Sunday, August 31, 2014

Up Early!

 I woke up before 5 a.m. and tried to go back to sleep but I started thinking about all the things I wanted to get done.  I had a few cups of coffee, read my Rv.Travel Newsletter and decided to get started.  I actually washed the trailer before breakfast so the pictures are reversed.   The trailer was filthy even though I had given it a good bath when we came home from our trip.   I've been cutting back on food the last three weeks along with exercise and have dropped a couple of pounds.  Today was a "free" day so Juan fixed a big breakfast.

Need the breakfast of champions to get the day started along with the Sunday paper!

 Washed and ready to be waxed.  Tomorrow I'll start on that.

I finished the door after a second sanding and another coat of paint.  The paint isn't a match but I had bought it for another project.  Most of it will be covered with the flat screen anyway.

An update on the oil spill.  I'm not a genie or a guru but I have learned a lot about the media here as well as the culture.  I knew something was behind all of this and it came out Friday night.   It wasn't an accidental oil spill.  Someone or a group attempted to tap the line thinking it was gasoline (we call it ordeñando or milking).  Turns out it was a crude oil shipping pipe.  They also think that this may have been going on for some time and the crude was being used in clandestine brick production somewhere.

This has been going on and the fuel is normally sold to small oil companies in Texas and Georgia.  Several of those companies have been caught and the owners sentenced to prison.   So now an investigation is going on to see if any of these ejidetarios are involved and have caused this disaster which by the way has been 90% cleaned up, the oil is off of the water. Pemex now claims to be a victim as the were robbed.  Here goes the merry-go-round.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Getting The Rv Ready

The passenger side door that was hit by the runaway driver.  Repair will cost $150 u.s.

Waiting for the rain :(  Notice our lawn furniture isn't there.  How does aluminum lawn furniture get broken?  Well it did and it has been a problem finding an aluminum welder.  But we did and we are waiting for one more chair to be returned and we can put in our new furniture cushions.
Another great weekend and it looks like the heat may be winding down.  This should be the end of the heat wave that has had it's grips on Texas and Northern Mexico.  It attempted to rain last night but it turned out to be all show.  Lots of light and sound but no rain.   Same thing again this morning and again in the afternoon.  I think it's too hot to rain.
I got my working papers for Texas.   I have an event on September 17th in Dallas.  I'll fly from McAllen to DFW and back.   We're taking the rv to the Rio Grande Valley on the 14th for at least a month depending on what other events come up in the meantime.   I would like to go back to Casa Del Valle but the early bird special pricing is only for one month at $210.  We've always had our eye on Victoria Palms which is an upper scale rv resort that has multiple pools, saunas, a gym, apartments, park models, you name it.  They have a valley health fair every year to attract newcomers to the park.  I sent off for rates and they came back with $210 for the first month.  The person I received the email from said maybe we could get another month at a similar price.  It is conveniently located to McAllen and Harlingen so that makes getting to work in the morning easy.
Today I started doing things to the rv.  One thing I needed to finish was the door on the entertainment center.  I sanded it and gave it one coat of paint.  Tomorrow another sanding with fine grit and then a final coat of paint.  The flat screen which wasn't working should be ready soon so I can attach it to the door.
On our trip we did a bit of caulking every week around the rv.  I still need to do the slideouts but the "special caulk" for rvs leaves a mess.   I had a small can of Goof Off under the kitchen sink here at the house.  Cleaned it up nicely.   Tomorrow if there is no rain, I will give the rv a good bath.  I want to paint the frame and the rear bumper.  Also, the front cap needs to deoxidized and give a couple good coats of wax.  We want to look good at the park when we get there!
I haven't been able to enjoy happy hour for over a week now.  I still have another week to go.  I am having some minor outpatient surgery and the doctor recommended I disconnect the vodka IV for a couple of weeks prior.  All will be well and it is really nothing especially of concern.  I'm having a club soda right now while Juan sips on a cool, cold, tingling, clear vodka on the rocks.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Endings Aren't Always Bad

