Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Keeping Warm and Having Fun


 The sun does shine once in awhile!  We have had some pretty windy and rainy days.  People here still know how to have fun.  We have been going into town, to the market, a trip to Sahuayo to the Soriana and the bank to make some payments.  Kind of like the mailman, we all seem to make it to happy hour no matter what the weather is.  You look out you window and it is like the second coming.  One by one people crawl out of their rigs, wine glasses and snacks in hand.

I had to take the picture of Sherman, Kevin and Ruths rv.  They are still in Africa and posted on Facebook that Sherman says that he is lonely.

Here we are in the kitchen at the activities room.  We took the opportunity to make huevos rancheros for everyone at the park.  A really good time had by all and the best part was after breakfast when we sat there and talked up a storm for more than an hour.   It was just as much fun as happy hour.

We all took a trip into Mazamitla for a bowl of soup at the famous hotel Posada Alpina.   Another fun outing.  You can tell though how the weather was.  We were literally walking around in a cloud. 

Friday, December 27, 2013

A Trip To San Miguel El Viejo


On Christmas Day we went out for lunch at Nirvana which is on the way to Atotonilco.   A very nice upscale restaurant where the prices are actually quite reasonable.  Our friend Andi drove us there.  We had been there in the summer and had such a good lunch we decided to go back.   Rosa was with us and we had an interesting chat along with lunch.  We covered healthcare and the use of hospitals in Mexico.  

After lunch Andi took us for a drive to see the expensive neighborhood of Otomi which also houses stables, a horse track, swimming and tennis for its tenants right along the water's edge of the presa.   While we were there she asked us if we were familiar with old San Miguel.    We had never heard anything about it.  It is located on the other side of the lake and there are still people who live down there.   Mostly small homes with farm animals but quite a nice place. 

We stopped by the original church that was built in the 1600s.   It was closed but on closer inspection you could see through a hole in the door and there was a fire burning inside.  We tried to get pics of the inside but it just wasn't possible.  

You can see the decorations over the doors.   There are angels and peyote buttons.   Peyote has always been a part of American culture.   It grows in lots of places in Mexico.  Peyote harvest near our house is at the end of March.  In Sinaloa and Sonora a tribe makes a topical paste that is used to reduce pain from arthritis and other ailments.  They say foreigners buy it and spread it on tacos to eat.  Who knows about that but this place is truly magical and you can feel the energy there.

Enlarging the picture of the wall, you can see some of the details.

We finished our day with them around 7 p.m. and we watched a video and had a cocktail.   Got up early and headed out for Hacienda Contreras.   This is what we saw coming up in the sky as we headed out from the botanical gardens.   It made for a great start and we had a wonderful drive, some light showers but overall good roads and lots of fun.   More on HC tomorrow.  


Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Pictures of Our Trip - Home to SMA


Okay, so here we were the other day driving through our great state of Nuevo Leon.  Same scenery as we headed over the mountains from Linares to San Roberto which is the connection to Hwy 57 or Mexico City and all points south.   Each trip though the pictures change depending on the season, weather, and time of day.  

Isn't this just beautiful, the valley as we made it over the mountains and our descent to Hwy 57.  This a great route and one that you can take all the way from Reynosa or Laredo without every having to go into Monterrey, with or without taking the toll highway from the border.  Not sure why people want to miss such great scenery.

I can't post a blog without a food pic.  Here we are at the intersection which goes to Dr. Arroyo before getting to the 57.   Some small loncheria we saw and they served up some mean tacos de machacado and cold drink for 45 pesos.   That did the trick until we made it down to Santa Maria del Rio where they have the famous biscuit with black beans,  sliced turkey breast, manchego cheese and pico de gallo. 

Our first stop for gas in the parador San Pedro.  The place was a zoo.  There were literally hundreds of paisano cars with all their gifts and used junk packed on top that they are bringing home.   We gassed up and got out of their quick.   Too much discombobulation for me.

 We made it to our great boondocking spot along the 57 in the pueblo magico of Guadalcazar, SLP.  We parked at the first plaza into town and walked a block to the center of the town and asked the police if we could stay overnight.  They always say yes so we put out the slides and set up.  I only put the hitch down not the stabilizers.   We spent a nice evening in the town walking around and a great visit with one of the oldest families there.  Their house dates back over 400 years and they have a tradition of throwing a town Christmas party.   I'll do a separate post on that as there is some amazing history and information.

Here we are crossing state lines from San Luis Potosi to Guanajuato.  We knew we were close to SMA and that is where we are now until Thursday morning when we head to Valle de Juarez.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Guadalcazar to San Miguel de Allende


Sorry, no internet until now.  We boondocked in Guadalcazar, SLP last night.  Great little town but very iffy internet and no cell service.  The SUV performed beautifully at 7000 ft with strong winds.  We had a great trip yesterday, ate well and slept well.  Today we headed out for SMA.  Lots of paisanos heading home to Mexico for Christmas so Hwy 57 was packed.  Several checkpoint but waved through on all of them.

We are now parked in front of the botanical gardens and we went to the pastorela ever.   Nice and warm in the rv tonight and the solar is working beautifully.   Having drinks and watching a 1940s Mexican movie.  Life couldn't be better.

Tomorrow I'll do a full report and post pictures.  So much to share but we using our stick won't last long doing it.   Stayed tuned!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Hitched Up and Ready


We just finished hitching up the trailer.  Truck is tuned up and it has been running well.  We will find out tomorrow if the transmission is really fixed :)   We will be climbing up to 6500 feet and on the famous Linares to San Roberto route which has lots of switchbacks cliffside and no shoulders!

