Saturday, March 30, 2013

Things Really Picked Up

The days went by and no one was showing up.  It got colder and then wet, warmed up a bit and then cold.  Today, the sun is shining and the pools are filling up.  Every grill is smoking and you can smell the carne asada.  Kids everywhere having fun, the majority are well-behaved and knock it off early.  We have pretty tight security here and the music stops at 10:30 p.m.  Quiet time.  I guess they had a roddy bunch the other night, and they refused to follow the rules.  The police were called and they were taken to the slammer.

We have been vegetating as Croft would say and hanging around the palapa.  We go for morning walks and try to pester whoever we can.  I am reading quite a bit this week as the internet signal is pooping out.  Looks like the Movistar tower is having problems in the area.

This afternoon we are going to El Alamo for seafood at Arturo's.  When we get back to the park I am hooking up the trailer so it is ready to pull out early in the morning.  At home, we went there yesterday to check on the cats, traffic is at its all time high.  Getting there before eight a.m. will ensure that we get trailer down our road without a hitch (no pun intended).

Thursday, March 28, 2013

They Finally Came!

Today is Jueves Santo and sure enough, more people showed up.  Last night we saw quite a few cars come in and when I went for my walk down to the lake, I could see it was people who have cabins here.  It started out to be a quiet morning and then they moved in to the palapas.  Most of them are young kids in groups and so far they are pretty-well behaved.  Lots of them are barely sixteen and drinking beer, one girl threw up at six p.m. so that is probably a sign it will be quiet tonight, early to bed!

The security guards make rounds on their motorcycles and don't hesitate to stop at a palapa and ask them to turn their music down.  I may sound like a stick in the mud, and the truth will out, I am!  I like the outdoors and loud music just doesn't mesh.

Over at the pool area there is a snack bar, and the owner of the concession opened a hot dog and hamburger stand.  I was doing some work in the palapa on my laptop when Norma walked by and said she was getting a burger.  I finished my work and I got a pup, pretty good wrapped in bacon.  Juan had two empalmes, which are two tortillas doradas, with cheese, desebrada and beans.   They looked  pretty good.

Everyday I go for a five km walk, I started to do it morning and evening and then the evenings became early happy hour.   Maybe tomorrow I will do both again.

So we are happily installed here and it is pretty tranquilo.

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Doesn't Feel Like Semana Santa!

It isn't the kind of Semana Santa we are used to.   It is raining and this morning it was 6C.  The park were we are staying is empty for the most part and the three swimming pools are idle.  No one has opened the pool tobogan slides, the snack bar wasn't open this morning either.  What a bummer.  

The good news is that Croft and Norma are here and we keep each other company with meals, walks, happy hour and our usual conversations.  To be quite honest, this is probably the best Semana Santa ever.  No people or noise!!!!  I know I am pretty much a party pooper but hey, I like it quiet.  I have been going for long walks in the morning and may take one this afternoon.  

Here is our spot where we are parked, we are across from the swimming pools and palapas.

I took this picture yesterday as it was already getting cold and wet, no one in sight.   It is supposed to continue cold and rainy today and tomorrow getting warmer over the weekend.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Meeting Friends In Montemorelos

We took off yesterday morning for our little resort about 40 minutes from town.  Stopped for tacos, gas LP and off we went.  We arrived at Monte Sure about 11 a.m., got all set up and then waited for Croft and  Norma to show up.   They got here around 4 p.m.  Soon we were all set up and sitting in our palapa watching kids in the pool, people cooking and having fun.

Norma and Juan fixed dinner in their rig.  Good eats as always.  We went for a night swim after everyone left the pool area.  Drinks were in order and a lot of good conversation.  We also gave them a short tour of the place and we ended up later at the bonfire they have here every night this week with live music and a show.  

I'm cutting this short because our wifi signal is a bit weak.  Here are a few pics.  We will stay here for a few days even though the weather is changing to cold and cloudy.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

A Reader Provides A Solution

I've been saying lately that I get into trouble when we are not on the road.  Well, a reader and good rving friend, Croft and his lovely wife Norma, are nearby and heading north.  They suggested we get together this weekend.   Sounds like a lovely idea to me.   

I invited them to take the route from San Roberto to Linares and then meet us at our resort club Monte Sur.  We have some passes that we can use and we will beat the Semana Santa crowd by a week.  

