Saturday, January 28, 2012

Farmer's Market and the Brownsville Zoo

Last night we went nback to our friends house in McAllen for a cookout.   We had some great steaks, guacamole with beans and rice.  We stayed until around 11:30 last night which was way past my bedtime.  It was fun though and we looked at a lot of old pictures Juan had put together on a PP presentation.  

This morning we got up around 7:30 and in time to get cleaned up to go to Brownsville with our neighbors.  They had invited us to visit the farmer's market and the zoo.   We had a blast.

First part of the market was all organic produce and meats.  One girl was selling fresh tamales made with olive oil, they were really good and we each ate one of those and then split a small burrito made with homemade chorizo but pure meat, fresh spices (nothing dried or powdered) and no yucky stuff in the chorizo.  It was one of the best chorizos I have ever tasted.

Not a lot of vendors but if you like organic, this is the place and worth the drive.  We found prices very competative with supermarket prices for non-organic.
Our friends Mike and Pat savoring an olive oil tamal made with organic cheese and peppers

We crossed the street to go the zoo. I haven't been to a zoo for many years but I can tell you I was impressed with the  selection of wildlife that they have here in Brownsville.  However, the zoo has some beautiful areas but it doesn't appear to be well-maintained.  I understand that many zoos suffer for lack of funding both local and federal. 

The mother gorilla gave birth two weeks ago and we found her nursing.

BTW, we went to Nuevo Progresso yesterday against strong advice from the U.S. government.  We weren't shot at, beaten, robbed, just had a good old time and some great food.  We spoke to several locals about trouble there and they all agreed that the town is only 15 blocks long and 6 blocks wide.  They have yet to see anything that has been spread via rumors.  They all agree it is a plan to keep them out of business and competing with valley doctors and dentists. 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Being a Winter Texan

It's not an easy job but somebody needs to do it.  It brings business to the RGV in more ways than one can imagine.  It provides jobs in rv parks, construction, rv sales, rv repair, homes to those who decide to stay full-time, and the local economies benefit as well in an overall sense. 

We have been so busy these last few days that we haven't had time to post anything on  the blog.   We made it to the Victoria Palms RV Resort for the health fair and it was a blast.  We met the Weslaco mayor's wife who says they regularly visit Monterrey and Santiago eating at the Las Palomas restaurant in our main plaza.  They usually go every month. 

After we headed to Retama Village for the open house.   That was a lot of fun.   We went to register first, and then had a quick bite of a pup and some water before making our walking tour of rver's lots and coach houses.  Each site comes with a coach house shell that can be used for storage, as a living area, workshop or whatever you want it to be.  For a space about 12 by 20 feet you can really do quite a bit.   The styles and personal touches were endless.   We found a couple of lots for sale, one came with an unfinished coach house and they are asking $46,000.   I'm sure there is a little room for negociation.   There are many ameneties such as the clubhouse, pool, well-maintained grounds and streets plus the free access to the birding center and use of bicycles to move around. 

Typical unfinished lot.

Fabulous pool area next to the clubhouse.

Example of a finished coach house with full bath, wet bar and washer dryer.

Yesterday we spent the day with some friends who live here in the valley.  We have known them for years.  They have a home in Monterrey but are working and living here.  They have just finsished building a beautiful home in McAllen.   We had lunch and then stopped by their house to meet the kids after school.   Didn't get home until after eight last night.  We stopped by Feldman's (liquor store) for refills before getting to the park.

Our friend Lori

Lori's husband Javier.

Their dog April.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Check Up and A Free Donut!

We are headed out today for a free cholesterol and sugar screening.  They serve donuts afterwards, isn't that a gas?????

After, we are going to Retama for an open house.   Retama and Bentsen Palms RV Park is a place we have stayed many times since the closing of the state park there which is now a birding center.  We have contemplated many times buying an rv site there as a base to travel from in the U.S.

Juan met me at the border yesterday with our neighbors Mike and Pat and we all headed out to the human feed trough for lunch, one of the famous Chinese palace buffets in the area.  Not bad and I controlled myself.  Amazing!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Day To End All . . . .

