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 allĂ­ 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.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

OMG, It's Huge

The solar panel that is!  It arrived today to the rv park.  We had to put two rows of seats down in the back to load it in.  May be big, but we will never have problems charging the batteries.  So much for a portable panel, this baby will have to be put on the roof if it will fit.
Well, tomorrow is the big feed and then we will take the rv to a friend's house in Mission where we will spend the night taking us about 40 minutes closer to home on Friday.  We will have a second meal there in the evening and then get a good night's rest.
No resolution on the propane connector.   I will get a tank to heater hose for now.  I was hoping to give it a test first before leaving to make sure it is what we want.  I guess we can always return it later.
Now I need some help.  A reader has asked about crossing at Pharr, Tx.  I have heard that it is a direct route to the periferico and then on to Hwy 40 to Monterrey and all points beyond.  I spent the last half hour attempting to post a google earth photo of the crossing, which looks like it really does avoid the Reynosa traffic. 
Any help out there?  Feel free to post a link to your blog or webpage if you can get the image to show.  Thanks.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Getting Closer

We made it to McAllen without any problems.  We took the libre and it was rainy and cold all the way.  The border wait was almost an hour because as you know, yesterday was a Mexican holiday so everyone was coming to McAllen for shopping.
The officer asked the normal questions and then waved us through.  Off we went to the rv park only to find that we now have a new park manager and a lot of snowbirds are here.  That makes it great for our Thanksgiving get together, more food options, conversations and booze.  Yippie!
Today was a real b****.  Customer service here stinks, and mean it.  Every place we went it was either, "I don't know" or "what is there is all we have".   I was looking for a Mr. Heater at WallyWorld.   "Nope, we don't carry them".   I walked around enough and found two on the shelf.   Now I can't find the damn disconnect hose.  I called Goodings and the guy acted like he didn't know what it was.   I called another rv parts place and the woman said she thought they weren't allowed to sell them in Texas.  Lowe's, no luck. 
I got back home and went on line.  Home Depot shows three in stock at the store here in Harlingen.  We will go there tomorrow.  What a bunch of idiots.  Apart from that, you could as my mother used to say, "be dyin' on the cross" before you found someone to help you.
Good news is that the rv panel may arrive tomorrow according to the FedX tracking system.   I can't wait.   We also bought a new stinky slinky as the gardners here clipped ours with the weed eater leaving a nice opening along the side.
So now we are sitting outside and ready for happy hour.  I am putting all that b.s. behind now and will relax.  We have wifi at our site so we are watching movies at night on Netflix.  Watched a real doozie last night, Rare Export.  It was a semi-sadistic move about thawing out a buried Santa and all of his elves were naked old farts with long beards who ate children.   It was actually good and not that scary.
Tomorrow I have a few more things to pick up.  The trailer looks good and ready to go.  I will have the front brakes checked on Saturday when we get home.  Some sounds as if the pads are wearing.  I also need to call Eazlift about our WDH to see if we can permanently mount the stirrups to the trailer frame.
Juan is making his famous green bean casserole, not the American kind.  This is fresh green beans with baby potatoes, mushrooms, bacon and olive oil.  Delicious.  More tomorrow.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Cold Weather - Ready To Roll

Tomorrow is a holiday, Mexican Revolution Day.  Actually it is on Tuesday but we have  three-day weekend.   I haven't done squat today but watch national news both American/Mexican, Face The Nation and a show on Netflix about three truckers crossing the Himalayas.  
Now we are heading out the door to join forces with Mexican holiday shoppers.  Juan wants a new cell phone and there is a huge sale going on.  I get the old cell phone if I want it but I like my eight year old plain Jane version with the little flashlight built in.  Works for me.   I only call one person anyway, hehehehe.
After we are going to our monthly birthday party and family gathering.   It shouldn't last long with the weather.   There is a game today so everyone will be sitting around watching the game.   I'll take my laptop.  
Tomorrow we head out with the SUV for McAllen for a change of scenery, prep the rv and then hopefully head home to the quinta on Friday.   Ruth is busy making cookies down in Hacienda Contreras so I have offered to pick her up some special items for baking.  I know she intends to share some of the goodies with us.
That's all for today.  I have an interesting story to tell about ex-pats and goings on in SMA but I'll save it for this week as the story is still in progress.  

