Wednesday, April 27, 2022

Texas Trip - What Happened Behind The Scenes

It's great to be back home and this is a bit behind schedule as I needed a couple of days to do things around the rv and the house.  It was a fun trip and many things we learned along the way.  First off, we crossed the border on Thursday morning via the Juarez bridge in Laredo which is direct into Mexico via I-35.  It was decided that either way we weren't going to avoid Nuevo Laredo even if we used the Colombia bridge.  No more Hwy 1 for us!  We have Mexican plated vehicles and so we don't go to the TIP or immigration area which is to your right and under the bridge.  They waved us over to the right but above and checked our VIN numbers on both the SUV and the trailer.  Some minor changes in the protocol but it was very quick.  Before they used a handheld to check our VINs but this time we were ushered into the SAT office where we were asked for the title or registration cards.  

After that, it got interesting.   We've never used the official police caravan to the toll highway.  This time, after the registration check, we were told to go out the gate and around to the exit for immigration.  We're like, "huh".  The Aduana agent walked alongside and showed us where to go.  He said that we would be going with the caravan.  As we parked, an official from the Tamaulipas State Police came over and gave us her memorized script, "You are being escorted by the Tamaulipas State Police.  Due to an increase and high rate of abductions, disappearances, and kidnappings, this is for your security". 

In less than 5 minutes we were on our way with police lights flashing and several other cars in front of us.  As we approached the intersection of Donaldo Colosio and Hwy 85, another patrol with lights blazing swung around and blocked the intersection so we could pass through without stopping.  Several things have changed.  1) The toll highway starts immediately at Km 26 and the toll highway now has two casetas.  The first one is not expensive but the additional concrete highway makes it a breeze. 2) The small INM booths just before the Km26 actually had agents that checked our passports.  I refused to give him mine because it was in the trailer in my backpack.  I handed him my driver's license and my INAMPAM (old age card) and he was like, where's your passport.  I then told him that I would not be able to have either of these credentials if I were not a resident.  He let us pass.  He was old enough to have fought in the revolution and must have been some delegate's great-great-grandfather.  I kid you not.  In the end, we made it to Monterrey and took the route right through the city and onto the house.  I backed the trailer in on the first try.

Now to the "behind the scenes" part of the trip.  Here's what didn't go so well.

1) I wrote about the breakdown in Villaldama.  That was an easy fix.
2) The toilet leaked freshwater constantly when the pump was on.  If you remember, I attempted to replace the toilet with a porcelain throne that didn't fit.  If it ain't broken . . .
3) When we arrived at a friend's house in San Antonio, we discovered we had lost all of our propane.  The mainline had broken because the cheap straps they use to hold the pipe broke loose and the pipe gave way.  Lucky that nothing blew up or caught fire.  It was an easy fix requiring standard-sized pre-threaded pipe and a strong set of hands. 
4) The screen door handle broke and I had to remove the handle bracket from the inside.  

Back home now I replaced the miniblind in the trailer kitchen.  Two years ago when they cut the trees a branch hit the side of the trailer and poked a hole through the bathroom wall.  I "fixed" the outside with an outlet cover but the inside looked ugly.  I put up a tile backsplash to cover that.  Turned out pretty good.  

Now that we're back home I'm searching for a Pfizer booster here in Mexico so we don't have to go to Reynosa next month.   I went to see the consultant that set up my Mexican social security account.  On the way I stopped by my ex-accountant's office to say hello.  I haven't seen much of anyone since the beginning of the pandemic.  It is surprsing how many people had COVID around here and how many were hospitalized or died.  World governments don't want people to know the truth as if it is some type of competition amongst them.

Now that Elon Musk has purchased Twitter, our president and his oldest son who is now part of a scandal called Casa Gris, have asked Musk to take down tweets and bots that work against them.  Too funny!

