such a great dining experience.  We were there last year when Sal and Barb invited us out after our two month stay here at Hacienda (our upscale Mexican rv park).

 The whole group smiling for the camera.
The restaurant La Troje in Mazamitla.
We have been busy all day today.  First it was off to the gym.  No one was there but the owner.  Then I took Kevin, Theresa and Croft into Mazamitla to pick up the turkey.  We passed by the market looking for some last minute things and also to find the computer guy to see if he could fix a cable for Kevin.  The computer guy did my software last year.  He travels between three towns and sets up a stand in the local markets.
This was before the end.  We will be having dinner in about an hour.   Tomorrow I will post pics of the event and what this guy looked like after he came out of the oven.  We decided to get a fresh turkey as part of the rural experience.  We'll see how it tastes.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Mezcal Run
Sal and Barb planned a trip up to the where they produce mezcal.  Before that though, we headed out to the local market in Valle de Juarez.   As you can see the first stop was at our friend's stand where she makes green corn tortillas.  We ordered a taco to eat there in the market.  She hands you the tortilla on a plate and you serve yourself.  I had beans, eggs in salsa and a piece of cheese.   Yummy.  Then we ordered two quesadillas with chorizo for our lunch at the mezcal place.

The farm where we went isn't really very far from the rv park.   It took us about 20 minutes to drive there.   We did go up a few hundred feet but then back down a bit into the valley.  The scenery is fantastic.   Amazing how peaceful life is here in central Mexico.  People pass the days without any stress or worries.  One of the sons had just returned from eight months in Chicago.  He told me he prefers Mexico much more than the U.S.  I can see why.  There is work to be done but there seems to be no pressure and things get done when they get done.

The production is based on fermentation.  In one of the small buildings you can see the magay after it has been ground up.  It sits in tile covered pits where it ferments and the precious liquid is sent down stream a bit where it continues to work.

Like a kid in a candy store you can see by the look on my face I was excited about getting a sample of that wonderful juice.   You bring your own bottle and they will sell any quantity.  We bought a gallon and an additional liter.  The price is very good and having a gallon of it around will be a great treat for guests at home and here in the rv park should Sal set up another campfire while we are here

We had a good tour of the mezcal production, Sal and Barb brought some really good cheese to go with the liquor and we had a pretty good time there.  After, Jesus our guide, invited us to his cabin further up the mountains where we looked at the gorgeous views and had our lunch.  I asked Jesus if he would be interested in renting the cabin for a few weeks this summer.  What great place to string up a hammock and watch the world go by.   My kind of place.
 We got up early this morning to bid farewell to Jerry, Paula, Ken, Kris, Bill and Gail.  They took off in a taxi headed for the bus station in Sahguayo where they will hitch a ride to Mexico City for four days.   We have a great group of people here in Hacienda Contreras and it's beginning to look a lot like Christmas. 

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Preparing For The Holidays At Hacienda Contreras
More people are showing up as the days go by.  Yesterday Croft and Norma pulled in along with Derek and Theresa.  The park is pretty much full now and the happy hour circle continues to grow.  Every time we think we have the circle just right we have to "move back" some more allowing the circle to grow.

There's just too much to do around here.  We did our morning ritual of the gym, stopped by the corner store for a kilo of eggs and Jerry and Paula fixed breakfast.  It was really good, huevos Jalisco.   They had bought some Argentinian chorizo and the flavor was really fantastic.
We drove into Sahguayo to go to our bank.  It is the closest one that we know of.  I had to pay some bills including my monthly tax statement and we headed over to Soriana but didn't really pick up much.  Everything we need seems to be here near the rv park.
There is a thread going on Rv.Net about "how full is your park".   No one is singing the blues here, that's for sure.
Last night we headed out for the town square in Valle de Juarez for one of many "posadas".  Posadas have a long history and one that still rings true today.  Two groups of people go to someone's house.  Mary and Joseph ask for a place to stay and the group inside the house deny them a place.  There are exchanges of script and finally they are let in.  Candles are lit and everyone sings Christmas carols.   The piñata is hung and the children begin beating it.  The piñata represents "el diablo".  The beat the devil out of it and in return they receive the candy that is inside.
At the plaza it was kids night.  Lots of activities and games such as the potato sack race, piñata, raffle and more.   It was a lot of fun to see such happiness when we have been surrounded by so much violence in the last week.   Makes me wish I had been born a Mexican.  Truly a different life, even in today's world of internet, video games and chat.

