Tuesday, December 27, 2016

White Sands Cuatro Cienegas (Los Arenales de Cuatro Cienegas)


What a great day.  We are having breakfast at the hotel restaurant.  The food is such a great price and it gives us a chance to do our internet mail, Facebook and blog.  

We headed out to the visitor´s center where we were met by our guide Hector.  He is finishing high school and will be studying at the university in Saltillo.  He has chose to study environmental chemistry.  He has studied the area most of his life and has taking courses to prepare him to be a guide on weekends and holidays.   He´s a smart kid and is looking forward to working in his field. 

We headed out 13 kms to the gate that leads to the dunes.   All 30 guides have a key to open the gate.   This is highly protected and you couldn´t find a piece of paper on the ground if you wanted to.   The desert area is surrounded by a couple of mines that take the gypsum and turn it into plaster for sheet rock and floating plaster that is exported to the U.S. as well.

This dune was created over a period of 17,000 years and started with a tree.  The winds blew the sand up around the tree until, after many years, the tree died but left the beginnings of a dune.  It is now solid as a rock.   You can climb the dune but there are signs warning you to remove your shoes in an effort to maintain it.   

There are over 300 different plant species in the area.   Below are just a few.   We didn´t see any animals but there are black bears in the hills, mountain lions, coyotes, kangaroo rats, blue tailed lizards, three different types of turtles, and egrets.   

We spent about an hour at the dunes before heading back to drop Hector off.  He said we could hire him to take a look at night when the stars are out.   The school has star nights where the students can do some gazing.   Imagine the light of the moon against the white sands.  Wow!

We spent the afternoon walking around town planning our day today.   We will visit local museums and the two wineries.   Tomorrow we will head back home .  We thought about heading to San Antonio but it´s a long drive.  As you may have heard, we will have another gas price increase here in Mexico, 14%.   Looks like we will be using the rv just around our house, at least for the next year until we see how prices settle.   

I have a feeling that once the private stations take over, price wars will begin and fuel prices will level off.   Wish we could continue on but the dollar is expensive and our house in San Antonio needs a new roof and central air conditioner for 2017.   

Monday, December 26, 2016

Poza Azul - Cuatro Cienegas


The town still remains pretty quiet.  Today is Monday morning and people are back to their routine.  We're sitting in the hotel restaurant taking advantage of their delicious and economically priced breakfasts.   Hey we're on vacation.  

Yesterday we took the trip to the pozas.   The visitor's center was open.  Behind it are three pozas:  the Poza Azul, a man-made poza used for demonstrations and El Borbollon (the bubbler) where the water comes out of the spring at  a super fast pace considering this is dry desert.

The entrance fee is 30 pesos per person and you can walk the kilometer to the Poza Azul.  There is a covered palapa and an elevated walkway for observation.  The poza goes down to a depth of 100 meters and you can see fish and plant life that are endemic to the area.   The visitor's center has some basic information in English and Spanish so I took pictures to investigate further in my free time.

Boo hoo.  It came out blurry.  This is fascinating information about the formation of life on Earth.

We made arrangements to be taken to the sand dunes this morning.  The cost is 30 pesos each and is a 20 minute drive from the visitor's center.  You can take your own car and the guide rides with you.  They have two very nice and modern vans for larger groups.   They make it clear that we are to tip the tour guide as that is how he makes his money.  Can't wait.  

The hotel owner has been more than accommodating.   He visits with us when we are here in the restaurant and turns out that he is one of the great-great grandchildren of Venustiano Carranza instrumental in the Mexican Revolution and Mexican politics.   They also own a winery called FerriƱo which we will visit this afternoon.   There is another, Vitali.  Maybe we can do both. 

Rocmoc made a comment about Mexican Area 51.   This area is used by the military and airplane manufacturers as a test ground and many things have been done here over the years.   I´ll be checking that out. 

A bit chilly this morning.  A cold front is moving through.  Brrrr.   Slept like babes with the electric blanket.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

No Place At The Inn . . . Almost!


As we were getting ready to leave Saturday morning, I walked to the front of the house to open the gate.  When I turned around and headed back to the rv I noticed the SUV leaning to one side.  I looked around only to find one of the tires completely flat.   Hmm.   I took out the small compressor we have and started to work.  Once it was full and I checked the pressure I turned off the engine in an attempt to hear where the leak was coming from.   Loud hissing and I thought the worst.    I put my finger over the valve and it was leaking from there.   The valve pin was stuck.  I pricked it with my finger nail and it worked.   Off we went.