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Laredo. Texas - Heading Home In The Morning

Our last night in Texas!  We are back at the Texas Travel Information Center in Laredo, Tx just 20 minutes from the border.  We ended up in San Antonio for three nights.  We came to visit friends and help out one of them with a small issue.  We had a couple of our own with the RV but it hadn't been on the road for two and a half years so things needed to be shaken up a bit and they were.   All good now and everything is fixed.  We were able to do the repairs ourselves and I will go into more details later this weekend.

It has been a fun trip and we saw some familiar as well as new things on this road trip.  We spent happy hours reminiscing and also preparing for near-future plans.  In May, we'll be heading to the house in SMA and a trip to Las Vegas for a few days to celebrate the end of working days.  Juan turns in his papers on June 1 and it should be soon after that it is all final.  

Some hard lessons to learn along the way like letting go of past friendships where time and distance have taken their toll and accepting the fact that some people change and others don't.  We always like moving forward and not getting too comfortable wherever or whatever we are doing.

My oldest sister recovered well from her hip surgery.   I just talked to her and I told her that she must be doing well as she didn't stop pissing and moaning the whole conversation.  She knows I'm kidding and we had a few good laughs.  She's been very good to me since I was a small child.  I'm glad she's doing well and on the road to recovery.  One of her grandsons is there and a daughter-in-law that is a nurse.

We will cross the border at Bridge number 1 on the I-35 and just get on the autopista.  We are picking up some packages at our Laredo mailbox, a new set of Golden Girls DVDs (the other set has worn out after daily viewing for the last 25 years) and a set of Andy Griffith DVDs, and new remote control.

I can't wait to see what's to come and we are hoping to be in Europe in the fall.  I know that this is normal business for all retirees and that there is also an end to that as well but we are beginning a new journey or a journey that never seems to end.  As Juan has always said, "la vida es bella".  

Monday, April 18, 2022

Point of Rocks - Fort Davis, Texas

The big surprise was the change in weather.  It cooled down nicely on our way to Fort Davis.  We passed through Alpine stopping long enough for a senior coffee and internet at the local McDonald's.  Lots of interesting characters to watch.  Alpine is kind of like the hippie version of San Miguel de Allende.  

After being in the heat at Pecos River bridge, which by the way turned cool and breezy at night, it was nice to travel with sunny skies but cool weather.   We know Dryden, Sanderson, Marathon, and Marfa although I could easily visit each one again as there is always something new to see or do or something we've missed on previous visits. 

Fort Davis is not the largest town on the map but definitely a place to visit.   A town good for a three-day weekend is truly kickback.  I had chosen Point of Rocks based on reviews from iOverlander.  I haven't been a fan of iOverlander from a Mexican point of view.  The majority of the places are Pemex gas stations.  There are plenty of those where I live so I don't need to spend the night inhaling fumes.  However, in the U.S. the choices are a bit broader.  Point of Rock is a rest area.   In Texas, you can stay at picnic and rest areas for 24 hours.  We've stayed at several and they have always been a good spot.  Some are a bit noisy but many are well structured and some include wifi.  

We headed out to the rest area really not knowing what we would find.  Wow!  Incredible!  A huge mound of giant boulders you can actually climb around on.  There are picnic tables and plenty of parking.  The highway has little to no traffic after 5 p.m.  We gave up counting as the cars were so few and far between.  

If I repeat myself it's because I post information of the blog, Facebook, and emails.  Point of Rocks was a crossing point for transportation in the 1800s.  Being near the fort, supplies were brought along with soldiers from El Paso.  As a poster on iOverlander mentioned, it's really hard to boondock and do hiking and claiming in Texas as the majority of the land is privately owned.  More on that as we head to the fort in the next post.

It was a starry starry night and the moon did its wonders as usual.  The quiet was something that is hard to find.  We sat outside thinking about what it must have been like for those native peoples that had lived in the area and the things they saw in the skies at night.  We had a great conversation not to mention a wonderful dinner.

We watched a movie, "I Pass As White" from 1961.  You can find it on Youtube and I highly recommend it.  I had downloaded it the week before we left as we knew we wouldn't have internet.  Our cell service in the U.S. is T-Mobile and as I may have mentioned is almost non-existent in the desert.  