I came home to Monterrey this morning by bus.  I was called the other day to do a training at the university.  I accepted as it covers travel expenses, work, and the opportunity to come home and get some stuff we left behind.  I walked across the border at 7:15 a.m., took a taxi to the bus station, boarded the bus at 7:40 and was at the house at 11:45.   No stops, not even immigration.  I was the only foreigner on the bus as the bus driver asked before we took off.   I showed him my  "inmigrado" identification and when we got to the checkpoint he pointed at me and off we went.   A non-eventful trip.  

So let's get down to brass tacks.  We are having a good time at the rv park.  Everyone treats us really well and seem to have some interest in who we are and the fact that we rv in Mexico.  Then the ball drops.  Yesterday they had a border patrol presentation.  I am toning down the names and places because I really do fear speaking out.

Two Hispanic personnel from the department came, shared their thoughts on how dangerous Mexico is and to stay away at all costs.  They also advised people to carry a gun on the Texas side.  At that point, Canadians left the room.  There was so much misinformation, propaganda, and outright lies that my eyes literally began to water out of despair.   However, I kept my lip zipped.  Why?  I truly feared that someone in the park may fink on us if requested by the agents, and also the fact that the department has been infiltrated by "you know who".   

The final straw was at the end.  They showed a video which they said had been sent to them by the "you know who" as a warning, when in reality the video has been all over the internet and YouTube for months.  The video showed two men being beheaded by a chainsaw, all the way to the end.  Now, you tell me, what was the purpose of showing that video to people who are between 60 and 90 who winter in south Texas because it does their bones good, they get inexpensive dental and eye care, not to mention prescriptions, and they love going across the border.  Well, they were warned that they were putting their lives on the line going to Nuevo Progresso and to stay out of Mexico or they could be next.

I truly feel defeated.   I know it was propaganda, but I went home last night with my tail between my legs.  People actually bought it.  The presentation was racist, low-down and outright dirty.  They even said that this is all because of Obama, and to vote for a Texan candidate for president who would shut down the border.   I would hate to see the reaction from all the drug users who consume 40 billlion dollars worth of illegal drugs once they find out their source has been cut off.

It was despicable.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Day Trip To Nuevo Progreso

First off, a big shout out to Sandy in Arkansas.  Her sister Donna stopped me today to say that Sandy reads the blog.  Donna's a hoot to talk to.  They're just down the road from us and she invited us over sometime.

Did our usual routine yesterday and then decided we needed to go to the bank in Mexico to make a deposit.  We headed down the road to Nuevo Progreso where all the Winter Texans get their teeth fixed, pedicures, manicures, haircuts, shoeshines and lots of ice cold Mexican cerveza.  There is only one bank there, an HSBC.  We bank at Banorte so we will have to go to Reynosa.

We parked on the U.S. side for two dollars and then began walking across the bridge.  The bridge charge for pedestrians is twenty-five cents.

The streets were packed with tourists, in fact, it was busy it was difficult to make way through the crowds.  Restaurants, bars and all the shops were full too.  People were buying all kinds of stuff.  It is really a small place, just one main street,  but they really pack in the crowds.

We walked all the way down to the end and on our way back we found a great little local restaurant that serves up a lot of food for a little price.  We need to go back and get the name of it but it was worth the stop and a return visit.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Day 9 - La Feria "It Gets Busy Around Here"

Wow, sorry for not posting but the days here are very busy.  If we aren't shopping or eating there must be an rv show going on.   On Thursday we went next door to the Texas Trader where they were holding an open house, I guess as a prelude to the big rv show in Mercedes on Friday.  They had food, music and a lot of really used up rvs.   We went through all the consignment units, most of them were in pretty bad shape.   They weren't old but just not well-maintained.  I loved the motorhomes and there were some bargains here but it would take quite a bit to get them back in good shape.  Funny how some people live. 

Then on Friday we took off early in the morning for the rv show in Mercedes.  That was a blast.  There were more rvs than you could shake a stick at and we did them all including Class Bs, motorhomes, park models, travel trailers, heavy, long, short and light, green and environmentally safe.