Friday, November 16, 2012

"Buen Fin" de Semana

It truly is a "Buen Fin" de semana or great weekend.  Mexico is promoting a four-day spending spree with steep discounts from Mexican big box stores and local merchants.  This was created last year to compete with "Black Friday" in the U.S.   Last year was such a success that this year is even bigger.  It also includes airlines when purchasing a ticket over the next four days.
This is a quincena weekend or payday weekend, a three-day holiday as Monday celebrates the Mexican Revolution.  It is actually the 20th, but we too have moved many of our holidays to a Monday.
Statistics say that many Mexicans who live within a few hours drive of the border would normally spend upwards of 5000 pesos for fuel, toll roads, hotel and incidentals while spending the weekend in a U.S. border city.   The idea is to promote buying here at home and helping out the local and national economy.  It seems to be working.  I stopped by the HEB to pick up some vodka I needed for a recipe Ruth shared on her blog.   The store was packed, no parking, and people were buying just as if it were  Black Friday.
Croft and Norma are making great progress on their journey down to Mexico and Contessa and Colin should be on their way out the door.
The Solar Blvd company sent me a FedX waybill so I will be watching our shipment.  I will order the charge controller tomorrow off of Ebay and we should be set.    We have a big family birthday party on Sunday afternoon and then Monday off we go for McAllen.   Did you know in Spanish we have a verb for shopping in McAllen?  Sure do.  We say, "vamos  a mcallear este fin de semana".   We're going shopping/visiting relatives in McAllen this weekend.
Things really are looking up this year.   I think it is going to be a great Christmas afterall.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Panel Is On It's Way

Well, almost.  I called Solar Blvd. today and the panels have arrived.  They were going substitute it for a slightly larger panel but he claimed it should ship tomorrow.  I hope so because with Thanksgiving it always gives FedX heart trouble and problems with deliveries.   I'll sit at rv park gate if I have to, but I don't want to delay our departure back to Monterrey to put some clothes and groceries in the rv before heading out.  
I have been checking our route and it seems pretty firm it terms of what I posted yesterday.  It may take us a long week to get to Hacienda but I want to spend a couple of days in SMA and visit with Les and our friend Mario from the botanical garden. 
The weather here has been drizzle, cold (around 50F at night) and crappy daytime.  My kind of weather.  I got up early and went to the gym, stopped by the SMart for some odds and ends.   I came home and here we have stayed.   We watched a movie called Espejisimo (Mirage) and took a nap.  Juan made a great chicken soup and I have been in and out of the soup pot all afternoon.
I got the gas man to come by to fill a tank for the heater.  I dug it out from the shed, but it isn't working well.  I turned it off, to much of a risk.  There is a place in town that does a cleaning and checkup on all the safety features but they are three days out on returning the unit.  We will be gone by then.   The electric blanket will have to do and if we really need early morning relief the mini split has heat, I just hate wasting the electricity.
I am debating whether or not to buy an Olympian Wave heater for the rv.  I can't stand noise and the Suburban heater makes a ton of it.  For this trip we would only need it in the early morning to take the chill off.   What do you think?  I want to take the Suburban heater out of its space under the fridge and mount the Wave???  They say it saves 30% on LP use and there is no electric needed meaning it wouldn't affect our batteries.   Maybe a Mr. Heater???  The trailer has a quick disconnect for the barby, and we could just run it through the floor somewhere nearby.  Comments pls.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Not A Happy Solar Camper