Very good sleep and in the morning we fixed an unusual for us bacon and eggs breakfast and sat outside admiring the view.  We headed back to Fort Davis and did some sightseeing in the town.  Restaurants in the U.S. are very expensive and even more so in a small tourist towns.  We prefer to cook at home whenever we can although we do enjoy eating out and when we do we do it well.  

We checked at the library and made arrangements to spend the next night there.  They told us we would have to check with the sheriff's office.  We walked over there and knocked on the door.  The secretary said she would call the sheriff and let us know.  Sure enough, she said he agreed to one night as long as we didn't make any noise.  That was our next night and that will follow this blog post.  

Friday, April 15, 2022

Pecos River Bridge Overlook Hwy 90 - Comstock, Tx.

We have passed this spot since 2001 with our first rv which was Trailmanor 2720.  Each time I’ve said that we should spend the night there.  Never have until now and I only wish we had done it sooner.  This has to be one of the best boondocking spots in west Texas.  It’s listed as a picnic area.  The access is easy as it’s right on the side of the highway and the paved road winds its way up to the top.  There are three covered picnic areas that are on the edge of the cliffs. 

When we arrived a group of Swiss bikers was there.   They had passed us earlier and had stopped on top for lunch.  They soon left and we had the place to ourselves.  It was hot, 101F.   The winds were strong so it wasn’t a bad day at all.  We pulled out our chairs and just watched the river.  The border patrol was practicing down below with an airboat.  Because of the drought, the water on the south side of the bridge is shallow.   You could hear a lost goat down below.  It sounded like a young one crying and there was nothing anyone could have done to help it.  The hawks and buzzards circled overhead.   That’s nature.

The sunset was stunning and the weather began to cool as the sun went down.  We had taken a nap and even with the dry heat it was a good one.  I slept for over an hour.  We had drinks sitting on the shady side of the rv.   As the sun began to set a kayaker came in his van.  He was on the other side, a young kid by himself looking for adventure.   He waved and said hello and that was the end of the conversation.   We had a ribeye that we prepared in the cast iron skillet on the stove along with some fresh asparagus and a tossed salad.   I set up a movie that I had downloaded before our trip along with a bottle of wine to finish the sunset.   The air cooled even more and it was a spectacular evening.  This spot was everything I had always thought it would be.  The bridge was built in 1957 and sits 273 feet above the river.   So I guess we arrived in time for its 65 birthday!

Before bed, another SUV pulled in, a young couple with their two dogs.   Everyone went to bed and it was a quiet evening.   We never heard road traffic after that and there really wasn’t much of any all day.

Up this morning and we had set the alarm to hit the road before the heat.  Not thinking we had forgotten the cool air was coming and it stayed at 66F until we arrived at Fort Davis.  It reached about 70F and the winds have really picked up. 

We found a boondocking spot called Pointy Rocks.  It’s off of Hwy 166 outside the town of Fort Davis.  Before we arrived we stopped in Alpine at the McDonald’s to use the internet but I was ready to upload a post for the blog.  We stopped at the Dollar Store for a couple of things we had on our U.S. shopping list.  When we arrived at this spot, although not a huge attraction will provide a great night under the stars and some climbing around.   No cars going by and obviously no noise except the wind.  You’ll see this tomorrow.   

I took this picture in the afternoon and even though the sun was blazing there was the moon!  I woke up around 3 a.m. to use the bathroom and when I came back to bed I saw it again, beautiful.  I was half asleep and thought about getting out the camera but went back to bed.  So many stars here at night.

So far this is a great trip and we are enjoying it and at the same time making plans for a future trip.  The big debate is selling the travel trailer and buying a van to outfit.  We enjoy the space but it has its downsides as well.  Tough decision.  We had the Funfinder for 13 years.  