They plan on arriving sometime Saturday so we will take the rv down in the morning before the morning rush from Monterrey south starts.   I have a feeling we will review the winter trips and hopefully grill some fish.  Norma is an excellent cook although I am not looking for her to cook by paying that compliment.

So, my problem is solved and just in the nick of time.  Today it has rained with out stopping.  We need the water but it kept me from doing much. 

Now I am kicking myself for not having bought the charge controller,  Croft could have helped me.  Oh well, hindsight is 20/20.   Here's to a great weekend!

Monday, March 18, 2013

When I'm Not On The Road . . .
When I'm not on the road I seem to always get into some kind of trouble.  Part of the problem is I read too much news and it gets me going.  This last week it has been about the border and border agents as you read the other day.

Then, I got involved in a thread about the legalization of cars in Mexico.  I have the hardest time trying to convince people of facts regarding those organizations that give out stickers and license plates and tell innocent people they are protected from paying their yearly tags or legalization.

  • It's illegal.   The federation has not approved any of these groups and never will
  • Just because a state governor says it has his stamp of approval means nothing to federal police and Mexican customs agents
  • If it were legal, why do they tell their members not to drive in major metro areas such as Monterrey, Mexico City, Guadalajara and Tijuana
  • The cost to join and pay dues is the same or more than the yearly tag and plate charge
  • No one can tell me where the money goes; estimated at more than 100 million dollars a year
  • As of today, some of these organizations are over 20 years old and have yet to be authorized
I have been reminded that this program is to help poor Mexican farmers yet ex-pats and Mexicans who live in cities attempt to take advantage of these "programs".  Please correct me if I am wrong with the following statement:

The only way that a Mexican farmer will ever excel at his trade is to receive funding from federal, state and international aid programs.  However, just like in any other country, to be able to apply for a loan, the person needs to be able to read and write and show proof of economic stability.  That means that people need to be educated, register their farms, and pay taxes.   

What I find interesting is that it appears that some people don't  want Mexico to advance and become part of global commerce and the 21st century.   If we don't do this, those that are educated, will continue to leave Mexico and we will lose our intellectual capital.  I realize that colonial Mexico is quaint, endearing and inexpensive, but this is no longer the reality.  Mexicans want what everyone else in the world has and if they can't get it here they will go to where they can.

Belly up to the bar and pay your dues if you are a foreigner living in Mexico.  I blame no one for wanting to live here.  I do and I wouldn't want to live anywhere else.  I pay my taxes, I don't steal electricity, I pay my property taxes and vehicle registration and plates every year.  I'm not taking a holier than thou attitude but only living the way I would live in any country that receives me.  

I ask those living in Mexico:  Would you accept the same practices of not pay yearly registration and tags in your native country?  Of course not!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Challengers For Freedom

This first came to my attention a couple of months ago when my brother jokingly sent me a YouTube video of a guy who attempted to pass through the northern immigration checkpoints within the U.S.  I am talking about that checkpoint we all pass through after having passed the Mexico/U.S. border where we are grilled by U.S. Customs and Border agents about our nationality, what we are bringing back, where we have been and where we are going.  Being treated almost as if we all are terrorists until otherwise determined.

A new group of freedom fighters has emerged on the scene.  Those are the people who approach these border checks which by law should be 21 miles north of the Mexican border but many are located as far north as 100 miles.  As they enter the "zone" and are asked about their nationality, they refuse to answer the question and ask permission to proceed with their trip.

This has been going on since about 2008 and now YouTube is being flooded with more and more videos that are shot from the passengers cars.   Many are eventually waved on having completely frustrated the DHS officers.  On the other hand, some have turned to tragedy as the person's car is broken into by the agents, tazing the person or persons, dragging them out of the car and beating them severely.

But why is this occuring and why is it so important.  For starters,  these checkpoints in some way are illegal as they are positioned within the country and not at the border.  That said, where is the DHS, Customs and Border patrol at the border where they legally can patrol, check and scrutinize each person who crosses the border?   What this tells me is that the U.S. government has not been able to do their job properly and efficiently.  Why are there 12 million illegal persons in the U.S.?  Because the borders are not secure and not well-protected.  The government chooses to waste taxpayer money in frivolous fights overseas that will never be won by just one country.   Problems in Afghanistan, Iran and Syria are best resolved by many nations for which we have the United Nations.   Bring our troops home to defend their country and continent and face issues that affect us here in the Americas.  I have always said, clean your own house before thinking about cleaning someone else's.