We placed our order last Wednesday for the solar panel.    I sent an email yesterday to see what was happening and today we are told it was backordered.  They are willing to replace it with a like panel that is 5 watts stronger but the problem is timing.   I told the guy I need it "ya", meaning now!   I am waiting for a response.   I don't want to have to post something bad about our purchase from Solar Blvd.  Let's hope they come through so I can give them a 5 star rating.
The exterminator came today doing the last interior job until February.   He comes monthly and does the yard and the house.   He will be doing the yard though as the gardener has the key. 
I woke up this morning at 5:45, turned on the light and the local news.   As I sat there I thought I was having trouble focusing.  I could see movement on my left next to the window.   There he was, a little mouse walking back and forth.    Those lazy bums we call cats were still asleep on the bed.   What's that all about? 
I think it is gone now.  We took our drawers out of the night stands as past experience has told us that they can climb up through the back side.  Good thing it didn't happen while  K&R were here.  That would hav woken them up.  
So things here are wrapping up.  We did have an estimate on new flooring for the social areas, although a good price I don't want to wait until they can install it.  We are out of here and I mean it. 
Colin and Contessa are about ready to head out and based on their pics of the snow at their home I would be wanting to take off too.   Fellow rvers, Mike and Pat, headed down to SLP and said they arrived in Ciudad Valles without a hitch along with many others reporting great roads, no checkpoints, and good weather.  Let's hope this keeps up. 

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

I Had That Feeling Today

It was great!  I had to run some errands in Monterrey today.  I went all over the place and whether it was just coincidence or what, I ran into a bunch of people I haven't seen for a couple of years.   One here, one there.   Who would think in a city of almost 5 million people.
Anyway,  as I went about my business visiting the cardiologist and dermatologist to make appointments before we take off on our trip,  I went to visit my old account who caught me up on things.   As I went from place to place there was something special going on.  It seemed as if we had gone back four or five years.  People seemed to be happier and more carefree.  
That fear that we had had for so long seems to be dissipating, finding its way back to where it came from.   Everyone is out doing their thing, so much in fact, it reminds me of years back when we didn't worry much about locking our doors, who our neighbor was and if it was safe to go out at night.
In fact, a sad side note, drunk driving has increased which is a sign more people are staying out later at night, going to antros and nightclubs, dancing the night away.   Just like old times.   Either we have come to accept our condition or just maybe that condition is changing.   Even rvers seem to be coming down in bigger numbers than the last three years, another indicator.
With the change in laws for Colorado and Washington, Mexico City and our illustrious politicians are abuzz about the news and the positive impact it could have on Mexico and all the violence that has been going on.   Let's hope so.   A day doesn't go by that I don't think about it.  
We are scheduled to take off for McAllen next week, probably around Tuesday.  Can't wait to get the rv back in Mexico and down the road to Jalisco.   We will be stopping in Matehuala,  Guadalcazar, San Miguel de Allende and then into Hacienda.  Nice and slow, no more rushing.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Hard-Sided Folding Trailers

I received a comment yesterday asking about my opinion on hard-sided folding trailers.  We have owned a 1999 Trailmanor 2720SL.   We loved it so much that we upgraded to a Trailmanor 3326 which was the largest the company ever made.  Once it was setup we had a standard TT.
What we loved about our Trailmanors:
1) excellent gas mileage 16 to 17 mpg
2) the amenities of a standard rv including full bath
3) lots of room to spare
4) easy towing
5) great for boondocking, we could get in anywhere with no height issues
What we didn't like about our Trailmanors:
1) the price
2) the recirculating toilet
3) the interior velcro side covers
4) not having the know how to adjust the lift system
The pros outweighed the cons.   Sitting here at this moment talking about it, we still prefer a Trailmanor.   Would we go back, in an instant.  Towing was a dream and the gas mileage incredible.   They are sturdy and warm in the winter and cool in the summer. 
The cons listed above could have been overcome, except for price.  Buying used is the only option and we did that with our 3326.  It was 26ft closed and 33ft open.  We pulled it with a 98 Nissan Pathfinder V6 and it was great.  One thing people don't understand is, pulling an rv of any size with any size vehicle renders the same mpg.  Why?  Wind resistence.  In almost all cases, all towed rvs have the same mpg; 9 to 12 maximum with 10 being the average. 
I don't understand why folding rvs have never gone beyond a niche market.  With all the engineering technology of today, anything is possible.   In fact, more than 15 years ago, Hi-Lo built a fifth wheel that folded down automatically.  Here is a pic.