We had enchiladas at Portal del Angel which is located across the street from plaza.  I ordered two empalmes, one made from huitlacoche and the other flor de calabaza.  I cut them up and passed them around.  They weren't much of a hit after I explained that the huitlacoche is corn mold!   We stayed there for a couple of hours drinking and laughing.  It was a really fun time.  

Came back home and there are too many people to visit.  We hadn't seen Croft and Norma except for happy hour and Kevin and Ruth had just returned from SMA.   I went over and said howdy do to Kevin and Ruth and explained that we had to see our newly installed neighbors.   We spent the rest of the evening chatting up a storm and listening to Croft's travel adventures.  It was fun and it looks like the next week will be very social.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Mexico Crossing Points

John asked about crossing points along the border.  John is also known as Keelhauler1 on and always has some good advice not to mention his blog Our Mexico Rv Trips
I'm sure many people can chime in on this but we always recommend crossing at the Colombia Bridge.  Because we go to McAllen quite a bit, we use the Hidalgo Bridge from Reynosa.  I recently posted about the Pharr Bridge which is super easy to get to from Mexico without entering the city of Reynosa.  We like that bridge the best for easy access.   It has a higher cost though going in.  I don't know what the charge is leaving Mexico.  It is a very safe route as you are on a busy but well-organized route where transito are almost non-existent and not a good place for "the bad guys" to do anything.  We have seen lots of military as well as state and federal police patrolling this route.
When we travel to the interior, like this trip to Jalisco, we use Hwy 57 from Saltillo.  Heading back north in January to Monterrey we will stay in Guadalcazar which is a boondocking location on the border of San Luis Potosi and then one more stop in Matehuala for the night at Las Palmas or the Oasis and then head to Saltillo and home. 
That route, and forgive me because we don't use maps very often much less road numbers, it would be the Hwy 57 from SLP or Hwy 54 from Zacatecas to Saltillo.  Then Hwy 40 to Monterrey taking the 85 north to Laredo or continuing on Hwy 40 all the way to Reynosa to any of the bridges I mentioned.

On another note, we had a great lunch yesterday at La Cocinita.  The food is fantastic.  I had pescado a la plancha with rice, salad, beans and chilaquiles and Juan had the pollo con mole with rice and beans.  


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Running Errands

We decided to sleep in today and didn't make it to the gym until after 8 a.m.  I was still up with the cats though around 6 a.m.   I watched the sun come up.

You can tell it was a beginning to a lazy day.  We watched the news on the laptop for awhile and had coffee.  Even the cats didn't want to get out of bed.  That electric blanket works everytime.  It's like a drug.

The gym remains pretty much empty because of the holidays. Boy, wait until the second week of January and it will be packed with people making their New Year's resolutions.  I took a couple of shots of the gym in case you were wondering:

I decided to walk home from the gym for more exercise.  I know the big event is coming and if I can lose a pound or two it won't hurt so much afterwards.  OnceI got home, I hung the lights on the tree in front of our unit and then I drove up the road and ordered our Christmas turkey.   We are having a potluck on the 24th with tamales so I thought we would buy a fresh turkey.  I should have taken a picture of the victim beforehand but didn't take the camera.   I go to pick it up on Monday afternoon so who knows, we may pass by there this week still and I can get a shot of the bird in his last days.
I also went into Valle to check what La Cocinita was having for lunch.  We haven't eaten out yet in Valle since we got here.   The list is long and sounds delicious.   We will take off in a few minutes to eat.   I dropped by the glass place and ordered the acrylic for the storm door.  The guy is going to come out tomorrow around 10 a.m. and cut it so I can put it in place.  I need to pick up some velcro while we are out to lunch so I can install it when he is done.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Day Trip To Guadalajara

Kevin and Ruth took off for SMA this morning.  Ruth made a really wonderful lasagna for dinner last night.   Sherman sits here all by himself and he looks a bit lonesome.   Kind of wierd not seeing those guys when we came back from Guadalajara.
We took off around 9:30 after going to the gym.  The gym is a bit empty these days as it is the "season".   Lots of parties are taking place and there was one on the main street last night.   We saw the remains this morning.  I asked one of the guys in the gym why it was so empty and he said it was because most kids are finishing classes, univerities are out of session until the new year and it is pretty much party time.   I knew the reason but I was making conversation.
Our neighbor Don wanted to do some stuff in Guadalajara today and we were invited to tag along.   It was a fun ride, albeit slow.   Funny, I hardly ever get a chance to sit in the back seat and take in the scenery.  It was a very nice drive and we talked about all kinds things from politics to food.
Anyone wanting to go to Guadalajara from the rv park here in Valle de Juarez just needs to follow the signs.   We drove straight into Zapopan and first thing we see is a giant Mega grocery store which is located across from the San Jose del Tajo Rv Park.   We stayed there last year for about two weeks. 
Next to the Mega is a CostCo where we bought some vitamins and Don stocked up on wines and other goodies.   Then it was off to the Walmart, Office Depot where Don picked up some printer cartridges and then we turned around and went to the FedEx office to pick up a blank waybill for an shipment he wanted to make.
Heading back home we bought some berries on the side of the road and I did a little work on the computer while Juan and Don conversed.  By the time we got back to the park it was time for a quick nap and happy hour.  We finished the evening with a fantastic veggie and pasta salad and watched a movie called "The Conflict".