Panteon (cemetery) San Jose

Juan stayed at the house in town last night and I got home around 9:30.  There was not much else to do and some of Daniel's brothers and sisters were going to stay the night at the funeral home.   I had some difficulty going to sleep but when I did I was out and slept hard as a rock.  When the alarm went off this morning I must have been dreaming because someone was telling me the alarm was going off.
I went to the gym for an hour came home and got cleaned up.   Off to the funeral home we left right on time for the cemetery.  Juan was had gone to the cemetery early in the morning to sign the papers and pay the grave fees and taxes.   We didn't have any transito to guide us but the funeral home did a wonderful job.  Mexicans, at least here in Monterrey, are pretty respectful of the funeral procession.  The funeral home gave us all directions and instructions on what to do and not to stop at any lights.  It was a long drive through town at 20 kph but we made it there.  Juan's older brother, his wife, another nephew and great-nephew road with me and we talked about everything under the sun.  Life and death. 
In Mexico they open the coffin at the cemetery for one last goodbye.  We hired musicians to play a few songs.  I had been a trooper through the whole thing until they played Amor Eterno, a song made famous by the now deceased Rocio Durcal.  Once they started playing that, I gave in and it all came out.  I was just saddened to see so many people who at the moment were in pain.  Yes, it's life but as I told one of Juan's great-nieces, "you can't know happiness unless you know sadness".
We waited while they closed the grave and said our goodbyes.   After, we headed to Nelly's house for lunch.   We had roasted and fried chicken with mashed potatoes, rice, and macaroni salad.  
From my personal experience, I related to others the importance of getting together and keeping in touch.  Today we saw so many distant relatives that we hadn't seen in years that it was a bit sad seeing we all live in the same metro area.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

A Sad Day Today

I had mentioned last week that one of Juan's nephews was terminal.   Daniel passed away yesterday afternoon.  Juan was at the hospital at the time.  Fortunately, his nephew's brothers, sisters, and parents were there.  A sad time for all but everyone had the opportunity to say their goodbyes.
Daniel was 42 and lived a bit of an obscure life.  He left home early and pretty much kept to himself.  He had a couple of children along the way and his 22 year old son stopped by the hospital for a visit the other day.
Always under the radar, Daniel didn't have a formal job which didn't provide medical benefits or funeral services.  I know I talk about that a lot and all I can say is, "only if ".  All water under the bridge now and time for us to be with family.  I'm glad we came home early from our trip.  Daniel was at his mother's house in the heat suffering and in pain.  With some push and pull, we got him into a hospital where he was able to spend his last days in comfort in an air conditioned room with the care everyone deserves.
Sure to be a big event, everyone in Juan's family lives here in the metro area of Monterrey and at last count there were 120 direct relatives (brothers, sisters, inlaws, nieces, nephews, and all the greats)from his parents.   It will be a long day and one that we all have to do as part of being human beings, honoring our dead.
I remember the last years of my parents lives.  Every morning my dad would walk out to get the newspaper, sit down and go through the obituaries and then plan their day based on that.  They lived to be in their mid-eighties and attended a lot of funerals. 
As a side note, someone backed into the SUV at the hospital yesterday afternoon.  A woman took a picture as it happened, got the plates and then showed Juan the person from the truck who was in the hospital waiting room.  The guy said, "yes, he gave me a ride but I don't know who he is".  Right.  We'll let the insurance company figure it out.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Oil Spill Update

The news stations have been battling to see who can report first and get the latest scoop onto the presses.  The cleanup of all the oil on the water should be complete by next week and then continued work for another eight weeks to clean up the banks and repair any other damage. 
The ejidatarios (people who live in ejidos), are now being pushed by their local priest to file a lawsuit against Pemex.   Do they deserve it?  Sure they do but they are looking at it as a payday.  These people who have ranch land and belong to one of the eight ejidos have never paid taxes on land or income.   Their animals have also been defecating in the river for years and the waste from their ranches flows into the rivers affecting fish and water quality.   It's kind of a no man's land when it comes to rules. 
I say this only because they would be so much better off if they were part of the system.   They would have medical insurance, benefits from their labors such as loans to improve their farms, purchase livestock and equipment.  I'm sure many of them work their butts off to make a living off the land.   At the same time, education levels are low because they don't send their kids to school and because of their status,  just live day to day.
The media continues with their opinionated views begging on the conditions that the ejidatarios are now living in although 40 tons of food, clothing and bottled water have been collected by the community of Monterrey not to mention the federal funds, potable water trucks, 8 per day, pour into the ejidos. 
In less than a week it has become a zoo.  In on the circus are consultants, private contractors, new media, NGOs, politicians running for elections,  etc.  They all have their hands in the pot.  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Things Are Shaping Up