Looks like a pretty standard fifth wheel, doesn't it?   I guess convenience is the name of the game.   However, we were always on display.  People would gather at our site and watch  us open our TM.   There was absolutely no difference in setup time between a TM and a standard TT.   In fact, we follow pretty much the same procedure today, one outside and one inside each doing our chores.
So to the person who was interested in our take on the TM, we would go back tomorrow if it weren't for the price.   A TT that is very hard to break into, would stop the checkpoints from wanting to take a tour, or at least deter them, we could boondock just about anywhere.   Our current rv has a wonderful layout, but being 24 ft long and 10ft high makes it hard to get around.   The TM was even 1000 lbs lighter than our current rv.  As for the recirculating toilet, well, it oculd easily be replaced with a casette toilet although we were good about limiting use to #1 and it was never an issue.   We sure miss it and wish we could go back.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Gas Prices and Gay Marriage

You're right, there's no relationship between the two and that may make a point.  First, let me say a few words about gas prices.  There is a survey on asking if you would drive 3 miles out of your way to save five cents on a gallon of gas.  Many people commented that it wasn't worth their time.  Funny isn't how people are?  Most rvers will nickel and dime prices on everything from a sewer hose to a senior coffee at McDonald's but when it comes to something that we seem to have little control over people complain and then roll over.   We have saved a ton of money while traveling in the U.S. by using to find the best price.  Good thing we do.  In the Rio Grande Valley prices have varied as much as 25 cents a gallon.  At HEB for November and December, buying a gift card and keeping it loaded will get you an additional 20 cents off a gallon of their already discounted gas prices.   I think if people would go the extra mile (no pun intended) maybe oil companies would wake up a bit. 
*****WARNING, some of this is tongue in cheek*****
As for gay marriage,  we went to our first gay wedding, funny isn't it?  We've been together 27 years and have never given it a thought.   We've never made a stink about anything related to the issue.  We go about our lives like everyone else and I have never had anyone shut a door on me.  Granted, there are those who at times may not be the friendliest neighbor, but who cares, people suffer all kinds of discrimination from religion to color.  That's life.   If we don't like it, we move on.   Our neighbors love us, rvers seem to like us too and our families love us more than other siblings.
My personal belief is simple.   Marriage is for people who have children.  Plain and simple.  And that goes for a man and a woman.   This is probably why there are so many divorces in the world with the U.S. topping it out at 58%.   A woman gets pregnant and I think the law should enforce marriage.   Then the bum can't get away without taking care of his obligation.  You see, there is nothing that makes a man responsible for his deeds.   He simply walks away.   Women have been the backbone of civilization since the beginning of time.  Excuse me to all the men who read this blog, but lets look at a couple of examples to which there are always exceptions and please don't take offense.   What's more important around the world, mother's day or father's day?   Who do kids almost always tend to stay with after a divorce or breakup?   Who takes care of the kids while men are at war, drinking at the pub, etc?   My case in point.
It is not in the nature of the male being to raise children.   We have, over time, forced the issue.   Men are great at reproduction and women seem to do the rest.   Our saving grace is that unlike other species where the female eats the male after reproduction, we just get old, fat and ugly.
Marriage, used in the biblical sense, would force men to do their jobs.  Instead, it is used as a social activity.   So, for straight or gay people I am not a big fan of it unless you have children. 
That said, last night was a trip.   I think it is important to be able to laugh at yourself whether you are Jewish, black, single, gay, straight, blind, etc.  These are the things that give life color.   At this wedding, the groom and groom had matching outfits,  fluffy feather pillows to kneel on, and the woman next to me had obviously been out hoeing the back forty before coming to the event.   Her hands made mine look meek and mild if you get my point, not to mention those muscled arms with a tee shirt tan line from working those back forty.  Miss Thing was waiting in the vestibule with huge cotton candy blond hair and eye lashes about three inches long.  What was that all about????  Our straight women friends were the bridesmaids in matching white gowns each donning a different colored set of feathers in their hair with matching colored bouquets.  Only one of their husbands showed up (guffaw).   Seriously though, one thing that bothered me, there was an obvious display of hand holding between other gay couples, even at communion they went two by two holding hands.  Who does that?  On the other hand, straight people can be just as obnoxious.  If you are straight, do you enjoy being around a man who chews and spits, belches, brags about his adventures, and drives a monster truck?  Am I making sense here?  I sure hope so because it makes sense to me.  I have nothing to prove.
It was nice, and I am very happy for the couple, a husky couple I might add.  But just not part of my personal culture.  Have a will, sign a mutual agreement and enjoy your life.   If you can't have children it evolution is making a point and you should dedicate your life to enriching yours and others.  On to the next subject.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Another Brother Becomes An Rver

