Tuesday, October 29, 2019

Our New HEB El Uro - Minor Trip Changes


We're having issues with the SUV.  We've always had this problem and I won't take long to bore you.  They changed out the fan clutch because we heard a strange noise on startup.  These were the two symptoms:

Excessinvely loud cooling fan. 

Decrease in power, acceleration, and fuel efficiency.

This usually happened climbing mountains.  Our last breakdown in the mountains was caused by this problem.  They changed out the fan clutch and it is still doing it although the acceleration is not a problem.  According to what we read, it takes a few days for the fan clutch to adjust.  We'll find out.  We are also going to eliminate excess air from the radiator as the mechanic added water and antifreeze lost when it overheated.

What does this mean?  We have two housesits so we will just take the VW Gol and enjoy the two weeks in SMA.

While we were waiting for the SUV we went to the new HEB near our house.  It is supposed to be the largest HEB ever.  First largest is the HEB on Military Dr. in  San Antonio.  

Machacado con huevos, refried beans, sliced and flavorful potatoes, and a freshly made nine grain bread.

Chilaquiles that are usually soggy, were nice and crisp in a wonderfully spicey cream sauce with giant chunks of chicken served with a fried egg on top.

Although 78% of the products are Mexican, for every product there is a gourmet version.  They are also sourcing local and many Mexican gourmet brands now compete with U.S. gourmet products.  There is an HEB Bistro where we had breakfast made to order and much better than chain restaurants, made in plain view and very affordable.  200 pesos for full breakfast with gourmet coffee.  

There is a sushi bar, a made to order lunch and dinner including grilled steaks cooked to your liking.  The best bakery I have ever seen along with a fish market (not fish department), meat market, and more.  Wines and liquors are awaiting government permits but will be available next week.  Like all HEBs, the service is top drawer and you will be treated like royalty.  Too bad for those that hug the west coast and don't explore northern and central Mexico.  Queretaro now had a new HEB as well.

We are looking forward to our trip to SMA and being with cats and dogs.  I need a good lap cat to fulfill my longing for a new pet.

Sunday, October 27, 2019

We Have A Winner - Juan Wins Champion of Champions


We just got home from the polka competition.  It was a long weekend with two days of polka dancing and competing.  Juan and his partner Irma won in the "Gold Division" (seniors) and took the grand prize as Champion of Champions.  

I am very proud of him.  He has always achieved every goal he has ever set.  You may not know this, but he has received four Fulbright in his lifetime.   He's not just a smart guy but someone who does things with conviction and determination.   This was really something.

We also had an opportunity to check out the route we will be taking to Jaumave, Tamaulipas on Thursday.  The SUV had the fan clutch changed out over the weekend while we were gone but I want to take the trailer out for a spin on Tuesday just to check it.  I flipped the hitch shank to see if we could raise the trailer an inch so I want to see how it drives.

That's all for now as we need to start packing and getting the house ready.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Finally! Hitting The Road


The time has finally come!  This weekend we are headed to Ciudad Victoria for a folkloric dance competition.  Juan and his partner, Irma, will be dancing in the "senior" division.  I will be there for moral support, costume changes and video recording.  We will spend two nights in the host hotel.

Then next Thursday we head our way down to San Miguel de Allende.  We have another housesitting job, someone new.  We will get a chance to visit our friend Barbara and her precious furdaughter Pea.  We will take the route south around Ciudad Victoria, spend the first night in Juamave  (how mauve eh), Tamaulipas.  From there we have a couple of days to arrive at the rv park in San Ramon where we will store the rv for the week.  

I posted on the SMA forum that we are available for more house sits.  We lost a good one outside of Pátzcuaro but that's how it works out.  I feel bad because our friends at the horse ranch, Marti and Toñio invited us back but that was when we were planning on New Mexico.  All that has changed now and as it turns out we need to be back around the end of the first week of January.  We loved the ranch and the horses but the dogs were our favorite.  

So our route will be much different than any we have taken before to SMA.  A little apprehensive this time around with the new changes in the government and their approach to security.  In 19 years rving, we have never had an incident.  Always good to make a change anyway and boondock in new territory.