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Get Some Sun!

For cryin' outloud, get some sun!  That's my credo for today.  I'm sure many of you read Kevin and Ruth's blog the other day about our trip to Ajijic.   Incredible trip, beautiful drive and as I said we talked up a storm.
One of the biggest impressions left on me was the reason why snowbirds come to Mexico.   After our tour of Walmart, I returned to the car where the guys were waiting for me.  I asked them to give me in one word the reason why people come to Mexico.  Ruth said "weather" and I said be more specific.  Kevin chimed in with "sun".  He hit it on the head.
So I ask, why do all the gringos running around Ajijic look like they only come out at night?  They are so white and scrawny.   They seem to hide in those fancy enclaves where once you enter the gates you return to the northern part of the continent.  Here at Hacienda, far from the beach, all the rvers have great tans.  They look healthy and young.  I realize that the sun can do damage, but like all things it is in excess.  Sun provides vitamin D which calcium needs for good absorption.  On the way home I saw an old fart (not because of age but attitude) about 60 years old who at first I thought was a mime, he face was coated with white wash.  Now maybe he had a skin problem or a bout with skin cancer, but you get my point.  
Today we are going on a hike with Peter, Barbara, Kevin, Ruth, Don, and Juan.  I hope we get lots of sun.  BTW, I started my sun worship yesterday and hope to continue it everyday for 15 minutes on each side.  

Friday, December 14, 2012

Great Day!

On our way to Ajijic (backseat pilots)
I didn't get a chance to post yesterday but we are parked down by the tower.  Croft, all you need is your hawking device, Kevin's works great.   We are poor teachers so we have to make do!
I stayed at home yesterday, feeling not so hot after my fall at the waterfalls, plus I think I had some kind of bug.  Got tired of that **** real fast and we ended up at the family bar-b-que.    All the neighbors came out, cooked what ever they wanted on the grill and we shared a very nice dinner.   Lots of fun.
Today we went for a drive to Ajijic.  First time we have ever been there.  Close to Croft and Norma, I hope they make it up the hill to visit all of us.   Kevin took "the little blue car" and we talked up a storm all the way.  Ruth brought along some great granola bars she had made and that held us over until we were done with our side trips. 
Passing by Lake Chapala

We took care of some business at immigration (good local office).  Then we stopped by GringoMart (Wally World) and stocked up on some supplies.  Funny, it was mostly vodka (Oso Negra at 59 pesos a liter) and popcorn, peanuts and snacks to take to happy hours.  We don't like to go empty handed.
Thanks to Brian and Sue who we will meet in a few days, we found a solar store that has just about everything.  Got some prices and checked things out.   They didn't have what we wanted but said it could be had in two business days.   We need to get that panel up and running.   Did I mention that we had a few loose connections and thanks to Kevin and Sal we are now running well on batteries.  We ran the laptops, furnace, LEDs, a small fan and other odds and ends all night waking up to 12.2 on our meter.   Very happy.  I learned quite a bit from Kevin as we checked things out.   More to learn though.
On our way home today we stopped for some birria de chivo.   Very good with excellent tortillas.  We arrived back at the park just in time for happy hour and decorating the tree.   Lots of fun.   There is a little "pino" in front of our rv.  I think we will dress it with Christmas light tomorrow.
An interesting story to follow this weekend about a chat with merchants and employees in Ajijic about gringos and how they treat the Mexicans.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Sun Is Shining

Yesterday we headed out in the early afternoon for a walk at the casada (waterfall).  We went with Kevin, Ruth, Peter and Barbara.  It had rained the night before and also in the morning.  I thought it would never clear up and then finally the clouds broke.  We had a great hike, saw lots of beautiful cabins along the way and had lots of good conversation.

Happy hour here starts early, so I need to take it easy.   4:30 is a bit too soon but I guess just like the altitude I will adjust quickly.  We went out as group for dinner last night to a place called El Charco.  Pretty good food but it was cold and I wasn't feeling so hot (I fell on our hike, yikes!!).   I'll be alright, a little exercise and will be as good as new.

