Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Getting Closer To 2015


Have you made any decisions on what you'll do for 2015?   We haven't and we keep throwing out ideas.   One of them is a trip to Hawaii during Spring Break.   It will be thirty years in February and we need to celebrate big.

Life on the isla continues.  The sun comes up and then the sun goes down and we are there to see all the sunsets.  All of them are magnificent and I can't say that one is better than the other.  We've seen some pretty good sunsets over the years and they're all good.   I guess we live on a pretty decent planet especially when it comes to Mother Nature.   Too bad we are the enemy that keeps messing it all up.  Well, someday I'll fix that problem.
Got up early yesterday and did my island walk.   I go to the embarcadero and sit there for about 15 minutes.   People look at me funny like "what is he waiting for?"  In fact, the woman who manages the bathrooms there made a comment about me coming everyday this last week.  I pick up on the island news just by listening.   Off I go to the other panga and sometimes the boat that was waiting at the embarcadero sees me standing at the other stop as they are arriving.  Maybe they think I'm spook.  After all, on On The Road In, I was told that I was a spy for the PRI party.   Well, my call letters are XQ 37 if anybody wants to know.  (a little humor there).  So then I head up to another panga that takes you over to the lighthouse and then a stop in to see Kevin and Ruth.  They took off this morning and Ruth got her root canal and Kevin fixed his fridge.   We'll miss them but I know our paths always cross. 
I came home and fixed huevos rancheros for Contessa, Colin and Juan.  We sat out on their patio overlooking the beach and the waves while we ate.  How many people get to do that in style everyday!  It was great and the company the best. 
After that I did the dishes, Juan went to see a teacher who was teaching a course and did some reading a nap.  Then it was time to get goin' for the big party over at the Jewell's pad.  Wonderful food, lots of people, wine, conversation, singing with guitars and yukulele.  Yes, Linda has learned to play the yukulele and it is wonderful. 
Colin sent up a lighted lantern which was very cool and we watched it go out into the night sky.   We ran over to Kevin and Ruth's to have a toddy with them and to wish them happy travels.   We ended up back at the party and had a blast.   The year is winding down and this is a good way to bring it to a close.

Saturday, December 27, 2014

It's All About Relaxing

I'm a day late on blogging but we get so busy relaxing and doing beach stuff that it is easy to get distracted.   We took a walk over to Kevin and Ruth's on Wednesday and took the panga over to the lighthouse.   It's a good walk up but not anything difficult.   Like always, we talked all the way up and took pictures of the views. 

From the top you can see the rv park.  We tried to call Contessa and Colin so they could come out and wave but the phone was off.  The white building in the middle of the photo is the hotel that separates RV1 and RV2 as the parks are referred to here. 

Yep, up at the top with everyone.  People offered to take our picture.   We met a couple from Seattle who had flown down to Mazatl├ín for a week.  They had taken the hike up and somehow they beat us down even though we left before them.  Not sure where they went but they were standing in front of a building along the street as we were heading for an ATM.  Mystery?

A view of a city street.  Looks like no one is around but in reality the centro of Mazatlan was packed.  We stopped at the market again for a shrimp burger and to pick up some bug repellent.  We got bitten pretty much on the first day here but since then have learned to avoid the critters.   The repellent helps and I lather it on.  Not sure what it is doing to my body though.

Once we finished we headed back to the panga in the pulmonia, those little golf cart style taxis.   The cost is 35 to 40 pesos and the driver is always open to conversation.  I sat in front and picked his brain about a few things.

Heading out to the ocean and over to the island, fun to ride the panga.  I get a kick out of it everytime.

It's really not much fun as you can tell to be here on the island.  It just one party after another and we really don't have much fun.  Last night we were invited to Paula and Yergen's house for happy hour and very good appetizers.  Shrimp kabobs, tuna salad, and an assortment of other goodies.  We shared a bottle of Argentinian wine called "Paula".   Very good cabernet.