We'll be cutting our trip short by a couple of days as we received a call today for a job in the frontera, good pay for three days and it will pay for the $1800 house repairs and the $750 transmission job.  That was a drag.  But that is done now.  Getting ready for Christmas cheer.  I don't get bummed out but I sure do have a lot of good memories as a kid from Santa Claus to my life today.   More tomorrow, we should make it to Guadalcazar, SLP, normally we would stop at Matehuala but we will boondock tomorrow night.  They have a couple ciber cafes there and we can use the internet.  

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Almost Ready To Hookup!


Washed, waxed and ready to roll.  

 Just need to hookup the reindeer!

Lots more done today.  I went to the school in Allende to work with Kinder teachers.  They're doing well but still a ways to go.   We had a posada at the school with a very good lunch.  I came home and washed the trailer and then worked on the cleaning the well in front.  It had plants on it most of the year and was filthy.   I washed it down and it now needs some painting.  Got to love home ownership, always something to keep you  from rving!    

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Working Hard and Getting Ready


Early start today.  The days are ticking away.   I took the piece of %&% Suburban furnace out from under the refrigerator today.  We don't use it any more since Sal installed the direct gas line for our Mr. Heater.  We used the Mr. Heater in McAllen every night.  Works great and puts out a ton of heat while using little heat.  I took out the Suburban today because we saw a little water creeping out from under the fridge last week.  There is a panel under the shower that opens and I took it off but all seems good.  After removing the furnace, I saw that one of the water lines to the water pump was lose.  I tightened it and checked all the others.  There is no water damage from the fridge or the shower on the other side so I guess we'll have to try it and see what happens.  That furnace is a PIA to take out and put back in.   My dream is to be able to order a travel trailer someday with the options I want and don't want.  One is no built in furnace, and the other is roof air conditioning.

Then I took out all our rugs and put them on the patio and took the power washer to them.  I used a little laundry detergent and they came clean.  Then I got side tracked.   I noticed that the grout on the patio tile looked awful.  It was black and dirty.   So I spent the next two hours scouring the tile and all the grout in between.  Looks brand new and shiny.   

One other project I am having trouble with is cutting the new plastic sheet to make the storm door.  One thing I have noticed about rvs is that you may be available while you are in your rv, but with the door closed nobody knows.  I think have a storm door in winter allows you to keep the door open and the house warm.  The other solution and one I think would be great is to have a colored, laminated sign.  Red on one side, and green on the other.   Red means not available and green means, "feel free to knock".  Red would be good when you are in your skivvies, taking a nap or a shower, or maybe you just don't want to be disturbed.  It would avoid any uncomfortable situation.

Tomorrow, vacuum the trailer, wash the floor and repack the cabinets.  This baby is ready to roll!

ETD 0700 Hours 12.21.13


Getting things ready for take off on Saturday.   We will spend Christmas in San Miguel de Allende and then move on to Valle de Juarez and Hacienda Contreras.   Not in a hurry and not sure where we will end up.   This will be a short trip as we have our New Year planned to prepare for the Canada trip.   So far it is still on and only time will tell.  

Lots of things to do this week and we will be talking with our American and Canadian friends in the next few weeks to pick up tips for that five month trip.  

We already have some ideas for 2015 like buying a used Class B and going down to South America.  Lots of changes are taking place now in our lives and many more to come.  The key is to stay the course (I've heard that before!

Today I will be working on the rv storm door.  The one we made last year didn't last and mostly because I didn't take good care of it and I also didn't apply enough velcro to hold it.   Cleaning inside, outside, the tanks, etc.   I need to get going.  I can't wait to head over the mountains (I hope that transmission is really fixed).

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Christmas Party - La Posada


Looks like we're recovering from our week in McAllen.  Yesterday I got up early and went to town for a haircut.  Came home and off we went to a school play.  Our great-nephew wants to be an actor.  His high school put on a Pastorela or Christmas play.   Here are the main actors below.  Adrian is the second from the right.  It was funny, serious, and told the true story of Christmas and the fight between good and evil.  On the left is Satan(a) and Saint Michael.

Here's our actor in the family. 

We went to the house in town after the play and had lunch and took a nap.  We had our family Christmas party or Posada to go to.   The house sits empty most of the time so it was cold, I couldn't read that damn little screen on the remote control for a/c system to get it into heat mode.   It is very cold here and as I write this on Sunday morning it is 6C here at the house.  The water heater lit without a hitch but the water pipes are clogged up and water barely trickles out.   When we get home in January we will have to have some maintenance done not to mention our place out here on the ranch.   It never ends.

We headed off to the Christmas party.   We had 91 people confirmed out of 120.   That is the total of Juan's family just from his mom and dad.   Yikes.   I thought we had a big family with ten kids and offspring.   Everyone signed up to bring a dish or contribution in form of silverware, plates, glasses, salsas, etc.   It was truly a big bash.  We brought a cupcake cake for 100 people.  

Three years ago when I started the monthly parties and the first all-family Christmas party, I insisted we keep it traditional with a posada.   Here, one group is outside the gate asking for posada, they ask by singing . . . .

We're on inside the gates and we are answering them, offering them posada . . . .

Now we can open the gates and let them in, where we offer food and drink for everyone.

Photo taken in front of the tree at nephew Edgar's house.