We are at a ciber cafe, the wifi took a dump last night so we are waiting.  We came into town to go to the bank, pay the electric bill and fill up an LP tank.  Found a ciber right away.   Took off to check out the gym and the owner was happy we will be starting back tomorrow.   Getting back in our routine is important for us and we like to do all the other good things too like hiking, eating and happy hour.  I think I mentioned that before.  

Kevin is going to check out electric system and we will talk a bi about the solar install.   I plan on looking for a plumber to splice the line under the stove so we can use our Mr. Heater.   It gets pretty cold here at night.  The electric blanket, on low, provides plenty of warmth and the cats love it.  They are out and about getting used to their old digs.  

We look over at Jerry and Paula's pad waiting for them to come next week wondering what it will look like once they are moved in again.   I will post pics tomorrow, to much convolution here at the ciber to do downloading.  

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Moved In To Contreras

We got up yesterday around 6 a.m., had coffee and then I started to hookup the rv.   Got everything ready and as we were taking off, Mario the director pulled up to wish a safe trip.
I had emailed Barb and asked for the best route although I had one picked out already.  We followed Sal's advice and it turned out it was the route we had taken before.  Bad memory on my part.   The trip was flawless, we didn't drop that nasty hitch bar either.   I guess I had that hose clamp on there good and tight.
We literally sailed into Hacienda as the roads were fantastic.   We used the by-pass for Irupuato and also the new one for La Piedad.   The new cuota for La Piedad was 79 pesos.   Not really necessary as La Piedad has a good truck route and there are some cool things to see along the road.   I will say that once we got to Briseño, we missed the Sahuayo by-pass and went into Briseño.   Not a biggy as it is also a truck route.  I don't think we lost any time doing it, but so people know, as you get close to Briseño you take a right turn.  There is a sign that says Sahuayo and the arrow points to the left.  This left doesn't look very convincing as it appears to be a dead end.  It's not and you can take it if you want.
We went over the 14 topes in Sahuayo and decided we had enough supplies that it wasn't worth stopping.   On another note, we stopped for gas in Yurecuaro.   They take credit and debit cards.  Next door is an OXXO convenience store.  I went in for a coffee and when I went to pay she asked me, "cash or debit".   Mexicans have become very credit and card conscious.  Truly amazing.
As we pulled into HC, Sal and Barb, Kevin and Ruth came out to greet us.   Nice to pull into a park where you not only know people but the owners come out to meet you.  We were set up in no time and it was happy hour.  We visited with Kevin and Ruth for awhile and then headed over to the drink table.   Lots of nice people and it looks like our time here will be fun (pending the visit of Croft, Norma, PJ and Claudia).
Ruth fixed a wonderful welcome dinner, she truly is a great cook.  She mixed up a batch of cookies that she shared at the campfire that Sal did and off to bed we went. 

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Sunset in San Miguel de Allende

We looked into getting a Telcel stick.  Jerry had to reactivate his so we went along.  The new USB is 249 and comes with 1GB to start.  We have a Movistar USB and we are thinking if we have the Telcel we can have coverage just about anywhere we go.
We also stopped by the organic market near the institute where we had a great gordita and watched gringos get silly.   Food was good and the atmosphere light.   Great cheeses and breads for sale, no preservatives, additives or colors.   Some pretty stinky cheeses, my favorite.   I love strong cheese.  So when people say they can't get good cheese in Mexico they know where to go.
We finished yesterday with a great dinner out. Jerry and Paula invited us to a great spot and we talked up a storm for a couple of hours. Les showed up and joined in the fun.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

At Our Favorite Spot

Yesterday was a relaxing drive to SMA from Matehuala.  We were able to say goodbye to Jerry and Paula.  Sal and Barb had taken off earlier in the morning as they had a much longer drive.  We sailed along at a reduced speed of 90 kms per hour.  Worked beautifully.  Pulling the trailer we were able to average 13 mpg.   No longer in a hurry and the bumps and imperfections are less noticable as well as being able to see the sights when some yells, "hey look at that".  

The pictures below are from the Hwy 57.  This is the turn off to Guadalcázar, SLP.  Heading south, you turn here to the East.  There is a parador on the right so you can pull to the right to make a wide turn or park until traffic clears.  Guadalcázar is a pueblo magico.  We have boondocked there many times.   It is about 10 kms from the 57 to town and when you arrive you pass what appears to be an abandoned plaza, in good condition but nothing happening.  This is where you park.   From there you can walk to the next plaza which is the plaza principal.  The police station is there and just ask for permission.  They will tell you that it is a safe place and they will keep an eye on you.