This is our host's first trip to Mazatl├ín in a motorhome.  A very nice one to be exact and they gave us a tour.  Here is Contessa checking out the mirrored ceiling in the bedroom.   Beautiful woodwork, tile floors and shower I'd love to use.

Of course every evening at the beach ends the same.   A beautiful sunset.   Yes, I could stay here for a couple of months and we just might do that next year.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Just Doin' Beach Stuff - Mazatlan

Up early as always because I'm afraid I'll miss out on something.   I read my mail watched local news.  Pretty interesting to see what is happening on the west coast of the country from a local standpoint.

We headed across the street to the botanical gardens.  Beautiful place and very well cared for.  Gardeners were busy watering and trimming.   We walked around looking for someone who could tell us more about the place.   We like to donate to gardens like those in San Antonio, Monterrey, Saltillo and other cities where we stumble across one.   It takes quite a bit of work and dedication along with donations.  Most local governments don't find them very important but they are a good educational tool for humans.

This garden is a bit different though.  It is actually a showcase for a huge development going in on the the island that will provide homes for more than 120,000 people.  They are in the process of preparing permits for construction.  It is being billed as an eco-friendly and sustainable community that will incorporate the local ejido community here on the island.   The list is long and truly would be a jewel for Mexico but it will take years to get off the ground.  The investors are from Durango, the U.S.  and other parts of Mexico.  The designer and architect of the project is Brazilian.  Amaitlan Tierra de Descanso

After, we stopped in for a visit with Contessa and Colin before heading down the road to visit Kevin and Ruth's boondocking spot.  Very impressive and I congratulate them on finding a place on the island that is truly private and low cost.   We would stay there in the future when we return.   It has everything but electicity and I am sure that could be figured out for a long term stay with the owner of the lot.  It is gated, has bathrooms and an outdoor shower not to mention is just 100 meters from the beach and the water.   Kind of a private part of the beach.   Across the road is the marina where the cruise ships dock.   They win again!

We went for a walk around the island, stopped in at the local grocer where Ruth picked up some items for the Christmas dinner that Contessa and Colin are throwing.   Beautiful island and wonderful people everywhere.   We parted ways and each headed home.  We passed several horse-drawn wagons that show tourists who come from the mainland a bit of island life.   We kind of felt like we were on display.

Back here at the rv park, we went for a swim in the ocean and took in a bit of sun.   We could watch Colin and Contessa from our sandy beach spot along with the two dogs.   Beautiful spot to be for Christmas and we are happy to be here.   

We got together last night for a Christmas Eve happy hour.   Rae came to the party and it was the first time we met.   Lovely person and we hope to see more of her while we are on the island.   Kevin and Ruth stayed for the show; an awesome sunset and the cruise ships heading out.   After they took off we sat around the fire and Colin played his guitar while we attempted to sing along.  

A great day at the beach here in Mazatlan.   And so this is Christmas!

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Mazatlan - Isla de la Piedra

We made it to Mazatlan yesterday afternoon around 4 p.m. west coast time.   We detoured from the autopista to the libre from Torreon to Durango.   From there we got back on the autopista because we didn't want to miss the Puente Baluarte.   The toll highway was not the best and we should have stayed on the libre until El Salto where we could have hopped back on to take the bridge and the series of tunnels.  The bridge and tunnels were excellent.  True engineering at its best but the highway has been there for over 12 years and is in need of repair.  Many spots were being resurfaced as we traveled but we felt we would have done better on the libre.  The part we took was in much better shape.

We followed Contessa's directions off of Hwy 40 and down into Mazatlan via the airport road and then the turn off to the Isla.   It was very fast, easy to follow and we had no issues whatsoever.   What most people here call "the road to hell" was a bit better than the road we live on in Monterrey.   It is being resurfaced and the parts that they have finished make it very easy driving.   The rest, well it is a dirt road.  We did it in about 25 minutes.   Granted we don't have a big rig and our SUV is pretty sturdy.   