I forgot to post about my brother Steve and his wife Michelle.  They became rvers this last two months.  They have owned a pop up for years but really never used it.   They decided to do some research and started out looking at class B motorhomes.  They ended up buying this beauty.

Pretty nice rig and it will last them a long time and get great diesel mileage.   Steve is an environmental consultant and Michelle has an accounting firm.  They are retiring in the Spring after tax time.  They have decided to rv and I am hoping they will like it.  Afterall, what is there not to like in a new rv like theirs.
I remembered to post about them as I try to send him rving tips and information.  Today I was reading about the Geo Method .  I wanted to review it for our upcoming trip.  I figure a good cleansing while we are on the road will get the tanks clean with all that motion.   I generally use bleach by itself and once in awhile some fabric softner.  This method uses detergent, water softner and then  bleach.   I used it on the other travel trailer we had and it worked great.
I'm anxiously waiting for shipping info on our solar panel.  I hope it hasn't been back ordered.  I decided to wait until tomorrow to give them a call at their 800 number.  I'm wrapping stuff up around here, we have a meeting of the minds tomorrow to make a "to do" list.   Paying bills and all that is easy as everything is on line these days.

Hmmm, what else can I buy for the rv??

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lots To Do Before Heading Out

We finally made a decision and we won't be flying to Kansas City.  Too many things to do here at home and some business to take care of in Guadalajara over the holiday.  We have decided to go to McAllen to pick up the rv, have some minor things done to it and head back here to the house.   Kevin has some things we said we would pick up for them and that goes for anyone else who is going to be in Hacienda Contreras in December.  The only thing that would change is that we leave even earlier.   After seeing Kevin and Ruth head out across the mountains I got the itch pretty bad.  (We may take the ride on Sunday heading to Saltillo for brunch and take the highway from there through Monterrey, I am convinced we can rv up there and just need to find out for ourselves).
We made the leap and we ordered a solar panel.   Our first and we are very excited about it.  Our Honda generator has served us well and will continue to do so.  I wouldn't be without it.   We have lived well on our two Trojan batteries and they seem to get charged pretty good while we are driving down the road.   However, we have to be very conservative and we would like a little more freedom and a lot less generator.

Jinko Solar JKM235P-60 235 Watt 24 Volt Solar Panel

I know for most of you it is no big deal, but we just think now of how much more boondocking we can do and the extra power we will have bringing us more freedom.  In the Spring we can add two more batteries to our system and that will be a good thing.  We are just not sure about how we want to mount the panel.   I know having a portable is a PIA, but I want to try it first before mounting.   I wouldn't want to sit in the sun and bake so we can have power.   I have seen one setup where the tow vehicle had the panel mounted on top allowing the travel trailer to sit in the shade.  
A couple of bills to pay, reports to turn in so I can get paid, see the dermotologo and the dentista for a cleaning, some maintenance to the SUV.  Tires are good, and it had a recent tune up.   I want to pick up some hoses and belts just in case.   We use to carry them with the Pathfinder although we never had an incident.   I think it is one of those CYA situations.   We found that to be true this summer when we blew a tire on the trailer.   We had everything at hand; compressor, good tire iron, inflated spare, wood supports and a good jack.  Took us all of ten minutes to get back on the road.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