Another option for the more adventurous and with a forty foot bus, you can take the road to town but turn left where it says Realejo de Guadalcázar.  This takes you up the mountains and it is beautiful.  You can do a search for it here on the blog for more info.  We went up there over a year ago.

We arrived in SMA around 2:15 and gassed up before we headed to the botanical gardens.  Mario, the director, was happy to see us again and we chatted for a bit before parking the rv.   We have a great spot and not sure why more rvers don't take advantage of the place.  We maintain a membership there as our way of paying for our spot and it gives us access to the gardens as well as the internet.  It is so quiet and peaceful there, the sunsets are to die for.   We will try to take a pic tonight or tomorrow night.

We took a nap and then headed over to Weber's to see who was there.   A great place if you have a small rv like a class B or a truck camper.   We found Jerry sitting outside enjoying a beverage and Paula was inside.  When she heard us talking she came out.  We weren't intending on staying but just to see if they got there okay and that we were parked up at the park.

It was really cold last night and we ran the furnace all night.   The batteries showed it too this morning.  I fired up the generator (which I hope we won't have to do much longer and got a good charge for today and tonight. 

This morning, Saturday, we went and bought some multigrano bread at the Canadian bakery.  We drove past La Siesta and it does look like it is down for more than a nap.  Sad to see the place just sitting there.  We headed on down to the Hotel Rosewood where they have the organic market on Saturdays.  We had a gordita and that should hold us until lunch.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Here In Matehuala

Here we are in Matehuala.  We met up with Barb and Sal, Jerry and Paula.  We are having dinner right now.  You can see us here below.
We drove across the mountains and had a little bit of problems with the weight distribution hith.  One of the bars kept falling off.  The pin inside has worn down and it slips out.  I have a hose clamp around it for now and it seems to be holding, well, more or less.  I thought I had a spare but haven't found it yet.
The transmission pulled us beautifully over the mountains in second without a problem.  More on all this later.
We had a great day and we are happy to be on the road.

It's Time To Go!

I drove the SUV all over yesterday, taking hills and mountains around town shifting gears and all that man stuff.  It worked well and I feel confident the problems with the transmission have been fixed.
We will take off this morning in the next hour using the southern route from the house.  That means we will take the beautiful mountain route crossing the border into Coahuila;  Linares, Galeana, San Roberto and then to Matehuala.
We should arrive at Las Palmas in time for a nap.   Camera in tow, we will be posting pictures from our trip. 

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Green Light!

The SUV is ready and now parked in the driveway.  We will be packing up tomorrow and doing all last minute things.   Lots to do but it is all fun stuff, nothing that I would call dreadful.
They replaced the transmission pump and a couple of pulleys.  Juan took it to another place afterwards and had the computer scan run.  It came out clean.  We will take it up the mountain tomorrow for a test drive just for peace of mind.
Thursday looks like takeoff, and we will land the first night in Matehuala.   I want to check out the Oasis across the street from Las Palmas.  
Check back daily.  We will update as we go.  I just read Croft's blog, and looks like we will pick up a Telcel stick.  We have a Movistar and it would be good to cover all the towers as we go along.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Going Nuts

I'm sitting here in the den watching tv via internet using the projector.  I love it!  Nice to see movies on the big screen.   It isn't permanently installed but it works great nevertheless.

I did some odds and ends on the trailer today, some laundry of things like linens and blankets.   We talk to the transmission guy tomorrow.  I'm going nuts.  I want to be out of here!!!!!!

We went out for breakfast this morning, pretty good too.   I had enchiladas with chorizo sauce and some potatoes.  Right, enchiladas for breakfast.  Delicious.  We then drove down to our place in Allende.  Still there, trees are growing and the place is empty.  

Anyway, no news is good news.   Yesterday was a complete waste.   I couldn't find squat at Home Depot or anywhere else.   At least three times a year I say, "I will never shop at Home Depot again".  What keeps me going back?  They really don't carry much, it is all common stuff.  Not even PVC wide enough for my sewer hose.  They refused to cut the Lexan saying they could start a fire.  Okay.  So I will buy it cheaper somewhere else and attempt to do it with an exacto knife.