We are going to Laredo, Tx tomorrow to pick up some stuff we ordered.  They could have sent it here but it would cost $100 U.S.  I ordered a porcelain toilet for the rv.  We don't have any luxuries on board so that is one thing we always wanted.  Easier to clean, higher seat, more stable.  We also ordered a table lamp for the side of the rv bed that has USB ports and 110.  The electrician is coming next week and I am so interested in getting a transfer switch so our outlets are live with 12V.  

So get this.  We only buy two things from Costco and it is worth the membership.  Vitamins and once a month, a slice of their excellent pizza for $1.99 U,S.  The membership is worth it.  Laredo, Tx has a greater population than the Rio Grande Valley.  McAllen has a Costco and Laredo doesn't.  What does Laredo have though?  A Costco distribution center.  Now figure that one out. 

Sunday, October 20, 2019

Family History And Genetic Heart Disease


There isn't always good news to post on the blog and life really isn't all smiles and cheers.  Last week, my oldest brother fell ill and was taken to the hospital.  He will be 80 soon and looks the vision of health.  Slender, handsome,  and works on a farm as a volunteer, and until last year, when he wintered in Naples with his now-deceased wife,  worked at an Audobon birding center (Corkscrew).  A person I consider very active.

He was hospitalized for two nights.  They inserted two stents and there is one more that is pending.  Two of the arteries had a 90% blockage and the third, 70%.  I don't know what he did or didn't do in terms of check-ups and if he had actual cardio visits.   He's home now and obviously feeling better.

Out of a family of 12, my dad died of a heart attack at 85, my brother last year at age 68, three other siblings with bypass surgeries, and now my oldest brother.  I'm not sure what to think.  I have my annual cardio check-up between the end of November through January.  My stress test is always excellent along with chest x-rays and bloodwork.  I also do an additional blood workup in between checkups.  Maybe it's time for a nuclear stress test or an MRI.

I doubt I will escape this but will be looking into ways to reduce and prolong it as much as I can. 

I do almost everything right.

1) Early to bed early to rise with an hour nap every day.
2) Take mega doses of vitamin C (12,000 mg) daily along with what the cardiologist recommends which is Vit D and Q10.
3) I go to the gym Monday through Friday, 50 minutes of weight training and 30 minutes of cardio which is a stress test practice I started a year ago.  Before that, I used to run 10K every morning before work.
4) In addition, Saturday and Sunday I walk 10K each day.
5) When the cool weather comes (pretty soon), I do the 10K walk every evening as well.
6)  Diet is pretty good.  My bad saturated fat is cheese.  I stopped all other dairy three years ago.  We have a steak once a month at the most.
7) For fruit, I only eat berries; black, blue and straw in a shake with almond milk and flaxseed.

What else should I be doing?  Well, we'll find out.

On a happier note, we did some garden additions this week.  The back patio wall was bare and looked crappy. 

Friday, October 11, 2019

Changes In The CFE Billing - Mexico Electricity


I wanted to share new information I received from the Comision Federal de Electricidad (CFE) which is the provider for power in Mexico.  It is a nationalized company and is going through some very interesting political changes.  Those I won't discuss here but you can refer to our illustrious new president and his Comision Reguladora de Energia (CRE).  When the new commission was formed under the new president, he actually elected persons who have no experience or education regarding energy.  During the hearings to elect a new board, one of the questions was directed to a seat of the pants senator, "What is a cell?"   "Well, a cell is a cellphone".  The question referred to solar cells and photovoltaic cells.  Okay, enough of that.

This information could possibly change depending on the area you live in.  Usage will depend on the ambient temperature that is taken from a tower in your area and tariffs will change based on those areas as well as usage.  Refer to the list of cities and tariffs outlined in the CFE webpage (www.cfe.gob.mx).

Here is my recent bill.  I have color-coded each box to make it easier to read.  In my area outside of Monterrey, we have a mayor that fought for a lower rate considering we are rural.  We are now in B2.  That said, we are now allotted 900 KWHs per bimestre or bimestral which is a two-month billing period.  In Mexico, there are a few, very few, areas that are billed monthly although that is not common.  

The first box upper left in black designates the tariff rate by category; basic, intermediate1, intermediate 2, and then excedente.  Excedente is the tariff level for those KWHs that exceed my 900 KWH allotment.  

The next box in dark red, shows the usage by category and the total usage.  In this case, I had 300 basica, 300 intermedio 1, 300 intermedio 2, and 26 KWHs over my limit and those are charged at a higher rate.

The yellow box shows the price per KWH by category.  In U.S. dollars or cents these are the rates in my area.

Basico                3.8 cents per KWH
Intermedio 1     4.4 cents per KWH
Intermedio 2     5.7 cents per KWH
Excendente        15 cents per KWH

The green box shows the price for usage, sales tax, the total for the billing period, the previous unpaid balance minus the paid balance and the total.  

Sales tax of 16% is the only tax charged on the electric bill and some of that can be deductible if you pay taxes in Mexico.  Check with your accountant.

This was our hottest summer on record and we were home most of the summer.  We used our air conditioning in the bedroom, pool filter, water well pump, and all our electricity for a total of $53 U.S. for two months or $26.65 per month U.S.

Major change is as follows.  You are allowed to exceed your limit (ours is 900 KWHs per billing cycle).  Here is how it works.  

You take the total usage of your last six billings (12 months) and add them up and divide by 6.  If that number exceeds 1700 you are then forced into the commercial rate, DAC, for a period of six months.  I believe that the price is 20 cents U.S. per KWH. 

Here was mine:  926 + 812 + 654 + 494 + 490 + 542 = 3918 / 6 = 653

So we are well under the 1700 KWH limit for the 12 months or 6 billing cycles.  We could use more but we would pay the excendente rate.  

So I hope this is helpful for those living in Mexico.  Maybe people that come for the winter and wonder why electric is considered a taboo or scary ordeal most of it has to do with not just usage but the two-month billing.  I hope in the future that the CFE opts for a monthly cycle.

Friday, October 4, 2019

Buying A New Home In Mexico


Yesterday we began an organized search for our future home.  We have been visiting different areas of the city and looking at condominiums as well as townhouses.  We chose three areas and three different price levels.   We ended up with the highest on the list and I'll explain why.  

The first neighborhood is filled with 300 homes all in the middle-upper range or about $75.000 U.S.  They are really the construction I would want.  Yards are small but the house in the picture is the one we looked at and it has an extension at an additional cost.  The yard would be nice.  The finishings are incredible.  All marble countertops in the kitchen, baths, laundry and bar area, primer and two coats of paint on the inside, complete and modern bath fixtures (low-style toilets, and bowl sinks in all three baths.  But, the big but, it is only a few blocks away from the northwest side of the periferico to Saltillo.   Although it is closer to medical facilities it is a similar drive from our current home to downtown Monterrey but with much more traffic.

The second was much larger at 105 square meters, but there are 600 homes in this community and all side by side.  Much roomier, nicer amenities but not much space between houses.  The one we liked has more yard space, was a corner lot, but next to it was the gated neighborhood perimeter street that ends the neighborhood.  Next to it was a sketchy neighborhood with loud music.  No thanks.

We moved up the hill and closer to the mountainside known as Cumbres.  We have found the type of neighborhood we want, the size of the house, and the community.  The tendency in Mexico is gated communities with lots of houses crammed into it, a community pool and clubhouse.  The first sells for $43,000.  The second starts at $77,000 and the third at $99,000.  

So what's the difference?  Gated communities imply that the homeowners have to form their own neighborhood association to determine maintenance and upkeep costs.  Those will always continue to rise.  Also, making sure people pay the monthly fees and follow the rules.   Let's get real for a second, piss off a Mexican and you will live in hell for a long time to come.  Here, it's pretty much live and let live.  So as we toured the first neighborhood where a majority of the houses were sold, the homes were one-car garage space.  Already there were taco trucks and trailers on the street (owners do that for a living outside the neighborhood but park their units at their house).  Because the houses only have space for one car the street is full of cars.  

What we liked was a not so new concept where the developer purchases a stretch of land and builds 20 houses with one street, ten on each side.  This one is 170 square meters and is a two-story with a third-floor terrace.   Excellent quality and there are no maintenance fees, pools or parks to maintain.  Only twenty neighbors and the only upkeep is the front automatic gate and its opener.  

We started early in the morning and we finished just around 4 p.m. in time to visit relatives in the area.  After, we went downtown to a folkloric dance performance which we really enjoyed. It was outdoors in front of the history museum with the cityscape behind the stage.  The weather is slowly improving and as the sun went down there was a nice breeze.  My kind of show, it lasted only an hour.

Just need to put some sod down on the area they dug through.  One less thing on my worry list.

At home, we shored up a post under one corner of the house.  I thought it would be a big project and worried about what they would find under the house.  Everything was fine but the post really need more support.  They broke the sidewalk and dug down.  We found matching tile.  They closed it up and it looks great.

Next came the roof.  During that severe hurricane we had, we got a small but worrisome leak coming down the post of the living room ceiling fan.  We knew it was time although we did a patch job three years ago.  The tile came off, scraped the roof, patched areas with cement and then cleaning.  After, a sealer was applied, fibrous cloth material and then the rubberized roof.  We have had some rains and everything is good.  The tile installer comes next week and begins the job of putting the tile back on. 

While I was up there inspecting the work, I took some shots of the yard both front and back.

One last thing was to finish up my projects on the trailer.  Pesky water leak.  Not sure if I mentioned it, but after a year of tracking it down it was found.  It was a 1.5 inch of trim under the refrigerator vent that wasn't sealed.  The plastic vent that fits into the roof was not sealed from the factory on one end.  I had never thought to take the cover off although I had felt around it with my hands and it seemed to be good.  11 years, drop after drop.

I reinsulated, put in a piece of "some kind of board" from Home Depot, closed it up and put on the trim.   The most difficult part will be putting the epoxy (if I can find it) to eliminate the small delamination on the front.  I wanted to put in down through the area I was working in but the front cap is glued to the metal framing and the tube would not pass.  

For the bathroom, I purchased some trim that comes in a roll.  It's called Cover Your Crack Insta Trim.  We ordered it online from the manufacturer.  It's not cheap but it's easy, fast and looks, I think, pretty professional.  

Our trailer is not a Tiffin motorhome and is actually on the low-end of the totem pole.  But it works and we attempt to keep it in shape.  It has taken us all over North America and lets hope some more.  However, there are some cheap things in it.  One, in the picture below, there was no trim of any kind.  Just a clear seam of caulk that no matter what we did, it got dirty over time. 

You can see the trim here around the kitchen area.  It looks much better than that dirty seam it had for all those years.  

Here's the living room cabinet with the trim.  Much better.  

One more thing to do (well there's an ever-ongoing list) is to replace the fan switch in the bathroom.  The electrician will be coming next week.  It took forever to find it and I ordered it from E Trailer.  They are a bit higher than Amazon but I just couldn't locate it anywhere else.  So it was 8 bucks plus a 5 dollar import fee with shipping.

It looks like we will be heading to the Emerald Coast this November and then over to San Miguel de Allende.  Contessa sent us a lead for house sitting there so let's see what happens.

If you're still here reading, thanks for tuning in.

Wednesday, October 2, 2019

Lots Going On - I Haven't Disappeared


I have a blog post written.  I've worked on it for two weeks but it's all boring stuff. 

The house has a new roof in progress. 

We shored up a corner of the house damaged by years of water and poor drainage.

I've done considerable work on the rv preparing for our November rendezvous, a two-month trip and there still isn't a decision on where to go.

We have been looking at houses in Monterrey, more on that later.

Enjoying the fact that I don't go to work anymore but afraid to be caught in the trap of doing home maintenance and not traveling.

I will attempt to post again tomorrow.