My birthday dinner out on Friday night in Santiago
A nice walk around the plaza after dinner.
One thing I need to do is get back into the blog.  I've been so lazy since getting back home and it's not like I'm posting the most exciting things.  The weather here is at its peak.  The temps rarely drop below 38C, baking hot.   In Spanish we call this the canicula, or the hottest part of summer and some believe it lasts about 40 days.  So we have about two more weeks, let's see if this holds true.
We are also suffering from an oil spill.  Many of you coming from Reynosa to Saltillo have passed the Pemex refinery located northeast of Monterrey just coming off the autopista.  A river runs nearby.  It a small spill compared to world oil spills but has affected about 400 families who depend on the river for irrigation of crops and watering livestock.  Their water supplies have been cut off and wells shut down. 
The cleanup is taking place but the local news media has turned it into a zoo.  All systems are in place.  The oil was contained to a small part of the river, the families are receiving help from Pemex and the community.  We have collected foodstuffs, drinking water, and legal help is now available for the families.  Funny how we are.  Now the problem is so bad the world is going to collapse, Pemex has done nothing, reporters are have now turned to their personal opinions.  I believe the situation is being handled properly but it is the "big news" to distract us from what is really going on around town.
It's taken a few weeks but we have the house and yard in good shape.  It's hard to depend on someone to do things if you're not here to tell them what to do.   The pool didn't get the attention it needed.  Even though we had told the gardener we would deposit his salary and any additional money he needed for supplies he never told us when we called.  We had stocked the shed with chemicals, tools, etc.  but it didn't work to well.   Our water here is very heavy with deposits as it come from the well.  Coming home, I had to add 50 liters of acid.  The walls of the pool were rough, algae had been embedded in the deposits making it impossible to clean.  That's all fixed now and the pool is back to where it should be.  Next year we may just drain it and deal with any cracks that may occur.
Did I say next year?  You bet.  We will probably spend the summer in San Miguel de Allende.  Gosh, I feel like an old fart rver.  "There's too much to see right here in the "good ole U.S. of Mexico".  Not far off I guess and we want to start working on our rv trip to South America.  Not sure how we're going to approach that yet.  It might be cheaper to rent an rv in Chile and just tour one country at a time.  Chile has a lot to offer and has excellent infrastructure.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Explanation of Previous Post

Bob posted a comment on my last post and was wondering if I could give more information about what I had written.  I don't think I have ever spoken badly of someone, at least not openly and definitely not on this blog.  The comments I made in the previous post were about some rvers or ex-pats who live in Mexico.  Keep in mind, I am saying "some" not all and it is a generalization.

One of the first things that happens is that travelers to Mexico for the most part, have a tendency to stay out of major metropolitan areas.  Sometimes for good reasons.  In the case of rvers it is usually because rvs are not allowed on major avenues, or to cross some overpasses and it can get tricky and they prefer to avoid transit police.  For ex-pats, major metro areas are things they either wanted to escape or because they are more expensive.

Another is the northern border territories.  This seems to be because of the "so-called dangers" that persist in the border region.  The border is an imaginary line.  If you live in a place like the RGV, watching local evening new on KRGV you'll find it is the same on either side.  It presents a false sense of security just as do the autopistas or toll roads.  In reality, the northern states have proven to be safer than the southwestern states by a long shot.  Here is an example:

In the above graphic you can see that the states most rvers frequent are the most dangerous; Baja California (both North and South) Chihuahua, Colima, Michoacán, Guerrero, Durango, Sinaloa, Morelos, and Edomex (State of Mexico).  Of course, Tamaulipas is in the top three.  That leaves the Colombia Bridge crossing coming down Hwy 1 through Nuevo Leon.  Nuevo Laredo, down Hwy 85, and I'll explain in a minute.