Friday, November 30, 2012

To Do List

Marking off the days here at home waiting for news on the transmission.  Tomorrow they will have it all written up.   Not to concerned, the SUV has not given us any trouble in over 200,000 kms.   Yep, we drive a lot and I like doing it.
Today was rv day.   I think Kevin got me motivated with his brake repair on Sherman.  I took about the batteries, cleaned the cables, posts, and topped off the batteries.  They were looking pretty good and needed a teaspoon or two of water in each cell.
I tried out the Mr. Heater on the tank and it worked like a charm.   Got to thinking about it, and the reason for the purchase was not so much battery power for the furnace as it was noise.   I have found several people who removed their furnace and put in a tee to connect the Mr. Heater.   I may do that tomorrow or Monday and am looking for a good LP/gas repairman.  The heater has to hook holes in the back for hanging so it may become permanent.   The Suburban I can sell locally to the rv repair shop or put it on Ebay.   It has been used less than maybe 60 hours.
I also measured the screen door for the lexan so we can have a storm door.  If its cold I don't like having the door closed because that usually means don't knock to most people.  I will keep it simple and use velcro to keep it in place.  The cats can get a good shot of what is going on outside.   They are excited about leaving, they know something is up.  They will be surprised when they get to jump out at Hacienda and run around for a few weeks.
I am buying a pvc fence post and end caps to mount on the rear bumper for the sewer hose.  Get this.  The rv has the dump valve in the front because it is a front bath and kitchen model.  You need a frickin' 20ft hose at most places if you are staying for any length of time.   The hose holder is in the front mounted on the side,  really nice one.  However, it is only two feet long. Duh.  My plan tomorrow is to paint it black to match the bumper and use a piece of gutter I have left over to slide the hose in and out.
The tire that blew will be put on the rim and I will change the tire later tomorrow and replace the spare.  I could swear I had another new tire in the shed but I guess we used it.  So we will still have a good spare on the back.
I'm getting really excited about the trip.   I can't wait to driving down the 57.   The trailer needs a good cleaning still and we are getting rid of extra weight, junk we carry that we don't use and clean out the cabinets. 
Christmas came early.  We built the studio off of the living room and we got such a good deal on a corner piece sofa.   Remember we went to the home show and got the show discount, then came the Buen Fin weekend and when we went to pay the guy gave us that discount too.  Looks good and I would show you  picture if I could find the camera.  Maybe tomorrow.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

It Always Happens Like This

The hunt continued today for the hose or connection.  I called around town, I got no good answers.  Then, I decided to check the Weber page.  I typed in, Weber de Mexico, and wham.   They have a webpage and list of distributors.  There were various stores around town and one was listed as Lowe's and another was on a major avenue as you get into town.   I wasn't familiar with Plaza Las Villas on Eugenio Garza Sada or the company called Grill More.  
As I searched the avenue I found nothing and then realized I may have passed the address.  I continued on to Lowe's and figured I could backtrack.  Lowe's was a bunch of lumps on a log.  Lo que esta allí es todo lo que hay.  What's on the shelf is all there is.   I gave my famous back hand motion and took off (I'll show you the motion if we ever meet up, I learned it from Sofia Petrillo).
On the way home I thought I had found the place called More Grill.  I took a turn around and found the centro commercial.  I watched the damn mall being built more than three years ago, always looked at it all lit up at night and never paid attention to the sign on the top of the strip mall.  I pulled in and there was the shop.  All types of grills and accessories in the window.   A pretty up scale shop, I asked the guy about the hose.  He said, "sure, I got five of them".  Duh, right down the road as you get into town.  This has happened a dozen times in my life if not more.
We got to chatting (not that I'm a talker) and he asked why I wanted the hose.  So I went and got the Mr. Heater out of the car and he asked if I was using it for camping.  I told him I had a casa movil tipo remolque, and his eyes widened.   Turns out, the guy and his dad used to own an rv park in Oaxaca that closed in the early 90s called Rosa something.  He wanted to talk for hours about all the foreigners he met as a kid and the bungalows and different types of rvs he saw.
In the end, I have a hose from the tank to the heater, six foot.  Not exactly what I want but we will make it work.  I'm happy now. 