We got parked and in our spot with no difficulty, took a quick nap and headed over to Contessa and Colin's for some happy hour fun and a great chili dinner.  We chatted up a storm and had a great time. 

Today was up early, off to the beach for a short walk before showering and heading into town.  The four of us took the panga into town to go to the mercado.  A cruise ship had come in earlier in the morning and we found quite a crowd in the market as well as on the street.  We did some grocery shopping, tourist watching, ate a great shrimp burger and headed back to the island.  

Next order of the day was a short nap before heading over to the sister rv park on the other side of the restaurant for a birthday party.  When we came back from the walk on the beach in the morning we ran into Carol who reads the blog.   It was her birthday and she invited us over to her sister's rig.  We met her husband Frank and a lot of other great people.   BTW, they had some great smoked salmon spread that Frank had made and Carol's sister made some mean salsa.  Between RV1 and RV2 I won't go hungry for lack of good eats!

Right as we were leaving, here come Ruth and Kevin.   It was so good to see them and know they are really back in Mexico at least for a short stint before heading back north.   We headed over to C & C's for happy hour and then a walk to a nearby restaurant for a shrimp burrito and some interesting conversation.  

I have lots of pics to share of the Puente Baluarte and the tunnels.  Don't get me wrong, it is a great thing but the highway was not what we had expected.  We will be heading home on another route that we have not yet determined.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

On The Road - Outside Torreon

Got off to a good start this morning.  Still wet and muddy at home.   We drove right through Monterrey and had no issues.  We took the route to Santa Catarina and then on to the libre to Saltillo.  Started to get a bit foggy but then the sun came out the rest of the day.  

We took the autopista from Saltillo to Torreon, very very good highway and then we hooked up to the autopista towards Durango.  We are parked outside of Torreon about one hour at a parador.  The military have a small encampment across the road from us.  Not the quietest place but I am sure it will settle down a bit tonight.  

I am expecting cold weather so we have the Mr. Heater as well as the furnace.   No issues to report other than we are having fun listening to Christmas music and watching the paisanos drive by with all their used stuff!

Tomorrow we may not take the autopista on to Mazatlan.  We'll see what happens.  Another 400 kms to go!  

Friday, December 19, 2014

Things Always Work Out - Mazatlan Here We Come!

I'm the first to admit that I am not a mechanical person much less an electrician.  I can also attest to the fact that I can be a procrastinator too.   My charge controller in the rv still sits on the floor but on a cushioned surface to keep it safe.   Maybe someday.

There has been a problem with the running lights for the longest time.  I could have sworn it was the seven pin connector because with the right jiggle here and squeeze of the connectors there, it would seem to work.  I came home from San Antonio without running lights but had my emergency flashers going all the way.   Over the last few weeks I would fiddle with things.  I cleaned the battery terminals this week, too everything apart and watered the batteries.   Wiggle, jiggle, kick and hit and still no running lights.

I was getting desperate as I just don't like driving with things not working.   There is a trailer service in Monterrey and they are superb.  However, I couldn't get in until today when I called them on Monday.  The bad part is I would have to drag the rv through town during morning rush hour and this place is 40 kms away.   I put it off wondering what else I could do.   I stopped by the mechanic at the gas station on Wednesday.  He says he doesn't do electrical work but he recommended someone 300 meters away.  I had seen the place before but it looked a bit obscure.   I went in and the place is actually very nice.  Well-organized and clean.  The guy couldn't take me until Friday and I said okay.  I told him it might be hard to get the trailer backed in as his shop is right on the highway.  That's when he said he made house calls.  Friday morning at 9 a.m.   