Some may find this trivial and can't understand why it would be so simple to just answer the question:  Are you an American citizen?  But why are we being asked if we are already in our own country or are here legally?  This is what the DHS, Customs and Border Patrol are supposed to do at the border with Mexico, Canada, and all other points of entry.  However, it is not being done and if it is, not being done well.  Remember some famous freedom fighters who challenged the government and the constitution:  Paul Revere, Susan B. Anthony, Frederick Douglass, Mary McLoud Bethune.

We are now being faced with the use of drones here within the U.S. and Mexico (not sure about Canada), so small they mimic dragon flies and carry cameras to spy on us.  How much more of big brother are we going to allow before one day, very soon, we wake up and ask ourselves, how did we become a fascist society?

I am writing this in response to an excellent article complete with videos that appears in today's Huffington Post and written by Jacob Huffington who by chance lives in Laredo, Tx and has first-hand experience with what is happening.

Each time we cross the border, and now either way we ourselves are subjected to several checks.   Why am I being asked if I am a U.S. citizen or if I am here legally if I just crossed the border and you have already checked my vehicle, at times my person, my papers, and my belongings?  Funny, and now they are allowing knives on airplanes.  Doesn't make sense.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Back Home

Just walked in the door.  Backed the TT in first time around, no issues.  We took the libre home and it was in great shape.  I have decided we won't be using the autopistas anymore between home and the border no matter what route we take.

It was cold this morning when we left San Antonio.  We drove straight through to Laredo only stopping twice to find a dump station.  Pilot didn't have one and Flying J wanted 10 dollars.   I told them to take a flying leap.  I'll take my stuff home with me and fertilize my front yard.   I had checked before leaving via internet for dump stations and there aren't any on the I-35 south.

More later, nap time and some well-deserved R&R.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Almost Finished - Ready To Head Home

Looks like we'll take off for home on Wednesday.  One more day to tie up loose ends, sign the new lease and do a little shopping.  Here's what I did today:

  • Pressure washed the brick on the front of the house.  Acid didn't work to remove the mineral deposits from San Antonio hard water and rain runoff.  I will paint when we come back in a few months. 
  • New carpet installed.  Pictures below. 
  • Pressure washed the sidewalks and street curb.
  • Took the trailer to Discount Tire for two new tires
  • Planted flowers and new soil in the brick flower box that runs across the front of house
The chain-link fence guy has blown me off I guess.  He doesn't answer his messages.  I will call tonight to see if I can find someone else.  Tomorrow I want to paint the garage door and lay the floor tiles in front of the entry way.

Now for a well-deserved happy hour!!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Gaining Ground

It  turned out to be a productive day.  Carpet man is coming Monday afternoon.  The house is painted inside, menos the living room but that will be  done tomorrow.  The a/c guy was really champ.  He cleaned the unit inside, removed the blower and cleaned it.   He cleaned and serviced the outside unit and compressor and the hall intake was full of crap.  He worked from 9:30 until 1 p.m.   150 dollars for everything.   The a/c started cooling even better than before.  Oh, and he also eliminated the condensation pump which never worked very well anyway, and put in a drain pipe where gravity does the work.  Why that wasn't done originally we'll never know.   What a deal.

The fence man came and gave an estimate to repair the chain-link and also close off the backyard from the front.  Things are looking up. 

We stopped by Discount Tire to get an estimate on tires for the travel trailer.  We bought two last year and we need two more this trip and we will be good to go for quite awhile.  The charge controller is on standby waiting for me to make a decision.  Still not sure what to do.

Tomorrow is a free day and I plan on going out for some exercise and relaxing the rest of the day.  I don't know if anyone is a breadmaker machine fan, but I think I found a good one used for next to nothing.  It looks complete and includes the manuel.   I will check the price on Monday.  I always wanted one.  This one is a Breadmaker TS445 if anyone know about them, please let me know.

I will post pics of the livingroom this week once all the work is done.

Friday, March 8, 2013

All Good So Far

Day one here in San Antonio and it looks pretty good.  Our tenant, takes very good care of the house and it looks fantastic.  The yard is in a bad state but the last year has not been kind to the area in terms of rain and the rationing that the city put in place.