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

The Big Day

Tomorrow is the big day.  I dropped off the SUV at 5 p.m.  Surgery is scheduled for 9 a.m. with no results until Friday afternoon or Saturday morning.  I told the guy to take it nice and slow.   I took the SUV to get it washed first, imagine going in for surgery without taking a bath.  Yuck.  She sure looked good going in for observation.
I got some things done today, paid bills and went to see my accountant.   I pay a mere 250 pesos a month to keep my taxes straight and take advantage of all my possible deductions.  Being self-employed, I have to register and pay taxes monthly.   All of it is done via internet and having an account who is in the know makes it much easier.  So far this year, apart from the 20% I pay on income, everything else has been in my favor.  This amount accumulates month by month and helps to reduce or eliminate what I owe at the end of the year.
I got ahold of Wandering Mike.  He had some rv issues and was in San Antonio.  I was hoping he could pick up a quick disconnect hose at CW while he was there but his trip has been delayed.   Today I went out hose hunting and came up empty.  Close, but not close enough.   Two places carry the hose but are out and a special order could be a week out, to close for comfort.   Tomorrow I have two more options and then I will call it quits.  I may opt out for another heater I can buy locally and return the Mr. Heater some time in the spring.  I am still optomistic.  The interesting part is running around downtown to all these specialty shops.  So much that you can still find.  Home Depot is a generic store that carries very little of what one really needs.  I have pretty much written them off.  Enter the store and you are greeted by people who know very little about products and would do little to inform themselves.   I'll never get it.
If you work in the section for gas and electric heaters, instead of standing around with your finger in your (you fill in the blank) you would grab a manual and make yourself an expert on the products you sell.   Sad times we live in.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Cardiologist-Finishing the List

Spent most of the day yesterday with the heart man.  I asked him if he could do a cardiac MRI and he refused.  There is a history of heart problems in my family and I don't want to wait to find out I need a by-pass.  He said some plaque is normal and should be expected.  Based on the tests he performs he feels extremely confident that my pump is working properly.   He feels those types of tests only generate money for the doctor and the hospital.  
Bottom line, I'm heart healthy.   My pressure is not improving much so we are trying another medication.  I need to lose those pesky 10 pounds and I am sure I will get a good workout in Hacienda.   I have been bad with my diet these last three months.  I pretty much am in a funk when it comes to weight control.   I worked really hard during the summer but results were minimal so I said, "screw it".  I grew up a fat kid, a story I will relate some day.  I've always hated my body, sounds wierd because it all works great and I should be thankful for that.  (sob, sob, sob and woe is me)  Now I have some confidence from the doctor that I can do it.  Another year of good health is in the forecast. 
The SUV is not well though.  They opened it up and found some signs of wear on the transmission.   We will return it on Thursday for surgery.   Once they open it again we will get the final results.   The mechanic or shop owner says not to expect the worst yet it could be semi-good news.   I threw it out to the universe to figure out and whatever is sent back we will deal with. 
If these are the worst things in my life I am a very happy man. 

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Yikes! Repairs, Repairs and More Repairs

The SUV was suffering some braking noise on the way home from McAllen.  We took it in yesterday to find out we had a warped disc and needed new pads in front.   Initial estimates were 4000 pesos replacing the disc.   We finished with a rectified disc and new pads for 950 pesos.  Good deal.
We had some other noise coming and going over the last months and had the computer put on it.  I knew what it was but didn't want to find out.   The computer says, "transmission pump".  Just as I had expected.  
Tomorrow we work on that.  Don't want to travel all the way south and have that poop out on us, we would be in deep mud.   So it looks like a slight delay in our trip.   I had wanted to shove off tomorrow.  This may take a few days.   Maybe we will get lucky.
The weather is still cold and wet and I want to get south.   Hacienda gets cold at night but nice and warm during the day.   Anyway, I have some things to do here at home to fill the void.  One is to get the tires changed on the rv.   I need to have a new tire we bought earlier this year mounted on the wheel that had the blowout, and then mount another tire we have had for quite a long time in the shed to use as a spare.   That will leave us with one extra tire that is the same age as the others.  
A good cleaing inside and out will be in order, I am hoping to find some guys to do the outside.  It really needs a good waxing.

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Near Miss, and later, KABOOM!