(Categories are as follows:
  • Homicidio - Homicides
  • Secuestro -  Kidnapping
  • Extorsion -  Extortion
  • Robo a Casa - Home burglary
  • Robo a Negocio - Business burglary
  • Lesiones - Physical assault
  • Violacion - Rape

Looking at the cities in the state of Tamaulipas, the danger zones are the far east coast. That is why I included  Nuevo Laredo which is in all green.  My point is that the news media has created this hype by painting the picture with a wide brush.  How many rvers travel through Jalisco, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Morelos, Michoacán, Sinaloa and Baja?  A lot.  Because it is their perception that those areas are safe.  In reality, for rvers and ex-pats it's pretty much true.  For some Mexicans and organized crime members, not true at all.

This is a graphic of Nuevo Leon where everyone is afraid to pass through the state including the city of Monterrey:

Believe it or not, according the graphic, my little town is riddled with break-ins.  In Monterrey, the issue is bank robberies.  We have had a few in the last couple of months which is an increase over previous months increasing the percentage by quite a bit thus the red light.  Think of a change from 2 to 10,  that is a 500% increase.  Little do people know, the majority of the robberies were customers in the bank with large sums of cash in hand meaning that someone knew they had the cash such as an employee of the company.  Cashiers in Mexican banks only have access to 2000 -3000 pesos in their till at any given time depending on the institution.

Making this long story shorter, some people have rved full time or have lived as ex-pats in Mexico.  Most of their experiences, because of their limited knowledge of the country as they  only live or travel in small communities or rural areas, have led to misinformation about the country.  Here are some examples of past and present:

  • There are no ATMs in Baja California
  • Electricity is free to poor people (in actuality it is stolen)
  • The border crossings are very dangerous
  • You can't find food stuffs such as peanut butter, cheddar cheese
  • Gas station attendants will rip you off with the 500/50 switch (people claim it happens, imagine how many times I have filled up throughout Mexico in 30 years and have seen or heard of it from anyone other than rvers)
  • Everyone is poor and that's why they go to the U.S.
  • People actual earn minimum wage of 58 pesos a day (it is actually a measure,  my pay is 10 minimum wages per hour as shown on my Mexican income statement, a seat belt violation from transito is charged as 4 minimum wages)
  • Things can only be fixed with bribes and corruption is rampant (could be but I hear Mexicans say the government is corrupt.  Okay, those people are our children, parents, relatives, neighbors, well, you get the idea)
  • Electricity is bad in Mexico (in actuality it is within the norms established by the CFE, the US published standard for electric is 120 volts, for Canada the standard is 120 volts but for Mexico the standard is 127 volts. With a variable of + or - 4 or 5 volts on every case and it turns out that Mexico is usually within it's published standards)
  • Public schools are not free (they are and I challenge anyone to the contrary)
What most people don't know and I have published this before is that there are a lot of programs for Mexicans.  One of them is that milk is free to Mexicans under the age of 16 or 18 if pregnant or lactating.  The problem is that people have to solicit the service from the government agency Linconsa and have a minimum of 100 members.  For those who have been to Hacienda Contreras, the milk cans we see on the roads are delivered to Sahuayo to the milk production plant on the corner as you come down the hill from the rv park as you enter town. 
There are a ton of services including money paid to all Mexicans over 65 "who apply" and receive between $1000 and $1500 pesos a month in addition to their pensions.  This money comes on a debit card and is used for groceries.  Doesn't sound like much but how many retired Americans receive that type of assistance plus free healthcare if they worked in the formal market? As many of you know, food in Mexico is very affordable and 1000 pesos buys a lot.