People Are Funny - Ex Pats In Mexico

I may get ragged on if anyone in SMA reads the blog.  I have been in a discussion about the pay for maid service and what to do if you want to fire your maid.  In Mexico, a worker can claim they had worked for you and were fired.  Obviously, the maid was not formally employed.   There is a fine and back pay which by law the ex-employer would have to pay.
I attempted several times to make it simple and clear.  First off, it has to be a case where the person is employed full-time.  Second, the best solution to this problem and one I have always tried to explain to people is to make the person "self-employed".  I say this for several reasons.   The person you are hiring to clean your house and cut your grass works in the informal market.  They pay no taxes and receive no benefits such as a retirement pension or social medical care. 
To solve this problem for the employee, employer and the country as a whole is to insist that the person register with Hacienda (Lolita).   It is a simple procedure, and most already have their CURP (clave Ășnica de registro de poblacion) if they are registered to vote.  With this CURP, they can registered a a "persona fisica" or "self-employed".   They then have to provide a "recibo de honorario" which is easily obtained and allows the person to formally charge the buyer of goods or services which in turn allows the self-employed person to pay taxes, take deductions, and also work for a myriad of persons and do it legally.  They then can begin to contribute to their pension and the social medicine system IMSS and receive a even more benefits such as accumulating points to receive a low-cost government home loan at 6.99% interest.  I have all of those benefits and I have worked for myself for over 20 years having previously been an employee in a school.  What I find interesting in all of this is that most ex-pats like to help Mexicans by giving them money, helping local charities when in reality those are bandaids and not solutions.  I am offering a true long-term solution to really help Mexico and Mexicans. 
The problem here is two fold; most if not all ex-pats do not speak the language in Mexico and they are retired and are not informed or involved in the everyday process of living and working in Mexico.   
There is one more thing to add and that is they want to live in Mexico as they "think" most Mexicans live.   So I guess that would apply all around, some Mexicans, a percentage but surely not the whole population think it is okay to illegally hire someone, steal electricity or "modify" their electric meter to register less consumption, pay bribes, cheat on getting Seguro Popular for free, etc.   Newcomers think it is cool to perform these illegal acts thinking it will help them become part of the culture.
This isn't a rant, but I ran dry trying to explain this to people on a Yahoo group in SMA. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

USTVnow - Watch Live American TV Shows Online

This is a pretty good thing that I want to share with everyone.  We gave up cable last year because in general it sucked.  Too many channels and nothing good to watch.  We picked up Netflix Mexico which we like but I still wanted national news from the U.S.   I found USTVnow and have used it since January.  You get free cable on line with the option to add more channels at cost.  In the 10 months we have had the service we have never received an email selling us anything.  We have access to six channels, ABC, CBS, NBC, PBS and Fox.  The feeds we receive in terms of local news are from Harrisburg, PA.  Not sure if that is the way it is all over the country.  Trouble free and hassle free.
The promotion below is to encourage newcomers to join and what we receive is 20 hours of free DVR service that we can delete when it is full and add more shows or programming.  It is a good deal and if you are interested, click the link and join.  Pass it on to your friends and you too can get the free DVR service.  We love it and it has worked all over Mexico and the U.S.   I will say I have not reported an access problem we have with the PBS channel but it is on my list.  Other than that, it has been trouble free.  
I don't think I have ever done this on the blog, but it is worth sharing.  No strings attached and if you aren't interested, no problem.  Enjoy!

USTVnow - Watch Live American TV Shows Online: USTVnow lets you watch all your favorite US television channels from anywhere around the world.

On Their Way To Hacienda Contreras

Kevin and Ruth came to stay for the weekend.   They drove down from Canada after spending the summer in Europe and the U.K.   We had a blast.  They are great guests and fun to hang out with.   We attempted to solve most of the world's problems and the elections.  We did pretty good but will continue when we meet up the end of November in Hacienda Contreras where they left their motorhome for the summer.

We went hiking on two separate occasions.   On Sunday we hiked through one of our state parks on the southern edge of Monterrey, Parque Estatal La Estanzuela.  It is a beautiful park that we had forgotten about.  I used to go running there years ago before we even moved to Santiago.   I now have the "ganas" to go there more often.  The only downside is the 3 km long cobblestone road but it is no big deal.