As you know from above, we took the Pharr bridge and things were just dandy.   We headed for the libramiento and smooth sailing towards Hwy 40.   We went over a bridge and as we came down the wind picked up.  Sailing off my sideview mirrow was the strap on tow mirror.   I watched as it sailed behind me, slide across the highway and hit the median.   We pulled over and Juan ran back about 200 meters and found.  Still intact.
We took off again and thought we should top off the tank and get a java.  I was chatting with the attendant and all of a sudden a huge bang and dust, starts flying.  Mind you, we are just off the road about 50 meters between the back of the trailer and the highway median.  An SUV had attempted to avoid a car doing a wreckless lane change, hit the curb of the median and had a blowout.  The SUV spun around about four times and each time it got closer and closer.  This is in a matter of seconds and I started yelling, "aguas, aguas" (look out) and people started running for fear he would strike the pumps.  Juan was reaching for something in the car and ran out of the way.   The SUV missed the rear of the trailer by inches.   Funny thing, the driver was now facing traffic and pulled off into the gas station.  A bit dazed, but in good shape and no damage to his vehicle.  Very lucky no one smacked into him.  
We headed south, passed km 26 where we were inspected again and off we went for Monterrey.  Great trip, Juan was a bit under the weather from something he ate at dinner yesterday so he took a nap most of the way.   Entering Monterrey and heading toward our house has never been easier for us.   As we neared the house, just about 4 kms away, I felt a tug on the wheel and something didn't feel right.   Kaboom!  We had a blowout on the trailer.   We pulled over and did our drill, 10 minute tire change and went to the house.  The poor tire was in shreds.
Not sure if I mentioned this but I had been jinxed with backing the trailer into the driveway the last two times.  So bad that we had to disconnect it, attach the hitch wheel and push it into position before reconnecting and getting it in.  Coming home has been on my mind all week.   We opened the gates and the first pass I felt I was to close to start.   I moved forward, put it in reverse and said, "throw this out to the universe".   I put that baby in on the first try with no other maneuvers.  I beat the jinx.

We Took The Pharr Bridge

Old habits die hard and we decided it was time to kill one.  We changed from the Hidalgo bridge today and took the Pharr bridge.   Very easy and quick.   Only catch is the price.   It cost us 21 dollars to cross.  Way too much.  We recommend the bridge for first timers but we will go back to the Hidalgo bridge which charges us 6 dollars.  We have not yet taken the Anzalduas bridge from Mission which is like Pharr but it is reversed, by that I mean you will cross to Mexico and head east to the Hwy 40.  I will call this week to check toll charges.
As you approach the bridge coming down Cage St, pass the U.S. toll booth and grab you ankles (crude I know but . . . .).   This is an extremely long bridge and takes a few minutes to cross.   As you arrive to the Mexican side, there is an exit to the right which say trucks and express.  Don't take that.  Stay to your left.   As you enter the green light/red light area wait for your light.   Then, you will be directed to your far left which will take you to the rv inspection and Banjercito for your permits.  They guided us over when they saw us coming and removed the cones so we could enter.  Very easy.   They checked the rv and our importation papers and off we went.
Head straight, and follow the signs to Reynosa.  However, as you exit the Banjercito about 200 meters away, you will see a turn to the right that says Reynosa.  Don't take that, you'll end up going through town.  Keep heading straight.  A few kms down the road you will see an overpass,  stick to the right and exit right to Reynosa  Hwy 2(straight will take you to Rio Bravo).  The Hwy 2 is well-marked on the sign.  Take the "libramiento" for about 10 kms.   Stay right all the way taking the overpasses (this is legal as it is a truck route and the libramiento).   You will see signs that say Monterrey all along the route.  
As you approach the Hwy 40 interchange, on the right is a huge commercial shopping area that includes an SMart, Soriana, Coppel and other stores and over that you will see two hotels rising up behind it.  You are at the interchange.  Keep right and go over the overpass (last one you will go over), now head to your left.  As you come off of the overpass it will say "Centro de Abastos" and Monterrey.  Veer to your left and you will be heading under an overpass.   You are now free all the way to Monterrey, Saltillo and all points south.
We think this is a much better route and one I took in 2004 when I imported our first rv with Mexican plates.   However, I was alone and it was at night so I hardly remember the experience.  
You will pass many gas stations on the libramiento as well as Super 7 and OXXO convenience stores if you want a snack, coffee, or fuel.   All easy in and out as it is a truck route.
Now, go down to the post below and I will tell you about some interesting experiences we had today.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Pharr-Mty Map

Thanks to Croft's Mexico we now have a good map for crossing at the Pharr Bridge.  We have always used Hidalgo and never wanted to rock the boat.  Now we can see it is probably a better route as it doesn't go through Reynosa proper.  You can see that you cross the bridge and head straight for the periferico and catch the Hwy 40 south.  Looks easy and we will probably do it tomorrow.
I got the solar panel unpacked and it is 5ft by 3ft.  There is room on the roof although I really didn't want to mount it but I can see hauling it around either.  I just don't want to have to be parked in the sun when it is 100 degree outside.  We'll figure all that out when we get to Hacienda.
We found out yesterday that Barb's dad passed away.   We are very sad for her and Sal, it is always a difficult experience and never one that anyone looks forward to.  With time sadness turns to good memories and we realize our inmortality.
To all our friends, we wish you a very bountiful Thanksgiving and hope you are with someone you love be it your spouse, partner, family member, friends or pets and if you're lucky, all of the above.