We met up with Bill and Sharon who are staying in Alamo and heading out tomorrow.  They were there before us but we got there right after nine a.m.   We shopped and talked for almost four hours before we decided we had seen everything there was to see and it was time for a good Mexican lunch. 

We took them to a real dive of a place that we had eaten ate earlier in the week.   Excellent food although short on menu.   It was worth the drive not to mention the fact that there was no need for supper that night either.

Last night, Saturday, we went to visit a friend from Monterrey who lives in Mission, Tx.  We hadn't seen him for over 15 years and it was good to see he had made his life with two beautiful kids here in the U.S.  Kind of a sad story yet interesting to see how people immigrate legally and illegally and how they learn to survive in a tough place.  I may do a post on that this week but need to find a way to make it anonymous.

Here I am with Bill and Sharon in a cool park model trailer.

Airstream twin bed option.

There were booths for rv resorts, supplies, parts, LEDs, food, cookware, patio chairs, loungers and awnings.  We bought a stove top grill for 25 dollars and some cool tape that shapes itself to what you apply it to and seals against leaks, moisture, etc.  I'm looking for something to use it on this week.

Bill and Sharon also do geo-caching.   They drove us to a spot on their gps and showed us how it worked.  Sure enough, we found the bug hidden under a lamp post with a piece of paper inside and all the names and dates of the geo-cachers who had been there before.  Pretty cool, sounds like something we want to look into.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Day 6 - La Feria

Time flies here at the rv park.  We are building a loose routine.   I get up at 6 a.m., sleeping in too much.   I have a couple of cups of coffee, watch local and national news and then do speed walking for an hour.   After that, I workout in the gym for about 40 minutes and then shower.  By the time we eat breakfast and get ready to go anywhere it is already 10 a.m.   

Yesterday we went to the farmer's market along Business 83 near Weslaco.  They all have specific days but somebody is there selling something.  I complained the other day that the prices are very high here.   Well, we found by shopping at the farmer's market that we can save quite a bit although it isn't as much as in Mexico.  Here is a picture of what we bought for $6.31 (u.s.) which is about 85 pesos.  If you go to TravelwithKevinandRuth , Kevin sometimes posts what they pick up at the market and what he paid for it.   Mexico has us beat by a long shot and I am wondering if it has anything to do with the number of Mexicans who have returned to Mexico because of the lack of jobs in the U.S. making labor costs rise?

Today we did a Goodwill store, went to the local library to print out our coupons for the discount to the rv show we are going to on Friday morning in Mercedes.   We stopped by the post office to mail a card to my SIL who is recovering from a stroke in Hawaii.  She is doing well by the way and at home. 

Tomorrow afternoon is the "meet and great" here in the rv park.  We have already met a lot of wonderful people, in fact, one couple we met has signed up for a 47 day caravam to the Yucatan and had a lot of questions.   Many people seem to be interested and maybe we can stir some interest among them.

We are planning a trip to Progreso where all the gringos go.  I need to make a bank deposit and pay my monthly taxes that my accountant sent to me via email.

By the way, I have never seen a Safari Condo Class B until today.   A couple from Quebec were driving down the road.   Very expensive, this one was a popup top, but the top is hard-sided.   The interior and the bathroom setup is really cool.   They know how to design stuff.

Monday, January 9, 2012

La Feria Day 4

We keep missing all the events at the park.  We just came up to the clubhouse to check our mail and we passed the activities director carrying an empty crock pot.  She said they had nachos, finger food and cheerleaders.   I guess we need to check out activities calendar more closely.

The people here in the park are very friendly.  We are now getting a lot of questions about Mexico as we go on walks and come and go, people stop and comment about the license plates from Mexico. 

The weather has been exceptional sans the wind which is part of the RGV.  You get used to it and it becomes a part of the daily routine.   The sun is shining and that is a good thing.  Today we toured the town of La Feria.  It is not very big and has a small supermarket, a dollar store, lots of Mexican restaurants, the fire department and the school. 