We left the party at 11 p.m even though things were still going strong.   With the house in town not up to par to spend the night, we opted to drive home.   Neither of us had anything to drink.  The alcohol checkpoint are in force and they move around at a minutes notice (carousel).   No worries and we got home just fine.   We finished the night with a nightcap.   

Friday, December 13, 2013

Ready For The Next Trip


We got the SUV back yesterday afternoon.  We planned to stay until Saturday so we could drive around town and on the highway doing some shopping.  That way we could test the transmission and make sure we were good to go.  I didn't say anything but all night I thought we should go home today.   I didn't say anything this morning when I woke up.  I started the coffee and from the bedroom in the rv I heard, "let's go home today".   I said, "I start outside". 

We had a great crossing.  We were stopped on the bridge and a walk through.   We headed through Reynosa without an issue and at the 26 km checkpoint they asked to see the pedimento (import papers for the travel trailer) and they waved us through.   

We took the libre all the way.  It was gray and overcast, the temperature dropped to 14C and we watched the winter scenery as we passed by.  Farmers on the road with their tractors, holiday travelers heading south, it was a smooth trip and trouble free.  I even backed the rv into the gate on the first pass.  Not bad considering the rv was in McAllen for three months.   

Everything here at home is fine and we are watching PBS news and having a drink.   Who could ask for more.   We will be heading south the next weekend.   We have the turkey but I think we will be in Contreras after Christmas and to celebrate the New Year.

How about that, two turkeys, coffee, and 1.75 lt bottle of vodka fit in the freezer!
Wandering Mike and I, check out his blog.  He says he will be posting again soon!

I want to give  a big thanks to Croft, Norma and Mike (Wandering Mike) for the rides to the mechanic during the week.   We had dinner out with Mike last night and another round of talks afterwards at our place.   I am sending these proposals to world leaders also :)  We had a great week together.  Thanks again!

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Still Here And Waiting


The weather is slowly improving.   It is still gloomy and gray.   My cold is not making things better.  On a brighter note, they say things come in threes so that has happened and we should be good to go after this.  The third thing was a problem with the house in San Antonio but we've got that under way.

We invited Mike, Croft and Norma out to eat and it was a pretty good place.   El Dorado is right here in Alamo.  Good food, Mexican/American/Seafood.   We had a wine and beer with the dinner.  After, we couldn't help but get together for a chat that lasted till after 11 p.m.   I think we have a proposal to send world governments and hope to get that off this week :)

So here we are having fun while we wait.   I didn't go to the gym yesterday so I need to get that done plus I feel like going for a long walk somewhere.   I don't know how these people who stay in their rvs for months on end do it.   I need to get outside.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Weathering the Cold, Still!


If you wonder what we've been up to here in the cold, here are some pics that will tell the story.  We hang out with Croft and Norma, go out to eat, and have a lot of fun talking.   We all like politics so we have a blast going back and forth.   Great to be with people who have knowledge and opinions of what goes on in the world.

The other day I received an email from a fellow blogger, Mike, also known as the Wandering Mike.  He was north of us in Edinburg and asked if there was room here at the park.   I told him to come on over.  He is parked on the other side of us.   Yesterday Croft needed something from Progreso, Mexico so we walked across the border.  You can see by the picture below that the weather sucks even in Mexico.   

After a walk down the main avenue, we found a little restaurant that we have eaten at before.  Good food, out of the tourist section and very reasonable.  

Here are the two tostadas I had.  We ordered leche con cafe since it was cold out.

We headed back home for naps and internet and later Norma made a great salad and we had jambalaya.  Delicious!   

We are here for at least another day, they came and towed our SUV away.  The shifter on the transmission quit working.   They don't think it is anything big like a trans replacement so we are sitting here keeping our fingers crossed.    

Friday, December 6, 2013

Keeping Warm In RGV


Croft and Norma were here when we arrived yesterday afternoon.  They have their patio all set up and ready to entertain.   We had snacks and chatted for awhile before taking a nap.   After, we went back for happy hour and a long chat.   Gotta love being with people who have something to say.

Last night we were still on for South Padre Island.  We could weather the cold by shopping, walking on the beach all bundled up and hunker down for the cold.   This morning after going to the gym, I stopped by Croft's rig.  He opened the door and we both pretty much shook our heads.   We decided to stay put for the weekend.

We had a great breakfast here at home.  Juan made the tortillas and eggs and Norma whipped up a big batch of fried potatoes.   That held us over until lunch when we took off for La Feria for lunch at Don Beto's.  They have the best food in town.

Back for an afternoon nap and I did some typing after.   I went to two libraries to see if I could print a document but they close at 6 p.m. on Fridays.  Who knew.   Came home and we are now watching the news from Monterrey and having a drink.   I think our neighbors are entrenched in a curling tournament.  I received an email from Wandering Mike just now.   Funny, at lunch Croft had asked me about him.  I hope we can meet up this weekend.  Always fun to meet a fellow blogger.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Save Some Money - Take The Libre


Pictures say a thousand words so I'll leave it at that.  We have been using the libre between both Laredo and Reynosa the last few months while I have been teaching a course in Texas.   The two highways run parallel to their respective autopistas.  The highways are in excellent condition, there is no charge and there are plenty of places to stop along the way for a rest, bathroom break or fuel.   All the Pemex are new and their bathrooms are in very good if not excellent condition.  