As you can see, most people base their knowledge on personal versus factual information.  So many times over the years I've heard people say, " I heard someone say that they knew someone who . . . .  '

Friday, August 15, 2014

Something I Can't Understand

Someday, a family member who may not even remember me will say, my Uncle Chris was there.
I'm slowly getting back into the blogging mode.  I have been a busy bee this week with my teacher training course.  It takes a lot of energy to work with teachers four to six hours a day non-stop.  I am not the type to sit down, I stand and walk around during the entire course. 
Something came up on Bill and Dot Bell's Facebook page this week.  It involved a couple who wanted to move their belongings to Mexico.  My personal opinion is that if you are changing countries, bring your personal memories and what can fit in your car.  The rest, like fulltiming, requires eliminating "your stuff".  Back to the FB story, some people posted things along the lines of, "boy are you going to get screwed, you're going to pay bribes" and on and on.
I said the following and I stick by it:
"I'm not sure why there is so much negativity from people who live in Mexico. The country isn't all about corruption and bribes. You "can" follow the rules if you so choose to do so. It puzzles me that so many people live in a country they have such little faith in."
The bottom line for me is that a lot of ex-pats who live in Mexico live here because they don't have a lot of income and Mexico is still cheap.  That is one reason their knowledge of the country is limited.  To live cheaply, you have to live in a small town in the middle of nowhere.  That's a fact.  I have met people in San Miguel de Allende who live on $700 or less a month.  Not an easy thing to do when you have NOB taste.   But they do.  They don't live in the "zona historica" and they don't own a car.    Rving isn't cheap because of toll roads and fuel prices although I have to say that Tioga and George did a pretty good job of it considering he started with nothing.  His life has changed and although I didn't agree with much of what he posted about Mexico (hence what I said earlier about limited knowledge) he lived a Mexican boondocker's life. 
In the end, I guess it takes all kinds, doesn't it?  People who come here for different reasons.  Some to enjoy the warm weather, food and drink, beaches, cheap, or they love the country, the people and the language.  Most rvers I know attempt to do things in Spanish and I could make a list but I won't because I always end up leaving someone out :)

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Back To Work - Well, Not Really

This is one of my favorite photos.  I think I have a hundred!

Okay, so where am I now.   We are in the middle of a family illness.  One of our nephews is very sick and death is imminent.  A sad story but one that will have an end.  Someday I will recount it.  Everyday is a roller coaster ride.  There is no turning back at this point even if miracles do exist.
I'm back to work so to speak.  I am teaching a certification course for this week.  My Texas seminars are starting to appear on the schedule so that is extra work and credits that go towards my social security in the U.S.
Speaking of social security, I will be giving up my private medical this next month and becoming part of the social system.  The price continues to increase and as age creeps up on me it will skyrocket.   I am also eligible for ACA in the U.S. based on my U.S./Mexico income so that will also be an option until Medicare kicks in.
I will also be receiving a pension from Mexico.  Although I have worked independently over the years, there were periods where I was an employee and paid into the system.  I am short quite a bit but the beauty of the Mexican system allows you to pay up in the last five years prior to retirement, building your account and also supporting the system at the same time.  To reactivate my account, I need to be an employee in a company for at least one year.  The school where I work/volunteer has offered to take me on as an employee and I will continue to work independently.  No time commitments either.  I work the hours I want and they pay me my consulting fee.  I will receive the medical insurance, Christmas bonus, profit sharing (private school) and Infonivit points (government housing loan, if not used, at retirement they pay out the account) plus more.   This is a real boost for me.  After one year, I will resign and then be able to sign up for insurance independently.
The money I earn in Texas will be paid into my SS account in Mexico and increase my final benefit.  I also have the Afores or Mexican 401K I pay into.  This is really working out but no check from either side until I am 62.  Well, that's life. 
The weather continues to hit 38C daily.  We hunker down in the bedroom in the late afternoon with the air on.  Nice.  The pool is getting back in shape and the deck will be patched and painted this weekend. 
That's about it for now.  