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Laredo, Tx To Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino

We're behind on posting the blog because we are boondocking in places where there just isn't any signal.  We are currently in Fort Davis.  This post is from Eagle Pass so we are three days behind in posting.  Tomorrow I will post the Pecos River Bridge Overlook.

Spent a nice evening at the Texas travel center in Laredo.  In the morning we went into the visitor's center to use the internet.  Great signal in a small conference room with big-screen television watching the news.  Always friendly and helpful people.   We picked up a couple of brochures and then headed out.  There is a lot of road construction so we had a few delays but we're not in a hurry to get anywhere. 

Our first stop was to buy fuel at Pilot.  We were running late so we popped into the McDonald's for a dollar sausage and cheese muffin and a senior coffee.  I see the fuel price signs in dollars and it kind of freaks me out until we do the calculations only to discover it is less than what we are paying at home in Mexico.  It was $3.59 for regular.  We took Hwy 83 heading to Uvalde and Eagle Pass.  As we pulled into Eagle Pass I saw the high school where I had taught a course.  It seems like so long ago but it was only a few years back.  

We did a grocery shop since we hadn't brought anything fresh and the fridge was basically a cold water station.  We brought along two bottles of vodka, a few canned items, milk in tetra (not sure what they call that now), and some snacks.  The HEB in Eagle Pass has the largest and most congested parking lot I have ever seen.  I asked the guy in front of us at the checkout what was going on and he said it was everyone from Piedras Negras and he hoped HEB would open a store there soon.  However, it was like the last days, but stockers were keeping things up and running.  Very good customer service.  

I got a chuckle from one of the cashiers when I asked about the best way to get to the casino.  He said, "let me see your smartphone".  Heck, I can do that I wanted some common sense directions.  Our phones don't have enough memory and Google Maps peter out frequently on us.  But we got it done and off we went to do some gambling.

We were at the casino back in 2019 according to their records.  We boondocked on the south side along the Rio Grande.  It was nice and the weather good.  Yesterday it was 103F so we decided we needed to fill up with water and get out of the heat.  Not a complaint but a heads up.  They have a nice rv park considering it's an RV park.  There is a pay pedestal but it no longer works.   There is no signage to that effect and inside they tell you that you have to book a reservation online.  Well, you can't when there is no wifi.   It all worked out but the wifi didn't work.  They sent a tech out to the RV section but he never arrived.  The hotel is a separate company and we could see their signal.  The casino said that we had to have a room to get that signal.  I went to the hotel and the front desk and the clerk gave me the code saying it wouldn't reach the RV section.  It's been working great and I'm typing this blog post on the signal.  

We each gave the casino five dollars in an hour's time and that was enough gambling for the next three years!  We had a wonderful happy hour and prepared a taco salad for dinner.   We watched Better Call Saul.  

This morning is cool but the afternoon heat will pick up.  

Monday, April 11, 2022

Monterrey To The Colombia Bridge Via Highway 1

It was an interesting day, to say the least.  I was determined to drive straight through Monterrey without getting stopped by transito.  And, we did it!  Juan took the time the other day to go to the transportation department.  They explained the route and told us that there are certain hours that you can drive through although you need to stay on the truck route.  It’s not a truck route like a libramiento, this is using Monterrey streets.  You cannot drive your rv through Monterrey Monday through Friday between the hours of 6:30 to 9:30 a.m. and in the evenings from 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.  The route is outlined on this paper map we took a picture of.  I may replace it this week with a Google Maps route.

It worked great and we got to the north side of town in an hour and ten minutes from our house.  I had planned on driving all the way around from the south end of our town to the Monterrey periferico which would have taken more than two hours and included tolls.

We hopped on Hwy 85 libre and as we approached Sabinas Hidalgo we took a detour from the 85 to Villaldama.  It is a beautiful drive and one we have never taken.  It was about a forty-drive before arriving to Hwy 1 just before Bustamante.  