We didn't make it to the bullfight yesterday as we had plans last night for dinner with friends from Reynosa, Marissa and Natalia.   We  chatted up quite a storm, Natalia was not able to attend the convention last October so she caught us up on what was new in Reynosa.  She invited us to give a talk at their local chapter while we are here.

The really good news is that the rv show is on this next weekend in Mercedes.   Can't wait and we are looking forward to it. 

Saturday, January 7, 2012

La Feria Day 2

Spent a nice evening at home last night but not after stocking up some groceries.  Ay caramba, the prices are so high, no wonder everyone is obese having to buy cheap food that is filled with corn fructose.   Man on man, I am still reeling from the palty bags of grcoeries that cost us 70 dollars.   In Mexico as I stated last week, people are all up in arms about the price of corn tortillas, now 14 pesos per kilo but can be purchased at HEB and Soriana stores for 10 pesos per kilo.  Here in Texas the price per kilo is 30 pesos.  Yikes.  One tomatoe big juicy tomatois 2 dollars.   I'm sure to lose some weight over the next four weeks.

It's very quiet here and people are very friendly.   I went for my morning exercise and those that were out all gave me a little howdy do.  Mostly women walking their dogs.  There are some pretty cool rvs here too, I hope to take some pictures of those and post them over the next weeks.

Today we are going to the street market in Harlingen and looking to see if there will be an rv show while we are here.   Tomorrow Bill and Sharon have invited us to a bloodless bullfight and it looks like we are going to go.  The sun is shining all weekend and it will be in the low 80s, sounds good to me. 

Friday, January 6, 2012

Just Out Of Town When . . .

Got up early and headed out of the house around 7 a.m.  Since we were heading for Reynosa, going through Monterrey was easy and we were on our way in no time.  There are three tolls between Monterrey and Reynosa and the first two are small ones.   They charged us the normal car rate on the first two.   But, after the first toll, no longer did we pull away when the lights and sirens came on.  I thought, now what?

There were two federales and the driver approached the truck and asked where we were headed.  I told him La Feria.  Well, in Spanish La Feria means "the fair".   So his next question was "Are you with the circus?"   You don't know how many times we are asked that here in Mexico since we have Mexican plates.

Next he said his boss wanted to see the trailer.   I got out with the keys and he comes up and introduces himself.   He says he just bought a used motorhome and it was at the border being legalized and he had some questions.   We gave him the grand tour and we talked for at least 15 minutes.   We caught up with them later and they honked and waved again. 

Got to the U.S. border around 11:15, we made really good time with stops and checkpoints.    We pull up to the booth and Juan still has a permit valid through March so all we had to do was the x-ray machine.  All the border agents were very nice and treated us extremely well.   They did find something during the x-ray and stopped the machine and came over and went inside.  Turns out we have a kitchen drawer that has a bad latch so I had it laying on the floor.   It left an empty space and that is what they saw.

Found the rv park in La Feria right off, it is just outside of Harlingen and a quarter mile off the exit.   Packed in like sardines and everything is very organized, not a good sign for a Mexico rver.  It is only a month here and we have found people to be really nice in the few hours we have  been here.  In fact, our neighbor approached us and said he had been to Monterrey two years ago and really liked it. 

We are parked right next to the indoor pool, they have a wonderful jacuzzi too.  We need to go shopping as we didn't bring anything with us but dried goods.   The cats are happy and enjoying the "wind".

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Snowbird City, Here We Come!


They may not be ready for us, but we are on the road tomorrow.   We will head out around 6 a.m. taking the autopista to Reynosa, crossing at McAllen and heading East to La Feria, Tx where we will spend a month.    Juan will be teaching square dancing classes and I will be doing what I do best, BSing about rving in Mexico and politics.

Today I took the cats for their shots, got my teeth cleaned including a checkup and flouride treatment for 350 pesos.  I paid the plates on all our vehicles, went to see my accountant, had our rv television fixed, loaded up the rv and we are set to roll.

I figure with border inspection we should be at the rv park around 1 p.m., set up and down for a good nap by 2:30.   I'm ready for early bird specials, park potlucks, and the usual questions, "Are you a member here?" or "Can we help you with something?"