Saturday, August 9, 2014

The Great American Tour - My Observations

On this trip we covered quite a bit of ground.  We passed through 19 U.S. states and 6 Canadian provinces.  It was a trip of a life time. We had the opportunity to see our Canadian friends who make the trip to Mexico every year.  Now we understand what it means to drive through three countries and we’re not talking about Europe here either.
This is a bit hard to put together because so much time has passed since the beginning.  As I write this the experiences that come to mind right away are the following: 
·         Brantley Lake in New Mexico where I had the great idea to open the screen door on a starry night to find I had let in thousands of swarming bugs.  It was my bright idea to park three feet from the edge of the water. 
·         The kind visitor’s center lady at the Langtry Museum in Langtry, Texas
·         The disappointment of Roswell, NM only to find their incredible art museum
·         Spending time with my big sister Dorothy who I miss all the time and the great food she prepares
·         Tide pooling with my brother Steve and his wonderful wife Michelle
·         Being yelled at by a Pacific Militia man in Winston, Oregon because we’re from Mexico
·         The kindness of border agents in Canada
·         Grasping the idea of why deposits on plastic, metals and glass is so important
·         Canada is a huge country, beautiful, incomparable, and last but not least, very expensive
·         Nova Scotians really know the love of their land (Argh, matey!)
·         Canadians know how to get things done
·         Bears really do eat people
·         There are big things in this world like mountains, mountain slides,  balls of twine, a pinto bean, a moose, a teepee, and waterfalls (Croft’s great-grandfather found that out)
·         Eating lobster
·         Last but not least, I love my new country and can’t imagine living anywhere else
The list could go on but I’ll stop there.  So many images go through my mind and here are a few of them.  This will be a long read so I will understand if you don’t do the whole thing.
A lot of this trip was planned but part of it wasn’t.  We liked that.  We went pretty much where we wanted in between visits and stayed days here and there and even did very short stints.  A couple of days we only made it fifty miles because we stopped to see so many things along the way.   I discovered that my love of history is still as strong as ever and I enjoy going through museums and art galleries.  We found so many things along the way;  antique furniture, machinery, Amish life, the Civil War, Chinese in Canada, Canadian history, well the list goes on.  We could do this all day while we’re on the road.  My only regret but it is easily remedied, was that we didn’t stay long enough in Kansas City to visit the Nelson Art Gallery.  It is a full day adventure and it is surely one of the best museums and art galleries in the world.  I hung out there as a teenager.  I love the smell of museums.
As you know, when we planned our trip we budgeted for it too.  We used $5 a gallon as an average for fuel.  It was pretty much right on.  I still haven’t done the expenses but as you know the big one was fuel.  Mexico fuel prices are climbing too so hang on if you are returning.  I put them, now with the exchange, around $3.65 a gallon.   I hate to say it but we need to find a cheaper mode to rving.  After al l the travel and time together on the road, we think we may want a Roadtrek or a Class B.  We’re good on sharing space, that has never been a problem.  Easy to park, fuel savings, generator ready, solar, looks like a good stealth vehicle.  By that I mean we would have to modify it a bit.  Roadtreks on the non Sprinter chassis look a bit flashy.  We have also given thought to a small 26ft Lazy Daze Class C.   It was always a shock to stop for fuel.  The most expensive we found was in Langley, BC at $5.77 a gallon and the low was in Alberta at $4.48 a gallon.  Chicago was another high spot at $4.20 a gallon.  Once we returned through Ohio, Indiana, Missouri, Arkansas, the prices leveled off and dropped as low as $3.19 a gallon.  As a side note, I think the whole fuel thing is BS.  I say that because I have always heard from people that gas stations only make pennies on the gallon of fuel and depend on their income for sales from convenience stores and oil-based products.  If so, how is it possible that if you get a $10 car wash, they will give you a .50 discount on each gallon.  At thirty gallons, that is a savings of $15 dollars and the sold you the car wash for $10?  Or the big one that bites the bullet; cash discounts up to .15 a gallon.  How does that work when the commission is .35 for accepting a debit card?   It’s a game and if you don’t shop around for gas you deserve to get screwed.  We used GasBuddy in the U.S. and Canada until we got to the point where it didn’t matter because fuel was below $3.25, we thought we were in petrol heaven.
We found that taste changes as you head north, west, east and south, very interesting.  As we approached the coast of Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, we were in seafood and fish heaven.  Reasonable and very, very fresh.  Clams, mussels, scallops, salmon, halibut, well you guys probably know more than we do.  Crossing toward the east it gets a bit bland and very fattening.  Entering the east coast it is “lobster time”.   A true highlight of our trip.   I am satisfied for now but will need a refill in the next year I am sure. 
Cities also change.  Small towns in the U.S. are pretty much that, small towns.  They have lost their essence, many are abandoned or run into the ground.  Education is almost non-existent although millions are poured into the system.  It seems that in the U.S. the GED (General Equivalency Diploma) is the way to go.  After that anyone can get a minimum wage job.  Hispanics abound in the areas of West Texas, New Mexico and Arizona but with one caveat.  They are not first generation but many are third or fourth generation.  We met many people along the way whose grandparents came to the U.S. back in the 50s to work in the potato fields for example and have settled in but they still work in the same industries.  Work seems to be abundant as I had reported with fast food joints paying $10 to $12 an hour not to say that that makes a career but for a town of 500 it is much better than digging up potatoes.  No takers for those jobs so it makes me wonder if the welfare system is well-entrenched.  As you head north and to the west, the small towns take on a much different flavor, more white, poor, but with a certain quaintness.   In Canada the picture changes completely.  Small towns do have their issues but they are still operating.  Jobs are supplied by local merchants and government.  Good or bad, it sure made our trip a lot nicer.   We enjoyed our stay in those towns.  It is almost as if they not only survive but thrive as artists, small business owners, and they all have something to offer.