We returned from McAllen and took the libre.   Great scenery, wonderful highway and we stopped twice, once at a Super 7 for some excellent breakfast tacos and coffee, then later for a bathroom break in General Bravo for a bathroom break and to buy the newspaper.   Once we arrived to Cadereyta, we avoided the two smaller tolls by taking the back highway around Monterrey which heads south to Allende and Linares which takes you south to Ciudad Victoria or west to Hwy 57.  We passed federales as well as state police on patrol.   Just as much traffic as the autopista but you can take your time and enjoy the views.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Hateful People (Warning, foul language)

I posted this article on the RvNet the other day.  I had some doubts that it would be well received but you can judge for yourself.   Just by the title alone it was a positive and uplifting article about changes in Baja and rv travel.
This is what one person wrote which got the thread closed:
As a kid, 60 years ago, my parents would take me down there form So. Cal. for fun and sun. As an adult I have always been amazed at citizens of the United States going to Mexico for any reason. If allowed, I'm sure that every Mexican citizen would leave Mexico for good for the U.S., well maybe 10 - 12 would stay but they would be equally as crazy as the U.S. citizen who go to Mexico for any reason. Mexico is a grand s--t hole.         
I thought about it most of the day and had to send a private message as I could no longer respond to the closed post.  Here is what I said:
"I wanted to say thank you for insulting my country, my family and everything we work hard for. Your statement as "another commenter" says, shows your education.

I have reviewed your posts (from all of RvNet)
and have found most if not all negative, insulting or downright mean.

I also want to thank you for having my informative thread closed. Had it not been for your big mouth, your insulting comments, and foul language, many rvers who enjoy Mexico or who would like to lost out.

Thanks again.

I would have posted this but unfortunately, because of the above, you didn't give me the opportunity."
His response was as vile as all of his posts on the RvNet. 
"Mexico IS a shit hole! If you think for a minute I'm alone in my assessment of YOUR country you are wrong, very wrong!

Your forum comment may have come to the attention of someone who felt it should be placed in the garbage because Mexico is crap!

My education? Unless you have a Phd or better from one of the top 10 world universities you are wrong again.

I guess being a Mexican looser is a bitch."
I guess he doesn't comprehend the meaning of "education".    

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Arghh! Head Colds


Miserable, not feeling well.   Juan had a head cold, I refused to get it.   I made him sleep under the trailer the last three days.  I got it anyway.   It must have made it's through the floor.   It's all in the head, the body is working fine.

We go home tomorrow and we will be back next weekend I hope to pick up the rv and take it home.   Nothing else to report other than the weather sure improved and the sun was shining today.   We made it to Best Buy where Juan got a new netbook and I went to Lowe's to replace the acrylic for the storm door on the trailer.  We made a pit stop at a friend's house to say hi and back home.   

Thursday, November 28, 2013

The Start Of Thanksgiving


We used our new (bought it for last year) Mr. Heater last night.   Man does that thing work well.  Combine that with the electric blanket under the sheets and bingo!  Slept like a baby.  We keep the windows cracked and a vent open so the room is well-ventilated.  

Got uo this morning and hit the gym to reduce some of the calorie gain from today :).   Got the storm door cleaned and put up on the rv and then showered.   I am now at the activities center and I took a picture of the dinner before people show up at noon.  Yep, early lunch is more like it and yes there will be about 300 people.  Each table had sign up sheets and have their own turkey.  The reason I am here at the center is because I was kicked out of the rv so Juan could concentrate on making the casserole.  We're taking a 1.75 liter bottle of wine to share too. 

I'll post an update as the dinner progresses.   Croft and Norma may be here Sunday.   We talked last night and decided we will come back up for the rv and go to South Padre Island for a couple of days together.

And then we ate.  I said 300, it was 180.  Still a large group.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

We're Off For Thanksgiving


It's cold here, 3C this morning but the rest of the week looks good.  Cold nights and sunny warm days.  Winter Texans like that kind of weather, good for sleeping.

We are heading out in the next hour or two for McAllen.  The rv is still there and we are paid through December.   I was going to bring it home this weekend but we decided if the space is paid for we can go back and do some Christmas shopping before we head to Jalisco.

An rver from Canada is in the Edinburg area and wants to pass through Linares to San Roberto, the mountain route we take.  He wanted to know if it was feasible with his 38ft fifth wheel.  I sent him a message this morning to see if they want to meet up while we are there and we can go over the route.  They are also heading to Hacienda Contreras but a week before we do.

Tomorrow is the big potluck at the rv park.  There are about 300 people signed up for the event, each table gets their own turkey and everyone at the table commits to bringing a dish.   Juan is making his famous green beans, with new potatoes, mushrooms, and bacon.   We don't have an oven in the rv so we will pick up a dessert to take and a bottle of wine.

I'm anxious to see what the border bridge wait will be even though we are going the other way.  University students here are out for Christmas vacation along with some high schools so they may be heading north for shopping.  

Monday, November 25, 2013

Yucky Weather


. . . But I like it.  I like the cold and the wet.   It's fun to bundle up, keep warm in the house and eat things we don't always have like pan dulce and hot chocolate before going to bed.  We almost hit 0C the last two nights and it is sure to come Tuesday night.   I have the electric blanket on low, the radiant heater in the living room on low, and my homemade room heater made out of a bread pan, three tea candles and two different sized clay flower pots.  It really heats up the bedroom.  We don't use it at night though.   I turned on the heat pump last night and we slept like babes. 

Two good things are happening this week, I won't say they are complete but we hope so.  We are in the process of selling our land in Terlingua, Tx. and that should be complete.  The refinance on our house in San Antonio is almost approved, the title company called today and asked for some finals to complete the process.  With the refinance, we may be able to sell the house as an assumable.  Two things to free us up some more in our path to full time rv living.

We are still on course to go to McAllen this week for Thanksgiving and then to Hacienda Contreras for Christmas.  I need to email Croft and Norma and see where they will be on their route as we may delay our trip south by a week or two.  Because of the delay, I'm pulling out the Christmas tree this week.  Why have a fireplace and not a Christmas tree?  They kind of go together.

Well, it's the holidays and a good time to do something for someone else.   Pay an electric bill, give a grocery gift card, shovel snow on a driveway, or give someone a blanket.   Be thankful for all we have.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Things Go From Bad To Good


Sounds like a pretty dramatic title but it wasn't all that bad.  I woke early yesterday with a laundry list of things to do, literally.  We got up at 5:15 and after coffee I stripped the bed.  With the cold front coming I wanted to get all the chores done that didn't get done while I was gone.  Laundry was one of them.  I loaded up the machine and it took off scrubbing away.   About fifteen minutes later I heard nothing, dead silence.  The washing machine had stopped leaving all the bed linens in a tub of sudsy water.  I shook, rattled and almost rolled the machine to no avail.  Pissed.

It was one of those day where I hate everything, nothing works right and on it went.  I was going to go the gym next but that didn't work out so I drove to Allende to work at the school for a couple of hours.  Some of the teachers have trouble teaching students project and group work and that is my specialty.  Getting third graders to do anything is a chore in itself but we got it done.

The repairman never showed up or called so I pulled out all the wet laundry,  wrung it out and put it in a bag.  Off I went to the laundry in town and dropped it off.  Not worried about paying but getting it back in time to make the bed.  Yes, we have other sets of sheets but these are our best sheets that work well with the electric blanket.  I did all my house chores, took a very short snooze, and then did some yard work that our gardener refuses to do, picked up the laundry and ended the day.

This morning we woke up to cold.  We have plenty of heat but I hate using it at night if we have the blanket and it really isn't that cold.  It was 4C this morning, not freezing by any means.  We went to a basketball game which was great.  I love basketball and high schoolers are the best.  They played hard and fair.  No dirty business here.  

Earlier in the morning I had posted that some tamales and hot chocolate would be good and if anyone wanted to send an invitation I would be there.   After the game we visited some family in Monterrey and guess what?  Tamales recalentados with hot coffee.   Recalentados are the only way to eat tamales.  They are usually left overs and you put them on the comal (griddle) reheating them but until the husk is crispy.  There is usually a small spread of masa on one side of the outside husk and it turns brown and crispy.  Man on man, to die for.  We sat in the kitchen and talked for about four hours before heading home.  

All's well that end's well.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Two Card Scams In One Week


Back home in Monterrey and the frente frio (cold front) has hit us.  We are hunkered down and keeping warm.  Ha ha, you would think it is below freezing or something.  Like everyone else in the Americas, we all knew this one was coming.   I had the yard cut and some other things done, cleaned the house, and made sure the electric blanket was working.   

We leave for McAllen on Tuesday for the Thanksgiving bash at the rv park and we will stay for a week before bringing the travel trailer back to Monterrey so it can be prepped for our trip south.   I would like to get a new inverter installed before we head south so we can take complete advantage of the solar which is working just fine.

I checked my email tonight and saw a fraud alert.  I called the number and a guy with a heavy accent answered right away and started to ask me for information.  I knew this too was a fraud and hung up.  I called the card company from the numbers on their website and two charges had been made, one declined and one pending.  I stopped the card and canceled the account.  It appears that the account was made up as none of the information was accurate.  It is all so weird as we are in the process of a refinance on our San Antonio rental and last month Yahoo said my account may have been compromised and we changed the password.  Who knows but now I will be monitoring our accounts to make sure all the scam has stopped.  This was in the U.S.

We manage our accounts on line here in Mexico and I monitor them daily just to make sure our charges for fuel and grocery purchases are up to date and see how much I can spend!   I noticed on Saturday that we had no money in one account, missing about 4000 pesos.  I contacted Juan and he said he hadn't spent any money using the debit card in Mexico City.   I told him to go on line and he immediately checked his wallet.  He had dropped it in an office in D.F. and apparently the cards in his wallet had fallen under a desk and he thought he had picked them all up.  It turns out that the security guard must have found the card, went to lunch and spent the money on an expensive meal, new Adidas, GNC products and snacks at the Super 7.  An investigation is underway and we have to wait two weeks for the money to be returned via insurance.   Good thing we caught it.  I won't tell you how many times we have had a conversation about carrying too many things in our wallet!  I have always said, cash in one pocket, an ID and a debit card with only a small amount of cash in the account.  Hmm . . . 

Good thing is, we are always alert and it doesn't matter where you live.  Keep warm if you are in the cold front.  Kevin and Ruth, forget what I just said!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

What A Difference A Month Makes


It was just a few weeks ago that this view was wide open down to the end of the street.  Now the park is full and people are settling in.  There are almost 300 people signed up for the Thanksgiving Day dinner.  Last night I attended a potluck.  I had arrived, taken a short nap and headed out to the supermarket when I passed the activities director and her daughter with food in hand.  They said it was potluck night and I told them I had nothing to bring. They said not to worry about it but I passed on the offer.  Until!  Then on my way to the HEB I thought, well, buy something that will satisfy all.  I got a large pot of potato salad.  Turns out, the park is mostly folks from Quebec and they don't attend.  I can understand.  I see them with their small groups under their awnings with small tables, wine, glasses, candles, and food that I think I like better.  But the potluck was good and I met some nice folks.   I also suffered heartburn for the first time in over a year!

Today I visited five schools.  When I finished I contacted my coworker whose place I am taking only to find out she is going to back the week after next and I am no longer needed.   We'll see about that if you know what I mean.  I will head home on Thursday and then we will be back next week for a week of relax and Juan can do some shopping.  Back home for a week and then to South Padre Island before heading back tom Mexico and then all points south.  I really want to make it to San Miguel de Allende around the 10th of December but I doubt that will happen.

I mentioned our video chats via FaceBook.  If you have a web cam, ours are built into the laptop, this is even easier than Skype.  You just find the person on line, hit video chat and you're in business.  Here is what it looks like:

Monday, November 18, 2013

Figuring Out Our Canada Trip


I got to McAllen later than expected.  A two and a half hour bridge wait.  I posted a rant on FaceBook.  Really hacked me off.  With all the b.s. going on, they keep Mexicans on a national holiday from supplying the Texas valley with retail sales.   Long border waits equate to less shopping time, wasted fuel, increased pollution and unhappy people.  How many miles do the all of the border bridges make up?  Maybe 20 miles out of a 2000 mile border?   Looks like the priorities are screwed up a bit.   Enough on that.

Playing with Google Maps, I was looking at our trip and all the places we want to stop.   I came up with an approximate trip length of 10,000 miles.  I thought, not bad in terms of fuel.  1,000 gallons at today's average of $3.30.  Then I put on the brakes.  2700 miles will be done in Canada and that fuel is $5.25 a gallon?  Hmm, we need to rethink this.

Juan is all for it and he brings it up almost everyday with some new twist, person to see, or place to go.  I don't want to disappoint him.   The idea is not to break into any savings or charge anything except for emergencies.  I want to live on what we have monthly keeping within our budget.   I think we can do it.  We'll need to take advantage of couch surfing spots, boondocking, Passport America, and I saw a new one called  Overnightrvparking.com.  California fuel is expensive too.  Wow, I need to do some homework.

I'm thinking I might set up a new blog with ads to bring in some income and also do some short videos along the way. 

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Made Up Our MInds


Best of plans can always change and I learned that from my friends who are "drifters".   I had planned to power wash the driveway and get the cars cleaned.  It has been rainy, damp and just down right ugly the last few days.   Well, it rained again yesterday.  I got up early, started to wash bed linens and while they were in the final rinse, it starts to rain.  I had the power washer hooked up and all the tools I need to do the cars too.  That petered out.  I hung up the sheets and pillow cases and off I went.

I headed to the gym hoping the sun would come out later.   After the gym I realized it wasn't going to happen so I went grocery shopping instead.  When I got home the sun was peeking out but not enough to make a difference.  I put the linens in the dryer and did some aseo de la casa (housekeeping).  The day past by and I ended up watching SNL and going to bed at 10 p.m.

Up at 6:15 a.m. this morning and tidy things up and off I went to the airport.  Juan had sent me a message to say he was boarding the plane and before I knew it I arrived at the airport parking and he sends another message saying the plane had landed.   He has a mild sore throat and I had planned on eating lunch at Santa Fe, a very nice restaurant near the airport.   Prepared as always, I had made pasta and sauce yesterday so that was ready to eat.  He decided to go home and we would have pasta.   But as we passed the restaurant, the place was packed.  A place I can recommend. 

We spent the day talking, a lot.  We made plans for the upcoming weeks and our winter trip.   It's not like we haven't been in touch the last two weeks.  Everyday we have a video chat via Facebook which is free.  We talk for at least an hour if not more.   Then we send messages back and forth via Internet as our cell phone service give us 10 messages per day at no charge.

Are you ready for me to stop talking and tell you what our plans are?   I got an email from my coworker.  She says not to do any visits the week of Thanksgiving.  She also said she is ready to return so I may only have this week.  We will spend next week in McAllen for Thanksgiving and take off for a week or two in Texas, probably South Padre Island before returning to Mexico.

Then . . . .  we will head south to Jalisco stopping at our most popular boondocking spots.   Not sure yet if we will make a trip up to Mazatlan, but I realized it is a two day drive, well at least the way I drive.  We could do it in one but I don't do that any more.  We want to visit Colin and Contessa and hit the beach.  Christmas will be with all our friends at Hacienda Contreras.  I want to take the drive through the back side from Real de Catorce to San Luis Potosi.  Not sure yet, Juan didn't like the 15 kms of washboard we encountered last time.

There you have it!

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Big Question Is . . . .


Before I get into the big question of the day, I want to share what happened last night.  I don't remember if I said anything over the last two weeks or not but a stray cat had been getting into the house via the pet door and eating all the cat food.  Ferocious appetite!   I discovered this the week Juan took off for Mexico City and I went to McAllen.  I reminded him a dozen time to leave food for the cats and he assured me he would.  I came home after only three days to find their cat food dispenser completely empty.  They looked up at me with that look of, " I can't believe you didn't leave us any food".   

I almost let Juan have it but he assured me he had left enough food.   That night, I heard faint cries of a cat.  I hadn't put two and two together yet.   The days went by and the food would disappear.  I thought I had scared off the cat and off I went to McAllen again and left them plenty of food.  Came home again and no food.  That night, I walked into the kitchen and saw a black and white cat cornered by LB and Missy.  It took one look at me off it went.

Yesterday, I stopped by the vet after the gym.  He rented me a trap and I took it home and set it up last night before going to bed.  I put a small dish in there with some fresh cat food.   He took the bait.  I woke up this morning and found him there singing the cat prison blues!   Beautiful cat and really quite tame.   I loaded him up on the way to the gym, dropped him and the trap off at the vet and the cat is now up for adoption.  He received shots and a de-worming treatment.   The vet says it should be about a week before he has a new home.

Now for the big question.   Where in the heck are we going to go for winter?   We're thinking two months maybe more.   I like the idea of crossing the Baularte Bridge to Mazatlan.   We also want to see everyone at Hacienda Contreras this winter no matter which of the two parks there we stay at, the original HC or cousin Chema's place.   I also have the need to go to Real de Catorce and watch a sad movie in the rain again and then take the back road we found from there to San Luis Potosi.  Juan wants to go to Las Vegas before we go too.  I found the Allegiant Air flights from McAllen to Vegas for $170 round trip.  And then to make matters worse, I miss rving in West Texas.

How in the world do fulltimers ever make a decision about where to go?  This is driving me nuts.  I don't care about distance, toll road cost, etc.   Although I'm getting a bit tired of paying for toll roads while we have found in the last two years that many of the libres are just as good and much more scenic.

So post your comments, yea or nay, or maybe recommend some new destination.  We are creatures of habit and Hacienda is always a great place to hang our hats and park our wheels.  The cats can roam around and always find their way back to the trailer.

Thanks for helping out!

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Cold Front Number 12


It finally came.  I got home yesterday around 4 p.m.  It was cold all day yesterday in McAllen but it was a nice fall chill more than anything else.  The wind blew pretty hard Tuesday night but I was nice and snug in the rv with our Mr. Heater on low and the electric blanket.  I turned off Mr. Heater before going to bed and slept like a baby.  Actually, I overslept until 6 a.m.   The thing is, Tuesday I visited five schools that covered over 100 miles.   It was a good day but long.  The rv park continues to bring new people everyday and mostly Quebecers.   

Here at home I settled in with the cats for the night.  They love the heat from the electric blanket and will sleep almost through the whole night.  If I wake up and go to the john, they move around a bit until I tell them, "lay down and go to sleep".    They make a circle or two and they're down.

Today I went to the gym, did my weekly reports and did a little grocery shopping.  After being in the U.S.  155 pesos goes a long way.  I bought enough to have a kilo of chicken breast, veggies, two liters of milk, pan dulce, eggs, chorizo, and some fruit along with some other knick knacks.  I don't understand how poor people in the U.S. can afford to eat.   After a short nap I went for a haircut and then the day was shot.

I posted a funny video on Facebook about S N O W.  Juan saw it and he sent me a message immediately, " I'm ready to hit the road".  When he says that, that means it is time to get going.   Three more weeks and even though our space is paid in Texas I think we will head back and get down to where the action is.  

Don't forget about all the people in the Philippines who no longer have food, water or shelter.   This is the worst of the worst.   People here are making deposits in banks to send cash to help in the recovery. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Now Is The Time For Rving In The U.S.


Back in the valley this week for two days and you won't believe the gas prices.  Today I saw fuel for $2.80 a gallon.  The big question here and on the local news is how long will these prices last.  No one knows but I think we should consider rving for Christmas here in the U.S.  Nothing against my beautiful country of Mexico but no tolls to pay and much lower gas prices.  Too bad it's cold in Canada this would be a perfect time. 
But back to reality.  I mean really, how long will this last.
So now I am at a local library.   I walked in and the first thing they said was that I needed a library card.  Cool!  I want one.  Well, you need to have a local address and ID an be able to prove that address.  I explained my situation and they said no go but they would give me a one-time pass.  Then the librarian asked if I had any mail with my local address. Bingo!  I had just received a sample from a company that makes wood blinds.  They accepted it.
The weather is in for a change tonight.  The cold front is moving in and I am going back to the rv park and putting the electric blanket on the bed.  What a bunch of weenies.  The temperature will only be 50F but who cares.  I like it when we pretend it's cold out.  I'm making noodle soup with egg and salsa.  Yummy.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

It's Working


Our new police force has really been making us proud.  I shouldn't say new, it is now in it's third year and they are keeping the streets of our state safe.   They are hard-working, well-trained and well-paid.  That was the problem all along.  Crime was never what it is today and we had police who knew how to handle petty theft, and the local marijuanero on the corner.   

 Drunks were taken off the streets and local gangs were kept under check with an occasional operation to go in and clean them out.   It worked, we didn't have much faith in them with resolving murders and that really wasn't their job, we have the  policia ministeriales who handled the detective work.

Then crime started to increase due to the transport of drugs heading north.  Bush and Fox turned their heads for six years and pretended that nothing was happening.   As you know, even in my little town that was so infamously presented on 60 Minutes, we woke up one morning sitting in a cesspool of bodies, body parts, corruption and extortion.  Everyday we would wake up wondering what would be next.  

I was scared to death, I really thought it was passing but when it hit so close to home everyone here panicked.  We stopped going out at night, clubs, bars and casinos closed as people refused to go for fears the bad guys would show up and burn the place down as did happen in one case where 52 people lost their lives (doesn't matter now but it was actually a failed attempt at extortion).  We lived in that fear and we still do to some extent.