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Dissing Ron Paul???

I'm not a republican but I am fond of Ron Paul.   He follows the philosophy of Milton Friedman and Ayn Rand.  Yes, I know I am pretty much of a nut but I truly believe that less government and more laissez faire  would do the world a lot of good.

What bothers me is that even though there is only a 9 vote lead for Romney, Bachmann is out, Newt is on the low side of the world now (thank god the guy is another Bush terrorist in the making) and for me Santorum just doesn't count.   So what about Ron Paul?  He is getting no press, major cable and television networks refuse to accept his position in the race and won't allow him air time.  

He is being dissed by all media and pretty much an ignored republican candidate who in my eyes is running neck to neck with Romney.  Please don't get me wrong, and it may be a crass to say so, but apart from finding Romney a bit empty-minded, I find it hard to trust someone who wears a special underwear that is supposed to protect him from "the evils of the world".  And believe me, I respect all religions except for those that won't allow me entrance into their temple if I am not a baptized member.

Let's get real here, Paul is a viable candidate but will not win.  Why?  Too much common sense and a true answer to not only the U.S.  problem but also the world.  He isn't for making big government big business.  If there is no money to be made, there is no longer good government.  Sad we have come to this level.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tax Time In Mexico

January is the month we pay our property tax, car plates, and car taxes.  This year, only cars from 2008 to 2011 pay a "tenencia", a tax based on the value of the car.  We won't have to pay that on the Durango but we will on the Pointer.  All vehicles will have to pay "refrendo" or tags and for those from 2008 to 2011, both.

Today I went to the gym and then formed the line in the town square.   I was there from 10 a,m. until 12:30 p.m.   Typical government operation.  Tons of city workers coming and going, buying tacos, sodas, and snacks and only two cashiers to accept the property tax payment.  Cultural, maybe.  However, when you are asking to fill the city coffers with money from its citizens, you could hide some of the horseplay and add a couple more temporary cashiers to help things along.

On the news this morning, they showed the first woman in Monterrey to pay her property tax.  She won a flat screen television.   Cameras started rolling and she said, " I am refusing the television.  I would prefer that they install lighting on my street so we feel safe coming and going to work in the early morning and nighttime hours".  That put an end to the fabulous news story of the winner who was the first to pay their taxes.  There are more examples in other municipalities here in Monterrey too.  Another woman who is the "juez auxiliar", or neighborhood representative, gathered her neighbors together to have them all come down to pay their taxes saying, "if we don't don this we can't demand that the city do their job".  Right on woman!

Tomorrow I go to Allende to pay the property tax there and then we have to pay our vehicle taxes.  They can be done on line but, you don't receive the 15% discount for paying in January.  Imagine, a discount on paying your taxes on time?  Criminal.

I also need to wash the windows on the rv, check the tires, hitch parts, and other details to prepare for our trip.  I did a check and cleaning of the batteries, their posts and cables, and topped off the water (distilled) to make sure they are in good condition.  So far, all systems are go!

BTW, I paid a total of 120 dollars for property tax.  The man in front me commented that in the U.S. all the streets are in excellent condition, paved with gold, well-maintained, and on and on.  I reminded him too, that if my house in Santiago was in San Antonio I would be paying 7645 dollars.  He quieted down soon after that :).  As we say in Spanish, "paga lo que debes" (pay what you owe)

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Our Best of 2011

Happy New Year everyone!  Went to a party, ate, drank and was merry.  Spent the night in Monterrey and woke up at 7 a.m.    Had a cup of joe and headed home where we had a very unhealthy breakfast of huevos rancheros with desebrada (shredded beef), cheese and beans served with hot milk and instant coffee.  Very good.  Enjoy the pics.   2011 was a great travel year and I believe 2012 will be even better!

New Year's Galveston 2011

Potrero Chico, Nuevo Leon

Loreto, Baja California Sur

Hacienda Contreras-Valle de Juarez

Patzcuaro, Michoacan
Queretaro, Queretaro
San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato