Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Winter or Summer? Which Is It?


Cerro de la Silla (Saddleback Mountain)

First, just a comment.  My last post I wrote about the border area of Mexico.   There was no response about how you feel regarding the northern states of Mexico and the information I posted.   Factual, it is true that the border area from Reynosa to the west is relatively safe compared to where most rvers winter in Mexico.  I guess like most things, it's about knowing first hand and having reliable information.  Sometimes our comforts zones can fool us.  Being around people (other rvers, ex-pats, like-minded people) help to create a bubble of security.\

The weather here is an oddity by any means of the word.   We are experiencing 35C days and 10C nights.   An extreme contrast for us in this northern clime of Mexico.   It makes you wonder about global warming, what it means and what are the implications.  I know some of you think it is a hoax but I believe it's a hoax in the sense that we are being fed a line that it is man-made.   Couldn't it be both nature and man?

What if we step back and take a look at science.   We live in a capsule.  Nothing enters Earth's atmosphere except for those stray bullet meteors.   All of which are made of inert materials such as metal ores.   If it's a capsule that cannot be penetrated by other means, it also says that what is inside the capsule cannot escape.  Mother Nature creates certain safeguards to ensure that the air contains 21% oxygen.   There are devices designed to help eliminate pollutants such as carbon dioxide.   However, Mother Nature didn't count on man's ability to tinker with her process.   

Think of your garage as Mother Earth.  Line it with trees, a small kiddie pool of water and then turn on your car's engine.  Do you truly believe you'll survive because you have the right mix of what we believe Mother Nature provides to cleanse the air we breathe?   Add up all the vehicles, ships, trains, motors, compressors, factories and their machinery, home appliances, air conditioners.   They all create some type of gas that enters the atmosphere.   They all generate heat.   Doesn't that set off an alarm?   

For many years it was believed that the oceans absorbed this heat.   If it did or does, where does the heat go?  Into the water?   Doesn't it then heat the water?  Can we deny the fact that fossil fuels; gasoline, petrol products, paints, plastics and the list goes on, don't do harm to the planet, the creatures who inhabit it including plant and ocean life?  Let's say that worse case scenario is that it creates visual pollution such as we see over major cities like Los Angeles and Mexico City.   Isn't that enough to motivate us to look for alternatives?

We're in trouble as a planet and as the population grows, and the airs blackens, waters become polluted it's obvious that this isn't normal.

Juan decided to correct an anomaly in his primary dentation (a crooked tooth).  He has braces for the next four months.  Good to have a dentist in the family.

On a much lighter note, Little Bit purposely missed his cat box the other day.  He knew I wasn't happy.   I asked him why he did it and this is the look he gave me.

Back on the road Thursday.  I head out for Mexico City to train some nuns at a private Catholic school.  That will be interesting.  I'll have to watch my Ps and Qs.  Then a vacation weekend away in February.  I'll keep that secret for awhile and then back to Mexico City for the International Best of British where I'll be speaking on Social and Emotional Learning.  

We want to go to Machu Pichu for Spring break but the dollar and the exchange rates are crazy right now.  Not sure what to do.  

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Weekend Outing - Bustamante, NL


We went to Bustamante this weekend for a friend's annual birthday party.  They own a hotel in the town and each year we gather for the weekend.   Everyone spends the night at the hotel, dinner, drinks, dancing and games until all hours of the morning.  Then on Sunday we all seem to crawl out at some hour for a group breakfast.   It was a great time had by all and I have a few pics at the bottom of the party.  

First though, I'd like to share some information about the area.   One of the things we hear quite a bit from rvers, rv forums, and friends who drive through Mexico is, "beat feet across the border and get south".   Big mistake.  A few years ago I posted on the blog about crime statistics in Mexico and it turns out that the places most rvers end up spending the winter are actually the most dangerous in the country and the northern border and the states of Nuevo Leon, Coahuila and Chihuahua are not on the list. 

As you cross the Colombia Bridge, you never have to enter the state of Tamaulipas.   You can actually drive all the way to Saltillo by staying in the state of Nuevo Leon.   Now I'm not saying there are issues with Tamaulipas.   That's up to each person to decide, I don't live there, but I (we) travel there without any issues.

Highway 1 takes you from the Colombia Bridge all the way to the toll highway 40 to Saltillo and the 57 and all points south.   There are numerous towns on this route that welcome tourists, have many points of interest including museums, mountains, food, speciality breads, wines, and even developed tours of caverns.   This doesn't include anything south of Monterrey down where we live and all points south which is another blog post.  We've boondocked in all of these small towns and Bustamante is one with not only great history, cavern tours, but also a state park with electric (20 amp), washrooms and natural springs.

I left the party just after 1 a.m.  Too late for me.  I went to bed and woke up around 7 o'clock.  I had some coffee in our room, showered and headed out for a walk.   I walked the length and the width of the town in just under an hour.   Great walk to warrant a Sunday breakfast.  Shop owner's were the only ones to be found out and about.

The main church in Bustamante located in the town square.

Typical Mexican plaza with the kiosk.  

The town hall built in the 1830s.  The town was founded by the Spaniards who brought the tlaxcaltecas to work in the mines in the hills you see in the picture behind the church. 

Like most small towns in Mexico there is the town theater or teatro de la ciudad where local school events, politics, town hall meetings, folkloric dances and art take place.

Bustamante also has a history museum.  They have an English speaking guide on hand so no one goes without information and interpret the signs.   

Okay, so here we are at the party.   Wow, guess who's dancing?   We had the best time with all the games Lorena had put together.  The best one was the coronita (crown).   The team at each table selects a person to wear a crown.   The person can't see the crown but there is a word written across the top.   The person wearing the crown asks yes or no questions until the person can discover the word or the clock runs out.  

We also get into deep discussions at our table with friends about politics, family , education, religion and sex.   It can go on all night.   Our friend Mario, in the beige jacket, just finished his master degree.  He travels around the globe with his company.  This month he is off to Brasil after working in the Middle East.

The day after having breakfast at the Hotel Ancira restaurant.  Truly norteƱo style Mexican food.  The best actually.   Bustamante is also known for its breads and empanadas filled with piloncillo, nuts, raisins and spices.   The best ever.   There is a huge lot behind the hotel for rv parking.  We´ve parked here before.

En fin, Nuevo Leon is truly a friendly state and of course you can always come and visit us!

Friday, January 13, 2017

Visitors and New Signs of Change


Marina and David came by for a couple of days.

I was surprised to see that even though they had visited several times before, they had never been to the waterfalls.  Off we went and they loved it.   They are great guests like all the rvers that come to stay with us.  Never had a bad experience.  

We watched Obama's farewell speech after a great dinner prepared by Marina.   We sat by the Christmas tree with the laptop in front of us with the feed from UStvnow.com.  We had a few drinks before hitting the hay.

They are heading down to their usual winter stomping grounds at Puerto Escondido with a week's stop in San Miguel de Allende at a house they have rented.   David posted pics from Dolores Hidalgo this afternoon I am assuming they spent the night there before moving to their rental today.

I took a couple of mountain shots while we were up high in the waterfalls.  I really enjoy the views we have here in our area.  It's too bad people are all too eager to "beat feet" across the border when in reality this area and the border are much safer than where most rvers spend their winters, statistics have proven.

The buzz this week is the gasoline prices but also be aware that you will be seeing some changes in gas stations.   OXXO Gas has opened its chain of stations along with their convenience stores which provide a world of services from bank deposits, money tranfers, wire transfers from store to store, car insurance and the list goes on.   You will be guaranteed liter for liter of fuel.   Change is coming to Mexico and has been in the works for years.  Lets get rid of this ancient dinosaur of a nationalized oil company that has pretty much ruined the Mexican economy for years with corrupt unions and employees on the take and ring a new era that is more globally competitive.

Seven 11 or Super 7 is also introducing their own brand and logo and have begun this month to open or revamp their stores and stations.   And you thought this would never happen!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

New Year Post - Past and Present


New Year's Eve with family in Monterrey

As you  know we went to the white sands of Mexico during Christmas.  I am posting our last day there.  I never got around to it.   It was fun.  We went to the marble mines of Cuatro Cienegas.  They are now closed and it is actually a mountain made of marble that was cut into cubed-size pieces.   The veins that run through the marble are now to wide (where water once ran millions of years ago) and the marble is no longer useful for walls, tiles or counter tops.

Sitting on top of the marble mine you can see how large the pieces are.

You can see the lines where they bore down with giant drills to split the marble.

Beautiful scenery from the Coahuila desert.

Our trip home was fast and uneventful,  We came down through Monclova, Saltillo, Monterrey and then home.   Backed the rv in the driveway without any issues.  We rested for three days and then headed out to San Antonio.   We chose to leave late Monday afternoon and spend the night at the Holiday Inn in Nuevo Laredo.   Very nice hotel with cocktail hour and breakfast.   We woke up early thinking we would beat the crowds.   We spend seven hours in line to cross the bridge.   

This week all of the American and Canadian paisanos were heading back home after the holidays.   But the big issue was a glitch in the computer systems on the U.S. side.  An advantage was that all of the paisanos had to go to immigration to cancel their TIP permits for their vehicles.  That freed up the line tremendously.   It was the computer glitch that took its toll.   As we approached the bridge, Juan took off in a taxi for the old Laredo bridge downtown.  It is closed to traffic for remodeling but foot traffic is permitted.  Once I got to the booth, he didn't even swipe my passport.  He couldn't.  No system.  He asked me three questions and off I went to the other bridge.   Off we went for San Antonio.

The purpose of the trip was to finalize the new roof on the house, do an inspection, speak with our wonderful tenants about the possibility of purchasing the house.  They love it and we do too but it is too far away to manage.  The roof will be done on the 15th of this month and that is one issue out of the way.  Our tenants keep an immaculate house and it is beautifully decorated.  We're not in any hurry and would like to help them as they recently tied the knot.

Gasoline in Mexico is now the big topic.   I guess we all have short-term memories.   Remember 2014?  We found fuel in Langely, B.C. at $5.75.   Our trip was great but the fuel prices almost broke the budget or really did break the budget.  We slowed down, stayed out of California, came down around the Great Lakes, flew to Nova Scotia and used GasBuddy all in an effort to reduce our expenses.

So now Mexico is joining the global markets.   The mega-nationalized oil company Pemex has been forced to join the ranks of other countries and their oil based economies.   Gas is now around $2.82 a gallon for Magna (regular) and we will now see a free-floating price for fuel as of February 18th.   As stated by the famous economist and Assistant Secretary of Energy, Miguel Messmacher, the prices will fluctuate on a 24 hour basis based on oil pricing and the dollar.  Maybe we need to change the dependence on a dollar led economy?

Yes, there were strikes, some looting in isolated cities and parts of those cities.  You know how the media can make it look like Mexico is on fire.  Speaking of Mexico and comparisons, I stumbled across an interesting website called Numbeo.   You can compare cost of living, crime, safety, pollution, traffic, quality of life as well as property values on a country to country city to city basis.  The data comes from individuals who participate in surveys.  Here is one on crime:

On another note, the temperature here at the house at 9:45 a.m. is -1C.  It will reach 4C today and drop down to maybe -2C tonight before warming up on Monday.   Marina and David from Perth, ON are keeping warm in Corpus Christi before heading down here for a day or two on their way to San Miguel de Allende.