Our new police force is changing that.   Too bad other states where things are out of control cannot follow suit.  The problem is recruiting.   Our police are high school graduates, earn $1500 dollars after taxes and receive a laundry list of benefits.  They are required to spend time in barracks every month to keep them separated from temptations of what is going on.   It's a tough road.  Are things all better?  No and they will never be the way they were before.   Breaking up these major groups and killing or arresting 28 of the 37 on the big list that our last president had, only seems to have done more damage then good.  It left ragtag bands of young people with illegally imported high powered weapons that are now being used to kidnap, rob and extort the population.  

I have to say crime is way down here in this northern state.  Car thefts were out of control and have dropped by 80%, shoot outs between police or military and the bad guys is becoming a thing of the past.  In  fact, there hasn't been one in the last 9 months that I can recall.

So we are pretty happy albeit still wary of our new police.  If they continue on their current path, we are going to be in good shape.  The problem is recruiting and it has taken us a long time to form this team.  Every month the numbers grow as they are proving that the job is safer with better training, use of technology and pay.  These guys are also encouraged monetarily and through position to obtain degrees in criminology, forensics, public safety and administration.  

Here is a training video.  If you've driven from Laredo to Saltillo you have passed the university and training grounds.   We now have 2300 officers in the state group.  I wish them the best.

Police Video Nuevo Leon

Thursday, November 7, 2013

It's Broken


I hope I don't get caught posting this by anyone I work with in Texas but the system is in dire straits.   Visiting schools this week in the Texas valley has really opened my eyes.  As you know, I teach a one day course to prepare students for the university entrance exam and have been teaching in Texas high schools and now visiting the districts to promote the course.  Sure, it is a business but education became a business a long time ago.

Huge facilities are being built at multi-million dollar prices providing students with stadiums, personal training gyms, indoor swim facilities, huge cafeterias that no longer supply healthy food but allow concessions from all the big name fast food restaurants to open a venue in the "food court" of high schools.  This should be shocking but most people think it is really "que moderno", wow, super fancy, we are really going somewhere.

Yet in all of this, where are the students going in terms of their education?  Average SAT scores in the Texas valley hover around 1195 when the national average is 1500 out of 1400 points which isn't saying much for modern day education.  

More programs offering financial help to families, students and institutions continue to open up.  There are more programs for disadvantages kids than any other programs available.  They provide tutoring, free lunch programs, free transportation, free clothing, the list goes on.  How has it helped the disadvantaged children?  It has only brought them down to a lower rung, increased obesity, and an overall malaise for learning.

There are programs that fall under the category of early college.  Fantastic programs but the number of students is relatively small compared to the overall number of students in any district.  Good thing they are grooming these young people who really do have a desire to learn but what is happening to the rest of the students?  The average ACT score is still below the national average.   Forty million Americans today do not have a high school diploma.  

In addition, the average high school GPA is only 2.9, that means that 50% are under that number.  I guess my point of all this is that you can throw all the money you want at education but that doesn't make a student work harder or gain more knowledge.  In Mexico we recently had a girl, Paloma Noyola, who was named a math whiz and next in line to replace Steve Jobs.  She lives below the poverty line, goes to school in what most would consider a run-down shack with next to nothing in regards to technology and yet has accomplished what most kids never will.   It was her desire to learn, her parents who push her, and the teachers who work hard in her school to bring her the education every child in the world deserves.

Don't get me wrong, I am an American, I love traveling in the U.S. but the reality is, we are living on credit with a credit card that maxed out its limit years ago and money may make a place look pretty but not very functional.  The system is broken, it needs fixing, and if we don't get with it soon we will all be sorry we looked the other way.   

A bond issue was turned down by voters yesterday in Katy, Tx for a high school stadium with an estimated building cost of 70 million dollars.   Are they mad?  We've got our head in the wrong direction if you know what I mean and people need to stand up and say enough is enough and it is time to get back to basics in education.  Demand a pass or fail system where students are pushed to excel, pushed to do the best they can and push may not be the best word I could use.  All kids have the same abilities, it is a matter of taking advantage of what they have in them.   I'm tired of hearing that a 7 out of 10 is a passing grade.  What is the message being sent to a student who is told that the minimum is good enough?

As we say on internet forums, flame suit on!

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Back From The Border


Ended up driving to Eagle Pass this morning to visit two schools.  They previously had a seminar at their schools and I went in hopes of rebooking.  And I did!   My first two days, not bad!

The cold front moved in as I was arriving in Eagle Pass and got colder and clouder as the morning progressed.  I left there for Laredo around noon and the rain just wouldn't stop.   It let up when I got to Laredo and another follow up visit at a school only to find the person was out for the day.

I gassed up and headed for the border.  I was really anxious to get home and a good thing I did.  The cats had no food so I have a feeling another cat got in and ate the food.   I hear the cat outside and it appears to be another stray.   Not staying here though.

When I arrived to the north side of Monterrey the rains were really coming down and it took me an hour and forty minutes to get home from the exit to Saltillo, Hwy 40.  What a mess.  I am so glad I don't work in the city anymore.  Done with that!

So now I am home until Monday when I return to McAllen unless there is a change of plans.  The cats are here on the bed with me and they look happy to see me.  I keep saying we need to install cameras here at home so we can see what goes on when we aren't here.  

I spoke with Juan about an hour ago and he was on the bus from D.F. to Queretaro for the convention.   His school visits went well and he is happy.   

Now I will relax for four days!