I’ve probably run this into the ground but one thing we noticed all through Canada was a certain pride in ownership.  Maybe it is the short Spring and Summer season that exists but almost every house, business, town, even city seemed to take pride in their yards, homes and gardens.   Very rarely did we see overgrown grass, or weeds around a business.  It looks surreal in a sense.  Many of our friends have flower beds, vegetable gardens and our friends in Ohio have farm animals and veggies which they eat from.  Really something to see.  We used to have a garden that started out as a compost pile and began growing all kinds of vegetables and fruits.   We have more land than ever before and don’t even grow a flower.  Sad isn’t it?  But this trip brought us to many realizations about these things.
As you might remember, I fell into a short spell of homesickness.  This occurred as we headed for Chicago and it was compounded by the fact that we were visiting friends from Mexico that we had known most of our lives that live in the Windy City.  We spoke in Spanish, ate Mexican food, stayed in a Hispanic neighborhood.   I was struck by the bug.  Always looking at the map on our trip to calculate mileage, where we were going and what we could see I was aware of the fact that from Chicago it was a quick four day drive south to Monterrey.   Juan made it quite clear that we would continue the trip as planned and continue our route.   After two days I was back on track.  I’m sure this is a common thing.  Most of it was brought on by leaving an almost 14 year old cat at home albeit supervised, watered and fed, and the fact that the house needed attention.  Leaving it in the hands of someone who really has no stake in our property leaves things open for disrepair and all the details of home ownership.  In fact, now that we are home, some minor things took place that may have been avoided or fixed before they became worse and now a greater expense.  I got over it and enjoyed the rest of the trip.  However, in the future, it would be best if we didn’t have a house.  As many of you know, we talked about our plans to move south to San Miguel de Allende where we would live in an rv until we decided if we really needed a sticks and bricks.
Canada, like many other countries including the U.S. and parts of Mexico know how to take care of Mother Nature.  We road on a ferry to Vancouver Island, crossed the Canadian Rockies, passed through the beautiful rolling hills of Alberta and Saskatchewan, we passed through farmland in the Midwestern states of Ohio, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Missouri and Arkansas. We drove the Okanagan and stayed in the lap of luxury in Kelowna.  Tasted wine in more than few wineries.  We saw the Grand Canyon, hiked parts of it, marveled in its sunsets.  We visited historical sites with historians, people in native dress.  Along the route we met Mexicans from all parts of the county.  Visiting big cities was a great part of the trip too, Chicago, Reno, Vancouver, Toronto, Ottawa to mention a few.  I think for the money (not speaking literally) we did a good job of seeing what decided were interesting or important to us. We could have stayed five years and still not have seen it all.  It’s like Mexico, no one visits all the states in one winter not that it couldn’t be driven but you wouldn’t see very much although get a good idea of what to see on return.
Rv parks.  What a huge disappointment.  I am discounting Capilano River Rv Park in Vancouver, and staying with our good friends Colin and Contessa at their Holiday Resort.   Those are exceptions and both are well-worth what they charge although in the case of Colin and Contessa, they made arrangements for us which were incredible and the payback difficult to do.  Rv parks are not for us.  Oops, I forgot one,  Winton Woods in Cincinnati which is  a Hamilton County run park, excellent for an in-city park.   The parks we found were dumps pretty much and in all cases we could have found accomodations in nearby hotels for the same price, less, or just a bit more.  One of the shockers was the Skagit Casino which is also a Thousand Trails park.  How do you spell dump, D-U-M-P.  Another was also a casino in Newport, Oregon.  Nice parking lot but why would I pay $38 a night so I could gamble and eat in their casino? 
OTOH, Oregon state parks are amazing but to charge $20 for a night without any serviced not even water is not reasonable.  We are pretty good boondockers but I don’t tolerate 35C temps very well in high humidity.  BLM land and forest service thoughout the western U.S. and Canada is truly a boondocking experience.  Remember Botanie Lake in Lytton, BC?  Now that is boondocking.  Many of the parks we stayed in were well-established and I couldn’t justify the prices.  Of the few parks we stayed in, none of them were ever full by any stretch of the imagination.   We signed up for Passport America and as they say you get your money back with the first few stays.  Very true but we found is that in the Canadian summer PA doesn’t count and in the U.S. there are too many exceptions to even figure it out especially after the first happy hour drink.  Forget it!   Still not a bad deal, but we won’t renew our PA membership.  Home Depot in both countries wins hands down and a shout goes out to Kevin and Ruth for turning us on to the place.  Who can refuse free wifi, security cameras and employees and managers who never refuse and always have a smile.  We still think that Pilot, Flying J, TA and other truck stops could make a good business by offering a parking spot with/withour electric for $10 to $15 a night.  Machine run, just like their dump stations, you put in the money or get a code from the cashier that you enter in the machine and you have power for X number of hours.  The dump works the same.  Once you pay, you enter the code and it electrically allows you to open the drain.   Wifi is available to all at these places.  Once your power runs out, off you go.  Just like Walmarts, rvers always drop a few bucks.  Okay enough of that and just my personal opinion.
Now on to what made the adventure a trip of the lifetime.  You guys!  Everyone was more than generous, kind and provided very well for us.  From the time we stayed with our friend Michelle in Arizona until we said our goodbyes to David and Marina we felt welcomed and part of the great Canadian experience.
The best way to say thank you to all of you is by the following pictures.  In the end, what we discovered is that we have many friends who we love and cherish.  All of you made this trip very special for two guys from Mexico.  We will never forget this trip.  Thanks again so much for seeing us, being great hosts, and showing us all your beautiful places.  We hope to see you in Mexico soon.