I had everything ready including diagrams of the connector on both sides, slideout out and I even removed the furnace which is next to the converter and electrical center.  The SUV was backed in and hooked up.  He arrived at 9:15 and started with his handy probe with the little light in the handle.  He said power wasn't getting there.   He checked the cables underneath and still nothing.  He asked if he could take off the rear light housing and I started to freak out.  We had a bad experience with that 12 years ago in Del Rio, Tx.  Another story about bad mechanics.   I said sure but I was very concerned.  He said he was opening it because it was cracked.  I was like, what?  As he took it off he said, "yep, I knew it".   Water had gotten in and had caused the cable clip or joiner to get wet and burn out or melt.  He showed it to me, wired it together and put tape on it and BINGO!  He spent a total of ten minutes at the house, 150 pesos.  I will keep him on my list.  

Then, yesterday, I went to buy LP for the house and the rv.  I put the tanks in the SUV and drove off.  On the way back I heard a pop and the front driver's side wheel started screeching, screaming and clanking.  I limped home and fixed a vodka.   Worried about it all night, I had checked underneath and could see a thing.   After the electric dude left, I jacked up the truck and took the tire off.  I figured I might as well check.  As I spun the wheel I could hear it but I couldn't see anything bad.  I stuck my head way under the wheel well and there it was.  A piece of gravel was caught between the disc and the disc cover that was behind it.  I stuck a screwdriver in between and flicked it out.  All's well that ends well.   

I have to say, I have learned a lot from other rvers over the years by asking questions, watching them work, and through our conversations and happy hours.   Kevin has always answered my doubts and I am sure he thought some of them were obvious.   Croft carries an rv full of repair stuff, his tool case which mine look like a plastic tool toy set.  Brian is another good source too.  I watched him work on his hydraulic problem two years ago.   It all adds up and it's good to have friends like that.  Thanks guys.  So today I learned something new along with all the research in the last few days on wiring, running lights and seven pin connectors.

Now we have a party tonight, tomorrow is packing and Sunday is launch.  

Monday, December 15, 2014

I've Been Called Many Things In My Life

But I've never been called a troll or a Mexican government spy who reads Facebook.   What an insult.  I received that reply from a Mexican who lives in the U.S. and because I don't believe the current wax on Mexico's problems I am being labeled.  I'm used to being the black sheep.  In fact, I was raised to be that.  My dad taught us to question the mainstream thought, think for ourselves, ask questions and not be afraid to speak up.  

Well, I've done that recently and quite a bit since the incident of the 43 missing Normalistas in Mexico.   It is a tragedy, criminal, and one that will never be forgotten much like that of Sandy Hook.  There are two sides to everything and I prefer to see both and not quite yet make judgement.

Ex-pats can be funny characters and I am no exception.  That said, I don't destroy my host country and tout that of my origin.   It is not mine to say, determine or make change.  I am and always will be a visitor here in Mexico no matter what my status is.  

All I ask is that people look inside themselves, their country and the globe and look for themselves that Mexico isn't much different than any other place.  It is easy to point fingers.   But the drum roll gets old when it's the same beat.  "Mexico has bad roads, too many potholes, corrupt police, corrupt gas station attendants, high fuel prices, don't drink the water, sterilize  your fruits and vegetables, don't trust anyone, don't wear jewelry in public, you can't find cheddar cheese, organic peanut butter, 100 grain bread, don't look like a tourist, don't go out at night, don't drive at night.  For god's sake, stay home people if you think it is that bad.  

Today someone made praises because the peso fell to 15 to 1 claiming their pension would go further.   Good on ya, that person probably lives here because it's cheap and they can't afford to live in their own country because they didn't follow the rules there either. 

I'm finished with forums and Facebook groups.  If you want to see me, visit me, listen to me, you can find me here but not there.   You can't change Mexico or its  culture.  As Contessa says, "it is what it is".  As my dad used to tell me and I took him up on his offer and everyone has a right to, "love it or leave it".  

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Get It Done! One Week Left!