I got an estimate on the new carpeting and I am still searching.  It looks as though I may have found a deal that I wil check out this morning.  The A/C man will be here at 5 p.m. today to do a "tune up" and I hope that's all it needs.

 We are parked in the driveway and it is pretty quiet here at night.   I slept fine and got up early this morning.  I want to check on two new tires for the rv and get that done before we take off.  Gotta have good rubber when you hit the road.  Just one less thing to worry about.  The rv has held up beautifully since we have had it and the recent additions that were done in Hacienda Contreras are fantastic.   I have been searching for the charge controller and may have found one.  I'm waiting for a call back today.

The economy is so depressed, you can see it here in the neighborhood.  Lots of foreclosures, houses that need maintenance.  10 years ago this was a nice little neighborhood.  Still is but you can see people are struggling.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Had A Bad Start

Before leaving yesterday morning, having had everything hooked up and ready to go, I did a tire inspection only to find a bubble in one of the tires.  We took off and found a vulka to change it, we had to wait about 45 minutes.   As we got into Monterrey proper, Juan remembered he had forgotten his folder with all his check stubs, phone bills, etc. that he needs to prove solvency at the border to get his permit even though he has a visa.

I pulled into a gas station and he took a taxi home and back.  We lost an hour there.   Finally on the road and into Laredo, the bridges are backed up due to the budget cuts.  No agents, long lines.   If you are coming to the border prepare yourselves for possible long wait times.

One piece of good news.  The Garcia's restaurant on the highway between Saltillo and Laredo now sells the Texas Tag chip for the toll highways in Texas.  If you cross at the Colombia bridge, this would save you time on the TT255 that goes to the northern side of the I-35N.  

I gave in at Pearsall, Tx last night around 6:30.   I couldn't make it the next hour and half.  Nice little park next to the Texas Stop Sign (Dairy Queen).  The woman said it was $25.  I asked if she took cards, she said cash only.   I said that I might have a twenty and she said, "sold".  Perfect.   Level, good electric, one tv channel.  We had a beer and called it a night.  

We are at McDonald's having our senior coffee and using the wifi.  We should be in San Antonio around 10 a.m.  More later.  We may just park at our tenant's driveway.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Mucho Para Contar (Alot To Talk About)

Where to start.  The forest fire continues and out of control.  Mexicans in general are a bit self-centered, but in times of disaster, emergency, national mourning, Mexicans really pull together and show their true colors.  We have Proteccion Civil, the new police force, military, and local yocals are pitching in together to fight this fire.  I am watching the news right now and the fire is getting closer to our little town.   I just returned from Allende which is 20 kms from here.  I help out in a private school there once a month.   On the way back to the house, I had to stop along the highway.   Helicopters are circling around with their buckets, dipping into swimming pools in the area.   Those who know this area know we live very near a lake.  However, this fire is on the other side and by using swimming pools nearby, it is saving a lot of time.   The winds came today as I said yesterday.  So dry and hard, that I watched our back yard turn from green to brown in six hours.  The good news is that the winds have calmed down considerably and the air is cooling off.   So we are hoping that overnight the humidity moves up and helps to calm down the fire.   

Next bit of news is the death of Hugo Chavez.  I knew as of last Friday the end was near.   I never liked the guy.  In fact, when he was sent out his country on his private plane some 12 years ago, I was sitting in my hotel room in the Dominican Republic clapping and screaming.  Only to find out later, he returned.  I despise the man as a facsist pig.  On the other hand, he was a human being and I am sad to see anyone suffer from such a terrible disease.  My heart goes out to his family and friends.   

I have the trailer hooked up and ready to go for tomorrow.   With the winds down to almost nothing, I don't foresee any problems on the road.  We will head north and cross through Laredo.   I am hoping to get a head start from rush hour traffic by leaving as close to six a.m. as possible.   I will report from San Antonio when access to the internet permits.

My trip to the dermotologo was painful to say the least.   A complete physical exam came up with nothing but my small pinhead sized warts under my armpit and confirmed that the small cancer on my back was really nothing more than a small mole and lots of my imagination.  I have scheduled an appointment for the end of next week when we return to remove the warts via surgery.   This guy is great, he is middle-aged, in great shape, uses all his tools of the trade on himself which isn't common for a doctor.  I hate going to a doctor that is overweight and smokes.  He did a complete facial peel and increased the quantity of acid.   While he was applying it and I was practically screaming outloud, I asked him how his female patients do.  He said, "oh they come every month without complaint".   So I bit the bullet.   Not so bad now that I am applying the cream he gave me.  Smooth as a baby's bottom.   :)  More to come!