The highway, sad to say, deteriorates after that.  This highway at one time was supposed to be the pride of ex-president Salinas Gotari who was responsible for the construction of the Solidarity or Colombia Bridge.  It never came to fruition.  The idea was to move semi-traffic directly to the border from southern Mexico and into I-35 up to Canada.   Five state governmental administrations and it still hasn’t happened.  I wonder if Salinas Gotari who now 

As we rolled into the last town before the bridge, Anahuac, Nuevo Leon, the SUV took a dive and just stalled out as I let off the accelerator.  I was able to pull over and out of the way.  It would start and then die right away.  A woman sitting on her porch just houses away told us there was a mechanic around the corner.  The place was filled with more parts and pieces than you could ever imagine.  He looked at it, tried several things, and then took off the gas valve (valvula de gasoline) and showed us the inside.  There it was, a piece of carbonized gunk in the shape of a little ball.  He washed it out with gasoline and off we went.  Twenty-five dollars and a new friend. 

We crossed the Colombia bridge.  They now offer the Mexican tourist visa for the U.S. online because of Covid.  So, instead, you show them your phone or a screen print and then they manhandle your passport, the $6 USD that you pay them for the permit and then they hand back a paper receipt.  Make sense?

We spent the night at the famous Texas Travel Information Center where you have free wifi, a place to park, palapas, and access to clean restrooms.  We don’t have an inverter big enough to use our coffeemaker so we plugged it in outside the restrooms.  Today we headed to Eagle Pass to stay the night at the now-infamous Kickapoo Lucky Eagle Casino.  That story comes next.

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Rvers Coming To Mexico - We Hosted An Italian Couple

I'm pooped.  We had a get-together over the weekend to celebrate Yola's 70th birthday.   Yola is one of Juan's sisters.  Five couples in total and they all spent the night.  We started early Saturday morning and had a cookout in the late afternoon.  We stayed outside until time for bed.  We talked quite a bit about what has been going on in each other's families.   It's been two years and we really didn't see anyone.

We had a cake for her birthday and the grilled meat was the best we've ever had.  Not sure why people brag so much about USDA Prime when most of it comes from northern Mexico.  I can't convince people of that and they don't do the research either.  That's why it's easy for Mexican restaurants to say they have USDA because they buy it locally.   Those stores that do sell the meat with the stamp on it are charging more because it is exported and then re-imported.   Kind of silly.  San Juan is our northern chain and they recently opened a meat market in Queretaro behind the HEB.

The weather was nice and I had the yard fogged for mosquitos early Saturday morning.  It worked like a charm and there were no complaints about the weather or bugs.  Overall, a good time had by all but some people just don't want to go home!

We are members of Harvest Hosts (Boondockers Welcome) but we had turned off our calendar during the majority of COVID.   Last week we received a request, actually two, one was from an Italian couple that had finished working in the states and are traveling in Mexico and Central America until July.  They have decided they don't want to live in the U.S. or return permanently to Italy.  They say the two previous socialist governments wrecked the country and now everything including taxes is very expensive.

They have an older Chinook they found a few months ago.  It's a nice rig with lots of solar and lithium batteries.  They have already traveled to Baja and then took the expensive ferry across.  They used the ferry that allows you to stay in your rig. They are very easygoing and fun.  They both work in the pharmaceutical industry, the same company.  One is a biologist and the other is in bulk sales of active ingredients.

They weren't interested in going to Monterrey so we attempted to drive to the mountains to Laguna de Sanchez.  We were turned around by checkpoints.  Forest fires are raging again.   It was also quite smokey and with the drought and high winds not very pleasant.   We turned around and headed for a state park closer to Monterrey.   A fun day.

They also fixed us an Italian dinner the night before they left.  We had fun talking and enjoying a bottle of wine.  

I turned down another request because it was a couple with kids and they were having some kind of paperwork issue.  I don't do that anymore.  I used to and am always willing to help but it all sounded too complicated.  Was I wrong?

Now the push is on to get ready for take-off next Sunday.  We're getting excited.  And it's just in time for a new outbreak of Covid, the BA.2.  Let's see what happens!