Sister Dorothy and BIL Bill, Reno, NV

Norma and Croft, Vancouver Island, BC

SIL Michelle and brother Steve (Boise, ID) Oregon Coast

Teresa, Derek and Cassia Merrit, BC

Contessa and Colin, Kelowna, BC
 Michelle, Phoenix, AA

Sue and Brian, Fountain Hills, AZ

Donna and Leo, Monticello, MN

Fabiola and Enrique, Chicago, IL

Lin, Lori and Charlie, Sally, Christine, Ada, OH (Ohio Northern University)

Mike and Pat, Simcoe, ON

Kevin and Ruth, Cabri, SK

Mark and Jean, Cabri, SK (from Saskatoon, SK)

Marina, David, Sylvia, Frank, Susie, Cam (somewhere), Perth, ON

Mexican Fiesta-Nancy and Terrie, Paula and Jerry, Jill and Andrew, Karin, Kingston, NS

Paula and Jerry,  Aylesford, NS  (argh matey!)
Lindsey and Justin, Nova Scotia (sorry, I forgot the town)

SIL Barb and brother Bob and family, Cincinnati, OH

Maggie and Leyah, Fayetteville, AR

Virgina, Patrick and Nick and brother Phil, Kansas City, MO

Margaret and Francisco, Fayetteville, AR (from Baltimore, MD)

Friends Keith and Sam, San Antonio, TX