We passed through Monterrey which is made up of 9 different municipalities.   No issues until we got to Santa Catarina.   Whizzing down the major avenue which is eight lanes, I was motioned by a transito to stop, right there in the far left fast lane.   Long story short he and his partner said we were not supposed to be driving in that lane with the rv.   Well then, give me a ticket.   I was ready to argue with him but he was right.  I knew he picked me out of the line up.   He said that all my papers were in order and decided to let us go.  Leaving Santa Catarina and entering Garcia right before the highway to Saltillo we were stopped again.  This guy was too funny.   He accused me of drinking and asked me to blow my breath into his newbee partner’s face.   I did and the older of the two asked him, “Well?”.   The kid didn’t know what to say and rolled his head around like a ball.   Then he asked if we had insurance.   I told him of course we do.  He handed me back my license and off we went to Cuartro Cienegas.

Into Saltillo and through Monclova we took the libramiento taking us around Monclova and onto the desert to Cuatro Cienegas.   We arrived around 2:30 as planned and passed through the town. 

Very quiet and orderly town if I may say.   We got to the visitor’s center for the preserve and it was locked up and closed although the sign said 5 p.m.  We were hoping to spend the night there.   There is the Pozo de Los Mezquites nearby so we headed there. 

Very high security and you are warned that the area has cameras (which you can see) and patrolled by local/state police and the military.   Okay, sounded good to us.   We took the 1.8 km road rough but solid, and arrived to the guard station.   You can see the white sands on both sides although the dunes are another 13 kms further up the highway.  They were friendly but refused us posada.   They told us there is no camping allowed at any of the five preserves in the area.  

We headed back to town and parked in the square while one of us checked around.   Two patrol cars pull up and start a conversation with me.  Nope, no place in town, can’t boondock not even a gas station.  We were in luck though and found a hotel with a huge parking lot.   After much unfriendliness in this town it was surprising they let us stay.   The owner is very nice and offered us electric and wifi for 250 pesos a night.   Not what we wanted to do but we took it.    They even gave us a restaurant menu and said they would deliver.   Set up and found a flat tire on the trailer.  We’ll deal with that after Christmas.

Today (Sunday) we’re heading out to the dunes to go hiking and see if we can’t find a place to boondock.  Strange town though, very well-maintained, clean but empty.  The few minutes I sat in the plaza the police stopped everyone including kids on ATVs.  No loud music anywhere around last night as we went for a walk.  Something strange is going on here.  

Saturday, December 10, 2016

I Want A Motorhome For Christmas


Actual unit for sale.

That's right, I want a motorhome for Christmas.  About ten years ago the founder of the Bounder motorhome started a new company, CT Coachworks.  The idea was to create a full-time motorhome that was truly residential.  It had everything including full-size residential appliances and even a dishwasher and trash compacter.  That was when it wasn't popular to have a residential fridge in your rv.   Those days have passed and many Class A owners go for a full-size residential fridge.  The company started off on the wrong foot by naming their motorhome the Flounder.   It started to nose dive right away until the name was changed to Siena.   It lasted a couple of years and they made two sizes; 35ft and 39ft.  I found one this last week and can't get it out of my head.  I had even joined the owners group website which is now defunct.   In the end, not many were made but the company survives making custom limousines.  They continue to honor recalls, repairs, and warranty type items.

Back to reality, the Christmas tree is up and shining brightly.   Firewood is stacked in the corner of the porch waiting to build a fire in the fireplace.  The last couple of nights the temperatures hovered close to freezing and it is still around 7C, dripping and foggy.   This next week goes back to 29C during the day.  Believe it or not, the trees at our house still have most of their leaves.   Across the street the trees are bare.

This week will be my last week of work for the year.   I'll spend the next week getting the rv ready and doing some maintenance work here around the house, mostly cleaning windows, cobwebs around the outside of the house under the eaves.   

The pool is getting a makeover but it will be done a bit at a time.  It's winter so we have time to get the leaks repaired, grout the tile and cover the deck area with tile or some other product.   Still undecided.   

We ordered a dump truck of rocky material (lajilla) and it spread in front of our house and also filled a few potholes.  We'll need another load or two so that might be my project also.