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Hills Are On Fire

A bit of an exageration, but we do have a pretty good forest fire going nearby.  It is about four miles from here and we can see it.  The surrounding mountains are hazy with smoke.   The humidity has dropped and we are expecting high winds tonight and tomorrow.   I just watched the weather in the Rio Grande Valley and they have issued warnings as well. 

We head out Wednesday morning and the winds, if they are still blowing, usually don't pick up until later in the morning so it should give us a good head start if we pull out around 6 a.m.

As for the inverter, would it help if I used the left over cable from the solar install for the inverter making new cables with ring connectors?  Of course that will be if there is enough after installing the charge controller.  I have plugged the rv into the inverter before, but that was when it was outside on the hitch.  Now that it will be installed inside a cabinet, how do I connect the rv cable to the inverter?  Or is there something I'm not understanding.

I have been looking for YouTube videos for installing an inverter connecting it to the converter so all the outlets are live but the videos are mostly about inverters.

Tomorrow I have a doctor's appointment with a dermotologist.  I have a couple of small warts to  remove and some marks on my face I want taken off.  Plus, I need a skin cancer exam anyway.  I guess that is primary.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Solar Project

Croft and Kevin are wondering where we stand on the solar project. You may remember that seven weeks ago they pitched in to put the panel on the roof and run the cables down through the wall.  It was quite a job and I am happy they were willing to help.

So, to answer the question, the solar panel is still well-secured to the roof and producing tons of electricity that is going nowhere at this time!   I have yet to buy the charge controller and install it.  

The good news is that we will be in San Antonio later this week and it is an ideal time and place to order and have the charge controller delivered.  I believe that I can install it myself as I have researched it to death and have also figured out how to run the cables.  

The only thing now is to how to hard wire an inverter into the system.   That I think I will have some tech wizard help me with.  I do have one hooked up from the battery with clamps and installed inside the trailer.  I want all the outlets to be live and I do understand that we will have to be careful when using power inside so that we don't overload the inverter.  

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Lazy Saturday

I guess my age is catching up with me.  Dealing with large groups of teenagers is not easy especially for six hours at a time non-stop.  I never sit down except for the 30 minute lunch break.   I get to the school at eight o'clock and finish by 4 p.m.  It is a long day and to do it three days in a row is even harder.  The pay is good and I think it keeps me young and out of trouble.

Yesterday coming home took some effort.  After I finished at the school, I headed for FexX to scan my reports, send them off and then drop off the extra materials at the storage we have there.  By that time, it was rush hour in McAllen.   What messed up city.   None of the lights are synchronized and you sit at the intersection for up to five minutes and nothing is happening.   They should take a look at what we have done in Monterrey.  Traffic is in constant motion with our program of complejo vial.   The idea is to keep cars moving at all times.  No cars coming, the light changes and send traffic moving.  The other estupidez is the speed limit.   Most of the streets in McAllen and the RGV are wide avenues with speed limits of 45 to 55 mph.  Truly a good idea and amazing to boot.  But people drive 35 in a 45 or 50 zone.   Drives me nuts.

I get to the border bridge and all the Mexicans who work on the U.S. side are heading home to Reynosa.  Traffic jam.  I get across the border and it is now 6 p.m. and Mexicans are getting off work.  Traffic jam.  I make it to the autopista and finally I am on my way home listening to some soft jazz and watching an incredible sunset.

Today, absolutely nothing.   Too pooped to pop.   I did some odds and ends around the house and took a long nap.   By tomorrow I should be back to normal.  We will head to San Antonio on Wednesday to get the carpet replaced and the A/C serviced on our rental.  

I'm watching the news about the possibility of having a black' pope.  Let's see how that sets with some people.   I am anxious to see what happens.  I truly believe the pope discovered the situation with the church is much bigger than he had hoped and can no longer cope with the situation.  However, I don't think he should have stepped down.  It's not part of the job description.   It is a job for life.   I like tradition and don't like seeing it broken.   Maybe if they stripped him of his privileges and just gave him his retirement, that I could understand.