Security cameras come in handy even when you are at home!  I spent the morning giving the roof a good cleaning and an inspection.  I've found some opportunities for caulking and I happen to have one tube left of self-leveler.   

I just wish I throw that boat anchor of a roof air conditioner off to the side and put a dome in there.  It's a big waste of space and it won't run on our generator.  Worthless.   I'd rather have another fantastic fan there instead.

This is a short trip so there really isn't much else to do but wait until next weekend to saddle up and head out.   I'm sure we need some beverages of choice, some Navarro Cheddar Cheese made here in Mexico, yes, that's right.  I'll post a pic of it later because I don't have the camera with me now.  

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Preparing For Mazatlan

It won't be a winter get away by any means but a couple of weeks at the beach is good enough considering we were gone for four months this year.  We've never been to a west coast beach with the rv so this a first.  Contessa and Colin made it to their winter digs on the Isla de Piedra which is our destination.

It has rained now for over 10 days nonstop but it has been a drizzling rain.  I haven't done much to the rv and it needs a good wash and wax.  I am hoping  a guy up the road can wax the front cap for me.  It has oxidized to the point where I couldn't get a good shine on it.  

Everything is in working order so it is just a matter of packing a few clothes and off we go.  We were going to McAllen but we cancelled that trip.  Lack of communication and we got our wires crossed on days of the week.  Not a big deal, I ordered a new true sine wave inverter so we can use the electric blanket but I doubt we will need it.   I recently changed out the gas line hoses to the tanks and did some cleaning.   Other stuff from McAllen can be purchased here at a slightly higher price but with the exchange rate the way it is now and the cost of the trip it will be cheaper here.

Contessa squared away our reservations.  I had called and made the initial reservation but not knowing the park very well I waited for her to arrive and finalize things.   Here are some pics of where we will be.   Keep in mind this is facing toward the back of the park so looking to the front would be the ocean.  

Can't wait to see them again.  Remember I was under the weather when we were at their place and it was a bit of a bummer for them so I am hoping they have more fun with us.  

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

An Observation Or Two

Today found me at the U.S. consulate.  I could think of other things to do but I needed some documents notarized as we sold our acreage in Terlingua this week.  We only went there twice and as always, the best laid plans.   Oh well, we didn't lose anything and the new owners are very happy to have received such a deal.  

I arrived at 7:30 for my 8:15 appointment.   It was still quiet and I had to go through  rigorous security check.   It's a new facility and all steel and rock.   No penetration there not to mention the state and federal police who guard the place.   I walked in and took a seat only to see a woman about 35 years old, American and with two Mexican children, both obviously from different fathers.  They had obviously taken a bus and walked some distance as their shoes and clothes were a bit muddy.  The kids were bilingual and the mother spoke very good Spanish.   They looked a bit ragged and worn and I was wondering what their story was.  

Well, she was called to the two-inch thick glass window of which there are twelve, and when she returned she started to talk with me.  Turns out she is from Idaho and has spent eight years in Aguascalientes as an English teacher.   She said she was trying to get back to the U.S. but her kids weren't U.S. citizens and she was trying to obtain passports.   I felt bad for her but it appeared she violated the number one rule of traveling to a new destination especially to become an ex-pat:  KNOW BEFORE YOU GO.  So now her problem is getting permission from the two fathers to take the kids to the U.S.  She will likely have to show abandonment and the fact that she wasn't married to either one.  What a mess.  The kids look so disheveled that I wanted to take all three home for a bath and a hot meal.  I was called next, gave the oath that I was telling the truth, got the stamp and off I went.  I won't know whatever happens to her but I worry about the kids.  It has been cold, rainy and just downright ugly out this last week.