Before our hike Ruth whipped up a batch of hotcakes served with some "real" Canadian maple syrup they brought for us.   Saturday night Kevin fixed a really good pasta dish.   I was surprised to see some left over in the refrigerator.   That's what we had for dinner tonight.  Both Kevin and Ruth are good chefs, not to mention the great wine we had with dinner.
Then on Monday we headed out for Parque Nacional Chipinque which is on the west side of Monterrey and you drive through town to get there.   We were at 2850 meters.  It is a cool park and one we are proud of.   Again, it has been years since we went hiking there.   We bought a pass to drive to the top to see the views and take pictures.   We drove down after that about part way a took a hike where Kevin spotted a family of coati.   It was amazing to see one of them cross right over the path where we were walking.   As they passed through the woods you could see eight long tails sticking straight up between the trees.  I had never seen one in person before.  All new for me.

You will have to go to their blog to see the pics of Chipinque and I encourage you to, we have a beautiful national park.   Travels With Kevin and Ruth

Friday, November 2, 2012

It's Been A Busy Week

I worked on Tuesday and we played on Wednesday.  We came home on Thursday and went to a great birthday party for our friends Teo and Reyna.  It was held in a bar in the old section of downtown Monterrey.  About 75 people showed up, there were drinks, food, music and dancing.  It is an old house turned into a three story business with a terrace on the third floor.  We hung out with about 20 friends up there and chatted away until 1 a.m.
Not good for me, I was out of it most of today.   I hustled though this afternoon as Kevin and Ruth will arrive tomorrow to spend a day or two before heading down to Hacienda Contreras to meet up with their motorhome Sherman.  I am looking forward to their visit.  Their room is ready and the house and yard are in good shape for their arrival.
On our way home yesterday we stopped at an rv park which is a sister park to where we are staying now in La Feria.  This place is located much closer to McAllen and it is a real jewel, Casa del Valle.   It looks a lot like a Florida resort.   We took a tour with the manager Marie.  She is a hoot and gave a real go around of the place.   We also looked at a couple of mobile homes and park models that are for sale in the park.  We had this crazy idea to buy a place in the valley after the rv park we are staying at had a couple of places for sale.   For 12 to 25K, you can have a place all ready to go, everything included except your clothes.   Some are very modern, up-to-date, and very new.   Surprising, but that is the used market for pre-manufactured homes and park models.  From one season to the next people decide they don't want to come back and just sell it all, lock, stock and barrel.  We are still looking but if you can pick up a deal that costs less than a new car, what the heck. 
I found out today that November and December will be slow for my work in Texas.  I am wondering if we should take off to points unknown.   We are thinking about flying from McAllen to Kansas City for Thanksgiving.   I checked out rving, and the cost of fuel outweighs the cost of flying there.   I'm not good at making decisions anymore, I seem to hem haw around and put things off.   We can get a ticket from McAllen for less than 250 dollars.   We have the rv there, we could spend some time there, go to South Padre Island for a week or travel around South Texas before going to K.C.
New York and Jersey are a mess.   When Diane Sawyer said, "people are pulling together, rallying around each other, giving a helping hand", I knew it was bullshit.   Turns out now, looting and crime are out of control, people are freezing and there isn't much hope in sight for the next week or two.   The island is a joke, half have full services and are living it up, cross the street and it is danger at night, no water, services, gasoline, etc. and there are no helping hands and no one reaching out.   What a crock.
I didn't expect any good out of this.  It just can't be.  When you have 6 million people without electricity, I don't care what country you are in, it cannot be fixed in a matter of days.  That is what happens when people rely on government.   Take care of yourselves people, store supplies; food, water, batteries, a generator, solar panel and batteries, a gun for protection.   These storms are increasing.   I spoke to a woman in McAllen the other day.   She worked as a manager for the power company for thirty years.  She said the grid in the U.S. is shot.   She told me to tell people to plan for the worst and hope for the best.
End of story.