My other observation is that many people read these blogs about Mexico and the bad guys.   I followed for awhile and then left them.  First, I really don't think they are a good source of information, are extremely right-winged and the majority of posters are true Mexico haters.   The comments are so foul and vile it is hard even for me to read.   To think someone could have so much hatred for another culture amazes me.  In actuality, the sites are nothing more than a clearing house for Mexican print that have been translated along with some home videos of shootouts and dead bodies.   Imagine if a Mexican wrote and posted a blog about the criminal element in the U.S. posting all the tens of thousands of murders, crimes committed by gangs, cartels and the like and slaughtering the very fabric of the country.  It just wouldn't happen.   As a actor stated on PBS the other night, "my director wondered if our new program would appeal to the American market.  I told him since when does the American market wonder what would appeal to the Brits".  Amen on that.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Even The Best Things Can Change

First off, we found Blackie a new home.  We picked him up last week on the highway and it appeared he belonged to someone.  We made signs and posted them but with no response.  We decided to take him to the vet for adoption.   When we got here, the vet said he had a customer who was looking for a black lab to go with his white lab.  Done deal and now everyone is happy except for me.   There was something between us and even though I avoided the dog like the plague he was behind me all the time.   He sat and watched me work all morning yesterday and would rest his head on my shoulder.   He would have been a lifer but we promised no more pets.  On that same note, my oldest sister who has never been much of a pet person adopted a dachshund/chihuahua mix.  Funny.

Friday a teacher and colleague from Mexico City was here for work.  Last night we invited him out for dinner.   We don't eat out much anymore and especially in Monterrey.  Apart from the Christmas rush traffic and the rain it took a bit to get around.  We went ot a place called San Angel where we had eaten for years when we lived in town.  It has a reputation of good food as well as excellent service.  Most waiters have been there for years.  In fact, while we were eating a waiter came up and said hello and that he missed seeing us there.

When the waiter brought the menu my jaw dropped.   Many pages with color pre-staged food pictures.  I knew then that the Sysco truck was around the corner.  Que decepcion!  Yep, they had given in to pre-cooked, pre-prepared foods.  The kind of thing that Gordon Ramsey would just tear to pieces.   Even the beans had no flavor.   I ordered shrimp tacos that consisted of chopped up fried shrimp with cheese in flour tortillas.  They were good but not what that restaurant stands for.  Juan and Felipe ordered arrechera and sirloin and of course the meat was cooked on the grill and was very tasty.   

Get this though.  While we were sitting there talking, in walks a guy with a rain poncho, motorcycle helmet making a food delivery.  Our waiter had ordered his dinner.   Case closed.  

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Christmas Event And It Was A Bus Load

Yesterday the school where I am working rented a bus to take 40 students to Monterrey for a Christmas event.   The state association of DIF (Desarrollo Integral para la Familia) which provides services for disabled, handicapped and infants in need, put on a Christmas show and invited various schools.  Most of the children in the show are Down Syndrome children of all ages.  They performed ballet, a Christmas pastorela, modern and Mexican folkloric dance, as well as a play.   

Needless to say, it was fantastic and really brings home what humans are made of and what some have to do for things that most of us take for granted.  There was even a dance with people in wheelchairs which was incredible.   The students we took have not had much exposure to students with disabilities and I think were a bit shocked.  In the audience were senior citizens who are Down Syndrome or special needs such as mentally challenged.   Several of the kids asked why they were so old.  I told them that all of the children with disabilities grow up just like everyone else and they are our neighbors, friends and relatives.   I think it really hit home.

The bus ride back and forth was a challenge to me.  Once teacher sat in front and an assistant sat in the very back.  I was in the middle.   With me there, the kids had to maintain order and stay in their seats.   I don't think they liked me being on the bus with them because they usually jump up and down and run around.

The governor's wife was there along with all the other mayors whose wives serve on the board of DIF in their municipalities.   They served us a box lunch and we headed home.  Kids today seem more concerned with when they're going to eat chips and sodas and get to turn on their cell phones.   I guess that's the future and I need to accept it.  I still think a good book is in order.  

Overall it was a fun day and I hope to post pictures later today.